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 | Mon, 01/25/2010 - 9:52pm | 1 comment
On Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 26-27), Radio Free Europe / Radio LIberty (RFE/RL) will provide live video streaming of the international conference, "Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Challenges of Reconstruction in Afghanistan." To view the live webstream, go to this link.

The conference will run for two days, with Tuesday's proceedings being broadcast from 9:00 to 17:45 Central European Time (CET), and Wednesday's from 9:00 to 13:00 CET. The full conference program and participants list is available here.

PRT conference participants from RFE/RL include: Jeffrey Gedmin, President; John O'Sullivan, Chief Editor; Akbar Ayazi, Director of Radio Free Afghanistan (Radio Azadi) and Mohammed Amin Mudaquiq, RFE/RL's Kabul Bureau Chief. RFE/RL's Afghan service, known locally as Radio Azadi, is the most popular radio station in Afghanistan, with a weekly audience of 7.9 million people and a market share of about 50%.

Conference organizers say their goals are to contribute to a coherent Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) strategy in Afghanistan based on an assessment of their operations to date and to identify the challenges PRTs face. The conference also aims to increase awareness among policymakers, the media, and the broader public of the challenges and the critical importance of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 01/25/2010 - 5:21pm | 1 comment
Contested Commons: The Future of American Power in a Multipolar World - Abraham M. Denmark, Dr. James Mulvenon, Frank Hoffman, Lt Col Kelly Martin, USAF, Oliver Fritz, Eric Sterner, Dr. Greg Rattray, Chris Evans, Jason Healey, and Robert D. Kaplan; Center for a New American Security Report.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released today a major report on American power in the sea, air, space and cyberspace: Contested Commons: The Future of American Power in a Multipolar World. The report, authored by CNAS Fellow Abraham M. Denmark and nine additional experts, advocates that the United States renew its commitment to the global commons by pursuing three mutually supporting objectives: build global regimes that preserve the openness of the commons; engage pivotal actors that have the will and ability to protect and sustain them; and develop the hard-power tools and capabilities necessary for the United States to defend the global commons.

Read the full report at CNAS.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 01/25/2010 - 4:23am | 3 comments
The Post-COIN Era is Here - Mark Safranski, Zenpundit

There has been, for years, an ongoing debate in the defense and national security community over the proper place of COIN doctrine in the repertoire of the United States military and in our national strategy. While a sizable number of serious scholars, strategists, journalists and officers have been deeply involved, the bitter discussion characterized as "COINdinista vs. Big War crowd" debate is epitomized by the exchanges between two antagonists, both lieutenant colonels with PhD's, John Nagl, a leading figure behind the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual and now president of the powerhouse think tank CNAS , and Gian Gentile, professor of history at West Point and COIN's most infamous arch-critic.

In terms of policy and influence, the COINdinistas ultimately carried the day. COIN advocates moved from a marginalized mafia of military intellectuals who in 2004 were just trying to get a hearing from an indifferent Rumsfeld Pentagon, to policy conquerors as the public's perceptions of the "Surge" in Iraq (masterminded by General David Petraeus, Dr. Frederick Kagan, General Jack Keane and a small number of collaborators) allowed the evolution of a COIN-centric, operationally oriented, "Kilcullen Doctrine" to emerge across two very different administrations. Critics like Colonel Gentile and Andrew Bacevich began to warn, along with dovish liberal pundits - and with some exaggeration - that COIN theory was acheiving a "cult" status that was usurping the time, money, talent and attention that the military should be devoting to traditional near peer rival threats. And furthermore, ominously, COIN fixation was threatening to cause the U.S. political class (especially Democrats) to be inclined to embark upon a host of half-baked, interventionist "crusades"in Third world quagmires...

More at Zenpundit.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/24/2010 - 8:40pm | 8 comments

From the MIME-NET information section on YouTube:

'Human Terrain' is two stories in one. The first exposes the U.S. effort to enlist the best and the brightest of American universities in a struggle for the hearts and minds of its enemies. Facing long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military adopts a controversial new program, 'Human Terrain Systems', to make cultural awareness a key element of its counterinsurgency strategy. Designed to embed social scientists with combat troops, the program swiftly comes under attack by academic critics who consider it misguided and unethical to gather intelligence and target potential enemies for the military. Gaining rare access to wargames in the Mojave Desert and training exercises at Quantico and Fort Leavenworth, 'Human Terrain' takes the viewer into the heart of the war machine and the shadowy collaboration between American academics and the armed services.

