Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Of Insurgents, Poppy and Gizmos

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

 

An Afghan boy collects resin from poppies in an opium poppy field in Arghandab district of Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan on May 23, 2008. Afghanistan will ask international donors next month for over US$4 billion to revive its farming sector as it struggles with wheat shortages and skyrocketing food prices.  (AP Photo)

Seven months ago and before the Marines deployed to Afghanistan, The Captain’s Journal laid waste to the argument that the Marines should be in the business of destroying poppy crops.  Dumb idea, said we, and it runs counter to one of the main ideas behind counterinsurgency.

The Marines have flatly stated that they aren’t after poppy.  They’re after Taliban.  Rock on.  Whether the Marines are just smart or they listened to The Captain’s Journal – which is smart – doesn’t matter.  They have performed well in Helmand without destroying the living of the farmers.  The war on terror has no business being confused with the war on drugs.

But General McNeill sees things differently and has some of his troops engaged in doing exactly that.

NATO troops in Afghanistan have made significant progress eradicating the country’s poppy fields, an officer for the military alliance said Monday.

Speaking from his headquarters in Kabul, U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill said opium poppy cultivation remains a major threat to Afghanistan, the U.S. Defense Department said in a news release.

“In some portions of the country right now, mostly in the south, the cultivation of poppy is a far greater threat to the Afghan government — to the security and stability here — than the insurgency,” McNeill said.

The Afghan government must head up the elimination of opium poppy cultivation as the country’s economic base, McNeill said, estimating that the Taliban and al-Qaida receive between 20 percent and 40 percent of their money from the drug trade.

The United Nations estimates the terrorist groups receive closer to 60 percent from drugs.

“We are in there fighting insurgents who are as much narco-dealers as they are insurgents,” McNeill said. “In some cases, we are fired upon by people doing narco-business.”

So what?  The Captain’s Journal doesn’t get the connection.  What if the farmers were growing gizmos that sold for good money down the road in Iran or Turkey or wherever.  Suppose that the Taliban forcibly took a cut of the profits.  What’s the difference between doing it with gizmos and doing it with poppy?  General McNeill could very well have been in the position of saying “We are in there fighting insurgents who are as much gizmo profiteers as they are insurgents.”  So?  The problem is still with the insurgents, not the gizmos … or the poppy.

We still believe that the best solution to all of this is to capture or kill the insurgents and then let market forces deal with poppy.  What’s that we hear?  It’s already happening?

In one of the most important developments since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001, opium production has declined in the country. Over 20 of the country’s 34 provinces will be opium-free this year according to a report by the United Nations that has now been corroborated by Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics minister, General Khodaidad.

Among the provinces with remaining opium cultivation, the Taliban-dominated Helmand province ranks high, but even here it is being seen that the humble wheat crop has replaced poppy. Some newspapers that sent reporters to Helmand province, over the course of April and May this year, have independently verified this assertion. A European television program on the subject was among the most-forwarded news items on the Internet last week.

Interestingly, it is not the efforts of the Afghan government alone that have caused the reduction in opium production but something much more mundane, namely the increased price of wheat, that has pushed up production of the grain in many parts of the country. Therein lies a tale of so-called market manipulation that actually goes back to one of the central points about rural poverty alleviation in the region, namely the strength of economics.

The Captain’s Journal is out front again, and we don’t even charge the Department of Defense for this analysis.  But our Marine boys will probably keep listening to us.

Des Browne Continues the British Surrender

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

We covered the surrender plea from David Miliband, and while pusillanimous and pitiful, at least Miliband was either duplicitous or didn’t know what he was talking about.  Specifically, he advocated “negotiations between Pakistan’s new civilian government and Pashtun leaders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).”

If he was referring to tribal elders in FATA, then he was merely confused, as there are no negotiations with “Pashtun leaders.”  Further, they would be irrelevant if these talks existed, as the tribal elders do not control FATA.  They have no security from the Taliban, and thus hard core Taliban fighters control FATA and NWFP.  If he is referring to the Taliban as “Pashtun leaders,” then he is intentionally avoiding naming the enemy and stating that we should negotiate with them.  He is either stupid or a liar.

