The Totalitarians Among Us

Herschel Smith · 03 Mar 2014 · 15 Comments

Victor Davis Hanson observes: In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents. For elite rich liberals…… [read more]

Iran and the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Nibras Kazimi, who by his own insistent claims is an Iraqi expert, has written an analysis of the status of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

After months of wrangling and getting the Americans to make all sorts of compromises on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Iraq’s Shia Islamists suddenly found that they are unable to agree to the very same terms that they themselves had negotiated. This conundrum became abundantly clear on Sunday, October 19th, when the luminaries of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) parliamentary bloc–much diminished by sizable defections–met and failed to sign onto the agreement as presented to them by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Da’awa Party is a leading component of the UIA.

The Iraqi political class is adrift as it tries to find its political center, delaying an agreement with the United States about when and how to pull its forces out of Iraq.

This has much less to with the Americans than it does with local politics. The Islamists, both Sunni and Shia, are at a grave disadvantage as Iraq’s political discourse turns patriotic, rather than sectarian. In an odd twist, secular Shias have adopted the talking points of Sunnis when denouncing Islamist Shias, namely that they are agents of Iran, while secular Sunnis have adopted the talking points of Shias when denouncing Islamist Sunnis–they’re too close to the terrorists.

To confuse matters further, America’s top general in Iraq has recently accused Iran of sabotaging the SOFA agreement, provoking a sharp rebuke from Maliki who is at pains to demonstrate, to his detractors among the secular opposition, that he is not an Iranian stooge.

Only a creepy and twisted world view can see General Odierno’s charge – specifically, that Iranian agents were trying to buy votes in the parliament to reject the SOFA – as having confused matters. It is this attitude that has sabotaged the campagin from the beginning, i.e., this failure to see Operation Iraqi Freedom from within the context of the regional conflict that it is.

If Maliki wants to convince his people that he isn’t a stooge, then he shouldn’t act like one.  Charging General Odierno with instigating a problem because he pointed out the truth is like charging the homeowner for sedition because he points out that his taxes are too high.  We have laid out options in the past making it clear that Iraqi forces and their commanders weren’t Iranian stooges.  The first step might be arresting all special forces, Quds, and IRG in Iraq (and this, not by U.S. forces, but by Iraqi forces).  Other steps could follow.

Kazimi has a blind spot concerning Iraqi politics – Iran.  He didn’t always have this weakness. Before he was the staunch admirer and advocate for Maliki, he saw things more clearly. Immediately after the Iraqi elections of 2005, he was understandably disheartened at the horrible loss suffered by Chalabi. Said Kazimi of the results: “Which leaves us, incidentally, with all the people Iran has been cultivating for decades as the soon-to-be-crowned heads of the Shia community.”

We agree with this assessment rather than his later ones, and believe that most, if not all, of the elected officials and even the current Shi’a administration are in the service Iran (including Maliki,  Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr, and religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has a following in Iran as well as Iraq and some minor theological disagreements with the Mullahs in Iran, and may not rise to the level of stooge, but at least has very close ties with Iran).

Sistani has recently said of the SOFA:

… the security pact being negotiated with Washington must not harm Iraq’s sovereignty, his office said on Wednesday.

“Ayatollah Ali Sistani insists that the sovereignty of Iraq not be touched and he is closely following developments until the final accord has been clarified,” said his office in the holy city of Najaf, AFP reported.

The statement was issued after a visit by two Shiite MPs.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wields vast influence among the Iraqis and his explicit opposition could scuttle the deal.

Iraq wants a security agreement with the U.S. to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, the government spokesman said Wednesday, three days after a dramatic U.S. raid on Syria.

The Captain’s Journal weighed in saying that the SOFA already prohibits raids like the one at the Syrian border under Article 4 [3]. Apparently, Sistani insists that it be made even clearer than it is now. Thus does Iran get their way, at least in part. If they cannot rid Iraq of U.S. troops, then they intend to ensure that the U.S. cannot effect operations against Iran or their boy-worshipers in Syria.

As for the good General Odierno, in addition to engaging in truth-telling concerning Iran’s influence in Iraq (The Captain’s Journal likes truth-telling), he has weighed in quantitatively concerning the SOFA.

In a blunt assessment, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, said Thursday that there is a 20 percent to 30 percent chance that the United States and Iraq won’t reach a deal to allow U.S. troops to operate in Iraq past Dec. 31.

On a scale of one to 10, “I’m probably a seven or eight that something is going to be worked out,” Gen. Odierno told The Washington Times during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division in Samarra, about 120 miles north of Baghdad. “I think it’s important for the government of Iraq. I think it’s important for security and stability here.”

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, told The Times on Wednesday evening that he would be happy to host U.S. troops if the central government in Baghdad refuses to do so.

“The people of Kurdistan highly appreciate the sacrifices American forces have made for our freedom,” Mr. Barzani said at a reception in Washington after meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And if the Kurds threaten to undermine the Iraqi Parliament and cut a deal with U.S. troops, that’s what they will do and Iraq won’t be able to stop them. And there is no love in Kurdistan for Iran or the brutal Iranian treatment of the Kurdish people in Iran.

But it would be an odd solution given the enormous mega-bases constructed for the balance of U.S. time in Iraq.   Whatever the outcome of the political machinations in Iraq, if U.S. troops are prohibited from interdicting, arresting and interrogating Iranian forces and destroying terrorist cells across the border in Syria, then the next several years in Iraq will suffer from the same lack of vision that has plagued it thus far.

Prior:

Analysis of U.S. Attack on Syrian Border

U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border

Concerning Turning Over Afghanistan to Special Operations Forces

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Riddle me this. Is the following statement by a tribal elder in the town of Garmser, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, fabricated or real?

Before the Marines came to Garmser we all believed good things about Americans. There were no Taliban here, and it was the Marines who brought them to us. Since the Marines have been here there has been nothing but killing and destruction, and we all wish they would leave us. We don’t need the Marines here, we don’t need their security. We have no problems with the Taliban, and the Taliban will leave when the Marines go.

The answer comes later. Turning our attention to a valuable report from the Telegraph entitled Troops Face a Wall of Silence from Terrified Villagers, its lessons are timely for the campaign in Afghanistan.

