Archive for the 'Religion and Insurgency' Category



The Taliban Goal Of Global Islamic Domination

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

From Pakistan Today:

One of the top leaders of the movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said the terror group sought to overthrow the Pakistani government, impose sharia, seize the country’s nuclear weapons, and wage jihad until “the Caliphate is established across the world”.

The statements were made by Omar Khalid al Khurasani, the al Qaeda-linked leader of the Taliban in Pakistan’s branch in the Mohmand Agency, in a video that was released on jihadist web forums.

The video, which also discussed the history and evolution of the Taliban Movement in Pakistan, was released by Umar Studios and has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

As we have previously observed, a decade or more of exposure to the transnational religious insurgency has inculcated globalist ideologies and intentions within a group that, whether these intentions existed before, certainly owns them now.  The Afghanistan Taliban isn’t far behind, and they swim in the same waters as the Pakistan Taliban.

Mohamed Merah, the French citizen of Algerian origin, perpetrator of the Toulouse shootings, had trained with the Taliban despite French denials of connection.  There may be some question whether he was incarcerated in Kandahar, and it appears that it may have been an indigenous Afghan by that same name that escaped in 2008.  But his radicalization, or at least part of it, occurred during two trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan.  He was also on the U.S. no-fly list because he had been in custody in Afghanistan.

As for other potential shooters?

More than 80 French nationals are training with the Pakistan Taliban in the law-less northwest of the country, according to an insurgent commander, raising fears of a renewed campaign against Western targets. A senior commander with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, an al-Qaida-affiliated group that has its stronghold in North Waziristan, said 80 French citizens were training “mostly in North Waziristan but some in South Waziristan.

Perhaps this is just bluster to hide the fact that their reach doesn’t yet match their ambitions.  But perhaps not.  “French intelligence sources said about 30 French fighters trained by the Taliban were believed to have taken part in attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.”

At a time when most of America has tired of the global Islamic insurgency, it would appear that “the long war” is just beginning.

In Iraq Allawi Deals and Christians Flee

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 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.

The Worst Afghanistan Analysis I Have Ever Read

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

Now comes the worst Afghanistan analysis I have ever read.  Quoth Michael Hughes:

General David Petraeus, in a rare public show of indecorum, last week suggested that corruption has been a part of Afghan culture since the country came into existence, which is a sentiment that is not only, from a historical and anthropological perspective, wholly ignorant, but one that exposes intentions on the General’s part that seem both dubious as well as misplaced.

Reason being is that Petraeus is a smart guy – one doubts he seriously subscribes to the notion that corruption is some inherently Afghan deformity, especially considering a cursory reading of history informs that prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979 jobbery was no worse in Afghanistan than it was in the United States (when, odds are, graft was worse in Chicago than Kabul). Most embarrassing for Petraeus to look at is the direct role the U.S. played in corrupting Afghan society. So, not only is it false that the country was always this way, the reality is the U.S. has helped transform Afghanistan into one of the most corrupt places on the planet.

Unfortunately, it seems Petraeus was simply trying to protect the good name of Afghanistan’s top criminal, President Hamid Karzai – subtly painting Mr. Karzai as a victim awash in a culture of venality when the truth is that the Karzai family has sunk Afghan society to unparalleled depths of libidinous fraud, nepotism and extortion.

The General apparently believes he needs Karzai intact so he can execute a more seamless exit strategy, which doesn’t make sense because Petraeus’s counterinsurgency doctrine depends on winning the support of the local populace, which is mission impossible with Karzai as head of state.

For surely Petraeus must realize, as outlined in a new white paper by the New World Strategies Coalition, that not only was Afghanistan less corrupt during the forty-year reign of King Zahir Shah, a run that began in the 1930s and ended in the early 1970s, but the Afghan people also enjoyed unprecedented peace, stability, prosperity and progressive social reform. That type of society seems like ancient folklore in light of today’s conditions.

The before and after snapshots are mind-blowing, illustrating a near incogitable contrast between an Afghanistan that was free from external interventions versus an Afghanistan that is occupied and manipulated by foreign powers that have marginalized, weakened and corrupted centuries-old indigenous tribal institutions and value systems. One is challenged to find another example of a society that has experienced such dramatic economic, political, technological and cultural regression in such a short time period.

The state had been erected upon lessons learned through centuries trying to maintain peace within an insular acephalous tribal society with a penchant for infighting and was most functional when it resembled a “loose” confederation in which legislative and judicial powers were pushed down to the local level – a concept analogous to America’s states’ rights.

