(James Stavridis is a former US Navy vice admiral. This column first appeared in The Print on August 17, 2021)
- In 2006, as a Navy vice admiral, I was in Iraq traveling with Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld. At a town hall with U.S. troops, he famously answered a question about the U.S. Army’s lack of armored vehicles by saying, “You go to war with the army you have — not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” It was an honest but tone-deaf comment, and it was rattling through my mind over the weekend watching the stunning collapse of the Afghan security forces in the face of a Taliban onslaught. After my Pentagon service, I ended up as the Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. One of the key missions over four years, from 2009-2013, was to build an Afghan national army that could take over fighting from the 150,000 U.S. and International Security Assistance Force troops at the center of the fight with the Taliban. When we pulled out the final few thousand troops over the past several weeks, Afghanistan went to war with the “army we had,” and it collapsed miserably.