Posts Tagged ‘COIN’

Security and stability in Afghanistan: Progress and Risk

C.J. Radin. The Long War Journal, 08 May 2012.


On May 1, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released its latest semi-annual report on security and stability in Afghanistan. The report documents significant progress in both developing the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and in degrading the Taliban insurgency. A thorough analysis also requires an evaluation of risk, however. While there is progress to report, it is important to note that there are also high, and increasing, risks.

DoD Semi-Annual Report on the Security and Stability of Afghnaistan, April 2012

The Future of Irregular Warfare

Seth G. Jones. RAND, 27 March 2012.


By early 2012, there were approximately 432,000 counterinsurgency forces in Afghanistan – approximately 90,000 U.S. soldiers, 30,000 NATO soldiers, 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces, and 12,000 Afghan Local Police. In addition, the United States spent over $100 billion per year and deployed a range of sophisticated platforms and systems. The Taliban, on the other hand, deployed between 20,000 and 40,000 forces (a ratio of nearly 11 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents) and had revenues of $100-$200 million per year (a ratio of 500 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents).

The Obama Doctrine: How the President’s Drone War is Backfiring

David Rohde. Foreign Policy, March/April 2012.


Obama has embraced the CIA, expanded its powers, and approved more targeted killings than any modern president. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush. And after promising to make counterterrorism operations more transparent and rein in executive power, Obama has arguably done the opposite, maintaining secrecy and expanding presidential authority.

To a far greater extent than the Bush White House, Obama and his top aides relied on the CIA for its analysis of Pakistan, according to current and former senior administration officials. As a result, preserving the agency’s ability to carry out counterterrorism, or “CT,” operations in Pakistan became of paramount importance.

“The most important thing when it came to Pakistan was to be able to carry out drone strikes and nothing else,” said a former official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The so-called strategic focus of the bilateral relationship was there solely to serve the CT approach.”

Additional Source:
New America Foundation: Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012, Updated 13 March 2012.

Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down

Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis. Armed Forces Journal, February 2012.


I first encountered senior-level equivocation during a 1997 division-level “experiment” that turned out to be far more setpiece than experiment. Over dinner at Fort Hood, Texas, Training and Doctrine Command leaders told me that the Advanced Warfighter Experiment (AWE) had shown that a “digital division” with fewer troops and more gear could be far more effective than current divisions. The next day, our congressional staff delegation observed the demonstration firsthand, and it didn’t take long to realize there was little substance to the claims. Virtually no legitimate experimentation was actually conducted. All parameters were carefully scripted. All events had a preordained sequence and outcome. The AWE was simply an expensive show, couched in the language of scientific experimentation and presented in glowing press releases and public statements, intended to persuade Congress to fund the Army’s preference.

…when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort

Daniel L Davis. Rolling Stone, 27 January, 2012.


In my honest and very frank estimation, American Service Members are dead today – and hundreds more have had limbs blown off – as payment for the perpetuation of this myth, for we built the 2010 surge in Afghanistan on the belief that the same “fundamentals that served us so well in Iraq” could be adjusted to fit the new effort. As has now been made very clear from the foregoing, however, the “protect the population” strategy used in 2007 Iraq was never the primary causal factor leading to success as has been claimed. Instead, it was an event entirely beyond our ability to influence or control: America’s main international terrorist enemy al-Qaeda became such a heinous animal that the brutality they inflicted on our local enemy (the Iraqi national insurgency) caused the latter to turn against what ought to have been their natural ally.

By burying that truth and instead elevating the myth to the status of doctrine, we have set the conditions for our own harm in Afghanistan.

Regaining Our Balance: the Pentagon’s New Military Strategy Takes a Small Step

Christopher Preble and Charles Knight. Huffington Post, 20 January 2012.


Balance depends on what you are standing on. With respect to our physical security, the United States is blessed with continental peace and a dearth of powerful enemies. Our military is the best-trained, best-led, and best-equipped in the world. It is our unstable finances and our sluggish economy that make us vulnerable to stumbling.

Unfortunately, the new strategy does not fully appreciate our strengths, nor does it fully address our weaknesses. In the end, it does not achieve Eisenhower’s vaunted balance.


Strategic Adjustment to Sustain the Force: A survey of current proposals

Charles Knight. Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #51, 25 October 2011.


…modest changes to U.S. military strategy and global posture implemented over the next ten years can reliably offer deficit-reducing savings from the Pentagon budget ranging from $73 billion a year to $118 billion a year.

To achieve the savings only requires the application of different means to attaining strategic goals. That is precisely what any good strategy does when conditions change.

