Monday, August 31, 2009
Look, let's get some things straight: being a Marine is hard. Being an infantryman is even harder. Like really, really damned hard. Too hard for most dudes, and considering the physical challenges, especially for women.
Ok, so are we straight on that? Honestly, I'm not trying to be facetious or sarcastic or glib or smarmy. Doing anything with a whole bunch of weight on your back is extremely difficult. Add in threat to life and limb and I would expect that it gets damned near impossible.
Important fact number two: yes, I am a pogue. I sit at a desk. My operating environment is not a difficult one. The most challenging thing I'll face today is a bout of drowsiness that results from eating too much kung pao chicken. I have never humped a full combat load in a war zone or anywhere else. I have never "strap[ped] 120 pounds on [my] body and play[ed] men's football for a season," not to mention "do[ing] it while being sleep deprived and with guys dropping around [me] from heat stroke." I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have done and do these things in service to our nation.
None of which really has anything at all to do with the subject of this little back-and-forth, which is Herschel Smith's contention that the inclusion of women in Red Army combat units was an important contributing factor to the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.
It's not about whether or not women are as strong as men, or whether I have a Combat Action Ribbon, or whether Democrats want to integrate the Special Operations Forces, or even whether or not I think women should be able to join U.S. Army and Marine infantry units. If you've paid attention, you'll notice that I never even offered an opinion on that subject.
There's a conversation to be had about the suitability of women for combat. There's even a separate conversation to be had about their suitability for infantry units. (As Herschel and his son have pointed out, there are complications beyond simple upper-body strength, like the range of personal hygiene- and health-related challenges posed to corpsmen and medics serving with infantry units. And they didn't even mention it, but I hear cooties can be a bitch, too.) The point is that while we could invest a lot of time and energy going back and forth about all of that stuff, that isn't what my original post was about, and that's not the subject on which I was challenging Herschel. He made a simple claim -- that women's participation in infantry combat helped the Soviets lose to the mujahideen -- and I mocked him for it. Instead of explaining how or why his claim was legitimate, he went after the women-in-the-infantry straw man.
And now, he says, the case is closed. The authority has spoken. Only he's an authority on what it's like to be an infantry Marine, not on the combat-effectiveness of integrated Soviet line units in the Afghan war.
But beyond that, "authority" doesn't really matter in this conversation, does it? When women are allowed to enlist with any MOS, and when Don't Ask, Don't Tell and other impediments to the full and open service of homosexuals are repealed or removed -- and let's be clear: these are whens, not ifs -- the decision is going to be made by our political leaders, not by experts in infantry combat, not by me, not by Herschel Smith or his son, and not by Elaine Donnelly. So let's just dispense with the notion that "expertise" matters here, shall we?
So we could have all those other conversations that I mentioned before, but what's the point? We've come full circle: it's all back to politics and preconceptions. It's not Herschel's fault, really, that he lets his politics and his worldview inform his thinking on this issue: it is, after all, something that will be decided by the political process. The problem (well, for him, anyway) is that time and demographics are not on his side. And so his arguments (weak though they may be) and his appeals to authority aren't really worth the time, are they?
Tony Cordesman also has an op-ed in the Post today, entitled "How To Lose in Afghanistan."
Kilcullen said hard fighting in Afghanistan would likely last another two years, after which insurgents would hopefully believe it was better to negotiate than continue combat with international and government forces.
That would be followed by a three-year transition to effective Afghan government and five-year overwatch period involving international forces as back-up, he said.
McChrystal has not announced a need for more U.S. troops, but almost every expert on the scene has talked about figures equivalent to three to eight more brigade combat teams -- with nominal manning levels that could range from 2,300 to 5,000 personnel each -- although much of that manpower will go to developing Afghan forces that must nearly double in size, become full partners rather than tools, and slowly take over from U.S. and NATO forces. Similarly, a significant number of such U.S. reinforcements will have to assist in providing a mix of capabilities in security, governance, rule of law and aid. U.S. forces need to "hold" and keep the Afghan population secure, and "build" enough secure local governance and economic activity to give Afghans reason to trust their government and allied forces. They must build the provincial, district and local government capabilities that the Kabul government cannot and will not build for them. No outcome of the recent presidential election can make up for the critical flaws in a grossly overcentralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.
Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities. They are pressuring the president to direct Eikenberry and McChrystal to come to Washington to present a broad set of strategic concepts rather than specific requests for troops, more civilians, money and an integrated civil-military plan for action. They are pushing to prevent a fully integrated civil-military effort, and to avoid giving Eikenberry and McChrystal all the authority they need to try to force more unity of effort from allied forces and the U.N.-led aid effort.
If these elements succeed, President Obama will be as much a failed wartime president as George W. Bush. He may succeed in lowering the political, military and financial profile of the war for up to a year, but in the process he will squander our last hope of winning. This would only trade one set of political problems for a far worse set in the future and leave us with an enduring regional mess and sanctuary for extremism. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not.
American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. [emphasis mine]Except that the Arms Control Export Act doesn't exist -- it's the Arms Export Control Act. I noticed this yesterday in the hard copy, and as of this morning they still haven't corrected the electronic version. Yes, this is a simple, stupid mistake, consisting only of the transposition of two words. But their version doesn't even make sense!
So like I said, I noticed that one yesterday and didn't think much of it, assuming that they'd probably fixed it online. And then this morning I see this article, about the Iraqis "finding" a bunch of their old helos in Serbia. What's wrong with this one, you ask?
Lt. Col. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for the Multi-National Transition and Security Command-Iraq, or M.N.T. S.C.-I., the American military’s training wing, said the discovery of the Iraqi-owned MIGs would not alter any American plans, at least not immediately. “It’s going to take a while to see what impact it has,” he said. [emphasis mine]Wait, what's that? Mint-ski? I've never heard of that. Oh, you mean the organization colloquially referred to as Min-sticky? Which would only be said that way if, you know, the "S" were in front of the "T"? Oh, yeah, that's because it is. They're actually talking about the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, the organization through which coalition equipment and training is provided to Iraqi security forces. What's most bewildering about this one is that they actually spell out the name of the organization and the acronym, and they get both wrong! And then they repeat the mistake in a quote!
“It’s more than just getting aircraft; there’s maintenance and support structures, training. It’s not going to change what M.N.T.S.C. -I. does,” Colonel Kolb said.How far the newspaper business has fallen! SNLII, rescue us!
