Analysis Of The Covid-19 Pandemic

Herschel Smith · 18 Mar 2020 · 37 Comments

UPDATE 3/29 A few links, a few comments about those links, and then a link dump. Current trajectory of Covid-19.  I'll update the curve fit as often as I'm able to. Coronavirus Could be Chimera of Two Different Viruses, Genome Analysis Suggests. In December 2019, 27 of the first 41 people hospitalised (66 percent) passed through a market located in the heart of Wuhan city in Hubei province. But, according to a study conducted at Wuhan Hospital, the very first human case identified…… [read more]

    Cheap Imitations of the Anbar Awakening in Afghanistan

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    Apparently the U.S. – and by this we mean officers who weren’t part of the campaign for Anbar – is trying to imitate the Anbar awakening in Afghanistan.

    The US yesterday outlined a controversial plan to organise local militias in Afghanistan to contain the growing strength of the Taliban, echoing tactics used by American commanders in Iraq.

    The programme is formally an Afghan government project with UN and US backing, but much of the impetus is believed to have come from US military commanders hoping to replicate the Sons of Iraq militias – American-backed Sunni groups which have helped combat al-Qaida and Iraqi insurgents. The architect of that initiative, General David Petraeus, is now head of Central Command, and running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Community Guard programme will be launched as a pilot project in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The US envoy, William Wood, said the programme was intended “to strengthen local communities and local tribes in their ability to protect what they consider to be their traditional homes”.

    Gordon Brown proposed a similar scheme a year ago, based on a traditional form of tribal militias, or arbakai, but it was criticised at the time by an American commander in Afghanistan as detracting from the work of the national police force.

    However, American objections have since been dropped as it has become clear that the combined strength of the Afghan army and the Nato force may not enough to defeat a resurgent Taliban, even with 30,000 US reinforcements expected next year after Barack Obama takes office.

    Wood noted that Taliban roadside bombs doubled this year to 2,000, as did kidnappings, from 150 to 300. British officials said yesterday they had not been given details of the scheme, but supported it in principle.

    “We encourage and support more Afghan ownership, particularly on security,” a Foreign Office official said.

    Cheap imitation, we say.  Let’s rehearse one facet of the awakening in Anbar, that involving Abu Ahmed.

    The 40-year-old is a hero to the 50,000 residents of Al-Qaim for having chased Al-Qaeda from the agricultural centre where houses line the green and blue waters of the Euphrates.

    In the main street, with its fruit and vegetable stalls, its workshops and restaurants, men with pistols in their belts approach Abu Ahmed to kiss his cheek and right shoulder in a mark of respect.

    It was not always this way.

    He tells how one evening in May 2005 he decided that the disciples of Osama bin Laden went too far — they killed his cousin Jamaa Mahal.

    “I started shooting in the air and throughout the town bursts of gunfire echoed across the sky. My family understood that the time had come. And we started the war against Al-Qaeda.”

    It took three battles in the streets of Al-Qaim — in June, in July and then in November 2005 — to finish off the extremists who had come from Arab countries to fight the Americans.

    Abu Ahmed, initially defeated by better equipped forces, had to flee to the desert region of Akashat, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Al-Qaim. There he sought help from the US Marines.

    “With their help we were able to liberate Al-Qaim,” he said, sitting in his house with its maroon tiled facade.

    This alliance between a Sunni tribe and American troops was to be the first, and it give birth to a strategy of other US-paid Sunni fighters ready to mobilise against Al-Qaeda.

    It resulted in the Sunni province of Al-Anbar being pacified in two years.

    It wasn’t fabricated, it wasn’t drummed up, and it wasn’t the brainchild of some smarter-than-thou counterinsurgency specialist applying heretofore unheard-of tactics.  It was the families tiring of the brutality and fighting back, losing, and then turning to the U.S. Marines who had the force projection to turn al Qaeda back with the assistance of intelligence from the families.  Without force projection and troop presence, both on the part of the families and the sustaining force of the professional warriors, it wouldn’t have happened.

    Again we say, cheap imitation.  Without troop presence it won’t happen in Afghanistan and further time will be wasted pining away after an Afghan awakening that never had a chance.

    Swat Falls, Talibanization Moving Eastward

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    What was once a scenic vacation and ski resort area is now a Taliban stronghold.

    Taliban militants are beheading and burning their way through Pakistan’s picturesque Swat Valley, and residents say the insurgents now control most of the mountainous region outside the lawless tribal areas where jihadists thrive …

    “You can’t imagine how bad it is,” said Muzaffar ul-Mulk, a federal lawmaker whose home in Swat was attacked by bomb-toting assailants in mid-December, weeks after he left. “It’s worse day by day.”

