Thursday, December 24, 2009

Counterinsurgency and Mentoring

I love Noah Shachtman, but wish that when he asks if the U.S. military can accomplish the train and equip mission in Afghanistan and shows a video highlighting not only ANA on drugs but also some Marines responding with a drill instructor mentality, he'd also point out his colleague David Axe captured on video another soldier using best practices.

Here's what to do.

Here's what not to do.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Assessing the Adminisration's Afghanistan Strategy

Granted the strategy looks like a camel. But I like it anyway.

The stakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan are too high to walk away lightly, but the obstacles to anything that looks like success are too high to confidently invest billions of dollars and thousands of lives in the endeavor. Rather than continue to drift into a Vietnam-like quagmire as we have been, or simply withdrawal with potentially disastrous consequences, this strategy offers a moment of clarity.

This strategy clarifies that this is the moment for Karzai to decide whether or not he wants to commit to reform while he has U.S. support, or risk not only his regime but his personal survival on the loyalty and efficacy of the deals he can cut with local warlords after the U.S. withdraws. For Pakistan it clarifies that if they want the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan for the long-term they must assist us against the Afghan Taliban, or risk their ability to retain strategic depth in Afghanistan on the Taliban’s ability to keep India out. In the meanwhile our core regional concern with Pakistan’s stability is assisted by the time this strategy buys for the Pakistan military to develop counterinsurgency capabilities to fight the Pakistan Taliban and so ensure the security of their own nuclear stockpile.

We can’t fight or buy our way to success in Afghanistan on our own. The best we can do is offer our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan a window for success, and the additional 30k troops (w/ 10k option) does that. Either our allies oblige us or they don’t. Pretending for another year or two that we’ll stay in Afghanistan indefinitely regardless of cost won’t convince anyone we’ve a long-term strategic commitment to the region if the last 8 years hasn’t.

Tactical issues:

- Leveraging local tribal and village militias is positive, attempts to reproduce the Awakening. Risk is of setting off further intertribal wars.

- 10k option for next year is meaningless, we wouldn’t be able to get them out there any faster if we wanted to.

- U.S. aid will be going to individual ministries and local leaders based on ability to fight corruption and provide services. This is similar to the NSP model.

- 2011 withdrawal timeline will offer the Democrat base some reassurance for mid-terms, and more so for 2012 election. As we know from Iraq, there's plenty of flexibility even in a theoretically hard time line like this one.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Development and the national security narrative: How long?

There's a time limit to how long development advocates can frame their crusade in terms of national security. The reason the national security lens gets any purchase at all is because of fragile states, and fragile states only because of Afghanistan.

If support for war in Afghanistan is deteriorating, how long before the tide shifts back against looking at development as a national security priority? And that narrative in turn becomes subsumed in a neo-realist perspective that frames attempts to stabilize fragile states as filled w/ hubris?

Afghanistan's chief challenge is governance, a sector the military seems more disposed to address than the development community. If State and USAID are unable to seriously address the core problems of fragile states, when this narrow window of opportunity closes Congress will see the additional resources they've invested in State and USAID as wasted. Is that unfair? Perhaps, but that's how it is.


Monday, October 5, 2009

IRI Pakistan Survey - Mixed Bag

The data tells a story of Pakistanis that fear their country is going in the wrong direction, but largely for economic reasons. Their perception of religious extremism, the Taliban and Al Qaeda as problems have grown. Support for military operations against the Taliban have grown, but those operations have to be Pakistani operations. They continue to oppose cooperation with the U.S. (Obama provided a slight bump which has since disappeared), and any U.S. operations in Pakistan. A substantial minority still like Osama Bin Ladin (9%).

Those who feel we're in Afghanistan in order to prevent Pakistan from degenerating into chaos should be paying attention to these numbers. They're an important component of an evaluation of how necessary our presence in Afghanistan is to prevent insurgents based there from undermining stability in Pakistan, along with military and economic factors.