The Washington Post yesterday reported some vague details of the metrics to be included in GEN McChrystal's
Administration officials are conducting what one called a "test run" of the metrics, comparing current numbers in a range of categories -- including newly trained Afghan army recruits, Pakistani counterinsurgency missions and on-time delivery of promised U.S. resources -- with baselines set earlier in the year. The results will be used to fine-tune the list before it is presented to Congress by Sept. 24.
Lawmakers set that deadline in the spring as a condition for approving additional war funding, holding President Obama to his promise of "clear benchmarks" and no "blank check."
As anyone who's been paying attention will know by now, the military is big on "metrics." I've yet to see a really detailed explanation of the way this works inside DoD, though, probably because it would be too boring. But here's a quick primer.
When doing an assessment of any activity, the military looks at two things: Measures of Performance (MOPs) and Measures of Effectiveness (MOEs). The former category usually gives you raw numbers: how many personnel trained, how many pieces of gear supplied, how many patrols run, how many enemy KIA. If you think about it, the term is pretty self-explanatory: you're measuring performance in whatever activity you're engaged in, but measuring that performance in a quanititative way. MOEs are concerned with how much the thing you're doing has helped to accomplish your objectives. In the case of
Military and development aid to
The whole concept is sort of confusing, because the distinction between a MOP and a MOE is only meaningful if we understand what it is we're trying to do. Just tallying up numbers, obviously, is meaningless. So if the mission is "kill the enemy," and we want to understand the utility of firing weapons at the enemy to accomplish this mission, then we can use rounds fired by coalition forces as an MOP, and number of enemy dead as an MOE. But if we're looking at the bigger picture (and generally, that's what we want to do), then something like a body count is always going to be a MOP. The MOE, then, would be related to a next-order effect, like "number of districts in which coalition forces can operate without taking fire or being engaged by IEDs."
All of which is to say that without understanding the context -- what the mission is, and which "metrics" are MOPs versus MOEs -- a list of a whole bunch of things like this is kind of meaningless. I don't suppose I should say "meaningless," because it does illustrate areas of focus and emphasis to some extent. The three examples listed in the linked article -- "newly trained Afghan army recruits, Pakistani counterinsurgency missions and on-time delivery of promised
Understanding HN capabilities is a good thing, as is a focus on improving them. I'm going to express the same reservation here that I have in the past, though: without a sufficient level of security and governmental reform, efforts to empower the Afghan National Security Forces look more than a little Sisyphian. And there's precedent: in the pre-Surge days in
And so it's starting to look like we're in a similar spot in Afghanistan, that 2010 there may look a lot like 2007 in Iraq: everyone seems to understand by now that we're going to need more U.S. troops in country before the security situation approaches anything near acceptability, never mind an environment where shifting the burden to Afghan forces is a plausibly achievable "exit strategy." So now we're back to the politics. Recent polls show that somewhere on the order of 50 percent of Americans now oppose the war. Casualties have gone up this year, and no one wants to see that trend line continue in the direction it's going. The President has an ambitious domestic agenda, and spending a ton of money in
So what's the answer? Well, Kilcullen was probably right: "We'll fight for two years and then a successful transition, or we'll fight for two years and we'll lose and go home." Notable for its absence is any mention of "winning."
Does a "successful transition" look possible in the next two years? I'm not optimistic. But if we look at the metrics that GEN McChrystal's team has identified, then it certainly seems like "transition" has become the priority. And while that's probably best for
Friday, August 28, 2009
This should be a big reading weekend for me: the gf leaves for an overseas trip at 0500 tomorrow, so I have the run of the house (and the most unfortunate distraction: my new-ish flat screen) for a week. When I'm not reading (which is to say, tomorrow), I'll be watching Premiership soccer and the Springboks-Wallabies Tri-Nations tilt (ugh, 5pm on tape delay) at Fado.
When I am reading, this is what it's gonna be...
Finishing up Stathis Kalyvas' The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Here's what I wrote about this book on Bernard Finel's blog, to give you some idea of how it's going:
This is going to sound a little over-the-top, and I know I’m probably parroting the “dominant narrative of the COIN crowd” (to paraphrase COL Gentile), but I think it’s the most important book I’ve read on the subject of what animates insurgencies. (In light of our recent exchange about conceptual grouping and abstraction, I’ll caveat that with ‘…to the degree that we can generalize about “insurgency”‘).I've got a little bit of that left, and then it's on to Brooks and Wohlforth's World Out of Balance: International Relations and the Challenge of American Primacy (about which I know next to nothing) or Avoiding Trivia: The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy, edited by Daniel Drezner. Lemme know what you think if you've read either of these -- they're sitting at the top of the "to read" pile.
I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight something I've just read: a paper called "Establishing Legitimacy in Afghanistan" by Thomas J. Barfield (old bio, I think), former President of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies at Boston U. It's in the June 2004 edition of Iranian Studies, and I only have a pdf file, so no link. It's very good, and you should read it if you can find it. (Or, to use Christian Bleuer's approach, email me if you need it for collaborative research efforts.)
I've also been offline for a couple days so like Gunslinger, I'm catching up. Still, next stop, King Leopold's Ghost and I've also been wanting to get my hands on Kalyvas' book. Any other suggestions?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Case in point: Herschel Smith thinks that the presence of women in Soviet combat formations is one of the top five most important reasons for their failure in Afghanistan.
I think that other things were essential to the loss, including [a] focus on the cities v. the countryside, [b] complete breakdown of the lines of logistics due to [a] above, [c] heavy losses because of Taliban control over the roads due to [a] above, [d] focus on mounted combat and mounted patrols as opposed to dismounted operations, [e] women in combat billets which led to a high number of lower extremity injuries and a high number of combat ineffective units, and a whole host of other things. [emphasis mine]This comes in the SWJ comment thread about an article on "Sri Lanka's disconcerting COIN strategy," as part of a post in which Smith dismisses Soviet "ruthlessness" as one of the primary reasons for defeat in the Afghan war.
So in short, girls in the infantry were more damaging to the Russian war effort than bad counterinsurgency tactics. "There is the thing of testosterone, and it's different because God made it that way." Ok? Ok. Glad we cleared that one up.
