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]

Iran Trumps Up Charges Against Youcef Nadarkhani

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

From CNN:

Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will be put to death for several charges of rape and extortion, charges that differ greatly from his original sentence of apostasy, Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency reported Friday.

Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted, accused Western media of twisting the real story, referring to him as a “rapist.” A previous report from the news agency claimed he had committed several violent crimes, including repeated rape and extortion.

“His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity,” Rezvani told Fars. “He is guilty of security-related crimes.”

In a translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010, however, the charge of apostasy is the only charge leveled against Nadarkhani.

“Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32-years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19,” reads the brief.

Of course that’s the way the brief reads.  The Iranians are lying.  The reason, by the way, that Islam requires Muslims to execute those who “apostatize” from Islam is that Islam is epistemologically vapid and vacuous, and logically uncompelling.   When your belief system lacks an intellectual edifice, you have to militarize its expansion and ability to retain “adherents.”  This is what puts incidents like the forced “conversion” of Steve Cenntani in context.  Those who are confident in their faith don’t require the use of weapons for influence.

Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S. Citizen, Killed in Yemen?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

So apparently al Qaeda propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in Yemen by a CIA-led strike.  So this raises some important questions.

First off, while my friend Michael Ledeen wants to support the Green movement in Iran, I want to do this along with (a) reversing the executive order on assassinations issued by President Ford, (b) assassinating General Suleimani, Hassan Nasrallah, and a whole host of other unsavory characters, and fomenting an insurgency inside of Iran.  I pleaded for killing Baitullah Mehsud before his name became a household word, and toasted his demise when it happened (Edit: And now that I think back on this event, quite literally I laughed out loud and celebrated his death, just as I did Zarqawi).  I haven’t changed any of my views.  So let’s not level silly charges that I’m going soft or becoming a leftist.

But we have just rained ordnance down on a U.S. citizen by executive order.  Does anyone see any problems with this?  I (think I) have divorced myself from the fact that Mr. Obama approved this; as my readers know, I am no supporter of Mr. Obama.  But while I think less highly of the high value target program’s effectiveness than he does, I  supported his approval of the mission against UBL.  UBL wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

In this case, though, things are different.  The constitution affords certain protections to U.S. citizens.  I discussed this with co-writer Glen Tschirgi and he suggested some alternative solutions to the dilemma.  For example, Congress could have issued a bill that strips U.S. citizens of their citizenship when a person identifies with a formally designated terrorist entity.  There might be a set of other reasons that a person must relinquish their citizenship.  Now, to be sure, I can think of problematic aspects of such a solution, such as the fact that we would be relying on the accuracy and viability of the U.S. State Department’s program of identification of terrorists, or possibly corruption of the process.

But the fact of the matter is that we didn’t pursue any of these approaches.  Awlaki was still a U.S. citizen when we executed him under executive order.  For some odd reason, that little thing called “due process” keeps coming to mind.

UPDATE: Kevin Williamson weighs in a bit at NRO.  David French responds at NRO with what I consider to be an uncompelling argument.  The issue doesn’t focus on the term “assassination.”  The issue focuses on the protections afforded by the constutition to U.S. citizens.  If it’s legal to execute U.S. citizens without due process, then queue the argument up.  I’ll listen.  And this isn’t analogous to stumbling upon a shooter on the field of battle who happens to be a U.S. citizen.  This is the premeditated targeting of a U.S. citizen without due process.  Again, queue up the argument for this.  Tell me how this fits within our legal framework?

Daniels Tells GOP Candidates to Man-Up: Pot Officially Calls Kettle Black

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years ago

Esteemed political consultant and columnist Michael Barone pens a piece for Human Events that covers a recent speech by Governor Mitch Daniels:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels did not attract as large a crowd when he spoke at American Enterprise Institute (where I am a resident fellow) earlier this week as he did when several months ago, before he disappointed admirers by announcing that he wouldn’t run for president.

I saw no political reporters there — though a few may have been lurking in the back — and he got only one question (from me) about presidential politics. No, he said, he isn’t reconsidering his decision not to run, and doesn’t think that Chris Christie is, either.

But Daniels’ message, based on his new book “Keeping the Republic,” was important — one that every presidential candidate should heed — because it was about a looming issue that Barack Obama has so far decided to duck but that one of them, if he is elected, may have to confront.

