Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare

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Published:April 15, 2006
By Hy S. Rothstein (Author)

A Naval Postgraduate School professor and former career Special Forces officer looks at why the U.S. military cannot conduct unconventional warfare despite a significant effort to create and maintain such a capability. In his examination of Operation Enduring Freedom, Hy Rothstein maintains that although the operation in Afghanistan appeared to have been a masterpiece of military creativity, the United States executed its impressive display of power in a totally conventional manner—despite repeated public statements by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that terrorists must be fought with unconventional capabilities. Arguing that the initial phase of the war was appropriately conventional given the conventional disposition of the enemy, the author suggests that once the Taliban fell the war became increasingly unconventional, yet the U.S. response became more conventional.

This book presents an authoritative overview of the current American way of war and addresses the specific causes of the "conventionalization" of U.S. Special Forces, using the war in Afghanistan as a case study. Drawing a distinction between special operations and unconventional warfare (the use of Special Forces does not automatically make the fighting unconventional), Rothstein questions the ability of U.S. forces to effectively defeat irregular threats and suggests ways to regain lost unconventional warfare capacity.

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Product Details
  • Subject: War in Afghanistan
  • Hardback : 224 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 15, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 159114745X
  • ISBN-13: 9781591147459
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 16 oz

Hy S. Rothstein, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army with a Ph.D. in international relations, served as a Special Forces officer for more than 26 years, spending many years training and advising governments threatened by active insurgencies. He is now senior lecturer in the department of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

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Customer Reviews

1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
4.00 Stars
Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
By: Maj. Benjamin R. Maitre, USAF, reviewer
"A retired career special-forces officer with 30 years' active duty, Rothstein writes from a perspective of experience. His concise prose punctuates each point of the book, and he personalizes the case study of the conflict in Afghanistan through extensive interviews with members of specific units and with leaders who directed the employment of those units. The author's concise, well-documented review of the literature, which defines the context of special operations and the arena of unconventional warfare, transforms several vague definitions into clear terminology. Gradually developed on a foundation of contemporary history and theoretical analysis, the author's insights into the current state of US capabilities in unconventional warfare present an efficiently constructed volume that reflects Rothstein's provocative thought. As an analytical tool that frames a view of what constitutes unconventional warfare and the way one should use SOF to combat irregular threats, 'Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare' represents a valuable reference to the contemporary military professional fighting the global war on terrorism. For the astute reader, Rothstein's use of Afghanistan as a case study to illustrate his arguments also provides insight into the urgency in Iraq."


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