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]

McChrystal, SOF Raids and Now Zad

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

Tim Lynch weighs in on insurgent networks:

Nothing will sour the morale of combat troops faster then the realization that the commander at the top receives frequent visits from the Good Idea Fairy.   Which is a good start point for explaining why  General Stanley A McChrystal took to the pages of Foreign Policy last week to explain the unexplainable.  The story starts with McChrystal’s observation that the SF tier 1 guys found al Qaeda difficult to collect, fix and target because they were so decentralized.  So McChrystal made up his  own “network” and his centralized, vertically integrated, fixed chain of command network beat the AQI with their horizontally integrated decentralized chain of command.  I’m not buying that about Iraq but the focus of the article was how this genius system was implemented in Afghanistan by the regular military and what do you know the “mo better” network has since delivered us the current spate of good news about the Taliban getting tired of fighting.

The article linked above and all the other recent reports stress that the rift between the Taliban fighters and their leaders who are safely ensconced in Pakistan stems from the losses being inflicted on them in the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.  The pressure being brought to bear on the fighting Taliban has very little (if anything) to do with the nighttime high speed low drag tier 1 special forces raids designed to “decapitate” Taliban leadership.  The whole decapitation strategy is suspect as numerous observers have noted over these many years of SOF raiding and I ask again if somehow a military adversary managed to “decapitate” our leadership would we be weaker or stronger? …

HVT raids do produce results but it seems to me that what has brought the fighting Taliban to their knees is hard fighting infantry who have moved in with the people and deprived the villains of maneuver room while killing ever increasing numbers of them using ROE completly different from the horseshit inflicted on them by McChrystal.

So let’s talk about this for a few minutes.  Just occasionally we are enriched by someone who has both location and smarts – or shall we say, good judgment.  Nir Rosen, who was always and remains a jerk, had location.  He was also embedded with the Taliban.  I wasn’t impressed, and said so.  I thought he was a jerk then, and I was proven right. Whether I have good judgment is up to my readers, but I certainly don’t have location.  Michael Yon now has location again, and he also has good judgment.  Tim Lynch has both as well.  If you really want to know not only what is going on in Afghanistan but how to interpret it, read Tim’s work.  It’s that good.  Really.  Read Michael Yon, then read Tim Lynch.  Between them you will usually find what you need to give clear perspective.

Tim expressed doubt that the tooth fairy ideas expounded by McChrystal worked in Iraq or Afghanistan like McChrystal claims.  Let me be more blunt.  He sees the world myopically.  So the insurgent and counterinsurgent can operate according to swarm theory.  They can engage in distributed operations where authority is pressed downward.  So what?  We already knew this.  McChrystal seems to advocate the idea that it was the HVT raids that won the campaign in Iraq.  How what he did with a few operators differed from what infantry did all over Iraq from 2004 – 2008 isn’t explained.  And I know something of the hell the boys of 2-6 went through in Fallujah in 2007, and they did it without SOF operators.  Didn’t need them, didn’t want them.  They would have been in the way.

[Here I should VERY BRIEFLY share a story.  My son was on post and a band of un-uniformed SOF troopers came through Fallujah on the way to Ramadi to pick up some bad guy, driving an unmarked vehicle, throwing dust as they drove, and they were stopped by my son.  He told them, "If you ever, ever come through my AO again un-uniformed, and in an unmarked vehicle, driving like a bat out of hell, I will light you up like a f***ing Christmas tree, and then laugh about it as they pick up the body parts."  And the SOF troopers didn't come through Fallujah again on 2-6's watch.]

If my friend Gian Gentile casts doubt on the surge narrative, I cast doubt on the HVT narrative.  Neither won the campaign in Iraq.  Hard core infantry operations in the cities, villages and countryside of Iraq, along with all of the things discussed in McChrystal’s paper done by all of infantry and not just SOF, won the campaign.  And finally, yes, along with Tim, I think that the micromanagement by McChrystal’s staff was horseshit.  Plain and simple.

Tim goes on to discuss the tactics that won Iraq, and that will win in Afghanistan if we turn the troops loose.

A great example of this would be Naw Zad which is currently home to the headquarters of Charlie Company 1st Battalion 8th Marines.  The rest of the battalion is handling Musa Quala which, like Marjah, was infested with Taliban but is now safe enough for the battalion commander to walk around the bazaar without body armor and helmet.  The Captain at Naw Zad (and he’s there on his own because he’s that good) is surrounded by Taliban.  He has an area of influence which he is constantly expanding and he does this with aggressive patrolling.  He has the clearance to shoot 60mm mortars and run rotary wing CAS guns (Cobra or Apache gunships employing their guns only; rocket or Hellfires have to be cleared) without coordinating with his battalion COC.  He has no problems at all with the current rules of engagement and has never been denied fires when he has asked for them.

Tim goes on to discuss issues of weight for the Marines.

I was able to spend a lot of time talking with the officers and men currently serving in Naw Zad and here is what they bitch about:  They don’t like the weight they are forced to carry and strongly feel the use of  body armor should be determined by the mission and enemy.  Wearing it in blistering heat or while climbing the massive mountains is so physically debilitating that they have felt on several occasions that they were unable to defend themselves. Many of their Marines are suffering chronic stress fractures, low back problems as well as hip problems caused by carrying loads in excess of 130 pounds daily.  ”We’re fighting the Mothers of America” said one; if we lose a Marine and he was not wearing everything in the inventory to protect him that becomes the issue.  Trying to explain that we have removed the body armor to reduce the chances of being shot is a losers game because you can’t produce data quantifying the reduction in gun shot wounds for troops who remain alert and are able to move fast due to a lighter load.

I have mixed feelings on this, as my son’s life was saved by his ESAPI plate.  But as readers know, I have griped about battlefield weight as well.  Remember this Marine carrying a mortar plate along with the rest of his gear?

Whatever is done or can be done about battle space weight, Tim’s discussion about injuries is sure to be ignored by advocates of women in combat.  I have pointed out before the difference between the Army mentality (mechanized infantry) versus Marines (foot borne infantry), but even this breaks down in places like Korengal where those Soldiers may as well have been Marines.  But I have pointed out that the Russian campaign in Afghanistan was plagued by a huge number of lower extremity injuries to women, and if these injuries (including higher up into the whole body, i.e., hips) are happening to the most physically fit troops on earth right now in Afghanistan, does anyone really, seriously want to advocate the notion that women can do this with 130 pounds of gear?  Did God not design men and women differently, and would we not want to celebrate this diversity rather than try to expunge it?  What kind of man imagines gender-neutral physical features, and for what reason?