The American patrol had found the dusty streets of Sahak bazaar unusually quiet that morning. Most people were distant and unwilling to talk. Those who did speak insisted there were no Taliban fighters nearby.

Barely two hours later, the first mortar round was fired at US soldiers from inside the village. A few seconds passed before a machine gun opened fire from a mud-walled compound the patrol had walked past only that morning.

In south-eastern Afghanistan, thinly stretched US forces are not only hunting down Taliban gunmen. They are also fighting a counter-insurgency war among terrified civilians, who are caught between them and the insurgents and are deeply reluctant to risk death by helping the coalition.

When the men of the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry, part of the 101st Airborne Division, first heard they were going to Sahak, they took bets on how long it would take the Taliban to fire rockets at them. In this patch of Paktia province, Sahak has a reputation as a “bad part of town”. In May, it was the scene of an ambush and a separate attack by three roadside bombs, which injured several American soldiers …

The soldiers from 1st Platoon in Alpha Troop, popularly known as the “Hooligans”, were given the task of capturing and holding a barren hillside until an armoured convoy of engineers could arrive to build the outpost.

As they waited for the 80-vehicle convoy to crawl along the booby trap-riddled road from the town of Gardez, the Taliban duly fired as many rockets at them as possible …

… it soon became clear that the Taliban’s hold on the area around Sahak ran deeper than their ability to launch inaccurate 107mm rockets.

When questioned, not one villager had seen where the rockets had come from, nor who had launched them. Each swore they had been too busy visiting relatives, working or praying to notice anything unusual.

One or two reluctantly revealed glimpses of the brutal punishment that faces anyone caught helping the Afghan army or foreign forces.

Abdul Kadir, a 52-year-old minibus driver, said that insurgents had murdered his son for being a police officer and his body had lain undiscovered in a field for three days.

Mohammed Rahim, a 20-year-old truck driver who fidgeted with nerves, said Taliban gunmen had arrived in his village after dark, going from house to house seeking anyone helping President Hamid Karzai’s government.

We have discussed the tendency to treat Operation Enduring Freedom as a special forces campaign, mostly directed at high value targets. In fact, in the current review of the strategic approach in Afghanistan undertaken by General David Petraeus, one option being floated is a turnover of more of the campaign to special forces, with an increase in the number of SOF teams. A recent veteran of OEF comments about this proposal that it’s the only approach that will work, cites Seth Jones of RAND (in saying that the only way to defeat an insurgency is to ensure that it has no state sponsorship), and ends with this imperative:

The only way things change in A-stan is if GEN Petraeus increases SOF presence along the borders by a large amount, to include bumping SOF teams from the current number of ODA and CAT-A to a more robust package and have the entire CJSOTF focus on the border region.

The conventional guys can handle Helmand, Herat, Mez and elsewhere, including the urban areas – but totally agree with the post above that the “surge” will not work if replicated like they did things in Iraq.

The Captain’s Journal respects active duty military and gives the benefit of the doubt to their studied opinions, but several problems become apparent with this analysis. First, we are in receipt of other studied opinions from SOF in Afghanistan who claim to us that the only way to push OEF forward is to make it a “big Army” operation, since the HVT program can only carry us so far, and the operation is too large for the Marines alone.

Second, Seth Jones, who has become the author of one disappointing counterinsurgency study after another at RAND, has given one requirement for defeating an insurgency, but certainly this cannot be the only one. Otherwise the indigenous Sunni insurgency would have been defeated much more easily in Anbar since they didn’t have the backing of the government of Iraq. If the lessons of Anbar are too easily and quickly forgotten, then Colonel Sean MacFarland reminds us.

“The prize in the counterinsurgency fight is not terrain,” he says. “It’s the people. When you’ve secured the people, you have won the war. The sheiks lead the people.”

But the sheiks were sitting on the fence.

They were not sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but they tolerated its members, MacFarland says.

The sheiks’ outlook had been shaped by watching an earlier clash between Iraqi nationalists — primarily former members of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath Party — and hard-core al-Qaeda operatives who were a mix of foreign fighters and Iraqis. Al-Qaeda beat the nationalists. That rattled the sheiks.

“Al-Qaeda just mopped up the floor with those guys,” he says.

“We get there in late May and early June 2006, and the tribes are on the sidelines. They’d seen the insurgents take a beating. After watching that, they’re like, ‘Let’s see which way this is going to go.’ ”

MacFarland’s brigade initially struggled to build an Iraqi police force, a critical step in establishing order in the city.

“We said to the sheiks, ‘What’s it going to take to get you guys off the fence?’ ” MacFarland says.

The sheiks said their main concern was protecting their own tribes and families.

Our advocate of the SOF campaign for Afghanistan has told us that an Iraq-style surge won’t work in Afghanistan, but if the considered and studied summary of the surge and its accompanying tactics involves getting troops into contact with the population, intelligence-driven raids, and most of all providing security for the population with the increase in forces, then the advocate hasn’t given us a single reason to believe that providing security for the population won’t work to enable the population to turn against the Taliban. In fact, the report cited above from the Telegraph (in addition to MacFarland’s report) supplies us with yet another anecdotal justification for believing that the population wants security.

The reflexive tendency to deny the obvious is a skill mastered by “experts.” Many of the “experts” apparently don’t see the need for an increase in troop presence, and yet the two most recent Commanding Generals, McNeill and McKiernan, both have demanded and even begged for more troops, saying that the campaign was under-resourced.

An Iraq-style surge won’t work in Afghanistan, or so some of the “experts” say. But the recent Marine Corps operations in the Helmand Province by the 24th MEU have given us a literal laboratory of counterinsurgency, implementing the same approach they used in Anbar. Much of the combat has been heavy, with “full bore reloading” against Taliban in kinetic engagements. The Marines sustained 170 engagements over 35 days of maneuver warfare. But the Taliban sustained these same engagements, and more than 400 of them died. Following the kinetic part of the campaign the Marines transitioned immediately into security operations, payments to citizens for damage to property, constant contact, and all of the other aspects of successful long-term counterinsurgency.

As for the quote by the tribal elder in Garmser? If you guessed that it was fabricated, you might know enough to qualify as a counterinsurgency “expert.” The real exchange between the tribal elder and the Marines went somewhat different, and it was between the Marines and multiple elders who communicated the same thing to the 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.” Indeed, 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.”

