Properly Defending Liberty Comes Down To One Thing: World View

Herschel Smith · 25 Jan 2015 · 5 Comments

There is a stir among gun rights advocates - or at least, presumed gun rights advocates.  On the one hand, there are the open carriers and opponents of I-594 and their advocates in the state of Washington (and other places like Texas and New York where even Sheriffs are recommending that your thrown your SAFE act pistol permit recertification invitation in the garbage), and on the other hand are Alan Gottlieb, Dave Workman, Bob Owens (who seems like a late comer to the pragmatic approach), and…… [read more]

Following the Marines Through Helmand III

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit patrolled the southern Afghanistan village of Hazarjoft on May 21. The unit is planning to move on in the next few weeks. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)


For two years British troops staked out a presence in this small district center in southern Afghanistan and fended off attacks from the Taliban. The constant firefights left it a ghost town, its bazaar broken and empty but for one baker, its houses and orchards reduced to rubble and weeds.

But it took the U.S. Marines, specifically the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, about 96 hours to clear out the Taliban in a fierce battle in the past month and push them back 10 kilometers, or six miles …

The marines’ drive against the Taliban in this large farming region is certainly not finished, and the Taliban have often been pushed out of areas in Afghanistan only to return in force. But for the British forces and for Afghan residents, the result of the recent operation has been palpable …

Major Neil Den-McKay, the officer commanding a company of the Royal Regiment of Scotland based here, said of the U.S. Marine’s assault: “They have disrupted the Taliban’s freedom of movement and pushed them south, and that has created the grounds for us to develop the hospital and set the conditions for the government to come back.” People have started coming back to villages north of the town, he added, saying, “There has been huge optimism from the people.”

For the marines, it was a chance to hit the enemy with the full panoply of their firepower in places where they were confident there were few civilians. The Taliban put up a tenacious fight, rushing in reinforcements in cars and vans from the south and returning again and again to the attack. But they were beaten back in four days by three companies of marines, two of which were dropped in by helicopter to the south east …

Marines from Charlie Company said the reaction from the returning population, mostly farmers, has been favorable. “Everyone says they don’t like the Taliban,” said Captain John Moder, 34, commander of Charlie Company. People had complained that the Taliban stole food, clothes and vehicles from them, he said …

The U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, had a checklist of tasks around the country for the 3,200 marines when they arrived in March. But the majority of them have spent a month in Garmser after changing their original plan to secure a single road here, when they realized how important the area was to the Taliban as an infiltration and supply route to fighters in northern Helmand Province.

“This is an artery and we did not realize that when we squeezed that artery, it would have such an effect,” said First Lieutenant Mark Matzke, the executive officer of Charlie Company.

The whole area was unexpectedly welcoming to the U.S. forces, and eager for security and development, Moder of Charlie Company said.

“Us pushing the Taliban out allows the Afghan National Army to come in,” he said. “This is a real bread basket here. There’s a lot of potential here.”

This southern part of Helmand Province, along the Helmand River valley, is prime agricultural land and still benefits from the grand irrigation plan started by U.S. government assistance in the 1950s and 1960s. It has traditionally been the main producer of wheat and other crops for the country, but in 30 years of war has given way to poppies, providing a large percentage of the crop that has made Afghanistan the producer of 98 percent of the world’s opium.

The region has long been an infiltration route for insurgents coming across the southern border with Pakistan, crossing the border from Baluchistan via an Afghan refugee camp, known as Girdi Jungle, notorious for its drug smuggling and gun running.

The Taliban, and the drug runners, then race across a region known ominously as the desert of death until they reach the river valley, which provides ideal cover of villages and greenery.

With such a large area under their control, they were able to gather in numbers, stockpile weapons and provide a logistics route to send fighters and weapons into northern Helmand and the provinces of Kandahar and Uruzgan beyond.

The Taliban, who kicked out villagers and took over their farmhouses, sometimes even bringing their families from Pakistan to join them, were joined by Arabs and Pakistanis, Den-McKay said.

“The majority of elements in this area are Arab and Pakistani, and the locals detest them,” he said. Some of the Arabs were specialist trainers and some young jihadists from different countries. The commanders were Iranians, which shares a border with Afghanistan to the southwest, as well as Saudis and Pakistanis, he asserted …

The local people complained that the Taliban taxed them heavily on the opium harvest. They demanded up to 13 kilos of opium from every farmer, which was more than the entire harvest of some, so they were forced to go and buy opium to meet the demand, said one farmer Abdul Taher, 45.

