Tag Archives: U.S. Forces

Mark Collins – South China Sea: Why is USN Admiral Leading on US Policy vs China? Part 2

Further to this post in May, the head of US Pacific Command is at it again, note my italics–one would have thought such statements should be for civilian policy makers (in any event President Trump unlikely to be bothered)–at Defense One’sD-Brief“:

The U.S. will cooperate with China, “but we will be ready to confront when we must,” said PACOM’s Adm. Harry Harris during a speech this morning in Sydney. “We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” he said. “The U.S. fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation. This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight [emphasis added, talk about robust]”. More here

More here on the South China Sea.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Big Dragon “Yikes!”–From 2010 to 2020 “China is set to nearly double its military spending…”

This should sure get the attention of PEOTUS Trump–the rest of the headline:

…as an arms race heats up in Asia.
China’s defense spending will balloon to $233 billion in 2020, up from $123 billion in 2010, according to a new report by IHS Jane’s.

Very relevant:

Can the US Cope With a Big War Against a Major Power? Part 2

USAF “Officers Give New Details for F-35 in War With China”

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Rising Sun’s Yen for Defence Spending, Part 3

Take that Dragon! Indian PM Modi Embraces the Rising Sun (plus the Eagle and the Bear)

A real Asian military cockpit, what? Meanwhile quite a few Canadians want to embrace the Chicoms.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent vs the Kurds (plus ISIS/Syria)

This murderous terrorism,

Istanbul bombing: Terror attack death toll rises to 38 including 30 police as officials accuse PKK
PKK blamed for attack which is the latest in an escalating scale of violence in the country

will only make this worse–at the NY Times:

As Turkey Cracks Down, Kurdish Mayors Pack Bags for Jail

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — When Kurdish officials here in Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish city in the world, say they’ve been “unavoidably detained,” it is not just an excuse for lateness.

Even before I arrived, the co-mayors, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, were jailed on terrorism charges that rights groups say are trumped up. Interviews in prison are not possible because, officially, foreign journalists are barred from the city.

Ahmet Turk, 74, a Kurd despite his name and the venerable mayor of another Kurdish city, Mardin, was out of jail at the moment. But his press officer, Enver Ete, said that it would be hard to arrange an interview: “We can’t give a time since so many people are getting arrested we can’t foresee what will happen.”

Kamuran Yuksek, a Kurdish politician, was on the phone with a reporter when he was detained briefly — just after being released from five months in prison.

I could not see Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., the country’s third-largest, although he lives in Diyarbakir. He, too, was jailed, along with nine other H.D.P. members of Parliament, so I arranged to see his wife, Basak, instead.

She canceled, not because she was jailed, but perhaps because she worried she would be, and she had two small children at home.

Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish politicians, officials, news outlets, schools, municipalities, think tanks and even charities has been so thoroughgoing that it has left those who remain free expecting arrest at any moment. “My bag is packed for prison,” said Feleknas Uca, an H.D.P. member of Parliament. “Everybody has a bag in their house for prison. Now, everyone can be arrested at any moment.”

The crackdown on Kurds is part of a broader assault by the government on Turkey’s democratic freedoms after a failed coup in July, even though hard-line Islamists, followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who are rabidly anti-Kurdish and hardly democratic paragons themselves, are accused of the overthrow attempt…

The crackdown on democracy has been nationwide, but on the political front it has been concentrated in the mostly Kurdish southeast, though there is no evidence, or even a government accusation, that Kurdish parties, legal or illegal, had any role in the attempted coup.

But a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., broke down last year, and since then fighting has claimed 2,393 lives on all sides, including civilians, according to a tally by the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Erdogan’s government had been stunned in 2015 elections when the H.D.P. decimated the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in the east especially, winning six million votes, sending 80 candidates to Parliament, and becoming overnight a nationwide political force and the third-largest party. Critics accused Mr. Erdogan of deliberately rekindling violence in Kurdish areas to stir nationalist passions and reverse his flagging fortunes.

