The Admixture Of Military And Law Enforcement

Herschel Smith · 20 Apr 2014 · 9 Comments

My son Daniel did a combat tour of Fallujah in 2007, but his other deployment with the Marine Corps was a MEU to the Gulf of Aden and Persian Gulf (which both he and I think is a horrible way to throw away money if we're never going to use the Marine Corps for anything on these MEUs except for humanitarian missions - but that's another topic). As the pre-deployment workup for this MEU, the Battalion underwent extensive training in evidence collection protocol and procedures.  At the time I…… [read more]

Soldiers and Marines Purchase Their Own Equipment

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

The Greenville News, of South Carolina, recently carried a story entitled “Soldier Seeks Funds to Buy Safety Gear.”

Furman University associate professor Matt Feigenbaum says a former ROTC student of his lost an arm and an eye to a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan, so he knows how dangerous a tour of duty can be.

Early next year, it will be Feigenbaum’s turn to ship out — and he’s asking for help to keep him and about 130 other Upstate troops as safe as possible.

A National Guard second lieutenant, Feigenbaum wants to raise $800 per soldier to buy helmet inserts, gloves and other gear.

“The Army does provide basic equipment,” he said. “But if you talk to the guys who are in-theater, there is better quality equipment you can get.”

Feigenbaum is the executive officer of Bravo Company, a part of the 1-118th Infantry Battalion. All of the troops under his command are from the Upstate and include sheriff’s deputies and a Woodmont High School assistant principal, he said.

They’ll be entering a combat zone that has become increasingly hostile, even as it has been overshadowed back home by the war in Iraq. Militants were launching 600 attacks a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month as of March, according to The Associated Press.

“It certainly raises” the fear level, Feigenbaum said. “It’s a healthy fear. I would hope everybody would expect the danger we are going into.”

The helmet inserts can reduce the risk of serious head injury by 60 percent, he said. Soldiers can use high-quality gloves and socks because they expect to experience temperatures down to minus 30 degrees in the mountains, Feigenbaum said.

“Because the U.S. government often purchases its supplies from the lowest bidder and provides soldiers the basic necessities,” he wrote to potential donors, “Bravo Company’s Family Readiness Group is asking for donations so our soldiers can be equipped with the highest quality protective gear.”

He also wants to buy the troops phone cards and Web cams to make it easier to communicate with family.

The company will be away from the Upstate for more than a year starting in January, Feigenbaum said. Troops will head to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Miss., for about three months of training and then spend a year overseas training Afghan police and army forces, he said.

The Army National Guard has been stretched increasingly thin since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Guard has transferred equipment from non-deployed units to deployed units, according to an October 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office.

As a result, non-deployed troops have fallen short of several kinds of equipment, including machine guns, night-vision goggles and Humvees, the GAO reported.

The helmet inserts are presumably the padding suspension system that I covered in “Old and New Body Armor for Marines,” and are intended to reduce the effect of blunt force trauma due to IEDs.  Brain Injury is the signature wound of the Iraq war.  Use of the padding suspension system has been ordered by Marine Administrative Message 480/06.

When my son recently trained at Fort A. P. Hill, the training caused the destruction of several pairs of Cammies, which of course, he had to replace out-of-pocket.  I am cataloguing the equipment we have already purchased at the MCX: more boots, ballistic glasses (because the issued pair are worse than second-rate), Cammies, etc., etc.  Prior to deployment I will publish a list of equipment my son and I have had to purchase out-of-pocket, along with an estimate of the cost.  The innovative Second Lieutenant above had a praiseworthy idea: appeal to the people on whose behalf they fight.

In the mean time, we should collectively query ourselves: Do we really support the troops?

Unleash the Snipers!

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

Of course, military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) are difficult, and have always been problematic to not only U.S. forces, but military forces around the world.  But with the canyon-like walls, cave-like rooms, and noise-reverberating qualities of sprawling urban areas, one would think that the U.S. military had at least developed a point of doctrine regarding snipers.  There is no doctrine, so there can be no strategy, and thus there are no tactics to address this threat – Herschel Smith, November 9, 2006

U.S. Sniper Nest

U.S. Sniper Nest in Karma, Iraq, Courtesy of the New York Times

I have long been a follower of the use of snipers, Carlos Hathcock probably being the premier shooter in the history of snipers.  It was with great chagrin that I wrote Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops.  This post followed the tragic tale of insurgent snipers and their work in Iraq, primarily in Sunni controlled areas (although also present in Baghdad and beyond).

The insurgents lose every stand-up fight in which they engage U.S. troops, so they have transitioned to asymmeteric warfare, shooting from positions of concealment, and learning the weaknesses of the body armor worn by the U.S.  More particularly, the insurgents have learned to aim for unprotected parts of Marines and Soldiers, specifically, the head, neck and armpits (the later due to the fact that there are definite gaps in the SAPI plates, or Small Arms Protective Inserts, along the lateral torso, an issue I covered in Snipers and Body Armor).