Special Operations Forces are a wonderful asset, with specialized billets that will always be required in any campaign, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism or conventional. But SOF cannot supply this security for the population, as there aren’t enough of them, and the HVT program is designed for counterterrorism rather than counterinsurgency.

Our SOF contact from Afghanistan has lamented the lack of long term effect of the HVT program, commenting that the next mid-level Taliban commander killed will cause a week or two delay and scurrying about until the next commander rises to the challenge, and then it’s the same thing all over again. Thus goes the HVT program.

With history as our guide, we can see that both the campaign in Anbar and the seven months that the 24th MEU was in Afghanistan demonstrate the same thing. Security must be implemented as a precondition for the population to turn against the insurgency. This is true regardless of what the “experts” say or how many times they reflexively contradict the commanding Generals.

Analysis of U.S. Attack on Syrian Border

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Villagers in Syria gathered Monday near the coffins of people who died during an American Special Operations raid aimed at Iraqi militants on Sunday (Hussein Malla/Associated Press).

In U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border we puzzled over why the attack on the suicide bomber network at the Syrian border had come now and not later (or not at all). The Captain’s Journal had recommended more than one year ago that these actions be taken. In a recent report it has been claimed that Syrian intelligence knew and approved of the raid.

Publicly America is still saying nothing but US officials are making intriguing claims off the record.

Now, a respected Israeli intelligence expert says he has been told the operation was carried out with the knowledge and co-operation of Syrian intelligence.

Ronen Bergman, author of The Secret War with Iran, makes the claim in the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper, based on briefings with two senior American officials, one of whom he says until recently “held a very high ranking in the Pentagon”.

Mr Bergman told Sky News the raid happened after America had lobbied Syria intensely to deal with an al Qaeda group conducting activity on the border.

The Syrians were unwilling to be seen publicly bowing to US pressure to tackle the group, he says, but in the end gave the Americans the green light to do so themselves.

He claims the Syrian government told the Americans: “If you want to do this, do it. We are going to give you a corridor and carte blanche. We will not harm your troops.”

Syria is still an apparatchik of the radical Iranian Mullahs, and we doubt this report (it sounds like something that DEBKAfile would publish, along with seeing pigs fly and green Martians landing). Damascus gets its orders from Tehran. It’s more likely that Syrian complaints before the U.N. are representative of its government’s position (and certainly of the Iranian position).

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syria on Tuesday protested to the UN Security Council over what it branded a barbarous US helicopter raid on a village near the Iraqi border and decided to close two American institutions in Damascus.

The government also indicated Sunday’s deadly raid, launched from Iraq, could have repercussions on ties with Baghdad by postponing a November 12-13 meeting of the Syrian-Iraqi high commission.

Baghdad initially appeared to condone the raid by US troops as aimed against insurgents who infiltrate Iraq, before joining in condemnation of the assault on Tuesday.

In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Syria protested “this aggressive act and expects the UN Security Council and member countries to assume their responsibility by preventing a repetition of this dangerous violation.”

It called for the Security Council “to hold the aggressor responsible for the deaths of the innocent Syrian nationals,” state news agency SANA reported, quoting the letter.

In New York, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said the letters asked Ban and the Security Council “to assume their responsibility” to prevent any repeat of “such aggressive and terrorist acts against a sovereign member of the United Nations.”

The next few paragraphs of this report are not only interesting, but very important moving forward with U.S. force presence in Iraq.

In Baghdad, the government slammed the assault, which an unnamed official in Washington said was believed to have killed Abu Ghadiya, “one of the most prominent foreign fighter facilitators in the region.”

“The Iraqi government rejects the US helicopter strike on Syrian territory, considering that Iraq’s constitution does not allow its land to be a base for launching attacks on neighbouring countries,” spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“We call upon American forces not to repeat such activities and Baghdad has launched an investigation into the strike.”

On Monday, Dabbagh said the raid targeted a border area used by insurgents to launch attacks on Iraq.

Iraq’s parliament said it regretted that “the operation took place at a time when relations between Iraq and its neighbours are progressing.”

According to the draft Status of Forces Agreement for U.S. forces in Iraq, Article 4 [3], this strike would not be allowed or legal. This hasn’t stopped U.S. officials from anonymously claiming that they may happen again.

There has been continued official silence from the Pentagon and the State Department regarding the raid on Sunday … Despite Syrian outrage and the threat of retaliation by Syrian troops, officials did not rule out mounting such a raid again.

The official silence of DoD and the State Department precisely comports with counsel given here at The Captain’s Journal. As for the “anonymous officials” who go on record with the main stream media, they are cowards for not giving their names and should be fired for divulging any information at all. They are undermining the war effort. But that’s a different problem, one the DoD should be working to solve.

We don’t wish for a cease and desist order on U.S. operations across the Syrian border. In fact, this analysis calls into question the viability of the Iraq SOFA if it doesn’t allow raids such as this one (we have recommended seeing the long war as one without territorial borders). But the administration may have waited about four years too late to conduct cross border raids against Syria (for Sunni insurgents and terrorists) and Iran (for IRG, Quds and “special groups”). While a hard fought and bloody victory in Iraq has been essentially won by U.S. forces, our hands are tied under the new SOFA. Unfortunately, it’s a lame duck administration that is ordering the raids, and General Odierno, for all of the admiration that The Captain’s Journal has for him, might have been dealt a bad hand in the SOFA.

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

“Clearly, logistics is the hard part of fighting a war.”
- Lt. Gen. E. T. Cook, USMC, November 1990

“Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”
- Gen. George S. Patton, USA

“Bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible.”
- ADM Hyman Rickover, USN

“There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war.”
- Carl von Clausevitz

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…”
- Sun Tzu

From Logistics quotes.

When considering U.S. and ISAF casualties in Afghanistan it’s too easy to miss the private security contractors – indigenous Afghans – who are working for NATO to ensure lines of supply to the forces. The contractors killed while on duty protecting supply lines numbers at least in the hundreds, and possibly into the thousands (when considering the unlicensed contractors).

In his compound, a stack of empty coffins sits ready for the next victims.

“Every day, we have seen our men wounded and killed,” the teenager said.

