Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

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

FOB Frontenac: Arghandab River Valley

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

In this May 20, 2010 photo, U.S. Army Stryker vehicles kick up dust as they roll across a rocky road to pick up troops from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade who were on patrol in the Shah Wali Kot district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Twenty-two men in the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of 800 died in a yearlong Afghan tour ending this summer. Most were killed last year in the Arghandab, a gateway to the southern city of Kandahar. About 70 were injured, all but two in bomb blasts. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The AP has a report up on 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade that bears some thought (Google news rarely if ever maintains their news URLs indefinitely; for another URL see The Washington Post).  The article reads much like a journal, but some salient points are lifted out and reproduced below.  I will provide running commentary, with a summary at the end.

Twenty-two men in the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of 800 died in a yearlong Afghan tour ending this summer. Most were killed last year in the Arghandab, a gateway to the southern city of Kandahar. About 70 were injured, all but two in bomb blasts.

The death toll was one of the highest in the Afghan war, and the tough fight in the Arghandab drew the attention of America’s leaders. President Obama was photographed saluting the coffin of one of the soldiers on arrival in the United States. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told soldiers at their base in March that their efforts had helped push back the Taliban.

However, the battalion failed to dislodge insurgent cells entirely. A similar outcome is emerging in the southern town of Marjah after a bigger operation led by U.S. Marines in February. An even larger campaign is unfolding in Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital …

The battalion is part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which originally trained for urban combat in Iraq. But the mission changed in the final months of training, and the brigade’s 130 Arabic students took a crash course in Pashto, the language of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic community.

As a reading of the category Language in COIN will demonstrate, this last paragraph is simply exaggeration.  The Brigade didn’t have 130 Arabic “students.”  They might have had 130 or more Soldiers who had been given short classes in basic Arabic, focused on Phonetics, and rehearsing key phrases important to certain tactical tasks, but they didn’t have Arabic “students.”  The language training is so poor that little was lost, whether they went to Iraq or Afghanistan.

… the battalion had very little intelligence. The soldiers didn’t know it, but they faced an entrenched enemy willing to stand and fight for a sliver of territory vital to the Taliban’s goal of seizing Kandahar. They needed more manpower …

“You can’t get from one side of the river to the other easily. You can’t do anything on vehicles,” Neumann said. “We didn’t know it was going to be saturated with enemy. Nobody was tracking that it was a Taliban sanctuary.”

These last paragraphs are spot on.  Intelligence has routinely failed the Army and Marines, and the deployment of a Stryker Brigade in an area not amenable to the vehicle is absurd.  Such blunders touch on rudimentary logistics, planning and knowledge base of the mission.  The Stryker Soldiers should have been humping 120 pounds of gear up hills for 20 miles in preparation for this deployment, not sitting in situationally worthless fighter vehicles.

One September night, two dozen suspected insurgents appeared with bags around an American post, then pushed into the orchards before dawn. Coalition rules of engagement barred the Americans from opening fire unless there was obvious hostile intent.

The paltry role of Afghan forces was also frustrating. Chaplain Lewis, a 37-year-old father of four from San Diego, California, once boarded a Stryker with two Americans who survived an IED strike. In back were two Afghan soldiers, one of whom had shot himself in the foot. A commander told Lewis: “Keep an eye on those two. Make sure their weapons remain on safe.”

We’re going to have to forget the Afghan National Army if we are going to focus in winning the campaign.  As for the incident above, the Soldiers should have immediately descended upon the insurgents, hazed them, muzzle-thumped them, and held them until they obtained the information they wanted.  The effeminate can cry a river over my barbaric counsel, but failure to implement harder tactics likely cost American lives.

It was hard to separate civilians from insurgents. On village patrols, the Americans probably shook hands with unarmed fighters. The battalion struggled for traction in civil outreach. One platoon delivered a generator on a pallet outside a medical clinic; gunmen shot holes in it overnight …

Grousing is common in any army, but a deeper resentment brewed in the 1-17. In November, brigade chief Col. Harry Tunnell replaced Capt. Joel Kassulke of Charlie Company, which had suffered the most deaths — 12 men — of the four companies.

The soldiers fumed. They thought the captain was made a scapegoat.

