Archive for the 'State Department' Category

Attack On Benghazi Unprecedented: The Narrative Du Jour

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

The narrative changes yet again.

The size and “lethality” of the attack on the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead was “unprecedented,” a senior State Department official said today.

Senior State Department officials today gave the most detailed account to-date of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats. One official said the nature of the assault was unparalleled in recent history.

“The lethality and number of armed people is unprecedented,” one of the officials said. “There was no attack anywhere in Libya — Tripoli or Benghazi — like this, So it is unprecedented and would be very, very hard to find a precedent like that in recent diplomatic history.”

So there was no reason to have suspect such an event could have occurred, or so the State Department seems to want us to think.

I give you Jeddah in 2005.

It took only five seconds for al Qaeda terrorists to break into the U.S. compound in Jeddah in an attack that killed five people, according to tapes obtained exclusively by ABC News.

The terrorists entered the compound at 11:16 a.m. on a day when the compound was supposed to be at a critical threat level. As seen on tape, a white U.S. government consulate vehicle pulls up to a side gate where it waits for two security barriers to be opened. Chanting “God is great” over a cell phone to their accomplices, the terrorists pull up in their four-door sedan just as the consulate car is cleared.

“Obviously they’d done a surveillance action on this facility,” said Tony Deibler, a former State Department security officer, as he watched the tapes of the December 2004 attack.

The terrorists’ car is blocked, but they exit on foot and open fire. Within five seconds, they get through the security gates, including an expensive obstacle known as a Delta barrier.

As the terrorists run inside, the Saudi National Guard troops assigned to protect the consulate run in the opposite direction — away from the fight.

“Well, I hate to say it because I have a lot of friends who are on the Saudi National Guard, but they’re running away,” Deibler said. “At least, that National Guardsman took his weapon with him, although he’s going the wrong way.”

One minute into the attack, the terrorists have the run of the compound as employees run for their lives. The attackers open fire on several buildings. By 11:19 a.m., all Americans are safely secured inside the consulate’s main building after what is known as the “duck and cover” alarm. Meanwhile, the terrorists attempt unsuccessfully to get past security doors and rig an explosive charge. Four minutes later, the Marines release tear gas, but the State Department uses a weaker version than the military so it appears to have little effect on the attackers.

“You can see it’s dissipating already, and it’s not even, it’s not having any effect at all,” Deibler described, as he watched the tapes of the attack.

At 11:47 a.m., the terrorists take down the American flag in front of the consulate. After that, out of the sight of the cameras, they take four U.S. employees and a local guard hostage, all of whom are later killed. Ten others under the protection of the U.S. consulate will be injured.

And Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

The near-simultaneous bombing attacks on the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania took place on 7 August 1998. In Nairobi, where the US Embassy was located in a congested downtown area, the attack killed 291 persons and wounded about 5,000. The bombing in Dar es Salaam killed 10 persons and wounded 77.

As early as December 1993, a team of al Qaeda operatives had begun casing targets in Nairobi for future attacks. It was led by Ali Mohamed, a former Egyptian army officer who had moved to the United States in the mid-1980s, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and became an instructor at Fort Bragg. He had provided guidance and training to extremists at the Farouq mosque in Brooklyn, including some who were subsequently convicted in the February 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. The casing team also included a computer expert whose write-ups were reviewed by al Qaeda leaders.

The team set up a makeshift laboratory for developing their surveillance photographs in an apartment in Nairobi where the various al Qaeda operatives and leaders based in or traveling to the Kenya cell sometimes met. Banshiri, al Qaeda’s military committee chief, continued to be the operational commander of the cell; but because he was constantly on the move, Bin Ladin had dispatched another operative, Khaled al Fawwaz, to serve as the on-site manager. The technical surveillance and communications equipment employed for these casing missions included state-of-the-art video cameras obtained from China and from dealers in Germany. The casing team also reconnoitered targets in Djibouti.

I suppose that we could attribute the ignorance to young State Department employees, recent graduates of international studies programs, who have no personal recollection of these attacks and believe that we are going to solve all of the world’s ills by dialogue.

