Small Wars Journal


Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog.

We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

by Donald C. Bolduc | Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:31am | 0 comments
This article is in response to feedback on my previous “Small Wars Journal” article “Going Back to the Future: It is Time for Change in Afghanistan”. I want to thank all that took the time to comment and for their insightful thoughts and feedback.
by Douglas A. Livermore | Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:21am | 0 comments
Currently, USG strategy addresses Salafi jihadists primarily as a terrorist threat and is predominantly reliant on military and law enforcement efforts to kill or capture combatants. As a result, the Salafi jihadist threat has only grown worse as jihadists now control more territory and have experienced an exponential growth in the number of devoted adherents.
by Robert C. Hodges | Thu, 05/24/2018 - 9:26am | 2 comments
This paper evaluates the current and growing Islamic terrorist threat in North Africa and related concerns for U.S. National Security and U.S. interests in the region. By first assessing the history, capabilities, and goals of these foreign terrorist organizations in North Africa, the focus of the paper will include a broad look into the spread of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda into North Africa.
by Robert Muggah | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:50pm | 0 comments
Paraphrasing the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, in war, terrorism and crime, truth is the first casualty. While a proper accounting of the human toll of organized violence is critical to achieving justice and stability, it is a tricky endeavor. Part of the problem is that there are few people or institutions actually keeping track of the dead. In some of the most conflict-, terrorist- and crime-prone countries and cities, there may be no data collection systems in place at all.
by Richard H. Gross | Wed, 05/23/2018 - 6:52am | 0 comments
Debate regarding the nature of American involvement in Afghanistan has been a constant since 9/11. I have watched with more than usual interest since making 3 trips to the Afghan-Pak border in the late 1980’s. My purpose for making those trips was twofold. As a pediatric orthopaedist, I wished to help with the care of children in that region, and wanted to increase my understanding of “what’s going on”.
by Allyson Christy | Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
This assessment emphasises diplomatic posturing and dubious foreign policies that have overlapped with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s incremental authoritarianism. The analysis begins with a review of earlier contexts.
by Jeff Goodson | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:23pm | 1 comment
Only a few countries still rely principally on foreign aid to generate economic growth. Afghanistan is one, but it too will have to increasingly rely on its ability to attract investment and generate internal capital flows. Because promoting foreign investment is an essential element of economic growth strategies, the new lessons learned report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)—"Private Sector Development and Economic Growth: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan"—is important.
by Keith Benedict, by William Folinusz | Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:30am | 0 comments
Cadet Command provides the preeminent holistic developmental experience for mid-grade officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Away from the “flagpole”, and in an unfamiliar and public environment, leaders arise. More importantly, mentors are forged. The Army benefitted from a chance encounter (resulting in a lifelong relationship) between Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower. Over the course of three years, they discussed military history, the future of warfare, and challenges inherent with coalition warfare.
by John Dreyer | Sun, 05/20/2018 - 9:55am | 1 comment
Advising is a duty that has few set factors in what makes success or failure. Above all, effective advisors need to know what has worked in the past though there is little guarantee that past methods will work on future missions. Advisors need to be able to improvise to drive towards a successful mission. This is not to say that sending undertrained advisors is acceptable. Indeed, advisors need a solid bedrock of training with language, culture and history of their host states. The newly created Army Security Force Assistance Brigades is a very solid start to address these issues.
by Nicholas A. Glavin | Fri, 05/18/2018 - 2:18am | 0 comments
As the U.S.-led coalition nears the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the collapse of its physical caliphate in the Levant, its various affiliates pose complex threats to host nation governments and Western interests from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Understanding how, when, and why local violent extremist organizations (VEOs) affiliate can inform policymakers and general officers in applying instruments of national power. This report analyzes Islamic State – West Africa Province and Islamic State – Sinai Province to examine the question, “What explains the appeal for local VEOs to reflag under the ISIS brand?”
by Bryan Hedrick | Thu, 05/17/2018 - 9:01am | 1 comment
Despite the vast changes in modern warfare, the human dimension of war still remains fixed—war has ethical limits. Multi-Domain Battle poses an intrinsic ethical dilemma to the warfighter’s ability to apply combat power congruent with the Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello principles inherent within the Law of War. As strategies and tactics develop, it is imperative to consider the ethical ramifications of our actions. The Army’s Ethical Reasoning Framework is no longer a viable tool as it does not provide commanders nor soldiers the rigor or speed at which to make sound ethical decisions. We must engage the ethical domain—the trust of our nation and the moral health of our military hangs in the balance.
