The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

The Bureau of Land Management is planning a truly boneheaded move, angering some conservationists over the affects to herd populations and migration routes.  From Field & Stream. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft plan outlining potential solar energy development in the West. The proposal is an update of the BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan. It adds five new states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—to a list of 11 western states already earmarked…… [read more]

The Anbar Province Reconsidered

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

In Where is Anbar Headed? Where are the Marines Headed?, I cited the ABC News Report that claimed that the Pentagon officials were considering a major pullback of Marines from the Anbar Province, due in part to the most recent Devlin intelligence report covered by the Washington Post.  Michael Fumento notes that the Post article stands in stark contrast to his recent experiences as an embedded reporter in Ramadi.  I said in “Where is Anbar Headed” that it looked like the U.S. was either getting out of Anbar or getting serious about Anbar.

Today General Peter Pace denied reports that the Pentagon was considering a movement of Marines out of the Anbar province.  Asked specifically whether serious consideration is being given to the idea of abandoning Al-Anbar to put more U.S. forces in Baghdad, Pace bluntly replied “no.”  “You gave me a very straight question. I gave you a very straight answer. No. Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don’t,” he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

I believe that it is important to keep balance with respect to our understanding of the Anbar Province.  Assuming that Pace is correct and that conditions and intentions don’t change, the U.S. will not abandon Anbar.  I have discussed the alignment of some of the tribes in the Anbar Province with the Iraqi government and against al Qaeda, but it is also clear that these tribes cannot secure Anbar without the help of Iraqi security forces and more particularly U.S. forces.

In Coalition, Al Qaeda and Tribes Battle in Anbar and Diyala, I covered the recent battles against al Qaeda in which tribal elements participated.

On November 25, insurgents linked to al Qaeda attacked an Anbar tribe in an alliance of twenty five tribes who have vowed to fight al Qaeda.  The insurgents attacked the Abu Soda tribe in Sofiya, near the provincial capital of Ramadi, with mortars and small arms, burning homes, in apparent revenge for their support of the Iraqi government.  “Al Qaeda has decided to attack the tribes due to their support,

Technology Transfer to the Enemy

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

The U.S. is engaging in three categories of technology transfer to the enemy: (1) It is bad but almost impossible to stop, (2) It is extremely bad and we should do a much better job of stopping it, and (3) It is extremely bad and we are intentionally doing it.

It is bad but almost impossible to stop

At Chronicles of War, John Little is covering the issue of the Technical Mujahid.  CENTCOM has published an update to “What Extremists are Saying” that outlines the basics of a new computer hardware, software and file management protocol for jihadists.

The first issue of what is indicated to be a period magazine, “Technical Mujahid

Where is Anbar Headed? Where are the Marines Headed?

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

John Little has given us a tip to a breaking story about potential movement of the Marines out of Anbar altogether.  This is major … major … news.  ABC News is reporting the following (I will copy and paste at length, and then offer up [I hope] some interesting … and unique … observations):

ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.

The news comes as President Bush prepares to meet with Iraq’s president to discuss the growing sectarian violence.

There are now 30,000 U.S. troops in al-Anbar, mainly Marines, braving some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq. At least 1,055 Americans have been killed in this region, making al-Anbar the deadliest province for American troops.

The region is a Sunni stronghold and the main base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq and has been a place of increasing frustration to U.S. commanders.

In a recent intelligence assessment, top Marine in al-Anbar, Col. Peter Devlin, concluded that without a massive infusement of more troops, the battle in al-Anbar is unwinnable.

In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Devlin writes, “Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Faced with that situation in al-Anbar, and the desperate need to control Iraq’s capital, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace is considering turning al-Anbar over to Iraqi security forces and moving U.S. troops from there into Baghdad.

“If we are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out [in al-Anbar], what’s the point of having them out there?” said a senior military official.

Another option under consideration is to increase the overall U.S. troop level in Iraq by two to five brigades (that’s about 7,000 to 18,000 troops).

Generals Casey and Abizaid, however, have both weighed in against this idea. And such an increase would only be sustainable for six to eight months. Far more likely, the official says, will be a repositioning of forces currently in Iraq. “There is a push for a change of footprint, not more combat power.”

In Racoon Hunting and the Battle for Anbar, after the Marines had said that Fallujah held iconic status to them, and losing it would be like losing Iwo Jima, I asked the question, “Will we lose this hallowed soil, this soil on which so much U.S. blood has been shed?”

