Antifa And Black Lives Matter Intelligence Report

Herschel Smith · 23 Aug 2020 · 8 Comments

Just who is Antifa? The American manifestation of the "Black Bloc" isn't new.  Antifa existed before now in Europe, but appears to have morphed into a more ad hoc conglomeration of people who have certain ideologies in common, some of whom appear to have been overseas. Department of Homeland Security intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers antifa and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The…… [read more]

Decision Time for Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

On July 26, 2006, David Frum posted on “Iraq: New Plan Wanted.”  David set before us the current situation in Iraq, and then taking off of Peter Galbraith’s op-ed piece in the NYT, recommended a backup plan for Iraq that involves a redeployment of troops to northern Iraq in Kurdish territory.

As an alternative to using Shiite and American troops to fight the insurgency in Iraq’s Sunni center, the administration should encourage the formation of several provinces into a Sunni Arab region with its own army, as allowed by Iraq’s Constitution. Then the Pentagon should pull its troops from this Sunni territory and allow the new leaders to establish their authority without being seen as collaborators.

Seeing as we cannot maintain the peace in Iraq, we have but one overriding interest there today — to keep Al Qaeda from creating a base from which it can plot attacks on the United States. Thus we need to have troops nearby prepared to re-engage in case the Sunni Arabs prove unable to provide for their own security against the foreign jihadists.

This would be best accomplished by placing a small “over the horizon

Troops in Afghanistan Redeploying to Barracks

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

Thematic in our discussions here have been that the best counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy is to provide the people with security.  Mothers want to know that their children can go to school and play in the yards and streets without fear of harm.  To use a heavily worn expression, the way to “win the hearts and minds of the people” is to give them peace.  This is true in Iraq at least of tribes and sects (the Sunni want protection from the Shia, the Shia from the Sunni, etc.).

We have shown that the force size to effect this security has been too small in Iraq, and that trust in local troops yields both uncertain results and an impedance to U.S. troops.  Moreover, constantly offensive operations against guerrilla forces is a tactic that has a proven track record.  Contrary to this, forces in Iraq, after the initial campaign to overthrow the regime, redeployed to well-gaurded bases, while failing to share the risk with the people and consistently conduct COIN operations against the enemy.  As an example of the success of properly conducted COIN operations, our good friend Michael Fumento has recently blogged directly from Ramadi concerning the strategic success of Combat Operation Posts.  These posts, scattered throughout Ramadi, ensure that the U.S. troops are close to both the people and the enemy, while also forcing daily operations against the enemy.

Contrary to this proven COIN strategy, UPI is reporting that troops in Afghanistan are redeploying to their barracks, thereby committing the same mistake we made in Iraq.

More than a month after Pakistan inked a peace deal with local leaders in the restive tribal region straddling its frontier with Afghanistan, some NATO troops are trying the same tactic on their side of the border, redeploying to barracks and relying on tribal militias to keep Taliban insurgents in check.

The truces are part of a new “hearts and minds” strategy on both sides of the border, as coalition and Pakistani authorities attempt to engage local tribal leaders and woo them away from Taliban extremists.

But the NATO deal, in four northern districts of Helmand province, comes as evidence mounts that the Pakistani truce in Waziristan has failed to reduce cross-border infiltration by Taliban fighters looking to engage coalition troops in Afghanistan.

So the strategy here is to let the tribes in Afghanistan send their fathers and sons to wage war against better trained and equipped fighters, potentially losing their lives, with these fighters being of the same or similar religious persuasion, while the U.S. troops redeploy to their barracks in safety.  Stunningly, this is the strategy employed as part of the doctrine to “win the hearts and minds of the people.”  The UPI article does make mention of one very important factor.

“The effort to engage the Taliban’s tribal base makes sense,” said Haqqani, “if at the same time you are degrading the ideological leadership through a military campaign.”

It is difficult to see how NATO forces will wage a military campaign while redeployed to their barracks.