We face, Daniels said, “a survival-level threat to the America we have known.” The problem can be summed up as debt. The Obama Democrats have put us on the path to double the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product, bringing it to levels that, as economists Kenneth Rogoff​ and Carmen Reinhart have written in “This Time Is Different,” have always proved unsustainable.

Daniels put it this way. Debt service will permanently stunt the growth of the economy. And that will be followed by a loss of leadership in the world, because “nobody follows a pauper.”

That growth in debt will continue to be driven by growth in programs labeled entitlements — though Daniels objects to that term. Congress, after all, can vote to cancel entitlement programs and deny promised benefits any time it wants, as the Supreme Court ruled in Flemming v. Nestor in 1960.

OK, fine, Mitch.   You have nicely summed up the problem and its catastrophic proportions.  Now just stop there before you get yourself into trouble.

But Mitch could not resist, apparently:

This is quite a contrast with the Republicans out there running for president, who have had little to say about the problem of entitlements, in debates or in their platforms. Mitt Romney​ raises the problem but hesitates to advance solutions, and then attacks Rick Perry for intemperate comments about Social Security in his book “Fed Up!”

On defense, Perry points out the success of public employee pension plans in three Texas counties that outperform Social Security. But these programs are impossible to scale up in a society where most employment is in the private sector, where most people will hold multiple jobs over their working lifetimes and where many people move from state to state (often, as Perry points out, to Texas).

Daniels laments that the candidates “have not yet stepped out on these issues.” He says that he is “a little concerned that our nominee might decide, ‘I’ll just play it safe and get elected as the default option’” to an incumbent discredited by obvious policy failures.

“My question then is what matters — winning or establishing the base that enables you to make big gains?”

(Emphasis added)

Maybe this is just a personal quirk of mine, but I find it extremely irritating (to say the least) that Mitch Daniels can stand up at a podium and promote his new book, declaring that we are in national “survival-level” mode, and then criticize the GOP presidential candidates for not taking the risk of establishing a policy position on the debt and entitlement spending.

Why?

Because he did not have the spine to run for president himself.   If he doesn’t like the present candidates’ lack of nerve, he should just shut the heck up or throw his hat in the ring.   Oh, wait.  I forgot.  His wife didn’t want him to run.   Cry me a river, fella.  Don’t go talking about national “survival-level” and then say you can’t run for president because your wife is not on board.   Maybe this is a telling sign of what passes for “leadership” in America today.  Or, rather, the absence of it.   If you truly believe that the times are perilous and our future is at stake (and, in the case of Daniels, you have the long record of experience, political connections and positioning to make a serious run at the presidency— especially when clowns like Ron Paul are running!) then either step up to the plate or shut the fat up.

To some extent, this same criticism can be leveled at Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio, both of whom I admire very much.   When they rightly and persuasively talk about the grave crises that we face as a nation, I say, “Fine.  Run for president where you can do the most good.”   It disgusts me that these otherwise fine men would decline to run simply because they do not feel that the time is right or some, other political calculation.   These are not normal times.   2012 is not a normal election.   We need every viable candidate on deck, contributing their insights and persuasion to the national debate.   I defy Ryan, Rubio or Daniels to make a convincing case that the nation is better served by their refusal to run than to have them in the race.

And I suppose my ire is fueled all the more as I see the GOP field self-destruct.   Perry seems clueless when it comes to illegal immigration.   Romney cannot bring himself to disavow his government-mandated healthcare scheme that inspired at least part of the godawful Obamacare.   Herman Cain is appealing at a certain level but I have yet to hear him articulate anything like a foreign policy perspective that would make anyone take him seriously– deferring to his advisors is not going to cut it.    The rest of the pack are in the single-digits.   At least Newt Gingrich seems intent to enrich the debate.    And at least Rubio, Ryan and Daniels could do that much.

How can it be that the Revolutionary War produced so many amazing leaders?   Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin and the host of others seemed to spontaneously rise to the occasion that demanded it.   Has America sunk so low that the 2012 Election– an occasion that everyone agrees is a momentous point in U.S. history — can call forth no one better than the current, blighted crop of Republicans and those too timid to run themselves but bold enough to snipe from the gallery?

Not good, my friends.  Not good.

Failure in Obama’s Foreign Policy

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

There are many failures in this administration’s foreign policy, but one glaring failure seems to capture all of the incompetence and lack of vision in a single snapshot.

Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington, according to American officials involved in U.S. policy in the region.

