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 | Sat, 10/02/2010 - 7:02am | 1 comment
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by SWJ Editors | Sat, 10/02/2010 - 6:11am | 1 comment
With all we do here we often neglect the important stuff being done here. Visit MountainRunner early and often for all your public diplomacy, strategic communications, and global engagement needs - you won't be disappointed. SWJ kudos to Matt Armstrong and his impressive list of guest authors.
by SWJ Editors | Sat, 10/02/2010 - 5:49am | 0 comments
Skelton, Davis Introduce Groundbreaking Interagency Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC - On Friday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Congressman Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) announced new groundbreaking bipartisan legislation that would begin to overhaul interagency national security coordination in the most noteworthy reform since the 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community.

The Skelton-Davis Interagency National Security Professional Education, Administration, and Development (INSPEAD) System Act, based on lessons learned from the Goldwater-Nichols reorganization of DOD, would institutionalize interagency culture across the federal government by focusing on the personnel programs used to develop national security professionals.

"For many years, we've heard that when it comes to interagency collaboration on national security, our system is inefficient, ineffective, and often down-right broken," said Chairman Skelton. "Congressman Davis and I looked at the lessons learned from Goldwater-Nichols and came up with a plan to create the right incentives and the right system to develop interagency national security professionals across the government. I'm pleased to have Congressman Davis as my partner in this effort."

"The current interagency process is hamstrung and broken," said Congressman Davis. "The greatest impediment to effective national security interagency operations is that many agencies lack personnel who have the skills and experience necessary to execute mission priorities as a multi-agency team in a crisis situation. It is an honor to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Chairman Skelton. Improving our interagency capabilities will significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our government when responding to national security threats and natural disasters."

Highlights of the Skelton-Davis bill include:

* Creating a new interagency governance structure to develop interagency knowledge, skills, and experience among national security professionals;

* Creating incentives for national security professionals to undertake-and their employing agencies to encourage-interagency education, training, and assignments;

* Creating a consortium of colleges and universities to develop and offer consistent and effective interagency education and training opportunities; and

* Requiring agencies to maintain staff levels to continue day-to-day functions and mission operations while national security professionals undertake professional education and training.

A copy of the bill text, a section-by-section summary, and the Chairman's remarks at a press conference to announce the legislation can be found at the HASC web site.

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 10/01/2010 - 8:36pm | 12 comments
Islamabad now has final say on U.S. military policy.

Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Pakistan shows who's the boss

2) Can Britain resist becoming an American auxiliary?

Pakistan shows who's the boss

In apparent retaliation for a NATO helicopter attack on a Pakistani border outpost this week, Pakistan has closed the Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan to convoys supplying NATO forces. An International Security Assistance Force statement claimed the helicopter attack was a response to an attempted insurgent attack on a coalition base in Afghanistan. Pakistan claimed that the helicopter strike killed three soldiers in its Frontier Corps.

Trucks and tankers bound for NATO bases in Afghanistan are now stuck on the road outside Peshawar. Although this dispute will likely be resolved quickly, it shows that Pakistan has a veto over President Barack Obama's military strategy in Afghanistan. Specifically, Pakistan has now vetoed the possibility of a U.S. military campaign into the Afghan Taliban's sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Such a veto is understandable from Pakistan's perspective, but not so much from those of the NATO and Afghan soldiers who would like to get at the stubborn enemy finding sanctuary inside Pakistan. In a strange irony, the more the United States has built up its forces in Afghanistan, the stronger Pakistan's veto power over U.S. military decisions has become.

The Sept. 30 helicopter attack that prompted the border closing was the last in a string of such attacks that began a week ago. On Sept. 24, NATO helicopters responded to an attack on a combat outpost near the Pakistan border by firing on insurgents inside Pakistan. Helicopters returned on two following days, were fired on again from Pakistan, and again returned fire.

NATO commanders apparently view these cross-border helicopter strikes as incidents of "hot pursuit" and actions of self-defense while under fire. Pakistani officials, by contrast, no doubt view this string of attacks as a case of NATO probing to see what it can get away with. For Pakistani officials, it became one slice of the salami too much. These officials have accustomed themselves to the CIA's drone campaign inside Pakistan, a campaign that accelerated sharply in September. If U.S. policymakers thought they could get Pakistani officials to get accustomed to ever more aggressive air raids into the sanctuaries, Pakistan's closure of the border is designed to bring those thoughts to an end.

