Gen Campbell on NATO's Commitment and Performance of ANDSF. COMRS or Commander Resolute Support has provided us with his perspective (think positive) on the situation in Afghanistan. He acknowledges that over the past year the persistence of the Taliban, growth of ISIS, continuing presence of al-Qaida, and insurgents pushed by a Pakistan-offensive into Afghanistan have presented challenges to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Yet he points to ability of the ANDSF to roll back Taliban gains (I guess he is ignoring places like Helmand, Bakdakshan, Nuristan, and other provinces), the formation of a new government (yes, he means the dysfunctional National Unit Government known as "NUG"), and the initiatives of the Afghan government and security forces to address corruption (Ummm, SMH), promote human rights and gender equality (which ISAF and now RS says about the Afghans each and every year). All in all this end of year pep talk includes all the important phrases such as "continuing improvement", "remain optimistic", "the insurgents cannot win militarily", etc. This assessment was issued just a week or so prior to six U.S. personnel being killed within the outskirts of the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan. Read "Commitment to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is Working", Defense News, by General John Campbell, December 13, 2015.
Adm Stavridis on Afghanistan. The retired Admiral - now working at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy as "Dean", tells us that all is not lost in Afghanistan and he recommends 5 steps we should take to improve the situation. I think he is overly optimistic and somewhat influenced by the holiday spirit. (The World Post, Dec 23, 2015).
"Losing the War at Every Level". Anthony Cordesman injects some reality into the assessment of the Afghan conflict in his report entitled "Afghanistan a Year After Transition: Losing the War at Every Level", Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 22, 2015.
The Aftermath of Kunduz. Residents of Kunduz now live in constant fear that the Taliban will come back, retaking the city (if only for just days), and wreaking havoc once again. Read more in "Afghanistan: After Kunduz", by Patricia Gossman, The Diplomat, December 16, 2015.
Afghanistan - Another 30 Years War? Mark Thompson, writing for Time.com (Dec 22, 2015) says we might be in for another 15 years of conflict in Afghanistan. Read "Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan Echoes the 30 Years War".
An Assessment & Recommendations. Michael O'Hanlon gives us his take on the current situation and proscribes the way forward (what he would do if King) in "Why Americans Are Still Dying in Afghanistan", Politico Magazine, December 22, 2015. (Caution: Cheerleader at work!). Read an article by O'Hanlon entitled "Afghanistan - the case for staying", USA Today, December 28, 2015. (More of the same). O'Hanlon does, however, point out that we should maintain TAAC's at each of the six ANA corps as well as some selected brigades. Good insight to pick up on that and spot on. Why we pulled our brigade level Security Force Assistance (SFA) teams off is a mystery. And to pull the corps level advisory platforms off of the 203rd and 215th ANA corps is simply bewildering!
Essay on Ground Combat. The U.S. has an effective military that can fight extremely well in conflicts such as Desert Storm and the initial weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has not done so well in conflicts that are essentially irregular, hybrid, or insurgent in nature (as in Afghanistan). David E. Johnson, a historian with RAND Corporation, provides us with his thoughts in "Ground Combat", The Cipher Brief, December 20, 2015.
Rule of Law Culture. A 320-page publication and practical guide by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) entitled Towards a Rule of Law Culture explores effective responses to justice and security challenges. (USIP, Washington, DC, December 2015).
What of the Taliban? Chayankika Saxena, a research associate at the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi, provides her assessment of the current state of the Taliban - to include aspects including peace talks, ISIS, Pakistan, Helmand province, public support, and more. Read more in "What has become of Taliban in Afghanistan?", South Asia Monitor, December 29, 2015.
What is BPC? The U.S. has military members spread across the globe in an attempt to increase the security and counterterrorism capabilities of our allies. This type of mission has been called many different names to include Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Counterinsurgency (COIN), Security Cooperation (SC), Security Force Assistance (SFA), and many more. Each has its own niche to fill although the terms could really be interchangeable. One such term in 'Building Partner Capacity' or BPC. Read an explanation of BPC in What is "Building Partner Capacity?": Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, December 18, 2015. This 64-page report is posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Pages 20-23 specifically address BPC in Afghanistan from 2001-2015.www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44313.pdf
UW - Can the U.S. Government and Military Accept It? Dave Maxwell, a retired SF officer and now Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University, is one of the Special Force's community's foremost experts on Unconventional Warfare. In this article he talks about the recent passage of the NDAA of 2016 and verbiage in it that proscribes a more robust involvement of the govt and military in UW and counter-UW activities. Read "Congress has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and the Rest of the US Government?", Small Wars Journal, December 29, 2015.
India-Pakistan Detente - Good for Afghanistan? Colin Cookman has penned an article entitled "How India and Pakistan Detente Could Carry Over into Afghanistan", World Politics Review, December 21, 2015. He examines the possibilities - but let's not hold our breath.
Afghanistan's Various Challenges. "Security in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2015, while the national government struggles to promote national unity and economic development". New Europe provides an analysis in this Dec 23, 2015 article.
CVE and Gender Inequality. Julia Santucci, she works women's issues at the State Department, has penned an article entitled "Countering Violent Extremism Means Countering Gender Inequality", War on the Rocks, December 16, 2015. Not so sure there really is a connection; but she seems intent on spreading the message.
Don't Abandon Afghanistan. Amb. Ron Neumann, Vanda Felbab-Brown, and David Sedney collaborate on a piece in Foreign Policy (Dec 22, 2015) encouraging the U.S. to stay the course. Read "Now is not the time to abandon Afghanistan".
Army War College. Adam Davidson recently spent time in a classroom at the United States Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Read his observations in "Rebuilding the Middle Class the Army Way", The New York Times Magazine, December 15, 2015.