10 November 2012

Shifts in Beijing’s Afghan Policy: A View From the Ground

Publication: China Brief Volume: 12 Issue: 21
November 5, 2012

Zhou Yongkang with Afghan President Karzai in September

In a clear but still gradual shift over the past year, Chinese policymakers have changed their stance on Afghanistan from cultivated disinterest to growing engagement. As the potential security vacuum left by Western withdrawal in 2014 comes into sharper relief, Beijing has come to realize that it will have to play a role in encouraging a more stable and developed future for Afghanistan. As with China’s engagement in Central Asia as a whole, Chinese activity in Afghanistan is less a part of a grand strategy for the region and more the sum of number of disparate parts. Nevertheless, the sum of these parts could have major consequences for Afghanistan and the region’s trajectory as it signals a growing realization by Beijing of the role it will find itself playing in the future.

The most visible and significant element of China’s renewed focus on Afghanistan was marked by the visit in late September of Politburo member and security supremo Zhou Yongkang to Kabul (Xinhua, September 24; China Daily, September 24). This was the first visit by a Politburo-level Chinese official to the country since 1966 when President Liu Shaoqi visited the country just prior to being purged during the Cultural Revolution. It marked, however, the latest in a growing series of high-level visits and meetings marking China’s more focused attention on Afghanistan. This attention dates back to February 28, 2012, when Beijing hosted the first Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue. Held at the level of foreign ministry director-general positions (or rough equivalents), the meeting was given a senior stamp of approval when the group was met by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi a day after the discussions (Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 28). Then in June, as China was hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Beijing, President Hu Jintao signed a bilateral “strategic and cooperative partnership” agreement with President Karzai as well as welcoming the country to becoming an official SCO observer (Xinhua, June 8). President Karzai thanked President Hu for helping facilitate the SCO upgrading, saying “without your support, we cannot do this” (Xinhua, June 8). Just over a month later on July 27, this was followed by a further high level meeting between China’s Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Guo Boxiong and Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. The focus of the meetings was to “enhance strategic communication and strengthen pragmatic cooperation in order to contribute to bilateral strategic cooperation” (Xinhua, July 27). The full impact of relationships established during this visit, however, may have been undermined by Wardak’s resignation after a no confidence vote in Kabul just over a week later (Reuters, August 7). Whatever the case, the growing importance China accords to the bilateral relationship would have been emphasized again in late September by Zhou Yongkang’s visit.

The importance of Zhou’s visit was not only the symbolism of a senior Chinese visitor to Kabul, but also the emphasis that his presence casts on China’s interests in Afghanistan. Within the (now outgoing) Politburo, Zhou is responsible for security matters, primarily domestic, something that highlighted China’s interest in Afghanistan’s potential as a safe haven for militants. With an eye toward the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO combat forces in 2014, China increasingly has expressed concern about the possible spillover of militancy from Afghanistan into China’s western Xinjiang province. Notwithstanding its proximity to Kashgar—a city China is trying to develop into a regional trade hub—China keeps its border with Afghanistan tightly closed, with locals in Xinjiang reporting that authorities encouraged them to help monitor any movements across the border [1]. Afghanistan has asked repeatedly for China to open the Wakhan Corridor that links the two countries, but been rebuffed by Chinese security concerns (China Daily, October 16, 2010). When the authors visited earlier this year, there was little evidence the border was about to be opened.

Chinese security concerns are further visible in announcements made during Zhou’s visit about China agreeing to train some 300 Afghan police officers over the next four years (“Zhou Yongkang’s Trip Highlights Security Diplomacy,” China Brief, October 5). Previously, China has provided training for various Afghan technical personnel and officials with Foreign Minister Yang declaring in July 2010 they had trained some 781 Afghans so far with a further 200 trained that year. In May, China and the United States jointly hosted a two-week training session for a group of some 15 young Afghan diplomats (Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 17; July 21, 2010). China’s current willingness to explore training security personnel also highlights the growing importance of this aspect of their relationship.

Judging from the June SCO Summit in Beijing, China clearly is aware of the potential implications of deterioration in Afghan security and the implications for the broader region and within this context. During the summit, Beijing focused heavily on persuading Russia and Central Asian member states to coordinate commitments (at least those within the SCO) toward Afghanistan to some degree, and provide aid to contribute to Afghanistan reconstruction and stabilization. As is usual with SCO endeavors, this looked more like a multilateral vehicle for Chinese bilateral activities. The “strategic partnership” signed was between Beijing and Kabul and the 150 million yuan ($23 million) in aid promised to Afghanistan came from China, not the SCO as an organization (Xinhua, June 8). Nevertheless, Afghanistan will benefit from an increased profile and upgraded role to observer within the SCO. It may be asked to contribute information on militants to the SCO’s Regional Antiterrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent and presumably also will be able to benefit from others’ contributions. Overall, the summit was symbolically important for both China and Afghanistan. Beijing announced it will be engaged in Afghanistan’s future and Kabul gained commitments from a regional power to bolster its post-2014 prospects.

To examine Afghanistan from a broader perspective, China’s main concern with Central Asia is the importance of the region in helping Xinjiang develop by providing trading partners as well as routes to Russian, European and Middle Eastern markets. Security concerns emanating from Afghanistan are clearly a major potential obstacle to this. Thus, Zhou’s visit and China’s attention more generally can be said to have both a security and economic dimension that links Xinjiang and the broader region. This economic dimension for Afghanistan in particular was emphasized by the fact that pictures of Zhou’s visit showed him being met at his plane by Afghan Commerce and Industry Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahady (Xinhua, September 22). Furthermore, Zhou is a graduate of the Beijing Petroleum Institute and spent most of the 1960s and 1970s working in the oil sector, including a period as General Manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)—a company that has made a number of investments in Afghanistan and that has encountered problems in the country as well. It seems probable that these topics would have been on Zhou’s agenda in Kabul.

In mid-October, CNPC started extracting oil from its field in Afghanistan’s northern Amu Darya basin. At 1,950 barrels per day, the project is a relatively small one, but is being promoted by the Afghan government as a model for how Kabul can raise revenues and wean itself off of foreign aid (Reuters, October 21). Completed at CNPC’s signature blistering speed, plans call for the Amu Darya project’s oil to be refined across the border in Turkmenistan until the Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) builds a refinery close to the site in two to three years. CNPC won the tender for the project partly due to its very generous terms: 50–70 percent of profits will go to the Afghan government together with a 15 percent royalty on top of a 20 percent corporate tax (Reuters, October 21). While Chinese aid to Afghanistan is relatively low—partly due to domestic intolerance of sending funds abroad—projects such as the oil extraction in the Amu Darya basin appear to be an indirect form of “corporate aid.”

The relatively small oil project, however, may well be a foot in the door for access to major natural gas deposits in northern and northwestern Afghanistan. It was CNPC geologists from Turkmenistan with the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves that scouted out the Amu Darya oil project and they have their eye on gas formations that straddle the border [2]. With possible recent major gas finds close by in Tajikistan, CNPC is positioning itself to reap the natural resource benefits of a long-neglected area. In June, it announced plans to run a fourth string of the Central Asia-China pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang through northern Afghanistan (Eurasia Daily Monitor, June 19). CNPC also reportedly expressed interest in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline at the project’s Singapore roadshow event in September [3].

Whether or not CNPC moves forward with these projects, the prominent Chinese SOE is signaling that they see northern Afghanistan as a stable area going forward (Cnpc.com.cn, June 7). Until a few months ago, militias loyal to Afghan Army Chief of Staff and local warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum harassed Chinese workers in the area, but a deal seems to have been struck where these incidents have ceased (Reuters, June 11). Should CNPC move forward with its announced plans for a natural gas pipeline, it will likely find itself working closely with Dostum and other warlords.

In contrast to the opportunities blossoming in northern Afghanistan, just southeast of Kabul in Logar province the once highly touted Aynak Copper mine project is languishing. Described by President Karzai as “one of the most important economic projects in Afghan history,” the project led by Chinese SOEs Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and Jiangxi Copper was valued at around $4 billion and was the largest investment project in Afghanistan (Xinhua, May 22, 2011). It, however, has been beset by problems, including an archeological dig atop the site, security concerns and now financial troubles at the parent company MCC. One report from late September stated Chinese workers had been spooked by security concerns and had left the country with only a skeleton crew left to watch over equipment (Reuters, September 27). This state of affairs seems to have reinforced skepticism of Beijing’s commitment to the project—and possibly even to Afghanistan itself—among Kabul-based officials and experts [4].

