Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 11 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]

Mission (Almost) Accomplished

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

In a sign of the evolving state of affairs in Iraq’s Anbar Province, Camp Fallujah is soon to close to U.S. forces.

When Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly deployed to Iraq in February, the violence had fallen so low in Anbar province that he began figuring out how to start closing bases and prepare to go home.

In the last 10 months the Marines in Fallujah have done what was unthinkable before the surge began — they have quietly transferred out of one of Anbar province’s largest cities. FOX News has learned in an exclusive interview with Kelly from Fallujah that 80 percent of the move is complete. In February there were 8,000 Marines living at Fallujah base. Now there are about 3,000 left. By Nov. 14 there will be none.

“We will shut down the command function here and I will move; my staff has already started to move,” Kelly, the commander of Multinational Force-West, told FOX News in an exclusive interview via satellite. “We will turn the lights off here.”

They will hand the Fallujah base over to their Iraqi counterparts on Nov. 14, having relocated themselves and thousands of combat vehicles to the desert base of Al Asad to the west. Marines will no longer be seen in city centers such as Fallujah — a major step toward leaving Iraq, and one step closer to Iraq’s goal of having U.S. troops out of its population centers by mid-2009 — one of the key points enshrined in the Status of Forces Agreement being reviewed on Capitol Hill today.

On Wednesday, to little fanfare, the Marines quietly closed down Al Qaim base near the Syrian border. Now it is run by Iraqis.

In Fallujah, where the U.S. Marines once had three large mess halls to feed troops, they are now down to one. The Marines have quietly disassembled the entire infrastructure of the base.

“We probably had several thousand of those large metal containers — tractor-trailer containers,” Kelly said. “I bet we don’t have 200 of them here now.”

Of the thousands of vehicles once parked at the base, now there are only 300 left. Their transfer occurred at night, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., over the past 10 months so as not to disturb Iraqi drivers and clog the roads.

They dubbed it “Operation Rudy Giuliani” because they were cleaning the streets up and returning Fallujah to normalcy — taking down barbed wire and tearing down checkpoints and Jersey walls that made Anbar look like a war zone.

“There is almost no barbed wire left anywhere in Fallujah,” Kelly said. An Iraqi no longer sees barbed wire when traveling in and around the city.

Between 300 and 400 concrete barriers that divided the city were removed by Navy Seabees.

One of the big changes Kelly made when he took command in Anbar was to remove fixed checkpoints, and Iraqi vehicles no longer had to pull off to the side when a military convoy was on the road. His troops risked car bombs, but the gamble paid off in what had once been Iraq’s most dangerous province. The new road rules instantly lowered the tension between military and locals. Soon he transitioned to moving military convoys only at night, so they would not encounter locals. This also stymied many of the insurgents laying IEDs or roadside bombs, which they often had done at night.

Another change for the better since Kelly arrived in February: He pushed the central government to provide more fuel to the people of Anbar, so the mostly Sunni population is now happier. In February, Anbaris were receiving only 8 percent of their allocation of fuel from the central government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Now it’s 90 percent — eliminating one of their main gripes …

… the Marines no longer use violence as an indicator of how much progress they have made. Two years ago they had 400 attacks — roadside bombs or shootings — at U.S. forces every week. In February it was down to 30 attacks per week. Now it is down to under 12 attacks per week. There hasn’t been a Marine death in a few months.

Troop numbers have dropped, as well — down by 40 percent since February. About 26,000 Marines still serve in Anbar.

“In Anbar there is no longer an insurgency,” Kelly said. “Unless someone does something stupid (for instance, if the Coalition were to accidentally kill a large number of civilians), this place will not go back to the way it was.”

In football terms, Kelly says, the Marines are “in the last 10 yards of this fight.”

While some Army and a limited number of National Guard participated in the campaign for Anbar, it has mostly been a Marine Corps operation.  It wasn’t too long ago that the streets of Ramadi were impassable due to enemy activity, and that Fallujah was locked down to vehicular traffic.  Operation Alljah, run out of Forward Operating Base Reaper on the South side of Fallujah, sectioned Fallujah into neighborhoods monitored by block captains, or Muktars.  These communities were gated, and biometrics were used to take census and monitor the activities of the population.  Barbed wire, concrete barricades, gates and checkpoints were a large part of the strategy to secure Fallujah (along with intensive kinetic operations the first few months of the operation and overflights and combat over the Euphrates River to prevent insurgents from re-entering the city on the South side).  The disappearance of barbed wire and concrete barricades represents a profound evolution in the state of Fallujah and indeed, all of Anbar.

My son and I were sitting a few months ago and reflecting on FOB Reaper, the things he saw in Fallujah, the things he did, the history that had been made, and the fact that no U.S. forces would ever again occupy this (or any other) FOB in Anbar.  The thoughts were communicated haltingly, but communicated they were.  It is something that has passed in time, but the sights and smells of Fallujah are forever burned into his memory.  Anbar has indeed been a hard and remarkable campaign, perhaps the most remarkable counterinsurgency campaign in history.

Let us never forget the sacrifices necessary for the campaign – more than one thousand Marine dead and many thousands wounded and disabled.  Let us also be diligent to judiciously utilize U.S. forces in the future.

