Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 11 Comments

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

The Tragic Shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and High Capacity Magazines

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Much will be learned about the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado in the coming days.  There will be ready-made diatribes, crafted for the ignorant, for the purpose of advocating increased gun control.  But for those who do not choose to be ignorant (e.g., my readers), listen carefully.

“The gunman was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns …”

It is as I observed before in a slight different context.

“… the most frequent choice for such shooters in order to achieve effectiveness seems not to rely on magazine capacity, but having multiple weapons and magazines.”

I do not know if the gunman had what would qualify as high capacity magazines.  It likely doesn’t matter, because he had four weapons with him.  So in the coming days when you hear more calls for banning high capacity magazines because of this event, remember that those calls are from people who don’t care about whether the facts comport with their agenda.  They just don’t care.

22 NATO Supply Trucks Destroyed in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

From Military.com:

The Taliban said they detonated a bomb on a fuel tanker Wednesday and then opened fire on other NATO supply trucks in a morning attack that destroyed 22 vehicles loaded with fuel and other goods for U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

In western Afghanistan, a NATO helicopter crashed, injuring two troops serving with the U.S.-led military coalition, NATO said. The helicopter went down early Wednesday at an undisclosed location in the relatively peaceful west. No other information has been released about the crash, which is under investigation.

The Taliban said they attacked NATO supply trucks parked overnight in Samangan province in the north.

“We put explosives on a fuel tanker. When it exploded, we fired on the trucks,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone call.

Sidiq Azizi, a spokesman for the province, said many tankers and semi-trailers caught fire after the bomb went off around 2 a.m.

By midday, heavy black smoke still poured from the Rabatak area of the province where the truckers had stopped to rest. Firefighters were spraying water on the burning vehicles.

[ ... ]

The tankers in the convoy were transporting fuel south toward the Afghan capital, Kabul, from neighboring Uzbekistan to the north.

Earlier this week, three NATO supply trucks were destroyed by militants in Sayd Abad district of Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan.

This is a troubling development, specifically because of the fact that this supply line isn’t the Khyber Pass or Chaman.  Logistical lines should have changed long ago, specifically to focus on the Northern route (one reason that the current Northern route is so expensive is that, foolishly, we don’t use Turkmenistan) and a different Southern route (i.e., from India through Pakistani controlled Kashmir and then to Kabul, with troop protection through Kashmir).

But as we stand down in Afghanistan that wouldn’t matter.  Logistical lines within Afghanistan itself will become even more problematic, to the point that the only viable means left will be air logistics to Kabul and Kandahar air field.

Sad.  This is what half-ass commitment to the campaign looks like.  You can thank your current administration for that.

Republican Leadership in Congress: Stupid is As Stupid Does

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 3 months ago

My apologies to all those Republican stalwarts out there, but I stopped identifying with the G.O.P. some time ago and now count myself primarily as a Conservative.

And when I see posts like this on Hot Air, I feel amply justified.

A couple key bits:

The congressional Super Committee is long gone, but the consequences of its failure will be felt by millions of Americans unless Congress addresses mandatory cuts that take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

A new study released today by economist Stephen S. Fuller of George Mason University and the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that 2.14 million U.S. jobs will disappear as a result of the Budget Control Act’s sequestration mandate. That would push the nation’s unemployment rate above 9 percent.

Automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will hit the defense industry particularly hard. Defense-related jobs makes up about half of the lost jobs, according to the study. The report estimates losses for other sectors of the economy as well: 48,059 jobs in healthcare, 98,953 in construction, 473,250 in manufacturing. California, Virginia and Texas will fare worst.

And just who was it that agreed to the genius idea of a “Super Committee” and the “draconian” sequestration in the (all too predictable) event that the Super Committee failed to reach agreement?  Yep, those guys in leadership like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  Someone please remind me just why it was so clever of Boehner and McConnell to agree to this deal with the Democrats?  A deal that these very same people are now scrambling to escape and avoid like kids caught stealing from a candy store.   “Yeah, we did it, but we didn’t think we’d actually get punished for it or anything!”

