Showing posts with label strategy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strategy. Show all posts

Sunday, January 28, 2018

RS HQs on Afghanistan in 2018

NATO's Resolute Support Headquarters wants you to know that it has "a path to a win" in Afghanistan. The increase of the force to around 15,000 troops from 39 partner and allied nations will contribute to a plan "to fracture the Taliban, and leave them with no option but a negotiated end to the conflict."

Well . . . how can this small force prevail, where an international force some ten times the size did not defeat the insurgency in 2010? RS HQs offers answers to this question in a recently released 'backgrounder'. Some of the answers include:

"Better Afghan Forces"
"Undefeated Special  Forces"
"Independent Air Force"
"Generational Change in Leadership"
"Training Down to Kandaks"
"New Authorities to Hunt Down the Taliban"
"Economic Growth"

Read "The path to a win. What's different in 2018", Resolute Support, January 15, 2018

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Commentary on Afghanistan

Failure of SFA. Mara Karlin writes that the concept of training and equipping foreign militaries is not the big ticket item that many senior policy makers believe it to be. Read "Why Military Assistance Programs Disappoint" Foreign Affairs, Nov / Dec 2017.

Thinking about South Asia Strategy. Doug Livermore, a former Special Forces officer, writes up his thoughts on the new strategy of the Trump administration. In regards to Pakistan, Livermore believes that the new South Asia Strategy seeks to change Pakistan's destabilizing actions through punitive means
". . . that do not address the underlying causes that motivate Pakistan's behavior in the first place. By tackling the root causes that drive Pakistan's support for the Taliban and other groups, the US could fundamentally alter the course of the conflict and increase the likelihood of arrival at an acceptable and durable political arrangement."
Apparently, it is all about the Durand line. Read "Rethinking the South Asia Strategy - Addressing the Root Causes of Afghanistan / Pakistan Tensions", Georgetown Security Studies Review, October 23, 2017.

Keeping the Pressure on Pakistan. One commentator, Mohammad Taqi, says the US needs to continue putting pressure on Pakistan. (The Wire, Oct 24, 2017).

Afghanistan Still a Fragile State - Why? An analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan over the past 16 years and the way forward is provided by Shahmahmood Miakhel. He is a former Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and is currently serving as the Country Director of the United States Institute for Peace in Afghanistan. Despite Enormous Support of International Community, Why is Afghanistan Still a Fragile State?, Afghanistan Diplomacy Studies Organization, August 30, 2017.

Analyzing R4S Plan. Earlier in October Secretary of Defense presented to Congress the new strategic plan for Afghanistan known by the acronym R4S - for regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain. Daniel L. Davis, a retired Army officer with time in Afghanistan, provides his thoughts on how this strategy will fail in "The Afghanistan Illusion", National Interest, October 23, 2017.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Afghan Strategy

Scaling Back as an Option? The White House is unable to come to grips with developing a strategy for the Afghan conflict. The Resolute Support commander, General Nicholson, would like to see an increase of almost 4K new troops to allow for an expansion of the Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) mission. Others in the U.S. government are reluctant to send more personnel into a quagmire with no end in sight. Pakistan continues to support the Haqqani Network and other Taliban groups and some Gulf nations are still financing the Taliban and the madrassas (producing Taliban recruits) in Pakistan. The National Unity Government (NUG) is divided (not unified) and ineffective. The Afghan Army and police senior leaders are corrupt and inept. But most important the Taliban are resurgent and enjoy a measure of popular support in the Pashtun areas. There seems no way out. The 4K additional personnel for the TAA mission is a band aid on the problem; it doesn't lead to a long-term solution. Until the corrupt Afghan government and incompetent security leadership get their act together nothing is going to improve. Some in the White House recognize the situation for what it is. Read more in "White House Looks at Scaling Back U.S. Military Presence in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2017.

Plans for Afghanistan are MIA. Paul Shinkman, a national security writer for U.S. News & World Report, says the U.S.-backed Afghan government is faltering and needs White House support. The security situation is the worst it has been since the 2001 invasion by U.S. forces. The White House, U.S. DoD, and other government leaders are struggling to come to a consensus on what to do with America's longest-ever war. Read more in "Trump Plans for Afghanistan MIA as Pressure Builds in America's Longest War",  August 1, 2017.