Abizaid: Where would you like me to get them from?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

When pressed as to why he had not requested more troops to deal with both the al Anbar Province and the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad at the same time, General Abizaid responded with the following retort: “Where would you like me to get them from?”  He continued by pointing out that the U.S. currently  has about 500,000 ground troops, and some 390,000 of them are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Abizaid has given an extremely spirited defense of the idea that the U.S. has just the right number of troops.

Contrary to this, we have argued in Force Size and other posts that the U.S. has needed more troops than are currently deployed in order to effectively and efficiently achieve security and stability, and that force projection will be inversely proportional to the amount of force that actually has to be exercised.  But Abizaid’s question is salient.  If we increased force size in Iraq, where exactly would these troops come from?  Actually, Abizaid knows, but saying it would be unacceptable because it would involve policy changes.  Generals like Abizaid should be able intelligently to discuss policy, but the policy changes needed to free troops are of a nature that would require White House and Joint Chief’s of Staff involvement and approval.  So these changes are above Abizaid’s head.

There are approximately 100,000 troops deployed in Europe, another 32,000 in South Korea, and 35,000 in Japan.  But the cold war is over, and the troop deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo are at the same time not onerous and unnecessary.  NATO could take more burden in the absence of U.S. troops.  The burden, both financial and in manpower deprivation to other parts of the world, of troop deployments in Japan is significant, and it is time to reconsider whether the U.S. can and should be the protector of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.  Victor Davis Hanson argues for a multi-pronged approach in dealing with the North Korea situation, including a new and robust push for missile defense, as well as clear threats against North Korea.  But one interesting piece of his theoretical construct involves troop force reductions in South Korea.

To work with South Korea, we need to start withdrawing troops to Pusan—and well beyond. Much of the present mess arose from the appeasement of the Sunshine policy—in part, fueled by the revisionism of Korean ingrate leftists who rewrote the Korean War in populist terms of American imperialism and their own victimization. This was, in part, due to Korean nationalism that envisioned an eventual pan-Korea state birthed by slow and insidious osmosis from the south; and, in part, a result of strategic complacence of a half-century made possible by American subsidies and deployments. It made sense to garrison Americans on the DMZ when Seoul was weak and nascent, but not now when its population and economy dwarf the North’s. Getting America off the DMZ would give us more strategic options through air power, and wake up the South Koreans, reminding them that cheap triangulation with the United States has real costs. They can either play Churchill or Chamberlain—but it’s their call, not ours, since we have wider worries protecting Japan and Taiwan that transcend South Korea’s Sunshine nonsense.

We have also made it clear that Japan should make preparations for its own self defense.  Given troop force reductions in Europe, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. should be able to redeploy enough troops to Iraq to achieve security and in Afghanistan to deal with a resurgent Taliban.

al Sadr Reigns in Militia: Backdown, Bluster or Bluff?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

Shia Islamic cleric Moqtada al Sadr has issued orders to his loosely organized militias by calling for an end to Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence.

BAGHDAD – Radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr ordered his militia on Friday not to take part in the wave of sectarian bloodshed sweeping Iraq, as the head of the British army called for his troops to be brought home.

The Shia firebrand issued the order amid what a US military spokesman called a “tremendous spike

Friday Night Pictures

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

In lieu of Friday night music, here are two pictures.  The first is taken from Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina.  The second is of Daniel in his dress blues.  It takes a lot to get a Marine into his dress blues.  This was a lot.  Daniel’s best buddy, Andy Strickland, got married.  Andy and Daniel went through MEPS, Boot Camp and SOI together, were picked up by the fleet together and are in the same platoon at Camp Lejeune.  They will deploy together.  There isn’t any doubt in my mind that either one would die for the other.


Mtn 022.jpg







Combat Operation Posts

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

There is much bluster over counterinsurgency operations; what it means, how to do it, what causes these operations to succeed, and what causes them to fail.  There are even washed-up Generals who want the U.S. to jettison the “kill-kill” warrior ethos of the military in favor of a different approach as part of our COIN strategy.  [As an editorial note, there are so many things misrepresented and misconstrued in the “kinder and gentler soldier” article linked above that the real confusion is where to begin with debunking them.  The Generals misrepresent when the warrior ethos was introduced into the military and focus on the history of the Army rather than the Marines, they ignore the more than 300 engagements the USMC has had over its history in which for many of these operations they have successfully executed COIN operations in spite of the washed-up Generals, etc.]