This post took on a life of its own, and comments ranged from the hint to “destroy everything” to the implication that “there isn’t anything we can do about it because all of your suggestions will fail.”  So it might be helpful to rehearse the core of my recommendations for dealing with the insurgent snipers.

The Unites States Marine Corps is the only branch of the military in the world which requires qualification with the rifle at 500 yards.  Urban areas don’t have distance considerations that require snipers on the level of Carlos Hathcock.  Each and every Marine should be able to operate as a sniper — or a countersniper … If there are regularly scheduled combat patrols that allow the snipers to plan their activities, these schedules should be changed, and changed again, and then again.  If the sniper and his spotter are known to be in an area, Marines should be dispatched in night time operations to find concealment from which they can then observe enemy movements the next day, or two, or three.  This last suggestion is the most radical, since it involves the breakup of squads and possibly even fire teams, and the decentralization of command and control.  Further, there is the problem of training.  Only a few Marines have been trained to be “Recon? Marines.

But these tactics (i.e., decentralized command and control, concealment of guerrillas, significant lattitude given to small teams of fighters, long periods of time without direct communication with command) are exactly the tactics used by Hezbollah to fight the ground forces of the IDF to a draw in southern Lebanon.  It is doubtful that the Hezbollah guerrillas had received anything like the training received by U.S. Marines, and the typical Marine should be able to function quite nicely for a couple of days under concealment in homes, ditches, and on roof tops.  A few MREs and a Ghillie suit might enable a Marine to stay in the field long enough to find one of these snipers or spotters.  When the enemy snipers become aware of the fact that they are being watched, and some of their brethren have been sniped, the U.S. will be on the way to winning the battle.

I ended the post with the admonition that if my suggestions seemed amateurish, the reader could suggest his own, because no answer was forthcoming from the military strategists.  I didn’t say so in this post, but I have elsewhere argued that the ROE hampers U.S. troops, and that the ROE are in need of revision to adopt a more robust approach to the conflict.

I do not retract, alter, or otherwise modify my recommendations, especially in light of the most recent article on U.S. Snipers and ROE in Iraq, from the New York Times, Perfect Killing Method, but Clear Targets are Few for Marines in Iraq.

The sniper team left friendly lines hours ahead of the sun. They were a group of marines walking through the chill, hoping to be in hiding before the mullahs’ predawn call to prayer would urge this city awake.

They reached an abandoned building. Two marines stepped inside, swept the ground floor and signaled to the others to follow them to the flat roof, where they crawled to spots along its walls in which they had previously chiseled out small viewing holes.

Out came their gear: a map, spotting scopes, binoculars, two-way radios and stools. The snipers took their places, peering through the holes, watching an Iraqi neighborhood from which insurgents often fire. They were hoping an insurgent would try to fire on this day. The waiting began.

If the recent pattern was any indication, the waiting could last a long time. This was this sniper team’s 30th mission in Anbar Province since early August. They had yet to fire a shot.

More than three years after the insurgency erupted across much of Iraq, sniping — one of the methods that the military thought would be essential in its counterinsurgency operations — is proving less successful in many areas of Iraq than had been hoped, Marine officers, trainers and snipers say.

In theory, Western snipers are a nearly perfect method of killing Iraq’s insurgents and thwarting their attacks, all with little risk of damaging property or endangering passers-by. But in practice, the snipers say, they are seeing fewer clear targets than previously, and are shooting fewer insurgents than expected.

In 2003, one Marine sniper killed 32 combatants in 12 days, the snipers say, and many others had double-digit kill totals during tours in Iraq. By this summer, sniper platoons with several teams had typically been killing about a dozen insurgents in seven-month tours, with totals per platoon ranging from 3 to as high as 26.

The gap between the expectations and the results has many causes, but is in part a reflection of the insurgency’s duration. With the war in its fourth year, many of the best sniping positions are already well known to the insurgents, and veteran insurgents have become more savvy and harder to kill.

In some areas of Iraq, where the insurgents are less experienced or still fight frontally, snipers have had better rates of success, including the platoon with 26 kills. But many areas, the snipers say, have become maddening places in which to hide and hunt.

“A lot of Marine battalions have rotated through these same areas for six or seven months at a time,? said Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Jones, the platoon sergeant of the Scout Sniper Platoon in the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines. “But the insurgents live here. They know almost all the best places that have been used. Before we even get here, they know where we are going to go.?

Why the failure of the countersnipers?  If a sniper is the perfect answer to another sniper, and if the U.S. has the best in the world, then what is causing the difficulty?

… some snipers now worry that the difficulties they face have been compounded by rules and conditions placed on them by senior military leaders.

