Archive for the 'Terrorism' Category



San Diego Port Authority: Homeland Security Has Got No Clothes!

BY Glen Tschirgi
4 years, 6 months ago

Last week, WKGTV, a San Diego ABC News station, interviewed the Assistant Director, Al Hallor, for the San Diego port authority about security at the port.

During the interview Hallor confirmed that “weapons of mass effect” have been found by U.S. government agencies in apparent attempts to smuggle such devices into the country.

Customs and Border Protection officers clear 80 percent of all cargo before it enters the United States. Congress has mandated that they clear 100 percent of cargo imports by 2012. In San Diego, every cargo container is driven through a radiation detector before leaving San Diego’s seaport.”So, specifically, you’re looking for the dirty bomb? You’re looking for the nuclear device?” asked Blacher.”Correct. Weapons of mass effect,” Hallor said.”You ever found one?” asked Blacher.”Not at this location,” Hallor said.”But they have found them?” asked Blacher.”Yes,” said Hallor.

I could be wrong, but this would seem to qualify as a major news story.

So far, however, the only, other media source to report on this is The Daily Mail in the U.K.

The Department of Homeland Security has sought to tamp down any interest in the story and has explained Hallor’s comments as confusion or nervousness at being interviewed.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps Hallor has yet to get the Administration memo that government officials should never be honest or candid with the public about the grave threats that we face.  In that sense, Hallor is like the little boy in the nursery tale that was too innocent not to blurt out, “The Emperor’s got no clothes!”

Perhaps it is the rest of us who should be nervous.  Very nervous.

A Terrorist Attack That America Cannot Absorb

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

According to Bob Woodward who has recently completed his book entitled Obama’s Wars, an interesting view of terrorist attacks has emerged from the White House.

Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

I’m not particularly fond of Woodward’s use of anonymous sources, but let’s assume for the moment the complete accuracy of this position.  At a minimum, it hasn’t been denied by the White House.  It’s difficult to imagine a more important opinion on the future of terrorist attacks on the homeland than that of the President.  It’s also impossible to underestimate the horrible confusion, naivety and childlike grasp of homeland security that this opinion betrays.

I had originally passed over this quote as something that would quietly die, that didn’t really represent the thinking of the Department of Homeland Security, and that wouldn’t prevent the administration from doing what was necessary to prevent attacks on the homeland to the degree possible.  But Bob Woodward was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly tonight, and neither of them actually had a problem with the quote other than simply that the President of the U.S. shouldn’t say such things in public.

In a brief attempt to address this mistaken notion of the inherent capability to absorb any attack, I will pose one that we simply cannot absorb.  The scenario I am about to describe can be accomplished by simple, direct attacks and without reference to more complicated organizational skills except for weapons, dedicated fighters and effective timing.  The scenario I am about to describe would quite literally destroy the economy of the nation for a long time.  I am hesitant to describe it in detail; when I do this sort of thing I usually get charged with giving the terrorists ideas.

But the fact of the matter is that the terrorists already know these things, and it is important to educate the American people to the dangers right outside the gate.  It’s also important to reflect on what it means to kill terrorists on foreign soil and destroy their sanctuaries rather than allow them to perpetrate attacks with which we cannot cope.  That said, it’s time to describe the attack.

I don’t want to divulge too much detail concerning what could be regarded as nuclear safeguards information.  But the reader will have to trust me when I say that commercial nuclear power plants are hardened.  They were so prior to 9/11, but they are even more so now.  They are not fertile ground for terrorist attacks, even for the most well trained, well armed and educated group of fighters.  I cannot go any further in discussing the details of nuclear security, but the terrorists also know that nuclear reactors are not fertile fighting ground.  Forget about them.

Not so for commercial fossil facilities.  They are not hardened and not well guarded.  The most vulnerable structure, system or component for large scale coal plants is the main step up transformer – that component that handles electricity at 230 or 500 kV.  They are one of a kind components, and no two are exactly alike.  They are so huge and so heavy that they must be transported to the site via special designed rail cars intended only for them, and only about three of these exist in the U.S.

They are no longer fabricated in the U.S., much the same as other large scale steel fabrication.  It’s manufacture has primarily gone overseas.  These step up transformers must be ordered years in advance of their installation.  Some utilities are part of a consortium to keep one of these transformers available for multiple coal units, hoping that more will not be needed at any one time.  In industrial engineering terms, the warehouse min-max for these components is a fine line.

On any given day with the right timing, several well trained, dedicated, well armed fighters would be able to force their way on to utility property, fire missiles or lay explosives at the transformer, destroy it, and perhaps even go to the next given the security for coal plants.  Next in line along the transmission system are other important transformers, not as important as the main step up transformers, but still important, that would also be vulnerable to attack.  With the transmission system in chaos and completely isolated due to protective relaying, and with the coal units that supply the majority of the electricity to the nation incapable of providing that power for years due to the wait for step up transformers, whole cites, heavy industry, and homes and businesses would be left in the dark for a protracted period of time, all over the nation.

