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]

Another Disappointing RAND Counterinsurgency Study

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

In RAND Study on Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan we disapproved of the small footprint model for counterinsurgency advocated by Seth G. Jones. Another RAND study has been issued entitled How Terrorists Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, by Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki. The report is available for download, so the reader can study it later (or perhaps has already studied it). But the summary statement reads thusly:

All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa’ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation. The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa’ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase “war on terrorism” since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa’ida.

This amounts to 83% – according to Jones and Libicki – of terrorists who either joined the political process or were arrested by the police. So then the solution must be non-military, or so Jones and Libicki conclude.

But they fundamentally fail to understand the nature of the enemy, and so it’s not surprising that the study reaches the wrong conclusions. In Why is there Jihad, we linked a recent report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point that studied the internet interview of Ayman al-Zawahiri. They noted many interesting things, but one crucial point to understanding their global movement.

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

To which we observed:

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

This is the Sunni perspective, but the radical Shi’a perspective is the same. From Michael Ledeen’s The Iranian Time Bomb, Khomeini succinctly states their view:

“We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

Ledeen summarizes their views: “Without exception, their core beliefs are totally contrary to the notion that they are a traditional nation-state” [page 17]. Baitullah Mehsud has also shown that his perspective is global, contrary to the views of earlier generations of Taliban. Neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban are about to engage in local or even national politics. It violates the stipulations of their faith.

As for the high value target initiative, the U.S. has been engaged in this for six or more years in both Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Pakistan). It has consumed an incredible amount of money, time, resources, intelligence assets, and firepower, but has only moderate results to show for the expenditure.

The security situation in Afghanistan is headed in the wrong direction, while Iraq has been secured. Counterinsurgency requires force projection, a doctrine we have argued for two years. It has worked in Iraq, and will be required in Afghanistan. A few more policing assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan would mean simply a few more policing assets to die at the hands of Taliban and al Qaeda.

The answer is not black or special operations, police, surreptitious behind-the-scenes deals, prison cells, interrogations, incorporation of the enemy into politics, or negotiations. The immediate answer to the problem of an enemy who would kill you is to kill the enemy with fire and maneuver.

The Growing Talibanization of Pakistan and Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

The news is replete with reports of Taliban casualties most days, but the queue of fighters waiting to join the jihad is long.

KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan — Here in the remote mountains of Pakistan, a deep, mostly dry riverbed has been turned into a training camp where about two dozen young men, most in their teens, receive rigorous training for the war against NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Their day starts at 4 a.m. with prayers, followed by a six-mile run along the riverbed, swimming where some water remains, and weapons training. “One has to go through this rigor to prepare for the tough life as a fighter,” said a 27-year-old who introduced himself as Omar Abdullah. He says he fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan before returning home to Pakistan a few weeks ago to organize training for new recruits.

The camp is just a few miles from Peshawar, the regional capital of Pakistan’s conservative tribal belt. The existence of the camp and dozens like it is a major reason why the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, just across the border, is foundering. Pakistan’s military is struggling to locate the camps and eradicate them, in part because many locals are sympathetic to the jihadis.

This camp, protected by a low hill, has no formal or permanent structure. The boys live in a nearby village. “The villagers look after us,” said Mr. Abdullah, a lean man with a sparse beard and a Kalashnikov rifle. Finding the camp requires an armed escort on a 20-minute walk from the village along a muddy track …

The Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt are organized under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an organization that has effectively established its own rule in the area. It is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by Pakistani authorities of masterminding suicide attacks including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December. He has denied any involvement in Ms. Bhutto’s murder.

The war in Afghanistan isn’t only attracting Pashtun jihadis but recruits from across Pakistan, some of whom had been fighting in Kashmir. “Jihad against American forces in Afghanistan is more important to us at this point,” said Mr. Abdullah.

One young man said he was a student at a business school in Peshawar and recently completed his 40 days of fighter training. He said he is waiting to join the war in Afghanistan. “There is a long queue, but I hope my turn would come soon,” he said.

The fighters are not just Pashtun, but are coming from all across Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud who leads the Tehrik-i-Taliban has created the most compelling and important organization of jihadist fighters in history, including al Qaeda. The effects are currently being seen in Afghanistan.

Militants fighting Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan have increased their activities, spokesman of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Wednesday. “There has been an increase in insurgents’ activities in south and east Afghanistan over the past two months or so,” Mike Finney told a joint press conference with Afghan defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi.

In addition to terming the summer and warming weather as ” fighting season” in Afghanistan, the spokesman said peace talks with Baitullah Mehsoud’s militants in Pakistan’s tribal area has led to 40 percent increase in insurgents’ activities in Afghanistan.

Baitullah Mehsoud, the commander of Taliban insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan adjoining Afghanistan, inked a peace deal with Pakistani government two months ago.

Since inking the peace deal with Pakistan, Mehsoud, according to Afghan government, has ordered his men to fight in Afghanistan against Afghan and international forces based there in the post-Taliban nation.

Mehsud’s influence is even expanding into the Pakistan South. It appears as if the port city of Karachi is now at risk.

… tensions are rising in the southern port city of Karachi, the financial capital of the country said to have the biggest Pashtun population in the world.

After 9 pm, armed Pashtu-speaking youths take to the streets of middle-class Gulshan-i-Iqbal and search vehicles. In the Pashtun slums of Banaras, any person wearing modern trousers and shirts is beaten up. Political leaders in the city, including elected representatives of the Muttehida Quami Movement (MQM), call it “Talibanization”.

MQM member parliament Dr Farooq Sattar said in an interview, “Elements who were forced out from the Waziristans and other tribal areas took refuge in Karachi, where they settled on empty land, mostly at the northern and southern entry routes of the city. The city is virtually under siege from these elements.”