Marine snipers have customarily trained to work in two-man teams who hide and stalk for days, seeking targets a half-mile or more away. Often an area might be saturated with snipers, so they can support and protect one another while confusing an enemy force with different angles of fire.

This way, according to their thinking, they can kill more enemy combatants, and sow more fear.

Those two-man teams are not allowed in Iraq, in part because of the killings of two groups of snipers earlier in the war.

In the first episode, in 2004 in Ramadi, four Marine snipers were killed without firing a shot, apparently after being surprised in a shooting position in an urban area, known in sniper jargon as a hide. An investigation suggested that they had been overwhelmed and executed.

In 2005, a six-man sniper team from a Marine reserve unit was killed in Haditha. The insurgents videotaped a display of the slain team’s equipment, including a marine’s dog tags, and circulated the spectacle on the Internet.

The losses have made commanders hesitant to send out small teams, Marine officers said, a decision that many snipers said inhibits their work.

Snipers argue a counterintuitive point, saying that even though two-man teams have less firepower and fewer men, they are safer because they can hide more effectively.

Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, the leader of the battalion’s First Sniper Team, said the sniper community was suffering from an overreaction. “It’s sad that they got killed, but when you think about it, we’ve been here three years, going on four, and we’ve only had two teams killed,? he said. “That’s not that dramatic.?

Sergeant Chamblin killed for the first time on Nov. 10, shooting an insurgent who was putting a makeshift bomb beside a bridge near Saqlawiya, near Falluja, a spot where a similar bomb killed three marines and a translator this summer.

He said snipers were willing to assume the risk of traveling in pairs. “It’s a war,? he said. “People are going to die, and the American public needs to get over that. They need to get over that and let us do our job.?

Note well the recommendations from my earlier post: ” … significant latitude given to small teams of fighters.”  And note that the ROE inhibits the implementation of this recommendation – and also note the Marines’ objection to it.  Finally:

The military has also tightened rules of engagement as the war has progressed, toughening the requirements before a sniper may shoot an Iraqi. Potential targets must be engaged in a hostile act, or show clear hostile intent.

The marines say insurgents know the rules, and now rarely carry weapons in the open. Instead, they pose as civilians and keep their weapons concealed in cars or buildings until just before they need them. Later, when they are done shooting, they put them swiftly out of sight and mingle with civilians.

In a thematic objection to the broad strategic thinking that has led to the prolongment of this war (or lack of thinking), we will win only if we are willing to engage the enemy.  The things that makes the military comfortable – rank, lines of authority, constant reporting to superiors, minimum latitude given to lower ranks – these things must be jettisoned.  In some instances, they are merely baggage that holds the U.S. forces back.

Al Qaeda Reorganization

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

Even after the appointment of al Masri to head of al Qaeda in Iraq, fractures were obvious.  In demonstrations by the insurgents after the announcement of the Islamic state of Iraq, the Sunni fighters (probably Baathists and Saddam Fedayeen), chanted slogans that underscored the fractures: “We are from Mujahidin Shura Council and our amir is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. God willing we will set the law of Sharia here and we will fight the Americans.”

Al Masri apparently had no more capital with the residents of Sunni areas than did Zarqawi, and the population is slowly turning on al Qaeda.  In a move analogous to modern Western corporate reorganizations, if the organization is not performing up to standards, after some period of punishment of the workers, the next move is to sack the management.

Al-Qaeda leader in Mesopotamia Abu Hamza Al-Muhajer or Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub Al-Masri pledged support to Sheikh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and put his 12,000 men at his disposal.

Sheikh Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi is believed to be Abdullah Rashid Al-Baghdadi, leader of Shura Al-Mujahideen in Iraq. He now acts as the Emir of the Islamic State in Iraq proclaimed on 15/10/06. This State includes the Sunni areas of Baghdad and the provinces of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salahuddeen, Nineveh and parts of Babel and Waset.

Iraqi Salafi sources agree that Al-Qaeda leader number 2 Ayman Al-Zahawiri chaired a meeting in Pakistan two weeks ago to discuss the Al-Qaeda leadership issue in Iraq. The delegates who represented Bin Laden at the meeting insisted that an Iraqi Emir takes over the leadership in Iraq to avoid more cracks in Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

Note that two days before proclaiming the Islamic State in Iraq, an Al-Qaeda figure named Abu Osama Al-Iraqi called Bin Laden to disown Al-Masri and delegate an Iraqi to lead Al-Qaeda in Iraq as he delegated an Afghani to lead Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the media affairs representatives for the “Islamic State of Iraq” released its first video of a raid of a police station in al-Muqdadiyah.  It is of course questionable whether there are really 12,000 troops at the al Qaeda’s disposal (more particularly, subservient to al Masri), given that there are fractures in the group.

The flurry of activity might be similar to a wounded animal fighting for its life.  However, wounded animals are dangerous.