Perhaps.  And then perhaps not.  There are two possibilities that I see.  Either we have ceded power to al Qaeda and asked the Iraqi security forces to take them out, or we are cordoning off the area, only to go in later to “clear” it.  On October 24, I said that we would not “clear” Ramadi Fallujah-style, and at the time I had what I thought were good reasons to take this position.

I believe that there is some possibility, however remote it may seem to the reader (and to me), that we are cordoning off the Anbar Province (and in particular Ramadi), in order to prepare an assault later “Fallujah-style.”  More Marine patrols where they are getting sniper attacks is not adding to security.  We are either getting out, or we’re getting serious.

I confess, I am at a point of indecision on this, because I think the military brass may be.  It might be left to the incoming SECDEF to make the decision.  More force projection, or do we turn it over to the Iraqis?

The war turns on this decision.

More on Snipers and Body Armor for Marines

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

In Old and New Body Armor for Marines, I discussed the planned deployment of the new Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) to replace the Interceptor System.  Following up on this post, I wrote Snipers and Body Armor, and followed up this post with Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops, in which, using a New York Times article, I showed that snipers in Iraq had adapted and were learning to aim for gaps in SAPI plate coverage in the Interceptor body armor system, and that the new MTV was superior to the Interceptor regarding these gaps in coverage.

While writing and subsequent to these posts, I communicated numerous times with USMC Public Affairs Officers, and they were mostly helpful.  For instance, unless it is explained to you in a word-picture, it is difficult to understand how the MTV handles weight distribution better than its predecessors.  Backpackers can visualize this easily, but others may not be able to as well.  Any back packer who carries a heavy pack, whether internal or external frame, knows that the shoulders cannot withstand all of the weight for very long.  The shoulders need a break.  The MTV gives them the break they need.  The MTV has a design similar to backpacks in which the weight rests on the hips rather than the shoulders, and this may give the Marine the edge he needs to fight more effectively.

The help from the PAOs has withered lately, and hopefully will start up soon as I press the issues I have with body armor.  It has been said to me that the MTV was intended to be an improvement over the Interceptor as it regards comfort, but that “Interceptor offers the same level of ballistic protection as the MTV.”  This contradicts the Strategy Pages and Stars and Stripes, both of which are linked in my earlier posts.  In fact, the MTV apparently offers fully and more integrated protection in the side SAPI plates.  Here is a picture of the side SAPI plate.




The Marine Corps Times has a nice 360-degree flash player that shows the body armor and how it fits the Marine.  There is also an updated article in the Marine Corps Times that says what I have learned from the PAOs, that the USMC will issue the new MTV in or about February, but that they do not know yet which specific units will have the MTV.  For me, this isn’t very satisfying, and I will pursue the matter.

On the issue of snipers which I have covered with a vengeance, the Strategy Page has an interesting update, which doesn’t shed new light beyond what I have already covered, except to say that al Qaeda snipers in Anbar are using children to hunt for snipers, and paying handsome rewards for kids who find U.S. snipers and report back to them.

Jihadists Spread False Propaganda

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

The Information Ministry of the Islamic State of Iraq periodically publishes updated propaganda.  Their mother web site is blocked by some ISPs, but it is easy enough (if you cannot get to it) to find web sites who profer the propaganda without verification, such as Jihad Unspun.  Al Qaeda claims to have had a stellar day on November 18.  The claim is that in two separate incidents, five “crusaders” were killed in each incident for a total of ten killed by IEDs.

Let’s evaluate this claim.  First of all, the Multi-National Force web site publishes press releases upon the death of any U.S. service member.  A quick check of the home page for press releases shows that no such deaths occurred.  On the other hand, Jihad Unspun uses phrases like “so-called Iraqis” and “collaborators” to describe the Iraqi troops, and it is possible that rather than U.S. forces, they are referring to Iraqi forces (although, frankly, it seems strange to refer to Iraqis as “crusaders” even if they are your enemy).

This too can be independently verified.  The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count tracks all Iraqi deaths (both army and police).  A quick check of this web site shows that no such deaths occurred on November 18.

The Jihadists have made outlandish claims to have killed ten troops in a single day by IEDs, while absolutely no independent reports of this exist anywhere.  To the jihadist claims, I say, prove it!