The internal criticism by the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to challenge Mullen openly, reflects concern over the accuracy of Mullen’s characterizations at a time when Obama administration officials have been frustrated in their efforts to persuade Pakistan to break its ties to Afghan insurgent groups.

[ ... ]

Mullen’s testimony to a Senate committee was widely interpreted as an accusation by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Pakistan’s military and espionage agencies sanction and direct bloody attacks against U.S. troops and targets in Afghanistan. Such interpretations prompted new levels of indignation among senior officials in both the United States and Pakistan.

That Pakistan’s behavior has been duplicitous for years is well known.  That the Haqqani network of fighters is killing U.S. Soldiers is equally well known.  They are noted as the most dangerous network of Islamic insurgents in the region.  In fact, the Haqqani group had a relationship of patronage with al Qaeda before AQ became big.  They have more than just a regional focus, and have had fighters in other parts of the world.  AQ learned their military skills mainly from the Haqqani group.  That Pakistan’s ISI is fond of the counterbalance in Afghanistan that they feel Haqqani provides them against Indian influence is well known.

But what is so stark about this example is the obscene display of an administration fighting with itself, but only in whispers.  No one wants to be seen publicly disputing what Admiral Mullen said, because they know he telling the truth.  No one wants to look into the eyes of the families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and tell them that the country which harbors those who did it is our ally.  So they do it in whispers.

The “anonymous sources” who tried to walk back Mullen’s comments are cowards.  But they exemplify an administration whose foreign policy is in absolute crisis.  They don’t know how to hold Pakistan accountable.  They have put little forethought into lines of logistics other than Khyber and Chaman from the port city of Karachi – so they are beholden to the Pakistanis (and this which is heavily dependent on Russia doesn’t count compared to this).  They have no long term vision for true alliances in the region where India would be a much better friend than Pakistan.

Make no mistake about it.  Mullen and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are trying to fight a war.  The Obama administration just undercut the Chairman in a campaign of whispers by cowards.  It is obscene in the superlative, and a sure sign of utter failure.

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Two very important individuals in the military (and now consulting) community, Barry McCaffrey and Robert Scales, have penned a much-anticipated study entitled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.

The state on the ground in the war with the Mexican cartels is remarkable.  We’ve already discussed how the Mexican cartels have adopted military-style tactics, techniques and procedures.

Mexican drug cartels are using military weapons and tactics while also recruiting Texas teenagers to carry out their operations, which are evolving into full-blown criminal enterprises, experts said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw said last week in a report given to Congress that the cartels “incorporate reconnaissance networks, techniques and capabilities normally associated with military organizations, such as communications intercepts, interrogations, trend analysis, secure communications, coordinated military-style tactical operations, GPS, thermal imagery and military armaments, including fully automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.”

There is apparently massive corruption in the U.S. border patrol, and the Mexican cartels have law enforcement officials at the local, state and national levels on their payroll.  In order to combat the smuggling operations across the Rio Grande, Texas is creating a marine division.  The reach of the cartels goes into the High Schools in Texas where they are recruiting children for cartel work.

McCaffrey and Scales add to the bleak picture by showing how the cartel strategy has changed from control through locations South of the border to control via operations at least one county deep into Texas, and they discuss the increased criminalization and violence associated with the cartels.  The bleak picture dovetails with an assessment by Robert Bunker at Small Wars Journal.

Ten years after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda, the United States has reached a pivotal strategic decision point in our national policies. Are we to continue with our national security policy of focusing on that terrorist entity (and its group of networks) as the dominant threat to the US and the homeland or will the Mexican cartels (and their supporting gang networks) now be recognized as replacing Al Qaeda as the number one threat to our government and safety of our citizens? While the violence potentials of Al Qaeda are universally recognized— we will never forget the thousands of our dead mourned after 9/11— the violence associated with the criminal insurgent potentials of the Mexican cartels and their ability to corrupt and undermine governments in the Western Hemisphere must now be considered far more threatening to our nation.

The cartels’ influence expands to thousands of U.S. cities and communities, and there are on the order of 18,000 cartels members or associated workers in Texas alone.  The ability to intimidate and corrupt is unmatched in U.S. history – there is no national analogue to which the U.S. can refer to combat this menace.

The task for McCaffrey and Scales is big, and the bar set high.  As for their recommendations?  They sweep across a range of options, coordinated relationships, and increased efficiency in law enforcement.  Counterintelligence and sting operations are of course important, as is rapid response capabilities and increased manpower.

