counterinsurgency

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 →

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[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 →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

Greg Sanders CSIS photo

  As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… 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 →

ARMY AND NAVY CLUB, WASHINGTON: “The biggest concern of my great Afghan security force partners is abandonment,” said Maj. Gen. James Huggins. “We have invested a great deal [in Afghanistan] for a long time,” he said, “[but] the Afghans have done it three times longer than us.”

Speaking at an event this morning organized by the Institute for the Study of War (click here for video), Huggins recalled a conversation over chai with a veteran of the 1980s war against the Soviets, now a local governor. “Do you know why the Taliban come into power?” the old warrior asked him. “Because you left us too quickly after the Soviets withdrew.” Keep reading →

QUANTICO, Va: Even though the administration’s strategic guidance swears off “large-scale, prolonged stability operations” while emphasizing air and naval forces, the lessons that ground troops learned in Afghanistan and Iraq will remain vitally relevant, both because we will still do stability operations in the future and because those skills apply to other kinds of conflicts as well, declared a senior advisor to the Marine Corps Commandant.

“We’re going to do more of this in the future, not necessarily less,” said Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, the Marines’ operations director. After 10 years of war, he said, “we’ve changed what we consider to be our core competencies.” Alongside the traditional Marine skills in attack, defense, and amphibious operations, “we’ve included now, as [has] the Army, stability operations.” Keep reading →

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