In December, the battalion took a new mission to secure area highways. Fighting had ebbed, and a unit from the 82nd Airborne Division took over most of the Arghandab. Some 1-17 soldiers were emotional — they thought they were winning, and felt defeat at leaving.

A month later, an Army Times newspaper article included assertions by Charlie Company junior leaders that they had not trained adequately for the Afghan mission, and that the battalion had not focused enough on civilian concerns.

Neumann said civil development was hardly the first option in a heavy combat zone, but acknowledged he could have done more to convey command thinking down the chain. As for Kassulke’s transfer, he said, the brigade command believed the man and the company were close to a “breaking point” and needed change.

“That was a bitter pill for that company to swallow,” Neumann said. The Army Times article, he said, “tore at the fiber of this unit and I was proud that we shook that off too.”

I have read in full the Army Times article in which Staff Sergeant Jason Hughes figures so prominently.  Color me unpersuaded and unimpressed.  A generator gets delivered, and its gets shot to hell.  So much for reconstruction and civilian concerns while killers are on the loose.

The Stryker Brigade was unprepared alright, but not because of what Staff Sergeant Hughes charges.  They were not trained to the terrain in Afghanistan because they were not intended to go there.  That failure belongs with senior leadership, i.e., above Colonel, not the Brigade command.  As for training in COIN, my coverage and commentary on Wanat and Kamdesh shows that it’s best to focus on kinetics and force projection before the population and good governance.

In this manner, the advocates of population-centric COIN (in their higher chain of command) also failed the Brigade.  They have lost twenty two men in the quest to secure the terrain of the population.  They should have been pursuing and killing the enemy.  If they had done so, maybe by now they would have been sitting in homes drinking chai and discussing grievances.  First things first, as they say.

Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Missed by much (or most) of the media, the Obama administration published a new National Security Strategy.  I would otherwise have attempted to conduct a serious review of said strategy, but it isn’t a serious document.  It talks about the American commitment to the two-state solution, while ignoring the fact that Palestinians are increasingly rejecting the two-state solution.  The strategy document discusses the fact that America will underwrite international or global security, while ignoring the fact that we are flat broke and in need of printing more money in order to pay our debts.

The strategy waxes almost poetic concerning the prevention of nuclear proliferation, while at the same time we have implemented the most weak-kneed, pitiful, powerless and naive strategy concerning Iran since the Carter administration.  Iran will go nuclear during this administration’s watch and under the purview of this national security strategy.  The strategy document goes on about our commitment to human rights, just after Obama bowed to the Chinese Premier (the monster who continues to implement the forced abortion policy in China), and while we also ignore the possibility of a Northern logistics route for Afghanistan because of human rights violations in Turkmenistan.

Then there is this wonderful statement on page 8.  “Climate change and pandemic disease threaten the security of regions and the health and safety of the American people.”  Well there you have it.  Anthropogenic global warming poses a national security threat – after the revelations of complete falsification of data in the presumed intellectual power centers of the AGW religion.

The new national security strategy promotes a just and sustainable international order:

Our engagement will underpin a just and sustainable international order—just, because it advances mutual interests, protects the rights of all, and holds accountable those who refuse to meet their responsibilities; sustainable because it is based on broadly shared norms and fosters collective action to address common challenges.

Don’t trust my analysis.  You can go read the document for yourself (grab a stout cup of coffee first – or maybe a stout beer).  But it reads like it was written by a college sophomore in international studies for a contest named “Imagine: Tribute to John Lennon – What Do You Want the World to Look Like When You Grow Up?”

McChrystal Calls Marjah a Bleeding Ulcer

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

From Military.com:

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, sat gazing at maps of Marjah as a Marine battalion commander asked him for more time to oust Taliban fighters from a longtime stronghold in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

“You’ve got to be patient,” Lt. Col. Brian Christmas told McChrystal. “We’ve only been here 90 days.”

“How many days do you think we have before we run out of support by the international community?” McChrystal replied.

A charged silence settled in the stuffy, crowded chapel tent at the Marine base in the Marjah district.

“I can’t tell you, sir,” the tall, towheaded, Fort Bragg, N.C., native finally answered.

“I’m telling you,” McChrystal said. “We don’t have as many days as we’d like.”

The operation in Marjah is supposed to be the first blow in a decisive campaign to oust the Taliban from their spiritual homeland in adjacent Kandahar province, one that McChrystal had hoped would bring security and stability to Marjah and begin to convey an “irreversible sense of momentum” in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Instead, a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy Newspapers had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Obama’s plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war.

