Why ISIS Is Spreading Across the Muslim World

ISIS.territoryBy Peter Bergen & Emily Schneider

(Re-published from CNN Opinion, November 19, 2014)

In the many media stories about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, much of the focus has rightly been on the thousands of foreign fighters ISIS has attracted, its brutal tactics and its robust social media presence.

But an arguably even more important development has not received the attention it deserves: the group’s widening influence across the Muslim world, driven by the numerous terrorist and insurgent organizations that have recently sworn loyalty to it.

In the past six months, ISIS has drawn into its fold some dozen groups from Algeria to Pakistan. Al Qaeda, in contrast, had been in existence for a decade before it recruited its first affiliate, Egypt’s Jihad Group, in 1998.

[pullquoteright]Three other groups—al-Mujahidin in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Mujahidin in Libya and al-Mujahidin in Yemen—also recorded statements of allegiance to ISIS in November.”[/pullquoteright]And, in its 2½-decade existence, al Qaeda has only manged to add some half dozen affiliates, one of which was al Qaeda in Iraq, the parent organization of ISIS that has now split off from the core al Qaeda organization.

Indeed, just this week, an ISIS delegation met with leaders of a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban to talk about how to unify Pakistani militants, The Associated Press reported.

Also this month, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, one of the most violent militant groups in Egypt, pledged allegiance to ISIS, The New York Times reported. ABM is believed to have been responsible for an attack on a police checkpoint near Gaza last month that killed 30 Egyptian soldiers.

And ISIS has continued to expand its geographical reach. Three other groups—al-Mujahidin in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Mujahidin in Libya and al-Mujahidin in Yemen—also recorded statements of allegiance to ISIS in November, which ISIS broadcast online. Meanwhile, ISIS now controls the eastern Libyan city of Derna, not far from the Egyptian border.

And last month, six Pakistani Taliban leaders reportedly swore allegiance to ISIS in an audio message, although Shahidullah Shahid, the Pakistani Taliban’s official spokesman, said he was speaking for himself and five other Taliban leaders in the message, not for the rest of the Pakistani Taliban.

The Taliban reacted by firing Shahid, but a senior Taliban official told the BBC that “he was the most important of the five who have left us” and said that the leaders had defected because they were unhappy with senior Taliban leaders …

To read the full article, click here.

Peter Bergen is CNN’s National Security Analyst, Vice President at New America Foundation, and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden—From 9/11 to Abbottabad. Emily Schneider (LAW ’13) is a Research Associate at New America and a 2013 INSCT graduate.

Why Iraq Must Stop Playing the Shari’a Card

Female school students wearing a full veil (niqab) walk along a street in the northern province of RaqqaBy Emily Schneider, Alliya Anjum Razavi, & Corri Zoli

(Re-Published from the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk, Nov. 13, 2014) If you’re a woman living in Raqqa, Iraq, you already had enough to worry about:  your government recently lost a quarter of the country to the Islamic State. Basic resources like food, water, and electricity are scarce. US air strikes in the region are on the rise.

[pullquoteright]Abuse of sharia helps to empower hyper-Islamist conflict actors, like ISIS, and legitimate such groups’ exercise of power through violence.”[/pullquoteright]You can now add something else: adhering to strict Islamic dress codes. Beginning last month, the local government has tasked a new, all-female sharia police unit, the al Khansaa brigade, with cracking down on civilian women who do not abide by ultra-strict versions of sharia law imposed by the Islamic State. The new restrictions require women to be fully covered and to be chaperoned by a male in public.

Now, if you’re not a woman living in Raqqa, why should you still worry about al Khansaa and the networks of conflict actors that have authorized these and similar groups? Because this abuse of sharia helps to empower hyper-Islamist conflict actors, like ISIS, and legitimate such groups’ exercise of power through violence. In other words, if we’re not careful, the Al Khansaa brigade could make an already deteriorating situation in the Middle East much worse.

So what’s the purpose of this extremist sharia strategy for governments? Some states employ extraordinary versions of sharia to help consolidate regime power and solve political problems – to the dismay of ordinary, devout Muslims. In the past, governments have resorted to extreme shari’a to give cover to officials engaged in corruption and crime, distract from leaders who have immiserated the population or its minorities, or even those who propagate never-ending conflicts, many with an ethnic charge.

This dynamic of political influence and violence in the support of extreme sharia has been treated in the obvious Gulf cases of Saudi wahhabism and Qatarian double dealing. Now, we’re seeing it at work in Syria and Iraq as ruling or competitor regimes deliberately or unwittingly support jihadists’ violence—and its sharia rational—in the service of political survival.

Here’s the problem: This default to extremism not only serves to empower non-state actors like ISIS, it can also backfire for governments in other ways. In Egypt, for example, former president Mohamad Morsi squandered the gift of Egyptian public trust in the heady, post-Arab Spring heydays by ejecting moderates from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau on the very eve of taking office in 2012. He then proceeded to “Ikwanise the police,” prompting police strikes across a third of Egypt’s provinces. He added controversial Article 219 to the post-Arab Spring constitution of December 22, 2012 instituting a narrow and exclusive definition of shari’a that privileged extreme Sunni doctrine, despite explicit Quranic prohibitions against sectarianism and despite Egypt’s own multi-ethnic, multi-religious history …

To read the full article, click here.