Good Lord!  Good Lord!  So much to cover, so little time.  I cannot possibly address all of the misconceptions and concept and word twisting.  Let me briefly address only a few.

Here we see the blame game at work.  Evil has to have an origin, a nexus, and is so bad that it must have someone to blame.  Enter evil American imperialism.  We have discussed American imperialism before, and Robert Kaplan’s first chapter to “Imperial Grunts” (Injun Nation), which all educated analysts must read.  There are deeper issues concerning the ethics and morality of defending the homeland abroad that should be considered in order to be complete and responsible in our analysis, such as the notion of Good Wars.  There is so much to consider, and so little time. Alas.

But dumbing this down to finding a boogie man that makes everything else bad is silly and ludicrous.  Mankind – all mankind – has fallen short of the glory of God.  All mankind is fallen, all mankind is sinful.  There is no noble savage, no such thing as the pristine, unmolested man who is corrupted by outside influences, whether American or Afghani.

The heart of man is the wellspring of death.  It cannot be attributed to a state, a plan, a person, a persona, or a place.  No amount of money causes good or bad.  Money can be used to provide medical care, or largesse to corrupt.  Guns can be used to defend women and children, or kill them.  Military materiel can be used to eject evil Soviet aggression against a hapless state, or cut off the heads of women who refuse to cooperate in their own abuse and subjugation.  Things are what the theologians call adiaphourous.  They are neither good nor bad.  Man is what puts them to use.

Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Romans 3:11 and many other passages show that it is man who is the nexus and conduit of evil in the world.  Michael Hughes doth imagine a devil around every corner, or at least, the corner of America.  Michael needs only to look at the hearts of the people who perpetrate evil against others.  They’re everywhere, Michael, not just in America.

Al Qaeda’s Effect on the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

Poor Katrina vanden Heuvel repeats Captain Matthew Hoh’s arguments for a small footprint in Afghanistan.  I briefly answered Hoh’s arguments earlier.

Asking the question whether al Qaeda and the Taliban are in Pakistan or Afghanistan is like asking whether the water is on the right or the left side of a swimming pool.

The conversation on Pakistan versus Afghanistan presupposes that the Durand Line means anything, and that the Taliban and al Qaeda respect an imaginary boundary cut through the middle of the Hindu Kush.  It doesn’t and they don’t.  If our engagement of Pakistan is to mean anything, we must understand that they are taking their cue from us, and that our campaign is pressing the radicals from the Afghanistan side while their campaign is pressing them from the Pakistani side.

Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis).  It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side.  Both suggestions are preposterous.

Further, I have repeatedly pointed out that the small footprint model, enticing and seductive though it may be, contains its own defeater.  Without adequate troops to ensure contact with and protection of the population against the insurgency – for those who want protection – there would be no lines of logistics to supply this small number of troops, and no intelligence networks.  The model simply won’t work because there will be no known targets, period, much less high value targets.

But continuing with the more current argument against heavy commitment to Afghanistan, it has been stated that al Qaesa represents only a small fraction of the insurgency.  The drone attacks, it is said, have accomplished their purpose.  This position ignores the very real possibility that the Taliban have morphed into something other than what they were ten or more years ago.

In fact, I have claimed just the condition I described above.

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Add to this yet another data point comes to us from the New York Daily News.

Ever since senior Obama administration advisers such as CIA Director Leon Panetta and Vice President Biden admitted that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan  was minimal, with fewer than 100 operatives believed to be on the ground there, war critics have complained the President has little justification for escalating the U.S. commitment there.

But the inside-the-Beltway political debate underscores a fundamental misunderstanding of what Al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan — which Osama Bin Laden’s minions call “Khorasan” — truly has been, according to Special Operations commanders and troops on the ground.

Today’s Washington Post makes hay of the fact that Al Qaeda is barely mentioned in the 76,000 pages of war files released last month by WikiLeaks. The story overlooks two key facts: (1) The voluminous files are mostly “sigact” – “significant action” – combat reports dispatched as incidents happened; and (2) troops who faced Arabs in battle fighting alongside Afghan “Taliban” rarely knew, even after they had killed them, that they were up against non-Afghan opponents.

Critics also fail to realize that a single Al Qaeda operative’s knowledge and experience in guerrilla and terror tactics is of incalculable value as a force multiplier to the Taliban.

Al Qaeda’s Arab operatives are considered a fearless elite. They have knowledge of Islam that makes them seem like religious scholars to many Pashtun tribesmen, who they have led into battle in the past. After Al Qaeda fled Afghanistan’s cities with their Taliban government allies in 2001-02, they reorganized and reconstituted their ranks in Pakistan. Al Qaeda returned to the fight in 2004, training, equipping and often leading or joining Haqqani fighters in battle along the eastern border.