It is simply not helpful to talk counterinsurgency and “winning the hearts and minds of the people,” without giving examples of its execution so that the strategy can be taught and implemented.  Good friend of the Captain’s Journal, Michael Fumento, is blogging from Ramadi, and he is giving us good and instructive COIN discussion material with his post Cop-ing out in Ramadi.

A COP is a combat operation post, and such posts are starting to play a crucial role in pacifying Al Anbar. In the Ramadi area, at least, COPs comprise an undersized company of four companies and about 80 soldiers. (Although Anvil has considerably more than that.) Anvil also has four M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles attached to it, each of which has a .25 caliber fully automatic gun and lesser guns along with an anti-armor capability. Anvil has three American platoons and one Iraqi Army one, but one of the American ones and the IA one are being loaned elsewhere right now. No matter, a COP can operate at half strength for awhile.

COPs are tiny compared to FOBs like Corregidor, which had a full battalion plus numerous support elements or about 800 men in all. In fact, this place comprises just two houses leased from Iraqi civilians. First Armored Division has put in 11 COPs so far, I believe, and is building a 12th. There will probably be many more to come.

In any counterinsurgency effort, a key to pacifying an area is to plop fortifications with interlocking communications into enemy territory and send out patrols. For example, King Edward I of England (the guy who had Braveheart drawn and quartered) used castles to subdue Wales. Nowadays we call this “grab and hold.” Originally we started doing that in Vietnam but gave it up in favor of search and destroy missions from large base camps, which helped contribute to losing the war.

One value of a COP versus the much larger FOBs and the huge camps such as Camp Ramadi is that this is an enemy that inflicts most casualties and damage with IEDS, greatly restricting movement. But missions from COPs are inherently short-range; you’re already almost there. That’s less road to be on and fewer IEDs to worry about.

In Habitually Offensive Operations Against Guerrillas, we discussed the re-deployment of U.S. troops to large, well-gaurded bases and the reduction of patrols allowing the growth of the insurgency, in contrast with the recommendation of the Small Wars Manual.  Michael Fumento is documenting a case in which the Small Wars Manual COIN strategy is working.  Continuing:

Another advantage of a COP is a shorter reaction time for one unit to support another, although that’s rarely necessary because the enemy just doesn’t mass in large units. They don’t have the men to do that like they used to. This inability to mass also makes COPs possible. In Vietnam, the enemy had lots of soldiers and highly-trained and motivated sappers that could cut through concertina wire barriers, throw satchel charges, and wreak havoc while the VC infantry came up behind them. This allowed them to inflict heavy casualties on small units, such as those manning howitzers. On a few occasions, they completely overran those positions. But the chance of a COP being overrun is essentially nil.

The impact of the FOB system was shown to me on a map. The foreigners who come into this area do so along a mini-Ho Chi Minh trail from the west, namely Jordan and Syria. And the foreigners tend to be better trained. Certainly any good sniper will come from that route, because Iraqis are terrible shots and hence crummy snipers.

From this road the terrorists would then literally fan out in the area where the COPs have been inserted. That is, their area of operation was shaped like a fan. But the troops from the COPs have rolled them up in a counter-clockwise pattern such that the only major activity left now is in a slice near the Tigris. Areas that Capt. Sapp would originally only send full platoons into, sometimes even with armor, he will now allow a squad of perhaps 12 men to enter. At some point, the bad guys will be pushed out of this last piece of the fan. Where they’ll go, who knows. The point is that they’ll have been denied their first choice of an operating area. It’s like knocking off the head of a terrorist cell. Yes, he’ll just be replaced. But the man originally chosen for the job is now dead and the cell weakened to that extent.

Any counterinsurgency operation is likely to fail without the right force projection.  We have argued that force size is the critical element to successful pacification.  If we know that the enemy (foreign fighters, most certainly al Qaeda) is coming into Iraq along a “mini-Ho Chi Minh” trail, this information immediately redounds to the question “why can’t we stop this traffic?”

