The Perfect Rifle

Herschel Smith · 06 Nov 2014 · 8 Comments

Rifles and their advocates are in the news and blogs these days.  It doesn't take a handgun to perform home defense.  A man using a rifle recently detained three burglars until police arrived.  It could have been any type of rifle. Rifle Shooter Magazine recently did a piece on the best bolt action rifles of all time.  Brad Fitzpatrick covers a number of the ones you would expect to see, including the Remington 700, Winchester model 70, Weatherby and so on.  But he includes one…… [read more]

A-10 Supports Campaign in Yugoslavia

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off on a mission against targets in Yugoslavia. The A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs are the first Air Force aircraft specially designed for close air support of ground forces.  High resolution photo from DVIDS.

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Our readers know what a fan we are of the A-10 and upgraded A-10C.  Her gun is marvelous and causes me to dream about a ride in one of these beautiful aircraft.  To bad she is a one-seater.  Our readers also know what an opponent we are of commitments around the globe when we are waging a war on terror.  This A-10 is doubtless doing great work, but it could also be put to better use in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Can the Tanker Refuel the V-22?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Today a defense and security policy analyst and consultant firm in the Washington, D.C. area searched on the following words: “new tanker cannot refuel V-22.”  He found our article taking some issue with Abu Muqawama on the award of the refueling tanker contract to Northrop Grumman rather than Boeing.  He learned nothing from our article, but we learned from his search.  Hmmm … said we, and we cracked our knuckles and did a little work to see just what treasures we could dig up.

As it turns out, the Boeing press release protesting the award of the contract contains some pregnant statements, one of which is:

“It is clear that the original mission for these tankers — that is, a medium-sized tanker where cargo and passenger transport was a secondary consideration — became lost in the process, and the Air Force ended up with an oversized tanker,” McGraw said. “As the requirements were changed to accommodate the bigger, less capable Airbus plane, evaluators arbitrarily discounted the significant strengths of the KC-767, compromising on operational capabilities, including the ability to refuel a more versatile array of aircraft such as the V-22 and even the survivability of the tanker during the most dangerous missions it will encounter.”

Defense Industry Daily has asked Boeing a number of questions on this press release, including:

… which aircraft were left out, and what factors would allow the KC-767 to refuel them where the A330 MRTT could not. We have also requested elaboration on what would make the KC-767 more survivable, given that both aircraft would be equipped with the same defensive systems.

The V-22 Osprey has proven its worth in Iraq.

The Osprey seems to have become a favorite of commanders who need to get to places quickly, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq. Petraeus used one to fly around the country on Christmas Day to visit troops.

“Gen. Petraeus flew in the jump seat and was very impressed by the aircraft’s capabilities,” according to Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the general.

“The rate of climb is exceptional, and it can fly about twice as fast as a Black Hawk [helicopter], without needing to refuel as frequently,” Boylan said. “Beyond that, its automatic-hover capability for use in landing in very dusty conditions, even at night, is tremendous.”

Petraeus chose the Osprey for that mission because it was the only aircraft in the inventory that could fly around the country without refueling and not rely on runways, Boylan said.

We don’t know anything else about the new tanker, since no one has contracted The Captain’s Journal to oversee the procurement process for the new Air Force refueling tanker.  But we have always been fans of the Osprey.  As a Marine blog, if the new tanker cannot refuel the V-22, then we say “screw it.”

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More on Suicide Bomber Kill Ratio

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In Terror Tactics, we observed that the difficulty in emplacing IEDs had caused a more discrete tactic, that of suicide bombers.  We also observed that this had caused an inversion of the kill ratio in the Iraq campaign.

… in both Iraq and Afghanistan, direct kinetic engagements are being avoided.  The kill ratio which has been maintained throughout both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom is approximately 10:1.  This has caused huge losses for al Qaeda (and the Taliban in Afghanistan), and they have largely transitioned to a tactic which is much more surreptitious and difficult to stop: the suicide bomb

The Taliban haven’t completely turned off the faucet of kinetic operations against NATO forces, but when they engage they usually lose.

Seven Taliban militants have been killed in Afghanistan at the weekend after two separate attacks on police posts in the south and east, officials said Sunday.

In eastern Nangarhar province, four militants were killed in an exchange of fire early Sunday after attacking a police post near the border with Pakistan, provincial spokesman Noor Agha Zwak told AFP

Three others were killed on Saturday in the former Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in restive Helmand province, police said.