The economy would collapse, regardless of how much good will and positive hope there was among the ruling elite.  The hard facts of life – America in the dark – would soon become apparent to everyone, and the economy wouldn’t be able to absorb it.

That’s only one of the many possibilities, and in order to avoid the charge of divulging too much detail to terrorists, I will stop here.  But suffice it to say that if you give me weapons, ordnance, time and 300 or 400 dedicated fighters with a calendar and a watch, I could collapse the economy of America.

Where would these fighters come from?  Recall that we have previously discussed two very good papers on Hezbollah and their activities in the Americas.  They’re around, lying in wait for orders, and it’s best not to have them on our soil.  It’s best to confront them away from the infrastructure that is proving itself to be so vulnerable to their malicious aims.

The Mumbai Attacks and American Imperialism

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 9 months ago

While some speculation exists as to the possibility that the attacks in Mumbai are from home-grown terrorists, it appears that there was at least some involvement by foreign fighters, and specifically, from Karachi, Pakistan.

The terrorists who carried out multiple strikes in Mumbai yesterday landed on Indian shores on a boat that had set sail from Karachi before anchoring in one of the many barren islands in the Rann of Kutch along Gujarat’s coastline.

The 25-30 terrorists then used smaller boats to reach the Mumbai shores the same day they struck at 12 locations in the country’s financial capital. “They landed at Sasoon dock (off the Gateway of India) and reached the metropolis using rubber dinghies. We have information about their route, which we would share in time to come,” said the Special Secretary (Internal Security), Mr ML Kumawat.

The attacks have exposed India’s 7,516-km-long vulnerable coastline. It has shown that terrorists can create a Kargil-like situation along India’s coastline to harbour terror modules in the 1,200-odd barren islands and attack over 200 sensitive strategic installations spread across the country.

There is also a certain shock and dread among Indians that accompanies this attack.

India’s cities are no strangers to indiscriminate terror attacks. Such attacks have occurred regularly, and with steadily increasing frequency, in recent years. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has been targeted before …

So what is new about Mumbai, November 2008? The obvious novelty is the use of frontal assault tactics instead of timed explosive devices.

This is new in the urban Indian context. There was one notable exception – an attack by a five-man squad armed with rifles and grenades on India’s Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001.

The attackers were narrowly prevented by alert staff from gaining access to the building, where hundreds of parliamentarians and ministers were attending a session.

They were gunned down near the entrance by security personnel after an hour-long battle. Nine guards and parliament stewards also died.

This attack led to the crisis of 2002 between India and Pakistan.

The Indian government blamed Pakistani religious radicals, and embarked on a major military build-up on the border with Pakistan, to which Pakistan responded with its own mobilisation.

The stand-off eventually wound down later in 2002 after months of tension and brinkmanship.

But frontal assaults, usually carried out by two-man teams firing semi-automatic rifles and lobbing grenades, were the favoured tactic of the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir between 1999 and 2003 …

The tactic is thus not without precedent, but the mayhem in Mumbai may nonetheless mark a new chapter in the evolution of urban terrorism in India.

Bombs planted in markets and on commuter trains kill and maim working-class and middle-class Indians.

The gunmen who attacked two luxury hotels, and a fashionable cafe frequented by visiting Westerners, have brought the “war” – as they see it – to India’s elite class, and to affluent Westerners living in or visiting India’s most cosmopolitan city.

Analysis

There might be a sense of sympathetic understanding among Americans, as if we’ve seen this before with 9/11 and understand all about the war being brought to one’s doorstep. But when thoughtfully considered, this sentiment doesn’t stand the test of reasonableness, or even magnitude, for what could have been or what could be in the future.

This analysis doesn’t minimize the suffering of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, or the magnitude of effort and commitment to respond to the initial or delayed affects of 9/11. But considered analysis forces the conclusion that there is a nontrivial chance that we haven’t seen the worst yet. The so-called Hamburg cell, at the direction of al Qaeda command, attacked symbolic targets, but left face-to-face confrontations in the streets for engagements they had hoped would come later by other jihadists.

They fundamentally left important (and remarkably soft) infrastructure unmolested. Terror would be multiplied in the future by fighters targeting women and children in shopping malls. A few hundred fighters would cause untold death among innocent and unprotected civilians, and cause terror on a heretofore unparalleled level. New York is still far away from the heartland of America. The local shopping mall is not. A few hundred fighters could cause tens of thousands of deaths.

Furthermore, the basic infrastructure still functioned after 9/11, even if the economy suffered for a period of time. Targeting the right (relatively unprotected) medium or high voltage transformers on the electrical grid of America would literally shut down industry and business in America. These are components that don’t sit on the shelves in great numbers and which must be fabricated, and upon losing the electrical grid, the power wouldn’t even be available to manufacture these components, at least for weeks or months. What is now easy to Google and purchase over the internet would become very scarce upon thousands being destroyed. Granted, this would take involvement of more fighters than were involved in the 9/11 attacks, but Mumbai is in significant trouble over much fewer fighters.