Their presence was often suggested by the tactics used by Haqqani fighters, the cells’ skill at accurately firing AK-47s and RPGs, and gear such as armor-piercing ammo, body armor and night-vision devices.

Today, as they withstand CIA’s withering drone onslaught in Pakistan’s tribal belt, the Arabs are more low-key in their Afghan ops than they were in the past. The CIA’s targeted killing of Skeik Mustafa Abu al-Yazid after he left Mir Ali may also have impacted their activities on the other side of the AfPak.

Arabs from Al Qaeda still fund and train the Taliban, but no longer lead operations from the front, Army Col. Donald C. Bolduc, who leads the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, told me in his office at Bagram Airfield this month.

“They’re considered much too valuable to risk that,” said another U.S. official in the war zone.

During the winter, Taliban leaders ensconced in Pakistan send in Al Qaeda operatives to train their fighters in bombmaking tradecraft during the lull in fighting, sources said.

“The Pakistani madrassahs are still the big recruiting and training place. The Afghans go to a madrassah in Pakistan, where an Arab is typically like the dean, or headmaster, and learn how to fight,” the official told me. “Then the Afghan goes back home and teaches others to build bombs or fight — and gets paid handsomely for it.”

Again, this is yet another point of confirmation of my previously described hypothesis, i.e., that of a shift in the theological landscape within Afghanistan and a morphing of the Taliban into a more globally focused and religiously motivated entity.  These rogue elements swim in the same waters, and to use the expressions “al Qaeda” or “Taliban,” while certainly precise from the perspective of a close view analysis, misses the point of a morphing of these elements into something new and different.

Withdrawal from Korengal

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 7 months ago

The last U.S. Soldiers have been pulled out of the Korengal Valley.

It was as if the five years of almost ceaseless firefights and ambushes had been a misunderstanding — a tragic, bloody misunderstanding.

More than 40 U.S. troops have been killed, and scores more wounded, in helicopter crashes, machine-gun attacks and grenade blasts in the Korengal Valley, a jagged sliver just six miles long and a half-mile wide. The Afghan death toll has been far higher, making the Korengal some of the bloodiest ground in all of Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.

In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, the U.S. presence here came to an abrupt end.

[ ... ]

For U.S. commanders, the Korengal Valley offers a hard lesson in the limits of American power and goodwill in Afghanistan. The valley’s extreme isolation, its axle-breaking terrain and its inhabitants’ suspicion of outsiders made it a perfect spot to wage an insurgency against a Western army.

U.S. troops arrived here in 2005 to flush out al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. They stayed on the theory that their presence drew insurgents away from areas where the U.S. role is more tolerated and there is a greater desire for development. The troops were, in essence, bullet magnets.

In 2010, a new set of commanders concluded that the United States had blundered into a blood feud with fierce and clannish villagers who wanted, above all, to be left alone. By this logic, subduing the Korengal wasn’t worth the cost in American blood.

There’s more than a little hyperbole in this report.  There was and is no surprise in the difficulty of the Korengal Valley.  This is where the Battle of Wanat occurred, but in spite of the level of difficulty, Bing West points out that:

The scale of the fighting was not the reason for withdrawing. One American soldier was killed in the Korengal in the last ten months, a loss rate less than in an average rifle company. The strongest technical rationale for the withdrawal was economy of force. The troop-to-population ratio and the logistics for air support were too onerous, regardless of the level of fighting.

The troop (and air power and logistics) commitment in Korengal didn’t comport with a population-centric counterinsurgency model General McChrystal wants to employ.  When it comes to population, the Korengal Valley can’t compete with Kandahar with its half a million residents.

But is it really correct to assert that we merely stumbled into a tribal feud?  Bing West continues: “… in 2007, half the fighters were locals and half were hard-core Islamic jihadists. When I was in the Korengal in 2009, the interpreters estimated a third of the voices heard over the enemy radios had Pakistani-tinged accents, a third were Pashto and a third were the local dialects.”

The Washington Post report eventually becomes interesting with a touchstone account of attempting to persuade hard core insurgents.

Moretti’s predecessors had spent countless hours trying to persuade Zalwar Khan to rally the locals to support the road project. Three years of prodding had produced virtually no progress. Moretti sensed that the real power in the valley lay with the men leading the insurgency.

He asked Khan to deliver a letter to a timber baron and insurgent leader known as Matin, who like many Afghans uses only one name. Long before Moretti’s arrival in the valley, U.S. troops had killed several of Matin’s family members in airstrikes, according to the Korengalis. In banning the timber trade, the Afghan government had deprived him of his sole means of income.

