Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 4  on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The committee held a hearing on the situation in Afghanistan. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

THE CHALLENGE IN AFGHANISTAN Beat back the Taliban. That is what the outgoing top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says everything is riding on in 2016, and he’s pressing officials in Washington to dedicate more military heft to bolster local troops trying to hold back an expected major Taliban offensive. But even though President Obama has given up on plans to get all the U.S. troops out by the end of his term, it’s not clear that the administration will move on Gen. John Campbell’s recommendations before he’s out the door next month.

The Taliban have been making significant gains in Afghanistan, and an Islamic State affiliate is also posing a local threat. While officials aren’t putting specific numbers on the timing or the size of the force they expect will be necessary to help Afghanistan’s battered forces, officials have been talking in terms of years – or for some, even decades.

NUCLEAR RELOAD The country’s nuclear arsenal is due for a serious upgrade, Pentagon officials are warning – especially with Russia and China again on the rise. But the cost of paying for it is enough to make anyone balk, especially in a time of tenuous budget deals – $348 billion. Defense News takes a look at what is expected to be crippling sticker shock as a number of Defense Department programs come due for an upgrade. But the programs to upgrade the nuclear arsenal may well pose the steepest financial hurdle, raising the question: Will a divided Congress be ready to fork over the cash?

RUSSIAN SUBS BOOM Speaking of that nuclear race – the Russians are back, or at least their submarines are,  trawling the waters of the North Atlantic in greater numbers and frequency than anyone has seen since the Cold War. Their capabilities are increasing too.

Russia is upgrading its old fleet and rolling out two new types of submarines with strike capacity, giving them more range of motion and more ability to pose a threat. It’s all happening in more concerning circumstances, too: Ever since the U.S. and Russia realized that their diplomatic and sanctions crisis over Ukraine was going to stick around for a while, it caused an icing over in certain areas of military cooperation as well – NATO hasn’t been invited to observe Russian submarine exercises in two years.