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Three Challenges We Must Overcome to Succeed in Afghanistan
by Christopher Bluesteen
Small Wars Journal
Combat advising is central to successful counterinsurgency operations in existing U.S. conflicts around the world. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed, "The most important component in the War on Terror is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our partners to defend and govern their own countries." Similarly, in 2006 the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, identified the most critical task required to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations as, "...developing an effective host-nation security force." The importance of combat advising is not a new realization. In fact, major U.S. efforts in this area began in the early 1950s when U.S. forces provided training and assistance to Greece, the Philippines, China (Taiwan), Iran, and Japan. Since that time, protracted combat advising operations have occurred in Korea, Vietnam, and El Salvador. Perhaps because U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been primarily responsible for the conduct of this mission, the United States has never implemented permanent solutions to enable the general purpose force to execute combat advising operations. However, it is now critical to identify and implement these permanent solutions since the need for combat advisors is likely to exceed the limited capacity of SOF in current and future U.S. conflicts.