Small Wars Journal

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SWJ Blog is a multi-author blog publishing news and commentary on the various goings on across the broad community of practice.  We gladly accept guest posts from serious voices in the community.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 05/18/2010 - 9:56am | 3 comments
Jules Crittenden has a nice piece up on Forward Movement, Forever War, about Dexter Filkens of The New York Times.

Straightforward piece of work suggests someone who knows what he's doing, doesn't mess around, keeps his head and lets it tell itself. Could stand as a great tutorial for Journalism 101, or Advanced War Reporting, the graduate seminar. You still have to be a reporter, and do the basic job. I don't want to think about how you get that good at that and what you walk away with. It's too early in the morning.

Much more at Forward Movement.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 05/18/2010 - 8:33am | 1 comment
Connecting with Kabul: The Importance of the Wolesi Jirga Election and Local Political Networks in Afghanistan - Noah Coburn, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

There is a renewal of interest in the lower house of Afghanistan's parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga, taking place in both Afghan domestic politics and international discussion about governance in Afghanistan. This is particularly in the wake of the house's rejection of a significant number of ministerial nominees, its opposition to President Hamid Karzai's recent election decree and its initial refusal to ratify the national budget. With an evolving relationship with the executive branch, and elections currently scheduled for 18 September 2010, there are many questions about the role of the Wolesi Jirga in national and local politics that have not been considered carefully enough. And despite widespread concern about fraud and corruption during the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections, there is little consensus on what lessons were learned from those elections or what parliamentary elections mean for politics in Afghanistan.

While the international community focuses on procedural aspects of the upcoming elections, this preliminary study suggests that, on a local level, many Afghans are concerned about how parliamentary elections will play out for very different reasons. In fact, interviewees have tended to de-emphasise the role of corruption and questions of government legitimacy and procedure, which dominate much of the current discussion of the election in the international press. Instead, those questioned tended to focus on the role of parliamentarians as important members of local patronage networks who provide some of the few real opportunities for communities to connect with the funding opportunities available in Kabul.

This paper argues in particular that the international community needs to pay more attention to the upcoming parliamentary election—not only for the precedents it will set in attempts to promote representational governance in Afghanistan, but, more pressingly, because of the ability of parliamentary elections to stimulate local political debate and reshape local political networks across Afghanistan in a meaningful manner. It suggest several broad measures that the Afghan government and the international community should take to better concentrate their efforts to support more active, local and democratic political debates...

Read the entire paper the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 05/18/2010 - 8:25am | 4 comments
A General Covers an Army War Game - Lt. Gen. David Barno, U.S. Army (ret.), Foreign Policy's The Best Defense.

The annual "Unified Quest" futures war game held recently at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was pretty impressive -- and also a refreshing change from my many previous forays.

Led by the human energizer Brigadier "HR" McMaster, this forum kicked off as a Very-Different-from-the-Big-Army event by enforcing a "NO POWERPOINT" rule. (OK, they showed about five slides over four-plus days.) Army insiders recognize how fundamentally heart-stopping this notion is among any audience of generals. A four-day conversation -- scary for some, I know!

Although labeled a "war game" (and based on some scarily realistic scenarios), this week was more of a graduate seminar for a fistful of Army generals and senior civilians, as well as a smattering of U.S. allies and partners. 4-star TRADOC Commander Marty Dempsey chaired all four days 00 a huge commitment that I've never seen made by his predecessors in earlier years...

More at The Best Defense.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/17/2010 - 10:38am | 9 comments
The latest Economist Debate is on Afghanistan; with opening statements by John Nagl, President of the Center for a New American Security, and Peter W. Galbraith, Former Deputy UN Envoy to Afghanistan.


The war in Afghanistan is winnable because for the first time the coalition fighting there has the right strategy and the resources to begin to implement it.


The war in Afghanistan is not winnable because America does not have a credible Afghan partner and there is no prospect that one will emerge.

Join the debate and vote at The Economist.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 05/16/2010 - 12:39am | 0 comments
British Diplomat Takes Key Afghan Role - Mark Landler and Thom Shanker, New York Times.