Targeting the right infrastructure could lead to economic consequences more catastrophic than 9/11 by an order of magnitude or more. And hence, it takes a special naivety to dismiss so easily the issues surrounding so-called American imperialism, as if the actions of a “meddling” armed forces must necessarily be evil because they are anticipatory rather than reactionary.

There are certainly unintended consequences to American imperialism, and the practice of fighting wars on soil other than our own is a costly affair, both monetarily and in terms of the human sacrifice. But there are also unintended consequences to isolationism too, and one such consequence might very well be that the sacrifice is even more costly when the fight is in one’s own back yard.

The ones affected by tactics described above might be constrained to reconsider just who the evil one is after such attacks: the leader who meddled in the affairs of other nations, or the leader who failed to anticipate the danger and dire consequences of failing to act before the terror came to our own shores.

Postscript: In anticipation of the charge that articles such as this give the terrorists ideas, it isn’t the terrorists who need ideas. They already know which targets are hard and which ones are soft. Before making the charge, the reader should consider the question, “why is it that I don’t want to hear this information?” The terrorists already know it.

The Pakistan Border and Covert Operations

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 11 months ago

An unusually clear-headed letter appeared in Pakistan’s The Post concerning the Pakistan-Afghan border, ending with the following observation.

Ordinarily, coalition partners should not be concerned about border issues when they have a common objective and Former Ambassador Zafar Hilaly made a valid point that the enemy neither respects nor recognises borders, and yet the nation quibbles about border violations. The fact that militancy found a willing stronghold within the tribal belt shows how easily these people surrendered their ‘sovereignty’ to the enemy. Those who vow to defend our territorial integrity against the ‘Farangi’ invader forfeited the right when the first Taliban crossed over to Pakistan after 2001. But someone needs to clean up this mess and it is preferable to have Pakistan at the helm only because our national pride will not permit otherwise. If Pakistan can convince the Americans that they can sort out their side of the border, they must then convince this nation to let them.

For the last four years Pakistan has been gaming the campaign against extremists in order to continue to procure money from the U.S. They shoot at empty buildings, pretend to engage the Taliban fighters, and then “make agreements” with them through jirgas. Although the recent bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad has been called Pakistan’s 9/11, The Captain’s Journal is still skeptical. It is more than just the Pashtuns who have given up their right to defend Pakistan from U.S. incursions. The Pakistan Army’s gaming of operations against the Taliban for U.S. dollars has also lost them the credibility to conduct real operations against the Taliban or complain when the U.S. does.

The U.S. must take whatever action deemed appropriate by CENTCOM and its new head General Petraeus. But regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we do not advocate treating the campaign as a counterterrorism campaign against high value targets. Special forces, we have claimed, cannot win a counterinsurgency. This requires infantry. Steve Coll of The New Yorker recently made an analogous observation concerning covert policy.

On television shows and in the movies, we romanticize covert action of this kind as bold and daring, but military history suggests that it is usually of very limited strategic value. It is usually most effective, as it was during the Second World War, when it serves as a kind of extension or multiplier of a successful overt policy. This may have been the case, too, with the covert action arm of the “surge,” which Bob Woodward has highlighted in his recent book. But covert action fails, as at the Bay of Pigs, when frustrated and desperate Presidents seize on secret war as a substitute for a successful declared or open policy that also involves diplomacy, economic measures, and so forth. The problem with covert U.S. raids in the Pakistani tribal territories today is not that they are unjustified—the Taliban and Al Qaeda are vicious adversaries, and they pose what the national-security lawyers call a “clear and present danger” to the United States and to Pakistan. The problem is that in the attenuating months of the Bush Administration, covert policy has dominated U.S. policy, and often controlled it—and it obviously isn’t working.

As an editorial note, we don’t necessarily agree with Woodward’s characterization of anything concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom. Also, Coll’s assessment that more diplomacy and money are needed in order to consider our actions “policy” is amusing. Diplomacy and money – along with covert special forces and CIA operations – have been the cornerstone of our policy in Pakistan from the beginning.

“Dirty Bombs” and Proper Control of Radioactive Material

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

H/T to Ed Morrissey, the Canadian press has compiled a catalog of missing radioactive sources.

Radioactive devices — some of which have the potential to be used in terrorist attacks — have gone missing in alarming numbers in Canada over the past five years.

A new database compiled by The Canadian Press shows that the devices, which are used in everything from medical research to measuring oil wells, are becoming a favoured target of thieves.

At least 76 have gone missing in Canada over the past five years — disappearing from construction sites, specialized tool boxes, and generally growing legs and walking away.

Some of the devices could be used in a “dirty bomb,” where conventional explosives are used to detonate nuclear material, spreading the contamination over a wide area, said Alan Bell, a security and international terrorism expert from Globe Risk Security Holdings.

