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]

Do you support the war but not the troops?

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

It is one thing to support a surge of troops, and quite another to have the national discipline to prepare for it ten years ago.

For approximately four years, since the cessation of conventional operations in the Asia / Middle East theatre, U.S. forces have trained and equipped for counterinsurgency operations.  In fact, under the Clinton administration, focus on large forces and heavy armor gave way to less armor, smaller, less armored vehicles, and special forces (along with a reduction in the overall size of the military).  This is why the phrase ‘up-armored’ HMMWV exists.  This has also left the armed forces less prepared for large-scale, conventional operations.

Nearly four years in Iraq have hammered US army and marines into a skilled counter-insurgency force but has left it unready for war against a conventionally armed foe, US generals warn.

Arguing for big budget increases and more troops, leaders of both military services have made the case in recent days that the US military faces greater risk today if it is called to respond to another major conflict.

“What we are developing right now is the best counterinsurgency force in the world, both army and marine,” General James Conway, commandant of the marine corps, told lawmakers Tuesday.

But “that’s essentially what they’re focused on,” Conway added, because troops have little time to train for anything else between tours to Iraq.

“So we need to be able to train toward other major contingency types of operations, and we’re just not doing it right now,” he said.

General Peter Schoomaker, the army chief of staff, echoed Conway’s concerns at hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.

“I have no concerns about how we are equipping, training and manning the forces that are going across the berm into harm’s way. But I do have continued concerns about the strategic depth of our Army and its readiness,” he said.

Lieutenant General Stephen Speakes, an army deputy chief of staff, told defense reporters this week none of the army’s combat brigades are rated as ready for high intensity conflict.

“If you take a look at the forces not deployed to combat, whether they are active guard or reserve, they have substantial equipping shortfalls, and also some issues with training and manning,” he said.

“What that means then is they are not optimized to be ready to fight a high-intensity conflict,” he said.

“We have been very successful focusing both equipping and training and manning on the units that are going to combat, but those units have been focused on low intensity conflict,” he said.

“Their training program has been almost exclusively focused to that end, and even they are not high intensity conflict certified,” he said.

A “surge” of 21,500 additional troops to Iraq ordered by President George W. Bush will add to the squeeze, particularly if the demand for more troops continues to climb to pacify areas beyond Baghdad, they said.

“If it is indeed a plus-up, it is going to make our future more difficult,” said Conway.

The generals were reluctant to spell out the risk posed by another major challenge elsewhere in the world, referring lawmakers to classified assessments submitted by the militaries.

But in general terms officials said the US military response to crisis elsewhere is likely to be slower and incur more US casualties than called for in US war plans.

But the problems with small force projection and a paucity of equipment are more far reaching than a postulated war with another enemy (the dual containment philosophy).  The problems are manifested in the here and now regarding the so-called “surge” of troops to support OIF.

Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said.

The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties, according to Army and Marine Corps leaders.

“The response would be slower than we might like, we would not have all of the equipment sets that ordinarily would be the case, and there is certainly risk associated with that,” the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, told the House Armed Services Committee last week.

President Bush’s plan to send five additional U.S. combat brigades into Iraq has left the Army and Marines scrambling to ensure that the troops could be supported with the necessary armored vehicles, jamming devices, radios and other gear, as well as lodging and other logistics.

Trucks are in particularly short supply. For example, the Army would need 1,500 specially outfitted — known as “up-armored” — 2 1/2 -ton and five-ton trucks in Iraq for the incoming units, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for force development.

“We don’t have the [armor] kits, and we don’t have the trucks,” Speakes said in an interview. He said it will take the Army months, probably until summer, to supply and outfit the additional trucks. As a result, he said, combat units flowing into Iraq would have to share the trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance.

Speakes said that although another type of vehicle — the up-armored Humvee — continues to be in short supply Army-wide, there would be “adequate” numbers for incoming forces, and each brigade would receive 400 fully outfitted Humvees. But he said that to meet the need, the Army would have to draw down pre-positioned stocks that would then not be available for other contingencies.