When military officers and diplomats gathered in a secure room in the Pentagon on a recent Friday to get a video briefing from the Afghan battlefield, they were startled to see a youthful British diplomat in an open-neck shirt, rather than the familiar face and camouflage fatigues of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander.

The diplomat's name is Mark Sedwill, the new senior civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan, and on that day, he was acting as General McChrystal's proxy. It is a role Mr. Sedwill, 45, has taken on with increasing regularity in recent weeks, forging a tight relationship with the general that associates say carries echoes of the one in Iraq between Gen. David H. Petraeus and the American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker.

Their mission also bears striking similarities to the "surge" those men carried out in Iraq: forging a combined military-civilian offensive to drive out a stubborn insurgency and allow a competent local government to take root. As the protracted struggle to bring order to the southern Afghan town of Marja demonstrates, it has been an uphill battle so far...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 05/15/2010 - 11:47pm | 0 comments
U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts - Mark Mazzetti, New York Times.

Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information - some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.

But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials and businessmen, and an examination of government documents, tell a different a story. Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 05/15/2010 - 8:47am | 6 comments
Afghan Reconciliation Strategy Should Reflect Pashtun Culture - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

How do wars end in the tribal society of Afghanistan? That's one of the interesting questions that was highlighted by President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington last week. During their well-scripted news conference at the White House, both Karzai and President Obama said they favored a process of outreach to the Taliban. And both presidents endorsed, as a start, the "peace jirga" that Karzai will host in Kabul in several weeks.

Obama described a framework for this peace process. He said it must be "Afghan-led" and that it should "open the door to the Taliban who cut their ties to al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and accept the Afghan constitution, including respect for human rights." But these public comments skirted the hard questions about reconciliation. Of the 1,400 Afghans who will be invited to the jirga, will there be any senior Taliban leaders who could actually explore a deal? What role will Pakistan play in bringing to the table a Taliban leadership it helped create and sustain? How soon do Karzai and Obama see this process moving toward real negotiations? ...

More at The Washington Post.

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 05/14/2010 - 5:01pm | 6 comments
Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Obama hopes that good Afghan policy will mean good U.S. politics,

2) Is the Marine Corps just another army?

Obama hopes that good Afghan policy will mean good U.S. politics

A month ago, the Obama administration's relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai were broken, with the insulted Afghan president threatening to join the Taliban. Today, early April seems like a lifetime ago. In a White House meeting this week that was almost canceled in April, U.S. President Barack Obama decisively allied himself with Karzai.

During his news conference with Karzai, Obama reaffirmed his intention to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011. Obama undoubtedly wants to run for re-election in 2012 with the message that he wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He may be using Richard Nixon's first term as a model. Nixon reduced the U.S. head count in Vietnam from more than 500,000 to just a few thousand by election day in 1972. That wind down of the war, combined with an economic rebound and a weak opponent, resulted in a landslide re-election.

The dangers of Obama's July 2011 withdrawal declaration are well known. The Taliban, with ample sanctuaries, can easily conserve their resources and adjust the tempo of their operations to extract maximum political effect. Once a U.S. withdrawal begins, it will become irreversible. Political events might even lead to its acceleration. The United States' remaining coalition partners surely won't dither on the tarmac. Another risk is that Afghanistan's security forces will not be ready to accept heavy responsibility in 14 months.

Obama undoubtedly understands this. Doesn't his policy of a quick U.S. withdrawal risk creating an even bigger mess, a debacle of his making that he would have to fix in his second term?

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 05/14/2010 - 9:52am | 0 comments
Getting the Next War Right: Beyond Population-centric Warfare - Thomas A. Marks, Sebastian L.v. Gorka, and Robert Sharp; Prism, National Defense University.