Erik Prince Strategic Plan for Afghanistan - Good for Contractors! A much discussed plan that was immediately dismissed by many political and military observers. But it seems the story won't die. Some commentators think the concept might save money and extricate the U.S. military from America's longest war. Read more in "Industry Talk: The Historic Implications of Erik Prince's Plan for Afghanistan", July 2017.

Trump not Happy with Generals. Although everyone assumes that President Trump has a special bond with his generals (SECDEF, NSC advisor, WH CoS, etc.) there is the possibility that the love affair is ending. See "Trump Says U.S. Losing Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals", NBC News, August 2, 2017. Additional speculation has it that McMaster is on the way out - he is on the receiving end of nasty press coverage from Fox News, Breitbart, Russian news agencies and trolls, and the Alt Right. Some rumors say he might be "moved up" to 4-stars to take General Nicholson's place as RS Commander.

Trump Skeptical of Generals. One former combatant in Afghanistan, Paul Szoldra, provides his analysis on Trump's dismissing the latest 'strategic plan' for Afghanistan provided by General McMaster. Read "Trump is Right to be Skeptical of the Pentagon When it Comes to Afghanistan", Task and Purpose, August 3, 2017.

More on Contractors for Afghanistan. Max Boot writes that a plan to use contractors for Afghanistan is flawed - says there is no silver bullet for fixing Afghanistan. "The Bad Faith Case for Contractors in Afghanistan", Commentary Magazine, August 1, 2017.

The John McCain Strategic Plan for Afghanistan. U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says he will propose a plan for a U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as part of the upcoming defense authorization bill. See "McCain Says He Will Propose New Afghanistan Strategy", Gandara, August 1, 2017.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Afghan Strategy - A Hard Thing to Do

Trump Administration Still Working on Strategy. The U.S. is once again conducting a review of the strategy needed to fight and end America's longest war. The Trump administration's national security team (State, NSC, DoD) has been working with the White House staff for a new strategic plan that is acceptable to Trump. Despite six months of review there still is not a plan acceptable to the White House. General McMaster (National Security Advisor) has a basic plan centered on an increase of 4K new troops to beef up the Train, Advise, and Assist mission but it has met some initial resistance from SECDEF and State. The White House is looking for something that is more than 'stay the course'. Susan Glasser, chief international affairs columnist at, explains all of this in great detail in "The Trump White House's War Within", Politico Magazine, July 24, 2017.

Do Minerals Make a Difference on If We Stay or Go? It would seem that one thing about Afghanistan has President Trump's attention. The vast riches of minerals in Afghanistan provide possibilities for economic development for the struggling nation and a return on investment for U.S. funding of the Afghan conflict. Read "Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals", The New York Times, July 25, 2017. See also "Trump's New Afghanistan Strategy: Keep the Minerals!", New York Magazine, July 26, 2017.

DoS - Diplomacy is the Answer. The U.S. State Department thinks the way forward in Afghanistan is more diplomacy in the region and an open dialogue with the Afghan government. See "Seeking a Way Forward in Afghanistan, Tillerson Pushers for Diplomacy", Voice of America, July 27, 2017.

Battlefield Victory Will Not Happen. Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, says that the war will not be won on the battlefield. The Trump administration needs to develop a political strategy that will force the Taliban to the negotiating table. Read more in an article by CBS News,  July 25, 2017.

Playing the Long Game. Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and former deputy assistant secretary of defense says that getting Afghan policy 'right' is better than getting Afghan policy 'fast'. He believes we need to stay committed in the long slog. Read his thoughts in "Brookes: In Afghan terror fight, U.S. must play the long game", Boston Herald, July 28, 2017.

What Should US Do? Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation writes about U.S. options in Afghanistan in "U.S. Turning Away From Afghanistan?", Real Clear Defense, July 28, 2017.

One Possibility? Just Up and Leave! Some believe this is a conflict we will never win. Many in the U.S. have had their fill of the Afghan politicians, elites, warlords, drug lords, and corrupt senior security officers. So . . . in a Trump administration one knows that there are surprises behind every tweet. It could happen. One writer explores this topic by interviewing a number of people from diverse backgrounds. Read "What would happen if the United States totally disengaged from Afghanistan?", The Washington Post, July 26, 2017.