As for Des Browne, no such charge can be made.  He is a coward and specifically advocates surrender to the enemy.

Defence Secretary Des Browne endorsed peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban militants on Wednesday despite concerns from Afghanistan that the talks will allow the Taliban to regroup and launch more attacks.

Browne said Britain supported any moves that would encourage militants to put down their weapons and stop violence, and said Pakistan and Afghanistan needed to work together on problems with their border, much of which is controlled by Taliban insurgents.

He said reconciliation should be a part of any strategy, although it was clear some militants had no intention of putting down their weapons.

“But you can’t kill your way out of these sorts of campaigns,” Browne told journalists at Australia’s National Press Club on Wednesday.

Faced with a wave of suicide attacks, Pakistan has begun talks with Taliban militants who control much of the country’s 2,700 km (1,670 miles) mountain border with Afghanistan.

The Taliban, however, said it would fight in Afghanistan until all foreign troops were driven out of the country, and Afghanistan has expressed concerns about any peace deals.

Browne, in Australia for talks with Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, said sovereign countries had the right to welcome insurgents back into society if they agreed to obey the rule of law and recognise democratic governments.

“If people are prepared to give up violence, put down their weapons, accept and recognise legitimate and democratic government … then the sovereign governments from both countries are entitled to say we will welcome you to become part of our society,” he said.

But the British sensibilities are offended and shout out “How is it that Browne is advocating surrender when all he is really doing is offering the chance to put down their weapons?  Have we not been too hard on our man in London?”

The Taliban in South Afghanistan (and coming from Quetta) are hard core fighters who didn’t relent when fighting the Soviet Union, and will not suddenly decide that the fight should be over.  They fight for religious reasons, and thus laying down weapons would be seen as irreligious.  As for the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, they are in many ways just as brutal as the original Taliban, but without the strictures against suicide bombings and other such tactics.  They are a new breed of enemy whom Nicholas Schmidle calls Next-Gen Taliban.

This brand of fighter is in large measure controlled by the Tehrik-i-Taliban, and ultimately by Baitullah Mehsud.  As for what Mehsud thinks about this idea of a cease and desist order on his operations, let’s hear him in his own words.

The ceasefire, it seems, is already starting to take effect.

But will it last, or go the way other deals have gone before?

In our garden meeting, “Amir Sahib” (honoured leader) – as Baitullah Mehsud is affectionately called by his men – smiles and shakes his head when this query is raised.

Around us, dozens of militants armed to the teeth listen intently to their leader.

“The Taleban are committed to their word,” he says.

“The onus is now on the government – whether they hold to their word, or remain in the alliance with the US.”

If that persists, Commander Mehsud says, the militants will have no choice but return to their path of resistance.

“We do not want to fight Pakistan or the army. But if they continue to be slaves to US demands, then we our hands will be forced.

“There can be no deal with the US.”

The idea is that NATO and the U.S. leave Afghanistan or violence will continue against the Pakistani government.  As for Afghanistan, Baitullah intends to send in more fighters to help in the insurgency effort, regardless of and unrelated to the negotiations.  In other words, the most powerful man in Waziristan has said that the insurgency in Afghanistan will continue unabated no matter what, while it will resume in Pakistan unless the U.S. leaves.

Browne is smart enough to know that the Taliban will not surrender their weapons or aspirations.  He is advocating negotiations in spite of the fact that he knows that NATO and the U.S. cannot win concessions.  Given this level of bravery and commitment by the British, it’s a wonder that the Taliban don’t march up Whitehall and into the MOD Headquarters.  It may not be very tough.

Miliband Surrenders

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

In an astonishing announcement today carried by the AP and other sources, Marine General James Mattis said that “we should immediately begin negotiations with both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Military action can only carry us so far, and eventually political reconciliation is necessary to address the root cause of the problems that cause the jihadists.”  “I sincerely believe,” continued Mattis, “that with the right grievance amelioration, participation and representation in the government and infrastructure, our erstwhile enemies – al Qaeda and the Taliban – can be our friends.”  Finally, in a statement that brought stares of disbelief from the audience at Quantico, Mattis wrapped up by saying that “there just seems to be no military solution to any of these problems.”  For a once confident warrior among the Sunni insurgency, Mattis appeared tired and disheveled.