Still, U.S. commanders privately expressed doubts that Iraq-bound units would receive a full complement of Humvees. “It’s inevitable that that has to happen, unless five brigades of up-armored Humvees fall out of the sky,” one senior Army official said of the feared shortfall. He expects that some units would have to rely more heavily on Bradley Fighting Vehicles and tanks that, although highly protective, are intimidating and therefore less effective for many counterinsurgency missions.

Adding to the crunch, the U.S. government has agreed to sell 600 up-armored Humvees to Iraq this year for its security forces. Such sales “better not be at the expense of the American soldier or Marine,” Speakes told defense reporters recently, saying U.S. military needs must take priority.

Living facilities in Iraq are another concern for the additional troops, who would be concentrated in Baghdad, Army officials said. The U.S. military has closed or handed over to Iraqi forces about half of the 110 bases established there after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Decisions are being made on where to base incoming units in Baghdad, but it is likely that, at least in the short term, they would be placed in existing facilities, officials said.

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new top U.S. commander in Iraq, has requested that additional combat brigades move into Iraq as quickly as possible. But accelerated deployments would mean less time for units to train and fill out their ranks. Brigades are required to have an aggregate number of soldiers before deploying but may still face shortages of specific ranks and job skills.

Meanwhile, the demand for thousands more U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan is worsening the readiness of units in the United States, depleting their equipment and time to train, Army officials said. “We can fulfill the national strategy, but it will take more time and it will also take us increased casualties to do the job,” Speakes said.

Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker testified last week before the House Armed Services Committee that, regarding readiness, “my concerns are increased over what they were in June.”

“To meet combatant commanders’ immediate wartime needs, we pooled equipment from across the force to equip soldiers deploying in harm’s way,” he said. “This practice, which we are continuing today, increases risk for our next-to-deploy units and limits our ability to respond to emerging strategic contingencies.”

Schoomaker called for additional funding to fix “holes in the force” and “break the historical cycle of unpreparedness.”

The equipment shortages are pronounced in Army National Guard units, which have, on average, 40 percent of their required equipment, according to Army data. Senior Pentagon and Army officials say they expect to have to involuntarily mobilize some National Guard combat brigades earlier than planned to relieve active-duty forces. But the Guard as a whole is not expected to return to minimum equipment levels until 2013, Army figures show.

The Army seeks to increase its permanent active-duty ranks by 65,000 soldiers by 2012, creating six new combat brigades at a total estimated cost of $70 billion.

A number of problems have plagued OIF: the naive trust in the healing powers of democracy, the unreadiness of the new Iraqi armed forces to take over security of Iraq without the necessary training and equipment, COIN doctrine that took its cue from forty year old counterinsurgency strategy flowing from Vietnam rather than looking to the holy war that the jihadists are fighting, and other problems too numerous to mention.  This naivety created the milieu for the deployment of a force that was too small to bring security to a country the size of Iraq, and equipped for a conflict that would not last as long as this one has.

The problems run from the preparations for OIF to the present, where senior officers find it implausible that the available equipment will match the needs of U.S. troops in the coming months.  It is one thing to support a surge of troops, and quite another to have the national discipline to prepare for it ten years ago.

Thus does one senior military officer write me to ask, “Does America support the war but not the troops?”

What Have You Done to Provide Security Today?

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

In General David Petraeus: Softly, Softly?, I argued, as I have previously, that the Iraq model for counterinsurgency is backwards.  The customary understanding of Galula’s COIN doctrine has the insurgent attempting to win the population, with the government forces attempting to hold them in submission. The Iraq model has this turned entirely on its head. The insurgents are holding the population in submission while we are attempting to win them, with insurgent terror proving to be more compelling than our so-called “nonkinetic

Proceduralized Rules of Engagement Prevent Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

I have covered issues pertaining to rules of engagement in the following articles:

In a Washington Times commentary, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James A. Lyons, Jr., weighs in on the overly restrictive rules of engagement that hamper U.S. military efforts in Iraq.  His sentiments are similar to the other reports on ROE, and work nicely to add to the things I have said in the articles listed above.  He gives steps that must be followed in order to engage the enemy in Baghdad.

In order to ensure that the additional combat troops being deployed to Iraq can achieve their objectives, we must change the current restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) under which they are forced to operate. The current ROEs for Baghdad — including Sadr City, home of the Mahdi Army — have seven incremental steps that must be satisfied before our troops can take the gloves off and engage the enemy with appropriate violence of action.