Emily Schneider (LAW ’13) is a research associate for the International Security at New America and a graduate of INSCT; Alliya Anjum Razavi is a Research Associate at INSCT and a 2013 graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University; and Corri Zoli is Director of Research/Assistant Research Professor at INSCT.

“Guiding Principles for Stabilization & Reconstruction” Video Now Online

Beth Cole was appointed as the Director of the Office of Civil-Military Cooperation at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) by President Barack Obama in 2012. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing the relationship between USAID and the US Department of Defense. Cole directs a 47-member staff of Senior Development Advisors posted to the five geographic combatant commands, Special Operations Command, and the Pentagon, as well as military liaisons posted to USAID from the Commands and the Services and a civil and foreign service planning and support staff.

Reflections on the Modern Battlefield: A Discussion with General Anthony Zinni

Anthony_C._ZinniBy Octavian Manea

(Re-Published from Small Wars Journal, Sept. 12, 2014) SWJ: You open your book with a blunt statement: “that wars are not always decided entirely on the battlefield”. Having in mind the post 9/11 decade, what are the other variables, the off-the-battlefield components that must be in sync in order to wage war successfully?

General Zinni: I think that one of the things that are important off battlefield is the political context. Clausewitz said that a war is basically just an instrument of politics so you have to be clear why the decision has been made, what interests are being protected or promoted, what threats you are dealing with, and how significant are those threats to require the use of military force. The way you decide to approach it is also very important. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam we went in there to try to rebuild nations –  remodel governance systems, social programs and economic systems. Is this feasible, what is the cost? Do you have the support of the American people, of the international community for what you do? And how do you correlate the strategic and political goals? What do you want to achieve? Before that first soldier puts his boots on the ground you may have already created through all these decisions I mentioned the environment that helps him succeed or handicaps to a point failure. People, especially the Americans, when they look at these interventions look only on the battlefield to determine whether we succeed or fail by the performance of the military on the ground when there are so many other conditions and variables that go on off the battlefield – mainly at the level of political leadership, civilian and military leadership that could shape whether we are going to win or lose.

SWJ: What does it take for the US to produce good civilian strategic leadership schooled in the Clausewitzian art of understanding that war is a political instrument and a political responsibility? What does it take to produce good civilian strategic leadership, more Marshalls, more Kennans?

General Zinni: You hit the problem right on the head. We don’t put enough emphasis on the need for a strong and viable strategy. Often times we launch these interventions without an understanding of what the strategic goals are, what the approaches we are going to use are. Just look at what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part way through we declared mission accomplished, than it’s not, than we add more troops and the surge, we never understood how this is going to pan out in terms of the governance of Iraq, our future relationships and our sustained military presence. We were making it up as we went along. I would say the same thing happened in Afghanistan as happened in Vietnam. Without a clear strategy you have this problem. In our system every 4 years we turn over an administration. And we are fascinated with bringing in people outside Washington that desire to change Washington. The problem is that they come with no experience on the international scene or in understanding the implications in using the military. We don’t talk in terms of strategy, we talk in terms of military programs, we put budgets together, and provide funding. It is almost as if our political leadership sees no relationship between their political responsibilities and their military responsibilities. They miss Clausewitz’s most important point. War is a political act from start to finish.

The political leadership, the policy developers and the operational commanders must be in sync. We should never fail to align policy, politics, strategy, operational design and the tactics in the field.
All those things lead to not having the Marshalls that we need. One of the reasons that we were so successful in WWII and in the first decade after it because it set us up for success in the Cold War and we wanted people like Marshall and Kennan in the positions where they provided the strategic underpinnings that could think through what we needed to do. The greatest period in the US in terms of strategic thinking was the period from the WWII to 1950. We had the Marshall Plan, the 1947 National Security Act to restructure our government for a new world, we created the National Security Council, the Joint Chief of Staff, we developed the IMF, the containment doctrine and NATO. There was a whole series of things that we did in recognition that the world has changed as the result of the war. There were new threats, new conditions and it prepared us and set the stage to get us through almost 50 years of Cold War. When the Cold War ended none of that thinking went on. We were talking about peace dividends and new world order, but nobody was out there rethinking the strategy. We have a strategy and a government structure that hasn’t really been rethought and no one values developing and certainly putting into position people who could perform like a Marshall or like a Kennan and that is part of the problem.

SWJ: Looking back what was wrong with how the President Bush initially approached the war in Iraq? What should he have done in order to set up the right process to build the right strategy?

General Zinni: There were a number of things wrong.
Firstly, it was the wrong war, at the wrong time and the wrong place. The real enemy that we had to deal with was Al-Qaeda and they were in Afghanistan. We should have focused on that as a priority. Al-Qaeda got away at Tora Bora because we treated this as a secondary military mission. We didn’t put in enough troops and we relied too much on the Northern Alliance. The first mistake was that we lost focus on who the true enemy was and what the priority was.

