Small Wars Journal

AFPAK Hands: A Call for Change

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:35am

AFPAK Hands: A Call for Change

Hans Winkler and Robert Kerr

Militaries around the globe and throughout history have specialized in offensive, defensive, and deterrent strategies in the execution of their nations’ Instruments of Power (IOPs) in order to support political leaders’ desires and end states.  The United States military is no exception, and typically employs its extensive technological capabilities with an offensive mindset in its application of hard power.  However, over the past two decades, American political leaders have increasingly called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) to operate outside of this strategic paradigm and focus on large-scale nation-building activities in an effort to combat political instability and to build additional governmental capacity in conflicted regions in order to create stable and safe living environments.

The Global War on Terror increasingly focused on Counter Insurgency (COIN) during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF and OIF) as a way to provide stability.  DoD leaders actively pursued building new, ad-hoc cultural understanding and governmental capacity building approaches to address concerns underpinning stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  To provide stability, the nascent governments and Coalition Forces needed to battle the insurgencies growing within both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Most of these ad-hoc program options, such as the Army’s Human Terrain System, dissolved as the countries’ security situations improved; the sole remaining program from those efforts is the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Hands program.  The anomalous longevity of this program, which the DoD originally designed to strengthen long-term stability between allies and immerse military service members deep within the cultures and languages of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has piqued military senior leaders interest.  This interest warrants a strategic review of the goals and capabilities AFPAK Hands explicitly articulates as its reason for required sustained operational employment within the context of the military capabilities as a whole.  This review is especially pertinent as senior-level DoD leaders consider instituting similar programs to address issues in other regions, and enables senior military leaders to take a renewed look at the requirements and goals driving continued, and perhaps even increased expenditures on this program or others like it.  It is imperative at this critical juncture to determine if the AFPAK Hands program produces its desired outcomes, or if the military needs more extensive research to determine whether there are other, more viable options available to accomplish current and future deep cultural engagement requirements


Realists claim that nation-states operate within a system of uncertainty and anarchy.  This system creates a constant struggle to strive for continual existence from existential threats.[1]  For realists, power, both latent and military, is the currency that states use to illustrate their relative strength and position in the system.[2] States communicate with one another through Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic (DIME) Instruments of Power, enabling several mechanisms through which the state can influence others’ actions.[3]  Therefore, nation-states wield the military IOP as a means to a political end. As Carl Von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military theorist, postulated, war is always an instrument of policy, and the political object will shape the militaries objectives and levels of applied efforts.[4]  Strategy is the ways that links political and military efforts together to align political ends with the military means.  Accordingly, militaries align capabilities to support political end states by employing three military strategies, Offensive, Defensive, and Deterrent.[5]

The United States works under the same constraints as other nation-states in the international system when it comes to the application of strategy in pursuit of political end states.  Since it emerged from the Cold War as the sole super-power, the US has sought to reduce strategic uncertainty and capitalize on its asymmetrical advantage regarding its capability to project overwhelming offensive force in its strategy to assert power against other nations.[6]  The US focus on offensive strategy allows it to advocate and continue funding new multi-billion dollar weapon systems programs, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thus maintaining America’s established dominance in the conventional application of war.[7]

The US military’s conventional capabilities after the Cold War were unmatched worldwide, but the shifting post-Cold War security environment facing the US changed toward issues of Human Security.[8]  This change in application of force proved to be an uncomfortable shift for the US military, as it required a focus on soft power, and Human Security issues such as counter-insurgency, partner-nation capacity building, and humanitarian aid/disaster recovery missions.  American soldiers often attempted to apply traditional military capabilities and offensive strategies to solve untraditional problems.  This shift in focus from major combat operations to stability and capacity building operations required a paradigm shift among leaders as they thought about how to achieve political objectives within the constraints of established capabilities.  Doctrinally the military was struggling with how to approach these conflicts. 

