Small Wars Journal

Flawed assumptions led to tragic outcomes in Afghanistan

Sat, 08/21/2021 - 2:40pm

Access this on Military Times HERE.

Flawed assumptions led to tragic outcomes in Afghanistan

David Maxwell

Many Afghanistan post-mortems will be written. All will identify many problems. But two major flaws in U.S. policy are readily apparent and warrant immediate attention. Although it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions, the current tragedy likely stems in part from false assumptions — embraced by the White House —about the Afghan military and the recently ousted Afghan government. Assumptions may seem like a mundane aspect of military planning, but they are critical for the success of any military operation.

All planners know that assumptions are warranted when there is a lack of information to continue planning. They are “suppositions taken as true in the absence of truth,” as noted on page I-5 of joint planning doctrine. If additional information emerges, assumptions can become facts. If there is information that shows an assumption is wrong, the plan must change. If a plan is executed based on assumptions that prove to be wrong during execution, the operation will fail unless there is a contingency plan for the failed assumptions. This is why all planners remember Von Moltke’s adage, “no plan survives contact.”