“They attacked our police post. Our guys returned fire and three Taliban were killed,” provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal told AFP.

Taliban rebels stormed and captured Musa Qala early last year, making it their biggest military base from where they directed attacks on Afghan and foreign troops across the war-ravaged country.

Afghan and NATO forces recaptured the remote town in a large-scale operation involving thousands of troops in December. Two NATO soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Elsewhere, the US-led coalition, which has thousands of troops fighting here alongside a 40,000-strong NATO-led force, said it had killed “several” militants on Friday in an operation in eastern Khost province.

“A number of armed militants were killed when they posed a credible threat to coalition forces,” the military said in a statement. Five other militants were captured, it added.

Yet about the same time in Afghanistan, the kill ratio was reversed with terror tactics.

A suicide car bomber killed two Danish and one Czech NATO soldiers, an interpreter and three civilians in southern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said.

The Taliban have threatened to step up their campaign of suicide attacks this year to wear down Afghan and Western public support for the presence of foreign troops in the country.

The bomber attacked a convoy from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) near the village of Girishk in the southern province of Helmand, an ISAF spokesman said.

“Three ISAF soldiers, one ISAF interpreter and three Afghan civilians were killed by the blast,” said spokesman Captain Mark Gough. “Four ISAF soldiers and approximately six Afghan civilians were wounded.”

Suicide vests are now the weapon of choice in Iraq.  Coalition forces can no more stop suicide tactics when the weapon (human plus ordnance) gets into theater than they can stop the Taliban from targeting the cell phone towers.  The tenth cell phone tower has been attacked since the start of the campaign against them, and some cell phone networks have begun to turn off service at night in compliance with Taliban orders.

The solution lies in aggressive offensive operations against the insurgents.  The combination of humans and ordnance must be stopped where they are born, and no later than at the borders (Pakistan, Syria), and if they do make it into theater, the enablers and save havens must be targeted.  No amount of force protection can succeed when offensive operations are strategically necessary.

Obama and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The Captain’s Journal is extremely disappointed in the former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  But before addressing our disappointment, some background.  Normally as a Milblog we are dealing with issues in counterinsurgency, weapons and tactics, policy, strategy, and connections in the global war on terror.  Only infrequently do we weigh in on political matters.  In this case, it seems appropriate to break with tradition if only momentarily.

If we can leave behind the ugly picture of Jeremiah Wright screaming “God damn America” from the pulpit of his church or humping the pulpit (video here), Obama’s tactics for addressing his Pastor’s indiscretions are irrelevant, as are his claims that he wasn’t present when the words of hate were screamed.  The focus on examples misses the point, although there are probably copious quantities to go around.

Jeremiah Wright has said very clearly that he is a proponent of liberation theology.  This strand of thought began mid-twentieth century in Latin America as a synthesis of Marxism and Christian trappings and words.  It has since evolved beyond that into a bizarre mixture of this plus a glorification of pre-Christian cultures and religions,  concern for earth worship, struggle for the land, and ecology.

But at its heart it still holds premier the notions of redistribution of wealth and class warfare.  If Obama could somehow claim that he doesn’t hold to any of these things or that his pastor has somehow moderated the messages he delivered from this more radical bent, then it can be countered that Obama has shown that he knows what the social gospel is, declaring that Wright’s “character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.”

The social gospel is the earlier American version of Marxism mixed with the trappings of Christianity.  We turn to one of the foremost scholars on theology and American history, C. Gregg Singer in his A Theological Interpretation of American History for a few words on the social gospel.

Sin [is] no longer a “want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” but the result of ignorance in which man failed to live up to the highest and the most noble that was within him … according to this conception the church was to help each individual work out for himself that salvation which nature had placed within his grasp and which he should direct toward socially desirable ends.  Salvation was henceforth regarded as largely social in content and purpose, and only incidentally individual in nature.  True enough, a major change of purpose and motivation was to take place in individual lives, but this was not an end in itself, but only a means toward an end – the perfecting of society here on earth.

Jeremiah Wright’s church espouses exactly this liberation theology / social gospel even now on its web site.  A survey of their mission statement reveals nothing of redemption, salvation, regeneration, faith and repentance, but rather of world change through the collective.

