Academic journal article Military Review

The U.S. Army Approach to Security Force Assistance

Academic journal article Military Review

The U.S. Army Approach to Security Force Assistance

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

AS THE U.S. military looks ahead to the first half of the 21st century, several global trends--globalization, technology availability, population growth, urbanization, increased resource demands, climate change, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction--are shaping the international security environment. They place increasing stresses on governments to satisfy their citizens' legitimate expectations, including meeting their basic needs, receiving fair and impartial justice, and attaining increased prosperity and opportunities for themselves and their progeny. Governments unable to satisfy these aspirations risk losing their ability to govern. This loss creates opportunities for extremist groups to export terror and violence on behalf of radical ideologies. Ultimately, it becomes a setting for persistent conflict.

Persistent Conflict

Protracted confrontation among state, nonstate, and individual actors increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological ends remains the likely strategic environment through the first half of the 21st century and possibly beyond. Anticipated strategies for an era of this persistent conflict suggest that U.S. forces will have four major tasks:

* Prevail in the current conflict.

* Deter, and if necessary, defeat enemies in future conflicts, including defense of the homeland.

* Support civil authorities at home and abroad.

* Engage with partner nations to build the capacity of their security forces; in concert with other elements of national power, build the capacity of their governments and gain their cooperation in operations across the spectrum of conflict.

While partner engagement has long been a part of national strategies, the United States has only episodically relied on its military forces to play significant roles in this fourth task. Because of the conventional military threats, the level of international stability ensured by competing superpowers, and a low extremist group threat, the U.S. military did not put much effort into persuading partner nations to build their security forces' capacities. However, with the heightened threat extremist groups pose to regional and global stability, the U.S. military must accept this role. Because the threat is persistent, the response must be persistent.

Persistent engagement is a protracted effort, in concert with other elements of government, to build the capacity of partner nations to secure their territory and govern their population, and to gain their cooperation in operations across the spectrum of conflict. Accomplished largely through security cooperation efforts to build partner capacity and relationships, persistent engagement is crucial to success in persistent conflict. The military is the primary instrument to build the capability of other nations' military forces and institutions by providing security force assistance (SFA). The military has supplementary roles assisting other agencies' efforts to build partner nations' governance capacity. It also helps those agencies develop their own capacity to assist other nations. Security cooperation, including SFA, increases the cooperation of partner nations in operations across the spectrum of conflict.

Security Force Assistance

Security force assistance is the combination of activities to build the capability of foreign security forces and their sustaining institutions. SFA is a task military forces conduct in coordination with, supported by, or in support of other agencies, as part of stability operations across the spectrum of conflict.1 Security force assistance also frequently contributes to building relationships, which, among other things, provides political support for military operations and government or security force capacity-building efforts.

The Army approach to SFA has five components:

* Demand. …

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