  1. You must feel a direct threat to you or your team.
  2. You must clearly see a threat.
  3. That threat must be identified.
  4. The team leader must concur that there is an identified threat.
  5. The team leader must feel that the situation is one of life or death.
  6. There must be minimal or no collateral risk.
  7. Only then can the team leader clear the engagement.

These ROEs might sound fine to academics gathering at some esoteric seminar on how to avoid civilian casualties in a war zone. But they do absolutely nothing to protect our combat troops who have to respond in an instant to a life or death situation.

If our soldiers or Marines see someone about to level an AK-47 in their direction or start to are receive hostile fire from a rooftop or mosque, there is no time to go through a seven-point checklist before reacting. Indeed, the very fact that they see a weapon, or begin to receive hostile fire should be sufficient justification to respond with deadly force.

We do not need to identify the threat as Sunni, Shia, al Qaeda or Mahdi Army. The “who” is immaterial. The danger is not. The threat of imminent attack must be immediately suppressed. And while we must always respect the lives of the innocent, the requirement of minimal or no collateral damage cannot preempt an appropriate response.

The insurgents, be they Sunni or Shia, are well aware of our restrictive ROEs and they use them to their advantage. Indeed, as the thousands of insurgent-inflicted Iraqi civilian deaths illustrate, the death squads, assassination teams and al Qaeda killers in Iraq have no regard for human life. Victims are looked upon as expendable: cannon fodder in order to achieve their objectives. As we saw in Lebanon, Hezbollah held women and children hostage in the same buildings they used to conduct offensive operations. They wanted civilian deaths. This same tactic is being used in Iraq today.

We cannot, therefore, afford to keep our combat troops shackled by a naive, legalistic disadvantage that takes no note of the real world, or the real battlefield. Moreover, our combat forces are currently fighting a two-front war: a literal battlefield in Iraq, and a virtual front in Washington, where politicians snipe at our troops with words, threats of budget cuts, and unrealistic strictures on our warriors’ behavior. Both the Iraqi insurgents and the radical Islamist fundamentalists dedicated to the destruction of Western values and democracy understand quite well that today, wars are not only fought on the battlefield but are also won or lost in Washington. They are only too happy to watch as our politicians water down our military goals and objectives in the name of some misbegotten legalistic concept of fair play and gentle warfare.

Our combat forces have never lost an engagement in Iraq. Let’s make sure they don’t lose the war in Washington. Unshackle the military and let our soldiers and Marines do their job. This will quickly silence the critics, as well as the insurgents and radical Islamist fundamentalists.

Assessment and Commentary

Admiral Lyons gives us a remarkable list of steps, each of which is logically and chronologically connected to the preceeding step.  It reads like a written procedure, something that would be used as a list of activities for a worker while performing adjustments to setpoints of an electronic piece of equipment during the course of a work day, rather than doctrine to allow U.S. troops to make split-second decisions of life and death.  There is no discussion of “close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver” in these rules.  It demonstrates just how out-of-touch the lawyers who author the ROE are with the U.S. fighting man, counterinsurgency in particular, and warfare in general.

In requiring that the “situation is one of life and death,” the focus is placed squarely on a defensive posture rather than an offensive one, and in requiring that there be “minimal or no collateral risk,” the ROE have given the insurgent the perfect weapon (women, children, and concealment to prevent the successful quantification of risk by U.S. troops can be used to prevent engagement).

The list of places and activities in which the enemy can engage to avoid U.S. action is extensive.  In prior articles, minarets have been shown to be favorite hideouts for enemy snipers, and yet U.S. forces will not even allow police to be stationed at the entrances to Mosques for fear of being disliked by the population.  The Taliban have shown that they can gather in the hundreds for funerals, and still avoid being targeted by U.S. forces because religious gatherings are off limits.

Just recently press coverage was given to a nonlethal weapon (ray gun that increases the temperature of the skin), and while the technology was interesting to most readers, there is a nugget of gold in the report that is far more important than the ray gun.  It was reported that Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis often pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout U.S. forces.

“All we could do is watch them,” he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops “could have dispersed them.”