The Consequences of Inadequate Force Projection

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

I have made heavy use of a phrase at TCJ that I have not seen anywhere else: force projection.  Its full meaning will come clear in a minute.  Even if it is difficult for the U.S. commanders to admit that force projection at the beginning of the Iraq war was inadequate (as it currently is), Australia’s Commander in Chief has no problems telling us that we needed more troops.  In an interview with the Weekend Australian Magazine, Governor-General Michael Jeffery said he believes a lack of troops on the ground in the weeks after the US-led coalition went into Iraq hampered efforts to secure Baghdad.

He contrasted early tactics in Iraq with the counter-insurgency campaign he led in Phuoc Tuy province during the Vietnam War. “We were charged with winning the hearts and minds of local people and ensuring they were safe, which is the antithesis of what’s happening in Baghdad. People aren’t safe,” he said.  Reflecting on the initial phase of the Iraqi conflict, in March 2003, the Governor-General said: “There weren’t enough soldiers to seal Baghdad off.”

“A lack of troops, a lack of police, the structures weren’t there, the numbers weren’t there and this is a vitally important time immediately after the first battles.”

This lack of troop presence (note, not exactly equal to the definition of force projection) causes various contortions by the commanders regarding situational details.  In testimony before the Senate where senators questioned the adequacy of the number of troops, Abizaid said that “Al-Anbar province is not under control.  But while “Al-Anbar province is critical, more critical than al-Anbar province is Baghdad. Baghdad’s the main military effort,” Abizaid told Nelson. “That’s where our military resources will go.”

It is a remarkable thing to witness a general say that a particular province is “not under control” three and a half years into the war effort, and then to demur to the “more critical” city of Baghdad, presumably because it is the seat of government in Iraq.  The point is that this question – and its remarkable answer – would never have been salient with the right number of troops.  Said another way, only a lack of troop presence causes the need to shift resources from one location to another, while leaving the one to suffer and descend into anarchy.  Is this clear enough?

There isn’t any question that despite the heavy media attention given to Baghdad and the various street bombings and other violence, the al Anbar Province is still the most dangerous place in Iraq, and likely then the most dangerous place on earth.  Further, this “whack-a-mole” concept of war has extended the war effort in Iraq longer than the U.S. was involved in World War II, contrary to the counsel from the Small Wars Manual that I discussed in “War, Counterinsurgency and Prolonged Operations” (note from this post the unwillingness to mention or tackle the issue of prolonged operations and its effect on moral in the draft U.S. Counterinsurgency Field Manual FM 3-24).

Finally, there is more to the concept of force projection than number of troops.  Proper force projection also has to do with how the troops are used, i.e., their mission.  I have previously noted that the Marines in the Anbar Province feel hamstrung by the rules of engagement, which have evolved over the war in Iraq.  Further, having a troop presence, even with robust rules of engagement, is not the same thing as utilizing them.  Camp Fallujah has at the present around 10,000 troops resident.  Of those troops in the area, only 300 currently have a continual presence in Fallujah-proper, a city of 300,000.  Note that this is a ratio 1000:1 Iraqis to Marines.

As Marines in Iraq expand into more advisory roles to Iraqi troops, the insurgency, by the use of criminal techniques, has become financially self-sufficient.  The violence has not abated, there are daily retaliatory attacks by Sunni and Shia, and there is talk of civil war in Iraq.  U.S. troops face the daily threat of sniper attacks, and the U.S. casualty rate in Iraq has a positive slope line.  At least in part, these are the consequences of inadequate force projection.

The Department of Defense Trys Blogging

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

Over at Blogs of War, John Little has discussed the new Department of Defense blog called “For the Record.”  John cites the assessment of “For the Record” by D-Ring:

For the Record has been criticized as a shoddy attempt to rebut negative conversation about the war in Iraq and the Department of Defense. All this Web site does is link to a given article from the mainstream media and blast it. And it comes across as quite petty.

On top of that, For the Record misses the whole point of a blog — community. There is no blogroll, no ability to comment, no conversation. It follows the traditional DoD model of communication that says “we will send our messages to the people from up on high.

TCJ: Blogger of the Week at Chronicles of War

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

Friend John Little at Chronicles of War has named The Captain’s Journal “Blogger of the Week.”  I appreciate John’s kind words and vote of confidence.  Go check out John’s redesigned Chronicles of War and companion site, Blogs of War.  John has been busy with work and posting was less frequent, but he is back at it again, and for one, I am glad.  I always check out what John has to say.  John always manages to find things that I can’t, and his analysis is clear and level-headed.  I wish a hearty welcome to Chronicles of War and Blogs of War readers.