by Richard Kaipo Lum | Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:40pm | 0 comments
Unlike trend work, in which we are identifying important historical changes and extrapolate their trajectory into various futures, with emerging issues we work to anticipate things that may have an important future role if they continue to mature. Since “the future” does not actually exist yet, uncertainty is inherent in all our discussions about “it.” Emerging issues are thus about the possible, novel, threats and opportunities that we need to account for in our foresight work.
by Adam Scher | Tue, 05/15/2018 - 5:48am | 0 comments
It is only within the last forty to fifty years that militaries began developing formalized doctrine for fighting inside urban centers with civilians on the battlefield that aimed at preserving critical infrastructure and protecting the civilian population. Many of those writing doctrine before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq correctly identified that general purpose forces increasingly would find themselves operating in urban areas, not only to defeat an entrenched enemy, but also to preserve delivery of services, protect critical infrastructure, and secure a disaffected population.
by Kimbra L. Fishel | Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:33am | 0 comments
The 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States calls for the destruction of ISIS and its affiliates. As ISIS continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, the threat from the regional Caliphate diminishes as that from the global virtual Caliphate expands. This article utilizes psychological concepts from social identity theory and fusion theory within an overall framework of political realism to construct an ends, ways and means strategy to counter the evolving threat in Syria and Iraq, Europe and the United States. The strategy can be further applied on a global basis to all Islamist terror organizations.
by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. | Sun, 05/13/2018 - 9:01am | 0 comments
Conjuring up impending apocalypse in civil-military relations can become another weapon which, whether intended or not, may be used by critics invested in the “narrative of Trumpian disaster” to try to delegitimize an area in which the Administration has enjoyed some undeniable success: national security. Addressing the perennial challenges of civil-military relations isn’t facilitated when they get wrapped up with political narratives about specific individuals.
by Greg Kleponis | Sun, 05/13/2018 - 8:04am | 0 comments
While there is a Coalition effort in the conflict in Afghanistan, the overwhelming bulk of the resources, personnel and money come from the US. The main vector of those monies that flow into the Afghan economy, both directly and indirectly, come through the US Department of Defense Contracting entity. While the ambitions of the projects funded by the contracting process are noble and the intentions are to elevate the economic and social conditions of the Afghan people are genuine, in many cases the reality is that it is having the opposite effect.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Sat, 05/12/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
This paper is designed to examine how ISIL has used the Internet to communicate their agenda, and how they can use cyberspace to commit acts of cyberterrorism. We will be looking at the strategic advantage of terrorist organizations claiming responsibility for attacks, and how the Western legal system’s definition of terrorism solidifies this advantage in cyberspace.
by Kevin Ivey | Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:15am | 1 comment
As ISIL's seemingly unquenchable thirst for violence pushed politicians and voters to prioritize its defeat over almost all other security goals, Al-Qaeda and its worldwide affiliates flew under the radar and seized on the empty space. With attention elsewhere, Al-Qaeda has studied the ISIL experience, quietly surpassing ISIL's capabilities while capitalizing on widespread backlash to the worst atrocities carried out by the pseudo caliphate.
by Ian Edgerly | Thu, 05/10/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
The conflict this paper will apply the idea of nationalism as an engine of intra-group instability towards is the long-standing issue between the sub groups of the Kel Tamasheq (commonly referred to as Toureg) in Northern Mali. Ultimately, this paper will seek to provide clarity on what has been defined as an ethnic conflict by many.
by Andrew Zapf, by Joshua Peltier | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 1:04am | 0 comments
The Popular Mobilization Forces comprised of Sunni and Shia tribal militias that have been accepted for registration, salaries, equipping, and supplies by the Iraqi government and trained by the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Political allegiances, tribal influence, and sectarian identity of the PMFs have become heavily politicized and Shia groups dominate resources and favor with the Government of Iraq.
by W. R. Baker | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:48am | 0 comments
James H. Willbanks’ biography Danger 79er of General James Francis Hollingsworth (Holly) is a welcomed addition to our understanding important U.S. generals. From his Texas roots, through what became Texas A&M, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (with points in-between), we read how events and people shaped his perceptions and Army career, especially two other armor officers, General George S. Patton and, later, General Creighton Abrams.
by Charles E. Pickard | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
The combined illicit revenue collected by the seven major Drug Trafficking Organizations based in Mexico is staggering. By most estimates, it could be as much as $30 billion per year, a figure which exceeds the Gross Domestic Product of nations like Iceland, El Salvador, and Uganda.
