DTN News: India and Russia’s “Time-Tested” Military Relationship Rolls On
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - October 22, 2009: Ever since Nikita Khrushchev advised India to “shout across the Himalayas if you ever need us,” military cooperation between India and Russia has rarely taken a pause.
Propeller Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is meeting today with his Indian counterpart Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna in Moscow for the latest round of talks aimed at beefing up military cooperation between the two nations.
Moscow and New Delhi enjoy a longstanding military partnership that goes back to the days of the Cold War when India, in response to America’s decision to sign an alliance with Pakistan in 1954, deepened its contacts with China and the Soviet Union.
DTN News: Submarines That Fear Going To Sea
*Source: Strategy Page
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 22, 2009: China recently announced the decommissioning of "Submarine 303." This was a Type 33 boat (a copy of the Russian Romeo class). Romeo was the successor to the Russian Whiskey class boats, which were, in turn, based on the German Type XXI. The German design first showed up in 1943, and was the first modern submarine, in that it was designed to spend most of its time underwater (with just the snorkel device and periscope above water, to bring in air for the diesel engine and crew). The Type XXI was a 1,600 ton (on the surface) sub, compared to the 1,500 ton Romeos. Russia built over 500 Romeos, while China built over 80. Only about 7-8 of the Type 33s are still in service, used mainly for training. They rarely go to sea. Submarine 303, a type 033 conventional submarine (NATO reporting name “Romeo" class) was decommissioned on Oct 10th, 2009. According to its official history, it was constructed by Factory 427 of the Guangzhou Shipyard in 1977. It was commissioned in April 1984 with the 32nd Submarine Zhidui (squadron) of the South Sea Fleet. During its 20 years of service, it has navigated 20,000 nautical miles and participated in many naval exercises. During the 1970s and 80s, there were over 100 Type 033's in service with the PLAN. Their job was not to destroy other submarines in open-ocean but rather to wait at coastal-depth to ambush the enemy’s invading fleet. The one thousand nautical miles per year is low by today’s standard, however, it illustrates the PLAN’s straightforward submarine doctrine and its limited training requirements of the 1980s. In another words, they were cheap and expendable. The reminding 7 Type 033s are in “active reserve” and have not set sail for sometime now.
What was most interesting about this retirement was the official comment that the sub had steamed 38,000 kilometers at sea over its 20 year career. That comes out to less than a week at sea a year. This was not unusual. Chinese subs are not built well, and there have been many breakdowns and accidents at sea. The Chinese have preferred to keep their subs tied up at dock, and have the crew practice there. Not very good training, but it does reduce the risk of losing the boat at sea. And it is good for crew morale.
China has been trying to improve the quality of its subs, and warships in general. They stopped building Type 33s in the 1980s, and began producing 21 boats of an improved design (the Type 35), which they built until the end of the century. These were more reliable boats, and spent somewhat more time at sea than the Type 33s. During the last decade, the Chinese were still having problems with producing reliable diesel-electric boats, and even more problems with nuclear subs. But eventually, the Chinese will solve the quality problems, which is exactly what they planned to do all along.
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News.
DTN News: Iran TODAY October 22, 2009 ~ Iran Arrests Suspects In Attack On Military Chiefs*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, Iran - October 22, 2009: Iranian security forces have arrested suspects in a suicide bombing that killed at least 42 people, including senior Revolutionary Guard commanders, Iran's police chief said Wednesday.
An Iranian police officer, foreground, chants the slogan "death to US" as mourners carry the coffins of Revolutionary Guard members, who were killed in Sunday's suicide bombing in southeastern Iran, during a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009. Iran vowed retaliation Monday after accusing Pakistan, the U.S. and Britain of aiding Sunni militants who stunned the Islamic regime with a suicide bombing that killed top Revolutionary Guard commanders and dozens of others. A suicide bomber targeted a group of elite Revolutionary Guard commanders, killing 42 and injured dozens more in Pishin district in the southeastern province of Zahedan.
Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said members of the Sunni rebel group known as Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, that carried out Sunday's deadly bombing entered Iran from neighboring Pakistan. The group has waged a low-level insurgency in Iran's southeast in recent years, claiming to fight on behalf of the Baluchi ethnic minority, which it says is persecuted by Iran's government.
"Fortunately, a number of elements linked to this terrorist group were arrested by security forces," Moghadam was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency. He did not say how many were arrested.
