The Union Cavalry Raid That Inspired James Mattis
On April 17, 1863, a former music teacher with a fear of horses — he was kicked in the head by one as a child — set off with 1,700 Union soldiers, the scouts in Confederate uniforms, on a raid deep into Mississippi. The raid by Col. Benjamin Grierson... Read more
Podcast — The Case For Leaving Afghanistan
In case you missed it, Afghanistan is getting worse. After more than 15 years of warfare costing 4,200 American lives and no less than $700 billion, the United States can’t seem to quit Afghanistan. With no end in sight, no word on strategy from the White House, it might... Read more
Wow, Afghanistan Is Getting a Lot Worse
Militant attacks are escalating. Afghan military casualties are high. Deserters number in the thousands. Kabul’s coffers are depleted. American officials are cowering in their fortified compounds. That’s the dark picture that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — the U.S. government’s watchdog agency for the Afghanistan war —... Read more
Will Donald Trump Privatize the Afghanistan War?
Is the Trump administration going to hand over U.S. peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan to private mercenaries? This is now the big question in national security policy circles. It follows last week’s The New York Times report that Erik Prince, the founder of private security firm Blackwater, and Stephen Feinberg, the... Read more
Precision Warfare? Don’t Make Me Laugh
You remember. It was supposed to be 21st-century war, American-style — precise beyond imagining; smart bombs; drones capable of taking out a carefully identified and tracked human being just about anywhere on earth; special operations raids so pinpoint-accurate that they would represent a triumph of modern military science. Everything... Read more
In Afghanistan, U.S. Senators Mull Troop Boost, Aerial Bombing … and Peace
“Not one of us would say that we are on a course to success in Afghanistan,” U.S. senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, told a room full of journalists, U.S. soldiers and diplomatic staff in Kabul on July 4, 2017. McCain was accompanied by Senators Lindsey Graham, Sheldon Whitehouse,... Read more
The Folly of the Next Afghanistan ‘Surge’
We walked in a single file. Not because it was tactically sound. It wasn’t—at least according to standard infantry doctrine. Patrolling southern Afghanistan in column formation limited maneuverability, made it difficult to mass fire, and exposed us to enfilading machine-gun bursts. Still, in 2011, in the Pashmul district of... Read more
The Taliban’s Plot to Assassinate the UAE’s Ambassador Relied on an Inside Man
Before anything else, Sayeed Mahboob Agha was a cook. He had been one for nearly three decades, and for a time served dutifully to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Agha’s most significant contribution to the jihad waged by the Taliban was to ensure that... Read more
Blood Runs in Nangarhar
An Afghan soldier reportedly killed three U.S. troops — and injured another American and an Afghan — in a so-called “insider attack” in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on June 10, 2017. “Two foreign soldiers have been killed in an attack on Saturday,” Attaullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar,... Read more
The United States Is Making the Soviet Union’s Mistakes
Jump into your time machine and let me transport you back to another age. It’s May 2001 and the Atlantic Monthly has just arrived in the mail. I’m tantalized by the cover article. “Russia is finished,” the magazine announces. The subtitle minces no words: “The unstoppable descent into social... Read more
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