Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Fighting Small Wars In The New Century

The offering of inducements manifestly does little to improve the political trajectory on the ground. All wars are ultimately decided by the re-distribution of political power and that is in turn decided by the bargaining power that each of the belligerents brings to the negotiating table. This essay argues that the same unifying hedgehog idea, annihilation, is equally applicable to countering insurgencies and is the only available mechanism to resolve the complexity we face. Annihilation can be aggressive operations to destroy the military capacity of the insurgents or to deny insurgents the opportunity to apply its military capacity to the population. Both are paths to the establishment of control over the operating environment. There will be a time when reconstruction and other aid will begin to produce dividends and that time will be marked by the establishment of security.

Link to paper here.

COIN a la carte

Kilcullen on elements of COIN being used to counter the narcotics war:

* Law enforcement
* Military operations
* Intelligence sharing: ... The United States has reportedly helped Mexico create and run two intelligence “fusion cells” aimed at tracking down cartel leaders.
* Whole-of-government approach: ... In 2009, the State Department, with input from eight other agencies and departments, published the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide.
* “Emergency” extradition procedures

Friday, 9 December 2011

GVN Village Pods

Global Volunteer Network has come up with an interesting concept: the GVN PoD.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

One Team’s Approach to Village Stability Operations

One Team’s Approach to Village Stability Operations
by Rory Hanlin

Journal Article | September 4, 2011 - 11:55pm, Updated: September 13, 2011 - 05:30am

"If you have seen one VSO, you have seen one VSO."

This paper is an effort to demonstrate my team’s approach to VSO using the principles and TTPs that numerous articles have recently highlighted in the July-September issue of Special Warfare Magazine.


...progress along the VSO shape-hold-build-transition/expansion model is inhibited by 3 key factors: a defunct system of governance, a divided population, and an under-developed economy based in subsistence farming. These factors collude to form a survivalist culture with a zero-sum worldview.


Fascinating article.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency

Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency
by Matthew P. Dearing

Journal Article | December 1, 2011 - 11:04pm

In September, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report on the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a paramilitary institution under control of the Minister of Interior and being trained by US Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. ... These lessons suggest that paramilitary groups require: 1) supervision from state sponsors; 2) broad and deep cutting institutional reach; and 3) support from path dependent models.


...First, even in environments of "softened sovereignty," the vast majority of paramilitary groups are organized by, or with consent of the state in order to act as a force multiplier and an economy of force in support of military or law enforcement operations. While state-sponsored militias are supportive of the state, they also represent a form of contentious politics that use violence as a means to "protect the established order as opposed to overthrowing it."

Second, David Kilcullen suggests that in an insurgency, when the state is facing an existential threat, authority "flows away from civilian leaders at the level of the central or national state, toward local armed leaders, and toward the village or tribal level." Such leaders are empowered with legitimacy from the state; they are "embedded" within the local social system, and are given increasing authority as the conflict persists. These cases provide examples of weak states, facing intra-state war, attempting to quell insurgency in areas that were alternatively governed. Its important to keep in mind a major difference between these cases and Afghanistan, that is, liberal peace theory did not play a part in the state-building efforts such as it has in Afghanistan.

One of the first lessons is the role of the state as a supervisor and supporter of local capacity-building initiatives.

A second lesson is that national paramilitary organizations should be incorporated into broad umbrella institutions that represent civic objectives and enable legitimate controlling processes over diverse violence wielders.

A third lesson is the historical role of paramilitarism in areas of alternative governance.

A final lesson is based upon planning for future operations. ...there will be greater reliance on paramilitary organizations and the value they provide as local state-builders.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?

Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?
Muhyadin Ahmed Roble

Just 40 days after Kenya’s military intervention against the militant al-Shabaab group began in Somalia there are indications that the Kenyan effort may become part of a joint operation with African Union and Ethiopian military forces to eradicate terrorist elements in the Horn of Africa. The African Union has backed the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia and has also invited the Ethiopian army to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), currently consisting of military contingents from Uganda and Burundi.


Muhyadin Ahmed Roble is a Somali journalist who writes for The East African, AfricaNews and Eurasia Review as a correspondent based in Nairobi.

How Afghanization Can Work

How Afghanization Can Work
Linda Robinson, Adjunct Senior Fellow for U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy
December 2, 2011

Option 1: Big COIN

* maintain the 68K US troops + as many NATO troops as possible
* counterinsurgency campaign
* successful so far
* non-viable: NATO reluctant
* zero-sum environment: funds spent on military efforts will sap funding available for civilian development assistance

Option 2: Counterterrorism

* counterterrorism is rarely effective as a freestanding approach and tends to produce negative political effects when wielded unilaterally.

Option 3: Afghan-led Counterinsurgency

The most desirable approach is one that puts Afghanistan firmly in the lead of its own counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, with the United States and international partners and donors in support. ... To paraphrase T.E. Lawrence, it is far better that those facing the insurgency do it themselves, however poorly.

What would an Afghan-led counterinsurgency campaign look like?

* Afghan forces would take over in all but the most conflicted areas of the country. * * The U.S. and allied support to the Afghan counterinsurgency should be almost exclusively focused on the south and east where the Taliban insurgency is strong, and in particular Kandahar and the eastern "P2K" provinces (Paktia, Paktika, and especially Khost).
* A very small node can remain in the west in Shindand
* the same can be done in the critical Salang Tunnel corridor in the north.
* reduced dramatically to a few high-level officers
* The command for training Afghan security forces should be primarily manned by Afghan trainers.
* Most of the troops would be embedded advisers, largely from the special operations community but augmented by conventional forces that are selected and trained for the mission.
* focus on supporting community defense and police, which have been egregiously neglected throughout the war.
* Eighty-eight of 265 Afghan police units in key areas (PDF) currently have no mentor at all.

How many U.S. forces would be required to support this "small COIN" option?

* A robust effort could be mounted with forty thousand troops, declining to twenty thousand or fewer as the Afghans become more proficient.
* embedded advisers
* about half of the personnel would provide support. Distributed operations in Afghanistan require substantial air lift, combat aviation, ISR, and logistics support
* the best way to defeat the ubiquitous buried bombs is foot patrols and Kawasaki all-terrain vehicles for off-road travel

How long would the United States have to support a twenty-thousand-strong COIN effort?

It is hard to say, but not longer than a decade, and the numbers would progressively decline to a few thousand as Afghans gain experience and as the insurgency shrinks. As the insurgency weakens, the current talks, best described as "pre-negotiations," are likely to gather steam as fighters realize the government will not collapse. The end of the war is likely to come a piece at a time, as insurgent factions peel off and reject the authority of Taliban leaders ensconced in Pakistan.

Is there a precedent for such an approach?

* El Salvador, Colombia, the Philippines
* El Salvador in the 1980s with fifty-five Special Forces trainers plus a robust country team with USAID, State, and intelligence officials who were dispersed around the country.

Center for Advanced Defense Studies

Having read Operation Dark Heart, I looked up the author's new home, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

Looks interesting.

Review of the book to follow.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Raising news awareness on driving forces behind failing states

Interesting thesis that state failure is caused by deep tectonic shifts, specifically demographic increase.

I'd cite Yemen as an example.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Finally US gets smart about Somalia

According to the Somalia Report, a formal US delegation has visited Puntland.

As the report itself says:

For years the U.S. position on Somalia was to only support the TFG via the UN, AU and indirectly. Part of that policy was to ignore and even demonize independent-minded regional actors like Somaliland and Puntland. Meanwhile the aggressive use of outsider actors like Ethiopia and Uganda to directly intercede militarily created [an] unexpected resurgence of armed resistance.


I am not opposed to working through local actors such as Ethiopia and Uganda, but why do all that hard work with its traumatic consequences when there are indigenous building blocks to work with? Indeed, Puntland has always had a policy of eventually rejoining an independent Somaliland.

Subtlety - that's what was missing.