The United States Marines will eventually completely stand down in Anbar, and take up Marine Expeditionary Units, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and other assignments.  Things change, and so will the Marines and their challenges.  We are in the last 10 yards of the fight.  Mission almost accomplished.

Prior: Did the U.S. Turn Over Anbar Too Soon?

See also: US News & World Report, In the Former Cradle of Iraq’s Insurgency, A U.S. Military Base Prepares to Close.

Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Seven months ago The Captain’s Journal published Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan in which we outlined a major prong of the coming strategy to cut off supplies to NATO forces through Pakistan. We followed this up with a discussion of the importance of the Khyber Pass and the Torkham Crossing, the Northern border crossing through which supplies flow, and which has been the target of attacks against fuel tankers and other traffic.

We’ve also discussed the Talibanization of Karachi, Karachi being the only port through which supplies flow. Thousands of Taliban fighters have entered Karachi in a sign of the increased enemy interest in controlling this vital hub of transit. From Karachi the supplies go to the Southwestern Pakistan city of Chaman to cross into Afghanistan or to the Northwestern province of Khyber and then to the Torkham Crossing, eventually arriving in Kabul unless interdicted by the Taliban. The Taliban have worked to close both of these supply routes. But recently they have moved their targeting South of the the city of Peshawar and the Khyber Pass. In other words, they are expanding – not moving – their points of interdiction. They are now targeting the supplies as they come North from Karachi to Kohat.

The Pakistani army is locked in a fierce battle to stop fuel and arms supply routes to British and American forces in Afghanistan falling under Taliban control.

Last week Pakistani troops launched a series of raids on villages around Peshawar, capital of the North West Frontier Province, in pursuit of a Taliban commander blamed for bomb attacks that have destroyed more than 40 fuel tankers supplying Nato troops in Afghanistan.

They claim that Mohammad Tariq Alfridi, the commander, has seized terrain around the mile-long Kohat tunnel, south of Peshawar, three times since January. He has coordinated suicide bomb attacks and rocket strikes against convoys emerging from it.

The Taliban attacks stretch all the way south from the Afghan border to Karachi, where weapons, ammunition, food and oil supplies arrive at the docks before being transported by road.

Last week western diplomats in Karachi said there had been an alarming increase in Taliban activity in the city. Local politicians said they had been warned by intelligence officials that 60 Taliban families had fled to Karachi from tribal areas close to the Afghan border and had begun to impose strict Islamic law. They had recently posted notices throughout the city forbidding girls from going to school.

The army’s antiTaliban offensive in the tribal areas appears to be hitting the militants hard. Last week Maulvi Omar, a Taliban spokesman, said that his fighters would lay down their arms if the army ceased fire. His offer was ignored.

The battle for the tunnel began at the start of the year when Taliban fighters seized five trucks carrying weapons and ammunition. They held the tunnel for a week before they were driven out in fierce fighting. Since then Tariq and his men have returned several times to attack convoys. The army launched its latest onslaught after a suicide bomb attack at one of its bases near the tunnel six weeks ago. Five people were killed and 45 were injured, including 35 soldiers, when a pickup truck packed with explosives was driven into a checkpoint.

When The Sunday Times visited the approaches to the tunnel last week, several bridges along the road bore the signs of explosive damage and bullet holes. Villagers said the Taliban had not fled but had melted into the background to wait out the army assault.

Pakistan is not just strategically important for U.S. interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan is quite literally in a fight for its continued existence. The Pakistan army’s juvenile preoccupation with expansion and war with India will become deadly if not relinquished in favor of a realistic view towards self preservation from internal threats.

Intensive negotiations (and eventually, pressure) must be brought to bear to secure the supply lines into Afghanistan, and eventually to obtain permissions for U.S. operations. Currently, 90% of NATO supplies enter through Karachi, while a total of 80% go to Torkham through Khyber, with the remaining 10% going to Chaman and finally to Kandahar. Only 10% come into Afghanistan via air routes. The 10% that comes in via air supply is about to become very important, and unless Pakistan can secure the supply routes, the amount coming into Afghanistan via air supply must increase (e.g., through India over Pakistani Kashmir or other routes).

Military Transport by Rocketship

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Yes, you heard right. The title is correct.

In the future, U.S. troops could be on the ground in hotspots anywhere on the globe in only two hours. This may sound like science fiction, but it is exactly what a group of civilians and military officials met to talk about at a two-day conference.

The meeting’s purpose was to plan the development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. USA Today reports that the invitation to the conference called the idea a “potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today.”

The biggest challenge for the SUSTAIN program is certainly the technology. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brown, a spokesman for the space office said that the next step in the plan is addressing technological challenges and seeking military input.

The goal of the program is to be able to insert a team of 13 soldiers anywhere on the globe in two hours. John Pike, a military analyst told USA Today, “This isn’t even science fiction. It’s fantasy.” Pike says that the concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish.

Burt Rutan, the rocket pioneer who won the X Prize in 2004 for building a private spacecraft capable of flying into space says that the plan is technologically possible. Rutan wrote in an email to USA Today, “This has never been done. However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.”

