South Carolina Senate Passes Open Carry Bill

Herschel Smith · 06 May 2021 · 9 Comments

News from South Carolina. Gun owners permitted to carry concealed weapons in the state of South Carolina are soon likely to join residents in 45 other states who can carry their hand guns openly in public — a proposal that has frustrated gun-control advocates, doctors and top law enforcement leaders but was a resounding win for many Republican lawmakers. With three days left on the legislative calendar, the Senate voted 28-16 mostly down party lines after a more than 12-hour debate to…… [read more]

Why we are losing Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

Completely aside from any political point or campaign (TCJ is conservative), and in spite of having lost readers and links because of our stand, The Captain’s Journal has made it clear for more than half a year that the security situation in Afghanistan is degrading. We have pointed out that many NATO troops operate under rules of engagement that prevent them from participating in any offensive operations, that NATO has no coherent strategy of engagement with and provision of security for the population, and that the Taliban, once restricted primarily to asymmetric operations, have been able to field hundreds of fighters in heavily conventional operations such as the battle of Wanat, in a raging battle that U.S. soldiers describe as pure chaos.

While U.S. Army intelligence and senior command in Afghanistan was denying that there would be a spring offensive, we were describing the dual front strategy of the Taliban (with the Taliban directed towards Afghanistan, and the Tehrik-i-Taliban directed towards Pakistan, but assisting the Taliban), and the choking of NATO supplies through the Khyber Pass and Torkham Crossing (and even down to Karachi). None of this is to deny that U.S. soldiers (and Marines) have fought bravely and efficiently, but we have always claimed that we needed to increase the force size. The Financial Times has a sobering commentary on the Taliban creeping closer to Kabul that runs in the same theme as our reports.

Maidan Shah is a 30-minute drive from central Kabul, but locals say the mobile phone masts on a dusty hillock on the edge of town mark the beginning of Taliban territory.

The town is the capital of Wardak, one of several provinces to the south, west and east of Kabul where the Taliban are successfully stripping away support among ordinary Afghans for their government and the foreign troops that keep it in power.

Taliban commanders have been boasting for some time about their plan to surround the capital. And analysts say recent events are strikingly similar to the successful attempt by mujahideen “holy warriors” to cut off the Afghan capital in the early 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

“It’s rather like reading a book that seems familiar and realising that you have read it all before,” says Peter Jouvenal, a journalist who covered the conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s and now lives in Kabul.

In the early 1990s Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamist leader still at large today, choked off supplies to the capital, where the communist government left behind after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 struggled to stay in office. Working with the Taliban, he repeated the trick in 1996 as they again laid siege to the city.

“It is a very old and effective tactic,” says Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani expert on Afghanistan and the Taliban. But one, he adds, that this time is aimed as much at the US and its Nato allies as the government in Kabul. “They are not trying to take cities, but this is a strategic offensive to gain as much ground as possible in the gap between the US presidential election and the next administration getting into office.

“They want to paralyse the Afghan government, create a crisis within Nato and force the west to negotiate in the spring.”

Haji Mohamad Hasrat Jan, head of the provincial council, says the government has lost its grip on Wardak over the past 12 months and now controls only the provincial capital. “The police, officials and MPs are afraid to go out into the districts because they are all in Taliban hands,” he says. “Even in the district centres authority does not stretch outside the official compounds.”

This report is eerily similar to our previous discussions about Afghani citizens working for NATO forces who were fearful for their lives and begging for protection, afraid to leave the gates of FOBs even to travel home to their families.

There are a host of reports on the situation that point to problems with poppy and a narco-state, corruption in government, the re-emergence of warlords, the ineptitude of the central authorities, the lack of infrastructure, the killing of aid workers, and other disheartening trends and events. But Reuters recently published an article that explains why the security situation is degrading.

Afghans believe the United States knows about al Qaeda bases in Pakistan, but does not hit them because it wants an unstable Afghanistan to justify its presence for wider regional goals, a state newspaper said on Wednesday.

While many Afghans have vented such thoughts for some time, it was the first time a state newspaper which generally reflects the government’s view has expressed them, and may point to a souring of relations between Afghanistan and its biggest backer.

Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both major U.S. allies in its war against Islamic militants, have hit new lows with the Afghan government accusing Pakistan of funding and training Taliban and al Qaeda fighters for cross-border attacks.

Nearly seven years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban government for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks, the heads of the militant groups are still at large and are thought to be hiding in Pakistan.

With more than 70,000 mainly Western troops based in Afghanistan, many Afghans believe the United States and its allies are deliberately not doing enough to halt the threat.

The United States always said it would attack the militants wherever they were, but in reality it has not done so, the state-run Anis daily said.

“The Afghan people have long doubted such claims of foreigners, especially of Britain and America, and their trust about crushing al Qaeda and terrorism has fallen,” Anis said.

The perspective suffers from the “man on the moon” problem.

The troubles of the United States in Iraq have been blamed on many causes: too few troops, wrong strategies, flawed intelligence, a very stubborn commander-in-chief.

The Man on the Moon rarely rates a public mention.