“We had a lot of trouble these last two years,” said Sher Ahmad, 32.

His father, Abdul Nabi, the elder of a small hamlet in the village of Hazarjoft, a few miles south of Garmser, said: “We are very grateful for the security. We don’t need your help, just security.”

Villagers were refusing foreign aid because the Taliban were already infiltrating back and threatening anyone who took it, said Matzke, the first lieutenant of Charlie Company …

But the bigger test will come in the next few weeks as the marines move on, the Afghans take over, supported by the British, and the Taliban try to blend in with the returning population and orchestrate attacks, as everyone here expects them to do.

Analysis & Commentary

Take particular note of the words of town elder Abdul Nabi: “We are grateful for the security.  We don’t need your help, just security.”  Similar words were spoken at a meeting in Ghazni with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: ““We don’t want food, we don’t want schools, we want security!” said one woman council member.”

Again, similar words were spoken upon the initial liberation of Garmser by the U.S. Marines: “The next day, at a meeting of Marines and Afghan elders, the bearded, turban-wearing men told Marine Capt. Charles O’Neill that the two sides could “join together” to fight the Taliban. “When you protect us, we will be able to protect you,” the leader of the elders said.”

The narrative emerging is not one of largesse, roads, education, crop rotation, irrigation and all of the other elements of the soft side of counterinsurgency.  To be sure, these elements are necessary and good, but sequentially they come after security.

But the Marines are leaving to pursue the wish list of accomplishments while in Afghanistan.  Garmser, it is already known, will see the Taliban again.  Why the British believe that without the Marines they can hold the terrain is not clear.  Without the continuation of force projection there is no difference between the campaign now and two months ago.  Effecting the conditions for security doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Whack-a-mole counterinsurgency was fought in Iraq prior to the surge, and much of it unsucessfully.  Will the same mistake be repeated in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan Campaign Gripped by Confusion

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan we discussed the possibility that Secretary of Defense Gates would demand changes in the strategic alignment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Promotion of General Petraeus to Commander of CENTCOM without a realignment of U.S. troops to his direct command (they currently report to NATO command) removes the possibility for any strategic changes needed to make the campaign successful.

There are further developments in the potential realignment of forces, and General McNeill has made his position known.

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday he favored talks to end the rotating command among allied forces in the violent south of the country, where the United States has added more troops.

U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill also said he still needed more troops and aircraft for his 50,000-strong force, declaring he was a “fairly frugal dude” and only asked for what he needed.

“I am in favor of a dialogue by the policymakers and the politicians about the consideration of one country leading a multinational headquarters in the south,” McNeill told reporters in Washington by videolink from Kabul.

But as soon as McNeill said these words, politics seemed to spell the end of the potential realignment.

NATO will continue to rotate command of its troops in the violent South of Afghanistan despite U.S. generals’ concerns that the arrangement disrupts operations, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

To minimize problems caused by the changeovers, each nation with major troop contingents in the South will take command for one year rather than the current nine months, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

The announcement appeared to end a debate within NATO that some diplomats saw as an attempt by the United States to take charge of southern Afghanistan, the scene of the heaviest fighting between allied troops and Taliban insurgents.

The new arrangement does mean the United States will command NATO forces in the South — but not until late 2010. The Netherlands and Britain will each have a year in charge first after Canada’s command ends this November.

So the debate has ended with politics as the winner, and the U.S. will take over in the South where the Marines were recently deployed, but not until 2010.  Next in the tortured story, the Marines may be looking at a realignment of forces to focus on Afghanistan.

The Marine Corps may begin shifting its major combat forces out of Iraq to focus on Afghanistan in 2009 if greater security in Iraq allows a reduction of Marines there, top Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the proposal by the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, to focus his force on Afghanistan — which they rejected late last year — could be reconsidered.

“Should we be in a position to move forces into Afghanistan, I think that certainly would come back into consideration,” Mullen said at a Pentagon briefing. He said that he understands it is challenging for the Marines to have “a foot in both countries” and that Conway seeks to “optimize the forces that he has,” but stressed that any shift is likely to occur “down the road.”

Gates said he agrees that the Marine Corps shift is “a possibility” for next year. He explained that when he earlier said the change “wouldn’t happen on my watch,” that was not an unchangeable policy decision — he meant it would not unfold until 2009, when he plans to step down.

But by then the Afghan troops are supposed to take over operations.  “Afghanistan’s national army will have the manpower to take the lead in fighting the Taliban by early 2009, helping NATO forces move toward a support role, the general in charge of Afghan troop training said.”