Mr. Mohammed does not belong to any military or police organization. He is part of Afghanistan’s growing private army: security contractors who fill the gaps in the foreign military and development mission here, protecting diplomats, aid workers, outposts and the all-important convoys.

To satisfy the voracious appetite of thousands of NATO troops for food, fuel and other supplies, hundreds of trucks a week must traverse highways that more and more are rife with insurgents.

Afghans, often unable to make a decent living any other way, are paying a hefty price to try to ensure the goods arrive intact, regularly living out scenes straight out of a Mad Max movie.

“Since I took this job four or five years ago, I have lost 500 men,” said Mohammed Salim, a leader with Rozi Mohammed’s employer, Commando Security.

The legions of untrained, largely unregulated hired guns also have been accused of adding to the country’s lawlessness, an issue that recently hit home for Canada. Before a partial government crackdown a year or so ago, private soldiers were often involved in kidnappings and robberies, said a Kandahar-based security expert with an international agency.

This August, a detail of guards with a logistics convoy started shooting wildly when they came under Taliban fire west of Kandahar city, and a Canadian soldier on patrol in between was killed.

The Canadian Forces, which hires private security to guard some of its own bases, later cleared the contractors of any blame in the death, saying the fatal shot was from the Taliban. Private guards are a necessity of life here, a spokesman says.

“We do consider them to be part of the environment we operate in,” said Major Jay Janzen, a Forces spokesman. “They do provide an important contribution to the mission.”

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal already know our position on the exclusive use of special operations forces (see The Cult of Special Forces) and high value targets (see High Value Target Initiative). The U.S. has treated the effort as a counterterrorism campaign rather than a counterinsurgency, and thus we have failed for more than six years to bring security to the Afghan countryside.

The malaise can be blamed on anything or any group – drug lords, Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, criminals, tribes – it makes no difference. Regardless of the reasons for it, without the presence of forces security will not be brought to the population.

In response to the malaise of the campaign, one potential solution being weighed is making it more of a special operations forces high value target initiative. But it is jackass-ery in the superlative to believe that more of the same failed approach will bring anything but more failure.

In fact, the problem as we have discussed above now goes beyond security for the population. The situation is degrading to the point that the very strategy may turn on itself and prevent progress. An Army cannot wage war without logistics, and the lack of security along Highway 1 in Afghanistan (what Asia Times calls the Highway to Hell) means that the entire countryside is the territory of the Taliban.

AFP gives us another look at French troops who struggle with the same problems in their AO.

FORWARD BASE NIJRAB, Afghanistan (AFP) — A logistics convoy has just pulled into Forward Base Nijrab, the latest of about 700 since June to make the perilous three-hour journey from the Afghan capital.

The road that snakes through the mountains from Kabul is a rude test of both truck axles and the soldiers’ mettle.

“This is nothing like Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon or Chad. In Afghanistan, the danger is constant,” says the French sergeant major who led the mission and is only permitted by the military to give his first name, Pascal.

About 60 kilometres (37 miles) of treacherous road separates NATO’s Camp Warehouse in Kabul from this fortified base in Kapisa to the northeast. Not far from here, 10 French soldiers were killed in an insurgent ambush in August.

Convoys supplying the more than 60,000 international troops in Afghanistan, helping in the fight against the Taliban, are regularly attacked, looted and torched.

“The main danger for a logistics convoy is the IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Pascal says.

Most of the roughly 230 international soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year have died in bombings.

Nineteen vehicles in a convoy for US troops were torched in southern Zabul province at the weekend by men who claimed to be from the Taliban, police said. The guards escaped and there were reports they had assisted in the attack.

“In Bosnia, we would leave with 35 or 40 lorries with four or five armoured vehicles. Here it is the opposite — we have four lorries for 16 armoured vehicles,” says the sergeant major.

At the end of August, a logistics convoy was hit between Nijrab and Tagab, another French forward base in Kapisa province.

Not only does logistics dictate what can and can’t be done, it is the surest indicator of security, better than any SITREP. Pushing more SOF into a campaign that has thus far spent its efforts on finding high value targets only to find more high value targets will come to an end when supplies can no longer get to the SOF because the high value target initiative doesn’t work. Hopefully, we’ll figure it out before then.

Prior:

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Degrading Security in Afghanistan Causes Supply and Contractor Problems

Postscript: To the great dismay and surprise of The Captain’s Journal, until now there is no Logistics category. This will be the inaugural post.

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Glenn Reynolds linked a report that the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are calling for refurbishment of the existing nuclear weapons in the U.S.  Good find by Glenn.  A brief word of explanation.

It has always been true that we can’t sit on the nuclear weapons stockpile without working to maintain the purity of the materials.  Uranium and transuranics (e.g., Plutonium) do decay, albeit most isotopes with very long decay half lives (e.g., Pu-239 has a half life of 24,100 years).  Decay introduces impurities into the material, and purity is a requirement for miniturization of nuclear weapons, something the Chinese have not yet learned like the U.S. (this means that weapon delivery is made easier).

But by far the larger effect of decay is tritium, which is used as material for fussion in thermonuclear weapons in conjuction with the fission to enhance their power.  The half life for tritium is 12.32 years.  In other words, as the stockpile sits, its effectiveness decays away.  This must be considered in thinking about national security as we move forward into the twenty first century.  In the ongoing work to maintain the effectiveness of the stockpile, TVA won a bid for a government program to produce Tritium (this is done by activation of Lithium) at their Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant.

How does Obama stack up against the nuclear stockpile?  Opposed.

Senator Barack Obama will propose on Tuesday setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism, aides say.

In a speech at DePaul University in Chicago, Mr. Obama will add his voice to a plan endorsed earlier this year by a bipartisan group of former government officials from the cold war era who say the United States must begin building a global consensus to reverse a reliance on nuclear weapons that have become “increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.”

Mr. Obama, according to details provided by his campaign Monday, also will call for pursuing vigorous diplomatic efforts aimed at a global ban on the development, production and deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

“In 2009, we will have a window of opportunity to renew our global leadership and bring our nation together,” Mr. Obama is planning to say, according to an excerpt of remarks provided by his aides. “If we don’t seize that moment, we may not get another.”

This places Obama and current military leadership (Gates and Mullen) on a direct collision course over national security and the need for maintenance of nuclear weapons.

