Continued from page 1

A closely related dynamic is related to end-of-tour performance reporting. A combat-zone performance report carries significant weight at the next promotion board. Not surprisingly, the focus on doing “something meaningful” creates turmoil as people rotate in and out, declare the previous efforts ineffective, and start their own programs. This unsatisfactory situation creates its own perpetual dust storm of short-term-focused efforts to achieve immediate goals.

Our fear of being associated with an Afghan failure makes us classic enablers. We reward poor performance by throwing more money or stepping in and doing the job for the Afghans so we don’t get blamed for their failures. This behavior prolongs problems and entrenches poor performers. Somehow, some way, we have to figure out how to let the Afghans fail while protecting them from catastrophic consequences and protecting our own people in the end-of-tour evaluation process.

This complex constellation of issues dramatically affects our efforts. It doesn’t appear there is any command recognition of these factors. New commanders only stir the pot. Our nation-building efforts cannot succeed because we are not committed to the generational time frame necessary to implement meaningful change. When we depart, the short-term operational goals that only marginally support our strategic efforts will collapse because there is no effort to build self-sustaining Afghan government agencies that fit the culture.

Robert A. Wehrle recently returned from a tour supporting the Afghan Ministry of Interior. He is a member of the board of directors of the Alexandrian Defense Group, a small international think tank specializing in counterinsurgency issues.