McCaffrey and Scales do recommend the involvement of state troops (i.e., National Guard), but all efforts in this program are seen as led by Texas Rangers.  It is fundamentally a civilian-led operation.  Perhaps this focus is in deference to the Posse Comitatus Act (Section 1385, Title 18 U.S.C.), but it isn’t at all clear that U.S. troops should be forbidden or even could be forbidden from participating in border security under this act.

Furthermore, McCaffrey and Scales have a problem with their recommendation to use National Guard under the current circumstances.  Recall that in Arizona, a National Guard-manned post was attacked and overrun by cartel fighters.  Immediately after this, the following assessment was proffered.

Unfortunately, I must report that “Armed does not always mean “armed” as most Americans would understand. There are various states of being “armed.” These are called “Arming Orders (AO)” which define where the weapon “is,” where the magazine “is,” where the bullets “are” and where the bayonet “is.” They start at Arming Order One which could best be described as a “show of force” or “window dressing” in the worse case.

After considerable searching, I was able to find a complete copy of the Memorundum of Understanding/Rules of Engagement pertaining to the National Guard Deployment (“Operation Jump Start”), which I could then review.

After reviewing the MOU/ROE, I contacted several senior “in the loop” National Guard Officers that I have previously served with, to determine how many soldiers would be “armed” and their Arming Order number. After confirming The El Paso Times article that “very few soldiers there would carry weapons,” I was advised that during the next 90 days, amongst the few soldiers that have weapons, no soldier will have an Arming Order greater than AO-1, which means that an M-16 will be on the shoulder, there will be no magazine in the weapon (thats where the bullets come from), and the magazines stored inside the “ammunition pouch” will in most cases have no ammunition, they will be empty.

It was also conveyed to myself that in the unlikely event that a soldier is ever harmed on the border, the Arming Order will not be raised. Every individual I spoke to envisions no circumstance where there will ever be soldiers at AO-3/4, where a magazine with ammunition would be immediately available. Instead the soldiers will simply be kept farther away from the border if needed. They will be deliberately kept out of harms way.

I know you are thinking (maybe screaming), “but Why?” The easy public relations answer is that a soldier could kill someone. The National Guard is going to ensure that there is not a repeat of the incident in which Esequiel Hernández was killed by a US Marine along the Border.

There are also numerous regulations pertaining to weapons. There is a requirement that a soldier must qualify with his weapon on an annual basis. Reasonably, you must be “qualified” with your weapon before you may carry a weapon. However, ranges for weapons qualification are extremely limited. National Guard soldiers normally perform their once a year required qualification when they go to Annual Training at Ft. Stewart, Ft. McCoy…… This year they are going to “the border” and unless there is a “regulation M-16 qualification range” down the road, they will not be able to get qualified. There is also the question of weapon storage and how do you prevent theft.

Even disregarding all of this, the rules for the use of force will prevent the effective use of the National Guard to accomplish border security.  That is, unless something drastically changes.

I have recommended that we view what is going on as a war against warlords and insurgents who will destabilize the state both South and even North of the border.  I have further recommended that the RUF be amended and the U.S. Marines be used to set up outposts and observation posts along the border in distributed operations, even making incursions into Mexican territory if necessary while chasing insurgents (Mexican police have used U.S. soil in pursuit of the insurgents).

While militarization of border security may be an unpalatable option for America, it is the only option that will work.  All other choices make the situation worse because it is allowed to expand and grow.  Every other option is mere window dressing.

While McCaffrey and Scales have done a service in their outline of the scope and magnitude of the problem, their recommendations are, needless to say, underwhelming.  They kick the can down the road, and the road only becomes more dangerous with time and distance.  Above it was said that there is no national analogue to the menace at the border.  The only analogue to this problem is the most recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The problem has exceeded the ability of law enforcement to cope.

Taxpayer Dollars Used To Purchase Weapons for Mexican Cartels

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

From David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh writing at Examiner and Sipsey Street Irregulars we learn how Operation Gunwalker (or Fast and Furious) was no botched sting operation.

In a letter dated June 1, 2010, then Phoenix ATF Group VII supervisor David Voth instructed a Federal Firearms Licensee in Arizona as follows:

Dear Sir,

Per Section 925(a)(1) of the Gun Control Act (GCA) exempts law enforcement agencies from the transportation, shipment, receipt, or importation controls of the GCA when firearms are to be used for the official business of the agency.