And this is the approach that should have been taken to Afghanistan from the very beginning - build on the pre-existing, tribal building blocks.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Light barrier used to repel mosquitoes

Marka is working on a project that uses infrared light to form a barrier between humans and mosquitoes, as well as other common insects such as moths and wasps. The theory is that you can use light to form a wall that separates space. In a phenomenon not fully understood, the mosquitoes that are outside the wall seem blocked, as if by a semi-invisible fence.

Sunbox solar power charging system

People who are trekking in the wilderness, stranded at disaster sites or living in developing nations all have one thing in common - lack of access to an electrical infrastructure. Solar charging devices such as the Solio, iCharge and Joos Orange have been designed to meet the needs of some or all of these groups. One of the latest such systems, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies' Sunbox USB 3.0, is particularly versatile.


Readers involved in foreign aid might also be interested in Horizon's entrepreneur package. It allows small businesspeople in developing nations to charge ten Sunbox battery packs at once, which can then be rented out to members of the local community.

Gates Foundation funds composting toilet

Enter Marc Deshusses, a Duke University environmental engineer who has envisioned an innovative yet simple waste disposal system designed specifically for Third World countries that can be constructed from everyday items.

According to Deshusses, for less than $100 and a day's work a single family in an undeveloped country can construct a solid waste disposal system that processes the waste, requires no electricity or additional energy and destroys harmful pathogens.

In the system Deshusses is developing, the waste is directed to a chamber, most likely constructed of PVC pipe. Once sealed in the chamber, an oxygen-free, or anaerobic, environment is created and bacteria digest the waste. As a byproduct of this digestion, methane gas is produced. Instead of the methane escaping into the environment, the new approach captures and burns it, creating enough heat to kill the bacteria and viruses most commonly found in effluence.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Airdrop: Water from thin air

...Airdrop can harvest 11.5 millilitres of water for every cubic meter of air in the driest deserts such as the Negev in Israel, which has an average relative air humidity of 64 per cent. A small scale prototype Linacre installed at his parents' house created about a litre of water a day, but further iterations of the design are expected to increase the yield.

Rather than using complex, energy-intensive methods such as desalination or tapping into sacred underground water sources, Airdrop's source of water is abundant - the air - and so it can be used anywhere in the world.

It delivers the water to the roots of crops in dry areas by pushing air through a network of underground pipes, cooling it down to the point where water condenses. The water is then pumped to the roots of plants, which Linacre said was the most efficient irrigation method.


Friday, 4 November 2011

How AusAID allocates funds

We allocate our funds and efforts based on need, our capacity to make a difference, the effectiveness and scale of our efforts and Australia's national interest.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

David Kilcullen and Julian Burnside on Tactics in the Iraq War

Here, in a brilliant discussion with human rights lawyer Julian Burnside at the Melbourne Writers Festival, [Kilcullen] talks about the ethics and tactics of contemporary warfare.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Interview: CIMIC and Reconstruction with J Messner, IPOA

CIMIC and Reconstruction with J.J. Messner, IPOA with Defence IQ3: interview with Messner of the ISOA (formerly IPOA), a 'mercenary' peak body.

Nagl Interview

Nagl in an On Point interview:

Two pillars of FM 3-24:

1. Protect the population first
2. Be adaptable

and also:

3. Use all elements of national power in a co-ordinated way. Galula said COIN is only 25% military.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Pirates Affecting Business in Puntland

The Somalia Report reports that Puntland businessmen have confirmed that pirate activity has been detrimental to the economy.

They say their goods have been hijacked by the pirates and that shipping prices have increased.

They have demanded the government take action.

Do Armed Guards Protect Ships?

Feral Jundi says:

You know, I agree that eventually a boat with an armed crew will get taken one of these days. But even if one or two are taken, how would that possibly indicate any kind of potential failure? I mean look at the statistics so far?

According to the figures from EUNAVFOR, 90% of ships surviving a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden this year have credited a security team for aiding their escape.

Feral Jundi then comes out swinging in favour of contractors in general. Interesting.

Why Pirates Fight Each Other

What a splendid idea: get the pirates to fight each other!

I didn't realise pirate groups had 'investors' - apparently 2 or more each.

Pirates tend to come from rival clans.

They fight when drunk and are interested in drugs.

They also fight when payments are delayed - hint, hint - or when there is a difference between 'investors'.

Nice work by the Somalia Report.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Anti-piracy yacht

Just what the doctor ordered: a former coastguard ship converted into a dive ship and now for sale. Recommended for anti-piracy use.

H/t Danger Room.

Immortal Insurgencies

by Anthony Vinci


This article makes the case that knowing how insurgencies last so long can help to understand why they last so long. Moreover, it argues that only by answering the ‘how’ question that we can develop better means of defeating the insurgent temporal attrition strategy. Insurgencies can seem immortal because they develop adaptive, self-perpetuating solutions to the ‘problems of mobilization’, which are a set of actions that every armed group must be able to perform in order to mobilize for war. When insurgencies have developed such adaptive solutions they can be very difficult to defeat because the group may adapt to any immediate destruction of one of its functions. The means to defeat insurgencies lies in considering the second order consequences of how one action may lead the group to adapt. Then the strategy demands choosing those actions that will leave the group weaker in the long run.

R2P is the New COIN

Introduction by Zenpundit to "the Kilcullen of R2P", Anne-Marie Slaughter, and a list of prominent COINdinistas.

...The most vocal public face of R2P, an idea that has floated among liberal internationalist IL academics and NGO activists since the 90’s, was Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Policy Planning Director of the US State Department and an advisor to the Obama administration. Slaughter, writing in The Atlantic, was a passionate advocate of R2P as a “redefinition of sovereignty“ and debated her position and underlying IR theory assumptions with critics such as Dan Drezner, Joshua Foust, and Dan Trombly.


...A bevy of military officers, academics, think tank intellectuals, journalists and bloggers - some of them genuinely brilliant - including John Nagl, Kalev Sepp, Con Crane, Jack Keane, David Petraeus, Michèle Flournoy, David Kilcullen, Fred and Kim Kagan, James Mattis, Montgomery McFate, Thomas Ricks, Andrew Exum, the Small Wars Journal and others articulated, proselytized, reported, blogged and institutionalized a version of counterinsurgency warfare now known as “Pop-centric COIN“, selling it to a very reluctant Bush administration, the US Army and USMC, moderate Congressional Democrats and ultimately to President Barack Obama.


How to build an institution or change a policy

Blattman does it again.

Academics who study development are very fond of saying that institutions matter, or this or that policy change should happen.

Most of us, of course, don’t have a clue what an actual institution looks like, or how it is built, or even how a policy is actually changed.


My answer was: Jennifer Widner. Princeton political science. And last week I got a promotional email for her new idea bank, Innovations for Successful Societies:


Most people, if they know Jennifer’s work, know her biography of Francis Nyalali, an uncommonly interesting Supreme Court judge in Tanzania.


We are back to development as the Anti-Politics Machine (which is another favorite book of mine).

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Fragile states: measuring what makes a good pooled fund

Tinpot countries play donors off against each other.

The practice of pooling funds from multiple donors into a single instrument is becoming an increasingly popular method of delivering aid to fragile states.

This Project Briefing introduces a potential tool for scoring the effectiveness of individual pooled funds, allowing for their systematic comparison. The briefing goes on to score and compare funds in Afghanistan, Liberia and South Sudan, demonstrating how the tool can be used to identify good practice.

Vanuatu’s recent economic success: lessons

Vanuatu’s recent economic success: lessons for the Pacific
August 4th, 2009
Author: Stephen Howes

Prior to 2004, Vanuatu, like many other Pacific island countries, had a long-term rate of economic growth little different from its population growth, about 2.5%. But economic growth in Vanuatu took off in 2004, and growth for the 2004-2008 period has averaged 6.6%.

