Friday, April 30, 2010

Pentagon Report finds few Gains in Afghanistan over Six Month Period

"KABUL, Afghanistan — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.

The report, released on Wednesday, is mandated by Congress every six months. It points to some improvements, including an increased optimism among Afghans about their government and the slowing of the insurgency in places where NATO troops have concentrated their efforts.

But an array of measures suggest that the situation is little better over all than it was six months ago despite enormous expenditures of effort, money and lives by the American and international forces."
Read the rest of the news article here:  "U.S. report on Afghan War Finds Few Gains in 6 Months", The New York Times, April 29, 2010.  Read a defense press release on the report here:  "Report Notes Afghanistan Developments, Challenges", Department of Defense, April 28, 2010.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Afghanistan Neighborhood Watch - Special Forces Initiative

A Special Forces ODA has set up an armed Afghan neighborhood watch to keep the Taliban out of a village in the Arghandab District of Afghanistan located just north of Kandahar.  Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on the usefulness of the program.  The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, has blocked funding for the program saying that it diminishes the central role of the Afghan government (as though the Afghan government actually exercised any role in the rural areas of the country).  Read more in "U.S. training Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban", by Rajiv Chandrasekaran,  The Washington Post, April 28, 2010.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Special Forces and Unconventional Warfare

Military bloggers have been heating up the electronic airways in a recent online discussion involving the term unconventional warfare or UW.  A recent article by Robert Haddick has prompted a discussion on whether the current special ops definition of UW is too narrowly defined.  In response, COL David Maxwell of USASOC has posted an online blog post about the topic entitled "Why Does Special Forces Train and Educate for Unconventional Warfare?" (April 25, 2010) on the Small Wars Journal blog.  Click here to learn more about Unconventional Warfare.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do We Still Need Special Ops? Is Unconventional Warfare too narrowly Defined by the Special Operations Community?

A writer for Foreign Policy Magazine, Robert Haddick, has provided us with the questions above in the subject line.  In his article, "Do We Still Need Special Ops?" (23 April 2010) he asks the question "What exactly is unconventional warfare?" and wonders if special operators have defined the unconventional warfare term too narrowly and therefore narrowed their mission set making special operations forces irrelevant.

The article is not the best to be found in Foreign Policy.  It starts off discussing the UW definition but then veers off course talking about how the Army will be ill-prepared to fight a high-intensity war on the battlefield because its artillery and armor formations have been conducting COIN (or stability operations).  In addition, the author ignores the fact that UW is one of many missions that Special Forces is charged with.  The other missions are FID, CT, DA, SR as well as COIN.

But it is food for thought.

Click here for more information about the definition of Unconventional Warfare (UW).

Britain Deploys 'Culture Warriors' to Afghanistan: Defence Cultural Specialist Unit

Britain is deploying a new type of unit to Afghanistan.  It is called the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) and it will be stationed in Helmand Province.  This unit is similar to the U.S. Human Terrain System (HTS) teams that the U.S. Army has deployed to Afghanistan. The intent is to identify issues relating to culture, politics, economy, and other aspects of Afghan life and society in an attempt to make military operations more successful.  Read more in "Britain's Culture Unit Deploys to Afghanistan", Danger Room, April 5, 2010.  Click here to read more Afghanistan war news.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Karzai: Our Loyal and Dependable Ally In Afghanistan - Or Not

Karzai has been making the news lately with his anti-Western outbursts. It seems odd that 'The Mayor of Kabul' would bite the hand that feeds him. Perhaps this is an attempt at wooing some domestic public opinion and support. A recent article suggests just that - see "Learning to Love Crazy Karzai", Foreign Policy Magazine, April 9, 2010.  Click here for more news articles on the fight in Afghanistan.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Taliban Defectors are Rejoining the Insurgency Due to Paltry Rewards and Broken Promises

"Almost a quarter of the low-ranking Taleban commanders lured out of the insurgency in southern Afghanistan have rejoined the fight because of broken government promises and paltry rewards, a scathing report on reintegration claims.

