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Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States

Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States

In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States.

Policy Roundtable: The Pros and Cons of Security Assistance

Policy Roundtable: The Pros and Cons of Security Assistance

For years, America has depended on partnering with countries to help combat terrorism and promote regional stability. We gathered together a group of experts to weigh in on security assistance and its pros and cons.

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1. Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap

By Jason Fritz   In the years since the United States deployed massive amounts of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in the early to late 2000s, it has changed tactics, relying upon local security forces to fight its enemies abroad in order to avoid the costs of large-scale military commitments. The United States provides security assistance on every continent except Antarctica, and to every country in the bottom quartile of fragile states, except for Eritrea and Syria.[1] Support to these local forces takes many forms, from simple train-and-equip missions, to acting in an advisory role, to training and educating foreign armies, to institutional and ministerial reform. The U.S. government has invested heavily in building the military capacity of fragile states because it is much cheaper to support developing militaries than it is for the United States to stabilize these countries itself. Yet, these efforts have produced mixed results at best. Mara Karlin, in her excellent new book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, proposes to explain under what conditions efforts to build partner capacity succeed and fail when the United States is attempting to stabilize a fragile state undergoing civil conflict — specifically, conflict that challenges the government’s monopoly on the use of force. Offering an elegant and parsimonious model, Karlin argues that there are two overarching variables that help a partner military achieve sustainable control over the state: the nature of U.S. involvement and the external threat environment. The former is determined by how the United States organizes the foreign military (for internal or external defense), the U.S. role in selecting key partner military leaders, and the ability of the United States to limit its involvement to assistance only and not become a party to the conflict. The external threat environment describes the role of external actors in the conflict. According to Karlin’s model, building a partner’s military capacity is more likely to be successful — measured as the partner’s monopoly of force within its borders — when American involvement is greater and the role of antagonistic external actors is decreased. Thus, when U.S. involvement is low and external antagonism is high, building partner capacity is expected to be a complete failure. The remaining two combinations lead to two different varieties of partial failure: When there is limited antagonistic influence but U.S. efforts are not fully engaged, insufficient progress is made toward securing a monopoly of force for the local government. Conversely, heavy U.S. involvement alongside significant external antagonism result in a spoiler effect where both actors — the United States and and the external antagonistic actor — cancel out the effect of the other. Karlin draws her empirical evidence from a number of historical case studies, relying on unique archival research and interviews. The exemplar case of building partner capacity is Greece in the late 1940s, an intervention in which U.S. military officers wielded great power over the personnel decisions and force structuring in the Greek military as a condition of assistance. Coupled with limited external support for the communist rebels, the U.S. assistance was extremely effective in defeating the insurgency. Alternatively, complete failure in such efforts is exemplified by U.S. intervention in South Vietnam in the late 1950s. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem refused to allow American interference in military leadership decisions. Instead, his paranoia led him to only appoint officers whose personal loyalty to him was unquestionable. American advisors continued to structure, equip, and train the South Vietnamese military to face external threats, while the insurgency — increasingly backed by North Vietnam — surged to unmanageable levels of capability. The assistance mission was a disaster, leading the United States to become more and more involved with direct military action, the consequences of which need no further discussion here. Karlin illustrates her model’s predictions of partial failure by examining two assistance programs in Lebanon. The first example was during Lebanon’s civil war in the early 1980s, when the United States was significantly involved in leadership decisions and force structuring in the country but was ultimately defeated by the destabilizing effects of proxy forces supported by Israel, Iran, and Syria. In this case, antagonistic external actors were able to overcome American attempts to improve the Lebanese military. The second example is from the subsequent U.S. efforts in the late 2000s after the withdrawal of the Syrian military from Lebanon. In this example, there were fewer outside actors pushing against U.S. efforts, but America failed to affect leadership decisions in the Lebanese military, which was unable to gain or maintain control over all of the state’s territory. Karlin’s model is not meant to apply to cases where the United States is a direct co-combatant in a civil conflict. As she notes, these are rare events, most notably Vietnam (post-1961), Afghanistan (post-2001), and Iraq (post-2003). Karlin explains, “the nature of U.S. programs to strengthen militaries during a massive occupation is harder to disentangle given the numerous other variables that exist.”[2] Nor is her model meant to apply to assistance that is focused on external defense. The measure of success in Karlin’s model is the ability to control the state’s territory, an outcome which does not apply in cases of state-on-state conflict. How Much Involvement Is Enough, and for Whom? In addition to the great explanatory power that Karlin’s two-dimensional model provides and the key questions she raises for any policymaker considering embarking on a partner capacity mission, her study provides a great starting point for a suite of additional studies, including exploring how much assistance is enough and how the recipient country’s legitimacy affects U.S. effectiveness. First, given that assistance recipients are often concerned about how much U.S. involvement to accept, it would be invaluable to explore how much U.S. involvement is enough — and no more. There is ample research on the reticence of countries receiving U.S. assistance in appearing to be clients of the American hegemon,[3] a point made by each of the reviewers below. A government seen as too cozy with the United States could easily be viewed as not legitimate by its people, endangering its ability to expand and maintain control over the entirety of the state. Understanding the effective limits of U.S. involvement — and how much antagonistic external meddling can be tolerated — is also important to the United States as it would help frame the challenges for individual assistance programs and create expectations about costs for decision-makers, Congress, and the public. It is also important to set expectations with partner governments so they can gauge how much involvement to expect, which, if communicated well, could limit accusations of clientelism to a foreign power. A second potential path for future research is the addition of a third dimension to Karlin’s model, also discussed by Walter Ladwig below: the recipient government’s legitimacy. While measuring legitimacy remains a squishy endeavor, the reality is that some governments cannot be helped regardless of how much involvement the United States may offer or how little outside assistance insurgencies receive. Autocratic regimes that undertake coup-proofing measures with their military will not accept American influence on leadership decisions no matter what the United States does: the weakness of their military is essential in maintaining their rule. Karlin’s case study in South Vietnam illustrates just this; however, Karlin identified the American advisors as the explanatory variable, not the very nature of Diem’s rule, which precluded any serious U.S. involvement. Moreover, in fragile states the government is often created by divvying public goods among warlords or other powerful elites, who would otherwise be in conflict with one another, in order to create a coalition.[4] Such coalitions are sensitive to changes in the power dynamics resulting from U.S. involvement. Replacing key military leaders may make the military a more capable force, but it degrades the political power structures that undergird the existence of the government. Assistance in this case is doomed to fail, as is the case in Afghanistan. And while some governments may or may not engage in coup-proofing or in efforts to maintain shaky political coalitions, their actions nevertheless prevent them from building legitimacy despite U.S. involvement in leadership decisions and force structuring. Such actions typically entail political exclusion or repression, both of which were on display in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Instances where the recipient government seeking stability may be a major source of fragility warrant the inclusion of a third dimension that considers the nature and actions of the recipient government. The Unlikelihood of Success Karlin, an exceptional academic who was also a senior official in the Department of Defense, examines security assistance deftly, with the rigor of a scholar and the practicality of a practitioner. The three reviewers in this roundtable — Walter Ladwig, Tommy Ross, and Loren DeJonge Shulman — each express agreement with Karlin’s model, but remain skeptical in the entire endeavor of building partner militaries. They focus on different points of failure for these missions, but think policymakers would be well served if America’s leaders in the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom analyzed each case according to the questions posed in Karlin’s conclusion. However, if policymakers were to rigorously analyze each mission as Karlin suggests, the reviewers are skeptical that U.S. partners would be up to the task, that the U.S. government is organized to build partner militaries, or that exogenous forces can be adequately deterred. In any of these cases, they expect the United States to be more likely to fail in these missions than not. Ladwig focuses his review on the recipient government and its propensity to accept outside involvement. He cites a number of studies that identify the partner government itself as the greatest obstacle to achieving state control and subsequent stability. Ladwig identifies that the country offering assistance and the recipient governments may have differing objectives that preclude the unity of effort necessary for deep outside involvement. Additionally, Ladwig points out that because assistance is an inherently political act, it may upset the political coalitions of the state, using the second Lebanon case as an example. Ultimately, Ladwig argues that although Karlin’s book is an excellent start, additional dimensions should also be explored when considering what makes for a successful foray into building partner capacity. Ross and DeJonge Schulman both acknowledge that building partner capacity has become America’s default response to fragile states, largely because it is cheaper than direct combat involvement. However, they also question whether the U.S. government is organized to conduct such assistance operations effectively. Ross notes that within the military, foreign assistance is marginalized — the U.S. government has invested little to create the capacity to conduct partner capacity missions at a scale commensurate with demand. Similarly, DeJonge Schulman doubts the ability of policymakers to fully analyze any specific mission adequately, per Karlin’s conclusion, in an environment where the operational tempo often precludes obtaining a rigorous understanding of the political conditions in the country in question. Furthermore, she is concerned about the existence of expertise at the country level, something that is necessary in order for the United States to make deep involvement effective (a point also made by Ross). Finally, Ross focuses in on the role of external actors more deeply. In his analysis, Karlin’s model treats antagonistic external actors as exogenous to the internal conflict and U.S. influence. This is undoubtedly for the sake of parsimony. But Ross argues that U.S. actions can both limit and inspire external actions, a point that is underexplored in Karlin’s model and case analysis. He notes that the United States has “an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country” and that U.S. planners may not be aware of the few tools that do exist. Ross ultimately proposes this as an additional area of exploration in future research. Each of the reviewers acknowledges that assistance to foreign militaries has been a key aspect of U.S. security efforts in fragile states for nearly 20 years, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. And yet, the United States has not had a great record in using that assistance to create stability in states of great strategic interest, particularly in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Karlin’s book provides a practical analytical path to predict the success of such assistance efforts. While scholars can enjoy the elegant model she presents and the lines of research the model uncovers, policymakers would be well advised to read and abide by the principles she lays out.   Jason Fritz is a senior research analyst and project manager in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, a senior editor at War on the Rocks, and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Academic Programs.  

2. The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States

By Walter C. Ladwig III   Reflecting the change in U.S. security strategy from direct intervention in internal conflicts to working “by, with, and through” local partners to manage internal security challenges, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the academic literature on security force assistance. Mara Karlin’s recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, makes a significant contribution to this growing field of study, as well as our understanding of the conditions necessary for American military assistance programs to achieve their objectives. Specifically, the book seeks to understand when, why, and under what circumstances U.S. programs to strengthen partner militaries for internal defense have succeeded. Both during the Cold War and today, military assistance has been a key tool in America’s diplomatic tool kit, yet as Karlin notes, “the U.S. track record for building militaries in fragile state is uneven at best.”[5] What accounts for this outcome? Blending a scholar’s detachment with the real-world insights of a senior Pentagon official, Karlin concludes that the limited impact of most security assistance programs is the result of a failure to properly conceive of the true scope of the undertaking. All too often, the task of strengthening a partner’s military is seen as a narrow technical undertaking focused on the provision of equipment and training. When these efforts fail to achieve the desired results, the answer is to simply provide more equipment and more training. Instead, Building Militaries in Fragile States contends that training and equipment on their own will only contribute marginally to military effectiveness if the armed forces receiving assistance suffer from poor organization and dysfunctional leadership. Consequently, Karlin argues that efforts to transform the recipient military, rather than simply supplying it with material and instruction, are the hallmark of efficacious security assistance missions. Success in this endeavor will be determined by the actions taken by the United States as well as by those of external powers that seek to destabilize the fragile state. In particular, efforts to strengthen the militaries of fragile states will succeed in achieving a monopoly on violence within the country’s borders when the following conditions are met: 1) American officials involve themselves in the partner’s “sensitive military matters,” such as the appointment of senior personnel and the organizational structure of the armed forces; and 2) The efforts of hostile external powers to bolster insurgents or undermine the fragile state are deterred or moderated. Conversely, when the United States shies away from trying to influence a state’s higher-level defense policies and antagonistic external actors run rampant, security assistance missions are poised for catastrophic failure. Karlin tests the explanatory power of this two-variable formulation by examining four case studies: U.S. involvement in the Greek Civil War (1947–1949); assistance to the armed forces of South Vietnam between 1956 and 1960; and two distinct efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army, from 1982 to 1984 (Lebanon I) and again from 2005 to 2009 (Lebanon II). She utilizes extensive archival research and copious interviews with senior policymakers to provide an impressive depth of insight into American efforts in each of the cases. In the most successful of the four assistance efforts examined in Karlin’s book, the Joint U.S. Military Assistance and Planning Group under Gen. James Van Fleet exercised considerable influence over the personnel policy and structure of the Greek armed forces. This occurred alongside internecine struggles in the communist world that led Yugoslavia to cut off support for the Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας) and deny their guerrillas sanctuary. The end result was a Greek military that was highly capable of carrying out the foreign internal defense mission and wielded uncontested sovereignty throughout the country’s territory. Vietnam sits at the opposite end of the spectrum where the U.S. Military Assistance Group under Gen. Samuel “Hanging Sam” Williams steadfastly focused on the technical aspects of rendering assistance to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and purposely avoided attempts to influence personnel policy or organizational structures of the South Vietnamese military. Moreover, a misplaced focus on preparing South Vietnam’s army for interstate warfare did little to develop its capacity to respond to North Vietnam’s increasing support for armed guerrillas in the south. The failure of this early security assistance effort set the stage for the subsequent U.S. intervention to bolster a succession of fledgling governments in Saigon. The two cases out of Lebanon demonstrate partial failures, with American efforts to reform the local armed forces countered by external support for opposition armed groups in one case (Lebanon I), and America’s failure to capitalize on the diminishing role of antagonistic external actors by intrusively intervening in the sensitive military affairs of the country generating sub-optimal results in the other (Lebanon II). Not all Countries Are Interested in Cooperation The real strength of Karlin’s contribution is in advancing an analytical framework that focuses on the agency and the actions of the supporting and opposing external powers. In this manner, politics takes center stage in determining the efficacy of security assistance efforts, rather than more mundane technical aspects of the undertaking. Karlin makes a convincing case that American policymakers tend to err by viewing the task of building partner militaries narrowly through the lens of training and equipping the forces, rather than engaging with broader questions of organizational structure and leadership that are so critical to enhancing military effectiveness.[6] In calling for security assistance efforts to be conceived more broadly, Building Militaries in Fragile States makes an important argument. At the same time, however, in privileging the politics and agency of external actors this approach neglects those same factors when it comes to the local partner. Although governments of weak states are sometimes portrayed as being puppets or pawns of major powers, they often prove to be savvy and strategic political actors who can, at times, succeed in advancing their own interests at the expense of their more powerful partners. Consequently, the mere willingness on the part of the United States to involve itself in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs is only part of the issue. The local partner’s willingness to allow such an intrusion and to accept American guidance is just as important, if not more so. The history of U.S. efforts to train and equip foreign militaries suggests that such compliance cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, there is a strand of literature dating back to the 1970s that identifies America’s partner governments as the principal obstacle to developing local militaries for internal security missions.[7] Although willing to accept U.S. military aid and training, local governments can be resistant to undertaking the kinds of transformational re-organizations that would improve military effectiveness, in part, because they often mistrust their own military. Governments that do not exercise a monopoly on violence within their territory and need significant external assistance to build military capacity typically suffer from a myriad of problems, like economic stagnation, incompetence, lack of legitimacy, abusive treatment of the population, or all of the above. The particular terrorist or insurgent group motivating U.S. involvement in a country’s internal security may be just one potential threat to the local regime’s hold on power, with additional challenges posed by rival elites or even the armed forces themselves. These different threat perceptions can lead the United States and a partner government to have different policy priorities, which can, in turn, undermine the effectiveness of U.S. security assistance. Consequently, advice to streamline the military chain of command or to appoint senior leaders on the basis of ability rather than political allegiance makes sense in terms of improving military effectiveness, but such actions can also appear reckless, if not downright suicidal, to the government in question. Instead, savvy leaders will ensure that the military is too divided to mount a coup, employ patronage to buy off rival elites, and centralize power in the hands of trusted loyalists, all of which is likely to diminish military effectiveness.[8] The potential for divergent preferences is amply illustrated in Karlin’s “Lebanon II” case, where the United States wanted the Lebanese government to be able to exert control over all of its territory, but the administration in Beirut prioritized maintaining its modus vivendi with Hezbollah over exercising complete sovereignty. When attempting to build military capacity in a fragile state, how likely is it that Washington’s preferences and those of a partner government will diverge? Available evidence suggests this will be a fairly common occurrence. As Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker have noted, many of the largest recipients of U.S. security assistance, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, are plagued by corruption, dalliances with terrorist groups, or gross human rights abuses, while other U.S. partners are among the most significant sources of foreign fighters for the so-called Islamic State.[9] Barbara Elias’ study of the demands the United States made to the Iraqi and Afghan governments it was supporting in counterinsurgency efforts found that 50 percent of American requests for military reforms in Iraq went unfulfilled and that the Afghan government’s compliance rate with U.S. suggestions regarding its military strategy was below 25 percent.[10] Indeed, in these two cases local partners pursued domestic policies that subverted U.S. security objectives. An inability to restrain Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian agenda, for example, prevented the military gains from the 2007 surge from being translated into positive political outcomes and laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s use of patronage politics was seen as a form of corruption, undercutting public support for the very government that U.S. and NATO forces were trying to assist. As commander of the U.S. military advisory group, Gen. Van Fleet was clearly right to push the Greek government to cashier ineffective senior officers, restructure its armed forces, and adjust its military doctrines. It is less clear, however, that the United States will often find a government as receptive as the Greeks were to their patron’s interventions. Not only did Van Fleet forge a close working relationship with his counterparts, as Karlin recounts, “the Greek government sought to wholly cooperate with the Americans.”[11] It goes far beyond the remit of Karlin’s book to determine why the Greek government was so willing to countenance American intrusion in sensitive military affairs, however, perceptions of the communist insurgency as the primary threat to the regime, coupled with a trust in the loyalty of the armed forces and unity among Greek elites would seem to be likely explanations. In any event, the situation was far different in South Vietnam where — despite the worsening internal security situation — the Diem government took active steps to limit the effectiveness of the army and ensured that the primary target of the intelligence services was not the growing insurgency, but rather non-communist political dissidents. Why? Because the army and political rivals were seen to be as great a threat to South Vietnam’s government as the Viet Cong. Even if Gen. Williams and his group of military advisors had wished to involve themselves in South Vietnam’s sensitive military affairs, would a government that had tightly centralized control over all aspects of defense, security, and economic policy in the office of the president readily welcome the council of American interlocutors? The rich historical detail in the Vietnam case study suggests that Ngo Dinh Diem would have exerted significant energy to thwart such efforts, as he did in fact do in the early 1960s.[12] It may be the case that some future American partners will be as welcoming as the Greeks, however, the history of U.S. security assistance efforts in Vietnam and Lebanon reviewed in this book should disabuse anyone of the expectation that unconditional cooperation will be the norm. Questions About U.S. Partners In the conclusion, Karlin outlines eight questions a policymaker should consider before initiating an effort to strengthen the military of a fragile state. Pondering these issues before commencing any security assistance mission will indeed help ensure that such an undertaking takes account of broader political military matters affecting military effectiveness, rather than concentrating narrowly on training and equipping foreign forces. The majority of these questions, however, focus on either the U.S. government or the antagonistic external actor. As the preceding discussion indicates, it is necessary to subject the local partner to the same type of scrutiny. What does the partner government see as its primary security threat? Does it trust the armed forces or see them as a potential rival? Is enhancing the military’s effectiveness a key goal for the local regime? Will American involvement in sensitive military affairs be welcomed or resisted? If the answers to these questions point to significant divergences in priorities or preferences between the United States and a partner, should the United States attempt to compel changes in the local government’s behavior through rewards or punishments or should it simply walk away? The answer to this latter question will vary from situation to situation, nevertheless, policymakers should give it real consideration before rendering security assistance to a fragile state. That such issues go beyond Karlin’s analytical framework is not a critique of Building Militaries in Fragile States, but rather an indication of the multi-dimensional challenges posed by security force assistance. Building effective military organizations can be difficult enough in one’s own state. These challenges are only compounded when seeking to enhance the effectiveness of another country’s armed forces. Mara Karlin makes an extremely valuable contribution to the growing literature on security force assistance by articulating a two-dimensional framework that can help assess when an effort to build a partner’s military is likely to be successful. Well written, deeply researched, and incorporating the perspectives of both a scholar and a practitioner, Building Militaries in Fragile States should be widely read by those in the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and on Capitol Hill who fund, execute, and oversee America’s extensive military assistance programs.   Walter C. Ladwig III is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge University Press, 2017).  