There aren’t enough U.S. and Afghan forces to provide the security that’s needed to win the loyalty of wary locals. The Taliban have beheaded Afghans who cooperate with foreigners in a creeping intimidation campaign. The Afghan government hasn’t dispatched enough local administrators or trained police to establish credible governance, and now the Taliban have begun their anticipated spring offensive.

“This is a bleeding ulcer right now,” McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.

“You don’t feel it here,” he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, “but I’ll tell you, it’s a bleeding ulcer outside.”

Throughout the day, McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he’s under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress.

Is this a bad joke or a sorry episode of The Twilight Zone?  It’s a serious question.  Names are supplied, so the author apparently doesn’t mind us fact-checking him.  Is this report for real?  Did McChrystal really say those things and interact with another officer in this manner?  Seriously?  This is an important milestone in the campaign.  Apparently, we now know the real expectations for the campaign.  No one can seriously continue to claim that the withdrawal date is a mere ruse for the American public.  They really believe it.  They really intend for it to obtain.

Did General McChrystal not cover the basics of classical counterinsurgency doctrine with his civilian bosses?  Did he or any of his reports mislead the administration into believing that Marjah or any other town in Afghanistan would be pacified in 90 days?  Did he or his reports – or anyone in the administration – really believe that this government ex machina we brought to Marjah would work?

Forgetting classical counterinsurgency doctrine which normally presumes that COIN will take ten or even more years, for anyone who has been listening and watching for the past several years, the most successful part of the campaign in Iraq, i.e., the Anbar Province, took about three and a half years from the inception of Operation Al Fajr until late 2007 when Fallujah was finally stable at the conclusion of Operation Alljah.

Security in Ramadi preceded Fallujah slightly, Haditha preceded Ramadi by a little and Al Qaim was secure before Haditha.  But the whole of the Anbar Province took over three years and the efforts of the best fighting force on earth, the U.S. Marine Corps, in which more than 1000 Marines perished and many more were wounded or maimed.  No one in his right mind would claim that the U.S. Marine Corps did not understand or implement a successful strategy in the Anbar Province, where the Marines had to fight their way through an indigenous insurgency (finally co-opting their services) to get to the 80-100 foreign fighters per month flowing across the Syrian border.  Iraq is still not entirely stable, and its security will be a direct function of the extent to which we confront Iran in its quest for regional hegemony.

This report is so bizarre, so jaw dropping, and so disturbing, that it naturally leads to many other very important questions.  Does McChrystal believe that the COIN operations will be successfully concluded within a year or even a year plus a few months?  Did he communicate that to the administration?  If so, does the administration believe it?  Was time frame ever brought up?  Did the administration simply lay down expectations without reference to historical precedent for successful COIN campaigns and without asking General McChrystal?

The notion that Marjah is a bleeding ulcer is preposterous when compared to Ramadi in 2006 or Fallujah in 2007.  Someone or some group is not thinking clearly, and this lack of clarity may be the doom of the campaign when it finally becomes apparent to everyone else that we are in the “long war.”  It will not be finished for a long time to come, even if America stands down.  The enemy gets the final vote.

1200 National Guard Troops to Arizona-Mexico Border

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Obama plans to send up to 1200 National Guard troops to the Arizona-Mexico border.  It’s important to realize what this is – and what it isn’t.  The solution to immigration is rather simple,  but involves actions that we deem too painful.  I have pointed out before that piracy exists because we want it to.  Rather, we want it more than we want to implement the solution (which we deem to be too violent for our sensibilities).  The same holds true for illegal immigration.

One such cornerstone in the undoing of illegal immigration is to imprison the CEOs of companies who hire illegal aliens.  Add to this the imprisonment of those who hire illegals as nannies, house workers, and gardeners, and those construction superintendents who drop by Home Depot or Lowe’s early in the morning to pick up their workers, and we will begin to make a dent in the illegal population in the U.S.

But illegal immigrants is big business in America.  It is a form of corporate welfare.  Rather than pay for benefits, the cheap CEOs (and construction superintendents) can rely on the U.S. taxpayers (and medical insurance premium payers) to pay them for him.  It’s a win-lose arrangement.  The CEO wins and the taxpayer loses.  There are even seminars that teach these cheap CEOs how to get away with it.

