Taking a short break from my post as dean of The Fletcher School in snowy New England, I was delighted to present at the US Naval Institute’s WEST 2014 conference in San Diego with my good friend and classmate from the US Naval Academy, General John Allen. Our panel explored the question “What Does the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan Teach Us about the Future?” and drew upon his experience as the former Commander, International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and mine as the former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO.

The San Diego Union Tribune summed up some of my key points:

“There will be times when we need to act immediately, independently and take immediate action. But in general, collaboration with international partners, collaboration with our interagency partners, collaboration between private and public, that sense that no one of us … is as smart as all of us working together,” is an enduring legacy of the war in Afghanistan, Stavridis said.

“In the end, we won’t deliver security strictly from the barrel of a gun. We are going to do it through building teams.”

At its peak, the coalition in Afghanistan included 50 nations and 150,000 troops. “You would have to go back to the Peloponnesian wars (of ancient Greece) to find a coalition of similar size,” Stavridis said.

Referring to the diplomatic and military coalition central to his work in Afghanistan, the U-T reports General Allen as saying:

“How we ultimately nurtured the coalition, how we applied the strengths of each member … how we held together the cohesion of that coalition, so would go the campaign,” Allen said.

“American military power … is most judiciously applied, most effectively applied in a larger context of coalitions. And not just military coalitions, whole of governments,” Allen said.

Working to develop the Afghan national security forces was a critical mission that continues today, Allen said, because “without security almost nothing is possible in the future in Afghanistan.”

I invite you to watch the full panel, moderated by The Honorable Richard Danzig, Vice Chair of the Board, RAND Corporation and former Secretary of the Navy.  Click “play” to learn more about our shared history at the Navy!

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