International forces in Afghanistan are preparing to hand over responsibility for security to Afghan soldiers and police by the end of 2014. U.S. President Barack Obama has argued that battlefield successes since 2009 have enabled this transition and that with it, "this long war will come to a responsible end."
Gen. David Petraeus’ assertions about falling casualties in Iraq are supported by a range of objective sources. But his testimony to Congress does not establish whether the decline is attributable to the surge or to sectarian cleansing.
The prognosis for Iraq looks bad and is getting worse. If the trend does not improve soon, the United States may have no choice but to cut its losses and get out. Recently, many have looked to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to engineer a change in strategy that might arrest this decline, and the ISG's report does indeed contain some useful ideas and worthwhile recommendations. But on the whole, it offers the political groundwork for a complete withdrawal more than it offers a sustainable solution to the conflict.
Director: Stephen Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy October 2006—Present
This roundtable series focuses on issues that influence U.S. defense policy, such as the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil-military relations, and debates about the transformation of the U.S. military and the future of warfare. It is made possible by the generous support of Roger Hertog.
The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces
Linda Robinson, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation
Lawmakers are considering sharp cuts to defense spending as part of mandated deficit-reduction efforts. This Backgrounder discusses the effects of such major cuts and implications for U.S. military strategy.
President Obama should have used his speech on the Afghanistan troop drawdown to confirm the long-term commitment of U.S. forces in the region, to signal an enduring, robust U.S. presence in troubled South Asia, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.
Tensions appear to be growing between the United States and Pakistan, even as leaders of both countries continue to stress the value of their partnership in the aftermath of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
While U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan won't be directly affected, bin Laden's death could result in an expedited draw-down schedule, leaving the country open to a Taliban takeover and leading to upheaval in Pakistan, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.
CFR Senior Fellow For Defense Policy Stephen Biddle and CFR Senior Fellow For India, Pakistan, And South Asia, Daniel Markey, discuss the new methods the U.S. may have to employ in both Afghanistan and Pakistan after the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban needs to be convinced of a firm U.S. commitment in Afghanistan before it will negotiate a settlement, says CFR's Stephen Biddle, and any deal will have to also involve the Pakistani, U.S., and Afghan governments.
Crucial to the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is dealing with the country's "predatory misgovernance," says CFR's Stephen Biddle. Targeting U.S. contracting practices is a good place to start, he says.
In replacing General Stanley McChrystal with General David Petraeus, a well-known counterinsurgency strategist, President Obama is betting that new leadership and old policy will equal victory in Afghanistan.
While senior military officials are urging support for Afghanistan operations, Afghans are fearful about the Kandahar offensive and uncertain about U.S. plans to start withdrawing troops in July 2011, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.
President Obama's first National Security Strategy departs from Bush administration doctrine by redefining the war against terror groups and embracing multilateralism, and may expect too much from global partners, say CFR experts in an analytical roundup.
After months of harsh words, the White House's conciliatory tone during the Afghan president's visit was calibrated to encourage Karzai to behave more like a "wartime leader and less like an innocent bystander," says CFR's Stephen Biddle.
Two key issues in Afghanistan are whether President Hamid Karzai will implement reforms and whether the American public is willing to invest the time it will take for a successful counterinsurgency, says CFR defense expert Stephen Biddle.
CFR's top defense policy expert Stephen Biddle says President Obama's announcement of a date for U.S. forces to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan could draw fire from wary Democrats, but also conveys that the U.S. "is uncomfortable with long stays."
Listen to Stephen Biddle, CFR's senior fellow for defense policy, discuss U.S. policy toward Afghanistan in light of his recent trip to Afghanistan as a member of General Stanley A. McChrystal's strategic assessment group, as part of CFR's Academic Conference Call series.Learn more about CFR's Academic Initiative.
Regardless of the victor in this week's Afghan presidential elections, some analysts say Western forces must remain committed to the counterinsurgency effort to strengthen the state against a growing Taliban threat.
As military planners review strategy in the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan, CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Biddle says victory will be dependent on improving the capacity of the beleaguered Afghan government.
The replacement of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan with a counterinsurgency expert could shift momentum, but CFR's Stephen Biddle says it might also anger Afghans who oppose U.S. special operations tactics.
President Obama has made "strategic communications" an essential part of his move to boost the military and nation-building effort in Afghanistan. But experts say countering Taliban messaging will take technology, speed, and demonstrated success in providing security.
CFR's Stephen Biddle says President Obama's decision to add four thousand troops to train Afghan troops is "a reasonable first step" but that Obama faces huge challenges in standing up a viable Afghan army.
