The Perfect Rifle

Herschel Smith · 06 Nov 2014 · 8 Comments

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

Showdown at the Karzai Korral: By-Passing the Karzai Government

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 9 months ago

It appears that the showdown between Hamid Karzai and ISAF may finally be here.

An article in today’s Washington Examiner leads with this:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to ban private security contractors and dismantle the NATO teams helping to rebuild the country is a high-stakes ploy that will make efforts to aid the Afghan people and contain the Taliban insurgency even more difficult, experts said. Karzai made the announcement in Germany over the weekend, saying it was part of his plan to speed up the process of withdrawal by foreign countries in the coming year. The reconstruction teams operate outside the Karzai government’s control in helping to build schools and provide basic services in remote parts of the country. The level of corruption inside the Afghan government is so high that many officials — both Western and Afghan — say the jobs can’t be done under Afghan government control.

The reaction from the U.S. and ISAF has been understandably muted.
U.S. officials in Afghanistan have not criticized Karzai’s statement, downplaying any suggestion it represented a rift between NATO and the Afghan government. U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Forces, said “ISAF and President Karzai share the same goal of building capacity within the Afghan government to provide security and government services to the Afghan people. We will continue to support his efforts to eliminate the need for private security firms and provincial reconstruction teams, because they provide services that ultimately the Afghan government must provide.”

This is the sort of thing that is said at a business meeting when the boss has said something incredibly stupid.  You cannot point out the stupidity to everyone.   Manners (and your continued employment) demand a bit of finesse.   So, Lt. Col. John Dorrian has said, “Of course we support the goal of the Afghan government providing these services.”   What he leaves unsaid, however, is, “There is no way in Hellesponte that Karzai or his cronies should be trusted to provide these services any time in the forseeable future.”
The article goes on to quote an unnamed source on this very point.
The obvious motive for Karzai to seek an end to the autonomous Provincial Reconstruction Teams is to capture yet another money stream.   But the article hints at an additional motive: political survival.
For Karzai, a public flirtation with the Taliban, while hastening divorce proceedings with the West, makes good internal politics.

“Karzai realizes that time for him is running out with the 2014 deadline looming,” one U.S. official said. “Karzai is beating his chest to show that he is not in the pocket of the U.S. Unfortunately, he has filled his pockets with the money of the Afghan people.”

The point has been made many times and in many places, but here we have a fresh example of why it is so self-defeating to announce dates of withdrawal.  Not only does it motivate the enemy by feeding the belief that they can outlast us, but it creates a political vacuum as the withdrawal date looms.

Whatever one may think of Karzai as a leader or ally against the Islamofascists, he has at least gotten this much right: if he is going to continue as head of the Afghan government (and keep his head, literally), he needs to build his own power base and legitimacy that does not depend upon American support.  In the long run, that is a good and necessary development.   In the short term, when the Afghan government and military are too weak to resist Islamist attacks, such thinking works directly counter to our efforts and makes victory that much harder to secure.

A military official, who works closely with reconstruction teams in the nation’s dangerous southern provinces, said that Karzai’s grandstanding on issues like taking control of reconstruction teams “is hurting the mission.” The official said that corruption in the local and national government has hampered efforts to bring needed supplies and services to the Afghan people.

“This shouldn’t be about politics and trying to play nice with Karzai,” the U.S. military official said. “The Afghan people don’t trust Karzai, so they don’t trust us because we support him. Our soldiers and Marines have given everything. What for, if we’re not going to finish what we started and do what we need to do to get the job done.”

It is worth pointing out, as well, that for all of the back-tracking and recent talk about staying committed to Afghan security, the Obumble Administration has not done a very good job convincing Karzai that the U.S. can be relied upon for support after 2014.

Time for a showdown

This is an intolerable situation for the U.S.  It is time for a showdown of sorts with Karzai.

Karzai and his cronies have been shrewd enough to realize that most NGO’s and private firms cannot function in Afghanistan without security.   By shutting down the private security firms, Karzai has made himself the only game in town.  These aid agencies are literally at Karzai’s mercy and can easily be intimidated and bent to his will.