3. To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries

By Loren DeJonge Schulman   The movie Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler, contains a scene that has been turned into countless memes with various subtitles. In the original, Hitler learns that the defeat of Germany is imminent and explodes at his senior generals. My favorite meme is titled, “Hitler Learns About Sequestration”: The madman is informed of the imminence of the enormous budget cut and laments the loss of military superiority, crying “What are we going to do, build partner capacity?”[13] In her recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, Mara Karlin explores America’s history with capacity building missions and considers how it fits a world of limited defense resources. In the eyes of policymakers I have worked with, efforts to build partner capacity lie somewhere between a magical antidote to all of America’s security problems and an inevitable — and less expensive — back-up date. Respected leaders have hailed building the security capacity of U.S. allies and partners as “a key and enduring test of America’s global leadership in the 21st century,”[14] consistent with its history and ideological underpinnings. Put more bluntly, Karlin notes up front that “[t]he United States faces a long-term decline in defense spending going forward” and “U.S. direct military intervention [to bolster fragile states] is politically unacceptable.” Thus, America needs a way to pursue its security interests on the cheap, and “building partner militaries is one key way to do so.”[15] Karlin goes on to make the case that the United States needs to learn from how it has pursued this form of security assistance in the past and examine what factors contribute to and take away from its mid-term success. Her takeaways are clear and approachable: “If the United States gets deeply involved in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs and if antagonist external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.[16] Her checklist of questions for policymakers to consider before they engage in such operations in the future are sensible and to the point: What is the purpose of the program, what is the potential for the United States holding influence over the partner military, and how unified is the U.S. vision of the program?[17] Policymakers reading Karlin’s book may feel reassured that this is the how-to guide for intelligently building partner militaries that they have been waiting for, and it is, no doubt, the best and simplest advice I have seen in the literature. Just Say "No" However, having spent many of the same years as Karlin in the Pentagon and Situation Room considering how to support partner militaries and how to establish a U.S. policy framework for doing so, I have an alternative takeaway from Karlin’s sophisticated research and analysis: Don’t do it. Don’t build partner military capacity in vulnerable states. Don’t even think about it unless you are willing to spend an immense amount of time directly involved in a foreign military’s most sensitive decisions. And don’t do it unless you are painfully honest about the goals of the program. However, if you must engage in such an effort, policymakers should lower their expectations substantially regarding the scope and timeframe that the U.S. program is expected to have. Karlin is candid about the high barriers to success in her recommended approach and explores in detail how the United States does not typically pursue capacity-building missions how it ought to: with leaders who are highly invested and who give the necessary time to establish deep involvement in the effort. She takes it as a given, however, that these programs will continue and, thus, should be radically altered or pursued with much less optimistic outlooks than in the past — a logical assessment. But having seen firsthand how policymakers initiate and oversee such programs, I have grown deeply skeptical that they can ever set themselves up for success. Rather than seeing it as a simple handbook, I would rather policymakers view Karlin’s research as a cautionary tale with a high price tag. Karlin’s lead finding is that programs that aim to build partner militaries in fragile states require that the United States get deeply involved in the partner’s sensitive military affairs — this includes who is appointed within the security apparatus, what those leaders do, how they organize, and more.[18] Intimate involvement, time commitment, deep and ongoing participation by the right senior U.S. personnel, these are all prerequisites to an effective program based on her analysis of the case studies. The cases themselves make for compelling storytelling and Karlin’s extensive personal experience in the policy field shines through in the nuances she identifies as critical learning points for her readers. The importance of persistent, intensive, and even intrusive participation by the United States in these programs is clear in each chapter. The problem is that such commitment is effectively what U.S. policymakers are hoping to avoid by pursuing such capacity-building programs. “Building partner capacity ... remains important. Whenever possible,” the 2012 Defense Strategy reads, “we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our strategy objectives.”[19] While policymakers are drawn to capacity-building missions as a way to avoid putting U.S. forces at risk, in my experience, they are also attracted to solutions that minimize their own intellectual and calendar resources. Put bluntly: Policymakers often like capacity building because it feels like a press release-worthy way to kick the “risk can” down the road without a lot of wrangling on their part. What Karlin proposes is not easily delegable by senior policymakers, diplomats, and service-members in the way that a standard train-and-equip program typically is. Nor would it be a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Such efforts, particularly if America were to engage in personnel management of the partner country, would regularly demand uncomfortable conversations and negotiations. That may be possible, but serious policymakers should ask themselves if such efforts are realistic or reasonable. U.S. security sector assistance programs are already hindered by inadequate investment in or distribution of relevant expertise. When such expertise is available, personnel rotations limit the necessary investment in in building relationships and intimate familiarity with the partner government that Karlin’s suggestions would require.[20] Recent reforms — such as the decades-late security force assistance brigades and the regionally aligned forces model introduced by the Army in 2013[21] — make a small dent in an overwhelming demand for expert personnel, yet they were strongly resisted by the institutional military. Under Karlin’s approach, leaders and forces with regional expertise would be under even higher demand because of the high level of sophistication needed to engage partner countries on all elements of their leadership, force structure, and operations. She acknowledges this approach is unsettling because it smacks of colonialism.[22] It also requires a partner country with the willingness to tolerate inevitable tensions in this relationship. Karlin writes that “healthy skepticism about the U.S. ability to do all these things is warranted.”[23] Yet, understanding what is required to produce a successful capacity-building mission is often at odds with how the United States goes about deciding to build partner militaries. While such programs have a thousand fathers and mothers, in my experience in government, they are often born out of a crisis in which the U.S. government feels under pressure to do something — anything — to assist or respond, but not overly commit or risk U.S. personnel. In such instances, U.S. senior policymakers expediting these decisions are not spending a lot of time trying to understand the scope of their overall commitment, the long-term costs, and the availability of the right personnel. Nor are they even designing long-term goals. Too often, deputies around the table in the Situation Room are clamoring to just announce some kind of program and show a transport plane offloading brigades and pallets to remind the partner of America’s love. Swimming Against the Tide Karlin is, of course, right that the U.S. government can and should do better. Her checklist of questions that senior policymakers must ask before initiating such a program is well aligned with the presidential policy directive on U.S. security sector assistance developed over many years (including by the author of this review) in the Obama administration.[24] In producing this document, many earnest wonks, such as myself, attempted to apply a systematic logic to initiating, overseeing, evaluating, and ending capacity-building programs — starting with understanding why, exactly, anyone would want to embark on one given the mixed track record. Karlin establishes the broad desired outcome of such missions as the partner state having a more enforced and sustainable monopoly on violence — a logical and sound proposal.[25] Realistically, although they do not always admit to it, policymakers consider several reasons for initiating such programs, from building capacity as Karlin proposes, to maintaining and strengthening U.S. access and influence, to enhancing U.S.-partner interoperability, to promoting partner support for U.S. interests.[26] Such objectives may align in implementing a capacity-building effort or may wildly diverge as time goes on. They may also contradict with the objectives of other national security institutions at the outset — typically, the Department of State seeks a long-term, placating effort while the Department of Defense drives a short-term, self-interested program. Policymakers may also lean too heavily on near-term objectives that suit urgent U.S. security interests. Or they may demand the kind of long-term attention that is rare in U.S. foreign policy contexts. While Karlin — and the drafters of the security assistance policy directive — are right to insist on unity of vision at the outset, it must be acknowledged that in practice that does not often happen in U.S. security sector assistance today.[27] Karlin closes her book by stating that there are times when it will not be possible to transform a partner’s security sector, and in such cases, the United States should either pursue train-and-equip programs while significantly lowering expectations or avoid such programs altogether.[28] This is necessary medicine. But the rhetoric around building partner capacity and the urgent need for more train-and-equip programs across the globe over the last two decades suggests this will not be an easy pill to swallow. While I am hopeful Karlin’s lessons on the real need for humility in any effort to transform another state will sink in, I recall the eagerness and desperation that surrounded initiating these programs and expanding them over the last two decades. Every year I served in government, the combatant commanders complained to the president or the secretary of defense that they needed to train-and-equip partners more and that the State Department was getting in the way.[29] Every month, a partner complained that U.S. efforts were too slow, too underwhelming, too unrelated to their security needs, too bureaucratic. Every year, the solution to these challenges was more, faster, and even more yet — rarely with a consideration of why and to what end. Few considered that there was a reason why the U.S. government built in hurdles to sharing weapons systems and tactical knowledge with other countries. I remain concerned that the United States will not lower its expectations and raise its standards for these capacity-building missions, but rather will drive an increasingly hectic pace. Karlin offers thoughtful ideas for future research that deserve attention, to which I would add two.[30] First, in her book she emphasizes the need for the United States to carefully and regularly consider under what conditions it might become a co-combatant with a partner military to address the original security challenge. Reading this book in light of U.S. operations in Yemen and Niger made me wonder: Where does one cross the line from typical assistance to co-combatancy?[31] U.S. advise and accompany missions surely come close. Put another way, what is the line between providing enablers — logistics, intelligence, fuel — and co-combatancy? And most importantly, does traditional American security assistance, often aimed at short-term U.S. security interests, in any way incentivize these steps toward co-combatancy? Secondly, it’s worth exploring whether some of the most desirable elements of building partner capacity — its relative low cost and small U.S. footprint — have lent themselves to a commensurate level of oversight at both the executive and legislative levels. Each branch has pursued more effective monitoring and evaluation efforts, though it’s yet unclear whether this has resulted in fundamental changes to these programs. The true test will be, to paraphrase my old boss Bob Gates, when, if ever, America stops a program due to low return on investment.[32] Building partner military capacity is, at its heart, an optimistic mission set, filled with the American can-do spirit that, with hard work, things can get markedly better. This optimism is well intended, but should be governed by experience. Karlin’s book provides those lessons and adds enormously to a literature on capacity building that is far too small, given the place of this mission in U.S. security strategy. With her personal experience, relatable storytelling, and blunt assessments, her study punches above its concise and readable weight in a way that is approachable to policymakers and vital to scholars.   Loren DeJonge Schulman is the deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. She held senior staff positions at the White House National Security Council and Department of Defense.  

4. When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen

By Tommy Ross   In September 2014, thousands of Houthi insurgents poured into the streets of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, winning a decisive victory over the Yemeni military they had fought for years in the country’s northern provinces. Up to that point, Yemen’s government and military had been challenged on two main fronts: by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the north and by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists to the east. As the Houthis swept through Sanaa, the United States government — the Yemeni military’s chief backer — saw its strategy against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s valued proxies and al Qaeda’s most effective offshoot crumble in the wreckage. Yemen’s collapse left the United States scrambling to pick up the pieces: Yemen represented a battleground against two threats — al Qaeda and Iran — that topped America’s list of national security priorities. Seeing few other options, the United States quickly cast its lot with a coalition of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, that were mounting a military campaign against the Houthis that is ongoing. In shifting its efforts from building the capacity of the Yemeni military to providing aid and operational support to the Saudi-led coalition, the United States remained engaged, but at a cost to both its objectives and its principles:[33] The coalition’s poor tactics and disregard for civilian lives have “exacerbated the terrible conditions of Yemen’s civil war, characterized as the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ in nearly 50 years.”[34] America had invested robustly in Yemen’s military leading up to its collapse: Yemen had become the leading recipient of the Defense Department’s “1206” counterterrorism capacity-building assistance program.[35] U.S. security assistance programs collectively spent over half a billion dollars to enhance Yemen’s military capacity in the five years (Fiscal Years 2010–2014) leading up to the Houthi victory.[36] The U.S. government had also pursued robust diplomatic engagement with Yemeni leaders to drive its national political dialogue and urge military restructuring, so much so that the U.S. ambassador during the period, Gerald Feierstein, was commonly referred to as “Sheikh Feierstein” in Yemeni political circles[37]. And the United States maintained a substantial military presence in Yemen, with over 100 troops based in the country to pursue counter-terrorism operations and train Yemeni forces.[38] On paper, the U.S. effort in Yemen seemed sound: It invested substantial capacity-building resources, sustained diplomatic attention to, and military engagement with, key Yemeni counterparts, maintained consistent effort over several years, and even sought to ground its approach in a whole-of-government strategy that designed military assistance in concert with civilian capacity-building and humanitarian aid initiatives.[39] And yet, the Yemeni military floundered, unable to make meaningful gains against al Qaeda before succumbing to the Houthi advance. So what went wrong? Building Militaries in Fragile States, the excellent new volume by Mara Karlin, offers an important analytical lens through which to view efforts like the U.S. military capacity-building initiative in Yemen, as well as a framework to help policymakers avoid similar outcomes in the future. It examines historical cases studies — in post-World War II Greece, 1950s South Vietnam, and two separate periods of engagement in Lebanon — to draw lessons about where U.S. assistance initiatives have failed, what elements have been vital ingredients of success, and what lessons may be most relevant to future initiatives. “When, why, and under what circumstances,” her book asks, “have U.S. efforts to build partner militaries for internal defense succeeded?”[40] The timeliness and relevance of such a book should be immediately apparent but, in an era of growing unilateralist sentiments and declining aid budgets, perhaps it deserves emphasizing. Even as U.S. national security strategies have shifted focus toward lofty ideas about prevailing in great-power competitions with China and Russia through the development of break-through technologies and the adoption of new ways of warfighting, the fact remains that partner military capacity-building is the go-to strategic option for confronting myriad national security threats around the world. Some form of capacity building occupies a central position in U.S. approaches to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region of Africa, and al Shabaab in Somalia, as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iranian proxies in Yemen. It is an essential element in the U.S. strategy in Ukraine, and plays an important role in countering Chinese aggression in the South China Sea region. In fact, it is hard to find a single going concern in the current U.S. security landscape in which capacity building does not feature prominently. And this picture represents a trend, not an aberration. As Karlin notes,
the United States will surely continue attempting to strengthen partner militaries. The increasingly decentralized international environment and America’s weakening global economic position coupled with the proliferation of fragile states and transnational threats will further ensure its reliance on this approach.[41]
And yet, despite America’s strategic dependence on capacity-building, there is scant evidence that it understands how to do it effectively. Numerous recent studies have highlighted the mixed track record of U.S. capacity-building initiatives, and many have underscored substantial gaps in the policies, doctrine, and best practices shaping these initiatives.[42] “The theory on strengthening partner militaries in weak states,” as Karlin puts it, “can best be described as an ‘undeveloped’ concept whose history is less positive than its vision.”[43] Karlin’s work makes a valuable contribution toward strengthening the underpinnings of this theory. She argues that two factors will most determine the success or failure of a capacity-building effort: “if the United States gets deeply involved in the partner state’s sensitive military affairs, and if antagonistic external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.”[44] Unquestionably, other variables — level of effort, duration and consistency, partner stability, program execution — will influence an initiative’s outcome, but Karlin’s two factors are indeed critical, and deserve closer scrutiny. The Politics of Building Military Capacity One of the more important insights of Karlin’s work is that building military capacity is fundamentally a political activity: “by emphasizing training and equipment and by distancing itself from key political issues,” the United States “wastes time, effort, and resources.”[45] In her view, the remedy is for America to become “deeply involved in the partner state military’s sensitive affairs — influencing personnel and organization.” One might conceive of this deep political engagement along two lines: exerting influence on individual partner decisions, such as those relating to personnel assignments, and exhorting or facilitating systemic reforms of the institutional processes, policies, and structures that organize a partner’s defense enterprise. Karlin’s strong emphasis is on the former, and she carefully documents how U.S. involvement in personnel decisions shaped the outcomes of interventions in Greece, South Vietnam, and Lebanon. For anyone who has observed the success of U.S. military initiatives fluctuate as top leaders in key roles have changed, her observation is intuitively compelling. Yet, a heavy-handed focus on personnel decisions brings risk. As Karlin herself acknowledges, “Such involvement is rife with colonial undertones,” adding that “Sovereign backlash and resentment on the part of the partner state over the intrusive U.S. role may be a challenge.”[46] Her account of the selection of Gen. Alexander Papagos to lead Greece’s military offers one such example, illustrated by his refusal to accept the job unless the United States committed to taking a diminished role in Greek affairs. Moreover, when the United States is overly involved in personnel decisions, a partner’s responsibility for and accountability to its own chain of command can be undermined, as top leaders risk being seen as U.S. puppets. These risks should not suggest that America avoid opining on personnel assignments, but its approach must be carefully calibrated based on the broader context of the relationship. Perhaps a more promising area for the kind of deep engagement Karlin advocates is institutional reform. As her study highlights, institutional reform played a key role in each case study she presents: The United States drove force restructuring, supported operational planning, provided professional military education, and built systemic logistics capacity as ways of building the capabilities of defense institutions to steer, support, and sustain military operations in the field. Bad decisions about how to approach institutional reforms were as consequential in South Vietnam and Lebanon as were good decisions in Greece. While Karlin often challenges the conceptual foundations and practical outcomes of security sector reform, her views on the importance of organizational considerations converge with lessons emerging from the community of practitioners over the last several years. Practitioners have increasingly recognized the importance of strong political institutions to the success of capacity-building. For example, the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness asserted that, for aid recipients, “The capacity to plan, manage, implement, and account for results of policies and programmes, is critical” to achieving aid objectives — a principle confirmed three years later in the Accra Agenda for Action.[47] The U.S. Department of Defense has embraced institutional capacity-building as a key element of its own capacity-building activities, at least in theory, in recently issued policy and doctrine.[48] Yet, while some progress has been made in expanding U.S. attention to strengthening institutions in practice, as a discipline, it remains at the margins of the government’s security sector capacity-building activities. Indeed, the failure to invest in strengthening institutions was a key contributor to the failure of broader capacity-building efforts in Yemen, an example that illustrates the distinction between influencing sensitive military decisions and driving institutional reform. Without question, the United States engaged on personnel issues, persistently advocating for the removal of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family members, who remained in key defense posts. However, while America welcomed institutional reform efforts to the military made by Saleh’s successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, it avoided providing any substantial technical support for those reforms. Moreover, the focus on ousting undesirable personnel crowded out necessary institutional reforms, such as addressing “retirement and rotation of generals, the ghost soldier issue [wherein personnel rosters were inflated with imaginary soldiers to facilitate corruption], and the balancing of units in terms of both size and equipment,” leaving Yemen’s military “a side-lined shell of an institution.”[49] When it comes to institutional capacity building and influencing partner decision making alike, the United States is unlikely to achieve successful outcomes through phone calls and fly-in meetings. Rather, as Karlin’s case studies demonstrate, boots on the ground are essential. A 400-person strong Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group oversaw engagement in Greece; in South Vietnam, a Military Assistance Advisory Group of nearly 350 personnel was augmented by a Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission of another 350 personnel; in Lebanon, over 100 military personnel were deployed in support of capacity-building efforts at their 1983 peak. The U.S. military conducted the mid-2000s effort in Lebanon, on the other hand, with only a small permanent detachment and without a dedicated senior officer overseeing the effort, leading to a limited effort with limited impact. This history underscores a key question: How should the United States organize and deploy personnel to guide high-priority capacity-building missions? Currently, outside of contingency environments, the U.S. approach is incoherent and insufficient. The military is neither structured nor paced to meet the demands of deep engagement with partner militaries. Among military services, only the U.S. Army has organized itself to maintain a meaningful contingent dedicated to capacity-building missions despite a consistent global demand. Other services meet requirements on an ad hoc basis with personnel who generally lack training for the mission. Even the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are poorly suited to address the institutional concerns Karlin prioritizes. They are composed of junior personnel with limited exposure to institutional processes, and are designed to carry out tactical-level, small unit training activities. Reconsidering how the military is structured to meet demands of high-stakes capacity-building efforts should be an urgent priority for the Defense Department. Military forces have been stretched in recent years by the demands of sustaining two contingency operations while downsizing, and services have sought to streamline their structures rather than take on what they view as new missions or responsibilities. Yet, as discussed above, the capacity-building mission is not new and it is not going away. Approaching this mission with ad hoc force-management decisions and insufficient training is a recipe for repeated failure. Mitigating the Effects of Outside Actors Karlin also postulates that the success of a capacity-building effort will depend on diminishing external influences, and makes a convincing argument about the importance of this variable in examining her four case studies. This is a point so intuitive as to be almost self-evident: Who could argue that the degree to which U.S. capacity-building efforts are successful will vary according to the degree to which other actors seek to impede them? And yet, it is a point routinely neglected in the planning and execution of capacity-building initiatives. It is tempting to regard the activity of external actors as a variable beyond America’s control. Indeed, Karlin’s case studies present little evidence of any actions by America that decreased outside influences, though in some instances U.S. actions may have provoked deeper third-party involvement. Yet, given the importance of this variable in shaping capacity-building outcomes, the United States can hardly afford to ignore it. No case better illustrates this imperative than Yemen, where America’s inability to mitigate the influence of third-party actors, including both allies and antagonists, has condemned capacity-building efforts to failure. Iran has been able to maintain steady support for its Houthi allies that has been robust enough to help them beat back the Yemeni military and withstand the onslaught of the Gulf coalition. Meanwhile, prior to the state’s collapse, the U.S. government was never able to effectively coordinate the efforts of other donors and stakeholders with similar objectives, particularly Saudi Arabia. That challenge has become even more acute as the Saudis have undertaken a sustained, and sometimes indiscriminate, military campaign with the help of U.S. equipment and logistical support. Unfortunately, Yemen looks more like the rule than the exception. The U.S. security assistance enterprise is poorly positioned to address the activities of third-party actors, for two reasons. First, it has historically neglected to invest in understanding the identities, motivations, and tactics of external actors. And second, it lacks sufficient tools to shape their behavior. Security assistance efforts, historically, have often been planned and executed without adequately assessing the context in which they are to be implemented, to their great detriment. As the Defense Department has recently begun to acknowledge, it is essential that capacity-building efforts begin with detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment, including a political economy analysis that identifies external influences and how they operate. Such analysis should not only assess potentially antagonistic influences, but also perceived allies. It is often the case that perceived allies can undermine a capacity-building effort through miscoordination and misunderstanding as much as an antagonist can through more nefarious means. Grounding capacity-building initiatives in detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment creates opportunities to build mitigation measures that address external influences into the initiative’s design. Such measures might range from donor coordination strategies to ensure actors with shared interests are on the same page, to concerted efforts to drive out antagonists. Identifying and addressing these concerns from an initiative’s inception will substantially improve its prospects for overcoming the challenges Karlin’s book identifies. A more challenging question is how to diminish antagonistic influences once they are understood. The United States has an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country. Moreover, planners of capacity-building initiatives may lack access to or awareness of those tools that do exist. Karlin’s conclusions thus point to an important area for further research: namely, what strategies for mitigating antagonistic external influences have the potential to be successful, what tools are needed to support those strategies, and how can they be integrated into the planning of capacity-building initiatives? Conclusion Conditions for building military capacity in a fragile state are rarely ideal, and often cannot be overcome. Karlin’s book offers a useful framework for approaching these initiatives in a way that identifies potential challenges from the outset and addresses some of the most common spoilers. Moreover, it suggests the United States would profit from being cautious about engaging in capacity-building missions at all. When there is little room to exert the necessary influence over a partner, for example, Karlin counsels, “the United States must either recognize that it is pursuing light security sector reform or avoid launching such programs altogether.”[50] Likewise, there is great wisdom in recognizing when positive conditions have changed, cutting one’s losses, and walking away. Two of Karlin’s case studies — 1950s South Vietnam and 1980s Lebanon — serve as cautionary tales of the risk to American lives posed by an inability to acknowledge failure and an insistence in doubling down. One important contribution of Karlin’s work is to offer a straightforward litmus test to help policymakers assess whether and when it is wise to walk away. Her two leading variables should be posed as questions to policymakers: Is the United States able to sufficiently influence partner military decisions and institutional reforms, and can it sufficiently mitigate the hazards posed by external actors? To these can be added Karlin’s warning to avoid being drawn in as a co-belligerent. There are sometimes good strategic reasons to overlook these tests, but they should at least provoke a reassessment of policy. One wonders what it will take to prompt such a reassessment in Yemen. The United States has become a co-belligerent there in a deeply troubling way, enabling massive human rights violations with little apparent ability to influence operational plans or tactics. It remains in close cooperation with Saudi Arabia despite strong evidence pointing to the Saudi leadership’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,[51] continuing indications of widespread civilian casualties caused by coalition operations,[52] and congressional exhortations that such support be terminated.[53] The deep engagement Karlin’s book advocates is implausible in Yemen, and external actors are prevalent, diverse, and, in many ways, antagonistic to U.S. interests. As is so often the case, a chorus of voices would meet any policy reassessment with an impassioned warning of threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iran that might be left behind were America to extricate itself from the conflict. Yet, at some point, as Karlin persistently argues, policies must factor in actual results. And surely the results of the current U.S. policy approach in Yemen cry out for another way.   Tommy Ross is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation at the Pentagon and was the senior defense and intelligence adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has also held other senior positions in the House and Senate.   Image: U.S. Africa Command [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-building-militaries-in-fragile-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 14:46:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 18:46:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1261 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 162 [1] => 239 [2] => 226 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “Fragile States Index: The Fund for Peace,” Fund for Peace, accessed March 14, 2019, http://fundforpeace.org/. See the “Security Assistance Monitor: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Security and Defense Assistance,” at http://www.securityassistance.org/, accessed 14 March 2019. [2] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 17. [3] David A. Lake, The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2, (2018): 89-142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [4] Jesse Driscoll, Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [5] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [6] For recent works linking these factors and others to military effectiveness, see Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.); Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley, eds., Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Austin Long, The Soul of Armies: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Military Culture in the US and UK (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016); Vipin Narang and Caitlin Talmadge, “Civil-military Pathologies and Defeat in War: Tests Using New Data,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62, no. 7 (August 2018): 1379–1405, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022002716684627; Dan Reiter and William A. Wagstaff, “Leadership and Military Effectiveness,” Foreign Policy Analysis 14, no. 4 (October 2018): 490–511, https://doi.org/10.1093/fpa/orx003. [7] Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977); D. Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); Benjamin Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1991); William E. Odom, On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991); Walter C. Ladwig, III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [8] Daniel L. Byman, “Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 79–115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/4137517. [9] Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2 (2018): 89–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [10] Barbara Elias, “The Big Problem of Small Allies: New Data and Theory on Defiant Local Counterinsurgency Partners in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Security Studies 27, no. 2 (2018): 249, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1386935. [11] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 36. [12] For more on Ngo Dinh Diem’s difficult relationship with his American patrons, see Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). [13] “Hitler Finds Out About Sequestration,” Youtube, Fiscal Cliff, Nov. 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zCDDYVTjLI. [14] Robert M. Gates, “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” Nixon Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 24, 2019, http://archive.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1425. [15] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 4. [16] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States,12. [17] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 201. [18] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 198. [19] “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Department of Defense, January 2012, http://archive.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf. [20] Noah B. Cooper, “Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades Get Manning and Intel Right?” War on the Rocks, Sept. 5, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/. [21] Brian Hamilton, “Army Moves Closer to Establishing First Security Force Assistance Brigade,” U.S. Army, May 18, 2017, https://www.army.mil/article/187991/army_moves_closer_to_establishing_first_security_force_assistance_brigade. [22] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [23] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 200. [24] “Presidential Policy Directive 23: U.S. Security Sector Assistance Policy [Fact Sheet],” White House, 2013, https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=747214. [25] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 11. [26] Dafna H. Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation & Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [27] Ilan Goldenberg, Alice Hunt Friend, Stephen Tankel, and Nicholas A. Heras, “Remodeling Partner Capacity: Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Counterterrorism Security Assistance,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report-RemodelingPartnerCapacity-Final.pdf?mtime=20161107141028. [28] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [29] Thomas K. Livingston, “Building the Capacity of Partner States through Security Force Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, May 5, 2011, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41817.pdf. [30] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 197. [31] Loren DeJonge Schulman, “Washington Is Never Quite Sure Where It Is at War,” Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/niger-aumf-war-terrorism/544652/. [32] Robert M. Gates, “Speech as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, May 24, 2011, http://archive.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1570. [33] Nicholas Niarchos, “How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse,” New Yorker, Jan. 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/how-the-us-is-making-the-war-in-yemen-worse. [34] Melissa Dalton and Hijah Shah, “U.S. Support for Saudi Military Operations in Yemen,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 23, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-support-saudi-military-operations-yemen. [35] Nina Serafino, “Security Assistance Reform: ‘Section 1206’ Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, RS22855, Dec. 8, 2014, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22855.pdf. [36] “Security Aid Pivot Table: Yemen, 2010-2014,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Yemen/2010/2014/all/Global/. [37] Tom Finn, “A New President and an ‘American Sheikh’ Deal With Post-Saleh Yemen,” Time, Feb. 29, 2012, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2107926-1,00.html. [38] See Jane Ferguson, “U.S. Military Picks, Trains Yemeni Fighters,” CNN, July 14, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/13/yemen.training/index.html. See also Eric Schmitt, “Out of Yemen, U.S. is Hobbled in Terror Fight,” New York Times, March 22, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/us/politics/out-of-yemen-us-is-hobbled-in-terror-fight.html. [39] “Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen,” Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-432R, Feb. 29, 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588955.pdf. [40] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [41] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 9. [42] See, for example, Dafna Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation and Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. See also Rose Jackson, “Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance,” Open Society Foundations, January 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [43] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 10. [44] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 12, emphasis removed. [45] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 193. [46] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [47] The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005, and The Accra Agenda for Action, 2009 are available at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation: http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf. [48] See, for example, “Department of Defense Directive 5205.82: Defense Institution Building,” United States Department of Defense, issued Jan. 27, 2016 and updated May 3, 2017, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/520582p.pdf. See also, “Joint Publication 3-20: Security Cooperation,” United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 23, 2017, https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_20_20172305.pdf. [49] Florence Gaub, “Whatever Happened to Yemen’s Military?” European Institute for Security Studies, Issue Brief 9, April 2015, https://www.iss.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUISSFiles/Brief_9_Yemen.pdf. [50] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [51] Mark Mazetti, “Years Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/politics/khashoggi-mohammed-bin-salman.html. [52] Lee Keath, “Civilian death toll in Yemen mounting despite US assurances,” Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/24ee4b33373a41d389e2599c5aa7bbfa. [53] See Catie Edmondson and Charlie Savage, “House Votes to Halt Aid to Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen,” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/yemen-war-saudi-arabia.html. See also Scott Detrow, “Senate Votes To End U.S. Support for War in Yemen, Rebuking Trump and Saudi Arabia,” NPR, Dec. 12, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676152310/senate-poised-to-vote-to-end-u-s-military-support-for-war-in-yemen. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap," by Jason Fritz 2. "The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States," by Walter C. Ladwig, III 3. "To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries," by Loren DeJonge Schulman 4. "When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen," by Tommy Ross ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 773 [post_author] => 225 [post_date] => 2018-11-20 04:00:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-20 09:00:17 [post_content] =>