And if the whole sequestration idea wasn’t bad enough, the particulars of the deal are just, downright horrible:

Cuts to America’s military are particularly alarming. The across-the-board cut of more than $500 billion over the next decade comes in addition to the $487 billion in cuts already proposed by President Obama for the Department of Defense. The Budget Control Act hits the military hardest.

Budget Control Act Sequestration Would Hit Defense Hardest

Chart produced by The Heritage Foundation based upon figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

These nitwit Republicans agreed to drastic spending cuts that barely touch the Entitlement Monster that is breaking the U.S. Treasury.

And why did the G.O.P. leadership do this?  Because they were afraid of forcing real and immediate spending cuts in 2011 as part of the debt ceiling “crisis.”

Anyone for a Conservative Party?   I don’t think America can afford the Stupid Party much longer.

A Different Perspective On Rules Of Engagement And McChrystal?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Courtesy of Andrew Exum:

From that day forward, I watched as the war slowly fell apart at the hands of our Army’s middle management — typified by that battalion commander. Case and point, GEN McChrystal’s tenure in Afghanistan. To me, the most compelling part of the Rolling Stone article is the scene where a sergeant down range writes an email to McChrystal stating he believes GEN McChrystal doesn’t get the war and has ordered policies that are killing men on the front lines. GEN McChrystal gets on the next flight to this sergeant’s FOB and goes on patrol with the sergeant’s unit. Afterwards, he holds an After Action Review with the sergeant and his men in the outpost’s makeshift chowhall. During the AAR he notices a laminated list posted on the chowhall’s wall that reads something like “Rules of Engagement As Ordered By COMISAF.” Upon reading the list, McChrystal says aloud “these aren’t my rules.” And thus my point, somewhere between GEN McChrystal issuing orders and the point at which these front line soldiers received them, the Army’s middle management bureaucracy altered them to be significantly risk adverse (sic).

This is a first hand account, anecdotal, but I presume reliable, concerning a surprise for General McChrystal concerning how his rules were applied.  So does this account rehabilitate McChrystal’s image (which seems to be its point)?

I will grant the proposition that staff and field grade officers (at least some of them) were risk adverse (sic – averse).  I will grant the proposition that there were modifications, amendments, clarifications, additional stipulations, and so on and so forth, in the unit-level ROE as compared to the theater-specific ROE, just as there is between the standing ROE of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theater-specific ROE.

What I refuse to grant is that any of this “altered them to be significantly risk adverse.”  McChrystal’s ROE were risk averse to begin with, and a recapitulation of the rules of engagement will show that missions had to end because there was a “chance” that an illumination round would fall on a domicile.  When the Marines went into Marjah, General Rodriguez attempted to micromanage an entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force like they were children.  “Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marja in February, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.”  Listen to that again.  Rodriguez’s operation center had to approve offensive air strikes.  Seriously.  You simply can’t make this stuff up.

The problems came from the top.

“If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so.”

I can compute the probability that a falling satellite will land on McChrystal’s head, and it is non-zero.  Thus, there is a “chance” of that happening.  This guidance is stupid, issued by stupid men, applied in a stupid campaign if that’s the way it is going to be conducted.  Are the staff and field grade officers (and their JAGs) responsible for the ROE?  Yes.  Should the men at Joyce (who made the decision to deny air support to the Marines as Ganjgal) have spent time in Leavenworth?  Yes.

Does any of this obviate the responsibility McChrystal had for the ROE?  No, not one bit.  This isn’t an either-or proposition, it is both-and.  And frankly, we don’t seem to have learned our lessons.

The number of British soldiers being shot dead in Afghanistan is spiralling as new tactics ban them from shooting at the Taliban until they are fired at themselves.

Eleven have been killed by enemy gunfire in Helmand in the past three months compared with two in the same period during 2011.