Many military leaders determined the best option was to simply adjust the size and scale of existing capabilities and approach them as “small wars.”[9]  Applying the small war construct meant military planners could easily adjust the size the existing capabilities and apply as needed for the conflict.  The more uncomfortable option for senior military leaders was admitting that the DoD did not have the capabilities to address this type of conflict.  The debate between the two approaches continues, but military leaders began embracing a change of mindset as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continued.  The military began to espouse the need for a different capability that was not organic to the military organization.   As Emile Simpson points out in his book, War from the Ground Up, the paradox in COIN is that the best weapons do not shoot.[10]  This seemingly simplistic paradox drove massive strategic changes in the employment of weapon systems and Rules of Engagements (ROEs), for the US military.  Military scholars began espousing the new changes the combat forces would need to embrace in an environment “in which battlefield restraint, cultural subtleties, and armed nation-building enterprises matter more than destruction of the enemy.”[11]  Military leaders received the message for change and created policy in 2006 to champion this shift of strategy, as illustrated in the publication of the US Army Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency.

Senior DoD leaders recognized the military had a gap in its available capabilities needed to engage effectively in stability operations or COIN paradigms.  At first, the DoD leaders sought other governmental organizations to fill the military’s capability gap.  Even Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, championed the need for more civilian agency support that could help.  However, instead of enhancing the civilian agencies with the capacity needed to assist in stabilizing the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress authorized the Pentagon to take over those missions wholesale.[12]  This move effectively gave the DoD authority to perform tasks and missions that are traditionally limited to only the Department of State and agencies, such as USAID, which operate under its purview.  With this new mandate for combat forces officially to take on untraditional responsibilities firmly in place, military leaders such as General Stanley McChrystal and General David Petraeus, set out a path to reshape the employment of combat forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. 

The 2006 Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24, articulated the fundamental changes that military leaders faced in a COIN environment.[13]  These changes in the application would not happen overnight, however, as the Joint Forces were deeply ensconced in combat, not nation-building operations.  Forcing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to focus on a new “dominant inference pattern” would take time to cultivate and grow.[14]  Also needing time to grow were the authorizations from Congress for the DoD to operate under a different authority as outlined in US Code.[15]  The military focused on establishing new ad-hoc stability operations capabilities focused on deeper cultural engagement, such as Human Terrain Teams, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, Agricultural Development Teams, Female Engagement Teams, Rule of Law Teams, Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands programs and other COIN related programs.  In her book How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything, Rosa Brooks succinctly highlights the surging of new ad-hoc military stability programs; she argues the military was planting as many possible ideas in this new environment and “a thousand COIN-related flowers bloomed.”[16]  During this massive restructuring of military capabilities, debates raged about how the military should staff these new missions.  While some scholars argued that academics with years of deep cultural understanding were the best resource to use, others argued that enhancing the organic military capabilities already in existence was the right way to build the new programs.[17]  This debate still rages on, but during the early program development days of stability operations, the military tried a little bit of each of these approaches trying to find the right formula for successful engagement in the operating environment.

Scholars are still debating stability operations programs successes and failures in this complex conflict environment, but the one thing that each of these new capabilities had in common was that eventually, the military had reasons for stopping or phasing them out; with one exception: the AFPAK Hands program.  During the height of these ad-hoc programs, the military articulated the crucial role that each program had in this complex environment, while simultaneously taking very few, if any steps to formalize them.  Funding profiles such as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), or contingency funding through Joint IED Defeat Organizations (JIEDDO) allowed the execution of programs in an operation without the military branches having to compete those requirements against their core capabilities.  With no structural establishment of these programs within the military, they were only able to operate within the context of their designed immediate needs.  After addressing the immediate need, the personnel with the required specialized skills were either released from employment, in the case of civilian contractors or temporary DoD employees, or diffused back into their MOSs or AFSCs within the combat force if they were a service member.  The turning of the page in 2014 in the type of operations that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was executing in Afghanistan provided the death knell for most of these ad-hoc efforts, although many had been phasing out for years before that point.[18]   The primary exception to the military phasing out of these cultural and nation-building capabilities is the AFPAK Hands program.