But there is another supremely important issue for border enforcement, one that has gotten scant attention.  It has to do with whether the National Guard can in any way really help the border guards, and in fact, whether the border guards themselves can even do their job.  When National Guardsmen were deployed to the border before, they were attacked and overrun by a small army on the payroll of the drug lords.  They weren’t even allowed to fire warning shots according to the rules for the use of force.

The war on the Southern border is being treated as an exercise in law enforcement, and the stipulations of the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner 471 U.S. 1 (1985) apply.  Deadly force can only be used in self defense, and thus did Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean serve time in prison (until their sentences were commuted by President Bush) for shooting a known drug dealer who was both threatening these two former border guards and fleeing arrest.

Whether one agrees with the SCOTUS decision, its application on the border with hundreds of thousands of illegals flowing across combined with a heavily armed drug army is dubious at the very best.  There simply aren’t enough border agents or National Guard troops to effect arrest by hand – chasing and apprehending them without deadly force – while following the stipulations of decisions intended for U.S. citizens.  The flow of immigrants across the border must be treated as an invasion, and until it is, there will be no effect on the problem.

We can equivocate until there is no more border, we can legislate until the lawyers cannot decipher it.  There are even those who do not care.  But among those who do, there is nothing – NOTHING – these 1200 National Guardsmen can do.  Their presence is mere window dressing as pointed out by Michelle Malkin.  It is for appearance, and the hemorrhaging at the border will continue unabated.

Reintegrating the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

From The New York Times:

MIAN POSHTEH, Afghanistan — The young Taliban prisoner was led blindfolded to a sweltering military tent, seated among 17 village elders and then, eyes uncovered, faced a chief accuser brandishing a document with the elders’ signatures or thumbprints.

Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a United States Marine commander who was acting as the prosecutor, told the prisoner: “This letter right here is a sworn pledge from all of your elders that they’re vouching for you and that you will never support the Taliban or fight for the Taliban ever again.”

After a half-hour “trial,” the captain rendered the group’s judgment on the silent prisoner, Juma Khan, 23, whom the Marines had seized after finding a bomb trigger device, ammunition and opium buried in his yard. Mr. Khan’s father and grandfather, who was one of the elders, were among the group. “So on behalf of peace, your family, your grandfather,” Captain Cuomo solemnly said, “we’re going to let you go.”

Thus was justice dispensed on a recent Saturday evening, deep in the Taliban heartland of the Helmand River Valley, where the theory behind the American effort to “reintegrate” the enemy meets the ambiguous reality of a nearly decade-old war.

Captain Cuomo, a 32-year-old Annapolis graduate from Long Island who is not related to the New York political family, acknowledged the hazards of the trial and others like it unfolding in Afghanistan. “Do I know that Juma Khan is not going to turn back around and be the Taliban?” he said. “No.” Nonetheless the effort is proceeding.

Even as Washington and Kabul debate their plans to reconcile with senior members of the Taliban, military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan are reintegrating insurgent foot soldiers on their own. The reason is simple, Captain Cuomo said: While Marines are “trained to fight, and we don’t mind fighting, the problem with fighting is that it doesn’t bring stability to your home.”

Six days after Mr. Khan’s May 1 release, another Marine commander, Capt. Jason C. Brezler, got pledges from 25 former insurgents to sign up as police recruits in the northern Helmand village of Soorkano. A week later in Marja, where clashes between the Marines and the Taliban continue in the wake of an American offensive there in February, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas released two young men who admitted to fighting for the Taliban, after the pair and two elders signed pledges promising the men would not fight again.

Acting under military guidelines aimed at persuading low-level fighters to lay down their arms, commanders repeat the mantra that the United States will never kill its way to victory in Afghanistan. They say that in a counterinsurgency war intended to win over the population, reintegration is crucial because the Taliban are woven so deeply into the social fabric of the country.

Ridiculous mantra, this idea that we cannot kill our way to victory.  Now, it may be more complicated than that, where at least some cooperation from the population is necessary in order to identify the insurgents, but people cooperate for all sorts of reasons.  I reject the idea that poverty or disenfranchisement in and of itself creates insurgents.  There are countless poverty-stricken countries in the world where large scale insurgencies do not exist, Bangladesh being one of them.