Secondly, Saddam has been contained and we were doing it with fewer troops every day. And with the funding and support of the countries in the region like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait he was a threat only to some of his people, the Shia. But there were steps that we could have in the no fly zone in the South – we could have implemented a no drive zone in order to continue the pressure. But taking down Saddam Hussein clearly meant that we were going to inherit a country that was going to come apart like a cheap suitcase. Everybody predicted it – all our intelligence agencies. We ran a war-game in 1998/99 called Desert Crossing where we brought in intelligence experts to see what would happen if the Iraqi regime fell. They predicted all the chaos and disorder that happened. But the Bush Administration said that none of that was going to happen – that were going to be treated as liberators. The war plan I left at CENTCOM had 380.000 troops necessary for winning –  not to take down the regime –  but to seal the borders and to control the population after the fall of the regime. And remember the first decisions that we made – we dissolved the Iraqi Army which meant alienating people on the streets that had uniforms and guns. Moreover, we closed state owned factories and put people out of work. In the end there were too few troops on the ground to handle an insurgency. Look what happened as we rolled back the regime.

Also, one of the most important mistakes was to use the WMD as an excuse. I knew the intelligence. There was never any credible evidence that Saddam had an ongoing program. The WMD intelligence to support a war in Iraq was manufactured.

These were mistakes made by a political leadership that did not understand the region, the culture, the situation, the military requirements and other threats that they had to deal with …

For the complete article, click here.

Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13) was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at the Maxwell School, where he also received a CAS in Security Studies from INSCT.

What We Learn from ISIS’ Online Magazine

Islamic_State_FightersBy Peter Bergen & Emily Schneider

(Re-Published from CNN, Oct. 20, 2014) ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East — if not the entire Muslim world. At least, that’s the message the terrorist movement is sending in its English online magazine, Dabiq.

In Dabiq’s first issue, which debuted in early July, the magazine declared that a “new era has arrived” for Muslims. Photographs in the webzine of ISIS militants in American armored vehicles rolling through Iraq seemed to buttress that claim.

Graphic photos of dead soldiers from Iraqi forces litter the pages of each of the issues of Dabiq, and articles detail skirmishes across Iraq and Syria.

Each issue of the magazine — there have been four so far, appearing at roughly monthly intervals — starts with a foreword that contains an inspirational message for readers, before diving into longer pieces that extol the virtues of ISIS and provide updates on the group’s military campaign. ISIS members fervently believe that they have established a true “caliphate” in the areas that they control, a supposed distant echo of the perfect Islamic rule of the Prophet Mohammed and his immediate successors in the seventh century.

[pullquoteright]Other articles aim to reassure readers that ISIS, which in June renamed itself the Islamic State, is an actual state that provides social services and reconstructs critical infrastructure.”[/pullquoteright]Overall, the magazine is quite religious in tone. Excerpts from rulings by Muslim scholars are included in every issue, as are religious rationales for the actions of ISIS.

In the most recent issue, an ISIS writer reasoned that capturing women from the Yazidis, an Iraqi minority group, to use as sex slaves was acceptable under ISIS’ version of Sharia law, since the Yazidis are polytheists, a great heresy in Islam. Showing some convoluted logic, the ISIS writer also asserted that enslaving Yazidi women is a good way to stop adultery, since a man having sex with a concubine is legal under ISIS’ interpretation of Islamic law, but sexual relations outside of marriage with free women are forbidden.

The magazines are also, unsurprisingly, highly sectarian, repeatedly showing images of Shia shrines and tombs that have been blown up by ISIS, a organization made up of members of the Sunni sect. ISIS believes these sites to be idolatrous. Iraqi Army soldiers — who are generally Shia — are referred to as “apostates” and graphic photos of their executions by ISIS fighters are a staple of the magazine.

Other articles aim to reassure readers that ISIS, which in June renamed itself the Islamic State, is an actual state that provides social services and reconstructs critical infrastructure. The magazine asserts that administrators govern towns after the main ISIS fighting force moves on and the most recent issue of Dabiq includes photos with captions showing “services for Muslims,” including street cleaning, electricity repairs, care homes for the elderly and cancer treatment centers for children …

For the complete article, click here.

Peter Bergen is CNN’s National Security Analyst, a Vice President at New America, and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University. Emily Schneider (LAW ’13) is a Research Associate at New America and an INSCT alumna.

Everett Speaker Series

An additional aspect of Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law’s CAS in PCR graduate program is the David F. Everett Postconflict Reconstruction Speaker Series, which brings established, widely known PCR experts to SU to deliver a lecture and to meet with students in the certificate program.

Elections, Violence, and Apathy: Crisis in the Congo, with Jason Stearns

Oct. 4, 2018 | Jason Stearns, Director, Congo Research Group, New York University

Director of the Congo Research Group at New York University Jason Stearns spoke at the Maxwell School on “Elections, Violence, and Apathy: Crisis in the Congo.” Stearns is author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, which is described as “A ‘tremendous,’ ‘intrepid’ history of the devastating war in the heart of Africa’s Congo.”

