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Old August 19, 2021, 03:25 PM
Dien Rice Dien Rice is offline
Onwards and upwards!
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 3,350
Default 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 1 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 USA
the Afghan troops
the Taliban

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...

Best wishes,


Last edited by Dien Rice : August 19, 2021 at 03:43 PM.
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