Monday, 26 October 2020
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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By Alex Shone

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain the primary, physical threat to Coalition soldiers and personnel in Afghanistan. An inexpensive and immensely varied device; they pose a strategic threat to the Coalition mission in Afghanistan perpetuating instability and obstructing international objectives. Counter-IED (CIED) strategy, in theory, targets IEDs are their source to enable interdiction to the 'left of the bang'; meaning literally before they can be emplaced and detonated. However, in reality CIED efforts have played into the insurgents' hands by concentrating on dealing with IEDs once they have been emplaced. This immediate requirement has consumed the lion's share of the finite resources available. CIED strategy needs to return its focus towards interdicting the IEDs before they are emplaced, to the left of the bang.

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By Scott Stewart

Looking at the world from a protective-intelligence perspective, the theme for the past week has not been improvised explosive devices or potential mass-casualty attacks. While there have been suicide bombings in Afghanistan, alleged threats to the World Cup and seemingly endless post-mortem discussions of the failed May 1 Times Square attack, one recurring and under-reported theme in a number of regions around the world has been kidnapping.

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By Scott Stewart

In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are "moving toward the "British model." This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.

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By Peter Zeihan

In recent weeks, STRATFOR has explored how the U.S. government has been seeing its interests in the Middle East and South Asia shift. When it comes down to it, the United States is interested in stability at the highest level — a sort of cold equilibrium among the region's major players that prevents any one of them, or a coalition of them — from overpowering the others and projecting power outward.

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By Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord

We in Defence are stretched, certainly, but I think we are also delivering across all of our business. The Navy's immediate, unquestionable focus remains its long-standing commitment to supporting the Joint Campaign in Afghanistan. From last October to April this year, around 3,000 members of the Naval Service provided over 30% of the UK forces deployed to Helmand, including not only the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and the Harrier jets of the Naval Strike Wing, but also Naval Air Squadron helicopters and significant numbers of logistic, engineering, medical and HQ staff. I pause to recognise the bravery of all those who have served and are serving in that Campaign. Indeed, as I speak, one of my sailors, Medical Assistant First Class Kate Nesbitt, is at Buckingham Palace to receive the Military Cross in recognition of her outstanding courage on the field of battle. I also pay tribute to those killed or injured in that fight, their selfless sacrifice and the courage of their families. The Navy's commitment to Afghanistan endures today with hundreds of individual sailors and marines in theatre supporting 11 Brigade. The future deployment of 40 Commando Royal Marines in 2010 as part of Operation HERRICK and of the remainder of 3 Commando Brigade planned during 2011 underscores the Navy's commitment to and engagement in this Campaign. Meanwhile, those elements of the Navy not in Afghanistan continue to undertake a vast range of other military tasks, providing the security needed to cover the UK's back while Defence focuses on Afghanistan. Naval ships, submarines, aircraft and personnel are currently deployed worldwide conducting national and multi-national operations which support the UK, promote its values and protect its interests and economic prosperity.

In the last 12 months alone, the range of tasks has been huge. Sailors and marines have been instrumental in intercepting major narcotic shipments in the Caribbean, off West Africa and in the Indian Ocean. Maritime security operations in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and off the Horn of Africa continue to intercept illegal activity and reassure legitimate users of the high seas, enabling global trade to continue unhindered by pirates, traffickers and other criminals. Importantly, that activity also protects the sea lanes along which logistic support to the fight in Afghanistan is supplied, and along which this island nation's food, energy and goods are imported and exported. Naval units are permanently deployed in the South Atlantic in support of the Government's responsibilities to protect the Falkland Islands and our interests in Antarctica.

Capacity building in the Gulf, particularly in Iraq, continues - as does intelligence support to operations and hydrographic activity across 3 oceans. At the same time, Royal Navy ships and aircraft continue to safeguard the integrity of UK Territorial Waters and Airspace, to provide counter terrorism support to the Home Office, to protect shipping, ports and offshore energy platforms, undertake inspection and enforcement action on behalf of the Marine and Fisheries Agency and conduct Search and Rescue operations around our coast. We are very busy on the Queen's business. Last, but far from least, the Royal Navy has for the last 40 years also been responsible for delivering the Nation's Nuclear Deterrent, arguably the ultimate guarantor of our country's security and sovereignty. While the UK remains nationally committed to retaining a Continuous At Sea Deterrent, the Royal Navy will continue to deliver it, 24/7, 365 days every year. Given that context, and the imminent Defence Review, my responsibility as a Defence Board member is to argue the case that the MoD's current prioritisation on the fight in Afghanistan should not lead to UK Armed Forces structured predominantly for a relatively narrow spectrum of land-locked, counter-insurgency operations and which lack the ability to conduct high-end war-fighting or indeed any of the vast array of operations in which the country's Armed Forces may be engaged in the future. Yet some have tried to argue that this is exactly the route we should be taking in Defence – that all future conflict will involve lengthy stabilisation operations, measured in years, with an emphasis on land forces fighting low-tech enemy insurgents. I think that view ignores two things: firstly, the clear potential for future global inter-state conflict and secondly, the declining appetite politically, and within society, for interventionism. While the focus on Afghanistan, and the priority that has been placed on achieving a successful outcome is unquestionable, we have to appreciate that international frictions do persist elsewhere and the possibility of state-on-state conflict within the next 20 years (either directly involving the UK or, more likely, indirectly affecting our vital national interests) cannot, and must not, be ruled out.