So NATO stays in charge, while more U.S. Marines are deployed to Afghanistan – under NATO control without a coherent strategy – and the U.S. takes over operations in the South in 2010, but this is irrelevant because by this time the Afghan troops will have taken charge.

Got it?  Actually, with this plan, The Captain’s Journal has a different prediction in mind.  The Taliban win because of our inept vacillations and political games.

Initial Phases of Taliban Operations Complete

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, left with cap, tells reporters on Saturday he is sending fighters to battle U.S. troops in Afghanistan as he seeks a peace deal with the Pakistani government (NPR).

In featured article Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan we discussed the dual pronged approach of the Taliban, one aimed directly at Pakistan and led by Baitullah Mehsud, the other aimed at Afghanistan led by Mullah Omar.  The Taliban in Afghanistan are more disaggregated than they were even a year or two ago, but there is still at least loosely coupled leadership, even if not immediate communication for fear of cell phone tracking.  The Pakistani Taliban are not loosely coupled.  They are well led and tightly controlled.

This loosely coupled leadership has charted the exact course that The Captain’s Journal predicted.   Not all of the kinetic encounters in Afghanistan have been with Taliban,  but the presence of rogue elements other than the Taliban make the security situation even more difficult.  As for the Taliban, they have used guerrilla tactics (fire and melt away), suicide bombings, intimidation tactics directed at the population, and standoff weapons such as VBIEDs and roadside bombs.

Baitullah Mehsud has also directed the Taliban campaign inside Pakistan.  Baitullah Mehsud has recently reached an agreement with the Pakistani government (the text of which can be found at Pakistan’s Daily Times).  It is doubtful that any of the stipulations of the agreement can be verified, since the Pakistani Army will be withdrawing.  The Pakistani people and Army are tired of the violence, but Baitullah Mehsud is talking as if a man who has won his sought-after prize.

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban vowed on Saturday to carry on fighting NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan regardless of negotiations for a peace deal with the government of Pakistan.

Baitullah Mehsud told a group of journalists, invited to his stronghold in the tribal lands of South Waziristan, that he wanted to stop fighting the Pakistan army.

“Fighting between the Taliban and Pakistan is harming Islam and Pakistan. This fighting should come to an end immediately,” Mehsud said.

But he made no commitment about halting attacks in Afghanistan, and said the jihad, or holy war, would carry on.

“Islam does not recognize frontiers and boundaries. Jihad in Afghanistan will continue,” Mehsud said, as guards carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles looked on.

Mark Laity, NATO spokesman in Kabul, said: Such comments come as no surprise to us. Mehsud is a very dangerous man and everybody knows that.”

Just as we discussed in Why is there Jihad?, Mehsud reiterates that they do not recognize boundary lines (or even they thing they represent, nation-states) as legitimate.  If the Pakistan Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban, can accomplish their mission by capitulation of Pakistan rather than costly military operations, then they will take advantage of that.

The “agreements” are already having their intended affect.

In Afghanistan, NATO-led troops say recent peace agreements between the Taliban and the government of neighboring Pakistan are already having a negative impact on security on the Afghan side of the border.

NATO officials say over the past three to four weeks, Taliban attacks along Afghanistan’s eastern border have jumped from 60 to 100 incidents a week.

A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Kabul says the spike in insurgent attacks is the result of decreased activity by the Pakistani army on the Pakistan side of the border.

Whenever force projection is implemented and the small footprint model for counterinsurgency is rejected, U.S. forces have had success.  The Marines have recently had such success in and around Garmser.  The initial phases of Taliban operations are complete.  Pakistan has succombed to Taliban pressure.  Tehrik-i-Taliban will soon be turning their attention more fully to Afghanistan.  Will we reciprocate?

Letters from War

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

From Mark Schultz.  His Letters from War served as the centerpiece of the U.S. Army’s 2004 “Be Safe—Make It Home” campaign.

Memorial Day

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Arlington National Cemetery, Government issued headstones of Section 34 looking south.

Here is a sentiment with which The Captain’s Journal completely agrees.

They were simple instructions. If you know people serving in the military, pay thanks. When you hear the national anthem, stand and remove your hat. Take to your feet when the flag passes by. Never ask veterans whether they’ve killed someone, or seen dead people, or lost friends in combat. If you haven’t served, don’t pretend to know the military experience, Marine Corps Cpl. Shawn MacDonald told Bow middle-schoolers at their Memorial Day assembly yesterday.