by Robert Chung | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
To achieve readiness, we balance Army training and NSA requirements through a continuous process of situational understanding, training prioritization, training methodology, and leader engagement to provide the most effective Service and NSA-related training possible. This article describes how the 717th MI battalion achieves training readiness while executing its ongoing global mission.
by Michael J. Mooney | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 6:09am | 0 comments
If the Islamic State leadership were in fact queried about the reasons for the destruction of their caliphate, what would they say? With the probability of this occurring virtually nil, certain points can be brought to the surface by examining the trajectory of the operational and strategic decisions of the Islamic State from June 2014 to October 2017.
by Madeleine Terry, by Maggie Dene, by Molly Dinneen, by Colin Evert | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:37am | 0 comments
In a society where actual governing and problem solving are hindered by systemic disconnection among government agencies, how do we encourage interagency cooperation to better address national security challenges? On Friday, April 20, 2018, the William & Mary (W&M) Whole of Government Center of Excellence held its Inaugural National Security Conference to help answer that question.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:51am | 2 comments
The irregular forces have and will continue to play a critical role in Afghanistan’s constantly evolving and dynamic security environment. They fill a gap created by national, provincial, and district governance dysfunction and corruption. Irregular forces also address unique cultural and social characteristics reflective of Afghanistan’s tribal society.
by S.A. Cavanagh | Sat, 05/05/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
PMC contractors like Wagner, are elemental for conducting Russian military strategic doctrine. Wagner is central to Russia’s efforts to project power and influence in former soviet era regions of alliance and secure new opportunities that accomplish Russia’s foreign agenda.
by Joseph J. Collins | Fri, 05/04/2018 - 5:02am | 0 comments
We must temper our optimism. The public in the United States has read comparatively little of the new strategy compared to what it reads about terrorist bombings in Afghan cities. We must be careful of optimistic statements that portend this year is the one where there will be, in effect, “a light at the end of the tunnel,” when at the same time so many terrorist strikes in Afghan cities could have the effect on the U.S. public of a slow-motion Tet Offensive. We must be careful of generating expectations that are not liable to be accomplished in a single year or fighting season.
by Ingrid A. Parker | Fri, 05/04/2018 - 4:45am | 0 comments
As an intelligence organization, we must consider data management processes including “acquiring, validating, storing, protecting, and processing required data to ensure the accessibility, reliability, and timeliness of the data for its users” and organizational stakeholders. More importantly, we need a long-term strategy that organizes, makes sense of, and applies analytics to raw data for real-time, military decision-making, better customer engagement, and critical insights to threat steams.
by Edward L. Gribbins, by Patrick G. Miller | Thu, 05/03/2018 - 12:40am | 0 comments
It is no secret that the Army has struggled with the efficacy of its physical fitness program for decades and has made numerous revisions and countless proposals for sweeping overhauls over recent years. However, the fact remains that too many Soldiers in all demographics are physically unable to accomplish the Army's primary mission.
by Edgardo Ortiz | Thu, 05/03/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
The FPD program consists of 30 offices worldwide supporting DoD in-transit personnel and resources. The 470th Military Intelligence Brigade serves as the executive agent for eight out of 13 FPD in the USSOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility. Army led FPDs are located in Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay.
by James King | Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:21am | 1 comment
From the Collection Battalion to the Army Service Component Command, PIR (and the analysis that goes into answering them) are one the most important tasks of the Intelligence enterprise.
by Joshua Tompkins | Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:11am | 1 comment
The immersion path concept would require the support of senior leaders and will without a doubt face an uphill battle due to naysayers who are comfortable doing business the same way they were fifteen years ago.
by Christopher Phalan | Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:21am | 1 comment
The uniqueness of an HHC command is that of the organization itself. Unlike a line company, the HHC is not constituted of platoons, but of primary and special staff sections that essentially work for the higher command, whether it be battalion, brigade, or higher.
by Scott Hammon | Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:13am | 0 comments
One of the first things INSCOM did after its creation was to conduct an echelon above corps intelligence organization and stationing study. It was this study that recognized the need to provide cryptologic support to tactical military intelligence units.
by Hildred S. Mathews | Mon, 04/30/2018 - 6:45am | 0 comments
The ever-increasing complexity of the operational environment reinforces the necessity of how sustainment is executed in the military. Sustainment within any military organization has one primary objective when executing its wartime and garrison mission- to never culminate due to overreaching your logistical capabilities.