This debate, as we all know, is taking place at a time of substantial resource challenges, both in the UK and elsewhere. Although we enjoy a very high level of public support for most of what we do, the financial realities are such that the UK is considering adjustments in Defence whilst at the same time the ability of our allies to share the burden of defending our common values may also reduce.

That creates an obvious tension, and any Defence strategy, whatever assumptions underpin it, must reconcile the competing demands of policy and resource. "Common values" are another important point of context. If we are to ensure that the UK's Armed Forces are used as effectively as possible to meet the security and defence challenges of today and tomorrow, we need to focus on values. We need a common understanding, across Government and with our coalition partners and allies of what the UK stands for and how the country's Armed Forces can and will be used to promote those values while also protecting our interests. An articulation of our national values can find its expression in foreign and security policy ambitions. These should in turn drive the strategy which shapes the Armed Forces' contribution to the defence and security of the Nation, at an affordable scale, in the most cost-effective and agile manner. This suggests that economic policy should take its place alongside foreign and security policy as a driver of the UK's strategy for Defence. I'm optimistic that the Defence Review promised by both the Government and the Opposition, provided it can remain pitched at the strategic level, should help us to get there - and I am committed to working with my fellow Service Chiefs and the Government to ensure that we do. Let me be absolutely clear about one thing. Success in Afghanistan – however that success comes to be defined as the Campaign progresses - is vital to our national credibility and, hence, our national security. The Secretary of State in September espoused a policy of Afghanistan First, in which he made clear that it should be the Main Effort for Defence; this is a welcome development which builds on the Army's achievement, in last year getting operations there onto a true Campaign footing for the first time.

I fully support this new emphasis on Afghanistan, not least because, as I have explained, very many of my sailors and marines are fully engaged in the fight there, alongside Air Force and Army comrades. Importantly, and in contrast to the tone of resigned exasperation that seems to characterise so much press coverage of the Campaign, when I speak with those from all 3 Services who have returned from or who are still serving in Afghanistan, I am struck by their commitment to the mission, their unshakeable belief in what they are doing and the progress they are making. However, as I have stated, Afghanistan is not the only game in town, either now or in the future. As a member of the Defence Board, I am duty-bound to take a longer-term, strategic view of the challenges to the security and Defence of our Nation.

I am obliged to think Beyond Afghanistan. Beyond Afghanistan in terms of looking today at security challenges emanating from elsewhere in the world. And Beyond Afghanistan in terms of looking at the sort of threats and challenges we may be facing long after the fighting in Afghanistan has been consigned to history. We have to guard against Afghanistan becoming the template for a future UK Defence structure that can do nothing but more Afghanistans. The range of threats to UK interests is greater than that. I say that because we live in an unpredictable world characterised by a rapid, often confounding, rate of change. This inevitably has an impact on the UK. Britain is an island nation, dependent on the free movement of maritime trade and highly reliant on the stability and security of the globalised world. The UK has worldwide interests and responsibilities; it benefits from being a hub for global activity and is an influential member of the UN Security Council Permanent 5, the G20, NATO and the EU. The UK is also responsible for the security of 14 overseas territories and its population is increasingly multi-ethnic, with a large number of UK nationals living abroad. Our national prosperity and freedoms are increasingly vulnerable to events across the globe and therefore UK domestic security, and the protection of our vital national interests, cannot be separated from the security and stability of the international system upon which we rely. The UK's National Security Strategy, updated in July, reminds us that the UK's prosperity and national wealth are founded upon, and continue to be enhanced by, our outward-facing participation in the global trading system. When it comes to thinking about and planning for the security challenges of tomorrow – from a strategic perspective – you might agree with an analysis that suggests that while an existential threat to the UK is pretty unlikely, this country's involvement in conflict somewhere on the planet is a distinct possibility. The proliferation of small wars as state and non-state actors jostle for their place in the new order of things, and the reliance of our economy on investment and trade across the international community, make this a reasonable assumption. Governments not directly involved in these smaller conflicts will – as ever – have to decide to what extent their national interests are engaged by them and decide on the extent they wish to respond militarily. That in turn depends on the military capability at their disposal. As always, the military needs to be configured to give maximum political freedom of choice to Government. Whether the military is used in a given situation is a matter for Government. How the military is used is also a matter for Government, taking advice from the Chiefs – but how the military is configured is very much the business of the Chiefs. When you think about it, what the Government really wants from Defence is the efficient delivery of one of the levers of national power – military force – in a way that maximises political freedom of choice.

I think that has always been the case, but the need to preserve political choice has been thrown into sharper relief by the experience of recent campaigns. In terms of maximising choice, I am a firm believer that prevention of conflict is always better than cure. A proactive policy of conflict prevention, using all the levers of national power but placing conventional military capabilities at its heart, should be central to our national efforts to defend the international system and the UK's place within it. This is a strategy that offers the Government choices in deciding how best to prevent conflict, while retaining the option of resort to combat force in the event that this proves necessary. An effective conflict prevention strategy calls for a range of activities, including diplomatic and economic action, which can simultaneously persuade, dissuade and if necessary deter a potential aggressor, in order to prevent the escalation of situations into conflict. Those activities do, however, ultimately depend on military capabilities to enable them or back them up. For us in the military, conflict prevention strategies encompass non-kinetic activities such as capacity building, wider regional engagement, reassurance, the ability to conduct Non Combatant Evacuation Operations as we did in the Lebanon in 2006, the provision of humanitarian relief, and military-to-military cooperation and training. All of these military activities enable security threats to be tackled early and facilitate the promotion and protection of UK national interests globally.