The US military originally tried to model the AFPAK Hands off a program that the US put in place to deal with China in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The US assigned the “Hands” moniker to American subject matter experts on China’s culture and language at the time who worked in the Foreign Service.  The term originates from the term “Old China Hand” meaning they were the people that had been there for a long time had experience and expertise in the details and interactions of Chinese culture, language, and politics.[19]  The AFPAK Hands program strived, at the outset, to build on that history to create military officers that were counterinsurgency experts with in-depth regional understanding.[20]  Unfortunately, even the name selected for this program showed cultural insensitivity with the tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan and highlighted early on that gaining cultural expertise could be challenging.[21]  Despite this initial hiccup, the DoD continues to rely heavily on all its service branches to supply officers that will gain the regional and cultural expertise the military requires in the region.  The effort has been ongoing for the past nine years, and although the military has highlighted the difficulty in measuring results with this kind of a program, some senior military leaders have called for replicating this type of regional expertise in the much larger culturally diverse area of Asia.[22]

The senior military leaders benchmarking interest of parlaying the AFPAK Hands program into application in the complex culture and language of Asia warrants a strategic review of the program overall.  This strategic review involves an objective understanding to enable senior leaders to determine if the military is chasing an emotional sunk cost investment or actually establishing value-added programs that support and enhance its core capabilities.  The DoD originally designed the AFPAK Hands program in an effort to create a stable environment in Afghanistan by developing a core group of officers with a long-term connection and continuity with the Afghanistan government.  However, assessments on the successfulness of the program in conjunction with the overall mission are often in the form of stories of interactions and tales of success that are qualitative in nature and struggle to translate to the actual stability actions undergoing in the region.  In fact, defense officials admit that metrics are hard to come by for this program.[23]  Indicating a desire to replicate the program without fully understanding what exactly the program provides for the military organization.  A strategic review can assist with the alignment of efforts with strategy.

AFPAK Hands: A Closer Look

To begin the review of the program the first place to look is the espoused desires of the effort by the Joint Staff.  The CJCSI outlines three broad objectives of greater continuity, greater focus, and persistent engagement on Afghanistan and Pakistan.[24]  Each espoused programmatic goal provides a point for closer examination of measures of performance of the program in terms of these stated objectives.  Military professionals would be quick to point out that measure of performance focus on what many people know as doing the things right and are not the same as a measure of effectiveness, which endeavor to determine whether the organization is doing the right things.[25]  In the case of the AFPAK Hands program, looking at the measures of performance allows a systematic examination of the goals to determine first if the military is doing things right in accordance with the outlined goals.  Future researchers should take on the challenge of determining if the US military is doing the right things.

During the researching phased we reached out to the both the Joint Staff and Air Force Headquarters Air Force program managers for details into the day to day program management and oversight for AFPAK Hands.  By reaching out to the subject matter experts in this program, we were able to gain the ground truth on the management of the program and then compare it to the espoused goals outlined in the CJCSI to examine any gaps in performance are present or if the DoD is achieving the goals outlined.  In order to begin this conversation we will examine and discuss each of the three main goals 1) greater continuity 2) greater focus and 3) persistent engagement.  Next, we will discuss major trends identified within the program management, such as staffing and oversight, with recommendations on the way forward for senior military leaders.

Three Main Goals

The first espoused goal of the AFPAK Hands program is that of greater continuity.  This term, when taken in conjunction with the dominant model of US force deployment cycles implies that greater continuity is achieved when US military members return to the same nation, and occupy the same, or a similar position they previously occupied, thereby providing deeper continuity than that which was allowed in the traditional deployment scheme.  In theory, this allows for the cultivation of longer-term working relationships with key partners; together US and host-nation partners can learn, grow, and build trust with one another.  Most military deployments are between six months to one year, but the AFPAK Hands program is set up to provide continuity to positions for a longer duration with the cohort construct.  The member deploying to fill the AFPAK Hand requirement is theoretically able to provide better continuity as they will return to that position after a year.  Planners could simply measure continuity as the percent of AFPAK Hand members that return to fill the same position. 

Some would argue that this would be a poor measure of effectiveness for continuity as there is a multitude of reasons for them not to go back to the same position.  Constraints such as shifting security concerns, change of requirements, and mission focus would be impediments to being able to maintain continuity of the position.  AFPAK Hand members also face constraints of their service pulling them out of the program prematurely due to concerns such as advancement, command opportunities, and school requirements.  As these are all valid concerns that play a factor but the determining measure of performance can highlight whether the program is coming within some percentage rate of maintaining continuity from the viewpoint of the people with whom the AFPAK Hands are interacting.  Discussing this concern with the lead program manager we first endeavored to determine if there were already metrics associated with this continuity and found that data was not accessible.  The researchers attempted to request previous deployment data but due to concerns, such as security classifications and the possible impacts to ongoing operations, that option was not viable.  Forcing us instead to have a discussion with the program managers about the macro system parameters of the program and what impediments, if any, might influence the likelihood of a Hand returning to the same position.  This discussion provided eye-opening insight into the actual ability to accomplish the espoused goal of greater continuity.