U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

The U.S. has launched limited kinetic operations inside the Syrian border to help destroy part of a foreign fighter logistics network.

U.S. military helicopters launched a rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as “serious aggression.”

A U.S. military official told the Associated Press the attack included a raid by special forces targeting a foreign-fighter network that travels through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area because Syria was out of the military’s reach.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told the AP on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq …

On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries, but that Syria was a “different story.”

“The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,” Gen. Kelly said. “We still have a certain level of foreign-fighter movement.”

He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.

“There hasn’t been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,” Gen. Kelly said.

The foreign-fighters network sends militants from North Africa, the Persian Gulf states and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al Qaeda and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, the U.S. military official told the AP.

Sand Berms were an effective tool for isolating Haditha from foreign fighters, but such a concept will be difficult to implement along an entire border, and probably not nearly as effective. The strike directly against the logistics network, in fact, closely follows an approach recommended by The Captains Journal more than one year ago in Sun Tzu and the Art of Border Security.

The solution is not for Iraq to seal the borders. The solution involves intimidation of Iraq’s neighbors into sealing the borders. While the U.S. and Iraq are involved in talks with Iran and other neighbors, tried and tested military strategy suggests that bullying is the order of the day.

This bullying and intimidation might take the form of financial pressure (or conversely rewards for good behavior), market sanctions, air assets used against foreign fighters flowing in from across the borders, small incursions across the borders to destroy the sanctuaries of foreign fighters, or even larger air power involvement to destroy those sanctuaries and other supporting infrastructure.

The alternative is leaving these sanctuaries and flow paths in place, with no hope of the Iraqi security forces or U.S. forces being able to stop them (due to force size). Tested military strategy aims for the right target. In the case of the borders, the target is the offending country, not the Iraqi border proper. At the moment, the offending countries know that U.S. forces have restricted the battle space to Iraq proper. Either this changes — causing confusion and disaggregation among the foreign elements who wish to destabilize Iraq — or the borders will remain porous.

The question is why now? General David Petraeus has moved on to head up CENTCOM, and General Odierno is in charge of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Is this a sign of a shift in strategy to incorporate cross-border operations solely because Odierno is in charge? It’s possible, but not likely. Since this represents a fairly significant change in strategic approach with potential international repercussions, Petraeus would certainly have been involved in the decision-making, and likely the CJCS.

While it has been claimed in the past that Syria was doing a better job of deconstructing the terrorist networks inside her borders, this has mostly been theater, much as the Pakistani military operations in the FATA and NWFP are intended to be a show to keep U.S. dollars rolling in. The Iraqi insurgency was in many ways born in Damascus, and the constant flow of suicide bombers across the Syrian border has killed or injured at least 4000 Iraqis.

Since cross-border operations have been initiated, follow-through is absolutely necessary. Any capitulation by the Multinational Force, any show of weakness by the State Department, and any reluctance to continue with these operations in the future will spell the death of this strategy, and little if anything will have been gained.

With over 4000 American warriors having perished in Operation Iraqi Freedom, this approach should have been implemented long before now. Nothing needs to be said by the Administration or the State Department about this incident. In fact, nothing needs to be said by the Multinational Force. All spokesmen should respond to inquiries with “no comment.” Everything that needs to be communicated has been. The U.S. is willing to conduct kinetic operations inside Syrian territory. Silence is golden. Let the guns do the talking, as Sun Tzu smiles upon the plan.

Tribes Outgunned by Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

It’s like a sickness, really, this continual reversion to magical solutions to hard problems.  A pinch of this ingredient, a smidgen of that seasoning, and a secret incantation that very few people know – and the Gnostic knowledge of the “experts” can solve the problems for us.  Only in never works that way in any discipline or area of life.

Many of the “lawmakers,” certainly many pundits, and even some military men who should know better, see the Anbar campaign this way.  Forgetting the more than 1000 Marines who died and many thousands who were wounded and are even now disabled, ignoring the hard core kinetic engagements, and disrespecting the sweat and tears of the men and their families who contributed to the campaign, they purvey a narrative that has the tribes being the key to the campaign in Anbar.  True enough without context, the question is “why would someone ignore the context?”

The precondition for the tribal awakening was fire fights with a ferocity that convinced the tribes that battle against the U.S. was futile, security for the population, an al Qaeda reeling from Marine Corps operations against it, a 1/1 AD tank parked in the front yard of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha’s home to ensure his family’s safety, many hundreds of thousands of knock-and-talks, intelligence gathering, arrests, detentions, fingerprints, retinal scans, and so on the long, complicated list goes.  And this hints at the complexity of Ramadi and the surrounding area.  Fallujah in 2007 was different, with tribal Sheikhs being relatively unimportant and Marine operations taking a different approach (as they did in Haditha with sand berms and isolation from insurgents from Syria).

So whither the tribes in Pakistan’s FATA and NWFP?  Well, Pakistan wants them to do it alone.  In fact, they want to do it alone.   But here is an example of what happens (two weeks ago) when the tribes take on the Taliban alone.

A suicide bomber has killed at least 10 people and wounded 30 others at a tribal council in Pakistan’s northwestern Orakzai region.

The attack happened a day after a force of pro-government tribesmen destroyed two militant hideouts in Orakzai.

Qeemat Khan Orakzai, a member of the council, told the Reuters news agency: “We were busy in raising a lashkar (a tribal militia) to evict Taliban from the region when this attack took place.”

He said that 15 people had been killed although other reports put the death toll at 10.

Orakzai has been the most peaceful of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal regions. Unlike most of the others, it does not border Afghanistan.

Mohammed Luqman, a local government official, said: “A bomber struck at a meeting of a tribal lashkar killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens more.

“They were gathered to create a tribal force against the militants. We have shifted the injured to hospitals.”

The members of the Alizai tribe had met in the town of Ghaljo in the mountainous region.

A security official told the AFP news agency: “The tribesmen blew up two hideouts of the militants a day earlier and it is possible this attack was in revenge for their actions.”

The bombing also came a day after Taliban militants abducted and beheaded four tribal elders in the insurgency-hit Bajaur region who had attended another pro-government meeting, officials said.

There seems to be an understanding by Pakistani officials that the tribes are outgunned.