Coalition, Al Qaeda and Tribes Battle in Anbar and Diyala

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

On November 25, insurgents linked to al Qaeda attacked an Anbar tribe in an alliance of twenty five tribes who have vowed to fight al Qaeda.  The insurgents attacked the Abu Soda tribe in Sofiya, near the provincial capital of Ramadi, with mortars and small arms, burning homes, in apparent revenge for their support of the Iraqi government.  “Al Qaeda has decided to attack the tribes due to their support,” said Sheikh Abdel Sittar Baziya, head of the Abu Risha tribe and a founder of the movement. “The terrorists have gone to a neighboring tribe and have brought fighters to attack the Abu Soda.”

Al Qaeda attacked through a tribal area checkpoint, and burned homes and killed tribal members using small arms and mortar fire.  Coalition forces assisted the Abu Soda tribe with air strikes and artillery fire at al Qaeda.  There is no report of coalition casualties, but fifty al Qaeda linked insurgents and nine tribesmen were killed in the battle (Reuters is reporting fifty five al Qaeda killed).  Four Iraqi civilians were evacuated to Camp Taqqadum for medical treatment for inujuries sustained during this battle.

Yesterday, November 26, two more Marines were lost in combat operations in the Anbar Province in a reminder of how dangerous the province is for U.S. troops.  Also in Ramadi, Coalition Forces conducted a precision strike on insurgent forces after observing three men loading weapons from a known cache site into a vehicle in central Ramadi.  After establishing positive identification, Coalition Forces fired precision ordnance at the vehicle, killing two terrorists. One terrorist was seen fleeing from the scene.

Directly to the east in the Diyala Province, Iraqi forces battled Sunni insurgents in its capital, Baquba.  At least 47 Sunni Arab insurgents were killed Saturday during long gunbattles with Iraqi security forces, a police spokesman in Baquba said.

In the largest and deadliest fight, scores of insurgents, using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, laid siege to several government buildings in the center of the city, according to the spokesman. At least 36 of the Sunni Arab insurgents were killed in that clash, which raged for about four hours, according to the official, who said he did not yet know if any Iraqi security forces had been wounded.

Gunbattles also broke out in Buhruz, a predominantly Sunni village just south of Baqouba, when gunmen assaulted the main police station from three directions using mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, the police spokesman in Baqouba reported.

After nightfall, clashes broke out between gunmen and Iraqi army troops in the Al Tahrir neighborhood in Baqouba, according to the police spokesman there. At least 11 insurgents were killed in the fighting, he said.

Diyala has been an increasingly bloody battleground between Sunni and Shiite death squads vying for sectarian domination. Shiite militiamen have recently mobilized there in large numbers in defense of its Shiite inhabitants against the Sunni Arab-led insurgency, which has long made the province a redoubt in its campaign to topple the Iraqi government and drive American forces out of the country. American officials have accused the province’s police and military forces of siding with the Shiite militias.

I have discussed the feeling among U.S. troops that they are hamstrung by the rules of engagement, which have tightened in recent months.  If patrols conducted by U.S. forces makes them vulnerable to sniper attacks and the ROE prohibits their response, the only option left to bring security to Iraq is to let the tribal elements, police and Iraqi security forces battle it out with al Qaeda and the Mehdi army, with both al Qaeda and the Shi’ite militia having infiltrated the police and army.

So the strategy is to minimize casualties and train the Iraqis.  Somehow, the relationship between this approach and the idea of providing security to conquered nations in the Small Wars Manual does not announce itself.

Racoon Hunting and the Battle for Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

There is a dichotomy developing in the Anbar Province.  On the one hand, there is a window of opportunity to score the finishing defeat of al Qaeda.  On the other hand, U.S. forces rules of engagement and command lack of willingness to engage the enemy is holding this defeat in abatement.