Soldiers blame efforts to slash the number of civilian casualties ordered by the US general in command of Coalition forces.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday denied the rules of engagement for British troops had changed.

But a spokesman for Coalition forces said British soldiers were told to change procedures after a tactical review.

Troops yesterday said they are now more vulnerable at road-junction checkpoints or while patrolling Taliban heartlands.

They say that previously they could shoot first but are now allowed only to return fire.

One corporal said: “When I arrived in Helmand, my officers said our tactics were going to change. They said if I saw somebody carrying a rifle or a rocket launcher, I shouldn’t fire at him. Only if he shot at me or a member of my patrol, and I could see a muzzle flash, could I use my weapon.

“I was shocked and so were my mates. We are trained to close in and kill the enemy, not to let him stroll on, watch us and let him choose the best time to ambush us.

Absurd.  Even if you argue that the head of a family ought to be allowed to carry a personal defense weapon, an RPG doesn’t fit that category.  We still have good men deployed in Afghanistan, and we are letting the enemy “choose the best time to ambush us.”

How utterly sad and despicable.

The Police: Just Another Gang?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, men posing as police detectives handcuffed and robbed the residents, who fully complied with their orders.

Men posing as police investigators handcuffed residents of a home on Tiffany Lane and then proceeded to rob the home Friday night. The victims say they got home around 9:30pm and shortly afterwardsmen, unknown to the victims, knocked on the door. They were dressed in suits and displaying badges and carrying firearms, and they entered the home, telling the victims they were conducting an investigation. They used flexible style handcuffs to secure both victims. No threats of violence were reported and the victims were not injured during this incident.

The suspects took a small safe, three firearms and an undisclosed amount of money from the home.

Police say the two suspects were familiar with some police tactics and investigative techniques. A third suspect entered the residence at some point, but had minimal interaction with the victims. After some time, the victims realized that the three suspects were probably not police officers but were merely posing as police officers. The victims then called police.

This has become a favorite tactic of criminals.  They pose as police officers, or especially as a SWAT team to make use of the element of shock, and then take advantage of the disarmed and compliant residents.  To expect residents of a home to know whom they can trust or whether the sound at the door is a friend or foe is to expect omniscience.  That’s why, since a man’s home is his castle, the castle doctrine is becoming codified into law in most states.

That is, unless the threat is the police (h/t Instapundit).

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot and killed a man they assumed was an attempted murder suspect on Sunday, but they now know they shot the wrong man.

In the early morning hours, deputies knocked on 26-year-old Andrew Lee Scott’s door without identifying themselves as law enforcement officers. Scott answered the door with a gun in his hand.

“When we knocked on the door, the door opened and the occupant of that apartment was pointing a gun at deputies and that’s when we opened fire and killed him,” Lt. John Herrell said.

Deputies thought they were confronting Jonathan Brown, a man accused of attempted murder. Brown was spotted at the Blueberry Hills Apartment complex and his motorcycle was parked across from Andrew Scott’s front door.

“It’s just a bizarre set of circumstances. The bottom line is, you point a gun at a deputy sheriff or police office, you’re going to get shot,” Herrell said.

Residents said the unannounced knock at the door at 1:30 a.m. may be the reason why the tragedy happened.

“He was the wrong guy and he got shot and killed anyway. There’s fault on both sides. I think more so on the county,” Ryan Perry said. “I can understand why he [the deputy] did it, but it should have never gone down like that,” Perry said.

So just to make sure that you’ve got this, if you even come to the door armed because you don’t know whether the commotion is a threat, if it’s the police, you get shot because they have a right to defend themselves.  So now … replace the term “police” with “members of MS-13.”  Does it read any better or worse?  Do MS-13 members have a right to cause commotion at your door, and without even entering the structure, shoot you as you stand inside of your own home?

If you answer no, then why would your answer be any different with the police?  Are the police becoming just another gang that society unleashes on other gangs to keep them in check?  Are they really there to protect and serve?