UPDATE: Herschel uses eight words to every one of mine in a response to this 200-word post. Maybe I'll put together a more in-depth response a little later, but right now I just wanted to direct you over to his site for a chuckle. I expect it will be one-way traffic, seeing as he's copied this entire post in whole, rather than excerpting it. So along with the link, here's a lesson in blogging etiquette for The Captain: when you want to highlight something that another person has written, excerpt! Like this:
If I ever give you worthless tripe like you read at Ink Spots, you should savage me in the comments.(But only if you have a Wordpress account, because the comments aren't open. So alternatively, savage him in our comments.)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Anyway, according to press reports, the kidnapping didn't go very well. First off, the vehicle the two officers were packed into broke down literally minutes later. So other groups that were nearby basically stole the hostages from the initial kidnappers. Then those people got into a fight and split them up...
In any case, news today emerged that one of the hostages had escaped. The first thing out this morning was that the agent had killed three of his captors and escaped. Now, if that had been true, it would have been bad ass...Then there were other stories that he'd "escaped" after a ransom had been paid (something the French deny).
That didn't happen though (I suppose unfortunately if you're on the lookout for these types of stories). What did happen, according to an interview that the agent gave to Radio France Internationale was that (my quick and easy translation):
Tuesday night, close to midnight, I took advantage of my captors sleeping. They were tired because of Ramadan. Because my cell was badly closed, I took off, without using violence. In any case, if I had fired shots, I would have been killed. Then I walked almost five hours through the night, using the stars to guide me to the area I hoped to reach. Someone tried to shoot me but I ran, hid and they missed me.He safely made it to an AMISOM base in Mogadishu and then was shipped off to Nairobi. I guess it's good to know celestial navigation but the story is still rather rocambolesque don't you think? Now we wait to see what happens to/with his colleague.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
While the replacement of the UNAMID force commander, Nigerian General Martin Agwai (for whom a farewell ceremony was held today in El Fasher) was expected, as was his replacement with a Rwandan General, another change was not.
Indeed, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, former Congolese Foreign Minister Rodolphe Adada resigned today, effective August 31st.
This is not to say the change is not welcome because it is. As the article says,
And you'll note that while the Secretary-General's statement on the matter couldn't have been different, as MK pointed out to me earlier today, it fits with the beefs listed in the Norwegian memo.
Western diplomats said Adada's job was a difficult one, since Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, an indicted war crimes suspect over Darfur, created bureaucratic obstacles that have slowed UNAMID's deployment.
The diplomats said there was a broad consensus that Adada did not try hard enough to speed up UNAMID deployment. The U.N. secretariat, they said, was also dissatisfied with his performance, but since the appointment was made jointly by both the U.N. and the AU it was not possible to get rid of him.
"He hasn't been the most effective head of a mission," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "We were unhappy with him for a long time but the AU protected him."
But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Adada.
In his reply to Adada's letter of resignation, quoted in the online version of Sudan Tribune newspaper, Ban said he "led UNAMID with distinction during its most challenging initial deployment phase and in an environment of unprecedented difficulty."
So, another thing to keep an eye on: is the UN going to start firing field leaders who perform badly or even not well enough? What constitutes good leadership in these types of missions and who should measure that performance? At what point should say, the Security Council, the Secretary-General or a combination of others be able to fire mission leaders?
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's fruitless visit to Burma in the beginning of July is indicative of a Secretary-General and an organization who are struggling to show leadership...In the many political/security-related crises around the world the Secretary-General's leadership and ability to deliver on behalf of the international organization are also found wanting.Then the good Ambassador goes on to list shortcomings on Burma, Sri Lanka, Congo, disarmament and non-proliferation. But the icing (I did not mean that as the worst pun on the face of the planet) really is here:
What all these examples have in common is that a spineless and charmless Secretary-General, has not compensated this by appointing high profile and visible coworkers.The FT has this tidbit:
The Norwegian foreign ministry declined to comment on the letter when it first emerged yesterday but quoted Jonas Gahr Stoere, foreign minister, as having described Mr Ban as "hardworking" and "attentive".Umm--isn't that what people also say about employees they've fired when asked to provide a reference? Anyway, this is bound to start discussion over what makes a good UN Secretary-General. This matters because in places like Congo, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Timor-Leste and many others, the UN is the go-to please try and fix this problem organization. It has its faults and its challenges but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have good leadership.
Friday, August 21, 2009
In spite of that, I decided to get something down and then seek the input of someone that I consider to be subject-matter-aware, if not a subject matter expert. Tintin is a college student who embeds occasionally with U.S. infantry, cavalry, special operations, and advisory units in Iraq and Afghanistan (and a frequent commenter here). He was in Afghanistan earlier this summer, and was able to shed some light on the specifics of 4/82’s organization and mission. His comments are italicized and bolded.
As I’ve noted in my concluding remarks, there are a lot of people out there who know much more about this than I do, so I encourage them to chime in.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported on the deployment of the Fourth Brigade of the 82nd Airborne to Afghanistan.
The North Carolina-based paratroopers were set to deploy Tuesday, part of a 60,000-troop U.S. surge. They're also part of the first Army unit to go with a mission solely focused on training the troubled country's police. Their combat skills will be secondary to their ability to build rapport with Afghans and teach their students to patrol and gather intelligence.As I understand it, 4/82 is the first brigade to be deployed as what’s being called a Modular Brigade Augmented for Security Force Assistance. [It's actually not the first. 4/1 AD, which deployed to Maysan and Dhi Qar in Iraq in May, is the official "proof of concept" AAB. See the brigade's PAO blog here. (Gulliver re-comment: as I understand it, 4/82 IS the first “modular brigade augmented for SFA,” which is sort of a confusing and silly distinction, as you’ll see further down, but there ARE differences.)] This is the Army’s new model for the SFA mission, which is pretty much what it sounds like: providing assistance to partner security forces, which usually comes down to training. (“SFA” writ large, as a governmental assistance process, also involves the provision of equipment, security sector reform and other good-governance mentoring, and so on, but the Army restricts its definition to missions where green-suiters – active duty personnel – engage in training of foreign partner units.)