Please accept this letter in lieu of completing an ATF Form 4473 for the purchase of four (4) CAI, Model Draco, 7.62×39 mm pistols, by Special Agent John Dodson. These aforementioned pistols will be used by Special Agent Dodson in furtherance of the performance of his official duties. In addition, Special Agent Dodson has not been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. If you have any questions, you may contact me at telephone number 602-605-6501.

Sincerely,

(Signature)
David Voth
ATF Group Supervisor
Phoenix Group VII

In the lower left-hand margin of the one-page letter is the hand-written notation:

“Picked guns
up 6/10/10
Paid Cash”

“Paid Cash” is underlined.

The existence of this letter provided to these reporters by a previously reliable source familiar with the Fast and Furious investigation, coupled with interviews of other sources across the country which put it into context, provides startling proof that the Federal government did not merely “lose track” of weapons purchased by “straw buyers” under surveillance by the ATF and destined for the Mexican drug cartels. In an undercover operation ordered by Fast and Furious supervisor David Voth, the U.S. government purchased firearms with taxpayer money from licensed firearms dealers, instructed them to conduct the sales “off the books,” and used an ATF agent, John Dodson, to deliver them directly to people that Dodson believed were conducting them across the border.

They go further to discuss how Dodson was almost surely set up to keep him from becoming a whistle-blower for the illegal operation.  This isn’t news.  But what is certainly news is how the news treated this revelation.  Bob Owens followed up this story with analysis of his own, and then remarks concerning a Fox News article on the same subject in one of the comments:

Fox News pretty much lifted their article part and parcel from Codrea and Vanderboegh, and should be considered plagiarists. No link to either of their sites, and Sispsey Street was only mentioned in passing; the Examiner not at all.

David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh have been out front on this scandal ever since it broke.  In fact, they helped to break it.  Their contacts beat any other in the main stream media.  Yet as Owens notes, there isn’t even a single link to Sipsey Street Irregulars or Examiner.  The failure properly to source simply propagates, with The Daily Mail sourcing Fox News.

For a period of time Matt Drudge had a link to the Fox News article as his headline.  This, my friends, is stolen traffic.  Fox News stole the content investigated and written by Codrea and Vanderboegh and posted it as their own.

This is shameful in professional journalism.  Fox News owes David and Mike an apology and explanation.

One final note concerns the explanation by Voth of how the Gun Control Act allowed exemption from its stipulations for LEOs.  One commenter remarks at Owens’ post:

Using agency funds (taxpayers’ money) to buy the weapons to be transferred to the cartels means that the operation has, prima facie, violated U.S. Code Title 18, Part 1, chap. 96, section 1960-61, defining the use of federal funds to illegally obtain and/or transfer controlled substances and/or items to unauthorized third parties.

To do this within the law (as in a drug transaction) requires a bench warrant from a state or federal court. The buying or selling has to be done in a controlled manner, the item(s) must never be out of law enforcement control (meaning they at least must be tracked), and they cannot cross state lines or national boundaries without proper notification of authorities on the “receiving end”.

“Fast & Furious” and “Gunwalker” have, on the face of it, violated all of the above provisions.

The argument that the exemptions were intended to allow the trafficking of weapons across national borders is ridiculous in the superlative.  Of course, this won’t fly anywhere, not in court or even with the court of public opinion.  Also note how Voth failed to mention the Arms Export Control Act.

Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years ago

I just want to know.

General Petraeus.  Once you get settled in over at the C.I.A., can you check around the closets or under the desks at Langley and see if there are any covert ops people left?   I know we are too high-tech for that sort of thing nowadays, but every so often a job comes up that just can’t be done by the drones or the snooping satellites or wire intercepts.

The Washington Post publishes this article concerning the rising numbers of Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition:

WADI KHALED, Lebanon — A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement.

For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions, a Facebook page and a relatively small number of defected soldiers and officers who have taken refuge on the borderlands of Turkey and Lebanon or among civilians in Syria’s cities.

Many of its claims appear exaggerated or fanciful, such as its boasts to have shot down a helicopter near Damascus this month and to have mustered a force of 10,000 to take on the Syrian military.

But it is clear that defections from the Syrian military have been accelerating in recent weeks, as have levels of violence in those areas where the defections have occurred.