Some things leaves one speechless. Well, not quite. Absurd. “Relatively expensive?” Try ridiculously expensive for no purpose (13 Soldiers can accomplish nothing useful). John Pike, who is smart and whom The Captain’s Journal likes, is correct. This is nothing but fantasy, but the sad part is that dollars are being wasted on even contemplating such a thing.

The litany of potential problems are too long to be enumerated (e.g., If ingress by rocketship, by what means egress? What kind of emergency could possibly warrant the deployment of troops within two hours, but only 13 troops in number? Who is going to maintain this rocketship launch capable 24 hours per day, 365 days per year? Etc.) Want “ready reserve?” That’s what Marine Expeditionary Units are for. Rather than wasting dollars on rocketships, spend them on increasing the size and deployment of Marines in ready reserve.

Nir Rosen and the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

The Small Wars Journal Blog links to a report by embedded journalist Nir Rosen, who spent some time with hard core Taliban, and wrote How We Lost the War We Won: A journey into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for Rolling Stone. It’s an interesting report, but for regular readers of The Captain’s Journal, it’s not obvious that we learn much new (Sorry here, no bragging, and no embedded report from this end, but we’ve been covering OEF intensely for almost a year, ridiculing inept Army intelligence when they fed General Rodriguez the lunacy that the Taliban wouldn’t launch a spring offensive, telling our readers how important the Torkham Crossing and Chaman were, warning of affects of the TTP and Baitullah Mehsud, warning that roads and construction were irrelevant if IEDs tore them up, warning that British work on dams would be to no avail if dam workers were killed by the Taliban or if the electrical grid was taken out, warning that NATO was hopelessly deadlocked in red tape with many European troops sitting at FOBs with candy-ass rules of engagement, and so on, and so forth, and on and on, again and again and again. Been there, done that.).

So, go and read Rosen’s piece if you wish, it’s linked above. But regular readers of The Captain’s Journal will see our warnings in real life, real time. You’ve read it for a year. Now you can read a summary of our work in 45 minutes. Not bragging – just saying. We’re more interested in the take on this whole affair by Dave at The Small Wars Journal. Says Dave:

Just call me old fashioned – I have serious misgivings respecting and tolerating journalists who embed with an enemy (the Taliban in this instance) responsible for what some call the strictest interpretation and implementation of Sharia law “ever seen in the Muslim World.” The crimes against humanity that were a direct result of their rule in Afghanistan and continue in their desire to regain that rule cannot be forgiven or glossed over in hopes of some temporary respite from increased violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yea, yea, okay – some people’s terrorists are other people’s freedom fighters – yada, yada – save it for the think tank- or university-circle sponsored seminars, studies and white papers. There is still black and white in today’s complex environment and our efforts in South Asia should most certainly fall within that category.

If there was ever a grouping of individuals and supporters that deserved complete annihilation (yea – I said the A word) – the Taliban and their support structure would and should be up front and center. It will take quite some time (that is why it is called The Long War) and there will most certainly be peaks and valleys along the way – but we must – and will – win this one and we will write the last chapter of the history book reserved for the victors.

Cheers, loud applause from the whole stadium – and the fans keep erupting in spontaneous dancing and celebrations and more applause and cheers. Now, just to set the mood going forward with this article, see the picture below.

The woman being killed (h/t LT Nixon Rants) probably forgot to pull her burqa completely closed and some of her face was showing. Not enough, says you? Want more? How about this.

In Meerwala, Pakistan, an 11-year-old boy walked unchaperoned with a girl. This was a violation of Islam. A tribal council was called.

The boy’s father pleaded that since he was too young to have sex, the girl was safe and no harm was done. The council disagreed. But instead of punishing the boy, it decided to punish his whole family by punishing his 18-year-old sister.

In order to shame the family, the council sentenced the teenage daughter to be gang raped. Four members of the council took turns forcing themselves upon her in a mud hut, as hundreds of villagers laughed and cheered.

“I touched their feet,” said the girl to an Associated Press reporter. “I wept. I cried. I said I taught the holy Qur’an to children in the village, therefore don’t punish me for a crime which was not committed by me. But they tore my clothes and raped me one by one.”

There you have it. The hard core Taliban and people who support them. Now. We can’t kill everyone, but every time The Captain’s Journal has weighed in negatively at the Small Wars Council (handle – Danny) on negotiating with these bastards, much consternation ensues, with Danny being labeled as someone who doesn’t understand counterinsurgency.

The Captain’s Journal (Danny) has lost much sleep over COIN. We’re very close to one particular SAW gunner who stopped counting his kills (literally – stopped counting, according to independent confirmations) and asked for prayer every time we talked. We’ve killed many, many enemy (the Wikipedia entry on Operation Alljah is low in number of enemy dead). As for the rest, “we’re paying them not to shoot at us,” said the SAW gunner to Danny.

Danny nodded approvingly that night, “Good, good,” said Danny. “Good. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Kill the irreconcilables without mercy, make peace with the rest, and sooner or later they will learn to be citizens again. Pay them until then. Good, good. This is the way it should be done.” And so Danny had very good sleep that night, and made sure that there was a concerned citizens category and that we weighed in with approval. Danny has thought quite a bit about counterinsurgency.

