Frederick W. Kagan Articles

Obama’s ‘Strategy’ Has No Chance of Success

8:21 PM, Sep 10, 2014

President Obama just announced that he is bringing a counter-terrorism strategy to an insurgency fight. He was at pains to repeat the phrase “counter-terror” four times in a short speech. Noting that ISIL is not a state (partly because the international community thankfully does not recognize it), he declared, “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”  Neither of those sentences, unfortunately, is true.

 Read more

What to Do in Iraq

10:45 AM, Jun 16, 2014

It’s widely agreed that the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world. It also seems to be widely assumed either that there's nothing we can now do to avert that disaster, or that our best bet is supporting Iran against al Qaeda. Both assumptions are wrong. It would be irresponsible to embrace a premature fatalism with respect to Iraq. And it would be damaging and counterproductive to accept a transformation of our alliances and relationships in the Middle East to the benefit of the regime in Tehran. There is a third alternative.

 Read more

Snatching Failure From Victory In Afghanistan

Troop levels to fall to below 10,000.
11:38 AM, Apr 22, 2014

Media reports suggest that President Obama is looking to declare victory and withdraw from Afghanistan, as he did from Iraq. The military commander in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, has said that he needs 10,000 US troops to accomplish the missions the president has said he wants to accomplish after this year.

 Read more

Gates at War

Jan 20, 2014

The memoir of former defense secretary Robert M. Gates has landed with a bang. Gates has harsh words for President Barack Obama’s wartime decision-making and quotes Hillary Clinton saying that her opposition to the surge in 2007 was political. There is more than enough to outrage partisans—and even non-partisans—on both sides of the political spectrum. But outrage about the book will only further the very problem Gates was trying to highlight.

 Read more

What to Do About Syria

Vital U.S. interests are at stake.
Sep 16, 2013

American interests in Syria are clear: preventing terrorists from acquiring chemical weapons; depriving Iran of its most important ally and staging-base in the Middle East; and preventing al Qaeda from establishing an uncontested safe haven in the Levant. Reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which President Obama’s proposed “limited strike” will secure these interests, but not about whether the interests are real or vital. Bashar al-Assad has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world.

 Read more

The Afghan Endgame

Feb 25, 2013

President Obama’s decision to withdraw another 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the course of the next year is unwise. It greatly increases the risk of mission failure in that important conflict, jeopardizing gains already made in the Taliban heartland in the south and compromising the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to finish the fight against the Haqqani Network in the east. It also increases the risk that al Qaeda will be able to reestablish itself in limited safe havens in Afghanistan over time.

 Read more

Courting Disaster in Afghanistan

10:40 PM, Feb 01, 2012

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a new timeline for American combat operations in Afghanistan—or did he?

 Read more

Is Iraq Lost?

Things fall apart . . .
Jan 02, 2012

With administration officials celebrating the “successful” withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, thanking antiwar groups for making that withdrawal possible, and proffering outrageous claims about Iraq’s “stability,” “sovereignty,” and the “demilitarization” of American foreign policy even as Iraq collapses, it is hard to stay focused on America’s interests and security requirements. Especially in an election year, the temptation will only grow to argue about who lost Iraq, whether it was doomed from the outset, whether the current disaster “proves” either that the success of the surge was inherently

 Read more

Crisis Unfolds in Iraq

9:30 AM, Dec 19, 2011

We interrupt President Obama’s celebration of keeping a campaign promise to bring you news from Iraq, where a political crisis has been unfolding since just hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departed on Thursday.

 Read more

The President & the Generals

Dec 12, 2011

The New York Times reported last week that President Obama decided not to apologize to Pakistan about the U.S. airstrikes that killed Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border in part because he did not want to be seen to be overruling his military commanders yet again. How ironic that the president should feel the need to accept the advice of his military leaders on diplomatic matters while regularly disregarding their opinions on military matters. This most recent incident illuminates the ongoing confusion in the White House and among the American political elite generally about how the president should take advice from his senior

 Read more

Defeat in Iraq

President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops is the mother of all disasters
Nov 07, 2011

Iraq is not Vietnam. There are certainly analogies: the length and unpopularity of the wars; the late escalation and increase in forces; the counterinsurgency success that came after public support for the effort seemed already exhausted; the decision to abandon the effort and thus snatch failure from the jaws of possible victory; and the arguments about the irrelevance of the conflicts to the core interests of an America riven with internal strife and economic troubles. 

 Read more

Retreating With Our Heads Held High

4:30 PM, Oct 21, 2011

Today, President Obama declared the successful completion of his strategy to remove all American military forces from Iraq by the end of the year.

 Read more

Afghan Withdrawal Would Undermine Local Security Effort (UPDATED)

7:28 AM, Jun 21, 2011

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Seth Jones, an Afghanistan expert at the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica-based think tank, said he did not expect the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops to cause security conditions to worsen in southern Afghanistan. He said the U.S. and the Afghan government were recruiting local police units that, along with Afghan army units, could help fill the gap.

 Read more

Success Against Al Qaeda Depends on Success in Afghanistan

11:15 AM, Jun 19, 2011

The New York Times reports today that senior officials within the Obama administration are pressing for an accelerated withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. The “rationale” for that pressure is supposedly the success of America’s efforts against al Qaeda and the fact that “the counterterrorism campaign, which was favored by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2009, has outperformed the more troop-intensive counterinsurgency campaign pushed by Mr. Gates, Gen. David H. Petraeus and other top military planners.”

 Read more

Bin Laden Is Dead . . .

But al Qaeda isn’t. We should build on our success in Abbottabad by redoubling our efforts to defeat his movement.
May 16, 2011


Osama bin Laden’s killing was a great moment for America and for decent people around the world. But allowing the euphoria of that moment to drive us to irresponsible decisions in South Asia would be devastating to America’s interests and security. Al Qaeda has not yet been dismantled or defeated. 

 Read more

Stand With Iraq

Apr 18, 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Baghdad last week on what was probably his last official trip to the country he helped save from devastating sectarian war. His visit was hardly a victory lap. His comments were as demure as they usually have been. That tenor was appropriate, for it is still too early to declare “mission accomplished” in Iraq. Iraqi politics remain unsettled. Tensions along the Kurd-Arab frontier are high. Iranian-supported militant groups continue to attack American and Iraqi forces.

 Read more

What To Do Next in Libya

Time to attack Qaddafi’s military equipment.
2:14 PM, Apr 03, 2011

The inherent contradictions between the Obama administration's stated policy aim of removing Moammar Qaddafi from power and the restrictions on the military operations now underway in Libya may be reaching a decisive point. (For more on what's going on in Libya, see AEI's Critical Threats website, which is closely tracking the conflict as it unfolds.)

 Read more