FILTER:
Afghanistan

Jan. 1, 2016

Unconventional Warfare in the Gray Zone

In the months immediately following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the autumn of 2001, a small special operations forces (SOF) element and interagency team, supported by carrier- and land-based airstrikes, brought down the illegitimate Taliban government in Afghanistan that had been providing sanctuary for al Qaeda. This strikingly successful unconventional warfare (UW) operation was carried out with a U.S. “boots on the ground” presence of roughly 350 SOF and 110 interagency operatives working alongside an indigenous force of some 15,000 Afghan irregulars.1 The Taliban regime fell within a matter of weeks. Many factors contributed to this extraordinary accomplishment, but its success clearly underscores the potential and viability of this form of warfare.

Jan. 1, 2016

Joint Force Observations of Retrograde Operations from Afghanistan

Numerous articles have highlighted the monumental and complex efforts by U.S. and coalition forces to draw down the force, close operating bases, and remove the equipment and supplies that accumulated throughout Afghanistan during 13 years of combat operations. The signing of the bilateral security agreement (BSA) late in 2014 with the Afghanistan government had a profound impact on our ability to close the retrograde mission by December 2014. Prior to the signing of the agreement, there was a legitimate concern that we would have to rapidly accelerate throughput across all available means and modes if conditions in the BSA were unfavorable to our forces and coalition partners. Anticipating this situation, the responsible force drawdown, materiel retrograde, and base closure and transfer missions were collectively the top priority for the commander of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) throughout 2014.

Jan. 1, 2016

Advising the Afghan Air Force

Successful advising requires skill in a broad range of competencies that includes political-military relations, operations, and acquisitions. Advising the Afghan air force’s airlift mission seeks to strengthen the legitimacy of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as part of the counterinsurgency strategy of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Training at the U.S. Air Force’s Air Advisor Academy supports the initial qualification of students as air advisors, while additional lessons are gleaned from studying the Soviet experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Finally, developing effective advising postures can be guided by a conceptual model that incorporates ideas outlined in Colonel John Boyd’s essay “Destruction and Creation”1 and by systems engineering techniques. This article breaks down the essential components of a successful air advising posture, applies it to the mission in Afghanistan, and concludes with a summary of key points and suggested areas for improvement.

Jan. 1, 2016

Eight Signs Our Afghan Efforts Are Working

As the defense attaché tasked with reopening the U.S. Defense Attaché Office in Kabul, Afghanistan, beginning in late 2014, I had the opportunity to watch “fighting season 2015” unfold from a proximate vantage point.1 I returned with the impression that Afghanistan is better than it might have been—and stable enough to warrant continued investment. In this article, I contend that the high level of American (and Western) pessimism regarding Afghanistan’s security status deserves reexamination. I offer some thoughts on why pessimism has come to dominate policy debates on Afghanistan, as well as observations on the realities of Afghanistan in 2014–2015 that merit balanced reassessment. I then conclude with eight observations that provide some basis for optimism for 2016 and beyond.

July 1, 2015

From the Chairman: An Interview with Martin E. Dempsey

On January 7, 2015, Dr. R.D. Hooker, Jr., Director of Research and Strategic Support at the National Defense University (NDU), and Dr. Joseph J. Collins, Director of the Center for Complex Operations in the Institute for National Strategic Studies, interviewed General Dempsey at NDU.

July 1, 2015

Rapid Regeneration of Irregular Warfare Capacity

There is widespread agreement among the public and in the foreign and defense communities that the United States should avoid “another Iraq” or “another Afghanistan”—that is, another large-scale, long-term, and highly costly stability operation. President Obama’s reluctance to put “boots on the ground” in Iraq is but the most recent example of this reaction against the high costs and questionable outcomes of the conflicts in those two countries.

July 1, 2015

Turnaround: The Untold Story of the Human Terrain System

The U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS), a program that embedded social scientists with deployed units, endured a rough start as it began deploying teams to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. These early experiences had a lasting impact on the program. Although critics have written extensively about HTS struggles with internal mismanagement, most accounts simply cataloged problems, yielded little insight into the organization’s progress over time, and ultimately gave the impression that HTS was never able to make needed corrections.