And speaking of Now Zad, make sure to catch Tim’s pictures documenting his time in Now Zad.  He observes:

Fox company 2nd Battalion 7th Marines (Fox 2/7) arrived in Naw Zad to reinforce the Brits in late 2008 and were able to expand the security bubble but not by much.  The Brits, Estonians and Marines fought side by side to expel the Taliban from this fertile valley but were hampered by restrictive ROE pushed down from on high by senior officers in Kabul who lacked common sense and experience at counterinsurgency warfare. The Marines and their allies lost a lot of men because they did not have the mass or firepower to do the job correctly.  Way back then there was a lone voice in the blogsphere pleading with all who would listen to free up the combat power and let the Marines in Naw Zad fight.  His name is Herschel Smith and his posts at the Captains Journal can be found here.  It is worth your time to read them all.

This statement by Tim is, quite honestly, very moving for me.  I’m a fairly rough and unemotional man, but I recall with significant emotion my time studying the boys in Now Zad, their living in what they termed hobbit holes, the multiple trauma doctors with them due to the massive loss of limbs and other traumas suffered by undermanned Marines, and so on, until I almost couldn’t take it any more.  Tim gives us a picture of the Dahaneh pass, and I know that my good friend John Bernard lost his son near Dahaneh: “KIA (Dahaneh 08/14/09) and who is now safe and resting in the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I miss him!”  I know that you do John.  Many loved ones were lost near this AO while massive flotillas full of Marines were going from port to port as “force in readiness” for God only knows what.

Yon Returns to Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

Michael Yon returns to Afghanistan, and he has given us a remarkable picture of the men of Chora (in the Oruzgan Province) honoring a dead Taliban.

Today, I accompanied members of Central Asia Development Group (CADG).  We drove from the town of Tarin Kot to the violent village of Chora.  A quick web search for Chora will reveal countless articles about the heavy fighting.  We took an extremely dangerous stretch of road.  We saw nary a soldier, though I am told many have died here.  Leonard Grami, the Urozgan Provincial Manager for CADG, reckons well over a hundred troops and Afghans have died on this stretch in the last 14 months, including some last week and last night.

Somehow we made it to Chora and saw that the USAID project seems to be doing fine, but while the managers checked the work, Afghan authorities dumped the body of a Taliban killed last night in nearby in fighting.  They dumped him at a “traffic circle” underneath what they call “the steeple.”  Men and boys flocked to the body and were so tight around him that they must have been almost stepping on him.  When we arrived, they pulled back for a moment, and I made a panorama of these dangerous men.

Make sure to stop by Michael’s place and tool around the panorama link combining multiple pictures Michael took.  My initial thoughts are that if these men engage in such honorific behavior openly and in public for a dead insurgent, and if they admire the man and his work to this extent, then we are not winning this war.  We haven’t marginalized the insurgency, or anywhere near it.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

The Rehabilitation of the Muslim Brotherhood

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

The absurd and manifestly disingenuous attempt by Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” organization was, as if some covert signal to sycophants all over America, the advent or at least the leading line of a chorus of voices attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Consider The Week:

Its leaders now renounce violence, at least publicly. The Brotherhood says its call to jihad is spiritual, and that it believes in advancing Islam through politics and teaching. Its members in parliament are educated professionals who have proved to be competent and savvy legislators, open to compromise. In fact, the group’s insistence on nonviolence caused Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri to leave the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1980s and eventually join Osama bin Laden as al Qaida’s No. 2. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip and strongly advocates violent struggle, began as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Hamas’s ties to the Egyptian group are now tenuous.

Next, consider Philip Mudd writing at The Atlantic (former Deputy Director of the Counterterrorist Center, and the FBI’s first-ever Deputy Director for National Security).

Regarding the Brotherhood, many in the U.S. worry about its anti-Israeli views and its suspicion not only of secular governments but of the entire proposition of the separation of church and state. However, the Brotherhood’s role in our now decade-long campaign against al-Qaeda and its affiliates doesn’t appear prominently in the U.S. debate. It should, especially for those who accept the maxim that the enemy of an enemy is a friend. If we’re looking for friends, especially Arab friends, to help us fight al-Qaeda on the ideological front that has been our most significant shortfall, we might look to the Brotherhood.  In the U.S., we are apt to wrongly conflate Islamist movements. Some overlap among movements is clear: al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood have common roots going back to the evolution of the Islamist movement in Egypt almost 90 years ago. They both abhor the state of Israel and the rise of Brotherhood influence in Arab governments could reduce support for a two-state solution.  But lost in this simple mixing of Islamist strains is the fact that these two versions of Islamism are at each other’s throats, openly and frequently.

Ashley Bates writing at Mother Jones has almost jubilant notions for what the Muslim Brotherhood can accomplish.

Several other researchers I spoke to concurred that Muslim Brotherhood elected officials have exerted a democratizing influence; that much is consensus “not just with Egypt scholars but with scholars from across the Arab world,” according to Bruce Riedel, a Middle East analyst at the Brookings Institution.

Academics disagree, however, on the degree to which a Brotherhood-led government would protect Egypt’s secular freedoms. The Brotherhood is sharply divided between pragmatic, open-minded moderates and hard-line conservatives bent on spreading fundamentalist Islamic teachings.

Stacher maintains that continued repression would only empower the hardliners. By contrast, he says, “if everyone has free range to participate, what we’ll see from the Muslim Brotherhood is an increasing pragmatism. And this will drown out those conservative voices.”

The love even extends to the nominally leftist Christianity Today, where Bob Kubinec actually suggests that Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.

What the Brotherhood is more known for in Egypt is its calls for reforming the regime, including promoting an independent judiciary and fighting corruption in government. An op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times by a member of the Brotherhood’s leadership defined succinctly their mission: “We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians.” The debate about the Muslim Brotherhood is not whether they currently support democratic reform in Egypt, but whether they will still support reform after they are in government.

To explain how an Islamic group became committed to democratic reform, something of their long and obscure history in Egypt must be understood. While it is true that some of Al Qaeda’s top leaders came from the group, including the notorious Ayman al-Zawahiri, for most of the group’s history the leadership has focused on reforming the Egyptian state, not fighting international jihad …

It was the periodic jailing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders that drove some of the movement’s members to extremism … the measures used by the regime to suppress dissent are without a doubt part of the reason why the Brotherhood became dangerous. Beating with electric cables is the surest way to radicalize a human being—if they survive the torture.

Yet something truly remarkable happened in the early 1980s with the Brotherhood: the leadership voluntarily renounced violence and chose to participate in the political order.

Analysis & Commentary

These commentaries betray a horrible ignorance of the fundamental nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, and rather than conflating Islamist movements, as Mudd charges, I suggest that he (and the others) conflate policy and strategy with tactics.  It’s a beginner’s blunder, but a dangerous one.

