After six months of training, Afghan Air Force Lieutenant Akram Aziz (a real person but not his real name) was still not much of a pilot. In the summer of 2012, after months of remedial training and failed examinations, I sat behind Aziz in a U.S. trainer aircraft buzzing cotton fields around Columbus, Mississippi. Frustrated by Aziz’s performance on yet another poor training mission, I scanned the horizon for the twenty or so other aircraft sharing the traffic pattern with us at the Air Force’s busiest airfield. Unconsciously, I braced against the sides of the cramped cockpit, seeking the leverage I would need to grab the stick when Aziz made a mistake that, if left uncorrected, might put us on a collision course with another jet.
But Aziz got better, a lot better. A few months and thousands of gallons of jet fuel later, Aziz was confidently flying solo. By the end of 2012, he graduated pilot training and returned to Afghanistan to fly a sleek new military transport aircraft.
Akram’s training was conducted under the U.S.-funded Aviation Leadership Program (ALP), a program designed to train pilots from the air forces of less well-off nations alongside those from the United States. The ALP is a small part of the $85 billion in “security assistance” spent by the U.S. government since 2001 to increase the effectiveness and professionalism of Iraqi and Afghan security forces.1 But the ALP doesn’t work, not because individuals cannot be well trained; they can. It doesn’t work for reasons no training program can possibly overcome.
Although Aziz was one of the best-trained pilots in the notoriously corrupt Afghan Air Force, his homecoming was less than ideal.2 He was not paid for months, was rarely allowed to fly, and deliberately made mistakes so as not to embarrass his superior officers whose own flying skills had severely atrophied after Russian trainers left in 1989.3 Moreover, the $468 million U.S.-funded program to purchase the Afghan transport aircraft he was intended to fly was controversially scrapped.4 So in effect we trained a fine pilot and sent him home to a dysfunctional government, and no airplane.
Security Assistance (SA) programs like the ones that trained and equipped Aziz are part of a vast network touching nearly every country with which the United States has relations. SA, it is assumed, makes it easier to integrate foreign troops into joint U.S. operations, endangers fewer U.S. troops, and, as a bonus, exposes our foreign military partners to the professionalism and discipline of their U.S. counterparts.
Following this logic, since 2000 Congress has allocated $274 billion for programs meant to “build the capacity” of partners and allies. Yet despite $60 billion in U.S. training and equipment, Afghan forces permitted a resurgent Taliban to capture the provincial capital of Kunduz even with U.S. air support. Likewise, the Iraqi military, fresh from $25 billion in U.S. arms and training and in its first test since the U.S. withdrawal, withered in the face of poorly armed ISIS insurgents who seized huge swaths of territory and even threatened Baghdad.
Security assistance (SA) is an imperfect solution to an intractable problem: how to train and equip friendly partners so that they can take care of their security needs themselves. Since 2001 SA has evolved from a useful tool in international security policy to the way the United States is expected to conduct war in the fragile and war-torn places where, for the past 35 years, the majority of U.S. military operations have occurred. Security assistance was never intended to replace real warfighting, but sometime during the intractable conflicts of the Middle East and the humanitarian disasters of Africa, it became a primary means of projecting U.S. military power. Security assistance programs were imbued with lofty expectations, received billions of government dollars, and occupied the talents and time of thousands of U.S. military and civilian personnel, taking the lives of many.5 Ironically, in the places where we spent the most on this endeavor it has worked the least well.
A host of issues keep security assistance measures from achieving their aims. First, SA programs aim too high. Congress and the American public expect far too much from these programs. Security assistance may help build goodwill or capacity when the conditions are right, but it cannot win wars. Second, those who create security assistance programs often do so with little regard for the unique cultural factors and complex web of allegiances that often determine how well the assistance is received. Third, the matter of what security assistance is and who runs it remains an unsettled question. The Department of Defense—with the acquiescence of Congress—is increasingly supplanting the State Department in the lead role as both jockey to define SA’s strategic objectives. Fourth and finally, SA lacks the ability or will to change. A wealth of excellent research and analysis consistently points to the same core issues that plague the enterprise, yet is systematically ignored by those with the power to change SA for the better.