Importantly, it is not solely about influencing potential aggressors. It's also about reassuring friends and developing alliances. This is vital for effective coalition security operations because although forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and co-operation with allies cannot be surged. It is particularly in this regard that the UK's Armed Forces can be the standard-bearers for this nation and its values.
However, the ability to influence is also dependent on maintaining a capable and credible military which can operate in support of a wider Government strategy. If non-kinetic activity to contain or deter others is to be effective, it must be underpinned by the existence and proven success of credible, conventional military forces, capable of wielding a big stick and a willingness, if necessary, for Government to compel others to act in a desired manner.

It is precisely because the effective prevention of conflict in the future depends upon the continued credibility of our armed forces that the success of UK Armed Forces in the Afghanistan campaign is so important.
And what contribution can you expect from Maritime Forces? Appropriately structured, trained and resourced maritime forces afford the Government a highly cost-effective, military means by which political and diplomatic influence can be leveraged to prevent conflict.

When necessary, they can also apply decisive combat force in support of national objectives. The ships and submarines that guarantee the freedom of the seas also exploit those freedoms for strategic and operational effect, free from the constraints of host nation support or the need for access, basing and over-flight permissions from other countries.

Warships are incredibly versatile and can deploy for many months with a small logistic foot-print and very controllable political overheads. A single ship can do everything from diplomatic engagement, the delivery of humanitarian aid, capacity-building by training other forces, containment and coercion through embargo operations and the delivery of decisive combat power onto the land. A balanced maritime force can deliver amphibious forces, Carrier Strike, Naval Gun Fire and submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. That last bit – the ability to strike with precision – really matters. The case for conflict prevention activity is strong, but there can be no guarantees that it will be successful in every case.

As I said a moment ago, in the event that prevention activity fails, military forces with credible war-fighting capabilities will be required to coerce or confront a potential aggressor in order to limit or contain the conflict. In extremis, they may be called upon to intervene militarily, using their war-fighting capabilities to defeat the aggressor. Where force has to be used, it must be used precisely.

Maritime Forces can do all of this, and operate on land – as they are in Afghanistan – at sea and in the air. So, while Afghanistan is rightly the Main Effort, it should not be regarded as the Only Effort. The range of threats to UK interests is greater than that. In these challenging times, we will need to retain armed forces that are versatile and adaptable, flexible and resilient across the full spectrum of operations, from conflict prevention to high-end war-fighting and back again, at range, from the UK.

Forces that possess these attributes will best equip Defence for its vital role in supporting Government in the future. Such forces can offer real policy choice to the Government in deciding whether and how to engage with others, how to respond to developing threats and crises while minimising entanglement and how best to protect the UK's national interests and promote its values in the wider world, Beyond Afghanistan.

Edited version of  a speech deklivered at Chatham House 27 November 2009


By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the broad structure of his Afghanistan strategy in a speech at West Point on Tuesday evening. The strategy had three core elements. First, he intends to maintain pressure on al Qaeda on the Afghan-Pakistani border and in other regions of the world. Second, he intends to blunt the Taliban offensive by sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, along with an unspecified number of NATO troops he hopes will join them. Third, he will use the space created by the counteroffensive against the Taliban and the resulting security in some regions of Afghanistan to train and build Afghan military forces and civilian structures to assume responsibility after the United States withdraws. Obama added that the U.S. withdrawal will begin in July 2011, but provided neither information on the magnitude of the withdrawal nor the date when the withdrawal would conclude. He made it clear that these will depend on the situation on the ground, adding that the U.S. commitment is finite.

In understanding this strategy, we must begin with an obvious but unstated point: The extra forces that will be deployed to Afghanistan are not expected to defeat the Taliban. Instead, their mission is to reverse the momentum of previous years and to create the circumstances under which an Afghan force can take over the mission. The U.S. presence is therefore a stopgap measure, not the ultimate solution.

The ultimate solution is training an Afghan force to engage the Taliban over the long haul, undermining support for the Taliban, and dealing with al Qaeda forces along the Pakistani border and in the rest of Afghanistan. If the United States withdraws all of its forces as Obama intends, the Afghan military would have to assume all of these missions. Therefore, we must consider the condition of the Afghan military to evaluate the strategy's viability.

Afghanistan vs. Vietnam

Obama went to great pains to distinguish Afghanistan from Vietnam, and there are indeed many differences. The core strategy adopted by Richard Nixon (not Lyndon Johnson) in Vietnam, called "Vietnamization," saw U.S. forces working to blunt and disrupt the main North Vietnamese forces while the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would be trained, motivated and deployed to replace U.S. forces to be systematically withdrawn from Vietnam. The equivalent of the Afghan surge was the U.S. attack on North Vietnamese Army (NVA) bases in Cambodia and offensives in northern South Vietnam designed to disrupt NVA command and control and logistics and forestall a major offensive by the NVA. Troops were in fact removed in parallel with the Cambodian offensives.

