The first episode of our three-part series on Afghanistan lessons discussed building armies. This episode focuses exclusively on assessing them. In the studio for this second episode are LTG (R) Eric Wesley, who brings experience from both the National Security Council Staff and the International Security Assistance Force, and Dr. Ben Connable, author of a RAND monograph entitled, Embracing the Fog of War: Assessment and Metrics in Counterinsurgency. They join guest host and U.S. Army War College Fellow LTC Ranjini Danaraj for a serious discussion about the assessment of military forces in Afghanistan. The conversation covers assessment shortfalls, optimism in reporting, holding commanders accountable to their assessment, creating competitive perspectives, taking a long view of war, and measuring the will to fight. Assessing is no easy task, but this episode provides insights on how to get it right, breaking the military’s assessment failure cycle, and helping military leaders accurately and credibly inform strategy decisions.
I’m remembering a quote from a staffer in the White House who happened to be an active duty officer and he said to the President of the United States “The good news is there’s nothing your military believes it cannot achieve. The bad news is they’re overoptimistic in terms of the assessments of what they’re achieving.”
Dr. Ben Connable is a senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and a retired U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer. Ben conducted research into operations assessment while serving as a senior political scientist at RAND. He published Embracing the Fog of War: Assessment and Metrics in Counterinsurgency, a study of assessment in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
LTG Eric J. Wesley retired as a deputy commander of Army Futures Command where he oversaw the publication of Multi Domain Operations. He is currently the CEO of Parasanti Inc and serves on a number of Boards. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
LTC (P) Ranjini Danaraj is a U.S. Army War College Fellow at Denver University. Her 21 years of service includes deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Command of the 759th MP BN, and assignments at USNORTHCOM, the Joint Staff, and the National Security Council Staff.
The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.
Photo Description: Afghan National Army recruits learn hand-to-hand combat at Kabul Military Training Center. Recruits take part in a 6-week basic military training program when they enlist in the ANA.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeff Nevison