EU Proposal for New Afghan Strategy. The European Commission has issued a press release that outlines a new European Union strategy on Afghanistan. The major themes of the proposal include "peace, stability, and regional security"; "democracy, rule of law, and human rights"; "economic and human development"; "migration", and "empowering women". (European Commission, July 24, 2017).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Troop Level Increase in Afghanistan

President Trump provided the authority to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to determine the troop levels for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Over the past few months we have seen press reports and testimony before Congress indicating that the military chain of command (Resolute Support, CENTCOM, etc.) had recommended an increase of 3-5 thousand U.S. troops. It appears that SECDEF Mattis will honor that request and he is expected to announce troop movements at some point next week. Along with this U.S. troop increase there is an expectation that NATO and other partner coalition nations will increase their level of troop deployments as well. Many countries (United Kingdom, Germany, etc.) have already announced their intention to increase their troop levels.

What Will These Troops Do? The U.S. has two missions in Afghanistan. One is the counterterrorism (CT) mission and the other is the "Train, Advise, and Assist" (TAA) mission. A smaller portion of the 4K increase will very likely enhance the CT mission in Afghanistan. The greater portion of the 4K increase will go to the TAA mission. The planners at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul very likely have plans already in place for the increased level of troops. A reading of DoD statements and open source media could lead one to conclude that some advisors will be employed at the ministry and institutional level in the Kabul area while others will go out to the Train, Advise and Assist Commands (TAACs)  to work with the ANA Corps and regional Police Zone HQs.

Advisors at Tactical Level? Some advisors are already working at the tactical level - in most cases U.S. SOF and aviation advisors. In addition, there are some advisors who deploy to ANA brigade level on a periodic basis as part of an Expeditionary Advisory Package (EAP).

General Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission, has indicated that many of the soon-to-arrive advisors will find themselves working at the tactical level - at brigade and possibly kandak (battalion) level as well. The advisor platform at Task Force Southwest and Task Force Southeast are understaffed and will likely be augmented. It is important to note that not all newly assigned personnel will be advisors - think of the tooth to tail ratio. Each additional advisor needs logistical, medical, intelligence, transportation, force protection, and life support. So a good proportion of the 4K that go to the TAA mission will be supporting the advisors.

Lack of a Strategic Plan? There are numerous reports in the media from critics and observers that cast doubt on the utility of more troops if a strategic plan is not developed and implemented for Afghanistan. SECDEF Mattis has said that this is in the works and we should learn more in mid-July. The strategic plan very likely will see more advisors serving at the tactical level assisting with planning and coordinating operations as well as providing U.S. enablers (ISR, air support, fire support, etc.). Hopefully this strategic plan will take into account the regional actors bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan's support of some insurgent groups and the sanctuaries within Pakistan, corruption in the Afghan government and security forces, the dysfunction of the National Unity Government (NUG), and the inept, ineffective, and corrupt leadership at all levels within the MoI, MoD, and ANDSF.

4-Year ANDSF Roadmap. The Afghan government does have a strategic plan in place and the U.S. is very likely going to support this plan as best it can. The Afghans have rolled out their 4-year ANDSF Roadmap which lays out their plan for professionalizing the Afghan military and police. This includes doubling the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF), increasing the capability of the Afghan Air Force (AAF), reducing corruption, improving leadership, and improving training. The goal is to have the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) achieve the ability - at the end of the four years- to improve the security situation in Afghanistan with the end result of a political solution to the conflict with the insurgents. Time will tell.

News Reports, Editorials, Analysis, and Commentary on Troop Increase.

June 16, 2017. "Gen. Keane: 10,000 to 20,000 additional troops needed in Afghanistan", Fox News. General Keane says 4,000 troop increase is not enough; probably need 10-20K to have a decisive difference.

June 16, 2017. "For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan", New York Times.

June 16,2017. "Mr. Trump, Afghanistan Is Your War Now", New York Times editorial.

June 15, 2017. "The New, Old War in Afghanistan", by Paul McLeary, Foreign Policy.

