Strategic Observer


Daily Observations for 16 December 2019

Daily Observations for 16 December 2019
December 16
16:26 2019

Good morning, and welcome to my Daily Observations.

On my radar: Reports claim 4,000 U.S. troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan

Several open-source reports on Monday claimed that the Trump administration is pulling 4,000 troops out of Afghanistan from a current force of roughly 12,000. Reports also claim that the White House is attempting to restart negotiations with the Taliban for a final peace deal. Both would be welcome but not just for the obvious reasons. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq took our eye off the ball, so to speak, when it came to planning for great-power conflict. While we were developing systems and tactics for low-intensity conflict, our two main competitors, Russia and especially China, were developing (and fielding) longer-range artillery, better electronic warfare systems, theater-use missiles, and other fires while training their forces for high-intensity conflict. Now, the U.S. military is playing catch-up. New rigorous physical standards, intermediate-range missiles, longer-range artillery, EW, cyberwarfare, and changes in warfighting doctrine are all happening and at a quickened pace. The hope is to have our forces upgraded and better prepared to fight high-intensity great-power conflict before they actually have to. And the clock is ticking. Bottom line: Withdrawing from these “brushfire” wars is necessary if we are to fully change our mindset. Moving forward, we should have the major portion of our forces ready to fight the high-intensity conflicts while training elements of the military to handle the low-intensity combat. Just my opinion.

What I’m also tracking:

— Japan’s defense chief hits out at Beijing on South China Sea, military build-up [sourceAnalyst comment: I have said in the past that China’s military build-up resembles that of Japan circa late 1920s-1930s, ahead of World War II. Nuclear weapons change the dynamics (and possibility) of world war today, but their existence does not rule out great power conflict, either.

— Chinese warplanes take South China Sea exercises to new level [sourceAnalyst comment: China’s air force changing from “passive” to “active” defense. 

— Netanyahu: Hezbollah will pay a price if it attacks Israel [sourceAnalyst comment: The Israeli leader is embattled, politically, but still seems to be focused on Israeli security. Whenever he makes these kinds of statements, I always consider he’s seen some new intelligence that indicates the need to express such warnings. 

— U.S. military tested new ballistic missile that scares Moscow [sourceAnalyst comment: Russian military officials believe the U.S. began developing intermediate-range ballistic missiles long before Trump decided to quit the INF Treaty.

One final thing:

The U.S. is reaching out to North Korea ahead of a ‘deadline’ of sorts at the end of this month to restart nuclear talks. It’s not clear if/how Pyongyang will respond, but the effort appears to have been made. “U.S. special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, urged Pyongyang on Monday to return offers of talks, dismissing leader Kim Jong Un’s year-end deadline while highlighting Washington’s willingness to discuss “all issues of interest.'” [source]

Notable Quotable: “Since the PAF had targeted military installations on the 27th of February (a day after India struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp near Balakot), the Pakistan Army had now become a legitimate target and had their strikes been successful, we would have put a considerable weight of attack on their forward brigades.” — former Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa.

About Author



Jonathan Davis holds a BA in political science and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis. He has 30 years' worth of experience reporting on domestic politics and foreign policy.

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