Prior: SWAT Raids

Open Carry And Monsters In the Closet

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

As regular readers know, I am an advocate of open carry.  I openly carry a firearm for several reasons, none of which is to “make a point.”  I hate the feel of so-called “inside the waistband” carry, I hate sweating my weapon (especially in the summer), and my weapon simply hangs better if I use a good tactical holster and carry it on my side.  My home state of North Carolina is an open carry state, and has no stop and identify statute.  I have observed before that no one screams and runs for cover, and all of the boogeymen under the bed that people imagine when they think of open carry simply do not obtain.  They aren’t real.

So as you can imagine, I couldn’t resist a chuckle when I read this paragraph in a commentary somewhat friendly to open carry.

If you do carry in an exposed manner, have you considered what would happen if someone snatched your pistol while you were distracted?  Don’t give me that line about always being in condition yellow, or how you are never distracted.  Everyone can be, and everyone is at various points throughout the day.  You do your best, but your best ain’t perfect.

Sometimes, spotting a criminal is obvious.  Many times it is not.  Sometimes the person grabbing your gun isn’t a criminal at all, but that nice lady in the grocery store line behind you who just lost her job, found out her husband is cheating on her and thinks life is not worth living.  She smiles at you, but she is thinking about death.  If someone grabs that exposed gun, can you defend it?

Here in my home state, nice ladies don’t snatch guns out of holsters and go on rampages.  Nonetheless, thinking about weapon retention is usually in order.  What kind of holster do you have, how difficult would it be to unholster your weapon, and so forth.

But the notion about people going berserk and freaking out and spuriously going on killing sprees and rampages is just the monster in the closet.  Give it some thought.  If you suspect a monster of being in your closet, have your weapon ready, open the door, and if he’s not there, relax.  Be prepared, but don’t be paranoid about it.  Fearing monsters and boogeymen after you’ve already looked under the bed and in the closet is just being paranoid.

U.N. Arms Treaty: Dreams Of International Gun Control

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Capital Hill is under pressure to adopt the approaching U.N. arms treaty, from the New York Times, to Reuters, to confused and goofy Christians who forgot all about their theology and think that a new regulation, law or treaty will bring peace on earth and good will toward men.

We have been informed that this administration will not allow the U.N. to impose any restrictions on American’s gun rights.  But then again, this is the same administration that: [1] Sent Donald Verrilli and Lanny Breuer to argue against Sean Masciandaro concerning the possession of firearms on National Park land, [2] Nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court (who testified that Heller was settled law, and then dissented in McDonald versus Chicago, agreeing with Breyer who argued for overturning Heller), and [3] Named Rose Gottemoeller to head the U.S. delegation to the U.N. arms control negotiations, the very same Rose Gottemoeller who informed Moscow that the U.S. was open to significant compromise on U.S. missile defense.

In fact, a short tour through the U.N. schemes shows that international tracing, combined with nationalized regulations and controls on the manufacture, transfer and sell of small arms, is the central feature of the plan.  The U.N. program for implementation includes such requirements as no “military style” weapons should be possessed by civilians, a registered and traceable lifetime for every weapon, and so on.  Courtesy of reddit/guns, here is a marked-up listing of the kinds of regulations envisioned by the U.N.

As we have discussed before, the distinction between civilian and military weapons is meaningless today, and wasn’t ever very useful.  Bolt action rifles, semi-automatic rifles, tactical shotguns and a whole host of other kinds of weapons are being used in both civilian and military applications, and have been for a very long time.  A U.N. distinction between civilian and military weapons would yield regulations more onerous than the assault weapons ban (sunset provision on September 13, 2004) ever could.  A U.N. distinction between civilian and military owners achieves nothing beyond what the U.N. already wants, i.e., an international gun registry and lack of weapons transferability, and thus is this distinction a disingenuous subterfuge.  Promises to exempt “civilians” – whatever that means – doesn’t make this treaty any less dangerous to firearms ownership in America.