Muslim brothers can advocate peaceful jihad of the soul to those who would listen, but equally assert the right to violent subjugation of non-Muslims to Sharia law due to the doctrine of abrogation where, if a verse revealed at Mecca contradicts another revealed later at Medina, the Medinan verse takes precedence.  But whether in the Qu’ran or the Hadith, there are copious verses which support the notion of violent jihad.

But beyond being woefully unprepared even to begin to assess militant Islam and its worldwide adherents, a recurring theme with these commentators is that there is a battle going on within the Muslim Brotherhood, and that engagement of them will win the day for the more “moderate” voices.

But Andrew McCarthy points us back to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and what they believe.

Today, the OIC is Islam’s central point of union against the unfaithful. Those who insist that the 1,400-year-old dividing line between Muslims and non-Muslims is ephemeral, that all we need is a little more understanding of how alike we all really are, would do well to consider the OIC’s Cairo Declaration of 1990. It is the ummah’s “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” proclaimed precisely because Islamic states reject the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations under the guidance of progressives in the United States and the West. That is, the leaders of the Muslim world are adamant that Western principles are not universal.

The Declaration makes abundantly clear that this civilization is to be attained by adherence to sharia. “All rights and freedoms” recognized by Islam “are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah,” which “is the only source of reference for [their] explanation or clarification.” Though men and women are said by the Declaration to be equal in “human dignity,” sharia elucidates their very different rights and obligations — their basic inequality. Sharia expressly controls freedom of movement and claims of asylum. The Declaration further states that “there shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in Shari’ah” — a blatant reaffirmation of penalties deemed cruel and unusual in the West. And the right to free expression is permitted only insofar as it “would not be contrary to the principles of Shari’ah” — meaning that Islam may not be critically examined, nor will the ummah abide any dissemination of “information” that would “violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values, or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society, or weaken its faith.”

Americans were once proud to declare that their unalienable rights came from their Creator, the God of Judeo-Christian scripture. Today we sometimes seem embarrassed by this fundamental conceit of our founding. We prefer to trace our conceptions of liberty, equality, free will, freedom of conscience, due process, privacy, and proportional punishment to a humanist tradition, haughty enough to believe we can transcend the transcendent and arrive at a common humanity. But regardless of which source the West claims, the ummah rejects it and claims its own very different principles — including, to this day, the principle that it is the destiny of Islam not to coexist but to dominate.

Obama administration officials and the editors at Christianity Today may envision holding hands with Islam and skipping down the Yellow brick road to Shangri La, but the Muslim Brotherhood and signatories to the Organization of the Islamic Conference labor under no such illusions.  One thing that the commentators we have cited have in common with the Muslim Brotherhood is the attempt to rehabilitate the image of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Their own web site regurgitates the same screed that we see from leftist web sites today in America.

So why do American policymakers and media analysts continue to be governed by a politics of fear? As the bogeyman of Egyptian politics, the Muslim Brotherhood has been labeled a terrorist organization, murderer of Anwar Sadat, ally of Al Qaeda, and the social equivalent of the Taliban.

The reality is that the Brotherhood renounced violence decades ago, but the party’s leadership and rank-and-file alike have continued to pay the cost of this now mistaken association, so carefully perpetuated by the Mubarak regime. Mr. Sadat’s assassin came from a splinter organization called Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who would later join forces with Osama Bin Laden). Most of Egypt’s most unreconstructed militants, from Mr. Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad and the larger Islamic Group, remain in prison.

The interesting thing about the imprisonment of Sayyid Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri is that it was done under the reign of Hosni Mubarak, not the Muslim Brotherhood.  Mubarak, for whatever else he did or didn’t do, was at least a temporary defeater for radical Islamists in Egypt during his tenure.  But the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t above a bit a revisionist history if it helps their causes.

Revisionist history aside, the Muslim Brotherhood has been clear.  They want the institution of Sharia law in Egypt, regardless of the lackeys in the West whom they have been able to persuade to take up their cause.  As for the Muslim Brotherhood in America and their alleged jettisoning of violence to achieve their ends, the strategy of global domination by the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t the same thing as moderate tactics to effect that end.  To conflate the two is a category error.

To be sure, the Muslim Brotherhood has many thousands of appendage and related efforts, including supposedly humanitarian and altruistic assistance organizations.  But they are all aimed at one thing.  We know what that one thing is because they have told us.

The FBI had been investigating the Muslim Brotherhood for years, but their first big break came several years ago with the search of one of the Brotherhood leaders’ homes in Annandale, Virginia, following his arrest on suspicion he had cased the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and other bridges for possible terrorist attack. There, in a sub-basement of suspect Ismail Elbarasse’s basement, FBI agents uncovered a stash of secret manifestos, charters and other documents revealing the depth of the conspiracy.

After translating the Arabic-written papers into English, investigators realized they had seized the archives of the U.S. branch of the militant International Muslim Brotherhood.

The trove of papers exposes the jihadist inner workings of the U.S. Brotherhood, and outlines its broader conspiracy of infiltrating and destroying the American government “from within.”

One secret document found during the raid of Elbarasse’s home lays bare the Brotherhood’s ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover, replacing the U.S. Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law.

Written in 1991 by another U.S. Brotherhood agent, Mohammed Akram Adlouni, the strategy paper describes the group’s long-term goal of “sabotaging” the U.S. system. It’s a blueprint for a stealth “grand jihad.” Under the heading, “The role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” it states:

The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within, and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by the hands of the believers, so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

Thus do idiotic comparisons of the threat of Sharia law with Boy Scout law by the likes of Professors at the U.S. Army War College play directly into the hands of those who would eventually undermine that very professor’s right to academic freedom.  That comparison also betrays a gross ignorance of recent important national security revelations such as the Muslim Brotherhood strategy paper.

Another mistake by many when attempting to understand the Muslim Brotherhood is in assuming that adherence to sharia law is voluntary, when in fact, it is only voluntary while Muslims are not in the majority or do not yet have enough power to legislate sharia as state law.  In Saudi Arabia, this is what sharia law looks like.

After a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Hena Begum was forcibly raped, kicking and screaming, by a 40-year-old married man on Sunday, Jan. 30, a Shariah court the next day sentenced her – the rape victim – to receive 100 lashes for having engaged in an illicit “affair.” Henna was given no chance to appeal, and the sentence was carried out immediately. After between 70 and 80 lashes, the little girl collapsed into unconsciousness and was taken to the hospital – where she bled to death.