But the Man on the Moon looms so large in relations between the U.S. and 28 million Iraqis that every U.S. field commander knows his job would be easier if no American had ever set foot on the moon.

The Man on the Moon even gets a specific mention in the counterinsurgency manual the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps adopted last December. It is now taught at every U.S. military college and has the following passage:

“U.S. forces start with a built-in challenge because of their reputation for accomplishment, what some call ‘the man on the moon syndrome.’ This refers to the expressed disbelief that a nation able to put a man on the moon cannot quickly restore basic services.

“In some cultures, failure to deliver promised results is automatically interpreted as deliberate deception rather than good intentions gone awry.”

While the “man on the moon” problem was learned by U.S. forces in Iraq, it is equally applicable to Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan don’t realize that NATO has no overarching counterinsurgency strategy, or that many of the 70,000 troops cannot fire their weapons except in self defense. All they see is a degrading security situation, and since America is capable of anything if it can land a man on the moon, then there must be an ulterior motive, or so the Afghan people think.

There you have it – the reason we are losing in Afghanistan, in spite of the hard efforts and blood, sweat and tears of so many brave American warriors. The population sees the security situation degrading and has lost faith that things will get any better. They will side with the stronger horse, and right now, it isn’t the U.S. or NATO. This perspective must change before the situation on the ground in Afghanistan changes. If Operation Iraqi Freedom has taught us anything, it has certainly taught us that the small footprint model for counterinsurgency in this part of the world is a loser.

**** UPDATE ****

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link. The Independent has a related report.

Troop numbers in Afghanistan must increase to contain the surge in violence, says the commander of British forces in Helmand.

In an interview with The Independent ahead of Gordon Brown’s visit to the province yesterday, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said: “We are probably still on a growth trajectory before we get to the stage when the UK presence can begin to thin out.” The commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade estimated it would be up to five years before Britain could consider dropping troop numbers.

Senior military officers are reported to have held preliminary talks on increasing British soldiers in Afghanistan from 8,000 to 12,000 – a dramatic difference from the 3,300 initially expected to hold the ground when the UK force took over Helmand in 2006. The boost in numbers ties in with suggestions that troop levels in Iraq be scaled back.

Senior Nato commanders are said to be “screaming out” for more boots on the ground in Afghanistan.

It’s good to see acknowledgement of the situation, even if seven months behind The Captain’s Journal. However, we have already weighed in concerning the bare minimum we think is needed in Afghanistan.

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.

We need more than the Brits are requesting – or at least, this is our view.

Pakistan Without Musharraf: Now What?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

The Middle East Times recently had an interesting commentary concerning Musharraf and the Taliban.

Some 60,000 U.S. and NATO forces now in Afghanistan is a deceptive number, as all of NATO’s European forces — with the exception of the British and the Dutch — are hamstrung by caveats imposed by their parliaments against offensive operations.

Some 120,000 Pakistani troops (up from 100,000 in recent months) are now stationed in FATA. Strung out in more than 1,000 hilltop outposts overlooking infiltration routes in the valleys below, they complain about U.S.-supplied, obsolete night-vision equipment that is useless by moonlight. Inside the largely lawless FATA, the population is for the most part sympathetic to the jihadist insurgency. The jihadists also have sympathizers among the Pakistani-trained Frontier Corps, drawn from the local population and officered by Pakistani regulars. There is a widespread belief in the U.S. intelligence community of collusion between Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Taliban leadership.

Increasingly, the U.S. command in Afghanistan is launching drones, equipped with precision-guided bombs and missiles, against intelligence-generated targets of Taliban venues. This is seen in Pakistan as violating their sovereignty, but there isn’t much they can do about it, given that Taliban-in-Pakistan, a separate command from Taliban-in-Afghanistan, has ordered suicide bombings from the North-West Frontier Province to Sindh province in the south.

The unknown in the Pakistani imbroglio is Nawaz Sharif and Saudi Arabia, where he spent seven years in exile after being deposed by Musharraf’s 1999 army coup. U.S. influence in Pakistan is waning while the Saudis’ is waxing. The kingdom’s Wahhabi clergy have been funding many of Pakistan’s 12,000 madrassas since long before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Libya and the United Arab Emirates also have kicked in sizable sums for these one-discipline Koranic schools. Prior to Sept. 11, only three countries — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan — recognized the Taliban’s tyrannical theocracy in Kabul.

A Pakistani source just back from the Khyber Agency in FATA told this reporter Monday that posters of Nawaz Sharif were much in evidence. The people he spoke with were “extremely happy that Musharraf and the U.S. are leaving the scene.” Roadside stores were selling all types of arms (including rocket launchers) and ammo. Taliban in black turbans were roaming joyously in stolen vehicles.

The author clearly recognizes what we have already discussed in detail concerning the NATO troops, i.e., rules of engagement prevent their effectiveness.  But take particular note of his last paragraph.  People in the FATA are happy about Mesharraf and the U.S. leaving the scene.

Now take note of a recent Asia Times commentary on the departure of Musharraf.

“Musharraf had lost his utility as a useful asset for the ‘war on terror’,” retired general Hamid Gul, a security analyst and former director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), told Asia Times Online.