    The Taliban activity in northwest Pakistan also comes as the country shifts forces east to the Indian border because of tensions over last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, potentially giving insurgents more space to maneuver along the Afghan frontier.

    Militants began preying on Swat’s lush mountain ranges about two years ago, and it is now too dangerous for foreign and Pakistani journalists to visit. Interviews with residents, lawmakers and officials who have fled the region paint a dire picture.

    A suicide blast killed 40 people Sunday at a polling station in Buner, an area bordering Swat that had been relatively peaceful. The attack underscored fears that even so-called “settled” regions presumptively under government control are increasingly unsafe.

    The 3,500-square-mile Swat Valley lies less than 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

    A senior government official said he feared there could be a spillover effect if the government lost control of Swat and allowed the insurgency to infect other areas. Like nearly everyone interviewed, the official requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by militants.

    Officials estimate that up to a third of Swat’s 1.5 million people have left the area. Salah-ud-Din, who oversees relief efforts in Swat for the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimated that 80 percent of the valley is now under Taliban control.

    The Swat insurgency also includes Afghan and other fighters from outside the valley, security officials said …

    Any movement of Pakistani troops from the Swat Valley and tribal areas to the Indian border will concern the United States and other Western countries, which want Pakistan to focus on the al-Qaida threat near Afghanistan.

    On Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said thousands of troops were being shifted toward the border with India, which blames Pakistani militants for terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month that killed 164 people. But there has been no sign yet of a major buildup near India.

    “The terrorists’ aim in Mumbai was precisely this — to get the Pakistani army to withdraw from the western border and mount operations on the east,” said Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and author who has written extensively about militancy in the region.

    “The terrorists are not going to be sitting still. They are not going to be adhering to any sort of cease-fire while the army takes on the Indian threat. They are going to occupy the vacuum the army will create.”

    As we discussed in Pakistan Redeploying Troops to Indian Border (and a month before that), this is the effect the Mumbai attacks were intended to produce.  But Talibanization is spreading even further Eastward and Southward from Swat.

    Four months ago, the people of the Pakistani mountain village of Shalbandi gained national repute after a village posse hunted down and killed six Taliban fighters who had tied up and killed eight local policemen. The posse displayed the Taliban corpses like trophies for other residents to see, and the village was celebrated as a courageous sign that the Taliban could be repelled.

    On Sunday morning, the Taliban struck back.

    A suicide car bomber set off an explosion at a school in Shalbandi that was serving as a polling place, as voters lined up to elect a representative to the National Assembly. More than 30 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, according to local political and security officials. Children and several policemen were among the dead.

    The attack was the latest demonstration of the Taliban’s bloody encroachment eastward and deeper into Pakistan from the lawless tribal areas on the western border. Shalbandi is less than 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, the capital, and lies just south of the lush Swat Valley, a onetime ski resort known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan” that has been largely taken over by the Taliban despite large-scale army operations.

    The Pakistan military has allowed radical elements to both dictate the terms of its engagements with India and with the radicals, the later as a function of the former.  All the while, Pakistan is falling to the radicals.

    Sex for Information in Afghanistan

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    In an interesting twist on intelligence-gathering, the CIA has found a new tool in its arsenal of weapons.

    In an effort to win over fickle warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan and get information from them, CIA officials are handing out Viagra pills in exchange for their cooperation, the Washington Post reports.

    “Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people – whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” an agency operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

    The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the agency to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders, including Taliban movements and supply routes.

    CIA operatives use everything from toys and school equipment to tooth extractions to their advantage and note that if Americans don’t offer incentives, others, including Taliban commanders, will.

    Afghan veterans told the Post that the usual bribes of choice – cash and weapons – aren’t always the best options because they can garner unwanted attention and fall into the wrong hands.

    “If you give an asset $1,000, he’ll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone,” Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told the Post.

    So rather than shiny junk, what’s better?

    The ageing chieftains of rural villages, many of whom have wives who are much younger than them, have proved keen to accept the anti-impotency drug and in exchange give a mass of information on rebels’ movements and supply routes …

    Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told a newspaper: “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century. So you look for those common things that motivate people everywhere.”

    But not everyone is so happy.

    I was disheartened and disgusted by Joby Warrick’s lighthearted coverage of the CIA’s Viagra bribes [“Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan,” front page, Dec. 26].

    Is the U.S. government “wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society,” as first lady Laura Bush stated on April 6, 2005? Or will women in Afghanistan continue to be sexual chattel to fickle aging and ailing warlords who can be bribed by American operatives so they can feel “back in an authoritative position”?

    It seems that this operation spits in the face of every effort to advance the position of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world. Alas, maybe the CIA will continue to do “whatever it takes to make friends and influence people,” regardless of how many people have to be hurt in the process.