Nixon faced two points Obama now faces. First, the United States could not provide security for South Vietnam indefinitely. Second, the South Vietnamese would have to provide security for themselves. The role of the United States was to create the conditions under which the ARVN would become an effective fighting force; the impending U.S. withdrawal was intended to increase the pressure on the Vietnamese government to reform and on the ARVN to fight.

Many have argued that the core weakness of the strategy was that the ARVN was not motivated to fight. This was certainly true in some cases, but the idea that the South Vietnamese were generally sympathetic to the Communists is untrue. Some were, but many weren't, as shown by the minimal refugee movement into NVA-held territory or into North Vietnam itself contrasted with the substantial refugee movement into U.S./ARVN-held territory and away from NVA forces. The patterns of refugee movement are, we think, highly indicative of true sentiment.

Certainly, there were mixed sentiments, but the failure of the ARVN was not primarily due to hostility or even lack of motivation. Instead, it was due to a problem that must be addressed and overcome if the Afghanistation war is to succeed. That problem is understanding the role that Communist sympathizers and agents played in the formation of the ARVN.

By the time the ARVN expanded — and for that matter from its very foundation — the North Vietnamese intelligence services had created a systematic program for inserting operatives and recruiting sympathizers at every level of the ARVN, from senior staff and command positions down to the squad level. The exploitation of these assets was not random nor merely intended to undermine moral. Instead, it provided the NVA with strategic, operational and tactical intelligence on ARVN operations, and when ARVN and U.S. forces operated together, on U.S. efforts as well.

In any insurgency, the key for insurgent victory is avoiding battles on the enemy's terms and initiating combat only on the insurgents' terms. The NVA was a light infantry force. The ARVN — and the U.S. Army on which it was modeled — was a much heavier, combined-arms force. In any encounter between the NVA and its enemies the NVA would lose unless the encounter was at the time and place of the NVA's choosing. ARVN and U.S. forces had a tremendous advantage in firepower and sheer weight. But they had a significant weakness: The weight they bought to bear meant they were less agile. The NVA had a tremendous weakness. Caught by surprise, it would be defeated. And it had a great advantage: Its intelligence network inside the ARVN generally kept it from being surprised. It also revealed weakness in its enemies' deployment, allowing it to initiate successful offensives.

All war is about intelligence, but nowhere is this truer than in counterinsurgency and guerrilla war, where invisibility to the enemy and maintaining the initiative in all engagements is key. Only clear intelligence on the enemy's capability gives this initiative to an insurgent, and only denying intelligence to the enemy — or knowing what the enemy knows and intends — preserves the insurgent force.

The construction of an Afghan military is an obvious opportunity for Taliban operatives and sympathizers to be inserted into the force. As in Vietnam, such operatives and sympathizers are not readily distinguishable from loyal soldiers; ideology is not something easy to discern. With these operatives in place, the Taliban will know of and avoid Afghan army forces and will identify Afghan army weaknesses. Knowing that the Americans are withdrawing as the NVA did in Vietnam means the rational strategy of the Taliban is to reduce operational tempo, allow the withdrawal to proceed, and then take advantage of superior intelligence and the ability to disrupt the Afghan forces internally to launch the Taliban offensives.

The Western solution is not to prevent Taliban sympathizers from penetrating the Afghan army. Rather, the solution is penetrating the Taliban. In Vietnam, the United States used signals intelligence extensively. The NVA came to understand this and minimized radio communications, accepting inefficient central command and control in return for operational security. The solution to this problem lay in placing South Vietnamese into the NVA. There were many cases in which this worked, but on balance, the NVA had a huge advantage in the length of time it had spent penetrating the ARVN versus U.S. and ARVN counteractions. The intelligence war on the whole went to the North Vietnamese. The United States won almost all engagements, but the NVA made certain that it avoided most engagements until it was ready.

In the case of Afghanistan, the United States has far more sophisticated intelligence-gathering tools than it did in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the basic principle remains: An intelligence tool can be understood, taken into account and evaded. By contrast, deep penetration on multiple levels by human intelligence cannot be avoided.

Pakistan's Role

Obama mentioned Pakistan's critical role. Clearly, he understands the lessons of Vietnam regarding sanctuary, and so he made it clear that he expects Pakistan to engage and destroy Taliban forces on its territory and to deny Afghan Taliban supplies, replacements and refuge. He cited the Swat and South Waziristan offensives as examples of the Pakistanis' growing effectiveness. While this is a significant piece of his strategy, the Pakistanis must play another role with regard to intelligence.

The heart of Obama's strategy lies not in the surge, but rather in turning the war over to the Afghans. As in Vietnam, any simplistic model of loyalties doesn't work. There are Afghans sufficiently motivated to form the core of an effective army. As in Vietnam, the problem is that this army will contain large numbers of Taliban sympathizers; there is no way to prevent this. The Taliban is not stupid: It has and will continue to move its people into as many key positions as possible.

The challenge lies in leveling the playing field by inserting operatives into the Taliban. Since the Afghan intelligence services are inherently insecure, they can't carry out such missions. American personnel bring technical intelligence to bear, but that does not compensate for human intelligence. The only entity that could conceivably penetrate the Taliban and remain secure is the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This would give the Americans and Afghans knowledge of Taliban plans and deployments. This would diminish the ability of the Taliban to evade attacks, and although penetrated as well, the Afghan army would enjoy a chance ARVN never had.