Nato plans to spend more than $1 billion (£648 million) over the next five years tempting Taleban foot soldiers to lay down their arms. But research by a Kabul-based thinktank warns that those efforts could make matters worse by swelling the ranks of the insurgency, exacerbating village level feuds and fuelling government corruption.

The report, titled Golden Surrender, by the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network, is highly critical of the British-backed Peace and Reconciliation Scheme (PTS), established in 2005, which it says has been left to flounder under bad leadership with neither the political nor the financial capital it required."

Read the rest of the article in "Taleban defectors are rejoining insurgency", Times Online, April 22, 2010.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Human Terrain System (HTS) in Afghanistan Used by Marines

The Marines are using the civilian anthropologists working with the Human Terrain System (HTS) to help stabilize areas of Afghanistan.  The program is not without controversy as the following article indicates: 
"U.S. forces in Afghanistan are using a controversial tool in their efforts to hold the ground recently captured from the Taliban. It is the work of civilian anthropologists and other social science researchers, who advise military commanders on how to win the hearts and minds of local people.

The practice is highly debated among scientists at home, who say there are serious ethical problems with using social science techniques to further military objectives.

The project is called Human Terrain System, or HTS, and it is run by the Department of Defense. It uses researchers such as Kristin Post, who does analysis for U.S. Marine units in Marjah, a farming region in Helmand province that was seized from the Taliban in February."
Read the remainder of the article in "Marines Tap Social Sciences In Afghan War Effort", NPR, April 5, 2010. Click here to read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Friday, April 23, 2010

McChrystal Thinks There Are Too Many Contractors in Afghanistan

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, believes that the number of contractors working in that country is excessive. He has stated that the U.S. and others should rely more on the military and local employees. Read more in "NATO Commander: Too many contractors in Afghanistan", Federal Times, April 20, 2010.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contractors Watching Contractors in Afghanistan

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently released a report on the issue of contractors overseeing other contractors in contingency operations (Iraq and Afghanistan). The report is critical of the practice.
"Clearly, conflicts of interest could arise, as government decisions on contract and grant administration, which represent "the government's primary mechanism for assessing whether it is getting the expected products or services from contractors or whether grantees are performing in accordance with grant programs," might be "inappropriately influenced by, rather than independent from," a contractor's actions."
Read more in "GAO: Contractors Overseeing Other Contractors in a Contingency Environment Problematic", OMB Watch, April 20, 2010.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DynCorp and Its Bad Image in Afghanistan Police Training

DynCorp is being cast unfavorably in regards to its record of training up the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Afghanistan. Newsweek and other media have cast the firm's record in an unfavorable light. A DynCorp official recently wrote in to a blogger trying to set the facts right. Read more in "DynCorp Begs to Differ", The Huffington Post, April 21, 2010.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kandahar, Afghanistan: Next Stage in the War

A lot is riding on the ability of the Afghan government and coalition forces to rid Kandahar of the Taliban.  This will be the big battle in the news this summer.  Read more in "The Kandahar gambit", LA Times, April 4, 2010.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cyber Security Summit by Defense Daily (June 22, 2010)

The Cyber Security Summit will be held on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, DC.  The conference is presented by Defense Daily and sponsored by General Dynamics. 
"Defense Daily invites you to attend the Cyber Security Summit. This timely event is the only one of its kind to bring together strategic leaders from military, government and industry in a face-to face setting to discuss the challenges, opportunities and technological advancements needed to safeguard their operations. 
Defense Daily’s one-day program offers unique insights into what it’s going to take for the private-public relationship to work more effectively in the cyber security arena. With insightful panels and two noteworthy keynote addresses, you are sure to come away armed with the knowledge of how your organization can take advantage of the emerging developments being made in cyber space."
Click here to learn more about the conference:

