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Category: Middle East and North Africa

Sept. 1, 2015

Chapter 4 | Raising and Mentoring Security Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq

Security force assistance played a leading role in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where local security forces were often spoken of as “our ticket home” or “our exit strategy.” The effort to raise, train, equip, field, and advise army and police forces eventually became the center of gravity in both theaters. Yet for some years, the effort was ad hoc, under-resourced, and complicated by internal bureaucratic struggles in Washington and by corrosive corruption and mismanagement within host-nation governments. If the United States were to undertake similar efforts in the future, the quality and effectiveness of its security force assistance programs will again play a decisive role in achieving successful outcomes.

July 1, 2015

Islamic Radicalization in Kenya

An attack carried out by the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013 drew renewed attention to the extremist threat facing that country. This attack was only the latest in a string of terrorist incidents stretching back to the late 1990s. It should serve as a stark reminder to the U.S. that terrorism remains a significant threat to its national interests in Kenya and in the Horn of Africa more generally.

Sept. 30, 2014

Blurred Lines: Cultural Support Teams in Afghanistan

Allowing women in combat is a highly controversial subject. Yet regardless of their official military occupational specialty (MOS), female Servicemembers have often found themselves in combat situations—most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both combat zones, male and female Servicemembers alike have conducted counterinsurgency and stability operations—so-called irregular warfare activities that lack clearly defined “frontlines” against enemies who do not wear uniforms. These types of operating environments forcefully negate any biological sex combat restrictions as the lives of both men and women are at risk.

Sept. 30, 2014

Dealing with Corruption: Hard Lessons Learned in Afghanistan

Operation Enduring Freedom has exacted a tremendous cost on the United States in terms of both blood and treasure. By the end of fiscal year 2013, the financial toll had reached $645 billion. While we have made a significant investment in rebuilding Afghanistan, certain actors have seen our sacrifice as an opportunity to enrich themselves by stealing money and materiel intended to aid in the rebuilding of the country.

Jan. 1, 2014

The Flawed Strategic Debate on Syria

Dating from Bashar al-Asad’s first suppression of mass demonstrations in April 2011, the war in Syria is now 3 years old, has killed more than 130,000 Syrians, and displaced nine million Syrians, two million as refugees into neighboring countries. Foreign intervention has increasingly shaped the course of the fighting and will continue to have substantial regional consequences. The complexity of this bitter, nominally internal struggle has dampened American enthusiasm for joining the fray or even paying much attention to Syria, notwithstanding the chemical weapon attacks on Gouta, east of Damascus, last August, which captured the attention of the American people, media, and policy community. With an international taboo broken and a Presidential redline crossed, public debate spiked in August–September 2013 over U.S. interests in Syria and the limits on what we will do to secure them. Debate did not result in a consensus for action.

Dec. 1, 2013

Next Steps in Syria

Nearly 3 years since the start of the Syrian civil war, no clear winner is in sight. Assassinations and defections of civilian and military loyalists close to President Bashar al-Asad, rebel success in parts of Aleppo and other key towns, and the spread of violence to Damascus itself suggest that the regime is losing ground to its opposition. The tenacity of government forces in retaking territory lost to rebel factions, such as the key town of Qusayr, and attacks on Turkish and Lebanese military targets indicate, however, that the regime can win because of superior military equipment, especially airpower and missiles, and help from Iran and Hizballah.

Nov. 1, 2013

Crisis Stability and Nuclear Exchange Risks on the Subcontinent: Major Trends and the Iran Factor

Crisis stability—the probability that political tensions and low-level conflict will not erupt into a major war between India and Pakistan—is less certain in 2013 than at any time since their sequential nuclear weapons tests of 1998. India’s vast and growing spending on large conventional military forces, at least in part as a means to dissuade Pakistan’s tolerance of (or support for) insurgent and terrorist activity against India, coupled with Pakistan’s post- 2006 accelerated pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons as a means to offset this Indian initiative, have greatly increased the risk of a future Indo-Pakistani military clash or terrorist incident escalating to nuclear exchange. America’s limited abilities to prevent the escalation of an Indo-Pakistani crisis toward major war are best served by continuing a significant military and political presence in Afghanistan and diplomatic and military-to-military dialogue with Pakistan well beyond 2014.

July 1, 2013

Sharing to Succeed: Lessons from Open Information-sharing Projects in Afghanistan

The sharing of information in complex civil-military operations is important, yet actors rarely do it well. U.S. and allied military forces must be able to communicate, collaborate, and exchange information effectively with the local populations they seek to influence, or they cannot achieve the goals for which they have been committed. Nonetheless, experience from stability operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, numerous humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions, and efforts to build the capacity of foreign partners suggest that effective information-sharing is much harder than might be expected. This paper sheds light on the difficulties of setting up and sustaining projects to share information in such situations and suggests ways to do better in the future.

Dec. 1, 2012

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Decision to Find Iran in Non-Compliance, 2002-2006

On August 14, 2002, at a press conference in Washington, DC, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled Iranian opposition group, drew worldwide attention when it publicly accused Iran of clandestinely developing nuclear weapons. Alireza Jafarzadeh, then-U.S. media spokesperson for the NCRI, described two “top secret” nuclear facilities being constructed in Iran at Natanz and Arak under the guise of front companies involved in the procurement of nuclear material and equipment. Noting that media attention had focused on Iran’s publicly declared civilian facilities, Jafarzadeh claimed that “in reality, there are many secret nuclear programs at work in Iran without knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the international body responsible for verifying and assuring compliance with safeguards obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Nov. 1, 2012

Strategic Reflections: Operation Iraqi Freedom, July 2014 - February 2007

Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom were the first major wars of the 21st century. They will not be the last. They have significantly impacted how the U.S. Government and military think about prosecuting wars. They will have a generational impact on the U.S. military, as its future leaders, particularly those in the ground forces, will for decades be men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is imperative that leaders at all levels, both military and civilian, share their experiences to ensure that we, as a military and as a country, gain appropriate insights for the future.