1. The Future of Security Assistance

By Stephen Tankel In the years after 9/11, as it became clear that large-footprint military operations were neither sustainable nor successful in dealing with violent non-state actors, the United States placed increasing emphasis on working “by, with, and through” allies and partners. The focus on working with weaker states primarily for counterterrorism purposes was new, but the importance of security cooperation was not. It has been a vital component of American statecraft for decades. As the United States re-postures to focus more on great power conflict and rogue regimes, security cooperation with, and assistance to, allies and partners will remain critical for achieving global defense objectives. Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and undermining of American diplomacy may have inadvertently increased the importance of security assistance and cooperation as a tool for achieving U.S. objectives. If so, this will put even greater pressure on policies and programs that have not always delivered the envisioned return on investment. It also raises a number of questions: Will the reforms mandated by the last two National Defense Authorization Acts bear fruit?[2] Even if they do, will it be enough to overcome the a-strategic nature that often defines the U.S. government’s use of security assistance and cooperation? Are the political and socio-economic challenges in partner nations so entrenched that they cannot be overcome, and, if so, is the current U.S. approach making things worse? If it is worsening things, how can the United States at least improve its return on investment? And what other trends will shape the efficacy of security cooperation and assistance? To help answer these questions, we brought together a mix of academics and former policymakers to examine security assistance and cooperation through three distinct lenses: an academic overview of some of the core political challenges; a policy analysis of a distinct case study, where the absence of strategic planning was especially notable; and a forward-looking assessment of future trends that policymakers must account for, even as they continue to wrestle with existing challenges. Security Assistance and Cooperation: A Brief Overview Security cooperation and security assistance are terms often used without always being defined — or sometimes even understood — by the people writing about them. Without getting too in the weeds, it’s helpful to briefly describe these concepts and delineate where they come from. Security assistance refers to programs through which the United States provides arms and other defense materials, military training, defense institution-building efforts, and other defense-related services. The State Department has overall responsibility for many of the largest and longest-standing of these programs, which fall under Title 22 authority, including foreign military financing, foreign military sales, and international military education and training. However, it is the Department of Defense that actually implements many of them. It also administers the Section 333 authority, which consolidated many of the Title 10 capacity-building authorities created since 9/11 into one. Because of its focus on allied and partner militaries, security assistance is largely synonymous with military assistance. Indeed, the two are often used interchangeably. However, the United States also provides security sector assistance to civilian institutions through programs such as the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement.[3] For our purposes, it is helpful to nest security sector assistance within the broader rubric of security assistance. Security cooperation encompasses all Department of Defense interactions with foreign defense establishments. This includes all Defense Department-administered security assistance, as well as joint military exercises, defense institution-building, defense and military contacts, information-sharing and intelligence cooperation, and logistics support. The United States currently engages in security cooperation with 224 countries and international organizations around the world.[4] The United States spends billions on security assistance and cooperation to achieve various objectives. The most obvious goal is to build the capacity of partners’ military and police forces, as well as their defense and law enforcement institutions so they can confront shared security threats and contribute to international missions. Many of the new security assistance and cooperation authorities created after 9/11 have focused on capacity building specifically for counterterrorism purposes. Capacity building and joint exercises also increase the interoperability of partner forces with the U.S. military. Although capacity building generally focuses on operational and tactical capabilities, it also may (and should) include professionalization of partner forces and institutions. Another aim is to build or maintain relationships with partner countries in order to secure access — to bases or transit routes — and increase U.S. influence with the host nation government. That influence may be used to yield specific outcomes, such as encouraging recipients to buy arms from the United States as opposed to a competitor or to contribute to an international coalition. In other cases, the purposes of gaining influence are fuzzier, and may include balancing against a regional competitor, or simply generating goodwill. Critically, whether for access or influence, security assistance and cooperation are being used as incentives, which may lead to them being deployed in ways that are inconsistent with capacity-building needs in a given country. Looking Back, Forging Ahead All three contributors to this roundtable identify challenges of security assistance and cooperation and posit potential solutions to improve their effectiveness. Each essay has its own take, which complements the others. Andrew Boutton draws on academic research, including his own, to dig into why efforts to build partnership capacity for internal defense — especially in the areas of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency — have often failed to achieve their objectives. He assesses various explanations, including selection bias, i.e., countries receiving assistance that were already beset by numerous problems; technical issues with capacity-building programs themselves; and divergent threat perceptions between the United States and partner countries. Boutton finds that although such variables do matter — more in some instances than others — the overriding challenge, at least in countries where recipient regimes are riven by internal power struggles and institutions are underdeveloped, is the creation of moral hazard. Specifically, leaders in these countries use assistance and cooperation to coup-proof their regimes, believing that the United States will not abandon them despite their bad behavior. In some cases, security assistance and cooperation can actually provoke or increase internal violence as a result. Tommy Ross uses the case of Somalia to highlight the dangers of engaging in capacity building efforts without a solid strategic foundation. As the first ever deputy assistant secretary of defense for security cooperation, Ross is intimately familiar with the interagency challenges, the warren of congressional authorities, and the poor preparation that can undermine capacity building efforts. He also recognizes the dangers that misaligned political incentives of the sort Boutton discusses can present. Without discounting these challenges, however, Ross argues that the wider problem is strategic incoherence. He highlights two issues in particular in the case of Somalia: the short-term focus on the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) at the expense of the Somali National Army (SNA), despite the fact that AMISOM’s mission was always time-limited and the SNA would need to be prepared when that mission ended; and the myopic emphasis on tactical training and equipment at the small unit level, rather than focusing on broader — and much-needed — defense sector reform. It’s true that there is a lot the United States cannot control when it deploys security assistance and cooperation. However, this makes sound strategic planning all the more important, as Ross ably illustrates by demonstrating what happens when it is lacking. Melissa Dalton leverages her experience at the Department of Defense, and the research she has conducted since, to widen the aperture and explore three trends that will challenge the way the United States engages in security cooperation over the next five years. First, she digs into how the Trump administration’s increased emphasis on arms sales will impact efforts to build allied and partner defense capabilities and interoperability, as well as the potential that this emphasis will exacerbate the dangers that American arms are used to violate human rights in recipient countries. Second, she explores Defense and State Department efforts to assess, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of security cooperation and assistance in order to mitigate the types of challenges Boutton and Ross identify. Third, she reinforces the need to understand the political context in recipient nations, and highlights the fact that shifting from counterterrorism to a focus on strategic competition with near-peer competitors does not reduce the types of risks that Boutton identifies. Rather, Dalton argues there is a danger the United States will feel increased pressure to abandon its principles and values in order to keep pace with competitors who do not subscribe to them. For almost as long as the United States has engaged in security assistance and cooperation, experts inside and outside of government have lamented a lackluster return on investment and worried about unintended consequences. Concerns have grown in recent years, as the gap between U.S. investments and intended outcomes in recipient nations appears to have widened. Congress is to be commended for consolidating capacity building authorities and strengthening requirements on the Defense Department to work with the State Department to assess, monitor, and evaluate security cooperation to ensure it aligns with U.S. foreign policy priorities. Both agencies have recognized the importance of improved planning and evaluation processes, although much work remains to be done. This work is likely to become even more essential given that, as U.S. appeals for greater burden sharing by allies and partners increase, the tendency to rely on security assistance and cooperation is also likely to grow. Stephen Tankel is an associate professor at American University, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New America Security, a senior editor and War on the Rocks, and the author of With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror.  