Of course the fact remains, there isn't much we can do to effect Pakistan directly. But just because your neighbor's garden hose isn't long enough to reach your burning house, doesn't mean you should start spraying his house down for lack of anything else to do.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Building Afghan Intelligence Capacity, or Building Contractor Wallet Capacity?

Pincus points out the DOD is hiring contractors to translate the U.S. Army intelligence field manual into an Afghan-friendly version. Isn't this exactly how we're supposed to have learned not to do things? If you're trying to build capacity you have to follow the FUBU principle - "For Us, By Us."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Senate Appropriators vs Authorizers - Building Afghanistan's Security Forces

While Sen. Levin is calling for the rapid expansion of Afghanistan's security forces - to facilitate a more rapid US withdrawal - the Senate Approps committee is cutting the Administration's request (sorry, CQ subscription).


Afghanistan, governance capacity and foreign assistance pathologies

Why should we care about governance capacity building, and why do our current aid institutions fail so miserably?

Lockhart before the SFRC, 17 Sept 2009.

Back in 2002, during the preparation of Afghanistan’s first post-Bonn budget, Afghanistan required a budget of $500m for the year to be able to pay its 240,000 civil servants (including doctors, teachers, and engineers) their basic salaries of $50 per month and to cover essential running costs. As the Treasury was empty, assistance was required. Unfortunately, donors initially committed only $20 million to the 2002 Afghan budget, meaning that Afghanistan’s leaders could never in the 2002-4 period meet the basic costs of sustaining services. At the same time, $1.7 billion was committed to an aid system to build parallel organizations, which ended up employing most of the same doctors and teachers as drivers, assistants and translators to operate small projects at significant multiples of their former salaries. While some additional funds were later committed to the

World Bank-run Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund, this was never enough to sustain basic governance, and the civil service atrophied. Rather than support the essential nation-wide services and programs within a framework of rule of law and policy, donors launched thousands of small, badly-coordinated projects. Billions of dollars were spent through the aid complex, resulting in little tangible change for most Afghan citizens. Their perception of aid projects was most vividly captured for me in a story told to me by villagers in a remote district of Bamiyan, who described their multi-million dollar project going up in smoke.

The prescriptions of the “aid complex” not only by-passed, but actively undermined Afghan capability: for example, it was aid donors forbade any investment in the Afghan budget for education or training over the age of 11, citing the overriding imperative of investing in primary education. Similarly, a $60 million provincial and district governance program designed to restore policing and justice services was turned down in 2002 for funding on the basis that governance was not “poverty-reducing”.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Military Readiness vs. Operational Expenses, a budget

This is a great example of divorce between the conversation about the crisis in military readiness and the use of Supplementals/Overseas Contingency Operations funding.
August 16, 2009
Weapons Cuts To Pay For Army Troop Increase

In an Aug. 13 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., President Barack Obama asked that Congress consider amending the 2010 Pentagon budget request by reallocating money from “lower-priority DoD contingency operations’ requirements.” The letter said these items are no longer needed “due to changed circumstances.”...

But the words would appear to be a clear reference to the administration giving higher priority to the war in Afghanistan than the war in Iraq, and the positive official assessments of the development of Iraqi security forces. That development is key to maintaining the security of U.S. troops as they withdraw — an effort expected to accelerate following the January 2010 elections in Iraq.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chief of Mission Authority, Lockheed Martin Analysis

Many point to the U.S. ambassador's Chief of Mission authority as a natural place to rest interagency coordination. A recent Lockheed Martin analysis of AFRICOM's roles and missions lays out more baldly than usual the reach and limits of CoM authority.

Acknowledge Chief of Mission authority (Ambassador as President’s representative) to grant entry to government personnel based on diplomatic considerations. Also, follow National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 38, which gives the Chief of Mission control of the size, composition, and mandate of overseas full-time mission staffing for all U.S. Government agencies.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

National Security Council Organization - Update

According to Larua Rozen at FP's The Cable, Gen. Jones appears to be completing the NSC's assertion of bureaucratic power, expanding NSC's mandate to chair not only the NSC's Principals Committee and Deputies Committee, but the Interagency Policy Committees as well. It'll be interesting to see if this is as decisive as expected without the President's explicit mandate in a PPD. It's not an accident that it was left out in the first place.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Presidential Policy Directive - 1: Organization of the National Security Council System

In case you haven’t seen it yet, President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive – 1, “Organization of the National Security Council System.” Thanks to ArmsControlWonk for the link.