The old model used what were called “Advise and Assist Brigades,” or AABs. This terminology is being replaced with the modular brigade augmented for SFA label, and as I understand it the mission is going to change slightly, as well. I’m not an expert on how the AABs organized or operated, so I’m going to defer to Tintin on this. [Tintin thinks that these are slightly different missions. On the one hand, 4/82 is going to do advising work within the AOs of several standard BCTs and NATO brigades that are engaged in major combat operations; 4/82 will not own its own ground or launch its own major combat operations. The AABs, on the other hand, are intended to replace standard BCTs and own their own brigade AOs -- the idea is just that within those AOs, they will have a much greater SFA capability than standard BCTs. This may be just a difference between the basic situations of Iraq and Afghanistan: 4/82 is deploying into an area where brigades are in the middle of the fight, whereas the AABs going to Iraq are deploying into areas where there will be no standard BCTs and the Iraqis are in the lead.] But my perception has always been that while AABs were in fact training-focused, they also continued to operate in such a way as to be involved in major combat operations and COIN. It may be the case that the sub-units of the AABs remained intact and operated in partnership with their ISF counterpart units, but I’m not sure.
The terminological shift (away from Brigade Combat Teams or “combat brigades” to AABs or “advisory brigades”) struck me as something of a political expediency, intended to emphasize the shift away from combat operations and toward the advisory mission, and further on towards withdrawal. So now we have brigades augmented for SFA. What does that mean? Well, we’re still talking about a normal BCT to start with, so that means 3k-5k bodies. Those guys go through their normal train-up cycle for a deployment, and then a few months before they deploy, you slap on an extra 24-48 majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. That’s the augmentation part. Depending on the AO and the mission, you might also augment the brigade with some other support elements like engineers, civil affairs, and so on.
Those additional field-grades will then be used to lead training teams, which will be tailored for specific missions and sent out throughout the AOR. These could be as small as team- or squad-sized, or as large as a company, depending on the size of the host nation unit that they’re paired up with. The standard model is for a squad to advise a platoon, a platoon to advise a company, and so on, as I understand it. This is a lot different than the MTT/OMLT model, where you could have a 12-man team advising an entire battalion.
The entire brigade will go through a rotation at Ft. Riley before the deployment to train for the advisory mission; there’s a unit stationed there whose entire job is to train trainers. (Until recently – or perhaps until sometime in the very near future; not sure if the turnover has happened yet – this was the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division.) And if I remember correctly, everybody over E-6 will get some sort of specific individual advisor training, while the rest of the guys are just going to be working with their standard maneuver training. So you might get a squad sent out with an O-5, an E-7, and a bunch of Specialists without any dedicated individual training on how to work with HN SF.
Now here’s an interesting thing about this model: it’s intended for use beyond the near- to medium-term, and beyond the current conflicts. [This sure IS interesting, and I don't know anything about it.] That means that in 15 years when the U.S. troop commitment to Iraq and Afghanistan has drawn down, we’re talking about every Combatant Command having one brigade assigned to it that’s specifically designated as an SFA unit. This means that training teams will be sliced out of the parent unit and sent out across the AOR, so you could have six guys in Ethiopia, a platoon in Kenya, and a company in Nigeria participating in an exercise.
Current policy for training teams in non-operational theaters mandates the use of contract personnel because of strain on the operating force. Having a bunch of Xe or MPRI dudes training the Paraguayan army on infantry squad tactics is fine and all, but you lose out on a lot of the benefits of the military-to-military relationship, the mentoring and example that uniformed guys can provide, and so on. Not to mention the fact that there are a lot of places in the world where people think you’re not taking them seriously if you send non-uniformed trainers.
Anyway, back to 4/82. As I said, they’re headed for Afghanistan. Back in March, when the additional troops were announced, here’s what the Washington Post (and John Nagl) had to say about what they’d be doing:
Now the Post tells us they’re going to be training and mentoring police, but my understanding is that this isn’t correct (or rather, that it’s not complete – the ANSF being trained won’t just be police). Hopefully Tintin can clear up some misconceptions here. [Tintin says: According to the (unclassified) information I got at CSTC-A earlier this summer, 4/82 will be taking over both police and ANA advising from a departing Illinois National Guard BCT in southern and western Afghanistan, while a Georgia National Guard BCT takes on the east and north.
The extra 4,000 U.S. troops, expected to deploy in early fall, are to fill that gap. In a sign of the new importance the administration is placing on the mission, a brigade of the Army's vaunted 82nd Airborne Division is being broken up into 10-to-14-member advisory teams, a Pentagon official said. Until now, the military has relied heavily on inexperienced National Guardsmen to fill out the teams.
"The change couldn't be more dramatic," said retired Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan defense think tank. "The 82nd Airborne Division is the nation's shock force."
If the Illinois BCT's mission is any guide -- and I think it is, although 4/82 will be executing the mission in a different way -- then 4/82 will be providing both police mentor teams (PMTs) and ANA embedded training teams (ETTs) in some areas, and just ETTs in other areas. It depends on the level of ISAF involvement in ANSF advising in a given area -- in some places the U.S. can just do the police mission, and let ISAF do the ANA mission, while in other areas the U.S. has to do both. In some places, ISAF is providing very few ANA advisor teams (their OMLTs) at all, and 4/82, like the Illinois brigade, will have to step up across the board -- in Zabul and Uruzgan, for instance, the Romanian, Dutch, and Australian contingents just don't have the numbers to provide OMLTs to whole ANA brigades, so 4/82 will have to provide both ETTs and PMTs there. In Helmand, on the other hand, the British brigade has devoted a whole battalion to the OMLT mission, and even has provided a few police advisor teams (POMLTs). So in Helmand, 4/82 will provide only or mostly PMTs. Kandahar is probably halfway between these two cases, and it's anybody's guess what 4/82's level of involvement will be in Herat and Farah.]
I was also told (by people in the Army’s SFA proponent’s office) that the brigade would “maintain its capability for full-spectrum operations,” which is to say that it’s meant to be able to cohere back into a standard BCT and engage in the high-intensity fight if necessary. [That is interesting, and differs from what I had heard in Kabul and Kandahar about how 4/82 would be employed. But they didn't seem too sure themselves. Mostly, the National Guard soldiers at CJTF Phoenix were a little skeptical of 4/82, and were worried that it would come in and throw away the lessons that CJTF Phoenix has learned over the years out of 82nd gung-ho-ness.] It’s difficult to see how this differs from the AAB concept.
