One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfareby Linda Robinson
Linda Robinson follows the evolution of special ops in Afghanistan, their longest deployment since Vietnam. She has lived in mud-walled compounds in the mountains and/i>
One Hundred Victories is a portrait of howafter a decade of intensive combat operationsspecial operations forces have become the go-to force for US military endeavors worldwide.
Linda Robinson follows the evolution of special ops in Afghanistan, their longest deployment since Vietnam. She has lived in mud-walled compounds in the mountains and deserts of insurgent-dominated regions, and uses those experiences to show the gritty reality of the challenges the SOF face and the constant danger in which they operate.
She witnessed special operators befriending villagers to help them secure their homes, and fighting off insurgents in the most dangerous safe havens even as they navigated a constant series of conflicts, crises, and other meteors” from conventional forces, the CIA, and the Pakistanisnot to mention weak links within their own ranks. They showed what a tiny band of warriors could do, and could not do, out on the wild frontiers of the next-generation wars.
One Hundred Victories also includes the inside story of the dramatic November 2011 cross-border firefight with Pakistan, which sent the US commander into a fury and provoked an international crisis. It describes the murky world of armed factions operating along the world's longest disputed border, and the chaos and casualties that result when commanders with competing agendas cannot resolve their differences.
New York Times Book Review
“Linda Robinson's ‘One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare' is a ground-level snapshot of American counterinsurgency in Afghanistan Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at RAND, gives us a close-up portrait of how these small, highly skilled groups have gone about their mission of helping Afghan villages and local leaders protect themselves from Taliban insurgents. Her treatment is rich and detailed The book is a worthy addition to the literature on the war.”
US Naval Institute's Proceedings
“[Robinson] is quite literally an expert without peer with it comes to the issues of SOF policy and SOF force application Highly readable and paints a compelling picture of SOF in the 2010-12 timeframe The result is a series of ground-truth, factual vignettes that provide a glimpse into the personal as well as the policy This is a fine book, and Robinson is to be commended for her work in linking the future of SOF to his recent history in Afghanistan in such a personal and readable manner. ..We can count on Linda Robinson to keep us abreast of the current disposition and future of SOF.”
“Linda Robinson has enhanced her well-deserved reputation as an acclaimed military expert with her latest work, One Hundred Victories. She has appreciably added to the understanding of America's intrepid special operations forces, the ‘quiet professionals' in Afghanistan One Hundred Victories is Robinson's third book and perhaps her best work to date. The book is a compelling group portrait of America's most dedicated warriors, and it will appeal to both serious and not-so-serious historians alike, as well as the casual observer looking for a good read.”
Howard Altman, Tampa Tribune
“If you want to get a good sense of the main mission of commandoes in Afghanistan, pick up a copy of Linda Robinson's recently released ‘One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare.'”
“Sure to appeal to readers of military nonfiction .Ultimately, this isn't really a story about war; it's a story about how an organizationone so complex you might almost call it an organismevolves under pressure and becomes something better and more efficient than it once was.”
“Robinson enjoyed very open access to special forces, a world ordinarily cloaked in secrecy . Recommended to readers interested in delving further into the context of our special forces, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, or U.S. military affairs generally.”
“Robinson delivers vivid, blow-by-blow accounts of a dozen Special Ops campaigns to train local Afghans to defend their communities. She recounts many victoriesdespite spotty cooperation from the Afghan government and conventional American forcesas well as a few failures. The authorwho is no Pollyanna and is a much better writer than the average academicdelivers a painfully realistic account of how Special Ops have valiantly tried to turn matters around in Afghanistan.”
“Robinson makes a sincere effort to understand these elite warriors on human terms [An] approachable, detailed account of the men for whom extreme warfare is a daily job and the American policies driving their expanded mission.”
New York Journal of Books
“A timely work that is part military history and part after-action analysis Ms. Robinson provides an excellent primer on how counterinsurgency is done at the village level, from the isolation and hardships the American endured to their patient cultivation of the trust of village elders to side with them in fighting the Taliban.”
Admiral William McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, on NPR's “The National Conversation”
“Folks within the Special Operations community listen to Linda Robinson, and when they listen to her I listen to them. When you listen to what she has to say and the power of her arguments, it's hard to argue with her. Linda, thanks for all the great work you've done.”