A senior official from the Ministry of Interior commented, “They are not 100% Taliban, but ethnic Pashtuns who have increased their activity in the city and they have received ammunition from North-West Frontier Province. A big clash is imminent in the coming days between the non-Pashtun residents of the city and ethnic Pashtuns. This is not Talibanization but an organized bid to take over the resources of the city.”

The MQM, however, insists that the majority of the people in these Pashtun areas are directly connected with the Taliban. It is claimed they raise resources for the Taliban and plan to create chaos in the city to weaken the state writ.

The Talibanization of Pakistan is proceeding apace, while fighters are being sent into Afghanistan to undermine the already weak national government of Karzai. Pakistan’s answer is more talk, and while the high value individual or high value target initiative by the U.S. shouldn’t be closed down, it isn’t likely to net the most senior members of the movement, even if it nets some mid-level commanders. The movement must be militarily engaged and defeated. This cannot be done with black operations, special operations, intelligence gathering, surreptitious operations, and hidden and secret agreements or policing operations.

Marines Continue Heavy Engagements in the Helmand Province

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

U.S. News & World Report recently had a very important update on the 24th MEU in the Garmser area of operations. The entire report is well worth reading, but several paragraphs will be given below as very much related to things we have discussed in our coverage.

Many of the men here are not new to combat. The 24th MEU fought during the toughest years of the insurgency in Iraq, where urban street battles in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi “were like getting into a fistfight in a phone booth,” recalls 1st Lt. Tom Lefebvre, a Weapons Company platoon leader. During its 2004 deployment to Fallujah and then in Ramadi from September 2006 to May 2007, the battalion weathered brutal attacks on a daily basis. Soon after the unit’s tour was extended to nine months from six as part of the surge, the marines began to see progress. “It wasn’t a matter of if you thought you were making a difference,” says Cpl. Scott Oaks of Stewartville, Ala. “You could see a difference.”

Here, they are not so sure. They have watched British colleagues fight to retake from the Taliban some of the same hills where old British forts from colonial-era campaigns in the 1800s still stand. Since 2006, control of this town has changed hands three times. Marines say that they are willing to do the hard fighting to clear out the area again. But, they occasionally wonder, to what end—and at what cost? “I’ve got no problem going after the Taliban,” says Weapons Company 1st Sgt. Lee Wunder. “But we’d all like to see, for all our effort and hard work, when we leave that there is someone to backfill for us” …

Because they thought it would be a quick operation, Alpha Company marines traveled light, carrying only bare essentials on their backs. They each filled CamelBaks with the equivalent of 54 water bottles each for the first three days. Many left even sleeping bags behind. With food and ammunition, gear for each gi weighed an average of 125 pounds, minus the body armor …

In May, Weapons Company was ambushed by Taliban forces and pinned down in the 90-minute firefight. “We didn’t think they’d pour it on like that,” says Abbott. “It was one of those things where they just keep turning the volume up, and it was getting louder and louder. There were 30 minutes when we were full-bore reloading,” he says. “The next morning, we were like, ‘How the hell did we survive that?’ ” …

Troops here debate what is worse—repelling groups of Taliban fighters with good command and control in Helmand or the asymmetrical guerrilla hit-and-run attacks they weathered in Ramadi. “In Iraq, it was just a guy and a couple of his buddies. These guys are better,” says one marine. “We saw more RPGs here in the first two days then we’d ever dreamed of in Iraq.” They also miss air conditioning on foot patrols in Iraq. “We’d stop in a house and get to watch Spaceballs in Arabic,” adds Cpl. Richard Fowler wistfully.

Here, too, the mud brick walls that surround homes—and that Taliban fighters use for protection—have proved disconcertingly resistant to U.S. artillery. Alpha Company has also discovered textbook trenches and fortified bunkers—some booby-trapped—in and around the compound that it took over after a recent battle with local Taliban. Marines are relieved, though, that they are able to more freely use air support in this rural area and that they haven’t come across the sheer volume of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that they encountered in Iraq. But they also fear that the use of roadside bombs is on the rise …

… since their arrival, they have been struck not only by the ferocity of the fighting but by the immense poverty they have encountered. In Fallujah and Ramadi, families had tables and china cabinets and televisions, the marines note. “You look at these areas, and there is just nothing,” says Oaks. The literacy rate in many villages is in the single digits. “Education here is just way too low, and even if you’re just talking about bringing in electricity, it’s going to take years and years and years.”

This report should be studied by every counterinsurgency practitioner and authority in the country. There are so many nuggets of gold that we cannot possibly hope to flesh out all of the lessons. But there are a few recurring themes here at The Captain’s Journal.

First, note that the Marines are asking for the same thing we have asked for here at TCJ. If we are going to commit troops and sustain casualties, then the bloody ground become sacred. It runs against honor for fallen Marines to allow terrain – physical and human – to be retaken by the enemy. The Marines want someone to fill in for them upon their departure, and not troops who wish to negotiate with the Taliban, run to the nearest FOB, and be inhibited by their ROE when faced with fire fights. The Marines want replacements who can hold the terrain.

Second, notice the battle space weight, something we have discussed in painful detail in our coverage of body armor. As we have argued before, the solution is not to give up protection, but to spend the necessary dollars to design lighter weight SAPI plates (as well as lighter weight field equipment).

Third, notice that just as we observed in the kinetic engagement in Wanat in which nine U.S. soldiers perished, the Taliban have not only become accustomed to the use of standoff weapons such as roadside bombs, but have taken to direct military confrontations via fire and maneuver. They are well trained and are becoming bolder. So much for the notion (proffered early in the year by Army intelligence – and which we disputed) that there wouldn’t be a spring offensive.  The Pentagon should listen to TCJ rather than their own intelligence.