Er … maybe not.  If Mattis had said this he would have been rushed to the hospital, or perhaps sent to for-cause drug testing.  The Marines are warrior enough to have defeated al Qaeda, knowing that men who travel across the globe to wage holy war against you, while high on Epinephrine, must be killed.  They are also warriors enough to have battled the indigenous Sunni insurgency to exhaustion, making reconciliation with U.S. forces seem a delightful proposition.

From the top down, the Marines don’t engage in hand-wringing because any group, civilian or military, takes on the personality of its leadership.  The British have a pitiful example in David Miliband (blogs here) who today made a mockery of British warfighting capabilities and the backbone of the U.K. when he pitifully prostrated himself before the world asking for peace and happiness all around, along with complete capitulation by NATO.

David Miliband will today argue there is “no military solution” to the spread of extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, and back the pursuit of political reconciliation in both countries.

In a speech the foreign secretary is due to deliver in Washington, a draft of which has been obtained by the Guardian, he will say that Pakistan and Afghanistan “top the list of UK foreign policy priorities”, and both represent fragile democracies facing huge challenges.

He will underline Britain’s commitment to pursuing parallel military and political strategies in Helmand province’s Gereshk valley, where 8,000 British troops are fighting the Taliban. More controversially from Washington’s point of view, Miliband will also offer British support for negotiations between Pakistan’s new civilian government and Pashtun leaders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The region bordering Afghanistan has become a haven for Afghan and Pakistani militants, as well as al-Qaida elements.

US officials have privately expressed growing alarm at the talks, telling journalists the accompanying drop in Pakistani counter-insurgency operations has given militants a breathing space. However, addressing the Centre for Strategic and International Studies today, Miliband will reject “the false choice” of political reconciliation or military action “Afghanistan and Pakistan need effective security forces. They need to take on, with international help where necessary, those committed to violence. But there is no military solution to the problems of the Fata or the Gereshk valley.

Rather than ousting the Taliban from Helmand, the U.S. Marines are having to do that job for them.  Miliband seems not to acknowledge the success that the Marines are having, nor the poor experience the British had with “talking” to the Taliban in Musa Qala.  In Musa Qala the British struck a deal with whom they considered to be a “moderate” Taliban to rise up like the Anbar awakening when the British and U.S. troops began their assault on the town.  Rather than rising up against the hard core Taliban fighters, the “moderate” commander sat in a home ten miles away and screamed for help.

No, there is no acknowledgement of the facts on the ground, including the fact that Taliban and al Qaeda will not reconcile, the very idea of this being a moral evil to their world view.  To be sure, the soft power of counterinsurgency must be applied to the population, but security comes first, as the Afghanis have themselves told us.

This capitulation is not only intellectually unsound, it is also very bad form by Miliband.  How the British can put such a shameful politician in office speaks volumes of what was once a great kingdom.  Neville Chamberlain has a modern day friend.  Meanwhile, General Mattis doubtless will not recommend reconciliation with the Taliban.  To be friends with the Afghan people, surely.  To have the population engaged in the political process, of course.  But not the Taliban and al Qaeda.  And there is no peace without victory.

Following the Marines Through Helmand III

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit patrolled the southern Afghanistan village of Hazarjoft on May 21. The unit is planning to move on in the next few weeks. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Report

For two years British troops staked out a presence in this small district center in southern Afghanistan and fended off attacks from the Taliban. The constant firefights left it a ghost town, its bazaar broken and empty but for one baker, its houses and orchards reduced to rubble and weeds.