But does anyone at State use Google?  Do these clowns scrutinize anything before they release it?

Marines At American Embassy In Egypt Not Permitted Live Ammunition

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

I am sorry and sad to say that we must cease the celebratory mood over this day being the remembrance of the federal assault weapons ban sunset provision in order to deal with something else.  While we’re debating whether a gunship should have been with the Marines who attempted to defend the Libyan embassy, or whether they should have had a FAST or fleet infantry Marine mindset, whether they should have used massive fire to close with and destroy the enemy, and so on and so forth, there is this sad, sad report from Egypt.

U.S. Marines defending the American embassy in Egypt were not permitted by the State Department to carry live ammunition, limiting their ability to respond to attacks like those this week on the U.S. consulate in Cairo.

Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson “did not permit U.S. Marine guards to carry live ammunition,” according to multiple reports on U.S. Marine Corps blogs spotted by Nightwatch. “She neutralized any U.S. military capability that was dedicated to preserve her life and protect the US Embassy.”

U.S. officials have yet to confirm or comment on the reports. Time magazine’s Battleland blog reported Thursday “Senior U.S. officials late Wednesday declined to discuss in detail the security at either Cairo or Benghazi, so answers may be slow in coming.”

If true, the reports indicate that Patterson shirked her obligation to protect U.S. interests, Nightwatch states.

“She did not defend U.S. sovereign territory and betrayed her oath of office,” the report states. “She neutered the Marines posted to defend the embassy, trusting the Egyptians over the Marines.”

While Marines are typically relied on to defend U.S. territory abroad, such as embassies, these reports indicate that the Obama administration was relying on Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood-backed government to ensure American security, a move observers are questioning as violence in Cairo continues to rage.

Marc Toner, the State Department’s deputy spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment from the Free Beacon. White House National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor also did not respond to a request for comment.

Failing to respond to requests for information is a sure sign of sin and misdeed by the State Department.  It’s too easy simply to reply to requests.  Therefore, we may only assume the accuracy of this report, and remark how sad, immoral and asinine it is for the U.S. Marines to be subject in any way to some idiotic State Department employee.

U.S. Warning to Iran

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 7 months ago

From The Washington Post:

The United States will continue to support Iraq as it moves toward democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday as she wrapped up a weeklong overseas trip.

Without mentioning Iran by name, Clinton warned Iraq’s neighbors against meddling and said the U.S. and Iraq would remain close allies.

“As we open this new chapter in a relationship with sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy,” she said.

“And to countries in the region, especially Iraqi’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests.”

She said the United States would have a “robust, continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region.”

The problem with Iran began more than a quarter century ago, and for Operation Iraqi Freedom, even before the campaign began.  We could have addressed the present problem, at least in part, when Maliki’s rule was hanging by a thread and Iraqi lawmakers were waiting to see who the U.S. would support.  While I argued for support of Allawi, the U.S. policy-makers decided to support the Iranian apparatchik Maliki.  At that point we may as well have withdrawn troops, and afterward a downward spiral took effect in Iraq, from a poor status of forces agreement to increased Iranian hegemony.

To be sure, the Obama administration could have projected strength, but did not and will not, and hence Maliki feels even more emboldened to follow the dictates of his puppet masters in Iran.  While the Obama administration did nothing whatsoever to help the situation, the problem began years ago with our refusal to engage Iran in the war that they declared on us.

I haven’t recommended full scale conventional warfare with Iran.  That’s clearly not necessary.  But what is necessary – support for the Green movement, a campaign of assassinations against Quds commanders, fomenting an insurgency within Iran, and robust covert warfare against Iranian forces around the Middle East, from Quds forces in Iraq, to Hezbollah in Lebanon – will not happen because neither the Obama administration nor the Bush administration has or had the stomach for winning the global war on terrorism.

The Iranian Mullahs know that.  We don’t even have the sway left in Iraq to have gotten a renewed status of forces agreement that prevents our Soldiers from being held on charges in Iraqi courts, much less to prevent the expansion of Iranian power in the Middle East.