... With the end of the Cold War - and especially since 9/11 - we have been faced with a still more complex world. From Afghanistan to Mexico, irregular threats have replaced the classic nation-on-nation or bloc-on-bloc confrontations we had grown comfortable with. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia catapulted the United States and its allies back to irregular efforts spanning the gamut from the high tempo operations inherent to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to the seemingly more sedate but often no less intense commitments required for whole-of-government stability operations and nationbuilding. Ironically, despite efforts to push forward in our "full spectrum" capabilities, we remain hampered by legacy attitudes of compartmentalization and linear thinking. Even more problematic and disturbing is our willingness to engage in operations and deploy forces without fully grappling with the implications of the shift to population-centric warfare as prominently assessed by General Sir Rupert Smith in The Utility of Force. As a result, our leaders can place the military in harm's way without knowing what it is they should achieve and whether it is in fact achievable through military means. This constitutes a denial of strategic thought and results in a subsequent disjunction between the operational level of force employment and the national interests of the country...

More at Prism.

Do Three Ds Make an F? The Limits of "Defense, Diplomacy, and Development" - Ethan B. Kapstein; Prism, National Defense University.

... On its surface, the notion of joining the 3Ds into a more comprehensive whole-of-government strategy toward the world's trouble spots is more than enticing; it seems downright obvious. After all, did the United States not match the Soviet threat in postwar Europe through the purposeful employment of all three tools, as exemplified by the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? Why, we may ask, are we not executing a similarly holistic approach toward the challenges we face in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?

Unfortunately, the idea that the arrows of defense, diplomacy, and development can be joined into one missile, much less hit a single target, may be misleading. To the extent that this concept seeks to replicate the contours of American foreign policy in the late 1940s, it suggests the limits of historical knowledge in the U.S. Government, for it is solely with the benefit of hindsight that a narrative of a seamless and coherent U.S. approach to the bipolar world can be constructed...

More at Prism.

Mindanao: A Community-based Approach to Counterinsurgency - William A. Stuebner and Richard Hirsch; Prism, National Defense University.

... Since the U.S. incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq, scholars, strategists, and policymakers seem interested in discovering how to fight smarter or, preferably, how to win without fighting. Americans have been rediscovering writers such as David Galula, author of Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, whose experiences in the Algerian civil war helped guide counterinsurgency thinking during the Vietnam War. They have also unearthed long-forgotten publications such as the U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars Manual and issued a plethora of new doctrines, manuals, joint publications, and directives. More recently, David Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One offered an indirect approach to counterinsurgency that emphasizes local relationships and capacity-building in light of efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This approach, he asserts, is most effective in complex environments that include accidental guerrillas - individuals who enter into conflict not as an existential threat to another nation-state but as defenders of their own space...

More at Prism.

Military Planning Systems and Stability Operations - William J. Gregor; Prism, National Defense University.

On September 21, 2009, the Washington Post published an article entitled "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure.'" The basis for the piece was a leaked copy of General Stanley McChrystal's "Commander's Initial Assessment," dated August 30, 2009. In asking for additional forces for Afghanistan, General McChrystal stated that his conclusions were supported by a rigorous multidisciplinary assessment by a team of civilian and military personnel and by his personal experience and core beliefs. A week before the Washington Post article appeared, Senators Lindsey Graham, Joseph Lieberman, and John McCain made a similar call for more forces in the Wall Street Journal. In an editorial labeled "Only Decisive Force Can Prevail in Afghanistan," the senators argued that General McChrystal was an exceptional commander and that he, the new Ambassador, and a new deputy commander composed a team that could win the war...

More at Prism.

... and many more thought provoking articles in the current issue of Prism.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 05/14/2010 - 8:35am | 23 comments
Shades of CORDS in the Kush: The False Hope of "Unity of Effort" in American Counterinsurgency - Henry Nuzum, Strategic Studies Institute, Letort Paper.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) requires an integrated military, political, and economic program best developed by teams that field both civilians and soldiers. These units should operate with some independence but under a coherent command. In Vietnam, after several false starts, the United States developed an effective unified organization, Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), to guide the counterinsurgency. CORDS had three components absent from our efforts in Afghanistan today: sufficient personnel (particularly civilian), numerous teams, and a single chain of command that united the separate COIN programs of the disparate American departments at the district, provincial, regional, and national levels. This Paper focuses on the third issue and describes the benefits that unity of command at every level would bring to the American war in Afghanistan. The work begins with a brief introduction to counterinsurgency theory, using a population-centric model, and examines how this warfare challenges the United States. It traces the evolution of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and the country team, describing problems at both levels. Similar efforts in Vietnam are compared, where persistent executive attention finally integrated the government's counterinsurgency campaign under the unified command of the CORDS program. The next section attributes the American tendency towards a segregated response to cultural differences between the primary departments, executive neglect, and societal concepts of war. The Paper argues that, in its approach to COIN, the United States has forsaken the military concept of unity of command in favor of "unity of effort" expressed in multiagency literature. The final sections describe how unified authority would improve our efforts in Afghanistan and propose a model for the future.