The other story is about a brilliant young scholar who leaves the university to join a Human Terrain team. After working as a humanitarian activist and winning a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford, Michael Bhatia returned to Brown University to conduct research on military cultural awareness. A year later, he left to embed as a Human Terrain member with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. On May 7, 2008, en route to mediate an intertribal dispute, his humvee hit a roadside bomb and Bhatia was killed along with two other soldiers.

Asking what happens when war becomes academic and academics go to war, the two stories merge in tragedy.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/24/2010 - 8:16am | 0 comments
Afghanistan / Pakistan

Karzai Urges West to Buy Off the Taliban - The Times

Afghan Parliamentary Elections Postponed - The Times

Afghanistan Delays Parliamentary Elections - Associated Press

Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap - New York Times

Two U.S. Soldiers Are Among 17 Afghan Deaths - New York Times

Roadside Bomb Kills Two U.S. Troops - Associated Press

Australian Weekend Warriors Facing Front Line in Afghanistan - The Australian

Gates Sees Fallout From Troubled Ties With Pakistan - New York Times

Militant Ambush Sparks Pakistan Gunfight - Associated Press

Militants Kill Six Pakistanis for Alleged Spying - Associated Press

More Guile Needed in the Afghan Game - The Times opinion


Biden: U.S. Will Appeal Blackwater Case Dismissal - New York Times

Justice Department to Appeal Blackwater Dismissal - Washington Post

British Man Held for Fraud in Iraq Bomb Detectors - New York Times

Road back to Baghdad - Washington Post opinion


More Than 150,000 Have Been Buried, Haiti Says - New York Times

Death Toll Growing at Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana - Washington Post

With Plastic and Cardboard, Haitians Build - Christian Science Monitor

Haitians Tackle Aftermath Alone - The Times

What To Do About Haiti - Los Angeles Times editorial

American Capabilities and Vulnerabilities - Washington Times opinion

The Long War

Indian Hijack Plot Caused New U.K. Terror Alert - The Times

Bin Laden Takes Responsibility for Christmas Bomb Attempt - Los Angeles Times

'Bin Laden' Claims Christmas Day Bomb Plot - The Times

Details Emerge in Arrest of Christmas Day Bomb Suspect - Associated Press

Terrorists Take a Calculated Risk - Los Angeles Times opinion

Terror Warning: From Daft to Perplexing - The Times opinion

Islam's War Against Others - Washington Times opinion


Somali Pirates Will Die Before Releasing U.K. Couple - The Times


Venezuela: Tens of Thousands Protest Chavez's Rule - Associated Press

Venezuelan Cable Television Channel Taken Off Air - The Times

Cable Providers Dump Anti-Chávez TV Channel - Associated Press

Asia Pacific

In Japan, U.S. Losing Diplomatic Ground to China - New York Times

Future of Okinawa Base Strains Alliance - Washington Post

N. Korea Accuses Seoul of 'Open Declaration of War' - The Times

Middle East

Israel Poised to Challenge a U.N. Report on Gaza - New York Times

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 01/22/2010 - 8:07pm | 6 comments
Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) The U.S. military should keep a low profile in Haiti,

2) With China in mind, Gates deepens the U.S. defense relationship with India.

The U.S. military should keep a low profile in Haiti

The U.S. military is now carrying out a wide-ranging relief mission in Haiti in response to the dreadful Jan. 12 earthquake that virtually destroyed Port-au-Prince and other built-up areas in the country. Because it has the manpower, ships, airplanes, organization, and the budget to rapidly move equipment, supplies, and people to anywhere in the world, it is no surprise that the Pentagon's is the first phone that rings whenever such a natural disaster strikes. Recent large-scale relief missions after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan brought acclaim to the U.S. military and the U.S. government. U.S. policy officials struggling for the moral high ground were happy to pocket the "soft power" benefits of these relief missions.

