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Pondering Transition Ops with Quesopaper

One of the nice things about this blog is that periodically, smart folks will send me their unpublished material for feedback and private commentary. This comes in a wide variety of formats – manuscripts, articles, book chapters, powerpoint, sometimes an entire book or novel! It is flattering and almost always informative, so I try to help where I can or at least point the sender in the direction of someone more appropriate.

Recently, I was given a peek at a very intriguing paper on “Transition Operations” by Dr Rich Ledet, LTC Jeff Stewart and Mr. Pete Turner, who blogs occasionally at quesopaper.  Pete has spent a good chunk of the past ten years in a variety of positions and capacities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he currently is with American troops in a remote rural district and it was he who passed their draft to me. They have taken a fresh look at the subject.

While I can’t give away their “secret sauce” in detail,  I particularly liked the fact that while the  focus and advice for executing transition operations is aimed at field grade officers and their civilian agency counterparts, their vision is in sync with the ideal of having policy-strategy-operations and tactics as a seamless “whole-of-government” garment. If only we could get our politicians to think in these terms, half the battle would be over.

Their paper is now headed to a professional journal; when it is published ( as I think it will be), I will definitely be linking to it here and hopefully, that will be soon.

My reason for my bringing this up – I have the permission of the authors to do so – is that the trio have put their finger on the major doctrinal problem faced by the United States military in Afghanistan – “transition operations” being a politically charged topic, laden as it is with implied foreign policy decision making by heavyweight policy makers, is treated in very scanty fashion by FM 3-24. Compared to other aspects of COIN, very little guidance is given to the the commander of the battalion or brigade in the effort to coordinate “turnover” of responsibilities and missions to their Afghan Army, police and government allies.

This at a time when the “readiness” of Afghan units and officials to accept these burdens in the midst of a war with the Taliban is questionable, variable, controversial at home and politically extremely sensitive in Afghanistan.

And at a point where, ten years after September 11, the US State Department is no more able in terms of personnel and vision or sufficiently funded by Congress, to step up their game and take the lead role in Afghanistan from the Pentagon than it was on September 10, 2001.  SECSTATEs Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton deserve great praise for making State do more with less, but State needs wholesale reform to fit the needs of the 21st century and the money and budgetary flexibility to split foreign policy tasks more equitably with the Defense Department.

State is not going to be playing a major role on the ground in our transition out of Afghanistan, which makes guidance to our majors and colonels – and in turn to their company and platoon leaders stationed there-  all the more important.

6 Responses to “Pondering Transition Ops with Quesopaper”

  1. Madhu Says:

    I agree that our budgeting is seriously out of whack but perhaps Madam Secretary’s accomplishments are in areas I am not familiar with, arcane in-house stuff not easily accesible to an everyday person like me?
    Because those State Dept. Tweets and all the USAID folderol and her hectoring, lecturing attitude is a source of huge fun on the Indian and Pakistani websites that I read. I gather, many think she is a bit of a fool. A plodding, twentieth century NATOist, Anne-Marie Slaughter pie-in-the-sky fool.
    The speeches that I encounter online have nary an original idea, it’s all Marshall plan this, Marshall plan that, womens-and-girls issues will bring world peace stuff. As Miss P once said, if she wants to start a foundation for women and girls, then by all means do it. American diplomacy is about more than her pet hobbyhorses.
    Something too many in government forget. Hey, I’m as much a part of it as the next person. I include me.
    I find the State Department Tweets actively embarrassing. We look like idiots. It never occurred to me that telling other countries to eat their spinach was an important part of American diplomacy.
    I’m asking a serious question here for the readers: What are her most notable accomplishments? Despite my sarcastic tone, I really will listen if given good stuff.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi doc Madhu
    I was speaking in terms of personnel – about trying to get the right people to the right places and line up career incentives – all internal stuff. About as much has been done with a totally broken system that can be done by the last two secretaries, it is time for radical overhaul and restructuring the department and foreign service. Policy is another issue.

  3. Madhu Says:

    Holbrooke and “afpak” were kind of her and others in her circle’s baby, yeah? At least, she really championed it. Robin Raphel is still dispensing money and the Indian papers chronicling it all with glee. Diplomacy! If a doc takes so much as a ham sandwich from a pharma rep, we are horrible, evil creatures, but once you are inside the shell game, you can do what you want. Just be friends with the right people and that means never having to say you are sorry.
    Reform requires an entirely new class of people at the State Dept, I am guessing, given the revolving door nature of all of D.C.

  4. Madhu Says:

    Haha, we posted at the same time and said the same thing 🙂
    Sorry, she gets my goat. I don’t know why. I’m not so partisan or political feeling these days. If T. Greer still posted, I would have to apologize to Greer.

  5. Madhu Says:

    Inside baseball clarification: I once had a huge argument pro partisanship and T. Greer argued against me. I now think he/she was right and I was wrong. I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

  6. zen Says:

    Holbrooke was abn enormous ego in his own right who wanted the SECSTATE job. Not sure on his relations with Hillary’s crowd.
    I never cared for Hillary either and found her to be a dogmatic and self-righteous personality as First Lady and hyper-controlled and artificial as a senator/POTUS candidate. Nor do I share her worldview. However, in fairness, Hillary has grown as SECSTATE (perhaps from years of being beaten over the head by the media and missing the nomination allowed her to drop some of her consuming ambition) and I will credit her with working extremely hard at State and being smarter and more experienced than some of the FP ppl in the admin that she has to deal with. She’s a better SECSTATE than we are likely to get in 2013 ( my confidence in Romney’s FP judgement approaches zero, Obama will appoint a sycophant to replace Hillary if he wins)

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