Really, what I think is going on with 4/82 is that they’re using a sort of hybrid, transitional model, moving the Army away from COIN-and-training brigades (AABs, or even standard pre-AAB BCTs that were partnered with ISF units) and toward training-only brigades, but caught somewhere in between because they’re operating in a theater where U.S. forces are currently engaged. [Sounds exactly right. The intensity of the fighting in Afghanistan means that 4/82 has to operate in a different way, and it's tricky to say whether it or the seven Iraq AABs are more like what we'll see in the long-view future.] Obviously this isn’t going to be the case in the future with brigades augmented for SFA, which are NOT intended to be “combat advisors” but rather Phase 0 trainers. The Army is clear on this, and the SFA proponent is sort of operating on two different timelines: what do we need SFA-wise in the close fight versus how we’ll organize, train, equip, educate, and so on in the post-2015ish window.
Hopefully this sheds a little light on the way the Army intends to build partner capacity and capabilities into the future (though I fear I’ve just rambled!). Huge thanks to Tintin for his input.
There are a bunch of guys over on SWJ/SWC who work on this stuff in their day jobs, and who are much more qualified to speak on the subject than I am, so maybe they’ll stumble over this way and help us out in the comments.
Exum has a brief post this morning about Richard Haass' op-ed today on U.S. options in Afghanistan. Here's his comment about one of Haass' proposed courses of action:
I guess I know a fair bit about training security forces, at least from a policy perspective if not a practical one. But more importantly, I know a fair bit about math. So I guess what I don't understand here is how a security force assistance/foreign internal defense mission (in which a complement of U.S. forces would focus on training ANSF, without engaging in combat operations except as an embedded component of the units they're training and advising) plus development assistance could possibly cost as much as SFA/FID plus development assistance plus a counterinsurgency campaign.
[Haass:] "One would reduce our troops’ ground-combat operations and emphasize drone attacks on terrorists, the training of Afghan police officers and soldiers, development aid and diplomacy to fracture the Taliban."
[Exum:] I don't know how much Haass knows about training security forces, but his first "alternative" would require an investment in Afghanistan as massive as the one we're already making. So I think it's more an operational alternative than a strategic one.
SFA/FID = $A
COIN = $B
$A + $B = $A ???
We're already training ANSF and waging a COIN campaign (including combat operations, obviously). Exum doesn't think that halting the COIN campaign would save money? The only way the math works on this is if you believe that we're not really doing that much training right now, or devoting that many resources to the mission.
4/82 might disagree. (More on this later.)
This just a day after President Medvedev spoke about the deteriorating security situation in the Russian Caucasus and outlined a program to address it.
GROZNY, Russia (AP) -- Suicide bombers on bicycles detonated explosives in Chechnya on Friday, killing at least four police officers and a civilian in coordinated attacks in the capital, officials said.
The suicide bombers approached police officers in two central locations in Grozny and blew themselves up, killing two officers in each attack, said Chechnya's Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov in televised remarks.
Russian emergency services spokesman Alexei Zemskov said three other people were wounded. An Associated Press reporter saw body parts scattered at the sites of both attacks, which come at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
All of which kind of makes me wonder what the hell Russia even wants with Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and so on. I mean, I guess it gives them contiguous territory for the annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, or something.
President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia must pursue “real, not cosmetic” stability in the North Caucasus, an indication of just how much the security situation has deteriorated and how disappointed the Kremlin now is in the claims by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the situation there has been improving. But Medvedev’s five-point program, which he presented to the leaders of Russia’s security services
Wednesday, does not appear to promise any greater success, let alone justify his Putinesque statement that “one must not stand on ceremony with the terrorists. They must be liquidated without hesitation.”
What Medvedev’s proposals do appear to presage, however, is a further expansion of Russian military actions there, a greater willingness to dismiss local officials possibly with the installation of ethnic Russians in their place and as a result, at least in the short- and medium term, an increase in the already high level of violence in the North Caucasus.
Medvedev’s program includes: a call for better interagency coordination among the siloviki; a “radical reconstruction of work with cadres;” better protection for law enforcement personnel; changes in the law to ensure that terrorists are punished; and a meeting on the North Caucasus about how to improve economic conditions there.
So who's ready to book tickets for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi?
From Mike Allen's Playbook at Politico:
SCOOP -- CBS’s Kimberly Dozier, who has top-shelf war sources: “CBS News has learned that while [Afghanistan commander Gen. Stan] McChrystal's official assessment [due at the Pentagon in a few weeks] will not include troops, … he is … leaning toward a range to recommend to the Pentagon and the White House in mid-to-late fall. The general is leaning toward three major options -- the ‘high risk strategy’ is to add only 15,000 troops to the 68,000 that will be on the ground by the end of this year -- as in, the highest risk of failure. The ‘medium risk strategy’ is to add 25,000 troops, and the ‘low risk strategy’ is 45,000, according to a senior defense adviser helping craft the plan.”So there's that.
My question: even if we add 45K, can we ever suggest that there's a "low risk of failure" in Afghanistan? This seems to reveal a way of thinking about conflict in which our actions are the only ones that matter. Certain COIN types have been accused of that in the past, so I hope the rhetoric isn't reflective of how GEN McChrystal and his team are really thinking about this.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
That amphibious study, which could lead to the Marines seeing their central mission stripped away, appears highly unlikely to go anywhere. Is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, himself a Marine, likely to countenance such a move? Not likely. Is the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, likely to approve such a move when the Marines are so closely intertwined with the Navy? Well, no. If Gates didn’t kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle on April 6 — and it certainly would seem to have met many of the same criteria for termination as did programs such as FCS — why would he take such a drastic action now?The piece was linked on the Early Bird, the DoD's daily news aggregator. I think this is a first for DoD Buzz, but I could be wrong; if it is, then it might've come at a bad time. To wit: today's Early Bird links another article on the same subject, "Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Sinks EFV Hopes," from Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The prognosis for the U.S. Marine Corps' troubled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is not good, according to Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After his presentation to the Space and Missile Defense Conference here Aug. 19, Cartwright said the close-to-finished Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is looking at EFV in the context of "amphibious writ large," and the high-speed combat vehicle "will have a significant challenge moving forward."
Cartwright went on to brand the EFV with the scarlet "E" for "exquisite" -- a pejorative term coined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to refer to programs aimed at producing be-all, end-all systems.
"As we look at anti-access threats, is the exquisite nature of the vehicle appropriate? It's going to have a hard time," Cartwright said.