The idealized process of the Hands deployment process was a one year on one year off deployment to home station ratio, but the real-world constraints challenge the actual employment of this model.  The structure of the program revolves around a rotating three to one ratio of personnel.  One person in training, one person deployed in an AFPAK Hand position, and one person working in their out of theater assignment before a second deployment.  The structure is set up to allow the out of theater asset to work for about twelve months in their home station billet to give a much-needed break prior to beginning pre-deployment training such as combat skills, language, cultural, and regional expertise refreshers.  This out of theater gap causes a stagger in the cycle that makes it extremely unlikely that an individual would actually return to the same position that they occupied during the first deployment.  To further exacerbate the issue US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) has an internal process to manage the Hands as they arrive in the theater.  USFOR-A runs an Afghan Hands Optimization Board (AHOB) to align the critical resources with the most critical billets.[26]  A gap develops because there are more request for forces than actual number of personnel assigned to fill those request.  This gap of availability of personnel leads to a competition to align resources through a Colonel’s negotiations process that a two-star general validates and finalizes the aligned Hands.  These negotiators are examining the unique skills provided by the individual Hands arriving in theater, through review of a Skills Inventory that summarizes capabilities the individual brings, to align the best resources with the greatest demand.  However, the fact remains that this process of alignment will undoubtedly lead to extremely low probabilities of maintaining any greater continuity than would be accomplished with the already established request for forces process that the military employs for all other deployment taskings.  Although the process does have instances of success, where the same person returns to the same position, the structural process makes that the exception and not the rule.

The second goal of the AFPAK Hands program is to create a greater focus on the Afghanistan and Pakistan strategic and regional environment.  You can view this desire of greater focus with two different lenses.  The first lens provides a greater focus for those that serve in the program.  Meaning that from the viewpoint of the member’s focus in the program is greater on the environment than those that are not in the program.  Certainty looking at this measure of performance through this perspective reveals a definite and measurable increase in their personal knowledge, skills, and abilities.  They receive a large amount of regional cultural training with an in-depth focus on language and couple that training with the deployed time of two years in the country to apply their learned skills.  Providing the individuals a definitive increase in the depth of their respective insight into the region.  The second lens to look at greater focus is to examine it from the macro-level stance that the program provides a greater focus for the US military on this region.  Examining the desire for greater focus through this lens enables us to look at the established growth of permanent capability internal to the military organization to determine if the program has created this greater focus through programmatic endeavors intending to solidify capabilities.  In terms of military programming, the way in which the military programs and funds a requirement sends a message about the intended longevity of the effort.  The planning, programming, budgeting, and execution (PPBE) process is the main way in which the Secretary of Defense to allocate, track, and expend funds within the DoD.[27]  There also exists a way for the DoD to gain and allocate funds during contingencies called the overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding.[28]  This funding stream is typically reserved for the time of the contingency and is transient in nature.  In fact, OCO funding is so variable from year to year in funding certain requirements that some have even called it DoD’s “slush fund.”[29]  OCO funding can be a windfall but it can also dry up eliminating everything that relied on the continual flowing of critical resource streams.  The DoD overwhelmingly executes the AFPAK Hands program primarily through the OCO funding process.  The program only executes a small portion of the training requirements through the PPBE process.  This programmatic insight shows the military is content with maintaining the support of the AFPAK Hands program through this temporary funding stream.  The primary use of temporary funding furthermore indicates that the military organization wants to focus less on this capability by keeping the funding dependent on the ongoing contingency versus establishing formalized funding streams and building the permanent capability to provide the greater organizational focus at the macro level.  Between the two lenses of focus, if the military desire is to increase the number of individuals with the greater focus, the goal becomes an internal personnel development goal.  In essence, AFPAK Hands would supplement the already established military development programs, such as the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) program or the politico-military Affairs Specialist programs, as a way to grow future regional experts.[30]  If the goal is to create greater focus at the organizational macro-level then the military should focus efforts on creating formalized permanently funded organizations and capabilities.  Whichever lens through which you chose to look at the success of this approach, it is clear that both have shortcomings that the military needs to address in order to be successful in this area.

