Posts Tagged ‘Af-Pak’

Quarterly Report on Afghanistan and Pakistan

The White House. September 2011.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/66998459/WH-Report-on-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan-September-2011

Panetta must fight four wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, waste

editorial. Boston Globe, 30 June 2011.
http://articles.boston.com/2011-06-30/bostonglobe/29722652_1_panetta-pentagon-government-discretionary-spending

When Leon Panetta takes the helm at the Defense Department tomorrow, he will be facing difficult choices about the US military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. But an equally pressing — and potentially even more intractable — problem is the Pentagon’s budget and spending. Outgoing secretary Robert Gates was good at paying lip service to the need to control spending; he noted recently that “the United States should spend as much as necessary on national defense, but not one penny more.’’ But the department’s baseline budget has risen every year since Gates took over — from $450 billion to more than $550 billion four years later. This year alone, the Pentagon is seeking a 3.4 percent increase from its 2010 budget.

It’s not just the wars; they represent less than 30 percent of the Pentagon’s enormous budget request. In the context of other government spending, the Pentagon is a behemoth. For every $100 of government discretionary spending, over $30 goes to non-war defense expenditures. The scope is overwhelming; the need for more than piecemeal cuts of failed systems is urgent.

Gates recently claimed that the Pentagon has already cut $300 billion, but the math suggests otherwise. That money came from programs already scheduled to be terminated. The savings were simply put into other military priorities. After noting that the Navy’s 11 carrier battle groups were excessive, Gates refused to eliminate a single one.

Panetta will need to take a more disciplined and systemic look at the budget. There is no shortage of advice from influential think tanks and independent studies, including last year’s report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a bipartisan group convened by Representative Barney Frank. Their recommendations would trim $960 billion between 2011 and 2020, if only the Pentagon would act on them.

Cutting the number of deployed nuclear weapons by half — to 1,000 warheads — is consistent with a reduced emphasis on nuclear warfare and the efforts of arms control advocates. This move alone would save over $100 billion over 10 years. Reducing conventional forces by 50,000, which would still leave 100,000 personnel deployed in Europe and Asia, is more realistic force structure. Cancelling just a few systems that are neither cost-effective nor essential would save more. The MV-22 Osprey and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle are long on trouble, and short on capability. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office both have proposed changes to support efforts, such as maintenance, supply, and infrastructure, that could save $100 billion in the next decade.

All this could be accomplished without compromising national security. Panetta needs to push back on the political forces that claim any cuts make the nation vulnerable to various enemies. The deficit is a much greater security risk.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon remains the largest federal agency that simply cannot pass an independent auditor test; when subjected to the normal bookkeeping procedures, it cannot, with any accuracy, track spending, fraud, waste, or redundancy. It has given itself a September 2017 deadline for audit “readiness.’’ That’s not soon enough. Panetta, who, as the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, has a reputation as a rigorous fighter for fiscal discipline. He will need to get the Pentagon’s house in order on day one.

Afghanistan: For Real Savings, Make a Real Withdrawal

William Hartung. Huffington Post, 28 June 2011.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-hartung/afghanistan-for-real-savi_b_886241.html

Excerpt:

There won’t be large scale savings from the winding down of the Afghan war until virtually all U.S. forces are withdrawn. Even then there are still likely to be ongoing costs for training, equipping and possibly even paying Afghan security forces, which could cost up to $10 billion or more per year if current rates are maintained. But the vast bulk of the $120 billion per year now being spent on the war will be freed up for other purposes: deficit reduction, or public investments, or some combination of the two.

An end to the Afghan and Iraq wars may also open the way to a more comprehensive public debate on the Pentagon’s $550 billion-plus annual base budget — a sum over four times as large as what we spend on the wars. Politically, making real cuts in Pentagon spending during a time of war is a tough sell, even given our current budgetary predicament. But an end to the wars combined with the pressure from the deficit could lead to real cuts in the Pentagon’s base budget as well, especially if we adopt a new strategy that forswears major wars of occupation or large-scale insurgency campaigns of the kind our nation has waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we cut the war spending and bring the Pentagon’s larger budget into line with reality, then we’ll be talking real money.

