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We got the war on terror pensioner! Go team!

The mighty US war on terror machine grinds on. Big news, big news, an allegedly important al Qaeda man, nabbed by US special forces in the failed state formerly known as Libya. Hate to rain on the parade....

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Three Challenges Still Await NATO

This week's NATO summit successfully navigated a tricky turn toward an end to the alliance's combat role in Afghanistan without veering into a stampede from the region altogether. The plan for handing over the lead in combat operations to Afghan forces is a little more...

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AFGHANISTAN ARISING

Afghanistan is about to blossom into a vibrant, modern nation; unfortunately the ongoing turmoil and the relentlessly negative media coverage obscure this underlying dynamic. A new Afghanistan is unfolding unseen before our very eyes. USAID's recent report, Partnership, Progress, Perseverance, provides an overview of the...

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How not to be 'sick'

If you read or sound like an old duffer or military stodge, your message may not convey quite what one thinks to a younger generation in a different country. This is one of the unintentionally humorous lessons furnished in the latest issue of the Army's...

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Still flogging the pain ray

Over the last decade, the US military's pain ray -- a clumsy weapon called the Active Denial System that uses millimeter waves to burn the outer skin layer of targets by making the water molecules twitch -- has been a public relations disaster. No one...

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Afghan Manifesto

Afghanistan is clearly in a crisis. The military drawdown has everyone uncertain of the future and reluctant to invest in it.....

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Helping Afghans Build Afghanistan

The military drawddown now in progress is both inevitable and necessary. The costs in blood and resources are simply unsustainable, while it is widely recognized that no military solution is plausible....

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Afghan Reset

Crisis = Danger + Opportunity - Chinese ideographs   Afghanistan is on the verge of blossoming into a modern nation. It is also on the verge of collapsing back into chaos. It is at a tipping point and can move in either direction. There is...

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Thoughts on Transition in Afghanistan

LTG Caldwell posted some thoughts on transition from Herat at the Atlantic Council. The Herat ceremony will be followed by one in Maser e-Sharif and Panjshir this weekend. To be sure, it is an important milestone, but there are some misperceptions on what transition means....

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Geographic Transition in Afghanistan Begins

LTG Bill Caldwell provides an overview of geographic transition for the Atlantic Council. 7 areas are transitioning to Afghan-led security responsibility this week. He wrote: To be sure, transition marks an important milestone in the history of post-2001 Afghanistan. Dozens of countries are supporting Afghanistan...

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Afghanistan: Handoff from NATO to SCO?

Excerpted from a post for The Atlantic Council While the United States and its North Atlantic partners have reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan through to 2014, the Western alliance has also clearly signaled it is not willing to offer an unlimited "blank check" to Kabul....

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Rally for Afghanistan

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do. -- Leonardo da Vinci   There are two Afghanistans, and they are intermingled. Old Afghanistan is a backward, tribal society, strongly...

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After Bin Laden's Demise

Some of the questions to ponder now that Osama bin Laden has been located and killed: 1) Does Al-Qaeda disintegrate, having lost its effective founder and guide? Or does Al-Qaeda now devolve into smaller, nationally-based franchises (in Yemen, North Africa, Palestine)--with no central command or...

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The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan

Spring officially began this week and the nice weather ushered in a new year (1390) in Afghanistan. If the blooming fruit trees and budding roses are indicative, the spring looks promising. To be sure, NATO and Afghan forces anticipate the challenges of a new fighting...

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TIPPING AFGHANISTAN: Shifting Gears in the Current Struggle

Tipping points are those times when a gradual accumulation of small changes results in a sudden major shift in a balance; restoration of the prior equilibrium may be very difficult or even impossible. Such looming shifts are typically not apparent as small changes accumulate and...

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Building Afghanistan's Police Force

Mirror from Atlantic Council For many of the world's countries, human security is now national security. Afghanistan is no exception. While much attention centers on building an Afghan army while NATO military forces conduct counterinsurgency operations, there is also a concerted effort to build police...

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The Real Afghan Surge

Mirror from the Washington Times When the United States surged an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, they were met by 79,000 new Afghan soldiers and police. Together, the combined force of 150,000 NATO troops and 270,000 Afghan national security forces formed the real Afghan surge....

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National Security and Partnership

Mirrored from the Atlantic Council Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently asked the international community to support the growth of his country's military and police. The request is a sure sign that Afghans want to secure their country from threats inside and outside its borders--but needs...

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On Building an Army

Mirrored from the Atlantic Council For obvious reasons, coverage of Afghanistan is focused on the 150,000 NATO troops. After all, there are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and even Coast Guardsmen conducting counterinsurgency operations, developing Afghanistan's infrastructure, and training the Afghan military and police. All three...

