Stephen Biddle

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Stephen D. Biddle is a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a member of GEN Stanley McChrystal's Strategic Assessment Group that evaluated the situation in the Afghanistan War (2001-).


While the detailed report remains classified, he has discussed some of his evaluation.

We can keep the patient on life support by providing security assistance indefinitely but if you don't get an improvement in governance, you'll never be able to take the patient off the ventilator.[1]

He observed that while the opponents are heterogeneous and the differences can be exploited in the long run, "there are opportunities to try and drive wedges between elements of that coalition and split it, and peel [off] particular factions, or particular warlords, or particular leaders.", the Taliban has the initiative at present. This contrasts to the homogeneous opposition in World War II or the Vietnam War.

To provide long-term population security will take troops, and he recommends applying "economy of effort" strategy. The bulk of U.S. forces have been in Eastern Afghanistan, "we thought that the reason to be there was to go hunt al-Qaeda, which was thought to be hiding in the mountainous areas along the border. That's about the only thing that area has going for it strategically." He would cede some parts of the country until Afghan Security Forces improve over the next 1-2 years.

It should be noted that a recent development was a large-scale security movement, Operation Khanjar, by U.S. Marines, into Southern Afghanistan, along with a parallel U.K. operation, Operation Panchai Palang (Panther Claw). [2] A United States Institute of Peace report in 2007 identified three distinct areas of operations, the East being distinct. [3]

In March 2009, he reflected on the Obama administration's approach of considering an integrated Afghan-Pakistani strategy.[4]

Previous experience

From June 2001-July of 2006, he was a Professor of National Security Studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (SSI). Before joining SSI in June 2001, he was a member of the political science faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has held research positions at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)a; Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA); and the Kennedy School of Government's Office of National Security Programs.

He has testified to congressional committees on issues relating to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, conventional net assessment, and European arms control; served as U.S. Representative to the NATO Defense Research Group study on Stable Defense; is a member of the Defense Department Senior Advisory Group on Homeland Defense; is co-director of the Columbia University Summer Workshop on the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (SWAMOS); and holds an appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. His research has won Barchi, Rist, and Impact Prizes from the Military Operations Research Society, and he won the Army Superior Civilian Service Medal in 2003.


AB (1981), MPP (1985), and Ph.D. (Public Policy, 1992) degrees, all from Harvard University.