Security assistance is referred to in in some circles as security cooperation, security force assistance, or, as is now in vogue, “building partner capacity.”6 This morass of new-sounding terms describes a very old tool of diplomacy and warfare. For millennia, generals and statesman have armed weaker friends to achieve greater security for their own polities. Alexander the Great employed a proto-version of security assistance on his campaigns 2,300 years ago. Once he defeated his rivals he often rearmed them, retrained them, and found ways to incorporate their forces into his own as he made his fateful march to India.7
The relationship between a strong military power and a weaker (but friendly) one is understandably fraught. The United States operates globally, which often means calling on the help of partners. How well equipped, trained, and loyal those partners are can make or break an operation. In an effort to secure global access and enhance its partner’s abilities, the U.S. government currently provides foreign military and police aid in the form of direct payments, training, the financing of weapons purchases, and the direct delivery of weapons.8 Since 2001 the amount spent on security assistance programs has skyrocketed. In 1996 the amount allocated was only around $400 million. Spending increased dramatically in the years following September 11, 2001, hitting a peak in 2008 at $22 billion before settling down somewhat to a more modest $17 billion dollars today.9
These figures do not capture quite all of the spending. The CIA has long engaged in train-and-equip operations within its own, mostly classified, budget. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces also have had the longest history with Security Assistance. Prior to 911, both groups saw train-and-equip missions as part of their core competencies.10 During the post-911 reorganization toward counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, security assistance moved from being primarily a clandestine operation to a major part of the conventional armed force’s missions. Today it is rare to find a major military unit in any branch of service that has not engaged in some way with security assistance.11
Any time a government function is ripped suddenly from its historical nest and site of personnel competence, wildly expanded, and made the subject of turf and budget competition, bad things are possible—to understate the matter. To better understand why, let us now go back and look more carefully at the four factors spelling dysfunction noted in passing above.
Expecting Too Much
This past September, the U.S. CENTCOM Commander, General Lloyd Austin, tried to explain to the exasperated members of the Senate Armed Services Committee why only “four or five” U.S.-trained Syrian rebels were actually engaged in the fight against ISIS rather than the proposed force of over 5,000.12 The General blamed in part a strict vetting system that severely restricted the pool of potential applicants, the difficulty in quickly training an effective force, and the conflicting priorities among many rebels who saw Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and not ISIS as their primary enemy.
While these are undoubtedly difficult issues, they are not—any one of them—unforeseeable. The program to train these troops did not incur some catastrophic setback due to the enemy’s cunning plans; it failed because those charged with running it attempted to do so knowing there was little chance of success. The desire to do “something” is a powerful motivator in Congress and across the landscape of U.S. foreign policy. This sentiment, coupled with a military leadership reluctant to push back, has led the security assistance enterprise to the dizzying expenditures and dismal performances of many of the highest-dollar U.S. security assistance recipients.
But despite the failures, the alternative—for example, deploying more American troops—is a bridge too far for many in Washington. Congress may castigate the agencies responsible for SA programs when they fail, but bereft of other politically tenable options, congressional bodies stop short of calling into question the entire enterprise.
Another danger is that, in rushing to create trustworthy allies there is a distinct possibility of arming those whom we may later be obliged to oppose if not fight—take the leaders of the last coup in Burkina Faso as a modest case in point.13 The decision to arm foreign fighters may be an easier decision to make than one that sends our own troops, but it nevertheless creates an aura of U.S. responsibility for the (sometimes dishonorable) actions of its proxy fighters. Not surprisingly, foreign recipients can also become dependent on this aid, which further exacerbates the problem.14
Through 15 years, billions of dollars, and thousands of American casualties, the American public has proven remarkably tolerant when it comes to the long and expensive wars we have been waging in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Though polls indicate that Americans are weary of U.S. involvement in the regions, in the past 15 years of conflict it has rarely been a voting issue. Only since 2014 have more Americans begun to view the war in Afghanistan unfavorably.15 The message from the U.S. public to their representatives in Congress is that the country is willing to accept U.S. involvement in perpetual war as long as foreigners are mainly the ones getting killed.16
The precedent for this attitude, set by the nearly bloodless 1991 Kuwait War and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, was made possible by a great leap forward in the use of airpower. Those conflicts set a new and perhaps unrealistically high bar when it came to casualties. Despite questions about the legitimacy of President Obama’s expanded use of drones, precision airstrikes remain the most acceptable use of military power for Americans, who still overwhelmingly approve of the strategy.17 When airstrikes are not seen as demonstrating enough commitment, the next level of escalation is typically security assistance. Arming friendly groups or governments or training them puts some American “boots on the ground,” but limits U.S. commitment in a way that does not test most Americans’ comfort zone.