“The Americans had been putting pressure on Islamabad since February for him to get its act together against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Pakistan’s foreign minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] and Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, always told Washington that the government could not move forward independently because of Musharraf,” Gul said.

So was Musharraf the great killer of Taliban, or the vacillating, inept stooge he is made out to be by Gul?  In fact, Musharraf walked a tight rope, staying in power while the Taliban grew.  He could never recover from the theme of partial confrontation of the Taliban, and each side sees in his demise a benefit for their own cause.

In the case of the the Pakistani Army, quick (and quickly ended) strikes into the FATA won’t work.  Pakistan is facing an insurgency, and counterinsurgency is waged by protracted presence with the population.  Thus far, this is something they haven’t been willing to do.

Interview with Sirajuddin Haqqani

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani is said to be the newest leader of the Taliban war in Afghanistan, but there is nothing new about him, being a veteran of the war against Russia.


His son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is said to be taking over operational command of the Taliban fight in the Kunnar region of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, and in fact Sirajuddin might be the next rival to Mullah Omar for overall leadership of the Afghan Taliban.

The Haqqani faction has sided with Baitullah Mehsud, and so despite the denials in the following interview, they are well connected to the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  The following interview is provided to you by NEFA Foundation, who has obtained video of a conversation with Taliban Deputy Commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the infamous Afghan mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. Though only in his early thirties, Haqqani is considered one of the most powerful Taliban military commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has been rumored as a possible internal political rival to the current Taliban administration of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Haqqani has freely acknowledged his role in organizing recent terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul, and his partnership with foreign fighters arriving from elsewhere in the Muslim world. This video was made by Rahimullah Yousufzai, a veteran reporter/analyst based in Peshawar. 

Link to Interview  

The entire video is worth the study time, but a few things are worth mentioning.  First, their fight is stated to be ideological and religious, not just political.  Second, note a tactic we have discussed before here at TCJ.  He states that in the terrain owned by the Taliban they can field 100-200 fighters at a time for attacks, but that his real intent is not to control terrain.  He has sanctioned 15-20 fighters at a time to cause distuptions and harrass NATO forces, something we pointed out in The Taliban and Distributed Operations.

Finally, it bears mentioning once again – in order to maintain a consistent theme at TCJ – that force projection is the only answer to the growing Taliban threat.  The high value target program, relying on Pakistan to end the threat, and more NATO forces who cannot fight due to rules of engagement won’t solve the problem.

Military Operations in Bajaur, Pakistan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

As of August 16th, it was said that more than 100,000 noncombatants had fled the most northerly province in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

About 100,000 Pakistani villagers have fled clashes between security forces and militants in a northwestern region raising the danger of a big humanitarian problem, a government official said on Friday.

Security forces and militants have been fighting in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border, a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, since the militants attacked a security post last week.

About 170 people have been killed, including some civilians, officials have said. The fighting has included strikes on militants by fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

The violence has triggered an exodus, with people streaming out of the region on packed pick-up trucks and on foot, many heading for the safety of the main northwestern city of Peshawar.

As of August 18, this number had swelled to approximately 300,000. This number is almost certainly exaggerated, but it’s obvious that Peshawar, which is the last bastion of normalcy in the tribal region and increasingly Talibanized every day, is receiving an influx of people for which it has no place or resources.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban have made their position on these operations well known.

Arif Yousafzai

PESHAWAR: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened to launch attacks on security forces and government installations in Mohmand Agency if the ongoing military operation in Bajaur is not halted immediately.

Talking to The Post on phone from an undisclosed location, TTP Mohmand Agency Amir Umer Khalid said Tehrik Chief Baitullah Mehsood had instructed him to make preparations for attacks on security forces in case the operation in Bajaur Agency was prolonged.

Umer said: “We have completed our preparations and are anxiously waiting for the orders of our chief. We can not sit quiet if our innocent brothers, sisters and kids are bombed in Bajaur Agency. Taliban have also decided to expand their intelligence system to identify people playing spies’ role and giving reports about the activities of Islamic insurgents to the government. We will publicly hang those who are acting as spies for the government.” They needed to take a lesson from two youths who we recently slaughtered in front of people after being proved guilty of spying for the government, he added.

The government seemed to be living in a fool’s paradise. It was underestimating the strength of Taliban, he said, adding that the militants had the courage to fight till last man. “If we are being bombed to appease America, we have the right to fight back to defend our ideology.”

The commander said thousands of people were fleeing Bajaur due to the bombing by government jets. It is unfortunate that the jets, which the government should have used against the enemies of Islam, are being used against the Islamists just because they are not ready to accept the American hegemony. Asked if Baitullah Mehsood could expand battle to other agencies and parts of the country, he said in the struggle for survival, nothing could not be ruled out.

Separately, talking to The Post on phone from an unspecified location, Taliban spokesman in Swat Haji Muslim Khan said their Amir in Swat valley, Maulana Fazalullah, had ordered to line up suicide bombers for escalating attacks on security forces and government installations across the country.