Democracy is Not Enough

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

In a stunning word picture of Ramadi today, Martin Fletcher of the Times Online tells us what he saw as he recently entered Ramadi (h/t SWJ).

Ramadi has been laid waste by two years of warfare. Houses stand shattered and abandoned. Shops are shuttered up. The streets are littered with rubble, wrecked cars, fallen trees, broken lampposts and piles of rubbish.

Fetid water stands in craters. The pavements are overgrown. Walls are pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel. Side roads have been shut off with concrete barriers to thwart car bombs. Everything is coated in grey dust even the palm trees. The city has no functioning government, no telephones, and practically no basic services except sporadic electricity and water supplies. It has been reduced to a subsistence economy.

There are stray cats and wild dogs, but few cars or humans. Ramadi’s inhabitants have either fled, or learnt to stay indoors.

The letter from al Qaeda high command to Zarqawi indicates just how little true respect they have for their fellow Sunnis in the Anbar Province and just how far they are willing to go to effect their grand plan for a radical Islamic state.

“… be humble to the believers, and smile in people’s faces, even if you are cursing them in your heart, even if it has been said that they are “a bad tribal brother,? and what have you.

Among the most crucial of things involved is exercising all caution against attempting to kill any religious scholar or tribal leader who is obeyed, and of good repute in Iraq from among the Sunnis, no matter what. Instead, we should confront anyone evil by many other means of discourse and fervor of speech, and such, and with a bit of wisdom, patience, and deliberateness. We should continue in our jihad, and when God opens the way, and we have the wherewithal, then we can behave differently in accordance with what is appropriate for that time. Perhaps it will be he, himself (the one who was your enemy) who will come to you humbled, belittled, apologizing, frightened, cowering as he asks for forgiveness.?

? … you, as a leader and a jihadist political organization who wants to destroy a power and a state and erect on its rubble an Islamic state, or at least form the building block on the right path towards that, need all of these people.?

Foolishly, al Qaeda has allowed their hatred to manifest itself; they have become impatient, and used heavy-handed tactics to pursue their vision for Anbar.  The Sunnis in Iraq are being used, and they are beginning to see al Qaeda for what they are.  Fletcher notes that “Few cities had more cause to lament the dictator’s downfall, US troops made matters worse with their insensitive early conduct and al-Qaeda skillfully exploited the people’s anger with its promise to expel the infidel.  As al-Qaeda’s fighters tightened their grip on Ramadi, they became increasingly repressive and challenged the tribal leaders’ power. Soon they were kidnapping and beheading innocent people as part of a campaign of extortion and intimidation.  Some sheikhs fled to Jordan and Syria. Sheikh Sittar’s father and three brothers were killed, his father during the holy month of Ramadan, and he says he has himself survived several kidnap attempts. This summer a fellow sheikh was ambushed and beheaded by al-Qaeda supporters, who piled insult on injury by keeping his body so it could not be buried immediately, as demanded by custom.  “We began to see what they were actually doing in Anbar province. They were not respecting us or honouring us in any way, said Sheikh Sittar, speaking through an interpreter.? Their tactics were not acceptable.?

Ramadi is the most dangerous place in the world, but there may be improvement coming.  Al Qaeda is headed underground, and the presence of snipers, while an effective and tragic tactic against U.S. troops, may very well belie the claim to ownership of Ramadi.  Insurgents who have the support of the people do not need to be snipers.  Michael Fumento, while circumspect and careful, shows that circumstances are improving and that Ramadi is able to be taken back by coalition forces, albeit three years too late and with the sacrifice of too many Soldiers and Marines.  But to say that peace is around the corner is a gross exaggeration and wishful thinking.  The Strategy Page paints a picture of violence and chaos: Sunni on Sunni, Sunni on Shia, Shia on Sunni, and al Qaeda on everyone.

Kidnappings by police have reached the point where major politicians are openly demanding that something be done. Unfortunately, the politicians doing most of the complaining are Sunni Arabs, who continue to take heat from Shia politicians because of continued suicide bombing attacks against Shia Arabs by Sunni Arab terrorists. Many Sunni Arab groups have a real fear that their continued existence in Iraq is threatened by this terrorism, and a civil war is developing within the Sunni Arab community. This is already the case in western Iraq. American and Iraqi troops are taking advantage of it, which is keeping the American and Iraqi casualty rate high. Most of the Iraqi troops are Shia Arab, and they talk openly fighting for a “Sunni Arab Free” Iraq. Shades of the “Final Solution.” While the faint hearted Sunni Arabs continue to flee across the border, or to the few Sunni Arab areas in Iraq that do not host Sunni Arab terrorist groups, many Iraqi Sunni Arabs have vowed to fight to the end. This is a major issue in the Arab world, where the struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches has long been fought without much violence. But in Iraq, this thousand year old feud is very real, very deadly, and being closely watched by Iraq’s neighbors.

