Anthony H. Cordesman

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As it measures its response to the recent events on Egypt, the U.S. needs to be extremely careful about focusing on the definition of "coup" and the legitimacy -- or non-legitimacy -- of Mohamed Morsy's election, the draft constitution, and the now-ousted Egyptian president's efforts to give himself additional powers. It needs to be equally careful about focusing on the protests that helped drive him from power, and the legitimacy of political Islam.

If the U.S. focuses on whether or not a coup took place, it will be ignoring the fact that Egypt is a key center of the Middle East and that U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

It may be fair to argue that the last thing the nation needs at the start of an election year is yet another budget crisis and another decade of war. Yet this is the path the United States appears to be taking in Afghanistan. U.S. officials are talking about removing all American troops from Afghanistan and about massive cuts in military spending as part of the “transition” to Afghan control of combat and civil governance operations in 2014. Given the lead times involved in funding and implementing such massive changes within two to three years, Washington really has only a few months in which to decide whether we will take on the burden of funding the Afghan government through 2014 and beyond, and whether we will provide most of the funds, advisers and partners that Afghan forces will need until 2020 and beyond.…  Seguir leyendo »

The U.S. focus on Afghanistan largely centers on withdrawing most forces by 2014 and reducing the cost of the war. These are important issues: By the end of fiscal year 2013, the United States will have spent $560 billion on the war, and current annual costs are more than $110 billion. It is, however, far easier to talk about troop levels and budget cuts than to plan and conduct a real-world transition to Afghan responsibility for security and funding of Afghan operations and to deal with the strategic realities involved. The United States needs to come to grips with a range of extremely difficult issues, none of which involves good options.…  Seguir leyendo »

1.- Reform or Go Home.
By David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus and the author of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.

Counterinsurgency is only as good as the government it supports. NATO could do everything right — it isn’t — but will still fail unless Afghans trust their government. Without essential reform, merely making the government more efficient or extending its reach will just make things worse.

Only a legitimately elected Afghan president can enact reforms, so at the very least we need to see a genuine run-off election or an emergency national council, called a loya jirga, before winter.…  Seguir leyendo »

The United States cannot win the war in Afghanistan in the next three months -- any form of even limited victory will take years of further effort. It can, however, easily lose the war. I did not see any simple paths to victory while serving on the assessment group that advised the new U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, on strategy, but I did see all too clearly why the war is being lost.

The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Afghanistan Nato/ISAF faces challenges that go far beyond the normal limits of counter-insurgency and military strategy. It must carry out the equivalent of armed nation building, and simultaneously defeat the Taleban and al-Qaeda. It must change its strategy and tactics after years in which member countries, particularly the United States, failed to react to the seriousness of the emerging insurgency. The nations of the alliance lacked a unity of purpose, failed to provide enough troops and placed serious national caveats and limits on their use. They let the enemy take the initiative for more than half a decade.

The result is that the Taleban have been winning the war for control of Afghanistan’s territory and population while Nato/ISAF has focused on the tactical and combat aspects.…  Seguir leyendo »

Despite the violence of the past few weeks, it is Iraq that now risks becoming the "forgotten war." Iraq has become both a perceived "victory" and a war that many Americans and members of Congress would like to forget. As a result, we may rush toward the "exit" without a strategy -- and lose both the ongoing war and the peace that could follow.

It is all too easy to forget that we "won" in Vietnam. We left having defeated the Viet Cong, having forced North Vietnam to halt its offensives -- and having gotten a Nobel Prize for the settlement.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is not a stretch to say that Barack Obama faces stiffer, more vexing challenges on more fronts than any president in recent memory. In the coming weeks, the Opinion section will publish a series of Op-Ed articles by experts on the most formidable issues facing the new president. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the subject of today’s articles.

1) The Little Battles We Must Win.

2) A War Presidency, On Two Fronts.

3) How To Leave Iraq, Intact.

4) The 'Good War' Isn't Worth Fighting.

5) Out Of Conflict, a Partnership.

6) One Surge does Not Fill All.

7) Thanks, But You Can Go Now.

Barack Obama will take office having campaigned that he would fight the war on terrorism by focusing on winning the war in Afghanistan and eliminating Al Qaeda’s and the Taliban’s sanctuary in Pakistan. He recognizes that these two countries have become the center of Al Qaeda’s activities and of the violent Islamist extremism that challenges the real values of Islam. He also promised he would find the best way to withdraw from Iraq, and to create a new balance of security in the Persian Gulf.

He has less than two months to go from broad rhetoric to concrete day-to-day action. On Jan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Having just returned from the Middle East, I find it hard to have much optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel sees Hamas’s control of Gaza as a situation it cannot do anything about, a weak and divided Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, increased arms smuggling and a growing threat from Israeli Arabs. Palestinians see a steady growth in Israeli settlements and restrictions, a weak Israeli government and faltering international assistance. And all sides seem to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visits as an end-of-administration effort in résumé building.

There is, however, one potential chance to move forward.…  Seguir leyendo »

For the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq, the Op-Ed page asked nine experts on military affairs to identify a significant challenge facing the American and Iraqi leadership today and to propose one specific step to help overcome that challenge.

1.- Right the Wrong

By Nathaniel Fick, a Marine infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

With eight months left in office, President Bush has the power to shape his successor’s inheritance in Iraq. And the over-arching imperative right now, as articulated by Gen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Even if American and Iraqi forces are able to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are still three worrisome possibilities of new forms of fighting that could divide Iraq and deny the United States any form of “victory.”

One is that the Sunni tribes and militias that have been cooperating with the Americans could turn against the central government. The second is that the struggle among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups to control territory in the north could lead to fighting in Kirkuk, Mosul or other areas.

The third risk — and one that is now all too real — is that the political struggle between the dominant Shiite parties could become an armed conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

To mark this week’s fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the Op-Ed page asked nine experts on military and foreign affairs to reflect on their attitudes in the spring of 2003 and to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate.

Where Was The Plan?

Fifteen months before the 9/11 attacks, the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorism, on which I served as chairman, reported to the president and the American people that we faced a new and terrible threat: the nexus between states that supported terrorism and killers who wanted to murder Americans by the thousands and were prepared to die doing it.…  Seguir leyendo »

No one can return from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I recently did, without believing that these are wars that can still be won. They are also clearly wars that can still be lost, but visits to the battlefield show that these conflicts are very different from the wars being described in American political campaigns and most of the debates outside the United States.

These conflicts involve far more than combat between the United States and its allies against insurgent movements such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban. Meaningful victory can come only if tactical military victories end in ideological and political victories and in successful governance and development.…  Seguir leyendo »

Today and tomorrow, the United States ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and the top American general there, David Petraeus, will appear before Congress to offer a progress report on the war. The Op-Ed page asked six experts on the Iraq conflict to come up with three questions they would pose to the two men.

Beyond the Surge

1. General Petraeus, has the surge bought us anything more enduring than fleeting tactical victories?

2. You and Adm. Michael Mullen, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have both said the surge will end in April 2008. What options do we have then?…  Seguir leyendo »

In an ideal world, arms sales are hardly the tool the United States would use to win stability and influence. America does not, however, exist in an ideal world, nor in one that it can suddenly reform with good intentions and soft power. Those pressuring Congress to kill the Bush administration’s proposed $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states need to step back into the real world.

America has vital long-term strategic interests in the Middle East. The gulf has well over 60 percent of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves and nearly 40 percent of its natural gas.…  Seguir leyendo »