Our experience in the Anbar Province demonstrates that the most effective order of things is for the insurgents themselves to decide to put down arms because it becomes too dangerous for them.  When it is certain death to continue the fight, the end is near.  In this case the end is nowhere to be found because the proper force projection has not been in effect.

If Juma Khan had decided on his own to reintegrate and had approached the U.S. Marines about doing so, then it would be more persuasive than this display, sincere though it is (on the part of the Marines).  Where has this ever happened?  It happened in the Anbar Province many times.  During Operation Alljah in Fallujah in 2007, the Marine brought such force to Fallujah that the foreign fighters died (or fled North to Mosul), while the indigenous insurgents gave up and returned home, many of them to al Qaim where local elders vouched for their future lawful conduct.

Both accounts involve local elders vouching and making promises, but it is only one instance of these two examples where the insurgents themselves approached the government or U.S. Marines.  We want to take the milestones in successful COIN and move them up in date to meet our own wishes without adequate commitment and forces.  It simply won’t work.

Revisiting Kamdesh: The Sellout of COP Keating and What it Can Teach Us

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post penned an article on the buildup to the disaster at COP Keating that got little attention.  The entire history is worth study, but several quotes are lifted out (and certainly out of context) in order to make important observations that aren’t dissimilar to those I have made for four years.

Just before 6 a.m., more than 300 insurgents launched a massive attack on Bundermann’s remote outpost in the Kamdesh district of northeastern Afghanistan. By 6:30 three of Bundermann’s soldiers were dead, and the Apache attack helicopters he desperately wanted weren’t going to arrive for another half hour …

The outpost, surrounded by soaring mountains on all sides, was isolated and hard to defend. “It felt like we were living in the bottom of a Dixie cup,” one of Brown’s soldiers said …

Attacks on U.S. forces had increased every year since Keating was established in 2006, and by summer 2009 Brown concluded that the presence of U.S. troops was feeding the insurgency.  His study of the local rebel factions had led him to believe that a U.S. withdrawal from the area would split the insurgency …

Brown also asked for Sadiq’s “wisdom.” “We need assistance from leaders like you that are able to reach out and encourage the people of Kamdesh to cease the violence and oust the Taliban,” he wrote. He offered to meet with Sadiq whenever it was convenient and promised him protection …

The next morning, Afghan villagers approached Keating’s main gate and asked for permission to collect their dead from the base and a nearby village. Brown gave the Afghans some body bags and told them to stay off the high ground where the U.S. forces were still dropping bombs to take out snipers.

The next two days were spent packing up equipment and rigging the outpost’s remaining buildings with explosives. After nightfall on Oct. 6, a half dozen Chinook helicopters flew into Keating and hauled away the troops. Brown climbed on the last bird. As he was leaving, engineers triggered the delayed fuses on the explosives. Forty minutes later Keating was in flames. A B-1 bomber finished the job the next day.

Brown typed up an e-mail cataloguing mistakes he made in failing to build up the outpost’s defenses in the months before the planned withdrawal. He sent it to his boss, his fellow battalion commanders and the two-star general assigned to conduct an investigation of the attack. The letter of reprimand the general wrote to Brown closely tracked the e-mail.

Alone in his office a few weeks after the attack Brown re-read the letter he had sent to Sadiq in September. It made him cringe.

“I was playing to his ego. But reading it over, it sounds like I was kissing his ass from a position of weakness,” Brown said months later. He paused and exhaled. “We certainly weren’t operating from a position of strength.”

The importance of terrain has been an ongoing theme in our coverage of Kamdesh and Wanat, but in spite of the experiences at VPB Kahler at Wanat, the COP Keating Soldiers were left to tough it out in terrain that almost ensured their demise.  We are not a learning organization.  Moreover, the first close air support was at least one hour from the battle, and there was no artillery.  This shows once again that the campaign is underresourced.

The  notion that coalition presence was feeding the insurgency was the horrible and cowardly excuse proffered by the British commanders when they left Basra (the follow-on activity as you will recall was of the U.S. and ISF engaging in heavy battle to defeat the Shi’a militias while the British watched from their bases).  If Col. Brown had studied the history of Iraq as he had claimed, he would have more quickly dismissed the notion of the counterinsurgents being the fuel for the insurgency as mere fodder for withdrawal and defeat.