Islamic apologists will tell you such an atrocity is an abuse of Shariah law, or the excess of some remote, rural tribal council. Hogwash. Rape victims are frequently flogged and imprisoned under Shariah, as when a Saudi court in early 2009 sentenced a 23-year-old female who had been gang-raped by five men to 100 lashes and a year in jail. Her crime? Accepting a lift from a man who drove her against her will to his house and took turns, with four of his friends, raping her. Same with a 2007 case where the Saudi Justice Ministry sentenced a girl gang-raped by seven men to six months in prison and 200 lashes.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia, who can forget when the kingdom’s “religious police” allowed 15 young girls to die horrible deaths when a fire broke out in their school in Mecca on March 11, 2002? The religious police, or Mutaween, literally blocked firefighters from saving the girls because they weren’t dressed in the proper Islamic way for girls and women to be seen outdoors. With helpless firemen watching, the religious police literally beat the girls – those who were not wearing their headscarves or abayas – back into the inferno.

The willingness to engage in politics isn’t in itself a meaningful repudiation of the tendencies to domination by militant Islam, for as Rashad al-Bayoumi explains, “political work is an integral part of Islamic work, for Islam is a comprehensive religion and politics is part of general Islamic work.”  For those who doubt what that looks like, consider the recent words of a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Kamal al-Halbavi.

“Given the recent developments in the region, we need unity among the Muslim countries and Iran can play an important role in this regard,” Halbavi said on Sunday, addressing a conference in Tehran dubbed ‘Islamic Awakening in Arab World’.

He also called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad his favorite leaders in the world, and said, “He is the bravest man in the Muslim world and we (in Egypt) need innocent, honest and brave leaders like him.”

Despite the alleged war between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, the love between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood is mutual.  Omar Suleiman knows the threat and has told General Petraeus that “Egypt suffers from certain Iranian interference through its satellites Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. We can only hope for Iran to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.”  If the highest ranking intelligence official in Egypt knows the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, isn’t it a bit strange that sycophants in the U.S. sing the praises of moderate brothers?  Do Muslims and intelligence officials in Egypt perhaps know a bit more about the Muslim Brotherhood than we do?

Regardless of the Muslim Brotherhood strategy paper and its disagreement with most of the American commentaries today on the Muslim Brotherhood, the temporary tactic of moderation is only a means to an end.  The beginner’s mistake we discussed earlier has to do with subdividing the Islamist movement based on the specific subset of tactics being implemented in order to effect the desired end.  The Muslim Brotherhood is smart.  They haven’t limited their attack to a single approach, but you can be assured that they all work – and war – towards the same end, i.e., the imposition of sharia law on Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and subjugation of the world to Allah.  If liberals in the U.S. see it as enlightened to be illiberal and advocate sharia law in America, then the Muslim Brotherhood is happy to have them on their side – at least for the present.

Prior Featured Articles:

The Battle for Bomb Alley

The Five Hundred Meter War

Good Counterinsurgency, Bad Counterinsurgency and Tribes

Elite Schools and the ROTC

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

Andrew Exum recently weighed in concerning “demonizing” so-called elite universities for not having ROTC programs (viz. Columbia University).  Quoth Exum:

Okay, there is one huge problem with this. It’s easy to demonize the “elite” universities for not having more ROTC programs, but the reality is that the U.S. military has been the one most responsible for divesting from ROTC programs in the northeastern United States. It’s hardly the fault of Columbia University that the U.S. Army has only two ROTC programs to serve the eight million residents and 605,000 university students of New York City. And it’s not the University of Chicago’s fault that the entire city of Chicago has one ROTC program while the state of Alabama has ten. The U.S. military made a conscious decision to cut costs by recruiting and training officers where people were more likely to volunteer. That makes sense given an ROTC budget that has been slashed since the end of the Cold War. But it also means that the U.S. Army and its sister services are just as responsible for this divide between the so-called “elite” living within the Acela Corridor and the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was one of two Army ROTC graduates in my class at the University of Pennsylvania, but it was not the fault of Penn or the ban on gays in the military that the U.S. Army decided to shutter the ROTC program at Penn after my freshman year and move us all over to Drexel’s program. (Go Dragon Battalion, by the way!) The U.S. Army made a decision based on a logical (if short-sighted) cost-benefit analysis … we need to ask harder questions about what kind of efforts we need to make to build an officer corps that best represents the American people.

Okay, that’s enough.  Then he goes on to give us the following update: “Cheryl Miller of AEI has a response to my post up on the Weekly Standard’s website, largely agreeing with what I wrote but adding more. Cheryl is the real subject matter expert on ROTC, so be sure to read what she has to say.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds a bit sarcastic, doesn’t it?  “The real subject matter expert?”  I sense the same, tired attitude displayed by CNAS that “I’m the expert, or if I’m not, then I know someone who is, and you should listen to him, and no one else is an expert because they aren’t my expert, and if you haven’t done what I’ve done and been where I’ve been, you aren’t qualified to speak on the issue, because I’m the real expert … and oh, did I tell you that I’m the real expert at almost everything, and if I’m not, my buds are?”

In fact, it isn’t at all obvious to me that someone would have to have been an alumni of an ROTC program in order to comment on what kind of people we want in ROTC programs.  Remember that civilian control of the military thing?  Many military experts commenting over the web (various sites) claim that they want civilian input, but that’s usually a ruse.

So someone tell me why it’s a good thing to “build an officer corps that best represents the American people?”  Why would I place positive value on such a thing?  Do we want mediocre students along with bright ones?  If the answer is no, we just want the best students who represents sectors of society, then we’ve already discriminated.  Discrimination.  It’s not a bad thing in the right context.  Discrimination helps to categorize red lights from green lights, and color blind people sometimes cannot do that.

Greyhawk comments thusly about this issue: “If the goal of the faculty of Columbia is to produce graduates unfit for doing the rough work of a workaday world, they’re demonstrably good at what they do. (I’m not sure why anyone, much less the military, should view their product as desirable employees.)”

I’ll be even a little more blunt.  I see no compelling reason whatsoever to care enough to start ROTC programs on the campuses of “elite” universities.  In fact, if offered a choice, I would prefer that we don’t.  Would we rather have students from the Ivy League universities who have been schooled in Jacques Derrida, or from Southern universities schooled in the sciences?  I mean no disrespect to those readers who have studied hard in the social sciences or other-than hard sciences like physics or math.  But I am saying that there is a qualitative difference in the result produced between the two approaches, and the products are intended for different ends.

I know.  I took literature too, and all of the social sciences, and I didn’t really learn to think about the humanities until I attended seminary and took historical theology and apologetics, and read things you won’t read in Ivy League universities such as “An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy” by A. H. Armstrong, Carl Becker’s “Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers”, Frederick Copleston, Ronald Nash, Gordon H. Clark, Alvin Plantinga, W. G. T. Shedd, Francis Turretin, Charles Hodge, William Cunningham and John Calvin.  Such writings would challenge the order of things.  The universities are cheating our students into thinking that they are learning something by teaching them deconstruction, race studies and feminism.

