Before we dive into the big news of the day, I’d like to bring your attention to a couple podcasts that I think are definitely worth your time:
The Texture of War in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley: Part 1 – Horns of Dilemma
The Texture of War in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley: Part 2 – Horns of Dilemma
The podcasts focus on the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley over time focusing not on a single unit or battle but on the conflict as a whole. They describe the two-part podcast this way:
In this episode of Horns of a Dilemma, the first of two parts, author Wesley Morgan discusses his book, The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. Morgan has written an extraordinary biography of the American presence in Afghanistan, focusing on one particular place, and through the history of the American war in that place, capturing the 20-year American war effort in it heroism, nobility, hubris, and folly.
Morgan provides a unique lens to look at the conflict there and listening I was struck with several realities; the U.S. Military loses an incredible amount of institutional knowledge in a unit-to-unit handover. All incoming units believe they onboarded the knowledge from the transitioning unit very well but the follow-on units don’t. Hard lessons learned have to be re-learned following the transition which really made Afghanistan 21, 1-year wars instead of a 21-year war. These problems seemed universal and are challenges that the Taliban / Al Qaeda did not have to face. Listening reminded me of a section from David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla:
While working in the Federally Administered Tribal Area with the Pakistani government, doing a detailed review of civil administration, economic development, and military policy on the frontier. Mr. Kilcullen’s job was to assess the situation and report on how effectively Pakistan was employing the $100 million per month the United States was providing in aid to the Pakistani government. They were traveling with a small escort from the Khyber Rifles, a regiment of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The escort commander was a young Punjabi major, a city boy from Lahore who now found himself up in the mountains commanding a unit of people whose language he didn’t speak and whose culture, history, and outlook were distinctly different from his own. One afternoon, when they were eating together, after a long hot day in the hills, and discussing the latest developments with al Qa’ida, Kilcullen used the term “foreign fighters.” The Punjabi Major said, “You know, we Punjabis are the foreigners here on the frontier. Al Qa’ida has been here 25 years, their leaders have married into the tribes, they have children and businesses here, they’ve become part of local society. It’s almost impossible for outsiders, including the Pakistani army, to tell the terrorists apart from anybody else in the tribal areas, except by accident.”…This Pakistani officer described a syndrome that is easily summed up, though extremely hard to counter: Al Qa’ida moves into remote areas, creates alliances with local traditional communities, exports violence that prompts a Western intervention, and then exploits the backlash against that intervention in order to generate support for its takfiri agenda…Mr. Kilcullen hypothesizes that this or similar cases, is where the accidental guerilla emerges.
The podcast did indicate that the Taliban wasn’t exactly welcomed there either but given the choice between the two…well I think we know how the turned out. Anyway, the biggest news in Today’s Daily dump is out of Europe and the Russian build up of forces.
Will Russia Attack Ukraine? – Foreign Policy asks this very question with a compilation of all of their articles on the topic. Meanwhile the Center for Strategic and International Studies takes a deeper dive in: Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine where they consider the possibilities of an actual Russian invasion:
If peace talks fail, the Russian military has several options to advance into Ukraine through northern, central, and southern invasion routes. But a Russian attempt to seize and hold territory will not necessarily be easy and will likely be impacted by challenges from weather, urban combat, command and control, logistics, and the morale of Russian troops and the Ukrainian population. The United States and its European allies and partners should be prepared for an invasion by taking immediate economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, and humanitarian steps to aid Ukraine and its population and shore up defenses along the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) eastern flank.
The CSIS study is very detailed and is definitely worth your time as the AP reports: Russia moves more troops westward amid Ukraine tensions as Russia Says Still Waiting on Western Response to Security Demands – The Moscow Times. So, what are the security demands? The Moscow Times reports:
Moscow said last month it sought “legally binding security guarantees” after Western governments warned that Russia’s troop buildup could signal an imminent invasion of Ukraine.
Washington and NATO have rejected some of Russia’s key demands — which include banning Ukraine from joining the Western military bloc and scaling back NATO troops and missiles from Eastern Europe — as “non-starters.”
Foreign Affairs makes the case against NATO expansion in Time for NATO to Close Its Door: The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good. They argue:
The NATO alliance is ill suited to twenty-first-century Europe. This is not because Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is or because Putin is trying to use the threat of a wider war in Ukraine to force neutrality on that country and to halt the alliance’s expansion. Rather, it is because NATO suffers from a severe design flaw: extending deep into the cauldron of eastern European geopolitics, it is too large, too poorly defined, and too provocative for its own good.