But the Anbaris were relatively secular compared to the Taliban, and had no love for the extreme vision of al Qaeda. It’s estimated that there are some 8000 – 20,000 Taliban fighters in the South and East, and these fighters are probably irreconcilable. Peel away a few, okay. Fine. Make your silly attempts to reconcile and negotiate, and you’ll get a few come to our side. But as for the hard core fighters (the majority), they must be killed. Their vision has as its world view a radical version of Islam that is either globalist in its import, or is amenable to that vision (and thus malleable for al Qaeda fighters).

Dave says he’s old fashioned. Fine with us. We are too. As for Nir Rosen, Danny doesn’t need the embedded report. We can figure it out on our own. We may as well have had someone embed with the Schutzstaffel while the Jews were being exterminated. Just as there is nothing romantic about putting Jews in ovens to die, there is nothing good, wholesome, romantic or righteous about Taliban ideology. Nir Rosen had better watch his six, or better yet, embed with U.S. troops.

Prosecution of U.S. Troops under Iraq SOFA

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

In U.S. Troop Immunity Barrier to SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) one month ago, The Captain’s Journal fired a warning shot on the issue of Iraqi right to prosecute U.S. troops regardless of the sovereignty of U.S. laws and rules of engagement. As it turns out, our warning was prescient and this is indeed a problem.

American troops could face trial before Iraqi courts for major crimes committed off base and when not on missions, under a draft security pact hammered out in months of tortuous negotiations, Iraqi officials familiar with the accord said Wednesday.

The draft also calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities by the end of June and withdraw from the country entirely by Dec. 31, 2011, unless the Baghdad government asks some of them to stay for training or security support, the officials said.

It would also give the Iraqis a greater role in U.S. military operations and full control of the Green Zone, the 3½-square mile area of central Baghdad that includes the U.S. Embassy and major Iraqi government offices.

One senior Iraqi official said Baghdad may demand even more concessions before the draft is submitted to parliament for a final decision. The two sides are working against a deadline of year’s end when the U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S.-led mission expires.

The Iraqi officials, familiar with details of the draft, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

In Washington, the State Department confirmed a draft had been finalized but refused to discuss any details.

“There is a text that people are looking at,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “Nothing is done until everything is done. Everything isn’t done. The Iraqis are still talking among themselves. We are still talking to the Iraqis.”

U.S. officials declined to discuss details of the draft but characterized it as the administration’s final offer, saying no more concessions would be considered.

With Iraqi approval far from certain and the Pentagon already nervous about the immunity compromise, the officials said the administration was bracing for opposition from U.S. lawmakers, some of whom have already expressed concern about giving Iraq’s fledgling and untested courts any jurisdiction over American troops.

“Major crimes committed off base,” and “when not on missions.” So why should anyone oppose this? Keep reading.

Under the compromise, the U.S. would have the primary right to try troops and Pentagon contractors for alleged offenses committed on American bases or during military operations, the officials said.

Such language would presumably shield troops from prosecution for accidentally killing civilians caught in the crossfire during authorized combat operations.

But Iraq would have first crack at trying U.S. military personnel and contractors for major, premeditated crimes allegedly committed outside American bases and when they are not on an authorized mission, the officials said.

So what does all of this mean? It seems to presuppose that U.S. troops garrison at FOBs and never leave except for “authorized missions” (whatever that means, kinetic operations, patrols, public relations visits, building projects, refueling an empty gasoline tank on an Iraqi Police truck, or whatever – really, whatever). And what might these missions look like?

A joint U.S.-Iraqi committee will be established to coordinate American military operations, which must be carried out in accordance with Iraqi law and customs, the officials said.

They would look like whatever the Iraqis wanted them to look like. So here are some obvious questions. If U.S. troops are going to be garrisoned at FOBs and not contacting the population, what’s the purpose of their presence and why can’t they simply come home? What happens when a Marine is simply at an Iraqi Police Precinct because that is his “mission” for the seven months he is deployed, and he walks outside to take a piss in the latrine, and fires in self defense when he feels threatened because a rifle is pointed his direction? Who has jurisdiction? What laws govern his behavior? What happens when a fire team carries fuel to a Police truck and along the way a family wanting to punish them for perceived historical injustices manages to find a half-dozen “witnesses” to atrocities by this fire team?

Remember that the context of our objections is in part this:

Are lies being told to obtain blood money payments? Some insight comes in this response to the collapse of the British trial by Stephan Holland, a Baghdad-based US contractor.

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

Too much has been given away in our lust to seal a SOFA, and it isn’t worth it. Most sensible people would now oppose their sons being deployed to Iraq under these rules. Even people who support the campaign must now object to further deployment of troops under these circumstances. The Captain’s Journal supports the troops before we support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A joint U.S.-Iraqi committee. Remember these words. How many people alive today have ever worked in an efficient and effective committee?

Update: Welcome to Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for the link. In further reading on the SOFA, General Odierno pointed out that Iran was attempting to buy off Iraqi parliament votes to reject the agreement (this pitiful agreement that places U.S. troops under the authority of a joint committee). In response, Maliki became enraged and said that Odierno was “risking his position.”

