Frederick W. Kagan

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A Ukrainian serviceman near a destroyed Russian vehicle, Yahidne, Ukraine, April 2022. Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

At the outset of the invasion, the odds favored Russia to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces, seize Ukraine’s capital, and establish a pro-Russian government. The Russian military comfortably outnumbered Ukraine’s, and its military technology was more advanced. Russia’s GDP was nearly ten times the size of the Ukrainian economy, and its population about triple that of its neighbor’s. Many analysts expected that, after being largely conquered, Ukrainians would launch a protracted insurgency that might defeat the Russians over time. But few believed Ukraine could stop the invasion in a conventional war.

And yet Ukraine has held on. Russia’s assault on Kyiv stalled within a month and failed entirely shortly thereafter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan families fleeing the violence of the Taliban offensive sought shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. Reuters

The Taliban is sweeping across Afghanistan seizing more than a dozen provincial capitals in the past week, and is poised to seize more. Afghan defense forces, finding themselves mostly cut off from U.S. air support, haven’t been able to stop them, and the Afghan government may not survive for much longer. The United States has all but abandoned the country.

A disastrous Taliban takeover wasn’t inevitable. President Biden said his hands were tied to a withdrawal given the awful peace deal negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban. But there was still a way to pull out American troops while giving our Afghan partners a better chance to hold the gains we made with them over the last two decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

The idea is gaining ground in some circles that an excessively limited strike against Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program would undermine U.S. credibility and interests more than would a decision not to strike. On its face, this argument is appealing: After all the buildup and expressions of moral indignation, supporters of intervention would, of course, feel let down by a weak attack. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers would no doubt declare that they have once again defeated the great superpower. And the media may fill with questions about the United States’ strength and determination.

But even a weak strike is more in line with U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Will the United States continue to conduct counterterrorism operations in South Asia? That question is central to any discussion about U.S. troop presence and mission in Afghanistan. The answer can be yes only if we pursue and support the current strategy, retaining roughly 68,000 troops in Afghanistan into 2014 and about half that number thereafter.

Amateurs can discuss imaginary, over-the-horizon “light footprint” strategies. Professionals must consider logistics. Physics and military reality dictate the minimum number of troops needed to have any U.S. presence in Afghanistan without inviting calamities worse than the events in Benghazi, Libya. The presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan alone permits counterterrorism operations in Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran's threat to close a vital international waterway if stricter sanctions are imposed on Iranian oil exports is more than just bellicose and provocative. It is also a test of U.S. will and commitment in the Persian Gulf at a time when our role in the region is changing.

The world has grown used to chest-thumping by Tehran, and there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the exercises conducted by Iranian armed forces last week to demonstrate their ability to close the Strait of Hormuz. But how the U.S. reacts to the threats is crucially important.

Iran's large arsenal of mines would certainly present a challenge to shipping in the region if Tehran makes good on its threat.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s meeting Monday with President Obama, their first in-person encounter since October 2009, is supposed to be an occasion to declare the successful end of the war in Iraq and the beginning of a “normal” relationship between two friendly states. Maliki and Obama are likely to reaffirm their commitments to non-military components of the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement — such as trade, education and investment — and discuss the limited ways in which the United States will continue to assist Iraqi forces after 2011.

This vision of relations will seem palatable to Americans and Iraqis who want to believe that all will be well after the withdrawal of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran has just defeated the United States in Iraq.

The American withdrawal, which comes after the administration's failure to secure a new agreement that would have allowed troops to remain in Iraq, won't be good for ordinary Iraqis or for the region. But it will unquestionably benefit Iran.

President Obama's February 2009 speech at Camp Lejeune accurately defined the U.S. goal for Iraq as "an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant." He then outlined how the U.S. would achieve that goal by working "to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists."…  Seguir leyendo »

Now that President Obama has authorized Gen. David Petraeus to continue to execute the current strategy in Afghanistan, the question is: Can the U.S. strategy succeed? The administration's review of its policy identified areas of progress but noted that "the challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable." We are confident this is possible.