Thus, this warning to Iran must seem like the silliest, most self-delusional piece of propaganda ever to be issued from the offices of the State Department.  We have sunk to a new low.  We now traffic in complete lies without  the slightest concern over the fact that not even the enemy believes us any more.

Iran Aids Al Qaeda

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

Little more than one week ago, Admiral Mullen said the following concerning Iran’s aid to Shi’ite fighters in Iraq.

“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups which are killing our troops,” said Adm. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there…that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.”

Around the same time, Major General John Toolan, the top Marine in Afghanistan, observed that the Marines in RC South are dealing with Iranian (and Iranian-trained) snipers.  Now comes a report directly from the Treasury Department.

Shiite-dominated Iran is allowing Al Qaeda, a predominately Sunni group, to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

In announcing sanctions on six alleged Al Qaeda operatives, a Treasury official said the terrorist group had entered into a “secret deal” with Iran, despite their differences.

Treasury sanctioned Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, whom it described as a prominent Iran-based Al Qaeda facilitator, and five other members of an alleged Al Qaeda network that spans the Middle East and South Asia.

Thursday’s announcement marked the second time Treasury has drawn a link between Tehran and Al Qaeda. In 2009, Treasury sanctioned an alleged Al Qaeda associate, Mustafa Hamid, whom officials said acted as an interlocutor to the group and Tehran. At the time, Treasury sanctioned three other alleged Al Qaeda operatives, including Osama Bin Laden’s son, Sa’ad bin Laden, who had been detained in Iran.

Thursday’s sanctions, however, asserted a deeper connection. Treasury said Iranian authorities have permitted Khalil to operate within the country’s borders since 2005. He moves money and terrorist recruits from the Middle East into Iran, and then on to Pakistan, Treasury said.

Two alleged Al Qaeda members in Qatar, Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar, were sanctioned for allegedly providing financial and logistical support to the terrorist group through operatives in Iran.

“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with Al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

 Note the strong wording: “Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.”  True enough, but this shocks no one.  It simply highlights what the top generals are willing to say, regardless of what the official policy is for Iran.

And speaking of “official policy,” is there any?  Jennifer Rubin sees none.

I spoke to Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies yesterday about the state of the administration’s Iran policy. He was blunt:

I’d start with asking these questions:
1. Apart from sanctions, is anything else happening? What is the comprehensive strategy?
2. Who is driving Iran policy at the interagency level? Dennis Ross, Gary Samore, David Cohen, Bob Einhorn, Michele Flournoy, Tom Donilon, anyone else?

His conclusion on the first item is that nothing is happening, and we have no comprehensive approach. On the second, he says, “No one.”

It wouldn’t matter.  With the likes of Michele Flournoy and Tom Donilon advising Obama (and his willingness to listen and heed their counsel), even if there was an Iran policy, there wouldn’t be.  Sadly, it looks as if many of my predictions are coming to pass.

Gates Pleads for Funds for State Department Work in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 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

Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

In case you weren’t watching, there has been a covert cyberwar going on against Iran’s nuclear program.

The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.

But in the 21st century, Bond doesn’t get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Iran’s nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe.

Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what they’ve all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Department’s acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.”

The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.

Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.

When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

And finally, after the job was done, the worm would have to destroy itself without leaving a trace.

That is what we are learning happened at Iran’s nuclear facilities — both at Natanz, which houses the centrifuge arrays used for processing uranium into nuclear fuel, and, to a lesser extent, at Bushehr, Iran’s nuclear power plant.

At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component — the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges’ control panel.

Read the entire report for a very interesting analysis of what apparently is the first real instance of effective cyberwar.  It occurred probably due to cooperation between intelligence agencies, lead more than likely by the Mossad.  This set the program back months or even years.

There is more.  Iranian nuclear physicists and engineers are dying at an alarming rate.

Earlier today, Majid Shahriari, a professor in nuclear physics at Martyr Beheshti University, was assassinated in Tehran. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, professor in nuclear physics at Iran’s National Defense University, was severely wounded in a separate attack. Motorcyclists either stuck explosives to the physicists’ cars as they headed to work, or threw explosives into the cars. These were just the latest attacks — on January 10, 2010, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, another Iranian physicist, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb as he left his home.