Since the coup attempt, the government has focused on jailing officials of the H.D.P. and its local sister parties, arresting at least 45 mayors of Kurdish towns beginning in late October. New arrests are coming practically every day. This year, 2,700 local Kurdish politicians affiliated with the H.D.P. have been jailed…

Kurds have borne the brunt of the crackdown, not just in politics but also in the news media and other areas. The publications and media organizations ordered closed by the government included nearly every Kurdish outlet, except for the government’s Kurdish television channel. Some Kurdish publications have begun publishing under other names…

Meanwhile the Kurdish complication vs ISIS in Syria:

U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Syria in ISIS Fight

The military advance is complicated by the predominant role played by Kurdish militia members, who make up a majority of the 45,000 fighters and are the most effective American partner against the Islamic State in Syria. But the Kurdish militia fighters are viewed by Turkey — a pivotal American ally — as a terrorist threat.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known collectively as the Y.P.G., as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Kurdish rebel group that has sought autonomy from Turkey since the 1980s. Ankara has demanded that the Y.P.G. not take part in the fight to retake Raqqa.

Turkish forces in recent months have swept across the border into Syria to attack Islamic State strongholds, an offensive the Pentagon has applauded [e.g. recently: “Turkish Troops, Syrian Rebels Attack Key Town Held by Islamic State”]. But the Turkish advance has also served to blunt the Kurdish fighters’ efforts to carve out a contiguous swath of territory inside Syria stretching to the Iraqi border.

As Turkish and Kurdish forces repeatedly clashed, American officials and commanders intervened to curtail the fighting. Washington desperately needs the two sides to focus on fighting the Islamic State in Raqqa, not each other.

To that end, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has met twice in the last month with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, to consult on battle plans for Raqqa. American Special Operations troops were assigned to accompany Turkish troops in Syria, giving the Pentagon on-the-ground liaisons.

In another unusual move, Brig. Gen. Jon K. Mott of the Air Force, a senior operations officer from the Pentagon’s Central Command, was recently dispatched to the Turkish Army’s operations center in Ankara to help coordinate the war effort and defuse any conflicts with the Kurds.

Pentagon officials are also toning down their vocal support for Kurdish fighters to avoid further inflaming Turkish domestic political sensitivities about any collaboration between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters…

Where it will all end knows only…Earlier (Operation Euphrates Shield— this from August):

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – South China Sea Update: Vietnam Building; Philippines Smacking US

Two stories:

1) Exclusive: Risking Beijing’s ire, Vietnam begins dredging on South China Sea reef


2) Manila says will not help US on patrols in South China Sea

So the US and Vietnam are closer and close to being  de facto allies vs China whilst President Duterte’s Philippines smoozes the Dragon, effectively saying “Up yours, Uncle Sam!” What will PEOTUS Trump do in office? Looks a job for the good old CIA to me.

Meanwhile India and Vietnam are also getting together with Beijing much in mind. Lots of great games going on.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – US Navy’s Seawolf Nuclear Attack Subs (SSN) and the Arctic

One wonders how much our government knows of these activities–note link at end of the post:

An American Submarine Just Slipped Under the Arctic Ice
USS ‘Seawolf’’s missions and technology are secret

Sometime apparently in August 2013, the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Seawolf eased out of the port of Bremerton, in Washington State, on what was probably her fifth or sixth deployment since commissioning in 1997.

A month later the U.S. Sixth Fleet, in charge of ships in European waters, posted a series of photos to the Website Flickr depicting the U.S. ambassador to Norway, Barry White, touring the 350-foot-long Seawolf pierside at Haakonsvern naval base … in southern Norway. Thousands of miles from Washington State.

How Seawolf got to Norway—and what she might have done en route—offer a rare and tantalizing glimpse into some of the most secretive quarters of the most poorly understood aspects of American naval power.