Sunday's attack killed 15 members of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, including five senior commanders, and at least 27 others in the town of Pishin near Iran's border with Pakistan.
The dead included the deputy commander of the Guard's ground force, Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari. The attacker targeted a meeting of Guard chiefs and local tribal leaders that was aimed at promoting unity between Iran's majority Shiites and minority Sunnis.
In a statement posted Wednesday on Jundallah's Web site, the group said those whom Iran had arrested were innocent and the only person involved in the attack was the bomber.
"Because of the weakness of the regime and its defeat, they arrest innocent people and under torture they will get false confessions," the Jundallah statement said.
Iran has accused the United States, Britain and Pakistan of having links with the Sunni militants of Jundallah, though all three nations have denied the allegations.
The accusations put strains on a traditionally friendly relationship between Iran and Pakistan that has soured in recent years over the issue of Islamic extremism. Iran's president and the Guard chief, for the first time, publicly accused Pakistan's intelligence service this week of supporting Jundallah.
Moghadam said talks between the two nations were taking place to discuss the arrest of those responsible for the attack.
"Unfortunately, some of the Pakistani intelligence services provided support for this group to carry out this terrorist attack," IRNA quoted him as saying. "Pakistan has a direct responsibility for this terrorist act and must provide the necessary facilities to track down and arrest the destructive elements."
Pakistan's interior minister said Wednesday that his nation was cooperating with Iran and has handed over a dozen suspected militants in recent months, including the brother of Jundallah's leader, Abdulmalik Rigi.
Iranian state media reported earlier this year that the Jundallah leader's brother was in custody and was to have been hanged along with 13 other members of the rebel group on July 14 but that his execution was postponed without explanation.
The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, told reporters in televised comments that Rigi himself was not in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan.
"I can tell you this with full responsibility, he is in Afghanistan. And I have given his exact location to the interior minister of Iran — where he is in Afghanistan," Malik said.
He pledged Pakistan's willingness to cooperate with Iran.
"We have told them they should work with us," he said. "We have seen many 9/11s and many such terrorism acts. We are the prime victim and we desire that our neighbors must not suffer from this pain."
Iran believes the U.S. and Britain are provoking ethnic unrest in Iran to undermine its security, charges Washington and London have denied.
The region in Iran's southeast has been the focus of violent attacks by Jundallah. The group accuses Iran's Shiite-dominated government of persecution and has carried out attacks against the Revolutionary Guard and Shiite targets in the southeast.
Iranian officials have accused Jundallah of receiving support from al-Qaida and the Taliban, though some analysts who have studied the group dispute such a link.
Jundallah's campaign is one of several small-scale ethnic and religious insurgencies in Iran that have fueled sporadic and sometimes deadly attacks in recent years — though none have amounted to a serious threat to the government.
DTN News: Technology News TODAY October 22, 2009 ~ Windows 7 Launches TODAY October 22*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - October 22, 2009: Let the countdown begin. We are at less than T-minus 24 hours to the general availability of Windows 7. Whether you are a die-hard Windows XP user, or a Windows Vista user (satisfied or disgruntled), or even a user of a non-Windows operating system, there is reason to look at Windows 7 and give serious consideration to embracing the new operating system.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be headlining the red-carpet Windows 7 launch event in New York on Thursday. Perhaps Microsoft is a little gun-shy after the Vista backlash, but the Windows 7 launch is significantly more modest than the nightclub gala spectacle Microsoft hosted to introduce Windows Vista.
By most accounts though, Microsoft would be much more justified in celebrating the launch of Windows 7. Throughout the beta testing and public preview of the new operating system it has been favorably reviewed and showered with accolades-- the most common being that its not Vista.
Users have some PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) about new Windows operating systems as well resulting from experience-- either firsthand or anecdotal-- with Windows Vista. Among desktop operating systems, Windows XP still holds a commanding 71.5 percent to Windows Vista's 18.62 percent.
The broad availability of the Windows 7 beta and RC (release candidate) versions have allowed a large number of users to dip their toe into the Windows 7 waters though which should help overcome the trepidation they might feel about rushing out to get the OS tomorrow.
Many users will be making the first operating system upgrade they have made in nearly a decade. The vast majority of them are probably running on hardware that is fine for Windows XP, but lacks the zest to run Windows 7. That is why David Coursey, a PC World peer, recommends that users would be better off to purchase a new system that includes Windows 7 than to upgrade from XP to Windows 7 on their existing hardware. I definitely agree that the experience is much more likely to be favorable with new hardware than trying to fit the round Windows 7 peg into the square Windows XP hardware.