“Haji Matin hates the Americans too much,” Khan told Moretti, using an honorific that signified Matin’s completion of the pilgrimage to Mecca. “He won’t respond.”

Instead he advised Moretti to write to Nasurallah, a colleague of Matin’s. “It is our belief that you are the rightful leader of the Korengalis,” the captain wrote. “You hold the power not only among the villagers but also among the fighters. If you want the valley to prosper all you have to do is talk with us and bring your fighters down from the mountains.”

The letter offered Nasurallah two choices: development or death. “It is not our wish to kill your fellow Korengalis,” Moretti continued. “But we are good at it and will continue to do it as long as you fight us.”

Two days later, Moretti received a response. “If you surrender to the law of God then our war against you will end,” Nasurallah wrote. “If you keep fighting for man’s law then we will fight you until Doomsday.”

As I have contended before, until the places where the religiously-motivated and hard core fighters are taken on head-to-head, his means of rest and recruitment denied him, and his largesse taken away from him, this counterinsurgency cannot be won.  While they are unmolested in their favorite places, they can continue to send insurgents into the cities – Kandahar, Jalalabad and Kabul.

We don’t have enough troops, and SOF raids against high value targets – which contrary to belief is becoming even more important that it was previously – won’t ameliorate the need for contact with both the enemy and the population.  U.S. forces in the Korengal Valley have fought bravely, but don’t be surprised if this area becomes safe haven for not only hard core Taliban, but globalist insurgents of various ilk.

Whitewashing the Fort Hood Shootings: Redux on Christian Terrorism

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

From the Weekly Standard:

While we should be thankful that various individuals at Fort Hood acted in a “prompt and courageous” manner thereby preventing “greater losses,” it should never have gotten to that point. The Defense Department’s system is not working if it is left to first responders to stop a terrorist. A traitor within the military’s ranks, with compromised loyalties that had been known about for years—as was the case with Hasan—should be stopped before his finger is on the trigger.

Therein lies the central problem with the Pentagon’s report. It says nothing of consequence about Hasan or how to stop individuals like him in the future. Hasan is not even named in the report, but instead referred to as the “alleged perpetrator.” The report’s authors contend that the sanctity of the criminal investigation into the shooting needs to be upheld. But this is not an excuse for failing to name the attacker. The whole world knows that Major Nidal Malik Hasan did it.

Nor is the ongoing criminal investigation a valid reason for avoiding a serious discussion of Hasan’s ideological disposition. The report’s authors instead go to lengths to whitewash Hasan’s beliefs.

The report lumps all sorts of deviant and problematic behaviors together as if they have the same relevance to the events of November 5. Thus, we find a discussion of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, and the disgusting methods employed by child molesters. We also learn of the deleterious effects of events “such as divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one,” all of which “may trigger suicide in those who are already vulnerable.”

Was Major Nidal Malik Hasan a child molester, a drug addict, or suicidal because of a recent divorce? No. So what does any of this have to do with the attack at Fort Hood? Absolutely nothing.

What is relevant is Hasan’s religious and political beliefs. He is a jihadist, although you would never know it by reading the Pentagon’s report. Instead in the report’s “literature review of risk factors for violence,” one comes across this sentence:

Religious fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor; most fundamentalist groups are not violent, and religious-based violence is not confined to members of fundamentalist groups.

This is a true statement; it is also completely meaningless in respect to the Fort Hood massacre. The brand of religious fundamentalism practiced by Hasan is specifically devoted to violence.

This article by Thomas Joscelyn rehearses some of the things we discussed in Radicalized Christian Terrorism.  On a complex topic it’s easy to misunderstand truncated prose.  This is the kind of topic that is better carried out as a series of conversations.

A number of readers / commenters conflated boundary conditions.  This comment comes to us from Aristekrat:

I think it would certainly be fair to name any abortion bombing or killing as Christian terrorism. Admittedly, that is not near the problem that exists in Islam, but I disagree that is because Christianity is inherently peaceful and Islam is violent. At one time Christianity was not at all peaceful; surprisingly no one has mentioned the reformation and the wars of religion that lasted an extraordinarily long time, tore Europe apart, and were monstrously violent. That violence ultimately exhausted Europe and led to the Peace of Westphalia, the first harbinger of secularism. As secularism (and nationalism) ascended so religious violence in Europe dropped. Are you comfortable with the idea that the greater prevalence of religious violence in Islam might not be due to Islam being a more violent religion but because western civilization has embraced the (now) leftist doctrine of secularism and Islamic countries have not?