For it seems Seawolf traveled to Norway along a path rarely taken by any vessel — underneath the Arctic ice…

Google the names of any of the Navy’s Los Angeles-class submarines, the most numerous in the fleet, and you’ll get hits: Navy statements and photo releases, the occasional news article. But try to look up Seawolf-class vessels and you’ll get next to nothing [but see here and Google here].

Her official Website is blocked. The last time Seawolf’s exterior appeared in a Navy photo was 2009.

That’s because Seawolf and her sisters are special. Newer, bigger, faster and more heavily armed than standard attack submarines, the nearly $3-billion-per-copy Seawolfs have been fitted with hundreds of millions of dollars in unique equipment and are assigned to their own special squadron in Washington State.

They deploy for months at a time often without any public notice. The wife of a Seawolf sailor described the boat as “unpredictable.”..

Puzzle Pieces:

Here’s what we do know. In March 2011 Seawolf’s sister ship Connecticut was tapped for the rare honor of operating under the Arctic ice for tests.

Connecticut and the brand-new Virginia-class sub New Hampshire sailed north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, for one of the Navy’s infrequent “ICEX” exercises [see end of post], begun after the submarine USS Nautilus, in 1958, became the first undersea boat to reach the North Pole.

Connecticut “worked with the U.S. Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory to test new equipment and train for under-ice operations in an arctic environment,” the Navy announced.

The new equipment included “high-frequency sonar for safe Arctic operations and the Raytheon Deep Siren acoustic communications system,” the sailing branch added.

We know that Seawolf spent almost three years in drydock starting in September 2009. Contractors did $280 million in work. And when Seawolf returned to the cold Pacific waters in April 2012, she was “even more capable and effective than at any time in her 15 years of service,” according to Cdr. Dan Packer, her skipper at the time.

It’s possible Seawolf received the same under-ice gear Connecticut tested in 2011. The Arctic is, after all, a new area of concern for the Navy. With the ice receding, new shipping lanes are opening up and foreign navies are getting more active…

In any event, it’s apparent that Seawolf has crossed over the top of the world for her current deployment. Practically speaking, there’s no other way the vessel could have arrived in Norway mere weeks after departing her homeport in Washington State…

But see this post about ICEX 2014 and USN submarines:

Major US Arctic Exercise, RCN Takes Part: Who Knew?

So some USN glasnost, eh? And in fact the RCN did go public a few days after the Americans did.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Trump Transition: National Security/Foreign Policy

Leaks, rumour, speculation–at Foreign Policy:

SitRep: Huge Changes in Trump NatSec Team; Pentagon Pick Likely This Week

Big day. Tuesday [Nov. 15] was a quite a day in the transition effort of President-elect Donald Trump. The announcements of ousters and new faces came fast and with little notice, giving the impression that the inner circle ensconced inside Trump Tower is either in chaos, or making good on its promise to smash the entrenched system to pieces.

First, former Republican congressman Mike Rogers was forced out from his role heading the national security transition team. A respected national security figure and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers was considered a top pick for heading CIA, a nomination now unlikely. Several other lower-level staffers were also sent packing in a move widely seen as a cutting of ties with people associated with Chris Christie, who was demoted on Friday from his perch running the transition process.

New faces on the team. Frank Gaffney, a prominent birther who has long questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States, was brought in to assist on national security issues, as were GOP U.S. Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Devin Nunes. Gaffney has long railed against Muslim immigration and warned that the Muslim Brotherhood has its tentacles deep in the U.S. government. He once said the new logo for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency was proof of Muslim infiltration.

Waiting on the SecDef. The list of potential Defense Secretary nominees has narrowed considerably since the speculation last week that a wide variety of Republicans, including longtime national security officials Stephen Hadley and James Woosley were in the mix, along with people like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and recently ousted Republican senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte.