He said Taliban were fighting guerrilla warfare against the security forces in Swat and targeted killing of government functionaries would be started soon. The NWFP chief minister, cabinet ministers, Rehman Malik, MNAs and MPAs belonging to Swat and some police officials are on their hit list.

Haji Muslim said they appreciated the statement of Prime Minister’s Advisor Rehman Malik to prolong the military operation in Swat, adding that it would be better if Rehman Malik himself took the command of security forces there. “I suggest to Rehman Malik to come to Swat and lead the operation,” he said and added Taliban were fighting a sacred war for the enforcement of Shariah and hoped they would be successful.

On the other hand, Taliban Kurram Agency spokesman Fazal Saeed Haqqani said NATO, Irani and Afghan troops were busy operating against the Sunnis to help Shias. He said the Sunni-Shia strife started in Kurram Agency in 1961 and it had claimed hundreds of lives till today. He said Taliban had rocked Shias, but now the NATO, India, Afghanistan and Iran had reached there to rescue the Shia community. The Taliban self-described spokesman said the government never made sincere efforts to restore peace in Kurram Agency.

Time will tell the effectiveness of the current operations against the TTP. However, if the operations cease without total destruction of the TTP – a highly unlikely scenario – the operations will have been mostly a loss and failure, and the Tehrik-i-Taliban will come back empowered from the stand down in hostilities. We’ve seen it before many times. Meanwhile, the province of Ghazni has been ceded to the Afghan Taliban.

As The Captain’s Journal predicted more than half a year ago, the Taliban prepared dual fronts and are engaged in full bore summer operations.

7000 Police Deployed in Kabul, While Pakistan Retreats from NWFP

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

The past few days have seen an unprecedented number of police deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Security was tightened in and around Kabul on Sunday with 7,000 additional police officers deployed ahead of Monday’s 89th observance of Afghanistan’s independence from Great Britain.

Police were seen at newly established security checkpoints looking at every passing vehicle Sunday. Increased foot patrols were also apparent.

An Interior Ministry official said it was the biggest police operation in Kabul in several months.

Also on Sunday, dozens of Taliban militants were killed after they ambushed a convoy carrying supplies for NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said.

Five security forces who worked for a private company were killed in the attack, in Zabul province, said Gulab Shah Alikhail, the deputy governor.

After the ambush, Afghan army forces were called in, Alikhail said.

Alikhail put the militants’ death toll at 32.

On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed 10 Afghan police officers in Kandahar province, according to Police Chief Matiullah Khan.

Khan blamed the Taliban and their al Qaeda associates for the attack.

“Who else is conducting this kind of cowardly acts except for the Taliban and al Qaeda people,” he said.

But it isn’t just the largest operation in several months. Kabul hasn’t seen this kind of security operations since the overthrow of the Taliban. Further, the police presence points to a security problem in the balance of Afghanistan, from which the threat comes.

A lawmaker from Kandahar who is critical of Karzai’s government said the police deployment has more to do with protecting the government’s reputation than reassuring the public.

“Unless they bring some comprehensive changes in the security, this deployment will not affect people’s confidence,” the lawmaker, Khalid Pashtun, said.

Pashtun said there had been a steady increase in kidnappings, robberies and other crimes this year.

“People are afraid to leave their house after 7 p.m.,” he said.

To the west, insurgents have been regularly attacking U.S.-led coalition and NATO supply convoys, burning fuel trucks and killing NATO and coalition soldiers.

To the east, the Tag Ab Valley of Kapisa Province has become the scene of near-daily clashes and airstrikes by the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan.

Afghan and NATO officials insist that the nearly seven-year effort to bring stability to Afghanistan is progressing.

However, the security operation in Kabul is the second time this year that the authorities have taken extraordinary measures to reassure Afghans that cities are safe from a Taliban assault.

In June, Afghan and NATO commanders mustered thousands of troops to clear militants from a strategic valley within striking distance of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s main southern city.

Kabul is a center of gravity, and the Taliban know it. They are capable of forming en masse to threaten the city, and thus threaten the seat of government. The observances and celebrations are the raison du jour, and takes on no more significance than that. The real message here is the concern on the part of Kabul for its own stability, and the degrading security situation in Afghanistan.

Slightly to the Southeast in Pakistan, the Pakistani troops recently sent into the NWFP met with a nasty surprise.

When several hundred Pakistani troops backed by paramilitary forces on Friday launched an operation against militants in Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan, they received a most unwelcome surprise.

News of the offensive, which proved to be the most bloody this year in Pakistan, had been leaked to the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda militants by sympathizers in the security forces, and the army walked into a literal hail of bullets.

Contacts familiar with the militants told Asia Times Online that every hill had observers as the first military convoys entered Bajaur – the main corridor leading to the Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nooristan, Kapisa and the capital Kabul – and they were quickly under attack.

In just a few hours, 65 soldiers were killed, 25 were taken prisoner and scores more were wounded. Under air cover, the soldiers retreated, leaving behind five vehicles and a tank, which are now part of the arsenal of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The Pakistani troops have retreated, as the Taliban regroup, rearm, train, collect “taxes” and continue to send fighters into Afghanistan to topple the government and return it to Taliban rule. Even if Pakistan was a consistent ally in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban (and they are little more than a halting ally), they aren’t capable of anything more than harassment of fighters in the tribal regions. More troops are needed in Afghanistan, now and not later.