Fourth, note the increased use of air power because of the lack of urban terrain, one of the positive things about being out of cities.

Fifth and finally, note the intensive nation-building that the Western world will have to sustain in Afghanistan before it is even up to par with Iraq. This is indeed a long term commitment.

The Surge

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

Senator John McCain is being taken to task for alleged discrepancies in his surge narrative.  Joe Conason with Salon has recently discussed “McCain’s embarrassing assertion that the Sunni insurgency’s turn toward the U.S. and away from al-Qaida came because of the surge.”  Conason’s discussion is pedestrian and rather boring, but a more sophisticated hit job is being proffered by Professor Colin Kahl – now advisor to Barack Obama – entitled When to Leave Iraq.

I will only deal with one major aspect of the commentary, that being his citation of Major Niel Smith’s paper and the alleged obsession of the Anbar tribes with the stateside talk of withdrawal.  According to Kahl, “In short, contrary to the Bush administration’s claims, the Awakening began before the surge and was driven in part by Democratic pressure to withdraw.”

Whether anyone in the administration ever claimed that the surge drove the tribal awakening is beyond the scope of the discussion here (and really is quite irrelevant).  What is more important is the order of things and how the surge played a role in the stabilization of Iraq.  Unlike Professor Kahl, I had an opportunity to review a pre-publication version of Major Smith’s paper.  Major Smith forwarded his paper to me, probably as a result of many exchanges Smith and I had over e-mail and also in discussion threads at the Small Wars Council.  I am a student of the campaign for Anbar (because of my son’s deployment to Fallujah), and Major Smith (himself more than just a student – a veteran of the campaign in Ramadi) and I have had some interesting and spirited discussions.

For some reason, Professor Kahl didn’t link Smith’s Leavenworth paper Anbar Awakens: The Tipping Point.  Had his readers been given the opportunity to read Smith’s paper, they might have come away with a somewhat more nuanced understanding of the campaign than Kahl did.  While the observations of Captain Travis Patriquin were important, there were also the other aspects of the Anbar campaign that focused more heavily in kinetic operations.

Winning Anbar can properly be said to have been Diplomacy with a Gun.  Even Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the awakening movement, had to have his smuggling lines cut by kinetic operations by U.S. forces before he “saw the light” and sided with the U.S.  As one essential element of the campaign, security had to exist as the basis for any meaningful exchange between the U.S. and the tribes.

MacFarland says he soon realized the key was to win over the tribal leaders, or sheiks.

“The prize in the counterinsurgency fight is not terrain,” he says. “It’s the people. When you’ve secured the people, you have won the war. The sheiks lead the people.”

But the sheiks were sitting on the fence.

They were not sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but they tolerated its members, MacFarland says.

The sheiks’ outlook had been shaped by watching an earlier clash between Iraqi nationalists — primarily former members of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath Party — and hard-core al-Qaeda operatives who were a mix of foreign fighters and Iraqis. Al-Qaeda beat the nationalists. That rattled the sheiks.

“Al-Qaeda just mopped up the floor with those guys,” he says.

“We get there in late May and early June 2006, and the tribes are on the sidelines. They’d seen the insurgents take a beating. After watching that, they’re like, ‘Let’s see which way this is going to go.’ “

This understanding should be coupled with even more nuanced and adaptable versions of counterinsurgency, such as the use of sand berms around Haditha (that I discussed a year and a half ago) to prevent the influx of Syrian fighters, along with coercive pressure on the tribal leaders.  While Major Smith is right in his assertion that tactics in Ramadi were prototypes of counterinsurgency that were used elsewhere in Anbar, Ramadi didn’t mark the first time counterinsurgency was practiced in Anbar.

The Military Channel recently played a narrated movie entitled Alpha Company: Iraq Diary, by filmmaker Gordon Forbes (a series my friend Bill Ardolino had the good sense to recommend long before I did).  This lengthy series is well worth the study time, and shows a very sophisticated application of counterinsurgency even as early as 2005 in and around Fallujah.  It shows a closer focus on “knock and talks,” intelligence driven raids and other aspects of soft counterinsurgency than implemented even later in other parts of Anbar.

In fact, Operation Alljah in Fallujah in 2007 involved more kinetic engagements than Alpha Company’s operations did two years earlier (much of 2/6 Golf Company earned their combat action ribbons within six days of leaving Camp Lejeune for Fallujah, and continued to engage in heavy kinetics through the summer).  This is not by accident.  The practice of counterinsurgency for two years running in the Anbar Province, including not only Major Smith’s operations in Ramadi but also all of the other aspects discussed above, drove al Qaeda and the remaining indigenous insurgency into the Fallujah area of operations in early 2007.  In short, two years of counterinsurgency was successful, setting up the operations in Fallujah in 2007.

Operation Alljah involved not only heavy kinetics, but also the implementation of gated communities, biometrics, and block captains (or muktars).  The remaining indigenous insurgency stood down and returned to their homes throughout Anbar upon heavy kinetic engagements, while al Qaeda stood their ground and died or fled Northwest to the Diyala Province (or towards Mosul).

This is where the surge came in.  The increase in troop commitments in and around Baghdad, along with intelligence-driven raids and constant contact with the population, made it impossible for al Qaeda to seek safe haven in Baghdad.  Many al Qaeda fighters died in Fallujah in the summer of 2007, and thus Anbar was essentially won with the last major Marine Corps operation in Anbar having been successful.

The Anbar campaign was in many ways a precursor to and the formative basis for the surge and security plan, but given the proximate need of each one for the other in order to finish al Qaeda in the South and West, they were symbiotically connected and essentially coupled.