Many in Washington hold the mistaken belief that the thousands of U.S.-trained security forces from Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Egypt, and beyond will create autonomous partners who, because they were trained and equipped by the U.S. military, will act like the U.S. military. They won’t. Security assistance cannot replace warfighting in these areas. A December 2015 government report examined conflicts where the U.S. government pursued security assistance efforts.18 The report found that we were least successful in employing security assistance to end wars in fragile states (Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali), slightly more successful in politically stable countries fighting insurgencies (the Philippines and Columbia), and most successful when creating allies among politically like-minded countries or those threatened by a common enemy (South Korea and the former Warsaw Pact nations now in NATO).
Congress must stop asking, and Americans must stop expecting, security assistance to accomplish what it historically cannot and never has been able to do: win wars. While programs providing weapons and training to established allies have yielded benefits, their track record in war-torn “partner” nations is abysmal. Instead of introducing more weapons, programs in these fragile regions should focus on creating networks between foreign military personnel and their U.S. counterparts. The Defense Department must acknowledge Security Assistance’s limitations and leverage the State Department to nurture relationships formed when partner nations’ forces are trained by Americans. SA may work as a diplomatic tool demonstrating U.S. commitment to new NATO members in Europe or as a carrot for foreign cooperation, but in places where it is needed most—poorly developed regions prone to violence with political, military, and societal norms different from our own—SA fails.
In countries where the military is often a source of political instability or where cultural norms are at odds with the discipline and esprit de corps U.S. commanders take for granted, weapons, training, and the prerogative to use them do not always follow pathways envisioned by SA policymakers. Failing to consider the effect of these “soft factors” on the success of SA prevents the U.S. government and its partners from achieving shared national security objectives.19
Why security assistance fails has a great deal to do with the places where we pursue it. Not all security assistance is a bad investment. New NATO allies brought in during consecutive rounds of expansion have benefited greatly from train-and-equip programs, which have bolstered their capabilities, increased their interoperability with the U.S. and other allies, and built diplomatic goodwill. These are the kinds of achievements Congress and others expect will be reproduced in conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.
They won’t be. It’s not money or equipment that is the key to a successful SA program, but establishing cultural rapport.20 Failure to consider likely cultural friction points dooms SA programs from the outset.
Just as problematic are foreign requests, often fulfilled, for equipment for which the recipient government has no justifiable use or cannot maintain. This can also come back to culture. In certain partner nations, all equipment is considered expendable, even vehicles. In this instance, the U.S. government would need to consider a way to either continually replace the equipment or train partners in maintenance functions.21 If SA is to remain a viable component of the U.S. approach to warfare, it is paramount that we learn to adapt SA in places where different loyalties and disciplinary norms prevail.
Tailoring programs to their intended recipients is commonsensical. Consider the Oreo, the world’s most popular cookie. Nabisco, Oreo’s parent company, sells $3 billion worth of the snack every year.22 Yet for all its simplicity—it’s just a cookie after all—Nabisco spends considerable resources on identifying unique factors present in its disparate markets. Oreos are more wafer than cookie in China, use different chocolate in Mexico, and so on. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is not yet willing or able to make the same subtle but critical changes in the choices of weapons or training it delivers.
It should go without saying, and for pragmatic reasons it often does, that the United States is more culturally, ethnically, and politically similar to its Anglospheric, European, and even its East Asian allies than it is to partners in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and, say, Niger. But even among longstanding allies with sophisticated technological capabilities, and in some cases a common political or cultural heritage, training barriers still exist. All the more so as cultural differences increase: So it stands to reason that even more care must be taken in crafting policies and programs in Iraq, for example, where tribal and sectarian loyalties generally outweigh national patriotism. The Defense Department is still baffled by the Iraqi troops who famously abandoned their posts in 2014.23 But there is no mystery here to anyone who knows anything about Iraqi society and history. Shi‘a from the south of Iraq, who have been sedentary village dwellers for eons, feel absolutely no emotional attachment to the far more arid lands to the north and northeast where Sunni Bedouin tribes have roamed for millennia.
