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Just a quick word on some military procurment items that have been in my browser for a couple days: India wants a handful of stealth frigates, and is trying to figure out whether to build the first couple tubs domestically (high risk of technical screwups eating away the cost benefits) or abroad (political landmine, but reverse technology bonanza). Meanwhile, Israel is still interested in the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Combined with Japan’s and Australia’s interest, as well as that of certain elements in the Pentagon in keeping the production lines moving, this might get a technology-transfer-proof model in the works. […]

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To get an idea of how well President Barack Obama’s strategy for Pakistan-Afghanistan hit a political sweet spot, consider that people with as divergent an agenda as myself and Max Boot are both satisfied with it. What’s more, I’ve read and heard that after initial fears about the Biden-supported counterterrorism component winning out, the COIN crowd is pretty happy about the plan. But that was in the same day I read that the Obama strategy was simply a stepped-up COIN approach to a walked-back counterrorist objective. I think the reason everyone is breathing easier now is that first of all, […]

The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have one of the most formidable and durable military alliances in the world. This alliance has preserved peace and stability in Northeast Asia and ensured nuclear restraint among Asian powers. It has weathered extreme domestic unpopularity in South Korea and pressures in Washington to reduce U.S. overseas defense obligations. During the lifetime of this military alliance, the junior partner has transformed from a war-battered, backward military dictatorship into a prosperous democracy with the world’s most-wired population and one of the world’s largest economies. Most American and Korean strategists agree that the […]

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I’d like to call your attention to WPR’s latest feature issue, The Age of Counterinsurgency, which just went live today. Regular readers of the blog know that I’ve got a particular interest in this subject. I think today’s feature issue should give you an idea why. Counterinsurgency doctrine, or COIN, represents the first rough draft of the dominant strategic vision that has emerged from the post-9/11 era: that failed and failing states represent the principal national security threat to the U.S. because of the safe haven they might provide to transnational terrorist networks, and that only a full-spectrum, whole-of-government approach […]

On March 25, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (.pdf) report. Despite the recent change in White House occupants, the text resembles the department’s previous Chinese military power reports, suggesting that holdovers from the Bush administration supervised its composition. As required by the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual report assesses the current and likely future military capabilities, doctrine, strategies, and operational concepts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. and other foreign officials have repeatedly complained about the severe constraints on transparency that the Chinese […]

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Standing on the HESCO barriers that ring Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier in Kapisa Province, just north of Kabul, one can see three enormous, beautiful valleys. To the north lies the Nijrab, whose “fingers” are home to a mainly Tajik population, with some Pashtun areas. To the east sits Afghanya Valley, which hosts Pashtuns in its lower half and Pashai in its upper half. And to the south is Tagab Valley, an almost entirely Pashtun area that has become famous for its entrenched insurgency. FOB Morales-Frazier, the soldiers it hosts, and the area it stands watch over […]

Internecine ideological battles have bedeviled the foreign policy of every U.S. administration in recent memory. Human rights liberals fought unsuccessfully with Cold Warriors for control of the Carter administration. New-right hardliners initially won the war for Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy soul but then lost it to George Schultz’s old-guard Republican realists. The Clinton administration became an altar on which liberal interventionists exorcised the Democratic Party’s Vietnam Syndrome demons. Most bitterly and most tragically, the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency demonstrated what happens when neoconservatives and their allies win more ideological contests than they lose. Barack Obama’s young presidency […]

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After seven years in Afghanistan, it’s back to basics. On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled the results of his comprehensive and long-awaited policy review of the U.S. war strategy in South and Central Asia. Reining in what has become a discombobulated mission, he asked outright, “What is our purpose in Afghanistan?” He then went on to answer his own question: Our purpose is the pursuit of al-Qaida and its leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. There is little surprise in that decision. Likewise, the new way forward offered few unexpected headlines. The strategy will focus on an approach to […]