The disaster in Haiti provides another opportunity for the Pentagon to show the world the humanitarian advantages of its logistical power. All five of the military services are contributing to the effort and the Pentagon has created a webpage to collect all of its Haiti stories, photos, and links. But be careful, counsels Gary Anderson, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and veteran of relief missions in Bangladesh and Somalia. In two essays written for Small Wars Journal, Anderson advises the U.S. military in Haiti to work only in support of the host government, to let the United Nations and non-governmental aid groups take the lead, and to generally take as low a profile as possible. Try to do too much, he warns, and the military relief effort will risk squandering any goodwill it might gain.

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 01/21/2010 - 12:19pm | 10 comments
There's a very nice piece in today's Diane Rehm Show on Targeted Assassinations in the War Against Al Qaeda. Discussion includes the application of the law of war to the CIA's use of drones and the "trust us, it's good" response to requests for disclosure of the legal analysis behind the policy decision and quality assurances in targeting & approval processes. James Kitfield, one of the guests, has written a two-part story for the National Journal called Predators. Wanted: Dead and Are Drone Strikes Murder? are available to subscribers only; I am currently struggling with their cumbersome free trial. Hina Shamsi and Paul Pillar are the other two guests.
by SWJ Editors | Thu, 01/21/2010 - 4:12am | 8 comments
Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps Strategy for Success: Retaining Talent - Colonel Casey Wardynski, Major David S. Lyle, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Michael J. Colarusso, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

Over the last 3 decades, dramatic labor market changes and well-intentioned but uninformed policies have created significant officer talent flight. Poor retention engenders substantial risk for the Army as it directly affects accessions, development, and employment of talent. The Army cannot make thoughtful policy decisions if its officer talent pipeline continues to leak at current rates. Since the Army cannot insulate itself from labor market forces as it tries to retain talent, the retention component of its officer strategy must rest upon sound market principles. It must be continuously resourced, executed, measured, and adjusted across time and budget cycles. Absent these steps, systemic policy, and decisionmaking failures will continue to confound Army efforts to create a talent-focused officer corps strategy.

More at the Strategic Studies Institute.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 01/20/2010 - 7:13am | 0 comments
Gates: Afghan Reconciliation Efforts Critical - Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration offered cautious support for the Afghan government's new outreach effort to the Taliban, expressing hope that lower level militants would reconcile with Kabul even if senior leaders continued fighting. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at the start of an official visit to India, told reporters that the U.S. welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's new efforts to persuade Taliban militants to lay down their weapons in exchange for jobs, education and security guarantees for themselves and their families. Mr. Gates said that he believed such reconciliation efforts would ultimately be "critical" to ending the long and increasingly bloody Afghan war.

But the defense chief cautioned that top Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar would be unlikely to participate in peace talks with the Afghan central government unless the U.S. and its allies reclaimed the battlefield momentum in Afghanistan. "I'd be very surprised to see a reconciliation with Mullah Omar," Mr. Gates told reporters during the flight here. "It's our view that until the Taliban leadership sees a change in the momentum and begins to see that they are not going to win, the likelihood of reconciliation at senior levels is not terribly great." The comments came just two days after the Karzai government said it was finalizing a major new initiative aimed at convincing large numbers of Taliban fighters to renounce violence and agree to work with - or at least tolerate - the Afghan central government...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Aid Workers Find Few Trained Afghan Partners - Keith B. Richburg. Washington Post.

Alongside the thousands of additional U.S. troops, civilian aid workers are surging into Afghanistan to help refurbish schools, open rural health clinics, build irrigation systems, vaccinate livestock and provide fertilizer to farmers. But like their military counterparts, the civilian technicians are finding the lack of trained Afghan partners their most difficult challenge. The problem is particularly acute in the remote rural areas, where the Afghan government's presence is virtually nonexistent. "We're trying to create a centralized government where there's no history of it," said Lindy Cameron, the British head of the multinational provincial reconstruction team in Helmand. "The biggest challenge is the capacity of the Afghan government."