But it took the U.S. Marines, specifically the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, about 96 hours to clear out the Taliban in a fierce battle in the past month and push them back 10 kilometers, or six miles …

The marines’ drive against the Taliban in this large farming region is certainly not finished, and the Taliban have often been pushed out of areas in Afghanistan only to return in force. But for the British forces and for Afghan residents, the result of the recent operation has been palpable …

Major Neil Den-McKay, the officer commanding a company of the Royal Regiment of Scotland based here, said of the U.S. Marine’s assault: “They have disrupted the Taliban’s freedom of movement and pushed them south, and that has created the grounds for us to develop the hospital and set the conditions for the government to come back.” People have started coming back to villages north of the town, he added, saying, “There has been huge optimism from the people.”

For the marines, it was a chance to hit the enemy with the full panoply of their firepower in places where they were confident there were few civilians. The Taliban put up a tenacious fight, rushing in reinforcements in cars and vans from the south and returning again and again to the attack. But they were beaten back in four days by three companies of marines, two of which were dropped in by helicopter to the south east …

Marines from Charlie Company said the reaction from the returning population, mostly farmers, has been favorable. “Everyone says they don’t like the Taliban,” said Captain John Moder, 34, commander of Charlie Company. People had complained that the Taliban stole food, clothes and vehicles from them, he said …

The U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, had a checklist of tasks around the country for the 3,200 marines when they arrived in March. But the majority of them have spent a month in Garmser after changing their original plan to secure a single road here, when they realized how important the area was to the Taliban as an infiltration and supply route to fighters in northern Helmand Province.

“This is an artery and we did not realize that when we squeezed that artery, it would have such an effect,” said First Lieutenant Mark Matzke, the executive officer of Charlie Company.

The whole area was unexpectedly welcoming to the U.S. forces, and eager for security and development, Moder of Charlie Company said.

“Us pushing the Taliban out allows the Afghan National Army to come in,” he said. “This is a real bread basket here. There’s a lot of potential here.”

This southern part of Helmand Province, along the Helmand River valley, is prime agricultural land and still benefits from the grand irrigation plan started by U.S. government assistance in the 1950s and 1960s. It has traditionally been the main producer of wheat and other crops for the country, but in 30 years of war has given way to poppies, providing a large percentage of the crop that has made Afghanistan the producer of 98 percent of the world’s opium.

The region has long been an infiltration route for insurgents coming across the southern border with Pakistan, crossing the border from Baluchistan via an Afghan refugee camp, known as Girdi Jungle, notorious for its drug smuggling and gun running.

The Taliban, and the drug runners, then race across a region known ominously as the desert of death until they reach the river valley, which provides ideal cover of villages and greenery.

With such a large area under their control, they were able to gather in numbers, stockpile weapons and provide a logistics route to send fighters and weapons into northern Helmand and the provinces of Kandahar and Uruzgan beyond.

The Taliban, who kicked out villagers and took over their farmhouses, sometimes even bringing their families from Pakistan to join them, were joined by Arabs and Pakistanis, Den-McKay said.

“The majority of elements in this area are Arab and Pakistani, and the locals detest them,” he said. Some of the Arabs were specialist trainers and some young jihadists from different countries. The commanders were Iranians, which shares a border with Afghanistan to the southwest, as well as Saudis and Pakistanis, he asserted …

The local people complained that the Taliban taxed them heavily on the opium harvest. They demanded up to 13 kilos of opium from every farmer, which was more than the entire harvest of some, so they were forced to go and buy opium to meet the demand, said one farmer Abdul Taher, 45.

“We had a lot of trouble these last two years,” said Sher Ahmad, 32.

His father, Abdul Nabi, the elder of a small hamlet in the village of Hazarjoft, a few miles south of Garmser, said: “We are very grateful for the security. We don’t need your help, just security.”

Villagers were refusing foreign aid because the Taliban were already infiltrating back and threatening anyone who took it, said Matzke, the first lieutenant of Charlie Company …

But the bigger test will come in the next few weeks as the marines move on, the Afghans take over, supported by the British, and the Taliban try to blend in with the returning population and orchestrate attacks, as everyone here expects them to do.

Analysis & Commentary

Take particular note of the words of town elder Abdul Nabi: “We are grateful for the security.  We don’t need your help, just security.”  Similar words were spoken at a meeting in Ghazni with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: ““We don’t want food, we don’t want schools, we want security!” said one woman council member.”