Russian Thugs

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

In Georgia Pleads for Help Against Russian Brutality and Hegemony, we linked a photo of thugish Russian troops.

We noted the long hair, beards, inconsistent cover, and the idiotic sneakers and purple socks being worn by the dude on the back of the beaten up APC.

Here is another photo of a Russian “soldier” in Georgia where he doesn’t belong.

This photo comes courtesy of the New York Times (Joao Silva).  Note the lack of a blouse and the cover being worn backwards.  Again, the cover is being worn backwards, like some thug gang member.

They are perfect representatives of their thugish government.  Michael O’Hanlon waxed pathetic today on Foxnews about the provocation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that started the whole thing.  Unfortunately, Michael has bought into Russian propaganda.  Russia provoked the war, not Georgia.

“I blame the Russians,” he says, “because it was them who provoked the whole thing. They found some South Ossetians and some Abkhazians who have agreed to play their game.

“The Russians still cannot get used to the idea that Georgia is an independent state. They still want to use us as their slaves,” he says.

Asked about the destruction of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, which many Ossetians have blamed firmly on Georgia’s bombardment, he is adamant.

“It’s not true that the Georgians have destroyed Tskhinvali. Russian troops were stationed in Tskhinvali and from their base in the city have provoked the Georgian side [over a long period]. I work in Gori and there was hardly a day when there wasn’t any shelling – virtually every day we had wounded delivered to our hospital – there was no end to Russia’s provocation, all year round. So Georgia had no choice but to defend itself.”

But as for all of the talk about the mighty Russian bear asserting itself in the world, Ralph Peters gives some background to the thugish, horrible appearance and behavior we have already noted above.

RUSSIA’s military is succeeding in its invasion of Georgia, but only because Moscow has applied overwhelming force.

This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin’s revitalized armed forces (funded by the country’s new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for prime time.

It can hammer tiny Georgia into submission – but this campaign unintentionally reveals plenty of enduring Russian weaknesses.

The most visible failings are those of the air force. Flying Moscow’s latest ground-attack jets armed with the country’s newest precision weapons, pilots are missing far more targets than they’re hitting.

All those strikes on civilian apartment buildings and other non-military targets? Some may be intentional (the Russians aren’t above terror-bombing), but most are just the result of ill-trained pilots flying scared.

They’re missing pipelines, rail lines and oil-storage facilities – just dumping their bombs as quickly as they can and heading home.

Russia’s also losing aircraft. The Kremlin admits two were shot down; the Georgians claimed they’d downed a dozen by Sunday. Split the difference, and you have seven or more Russian aircraft knocked out of the sky by a tiny enemy. Compare that to US Air Force losses – statistically zero – in combat in all of our wars since Desert Storm.

As one US officer observed to me, the Russian pilots are neither professionally nor emotionally toughened for their missions. Their equipment’s pretty good (not as good as ours), but their training lags – and their pilots log far fewer flight hours than ours do.

Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they’re pulling it off – but the military’s embarrassing blunders must be infuriating Prime Minister Putin.

Let’s not overdo the notion of the mighty Russian bear, please.  They are thugs, led by a thug, and they look and behave unprofessionally because they are in fact unprofessional.  One more photo, from Reuters.

Note the stupid looking do-rag, the long hair and the inconsistent uniforms.  Thugs – commanded by a thug!

Financing the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

Some Taliban and al Qaeda support comes from radical Salafists in Saudi Arabia, but the Taliban also harvest their own support. Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we’re not particularly fond of the notion of mixing the war on drugs with Operation Enduring Freedom, since the idea of destruction of a farmer’s means of income does not comport with the need to win the population.

What about support for the Taliban from poppy? This has been asked thousands of times in the main stream media, and indeed, the State Department wants badly to war against drugs in Afghanistan. So do some military (mostly Army, not any Marines to our knowledge, since Marine operations in Helmand specifically avoided destruction of crops).

Our contention all along has been that the problem is not poppy, any more than it is any other crop. It’s the Taliban, and they are more than capable of obtaining income through bullying tactics whether from farmers who grow poppy or women who weave clothing with yarn. The Taliban have begun heavy handed tactics of taxation of various businesses to support their campaign.

PESHAWAR: The Taliban are financing their “jihad” against the United States and supporting the families of the militants killed in the war with private taxation, besides Zakat and Ushr.

Sources close to militants, tribal elders and government officials in various tribal regions where Taliban-linked militancy has paralysed business told Daily Times that the organisation has not made a uniform policy on Zakat so far.

Taliban vary the taxation from area to area and depending on the financial status of traders. Bajaur is the worst case, where reports say the Taliban have imposed fixed taxes on traders, ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 25,000 per month.

“I pay Rs 500 a month to the Taliban as per their decree,” said Rustam Khan, who runs a small business in the Khar bazaar. “I can afford to pay the sum, otherwise it would have been great injustice.”