Read the entire Letort Paper at SSI.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 05/13/2010 - 10:12pm | 11 comments
Mattis: Military Should Rely Less on Technology - Christopher P. Cavas, Marine Corps Times.

The military relies too much on technology, and soldiers need to practice more "with the radios turned off," a key general said.

"We must be able to operate when systems go down," Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of Joint Forces Command, told a luncheon audience Thursday at a joint war-fighting conference. "It is much more important for officers to get comfortable operating with uncertainty rather than to keep grasping for more certainty." ...

"I don't think we have turned off our radios in the last eight years. What kind of systems are we creating where we depend on this connection to headquarters? While we want the most robust communications, we also want to make sure we can operate with none of it." ...

"Mission-type orders rather than bandwidth are the key to the future," he said. "We need officers who can operate off a commander's intent, understand what the boss several levels above wants, and carry them out to suffocate the enemy's hopes." ...

More at Marine Corps Times.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 05/13/2010 - 9:16pm | 45 comments
A CIA COINdinista's Misgivings on Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan - Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent.

The leak I got yesterday from Kandahar expressing skepticism that counterinsurgency can bring the nine-year war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion has inspired another one. This time, a former CIA counterterrorism operative who has served on the ground in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq agreed to pass along a memo he has briefed to top military leaders since the fall debate over Afghanistan strategy. It's crossed desks at the White House, the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command and even Gen. Stanley McChrystal's command in Afghanistan.

While I can't go into the sourcing of this memo, it's penned by someone who began embracing population-centric counterinsurgency to mitigate the deterioration of the Iraq war as far back as 2005 — something that not a lot of CIA operatives bought into, then or today. Despite that pedigree, the CIA operative contends that attempts to protect the population from the insurgency and facilitate the delivery of Afghan government services are fatally undermined by the persistent corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government and its institutions.

His counterproposal, similar to a controversial approach advocated by an Army Special Forces major named Jim Gant, is to use Afghanistan's various tribes as a proxy for both political legitimacy against the Taliban and a more effective and relevant structure for the provision of governance and economic development. He's taken to calling it "Tribe-Centric Unconventional Warfare/Foreign Internal Defense." ...

More at The Washington Independent.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 05/13/2010 - 7:27pm | 0 comments
DOD News Briefing with Gen. McChrystal from the Pentagon - 13 May 2010

... I'm pleased to be here this week to participate in President Karzai's visit to the United States. It's been a productive visit, and I thought it would be good if I spent a few minutes with you this morning, to share my thoughts with our ongoing efforts in Afghanistan. I know most of you have been covering this for years. So I'll try and measure my remarks with that in mind.

Our strategic priority is the development of Afghan national security forces. While both the army and police have demonstrated considerable growth, significant challenges remain. The bottom line is, there's much more work ahead to mature Afghan security forces. But I'm pleased with the progress made thus far.

While our strategic priority remains building the ANSF, our operational priority lies in securing the southern part of Afghanistan, an area that includes Kandahar, the spiritual center of the Taliban, and Helmand, an economic hub for the insurgency and for Afghanistan overall.

Ten months ago, we began a series of operations into Taliban-controlled parts of the central Helmand River valley, expanding the Afghan government's influence in key areas.

There's been considerable progress in security and governance. But as is expected in counterinsurgency, progress is often slow and deliberate.

This reflects the challenge of changing not only the dynamics of security, governance and development but also the attitudes of a population long pressured by insurgents.