But I took kinematics, statics and dynamics, calculus and fluid mechanics too (just not in seminary).  I can still think of no compelling reason at all to pursue the Ivy League schools.  Let me see.  Someone who studied the humanities from Columbia, or someone who studied fluid mechanics and calculus in a Mechanical Engineering major from Clemson University, N.C. State or Georgia Tech?  It seems pretty clear to me.  Who would you rather have commanding an M1A1?

Shot at Sirajuddin Haqqani Passed Up Due To Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Los Angeles Times:

The CIA  passed up a chance last year to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of an anti-American insurgent network in Pakistan  that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, when it chose not to fire a missile at him from a Predator drone because women and children were nearby, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

The incident was one of at least three occasions in the last six months when a militant was identified on video and a shot was available, but U.S. officials decided not to fire in order to avoid civilian casualties, said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the drone program.

[ ... ]

The Pakistani official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said allowing high-value targets to escape reflected a decision by the U.S. since August to use greater caution in the drone strikes. A strike Aug. 22 destroyed a militant hide-out in North Waziristan, killing 13 members of the Afghan Taliban but also four women and three children who were living among them, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The U.S. officials said there had been no policy change and that there always have been occasions when the CIA decided not to fire at a target in the midst of civilians. Those officials would confirm only the Haqqani incident. But they cited two other occasions in the last year when missiles that had already been fired from drones were diverted off target to avoid killing civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified program.

Another factor driving the change, according to a former CIA official, is that the U.S. can afford to forgo an opportunity to kill a senior militant because intelligence and technology improvements to drone operations give the CIA confidence it will get the chance for a clearer shot.

Someone is a “prophet or a son of a prophet,” because we know that we are going to get a clearer shot at one of the most powerful Taliban leaders in the AfPak region, the younger Haqqani who has taken over operational control of the Haqqani network from his father, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Normally I do not favor the high value target program for mid-level Taliban commanders using Special Operations Forces.  I don’t believe that it’s all that effective, especially since we usually engage in a catch-and-release program for the commanders with the deadline for judicial action in Afghanistan being 96 hours.  I think there is a better way.

But I favored the targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud, and called for it months before it occurred.  Sirajjudin Haqqani was a very significant target, and it’s remarkable that he was allowed to escape our noose, especially due to rules of engagement.  Make no mistake about it.  This comes back to rules of engagement and possible collateral damage.  But the collateral damage from leaving Sirajuddin Haqqani alive may be catastrophic for some American families, who may lose their sons from massed Taliban force attacks on U.S. outposts, or to IEDs that blow their legs off.

Take particular note just exactly who it is that we left alive, and what he has to say about massing of Taliban forces up to 200-300 fighters at a time.  Consider that in the context of the Battle of Wanat and Kamdesh.  High value targeted killings by drones or other methods is not the answer to the campaign, but it waxes important when it comes to targets such as Haqqani.  We lost that opportunity.

Must-See TV: Allen West Slams Islamist Propanganda

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 8 months ago

Via The Shark Tank comes this video of a town-hall meeting at which Rep. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Allen West responds to the familiar baiting by Council on American Islamic Relations’ executive, Nezar Hamze.

The video needs to be seen to be believed.  West is the real deal.  If half of our Congressmen and women could be so grounded in truth, it would make The Long War much, much shorter.

Enough said.  Watch the video.

Notice what Rep. West does not do:  he does not try to play the sickening political correctness games that pander to the sensitivities of those that wish to do us harm; he does not qualify his remarks; he does not equivocate.  And notice the reaction of the crowd.  They instantly recognize and respond to this singular man.  It is like a long drink of ice cold Coke after an August two-a-day football practice.   We owe the voters of the 22nd District of Florida our gratitude.

Can you imagine this man as C-in-C? What would he have to say to those Somali pirates who executed four Americans recently?

Lest anyone think that Allen West got off a lucky shot at Hamze’s expense, I invite readers to watch his inspiring keynote address at the 2011 CPAC convention in Washington, D.C., via The Right Scoop.

Leaders such as this give me hope that we may yet turn this thing around.

And this is precisely why the liberal media is going to go after West with everything they have.

Expect to see them digging up dirt everywhere they can find it, or, if they cannot find it, making up the dirt and endlessly repeating it.  Expect the liberal media to run stories on West’s family, disgruntled soldiers who served under him, questionable command decisions he made in Iraq.  Expect him to be accused of racism, sexism, islamophobia, homophobia and drowning kittens for fun.   The liberal media goes for the jugular whenever a conservative stands up and talks directly, candidly and factually.  The Left is already targeting him in 2012.

I am officially reserving my seat on the Allen West For President bandwagon.

NYT Changing Tune on Afghanistan? Are Fairies Real?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 8 months ago

When a newspaper as biased and agenda-driven as The New York Times begins to voice even cautious optimism about Afghanistan, there is only one question to ask:  how does this help the liberal agenda?

Herschel covered the opinion piece by Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl in his most recent post and threw considerable cold water on Fick and Nagl’s optimism.   Within the space of a day, The New York Times runs an almost companion-piece/follow up article by Carlotta Gall that reports on growing “fissures” between the fighting ranks of the Taliban and their Pakistani-based masters.

Consider this hopeful tone:

Recent defeats and general weariness after nine years of war are creating fissures between the Taliban’s top leadership based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders, who have borne the brunt of the fighting and are reluctant to return to some battle zones, Taliban members said in interviews.

After suffering defeats with the influx of thousands of new American troops in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand last year, many Taliban fighters retreated across the border to the safety of Pakistan. They are now coming under pressure from their leaders to return to Afghanistan to step up the fight again, a Taliban commander said. Many are hesitant to do so, at least for now.

“I have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight,” one 45-year-old commander who has been with the Taliban since its founding in 1994 said in an interview in this southern city. He spoke on condition he not be identified because he was in hiding from American and government forces. “Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders and the leaders over their demands to go and fight.”

It is a bit disorienting, I admit.  I will have to ask my father, a WWII veteran, whether this is what newspapers used to sound like before they began bleating unashamedly for American defeat.

At any rate, after reading these, two articles (and regaining my equilibrium) I wonder whether we are beginning to see the first bit of 2012 Campaign messaging on Afghanistan.

I should state up front that I would like to believe that the war in Afghanistan is going better.  I am not afraid to use the word, “victory.”  Indeed, it is almost impossible to believe that the influx of additional troops — although far too few vis a vis the Iraqi Surge– could not achieve at least some tactical gains.  Furthermore, when I reflect on the unbelievably negative reporting from liberal media throughout the Iraq campaign, I consider that a few, like Michael Yon, who spent long embeds with combat units, pointed to a turnaround in Iraq long before it became clearly established, so, perhaps, Fick and Nagl have insights that the rest of the media is missing.

