May 16, 2017

Strategic Dilemmas: Rewiring Africa for a Teeming, Urban Future

Africa’s population is expanding at rates never seen before. Between now and 2050 it is predicted to double. Most of that growth—80 percent—will occur in urban areas. In the past decade alone, technology—especially mobile phones—has transformed the way Africans communicate and do business. Politics is also changing rapidly. Multiparty elections and popular support for democracy are the norm, even though the record across the continent is uneven and numerous countries have reversed course in recent years.

May 16, 2017

The Security Governance Initiative

It is estimated that from 2009–14, U.S. assistance to militaries and police in sub-Saharan African exceeded $3 billion.1 Of this, the United States spent approximately $900 million on peacekeeping efforts alone. The U.S. Government also provided an estimated $90 million in foreign military financing and sold more than $135 million worth of arms.2 Despite these substantial expenditures and investments, the ability of African states to address their security challenges remains insufficient. Some African peacekeepers are falling short in peacekeeping performance; terrorism and other transnational threats impede human development in several parts of the continent; and African citizens often mistrust their police and military forces. When the fundamental responsibility of the state for the security and justice needs of its citizens is inadequately executed, the result is often increased insecurity and de-legitimization of the government.

May 16, 2017

African Security Futures: Threats, Partnerships, and International Engagement for the New U.S. Administration

Several months into the new Administration, attention throughout the corridors of Washington is understandably focused on the foreign policy priorities that will define the government’s early legacy, from Syria and Iraq to the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea. Amid the urgency of these pressing national security issues, challenges on the African continent are unlikely to enjoy the same emphasis—throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, no candidate articulated an Africa policy, and the presidential transition team did not emphasize the region among its priorities. Despite this initial lack of focus, however, Africa’s emerging geopolitical influence and increasingly transnational threats will demand significant attention. This article highlights three key aspects of the African security landscape that will become more dynamic and complex during the next four years and beyond and have far-reaching impacts on U.S. policy: the nature of near- and long-term security threats; the trajectory of African partners; and the diverse group of external actors poised to increase engagement. Throughout, I argue that a modestly-resourced but proactive and partnership-based approach would allow policymakers to temper the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented.

May 15, 2017

An Interview with Princeton Lyman and Johnnie Carson

In Africa you have a whole set of complex security and related issues. Not only the expansion of terrorism from East Africa across the Sahel and the dangers of health pandemics which pose threats to the international community, but if you combine those with the demographics and problems of poverty, development, and climate change, these will cause a tremendous migration push toward Europe and elsewhere. All of which impacts on the United States. That combination of things going on in Africa has a very direct and important, strategic importance for the United States.

Jan. 10, 2017

Letter to the Editor

In reference to a recent critique of the article “Special Operations Doctrine: Is It Needed,” by Jerry Lynes (12/21/16), we acknowledge the existence of Joint Special Operations doctrine. Upon reflection, we could title the article “Special Operations Doctrine: It Is¬¬ Needed!” The intent of this article was to capture, share, and address recent accomplishments in Army Special Operations Force (ARSOF) concepts, doctrine, organizational lessons learned, and new ideas. The learning curve from more than a decade of war led to our belief that there was a clear need for the Army to articulate ARSOF as a core competency. Released in 2012, Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 3-05, Special Operations, filled this void—it identified the greater Army’s responsibilities to understand ARSOF capabilities throughout the full spectrum of conflict.

Dec. 21, 2016

Letter to the Editor

Regarding the article "Special Operations Doctrine: Is it Needed?" by Charles T. Cleveland, James B Linder, and Ronald Dempsey (PRISM, Volume 6, No 3),[link below] I am struck by the curious absence of reference to the long established and mature body of Joint Special Operations doctrine. The authors write as if there was no special operations doctrine until Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 3-05 came along in 2012. They opine as to the various reasons for this, including accusing "...the general military doctrine community (of holding) a myopic view of U.S. special operations capabilities." In truth, their contention is not factually correct, as follows:

Dec. 7, 2016

Need Authorities for the Gray Zone

As we strive to confront enemies operating in the Gray Zone—the fog-filled twilight zone between war and peace, where state and non-state actors employ threats, coercion, cooption, espionage, sabotage, political and economic pressure, propaganda, cyber tools, clandestine techniques, deniability, the threat of the use of force, and the use of force to advance their political and military agendas—U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) forces are often frustrated by a lack of authorities to act. Short of war and beyond the parameters set by the 2001 Congressional “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” (AUMF) we may judge our Title 10 authorities1 inadequate to the task, or at best a remarkably poor fit.

Dec. 7, 2016


As the commander of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), I welcome you to an issue of PRISM dedicated to special operations. SOCOM is responsible for the critical dual missions of providing the U.S. Geographic Commands with trained and ready special operations forces (SOF), as well as synchronizing their actions—we are uniquely created by law to perform both service-like activities and serve as a functional Geographic Combatant Command. In addition, SOCOM serves as the coordinating authority for the Department of Defense National Military Strategic Plan to Counter Trans-Regional Terrorist Organization (NMSP-CTTO). In light of the complexity of today’s security environment, SOF are spread broadly across the spectrum of conflict. As a SOF enterprise we continually strive to be ready, and I am confident we are postured to address today’s trans-regional challenges by virtue of our global perspective and authorities. Nevertheless, we must push ourselves to transform to meet evolving challenges, which entails leveraging developmental technologies and critically revisiting our structures and processes, while at the same time adjusting our tactics, techniques, and procedures to enhance effectiveness.

Dec. 7, 2016

Special Operations Doctrine: Is it Needed?

On a cool, crisp morning in early April 2012, American and Afghan special forces struggled up the steep and rugged slopes of Maholic Mountain.1 The mountain overshadows the former home of the deceased Taliban leader Mullah Omar on the northern outskirts of Kandahar City, Afghanistan. This band of men completed the challenging ritual each week as a way of building camaraderie while not out on missions. Upon reaching the top of the mountain, one can view the humidity rising off the ground in the distance creating a mirage-like effect. Looking further out, one can see Kandahar City with its vast collection of mud huts (qalats), strip malls, mosques, and two and three story buildings. Resting on top of a boulder, with a bead of sweat running down the side of his head, one special forces soldier sipped coffee from his thermos as he reflected on a recent experience in Northern Kandahar.

Dec. 7, 2016

The Limits of Special Operations Forces

In the early 1980s, the future of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) looked decidedly grim. The Vietnam-era boom in SOF had long since expired and the 1970s ended with the debacle of the attempted SOF-led rescue of U.S. hostages in Iran. After two decades of rebuilding, SOF were much more capable on the eve of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but were still only used sparingly and in the shadows.1