Will Pakistan Fall to the Taliban?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

In The Talibanization of Karachi, we discussed the influx of Taliban and foreign fighters into the port city of Karachi, and the danger this poses since Karachi is the main entry point for NATO supplies in Afghanistan. We weighed in saying that the figure cited (400,000 fighters) was probably exaggerated, but that anecdotal evidence shows that Karachi is increasingly under Taliban control.

In a new report we are now learning that both the U.S. and Pakistani governments are similarly worried, but not just about Karachi. The concern now is for the whole of Pakistan.

Grim new intelligence assessments about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan were disclosed yesterday amid reports the US had deployed hundreds of military “advisers” close to the hub of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Officials involved in drafting a new, classified national intelligence estimate for policy planners in Washington said it portrayed the situation as “very bad”, “very bleak” and “on the edge”. It is said to summarise the embattled Islamic nation in three words: “No money, no energy, no government.”

Its reported tone was matched during a secret emergency session of Pakistan’s parliament in Islamabad yesterday when one of the country’s most senior leaders — giving MPs the Government’s view of the situation — conceded for the first time that a grouping of al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and local jihadi militants was seeking not just to launch terrorist attacks but to take over the country.

The gloomy assessment was provided behind closed doors by Information Minister Sherry Rehman.

Disclosure of the two assessments came as diplomats in Islamabad were warned for the first time to restrict their movements because of the threats posed by the militants and not to “go out of station” — travel too far from their embassies.

A government official was quoted as saying the directive had been issued following last month’s kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador-designate and three other foreigners.

The assessments came as the Pakistan army acknowledged for the first time the presence of US “trainers” who have been deployed at a base close to the Tarbela dam, 20km from Islamabad, the site of the main hub of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Tarbela is the site of the brigade headquarters of Pakistan’s crack commando unit the Special Operations Task Force, and reports in Pakistan have claimed a 300-strong “US training advisory group” is now based at Hasanpur, a small town 6km away.

The local airstrip has been upgraded to “war readiness” and underground shelters, bunkers and tunnels had been built, reports said.

The presence of the US group — and, in effect, the establishment of the US’s first “base” in Pakistan — follows a statement by the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, conceding Washington had deployed “trainers” in the country.

These are extremely troubling developments for three reasons: [1] Pakistan holds nuclear assets, [2] Pakistan could evolve from being a Taliban sanctuary in the FATA and NWFP to being a sanctuary in the entire country, i.e., the country itself could become “Talibanized,” and [3] Pakistan (from the port city of Karachi to either the Southeastern city of Chaman or the northern Torkham Crossing) is the supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan. India is equally concerned, and Indian security forces are monitoring the trouble.

Could Pakistan fall to a Taliban-al-Qaida coup? Is India looking at the possibility of a Talibanized neighbour to its west, one with access to nuclear weapons? If Pakistan’s senior minister for information Sherry Rahman is to be believed, Pakistan is in the midst of a serious internal security threat from a collection of Taliban, al-Qaida and J&K terrorist elements who want to take over the country.

Indian security sources said they have been receiving reports of a steady infiltration of Taliban and al-Qaida elements in Pakistan’s biggest cities of Lahore and Karachi recently. In fact, in a recent incident which rang alarm bells, there were a number of Taliban posters in Karachi and Taliban spokespersons were quoted promising a better government in Sindh.

Rahman’s statements were made during an in-camera briefing on national security and the war on terror in Pakistan’s national assembly on Tuesday.

By J&K the article is referring to Jammu and Kashmir terrorists, largely a creation of the Pakistani ISI for the purposes of undermining Indian stability and security. The monsters of the Taliban and J&K terrorists created by the Pakistani inter-services intelligence (ISI) are not just unwieldy and out of control. That was true a couple of years ago. The movement is now so powerful and ideologically evolved that it is about to engulf the country of Pakistan itself.

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

The Taliban recently attempted another large scale conventional-style operation in the Helmand Province. It didn’t go well.

About 100 militants have been killed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, half in air strikes that thwarted an attack on a key town, Afghan and British forces said yesterday.

Between 50 and 60 militants were killed in airstrikes as they tried to enter the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah from three directions. British Lieutenant-Colonel Woody Page said the attempt was ”virtually unpre-cedented” in the area in the scale of the attacking force and their degree of coordination.

With the exception of the battle of Wanat, regardless of their perceived capabilities, every time they conduct major conventional operations against British or U.S. forces, they lose badly. It is tactics like this that are keeping the Taliban from gaining control any more quickly than they have. Hopefully the Taliban will continue to believe that they can engage in conventional operations against coalition forces. Working as guerrillas is more efficient for them and bad for us.

But gaining control they are, in spite of their losses due to large scale operations. The lack of forces to provide security for the population has caused the Taliban, who are in constant contact with the population, to gain control of all major routes into and out of Kabul except one.

At a gas station on the outskirts of Kabul, lounging in the shade of a transport truck, Mohammed Raza describes how he escaped death.