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The Battle for Marjah -- a short review

HBO's Battle for Marjah documentary is not worth your time. That is, most already know the war in Afghanistan can't be won. But there is no political will to end it. However, as a working metaphor for that dilemma, the documentary is fine....

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Demilitarizing the Afghan Effort

Despite widespread agreement that a military solution is not possible, the current approach in Afghanistan remains overwhelmingly a military one - well illustrated by the recent surge of 30,000 troops and only 1,000 civilian supporters. Moreover, it is proving difficult to actually get qualified civilians...

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Afghanistan Economic Strategy

Discussions with a number of Afghan specialists indicate broad agreement on the need to set individual development projects into a larger framework. One area specialist, Fred Starr, for example, in a note on Give Economic Strategy a Chance, laments that during the 2010 policy review,...

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CLASH OF CULTURES

The struggle in Afghanistan has turned into a clash of cultures different from what had generally been expected. Both the NATO effort and the Taliban opposition have changed significantly in the course of the last nine years, resulting in a much changed situation....

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Afghanistan: The Political Challenge for Washington

My colleague Derek Reveron has summed upsummed up the good news and the bad news from on the ground in Afghanistan. This gives us a snapshot of the existing conditions and allows us to assess what is possible. (Thomas P. M. Barnett concludes, in determining...

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Afghanistan: The Good News and The Bad News

ABC News, the BBC, ARD German TV and The Washington Post, sponsored the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research. The new poll made available today offers both good news and bad news. The Bad news 43 percent of Afghans now express a favorable opinion...

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A Fuzzy Strategy for Afghanistan

Fuzzy math is a recent concept for a discipline which traditionally produced exact calculations. But the impossibility of always providing exact parameters and clear definitions spurred the development of "fuzzy" math - approaches that define problems in gross terms, accepting ambiguities and providing not solutions...

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Pakistan and NATO: A Discussion Continued

Hayat Alvi, Nikolas Gvosdev and Derek Reveron: (Cross-posted from The New Atlanticist) Last month, we considered how NATO and Pakistan could repair relations in the wake of Pakistan asserting its sovereignty in the aftermath of a border skirmish between NATO attack helicopters and a Pakistani...

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The Hezbollah Precedent in Afghanistan?

In my World Politics Review column today, I speculate whether the talks between the government of Hamid Karzai and the Taliban might follow the Hezbollah precedent; that is, the Taliban would be able to join in the Afghan government as a corporate entity, and retain...

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Pakistan and NATO

Recent attacks on NATO supply lines in Pakistan and Pakistan's official suspension of access through the Khyber Pass really underscore the challenges facing NATO. Shuja Nawaz recently explained This situation could easily careen out of control. The Obama administration, which is unhappy with what it...

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New Afghan Strategy: From the Ground Up

The current strategy for Afghanistan is not working. It can not. It is too big. While General Petraeus can tick off signs of progress, including expanded American control farther outside of Kandahar, this does not make any difference. Even if such assessments are accurate, they...

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The Conway Comments on Afghanistan

What should we make of the comments of General James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, on Afghanistan? A blunt assessment of the situation from a general officer who is set to retire this fall? A pre-emptive "revolt" prior to retirement--as opposed to those generals...

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Afghanistan: Descent into Reality

[revised 23 August 2010] The effort in Afghanistan is in danger of losing touch with reality. It is stuck in a deepening rut, rushing towards a receding objective. The effort requires that the United States find an answer to the challenge, and find it NOW,...

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Learning from the Soviets

As the United States and its partners enter ten years of operations in Afghanistan this fall, there is a growing interest in the Soviet experience there during the 1980s. Unfortunately, the Soviet-Afghan war is remembered for US, Pakistani, and Saudi support of the mujahedeen, the...

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So-called Wonder Weapon given the sack

At Armchair Generalist, Jason Sigger notes the US military has withdrawn the Active Denial System, formerly known as the Sheriff, aka the Hummer mounted millimeter wave pain ray -- from Afghanistan. Sigger writes: [The] US military is pulling its "less-than-lethal" Active Denial System out of...

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Neither Taliban Nor NATO

The struggle in Afghanistan is generally seen as a struggle between the Taliban and NATO - who will win? But in the long term, neither the Taliban nor NATO will prevail; they are both alien to Afghanistan....

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Fall Back in Afghanistan

The Obama Administration should put Vice President Biden in charge of changing its strategy in Afghanistan. Biden has shown a much better understanding than the generals of the facts on the ground and what might be done. Biden predicted that the combination of the military...