A final element that has not been sufficiently analyzed are the implications of China’s growing relationship with Kabul and its interactions with historical ally Islamabad. Whilst it is clear that China sees the importance of Pakistan in any long-term solution in Afghanistan, it is also increasingly clear that Beijing is concerned about how security in Pakistan continues to deteriorate. It thus seems likely that China’s growing focus on Afghanistan is at least in part out of recognition that it can no longer simply abrogate its strategy toward Kabul to Islamabad—a default setting Beijing previously employed. As the security situation in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) continues to muddle along in a negative direction, Beijing now has realized that it must do more to stabilize its restive neighbor. Zhou Yongkang’s visit is merely the culmination of this new focus on Afghanistan that is going to continue to develop as the 2014 deadline approaches. Whether this new attention translates into new policy resources, however, remains to be seen and probably will have to wait until after next March’s National People’s Congress, when China’s leadership transition will be completed.

The authors visited Tashkurgan, Xinjiang (near the Sino-Afghan border) in May 2012.
Authors’ Interviews in Kabul, May 2012.
Authors’ Interviews in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, September 2012.
This is a key topic of conversation with interviewees with whom the authors spoke, including local analysts, foreign diplomats, international donors and journalists who all reached similar conclusions. Author Interviews in Kabul, May 2012.

China not-so-bad sign: no longer growth-at-all-costs

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nice NYT story on growth of (primarily) middle class resistance to unlimited growth ambitions WRT environmental damage. Most experts who track the grass-root democracy arising in China have noted its strong concentration in the environmental realm.

It's a natural development that we've seen everywhere else a middle class historically arises: once you get to a certain level of GDP ($4-7,000) you start caring about the environment a whole lot more.

Chart shows all the places where projects have been delayed/cancelled in response to popular demands.

Point being: all part of the natural slowdown in growth that comes with modernization. Things get more complex. The public puts up with less crap. China is not different in this regard whatsoever.

As I've noted for years now, Asian countries that modernize and open up to globalization typically do so as single-party states (either explicit or de facto) for about 5 decades. Then things change.

That logic says China goes democratic in the 2020s - or faster.

Referenced from: http://thomaspmbarnett.com/#ixzz2BqGBqO6p

China: big bad sign #1 (money leaks out)
Monday, November 5, 2012

Wealthy Chinese citizens are moving their money abroad: "buying beachfront condos in Cyprus, paying big U.S. tuition bills for their children and stocking up on luxury goods in Singapore, frequently moving cash secretly through a flourishing network of money-transfer agents."

Last 12 months, estimates the WSJ, 3% of China's GDP slips overseas this way.

Two ways of looking at this:
When locals move cash, it's because they fear a crash, and who knows the local situation better?
The rich fear for their wealth in China. They know they've amassed "too much" and/or they know the Party won't do what is necessary to protect it with rule of law (see, Bo Xilai).

Either way, not a good sign.

After all these years of do-nothing Hu, Xi is going to be under tremendous pressure to fix things.

Referenced from: http://thomaspmbarnett.com/#ixzz2BqGSvoDL

Shadow-boxing with drones and terrorism

Anita Joshua

Islamabad will continue to have a blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with Washington

A bad marriage, which both partners have no choice but to plod through

With little difference in the positions of President Obama and Mitt Romney towards AfPak in general and Pakistan in particular, there was never an expectation that the election, irrespective of the winner, would improve the course of the relations between the two countries. That much was clear from the last presidential debate on foreign policy when Mr. Romney essentially articulated the current U.S. policy towards Pakistan, only using different words.

Yet, Pakistan emerged as the only country to prefer the Republican candidate over Mr. Obama among the 21 countries surveyed for a poll conducted for BBC World Service. While 14 per cent of the respondents in Pakistan wanted to see a Romney White House over the 11 per cent who wanted Mr. Obama, 75 per cent expressed no opinion, indicative of the widely held view that status quo would prevail whatever the result.

Though the two governments are working hard to put their blow hot and cold bilateral relationship back on track after it went into deep freeze for seven months following the 2010 NATO bombardment of a Pakistan Army outpost in Bajaur tribal agency killing 24 soldiers, they have failed to cap the anti-Americanism whipped up over the years. It maintained an upward trajectory right through the Obama years, and is still rising.

On Kashmir

For Pakistan, Mr. Obama’s first stint was a series of disappointments starting from his reneging on the 2008 election promise of “devoting serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in [Kashmir] to figure out a plausible approach.” The subsequent years saw him shift to non-interference in Kashmir, billing it a bilateral matter.

If this was not disappointing enough for Pakistan, there was the hyphenation with Afghanistan in place of his original proposal to have a special envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It needled Islamabad even more because India had managed to work its way out of that formulation and decouple from the India-Pakistan prism through which the U.S. had previously crafted policies towards New Delhi.

Though the India’s dehyphenation from Pakistan had begun before Mr. Obama took charge, the appointment of a Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan gave currency to the AfPak coinage.

Worst of all, in Pakistan’s view, was the U.S. push for India to assume the role of a regional power.

While all this is of interest to foreign policy wonks, on the streets Mr. Obama has become synonymous with drones and is the man who violated Pakistan’s sovereignty even further by sending in Navy Seals to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the heart of the country. The Obama years have seen drone attacks multiply, making it a major irritant in bilateral relations.

And, he is unlikely to budge unless Pakistan goes after terrorist havens in the tribal areas, especially North Waziristan now regarded by Washington as “terror central.”

Pakistan has for years warded off pressure to “do more” in North Waziristan, particularly against the Haqqani network which the U.S. holds responsible for many of the attacks inside Afghanistan. Now, with NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan imminent, Islamabad is unlikely to shift policy and risk losing its influence in Kabul in the post-2014 scenario by antagonising the Afghan Taliban. As things stand, “four more years” for Mr. Obama could see more of the usual bickering that goes on in a bad marriage that neither can afford to walk out from at this juncture.

An Afghan exit plan for Obama

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan

AP REPORT CARD: The U.S. ought to ponder over what kind of Afghanistan it will leave behind after its withdrawal, as most of its downsized objectives would not have been fulfilled.

Reintegration and reconciliation have not worked in America’s ‘war of necessity.’ In his second term, the President should promote a regional non-interference pact among Kabul and its neighbours.

One cannot but sympathise with Barack Obama despite the four more years he has just won himself as President of the United States.

Both the wars his country launched in the new millennium — “the war of choice” in Iraq and the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan — have cost trillions of dollars and over 7,500 lives, besides thousands more wounded and tens of thousands suffering from post-conflict trauma. Both wars have gone sour from the American perspective. Iraq has not only not emerged as a model for democracy, either for its own people or for the region as a whole, it has emerged as a dependable ally of Iran and has openly sided with the Assad regime in the ongoing civil war in Syria in which the U.S. and a host of external powers are firmly in the anti-Assad camp. Iraq, under its Shia Prime Minister Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, is engaged on the Shia side of the sectarian conflict which is now playing havoc in the region, with probable consequences for other parts of the world.
Exit policy

As for Afghanistan, The New York Times admitted in an editorial last month that it was changing its view and advising the Administration to get out of Afghanistan in “not more than a year,” and “as soon as we safely can.” Two more years of sending American troops to die and be wounded is too long, it argued, noting the Afghan army and police would never become an effective counterinsurgency force. The Taliban, far from being defeated, will surely come to occupy many provinces as well as, most likely, official positions in the governing set-up in Kabul.

The twin pillars of the exit policy — reintegration and reconciliation — have not worked. A very small proportion of the insurgents have integrated which is more than offset by the large number of desertions and “green-on-blue” attacks. As for reconciliation, the Taliban have always known that the distant power will not stay engaged forever and that time was on their side. They are the ones who set conditions for even talking about reconciliation. The term “reconciliation” is misleading in the Afghan context. Reconciliation presupposes the existence of two or more parties which must reconcile among themselves. In Afghanistan, clearly defined or structured parties do not exist. Even the Taliban, obviously one “side,” is a fractured movement with several groups, but at least they agree on one leader in the person of Mullah Omar whose decision everyone will accept. But on the other side, there is not even this kind of a party. President Hamid Karzai was elected in his individual capacity, not as head of a political party. Does he have the political authority to reconcile with the Taliban? Even the High Peace Council is a nominated body. In any case, the reconciliation talks were to take place between the Taliban and the Americans who do not represent any segment of the Afghan population.