Last month, a U.S. contractor promised him $10,000 if he’d drive a truck full of diesel from Kabul to Kandahar, offering seven times more than he could earn by transporting his usual shipments of sugar. But the Taliban forbid drivers from carrying fuel to the foreign troops, he said, and the insurgents run checkpoints on the road between Afghanistan’s two largest cities. He rejected the offer. One of his friends took the assignment, he said, and the Taliban cut off his head.

“Many drivers now are selling their lives,” the 25-year-old said, nervously twisting the fringe of his beard.

The Taliban are isolating Afghanistan’s capital city from the rest of the country, choking off important supply routes and imposing their rules on the provinces near Kabul. Interviews suggest that the Taliban have gained control along three of the four major highways into the city, and some believe it’s a matter of time before they regulate all traffic around the capital …

But the insurgents don’t need to attack the capital; by hobbling the government’s ability to reach its own citizens beyond the city gates, security analysts say, the Taliban make the rulers of Kabul irrelevant in broad swaths of the country. It’s more than a propaganda victory; the insurgents are grabbing the same political high ground the Taliban exploited during their previous sweep to power in the 1990s, by positioning themselves as the best enforcers of security in rural Afghanistan.

The roadblocks have also started to pinch the foreign troops. Military bases find themselves running short of fuel and other supplies …

People who work for the government, or have any association with the foreign presence, now travel covertly on the main highways of southern, central, and eastern Afghanistan. They disguise themselves as rural peasants, carry no identification cards, and erase numbers from their cellphones that might connect them with the government.

Some devise even more elaborate strategies for dealing with Taliban checkpoints, arranging for friends to impersonate religious figures who can vouch for them if they’re stopped by the insurgents.

Truck drivers often leave a rear door open at the back of their tractor-trailers, securing their cargo with a spider web of ropes, so that Taliban can easily look inside and check the shipment for anything forbidden by the insurgency. The Taliban even scrutinize the drivers’ customs paperwork to certify that the goods are destined for non-military consumers …

Not only do the Afghan security forces lack numbers, but they’re also corrupt and even colluding with the insurgents, said Colonel Asadullah Abed, chief of the criminal investigation division for the 10 central provinces around Kabul.

The 40-year-old policeman says he’s no friend of the Taliban, and has a sheaf of threatening letters from the insurgents to make his point.

But he worries that his colleagues at small posts outside the city are not so devoted to the government’s cause.

Each of the four major gateways into Kabul are guarded by Afghan police, soldiers, and intelligence officers, Col. Abed said, but the insurgents easily bribe their way through. People with loyalties to the insurgents have also infiltrated the ranks of Afghanistan’s security establishment, he added: “They’re not working honestly.”

Col. Abed paused to look at a reporter’s military-issued accreditation card, and noted that the small piece of identification would be a death warrant on most highways outside the city. “You’re a foreigner travelling with this,” he said, pointing to the ID badge, “and you can travel the Shomali road okay, but any other road they will capture you after one kilometre.”

As long as the Taliban interdict traffic patterns outside of Kabul into the countryside of Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom will fail. But there is also the corollary problem of corruption within the Afghan forces, police and army.

While this corruption remains there cannot be a complete turnover of responsibility to the Afghan government. Operation Enduring Freedom is a long, long way from completion.

The Talibanization of Karachi

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

The Captain’s Journal has discussed the influx of Taliban to Karachi before, as well as the fact that it is an important port city through which NATO supplies flow (ultimately through two passes, one at the Torkham Crossing and the other through the Southwestern city of Chaman). But the supplies mainly come into Pakistan through the port of Karachi. There are reports of a massive influx of Taliban into Karachi and the surrounding provinces.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has said that more than 400,000 Afghans and foreigners equipped with weapons have entered the city and alleged that these terrorists wanted to occupy Karachi and Hyderabad and the entire Sindh.

In a statement issued from London on Sunday, he warned that they did not want to fight anyone but added that if the MQM areas were attacked they would defend themselves in accordance with the UN Charter and Islamic Shariat.

He said that the MQM wanted to make Pakistan a liberal and democratic state and not a country governed by al-Qaeda, Taliban or religious extremists.

“The MQM is against all kinds of extremism and terrorism and wants to give equal rights to each and every segment of the society including minorities.”

This report is probably exaggerated (the total is probably << 400,000), but a much better anecdotal account of the Talibanization of Karachi comes from Richard Engel of NBC News along with his interpreter.

Many Pakistanis attend madrassas because they offer free education, supplementing the government’s lacking public school system. For centuries madrassas were the only form of education in the Islamic world. From Morocco to Indonesia, most madrassas have a similar layout, with a mosque at the center and classrooms upstairs. The vast majority of madrassas are moderate charities that teach religious values, the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet Mohammed.

But some madrassas in Pakistan have churned out suicide bombers indoctrinated in jihad and a paranoid but widespread philosophy that they must attack innocent civilians to defend their faith from the United States, Israel and other modern-day “crusaders.”

Former President Pervez Musharraf promised to reform and regulate Pakistan’s hard-line madrassas. It never happened. According to Karachi’s former mayor Farooq Sattar, there are now more than 2,000 illegal madrassas in Karachi alone. This was one of them.

