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Aug. 27, 2021

Never Say Never 

An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Jan. 23, 2015. Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

 Afghanistan was the largest redevelopment program ever in the history of the United States. Bigger than rebuilding Europe, with the Marshall Plan after World War II. … Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals or the ambassadors or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam. … And lo and behold, we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again. And we really need to think and learn from the 20 years in Afghanistan.

Two words that can describe Afghanistan: One is this “hubris” that we can somehow take a country that was desolate in 2001 and turn it into a little Norway in that time frame. And the other thing is “mendacity.” You know we exaggerated, we over exaggerated, our generals did, our ambassadors did, all of our officials did to Congress and the American people about: We’re just turning the corner, we’re about ready to turn the corner. We give you a chapter and verse about how many of our generals talked about ‘just about ready to win.’ Well, we turned the corner so much, we did 360 degrees, we’re like a top.

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, July 29 at the Defense Writer’s Group virtual roundtable.

Freedom—at what cost

Lt. Gen. James Slife, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, teaches a squadron leadership course at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Aug. 17, 2020. Senior Airman Vernon Walter III

Like many, I struggle to make sense of it all. There will be history books written about everything from our tactics to our strategy and a host of unanswered questions swirling around in all our minds … all of it will be dissected under the cold, unforgiving light of retrospective assessment. I think I’m still way, way too close to be able to opine on any of this with any degree of certainty. However, there are a few things of which I’m certain. First, the Airmen of AFSOC have done what they were asked to do magnificently. Valor. Sacrifice. Duty. All of it. … Second, there will be many hard days … months … years … ahead for many of us as we reflect—often with with deep ambivalence—on how we feel about our experiences in Afghanistan. We’ll process this all while continuing to deal with the physical wounds, the neurocognitive wounds, the psychological wounds, and the moral wounds we’ve suffered along the way. If, like me, you find yourself trying to put your own experiences into some context which will allow you to move forward positively and productively—I urge you to talk about it.

Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, perspective after U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan [Aug. 15.].

The A-10 is Not the Future

Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II’s release counter measure flares over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, July 23, 2020. Staff Sgt. Justin Parsons

China is our…pacing threat. If we’re going to keep pace with what they’re doing … you’re not going to do it by refurbishing a fleet of 40-year-old, single-mission, 210-knot airplanes. You’re just not, regardless of how much they’re loved and the great performance they’ve done.

Gen. Mark D. Kelly, commander, Air Combat Command, offering his view of the long-term effectiveness ofkeeping the A-10 in the combat air forces, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Life Cycle Industry Days streaming seminar, Aug. 3.

Fly! Fight! Win!

U.S. Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. PACAF commander, arrives at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, for a base tour, Oct. 18, 2019. Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Mendez

Me being me, I’ve always felt I’m not real cocky, but if I get in an airplane, you better watch out.

Air Force Chief Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., Aug. 6, at the National Press Club, describing a new recruiting commercial which ends with him saying he’s “an American Airmen, kicking your butt.”

Space Battlefields

The next war … will be fought in cyberspace and outer space, initially. You aren’t going to see land wars in Asia or tank battles in Europe. What you are going to see is cyber attacks … attacks against strategic assets in space, to compromise communications and sensing systems. And being able to defend those assets, being able to project and to replenish those assets, is really what we’re focused on.

Greg Hayes, CEO, Raytheon Technologies, speaking with reporters on a second quarter earnings call, July 27.

First, First Responders

Militaries will be increasingly overstretched as climate change intensifies. As the pace and intensity of extreme weather events increases, countries are increasing their reliance on military forces as first responders. … While direct climate change effects regularly threaten military infrastructure and threaten to reduce readiness, the most pressing security threats will come from climate change-induced disruptions to social systems.

International Military Council on Climate and Security, June report.