The Strategy Page is discussing the battle for Anbar, and after rehearsing things we have covered at TCJ (e.g., the ongoing factious fighting between Sunnis, Tribal loyalties being stretched to the limits, Tribal agreements to oust al Qaeda, etc.), they offer up this penultimate status assessment:

… after Saddam was overthrown, and al Qaeda offered to help the Sunni Arabs eject the Americans, and regain control of the country, the Sunni tribes kept fighting. But the alliance with al Qaeda soon unraveled. By 2004, Sunni Arab tribesmen were fighting with al Qaeda. The problem was that al Qaeda did not believe the tribes were aggressive enough, or religious enough. First threats, then the murder of Sunni Arab tribal chiefs, brought al Qaeda into open warfare with the tribes. At first, the anti-al Qaeda tribes were not the majority, and they were outgunned by the Baath Party terrorist organizations and pro-Saddam tribes. But month-by-month, more tribes turned against al Qaeda and Baath. For the last year, as more American and Iraqi troops moved into western Iraq, the fighting became more intense.

Over a dozen tribes are now pro-government, with tribemen joining the police force, and serving in their own neighborhoods. Recruiting was slow at first, even with the approval of the chiefs. Only 30 stepped forward last June, but now there are 1,300 tribesmen in the police force. During that same period, some 750 al Qaeda and Baath terrorists have been killed in Ramadi, the center of al Qaeda power in Anbar. There are only a few hundred of them left, and the government controls two-thirds of the city. During that same period, the number of terrorist attacks, including roadside bombs, has also fallen by two-thirds.

This has brought about a civil war in western Iraq, with Sunni tribes fighting each other. Even with al Qaeda and the Baath Party terrorists, the anti-government tribes are on the defensive. Ramadi, which was to be the capital of the new al Qaeda sanctuary, is in ruins, and the scene of daily fighting, and defeats for the terrorists.

Al Qaeda no longer boasts of a base in western Iraq. To do so would have to address the fact that most al Qaeda losses in the area have been at the hands of angry Sunni Arab tribesmen. The tribes are fighting for their homes, and western Iraq is the only part of the Iraq that is almost wholly Sunni Arab. Angry Kurds and Shia Arabs are driving Sunni Arabs out of other parts of Iraq, and the only alternative to foreign exile, is moving to western Iraq. The only way to hang on to western Iraq is to eliminate the al Qaeda and Baath Party groups that refuse to halt their terrorist operations. Al Qaeda knows it’s losing its battle for western Iraq, which is one reason why they have shifted so many resources, especially cash and leadership, to Afghanistan. The al Qaeda defeat in western Iraq has not gotten much attention in the media, but it’s there, it’s real and it will soon be over. (italics mine)

I discussed the fissure that was occurring in al Qaeda high command in Iraq in Al Qaeda Reorganization, pointing out that al Qaeda in Iraq today might be likened to a wounded animal.  Wounded, yes, but a wounded animal is a dangeous thing, with nothing left to lose and hence unable to be deterred.  My son, who before he went to Boot Camp at Parris Island was quite the hunter, has hunted and killed deer, opossum, rabbit, turkey, snakes, coyote (they are all over South Carolina), and Racoon.  This last one is interesting.  The wounded Racoon is the most dangerous.  We have suffered from a Racoon problem at my home (trash strewed everywhere), and Daniel has always warned me against confronting a Racoon without having an edge.  You’d better have an edge.  I didn’t believe him until I faced off a Racoon one night with a tire iron (I can’t discharge a firearm within the city limits), and he ended up backing me down with Daniel shouting “Dad back off — get away from that thing.  He’ll tear you apart!”  Daniel recalls seeing Racoons tear ‘Coon dogs apart after being shot multiple times by rifle (the Racoon, that is).  He recalled seeing dogs limp, whine, sleep and recover from injuries.

It would be good had the Generals gone ‘Coon hunting and watched some dogs get chewed up before beginning the Iraq war.

Al Qaeda is wounded.  Robust rules of engagement, constantly offensive operations and strong force projection is required, now more than ever before.  Yet this is precisely the opposite of what is occurring in the Anbar Province.  In my post “Unleash the Snipers,” I covered the story of countersnipers in the Anbar Province, and the objection of the Marines to the “straightjacket” that the ROE had them in.  I suggested that small, mobile teams with maximum latitude be allowed to make war on al Qaeda in Ramadi, with robust rules of engagement.  There have been teams lost due to the smallness of the excursions, but as the Marines observe:

Snipers argue a counterintuitive point, saying that even though two-man teams have less firepower and fewer men, they are safer because they can hide more effectively.

Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, the leader of the battalion’s First Sniper Team, said the sniper community was suffering from an overreaction. “It’s sad that they got killed, but when you think about it, we’ve been here three years, going on four, and we’ve only had two teams killed,

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