The ability of the U.S. military to quickly provide small-scale humanitarian relief and reconstruction services in Afghanistan enhanced the operational effectiveness of U.S. forces there during the counterinsurgency-focused 2010-2013 time frame.
Projects under the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan ranged from rehabilitating a local well to hydro dam and reservoir restoration. The U.S. military's ability to provide humanitarian relief and reconstruction services enhanced the operational effectiveness of its forces there.
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.
Special warfare provides policymakers with an additional option that can help secure U.S. interests and manage risks. It can stabilize a friendly state or destabilize a hostile regime by operating through and with local state or non-state partners, rather than through unilateral U.S. action.
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 2015 counterinsurgency (COIN) effort in Afghanistan ranks among the low end of historical COIN winners. The Afghan government and security forces are capable of maintaining the current stalemate with the Taliban. This is the first step on the most promising path to peace: a negotiated settlement.
The announcement of a preliminary peace accord by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Colombian government is not receiving public support. Most Colombians manifest a strong desire for peace but reject the possibility that crimes committed in the name of revolution should receive amnesty.
U.S. security cooperation aims to help others be better able to deal with problems in their countries and regions. To get the most out of these efforts, it's important to understand when and why security cooperation works, and when and why it doesn't.
The Taliban has battled its way into the center of Kunduz, with media reports saying it seized control of the northern Afghanistan city at least for a time. A trio of RAND experts offer insights 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.
Addressing root causes of insurgencies and reconciliation have historically proven to be lasting means to defeat insurgent groups. While this approach could be the best way to overcome the Islamic State in Iraq, monumental obstacles make success questionable.
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.