Missives on why treaties do not obviate or supersede the constitution, while well intentioned and informative, miss the point entirely.  Even in the wake of the Heller and McDonald rulings, there are still four justices on the Supreme Court who fundamentally do not believe in the second amendment, and then at least one who sees reversal of Heller on the horizon with a “future, wiser court.”  Furthermore, the decisions in Heller and McDonald do not address issues such as a gun registry, further controls on transfer of weapons across state lines or even within states, or other meaningless and intrusive ATF regulations.  There is a pregnant field of un-litigated second amendment issues in America, and the existence of an international treaty only complicates gun ownership.  It isn’t obvious that any court, much less the Supreme Court, would find stipulations similar to the ones in the U.N. treaty to be unconstitutional.

Finally, take note that international luminaries such as Iran – known to supply weapons to insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – have been appointed to a post negotiating the treaty.  The very real possibility exists that legitimate weapons sales from the U.S. to allies (such as Israel) would become problematic under the treaty.  Taiwan, for instance, is concerned that the treaty could undercut weapons imports.

The silliness of the treaty and its effect on other nations is outlined fairly well by David Bosco at Foreign Policy (even if Bosco is willing to overlook its silliness).

There was a lot of talk at the session about the absurdity that sales of bananas are more regulated internationally than sales of assault rifles and about the need for more states to enact domestic legislation regulating arms transfers. The assembled activists did leaven their optimism with a dose of reality. They acknowledged that the treaty almost certainly would not contain any binding language or enforcement mechanisms. Instead, every country will determine for itself whether an arms sale or transfer is likely to contribute to human rights violations. (Under the ATT likely to emerge, Russia could report that it has duly considered whether arming Syrian forces would lead to violations and decided that it would not. Nobody would be able to gainsay the Kremlin, at least not through the treaty mechanism.)  What’s more, the treaty negotiations will be conducted on a consensus basis (Washington insisted on that), which means that any state can block adoption of a text it doesn’t like.

So civilians in America would be subject to onerous new regulations since America is a law abiding nation, while rogue nations would be free to export weapons as they see fit.  Or in other words, the criminals have the guns while the law abiding citizens are disarmed, sort of like gun control in America.  As I have previously observed, the U.N. arms treaty is a solution in search of a problem.

Not only does this treaty intrude on the second amendment rights of American citizens, and not only is it hypocritical in its intent, it would target the very country who abides by its laws and allow the perpetrators justification for their own actions.  The treaty is just one more progressive, micromanaging, over-controlling, statist solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  We’ve seen ten thousand like it, and as long as the U.N. gets funding and a home from the U.S. government, we will see many more instances of this kind of busy-body meddling into the affairs of American citizens.

Regardless of what kind of language is included in the treaty concerning military and civilian weapons, it does nothing to address the real problem of weapons traffickers such as Iran, and there is no reason to ratify it.

UPDATE: Thanks to David Codrea for the attention to this.

UPDATE #2: Glenn Reynolds says bring it!

Prior:

The U.N. Small Arms Treaty

The Ugly Future for Afghanistan: Civil War and Militias

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 3 months ago

This lengthy and well-written piece by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker is must reading.

Filkins attempts to give an overall assessment of Afghanistan’s future as American forces shrink and the country must increasingly rely upon the Afghan National Army for its security.   By all means, read the entire article, but the gist of Filkins’ assessment can be succinctly summarized as, “bleak.”

Filkins explores the question of whether Afghanistan is destined to return to a state of civil war as American combat troops leave.   While he makes no firm conclusions, the answer is an inescapable “yes.”   While American policymakers and military leaders boldly talk up the prospects for turning over security responsibilities to the ANA while hoping to garner a power-sharing deal with the Taliban, it is clear from the article that a debacle of enormous proportions is looming in 2014 (if not before) when American force levels are expected to drop to just fifteen thousand from an expected sixty-eight thousand after the September 2012 draw-down.

