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An American General Explains How We Lost In Iraq And Afghanistan47:13

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With guest host John Harwood.

A three-star General on why we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Afghan police soldier walks past opium and narcotics set on fire during a drug burning ceremony on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP)
An Afghan police soldier walks past opium and narcotics set on fire during a drug burning ceremony on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP)

America has been at war ever since 9/11 – thirteen years and counting,  longer than World Wars I and II combined. American soldiers are returning to Iraq to fight the Islamic State after it appeared they had left for good. Will we also have to reverse course in Afghanistan, where soldiers are scheduled to depart by year-end? Are we winning, losing or something in between? Or have we already lost? That’s the argument in a new book from a retired three-star general – who accepts personal responsibility for the outcome. This hour, On Point: taking stock of our Global War on Terrorism.
-- John Harwood


Ret. Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, served in the United States Army for 35 years. Author of the new book, "Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars."

From The Reading List

New York Times: The Truth About the Wars — "We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that."

NPR News: A 3-Star General Explains 'Why We Lost' In Iraq, Afghanistan -- "In over 500 pages, the retired three-star general describes the conflicting agendas that haunted both campaigns, as well as the difficulty of identifying the enemy and the looming specter of Vietnam. 'The bravery and sacrifice of the people that I was privileged to serve with should be saluted,'  he tells NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates. 'And the mistakes, the errors made by guys like me have to be accounted for and explained so we can learn 'and do better in the event we have to do something like this again.'"

Guardian US: General Dan Bolger says what the US does not want to hear: Why We Lost -- "Bolger considers a reckoning with the military’s poor record in Iraq and Afghanistan overdue. The army in which he soldiered for three decades comes in for the greatest amount of blame, a decision that flatters the military’s pretensions about being above politics but arguably lets the Bush and Obama administrations off the hook. Bolger, a senior officer responsible for training the Iraqi and Afghan militaries, includes himself in the roster of failed generals."

Read An Excerpt Of "Why We Lost" By Daniel Bolger


This program aired on November 13, 2014.

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