Defense Update – News, Analysis, and Commentary

B-52 Strategic Bomber (USAF photo)
B-52 Strategic Bomber (USAF photo)

Defense Update – Revisiting FM 3-25, nation-building in Syria, South Asia strategy, Kilcullen on urban combat, Somalia’s 9/11, and more.

Re-visiting FM 3-24. General Petraeus is famous for many things. He is credited with winning the Iraq War, he was the CENTCOM commander, and later the ISAF commander in Afghanistan. Then he went on to head the Central Intelligence Agency; only to . . .  well, that’s another story. But also important is the role he played in the publication of a field manual on counterinsurgency. Many took this pub as the bible when it came to how the fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the manual has also had its detractors. Even today it is subject to commentary. Read “Savior General Petraeus Gave Us the Wrong Bible”The American Conservative, October 23, 2017.

Nation-Building in Syria. Now that ISIS has been ‘almost’ defeated with the taking of Raqqa the hard work of solidifying the gains by the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) begins. Competition with the Turks and the Syrian regime is one challenge as well as preventing the resurgence of the Islamic State insurgency (it will never truly go away). So how is this accomplished? Solidifying the gains? Some advocate a ‘trimmed down’ version of nation-building while others say ‘our work is done here’. Currently there are over 500 American military in Syria – most part of a Special Operations Task Force formed around the nucleus of a 5th Special Forces Group battalion. This task force is working with the SDF (a great majority of who are Kurds). The Syrian Kurds have seen how the U.S. has responded to the current situation in Iraq Kurdistan and may come to the conclusion that abandonment by the U.S. of Syrian Kurds is right around the corner with the next policy decision. Read more in “Areas freed from Islamic State will test U.S. policy on limiting overseas role“, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2017.

South Asian Strategy. A special forces officer, Doug Livermore, provides his perspective on how the new South Asia strategy of the Trump administration is lacking. Apparently it’s all about the Durand Line. Read “Rethinking the South Asia Strategy – Addressing the Root Causes of Afghanistan / Pakistan Tensions”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, October 23, 2017.

Kilcullen on Urban Combat. The modern-day insurgent has shifted his focus from the rural areas to the urban city. Technology has made some strides that benefit both the insurgent and the counter-insurgent. More and more we will see urban conflict continue to be the most dynamic and dangerous of all types of conflict. Read David Kilcullen’s piece entitled “Urban Combat: Cities are Sponges That Soak Up Troops”The Cipher Brief, October 22, 2017.

Somalia’s 9/11. A recent bombing in Somalia that killed almost 400 people has been described as the 9/11 of Somalia. Issac Kfir of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute provides more context in “Somalia’s 9/11”The Strategist, October 23, 2017.

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