Archive for the 'RAND' Category



Game Over? Iran Within “Weeks” of Nuclear Weapon

BY Glen Tschirgi
6 years, 4 months ago

From Ynet News, this article:

The Iranian regime is closer than ever before to creating a nuclear bomb, according to RAND Corporation researcher Gregory S. Jones.

At its current rate of uranium enrichment, Tehran could have enough for its first bomb within eight weeks, Jones said in a report published this week.

The full RAND Corporation report is available here.

The report, titled, “Iran’s Nuclear Future, Critical U.S. Policy Choices,” was prepared specifically for the U.S. Air Force.  The report takes a four-step approach and in the first three steps it analyzes Iran’s nuclear program in the context of the Middle East and suggests broad policy options before getting to specifics relevant to the Air Force.   From my review of the report, it is assumed that Iran has or will soon have, at the very least, latent nuclear capabilities, i.e., the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear device while not openly demonstrating or testing that ability.   The report suggests several approaches for trying to dissuade Iran from fully developing a nuclear capability and, in the event that Iran does proceed with nukes, various approaches for containing or dissuading their use.

The significance of the Ynet article is the indication by one of the RAND researchers that it is already too late to stop the Iranian nuclear program by air power alone.   According to Gregory S. Jones:

He added that despite reports of setbacks in its nuclear program, the Iranian regime is steadily progressing towards a bomb. Unfortunately, Jones says, there is nothing the US can do to stop Tehran, short of military occupation.

The researcher based his report on recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), published two weeks ago. Making the bomb will take around two months, he says, because constructing a nuclear warhead is a complicated step in the process.

Jones stresses that stopping Iran will require deploying forces on the ground, because airstrikes are no longer sufficient. The reality is that the US and Israel have failed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear warhead whenever it wants, Jones says.

If this is an accurate assessment, then the world has gotten far more dangerous and America will pay a very steep price for having elected a President who was willing to allow the Iranian Regime an additional two years for nuclear development.   This does not absolve, by any means, George W. Bush for his malfeasance on this issue.  He should never have declared that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon if he meant to simply kick the can down the road to the next President.  Nonetheless, there is no denying that Obama was handed a golden opportunity to fundamentally change the Middle East in 2009 when the Iranian people rose up to demand their political freedom from the brutal regime.  Allowing that regime to crush the uprising was an unforgivable error and no amount of Bush bashing will ever change that fact.

If there is any hope in the current predicament it lies in the 2012 U.S. elections and the possibility that a new President will have the skill and determination to support regime change in Iran.   After all the false promises of the so-called “Arab Spring,” Iran may be the one place in the Middle East where a true, Western democracy can actually emerge, one that no longer poses a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies in the region.

Joshua Foust and Seth Jones on the Graveyard of Empires

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Afghanistan expert Joshua Foust reviews Seth Jones’ In The Graveyard of Empires at Firedoglake.  There is also an interesting discussion thread in which both Josh and Seth participate.  Josh doesn’t take a very high view on the innovation in Seth’s book, although he notes the good history that it provides.  You might want to drop by and take a look at the review and discussion thread.

I have not read the book, but I follow Seth Jones and Josh Foust, as well as Afghanistan.  A few brief comments of my own follow.

I tire of the “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires” meme.  Alexander the Great still has blood line in the Hindu Kush, or at least his warriors do.  As one particularly smart commenter said at Michael Yon’s web site to this meme:

Afghanistan certainly was not a ‘graveyard’ for the Macedonian, Parthian, Kushan, Hun, Ghaznavid Turkish, Mongol or Timurlic Empires! All conquered Afghanistan quite successfully; and it happens that the Widow’s second Afghan war (1878-80) reduced the place to a British vassal state, which it remained until after WWI.

I also grow tired of the mission creep meme.  We went in to take out al Qaeda and its safe haven, we did that, and we didn’t leave (or so the meme goes).  We stayed on to accomplish nation building.  Seth Jones in particular advocates the counterterrorism approach rather than the counterinsurgency approach to Afghanistan.  I have variously responded that:

A few more policing assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan would mean simply a few more policing assets to die at the hands of Taliban and al Qaeda … The answer is not black or special operations, police, surreptitious behind-the-scenes deals, prison cells, interrogations, incorporation of the enemy into politics, or negotiations. The immediate answer to the problem of an enemy who would kill you is to kill the enemy with fire and maneuver.

Just to make sure that you don’t mistake this for the kill ’em all approach to COIN, rest assured that I understand the need for holding terrain, both physical and human.  Corruption must be dealt with, government must be set on its feet, the ANA and ANP must be trained and rid of its dross, and the horrible drug problems must be addressed.