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Debating Counterinsurgency

During his change of command ceremony, General David Petraeus reiterated continued emphasis on counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. He said: ...my assumption of command represents a change in personnel, not a change in policy or strategy. To be sure, I will, as any new commander should, together...

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Exiting Afghanistan: the wrong pre-conditions

There is no moral, no legal, no political justification for the Obama Administration to insist that the Taliban must commit themselves to respecting human rights before the United States will agree to stop the fighting. Negotiations are now underway between Taliban leaders and the Karzai...

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Petraeus Demotion? Hardly

General David Petraeus has been confirmed as the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan and his acceptance as the new NATO ISAF commander should quickly follow. In this role, he will report both to NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Admiral Jim Stavridis and Central Command's new leader...

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Triumph for Civil-Military Relations?

Relieving General Stanley McChrystal could not have been an easy decision for President Obama. In this speech, he emphasized McChrystal's patriotism and accomplishments and thanked him for decades of service to the United States. However, he was relieved for poor judgment and not competence....

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Afghan Objectives

The overall situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. We have already lost support of most of our allies (and certainly their publics) and are now losing support of the American public - there is even an Out of Afghanistan Caucus in Congress....

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Civ-Mil Crisis

As we wait for President Obama's decision on how to deal with General McChrystal's civ-mil gaffe, James Joyner at the Atlantic Council has a good summary caused by the Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal. He concludes: "'Thirteen months ago, when General David McKiernan was fired...

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Collapse in Afghanistan?

The iconic photos of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the Saigon embassy vividly encapsulated the collapse of the US effort in Vietnam. And there has been no end of commentary comparing those earlier, fruitless US efforts in Vietnam with the current, troubled effort...

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Message for Marjah

US forces seized Marjah in February, except they did not seize it. They seized control of the daytime, but the Taliban quickly established control of the night. Since then, there has been a war in the shadows: the Taliban fighting to retain control of the...

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Intimidation and Taliban

Kill one, frighten ten thousand. Sun Tzu Intimidation is discouraging people from acting by threats of violence; it is a pervasive, global problem. Autocratic regimes use intimidation to repress citizen demands for government accountability. At the other end of the spectrum, groups opposing legitimate authority...

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Visions for Afghanistan

The Taliban have a vision for Afghanistan, and for the whole world - a vision of a medieval, ascetic society controlled by theocrats. Their vision includes a harsh and inflexible enforcement of religious prescriptions, including a number of prescriptions that are not actually required by...

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Opium: Buy and Burn, or Not

Ever since the US invasion in 2003, opium has been a problem in Afghanistan. It was a traditional crop which had been virtually eliminated by the Taliban in one of the few positive aspects of their repressive, fundamentalist regime. Ironically, its resurgence now fuels the...

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Refashioning Afghan Strategy: Nation Growing

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, now ground down by 40 years of warfare with broad areas dominated by brutal Islamic fundamentalists. The traditional power structures are inadequate to meet the challenge, especially with so many killed, including by Taliban assassinations....

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Planning for the Future? Examining the Pentagon's 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review

The Pentagon's long-awaited Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is out. By law, the major defense strategy must look forward 20 years and delineate how the U.S. will structure its armed forces. The QDR is supposed to outline the Pentagon's threat assessments, military strategy, force structure, and...

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Sweeping the Taliban Aside

You Have the Watches, We Have the Time say the Taliban. The implication is that the Americans will eventually leave and they will inherit the country. This implication is wrong. Their race is not with the Americans who will indeed leave, but with modernization that...

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The Coming Afghanistan Surge - and the Severely Wounded

With the looming deployment of 30,000 more Soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan, the United States will soon have over 100,000 military personnel there until 2011 - and likely longer. Like insurgents in Iraq, the Taliban make ample use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These munitions...

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Admiral Mullen Speaks at the Naval War College

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave an address today to the students and faculty of the Naval War College. It was, in my opinion, a window into his thinking. He opened his remarks by noting that he has a "focus...

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Learn from the past and arm the Afghans

President Obama's finally announced, long awaited strategy for Afghanistan rests on three premises: That victory in Afghanistan is fundamental to U.S. national security because we must deprive Al Qaeda of that operating base; that defeating the Taliban requires a significant ramp-up of the U.S....

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Ends, Ways, and Means--the Debate We Still Need on Afghanistan

When President Obama explained his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to support General Stanley McChrystal's new counterinsurgency campaign, he left a key question unanswered: Will this be enough to achieve U.S. strategic ends in Afghanistan? Most of the discussion about McChrystal's...

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President's Afghanistan Strategy - More Questions Than Answers

President Obama's strategy announcement for the war in Afghanistan raises more questions than it answers. But some answers are starting to come, and they're not good news. The first and most important question, of course, is the feasibility of the strategy. On this question,...