Again, similar words were spoken upon the initial liberation of Garmser by the U.S. Marines: “The next day, at a meeting of Marines and Afghan elders, the bearded, turban-wearing men told Marine Capt. Charles O’Neill that the two sides could “join together” to fight the Taliban. “When you protect us, we will be able to protect you,” the leader of the elders said.”

The narrative emerging is not one of largesse, roads, education, crop rotation, irrigation and all of the other elements of the soft side of counterinsurgency.  To be sure, these elements are necessary and good, but sequentially they come after security.

But the Marines are leaving to pursue the wish list of accomplishments while in Afghanistan.  Garmser, it is already known, will see the Taliban again.  Why the British believe that without the Marines they can hold the terrain is not clear.  Without the continuation of force projection there is no difference between the campaign now and two months ago.  Effecting the conditions for security doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Whack-a-mole counterinsurgency was fought in Iraq prior to the surge, and much of it unsucessfully.  Will the same mistake be repeated in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan Campaign Gripped by Confusion

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

In Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan we discussed the possibility that Secretary of Defense Gates would demand changes in the strategic alignment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Promotion of General Petraeus to Commander of CENTCOM without a realignment of U.S. troops to his direct command (they currently report to NATO command) removes the possibility for any strategic changes needed to make the campaign successful.

There are further developments in the potential realignment of forces, and General McNeill has made his position known.

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday he favored talks to end the rotating command among allied forces in the violent south of the country, where the United States has added more troops.

U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill also said he still needed more troops and aircraft for his 50,000-strong force, declaring he was a “fairly frugal dude” and only asked for what he needed.

“I am in favor of a dialogue by the policymakers and the politicians about the consideration of one country leading a multinational headquarters in the south,” McNeill told reporters in Washington by videolink from Kabul.

But as soon as McNeill said these words, politics seemed to spell the end of the potential realignment.

NATO will continue to rotate command of its troops in the violent South of Afghanistan despite U.S. generals’ concerns that the arrangement disrupts operations, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

To minimize problems caused by the changeovers, each nation with major troop contingents in the South will take command for one year rather than the current nine months, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

The announcement appeared to end a debate within NATO that some diplomats saw as an attempt by the United States to take charge of southern Afghanistan, the scene of the heaviest fighting between allied troops and Taliban insurgents.

The new arrangement does mean the United States will command NATO forces in the South — but not until late 2010. The Netherlands and Britain will each have a year in charge first after Canada’s command ends this November.

So the debate has ended with politics as the winner, and the U.S. will take over in the South where the Marines were recently deployed, but not until 2010.  Next in the tortured story, the Marines may be looking at a realignment of forces to focus on Afghanistan.

The Marine Corps may begin shifting its major combat forces out of Iraq to focus on Afghanistan in 2009 if greater security in Iraq allows a reduction of Marines there, top Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the proposal by the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, to focus his force on Afghanistan — which they rejected late last year — could be reconsidered.

“Should we be in a position to move forces into Afghanistan, I think that certainly would come back into consideration,” Mullen said at a Pentagon briefing. He said that he understands it is challenging for the Marines to have “a foot in both countries” and that Conway seeks to “optimize the forces that he has,” but stressed that any shift is likely to occur “down the road.”

Gates said he agrees that the Marine Corps shift is “a possibility” for next year. He explained that when he earlier said the change “wouldn’t happen on my watch,” that was not an unchangeable policy decision — he meant it would not unfold until 2009, when he plans to step down.

But by then the Afghan troops are supposed to take over operations.  “Afghanistan’s national army will have the manpower to take the lead in fighting the Taliban by early 2009, helping NATO forces move toward a support role, the general in charge of Afghan troop training said.”

So NATO stays in charge, while more U.S. Marines are deployed to Afghanistan – under NATO control without a coherent strategy – and the U.S. takes over operations in the South in 2010, but this is irrelevant because by this time the Afghan troops will have taken charge.