Note again, and remember that the enemy is being allowed to gather intelligence that could redound to death and/or injury to U.S. troops: “All we could do is watch them.”

Troop levels can surge, new nonlethal weapons can be brought on line, and better body armor can be deployed in Iraq.  But until the ROE are revised top to bottom, the counterinsurgency in Iraq will fail because the enemy is being given too many weapons to use against the U.S. forces.  We have met the enemy, and it is the ROE.

A-10s Support Marines in Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

I have always loved the A-10 “Warthog.”  With both its firepower and defensive features, I cannot fathom why this magnificent aircraft would be retired, an action that has been threatened for years.  A report from a Marine in Iraq in 2004 shared with us the impact of having an A-10 in battle.

I just wanted to state that the Hog is an awesome weapon. I was with 3rd Bn 2nd Marines of Task Force Tarawa in An Nasiriyah Iraq and saw firsthand the devastation the warthog created. We had been taking fre from a building bout 3/4 of a mile from my pos. We shot it up with the 25mm Bushmaster cannons mounted on top of the LAV-25s, TOW anti-tank missiles from our HMMWVs, countless rounds of .50 cal and 40mm grenades and were still recieving fire. We finally called in AH-1W Cobras to make passes, after about the third or forth pass an A-10 came on station, both Cobras broke off from a gun run and the Hog rolled in. Talk about devestation, that GAU-8 Aveneger sounded like hell on earth, sure came in handy that time.

The A-10 is going back into action to provide close air support for coalition forces in the Anbar Province:

( – 1/22/2007 – AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq ( AFNEWS ) — A-10 Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Group landed one by one at their new home Jan. 17 here.

A formation of more than 200 Airmen assembled for the 438th AEG activation and assumption of command ceremony Jan. 15 as the unit is in the Al Anbar province to provide close-air support to coalition forces in the region.

“We feel extremely honored to support the Combined Forces Air Component commander’s mission in Iraq and to be joining the proud heritage of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing — the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Col. Patrick Malackowski, the 438th AEG commander.

The 438th AEG falls under the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad AB, Iraq. Brig. Gen. Robin Rand, the 332nd AEW commander, presided over the ceremony and welcomed the 438th AEG into the wing.

“Just like the P-47 Thunderbolts that provided close-air support for Marines storming the beaches of Iwo Jima 60 years ago, the modern-day warriors of this group will soon be providing close-air support in A-10 Thunderbolts for Marines on the streets of Ramadi and Fallujah,” General Rand said. “Together, we will influence the course of history and help Iraq transition to democracy.”

At Al Asad AB, the A-10s will join the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing ( Forward ), soon to be replaced by the 2nd MAW ( Forward ), as the primary units operating from the base. Marine F-18 Hornets, C-130 Hercules, EA-6 Prowlers, AV-8 Harriers and several types of rotary wing aircraft are currently in use here.

With the addition of the A-10s, the 332nd AEW now has five primary aircraft in its inventory, including F-16 Fighting Falcons, C-130, MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and HH-60 Pave Hawk combat-search-and-rescue helicopters. The addition of the A-10s greatly increases the wing’s role in providing precision weapons and sensors employment.

“In my opinion there are no pilots who perform close air support better than A-10 pilots,” General Rand said. “The 438th Air Expeditionary Group’s mission against anti-Iraqi forces will be vital in helping to secure victory in Iraq.”

The A-10s are deployed from the 74th Fighter Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Their distinctive shark teeth nose art identifies them as direct descendants of the famed World War II P-40 fighters known as the “Flying Tigers.” The original shark’s teeth and eyes were designed to scare enemies during battles in Burma and China.

A better choice for close air support could not have been made.  She is a beautiful aircraft – I don’t care what her nickname is.

Just How Long is Haifa Street?

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

Smoke rises over Haifa street in the heart of Baghdad as U.S. and Iraqi forces launch Operation Tomahawk Strike II

Smoke Rises Over Haifa Street - Courtesy of AP

On Wednesday, January 24, at 0500 hours, U.S. and Iraqi forces moved into Haifa street, a Sunni stronghold, in the third attempt this month to rid the area of insurgents who have been perpetrating violence on residents of the area.  The operation involved Apache attack helicopters and armored vehicles, while insurgents fought back with RPGs and small arms fire.  Coalition forces quickly positioned men on rooftops to battle insurgents who were also firing from elevated positions in buildings.  The Iraqi Defense Ministry said 30 insurgents were killed and 27 captured, including four Egyptians and a Sudanese.  Insurgent weapons caches were discovered and confiscated.  Haifa has been the site of repeated clashes, including a major battle January 9, just three days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced his new security plan for pacifying Baghdad. Fighting broke out again about a week later.