Dell has a lot to gain from a successful Windows 7. Dell has experienced sluggish PC sales and has stubbornly avoided trading profit for volume by embracing the netbook market. That decision has allowed Acer to surpass Dell for PC market share and knocked Dell down to third place. Unlike Acer though, Dell has established relationships large enterprise customers and 2010 could be a very good year if those customers finally drop Windows XP and refresh their technology for Windows 7.
There are a number of very good reasons to forget about the Windows Vista debacle and give Windows 7 a chance. Windows 7 has improved security features, and enhanced networking for both consumers and businesses. Microsoft has resolved the issues-both real and perceived-with Windows Vista and developed an operating system that performs well and provides a great end-user experience.
If you aren't in New York and haven't been invited to the Windows 7 launch event, never fear. Over the coming weeks there will be smaller regional launch events being held as well. Attendees will get an overview of the features and functions, as well as a free copy of Windows 7. Seats are filling up quickly though so check out availability and get registered soon if you plan to attend.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY October 22, 2009 ~ Afghans Take Steps To Prevent Fraud In Next Vote
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - October 22, 2009: Afghan authorities plan to close thousands of polling stations and hire new poll workers to discourage the fraud that tarnished the August presidential election and forced a runoff set for Nov. 7, U.N. officials said Wednesday.Azizullah Lodin, head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009. President Hamid Karzai's chief political rival agreed Wednesday to take part in the Nov. 7 runoff election, setting the stage for a high-stakes showdown in the face of Taliban threats and approaching winter snows.
President Hamid Karzai's rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, announced Wednesday he was ready to contest the runoff, a day after the incumbent acknowledged under intense U.S. pressure that he fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for victory in the Aug. 20 election. U.N.-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of Karzai's votes because of fraud.
In Washington, U.S. officials said a power-sharing arrangement between Karzai and Abdullah to avoid a runoff was still possible although it would be up to the Afghans. One senior defense official said that a power-sharing deal at this point had equal odds of coming together or falling apart.
Nevertheless, Afghan officials are scrambling to organize a new election in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency and ahead of the advent of winter, which begins in much of the country around the middle of November.
The Afghan Independent Election Commission, dominated by Karzai supporters, is under huge pressure to avoid a repeat of the massive fraud, which discredited the government and threatened to undermine public support for the war in the United States and Western European countries that provide most of the 100,000 NATO-led troops.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said it would be a "huge challenge" to hold another election without repeating massive fraud. The U.N. has set aside more than $20 million to support the poll, according to the U.N. spokesman in Kabul, Aleem Siddique.
In an effort to tamp down cheating, officials will cut about 7,000 of the 24,000 polling stations which they set up for the August ballot. Some of those stations were in areas too dangerous to protect. Others never opened, enabling corrupt officials to stuff the ballot boxes with impunity.
About 200 of the 2,950 district election coordinators will be replaced following complaints of misconduct leveled by candidates or observers, the U.N. said.Afghan soldiers stand by a military jeep with mounted machine guns in central Kabul on October 21, 2009. Security, voter apathy and corruption are the main challenges facing organisers of a credible second round of Afghanistan's fraud-hit presidential elections, officials and analysts said.
Finding replacements for coordinators and poll workers implicated in fraud will be difficult, especially in a country where more than 70 percent of the population is illiterate. The government had to scramble this summer to recruit enough election officials and poll workers, especially at voting stations reserved for women.
It's unclear if they would be able to fill open posts with better-qualified people.
Siddique said the decision to close thousands of polling stations should not prevent people from voting.
"Voters will be redirected to polling centers in the same district where they can vote, where security can be assured and where we have staff that are able to implement the procedures according to law," he said.
As with the August vote, the Nov. 7 election will be run by the Afghan election commission and not by the U.N., which plays a support and oversight role.
Commission Chairman Azizullah Lodin met repeatedly with Karzai in the days before the final results were released. At the time, his group was challenging the findings of the auditors on the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, a separate body.
Lodin told The Associated Press that he saw nothing improper in those meeting.
"President Karzai is president of Afghanistan. When there is some problem he must ask what happened," Lodin said, insisting he was not pressured to reject the auditors' findings.