The tribal militias, known as lashkars, have quickly become a crucial tool of Pakistan’s strategy in the tribal belt, where the army has been fighting the Taliban for more than two months in what army generals acknowledge is a tougher and more protracted slog than they had anticipated. And, indeed, the lashkars’ early efforts have been far from promising.

As the strength of the militants in the tribal areas grows, and as the war across the border in Afghanistan worsens, the Pakistanis are casting about for new tactics. The emergence of the lashkars is a sign of the tribesmen’s rising frustration with the ruthlessness of the Taliban, but also of their traditional desire to run their own affairs and keep the Pakistani Army at bay, Pakistani officers and law enforcement officials say.

Some in Washington have pointed to the emergence of the lashkars as a hopeful parallel to the largely successful Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, which drew on tribes’ frustration with militant jihadis to build an alliance with U.S. troops that helped lessen violence in Iraq. But there are significant differences, a senior U.S. government official acknowledged. In Anbar Province, he said, the Iraqi tribes “woke up to millions of dollars in government assistance, and the support of the 3rd Infantry Division.”

But the support by the Pakistani Army and the civilian government for the tribal militias has been “episodic” and so far “unsustained,” the official said. In addition, tribal structures in Pakistan have been weakened in recent years by the Taliban, unlike the situation in Iraq.

The tribesmen, armed with antiquated weaponry from the 1980s Afghan war, are facing better equipped, highly motivated Taliban fighters who have intimidated and crushed some of the militia.

In the last two months, the Taliban have burned the homes of tribal leaders and assassinated others who have dared to participate in the resistance. They have pulled tribesmen suspected of backing the militia out of buses and cars and used suicide bombers against them as they did in Orakzai, the place where the wounded in the Peshawar hospital were attacked.

But in spite of this understanding, the Pakistani parliament has promised to stand down its military operations against the Taliban.  Time is running short to save the tribes, and indeed, to save Pakistan itself.

Pakistan on the Brink of Collapse

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

In NATO and Pakistan Commitment to Defeat Taliban Wavering we discussed the deep ambivalence of the Pakistan parliament towards the fight against the Taliban. The parliament has little stomach for a protracted counterinsurgency against the Tehrik-i-Taliban. The problems with properly understanding the horrible danger they are in run deep, and so do the overall problems with Pakistani society, both culturally and financially. In fact, the country itself is on the brink of collapse and civil war.

Pakistan was locked in crisis last night, with the government pressed by Washington to deepen its conflict with Islamic militants in the lawless regions on the Afghan border, and obliged to call in the International Monetary Fund to stave off financial catastrophe.

In the rugged north of the country, a major military offensive to root out Taliban militants has created a flood of up to 200,000 refugees and pitched Pakistani against Pakistani, Muslim against Muslim, in a conflict some are beginning to regard as a civil war.

A new US intelligence estimate meanwhile has warned that the renewed insurgency, coupled with energy shortages and political infighting, means that Pakistan, which is the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, is “on the edge”.

“Pakistan is going through the worst crisis of its history,” according to a leaked letter signed by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader. It is a view shared by Imran Khan, another opposition leader, who says that the political and economic meltdown “is leading to a sort of anarchy in Pakistan”.

“How does a country collapse?” the former cricketer asked. “There’s increasing uncertainty, economic meltdown, more people on the street, inflation rising between 25 and 30 per cent. Then there’s the rupee falling.”

Pakistan is experiencing power cuts that have led to hourly blackouts, a doubling of basic food prices and a currency that has lost a third of its value in the past year. “The awful thing is there’s no solution in sight – neither in the war on terror nor on the economic side,” Mr Khan said during a visit to London. Heightening the sense of national emergency, the government yesterday turned to the International Monetary Fund for $15bn (£9.3bn) to cope with a balance of payments crisis caused by a flight of capital, after previously saying that applying to the IMF would be a last resort.

Almost every day there are retaliatory attacks against police and soldiers and Western targets. Hundreds of soldiers and an unknown number of civilians are losing their lives. The national parliament rejected the US influence on the government by adopting a resolution last night calling for an “independent” foreign policy and urging dialogue with the extremists.

The Pakistanis with money have pulled their funds from banks and investments in Pakistan and moved them towards the Middle East.  Pakistan is facing a liquidity crisis.  In spite of the Taliban violence, claims of violence, globalist perspective and refusal to disarm, the Pakistani people still cling to the belief that there is something else behind the movement. The movement, they claim, wouldn’t be capable of surviving without the influence and support of foreign intelligence services.

It is not as worrying to see the Taliban running free in Pakistan. But it is more worrying to see our government and intelligence agencies running around confused without being able to figure out who are financing the Taliban. While every Pakistani even with half a mind knows that India with its 14 consulates on the Pakistan-Afghanistan is financing the Taliban. Now we can just hope that the government and media promote these facts to the International community and pressurize India to stop financing the Taliban.

The preoccupation with India and their alleged misdeeds and interest in the conquest of Pakistan claims not only the full attention of Pakistan military officers, but the common, ordinary citizens. The claims have become so prevalent that the Taliban saw them as requiring rebuttal.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan refuting allegations that they are destabilising Pakistan on the behest if foreign intelligence agencies has indicated that they are willing to lay down their arms if the government assures of an end to the ongoing military operation.

TTP spokesman Maulvi Omar talking to BBC said that there is no truth to news and such assertions are baseless that the Taliban movement is destabilising Pakistan on the say of foreign intelligence agency adding that we are stuck to our stance that if the government ends the military operation than we would lay down their arms. However, he added, that it is the government who always backs out on its promises.

He said that we have no foreign pressure and we are fully independent in making our own decisions.

Maulvi Omar claimed that the Taliban movement is very popular in the area and they would ceasefire when the tribesmen would wish them to do so.

NATO – and even U.S. military leadership – is looking for a magic solution, the silver bullet to kill the Taliban; a button to push, an incantation to chant. For now that incantation is to peel away layers of the reconcilables to fight against the hard core irreconcilable Taliban. The Pakistanis, almost all of them, want to negotiate and talk with the Taliban too. But they have added another layer of counterinsurgency to their stable of imaginary solutions. Get India to stop financing the Taliban.

You can’t make this sort of stuff up.  Reality is sometimes more bizarre than fantasy.  This is the same India who fought jihadist insurgents in Kashmir for more than a decade and had jihadist bombings in her cities. If the notion that Indian intelligence is funding the Taliban sounds ridiculous, its only because it is. But Pakistan is still stumbling in the darkness of ignorance to the danger she faces – this danger becoming more pronounced with each passing day. The time to save Pakistan is ebbing away, and yet she sits and points her finger at her neighbors.

Adventures in ROE: Waiting on the Lawyers

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

In Prosecution of U.S. Troops Under Iraq SOFA we broadly outlined some problems we have with the draft Status of Forces Agreement awaiting Iraqi parliament approval.  Review of the draft SOFA raises even more questions and forces the conclusion that things could very well be worse than first suspected.  A few examples are in order, followed by a review of international lawyer hand-wringing over Somalian pirates.

Article 3 [1] sets the context for review of the agreement: “All members of the U.S. armed forces and civilian members must follow Iraqi laws, customs, traditions, and agreements while conducting military operations in accordance to this agreement. They must also avoid any activities that do not agree with the text and spirit of this agreement. It is the responsibility of the U.S. to take all necessary measures to ensure this.”

Moving ahead in the document, Article 12 [9] says “The U.S. authorities submit, in accordance to paragraphs 1 and 2 of this article, a declaration explaining whether the alleged crime occurred while suspects where off duty or on duty. In case the Iraqi authorities think the conditions require such a decision to be reviewed or changed, the two sides discuss that through the joint committee, and the U.S. authorities takes into consideration all the conditions, events and any (sic) other information
submitted by the Iraqi authorities that might have an effect on changing the U.S. authorities (sic) decision.”

It should be fairly straight forward, shouldn’t it, to ascertain whether a Soldier or Marine is actively performing approved operations?  But the Kabuki dance is being done for the reason that by intent it isn’t really that simple.  There are the standing rules of engagement, theater-specific rules of engagement, and then unit-specific rules laid out by unit lawyers.  It’s this last category where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

The Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) IV, Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07, Final Report, 17 November 2006, Office of the Surgeon, Multi-National Force Iraq, and Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army Medical Command, outlines examples of problems that have come up on the level of application of the ROE:

More than one third of all Soldiers and Marines continue to report being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to Rules of Engagement (ROE).  In interviews, Soldiers reported that Iraqis would throw gasoline-filled bottles (i.e., Molotov Cocktails) at their vehicles, yet they were prohibited from responding with force for nearly a month until the ROE were changed.  Soldiers also reported they are still not allowed to respond with force when Iraqis drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses on them when they drive by.  Every groups of Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported that they felt the existing ROE tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war (pages 13 – 14).

The lawyers know that the real power of the ROE lies in how they are applied.  If, for example, a unit has completed operations and is headed back to the FOB, and a vehicle takes chunks of concrete through the windshield killing the driver, when the son of a high profile Parliamentarian dies in the subsequent small arms fire because the unit feels under threat, the time will have come to invoke the clause where Iraqi authorities attempt to change the U.S. decision on who has authority over the actions of that unit.  Soldiers and Marines have seen stranger things, and that, at the hands of their own lawyers.  In fact, one of the most poweful and effective tactics that has been used by U.S. forces – patrols, entering houses, the “knock and talk” – is patently prohibited in Article 22 [5], and agreed to by U.S. lawyers.

U.S. forces are not permitted to search houses and other properties without a court
warrant, unless there was an active combat operation in accordance to article four, and in
coordinating with the specialized Iraqi authorities.

Turning to the Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Navy is absolutely hand-tied and impotent because lawyers across the globe can’t agree to how to treat pirates (h/t War News Updates).

The commander of a NATO task force on its way to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia has said he still does not know what the rules are for taking on the high-seas bandits.

U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald said while he was aware of where the pirates were operating, there was little he could do militarily to stop them and that guidelines on how to take them on — including whether to shoot — were still in the works.

“You know, I don’t think we’ve gotten the rules of engagement yet from NATO,” Fitzgerald told reporters on Monday during a briefing on U.S. naval operations in Europe and Africa.

“That’s all still being debated in the North Atlantic Council. All we’ve been told is to prepare a plan to go down there. So (the rules) are going to have to be debated.”

Six NATO members have contributed ships, including destroyers and frigates, to a special anti-piracy task force following a request from the United Nations.

The NATO group passed through the Suez Canal last week on its way to the Horn of Africa, where piracy has surged this year, with more than 30 ships seized and ransoms estimated at $18-$30 million have been paid to free hostages.

There are already naval assets from Britain, the United States and Russia in the region, but the area is so vast — more than 2.5 million square miles — that it is almost impossible for the pirates to be stopped unless they are caught red-handed.

“From a military standpoint, we certainly are limited by what we can do,” said Fitzgerald. “How do you prove a guy’s a pirate before he actually attacks a ship?

“We have a problem from the military side at sea because we can’t be omnipresent in the space, and the pirates operate at an advantage because … they don’t announce they’re a pirate until they attack a ship.”

Security specialists say there is a window of only about 15 minutes for a navy ship to respond to a distress call and get to another ship that’s being hijacked. Once pirates are on board, there’s little, legally, that can be done.

“You’ve got a very short window, a short time span, from the point where they decide to board a ship and (actually) board it. If you’re not right there, there’s not much you can do, and once the ship is taken hostage, then….”

The Danish navy learnt to its cost last month what can happen if you do seize suspected pirates.

They captured 10 people, but after holding them for six days aboard a Danish ship, the suspects were set free and put ashore in Somalia because the legal conditions surrounding their detention were unclear.

Denmark’s Defence Ministry said Danish law did not allow for prosecution of the men before a Danish court. The ministry said it had explored the possibility of handing them over to other countries but that was also not feasible.

A senior British naval commander admitted last week that it was essentially a legal minefield trying to take on the pirates, and urged commercial ships operating in the region to hire their own private security companies to deal with the threat.

Admiral Fitzgerald said the Danish experience showed how weak the impetus was going to be to capture pirates. Instead he said his task force would focus on escorting World Food Programme ships trying to deliver aid to Somalia.

