Today’s MUST Foreign Policy Reading

If you only read one thing today, read the for-the-record answers from the Director of National Intelligence to questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee in April 2009. At the very least read the tickler summary from the blog of the Federation of American Scientists, which has done a genuine service in obtaining this document under the Freedom of Information Act and is hosting it on its site (hat tip: Washington Post).

There is something to rain on practically every parade in these answers. The number of “security personnel” required for COIN in Afghanistan? 818,000. When will Iran produce highly-enriched (weapons-grade) uranium? 2013. Russia doesn’t have the ability to project a lot of military force beyond its borders.

This last comes as no surprise to me. Something we should always keep in mind: without nuclear weapons Russia is a regional power.

There’s tons more. Al Qaeda’s resilience and capabilities. The KSA’s terrorist rehab program. The KSA’s relationship with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in Africa. Iran’s role in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. How effective is the Pakistani army in dealing with the insurgency in the FATA? Pakistan’s stability. The relationship among the Iranian regime, HAMAS, and Hizbollah.

Here’s the statement on the status of Iraq’s ISF:

The capabilities of the ISF have continued to improve. The ISF’s increasing professionalism and improvements in war-fighting skills have allowed it to assume more responsibility for Iraq’s internal security, as demonstrated by the successful operations against Shia militants in Al Basrah, Sadr City, and Al Amarah, and against Sunni extremists in Diyala and Mosul. Despite these improvements, the ISF remains dependent on the U. S. for enabling capabilities such as logistics, fire support, and intelligence and will continue to require Coalition assistance during the next three years.

Short version: our military still has its work cut out for it in Iraq.

The provincial elections in Iraq. HAMAS capabilities. Hizbollah capabilities. Cyber-warfare by the Chinese government. Russia’s energy war. GITMO. The global economic crisis.

It’s truly a remarkable document. If nothing else it provides a keyhole view into the thinking of our intelligence community on a wide range of security issues. I’m still digesting it.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Eric Florack says:

    The Democrats gave Bush a hard time for Mission Accomplished… the argument was weak, but the noise over it was loud. Now we see the White House claiming the war on terror is over, yet we see the numbers in these reports. Will the left make anywhere near the same noise now as they did when Bush was in office?

    We both know that answer, don’t we?

  2. Brett says:

    I enjoyed reading it, although I did have one quibble. It mentions how Russia uses natural gas as a weapon against Ukraine, but doesn’t mention that this is a two-sided problem – Ukraine regularly steals gas from the pipeline.

  3. Dave, you’ve got to read the report carefully; it actually suggest that the troop numbers needed for COIN is about 325,000 – which includes ANA, ANP, and Coalition forces.

    We’re probably close to those numbers today, but the issue is (and will be for a while) the effectiveness of the national forces.

    Doesn’t mean it isn’t a real set of issues, just that it not quite the issue you suggest in your post.


  4. Dave Schuler says:


    Here’s the relevant portion (transcribed because the document itself seems to be in image format):

    The most recent edition of the U. S. Army Counterinsurgency Handbook suggests a ratio of 25 counterinsurgents to every 1,000 residents within an area of operations. The CIA World Factbook puts the 2009 estimated population of Afghanistan at 32,738,876. Using this ratio leads to a need for roughly 818,000 security personnel to secure Afghanistan. However, most of the insurgents are in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, and Pashtuns make up approximately 40% of the population—about 13 million. Applying the 25-per-1,000 ratio to the Pashtun population equals 325,000 security forces to extend security through the Pashtun areas.

    Not only would this static analysis of the situation require a change in doctrine to apply security only to “Pashtun areas”, I think it is specious. The problem is essentially identical to the problem that the open Pakistan border presents: if you could close the border with Pakistan it would take a lot fewer security personnel to apply COIN. But you can’t close the border with Pakistan.

    Similarly, you would require a much small number of security personnel if you could restrict the effort to the Pashtun areas but you can’t restrict the effort to the Pashtun areas.

    I think it’s fair to retort that COIN could require something between 325,000 and 818,000. Afghanistan doesn’t have the ability to fund such either number on its own and in all likelihood never will have. I don’t see how the political will for our funding that effort which I would estimate would involve our giving to the Afghans an amount equal or greater to what we’re giving to the Israelis or Egyptians annually today for the foreseeable future.

    The observed corruption of the Afghan government is another major problem. I suspect that if we tried COIN with a mostly Afghan force we’d see quite a bit of what is called “shrinkage” in the retail environment—the money would just disappear.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Now we see the White House claiming the war on terror is over

    Ummmmm. Nope. What we see is a shift in semantics from the rather bizarre language the Bush White House used.

    Better go change your panties bitsy, you are all worked up over nothing.

  6. steve says:

    Thanks, missed this earlier. Will read tomorrow. Need to see how this reconciles with all the neocon claims they can make nukes in a year. Agree with you on Russia. This should be common knowledge.


  7. Dave, a lot of smart people who (like Craig Mullaney) have been there suggest that outside of Pashtun areas, there’s a much much milder problem…

    …so I’ll respectfully disagree, with the understanding that we’re still a long way from the lower number of fully effective troops.


  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Well, Marc, since COIN seems to be the course we’re embarked on, I can only hope that it will succeed in the timeframe that will be allowed. I think it’s far more likely that the American people will lose patience with our presence in Afghanistan within a year or so than that COIN will succeed in that period of time.

  9. I agree completely re patience; but I’ll suggest that it’s a skill we’d best acquire.

    I’m hoping to find others who agree.


  10. Eric Florack says:

    Ummmmm. Nope. What we see is a shift in semantics from the rather bizarre language the Bush White House used.

    Yeah, right.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Right. From Fox News, via the search results you provided:

    Clinton: Administration Has Stopped Using ‘War on Terror’ Term

    And ABC News:

    The discontinuation of the term “War on Terror” marks a departure from the practice of the Bush administration which began using the phrase in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.