The fight is not over, and there is still an underlying problem that begs for an analysis of the root cause of Ramadi and the general Iraq problem.  The working axoim prior to the invasion of Iraq was that democracy had the healing powers to bring peace, stability and security to Iraq post-invasion.  The troop deployment, at forty percent of what the Pentagon had originally requested, was the corollary to this axoim.  If democracy has these healing powers, the thinking obviously went, then Iraq can police and secure itself.  Peace is not just an accident.  It is literally a byproduct of democracy.

The failure of this construct was that we saw the world through Western eyes.  Upon the toppling of the regime, a segment of the population was dethroned in an instant.  The balance of the Iraqi population, having been oppressed for a generation, was given the opportunity to take revenge for their dead siblings, parents, and children.  Additionally, a thousand year religious war between the Sunni and Shia, held in abatement by a heavy-handed dictator for years, was unleashed to continue as it had for centuries.  A disenfranchised Sunni population was promised that those who toppled them from power would be expelled, and al Qaeda poured in to help the Saddam Fedayeen begin the insurgency that continues today.

For the future, mothers want peace and security for their children, and men want a future where they can defend and care for their families.  As a governing paradigm, democracy does not provide these things.  Democracy is a product and function of civility, peace, and a common world view.  Peace and civility are not produced by democracy.  Democracy does not produce — it is itself produced.

Prior on Ramadi, the Sunni Triangle and the Anbar Province:

  1. The Battle for Saba’ al-Bour
  2. The Reasons the U.S. Won’t “Clear” Ramadi
  3. Demonstrations, Violence and Preparations in al Anbar Province
  4. Combat Operation Posts
  5. Regression in al Anbar Province
  6. Ramadi is Still a Troubled City
  7. Al Anbar Tribes Gives Coalition Three Divisions of Recruits
  8. Ramadi: Marines Own the Night, 3.5 Years Into Iraq War
  9. Will we Lose the Anbar Province?
  10. Haditha Sequence of Events
  11. Update on Ramadi
  12. Ramadi: Don’t Expect More Fallujah

 

Good, Fast and Cheap: Pick Any Two

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

The draft version of the Army’s Full Spectrum Operations Field Manual counsels against the approach used by Rumsfeld (minimum force projection).  “The big idea here is that stability tasks have to be a consideration at every level and every operation,” said Clinton Ancker III, head of the Army’s Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate and an author of the guide … The old manual emphasized that stability operations usually follow combat. The draft version of the 2007 ground operations manual instructs commanders that they cannot wait for offensive operations to end before providing security and services for the population.  “Army forces must defeat enemies and simultaneously shape the civil situation through stability or civil support operations.”  In a more developed understanding of what proper force projection can accomplish – and conversely, what we missed in our toppling of the Saddam regime – it is now seen that lack of security can be the catalyst for an insurgency.

Rumsfeld’s critics generally have pointed to summer 2003 as the period when the most important misstep was made in Iraq. American forces were drawn down, and the military did not react quickly to confront a rising insurgency.

The draft manual says the seeds of an insurgency can be planted early on, even during initial military operations. And the guide’s authors say the missteps that gave rise to the insurgency may have occurred during the march to Baghdad.

“There is a period of time in the immediate aftermath of any fight where the population will rely on the [American] military to keep them safe and provide essential services,” Ancker said.

The concept, according to Ancker, is akin to what battlefield medics call the “golden hour” — the short period in which patients can be saved if their wounds are properly treated. During an offensive operation, if a military does not try to at least bandage the wounds of a society, the effort can suffer even if the battle is won. After an urban battle, commanders must try to provide basic services and security, the manual says.

“If we do not plan to account for those tasks in the immediate aftermath of a fight,” Ancker said, “then there is a period of time somebody else can step in and use that failure as a lever to create disaffected parts of the population, and that can turn into … an insurgency.”

The U.S. war in Iraq was an attempt to perform the operations fast and cheap and good, and therefore we have achieved none of those objectives.  Because we have unnecessary strategic commitments across the globe (e.g., in Japan, Europe), our force projection wanted for troops, and without them the war effort has involved prolonged operations.  While U.S. troops have performed remarkably well and with bravery, the situation on the ground is devolving, with a trend of increasing casualties.  Also because of the prolonged operations, the war effort has been anything but cheap.

The U.S. electorate has no stomach for prolonged operations, as proven by the recent election.  If wisdom is to be gleaned from this, it would be that the old engineer’s adage of “good, fast and cheap, pick any two,” should be amended to say “good, fast and cheap, pick any two as long as ‘fast’ is included.”

As evidence that the Pentagon has still proven incapable of understanding this last point, the panel of officers commissioned by General Pace to study the war and make recommendations has come back with the following: “Go Home, Go Big, or Go Longer.”