Some Western and Afghan experts say that fifteen thousand American troops would not be enough to secure Afghanistan, particularly when it comes to the use of airpower. The Afghan Air Force is far less advanced than the Soviet-trained force was at a similar moment. American officers told me that air strikes—bombs and rockets—are usually restricted to units in which Americans direct the fire. A force of fifteen thousand Americans would probably not be large enough to spread trainers and air controllers throughout the Afghan Army (and not throughout the police, who are at tiny checkpoints scattered around the country). “If they go below thirty thousand, it will be difficult for them to do any serious mentoring, and without the mentors they won’t call in airpower,” Giustozzi, the Italian researcher, said.

American officers have another concern. Currently, Afghan units are stationed where the Americans are, in hundreds of small bases, mostly in populated areas. Some American officers say that the Afghans will find it difficult to disperse themselves as fully, because of problems with supplies and communications. Once the coalition forces leave, those officers say, the Afghans are likely to consolidate their units on bigger and fewer bases. If that happens, the Afghans could end up ceding large tracts of territory to the Taliban—much as the Afghan Army did after 1989.

Filkins interviews several Afghans in and outside of the Afghan government who all candidly admit that each of the rival factions that fought each other prior to the 2001 American invasion are actively preparing for the resumption of civil war when U.S. forces leave.

Afghan and American officials believe that some precipitating event could prompt the country’s ethnic minorities to fall back into their enclaves in northern Afghanistan, taking large chunks of the Army and police forces with them. Another concern is that Jamiat officers within the Afghan Army could indeed try to mount a coup against Karzai or a successor. The most likely trigger for a coup, these officials say, would be a peace deal with the Taliban that would bring them into the government or even into the Army itself. Tajiks and other ethnic minorities would find this intolerable. Another scenario would most likely unfold after 2014: a series of dramatic military advances by the Taliban after the American pullout.

“A coup is one of the big possibilities—a coup or civil war,” a former American official who was based in Kabul and has since left the country told me. “It’s clear that the main factions assume that civil war is a possibility and they are hedging their bets. And, of course, once people assume that civil war is going to happen then that can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

One Afghan, Abdul Nasir, made this point quite clear:

These days, Nasir said, the nineties are very much on his mind. The announced departure of American and NATO combat troops has convinced him and his friends that the civil war, suspended but never settled, is on the verge of resuming. “Everyone is preparing,” he said. “It will be bloodier and longer than before, street to street. This time, everyone has more guns, more to lose. It will be the same groups, the same commanders.” Hezb-e-Wahdat and Jamiat-e-Islami and Hezb-e-Islami and Junbish—all now political parties—are rearming. The Afghan Army is unlikely to be able to restore order as it did in the time of Najibullah. “It’s a joke,” Nasir said. “I’ve worked with the Afghan Army. They get tired making TV commercials!”

A few weeks ago, Nasir returned to Deh Afghanan. The Taliban were back, practically ignored by U.S. forces in the area. “The Americans have a big base there, and they never go out,” he said. “And, only four kilometres from the front gate, the Taliban control everything. You can see them carrying their weapons.” On a drive to Jalrez, a town a little farther west, Nasir was stopped at ten Taliban checkpoints. “How can you expect me to be optimistic?” he said. “Everyone is getting ready for 2014.”

In the process of his interviews, however, Filkins did discover one, unsettling truth:  the most effective force against the Taliban so far have been local militias.

The most effective weapon against the Taliban were people like Mohammad Omar, the commander of a local militia. In late 2008, Omar was asked by agents with the National Directorate of Security (N.D.S.)—the Afghan intelligence agency––if he could raise a militia. It wasn’t hard to do. Omar’s brother Habibullah had been a lieutenant for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the leading commanders in the war against the Soviets, and a warlord who helped destroy Kabul during the civil war. The Taliban had killed Habibullah in 1999, and Omar jumped at the opportunity to take revenge. Using his brother’s old contacts, he raised an army of volunteers from around Khanabad and began attacking the Taliban. He set up forces in a string of villages on the southern bank of the Khanabad River. “We pushed all the Taliban out,” he told me.