Mr. Obama is a pragmatic leader. He was criticised for prematurely announcing the date for the departure of American troops, but he was right in doing so. His main, and only concern, is with the lives of his troops. From his perspective, America has done more than its share to help the Afghan people achieve stability and prosperity. If the Afghan leaders and Afghanistan’s neighbours will not allow the country to remain peaceful, it cannot be the concern of America. If there is “après nous, le deluge,” certainly America and others cannot be held responsible. It is this decision of Obama that made Afghanistan a non-issue in the presidential election. The rest of the international community wants to fight the Taliban till the last American.

Re-election and more flexibility

Having won a second term gives more flexibility to Mr. Obama. He can decide how many, if any, troops he should leave behind in Afghanistan in four or five camps or bases post-2014. (He did not leave any in Iraq.) The precise function of this force is not clear. Would they want to get involved in the armed unrest, even short of a full-fledged civil war, which might engulf the country following the next election? Would they be stationed to rescue the next President in case he comes under a commando attack? Will they go after the insurgents if the latter make gains in controlling more and more territory? Will they pursue the Taliban on Pakistani soil? Will they be in charge of the drone campaign which is likely to continue and even expand? Since the U.S. has decided to cut its losses and pull out, they might as well not leave any young men and women behind in harm’s way. Mr. Obama would not be the first President to do so.

The U.S. ought to ponder over what kind of Afghanistan it will leave behind after its withdrawal. As The NYT editorial points out, even most of its downsized objectives would not have been fulfilled. The Taliban will form part of the government at some stage. Al Qaeda, with whom the Taliban are in cahoots, is supposed to have been decimated but is alive and will probably start kicking post-2014. It is very much active, lethally so, in many other parts of the mainly Islamic world. Nevertheless, President Obama, keen as he is on the U.S. evacuating with dignity, might want to try to promote some kind of stability. The one avenue, which he has not explored so far, is to try and promote a regional pact among Afghanistan and its neighbours not to interfere or intervene in one another’s internal affairs.
Principle of staying out

The Bonn agreement of December 2001 recognised the crucial importance of this principle and called upon the United Nations, in an Annexure, to guarantee non-interference, etc in Afghanistan’s affairs. This provision, for inexplicable reasons, has not received the slightest attention from the international community, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The gist of this principle was adequately incorporated in the declaration of the Istanbul conference last year, but not acted upon, in effect abandoned, subsequently. It is not too late to attempt to revive it. All that is needed is for the U.N. Secretary-General to appoint either a single person or a group of persons, all highly respected internationally, to talk to the regional parties to see whether they would agree to conclude a solemn undertaking not to interfere, etc. The Secretary-General would need the backing of the Security Council which should be forthcoming since it will not cost anything to any country.

It has been argued, with some validity, that the mere signing of a declaration is meaningless without some teeth to enforce it. The “teeth” can be in the form of U.N. observers with the necessary mandate. The task of the observers will not be to use force to stop interference; that would not be practicable. Rather, it would be in the nature of a complaints mechanism. If any country suspects another of violating its obligations under the pact, it would lodge a complaint, with supporting evidence, with the observers. The country against whom the complaint has been filed must cooperate in the investigations; refusal to cooperate would be tantamount to admission of guilt. A country which refuses to be part of such a pact would also raise suspicions about its intentions. This idea can be further refined during the course of consultations.

No idea, however impractical it may sound, should be abandoned without at least a serious consideration at the hands of those professing concern for Afghanistan’s stability.

(Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a former Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations, is a commentator on international affairs.)

Petraeus resigns CIA, citing affair; FBI investigating

Kevin Johnson, Tom Vanden Brook, David Jackson, Jim Michaels and Aamer Madhani

(Photo: T. Ortega Gaines AP)

3:48AM EST November 10. 2012 - WASHINGTON—CIA Director David Petraeus announced Friday afternoon that he has resigned from his post, acknowledging that he had shown "extremely poor judgement by engaging in an extramarital affair."

A federal law enforcement official said the relationship was discovered by the FBI during the course of an unrelated security investigation. Subsequently, a number of e-mails concerning the relationship were discovered, said the official who is not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

The bulk of the e-mails were believed to be from Petraeus to Paula Broadwell, a writer and military analyst who wrote a glowing biography of the CIA director, the official said. Aspects of the FBI investigation were continuing, but the official declined to comment on possible targets of the inquiry.

In a letter to CIA personnel, Petraeus, 60, said he met with President Obama on Thursday and asked to resign because of personal reasons. Obama accepted his resignation Friday, Petraeus said.

ANALYSIS: Petraeus effective, kept low profile

STATEMENT: Petraeus' resignation

"Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA," Petraeus wrote. "After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation."

Petraeus' wife, Holly, is an assistant director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged with advocating on behalf of military service members and their families.

Obama praised Petraeus in a statement Friday and said Michael Morell, Petraeus' deputy, will step in as acting director.

PROFILE: Who is Holly Petraeus?

MILITARY RESIGNATIONS: Petraeus not first with messy exit

"David Petraeus has provided extraordinary service to the United States for decades. By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end," Obama said. "As Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to serve with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism. By any measure, through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.

"Today, I accepted his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission, and I have the utmost confidence in Acting Director Michael Morell and the men and women of the CIA who work every day to keep our nation safe. Going forward, my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time."

Morell is a career CIA officer and began his career at the agency as an analyst tracking international energy issues, then worked for 14 years as an analyst and manager on East Asia. He has held several leadership positions at the agency. Two administration officials said it was too early to say who might be in line to replace Petraeus, and that Morrell could serve as acting director for several months.

Petraeus, a retired four-star general who previously served as top commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, was arguably the most vaunted military officer of a generation.

"From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement.

The resignation comes at a difficult time for the agency and Obama administration, which has been under intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers for the September attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans -- including the Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two CIA contractors -- dead. Petraeus and other top U.S. intelligence officials were scheduled to speak next week at a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Benghazi incident.

Petraeus took over as head of the CIA in September of 2011 following his tour as head of allied forces in Afghanistan.

The CIA director's bombshell took former military colleagues by surprise.

2012 - CIA Director David Petraeus walks the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell Sept. 18 in New York City. Spencer Platt, Getty 
Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served as Petraeus' executive officer in 2007 and 2008 during the surge strategy, said, "It just goes to show were all human."

Gen. Jack Keane, a retired Army general and longtime mentor to Petraeus, said he learned about Petraeus' resignation from news reports this afternoon. Keane helped formulate the surge strategy in Iraq, which Petraeus carried out.

Keane said he was saddened by the news and considers Petraeus "the most accomplished general of ourgeneration" and compared his legacy to that of the legendary battle leaders of World War II. Petraeus is responsible for "turning around two wars," Keane said, referring to Iraq and Afghanistan. "Only Gen.MacArthur had that opportunity and he only succeeded at one," he said. MacArthur was relieved during the Korean War.

Keane said Petraeus would have wanted Obama to accept his resignation. "Knowing Gen. Petraeus he would not want the president to do anything but accept the resignation," Keane said. "He would not want to put the president in an awkward situation."

Keane predicted that Petraeus may emerge later in a prominent role, though he is not interested in elected office. "He's absolutely adamant about never desiring to seek political office."

"The world has not seen the last of Dave Petraeus," Keane said. "He has far too much to offer."

Steve Boylan, a retired Army colonel who served as Petraeus' chief spokesman for three years, said he "never would have expected" him to resign under these circumstances.

"A lot of people have put him on a very high pedestal," Boylan said. "People tend to forget that he is human and people do make mistakes….I can only suspect that in his own mind he felt he was doing the honorable thing by resigning."

Several lawmakers praised Petraeus following the announcement he was stepping down.

"General David Petraeus will stand in the ranks of America's greatest military heroes," said Sen. John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "His inspirational leadership and his genius were directly responsible – after years of failure – for the success of the surge in Iraq. General Petraeus has devoted his life to serving the country he loves, and America is so much the better for it."

In addition to Petraeus, two other top-level administration officials, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are also expected to soon leave the Obama administration.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday he's also weighing whether he will remain for Obama's second term.


Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson, who joined USA Today in 1994, covers national law enforcement issues and the Justice Department.
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The career of David Petraeus

Petraeus resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday after revelations of an extramarital affair. A look back at his career.

Lawrence Jackson, AP


Early years
Nov. 7, 1952: Petraeus is born in Cornwall, New York

1974: Petraeus receives his Army commission after graduating from the United States Military Academy. He would later receive graduate degrees from Princeton University.

