In the News

Civil Context for SOF Theory
Aug 2017 JSOU Report 17-6, by Dr Kurt E. Müller 
As a mid-grade officer, Admiral William McRaven (U.S. Navy, Retired) applied professional military education to derive from eight specific instances of the employment of Special Operations Forces (SOF) a set of principles to improve the likelihood of success for particularly risky missions. Undertaken as a study while at the Naval Postgraduate School, Admiral McRaven’s presentation draws examples from the experiences of five nations, both within major conflicts (WWII and Vietnam) and in an isolated operation during peacetime (the Entebbe hostage rescue).

A Roadmap for U.S.-Russia Relations
14 Aug 2017 Contributing Author Dr Kim Cragin
At a time when tension between the US and Russia is higher than it has been in decades, we cannot forget that the relationship between these two countries is among the most important for global security. On any number of issues, from arms control to the Middle East, failure of the U.S. and Russia to communicate will make things much, much worse, with repercussions that will last for generations and affect the entire world. For this reason, CSIS and RIAC convened some of Russia’s and America’s top experts to think through the future of the bilateral relationship. The result is a series of papers that identify both the spheres where coordination is crucial and those where it may be possible, responding to mutual interests and potentially helping to stabilize the relationship and buffer against conflict in the future. For both, they offer concrete recommendations and a clear-eyed take on what can, and what cannot be done.

If the US starts a war with North Korea, China won’t be on our side
3 Aug 2017 By Dr. Joseph Collins in The Hill 
The normally prudent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and some officials in the White House have begun to talk about waging preventive war against North Korea. A preventive war is a war in cold blood, a war of choice, a war where we make the first strike, as opposed to preemptive or defensive wars where you fight an opponent who is about to attack or has actually attacked the homeland. It is almost never the best course of action. The downsides of a preventive war with North Korea would be enormous.

The global ISIS threat in historical context
24 June 2017  By Dr. Kim Cragin in Pathways to Peace and Security, 2017, no1(52) Special Issue: Addressing Terrorism, Violent Extremism and Radicalizaton 
Despite successful military operations against ISIS core in Mosul and Raqqah, the global threat posed by ISIS “provinces” beyond Syria and Iraq, but also by other groups that declared loyalty to ISIS and foreign fighters is unlikely to diminish in the near term. ISIS provinces already have been able to establish 
an operational tempo that exceeds the historical precedent established by al-Qaeda. Other ISIS cells and affiliates worldwide have sustained a campaign against security forces and civilian targets. Much of their success can be attributed to the effectiveness of ISIS foreign fighters who not only participate in ISIS’ external operations, but have also taken on the role of logisticians and recruiters. Finally, foreign fighters linked to ISIS are likely to follow historical patterns that characterize foreign fighters and try to provide local recruits with increased guerrilla warfare and terrorist skills as well as establish new militant groups back home.

What Factors Cause Individuals to Reject Violent Extremism in Yemen? 
21 May 2017 - By Dr. Kim Cragin, Eric Robinson, Kate Frier, Melissa A. Bradley, Daniel Egel, Brysce Loidolt, Paul S. Steinberg
Why do some individuals engage in political violence in Yemen, while others do not? In this report, the third in a series on this topic, the authors examine the role that social, political, and economic factors play on individual behavior toward violence in the midst of Yemen's bloody and multiyear civil war. This report uses a unique national survey conducted in Yemen in 2016, amidst active fighting, to better understand why Yemenis may reject political violence despite persistent conflict and civil unrest across the country. The report addresses how the U.S. government and its partners can strengthen efforts to undermine violent extremism in Yemen, with implications for future countering violent extremism programs worldwide.

To defeat ISIS for good, US needs to take the war beyond the battlefield
13 May 2017 - By Dr. Joseph Collins in the The Hill
We are about to score tremendous tactical victories against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The ISIS, or as the Arabs say, Daesh, strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa are about to fall, with much thanks to Iraqi forces, American advisers and miscellaneous militia units. But this is the beginning of a victory, not its final act.

America tensions with Russia won’t end after Putin’s gone
23 April 2017 - By Dr. Joseph Collins in the The Hill
The source of Russia’s bad behavior isn’t just Putin.  It is also Russia’s historical pattern of foreign policy with its neighbors and other great powers.
In the past, neighbors meant just that, but today the concept of neighborhood is a widening circle of places where an ordinarily prickly Russia often runs into the United States, its great power nemesis and former Cold War enemy. American–Russian relations are in a new Cold War, and it will likely be a lengthy one, outlasting Putin, who may well have another decade to rule.

The November 2015 Paris Attacks: The Impact of Foreign Fighter Returnees 
Spring 2017 - By Dr R. Kim Cragin in Orbis 
This article provides an in-depth analysis of the role of foreign fighter returnees in the attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Western Europe. To do this, it focuses primarily on the operatives and logisticians responsible for the November 2015 attacks in Paris. The threat from foreign fighter returnees remains under-appreciated in expert and policymaking communities. ISIS’s rhetorical emphasis on the caliphate, combined with a series of attacks by lone actors, has made it easy for policymakers to misinterpret ISIS’s true intentions against the West. This case study illustrates that ISIS leaders have been able to plan and execute parallel strategies within the Middle East (Islamic caliphate) and Western Europe (terrorist campaign). Moreover, they have pursued these parallel strategies through using foreign fighters.