I've a few points to make about how this ties in to the Karen DeYoung article from a couple weeks back in which Gen. Jones laid claim to controling the NSC process. His remarks seem to be reflected in this document, but there are caveats. My analysis below.

Note that the NSA is designated as chair of NSC/Principals Committee meetings is empowered to determine NSC meeting agendas “at direction of President and in consultation with other members of the NSC.”

The NSA can also call for an NSC/PC meeting “in consultation . . .” - but the directive doesn’t limit the NSA’s ability to call meetings to “at the direction of the President.”

Also, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, who was the NSA equivalent for the Homeland Security Council, may now chair the NSC/PC meetings on homeland security at the discretion of the NSA. Clearly even if the HSC hasn’t been formerly disbanded it’s being informally appended to the NSC. PSD-1 seems to be a not toward due process - and probably a way to avoid a dust up from folks looking to score cheap political points ("Homeland security is being deprioritized! Oh my!")

The NSC/Deputies Committee (chaired by Deputy NSA) seems to have an added focus on oversight of execution of policy

This directive seems to empower the NSA and his staff, but below the Deputy NSA the powers of the chair of an Interagency Policy Committee are not laid out. That will create a space for continued bureaucratic entrepreneurship from the departments and agencies. The ground rules for the NSC/IPC will likely be determined as part of their mandate, established by future NSC/PC/DC meetings. That means the bureaucratic balance of power at the IPC level is still undetermined.

And of course when the above bureaucratic constructs run into the actual political capital of the players involved, the only thing that will hold it intact is the will of the President.


Friday, February 27, 2009

State and DOD differences on regional organizations are driven by underlying structural factors

This graphic shows the discrepancy between State and DOD regional organizations that the NSA, Gen. James Jones, said he was going to resolve (We'll see). Generally I like State’s org, but it's important to understand that the logic of these structures are driven by State and DOD's fundamentally different way of engaging the world. Not just defense vs. diplomacy. It's DOD's regional approach vs. States fundamentally bilateral view of the world.

For instance South Asia though DOD made a deliberate decision not to put Pakistan and India in the same command, the to better facilitate relations between the COCOMs and the leaders of those countries. Since the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia isn’t really the US face for Pakistan or India, it isn’t a problem for the current bilateral State model. If State were to really empower a regional authority, issues like Pakistan/India would have to be carefully thought out.

The defense/diplomacy divide also matters, the mission sets. To some degree AFRICOM makes sense for the DOD as it's currently structured. The State Department's model would make addressing transnational threats in the region more difficult, like the AQIM. AQIM is most active in Algeria, but also have rudimentary training camps in Mali. Conversely it's important to the State Department needs to account for the important relations between North African states and the Middle East proper (Morocco was key in the Israel-Egypt rapprochement) .


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is DOD making a play against State's Civilian Response Corps? - DoDD 1404.10

Deputy Secretary Gordon England signed off on DoDD 1404.10 on January 23rd, just after inauguration. It establishes a DOD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) that sounds a whole lot like State's Civilian Response Corps (CRC), run by the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

Couple relevant questions:

1) Will S/CRS have any authority over the CEW per NSPD-44?

2) Will CRC and CEW be poaching one another's personnel and missions? Or will those personnel become dual hatted?

3) Does the issuance of the directive shortly after inauguration indicate the Obama Administration's preference for a capability that could stand up more rapidly than it's State counterpart?

4) Will CEW be strictly "out of hide," or will new personnel be hired not only to manage it, but also fill capability gaps (e.g. agriculture, urban planning)?

On the first two my bet DOD's preference will win out, and bureaucracies prefer autonomy. Yes they want capable civilian partners, but under uncertainty they'll likely take an in-house capability, especially if they can foist it on DOD civilians instead of uniformed military.