Photo by Lawrence Jackson, AP
Patrick Baz, AFP/Getty Images


Iraq, commanding general
February 2007 - September 2008: Petraeus assumes command of the multi-national force in Iraq. He had previously served tours in Iraq in 2004-2005 as first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command.

Petraeus is widely praised for achieving a reduction in violence in the country with a counterinsurgency strategy he crafted. After leaving Iraq, Petraeus takes over the U.S. Central Command.

Photo by Patrick Baz, AFP/Getty Images
Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images


Taking over command in Afghanistan
July 2010-July 2011: President Obama taps Petraeus to lead the war effort in Afghanistan following the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Photo by Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Wilson, Getty Images


Director of Central Intelligence
Sept. 6 2011: Petraeus takes the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency after being appointed by President Obama, bringing an end to his 37-year career in the military.

Nov. 9, 2012: Petraeus resigns from the CIA. In a letter to CIA personnel, Petraeus acknowledges he "showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair."

Photo by Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Sources: Associated Press; Central Intelligence Agency website; USA TODAY research

Petraeus Resigns From CIA After Feds Uncover ‘Extramarital Affair’

By Noah Shachtman and Spencer AckermanEmail Author
November 9, 2012 |

David Petraeus being sworn in as CIA chief, with his wife Holly looking on. Photo: CIA

Updated 10:23 pm. David Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has resigned.

Petraeus told CIA employees Friday in a letter that he was stepping down “for personal reasons… After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

Former aides to Petraeus, the retired four-star general who led the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, said they “never in a million years” would’ve believed that Petraeus would risk his storied career in such a fashion. But he did. CIA representatives confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Danger Room. “He feels that he screwed up. He did a dishonorable thing and needed to try to do the honorable thing,” e-mails one former confidant.

According to the Associated Press, Petraeus’ partner in the affair was his biographer and confidant Paula Broadwell, who travelled with Petraeus extensively while he was the top commander in Afghanistan. The former aide, however, insists that the affair began after Petraeus retired from the military — and while he was director of the CIA.

Whenever the affair began, America’s most famous general in a generation and its leading spy is now leaving Washington in disgrace.

Petraeus’ CIA tenure first appeared to be in jeopardy last week, when the Wall Street Journal published an article alleging that Petraeus has been, in effect, asleep at the switch during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

But Petraeus’ former aide insists that wasn’t the reason for his departure. “This had nothing to do with Benghazi or relationship with the White House — which by the way was excellent — or anything else for that matter,” the aide tells Danger Room. “Just his flawed behavior.”

It is difficult to overstate the impact Petraeus had on the U.S. Army. Obviously, there’s his stewardship of the surge in Iraq, which sold the military on counterinsurgency, which it would apply to much less success in Afghanistan. But Petraeus’ influence took subtler, and possibly longer-lasting, forms.

Before he took command of the Iraq war in 2007, Petraeus ran the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, a haven for Army big think. There, Petraeus tutored a lot of majors and lieutenant colonels back from Iraq and Afghanistan as they came to grips with how they could have applied their military training so assiduously but without notable effect on the wars. With counterinsurgency, Petraeus gave them, and the many others he mentored, a template for viewing both their experiences and military operations going forward. The Army’s next generation of generals will carry that as a formative experience.

Doug Ollivant, a retired Army officer who worked closely with Petraeus as the National Security Council’s director for Iraq policy under both the Bush and Obama administrations, says Petraeus’ legacy within the Army was “fixed” when Petraeus shed his uniform to helm the CIA.

“I’m kind of appalled to live in a country where you have to resign over an affair that has little to no effect on your job, although I recognize the blackmail implications,” Ollivant tells Danger Room, cautioning that if Petraeus was “sleeping with someone the director of the Agency shouldn’t be, then that’s something different.”

Just this week, Broadwell solicited from Petraeus five “Rules for Living” for Newsweek. His first lesson: “Lead by example.” His fifth: “We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.”

Anonymous law enforcement officials tell NBC News that Broadwell is “under FBI investigation for improperly trying to access his email and possibly gaining access to classified information.” Other officials are telling the Associated Press that an FBI investigation led to the discovery of Petraeus’ affair.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the President accepted Petraeus’ resignation, and offered his “thoughts and prayers [to] Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, added in a separate statement, ”I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation, but I understand and respect the decision.”

Petraeus met his future wife, Hollister “Holly” Knowlton, in 1973. She was the “beautiful, smart and witty” daughter of West Point’s superintendent, visiting for a weekend football game. He was a young cadet, drafted into a blind date with her, according to All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, Broadwell’s deeply detailed biography.

Soon, the two would find themselves commuting to each other’s colleges whenever time allowed, sometimes braving fierce New York snowstorms to spend time together. Petraeus would sneak in the side door of the superintendent’s home aside the Plain, the academy’s parade field, to visit Holly when she made the trip back to West Point…

David’s roots stood in sharp contrast to his bride’s patrician-military upbringing. To Petraeus, the stature of Holly’s family was intoxicating. He loved becoming a part of it. Holly’s well-connected and accomplished grandparents has a large compound in West Springfield, New Hampshire, with a boathouse on a nearby lake that they would visit often. Holly’s father, Lieutenant General Knowlton, came from a prominent and well-to-do Massachusetts family and had graduated seventh in his class at West Point…

He would become Petraeus’s “military father,” according to General Knowlton’s wife, Peggy. Petraeus would be their “fourth son.”

When Petraeus took over command of the Afghan war effort in 2010, he made an appearance before Congress. In his opening statement, he said: “My wife, Holly, is here with me today. She is a symbol of the strength and dedication of families around the globe who wait at home for their loved ones while they’re engaged in critical work in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. She has hung tough while I have been deployed for over 5 1/2 years since 9/11.”

On the heels of the Petraeus resignation came another unexpected announcement with suddenly familiar overtones: defense giant Lockheed Martin fired its interim CEO, Chris Kubasik, for a “close personal relationship” with a subordinate.

Why does Petraeus have to go?

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks Friday, November 9, 2012 

I suspect that someone in the military with an axe to grind ratted out David Petraeus for having an extramarital affair. I am told that President Obama tried to talk Petraeus out of resigning, but Petraeus took the samurai route and insisted that he had done a dishonorable thing and now had to try to balance it by doing the honorable thing and stepping down as CIA director.

But why? Petraeus is retired from the military. If the affair happened back when he was on active duty, it is part of the past. And there is nothing illegal about civilians having affairs.

So the surprise to me is that Obama let him go. But the administration's loss may be Princeton's gain.

The tragedy of David Petraeus

Posted By Blake Hounshell Friday, November 9, 2012 

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past five hours, you've probably heard by now that David Petraeus -- perhaps the most universally admired person in American public life -- suddenly resigned as director of the CIA for, as he told agency staffers in a message Friday, "engaging in an extramarital affair."

Slate's Fred Kaplan reports that his paramour was none other than Paula Broadwell, the co-author of a highly flattering biography of the former general, All In: The Education of David Petraeus. (FP tried to contact Broadwell via several channels Friday, but she did not respond.)

According to the AP, the affair came to light during an investigation by the FBI, presumably related to its counterintelligence function. (Other accounts are offering more salacious details, but I can't vouch for the quality of the reporting.)

As recently as Monday, Broadwell published an article titled "General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living"on the DailyBeast's website. Rule No. 1: "Lead by example from the front of the formation." Rule No. 5: "We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again."

What's clear is that Broadwell, a veteran whose book began as a dissertation project, was starstruck by her subject.

In January, when her book, co-authored with Washington Post editor Vernon Loeb, came out, Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings ripped it as "such blatant, unabashed propaganda, it’s as if the general has given up pretending there’s a difference between the press and his own public relations team." When Broadwell appeared on the Daily Show to promote the book, she joked, "He can turn water into bottled water" and noted "he is a very high-energy person." They spent a lot of time together on runs, a favorite Petraeus activity. She said Petraeus had "no dirty secrets."

In her book, Broadwell describes how she first met Petraeus in 2006, when he was still a lieutenant general, at a dinner arranged by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "I introduced myself," she writes, "and told him about my research interests; he gave me his card and offered to put me in touch with other researchers and service members working on the same issues. ... I took full advantage of his open-door policy to seek insight and share perspectives."

Broadwell was also an occasional contributor to Foreign Policy, via Tom Ricks's blog. In one post, she lauded Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy; in another, she wrote, "Gen. David H. Petraeus's counterinsurgency guidance calls on coalition forces to be first with the truth."