“A lot of people would like to relate to the individuals who’ve served in the military, and they tell them, ‘We understand; we know what you’ve been through,’ ” said MacDonald, 22. “I think that if you could refrain from telling people you understand, you would pay us a great service.”

And come Memorial Day, honor more than those who died in combat, said MacDonald, who returned to his Bow home only this week after serving in Iraq and being stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Think about those who have lost loved ones in combat, and about those who currently have relatives serving overseas. And, he said, think about those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“They continue to live on with the memories and the pain,” said MacDonald, 22. “For those people, we really need to pay our respects.”

Right before deploying to Iraq in 2007, my son said “good training, good weapons, good people, we should be fine.”  I recall it vividly, since it was juxtaposed with another statement he made to me earlier without really looking my direction: “I want to be buried at Arlington.”

No response was needed on my part.  I just nodded after he looked over at me.  It was his way of telling me that if he perished, he belonged with his fellow warriors.  Many hours of prayer and lost sleep ensued over the next seven months.  My son saw much combat but returned home.  But there are men who don’t, and whether warriors are deployed, home or at Arlington (or a like cemetery), the wars take a heavy toll on the loved ones of our warriors – spouses, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.

Never forget.

May 25 2008 Recommended Reading

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

DoD Live.

Our buddy Jack Holt with New Media Outreach with OSD at the Pentagon has begun a new blog called DoD Live.  It is professional, good to the eye, and already active.  We expect good things from it.  Congratulations Jack.  Welcome to blogging.

CTC Sentinel, May 2008, Vol. 1, Issue 6.

The CTC Sentinel, produced by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, has quickly become a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand combatting terrorism.

Olmert and Assad’s Peace of the Lame, Pajamas Media.

It is preposterous to assume that Olmert had enough clout and power left to broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria, or that Assad actually wants a deal.  The Captain’s Journal believes that Olmert is a short timer, and the next Israeli PM will be Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Fall of Lebanon, Barry Rubin, GLORIA Center.

“Lebanon will not disappear as a country on the map, of course–contrary to the Iranian alliance’s intentions toward Israel–but it is now going to be part of the Iranian bloc. This is not only bad for Lebanon itself but also terrifying for other Arab regimes. The Saudis deserve credit for trying to save Lebanon. But what will happen now as the balance of power shifts? They are less inclined to resist and more likely to follow the West’s course and adopt an appeasement policy.”

Pro-Syrian (Hezbollah-Friendly) General to become Lebanese President, W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

… he is a pro-Syrian commander of the Lebanese Army, and I can tell you from my personal conversation with him, he is also pro-Hezbollah, believing that Hezbollah’s Taliban-like kingdom within the sovereign state of Lebanon is acceptable because they resist foreign aggression.

The Sergeant Lost Within, New York Times

Never forget the wounded and disabled.

Why is there Jihad?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

A common misunderstanding among some on the far right or of the libertarian stripe (e.g., Patrick Buchanan, Ron Paul) is that the sole reason for the existence of the global jihad is the presence of U.S. troops on holy soil, i.e., Saudi Arabia.  It is, after all, the stated raison d’etre for 9/11 hijackers.  But this myth becomes muddled when it is pointed out that the Hamburg cell initially intended to wage jihad elsewhere.

Bin Ladin canceled the East Asia part of the planes operation in the spring of 2000. He evidently decided it would be too difficult to coordinate this attack with the operation in the United States. As for Hazmi and Mihdhar, they had left Bangkok a few days before Khallad and arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000.

Meanwhile, the next group of al Qaeda operatives destined for the planes operation had just surfaced in Afghanistan. As Hazmi and Mihdhar were deploying from Asia to the United States, al Qaeda’s leadership was recruiting and training four Western-educated men who had recently arrived in Kanda-har. Though they hailed from four different countries-Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen-they had formed a close-knit group as students in Hamburg, Germany. The new recruits had come to Afghanistan aspiring to wage jihad in Chechnya. But al Qaeda quickly recognized their potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad.

Even further research proves that rather than U.S. presence in the Middle East being the raison d’etre for 9/11, it was merely the raison du jour that Bin Laden found convenient for his purposes.  A far different vision is being offered at the moment.

Osama bin Laden vowed in an audio tape to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary to continue to fight the Jewish state and its allies in the West.

The al Qaedaleader, who has placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said it was at the heart of the Muslim battle with the West and an inspiration to the 19 bombers who carried out the attacks on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.