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President Obama's Afghanistan Speech: An Uncertain Message

After nearly a year in office, President Obama announced his policy on Afghanistan, including that he will be sending 30,000 more to troops to the country. While his announcement is portrayed as a step forward in the war, the given timeline and exit plan carries...

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Afghanistan: A marathon, not a prize fight

President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan reflects a nation deeply divided on the war. There are compelling arguments on both sides. Sober-minded observers see al Qa'ida, the reason the U.S. came to Afghanistan in the first place, as a spent...

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Do We Need "Airminded" Options for Afghanistan?

As the senior leadership of the US government struggles to determine the best strategy for Afghanistan, it seems that America's body politic assumes that some permutation on Army General Stanley McChrystal's plan represents the only possible "military" option. Yet is that really the way...

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Refashioning Afghan Strategy

No one is satisfied with the current strategy in Afghanistan, but there is deep uncertainty on how to best address the challenge of a resurgent Taliban. Uncertainty over the importance of the struggle in Afghanistan and how it fits into overall US strategy is coupled...

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Time and Taliban

Time in Afghanistan is on the side of the Taliban. They live there and will be there a long time after the the Americans are gone. They only have to be patient and they will get the country. Or so they would like people to...

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Karzai's second term a test for international community

Afghan President Hamid Karzai begins his second term with his country on the brink of chaos. To establish control, two major elements of reform are necessary. First, Karzai needs to rein in the major power brokers and end the large-scale corruption that threatens the country....

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Civilian Airstrikes in Afghanistan - A Different View

We hear a lot about the alleged effect of civilian casualties as a result of airstrikes on Pakistani and Afghani thinking, but are popular assumptions really accurate? Last March, for example, the Pakistani press reported a survey that painted a rather different picture of...

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Afghanistan: No Exit

What we need in Afghanistan is not an exit, but a transformation. It has become a key area in the long war - actually not a war, but part of the never ending struggle for human development. Talking of exit is a throwback to the...

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Why Afghanistan?

A major US effort in Afghanistan makes no sense in its own right: a faraway country with very limited resources and a history of hostility to invaders. But Afghanistan was intimately involved with the World Trade Center attack - a major psychological blow to the...

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Afghanistan in Context

Afghanistan is clearly in a very difficult situation. There is a resurgent Taliban (actually a heterogeneous conglomeration of insurgents with varying motivations and loyalties) and a people tired of war and skeptical of the the US effort, a skepticism skillfully exploited by the Taliban. The...

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Afghan drugs: The contrarian view

The Economist, In the current issue, features a bold cover; a setting sun; a U.S. military salute to flag-draped coffin and the stark title: Afghanistan: The growing threat of failure. In the January 6, 2007 issue, The Economist wrote this about Afghanistan's opium crop...

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NATO Supply Lines in Afghanistan: The Search for Alternative Routes

With the surge of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Western policymakers have intensified their efforts for alternative routes through the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Is Central Asia a viable alternative to Pakistan? Ryan Clarke and Khuram Iqbal of the...

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Time to Reconsider A Myth About al Qaeda

"The Al Qaeda videotape shows a small white dog tied up inside a glass cage," writes famous reporter Peter Bergen for the New Republic. The dog is being killed in a gruesome test. "This experiment almost certainly occurred at the Derunta training camp near the...

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AfPak Issues and Answers

Almost every security and foreign policy analyst in Washington agrees that in order to prevent the increase of extremist threats, there is a need for a comprehensive approach to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as well as toward the individual countries themselves. The U.S. needs to properly...

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A Strategy Needed for Pakistan and Afghanistan

What was once dubbed the new Obama Administration's "AfPak" strategy to stop the emboldened Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is increasingly turning into a frantic effort to find a new "PakAf" strategy to counter a growing extremist threat to the civilian government in Islamabad. In April,...

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NATO AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in terms of conventional military capability, is by far the best resourced and most sophisticated regional or multilateral organization in the world. Its 26 countries - which will become 28 following the Strasbourg-Kehl NATO summit later this week - together...

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Will More Troops Fix Afghanistan?

Policy debates over whether we "need" more troops in Afghanistan miss the point. We do need more troops, but military might, alone, will not address the long-term problems. US policy toward Afghanistan will require a fundamental shift in order to stabilize that country. A focused,...

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A few challenges in Afghanistan

President Obama's decision to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan to bolster a deteriorating security situation and provide some breathing space to launch a more effective reconstruction and stabilization strategy will face multiple challenges. The first of those may be trying to find 87,000 weapons...

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