This is a huge story, obviously, and the Twitterverse is going wild with off-color jokes. I'm sure more salacious details are going to come out, and we'll no doubt learn in more detail why Petraeus felt he had to resign. Some will say he shouldn't have. Ricks writes: "Petraeus is retired from the military. If the affair happened back when he was on active duty, it is part of the past. And there is nothing illegal about civilians having affairs." On the other hand, it's obviously not a good thing for your CIA director to be subject to possible blackmail.

Still, Petraeus's downfall is a huge loss for the United States. Not only was he one of the country's top strategic thinkers, he was also one of the few public figures revered by all sides of the political spectrum for his dedication and good judgment. He salvaged two disastrous wars, for two very different presidents. He would have been a useful check on groupthink inside the Obama administration -- an independent voice for a White House often accused of being insular and one-dimensional. And if anyone could have restored confidence in the CIA after Benghazi, it would have been him.

Petraeus's exit leaves a bitter taste. We all make mistakes. Here's hoping he makes a comeback.

Covert Affairs

A short history of spies and their sex scandals.

As long as there have been spies, there have been spy scandals. Usually, however, it's because a senior official got hooked up with an enemy spy, most famously like British Secretary of War John Profumo, who in 1963 was "dating" an alleged call girl who was also involved with a Soviet naval official suspected of being a spy. Down he went.

That was a long time ago. And in the half century since, there's no known record of a Western intelligence chief resigning over the love of a person not his wife.

Until Friday, that is, when the once unsinkable David Petraeus announced he was resigning because of his "extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair."

The target of his affection was quickly identified as Paula Broadwell, the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

According to veteran intelligence reporter Ron Kessler, who has a well-drilled pipeline into the FBI, the resignation of Petraeus "followed an FBI investigation of many months" prompted by the interception of an email he sent to the "girlfriend."

Nothing remotely like that has touched the 19 CIA directors who preceded Petraeus.

The late William Colby, who headed the agency briefly during the tumultuous post-Watergate congressional investigations into assassinations in the mid-1970s, abruptly divorced his wife of 30 years and took up with a younger woman, but that was long after he resigned.

Which is not to say other senior CIA officials haven't been entangled in messy affairs and indiscretions, and easily survived.

A chief of the CIA's operations wing after 9/11 was caught on a security camera in an agency garage getting oral sex from a female subordinate, according to a widely circulated story. It didn't dent his reputation, perhaps because he was poorly regarded anyway, three agency sources said, and already on the way out.

Likewise, one of the CIA's chiefs of station in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion was "notorious for sleeping with subordinates," as one senior ex-agency official put it, in an account echoed by several other sources over the years. "He was put in the penalty box a couple of times," the source said, "but it was never never anything fatal," despite the written complaints of at least one woman serving there. He went on to to other higher-ranking agency jobs.

CIA operatives are supposed to be outliers of a sort, so no one should be surprised. But there's some invisible line that can't be crossed.

"In the [training] class before mine," another former operative recalled Friday, one [trainee] was ejected for dropping his pants in a bar in front of female trainees. He later ran (unsuccessfully) for congress, and actually had the nerve to refer to his CIA background during the campaign, I'm told, confident that the CIA wouldn't comment on why he no longer worked there."

"That one definitely happened," the source said. "They made things tougher on my class because of that moron."

In contrast, lower-level operatives who get entangled in affairs with foreigners often pay a steep price, usually because they failed to report it fully, although men who did the same got off scot-free, according to memoirs by former operatives like Melissa Boyle Mahle.

The problem is that affairs can leave operatives, or officials, open to blackmail. While the KGB had a training program for "swallows," women (and men) deployed to seduce officials and spies in the United States and other western governments, the CIA wasn't adverse to using the technique as well.

Usually, the gambit is employed as subtly as a stiletto: cameras are deployed in hotel rooms to record the target in flagrante. Presented with the evidence, the target either meekly succumbs to blackmail, or if he or she is smart, quickly reports it to superiors and the matter is discreetly deep sixed.

The Russians are still at it, judging by numerous instances, including the 2001 discovery by a British MP that an aide was suspected of being a Moscow spy.

The game is played many ways. In 1941, the FBI discovered that a young Navy lieutenant in Washington, John F. Kennedy, was dating a Danish beauty by the name of Inga Arvad, whom it had under surveillance as a suspected Nazi spy. Kennedy was warned to stay away -- or else.

These days, the CIA's ranks are honeycombed with women, many in senior positions. Since they, like their male counterparts, are recruited in part for their naturally wily ways, which are encouraged by spy training, it's not surprising that some use sex to get ahead.

"I went through training with a very hot young ops officer trainee," recalled another former agency operative Friday, "who slept her way to the top with a COS [chief of station], managed to get stationed with him on Cyprus, and then they both had to resign in disgrace because the COS was trying to buy and smuggle out rare Greek Orthodox Icons via dip pouch. They both got cashiered."

Win some, lose some.

"Then there was the female NOC officer who slept with all of her Brazilian agents to get information on their rocket program and nuclear weapons program," this former operative continued. NOCs -- an acronym for non-official cover, are CIA spies who work outside a U.S. embassy, without benefit diplomatic protection.

"The sex with agents was overlooked because she produced good intelligence. So they promoted her to be the first NOC officer in Moscow. Where she promptly fell in love with an FSB officer named Yuri and moved into his apartment. They never did get back her commo [communications] gear. Then they sent another female NOC officer to Moscow, and didn't tell her about the ‘fate' of the first NOC. When she found out, she quit the agency and was never heard from again."

Such stories, whispered with glee at agency watering holes along Route 123 in McLean, Va., always seem to be mostly true, but who knows?

Several CIA sources were curious about why Petraeus was forced to resign, rather than just admit to an affair, separate from his wife, and move on.

But those who know him called it "an honor thing" that "violated his personal code."

In any event, these days the CIA's director, like other agency employees, has to submit at some point to a polygraph exam on "lifestyle" questions, which certainly would have prompted a confession to the affair.

"There's no way he'd make it through without talking about that," said former agency official Charles Faddis. "That's gonna blip."

Jeff Stein, an investigative reporter specializing in U.S. intelligence, defense, and foreign policy, is author of the blog Spy Talk. He was an Army intelligence case officer in Vietnam.

The Existing Biological Threat: Evaluating the Seventh Review Conference of the BTWC

IDSA Occasional Paper No. 28  - 2012

Bio terrorism is emerging more as possibility in the 21st century not only because of the changing nature of terrorism but also because of rapid growth in life sciences. Never before in history has an aspect of science offered as much potential for novel insight and predictive understanding of the world, as well as opportunities for enhancing the human condition, as life sciences are offering today. The most recent case, which highlights the interest of a non-state actor in investing in biological weapons was found in Norway. These developments have been a concern for the BWC regime. In this backdrop the paper discusses the 7th Review Conference which was concluded in December 2011.
Download Occasional Paper

A long war in the shadows

The future of U.S. counterterrorism
By Matthew Irvine and John Nagl

The United States is emerging from a brutal decade of ground warfare in the Middle East and South Asia with powerful new tools to wage counterinsurgency warfare and precision counterterrorism campaigns, but with diminished economic ability and political will to sustain large-scale, expeditionary combat operations. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the ongoing NATO drawdown in Afghanistan signal the shift to a new security model.

As the U.S. moves beyond the post-9/11 war against al-Qaida and its affiliates to confront a variety of highly capable transnational threats and non-state actors, its counterterrorism efforts will require increasingly precise applications of power, and not just the spectacular, highly kinetic direct-action capabilities of top-tier special operators. The U.S. must draw on all of its tools — legal, financial, diplomatic and lethal — with a particular focus on indirect and specialized methods, such as targeted financial sanctions. Moreover, cooperation with international forces, including allies, traditional partners and new proxies, will become increasingly important. These approaches represent both a more effective way to protect U.S. security interests and a more fiscally responsible path as budgets shrink.

Beyond al-Qaida 

The coming decades promise to be difficult and chaotic for U.S. counterterror efforts. No longer will the U.S. be engaged primarily in a prolonged war of attrition against a relatively organized syndicate such as al-Qaida, although that group and its affiliates from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia will continue to be targeted. Instead, as described in the White House’s 2011 “Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime,” U.S. forces will fight a variety of groups such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps; the panoply of cartels and transnational organized criminal groups operating in Latin America, especially Mexico; and other international terrorist and proliferation networks throughout the globe.

