The military dimension of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan requires establishing a high enough degree of security in the country that the Afghan people will transfer their loyalty away from the Taliban (or will feel adequately unthreatened by the likelihood of a Taliban return to express opposition to the insurgents). As noted in a previous posting (”The Afghan ‘New Math’”), the prospects are daunting because of the size of the force necessary to secure and protect the entire Afghan population (a force in the range of 650,000 ocunterinsurgents). Current plans and projections call for a force around half that size that includes a quarter million Afghan troops and over 100,000 police the source of which is unclear. The result currently is a mission-force mismatch that can only be resolved if one assumes that only about half the population needs securing. That possibility is never publicly discussed, but since the Pashtuns make up about half the Afghan population and are the support base for the Taliban, a security strategy aimed at the Pashtun areas would at least match force size to mission. Whether it would successfully pacify Afghanistan is a separate question.

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While Western Europe seems bored by the German election, it is being closely watched in the Caspian region. For the countries sitting on the massive energy potential of the Caspian Sea, Sunday's outcome is of vital importance.

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Obama administration officials are now admitting what has been apparent for weeks: that they are giving serious consideration to radically downsizing the Afghanistan mission.  That this comes only months after unveiling a substantially different strategy to great fanfare is naturally raising questions.

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Last week provided a treasure trove of raw meat for foreign policy enthusiasts, ideologues and talk radio hosts.

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Assuming the counterinsurgent partners (in this case, the Afghan and American governments) can agree on a desired outcome that consititutes its version of the better state of the peace (BSOP), the next question is how to achieve that condition? This means determining what political and military conditions must exist to be able to declare the counterinsurgency a “success,” and thus the effort to have attained “victory.” The key terms here have been put in quotation marks because neither is as intuitively obvious as is sometimes supposed in the political debate.

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The rollout of President Obama's new missile defense policy was "compressed" because news was leaking and leading to rampant speculation, Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs told an Atlantic Council conference call this morning. As a result, there was "not as much consultation" with our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic "as we would have liked."

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For some armchair strategists, President Obama's decision to scrap the Bush 43 plan to deploy ballistic missile defense hardware in Poland and the Czech Republic was rank appeasement that would merely sharpen the Russian bear's appetite for more unilateral concessions that could only weaken America's defense posture. That was sound Cold War thinking. And for some, the Cold War's villains continue in sheep's clothing. Moscow still craves recognition as the dominant power in the former Soviet Union.

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Writing in today's WSJ, Council on Foreign Relations president emeritus Leslie Gelb pronounces himself "lost on President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy" and offers up a middle ground solution for Afghanization of the conflict.

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An interesting sidebar to the debate sparked by the leak of General McChrystal's Afghanistan strategy review is the question of how such debates should take place to begin with.

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As widely rumored, NATO's Afghanistan commander has asked President Obama for another sizable increase in troops, otherwise suffer "likely failure."

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