We are called out to be “a chosen people” that pays no attention to socio-economic or educational backgrounds. We are made up of the highly educated and the uneducated. Our congregation is a combination of the haves and the have-nots; the economically disadvantaged, the under-class, the unemployed and the employable.  The fortunate who are among us combine forces with the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!

The fact that, say, Job and Noah were very wealthy men is not relevant to Wright because it doesn’t easily fit within the framework of his system of income and wealth redistribution in the name of religion.  Obama clearly knows that his church stands for this socialism, as he said it himself.  When the truth is laid bare, Obama is shown to be little more than a proponent of class warfare.  Wright’s church isn’t about being a catalyst for redemption.  It’s all about “show me the money.”

Back to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  He has formally endorsed Obama for President (far left in the photograph below).

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Just eight months after taking off his uniform, the recently retired 15th sergeant major of the Marine Corps is jumping into the campaign fray, stumping for Sen. Barack Obama and echoing the Democratic candidate’s call for pulling troops out of Iraq.

“I stood up and I said I agree with him when he said we should pull out of Iraq. I think it’s time for the Iraqis to stand up and take charge of their own country,” retired Sgt. Maj. John Estrada said in a telephone interview Feb. 25.

“He’s not talking about snatching everybody out of there. He said he will do it over a 16-month period. He will deploy the troops to places where they’re needed, like Afghanistan. … He’s a guy who will use force reasonably,” Estrada said.

Estrada, 52, was the highest-ranking enlisted Marine for nearly four years before retiring in June 2007 after 34 years.

He formally endorsed the Illinois senator for president of the United States during a rally at a high school gymnasium in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan. 24. Estrada served twice at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and is well-known among the locals there.

He planned to campaign again for the senator in Texas on the weekend preceding the critical March 4 primary between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“He has this — I want to call it a unifying force. I see him uniting our country more so than the others. Old, young, across all ethnicities,” Estrada said.

One wonders how Estrada sees this “unifying force” now.  It would have been honorable if he had stumped for the renewed and revised G.I. bill being worked on by Peter King, or for lighter body armor, or for a replacement for the M16A2 / M4 / SAW, or better yet spent his time visiting wounded warriors at their bedside.  If he found it necessary, then he could have engaged in the debate about force presence in Iraq and weighed in with all of the vigor of the highest ranking enlisted man in the Marine Corps.

Instead he chose to shill for a politician, and a Marxist one at that.  It is a sad time in American history when, despite admonitions to pray for the civil magistrate (WCF XXIII), pastors publicly denounce the same and call on God to damn them.  It is made all the more sad when a respected warrior aligns himself with a person who is aligned with such things.  Respected warrior no more.

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.

COIN is Context-Driven or Situation-Specific

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Stéphane Taillat has a very smart post on his predominately French blog, but this one is in English so it will be friendly to most readers.  It is well worth the time spent to study his entire article.  The “money” quote follows:

COIN has no principles. In my mind, it’s the contrary, and that can explains this narrative. COIN is “context-driven”, so most of the procedures that seem to succeed now come from the field and were implemented at the beginning by many officer and leaders. COIN, as a mission, is a contingent phenomenon. It relies on doctrine, formation and training, tactical procedures that integrates technology, social skills and knowledge as well as situational awareness and leader’s initiatives. It cannot be deduced from principles but rather from a progressive and close intimacy with the social and psychological terrain, both local and of own units. last but not least, remember that today’s insurgencies are not like past insurgencies, as a result of which counterinsurgency can’t simply apply “lessons learned” from History without any harm.

On the whole we agree with him on the general thrust of the article.  Counterinsurgency is indeed “context-driven,” or situation-specific (although we do think that some basic ideas may be deduced from experience).  The post on COIN Analogy of the Day brought some degree of opprobrium concerning our dismissal of the British experience in Northern Ireland as being relevant to counterinsurgency in Iraq or anywhere else.  Whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, greater U.K. or English, the fact of the matter is that this was COIN among their own people.  They were the same, at least as compared to Iraq.  The religious, cultural, societal, and political framework was the same; the ethical morays were the same; the language was the same; and by and large the history is the same.

When the British landed in Basra, they may as well have been placed on a different planet.  Nothing was the same, and thus whatever the British learned in Northern Ireland instantly became irrelevant.  In 2003, the British Army fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off.  In 2007 when the British retreated from Basra, they did so while telling the tall tale that since the very presence of the British themselves was causing the violence, it would be better if they just left.  In other words, no one would shoot at the Army if the Army wasn’t there.

