A Vulcan's Tale

A Vulcan's Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan

Dov S. Zakheim
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 335
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt128194
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    A Vulcan's Tale
    Book Description:

    A firsthand account of how the Bush administration mismanaged its Afghan campaign,A Vulcan's Taleshines new and important light on the events and people behind the headlines in the immediate years following the September 11 attacks.

    The "Vulcans," so named by Condoleezza Rice, were eight foreign policy experts who advised George W. Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign. After Bush assumed the presidency, the Vulcans helped shape the administration's foreign policy following 9/11, including the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. All were veterans of past administrations, having served under either Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush, and they included among their ranks Dov Zakheim. Made comptroller and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense in 2001, Zakheim was also named the DoD's coordinator for Afghan civilian reconstruction in 2002.

    InA Vulcan's Tale, Zakheim draws on his own participation and intimate knowledge to analyze how the United States missed critical opportunities while it struggled to manage two wars, particularly the seemingly endless endeavor in Afghanistan. In his view, the Bush administration's disappointing results in Afghanistan were partly attributable to the enormity of the challenges, certainly. But flawed leadership and deficiencies of management, understanding, and forethought all played their parts as well.

    The power of the purse proved to be especially damaging. The Office of Management and Budget was slow to fund Defense's efforts at the outset of the Afghan conflict and then inadequately funded the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, casting the die for several additional years of conflict. The invasion of Iraq siphoned off critical resources for Afghanistan, thereby further complicating that country's reconstruction.

    Even with public policy of the highest order, the devil still lurked in the details, as the DoD's "money man" was soon to discover while he struggled to fund and manage the reconstruction of civilian Afghanistan. A Vulcan's Tale is an authoritative, candid but fair account of how a wise and admirable goal can be waylaid by insufficient funding and ineffective coordination, with the result of faulty -or, at best, incomplete -implementation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2126-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Failures of Dealing With “How”
    (pp. 1-5)

    I was in Kabul on December 1, 2009, when President Barack Obama told the world that 30,000 additional U.S. troops would be headed to Afghanistan in 2010, on top of the nearly 20,000 he had already added since he came to office in January 2009. I had not been in the city since I had left the Pentagon in April 2004. Traffic was heavier now; some construction was taking place; more shops were open. But the city was an armed camp, with checkpoints throughout the city center, coupled with “red zones” and “green zones.” For the first time ever I...

  6. ONE Nation Building and the 2000 Campaign
    (pp. 6-23)

    One afternoon in late August 2002, my personal assistant, Claudia Valente, told me that the secretary of defense wanted me in his office. I walked in unsure of the subject, which was unusual because I generally had a pretty good idea of what Donald Rumsfeld wanted to discuss before I went in to see him. I figured he probably wanted to discuss Iraq. General Tommy Franks, the commander at Central Command, whose purview covered the Middle East ranging from Pakistan to the Mediterranean, had recently been flooding my office with requests for funds to cover a host of requirements for...

  7. TWO Musical Chairs: Positioning for a Top Job on the New Team
    (pp. 24-36)

    Shortly after Election Day 2000, aNew York Timesreporter who wanted to discuss my views on American interventions overseas invited me to breakfast. He had read my piece in a Council on Foreign Relations booklet on interventions and figured, as others did, that if Bush were elected I would have a major policymaking role in the new administration. Whether I would was not at all clear, however. The only person assured of a job was Condi Rice, who was to be the national security adviser.

    In any event, having been interacting with the press throughout the course of the...

  8. THREE Transition to Government
    (pp. 37-52)

    In the few years since I left the government in the spring of 2004, the status of the United States has declined from what the journalist Charles Krauthammer has termed “the apogee of U.S. power” it had held since the end of the cold war. That decline surely commenced with the revelations of abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, which were publicized two weeks after I left the Pentagon. Before then the United States had vanquished the Taliban and Saddam’s forces, both in short order. Since then the now-unlamented Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has been disbanded, and post-CPA Iraq has...

  9. FOUR “From Now On, We Will Only Request a Supplemental in Wartime”
    (pp. 53-75)

    A real sense of optimism pervaded the Pentagon during the first few months of 2001. Most of the military and the civil servants there made little effort to conceal their distaste for the outgoing Clinton administration. They had taken Dick Cheney at his word when he told the Republican National Convention the previous summer that “help is on the way.” After all, Cheney had been a respected secretary of defense. And Colin Powell, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, was heading the State Department. Rumsfeld’s own team was filled with many DoD veterans, including Pete Aldridge, Reagan’s Air Force...