“We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on Earth,” he said in the message, posted on an Islamist website on Friday.

Bin Laden said Israel’s anniversary celebrations were a reminder that it did not exist 60 years ago, and had been established on land seized from Palestinians by force.

“This is evidence that Palestine is our land, and the Israelis are invaders and occupiers who should be fought,” he said in the tape, which was addressed to the Western public.

The Saudi-born militant also said that decades of peace initiatives had failed to establish a Palestinian state, and the West had proved time and again that it sided with Israel.

“The participation of Western leaders with the Jews in this celebration confirms that the West backs this Jewish occupation of our land, and that they stand in the Israeli corner against us,” he said. “They proved this in practice by sending their forces to southern Lebanon.”

An important (but mostly ignored) event occurred recently in which Ayman al-Zawahiri took questions from global jihadists concerning the future of the movement.

Zawahiri highlights several specific injustices that he feels effectively demonstrate the stark contrast between Qaradawi’s decision to postpone fighting and the Jihadist movement, which advocates violence immediately. They include Arab peace accords and trade with Israel, Israel’s blockade of Palestinians in Gaza, Arab military courts for trying Muslims, Arab hosting of U.S. military forces, particularly in Egypt, the prevalence of Western “vulgar media” and the secular constitution and laws of Arab countries.

Later, he gives us yet another justification for the jihad.

Zawahiri last discussed Lebanon in his public rhetoric in January and February 2007, when he twice condemned the presence of United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon.

Zawahiri has given us a list of at least nine reasons for violent jihad, only one of which has anything to do with Arab hosting of U.S. military forces.  One significant issue Zawahiri addresses pertains to the strong differences between al Qaeda and HAMAS.  One reason they will never see eye to eye is the lack of global vision within HAMAS.

Over the past year, Zawahiri and other senior al-Qa’ida figures have been waging a vigorous propaganda campaign against the Palestinian organization HAMAS. Although Jihadists unanimously denounce Israel they continue to disagree over whether HAMAS should be considered a legitimate Islamic movement. For Zawahiri, HAMAS’ embrace of nationalism, democracy, and its legacy in the Muslim Brotherhood—arguably the three things al-Qa’ida hates most—delegitimizes the group.

Nationalism is evil and out of accord with the global aspirations of al Qaeda.  Nation-states are not just not helpful, or even a necessary evil.  They are quite literally an obstacle to jihad, not because they share the loyalties of jihadists, but rather, because they fundamentally don’t acquiesce to the vision of world conquest in the name of Islam and the forcible implementation of Sharia law.  What we see as a transnational insurgency is to the jihadists simply a world wide struggle.  They don’t recognize nation-states as legitimate.

It doesn’t stop with al Qaeda.  The most powerful man in Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has global aspirations as well.

“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.”

There are other significant revelations in this question and answer session by Zawahiri, including much discussion over the jihadist fear that Iraq is a lost cause for them; they have been defeated.  The entire source document at the Combatting Terrorism Center, West Point, is worth the time to study and analyze in detail.

There is a not so fine line between trying to understand the motivations of the enemy and naively regurgitating their propaganda.  Repeating the myth that U.S. presence on foreign soil caused the 9/11 hijackers ignores the other very real objection that, according to other jihadists, the U.S. was far too slow to react to protect Muslim people from the Serbs.  Whether the U.S. is deployed across the globe or the U.S. didn’t deploy quickly enough, it’s all propaganda – convenient excuses used to brainwash young jihadists.  It is yet another step into the danger zone to mold foreign policy based on enemy propaganda and talking points.

Hezbollah as Iranian Occupier

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Iranian flag displayed on equipment used to build a new road through southern Lebanon mountains with money from Iran.

Abu Muqawama had a post a few days ago entitled the resistance as oppressor, saying in part:

In the eyes of many Lebanese, the resistance is now an occupying power. How will Hizbollah — which has in the past divided the world into the oppressors and the oppressed — adjust to the ugly new reality where they are seen as the former?

To which The Captain’s Journal responded (in the comments) that Hezbollah has always been an occupying force.  But let’s back up a bit.

As the reader knows by now, Hezbollah flexed their muscle in Lebanon a few days back with the Lebanese Army basically watching events without responding.  Walid Phares argues (persuasively) that the mini-war was fought over a closed circuit telecommunications system and whether they would be allowed to have such a thing (since it violates the law).  Well, not only can they have it, but now they have been given essential veto power over all government decisions.