These things are being said not just at this blog or by U.S. mouthpieces.  British Colonel Tim Collins has criticized the overall strategy, saying among other things that there were too few troops, and that “Britain’s withdrawal from a chaotic Basra has “badly damaged” its military reputation.”  The post on “COIN Analogy of the Day” was written partially in humor.  This post is not.

The American strategy was horribly bad, and if for no other reason than the inability to stand up the Iraqi Army due to cultural differences, most anyone with brain matter could have told the administration that “standing down when they stand up” was not a plan.  Fortunately, U.S. forces in Anbar did their own thing after 2004 regardless of command confusion.  And they won – this may be Stephane’s point.

Even today there seems to be yet more admissions of failure in Basra by the British envoy to Basra, while at the same time he looks for reasons and excuses (such as it was inevitable anyway) rather than force size, force projection and a learning strategy.

On a serious note, the British generals failed.  The British rank and file include warriors as brave and qualified as any armed forces in the world.  It behooves the Brits to become as open and learning about this whole affair as the U.S. has become.  Taking posts such as this one as insulting is not helpful and doesn’t make progress.  To use an American phrase, the “cookie-cutter” approach to COIN doesn’t work.

COIN Analogy of the Day

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Abu Muqawama posts a COIN analogy of the day.

An insurgency is like a staircase. At the top of that staircase, you have the insurgent leadership. Below them, you have the actual bomb-throwers or gunmen. On the step below, you have the primary enablers — the people who provide the bombs or the rifles. Below them, you have secondary enablers — like look-outs. Below the enablers, you have the neutral population. And below the neutrals, at the bottom of the staircase, you have the openly friendly elements of the population.

Bad counter-insurgency strategy and tactics have the effect of turning the staircase into an escalator. If you wage a counter-insurgency campaign by kicking down doors and smashing heads against the wall, you move everyone up on the staircase: primary enablers become actual insurgents, secondary enablers become primary enablers, neutrals become enablers, and the friendly population either gets killed or becomes neutral.

Good population-centric counter-insurgency strategy and tactics, by contrast, throw the escalator effect into reverse. Neutrals become friendly and enablers become neutral.

It sounds erudite enough.  The Captain’s Journal (TCJ) would like to counter with one of our own.  Now, we know the drill.  We’re a U.S. Marine friendly blog, and so the following conversation necessarily ensues between academic COIN specialists and their wives when they see us coming.

Academic COIN Specialist (ACS): Dear, remember that I have talked to you about those hairy chested men who drag their knuckles and grunt?  Well, they’re here.

Wife (W): Eeeeww honey, make the ‘bad men’ go away – they scare me.  I’ll bet they club their women over the head and drag them into their caves.

ACS: Dear, they are reported to have smaller cranial volumes and therefore shorter attention spans, so if we pretend like we’re listening they’ll eventually forget what they’re grunting … um, talking about.  Bear with it and I’ll protect you.  Now, ssshhhhh, we don’t want to confuse them or make them aggressive.

W: They look mean and they’re dragging clubs and rocks in their hands, honey … I’m really scared.

ACS: Ssshhhh .. I’ll hold you tight dear.  The ‘bad men’ won’t hurt you.

Now that y’all have the children hidden and the wives secured and are ready to listen, here it goes.  Counterinsurgency has no center of gravity, notwithstanding Clausewitz.  Any theory that has as its suffix “centric” is mistaken, whether it is enemy-centric, population-centric, or whatever.  An insurgency and the salient conditions that surround it should be seen as a living organism, with insurgents as a cancer that occupies and sometimes attacks its host, and the population as the interstitial cells.  They have a symbiotic and interrelated living arrangement.

Lines of operations and lines of effort are necessary to kill the cancer and restore health to the organism.  As we’ve said before, it is necessary to pursue relentless kinetic operations against the cancer, while at the same time ameliorating the unhealthy condition in which the cancer has left the host body.  So a field grade officer can attend a city council meeting and adjudicate between complaints and disputes of the various cells as a scholar of international affairs and interpersonal relationships, while his men are simultaneously handing out food bags in one part of the organism and laying metal down range and kicking the doors in on homes that are known to harbor cancer cells in other parts of the organism.  In COIN, we do not restrict our actions to a single focus.  This is the strategy of losers.