Intelligence and law enforcement resources must be continually yet judiciously applied to identify and target self-radicalized lone wolves who might launch devastating terror attacks with little transnational support or connectivity. Additionally, the U.S. military must prepare to execute limited engagements to secure high-value targets such as weapons of mass destruction facilities in the event of state collapse or hostile coups.

Such efforts will draw upon the extraordinary resources freed up from the hunt for al-Qaida’s senior leaders — not just kinetic force, but also security forces assistance, intelligence sharing, law enforcement collaboration, financial pressure and more. There will also be some limited role for conventional military forces, although political and legal considerations will likely keep them out of many of the countries where these groups operate. The coordination of federal, military, and allied and local organizations will become more important than ever. In particular, the employment of special operations and other military forces must be limited and precise, placed within broader global political efforts, and considered in light of strategic, not just tactical, goals.

New Hammers

The unexpectedly protracted Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns diverted attention and specialized capabilities from counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaida affiliates around the globe, but they also produced extraordinary innovations that helped the U.S. government and its allies fight terrorists and insurgents. “What’s new over the last 10 years?” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in January. “I would say notably three things: the capability and role of special operating forces, ISR and cyber.”

Hidden in Joint Special Operations Command are the most elite, highly trained and combat-experienced special operations forces the U.S. military has ever possessed. Born out of ad-hoc task forces created to hunt al-Qaida and other insurgent elements in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first few years after 9/11, these task forces grew into formidable intelligence and operations planning centers, able to launch several high-intensity special operations raids every night. Their increased size and capabilities allowed senior policymakers to direct precisely targeted operations against transnational networks.

Critical to these forces’ success was the rapid development of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, most notably in the areas of unmanned aircraft and electronic intercept and analysis. These have radically improved the precision of operations and military leaders’ battlefield awareness, even when the battlefield is spread across continents. Used in concert with traditional intelligence methods, these innovations enable SOF units to collect, analyze and exploit intelligence at a pace never before seen on such a wide scale.

The U.S. intelligence community itself substantially shifted its focus from collection and analysis to intelligence-driven covert operations mounted not just by the military but also by its own agencies. The CIA, for example, uses its unmanned aircraft to strike targets in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Yet the intel community’s more active role in lethal combat is a change in the way the U.S. wages war and a challenge to traditional political and military authorities. National Journal reported that as Gen. Michael Hayden prepared to leave the office of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he told his successor, Leon Panetta, “Leon — don’t know if you expect this — but you are the nation’s combatant commander in the global war on terrorism.”

Finally, the national security community learned to better exploit enemy financial flows, vulnerabilities that the U.S. is well suited to attack through legal, diplomatic and military means. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. developed financial intelligence and enforcement capabilities, building on the work in the 1970s and 1980s campaigns against narcotics traffickers in Latin America. Following money trails has provided key insights into the operations and structure of terrorist groups; allows the targeting of financiers, facilitators and operational leadership cadres; and informs other capabilities that can be used to counter their networks. Moreover, the interagency cooperation necessary to carry out such attacks presages the complexity of future counterterrorism efforts.

Refining the Spears

As conventional units withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving behind advisers to assist Afghan units to secure territory and support local governance, the wide-area stability operations model of years past will recede. This will free up top-tier SOF units for use elsewhere around the world, where they will target terrorist and insurgent leaders and infrastructure. Such actions must be carefully coordinated with comprehensive efforts to counter violent extremism and protect U.S. interests.

Yet a related mission in Afghanistan will continue, likely for decades. U.S. special operators, along with other allied military personnel, will shoulder increased responsibility, as Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told lawmakers earlier this year. In what may prove to be long-term counterinsurgency efforts, these troops will advise and assist local security forces working to improve governance and eliminate threats.

In sum, the need for special operations forces is still increasing. In his most recent SOCOM posture statement, McRaven said current and foreseeable missions require that today’s level of 12,000 deployed operators remain engaged around the world.

Although the admiral’s estimate may be too high, these forces must continue their recent growth to regain some type of sustainable operations tempo.

And conventional U.S. forces are hardly off the hook. Assistance to local security forces, long a specialty of the Army’s Green Berets, will become a principal mission — likely the principal mission — for conventional forces in the continuing Long War. They will have to adapt, just as they did in learning counterinsurgency warfare over the past decade. They can start by emulating much of the advise-and-assist training provided to special forces.

Meanwhile, technological advances will remain critical to the advantages U.S. and allied forces possess over transnational threats. The development of armed remotely piloted vehicles, for example, has allowed the U.S. to target enemies in areas that are difficult to directly reach for political, geographic or temporal reasons.

Such extremely light-footprint operations increase the ability to strike time-critical targets anywhere while reducing the physical risk to military personnel and the political risk to U.S. decision makers. In particular, the U.S. and its partners must maintain and extend their robust intelligence collection capabilities. The U.S. intelligence community faces budget cuts and should seek to streamline redundant efforts and improve coordination and prioritization.

Today’s terror organizations operate regionally and adapt quickly. U.S. intelligence collection and operational capabilities should support a similarly regional and adaptable counterterror capacity.

International cooperation is key to confronting transnational networks; intelligence partnerships, both among traditional allies such as NATO countries and those with regional partners such as Jordan, Afghanistan, Colombia and Pakistan, are key to gaining access to denied areas and to targeting transnational networks with the correct level of pressure.


As the appetite and need for large-scale interventions declines, the U.S. will adapt its basic approach to warfare. Increasingly, the U.S. and its partners will support proxy forces that will do the majority of the fighting in localized conflicts. Such support will consist of specialized advisers, increasingly advanced ISR and other technology, and other key inputs. One likely model is the 2011 NATO operation in Libya; another is the 2001 effort by small teams of CIA and Special Forces personnel who worked with Afghan militias to overthrow al-Qaida and the Taliban. The U.S. has built strong and deep relationships with foreign partners, especially its NATO allies and its other major non-NATO partners, yet defeating the threat posed by transnational organizations — ranging from insurgencies and terrorist groups to cartels and weapons smugglers — requires unprecedented levels of international cooperation. In particular, the U.S. should continue to foster the development of special operations forces to support the growth of intelligence collection, operations planning, advise-and-assist missions and direct-action capabilities. Building that network through active liaison, training, and exchanges and joint operations will become more important.

This use of proxies whose capabilities and command structures and goals may parallel but will never perfectly match those of their foreign supporters will likely lead to outcomes that may not be complete expressions of “victory.” Nonetheless, proxies will help secure U.S. interests in many areas of the world, including those in which the U.S. is not willing to commit ground forces.

In these cases, proxies will be critical to gaining access to local networks of information, targeting and operational capabilities. To reduce blowback and keep proxies aligned toward U.S. interests, decision-makers must delicately balance the selection of partners and the shaping of these relationships.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have painfully demonstrated, contemporary conflicts leave the “victor” with little to celebrate. Irregular warfare and the nonstate actors that wage it are difficult challenges for conventional Western powers.

Conflict against non-state actors will require persistent, yet limited, engagements by Western forces. Law enforcement, intelligence and military organizations will increasingly have to work together in such environments, ensuring that internationally legitimate authorities, techniques and procedures are used to maintain public support for protracted campaigns in the shadows. While developments in technology, special forces and methods have yielded great advances for U.S. forces, the tremendous tactical advantage they provide must be cautiously weighed against the human and political costs of civilian casualties and broader strategic goals.

The development of better hammers must not make everything look like a nail. In many circumstances, U.S. forces or intervention may not be politically appropriate or militarily beneficial, and instead, the U.S. must learn to leverage international partner capacity in pursuit of U.S. interests.

Future counterterrorism operations must target the most capable threats. Most importantly, as Audrey Kurth Cronin wrote in Orbis, U.S. strategy should prioritize destroying the most capable terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and its globally oriented affiliates, while reinforcing the U.S.’s resilience against a potentially successful terrorist attack. Critical to the long-term success and sustainability of U.S. efforts are other key parts of the counterterrorism toolkit not adequately addressed in this article, to include enhanced diplomacy, countering violent extremism through messaging and outreach, domestic and international law enforcement, and public preparedness.

This war in the shadows will be long — but progress is clear, and should be reinforced. Matthew Irvine is a research associate at the Center for a New American Security. John Nagl is the Minerva research professor at the US Naval Academy and former pPresident of CNAS. This is a revised and updated version of an article published in the University of Kiel Institute for Security Policy’s ISPK’s Terrorism Yearbook 2011.