As additional forces flow into Afghanistan, we'll -- we will reinforce ongoing efforts to secure Kandahar, an environment that's uniquely complex and will require a unique solution. This effort is being led by the Afghans and will focus on the complex political and governance aspects of Kandahar.

I suspect you'll have several questions regarding Kandahar, but I also want to make a point that there will be considerable efforts in other areas of the country as well that I'd be happy to discuss further.

Ultimately, our efforts across Afghanistan are about changing the perceptions of people. Afghans believe more of what they see than what they hear.

This is a process that takes time. It will demand courage and resilience. We should expect increased violence as our combined security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas. Over time, security responsibilities will transition to Afghans...

Read the full transcript here.

by Crispin Burke | Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:44pm | 0 comments
Anyone who's spent a day on a deployment knows how prevalent rumors can be.

Sometimes, rumors can be informative - in fact, more than one soldier has discovered his unit was deploying based on a rumor or a news article. More often, though, rumors create undue anxiety and anger.

Fortunately, Jeff Schogol of Stars and Stripes is here to confirm and debunk all sorts of rumors in a new blog. His first post served to dispel the rumor that the Army was getting rid of the term "battle buddy", and replacing it with "combat companion". Too bad we didn't have Jeff around when those rumors of "stress cards" were going around.

If you've got a rumor you'd like Stars and Stripes to debunk, just contact Jeff at

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 05/13/2010 - 8:59am | 10 comments
Pentagon Rethinking Value of Major Counterinsurgencies - Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers.

Nearly a decade after the United States began to focus its military training and equipment purchases almost exclusively on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military strategists are quietly shifting gears, saying that large-scale counterinsurgency efforts cost too much and last too long.

The domestic economic crisis and the Obama administration's commitment to withdraw from Iraq and begin drawing down in Afghanistan next year are factors in the change. The biggest spur, however, is a growing recognition that large-scale counterinsurgency battles have high casualty rates for troops and civilians, eat up equipment that must be replaced and rarely end in clear victory or defeat.

In addition, military thinkers say such wars have put the U.S.'s technologically advanced ground forces on the defensive while less sophisticated insurgent forces are able to remain on the offensive...

Much more at McClatchy Newspapers.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 05/12/2010 - 9:42pm | 0 comments
Distrust of Afghan Leaders Threatens U.S. War Strategy - Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times.

Nearly a year into a new war strategy for Afghanistan, the hardest fighting is still ahead, but already it is clear that the biggest challenge lies not on the battlefield but in the governing of Afghanistan itself.

That has been the early lesson of the American-led offensive in February in Marja, in Helmand Province, where most Taliban insurgents either were beaten back or drifted away. Since then, Americans and Afghans have struggled to establish a local government that can win the loyalty of the Afghan people, something that is essential to keeping the Taliban at bay.

The success of the far larger offensive in the coming weeks in Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Hamid Karzai's government.

Mr. Karzai was confronted with that issue when he met with American officials this week, including President Obama on Wednesday. The two leaders seek to repair months of badly strained relations and come together at a crucial moment, both for the NATO countries involved in the fighting and for Afghanistan itself. Mr. Obama plans to begin withdrawing American forces a little more than a year from now...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 05/12/2010 - 8:17pm | 0 comments
Continue on for the full transcript of prepared remarks and the Q&A, such as it was...
by SWJ Editors | Wed, 05/12/2010 - 6:46pm | 1 comment
Operation Moshtarak: Lessons Learned - The International Council on Security and Development.

NATO‟s Operation Moshtarak, launched in February 2010 in Helmand province, was the first deployment after the beginning of the much-debated surge of 30,000 additional US troops. It was billed as the largest military operation since the invasion of 2001. The planning for the operation emphasised the needs of the Afghan people, and the importance of winning hearts and minds as part of a classic counter-insurgency operation. However, the reality on the ground did not match the rhetoric. Welcome improvements in the size and conduct of military operations were undermined by a lack of sufficient corresponding measures in the political and humanitarian campaigns.

This report reviews the local perceptions of the operation from more than 400 Afghan men from Marjah, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, interviewed by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) in March 2010.

