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Policy Analysis

Policy Forum

Rethinking Security Force Assistance in the Middle East

Mara Karlin, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James Dubik, USA, and Brig. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, USA

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March 16, 2018

Watch scholars and practitioners of American efforts to train and equip the security forces of partner states debate how the United States can improve its mixed record of success with such programs in the Middle East.

Training and equipping the security forces of partner states has been a central element of U.S. foreign policy since World War II, as manifested most recently by the Army's decision to deploy the first of six planned Security Force Assistance Brigades. Yet America's record on such initiatives in the Middle East is mixed at best, with failures seemingly outnumbering successes. To discuss security force assistance efforts in the region and ways to improve U.S. performance, The Washington Institute hosted a Policy Forum with Mara Karlin, James Dubik, and Brian Mennes. Institute senior fellow Michael Eisenstadt will moderate the forum.

Mara Karlin is the associate director of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Author of Building Militaries in Fragile States (2017), she previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development.

James Dubik is a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and a professor in Georgetown University's Security Studies Program. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2008 after more than thirty-five years of service, including as head of the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, where he oversaw efforts to train, advise, and assist the Iraqi security forces.

Brian Mennes is director of force management on the U.S. Army Staff. An infantryman with service in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is currently the Army Department lead for the development of Security Force Assistance Brigades.