The Taliban are gone from Khanabad now, but Omar and his fighters are not. Indeed, Omar’s militia appears to be the only effective government on the south side of the Khanabad River. “Without Omar, we could never defeat the Taliban,” a local police chief, Mohammad Sharif, said. “I’ve got two hundred men. Omar has four thousand.”

The N.D.S. and American Special Forces have set up armed neighborhood groups like Omar’s across Afghanistan. Some groups, like the Afghanistan Local Police, have official supervision, but others, like Omar’s, are on their own. Omar insists that he and his men are not being paid by either the Americans or the Afghan government, but he appears to enjoy the support of both. His stack of business cards includes that of Brigadier General Edward Reeder, an American in charge of Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2009, when the Americans began counterattacking in Kunduz.

This is a strange twist in U.S. strategy.  While the State Department, the White House and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan all blather about the progress of the ANA and the expected success of the transition to Afghan security forces, the American Special Forces seem to be busy setting up militias all over Afghanistan, perhaps in the grim realization that these militias are the only native force capable of actually eradicating the Taliban.

This would be welcome news indeed, if it is true, because it finally faces the truth that Afghanistan today simply cannot function as a modern, centrally governed nation state.   This is not to say that it never has in the past (clearly it has) nor that it will never function as one in the future, but only that the combination of religious fanaticism, the interference of Pakistan (and Iran to some extent), the ethnic divisions and the drug trade militate in favor of local control.    And this seems to be the main trade-off where militias effectively keep out the Taliban but bring their own set of problems:

Kunduz Province is divided into fiefdoms, each controlled by one of the new militias. In Khanabad district alone, I counted nine armed groups. Omar’s is among the biggest; another is led by a rival, on the northern bank of the Khanabad River, named Mir Alam. Like Omar, Alam was a commander during the civil war. He was a member of Jamiat-e-Islami. Alam and his men, who declined to speak to me, are said to be paid by the Afghan government.

As in the nineties, the militias around Kunduz have begun fighting each other for territory. They also steal, tax, and rape. “I have to give ten per cent of my crops to Mir Alam’s men,” a villager named Mohammad Omar said. (He is unrelated to the militia commander.) “That is the only tax I pay. The government is not strong enough to collect taxes.” When I accompanied the warlord Omar to Jannat Bagh, one of the villages under his control, his fighters told me that Mir Alam’s men were just a few hundred yards away. “We fight them whenever they try to move into our village,” one of Omar’s men said.

U.S. policy in Afghanistan, then, must take a hard look  at our national interests.   The primary, national interest for the United States in Afghanistan is to ensure that international terrorists do not find safe havens from which to plot and launch attacks against U.S. interests.   If militias will ensure that their territory will not be used for Islamist terror activities, that is enough.   We may be able to exercise some leverage over warlords and militias by doling out more arms and money to those who refrain from humanitarian abuses, but it is not in our national interest to force-feed an entire nation on Western morality and values as we have done for the last 11 years.

In fact, some Afghans appear to be leaning in the direction of a decentralized approach:

One political change that might prevent civil war, some opposition leaders say, would be the imposition of a federal system in which power would devolve to the provinces. Such a move could essentially cede dominion to the Taliban in the south and the east but protect the rest of the country. In 2004, when the new Afghan constitution was ratified, under American supervision, the central government, in Kabul, was given extraordinary powers, including the right to appoint local officials. The hope then was that a strong central government would unite the country.

If a federal system were to be adopted, some Afghan leaders say, it might matter less to the Tajiks and other minorities if the Taliban were allowed to govern Pashtun provinces in the south and the east. (How it would matter to the Pashtuns, and particularly to Pashtun women, isn’t much discussed.) As it is, many of the most prominent leaders of Afghanistan’s minority groups appear to be preparing for civil war.