June 15, 2017. "Mattis's Afghanistan War Plan: Be Patient, Convince Everyone", by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

4-Year ANDSF Roadmap

Over the past several months the Afghan security institutions have developed a strategic plan to enhance the capacity and capability of its security forces, professionalize its military and police leadership, and defeat the insurgents. This strategic plan has been named the "Afghan National Defense and Security Forces 4-year Roadmap". The Afghan government and NATO commanders have worked together to develop this strategic plan with the over-arching goal of expanding " . . . Afghan government control over more territory, increase the proportion of the population residing in that territory, and compel the Taliban to agree to a peace process leading to reconciliation and an end of hostilities." [1]

The key components of the "4-year Roadmap" are to bolster capability and capacity of the Afghan Air Force (AAF), double the number of Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) [2], reduce corruption, professionalize the Afghan senior security leadership and training,and create an environment that fosters unity of effort and command. [3]

[1] Quote is from the Report to the United States Congress, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), April 30, 2017, page 82. The Taliban now control more territory in Afghanistan than at any other time since the time that their regime was toppled in late 2011. The percentage of population living in Taliban controlled or contested areas has significantly increased over the past several years. It is unlikely that the Taliban, having not been defeated on the battlefield, will come to the peace table any time soon.

[2] The ASSF consist of the MoD's Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) and MoI's General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU). The ASSF is considered by many to be the only professional military or police organizations within the ANDSF. The Special Mission Wing (SMW) is sometimes grouped within the ASSF. Over the past few years 70% of the offensive operations have been conducted by the ASSF.

[3] See a short 2-min long video published by Resolute Support HQs featuring Lt. Gen. Jurgen Weigt, Chief of Staff, Resolute Support Mission that outlines the key components of the 4-year Roadmap.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Army Operating Concept - Two Approaches

Russia has been identified by our military leaders as our number threat today and for the years to come. The reemergence of Russia as a threat has caused the U.S. to take a second look at its operating concepts that influence doctrine, strategy, equipment and planning. The Army Operating Concept is how the Army plans to fight and win in the future. Two commentators provide their views on the proper approach to our number one threat - Russia. Michael Jacobson thinks we need to concentrate our resources to be able to defeat Russia in a conventional fight (as in the quick victory we experienced in the Persian Gulf War in 1991). You can read his thoughts in "The U.S. Army is Charging into the Future with a Lack of Focus", War on the Rocks, July 30, 2015. Mark Galeotti believes we need to buttress up our defensive abilities against "hybrid warfare". This is relying less on superior technical firepower, equipment, etc. and becoming better at recognizing and reacting to asymmetrical threats and unconventional warfare. Read his article in "Time to Think about "Hybrid Defense", War on the Rocks, July 30, 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Troops in Afghanistan Beyond 2016?

Michael E. O'Hanlon predicts that President Obama will rethink his plan to have all operational U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Obama will recognize (hopefully) that although great progress has been made in Afghanistan - more needs to be done. The gains made thus far - at great cost - are fragile. Obama, irregardless of campaign promises, will not want to have his legacy ruined by loosing both Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more in "Prediction: Obama Will Decide to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016", Brookings, December 22, 2014.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kilcullen - Muddling Through to 2024?

David Kilcullen, a renowned expert on counterinsurgency and no stranger to Afghanistan has published a paper (6 pages) about the future of Afghanistan over the next ten years - out to 2024. An abstract from the paper is found below.
"This paper highlights trends in Afghan security and development, including
capacities of Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgencies, national forces’ casualty and
desertion rates, and citizen rage spurred by abusive authorities, profiteering elites and ethnic leaders. In coming years, the unity central government may fall apart. As in Pakistan, U.S. targeted killings by drones and raids within Afghanistan may prove counter-productive, radicalizing civilians. While little is certain, a modest degree of successful stability and reconstruction may be achieved by 2024 – most large cities and many small towns may be controlled by the Kabul government, official corruption may decline, and conceivably the country may integrate into a regional economy shared with Iran, Russia, China, and India."
Kilcullen, D 2014 "Afghanistan in 2024: Muddling Through?", Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 3(1): 37, pp. 1-6., November 20, 2014.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Strategic Education in 300 Words

The folks at the War Council Blog are contending that they can educate a person in strategy in one hour or 300 words. See "Zero to Clausewitz in 60 Minutes: Your Complete 300 Word Strategic Education", November 22, 2014. Also see the actual guide.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Obama is Now Seeing Clearly on Afghanistan

National Review Online has come out with an online article praising President Obama's recent decision to extend combat operations in Afghanistan - saying that " . . . he is learning from his errors and is ignoring his deluded advisers." Read "Obama's Signs of Courage on Afghanistan" (November 24, 2014).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Article - "Winning Battles, Losing Wars"

A recent article in Army Magazine by Lt. Gen James M. Dubik (U.S. Army retired) points out that while the U.S. military is tactically proficient it is lacking in integrating the civilian aspects of war into to overall strategy. The author states ". . . that the U.S.'s war-waging capacity is suffering. American is too focused on winning battles. However it is losing the war. Read "Winning Battles, Losing Wars" (November 18, 2014).