Vanuatu’s growth acceleration is important for the Pacific. It dispels the myth that the Pacific island economies cannot grow, and it confirms the range of factors which are important for growth in the Pacific – a dynamic private sector, active land markets, deregulation, and macroeconomic and social stability.

Vanuatu’s recent growth has been led by the private sector, not by foreign aid.

Tourism and construction have been the two main growth areas for Vanuatu’s private sector.

Vanuatu’s upsurge in tourism and construction would not have been possible without an active land market.

Vanuatu has also benefited from deregulation.

Vanuatu has enjoyed macroeconomic stability in recent years, with relatively low inflation and a slight fiscal surplus in recent years. As many Pacific economies have discovered, however, this is a necessary rather than sufficient condition for growth.

Finally, social stability underlies Vanuatu’s recent success.... Throughout this difficult period, violence was limited. Vanuatu has a tradition of political instability – with nine prime ministers between 1995 and 2004. Perhaps the relative political stability enjoyed since then – with a single prime minister from end-2004 to end-2008 – has helped promote growth.

Social stability is a key factor behind Vanuatu’s ability to attract and retain expatriates, who bring investment and specialist skills to the economy. Its lack of an income tax is also an attraction for expatriates, though its role as an offshore financial centre seems to have played little role in its recent growth.

Vanuatu, like other Melanesian countries, has traditionally lacked access to foreign labour markets. However, Vanuatu was included in, and in fact is the biggest beneficiary of the Recognized Seasonal Employer program which provides temporary farm employment in New Zealand.

This article draws on the findings of a Pacific Institute of Public Policy brief on Vanuatu written jointly with Nikunj Soni, which can be found here.

Want to make aid more effective? Bring in the private sector

More on this excellent idea from the Guardian's Poverty Matters Blog.

Exhibit 1: The Marshall Plan.

Why are we buying t-shirts from China instead of from our proteges in tough places?

Also, follow the Centrelink model and have a centrally coordinating government agency farming out jobs

Evidentiary Validation of FM 3-24

Evidentiary Validation of FM 3-24: Counterinsurgency Worldwide, 1978-2008
By Christopher Paul and Colin P. Clarke

Victory Has a Thousand Fathers


Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency
by Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hearts, minds, and revenge: local resistance to the Afghan insurgency

From the Long War Journal:

On the blustery Sunday afternoon of Feb. 8, 2009, a frenzied mob of angry Afghan villagers from the Dara-e-Noor district of eastern Nangarhar province joined provincial police forces in the hunt for Taliban assassins responsible for gunning down a highly respected local elder -- Qazi Khan Mohammed (known affectionately among locals as Malik Baba) -- who had also served as the secretary of the Nangarhar Provincial Council. The vigilante posse pursued the attackers and eventually cornered the Taliban hitmen, forcefully tethered the pair to a tree, and proceeded to kick and punch them to death.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Offtopic: White's Definition of Strategy

Couldn't help it:

My use of the word 'strategy' derives from my understanding of the nature of war. For me, war is organised violence conducted for a political purpose. Strategy is the bridge between them – between the organised violence, which is the means, and the political purpose, which is the end. The relationship between violence as a means and political outcomes is inherently complex. Perhaps that's because it crosses the divide between the physical and the mental – always a tricky interface.

On this account, the central problem of strategy is how to match military means to political ends. The core strategic decisions that any government has to face are (a) what military operations it should undertake to achieve its political objectives, and (b) what capabilities it should build to be able to achieve its political objectives in future. These are the big questions of strategic policy - 'policy' being just a fancy word for government decisions.

The full article is here.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Somali Famine & Al-Shabaab

Has the famine weakened al-Shabaab in any way?

Al-Shabaab has been enormously weakened by this crisis. Many are blaming al-Shabaab for catalyzing the [crisis] by locking out aid agencies. Al-Shabaab has been under enormous pressure from clan leaders in the region to act fast, but they have been dragging their feet, and when they reacted it was probably too late. Tens of thousands of children have already died. Tens of thousands of people have fled as refugees to eastern Kenya and southeastern Ethiopia. Many in Somalia, even those who initially supported al-Shabaab, are now blaming them and seeing them as culpable in this crisis.

Does this present an opportunity to stabilize the country?

If al-Shabaab was a cohesive organization and it was serious about averting humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia, then there would have been an opportunity. The problem is that you have a string of factions of al-Shabaab; you don't know who speaks for al-Shabaab. Even engaging them on the question of provisions of humanitarian supplies to the vulnerable populations in southern Somalia is no longer credible, because you don't know how senior or powerful that interlocutor is. Unless we know the power configurations within al-Shabaab, unless we know who calls the shots and who is in charge, it will be difficult for this crisis to have a peace dividend.

Potentially there is an opportunity that you may cut a deal with one faction or another. But what if you have a faction that doesn't like it, that creates its own challenges. As long as al-Shabaab is fragmented and deeply divided as a group, the possibilities of engagement for a positive result are very remote. Many had hoped that engaging al-Shabaab on humanitarian corridors and a ceasefire for a brief period [would] kick-start a positive dynamic. But I don't think we are there.

Do you think the international community is doing enough to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and the rest of the Horn? And what more can they do?

For more, see here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

We Killed The Guy That Shot Down Our SEALs

Interesting article by Noah Schachtman at Danger Room.

The U.S. military says they know who shot down a helicopter filled with 38 American and Afghan troops, including 19 Navy SEALs. That man is now dead...

How the hell does one know that?

But the military won’t say how they’re so sure that this particular militant was the one responsible for the deadliest incident so far in the Afghan war.

One can understand that that might be the case, but it is frustrating, especially for verifying the military's information.

The shooter, along with killed Taliban captain Mullah Mohibullah, “was located after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture,” the coalition said in its statement. A “security force located and followed the insurgents to a wooded area in Chak district...”

That's fascinating if it's true and correct. It means the locals are still supporting the US. Of course, how can we be sure they didn't finger somebody else? Or that the US accidentally killed the wrong guy?

Also, it's interesting (if true) that they were running away from capture. It means they know they can't hide.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Reuters that the coalition got the wrong guy. “The person who shot down the helicopter is alive,” he claimed.

Interesting. Of course, he would say that, wouldn't he? Come to think of hit, how would he necessarily know who fired the fatal shot?

Is the USA a failed State?

In no way do I consider the USA a failed state, and neither does the author, but there is some interesting (and accessible) discussion of what a failed state actually is and of the intriguing idea of a "semi-failed state".

As usual, I try to simply supply some choice quotes but there's so much good stuff:

An "immature state" is a polity whose elites are dysfunctional, venal, and narcissistic; whose economy is not viable, frequently dependent on handouts; and whose coherence is threatened by a lack of social consensus. Immature states typically lack political traditions, change agents, goal-oriented bureaucracies, and institutional memory.

A "failed economy" fails to attract foreign direct investment. It is characterized by kleptocratic governments and rampant corruption, increased geopolitical risk, and lack of modern infrastructure. It features all-pervasive failure of institutions; lack of commitment to true reforms; absence of a functioning private sector; problematic mentality (laziness, passive-aggressiveness, pathological and destructive envy; xenophobia, resistance to learning, etc.); a low-level of research-and-development and innovation; an antiquated and dysfunctional education system; and primitive banking system and capital markets.

A "failed state" is a country whose government has no control and cannot exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a substantial part of its territory or citizenry. It is continuously and successfully challenged by private military power: terrorists, warlords, or militias.

A semi-failed state is a country whose government maintains all the trappings and appearances of power, legitimacy and control. ... Its institutions function...

Yet, the semi-failed state - while going through the motions - is dead on its feet. It is a political and societal zombie. It functions due mainly to inertia and lack of better or clear alternatives. Its population is disgruntled, hostile and suspicious. Other countries regard it with derision, fear and abhorrence. It is rotting from the inside and doomed to implode.

Crisis State Research Centre

The Crisis State Research Centre at the LSE is funded by the UK Department of International Aid.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Review: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Summary of Jared Diamond's Collapse.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand.