Got it?  Actually, with this plan, The Captain’s Journal has a different prediction in mind.  The Taliban win because of our inept vacillations and political games.

Initial Phases of Taliban Operations Complete

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, left with cap, tells reporters on Saturday he is sending fighters to battle U.S. troops in Afghanistan as he seeks a peace deal with the Pakistani government (NPR).

In featured article Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan we discussed the dual pronged approach of the Taliban, one aimed directly at Pakistan and led by Baitullah Mehsud, the other aimed at Afghanistan led by Mullah Omar.  The Taliban in Afghanistan are more disaggregated than they were even a year or two ago, but there is still at least loosely coupled leadership, even if not immediate communication for fear of cell phone tracking.  The Pakistani Taliban are not loosely coupled.  They are well led and tightly controlled.

This loosely coupled leadership has charted the exact course that The Captain’s Journal predicted.   Not all of the kinetic encounters in Afghanistan have been with Taliban,  but the presence of rogue elements other than the Taliban make the security situation even more difficult.  As for the Taliban, they have used guerrilla tactics (fire and melt away), suicide bombings, intimidation tactics directed at the population, and standoff weapons such as VBIEDs and roadside bombs.

Baitullah Mehsud has also directed the Taliban campaign inside Pakistan.  Baitullah Mehsud has recently reached an agreement with the Pakistani government (the text of which can be found at Pakistan’s Daily Times).  It is doubtful that any of the stipulations of the agreement can be verified, since the Pakistani Army will be withdrawing.  The Pakistani people and Army are tired of the violence, but Baitullah Mehsud is talking as if a man who has won his sought-after prize.

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban vowed on Saturday to carry on fighting NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan regardless of negotiations for a peace deal with the government of Pakistan.

Baitullah Mehsud told a group of journalists, invited to his stronghold in the tribal lands of South Waziristan, that he wanted to stop fighting the Pakistan army.

“Fighting between the Taliban and Pakistan is harming Islam and Pakistan. This fighting should come to an end immediately,” Mehsud said.

But he made no commitment about halting attacks in Afghanistan, and said the jihad, or holy war, would carry on.

“Islam does not recognize frontiers and boundaries. Jihad in Afghanistan will continue,” Mehsud said, as guards carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles looked on.

Mark Laity, NATO spokesman in Kabul, said: Such comments come as no surprise to us. Mehsud is a very dangerous man and everybody knows that.”

Just as we discussed in Why is there Jihad?, Mehsud reiterates that they do not recognize boundary lines (or even they thing they represent, nation-states) as legitimate.  If the Pakistan Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban, can accomplish their mission by capitulation of Pakistan rather than costly military operations, then they will take advantage of that.

The “agreements” are already having their intended affect.

In Afghanistan, NATO-led troops say recent peace agreements between the Taliban and the government of neighboring Pakistan are already having a negative impact on security on the Afghan side of the border.

NATO officials say over the past three to four weeks, Taliban attacks along Afghanistan’s eastern border have jumped from 60 to 100 incidents a week.

A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Kabul says the spike in insurgent attacks is the result of decreased activity by the Pakistani army on the Pakistan side of the border.

Whenever force projection is implemented and the small footprint model for counterinsurgency is rejected, U.S. forces have had success.  The Marines have recently had such success in and around Garmser.  The initial phases of Taliban operations are complete.  Pakistan has succombed to Taliban pressure.  Tehrik-i-Taliban will soon be turning their attention more fully to Afghanistan.  Will we reciprocate?

Letters from War

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From Mark Schultz.  His Letters from War served as the centerpiece of the U.S. Army’s 2004 “Be Safe—Make It Home” campaign.

Memorial Day

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Arlington National Cemetery, Government issued headstones of Section 34 looking south.

Here is a sentiment with which The Captain’s Journal completely agrees.

They were simple instructions. If you know people serving in the military, pay thanks. When you hear the national anthem, stand and remove your hat. Take to your feet when the flag passes by. Never ask veterans whether they’ve killed someone, or seen dead people, or lost friends in combat. If you haven’t served, don’t pretend to know the military experience, Marine Corps Cpl. Shawn MacDonald told Bow middle-schoolers at their Memorial Day assembly yesterday.