On the third point, the instincts of Pres. Obama, VP Biden, and Sec. Clinton almost certainly lead to a preference for increased capability in State, USAID, etc. - but you can also imagine a decision being made to just get it done. (S/CRS promises to have a capability stood up this year undermining the latter point.)

Ultimately I can't imagine the Administration giving something like this any attention on January 23rd. This has got to be a pure DOD initiative. Perhaps waiting till after inauguration was a tactic to get past NSPD-44 before the new Administration took ownership of the policy.

I am a huge fan of Secretary Gates. It sometimes seems there's no vital reform he isn't addressing. Certainly he was a better advocate for the State Department than Sec. Rice. In itself DoDD 1404.10 is absolutely the direction DOD needs to go - but how this Civilian Expeditionary Workforce interfaces with S/CRS and the CRC will be a genuine litmus test for Sec. Gates's support of increased civilian capacity outside the DOD.

Because Congress won't fund redundant capabilities.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Part of the problem... And why we need a new Foreign Assistance Act

A favorite quote of mine:

I love the F process. Now I know where all the money is going and what it's being used for.

- Senate Appropriations Staffer
This is the logic of an accountant, not a policy maker with a commitment to outcomes. [To understand why a remark like this about the F process can be frustrating - the above remark is reasonable on its face - you have to have a sense of what' s been lost in the F process as it was implemented. Natsios is passionate on the issue.]

Yes, I know it's hard to believe...but sometimes Congress is part of the problem. Wish I could say this mind set is restricted to staff, but staff think this way because some Members and Senators want them to. Accountability is important, but principally because it leads to better outcomes over the long term. Accountability detached from outcomes ceases to be accountability and becomes a bureaucratic twitch.

This mindset is the artifact of decades of mistrust between Congress and the Executive, and won't change simply because Democrats control both the Executive and Legislative branches. This distrust is institutionalized, and we will not have effective foreign assistance programs until it's resolved.

Good oversight doesn't come from mistrust. It comes from a healthy and collaborative relationship between the different branches of our government. Military leaders have to trust their subordinates to execute the intent of their orders, but still "inspect what they expect." Focus needs to shift in Congress from means to ends.

A reauthorization of the Foreign Assistance Act isn't simply an opportunity to rationalize authorities. It's an opportunity to form a political compact between Congress and the Administration that will empower our government to achieve the policy outcomes we all care about. Let's hope House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Berman is


Special Envoys, Regional Ambassadors, and Dennis Ross

Dennis Ross was Middle East envoy and the chief peace negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. FP's The Cable says he will be President Obama's special envoy to Iran. Below is an excerpt from his 2007 book Statecraft, addressing some of the challenges to effective foreign policy.

When it comes to exercising statecraft, the starting point, at least organizationally, is to prevent bureaucratic dysfunction or paralysis. To ensure that the executive branch functions well and maximizes the full potential of our assets, it is essential to be able to integrate all our bureaucratic tools and have someone responsible for spearheading them in a way that responds to our strategic aims.
To show my own cards, I’d like to see a "Regional Ambassador" position comparable to the DOD’s COCOMs. The fact that we’ve had recourse across multiple Administrations to special envoys indicates this is 1) an effective model and 2) a structural gap in our national security system.

A Regional Ambassador would remedy two imbalances between State and DOD, 1) DOD’s preponderance in regional planning and programming, and 2) the perception in foreign capitals that our COCOMs have greater stature than our Ambassadors (regional assistant secretaries are outranked by their Ambassadors).

State’s bilateral model of foreign affairs effectively cedes initiative on regional issues to DOD’s COCOMs by default. Since many of the post-Cold War challenges we now face are regional in nature, rather than bilateral, this problem set requires an institutionalized response. The President could carve out for particular regions what he and the Secretary of State considered to be regional issues requiring the Regional Ambassador’s oversight (e.g. transnational terrorism, regional development hubs).