He told CTV Newsnet on Thursday that the problem isn’t new, but it has gained new attention as a result of the CP report.

“It’s come to the fore over the last couple of days but it has always been there. We’ve had this problem. It’s only a matter of time before terrorists use a dirty bomb process to attack the world,” Bell said.

The database compiled by CP tracks the rate at which the devices have gone missing in recent years.

It points to dozens of cases where hazardous materials have gone missing, been stolen or lost in a variety of mishaps.

Of the 76, 35 were stolen, three others were found in a ditch beside a road, in a dump and in a farmer’s field.

Dozens were still unaccounted for at last count.

Bell said there is a lack of streamlining among the different federal departments responsible for nuclear materials and a single agency should be set up to track the transportation of nuclear materials.

“But one of the biggest problems is yes, we do keep track of them to the best of our ability, but things fall through the cracks as they always do,” Bell said.

The CP report comes in the wake of the release of a federal study that said the detonation of a small dirty bomb near Toronto’s CN Tower would send radiation out over a four kilometre area, causing economic devastation and slamming the city’s emergency medical services.

Bell said such reports could actually help motivate terrorists to strike the city.

“I was surprised. Why tell the terrorists where to place the device? This is the ramifications of the weather, this is the area that’s contaminated or affected. I thought it was irresponsible to do that.”

For the benefit of the reader, the radioactive sources to which the report refers come from commercial applications such as medical uses (PET scans, radioactive tracers), radiography (of industrial welds with Co-60, etc.), and other fairly large scale industrial uses.  Mr. Bell’s concern about informing the terrorists of the best tactics is irrelevant.  The terrorists already know that atmospheric dispersion is important.  The communication of basic science in the media doesn’t constitute assistance to terrorists.  However, lack of control over radioactive sources does, and we might point out that the number of sources discussed in this report is very small compared to that existing in the U.S.  Amelioration of missing or stray sources has been an issue in the U.S. for some time, and there has been a concerted recovery effort over the past months.

Under the NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), excess, unwanted, or abandoned radioactive sealed sources and other radioactive material are recovered and secured by Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) Off-site Source Recovery Project (OSRP) from commercial firms and academic institutions. Sources containing radioactive plutonium, americium, californium, caesium, cobalt, iridium, radium, and strontium have been recovered from medical, educational, agricultural, research and industrial facilities throughout the USA.

Radioactive sealed sources packaged by NNSA’s OSRP include more than 15,000 curies of americium-241, 10,000 curies of plutonium-238, and 10,000 grams of plutonium-239, collected from more than 600 sites. The sealed sources were once used in applications ranging from nuclear-powered cardiac pacemakers to gauges used in the manufacture of paper.

The aim of the GTRI program is to remove and securely manage radioactive materials that could be at risk of theft or used in a radiological dispersal device (‘dirty bomb’).

The OSRP was initiated by the DoE in 1999 as an environmental management project to recover and dispose of excess and unwanted sealed radioactive sources. The NNSA was established by Congress in 2000 as a separately organized agency within the DoE responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. The OSRP was transferred to NNSA’s Office of Global Threat Reduction in 2003. In 2006, OSRP also began recovering unwanted or unused US-origin sealed sources distributed overseas.

Russia is planning on consolidating control over radioactive materials for the same reason that the U.S. has already been on this quest for recovery of sources, i.e., prevention of nuclear terrorism.  Russia is planning on this central authority also having responsibility for control over “special nuclear materials,” or fissile material (already under extremely strict controls in the U.S.).

None of the controls discussed above, whether U.S. or Russian, pertain to small radioactive sources such as calibration sources, “button” sources, etc.  For instance, if you pull your smoke detector down and read the back panel, you will see that it contains 1 microCurie of Am-241 (Americium 241).  Such sources are too small to warrant control, although they are widely distributed and readily available.

Use and effectiveness of such a device is subject to atmospheric conditions, amount of radioactive material, emergency actions such as evacuation, and other things not under the control of the terrorists.  The terrorists will also consider use of such a device in a confined area such as a subway.  The discussing of this tactic here is not tantamount to divulging operational security to the enemy.  The enemy already knows it.

The solution to this kind of terrorism lies in prevention.  First, the terrorists themselves must be found out, and second, radioactive sources must be controlled.  Finally, an effective emergency response must be fielded and an information campaign must inform the public as to the precise consequences of such an event (both projected and actual).  It is likely that the consequences will redound more to public fear and reaction than to real health effects.

“Dirty Bombs” and Proper Control of Radioactive Material

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

H/T to Ed Morrissey, the Canadian press has compiled a catalog of missing radioactive sources.

Radioactive devices — some of which have the potential to be used in terrorist attacks — have gone missing in alarming numbers in Canada over the past five years.

A new database compiled by The Canadian Press shows that the devices, which are used in everything from medical research to measuring oil wells, are becoming a favoured target of thieves.