This same operation involved ‘raiding’ over 1400 houses and clearing them of any weapons found in them.  In fact, reminding us of concerns associated with completely disarming the public in a sectarian conflict, residents of the largely Sunni area fear that such raids and arms-confiscations leave them helpless against potential attacks by ‘militias’ against their district.  A block has now been evacuated of its inhabitants and will serve as a U.S. outpost for neighborhood protection.

Moqtada al Sadr is under pressure, as Mahdi army members in detention now stand at 600.  There are signs that al Sadr might be willing to allow coalition forces to target some of the more rogue elements of the Mahdi army, while he and his loyal followers rejoin the political scene.  The Iraqi administration is concerned about just such an exigency.

“We will have to wait and see what happens, but I believe that recent trends . . . [are] more positive than in the past,” Khalilzad said. “But there is ongoing concern about death squad activities, about the future of the militias, concern that they might be lying low, avoiding a conflict now, in order to fight another day.”

Speaking at the embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, Khalilzad questioned whether radical Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the powerful Mahdi Army militia, was sincere in his appeals to end the violence. “Is it a change of tactic or is it a change of heart?”

But at the same time that Khalilzad expresses concern over the political tactics employed by the Mahdi army (and whether they may be around in strengthened form by laying low and avoiding direct conflict with coalition forces over the next several months), he equivocates when considering the possibility of a temporary truce with the Sadrists.  According to an unnamed senior Iraqi official, contacts between the mayor of the area, Rahim al-Daraji, and a British general might have averted a major military offensive in the district of two million inhabitants. The demands include increasing police presence in Sadr City, bringing more jobs and construction projects to the areas, and releasing prisoners in US and Iraqi custody. US ambassador Khalilzad has signaled that such a mutual understanding has not been cemented, but could be possible.

U.S. forces attempted to make it clear from the beginning of this operation that Sunnis were not the sole target of coalition forces.  In what is becoming an odd practice for MNF press releases (i.e., communicating motive), it was stated that “the mission is not designed to solely (sic) target Sunni insurgents, but rather is aimed at rapidly isolating insurgents and gaining control of this key central Baghdad location.”

Parliamentary wranglings over Maliki’s plan to bring security have been rather extreme (although perhaps not as bad as the fist fights in the South Korean Parliament), with Sunnis protesting that Sunnis have been targeted, and the Sadrists protesting at the arrest at some of their colleagues, and much yelling and screaming before it was all over with.  In the end, Maliki’s plan was unanimously endorsed by Parliament.

In The Enemy Reacts to “The Surge,” it was pointed out that al Sadr might be positioning himself to lay low until U.S. force size diminishes in the coming months.  Khalilzad has the same concern, yet talks of “mutual understanding” when asked about a potential deal with the Sadrists.  The AQI and AAS insurgency might be defeated.  But will the U.S. win in Iraq in a manner that prevents the empowerment of Iran and the Shi’ite majority in Iraq … feeding the Shia giant-in-the-making and thereby putting the entire Middle East out of balance?  The insurgency includes more than just AQI and AAS.  The Mahdi army and the Badr Brigade are far more formidable than the remnants of the Sunni insurgency.

The question is this: just how long is Haifa street?  Does it wind through the Shi’ite neighborhoods, extending to the doorsteps of Moqtada al Sadr’s house?

The Enemy Reacts to “The Surge”

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

Al Qaeda has released a video where Ayman al-Zawahiri mocks the increased troop presence in Iraq, asking Bush “why send 20,000 only – why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops’ dead bodies?.

The Enemy Reacts to “The Surge”

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago

Al Qaeda has released a video where Ayman al-Zawahiri mocks the increased troop presence in Iraq, asking Bush “why send 20,000 only – why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops’ dead bodies?.