More importantly a Regional Ambassador would create a bias for action within our government, reducing our reaction time to crises by creating an individual who is only responsible to the President for outcomes rather than bureaucratic turf.

This prescription doesn’t solve all interagency problems. The resource imbalance is a core problem that needs to be addressed in order for anything to work, but this pushes us towards effective solutions outside the Beltway.

From Dennis Ross’s Statecraft (p.135 - 139, 2007):
The continuous, intensive effort made [by Holbrooke] in Bosnia is carried out by a level below the president and secretary of state. As such, it showcases a different model of statecraft from the German unification and Gulf War cases insofar as it employs a small interagency team that runs the policy in a way that certainly requires presidential and secretarial involvement but does not demand nearly of the president’s and secretary’s time and attention . . .

The question is not whether the president and secretary of state should be involved; they have to, and they need to travel. The question is, can their involvement be made more strategic and not so perpetual that they have little time for anything else? I would argue that it can. Perhaps the Bosnia-Holbrooke case provides the model for those cases where the stakes are high or where we have a keen interest in conflict resolution. The essence of the model is the creation of an interagency team that is senior and has access to the top leadership when it needs it; is capable of managing bureaucratic divisions and yet can call on all necessary bureaucratic resources for support; is seen as having authority not only domestically but with those it deals with internationally; and is able to bring in the president and secretary not just for decisions but also for persuasion of others at decisive moments . . .

I led a team in managing our approach to Middle East peacemaking for nearly all of the Clinton administration. The team was not as high-level as Holbrooke’s, but it did involve the senior experts from the National Security Council staff, and when I needed support from the Defense Department, I had it- even taking lieutenant generals with me on trips to Syria when I felt it was required...I had authority across the administration and access to the secretary at all times and to the president when necessary. Bureaucratic impediments were manage in this fashion, and support across the administration, including from intelligence communities, was something I could always call on.

If nothing else, this shows that a Holbrooke-type model with lower-level officials is sustainable over time and not only for short, intense bursts of activity. It is a model at least mechanically for how to make statecraft effective. Clearly, statecraft is not just about defining objectives, assessing how to relate our means to those objectives, and then acting on them. Statecraft must necessarily also involve organizing our bureaucratic agencies so they work together and can be managed effectively to maximize the tools we have. Presidential leadership is needed to mandate such harmony and select cabinet officials with that in mind. When there is bureaucratic disagreement, presidents must be prepared to make decisions, or at least authorize a Holbrooke-type model that can contend with problems.

President George H.W. Bush did much of the former. President Bill Clinton certainly did the latter, authorizing Holbrooke-type envoys and teams to lead our efforts on the Middle East, Russia, and North Korea. Unfortunately, President George W. Bush appears to have done none of the above, with bureaucratic dysfunction often being the result. The administration spent its first term without a policy toward Iran largely because the Pentagon and vice president’s office advocated isolation and regime change while the State Department preferred engagement. Unwilling or unable to resolve this internal conflict, President Bush and his National Security Council deferred the issue and wasted valuable time as Iran continued to progress in its quest to acquire nuclear weapons.


Schmidle on the Sahara Conundrum

Schmidle's recent article in the New York Times Magazine highlights the new conventional wisdom on AQ franchising - not all brands are alike.

The war against Al Qaeda will undoubtedly continue, but a more nuanced analysis of Al Qaeda has led to a more nuanced approach to combating terrorism and a reconsideration of how the strategy that guided the war on terror in its early years should be put into effect. This is partly a result of new thinking in Washington and, according to security officials, partially a result of bin Laden’s questionable business model: the franchise. “Where G.S.P.C. was, to where A.Q.I.M. is today, I just don’t see the merger as a force multiplier for them,” a senior defense official familiar with Special Operations told me. The war on terror is being reconceived, and the result may not look very much like a war at all.
Regional terrorist organizations affiliated with AQ are problems for regional security and development, not an immediate threat to US security. But program funding still isn't following policy and analysis.

