Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance

After 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, many now see "small-footprint" security force assistance (SFA)—training, advising, and equipping allied militaries—as an alternative to large US ground-force commitments. Yet, its actual military efficacy has been little studied. This paper seeks to fill this gap. We find important limitations on SFA's military utility, stemming from agency problems arising from systematic interest misalignment between the US and its typical partners. SFA's achievable upper bound is modest and attainable only if US policy is intrusive and conditional, which it rarely is. For SFA, small footprints will usually mean small payoffs.


Citation: Biddle, Stephen, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker. "Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance." Journal of Strategic Studies (2017): 1–54, doi: 10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745.


Related

Biddle, Stephen, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker. "The Trump administration wants to send more advisors to Afghanistan. Good luck with that." Monkey Cage (blog). Washington Post. May 15, 2017.