At least 76 have gone missing in Canada over the past five years — disappearing from construction sites, specialized tool boxes, and generally growing legs and walking away.

Some of the devices could be used in a “dirty bomb,” where conventional explosives are used to detonate nuclear material, spreading the contamination over a wide area, said Alan Bell, a security and international terrorism expert from Globe Risk Security Holdings.

He told CTV Newsnet on Thursday that the problem isn’t new, but it has gained new attention as a result of the CP report.

“It’s come to the fore over the last couple of days but it has always been there. We’ve had this problem. It’s only a matter of time before terrorists use a dirty bomb process to attack the world,” Bell said.

The database compiled by CP tracks the rate at which the devices have gone missing in recent years.

It points to dozens of cases where hazardous materials have gone missing, been stolen or lost in a variety of mishaps.

Of the 76, 35 were stolen, three others were found in a ditch beside a road, in a dump and in a farmer’s field.

Dozens were still unaccounted for at last count.

Bell said there is a lack of streamlining among the different federal departments responsible for nuclear materials and a single agency should be set up to track the transportation of nuclear materials.

“But one of the biggest problems is yes, we do keep track of them to the best of our ability, but things fall through the cracks as they always do,” Bell said.

The CP report comes in the wake of the release of a federal study that said the detonation of a small dirty bomb near Toronto’s CN Tower would send radiation out over a four kilometre area, causing economic devastation and slamming the city’s emergency medical services.

Bell said such reports could actually help motivate terrorists to strike the city.

“I was surprised. Why tell the terrorists where to place the device? This is the ramifications of the weather, this is the area that’s contaminated or affected. I thought it was irresponsible to do that.”

For the benefit of the reader, the radioactive sources to which the report refers come from commercial applications such as medical uses (PET scans, radioactive tracers), radiography (of industrial welds with Co-60, etc.), and other fairly large scale industrial uses.  Mr. Bell’s concern about informing the terrorists of the best tactics is irrelevant.  The terrorists already know that atmospheric dispersion is important.  The communication of basic science in the media doesn’t constitute assistance to terrorists.  However, lack of control over radioactive sources does, and we might point out that the number of sources discussed in this report is very small compared to that existing in the U.S.  Amelioration of missing or stray sources has been an issue in the U.S. for some time, and there has been a concerted recovery effort over the past months.

Under the NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), excess, unwanted, or abandoned radioactive sealed sources and other radioactive material are recovered and secured by Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) Off-site Source Recovery Project (OSRP) from commercial firms and academic institutions. Sources containing radioactive plutonium, americium, californium, caesium, cobalt, iridium, radium, and strontium have been recovered from medical, educational, agricultural, research and industrial facilities throughout the USA.

Radioactive sealed sources packaged by NNSA’s OSRP include more than 15,000 curies of americium-241, 10,000 curies of plutonium-238, and 10,000 grams of plutonium-239, collected from more than 600 sites. The sealed sources were once used in applications ranging from nuclear-powered cardiac pacemakers to gauges used in the manufacture of paper.

The aim of the GTRI program is to remove and securely manage radioactive materials that could be at risk of theft or used in a radiological dispersal device (‘dirty bomb’).

The OSRP was initiated by the DoE in 1999 as an environmental management project to recover and dispose of excess and unwanted sealed radioactive sources. The NNSA was established by Congress in 2000 as a separately organized agency within the DoE responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. The OSRP was transferred to NNSA’s Office of Global Threat Reduction in 2003. In 2006, OSRP also began recovering unwanted or unused US-origin sealed sources distributed overseas.

Russia is planning on consolidating control over radioactive materials for the same reason that the U.S. has already been on this quest for recovery of sources, i.e., prevention of nuclear terrorism.  Russia is planning on this central authority also having responsibility for control over “special nuclear materials,” or fissile material (already under extremely strict controls in the U.S.).

None of the controls discussed above, whether U.S. or Russian, pertain to small radioactive sources such as calibration sources, “button” sources, etc.  For instance, if you pull your smoke detector down and read the back panel, you will see that it contains 1 microCurie of Am-241 (Americium 241).  Such sources are too small to warrant control, although they are widely distributed and readily available.

Use and effectiveness of such a device is subject to atmospheric conditions, amount of radioactive material, emergency actions such as evacuation, and other things not under the control of the terrorists.  The terrorists will also consider use of such a device in a confined area such as a subway.  The discussing of this tactic here is not tantamount to divulging operational security to the enemy.  The enemy already knows it.

The solution to this kind of terrorism lies in prevention.  First, the terrorists themselves must be found out, and second, radioactive sources must be controlled.  Finally, an effective emergency response must be fielded and an information campaign must inform the public as to the precise consequences of such an event (both projected and actual).  It is likely that the consequences will redound more to public fear and reaction than to real health effects.