A source with knowledge of thinking inside the transition team played down those stories, telling SitRep that the team appears to be waiting for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to make a decision as to whether he wants the Pentagon job or not. The long-time Trump backer has his pick of several Cabinet positions. The source added that they expect an announcement on the SecDef nomination to come this week.

Pentagon officials told SitRep Tuesday that the Trump team has yet to reach out to start the transition process, but that the department has office space set aside, and has materials prepped for the upcoming meetings. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has put his chief of staff, Eric Rosenbach, in charge of the process.

Flynn in the mix. Retired U.S. Army three-star general Mike Flynn is still in the running for a top national security post, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller tell us, but he’s beginning to experience some pushback. Any Senate confirmation hearing could be rough, given that he was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by the Obama administration due to concerns over his leadership, “and he has potentially problematic connections to foreign governments.”

More from the Post: “Flynn has admitted that he accepted money for appearing at a lavish gala with Putin in Moscow last year. He recently criticized the Obama administration’s treatment of Turkey in an opinion column, without disclosing to the Trump campaign that his consulting firm has financial ties to that country.”

Where are the “Never Trumpers?” There’s increasing speculation over what role, if any, the much-publicized “Never Trump” coalition of veteran national security hands might play in the Trump administration. While any incoming administration values loyalty and rewards allies, “there aren’t enough people as it is, you can’t just start eliminating people,” one long-time Republican national security hand tells SitRep. The think tanker added that plenty of conservative analysts have been contacted by the transition team, but few have been interested in joining a Trump administration.

State competition. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton, former undersecretary of state and ambassador to the U.N. in the George W. Bush administration, are fighting it out for the nod to lead the State Department. But both face confirmation issues. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday that he would oppose both men for the job, given their vocal support for the war in Iraq, calls to bomb Iran, and other hawkish views.

Republican policy hands worried. Politico’s Michael Crowley and Shane Goldmacher have taken the temperature of several prominent Republican foreign policy leaders, and found them “newly alarmed over the emerging shape of Donald Trump’s national security team, after signs that Trump is passing over well-regarded establishment figures in favor of controversial and less experienced political allies.”

For how this is all playing out in the minds of some long-time Republican foreign policy hands, read this scathing take on the Trump team by Eliot Cohen, who had some contact with the transition team, but was repelled by what he saw…

Fun, Fun, Fun:

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – F-35 JPO PEO Goes to Ottawa

Lt. Gen. Bogdan pays us a visit:

U.S. pitches F-35 jet to Ottawa as Liberals aim to replace fleet

The U.S. Air Force made a last-minute pitch [the general actually represents the whole Pentagon] to the federal government in favour of the Lockheed-Martin F-35, hoping to reassure officials about the long-term viability of the stealth fighter jet that the Liberals promised not to buy in the past election, sources said.

A top American officer who leads the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, based in Virginia, travelled to Ottawa on Oct. 14 to meet with Canadian officials who are working on the purchase of Canada’s next fleet of fighter jets. Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan discussed the ongoing development of the state-of-the-art fighter jet, which has clients around the world but is still facing a series of technological problems, officials said.

The visit from Lt.-Gen. Bogdan came at a crucial time, as a small team of Liberal ministers are set to choose one of three options to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s: launch a full and open competition [see “New RCAF Fighter: Consult, Consult, Consult (with industry)–Why Not Just Compete?”]; buy a small number of fighter jets for an interim fleet [see “Cabinet Committee to Take Sting out of Sole-Sourcing RCAF Super Hornets? CF-18 Life Extension?“]; or purchase an entire fleet of jets through a sole-sourced acquisition [don’t think I’ve seen this possibility made explicit before].

Defence-industry officials expect the cabinet committee on defence procurement to meet on this matter next week. Federal officials declined to comment on the timing of the coming meeting, but said the government does not plan to let the complex file drag on.

There are widespread concerns in the Liberal government about the short-term risks associated with the acquisition of the F-35, which is still in development.