Perhaps professor Kahl didn’t find it convenient to contact Major Smith before publication of his commentary on withdrawal from Iraq to see what Smith thought of the surge.  Smith answers it for us anyway.

As a personal opinion, I doubt that we would have had the flexibility to break Baghdad’s “cycle of violence” without the addition of extra troops, combined with a coherent and synchronized operational plan based off of organizational learning. The Awakening probably would have occurred in Anbar regardless, but I doubt it could have spread into the “Sons of Iraq” movement without the addition of troops to mitigate the sectarian cycle of violence combined with evolved COIN practices (the above plus things like gated communities in B’Dad).

Whether gated communities in Fallujah and Baghdad, biometrics throughout Anbar and Baghdad, payment for the services Sons of Iraq, hard core kinetic engagements in Fallujah in the summer of 2007 and throughout 2005 – 2007 in Ramadi, sand berms around Haditha, the proximity of troops in Baghdad preventing al Qaeda from garrisoning in Baghdad, air power and intelligence driven raids, or other complicated aspects of counterinsurgency, the fact of the matter is that this conversation is one that many of us have had for a very long time now.  Counterinsurgency is a very complicated affair, and lifting one aspect of it out of context and elevating it to a position of exclusive use is for dolts.

In the future you will likely hear that the talk of withdrawal caused the tribal awakening, the surge wasn’t necessary, and support for it was mistaken.  When you hear this, rest assurred that it is based on information that was lifted out of context and for which there is no backdrop.  Professor Kahl liked citing Major Smith’s paper on the issue of withdrawal being pressure on the tribal leaders.

It was easy, however, to avoid the other parts of the paper that didn’t fit into his neatly outlined narrative, like Smith’s edict “Never stop looking for another way to attack the enemy.”  While Smith contributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and I sent a son to fight there, Kahl is about two years too late to make any sort of meaningful contribution to understanding the campaign.  For this reason, Barack Obama’s understanding of the campaign is hopelessly impoverished.

Losing the NWFP to the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

In Baitullah Mehsud: The Making of a Terror State we discussed the consolidation of power in the NWFP under the umbrella of Baitullah Medsud and the Tehrik-i-Taliban, and even though different subsets of Taliban currently threaten Peshawar, they are ultimately part of the Tehrik-i-Taliban. Now it is being reported that internal Pakistan analysts and watchers are concerned about the total loss of the North West Frontier Province to the Taliban. “I am telling you that the Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan,” the newspaper quoted Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the junior coalition partner Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI) as saying.

A CRISIS meeting of Pakistan’s new coalition Government has been warned that it could lose control of the North West Frontier Province, which is believed to hold most of its nuclear arsenal.

The warning came yesterday from the coalition leader, who, although he is part of the new Government, is regarded as having the closest links to al-Qa’ida and Taliban militants sweeping through the region.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman bluntly told his colleagues: “The North West Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan. That is what is happening. That is the reality.”

This came just days before new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s scheduled meeting with US President George W. Bush to discuss al-Qa’ida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Reports last night said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, regarded as having unparalleled insight into the mood of the three million tribesmen in the NWFP, and leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, was backed in his assessment by members of the coalition Government from the Awami National Party, which rules in the province’s capital, Peshawar.

They, too, told the meeting of jihadi militant advances throughout the province, with their influence extending to most so-called “settled areas”, including Peshawar …

For a first-hand account of the increasing Talibanization of the Peshawar region, see a must read article by M Waqar Bhatti with The International News. As for the nuclear arsenal, there were reports near the end of 2007 by Stratfor that they are not in jeopardy.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are already under American control even as analysts are working themselves into a lather on the subject, a well-regarded intelligence journal has said.

In a stunning disclosure certain to stir up things in Washington’s (and in Islamabad and New Delhi’s) strategic community, the journal Stratfor reported on Monday that the “United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed US forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India’s help.”

“This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet,” the journal, which is widely read among the intelligence community, said.

The Stratfor commentary came in response to an earlier New York Times story that reported that the Bush administration had spent around $100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its nuclear weapons, but left it unclear if Washington has a handle on the arsenal.

The Captain’s Journal doesn’t believe this. Regardless of where the nuclear arsenal is located, the notion that the U.S. could garrison enough troops and military materiel inside Pakistan proper to provide force protection for itself and a nuclear arsenal is ridiculous. This might make for interesting intelligence community “reports” and tabloid -type discussions over discussion forums, but it doesn’t pass the reality test.

Finally, the idea that the highly anti-India sentiments inside the Pakistani military would allow something like this to happen without so much as a word seeping out – except of course to Stratfor – is dubious. Even if the U.S. does indeed have intelligence resources or other troops garrisoned with the nuclear arsenal, they cannot deploy with enough forces to prevent being overrun in the case that either the Taliban or the Pakistani military decides to gain (or regain) control of the munitions.

In the case of NWFP, the best bet is to have already moved the arsenal out of this region and closer to Rawalpindi or Islamabad.  But the security of the nuclear arsenal is only problematic because of the Pakistani refusal to take military action against the terror state that is Baitullah Mehsud and the NWFP.

Baitullah Mehsud: The Making of a Terror State

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

We have already covered the evolution of the Taliban from locally-, or perhaps nationally-oriented fighters, interested only in Afghanistan and the tribal and frontier regions to one of more global focus, a danger to Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond (Nicholas Schmidle calls this new breed of Taliban the Next-Gen Taliban. Schmidle hit his target so hard and directly with his work that the Pakistani government kicked him out of the country after publishing on the Next-Gen Taliban).