The U.S. and ISAF are the only, other rivals in the game.  It stands to reason that any activities undertaken by these forces are effectively outside of Karzai’s control and, by extension, corruption.  Karzai is embarking on a campaign to terminate or re-route every aid project not under his control.

Rather than allow that to continue, however, the U.S. and ISAF must keep the PRT’s and any, other effective aid organizations (such as the one Tim Lynch works for) under their protective cover– or at least away from Karzai’s.

Furthermore, not only should the U.S. continue direct funding to the PRT’s (to the extent that they are effective) and maintain their autonomy, the U.S. should re-direct, over some period of time, a greater share of funding directly to local, U.S. military commanders.

Battalion and company commanders in Iraq proved extremely adept at using their so-called “emergency funds” to leverage their positions in their area of operations.  Commanders in Afghanistan can be trusted with the money to a far greater degree than the Karzai government, and these commanders, at the ground level, will know how best to use it.

The only question is how far Karzai is willing to go to challenge this sort of thing.

Right now the U.S. military and the ISAF are the only things that work even half-effectively in Afghanistan.  We can maximize this asset if we by-pass the Karzai government and put the aid directly into the hands of our commanders, giving them the broad discretion to use the money as they see fit, including the ability to hire contractors for aid projects and development and, if appropriate, hiring local security forces as a multiplier.

Will Karzai order the ANA or ANP to confront the U.S. military?  Not likely.  The U.S. and ISAF are providing much of the training of the Afghan security forces; they heavily depend upon U.S. officers and logistics.

The U.S. can and should continue to talk a good game.  Like Lt. Col. Dorrian, the unified message should be that we support the goal of a strong Afghan government and the rule of law.   The unspoken message— the message privately conveyed to Karzai– is that they have yet to demonstrate a readiness to handle aid money and aid projects necessary at this time to win the war.

If the U.S. is not willing to do this, then it is simply a question of time until Karzai has so hamstrung our efforts there that a 2014 withdrawal is no longer an option but an inevitability.

Do not misunderstand: I do not favor staying in Afghanistan on a permanent basis.  But the U.S. cannot afford to leave in abject defeat, either.

Is Iran the Biggest Problem in Iraq?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

A few days ago McClatchy published an exposé on an Iranian General they called the most powerful man in Iraq.  A short selection will be reproduced below.

One of the most powerful men in Iraq isn’t an Iraqi government official, a militia leader, a senior cleric or a top U.S. military commander or diplomat,

He’s an Iranian general, and at times he’s more influential than all of them.

Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani commands the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, an elite paramilitary and espionage organization whose mission is to expand Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

As Tehran’s point man on Iraq, he funnels military and financial support to various Iraqi factions, frustrating U.S. attempts to build a pro-Western democracy on the rubble of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

According to Iraqi and American officials, Suleimani has ensured the elections of pro-Iranian politicians, met frequently with senior Iraqi leaders and backed Shiite elements in the Iraqi security forces that are accused of torturing and killing minority Sunni Muslims.

“Whether we like him (Suleimani) or not, whether Americans like him or not, whether Iraqis like him or not, he is the focalpoint of Iranian policy in Iraq,” said a senior Iraqi official who asked not to be identified so he could speak freely. “The Quds Force have played it all, political, military, intelligence, economic. They are Iranian foreign policy in Iraq.”

McClatchy reported on March 30 that Suleimaniintervened to halt the fighting between mostly Shiite Iraqi security forces and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in the southern city of Basra. Iraqi officials now confirm that in addition to that meeting, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani personally met Suleimaniat a border crossing to make a direct appeal for help.

Iraqi and U.S. officials told McClatchy that Suleimani also has: [i] Slipped into Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heavily fortified seat of the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi government, in April 2006 to try to orchestrate the selection of a new Iraqi prime minister. Iraqi officials said that audacious visit was Suleimani’s only foray into the Green Zone; American officials said he may have been there more than once, [ii] Built powerful networks that gather intelligence on American and Iraqi military operations. Suleimani’s network includes every senior staffer in Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, beginning with the ambassador, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials, and [iii] Trained and directed Shiite Muslim militias and given them cash and arms, including mortars and rockets fired at the U.S. Embassy and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, the sophisticated roadside bombs that have caused hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi casualties.