by Martin McCloud | Mon, 04/30/2018 - 2:14am | 1 comment
While the fundamentals of intelligence production and dissemination remain the same, advancements in technology have significantly improved the manner and speed in which the Military Intelligence Brigade (Theater) publishes and distributes finished intelligence.
by James Covey | Sun, 04/29/2018 - 12:09am | 0 comments
The idea of death is disturbing. More disturbing still, is the idea of suicide. Consequently, suicidal ideation is probably one of the most difficult challenges Army leaders grapple with.
by James Chester | Sat, 04/28/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
Setting a theater is often considered to be the responsibility of logisticians. In fact, an entire issue in the sustainment counterpart to this publication was dedicated to the concept.
by Molly Molloy | Fri, 04/27/2018 - 1:08am | 0 comments
Mexican crime statistics tend to elicit one of these reactions:1) Optimistic disbelief, 2) Pessimistic disbelief, and 3) Numbers don’t matter. Mexico has always been corrupt and violent. Build the wall.
by James Emery | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 7:23pm | 0 comments
Ramadan is an opportunity to encourage and initiate increased attacks, suicide bombings, and carnage against perceived enemies around the world, regardless of nationality, location, or religious affiliation. Virtually everything about these attacks and the motivation behind them goes against the core teaching of the Qur'an.
by Ingrid A. Parker | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 8:44am | 0 comments
To demonstrate the direction and guidance to our organizational leadership, the Soldiers and civilians of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade wrote a series of articles, indicative of how we are building intelligence combat power in the brigade - I want to highlight some of this stellar work that will be published by 'Small Wars Journal' over the next week.
by James Emery | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 7:50am | 0 comments
Everything good in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and similar collectivist cultures, happens through personal relationships. This is the key to obtaining information, cooperation, and support. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Whatever else you achieve, otherwise, may be meaningless if you have not established and maintained the appropriate personal relationships with the most powerful, influential, and helpful people in your respective areas of operation.
by James Emery | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 4:21pm | 0 comments
Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayers, charity, and self-reflection. Many Muslims make personal resolutions for the coming year to improve one or more aspects of their lives. Ramadan is a time of spiritual and personal transformation of the body, heart, mind, and soul.
by Patrick Collins | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 3:02am | 0 comments
As the youngest Theater Special Operations Command in the United States Special Operations Command, SOCNORTH fills a vital capability for our nation and the United States Government. Operating in a complex environment of authorities, resources and threats, SOCNORTH does more with less by cooperating on an enhanced basis with the interagency and law enforcement, as well as partner and allied nations.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
Violent extremist groups are using all methods possible to wage a successful long-term campaign using children. These groups infiltrate existing systems, threaten and radicalize important players, use extreme forms of violence to attack those they perceive as non-compliant. No foundation of society is off limits.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:17am | 0 comments
Violent extremist groups are using all methods possible to wage a successful long-term campaign using children. These groups infiltrate existing systems, threaten and radicalize important players, use extreme forms of violence to attack those they perceive as non-compliant. No foundation of society is off limits.
by S.A. Cavanagh | Mon, 04/23/2018 - 3:31pm | 0 comments
China’s Aggressive Move to Occupy the Spratly regional waters through Reclamation has proved an effective stratagem, for projection of political, economic and military power. The Hague has ruled China has no traditional claims to the disputed region and the Spratlys are “rocks not islands.” China continues to reclaim and militarize several strategic islands (reefs) and occupies them. The United States, French and British navies exercise freedom of navigation near the new islands, as China warns it will use military force to defend new territorial claims. China has tactically and strategically extended its military “range and influence” with navel bases, airstrips, radar, communications, missile installations and shelters. China has bet on reclamation and occupation and won.
by Chad M. Pillai | Sat, 04/21/2018 - 5:42pm | 3 comments
Afghanistan as another Vietnam conjures images of defeat as U.S. helicopters take the last American off the roof from the embassy. While the Vietnam War was a near-term strategic defeat, in retrospect, it may yet prove to have been a geo-strategic win in the long-run. The same may prove true for Afghanistan in the long-run after a U.S. withdrawal. Like a bad business investment, there are times when you must accept one’s losses and move on.
by Jo Patti | Sat, 04/21/2018 - 12:11am | 0 comments
Every generation needs to be cognizant of those who fought for the foundation of democratic principles which they may presently enjoy. There are many different forms of fighting. How these battles are waged makes for essential historical reporting and often for gripping stories for the public. The divergent types of confrontation and strategies used for victory have been transformed into entertainment in a construct the United States is world famous for…Hollywood movies.