Armor‘s asymmetric advantage

Why a smaller Army needs mobile protected firepower
By Brig. Gen. Bill Hix and Mark C. Smith

As the U.S. leaves two wars behind and adjusts its military to face an uncertain future, some question the need for the Army to maintain its current force mix — and in particular, those formations built around mobile protected firepower. Yet it is precisely these forces that will remain essential as the Army shrinks and its list of potential missions grows.

Under the new national defense strategy, the Army will prepare to shape the strategic environment, prevent the outbreak of dangerous regional conflicts, and respond in force to a range of complex contingencies worldwide — all while responsibly reducing its end strength. To minimize strategic risk, the Army must emerge from the coming transition years with a force that is more agile, versatile and resilient than ever, and which possesses lethality disproportionate to its size.

Most importantly, the future force must be able to exert control — on land — of people and resources. As Colin Gray writes: “From Carl von Clausewitz to Rear Admiral J.C. Wylie, USN, great strategic theorists have pointed to control as being the essence of the practical object in war, the purpose of strategic effect.” History, recent experience and future estimates demonstrate the importance of mobile protected firepower in achieving this control.

Lessons of Experience

As a term, “mobile protected firepower” describes forces with cross-country mobility, lethal firepower and effective armor protection. In today’s U.S. Army, it takes the form of the armored fighting vehicles and main battle tanks in brigade combat teams, but it has been for decades at the core of effective responses to widely varying missions.

At the low end of the spectrum, such forces have long been part of military engagement, security cooperation and deterrence efforts. During the Cold War, the seminal NSC 68 report recognized that atomic weapons were inadequate to deter Soviet aggression and that the U.S. would need the capacity to confront local challenges locally — as in Europe, where armored forces would for decades deter Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion. In Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, U.S. commanders sent the V Armored Corps across the Sava River to give the Implementation Force the “biggest dog” in the neighborhood and keep the peace. And in South Korea today, U.S. Army mobile protected firepower underpins deterrence on the peninsula and elsewhere in the Pacific region.

Instances of mobile protected firepower’s use in crises and limited contingencies are similarly legion. During the Korean War, North Korean armored forces routed a poorly equipped U.S. infantry task force, leading to retreat and stalemate not resolved until more modern armored forces arrived to enable the breakout that exploited the Inchon landings. In Vietnam, as documented by Gen. Donn Starry’s “Armored Combat in Vietnam,” armored forces proved critical throughout the conflict. More recently, in the Second Battle of Fallujah, armored forces spearheaded the advance into the city, enabling maneuver, protecting infantry, suppressing and destroying a determined, prepared enemy. And in Baghdad’s Sadr City, mobile protected firepower was essential to overcoming complex obstacles, deadly improvised explosive devices and intense urban fighting; it made possible the rapid exploitation of intelligence to crush the enemy with fewer casualties and reduced collateral damage.

In Afghanistan, armored vehicles allowed ISAF forces to survive initial engagements by IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, and to respond with precise, timely, direct fire that generated less collateral damage than artillery or airstrikes. By contrast, Israel allowed its combined arms skills and capabilities to atrophy, and was dealt setbacks in 2006 when challenged by Hezbollah’s asymmetric, integrated standoff fires and area-denial strategy.

Finally, mobile protected firepower has been a key to success in major operations and campaigns. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Israeli tanks’ penetration of Egyptian defenses and attack on surface-to-air missile sites allowed the Israeli Air Force to launch deep strikes. Nearly two decades later, Iraq used T-72 tanks to overwhelm Kuwaiti defenses in 1990. In the following year, Army-led combined arms maneuver, spearheaded by an armored corps and following 30 days of air operations, drove the world’s largest army from Kuwait in four days. In 2003, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq created a shock effect of tightly integrated joint-combined arms maneuver operations dependent on forces with mobile protected firepower. Such capabilities allowed commanders to routinely assume risk in the face of uncertainty, such as pressing the attack despite sandstorms and losing track of nearly 20 Iraqi brigades.

projecting credibility

Why is mobile protected firepower so frequently used in such a wide variety of situations? Put succinctly, it provides the joint force commander an asymmetric advantage. It helps soldiers close with the enemy, sustain momentum and assure success. It provides precision firepower to destroy enemy forces, but is discriminate in its effects, limiting collateral damage. It allows the commander to press the advantage with limited risk during periods of ambiguity.

All of this leads to a force that projects credibility. Perceived overmatch over would-be opponents discourages competition while serving as an example to allies and partners. In short, it can reduce strategic and tactical risk, particularly in the early stages of an intervention.

Perhaps most importantly, mobile protected firepower allows forces to be flexible and adaptable. We can expect adversaries to confront overmatching Army brigade combat teams with unorthodox approaches instead of conventional force-on-force combat operations. As Rand’s David Johnson observed: “Light forces optimized for irregular warfare cannot scale up to the high-lethality standoff threats that hybrid and state adversaries will present. ... [A] more prudent approach is to base much of a force’s structure and future capabilities on heavy forces that can scale down to confront irregular adversaries as part of a balanced force that includes light infantry. ... Light infantry and medium armored ... forces cannot make a similar transition, even with a shift in training emphasis, because they do not have tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.”

Retaining our Advantage

The Army of 2020 will organize its major combat forces into armored, Stryker and infantry BCTs that provide varying levels of mobile protected firepower, deployability and flexibility. Each type of BCT makes important contributions to combined arms operations, yet the greater mobile protected firepower capability of the armored units will provide the greatest versatility and agility across the range of military operations.

As the Army shrinks and rebalances its forces, there are several potential avenues that, while seeming to save money or offer other benefits, would undercut the mobile protected firepower available to joint force commanders. For example, shifting armored BCTs into the Army National Guard to save money comes at the cost of the time required to train up and mobilize such forces. Similarly, eliminating some armored BCTs in favor of infantry units is deemed an acceptable risk in view of the money it would save. But these are false economies; a recent Rand analysis indicates that there is little cost difference in either case. Here, operational advantage should be our guide, a measure weighted in favor of armored forces.

Still others say that our advantages in communications, information and precision strike technologies are so pronounced that we need not maintain armored BCTs as well. Yet, in the last decade of conflict, precision strike, for example, has been challenged by collateral damage and the enemy’s ability to deceive, cover and conceal. While these technologies do excel at identifying and attacking targets, they are most effective when employed in combined arms operations enabled by mobile protected firepower.

Looking Ahead

The Army is changing. The future force will be smaller and regionally engaged; it must also be responsive and decisive, with a robust mix of capabilities and capacity sufficient to give pause to our adversaries, reassure our allies, and, when called upon, deliver the punch that defeats our enemies and exerts control to prevent chaos.

While the future is uncertain, the potential for armed conflict with those who can employ modern weapons is real. Engaging in combat operations without an advantage in mobile protected firepower makes the odds for the enemy far too even, as seen with Task Force Smith in Korea in 1950 and even Task Force Ranger in Somalia in 1993. Without the firepower, protection and shock effect of armored forces, combat operations are likely to be prolonged, resulting in far greater casualties and destruction.

Preserving the advantages conferred by mobile protected firepower is not just prudent, it is essential.

Five imperatives for an Army in transition

Facing new realities after a decade of war 


The Army finds itself in a period of profound organizational, operational and fiscal transition. How shall it process the campaigns of the past decade, which defined a generation of officers and noncommissioned officers; codify lessons; and prepare for the future?

In this article, we outline five cautionary reminders that cut through all echelons of the Army’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not our intent to recap best practices — this has been done exceedingly well over the past decade and has been instrumental to the Army’s ability to adapt to the wars we have been fighting.

Nor is it an apology for counterinsurgency doctrine. Our goal is much broader. Simply put, how do we look forward to new realities while being mindful of the hard lessons from the past decade? 

1. Do not view the past 10 years as an aberration

There is a tendency among some in the Army — one that predated 9/11 — to view stability operations as somehow beneath or ancillary to the Army’s core competencies. Operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo were viewed as misadventures that distracted us from our ability to fight conventional wars and ultimately degraded our war-fighting skills. We are seeing shades of this argument emerge again today as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, and some conclude that the Army’s undeniable limitations in nation-building and the challenges of fighting protracted, asymmetric wars mean we will not engage in such missions again.

This view rests on two critical misinterpretations. The first is confusing degree of difficulty with degree of likelihood. We can acknowledge the limitations of military power in conducting stability operations but, at the same time, recognize that these will increasingly be the types of missions we are called upon to execute in the coming years, albeit perhaps not on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan. Even those who argue that China or Iran present the most grave national security threats to the U.S. are hard-pressed to suggest that a large-scale, conventional land war is imminent or even likely. If history is any guide, we will continue to be called upon to intervene in small wars that test our ability to wage stability operations.