2. The Dangers of U.S. Military Assistance to Weak States

By Andrew Boutton In the years since World War II, the United States has provided vast amounts of military assistance to countries across the globe. These countries have varied in their levels of development and in their strategic importance to the United States. The goal of many of these post-9/11 programs has been to enable recipient security forces to combat domestic insurgents, control their territory, and withstand armed internal challenges.[5] The historical record reveals that U.S. capacity-building efforts have often resulted in failure to achieve these goals. What explains this? Selection bias undoubtedly plays a minor role: Many recipient countries were already experiencing persistent violence and serious political and institutional dysfunction, which, if they persist, can create the impression that military assistance is failing. Other explanations for these outcomes have emphasized technical and tactical problems with capacity-building programs, which, while important, overlook more fundamental political obstacles. More recent explanations for the negative consequences associated with military aid incorporate differences in threat perceptions between the United States and host country,[6] and the problems of preference divergence inherent in U.S.-client relationships.[7] I build on these observations to argue that in some institutional contexts, U.S. military assistance will provoke or escalate violence, even beyond what we might expect in the absence of external assistance. Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests that in uncertain political environments — where regimes are riven by internal power struggles and institutions are underdeveloped — military aid can create a dangerous moral hazard.[8] The provision of military assistance to vulnerable leaders increases leaders’ incentives to coup-proof their regimes, while also creating the perception that the United States will continue to assist them in dealing with the resulting violence. This combination explains why capacity-building programs in weak states so often yield such frustrating results. Coup-Proofing, Power Consolidation, and Violence Many of the top recipients of U.S. military assistance — both historically and since 9/11 — have been institutionally weak and fragile. Leaders in these countries are vulnerable to removal by government or military rivals, and a unified, competent military capable of combating insurgents is also capable of overthrowing the leader. As a result, these leaders have security priorities that differ substantially from those of the United States.[9] Rather than constructing competent and professionalized militaries — which is the stated aim of much U.S. military assistance — insecure leaders often seek to coup-proof their security forces in order to ensure their own political and physical survival. Coup-proofing refers to a broad set of actions a leader takes to prevent a military coup. Paranoid leaders will often meddle with their security forces. For instance, they may sacrifice competence in favor of political allegiance in military promotions, removing qualified officers and stacking their security forces with family or ethnic kin who are less competent but politically loyal.[10] Another typical action is to create bifurcated security forces, in which smaller but politically reliable units tasked with regime protection receive special treatment and U.S. military training,[11] with the rest left to wither on the vine. This reduces overall combat leadership and effectiveness, and also degrades morale among the rank-and-file soldiers whose career prospects are blocked.[12] Coup-proofed military forces are often unable or unwilling to defend the regime,[13] which explains why militaries in weak states so often fold in the face of far smaller insurgent armies. Another form of coup-proofing involves the leader consolidating power around himself and a small group of insiders. This entails denying the broader population access to political power, using state resources for patronage instead of public goods,[14] and governing through exclusion by eliminating rivals or potential rivals from the regime and military through purges. From the leader’s perspective, coup-proofing may appear to be the best strategy to retain power.[15] However, these actions have two important consequences that directly undermine the objectives of most U.S. military assistance programs. First, power consolidation necessarily alienates powerful factions in society and key figures in the regime or military. For example, if a leader purges the wrong military officer or attempts an ill-timed power grab, it can provoke a backlash. The purged factions often respond by launching a rebellion, and this dynamic has been shown to be an important cause of civil wars, particularly in Africa.[16] Second, by dividing the security forces and degrading their leadership and morale, coup-proofing impairs the regime’s ability to combat domestic insurgents. These actions thus produce the dual effects of increasing the likelihood of domestic insurgency while decreasing the regime’s ability to effectively deal with it. Although leaders have other, more peaceful options to insulate themselves from coups — such as the formation of inclusive power-sharing agreements[17] — the provision of U.S. military assistance can induce overconfidence in the recipient regime.[18] This often causes leaders to opt for these more aggressive forms of coup-proofing, gambling that the United States will continue providing aid to help quell the resulting violence. Insecure, Yet Overconfident The U.S. provision of military assistance signals a degree of interest and investment in the survival of the incumbent regime, and foreign leaders understand this quite well. A vulnerable leader receiving security assistance will thus be more likely to coup-proof his military, purge rivals from his regime, or consolidate power if he believes that his external patron will come to the rescue to deal with the backlash.[19] Why share power with your political rivals if you can violently exclude them and convince a foreign patron to protect you from the fallout? Washington’s backing of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offers a case in point. The United States spent billions to establish a viable, inclusive government and to enable the security forces to defend the regime. Maliki had numerous opportunities to construct an inclusive governing coalition and competent military, but doing so would likely have undermined his top priority, which was to secure his shaky grip on power. More than anything else, he feared being removed or killed by former Ba’athists, so he set about personalizing his regime and security forces along sectarian lines, using textbook coup-proofing tactics.[20] In fact, on the same day as the official U.S. withdrawal in late 2011, special forces led by Maliki’s son surrounded the houses of the vice president, deputy prime minister, and minister of finance, all popular Sunni officials. These moves sparked a massive backlash among the Sunni population, eventually culminating in the rebirth of the Islamic State insurgency. Maliki’s thoroughly coup-proofed security forces were unable and unwilling to risk their lives to defend the regime, and fled rather than defend major Iraqi cities, like Mosul and Ramadi, from far smaller insurgent forces.[21] The violent response from factions within the Sunni population that he had marginalized likely did not take Maliki by surprise. But he was so confident that Washington would never abandon its investment in Iraqi stability and, by extension, his regime — particularly after the United States intervened to back him following the 2010 elections — that he also believed Washington would bail him out, perhaps by providing more military assistance, or even intervening to fight the insurgency on his behalf.[22] This led to a moral hazard: Maliki took U.S. support as a blank check to consolidate power, betting that he would not have to face any of the consequences alone. Likewise, a series of South Vietnamese presidents in the 1950s and 1960s exploited Washington’s dependence on them to consolidate their own power, rather than risk opening the political system as Washington preferred. The exclusionary policies of Ngo Dinh Diem ensured that any challenge to his regime would be violent, leading directly to the Viet Cong insurgency.[23] Diem had weakened his military to such an extent, however, that he would have been unable to remain in power without U.S. support. In 1966, President Nguyen Cao Ky used Lyndon Johnson’s public pledge of renewed military support at the Honolulu summit as an opportunity to immediately rid himself of Nguyen Chanh Thi, the powerful Buddhist general whom Ky feared. The purge sparked a mutiny of Buddhist ARVN units loyal to Thi and a massive uprising among the Buddhist population, which nearly toppled the regime and required Washington’s assistance to put down.[24] Leaders in Saigon consolidated power not despite U.S. military assistance, but because of it. What Can be Done? These findings point to a number of proposals that may alleviate the moral hazard inherent in U.S. military assistance to weak states. Most obviously, the United States should — to the extent possible — limit security partnerships to regimes in which the leader is less vulnerable to irregular removal. Here, the divergence of fundamental security priorities between the United States and the host regime is less acute, and thus military aid is less likely to encourage aggressive power consolidation by the incumbent regime. The presence of robust, stable political institutions can explain why U.S. military assistance programs have been, on balance, quite effective (though not without fault) in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Jordan. Each of these regimes is well-institutionalized, stable, and has not experienced an attempted coup in decades. Indonesia is useful as an illustrative case. Initial U.S. efforts to secure counterterrorism cooperation against Jemaah Islamiya (JI) after 2001 were abortive, even after the 2002 Bali bombings made it clear to the Indonesian political establishment that JI was a legitimate threat that required attention. Indonesia was a fragile, young democracy whose leaders were wary of a meddlesome military, and thus were reluctant to take drastic domestic security measures. In 2005, however, after a series of reforms greatly diminished the military’s political power,[25] security cooperation grew much closer. By 2012, nearly the entire leadership of JI had been either arrested or assassinated by Indonesia’s elite U.S.-trained counterterrorism unit,[26] and the group had virtually ceased to exist in its original form. On the other hand, my own research suggests that partnerships with new regimes, personalist regimes, and regimes with a legacy of personalist or military rule are more likely to be destabilizing.[27]  Maliki’s Iraq — a weak, newly established democracy with a recent history of personalist rule under Saddam Hussein — brought together several of these elements. Foremost in Maliki’s mind during his time in power was the possibility of a coup at the hands of Ba’athist loyalists. As noted earlier, the United States gave Maliki a security umbrella, which he exploited to aggressively repress and purge any challenges to his power (all of which he assumed were Saddam loyalists), under the assumption that the Americans would be there afterward to clean up any mess that resulted. Likewise, Niger democratized in 2011, but has a history of personalist rule and military interventions. After an attempted coup in 2015, President Mahamadou Issoufou immediately purged his entire senior officer corps — including the commanders of two elite counterterrorism units — accusing them of collaborating with former prime minister Hama Amadou to reclaim power in a coup.[28]  Niger has recently become one of the top recipients of U.S. military assistance in the region, and Issoufou has increased defense spending dramatically. The Nigerien military remains ill equipped and under-paid,[29] however, with most of the resources going toward his personal guard.[30] French and American investments in stability in the region have arguably created a moral hazard.[31] Without such support, Issoufou’s purges and weakening of the security forces would leave him vulnerable to violent backlash. While it is possible that external military assistance provides some measure of short-term stability, it also has the inadvertent effect of providing cover for Issoufou to consolidate power and politicize the armed forces, which will likely generate greater instability in the long run. It would be wishful thinking, however, to argue that Washington could avoid working with such regimes altogether. In fact, many of the regimes in which Washington claims to have vital security interests are fragile and plagued by the same governance problems discussed herein. Working with these regimes is often unavoidable. Where this is the case, the United States should consider the following. First, due to misaligned security priorities, productive cooperation and capacity-building in these cases can only be achieved by shaping and altering host-state incentives through the establishment and credible enforcement of conditionality. This notion is widely recognized among development aid scholars, but has recently gained traction among those who study security assistance.[32] Recent work on security assistance advocates allocating security assistance ex post as a reward for effort and reform, rather than ex ante as an inducement, in a manner similar to the Millenium Challenge Account.[33] In a recent book,[34] Walter Ladwig shows that the United States has been able to exercise greater influence over host government policy when it enforces conditions, as it did in the Philippines and El Salvador. Positive conditionality requires the United States to verify the efforts undertaken by the partner government, which in turn necessitates more intrusive monitoring. Many countries will balk at this as a violation of sovereignty, but the United States should insist upon it as a condition of military assistance. A larger presence will not only enable better monitoring of the host government’s coup-proofing actions, but may also mitigate the internal security dilemma that drives such behavior. The worst paranoid excesses of the Maliki regime did not occur until after 2011, when the United States was no longer present on the ground as a safety net protecting his regime. The United States should also signal that it is prepared to cut ties with regimes that work against its security interests. Washington’s reliance on security assistance to fight terrorism abroad, without putting large numbers of U.S. forces in combat, often undermines the credibility of any threats to withdraw this assistance. Even in the rare cases when punishment has been enacted, as it has been several times with Egypt and Pakistan,[35] it has historically come in the form of temporary freezes that are later lifted even after little change in behavior. In the case of both Diem and Maliki, the United States ultimately withdrew its support when backing them became untenable. But the fact that this only happened after years of military assistance instilled in both leaders the perception that they could do no wrong, and that steadfast support would continue even as they further consolidated power. By the time America decided to advocate for their removal, it was far too late and the damage was already done. Unwillingness to enforce conditions and withdraw support can seriously undermine the objectives of U.S. assistance and makes it more likely that other leaders will test the limits of what the United States will tolerate from its clients. Second, the United States military should prioritize the construction of depoliticized, merit-based forces, even if it means restructuring the host nation’s military.[36] This should be both an objective and a condition of U.S. capacity-building assistance. A built-in assumption in U.S. capacity-building efforts has always been the notion that foreign militaries are small-scale replicas of Western militaries — hierarchical, apolitical, and representative of the country as a whole.[37] This leads to the conclusion that where foreign security forces are dysfunctional or inept, an influx of American professionalization, equipment, and money—rather than fundamental restructuring—is all that is needed to fix the problem. In reality, the military in many institutionally weak countries is “a coterie of distinct armed camps owing primary clientelist allegiances to a handful of mutually competitive officers of different ranks, seething with corporate, ethnic, and personal grievances that divide their loyalties.”[38] Security forces constructed in this manner feed the violent, exclusionary politics that drive conflict in many of these regimes. Efforts by a partner regime to politicize the armed forces through purges or coup-proofing should be grounds for aid suspension or withdrawal. Conclusion It is widely recognized among those who study security assistance that this aid is often used too liberally, in part because of Washington’s tendency to define its security interests broadly. There exists within American elite opinion a lamentable impulse to “do something” in response to any instability abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. The policies resulting from this impulse often involve throwing money, weapons, or special operations forces at the problem without thinking carefully about unintended consequences or second-order effects. George Kennan’s advice to Congress in 1966 that “[w]e would do better if we would show ourselves a little more relaxed and less terrified of what happens in these smaller countries…and not jump around like an elephant frightened by a mouse every time these things occur” is as relevant today as it was during the Vietnam War. As long as Washington continues to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward instability abroad, any threats to withdraw security assistance will likely be met with skepticism by partner countries. Both the United States and its partner states can benefit from military assistance, as past cases have demonstrated. But Washington needs to recognize that the provision of military aid is highly political and does not occur in a vacuum, unconnected to local political conflicts. Providing it means de facto involvement in these conflicts, putting a thumb on the scale on behalf of incumbent regimes, many of which are weak and have goals that are anathema to those of the United States. If Washington is able to incorporate into its capacity-building efforts a sensitivity to host government security interests and local politics, combined with close monitoring and credible, enforceable conditionality, these programs can work to the benefit of both countries, even in the most difficult cases. This requires not only deeper engagement in capacity-building interventions in some places, but also discontinuing efforts where the host government is preoccupied with internal power consolidation.   Andrew Boutton is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. His research interests include U.S. foreign policy, terrorism, counterinsurgency, and the politics of international cooperation in weak and authoritarian regimes. He received his Ph.D. in international relations from Pennsylvania State University in 2014. Prior to coming to UCF, he spent a year as a fellow at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas.

3. The Dangers of Incoherent Strategy: Security Assistance in Somalia, 2009–2018

By Tommy Ross Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government focused its attention on ungoverned or under-governed territories where al-Qaeda was known to operate. The collapsed state of Somalia was high on the list. U.S. attention intensified following the 2006 ascent of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin (“al-Shabaab”), an al-Qaeda-affiliated movement that quickly claimed and held most of the territory comprising central and southern Somalia. Beginning in 2009, the United States escalated its efforts to confront al-Shabaab and build the Somali defense sector, using tools from across the military and diplomatic spectrum. Aid given to the Somali National Army (SNA) and the troop-contributing countries of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which was established in 2007, represents by far the most significant capacity-building initiative in Africa during the last decade. AMISOM’s capabilities have improved as a result, enabling it to seriously degrade al-Shabaab. Yet, AMISOM will soon be dissolved, even though the SNA is years away from being able to replace it. Meanwhile, Somalia remains far from secure, with conditions that could enable al-Shabaab to regenerate. Critics of U.S. military capacity-building assistance often focus on interagency coordination challenges, misalignment of political incentives, labyrinthine legal authorities, and U.S. forces that are poorly prepared for the mission. Though these issues undoubtedly impact the success of capacity-building efforts, the chief spoiler is often an endemic inattention to strategy: that is, to the art of aligning realistic ways and means, and identifying and mitigating risks, to achieve a clearly defined objective within a defined time period. Strategy demands a resource- and risk-informed theory of change that traces a path from the status quo to the intended objective. Yet, capacity-building efforts often lack such strategic foundations. Few cases illustrate this point better than U.S. capacity-building efforts intended to degrade and defeat al-Shabaab. AMISOM’s tactical success stands in contrast to the strategic failure to establish sustainable security in Somalia. U.S. assistance to empower AMISOM contributors and the SNA to provide security in Somalia thus makes for an important case study of U.S. military capacity-building and the challenges that plague its ability to deliver long-lasting results that have strategic effects.  U.S. Involvement in Somalia In 1991, civil war broke out in Somalia, as political dissidents rebelled against the oppressive regime of longtime president Mohamed Siad Barre, ultimately forcing his exile. Since then, Somalia has remained “the world’s longest running collapsed state.”[39] The country assumed additional importance to the United States following the Sept. 11 attacks because of its potential to become a terrorist safe haven.[40] A small al-Qaeda network was already present in the region, and more members headed for Somalia after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The United States began conducting counterterrorism missions in Somalia, relying heavily on local warlords, who handed over local Islamists and Arab immigrants, along with actual al-Qaeda operatives, in order to collect additional rewards.[41] Men who had fought in the Afghan jihad during the 1980s converged to retaliate against the warlords who were targeting them, and later formed the nucleus of al-Shabaab. In 2005, U.S. focus intensified, as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a conservative Islamic group suspected of links to terrorism, began its rise to prominence.[42] In 2006, Ethiopia, supported by the United States, invaded Somalia, defeated the ICU, and installed the Transitional Federal Government.[43] Its action, however, also enabled al-Shabaab’s rise. Originally the armed wing of the ICU, it harnessed local anger at the Ethiopian invasion and became the most capable non-state actor in the country, exerting dominance over Somalia for most of the ensuing decade. Al-Shabaab formally allied itself with al-Qaeda in 2012, following years of informal cooperation. The United States has pursued two primary objectives in Somalia: the defeat and dismantlement of Islamic terrorist organizations perceived to threaten U.S. citizens and interests, and the establishment of long-term, stable governance and self-reliant security in the country.[44] Initially, security assistance played a limited role. However, in 2009, the United States saw an opportunity to intervene more robustly in Somalia. Ethiopian troops completed their withdrawal and transfer of power to the new Transitional Federal Government. AMISOM, which was established in 2007 to restore stability, became Somalia’s primary security provider. As this opportunity emerged, the United States began to shift the focus of its strategy from support for proxies, such as Somali warlords and the invading Ethiopian forces,[45] to capacity-building assistance for AMISOM. It has been paired with varying levels of lethal counterterrorism operations and direct advisory missions throughout the last decade.[46] Capacity-building efforts have been beset by tensions between America’s two primary goals in Somalia. The United States has prioritized short-term, tactical objectives to achieve its counterterrorism goal, often at the expense of broader and longer-term efforts centered on promoting security and stability. Moreover, unresolved policy determinations about whether to cast lots with the Somali federal government, decentralized Somali actors, and/or AMISOM as the long-term guarantor of Somalia’s security have led to strategic incoherence. Building Somalia’s security sector also requires navigating myriad Somali actors, foreign government assistance providers, and multi-layered political divisions. Currently, Somalia’s formal security sector includes “the six brigades of the SNA; the National Intelligence and Security Agency; the police force; and special forces.”[47] In addition, clans — the dominant organizing unit of Somali politics — maintain paramilitary organizations that are “hatted as part of the formal security sector.”[48] These formal organizations alternatively compete and cooperate with informal security forces — including political militias, personal protection units, private security contractors,[49] and foreign military personnel, including, but not limited to, those working under the AMISOM banner. A 2017 World Bank report found roughly 67,000 “persons under arms” in Somalia, excluding insurgents, of which the SNA comprised only 17,000.[50] These actors compete for power in an environment characterized by profound corruption, complex clan and ethnic rivalries, extreme poverty, and numerous foreign actors with competing agendas. During the 2009–2018 timeframe, the United States invested heavily and consistently in sustaining AMISOM’s operations and in building sufficient capacity among AMISOM contributing forces to carry out relevant AMISOM missions. Support for Somali forces was far more limited: Operational support has been disjointed, while capacity-building assistance has been limited and largely targeted to elite special forces units. In both cases, capacity-building assistance has focused on tactical training and equipment at the small unit level, rather than on broader — and much-needed — defense sector reform. U.S. Support to AMISOM Five troop-contributing nations comprise AMISOM.[51] Uganda, the most substantial contributor, and Burundi have participated since the mission’s establishment in 2007, while Djibouti joined in 2011. Ethiopia, which has deep ethnic and cultural links to tribes in central Somalia and which has often intervened in Somali affairs, was integrated into AMISOM in 2014, following a 2011 independent military excursion. Kenya, driven by ethnic and cultural links to Somalia’s “Jubaland” region and concern about displaced persons relocating to its territory, likewise launched an independent military push in 2011 and joined AMISOM in 2012. U.S. support for these countries has been consistent and substantial. Since 2009, the United States has allocated roughly $1.8 billion to support AMISOM through the State Department Peacekeeping Operations account.[52] Funding has averaged $180 million annually, ranging from $75 million in 2011 to over $250 million in 2016 and 2017. The support is divided primarily between two efforts: a direct annual contribution to the United Nations Support Office in Somalia,[53] which sustains AMISOM operations, and ongoing training and equipment for units from contributing countries on their way to Somalia.[54] The Defense Department’s “Global Train and Equip” program provided over $700 million to build the capacity of AMISOM contributing forces during this timeframe.[55] According to the Security Assistance Monitor, the program provided $236 million in assistance to Uganda, primarily for equipment including light helicopters, armored personnel carriers, combat vehicles, and radios.[56] The same program provided Kenya with $341 million over the same time span to supply it with helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, special operations training, Humvees, and other equipment.[57] Support for the other AMISOM contributors — Ethiopia ($43 million), Djibouti ($24 million), and Burundi ($35 million) — has been modest in comparison. In addition, the United States reported spending $275 million through the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund,[58] which Congress established in 2014, on “East Africa Regional” priorities, much of which presumably supported AMISOM contributors, as well as $31 million on Kenya, $19 million on Ethiopia, and $9 million on Uganda. Details about the uses of such funding are scantly available. And contributors benefitted from a special East Africa-focused capacity-building authority in 2012, when it provided $75 million in dedicated funding, and again in 2014, when it provided $37 million.[59] Additionally, for several years, a small contingent of U.S. special operations forces has provided “advise and assist” support to AMISOM forces on the ground.[60] U.S. support has been narrowly tailored to sustain the capacity of AMISOM troop contributors to carry out counterterrorism missions in Somalia, neglecting the development of broader defense capacities that could be sustained in the long-run. Much of the State Department’s assistance has supported AMISOM’s operational costs rather than capacity-building. The capacity-building assistance provided by the United States has focused on tactical unit training and the provision of equipment. The United States has not substantially invested in the development of institutional systems, strategic-level command-and-control structures, logistics capabilities, or other features of mature militaries. The resulting legacy of nearly $2 billion in assistance is that, while AMISOM has — perhaps temporarily — degraded al-Shabaab, AMISOM contributors appear to have made few long-term capability gains. Its operations in Somalia have remained inconsistent,[61] military professionalism remains a significant challenge, and contributors are “plagued by limited political will, delayed operations, coordination problems, and logistics and manpower shortfalls.”[62] A second legacy resulting from the tactical focus of capacity-building efforts may be the void AMISOM will leave behind. The mission was always intended as a temporary solution to a long-term problem. It was originally conceived as just a six-month operation.[63] Yet, for most of the last ten years, U.S. policy has focused on sustaining AMISOM operations, with little thought of what comes after. Now, as AMISOM forces plan for a 2020 exit, al-Shabaab remains a threat that the Somali security sector is incapable of tackling alone. U.S. Support to the Somali National Army In contrast to its support for AMISOM contributors, U.S. assistance to Somalia has been meager, sporadic, and narrowly targeted. Efforts to reestablish a Somali National Army date back to the 2008 Djibouti Agreement. The United States initially deferred to other donors — in particular, the European Union, which established the European Union Training Mission in 2010[64] — on efforts to build and train this new army. It largely neglected the SNA until 2015, and has never fully committed to aiding its establishment. As a 2016 RAND study put it, “U.S. military assistance to the Somali National Army has been limited and incremental, which is unfortunate, since the army is a critical component of long-term stability.”[65] Before 2013, U.S. assistance was constrained in part by a U.N. arms embargo blocking military assistance without prior U.N. approval,[66] as well as by concerns about the stability of the Somali government. 2013 marked a turning point. In March 2013, the United Nations relaxed its arms embargo, authorizing military assistance to strengthen the Somali government. The following month, President Barack Obama approved the provision of defense articles and services to the Somali army.[67] A September 2013 al-Shabaab attack against civilians in the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, further energized U.S. attention to Somalia. However, it would be two more years before this policy direction translated into substantial capacity-building assistance. The United States only began providing capacity-building assistance in Fiscal Year 2015, with an initial investment of $13 million to train an infantry company, most likely a special operations unit known as Danab.[68] The following year, capacity-building assistance rose to $67 million, continuing an infusion of funds to Somali special operations forces. In addition, the United States reported providing $50 million to Somalia in 2016 through the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund to build SNA counterterrorism capabilities. In 2016, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Commander Gen. Kurt Sonntag noted that the Command’s “proposed training plan would increase and enhance the Somali national security forces, including the army, national guard and national police.”[69] Yet, what little assistance the United States has provided to Somali forces has, as with AMISOM, been largely tactical, mostly targeting the development of counterterrorism capabilities in special operations units. U.S. assistance has particularly benefited two units of elite counterterrorism forces: a 120-person rapid reaction force known as Gaashaan,[70] and a 150-person advanced infantry company named Danab.[71] A combination of U.S. Special Operations Forces and private contractors, such as Bancroft and Dyncorp, have provided the training.[72] In April 2017, President Donald Trump authorized the deployment of several dozen U.S. troops to Somalia to conduct train-and-equip operations.[73] That number has since risen to over 500 personnel, mostly special operators.[74] The deployment of Special Operations units has further emphasized capacity-building of Somali special forces units, including by augmenting “advise and assist” operations in which U.S. forces may directly accompany and direct Somali military forces during combat operations. As a result, “In the past couple of years … raids involving U.S. special forces have usually been conducted in tandem with Somali commando units, notably the Danab battalion.”[75] U.S. support for the broader SNA has been limited and erratic. The United States has provided $66 million in stipends for individual soldiers over the past several years, as well as supplying fuel and food for SNA units.[76] However, in December 2017, the United States halted all of this assistance in the wake of concerns that corruption was diverting it from reaching Somali soldiers.[77] The stipend program had already been stopped and restarted several times. And shortly after Gen. Sontag’s command had begun to refocus capacity-building efforts on the SNA’s general forces, the December 2017 decision effectively scuttled that plan. Unsurprisingly, Somali forces remain limited in their capabilities. Following a Somali government “operational readiness assessment” of the SNA in December 2017, the United Nations, African Union, and the Somali government each assessed that, as African Union Special Representative for Somalia Francisco Madeira stated, “the Somali National Army, in its current state of readiness, is not in a position to assume responsibility from AMISOM forces currently deployed in Somalia.”[78] A 2017 study of the SNA by a Mogadishu-based think-tank found, “The list of needs is so fundamental that it is no exaggeration to suggest that Somalia is building its army from the very foundation.”[79] The challenges that caused the United States to terminate assistance to Somali general forces in 2017 directly stem from the institutional weaknesses of the Somali Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Army headquarters operations, which Washington has largely neglected. In 2016, the Defense Department allotted roughly $10 million for a “national logistics hub” and $5 million for “brigade and battalion level” engagement.[80] Aside from these two expenditures, the only inkling of any engagement at the institutional level are a smattering of investments in individual officer education.[81] The World Bank found in 2017 that, “due to lack of capacity and unclear roles and responsibilities, the MoD is unable to currently exercise effective governance of the defence sector. The Ministry has approximately 30 people on its payroll. ... As such, the SNA is largely independent of Ministerial control.”[82] The lack of effective defense governance has been at the heart of some of the most vexing and persistent challenges to the Somali security sector: unpaid wages, human rights abuses and insufficient military justice mechanism, corruption and ghost soldiers, and clan integration.[83] The U.S. approach to the SNA has been rooted in bad strategy. U.S. policymakers and officials never effectively confronted key questions about the desired role, structure, and composition of the SNA. The SNA has evolved in fits and starts, absent clear strategic direction, from its 2008 reestablishment through the 2017 agreement of a National Security Architecture, which established SNA structure, mission, and sizing guidelines for the first time.[84] Throughout this period, major questions — with significant ramifications for efforts to create political unity and overcome drivers of insurgency — have hung over the Somali security sector: Should security be centralized in a national army or decentralized along regional or clan lines? How should clan militias be integrated into a coherent national force? What should be the relationship between the SNA and independent polities in Somaliland and Puntland? Should the SNA be structured primarily for peacekeeping or warfighting missions? By neglecting the SNA as an institution, and these questions specifically, the United States has largely forgone the opportunity to influence how the Somali national security architecture is organized and whether it will be viable. The Perils of Strategic Incoherence Now, after 10 years and roughly $2 billion in assistance, AMISOM is on the verge of departure and the SNA remains incapable of ensuring Somalia’s security. In 2011, the New York Times reported that the United States was engaged in “a piecemeal approach” and “an overall American strategy in Somalia that has been troubled by a lack of focus and internal battles.”[85] In 2012, the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that “there appears to be no coherent long-term strategy or timeline for transitioning the AMISOM mission or associated U.S. support.”[86] The committee required the government to produce a Somalia strategy to address these concerns. Five years later, Congress felt compelled to demand another such strategy.[87] Congress shares some of the blame for the strategic incoherence that has characterized U.S. policy toward Somalia. During the last decade, it legislated at least six distinct capacity-building authorities.[88] Four of the six authorities were focused on counterterrorism and oriented toward tactical train-and-equip activities. Two authorities excluded Somalia as a recipient, thus funneling assistance toward AMISOM contributors. While these authorities may have simply reinforced Executive Branch instincts (many were passed in response to administration requests), they also validated these instincts and created constraints that made evolving the approach a challenge. To these observations one might respond that, while U.S. efforts over the last ten years may appear incoherent, myopic, and ineffective in retrospect, it would be unfair to judge them harshly given that U.S. strategy was formulated in response to complex and ever-shifting political dynamics, deeply imperfect partners, competing agendas among the international donor community, limited resources, a constrained operating environment, and a resilient adversary. That such challenges existed is undeniable. Yet, effective strategies identify difficult challenges and develop approaches to mitigating them. Military strategists are instructed that a good planning framework “creates a shared understanding of the [operating environment]; identifies and frames problems within that [operating environment]; and develops approaches, through the application of operational art, to resolving those problems, consistent with strategic guidance and/or policy.”[89] Providing tactical assistance to the neglect of addressing institutional challenges, vacillating emphasis between AMISOM and the SNA, and failing to engage in shaping outcomes of key structural and policy decisions impacting the Somali national security enterprise are indications, not of challenging external factors or limited resources, but of a U.S. strategy half-formed and poorly executed. Strategic Ramifications The incoherence of the U.S. approach has brought two significant consequences for U.S. national security interests. First, U.S. objectives in Somalia remain distant and there is no clear plan for pursuing those objectives following AMISOM’s planned 2020 departure. Earlier this year, American University professor Tricia Bacon testified before Congress that, “at a strategic level, the campaign against al-Shabaab is at a stalemate … the current strategy will not militarily defeat al-Shabaab or even seriously degrade the group. Yet, there is little momentum to pursue a negotiated political settlement either.”[90] It therefore seems likely that the United States will remain engaged in Somalia at a robust level in terms of role, resources, and, potentially, personnel for the foreseeable future. If AMISOM troops withdraw by 2020 as planned, there is little hope that the SNA can effectively fill the security void, likely creating additional risk to U.S. interests and pressure for the United States to expand its unilateral operations. On the other hand, while AMISOM leaders have called for a postponement of the withdrawal,[91] such a delay would simply sustain U.S. resource commitments indefinitely. The second consequence has been the shaping of U.S. foreign policy beyond Somalia in ways that have undercut U.S. policies and values. The long-term reliance of the United States on AMISOM and the countries contributing forces to it has created dependency relationships that have undermined U.S. foreign policy goals in the region. As the largest contributor to two U.S. priority missions — AMISOM and the mission to eliminate Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army — Uganda has proved particularly vexing in this regard. During the course of the AMISOM mission, Uganda has devolved from an exemplary democracy to an increasingly autocratic, oppressive society that punishes political dissent and tramples on human rights.[92] Yet, the U.S. response to Uganda’s decline has been muted because of its strategic dependency.[93] Moreover, Uganda has manipulated this dependence, for example, by threatening to withdraw from AMISOM when it was criticized for supporting an anti-government militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[94] U.S. counterterrorism goals have similarly skewed American policy toward Ethiopia. Ethiopia has not only been a major force contributor to missions — both AMISOM and non-AMISOM — aimed at reaching U.S. objectives, but also reportedly hosted a U.S. military facility used to launch lethal strikes against al-Shabaab targets until 2016.[95] Despite acute and longstanding concerns about Ethiopia’s human rights record, the United States has tempered its criticism of the Ethiopian regime and continued to supply military assistance in spite of congressional efforts to impose restrictions.[96] Strategically, these policy imbalances have not only undermined U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region, but have undermined U.S. credibility in its advocacy for core democratic values more broadly. Conclusion For the better part of the last 15 years, the United States has pursued national security objectives in several different regions with a strategy based on the premise that security assistance can be used to rapidly build the capacity of foreign forces to decisively defeat terrorist organizations posing a threat to the United States. Capacity has been seen as a strictly supply-side equation, wherein the United States can improve a partner military’s effectiveness simply by plugging in new equipment and providing a modicum of small unit training, thus avoiding the need for any long-term commitment. And partners would willingly pursue goals aligned with U.S. interests, thereby saving the United States from the need for direct intervention. These assumptions are at the heart of the military mantra of operating “by, with, and through.” The Somalia case study exposes these assumptions as wishful and naive. It has demonstrated that capacity cannot be built either simply or quickly, but demands a consistent, sustained, holistic approach. It has shown the complexities of working through partners with a host of competing agendas. It has demonstrated that a narrow counterterrorism agenda almost inevitably runs headlong into more enduring U.S. foreign policy priorities, and even that counterterrorism objectives are poorly served by a near-term and tactical focus on counterterrorism. More than anything, it has shown the importance of strategy, and the pitfalls of strategies poorly formed. Somalia is not lost, and the international community still has an opportunity to get it right. For the United States to be a constructive participant in that effort, it must set aside these misguided assumptions and develop a strategy that clearly identifies risks and organizes U.S. ways and means to achieve its stated ends despite these risks. It is these kinds of tailored and deliberate strategies — rather than the often empty bumper-sticker mantras of “by, with, and through”[97] or “train, advise, and assist,”[98] — that are needed to guide U.S. capacity-building around the world.   Tommy Ross is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation at the Pentagon and was the senior defense and intelligence adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has also held other senior positions in the House and Senate.  