Consider the thoughts of a soon-to-be-deployed Soldier or Marine: ”Will I be the last one to die in Iraq?”  Perhaps the panel should have deployed to Iraq before authoring the study.  Stubbornness in the military administration is a sign of stolid thinking.  Again, ‘go longer‘ is not an option.  It never was, it is not now, and it never will be.

From the Crest Trail

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

Somewhere on the Crest Trail, Sandia Mountains, New Mexico, November 16, 2006.  Hiking at 10,000 feet elevation kept me winded most of the time.

Sandia 0311.jpg

Our Dirty Little Secret: Technology Proliferation

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

It is extremely difficult to earn a PhD in Engineering.  While PhDs in other disciplines read hundreds of books, perform research and author and verbally defend dissertations, engineering is still a cut above and a category apart from other fields.  To earn a PhD in engineering most often means not only the above, but additionally four to five years in graduate school, along with complicated research and most often computer modeling.  A typical PhD candidate might write the source code, debug and validate a computer code consisting of 100,000 lines of FORTRAN and/or C++ for the purpose of modeling some esoteric problem that possibly only he and his thesis advisor knows about and understands.  The investment in time and resources (monetary) often create circumstances in which it is not worthwhile for U.S. students to go this far with their education.  The pay that a BS or MS graduate in engineering can earn over four or five years, modified by the time value of money, has decreased the number of students in the U.S. seeking advanced degrees in engineering.  Of course, this creates the need for other PhD candidates to fill the gap in order to keep programs open.

Enter the foreign student.  It has for some time been recognized that foreign students are comprising an increasing fraction of the PhD students in U.S. universities.  In fact, universities themselves are aware of the problem and know that it is important, along with the U.S. government, to track such students and be aware of their intentions (will they stay in the U.S. or return to their homeland?).  The “sensitive” disciplines are: nuclear technology, cyberterrorism, chemical and explosives technology (munitions), and biological terrorism, with nuclear technology being the most sensitive.

But this alleged knowledge of who is earning advanced degrees in the U.S. has not held in abatement the increasing number of foreign students in sensitive disciplines, many from surprising countries.  According to a study entitled “The Importance of Foreign Ph.D. Students to U.S. Science,” the authors point out that concerning the sensitive fields of nuclear and organic chemistry, chemical and nuclear engineering, bacteriology, biochemistry, biotechnology research, microbiology and neuroscience, and atomic, chemical, molecular and nuclear physics, approximately 10% of the degrees awarded in these areas were awarded to students from 26 countries that are on the State Department “watch” list as being state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan is ostensibly an ally in the global war on terror.  In fact, the newly released “Militant Ideology Atlas” from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point notes that the most influential jihadist cleric in the world today, al-Maqdisi, resides in Jordan.  Also, we have covered the Iranian push for nuclear weapons technology.  In further demonstration of the Iranian duplicity in claiming that the pursuit of nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes, CNN, the Telegraph, UPI and the Strategy Page are all covering the Iranian weapons exchange for Somalian uranium that was recently exposed by the IAEA.

Development in U.S. nuclear forensics technology includes, in part, signature methods to ascertain the origin and history of radioactive materials.  For example, materials irradiated in reactors have trace constituents that are informative of the original target composition, reactor type and irradiation history.

For my readers who have written before to complain that the prose on this web site that “issues forth from my pen” (e.g., concerning snipers) informs the enemy of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, they should consider the fact that (in this instance) Iran already knows U.S. vulnerabilities and forensic capabilities, and is attempting to exploit them by purchasing uranium from Somalia.  In the future, when a nuclear device explodes in a U.S. city or somewhere in the Middle East, presumably Israel, if the uranium was deemed to be originally from Somalia, Iran has a alibi, or at least, so they think.

Pointing out U.S. vulnerabilities is the honest thing to do, and ignoring them the dangerous and unethical thing.  Henceforth, when we observe developments in nuclear technology, chemical and biological warfare capabilities, and the other myriad things that can cause mass injury and death to American citizens, we should keep in the forefront of our thinking: “The U.S. has possibly aided the enemy by training him to kill us.”

More Marines Headed to Anbar, Flurry of Operations Ensuing

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

There is a flurry of combat activity occurring near Baghdad and in the al Anbar Province. 

On Monday, November 13, eleven insurgents were killed in three related incidents in Ramadi.  Coalition Forces observed a small number of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device.  The insurgents were engaged by Coalition Forces with small arms fire, killing two.  The three remaining insurgents returned to the emplacement site and Coalition Forces fired one tank main gun round, killing all three insurgents.  There were secondary explosions, and the remains of the IED continued to burn for about an hour.

Following an IED attack on a Coalition vehicle four hours later in the same vicinity, four insurgents were killed after they attempted to take mission essential equipment from the vehicle.  Two of the insurgents were killed by small arms fire and two were killed with one main gun tank round.  This event occurred during curfew hours.