Finally, “ass kissing” is the about the best explanation possible for this pusillanimous letter to a loser like Sadiq.  The lesson of the Anbar Province is one winning from the position of strength (see also Col. MacFarland’s comments on Ramadi).  Force Projection, the importance of terrain, the importance of close air support and artillery, and the importance of the position of strength in counterinsurgency – these things are not only common themes here at The Captain’s Journal, they are the foundations of success.

Prior:

Taliban Massing of Forces

Wanat Category

Kamdesh Category

The Anbar Narrative

U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Patrolling With No Rounds Chambered in Weapons?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

On his Facebook page, Michael Yon is reporting that “An American soldier emailed from Afghanistan saying that his unit has been ordered to patrol with no round in the chamber.”  There is no further confirmation than this, and I have not done my own independent confirmation.  But let’s assume for a moment the accuracy of this report.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., calls ordering this practice criminally negligent.  I disagree.  There is nothing negligent about it.  If this order has been given, it is criminal.  Negligent means that there was no intent to endanger, and that is clearly not the case.  Whomever ordered this intends for the troops to be at increased risk.  It is an intentional act, a dispositive action.  The commanding officer is disposing of the issue of troop risk by increasing it, and he knows it.

But what’s so stunning about this is how far we have evolved from the things we learned in Iraq where we were successful.  Note again how different this is from the very things that succeeded in the hardest parts of the counterinsurgency.  I talked to a certain Marine who said something like the following concerning his time in Fallujah in 2007.

“First of all, we employed aggressive ROE, which is why we dominated Fallujah so completely and quickly from the deadly chaos that it was under a different unit early in 2007.  This aggressive ROE saved lives – ours and theirs.  But as to the issue of weapon status, here it is.  When we went on patrol, we had:

  1. Bolt forward
  2. Round in chamber
  3. Magazine inserted
  4. Weapon on safe

Obviously, since the SAW is an open-bolt weapon, the exact same rules could not apply (bolt forward), but a round was always chambered.  He further said that “Marines got hazed if they were found without a round in the chamber,” and that this stupid rule would get troops killed.

Enough said.

UPDATE: I just received the following communication from LTC Tadd Sholtis.

“Herschel,

Headquarters ISAF, the ISAF Joint Command and the Regional Commands have not issued guidance to units instructing them to conduct patrols without rounds chambered.  Force protection levels are dictated by the local threats and determined by commanders at the lowest possible tactical level, so without knowing the specific unit from which this report came I can’t verify with absolute certainty that verbal or written guidance has not been issued locally.  But the intent to subordinate commanders should be clear.  At no time do we remove our troops’ inherent rights of self-defense, and we are confident that their training and discipline allows them to use force discriminately within the rules of engagement.  We’d welcome information from anyone who has a problem with the way guidance is being implemented that they haven’t been able to address with their immediate chain of command.”

CNAS Report: America’s Extended Hand

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

The Center for a New American Security has issued a report (h/t Blackfive) entitled America’s Extended Hand: Assessing the Obama Administration’s Global Engagement Strategy.  More on that shortly.

Recall the ineptitude, blunders and poor judgment we have discussed recently regarding the Obama administration and its foreign policy.  The administration has chosen to work with criminal and gangster Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar in the belief that they can change him.  In Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy Part II we discussed how Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and even the UAE are so certain that our “diplomatic” efforts with Iran will fail to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons that they have all begun pursuing nuclear power programs in earnest (as predecessors to a nuclear weapons program).  Iran is increasingly aggressive in the region.  An Iranian aircraft buzzed the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower as reported by the Navy Times, and I reported that “During the 2008 deployment of the 26th MEU, an Iranian helicopter all but landed on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima.  The Marines could almost touch it from a standing position on the deck, but no actions were taken.  The Navy refused to allow the Marines to fire on the aircraft.”

In spite of recommendations to seriously engage the Caucasus region, we have snubbed our allies in Georgia (in spite of their having sent the Georgian 31st Infantry Battalion to assist us in Afghanistan)  and most recently it appears that we are losing Azerbaijan.  “Azerbaijan’s long-standing alignment with the United States is rapidly unraveling in the wake of Washington’s recent policy initiatives. As perceived from Baku, those US initiatives fly in the face of Azerbaijan’s staunch support over the years to US strategic interests and policies in the South Caucasus-Caspian region.”  Read the entire sad and depressing Jamestown report.