Six month ago we were discussing Baitullah Mehsud being the most powerful man in Waziristan, and two months ago we saw Mehsud so bold as to go on screen discussing his plans for jihad not only in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan and beyond.

Also concerning Pakistan’s anemic response to Mehsud, we discussed the plans to turn other Taliban “commanders” against him, and how this plot failed within a week of being hatched (as we predicted). The move to hijack the Taliban vanished into smoke, said one well-connected militant. Moreover, as if Mehsud needed any more endorsement, as a follow up to this pitiful Pakistani effort to undermine Baitullah, Mullah Omar’s delegates, including Ustad Yasir and Qari Ziaur Rahman, issued a strict warning that such intra-Taliban bloodletting was not acceptable and that in the future all fighters would work under one umbrella with no stand-alone activities tolerated. This is a clear message to the rivals of Baitullah.

As an al Qaeda – Taliban franchise, Baitullah Mehsud came out of this exchange clearly more than the most powerful man in Waziristan. He is now unparalleled in his power and authority over the region and its inhabitants. The Asia Times gives us a clearer picture of the dizzying pace of events and Pakistan’s reaction (extensive citation necessary).

He is reclusive like Taliban leader Mullah Omar and popular like al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, and he pledges his allegiance to both.

This is Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, whom the Pakistani security agencies have tried their best to engage, but he remains defiant, so much so that he is even suspected of being an agent for India’s Research and Analysis intelligence agency.

Baitullah, who operates in the South Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, has frequently fallen out with the Afghan Taliban for directing his jihadis against the Pakistani security forces rather than sending them to Afghanistan.

We have already discussed the the notion that Mullah Mohammed Omar disavowed Baitullah because of his fighting within Pakistan against the regime (showing that this view was wrongheaded), with a spokesman of Omar reporting that “We have no concern with anybody joining or leaving the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Ours is an Afghan movement and we as a matter of policy do not support militant activity in Pakistan,” the Taliban spokesman said. “Had he been an Afghan we would have expelled him the same way we expelled Mansoor Dadullah for disobeying the orders of Mullah Omar. But Baitullah is a Pakistani Talib and whatever he does is his decision. We have nothing to do with it,” Mr Mujahid maintained.

Omar doesn’t have the power to “expel” Baitullah Mehsud from the Taliban movement, and the idea that Mehsud works for India is preposterous. Continuing:

Initially, this pleased American and European intelligence agencies as he turned the tide from the Afghan battlefield to Pakistan. But now Baitullah is viewed with extreme suspicion as he has proved to be a man who always achieves what he sets out to do, and jihadis from around the world are flooding into his camps to be trained for global jihad. This in turn has allayed the fears of the Afghan Taliban, who realize they will be ensured a smooth supply of fighters to Afghanistan.

For these reasons, Baitullah is now a marked man.

Over the past few months, Pakistani security agencies and coalition leaders from Afghanistan have shared intelligence in an attempt to track down Baitullah and pinpoint where he gets his resources, but he remains elusive.

All the same, this has not diminished his effectiveness.

Last week, for instance, security forces were sent to the Hangu district of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) after the government announced it was reneging on peace deals and launching an all-out offensive against militants in NWFP.

Mehsud called a meeting in South Waziristan of all powerful commanders from the Pakistani tribal agencies and announced that the minute any attack was mounted anywhere against militants, offensives would be launched against the Pakistani security forces in the tribal areas as well as on the federal capital, Islamabad, and on the leadership and allies of the leading party in the ruling coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party.

Further, President Pervez Musharraf and his associates and anyone connected with the storming in Islamabad last year of the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), which was pro-Taliban, would also be targeted.

Subsequently, the Pakistani security agencies advised the government to immediately withdraw the forces. The reasoning was that Pakistan could withstand pressure from the United States to act against militants, but it could not win a showdown with Baitullah. A high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed.

The problem now is to hunt down Baitullah, who is also wanted in connection with the assassination last year of former premier Benazir Bhutto and other attacks.

Using Baitullah’s differences with some regional commanders – Baitullah comes from the Mehsud, one of the four sub-tribes of the Waziri – Pakistan tried to erect a web of opposition around him, but none survived. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also tried to sow seeds of enmity against Baitullah, without success.

Haji Omar, once a powerful chief of the Taliban in South Waziristan and also a Wazir, tried to challenge Baitullah’s command, but he now lives in exile in North Waziristan, without forces or resources.

Haji Nazeer, another Wazir, who runs the biggest Pakistani Taliban fighting network in Afghanistan, also tried to confront Baitullah, at the behest of the security forces, but he failed. Last month, Baitullah drove out all tribes related to Haji Nazeer from South Waziristan.

Now that Baitullah is unchallenged in South Waziristan, he aims to broaden his network. He has raised his presence in neighboring North Waziristan and the biggest network of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Haqqani faction, has no choice but to side with Baitullah.

The Swat Valley’s Mullah Fazlullah has also announced Baitullah as his chief mentor, and after wiping out the ISI-backed Shah group from Mohmand Agency, Baitullah’s men are calling the shots in Orakzai Agency, Mohamand Agency and Darra Adam Khail in NWFP.

With each consolidation of Baitullah’s power, Islamabad, along with its Western allies, becomes all the more convinced that he has to be eliminated, otherwise there can never be any sustained military operations against militants in the tribal areas. His demise would also lead to the disintegration of the Taliban’s and al-Qaeda’s networks in the tribal areas, leaving only weakened stand-alone outfits.

Baitullah is well aware that he is now public enemy number one. A senior Pakistani affiliate of al-Qaeda, now close to Baitullah, told Asia Times Online, “It is not Baitullah Mehsud’s style to hide when people sniff around him. He will open the floodgates of offensives and if there is a conspiracy between Islamabad and the political and military leadership, they will taste Baitullah’s response.”