There.  Whew!  We surprise even ourselves that TCJ didn’t lose focus while trying to explain the analogy.  As for Abu’s statement concerning the author of these words:

Sir John would be the last person to say the British Army has it all figured out with respect to COIN and is himself suspicious of the notion that the British have an advantage in places like Iraq and Afghanistan because of their institutional experience in Northern Ireland. But the general himself is a serious COIN intellectual …

To be serious for a moment, while we here at TCJ do not for a moment disparage our brothers in arms in the UK, and this is especially true of those who have made sacrifices in the campaign alongside U.S. forces, at TCJ we wouldn’t mistake for one moment the UK having an advantage in COIN due to experience in Northern Ireland.  She has nothing whatsoever to do with the cultural ethos in the Middle East, where Osama bin Laden says that the stronger horse gets the vote of the population (and we have pointed out that the U.S. Marines were the stronger horse in Anbar).

Besides, if for no other reason than the difference between the results of the Anbar campaign and the Basra failure, we would not point to the British experiment as meaningful.  Finally, our friends the Brits just simply need to get some humor.  If they were funnier and a little looser, you know, they might have won in Basra.  Like maybe this.

The Eleven New Demands

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

After the 9/11 attacks the U.S. made seven demands of Pakistan as a cooperative effort in the global war on terror (and specifically aimed – at that time – towards the Afghanistan campaign).

1) Stop Al-Qaeda operations on the Pakistani border, intercept arms shipments through Pakistan and all logistical support for bin Laden.

2) Blanket over-flights and landing rights for US planes.

3) Access to Pakistan’s naval bases, airbases and borders.

4) Immediate intelligence and immigration information.

5) Curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States, its friends and allies.

6) Cut off fuel supply to the Taliban and stop Pakistani volunteers going into Afghanistan to join the Taliban.

7) For Pakistan to break diplomatic relations with the Taliban and assist the US to destroy bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network.

Reportedly Richard Armitage threatened that Pakistan would be bombed back to the stone age if these demands were not accepted.  The Pakistani Army has tired of battle among its own people and various ceasefires have allowed the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

But over the course of the last year or two, an amicable split in the Taliban has seen Mullah Mohammed Omar’s forces refocus on Afghanistan, and Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban focus internally on Pakistan and beyond.

“We will teach him [Musharraf] a lesson that will be recorded in the pages of history in letters of gold. The crimes of these murderers, who were acting at Bush’s command, are unforgivable. Soon, we will take vengeance upon them for destroying the mosques. The pure land of Pakistan does not tolerate traitors. They must flee to America and live there. Here, Musharraf will live to regret his injustice towards the students of the Red Mosque. Allah willing, Musharraf will suffer great pain, along with all his aides. The Muslims will never forgive Musharraf for the sin he committed.  We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

Because of the influx of foreign jihadists and evolution of fighters in the area to a more global perspective, Pakistan itself is now at risk.  Further, the Afghanistan campaign is in jeopardy of failure because of transnational movement and safe haven in the mountainous areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  CENTCOM realizes that the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan are one and the same campaign.  Thus, a more forceful U.S. presence has been proposed to Pakistan, along with eleven new demands (the story as broken by Shireen M Mazari and universally ignored by the so-called Main Stream Media).

The first demand is for granting of a status that is accorded to the technical and administrative staff of the US embassy. The second demand is that these personnel be allowed to enter and exit Pakistan on mere National Identification (for example a driving licence) that is without any visas.

Next, the US is demanding that Pakistan accept the legality of all US licences, which would include arms licences. This is followed by the demand that all these personnel be allowed to carry arms and wear uniforms as they wish, across the whole of Pakistan.

Then comes a demand that directly undermines our sovereignty – that the US criminal jurisdiction be applicable in Pakistan to US nationals. In other words, these personnel would not be subject to Pakistani law.

In territories of US allies like Japan, this condition exists in areas where there are US bases and has become a source of major resentment in Japan, especially because there are frequent cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women and getting away with it. In the context of Pakistan, the demand to make the US personnel above the Pakistani law would not be limited to any one part of the country! So the Pakistani citizens will become fair game for US military personnel as well as other auxiliary staff like military contractors.

The next demand is for exemption from all taxes, including indirect taxes like excise duty, etc. The seventh demand is for inspection-free import and export of all goods and materials. So we would not know what they are bringing in or taking out of our country – including Gandhara art as well as sensitive materials.