Just today it was reported that:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, said Wednesday that if Israel attacked Iran it would be destroyed within a week.

Speaking at a political conference of ultra-conservatives in Iran’s north, Mashaei said, “If the Zionist regime attacks Iran, the Zionists will have no longer than a week to live.”

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying that the Islamic Republic would destroy Israel “in less than 10 days”.

On his visit to Saudi Arabia he then claimed that “the annihilation of Israel should be a global goal.”  The additional instances are too difficult and time consuming to catalog – from our “ally” Russia attempting to undermine our presence at the Manas air base (ending this fiasco cost us a fortune) to Obama’s ghastly and dreadful West Point speech on Afghanistan, to the refusal to fund the reliable replacement warhead program, to the decision to grant Russian inspectors full access to our nuclear weapons sites, to the idea that we can find moderate elements of Hezbollah.  Exhaustion prevents me from completing the matrix of all of the gaffes, blunders, screw-ups, ill-conceived notions, and failed policies.

Now to the CNAS report.  The money quotes are given below.

We conclude that, in many ways, the Obama administration has achieved its initial objective of “re-starting” America’s relationship with the world. The administration clearly understands the importance of dialogue and of listening to foreign publics, and it is attempting to incor­porate a sensitivity to public opinion into its foreign policy decision making and translate public support into political leverage …

America’s global standing was in tatters due to an unpopular war in Iraq, a perception of unbridled American unilateralism and charges that the United States hypocritically advanced democ­racy abroad while compromising democratic values at home.

The folks at CNAS aren’t stupid; they just comprehend the world differently than do I.  But this comprehension is so ideologically skewed and out of touch with reality it makes their work literally unusable.  Time will be brutal to “scholarship” such as this.  When Iran goes nuclear, reports like this will be trumpeted to show how naive this kind of research is.  When Israel has to go it alone and war comes to the Middle East, my (and Michael Ledeen’s) advocacy for regime change (and my advocacy for fomenting an internal insurgency) will look like a cake walk compared to the mess we are left with, and much less violent and convulsive.  When Russia invades Georgia again on their way to relieve their bases in Armenia, we will look stupid and weak in our alliance with the mobster Putin (and even more ignorant if we award the tanker contract to EADS, a company in which Vladimir Putin owns a significant part).

With scholarship like this, CNAS is simply irrelevant.  They will have neither a positive nor a negative impact on policy.  The studies they are producing lack seriousness and gravitas.

Will Kurdistan Save Iraq?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Omar Fadhil sees the Maliki-Hakim-Sadr alliance as shaky.  Perhaps he is right, and while he sees Maliki as being at a crossroads, I still have serious doubts as to the future security and independence of Iraq (independence from Iran).  Maliki’s “Hail Mary” pass on the vote recount has found no fraud.

In an embarrassing rejection of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s efforts to overturn his rival’s lead in Iraq’s inconclusive parliamentary election, a laborious manual recount of votes in Baghdad has turned up no evidence of electoral fraud and will not change the final outcome, officials said Friday.

The recount was ordered nearly a month ago after Maliki’s Shiite-dominated electoral slate alleged that as many as 750,000 ballots had been manipulated, with the worst violations occurring in Baghdad.

Had the allegations been upheld, the recount could have eroded the two-seat lead of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s faction. Allawi, a secular Shiite supported by Sunni Arabs, is claiming the right to form the next government as the head of the largest, if not majority, bloc in parliament.

Not finished yet, the duplicitous, lying and treacherous Ahmad Chalabi and the so-called Iraq “Justice Commission” intend to keep pursuing their political opponents in spite of being shut down by a panel of Iraqi judges.  Whether they  continue down this path or not, the entire effort is a front for Iranian interests, and everyone knows it.

The U.S. Marines are no longer in Anbar, and the balance of the U.S. forces are no longer effective in Iraq, because of the Status of Forces Agreement.  Confined to their bases with requirements to ask permission even to move outside the wire, they cannot assess atmospherics or gain intelligence.  They are effectively shut down except for training or assistance when requested by the ISF.  Security has degraded, and the ISF still relies on the U.S. for logistics, supplies, transportation and maintenance.  We are in the strange position of being Santa Claus without any authority over any aspect of the situation on the ground, both preventing the ISF evolution and maturity to a legitimate military force and watching as things unravel.