The third and final goal of the AFPAK Hands program is to create a persistent engagement with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The term persistent engagement indicates a long-term connection to the government of these countries.  Persistent engagement reassures the Afghan and Pakistani governments with an understanding that the U.S. will maintain a long-term commitment in those regions.  The program is unique from the other deployments in the region as geographic combatant commanders adjust those US forces based on security requirements.  However, when examining the manpower utilized for the AFPAK Hands program we can determine that a decrease has happened over time.  At the height of the program, the total manpower the services provided for this requirement was 244 personnel.  Over the first part of the program’s lifecycle, the manpower requirement remained consistent, but as recently as 2016 there has been a precipice decrease in the total requirement by well over 50%, to a mere 117 personnel.  Some could argue that the success of the program warrants the decrease, but that argument is in direct contrast to why the AHOB is still trying to meet the shortfall of requirements that downrange personnel are advocating.  Some may even argue that as long as any number of Hands personnel are in use, then the military is meeting the persistent engagement goal, but the driving goals of a program should not involve maintaining a program.  That is the very definition of a self-licking ice cream cone argument.  The results of any such articulation of success of this goal would only be a justification for the need of the program.  Therefore, regardless of how leaders define persistent engagement program managers could argue a positive or negative position on either the goals success or lack thereof.

Overall, the AFPAK Hands program has challenges in each of the three major goals of the program.  Some goals have portions that are providing measures of performance indicating that the program is in need of changes to meet the goals.  Some goals are ambiguous and require further clarity to ensure that program managers can determine the effectiveness of the measures and articulate to senior leaders if the program is accomplishing the things they asked it to do.  When looking at all three joint staff specified programmatic goals together, it is clear the DoD is missing the mark when it comes to doing the things that leaders specified right.  Even more disturbing is that as we reviewed the espoused goals more holistic trends became apparent and we will discuss those in the following section.

Holistic Programmatic Trends

As we dig deeper into the AFPAK Hands program, several holistic trends begin to surface.  Although program management should be a topic addressed in future research, we will highlight a few disconnects that stand out during this review.  The trends consisted of three main potential concerns.  The first major trend is the delegation of program management from the joint staff to the combatant command.  The second major trend is that program managers are not able to review valuable AFPAK Hands personnel feedback to determine the effectiveness of the program.  The final major trend that future research should address is the discontinuity between the desired strategic and tactical application of this capability.  Examining each trend provides deeper insight into the issues that they present for the DoD to manage this program successfully.

The first major disconnect is the delegation of the overall hub of programmatic management from the CJCSI specified joint staff to a combatant command staff.  Although some military leaders can see this as a positive in putting resource management closer to the organization that would employ those capabilities there are some significant concerns in this delegation.  First, the Joint staff decision to delegate responsibility and not staff the position inside of its own organization sends a clear message that the program is not a joint staff priority.  This lack of organizational ownership by the joint staff has negative indications on the military’s continued desire to support this effort.  Officers often emulate the joint staff’s intrepidness to fully support this program and often time steer clear of volunteering for the program for fear of being lost in the system.  The service departments feel this hesitation so keenly that request for volunteers often highlights the upward mobility potential for officers as a way to help overcome the reluctance.[31]  Clearly, there is a reluctance within the rank and file continued support for the program and the delegation of management adds a lot of credibility to those concerns.  Secondly, by delegating the management to the combatant command, a question of checks and balance presents itself.  The joint staff mandated that each service department provide the needed manpower to support this effort.  The joint staff is in effect the honest broker of the deal, ensuring service departments that critical resources that they task are essential for each service to support.  By delegating the management of the program, the services are now in a position to take a pause in filling these taskings and, as with other requests, can simply reclama when the desired capability does not reside formally in any unit within their organizations.  Finally, along the line of checks and balance the joint staff provides is the concern the combatant command that utilizes the resources might choose to self-optimize to continue to receive the capability.  The AHOB specified in the earlier section already identifies that the resources are in high demand.  This high demand coupled with owning the program management could lead to the combatant command into ethically questionable territory that it should take steps to guard against.