The point was illustrated during a recent day trip to Helmand by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was in Afghanistan to see how USDA expertise and technical assistance could help farmers boost production in the country's leading agricultural province. Vilsack learned how U.S. aid and agricultural officials had vaccinated more than a million animals, provided seed and fertilizer to 10,000 farmers and distributed thousands of tons of feed for livestock. But when he traveled to Nawa, bringing along Helmand's governor and the agriculture minister from Kabul, he also came face to face with the Afghan government's limitations. Only two Agriculture Ministry officials were working here, and neither lived in the district. They had no office, no equipment, no cellphone - not even a bicycle...

More at The Washington Post.

New Wave of Warlords Bedevils U.S. - Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal.

In his teen years, Sirajuddin Haqqani was known among friends as a dandy. He cared more about the look of his thick black hair than the battles his father, a mujahideen warlord in the 1980s, was waging with Russia for control of Afghanistan. The younger Mr. Haqqani is still a stylish sort, say those who know him. But now, approaching middle age and ensconced as the battlefield leader of his father's militant army, he has become ruthless in his own pursuit of an Afghanistan free from foreign influence. This time the enemy is the U.S. and its allies.

From outposts along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, his Haqqani network is waging a campaign that has made the Afghan insurgency deadlier. He has widened the use of suicide attacks, which became a Taliban mainstay only in the past few years. U.S. officials believe his forces carried out the dramatic Monday gun, grenade and suicide-bomb attack in Kabul on Afghan government ministries and a luxury hotel. The assault claimed five victims plus seven attackers. Mr. Haqqani also aided the Dec. 30 attack by an al Qaeda operative that killed seven Central Intelligence Agency agents and contractors at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan, say militant commanders. And he orchestrated last year's assault on a United Nations guesthouse that killed five U.N. staffers, along with other attacks in the capital...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/17/2010 - 11:07am | 1 comment
A Certain Trumpet - Major General Ed Scholes, USA (Ret.), Veterans of Special Forces

... If anyone or any organization/agency conducts an objective critique of this nation's military strategy, advice, influence and actions/inactions over the past five decades, this recommendation by General Taylor reference the Joint Chiefs of Staff might assume significant relevance. Let there be no confusion; in this paper I am discussing actions and organizational structure at the highest levels and not the actions of those in the field. Our troops, unit leaders, and our military families have responded, and continue to respond, to our nation's requirements with such courage, stamina, and professional abilities that have exceeded all historical standards of selfless service to this nation. Their assigned mission(s) have been accomplished beyond any measure that could reasonably be expected during this past decade of fighting a somewhat different type of warfare with difficult limitations, and against forces without nation state affiliation. Readers are advised also that the points raised and the questions poised are not done so to attack personally those in position of authority at the time but to bring to the surface issues that could possibly provide better and safer operations for the future, for the benefit of those in the field.

The operational relationships between the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and our growing organization of combatant commands, deemed necessary to carry out the operational aspects of our national strategy, needs serious study. In the implementation of our national strategy this past decade, one must ask what was the advice of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the responsible combatant commander when it was decided to only use Special Forces and CIA teams with the warlords and tribal leaders in Afghanistan to defeat the Al Qaeda and Taliban, without the support of conventional forces to at least block the egress routes, to kill or capture the enemy irregular forces, and prevent their escape to Pakistan. The Special Forces, CIA and Afghanistan forces accomplished their missions extremely well, but one of the first principles taught irregular forces is, "when victory is not possible -- live to fight another day". They did and they are! ...

More at Veterans of Special Forces.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:59am | 46 comments
Jim Gant, the Green Beret Who Could Win the War in Afghanistan - Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post opinion.

It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan's Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief - a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort...

... In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes -- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, "One Tribe at a Time," published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan's ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

"We will be totally unable to protect the 'civilians' in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul," Gant wrote. A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders - including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command - expressing support for Gant's views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/17/2010 - 4:50am | 3 comments
Poor Schooling Slows Anti-terrorism Effort in Pakistan - Griff Witte, Washington Post.

