From the SWJ: Thinking Critically about COIN and Creatively about Strategy and War

I haven’t been on the Small Wars Journal Blog in a while, and am pleased to see this interview with Colonel Gian Gentile, an acquaintance from West Point and someone whom I admire very much.  He has been a forthright opponent of the current military counter-insurgency strategy (COIN), and in this interview he delivers a thoughtful critique of that strategy; I especially like his invocation of Clausewitz in suggesting that the “center of gravity” isn’t always the same thing every time.  It needs to be “discovered,” as he says.   The article has certainly caused a bit of a stir on the forums, as the comments make clear.

As far as Afghanistan itself goes, I’m afraid I have nothing better to offer than The New York Times’ articles from the last few days.  They seem to be fairly good articles, at least from what I can tell–though I am ready to stand corrected on that, naturally.  Ostensibly, some progress is being made in suppressing the Taliban; hence the President’s announcement that the exit schedule is on track.    But the report is very forthright in saying that operations need to be stepped up, and that strategic gains are coming slowly and with much effort.  Nevertheless, the Taliban is apparently recognizing that it is losing substantial ground in the south to NATO efforts:

The stepped-up operations in Kandahar Province have left many in the Taliban demoralized, reluctant to fight and struggling to recruit, a Taliban commander said in an interview this week. Afghans with contacts in the Taliban confirmed his description. They pointed out that this was the first time in four years that the Taliban had given up their hold of all the districts around the city of Kandahar, an important staging ground for the insurgency and the focus of the 30,000 American troops whom President Obama ordered to be sent to Afghanistan last December.

All well and good.  But the Taliban isn’t done.  It’s focusing now on the north of the country, where, according to a Red Cross official, “the north as its own logic.”   I’m not sure how much stock one should put in the NYT’s graphic map of Afghanistan’s political stability, but it certainly doesn’t promote an optimistic outlook.  U.S. intelligence services apparently aren’t optimistic either, as a couple of new reports make clear.

Anyway, there it is.  Good reading to you, and godspeed to our those in our armed forces, and those of our allies.