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CNAS Continues its Occupation of the Obama Administration

In November, I pointed out that the irregular warfare-heavy think tank known as the Center for a New American Security was basically President Obama’s shadow Pentagon. Well, it’s pretty much entirely out of the shadows. One of its co-founders, Michele Flournoy, was confirmed Monday as undersecretary of defense for policy. Now, Laura Rozen reports, the reach of CNAS expands deeper into the Pentagon, as fellows Colin Kahl becomes deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and Vikram Singh takes an advisory position on Af-Pak.

Both Kahl and Singh have serious Pentagon experience and deep knowledge about their subject matter, which — ahem — is why I keep quoting them. (Still, though, Laura got the scoop. No respect, I tell you…) And going off of their published work, what may be the most interesting aspects of how they treat their Pentagon jobs is the non-military, whole-of-government focus they bring. A paper Kahl co-authored last year on Iraq with Flournoy and their CNAS colleague Shawn Brimley outlines a diplomatic strategy for using military drawdowns in Iraq and to pressure the Iraqi government into accepting a more stable ethno-sectarian political order. Singh just co-authored a new CNAS paper endorsing a thorough counterinsurgency campaign in the eastern Afghanistan provinces, alongside “much greater commitment to good governance and to providing for the needs of the Afghan people where they live.” Given that his old boss Flournoy is now co-chair of the administration’s Af-Pak strategy review, chances are that paper will be fairly influential.

In addition to being a rising Pentagon star, I should add, Kahl is also an acknowledged expert on IDM, and his disdain for so-called “candy-ravers” is well known. It’s a shame that the deputy assistant secretary job isn’t a Senate-confirmable position, because I’d like to hear him provide a for-the-record taxonomy on the differences between trance and ambient. Any true counterinsurgent would recognize the value of drawing such distinctions.

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