  10. FIVE 9/11
    (pp. 76-87)

    Not long before Don Rumsfeld was sworn in as secretary of defense on the late afternoon of January 20, 2001, he received a memo from Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listing the chiefs’ priorities for 2001. Unusually for a memo from the chairman to the secretary, the January 11 note was not classified, nor did it carry any of several possible markings limiting its distribution. Rumsfeld passed copies to me, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Schneider, and Steve Cambone on February 5, with the simple (and likewise unclassified) cover message, “Attached is a memo from the Chairman...

  11. SIX Funding Operation Enduring Freedom
    (pp. 88-106)

    Although the president had all but said at the Pentagon meeting that the nation was going to war, the administration initially confined its public activity to seeking to negotiate an arrangement with the Taliban that would enable the United States to take al Qaeda’s leaders into custody. This effort was not expected to succeed. The Taliban and al Qaeda had become close allies in the mid-1990s, shortly after the Taliban, a movement composed primarily of Pashtuns, many of whom had been educated in Pakistanimadrassasand all of whom were dedicated to imposing strict sharia law wherever they ruled, began...

  12. SEVEN The Pakistan Conundrum
    (pp. 107-126)

    The war in Afghanistan continued into late December of 2001, with the focus of operations increasingly in the southern part of the country, where the Pashtun tribes formed the majority of the population. In mid-December, after surviving the battle of Tora Bora, Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda leadership escaped into Pakistan. It appeared that the terrorists, like the Taliban leadership, had extricated themselves from Afghanistan with the help of Pashtun tribesmen. The Taliban leadership escaped to Quetta in Baluchistan while al Qaeda and many of the Taliban fighters reportedly fled to the FATA—the Federally...

  13. EIGHT Passing the Tin Cup
    (pp. 127-140)

    On January 19, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld issued another detailed unclassified memo to the senior DoD staff outlining his views on the direction of the war on terror.¹ He began by asserting that, “despite the September 11th terrorist attacks, or attacks that may occur in the future, the U.S. will not pull back or withdraw—the U.S. will stay engaged in the world.” He went on to make the case for preemption as the best self-defense against terrorism, arguing that the campaign will be (and here he used quotation marks) “long, hard and difficult.” “The U.S. will not rule out anything—...

  14. NINE The Cost of War
    (pp. 141-155)

    Take it from the guy holding the checkbook: The cost of a war is impossible to tabulate while the shooting continues, and the war in Afghanistan was (and remains) no exception. During its first year, in particular, far too many unknowns defied prediction. Would the pace of combat intensify or slow down over time? Would the enemy regroup, or would another enemy join in the battle, as China did during the Korean War? Would new or different weapons systems be needed? To what extent would allies offset the material and financial costs of war? Would Congress increase the benefits that...

  15. TEN Gearing Up for Iraq, Losing Focus on Afghanistan
    (pp. 156-171)

    Spring in Washington is the season for budget testimony. Cabinet officials, subcabinet officials, and a host of others troop up to Capitol Hill to defend their budgets before the committees that authorize the expenditure of funds and those that actually appropriate them. For the Pentagon, budget season means an endless series of appearances for the secretary, the deputy secretary, the service secretaries, the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and aides to each. They must appear before the various subcommittees of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the full committees, the Appropriations Committees and their Defense subcommittees, and...

  16. ELEVEN Coordinator for Afghanistan Reconstruction
    (pp. 172-183)

    At the same meeting that he told me of my new role as the department’s coordinator for Afghanistan reconstruction, Rumsfeld also announced that Major General Karl Eikenberry would be placed in charge of training the Afghan National Army. This announcement did not surprise me as my own appointment had. Some days earlier Rumsfeld had asked me if I knew the general; as usual, Don was uneasy about handing major assignments to people he neither knew personally nor knew much about. I told him that I had known Karl for years, ever since he was a China desk officer in the...

  17. TWELVE War Fever
    (pp. 184-192)

    Nowhere in Donald Rumsfeld’s densely packed list of observations in his single-spaced memo of January 19, 2001, did he mention Iraq. Yet, as is now widely known, war against Iraq was on Rumsfeld’s—and the administration’s—agenda since shortly after 9/11.¹ By late December 2001 Rumsfeld had briefed the president on a war plan that involved a military operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein, effect a quick hand over to an Iraqi government that succeeded Saddam, and retain a minimal American footprint once combat operations ended.² Detailed planning for the war, and for postwar activities that came to be known as...

