Marjah's Lessons for Kandahar

by Jeffrey Dressler

July 9, 2010

The execution of Operation Moshtarak has presented coalition and Afghan forces with unique insight into the planning and execution of large-scale counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. Rushed clearing operations, the premature overreliance on ANCOP, and a limited capacity to establish effective local governance have hindered success. As coalition and Afghan forces look towards Kandahar this summer, the lessons from Operation Moshtarak should be used to inform proper planning and execution in order to avoid the repetition of costly mistakes. 

Most importantly, campaign objectives and timelines must be grounded in reality. A premature progression through the clear phase creates false expectations and sets the stage for misplaced criticism. The inability to meet unrealistic expectations gives the impression of failure, emboldening the enemy and increasing doubt amongst the population. Rather, objectives and timelines based on experience and lessons learned provide a realistic and accurate opportunity for enduring success. Although unforeseen challenges and obstacles to overcome will likely surface during the ‘Cooperation for Kandahar’ campaign, accurate planning and proper execution enable the greatest possibility of success. Much like in Marjah, success will require time.