In February of 2008 the Jamestown Foundation was reporting on the Taliban being a factious organization. This is no longer the case. The consolidation of Taliban power is essentially complete, and Baitullah Mehsud is at the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, friend of Mullah Omar, franchise of al-Qaeda, and protecting both while he is also their protectorate.

Baitullah is much smarter than his rivals (and also much more brutal), as well as being smarter than his colleague Mullah Omar. He has cleverly crafted a situation in which his power is now unchallenged, fighters are flooding in from all over the world to join his movement, and he is so powerful that he can strike fear directly into the Pakistani government with his hit list. The frontier region is now a breakaway state, with Baitullah Mehsud at the helm.

Sleeping Launch Crews and Outdated Launch Codes

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago


Three ballistic missile crew members in North Dakota fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices this month, triggering an investigation by military and National Security Agency experts, the Air Force said Thursday.

The probe found that the missile launch codes were outdated and remained secure at all times. But the July 12 incident comes on the heels of a series of missteps by the Air Force that had already put the service under intense scrutiny …

Ford and other Air Force officials said the Minot-based crew had code devices that were no longer usable, since new codes had been installed in the missiles.

The three crew members, who are in the 91st Missile Wing, were in the missile alert facility about 70 miles from Minot. That facility includes crew rest areas and sits above the underground control center where the keys can be turned to launch ballistic missiles.

Officials said the three officers were behind locked doors and had with them the old code components, which are large classified devices that allow the crew to communicate with the missiles. Launch codes are part of the component, and the devices were described as large, metal boxes.

Ford said they were waiting to get back to base “and they fell asleep.”

It is not clear how long they were asleep.

There are periodic, regularly scheduled code changes, and there was a crew of four on duty. One of the crew members was not in the room with the other three at the time they fell asleep, the Air Force said.

The investigation concluded that the codes had remained secured in their containers, which have combination locks that can be opened only by the crew. The containers remained with the crew at all times, and the facility is guarded by armed security forces.

The Captain’s Journal knows a Marine who stayed awake for three days and nights in Fallujah in the summer of 2007.  Message to the Air Force: suck it up.  As for the outdated codes, many more words.

How does this happen?  Of course the codes are revised periodically.  Where is the independent verification?  Where are the signoffs and QA signatures?  Where is the oversight?  Where is the proper training?  What happened to the procedural guidance?  What programmatic controls failed, and why?

The Air Force needs a good review of this incident, including but not limited to a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) and a Management Oversight and Risk Tree analysis (MORT).  This cannot happen again.

Developments in Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

There is exciting hope for our warriors who may otherwise suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

In a study of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers at the Rand Corporation found earlier this year that about 19 percent reported a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting a probable brain injury. An editorial last year in the medical journal the Lancet explained that due to increased use of explosive devices, the proportion of injured soldiers with TBI has increased to 60 percent, from 20 percent or less in previous wars. “With its mechanisms murky, diagnosis tricky, incidence under-reported, treatment uncertain, and personal, societal, and economic tolls enormous, TBI is a clear crisis for the U.S. military,” the editorial stated.

The results can be life-shattering. Even mild TBI, in which the victim never loses consciousness, can lead to erratic mood swings, impaired memory and confused thinking.

TBI used to be thought of as a single injury. But, over the past 10 or 15 years, a more complex picture has emerged.

“Now we know it’s a dynamic process,” said Dr. Ross Zafonte, professor and chair of the Department Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “We like to separate it out into two parts.”

First is the immediate blow to the head. Neurons, the nerve cells that transmit and process information, might be stretched or torn apart entirely by the force. There might also be bleeding or swelling inside the skull, leading to more neuron damage.

But the process doesn’t end there. “There’s a whole chemical cascade,” said Lisa Kreber, senior neuroscientist and research coordinator for the Center for Neuroskills Clinical Research Education Foundation in Bakersfield, Calif.

“As neurons are damaged, chemicals and neurotransmitters get released in mass quantities. The blood-brain barrier might be compromised and calcium from your body could get into your brain. All that is toxic to brain cells, so you have further damage going on over the course of hours or days after the injury,” she said.

Trouble is, the damage isn’t always easy to spot. Axons, cable-like parts of neurons that form the fiber pathways information travels along, might not be completely broken, but could still be damaged from stretching and pulling. This kind of damage wouldn’t show up on an MRI or CT scan, Kreber said. So doctors might not realize anything is physically wrong.

But diffusion tensor imaging, a type of MRI, could change that by showing doctors the individual axon pathways. “You can see where the pathways have been stretched and where there are holes, so you have a better idea of how much damage has been done and to what parts of the brain,” she said.

Another possible diagnostic technique would sidestep imagery in favor of chemical analysis.

Serum biomarkers are substances, such as proteins or enzymes, which show up in higher-than-normal or lower-than-normal levels in the blood following specific types of damage. Hospitals already use a biomarker test to diagnose heart attack victims and researchers are looking for a way to make diagnosing TBI as simple.

“This is still in the research stage,” Bullock said. “But the idea is that you could take sample and know whether the person has had a brain injury, how severe it is, and whether there’s ongoing brain damage from hour to hour based on the biomarkers present in the blood.”

Once doctors know TBI has happened, treatment can begin. One of the most promising areas of research in treating TBI is in the field of neuroprotection, essentially finding substances that can protect neurons and give them an extra line of defense against secondary damage.

One example of neuroprotection comes from a study detailed June 27 in the Journal of Biological Engineering. Researchers Andrew Koob and Richard Borgens of Purdue University found that secondary damage might be lessened by giving victims an injection of polyethylene glycol.