Abe Greenwald (h/t Michael Totten blogging at Instapundit) gives us a more optimistic picture in Kurdistan, a necessary read for anyone interested in Iraq.

The Kurds of the area known as the Kurdish Regional Government want to secure a free, democratic, and thriving Kurdistan. They are on their way to pulling it off. Personal safety here (where I am a guest of the KRG) is a given, so that most of the time, you forget you’re in Iraq. Parts of Erbil resemble Miami, Florida. There are rows of manicured palm trees, bustling retail strips, car dealerships, and everywhere the organized rubble of construction …

Praise for America is ubiquitous. The Kurdish foreign minister told my group matter-of-factly, “It was your men and women, in uniform who shed blood, who overthrew Saddam.” I heard a group of smart Kurdish students cite chapter and verse on American exceptionalism.

The Kurdish nation is bound to America like few others. Kurdish hopes for autonomy — after a history of being the victims of ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter — first became a precarious reality when George H.W. Bush instituted the northern no-fly zone over Iraq in 1991, three years after Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign wiped out up to 100,000 Kurds with chemical weapons. With American protection in place, the Kurds began building infrastructure and honing their political vision. When George W. Bush toppled Saddam’s regime in 2003, the Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population, began building what they promote as “the other Iraq” in earnest.

Nibras Kazimi sees what is happening in Iraq as merely political bickering.  Strangely, he offers us several pictures, one of Ahmad Chalabi (on the very left) with Ayad Allawi.

And this proves what?  That Allawi has to sit with the criminal Chalabi at the same table?  If it is an attempt at an exoneration of the situation in Iraq at this present, then in reality it becomes more a reflection of Kazimi’s previous service to Chalabi.

With the likes of Sadr, Maliki, Hakim and Chalabi driving the ship, Iraq is set up for a long, difficult voyage.  Abe Greenwald closes his commentary with this observation.

In discussing the achievements of the Iraq war, those of us who support the Iraqi liberation have developed a journalistic tic whereby we must attach the disclaimers fragile and reversible to every positive development. This is probably wise, but in the effort to shed the “triumphalist” label, we’ve neglected to emphasize something else about achievements in Iraq. They are precious. Nowhere is this more achingly obvious than in Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a population of 4 million overwhelmingly Muslim, pro-American, pro-democracy political and cultural reformers in an oil-rich, strategically critical location in the Middle East. Somehow, the current U.S. administration sees no significant U.S. interest in this treasure, won with the blood of the American soldier. For a White House and a State Department that tout engagement as a panacea, the neglect to engage Baghdad leadership and keep the Iraqi experiment on a positive course is egregious.

Egregious indeed.  It was so when President Bush confirmed the Status of Forces Agreement, and it is so as President Obama continues down the path of appeasement of Iran.  In order to stop Iranian hegemony, the SOFA would have to be undone, U.S. basing rights would have to be permanently confirmed in Kurdistan, and a covert war engaged to undermine the Iranian regime and foment an insurgency inside of Iran.  This is the only option to avoiding a large and bloody confrontation with the radical Mullahs who see things in an eschatological context.  Ironically, what the American political left cannot see is that strong action now is the only alternative to horrible actions later.

Sadly though, Iran may become the only winner in Iraq.  All of this has precisely a zero percent chance of happening with this current cowardly and confused administration.  With the report that Greenwald gives us above, Kurdistan gives us the only shining beacon of light available in the region.  Will it be enough without increased U.S. involvement?

Richard Blumenthal Falsifies Vietnam Record

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

As it is common news by now, I will only mention in passing that Richard Blumenthal has falsified his Vietnam record, alleging that he was there when he wasn’t.  There is a current debate over whether the words “in” instead of “during” mean anything.  Silly debate.  It’s like saying something like this: “I recall serving as an engineering forensics expert at the time of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse …”  The average listener takes it that I was a forensics expert studying the engineering disaster.  One can have plausible deniability based on the poor and unclear construction of the sentence … but that’s the point, isn’t it?

He misled the public with plausible deniability, just as he intended.   Do the people of Connecticut really want him as a Senator?  Haven’t they had enough politics?


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