If you’ve read the plethora of post-mortem reports on Afghanistan, there are plenty of enemies to go around, from corruption, to incompetent leadership, to 20 years of rosy assessments from our own defense establishment. For me, there is a single day that Afghanistan died, and it was June 16, 2021.
I have spent my entire adult life studying insurgency and terrorism, sometimes with books and research, other times from the barrel of a gun, and because of it, I have learned Napoleon’s ultimate truth: In warfare, the moral is to the physical as three is to one. Insurgency as a form of warfare is based on faith and belief that one will win. Why else would a peasant take up a rifle and fight against an entrenched government with every bit of that physical capability against him, if not for the belief that he or she would eventually win? It is the single form of warfare where perception can actually become reality — and that is exactly what happened in Afghanistan on June 16, 2021.
The Afghanistan Commandos are the only force in the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) that actually fight and win. They have done so since we began building them, first with the CIA, then with our own Special Forces. They were known as the only force that had no tribal affiliation and were the only force in the country that would fight for the state of Afghanistan regardless of the human terrain. And they were really good. At one point, toward the end, they were conducting upwards of 90 percent of all combat actions inside the country — strained to the breaking point but succeeding with the support of the United States.