Marine Corps Rifles, M1A Torture Test, And AR-15s

Herschel Smith · 10 Aug 2015 · 2 Comments

Military.com: The U.S. Marine Corps is sticking with its Vietnam-era, M40 sniper rifle series, despite complaints from scout snipers who say they need the modern, longer-range weapons used by special-ops snipers. Marine scout snipers are considered to be among the best snipers in the world, but many are frustrated at the limitations of the current M40A5 sniper rifle. The A5 is based on the Remington M700 short-action design that's chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO, like the original M40 Marines…… [read more]

New Afghan Supply Route Through Russia Likely

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Adding to our coverage and analysis of the logistics for Operation Enduring Freedom, it appears that negotiations are all but finished for a new supply route through Russia.

A NATO official says talks on setting up an alternate supply route to Afghanistan are at an advanced stage — an issue of growing urgency because of intensifying attacks by pro-Taliban forces on convoys in Pakistan.

The official who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter says diplomatic efforts are nearing conclusion on the new route for military supplies that will pass through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Moscow agreed last year to let the alliance use its territory to resupply the 62,000 Western troops in landlocked Afghanistan.

Some individual NATO members already use the so-called northern route to supply their forces in Afghanistan. But the alliance as a whole still relies on the route from Pakistan’s port of Karachi.

But we have also pointed out the alternative to Russia via Georgia.  Harder and more time consuming though it would be, it removes Russia as the center of gravity in the plan.  With supply to U.S. troops in Afghanistan being dependent upon Russian good will, it remains to be seen how much pressure relations with the Ukraine and Georgia will sustain.  For instance, without Russian cooperation in consideration, would the U.S. support membership in NATO for these two countries?

Russia is even now proving itself to be a recalcitrant neighbor.

Europeans likely didn’t need much more evidence of how unreliable a partner Russia can be, but this week the Kremlin gave them definitive proof.

In a pricing dispute with Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered supplies of natural gas to Europe shut off, just as most of the continent was at the coldest point of what has been an unusually cold winter.

Europe relies on Russia for 25 percent to 40 percent of its natural gas, and 80 percent of that is shipped through pipelines that cross Ukraine. The cutoff was felt from Turkey to France and was particularly acute in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, where several countries declared states of emergency.

Russia claims that Ukraine is behind in its payments for gas and is seeking $600 million in late fees plus a higher price for future shipments.

In any reasonable part of the world, this dispute might be settled by mutually agreed-upon international arbitration. Whatever culpability Ukraine has in this dispute, Russia has motives other than financial. It resents Ukraine’s successful experiment with democracy, its support for Georgia in the recent conflict and especially its plans to join NATO.

All this comes as Russia is reeling from a financial crisis brought by the collapse of oil and gas prices and by the Kremlin’s custom of appropriating foreign-owned firms once they become profitable.

For the Europeans, Russian natural gas is the most readily available, but as long as the Kremlin uses price and availability as blunt instruments of foreign policy, they’d be foolish to rely on it.

This is a wake-up call for Europe to search for alternative sources delivered through more secure routes.

Is this a wake-up call that should have been heard in the office of the Secretary of Defense as well?

Reuters-Come-Lately to Khyber Pass and Georgia Story

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In addition to original reporting, sometimes blogs owners contribute to review and analysis of existing data and information that isn’t otherwise performed within the main stream media.  Myra MacDonald with Reuters has landed on the story of the Khyper Pass and the potential strategic partnership between the U.S. and Russia (while still not discussing the alternative via Georgia) to create new logistical lines of supply to Afghanistan.

She links to some well worn articles with the Washington Post, New York Times, IHT, a Robert Gates commentary for Foreign Affairs, and several other sources, and then asks some salient questions about the price of the partnership with Russia to provide a line of supply into Afghanistan, concluding with the following promise: “This is one I’m going to watch closely and I would appreciate comments and links to stories that illuminate the subject both before and after Jan 20.”

In addition to the commentary we have already provided on Gates’ article for Foreign Affairs, Myra misses the point that Google is our friend.  A word search on “Torkham crossing” or “Georgia strategic partnership” yields articles by The Captain’s Journal at the very top of the first page.

While the U.S. Army was claiming that there wouldn’t be a spring offensive in Afghanistan, we said approximately one year ago that there would be a two prong asymmetric offensive, one in Pakistan and the other in Afghanistan, with the focus of both being lines of logistical supply, and even providing a simple diagram of the strategic approach.  We have followed this problem through not only the potential for adverse consequences to Europe from the alleged thaw in relations with Russia, but the alternative to Russia, the Georgian supply route.

While Myra has been reading the New York Times, I have been having detailed discussions with Steve Schippert over logistics and consequences that go far beyond what the MSM has analyzed.  Don’t misunderstand – it’s a good thing that Myra has landed on this story when so many in the media are making a laughingstock of themselves by being focused on what clothing the political candidates are wearing at the moment.

