Barring an unforeseen event or shift in policy, it seems likely that by May 2021, the United States will remove its military forces from Afghanistan. Despite claims of progress, the United States and its allies have undeniably made many mistakes over the past two decades. Some commentators have argued that Afghanistan has been an “undeniable failure.” While many commentators and policymakers have focused on getting out of Afghanistan, the past shows the potentially devastating consequences such actions could bring. Instead, the United States and its NATO allies should consider leaving a small presence of advisors to support institutional development at the ministries and institutions.
Sun Tzu’s injunction to “know your enemy” is never more critical than in counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare. During its COIN conflicts in the last hundred years, the United States military has fallen especially prey to the thinking trap of lumping all its opponents into the same category. COIN expert David Kilcullen identified this phenomenon as “accidental guerrilla syndrome” in his 2009 book of the same name.
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Taliban Fragmentation: Fact, Fiction, and Future SWJED Mon, 03/30/2020 - 9:09am
For years, the U.S. military pursued a "divide and defeat" strategy against the Afghan Taliban, attempting to exploit the supposedly fragmented nature of the group. Drawing on the academic literature on insurgency, civil war, and negotiated peace, this report finds that the Taliban is a far more cohesive organization than a fragmented one.
Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process SWJED Thu, 03/26/2020 - 9:37pm
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s effort this week to bring the parties together failed and led the U.S. to reduce aid to Afghanistan. Amid all this uncertainty, Afghanistan is beginning to see the signs of a coronavirus outbreak, which could devastate the country given its poor health infrastructure and pollution problems. USIP’s Scott Smith explains how the coronavirus could further exacerbates an already complex situation.
A dilemma is now facing western militaries, in-so-far as, the contextual terrain has shifted to such an extent that their enemies refuse to engage them in a manner that would ensure their own destruction. Focus on this modern Sphacterian-dilemma has led to discussions and debates that are encapsulated within the ‘War amongst the people’ arena.
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Case Analysis: The FARC in Colombia SWJED Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:42am
An understanding of this particular case offers not only relevant lessons for the U.S. in our continuing small wars operations, but also on national interests in Colombia—including economic considerations and counter-narcotics efforts—could become threatened by FARC’s dissident groups.
The Three Misunderstandings of Soviet Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan SWJED Wed, 02/19/2020 - 10:58am
Several major actions taken by the United States and coalition in the last 18 years share much in common with the efforts of the Soviet Union during its combat operations in the country (1979-1989). It is therefore incumbent upon any student of the current conflict to firmly understand the Soviet conflict, its doctrine, execution, and most importantly, the Soviet methods of counterinsurgency.
Improving the Understanding of Political Legitimacy in COIN Doctrine SWJED Tue, 02/18/2020 - 9:45am
Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Doctrine was initially developed in the midst of the Iraq War as the military struggled to accept the situation it found itself in and struggled to create a strategy to address it. Initially published in 2004 as an interim doctrine, and then in 2006 as a completed publication, the Army and Marine Corps’ primary counterinsurgency doctrine has only been updated once since then.
The United States has intervened repeatedly in the southern hemisphere for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to address growing problems metastasizing at the “Southern strategic approaches” to American territory. While today’s problem of 2015-2020 is one of human mass migration, the previous crisis of 2000 to 2010 stemmed from of an epidemic of illicit drugs. This threat was so pernicious at that period, the United States felt compelled to act with our partner nation of Colombia. With a combination of all instruments of national power, a holistic strategy with a small but powerful military theme emerged.
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The war in Afghanistan is at an impasse. The current and next U.S. administrations will have to grapple with the aftereffects of an 18-year campaign in a country that has been at war for over 40 years. The war in the field is a stalemate. Neither side seems able to win. At home and abroad, among friends and even some enemies, war weariness and a desire for peace is very much in evidence, even as the fighting continues. Neither side has been able to find a path to a negotiated settlement.