Measuring the Popular resonance of Daesh's Propoganda
7 March 2017 - By William M. Marcellino and Kim Cragin et al. in Journal of Strategic Security 
We describe an innovative approach to social media analysis, combining corpus linguists and statistical methods to measure the resonance of Daesh's propaganda to a sample population (Eqypt). The findings from this research effort demonstrate that: (1) Daesh's messaging is measurable and distinct from other Salafi groups, such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; (2) while Daesh’s messaging generally do not resonate with Egyptians, its uptake increased in Upper Egypt and the Sinai regions during 2014; and (3) this method can be applied more broadly to measure the spread of violent extremist messaging across regional populations over time.

How Trump’s defense priorities will differ greatly from previous administrations'
3 March 2017 - By Dr. Joseph Collins in The Hill
President Trump announced this week that he was adding a whopping 10 percent to the Pentagon’s half-trillion dollar annual budget. Many in the defense community think that Team Trump — like Team Reagan — will convince the Congress to spend the money to fix nearly all of the Department’s shortcomings.

5 Ways the US Can Recover Lost Ground in Afghanistan
10 February 2017 - By Dr. Joe Collins in The Hill 
With Washington completely engaged by tweets, leaks and partisan bickering, few took notice of the recent sobering testimony from Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. about the war in Afghanistan.

BEYOND CONVERGENCE:  World Without Order
Edited by Hilary Matfess and Michael Miklaucic
A follow-on collection of essays to the successful  Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization.  Since then, events around the world have evolved, confirming the threat posed against world order.  A range of new actors and emerging dynamics have rapidly evolved with in the global operating environment.  Beyond Convergence: World Without Order begins mapping these new actors and dynamics, providing evidence of collaboration, collusion, and coordination among diverse networked nonstate adversaries.  Illicit networks, including terrorists, insurgents, and transnational criminal organizations, pose an existential threat to many states, and cumulatively to the rule of law-based global system of states. 

Central America: The Retreat of the State and the Expansion of Illicit Power Centers
January 2017 - By Doug Farah in Rand;s Counternetwork: Countering the Expansion of Transnational Crime 
The ability of TCNs to co-opt or influence local power structures at the local and national levels has significantly undermined governance and the rule of law and made Central America a key point of convergence where the activities of substate and extraregional actors present multiple, significant, and sustained threats to the security of the United States. TCNs, with more money than they can spend, launder, or invest, now exercise unprecedented formal and informal power in each of the six states of Central America.

5 Reasons ‘America First’ Won’t Work Without Our Allies
28 January 2017 - By Dr. Joe Collins in the Hill
The Trump administration’s policy theme is “America First,” which should include a broad-gauged, long-term view of our country’s domestic and international interests. America’s allies and alliances are critical to our security and give us unmatched freedom of action. America First should not mean shunning these alliances; it should require their support and development.

Toward a Future National Strategy: A Review Essay
27 January 2017 - By Dr. Joe Collins in Joint Force Quarterly 
What could be more important than a nation’s strategy? A strategy brings together ends, ways, and means. It assesses costs and risks and establishes priorities. It takes basic guidance and direction from national policy, but, in turn, strategy guides subordinate plans and policies. It provides a framework that can help us comprehend contextual developments, which, in turn, can reshape the strategy. A consistent strategy is also a certain trumpet for friends and allies to heed. In our messy democracy, domestic politics and bureaucratic politics will often frustrate strategy, but, in the end, national strategy retains its importance.

Old Becomes New Again: Kidnappings by Daesh and Other Salafi-Jihadists in the Twenty-First Century 
20 September 2016 - By R. Kim Cragin & Phillip Padilla in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 
Daesh fighters have taken hostage over 100 foreigners in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere since 2012. The kidnappings drew international attention in August 2014, when American journalist James Foley was decapitated and a video of his death was posted online. But the pattern of kidnappings and gruesome videos distributed by violent Salafi-jihadists extends back over a decade to the killing of Daniel Pearl in 2002. This article traces shifts in the strategic rationale of Al Qaeda and Daesh for beheading Western hostages. It argues that terrorists altered their calculations on foreign hostages beginning in 2012 and U.S. counterterrorism policy does not take these shifts into account.

A Memo to the Next President on Winning in Afghanistan 
December 2016 - By Dr. Joe Collins in War on the Rocks
Neither you nor Secretary Clinton said much in the campaign about the war in Afghanistan. I don’t blame you. It’s a complex issue, and there was no electoral payoff in it. Progress in our 15-year war has been halting. Neither advocating “staying the course” nor arguing for a full withdrawal would have won any votes. Soon, however, this issue will be in your inbox. I am betting that you don’t want to be the president who loses a winnable contest.

 

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