But by ignoring the first of a kind, news-breaking, easy-to-find and more detailed analyses of the more serious Milbloggers such as Steve and me, Myra, like most in the MSM, has handicapped herself in the timeliness and depth of her analysis.  My analysis of the Khyber Pass / Torkham Crossing situation came even before the first Jamestown Foundation analysis of record I can find.

Sometimes blogs exist merely as a symbiont with the main stream media, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Occasionally though, there is innovative, ground-breaking analysis and research performed by authors other than in the main stream media, however hard this may be for the MSM to accept.

Prior:

U.S-Georgia Strategic Partnership

The Logistical Battle: New Lines of Supply to Afghanistan

The Search for Alternate Supply Routes to Afghanistan

Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

More on Lines of Logistics for Afghanistan

How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?

Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Interdiction of U.S. Supplies in Khyber Pass

The Torkham Crossing

Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

“Clearly, logistics is the hard part of fighting a war.”
– Lt. Gen. E. T. Cook, USMC, November 1990

“Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”
– Gen. George S. Patton, USA

“Bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible.”
– ADM Hyman Rickover, USN

“There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war.”
– Carl von Clausevitz

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…”
– Sun Tzu

The Role of Palestine in the War with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

While supporting Israel’s right to a robust self defense, The Captain’s Journal has also questioned both the strategic and operational goals of the current Israeli offensive, especially since it is being run by the more leftist administration currently in power in Israel.  But there are deeper questions still about the operation, ones that drive to the heart of the matter.

Robert Kaplan discusses the larger war in which Israel is engaged.

Israel has just embarked on a land invasion of the Gaza Strip after a week of aerial bombing. Gaza is bordered by Egypt, and was under Egyptian military control from 1949 through 1967. And yet in a startling rebuke to geography and recent history—and in testimony to the sheer power of audacity and of ideas—the mullahs in Teheran hold more sway in Gaza today than does the tired, Brezhnevite regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Gaza constitutes the western edge of Iran’s veritable new empire, cartographically akin to the ancient Persian one, that now stretches all the way to western Afghanistan, where Kabul holds no sway and which is under Iranian economic domination.

Israel’s attack on Gaza is, in effect, an attack on Iran’s empire, the first since its offensive on Iranian-backed Hezbollah in 2006. That attack failed for a number of reasons, not least of which was Israel’s poor intelligence on Hezbollah: historically, its intelligence on the Palestinians has been much better. Moreover, this attack seems more deliberately planned, with narrower, publicly stated aims – all in all, a more professional job. But there is a fundamental problem with what Israel is doing that goes to the heart of the postmodern beast that the Iranian empire represents.

To start with, Hamas does not have to win this war. It can lose and still win. As long as no other political group can replace it in power, even as some of its diehards can continue to lob missiles, however ineffectually, into Israel, it achieves a moral victory of sorts. Moreover, if Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement tries to replace Hamas in power, Fatah will forever be tagged with the label of Israeli stooge, and in the eyes of Palestinians will have little moral legitimacy. Israel’s dilemma is that it is not fighting a state but an ideology, the postmodern glue that holds together Greater Iran.

This is similar to the view espoused by Dr. Ely Karmon, namely that “The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context. Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors — Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas — which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades … Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.”

In The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, The Captain’s Journal pointed out that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al Qaeda leadership had heretofore rejected participation in jihad with Hamas because of its acceptance of nationalism and democracy, two things al Qaeda hates most.  Global jihad (and hence, al Qaeda) doesn’t recognize borders or the legitimacy of states.  But we also pointed out that radical Salafist schools were developing across Palestine – including Gaza – financed by Saudi money and producing young radicals accepting of a more global and even less tolerant perspective.

Adding to this narrative is an analysis by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Both Hamas and the Gazan jihadist groups share a desire to destroy Israel and impose sharia, but Hamas focuses on local interests limited to the Palestinian arena. Hamas, therefore, directs its energy largely at Israel, while these groups target foreigners as well. The Salafi-jihadist groups espouse an ideology of “pure resistance,” within which there is no room for ceasefires or temporary halts in attacks against the enemy. Some of their members were therefore especially motivated to continue attacks following Hamas’s agreement to a tahdiyah, or lull …

Although these groups do not aim to usurp Hamas’s control of Gaza, the expansion of their power and popularity poses an ideological and practical challenge for Hamas and emphasizes the dichotomy in the movement; on one hand, Hamas is a resistance movement siding with an ongoing jihadist struggle, on the other, it is a sovereign power that is required to compromise on daily governance issues. Hamas is worried that this phenomenon will gain popularity among the young generation, since it represents “pure resistance.” Confronting this phenomenon not only endangers Hamas’s image on the street, but also forces the organization to confront one of the cornerstones of its identity: the ideological adherence to jihad as a way to achieve its goals. This very dilemma may go a long way toward explaining why Hamas allowed the tahdiyah to erode; attacks from time to time allow Hamas to explain that it remains committed to resistance.