Jason Stearns

Designing Coercive Institutions in Postconflict Settings

Oct. 24, 2017 | Erica de Bruin, Assistant Professor of Government, Hamilton College

Erica de Bruin explained that in certain cases, peace treaties signed after internal strife and civil war can have the deleterious effect of causing coups d’etat down the line, especially when rebel soldiers are integrated with state security forces, an outcome that must be addressed in postconflict settings.

Erica de Bruin

Film Screening: Khoon diy Baarav (“Blood Leaves Its Trail”)

Oct. 4, 2017 | With filmmaker Iffat Fatima

The conflict in Kashmir is among the long-standing political conflicts in the world. It has taken a heavy toll on lives, on sanity and on the idea of normalcy. The film Khoon Diy Baarav made over nine years, enters the vexed political scenario in Kashmir through the lives of families of the victims of enforced disappearances. It explores memory as a mode of resistance, constantly confronting reality and morphing from the personal to the political, the individual to the collective.

So, You Want to Work in International Development? What Every Job Hunter Should Know

Nov. 3, 2016 | Dana Abro (MPA ’09), Regional Security Adviser, Peace Corps

Abro spoke to students about her experiences with her international development career; what students should expect when job hunting; and how best to take advantage of their experience, degree, and networks. Currently a Regional Security Adviser for the Peace Corps, Abro is a former Program Analyst at the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).

Dana Abro

Corruption: Sand in the Gears of Afghan Reconstruction

Oct. 20, 2016 | John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko was a special guest of SPL on Oct. 20, 2016. Sopko was accompanied by his Congressional Liaison Alex Hackbarth (MPA/MAIR ’15), an SPL alumna. Speaking in the Maxwell School, Sopko discussed the oversight role of his organization, its efforts to control corruption in Afghanistan and to account for US aid dollars, and how, when it comes to tracking development efforts, “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” meaning that oversight and the press it generates provide disincentives for corrupt public officials and shady contractors.

John Spoko

“Fight the Disease, Not Just the Symptom:” Why Good Governance is Essential to Countering Extremism

Feb. 29, 2016 | Sarah Chayes, Senior Associate, Democracy and Rule of Law Program, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment

Sarah Chayes is a Senior Associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program and the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment. Formerly special adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she is an expert in South Asia policy, kleptocracy and anticorruption, and civil-military relations. She is working on correlations between acute public corruption and the rise of militant extremism.

A former reporter, she covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR, then left journalism to remain in Kandahar in order to contribute to the reconstruction of the country, living there almost continuously since December 2001. After running a nongovernmental organization founded by President Karzai’s brother Qayum, Chayes launched a manufacturing cooperativethat produces skin-care products for export from licit local agriculture. The goals were to help revive the region’s historic role in exporting fruit and its derivatives, promote sustainable development, and expand alternatives to the opium economy. Deeply embedded in the life of the city and fluent in Pashtu, Chayes gained a unique perspective on the unfolding war.


State-Building & Non-State Armed Actors in Somalia

Nov. 3, 2015 | Ken Menkhaus, Professor of Political Science, Davidson College

Ken Menkhaus will discuss his recent research on Somalia; the efforts to build a stable state in this troubled Horn of Africa country, despite ongoing conflict; how the “commodification of security sector work” challenges state-building; and the connection between security and development.

Menkhaus has extensive knowledge of these topics, having served as Special Political Advisor in the UN Operation in Somalia; as a visiting civilian professor at the US Army Peacekeeping Institute in 1994-1995; and as a visiting scholar at the US Army Strategic Studies Institute in 2011-2012. In 2004, he received a United States Institute of Peace grant for his research on armed conflict in the Horn of Africa.


Rule of Law Missions in Iraq & Afghanistan

Oct. 6, 2015 | COL Steven Henricks, Army War College Fellow, US Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Col. Steven Henricks discussed Rule of Law missions he has been involved with during his military career, including his observations on tensions between various actors in these missions. Discrete examples from three different units with which he has worked lead to a series of “lessons learned.” He explained how his experiences highlight a need to re-focus Rule of Law efforts with more emphasis on local sensitivities.


Pirates & Militants & Smugglers: What I Did On My (Latest) USG Vacation

March 31, 2015 | CDR John Fritz (JD/MAIR ’06), US Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa

SPL alumnus CDR John Fritz discussed his experiences with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), a dynamic operational headquarters, effectively countering violent extremist organizations in East Africa. A Naval Reserve Officer, Fritz’s latest assignment was as Deputy Director of Plans/Global Force Management and Branch Chief for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Fritz also is an associate attorney with Hamberger & Weiss in Rochester, NY.