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn't know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam's regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble.

Third, serious problems may go undetected when a long-term negative trend is masked by large short-term fluctuations.

A fourth source of foolish decisions is the well-known tendency for individuals to act in ways that are in their own selfish interest but not in the interest of the society as a whole.

Fifth, even when a state or society recognizes that it is in trouble, Diamond identifies a number of pathologies that make it harder for them to adapt and survive. Political divisions may make it impossible to take timely action even when everyone realizes that something ought to be done (think gridlock in Congress), and key leaders may be prone to either "groupthink" or various forms of psychological denial. And the bad news here is that no one has ever devised an effective and universally reliable antidote to these problems.

Moreover, if a group's identity is based on certain cherished values or beliefs, it may be hard to abandon them even when survival is at stake. Diamond suggests that the Norse colonies in Greenland may have disappeared because the Norse were unwilling to abandon certain traditional practices and imitate the local Inuits (e.g., by adopting seal hunting via kayaks), and it is easy to think of contemporary analogues to this sort of cultural rigidity. Military organizations often find it hard to abandon familiar doctrines and procedures, and states that are strongly committed to particular territorial objectives often find it nearly impossible to rethink these commitments. Look how long it took the French to leave Algeria, or consider the attachment to Kosovo that is central to Serbian nationalist thinking, and how it led them into a costly (and probably unnecessary) war in 1999.

To sum up (in Diamond's words):

Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it."

Joshua Foust's Afghanistan-Pakistan update, early August 2011

Just World Books author Joshua Foust discussed mid-year trends in how U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been doing, with Dalia Mortada. In this lively discussion, Foust challenged much of what Gen. David Petraeus, until recently the commander of all U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, has said about violence in the country having been reduced. Listen to this experienced analyst's take on the situation-- and buy his book!

Thanks to Buzzsprout.

How 28 poor countries escaped the poverty trap

Discussion on recent climbing-out of poverty of many countries.

Remember the poverty trap? ...

...Low-income countries are those with average gross national incomes (GNIs) of less than $1,005 per person per year.

And there are only 35 of them remaining out of the countries and economies that the World Bank tracks. That's down from 63 in 2000.

The remaining 35 low-income countries have a combined population of about 800 million. Tanzania, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh account for about half of that total, and there are about 350 million people living on under $1.25 a day in the remaining low-income countries.


First, consider the good news that there are fewer poor countries around. Not least, it suggests that public and private investment (including aid) can help even the poorest countries get rich(er). This is one more reason why optimism should come back into fashion.

Second, the World Bank country classifications - which are used to help determine types and levels of support provided by many aid agencies - may need a rethink. They are based on a decades old formula, and on the idea that most poor people live in poor countries. But we know that middle-income countries now account for most of the world's population living in absolute poverty...

Third, as countries develop their own resources, fighting poverty becomes increasingly about domestic politics. Not surprisingly, this means inequality is rising up the agenda. New research shows that the emerging middle classes may have a big role to play. Who they side with - the poorest or the economic elite - will determine what kind of development emerges in the new middle income countries.


• Charles Kenny is a research fellow at the Center for Global Development and the author of Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding - And How We Can Improve the World Even More.

• Andy Sumner is a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development

H/t: Center for Global Development

The Closers Part VI: Dealing with the U.S. Military

The Closers Part VI:
Dealing with the U.S. Military
by Colonel Gary Anderson

Many of the civilians who gravitate to counterinsurgency (COIN) work for the Departments of State and Justice have some knowledge of the military or have served in uniform. But many people from other agencies will not have such a background. Suddenly living among the military on a daily basis, and often depending on them totally for security can come as a culture shock that is almost as great as that experienced by stepping into a host nation's culture. It helps to come somewhat prepared. The Provincial Reconstruction Team classes given by the State Department's Foreign Service Institute are good but short, and they give out excellent advice, but it would help if you do homework on your own. This piece will attempt to give some background and perspective.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Overseas Development Institute

ODI Programmes are responsible for delivering on our mission of "locking together high quality applied research, practical policy advice, and policy-focused dissemination and debate."

Stabilisation strategies and the protection of civilians

Better protected? Stabilisation strategies and the protection of civilians
25 March 2011 - Round-table, Geneva and to what extent is the protection of civilians a stabilisation objective; how have stabilisation strategies contributed to enhanced protection of civilians in specific contexts; and what engagement is desirable between stabilisation and humanitarian actors on protection of civilians at global and country levels.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

ASP on Kerry's defence of foreign aid.

Crisis Commons

Interesting-looking bunch: CrisisCommons.

In defence of civilian strategists

@ClosetIdealist at Security Scholar weighs in on the "civilian strategists" debate.

Very good stuff on the "strategic corporal", and I think inadvertently on civ-mil convergence.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Military Review: COIN Reader

Go to it, Grasshopper!

Counterinsurgency Reader I - Special Edition 2008

Counterinsurgency Reader II - Special Edition 2008

Australian Civilian Corps (ACC)

AusAID's civilian corps program, Australian Civilian Corps.

Oceans Beyond Piracy

Oceans Beyond Piracy for info on piracy.

R2P Balance Sheet After Libya

Gareth Evans weighs in on the R2P debate.

World Development Report 2011

The World Bank has released its World Development Report for 2011.

Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence

APCMOE (Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence) is:

a whole-of-government initiative to improve Australia’s effectiveness in civil-military collaboration for conflict and disaster management overseas.

We support best practice approaches to civil-military engagement by those involved in the strategic planning and delivery of conflict and disaster management activities.

We support the development of national civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond more effectively to conflicts and disasters overseas.

We develop best practice in civil-military training, education, doctrine, research and implementation.

We support cohesive civil-military effectiveness in disaster and conflict management overseas.

We strengthen national, regional and international engagement in civil-military affairs.

Suggested priorities for the incoming government

National security: Suggested priorities for the incoming government forum at ANU

Community resilience and National Security

Attorney-General Robert McClelland - Community resilience and National Security, at ANU.

Australia's strategic options in a transformational Asia

Dr Rod Lyon discusses ASPI's latest Strategy report, "Forks in the river: Australia's strategic options in a transformational Asia".

Embedded with the Pirates of Somalia

The Small Wars Council comes through again with this gem.

Jay Bahadur’s plan was simple. Fly to Somalia to cover the March 2009 elections in Somaliland as a freelancer, then come home to Toronto and hopefully find a job in journalism.

He studied Somalia a bit as an undergrad at the University of Toronto, and after graduating in 2007 he enrolled in a freelance journalism course; he figured he could work the trip into the class somehow.

Things did not go according to plan — but, in retrospect, they probably couldn’t have worked out better. For a class assignment on how to pitch freelance stories, Mr. Bahadur assembled an idea — to embed with the pirates of Somalia — and handed in his homework. It was October 2008. He left for Africa in January 2009. And today, he is on tour promoting his debut non-fiction book, Pirates of Somalia.

Debate: US Cannot and Will Not Succeed in AfPak

Intelligence Squared debate on AfPak:

To many, this means they are becoming further entrenched in an open-ended quagmire where any military solution will ultimately fail. Others question whether they should care if Afghanistan has a strong central government or a democratic one. While most agree it should not become a terrorist haven, opinions differ on how this should be accomplished: more troops, covert operations, diplomacy?

And what to make of Pakistan? The US cannot allow its nuclear arsenal to fall into the hands of radicals, but President Obama has ruled out putting troops on the ground. The task of rooting out al Qaeda and Taliban militants falls to Pakistan’s army, which has, until recently, supported these groups as a hedge against future conflict with India. How much tolerance does America have for the long road ahead with AfPak? Can they ever “win,” and how would they even define a win in this region?

Latest From Special Warfare

The Small Wars Journal notes the latest edition of Special Warfare has a special on village security (VSO).