Lodin told reporters Wednesday that despite control measures, there was no way his commission could guarantee a fair vote on its own. He said most of the thousands of poll workers were students and teachers given only one day's training.
"It is your duty, my duty. It is every Afghan's duty to guarantee" a fair election, Lodin said.
Afghan police and soldiers will also have the primary responsibility for securing polling stations against Taliban attack, with U.S. and other NATO forces standing by in case they are needed.
Taliban fighters killed dozens of civilians during the August election and cut off fingers stained with ink to identify people who had already cast ballots.
During his news conference Wednesday, Abdullah called on Afghan and international forces to do all they can to protect voters. He said voters "are taking a risk in some parts of the country and they should be confident that that risk is worthwhile."
Associated Press writers Todd Pitman and Rahim Faiez in Islamabad, and Anne Gearan and Matthew Lee in Washington, contributed to this report.
DTN News: EADS Adds U.S. Executive As Battle For Pentagon Contract Heats Up*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) NEW YORK, USA - October 22, 2009: International defense giant European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. has tapped a former Bush administration official to run its fast-growing U.S. operations, but is keeping its current chief executive on board to help win a key $40 billion U.S. Air Force contract.
EADS said Tuesday that former NASA head Sean O'Keefe, 53, will become chief executive of EADS North America. As of Nov. 1, he will replace Ralph Crosby, 62, who will remain chairman of EADS North America.
Mr. O'Keefe was the NASA administrator from 2001 to 2005 and also served as Navy Secretary and Pentagon comptroller during the first Bush administration.
EADS Chief Executive Louis Gallois said at a press conference in Washington that Mr. O'Keefe will be charged with expanding business with the Pentagon and Homeland Security Department, as well as guiding the company into space and related areas.
Mr. Gallois said that growing the executive suite will also help EADS be seen more as an "American citizen" in the U.S. This comes as the company's growth in the U.S. is creating political friction with homegrown rivals such as Boeing Co. that until recently haven't had to contend with a major presence from EADS in the U.S. defense market, the world's biggest.
Mr. O'Keefe comes to EADS from a senior role at General Electric Co.'s Washington operations.
The Obama administration has just kicked off a politically contentious process to award an Air Force contract to supply civilian jetliners modified into flying fuel stations that is worth at least $40 billion to the winner. EADS is teamed with Northrop Grumman Corp. and beat out Boeing for the contract last year. A successful appeal by Boeing to the Government Accountability Office overturned the win last summer and the selection process is beginning again this fall.
Mr. Crosby's focus will be on securing another victory, which would vault EADS into the big leagues of Pentagon contracting and give its Airbus subsidiary a key manufacturing foothold in the U.S. Airbus plans to assemble modified A330 aircraft in Alabama, which has given the company a solid political base in that state as it and Northrop battle Boeing's political supporters from Washington state and Kansas.
Under Mr. Crosby's leadership, EADS won a contract to provide hundreds of supply helicopters to the U.S. Army, a significant move that he said makes the firm's U.S. operations an American company. "I put a check in that box," he said.
A series of deals have also grown the company, and Mr. Gallois said more acquisitions are possible as EADS has "the ambition to buy significant targets in the U.S." For now, the company is being very conservative with its cash given the condition of the financial markets, Mr. Gallois said.
DTN News: The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan*Source: By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla STRATFOR(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 22, 2009: The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda's sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.
After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called "right war" derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called "wrong war." But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.
Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan
Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein's military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political -- and financial -- accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase -- aka the surge -- was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.
It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies' security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies' security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal's strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys -- like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province -- and opening bases in more densely populated areas.
McChrystal's strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal's forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.
It should be noted that while McChrystal's traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.
There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.
Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal's strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.
In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition's main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.
McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold "Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day."
This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.
One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is a radical departure from U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.
Seismic Shift in War Doctrine
Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers -- normally artillery and airpower -- capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal's strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.
Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can't protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.
The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership -- with their own excellent intelligence capabilities -- changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.
But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban's ability to identify, locate and liquidate defectors. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.
Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn't ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different -- and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.
Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.
The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia -- or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.
Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.
If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn't split decisively.
On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower's use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.
The Bigger Picture
The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.
The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.
In our view, Obama's decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal's strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal's strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy;
he is guaranteeing nothing.
Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world's sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.
Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for "hold until relieved." We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won't be too far off.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to www.stratfor.com