Small Wars Journal

Applying Iraq to Afghanistan

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Applying Iraq to Afghanistan

by Bradford M. Burris, Major, Psychological Operations, United States Army

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Applying Iraq to Afghanistan

Editor's Note:  this article was submitted

to us in early May, so the recent change in leadership at ISAF were not known to

the author at the time.  We feel the analysis remains relevant so we are

publishing as is, and a re-write/ update  is not what MAJ Burris needs to be

doing in his last days before he's off to Afghanistan to do that "applying."

Now that the new US strategy for

prosecuting the war in Afghanistan has been determined, military leaders and

media pundits are turning their attention to discussions of the best manner in

which to implement and execute the strategy.  As the military develops plans

supporting the strategy and journalists search for stories about the plans, both

will ask three questions:  first, what made US forces successful during the Iraq

war; second, do those successes provide lessons learned for Afghanistan; and

finally, how could US personnel translate those lessons to future military

operations regardless of the culture and geography?  This essay is certainly not

the first to investigate these three questions; however, it is unique because it

supports no political or military agenda regarding the war in Afghanistan.

Although this essay will not provide an

analysis of strategic motives, take a position on operational decision-making,

nor make political comparisons between Iraq and Afghanistan; it will explore the

American policies that fomented transition of the Al Anbar province from what

was once referred to as the "wild west" to what experts now call a model for

stability operations.  I will use process-tracing to identify relationships

between US military activity and sustainable security in Anbar, present a theory

explaining the correlation between US policy and provincial stability, present

the general similarities at the provincial level between the situation in Iraq

and Afghanistan, and extrapolate the positive lessons learned from the Anbar

experience to the current US involvement in Afghanistan. 

To frame the discussion of current

situation in Afghanistan, I will draw heavily from General Stanley McChrystal's

initial situational assessment provided to the US political leadership in August

2009.  The result of my analytical research will be to provide US policy

recommendations that are both specific enough to be effective at the provincial

level in Afghanistan, as well as broad enough to be effective in U.S. military

operations regardless of geographical location.  In order to maintain academic

rigor and to encourage professional military discourse, I will also address the

counterarguments to the assertions laid out in this essay. 

Download the full article:

Applying Iraq to Afghanistan

Major Bradford M. Burris

entered the United States Army in 1996 and has since commanded three times.  He

commanded a Field Artillery training battery from March 2001 until June 2002. 

He commanded Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment

from November 2002 until March 2004 during which time he deployed in support of

Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He commanded Alpha Company, 8th PSYOP BN (Airborne)

from July 2007 until November 2008 during which time he deployed to numerous

U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility locations.  He is currently earning

a Master of Science Degree in Defense Analysis at the United States Naval Post

Graduate School.

About the Author(s)