H/t: Small Wars Journal

The Wrong War by Bing West

Bing West basically says:

It is best to be both feared and loved. If you must choose however, it is better to be feared, as long as you are not hated.

Bing West HASC Statement: "The Way Ahead in Afghanistan"

Bing West HASC Statement: "The Way Ahead in Afghanistan"

H/t: Small Wars Journal

Afghan Analyst's Bibliography

Here is Ghosts of Alexander's bibliography, including:

4. State-Building: The International Community, Reconstruction, Security,
Economy, Government and Development


10. Military: Operations, Civil-Military Relations, PRTs and COIN

11. Security Sector: DDR, Militias, Afghan National Army and Police,
PMCs and Security Contractors

The Mayfair Set

Documentary on Col. David Stirling's private war against Egypt in Yemen.

H/t Feral Jundi

Village Stability Operations

Article on village stability operations entitled Village Security Operations - More than Just Village Defense at Special Warfare magazine.

The Liaison Office

Interesting outfit, The Liaison Office.

The Liaison Office (TLO) is an Afghan non-governmental organization that seeks to improve local governance, stability and security through systematic and institutionalized engagement with customary structures, local communities, and civil society groups. Our mission is to facilitate the formal integration of communities and their traditional governance structures within Afghanistan’s newly emerging peace, governance and reconstruction framework. TLO’s three main areas of activity are: Research and Analysis; Peacebuilding and Mediation; and Natural Resource Management.

Insurgent attacks predictable

Insurgent attacks follow a mathematical pattern, according to an interview with Neil Johnson, a physicist at the University of Miami.

It works like this: Say two attacks happen in the same general area. Take the time interval between those two incidents, plug it into the equation and it gives an estimate of how many days until the next attack.

"That immediately gives you a time interval between the first two attacks," explain Johnson, "You take that, put it into the equation and it gives you an estimate."

GeoHazards International


...Tucker founded GeoHazards International. His message was simple: Stop thinking of earthquakes and tsunamis as unpredictable, and stop thinking of mass fatalities as inevitable. We know where the faults are, we can estimate when quakes will hit, and we can see trends in shoddy construction. The math says more than two million people will die in this century. But those deaths can be prevented, just as vaccines prevent disease. Instead of waiting to send disaster relief after the next Haiti, fund better construction now. Instead of waiting for the next epidemic, inoculate the world.

Monday, 1 August 2011

R2P debate

Tim Dunne is Director of Research, Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the University of Queensland. He addresses the R2P debate in this post: R2P caught in the crossfire?.

I address each of his concerns: the 'hollowness of the concept', the 'narrowness of the applicability', and the problem of 'selectivity'. My aim is greater clarity about the grounds on which R2P is being targeted by its critics.

R2P is driven by a clear moral purpose which maintains that atrocity crimes — such as those committed in Germany in the 1930s, Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s — are preventable. Getting an agreement among the states and peoples of the world as to what atrocity crimes are and why they are uniquely abhorrent suggests the concept is far from empty.

As to its 'narrowness of applicability', again I find my views differ respectfully from Dr Shanahan. What is striking about R2P is the breadth of its applicability. As advocates make clear, including Kofi Annan, Francis Deng, and Gareth Evans, the core of R2P is that all sovereign states are bearers of the duty to prevent atrocity crimes from occurring.

Here are two brief thoughts in relation to the problem of selectivity. First, the 2005 agreement at the World Summit of the UN General Assembly (a follow-on to the 2000 Summit that agreed the MDGs) recognised that, while there was a need for 'timely and decisive action' to be taken by the international community, this would inevitably be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, where it is clear that military intervention will do more harm than good, no right-thinking R2P supporter will advocate such a course of action. But although implementing a no-fly zone is politically and operationally problematic, a referral to the International Criminal Court of Assad and his cronies might be achievable.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

How to be an Afghan Expert

Cynical post over at Ghosts of Alexander on how to be an Afghanistan expert.

The Moro War: An Insurgency and Its Lessons

Review of The Moro War by Mark Moyar, the author of A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency From the Civil War to Iraq.

Some key points (I've pruned, but not much - there was so much good stuff.)

The Americans in Moroland outlawed slavery and polygamy. The governors required Moro children to attend secular schools instead of Islamic ones. To halt rampant armed robbery, the administrators compelled every Moro man to surrender his sword. Mr. Arnold concedes that, despite some protestation, many Moros liked the American policies and beseeched the U.S. to delay plans for their self-rule.

Other aspects of the Moro War, though, bear close resemblance to recent Islamic insurgencies. In Moroland as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. introduced Western principles of law, government and education without explaining to Muslims how such principles were consistent with the Quran. Religiously motivated violence resulted.

"The Moros saw American military restraint as weakness," he writes. "The Moro understanding of Mohammed's life story taught that a party engaged in diplomacy merely to buy time to recover from setback."

Early counterinsurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from the same ignorance. Western nations, impatient to appear benevolent and remove their troops, showed a reluctance to use force and an eagerness to negotiate that conveyed weakness. Some Western policy makers still have not grasped that displaying an eagerness to use force and a reluctance to negotiate offers the most promising route to peace. ["Be prepared to kill"]

But other officers, like Tasker Bliss and John Pershing, defused crises by first talking with local leaders. Sometimes the Moros backed down when confronted by stern talk and the threat of force. Sometimes they did not and had to be given what Pershing called "a good sound drubbing." By talking before shooting, Americans increased U.S. influence, building personal relationships and demonstrating a commitment to impartial justice.

When Americans stepped in, they were able to resolve Moro legal clashes fairly, gaining respect. One officer explained that spending days in the heat hearing testimony about the contested ownership of a buffalo "seemed at times to be without purpose and without result," but "the results in the end were prodigious; nothing less than the trust, confidence, and affection of the huge majority of the Moro people."

As Mr. Arnold notes, the patience, knowledge and talent required for prolonged dealings with the Moros were scarce commodities. It was a good thing, one officer remarked, that Gen. Pershing was put in charge instead of "some fool officer who ignorantly supposed that he could come and in an off-hand manner manage these savages."

Proper qualifications are as scarce now as then. Thus assigning the right Americans to work with Afghans will rank among the U.S.'s greatest challenges in the coming years. From the start, a respect for Afghan sovereignty has required U.S. officials to rely heavily on personal influence and negotiation to get Afghans to do the right thing. That reliance will only increase as the reduction in America's presence brings Afghan stewardship to the fore.

Terence Wood on the foreign aid debate

Aid is no panacea: it can’t solve all the problems of the world by any means. But it can, and does, help. Similarly economic growth has an important role to play. Yet economic growth isn’t everything either, and even in its absence some good can be done.

Terence Wood is a PhD student at ANU. Prior to commencing study he worked for the New Zealand government aid programme.

Behind Africa’s famine, more than just drought

By William G. Moseley, Published: July 29

More than 12 million people are at risk of death and starvation in the Horn of Africa. Even if they do not perish, young children are likely to suffer the lifelong effects of malnutrition, including poor brain development. While reactions of grave concern over this unfolding tragedy are natural, its causes are not. Most commentators cite the worst droughts since the 1950s and security concerns in southern Somalia as the main reasons for the crisis. Taken alone, however, these explanations are deeply flawed.

Drought and insecurity certainly contribute to the current crisis, but more fundamental causes are at play. Drought is not a new environmental condition for much of Africa but a recurring one. The semi-arid Horn of Africa and the entire Sahelian region — running just south of the Sahara Desert across the continent — have long experienced erratic rainfall. While climate change may be exacerbating rainfall variability, traditional livelihoods in the region are adaptable to deal with situations when rainfall is not dependable.

The dominant livelihood in the Horn of Africa has long been herding. Traditionally, herders ranged widely across the landscape in search of better pasture, focusing on areas as meteorological conditions dictated. The approach worked because, unlike fenced-in pastures in North America, it was incredibly flexible and adapted to variable rainfall. As farming has expanded, including in some instances to large-scale commercial farms, the routes of herders have become more concentrated and more vulnerable to drought. The change from traditional practices has also become detrimental to the landscape. In Ethiopia, large land leases (or “land grabs”) to foreign governments and companies for export crops (such as palm oil, rice and sugar) have further exacerbated this problem.

