Some key take aways (all direct quotes emphasis added):
1. Marines performed superbly in very difficult conditionComment: The author of the report, Dr Mark Moyer has written extensively on leadership as decisive in war. In a sense that's a truism. There are many other factors that are also important and in this report we see Moyer going further than some of his past work because the Marines activities and successes go beyond excellent leadership. A willingness to change tactics in the face of an orthodoxy can be painted as leadership, which indeed it is, but then anything that works can be painted as leadership - which is my issue with leadership as a measure of effectiveness. Willingness to change takes moral courage but it also takes smarts to see through a problem and find new solutions - the former is leadership the latter is good strategy. Moyer makes a good point where he discusses the enemy-centric and population centric approaches to COIN and points out that the US has adopted both approaches both in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is certainly true and MIL INT would add that the balance between the two was not equal. Indeed, as MIL INT has argued here and elsewhere the balance is weighted toward an enemy centric approach in Afghanistan now and as his own research shows, that has gone a long way to delivering results.
2. Military successes stimulated reconciliation and population mobilization. The population-centric COIN that preceded the Marines had relied on political outreach and economic development to convince Sangin’s residents to abandon the insurgency and join the government side. Military force was minimized based on the theory that violence would create “accidental guerrillas,” kill off potential negotiating partners and alienate the insurgents so much that they would never consider reconciling with the government. This approach accomplished little.
3. The ultimate sustainability of the counterinsurgency approach recommended in this report—and of most anything spearheaded by foreigners in Afghanistan—will come down to the quality of Afghan leadership that is in place in the coming years, particularly at the local level... While we can afford the coming cuts to Afghanistan’s economic and social development programs, we cannot afford to cut the human capital development that the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and other entities are now conducting.