According to Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin, the Obama administration continues to place Pakistan at the center of its Afghan strategy. The issue for U.S. officials is how to persuade Pakistan's government to align its behavior with U.S. interests. According to Rogin, the Obama administration has opted for rewards rather than pressure, rejecting the advice of former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair to conduct airstrikes and raids inside Pakistan as the United States would see fit.

It is sensible to try a strategy of persuasion and rewards first before resorting to pressure and coercion. However, Pakistan's closure of the Torkham crossing has revealed that the large buildup of U.S. and coalition forces inside Afghanistan has removed the option of applying pressure on Pakistan. Although the United States has negotiated with Russia to obtain an additional supply line into Afghanistan from the north, the tripling of U.S. forces in Afghanistan since Obama took office means that there is no escaping Pakistan's strong leverage, amounting to a veto, over U.S. military operations. Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars, describes how National Security Advisor James Jones threatened Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with a strong military response (airstrikes on 150 suspected terrorist camps inside Pakistan) should there be a spectacular terrorist attack inside the United States sourced from Pakistan. Jones's threat is an empty bluff, or at least it has become one now that there are 100,000 U.S. troops dependent on a fragile supply line through Pakistan.

Pakistan's closure of the Torkham crossing shows that it will allow NATO to execute any military operations it wants just as long as these operations don't serious threaten the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan's invaluable proxy ally. Obama and his generals would no doubt like to wield the leverage that Pakistan wields over them. But creating such a reversal of fortune would require a military strategy that doesn't require endless daily supply convoys snaking through Pakistani territory.

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:33pm | 3 comments
Broken Logic and Inaccurate Information

Captain Nathan Finney, NTM-A/CSTC-A

A September 29th blog entry on has made the rounds lately, claiming to refute the facts reported by the top NATO commander for training the Afghan National Security Force in Brussels last week. Steve Hynd, the author of the blog, based his entire argument on an inaccurate report made by a young reporter at the Pentagon Channel, not the words of LTG Bill Caldwell himself. The beginning of the news clip that Mr. Hynd used to jumpstart his broken logic opens with a young sailor inaccurately quoting LTG Caldwell as saying that "since last September the ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] actually declined by 1,200" members. The accurate quote would have been that when NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan was activated and LTG Caldwell took command last November, his initial assessment determined that, due to astronomically high attrition rates, in September 2009 the Afghan National Security Force had lost a net of 1,200 soldiers and police. If Mr. Hynd had listened to the clip when LTG Caldwell spoke, he actually refutes the blogger's assertion. He states that "in the last 10 months alone the ANSF has been able to recruit, train and assign over 100,000 young men and women recruits." I'll point that out again -- the Afghan National Security Force expanded by approximately 100,000 net soldiers and police since last November.

There are many reasons that the quantity of the Afghan National Security Force grew so quickly in the last 10 months, as well as improving in quality. One reason is the increase of professional trainers from NATO and other troop contributing nations. From a beginning of about a 25% manning level, personnel from 19 different nations have now increased it to 82%, creating a higher level of training, including improving an instructor-to-student ratio in many courses from 1:79 to 1:29. While there remain requirements for more trainers to sustain the momentum of improvement in the Afghan National Security Force, the support of the international community has been amazing. This support includes trainers from the U.S. Like his use on an inaccurate news report, Mr. Hynd's accusation that LTG Caldwell is trying to get trainers from around the world only because the U.S. has failed to provide them is also false. An example of this is the female drill instructors from the Army Reserve that were sent to train Afghan female officer candidates. Like many other requirements filled by the U.S. and other nations supporting the NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan, these soldiers have made a great impact by developing a new generation of Afghan leaders.

While Mr. Hynd is wildly inaccurate in most of his blog, the issue of attrition certainly is an issue that we continue to fight. Like most areas in the Afghan National Security Force, attrition has improved across the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. In some formations, including those in constant battle with the Taliban in the south, it remains higher than the level needed to expand their end strength while also professionalizing their force so that they can become self-sustaining. Many measures have been taken to combat this issue, including an increase in recruitment to meet requirements, increasing pay to a living wage, partnering coalition forces to support further professional training and provide air and logistic support, and developing a predictable rotation cycle in and out of highly-contested areas.

Finally, let me address the idea of substance that Mr. Hynd casually throws in at the end of the article. Substance is accurately reporting information. Substance is providing thoughtful and professional analysis of an issue. Substance is something that is absent in Mr. Hynd's September 29th blog.

I invite those who wish to report and discuss these substantive issues, and accurately, to visit Afghanistan to observe the progress we have made in the last year. There are more than enough areas to improve upon, but we are on the right path to developing a self-reliant, self-sustaining Afghan National Security Force.