Maulana Waheed, in charge of Zakat for Taliban in Bajaur, said the total collection was around Rs 175,000 so far – much lower than what Taliban need to spend. Waheed denied the Taliban were forcing Khar residents to pay Zakat to them, but accepted collecting 12,000 kilogrammes of wheat as Ushr from farmers.

Fuel stations give 120 litres of fuel each to the Taliban, who are frequently on the move to avoid United States spy planes.

“That is true, we provide a certain quantity of fuel to the Taliban as per their desire and our contribution for jihad,” said a manager at one of the fuel stations in Khar.

In the neighbouring Mohmand tribal region, the Taliban are not collecting Zakat, but seek contributions from harvested crops and also collect skins of sacrificed animals.

The Maulvi Nazir-led Taliban in Ahmedzai Wazir areas of South Waziristan collect neither Zakat nor Ushr, but the heavy fines they impose on the residents are one of the main sources of revenue to run the “Movement for Return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.

It doesn’t have to be small local businesses; it can be larger industrial operations as well.

ZIARAT, Pakistan — The Taliban’s takeover in April of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted national asset, is one of the boldest examples of how they have made Pakistan’s tribal areas far more than a base for training camps or a launchpad for sending fighters into Afghanistan.

A rare, unescorted visit to the region this month revealed how the Taliban are grabbing territory, using the income they exact to strengthen their hold and turn themselves into a self-sustaining fighting force. The quarry alone has brought tens of thousands of dollars, said Zaman, a tribal leader.

The seizure of the quarry is a measure of how, as the Pakistani military has pulled back under a series of peace deals, the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach through more of the rugged 600-mile-long territory in northern Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.

The quarry here in the Mohmand tribal district, strategically situated between Peshawar and the Afghan border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the region’s abundant natural resources of coal, gold, copper and chromate.

Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Ziarat is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors and walls in Pakistan, and in limited quantities abroad.

A government body, the FATA Development Authority, had failed over the past several years to mediate a dispute between the Masaud and Gurbaz subtribes over how the mining rights to the marble should be allocated, according to Pakistani government officials familiar with the quarry.

The Taliban came eager for a share of the business. Their reputation for brutality and the weakness of the local government allowed them to settle the dispute in short order.

The Taliban decided that one mountain in the Ziarat area belonged to the Masaud division of the main Safi tribe, and said the Gurbaz subtribe would be rewarded another mountain, Zaman, the contractor, said.

The mountain assigned to the Masauds was divided into 30 portions, he said, and each of six area villages was assigned five of the 30 portions.

Zaman said the Taliban demanded $1,500 commission upfront for each portion, giving the insurgents a quick $45,000.

The Taliban also demanded a $7 tax on each truckload of marble, he said. With a constant flow of trucks, the Taliban were collecting up to $500 a day, Zaman said.

There are no magic tricks to perform. Get rid of the poppy, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. Get rid of the marble quarry, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. In fact, squeezing the financiers in Saudi Arabia, while a good tactics and hopefully fully in process, won’t get rid of the Taliban.

It isn’t about the poppy, marble or financiers from the house of Saud. It’s about the religious radicals practicing jihad because of their belief system, who would fight to the death to destroy the West. There is no solution except to kill them. Many in Afghanistan suffer under their yoke, and providing security for them is the other part of the equation. This requires forces and kinetic operations.

Degrading Security in Afghanistan Causes Supply and Contractor Problems

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

In Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan four months ago we predicted that NATO supply lines would be a serious risk, particularly in the Khyber Pass and at the Torkham Crossing. Before long convoys of NATO supplies were targeted, and the Khyber Agency is under the control of the Taliban. But the strategy is not limited to Pakistan, and we’re seeing an even more aggressive campaign in Afghanistan.

Gulab Khan is constantly reminded of the danger of his job by the two round stickers he has used to cover bullet holes in the windscreen of the cab of his lorry, one of the thousands of trucks carrying diesel and jet fuel to Nato bases across Afghanistan.

“I believe it was the holy Koran, which I keep with me in the truck, that saved me from the bullets,” says Mr Shah as he recalls being attacked by insurgents last year on the dangerous run between Kabul and Kandahar airfield, a huge coalition military base in Afghanistan’s insurgent-ridden southern desert.

Despite the extra $2,500 (€1,648, £1,297) to be made on each load supplying the needs of Nato’s war machine in the south, he now restricts himself to less lucrative but far safer northern routes, delivering jet fuel in his rusty old Mercedes truck from Pakistan to Bagram airfield.

It is just as well for him, as this summer has seen an escalation in Taliban assaults on Nato supply lines with insurgents stepping up attacks on fuel ­convoys and the country’s roads.

Country managers at western security companies that hire out teams of armed Afghans and foreigners to protect convoys operating in the south say the situation has deteriorated sharply.

“In the summer months, I would expect to be attacked once or twice a week,” said one manager, unwilling to speak on the record.

“Last week, we were caught up in an attack on a convoy of fuel trucks on a road we are working on. It looked like a war zone, with five diesel tanks burst open by [rocket propelled grenades] and burning diesel flooding out over the road.”