In the wake of the current crisis, Hamas may choose to ease its crackdown on these jihadist groups, causing repercussions beyond Gaza. Strengthened Salafi-jihadist groups in Gaza could ultimately pose a threat not only to Hamas, but also, as the various attacks and foiled plots over the past several years illustrate, to Israeli and Western interests as well.

Al Qaeda’s inability to utilize differing sects in its global struggle, e.g., the nationalistic Hamas, is not a mistake made by the Persian empire which, while Shi’a, has no problems working with the Sunni Hamas.  Al Qaeda may look on with envy at the empire carefully constructed by Iran, but in the main Israel is surrounded by Iranian proxies.  True, there are allegations and counter-allegations over the role of al Qaeda in Lebanon (page 5).

There is no official consensus in Lebanon on whether al-Qa`ida has a presence in the country. Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, all politics in Lebanon has been polarized. It is on the threat of terrorism where the gap is arguably most pronounced. On the one hand, the anti-Syrian political coalition, led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri, believes that al-Qa`ida does not have an indigenous presence in Lebanon. What the country faces instead is a fabricated threat by Damascus and its intelligence services that is intended to destabilize Lebanon and restore Syrian hegemony. On the other hand, the pro-Syrian alliance, spearheaded by Hizb Allah (also spelled Hezbollah) and the Free Patriotic Party of Michel Aoun, judges that al-Qa`ida exists in Lebanon and poses a real threat to national security. For them, the rise of al-Qa`ida in the country is largely attributed to a devilish pact between Lebanese Sunni politicians and extremist Islamic factions in the north, the purpose of which is to counter-balance the perceived ascending power of Shi`a Hizb Allah. The Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), an institution that is perceived to be fairly loyal to Siniora—in addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential regional patrons of the anti-Syrian coalition—are also accused by the pro-Syrian alliance of having a hand in financing and arming these terrorist groups.

But the argument itself is evidence of the paltry presence of al Qaeda, or strongly Sunni anti-Persian elements.  Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran, orders it immediately relays to Hassan Nasrallah who governs Hezbollah, which is itself Iran’s troops deployed in Lebanon.  Hamas, like Hezbollah but still following in its footsteps, serves the interests of Iran.

Michael Ledeen makes a strong case that Iran has turned Hamas loose to lose if necessary, a sort of cowardly betrayal of the Hamas leadership.  Further, argues Ledeen, there is rot inside of Iran.  Indeed, there is a budding insurgency in Western Iran, one that we have argued that should be aided in fomenting a full blown insurgency and regime change inside of Iran.

Caroline Glick makes a similar argument to Ledeen, but ends with a stern warning.

ALAS, THERE is another possible explanation for Iran’s apparent decision to abandon a vassal it incited to open a war. On Sunday, Iranian analyst Amir Taheri reported the conclusions of a bipartisan French parliamentary report on the status of Iran’s nuclear program in Asharq Alawsat. The report which was submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy late last month concluded that unless something changes, Iran will have passed the nuclear threshold by the end of 2009 and will become a nuclear power no later than 2011. The report is notable because it is based entirely on open-sourced material whose accuracy has been acknowledged by the Iranian regime.

The report asserts that this year will be the world’s final opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And, as Taheri hints strongly, the only way of doing that effectively is by attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

In light of this new report, which contradicts earlier US intelligence assessments that claimed it would be years before Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza for the same reason it launched its war in 2006: to divert international attention away from its nuclear program.

It is possible that Iran prefers to run down US President George W. Bush’s last two weeks in office with the White House and the rest of the world focused on Gaza, than risk the chance that during these two weeks, the White House (or Israel) might read the French parliament’s report and decide to do something about it.

So too, its apparent decision not to have Hizbullah join in this round of fighting might have more to do with Iran’s desire to preserve its Lebanese delivery systems for any nuclear devices than its desire to save pennies in a tight economy.

And if this is the case, then even if Israel beats Hamas (and I eat my hat), we could still lose the larger war by again having allowed Iran to get us to take our eyes away from the prize.

Whatever their strategy, unless Israel is willing to follow through with these current operations and the U.S. is willing not only to implement democracy programs in Iran but also to pursue regime change, the entire Middle East might be dealing in the near future with a nuclear Persia, leading not only to mortal danger for Israel but also to a nuclear Egypt, Jorgan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Thus we haven’t questioned the role of Iran in the war with Palestine, for that would be to miss the point.  The real question is the role of Palestine in the war with Iran, and whether the larger strategic picture is being kept in sight.

Further Reading:

Robert D. Kaplan, Iran’s Postmodern Beast in Gaza, a “must-read” from the author of the remarkable Imperial Grunts.

Michael Ledeen, Is Iran in Trouble?