Similarly, the commander of Division 30—America’s ill-fated indigenous Syrian rebels—revealed the deep misunderstandings between U.S. officials and the motivations of their would-be proxies when he said in an interview with CBS that he was disappointed that the United States had not given his group more weapons, just seconds after admitting to giving half of the weapons he had been given to Jabhat al-Nusrah.24 Like most U.S. Middle Eastern allies, the Syrian rebels were pulled in directions that U.S. planners somehow did not anticipate—not that they were any secret. By the time the handful of Division 30 fighters had returned to the front, many had splintered into groups based on tribal or ethnic allegiances.25 Stunned planners gave interviews, wrote reports, apologized to the public and are currently at work putting together another plan aimed at arming Syrian rebels even as those rebels have once again allowed U.S.-supplied weapons to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.26
There are too many horror stories from Afghanistan even to list them, so let one example suffice. At one point some years ago, U.S. security assistance efforts involved translating user manuals for equipment supplied to the Afghan National Army from English into Pashtu and Dari, and printing large numbers of the translated manuals. It seems not to have occurred to the U.S. officials involved in planning this effort that a great many Afghan soldiers might be unable to read in their own languages. Nor did it occur that literacy figures for Afghanistan, had anyone actually consulted them, do not mean in that context what they mean in the United States. A man counts as literate in some non-Western cultures if he can read basic street signs and sign his own name. That’s not literate enough to be able to digest and understand a technical manual for a weapon or radar.
The Interagency Tangle
The bodies responsible for security assistance—Congress, the State Department, and the Department of Defense—all see the enterprise differently. For Congress, security assistance is a palatable way to take military action without endangering large numbers of U.S. troops. For the Department of Defense, security assistance is a way to beef up foreign forces to better integrate them with U.S. operations. For the State Department, security assistance is a useful diplomatic bargaining chip. Unfortunately, security assistance programs have largely failed to effect any of the changes these agencies desire, particularly in the fragile and violence-prone states where an effective and trustworthy security force is most needed.
Security assistance as we think of it today began after World War II. The Mutual Defense Assistance Act (MDAA) of 1949 coincided with the establishment of NATO to provide new allies with military equipment as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. This act was followed by the Military Security Acts (MSA) of 1951 and 1954, which created the Mutual Security Agency within the Executive Office of the President. The agency was administered by the Defense Department with consent and policy directives from the President. SA at that time focused on delivering military aid primarily as a way to arm allies in Europe and anti-communist proxies in other conflict zones.
This Defense-led model lasted until 1961, when the State Department took the reigns as a result of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Since that time, with the exception of the Vietnam War, the State Department has been primarily responsible for the major military assistance programs: Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Foreign Military Financing (FMF), and the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.27 The most significant attempt to reform security assistance came in 1997 when Senator Patrick Leahy secured passage of an amendment to an Foreign Assistance Appropriations bill preventing the U.S. government from providing military aid to any foreign military unit for whom “the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”28 Though the amendment was originally meant only to target counter-narcotics aid, the “Leahy Law” quickly expanded to cover all foreign military aid authorized by the State Department.
In 2011 the Leahy law was revised and strengthened to prevent aid going to units whose members (not the entire unit per se) were suspected of human rights abuses. It also expanded the amendment’s scope to apply to the growing raft of Defense Department-funded and conceived assistance. The Defense Department took issue with this change, insisting that it hindered the training of key units who housed a few bad apples. In 2011, 1,776 individuals and units from 46 countries, out of a total of about 200,000 cases, were denied assistance based on human rights abuses.29 Understandably perhaps, there are few fighters left in the Middle East who have not at some point had a relationship with, if not served in, an organization with jihadi links. That assistance and the authorization for it came from changes introduced in the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provided the Secretary of Defense the authorization to train and equip foreign security forces for counterterrorism and stability operations. These programs need the “consent of” the State Department but can be organically created and operated by the Defense Department.30
In theory, funding for security assistance programs are approved by Congress. With funding from Congress, the State Department develops the framework for security assistance programs. The Department of Defense is then asked by the State Department to carry out the training and equipping. At the State Department, the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs and its various offices handle the bulk of security assistance coordination. Across the river at the Pentagon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Security Cooperation (DASD-SC)—a new post as of 2014—is the de facto chief of security assistance.