Second, the preference for reorienting the Army back to offensive and defensive operations constitutes what we call the “false comfort zone” narrative, and it wins new believers each day. Many of our conventional war-fighting skills have unquestionably deteriorated over the past 10 years, and we will need to devote real attention to rebuilding them. In fact, a generation of junior officers and NCOs knows nothing but how to conduct stability operations. But suggesting that the difficult nature of protracted stability operation missions proves that the Army should dedicate its primary focus to traditional, conventional combat roles will only position us to make the same mistakes again.

Therefore, our first imperative is to recognize that the past 10 years, while exacting an incredible toll on the Army, is still probably a good gauge in analyzing the types of wars we will be called upon to fight in the near future. Related to this, we need to fight any tendency to return exclusively to preparing for offensive and defensive operations, even if for many it forms the Army’s natural comfort zone. In everything, we need to strive to retain balance, and stability operations must remain within our jurisdiction.

2. Do not let budget cuts define us

No one denies that the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the associated mandatory reductions in federal spending will bring a new reality for the Army. Current estimates suggest the Army will cut 80,000 troops and up to eight brigade combat teams by 2017.

Many defense commentators, noting parallels to 20th century drawdowns, are sounding the alarm against precipitous cuts. Max Boot has recently cautioned: “At the end of the day, less money results in less capability. And less capability is something we cannot afford at a time when we face a rising China, a nuclear North Korea, an Iran on the verge of going nuclear, a Pakistan threatened as never before by jihadists and numerous terrorist groups, ranging from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to the Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” Boot may be correct, but we find danger if the Army echoes this line of thinking or, worse, allows itself to be defined by budget cuts. In letting budget cuts dominate the narrative about the Army’s role in the coming decades, by default we consciously stake out a narrow scope of responsibility or jurisdiction, and normally that is our comfort zone of conventional warfare.

More broadly speaking, in viewing Army capabilities exclusively through the lens of diminished resources, the Army is given a free pass when it comes to making hard choices about prioritizing training and resources. Our mission is still to fight and win our nation’s wars, regardless of what those wars may look like or when they might emerge, and we cannot use the mask of a smaller budget to ignore certain components of unified land operations. While it is entirely appropriate for our most senior leaders to face the challenges of translating strategy to finite resources and communicating risk to civilian policymakers, the rest of the Army should quietly go about their jobs. Surely, diminished resources will have clear, practical consequences for Army units, but there comes a point when we all simply need to move forward. At best, a preoccupation with budget cuts is distracting; at worst, it causes us to develop strategies based on resources as opposed to applying resources to the strategies we have developed.

3. Don’t blame the civilians

As we begin the post-Iraq and Afghanistan era and downsize the Army, we run another risk: committing a serious civil-military relations foul. Fault lines have begun to emerge, if not intensify, over the past decade. One of this article’s co-authors conducted a large-scale, random-sample survey of more than 4,000 active-duty Army officers (lieutenants through colonels) on a host of civil-military relations issues in 2009. Among the survey’s findings: About 70 percent said members of the active-duty military should not publicly criticize senior members of the civilian branch of government. In the late 1990s, the same question was posed to midgrade to senior military officers as part of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies’ “Surveys on the Military in the Post-Cold War Era.” The work compared the results of the two surveys and found officers serving today were less likely to give the normatively correct response to the question of whether active-duty military should publicly criticize senior civilians in the government. Eighty-five percent of majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels questioned in the TISS survey agreed that active-duty military personnel should not criticize senior civilian government officials, compared with 75 percent of majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels surveyed in 2009. While the majority of officers still gave the normatively correct response, a decline of 10 percentage points over the past decade is significant and may reflect the toll from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an ensuing decline in Army officers’ trust in government, regardless of which political party is in power. Whether this is the root of their cynicism does not matter. The fact that more than 30 percent of respondents (and nearly 40 percent of junior officers) feel it is appropriate for active-duty military to publicly criticize elected officials is nothing short of alarming.

A tendency to blame civilian policymakers may be emerging on two fronts. First, as we continue to reflect on both wars, but specifically the war in Iraq, some in the Army tend to blame civilian leaders for getting the nation (and the Army) involved in a war of choice versus a war of necessity. Others blame civilian leaders for the high toll taken on the institution — measured in casualties, deployments or strain on the force. A second emerging thread of blame directed toward civilian leaders regards the decision to cut nearly $500 billion from the defense budget over the coming decade.

In allowing these attitudes to go unchecked, we run the risk of revisiting the poisoned civil-military atmosphere that materialized in part from the drawdown of the 1990s during the Clinton administration. In both cases — both the retrospective blame for the wars we have fought and the impending blame for slashing the budget — blaming the civilians is a convenient way for the Army to abdicate responsibility. Moreover, as Duke professor and leading civil-military relations scholar Peter Feaver has aptly noted, “civilians have the right to be wrong” — a fact some in the Army seem to forget from time to time. Army leaders at all levels should be conscious of this growing cynicism and move swiftly to eliminate it.

4. Invest in People

One absolute truth the Army has learned over the past decade is the value of intellectually capable and mentally agile leaders. Certainly, the Army’s recent experience examining and developing operational solutions for diverse and complex problems in areas such as economic development, governance and intricate networks further illustrates the requirement for enlightened leadership at every level. One challenge the Army faces is the retention of quality junior and midgrade officers. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates captured the problem well in a speech last year at West Point: “Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes, they may find themselves in a cube all day reformatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties. The consequences of this terrify me.”

Junior and midgrade officers’ scope of responsibility will inevitably shrink during peacetime. Officers once responsible for an operational environment the size of Connecticut will now shift their attention to conducting marksmanship ranges, training meetings and in-ranks inspections. However, the opportunities to invest in the intellectual and professional abilities of these young officers should not diminish. Broadening opportunities such as graduate school and interagency fellowships stand the risk of being the first casualties in successive rounds of deep budget cuts. However, these are precisely the types of programs that must be preserved, not simply to challenge and retain quality officers, but to invest in our next generation of leaders. These opportunities provide our officers the ability to overcome cultural and bureaucratic differences, gain a deeper understanding for the capabilities of our joint and interagency partners, and develop the personal relationships required to conduct military operations in complex environments.

The past 10 years of war have witnessed great materiel innovation and adaptation — from mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to advancements in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and biometric technology. These new pieces of hardware have transformed how our ground forces conduct combat operations. However, our greatest achievement has arguably been the development of a new generation of proven, adaptable combat leaders. As we look forward to this transition period, we should be mindful of the adage “humans over hardware” and fight the temptation to invest solely in new technology, often at the expense of human capital.

5. Add “understanding” to the Army values

Most of our missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan can be linked back to a lack of understanding — a failure to empathize with the very people we are there to protect. From the mistreatment of detainees to the burning of Korans, the good our Army has done can be rapidly overshadowed by the callous acts of a few. To conduct successful stability operations, all soldiers must possess a degree of understanding about the local populace — their culture, their religion and their traditions, as well as some of their more basic human conditions, their instincts, their fears and their ambitions. Over the past 10 years, the Army has exhibited great acts of personal courage, integrity and selfless service. However, none of this may have been possible without soldiers embracing the concept of understanding — their attempt to humanize a sometimes brutal and demanding enterprise.

Understanding should not be interpreted as sacrificing operational imperatives or the ability to make tough decisions. However, by embracing the value of understanding, we stop creating new enemies through ill-conceived and thoughtless operations, and we gain traction in villages and communities through meaningful interaction with the local populace. The Army Values have served us well since their inception and provided a valuable ethical framework for soldiers conducting dangerous missions. However, as we review everything our institution has done over the past decade, clearly the value of understanding merits inclusion in this treasured list that we hold true.

Final Thoughts

After more than a decade of sustained combat, today’s soldiers form the most experienced and capable combat force the Army has ever fielded. History is replete with examples of transitions managed poorly — precipitous cuts in readiness, training and capabilities. It is our responsibility to ensure that we conduct this transition deliberately, capturing and institutionalizing the lessons we have learned over the past 10 years. These five imperatives — not viewing the past 10 years as an aberration, refusing to let budget cuts define who we are, resisting the temptation to blame civilian policymakers, investing in human capital and adding “understanding” to the list of Army Values — can serve as guideposts during this critical period.