4. The Risks and Tradeoffs of Security Cooperation

By Melissa G. Dalton Security cooperation is hardly new. The United States has been providing assistance to allies and partners, and pursuing an array of defense-related engagements with them since World War II. Increasingly, however, the U.S. government is relying on security cooperation to further its global defense objectives. The aim, as stated by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, is to work by, with, and through allies and partners so that they own the spaces where this cooperation occurs.[99] Look no further than the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy,[100] which elevates security cooperation as its second pillar. The complexity of the security challenges confronting the United States — from strategic competition with near-peer competitors to counterterrorism efforts against non-state actors — are often unbounded by regional geography and require networks of allies and partners to fill gaps, cover seams, buttress capabilities, and open access. This is one reason why security cooperation has become more pervasive and integral to U.S. defense strategy, and arguably, at times, a substitute for it. Another reason is that domestic political pressures have created incentives for U.S. leaders to ask more of allies and partners when it comes to collective security. Neither of these pressures — the complexity of the global threat environment, nor the domestic compulsion to share more of the burden — is likely to decrease in the near future. At the same time, at least three trends will challenge the way U.S. departments and agencies plan, conduct, and execute security cooperation in the next five years: changes in U.S. defense trade policy, skepticism of the return on investment, and contextual factors in recipient countries. The United States will need to create policy frameworks and operational approaches that reconcile the effects of these trends in a coherent fashion to mitigate policy tensions and maximize impact. New Emphasis on Defense Trade In April 2018, the Trump administration announced an updated arms transfer policy, which aims to make it easier for U.S. industry to sell weapons to other countries.[101] This is the first update to U.S. conventional arms transfer policy since the Obama-era Presidential Policy Directive-27.[102] It reflects recognition that the global arms market is increasingly crowded, and the United States must reform its approach to remain competitive. The Trump administration clearly wants to sell more arms abroad, in theory, to create American jobs and empower allied and partner countries so that they can tackle their own security challenges, as White House and Department of State officials have publicly noted.[103] President Donald Trump himself has showcased this approach in meetings with Saudi officials. Parallel reform efforts are underway to accelerate the delivery of arms sales to recipients while abiding by policy and technology release requirements. The elevated focus on economic gains as an incentive for defense trade seems to be the major change, and is being used as a means for stimulating domestic manufacturing growth through increased jobs and production. This approach aims to help fulfill Trump’s “America First” campaign promise of creating jobs at home. The reality of the benefits reaped from growing employment opportunities, however, is uncertain as military spending may create significantly fewer jobs than public spending in other sectors.[104] These jobs, however, may be high in value both in terms of wages and increased technology. Thus, analysis of the economic emphasis of the policy should focus on improved job opportunities as opposed to employment growth. Relative to other exports, arms exports may also be less likely to impact job growth because they often require offsets (otherwise known as supplemental agreements made in an arms sale) in addition to monetary transactions.[105] Partner nations are often pressured to offset their public dollars being spent on foreign goods by requiring domestic production or trade agreements, and thus, arms transfers might not increase employment as much as the sales figures would imply. Additionally, arms transfers are a foreign policy tool and cannot be wholly separated from U.S. security cooperation policy. Arms transfers should be designed to build allied and partner defense capability and interoperability in ways that mitigate risk in U.S. plans for managing crises and contingencies, whether in the South China Sea, Eastern Europe, or the Middle East. Indeed, greater linkage between Department of Defense contingency planning and security cooperation communities will ensure stronger alignment to defense priorities and objectives. Depending on the reliability of a partner, and the degree to which it shares U.S. principles, arms transfers may prompt humanitarian risks, because once arms are transferred, the United States may have limited leverage or control over how they are used. While intensifying oversight of how arms are used and holding partners accountable may mitigate risks, uncertainty remains in terms of how a partner will use its equipment. Seeking Return on Investment The Trump administration is hardly the first to press allies and partners to do more for their own security. However, the president himself has sought to fully underscore his concerns about key allies in NATO and East Asia failing to shoulder the security burden, although often in narrow and selective terms. While the president’s demands are seemingly hardline, U.S. political and public skepticism on the return on investment for security cooperation expenditures has been growing over the last four years. This is especially true when it comes to grant-based security sector assistance, for which the media has documented a litany of cases involving misuse and misconduct by recipients. The collapse of Iraqi troops when confronted by the Islamic State in 2014 has since become synonymous with the failures of security assistance in some circles. In the last two National Defense Authorization Act cycles, Congress strengthened requirements on the Department of Defense to work with the U.S. State Department to strategically plan, assess, monitor, and evaluate security cooperation initiatives to ensure they track with U.S. foreign policy priorities. It also consolidated over 100 capacity-building authorities into one. Reform efforts are underway within the Defense Department to adapt its policy planning, processes, and resource alignment under this new Section 333 authority. It is still early to judge the success of these requirements — that will have to wait until the assessment, monitoring, and evaluation systems are established and bear fruit. The Department of Defense has taken promising steps to provide Combatant Commands with advisors and templates for developing partner capacity-building program proposals, which require the articulation of outcomes, objectives, measures of success, and risk mitigation factors. However, significant steps will still need to be taken in implementing these historic reforms, not least of which is ensuring the broader security cooperation workforce — from Washington policy and program management offices, to U.S. Embassies, Military Services, and Combatant Commands — have the requisite tools and the capacity to plan, execute, and evaluate security cooperation activities. Meanwhile, although the State Department has experimented with pilot programs for planning and evaluating the effectiveness of grant-based, security sector assistance, the Trump administration has prioritized its defense trade agenda (discussed above) over needed parallel reforms to how the State Department fulfills its statutory leadership on broader issues of foreign policy and grant-based security sector assistance. This imbalance between evaluations and defense trade has been reinforced by the U.S. budget de-prioritization within the State Department (and USAID), which will only further constrain the department’s ability to effectively lead and work with the Defense Department to be responsive to calls for greater return on investment for security relationships with allies and partners. At the same time, compelled by deep suspicions of the utility of foreign aid, the Trump administration is also pursuing a top-down review of U.S. foreign assistance (e.g., for development, governance, and humanitarian support). However, the foreign assistance review could provide a silver lining opportunity to integrate common criteria into resource planning and execution to better align foreign assistance with policy priorities, which could have mirrored effects for security sector assistance. Context Matters The United States has strongly signaled its strategic intent to use security cooperation as a policy tool for a range of defense objectives — from countering terrorism to bolstering a network of allies and partners to compete with China and Russia. However, it must consider the downstream effects more concretely and in ways that impact security cooperation planning and execution. Security cooperation may well achieve immediate objectives, such as disrupting a terrorist attack or signaling deterrence through combined exercises in advance of a diplomatic summit. It may even provide long-term benefits via institutional capacity-building to strengthen resilience to foreign penetration (e.g., defense institution-building in Ukraine). These are critical tasks and functions that advance U.S. objectives. However, they must be calibrated to the context in which they are being implemented, so as not to inadvertently elevate partner expectations to a level that the United States cannot match, empower bad actors, reinforce predatory governance, exacerbate conflict dynamics, and/or cause civilian harm.[106] As the United States shifts its focus to strategic competition with near-peer competitors, there is a risk of abandoning bedrock principles and values that have historically undergirded U.S. leadership in order to keep pace with competitors who do not ascribe to the same rules and are willing to overlook partner transgressions. The challenge for the United States in this competitive environment will be to reinforce the principled basis for questioning and modulating its security relationships when necessary, while also making clear that the capability output and political outcomes of a security relationship with the United States far exceed those offered by U.S. competitors. Having a robust assessment, monitoring, and evaluation system and articulating a theory of change will enable such calibration and the design of conflict-aware security cooperation. Inevitably, however, emergent crises and threats to national security interests will put pressure on policymakers to sidestep rigorous planning and assessment, monitoring, and evaluation processes. These decisions should be made with a conscious acknowledgment and assessment that there are risks and trade-offs to doing so, and appropriate mitigation measures should be developed so as not to fundamentally derail other U.S. foreign policy priorities in a particular country or context. Conclusion Security cooperation is not a strategy unto itself, even if it can be an effective way of achieving core U.S. defense objectives. The U.S. government should broker such deals with a clear-eyed assessment of the risks and tradeoffs of arms transfers — for the sake of “improving a relationship,” weighed against operational, economic, and humanitarian value. With growing impulses to shift the burden of global security requirements to allies and partners, America will have to resist temptations to myopically strike arms transfer deals or train local security partners for immediate gain without thorough consideration of the risks and the development of a mitigation plan. It will have to build rigorous and principled policy frameworks and technical approaches that are both operationally and economically responsive, to enable it to compete and secure its objectives in the 21st century.   Melissa G. Dalton directs the Cooperative Defense Project and is a senior fellow and deputy director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to joining CSIS in 2014, she served for 10 years at the U.S. Department of Defense. Image: U.S. Army   [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: The Pros and Cons of Security Assistance [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-the-pros-and-cons-of-security-assistance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 10:46:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 15:46:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=773 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => For years, America has depended on partnering with countries to help combat terrorism and promote regional stability. We gathered together a group of experts to weigh in on security assistance and its pros and cons. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 849 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 225 [1] => 226 [2] => 227 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] The White House, National Security Strategy of The United States of America, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf; The Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of The United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, January 2018, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf; The White House, National Security for Counterterrorism of The United States of America, Oct., 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NSCT.pdf; [2] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Public Law 115–91, https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/publ91/PLAW-115publ91.pdf; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Public Law 114–328, https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ328/PLAW-114publ328.pdf. [3] For more on INCLE assistance see, Security Assistance Monitor, “International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement,” https://securityassistance.org/europe/content/international narcotics control and law enforcement. [4] “Defense Security Cooperation Agency Overview,” accessed July 2018, http://www.dsca.mil/2014-foreign-customer-guide/security-cooperation-overview. [5] U.S. military aid programs are typically motivated by a combination of goals that varies across cases. The goal most relevant for my purposes is capacity-building. [6] I use “recipient,” “host,” “partner,” and “client” government interchangeably throughout. For an example of work on threat perceptions, see, Stephen Tankel, With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018). [7] Stephen Biddle, Julia MacDonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1-2 (2018): 89–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745; Walter Ladwig, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017); Clint Watts, Jacob Shapiro, and Vahid Brown, Al-Qa’ida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa (West Point, NY: Combatting Terrorism Center, 2007). [8] I describe some of this evidence below, but for more detail please see Andrew Boutton, “Coup-Proofing in the Shadow of Intervention: Alliances, Moral Hazard, and Violence in Authoritarian Regimes” forthcoming, International Studies Quarterly. [9] Biddle et al., “Small Footprint, Small Payoff.” [10] Kristen A Harkness, “The Ethnic Army and the State: Explaining Coup Traps and the Difficulties of Democratization in Africa,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 60, no. 4 (2016): 587–616, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022002714545332. [11] Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Counter Terrorism Unit and Republican Guard are good examples of this. On two-tiered militaries see Alexis Kedo and Colby Goodman, “U.S. Military Aid to Presidential Guards a Risky Venture,” LobeLog, Oct. 6, 2015, https://lobelog.com/u-s-military-aid-to-presidential-guards-a-risky-venture/. On Saleh, see Gregory D Johnsen, The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013). [12] Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015). [13] Philip Roessler, “The Enemy Within: Personal Rule, Coups, and Civil War in Africa.” World Politics 63, no. 2 (April 2011): 300–346, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0043887111000049. [14] Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg, “Personal rule: Theory and practice in Africa.” Comparative Politics 16, no. 4 (July 1984): 421–42, https://www.jstor.org/stable/i217474. [15] Jun Koga Sudduth, “The Strategic Logic of Elite Purges in Dictatorships.” Comparative Political Studies 50, no. 13 (2017): 1768–1801, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0010414016688004. [16] Roessler, “The Enemy Within”; Boutton “Coup-Proofing in the Shadow of Intervention.” [17] Philip Roessler and David Ohls, “Self-Enforcing Power Sharing in Weak States,” International Organization 62, no. 3 (Spring 2018): 423–54, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818318000073. [18] Although the focus here is on military aid, it is important to note that other types of security assistance can have similar effects. This is because it is not the aid per se that creates these perverse effects, but rather the signal it sends to the partner regime. [19] Boutton, “Coup-Proofing in the Shadow of Intervention.” [20] Toby Dodge, “Iraq’s Road Back to Dictatorship,” Survival 54, no. 3 (2012): 147–68, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2012.690990. [21] Erica DeBruin, “Coup-Proofing for Dummies: The Benefits of Following the Maliki Playbook,” Foreign Affairs, July 27, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iraq/2014-07-27/coup-proofing-dummies. [22] Ali Khedery, “Why We Stuck with Maliki – and Lost Iraq,” Washington Post, July 3, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-stuck-with-maliki--and-lost-iraq/2014/07/03/0dd6a8a4-f7ec-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html; see also “The rise of ISIS,” Frontline, season 33, episode 2, Oct. 28, 2014, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/rise-of-isis/. [23] Jessica M. Chapman, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 189. [24] Patricia Sullivan, “S. Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Chanh Thi,” Washington Post, June 26, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062602195.html. [25] Marcus Mietzner, “A Veto Player no more? The Declining Political Influence of the Military in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia,” in Democracy and Islam in Indonesia, ed. Mirjam Kunkler and Alfred Stepan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). [26] R. William Liddle and Saiful Mujani, “Indonesian Democracy: From Transition to Consolidation,” in Democracy and Islam in Indonesia, ed. Mirjam Kunkler and Alfred Stepan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). [27] Andrew Boutton, “U.S. Security Assistance, Civil-Military Crises, and the Escalation of Political Violence,” Working paper (2018), https://www.andrewboutton.com/uploads/2/0/8/8/20883260/domestic_sourcesr1.pdf. [28] Agence France Presse, “Niger: Libération de prisonniers du coup d’État présumé de 2015,” Jeune Afrique, March 26, 2017, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/depeches/421356/societe/niger-liberation-de-prisonniers-coup-detat-presume-de-2015/. [29] “Niger and Boko Haram: Beyond Counterinsurgency,” International Crisis Group no. 245 (2017), https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/niger/245-niger-and-boko-haram-beyond-counter-insurgency. [30] Laurent Bigot, “Au Niger, l’armée affaiblie par la paranoïa de son président,” Le Monde, Oct. 10, 2016, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/10/10/au-niger-l-armee-affaiblie-par-la-paranoia-de-son-president_5011114_3212.html. [31] Boutton, “U.S. Security Assistance, Civil-Military Crises, and the Escalation of Political Violence “; Nathaniel Powell, “The Destabilizing Dangers of U.S. Counterterrorism in the Sahel” War on the Rocks, Feb. 8, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/02/the-destabilizing-dangers-of-american-counterterrorism-in-the-sahel/. [32] Stephen Biddle, “Building Security Forces and Stabilizing Nations: The Problem of Agency,” Daedalus 146, no. 4 (Fall 2017): 126–38, https://doi.org/10.1162/DAED_a_00464. [33] Melissa Dalton, Hijab Shah, Shannon N. Green, and Rebecca Hughes, Oversight and Accountability in US Security Sector Assistance (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2018). [34] Ladwig, The Forgotten Front. [35] Andrew Miller, “Trump Blinks and Egypt’s Sisi Wins,” Foreign Policy. Aug. 10, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/10/trump-blinks-and-egypts-sisi-wins/; Eric Schmitt, and David E. Sanger, “In Sign of Normalization, Pentagon to Reimburse Pakistan $688 Million,” New York Times. Dec. 17, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/world/asia/pentagon-to-reimburse-pakistan-688-million.html. [36] Kristen Harkness, “Security assistance in Africa: The case for more,” Parameters 45, no. 2 (Summer 2015), https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/parameters/Issues/Summer_2015/5_Harkness.pdf. [37] D. Michael Shafer,. Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988). [38] Samuel Decalo, Civil-Military Relations in Africa (Gainesville: Florida Academic Press, 1998), 6. [39] Ken Menkhaus, “State Failure, State-Building, and Prospects for a ‘Functional Failed State’ in Somalia,” ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 656, no. 1 (November 2014): 154–72, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0002716214547002. [40] Stephen Tankel, With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018). [41] Tankel, With Us and Against Us. [42] Ashley Elliot and Georg-Sebastian Holzer, “The Invention of ‘Terrorism’ in Somalia: Paradigms and Policy in US Foreign Relations,” South African Journal of International Affairs 16, no. 2 (2018): 215–44, https://doi.org/10.1080/10220460903268984. [43] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia,” New York Times, Dec. 27, 2006, https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/27/world/africa/27africa.html. [44] “U.S. Foreign Policy in Somalia,” Remarks by Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman at the United States Institute of Peace, June 3, 2014, https://2009-2017.state.gov/p/us/rm/2014/227079.htm. [45] Mark Mazzetti, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Eric Schmitt, “In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War,” New York Times, Oct. 16, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/world/africa/obama-somalia-secret-war.html. [46] Seth G. Jones, Andrew Liepman, and Nathan Chandler, “Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in Somalia: Assessing the Campaign Against Al Shabaab," RAND Corporation (2016), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1539.html. [47] Ken Menkhaus, “Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Somalia,” Centre for Security Governance Papers, no. 5 (April 2016), 22, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/NSSPs_in_Somalia_April2016.pdf. [48] Menkhaus, “Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Somalia,” 22. [49] Armin Rosen, “Will Private Contractors like Blackwater Join the Fight Against ISIS?” Slate, Oct. 13, 2014, https://slate.com/business/2014/10/blackwater-why-private-security-contractors-will-likely-be-involved-in-fight-against-isis.html. [50] “Federal Republic of Somalia: Somalia Security and Justice Sector PER,” World Bank Report No. AUS8353 (January 2017), http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/644671486531571103/pdf/Somalia-SJPER-01302017-Final-Version.pdf. [51] A sixth troop contributing country, Sierra Leone, sent a battalion in April 2013, but then withdrew it in January 2015, because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. [52] “Peacekeeping Operations in East Africa, 2009–2018,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/country/military/Peacekeeping%20Operations/2009/2018/all/East%20Africa/. [53] “United Nations Support Office in Somalia,” About Page, accessed Nov. 1, 2018, https://unsos.unmissions.org/about. [54] “U.S. Army Support to the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program,” Center for Army Lessons Learned: News From the Front, March 4, 2017, https://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/publications/NFTF_ACOTA_2.pdf.  See also, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Peacekeeping Capacity-Building Assistance,” U.S. Department of State, November 2017.  https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/270963.pdf. [55] The Global Train and Equip program began under the authority provided by Section 1206 of the 2006 defense authorization bill; its authority later evolved into Section 2282, and then Section 333, of Title 10, U.S. Code. [56] Data for Department of Defense “Section 1206 Train and Equip Authority” and Section 333 Building Partner Capacity” programs in Uganda, Fiscal Years 2009-2018, Security Assistance Monitor, https://securityassistance.org/. [57] Data for Department of Defense “Section 1206 Train and Equip Authority” and Section 333 Building Partner Capacity” programs in Kenya, Fiscal Years 2009-2018, Security Assistance Monitorhttps://securityassistance.org/. [58] “Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund from 2012 to 2018,” Security Assistance Monitor, accessed Nov. 8, 2018, http://securityassistance.org/data/country/military/Counterterrorism%20Partnerships%20Fund/2012/2018/all/Global/; Nina M. Serafino, “The Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund Proposal: Questions for Congress,” July 14, 2014, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/IN10103.html. [59] “Section 1207(n) Transitional Authority Spending in East Africa from 2009 to 2018,” Security Assistance Monitor, accessed Nov. 8, 2018, http://securityassistance.org/data/country/military/Section 1207%28n%29 Transitional Authority/2009/2018/all/East Africa/; “Section 1207(n) Transitional Authority — Total U.S. Security Aid in 2014,” Security Assistance Monitor, accessed Nov. 8, 2018, https://securityassistance.org/content/section 1207%28n%29 transitional authority. [60] “U.S. Foreign Policy in Somalia,” Remarks by Wendy R. Sherman. [61] Omar S. Mahmood and Ndubuisi Christian Ani, “Impact of EU Funding Dynamics on AMISOM,” Institute for Security Studies, East Africa Report, no. 16 (December 2017), https://issafrica.s3.amazonaws.com/site/uploads/ear16.pdf. [62] Jones, Liepman, and Chandler, “Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in Somalia.” [63] Paul D. Williams with Abdirashid Hashi, “Exit Strategy Challenges for the AU Mission in Somalia,” The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (February 2016), http://www.heritageinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Exit-Strategy-Challenges-for-the-AU-Mission-in-Somalia.pdf. [64] “Common Security and Defence Policy: EUTM Somalia,” European Union, updated October 2014, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/documents/sede/dv/sede210915factsheeteutmsomalia_/sede210915factsheeteutmsomalia_en.pdf. [65] Jones, Liepman, and Chandler, “Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in Somalia.” [66] “UN Arms Embargo on Somalia,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, last updated Nov. 21, 2017, https://www.sipri.org/databases/embargoes/un_arms_embargoes/somalia. [67] “Obama Approves Sending U.S. Military Aid to Somalia,” Reuters, April 8, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-usa/obama-approves-sending-u-s-military-aid-to-somalia-idUSBRE93711G20130408. [68] Joseph Trevithick, “America Is Expanding Its Secretive War in Somalia,” The Drive, March 31, 2017, http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/8851/america-is-expanding-its-secretive-war-in-somalia. [69] Mazzetti, Gettleman, and Schmitt, “In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War.” [70] Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph, “US-Trained Somali Commandos Fight Al-Shabab,” Voice of America, July 31, 2014, https://www.voanews.com/a/us-trained-somali-commandos-fight-against-al-shabab/1968832.html. [71] David Shinn, “Somalia, Al-Shabaab, the Region and U.S. Policy,” International Policy Digest, April 19, 2015, https://intpolicydigest.org/2015/04/19/somalia-al-shabaab-the-region-and-u-s-policy/. [72] Shinn, “Somalia, Al-Shabaab, the Region and U.S. Policy.” [73] Carla Babb, “VOA Exclusive: Dozens More US Troops Deployed to Somalia,” Voice of America, last updated April 14, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/a/dozens-more-us-troops-deployed-somalia-voa-exclusive/3809351.html. [74] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper, “1 U.S. Soldier Is Killed and 4 Are Wounded in Somalia Firefight,” New York Times, June 8, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/world/africa/american-soldier-killed-somalia-.html. [75] Paul D. Williams, “A Navy SEAL Was Killed in Somalia. Here’s What You Need to Know About U.S. Operations There,” Washington Post, May 8, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/08/a-navy-seal-was-killed-in-somalia-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-u-s-operations-there/?utm_term=.6ec4f0e83877. While it may be tempting to view the special operations advisory mission as a new development, it represents an evolution of means more than ways; since at least 2010, the United States has been funding private military contractors, including former special operations personnel, to advise and assist both AMISOM and Somali forces. [76] Katharine Houreld, “Exclusive: U.S. Suspends Aid to Somalia’s Battered Military Over Graft,” Reuters, Dec. 14, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-military-exclusive/exclusive-u-s-suspends-aid-to-somalias-battered-military-over-graft-idUSKBN1E81XF. [77] Houreld, “Exclusive: U.S. Suspends Aid to Somalia’s Battered Military Over Graft.” [78] “United Nations Security Council 8165th Meeting,” Jan. 24, 2018, https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7b65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7d/s_pv_8165.pdf. [79] Paul R. Camacho and Ibrahim Mohamed Abukar, “Somalia’s Security: The Reconstruction of the Somali National Army,” Center for Policy Analysis & Research (February 2017), http://www.cfpar.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Reconstruction-of-the-Somali-National-Army-Briefing-Report-4.pdf. [80] Data for Department of Defense “Section 1206 Train and Equip Authority” in Somalia, Fiscal Year 2016, Security Assistance Monitorhttps://www.securityassistance.org. [81] “Global Somalia Funding from 2009 to 2018,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Somalia/2009/2018/all/Global/. [82] “Somalia Security and Justice Public Expenditure Review,” United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and the World Bank (January 2017), http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/644671486531571103/pdf/Somalia-SJPER-01302017-Final-Version.pdf. [83] For unpaid wages see: “Somali: Government Forces Seize Defense Ministry HQ Over Unpaid Salaries,” Garowe Online, May 18, 2017, https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somali-government-forces-seize-defense-ministry-hq-over-unpaid-salaries; for human rights abuses and insufficient military justice mechanisms, see: “Somalia 2017 Human Rights Report,” Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/277289.pdf; for corruption and ghost soldiers, see: Harun Maruf, “Somalia: Up to 30 Percent of Soldiers Unarmed,” Voice of America, Dec. 19, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/a/somali-government-says-up-thirty-percent-its-soldiers-unarmed/4170388.html; for clan integration, see: “Shortages, Clan Rivalries Weaken Somalia’s New Army,” IRIN News, http://www.irinnews.org/report/100141/shortages-clan-rivalries-weaken-somalias-new-army. [84] “Security Pact,” London Conference Somalia, May 11, 2017, https://unsom.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/london-somalia-conference-2017-security-pact.pdf.pdf. [85] Jeffrey Gettleman, Mark Mazzetti, and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict,” New York Times, Aug. 10, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/world/africa/11somalia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&&mtrref=undefined. [86] “S. Rept. 113-176 - Carl Levin National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015,” 113th U.S. Congress (2013-2014), https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/113th-congress/senate-report/176/1?overview=closed. [87] “H.R. 2810 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018,” 115th Congress (2017-2018), https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2810. [88] These authorities include the Section 1206 of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Global Security Contingency Fund (first authorized by the FY 2012 NDAA and most recently reauthorized by the FY 2018 NDAA), Section 1207(n) of the FY 2012 NDAA, 10 U.S. Code 2282, the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, and 10 U.S. Code 333. [89] “Joint Planning,” Departments of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, June 16, 2017, http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp5_0_20171606.pdf. [90] “Tricia Bacon Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,” 2018, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/031418_Bacon_Testimony.pdf. [91] Halima Athumani, “AMISOM Heads of State Call on UN to Reverse Troop Drawdown in Somalia,” Voice of America, Mach 2, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/amison-heads-state-call-on-united-nations-reverse-troop-drawdown-somalia/4278061.html. [92] Jon Temin, “The Alarming Decline of Democracy in East Africa: How Washington Can Help Reverse the Trend,” Foreign Affairs, Nov. 27, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/east-africa/2017-11-27/alarming-decline-democracy-east-africa. [93] Melina Platas and Kim Yi Dionne, “U.S. Foreign Policy and Ugandan Domestic Politics Collide, Washington Post, April 7, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/07/u-s-foreign-policy-and-ugandan-domestic-politics-collide/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7dd1b71aea1f; Tenin, “The Alarming Decline of Democracy in East Africa.” [94] “Uganda to Withdraw Troops from Somalia, Says Mukasa,” BBC, Nov. 2, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-20187369.563. [95] John Hudson and Siobhán O’Grady, “As New Threats Emerge, U.S. Closes Drone Base in Ethiopia,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 4, 2016, https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/04/as-new-threats-emerge-u-s-closes-drone-base-in-ethiopia/. [96] “5 Practical Recommendations for U.S. Policy on Ethiopia,” Freedom House, May 12, 2015, https://freedomhouse.org/blog/5-practical-recommendations-us-policy-ethiopia. [97] Linda Robinson, “SOF’s Evolving Role: Warfare ‘By, With, and Through’ Local Forces,” RAND Corporation, May 9, 2017, https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/05/sofs-evolving-role-warfare-by-with-and-through-local.html. [98] Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., “Amy Mulls Train & Advise Brigades: Gen. Milley,” Breaking Defense, Dec. 14, 2015, https://breakingdefense.com/2015/12/army-mulls-train-advise-brigades-gen-milley/. [99] Joseph Votel and Eero R. Keravuori, “The By, With, and Through Operational Approach,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 89. (April 2018), https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-539772139/the-by-with-through-operational-approach. [100] The Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of The United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, January 2018, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [101] “National Security Presidential Memorandum Regarding U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy,” The White House, Office of the President, April 19, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/national-security-presidential-memorandum-regarding-u-s-conventional-arms-transfer-policy/. [102] “Presidential Policy Directive – United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy,” The White House, Office of the President, Jan.14, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/15/presidential-policy-directive-united-states-conventional-arms-transfer-p. [103] “U.S. Arms Transfer Policy: Shaping the Way Ahead,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Aug. 8, 2018, https://www.csis.org/events/us-arms-transfer-policy. [104] Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,” Political Economy Research Institute (December 2011), https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/published_study/PERI_military_spending_2011.pdf. [105] Samantha Cohen, Melissa Dalton, and Andrew Hunter, “Essential Imperatives for Arms Transfer Policy,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 24, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/essential-imperatives-us-arms-transfer-policy. [106] Frances Z. Brown and Mara Karlin, “Friends with Benefits: What the Reliance on Local Partners Means for U.S. Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, May 8, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2018-05-08/friends-benefits. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction: The Future of Security Assistance, by Stephen Tankel 2. The Dangers of U.S. Military Assistance to Weak States, by Andrew Boutton 3. The Dangers of Incoherent Strategy: Security Assistance in Somalia, 2009–2018, by Tommy Ross 4. The Risks and Tradeoffs of Security Cooperation, by Melissa G. Dalton ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1261 [post_author] => 162 [post_date] => 2019-03-27 06:00:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-27 10:00:49 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap

By Jason Fritz   In the years since the United States deployed massive amounts of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in the early to late 2000s, it has changed tactics, relying upon local security forces to fight its enemies abroad in order to avoid the costs of large-scale military commitments. The United States provides security assistance on every continent except Antarctica, and to every country in the bottom quartile of fragile states, except for Eritrea and Syria.[1] Support to these local forces takes many forms, from simple train-and-equip missions, to acting in an advisory role, to training and educating foreign armies, to institutional and ministerial reform. The U.S. government has invested heavily in building the military capacity of fragile states because it is much cheaper to support developing militaries than it is for the United States to stabilize these countries itself. Yet, these efforts have produced mixed results at best. Mara Karlin, in her excellent new book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, proposes to explain under what conditions efforts to build partner capacity succeed and fail when the United States is attempting to stabilize a fragile state undergoing civil conflict — specifically, conflict that challenges the government’s monopoly on the use of force. Offering an elegant and parsimonious model, Karlin argues that there are two overarching variables that help a partner military achieve sustainable control over the state: the nature of U.S. involvement and the external threat environment. The former is determined by how the United States organizes the foreign military (for internal or external defense), the U.S. role in selecting key partner military leaders, and the ability of the United States to limit its involvement to assistance only and not become a party to the conflict. The external threat environment describes the role of external actors in the conflict. According to Karlin’s model, building a partner’s military capacity is more likely to be successful — measured as the partner’s monopoly of force within its borders — when American involvement is greater and the role of antagonistic external actors is decreased. Thus, when U.S. involvement is low and external antagonism is high, building partner capacity is expected to be a complete failure. The remaining two combinations lead to two different varieties of partial failure: When there is limited antagonistic influence but U.S. efforts are not fully engaged, insufficient progress is made toward securing a monopoly of force for the local government. Conversely, heavy U.S. involvement alongside significant external antagonism result in a spoiler effect where both actors — the United States and and the external antagonistic actor — cancel out the effect of the other. Karlin draws her empirical evidence from a number of historical case studies, relying on unique archival research and interviews. The exemplar case of building partner capacity is Greece in the late 1940s, an intervention in which U.S. military officers wielded great power over the personnel decisions and force structuring in the Greek military as a condition of assistance. Coupled with limited external support for the communist rebels, the U.S. assistance was extremely effective in defeating the insurgency. Alternatively, complete failure in such efforts is exemplified by U.S. intervention in South Vietnam in the late 1950s. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem refused to allow American interference in military leadership decisions. Instead, his paranoia led him to only appoint officers whose personal loyalty to him was unquestionable. American advisors continued to structure, equip, and train the South Vietnamese military to face external threats, while the insurgency — increasingly backed by North Vietnam — surged to unmanageable levels of capability. The assistance mission was a disaster, leading the United States to become more and more involved with direct military action, the consequences of which need no further discussion here. Karlin illustrates her model’s predictions of partial failure by examining two assistance programs in Lebanon. The first example was during Lebanon’s civil war in the early 1980s, when the United States was significantly involved in leadership decisions and force structuring in the country but was ultimately defeated by the destabilizing effects of proxy forces supported by Israel, Iran, and Syria. In this case, antagonistic external actors were able to overcome American attempts to improve the Lebanese military. The second example is from the subsequent U.S. efforts in the late 2000s after the withdrawal of the Syrian military from Lebanon. In this example, there were fewer outside actors pushing against U.S. efforts, but America failed to affect leadership decisions in the Lebanese military, which was unable to gain or maintain control over all of the state’s territory. Karlin’s model is not meant to apply to cases where the United States is a direct co-combatant in a civil conflict. As she notes, these are rare events, most notably Vietnam (post-1961), Afghanistan (post-2001), and Iraq (post-2003). Karlin explains, “the nature of U.S. programs to strengthen militaries during a massive occupation is harder to disentangle given the numerous other variables that exist.”[2] Nor is her model meant to apply to assistance that is focused on external defense. The measure of success in Karlin’s model is the ability to control the state’s territory, an outcome which does not apply in cases of state-on-state conflict. How Much Involvement Is Enough, and for Whom? In addition to the great explanatory power that Karlin’s two-dimensional model provides and the key questions she raises for any policymaker considering embarking on a partner capacity mission, her study provides a great starting point for a suite of additional studies, including exploring how much assistance is enough and how the recipient country’s legitimacy affects U.S. effectiveness. First, given that assistance recipients are often concerned about how much U.S. involvement to accept, it would be invaluable to explore how much U.S. involvement is enough — and no more. There is ample research on the reticence of countries receiving U.S. assistance in appearing to be clients of the American hegemon,[3] a point made by each of the reviewers below. A government seen as too cozy with the United States could easily be viewed as not legitimate by its people, endangering its ability to expand and maintain control over the entirety of the state. Understanding the effective limits of U.S. involvement — and how much antagonistic external meddling can be tolerated — is also important to the United States as it would help frame the challenges for individual assistance programs and create expectations about costs for decision-makers, Congress, and the public. It is also important to set expectations with partner governments so they can gauge how much involvement to expect, which, if communicated well, could limit accusations of clientelism to a foreign power. A second potential path for future research is the addition of a third dimension to Karlin’s model, also discussed by Walter Ladwig below: the recipient government’s legitimacy. While measuring legitimacy remains a squishy endeavor, the reality is that some governments cannot be helped regardless of how much involvement the United States may offer or how little outside assistance insurgencies receive. Autocratic regimes that undertake coup-proofing measures with their military will not accept American influence on leadership decisions no matter what the United States does: the weakness of their military is essential in maintaining their rule. Karlin’s case study in South Vietnam illustrates just this; however, Karlin identified the American advisors as the explanatory variable, not the very nature of Diem’s rule, which precluded any serious U.S. involvement. Moreover, in fragile states the government is often created by divvying public goods among warlords or other powerful elites, who would otherwise be in conflict with one another, in order to create a coalition.[4] Such coalitions are sensitive to changes in the power dynamics resulting from U.S. involvement. Replacing key military leaders may make the military a more capable force, but it degrades the political power structures that undergird the existence of the government. Assistance in this case is doomed to fail, as is the case in Afghanistan. And while some governments may or may not engage in coup-proofing or in efforts to maintain shaky political coalitions, their actions nevertheless prevent them from building legitimacy despite U.S. involvement in leadership decisions and force structuring. Such actions typically entail political exclusion or repression, both of which were on display in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Instances where the recipient government seeking stability may be a major source of fragility warrant the inclusion of a third dimension that considers the nature and actions of the recipient government. The Unlikelihood of Success Karlin, an exceptional academic who was also a senior official in the Department of Defense, examines security assistance deftly, with the rigor of a scholar and the practicality of a practitioner. The three reviewers in this roundtable — Walter Ladwig, Tommy Ross, and Loren DeJonge Shulman — each express agreement with Karlin’s model, but remain skeptical in the entire endeavor of building partner militaries. They focus on different points of failure for these missions, but think policymakers would be well served if America’s leaders in the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom analyzed each case according to the questions posed in Karlin’s conclusion. However, if policymakers were to rigorously analyze each mission as Karlin suggests, the reviewers are skeptical that U.S. partners would be up to the task, that the U.S. government is organized to build partner militaries, or that exogenous forces can be adequately deterred. In any of these cases, they expect the United States to be more likely to fail in these missions than not. Ladwig focuses his review on the recipient government and its propensity to accept outside involvement. He cites a number of studies that identify the partner government itself as the greatest obstacle to achieving state control and subsequent stability. Ladwig identifies that the country offering assistance and the recipient governments may have differing objectives that preclude the unity of effort necessary for deep outside involvement. Additionally, Ladwig points out that because assistance is an inherently political act, it may upset the political coalitions of the state, using the second Lebanon case as an example. Ultimately, Ladwig argues that although Karlin’s book is an excellent start, additional dimensions should also be explored when considering what makes for a successful foray into building partner capacity. Ross and DeJonge Schulman both acknowledge that building partner capacity has become America’s default response to fragile states, largely because it is cheaper than direct combat involvement. However, they also question whether the U.S. government is organized to conduct such assistance operations effectively. Ross notes that within the military, foreign assistance is marginalized — the U.S. government has invested little to create the capacity to conduct partner capacity missions at a scale commensurate with demand. Similarly, DeJonge Schulman doubts the ability of policymakers to fully analyze any specific mission adequately, per Karlin’s conclusion, in an environment where the operational tempo often precludes obtaining a rigorous understanding of the political conditions in the country in question. Furthermore, she is concerned about the existence of expertise at the country level, something that is necessary in order for the United States to make deep involvement effective (a point also made by Ross). Finally, Ross focuses in on the role of external actors more deeply. In his analysis, Karlin’s model treats antagonistic external actors as exogenous to the internal conflict and U.S. influence. This is undoubtedly for the sake of parsimony. But Ross argues that U.S. actions can both limit and inspire external actions, a point that is underexplored in Karlin’s model and case analysis. He notes that the United States has “an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country” and that U.S. planners may not be aware of the few tools that do exist. Ross ultimately proposes this as an additional area of exploration in future research. Each of the reviewers acknowledges that assistance to foreign militaries has been a key aspect of U.S. security efforts in fragile states for nearly 20 years, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. And yet, the United States has not had a great record in using that assistance to create stability in states of great strategic interest, particularly in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Karlin’s book provides a practical analytical path to predict the success of such assistance efforts. While scholars can enjoy the elegant model she presents and the lines of research the model uncovers, policymakers would be well advised to read and abide by the principles she lays out.   Jason Fritz is a senior research analyst and project manager in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, a senior editor at War on the Rocks, and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Academic Programs.  

