Fletcher in the News

Dean Stavridis and Other Top Military Leaders in Afghanistan Say Coalition is the Way Forward

San Diego Daily Transcript

Dean Stavridis The Fletcher School

The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as part of the global war on terror has been a long, complicated and controversial campaign, but two of the top commanders of the operation said its odds for overall long-term success are positive, with the experience presenting many lessons for our nation going forward.

Top among those lessons is the importance of coalition support coupled with the reality that American unilateral military action is no longer a smart move.

“I hadn’t had to confront the fact that the United States as a super power, and in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union the ultimate mega power if you will, we never had the opportunity to -- I think -- confront the reality of limitations of American power,” said retired Marine Gen. John Allen, former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

He and retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, [Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University and] former supreme commander of NATO’s allied forces, said the 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan, the largest such international effort since the Peloponnesian Wars of ancient Greece, was a key component to the conflict’s successes thus far, and will remain necessary in future campaigns…

…“I think the worst lesson we could draw from Afghanistan is that of isolationism,” Stavridis said. “And let’s be blunt: There’s enormous fatigue in our country for this kind of operation, stemming from Iraq and Afghanistan and I think the public tends to conflate it all.

“We have to stay engaged; it is frustrating, it’s hard, we have to pick our battles … But the worst thing we could do, in my opinion, is to walk away from this turbulent part of the world or take the lesson that we should come home to our shores -- that would be an enormous mistake.”

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