Iran has accused the CIA and Mossad of masterminding the attacks.  Ryan, from Dallas, TX, dispatches that concern. “I’m not worried about the CIA being to blame, the US government is not competent enough to pull an operation this clean off. A US attempt would have resulted in a lunch worth of mashed potatoes being placed on the wrong cars windshield and the subsequent explosion of a bicyclist.”

Unfortunately, Ryan is probably right.  Again, it is likely the Mossad that is responsible.  But these small efforts must end at some point (or be greatly expanded), since all they do will is temporarily cause the Iranian program to cease and desist.  These efforts won’t end the program.

Switching subjects just for a moment, I had originally judged the most recent Wikileaks data dump to be irrelevant.  The original two were, and told us things that we (I) already knew.  Most Milbloggers knew 95% of at least the broad strokes of the information contained in the data dump on Iraq and Afghanistan.  But this most recent data dump is essentially different.  It pertains to documents that embarrass the administration’s diplomatic efforts and show them to be fundamentally unsound and ineffective.

I predicted this two years ago.

… the State Department will begin the administration will high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.

And concerning the failure of diplomatic efforts, we see now that Saudi Arabia has been begging the U.S. for military action against Iran.  It looks as it the folks who would be in a better position that us to understand the Persian mind don’t place much reliance on our “negotiating” and diplomatic efforts to dissuade Iran from their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Total war with Iran?  No.  That’s what I have wanted to avoid.  Too messy, and unnecessary when it can be done differently.  Covert war with Iran?  Yes, and I have been begging for this for some four years now.  What the Mossad is doing is good, but we need more, and we need the active participation of the CIA.  We need an insurgency within Iran, support for the protesting students, assassination of military commanders within the Quds force, disruption of their infrastructure, cyber attacks, more killing of Iranians inside of Iraq, obvious threats against the Iranian regime by the U.S., and an end to support for Iranian-backed politicians within Iraq.  This is only a start.

In short, we need comprehensive covert war.  I will not rest until I have my war.

Incomplete State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization List

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Via Andy McCarthy, the State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization list is incomplete, and should include the Taliban.  It currently includes:

  1. Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
  2. Abu Sayyaf Group
  3. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
  4. Al-Shabaab
  5. Ansar al-Islam
  6. Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
  7. Asbat al-Ansar
  8. Aum Shinrikyo
  9. Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
  10. Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
  11. Continuity Irish Republican Army
  12. Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)
  13. HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
  14. Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
  15. Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
  16. Hizballah (Party of God)
  17. Islamic Jihad Group
  18. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
  19. Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) (Army of Mohammed)
  20. Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI)
  21. Kahane Chai (Kach)
  22. Kata’ib Hizballah
  23. Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, KADEK)
  24. Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT) (Army of the Righteous)
  25. Lashkar i Jhangvi
  26. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  27. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
  28. Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)
  29. Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
  30. National Liberation Army (ELN)
  31. Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
  32. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  33. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
  34. PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)
  35. Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (al-Qaida in Iraq) (formerly Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad, JTJ, al-Zarqawi Network)
  36. al-Qa’ida
  37. al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  38. al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (formerly GSPC)
  39. Real IRA
  40. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
  41. Revolutionary Organization 17 November
  42. Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
  43. Revolutionary Struggle
  44. Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
  45. United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)

Yes, it should include the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Ansar al-Sunna (which is different than Ansar al-Islam), the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (whom we have been fighting in Iraq for eight years now), and the Quds Force (if they called out the IRG there may be no reason to call Quds out separately).  In any case, this list is horribly incomplete.  The State Department is it’s own worst enemy, and the biggest impediment to taking them seriously.

Counterinsurgency and Water Polo

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

As a preface for discussing counterinsurgency and water polo, recall our observations of the Afghan National Army over the past months.

We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, themselves claim that they cannot hold Helmand without Marines and fear being killed if they even go out into the streets, be relatively ineffective against Taliban fighters, sleep on their watch, and claim to be on vacation in the Helmand Province.