Agricultural livelihoods have also evolved in problematic ways. In anticipation of years of poor rainfall, farming households and communities historically stored surplus crop production. Sadly, this traditional strategy for mitigating the risk of drought was undermined from the colonial period, beginning in the late 19th century, as households were encouraged (if not coerced by taxation) to grow cash crops for the market and store less and less excess grain for potential bad years. This increasing market orientation has also been encouraged by development banks. Growing crops for market worked fine as long as cheap and plentiful grain was available for purchase, a trend that began to erode in 2000 as global food prices gradually rose.

Just as death from exposure is not an inherent result of a cold winter, famine is not a natural consequence of drought. Simply put, the structure of human society often determines who is affected and to what degree.

While the nations of the world must act immediately to address the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, working to ensure prompt delivery and distribution of food aid, these same countries must also consider the underlying causes of the crisis as they seek longer-term solutions. Many, including the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, have spoken about the need for a strategy to rebuild food security in the region.

The problem is that the USAID plan for agricultural development in Africa has stressed a “New Green Revolution” involving improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. While this energy-intensive approach may make sense in some contexts, it is financially out of reach of the poorest of poor farmers, who are the most likely to face food shortfalls. A more realistic approach would play down imported seeds and commercial agriculture in favor of enhanced traditional approaches to producing food for families and local markets.

Ethiopia, a key recipient of U.S. aid in the Horn of Africa region, should also be strongly discouraged from granting long-term leases of its farmland to foreign entities when it struggles to feed its own people in years of poor rainfall.

Finally, the crisis in the Horn of Africa has been aggravated by high food prices worldwide. Global food prices reached a historic high in February, surpassing the spikes of 2007-08, which had been the highest recorded in 20 years. While current prices are related, in part, to bad weather, other significant factors include high energy prices, the increasing diversion of grain for the production of biofuels, and export restrictions.

With energy and food prices likely to remain high for months to come, Africa can no longer count on cheap imported food or afford to shift to energy-intensive crop production strategies. The path to improved food security lies in improving time-tested local approaches, which are attuned to local environmental conditions.

The writer is a professor of geography and African studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. He previously worked for Save the Children (UK) on food security issues in Africa.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Failed States Index 2011

The Fund for Peace's Failed States Index 2011.

Did the world react too late to signs of famine in Somalia?

The Economist on the scandal surrounding the famine in Somalia.

Famine has a technical meaning these days. It is declared when 30% of children are acutely malnourished, 20% of the population is without food, and deaths are running at two per 10,000 adults or four per 10,000 children every day. ...

Yet famine was not declared until July, eight months after the first FEWS Net forecast. ...

Outsiders’ caution is linked to the role of the Shabab... The Shabab has banned food aid in most of southern Somalia since 2009, branding Western aid agencies anti-Muslim. The WFP, the biggest provider of food aid, has had 14 staff killed there since 2008. Agencies also worry that militias use food aid to rally their troops—some say this happened in Ethiopia and Eritrea in the 1980s—and do not want to pile into southern Somalia to find they have reinvigorated the Shabab.

... Some, but not all, parts of the Shabab seem to be looking for help. [Chance to split al-Shabaab?]


... FEWS Net may have predicted famine but nothing happened until television cameras showed up, beaming out pictures of fragile children arriving at the huge Kenyan refugee camp at Dadaab in large numbers. Aid officers worry about being criticised by the public and their own bosses if they spend scarce resources before there is an outcry. The result is that donors often ignore their own early warnings. “We’re not behaving like good risk managers,” worries Duncan Green, the head of research at Oxfam.


Quite apart from the death toll and the misery, this is criminally wasteful. When famine threatened Niger in 2005, the cost of help was put at $7 a head. No one did much; the famine struck; the cost of help ended up at $23 each. Economic incentives and early-warning systems say donors should act early. But the political incentives advise delay—until it is too late.

INSS: Institute for National Security Studies

INSS is an Israeli think tank.

MOTHERLODE: Village Security

Thanks to the Small Wars Journal, I may have just found the village security motherlode in the form of the JFK Special Warfare School.

Famine early warning is USAid's famine early warning system/network/thingy.

Revising FM 3-24

Abu Muqawama on the same topic.

Here is the money quote:

My primary criticism of the doctrine as it is currently written is the doctrine's weakness with respect to waging counterinsurgency as a third party, something both Charlie "Erin" Simpson and Steve Biddle have written a lot about.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Prine-Burke-Few Doctrine and the COINdinistra Manual

Jason Fritz at Inkspots comments on the Small Wars Journal article calling for an upgrade to the Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

Note the comment on police reform. I am convinced that policing is the key to the future of war.

...I think these three thinkers and experienced counterinsurgents took the right approach: concise points on why the current doctrine is insufficient that should be readily apparent to anyone who has participated in COIN operations. ...I would suggest adding a few more to the list, though.

1. The new manual should spend some time and space discussing counterinsurgency as it fits within and relates to the total spectrum of warfare.

2. Speaking of #12, the new manual should go beyond the fact that legitimate violence is an element of COIN and expand on how to use it: primarily the use of indirect and air fires.

3. We need a better discussion of ends. I don't know that the new manual wants to wade into the minefield that is COIN metrics... We just had no idea what we were working towards other than "better than things are now" - talk about mission creep potential.

4. Interagency, interagency, interagency. ... I could write a book on this topic, because it's still so screwed up (you don't want to get me started on [b]police reform[/b], for instance)...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

When having a strong economy is not enough...

Harold Mitchell is the chairman of CARE Australia.

THERE is a lot of fuzzy thinking about Australia's foreign aid. It is time to be much clearer about what aid can and can't achieve.

Hugh White, on this page last Tuesday ("Economic growth, not foreign aid, is overcoming long-term poverty in the world"), asked why Australia was increasing its aid program when poverty was actually being beaten by economic growth.

...Papua New Guinea has seen strong economic growth over the past five years, but it is not clear that it is being translated into lower levels of poverty.

Economic growth needs to be coupled with effective government institutions, a vibrant civil society and with a population that can take advantage of the opportunities that economic growth may provide.

Aid has played an important role in enabling poor people to take advantage of economic growth. About 80 per cent of children in developing countries now get basic vaccinations. About half these vaccinations are funded through aid programs. Millions of children are studying in schools funded by aid, with school books delivered by aid programs. These children often eat school lunches funded by aid, too. This aid often leverages greater efficiency and effectiveness in government resources through better tender processes and improving policies.


...Without basic healthcare and a decent education, economic growth passes you by.

About 60 per cent of aid from all donors goes to support these basic improvements in the living standards of ordinary people who just haven't had the chances Australians take for granted.

About 22 per cent of all aid goes to support economic growth by providing infrastructure, improving agriculture and so on. A further 12 per cent responds to humanitarian crises, such as the current terrible drought and famine in east Africa.


First, let's remember that economic growth is powerful, but it takes a long time. If a country's economy grows by 7 per cent a year for a decade, then its economy will double. If your population grows at the same time, say around 3 per cent, then the resources per person won't double and it might take 15 years or more for this to happen. So for a country such as Indonesia, with a GDP per person of around $3000, it will take many decades of sustained economic growth for it to reach Australia's level of $55,600. In the meantime, I think it makes sense for Australia to make a contribution to help the Indonesian people overcome poverty.

Second, economic growth is never distributed evenly. Government policies need to promote growth and at the same time provide services to everyone. Poor countries with very limited resources just can't do this; nor can poor families. That is why many poor families in developing countries don't send all their children to school. It is usually the daughters who stay at home doing housework or helping on farms or in shops. When they miss out on even a basic education, they are set up for a lifetime of disadvantage. By focusing our aid on those who are most disadvantaged, particularly women, they are more able to seize the opportunities of a growing economy.

