On May 9, voters in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) take to the polls to decide what in the past has typically been a quiet, local parliamentary election with little impact on the national agenda. This year, however, is different. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-right Christian Democratic Union-Free Democratic Party coalition government are in danger of losing the Bundestag, the upper house of the German government, in the elections. Plagued by infighting and the inability to agree on a comprehensive agenda, the coalition has stumbled through a number of domestic missteps, from an unpopular tax […]
The Interpreter has published a very powerful and moving letter from a reader and Afghanistan war veteran that’s really worth reading. Along with this post by Robert Farley, it serves as a junction between what had been two parallel threads I’ve been following on the myth of “antiseptic war.” One, to which the reader was responding, has to do with the relation between video games and networked war, which Sam Roggeveen discussed here. The other has to do with COIN and population-centric warfare, and specifically the misconception of it as a “kinder and gentler” form of war, which Michael Cohen […]
Special Representative Richard Holbrooke discusses Afghanistan and Pakistan with Chairman of the World Affairs Council of America Marc Grossman. Holbrooke outlines the warming of U.S.-Pakistan relations, detailing effects of the Kerry-Lugar Bill and renewed emphasis on energy and water issues within Pakistan. He also discusses various elements of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan with a particular focus on the U.S. civilian presence and the need to bolster the country’s once vibrant agricultural sector.
I just started browsing through this new publication from the Strategic Studies Institute, “Short of General War,” and found the chapter on al-Qaida and RMA by Lt. Col. Thomas Graves thought-provoking. Graves runs through the goals of the 1990s RMA and subsequent Donald Rumsfeld-era “transformation” and suggests that al-Qaida represented a pretty close approximation of the ultimate RMA-inspired military organization, which Stephen Biddle described as “a leaner, faster, higher-technology force that exploits the connectivity of networked information to outmaneuver, outrange, and demoralize enemy forces without requiring their piecemeal destruction in close combat.” That got me thinking about the tactical-strategic rap […]
Russian officials have recently accused U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan of “conniving with drug producers” and urged the coalition to pursue aggressive aerial eradication operations against Afghanistan’s opium poppy crops. Despite having spent over $1 billion on counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan since 2002, including eradication efforts, the U.S. and the U.K. have failed to curb the illicit drug industry there. Moscow’s tough stance on narcotics stems from its own internal consumption levels, which have steadily reached epidemic proportions. According to 2008 records, up to 21 percent of the world’s production of illicit opiates ended up in Russia, resulting in […]
After years of intense fighting, the U.S. has left its remote outpostin the Korengal Valley, in eastern Afghanistan. Since their departurethe Taliban has crept back into the area, taken over the former U.S.base camp and plans on using U.S. supplies to fight against them. AlJazeera’s James Bays reports on the re-positioning of troops to moredensely populated areas.
A couple of inter-related items on the ongoing shifts in military doctrine and theories of war managed to jolt me out of a self-imposed blogging hiatus (needed to catch up on organizing upcoming feature issues). The first thing that caught my eye was this post over at Information Dissemination on the U.S. Marine Corps’ experiment in company-size autonomous units. I’d noticed this back in December and wondered whether it might not prove an even more lasting impact of our current wars on the U.S. military than the COIN doctrine being applied to fight them. The network of autonomous small units […]
Is there a method to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s “madness”? At first glance, his recent actions — including harsh criticism of U.S. policies, a threat to join the Taliban resistance, diplomatic maneuverings in recent visits to Tehran and Beijing, and outreach to former domestic enemies — might seem “troubling” at best, and “troubled” at worst. But on closer inspection, they all appear to have a logical purpose: to hedge Karzai’s bets. From Karzai’s perspective, there are three foreseeable outcomes of the Obama administration’s “surge” in Afghanistan — and only one would be particularly beneficial to his interests. That would be […]
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Gunfire and rockets erupted on both sides of the American patrol the night of March 28 in Kunar province, along the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan. The ambush was one of at least two apparently coordinated attacks that struck U.S. Army forces operating from two small bases in the province’s main river valley. The rockets exploded harmlessly against the sides of the thickly armored American vehicles. And though the soldiers — from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, based in Italy — would later complain about the deafening noise they made, it was another weapon that troubled […]
BAGHLAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The man standing up at the provincial governor’s audience seemed agitated but forceful. He told of a dream in which the Prophet Mohammed had instructed him to go forth and tell the people that the foreigners are the enemies of Islam, and that the faithful should all join the Taliban to fight them. The man was quickly ushered out, while the governor visibly rolled his eyes. But it was a clear reminder of how close to the surface animosity against foreigners runs in this previously stable part of Afghanistan. The security situation in Baghlan, hitherto a […]