Caroline Glick, Iran’s Gaza Diversion

Yoram Cohen, Jihadist Groups in Gaza: A Developing Threat

Syed Saleem Shahza, Al Qaeda Sniffs Opportunity in Gaza.  Saleem purveys fantasy when he says that there has been a slight resurgence of AQ in Anbar, and has to be read through the lens of someone who shills for both AQ and the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  Nonetheless, his prose is interesting and if you’re able to discern fact and analysis from propaganda, is usually useful.

Charles Levinson, Israel’s Ground Assault Marks Shift in Strategy

Victor Davis Hanson, Gazan Calculations

James Lyons, Gaza Distraction

Even if the current Hamas leadership and infrastructure are destroyed, nothing will change as long as the Ali Khamenei regime remains in power with continued support of terrorist groups to act as their proxies to further their political agenda.

While we have proof positive of Iran’s direct involvement in terrorist activities over the last almost 30 years, which has resulted in thousands of U.S. military and civilian casualties, they have never been made to suffer the consequences of their cowardly acts or held accountable. The ultimate solution is to change the power structure in Iran preferably by a form of a “yellow revolution” in which Iranians who desire a better life are able to free themselves from their current medieval theocratic regime. The odds of a popular uprising are slim unless supported by a variety of actions led by the United States.

Lyons’ commentary is analogous to the arguments made at TCJ for the last two years.

U.S. Marines Prepare to Leave Fallujah

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

The final preparations are underway for the U.S. Marines to leave Fallujah.

As part of the reduction of United States troops from Iraq, by Thursday there will be few marines left in or around this mostly Sunni city of about 300,000 people. The closing of Camp Falluja is one of the most prominent symbols yet that America’s presence in the country, which at times had seemed all encompassing, is diminishing.

As recently as a year ago, the base closing was cause for alarm. The calm that seemed to have taken hold here was fragile enough that both Iraqi and American officials feared the potential consequences of the marines’ departure.

Today they look forward to it.

“That will make our job easier,” said Colonel Dowad Muhammad Suliyman, commander of the Falluja Police Department. “The existence of the American forces is an excuse for the insurgents to attack. They consider us spies for the Americans.”

To be sure, the threat of violence has not vanished. But the police said they were proud that a place that suffered a major attack a week just a few years ago has had only two in the last six months.

The view that the town is better off taking care of itself was echoed by residents, even in the neighborhood hit by the most recent big attack, in early December, when suicide truck bombers linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia killed 19 people, wounded dozens of others, and leveled nine houses and two police stations.

“Our sons will take care of the security issue,” said Khalil Abrahim, 50, a resident of the neighborhood, as he walked over the rubble of his house, wondering aloud how he could afford to rebuild. “They can do a better job.”

Camp Falluja will be handed over to the Iraqi Army, with most of its marines relocated to Al Asad Air Base, about 90 miles to the west. A smaller contingent will remain at nearby Camp Baharia.

The move reflects the confidence of the American command that major violence will not return here.

“It won’t happen again because the Iraqis don’t want it to happen again,” said Colonel George Bristol, the bald, heavily muscled commanding officer of the First Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group at Camp Falluja.

“We’ve certainly turned a page,” he said. “The conditions are now there where we can close it and turn it over to the people who fought beside us. It’s a great thing. If you look at the city, it has really come to life” …

At Camp Falluja, Major James Gladden and Master Gunnery Sergeant Ray SiFuentes are overseeing the dismantling of a base that had once been home to 14,000 marines and contractors.

The 2,000-acre post had its own fire department, water treatment plant, scrap yard, voter registration booth, ice-making factory, weather station, prison (for insurgents), beauty shop, power plant, Internet café, Turkish bazaar and dog catcher.

Its chapel could fit 800 marines for religious services, a Toby Keith concert or a performance by the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, all of which were held there.

“We had basically everything a small town had,” said Gladden, 34, who is known by other marines as the mayor of Camp Falluja. “Everything except fast-food outlets,” he said, which were deemed too unhealthy.

There are only 200 marines left now, and about 170 truckloads a day leave the base, most headed for other United States military installations.

Even the gaggle of geese from the camp’s artificial pond, which some marines had adopted as pets, has been taken away. One by one, they were trapped and set loose at a larger pond at Camp Baharia.

A good deal of packing up involves making sure nothing is left behind that later could be used against American forces. Obsolete armor for trucks, ballistic glass plates for Humvees and concertina wire are cut to pieces. Thousands of mammoth concrete barriers are being trucked to other military bases.

First of all, this is a testimony to the difficulty of movement of military materiel and relocation of forces.  Logistics rules, and we have long said that the logistics officers will determine when the U.S. withdraws from Iraq rather than the politicians.

Second, it is even more a testimony to the bravery of the Marines in Operation Al Fajr, the follow-on operations, and then finally the Marines of 2/6 who conducted Operation Alljah.  Three years of blood, sweat and tears have brought Fallujah to this point.  The bravery of the Marines has enabled the process to move forward.  It’s now time to turn over, and continued presence by the Marines in Anbar would be an improper extension of the the final phase of counterinsurgency.  It is finished in Anbar.