Could major media outlets like the NYT have learned from their mistakes on Iraq and actually be catching the first signs of a turnaround in Afghanistan?

Maybe.  But I doubt it.  As any parent will tell you, when your 12-year old, who is allergic to washing dirty dishes, starts cheerfully cleaning the kitchen, the first reaction is suspicion not sudden conversion.  It is about knowing with whom you are dealing.

And when we are dealing with liberal media like the NYT, we know that they have a congenital predisposition to echo whatever talking points they are given by Obama and the Democrats in general.

Turning to the Fick/Nagl piece and the Gall article, is there a discernible message being conveyed?  Yes, it seems that way.  When you compare these, two pieces on Afghanistan, there is a narrative that emerges that may very well be Obama’s re-election theme for 2012 on foreign policy: bringing Afghanistan back from the drift of the Bush years and making it possible to “Afghanize” the war by 2014, ending U.S. involvement.

Consider the Fick/Nagl opinion piece.

It stresses themes that are clear, Obama policy goals such as drawing down troop levels:

It now seems more likely than not that the country can achieve the modest level of stability and self-reliance necessary to allow the United States to responsibly draw down its forces from 100,000 to 25,000 troops over the next four years.

Here is another liberal talking point that argues that we can prevail in Afghanistan by simply protecting population centers and key road:

Half of the violence in Afghanistan takes place in only 9 of its nearly 400 districts, with Sangin ranking among the very worst. Slowly but surely, even in Sangin, the Taliban are being driven from their sanctuaries as the coalition focuses on protecting the Afghan people in key population centers and hubs of economic activity, and along the roads that connect them. Once these areas are cleared, it will be possible to hold them with Afghan troops and a few American advisers — allowing the United States to thin its deployments over time.

Again, the key aim emphasized is to leave behind a “few American advisers… to thin [U.S.] deployments over time.”  I am not against reducing deployments “over time,” but this is a basic disagreement over strategy between having enough troops to beat down the Taliban and getting by with insufficient numbers for too short a time to do any, lasting good.   In order for the “less is more” approach to work, however, the ANA has to get much bigger, much better and, most importantly, much faster.  Strangely enough that is just what Fick and Nagl find:

Afghan Army troop strength has increased remarkably. The sheer scale of the effort at the Kabul Military Training Center has to be seen to be appreciated. Rows of new barracks surround a blue-domed mosque, and live-fire training ranges stretched to the mountains on the horizon.

It was a revelation to watch an Afghan squad, only days from deployment to Paktika Province on the Pakistani border, demonstrate a fire-and-maneuver exercise before jogging over to chat with American visitors. When asked, each soldier said that he had joined the Army to serve Afghanistan. Most encouraging of all was the response to a question that resonates with 18- and 19-year-old soldiers everywhere: how does your mother feel? “Proud.”

And then we have the theme that Obama and liberals everywhere hooted constantly– the tragic distraction of Bush’s Iraq (the “bad war”) that we are now, at long last overcoming; the prospect of negotiating with the Taliban to end the war that is “vital” to our national interests (the “good war”):

Not since the deterioration in conditions in Iraq that drew our attention away from Afghanistan have coalition forces been in such a strong position to force the enemy to the negotiating table. We should hold fast and work for the day when Afghanistan, and our vital interests there, can be safeguarded primarily by Afghans.

The planned drawdown of forces in 2014 is a foregone conclusion.  Negotiations with the Taliban is a favorite fantasy of the Administration.

The news article by Gall picks up the ball from Fick and Nagl nicely. As noted in the quote above, the “influx of thousands of…troops” has worn down the Taliban and created “fissures” between the fighters and Taliban leadership in Pakistan.   The opportunity for negotiation just keeps getting better and better.  In fact, as Gall frames it, if it wasn’t for those stick-in-the-mud-mullahs in Pakistan, Hillary Clinton would be signing peace deals all over the place:

The differences point not just to the increasing stresses on the battlefield for midlevel Taliban commanders like him, but also to the difficulty of ending the insurgency as long as the Taliban’s top leadership has sanctuary in Pakistan, which has long protected and sponsored the Taliban.

Secure across the border, and tightly controlled by Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, the top Taliban leadership remains uncompromising. At the urging of their protectors in Pakistan, Taliban members say, they continue to push midlevel Taliban commanders back across the border to carry on the insurgency, which extends Pakistan’s influence in southern Afghanistan.

The midlevel commanders have little choice but to comply, as they also depend on sanctuaries in Pakistan, where they maintain their families, say residents in Kandahar who know the Taliban well. The Taliban commander said in his interview that the field commanders would obey their orders to resume the fight, however reluctant they might be.

We have this about won, it seems.  But as Herschel has repeatedly noted, the Taliban cannot be beaten with the whack-a-mole strategy.  We have too few troops spread out across too much territory.  This Administration has been trying to find the exit ramp out of Afghanistan since day one.

If the NYT stories are any indication, the message from Obama on Afghanistan in 2011 and beyond is more smoke and mirrors.  Or is that ‘hope and change’ ?

Mother Suspended From Work for Taking Call From U.S. Marine Son in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Daily Mail:

The mother of a U.S. marine serving in Afghanistan was suspended from her job after answering a phone call from her son during work hours.  Teresea Danford was sent home and docked three days pay for violating a company policy of taking calls phones during work time.  She was also told if she used her cell phone again she would be fired from her job at the Crane Interiors Factory in Woodbury, Tennessee.

Danford said she was aware the company had a no cell phone policy but would have answered the call anyway.

Her son Lance Corporal Mark Ryhne, who has been in Afghanistan seven months, is allowed to make one call a month on a satellite phone.

Danford said: ‘There is nothing in this world that would stop a mother from answering a phone call from her son, and what if it was not my son?

‘What if he’d been hurt and someone was trying to contact me?

‘You don’t want to miss a word, because truthfully that might be the last time you hear from them.’

Danford said her bosses on the production line confronted her immediately after she took the call on Valentine’s Day.

She said: ‘I said “you are aware that my son is serving in Afghanistan and he can only call me when that satellite phone gets to his unit,” and he looked me straight in the eyes and said yes.’

Danford was sent home from work and told she was suspended for three days without pay.

The company bans cell phone use for safety and health reasons.

But after the local media picked up on the story the company was bombarded with calls and hate messages.

The firm, which makes interiors for luxury yachts, did a U-turn and apologised for the suspension.

Company manager Chris Anderson said they had also revised their phone policy for employees.

