Flight Risk

The Coalition's Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan, 2005-2015
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Published:October 15, 2018

From the 1920s Afghanistan maintained a small air arm that depended heavily upon outside assistance. Starting in 2005, the United States led an air advisory campaign to rebuild the Afghan Air Force (AAF). In 2007 a formal joint/combined entity, led by a U.S. Air Force brigadier general, began air advisor work with Afghan airmen.

Between 2007 and 2011, these efforts made modest progress in terms of infrastructures, personnel and aircraft accessions, and various training courses. But by 2010, advisors increasingly viewed AAF command and control (C2) as a problem area that required significant improvement if a professional air force was to be built. In the spring of 2011, major institutional changes to AAF C2 procedures were being introduced when nine U.S. air advisors were killed. The attack was the worst single-incident loss of U.S. Air Force personnel in a deployed location since 1996 and the worst insider-attack since 2001.

From the day of that tragic event, the cultural chasm between Afghanistan and the West became more apparent. This dilemma continues with no end in sight to an air advisory mission of uncertain long-term value.


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Product Details
  • Subject: Aviation
  • Hardcover : 376 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (October 15, 2018)
  • ISBN-10: 1682473368
  • ISBN-13: 9781682473368
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 22.4 oz
  • “The author has produced a thoroughly researched book on a subject that has received virtually no coverage before. It is bound to become one of the key source books on counter insurgency…. It is well illustrated and easy to read…. A comprehensive information resource.” —FIRE Reviews
  • “Dr. Forrest Marion, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who twice deployed as a field historian to Afghanistan, has meticulously documented the story of the U.S. Air Force's effort to develop an Afghan counterpart. He dispassionately captures the difficulty of achieving that goal due to Afghan shortfalls (corruption and lack of professionalism), American shortfalls (lack of language skills and cultural awareness), and the sheer difficulty of building national institutions in a country riven by tribal and ethnic balkanization. His book provides critical insight into what has become the longest war in U.S. history. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the mission of advising and assisting foreign military forces.” —Jon T. Hoffman, Chief Historian, U.S. Army and author of Chesty: The Story of LtGen Lewis B. Puller
  • "This fascinating and first-rate study, on the basis of vast archival research, interviews, and the author's personal observations, is well-written, lucid, and rich with implications that go far beyond the war in Afghanistan, offering broader insights into relations with allies, fighting corruption, and cultural challenges in advisor missions." —Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Department of History, University of Tennessee, and Director of the UT Center for the Study of War and Society
  • “Advisory relationships during counterinsurgencies are always problematical, arguably never more than in the Air Force’s torturous effort to rebuild the Afghan Air Force. Social, cultural, political, religious, ethnic, experiential, and educational differences, coupled with organizational and structural differences between the American and Afghan military, challenged and frustrated all participants. Worse, the tragic murder of eight Air Force personnel and a civilian by a disaffected Afghan Air Force officer in a “Green on Blue” shooting—the single greatest loss of Air Force airmen to an insider attack since 9-11—shattered the trust and mutual confidence necessary for a successful partnership. In this thoroughly researched, clearly written, and vigorously argued book, Dr. Forrest Marion, an outstanding reserve officer-scholar who himself served in Afghanistan as an Air Force Field Historian, has presented this sobering and cautionary tale in all its complexity, capturing the idealism and frustration inherent to it, and offering important insights for future operations.” —Dr Richard P Hallion, formerly The U.S. Air Force Historian and director of the Air Force History and Museums Program, and author of Air Power Confronts an Unstable World

Forrest L. Marion is a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel and has a PhD in U.S. history from the University of Tennessee. He is an oral historian and staff historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He deployed as joint task force historian to the southern Philippines (2002) and as air advisor wing historian to Afghanistan (2009, 2011).

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