The answer is that we can with the right force projection.  If the means of ingress into Iraq are turned into a shooting gallery where the foreign fighter faces certain death should he attempt to cross the border, then one of two things happens, leading to a consequent.  Either the foreign fighter dies at the border, or if he is smart, he doesn’t attempt to cross.  The consequence is that the existing foreign fighters do not get reinforced.  As U.S. forces share the risk of the people and protect the population, and as the foreign fighters (and Sunni Mujahideen) are killed, the pacification of the region finally ensues, and mothers can trust in the security of their homes and schools.  This, rather than the “kinder and gentler soldier,” is the road to “winning the hearts and minds of the people.”

Unintended Consequences: U.S. Strengthens Iran

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as the Chatham House) in Britain recently released a report essentially charging that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has strengthened Iran.

The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments — the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 — but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures. The outbreak of conflict on two fronts in June –July 2006 between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon has added to the regional dimensions of this instability.

Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.

This influence has a variety of forms but all can be turned against the US presence in Iraq with relative ease, and almost certainly would heighten US casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable. Sources in Iraq are already warning that the major cities (including Basra and Baghdad) have witnessed a rise in the activities of Iranian paramilitary units and the recent bout of violence and instability in Basra is now considered to be a small display of what would happen if Iran itself was targeted.

This is certainly an unintended consequence, but for the purpose of precision in our analysis, it should be made clear that this is not directly a function of the global war on terror.  Rather, if Iran has becomed stronger as a result of the broader war, it is a function of the strategy the U.S. has chosen to implement the war.  As we have previously discussed, the conduct of the war has been marked by brilliant command decision juxtaposed with lurching and stumbling.  The initial ground campaign was magnificent, but it bypassed large urban areas leaving huge numbers of Mujahideen alive to fight another day.  The force size was perfect for the initial ground campaign and woefully inadequate for the maintenance of security.  The U.S. troops too quickly transitioned from conventional operations to counterinsurgency, and rather than share the risk with the Iraqi people, they reflexively cloistered on well-gaurded bases and stayed there the more that IEDs became the primary means of warring against them.  As a result, the homes, schools and streets became more dangerous, and the high level of danger brought more power to those who can cause the danger and inflict the pain.

But the things directly under our control at the present cause us to have no excuse for any further strengthening of Iran.  One such instance of having no excuse is the State Department.  In a jaw-dropping example of the reticence at the State Department, the U.S. has just yesterday approved the sale of aircraft parts to Iran, and has given us this reasoning for its support.

“Our recommendation is consistent with the US government’s commitment to promote international safety-of-flight standards and ensure the safety of all aviation passengers, including the citizens of Iran,” the State Department said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration recommended immediate overhaul of US-made engines on certain Airbus planes, some of which are used by Iran Air, the statement said, and the US Departments of Commerce and State reported to Congress their recommendations to allow the sale.

“Therefore, despite our grave concerns regarding the Iranian regime’s activities, we believe this decision is consistent with our commitment to support the Iranian people and to use US sanctions to target the regime, not the Iranian people.”

To set this in context, imagine for a moment that it is 1944, and the State Department is proudly waltzing onto stage to announce that we have just approved the sale of U.S. steel manufacturing and fabrication technology to Germany because we care about the people.

Until and unless the State Department is coerced into actually contributing to the global war on terror (that is, on behalf of the U.S., we are constrained to mention), we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back.

Nuclear Japan

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

We now know that the “nuclear” explosion in North Korea was more of a fizzle than a bang (h/t Virtually Theo).  Either something went badly wrong with this test, or it was in fact a conventional explosion.  More to the point, as we have discussed concerning the Wen Ho Lee incident, the miniturization of nuclear weapons is a technology that apparently China does not have (and so North Korea certainly would not possess this technology).  The U.S. leads the world in this technology due in no small part to the work of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.

But the world may never know if this was nuclear or conventional.  Further, if this was a dud, then North Korea will certainly continue until it succeeds.  In Kim Jong il’s world, heads will roll until the engineers and physicists have constructed him a nuclear weapon that has been proven to work.  Potential death is a great motivator for the workers.  The proverbial Jeenie is out of the bottle.  The Far East will never be quite the same.