Admiral Eric Olson, U.S. Navy (Retired), Former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command
“Linda Robinson has again accurately captured the unique spirit, competence and complexity of special operations forces. As a long-time, close-up observer of SOF in action, Linda understands the organizations, capabilities and personalities that make them so effective in ambiguous and dangerous situations. I highly regarded her careful analysis and honest presentation of the facts and issues that dominate SOF's deployments and missions. Her writing is streamlined, very readable and thoroughly enjoyable."
Robinson (senior international policy analyst, RAND; Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces) spent much of 2010–12 visiting U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. In this resulting book, he describes how amid the very difficult environment of the U.S. policy debate on the country's strategy for Afghanistan and splintered and disorganized internal Afghan politics, U.S. Special Forces (all branches) changed their mission. From commando hunting/killing operations, they moved instead to advisory/teaching operations to create community security through strong local Afghan police, militia, and special forces. Robinson enjoyed very open access to special forces, a world ordinarily cloaked in secrecy. She advocates that an integral element of U.S. military force should be those units and their demonstrated success at advisory missions that create local self-defense capacity. They should not be solely a hidden asset that strikes at night and then returns to secrecy. VERDICT Recommended to readers interested in delving further into the context of our special forces, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, or U.S. military affairs generally.—MJ
A sympathetic academic examines how American special operations came to dominate the Afghanistan war. RAND senior international policy analyst Robinson (Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq, 2008, etc.) concludes that the overall role of "special ops" in American military planning "became increasingly cloudy over the decade in Afghanistan, and for that matter, in the global war on terror." The author argues that storied units like the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers will increasingly influence the scope of American military interventions, yet the challenges of their training, logistics and supply will keep such missions expensive and complex. Robinson focuses on the experiences of several officers, who have generally made sincere, clever efforts to reach out to Afghans in rural tribal regions beset by the Taliban and have had success training the fledgling African National Police. Yet they have been stymied by the clash of military and diplomatic bureaucracies and the tendency of special ops units to rotate out quickly: "The ever-changing cast of American units sent to Afghanistan did not help the US learning curve." Still, the author builds a narrative of special ops gradually fostering a network of reliable peers within Afghanistan's political labyrinth. Writing in a clear, perceptive, though often dry fashion, Robinson makes a sincere effort to understand these elite warriors on human terms: "Special forces tended to view themselves as the stepchildren of the army, unloved by their ‘big army' brothers." The author describes many remarkable operations yet underscores the limits of the special ops model by noting the rash of attacks in 2012 on team members by their Afghan trainees. Approachable, detailed account of the men for whom extreme warfare is a daily job and the American policies driving their expanded mission.
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Read an Excerpt
During this eventful first tour in Afghanistan as commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Lt. Col. Haas received a crash course in the complexities of Afghan politics, and the difficulties and limitations of warfare with guerrilla allies.
He received a stark and lethal lesson in the fog of war as he led the main attack against the Al Qaeda remnants in Operation Anaconda in March 2002, when his special forces teams trained and accompanied Zia Lodin’s Pashtun force into the bloody battle. After a three-week course of instruction to instill some basic discipline and infantry tactics into the ragtag Afghan force, the battle itself was complicated by overturned trucks, a collapsed bridge, lack of promised U.S. air support, and precisely ranged mortar, artillery, and machine gun fire from the Al Qaeda fighters holed up in the mountains of Paktia province. Zia’s forces suffered a 14 percent casualty rate, including a friendly-fire attack from an AC-130 Spectre gunship that also killed Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Harriman. Losses like this prompted a new standard procedure in Iraq, where Haas would next deploy with his battalion: soldiers stretched orange neon panels over the vehicle hood or roof where aircraft could readily see them.
One loss particularly stung Haas and reinforced the treacherous nature of guerrilla politics. Just east of the Anaconda battleground lay the Khost-Gardez pass, guarded by a local Pashtun strongman named Pacha Khan Zadran. A young Special Forces soldier named Nate Chapman was killed by his militia, and Haas never forgot what one of Pacha Khan Zadran’s sons, who served as an interpreter for U.S forces, later told him: You are going to have to kill a lot of men like my father before Afghanistan will change.”
Meet the Author
Linda Robinson is a senior international policy analyst at RAND. She has been an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Public Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center. Her book about the U.S. Army Special Forces, Masters of Chaos, was a New York Times bestseller; Tell Me How This Ends, which is about the Iraq War, was a Foreign Affairs bestseller and a New York Times notable book. Robinson received the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Reporting on National Defense in 2005. She has conducted field research on special operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Latin America, and elsewhere over the past twelve years.
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