Michael Kimmage makes a strong argument for limiting the advance of NATO which would play Devil’s Advocate to An article by the Defence Secretary on the situation in Ukraine: Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace discusses NATO, Ukraine and Russia. from Gov.UK. Ben Wallace’s central claim in defense of NATO:
NATO is, to its core, defensive in nature. At the heart of the organisation is Article 5 that obliges all members to come to the aid of a fellow member if it is under attack. No ifs and no buts. Mutual self-defence is NATO’s cornerstone. This obligation protects us all. Allies from as far apart as Turkey and Norway; or as close as Latvia and Poland all benefit from the pact and are obliged to respond. It is a truly defensive alliance.
If Russia does invade, how should the West respond? Well, DW has some thoughts in Russia sanctions: How to punish Moscow over Ukraine threat? Here is the key proposal:
Around the same time, rumors emerged that Washington may seek the so-called nuclear option of cutting off Russian banks from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) payments system — a global network used by almost all financial institutions to wire sums of money to each other.
The report continues and lists Russian Banks or Pipelines as possible alternatives to the self-described nuclear option. For more information on European Security check out: Protecting the European Security Order from RUSI where they state:
On 17 December 2021, Moscow formally submitted its demands, proposed as two ‘draft treaties’ – the first between Russia and the US, and the second between Russia and NATO. These demands – which would completely rewrite the fundamentals of the extant European security order, including halting further NATO expansion, specifically in Georgia and Ukraine, and effectively rolling back the Alliance to its 1997 boundaries – would obviously be rejected by the West. However, in presenting its demands as treaties, Russia has forced the West to discuss the proposals openly, and in doing so it has opened the space for discussion on more fundamental questions about the international status quo. Regardless of the diplomatic outcome of the current talks, activity in 2022 could drastically redefine European security.
I’m not sure I agree with fundamentally change or drastically redefine European security but the matter does deserve our attention. If Europe or cool podcasts are not your thing…there in plenty more in Today’s Daily Dump!
Inspired by the Cognitive Raider Initiative, The Cognitive Warrior Project has put together a daily list of diverse articles that can easily be chosen from to play a part in developing a more mentally agile warfighter that embraces the adaptation required for tomorrow’s battlefield. Our intent is to create a space where you can choose one or two articles a day (about 10 minutes) instead of mindlessly scrolling social media.
As a reminder: The Cognitive Warrior Project is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Special Operation Forces, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government. None of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, DoD or Space Force have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It’s just a media site that happens to cover the U.S Military, DoD and other National Intelligence Assets.
January 17/18, 2022
Podcast: Anytime, Anyplace: Air Force Special Operations Command in Future Irregular Warfare – Irregular Warfare Podcast
Podcast: The Robotic Revolution is Already Here – MWI
Islamic State claims Christmas day suicide bombing in Congo – Long War Journal
Podcast: The Texture of War in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley: Part 1 – Horns of Dilemma
Podcast: The Texture of War in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley: Part 2 – Horns of Dilemma
How the United Kingdom Can Confront Its Limited Capabilities – War on the Rocks
Breaking the Diplomatic Deadlock with North Korea – War on the Rocks
1/22/2022 National Security and Korean News and Commentary – Small Wars Journal
Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine – Center for Strategic and International Studies
Getting to grips with Ethiopia’s ethnic and political violence is vital for stability – Institute for Security Studies
The Winter of the Patriarch: The Nazarbayev Era Is Over, but What Comes Next for Kazakhstan? – Foreign Affairs
Iran says much of nuclear deal text is ready – Al Monitor
Last Christian in Idlib recalls his community – Al Monitor
Rebel yell: Arakan Army leader speaks to Asia Times – Asia Times
Hidden gap between US, Japan defense views – Asia Times
Crisis In Kazakhstan Pushes China, Russia Closer Together – Radio Free Europe
Podcast: Making Sense Of The Worst Unrest In Kazakhstan’s History – Majlis Podcast
Will Russia Attack Ukraine? – Foreign Policy
Houthis Strike Abu Dhabi as Yemen War Drags On – Foreign Policy
How a single firefight in Afghanistan unraveled a Hollywood vision of war – Task and Purpose
The Tao of Recce – Wavell Room
Russia Says Still Waiting on Western Response to Security Demands – The Moscow Times
Microsoft warns of destructive disk wiper targeting Ukraine – Ars Technica
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