The new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has flatly declared that Japan will not reverse its stand on a prohibition of nuclear weapons.  Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have lived for the last 50 years under the umbrella of protection provided by the U.S.  But there are signs of strain in this relationship.  The U.S. will always be an ally of these three countries, but there is strain associated with the heavy deployments of U.S. forces around the globe.  The U.S. has drawn the ire of both South Korea and Japan in the current dispute over who will shoulder the financial burden of U.S. troops deployments to South Korea, and the U.S. has said that there will be troop force reductions unless more of the financial burden for troop deployments is borne by South Korea.

But there is an even more important reason for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to consider re-arming.  Stratfor recently discussed the situation, concluding that there is no effective military solution to North Korea’s military infrastructure.  Seoul is within striking distance of conventional artiliery from North Korea, and it is postulated that North Korea is capable of placing several hundred thousand high explosive shells per hour on the South Korean capital.  Further, war-gaming has shown that there is no solution that can be implemented quickly enough to prevent massive casualties.

The situation for Japan is not much better.  North Korea has shown that they can direct missiles at Japan with impunity, and the U.S. (and Japan) cannot now act quickly enough to prevent massive casualties should North Korea prove itself capable of building a nuclear weapon small enough to deliver by its missiles.

War with North Korea would have unfathomable consequences.  But there is a solution short of war.  It is prevention by strength.  The Strategy Page discusses the current situation for Japan.

October 11, 2006: The North Korean nuclear tests will have the effect of spurring the growth of a new military superpower in East Asia. Japan has, since World War II, not felt the need to re-arm. However, the recent North Korean tests are likely to change that, awakening what is arguably the sleeping military giant of Asia.

From Japan’s perspective, they have no choice. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998. North Korea has also kidnapped Japanese citizens, and despite diplomatic protests, attempted to test both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in 2006. North Korea is not the only neighbor of Japan who has done some pretty irrational things. In the past decade, two Chinese generals have made very thinly-veiled nuclear threats towards the United States. From Japan’s perspective, East Asia is obviously a neighborhood that is becoming a lot less safe than it was in 1990.

At present, Japan spends about one percent of its GDP on the defense budget ($42.1 billion in 2005). Compare this to China, which spends about 4.3 percent of its GDP on defense (to the tune of $81.48 billion in 2005). Japan’s relative lack of defense spending still has not prevented it from turning out what is arguably the best navy and air force in the region, one that outclasses even China.

As one example, Japan has 40 destroyers in its Maritime Self-Defense Force. China has 25, only nine of which are really modern. China has 45 frigates, of which perhaps 15 are modern. Japan has nine. Most of China’s submarines are very old Romeo-class submarines or the Ming-class ( which is a variant of the Romeo). Only 22 of China’s subs are relatively modern. Japan has 16 modern diesel-electric submarines.

The respective air forces also show a technological disparity. The bulk of the 1,250 fighters in Chinese service are J-6 and J-7 models, copies of the 1950s era MiG-19 and MiG-21, respectively. China’s only modern fighters are the 200 J-11 (Su-27) and 180 Su-30MKK Flankers. The Japanese air defense force centers around 180 F-15J fighters and 130 F-2s (best described as an F-16 that took steroids).

Japan has been able to keep pace with China with a defense budget that is one percent of its GDP. Were Japan to spend the 2.4 percent of GDP, the same percentage that the United Kingdom spends, its defense budget would be $101.4 billion. If Japan were to spend 4.3 percent of its GDP (what China spends), its defense budget would reach $181.03 billion. What does a Japanese military with those budgets look like? For one thing, Japan easily could increase its military and equip it with modern ships (like the Atago and Takanami classes of destroyers), submarines (like the Oyashio class), and aircraft (like the F-2). Japan also could easily operate several “Harrier carriers” as well, giving Japan the ability to project power. Japan could also decide to build nukes – and has the ability to do so very quickly (within six months).