Captain Nathan Finney

NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan (NTM-A)

Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan (CSTC-A)

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 10/01/2010 - 9:49am | 0 comments
The War on Terror and the Revolt of the Generals - Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Mackubin Owens. "The strain of a prolonged conflict has led some military officers to believe they're better than the society they're serving."
by SWJ Editors | Fri, 10/01/2010 - 7:15am | 5 comments
Mark Safranski writes about Britain's search for a grand strategy at Zenpundit. "The United States is not the only Western power suffering from strategic uncertainty."
by SWJ Editors | Fri, 10/01/2010 - 7:00am | 0 comments
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by SWJ Editors | Thu, 09/30/2010 - 10:03pm | 0 comments
I'm headed to Afghanistan. Wanna come along? One or two readers may recall my last Afghanistan travel contribution here at Small Wars Journal; a multi-series entitled Travels with Nick, in Spring 2009 (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). This time, in a blatant attempt to get more comments on the blog, I'm inviting SWJ readers to "ride along" not only by reading my canny observations and insightful blather but by posting questions and topics for me to investigate on the trip. No promises of course, but I'll see what I can do.

My perspective is that of a stability operations policy wonk and pre-deployment training leader. I've been working and thinking about conflict and stability since the early 1990s when I was at OSD and as a Director on the NSC Staff. Bosnia and Kosovo were the conflicts du jour and though these are worlds apart from Afghanistan, many of the challenges, shortcomings, and frustrations we face today were just as plainly visible then.

About five years ago, I started working extensively with the military on Iraq and Afghanistan pre-deployment training. My company provides the field experts, curriculum, and training to the military on what is essentially "smart power" -- the interagency/PRT/whole of government tools in the Iraq and Afghan tool kit. We also support the training of PRT civilians. My company has extensive field experience in Afghanistan although I do not. With another trip under my belt, I can pretend to be as smart as my trainers!

Let's see if I can remember what I learned on my last visit. That trip focused on meetings in Kabul and RC-East in the last days of GEN McKiernan's command of ISAF. The first Obama strategy review was still underway.

My overall impression in Spring 2009 was not positive. I couldn't perceive a coherent and well resourced COIN strategy. The soldiers of TF Duke were capably taking on insurgent forces around the AO and military dominated PRTs were building things (roads and microhydro were particularly popular), but none of it seemed informed by a political strategy. I didn't get clear answers on why we were engaged in major fighting in the Korengal Valley (the Korengalis aren't Taliban or al Queda... They just like foreigners to stay out of their valley). Nor could the PRTs effectively explain a political strategy or effects behind most of their projects — how they contributed to stability. It was as if everyone was too busy and too tired with the daily work of fighting and building to actually think about why they were doing it. Meanwhile, the universal opinion of the Karzai regime was one of a corrupt political poor man's Machiavelli with too little interest in taking on the tough challenges to lift Afghanistan out of conflict and criminality. My hope was that the Obama team and a new commander would recognize both the strategic and operational shortcomings in Afghanistan, devise a more politically incisive approach, and resource it appropriately.

As I head back to Afghanistan, I hope to see some positive impact from the additional resources and political focus the Obama team has put into Afghanistan. I will also be checking out different regions, visiting both RC-South and RC-Southwest. There have been some significant developments. GEN McCrystal brought more troops and a renewed emphasis on COIN to the fight before he got Rolling Stoned. Now the deity of COIN himself, GEN Petraeus is leading the COIN fight. State and USAID have stepped up a bit, sending in hundreds more civilians to expand the interagency presence. Further strategy reviews and initiatives should have further sharpened the mission.

Some key questions as I see them:

(1) Should our mission be counterinsurgency or something less? What are the US interests and objectives? Are we winning (particularly in Helmand and Kandahar)?

(2) Are we effective --- both in interagency cooperation/structures and in understanding COIN activities?

(3) Who will win the elections -- when the results are finally in - and what will it mean?

(4) What is the current view of the Karzai government?

SWJ Editors' Note: Nick Dowling is a small wars policy wonk with experience in OSD, the NSC Staff, NDU, and the contracting sector. He has worked on stability operations for 16 years, most prominently on Bosnia and Kosovo as a Clinton Administration appointee and Iraq and Afghanistan as a DoD contractor. He is currently President of IDS International, a leader in interagency and "soft power" types of support to the US military. He is a graduate of Harvard, got his masters at Georgetown, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 09/30/2010 - 5:59pm | 0 comments
Lecture at Duke University (All-Volunteer Force) - As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Durham, North Carolina, Wednesday, September 29, 2010.