“A lot of people would like to relate to the individuals who’ve served in the military, and they tell them, ‘We understand; we know what you’ve been through,’ ” said MacDonald, 22. “I think that if you could refrain from telling people you understand, you would pay us a great service.”

And come Memorial Day, honor more than those who died in combat, said MacDonald, who returned to his Bow home only this week after serving in Iraq and being stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Think about those who have lost loved ones in combat, and about those who currently have relatives serving overseas. And, he said, think about those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“They continue to live on with the memories and the pain,” said MacDonald, 22. “For those people, we really need to pay our respects.”

Right before deploying to Iraq in 2007, my son said “good training, good weapons, good people, we should be fine.”  I recall it vividly, since it was juxtaposed with another statement he made to me earlier without really looking my direction: “I want to be buried at Arlington.”

No response was needed on my part.  I just nodded after he looked over at me.  It was his way of telling me that if he perished, he belonged with his fellow warriors.  Many hours of prayer and lost sleep ensued over the next seven months.  My son saw much combat but returned home.  But there are men who don’t, and whether warriors are deployed, home or at Arlington (or a like cemetery), the wars take a heavy toll on the loved ones of our warriors – spouses, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.

Never forget.

May 25 2008 Recommended Reading

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

DoD Live.

Our buddy Jack Holt with New Media Outreach with OSD at the Pentagon has begun a new blog called DoD Live.  It is professional, good to the eye, and already active.  We expect good things from it.  Congratulations Jack.  Welcome to blogging.

CTC Sentinel, May 2008, Vol. 1, Issue 6.

The CTC Sentinel, produced by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, has quickly become a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand combatting terrorism.

Olmert and Assad’s Peace of the Lame, Pajamas Media.

It is preposterous to assume that Olmert had enough clout and power left to broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria, or that Assad actually wants a deal.  The Captain’s Journal believes that Olmert is a short timer, and the next Israeli PM will be Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Fall of Lebanon, Barry Rubin, GLORIA Center.

“Lebanon will not disappear as a country on the map, of course–contrary to the Iranian alliance’s intentions toward Israel–but it is now going to be part of the Iranian bloc. This is not only bad for Lebanon itself but also terrifying for other Arab regimes. The Saudis deserve credit for trying to save Lebanon. But what will happen now as the balance of power shifts? They are less inclined to resist and more likely to follow the West’s course and adopt an appeasement policy.”

Pro-Syrian (Hezbollah-Friendly) General to become Lebanese President, W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

… he is a pro-Syrian commander of the Lebanese Army, and I can tell you from my personal conversation with him, he is also pro-Hezbollah, believing that Hezbollah’s Taliban-like kingdom within the sovereign state of Lebanon is acceptable because they resist foreign aggression.

The Sergeant Lost Within, New York Times

Never forget the wounded and disabled.

Why is there Jihad?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

A common misunderstanding among some on the far right or of the libertarian stripe (e.g., Patrick Buchanan, Ron Paul) is that the sole reason for the existence of the global jihad is the presence of U.S. troops on holy soil, i.e., Saudi Arabia.  It is, after all, the stated raison d’etre for 9/11 hijackers.  But this myth becomes muddled when it is pointed out that the Hamburg cell initially intended to wage jihad elsewhere.

Bin Ladin canceled the East Asia part of the planes operation in the spring of 2000. He evidently decided it would be too difficult to coordinate this attack with the operation in the United States. As for Hazmi and Mihdhar, they had left Bangkok a few days before Khallad and arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000.

Meanwhile, the next group of al Qaeda operatives destined for the planes operation had just surfaced in Afghanistan. As Hazmi and Mihdhar were deploying from Asia to the United States, al Qaeda’s leadership was recruiting and training four Western-educated men who had recently arrived in Kanda-har. Though they hailed from four different countries-Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen-they had formed a close-knit group as students in Hamburg, Germany. The new recruits had come to Afghanistan aspiring to wage jihad in Chechnya. But al Qaeda quickly recognized their potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad.