Problem: World Disorder/Needed: Guiding Principles for Stabilization & Reconstruction

Oct. 30 2014 | Beth Cole, Director, Office of Civil-Military Cooperation, US Agency for International Development

Beth Cole was appointed as the Director of the Office of Civil-Military Cooperation at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) by President Barack Obama in 2012.  In this capacity, she is responsible for managing the relationship between USAID and the US Department of Defense. Cole directs a 47-member staff of Senior Development Advisors posted to the five geographic combatant commands, Special Operations Command, and the Pentagon, as well as military liaisons posted to USAID from the Commands and the Services and a civil and foreign service planning and support staff.


The Future of Stability Operations: Lessons from Afghanistan for Syria, Ukraine, and Beyond

Sept. 16, 2014 | Dr. Paul Miller, Associate Director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, University of Texas-Austin

Dr. Paul D. Miller is the Associate Director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft at The University of Texas at Austin.  Previously, he was political scientist in the National Security Research Division at the RAND Corporation. He served as Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff from 2007 through September 2009. Prior to joining RAND, Miller was an assistant professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., where he developed and directed the College of International Security Affairs’ South and Central Asia Program.


Greening in the Red Zone

Feb. 26, 2014 | Keith Tidball, Senior Extension Associate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University

Keith Tidball, Senior Extension Associate in Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, asserts that creating and accessing green spaces confers resilience and recovery in systems disrupted by conflict or disaster. Tidball is the co-editor of Greening in the Red Zone, an edited volume that provides evidence for this assertion through cases studies from Afghanistan, Soweto, New Orleans, Kenya, Cameroon, Cyprus, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Legal Advice in a Combat Zone: Supporting the Army in Multinational/Joint Forces Combat and Peacekeeping Operations and the Bilateral Security Agreement

Feb. 19, 2014 | COL James McKee ’88, L ’91

COL James McKee discussed his recent experience as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of US Forces-Afghanistan, his role in drafting the Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and Afghanistan, and his work with Deputy US Ambassador James Warlick’s negotiating team.


Making Stability Operations Smarter: Innovations for Fragile Environments

Nov. 12, 2013 | Morgan Courtney, Burma (Mynamar) Engagement Lead, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, US Department of State

Morgan Courtney is the Burma (Myanmar) Engagement Lead at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State (DOS), where she manages a team of conflict specialists in the field and in Washington who focus on peace, conflict, and reconciliation in Burma.

Before this appointment, she served as the Special Assistant to the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma at the DOS, where she handled a broad array of security, political, economic, and conflict/reconciliation issues at a critical point in Burma’s democratic transition. Before that, she served as a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Chairman’s Action Group, where she helped to provide guidance on a range of issues, including Syria, the Asia-Pacific rebalance, women in combat, and security assistance reform.

Exposing One of Our Flanks: Failures in US Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan and Lessons for Future US Foreign Engagements

April 23, 2013 | Erik Leklem, Senior Advisor for Global Defense Reform in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations

The success of US policy in Afghanistan and our reputation in the region is at risk, but in a mission area that is not widely understood: security ministry development and capacity building. Without capable, civilian-led security ministries, Afghanistan’s security forces may be exploited by malign actors, be less combat effective, and fracture along ethnic lines, especially after Transition in 2014.

The Future of Security Sector Reform

April 10, 2012 | Mark Sedra, Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Research Scholar, University of Waterloo, Canada

Sedra directs all of CIGI’s Security Sector Governance Projects, which produce field-based research and analysis on numerous ongoing war-to-peace transitions, including those in Afghanistan, Burundi, Haiti, Southern Sudan and Timor-Leste. In addition to his work at CIGI, Mark is a research scholar in the University of Waterloo’s department of political science and a faculty member at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He is a member of the International Security Sector Advisory Team, an initiative developed at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces. 

A Crisis of Trust

April 5, 2012 | A Panel Discussion of the Challenges and Prospects for Sustained Security Force Assistance to Afghanistan

This panel of distinguished subject-matter experts reflected on their recent experiences working as embedded advisors to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and discuss what is necessary to salvage and regain the trust necessary for any long term strategic partnership and sustained security assistance beyond the projected end of combat operations in 2013.

  • Maj. Fernando Lujan, US Army Special Forces Officer and Visiting Fellow, Center for a New American Security; Afghan-Pakistan Hands Program
  • Cpt. Tlaloc Cutroneo, US Army Intel Officer; Former Special Operations Police Advisor for Afghan Civil Order Police; and Police Officer (Gang Unit), Boston Police Department
  • Cpt. Russell Galeti, US Army Infantry Officer and former Embedded Advisor to Afghan National Army
  • Lucas Tomlinson, Research Manager, Human Terrain System, US Department of Defense

 Building the Rule of Law from the Bottom-Up

Feb. 15, 2012 | A Video-Teleconference with US Army Brigade Leaders and Afghan Prosecutors

Professor David Crane (College of Law/SPL) moderated a video-teleconference with key leaders and JAG officers from the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Fort Drum, NY) and Afghan prosecutors from the Zharay District of Kandahar Province.