MIFFs: Middle Income, Fragile or Failing states

Andy Summer on MIFFs:

What do Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Sudan and perhaps Libya, Egypt and Tunisia have in common? Fragility and middle-income status.

Picked up by The Economist:

Yet strikingly, some 15 of the 56 countries on the bank’s lower-middle income list (ie, over a quarter) also appear on the list of fragile and failed states maintained by the OECD, a rich-country club.

*Two Trends in Global Poverty, by Geoffrey Gertz and Laurence Chandy. Brookings Institution, 2011 **Conflict, Security and Development, The World Bank.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Our undeserved COIN reputation

Jim Molan on COIN.

When Dr Milton Osborne was writing his Lowy Perspectives Paper, Getting the Job Done: Iraq and the Malayan Emergency, in February 2005, I was trying to do counter-insurgency in Iraq, and I could really have used that paper.


I never met anyone in any position of authority who said that success in these wars could be achieved by military forces alone, but the creation of relative security for the people by the use of military or para-military forces is the first and most essential step.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Feachem on aid and growth

Sir Richard Feachem concludes that "the link between aid and growth was either weak or non-existent".

Sound file included.


* Government policies, not aid, create economic growth.
* Aid does not make you loved. Exceptions: Higher education assistance.
* Successes: health.
* Failures: Economic growth per capita etc.

What is the rationale for foreign aid?

The argument continues. Here's Hugh White's response to Annmaree's response.

I'm not 'anti-aid'. But I do think that we should be clear about what the aid program is trying to achieve, and I think both the Aid Review and the Government's response have left that very muddled. Both say that the primary purpose of Australia's aid is to 'overcome poverty'. Is that something aid can do?

Friday, 22 July 2011

There's more to development than money

H/t The Interpreter

Opinion by Annmaree O'Keeffe.

There's more to development than money
By Annmaree O'Keeffe - 20 July 2011 12:22PM

Annmaree O'Keeffe is a Lowy Institute research fellow. She has served as Australian Ambassador for HIV/AIDS and Deputy Director General of AusAID. was argued in the report released earlier this month by the team who reviewed Australia's aid program. As the report puts it :

'There is no single recipe for development progress. Commonly cited development success stories, such as South Korea, Botswana and Singapore, have used different policies and adopted different priorities. But there are some basic principles that underlie development success. These include economic growth, investing in opportunities and building strong institutions'.


The significant value of aid is as a catalyst; a reformer; advocate; banker of last resort; innovator; rescuer; and yes, it can even be in the donor country's own interest. Don't take my word for it, look at these examples.

Example 1: The 2000 Millennium Development Summit provided the crucible for a new global development paradigm — the 2015 Millennium Development Goals – which continues to inspire and shape the approach and objectives of the global strategy for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life. Each of the goals target fundamental factors affecting quality of life — hunger, health, education, gender equity, environment — and the 2015 targets seek to make significant improvements in each.

While progress hasn't been smooth across all countries, and the global financial crisis played its part in affecting the MDG efforts, 2015 will see major advances in reducing poverty and improving the quality of lives for the poor. The role of aid in achieving these advances is in part through developed country support to developing country services and systems. But a particularly important role the MDG has played, is as the advocate for the poor. How to reduce global poverty is now in the thinking of domestic and international policy makers because they are aware of it, and the pressure is on to do something about it. This wasn't always the case.

Example 2: One of the most successful international innovations of the past decade has been the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Created in 2002 as a public/private partnership, it emerged from an environment of mounting concern about the effects of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in developing countries.

As a financing mechanism, it has been particularly effective at attracting and channeling large amounts into country-owned programs to fight these diseases. Thanks to that funding, 3.2 million people are now receiving antiretroviral treatment for HIV, 8.2 million new cases of TB have been detected and are being treated and 190 million insecticide-treated bed nets have been distributed to reduce malaria infection.

Example 3: The GAVI Alliance was started in 2000 as a global health partnership bringing together private and public sectors, government, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, civil society organisations and relevant multilateral organisations. Its role was and still is to fund immunisation programs in the world's poorest countries. Its uniqueness lies in the way it applies donor funding to adopt market-based solutions to public health funding.

A particularly smart innovation is providing incentives to pharmaceutical companies to undertake the needed research and development of vaccines for diseases affecting developing countries. Left to market forces, these diseases would not attract the attention of the pharmaceuticals because of the very limited promise of eventual returns on their research investments.

Close to home, in PNG and the Pacific, it's evident that there are still major development challenges confronting this region. The reality is that some of the small Pacific states simply do not have the physical resources and human numbers to be ever completely economically self-reliant. It is a reality which has been acknowledged for some time.

With regard to PNG, it is not just a developing country with major challenges. Last time I looked, you could still walk to PNG from Australia at low tide. It is a country where the national interest objective intersects with the humanitarian objective for Australia's aid program. PNG is lagging behind on achieving the MDGs, and there are real governance issues that the government of PNG has to take responsibility for. But it is less reliant on aid, and the proportion of Australia's aid is now equivalent to less than 5% of PNG's gross domestic product, down from 20% at the time of Independence in 1975.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Friday, 15 July 2011

Sangin Province: What Worked

What Worked

A. Military successes stimulated reconciliation and population mobilization. The population-centric COIN that preceded the Marines had relied on political outreach and economic development to convince Sangin’s residents to abandon the insurgency and join the government side. Military force was minimized based on the theory that violence would create “accidental guerrillas,” kill off potential negotiating partners and alienate the insurgents so much that they would never consider reconciling with the government. This approach accomplished little. In fact, the counterinsurgents’ aversion to the use of force and their eagerness to negotiate most likely discouraged a political compromise because they suggested that the insurgents could win a complete victory by waiting the foreigners out. As it turned out, the Marines made much greater progress in reconciliation and population mobilization because their military successes raised the costs in lives and property that communities and families paid for supporting the insurgency and convinced the opportunists that the coalition would prevail.

B. The Marines put stabilization ahead of transition. Preceding military commanders and civilian officials had sought to facilitate transition by assigning greater responsibility to Afghans. The Marines concluded that the enemy was too strong and the Afghan government too weak to permit a successful transition under these conditions. Instead, they decided to take the lead in security operations in order to set the conditions for ultimate success. By reducing violence and permitting government officials freedom of movement, they put the government on a viable path to sustainable transition. This shift in approach mirrored the shift in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, when initial efforts to transition responsibility to Iraqis failed so spectacularly that the Americans chose to retake the lead in security until the situation stabilized. In both instances, a de-emphasis on transition actually improved the prospects for transition and shortened the amount of time required for a successful handover.

C. Development aid was provided only when coalition personnel could visit the projects. The Marines stopped the funding of development projects in areas that could not be visited. This shift ensured that coalition personnel could verify firsthand whether projects were proceeding as intended, and disabused Afghans of the notion that the coalition was a collection of suckers. The Marine willingness to operate throughout the district greatly facilitated on-site inspections.

D. Counternarcotics took a back seat to stabilization. The Marines decided that they had too many enemies already to engage in large-scale counternarcotics activities. Much of the population depended on the opium industry for its livelihood, and could be expected to cling to insurgency more strongly if that livelihood were at stake. Counternarcotics could wait until the government had enough personnel and adequate security to undertake robust counternarcotics measures. Marine COIN operations did, however, have a large impact on the narcotics trade because many of the insurgents they captured or killed had been involved in it. Nevertheless, the narcotics industry continues to thrive in Sangin, and it now poses a vexing problem across Helmand, for the power brokers required for reconciliation, and at some level the officials of the Afghan government, are deeply invested in it will strongly resist actions that would harm the narcotics business.

Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure (ISCI) program

The spring saw the first Marine recruitment of local self-defense forces, through the Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure (ISCI) program. The district police chief used CERP [Commanders' Emergency Response Program] funds to pay ISCI members for nonmilitary work, and in return they provided information and armed resistance to Taliban intrusion.

100 Firefights, Three Weeks: Inside Afghanistan’s Most Insane Fight

Combat Hunter Program

I've long said that policing is the future of war, but the big hunting thing was a new angle in this article.

Faced with an alarming increase in sniper attacks in Iraq, Marine commanders in late 2006 began looking for ways to turn the tables on an elusive enemy. Among the experts they consulted: a renowned African big game hunter and a former big city cop.

The result is the combat hunter program... The training combines outdoor skills culled from hunting and tracking with the street smarts developed by police and Marines who grew up in cities.

"The motto we … try to instill in these guys is Marines are always the hunter, never the hunted," says Ivan Carter, the safari guide and hunter...


While much of the military has focused on technology and improved armor to give soldiers an edge in Iraq, the Marine Corps embarked on a different approach with this program, aimed at developing new mind-sets and skills.


Marine commanders were also looking for ways to overcome a key advantage insurgents have: They can easily hide among civilians.

"Finding is the problem," Mattis says. "Our soldiers, SEALs and Marines are quite capable of killing these guys. It's how do you find them."

Commanders turned to cops for advice, but they also looked within their own ranks — to Marines who grew up in inner cities.

"The inner-city kid has a unique perspective," says Greg Williams, a retired Detroit area police officer who was recruited by the military to help develop the program. "They have a stronger urban survival instinct. The inner city kid … will see the world a little differently, a little more opportunistically."


During a conference at Camp Pendleton last year, Williams and a sergeant took a group of skeptical senior officers for a walk in a nearby town. The sergeant pointed out dangerous neighborhoods based on where cars were parked, whether there were toys in the yards and other signs that they noticed but the older officers did not.


Marines can be taught to pick out criminals and insurgents trying to blend into a crowd, if they know what to look for, Williams says.


The typical Marine rifleman carries about 97 pounds of equipment... The recommended load is about 50 pounds, according to a Naval Research Advisory Committee report called, "Lightening the Load."


"It doesn't mean we're going out there to kill everything we can," Lethin says. "We're hunting the enemy — those insurgents … hiding among the people.

The Perception-centric Approach

Interesting article by Tom Brouns reposted by Mark Sedra.

Rather than a population-centric approach, I recommend a perception-centric approach. That is, all actions undertaken should build a growing perception that success is inevitable for the growing Afghan government. Efforts to curb corruption and enhance legitimacy, transparency, and responsibility are critical to this approach. International development efforts also support this approach, especially if they can somehow be portrayed as the result of efforts and decisions by Afghan leaders. However, the perception-centric approach must also be fully integrated in the military effort – to include policy (think detention and solatia payments), planning (are we seizing terrain or are we demonstrating Afghan capability?) and tactical operations (going beyond mitigation). Former RC South Commander MG Ton van Loon stated, "Every course of action that is likely to antagonize the population should be removed from consideration." To take this a step further, courses of action should be designed from the outset to increase popular support for their government.

Hearts and minds in Malaya?

Revisionist view of the Malayan Emergency here.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Towards a Land-Based Solution for Somali Piracy

Rethinking the Cure: Towards a Land-Based Solution for Somali Piracy

Rashid Abdi, Maritime Counter Piracy Conference | 11 Apr 2011

Because the TFG has struggled to steer the process of devolution, impatient local communities in the periphery have, over the last four years, been busy rebuilding the rudiments of regional state institutions, improving inter-communal harmony, and experimenting with a quasi-democratic and consensual style of governance. In this, they are mimicking similar processes in Somaliland and Puntland. It is true, however, that some of these emerging self-governing regional polities are far from stable, and the gains they have made remain highly tenuous and reversible.

Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the “revolt against the centre,” and attempts to create viable local administrations, are genuine, organic and underpinned by a remarkable degree of popular support — a political development that stands in stark contrast with the hopeless situation in Mogadishu, where a weak and discredited TFG appears out of sync with the wishes and aspirations of its people. While it may not appear immediately obvious, international support for these fragile entities and “recovery” pockets in central and northern Somalia is the best means to banish the piracy menace from Somalia.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The future of Australian aid

Article by Annmaree O'Keeffe on the foreign aid review.

Annmaree O'Keeffe is a Lowy Institute research fellow. She has served as Australian Ambassador for HIV/AIDS and Deputy Director General of AusAID.

What sets this framework apart from its predecessors is its emphasis on people rather than states. While the national interest is still incorporated in the overall purpose of the program, it's the humanitarian aspect of aid that gets the bold headline – the fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Wars, Guns, and Votes

In a sequel to his award winning book on global poverty The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier comes to the sobering conclusion that democracy can make the poorest countries more dangerous. He also outlines how developed affluent nations can offer assistance to emerging democracies.

Unfortunately, only the transcript and not the audio is available.

The book is here.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

How to Solve Afghanistan

How to Solve Afghanistan
May 25, 2011
By Masood Aziz

Injustice and the exercise of illegitimate power are now key reasons for a disaffected and disenchanted population. This is precisely where the Taliban find the space within which they thrive and where they seek and obtain support. Closing this gap by restoring a sense of justice and legitimacy will ... make the Taliban an irrelevant entity in Afghanistan...

...How did we ever get to this? ... Beginning in 2001, an massively uncoordinated model of international intervention was followed by massive inflows of foreign aid relative to domestic sources of capital, creating a textbook case of a rentier state.


The first step would entail the establishment of a cash transfer of natural resource revenues directly to the citizens of Afghanistan. ...

Under this structure, the distributed cash would be taxed as normal income. ...

The second pillar of this strategy is tied to the National Solidarity Program (NSP). When first established in 2003, the NSP sought to empower Afghans in rural areas and at the grassroots by establishing local governance bodies called Community Development Councils in villages across the country. Cash grants were then given directly to these elected bodies to help them carry out small-scale rural projects. ...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Civil Affairs Reset

I've always liked the much-maligned Civil Affairs - just an intuition that it was the future of war.

Civil Affairs Reset
by Greg Grimes

Civil Affairs units are uniquely suited to both the nature of fight we’ve been in for ten years and the types of engagements anticipated in the future. The near- and intermediate-operational environment of the future will likely be a continuation of the current ‘graywar’: persistent and complex conflict of variable intensity. As other agencies adjust to new budgetary realities (read: smaller budgets) and retract from a battlefield presence, Civil Affairs should emphasize its strengths when crafting its evolution. Civil Affairs units are:

Self protecting. CA units are armed and equipped to venture into nearly any environment, especially non-permissive or remote areas. No other US government organization has this capability to this extent. Civil Affairs units can engage local populations and support the mission to counter violent extremism even in challenging security environments. Civilian agency members usually are not trained to operate under fire.

Robust. There are more total Civil Affairs personnel available and skilled to sustain persistent operations than in any other agency working foreign engagement. This becomes doubly significant when considering the use of CA forces in sustained operations...

Expeditionary. CA units typically operate with a small logistical footprint; organic capabilities are adequate to support operations for extended durations. CA units arrive at the loading ramps already equipped with transportation, communication and security assets, and knowledgeable in local procurement for items they don’t have...


Nation-building/Reconstruction. Though considered a task outside the scope of military responsibility, practical experience says the military will find itself, de facto, conducting the reconstruction mission to some extent...

Cultural Expertise. This has been a perpetual thorn in the side of US forces, despite admirable efforts at educating the forces with some sense of cultural sensitivity...

Language Expertise. Civil Affairs as a force needs to revisit the practicality of expecting CA practitioners to develop and maintain true linguistic skill. If the future reflects the past, we can expect involvement in Middle Eastern and African environments...


COL Greg Grimes is currently assigned to the Joint Irregular Warfare Center of USJFCOM.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Careful War

Four Corners story on a mentoring company in Afghanistan.