In a separate incident Nov. 14 in the same vicinity, three insurgents were observed emplacing an improvised explosive device.  They were engaged with small arms fire and a main tank gun round.  Two insurgents were killed.

On Tuesday, November 14, the same day as the operations were being conducted in Ramadi, a Coalition Forces air strike killed three terrorists (MNF Web Site implies al Qaeda) in Yusifiyyah (Youssifiyah).  Coalition Forces tracked the terrorists’ movement on a dirt road on the outskirts of Yusifiyya.  Based on intelligence that linked the vehicle and the three terrorists to a local vehicle-borne improvised explosion device facilitation network, Coalition aircraft engaged and destroyed the vehicle with precision fires.  Youssifiyah is a rural area twelve miles south of Baghdad.

Also on November 14, one Soldier and three Marines died in combat operations in the al Anbar Province.

On Thursday, November 16, Coalition Forces killed nine terrorists and detained nine suspected terrorists during a raid just south of Yusifiyah.  As Coalition Forces approached the targeted area, they called out for people to exit the buildings. Ground forces noticed several armed individuals in a nearby wooded area maneuvering against them.  Close air support was called in to mitigate the threat to the Coalition Forces ground team.  Coalition aircraft engaged the terrorists with precision fires.Several of the terrorists killed were wearing suicide vests.

The al Anbar Province remains the most dangerous part of Iraq, and security is not being achieved in part due to the lack of support by the Iraqi government.

The Shiite-dominated central government is starving Iraqi security forces in the Sunni heartland of the resources needed to fight the insurgency, according to American officers.

In Anbar province, a Sunni region west of Baghdad, many police officers haven’t been paid for three months. “It’s difficult to ask a man to risk his life if you can’t even pay him,? said Marine Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, deputy commanding general of Multi-National Force-West.

Winning over Sunnis is critical to achieving a political solution to the violence in Iraq. The dispute in Anbar highlights a growing fear among Sunnis that the Shiite-dominated government isn’t sincere about helping them.

“That’s why people in Anbar think the government in Baghdad doesn’t want them to succeed,? Neller said. “Sometimes I wonder if the government in Baghdad wants them to succeed.?

So 2,200 more Marines are headed into Anbar.  Abizaid’s take on this is interesting:

The move was disclosed on Wednesday by Gen. John Abizaid during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he approved the deployment “to help address” concerns expressed by Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, who commands all U.S. forces in Anbar. Abizaid did not elaborate. Zilmer’s staff has indicated in recent months that an increase in troop levels could help the fight against the insurgency in Anbar.

Abizaid acknowledged, when pressed during questioning by senators, that Anbar is not under the control of U.S. or Iraqi forces. He said the security problem in Baghdad was even worse (Editorial comment from TCJ: This is certainly an incorrect statement, and Abizaid knows it) and that Anbar’s problems therefore must be deemed secondary to suppressing the sectarian violence in the capital.

Troops were drawn away from Anbar in order to assist with the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad, but a “deteriorating security situation” is not the same thing as the bombed out wasteland that Anbar is today.

Lack of force projection and poor strategic moves (the deployment of troops out of Anbar) has been a catalyst for the religious war that ensues between the Shia and Sunni.  So it is more than just the Iraqi government that gives the impression that no one care about the Sunni.

On the other hand, it might just be true that Iraq is al-Qaeda’s Vietnam.  They are stuck.  They cannot leave for the fear of damage to reputation and strategic strength.  They cannot stay because they are dying daily.  With the right number of troops, al-Qaeda might be dealt a fatal blow in Iraq.

As for the thousand-year religious war between the Shia and Sunni, well, that’s another story, and possibly the biggest one in Iraq.

U.S. Plans Last Big Push in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

The talking points of Bush’s plan have been leaked to the press.  The Guardian is reporting the story:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.
Mr Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel’s work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point “victory strategy” developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers. This figure is far fewer than that called for by the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. But by raising troop levels, Mr Bush will draw a line in the sand and defy Democratic pressure for a swift drawdown.

The reinforcements will be used to secure Baghdad, scene of the worst sectarian and insurgent violence, and enable redeployments of US, coalition and Iraqi forces elsewhere in the country.

Point two of the plan stresses the importance of regional cooperation to the successful rehabilitation of Iraq. This could involve the convening of an international conference of neighbouring countries or more direct diplomatic, financial and economic involvement of US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“The extent to which that [regional cooperation] will include talking to Iran and Syria is still up for debate …

Point three focuses on reviving the national reconciliation process between Shia, Sunni and other ethnic and religious parties. According to the sources, creating a credible political framework will be portrayed as crucial in persuading Iraqis and neighbouring countries alike that Iraq can become a fully functional state …

Lastly, the sources said the study group recommendations will include a call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces. It will also stress the need to counter corruption, improve local government and curtail the power of religious courts.

Let us at TCJ be the first out of the gate to say that this plan will fail.

