What business lessons can we learn from the Afghanistan situation?
I'm a little bit of an "armchair general" in that I have had a long interest in military strategy... and of course, how it applies to business...
The recent happenings in Afghanistan encourage us to try to figure out what happened!
The US withdrew from Afghanistan... While it was predicted that the Afghanistan government would eventually fall to the Taliban, it was expected to take up to 1½ years...
Instead, it took something like 2 weeks...
It was so quick not because the Afghan troops and the Taliban had battles, and the Taliban won.
It was so quick because the Afghan troops dissolved, or melted away... In most cases, they didn't fight... Despite being superior in numbers, and having superior weapons...
I did read that one problem was logistics. Many Afghan troops were in far-flung parts of the country, and they relied on the USA to provide them with provisions and logistical support. When the US flew their planes out of the country, many of the provisions and logistical support for those troops stopped too. Apparently some far-flung outposts had guns - but no ammunition.
While the Afghan government had an air force, the Taliban - which has no air force - had a strategy for dealing with that. I read that they were known for finding the homes of the Afghan air force pilots, and killing the air force pilots in their homes.
No pilots means a useless air force, no matter how many planes you have.
But ultimately, I think it comes down to something Sun Tzu wrote more than 2,500 years ago...
Sun Tzu said (ch. 3)...
"Thus it is said that in warfare,
those who know the enemy and know themselves will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.
Those who do not know the enemy but know themselves will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat.
Those who know neither the enemy nor themselves will invariably be defeated in every engagement."
In this situation, there were actually three parties...
the Afghan troops
I think the USA "knew themselves"... but it can be argued that they did not really know well the Afghan troops, or the Taliban - otherwise the predictions wouldn't have been so wrong...
In business, the same holds...
You not only need to know yourself (such as the skills of yourself and any employees, your own motivations, and your own competitive advantages and disadvantages)...
But you also need to know your prospects and customers, and also your competitors, if you want to ensure success...
In my opinion, it largely boils down to that...
The Afghan troops were clearly not well-motivated...
The disappearance of provisions and logistical support in far-flung areas may have reduced their motivation (and in some cases, made it impossible)...
Another part is probably the extreme corruption of the Afghan government.
The outgoing Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, had a salary of $13,400 US dollars per year (that's not a typo)...
However, it's estimated that (prior to fleeing) he had a net worth of $5 million to $9 million US dollars. Something here does not seem to add up...
There's also a claim (from one of his ambassadors) that when he fled Afghanistan, the president took $169 million US dollars with him...
Would the troops really be motivated to fight so their president can stuff a few more million bucks in his bank account?
Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth!
Personally, I suspect that Afghanistan, unfortunately, will once again become a failed state... This could end up being a bigger problem for Afghanistan's neighbors (including China, which has a border with Afghanistan), than for the United States...
But there are useful lessons here for us in business...
FORBIDDEN profits they don't ever talk about.
Good insights Dien.
They ring up the cost at around 2 TRILLION dollars. Sure, we know the defense contractors made their loot, it is, after all the largest welfare program the US operates. Little tiny 100 to 200 million dollar contracts for things like TRANSIT, not only getting trucks there, but paying to have them "protected" while delivering the things needed for war.
It is known as WAR PROFITEERING, and it has been around since the first war.
The difference with Afghanistan is how millions upon millions of dollars went unaccounted for, and there were many profiteers in many countries who got rich off of this so called war. Let alone the complicity in the drug traffic.
The old saw, "follow the money", is an impossible game of chutes and ladders with snakes eating their rattlers, but it was FOR A SELECT FEW, the greatest business opportunity of their lifetime.
Just as Vietnam was for LBJ Texas cronies.
Re: FORBIDDEN profits they don't ever talk about.
One thing I love about you is you tell 'em like you see 'em, and you don't hold back!
I haven't looked into the profiteering in the Afghan war, but you're right, undoubtedly there was a truckload... jumbo-jet load... maybe aircraft-carrier load? of profiteering going on...
So, for the profiteers, the war was most likely a huge success...
I'm reminded of ...
Adnan Khashoggi comes to mind. Made his money ... at one time the wealthiest in the world ... by putting buyers and sellers together. Just a middleman. Later on, putting together arms deals.
Here's the Lifestyles profile:
The LBJ texas chronies....
Very odd thing about LBJ, the liberal democrat who got the first civil rights act passed, was also the guy who put the very right wing texas consortium of war profiteers together. And by the way, the kbr and halliburton gang did pretty dang well in Afghanistan too, Vietnam allowed them to work the kinks out of their scams, I mean, contracts and services.
It's good to think about deal-making!
Thanks for the reminder about Adnan Khashoggi! I hadn't thought about him for a while...
A super deal-maker...
But, I have to say, I think he was in a good position in that he was well-connected among the Saudi royals. I just read that his father was the personal medical doctor to the Saudi king... So I suspect he probably grew up around the Saudi royal family (without being a royal himself)...
But... it's good to think about deal-making!
Maybe I can post more about deal-making soon (I do things "behind the scenes" I don't always mention here - as is true for many of us!)...
This Marine is telling the truth...
Not just me Dien, here is a well written summation from someone who was there:
I agree with you (and him)!
I believe you (and him)!
I agree there was a lot of war profiteering going on, and also a lot of corruption...
Many people undoubtedly would have loved it to go on forever...
I also agree with him that it's not the American people's fault (I also read an article with that argument). I think it is now very clear there were a lot of lies... and without a doubt, many have gotten richer from the war through deceptive means...
I didn't know that about LBJ, by the way!
LBJ was perhaps, the greatest "politician" ever...
LBJ has had as many bios as anyone, the best are from Caro, and there are some amazing things in this man's life.
NO one was a more crafty, shrewd, conniving politico than he was.
And we are STILL paying the price for some of his shenanigans.
Re: What business lessons can we learn from the Afghanistan situation?
Good point about being connected. No doubt that added additional zeros to his deals.
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