2. The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States

By Walter C. Ladwig III   Reflecting the change in U.S. security strategy from direct intervention in internal conflicts to working “by, with, and through” local partners to manage internal security challenges, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the academic literature on security force assistance. Mara Karlin’s recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, makes a significant contribution to this growing field of study, as well as our understanding of the conditions necessary for American military assistance programs to achieve their objectives. Specifically, the book seeks to understand when, why, and under what circumstances U.S. programs to strengthen partner militaries for internal defense have succeeded. Both during the Cold War and today, military assistance has been a key tool in America’s diplomatic tool kit, yet as Karlin notes, “the U.S. track record for building militaries in fragile state is uneven at best.”[5] What accounts for this outcome? Blending a scholar’s detachment with the real-world insights of a senior Pentagon official, Karlin concludes that the limited impact of most security assistance programs is the result of a failure to properly conceive of the true scope of the undertaking. All too often, the task of strengthening a partner’s military is seen as a narrow technical undertaking focused on the provision of equipment and training. When these efforts fail to achieve the desired results, the answer is to simply provide more equipment and more training. Instead, Building Militaries in Fragile States contends that training and equipment on their own will only contribute marginally to military effectiveness if the armed forces receiving assistance suffer from poor organization and dysfunctional leadership. Consequently, Karlin argues that efforts to transform the recipient military, rather than simply supplying it with material and instruction, are the hallmark of efficacious security assistance missions. Success in this endeavor will be determined by the actions taken by the United States as well as by those of external powers that seek to destabilize the fragile state. In particular, efforts to strengthen the militaries of fragile states will succeed in achieving a monopoly on violence within the country’s borders when the following conditions are met: 1) American officials involve themselves in the partner’s “sensitive military matters,” such as the appointment of senior personnel and the organizational structure of the armed forces; and 2) The efforts of hostile external powers to bolster insurgents or undermine the fragile state are deterred or moderated. Conversely, when the United States shies away from trying to influence a state’s higher-level defense policies and antagonistic external actors run rampant, security assistance missions are poised for catastrophic failure. Karlin tests the explanatory power of this two-variable formulation by examining four case studies: U.S. involvement in the Greek Civil War (1947–1949); assistance to the armed forces of South Vietnam between 1956 and 1960; and two distinct efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army, from 1982 to 1984 (Lebanon I) and again from 2005 to 2009 (Lebanon II). She utilizes extensive archival research and copious interviews with senior policymakers to provide an impressive depth of insight into American efforts in each of the cases. In the most successful of the four assistance efforts examined in Karlin’s book, the Joint U.S. Military Assistance and Planning Group under Gen. James Van Fleet exercised considerable influence over the personnel policy and structure of the Greek armed forces. This occurred alongside internecine struggles in the communist world that led Yugoslavia to cut off support for the Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας) and deny their guerrillas sanctuary. The end result was a Greek military that was highly capable of carrying out the foreign internal defense mission and wielded uncontested sovereignty throughout the country’s territory. Vietnam sits at the opposite end of the spectrum where the U.S. Military Assistance Group under Gen. Samuel “Hanging Sam” Williams steadfastly focused on the technical aspects of rendering assistance to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and purposely avoided attempts to influence personnel policy or organizational structures of the South Vietnamese military. Moreover, a misplaced focus on preparing South Vietnam’s army for interstate warfare did little to develop its capacity to respond to North Vietnam’s increasing support for armed guerrillas in the south. The failure of this early security assistance effort set the stage for the subsequent U.S. intervention to bolster a succession of fledgling governments in Saigon. The two cases out of Lebanon demonstrate partial failures, with American efforts to reform the local armed forces countered by external support for opposition armed groups in one case (Lebanon I), and America’s failure to capitalize on the diminishing role of antagonistic external actors by intrusively intervening in the sensitive military affairs of the country generating sub-optimal results in the other (Lebanon II). Not all Countries Are Interested in Cooperation The real strength of Karlin’s contribution is in advancing an analytical framework that focuses on the agency and the actions of the supporting and opposing external powers. In this manner, politics takes center stage in determining the efficacy of security assistance efforts, rather than more mundane technical aspects of the undertaking. Karlin makes a convincing case that American policymakers tend to err by viewing the task of building partner militaries narrowly through the lens of training and equipping the forces, rather than engaging with broader questions of organizational structure and leadership that are so critical to enhancing military effectiveness.[6] In calling for security assistance efforts to be conceived more broadly, Building Militaries in Fragile States makes an important argument. At the same time, however, in privileging the politics and agency of external actors this approach neglects those same factors when it comes to the local partner. Although governments of weak states are sometimes portrayed as being puppets or pawns of major powers, they often prove to be savvy and strategic political actors who can, at times, succeed in advancing their own interests at the expense of their more powerful partners. Consequently, the mere willingness on the part of the United States to involve itself in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs is only part of the issue. The local partner’s willingness to allow such an intrusion and to accept American guidance is just as important, if not more so. The history of U.S. efforts to train and equip foreign militaries suggests that such compliance cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, there is a strand of literature dating back to the 1970s that identifies America’s partner governments as the principal obstacle to developing local militaries for internal security missions.[7] Although willing to accept U.S. military aid and training, local governments can be resistant to undertaking the kinds of transformational re-organizations that would improve military effectiveness, in part, because they often mistrust their own military. Governments that do not exercise a monopoly on violence within their territory and need significant external assistance to build military capacity typically suffer from a myriad of problems, like economic stagnation, incompetence, lack of legitimacy, abusive treatment of the population, or all of the above. The particular terrorist or insurgent group motivating U.S. involvement in a country’s internal security may be just one potential threat to the local regime’s hold on power, with additional challenges posed by rival elites or even the armed forces themselves. These different threat perceptions can lead the United States and a partner government to have different policy priorities, which can, in turn, undermine the effectiveness of U.S. security assistance. Consequently, advice to streamline the military chain of command or to appoint senior leaders on the basis of ability rather than political allegiance makes sense in terms of improving military effectiveness, but such actions can also appear reckless, if not downright suicidal, to the government in question. Instead, savvy leaders will ensure that the military is too divided to mount a coup, employ patronage to buy off rival elites, and centralize power in the hands of trusted loyalists, all of which is likely to diminish military effectiveness.[8] The potential for divergent preferences is amply illustrated in Karlin’s “Lebanon II” case, where the United States wanted the Lebanese government to be able to exert control over all of its territory, but the administration in Beirut prioritized maintaining its modus vivendi with Hezbollah over exercising complete sovereignty. When attempting to build military capacity in a fragile state, how likely is it that Washington’s preferences and those of a partner government will diverge? Available evidence suggests this will be a fairly common occurrence. As Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker have noted, many of the largest recipients of U.S. security assistance, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, are plagued by corruption, dalliances with terrorist groups, or gross human rights abuses, while other U.S. partners are among the most significant sources of foreign fighters for the so-called Islamic State.[9] Barbara Elias’ study of the demands the United States made to the Iraqi and Afghan governments it was supporting in counterinsurgency efforts found that 50 percent of American requests for military reforms in Iraq went unfulfilled and that the Afghan government’s compliance rate with U.S. suggestions regarding its military strategy was below 25 percent.[10] Indeed, in these two cases local partners pursued domestic policies that subverted U.S. security objectives. An inability to restrain Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian agenda, for example, prevented the military gains from the 2007 surge from being translated into positive political outcomes and laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s use of patronage politics was seen as a form of corruption, undercutting public support for the very government that U.S. and NATO forces were trying to assist. As commander of the U.S. military advisory group, Gen. Van Fleet was clearly right to push the Greek government to cashier ineffective senior officers, restructure its armed forces, and adjust its military doctrines. It is less clear, however, that the United States will often find a government as receptive as the Greeks were to their patron’s interventions. Not only did Van Fleet forge a close working relationship with his counterparts, as Karlin recounts, “the Greek government sought to wholly cooperate with the Americans.”[11] It goes far beyond the remit of Karlin’s book to determine why the Greek government was so willing to countenance American intrusion in sensitive military affairs, however, perceptions of the communist insurgency as the primary threat to the regime, coupled with a trust in the loyalty of the armed forces and unity among Greek elites would seem to be likely explanations. In any event, the situation was far different in South Vietnam where — despite the worsening internal security situation — the Diem government took active steps to limit the effectiveness of the army and ensured that the primary target of the intelligence services was not the growing insurgency, but rather non-communist political dissidents. Why? Because the army and political rivals were seen to be as great a threat to South Vietnam’s government as the Viet Cong. Even if Gen. Williams and his group of military advisors had wished to involve themselves in South Vietnam’s sensitive military affairs, would a government that had tightly centralized control over all aspects of defense, security, and economic policy in the office of the president readily welcome the council of American interlocutors? The rich historical detail in the Vietnam case study suggests that Ngo Dinh Diem would have exerted significant energy to thwart such efforts, as he did in fact do in the early 1960s.[12] It may be the case that some future American partners will be as welcoming as the Greeks, however, the history of U.S. security assistance efforts in Vietnam and Lebanon reviewed in this book should disabuse anyone of the expectation that unconditional cooperation will be the norm. Questions About U.S. Partners In the conclusion, Karlin outlines eight questions a policymaker should consider before initiating an effort to strengthen the military of a fragile state. Pondering these issues before commencing any security assistance mission will indeed help ensure that such an undertaking takes account of broader political military matters affecting military effectiveness, rather than concentrating narrowly on training and equipping foreign forces. The majority of these questions, however, focus on either the U.S. government or the antagonistic external actor. As the preceding discussion indicates, it is necessary to subject the local partner to the same type of scrutiny. What does the partner government see as its primary security threat? Does it trust the armed forces or see them as a potential rival? Is enhancing the military’s effectiveness a key goal for the local regime? Will American involvement in sensitive military affairs be welcomed or resisted? If the answers to these questions point to significant divergences in priorities or preferences between the United States and a partner, should the United States attempt to compel changes in the local government’s behavior through rewards or punishments or should it simply walk away? The answer to this latter question will vary from situation to situation, nevertheless, policymakers should give it real consideration before rendering security assistance to a fragile state. That such issues go beyond Karlin’s analytical framework is not a critique of Building Militaries in Fragile States, but rather an indication of the multi-dimensional challenges posed by security force assistance. Building effective military organizations can be difficult enough in one’s own state. These challenges are only compounded when seeking to enhance the effectiveness of another country’s armed forces. Mara Karlin makes an extremely valuable contribution to the growing literature on security force assistance by articulating a two-dimensional framework that can help assess when an effort to build a partner’s military is likely to be successful. Well written, deeply researched, and incorporating the perspectives of both a scholar and a practitioner, Building Militaries in Fragile States should be widely read by those in the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and on Capitol Hill who fund, execute, and oversee America’s extensive military assistance programs.   Walter C. Ladwig III is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge University Press, 2017).  

3. To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries

By Loren DeJonge Schulman   The movie Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler, contains a scene that has been turned into countless memes with various subtitles. In the original, Hitler learns that the defeat of Germany is imminent and explodes at his senior generals. My favorite meme is titled, “Hitler Learns About Sequestration”: The madman is informed of the imminence of the enormous budget cut and laments the loss of military superiority, crying “What are we going to do, build partner capacity?”[13] In her recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, Mara Karlin explores America’s history with capacity building missions and considers how it fits a world of limited defense resources. In the eyes of policymakers I have worked with, efforts to build partner capacity lie somewhere between a magical antidote to all of America’s security problems and an inevitable — and less expensive — back-up date. Respected leaders have hailed building the security capacity of U.S. allies and partners as “a key and enduring test of America’s global leadership in the 21st century,”[14] consistent with its history and ideological underpinnings. Put more bluntly, Karlin notes up front that “[t]he United States faces a long-term decline in defense spending going forward” and “U.S. direct military intervention [to bolster fragile states] is politically unacceptable.” Thus, America needs a way to pursue its security interests on the cheap, and “building partner militaries is one key way to do so.”[15] Karlin goes on to make the case that the United States needs to learn from how it has pursued this form of security assistance in the past and examine what factors contribute to and take away from its mid-term success. Her takeaways are clear and approachable: “If the United States gets deeply involved in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs and if antagonist external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.[16] Her checklist of questions for policymakers to consider before they engage in such operations in the future are sensible and to the point: What is the purpose of the program, what is the potential for the United States holding influence over the partner military, and how unified is the U.S. vision of the program?[17] Policymakers reading Karlin’s book may feel reassured that this is the how-to guide for intelligently building partner militaries that they have been waiting for, and it is, no doubt, the best and simplest advice I have seen in the literature. Just Say "No" However, having spent many of the same years as Karlin in the Pentagon and Situation Room considering how to support partner militaries and how to establish a U.S. policy framework for doing so, I have an alternative takeaway from Karlin’s sophisticated research and analysis: Don’t do it. Don’t build partner military capacity in vulnerable states. Don’t even think about it unless you are willing to spend an immense amount of time directly involved in a foreign military’s most sensitive decisions. And don’t do it unless you are painfully honest about the goals of the program. However, if you must engage in such an effort, policymakers should lower their expectations substantially regarding the scope and timeframe that the U.S. program is expected to have. Karlin is candid about the high barriers to success in her recommended approach and explores in detail how the United States does not typically pursue capacity-building missions how it ought to: with leaders who are highly invested and who give the necessary time to establish deep involvement in the effort. She takes it as a given, however, that these programs will continue and, thus, should be radically altered or pursued with much less optimistic outlooks than in the past — a logical assessment. But having seen firsthand how policymakers initiate and oversee such programs, I have grown deeply skeptical that they can ever set themselves up for success. Rather than seeing it as a simple handbook, I would rather policymakers view Karlin’s research as a cautionary tale with a high price tag. Karlin’s lead finding is that programs that aim to build partner militaries in fragile states require that the United States get deeply involved in the partner’s sensitive military affairs — this includes who is appointed within the security apparatus, what those leaders do, how they organize, and more.[18] Intimate involvement, time commitment, deep and ongoing participation by the right senior U.S. personnel, these are all prerequisites to an effective program based on her analysis of the case studies. The cases themselves make for compelling storytelling and Karlin’s extensive personal experience in the policy field shines through in the nuances she identifies as critical learning points for her readers. The importance of persistent, intensive, and even intrusive participation by the United States in these programs is clear in each chapter. The problem is that such commitment is effectively what U.S. policymakers are hoping to avoid by pursuing such capacity-building programs. “Building partner capacity ... remains important. Whenever possible,” the 2012 Defense Strategy reads, “we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our strategy objectives.”[19] While policymakers are drawn to capacity-building missions as a way to avoid putting U.S. forces at risk, in my experience, they are also attracted to solutions that minimize their own intellectual and calendar resources. Put bluntly: Policymakers often like capacity building because it feels like a press release-worthy way to kick the “risk can” down the road without a lot of wrangling on their part. What Karlin proposes is not easily delegable by senior policymakers, diplomats, and service-members in the way that a standard train-and-equip program typically is. Nor would it be a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Such efforts, particularly if America were to engage in personnel management of the partner country, would regularly demand uncomfortable conversations and negotiations. That may be possible, but serious policymakers should ask themselves if such efforts are realistic or reasonable. U.S. security sector assistance programs are already hindered by inadequate investment in or distribution of relevant expertise. When such expertise is available, personnel rotations limit the necessary investment in in building relationships and intimate familiarity with the partner government that Karlin’s suggestions would require.[20] Recent reforms — such as the decades-late security force assistance brigades and the regionally aligned forces model introduced by the Army in 2013[21] — make a small dent in an overwhelming demand for expert personnel, yet they were strongly resisted by the institutional military. Under Karlin’s approach, leaders and forces with regional expertise would be under even higher demand because of the high level of sophistication needed to engage partner countries on all elements of their leadership, force structure, and operations. She acknowledges this approach is unsettling because it smacks of colonialism.[22] It also requires a partner country with the willingness to tolerate inevitable tensions in this relationship. Karlin writes that “healthy skepticism about the U.S. ability to do all these things is warranted.”[23] Yet, understanding what is required to produce a successful capacity-building mission is often at odds with how the United States goes about deciding to build partner militaries. While such programs have a thousand fathers and mothers, in my experience in government, they are often born out of a crisis in which the U.S. government feels under pressure to do something — anything — to assist or respond, but not overly commit or risk U.S. personnel. In such instances, U.S. senior policymakers expediting these decisions are not spending a lot of time trying to understand the scope of their overall commitment, the long-term costs, and the availability of the right personnel. Nor are they even designing long-term goals. Too often, deputies around the table in the Situation Room are clamoring to just announce some kind of program and show a transport plane offloading brigades and pallets to remind the partner of America’s love. Swimming Against the Tide Karlin is, of course, right that the U.S. government can and should do better. Her checklist of questions that senior policymakers must ask before initiating such a program is well aligned with the presidential policy directive on U.S. security sector assistance developed over many years (including by the author of this review) in the Obama administration.[24] In producing this document, many earnest wonks, such as myself, attempted to apply a systematic logic to initiating, overseeing, evaluating, and ending capacity-building programs — starting with understanding why, exactly, anyone would want to embark on one given the mixed track record. Karlin establishes the broad desired outcome of such missions as the partner state having a more enforced and sustainable monopoly on violence — a logical and sound proposal.[25] Realistically, although they do not always admit to it, policymakers consider several reasons for initiating such programs, from building capacity as Karlin proposes, to maintaining and strengthening U.S. access and influence, to enhancing U.S.-partner interoperability, to promoting partner support for U.S. interests.[26] Such objectives may align in implementing a capacity-building effort or may wildly diverge as time goes on. They may also contradict with the objectives of other national security institutions at the outset — typically, the Department of State seeks a long-term, placating effort while the Department of Defense drives a short-term, self-interested program. Policymakers may also lean too heavily on near-term objectives that suit urgent U.S. security interests. Or they may demand the kind of long-term attention that is rare in U.S. foreign policy contexts. While Karlin — and the drafters of the security assistance policy directive — are right to insist on unity of vision at the outset, it must be acknowledged that in practice that does not often happen in U.S. security sector assistance today.[27] Karlin closes her book by stating that there are times when it will not be possible to transform a partner’s security sector, and in such cases, the United States should either pursue train-and-equip programs while significantly lowering expectations or avoid such programs altogether.[28] This is necessary medicine. But the rhetoric around building partner capacity and the urgent need for more train-and-equip programs across the globe over the last two decades suggests this will not be an easy pill to swallow. While I am hopeful Karlin’s lessons on the real need for humility in any effort to transform another state will sink in, I recall the eagerness and desperation that surrounded initiating these programs and expanding them over the last two decades. Every year I served in government, the combatant commanders complained to the president or the secretary of defense that they needed to train-and-equip partners more and that the State Department was getting in the way.[29] Every month, a partner complained that U.S. efforts were too slow, too underwhelming, too unrelated to their security needs, too bureaucratic. Every year, the solution to these challenges was more, faster, and even more yet — rarely with a consideration of why and to what end. Few considered that there was a reason why the U.S. government built in hurdles to sharing weapons systems and tactical knowledge with other countries. I remain concerned that the United States will not lower its expectations and raise its standards for these capacity-building missions, but rather will drive an increasingly hectic pace. Karlin offers thoughtful ideas for future research that deserve attention, to which I would add two.[30] First, in her book she emphasizes the need for the United States to carefully and regularly consider under what conditions it might become a co-combatant with a partner military to address the original security challenge. Reading this book in light of U.S. operations in Yemen and Niger made me wonder: Where does one cross the line from typical assistance to co-combatancy?[31] U.S. advise and accompany missions surely come close. Put another way, what is the line between providing enablers — logistics, intelligence, fuel — and co-combatancy? And most importantly, does traditional American security assistance, often aimed at short-term U.S. security interests, in any way incentivize these steps toward co-combatancy? Secondly, it’s worth exploring whether some of the most desirable elements of building partner capacity — its relative low cost and small U.S. footprint — have lent themselves to a commensurate level of oversight at both the executive and legislative levels. Each branch has pursued more effective monitoring and evaluation efforts, though it’s yet unclear whether this has resulted in fundamental changes to these programs. The true test will be, to paraphrase my old boss Bob Gates, when, if ever, America stops a program due to low return on investment.[32] Building partner military capacity is, at its heart, an optimistic mission set, filled with the American can-do spirit that, with hard work, things can get markedly better. This optimism is well intended, but should be governed by experience. Karlin’s book provides those lessons and adds enormously to a literature on capacity building that is far too small, given the place of this mission in U.S. security strategy. With her personal experience, relatable storytelling, and blunt assessments, her study punches above its concise and readable weight in a way that is approachable to policymakers and vital to scholars.   Loren DeJonge Schulman is the deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. She held senior staff positions at the White House National Security Council and Department of Defense.  