Splits, Reorganization and Realignments Within the Insurgency in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

From Adnkronos International:

It’s been a bad week for the al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq. While initial reports that its leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri or allied Islamist State of Iraq chief Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed were proven false, it did lose one top man, ‘information minister’ Muharib Abdulatif al-Juburi. But far more damaging in the growing isolation of al-Qaeda has been the birth of a new alliance between part of Sunni insurgent groups Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army calling itself the Jihad and Reform Front.

The Ansar al-Sunna in a statement posted Friday to the internet made a scathing criticism of the new born front which comprises three groups, the Islamic Army the Mujahadeen and a breakaway cell of al-Sunna.

The declared cause of their anger is that inside the new formation is a group calling itself “Ansar al-Sunna Sharia Committee”.

“We write this letter on your first day of activity” said a statement from Ansar al-Sunna’s leadership “because we see that you have committed a horrible mistake. You say that among the founder members of the Front there is a so-called Sharia Committee of Ansar al-Sunna”.

“There is no such thing as a Sharia committee inside al-Sunna” the group complained. “What happened is that two leaders of our group, Abi Sajad e Abu Hind, who formed a new outfit with their name”

The damaging split within Ansar al-Sunna was first revealed by the Al Jazeera network two weeks ago, to the amazement of Islamist cybernauts who, not having found any trace of the news on Islamist forums asked whether the report was true or whether the Qatar based broacaster had got it wrong. Only the official launch of the new Jihad and Reform Front on Thursday provided proof of what was really happening inside the Sunni insurgent formation.

Though not explicitly stated in the foundation document posted to Islamist internet sites on Thursday, the group has a clear anti al-Qaeda role, challenging the principles and strategies of its armed struggle.

“The group’s aim is to continue the resistance in Iraq and throw out the occupiers but at the same time to restate that Jihadi operations will strike the occupiers and their agents and not innocent civilians whom we should protect,” reads the statement.

The new cartel goes on to ask the Islamist militiamen to think seriously about the consequences of their attacks before carrying them.

These words, and the final part of the document which refers to an interpretation of Sharia law which can change according to the requirements of a military strategy, appear to be a pointed criticism of al-Qaeda in Iraq which is increasingly isolated within the insurgency.

This report by AKI leaves some things in need of clarification.  The loss of senior al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leadership was possibly at the hands of competing insurgent groups, but is has been speculated that the loss in AQI leadership was at the hands of insurgents who are now working with coalition forces.  This seems somewhat dubious, but be that as it may, this alignment with U.S. interests (if it exists) must be seen as temporary and tenuous.  In Counterinsurgency Paradigm Shift in Iraq, I said “The much-heralded tribal split with al Qaeda is a positive sign in the Anbar Province, but it must be remembered that even if AQI loses in this showdown, the insurgency is not defeated.  One side of the insurgency has merely gained supremacy over the other.”

Foreign fighters are still a significant influence in Iraq, especially concerning suicide bombers (crossing the Syrian border) and weapons supply (crossing the Iranian border).   It is certainly the case that should AQI diminish or even disappear from Iraq, the results will be positive.  But in the total absence of AQI and Ansar al Sunna (AAS), there would still be an insurgency among the hard line Baathists and Fedayeen Saddam (although it is now becoming apparent that the Baathists, as a political party, are beginning the process of self-destruction).  This reorganized insurgency will be opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, and in fact, the real purpose of the split in the current insurgency is made clear in their vision for the future.

The Islamic Army in Iraq, the Mujahideen Army and Ansar Al Sunna (Shariah Council), an offshoot of the established Ansar Al Sunna group, said they would avoid spilling civilian blood, according to an Internet statement.

“The Jihad and Reform Front … pledges to continue with the duty of jihad in Iraq until all objectives, including the complete withdrawal of the occupiers in all their guises and the establishment of God’s religion …. are met,? it said.

“The military actions of the mujahideen will target the occupiers and their collaborators and will not target the innocents whom jihad aims to lead to victory.?

Much of the internecine warfare among the insurgency is reorganization and realignment.  If the insurgency has become experienced enough to move on to what David Galula roughly describes as care and governance of the population rather than brutalization of them, the reorganization and realignment may be a harbinger of a transition in strategy and tactics.

The background of AAS is described in summary fashion for us by an expert on the subject.

“Ansar al-Islam was formed out of a merger of the majority Kurdish groups Hamas (inspired by but not identical to the Palestinian group of the same name), Second Soran Unit, and al-Tawhid. I think September 2001 was the last time that they were majority Kurdish, because after that they started receiving a heavy influx of “Afghan Arabs? – you know the drill – and they soon outnumbered the original Kurdish fighters.

Fast forward to OIF in 2003. Most of the group is killed by the US and the battered remnants flee to Iran. They reorganize under the protection of the IRGC, but there is a lot of internal controversy.

Some members want to go join Zarqawi (AMZ), while others blame him and the international attention he brought to their activities for their current plight. By November 2003, the split finalizes and about half join AMZ while the others go back into Iraq as Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah.