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in saying:

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort).  Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

Ralph Peters has weighed in saying:

Piracy must be exterminated. Pirates aren’t folk heroes or champions of the oppressed. They’re terrorists and violent criminals whose ransom demands start at a million bucks. And they’re not impressed by the prospect of trials in a velvet-gloved Western court.  The response to piracy must be the same as it was when the British brought an end to the profession’s “golden age:” Sink them or board them, kill them or hang them.

Lt. Col. P at OpFor has weighed in saying:

Kill all of the pirates.

Seriously. Why do we allow a handful of khat-addled assholes to dominate one of the world’s most important sea lanes? We, the western powers, have sufficient naval units in the area to take care of the problem in very quick order. What we lack is the will. We apply an idiotically high standard of judicial due process to a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to a judicial solution. Anyone who has dealt with Somalis can tell you that they laugh at western legalisms, and what they perceive as western weaknesses. And then they redouble their violent efforts to take what they want from you. They do react very well to a boot on their necks, and a gun to their heads. Then they tend to wise up quickly.

Here’s how it needs to be done. Oil tanker sends distress call, takes evasive actions insofar as it is capable. (Or better yet, armed men aboard oil tanker defend by fire.) Coalition forces despatch (sic) vessels and boarding parties. Pirates who survive ensuing gun battle are lined up by the rail and shot in the head, then dumped overboard. Pirate boats are burned. If their bases or villages on the coast can be identified, said bases are raided and destroyed. No fuss no muss, no ransom, no hostages, no skyrocketing costs.

Apparently, the lawyers don’t think like we do.  But for the time being, the lawyers are setting the agenda.

NATO and Pakistan Commitment to Defeat Taliban Wavering

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

In NATO Cannot Be Rehabilitated we discussed the fact that German forces had spent the last three years in Afghanistan without conducting a single combat mission. The Strategy Page followed this report up with their own:

Germany is pulling its commandos out of Afghanistan. The KSK commandos have been there for most of the last seven years. Many Germans, especially leftist politicians and journalists, have not been happy with that. This has resulted in several unflattering, and largely inaccurate, articles about the KSK in the German media. There was also an investigation of several KSK men, accused of kicking an Afghan prisoner. While the KSK were allowed to fight, they also operated under some restrictions. They generally could not fire at the enemy unless first fired upon. This led to at least one senior Taliban leader getting away from the KSK. The fleeing Taliban honcho was not firing at the pursuing KSK, so the commandos could not take him down.

Germany sent 120 KSK commandos to Afghanistan in late 2001. They were not given their own area of operation, but worked with American special forces and commandos as needed. The KSK commandos are the first German troops to engage in combat since 1945 (not counting some communist East German military advisers who may have had to defend themselves in places like Africa. German peacekeepers in the 1990s Balkans have not had to fight.) KSK’s achievement was celebrated in late 2001, when a supply of quality German beer was flown in for the troops.

The KSK were respected by their fellow special operations soldiers, and particularly liked because the Germans were sent beer rations (two cans a day per man). The KSK troops would often share the brew with their fellow commandos, which sometimes resulted in favors in the form of special equipment or intel data. Even with the restrictions, the KSK saw lots of action, but little of it was publicized, lest it generate more criticism back home.

So some of the troops are getting sauced on German beer in theater? (Someone might want to weight in on deployment rules for ISAF troops, but the alcohol prohibition for U.S. troops during deployment is absolute and nonnegotiable). The Strategy Page apparently obtains some of their information from Army intelligence, the same Army intelligence who fed General Rodriguez the absurdity that the Taliban wouldn’t conduct a spring offensive in 2008 (while The Captain’s Journal claimed that they would conduct not one offensive, but two, one in Afghanistan and the other in Pakistan). Rodriguez should have listened to The Captain’s Journal.  The Strategy Page also routinely authors analyses that discuss how swimmingly the campaign is going. The Captain’s Journal no longer uses the Strategy page as a source of information or analysis.

But the Taliban are indeed having the desired affect on Afghans, and German officials are again admitting that their troops are not contributing to the campaign (h/t LT Nixon Rants).

The growing threat is having the effect that soldiers are sticking close to their base camps and avoiding any contact to the civilian population, which then only shows increasing animosity towards the soldiers. Clearly, such a “spiral of alienation” is no help to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The majority of Afghans in the relatively peaceful north are still amiable to the Germans, say the generals. But if even this support starts to dwindle, there will be consequences for the entire NATO mission. It may even be that the fight for a stable, peaceful Afghanistan can no longer be won (italics TCJ).

Support for the campaign is wavering in NATO countries as well.

NATO members are “wavering” in their political commitment to defeat the Taliban and the international effort in Afghanistan is disjointed, the alliance’s top military commander said.

Operations are affected by a shortfall of troops and more than 70 caveats limiting where soldiers can be deployed, U.S. Army General John Craddock, supreme allied commander in Europe, said in London yesterday.

“It is this wavering political will that impedes operational progress and brings into question the relevancy of the alliance here in the 21st century,” Craddock said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.

While President Asif Ali Zardari has been relatively strong thus far (at least in terms of rhetoric) regarding the Taliban, his enthusiasm for taking out the enemy apparently isn’t reciprocated in the Pakistan parliament.

An unusual parliamentary debate designed to forge a Pakistani policy on how to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda has exposed deep ambivalence about the militants, even as their reach extends to suicide attacks in the capital.

Calls for dialogue with the Taliban, peppered with opposition to fighting what is perceived as an American war, dominated the closed-door sessions, according to participants.

After seven years of military rule under General Pervez Musharraf, the new civilian government initiated the debate in an effort to convince the public and the political parties of the necessity of the war against the militants. Musharraf – who had been both head of the army and president, as well as an important ally of the Bush administration – never consulted Parliament.

The new president, Asif Ali Zardari, pledged a strong effort by Pakistan against terrorism during his visit to Washington earlier this month, and stressed the contrast between his civilian rule and that of his military predecessor.

But the tenor of the parliamentary proceedings, including criticism by politicians of a lengthy military briefing by a general on the conduct of the war, showed that members of the political elite have little stomach for the fight against the militants.

This is a very troubling sign and doesn’t bode well for the removal of Taliban safe havens in the FATA and NWFP. However, it does explain the recent stand down of military actions in Waziristan.

It appears that the U.S. will have to increase force presence and take the brunt of the campaign (along with British and Canadian troops) – and show significant progress – before Pakistan will commit itself to the campaign.


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