Center for Strategic Communication

The dangers of magical thinking and the need for politics, planning & strategy

This American Security Project paper examines the war in Afghanistan to identify lessons policymakers need to learn from the conflict.

Much discussion of the war focuses on narrow issues like military doctrine or troop surges, but there are more fundamental lessons that need to be learned from the last ten years of war. US policy has been hobbled by magical thinking, misunderstanding the country of Afghanistan, ignoring politics, poor planning, and a disturbing refusal to plan for the future.

Gary Hart, former senator and Chairman of the American Security Project, said: “Lessons learned from past mistakes must provide positive guidance under future circumstances.”

Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney USMC (Ret.), CEO of the American Security Project said:  “As the war in Afghanistan winds down it is vital we draw the correct lessons from the last ten years of combat.”

He continued:  “The five lessons we discuss here are some of the most important ways the war has failed to live up to expectations. We have to understand them so we can avoid similar missteps in the future.” 

Joshua Foust, ASP Fellow for Asymmetric Operations and author of the paper said: “The five lessons in this report will help establish a framework for understanding future asymmetric wars the U.S. will fight.”


He continued: “These five lessons are not a list of everything that has ever gone wrong or right in Afghanistan. But they are issues that just aren’t being discussed in the public debates about the war. They need to be.”


You can download the report here or read it below:

Five Lessons We Should Have Learnt in Afghanistan