UN Perspectives on Postconflict Reconstruction

Dec. 6, 2011 | Pedro Medrano Rojas, Director, World Food Programme’s New York Office

Rojas was appointed Director of the World Food Programme’s New York Office in July 2009. Prior to this appointment, he was the WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Earlier, he served as the WFP Representative to India and Regional Manager for Southeast Asia. Medrano previously served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the FAO, IFAD, and WFP in Rome, beginning in 1993 until 1998. Between 1995 and 1997, he was President of the World Committee on Food Security, where he presided over the preparations for the World Food Summit held in November 1996 in Rome, Italy.

Transition & Reconstruction: Evolving US-Afghan Partnerships

Nov. 9, 2011 | Afghan Gov. Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province, and Miguel Sapp (SU Law ’88; MPA ’89), Director, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team

SPL welcomed Afghan Governor Iqbal Azizi and Miguel Sapp for a discussion on the evolving nature of U.S. and Afghan partnerships.

God Grew Tired of Us

July 13, 2011 | Film Screening

John Dau, Founder, John Dau Foundation (Transforming Healthcare in South Sudan)

Building Capacity and Legitimacy in the Afghan Security Forces: Recent Experiences of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan

April 12, 2011 | Panel Discussion

A panel of key leaders from the 2-22 Infantry Battalion (1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum), which spent the last year mentoring, instructing, and advising members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) under the charge of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. Members of the panel will share their recent lessons learned in building ANA capacity and legitimacy in the midst of a complex counterinsurgency.

The Role of NGOs in Postconflict Zones

Nov. 30, 2010 | Rudy von Bernuth, Vice President and Managing Director, Children in Emergencies and Crisis, Save the Children

The Power of Hope

Oct. 18, 2010 | Film Screening

With Gabriel Bol Deng, Founder, Helping Offer Primary Education (HOPE) for Sudan

The UN in Postconflict Countries: Mandates, Missions, and Minefields

April 8, 2010 | Tim Sisk, Director, Center for Sustainable Development and International Peace and Director, Humanitarian Assistance Certificate Program

Professor Tim Sisk discusses UN peace operations and what can be done to dramatically improve the capacity of the UN to more effectively address the challenges of consolidating peace after civil war.

Weak States and Global Threats: What Are the Connections?

Feb. 25, 2010 | Stewart Patrick, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Particularly since Sept. 11, 2001, it has been commonplace to assert that the main threats to the US and the world community emanate less from great powers than from weak and failing states. Yet surprisingly little empirical research has investigated the precise connections between weak governance in the developing world and today’s main transnational threats. Is it true that state fragility contributes to transnational spillovers like terrorism, WMD proliferation, organized crime, and infectious disease? What is the nature of these linkages—and what can be done about them? 

Roles and Perspectives of Non-State Armed Groups in Post-War Security Transition

Oct. 26, 2009 | Veronique Dudouet, Researcher, Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management

Veronique Dudouet is a researcher at the Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management in Berlin, Germany. She will address the roles that rebel and insurgency movements play in the termination of armed conflicts and the building of a more peaceful and stable political and social order. Her presentation will draw on preliminary findings from an ongoing participatory action research project with members of various non-state groups around the globe.

Security First: US Priorities in Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

April 17, 2009 | Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, Ph.D., USA (Ret.), SU Visiting Professor of Strategy & Military Operations

Five Critical Steps for Improving Postconflict Operations

March 2, 2009 | Dr. Karin von Hippel, Co-Director, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Lessons from the Post-9/11 Campaigns

Hearts_and_MindsBy Octavian Manea

(Re-Published from Small Wars Journal, April 8, 2014) SWJ discussion with Gen. John R. Allen, US Marine Corps (Ret.), a Distinguished Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution, working within the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Prior to joining Brookings, Allen commanded the NATO International Security Assistance Force and US Forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 to February 2013.

SWJ: In the past, the US military trained for high-end maneuver warfare and intensive firepower—historical key ingredients of the American way of war. Since 9/11 we’ve seen a totally different approach. What has changed, in your experience, in the nature and the character of war, in how you wage war?

Gen. Allen: War is fundamentally a human endeavor; the character of war may change, but not its nature. Conflict may be characterized by high intensity firepower and maneuver dominated operations and campaigns or we may find that the character of war is dominated by counterinsurgency operations, or even cyber operations. But the nature of war still continues to remain the same, a human endeavor. What was unique about Iraq and Afghanistan was what we undertook after the decisive phase of the campaign, because both of them were seen as part of a paradigm that emphasized the traditional application of the American way of war. In the aftermath of those campaigns we ultimately undertook the kind of capacity building and nation-building that would be necessary for that state to endure. We wanted to make sure that what emerged after the destruction of both central governments is something that we could live with. That required and caused us fundamentally to change the manner in which we conduct operations in both theaters.

SWJ: What are the core questions a military commander needs to answer and guide his decisions in a counterinsurgency battlefield?

Gen. Allen: I think there are three very large questions.