They are pro-AQ but anti-AMZ and keep sending nasty reports back to AQ HQ talking trash on AMZ. Right now with AMZ dead, the major concern is that they will merge with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) since its new supremo doesn’t carry the personal baggage that AMZ did with the Ansar al-Sunnah leaders. If you look at the list of captured or killed AQI leaders that CENTCOM just released, you will note that at least one of them was an Ansar al-Sunnah leader who was discussing such a merger.

AQI has never been majority Kurdish, now or at any time in the past since its formation in October 2004. Its predecessor group al-Tawhid wal Jihad was the same thing, made up primarily of Palestinian Jordanians from AMZ’s Bani Hassan tribe with a healthy sprinkling of international jihadis, mostly Algerians and Saudis. After the capture of Saddam, they were able to use AMZ as an alternate “alpha male? for a lot rank-and-file Baathist henchmen and picked up most of Saddam’s former lapdogs.

Bottom line, the Kurdish component in Iraqi jihadis has always been small and is likely to remain so in the future. The only time when Kurds made up a majority of Iraqi jihadis was when there were only 500-800 of them back in 2001 and most of those are captured or dead.?

Insurgency Planned Bombs for Girl’s School

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

In another reminder of the real nature of the enemy, a plot was uncovered where bombs had been pre-deployed inside a girl’s school.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — American soldiers discovered a girls school being built north of Baghdad had become an explosives-rigged “death trap,” the U.S. military said Thursday.

The plot at the Huda Girls’ school in Tarmiya was a “sophisticated and premeditated attempt to inflict massive casualties on our most innocent victims,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

The military suspects the plot was the work of al Qaeda, because of its nature and sophistication, Caldwell said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The plot was uncovered Saturday, when troopers in the Salaheddin province found detonating wire across the street from the school. They picked up the wire and followed its trail, which led to the school. Once inside, they found an explosive-filled propane tank buried beneath the floor. There were artillery shells built into the ceiling and floor, and another propane tank was found, the military said.

The wire was concealed with mortar and concrete, and the propane tanks had been covered with brick and hidden underneath the floor, according to a military statement. Soldiers were able to clear the building.

“It was truly just an incredibly ugly, dirty kind of vicious killing that would have gone on here,” Caldwell said.

Iraqi contractors were responsible for building the school, which was intended to bring in hundreds of girls.

“Given the care and work put into emplacing this IED, it is likely it had been planned for a long time” and it is thought that “the IED was not intended to be set off until the building was occupied,” the military said.

We may speculate that since the planning was so detailed and (likely) time consuming, the Iraqi contractor (or more specifically, at least some of the workers) knew beforehand that this plot existed.  The possibilities are that the insurgency infiltrated the contractor, or that threats forced the silence of the balance of the uninvolved workers.

This is not atypical of the insurgency.  They have targeted children in the past, and there has been in radical Islam an ongoing war against education and those who conduct it.  See my article Radical Islam’s War on Education.

Watch Interview (YouTube)

Insurgency Planned Bombs for Girl’s School

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

In another reminder of the real nature of the enemy, a plot was uncovered where bombs had been pre-deployed inside a girl’s school.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — American soldiers discovered a girls school being built north of Baghdad had become an explosives-rigged “death trap,” the U.S. military said Thursday.

The plot at the Huda Girls’ school in Tarmiya was a “sophisticated and premeditated attempt to inflict massive casualties on our most innocent victims,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

The military suspects the plot was the work of al Qaeda, because of its nature and sophistication, Caldwell said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The plot was uncovered Saturday, when troopers in the Salaheddin province found detonating wire across the street from the school. They picked up the wire and followed its trail, which led to the school. Once inside, they found an explosive-filled propane tank buried beneath the floor. There were artillery shells built into the ceiling and floor, and another propane tank was found, the military said.

The wire was concealed with mortar and concrete, and the propane tanks had been covered with brick and hidden underneath the floor, according to a military statement. Soldiers were able to clear the building.

“It was truly just an incredibly ugly, dirty kind of vicious killing that would have gone on here,” Caldwell said.

Iraqi contractors were responsible for building the school, which was intended to bring in hundreds of girls.

“Given the care and work put into emplacing this IED, it is likely it had been planned for a long time” and it is thought that “the IED was not intended to be set off until the building was occupied,” the military said.

We may speculate that since the planning was so detailed and (likely) time consuming, the Iraqi contractor (or more specifically, at least some of the workers) knew beforehand that this plot existed.  The possibilities are that the insurgency infiltrated the contractor, or that threats forced the silence of the balance of the uninvolved workers.

This is not atypical of the insurgency.  They have targeted children in the past, and there has been in radical Islam an ongoing war against education and those who conduct it.  See my article Radical Islam’s War on Education.

Watch Interview (YouTube)

Insurgent Lies and Propaganda

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 5 months ago

In Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah, we pointed out that Fallujah was a current hot spot of enemy combat action, citing among other action recent chlorine attacks.  On Wednesday morning there was further action in Fallujah.