More Evidence Against the Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 2 months ago


In Politically Correct Rules of Engagement Endanger Troops, I used main stream media reports of soldiers and marines conveying the problematic nature of the rules of engagement under which they operate.  As a result of this article, two NCOs who were in Iraq (one near Ramadi and the other in Kirkuk) wrote me to express their agreement, sharing even more detailed and remarkable stories of U.S. forces being hamstrung by overly restrictive rules of engagement.  I discussed this in The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement.

As a result of both of these articles, my readers have paid close attention to similar stories, and faithful reader David Neumann sent me the link to the Hugh Hewitt Show where rules of engagement were discussed.  After listening, I contacted Milblogger T. F. Boggs, Sergeant in the Army reserves, who recently completed his second deployment in support of OIF.  Sergeant Boggs was happy to converse with me on rules of engagement, and gave me permission to transcribe and publish the portion of the show in which he discussed this topic.  The transcription follows, after which I will offer an assessment and commentary (the content of which is only my responsibility).

T.F. Boggs on Rules of Engagement


I wanted to ask, regarding the rules of engagement, it’s frustrating to me and I think a lot of people that our troops have to be held to such a stringent set of rules in a war like this where everything seems blurred.  And I was wondering how the troops feel about it?


Yes, we feel the same way you do, and one story from my experience probably best expresses this … and officers would probably tell me that I should know the rules of engagement … I should act thereupon.  But the point is that the rules of engagement that are there now are hamstringing the soldiers because we think about what we’re doing before we can actually do it.  The second IED we got hit by – I was in the first truck – we saw the guy who blew the IED up on us.  So we were chasing after him, we were on the fly … seems like an eternity but it was like seconds … we were trying to figure out, okay, do we engage this guy, what’s going to happen to us if we engage this guy, are we going to get into trouble, what are we going to say, what are we going to do when this is all over with … so we shoot flares at him, and he doesn’t respond.  So we shoot another, doesn’t respond, so what do we do?  So we shoot warning shots to the side, warning shots to the other side.  Ten seconds of this stuff goes by, and this guy is gaining speed, taking off on us, and I finally tell my gunner, “just go ahead and kill this guy – I’ll take the rap for it.

At the Crossroads with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 3 months ago

The U.S. is at a strategic and unique point in history, with Iran and Syria among the top reasons that stability has not been brought to Iraq, Iran aggresively pursuing nuclear weapons, and both countries fomenting the spread of jihadism throughout the region.  Decisions made at the highest levels of government over the coming months will have deep and lasting impacts on civilization for many generations to come.  It is apparent that the general public does not comprehend the momentous and watershed events upon us, and it is equally apparent that this administration is not girded for the struggle.

Recent Data on U.S. & Iran

We are still seeing the ripples of Bush’s address on Iraq.  In a joint press conference with Khalilzad, outgoing General George Casey said that we are “going after” the networks of Iranian and Syrian agents in Iraq.  Casey was backed up at home by the full power of the administration:

The belief that George Bush’s troops “surge” policy in Iraq is also aimed at confronting Iran was strengthened yesterday when the White House declared that it was “going to deal” with the actions of the Tehran regime.

In a series of interviews, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, struck belligerent notes on Iranian activity inside Iraq. Mr Hadley did not rule out the possibility of US forces striking across the border.

Discord continued between America and Iraq over the arrest by US forces of five Iranians in Arbil, the Kurdish capital. The US claims they are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and have been funding Iraqi insurgents. The Revolutionary Guards, said the US military was “known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilise the government of Iraq and attack coalition forces”.

The Multi-National Force web site, where press releases customarily point to military operations, has a rather odd press release on what at least some forces are doing in Iraq at the present:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces continue investigations into the activities of five Iranian nationals detained in Irbil on Jan. 11.  Preliminary results revealed the five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces.

According to Coalition Force officials, efforts will continue to target all who break the law, attack the Coalition Force or attempt to undermine the Government of Iraq.

The facility in which the detention took place has been described by various Iraqi officials as an Iranian liaison office, but it did not enjoy the diplomatic status of a consulate according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.    

The Multi-National Force, in keeping with U.S. policy, will continue to disrupt logistical support to extremists that originate from outside Iraq.  These initiatives are part of a broader plan including diplomatic efforts designed to support the Iraqi government, protect the Iraqi people, and seek assistance from neighboring nations, according to coalition officials.