With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, Pakistan's public education system has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups here, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. Western officials tend to blame Islamic schools, known as madrassas, for their role as feeders to militant groups, but Pakistani education experts say the root of the problem is the public schools in a nation in which half of adults cannot sign their own name. The United States is hoping an infusion of cash - part of a $7.5 billion civilian aid package - will begin to change that, and in the process alter the widespread perception that Washington's only interest in Pakistan is in bolstering its military.

But according to education reform advocates here, any effort to improve the system faces the reality of intense institutional pressure to keep the schools exactly the way they are. They say that for different reasons, the most powerful forces in Pakistan, including the army, the religious establishment and the feudal landlords who dominate civilian politics, have worked against improving an education system that for decades has been in marked decline...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:24am | 0 comments
Haiti: What We're Getting Into - Tim Sullivan, AEI's Center for Defense Studies (CDS).

In the weeks ahead, the Center for Defense Studies will be producing a series of backgrounders on the U.S. military's relief mission in Haiti. To view the first of these "Issue Alerts," which outlines the U.S. forces deployed the Haiti and the unexpected challenges they may face there, click here.

More at CDS.

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 01/15/2010 - 8:16pm | 7 comments
Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Google goes where the U.S. government has feared to tread,

2) Computers must take over counter-terrorism analysis.

Google goes where the U.S. government has feared to tread

In a dramatic statement posted on the company's official blog this week, Google sparked a confrontation with the Chinese government that will likely end with the company exiting the Chinese market. Google's statement all but accuses the Chinese government of "a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure." The Chinese government has long been suspected of directly performing, or facilitating proxies to perform, a wide range of cyberwarfare activities. Google's forceful response against the Chinese government has gone further than the U.S. government, a daily large-scale victim of cyberattacks, has ever gone. The Pentagon's forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review will likely feature discussions concerning "high-end asymmetric threats" such as cyberwarfare; but ironically it is a private company that is taking action against the Chinese government, a leading high- end asymmetric threat. Finally, Google's decision to likely abandon China could reveal a major crack in China's authoritarian model for economic growth and development.

Google stated that the attacks targeted at least 20 other large companies and the email accounts used by prominent Chinese human rights activists. The company did not directly accuse the Chinese government of these attacks, but its response indicates that it believes the Chinese government is responsible. If Google thought the culprits were lone-wolf Chinese computer hobbyists or cybercriminals, one would think that their response would have called on the Chinese government to police lawless behavior. In this case, it has obviously concluded that it is the government itself that is lawless.

Google has shown the courage to name the villain and accept the consequences for doing so. This is more than the U.S. government has ever done, in spite of many years of regular cyberattacks from China and Russia.

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 01/15/2010 - 6:10am | 0 comments
U.S. Approves Training to Expand Afghan Army - Rod Nordland, New York Times.

The Pentagon has authorized a substantial increase in the number of Afghan security forces it plans to train by next year, in time for President Obama's deadline for United States combat forces to begin withdrawing from the country, military officials said Thursday. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck a marketplace in southern Afghanistan and killed 20 people, including children, and NATO officials reported that 23 soldiers had died so far this year. The new training goals would increase the size of the Afghan Army from its present 102,400 personnel to 171,600 by October 2011, according to Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American officer who leads NATO's training mission in Afghanistan.

Addressing a group of Afghan National Army cadets on Thursday, General Caldwell said the Pentagon had made the decision to increase its training commitments at a meeting the night before in Washington. "The coalition forces want to grow the Afghan forces," General Caldwell told the cadets, in response to a question from one about whether the coalition should not give more responsibility to Afghan forces. "We want to do just what you're saying," he answered. "We are here as guests of Afghanistan. We want to support your army to take control." ...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 01/13/2010 - 4:02pm | 0 comments
The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom - Matt Armstrong, Progressive Fix.

The past decade has seen the U.S. government expand its activities around the globe in response to complex and stateless threats. In the face of these challenges, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and members of Congress have all called for increasing the resources and capabilities of the State Department to roll back what Gates has termed the "creeping militarization" of foreign policy. But efforts at reform are hindered by an institutional structure rooted in a 19th-century view of the world.

