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Policy Failures in the Graveyard of Empires: How Policymakers Let the Soldiers Down in the British, the Soviet, and the American Wars in Afghanistan

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This monograph examines the role of policy in guidance of the British, the Soviet and the U.S.-NATO wars in Afghanistan. Set in the context of Afghanistan's history and its socio-cultural environment, the study critically analyzes the negative impact of policy failures - acts of both omission as well as commission - on the conduct and outcome of these three wars. Holding A This monograph examines the role of policy in guidance of the British, the Soviet and the U.S.-NATO wars in Afghanistan. Set in the context of Afghanistan's history and its socio-cultural environment, the study critically analyzes the negative impact of policy failures - acts of both omission as well as commission - on the conduct and outcome of these three wars. Holding Afghanistan's physical environment as constant, the monograph examines numerous policy variables such as the evolution of grand strategy, resource allocation, governance, and security force assistance. A study of select aspects of the First Anglo-Afghan War and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan highlights several policy missteps and miscalculations that, if heeded to, could have helped today's policymakers. The focus of the monograph, however, is on the ongoing U.S.-NATO effort. Based on some strikingly common and consistent errors of policy, the paper concludes that the incompetence and myopia of the policymakers is responsible for squandering the military gains and for failure to guide these wars to their strategic purpose and end state. In the end, the monograph puts forth a set of recommendations for both policymakers as well as operational artists.


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This monograph examines the role of policy in guidance of the British, the Soviet and the U.S.-NATO wars in Afghanistan. Set in the context of Afghanistan's history and its socio-cultural environment, the study critically analyzes the negative impact of policy failures - acts of both omission as well as commission - on the conduct and outcome of these three wars. Holding A This monograph examines the role of policy in guidance of the British, the Soviet and the U.S.-NATO wars in Afghanistan. Set in the context of Afghanistan's history and its socio-cultural environment, the study critically analyzes the negative impact of policy failures - acts of both omission as well as commission - on the conduct and outcome of these three wars. Holding Afghanistan's physical environment as constant, the monograph examines numerous policy variables such as the evolution of grand strategy, resource allocation, governance, and security force assistance. A study of select aspects of the First Anglo-Afghan War and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan highlights several policy missteps and miscalculations that, if heeded to, could have helped today's policymakers. The focus of the monograph, however, is on the ongoing U.S.-NATO effort. Based on some strikingly common and consistent errors of policy, the paper concludes that the incompetence and myopia of the policymakers is responsible for squandering the military gains and for failure to guide these wars to their strategic purpose and end state. In the end, the monograph puts forth a set of recommendations for both policymakers as well as operational artists.

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