Military sources have said that U.S. forces will ‘go after’ both the Sunni insurgents and the Shi’ite extremist leaders.  According to the Strategy Page, this isn’t bluster:

In the last month, Iran has become aware that the U.S. is deliberately hunting down Iranian agents inside Iraq. For most of the last year, Iran believed that it’s high ranking contacts in the Iraqi government gave its men immunity. Certainly the Iraqi police would not touch them (the head of the national police, and Interior Ministry, was a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia). But the Americans simply brush aside any Iraqi troops or police who get in the way, and grab Iranians. This is being done without much publicity at all. It’s as if the Americans were just collecting evidence and building a case. A case for what?

Finally, in addition to activity by ground forces, there is a naval buildup taking place to demonstrate resolve to remain in the region for a “long time.”

Assessment and Commentary

Ostensibly, the administration has finally fully engaged in the war that Iran and Syria are conducting on the U.S. by proxy fighters.  Or have they?  Any threat by Iran to conduct conventional warfare against the U.S. is likely a hollow threat, and their biggest threat is still assymetric warfare.  They are conducting this with ease and without apology.  As I have discussed in The Broader War: Redefining our Strategy for Iraq, Iraq is part of a regional problem and thus will require a regional solution.  Iran is part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

Yet after issuing sanctions on Iran, some members of the EU want a more nuanced approach to support for nuclear programs from the IAEA to Iran, believing that this will once again engage Iran rather than “forcing them into a corner.”  Inside Iraq, a top Shi’ite politician, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, strongly criticized the U.S. detention of the Iranian agents, literally calling it an “attack on Iraq’s sovereignty.”

Kuwait has made known their desire that the U.S. engage in talks with Iran, and Iraq’s foreign minister increased the pressure yet again on the U.S. by promising to Iran’s foreign minister to free the detained Iranians.  Iran has all but dismissed any potential hit on its nuclear facilities, telling the world not to take seriously the possibility that the U.S. will follow through with such plans.

In the most ham-handed diplomatic move since the beginning of the war, it seems that the administration cannot retreat fast enough from Bush’s threats to Iran.

Sen. Joseph Biden, now Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman (and a Dem presidential contender), sent a letter to Bush after a question-and-answer confrontation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Biden said Rice had been evasive on whether Bush’s statements meant that U.S. military personnel could cross into Iran or Syria in pursuit of insurgent support networks. He also asked whether the administration believes the president could order such action without first seeking explicit congressional approval—as Biden thinks he must.

Note that crossing the Iranian and Syrian borders in search of safe havens for insurgents and their networks comports exactly with my earlier recommendations, the result of which would be:

  • intimidation
  • regime destabilization
  • denial of safe haven for insurgents, and ultimately
  • fomenting of regime change

But regardless of how far the President has authorized U.S. forces to go in search of rogue elements, the administration cannot even seem to muster the resolve to allow the Iranians to think that we will enter their territories.  Continuing,

 … administration officials (anonymous due to diplomatic sensitivities) concede that Bush’s Iran language may have been overly aggressive, raising unwarranted fears about military strikes on Tehran. Instead, they say, Bush was trying to warn Iran to keep its operatives out of Iraq, and to reassure Gulf allies—including Saudi Arabia—that the United States would protect them against Iranian aggression. A senior administration official, not authorized to speak on the record, says the policy is part of the new Iraq offensive. “All this comes out of our very detailed, lengthy review of strategy from last fall,” he says. Recent intel indicates the government of Iran, or elements in it, have stepped up interference in Iraqi political affairs and the supply of weapons to Iraqi Shiite insurgents, say several U.S. intel and national-security officials, anonymous when discussing sensitive material. “The reason you keep hearing about Iran is we keep finding their stuff there,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace said Friday. Two of the officials, however, indicated Bush had not signed a secret order—known as an intel “finding”—authorizing the CIA or other undercover units to launch covert operations to undermine the governments of Iran and Syria.