The first question when you are involved in any counterinsurgency is how do we marshal the right combination of our forces necessary to limit and shape the insurgency? Being involved in a counterinsurgency campaign would seem to indicate that the host nation at its core has limited or no capacity ultimately to address fundamental issues. So the foreign intervention has to be one that shapes the insurgency while you are doing the next thing which is extraordinarily important, building the capabilities and capacities of the indigenous force to take over from the foreign expeditionary force. Frankly, recognizing when this moment has come and orchestrating the rebalancing of the foreign forces, with moving the indigenous forces into the lead to take over operations is critically important. The commander needs to recognize that moment and be prepared to reshape and rebalance the foreign force from an essentially conventional unit into a force with strong advisory and support capabilities. This is a very significant undertaking.

So first is shape the insurgency, second is to move the host nation forces into the lead and the third is to build the kind of enduring capacities necessary within the institutions of the host state that permit, ultimately, for that nation to continue to deal with the insurgency and also to endure over the long term as a viable political entity. All three of those things have to occur in a counterinsurgency campaign. How do I keep insurgency from winning, how do I get the indigenous security forces into the fight so they become a credible solution to the problem and how do we shape and build endurance in the national institutions so they can bring an end to the insurgency at the political and economic level supported by its own credible and capable security forces and has a hope of enduring beyond the departure of the foreign forces.

One of the challenges with foreign interventions and insurgencies, especially in the kind of interventions where we are investing a lot in capacity-building, is ensuring we are building or developing capacities that are culturally, socially, economically feasible to endure over the long term.  One of the things that I told to my staff, very early on when I have arrived in Afghanistan was that I didn’t want any more big ideas.  As I conveyed to my leadership, I wanted to stop trying remake Afghan institutions into Western institutions. Afghanistan, Iraq, El Salvador, Colombia each of those countries has a unique social environment, history, and faith – the combination of which over time shaped its institutions for governance and government. When we seek to create them in our own image we may well be creating a social dynamic that is unnatural. What I said to my staff was there would be no moratorium on good ideas. What I wanted was to have a good understanding of what works from the context of Afghan solutions. Stop trying to impose unique Western solutions to their unique Afghan problems and needs. Within their own capabilities, we needed to understand Afghan needs and requirements and invest in giving them the capacity to solve their problems or invest in their own capability to build capacities. But if we impose a Western solution and then provide insufficient or no sustainment we can’t expect anything other than collapse of those capabilities once we leave …

To read the full article, click here.

Octavian Manea is pursuing, as a Fulbright student, an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on global security and post-conflict reconstruction at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

Reflections on the Continuities in War & Warfare

End_of_WarBy Octavian Manea

(Re-Published from Small Wars Journal, March 29, 2014) SWJ discussion with Maj. Gen. Herbert Raymond (H.R.) McMaster, commander of the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, GA.

SWJ: Sometimes history rhymes. There are a lot of parallels between the current situation and the context of the US in the mid 1970s, after the Vietnam War. Then, we were leaving behind a long conflict; we faced a draw down in defense capabilities, while returning to some small-footprint solutions (training and advising) in Central and South America. The domestic mood was one of uncertainty about the US role in the world. What are some of the big lessons of the Vietnam Era and post-Vietnam Era that we should keep in mind as we move forward post-Iraq and Afghanistan?

McMaster: There are important first order lessons from Vietnam, ones that are consistent with the study of war broadly across time and war under different conditions and periods. The first lesson associated with Vietnam is that war is in fact an extension of politics and in any war military operations have to be conducted in such a way that they contribute to sustainable political outcomes consistent with vital interests that are at stake in that war. To consolidate military gains politically, the military effort has to be integrated with all elements of national power. The failure to do so was of course one of the biggest problems in Vietnam.

Another important lesson from Vietnam is that it is critical to consider the regional and global context of local conflicts. Many of the situations in which we will find ourselves in war demand both internal solutions (security, economic, social, political) and external solutions such as getting neighbors and others to either reinforce the resolution of the conflict or to at least to not undermine it.

Another lesson from Vietnam is that wars are profoundly human endeavors. That means we need to pay particular attention to the drivers of conflict, including local dynamics as well as regional factors, and understand that cultural, ethnic, tribal, and religious factors can affect the course of war and its outcome in a profound manner. Therefore, defense concepts must take into consideration the social, economic and historical factors that constitute the human dimension of war.  We often neglect those factors.

SWJ: Technology and rational choice were key features of “the graduated pressure approach” implemented by the US during the Vietnam War. Why didn’t it work?

McMaster: It didn’t work because it was based on a definition of the war as we wanted the war to be and it was inconsistent with the real character of the conflict in Vietnam. It was based on not only a misunderstanding of that particular conflict, but also cut against the enduring nature of war—war as an extension to politics, war as profoundly human, and war as inherently uncertain due to continuous interaction with the enemy and other destabilizing factors that makes the future course of events uncertain. Graduated pressure took a sort of systems engineering and predictive approach to war. It didn’t take into account the essential cultural and historical factors that influence the future course of war. It was based essentially on the explicit assumptions that the Ho Chi Min and the Vietnamese Communists would respond to bombing attacks and other forms of pressure on the North similar to the way the rational man in English Common Law would respond. Graduated pressure was based on the assumption that applying just enough military force would signal American resolve and persuade the enemy to alter his behavior by changing his calculation of interests. It was a narcissistic approach to war. It defined the war as certain people would like the war to be and it didn’t give agency to the enemy in Vietnam.