Rats that got the injection within four hours of injury showed less behavioral impairment than those who didn’t get a shot at all or got one after that four-hour window. Because of the time constraint, this type of treatment would probably be most useful in situations where emergency personnel could reach victims quickly and give the injection before the patient ever reached a hospital.

Note this last warning.  The techniques under study necessarily deal with rapid response and amelioration of the conditions in order to avoid TBI rather than the treatment of it.  This is important.  This means that in addition to training doctors at military hospitals, there will be required training of rapid reaction personnel, including but not limited to the Corpsman and medic.

This will be difficult, time consuming, expensive and risky.  But it is worth it to protect the brain function of our warriors who have suffered battle space explosions.  It would be sinful and criminal not to invest in this technology.

Faster, please.

Anti-Taliban Plot Failed

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

In Sons of the Soil or Deal with the Devil? we covered the plot hatched by the Pakistan ISI to undermine the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  The plan reads like a bad intrigue novel.

Pakistan’s planners now see their objective as isolating radicals within the Taliban and cultivating tribal, rustic, even simplistic, “Taliban boys” – just as they did in the mid-1990s in the leadup to the Taliban taking control of the country in 1996. It is envisaged that this new “acceptable” tribal-inspired Taliban leadership will displace Taliban and al-Qaeda radicalism.

This process has already begun in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

A leading Pakistani Taliban leader, Haji Nazeer from South Waziristan, who runs the largest Pakistani Taliban network against coalition troops in Afghanistan, recently convened a large meeting at which it was resolved to once again drive out radical Uzbeks from South Waziristan. This happened once before, early last year.

In particular, Nazeer will take action against the Uzbeks’ main backer, Pakistani Taliban hardliner Baitullah Mehsud, if he tries to intervene. Nazeer openly shows his loyalty towards the Pakistani security forces and has reached out to other powerful Pakistani Taliban leaders, including Moulvi Faqir from Bajaur Agency, Shah Khalid from Mohmand Agency and Haji Namdar in Khyber Agency. Nazeer also announced the appointment of the powerful commander of North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, as the head of the Pakistani Taliban for all Pakistan.

The bulk of the Pakistani Taliban has always been pro-Pakistan and opposed to radical forces like Baitullah Mehsud and his foreign allies, but this is the first time they have set up a formal organization and appointed an amir (chief) as a direct challenge to the radicals.

Pitiful, this plan was.  It refused to acknowledge the conversion of the Taliban to the Next-Gen Taliban.  This evolution has been one of increasing radicalization and focus towards global expansion.  The plan also neglects to mention the tens of thousands of fighters that Mehsud has at his disposal.

The Captain’s Journal weighed in making Nazeer’s situation clear.

There it is in a nutshell – the Pakistan strategy for the war on terror.  The Pakistani military isn’t concerned about Nazeer’s military actions against the coalition in Afghanistan.  They are siding with one Taliban faction against another in the hopes of the stability of the Pakistani government.  Afghanistan is the sacrificial lamb in this deal.

As for the brave Nazeer’s first actions in this deal?  Yes, it’s driving out those powerful Uzbeks from Pakistan!  Without them the landscape takes a turn for the idyllic according the Pakistani military strategy.  As for Baitullah Mehsud who has around 20,000 fighters, he will likely have none of this.  Nazeer’s life will be in serious danger very soon if he pursues this plan.

The Asia Times follows up a week later with the latest in this ridiculous tale (extensive citation is necessary).

Al-Qaeda was wise to the ploy, though, and the proxies were last Friday wiped out before they could even gain a toehold.

A senior Pakistani militant affiliated with al-Qaeda’s setup told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, “Pakistan and the Saudi establishment tried to create a conspiracy, taking advantage of some tribal feuds between Taliban commanders coming from [tribal] Wazir and Mehsud backgrounds, and planted their proxy network to hijack the whole Taliban movement.

“But on Friday there was a clash in Mohmand Agency in which Taliban commanders close to Baitullah Mehsud terminated the leadership [of the proxies], including Shah Khalid, the local leader of the pro-government Taliban. The move to hijack the Taliban movement vanished into smoke,” the militant said.

At least 15 people, including Khalid, the chief of a militant outfit known as the “Shah group”, and his deputy, Qari Abdullah, were killed in the fighting. (State-run PTV, however, reported that Khalid had been killed after surrendering to militants loyal to Mehsud.)

Khalid’s group had previously been involved only in fighting United States-led forces in Afghanistan and was not interested in local Pakistani affairs. But it recently became a part of a newly formed group headed by North Waziristan’s Wazir tribal commander, Gul Bahadur, to rival al-Qaeda’s franchise – Mehsud’s network …

Mehsud is now on the offensive, all too aware of the establishment’s schemes to undermine him and al-Qaeda.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan has tried to drive al-Qaeda from the seat of the ideological throne of the Afghan resistance against Western armies by encouraging local Afghan commanders to structure the resistance on tribal lines.

In the broader picture, Pakistan envisaged this would improve the chances of reconciliation between the tribal movement and the Western armies, and the tribals would eventually be tolerated as the rulers of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s connections would in the process remain intact in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda would be alienated …

As a follow up, Mullah Omar’s delegates, including Ustad Yasir and Qari Ziaur Rahman, issued a strict warning that such intra-Taliban bloodletting was not acceptable and that in the future all fighters would work under one umbrella with no stand-alone activities tolerated. This is a clear message to the rivals of Baitullah.