The next major problematic trend is the lack of utilizing personnel feedback to adjust the program or provide insight into the successes or failures that they encountered.  During the data collection process, we reached out to program managers at the joint staff, combatant command, and headquarters air force levels requesting recent feedback from those personnel returning from the assignment.  During these discussions, we learned that feedback collection and review has fallen to a state of disrepair.  At the beginning of the program, feedback helped to shape future employment of this novice endeavor, but over the past couple of years program managers do not collect or analyze this information.  Furthermore, obtaining historical surveys is complicated by the fact that the program managers do not have access to the joint staff servers where the information previously resided (see disconnect one above).  Feedback provides a critical ear to the ground on the successes and failures that the program encounters and is an early warning indicator of any potential future issues.  This lack coherent feedback analysis allows generalities to creep into the discussion of how things are doing without data to back it up.  The process has eliminated the voice of the people closest to the impact of the program.  Instead of analyzing the voices of those that could provide candid feedback on the problems the program faces, the system marginalizes those voices as one-offs or people being people and always complaining.  Leaders can then champion the ongoing internal operating environment through hearsay and vignettes taken to highlight successes without statistical relevance or validation.  This lack of constant review of the first-hand experience of those trying to accomplish the goals provides significant concern of whether the military is providing the due diligence needed to have an open and honest conversation on the future of this program.

The final major problematic trend identified is a discontinuity that arises in the use of strategic versus tactical application of the resources employed.  As the DoD delved into this experimental program, they sprinkled the application of the resources being employed within various levels of Afghan governmental interaction from the tactical to the strategic.  Early on in the execution of the program, the focus was at the district or tactical level, but the focus shifted to the strategic as the military footprint began to contract.[32]  Recently the focus has split roughly in half with focus at the strategic and tactical levels.  However, this discontinuity between original application and final distribution leads to questions that will need some research as to the appropriate level of application for this resource.  Some interpret this shift of resource application through the various operating levels as a way to adjust the effectiveness of this program.  Still, others could articulate the moving nature is indicative of an organization not knowing what they are trying to accomplish.  The military should examine whether this shifting operating level employment of these resources are methodical or sporadic about the outcomes sought for their employment.  The answer could very well be an even resource split of distribution at the tactical and strategic levels, but the change should always be intentional and not accidental.  Although the operating environment shapes many aspects of employment of forces, the military needs to understand and articulate the intended application of resources to those that utilize the capabilities.  


The US military has a record of successful employment of hard power through its technological capabilities with an offensive mindset.  During recent conflicts, American political leaders have tasked the DoD to operate in a nation-building capacity that required a change in the employment of military IOP.  Military COIN efforts struggled to provide stability through ad-hoc cultural programs.  The military has dissolved most of these programs in conjunction with changing requirements.  The AFPAK Hands program has bucked the trend associated with the other efforts.  The longevity of AFPAK Hands drove deeper examinations of the management and effectiveness of this program to determine its efficacy.  It became clear during this review that the difference between program intent and execution has been developing a gap over the past decade of employment.  The three primary goals of the program when compared with available data show that successful execution is harder to accomplish than originally envisioned.  Furthermore, negative trends in program management indicate that the DoD should either restructure the program to better utilize personnel or close the program to prevent the continued expenditure of critical resources.  Clearly, the time is right to review this program and make strategic changes intended to provide the military with the capabilities it needs to accomplish the current and future deep cultural engagements.

The views presented in this essay are those of the authors and do not reflect the official views of the US Air Force or the US Department of Defense.

End Notes

[1] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York, NY: Norton, 2001), 20.

[2] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York, NY: Norton, 2001), 55.

[3] D. Robert Worley, Orchestrating the Instruments of Power: A critical Examination of the U.S. National Security System, (Lulu Press Inc: Raleigh, NC, 2012), pg 5.  Instruments of national power consist of four primary means Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economical.  Also referred to in its common acronym as DIME.

[4] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret eds. and trans. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), pgs 88 & 81.

[5] Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (New York, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 14.