This video is of immeasurable value.

C. J. Chivers updates us with a view to the ANA’s tactical capabilities (or even basic soldiering abilities).  They don’t aim their weapons.  They point them.  The ANA is not even capable enough to be considered the first line of defense against the insurgency.  Across Afghanistan, being in the Afghan National Police is considered to be more dangerous than being in the ANA.

Now to water polo.

Afghanistan may be landlocked, and pools may be scarce, but soldiers with the Afghan National Army aren’t letting these minor obstacles put a damper on their Olympic water polo dreams.

Under the Marine Corps’ tutelage, these soldiers are training at the ANA’s Camp Shorabak in Helmand province. The ultimate goal is to secure an Afghan team for the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro. For most, if not all, the training has been their first experience in a pool.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Piasecki, a reservist with Marine Corps Forces Command, says leading Afghanistan’s water polo program is a unique way to further the counterinsurgency mission.

“The great things that the athletes will learn out of this program are hard work, dedication, leadership, camaraderie … ” Piasecki said. “In addition … it further builds bridges and trust between coalition forces and the Afghan people.”

Piasecki, a youth water polo coach in the U.S. since 2004, was tapped by the Afghanistan Olympic committee in 2008 around the time Afghanistan secured its first Olympic champion, Rohullah Nikpai, who won bronze in a taekwondo event in Beijing. With Afghanistan wanting more medal opportunities, water polo was named a national sport, Piasecki said, and he formed the country’s national water polo team in August 2008.

The Shorabak team, Helmand province’s first, only recently formed. The base, located minutes from the Corps’ Camp Leatherneck, was ideal because it actually had a pool.

Unfortunately, the water is untreated and nonpotable — one reason you may not see Marines in the pool.

Though his tour downrange is now done, Piasecki plans to continue coaching. He already operates a California-based nonprofit called “Afghanistan Water Polo” and has a website. He hopes to fund a trip for the Afghan athletes to train in the U.S.

Now to be sure, I am on one side of the counterinsurgency equation with Colonel Gian Gentile (holding that the population isn’t necessarily the center of gravity of a counterinsurgency campaign), and folks like Andrew Exum are on the other.  But this is a different order of magnitude entirely.

Has our cheese slid off of our cracker?  We now have U.S. Marine Corps NCOs extolling the virtues of water polo to the practice of counterinsurgency.  Do you think that maybe we have overdone it just a little?  Perhaps learning to fire a weapon and standing duty would be a better use of their time.

Or perhaps not, depending upon what these soldiers are like.  But why do we have U.S. Marine Corps NCOs busying themselves with this?    Where is the State Department or some other part of the U.S. government that can apply the soft side of COIN?  Or perhaps the State Department doesn’t believe in the mission.

Israel, Petraeus and Iran

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

Andrew McCarthy at NRO takes on both Petraeus and Max Boot in a recent commentary.

In January, after canvassing opinion from Muslim governments in his area of responsibility, Petraeus sent a team of CENTCOM officials to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As reported by Mark Perry of Foreign Policy, the purpose of that briefing was to underline Petraeus’s “growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The general was doing politics, not combat strategy — and we don’t owe him any deference on politics. In a 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint presentation, Petraeus’s briefers reported, among other things, “that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, [and] that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region.”

The general repeated this political theme in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16. Specifically, he averred in a written statement (p. 12) that the “… enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to advance our interest in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile Al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizbollah and Hamas.”

Max Boot briefly responded that Petraeus doesn’t blame Israel for our problems and it’s incorrect for McCarthy to say that he does.  McCarthy’s commentary is insightful, and I won’t weigh in on Boot’s specific response concerning whether Pertraeus believes that Israel is the root of America’s problems.  General Petraeus could (and should) weigh in himself (although his testimony seemed pretty clear to me).

However, on the issue of being a so-called “honest broker,” some sort of neutral party which can hold both sides accountable and thereby effect change in behavior or attitude, this is worse than wishful thinking.  Leaving aside the issue of whether the U.S. should be biased towards Israel and assessing the situation from a purely clinical perspective, the belief that “honest brokering” with Israel will change the calculus is naive to the point of being childish and even dangerous (and here I am not necessarily commenting on the Petraeus testimony).