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Two more COIN-as-domestic-policing stories of note: The Naval Postgraduate School will be advising Salinas in that city’s anti-gang campaign (via Andrew Exum); and thanks to a combination of tough policing and community organizing, Compton is no longer the Capital CPT (via Matthew Yglesias). The former reinforces my suspicions that the military approach to counterinsurgency will find a sympathetic domestic law enforcement audience. The latter tempers the perceived threat by illustrating the ways in which the “smart power” approach to gangs and organized crime had already been formulated and applied before our current wars of counterinsurgency. In fact, back in 1997, […]

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With regards to whether the expanded target list in Pakistan is authorized by the AUMF, a correspondent pointed out by e-mail that the AUMF has already been stretched pretty far and wide in geographic terms, and that finding a link between the folks we’d like to target and the folks we’re allowed to target — which is all we need to induct the former into the latter category — isn’t terribly difficult. A meeting over tea in the ole Waziristan compound, for instance, or a shout out on Radio Swat, would probably do the trick. Meanwhile, in answer to the […]

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Noah Shachtman wants to know if we’re at war in Pakistan (as opposed to with Pakistan). He lays out the case here and here, with particular emphasis on the expanded target list in the Pakistani FATA, which amounts to U.S.assistance in a domestic Pakistani counterinsurgency campaign. Now, I’m not sure if what we’re doing is war, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t covered by the Congressional authorization for the Afghanistan War: . . . [T]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriateforce against those nations, organizations, or persons he determinesplanned, authorized, committed, or aided the terroristattacks that occurred […]

WASHINGTON — The new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Obama administration unveiled today reflects a policy consensus that has been more than a year in the making. It is only recently, however, that the U.S. government has begun to take the lead in developing and implementing this new strategy. In the waning days of the Bush administration, U.S. allies — most notably the British government — as well as foreign policy wonks at think tanks in Washington and elsewhere began formulating an alternative policy for an Afghanistan war effort that had begun going downhill in the latter half […]

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The Obama administration’s strategic review of the Afghanistan War is reportedly ready for roll out this afternoon. The NY Times has an advanced look, as does Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic. The plan, like all strategic reviews, seeks to first and foremost strike a balance between military necessities and political realities. As such, it threads the needle between two internal administration constituencies, and four external audiences. Within the administration, it incorporates the diplomatic full-court press of the “good governance is the key to hearts and minds” counterinsurgency advocates (see Seth Rosen’s WPR Briefing) with the more modest security objectives of […]

In his seminal essay the “Twenty-Seven Articles,” T.E. Lawrence wrote that “a bad start is difficult to atone for” in an insurgency or counterinsurgency effort. As the Obama administration prepares a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, it is learning that lesson all too well. For more than seven years, Afghanistan has been the neglected war, impaired by insufficient resources, troops, planning and oversight. Facing a resurgent Taliban, the administration now has no choice but to chart a new path. Some of the president’s strongest supporters are urging him to scale down U.S. ambitions in the country. They contend […]

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — With opposition rallies across Kyrgyzstan planned for today, the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has taken calculated measures to avoid a repetition of the Tulip Revolution that swept his predecessor, Askar Akayev, from power almost four years ago to the day, on March 25, 2005. Disillusionment with the current administration is widespread among political observers and the public at large, and is arguably as strong now as opposition to Akayev was four years ago. But experts predict that the demonstrations will achieve relatively little, even as many worry they may be the last chance for the opposition […]

On her recent Asian tour, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made Jakarta a key stop. The move signaled a new direction for American foreign policy in the region following that of the Bush administration — which was accused by critics of having neglected Southeast Asia, and of having alienated Indonesians with its military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. While insiders and policy wonks might point out that the U.S. and Indonesia worked well together on counterterrorism issues during the Bush era — successfully undermining Jemaah Islamiyah, for instance — the perception lingers that Washington did not regard Indonesia, and […]

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