At number eight is the demand for free movement of vehicles, vessels including aircraft, without landing or parking fees! Then, at number nine, there is a specific demand that selected US contractors should also be exempted from tax payments.

At number ten there is the demand for free of cost use of US telecommunication systems and using all necessary radio spectrum. The final demand is the most dangerous and is linked to the demand for non-applicability of Pakistani law for US personnel. Demand number eleven is for a waiver of all claims to damage to loss or destruction of others’ property, or death to personnel or armed forces or civilians. The US has tried to be smart by not using the word “other” for death but, given the context, clearly it implies that US personnel can maim and kill Pakistanis and destroy our infrastructure and weaponry with impunity.

But Shireen M Mazari’s article resents U.S. involvement in the area, as do other Pakistani commentators.  Whatever else the recent elections mean, they do not mean that there is increasing support for the U.S. led war on terror.  The Pashtun have outright rejected such an idea.  The idea in vogue is that the U.S. presence is the reason for the unrest in the area.  The solution, they think, is to throw the U.S. out of the region and talk with the Taliban.

But herein lies the Pakistani blindness to the global jihad.  The classical insurgency might be concerned about governance, representation, wealth, and power, but the global jihad has as (at least one of) its motivators religious persuasion.  What the U.S. found in Anbar was that the concerns of the indigenous insurgents can be addressed by typical counterinsurgency doctrine, including military force but also other very important nonkinetic operations.  But the global religious fighters had to be captured or killed.  There was no other solution.

What Pakistan has yet to allow into the public consciousness is that jihadists bent on the destruction of both Pakistan and all Western influences must be eradicated.  The Pakistanis are confused.  It isn’t just the U.S. led global war on terror that is opposed by the jihad.  It is modernity.  The powers in Pakistan will soon enough wake to the peril that they are in, but by rejecting U.S. involvement to help stem the tide of dark change in the country, they are only ensuring that they will have to take the same actions against the jihadists themselves -and they will quite possibly be alone when they do.  It will be a bloody affair, and dangerous for the whole world.  The Pakistan military brass knows this.  The nationalistic rank and file are furious, and only time will tell how bad this gets.

Al Qaeda Online Lashes Out at Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

A few days ago saw a strange dust-up between hardened Taliban fighters – the ones who drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan – and young Internet jihadists (although the Taliban would not have noticed or cared even if they did).

CAIRO, Egypt —  Al Qaeda supporters on the Web have unleashed an unprecedented flood of criticism of Afghanistan’s Taliban, once seen by extremists as the model of an Islamic state.

Now extremists accuse the Taliban of straying from the path of global jihad after its leader Mullah Omar issued a statement saying he seeks good relations with the world and even sympathizes with Shiite Iran.

In February, the Taliban announced it wanted to maintain good and “legitimate” relations with neighboring countries. Then, last week online militants were outraged when the movement expressed solidarity with Iran, condemning the latest round of sanctions imposed on Tehran by the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear enrichment.

The Shiite Islamic state of Iran is viewed as anathema by the Sunni militants of the Al Qaeda and other extremist movements.

“This is the worst statement I have ever read … the disaster of defending the (Iranian) regime is on par with the Crusaders in Afghanistan and Iraq,” wrote poster Miskeen, whose name translates literally as “the wretched” and who is labeled as one of the more influential writers on an Al Qaeda linked Web site …

“The Taliban seeks to be a respected political movement that can at the same time govern Afghanistan and be at limited peace with its neighbors,” said Rita Katz, the director of the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors militant Web traffic.

But she cautioned that the “Taliban’s surprising call to support Iran in the face of new U.N. sanctions does not mean that the group is suddenly offering unequivocal support to Iran,” though it shows readiness to coexist with the neighbor.

Cairo-based expert on Islamic movements Diaa Rashwan linked the Taliban’s quest for international legitimacy to possible future negotiations with the Afghan government.

“Mullah Omar’s statement about good relations are in response to accusations from the West that the Taliban is radical and does not accept dialogue or negotiations with others,” he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in September he was ready to negotiate with the Taliban, including Mullah Omar himself, to put an end to the insurgency, while U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood said in December he would support reconciliation talks, with some conditions.

“The only problem about an eventual compromise with the Taliban is the fate of Al Qaeda, whether it will be expelled from Afghanistan or commit itself to the Afghan government,” Rashwan said.