Click through for more or download the full report at ICOS or the full report, an "about" summary of the report, and an overview brief at Small Wars Journal.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 05/12/2010 - 11:56am | 4 comments
From Kandahar, View of a 'Counterproductive Counterinsurgency' - Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent.

Later this morning, Presidents Obama and Hamid Karzai will meet at the White House. Karzai will present to Obama his proposal for a peace offer to the Taliban leadership. Obama will extend U.S. support for the people and government of Afghanistan over the long term.

All this happens as thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are moving into the city and surrounding environs of Kandahar. Senior officials in charge of shaping the operation have cautioned against viewing Kandahar as an iconic invasion campaign. Unlike the February operation in Marja, where 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops invaded and a governance structure of unproven capability was essentially airlifted into an area under Taliban control, the approach to Kandahar involves bolstering governance and economic efforts in parts of Kandahar currently under government control and expanding them outwards into Taliban-held territory. That will require intense and persistent coordination between NATO militaries, NATO civilians, their governments back home, Afghan security forces, local Afghan government officials and national Afghan government officials. A source in Kandahar considers it all a pipe dream.

That source passed on the following assessment of how counterinsurgency efforts across Afghanistan are shaping up, over a year after Obama embraced them at the strategic level and nearly a year after Obama tapped Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Amb. Karl Eikenberry to implement them. The source's reluctant viewpoint, which is making its way through official channels in Afghanistan, is that the coordination necessary for successful counterinsurgency between civilian and military forces is not in evidence. Neither is the coordination between NATO and Afghan forces. Lumbering bureaucracy inhibits the rapid application of services and economic aid after military forces clear an area...

More at The Washington Independent.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 05/12/2010 - 7:03am | 2 comments
Afghanistan's Karzai to Urge Caution as U.S. Pushes to Empower Local Leaders - Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.

The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is built around the belief that all good counterinsurgency is local. In recent months, American officials have focused their plans on pushing power and money down to district, tribal and village leaders.

But those plans have not sat well with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has argued that any weakening in his position could fracture the central government and undermine his ability to woo Taliban fighters away from the insurgency.

Karzai, who is set to meet with President Obama on Wednesday, plans to stress that the U.S. search for local governance solutions cannot come at Kabul's expense, sources close to his delegation said. The challenge for U.S. officials will be to convince Karzai that ceding power and control to local leaders will in the long run strengthen his hold on office...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 05/11/2010 - 10:45pm | 1 comment
The Surge of Ideas

COINdinistas and Change in the U.S. Army in 2006

By General David H. Petraeus

General David H. Petraeus received the 2010 Irving Kristol Award at AEI's Annual Dinner. His prepared remarks, delivered at the National Building Museum on May 6, 2010, follow.

Good evening to you all. Thanks for that warm welcome. And thanks, Arthur, for that very kind introduction.

Earlier today, as I was talking with my wife about tonight's speech, she reminded me of a story about a young school boy's report on Julius Caesar. "Julius Caesar was born a long time ago," the little boy explained. "He was a great general. He won some important battles. He made a long speech. They killed him..." I'll try to avoid Caesar's fate. But this is the Irving Kristol lecture--and I do need to say something meaningful.

Well, needless to say, it's an enormous honor to be with you this evening especially given the many distinguished guests here this evening--Vice President Cheney, Governor Allen, Members of Congress, Ambassadors, serving and former cabinet officials, and many, many others--including a number of wounded warriors as well.

Indeed, I'm particularly pleased to have this opportunity because it gives me a chance to express my respect for AEI, an organization whose work I know not just by reputation--but also through first-hand experience.

One recent AEI effort, of course, stands out in particular. In the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept for what came to be known as "the surge." Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additional troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rare think tank products that had a truly strategic impact...

Read the entire text at AEI.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/10/2010 - 8:37pm | 0 comments
"Winning Hearts and Minds?" Understanding the Relationship between Aid and Security in Kenya - Mark Bradbury and Michael Kleinman, Feinstein International Center.