But only the ISI could do this, and thinking of the ISI as secure is hard to do from a historical point of view. The ISI worked closely with the Taliban during the Afghan civil war that brought it to power and afterwards, and the ISI had many Taliban sympathizers. The ISI underwent significant purging and restructuring to eliminate these elements over recent years, but no one knows how successful these efforts were.

The ISI remains the center of gravity of the entire problem. If the war is about creating an Afghan army, and if we accept that the Taliban will penetrate this army heavily no matter what, then the only counter is to penetrate the Taliban equally. Without that, Obama's entire strategy fails as Nixon's did.

In his talk, Obama quite properly avoided discussing the intelligence aspect of the war. He clearly cannot ignore the problem we have laid out, but neither can he simply count on the ISI. He does not need the entire ISI for this mission, however. He needs a carved out portion — compartmentalized and invisible to the greatest possible extent — to recruit and insert operatives into the Taliban and to create and manage communication networks so as to render the Taliban transparent. Given Taliban successes of late, it isn't clear whether he has this intelligence capability. Either way, we would have to assume that some Pakistani solution to the Taliban intelligence issue has been discussed (and such a solution must be Pakistani for ethnic and linguistic reasons).

Every war has its center of gravity, and Obama has made clear that the center of gravity of this war will be the Afghan military's ability to replace the Americans in a very few years. If that is the center of gravity, and if maintaining security against Taliban penetration is impossible, then the single most important enabler to Obama's strategy would seem to be the ability to make the Taliban transparent.

Therefore, Pakistan is important not only as the Cambodia of this war, the place where insurgents go to regroup and resupply, but also as a key element of the solution to the intelligence war. It is all about Pakistan. And that makes Obama's plan difficult to execute. It is far easier to write these words than to execute a plan based on them. But to the extent Obama is serious about the Afghan army taking over, he and his team have had to think about how to do this.

(c) Stratfor Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved


The CIA Factbook described Kyrgyzstan as a land of "incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions."

This landlocked Central Asian nation is home to a military base that's vital to U.S. in Afghanistan war, and for which the de facto price has risen sharply in the last few years as its Government played successful hard-ball with the USA.

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By Scott Stewart

Last week, rumours that Adam Gadahn had been arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, quickly swept through the global media. When the dust settled, it turned out that the rumours were incorrect; the person arrested was not the American-born al Qaeda spokesman. The excitement generated by the rumours overshadowed a message from Gadahn that the al Qaeda media arm as Sahab had released on March 7, the same day as the reported arrest. While many of the messages from al Qaeda figures that as Sahab has released over the past several years have been repetitive and quite unremarkable, after watching Gadahn's March 7 message, we believe that it is a message too interesting to ignore.

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By Lana Jarsdell

Just as Catholics are famous for their burden of guilt; so it is with Muslims and their burden of responsibility for the Ummah. From a very young age, one is taught that the plight of Muslims the world over is a single battle, one in which we are all a part.

Having been brought up in the UK, my own opinion as well as that of many of my counterparts has been shaped by the fortunate opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Living in a liberal society one is allowed to experience all aspects of life and culture, whilst at the same time maintain one's own religious and moral beliefs. My friends and I have managed to form strong relationships with those around us, openly discussing all aspects of our lives: All aspects that is apart from one.

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By Professor Julian Lindley-French

The first few years of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) engagement were marred by failures at the strategic level. Lack of consensus over what was achievable was compounded by a lack of strategy and cohesion. A US administration distracted by Iraq and much of Europe lost in the Euro world compounded a sense of lost opportunity.

However, with the arrival of the Obama administration and more specifically the Afghanistan and Pakistan Strategy, new optimism abounds. Taken together with forthcoming elections in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Army offensive in the Swat Valley and surroundings, a new beginning has been afforded the Coalition. Building on the base provided by the sacrifice of Coalition Armed Forces the next two years will be critical if the Afghanistan/ Pakistan region is to be denied those who could and would do Britain and its partners great harm.

The US Comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan has five main elements: establishing an attainable objective; a regional approach; building capacity and more training; using all elements of national power; and bringing new international elements to the effort.

It is worth re-stating why British forces are in Afghanistan, the vital and important nature of the work they are doing there and how 'success' is going to be crafted. The rationale for the mission is undeniable; for the first time in history terrorists and criminals have global reach and are able and willing to use ungoverned spaces and huge illicit flows of capital to seek access to ageing but massively destructive weaponry and/ or to organise attacks not only upon the West, but all the many states in the Middle East upon which Britain depends for vast amounts of energy.

Make no mistake, Britain is engaged in a strategic struggle with terror, the outcome of which will shape British strategic credibility in all security areas for a generation to come. Afghanistan is thus about Britain's strategic credibility, both at home and abroad. For if London is unable to protect the British home base against such threats, it will be unable to project security elsewhere.

The UK strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is based on several guiding principles: an international approach; a regional approach; a joint civil-military approach; a better co-ordinated approach; a long-term approach calling for the respect for sovereignty and local values with respect for international standards with the demand for a hard-headed approach. Britain is offering a further £665 million of aid and development to Pakistan over the 2009-2013 period and £510 million, over the same period, to Afghanistan.