Even further research proves that rather than U.S. presence in the Middle East being the raison d’etre for 9/11, it was merely the raison du jour that Bin Laden found convenient for his purposes.  A far different vision is being offered at the moment.

Osama bin Laden vowed in an audio tape to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary to continue to fight the Jewish state and its allies in the West.

The al Qaedaleader, who has placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said it was at the heart of the Muslim battle with the West and an inspiration to the 19 bombers who carried out the attacks on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.

“We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on Earth,” he said in the message, posted on an Islamist website on Friday.

Bin Laden said Israel’s anniversary celebrations were a reminder that it did not exist 60 years ago, and had been established on land seized from Palestinians by force.

“This is evidence that Palestine is our land, and the Israelis are invaders and occupiers who should be fought,” he said in the tape, which was addressed to the Western public.

The Saudi-born militant also said that decades of peace initiatives had failed to establish a Palestinian state, and the West had proved time and again that it sided with Israel.

“The participation of Western leaders with the Jews in this celebration confirms that the West backs this Jewish occupation of our land, and that they stand in the Israeli corner against us,” he said. “They proved this in practice by sending their forces to southern Lebanon.”

An important (but mostly ignored) event occurred recently in which Ayman al-Zawahiri took questions from global jihadists concerning the future of the movement.

Zawahiri highlights several specific injustices that he feels effectively demonstrate the stark contrast between Qaradawi’s decision to postpone fighting and the Jihadist movement, which advocates violence immediately. They include Arab peace accords and trade with Israel, Israel’s blockade of Palestinians in Gaza, Arab military courts for trying Muslims, Arab hosting of U.S. military forces, particularly in Egypt, the prevalence of Western “vulgar media” and the secular constitution and laws of Arab countries.

Later, he gives us yet another justification for the jihad.

Zawahiri last discussed Lebanon in his public rhetoric in January and February 2007, when he twice condemned the presence of United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon.

Zawahiri has given us a list of at least nine reasons for violent jihad, only one of which has anything to do with Arab hosting of U.S. military forces.  One significant issue Zawahiri addresses pertains to the strong differences between al Qaeda and HAMAS.  One reason they will never see eye to eye is the lack of global vision within HAMAS.

Over the past year, Zawahiri and other senior al-Qa’ida figures have been waging a vigorous propaganda campaign against the Palestinian organization HAMAS. Although Jihadists unanimously denounce Israel they continue to disagree over whether HAMAS should be considered a legitimate Islamic movement. For Zawahiri, HAMAS’ embrace of nationalism, democracy, and its legacy in the Muslim Brotherhood—arguably the three things al-Qa’ida hates most—delegitimizes the group.

Nationalism is evil and out of accord with the global aspirations of al Qaeda.  Nation-states are not just not helpful, or even a necessary evil.  They are quite literally an obstacle to jihad, not because they share the loyalties of jihadists, but rather, because they fundamentally don’t acquiesce to the vision of world conquest in the name of Islam and the forcible implementation of Sharia law.  What we see as a transnational insurgency is to the jihadists simply a world wide struggle.  They don’t recognize nation-states as legitimate.

It doesn’t stop with al Qaeda.  The most powerful man in Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has global aspirations as well.

“We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

There are other significant revelations in this question and answer session by Zawahiri, including much discussion over the jihadist fear that Iraq is a lost cause for them; they have been defeated.  The entire source document at the Combatting Terrorism Center, West Point, is worth the time to study and analyze in detail.

There is a not so fine line between trying to understand the motivations of the enemy and naively regurgitating their propaganda.  Repeating the myth that U.S. presence on foreign soil caused the 9/11 hijackers ignores the other very real objection that, according to other jihadists, the U.S. was far too slow to react to protect Muslim people from the Serbs.  Whether the U.S. is deployed across the globe or the U.S. didn’t deploy quickly enough, it’s all propaganda – convenient excuses used to brainwash young jihadists.  It is yet another step into the danger zone to mold foreign policy based on enemy propaganda and talking points.


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