Isn’t it odd that Pakistani ISI hatched a plot – for all of their alleged knowledge and understanding of the region and its inhabitants, their intelligence, and their skills in black operations and behind-the-scenes-deals – that collapses so badly within a week of birth, while The Captain’s Journal submits open-source analysis that nails the future with perfection?  And TCJ supplies this analysis free to the DoD and CIA.

Perhaps now these anemic, cheap imitations of the Anbar awakening can be dismissed and operations begun against the Taliban.

Ann Marlowe, Obama, Magic and Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

Ann Marlowe, who has just completed her 10th trip to Afghanistan and third embed with U.S. forces, has a commentary at the Wall Street Journal claiming that Afghanistan doesn’t need a surge of troops.

Afghanistan needs many things, but two more brigades of U.S. troops are not among them.

Barack Obama said: “We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.” Mr. Obama should have supported the surge in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean that advocating one in Afghanistan makes sense.

Yes, Barack Obama should have supported the surge in Iraq, but let’s stop and observe two things.  First of all, if this is about Barack Obama, then we are entirely in her camp.  Obama’s thinking, which clearly never graduated beyond his childish Marxist college days, adds nothing to the debate about Afghanistan, Iraq, national security, or any other weighty issue.  But it’s about more than that, because Ann has weighed in on one of the most important campaigns of the twenty first century.

This is the problem with going on record with such issues.  The Captain’s Journal went on record more than half a year ago saying that the forces and force projection in Afghanistan were not sufficient.  The fact that Obama is now singing the same song is not relevant to us; nor does it put us in the same camp on Iraq.  Everyone is spuriously correct from time to time.

But back to Ann’s commentary for our second observation.  Ann is right concerning the fact that two more brigades are not appropriate for Afghanistan, even if spuriously so.  Properly resourcing the campaign will require at least – but not limited to – three Marine Regimental Combat Teams (outfitted with V-22s, Harriers and all of the RCT support staff) and three Brigades (preferably at least one or two of which are highly mobile, rapid reaction Stryker Brigades).  These forces must be deployed in the East and South and especially along the border, brought out from under the control of NATO and reporting only to CENTCOM.  Finally, NATO must implement a sound, coherent counterinsurgency strategy across the board in the balance of Afghanistan.

The forces and realignment above are bare minimum (we retain the right to weigh in later if the Pentagon implements our proposal and we need more resources later).  As for Ann, her commentary goes down hill at this point.

Afghanistan’s problems are not the same as Iraq’s. Its people aren’t recovering from a brutal, all-controlling tyranny, but from decades of chaos and centuries of bad government. Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is largely illiterate and has a relatively undeveloped civil society. Afghan society still centers around the family and, for men, the mosque. Its society and traditions are still largely intact, in contrast to Iraq’s fractured, urbanized and half-modernized population.

The Afghan insurgency has no broad popular base and doesn’t mirror an obvious religious or ethnic fault line. It is also far more linked with Pakistani support than the Iraqi insurgency or militias were with Iran. Afghanistan needs a better president, judiciary and police force — and a Pakistani government that is not playing footsie with the Taliban.

These are two important and pregnant paragraphs, so let’s unpack them a bit.  It’s difficult to imagine, but Ann doesn’t see public raping of women for not wearing their Burka properly, public executions of potential Taliban detractors, schools which have been shut down (especially for women), extortion and kidnapping of children for the purpose of Taliban training as brutal tyranny.  It assuredly is, and this is important for the purposes of understanding the single most important thing in counterinsurgency.  Security.

As we have discussed in our coverage of Marine operations in Helmand:

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

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

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

The Afghanis don’t care much about the things Ann does.  As for the Taliban in Pakistan, they came like a embryo from the Taliban in Afghanistan, and have evolved into something even worse.  We have addressed the issue of Pakistan by saying that the Pashtun have rejected the U.S.-led war on terror, and the initial place to engage the Taliban is Afghanistan.  We will get little if any help from Pakistan, and continuing to rely on them is a pipe dream.  Only after we have shown commitment to the campaign will Pakistan reconsider its position.

Ms. Marlowe could embed ten thousand times and it wouldn’t change her predisposition to see things her way.  We recently said of COIN that “there is no magic to perform, no secret Gnostic words to utter, no tricks.  Troops are necessary, and warrior-scholars who can fight a battle as well as govern a city council meeting.”

But The Captain’s Journal can smell the deep magic of counterinsurgency from a mile away.  Find that single center of gravity, that pressure point that only a few are smart enough to understand, and suddenly counterinsurgency becomes much easier.  Ann believes in the magician’s incantation version of counterinsurgency.  It isn’t about religious radicalism, killings, lack of security, overbearing rules and regulations, and brutality.  All Afghanistan needs is a good president, good judges and a good police force.

Every country needs a good president, good judges and good police.  As we have pointed out before, “In this version of the problem, the root of the extremism becomes disenfranchisement, poverty, and valid grievances which require redress (regardless of the example of Bangladesh, which is 90% Muslim and one of the poorest nations on earth, but without the violent extremism).”

But in the end, the similarity between Iraq and Afghanistan is that the population wants and needs security for a legitimate government to be emplaced and grow and mature.  Contrary to Ann’s view, The Captain’s Journal doesn’t believe in magic.  We believe in killing the enemy, contact with the population and intelligence-driven operations.  Special operations actions against high value targets (as recommended in Ann’s commentary) might make for interesting media reports and good movies back in the States, but black operations and surreptitious engagements don’t win the population.

The Marines did it in Garmser, and it can be done in the balance of Afghanistan while the believers in magic cite their incantations as they hope for special operations and a new President to bail them out of the mess that is OEF.  In the mean time, what Barack Obama says about Afghanistan continues to be as irrelevant as what he says about Iraq.  So we’ll continue to ignore him.

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