Southern Afghanistan is the centre of gravity of the struggle in a war that bestrides the Afghan- Pakistan border. 'Success' therein is dependent on six interlocking elements; destruction of the will and structure of the enemy, a plan worthy of the name, a counternarcotics plan embedded in regional economic development, de-Westernisation of the mission together with a regional political strategy, and both Afghan and Pakistani Governments gripped of the seriousness of the moment and prepared to confront inner contradictions as much as external threats. Above all, an agreed definition of what actually would constitute success – an Afghan state that shares the same attributes as its immediate neighbours to the north, the fellow 'stans' most of whom (with the possible exception of Uzbekistan) share basic but robust systems of government with a 'democratic' process of sorts that places stability at the top of the political agenda. Why? Because Afghanistan is Afghanistan and the West went there to deny that space to the likes of Al Qaeda.

Destruction of the enemy: The new US administration is rightly increasing the effort along the lines of Taliban communication in south and east Afghanistan. Moreover, as part of its new Regional Strategy it is working with the Pakistani Government and Armed Forces to break the safe havens around Quetta and Peshawar, as well as flush out the foreign fighters from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). However, destroying the Taliban must be balanced with the aim of transforming the Taliban, they are after all part of the Pashtun landscape. That will require the political reconciliation central to the Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy to bring all but the hard core back into mainstream Afghan and Pakistani political processes. This in turn will require breaking the link between drugs money and the insurgency that will necessarily be linked to returning land rights to many tier two Taliban.

The exact number of Taliban and foreign fighters in Afghanistan is complex. The Taliban can field up to 10,000 fighters but only 2,000 to 3,000 are highly motivated, full-time insurgents. The rest are part-time fighters, young afghan men who have been alienated by government corruption and unemployment, often angry at civilian deaths caused by American bombing raids, or are simply paid. Some 5-10 per cent of full-time insurgents are believed to be foreigners: Arabs, Chechens, Uighurs (Western China), Uzbeks and Russians from the Siberian region.

In other words, political reconciliation will cost money and must run in parallel with the maintenance of military pressure. Here the likes of Saudi Arabia can be of significant help in reducing the funding that flows from Saudi Arabia to the Taliban and the foreign fighters and which fuels radical teaching in the Madrassas in the NWFP.

A Plan

ISAF has only had a strategic campaign plan worthy of the name since 2008. Campaign plans are not the be all and end all of success because much of the work by necessity is about local relationships. However, with the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in place, the appointment of counterinsurgency specialist General David Petraeus to lead CENTCOM and General Stanley McCrystal to lead ISAF, and given a reasonable definition of success and a proper grip of strategic communications both at home and abroad, a new realism abounds.

The US has ordered the deployment of an additional 21,000 troops to the afghan theatre, while US troop strength in Afghanistan should hit 68,000 by late 2009. There are an additional 33,000 allied troops under US and NATO commands with afghan security forces planned to reach 232,000 by 2012.

That realism must itself be founded on three basic realities. First, the Afghan people are the critical ground and General McCrystal has made reducing their casualties and improving life quality a priority. Second, the three-phase strategy identifies end-2011 as the moment when Afghan civil primacy must come to the fore with the security effort having been by and large successful. Third, the new Afghan Government must begin to fulfil its side of the Afghan National Development Strategy. Above all, the provincial reconstruction teams need to become much more efficient in delivering development across the country that is relevant to the needs of the people, measurable and sustainable. Only then will Afghans stop sitting on the political fence between support for the Coalition and fear of the Taliban.

A Counter narcotics strategy embedded in Development

Some 85 per cent of the population of Regional Command South are dependent on agriculture and much of that in turn is poppy. The insurgency is funded to a very significant extent by the fruits of the crop. Breaking those links will require a proper investment in alternatives for the Afghan people.

A mark of the problem is apparent in the gap that exists between the stated aid sent by the

British Government for Helmand and the actual amount that reaches the province – 10 per cent.

Moreover, while sustained and effective substitution crops will be essential to guarantee incomes, other steps must be taken.

These will include: breaking the hold Narco-Khans have over farmers through loans; improving the daily access to power supplies; the Afghan Government removing said individuals from Government; and, above all, a regional economic strategy to embed the future Afghan economy in its wider region. Indeed, the Afghan National Development Strategy only makes real sense when seen from the perspective of wider regional development.

The Afghan National Police force (ANP) will total 82,000 personnel. The ANP can only cover 50 per cent of police districts at present due to lack of available personnel. There are 365 police districts with the need for at least ten officers per district. The Afghan Government claims that there are now 40,000 police officers on the ANP payroll. The US checked these figures and confirmed that some 32,000 (80 per cent) can be accounted for. ANP casualties are 20-times higher than ANA. 3,000 ANP are planned for RC south.


Too much of the narrative surrounding the ISAF mission has been about NATO in Asia. In fact, NATO is only an agent for a UN-sanctioned mission agreed by UN Security Council resolution. Two political initiatives are underway to ease that problem.

First, there is a strong push for a stronger UN role focused on the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Thus far a very cautious UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon has been unwilling to give the UN agencies on the ground the support needed to lead the governance and development tracks vital to mission success. This task has been passed on to overstretched Coalition Armed Forces, which reinforce an impression of NATO versus the Taliban rather than the international community engaging extremism. Of course, a key element of de-Westernisation will be the enhanced role Afghans themselves must play in the years to come.

Good work has been done to enhance the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces, particularly the Army, but much more needs to be done. The establishment of a functioning and reasonably functioning civil service is a vital pre-requisite for functioning governance. Sadly, the Soviets destroyed much of the Afghan middle class in the 1980s and many of Afghanistan's best and brightest remain outside the country.