The days of traditional diplomacy conducted behind closed doors are over. The democratization of information and means of destruction makes a kid with a keyboard potentially more dangerous than an F-22. Addressing poverty, pandemics, resource security, and terrorism requires multilateral and dynamic partnerships with governments and publics. But the State Department has yet to adapt to the new context of global engagement. The diverse threats that confront the U.S. and our allies cannot be managed through a country-centric approach. For State to be effective and relevant, it needs to evolve and become both a Department of State and Non-State.

Currently, State's structure impedes its efforts to develop coherent responses to pressing threats. The vesting of authority in U.S. embassies too often complicates interagency and pan-regional coordination and inhibits the effective request for and distribution of resources. No less significant, the structure also implicitly empowers the Defense Department's regionally focused combatant commands, like Central Command, as alternatives to the State Department. Compounded by years of managerial neglect, and a lack of long-term vision, strategic planning, and budgeting, the State Department requires high-level patches and workarounds to do its job adequately.

State's ineffectiveness has created voids filled by other agencies, notably the Pentagon. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also sought to move in on the space left by State. USDA in late 2009 asked that funds be transferred from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department for projects in Afghanistan. Such a move would further dilute State's efficacy, sow confusion, and widen gaps between requirements and actions in foreign policy...

Much more at Progressive Fix.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 01/13/2010 - 6:52am | 2 comments
Generals Should be Guided by Truth, Not Politics - Lawrence J. Korb, Washington Post opinion.

In his Dec. 27 column, ["An admiral who found the center," op-ed], David Ignatius distorts the proper role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He glosses over Adm. Mike Mullen's professional failures, particularly on Afghanistan and his handling of the firing of Gen. David McKiernan. Ignatius is wrong to argue that any military officer, especially a member of the Joint Chiefs, is supposed to find the center of the political spectrum. An officer has a responsibility to give the president and Congress his or her best military advice, whether that is embraced by the right or the left, whether it is popular or unpopular...

What about Mullen? In late 2007, when Congress asked him about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Mullen shrugged it off. "In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must," he told the House Armed Services Committee. Was that his professional opinion, or was it the policy of President George W. Bush, who gave short shrift to Afghanistan because of his obsession with Iraq? Is that what the combatant commanders were telling him? The answer is no...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 01/12/2010 - 6:06am | 3 comments
What Can Robert Gates Achieve in Extra Year at Pentagon? - Gordon Lubold, Christian Science Monitor.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates's decision to stay on another year allows him to cement many of the policy and budgetary moves that have been the hallmarks of his tenure. Mr. Gates, the only holdover from the Bush administration and an acknowledged Republican, has emerged in the Obama White House as one of the most respected senior advisers. He has long portrayed himself as a reluctant leader —to serve only as long as the president wishes it. But he has also been eager to make a lasting mark on defense policy. Now, having announced that he will stay on for "at least" another year, he may be in a position to secure his reputation as a reformer. "His influence will continue to grow," says Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank. "A lot of the programs and initiatives that he has been pushing will take some time to implement, and the longer he stays around, the better his chances are for them to take hold."

Gates will also be able to oversee the new strategy in Afghanistan of which he was a chief architect, as well the drawdown of forces in Iraq. But his tenure is having a broader reach. Gates has attempted to steer the Pentagon away from expensive programs that are less relevant to today's wars. He was largely successful in canceling or slowing programs that he deemed irrelevant, most notably the F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighter, which was cast as an outdated technology more suitable for a conventional war than for tracking terrorists. The question is whether Gates will simply steward the reforms he put in place last year or seek to expand them. Mr. Harrison believes he will go further...

More at The Christian Science Monitor.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 01/12/2010 - 5:46am | 1 comment
Can Intelligence Be Intelligent? - Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal opinion.

'Intelligence," Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, "is not to be confused with intelligence." To read two recent analyses of U.S. intelligence failures is to be reminded of the truth of that statement, albeit in very different ways. Exhibit A is last week's unclassified White House memo on the attempted bombing of Flight 253 over the skies of Detroit. Though billed by National Security Adviser Jim Jones as a bombshell in its own right, the memo reads more like the bureaucratic equivalent of the old doctor joke about the operation succeeding and the patient dying. The counterterrorism system, it tells us, works extremely well and the people who staff it are top-notch. No doubt. It just happens that in this one case, this same terrific system failed comprehensively at the most elementary levels.

