LONDON — The business of war-fighting just got more difficult. These days, British troops — over-stretched, under-funded and ill-equipped — must contend not only with implacable enemies abroad, but also with a seemingly disinterested Defense Ministry and a sometimes hostile public at home. No surprise, then, that morale has plummeted. The low level of morale was highlighted in a survey — the first ever — that was conducted among more than 24,000 service personnel across the armed forces. It revealed that almost half are ready to quit. The reasons are not hard to find. During October alone, the British government […]

The Syrian Strike and the Iraq SOFA

I mentioned how the cross-border attack into Syria was certain to unnerve the Iraqis, and sure enough, a government spokesman condemned it today. I did some digging to see whether this sort of attack would even be allowed by U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, and the best I could come up with was this dated draft version of the broader strategic framework agreement (.pdf) via the Guardian: . . .[T]he U.S. does not seek to use Iraq (sic) territory as a platform for offensive operations against other states. (p. 2) That clause is sufficiently vague to be meaningless. The attack […]

In early October, news and rumors spread through the city of Mosul in northern Iraq that insurgents were targeting the area’s Christian population. The attacks were apparently aimed at driving the Christians out of town — a sort of “religious cleansing.” The anti-Christian campaign reportedly began in September, with “death threats through letters, SMS and e-mails,” according to Mustafa Gundogdu, a researcher from the U.K.-based Kurdish Human Rights Project. (Iraq’s minority Kurdish population, concentrated in self-governing Kurdistan, includes many Christians, although not all Iraqi Christians are Kurds.) Gundogdu told World Politics Review that the threats were signed by a group […]

Syrian Cross-Border Strike

Laura Rozen’s got the background over at the MoJo blog on what the U.S. was after in the crossborder strike into Syria: an AQI operative named Abu Ghadiya. Apparently the American government had been trying to get the Syrians to hand him over for a while, and finally got tired of waiting. There will always be operational justifications for this sort of strike in a counterinsurgency, and it’s not like we’ve been making a habit of violating the territorial integrity of Iraq’s neighbors. In fact, if even half of what we’ve been hearing about Iran and Syria is true, we’ve […]

The Narrative of COIN

It comes just before the end, but eventually Warren Strobel’s latest McClatchy gem on the largely successful American COIN operation in the Philippines makes the point that leaped out to me after the first couple of paragraphs: While this mission could provide lessons for other global arenas, it’s also unique in many ways. The Philippines is a majority Catholic country with a functioning central government; a long, if checkered, relationship with the U.S.; and leaders willing to fight terrorism. Of all those criteria, I’d say the functioning central government is the most significant. When you start out with a policy […]

Russia Won’t Block Iraq Extension at the UN

Hard to know what went on in that high-level timeout in Helsinki the other day between JCS Chief Adm. Mike Mullen and his Russian counterpart, but I’d be surprised if today’s declaration by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov that Russia will not veto a UNSC resolution extending American troop presence in Iraq in the absence of a deal between Baghdad and Washington is just a happy coincidence. Mullen went on talk tough in Lithuania about the need to better integrate Baltic defense into NATO’s architecture. But the Baltic is already a done deal. To my mind, Russia’s major strategic blunder in […]

On Oct. 16, 2002, President Bush signed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution into law. But six years later, neither the political left nor the political right has internalized the key lessons we should have learned from the run up to the Iraq War. Both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain deserve credit: Obama for his skepticism and opposition to the war in 2002 and 2003, McCain for supporting the Surge which has helped make the decision to invade Iraq marginally less disastrous than it appeared in 2006. But the debate over those two questions this […]

The Promise of COIN, the Pitfalls of Iraq

Without getting into speculating about whether the U.S.-Iraqi SOFA deal will get done or not, the fact that the main sticking point is Iraq’s demand for jurisdiction over American soldiers off their bases is telling. Here’s Iraqi Vice President Tariq al Hashimi in McClatchy: “The impression of the Iraqi people is that American troops from time to time exaggerate their reactions, use excessive force and irresponsible behavior,” Hashimi said. “We would like to put an end to that. When this happens in the future there must be prosecution of those who are exceeding the limit of the authorities given to […]

In the midst of two wars and with an “era of persistent conflict” foreseen ahead, America and its military are confronting battlefield urgencies and operational complexities that challenge the very way in which we conceive of warfare. Whether on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on the waters off of Somalia, the reality of today’s conflicts have exposed gaps in our tactical thinking and operational approach to waging war. The responses have combined doctrinal evolutions and operational innovations, demonstrating once again the strategic asset represented by American ingenuity and creative thinking. But they have also generated a passionate and […]

This month’s release of Field Manual 3-07, “Stability Operations,” marks a milestone for the United States Army. With it, the Army acknowledges and codifies a dramatic change in thinking: No longer does the mission of the military stop at winning wars; now it must also help “win the peace.” As Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV, states in the foreword to the new manual: As the Nation continues into this era of uncertainty and persistent conflict, the lines separating war and peace, enemy and friend, have blurred and no longer conform to the clear delineations we once knew. At the […]

The three short articles by an anthropology professor from California seemed out of place beside a large area map and various military memoranda on a plywood wall at combat outpost Tarmiyah, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Not long ago, the accompanying note demanding that all platoon and squad leaders not only read the articles, but pass the information along to their men, would have made most commanders in Iraq laugh at the thought of burdening their already overworked junior officers and NCOs with articles by college professors. But the conduct of the Iraq War has taken a decidedly cultural […]

Iran’s Place on the SOFA

If you’d like to see the official Iranian position on the U.S-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), here it is. Short version: they’re against it. Not a surprise, of course, but it also squares with something I heard about Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki being under extraordinary pressure from Tehran (as in, diplomatic cables in the form of severed horses’ heads) to include a withdrawal timetable for American troops in any eventual agreement. From recent reports, it looks like that’s been resolved with a conditions-based clause, and that the main point of contention is now jurisdiction over American forces outside of […]

Massoud Barzani: The KRG Representative to the U.S. Responds

Editor’s note: The following is an unsolicited response to a World Politics Review commentary from Qubad Talabany, the Kurdish Regional Government’s representative to the United States. WPR usually publishes reader mail on our blog, but we have chosen to publish this as a stand alone item out of respect for Mr.Talabany’s diplomatic stature.As both a news and analysis journal, WPR recognizes that some articles it publishes will provoke differences of opinion and disagreements of interpretation. Above all, our commitment is to airing all sides of a contested issue, so long as they are respectfully expressed. Dear Sir: The “Commentary” by […]

Once an oasis of stability in Iraq, the Kurdish north is increasingly a source of unrest. Because of the misrule of Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG) who may go down as the Yasser Arafat of the Kurdish people, the region is becoming a danger both to the country and to its own people. The contrast between Barzani and Iraq’s president, Jalal Talibani, is striking. Talabani, the scion of Kurdish Iraq’s other political dynasty, has spent the years since liberation from Baathist rule in Baghdad, earning a reputation as one of the great uniters […]