Japan would have no trouble spending big bucks on arms. The government already spends that kind of money on wasteful, “make work”, projects. It’s good politics to keep people employed, and it doesn’t matter if they are building warships, or highways to nowhere.

Such a buildup would make South Korea, China, and other countries in Asia very nervous. For that reason, Kim Jong-Il’s recent nuclear tests are going to make him a very unpopular person in East Asia, where old memories of Japan’s conduct from 1931-1945 are still fresh. They would much rather that the potential of Japan’s military remain potential, and not become realized. China, in particular, doesn’t want to see Japan start a buildup, because they will not be able to keep up.

If war with North Korea would have unfathomable consequences, the failure to prepare for it and prevent it would be worse.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should give his government more latitude in addressing the deteriorating security situation for Japan.  A nuclear Japan – to an extent that North Korea and perhaps even China could not match – is the warless answer to the situation, and thus is it is the most humane, kind and loving solution for both his own people and the North Koreans.  It is determent, and it is called peace through strength.  It has a proven track record.

Also blogging: Cop the Truth with Japan on the Edge.

Old and New Body Armor for Marines

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

With the genesis of the Interceptor Body Armor System, Marines had access to significantly improved protection compared to the older flak vest.  It was lighter (at 16.4 pounds) than the flak vest (at 25.1 pounds), but studies showed a high mortality rate associated with rounds taken in the side of the torso, neck, shoulders, arms, groin and legs.  The currently deployed Interceptor system was provided with add-on packs, including hard side torso plates and removable components to protect each of the exposed areas (groin, upper arms, shoulders and neck).  The add-on components bring the total weight closer to 40 pounds rather than 16 pounds, more than doubling the original weight.  Press reports have even documented the fact that the weight of the body armor is so onerous to the Marine and instrusive to maneuverability that some have chosen to jettison it and go into combat without protection.

The Marine Corps has awarded a new contract for body armor to Protective Products International (hereafter PPI) for a new system called “Modular Tactical Vest.”  Marine officials hope to start producing a 60,000 vest order in October, with deployment of the vests starting early 2007.  The new Modular Tactical Vest costs about $560 each, and doesn’t promise to weigh less.  Rather, its promise is to distribute the weight more efficiently, thus making its load easier to bear, while also protecting more of the torso than the Interceptor System.

Hopefully, body armor manufacturers and the USMC have learned from past mistakes regarding the testing, quality assurance and deployment of body armor.  The Marine Corps Times exposed an attempt to continue deployment of the Interceptor System even after tests had shown catastrophic failure (picture of failed vest showing complete penetration of round) of one test vest.  As a result, several lots were rejected.  The QA (Quality Assurance) program was appropriately and correctly called into question, but in order to continue the deployment of the vests, waivers of the QA program had to signed by both industry and military authorities.

PPI has already addressed questions related to some of its components, and hopefully the QA program is robust enough that the recalcitrance associated with refusal to “stop work” and recall armor will not exist with PPI or this new body armor system.  QA programs in industry around the world have to meet specifications and standards, including some structures, systems and components that have to meet a zero failure rate.  The notion that it is necessary to deploy body armor that may be defective points to a military-industrial complex that has routinely not held industry accountable for meeting standards.  In most commercial industries, a failure to meet standards redounds to financial harm to the corporation and overtime for the workers who have to re-manufacture goods in order to avoid legal liability and meet schedule, not waivers signed by the recipient of the goods and services.  Military standards have not been high enough.  At least in the instance of body armor, failure is not an option.

The new body armor is intended to be deployed with Marines beginning early in 2007.  The Captain’s Journal will be contacting Camps Lejeune and Pendleton, along with PPI, to ascertain what units will be deployed early in 2007 and whether they will have the new system.  We will publish their response(s).

Finally, we have covered the issue of traumatic brain injury to our troops due to IEDs.  Brain injury is the signature wound of the Iraq war.  The Marine Corps Times is also reporting that the webbing or sling suspension system currently being used in combat helmets will be replaced with a system of pads designed to reduce the force of non-ballistic blunt impact.  The Captain’s Journal will also contact Camps Lejeune and Pendleton concerning the timing of deployment of these new helmet padding systems.  We will publish their reponse(s).