The regional strategy

The Obama administration recognised early into its term of office that any political reconciliation strategy in Afghanistan must include a wider regional strategy aimed at solving the one nation (Pashtun), two state (Afghanistan and Pakistan) problem and thus separating those issues from Al Qaeda-inspired Jihadism.

For that reason President Obama appointed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to lead the wider regional effort. The effort is primarily focused on strengthening Pakistani state institutions, particularly in the tribal lands of the NWFP, not least the Pakistani Army – the effectiveness of which is vital for Pakistan's future and Coalition strategy.

However, there is a wider agenda. For example, one problem faced by the Coalition is the deleterious effect of the conflict between Pakistan and India over Jammu-Kashmir. Unable to concentrate on both the Indians and the NWFP, the Pakistanis have tended to play down threats from the latter, while India has traditionally seen instability in southern Afghanistan as a way to keep the Pakistani military off balance.

Holbrooke has already made significant progress with British support to ease those tensions. Importantly, a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan is being formed to include all those with a stake in regional security – NATO allies and partners, Central Asian states, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Russia and China.

"The cornerstone of this strategy... is that it's a regional approach. And for the first time, we will treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but as one challenge in one region. Our strategy focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and this is normal, because it's a newer problem. And this calls for more significant increases in US and international support, both economic and military, linked to performance against terror."

General James l Jones, US national security advisor, 27 March, 2009

Originally Published by Newsdesk Communications in partnership with the British Army.

The articles that make up this publication have been submitted by a wide selection of authors, many of whom are not members of the British Army. The views are their own. I have encouraged them to submit opinions and ideas which may run contrary to those of the Army, in order to stimulate and broaden debate.

Chris Donnelly, Editor


How to Evaluate the Effectiveness and Credibility of a Defining Test of Obama's Leadership - By Anthony H. Cordesman

President Obama must now make a decision that will define his presidency. President Obama will have to take personal responsibility for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, betting his historical reputation and second term on the outcome.

At the same time, far more is at stake than the President's reputation. Once the President's choices are put into action it is unlikely that events will offer another chance to reinvent the US approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation is too critical, the need for action too critical, and support for the war too uncertain.

Read more...  

I am a 21 year old woman and my life was very happy and full of love. This was before a terrible...experience occurred...I try my hardest to keep up with understanding the background to your decisions on Afghanistan...

I want to explain my background so maybe you can relate in some way to why I am very frustrated with you, and maybe you will understand we are people not just numbers...I left school after my GCSEs and I started to think about serving my country and working for the British Army. I enrolled onto a college course and got my diplomas.

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By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla

The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda's sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

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"Do we get it? Yes we do!" – Bill Rammell MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, at The Sun defence meeting in Manchester. (And sorry, there were no Page 3 stunnas as we'd previously speculated.)

"We should count our blessing. We're lucky there are still volunteers (for the Army) in our democracy."  Dr Liam Fox MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.

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By Dr. Liam Fox MP - Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

This year in Afghanistan has been the bloodiest for both British and American forces since the war started in 2001.

Compared with this time last year, there has been a 55 percent increase in coalition deaths, IED (improvised explosive device) incidents are up by 80 percent, and there has been a 90 percent increase in attacks on the Afghan government. On top of this increase in kinetic activity, Afghanistan's political future is filled with uncertainty pending the results of the recent presidential elections.

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By George Friedman

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, now-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that like all U.S. presidents, Barack Obama would face a foreign policy test early in his presidency if elected. That test is now here.

His test comprises two apparently distinct challenges, one in Afghanistan and one in Iran. While different problems, they have three elements in common. First, they involve the question of his administration's overarching strategy in the Islamic world. Second, the problems are approaching decision points (and making no decision represents a decision here). And third, they are playing out very differently than Obama expected during the 2008 campaign.

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by Lisa Curtis

A faulty Afghan election and decreasing American public support for the war in Afghanistan are leading President Obama to question his Administration's strategy for defeating the terrorist threat centered in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

American domestic politics and a complicated regional picture are apparently coloring President Obama's thinking on U.S. strategy toward these two countries, potentially prompting him to scale back U.S. goals in the region. That would be a mistake. While there is a need to carefully review and refine tactics and strategies, President Obama must shun the temptation to believe that the U.S. can somehow defeat al-Qaeda without preventing Afghanistan from being engulfed by the Taliban-led insurgency.

In his comprehensive assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, which was leaked to the U.S. media earlier this week, U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal lays out a strategy for moving forward that would require the deployment of fresh U.S. troops. This is not surprising. On several occasions, President Obama himself has pronounced that the war in Afghanistan has not received the appropriate resources—such as U.S. leadership, troop levels, and financial commitments—necessary to achieve U.S. objectives. General McChrystal argues for increasing the focus on protecting the Afghan population from Taliban advances, a recommendation based in part on the recent American experience in Iraq, where General Petraeus's "people-centric" approach to counterinsurgency paid dividends and ultimately discredited al-Qaeda and its harsh tactics. General McChrystal also makes the case that new U.S. troop deployments must come quickly or the U.S. risks facing a situation in which it will be impossible to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

Separating Taliban Leadership from al-Qaeda: An Unrealistic Goal

In a March 27speech, President Obama was clear on the link between the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the threat posed by al-Qaeda to the governing regimes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He rightly said, "And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban—or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged—that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

But his remarks on Afghanistan at Wednesday's United Nations General Assembly reveal that he may be second-guessing U.S. strategy in the region. While he repeated his commitment to not allowing al-Qaeda to find sanctuary in Afghanistan or "any other nation" (i.e., Pakistan), he failed to mention the Taliban insurgency that is threatening to destabilize Afghanistan and the necessity of preventing such an outcome.

