Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Sense of the Debate

The current debate covered by the media is confusing.

Essentially, Obama is taking his time to consider his options.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) will cost the US military, the US government, and other entities responsible for conducting operations, whether non-military or military in terms of political will, manpower, lives, and expenses. The average counterinsurgency lasts 14 years, and the US military has really only begun. McChrystal believes that COIN is the best way to win Afghanistan, however the cost may be too great to pay.

Counter-terrorism (CT) operations may be the more pragmatic approach. Rather than devoting resources to building the capacity of the government and using civilian elements for non-military operations, Special Forces and other elements of the military will use actionable intelligence to continuously fight al-Qai'da and other terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and possible Pakistan.

COIN is much more expensive, while CT is cheaper and more pragmatic. COIN is the sustainable approach, but may be impossible because the country is just so fragmented and would take probably decades. But after operations have ceased, the government would be able to properly govern and enforce the law, there would be some semblance of a formal economy, and the social structures of Afghanistan would be less fragmented and disparate.

CT operations would be based upon actionable intelligence and the continuous direct action of Special Forces to eliminate threats as they emerge.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pakistan's Attempt at Counterterrorism

Pakistan is not exactly attempting a coordinated counterinsurgency campaign. Instead, they continue to only use retaliatory attacks using conventional forces.

This ultimately puts the population in the center of the crossfire, as Pakistan troops bent on destroying the Islamist militants use all available means to destroy the enemies.

This is based partly upon training that is based on a nightmare scenario in which Pakistan goes to war with India. Both states possess nuclear weapons and have been at odds over Kashmir for decades.

However, Pakistan is not coordinating a campaign that will rid their FATA region and the Northwestern Territories of al-Qai'da and Taliban militants. Their "enemy-centric" form of violent conventional warfare may undermine the "population-centric" strategy that the US military has only recently implemented.

My papers "A 21st Century Framework of Counterinsurgency" will tackle transnational and global insurgency and my paper "Pakistan's Folly" deals with the inadequacies of Pakistan's effort to thwart the Neo-Taliban insurgents in gaining ground in the mountains of Pakistan.

Please refer to my essays on the right, or check out this new article from The Economist:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zaineb Istrabadi on Middle Eastern Politics

Zaineb Istrabadi is a former understudy of world-renowned scholar Edward Said, author of the groundbreaking book "Orientalism." Zaineb currently teaches Arabic in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC) Department at Indiana University.

She spoke to WFHB, the public radio station of Bloomington, Indiana regarding various subjects.

Washington Post: Bureaucratic Infighting Between the Allocation of Resources Necessary to launch CI Operations in Afghanistan

It is my view that the military should take the lead in counterinsurgency operations, with civilians conducting stability operations once combat operations have ceased in a given area. It seems like the DoD and the DoS are fighting between who does what.

I say let the military take the lead and the State Department can conduct its operations in areas where civilians can make progress and results without being undermined by insurgent forces.

Frontline: Obama's War

For an indepth account of the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, check out the newest episode of Frontline, titled "Obama's War"

It can be viewed at:

Academic Literature on CI Ops and Intrastate Conflict

Collier, Paul and Anke Hoeffler. “Greed and Grievance in civil war,” World Bank Paper, 2001.

Collier, Paul. "Doing Well out of War," World Bank Paper, 1999.

Fearon, James. “Why do some civil wars last so much longer than others?” unpublished manuscript, 2002.

Kalyvas, Stathis. “The ontology of ‘political violence’: Action and identity in civil war,” Perspectives on Politics 1, no. 3 (2003): 475-93.

Kaufmann, Chaim. “Possible and impossible solutions to ethnic civil wars,” International Security 20, no. 4 (1996): 136-75.

Stedman, Stephen. “Spoiler problems in peace processes,” International Security 22, no. 2 (1997): 5-53.

Walter, Barbara. “The critical barrier to civil war settlement,” International Organization 51, no. 3 (1997): 335-64.

Contemporary Literature on CI Ops

Here is a reading list of all the relevant literature to CI Ops. Whether you are heading to Officer Candidate School, shipping out to Afghanistan, or would like to become more educated on the subject, this comprehensive list will surely earn you points at cocktail parties.

Theory and Case Studies:
1. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, by Dr. John Nagl and Peter J. Schoomaker

2. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, by Dr. David Kilcullen

3. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, by David Galula

4. Organizations at War: In Afghanistan and Beyond, by Abdulkader Sinno

5. The Logic of Violence in Civil War, by Stathis N. Kalyvas

Afghanistan Literature:
5. In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan, by Seth G. Jones

6. Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan, by Antonio Guistozzi

7. Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: RAND Counterinsurgency Study--Volume 4 (2008), by Seth G. Jones

8. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System, Second Edition, by Barnett Rubin

9. Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid

10. Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Andrew M. Exum, Nathaniel C. Fick, Ahmed A. Humayun, Dr. David Kilcullen

Military Doctrine:
The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, by Sarah Sewell, Gen. David Petraeus, and John Nagl.

The U.S. Army Stability Operations Field Manual: U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-07, by Janine Davidson, William B. Caldwell IV, Michele Flournoy, and Shawn Brimley

Military Affairs:
The New Counterinsurgency Era: Transforming the U.S. Military for Modern Wars, by Dr. David Ucko

More to Come...