This is a very far reaching and broad comment and we will have to deal with aspects of it in later conversations.  Suffice it to say that the proposition that secularism is related to a reduction in violence is incorrect from my vantage point, and the author of the comment is advised to study the following two texts:

Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers

Douglas F. Kelly, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries

Any conversation on this that begins without these two texts as a backdrop is a waste of time.  So moving back to the issue of  “any abortion bombing or killing as Christian terrorism,” this is once again a conflation of issues, a confusion of boundary conditions for my thought experiment.

We absolutely must get definitions and boundaries right for the conversation to have a common language.  Without rehearsing the boundaries I laid down in the original article, let’s approach this from a different perspective, i.e., the perspective of Islamic terrorism.

A quick survey of my articles on Iraq and counterinsurgency shows without equivocation that I did not believe during the height of the insurgency, and do not believe now, that all insurgents in Iraq fought for religious motivation.  In fact, most of them didn’t.  To be sure, the several hundred per month who crossed the Syrian border coming from Somalia, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other locales, included many who did fight predominately for religious motivation.  But the indigenous insurgency primarily did not.

During Operation Alljah loud speakers were used by U.S. forces to address the public at Mosques, and even though this is a religious gathering, per se, I do not include this as religious-based insurgency or counterinsurgency.  The Mosques were targeted as being the center of public activity and philosophy.

Again, a survey of my posts reminds the reader of just how involved we have been in attempting to understand how to separate an indigenous insurgency – who fights for many reasons, including money, youthful exuberance, boredom, etc. – from the religiously- based leadership.

Not all shootings in Iraq were a result of jihad.  Nor have I categorized religious-on-religious violence (e.g., Shi’a on Sunni and vice versa) within the rubric of jihad or religiously-based violence.  My definitions were very specific, and included the notion that one believes that his specific religious views warranted propagation via violence or subjugation of unbelievers.

Wars of power, convenience, tribe, family, wealth-seeking, and so on, do not qualify under this rubric.  As for Islam, I have dealt with the competing hermeneutics within the Muslim world before by addressing stolid comments by Professor Steve Metz of the U.S. Army War College.  Feel free to go study them in some detail.

I am left in this thought experiment without any compelling evidence whatsoever that anyone can come up with a single example of Christian terrorism that meets my definition – a definition, by the way, that I have consistently applied to Islamic terrorism as well.

You may disagree, you may respond with fury and fist.  But what you cannot do is charge me with inconsistency.  I have treated both Islam and Christianity with the same standards.  In the mean time, I continue to be amused at the felt-need to legitimize moral-equivalency arguments, and even if you can find an example of Christian inspired terrorism, I have made you search hard.  The search is hard because Christian Biblical hermeneutics doesn’t support terrorism.

Radicalized Christian Terrorism

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

The report on Hasan and the Fort Hood shootings has been released, and without rehearsing the pitiful whitewash that it was, one comment by intellectual lightweight Togo West bears a little unpacking.

Mr. West, at a second Pentagon news conference with Admiral Clark, said the problem with “self-radicalization” in the military was not rooted in Islam. “Suppose it were fundamentalist-Christian-inspired,” Mr. West said. “Our concern is not with the religion. It is with the potential effect on our soldiers’ ability to do their job.”

Hmmm.  Not rooted in Islam.  “Fundamentalist-Christian-inspired” terrorism.  So.  Let’s have a test question after we set some boundary conditions.  First, let’s loosely define Christian as anyone who believes in the Trinitarian formula outlined in the Council Of Nicea and the Council of Chalcedon (and perhaps also who holds to basic Christian soteriology as taught in the historical confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism, or for my Roman Catholic readers, the Council of Trent).

Next, let’s define religiously inspired terrorism as the belief that God has commanded that one’s faith must be promulgated by violence.  Now that these basic stipulations have been made our house is in order for the test question.  Can anyone name an instance of “fundamentalist-Christian-inspired” terrorism?  Anyone?  Even a single instance?

For the more stolid readers, leave the Crusades out of this.  They were primarily a defensive operation as a result of Muslim aggression.  Besides, give me something in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries, please.  And please don’t chime in with Timothy McVeigh.  In his last interview the day before his execution, he made sure everyone knew that he was an atheist.

We can begin.  Now that the test question has been posed, are there any takers?  Give me one instance of Christian-inspired terrorism.  Just one.  Maybe intellectual lightweight Togo West can give me his data.  I’m waiting.

