May 21, 2013
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, Members of the Subcommittee:
I recently returned from a week in Afghanistan where I have been traveling regularly since 2008 to assess the state of the military campaign at the request of our military commanders. During this visit I went to Kabul as well as to Regional Command South (in Kandahar) and Regional Command Southwest (in Helmand). Along with a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations, I met with Afghan and American soldiers and officials including Gen. Joe Dunford, Ambassador James Cunningham and Defense Minister Bismillah Khan. I thank you for inviting me to testify about the Afghan election in 2014 which is one of the most important factors determining Afghanistan’s future. To place it into context I would like to comment not only on the election but on other factors of vital important to the outcome of our mission. What follows is closely based on an article I have written for the June 5 issue of National Review summing up my most recent observations.
June 3, 2013
Will America’s decade-plus effort to bring stability and security to Afghanistan succeed? Crisscrossing the country at the invitation of U.S. commanders, as i have been doing regularly since 2008, i saw in early May cause for both pessimism and optimism as Afghanistan hurtles toward a turning point: NATO’s self-imposed December 2014 deadline for all “combat” troops (though not necessarily military advisers and special-operations forces) to leave the country.
April 17, 2013
President Obama's initial reluctance to label the bombing of the Boston Marathon an act of terror was odd; his correction of the record on Tuesday was welcome. Although no information has been released so far about any suspects, it is doubtful that this terrible attack, which killed three and maimed many more, was the work of criminals or apolitical lunatics such as the Newtown, Conn., killer Adam Lanza. Both crooks and kooks prefer to kill with firearms. Explosives, by contrast, are the signature weapon of terrorists.
The quasi-official ideology of the U.S. armed forces holds that generals are virtually interchangeable, that individual personalities don’t matter much, that ordinary grunts are in any case more important than their leaders, and that what really counts are larger systems that make a complex bureaucracy function. There is some truth to all of this. But for all of the bureaucratic heft of the services and the heroism of ordinary soldiers, it is hard to imagine the Civil War having been won without Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan—or World War II without Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Arnold, LeMay, Nimitz, Halsey, and all the other senior generals and admirals.
Apr 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 28
Hamid Karzai has been acting even more obnoxiously and erratically than usual of late. He has tried to kick U.S. Special Forces out of Wardak Province, a Taliban-infested area south of Kabul, and he has tried to renege on an agreement over the transfer of an American-run detention facility to Afghan custody. Even worse, Karzai’s claims that the Taliban and the United States are colluding against his country have forced Gen. Joe Dunford, the top U.S. military commander, to issue an alert to his troops warning them that they face an elevated risk of attack.
Pundits and the press too often treat terrorism and guerrilla tactics as something new, a departure from old-fashioned ways of war. But nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout most of our species' long and bloody slog, warfare has primarily been carried out by bands of loosely organized, ill-disciplined, and lightly armed volunteers who disdained open battle in favor of stealthy raids and ambushes: the strategies of both tribal warriors and modern guerrillas and terrorists. In fact, conventional warfare is the relatively recent invention. It was first made possible after 10,000 BC by the development of agricultural societies, which produced enough surplus wealth and population to allow for the creation of specially designed fortifications and weapons (and the professionals to operate them). The first genuine armies -- commanded by a strict hierarchy, composed of trained soldiers, disciplined with threats of punishment -- arose after 3100 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. But the process of state formation and, with it, army formation took considerably longer in most of the world. In some places, states emerged only in the past century, and their ability to carry out such basic functions as maintaining an army remains tenuous at best. Considering how long humans have been roaming the earth, the era of what we now think of as conventional conflict represents the mere blink of an eye.