“It is the beginning of armed rebellion,” said Gen. Riad Asaad, the dissident army’s leader, who defected from the air force in July and took refuge in Turkey.

The article goes to great lengths to point out that the group does not have much clout at the moment but also notes:

There are nonetheless signs that the Free Syrian Army is expanding and organizing as reports of violent encounters increase. The group has announced the formation of 12 battalions around the country that regularly post claims on the group’s Facebook page, including bombings against military buses and ambushes at checkpoints.

This type of reporting is to be taken with more than a grain of salt, particularly in light of the lack of any reporters inside of Syria verifying the claims  (Calling Geraldo:  report to your choice of border crossings into Syria).  At the same time, it is only natural that protesters who are regularly attacked, beaten, tortured and killed will want to take up arms and at least try to defend themselves.   Given that the Assad Regime has been a major supplier of insurgents and armaments into Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and actively does the bidding of Iran in Lebanon, the U.S. has a keen interest in seeing him toppled.

What perfect justice for the U.S. to return the favor to Assad tenfold by infiltrating weapons into Syria from western Iraq.

But does the U.S. even have that capability?  And if we do, would this Administration actually follow through?

How does the U.S. influence the future of Syria?  At some point, when the Assad Regime continues to kill and torture its citizens, the U.S. must do more than just offer a rhetorical bone to the opposition.    Connections are made and relationships formed by providing material assistance (even if covert) to the opposition groups in Syria who at least have a willingness to work with the U.S.   How do we know that we will not be supplying weapons and training to Islamist militants?

That requires actual intelligence officers and human sources inside Syria.

General Petraeus, do you have anyone like that around the office?

Striking a Deal with the Haqqanis

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

This article from The Hindu provides a good summary history of the Haqqanis.  Upon reading it, consider just how well connected and globally minded they are.

Born in the early 1950s, Jalaluddin Haqqani hailed from the Zadran tribe of the Pashtun ethnic group. He studied at a seminary in Datta Adam Khel, and would likely have gone on to become a rural cleric — had it not been for a series of dramatic events that transformed Afghanistan, eventually bringing to power a new class of armed clerics who would displace both the traditional tribal élite and the modernising left-wing secularists who had swept them aside.

In 1973, Afghan communists overthrew the decaying monarchy. Even though the new President, Daud Muhammad Khan, was the deposed king’s brother-in-law, he declared the country a republic. President Khan presided over a dramatic process of social reform — marked, among other things, by an emphasis on women’s rights. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, fearful that Mr. Khan’s nationalist rhetoric would seduce ethnic Pashtuns living on its side of the border, responded by backing an insurgency spearheaded by the Afghan Islamists.

Five years before the crisis that would suck the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani declared war against the Afghan state. Helped by the ISI, he developed sources of funding in the Middle East, using the flow of cash to build an impressive military apparatus.

The ISI, though, wasn’t Jalaluddin Haqqani’s only source of support. In the wake of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, journalist Steve Coll has revealed, he was cultivated as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset. Charlie Wilson, a right-wing politician who helped funnel tens of millions of dollars to the Afghan jihadists, described Jalaluddin Haqqani as “goodness personified.”

Key figures in the global jihadist movement — among them Osama bin Laden — learned their military skills in camps set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, and maintained a close relationship with him in the years that followed.

Mustafa al-Hamid, an al-Qaeda linked ideologue and writer who served with Jalaluddin Haqqani’s forces, wrote a hagiographic account which was published in the jihadist magazine al-Somud last year. The “majesty in his personality was a model for the great religious scholars of Afghanistan and students of the knowledge of the pure mujahideen, who now stand as an impregnable bulwark against the largest crusader attack upon the Islamic nation.”

From the outset, scholars Don Rassler and Vahid Brown have noted in a seminal paper, that Jalaluddin Haqqani helped shape the global jihadist movement’s ideas.

In 1980, for example, Haqqani asserted that Middle Eastern charity to the Afghan campaign did “not absolve the individual Muslim of the duty to offer himself for the jihad.” Abdullah Azzam — bin Laden’s mentor, Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder and ideological patriarch of the global jihadist movement — arrived at the same conclusion four years later, when he declared the Afghan jihad fard ‘ayn, an individual obligation. When bin Laden shifted base to a pink stucco three-storey home in Khartoum in 1991, having fallen out with Saudi Arabia’s royal family, Jalaluddin Haqqani used the opportunity to operate on a wider stage. He backed Hasan al-Turabi’s Islamist regime in Sudan, and sent volunteers to fight in Bosnia. In 1991, at a meeting in Karachi, he also bragged about his war against India, saying his networks had “trained thousands of Kashmiri mujahideen and have made them ready for the jihad.”

Nizamuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s deputy, proclaimed in 1991 that the U.S. and Russia were “both infidel forces.”

Bin Laden’s close relationship with the Haqqanis helped him act on those ideas during his last, tortured months in Afghanistan — scarred by an increasingly bitter relationship with Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar which saw al-Qaeda’s leader confined to the city of Kandahar.

“From that point on,” Dr. Rassler and Dr. Brown record, “al-Qaeda came to increasingly rely on the Haqqani network’s autonomy from the Taliban in Loya Paktia as a launching pad for its declarations of war on the West.”

Bin Laden’s declaration of jihad against the West — his most sweeping manifesto and ideological keystone of the 9/11 attacks, was critically issued from a Haqqani camp in the Zhawara valley.

Since 9/11, the Haqqani network has survived by using the same geographical advantages that stood it so well during the anti-Soviet jihad: its control of key routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and its ability to retreat south across the border.

Now take note of one particularly stolid commentary at Reuters.

Pakistan hopes the United States will eventually welcome the participation of the Haqqanis in any Afghan peace talks. Kabul also understands the group can’t be excluded.

Although the Haqqanis fall under the command of Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, U.S. officials believe they do not always accept Taliban authority and can act independently.

Jalaluddin has historically shown a penchant for changing sides, as the Americans know all too well, and he may be more flexible than the hardline Siraj.

Washington is scrambling to bring stability to Afghanistan at it gradually withdraws from the country. Striking a deal with the Haqqanis may be wise while the ailing Jalaluddin might still have a say.

That was no mistake, and you don’t have to read it again.  Reuters is recommending that we strike a deal with the “ailing” elder Haqqani who likes to switch sides rather than his more radical son.  And hurry.  The ailing Haqqani may die, in which case whatever deal we might have struck with him – which was sure to be honored by his more radical son – will have been a missed opportunity.

This is what happens when ignorant people assign themselves the responsibility and authority to become Afghanistan / Pashtun / Islamic / Jihadist / Pakistani experts.  Also, regarding that last paragraph in The Hindu piece on control of key routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan, who was it that issued the warning about the coming logistical struggle because of the attacks on lines through Khyber and Chaman, and that, three and a half years ago?

The Wrong Way To Argue For Gun Rights

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell has a post up on Presbyterianism and gun rights concerning “Presbyterian” leadership and anti-gun advocacy.  I like the spirit of his post, but there are two very problematic aspects to his post.

First, he conflates the PCUSA with Presbyterians.  Not so.  Not at all.  There is the PCA, the OPC, the RPCNA, the ARP, and so on.  Presbyterianism isn’t a monolith, and the PCUSA is noted as the very left wing of Presbyterianism.

Second, and most important, Sebastian argues thusly:

I really don’t like it when churches insert themselves into political matters under the guise that these are really spiritual matters. Murder, rage, and vengeance — these are all matters of the spirit. Gun control is a matter of politics

And that, my friends, is exactly how to lose the gun rights argument.  Make it a political debate where, with enough pressure, votes and power, a man can take away what God has granted.  There is more background in Let Him Who Has No Gun Sell His Robe and Buy One, and Dr. Greg Bahnsen has much more.  But the short version is that the right to self defense is a right seen by our forefathers as inalienable.  That  means that it isn’t subject to the ebb and flow of politics.

My right to firearms ownership is granted by God, no  matter what the PCUSA says.  They’re just wrong.  But the way to defeat wrongheaded arguments is not to remove our rights from the framework of righteousness and morality.  It is to prove our opponents wrong on this very basis.

The problem is that while Sebastian claims that gun control is a matter of politics rather than religion (“spirit”), it really is a matter of religion and righteousness and morality rather than politics.  He has it exactly backwards.  I’m not being critical.  I’m trying to ground our rights in something other than the machinations of the political animal.

Pakistan, And Why I Hate The Presidential Debates

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

I hadn’t watched the previous GOP debates, and only watched about two minutes of this one.  I turned the channel after Santorum’s answer on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

It went something like this (I tuned in late the Bret Baier’s question).  Suppose that the insurgency within Pakistan combines with sympathetic elements of the Army and ISI to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.  What would you do?