Despite the title, Thomas Ross—the man currently holding the position—is not entirely in charge of the organization either. Dozens of functional and regional bureaus deal with security assistance as some part of their mandate. Secretary Ross therefore is meant to “provide guidance on how to align security cooperation policies.”31 These policies are turned into flesh-and-blood programs by another bureau, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). DSCA links policy from State and Defense to SA representatives within each branch of service, which in turn links that policy to the field. At the field level, everyone from Ambassadors to defense attachés to temporarily and permanently assigned U.S. servicemen and civilians take part in the great and unwieldy apparatus that is security assistance.
The many bureaucratic layers of security assistance do not end at the point of U.S. delivery of the training or aid. There is often a parallel bureaucratic architecture on the part of those receiving the aid, particularly if that aid has been long established. Often foreign bureaucrats or military officers act as arbiters of U.S. aid and unsurprisingly wield considerable power in their country. The divide between U.S. programs and their intended benefaciaries means that the very fact that the aid is coming from the United States is often lost on its end-use recipients.
Ignoring Good Advice
When Washington has a problem it sometime goes to the experts, called SMEs in inside-the-beltway jargon. That is what security assistance practitioners have done. Early into the war in Afghanistan the government commissioned research to examine the long arc of security assistance. During the Cold War there were plenty of weapons and training, most of it conducted or delivered by the CIA or Special Forces. However, there was little regard for parsing that budget out of the then-massive Defense spending bill, or much attention paid to whether the money spent created a more stable security environment in the regions where cash and weapons were doled out. Primarily, of course, the money was spent and the training and weapons given to anticommunist factions or regimes. South America is particularly well versed in U.S. security cooperation. Its notorious Western Hemisphere Institute for Cooperation was dubbed the “school for dictators” because so many of that continent’s brutal overlords were alumni of it.32
In the unipolar U.S. afterglow following the breakup of the Soviet Union, as recognition grew that without an existential enemy the United States would need capable partners if it was to keep the world’s peace, the Defense and State Departments reexamined how they viewed security assistance and asked experts to help. It’s not clear they got their money’s worth.
Scholarly work done on security assistance is thin, repetitive, and almost exclusively government funded. The RAND Corporation has taken the lead on research in the field, having a standing mandate from the Defense Department to assess SA programs (which they now call Building Partner Capacity) for the benefit of specific services. RAND dutifully churns out thorough and data-driven research that exhaustively categorizes and quantifies security assistance from every conceivable angle. Much of its earliest work was centered on developing frameworks by which security assistance managers could evaluate their respective programs and make prudent changes. One of the first reports, “Building Partner Capacity Is the Key to a Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy,” published in 2006, reflects the thinking at the time.33
Around 2010 to 2013 RAND focused on creating “frameworks” to help the Defense Department determine when security assistance was working and when it was not.34 Most recently they have moved to examining best practices, including a study on security assistance in areas where it is notoriously difficult to execute.35 The Center for New American Security has also taken a recent interest in security assistance. Several of its staff have testified (alongside the usual experts from RAND) whenever Congress takes an interest.36
While there is certainly a body of scholarly work, it is far from exhaustive and for the most part is written by the same group of a dozen or so scholars who more or less regurgitate studies for the government, which is placated by the knowledge that research is being done on the subject, even if the prudent conclusions and recommendations of that research are ignored. Moreover, the tactical advice given in these studies and reports rarely trickles down to the tactical level. Studies are paid for, discussed by experts, and more often than not shelved in the “good idea for later” pile. The Defense and State Department, busy running two wars and partnership interactions in conflict zones around the world, hardly have time for reflective thought. So while there is good advice to be followed on occasion, it rarely changes the approaches taken by the agencies responsible for the day-to-day business of the enterprise.
The Government Accountability Office has done some of the most straightforward work on security assistance. A recent paper examining security assistance in terms of its strategic aims revealed some alarming trends. Succinctly, it found that the when security assistance is employed as a way to win a war it has historically failed. SA has seen various degrees of success in its history, which the GAO was able to correlate to the strategic objective the SA program was intended to accomplish.
Other reports have stepped outside of security assistance as a strategic objective to look at organizations responsible for it. In October 2011 the GAO published another report for the congressional committees on International Military Education and Training (IMET), a component of SA. The report found that SA managers did not conduct program evaluations despite State Department policy mandating reports tracking the progress of foreign trainees.37 In addition, a trio of 2010 RAND studies commissioned by the Air Force, Army, and Navy developed tailor-made benchmarking tools for each service’s SA programs. But the reports were never circulated among SA managers and the advice each report contained went unheeded.