“What do you think of the Taliban and their influence here?” I asked the students.

More blank stares.

“What do you think about the U.S. incursions?”

That got a reaction.

“God willing, we will fight them,” said one teenager with a purple scar on his chin. “They are the enemy,” he said and launched into a long explanation of America’s goal to occupy Muslim lands and undermine Islam. I’ve heard the same speech from Cairo to Lebanon, Baghdad to Riyadh. God bless the Internet.

A few minutes later my driver/fixer, a very tough guy from a very tough part of Pakistan, tapped me on the shoulder.

“I think you have been here long enough,” he said. It was time to go.

But I still hadn’t seen any Taliban.

Malik suggested we go deeper into the slum, to the neighborhood right under the cliffs and quarries. He was nervous about taking a foreigner, but had an idea. There was a graveyard in the area.

“We can pretend to be offering prayers for the dead,” Malik suggested. “I’ll pray over one of the graves and you can see the neighborhood for yourself.”

Malik said praying at a gravesite would give us an excuse to be in the area and raise less suspicion.

It didn’t exactly work. As soon as I stepped out of the jeep by the gravestones, I was again surrounded by a group of people. They didn’t have weapons or appear threatening, but didn’t attempt to hide their sympathies for the Taliban. One man proudly told me several suicide bombers had prayed in a nearby mosque.

But others were scared of the Taliban. A man who spoke English told me the Taliban were in control of the area.

“Do the Pakistani police or soldiers ever come here?” I asked him. “No, they can’t come here.”

“How do people feel here?”

“We are all frightened. The Taliban has taken over.”

More men, athletically built in their 20s and 30s, started to arrive.

“Who are these people?” I asked the English speaker.

“They are Taliban.”

“Do they understand what we are saying? Do they understand English?”

“No, but you shouldn’t stay here. It is not comfortable here. You should not be here.”

“Who runs this neighborhood?”

“They do.”

The new arrivals didn’t want to be interviewed.

“Stop asking them questions,” the English speaker advised.

We left a few minutes later.

“We couldn’t come here at night,” Malik said as we were driving out of the neighborhood. “Now we had an excuse to come to the graveyard. But at night, there would be no reason to be here.”

Both of these reports point to the same thing, even if in different ways.  The campaign is in deep trouble when the main route for supplies, ordnance and fuel is in trouble. If the Taliban have their way, Karachi will not be hospitable for very much longer. Causing a diminution of Taliban capabilities and turning the tide of the campaign is very important, and it’s important to do so in a timely manner.

Red Dawn

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

For war movie aficionados, Red Dawn was much more than entertainment and story-telling. It was in some ways profound military, moral and geopolitical commentary. For this reason it’s possible for Jonah Goldberg at the National Review to maintain interest in this subject throughout a number of posts, amounting to a discussion thread concerning a war movie (admittedly a B grade movie from Hollywood’s perspective) on a major and well visited blog. It just isn’t possible adequately to summarize or reproduce the beginnings of the thread or its evolution (you can find the posts here, here, here and here). But the last one stands out as needing a response. A few salient quotes follow.

I hate the Soviets as much as the next guy. Well, actually much, MUCH more than the next guy since I actually had to live there for 25 years. Unlike you, I actually took an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic (during my naturalization ceremony). And unlike you, I actually voted for Milius (for NRA board). But I am less enthusiastic about the “Red Dawn” than a lot of your readers …

Some sentiments are very boneheaded. Remember the scene where a Soviet detachment tried to sneak upon Wolverines using a tracking device carried by the mayor’s son? They were defeated and the captured prisoners executed. In response to their mention of the Geneva Convention Patrick Swayze says “Never heard of it”. That’s just a callous answer and a much better one would explain that systemic Soviet violations of the Convention (depicted earlier in the movie) legally made the Convention non-binding for the American side too. Furthermore, when one of the Wolverines asks “What’s the difference between us and them?”, Swayze replies “We live here”. This is just monumentally stupid. By this logic in 1945 the Nazis were morally superior to everybody else because they were fighting on their own territory. I’m afraid this dialog will be repeated verbatim in the remake -
only the point will be made by the Taliban or by the Iraqi members of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Well, perhaps so, and perhaps there is no possibility that the remake of Red Dawn can ever be anything other than morally indignant given its origins in Hollywood. But this response above, while taking on the appearances of moral superiority, fails in one major aspect of ethics. It assumes that something, some action, some position taken by the U.S., cannot ring true because of its very origins, or have any deontological import regardless of the apparent ease with which the moral equivalence argument is invoked.

Let’s admit right up front that perhaps Swayze should have said something like “we are Americans and they aren’t” rather than “we live here.” It would have been better and easier to defend. But we shouldn’t expect too much from High School students, and his answer is good enough for a dialogue starter. At least he gets the sentiment correct. He doesn’t flounder in inaction and hand wringing over his moral right to defend himself and his family and friends.

Evil and excess will announce it’s presence in every endeavor given man’s moral turpitude. The fact that the U.S. has had some breaches of ethics in our history (very few of them, in fact) doesn’t make us comparable to the Soviets any more than it makes al Qaeda comparable to American fighters in the war for independence. Location is irrelevant; the theoretical framework for the action is everything.