Separately from another Marine stationed elsewhere in Iraq (perhaps to the North), The Captain’s Journal has received word that they are engaged only in force protection.  There is no combat.  It’s time to move on, since the victory has been won.

Snipers and Asymmetric Warfare in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In January of 2008 The Captain’s Journal predicted that the so-called spring offensive by the Taliban would be more asymmetric than conventional and kinetic.  True, there have been stark reminders that the Taliban, in this case the Tehrik-i-Taliban, were capable of highly conventional and kinetic engagements, such as with the battle of Wanat.  But there have also been reminders of just how badly the Taliban lose when they choose to go head-to-head in kinetic engagements with U.S. forces, such as with recent Marine Corps operations with a kill ratio of 50:0.  True to our prediction, the Taliban has gone asymmetric.

Taliban fighters increasingly are deploying precision marksmen to fire on U.S. troops at greater distances throughout southern Afghanistan, military officials say.

It marks the latest Taliban shift to asymmetrical warfare and away from confronting U.S. troops in conventional fights, according to the top two commanders for the southern region.

Instead of gathering in company-sized units to take on foreign troops, Taliban forces also are resorting increasingly to explosives attacks and bombings, which require fewer people and pose less risk to themselves, the commanders said.

Explosives attacks rose by 33 percent last year, as did deaths of coalition troops, according to the International Security Assistance Force, which leads the coalition forces stationed here.

“They are reverting to tactics that tell us they are suffering heavy losses,” said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander for the southern regional command.

The expanded use of precision marksmen comes as the fighting shifts from eastern Afghanistan to the south, where the Taliban are trying to protect opium production, which is reputed to be their economic base. The number of coalition troops killed in southern Afghanistan has increased sharply in the past two months.

So far, shooters have made use of long-barrel rifles, not specialized sniper weapons, and Nicholson said there was no indication that Taliban forces had trained snipers. Instead, they take advantage of the rough terrain to shoot at troops safely from afar, he said.

If the Taliban develop a corps of snipers, it would mark a major shift for U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. When snipers began appearing in Iraq’s once-restive Anbar province in 2005, U.S. troops had a difficult time protecting themselves from attacks and began wearing more armor.

At one point, Iraqi insurgent groups began filming their sniper attacks, and the images of Marines falling to them became a rallying point for the insurgency.

Thus has the highly touted focus on high value targets and small footprint in Afghanistan come to ruin.  Satellite patrols don’t help in open terrain like they would in urban environs.  Body armor relies mainly on the SAPI plates for high power rounds, and the coverage area of the plates is fixed.

Combating snipers requires counterinsurgency practices, a larger footprint, and a true commitment to winning both the human and physical terrain.  The Taliban has learned from their conventional experiences, and while it is a sign of U.S. superiority that the Taliban has turned to sniping, it’s also a sign of Operation Enduring Freedom passing from one phase to another.  Counterinsurgency is necessary, and troops are required.

Disarmament and the Myth of Example

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Dianne Feinstein waxes mythical in the Wall Street Journal over unilateral nuclear disarmament.

When Barack Obama becomes America’s 44th president on Jan. 20, he should embrace the vision of a predecessor who declared: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

That president was Ronald Reagan, and he expressed this ambitious vision in his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 1985. It was a remarkable statement from a president who had deployed tactical nuclear missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet Union’s fearsome SS-20 missile fleet.

President Reagan knew the grave threat nuclear weapons pose to humanity. He never achieved his goal, but President Obama should pick up where he left off.

The Cold War is over, but there remain thousands of nuclear missiles in the world’s arsenals — most maintained by the U.S. and Russia. Most are targeted at cities and are far more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Today, the threat is ever more complex. As more nations pursue nuclear ambitions, the world becomes less secure, with growing odds of terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran threaten a “cascade” of nuclear proliferation, according to a bipartisan panel led by former U.S. Defense Secretaries William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger.

Another bipartisan panel has warned that the world can expect a nuclear or biological terror attack by 2013 — unless urgent action is taken.

Nuclear weapons pose grave dangers to all nations. Seeking new weapons and maintaining massive arsenals makes no sense. It is vital that we seek a world free of nuclear weapons. The United States should lead the way, and a President Obama should challenge Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to join us.

Regardless of what Ronald Reagan did or didn’t say about this subject, reference to him by Feinstein is a Red herring, and she doesn’t really believe in the doctrine of peace through strength that marked his presidency.  Rather, Feinstein believes in myths.

It is analogous to the myth that disarmament of the population through gun control will make it safer.  Her worldview has no category for unrepentant, intentional evil, and thus it cannot exist.  Further, because evil cannot exist, it necessarily follows that behavior we might define as not conducive to the advancement of mankind (from a utilitarian or instrumentalist view) is able to be rectified by education.