Click here to view a listing of other security and homeland defense conferences:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Canada's Army in Afghanistan

Canada's army has developed into a battle-hardened entity in the last several years due to its Soldiers and NCOs being deployed on many rotations - mostly in the south of Afghanistan.  The country will soon draw its forces down in Afghanistan and one big question is what will become of its very professional and experienced Army.  Read more in "What next for Canada's tough new Army?", The Star, March 28, 2010.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Winning the Hearts and Minds - A Counterinsurgency Necessity

Have you ever wondered where the term "winning the hearts and minds" comes from?  Many would say "the conflict in Afghanistan".  Others of an older generation would say "from the Vietnam War".  But to a few that have researched the term the answer would be more complex.  Learn more about this tenet of counterinsurgency in "How 'hearts and minds' came to be", by Elizabeth Dickinson in Foreign Policy Magazine (Sept / Oct 2009).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What is an Embedded Training Team (ETT)?

A blogger writes about the history of the ETTs that are working with the Afghan army units in Afghanistan.  See "What is an ETT?", Enduring the Freedom, March 16, 2010.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Detainee Policy in Afghanistan Changes for the Better

The length of time that U.S. forces can hold a detainee has lengthened from 4 days to 14 days.  This is a change to the policy of only keeping a detainee for 4 days until he is released to Afghan forces.  The 4 day policy has been in effect since 2005.  Read more in "U.S. to end 96-hour rule for Afghan detainees",, March 17, 2010.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Challenges of Battlefield Contracting

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has briefed Congress (March 17th) that challenges remain in the world of battlefield contracting.  The auditing arm of Congress (the GAO) said improvements can be made in the oversight of contractors.  Read more in "Challenges Remain in Battlefield Contracting", DefenseNews, March 17, 2010.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

MV-22 Osprey: Marines Like the Aircraft Despite Maintenance Issues

The MV-22 Osprey is getting high marks from the Marines.  The aircraft has been active in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.  Although - maintenance and the supply chain for repair parts have been an issue.  The aircraft will carry 24 troops and can take off and land vertically - which gives it a rotary wing capability.  Read more in "The Osprey: She is High Maintenance, but Marines Love Her Anyway", National Defense Magazine, April 2010.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Mullen Doctrine

Much has been made of a speech (or series of speeches) that Admiral Mullen has made concerning defense policy and foreign policy.  It is shaping up as something called the 'Mullen Doctrine'.  The doctrine is a set of criteria for fighting that the U.S. should adopt.  It differs from the "Powell Doctrine" of years ago.  While some think that the 'Mullen Doctrine' replaces the 'Powell Doctrine' - what is probably more true is that it augments the 'Powell Doctrine'.  Both are equally applicable depending on the situation at hand.  Read more about this in "The 'Mullen Doctrine' Takes Shape', The Washington Independent, March 16, 2010. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

New York Tactical Training Conference and Expo

The New York Tactical Training Conference and Exhibition will be held on April 27-29, 2010 at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York.  The conference includes vendor displays, presentations on security and training, breakout training sessions, comedy night, and a screening of "The Third Jihad".

To reach the conference website click here:

To learn about other security conferences click here:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Afghanistan and the Propaganda War

It is apparent to many that the U.S. is not winning the "Information Operations" war in Afghanistan.  If it were, the population would be behind the U.S. (and Afghan government) fight against the Taliban.  We have had Information Operations (IO) specialists in our military since the early days of the current Afghan conflict.  The military's IO bureaucracy just does not react fast enough and is not flexible enough to beat the Taliban propaganda machine.  And despite increasing lip service to the IO fight our combat leaders at the unit level don't understand it and do not give it the support it needs.  Read more on this topic in "To win the war in Afghanistan, the US military has to beat the Taliban at the propaganda game", The Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 2010.  Read more news articles on the Afghanistan war.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Intelligence Services, Spies, Sex, and "The Honey Trap"