For contrast - and intellectual relief - turn to an unsparing new report on the U.S. military's intelligence operations in Afghanistan. "Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy," it begins. "U.S. intelligence officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage successful counterinsurgency." That's not happy talk, particularly given that it comes from the man who now runs the Army's intelligence efforts in the country, Major General Michael T. Flynn. But Gen. Flynn, along with co-authors Paul Batchelor of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Marine Captain (and former Journal reporter) Matt Pottinger, are just getting warmed up. Current intel products, they write, "tell ground units little they do not already know." The intelligence community is "strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders." There is little by way of personal accountability: "Except in rare cases, ineffective intel officers are allowed to stick around...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 01/12/2010 - 5:35am | 2 comments
Israeli Robots Remake Battlefield - Charles Levinson, Wall Street Journal.

Israel is developing an army of robotic fighting machines that offers a window onto the potential future of warfare. Sixty years of near-constant war, a low tolerance for enduring casualties in conflict, and its high-tech industry have long made Israel one of the world's leading innovators of military robotics. "We're trying to get to unmanned vehicles everywhere on the battlefield for each platoon in the field," says Lt. Col. Oren Berebbi, head of the Israel Defense Forces' technology branch. "We can do more and more missions without putting a soldier at risk."

In 10 to 15 years, one-third of Israel's military machines will be unmanned, predicts Giora Katz, vice president of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel's leading weapons manufacturers. "We are moving into the robotic era," says Mr. Katz. Over 40 countries have military-robotics programs today. The U.S. and much of the rest of the world is betting big on the role of aerial drones: Even Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla force in Lebanon, flew four Iranian-made drones against Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

by Robert Haddick | Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:55am | 0 comments
The United States will not succeed in Afghanistan if Afghanistan's own security forces don't eventually secure the country. Few analysts dispute this point. But do the U.S. and Afghan governments have the right plan for building up Afghanistan's security forces? In an essay I wrote for The American, a journal published by the American Enterprise Institute, I assert that the U.S. and Afghan governments can learn a lot by studying how over the past decade Colombia reformed its army and greatly improved its security situation.

An excerpt:

Ten years ago, Colombia faced a security crisis in many ways worse than that which Afghanistan currently faces. But over the past decade, Colombia has sharply reduced its murder and kidnapping rates, crushed the array of insurgent groups fighting against the government, demobilized the paramilitary groups that arose during the power vacuum of the 1990s, and significantly restored the rule of law and the presence of the government throughout the country.

With the assistance of a small team of U.S. advisers, Colombia rebuilt its army. In contrast to [General Stanley] McChrystal's plan for Afghanistan, Colombia focused on quality, not quantity. Colombia's army and other security forces have achieved impressive success against an insurgency in many ways similar to Afghanistan.

I discuss the similarities and differences between the security challenges in Afghanistan and Colombia. I then argue that Colombia's relatively small but elite professional army, its emphasis on helicopter mobility, and its local home-guard program provide a powerful model for reforming Afghanistan's security forces.

Click here to read the essay.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/10/2010 - 8:36am | 4 comments
No Exit: America has an impressive record of starting wars but a dismal one of ending them well. - Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative.

President Obama's decision to escalate U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan earned him at most two muted cheers from Washington's warrior-pundits. Sure, the president had acceded to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops. Already in its ninth year, Operation Enduring Freedom was therefore guaranteed to endure for years to come. The Long War begun on George W. Bush's watch with expectations of transforming the Greater Middle East gained a new lease on life, its purpose reduced to the generic one of "keeping America safe."

Yet the Long War's most ardent supporters found fault with Obama's words and demeanor. The president had failed to convey the requisite enthusiasm for sending young Americans to fight and die on the far side of the world while simultaneously increasing by several hundred billion dollars the debt imposed on future generations here at home. "Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?" asked a querulous Charles Krauthammer. Obama ought to have demonstrated some of the old "bring 'em on" spirit that served the previous administration so well. "We cannot prevail without a commander in chief committed to success," wrote Krauthammer.