This case study on Kenya, researched and written by Mark Bradbury and Michael Kleinman, is the first in a series of publications presenting the findings of a two-year FIC comparative study on the relationship between aid and security in northeastern Kenya and in five provinces of Afghanistan. The overall study has focused in particular on trying to determine the effectiveness of aid in promoting stabilization and security objectives, including by helping to "win hearts and minds" of local populations. (For more information and links to publications related to the study see the Aid and Security project page.)

Since the late 1990's Kenya's large and thinly populated northeastern region bordering Somalia has become a focus for US government efforts in Africa to counter terrorism, mitigate violent extremism and promote stability and governance. This paper examines the effectiveness of one aspect of those efforts, namely the aid projects implemented by US Civil Affairs teams deployed from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Garissa and Wajir districts in North Eastern province, and Lamu district in Coast province. The paper argues that these activities were useful at a tactical level in terms of facilitating the US military's entry into regions of potential concern, and in helping them to acquire local knowledge and connections. However, it also highlights some of the limitations at a strategic level of using foreign aid as a tool for countering terrorism or insurgencies and promoting stability and security. For example, the research found that these small-scale and scattered projects did little to win hearts and minds or change perceptions of the US in the communities where the projects were implemented. There was also little evidence that the projects had contributed to improved security by addressing some of the perceived underlying causes of terrorism and violent extremism in the region.

Read the entire report at the Feinstein International Center.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/10/2010 - 7:38pm | 9 comments
Politics is the blind spot in America's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, according to a report released on 6 May by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan, by CNAS fellow Andrew Exum, notes that America's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has focused more on waging war at the operational and tactical levels at the expense of the strategic and political levels.

"In the end, by having so vocally and materially committed to the Karzai regime, the United States and its allies are tied to its successes and failures. The goal, then, should be to maximize the former and minimize the latter through focused application of U.S. leverage," writes Exum. "Designing a political campaign minimizes the role luck plays in whether the United States and its allies are successful."

By drawing on research conducted through hundreds of interviews with U.S. and NATO military officers and diplomats, policymakers and NGOs in Afghanistan, Exum offers recommendations to design an effective political strategy:

1. President Obama should convene another strategic review to assess the civilian strategy in Afghanistan. The President should ask his secretaries and envoys to answer some tough questions like he expected of General Stanley McChrystal in his fall 2009 review. What are the political ends the U.S. and its allies are fighting to realize? What are key points of U.S. and allied leverage? Is the U.S. effectively organized to carry out the president's strategic initiatives in Afghanistan?

2. Build a functioning relationship with Hamid Karzai and demonstrate to the Afghan president that he has an enduring partner in the United States and its allies.

3. Use U.S. and allied leverage to press the government of Afghanistan to either hold elections for district governors or appoint competent governors from Kabul. Effective local governance is a prerequisite for U.S. and allied forces to institute aid and development projects that are essential to addressing the factors driving conflict and violence at the local level.

Download Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan here.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/10/2010 - 7:15pm | 0 comments
Life and Death and Life in Iraq - Thom Shanker, New York Times.

This is a soldier's story, a tale of life and of death and of life's return.

It is the story of one soldier, Capt. Joshua A. Mantz, who was shot in Iraq. Technically, he was dead, a flat-liner for a full 15 minutes - long past the time many doctors use as their mark for ordering a halt in life-saving efforts, since brain damage can start within just a few minutes without vital signs.

But it also is the story of how Captain Mantz will journey to Washington this week, where he will speak of the battlefield physicians who brought him back to life, and thank the counselors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who balanced discipline with empathy and pushed him through rehabilitation...

Much more at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/10/2010 - 6:49pm | 5 comments
Is the Army Innovative? - Tim Kane, Christian Science Monitor.

David Brooks thinks so.

Five years ago, the United States Army was one sort of organization, with a certain mentality. Today, it is a different organization, with a different mentality. It has been transformed in the virtual flash of an eye, and the story of that transformation is fascinating for anybody interested in the flow of ideas.

Brooks is writing about the emergence of counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, godfathered by General David Petraeus. I agree this is an important development, even that it should be celebrated, but I have some questions...

More at The Christian Science Monitor.