  18. THIRTEEN A Second War, the First Unfinished
    (pp. 193-213)

    The Department of Defense completed its preparations for the fiscal year 2003 supplemental appropriation, which combined funding for the anticipated attack on Iraq, as well as for the ongoing operation in Afghanistan, almost at the same time as the United States attacked Iraq. DoD sent its supplemental request to Congress on March 25, 2003, five days after the attack on Iraq had begun; it was the fourth supplemental submitted since 9/11. The supplemental request totaled $79 billon, of which DoD was to receive $62.6 billion. The department wanted to place just under $60 billion in the DERF contingency fund to...

  19. FOURTEEN On the Road: New York, Latin America, Iraq, Poland, Spain
    (pp. 214-235)

    The war in Iraq was still raging—President Bush would not famously declare “mission accomplished” for another fortnight—when the core group of countries that Al Larson and I had organized to set up a major donors’ conference for Iraq’s reconstruction met in the State Department’s elegant eighth-floor dining room on April 14. It was clear that the international community had to move quickly to begin rebuilding the country, which was needed less because of war damage than because of the years of neglect and lack of investment under Saddam.

    The meeting was not one that engendered much debate but...

  20. FIFTEEN “I Am the Custodian of the Iraqi People”
    (pp. 236-243)

    Much has been written about Jerry Bremer, including a book by Bremer himself about his year in Iraq as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Most observers hold him accountable for the disastrous turn of events on the ground in Iraq during his tenure; Jerry, of course, takes a different view of those same events, or at least of his role as it affected them. As with the unlikely origins of the occupation itself, that debate will not be resolved here. For my part, however, I can say that I found Bremer increasingly difficult to deal with over the course...

  21. SIXTEEN Engaging Syria
    (pp. 244-250)

    Of all the states in the Middle East, Syria has been the most puzzling and frustrating for Americans. It is a state that is overwhelmingly Sunni, yet is dominated by the al-Asad family and their fellow Alawis, who constitute only 10 percent of the population and whom Sunnis consider to be heretics. Syria has traditionally opposed American efforts to broker an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, arguing instead for a “comprehensive” agreement involving all parties to the Israel-Arab conflict, and, Syria has hoped, calling for the complete return of the Golan Heights, which it lost to Israel in the...

  22. SEVENTEEN Defense Contractors
    (pp. 251-261)

    During the fourteen years between my two tours at Defense, I worked for a defense contractor. After leaving the department in 2004, I worked for another one. I therefore have a reasonable sense of what this somewhat arcane (to the general public) profession is all about.

    Contractors tend to be the butt of public scorn, angry editorials, and congressional legislation. They also happen to be absolutely essential to the effective functioning of the U.S. government. Contractor personnel tend to be drawn from two pools: bright young graduates, usually with second degrees; and former government officials, both civilian and military. As...

  23. EIGHTEEN “Afghanistan, We Haven’t Forgotten You”
    (pp. 262-272)

    I visited Afghanistan four times between 2002 and my departure from the Pentagon in April 2004. On all four trips I made the rounds of key Afghan ministers, notably Ashraf Ghani at Finance; Ali Jalali, a U.S.-Afghan dual citizen who resigned his job at the Voice of America to become interior minister in January 2003; Fahim Khan, the defense minister; and Abdul Rahim Wardak, Khan’s deputy and later his successor. Of course, I also paid courtesy calls on President Hamid Karzai, but our meetings were little more than that.

    The meetings with Ashraf and Fahim both fit a particular pattern....

  24. EPILOGUE Where Do We go from Here?
    (pp. 273-296)

    The situation in Iraq improved significantly during 2010 when I was drafting this book. Conversely, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated markedly after I left the Pentagon in 2004. At the beginning of 2011 the Taliban still controlled significant swaths of the country; the Haqqani network, which had not been a factor during my time in the Administration, was active in the Pashtun areas; while al Qaeda, though left with a minimal presence in Afghanistan, had not yet been defeated. Some elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, continued to support the Taliban, whose leaders, as well as some of all...

  25. Notes
    (pp. 297-312)
  26. Index
    (pp. 313-335 )
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-337)