What stands out when reading the RAND, GAO, and CRS studies is their remarkably consistent analysis of what the problems with SA are and what should be done about them:
- Security assistance programs should be more careful about who they train, why, and how.
- Security assistance programs should be long-term endeavors with a plan to maintain both the equipment provided and the relationships created with foreign security forces.
- Security assistance programs should evaluate the progress of partner countries with a clear strategic objective in mind and readjust aid as necessary.
All of this is correct, and none of it gets done.
Security assistance’s importance was a natural result of the U.S. government’s shift toward a counterterrorism and counterinsurgency-focused military in the wake of 9/11. SA’s roots as an important tool of international security has outgrown its limited mandate and now has become the choice of first resort for policymakers intent on demonstrating American resolve without endangering American troops. This naive strategy is facilitated by the American public and their representatives in Congress, who remain hopelessly out of touch with their military—now at war for the better part of two decades. SA is further hindered by the failure to account for the unique cultural and political circumstances of the foreign partners trained or equipped through its programs. The battle over whether State or Defense is the primary authority over SA keeps both agencies from creating and sustaining effective programs or from developing congruent strategic aims for the enterprise. Finally, the experts are in uncharacteristic agreement when it comes to SA. Even if programs are not scaled back, there are concrete and immediate steps that nearly all agree should be taken to give programs their best chances of success.
Lt. Aziz is evidence that if security assistance programs are given years to mature they might effect change, even in fragile states like Afghanistan. Despite his rocky homecoming, Aziz eventually earned the trust of his unit and was selected to return to the United States to attend a military leadership course alongside other U.S. military officers, some of whom he had now known for years. As the Afghan military’s old guard is replaced, Aziz’s excellent training and U.S. connections make him likely to rise to prominence within his nation’s military. Hopefully, his exposure to the professionalism of his U.S. colleagues will inspire him to make good choices for his country—assuming the Taliban do not return to power and try to cut Aziz’s compromised throat.
Ultimately, security assistance is a complementary—not primary—national security tool. Should the agencies tasked with managing it fail to reform the enterprise, the U.S. government will continue to squander American blood and treasure with predictably poor results. Aziz will not win the war in Afghanistan, but with any luck he may chip away at the cultural and philosophical distance between our two countries, a task his security assistance program is best suited to accomplishing.
1Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., “Learning From Iraq: A Final Report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction,” Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, March 2013; John F. Sopko, “Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR): Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, January 30, 2015.
2In 2012 the Afghan Air Force, which was established almost exclusively with U.S. funds, was found to be transporting narcotics and weapons around the country. Maria Abi-Habib, “Afghan Air Force Probed in Drug Running,” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2012.
3“Russian Trace in Afghan Air Force,” RT International, December 16, 2009.
4Defense Industry Daily Staff, “From Solution to Scrapheap: The Afghan AFs C-27A Transports,” Defense Industry Daily, October 12, 2014.
5As of April 2015 there have been some 91 “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan. Bill Roggio & Lisa Lundquist, “Green-on-Blue Attacks in Afghanistan: The Data,” The Long War Journal, last updated May 7, 2016.
6In her testimony to congress Janet Laurent lays out the problems the various iterations of naming conventions have on the bottom-line effectiveness of the security assistance enterprise. Combatant commands interpret the terms differently and so apply a different standard when determining which kind of aid they would like rendered to security partners in their respective regions. See United States House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, “Building Partner Capacity: Key Practices to Effectively Manage Department of Defense Efforts to Promote Security Cooperation (Statement of Janet A. St. Laurent),” 113th Congress, 1st session, United States Government Accountability Office, February 14, 2013, p. 7.
7For more, see J.F.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Rutgers University Press, 1960).
8“Data,” Security Assistance Monitor, accessed April 22, 2016.
9“Data,” Security Assistance Monitor, accessed April 18, 2016.
10Their clandestine nature means that coordinating efforts is often problematic. In some cases even the United States can find itself backing opposing groups. That seems to be the case in Syria now, where members of a CIA-backed rebel group are apparently in conflict with troops trained by the Pentagon. Nabih Bulos, W. J. Hennigan, and Brian Bennett, “In Syria, Militias Armed by the Pentagon Fight Those Armed by the CIA,” Los Angeles Times,” March 27, 2016.
