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The Importance of Effective Leadership
Lack of good leaders leads to awful outcomes
When the team isn’t equal to the challenge, the results can be devastating. The U.S. and NATO have been in Afghanistan for 20 years. They started to leave, and the results… the results make me feel sick.
When we consider the domestic situation in Afghanistan, I’m struck by the lack of commitment within the official government to fight to keep their nation. They had years of training. They had excellent equipment. But they had a “lack of will to fight.” President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul as the Taliban approached. In the days prior, town after town was taken without a fight. Thousands of people who were responsible—responsible for protecting civilians, the government, and the rule of law—abandoned their posts.
There is a self-preservation to this on the individual level. If you are only one person fighting back, the aggressors are going to target you in a swarm. But if everyone fights back together, they are able to hold the line. This is why unit-cohesion and “You-go/we-go” mindsets are so vital to success in armed conflicts. Commitment to the team and to the mission are vital. The widespread lack of these is a catastrophic failure of leadership.
The Afghan military had 300,000 troops, excellent equipment and military infrastructure (airbases, etc.), and 20 years of training. On paper, they should have been equal to the challenge of holding off the Taliban. In reality, they lost everything in less than 2 weeks, because no one in leadership gave the troops a sense of purpose, of duty, or a vision worth fighting for.
For a counter-example, I think back to the historical example of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He inspired his people to fight for four years to protect their homeland against being divvied up as the spoils of war after WWI. He inspired his people to build a modern, educated, secular state. He championed gender equality, the separation of religion from the state, and grew a new nation out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
There will be no modern nation rising out of the ashes of Afghanistan. And that is a tragedy for the 38 million Afghanis who now have to live there.
(Photo: Screen grab/ Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/15/taliban-continues-advances-captures-key-city-of-jalalabad)