"Now I can't be a Marine anymore," he added.
According to other sources, the QDR may downplay the Marines' role as a forced-entry assault force versus security assistance and the Corps' currently dominant role on the ground.
The EFV's problems have been discussed extensively in the past, particularly the flat-bottomed hull and its susceptibility to IED attacks. It's interesting to see the Gen. Cartwright cite anti-access threats, too; Krepinevich talked about this extensively in his recent Foreign Affairs piece, making specific reference to the EFV's unsuitability for the likely future threat environment. Maybe the Pentagon really is listening!
Like I said before, I think that Clark and DoD Buzz generally do a great job. This just goes to show you how easy it is to look silly when doing personality-based analysis and speculating about things like procurement and budgeting decisions.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Just to give some trends on French public opinion, a nice table (p.6) reminds us that 58% of French people favored intervention in Kosovo in 1999, 55% favored intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, 19% in Iraq in 2003, 55% in Darfur in 2007, and 45% in Afghanistan in July 2008.
The rest of the poll then provides data by political party, age, gender and profession (PS is Parti Socialiste, Modem is Bayrou's center right party and UMP is Sarkozy's party--one thing to remember on the French political spectrum, I view it as generally shifted left from the US spectrum so if you look at political platforms, the UMP and Modem would basically be the different factions within the Democratic Party here). It then does the same for US responders.
It's interesting and it shows clearly that the French public is increasingly oppposed to military intervention in Afghanistan.
So go take a look--I think even if your French is limited you should be able to get the gist of it.
Update: As John Henninger points out in the comments (I didn't get a chance to put it up last night so thanks for the reminder), the ABC/Washington Post issued this new poll yesterday.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
What's so interesting about this you ask? Well, first of all the US funded the recruiting, training, and vetting of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The UN Secretary General, in his report dated 10 August 2009, provides the following update on how that's going:
Development of the new 2,000-strong Armed Forces of Liberia continued to make progress. The first battalion started the United States Army Training and Evaluation Programme, which it will complete in September, while the second battalion will complete the programme in December. At that time, the United States contractors currently training and equipping the force will hand over to the Ministry of Defence, which will assume responsibility for training and standing up the new army. The United States has indicated that it plans to assign as many as 60 United States serving military personnel to continue mentoring the Armed Forces of Liberia, beginning in January 2010.
So it looks like we'll continue to work with the AFL as it builds capacity, an officer corps, etc. To get back to the role of of National Guard units, the article (from the snazzy AFRICOM website) explains:
Dankyan [the Liberia Desk Officer at AFRICOM] evaluated their military exercises to ensure a standard level of proficiency. After finding them ready, he started the process of matching them with a state that meets their needs.Let's hope that happens because as far as I know, we haven't done much to build Liberia's capacity to manage its borders. In particular, I don't think we've provided much support to build Liberia's Coast Guard (we're talking four 32 ft and four 28 ft crafts and 350 personnel). This is important because, as the BBC reports, Liberia (or rather the region as a whole) has become a trading platform for drugs moving from South America to western Europe. It's also important because the Liberian conflict was largely funded by trading diamonds, timber, rubber...and other commodities. Finally, it's important because beyond deterring and reducing illegal activity, effective border and customs management serves as the basis for reliable government revenue.
These needs can be very specific. Some countries are recovering from war and request states with high engineering quotients to help rebuild essential structures. Some need help in planning for natural and manmade disasters, and still others want experience in farming...
For Liberia, a coastal state, the ideal partner would have expertise in ports and agriculture, he said. Dankyan said he has yet to choose a state partner because so many have volunteered to work with Liberia.
A wider question though: in countries like Liberia, with porous borders, resources, and limited capacity to manage borders, how do you fix that problem over the long run?
Monday, August 17, 2009
Not Yevkurov, though, who made noises about Western involvement, suggesting that Russia's purported return to great power status might be too much for the rest of us to handle.
Russia’s interior ministry said the truck, driven by a suicide bomber, smashed into the gate of the police station in Nazran, the Ingush capital, before exploding as officers assembled for morning parade.
The blast, which injured 118 – including women and children – led to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, sacking the Ingush minister of the interior, saying the atrocity could have been prevented.
“I suggest [the attack] was not just the result of problems connected with terrorist activity, but also the result of the unsatisfactory character of law enforcers’ work in the republic,” he said.
It was the deadliest in a string of recent high-profile attacks that are destabilising the mainly Muslim regions on Russia’s southern flank.
In June, the interior minister in Dagestan was gunned down in a Mafia-style killing at a wedding and weeks later there was an assassination attempt on Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the president of Ingushetia.
The Kremlin has blamed the escalating violence on Islamist extremists.
Of course, everyone's favorite insurgent/terrorist-turned-brutal-sub-governor-turned-patriotic-defender-of-Russian-security, Ramzan Kadyrov, isn't really worried about who did it. He just knows he's going to F that guy up bad when he finds him.
“I have stressed this [before] and am saying again now: the west will strive not to allow Russia to revive its former Soviet might,” he told Russian radio.
Mr Yevkurov, a former paratrooper, was appointed by the Kremlin last October to bring order to Ingushetia, an impoverished region bordering Chechnya.
Kadyrov, of course, has been implicated in just about every sort of brutality you can imagine in the North Caucasus. Just yesterday, the L.A. Times ran a feature piece on Kadyrov's involvement in the campaign of terror sweeping across Ingushetia -- and this was before the bombing.
Just hours after the attack on Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Kadyrov told Reuters he had been ordered by the Kremlin to fight insurgents in Ingushetia. His comments provoked speculation that Kadyrov was seeking to widen his clout over neighbouring regions in the North Caucasus. Ingush politicians warned such a move could tip the region further into chaos.
"We will conduct our investigation in line with the law of the mountains and our revenge for Yunus-Bek Yevkurov will be ruthless," Kadyrov was quoted as saying in the local capital, Magas, where he met acting Ingush president Rashid Gaisanov.
The statement indicated Kadyrov was referring to the region's ancient tradition of
blood feuds. Ingush officials said Kadyrov's visit had been a surprise.
This article does a pretty good job of giving Kadyrov's backstory if you're unfamiliar with it.
Day after day, insurgents attack police and government officials with ambushes and bombings. And day after day, security forces unleash what human rights activists describe as a campaign of killings, abductions and torture in their efforts to force calm upon the land.