Prisons in Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

Fred Kaplan at Slate, whom we always enjoy reading even when we disagree, has an interesting article about Paul Yingling who took on higher command and their handling of the campaign in Iraq (in the broader context of leadership and the associated responsibilities).  As it turns out, Yingling has an interesting new duty – that of applying counterinsurgency inside of the prisons of Iraq.  More specifically, these prisons are where those who have been arrested during U.S. kinetic operations are being held, somewhat outside of the Iraqi judicial system.

These prisons are becoming breeding grounds for jihadists, and COIN techniques are seen as being very important in dealing with the prison problem, lest we eject 20,000 jihadists back into Iraqi culture.  Note, however, that we had noted the prison issue in The Nexus of Religion and Prisons in Counterinsurgency, five months ago.  The Captain’s Journal saw the importance of this.

Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, commanding general of detainee operations in Iraq, is fighting what he has called “the battlefield of the mind.” He has instituted extensive screening of incoming prisoners and has made available about 30 training and education courses, including religion and civics, to the 25,188 prisoners under his control …

One result already seen, he said, is that moderates in the prisons are identifying extremists, thus facilitating their segregation from the rest of the population. At Camp Bucca, about 1,000 extremists were identified and pulled from among the 21,000 prisoners, and “that made a big difference,” he said.

It looks like Major General Stone who implemented this program, has a good commander in his corner.  We wish them success in this endeavor and expect good things.

More: Small Wars Journal Blog

Religiously Motivated: Al Qaeda and Taliban Step up the Battle

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The following is a list of suicide attacks in Pakistan this year.

- March 11: Separate bombers shatter seven-story police headquarters and house in Lahore. At least 27 people killed, more than 200 wounded.
- March 4: Two bombers blow themselves up at navy training college in Lahore, killing four college employees.
- March 2: Bomber attacks tribesmen discussing resistance to al-Qaida and Taliban in Darra Adam Khel. At least 40 dead.
- March 1: Bomber on foot attacks vehicle carrying security officers in Bajur tribal area, killing one person, wounding 19.
- Feb. 29: Bomber strikes police officer’s funeral in Mingora in Swat Valley. More than 40 people killed, at least 60 wounded.
- Feb. 25: Bomber attacks car carrying Pakistani army’s surgeon general along busy road south of Islamabad, killing at least seven others.
- Feb. 16: Car bomber hits election rally in Parachinar. Some 40 people killed.
- Feb. 16: Attacker kills two civilians and wounds eight security personnel in Swat Valley.
- Feb. 11: Attacker kills seven people at election campaign rally in North Waziristan.
- Feb. 9: Bomber attacks election rally near Charsadda, killing 27 people, wounding 45.
- Feb. 2: Bomber rides explosives-laden motorbike into minibus carrying security personnel in Rawalpindi, killing at least seven people.
- Feb. 1: Car bomber rams into military checkpoint in North Waziristan, killing five soldiers, injuring five.
- Jan. 17: Attacker kills 11 people, wounds 20 at Shiite mosque in Peshawar.
- Jan. 15: Car bomber blows himself up trying to attack troops at checkpoint in Mohmand.
- Jan. 10: Bomber blasts crowd of police guarding courthouse in Lahore, killing 24, wounding dozens in first major attack since Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
- Jan. 7: Bomber in pickup truck strikes in Swat, wounding eight soldiers and two civilians.

The Asia Times is reporting on an interesting jihadi recruitment pool for al Qaeda that may both give context to the recent list of bombings and give concern for future counterinsurgency efforts in the NWFP and FATA areas of Pakistan.

At the root of al-Qaeda’s strategy is the belief in the powerful ideology of Takfir, which deems all non-practicing Muslims infidels. This, al-Qaeda believes, fuels anti-Western forces in Muslim societies.

From Pakistan’s perspective, the tribal insurgencies in North-West Frontier Province are a thorn in the side of coalition troops in Afghanistan as the area is used as a staging ground for Taliban attacks into that country. But Islamabad believes these can at least be controlled, even if not tamed.

The real concern is the radicalization of Punjab, the largest Pakistani province and comprising more than half the country’s population, through banned militant organizations.

Thousands of activists are known to be affiliated with banned militant organizations in Punjab. Many were initially trained by Pakistani security agencies to fuel the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.

However, after September 11, 2001, Pakistan, as a new partner in the “war on terror”, was forced by the Americans to shelve its support of the Kashmiri insurgency. As a result, militant training camps were shut down and militants left their parent organizations in the thousands.

These young jihadis are obviously committed fighters and have been kicking their heels for several years now. The fear is that if they fall into the hands of al-Qaeda, they could significantly escalate unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iraq. Segments of these Punjab-based militant organizations have already been cultivated by the Takfiris, resulting in a new source of suicide bombers.