The Afghan Taliban have always been nationalistic and focused primarily on Afghanistan.  We covered the recent somewhat amicable split between the Afghan Taliban and Baitullah Mehsud’s Pakistani Taliban, with Mehsud focused not only on the overthrow of Pakistan’s regime, but on global democracy as well.

“We will teach him [Musharraf] a lesson that will be recorded in the pages of history in letters of gold. The crimes of these murderers, who were acting at Bush’s command, are unforgivable. Soon, we will take vengeance upon them for destroying the mosques. The pure land of Pakistan does not tolerate traitors. They must flee to America and live there. Here, Musharraf will live to regret his injustice towards the students of the Red Mosque. Allah willing, Musharraf will suffer great pain, along with all his aides. The Muslims will never forgive Musharraf for the sin he committed.  We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

Pakistan is seeing and has seen since 2007 an influx of global jihadists into the NWFP and FATA areas of Pakistan, so there is no paucity of international fighters who will participate in a global war.  The so-called “nationalistic” tendencies of the Afghan Taliban are just that – political machinations intended to place them in the best possible position to regain power in the area.  They haven’t change their core values any more than al Qaeda has.

The picture of reactionary boy-jihadists and computer jocks presuming to chastise hard core Afghan Taliban would otherwise be humorous if not for the fact that these forums and chat rooms are recruiting grounds for future jihadists.  In case anyone doubts the ongoing threat of a transnational insurgency, this incident should remind us all just what General Abizaid intended when he coined the phrase “the long war.”

U.S. and Iraq Begin Talks on Long Term Troop Presence

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

As we predicted approximately two months ago, the U.S. and Iraq have begun talks that will likely codify Iraq as a protectorate of the U.S. for some years to come.

The United States and Iraq began talks on Tuesday on the future of the US military presence in the war-ravaged country, the Iraqi foreign ministry announced.

“The two parties started today, in the ministry of foreign affairs, talks …. on agreements and arrangements for long-term cooperation and friendship, including agreement on temporary US troop presence in Iraq,” the ministry said in a statement.

On November 26, US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to agree in 2008 on the terms for the future US military presence in Iraq.

The two leaders signed a non-binding statement of principles for the negotiations, setting a July 31, 2008 target date to formalize US-Iraq economic, political, and security relations.

At the time Maliki said the accord sets 2008 as the final year for US-led forces to operate in Iraq under a UN mandate, which the new bilateral arrangement would replace.

The new agreeement when finalised would trigger the end of UN sanctions imposed after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and return full sovereignty to the government in Baghdad.

“All the justification created by the former regime is now over,” Maliki said on November 26, a reference to Saddam Hussein, the dictator ousted by the March 2003 US-led invasion and later executed.

The talks between delegations of the two countries are expected to cover issues at the heart of the bitter US debate over the war — including whether Washington would have permanent bases in Iraq, how many US troops would be stationed here, and for how long.

Amir Taheri has an analysis at the New York Post in which he claims that Iran now worries about too hasty a retreat by the U.S.  While I disagree with his analysis for reasons that are too detailed to enumerate at the moment, his article is worth glancing at due to the inclusion of what is quite possibly the ugliest picture of Moqtada al Sadr that has ever been published.  He looks like a toothless buffoon who needs a shave.  That menacing scowl is gone, possibly because he knows that we have sights on him.  There is no question that Iran wants the U.S. out of Iraq, and in case it has not sunk in the first thousand times it has been said, the Multinational Force again reiterated that Iran is playing a destabilizing role in Iraq.

… there are still groups and elements that are supporting the training and financing of criminal elements here inside of Iraq.  And we have briefed on multiple occasions the role that these groups inside of Iran are playing to support the special groups with training inside of Iran, the delivery of capability through that training that’s then exported back into Iraq, the funding of the activities of these special groups, as well as the, in some cases, the supplying of arms and munitions. 

The discovery of the caches that we continue to find on the battlefield today, some of which are fairly new in terms of its manufacture of the weapon itself, suggests that the activity of the training and financing, when added together with the constant flow of weapons into this country, makes for a very volatile and dangerous situation.

Hopefully the long term presence of U.S. troops will see them less involved in constabulary operations and more involved in border security, training, and region stabilization.  The surge will eventually end, constabulary operations will be fully handed over to Iraq, and large numbers of troops will come home.  But at least some diminished number of troops will remain in Iraq for a decade, and the Middle East for longer.



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