In September, 15 F-35s were grounded over the discovery of faulty insulation in avionics cooling lines in the aircraft’s wings, an issue that should be be fixed by the end of the year [see “Grounded F-35As Expected to Fly Again Soon“].

On a broader level, some Canadian officials were preoccupied by a recent report that raised a number of questions about the ability of the F-35 to achieve its promised capabilities.

Leaked to Bloomberg News over the summer, the report [in fact an  internal Pentagon memo] from the U.S. government’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation warned that the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” full capabilities by the scheduled end of its development in 2018 [more here, here and here (Norwegian pilot)].

Lt.-Gen. Bogdan was in Ottawa earlier this month specifically to discuss the Canadian government’s plans to buy new fighter jets.

“The general provided an update on the status of the program and answered questions to help ensure officials had as complete information as possible on the F-35 program, as the Government of Canada considers all of its options to replace their legacy CF-18 fighter fleet,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for Lt.-Gen. Bogdan.

Mr. DellaVedova would not give details of what was discussed at the meeting, but provided a statement by Lt.-Gen. Bogdan to dissipate concerns over the report from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation…

Relevant:

New Canadian Fighter: F-35 vs Super Hornet–Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Hit the Fan

New RCAF Fighter: Debate on F-35 vs Rest, esp. Super Hornet

RCAF CF-18 Life Extension: Will Canadian Government Actually Act?

Avions F-35: une manne de 1 milliard au Canada

Sic Itur Ad...?

RCAF-badge-UB499b-tn.jpg

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – ‘The U.S. did not “invade” Afghanistan’

A letter sent to the NY Times and not published:

Paul Theroux [website here] writes (“Pardon the American Taliban“, Oct. 23) that “after Sept. 11, the United States invaded Afghanistan on a punitive mission.” That is repeating a myth unfortunately but firmly fixed in most people’s minds.

After Sept. 11 the Afghan Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban did receive American air support and assistance from special forces, both U.S. and British; that, however, is no invasion as the term is commonly understood (e.g. the Soviet attack on Hungary in 1956).

It was not until after the fall of Kabul to troops of the Northern Alliance in mid-November 2001, and the subsequent collapse of the Taliban regime, that there was any continuing regular U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan. That began with a force of over 1,000 Marines which arrived near Kandahar in late November with the agreement of the Northern Alliance (which was still the UN-recognized government of the country).

In fact the support given in October and November 2001 to the Northern Alliance is a very close analogy to NATO’s support of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya with air power. Yet no one refers to an invasion of Libya–while the myth of the invasion of Afghanistan lives on.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Further to these posts,

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle
[note links at start]

War Between the Dragon and the Eagle: USN Carriers up to It?

some recommendations for the USN’s future ships (USMC, USAF and US Army also considered):

Why America Must Overhaul its Military

…Given America’s asymmetric advantage undersea, we aggressively expanded the Navy’s undersea warfare capabilities, increasing submarines from 58 to 74 and expanding undersea strike capacity by 680 cruise missile tubes. We funded these investments by terminating the Ford- and America-class carrier production lines in light of their costs and vulnerability to anti-access/area denial (/AD) threats. This does not mean that we eliminated aircraft carriers from the force, but rather set up a process of steadily riding the carrier inventory downward over the next 50 years as existing carriers retire [very good for engaging second or third rate opponents and projecting power generally against non-peers] . We also curtailed the current amphibious fleet (/LSD) in light the challenging environment in the littorals. We preserved Marine expeditionary and crisis response missions by shifting to cheaper commercial-derivative (“black hull”) expeditionary sea bases, resulting in a larger overall expeditionary lift capacity…

But even if the USN had some 2,000 or more conventionally-armed cruise missiles–1,000 lb. warhead–on subs could they effect any decisive damage on China? Or Russia? How many would be at sea in position to fire at the onset of hostilities? And just think how long it would take to reload those boats once they had shot their, er, bolts.