Hence, Feinstein proposes the only remedy available in her world view for this behavior – example by unilateral disarmament.  But evil exists, and the bad actors in the world require deterrence, just like criminals need to know that the population is armed.  Peace through strength isn’t merely a byline; it’s the irreplaceable doctrine upon which safety and security are built.

The Obama administration has an opportunity to continue to ignore the nuclear weapons stockpile and refuse to engage in further research.  This would bring joy in the land of fairy tales, but the real world requires leadership by example, and not the kind of example that Feinstein is proposing.

Prior:

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Changes in Body Armor for Marines

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In New Body Armor for the Marines we detailed the interim, ad hoc changes to the Modular Tactical Vest resulting from complaints about various issues associated with performance of the vest in combat.  Below is the MTV:

And below is the modified MTV:

The modified vest kept the same SAPI plats, front, back and side, reduced the coverage of the soft panels on the sides and around the shoulders, and removed the soft panel neck and groin protection.  The changes were made to save weight and provide for maneuverability.  Unfortunately, only modest weight reductions are seen from the modifications, and yet the Corps has given up shrapnel and small arms (e.g., 9 mm) protection in the neck, shoulder and groin area.

The AP reports that there are permanent changes coming for the MTV.

Acting on widespread complaints from its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has ordered major modifications to its body armor to improve comfort, mobility and safety, The Associated Press has learned.

The decision results from a survey of more than 1,000 Marines, many of whom reported that their flak jackets, which cost the Marine Corps more than $100 million, were too heavy and restrictive.

“The Marine Corps is developing an Improved Modular Tactical Vest to address the problem areas uncovered by the survey results,” Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine spokeswoman, told the AP by e-mail last week.

Earlier in 2008, the Marine Commandant, Gen. James Conway, temporarily suspended an order for more than 20,000 of the so-called Modular Tactical Vests.

“I’ve worn the vest on my travels into Iraq and Afghanistan, and I can tell you those Marines have raised some valid points,” Conway told the AP by e-mail.

Body armor has been an issue since the Iraq war began in 2003. The Army reportedly had a shortage of the ceramic protective plates needed to make vests effective, and lawmakers demanded answers from the Department of Defense after reports surfaced of soldiers’ families buying the plates themselves and sending them to Iraq.

The Marine Corps has been ahead in distributing adequate body armor and replacement parts to its troops, though it too has struggled to adapt and fine-tune the technology in an ever-changing urban warfare environment. The vest now used by the Marines in Iraq is the Corps’ third since 2001.

There are other lighter types of body armor that are widely used by police but they are not approved for combat. The Modular Tactical Vest, designed by the Marine Corps to improve on an older jacket, has a track record of stopping bullets and shrapnel.

It was designed to better protect the kidneys, lower back and torso in urban combat, and make it easier to carry ammunition, water and grenades.

The vest was the top choice of troops who tested it before a manufacturer was awarded the contract, according to Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, Conway’s spokesman. Marine and Pentagon officials said it has a proven record of protecting troops, and Carey said there are no reports of failings that resulted in injury or death during combat.

But troops in the field started complaining almost as soon as the vests were issued in 2007.

At 30 pounds it is bulky and between one to three pounds heavier than its predecessor depending on its size, adding to the burden on Marines who carry more than 90 pounds of gear. Army officials testifying before Congress in 2007 said they turned down the vest because it was heavier and no more effective than what the Army was using.

Because the vest rides higher on the chest for added protection, and features shoulder straps and buckles for adjustment and quick removal, several Marines blamed it for causing facial bruises when rifle butts slipped during recoil.

To better shoulder their weapon, some Marines loosened straps to lower the vest, exposing their upper torsos, according to a Marine field commander in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is against policy for troops to alter the vest.

Told of the practice by the AP, Conway said: “Any decision to scale down levels of protection for the sake of comfort is wholly unacceptable.”

The vest has a tab for quickly removing the vest to prevent a tragedy, such as when a Marine in an older jacket couldn’t remove it and drowned. But Marines complained that the tab snagged equipment, and are now told to tuck away the tab.

Unlike previous jackets, which Marines could just throw on and go, this one requires training or online video courses on how to wear it.

An initial 84,000 vests at a cost of more than $84 million were ordered in September 2006, nine months after an urgent request came in from the field for better protection. Conway, who became commandant after the contract was issued, put a hold on the last batch of 20,000 vests, questioning their design and testing.

He later lifted the suspension and the Marine Corps ordered more than $17 million worth of vests and replacement parts over the summer.

The current vest costs about $1,050, according to Lt. Col. A.J. Pasagian, who oversaw the survey at Quantico, Va.. The price of the improved vest wasn’t immediately known.

As we have explained before, the MTV is a carrier, not the armor itself.  The shell is a carrier for the SAPI plates and soft panel armor.  The MTV is also designed to hug the body tighter than the older Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) used by the Army, and thus acts more like an internal frame backpack by placing the weight on the hips.  It raises the front SAPI plate, lowers the rear SAPI plate, fully integrates the side SAPI plates into the carrier (rather than having to hang them on the carrier with Molle straps), and more efficiently deploys the soft ballistic panels compared to the IBA.