Frank Hoffman has remarked to us that The Captain’s Journal is ”rather famous” for our disagreements with Dave Kilcullen, counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus.  Actually, at the Small Wars Journal, Kilcullen never interacted with us - the balance of the council weighed in against our notions of religious motivation in Islamic insurgency.  How nice, to be so alone all of the time.

But in the end our theories are reasonable and have been proven correct.  At the heart of our system was that there were indigenous insurgents who would be amenable to efforts enveloped by nonkinetic operations, but also those who fight for religious reasons (mostly foreign, some small amount indigenous), this later group being impervious to efforts at winning hearts and minds since they don’t engage in the struggle for any reason that can be ameliorated by our actions.  It pays to understand the difference between the two groups, because our strategy is a function of the target group.

This lesson was learned in Anbar, and regardless of any counterinsurgency advice to the contrary, U.S. forces have also implemented efforts to identify the two categories – with remarkable success.  Concerning the Pakistan suicide bombings, the U.S. is taking unilateral action to target Taliban sanctuaries.

WANA, Pakistan, March 16 (Reuters) – A U.S. aircraft fired missiles on Sunday at a house in a Pakistani region known as a haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, killing at least 9 militants and wounding nine, an intelligence official said.

A U.S. Central Command spokesman said the missiles were not fired by any military aircraft. This leaves open the possibility it could have been a pilotless drone aircraft which the CIA has used in Pakistan.

The intelligence official said four missiles were fired at the house in Shahnawaz Kheil Dhoog, a village near the town of Wana in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, just after 3 p.m. (1000 GMT).

“It was apparently an American plane that fired precision guided missiles at the house,” the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

Three foreigners, an Arab and two Turkmen, were among those killed, according to the intelligence official.

These actions are necessary since the new Parliamentary coalition is less amenable to warring with the Taliban and al Qaeda and more amenable to talking.

“We will discuss the issue of terrorism in parliament and the parliamentary committees, which will also be open to the public through live telecast, and in those meetings the PPP will lay down all the dimensions of the problems and plans to tackle it,” the PPP spokesperson disclosed.

In this context, it is learnt that Benazir Bhutto had “several thoughts” which also pertained to the issue of the dual control over the intelligence apparatus. While it is not clear yet what shape the anti-terror policy of the new government will take, indications are that the strategy and approach pursued will be a departure from the existing one. That it will be more inclusive and non-violent. More importantly, the commitment to deal with the issue will further strengthen.

In fact, the ANP has already made peace overtures to the Taliban.  It is of the utmost importance that the motivations of the enemy are understood, because if our theories are correct, talking with the Taliban will succeed in nothing but further extending amnesty and allowing time for the enemy to regroup, retrain and recruit.

Back In Iraq, lest it be thought that al Qaeda were the only religiously-motivated insurgents, Moqtada al Sadr has recently told us precisely what he was working towards over these last three years.  “So far I did not succeed either to liberate Iraq or make it an Islamic society — whether because of my own inability or the inability of society, only God knows. The continued presence of the occupiers, on the one hand, and the disobedience of many on the other, pushed me to isolate myself in protest. I gave society a big proportion of my life. Even my body became weaker, I got more sicknesses.” (Editorial note: Sadr seems to be in poor health, if alive at all.  He is apparently in Iran where he has spent most of the last six months.  He should just stay there.)

Some finite number of foreign fighters as well as Iranians (Quds) and indigenous radical Shi’a in Iraq have fought for religious reasons, while the indigenous Sunnis have generally not.  Some very much larger percentage of Taliban in Afghanistan have fought for the same ideals.  Literally all of the Pakistani Taliban (Baitullah Mehsud) and al Qaeda fight for these same motivations, and using the wrong strategy to combat their influence will not only be ineffective, it will also be dangerous because it will prolong their life and increase their power.

The Darra AdamKhel Tribal Bombing

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In the town of Darra Adam Khel in the NWFP of Pakistan, the Taliban attacked a tribal meeting.

DARRA ADAMKHEL/ PESHAWAR, March 2: A powerful blast hit a tribal peace jirga near the Zarghunkhel checkpost in Darra Adamkhel on Sunday, killing at least 42 people and wounding another 58.

The jirga of Zarghunkhel, Akhurwal, Sheraki, Bostikhel and Toor Chapper tribes had been convened to discuss the formation of a Lashkar to drive militants out of the area, sources said.

It was not clear if the blast was the work of a suicide bomber, but local officials said that a teenager had detonated explosives just after the meeting had ended.