At a time when the world is watching for resolve, the President’s handlers are denuding the story and handing him the worst foreign affairs blunder in recent memory.  With a softer approach to counterinsurgent warfare in Iraq possible, along with a strangled story as soon as it leaves the President’s lips, we are kicking the proverbial can down the road in the hope that we do not finally have to deal with it.  But that can will only be kicked so far.  Time is ebbing away.  Failure to engage in the epic battle of this millennium against jihadism might mean that a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles is more than just an interesting story line on a television show.

Jihadists Mock the Counterinsurgency Manual

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 3 months ago

It had to happen sooner or later.  Son and faithful reader Joshua sends me this link.  Jihadists have read, and are ridiculing the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24.

Jihadists and their supporters are reading and mocking the Pentagon’s new counterinsurgency field manual, which was released publicly and posted on several Department of Defense Web sites Friday even though it addresses such sensitive topics as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.

One Arabic-language jihadist Web site linking to the Pentagon’s 282-page counterinsurgency manual is, which routinely calls for the killing of U.S. and British forces in Iraq; praises bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks; and whose sponsor, Mohamed al Massari, has called for the assassination of George Bush and Tony Blair.

Al Massari, an expatriate Saudi dissident, and his jihadist Web site are based in Britain, where he lives despite calls by some British leaders for Al Massari’s deportation or arrest.

On the same Tajdeed Web page providing a link to the Pentagon’s new counterinsurgency manual (linked from a related Reuters story posted on the site), there is a gruesome photo of the body of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose parachute is still strapped to his back (apparently Major Troy Gilbert, whose plane went down north of Baghdad in late November).

Next to that photo is a computer-generated smiley face with these words in Arabic: “This one won’t be reading the manual.”

The Arabic-language Tajdeed message board posting is headed: “The American occupation publishes a booklet containing directives to its soldiers on facing the mujahadeen.”

Notable Arabic-language comments from readers of the Tajdeed posting include “Bless you, you who have broken the U.S. and its military and made it resort to booklets.” Also: “The Pentagon is distributing the booklet to save whatever is left of it!,” referring to the U.S. military.

As of 0015et (0815 Iraq time) Monday, 363 people had read the Arabic-language message board containing the link to the manual and the photo of the dead U.S. airman.

The Tajdeed Web site also showcases gory videos of attacks against western targets in Iraq, provides de facto insurgent training manuals, and provides tips for jihadis on how to sneak into Iraq.

Initial reaction to the Pentagon’s global, unrestricted distribution of the counterinsurgency field manual was one of disbelief.

One British private security contractor with employees in Iraq said: “Only in the land of the free could (such) a handbook be produced and issued to the enemy.” The contractor spoke on the condition of anonymity because his company works with the U.S. military.

I have been critical of the COIN manual.  In War, Counterinsurgency and Prolonged Operations, I contrasted FM 3-24 with both Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and the Small Wars Manual, regarding the understanding of both of the later of the effect of prolonged operations on the morale of the warrior, and the reticence of the former on the same subject.  In Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops (still a well-visited post), I made the observation that while snipers were one of two main prongs of insurgent success in Iraq (IEDs being the other), FM 3-24 did not contain one instance of the use of the word sniper (at the time I assessed the draft manual, but the longer, final version suffers the same flaw).

The manual is written more on a doctrinal than tactical level.  It contains broad, sweeping prose on strategical approach, devolving into platitudinous ramblings in places.  Frankly, it is difficult for me to see the advantage that the insurgent might gain by knowing its content.  Body armor improvements and, on the tactical level, things such as satellite patrols, are much more important to the soldier or marine in the field than what FM 3-24 says or doesn’t say.

It would be more detrimental for the Small Wars Manual to fall into the hands of the enemy, if we had followed its counsel (e.g., increasing force size to match the threat, disarming the public, etc.), but of course, it is too late to recall it from the public domain.

In the end, it is true that the openness of the American culture has hindered the war effort.  But the lesson of this story is not that FM 3-24 should have been OPSEC.  It was released into the public domain for a reason.  However, the fact that the British will not deport the individual responsible for this web site points to the robust existence of a pre-9/11 fantasy in which, to the Brits, the blogger is apparently just some boyish amateur rather than a part of jihadism and therefore a mortal danger to the survival of the west.

I am more concerned about the blogger than FM 3-24 or what happens to it.

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