Still need more? Okay. Let’s try this. Robert Kaplan’s magnificent book Imperial Grunts has a stunning introduction entitled “Injun Country” (one cannot claim to understand the global war on terror before reading this volume). It’s a very erudite discussion of the roots of imperial defense of the homeland, and not just for Great Britain. It’s orientation is America, and her defense began soon after she was a country by ensuring that her battles were on the periphery of the domain (or beyond).

The turn of the century found the United States with bases and base rights in fifty-nine countries and overseas territories, with troops on deployments from Greenland to Nigeria, and from Norway to Singapore. Even before the 9/11 attacks, special operations command was conducting operations in 170 counties per year. Defense of the realm is not a new phenomenon in American history.

The moral equivalence argument, if one wants to make it, is easier than simply pointing to a comment in Red Dawn. It’s also dumb given the profound differences between the U.S. and the Soviets. The Soviets wanted to control the world, just as Hitler did. Their aspirations involved complete domination, and no amount of adherence to rules of engagement, law of armed conflict or various conventions would have made them noble.

Conversely, the U.S. has never even once entertained the idea of ownership of the wealth of nations conquered during war or rule over her people. Even now the U.S. is spending wealth defending South Korea so that it can pursue its ridiculous “sunshine diplomacy,” and gives Japan an umbrella of protection so that she doesn’t have to go nuclear to ensure a defense against China. Do you doubt it? Jettison the umbrella of protection and see how fast Japan develops nuclear weapons. Also consider the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom against a backdrop of the U.S. acquiescing to the notion of negotiations with Iraq to achieve a SOFA (status of forces agreement) for future presence of troops.

The U.S. has been a force for good in the world, and the Soviets have been a force for evil. The inability (or refusal) to acknowledge this is why Hollywood will never create a movie about Iraq or Afghanistan that does well as the box office. It’s also why, in the words of one individual with whom I have discussed these ideas, “it took me a while thinking about it, but after reading your posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that we and the Georgians are right and the Russians are wrong, simply because that’s the way it is. We are Americans and they aren’t. They are Russians. We have a right to defend our homeland overseas, and Russia doesn’t because they are an evil regime.” Sure, one can argue that the noblest intention can be marred by morally ugly actions carrying out those intentions, but that’s a reason to change those ugly actions, not the intentions or the campaigns.

While one may argue for isolationism and against intervention overseas due to various reasons (not the least of which is that there are unintended consequences to such actions), there are also unintended consequences to failure to act. For those who wish for complete disengagement overseas, they should be careful what they wish for. Battling jihadists on American soil may mean witnessing this evil in real time, with fighters gunning down women and children in shopping malls, suicide bombers at large industrial complexes and buildings, destroyed electrical grids and poisoned water supplies.

America learned long ago (at the time of expansion into the Western frontier) to defend her homeland by ensuring that her battles took place elsewhere. She also learned in short order not to make stupid moral equivalence arguments concerning men and regimes who intended evil for others.

Why we can’t negotiate with the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Rosie Dimanno has covered Marine operations in the Helmand Province, and four months ago The Captain’s Journal said we like Rosie. She has it going on – she gets it. Concerning negotiations with the Taliban, Rosie tells us just what the scoop is.

There’s really no excuse, in these days of instant reporting verification, to misquote or misrepresent a quote.

Unless, of course, the intention is to manipulate and deceive.

This is what Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith, the man in charge of Britain’s 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, said last weekend: “We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.

“We may well leave with there being a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency.”

Carleton-Smith called for negotiations with the Taliban.

“If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that’s precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this.”

It’s nothing that hasn’t been said before. Indeed, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has, for the past three years, urged Taliban leaders to join him in dialogue – provided they accept Afghanistan’s new constitution and denounce violence. The Taliban has disdainfully declined.

They just keep killing, both troops and civilians. In recent months, the neo-Taliban has particularly targeted female aid workers, female-owned small businesses, female teachers.

In so doing, they can pluck out two thorns with one blast: Women who don’t know their place (indoors, under a burqa) and anyone trying to alleviate the misery of Afghan civilians.

The insurgents – more closely associated with Al Qaeda than at any time since pre-2001 – do not negotiate. The militants aren’t interested in securing more Pashtun representation in government. This isn’t political.

It’s about reversing any incremental gains Afghanistan has made since the Taliban was ousted. It’s about imposing, as before, the most narrow, oppressive and isolating of Islamist theocracy on an exhausted citizenry.

This is just what we have been saying for months now. The Anbaris weren’t religiously motivated jihadists, and thus siding with the U.S. was not only in their best interests, but inevitable given the relentless Marine operations in Anbar.

The Taliban are persuaded to fight for other reasons, there is insufficient force projection in Afghanistan, and Rosie is right. Calls for negotiations are not new, and in fact, negotiations themselves are not new, if you count negotiations as effeminate pleading by Hamid Karzai. Just as there have been “talks” with the Iranians for 25 years (contrary to the claims of the surrender-ists), there have been pleas by Hamid Karzai and his ilk for several years for the Taliban to end the violence. They have declined and will continue to do so.


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