I advocate killing bad guys, and lots of them.  As many of them as possible.  But only as a precurssor to follow-on operations to build the country.  You see, the mission didn’t creep, no matter what America has been led to believe.

We went into Afghanistan to deal with globalists – those who have religiously-based beliefs concerning a transnational insurgency – and also those who would harbor them.  This last part is the more difficult, and it’s what necessitates the nation building.

To be sure, there are some that believe in short forcible entries to conduct small operations to deal with immediate threats.  When the threat appears again, do it again.  Even some field grade, staff and flag officers believe this.  Perhaps most field grade, staff and flag officers believe this way.  It is a viable position, but the question remains as to whether this is beneficial and efficient in the long run.  I maintain that it isn’t.

Which leads to the third meme I see developing at the discussion thread at Firedoglake.  It pertains to the need for more NGOs, and that … right now.  But the problem is that NGOs can only operate in a climate of relative security.  Hence, the need to kill bad guys, and lots of them.  While not denying that NGOs must be a significant player in the campaign, there are distinct phases to COIN campaigns, with heavier kinetics usually occupying the initial stages (I owe my understanding of this not only to my son, but also to Colonel Gian Gentile).

There are no easy answers to Afghanistan, and discussion threads like this one are beneficial only to the extent that the smoke is cleared, we admit what we’re up against, and we commit the necessary resources to do the job.  Hopefully, to long time readers we have been clear in our advocacy, including but not limited to: more troops, security first, holding terrain, clearing the ANA and ANP of corruption rather than increasing the size of the forces, going after the drug cartels and criminals rather than the farmers, eventual heavier inclusion of NGOs to assist with agriculture and other things, and outright rejection of a SOFA with Afghanistan.

Another Disappointing RAND Counterinsurgency Study

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 2 months ago

In RAND Study on Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan we disapproved of the small footprint model for counterinsurgency advocated by Seth G. Jones. Another RAND study has been issued entitled How Terrorists Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, by Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki. The report is available for download, so the reader can study it later (or perhaps has already studied it). But the summary statement reads thusly:

All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa’ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation. The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa’ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase “war on terrorism” since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa’ida.

This amounts to 83% – according to Jones and Libicki – of terrorists who either joined the political process or were arrested by the police. So then the solution must be non-military, or so Jones and Libicki conclude.

But they fundamentally fail to understand the nature of the enemy, and so it’s not surprising that the study reaches the wrong conclusions. In Why is there Jihad, we linked a recent report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point that studied the internet interview of Ayman al-Zawahiri. They noted many interesting things, but one crucial point to understanding their global movement.

Over the past year, Zawahiri and other senior al-Qa’ida figures have been waging a vigorous propaganda campaign against the Palestinian organization HAMAS. Although Jihadists unanimously denounce Israel they continue to disagree over whether HAMAS should be considered a legitimate Islamic movement. For Zawahiri, HAMAS’ embrace of nationalism, democracy, and its legacy in the Muslim Brotherhood—arguably the three things al-Qa’ida hates most—delegitimizes the group.

To which we observed:

Nationalism is evil and out of accord with the global aspirations of al Qaeda. Nation-states are not just not helpful, or even a necessary evil. They are quite literally an obstacle to jihad, not because they share the loyalties of jihadists, but rather, because they fundamentally don’t acquiesce to the vision of world conquest in the name of Islam and the forcible implementation of Sharia law. What we see as a transnational insurgency is to the jihadists simply a world wide struggle. They don’t recognize nation-states as legitimate.

This is the Sunni perspective, but the radical Shi’a perspective is the same. From Michael Ledeen’s The Iranian Time Bomb, Khomeini succinctly states their view:

“We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

Ledeen summarizes their views: “Without exception, their core beliefs are totally contrary to the notion that they are a traditional nation-state” [page 17]. Baitullah Mehsud has also shown that his perspective is global, contrary to the views of earlier generations of Taliban. Neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban are about to engage in local or even national politics. It violates the stipulations of their faith.

As for the high value target initiative, the U.S. has been engaged in this for six or more years in both Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Pakistan). It has consumed an incredible amount of money, time, resources, intelligence assets, and firepower, but has only moderate results to show for the expenditure.

The security situation in Afghanistan is headed in the wrong direction, while Iraq has been secured. Counterinsurgency requires force projection, a doctrine we have argued for two years. It has worked in Iraq, and will be required in Afghanistan. A few more policing assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan would mean simply a few more policing assets to die at the hands of Taliban and al Qaeda.

The answer is not black or special operations, police, surreptitious behind-the-scenes deals, prison cells, interrogations, incorporation of the enemy into politics, or negotiations. The immediate answer to the problem of an enemy who would kill you is to kill the enemy with fire and maneuver.


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