Shape, Clear, Hold, and Build
August 17, 2009
The US experience in the Afghan and Iraq Wars is scarcely over. It has, however, already produced a wide range of lessons. Some are narrow and apply largely at the tactical or technical level. Others, however, are much broader and have critical implications for grand strategy, stability operations and conflict termination, and a new kind of conflict that can only be called armed nation building.
These lessons suggest that the US needs to make major revisions in the way is assess the use of military force and the decision to go to war. They also suggest that the US must develop a new concept of integrated civil-military operations that see “stability” operations and conflict termination in terms of an extended commitment to nation building that will involve simultaneous military operations and civil aid efforts.
The Burke Chair has developed a briefing that summarizes these lessons since the beginning of each war, and then explores their impact in terms of key metrics for each conflict. This briefing is entitled "Shape, Clear, Hold, and Build: The Uncertain Lessons of the Afghan and Iraq Wars" and can be downloaded at the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/Afghan-IraqLess.edit.7.8.pdf.
It also suggests that developing host country and indigenous capabilities will be more critical than relying on traditional alliance structures, and that properly resource both US integrated civil-military operations, and the development of ghost country capabilities, at the start of US involve will be critical to success. It both the Afghan and Iraq cases, the US both failed to act decisively in the initial phases of an insurgency, and failed to take a realistic and integrated approach to dealing with the host country. These US mistakes were a key factor that empowered otherwise weak threats.
Two additional CSIS papers discuss the impact of these lessons in more detail:
“THE AFGHANISTAN CAMPAIGN: Can We Win?”
“IRAQ: A TIME TO STAY?”
The lessons briefing will be steadily refined with time, and comments and suggested revisions will be greatly appreciated. Please send them to Anthony H. Cordesman at email@example.com.