Now Ingushetia is struggling under the weight of a new terror, one that seeps over the mountains from Chechnya, a neighboring mostly Muslim Russian republic.
Having brutally squashed dissent in his own restive republic, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a young Kremlin-backed former rebel known for his ruthless style of rule, is sending his notorious squads of fighters to hunt down rebels in Ingushetia.
With Kadyrov's authority creeping over the boundary, Ingushetia has become a land without accountability. Killings may be attributed to the Russian government, local authorities, separatist rebels or Chechens. Lives disappear in the tangle of overlain bureaucracy and shrugged shoulders.
Interestingly, the Chechens seem to have become the Kremlin's sort of shock troops in recent years (since Kadyrov's turning). Pictures emerged last year, in the early days of the Georgian war, showing BMPs in the Russian invasion force with "Yamadayevtsi" graffiti, manned by irregulars. Here's some analysis from that time:
(Ralph Peters later did a story on this same subject. Of course, he used it as evidence that we should be going to war with those dirty, inscrutable Russkies. Or something.)
a number of the Russian tanks and armored vehicles have “Chechnya Vostok" and “Yamadayevtsi” painted on the hulls.
The Eastern Battalion (Chechnya) is composed of loyalist (pro-Moscow) Chechens; they are led by a man named Sulim Yamadayev, who is — along with Ramzan Kadyrov, a name you might know — among the most influential loyalist Chechen warlords. He fought against the Russians in the first Chechen War (pre-1996), and eventually turned with Kadyrov. If you listen to him, it’s because he opposed the Islamic extremists who gained control of the Chechen separatist movement. Others say Putin bought him off.
In any event, what this means is that the Russians have committed battle-hardened veterans to Georgia, not their poorly-paid, poorly-trained, and poorly-equipped regulars. Also interesting to see this war against a Caucasian people being prosecuted by other Caucasians who have felt the brunt of Russian oppression.
Also of note: the British media has reported that the Yamadayevtsi (what those of the Eastern Battalion call themselves) routinely sexually abuse and torture captured civilians to death, also often severing the heads of enemy dead.
In any event, I guess I don't have much of a point with all these peripherals except to say that considering Russia's history with quelling Islamist, ethnic, and separatist insurgency, and Kadyrov's history of involvement in this sort of dirty business, I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage. If we later find that Kadyrov's people are responsible for the "insurgent" violence, giving the government an opportunity and rationale for cracking down, I won't be the least bit surprised. Nor would I be if he was acting without Moscow's approval.
Worth keeping an eye on it.
As expected, the planned increase will be budgeted over the next two years by diversion from funds initially intended for weapon systems dedicated to the ongoing Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is basically the sneaky way that the Department has found to budget through emergency supplementals without having emergency supplementals. (The money that was previously being requested as a supplemental is now requested under a special OCO account within the base budget, so the topline number stays the same, it just doesn't come in two parts anymore.)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he plans to increase Army end strength from its current 547,400 to 562,400 in 2010 and to a peak of 569,000. He has said that he will work with the White House Office of Management and Budget and Congress to fund the buildup in the succeeding two years.
For the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the administration wants to reprogram just over $1 billion from its current request to cover the cost of recruiting and training an additional 15,000 soldiers, according to a letter from OMB Director Peter Orszag that Obama attached to his letter to Pelosi.
Orszag made his recommendations with input from each of the services and with Gates’ blessing, according to the letter.
The Army would cough up most of the funding, a total of $700.6 million that was targeted for its initial request for Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) trucks and other vehicles.
"The hidden message in the Pentagon personnel data is that this White House really doesn't care much about defense," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "The picture I get from all this is that President Obama's main security goal is just to keep defense off the front page. As long as the Pentagon doesn't present him with any political problems, he's content to focus on his domestic agenda and let military matters drift."
Honestly, what a freakin' joker. You really think that's the hidden message, huh? To "keep defense off the front page"? I mean, they must be doing a hell of a job, because as far as I can tell, defense never ends up on the front page these days.
Oh, wait, that's actually completely backwards: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are prominently featured in the news; everyone's talking about the appointment of GEN McChrystal and the associated proliferation of strategic assessments and reviews; the rise to prominence of counterinsurgency doctrine gets a lot of ink; more people know what the QDR is than ever before; and Secretary Gates has been fighting a highly-publicized campaign against established defense industry and Congressional interests to reshape the structure of our force and its strategic direction.
But otherwise, it's pretty much all been about welfare and bailouts and other commie stuff.
Good thing Dr. Thompson's got a new blog, where you'll no doubt find more incisive political analysis like this.
Will they still be there, in the villages, in hot and cold, day and night? How can we possibly provide enough troops to maintain constant presence in such an austere, disconnected environment? This would seem to call for an ink blot approach as a simple function of resource scarcity, but isn't the Helmand operation sort of taking us in the opposite direction, by clearing an area that we can't possibly hold?
In their six weeks here [in Helmand province], the Marines have succeeded in chasing many Taliban fighters from the area. But the Taliban, and the fears of them, linger.
One farmer said the Taliban regularly imposed a tax on the crops in the area.
Another, an elderly man with a long white beard, said the Taliban fighters were sure to deal harshly with people who talked to the Americans.
“We’re afraid you’re going to leave this place after a few months,” he told First Lt. Patrick Nevins, an officer from Chapel Hill, N.C., who led the Marine unit into Tarakai.
“I promise you,” Lieutenant Nevins said, “we will be here when the weather gets cold, and when it gets hot again.”
The Marines walked back to their base, and the Afghans back into their homes.
I don't feel like I have enough information to judge whether GEN McKiernan's firing was handled poorly or well, whether he needed replacement or not. A lot of people have jumped to his defense, but in the sort of backhanded way of suggesting that it was probably time for him to go but things should've been dealt with in a different fashion, causing a 37-year veteran less embarrassment, etc etc. It's hard to see how offering him the chance to resign doesn't qualify as softening the blow, but what do I know? When it comes down to it, I'll say what I've said all along: the President and the Secretary of Defense should have the guy they want in place to run the war effort, and I don't have a lot of heartburn about how they choose to get there.
In mid-March, as a White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan was nearing completion, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met in a secure Pentagon room for their fortnightly video conference with Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Kabul.