Military progress in Afghanistan this year is undeniable. The campaign in Afghanistan has correctly aimed at eliminating insurgent and terrorist havens and creating conditions that will prevent their reestablishment. Coalition forces have eliminated the most important Taliban havens in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, places that had gone unchallenged for years.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Post asked analysts and members of Congress whether the federal government should cut defense spending. Below are responses from Maya MacGuineas, Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Ron Paul, Mackenzie Eaglen, Jane Harman and Rob Andrews.

Defense cuts are not only on the table; they will almost certainly be part of any budget deal. Defense Secretary Robert Gates helpfully opened the door when he highlighted the need for savings, and now defense has become one of the areas of the budget with the strongest potential for a coalition of strange bedfellows, ranging from policymakers on the far left to the far right, all favoring cuts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama's announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq's election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders' tentative efforts to rein in the "de-Baathification" commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process.

Iraq's electoral system, like our own, allows candidates to challenge results, and courts have granted some candidates' requests for recounts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Foreign policy and political experts assess the president's speech. Below are responses from Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Matthew Dowd, Meghan O'Sullivan, Gilles Dorronsoro, Douglas E. Schoen, Andrew J. Bacevich, Ed Rogers and Dennis Kucinich.

Buried in the unfortunate rhetoric of timelines and exit strategies is a critical fact that gives reason to support the ongoing effort in Afghanistan: The president intends to give Gen. Stanley McChrystal 100,000 U.S. troops to use at his discretion for 18 months to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy. McChrystal and his team are the most clear-eyed and determined command group the United States has had in Afghanistan in years.…  Seguir leyendo »

The president will soon announce the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan, in a speech likely to emphasize the importance of political progress there. Legitimacy is the most important outcome of a counterinsurgency strategy, not, as some have suggested, an input. It is unfortunate that much of the debate has ignored the role that additional military forces can play in building legitimacy and effective government in a counterinsurgency. Adding forces gives us leverage; military forces are vital to the success of any political strategy because they contribute directly to improving governance as well as to improving security.

The recent American experience in Iraq illustrates how U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

While some are discussing whether the U.S. presence in Afghanistan should be maintained, the Obama administration does not appear to be seriously considering withdrawal. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and others have instead proposed expanding the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) first and raising U.S. force levels only if that approach is unsuccessful. This option holds out hope of success without the need to send more U.S. troops, but we believe it is illusory.

Withdrawal now would allow Afghanistan to again become a haven for terrorists. It would destabilize Pakistan by giving refuge to terrorist and insurgent groups attacking Islamabad and by strengthening the forces within the Pakistani government and security forces that continue to support the Taliban as a hedging strategy against precisely such an American retreat.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Don't worry, we are not going to lose this war.”

These were the parting words to us from Brig. Gen. Sher Muhammad Zazai, commander of the 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army in Kandahar. He was echoing the sentiments of a group of village elders we had met days before in Khost Province, who assured us that they would never allow the Taliban to come back.

It is odd that the Afghans felt it necessary to reassure American visitors that all was far from lost. It reflected the fact that even in a country where electricity and running water are scarce, word of the defeatist hysteria now gripping some in the American political elite has spread.…  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.

Iraq offers the Obama administration an extraordinary opportunity. Overall violence and American casualties have dropped remarkably since the surge began last year. Iraqi security forces have grown in size and effectiveness. American and Iraqi troops have inflicted a series of defeats on insurgents and militias. The slow but steady construction of a new post-Saddam Hussein state structure will lift the burden of securing Iraq against internal disorder from American forces in the next couple of years, if current trends continue.

The situation remains delicate, however, as Iraq moves into provincial elections in January and parliamentary elections at the end of 2009.…  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 »

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 »

Iraq's parliament this month passed a new de-Baathification bill, which awaits only expected approval by the five-member presidency council before becoming law. Much remains to be done, but this is an important step toward political reconciliation -- and it further strengthens the case for America to remain committed to its crucial mission in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

During Saddam Hussein's day, if you wanted a professional job in Iraq you basically had to join the Baath Party. For most of the 1 million-plus who did so, this hardly implied direct involvement or even complicity in crimes of the state.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.

We do not intend to be fear mongers. Pakistan’s officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate and more interested in building a strong, modern state than in exporting terrorism or nuclear weapons to the highest bidder.…  Seguir leyendo »