First, 20,000 more troops is not nearly enough.  We need 220,000.

Second, talks with Syria and Iran will only embolden these two countries, with Iran being the most worrisome.  At at time when the U.S. should be working hard to set boundary conditions and stipulations for Iran’s behavior in the Middle East, to talk with them would undercut the U.S. position to the point that warnings will lose all force and the U.S. will lose all respect.

Third – and this point also addresses Abizaid’s testimony today before the Senate in which he said that more embedded U.S. troops with the Iraqi army and police would hasten turnover – we are still refusing to face the socio-religious landscape in Iraq.  The history of Shi’a-Sunni relations is almost as old as Islam, and just as violent.  This factious warring is getting worse, not better.  Ilan Berman, vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, states that “We have a ringside seat not only to radical Islam’s war with us, but to what’s really emerging as a civil war between radical Sunni Islam and radical Shia Islam.”  There is no lack of ability to police or wage war among either the Sunni or Shia.  The problem is not one of incompetence.  It is one of religious war.

Fourth, more money would have helped two years ago and with a stable Iraq.

Clarity on Iranian Nuclear Program and IAEA Reports

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

There is much confusion over the recently released International Atomic Energy Agency (hereafter, IAEA) report on the Iranian nuclear program.  The International Herald Tribune is reporting that the “International Atomic Energy Agency experts have found unexplained plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran and have asked Tehran for details, an IAEA report said Tuesday.”  Reuters is reporting that “IAEA inspectors detected bits of plutonium in samples of particles of highly enriched uranium (HEU) taken earlier from containers at the Karaj atomic waste facility near Tehran.”

To gain clarity on these issues, one needs access to documents and analysis other than main stream media reports and disjointed accounts of the situation.  The IAEA has a page devoted to formal statements on Iran.  The story begins long ago, but it is necessary to go back at least to January of 2006 to understand the November report.

In January of 2006, IAEA inspectors found some high enriched Uranium particles at locations where Iran has declared that centrifuge components had been manufactured, used and/or stored.  In the same report, the IAEA said “in order to clarify differences between findings by the Agency and statements made by Iran, a number of plutonium discs were brought by the Agency back to to Vienna for further analysis to determine the exact isotopic composition of the plutonium.  The Agency’s analysis showed, in particular, that the Pu-240 content measured on eight of the discs was significantly lower than the Pu-240 content of the solution from which the plutonium deposited on the discs was said to have originated.”

In a report on August 31, 2006, the IAEA reiterated the complaint (lodged in earlier reports) that Iran had refused to cooperate in ascertaining the origin of the high enriched uranium particles found and discussed in the February report.  The IAEA also confirmed the laboratory results of the sample, stating that “Analysis of the environmental samples taken from equipment at a technical university in January 2006, referred to in paragraph 25 of GOV/2006/27, showed a small number of particles of natural and high enriched uranium.”

The IAEA prepares reports for board review prior to meetings, and the board decides on release of the reports to the public as one of the functions of the meeting.  The November 14, 2006 report (GOV/2006/64) has not been formally released yet, but Vital Perspective has obtained the report and has posted a link to it.  In this report the IAEA divulges that the test results had been communicated to Iran: “Under cover of the Agency’s letter of 16 October 2006 … Iran was provided with a detailed assessment of the results of further analysis of the samples taken from the containers at Karaj, and was requested to provide further clarification of the presence of the HEU particles and clarification of an additional finding of plutonium in the samples.  On 13 November 2006, Iran provided a response to that request, which the Agency is currently assessing.”

Iran’s reponse is nothing but a subterfuge.  Nothing technical, detailed, meaningful or substantive is contained in the response.  Further, there is technical falsehood contained in the response.  From the Reuters article cited above, Iran has included this in their reponse: “the HEU could have come from spent fuel from a Tehran light-water research reactor.”

The IAEA has found a plutonium ‘vector’ (i.e., isotopic composition) on certain components that is different from the alleged source.  They have also found highly enriched uranium particles, leading to significant concerns over the enrichment process.  As we have discussed before, highly enriched uranium does not come from spent fuel.  Low enriched uranium (5% or lower) is used to fuel and operate commercial light water reactors, but highly enriched uranium (>> 90%) is used for only two purposes: Naval reactors (Submarines and Aircraft Carriers), for which Iran does not have the technology, and nuclear weapons.  HEU has these two purposes, and no more.  HEU comes from the enrichment process, not from spent fuel.

Finally, we have covered the issue of Iran’s heavy water reactor and the fact that the alleged medical use of heavy water is a lie.  Heavy water will be used, upon completion of Iran’s reactor, to create plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Despite the hyperventilating media reports, the discovery of HEU particles and plutonium is nothing new.  There is no need for a new discovery.  The old ones - and the test results, and Iran’s refusal to come clean about them - is enough.


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