There was no formal agenda. McKiernan, a silver-haired former armor officer, began with a brief battlefield update. Then Gates and Mullen began asking about reconstruction and counternarcotics operations. To Mullen, they were straightforward, relevant queries, but he thought McKiernan fumbled them.
Gates and Mullen had been having doubts about McKiernan since the beginning of the year. They regarded him as too languid, too old-school and too removed from Washington. He lacked the charisma and political savvy that Gen. David H. Petraeus brought to the Iraq war.
McKiernan's answers that day were the tipping point for Mullen. Soon after, he discussed the matter with Gates, who had come to the same conclusion.
Mullen traveled to Kabul in April to confront McKiernan. The chairman hoped the commander would opt to save face and retire, but he refused. Not only had he not disobeyed orders, he believed he was doing what Gates and Mullen wanted.
You're going to have to fire me, he told Mullen.
Two weeks later, Gates did. It was the first sacking of a wartime theater commander since President Harry S. Truman dismissed Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951 for opposing his Korean War policy.
Some uncharitable things have been said about McKiernan "not getting it," while GEN McChrystal does; some associated hagiography; and a whole lot of personalizing of the war that I don't think is particularly productive. This falls in line with the narrative that's emerged from Iraq, where GEN Petraeus is seen as having saved the war through his inspired leadership (though of course with the assistance of the Surge brigades and so on).
I guess at the end of the day I think all of this gets-it/doesn't-get-it talk is indicative of a certain soft-headedness and mushy thinking about war, a romanticizing of Hollywood heroes riding to the rescue on a white horse. War is a complicated business (or so I've heard), and "getting it" damned sure doesn't guarantee success. We should keep that in mind if we're looking back in two decades trying to figure out how a badass like "the Pope" could possibly have failed in Afghanistan. McKiernan, as you might expect, gets this:
The war in Afghanistan, he said, "will not be decided by any one leader -- military or civilian -- from any one nation."In any event, there's some new stuff in the Post article, so have a look.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Michael O'Hanlon is at it again. I'm beginning to wonder why he's even considered a serious pundit anymore.
In this genius piece, disguised as a story on the Congo, he asks: "If the Afghanistan mission was undermanned last year with only 60,000 NATO-led troops in a country of 30 million, how can a U.N. mission of 20,000 address the challenges of Congo and its 60 million people?" Well it can't, even if it the largest U.N. mission in history. So what does Mr. O'Hanlon recommend? "[B]y tapping into President Obama's call for a new spirit of volunteerism and national service, there may be a way to make a difference sometime in 2010. The idea involves a new type of military unit that the Pentagon should propose during its ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review." Oh boy.
You can read the plan for how this new unit would be recruited and trained, but suffice it to say that he recommends one division of poorly trained soldiers to conduct peace operations - one brigade of which could be deployed and sustained at any given time. His rationale for the lesser training is that these types of operations are significantly easier than those we're conducting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Easier??? Maybe he should have asked the U.N. peacekeepers there now how sophisticated their adversaries are before we start creating brigades of similar quality to the Pakistanis. Because they've been so effective there.
I find it odd that he claims that these missions require U.S. leadership and then proposes creating and sending second-rate units to solve these problems. We have some of the best people in the world doing these missions now in Iraq and Afghanistan and the odds of success are still questionable. What are these peace brigades going to do to overcome that? Other than be a token sign that we in the West do care. And then there is the question of logistics and support for this brigade - feeding, billeting, air support, fires. These all have to come from somewhere and these assets are already overextended in our current fights. Who are they going to call when they do come under concerted attack?
This proposal is a recipe to get a lot of good people killed in a mission that would have little to no effect and couldn't be sustained. It also threatens serious mission creep if one of these types of units were ever deployed because there is no way they could do what everyone else has failed to do without offering some sort of new capability (which O'Hanlon is not). We should definitely defer to Einstein and how he defines stupidity.
He ends with this:
Problems like Congo, Darfur and Somalia tend to get solved only with U.S. leadership. And the United States cannot truly lead on this issue while resisting any role for its own ground forces. It is time to recognize the contradiction of pretending otherwise and get on with a solution.
Well, we all know what ground forces in Somalia did for us. Someone needs to inform Mr. O'Hanlon that American exceptionalism will not solve all the world’s ills. Nor is it in our interest to do so.
It’s bad: violence is way up, Taliban influence has spread at the local level, and popular confidence in the government and the international community is waning fast. It’s still winnable, but only just, and to turn this thing around will take an extremely major effort starting with local-level governance, political strategy, giving the Afghan people a well-founded feeling of security, and dealing with the active sanctuary in
government transition takes six to nine months, by the time new political appointees are confirmed, briefed, and in position. But nine months out from now will be the height of the Afghan fighting season, and less than a month out from critical Presidential elections in Afghanistan. If we do this the “normal” way, it will be too late for the Obama Administration to grip it up. I think this is shaping up to be one of the smoothest transitions on record, with the current Administration going out of its way to assist and facilitate. That said, the incoming Administration has a steep learning curve, and has inherited a dire situation—so whatever we do, it’s not going to be easy. [emphasis mine] U.S.
(1) We have failed to secure the Afghan people. That is, we have failed to deliver them a well-founded feeling of security. Our failing lies as much in providing human security—economic and social wellbeing, law and order, trust in institutions and hope for the future—as in protection from the Taliban, narco-traffickers, and terrorists. In particular, we have spent too much effort chasing and attacking an elusive enemy who has nothing he needs to defend—and so can always run away to fight another day—and too little effort in securing the people where they sleep. (And doing this would not take nearly as many extra troops as some people think, but rather a different focus of operations).
(2) We have failed to deal with the Pakistani sanctuary that forms the political base and operational support system for the Taliban, and which creates a protective cocoon (abetted by the fecklessness or complicity of some elements in
) around senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Pakistan
(3) The Afghan government has not delivered legitimate, good governance to Afghans at the local level—with the emphasis on good governance. In some areas, we have left a vacuum that the Taliban has filled, in other areas some of the Afghan government’s own representatives have been seen as inefficient, corrupt, or exploitative.
(4) Neither we nor the Afghans are organized, staffed, or resourced to do these three things (secure the people, deal with the safe haven, and govern legitimately and well at the local level)—partly because of poor coalition management, partly because of the strategic distraction and resource scarcity caused by Iraq, and partly because, to date, we have given only episodic attention to the war.