The MTV was a major improvement in carrier design, and complaints about weight should be aimed primarily at the SAPI plates, not the carrier or even the soft panel armor.  Additionally, the soft panel coverage should be maximized in any future design for shrapnel protection.

There is much reiterated in the report that readers of The Captain’s Journal already know, but what we learn from the AP report is that the Corps has conducted a poll, the results of which are driving permanent changes to the MTV.  Unfortunately, without major investment in SAPI plate design, any permanent changes aren’t likely to reduce weight without compromising protection.  As we have pointed out in our body armor coverage, the low hanging fruit has already been picked.  It’s time for major investment in the ballistics and fracture mechanics of the SAPI plates if we wish to reduce weight and maintain protection.  Otherwise the Corps will be disappointed in the outcome of this redesign.

Cheap Imitations of the Anbar Awakening in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Apparently the U.S. – and by this we mean officers who weren’t part of the campaign for Anbar – is trying to imitate the Anbar awakening in Afghanistan.

The US yesterday outlined a controversial plan to organise local militias in Afghanistan to contain the growing strength of the Taliban, echoing tactics used by American commanders in Iraq.

The programme is formally an Afghan government project with UN and US backing, but much of the impetus is believed to have come from US military commanders hoping to replicate the Sons of Iraq militias – American-backed Sunni groups which have helped combat al-Qaida and Iraqi insurgents. The architect of that initiative, General David Petraeus, is now head of Central Command, and running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Community Guard programme will be launched as a pilot project in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The US envoy, William Wood, said the programme was intended “to strengthen local communities and local tribes in their ability to protect what they consider to be their traditional homes”.

Gordon Brown proposed a similar scheme a year ago, based on a traditional form of tribal militias, or arbakai, but it was criticised at the time by an American commander in Afghanistan as detracting from the work of the national police force.

However, American objections have since been dropped as it has become clear that the combined strength of the Afghan army and the Nato force may not enough to defeat a resurgent Taliban, even with 30,000 US reinforcements expected next year after Barack Obama takes office.

Wood noted that Taliban roadside bombs doubled this year to 2,000, as did kidnappings, from 150 to 300. British officials said yesterday they had not been given details of the scheme, but supported it in principle.

“We encourage and support more Afghan ownership, particularly on security,” a Foreign Office official said.

Cheap imitation, we say.  Let’s rehearse one facet of the awakening in Anbar, that involving Abu Ahmed.

The 40-year-old is a hero to the 50,000 residents of Al-Qaim for having chased Al-Qaeda from the agricultural centre where houses line the green and blue waters of the Euphrates.

In the main street, with its fruit and vegetable stalls, its workshops and restaurants, men with pistols in their belts approach Abu Ahmed to kiss his cheek and right shoulder in a mark of respect.

It was not always this way.

He tells how one evening in May 2005 he decided that the disciples of Osama bin Laden went too far — they killed his cousin Jamaa Mahal.

“I started shooting in the air and throughout the town bursts of gunfire echoed across the sky. My family understood that the time had come. And we started the war against Al-Qaeda.”

It took three battles in the streets of Al-Qaim — in June, in July and then in November 2005 — to finish off the extremists who had come from Arab countries to fight the Americans.

Abu Ahmed, initially defeated by better equipped forces, had to flee to the desert region of Akashat, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Al-Qaim. There he sought help from the US Marines.

“With their help we were able to liberate Al-Qaim,” he said, sitting in his house with its maroon tiled facade.

This alliance between a Sunni tribe and American troops was to be the first, and it give birth to a strategy of other US-paid Sunni fighters ready to mobilise against Al-Qaeda.

It resulted in the Sunni province of Al-Anbar being pacified in two years.

It wasn’t fabricated, it wasn’t drummed up, and it wasn’t the brainchild of some smarter-than-thou counterinsurgency specialist applying heretofore unheard-of tactics.  It was the families tiring of the brutality and fighting back, losing, and then turning to the U.S. Marines who had the force projection to turn al Qaeda back with the assistance of intelligence from the families.  Without force projection and troop presence, both on the part of the families and the sustaining force of the professional warriors, it wouldn’t have happened.

Again we say, cheap imitation.  Without troop presence it won’t happen in Afghanistan and further time will be wasted pining away after an Afghan awakening that never had a chance.

Swat Falls, Talibanization Moving Eastward

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

What was once a scenic vacation and ski resort area is now a Taliban stronghold.

Taliban militants are beheading and burning their way through Pakistan’s picturesque Swat Valley, and residents say the insurgents now control most of the mountainous region outside the lawless tribal areas where jihadists thrive …

“You can’t imagine how bad it is,” said Muzaffar ul-Mulk, a federal lawmaker whose home in Swat was attacked by bomb-toting assailants in mid-December, weeks after he left. “It’s worse day by day.”