How can you not want to read an article about intelligence services, blackmail, espionage, and the "Honey Trap"?  According to MI5 (British security service) the honey trap is still a favored method of entrapment (particularly by the Chinese intelligence services).  Read "The History of the Honey Trap", Foreign Policy Magazine, March 12, 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Difference Between A Shura and A Jirga

The difference between a Shura and a Jirga is sometimes a hazy concept to explain but fortunately someone has done the explanation for us.  I have stumbled across an online posting that explains it fully (or at least to my satisfaction).  Read "Tribal Engagement Tutorial: The Jirga and the Shura", by Major Jim Gant and MAC McCallister and posted on the Steven Pressfield Blog, March 11, 2010. You can learn more about Afghan jirgas and shuras here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Canadian Forces Try "Key Village Approach" in areas outside Kandahar, Afghanistan

Canadian platoons have left the big base on Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan and have moved into small villages. The change in tactics for some 2,800 Canadians is called the "Key Village Approach" and so far it seems to be working. The life style is austere and the job dangerous. Read more in "Last exit from Kandahar", The Globe and Mail, March 7, 2010. Click here to learn more about the fight for Kandahar.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Fight for Kandahar: Should start with Removal of Ahmed Wali Karzai

The fight for Kandahar is out of the starting blocks.  Not only will be there fighitng in the streets of the city and in the outlying areas - but we will see the attempt to establish some governance in the region.  Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of President Hamid Karzai, should be removed or marginalized if the upcoming Kandahar offensive is going to have any long-lasting success and impact.  Many Afghans are turned away from supporting the government and instead support the Taliban because of the head of the Kandahar Provincial Council.  Read more in "Kandahar", The New Yorker, April 2, 2010.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

RQ-11 RAVEN UAV Now Being Used by Iraqi Troops

The popular RAVEN UAV is now being used by Iraqi troops.  The RQ-11 is a popular item used by U.S. Marines, Air Force, and Army units.  Over 5,000 have been produced.  The RAVEN is hand-launched, weighs less than 5 pounds, and has 80 minutes of flying time.  Read more in "Iraq Embraces Raven", Strategy Page, March 13, 2010.

Taliban Campaign for Kandahar

The Institute for the Study of War has posted a document entitled "The Taliban's Campaign for Kandahar".  Although the paper was posted on December 1, 2009 it is still relevant to the situation on the ground today.  Kandahar will be in the news more than ever over the next several months as the coalition forces attempt to dislodge the Taliban from Kandahar and institute governance and security.  Below is a partial view of the executive summary of the document. 
"This paper describes the Taliban’s multi-year campaign to exert control over Kandahar City. Kandahar is the center of gravity of the Quetta Shura Taliban’s efforts in Afghanistan. The paper demonstrates why Coalition forces have hitherto inadequately responded to the Taliban in Kandahar, and explains why ISAF will most likely allocate additional forces to the districts around Kandahar City in 2010."
  Click here to read the paper:

Friday, April 2, 2010

US Special Operations Forces Need more ISR and Helo Support

Michael Vickers, a Pentagon official, has stated that US special operations forces need more close air support, helo support, and ISR platforms.  Vickers is the Assistant U.S. Defense Secretary for SO/LIC.  Read more in "U.S. SOF Need Armed ISR, More Helos", DefenseNews, March 8, 2010.

ITOTA Evolution Expo and Conference 2010

The International Tactical Officers Training Association (ITOTA) will hold its 2010 ITOTA Evolution Expo and Conference at the Westin Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on May 19-21, 2010.

To learn more about the conference click below:

To see a listing of other security related conferences click below:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Outsourcing Military Support to Civilian Firms Needs Regulation (or so says the Brookings Institution)

The Brookings Institution has posted an article online that explores the pros and cons of private military corporations and defense contractors providing support on the battlefield.  It proposes that increased management, oversight and leadership is needed at the highest levels.  Read more in "The Regulation of New Warfare", Brookings Institution, February 2010.