The US has interests in Africa beside counterterrorism; markets, energy, pandemics and humanitarian commitments are a few. This is precisely why the US should address the underlying factors producing terrorist and insurgent groups. Short term threats do not have the same urgency they do in the FATA, so we can afford to address ourselves to the root causes. Currently 80% of US counterterrorism resources going into the Sahel as part of the "whole of government" Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Program address themselves to security issues, rather than governance and economic development. We need to stop treating Africa like a second rate Afghanistan.


Stability Operations and Development in a New Era: Making the Whole of Government Approach Work

Creative Associates and Lockheed Martin put together a great conference on stability operations and foreign assistance reform - two conversations that need to be drawn together more. Couldn't stay for the whole thing, but the first panel with John Nagl, Andrew Natsios and other industry luminaries was great stuff.

I was excited to see development and foreign assistance reform addressed as part of a single conversation, but disappointed by our inability to really draw the connections in a substantive way. It's not enough to argue that effective foreign assistance is important 1) for effective public diplomacy or 2) addressing underlying grievances that anger foreign populations or 3) building indigenous state capacity to address internal threats. The conversation needs to move beyond these truisms and begin to address what these intermediate goals mean for the "how" of foreign assistance.

The US continues to execute foreign assistance by creating delivery systems (for food, education, medical supplies, etc.) that run parallel to the partner government's systems. By creating parallel systems we 1) forgo the opportunity to build the partner government's legitimacy and 2) undermine support within the partner government to fund delivery of services. Point (1) undermines the democratic relationship between government and governed, generating a charity dependent rentier state. Point (2) generates long term dependency between recipient and donor (Liberia's NGO circus). Yes there are a large number of countries where service delivery and not institution building needs to be the priority, but to quote Gen. Petraeus, "Tell me how this ends?"

Note that none of the above addressed the question of efficacy - Andrew Natsios and the Center for Global Development address that issue more eloquently than I could hope to. In order to coherently address the ways we seek our strategic ends, we need a clear assessment of the means available to us.

More than anything else we need strong leadership from the White House and Sec. Clinton on foreign assistance reform. Congress can't do this on its own.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Interagency Capability Portfolios? (pt. 2)

GAO has a report assessing DOD's shortfalls in the development of a capability portfolio approach to acquisition. This points to just how challenging an interagency portfolio analysis would be to institutionalize. But it also indicates how sensible a decision this would be for the US to make. We've spent a long time gutting the civilian portions of our national security establishment, how do we institutionalize a process for evaluating that balance short of catastrophic failures on the scale of an Iraq or Afghanistan? Also see Korb and Pemberton's A Unified National Security Budget for the United States from 2006.

Here's GAO's executive summary:

To achieve a balanced mix of executable development programs and ensure a good return on their investments . . ., the successful commercial companies GAO reviewed take an integrated, portfolio management approach to product development. Through this approach, companies assess product investments collectively from an enterprise level, rather than as independent and unrelated initiatives. They weigh the relative costs, benefits, and risks of proposed products using established criteria and methods, and select those products that can exploit promising market opportunities within resource constraints and move the company toward meeting its strategic goals and objectives. Investment decisions are frequently revisited, and if a product falls short of expectations, companies make tough go/no-go decisions. The companies GAO reviewed have found that effective portfolio management requires a governance structure with committed leadership, clearly aligned roles and responsibilities, portfolio managers who are empowered to make investment decisions, and accountability at all levels of the organization.

In contrast, DOD approves proposed programs with much less consideration of its overall portfolio and commits to them earlier and with less knowledge of cost and feasibility. Although the military services fight together on the battlefield as a joint force, they identify needs and allocate resources separately, using fragmented decision-making processes that do not allow for an integrated, portfolio management approach like that used by successful commercial companies. Consequently, DOD has less assurance that its investment decisions address the right mix of warfighting needs, and, as seen in the figure below, it starts more programs than current and likely future resources can support, a practice that has created a fiscal bow wave. If this trend goes unchecked, Congress will be faced with a difficult choice: pull dollars from other high-priority federal programs to fund DOD’s acquisitions or accept gaps in warfighting capabilities.