Abu Muqawama referred to Hezbollah as at one time a “resistance” force, wondering how they would transition to a new role.  John Robb – who is also smart and always an interesting read – does essentially the same thing.

May’s dispute between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah is an interesting example of the contest between hollow states and virtual states over legitimacy and sovereignty. As in most conflicts between gutted nation-states and aggressive virtual states, Hezbollah’s organic legitimacy trumped the state’s in the contest (an interesting contrast between voluntary affiliation and default affiliation by geography). The fighting was over in six hours.

Catch that?  “Organic legitimacy.”  Nice phrase, and it sounds erudite to boot.  The only problem is that this is as wrongheaded as it can possibly be.  W. Thomas Smith gives us another view of things in his most recent article at Human Events, entitled Lights Out Temporarily in Lebanon.

The proverbial lights have gone out in Lebanon: But for those of us having faith in that country’s swelling pro-democracy majority, the lights will only be out temporarily.

For now, however, it’s dark: In the wake of last week’s shameful concessions to the terrorist group, Hizballah, on the part of the Lebanese government and the legitimate army — which barely fired a shot in defense of the Lebanese people — Hizballah has achieved a never-before-realized strengthening of its position in that country.

This upper hand was achieved by force and against the will of most of the Lebanese people: Christians, Druze, and yes, Muslims, both Sunni and many Shiia. What makes it worse is that the international community — which has been warned time-and-again, heard appeals for assistance from various pro-democracy groups, and vowed to support the government, the army, and the will of the majority – did nothing to prevent Hizballah’s thugs from attacking the state and winning.

Let’s boil it down: Hizballah — trained and financed by Iran and operationally supported by Syria — contends it is a legitimate “resistance” against foreign aggression. The group also considers itself to be a fair and viable Shiia political party (it does indeed hold seats in the parliament), and a social movement providing services to Lebanon’s Shiia population (but no one receives social services without pledges of allegiance and promises of service to Hizballah.). In reality, Hizballah is a heavily weaponized, Talibanesque army of terrorists with tremendous global reach and existing as a sub-kingdom within the sovereign state of Lebanon.

Hizballah was ordered into action nearly two weeks ago after the state dismissed the security chief of Beirut International Airport (after discovering he was Hizballah), and attempted to shut down Hizballah’s extensive telecommunications system.

Refusing to accept the government’s decisions, Hizballah launched a series of attacks, May 7, from its stronghold in Beirut’s Dahiyeh, as well as from other so-called “security squares” across the country which the legitimate army and police had previously deemed off-limits to national policing.

Deploying from Dahiyeh, Hizballah fighters retrieved pre-staged weapons and quickly seized most of largely Sunni west Beirut (The group wisely avoided the Christian areas of east Beirut.). Fighting also broke out in the Chouf mountain region — where in several clashes, Hizballah’s forces were mauled by pro-government civilian fighters — the Bekaa Valley, and in-and-near the northern city of Tripoli.

Several of my sources have since independently confirmed that many captured and killed soldiers operating with Hizballah were indeed Syrian and Iranian: One source confirmed many of the captured soldiers “spoke Farsi and were unable to speak Arabic.” Another said Hizballah fighters operating in Beirut were “specifically ordered” not to communicate in the presence of Lebanese civilians because it would be discovered they were foreign (Iranian) soldiers.

“Syrian intelligence officers never quit Lebanon [after Syrian troops were officially kicked out in 2005],” Sami Nader, a political science professor at St. Joseph University in Beirut, tells HUMAN EVENTS. “And all the security and military apparatus put in place is an integrated system equipped and managed by the Iranians.”

Farsi.  The Persian language.  Hezbollah was never a resistance movement.  To be sure, they funded medical care and other necessities, but only for a price.  Their price was absolute loyalty.  Hezbollah is nothing more than troops of Iranian occupation.  They always have been foreign occupiers, and as long as they exist, they always will be.  They have no organic legitimacy, no matter how sophisticated it sounds to say so.

More ROE Problems

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago


From (h/t Andy McCarthy at National Review’s Corner).

A top Taliban commander linked to the deaths of British soldiers has escaped German special forces because they were not allowed to kill him under their rules of engagement.

It highlights growing fears that NATO forces in Afghanistan are not fighting to the same set of rules as each other.

The commander who escaped is known as the Baghlan Bomber after masterminding a 2007 attack on a factory in Baghlan province which killed 79 people.

German special forces recently had him in their sights in Afghanistan.

