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ARLINGTON: “We have, in my view, exquisite capabilities to kill people,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland. “We need exquisite capabilities to manipulate them.” Psychological subtlety and the US military don’t always go hand-in-hand. Worldwide, we’ve become better known for drone strikes and Special Operations raids to kill High Value Targets. But that wasn’t enough for the last 13… Keep reading →

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CAPITOL HILL: Afghanistan won’t go downhill like Iraq, the next Marine Corps Commandant told the Senate Armed Services Committee, because the US isn’t withdrawing in the same precipitous way. In fact, we’re not withdrawing, just transitioning. “I was one of the thousands of Marines who served in the Anbar province,” now fallen to the Islamic… Keep reading →

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The commander of US Special Operations Command, Adm. William McRaven, will deliver the keynote speech this morning at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference. One of the most respected analysts of special forces, Linda Robinson of the RAND Corp., wants to send a message to the admiral’s bosses and to Congress: special operations… Keep reading →

A Croatian soldier and a Minnesota National Guardsman train together for Afghanistan.

Yesterday, four mid-grade military officers — one from each armed service – made a remarkable public recommendation to their boss, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: It’s time to force the four services back into clearly demarcated “lanes” and reduce overlap between them as budgets shrink and competition escalates. They focused on three high-priority areas: Cybersecurity, the… Keep reading →

US, Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Kenyan troops stand at attention during a joint exercise.

WASHINGTON: Friday’s Navy SEAL raid aimed at capturing the Somali terrorist known as Ikrimah is a glimpse at the future of American warfare, one where a small US combat presence is boosted by widescale support to local forces who bear the brunt of the fighting. The raid itself came like a blitzkrieg from the blue… Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: When Linda Robinson speaks, special operators listen.

The “silent professionals” are — for good reason — traditionally tight-lipped. The chief of Special Operations Command, Adm. William McRaven, proved that again today during a panel at the Wilson Center, giving eloquent non-answers to questions about what might transpire in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. But McRaven made it clear that if you want to know what he’s really thinking about the future of SOCOM, you’d better pay attention to the panelist who sat two chairs down: former Central Command advisor and bestselling David Petraeus biographer Linda Robinson. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: America’s commandos have been darlings of the Congress, Pentagon, and the media since 9/11. Now, as Special Operations Forces reorient from Iraq and Afghanistan to lower-profile missions worldwide in places like Mali, they will need new sources of funding and new legal authorities — changes that may rub both Congress and the four armed services the wrong way.

That’s the conclusion of a recent report by Wilson Center scholar and sometime US Central Command advisor Linda Robinson, who interviewed more that 60 senior officers and civilian officials, released last week by the Council on Foreign Relations. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, one of the Army’s leading thinkers warned Washington not to learn the wrong lessons.

[Click here from top Army generals on Iraq: Shock and Awe? Never again!] Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: Sequestration, Continuing Resolution, and snow be damned; the House Armed Services Committee met this morning to wrestle with long-term strategy. In a hearing not only overshadowed but outright interrupted by the House’s desperate effort to band-aid the budget crisis, top HASC leaders from both parties argued for expanding the military’s authorities to work with foreign forces — including those accused of violating human rights.

[Click here for more House and Senate testimony on Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and sequestration] Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Tomorrow morning, overshadowed by sequestration, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a rare full-committee hearing on a topic that would normally be high-profile, even explosive: whether to give the Defense Department, and especially its elite special operators, broader legal authority to work with foreign forces worldwide, from Colombia to Mali to the Philippines.

To implement the administration’s January 2012 strategy, with its emphasis on supporting foreign partners rather than committing large numbers of US troops, “we need to overhaul our authorities to provide assistance to other security forces,” HASC vice-chairman Mac Thornberry told Breaking Defense. And despite the bitter partisan divisions on most other issues, he said, “there is interest — equal interest — on both sides to examine existing authorities and see how they can be improved.” Keep reading →

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