At Abu Muqawama, Dr. iRack read this report and said:

The story is part of the growing drum beat of Iran stories Dr. iRack has pointed to this week (see here and here). There is clearly a concerted effort underway by the Bush administration (which began during the April Petraeus/Crocker testimony and President Bush’s April 10th speech) to prime the media pump and ratchet up the perceived threat posed by Iran’s “malign” activities in Iraq.

To which The Captain’s Journal responds, rubbish.  We have had twenty five years of experience reading Knight-Ridder / McClatchy due to it being the exclusive supplier for our very own hometown newspaper.  It is unapologetically and unabashedly biased and leftist.  This has consistently been the case for well over a quarter of a century, which is the amount of time we have invested in this rag and pitiful excuse for news.

It might take on the trappings of erudition to critique the McClatchy report as part of the “growing drumbeat on Iran,” but erudite it isn’t.  If they thought that this report would even be perceived as shilling for the administration, they would have killed it even if sourced better than any story even done at McCatchy.  In fact, this might be only the second instance of actual reporting we have ever seen from McClatchy (the first being a good report on snipers in Ramadi).

Along with this same theme, NBC News’ Richard Engel had an interesting post today about the role of Iran in Iraq, sourcing his information to “senior U.S. military officials,” duplicated below.

Over a meal this weekend at a Green Zone chow hall (chicken salad and Baskin-Robbins pralines and cream ice cream, a KBR delight), I had a revealing conversation with two senior U.S. military officials.

“We’ve pretty much defeated al-Qaida here,” one of the military officers said. “If Iran stopped doing what it’s doing, things would dramatically change.”

“You think that would be it, a turning point? If Iran stopped backing militias, you think things would get much better?” I asked.

“No doubt. It would be dramatic,” replied the officer.

For many military commanders there is a feeling of euphoria that the U.S. troop “surge” and the top commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus managed to reduce violence, especially in Sunni areas.

The surge has become something sacred for the military in Iraq. It was a plan that worked. It has been entered into the annals of history – at least here – as a success, not to be questioned. The commanders I spoke to this weekend were angry Iran, they claim, is trying to ruin their surge.

The frustration is understandable. Sunni radicals have gone quiet, thanks in part to the “Sons of Iraq” program in which former insurgents (mostly Sunnis) are paid to fight al-Qaida. (Critics say the program is just arming the insurgents to fight another day).

Anbar province, once considered a lost region overrun by Sunni radicals, is now mostly calm. It is the Shiite areas, especially where Iran is strong, like in Basra and Sadr City, which are now in revolt.

U.S. military commanders deduce that if Iran stopped stoking the fires of conflict, both Sunnis and Shiites would stop fighting long enough for Iraq to blossom into the prosperous nation that U.S. officials promised and that the U.S. military needs to prevent failure in Iraq.

Perhaps they are correct. It would be logical to assume that if both sides stop fighting, there would be less bloodshed and more room for dialogue.

He goes on to wonder if this is the “flavor of the month” enemy in Iraq.  Contrary to this fear and Dr. iRack’s diminutive analysis of the McClatchy report, we vote that Iran is a powerful actor in Iraq – but then, we were saying this before it became popular.  Perhaps our warnings were prescient.

But the reader will not detect rumblings of war at The Captain’s Journal.  Rather, we will advocate as we always have, i.e., full engagement in the covert warfare in which Iran has engaged against the U.S. for twenty five years.  The U.S. is so powerful and resourced so well in this type of warfare, yet engages so poorly in it, that it can only be the fault of the CIA.

In this case, there is a solution for General Suleimani.  It is selective targeting, analogous to the same for Mughniyeh.  It will get their attention far more effectively than deployment of yet another carrier to the Persian gulf.


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