He said: ‘We have several retired military personnel that currently work for us, and their service along with Ms Danford’s son’s service to our great country is greatly appreciated by all, within the Crane Interiors family.

This is fake repentance.  Apologizing after they are caught in this moral outrage is rather like a child crying from a spanking he got after rummaging through the cookie jar.  He’s sorry he was caught with cookies.  If they were truly broken that they did something like this, they wouldn’t have confronted her with multiple managers (Was one not enough?  Were they afraid of her?) and then sent her home without pay.  There is no question as to the existence of the policy or their actions.

The only question is how a company like this stays in business?  They obviously have no idea how to maintain mentally healthy, happy and fulfilled employees, or even good customer relations (did they consider how this would be perceived by the public?).  And the management of the company hasn’t been completely honest with us concerning the policy (the policy isn’t really in effect for safety reasons, or else the policy could be amended to require an employee to remove himself from production if he had to take a call).  The policy is in place over concerns for losing a minute or two of production time, as if that could ever possibly compare in importance to the genuine joy of seeing a mother talk to her son when he is at war.

I know this feeling well.  I’ve seen my wife take that phone call at odd hours.  And I know what it feels like to stand at the doorway looking out into the front yard at 0200 hours waiting for a visit from a Marine officer and a Chaplain (that thankfully never came), all the while knowing that I had to leave for work in five or six hours.  And I also know about the good, restful sleep when that phone call came and you knew that, at that particular time, your son is alive.  There is nothing like it for the soul.

The management of this company could have allowed her to remove herself from production and then make the time up later, or even dock her pay, or better yet, contribute her income over that five or ten minutes to a patriotic and hurting Marine mother who was sacrificing more than anyone could ever imagine who hasn’t given a son over to war.  Stateside, the management should also consider what it means to prohibit answering of phone calls that might come from the hospital from a loved one who has been involved in an accident.

But they didn’t.  This was thoughtful, intentional, and premeditated.  They meant to do exactly what they did.  That makes me think that there is more to this report than meets the eye.  There may be a political view of some sort that this company is elevating above decency and compassion.  I might have expected this from, say, San Francisco – but Woodbury, Tennessee? And that makes me think that if I were an employee of this company, I would be looking for another job.

The Long War?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl have written a piece at The New York Times informing us how swimmingly things are going in Afghanistan.

It is hard to tell when momentum shifts in a counterinsurgency campaign, but there is increasing evidence that Afghanistan is moving in a more positive direction than many analysts think. It now seems more likely than not that the country can achieve the modest level of stability and self-reliance necessary to allow the United States to responsibly draw down its forces from 100,000 to 25,000 troops over the next four years.

The shift is most obvious on the ground. The additional 30,000 troops promised by President Obama in his speech at West Point 14 months ago are finally in place and changing the trajectory of the fight.

One of us, Nathaniel, recently flew into Camp Leatherneck in a C-130 transport plane, which had to steer clear of fighter bombers stacked for tens of thousands of feet above the Sangin District of Helmand Province, in southwestern Afghanistan. Singly and in pairs, the jets swooped low to drop their bombs in support of Marine units advancing north through the Helmand River Valley.

Half of the violence in Afghanistan takes place in only 9 of its nearly 400 districts, with Sangin ranking among the very worst. Slowly but surely, even in Sangin, the Taliban are being driven from their sanctuaries as the coalition focuses on protecting the Afghan people in key population centers and hubs of economic activity, and along the roads that connect them. Once these areas are cleared, it will be possible to hold them with Afghan troops and a few American advisers — allowing the United States to thin its deployments over time.

A significant shift of high-tech intelligence resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, initiated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander, is also having benefits. The coalition led by the United States and NATO has been able to capture or kill far more Taliban leaders in nighttime raids than was possible in the past.

The United States certainly can’t kill its way to victory, as it learned in Vietnam and Iraq, but it can put enough pressure on many Taliban fighters to encourage them to switch their allegiance, depriving the enemy of support and giving the coalition more sources of useful intelligence.

Afghan Army troop strength has increased remarkably. The sheer scale of the effort at the Kabul Military Training Center has to be seen to be appreciated. Rows of new barracks surround a blue-domed mosque, and live-fire training ranges stretched to the mountains on the horizon.

It was a revelation to watch an Afghan squad, only days from deployment to Paktika Province on the Pakistani border, demonstrate a fire-and-maneuver exercise before jogging over to chat with American visitors. When asked, each soldier said that he had joined the Army to serve Afghanistan. Most encouraging of all was the response to a question that resonates with 18- and 19-year-old soldiers everywhere: how does your mother feel? “Proud.”

Analysis & Commentary

Fick and Nagl continue with some challenges to the campaign, such as corruption in the Afghan government, along with supposed solutions, such as a task force to investigate and expose corruption.  Meanwhile, back here in reality-land, there are a number of salient things about the campaign that should be pointed out.

First, it’s a patently absurd proposition that we can’t “kill our way to victory.”  Of course we can.  The difficulty is in separating the insurgency from the population, which requires various and sundry methods and tactics, but if we kill all of the insurgents, then the insurgents are all dead, and thus there is no longer an insurgency.  Granted, the motivating forces behind an insurgency may not have been completely eradicated, but I’m not certain that the American public wants Afghanistan to resolve into a situation that will never need revisiting in the future.  Creating a stable nation-state in the pattern of Western democracy shouldn’t be on the list of things to do in Afghanistan.  The public won’t support it, and it isn’t possible.

Second, as far as capturing and killing Taliban leaders, I have opposed and continue to oppose the high value target program.  Not that I am offended by killing Taliban leaders, but the program is ineffective.  Furthermore, as we have discussed extensively, prisons do not work in counterinsurgency.  At least in Afghanistan, they are counterproductive.  I take the metric of capturing and imprisoning mid-level Taliban leaders to be an indication of how badly the campaign is going.  Release of commanders within months or even weeks of capture only informs the locals that the coalition isn’t serious about the campaign, and gives more fighters incentive to pursue promotion through the ranks.  There isn’t a cost associated with being a Taliban fighter.

Third, Taliban are indeed being driven away from their sanctuaries, at least some of them (and the Marines have had more success than anyone to date, including the British in Helmand).  Joshua Foust weighs in that we have concentrated troops in the “worthless backwaters of Helmand” rather than focus on the AfPak border, and thus we aren’t really sealing any portion of the border.  My take is different.  In Iraq we played “whack-a-mole” counterinsurgency until we brought enough troops to bear to create saturation.  There isn’t any area that the insurgents consider off limits, and their governance appears to be far superior to that of the Afghan government.  Focusing on the backwaters of Helmand – which was an R&R and recruiting area for insurgents – might very well have been “focusing on the backwaters of Kunar and Nuristan” if we had left insurgents in Helmand alone to start the drive up Highway 1 towards Kabul to overtake the government.  We don’t have enough troops and never have.

