From the Editor
This issue begins with a familiar landscape: the eastern border area of Afghanistan, specifically the Paktika valley region. Major Mike Hutchinson gives a personal account of the work he and his team, ODA 3325, did to dislodge the Taliban from an area considered to be one of their strongholds. In the process, not only was the team able to defeat the insurgents militarily, but more importantly, they found a way to reverse the trend of economic decay that years of fighting had brought to the population. Following this article is a thoughtful discussion by Captain Caleb Slayton of the ways in which U.S. military education about Islam falls short of its goal of preparing operators to effectively and respectfully navigate within the Muslim world. The urge to fit Muslims into "good" and "bad" categories through coded language, he tells us, is doing a serious disservice to both Islam and our forces.
Up next is Julia McClenon, who describes the devastating effects that official discrimination and injustice are having on the indigenous Uyghur population in Xinjiang Province in western China. From McClenon's perspective (she has been living and working in China), Xinjiang represents a living primer on how to drive an oppressed people to terrorist violence. This article is followed by Captain David Hammond's essay on the unintended consequences that an incomplete understanding of the rules of engagement can have on SOF who operate in highly volatile and uncertain conditions. Based on his experience as a judge advocate general (military lawyer), Hammond offers five methods by which higher commanders can defuse a sense of disenfranchisement and the subsequent loss of morale among deployed forces.
Major Margus Kuul takes a hard look at NATO's expectation that NATO SOF must fulfill three Special Operations mission sets: direct action, special reconnaissance, and military assistance. Given the reality that most SOF contributors cannot afford to meet these three mission requirements on their own, he asks whether it's time to reassess. Colonel Imre Porkoláb then brings us another in a series of essays on SOF in the era of "cool war." As the nature of future warfare becomes more irregular, disruptive, and secretive, what does this mean for innovative leadership?
The final feature article in this issue, by Dr. Ali Fisher and Dr. Nico Prucha, describes and analyzes the way in which jihadist networks are becoming increasingly resilient by using Twitter accounts and nodes to spread both doctrine and information. They illustrate how messages from some principal users are repeatedly retweeted in a way that may make the networks impervious to disruption.
The CTAP interview with former DEA officer Kirk Meyer focuses on his work from 2008–2011 to establish the first Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell. Through utter determination and a willingness to make the most of every available asset, Meyer's team was able to develop an in-depth understanding of local drug trafficking and crime networks, their relationships with the Taliban, and their potential breaking points.
CTX's own Ryan Stuart contributes a review of Phil Klay's book, Redeployment, a collection of short stories about American servicemen in and around Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. The stories Klay tells are fiction, but, as Stuart implies, probably not by much.
I'm writing this letter from New Delhi, where I'm meeting with CT professionals to discuss the various kinds of terrorism India faces, and what India has been doing to combat them—a reminder that all sectors of the globe deserve attention from CTX, not only the Middle East. So, please keep those contributions coming.
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