The Recent Images from Afghanistan are Heartbreaking

The images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking. Masses of people, fearful of the Taliban, press the gates of Kabul airport, struggling to get out. Some of these people are interpreters and workers who supported my paratroopers and me during our deployments. I’ve been writing scores of letters to help them, coordinating with US officials, and trying to link people together on the ground.

Thus far, five groups of my interpreters and their families have gone through the Taliban checkpoints, navigated the panicked crowds, and gotten into the airport. Others are still waiting to get inside. I worry that something bad is going to happen to the crowd — there are plenty of malign actors.

I’ve also been providing interviews on TV, Radio, and print to provide perspective about the situation and action steps to improve the situation. You can see some of the interviews on my bio page.

For this newsletter, here are some practical takeaways for your expert business.

1. When people have buy-in, they give you their discretionary effort. They stand by your side when the going gets tough. Without buy-in, people vote with their feet. What steps are you taking to gain buy-in from those supporting you?

2. Leaders serve, tyrants take. The Afghan security forces and government collapsed so quickly because the senior officials had drifted into predatory and corrupt behavior for 15 years or more. Officials stole land and misdirected American tax dollars into their pockets. Officers sold food, fuel, ammunition, and weapons on the black market, denying their soldiers the means to succeed. What kinds of service are you doing to benefit your community?

3. Focus on cause, not blame. Finger-pointing creates tired fingers; fist-shaking produces shaky fists. None of them are helping a single person get out of Afghanistan and could be placing people at greater risk. Finding blame does nothing to address the causes of problems.  The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and refugee backlogs are creating massive congestion outside the Kabul airport, heightening tensions and increasing the chances of problems. Airlifting people out first, then processing the applications can lower the probabilities of more calamities.

4. Bring in the fresh air. Officials in DC and other national capitals have been inhaling their own fumes about the legitimacy of the Afghan government in the eyes of Afghans and the prowess of the security forces. They collapsed like a barn on toothpicks. Mentors like Alan Weiss and David Newman keep the fresh air flowing so I don’t choke on my own exhaust. Who’s bringing in the fresh air for you?

5. Create freedom, not dependency. The U.S. and Afghan governments built a military that was overly dependent upon U.S. forces and contractors. Dependency contributed to their rapid collapse. It’s strategic malpractice. For consultants, creating dependency is unethical. Help your clients be their best selves to be better off and soar to new heights when you part ways.

My brother tuned in to one of my TV interviews this week. My niece, sitting next to him, heard the presenter say my name. She looked up at him and asked, “Who’s Colonel Kolenda?”

Your replies go directly to my inbox – no filters, no assistants. Directly to Me.

Lead well,

Chris Kolenda, Ph.D.
Kolenda Strategic Leaders Academy

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