SWJ: Are we at risk of pivoting too sharply towards an RMA-like, force-on-force construct?

McMaster: There is a danger that we will return to the orthodoxy of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) that dominated defense thinking in the 1990s. The RMA neglected continuities in warfare and focused on only one factor that affects the character of war, which is technological change. If we regard the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as aberrational, we risk failing to consider recent historical experience. In fact, these wars possess many continuities with past wars. We have to be careful that budget pressures do not push us toward simple solutions to the complex problems of future war. We should recognize that the orthodoxy of RMA. grew out of a fundamentally narcissistic approach to war and the associated belief that we could determine the future character of conflict mainly by developing technologies (advances in communications, in information collection capabilities, precision munitions, robotics) that would allow us to achieve military dominance mainly through the application of firepower onto land from the aerospace and maritime domains. We must be careful not to neglect the fundamental nature of war, as a profoundly human and political endeavor that is inherently uncertain.  In the end, people fight for many of the same reasons today as they did 2,500 years ago when Thucydides said people fight for three reasons: fear, honor and interest. I recommend Donald Kagan’s On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace, which is quite good on this particular point of why nations fight and the impact that has on the prospects for sustainable peace and how to understand the causes of wars …

To read the full article, click here.

Octavian Manea is pursuing, as a Fulbright student, an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on global security and post-conflict reconstruction at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

Video: US Policy in a Changing Middle East, with Tamara Cofman Wittes

Tamara Cofman Wittes is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Wittes served as US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating UDS policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East for the State Department. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as US Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East transitions. She was central to organizing the US government’s response to the Arab awakening.

Part of the Carol Becker Middle East Security Speaker Series.

Muslim State Armed Conflict & Compliance (MSACC) Dataset: 1947-2014

Most of the world’s humanitarian aid goes to Muslim-majority communities, whether in the form of security support, development aid, or NGO assistance. But policymakers and the public at large do not fully understand conflict dynamics in the Muslim world.

Experts, likewise, have little knowledge about how Muslim governments use international legal norms to navigate conflict and postconflict challenges. To better inform and help shape US security and foreign policy, this project uses social science methods to analyze modern Muslim-majority state conflict behavior, to examine these states’ compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL), and to quantify the frequency of IHL language versus Shari’a versus in their constitutions.

List of OIC Countries

MSACC Datasets

Conflict Behavior

This extensive dataset details all conflicts in which a Muslim state—defined by its membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—was a party, from 1947-2014. It includes parties to the conflict, years of the conflict. The dataset is broken down by region and time period to allow for more detailed analysis.

View Conflict Behavior

Compliance with International Humanitarian Law

This dataset is a variation of the above MSACC Dataset: Conflict Behavior. It details all conflicts OIC Muslim states have been involved in between 1947 and 2014 and includes all violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) committed by each state party, if applicable. The purpose of this dataset is so that analysis based on compliance with IHL can accurately reflect each states’ participation in conflicts.

This analysis is based on the number of times a state was involved in a conflict, whereas the MSACC Dataset: Conflict Behavior is based on the number of conflicts that actually occurred. For example, while the conflict between Algeria and Morocco between 1963 and 1964 only occurred once—and is counted once for MSACC Dataset: Conflict Behavior—for the Compliance with IHL dataset, the conflict is counted once under Algeria (to account for Algeria’s compliance with IHL in the conflict) and once under Morocco (to account for Morocco’s compliance with IHL in the conflict).

View Compliance with IHL

Muslim Constitutions & Sharia Density

In order to test possible explanations for OIC Muslim states’ conflict behaviors and compliance with IHL, this dataset gathers the constitutions-in-force of all the states and identified language consistent with Sharia law and International Human Rights Law, as exemplified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  The Sharia language in the constitutions was divided into six overarching categories, while the IHRL language followed the 30 articles of the UDHR.

View Muslim Constitutions & Sharia Density

Conflict Chart

This chart serves as the source of data for MSACC Dataset: Conflict Behavior and MSACC Dataset: Compliance with IHL. Included in the chart are the conflicts in which OIC states were belligerents, the party or non-state group OIC states fought against, a brief description of the conflict, and the violations of IHL that each state committed in the conflict, if applicable.

View the Conflict Chart


The Codebook accompanies the MSACC Dataset in its entirety, including MSACC Dataset: Conflict Behavior; MSACC Dataset: Compliance with IHL; MSACC Dataset: Muslim Constitutions and Sharia Density; and the MSACC Conflict Chart.  It seeks to explain the methodological and analytical choices made by the research team in compiling the datasets.

Read the Codebook

Findings & Research Questions

The MSACC Overview provides a brief summary of the main findings of all three datasets. The Research Questions describe the main orienting questions with which our dataset research has proceeded.