The radical rulers in Iran will not be mollified, and the covert and overt operations of their surrogates in the Middle East will not be attenuated one iota by playing “honest broker” and pressing Israel to make more concessions.  The Palestinians are increasingly rejecting the idea of a two-state solution.  Short of regime change, Iran will obtain nuclear weapons within a few years or less, excepting military action by Israel (which has the unlikely affect of being successful in the long term).  Not even the most robust sanctions will stop Iran, much less political pressure on Israel.

We must remove the radical Mullahs or support those who would in order to avoid a regional conflagration in the near term.  Everyone in the State Department already knows this, or if they don’t, they aren’t qualified to be in the employ of the government.  I’m not quite sure which group is larger.  One year and four months ago I forecasted that “the State Department will begin the administration with high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.”

Resignation at the State Department Over Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

By now it’s old news that Marine Captain Matthew Hoh, veteran of Iraq who later joined the State Department, has resigned over the campaign in Afghanistan.  He sees no reason whatsoever for the U.S. to be engaged there.  Jules Crittenden opines of Hoh’s letter:

It highlights some of the very real problems of the situation in Afghanistan, but concludes that remaining in Afghanistan requires, “if honest,” that we have to invade Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. Maybe we will before this long war is done. Hard to say. It wouldn’t be the first time, whether in a short four-year war or a 45-year-long one, that we’d had to fight multiple fronts to reomve tyranny and secure freedom in the world. Hoh also includes a Vietnam reference that, tellingly, assumes that failure in Afghanistan is as inevitable as many believe failure in Vietnam was.

The long war.  That phrase that so many people are afraid to use, and which has been used so many times here at The Captain’s Journal.  Jules understands.  And I understand that Captain Hoh is an honorable man for sticking to his principles.  He has a right to decide how he wants, just as I have a right to decide against his views.  What I don’t get is why Captain Hoh is getting so much attention.  So another State employee doesn’t want to see us in Afghanistan.  How many more hundreds are there?

Finally, I find it rather embarrassing and gushy that State worked so hard to retain him.  If he is so decidedly against the campaign in Afghanistan that he feels that he cannot work at State, then he should go rather than be begged to stay.  The fact of the matter is that this thinking is systemic to not only State but the entire administration.

Do you disagree?  Read this depressing comment at Neptunus Lex (from It’s All Verbatim).

My office has been an integral part of these “Af/Pak Principal Strategy Sessions”

Let’s just say most of the proposals of the table (excluding the Joint Staff J7 & J3/5, DIA and the more rational sects of the NSC) are totally divorced from reality.

It’s painful, really. NDA’s prevent me from delving into it fully, but some of the proposals would cause the regulars here to go completely ape-shit. I sit along the wall, and let my boss do the talking. It is absolutely incredible how naive this administration (and yes, senior members of the NSC and State) are.

USD(P) isn’t innocent, either. DoD’s policy shop is cooking up some the craziest policies I’ve seen in a long time. There is a concerted effort to create “Stop Loss 2.0″ – basically you would be re-classed from whatever specialty/MOS/AFSC/rate, regardless of branch/age/rank, and thrust into, say, military police, MI, or EOD. Not offered; you’d be required to jump over. Even the 10% we vets know exist that shouldn’t and couldn’t do MI, EOD et al. If you refused, they would whip out the UCMJ. This is actually being considered as a way to surge without actually surging. Joint Staff J1 and J3/5 were under heavy pressure to report we were under strain, and couldn’t handle a 40K/60K/80K push. J1 came back and told the WH/NSC point blank: we have more than enough. They didn’t like that and are now finding excuses to not surge period, not even the 10K trial balloon they tossed up last week.

They’re stalling. I spend my entire morning, 5 days a week in the EEOB and State with these fuckers. You heard it here first.

Then again, maybe I do understand why Captain Hoh is getting so much attention.  It’s just that the other hundreds who feel just like him at State don’t have the integrity to resign.

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