Hagel Says "Goodbye"

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on the way out. He resigned on Monday; although it isn't clear if he was pushed out or if he wanted out (could be both). Some observers say that Susan Rice is consolidating her position within the "inner circle" (not good news). Read more in "Farewell to Chucky", Best  Defense, November 24, 2014. Defense One says Hagel has been under mounting pressure in recent months due to the number of national security issues facing the Obama administration. Chuck Hagel issued a news release announcing his resignation (DoD News, 24 Nov 14). Time Magazine ran the headline "Hagel Retreats From Pentagon Under Fire" - facing criticism that his "low-key style" was suited for the current climate (Ukraine, ISIS, etc.). A press conference was held on Monday with President Obama and SECDEF Hagel - The Washington Post carried the transcript. I can't wait for the book!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

U.S. Role in Afghan Combat Extended

A classified order was signed by President Obama in recent weeks authorizing a more expansive role for the military in Afghanistan in 2015. Read "In a shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat", The New York Times, November 21, 2014.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Endgame in Afghanistan - Risk Management?

A commentator provides his thoughts on what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan (and Iraq) after years of fighting. Read "The American Endgame in Iraq and Afghanistan: Euphemism for Risk Management?", Small Wars Journal, by Ilwoo Lee, November 4, 2014. Mr. Ilwoo Lee is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He has a Master's degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and is a former officer in the U.S. Army.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Stay in Afghanistan?

A commentator, Edward Corcoran, provides us with the rationale for staying in Afghanistan. He provides strategic and practical reasons. Read his article "Why Afghanistan II?", The Blog - Huffington Post, October 21, 2014.

UK Soldiers - "Brave as Lions"

The United Kingdom has completed its 13 year-long war in Afghanistan. It will keep some military officers and NCOs on the NATO staff that will be conducting the Resolute Support mission as well as some instructors, trainers, and advisors working at "Sandhurst in the Sand" in Kabul. Britain's main contribution (its role in ISAF SOF is also important) will be its role in Helmand province where it suffered the vast majority of its casualties. Many observers will wonder how much actually got accomplished over those many years and the inevitable look back over decisions and policies will certainly take place. Some commentators are getting an early start. Read "Brave as lions but poorly led - the British heroes of Helmand", The Telegraph, October 23, 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Afghan War - What Went Wrong

As the commitment to Afghanistan subsides, U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, and our focus changes from Afghanistan to the Pacific, eastern Europe, and the Middle East some observers are reflecting on Afghanistan. Peter Tomsen is one of those observers. Read more in "The Good War? What Went Wrong in Afghanistan - - and How to Make it Right?", by Peter Tomsen in Foreign Affairs, November / December 2014 issue.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Danish Strategy for Afghanistan

The Danish Government has published a new strategy for the combined Danish efforts in Afghanistan for the years 2015-2017. The strategy includes the integrated Danish political, military and civilian efforts in the country. Denmark recognizes that Afghanistan now has full responsibility for security and social development; but that Afghanistan also needs support in the coming years. To that end Denmark will continue with its military contribution - beginning in 2015 its military contingent will number 160 personnel. Some will work in Kabul while a transport helicopter will be stationed in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. Read more in a post entitled New Afghanistan Strategy 2015-17 focuses on development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, October 23, 2014 and in "New Strategy for Afghanistan"The Copenhagen Post, October 24, 2014,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Article - "Why We Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan"

LTG (Ret) Daniel Bolger, an infantry officer, has penned an article that provides an account of the U.S. military's mistakes in the Afghan and Iraq wars. Bolger commanded the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan (NTM-A) in 2011-2013. The article is entitled "Why We Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan", Harper's Magazine, September 2014.  A bio of Bolger is available on Wikipedia and an article published in Time Magazine (May 2014) provides more information about his observations on the war. Although he left ISAF in 2013 his biography is still posted at this link on the ISAF website. He had two tours of  duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He has a Master's Degree and a PhD in History form the University of Chicago and also taught at West Point. He has also authored several books. Now that he is retired he is teaching at a college in southeastern United States. He will soon have a book out (Nov 14) that he considers "the first AAR" on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.