Other observers made it clear that merely prevailing was nowhere near good enough. They took Obama to task for failing to use the V-word. Where was the explicit call for victory? "'Win' is a word that Obama avoided," noted Max Boot with disapproval. The president "spoke of wanting to 'end this war successfully' but said nothing of winning the war." Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard read off the same talking points. "The personal commitment of the president to pursue the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda until they are defeated was not there," he lamented. "...To have rallied the country and the world, Obama needed to indicate he would lead a fight to win in Afghanistan, with the help of allies if possible, but with the armed forces of the U.S. alone if necessary. He didn't say anything like that. He didn't come close." ...

More at The American Conservative.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 01/10/2010 - 7:07am | 0 comments
How the CIA Can Improve its Operations in Afghanistan - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

In terms of loss of life, the bombing of the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, may be the most costly mistake in the agency's history. So it's important to look carefully for clues about how it happened and lessons for the future. CIA veterans cite a series of warning signs that the agency wasn't paying enough attention to the counterintelligence threat posed by al-Qaeda. These danger signals weren't addressed because the agency underestimated its adversary and overestimated its own skills and those of its allies. The time to fix these problems is now - not with a spasm of second-guessing that will further weaken the CIA but through the agency's own adaptation to this war zone. As the Khost attack made painfully clear, the CIA needs better tradecraft for this conflict.

By getting a suicide bomber inside a CIA base, the al-Qaeda network showed that it remains a sophisticated adversary, despite intense pressure from CIA Predator attacks. "They didn't get lucky, they got good and we got sloppy all over Afghanistan," says one agency counterterrorism veteran. This shouldn't have been a surprise: CIA sources say that over the past year, two al-Qaeda allies in Afghanistan - the Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks - have run double-agent operations...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 01/09/2010 - 8:43pm | 6 comments
Al-Qaeda Has a New Strategy. Obama Needs One, Too. - Bruce Hoffman, Washington Post opinion.

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing and the killing a few days later of seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan, Washington is, as it was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, obsessed with "dots" - and our inability to connect them. "The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots," the president said Tuesday. But for all the talk, two key dots have yet to be connected: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Northwest Airlines Flight 253 attacker, and Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the trusted CIA informant turned assassin. Although a 23-year-old Nigerian engineering student and a 36-year-old Jordanian physician would seem to have little in common, they both exemplify a new grand strategy that al-Qaeda has been successfully pursuing for at least a year.

Throughout 2008 and 2009, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted al-Qaeda's demise. In a May 2008 interview with The Washington Post, then-CIA Director Michael Hayden heralded the group's "near strategic defeat." And the intensified aerial drone attacks that President Obama authorized against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan last year were widely celebrated for having killed over half of its remaining senior leadership. Yet, oddly enough for a terrorist movement supposedly on its last legs, al-Qaeda late last month launched two separate attacks less than a week apart - one failed and one successful - triggering the most extensive review of U.S. national security policies since 2001...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 01/09/2010 - 6:45pm | 0 comments
Cracks in the Jihad - Thomas Rid, The Wilson Quarterly.

... One hundred and seventy years later, jihad is again a major threat—and Decker's dire analysis more relevant than ever. War, in Clausewitz's eminent theory, was a clash of collective wills, "a continuation of politics by other means." When states went to war, the adversary was a political entity with the ability to act as one body, able to end hostilities by declaring victory or admitting defeat. Even Abd el-Kader eventually capitulated. But jihad in the 21st century, especially during the past few years, has fundamentally changed its anatomy: Al Qaeda is no longer a collective political actor. It is no longer an adversary that can articulate a will, capitulate, and be defeated. But the jihad's new weakness is also its new strength: Because of its transformation, Islamist militancy is politically impaired yet fitter to survive its present crisis.

In the years since late 2001, when U.S. and coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime and all but destroyed Al Qaeda's core organization in Afghan­istan, the bin Laden brand has been bleeding popularity across the Muslim world. The global jihad, as a result, has been torn by mounting internal tensions. Today, the holy war is set to slip into three distinct ideological and organizational niches. The U.S. surge in Afghanistan, whether successful or not, is likely to affect this development only marginally...

Much more at The Wilson Quarterly.