While I disagree that the U.S. needs to “cede dominion to the Taliban in the south and the east” (there is no reason to think that Pashtun militias could not be set up in these regions as in other areas), the fact remains that Afghanistan is headed for division one way or another.  Current U.S. policy is wishful thinking and a criminal waste of American lives and treasure.

As a parting thought, it is even possible that by empowering local militias and tribes in this fashion, the U.S. may be able to deal a severe if not fatal blow to the Islamists across the border in Pakistan.  It is axiomatic that insurgencies work in both directions.   If Pakistan can support, for example, the Haqqanis in infiltrating into Afghanistan, so, too, can the U.S. support Pashtun militias on the Afghan side of the border to infiltrate and take away territory from Islamists in the FATA.   This provides U.S. policymakers with a unique lever in the tense relations with Pakistan.   This approach also allows a dramatically smaller footprint for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, enough one would expect, to deprive Pakistan of its logistical choke-hold.

If there is a new Administration in 2013, a new approach in Afghanistan is at least possible.

E.P.A. Idiocy in Action: Inventing New Technologies for a Bogus Problem

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 3 months ago

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Isn’t this just swell?  According to this article in Technology Review, there are two, new approaches being tested for making coal-burning power plants cleaner and more efficient:

A pair of new technologies could reduce the cost of capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and help utilities comply with existing and proposed environmental regulations, including requirements to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Both involve burning coal in the presence of pure oxygen rather than air, which is mostly nitrogen. Major companies including Toshiba, Shaw, and Itea have announced plans to build demonstration plants for the technologies in coming months.

The basic idea of burning fossil fuels in pure oxygen isn’t new. The drawback is that it’s more expensive than conventional coal plant technology, because it requires additional equipment to separate oxygen and nitrogen. The new technologies attempt to offset at least some of this cost by improving efficiency and reducing capital costs in other areas of a coal plant. Among other things, they simplify the after-treatment required to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The article doesn’t state how much money is being sent down the rat hole to develop these new technologies, but, regardless of the amount involved, this is such a colossal waste that I don’t know whether to laugh or punch the fake rhino head on the wall.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still on a holy crusade against “global warming” by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, despite the fact that the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory has been repeatedly exposed as a sham.   As a result, precious time, money, talent and resources are being directed towards solving a “problem” that doesn’t exist.

The Left wants to talk about stimulating the economy, but what about the stimulative effect of lowering the cost of electricity to businesses and consumers?  Imagine the effect of simply eliminating the EPA’s carbon dioxide emission standards on the generation of electricity?  This is the sort of thing that should be high on Romney’s to-do list in January 2013.

Savage Religious Beliefs: The Abuse Of Women

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Fresh from a sermon today where the pastor said, “Don’t you ever strike a woman and call yourself a Christian” (a statement with which I heartily agree), we read this:

A shot rings out, but the burqa-clad woman sitting on the rocky ground does not respond.

The man pointing a rifle at her from a few feet away lets loose another round, but still there is no reaction.

He fires a third shot, and finally the woman slumps backwards.

But the man fires another shot.

And another. And another.

Nine shots in all.

Around him, dozens of men on a hillside cheer: “God is great!”

Officials in Afghanistan, where the amateur video was filmed, believe the woman was executed because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the governor of the province where the killing took place.

Both apparently had some kind of relationship with the woman, said Parwan province governor Abdul Basir Salangi.

“In order to save face,” they accused her of adultery, Salangi said.

Then they “faked a court to decide about the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman,” he added.

Both Taliban commanders were subsequently killed by a third Taliban commander, Salangi said.

“We went there to investigate and we are still looking for people who were involved in this brutal act,” he said.

It is not clear from the video when it was filmed.

The killing took place in the village of Qimchok, not far north of the capital Kabul.

Just as troubling is the fact that this occurred not far from the so-called capital of Afghanistan.  And was it ever really in doubt what would happen if we failed to kill the enemy before withdrawing from Afghanistan?


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