The Statistical Irrelevance of American SIGACT Data: Iraq Surge Analysis Reveals Reality

Joshua Thiel. Small Wars Journal, 12 April 2011.
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/732-thiel1.pdf

Excerpt:

Maneuver warfare at its core is a mechanistic endeavor and fits with a corresponding necessity of top-down hierarchies. Conversely, counterinsurgency is a more ambiguous environment that varies in its complexity and context; it is the chess match of war. It is different in every locale and can cover the entire spectrum of war simultaneously. Consequently, counterinsurgency is difficult to put on a bumper sticker, to trademark as a catch phrase, or sell to a population and their representatives. In 2006 the United States (U.S.) public’s perception of success or failure of the Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy was concentrated around the concept of massing combat power in time and space, often called the “The Surge.” The term, “The Surge,” condensed a new counterinsurgency strategy into a simple and quantifiable slogan for the sound bite culture surrounding current affairs in the modern world. Unfortunately, counterinsurgency is more complex than “add more and then you win.”

Comment by Gian Gentile:

Joshua said this at the end of the piece:

“…in Afghanistan in 2011, will the victor once again write the history by touting the Afghanistan troop surge of 2010-2011 rather than the decisive operational changes.”

What evidence, I mean hard evidence (and beyond what officers who were part of the Surge recall)that there was a “decisive operational change.”? How much “decisive” operational change can there be in an area security mission where combat forces are dispersed widely and operate in a decentralized manner? This operational framework was in place in Iraq from spring of 2003 on. The answer is that there was not a decisive change in the operational framework. Oh to be sure there were some tweaks made here and there, a few more outposts here and there, but by and large it remained the same.

Unfortunately a narrative has been constructed that posits that a savior General named Petraeus came on board, reinvented his field army operationally and combined with an increase of troops was the primary cause of the lowering of violence. This is a chimera.

Yet folks, especially us in the Army who have spilled blood in these places, want to believe that what happens or doesnt happen is because of us and what we do or dont do, or because of savior generals riding onto the scene.

Yet the foreign policy elite (and many military leaders) in this country love this narrative and want it to stick because it places emphasis and criticism on the mechanics of doing these wars of intervention and state building and away from the strategy and policy that put them into place. Since success in these wars and conflicts are simply a matter of getting the right number of troops on the ground with the right tactics and with the savior general, then they can be won again and again.

As senior Army generals in Afghanistan argue “the right inputs are finally in place,” so too are we already seeing calls in certain quarters for bog in Libya.

But in Iraq it was neither the increase in troops as part of the Surge (as Joshua effectively argues) nor was it a decisive change in operational framework (as he incorrectly asserts) and instead the lowering of violence had to do with other more critical conditions (the spread of the Anbar awakening, the Shia militia stand-down, the physical seperation of Baghdad into sectarian districts) occurring.

Under-budgeted Afghan War Spending to Swallow All Pentagon “budget savings” and more

Budget Memo by Charles Knight. 14 February 2011.

For several years now White House budget projections have included a “placeholder for outyear overseas contingency operations” most of which are accounted for by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This placeholder number has been and remains $50 billion. Every year actual OCO (overseas contingency operations) spending turns out to be several times that number. FY11’s OCO is $159 billion and FY12’s is $118 billion.

Adjusting for the effect of the new OCO for FY12, the $68 billion budgeted above the placeholder of $50 billion eats up most of the $78 billion in Pentagon cuts that Secretary Gates offered up in January to fiscal responsibility (only $76 billion actually shows up in the 14 February budget release.) The remaining $8 billion (and much more) will go to the war budgets when reality collides with placeholder projections.

On 14 February Pentagon Comptroller Hale confirmed that the $50 billion placeholders for FY13 and beyond was the “best we can do.” Others make an attempt to be more realistic. The high tech industry association called Tech America annually projects DoD budgets for ten years out. In their 2010 projection they estimate that OCO spending will be $102 billion in FY13, $69 billion in FY14 and $57billion in FY15. When we subtract the $50 billion placeholder for each of those years and total the remainder we find that the Pentagon is likely to spend $78 billion more in the years FY13 through FY15 than in the White House budget projections.

In sum, not only does the President’s FY12 budget plan give an exemption to the Pentagon from contributing anything substantial to deficit reduction, but the likely cost of the war in Afghanistan will push up the national debt substantially higher than the White House budget projections.

Wikileaks War Logs Roundup

Reva Patwardhan. Peace Action West Groundswell Blog, 29 July 2010.
http://blog.peaceactionwest.org/2010/07/29/wikileaks-war-logs-roundup/

The Runaway General

Michael Hastings. Rolling Stone, 22 June 2010.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236

Excerpt:

When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal’s side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan – and he wasn’t hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose.

A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

Report of the Afghanistan Study Group, June 2010.
http://www.afghanistanstudygroup.org/?page_id=27

Excerpt:

The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them.

On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems.