Speaker:  Lt. Col. Patrick Kolesiak, Research Fellow, International Security Program

This seminar will be online. Please join us remotely via Zoom!  Click here to join.

As America pursues a negotiated peace deal with the Taliban and Afghan government, it is critical to return to analyze how a war that was supposed to last mere months turned into "America's Longest War." The failure of U.S. policy in Afghanistan was catastrophic misalignment between a rapidly emerging strategy in Afghanistan and the triad of "ends, ways, and means." This talk seeks to specifically explore how a divergence between a "Washington Way of War" and a "U.S. Military Way of Battle" led to failed assumptions, mismatched objectives, and missed opportunities. The speaker will explore six key mistakes made during the waning days of combat operations and the movement into post-conflict stability operations.

As the U.S. military pivots back to preparing for high-end, conventional, and near-peer conflict, and U.S. foreign policy focuses increasingly on rising and revisionist powers, the odds still favor the United States engaging in stabilization and nation-building missions abroad. As demonstrated in Afghanistan, failing to understand the strategic environment and make rapid adaptions during combat operations and in the immediate post-conflict aftermath set later stabilization, reconstruction, and nation-building efforts on a downward spiral from which it was impossible to deviate. Analyzing and institutionalizing the lessons learned across government from the initial failures in Afghanistan will help avoid critical mistakes in future contingencies.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.