So to “win” in a serious war a need to end up nuclear? Help.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – How the US Army Went Wrong in Afghanistan

One simple thing: a personnel promotion system for officers that undermined effectiveness locally. Is the Canadian Army any different? Excerpts from a must-read post by a retired US Army officer at Tom Ricks’ blog The Best Defense:

Our generals failed in Afghanistan


The United States military failed America in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a tactical failure. It was a failure of leadership.

The ascent of David Petraeus and the Army’s rediscovery of counterinsurgency doctrine led many to believe that the military had dramatically adapted itself for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately the transformation was only skin deep. Petraeus was a myth, and the intellectual father of the Army only in the eyes of the national media. The institutional inertia of the military bureaucracy never caught up with the press releases. The result was a never-ending series of public pronouncements by senior leaders about the importance of counterinsurgency, accompanied by a continuation of Cold War-era personnel and rotation policies that explicitly short-changed the effort…

Taking the lessons of unit cohesion from Vietnam, the military has followed a policy in Afghanistan where entire units rotate in and out of country every seven, nine, or 12 months. This model, more than the policy of individual rotation in Vietnam, ensures both tactical proficiency and unit cohesion at the soldier level. But it also is completely ill-suited for a counterinsurgency campaign. It makes sense to limit the time soldiers spend conducting tactical operations, but leaders attempting to establish the kind of relationships and understanding necessary to be effective in counterinsurgency must be kept in place much longer. By changing out entire units so frequently, our policy has guaranteed that military leaders rotating through Afghanistan have never had more than a superficial understanding of the political environment they are trying to shape.

The shortcomings of this rotation policy in counterinsurgency have been further reinforced by an institutional culture and personnel management system that places a low priority on the advisory mission. From the beginning of our efforts in Afghanistan the advisory mission was promoted publicly but given a low priority in execution.

The premier example of this mismatch between what military leadership said we were doing, and what the bureaucracy was actually prioritizing, can be found in the story of the AfPak hands program. The program was launched by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, and lauded as the key to shaping Afghanistan by creating a cohort of expert officers from across the services that would have the language skills and experience to build the kind of long-term relationships needed to build an effective Afghan security apparatus. While a priority for the Chairman, the effort was never embraced by the services.

Despite the fanfare and stated importance of the program, mismanagement and mis-utilization were rampant as this specialized cadre encountered personnel systems unable to support non-traditional career paths. Caught between career managers that saw the program as a deviation from what officers “should” be doing – leading tactical units – and a deployment system that often led to random staff assignments instead of partnered roles with Afghan leaders, the program quickly became known as an assignment to be “survived” if not avoided altogether.

A leaked briefing from the Army G-1, the service’s head personnel officer, to the Chief of Staff of the Army in 2014 confirmed that the AfPak Hands program had become a dead end for military careers…

In discussing what the Afghans need to be ready to fight the Taliban, a senior Pentagon official recently said, “The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics.” Yet, unaddressed by this official, and largely unasked by anyone, is why the Afghan military needs these capabilities when the Taliban have been able to achieve such success without them [WHY ARE THEIR AFGHANS BETTER THAN OUR AFGHANS?]?..

Our current exit strategy entails the creation of a massive security force designed for a nation with neither the effective bureaucracies nor functioning civil society that are required to sustain and control such a force…

Jason Dempsey retired from the Army in 2015, last serving as special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 as the operations officer to an infantry brigade and again in 2012-2013 as a combat advisor to the Afghan Border Police. He returned again briefly in 2014 to assess the advisory mission. He is the author of Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations. He currently serves as an adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security and Director of the Military and Veterans Initiative at Columbia University.

One wishes retired Canadian Forces’ personnel might engage is such institutional soul-searching. We had similar rotational policies in Afghanistan and one imagines promotional practices are not dis-similar. How many officers were fluent, or even somewhat competent, in Pushtu or Dari?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds