YEAR OF DECISION IN AFGHANISTAN
MAJOR-GENERAL RICK OLSON (USA-Ret)
Former commanding General, 25th U.S. Infantry Division in Afghanistan
GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID (USA-Ret)
After more than 13 years of war, the United States again faces a major decision point in Afghanistan. Specifically, what troop levels are required for success in that conflict and what tactics/strategies should be employed.
The President and his key national security advisors are considering revising troop levels and deployment patterns at this time. President Obama appears to be inclined toward restraint with respect to force levels and enhanced intervention in that troubled country. In contrast, his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and several national security experts, have expressed concerns that if the United States does not enhance its presence on the ground in Afghanistan, the weak government in Kabul will lose additional territory to various insurgent groups, principally Al Qaeda. The President and his national security team must consider force levels and deployments in the context of escalating tensions and challenges in the broader Middle East. This includes the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, and various radical Islamic groups in Libya, Somalia, Nigeria and other areas.
General Olson will review the observations/recommendations made by the outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Campbell, and will analyze the vision and expectations laid out by General Nicholson, who replaced Campbell. Olson will provide a candid assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and will look at what key decisions will need to be made (e.g., what sort of “end state” is envisioned, what forces will be required, and for how long should we anticipate maintaining these forces and capabilities). He will summarize by forecasting what we can “hope for” by the end of 2016, vice where we “should expect to be”.
A West Point 1972 graduate, General Olson has commanded at every level from platoon to division, including his last three years of service as the CG of the 25th Infantry Division (light), including in Afghanistan. General Olson also served as the Commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, responsible for all security and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan.
We are pleased that General John Abizaid will offer comments on Olson’s presentation and security challenges in the region. Abizaid is the former Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), overseeing American military operations in the 27-country region from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia. In that role he commanded over 250,000 U.S. troops and oversaw the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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