This weekly recap focuses on how insurgency could give Ukraine an edge over Russia, repurposing commercial buildings to help address L.A.’s housing crisis, Americans’ options for reaching the middle class, and more.
While insurgency rarely offers a path to early victory, a campaign of popular resistance that supports the continuing conventional battle could give overmatched Ukraine an edge in its fight against Russian occupiers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might have assumed that once conquered, Ukraine would be easy to hold. But there has been no lightning success, no defecting Ukrainian soldiers. If he can't find collaborators, Putin's chances of achieving even reduced ambitions in Ukraine may be dim indeed.
While Southern Africa has largely remained immune from violent extremism, the situation in northern Mozambique threatens to destabilize the country and could potentially spread to other parts of the region. To effectively counter the growing threat, the government could devise a less heavy handed approach.
Weapons proliferation has been a security concern for Libya and its neighbors since the revolution of 2011. If foreign arms transfers into Libya aren't reduced, the country's security situation will continue to deteriorate, giving militant groups a chance to increase their lethality and further destabilize the region.
Since 2013, Egypt has been engaged in the Sinai Peninsula against a deadly ISIS-affiliated insurgency. To make headway, the Egyptian government could focus on providing services in the region and repairing its relationship with citizens.
When asked about their heroes, one name comes up with French Army officers more than any other: Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc. Saint Marc lived an extraordinary life, to be sure. But his story also contains important lessons about modern warfare and counter-insurgency warfare in particular, the work of training local forces, and the imperative of aligning military means with realistic political objectives.
At first glance the comparison between the French military operations in Mali and America’s involvement in Afghanistan is compelling, and in some important ways, accurate. It also presents some fundamental differences that give reason for optimism in France.
The campaign to counter ISIS has made significant progress, but predictions of the group's demise are premature. It is transitioning from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the globe.
In his speech on Afghanistan, President Trump maintained his stance against nation-building. But like President Obama's policy, the refreshed approach hinges on the U.S. developing Afghan government capabilities to fight the Taliban, provide for the country's long-term security, and serve as a counterterrorism partner.
Since Gadhafi was removed from power, Gulf nations have been vying for position in Libya through proxy forces to influence political outcomes. Libya's rival militias — armed and funded by their respective Gulf sponsors — set the framework for the civil conflict that erupted in 2014 and continues today. Current tensions between Qatar and its neighbors are adding to the instability.
The use of chemical weapons today provokes international condemnation, if not always action. Those who order their deployment risk being charged with war crimes. So why would Syria's President Bashar Assad use them?
The battle of Mosul is not just about defeating ISIS. It is about restoring Mosul to the multi-ethnic city it once was. The Syrian government's style of warfare in Aleppo, however, accepts that Syria will remain a divided country.
Focusing on one type of threat or the other — whether state or non-state in its general nature — is becoming a less tenable option as the United States considers how to assess and improve its military readiness.
The Islamic State's loss of territory, money, and recruits would seem to demonstrate significant progress by the U.S.-led coalition. But if there is one accepted truism in the battle against the group, it is that its leaders intend to fight to the death to establish an Islamic caliphate.
The lessons from the nearly 200 insurgencies that have taken place since World War II suggest that Russian aid probably will fail to turn the tide in Syria. The Assad regime still faces serious challenges, not the least of which is a lack of legitimacy among the Syrian people.
Moscow remains ambivalent but the West and its Arab partners could improve cease-fire prospects in Syria. They will have to drive the peace process to maintain pressure for political accommodation and also do more to help the rebels they back avert a military imbalance.
The announcement of a preliminary peace accord by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government is not receiving public support. Most Colombians manifest a strong desire for peace but they reject the possibility that crimes committed in the name of revolution should receive amnesty.
The Taliban battled its way into the center of Kunduz this week, with media reports saying it seized control of the northern Afghanistan city at least for a time. A trio of RAND experts participated in a Q&A on the situation and its significance.
Recently, both Syria and Afghanistan have seen battles that demonstrate anew the potential risks of seeking to defend exposed positions. Syrian leaders seem to have recognized that there are limits to the amount of territory its military can hold. Afghanistan's leaders would be well advised to come to the same conclusion.
Defeating ISIL will not come from winning hearts and minds and soft power, nor will it come from a handful of precision airstrikes. It will require hard, bloody ground combat. The United States may not want to admit this, but it is the grim truth nonetheless.
Recent analysis about how to defeat the Islamic State tends to be based on no more than intuition, a general sense of history, or a small number of cases of questionable comparability. A study of 71 historical cases of counterinsurgencies should help provide empirical evidence to this important debate.
One can legitimately argue for reducing the United States' commitment to the Afghan war, but it makes no sense to denigrate the tactics and techniques best designed to counter an insurgency, writes James Dobbins.
President Obama's declaration last week that a change in personnel will not mean a change in policy suggests that the administration took only some of the lessons contained in Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone article, writes Celeste Ward Gventer.
When President Obama explained his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to support General Stanley McChrystal's new counterinsurgency campaign, he left a key question unanswered: Will this be enough to achieve U.S. strategic ends in Afghanistan? writes David E. Johnson.
If the additional troops President Obama has ordered sent to Afghanistan are intended to pursue a "population-centric counterinsurgency" campaign, as described in news reports about General McChrystal's thinking, then this decision is regrettable, writes Celeste Ward Gventer.
The discussion of American troop numbers misunderstands the subtle nuances of fighting a war in areas inhabited by fiercely independent Pashtun tribes, whose culture and traditions are under severe threat from the Taliban, writes Seth Jones.
When Defense Secretary Gates announced that he was dismissing Gen. McKiernan as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and replacing him with Lt. Gen. McChrystal, he signaled his support for an intellectual movement that in a few short years has come to dominate military thinking in Washington, writes Celeste Ward.
Afghanistan has a reputation as a graveyard of empires, based as much on lore as on reality.... Yes, the situation is serious, but it's far from doomed. We can still turn things around if we strive for a better understanding of the Afghan insurgency and work to exploit its many weaknesses, writes Seth G. Jones.