War by Others’ Means: Delivering Effective Partner Force Capacity Building

As the size of conventional forces declines, and a new era of great power competition places a strategic value on the efficiency with which states can pursue their aims, there is likely to be an expanded scope for partnered operations and proxy warfare. This is explicitly acknowledged in the UK’s Defence Integrated Operating Concept, which outlines how British forces will engage to enable partners to tackle threats at source, and deploy to constrain adversaries by deterrence and denial. Partner force capacity building has a long history, with very mixed results. One might contrast for example British support to the Arab Revolt of 1916 with their ‘bolstering policy’ in Russia between 1918-1920. Yet there is little historical memory in the institutions tasked with carrying out these activities today. War by Other’s Means draws upon archival research, extensive interviews with practitioners, and observation of capacity building operations carried out by the UK, its allies, and adversaries, to understand why states pursue capacity building activates, how they should select, train and equip their partners, and how they should manage the force generation and withdrawal of trainers. The paper aims to identify the pre-requisites for success, and to determine the limits of what is achievable through capacity building in time and scale.

Dr Jack Watling is Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute. Jack has recently conducted studies of deterrence against Russia, force modernization, partner force capacity building, the future of corps operations, the future of fires, and Iranian strategic culture. Jack’s PhD examined the evolution of Britain’s policy responses to civil war in the early twentieth century. Prior to joining RUSI Jack worked in Iraq, Mali, Rwanda, Brunei, and further afield. Originally a journalist he has contributed to Reuters, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the Guardian, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Haaretz, and others. Jack was shortlisted for the European Press Prize Distinguished Writing Award in 2016, and won the Breakaway Award at the International Media Awards in 2017.