Rapid Fire
24 Feb 2015|

Sgt. Joshua Smith, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, chats with an Afghan boy during an Afghan-led clearing operation April 28, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. The soldier studied the Pashtun language prior to his deployment to southern Ghazni. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)This week’s update features Afghanistan, dishonesty in the US Army, Land 400, the PLA’s war-gaming technology, Houthi rebels, and women in combat.

Over on Small Wars Journal, the ADF’s Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Smith released a paper this week analysing the effectiveness of the Australian military’s relationships with other government agencies during Australia’s participation in small wars, HADR and stabilisation operations over the past 15 years. Smith commends the ADF on its ability to commit to a whole-of-government approach that has shown both learning and sophistication.

Small Wars Journal also recently interviewed Carter Malkasian on lessons learned from US counterinsurgency in Garmser district of Helmand province in Afghanistan. Looking back on the COIN mission from 2007 to 2010, he says ‘I worry that we became too enamored with the idea that we had to fix the whole country’ and elsewhere ‘I suggest prioritizing effort toward those governance and development issues that most directly affect security and violence.’ Poignant words, in light of events that unfolded after the US withdrawal from Iraq.

During his recent visit to Australia, NATO Military Committee Chairman, General Knud Bartels, praised the continued Australian military presence in Afghanistan as a positive and necessary thing. With over 400 ADF personnel still deployed in the country, General Bartels remains optimistic on future security and stability in Afghanistan and hopeful on Australia’s continued presence.

In other news, a report by the US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute details the legacy of dishonesty in that service. The report implicates ‘a culture that demands more from the profession’s members than is possible’ that leads to its officers becoming ‘ethically numb’. This could have further implications for the Australian Army if similar ‘ethical fading’  is seen here.

The government shakeup here in December and changeover in Minister for Defence last year meant a delay in the release of the industry-anticipated Land 400 Request for Tender (RfT), resulting in frustration and speculation. The RfT, which was eventually released on 19 February, is the first tranche of the ADF’s biggest land systems acquisition program and is currently set to cost more than AUD$10 billion. Further ASPI discussion on the Land 400 project can be found here.

Turning to the Asia Pacific, Dean Chang over on War on the Rocks has delved into the People’s Liberation Army’s movements in its war-gaming technology. The recent leaps in modernisation of strategic culture indicate that, despite recent claims of corruption and organisational failure, perhaps we should be paying more attention to the PLA.

Travelling further east, pro-Iran, Shiite-led militias battling IS in Iraq could be undermining US attempts to strengthen the Iraq government. Michael Knights from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy speculates that future efforts to reunite a post-IS Iraq could be frustrated by the militias’ growing influence.

Also on IS, New Zealand’s defence chief is making an appearance in Saudi Arabia during Coalition talks on the battle against the organisation. NZ isn’t yet involved in the fight but is using this as an opportunity to ‘receive updates’ on the situation. Prime Minister John Key announced in a press conference Monday that he will be announcing Parliament’s decision to involve NZ troops today. Key stressed during the press conference that if any action is taken in Iraq it will be only to train Iraqi forces. The issue is reported to have split Parliament, with even Key supporters opposing the idea.

The US has begun its plans to train 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against IS. So far 1,200 Syrians have been screened and approved for training as the US$500 million operation gets underway. Critics of the plan have been quick to draw analogies with the US training of the mujahidin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

A UNSC meeting on 15 February resulted in a unanimous resolution demanding Houthi rebels in Yemen ‘immediately and unconditionally’ withdraw from government institutions they occupied in September last year. The resolution indicates a united front against the Houthis but does not act under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, failing to authorise military intervention. That’s in spite of growing concern about violence that’s resulted in several countries shutting down embassies in the country.

On the African continent, Italy has begun discussions over intervention in Libya under a UN mandate after advising Italians to leave the country. France and Egypt have also joined the discussion, calling for a UNSC resolution to lift the artillery ban to enable the ‘legitimate government’ to defend itself and reclaim Tripoli. This comes as a NATO official stipulated last week that despite escalations they aren’t considering another intervention in Libya.

Is the Marine Corps setting women up to fail in combat roles? Retired US Army Colonel Ellen Haring argues that, rather than recruiting and integrating women, the Marines have been searching for a justification to keep women out. The US military is required to open all combat roles to females by 2016 unless a suitable ground for exclusion is found. For a look at the USMC position, here’s a recent article that gives an overview of its efforts to study integration of females into ground combat units.

Sarah Hately is an intern at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Army.