The evolving strategy in Afghanistan includes seventeen thousand more U.S. troops and plans to outbid the Taliban for the loyalty of their tribal allies on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. But Gen. David McKiernan, commander of the effort, says no plan defined in purely military terms can succeed.
Stephen Biddle, a senior defense and counterterrorism analyst, says that President Obama's schedule for reducing and then ending the U.S. deployment in Iraq "is a reasonable compromise between several conflicting demands."
With violence down and U.S. troop deaths at their lowest point since the Iraq war began, military analysts are in near-agreement that Iraq is more secure today. But CFR's Stephen Biddle and Steven Simon disagree on how to ensure stability continues. They discuss their views during this inaugural Foreign Affairs Live debate.
Listen to Stephen Biddle, CFR senior fellow for defense policy, provide an update on the current situation in Iraq and examine the political and military implications of U.S. policy options going forward as part of CFR's State and Local Officials Conference Call Series. This call was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Learn more about CFR's State and Local Officials Initiative.
Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations since 1922, has again been ranked #1 in influence by U.S. opinion leaders in a recent national study conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. The findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all media, both print and broadcast, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, and the Washington Post.
With congressional elections looming, U.S. voters on both sides of the aisle are calling for alternate solutions to resolve the Iraqi crisis, restore peace and stability, and return U.S. soldiers home.
Prime Minister Maliki tells the U.S. Congress that Iraq is a "front line" in the global struggle against terrorism. Maliki and Bush agree more troops will be sent to Baghdad as part of a fresh strategy to put down rising sectarian violence.
Iraq's government has made some headway in its first few weeks, though talk of a turning point may be premature. With America's casualty rate climbing and Iraqi infrastructure still subpar, many are asking: How does the U.S. define success?
The annual Pentagon report on China's military power cites increased defense spending as a threat to the stability of Asia, and contends Beijing could potentially threaten the United States. But some critics say the Defense Department is hyping the China threat to justify its own massive spending.
President Bush and British leader Tony Blair met Thursday to discuss a full agenda, from Iran to Afghanistan to trade and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But all of it is overshadowed by their leading role in the Iraq war.
In the face of mounting calls for his resignation, the secretary of defense is hanging tough. President Bush reiterates his support for Rumsfeld as the secretary defends his leadership of the Iraq war against attacks from retired senior military commanders.
With all the talk of drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq, the U.S. military is quietly adopting a strategy that gets more U.S. soldiers onto the streets to interact with Iraqi locals and forces. Experts say this strategy will be successful at securing Iraq in the long run, even though it puts troops at greater risk in the short run.
Stephen Biddle discusses the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. He argues that it avoids making difficult trade-offs between a high-tech, capital-intensive, speed-oriented military intended primarily for waging major combat operations and a lower-tech, labor-intensive, lower-capital military intended for low intensity conflict and counterinsurgencies.
Stephen D. Biddle is adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Before joining CFR in January 2006, he held the Elihu Root chair in military studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and has held teaching and research posts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA); Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA); and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Office of National Security Programs.
Dr. Biddle's book Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton University Press, 2004) has won four prizes, including the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Award Silver Medal for 2005, and the 2005 Huntington Prize from the Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. His other publications include articles in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Survival, The Journal of Politics, The Journal of Strategic Studies, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Security Studies, The New Republic, The American Interest, The National Interest, Orbis, Contemporary Security Policy, Defense Analysis, Joint Force Quarterly, and Military Operations Research; shorter pieces on military topics in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, International Herald Tribune, Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, and Defense News; various chapters in edited volumes; and 31 IDA, SSI, and NATO reports.
He has served as a member of the Defense Policy Board and has presented testimony before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, force planning, conventional net assessment, and European arms control. He served on General Stanley McChrystal's Initial Strategic Assessment Team in Kabul in 2009, on General David Petraeus's Joint Strategic Assessment Team in Baghdad in 2007, and as a senior adviser to General Petraeus's Central Command Assessment Team in Washington, DC, in 2008-09. He holds an appointment as adjunct associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.
Dr. Biddle's research has won Barchi, Rist, and Impact Prizes from the Military Operations Research Society. He was awarded the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Medal in 2003 and again in 2006, and was presented with the U.S. Army Commander's Award for Public Service in Baghdad in 2007. He holds AB (1981), MPP (1985), and PhD (public policy, 1992) degrees, all from Harvard University.
Washington, District of Columbia 20006
CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy and the author of Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle