Archive for the 'Iraq' Category



The Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi Movement

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

The Combating Terrorism Sentinel has an extremely interesting and well-informed piece entitled The JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency.  It’s well worth the reading time invested in it, and it explains why we no longer need to be in Iraq at all without significant changes to the Status of Forces Agreement where we would be allowed to operate more autonomously than we currently are.  I’ll leave the balance of the report to the reader, but the money quote (for the point I’m trying to make) is this.

JRTN’s branding and messaging has yielded a number of significant advantages for the group. One private security analyst with access to U.S. and Iraqi Security Force officers stated: “At the operational level, JRTN’s appearance of a religious connection gives it credibility in the eyes of the population and therefore increases the support offered and reduces the interference by the local population.” The analyst noted that JRTN’s stated “policy of only attacking the ‘occupiers’ and not the local population (whatever their ethnic or religious group) makes it one of the least ‘interfered with’ terrorist groupings. The population turned its back on many of the foreign fighters but JRTN are still seen as Iraqis first.” In areas along the federal-Kurdish line of control, JRTN’s anti-Kurdish agitation may have assisted its penetration of Sunni security forces. Kurdish factions recently accused JRTN of influencing the 12th Iraqi Army division in southern Kirkuk and flying JRTN’s flag on Iraqi Army vehicles during anti-Kurdish protests. Through sympathizers in the security forces, JRTN is assumed by U.S. officers to have at least some basic insight into the workings of joint U.S.-Iraqi operations centers, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and signals intelligence.

The apparent focus on U.S. forces (plus its capacity to intimidate local judges and call upon tribal support) has earned the movement sympathetic treatment by some parts of the Iraqi security forces and judiciary. One intelligence officer from Diyala noted that his Iraqi counterparts “rarely stated in public that JRTN was much of a threat and every time we detained a JRTN leader, we had to fight tooth and nail to keep them detained. In other words they did not accept that JRTN was a serious risk to the [government of Iraq], only to Americans.” JRTN appears to have successfully used loopholes in Iraqi law that means “resistance activities” are not treated as seriously as crimes with Iraqi victims. According to one analyst, this legal aspect “is one reason that [JRTN] is deliberately not leaving a trail of evidence and claims connecting it to car bombings or assassinations that target Iraqis.”

The Iraqis want our logistical capabilities, our MEDEVAC capabilities, our stability, our discipline, and so on.  They don’t want us to operate in such a manner that we quell an insurgency, or target Iranian forces who destabilize Iraq.  We should be killing insurgents, and instead we are still tipping our hat to incarceration of insurgents, which we have demonstrated is never a successful strategy in counterinsurgency (kill them or let them go – prisons are counterproductive in COIN).  And with the current state of affairs in Iraq, we can’t even do that against favored insurgent groups.

So be it.  It’s time for the Iraqis to go it alone.  Our military forces shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone.

The Long Term Effects Of Prisons In Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

From Al Arabiya:

Corrupt administrators, bribery and political connections are all reasons for the continuous series of prison breakouts, many involving Al Qaeda members who later joined militias.

Around 4,000 militants and terrorists have escaped detention with inside help since 2006, the UAE-based newspaper, The National, reported figures compiled by Iraqi Reconciliation Society (IRS), an independent organization the monitors the country’ jails.

Most of the escapes occurred in Baghdad, the capital that is considered to be the instable and unsecure part in the country, IRS records show.

On May 20, five members from the Mahdi Army broke out of the Taji prison west of Baghdad as they were being transferred to a detention centre in the capital.

In Basra, the extreme south of the country, a parliamentary committee was set up to examine the escape of 12 Al Qaeda figures, some facing death sentences, from an interrogation center in the southern province on January 12.

Suzan Al Saad, a committee member, said the probe had “led directly to senior officials in the prime minister’s office who planned the escape” from Basra.

Information leaked to the media about the committee’s findings said Abdul Karim Abdul Fadel, security adviser to the prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, allegedly helped Al Qaeda members escape.

Also named was Brigadier Ali Fadel Omran, a Baghdad military commander, in connection with the escape. He fled the country just as the parliamentary report was being completed.

“There were high-level security officers connected directly to the prime minister’s office who were coming and going from the prison compound and who had no reason to be there because they had no formal involvement in dealing with those prisoners,” Ms. Saad said in an interview.

Haider Al Saadi, a justice ministry spokesman, said in statement after the Taji escape that “weak and corrupted” administrators had let “a large number” of detainees break out.

The ministry’s spokesman also spoke of the ministry’s “serious concerns” over sectarianism among prison officials and said staff was susceptible to “political pressure.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, another justice ministry official said there were prisoners with political connections who were “untouchable” while in custody and who eventually were set free because of those connections.

“Some of these prisoners are militants, including Al Qaeda, who enjoy support from political parties,” the official said. He insisted the justice ministry was working to tackle the corruption, which he said had been allowed to flourish for years under previous governments.

Iraq took control of jails previously run by the US military. The last prison under US control, Camp Cropper in Baghdad, was transferred to the Iraqi authorities in July 2010, although some detainees remain in American custody.

The prison breakout series have intensified with the US forces pulling out at the end of the year.

Stop and let that information wash over you again.  Approximately 4000 insurgents have escaped from Iraqi prisons since 2006.  The equivalent of four Battalions.  In addition to not taking the Iranian influence in the region seriously by engaging Iran in the covert war it was waging against both Iraq and the U.S., we (and Iraq) have left Iraq vulnerable to four Battalions of insurgents because of our adolescent belief in the rehabilitative powers of incarceration.

It isn’t surprising, this notion that prisons can effect proper counterinsurgency, given that most of the hard core advocates of population-centric, nation-building COIN are stronger believers in psychology and sociology than in theology.  But in the end, evil is a moral problem, not an epistemological one, and you cannot educate or rehabilitate evil out of mankind.

So the reader knows what I advocate.  Kill or release, but capture is counterproductive.  That offends the sensibilities of many, and so we play this silly game of incarceration – until, that is, the insurgents get released.  And then it’s no longer silly, because by releasing them we continue to allow evil people to perpetrate evil acts.  But by the time this evil would affect our sensibilities, we are long gone and don’t have to watch.  We trade off one thing for another, but the Iraqis are no better for our trade-off.  And the job is not done.

Prior: Prisons in Counterinsurgency Category

The Death of Bin Laden And the Myth of ‘American Empire’

BY Glen Tschirgi
8 years, 5 months ago

I can’t believe I am going to give space to this Article by Timothy Carney in The Washington Examiner, but, as it seems to represent a growing feeling out there, even among conservatives, Mr. Carney’s article may be useful in clarifying some issues that get awfully foggy when something happens like the killing of Bin Laden.

Mr. Carney’s piece posits these incredible insights:

The United States’ long, bloody occupation of Afghanistan did not significantly help the U.S. find and kill Osama bin Laden, current evidence indicates. Neither did the invasion and occupation of Iraq help in decapitating al Qaeda, it appears.

The means of bin Laden’s demise, and the location of his hideout, both undermine the arguments offered for the last decade by hawks who claimed an invasion of Iraq and an imperial presence in Afghanistan would help America smash al Qaeda.

Somehow, Carney (and others) have been trying to turn the killing of Osama Bin Laden into more than just the swing of the executioner’s axe.  But no matter how it is spun, there is no, larger lesson here.  Bin Laden was a crazed beast that needed to be hunted down and terminated.   If there is a larger lesson, it is not in the killing of Bin Laden, per se, but in the means– the necessity for utmost secrecy, to keep even a whiff of the operation from a purported ally, Pakistan, and to covertly violate Pakistani airspace to a location deep within its borders, some 40 miles outside of its capital.  But for Carney and his fellow travelers the killing of Bin Laden is an opportunity to beat the drum for retreat, defeat and America-bashing thrown in for good measure.

Rather than produce any, real evidence, Carney puts together a straw man:  “hawks who claimed an invasion of Iraq and an imperial presence in Afghanistan would help America smash al Qaeda.”   I challenge Mr. Carney to produce the quotes of these so-called “hawks” that “for the last decade” have been calling for “an imperial presence” in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

This notion of an Imperial America needs to be stamped out on a regular basis.   It seems to be a habitat for those determined to blame America for all that is wrong in the world and determined, furthermore, to reduce the U.S. to a whimpering shell.   Victor Davis Hanson, the classical historian and Hoover Institute resident scholar, has said many times, the U.S. is not an Imperial power nor does it maintain an “Empire” in any, proper understanding of those terms.  From his 2002 opinion piece on the subject:

But if we really are imperial, we rule over a very funny sort of empire.

We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states, which in turn impose taxes on coerced subjects to pay for the legions. Instead, American bases are predicated on contractual obligations — costly to us and profitable to their hosts. We do not see any profits in Korea, but instead accept the risk of losing almost 40,000 of our youth to ensure that Kias can flood our shores and that shaggy students can protest outside our embassy in Seoul.

Athenians, Romans, Ottomans, and the British wanted land and treasure and grabbed all they could get when they could. The United States hasn’t annexed anyone’s soil since the Spanish-American War — a checkered period in American history that still makes us, not them, out as villains in our own history books. Most Americans are far more interested in carving up the Nevada desert for monster homes than in getting their hands on Karachi or the Amazon basin. Puerto Ricans are free to vote themselves independence anytime they wish.

Imperial powers order and subjects obey. But in our case, we offer the Turks strategic guarantees, political support — and money — for their allegiance. France and Russia go along in the U.N. — but only after we ensure them the traffic of oil and security for outstanding accounts. Pakistan gets debt relief that ruined dot-coms could only dream of; Jordan reels in more aid than our own bankrupt municipalities.

****

Empires usually have contenders that check their power and through rivalry drive their ambitions. Athens worried about Sparta and Persia. Rome found its limits when it butted up against Germany and Parthia. The Ottomans never could bully too well the Venetians or the Spanish. Britain worried about France and Spain at sea and the Germanic peoples by land. In contrast, the restraint on American power is not China, Russia, or the European Union, but rather the American electorate itself — whose reluctant worries are chronicled weekly by polls that are eyed with fear by our politicians. We, not them, stop us from becoming what we could.

The Athenian ekklesia, the Roman senate, and the British Parliament alike were eager for empire and reflected the energy of their people. In contrast, America went to war late and reluctantly in World Wars I and II, and never finished the job in either Korea or Vietnam. We were likely to sigh in relief when we were kicked out of the Philippines, and really have no desire to return. Should the Greeks tell us to leave Crete — promises, promises — we would be more likely to count the money saved than the influence lost. Take away all our troops from Germany and polls would show relief, not anger, among Americans. Isolationism, parochialism, and self-absorption are far stronger in the American character than desire for overseas adventurism. Our critics may slur us for “overreaching,” but our elites in the military and government worry that they have to coax a reluctant populace, not constrain a blood-drunk rabble.

***

Most empires chafe at the cost of their rule and complain that the expense is near-suicidal. Athens raised the Aegean tribute often, and found itself nearly broke after only the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War. The story of the Roman Empire is one of shrinking legions, a debased currency, and a chronically bankrupt imperial treasury. Even before World War I, the Raj had drained England. In contrast, America spends less of its GNP on defense than it did during the last five decades. And most of our military outlays go to training, salaries, and retirements — moneys that support, educate, and help people rather than simply stockpile weapons and hone killers. The eerie thing is not that we have 13 massive $5 billion carriers, but that we could easily produce and maintain 20 more.

***

Our bases dot the globe to keep the sea-lanes open, thugs and murderers under wraps, and terrorists away from European, Japanese, and American globalists who profit mightily by blanketing the world with everything from antibiotics and contact lenses to BMWs and Jennifer Lopez — in other words, to keep the world safe and prosperous enough for Michael Moore to rant on spec, for Noam Chomsky to garner a lot of money and tenure from a defense-contracting MIT, for Barbra Streisand to make millions, for Edward Said’s endowed chair to withstand Wall Street downturns, for Jesse Jackson to take off safely on his jet-powered, tax-free junkets.

***

Intervention is supposed to be synonymous with exploitation; thus the Athenians killed, enslaved, exacted, and robbed on Samos and Melos. No one thought Rome was going into Numidia or Gaul — one million killed, another million enslaved — to implant local democracy. Nor did the British decide that at last 17th-century India needed indigenous elections. But Americans have overthrown Noriega, Milosevic, and Mullah Omar and are about to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, to put in their places elected leaders, not legates or local client kings. Instead of the much-rumored “pipeline” that we supposedly coveted in Afghanistan, we are paying tens of millions to build a road and bridges so that Afghan truckers and traders won’t break their axles.

In that regard, America is also a revolutionary, rather than a stuffy imperial society. Its crass culture abroad — rap music, Big Macs, Star Wars, Pepsi, and Beverly Hillbillies reruns — does not reflect the tastes and values of either an Oxbridge elite or a landed Roman aristocracy. That explains why Le Monde or a Spanish deputy minister may libel us, even as millions of semi-literate Mexicans, unfree Arabs, and oppressed southeast Asians are dying to get here. It is one thing to mobilize against grasping, wealthy white people who want your copper, bananas, or rubber — quite another when your own youth want what black, brown, yellow, and white middle-class Americans alike have to offer. We so-called imperialists don’t wear pith helmets, but rather baggy jeans and backwards baseball caps. Thus far the rest of the globe — whether Islamic fundamentalists, European socialists, or Chinese Communists — has not yet formulated an ideology antithetical to the kinetic American strain of Western culture.

Much, then, of what we read about the evil of American imperialism is written by post-heroic and bored elites, intellectuals, and coffeehouse hacks, whose freedom and security are a given, but whose rarified tastes are apparently unshared and endangered. In contrast, the poorer want freedom and material things first — and cynicism, skepticism, irony, and nihilism second. So we should not listen to what a few say, but rather look at what many do.

Critiques of the United States based on class, race, nationality, or taste have all failed to explicate, much less stop, the American cultural juggernaut. Forecasts of bankrupting defense expenditures and imperial overstretch are the stuff of the faculty lounge. Neither Freud nor Marx is of much help. And real knowledge of past empires that might allow judicious analogies is beyond the grasp of popular pundits.

Add that all up, and our exasperated critics are left with the same old empty jargon of legions and gunboats.

Hard to say it any better than that.

Moving on to the other silly notions in Carney’s piece,he writes:

Bin Laden’s capture provides no vindication to those hawks who argued that invading Iraq would provide a treasure trove of intelligence on al Qaeda, nor those who insisted that 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan were a key part of our war on the terrorist network.

“We found bin Laden in Pakistan without troops on the ground,” counterterrorism expert Michael Cohen, formerly of the New America Foundation, told me. “We didn’t need troops on the ground to carry out a very successful operation.”

The location of bin Laden’s compound — a few hundred yards from a Pakistani military school — also deflates another argument of hawks. President Bush said in April that a U.S. exit from Afghanistan would “create a safe haven for terrorists.”

This notion underestimates the capabilities of American intelligence and military forces: Our drones, spies and special forces can strike basically anywhere. But it also ignores the ability of terrorists to hide in plain sight: Bin Laden was not stowing away in some clandestine cave in the wild regions of Afghanistan or Pakistan. He was living within shouting distance of Pakistan’s West Point, possibly since his compound was built in 2005.

Liberal blogger and former hawk Matt Yglesias made this same point: “Trying to physically conquer and occupy territory in order to prevent it from being used by terrorists is extremely difficult, oftentimes counterproductive, unnecessary, and offers no guarantee of success.”

Who ever argued that invading Iraq would provide “a treasure trove of intelligence on Al Qaeda” ? The 2003 invasion of Iraq was always about the removal of a crazed dictator, hostile to the U.S., in possession of weapons of mass destruction.   As it turned out, Al Qaeda was drawn to Iraq like a mosquito to a bug zapper.  And, predictably enough, that “bug” got zapped by the Marines, but good.  Carney seems to be making up the bit about “hawks” from whole cloth.

As for his contention that the troops in Afghanistan served no useful purpose in the killing of Bin Laden, where does Carney think that the helicopters took off from, New Jersey?   Clearly the bases in Afghanistan were critical in providing the point of departure for the attack and, no doubt, logistical support as well.  Carney’s point about the U.S. capability to “strike basically anywhere” is only relevant in the context of decapitation operations.   As TCJ has argued repeatedly, those operations, as useful as they may be to disrupt, will never defeat the enemy.  Carney’s points exist in a fanciful vacuum where he imagines that SOF can win the war single-handedly somehow.    The quotation from Yglesias simply underscores this myopic thinking:  of course it is difficult to invade, occupy and root out the terrorists and there is no guarantee of success.   Sometimes, however, it is necessary and no amount of hand-wringing will change that fact.

Whether Carney likes it or not, there is simply no, easy option for fighting the Islamofascists.   They have to be beaten like Al Qaeda was in Anbar Province, Iraq:  direct, kinetic operations that wipe them out mercilessly and demonstrate to the population that terrorism is the losing side.   The popular notion that we cannot “kill our way” out of an insurgency is too often political cover for avoiding the hard reality of the fight.

We can argue about whether the strategy in Afghanistan has been correct.  The evidence coming in from Helmand Province and Kandahar, where U.S. Marines are literally wiping the floor with the enemy and making it impossible for them to re-infiltrate, is encouraging.   It is the path to victory and it is the only, viable exit.

Those of Mr. Carney’s opinion looking for lessons from the war on terror thus far  should study Iraq, not the elimination of Bin Laden.    At the height of the hysteria in 2006, when people (no doubt Mr. Carney included) were calling the war in Iraq hopeless and unwinnable, President Bush brought in more forces to apply more pressure and better kinetic operations against the terrorists.   The hard fighting in 2007 paid off and by late 2007, Al Qaeda was clearly on the run and a broken and humiliated foe.   Although I personally disagree with the rapid draw down in Iraq, there is no doubt that our very ability to draw down is due entirely to the butt-kicking that we gave the terrorists (and Al Sadr’s thugs) in 2006-2007.    Iraq is relatively stable today, with extremely low casualty levels.

Turning back to Afghanistan, the U.S. does not look for “excuses” to surrender and run away.   Maybe Obama does, but not the U.S.   We either win the fight by taking it to the terrorists, or we decide that the fight is not in our national interest and we leave.   Either way, it has nothing to do with a so-called Empire or the killing of Bin Laden.  The killing of Bin Laden satisfied a basic need to see retributive justice done.   (This, as a side-bar, is far different than revenge and, therefore, wholly justifiable).   But, as others have observed, the tide of war has long left Bin Laden behind and shifted to other, more important locations:  Pakistan, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.  Although it is understandable for politicians to grandstand and preen over a successful mission, it would be far better for national security if we congratulated the work of our military and intelligence services and quickly moved on to grappling with the important tasks at hand.

Powerline Blog Calls It Quits On Afghanistan

BY Glen Tschirgi
8 years, 6 months ago

Normally I enjoy reading the posts by John Hinderaker at Powerline, but his recent post is an exception.  With a strange bit of melancholy or resignation, John argues that it is time to pack up and quit Afghanistan.   I will detail this in a bit, but suffice it to say that I found most of his arguments shallow and unpersuasive.

Even so, I would not bother making John’s post the subject of my own, but for two things that alarm:  (1) Powerline has one of the highest levels of readership in the blogosphere, so its opinions reach a lot of people, aggravating the damage;  (2) this recent post seems to be indicative of a growing opinion among conservatives (as shown by the large, positive response it has received so far).

So here goes.

Here are the reasons supplied by John Hinderaker for calling it quits.   After stating that he supports the initial attack to chase Al Qaeda out of its bases in Afghanistan, he sees the ensuing efforts differently:

Since then, for going on nine years, we have pursued a somewhat half-hearted peacekeeping/democracy policy in Afghanistan. The Bush administration was right, I think, not to devote excessive resources to Afghanistan, which is virtually without strategic significance compared with countries like Iran, Iraq and Egypt. Moreover, the country’s human natural and human raw material could hardly be less promising.

Afghans are not just living in an earlier century; they are living in an earlier millenium. Their poverty, cultural backwardness and geographic isolation–roads verge on the nonexistent–are hard for us to fathom. They are a tribal society run by pederasts whose main industry is growing poppies. If our security hinges on turning this place into a reasonably modern, functioning country, we are in deep trouble. But I don’t think it does; and, in any event, I don’t think we can do it.

In large part, our effort in Afghanistan has been devoted to protecting normal Afghans against extremists like the Taliban. But, as the current rioting in Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and elsewhere reminds us, there there may not be a lot of daylight between the Taliban and more moderate Afghan factions.

For Hinderaker, Afghanistan and its people are pretty worthless, to put it bluntly.  No “strategic significance compared with…Iran, Iraq and Egypt.”  The country is devoid of raw materials or human potential.  In his view, it is such a backward, black hole of inhumanity that any change is hopeless.   Even Obama, presumably, wouldn’t try to sell his snake oil there.  The rioting there over the Koran burning is proof of sorts, he says, that the country is hopeless.

I hate to say it, but this is just lazy, generalized thinking.

It is very tempting thinking, however.   There is certainly alot of things about Afghanistan that repulse our cultural sensitivities and it is indeed easy to see the depths to which the country has sank and believe it has always been this way, but this is not a reason for leaving, in and of itself.   It is just letting our prejudice show.  It is hard to remember as far back as the 1960’s, but Afghanistan had a functioning monarchy with a tolerable standard of living in Kabul and prospects for reform and political rights up until the communist takeover in 1978.   What Afghanistan has become, after 30 years of war, brutal totalitarian rule and the importation of strict, Islamic codes, is not what is has always been nor its eternal fate.

As for the claim that Afghanistan has no strategic value, that is at least a debatable point.  If we had a coherent and consistent foreign policy that looked at the broader interest of the U.S. in the region, Afghanistan has significance.   If, for example, we had a foreign policy that recognized the dire threat that the Iranian regime poses to the entire Middle East (and beyond), the ability to stage forces on both sides of Iran— in Iraq and Afghanistan– would enable the U.S. to effectively aid insurgents and opposition groups in Iran.

Having a presence in Afghanistan also gives the U.S. a key leverage point and access to Pakistan.  Like it or not, nuclear Pakistan is a major threat to the U.S. so long as it teeters on the edge of political instability and the possibility of the Islamofascists getting their nukes.   The U.S. has a natural affinity with India that could be cultivated into a strategic partnership in the region as a counterbalance to China and the growing Islamofascist threat in Pakistan.   Afghanistan is valuable to that partnership as well and we could be doing much more to involve India.

Hinderaker believes Afghanistan is worthless, a view not shared, however, by Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the Muslims, the  Tsarist Russians, the British Empire and the Soviet Union.

I think that the heart of the problem for Hinderaker and other conservatives when it comes to Afghanistan is the notion of “turning this place into a reasonably modern, functioning country…”   In many circles, you can add in “democracy” to that list.   This has been the great mistake of our involvement in Afghanistan.

Our first and primary goal in Afghanistan should always have been to establish security, period.   Without security first, every, other goal is like piling up sand on the beach.   Security against the Taliban and Al Qaeda is a limited, achievable goal.   It is measurable victory.  And, once established, it creates the necessary space and stability for the kind of investments and social reforms that, over the long term, can make a real difference in the development of the country.  The problem for the U.S. has been that we have been way too ambitious, trying to establish security and establish a democratic government and re-build their infrastructure and make it into a “modern, functioning” country.

This is analogous to a man, near starvation, who is rescued and then force-fed a king’s banquet: it will kill him.   His shriveled stomach is not ready for that.   After such deprivation, he needs a little bit at a time, slowly and carefully. Afghanistan is the same way.   After over twenty years of ruin and oppression, we cannot descend upon the country and begin force-feeding it with hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for every conceivable project, no matter how well-intentioned.   We have almost literally been killing Afghanistan with kindness.   Funny how they don’t appreciate it.

The mistake that Hinderaker makes is looking at the process and concluding that the entire enterprise is worthless or hopeless.  They seem to have gotten discouraged because all of our ‘force-feeding’ has not brought a miracle cure.   Their answer, to throw the hapless man back in the desert to starve again, is absurd.  Rather, they should see our actions to this point in Afghanistan as the excessive blunder it has been.

If the U.S. had been single-mindedly pursuing security and the elimination of the Taliban since 2001, we might well have drawn down our troop levels there to some border outposts to interdict insurgents from Pakistan while leaving the interior to ANA forces that would have had almost a decade of solid training by now.   Even if you view the ANA as a hopeless project, at the very least we would have had time to establish local militias that would keep the peace in their locale and govern themselves.   We would not have diverted billions of dollars to a corrupt, central figurehead like Karzai.  All of these things feed the disenchantment that Hinderaker and others feel.

But just because mistakes have been made– even terrible mistakes– should not give way to careless analysis and spotty observations.   It should, instead, be a call for better policy.

When Hinderaker turns to the consequences of quitting Afghanistan his view is rather limited:

Is there a danger that if we leave, the Taliban will re-take control and, perhaps, invite al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to join them? Yes. However, it it not obvious that, after what happened in 2001, the Taliban will be quick to make its territory, once again, into a launching pad. If they do, one would hope that drones, bombs and perhaps the kind of small-scale insertion of troops that we mounted in 2001 will be an adequate response. In any event, when it comes to harboring terrorists, I am a lot more concerned about Pakistan than Afghanistan.

The war in Iraq is over, and has been for some time. Our mission there has been a success; how important a success depends not on us but on the Iraqis. For a predominantly Arab country, Iraq is doing well. At this point, we have done about all we can do. Our troops are no longer in a combat role, and we should bring them home, and honor their victory, on schedule.

There are several problems in these paragraphs.

First, as John admits, it quite possible (I would say likely) that the Taliban will allow Al Qaeda and its affiliates to set up shop again in Afghanistan.  For him to say, however, that we should “hope that drones, bombs and perhaps the kind of small-scale insertion of troops… will be an adequate response” is fanciful.

Those “drones” and “bombs” have to come from somewhere.  If we pull out, there will no longer be any bases from which to fly the drones and the “secret” bases in Pakistan will likely be closed down as well once it is clear to the Pakistanis that we are done.   As for the “small-scale insertion of troops,” I assume he is referring to the SOF and CIA teams that partnered with the Northern Alliance forces and rained down smart munitions on the Taliban positions.   Trouble is that there will be no Northern Alliance forces for these teams to partner with if we pull out.

Second, if the U.S. pulls its forces out as John suggests, there is very little likelihood that those forces will ever return again.  Even if the U.S. was capable of flying in sorties of long-range bombers and sending in cruise missiles, Al Qaeda has learned a thing or two since 2001 about nullifying the effects of long-range munitions.   Al Qaeda can expand into the remote areas of Afghanistan where the U.S. will be increasingly helpless to affect.  With the bombing option of little use, what chance is there that the American people will want want to re-commit troops after having gone through the national trauma of pulling forces out in disgrace? (And I dare anyone to say that doing so at this juncture would be anything other than a U.S. humiliation).  It is not going to happen.

Third, are we willing to face the unbelievable humanitarian crisis that will result when the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan?  Are we willing to accept into the U.S. as refugees the hundreds of thousands of Afghans that Hinderaker denigrates as “pederasts” and “tribal” and hopelessly backward?  We still have an ugly spot on our national honor from abandoning South Vietnam to the communist killers.    Anyone remember the Boat People?  The world well remembers how we abandoned the shia in Iraq to Saddam’s mass executions and tortures in 1991.   Are we willing to endure yet another flag of shame in Afghanistan?

Finally, the view espoused by Hinderaker and others is incredibly short-sighted.  Our best hope of eliminating Al Qaeda or keeping them disrupted is by having troops and bases in Afghanistan that allow us at least the option of ground action against their sanctuaries in Pakistan.   The only reason that we can even contemplate leaving Afghanistan is because we have not suffered any large-scale attacks since 2001.  That is remarkable in itself and should be kept in mind when contemplating withdrawal.

Our continuous presence in Afghanistan, while extremely problematic, deeply flawed and poorly run, gets at least some credit for keeping Al Qaeda on the defensive and ill-prepared to mount another large-scale attack against the U.S.    If, God forbid, Al Qaeda should pull off another 9/11-type attack and we can trace its origins to the Pakistani FATA camps, do you think we will want U.S. combat forces right next door in Afghanistan to go in and wipe out every, last camp and terrorist hideout?   You bet we will.   But if those forces are gone, our ability to make Al Qaeda pay (and to force our will upon Pakistan if they resist us crossing the border) is neutered.

(I cannot in good conscience leave off here without at least commenting on John’s statements above about Iraq.  As Herschel Smith has said on more than a few occasions, the U.S. achieved an incredible feat of arms in 2006-2007 by taking it to Al Qaeda and Sadr’s illegal militias only to risk most of those gains by hastily agreeing to a status of forces treaty with Iraq that severely restricted our forces there.   Since Obama’s election, the U.S. has been withdrawing troops at a pace that further jeopardizes our hard-won gains in security there.   Too much American blood and treasure has been invested in Iraq for us to simply throw up our hands and say, “Well, it’s up to the Iraqis now.  Good luck, we’re outta here!”  Iraq can and should be a major ally of ours in the most crucial spot in the Middle East.   We should be doing everything we can to ensure that we have a continuing military presence there as well as increasing diplomatic and economic ties.   We still have troops in Germany and Japan, for crying out loud.   How much more important is it to have troops or at least air bases in easy reach of Iran and the Persian Gulf — not to mention Syria and Israel?)

If the post by John Hinderaker is a real indication of the trends of conservative thinking (or the thinking of the public in general) then the U.S. is in big trouble in the world.

Can we save a few bucks from the budget by calling it quits in Afghanistan?  Sure, but even Hinderaker admits that the cost is comparatively small change.

Let me emphasize here that I do not advocate an unlimited and unconditional engagement in Afghanistan.   I have said before that if the U.S. is not serious about winning there, if we are simply using the precious lives of our combat forces as a political game or in some half-hearted program to get re-elected, then those forces should come home.   But the rational response to bad policy and poor management is not to shut everything down and hide under the bed at home, it is to recognize the problems and do something about it:  throw out the policy-makers and bad managers and implement a better approach.

It saddens me to think that John Hinderaker has gotten so discouraged with our Afghan policy that he would rather hide under the bed than use his considerable intellect to advocate for a better way.

Gates Pleads for Funds for State Department Work in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 7 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

The Bienart Approach: Spreading Democracy By Neglect

BY Glen Tschirgi
8 years, 9 months ago

In a Daily Beast article yesterday, Peter Beinhart takes a measure of relief in the fact the United States seemingly has nothing to do with the apparent uprising in Tunisia that has (for the time being) tossed out the autocrat, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

What a great country we have. Where else would you find opinion leaders applauding evidence of their own country’s irrelevance to international affairs?

The critical thing to understand about the movements stirring against tyranny in Tunisia, and throughout the Arab world, is this: They aren’t about us. And that might be a good thing.

Beinhart’s point, in essence, seems to follow along these lines:  Tunisians rose up against the oppressor-thugocracy without American help, therefore American support for oppressed peoples– particularly in the Middle East– is not only unnecessary but actually counterproductive.   Furthermore, he seems to argue, the Tunisian experience validates the view he terms “optimist” that freedom/democracy is an irresistible force that will, eventually, prevail.   (This he contrasts with the straw-man “militarist” view that democracy can only spread along with American power and influence).

To be fair, Beinhart does concede eventually that it is a “good thing for the U.S. government to want democracy in the Middle East.”  This is a nice concession that, afterall, we should not feel guilty about wanting democratic governments in the Middle East. It’s just that we shouldn’t want to do anything about it.

This allergy to the use of American power in the world is, however, disturbing on two levels.

First, it is incredibly naive.  We can all agree that the Tunisians have shown incredible bravery while, at the same time, acknowledging that the prospects for a democratic government taking hold there are slim to none without some type of external assistance.  The chances, moreover, that the autocratic governments in the Middle East will somehow fall to a rising tide of purely indigenous democracy without external aid is equally fanciful.

Second, and perhaps most disturbing, Beinhart’s approach is incredibly wrong.  Immoral.  How can we, as Americans, stand idly by while unarmed, peaceful protesters are clubbed, raped or gunned down by the security forces of pariah regimes?

It is simply not in our national character to refuse aid to any people that is willing to put their lives on the line to gain their freedom from oppression.

Does this require that the U.S. send in the tanks every time there is a political protest put down by government violence?  No.   Rather, there should be a sliding scale of involvement that begins, at the very least, with persistent and public expressions of condemnation toward the regime, followed by economic and/or diplomatic sanctions, followed (where appropriate) by tangible aid to the democratic movement (covert if necessary) and, at the extreme end of the scale, open, military assistance.    This approach leaves plenty of time and opportunity for public debate over the merits and extent of support.  But there can be no argument, such as the one Beinhart hints at, that the U.S. do nothing.

We have already seen the consequences of Beinhart’s approach.  In 1991, tens of thousands of Iraqi shia in Basra were killed by Saddam Hussein’s thugs when they revolted in 1991.   The U.S. did nothing and paid the price 12 years later when radical Islam had taken root in the region, making pacification infinitely more costly. The democracy movement in Iran is another example of ordinary citizens giving up their lives for a chance at freedom.  Obama, clearly favoring the Beinhart approach, has left them helpless against determined torture and murder by the regime.   Sudan and the Congo stand out as well.  Oppressed people of the world have rightly looked to the U.S. and we did nothing, absolutely nothing to help.  These are blots on our national honor.

In the end, Peter Beinhart may be right on one point:  democracy and freedom may (somehow) break out in the Middle East without meaningful U.S. support.  Anything is possible.

The real question, however, is this: why should we ever want that kind of world?

Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 9 months ago

Nouri al Maliki has ruled out the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country’s security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq’s security, sovereignty and unity.  Maliki also said that “he wouldn’t allow his nation to be pulled into alignment with Iran, despite voices supporting such an alliance within his government.”

Thus does Maliki imagine fairy tales.  In what is being called the Battle of Palm Grove, the ISF proved just how problematic their tactical disadvantage is in fire fights.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

Concerning air space sovereignty, Iraq will be a protectorate of the U.S. for the next decade, and would be vulnerable without U.S. air support and defense.  U.S. control and influence is ebbing, and “even the Green Zone, once an outpost of Americana in a chaotic Iraq, is no longer a US zone of influence. The United States handed over control to Iraqi security forces last June, along with responsibility for issuing the coveted badges that allow access to the walled enclave, relinquishing the ability to control who may come and go.”

But if the diminution of U.S. influence is proceeding apace, the increase in Iranian influence is matching it.  Michael Knights has authored an important analysis in the West Point’s November Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, entitled The Evolution of Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq.  Selected quotes are provided below.

As the unclassified Iraqi government Harmony records collated by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point illustrate, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the business of sponsoring Iraqi paramilitary proxies for 30 years, practically the government’s entire existence. In some cases, the same Iraqi individuals run like a thread throughout the entire story, from Islamic terrorists, to exiled anti-Saddam guerrillas, to anti-American Special Group fighters in post-Ba`athist Iraq. Many of the historical patterns of Iranian support to Iraqi proxies hold true today …

The armed factions that make up the Special Groups have passed through significant changes in the last two years, and they continue to evolve. The government security offensives of spring 2008 caused considerable damage to Iranian-backed networks, and many Special Group operators fled to sanctuaries in Iran. Since the summer of 2009, these groups have been allowed breathing space to recover and begin to reestablish their presence in Iraq.

There are many reasons why recovery has been possible. In June 2009, the U.S.-Iraq security agreement ended the ability of U.S. forces to operate unilaterally in Iraq’s cities, where much of the fight against the Special Groups has been conducted. The U.S. military thereafter required an Iraqi warrant and Iraqi military cooperation to undertake raids against the Special Groups. In the extended lead-up to Iraq’s March 2010 elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to win favor with other Shi`a factions by using his direct operational control of Iraq’s Counterterrorism Command to place a virtual embargo on such raids. Lacking the judicial evidence to hold Special Group detainees transferred to the Iraqi government, and facing pressure from Shi`a groups, the government began to release Special Group prisoners as soon as they were transferred to Iraqi custody by the United States.

Knights goes on to detail the various manifestations of Iranian meddling, including both groups and tactics.  He ends with this warning.

The political situation in Iraq will have a significant effect on the further evolution of Special Groups. If, as seems likely, Moqtada al-Sadr joins key Iranian-backed parties such as Badr in the new government, many elements of PDB, AAH and KH will probably be drawn into the security forces as Badr personnel were in the post-2003 period. Some types of violence (such as rocketing of the government center in Baghdad) may decline, while targeted attacks on U.S. forces would persist or even intensify due to the new latitude enjoyed by such groups. Kidnap of Western contractors or military personnel has been the subject of government warnings during 2010 and could become a significant risk if U.S.-Iran tensions increase in coming years. Sectarian utilization of the Special Groups to target Sunni nationalist oppositionists could become a problem once again. If Iraqi government policy crosses any “red lines” (such as long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, rapid rearmament or anti-Iranian oil policy), the Special Groups could be turned against the Iraqi state in service of Iranian interests, showering the government center with rockets or assassinating key individuals.

And as Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Sadr has indeed joined Maliki in forming a new government.

Just before leaving for Baghdad last week, I spoke by phone to my Iraqi driver Salam, who was recently released from prison.

What he told me haunted me during my visit. It made me question what kind of Iraqi regime will emerge after U.S. troops exit by the end of 2011, and what sort of long-term relationship can develop between Washington and Baghdad.

Salam spent two years in jail on false charges brought by relatives of Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. These militiamen, who were killing Salam’s neighbors, were arrested after he tipped U.S. troops. When American soldiers left Baghdad, the killers used contacts inside Iraq’s Shiite-dominated army to get Salam – and his two teenage sons – jailed.

The three were finally freed by an honest judge. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has now made a political deal with the Sadrists in order to finally form a government, nine months after Iraqi elections. The deal, brokered by Iran, required that large numbers of Mahdi Army thugs – like those Salam fingered – be freed from prison. This deal resurrects a fiercely anti-American group that battled U.S. forces until it was routed in 2008.

As I have noted for more than two years, the Status of Forces Agreement under which U.S. troops have operated, combined with the precipitous decline in U.S. presence, has created a power vacuum in Iraq into which Iran has rushed.

Renegotiation of the SOFA, along with the realization by Maliki that his troops cannot secure Iraq, would be helpful, but the real need of the moment is regime change in Iran.  That may be Iraq’s greatest hope, although not in time for the Christians.

In Iraq Allawi Deals and Christians Flee

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 10 months ago

Allawi has apparently made a deal with Maliki to form a unity government in Iraq.  This is good news, good to the extent that Allawi will be involved, and Maliki – good friend of Iran – will apparently be somewhat neutered.  But actions and decisions have consequences.  In fact, some decisions have effects that come calling on our conscience years after they are made.  Supporting Maliki, leaving Sadr alive and the pitiful SOFA under which U.S. troops labor are such decisions.

There is an increase in foreign fighters flowing into Iraq, and it isn’t apparent that the ISF are any match for them.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

The Iraqi soldiers fled from the palm grove and requested American firepower, Molinari says. So the Americans employed bombs, mortars, grenades and special forces. But the enemy only hid in drainage ditches, waited, then came out again, shooting.

In all, five Iraqis were killed and 13 were wounded. Two Americans were wounded as well. By the second night of battle, the Iraqis had ordered a full retreat from the palm grove.

After the battle, Molinari and the Iraqi commander in Diyala decided to set up a monthlong training session based on what went wrong in the Battle of the Palm Grove. The training is taking place in another palm grove that was once a vacation home for a commander in former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army.

On the first day of training, Molinari’s men draw diagrams of how soldiers should move in diagonals, not straight lines.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Tariq Abdul Wahab Jassim acknowledges that Iraqi soldiers made mistakes in the Battle of the Palm Grove and asks what to do differently next time.

Molinari responds that the Iraqis should have sent in just one platoon with one commander. And, he says, the Iraqis should never have given up their ground.

“Once the firefight starts, you do not break contact with the enemy,” Molinari says. “You continue to focus on him, and if you cannot maneuver, other forces come in — until he’s dead.”

After the question-and-answer session, Molinari’s men move into the trees to demonstrate how it’s done. A loudspeaker simulates how a message would be sent to civilians to evacuate the area before the fight begins.

American soldiers fire blanks at a simulated enemy target. The unit’s spokesman, Maj. Gabe Zinni, says this is the kind of training that any American soldier would receive before going into combat.

“These are … fundamentals,” he says. “Absolutely.”

In other words, if the enemy is hiding in a densely wooded area and shooting at you, advance on him and keep firing at him, while more of your men sneak around and attack him from the side or from behind.

In the end, it turns out that only four or five insurgents were fighting in the Battle of the Palm Grove.

And despite the efforts of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, about 50 American soldiers, and massive firepower, the insurgents eventually managed to escape from the palm grove.

In the wake of Islamic militancy on the part of not only the foreign fighters coming into Iraq, but also the militant, pro-Iranian elements within Iraq, Iraqi Christians are fleeing North.

At a time when Christians in various parts of the Muslim world are feeling pressured, Iraqi Christians are approaching their grimmest Christmas since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and wondering if they have any future in their native land.

They have suffered repeated violence and harassment since 2003, when the interreligious peace rigidly enforced by Saddam Hussein fell apart. But the attack on Our Lady of Salvation in which 68 people died appears to have been a tipping point that has driven many to flee northward to the Kurdish enclave while seeking asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere.

What seemed different this time was the way the gunmen brazenly barged onto sacred ground, the subsequent targeting of homes by bombers who clearly knew every Christian address, and the Internet posting in which al-Qaida-linked militants took responsibility for the church attack and vowed a campaign of violence against Christians wherever they are.

Moqtada al Sadr continues to make trouble, but this time he is beclowing himself.  He has banned his followers from accepting work from foreign oil companies.  This will likely only do harm to his standing and that is a good thing.  But it does go to show that Sadr is nothing if not persistent in his anti-Americanism.

Whether getting in bed with criminals like Ahmed Chalabi, supporting Iranian lackey Maliki, laboring under a Status of Forces Agreement that has U.S. troops locked down as if under house arrest, allowing Iranian influence to go relatively unchecked in Iraq, or leaving Sadr alive after he was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines in 2004 and released in a tip of the hat to the British notion of soft counterinsurgency tactics, the situation in Iraq today can be directly traced, at least to some extent, to decisions made during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To say like so many Americans do that “We have given them a chance at freedom and if they screw it up it’s on them” simply doesn’t work.  We stacked the deck against them by leaving al Qaeda intact enough to cause regime destabilization, allowing Iran unmolested access to Iraq, leaving Sadr alive to cause regime destabilization, and leaving the Christians to the designs of the Islamic militants.

Thus do we bear at least some of the moral responsibility for the suffering today, in spite of the fact that we didn’t actively perpetrate the evils.  Pay close attention to these things.  History may be very hard on our decisions, and we should learn from this example for all such counterinsurgency efforts in the future.

Iran Busy Inside of Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 10 months ago

More from Wikileaks (courtesy of WSJ):

Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables provide new details on the U.S. assessment of how Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has promoted Tehran’s influence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The demise of archenemy Saddam Hussein, with whom Tehran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, presented the Iranians with an unprecedented opportunity, and they appear to have exploited it from Day One.

The leadership of the Qods Force—the Guards’ paramilitary and espionage arm—”took advantage of the vacuum” in the aftermath of the fall of Mr. Hussein’s regime to begin sending operatives into Iraq when “little attention was focused on Iran,” according to an April 2009 dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The cable was part of a trove of classified U.S. diplomatic communications made public this week by WikiLeaks.

Early priorities for the Iranian operatives included assassinating former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, according to a December 2009 dispatch from Baghdad. As of the end of last year 180 pilots had been killed, according to the report.

But Iran’s broader goals have been the establishment of “an economically dependent and politically subservient Iraq” and the undermining of rivals, in part through paramilitary means, the cables suggest.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaie-Far denied in a recent interview that Iran was meddling in Iraq’s affairs or supporting militias.

Since 2003, Qods Force commander Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani has been “the point man directing the formulation and implementation” of the Iranian government’s Iraq policy “with authority second only” to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to another dispatch from Baghdad dated November 2009.

Through his officers and “Iraqi proxies,” Gen. Soleimani “employs the full range of diplomatic, security, intelligence, and economic tools to influence allies and detractors in order to shape a more pro-Iran regime in Baghdad and the provinces,” according to the same dispatch.

Some Qods Force operatives have entered Iraq under the guise of charities or the Iranian Red Crescent—the Islamic version of the Red Cross—according to an October 2008 dispatch from America’s Iran Regional Presence Office based in the Gulf Arab emirate of Dubai.

The cable, which cites an “Iranian with detailed knowledge of the country’s Red Crescent” as a source, says the organization contracted companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards to build clinics in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra, Hilla, Karbala and Najaf to the south. The clinics were used “for treatment but also as warehouses for military equipment or military bases if needed.”

Other Iranian operatives came in as diplomats, including some allegedly as senior as Tehran’s former ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who is described as “an associate” of the Qods Force in the November 2009 dispatch. His successor, Mr. Danaie-Far, was a naval commander in the Revolutionary Guards.

In addition to training, funding and arming Shiite militias in Iraq involved in attacking U.S. interests, Gen. Soleimani has overseen economic development assistance to Iraq and the promotion of bilateral trade that reached an annual level of almost $4 billion by the end of 2009. He also oversaw the furthering of Iranian “soft power” through activities such as the renovation of Iraq’s revered Shiite shrines by Revolutionary Guards-owned companies, according to several dispatches.

The Iranian commander also “enjoys longstanding close ties” with several top Iraqi officials such as President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a dispatch from Baghdad.

The November 2009 cable says Iran hands out cash payments to “Iraqi surrogates,” which include some of the political parties currently in power. It says while exact figures are unknown, Tehran’s financial assistance is estimated in the cables at $100 million to $200 million a year, with an estimated $70 million going to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) party, which was based in Iran before Mr. Hussein’s fall.

In one cable, U.S. diplomats in Baghdad say sensitivity by Iraqi leaders toward being seen as “Iranian lackeys” will ultimately constrain Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Even though both countries are majority Shiite Muslim, they embrace opposing clerical traditions. Iraq’s revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is Iranian-born but rejects Iran’s clerical rule.

One dispatch that followed a visit by U.S. diplomats to Mr. Sistani’s base in Najaf last year said the reclusive cleric personally prohibited the enrollment of Iranian students at seminaries in the city in order to prevent infiltration by the Revolutionary Guards.

Right.  Like Iranian meddling inside of Iraq is some sort of newly-discovered fact.  It was known years ago.  Take careful note.  I have been watching this man General Qassem Suleimani, and have specifically called for his assassination.  It would have been better for Iraq had this man been dead long ago.  Note also that I have more recently called for more assassinations of Iranians in key places within the Quds forces.

This follows a rich tradition here at The Captain’s Journal, where I called for the assassination of Moqtada al Sadr.  It’s simple.  Reverse executive order 12,333 prohibiting assassinations.  It’s way past time to wield this simple but effective tool.

Concerning the assassination of Iranian nuclear physicists which I applauded just recently, the New York Post has taken what I perceive to be a very significant step.  They have endorsed the same thing.

Who is killing the great nuclear scientists of Iran?

Who cares?

That is, as long as enough of them are offed to stymie development of a deliverable Iranian nuke.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he knows who’s behind the recent drive-by bombings of the scientists. He sees “the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments” — by which he means Israel and the United States.

Maybe. (The answer will no doubt be in the next WikiLeaks dump.)

According to news reports, unidentified assailants riding motorcycles carried out two bombings in Tehran on Monday, attaching explosives to the scientists’ cars and detonating them remotely.

One attack killed Majid Shahriari, manager of a “major project” for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and an expert in neutron transport — a key stage in the chain reactions behind nuclear weapons.

The other bomb seriously injured Fereydoon Abbasi, a senior Ministry of Defense scientist who’s said to work closely with the notorious Revolutionary Guard and reportedly is believed by Western intelligence to be a key figure in Iran’s drive to build nukes.

As one unnamed US official told the Times: “They’re [both] bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to design a bomb.”

Israel, of course, has been warning about an Iranian nuclear arsenal for some time now — and is believed to have been behind last summer’s Stuxnet computer-worm attack, which reportedly sent Iran’s nuclear centrifuges out of control.

If the US government has finally come to realize that a more hands-on approach is needed — and, as the latest WikiLeaks disclosures show, Washington is being pressed hard by a clearly terrified Arab world — that’s all to the good.

Not so significant for a Military Blogger.  Monumentally significant for a main stream news organization, even one which leans more conservative.  To the New York Post: welcome.  My position actually cost me readers (I know because of demands to remove e-mails from my auto-distribution).  I suspect that it will for you as well.  But I’m not in this to max out my readers.  I have a stake in what we do in this transnational insurgency in which we unfortunately find ourselves.  I suspect you feel that you do as well.

Maliki Turns Towards Iran: Will We Yet Lose in Iraq?

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 12 months ago

I have been following the political machinations in Iraq, and warning against a government ruled by Maliki.  Amir Taheri outlines the sheer magnitude of trouble brewing in Iraq as a result of Iran’s influence.

Last week, he (Maliki) concluded an accord with the Sadrist bloc — whose leader, firebrand mullah Muqtada Sadr, has been living in the Iranian holy city of Qom since 2008. The two men pretend to have forgotten, if not forgiven, the bloody battle for Basra that broke Sadr’s Mahdi Army (trained and led by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard).

To clinch the deal, Maliki has dropped his “Iraq first” rhetoric in favor of a pan-Shiite approach. He has agreed to stop legal proceedings against the fugitive mullah, who’s wanted in Najaf on a charge of murder. Maliki even has dropped hints that the remnants of the Mahdi Army, which fled to Iran, would be allowed to return with impunity.

Yet the Sadrists demand more: key posts, such as ministers for oil, the interior, defence and education. If they succeed, the key policies of Iraq’s government could be made in Tehran.

Tehran helped the deal by ordering its oldest Shiite clients, the so-called Supreme Islamic Assembly of Iraq (and its armed wing, the Badr Brigades), to back Maliki. Another Iran-sponsored Shiite group, under ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has also thrown the little weight it has behind Maliki.

Even then, the math doesn’t work. Maliki’s bloc, The State of Law, won 89 seats in the 325-seat National Assembly. Adding the Sadrists, the Badrists and the Jaafarists yields 156 — still seven short of a majority. But Maliki’s advisers claim that he can seduce enough independents to secure a bare majority.

Forming such a government would be bad for Iraq and the region — and for Maliki’s place in history. It would be based on less than 40 percent of the votes in the election. And more than 90 percent of those votes came from only nine out of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

An estimated 30 percent of Shiites didn’t vote for the four parties in the proposed coalition. In five provinces, the coalition parties didn’t draw even 1 percent.

No government in Baghdad would be able to run Iraq without the support of the secular bloc of Sunnis and Shiites led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, which came first with 91 seats. And any new government must also win over the Kurds, some 20 percent of the population.

The three Kurdish parties, with 60 seats, could give Maliki a strong majority. But their price is too steep. They want a third of the Cabinet and insist that no key decision be taken without their approval.

They also want a free hand to exploit oil resources in their three autonomous provinces — and to annex oil-rich Kirkuk, where Kurds are 40 percent of the population.

There is a host of problems associated with the current U.S. engagement in Iraq, not least of which is the highly restrictive Status of Forces Agreement which has Soldier’s under virtual house arrest, unable to do anything without Iraqi permission.  The tactical capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces is still highly questionable, and in one recent engagement called the Battle of Palm Grove, the ISF couldn’t handle even the basics of small unit fire and maneuver warfare.

But even within the current framework, there are still missteps by the administration that are making the problem far worse.  Continuing with Taheri’s assessment:

Maliki’s advisers tell me that he decided to turn to pro-Tehran groups because he believes the Obama administration has no overarching strategy in the Middle East, let alone in Iraq. By constantly apologizing for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and talking of leaving Iraq (and the region), President Obama risks reducing the United States to irrelevance in a complex power game that could decide the future of the Middle East.

Vice President Joe Biden’s public appeal to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to intervene in the formation of a new government showed the administration’s failure to understand the desire of most Iraqis, including Maliki’s supporters, to keep the mullahs out of politics — a desire shared by Sistani himself.

Maliki’s ability to hang on is not limitless. By the end of this year, as the term of the annual budget ends, his government could run out of money. His accord with the Sadrists suggests that he’ll announce a new government before then. Such a government, however, might prove unstable, making a political crisis, leading to fresh general elections, a possibility.

The Obama administration appears to have no plans to deal with the situation — even though, for all the talk of leaving, America still has 55,000 troops and perhaps as many civilian workers in Iraq.

Desperate to secure a government in Iraq – any government – the U.S. administration has done exactly the opposite of what is needed, and continues to send exactly the wrong message.  China continues to violate the trade embargo with Iran, weapons are still being interdicted from Iran on their way to fighters in Afghanistan, and the administration continues to pretend that diplomacy is accomplishing forward progress with Persia.

Maliki knows better, and he is laying his bets on Tehran to prevail.  It is estimated that fully one quarter of U.S. deaths in Iraq were at the hands of Iranian fighters.  Even more came from Iranian-backed fighters.  Their ghosts demand justice, but instead find that the U.S. and Iran may even be colluding to invoke power sharing in Iraq.

And thus this administration may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (34)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (17)
Ammunition (80)
Animals (41)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (184)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (73)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (27)
Australian Army (6)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (81)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (16)
Body Armor (18)
Books (3)
Border War (10)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (10)
CIA (27)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (143)
Department of Homeland Security (22)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (12)
Donald Trump (24)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (29)
Featured (180)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,015)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (43)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,065)
Guns (1,516)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (13)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (20)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (83)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (62)
Islamists (92)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (4)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (7)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (258)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (42)
Memorial Day (5)
Mexican Cartels (33)
Mexico (46)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (62)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (57)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (218)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (58)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (417)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (453)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (165)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (266)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (20)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (5)
Survival (26)
SWAT Raids (54)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (4)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (17)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (95)
Thanksgiving (8)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (18)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (56)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (220)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (19)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (62)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2019 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.