National Strategy for Counterterrorism 2011

The White House, 29 June 2011.

White House Fact Sheet National Strategy for Counterterrorism

The White House
June 29, 2011

“As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”

–President Barack Obama
May 1, 2011

The National Strategy for Counterterrorism, found here, formalizes the approach that President Obama and his Administration have been pursuing and adapting for the past two and half years to prevent terrorist attacks and to deliver devastating blows against al-Qa’ida, including the successful mission to kill Usama bin Laden.

Rather than defining our entire national security policy, this counterterrorism strategy is one part of President Obama’s larger National Security Strategy, which seeks to advance our enduring national security interests, including our security, prosperity, respect for universal values and global cooperation to meet global challenges.

This Strategy builds upon the progress we have made in the decade since 9/11, in partnership with Congress, to build our counterterrorism and homeland security capacity as a nation. It neither represents a wholesale overhaul—nor a wholesale retention—of previous policies and strategies.

Threat—This Strategy recognizes there are numerous nations and groups that support terrorism to oppose U.S. interests, including Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and HAMAS, and we will use the full range of our foreign policy tools to protect the United States against these threats.

However, the principal focus of this counterterrorism strategy is the network that poses the most direct and significant threat to the United States—al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and its adherents.

Al-Qa’ida has murdered thousands of our citizens, including on 9/11.

Al-Qa’ida affiliates—groups that have aligned with al-Qa’ida—have attempted to attack us, such as Yemen-based al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on December 25, 2009.

Al-Qa’ida adherents—individuals, sometimes American citizens, who cooperate with or are inspired by al-Qa’ida—have engaged in terrorism, including the tragic slaughter of our service members at Fort Hood in 2009.

Our Ultimate Objective—This Strategy is clear and precise in our ultimate objective: we will disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qa’ida—its leadership core in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, its affiliates and adherents to ensure the security of our citizens and interests.

Our Posture—We are at war. We are waging a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power to defeat al-Qa’ida.

Our Goals–To defeat al-Qa’ida, we are pursuing specific counterterrorism goals, including:

    Protecting our homeland by constantly reducing our vulnerabilities and adapting and updating our defenses.
    Disrupting, degrading, dismantling and defeating al-Qa’ida wherever it takes root.
    Preventing terrorists from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction.
    Eliminating the safehavens al-Qa’ida needs to train, plot and launch attacks against us.
    Degrading links between al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and adherents.
    Countering al-Qa’ida ideology and its attempts to justify violence.
    Depriving al-Qa’ida and its affiliates of their enabling means, including illicit financing, logistical support, and online communications.

Our Principles—Our pursuit of these goals is guided by several key principles, including:

    Upholding core American values, including rule of law and the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans;
    Harnessing every tool at our disposal, including intelligence, military, homeland security and law enforcement, and maximizing cooperation between communities;
    Building partnerships to with international institutions and partners so that nations can take the fight to al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and adherents in their own countries;
    Applying tools appropriately, recognizing that different threats in different regions demand different tools;
    Building a culture of preparedness and resilience at home to prevent terrorist attacks and ensure we can quickly recover should an attack occur.

Devastating Blows Against Al-Qa’ida—guided by this Strategy, we have achieved significant progress against al-Qa’ida over the past two and a half years.

    We have put al-Qa’ida under more pressure than at any time since 9/11, affecting its ability to attract new recruits and making it harder for al-Qa’ida to train and plot attacks.
    Al-Qa’ida’s leadership ranks have been decimated, with more key leaders eliminated in rapid succession than at any time since 9/11.
    Virtually every major al-Qa’ida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander.
    More than half of al-Qa’ida’s leadership has been eliminated, including Usama bin Laden.

“On a Path to Defeat”—As President Obama stated in his June 22 remarks on our way forward in Afghanistan, “we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.”

Information seized from his compound reveals bin Laden’s concerns about al-Qa’ida’s long-term viability.

    Bin Laden clearly saw that al-Qa’ida is losing the larger battle for hearts and minds.
    Bin Laden knew that he had failed to portray America as being at war with Islam.
    He knew that al-Qa’ida’s murder of so many innocent civilians, most of them Muslims, had deeply and perhaps permanently tarnished al-Qa’ida’s image in the world.

Editor’s Comment:

In terms of military means of countering terrorism it has been reported that this Counterterrorism Strategy signals the shift away from large-scale ground interventions in foreign countries and consequently will reduce the requirement for counter-insurgency capabilities in the armed forces. Instead it relies more on special forces assisted by drones to target principals in terrorist organizations.

Time will tell whether COIN is on the way out.