Continue on for the full text...

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 09/30/2010 - 1:25pm | 3 comments
Backstage Drama - Max Boot's review of Bob Woodwards latest book Obama's Wars at the Wall Street Journal. Key take-away: Who dissed whom? And who cares?
by SWJ Editors | Thu, 09/30/2010 - 7:59am | 0 comments
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by SWJ Editors | Thu, 09/30/2010 - 7:39am | 2 comments
Very interesting Op-Ed in today's Washington Post by Eliot Cohen entitled 'Obama's Wars': The gang that couldn't shoot straight -- or shut up. His use of fictional monologues raise some serious concerns about possible unintended consequences resulting from Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars.
by SWJ Editors | Wed, 09/29/2010 - 3:14pm | 13 comments
Update: Lifting the Fog of Peace at a special 40% discount when purchased at The University of Michigan Press. To get the discount, enter the code FOG10 when checking out. Great deal on a great book.

To be released this month - Lifting the Fog of Peace: How Americans Learned to Fight Modern War by Dr. Janine Davidson.

Counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are only the most recent examples of the U.S. Armed Forces fighting insurgents, building infrastructure, enforcing laws, and governing cities. For more than two centuries, these assignments have been a regular part of the military's tasks; yet until recently the lessons learned from the experiences have seldom been formally incorporated into doctrine and training. As a result, each generation of soldiers has had to learn on the job.

Janine Davidson traces the history of the U.S. military's involvement in these complex and frustrating missions. By comparing the historical record to the current era, Davidson assesses the relative influence of organizational culture and processes, institutional structures, military leadership, and political factors on the U.S. military's capacity to learn and to adapt. Pointing to the case of Iraq, she shows that commanders serving today have benefited at the tactical level from institutional changes following the Vietnam War and from the lessons of the 1990s. Davidson concludes by addressing the question of whether or not such military learning, in the absence of enhanced capabilities and capacity in other U.S. government agencies, will be sufficient to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century.

"Lifting the Fog of Peace is a captivating study of an agile and adaptive military evolving through the chaos of the post-9/11 world. In what is certain to be regarded as the definitive analysis of the reshaping of American combat power in the face of a complex and uncertain future, Dr. Janine Davidson firmly establishes herself as a rising intellectual star in government and politics. A thoroughly captivating study of organizational learning and adaptation—a 'must read' for leaders in every field."

---LTG William B. Caldwell, IV, Commanding General, NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan

"In Lifting the Fog of Peace, Dr. Janine Davidson explains how the American military has adapted itself to succeed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are the most likely future face of combat. The book is informed by her experience of these wars in the Department of Defense, where she now plays a critical role in continuing the process of learning that has so visibly marked the military's performance in today's wars. Highly recommended."

---Dr. John A. Nagl, President, Center for a New American Security

"Janine Davidson's Lifting the Fog of Peace is a superb, concise, and well-written book that makes important contributions in three areas. It advances our knowledge of organizational learning in the Armed Forces. It also accurately captures the rich post-Vietnam operational and doctrinal history of the Army and the Marine Corps. The simplistic cartoon of dim-witted generals fixated on the Fulda Gap is replaced here by a more accurate version, where engaged senior officers studied the security environment, absorbed important lessons, and began to improve the learning capacity of the military services. Finally, Lifting the Fog of Peace assesses the state of contemporary stability operations and what must be done to further prepare our Armed Forces for modern war on the low end of the spectrum of conflict. It will be a 'must read' on the E-Ring of the Pentagon and in security studies programs across the nation."

---Dr. Joseph J. Collins, Professor, National War College, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations

Dr. Janine Davidson, a former Air Force pilot, is a professor of national security at George Mason University, currently serving in the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans.

The views presented in this book are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or its Components.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 09/29/2010 - 8:22am | 0 comments
The National Defense University has announced the 4th annual STAR-TIDES Field Demonstration at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington D.C. from Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8. During this four day event, a wide range of capabilities that could be useful in post-war, post-disaster, or impoverished situations will be demonstrated in an open field environment along with examples from recent support to real-world contingencies. The event will take place during regular business hours, so please join NDU at your convenience for an hour or two, or even all day. Attendance is free and open to the general public. For more information, and to register for the event, please visit the event website.

