Special Operations night Afghanistan

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 →

Army soldier with radio entering Stryker - Baghdad

AUSA: A new generation of generals is rising in the Army. It’s a generation forced to get creative by more than a decade of ugly unconventional conflicts. It’s a generation disillusioned by the mistakes of superiors, military and civilian alike. It’s a generation willing to take on the Army’s bureaucratic culture of top-down management, which… Keep reading →

South Dakota National Guard soldiers on duty in Afghanistan.

The battle between the regular Army and the National Guard, which we all knew would blow up one of these days, has blown up. At 3:30 this afternoon, the spokesman of the 54 state and territorial Guard commanders, Kentucky Adjutant General Ed Tonini, raised the standard of revolt against the active-duty leadership who had, he said, “slammed their… Keep reading →

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster

[UPDATED 6:30 pm] HUNTSVILLE, ALA.: The ever-beleaguered Army has a reputation — not undeserved — for being bland, conformist, and bureaucratic, an organization where brilliant mavericks are forced to retire at colonel and the guys who make general don’t rock the boat. Just ask any of the long-serving and long-suffering officers convening here in Huntsville, home… Keep reading →

Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, speaking to the Association of the US Army Thursday night.

ARLINGTON: A candid Vice-Chairman of the Joint Staff delivered some tough messages to the Army yesterday and got in a few swipes at Congress and “the political leadership” in general. Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld’s  raised the most hackles among the serving and retired officers gathered at the headquarters of the powerful Association of the US Army… 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 →

NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, DC: Ten years to the day after the US invaded Iraq with shock, awe and too few ground troops, the Army is anxious never to repeat the errors of the past. Yet as policymakers not only cut the defense budget — the Army’s portion most of all — but also emphasize investing in air, sea, and increasingly cyber power at the expense of troops on land, there’s an understandable and uneasy sense of deja vu.

It’s not that the much-hyped, high-tech “transformation” of the Donald Rumsfeld era was entirely bad, said Gen. Robert Cone, chief of the Army’s intellectual priesthood, the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), in a roundtable with reporters this afternoon. Transformation, aka the “revolution in military affairs,” started with an appreciation of the very real advances in information technology, and today, “the power of the network is tremendous,” Cone said. “We can push information down to lower echelons [so] a battalion commander gets what a division commander used to have, and soon a company commander will.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: French forces have made great strides driving al-Qaeda-linked insurgents out of Mali’s major cities, said the Pentagon’s top counterterrorism official, Michael Sheehan. But any long-term solution requires local forces in the lead — not Westerners. And those recent successes in Yemen and Somalia provide a model for Mali — and for Afghanistan after 2014.

Sheehan, the assistant Secretary of Defense for special perations and low-intensity conflict (ASD SOLIC) spoke to scholars, industry officials, and military officers from two dozen countries this afternoon at the National Defense Industrial Association‘s annual SOLIC conference. Across the Maghreb and down to Nigeria, “an inverted L,” he said, “that area in North Africa is becoming awash with different al-Qaeda groups and affiliates.” Keep reading →

America still needs us. That’s the fundamental message of the first top-level Army document to address the post-Afghanistan era. It’s a shot that will be heard round the Beltway in the coming budget wars.

“From Yorktown to Sadr City, the men and women of the Army demonstrated the ability to force terms upon our enemies when all other options failed,” writes Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) chief Gen. Robert Cone in the first paragraph of the first page of the new Army Capstone Concept, officially released today. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Michele Flournoy, oft rumored as the next Secretary of Defense, called the military’s elaborate planning process “stale,” its training too risk-averse, and its corporate culture in danger of a new “Vietnam syndrome” where it willfully forgets the lessons of the last decade of guerrilla war.

Flournoy also threw cold water on the hot concept of offensive cyber warfare, warning that adversaries might respond in kind — and the US is ill-prepared to protect itself against cyber attacks. Keep reading →

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