Small Wars Journal


Afghanistan’s continuing role in U.S. Strategic Competition in the absence of U.S. troops

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 1:57pm
The nature of American overseas military operations is once again shifting, this time away from Counterterrorism (CT) and Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations toward an era of Strategic Competition and Large-Scale Combat Operations (LSCO). After nearly two decades of major operations in the Middle East, few are taking positions against the shift or promoting costly so-called “forever-wars”. But consensus on what the U.S. will no longer do does little to inform what the U.S. ought to do. 

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Joint Special Operations Univeristy: Mazar-e Sharif: The First Victory of the 21st Century Against Terrorism

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 6:23pm

A Joint Special Operations University monograph that analyzes the Battle of Mazar-e Sharif at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan

Full text available here:

USIP: How to Prevent Fresh Hostilities as Afghan Peace Talks Progress

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 7:11pm

Ensuring the Taliban do not seek a battlefield victory will require sustained U.S. attention and resources.

Meghan L. O’Sullivan; Vikram J. Singh; Johnny Walsh

Full Article:

Many peace processes experience at least short-term reversions to violence. Even a successful Afghan peace process will be at risk of the same, especially in the likely event that the United States and its allies continue to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Ideally, such troop reductions would move in parallel with de-escalatory measures by the Taliban and other armed actors on the ground. A healthy dose of realism is in order, however. Though the Taliban and others in Afghanistan are unlikely to ever fully disarm or demobilize, persistent resources and attention from the United States and its allies can help prevent any regression to full-scale violence during the years of any peace agreement’s implementation.

As the Afghanistan peace negotiations (APN) progress, there is considerable focus on the details of the U.S. troop drawdown, but less attention is given to parallel moves the Taliban may make as the U.S. military capacity to challenge it diminishes. To ensure a lasting peace, the United States and its partners should strive to minimize the possibility that, once international forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban remobilize and seek a battlefield victory.

USIP: Afghanistan Study Group Final Report: A Pathway for Peace in Afghanistan

Fri, 02/05/2021 - 10:07pm

In December 2019, Congress established the Afghanistan Study Group and tasked it with identifying policy recommendations that “consider the implications of a peace settlement, or the failure to reach a settlement, on U.S. policy, resources, and commitments in Afghanistan.”

Full Report:

SOF News: Afghan Conflict Update – January 2021

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 5:56pm

A roundup of news, analysis, and commentary about the war in Afghanistan.



-A report the the U.S. Treasury Department that Al Qaeda is gaining strength in Afghanistan

-Assassination threats against Afghan Journalists

-Released Taliban prisoners being recaptured

-A net assessment of the ANSDF and the Taliban

-The beginnings of the new adminstration's approach to Afghanistan

-Updates on peace talks

The Case for Maintaining an Advisory Presence in Afghanistan

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 9:35am
Barring an unforeseen event or shift in policy, it seems likely that by May 2021, the United States will remove its military forces from Afghanistan. Despite claims of progress, the United States and its allies have undeniably made many mistakes over the past two decades. Some commentators have argued that Afghanistan has been an “undeniable failure.” While many commentators and policymakers have focused on getting out of Afghanistan, the past shows the potentially devastating consequences such actions could bring. Instead, the United States and its NATO allies should consider leaving a small presence of advisors to support institutional development at the ministries and institutions.

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Coronavirus in Afghanistan: An Opportunity to Build Trust with the Taliban?

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 9:01am
The COVID-19 crisis comes at a critical juncture for Afghanistan. The disputed 2019 presidential election has led to a stalemate between incumbent President Ghani and the chief executive of the last government, Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom claim the right to govern. At a time when the Afghan government should be focused on the best chance to bring peace in years, it’s distracted by a political crisis.

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Taliban Fragmentation: Fact, Fiction, and Future SWJED Mon, 03/30/2020 - 9:09am
For years, the U.S. military pursued a "divide and defeat" strategy against the Afghan Taliban, attempting to exploit the supposedly fragmented nature of the group. Drawing on the academic literature on insurgency, civil war, and negotiated peace, this report finds that the Taliban is a far more cohesive organization than a fragmented one.
Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process SWJED Thu, 03/26/2020 - 9:37pm
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s effort this week to bring the parties together failed and led the U.S. to reduce aid to Afghanistan. Amid all this uncertainty, Afghanistan is beginning to see the signs of a coronavirus outbreak, which could devastate the country given its poor health infrastructure and pollution problems. USIP’s Scott Smith explains how the coronavirus could further exacerbates an already complex situation.