The security companies are circumspect about how many tankers they lose, but he said “multiple dozens” have been lost in the south each month during the summer. In June, fighters set upon a convoy of more than 50 tankers, setting fire to them about 65km south of Kabul.

According to British officials in Lashkar Gar, the capital of Helmand province, the 10 largest fuel transport groups now have to spend a combined $2m a month on protecting the 5,000 trucks they operate. Kabul is now encouraging the companies to help fund its efforts to reclaim control over the road network.

The eastern provinces of Zabul and Ghazni have been particularly badly hit by attacks on bridges, with local officials saying they have lost four bridges and around 30 culverts in the past three months.

Matthew Leeming, a Kabul-based fuel trader, said it had become increasingly difficult to get convoys of essential goods through to more distant bases.

“The Taliban’s new tactics of blowing bridges between Kabul and Kandahar, forcing convoys to slow down and become softer targets, is causing severe problems to companies trying to supply Kandahar from Kabul,” he said.

Billions of international aid dollars have been spent on building a national road network, with the US Agency for International Development providing $260m for most of the Kabul-Kandahar link and Japan adding $34m for the rest. But the Afghan army and police have been unable to reclaim control of the roads from insurgents and criminal gangs who illegally tax traders who pass through their patches.

Passengers on civilian buses are routinely searched and killed if any evidence suggesting they work for the government or foreigners is found.

This report dovetails with a recent report at the Guardian concerning Afghan citizens fearful for their lives and begging for protection against the Taliban.

The company that provides services and logistics for the British army has come under fire for ignoring the increasing security needs of its local staff in Afghanistan as the Taliban steps up its attacks on army support employees.

Up to 400 Afghan staff working for KBR at the Camp Bastion base in Helmand, south Afghanistan, have been barred from joining flights to Kandahar and told they must travel by road – one of the most dangerous journeys in the country.

The Taliban is known to be targeting local staff who work for the British or US army as traitors, but this summer has seen an unprecedented number of attacks against caterers, mechanics and interpreters who all work at the base, with 10 staff being killed in July alone.

Ahmed (not his real name) said he was too scared to leave the base despite the fact that he had not seen his family for more than six months.

“My family does not know whether I am dead or alive. We are not allowed to use phones so I was looking forward to my holiday. But now I am too scared to leave because the Taliban are waiting just outside and I will get killed,” he said. He offered money to KBR to join any flight to Kandahar, he said, but was told it was not possible. “My boss said the flights are for priority staff only. It seems some human life is more valuable than others.”

One man, who only wanted to be known as Abdullah, said: “When we started here just over a year ago, the situation wasn’t as bad. But now the Taliban are increasing their attacks on us, we need the company to give us protection. I am speaking on behalf of all of us here in Bastion.” Abdullah said staff had voiced their security concerns to KBR several times. “When I signed up for the job, KBR promised to look after me and provide me security. But none of this has happened. They just threaten to sack us if we complain.”

The overarching strategy that won Iraq – security for the population -is completely absent in Afghanistan due to [a] lack of forces, and [b] lack of a comprehensive and consistent approach throughout NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan.

There are two independent testimonies from neutral witnesses in the accounts above that point to a rapidly degrading condition. The first was from Matthew Leeming, a Kabul-based fuel trader, who said it had become increasingly difficult to get convoys of essential goods through to more distant bases. The second is from an unnamed contractor who said that the Taliban were waiting just outside the FOB to kill collaborators.

Metrics, statistics, and official intelligence reports aside, the population has no security, and they are the best indicator of the conditions in the country. Without security, they will not side with NATO forces. They will side with the “stronger horse,” and thus we are losing Afghanistan back to the Taliban. More forces are needed, now and not later.

Iraq Veterans Engage Russian Troops

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

The Times brings us a report on Georgian troops who were transported back from Iraq to engage the Russian attack on their homeland.

The young soldier’s desert fatigues looked distinctly out of place on the Georgian front line facing the Russian advance. “I have just come from Iraq. Now I am here to drink Russian blood,” he said with a cheery smile, encapsulating Georgian bravado against an overwhelmingly superior opponent.

His presence was living proof that the United States has given at least some assistance to the beleaguered Georgian Government. Courtesy of the US Air Force and a fleet of C17 transporters, about 800 Georgian soldiers were airlifted from service in Iraq to the defence of their country. In some cases the men were taken straight from the runway to the front line, easily recognisable in their sandy uniforms against the dark green of the Georgian countryside.

Bryan Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, described the US military assistance as “transportation”. But the move prompted an angry response from Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, who accused Washington of giving direct military assistance to his Georgian enemies. “It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us,” he said.

Let’s stop there to offer up a few observations.  TCJ would like to see the Georgian troops “drink the blood” of the Russians, but the U.S. assistance thus far is pathetic and embarrassing, regardless of the troop transport.  As for Vladimir Putin, The Captain’s Journal considers his charge that we are “partners” with him to be an insult.  Putin is a thug, murderer, thief and criminal.  We aren’t partners with him in anything.  Continuing with the report:

The Georgian troops made up the third-largest contingent in Iraq after those from the US and Britain. President Saakashvili of Georgia had calculated that his country’s contribution to the “coalition of the willing” would secure Washington’s help if he needed it. Unfortunately for him, the gamble failed to pay off once Georgia found itself at war with its mighty northern neighbour.