But he escaped capture by the elite KSK troops and the German government will only let their soldiers fire in self-defence.

The bomber has also organised ambushes against British military convoys.


Any review of the standing rules of engagement CJCSI 3121.01A (along with supporting or source documentation, LOAC, LAW, white papers, opinions, etc.) or rules for the use of force CJCSI 3121.02 or the theater-specific rules of engagement for Iraq (Wikileak) brings immediate attention to the position – whether right or wrong, implemented correctly or not – that the combatant may defend himself.

What isn’t apparent is that he can take any offensive action.  This is why General Kearney gave two U.S. snipers such undeserved grief about eight months ago for positively identifying and targeting a Taliban commander (threatening charges of murder against them).  The Taliban commander had not picked up a weapon and targeted the snipers.  After this, we had predicted that the billet of sniper would disappear from the scene in the Army (and maybe Marines).

Lawyers and theoreticians (and some very disconnected Army Generals) wish to connect snipers and distributed operations to the notion of assassinations.  The Congressional Research Service has weighed in on this very thing.

In time of war, assassination appears to be distinguished in some discussions from cases of lawful killing, because the former is carried out in a “treacherous” manner.  “Treacherous” is not defined in the Hague Convention IV, but does not appear to be interpreted to foreclose operations in time of war involving the element of surprise.  However, putting a price on the head of an enemy appears to be regarded by some as an act which would render a resulting killing an assassination, as distinguished from a lawful attack on legitimate military targets, including the enemy chain of command.  A review of historical discussions of assassination suggests that this may be, in part, because by putting a price on the head of an enemy, one could be encouraging treachery by those close to the target.

So putting a price on someone’s head may be interpreted as encouraging “treachery,” but the rules do not appear to foreclose operations in time of war involving the element of surprise.  But this is an interpretation, and without clear direction from command, military leadership reflexively returns to the rules of engagement which do not include any concept of offensive operations.  Self defense is the hub upon which the rules turn.  Snipers and countersnipers are always on offensive maneuvers, having nothing to do with immediate self defense (unless something has gone wrong).

Most NATO forces have approximately the same rules of engagment.  Polish snipers have previously worked under different rules when operating in Fallujah.

Eighteen elite Special Operations snipers hid inside the city, picking targets and reporting back on enemy movements. Polish snipers working alongside U.S. forces had been given less restrictive rules of engagement by their government, said a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct access to information about them. “The Poles could kill people we couldn’t,” he said. For example, he said, American snipers couldn’t shoot unless they saw a weapon in the target’s hands, while the Poles were allowed to fire at anyone on the streets of Fallujah holding a cell phone after 8:00 p.m. “They had an eighty percent kill rate at six hundred yards,” the intelligence official said. “That’s incredible range.”

The work of snipers is roughly the same as was the case here which is why the comparison is being made.  The offending practice is offensive operations.  Thus, no matter who is escaping and how certain one is of the identity of the enemy, if no weapon is being brandished, no shot can be taken.

The Taliban commander lives to kill U.S. or NATO warriors yet another day, and lawcraft wins again over against the proper conduct of war.

Prior: Rules of Engagement

Force Projection as the Precondition for Security in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The Guardian recently carried an important story of a tribal meeting in Afghanistan, and while the tribal elders were not in communication with Fort Leavenworth, it was nonetheless a laboratory for counterinsurgency.

Shura is the Pashto word for a meeting. Every week the local elders gather at the Bermel district centre for a shura, where they discuss their problems, grievances and anything else that comes up. I was at one last November, on Thanksgiving, and I wanted to go along and see what progress had been made.

At the outset the leader of the Bermel Shura thanked the Americans for their help with development in the area. “Security is improving,” he told the room, full to capacity, and “the Taliban do not like what you are doing”.

Regardless of his opening statement about security, he highlighted the ever-present fear of the Taliban, and of reprisals.

“Maybe what I say will be reported to the Taliban after two hours. There are a lot of Taliban in the mountains,” he said.

“It is my request that the coalition forces put pressure on the Pakistan government, because without the support of the Pakistan government, the Taliban cannot cross the border.”

I felt like I was listening to a broken record. Here, again, Pakistan was being blamed for the troubles of Afghanistan. He went on to say that he felt the Taliban were weak, too weak to attack properly this year, but they “have power to shoot rockets at us, to replace the IEDs.”

 An Afghan National Army commander addresses the elders of Bermel district, Paktika province at their weekly Shura. Photograph: John D McHugh Then an Afghan National Army commander stood up to speak. He told his countrymen that his goal was for security and peace.

