Rethinking Security Force Assistance

On Friday March 16, I attended the Washington Institute’s policy forum on Rethinking Security Force Assistance in the Middle East at the invitation of LTGEN Jim Dubik. The panel included the General who prior to retirement was head of the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, BRIGGEN Brian Mennes, director of force management of the US Army Staff and currently the lead for the development of Security Force Assistance Brigades, and Mara Karlin, associate director of Strategic Studies at John Hopkins University and author of Building Militaries in Fragile States (2017). Mennes spoke about the current vision of creating 2 SFA divisions and corps to advance advising with partner forces. Karlin emphasised that from her research that ‘building a military is like all state building efforts – a political, not a technical, exercise’. If Army does not plan to integrate advising with the country’s civilian leadership abroad it is unlikely to succeed, she argued. Dubik also emphasised that in going forward it will be necessary to get a diplomatic alignment with military security force assistance efforts. The panel discussion didn’t go down to the personality attributes level of my research, but the organisational and political level discussions at the strategic level are important aspects underpinning successful outcomes. Watch the panel webinar to hear more.