Ian Langford - Afghanistan

Running time
2 min 43 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The reality was, each country was there for their own interests, which is, okay. And so as a, you know, as a military leader, you've got to look past that and you've got to build teams and forge collective interests in the context of the mission that's at hand. So if there was a particular requirement of a partner, as it relates to their own nation’s policy, as it involved their commitment to Afghanistan, that's okay, that's just the reality of dealing with coalitions and being able to, you know, absorb that as just an operating factor was, I think, you know, important in terms of demonstrating effective leadership in that environment.

So, those things weren't restrictions or constraints, they were just considerations. And so, you know, not all militaries operate in the same way, not all have the same capabilities but they all bring something unique. And perhaps, where we lacked cultural competence in the early parts of the operation purely because we hadn't operated in that part of the world. at that scale probably ever, you have to go back to sort of Allenby and you know, the road to Damascus campaigns of the First World War, perhaps, to sort of emulate some of what we were required to do, you know, we needed to get smart on cultural competence really quickly, we needed to better integrate with our wholly government partners to include Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade really quickly.

And, again, because of the talent of our people we were able to do that. But Afghanistan in particular is one of those theatres where I think experiences vary, because of the nature of that operation. We had some parts of our force that were engaged in high intensity close combat, we had other parts of our force that were staff officers as part of a multinational headquarters. Both are of equal value, but the experiences were very different.

And I think organisationally, now we need to draw all of those experiences, understand how we can improve professionally as an organisation, understand what are the key insights that we can draw from that as it relates to us informing our future operating environment and then move forward in that context. And, you know, taking those experiences, applying to what we think our future challenges are is what is really important right now because, again, we want to avoid making mistakes and missteps and use this to reinforce strengths as we move forward.

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