In fact, we are abandoning the Pech Valley, and I have previously observed that:

When you hear the reflexive, tired, worn out mantra that we are having difficulty defeating the Taliban and those forces aligned with AQ because Pakistan simply won’t go into their safe havens and root them out, this is a nothing but a magic trick, a sleight of hand, a smoke screen, a ruse.  The issue is fake.  It’s a well-designed farce.

Oh, to be sure, the U.S. would indeed like for the Pakistanis to go kill all of the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban and AQ affiliated groups so that we don’t have to deal with them in Afghanistan.  But we have the ideal chance to address the problem head on in the Pech Valley and other areas near the AfPak border – that Durand line that exists only as a figment of our imaginations.  Essentially, much of the Hindu Kush is available for us to do the same thing we want Pakistan to do, and in fact, if we began actually doing this, Pakistan might be persuaded to allow readier access to Pakistani soil (once they see we are serious about the campaign).

We argued endlessly in Iraq that the Syrian and Iranian borders must be secured in order to win the campaign.  In fact we did effectively seal the Syrian border, and our lack of focus on Iran only portends problems for Iraq today.  The things we learned in Iraq have not been transferred to Afghanistan, and rather than press for troop saturation, Fick and Nagl are arguing for troop reductions.

In Fallujah (the “City of Mosques”) in 2007, every Mosque preached anti-American sermons in the month of April.  While I cannot discuss the tactics used to persuade the city to support the Marines, within three months the sermons – all of them – had changed to a pro-American stance.  In Afghanistan, the Imams tell us the state of the campaign.

For the U.S. government, and for the 100,000 American troops fighting in Afghanistan, the messages delivered last Friday could hardly have been worse.

Under the weathered blue dome of Kabul’s largest mosque, a distinguished preacher, Enayatullah Balegh, pledged support for “any plan that can defeat” foreign military forces in Afghanistan, denouncing what he called “the political power of these children of Jews.”

Across town, a firebrand imam named Habibullah was even more blunt.

“Let these jackals leave this country,” the preacher, who uses only one name, declared of foreign troops. “Let these brothers of monkeys, gorillas and pigs leave this country. The people of Afghanistan should determine their own fate.”

Every Friday, Afghan clerics wade into the politics of their war-torn country, delivering half-hour sermons that blend Islamic teaching with often-harsh criticism of the U.S. presence. In a country where many lack newspapers, television or Internet access, the mosque lectures represent a powerful forum for influencing opinion.

Finally, the endless chorus of positive voices concerning the development of ANA troopers is tiresome and silly given the history of the ANA we have discussed before.  But let’s focus on only one example to make our point.  If you saw HBO’s “The Battle for Marjah,” produced by Ben Anderson (and if you didn’t see it, you must), you noted that one Marine took out a Taliban fighter with a head shot at 500+ meters.  Not a Marine Scout Sniper, and not with a Sasser .50 sniper rifle.  A Marine infantryman, MOS 0311, with a 5.56 shot with an M4.  How many ANA troopers can pull this off?  If the answer is none (and that is the correct answer), what would have happened to the ANA in Southern Helmand if the Marines didn’t lead the assault?  And what will happen when there are no Marines?

Again, Fick and Nagl have given us a nice report from Afghanistan.  Back in the reality-land, there are many weighty things that cause us to ponder the fact that it might not be so rosy a picture as they have painted.

Gates Pleads for Funds for State Department Work in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Washington Post:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Senate committee Thursday that everything the United States has accomplished in Iraq is potentially at risk if the State Department does not get the money it has requested to fund its work there as U.S. forces exit this year.

In an impassioned plea during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on next year’s Pentagon budget, Gates cited the loss of more than 4,000 American lives in Iraq and the expenditure of some $900 billion.

He said it is “a critically urgent concern” that a planned $5.2 billion allocation for fiscal 2012 be approved, so that the State Department can carry on the training of Iraqi police and other programs once handled by the Pentagon.

He pointed out that because current funding is limited by the continuing resolution for fiscal 2011, which allots funds at 2010 levels, the State Department “can’t spend the money to get ready right now. . . . There are facilities to be built. There are people to be hired. And they can’t do any of that. And so we’re going to run out of time in terms of being able to get this accomplished.

[ ... ]

Graham asked Gates whether it wouldn’t be better for the U.S. military to provide needed security, rather than having the State Department hire a “private contractor army.” The defense secretary agreed.

Gates disclosed that there have been informal talks with the Iraqis about the possibility of a new agreement for some U.S. forces to remain after Dec. 31 to help with intelligence, logistics and air defense.

But the defense secretary said that because the presence of American troops remains unpopular in the country, no Iraqi political leader wants “to be the first one out there supporting it.” He said his hope was that once a new Iraqi defense minister is named, “we will be able to move forward with this dialogue with the Iraqis.”

So our mission in Iraq is in jeopardy because we can’t get the funding allocated to the State Department in the proposed budget, and Gates is critical of the continuing resolution for fiscal 2011 because it holds spending at current levels.  The problem isn’t the fact that we never went after Iran in the regional war that was Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The problem isn’t that the Obama administration proposed an obscene and immoral budget that had to be stopped by the GOP.  The problem isn’t that Maliki lied to the “Sons of Iraq” about providing jobs and instead went after many of them on criminal charges.  The problem isn’t that the Iraqis had far too much confidence in their ability to provide stability and security, thus forcing a highly deleterious Status of Forces Agreement that had U.S. forces locked into their bases as if under house arrest.  No, the problem is that the State Department needs more money.

The State Department, recall, that went after Blackwater on weapons charges, was awarded $42 million in court, and then turned around and hired military contractors for its own protection in Iraq.  That State Department.  Gates has made some bad judgments in the recent past, including promulgating the notion that Iran is merely seeking self defense concerning its bid for nuclear weapons, and pressing for the lame duck session ratification of the New START treaty.  But this is becoming a habit.

It’s doubtful that the State Department can do anything useful in Iraq, but the Congress can choose to allocate the resources without abdicating their stand on the continuing resolution for fiscal 2011.  Either way, Iraq is at a crossroads.  She can choose to rectify the sectarianism and then provide the U.S. with a new, more robust SOFA, or she can choose to descend into backwards, seventh century barbarism.  There is little the State Department can do to assist in either case, and the U.S. military will be better for Iraq than diplomats.  But there is no scenario in which Iraq embraces extremist, militant Islam and yet comes out the other end as a civilized, prosperous state.  The two are incompatible.

Prior on defense budget: Sustainable Defense Task Force


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