11The Army, in a move that some argue is meant to ensure their relevance in the air- and sea-dominated battle space associated with the “pivot to Asia,” has doubled down on its train-and-equip mission. Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., “Army Mulls Train & Advise Brigades: Gen. Milley,” Breaking Defense, December 14, 2015.
12Luis Martinez, “Only ‘4 or 5’ US-Trained Syrian Rebels Fighting ISIS, General Says,” ABC News, September 16, 2015.
13Craig Whitlock, “Coup Leader in Burkina Faso Received U.S. Military Training,” Washington Post, November 3, 2014.
14The United States currently pays more than 80 percent of Afghanistan’s defense bill. The Pakistani government has been accused of avoiding confrontations with terrorist organizations because it would affect the amount of aid received from the United States. Colby Goodman & Michael Drager, “Military Aid Dependency: What Are the Major U.S. Risks Around the World?”, Security Assistance Monitor, March 8, 2016.
15Frank Newport, “More Americans Now View Afghanistan War as a Mistake,” Gallup, February 19, 2014.
16James Fallows’s excellent article on a “chicken hawk” American public is a good reference for understanding the deep disconnect between Americans and the people who fight their wars. Fallows, “The Tragedy of the American Military,” The Atlantic (January/February 2015).
17Adam B. Lerner, “Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Drone Strikes,” Politico, May 28, 2015.
18Kathleen J. McInnis & Nathan J. Lucas, “What Is ‘Building Partner Capacity?’: Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 18, 2015.
19For more on this issue see Christopher Paul, “For Building Partner Capacity, Choose Partners Wisely,” RAND Review (Summer 2013).
20Austin Long et al., “Building Special Operations Partnerships in Afghanistan and Beyond: Challenges and Best Practices from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia” (RAND Corporation, 2015).
21Christopher Paul et al., “What Works Best When Building Partner Capacity in Challenging Contexts?” (RAND Corporation, 2015), p. 3.
22Svati Kirsten Narula, “The Incredible Staying Power of the Oreo Cookie,” Quartz, February 13, 2015.
23The Iraqi army’s actions were epitomized by the Ninth Brigade of Iraq’s border guards, who present “a portrait of generals unfit to lead in war and of mismanagement, incompetence and ultimately treachery.” C. J. Chivers, “After Retreat, Iraqi Soldiers Fault Officers,” New York Times, July 1, 2014.
24Holly Williams, “Rebel Commander Weighs in on Why U.S. Training Program Failed,” CBS News, September 29, 2015.
25Chivers, “After Retreat, Iraqi Soldiers Fault Officers.”
26“Tanks for Nothing! US-Backed Syrian Rebel Division Attacked & Looted by Al-Qaeda Affiliate,” RT International, March 14, 2016.
27Nina M. Serafino, “The Department of Defense Role in Foreign Assistance: Background, Major Issues, and Options for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 9, 2008, p. 11.
2822 USC Section 2378d.
29Eric Schmitt, “Military Says Law Barring U.S. Aid to Rights Violators Hurts Training Mission,” New York Times, June 20, 2013.
30Nina M. Serafino, “Security Assistance Reform: ‘Section 1206’ Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 8, 2014, p. 2.
31Before taking office, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Robert M. Scher answered written questions about how he perceived various parts of the agency he was charged with leading, including the newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Security Cooperation). “Advance Policy Questions for Nominee Mr. Robert M. Scher to Be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities,” Senate Armed Services Committee, 2014, p. 28.
32The school, which was founded in the Panama Canal Zone in 1948 and moved to Fort Benning, GA in 1984, trained some 60,000 Latin American soldiers, including 11 dictators. Among them were Argentine junta leader, Leopoldo Galtieri, infamous for his role in the “disappeared,” and Efraín Rios Montt, who committed genocide against indigenous populations in Guatemala. Grace Livingstone, “The School of Latin America’s Dictators,” Guardian, November 19, 2010.
33Allen Vick et al., “Building Partner Capacity Is the Key to a Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy,” (RAND Corporation, 2006).
34Jennifer D. P. Moroney et al., “Developing an Assessment Framework for U.S. Air Force Building Partnerships Programs” (RAND Corporation, 2010).
35Paul et al., “What Works Best When Building Partner Capacity in Challenging Contexts?”
36Dafna H. Rand & Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation & Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 5, 2015.
37“International Military Education and Training: Agencies Should Emphasize Human Rights Training and Improve Evaluations” Government Accountability Office, October 2011.