Let’s talk about the Afghanistan exit through the lens of logistics. Stay in Afghanistan? Leave Afghanistan? We’re careful to stay away from partisan politics, and Afghanistan at the strategic level it was a partisan political question.
We don’t talk about politics; we talk about logistics.
Given the political decision to exit, it is fair to evaluate the execution of the logistics plan behind that decision. Against that lens, the exit was an egregious failure. The coalition had a massive, fortified, secure, and defensible airfield in Bagram, about 40 miles from Kabul. We abandoned it. The American military withdrew into Kabul, and the Afghan collapse continued around it. The Taliban offered us the opportunity to keep control over security and logistics movements and security in Kabul, and we declined.
As reported by the Washington Post, “senior U.S. military leaders in Doha — including General McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command – met with Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political wing. ‘We have a problem,’ Baradar said, according to the U.S. official. ‘We have two options to deal with it: You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.’”
By August 31, the last domino fell. America left behind Afghan allies. America left behind coalition partners. America left behind Americans. America dragged their credibility through the mud.
Balance logistics goals against potential risks. Understand supply chain risk in the operational context. Make supply chain risk management a cornerstone of the operational plan.
There is a lesson in this for all senior management. Senior leaders – particularly senior political leaders – should do policy and stay out of the operational details.
Let the logisticians – not the politicians – lay out and execute the operational plans.