The focus is on active demonstrations of integrated infrastructures. All activities will be independent of the power grid, and communications will be live. NDU will feature four sections that each include a mix of shelter, water, power, integrated cooking, heating/cooling, lighting, sanitation, and information and communications technologies, provided by a mix of USG, NGOs, and private sector companies. The four sections are: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Afghanistan, Disaster Relief in the U.S., Building Partnership Capacity in Refugee Camp Environment, and Disaster Relief in Tropical Regions (Central America and Western Pacific).

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 09/29/2010 - 7:27am | 0 comments
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by SWJ Editors | Tue, 09/28/2010 - 5:53pm | 2 comments
Food for serious thought for the "dump Karzai" crowd - You would cry too: In defense of Hamid Karzai by Joshua Foust at Foreign Policy's AFPAK Channel.
by SWJ Editors | Tue, 09/28/2010 - 5:15pm | 0 comments
The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released a new report today entitled Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and U.S. National Security by Bob Killebrew and Jennifer Bernal.

As illustrated by the unprecedented violence in Mexico, drug trafficking groups have evolved to not only pose significant challenges to that country, but to governments and societies across the Western Hemisphere, including the United States. Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and U.S. National Security surveys organized crime throughout the Western Hemisphere, analyzes the challenges it poses for the region and recommends the United States replace the "war on drugs" paradigm with comprehensive domestic and foreign policies to confront the interrelated challenges of drug trafficking and violence ranging from the Andean Ridge to American streets.

The result of a yearlong study by the Center for a New American Security, Crime Wars provides some elements of such a strategy, including recommendations for the U.S. government to: renew political and military outreach to Latin American states; enhance efforts to strengthen state institutions throughout the region; and better attack cartels' financial networks. At the same time, domestic policy should aim to disseminate better intelligence among law enforcement, federally fund additional campaigns to diminish drug demand and safeguard U.S. communities against gang recruitment. Only by dealing with transnational crime in a comprehensive manner will societies in the hemisphere be able to mitigate its impact.

Download the full report here.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 09/28/2010 - 5:56am | 0 comments
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by SWJ Editors | Tue, 09/28/2010 - 5:12am | 0 comments

The NATO-ISAF Placemat sets out the approximate numbers of forces provided to ISAF by Allied and other contributing nations, the location and lead of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and the countries responsible for ISAF Regional Commands.

Since February 2009, the Placemat shows the approximate size and location of the Afghan National Army. Since June 2009, the Placemat displays major ISAF units.

by Robert Haddick | Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:18pm | 0 comments
The New York Times described the Japanese government's return of the Chinese fishing boat captain last Friday as "a humiliating retreat" and "a significant victory to Chinese leaders." After a two-week standoff, the Japanese government opted not to prosecute Zhan Qixiong for refusing an order to leave Japanese waters and for ramming two Japanese coast guard vessels. It would seem that Chinese diplomatic bluster, the refusal to allow a cargo ship with rare earth metals to sail to Japan, and the capture of four Japanese citizens in China on allegations of espionage was enough to cause Japanese policymakers to buckle. And even though Zhan is home, China is not satisfied. It has demanded from Japan an apology. Japan has refused and has responded with its own demand for compensation to repair its coast guard vessels.

China got its man back. But the greater Japan's supposed humiliation, the greater the defeat for China and its strategic interests in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is now being pilloried inside Japan for displaying weakness. Had Kan's LDP critics been in office, the outcome of this affair would very likely have been the same. But that doesn't matter. The political incentives in Japan now favor a harder line against China the next time another such incursion occurs, which is very likely.

Second, other countries in the region have not taken kindly to China's recent elevation of its claims over the South China Sea to the level of "core interest." China's high-decibel screeching at Japan only reinforces the impression among policymakers in the region that China might now be turning into everyone's problem. And if these countries view China as a problem, a collective response may follow -- the last thing China should want.

The fishing boat incident in the Senkakus does not rise to the level of Munich 1938. But the incident's outcome may be one of the last accommodations China gets before policymakers in the region begin contemplating the need for containment.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:14am | 0 comments
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by SWJ Editors | Sun, 09/26/2010 - 7:57pm | 40 comments
So says Captain Crispin Burke... Also see what got Starbuck's attention - David Zucchino's article "U.S. military training adjusts its aim, another counterinsurgency mission like Iraq or Afghanistan is considered unlikely" in the Los Angeles Times.
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 09/26/2010 - 10:47am | 7 comments
The next Petraeus, what makes a visionary commander, and why the military isn't producing more of them, by Renny McPherson in today's Boston Globe.
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 09/26/2010 - 8:51am | 0 comments
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