[6] Barry Posen, “The Sources of Military Doctrine,” in Robert Art and Kelly Greenhill, eds., The Use of Force, 8th ed. (Linham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 28.

[7] Department of Defense, Program Acquisition Cost by Weapon System: United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request (Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense [Chief Financial Officer], February 2016), 7.

[8] Derek S. Reveron and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris, Human Security in a Borderless World (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2011), 2.

[9] Colonel C. E. Callwell, intro by Douglas Porch, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice Third Edition (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), pg 21.

[10] Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013), pg 73.

[11] Thomas H. Henriksen, Afghanistan, Counterinsurgency, and the Indirect Approach, JSOU Report 10-3 (Hurlburt Field, FL: Joint Special Operations University, 2010), 1.

[12] Todd Greentree, “Bureaucracy Does its Thing: US Performance and the Institutional Dimension of Strategy in Afghanistan,” Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 36, No. 3 (2013), 339.

[13] Field Manual Number 3-24, Counterinsurgency, 15 December 2006.

[14] Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Longman, 1999), 175.

[15] The Department of Defense operates under Title X of US Code, which imposes strict limits in the types of actions authorized for US Forces, both at home and abroad.  Nation-building actions are authorized, primarily, under Title XXII, under which the Department of State Falls.  Congress had to authorize the DoD to operate under the auspices of Title XXII in Afghanistan and Iraq.

[16] Rosa Brooks, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon” (Simon & Schuster, 2016), 94.

[17] Montgomery McFate, “Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of their Curious Relationship” (Military Review) March-April 2005.; Maj Ben Connable, “All Our Eggs in a Broken Basket: How the Human Terrain System is Undermining Sustainable Military CU” 6 April 2009.

[18] “ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan (2001-2014) (Archived),”North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 01 September 2015,

[19] E. J. Kahn, Jr, The China Hands: Foreign Service Officers and What Befell Them, (The Viking Press: New York, NY, 1975).

[20] Mike Coleman et al., “AFPAK Hands: A Template for Long-Term Strategic Engagement?,” Small Wars Journal (24 May 2015).

[21] Mike Coleman et al., “AFPAK Hands: A Template for Long-Term Strategic Engagement?,” Small Wars Journal (24 May 2015).

[22] Gordon Lubold, “Dempsey models Afghan Hands Program for Asia” (Foreign Policy, 16 November 2012).

[23] Ben Connable, Embracing the Fog of War: Assessment and Metrics in Counterinsurgency, RAND Report (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2012), xxii.

[24] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJCSI) 1630.01B, Afghanistan/Pakistan Hands (APH) Program, 8 July 2016, 1.

[25] Leo J. Blanken, Hy Rothstein, and Jason J. Lepore, eds., Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2015).

[26] The name of the program changes from AFPAK Hands to Afghan Hand when discussing the program internal of Afghanistan as including Pakistan is offensive to the culture inside of Afghanistan. Mike Coleman et al., “AFPAK Hands: A Template for Long-Term Strategic Engagement?,” Small Wars Journal (24 May 2015).

[27] Lynn M. Williams, Defense Primer: Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution Process (PPBE), (Congressional Research Services, 22 September 2016).

[28] Lynn M. Williams, “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

[29] Paul D. Shinkman, “Inside the Pentagon’s ‘Slush Fund’,” US News and World Report, February 12, 2016,

[30] Air Force International Affairs Website, accessed 7 March 2018,

[31] Kat Bailey, “Coalition assignment calls for helping Hands in Afghanistan, Pakistan,” Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs, 12 May 2017.

[32] LTC Girard, CENTCOM AFPAK Hands Program Manager, to the author, e-mail, 6 March 2018.

Categories: Afghanistan

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert M. Kerr is a professor in the Department of Joint Warfighting at the Air Command and Staff College.  He has direct operational experience in Iraq, and has taught Combat and General Purpose Force Air Advisors on the political and cultural aspects of stability operations and COIN in the CENTCOM and INDOPACOM AORs.  Follow Dr. Kerr on Twitter @robertmkerr4.

Major Hans Winkler (USAF) is a Civil Engineer in the United States Air Force.  He has direct experience with stability operations in Afghanistan and has worked closely with AFPAK Hands. Follow Major Winkler on Twitter @Hanswinkler.