Deobandi Islam, Pashtunwali, and the Taliban. "The Taliban are arguably more powerful now than at any point since they were ousted in 2001." This power comes not just from the support the Pakistan state provides but from the civilian population of Afghanistan tired of an ineffective and corrupt national government. The Taliban's more moderate approach and ". . . increasingly resurgent narrative of stability through reverting to Afghanistan's past . . . " is generating ever-growing support from the rural Afghan population. Peter Storey provides us with his view of the Taliban in "The Roots of the Taliban", The Bridge, December 1, 2015.
Pivoting From Pakistan. When President Ghani took office he made a deliberate effort to revitalize the Afghan- Pakistan relationship . . . but it wasn't reciprocated. Now it would appear he is reaching out to India at the risk of weakening ties with Pakistan. Read more in "Ghani's Pivot Away From Pakistan", by Shawn Snow, Foreign Policy, November 25, 2015.
Fighting a War in a Land-Locked Country Like Afghanistan. A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft commander provides his perspective on the difficulties of fighting a war in a country that is remote and bordered by less than reliable allies. His paper describes exactly how difficult it is to get the Pakistan government to stop its support of the Taliban given the overflight requirements needed to prosecute the war. "Pakistan Catch-22: The Trouble with Wars in Landlocked Countries", The Bridge, December 2, 2015.
Fractured Taliban? Tamim Hamid provides us with an explanation of the current state of the Taliban leadership in "A Divided Taliban Explained", Tolo News, December 3, 2015.
Corruption Hindering the Fight. Corruption in Afghanistan has had a corrosive impact on military operations. It undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government, provides fodder for recruitment into the Taliban (and ISIS), and has rendered ineffective the Afghan National Police (and to a lesser degree the Afghan National Army). The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) undermined its own objective of creating security in the country with its initial inattention to the problem. Read "How Corruption Undermines NATO Operations", Defense One, December 2, 2015.
Kagan on Afghanistan. Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and a observer of the Afghan conflict provides his thoughts on what the US needs to do in Afghanistan. He sees the insurgent groups gaining more territory and capability as time goes on and a weak ANDSF that is seeing its international support slowly diminish. He advocates for more US troops and expanded authorities for those currently stationed there. He believes that the appropriate troop level is likely around 20,000 to 30,000. Read The Afghanistan Conundrum: How Should the US Approach the Rise of Insurgent Groups?, AEI, December 2, 2015.
French COIN. The vast majority of our senior level general officers would like to put the counterinsurgency years of Iraq and Afghanistan behind us - well, . . . they can't. COIN is not going away. While folks are painting the conflict in Syria and Iraq with ISIS as counterterrorism there is still many aspects of the fight that is a counterinsurgency. And in Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces are conducting counterinsurgency (while U.S. and NATO advisors busy themselves with advising the Afghan security institutions and corps-level organizations on 'systems', 'functions', and 'processes'). Many U.S. "COIN experts" draw upon the experiences of the French pacification of Algeria for 'lessons learned'. In particular, they read the tracts provided to us by two noted French officers - David Galula and Roger Trinquier. However, one student of French strategy suggests that a truer picture of the French COIN effort in Algeria can be gained by digging deeper into French military historical writings. Read "Myth-Busting French Counterinsurgency", by Terrence Peterson, War on the Rocks, December 3, 2015.
Is the U.S. Army's Personnel System Broke? YES! A 1LT who spent two years studying at Oxford instead of holding standard military jobs expected of junior officers was almost forced out of the Army. Besides being a Rhodes Scholar he was at the top of his ROTC class. And although over 90% of his peers were getting promoted he was being left behind. Read more about some of the systemic problems the Army's personnel bureaucracy is experiencing in "First Steps Towards the Force of the Future", War on the Rocks, December 1, 2015.
PowerPoint in Armored Vehicles - Really? OMG, so it finally happened. The Army's officers have figured out a way to display PowerPoint slides in an armored. Trust me - this is not a good thing. My experience with creating PowerPoint slides to convey a message to senior level officers is that the font type, size, and color is much more important than the content. Read "This armored vehicle lets you use PowerPoint on the battlefield", The Washington Post, December 1, 2015. For more info see "I Corps validates new mobile command post proof-of-concept", www.army.mil, November 29, 2015.
All Military Occupations Open to Women - SECDEF. Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, announced that beginning in January 2016, all military occupations and positions will be open to women, without exception. This includes all units and organizations in the infantry and in special operations. So far in 2015 two women passed the very tough Ranger Course at Fort Benning; perhaps we will see some women enter Special Forces training at Fort Bragg in 2016. Let's hope that a advance in "fairness" and "political correctness" will not result in the implementation of quotas, a lowering of standards, the erosion of unit cohesiveness, and a decrease in combat effectiveness. Read more in "Carter Opens all Military Occupations, Positions to Women", DoD News Release, December 3, 2015.
Women in the Marine Corps Infantry? RAND Corporation conducted a study for the U.S. Marine Corps that reviewed the literature on the integration of women in combat units, conducted interviews with members of organizations with physically demanding occupations, estimated the costs of potential initiatives to promote successful gender integration, and develop an approach for monitoring implementation of gender integration of the infantry. Read "Implications of Integrating Women into the Marine Corps Infantry", Rand Corporation, November 2015.
Women in Ground Combat Units? A doctor very familiar with sports science adds his voice to this topic. Read "Sports Science, Physiology, and the Debate over Women in Ground Combat Units", by Dr. Paul O. Davis, War on the Rocks, December 1, 2015.