His apparent backtracking on Afghanistan can also be found in statements he made on this past Sunday's morning talk shows in which he openly questioned whether fighting the Taliban insurgency is necessary to stopping al-Qaeda.

According to media reports, President Obama is considering implementing a plan supported by Vice President Joe Biden to scale back the American military presence in Afghanistan and focus on targeting al-Qaeda cells primarily in western Pakistan. This strategy would be insufficient to curb the terrorist threat emanating from the region. Ceding territory to the Taliban in Afghanistan would embolden international terrorists in the region, including in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Over the last year U.S. predator strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan have been effective at disrupting the al-Qaeda leadership, and President Obama deserves credit for aggressively employing this tactic. However, the predator strikes in Pakistan must be accompanied by sustained U.S. and NATO military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship, and they support each other's harsh Islamist, anti-West goals. It would be folly to think a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would be anything but a deadly international terrorist safe haven.

Success in Afghanistan requires that those Taliban who support international terrorists are not in a position to threaten the stability of the government. This will ultimately require a strong, well-equipped, and well-trained Afghan national army and police force. But this will take time.

In the meantime, the U.S. must prevent the Taliban from regaining influence in Afghanistan, which requires increasing U.S. troop levels. Success in Afghanistan does not require the complete elimination of anyone who has ever associated with the Taliban. But it does require that the Taliban leaders still allied with al-Qaeda and supportive of its destructive global agenda do not have the ability to reassert power in Afghanistan.

Focus on Improving U.S. Strategy toward Pakistan

Instead of considering whether to scale back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration must figure out how it can increase its diplomatic leverage with Islamabad. It is mind-boggling that after eight years of seeking to partner with Pakistan in countering terrorism in the region and providing nearly $15 billion in U.S. economic and military assistance to the country, the insurgency in southern Afghanistan is directed by Afghan Taliban leaders located in Pakistan that are "reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI," as General McChrystal concludes in his report.

The McChrystal report acknowledges that most insurgent fighters in Afghanistan are "directed by a small number of Afghan senior leaders based in Pakistan that work through an alternative political infrastructure in Afghanistan." However, the report fails to spell out a strategy for neutralizing this leadership and for convincing Pakistan to use all of the tools at its disposal to assist the U.S. in that effort.

Pakistan has made substantial gains against insurgents threatening stability inside Pakistan. There is more clarity within the Pakistani military leadership and among the Pakistani public about the threat posed to the country from Taliban elements. A recent public opinion poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 69 percent of Pakistanis worry that extremists could take control of their country. The poll further indicated that 70 percent of Pakistanis now rate the Taliban unfavorably compared to only 33 percent a year ago.

U.S. officials must now build on this momentum by convincing Pakistan to take the fight to the Afghan Taliban leadership that finds sanctuary in and around Quetta in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. U.S. officials must convince Pakistan of the futility of allowing the Afghan Taliban leadership to flourish in the region and of the potential consequences for Pakistan's own stability of refusing to crack down on these elements.

Emboldening a Generation of International Terrorists

The Taliban/al-Qaeda threat spans the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; thus, failure in one country will contribute to failure in the other—just as success in one country will breed success in the other. By appointing Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the Senior Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this year, President Obama signaled that he understood this reality.

The imperfect elections in Afghanistan should not deter the Obama Administration from providing the resources necessary to achieve stability in Afghanistan. To be sure, the outcome of the election was certainly less than ideal. But pulling back from Afghanistan would be devastating, as it would embolden a generation of international terrorists who would then be able to strike at will whenever and wherever they choose.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

Copyright 2009 The Heritage Foundation. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.


by James Phillips

President Obama soon must make one of his most important national security decisions: how to proceed in Afghanistan, a crucial theater in the war against al-Qaeda. This week the President received an assessment of the war from General Stanley McChrystal, his recently appointed commander in Afghanistan. While the details of this report remain classified, it is believed to set the framework for an expanded military effort within a new counterinsurgency strategy that puts a premium on protecting the Afghan people from Taliban terrorism and intimidation. To protect vital national interests by defeating al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies, President Obama must give his military commanders the best chance for success--not accede to advisers motivated by political expediency who would block additional troops and abandon the Administration's new Afghanistan strategy before it can be implemented.

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By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

Seven men accused by U.S. authorities of belonging to a militant cell appeared in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C., for a detention hearing Aug. 4. The hearing turned out to be very lengthy and had to be continued Aug. 5, when the judge ordered the men to remain in government custody until their trial. The seven men, along with an eighth who is not currently in U.S. custody, have been charged with, among other things, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country.

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By Simon Roberts, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

On 10th August Quentin Davies, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, spoke with BBC Radio from Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he was visiting troops on operations. Predictably the questions all focused on the recent media reports of a lack of equipment for troops on the front line and whether this was a cause for the increased loss of lives over the past few months.

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