“When somebody is doing bad things in your village, you should correct him,” he told the men, and “if that is no good, you must report him to coalition forces.”

He spoke at length, as seems to be required at a shura. He reminded the villagers that they must be active in the fight against insurgents.

“We have suffered for 30 years. When some foreigners come, you should stop them. If I go to your village, all the people will know I am not from your tribe. When I am talking to you guys you will recognise immediately that I am not from the Waziri tribe. Why don’t you follow the Taliban day and night?”

He insisted that the people must support the Afghan army in their battle against the Taliban.

Next it was the turn of Captain Rivaux of the civil affairs team. He started by expressing his disappointment with the week. He spoke of problems with contracts, elders encouraging their villagers to disrupt work on roads and flood protection. “I hear a lot that the security is improving, but it’s really not,” he said.

Captain Rivaux should be congratulated and advised to continue his good work.  To use an expression by Michael Yon, The Captain’s Journal has been on PAO “happy tours,” and we don’t like happy tours.  He isn’t a PAO, yet he is in contact with someone other than his military counterparts (as a civil affairs officer).  He is willing to engage in truth-telling, and then to point to disappointing behavior.  The Captain’s Journal likes field grade officers who tell the truth.  Continuing:

“You are all part of the plan for security,” he pointed out. “When you let the enemy move through your village, you might as well pick up a gun and go with him, because you are helping them.”

Then he went on to tell them a story. “The people in Bandar, the Taliban came to their village, and they picked up rocks, and they said, you have your guns, but we will protect our country with stones. And the Taliban were outnumbered by the people with rocks. And they left. No one was injured.”

Just as the last time I was here, the Afghans did not look impressed. They listened, but there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for attacking the Taliban with rocks.

After the meeting, I stayed behind to talk with some of the elders. They spoke freely to me, but still the Taliban fear was present. One of them asked me not to show his face in my photographs, or use his name. They told me of their hopes for Afghanistan. They are tired of fighting they said.

I asked about their feeling towards the American troops, whether they really thought that they were helping, or if they were contributing to the problems. They told me that they were “very, very thankful” for the support of the US troops. One of them said: “If the Americans leave Afghanistan, we will be left with a lot of suffering.”

It seems to me that there is plenty of suffering in Afghanistan already, so I hate to imagine what he thinks would happen to make things worse.

But if Captain Rivaux is disappointed, the problems in Afghanistan are in a way the same as they were in the Anbar Province, and in a very important way different.  The Sunni tribes in Anbar were heavily armed and very stubborn.  The U.S. Marines had their hands full for many months, and al Qaeda never had a chance when they embarked upon their campaign of brutality.  But when Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha finally began his fight with al Qaeda he had the protection of U.S. forces day and night (such as an M1A1 tank parked in his front yard).  Force projection (and population protection) was and still is a precondition for the population standing on their own.  Captain Rivaux’s disappointment is real and energetic, but misplaced.  Afghanistan needs U.S. troops.

Another related report comes to us from Reuters.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are getting weaker, the U.S. ambassador tells local councillors in the eastern city of Ghazni, but he is met by a wall of shaking heads and tutting noises; ‘no, no’, some reply.

While Afghan government and international forces point to some success in restricting Taliban guerrilla attacks across the south and east, suicide bombs — 140 last year — roadside bombs, kidnappings and threats have created an atmosphere of fear.

“We don’t want food, we don’t want schools, we want security!” said one woman council member.

“Ok, let me ask you,” replied U.S. ambassador William Wood. “Are the Taliban weaker now?”

“No,” the councillors said, shaking their heads.

“But are these Taliban or criminals?” Wood asked.

“Taliban,” they replied.

This is a stupid conversation.  Just stupid.  We should be asking the population whether security is better rather than telling them it is so.  The conversation heads even further down hill when the word ‘but’ is used, and frankly, it makes no difference to the people whether the troublemakers are criminals or Taliban (or both), because winning hearts and minds doesn’t apply to the troublemakers whether their motivation is religion or wealth.  They’re either jihadists or members of organized crime.  They must be killed.

Force projection is the precondition for the population being able to stand on their own.  They cannot fight the Taliban right now.  They must see safety come to their towns and villages, and they must be armed, trained, and convinced that the U.S. won’t desert them.  Oh, and by the way, did you take note of what they say that they need?  Food?  Schools?  No.  Security.  We have a long way to go.

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