Although America kept its promise to return the troops at a time of crisis, that is as far as its assistance went.

In spite of the confidence displayed by the young soldier, and other veterans of the Iraqi campaign, their experiences of fighting Iraqi insurgents and guarding the Baghdad green zone were of little value against the tanks, artillery and air bombardment of the Russian Army. Dug in 17 miles outside Gori with orders to blunt any Russian assault, the troops soon found themselves under attack. At one moment two Russian MiG fighters wheeled overhead before sending bombs in the direction of Georgian positions.

On the ground a group of Georgian soldiers were anxiously replacing all six tyres on their military transport as the enemy jets circled under the baking sun above them. They told The Times that the vehicle had been hit in an ambush outside the next village to the border, killing a 22-year-old soldier and wounding another.

A burst of machinegun fire in nearby fields sent everyone scattering for cover. Nukri Koshovidze, 47, a veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, looked defeated and felt betrayed. “The Russians are killing many people in the villages, even old women, and the West doesn’t want to hear their screams,” he said.

“If big countries like America and England said something more strongly then they may stop. But Russia is showing its muscles and we are all being forced to bow before it.”

Within a few hours his prediction came true. He and his troops were not bowing before the Russians but fleeing before them in an undignified rout, abandoning their positions to the advancing Russian forces. By nightfall the Iraqi veterans had joined their comrades on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

Baghdad might have seemed attractive by comparison.

It’s easy to make too much of the Georgian retreat, especially when one considers the force strength by the numbers.  Regardless of armor and artillery, the bottom line here is air power.  Air superiority doesn’t ensure a victory, and lack of it doesn’t guarantee a loss.  But it’s impossible to wage a conventional war against a larger armed forces without at least air equivalence.

If Georgia had air power it’s more than likely that the Georgian troops would indeed have had the chance to drink the blood of Russian troops.  A Squadran of A-10s (to cut Russian armor into little pieces) and fighter protection would have gone a long way towards neutralizing Russian air power.  But then, that would have required being true to friends who have given their utmost to our campaign in Iraq.

This is a commitment that the U.S. was not willing to make, and our “friends” in the future will likely remember this sad event.  Would Russia have responded with an increase in force?  Would the mere threat to cut the armor columns into small pieces have forced a retreat back to Russia without having to fire a shot?  We’ll never know.  TCJ misses Ronald Reagan.

The Captain’s Journal also salutes the brave Georgian troops and asks for God’s blessings on their efforts.

The Best Way to Keep the Bad Guys Out

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 11 months ago

Reuters brings us an interesting report on counterinsurgency in Sadr City.

SADR CITY, Iraq, Aug 11 (Reuters) – A strapping U.S. soldier, his flak jacket draped with weaponry and his rifle pointed at his feet, extends an application for a small business grant to Iraqi shopkeeper Warad Mutaab Qaataa.

Qaataa, a balding, soft-bellied man, watches nervously from across his tiny living room as Captain Beau Hunt tells him how to apply for up to $2,500 to enlarge the small shop he runs from his home in Sadr City, a sprawling Baghdad slum.

Not long ago, U.S. soldiers raided his home at gunpoint in the middle of the night. Now, they are back offering cash.

Qaataa says business is picking up slowly. “Of course, the situation is far better than it was,” he said.

The grant is one small part of the U.S. push to resurrect this mainly Shi’ite area that until a few months ago was in the iron grip of the Mehdi Army — the feared militia loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr City has quietened down since fierce fighting this spring allowed U.S. and Iraqi troops to take control of the area, a major boost for the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki …

U.S. troops say the best way to ensure that the fighters don’t come back is to improve life in Sadr City, where power flickers on a few hours a day and rotting trash piles on curbs.

A balance needs to be struck here.  TCJ has strongly supported the so-called concerned citizens program (later called “Sons of Iraq”), which involved payment for work (usually security) in order to prevent some portion of the Sunni insurgency.  But then again, the Sunnis were more than willing to work with the U.S., and most had no love for the radical al Qaeda brand of terrorism.

Poverty can foment insurgency, and this can be dealt with by traditional means.  But as we’ve pointed out before, Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world and 90% Muslim, but without the radical Islamists.  Poverty doesn’t foment radical, militant Islam.  That’s just a myth.

The fighters of the Mahdi militia, following their religiously radical leader, Moqtada al Sadr, seem much more religiously motivated than the Sunni fighters were, and therefore less amenable to the methods and tactics used in Anbar.

Reconstruction, reliable power, business loans and other forms of good will and needed resources are good tactics to befriend the locals and obtain intelligence and reciprocal good will.  Thus this is a valid and needed part of counterinsurgency.  But as for the hard core fighters who won’t reconcile and the religiously motivated radicals, the best way to ensure that they don’t come back is to kill them.

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