Rick Perry answered something like this.  Working with allies in the region is very important, and our recent refusal to sell more fighters to India is problematic.  Our allies need to know that we are there and will be there is a crisis – and also that we might need them in a crisis.

Okay, but incomplete and not quite adequate as I’ll discuss in a moment.  Then Santorum weighs in and issues a rebuke (of sorts) to Perry, saying something like:

“I’ll answer the question on Pakistan since (voice raised slightly and talking sternly at this point) I’m not sure that it was answered before.  Working with allies won’t do it.  We must work with elements within Pakistan and those who might be our friend, such as Pervez Mucharraf, to turn back the insurrection.”

If Perry’s answer is inadequate, Santorum’s answer was dense and doltish.  Note well.  Musharraf was sacked by the Pakistani people in August of 2008.  He left office with the Parliament hating him, and frankly with most of Pakistan hating him.  The Islamists had good reason, since he was seen by them as an apparatchik of the U.S. (he clearly was not, from our own perspective), and the balance of Pakistan hated him because the Pakistan economy had sunk to depths of despair.  It hasn’t really gotten any better since then, but that doesn’t matter for the attitude and atmosphere in 2008.  The Pakistani people wanted change, and they got it by sacking Musharraf.

In an event in which the Pakistani Army cannot turn back an insurrection, or is participating in it, Santorum wants to turn to … Musharraf … hated and sacked by his own people!  What’s Musharraf going to do?  Stand in the road to Islamabad with a gun and threaten the ISI and Haqqani’s fighters as they come to take over the center of power?

It is a salient question whether Pakistan is an ally or enemy in the regional war.  The uninterested public is just now hearing about Haqqani’s fighters and their help in the recent attack on the U.S. embassy.  I have been tracking the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the LeT, the various Kashmiri insurgent offshoot groups, Haqqani’s organization and so on for years now.

I have watched when, as I forecast, the Khyber and Chaman passes became almost too dangerous to transport fuel and materiel, leading me to beg and plead with the strategists and policy-makers to engage the Caucasus region for  alternate logistics routes.  The strategists listened, but not well enough.  Steve Schippert and I have held long conversations trying to ascertain ways to use India as a logistics route (as well as other ways to engage them in Afghanistan).  It has the ports, it has the rail and road system, and it is sympathetic to our cause.  The only problem is that we would have to traverse across parts of Pakistani controlled Kashmir to get to Kabul.

Do we overtly treat Pakistan as the enemy in the campaign that they are, duplicitous as they have been, or do we go on pretending that the Durand line actually means anything and that Pakistan is on our side?  We covertly treat them as the enemy, viz., the secrecy surrounding the UBL raid.  How overt do we go with this?

This I know.  Steve and I agree that India is a much more natural ally in the global war on terror than is Pakistan.  Michael Yon agrees:

After much travels through India, I believe we are natural allies. We have much to learn and gain from each other. India and the United States should do what is natural. We should deepen our ties. Our relationship must be sincere and bonded.

And maybe that’s what Rick Perry is saying.  If an insurrection happens in Pakistan and their nuclear assets are in jeopardy, it will take much more than Musharraf to secure them.  This exigency needs to be war-gamed well in advance, and if the Pentagon hasn’t already done this … oh well, be sure, they have already done this.

Securing the nuclear assets will take not only the combined forces of SEALs teams and Delta Force, but several companies of Marines and Rangers to provide force protection while the operation occurred.  It will require significant support from air assets, transport, and good intelligence.  Even then, it’s likely only to be partially to moderately successful and we will sustain high casualties.

But to believe that we could operate with the assistance or help of the Pakistanis themselves is to believe that we could have done the UBL raid by informing Pakistan first.  One would also have to believe that Pakistan didn’t really show the remains of our air assets to the Chinese.

This is why I hate the debates and don’t watch them.  They are like political versions of Jeopardy.  You have seconds to tell us the “right” answer to our question (what’s right will be up to a vote), when in reality, no President is going to issue orders for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets without reference to the Pentagon’s war-gaming.  And no President is going to call Musharraf.

The debates are set up for sound bite, turn-the-channel, laugh-a-minute night time America.  For really understanding anything about a candidate, they are literally useless.

Prior: The Feeble Superhero: Pakistan Freely Tugs on Superman’s Cape


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