A severed head was found at the site and the officials believed it was that of the bomber. Some people identified the teenager as a youth from the Sheraki area of Darra, a hub of militants.

Security forces, it may be mentioned, launched an operation against militants in Darra Adamkhel in January in which scores of security personnel and militants have been killed.

Izat Khan, a tribesman injured in the explosion, told Dawn at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar that the blast took place when the tribal elders were finalising modalities for raising the tribal force.

“I fell and became unconscious just as I was about to leave the meeting,” Mr Khan recalled. He pointed out that no official of the political administration or the army was there and said he had doubts about the official statement that the blast had been caused by a suicide attack.

This is the fourth explosion during the past three days in the NWFP and Fata. On Friday, an explosion killed three police personnel and a blast in Swat during the funeral of one of the slain police personnel killed 46 people. A suicide bomber hit a vehicle of Levies Force in Bajaur tribal region on Saturday and killed two people and wounded 24 others.

The jirga was attended by over 1,000 tribesmen. It had started at about 9am and ended at two hours later after unanimously deciding to form a Lashkar and calling upon the army to withdraw troops from the area. The meeting also sanctioned action against militants, who were attacking people in the name of Islam.

Tribal elder Haji Gul Rahim said most of the people attending the jirga had dispersed and about 200 people were discussing measures for security on the Indus Highway.

Witnesses said that the blast site was littered with human flesh and severed limbs. They said that the blast was so intense that it caused severe burn injuries.

Maulana Sabir Afridi, convener of the jirga, Haji Zar Khan, Haji Nazer, Haji Jamal Hussain, Malik Mohammad Nawaz and Haji Khan Mohammad Din were among the dead.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that recent attacks have disrupted an expected post-election calm.

In four separate incidents over the weekend, suicide bombers struck large gatherings in Pakistan, shattering a fragile sense of optimism that has prevailed since national elections on Feb. 18.

The hope has been that those elections, by empowering Pakistan’s moderate, secular parties, could help stem Pakistan’s rising tide of extremism, which has left about 500 people dead this year. But for the last week, the elections have not brought a much needed sense of calm and euphoria.

But in what seems to be a stepped-up effort to sow chaos and fear, suicide bombers struck on Friday in Lakki Marwat, in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, killing a district superintendent of police, CNN reports. The following day, militants struck again during that police official’s funeral in Swat Valley – where the Army is still battling Taliban militants – killing 46 people. On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted the vehicle of a security official in Bajaur Agency, a Taliban enclave near the border of Afghanistan, killing 21 people, the Associated Press reports.

Perhaps the inept analysts in the MSM expected a post-election calm due to empowering secular parties in Pakistan, but readers of The Captain’s Journal knew better.  In Misinterpreting the Pakistani Elections, we summarized the elections thusly: “The less ideologically driven voter abandoned the Islamist party, but then, he never voted for that party for the purposes of institution of sharia law anyway.  He voted for jobs, sewers, electricity, water supply and good governance several years ago and got none of what he voted for. Hence, he overthrew the clerics this time around.  The die-hards joined the Taliban.  There are various colors and stripes of jihadists the world over, from Salafism to Wahhabism, from the purist Sunni radicals in Saudi Arabia to the Shi’a Mullahs and their followers in Iran.  But one common element among them all is the utter rejection of democracy.  Democracy is deemed to be directly contrary to Islam, and the Taliban, al Qaeda and their sympathizers and advocates sat out the election.  They had no stake in it.”

The voters rejected two things: (1) Musharraf’s administration, and (2) the more moderate Islamicists (i.e., the ones who failed at administrating a state, but who also never saw Sharia law as being implemented through violence.  The religious extremists didn’t vote or run for office.  As to the future of Pakistan, we have consistently pointed out that there are two Taliban fronts; one in Afghanistan and the other in Pakistan.  There has been a resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda (with the new focus on suicide missions as we pointed out), and because the Pashtun have rejected the concept of a global war on terror, U.S. and Pakistani forces find unfriendly human terrain in the NWFP and FATA, and not just due to Taliban presence.  When the people do not support the campaign, the campaign finds the way hard and toiling.

The U.S. expects for there to be continued kinetic operations against the Taliban, and Musharraf soldiers on in implementing operations against them.  At some point it is likely that these operations will devolve into talks with the Taliban because the Army, the regional tribes, and the population in general will not support continued kinetic operations.  How long Musharraf can continue to press these operations without toppling his regime remains an open question.

The real news here is not that there is continuing Taliban violence, but that The Captain’s Journal laid out the correct scenario for you before it happened.  You should continue to read TCJ for cutting edge analysis.


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