4. When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen

By Tommy Ross   In September 2014, thousands of Houthi insurgents poured into the streets of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, winning a decisive victory over the Yemeni military they had fought for years in the country’s northern provinces. Up to that point, Yemen’s government and military had been challenged on two main fronts: by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the north and by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists to the east. As the Houthis swept through Sanaa, the United States government — the Yemeni military’s chief backer — saw its strategy against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s valued proxies and al Qaeda’s most effective offshoot crumble in the wreckage. Yemen’s collapse left the United States scrambling to pick up the pieces: Yemen represented a battleground against two threats — al Qaeda and Iran — that topped America’s list of national security priorities. Seeing few other options, the United States quickly cast its lot with a coalition of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, that were mounting a military campaign against the Houthis that is ongoing. In shifting its efforts from building the capacity of the Yemeni military to providing aid and operational support to the Saudi-led coalition, the United States remained engaged, but at a cost to both its objectives and its principles:[33] The coalition’s poor tactics and disregard for civilian lives have “exacerbated the terrible conditions of Yemen’s civil war, characterized as the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ in nearly 50 years.”[34] America had invested robustly in Yemen’s military leading up to its collapse: Yemen had become the leading recipient of the Defense Department’s “1206” counterterrorism capacity-building assistance program.[35] U.S. security assistance programs collectively spent over half a billion dollars to enhance Yemen’s military capacity in the five years (Fiscal Years 2010–2014) leading up to the Houthi victory.[36] The U.S. government had also pursued robust diplomatic engagement with Yemeni leaders to drive its national political dialogue and urge military restructuring, so much so that the U.S. ambassador during the period, Gerald Feierstein, was commonly referred to as “Sheikh Feierstein” in Yemeni political circles[37]. And the United States maintained a substantial military presence in Yemen, with over 100 troops based in the country to pursue counter-terrorism operations and train Yemeni forces.[38] On paper, the U.S. effort in Yemen seemed sound: It invested substantial capacity-building resources, sustained diplomatic attention to, and military engagement with, key Yemeni counterparts, maintained consistent effort over several years, and even sought to ground its approach in a whole-of-government strategy that designed military assistance in concert with civilian capacity-building and humanitarian aid initiatives.[39] And yet, the Yemeni military floundered, unable to make meaningful gains against al Qaeda before succumbing to the Houthi advance. So what went wrong? Building Militaries in Fragile States, the excellent new volume by Mara Karlin, offers an important analytical lens through which to view efforts like the U.S. military capacity-building initiative in Yemen, as well as a framework to help policymakers avoid similar outcomes in the future. It examines historical cases studies — in post-World War II Greece, 1950s South Vietnam, and two separate periods of engagement in Lebanon — to draw lessons about where U.S. assistance initiatives have failed, what elements have been vital ingredients of success, and what lessons may be most relevant to future initiatives. “When, why, and under what circumstances,” her book asks, “have U.S. efforts to build partner militaries for internal defense succeeded?”[40] The timeliness and relevance of such a book should be immediately apparent but, in an era of growing unilateralist sentiments and declining aid budgets, perhaps it deserves emphasizing. Even as U.S. national security strategies have shifted focus toward lofty ideas about prevailing in great-power competitions with China and Russia through the development of break-through technologies and the adoption of new ways of warfighting, the fact remains that partner military capacity-building is the go-to strategic option for confronting myriad national security threats around the world. Some form of capacity building occupies a central position in U.S. approaches to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region of Africa, and al Shabaab in Somalia, as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iranian proxies in Yemen. It is an essential element in the U.S. strategy in Ukraine, and plays an important role in countering Chinese aggression in the South China Sea region. In fact, it is hard to find a single going concern in the current U.S. security landscape in which capacity building does not feature prominently. And this picture represents a trend, not an aberration. As Karlin notes,
the United States will surely continue attempting to strengthen partner militaries. The increasingly decentralized international environment and America’s weakening global economic position coupled with the proliferation of fragile states and transnational threats will further ensure its reliance on this approach.[41]
And yet, despite America’s strategic dependence on capacity-building, there is scant evidence that it understands how to do it effectively. Numerous recent studies have highlighted the mixed track record of U.S. capacity-building initiatives, and many have underscored substantial gaps in the policies, doctrine, and best practices shaping these initiatives.[42] “The theory on strengthening partner militaries in weak states,” as Karlin puts it, “can best be described as an ‘undeveloped’ concept whose history is less positive than its vision.”[43] Karlin’s work makes a valuable contribution toward strengthening the underpinnings of this theory. She argues that two factors will most determine the success or failure of a capacity-building effort: “if the United States gets deeply involved in the partner state’s sensitive military affairs, and if antagonistic external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.”[44] Unquestionably, other variables — level of effort, duration and consistency, partner stability, program execution — will influence an initiative’s outcome, but Karlin’s two factors are indeed critical, and deserve closer scrutiny. The Politics of Building Military Capacity One of the more important insights of Karlin’s work is that building military capacity is fundamentally a political activity: “by emphasizing training and equipment and by distancing itself from key political issues,” the United States “wastes time, effort, and resources.”[45] In her view, the remedy is for America to become “deeply involved in the partner state military’s sensitive affairs — influencing personnel and organization.” One might conceive of this deep political engagement along two lines: exerting influence on individual partner decisions, such as those relating to personnel assignments, and exhorting or facilitating systemic reforms of the institutional processes, policies, and structures that organize a partner’s defense enterprise. Karlin’s strong emphasis is on the former, and she carefully documents how U.S. involvement in personnel decisions shaped the outcomes of interventions in Greece, South Vietnam, and Lebanon. For anyone who has observed the success of U.S. military initiatives fluctuate as top leaders in key roles have changed, her observation is intuitively compelling. Yet, a heavy-handed focus on personnel decisions brings risk. As Karlin herself acknowledges, “Such involvement is rife with colonial undertones,” adding that “Sovereign backlash and resentment on the part of the partner state over the intrusive U.S. role may be a challenge.”[46] Her account of the selection of Gen. Alexander Papagos to lead Greece’s military offers one such example, illustrated by his refusal to accept the job unless the United States committed to taking a diminished role in Greek affairs. Moreover, when the United States is overly involved in personnel decisions, a partner’s responsibility for and accountability to its own chain of command can be undermined, as top leaders risk being seen as U.S. puppets. These risks should not suggest that America avoid opining on personnel assignments, but its approach must be carefully calibrated based on the broader context of the relationship. Perhaps a more promising area for the kind of deep engagement Karlin advocates is institutional reform. As her study highlights, institutional reform played a key role in each case study she presents: The United States drove force restructuring, supported operational planning, provided professional military education, and built systemic logistics capacity as ways of building the capabilities of defense institutions to steer, support, and sustain military operations in the field. Bad decisions about how to approach institutional reforms were as consequential in South Vietnam and Lebanon as were good decisions in Greece. While Karlin often challenges the conceptual foundations and practical outcomes of security sector reform, her views on the importance of organizational considerations converge with lessons emerging from the community of practitioners over the last several years. Practitioners have increasingly recognized the importance of strong political institutions to the success of capacity-building. For example, the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness asserted that, for aid recipients, “The capacity to plan, manage, implement, and account for results of policies and programmes, is critical” to achieving aid objectives — a principle confirmed three years later in the Accra Agenda for Action.[47] The U.S. Department of Defense has embraced institutional capacity-building as a key element of its own capacity-building activities, at least in theory, in recently issued policy and doctrine.[48] Yet, while some progress has been made in expanding U.S. attention to strengthening institutions in practice, as a discipline, it remains at the margins of the government’s security sector capacity-building activities. Indeed, the failure to invest in strengthening institutions was a key contributor to the failure of broader capacity-building efforts in Yemen, an example that illustrates the distinction between influencing sensitive military decisions and driving institutional reform. Without question, the United States engaged on personnel issues, persistently advocating for the removal of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family members, who remained in key defense posts. However, while America welcomed institutional reform efforts to the military made by Saleh’s successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, it avoided providing any substantial technical support for those reforms. Moreover, the focus on ousting undesirable personnel crowded out necessary institutional reforms, such as addressing “retirement and rotation of generals, the ghost soldier issue [wherein personnel rosters were inflated with imaginary soldiers to facilitate corruption], and the balancing of units in terms of both size and equipment,” leaving Yemen’s military “a side-lined shell of an institution.”[49] When it comes to institutional capacity building and influencing partner decision making alike, the United States is unlikely to achieve successful outcomes through phone calls and fly-in meetings. Rather, as Karlin’s case studies demonstrate, boots on the ground are essential. A 400-person strong Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group oversaw engagement in Greece; in South Vietnam, a Military Assistance Advisory Group of nearly 350 personnel was augmented by a Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission of another 350 personnel; in Lebanon, over 100 military personnel were deployed in support of capacity-building efforts at their 1983 peak. The U.S. military conducted the mid-2000s effort in Lebanon, on the other hand, with only a small permanent detachment and without a dedicated senior officer overseeing the effort, leading to a limited effort with limited impact. This history underscores a key question: How should the United States organize and deploy personnel to guide high-priority capacity-building missions? Currently, outside of contingency environments, the U.S. approach is incoherent and insufficient. The military is neither structured nor paced to meet the demands of deep engagement with partner militaries. Among military services, only the U.S. Army has organized itself to maintain a meaningful contingent dedicated to capacity-building missions despite a consistent global demand. Other services meet requirements on an ad hoc basis with personnel who generally lack training for the mission. Even the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are poorly suited to address the institutional concerns Karlin prioritizes. They are composed of junior personnel with limited exposure to institutional processes, and are designed to carry out tactical-level, small unit training activities. Reconsidering how the military is structured to meet demands of high-stakes capacity-building efforts should be an urgent priority for the Defense Department. Military forces have been stretched in recent years by the demands of sustaining two contingency operations while downsizing, and services have sought to streamline their structures rather than take on what they view as new missions or responsibilities. Yet, as discussed above, the capacity-building mission is not new and it is not going away. Approaching this mission with ad hoc force-management decisions and insufficient training is a recipe for repeated failure. Mitigating the Effects of Outside Actors Karlin also postulates that the success of a capacity-building effort will depend on diminishing external influences, and makes a convincing argument about the importance of this variable in examining her four case studies. This is a point so intuitive as to be almost self-evident: Who could argue that the degree to which U.S. capacity-building efforts are successful will vary according to the degree to which other actors seek to impede them? And yet, it is a point routinely neglected in the planning and execution of capacity-building initiatives. It is tempting to regard the activity of external actors as a variable beyond America’s control. Indeed, Karlin’s case studies present little evidence of any actions by America that decreased outside influences, though in some instances U.S. actions may have provoked deeper third-party involvement. Yet, given the importance of this variable in shaping capacity-building outcomes, the United States can hardly afford to ignore it. No case better illustrates this imperative than Yemen, where America’s inability to mitigate the influence of third-party actors, including both allies and antagonists, has condemned capacity-building efforts to failure. Iran has been able to maintain steady support for its Houthi allies that has been robust enough to help them beat back the Yemeni military and withstand the onslaught of the Gulf coalition. Meanwhile, prior to the state’s collapse, the U.S. government was never able to effectively coordinate the efforts of other donors and stakeholders with similar objectives, particularly Saudi Arabia. That challenge has become even more acute as the Saudis have undertaken a sustained, and sometimes indiscriminate, military campaign with the help of U.S. equipment and logistical support. Unfortunately, Yemen looks more like the rule than the exception. The U.S. security assistance enterprise is poorly positioned to address the activities of third-party actors, for two reasons. First, it has historically neglected to invest in understanding the identities, motivations, and tactics of external actors. And second, it lacks sufficient tools to shape their behavior. Security assistance efforts, historically, have often been planned and executed without adequately assessing the context in which they are to be implemented, to their great detriment. As the Defense Department has recently begun to acknowledge, it is essential that capacity-building efforts begin with detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment, including a political economy analysis that identifies external influences and how they operate. Such analysis should not only assess potentially antagonistic influences, but also perceived allies. It is often the case that perceived allies can undermine a capacity-building effort through miscoordination and misunderstanding as much as an antagonist can through more nefarious means. Grounding capacity-building initiatives in detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment creates opportunities to build mitigation measures that address external influences into the initiative’s design. Such measures might range from donor coordination strategies to ensure actors with shared interests are on the same page, to concerted efforts to drive out antagonists. Identifying and addressing these concerns from an initiative’s inception will substantially improve its prospects for overcoming the challenges Karlin’s book identifies. A more challenging question is how to diminish antagonistic influences once they are understood. The United States has an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country. Moreover, planners of capacity-building initiatives may lack access to or awareness of those tools that do exist. Karlin’s conclusions thus point to an important area for further research: namely, what strategies for mitigating antagonistic external influences have the potential to be successful, what tools are needed to support those strategies, and how can they be integrated into the planning of capacity-building initiatives? Conclusion Conditions for building military capacity in a fragile state are rarely ideal, and often cannot be overcome. Karlin’s book offers a useful framework for approaching these initiatives in a way that identifies potential challenges from the outset and addresses some of the most common spoilers. Moreover, it suggests the United States would profit from being cautious about engaging in capacity-building missions at all. When there is little room to exert the necessary influence over a partner, for example, Karlin counsels, “the United States must either recognize that it is pursuing light security sector reform or avoid launching such programs altogether.”[50] Likewise, there is great wisdom in recognizing when positive conditions have changed, cutting one’s losses, and walking away. Two of Karlin’s case studies — 1950s South Vietnam and 1980s Lebanon — serve as cautionary tales of the risk to American lives posed by an inability to acknowledge failure and an insistence in doubling down. One important contribution of Karlin’s work is to offer a straightforward litmus test to help policymakers assess whether and when it is wise to walk away. Her two leading variables should be posed as questions to policymakers: Is the United States able to sufficiently influence partner military decisions and institutional reforms, and can it sufficiently mitigate the hazards posed by external actors? To these can be added Karlin’s warning to avoid being drawn in as a co-belligerent. There are sometimes good strategic reasons to overlook these tests, but they should at least provoke a reassessment of policy. One wonders what it will take to prompt such a reassessment in Yemen. The United States has become a co-belligerent there in a deeply troubling way, enabling massive human rights violations with little apparent ability to influence operational plans or tactics. It remains in close cooperation with Saudi Arabia despite strong evidence pointing to the Saudi leadership’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,[51] continuing indications of widespread civilian casualties caused by coalition operations,[52] and congressional exhortations that such support be terminated.[53] The deep engagement Karlin’s book advocates is implausible in Yemen, and external actors are prevalent, diverse, and, in many ways, antagonistic to U.S. interests. As is so often the case, a chorus of voices would meet any policy reassessment with an impassioned warning of threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iran that might be left behind were America to extricate itself from the conflict. Yet, at some point, as Karlin persistently argues, policies must factor in actual results. And surely the results of the current U.S. policy approach in Yemen cry out for another way.   Tommy Ross is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation at the Pentagon and was the senior defense and intelligence adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has also held other senior positions in the House and Senate.   Image: U.S. Africa Command [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-building-militaries-in-fragile-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 14:46:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 18:46:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1261 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 162 [1] => 239 [2] => 226 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “Fragile States Index: The Fund for Peace,” Fund for Peace, accessed March 14, 2019, http://fundforpeace.org/. See the “Security Assistance Monitor: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Security and Defense Assistance,” at http://www.securityassistance.org/, accessed 14 March 2019. [2] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 17. [3] David A. Lake, The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2, (2018): 89-142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [4] Jesse Driscoll, Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [5] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [6] For recent works linking these factors and others to military effectiveness, see Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.); Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley, eds., Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Austin Long, The Soul of Armies: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Military Culture in the US and UK (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016); Vipin Narang and Caitlin Talmadge, “Civil-military Pathologies and Defeat in War: Tests Using New Data,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62, no. 7 (August 2018): 1379–1405, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022002716684627; Dan Reiter and William A. Wagstaff, “Leadership and Military Effectiveness,” Foreign Policy Analysis 14, no. 4 (October 2018): 490–511, https://doi.org/10.1093/fpa/orx003. [7] Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977); D. Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); Benjamin Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1991); William E. Odom, On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991); Walter C. Ladwig, III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [8] Daniel L. Byman, “Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 79–115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/4137517. [9] Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2 (2018): 89–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [10] Barbara Elias, “The Big Problem of Small Allies: New Data and Theory on Defiant Local Counterinsurgency Partners in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Security Studies 27, no. 2 (2018): 249, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1386935. [11] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 36. [12] For more on Ngo Dinh Diem’s difficult relationship with his American patrons, see Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). [13] “Hitler Finds Out About Sequestration,” Youtube, Fiscal Cliff, Nov. 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zCDDYVTjLI. [14] Robert M. Gates, “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” Nixon Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 24, 2019, http://archive.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1425. [15] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 4. [16] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States,12. [17] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 201. [18] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 198. [19] “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Department of Defense, January 2012, http://archive.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf. [20] Noah B. Cooper, “Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades Get Manning and Intel Right?” War on the Rocks, Sept. 5, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/. [21] Brian Hamilton, “Army Moves Closer to Establishing First Security Force Assistance Brigade,” U.S. Army, May 18, 2017, https://www.army.mil/article/187991/army_moves_closer_to_establishing_first_security_force_assistance_brigade. [22] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [23] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 200. [24] “Presidential Policy Directive 23: U.S. Security Sector Assistance Policy [Fact Sheet],” White House, 2013, https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=747214. [25] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 11. [26] Dafna H. Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation & Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [27] Ilan Goldenberg, Alice Hunt Friend, Stephen Tankel, and Nicholas A. Heras, “Remodeling Partner Capacity: Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Counterterrorism Security Assistance,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report-RemodelingPartnerCapacity-Final.pdf?mtime=20161107141028. [28] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [29] Thomas K. Livingston, “Building the Capacity of Partner States through Security Force Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, May 5, 2011, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41817.pdf. [30] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 197. [31] Loren DeJonge Schulman, “Washington Is Never Quite Sure Where It Is at War,” Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/niger-aumf-war-terrorism/544652/. [32] Robert M. Gates, “Speech as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, May 24, 2011, http://archive.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1570. [33] Nicholas Niarchos, “How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse,” New Yorker, Jan. 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/how-the-us-is-making-the-war-in-yemen-worse. [34] Melissa Dalton and Hijah Shah, “U.S. Support for Saudi Military Operations in Yemen,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 23, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-support-saudi-military-operations-yemen. [35] Nina Serafino, “Security Assistance Reform: ‘Section 1206’ Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, RS22855, Dec. 8, 2014, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22855.pdf. [36] “Security Aid Pivot Table: Yemen, 2010-2014,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Yemen/2010/2014/all/Global/. [37] Tom Finn, “A New President and an ‘American Sheikh’ Deal With Post-Saleh Yemen,” Time, Feb. 29, 2012, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2107926-1,00.html. [38] See Jane Ferguson, “U.S. Military Picks, Trains Yemeni Fighters,” CNN, July 14, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/13/yemen.training/index.html. See also Eric Schmitt, “Out of Yemen, U.S. is Hobbled in Terror Fight,” New York Times, March 22, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/us/politics/out-of-yemen-us-is-hobbled-in-terror-fight.html. [39] “Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen,” Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-432R, Feb. 29, 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588955.pdf. [40] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [41] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 9. [42] See, for example, Dafna Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation and Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. See also Rose Jackson, “Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance,” Open Society Foundations, January 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [43] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 10. [44] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 12, emphasis removed. [45] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 193. [46] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [47] The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005, and The Accra Agenda for Action, 2009 are available at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation: http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf. [48] See, for example, “Department of Defense Directive 5205.82: Defense Institution Building,” United States Department of Defense, issued Jan. 27, 2016 and updated May 3, 2017, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/520582p.pdf. See also, “Joint Publication 3-20: Security Cooperation,” United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 23, 2017, https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_20_20172305.pdf. [49] Florence Gaub, “Whatever Happened to Yemen’s Military?” European Institute for Security Studies, Issue Brief 9, April 2015, https://www.iss.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUISSFiles/Brief_9_Yemen.pdf. [50] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [51] Mark Mazetti, “Years Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/politics/khashoggi-mohammed-bin-salman.html. [52] Lee Keath, “Civilian death toll in Yemen mounting despite US assurances,” Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/24ee4b33373a41d389e2599c5aa7bbfa. [53] See Catie Edmondson and Charlie Savage, “House Votes to Halt Aid to Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen,” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/yemen-war-saudi-arabia.html. See also Scott Detrow, “Senate Votes To End U.S. Support for War in Yemen, Rebuking Trump and Saudi Arabia,” NPR, Dec. 12, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676152310/senate-poised-to-vote-to-end-u-s-military-support-for-war-in-yemen. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap," by Jason Fritz 2. "The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States," by Walter C. Ladwig, III 3. "To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries," by Loren DeJonge Schulman 4. 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