The Taliban activity in northwest Pakistan also comes as the country shifts forces east to the Indian border because of tensions over last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, potentially giving insurgents more space to maneuver along the Afghan frontier.

Militants began preying on Swat’s lush mountain ranges about two years ago, and it is now too dangerous for foreign and Pakistani journalists to visit. Interviews with residents, lawmakers and officials who have fled the region paint a dire picture.

A suicide blast killed 40 people Sunday at a polling station in Buner, an area bordering Swat that had been relatively peaceful. The attack underscored fears that even so-called “settled” regions presumptively under government control are increasingly unsafe.

The 3,500-square-mile Swat Valley lies less than 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

A senior government official said he feared there could be a spillover effect if the government lost control of Swat and allowed the insurgency to infect other areas. Like nearly everyone interviewed, the official requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by militants.

Officials estimate that up to a third of Swat’s 1.5 million people have left the area. Salah-ud-Din, who oversees relief efforts in Swat for the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimated that 80 percent of the valley is now under Taliban control.

The Swat insurgency also includes Afghan and other fighters from outside the valley, security officials said …

Any movement of Pakistani troops from the Swat Valley and tribal areas to the Indian border will concern the United States and other Western countries, which want Pakistan to focus on the al-Qaida threat near Afghanistan.

On Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said thousands of troops were being shifted toward the border with India, which blames Pakistani militants for terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month that killed 164 people. But there has been no sign yet of a major buildup near India.

“The terrorists’ aim in Mumbai was precisely this — to get the Pakistani army to withdraw from the western border and mount operations on the east,” said Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and author who has written extensively about militancy in the region.

“The terrorists are not going to be sitting still. They are not going to be adhering to any sort of cease-fire while the army takes on the Indian threat. They are going to occupy the vacuum the army will create.”

As we discussed in Pakistan Redeploying Troops to Indian Border (and a month before that), this is the effect the Mumbai attacks were intended to produce.  But Talibanization is spreading even further Eastward and Southward from Swat.

Four months ago, the people of the Pakistani mountain village of Shalbandi gained national repute after a village posse hunted down and killed six Taliban fighters who had tied up and killed eight local policemen. The posse displayed the Taliban corpses like trophies for other residents to see, and the village was celebrated as a courageous sign that the Taliban could be repelled.

On Sunday morning, the Taliban struck back.

A suicide car bomber set off an explosion at a school in Shalbandi that was serving as a polling place, as voters lined up to elect a representative to the National Assembly. More than 30 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, according to local political and security officials. Children and several policemen were among the dead.

The attack was the latest demonstration of the Taliban’s bloody encroachment eastward and deeper into Pakistan from the lawless tribal areas on the western border. Shalbandi is less than 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, the capital, and lies just south of the lush Swat Valley, a onetime ski resort known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan” that has been largely taken over by the Taliban despite large-scale army operations.

The Pakistan military has allowed radical elements to both dictate the terms of its engagements with India and with the radicals, the later as a function of the former.  All the while, Pakistan is falling to the radicals.

Sex for Information in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In an interesting twist on intelligence-gathering, the CIA has found a new tool in its arsenal of weapons.

In an effort to win over fickle warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan and get information from them, CIA officials are handing out Viagra pills in exchange for their cooperation, the Washington Post reports.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people – whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” an agency operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the agency to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders, including Taliban movements and supply routes.

CIA operatives use everything from toys and school equipment to tooth extractions to their advantage and note that if Americans don’t offer incentives, others, including Taliban commanders, will.

Afghan veterans told the Post that the usual bribes of choice – cash and weapons – aren’t always the best options because they can garner unwanted attention and fall into the wrong hands.

“If you give an asset $1,000, he’ll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone,” Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told the Post.

So rather than shiny junk, what’s better?

The ageing chieftains of rural villages, many of whom have wives who are much younger than them, have proved keen to accept the anti-impotency drug and in exchange give a mass of information on rebels’ movements and supply routes …

Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told a newspaper: “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century. So you look for those common things that motivate people everywhere.”

But not everyone is so happy.

I was disheartened and disgusted by Joby Warrick’s lighthearted coverage of the CIA’s Viagra bribes [“Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan,” front page, Dec. 26].

Is the U.S. government “wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society,” as first lady Laura Bush stated on April 6, 2005? Or will women in Afghanistan continue to be sexual chattel to fickle aging and ailing warlords who can be bribed by American operatives so they can feel “back in an authoritative position”?

It seems that this operation spits in the face of every effort to advance the position of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world. Alas, maybe the CIA will continue to do “whatever it takes to make friends and influence people,” regardless of how many people have to be hurt in the process.

So this reader believes that sex hurts the woman to the very core of her ontological being, and therefore opposes the deal.  Whatever the case, it’s surely true that the CIA has undergone organizational learning from the days of the Clinton administration’s destruction of the HUMINT.



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