Prior: Thermobaric Weapons and Body Armor.

Regression in al Anbar Province

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

In Ramadi is Still a Troubled City it was shown that Ramadi, capital of the al Anbar Province, is still a very deadly city, and that the region appears to be regressing, or devolving, into deeper trouble with the passage of time.  Al Qaeda brazenly attacks in daylight hours, recently even taking over a Hospital in Ramadi and executing wounded Iraqi soldiers and police.  It is an area awash in arms, and the flood of arms into the area may increase due to pressure from the Sunni tribes (who have ostensibly sided with the Iraqi central government against al Qaeda) for the U.S. to arm them for the fight against the foreign elements.

The redeployment of troops to Baghdad has hurt the effort in al Anbar.  Four Marines were killed July 29th, the very day that soldiers were pulling out of al Anbar to redeploy to Baghdad.  Three Marines with Regimental Combat Team 7 were killed Sunday, and Michael Fumento is blogging directly from Ramadi at the present.  He is reporting that the 1/6 Marines just arrived in Ramadi, and the enemy is testing them.  They lost three Marines to an IED today, October 9, 2006 (read all of Michael’s reports from the al Anbar Province at his web log).

About one third of the U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since September 1 have been killed in al Anbar.  The U.S. is paying for some of the same territory more than once, and losing confidence among the citizens due to the transient nature of force presence.  In complaints that mirror our concerns over Force Size, U.S. commanders privately disclose that the lack of force projection in al Anbar has hurt their efforts.

Commanders in western Anbar have long complained privately that they don’t have enough troops to control their area, which is about the size of South Carolina and includes notoriously violent cities such as Haditha, Rawah and Haqlaniyah.

“Any time you reduce forces it’s a concern,” said Marine Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment which is scattered across western Anbar.

Few dispute that the U.S. military had to do something about the deteriorating security in the Iraqi capital, which threatened to spiral into fullscale civil war.

But the question is whether the U.S. has enough forces in the country overall to both regain control in Baghdad while also preventing Sunni insurgents in the west from using the U.S. military drawdown there to gain strength.

About a third of the 102 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since Sept. 1 have been killed in Anbar, according to Pentagon reports.

“Where we’re not, the insurgency goes there. That’s just how an insurgency works,” said Capt. Chris L’Heureux, 30, of Woonsocket, R.I., who was also among those relocated to Baghdad.

U.S. commanders have also said that the reshuffling of forces makes it difficult to build trust among civilians and convince them to cooperate with U.S. forces.

For example, five different U.S. units were based in the western city of Hit in the space of just last year.

“It’s been like a transient area” in Hit, said Lt. Col. Ronald Gridley, the executive officer for Marine Regimental Combat Team 7.

“In a counterinsurgency,” he said recently, “you can’t throw put (sic) someone in there for 45 days and expect them to understand the communities, the different tribes, the different personalities involved.”

We have discussed both the positive and negative aspects of the alignment of some of the Sunni tribes in al Anbar with the Iraqi central government.  In the interest of full disclosure, it is meaningful and productive to hear voices of dissent.

“We heard a lot from the Americans and successive Iraqi governorates that they arrest hundreds of al-Qaeda men in Anbar and other places in Iraq,” said Ibrahim an electrical engineer in Hiyt, “but the number of these fighters is increasing daily”.

A former Iraqi intelligence officer believes the challenge in curbing violence may lie in the fact that the tribal leaders are not fully representative of the people in Anbar.

“There is no agreement among the tribes in Anbar to fight the foreign gunmen,” he told

“The chieftains who attended the meetings with al-Maliki represent small tribes in the province and many of them reside outside Iraq for fear of assassination and so on.”

He believes the tribal leaders who met with al-Maliki have little clout over armed groups in western Iraq.

We have provocatively posed interrogatory with “Will we Lose the Anbar Province?”  The answer is that we have not yet lost, and we do not have to lose.  But winning efficiently and effectively will require U.S. force projection an order of magnitude greater than that of the enemy.

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