Iraqi Army soldiers and police repelled a complex attack at the Fallujah Government Center, including two suicide truck bombs containing chlorine, on the morning of March 28.

The attack began at 6:33 a.m. with mortar fire, followed by two truck bombs and small arms fire. Iraqi Police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound. Iraqi Army soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small arms fire, causing it to also detonate near the entrance of the compound.

Approximately 15 Iraqi Security and Coalition Force members sustained injuries from the bomb blast and were evacuated to the 2nd Iraqi Army Brigade’s aid station and a Coalition medical facility.

Numerous Iraqi Soldiers and Policemen are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation.

We maintain the position we staked out in Intelligence Bulletin #4 concerning chlorine attacks.  As to the military value of gas versus conventional explosives, the insurgents have chosen the far less effective of the two tactics.  Furthermore, according to the Multi-National Force press release, while personnel from the Coalition force sustained injuries, there were no reported fatalities.

The usually biased but sometimes informative Azzaman has an article entitled Fallujah may slip out of U.S. control that, using primarily this incident, comes to unsubstantiated conclusions concerning the current state and future of Fallujah.

Iraqi insurgents have intensified their attacks on U.S. targets inside the restive city of Falluja and the outlying villages and towns.

Daring attacks have taken U.S. troops aback in a city where the majority of its nearly 300,000 people are not happy with the presence of U.S. invaders.

Falluja has become a symbol of anti-U.S. resistance not only in Iraq but across most of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

It took the mighty U.S. military more than a month to flush the rebels out in 2004. The battle to regain the city caused massive destruction and had turned most of it into heaps of ruins.

But the rebels, most of whom had retreated to the countryside to escape devastating U.S. firepower, have reorganized their ranks and are now using more sophisticated means to drive the Americans away.

Two trucks one loaded with explosives and the other with toxic gas penetrated the fortified U.S. military camp in the city. The first suicide bomber drove through the gate with his explosives-laden truck only to be followed by the second truck full of chlorine bombs.

The rebels see the massive 2004 falluja attack as a defeat for the U.S. and a turning point in the battled to force its troops out of the country.

In the attack on the U.S. base, the second truck with poisonous gas entered the camp. The U.S. has not yet released reports of casualties but Iraqi police sources say tens of people, mostly Iraqi police officers as well as U.S. servicemen, were killed or injured.

This hyperventilating account of what can only be seen as a failure by the insurgents shows Azzaman for what they are: a mouthpiece for the insurgency.  In this instance, the editors at Azzaman have allowed themselves to look similar to the jihadist propaganda web sites such as Jihad Unspun that had another hyperventilating account of this incident where they attempted to make it look like something other than a tactical failure.

The Strategy Page has an outstanding assessment of the history of suicide bombers and the track record of failure that marks their path.  It is most certainly the case that suicide jihadists can cause much damage and wreak much havoc, as well as be a catalyst for sectarian violence.  However, turning to this tactic is demonstration that they have lost the support of the population, at least to a large extent.

Turning east towards Sadr City, Moqtada al Sadr issued a statement that whipped up his supporters by blaming the violence in Iraq on the presence of the U.S.  By all sensible accounts, the absence of the U.S. would allow the Shi’a to engage in the final stages of genocide of the Sunni population, which is now only about ten percent of the population after the exodus of the Sunnis over the last year.  What Sadr wants is unrestricted freedom to implement his policies rather than equity and peace for Iraq.  He and his hard line followers in the Mahdi army are as much terrorists as al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al Sunna.

IRAQSlogger is reporting that there was recently an attempt on Sadr’s life.

Amid reports of heavy fighting in a raid on a Sadrist official in the Kufa district, a member of the Iraqi Parliament has said that the Sadrist current foiled an attempt on Muqtada al-Sadr’s life, also in Kufa, and fingered US involvement in the plot.

Baha al-‘Araji, a member of the Iraqi parliament with the Sadrist current told the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi that aides to Muqtada al-Sadr had discovered a plan to assassinate the cleric during Friday prayers in Kufa, the newspaper reports in Arabic.

The attack was foiled when al-Sadr failed to appear in Kufa on the specified Friday. The al-Quds al-Arabi account does not refer to the date of the alleged foiled attack.

This account appears rather soft and unsubstantiated.  However, if true, this directly comports with the counsel we have given to effect the “strategic disapperance” of Moqtada al Sadr as a cornerstone of the security plan.  In Intelligence Bulletin #3, we argued:

… if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

One casualty of war is truth.  The truth in these cases is that the chlorine attacks have been tactical failures, and cooperation with Sadr is the devil’s game.  We have no business believing the lies of the jihadists, any more than we have of promulgating their lies by seeking reconciliation between Sadr and the Sunnis.  Sadr is a criminal and a killer and wants nothing of reconciliation.


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