    So this reader believes that sex hurts the woman to the very core of her ontological being, and therefore opposes the deal.  Whatever the case, it’s surely true that the CIA has undergone organizational learning from the days of the Clinton administration’s destruction of the HUMINT.

    The Context of the Gaza Military Operations

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    Israel is increasing the pressure after Hamas sent rockets into Israel for three weeks or more.

    Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state …

    Black smoke billowed over Gaza City after Israel bombed more than 40 security compounds, and uniformed bodies lay in a pile and the wounded writhed in pain at a graduation ceremony for new recruits hosted by Hamas.

    There are three points to note in placing this operation in context.  First, the violence is the latest in a cycle in which two peoples are in war over the same land.  With regards to the “occupation,” the Hamas position is clever and has befuddled even the brightest of U.S. negotiators sent to quell the violence in this region.

    A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”  The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.

    Why would the Hamas spokesman use the term “surrender” when referring to this conflict over the “occupation?”  Because it isn’t about Israel occupation of Gaza, but rather, Israeli occupation of Israel to which Hamas objects.  And this is the crux of the issue that so many negotiators of the “two-state solution” seem to miss.  Israel wants a two-state solution.  The U.S. wants a two-state solution.  Hamas doesn’t.

    Second, Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal has vowed a third intifada concerning his “Zionist enemy.”  The Olmert administration has pursued a strategy of appeasement, and this stand-down has allowed Hamas to arm, organize, enhance ties with Iran, and in learn lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006.

    Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group, but a large guerrilla army that has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

    Were the IDF to embark on a ground operation in Gaza, it would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

    Since the cease-fire went into effect in Gaza in June, Hamas has used the lull in action to fortify its military posts in the Strip and dig tunnel systems as well as underground bunkers for its forces. IDF estimates put the length of the tunnels at over 50 kilometers.

    Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip to accommodate anti-tank missile units, and prepared massive bombs, which have been placed on the main access roads into Gaza.

    In addition to its homemade Kassam rockets, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza a number of anti-aircraft cannons and several shoulder-to-air missiles. It also a large number of anti-tank missiles that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc on Israeli armor in the event of a ground operation involving tanks and armored personnel carriers.

    It also has Special Forces – commando forces and units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks and roadside bombs.

    “Hamas has learned a lot from Hizbullah and has adopted many of the Lebanese group’s tactics which were used successfully against the IDF in the Second Lebanon War,” one IDF official said.

    Since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas has created a military with a clear hierarchy, led by Hamas “chief” Ahmed Ja’abri …

    Hamas has split the Gaza Strip into five sections corresponding to five different brigades in the north, center, Gaza City, and two brigades in the south. Each brigade has a commander as well as several battalions under its command.

    The third point is the most important, as it explains the root rather than the proximate causes.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that Hamas could have prevented the bloodshed.  “We spoke to them and told them ‘Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'” Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don’t want it to be destroyed.”

    True enough, this analysis misses the final and most important point.  Hamas was either going to be supplanted and subsumed into a larger Salafist movement within Palestine or evolve into a sort of symbiosis with that movement.  Hamas has come to be rivaled by a radical Salafist movement within Palestine that is financially supported by oil-rich sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, and movement against Israel was a necessity given the predispositions to armed violence within the new evolved organization.

    Only an organization committed to violence will place ordnance in the same locations as residences and schools in total disregard for the safety of women and children.  When the media value of the deaths of children has become more important than their protection, the evolution to a Hezbollah-like viciousness and totalitarianism is complete.

    Israel is attacking Gaza because there is no other choice.  As for the incoming Obama administration and Clinton State Department, our prediction that Hamas will begin its attacks on Israel again appear to be spot-on but a bit late, with Hamas rudely not even waiting until Clinton took the reins at State.  It remains to be seen if the incoming administration still believes in the two-state solution.  Radicalism is all that is left in Palestine due to the politics of appeasement for so many years.

    KIA to Receive Full Arlington Honors

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    Starting in 2009, all Army KIA will receive full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Starting next year, the Army will provide full military honors for all soldiers killed in action when they are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

    The change in policy means funerals for enlisted soldiers now will also include the horse-drawn caisson and other honors previously given only to certain soldiers such as officers and Medal of Honor recipients.

    Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Tuesday that the full honors also adds an escort platoon, a colors team and a band, whereas standard honors uses a firing party, bugler and chaplain.

    The policy change applies only to Arlington because it is unique in having a caisson.

    “Arlington National Cemetery is an expression of our nation’s reverence for those who served her in uniform, many making the ultimate sacrifice,” Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said in a statement released by the Army. “This new policy provides a common standard for honoring all soldiers killed in action.”

    Though the full honors will be offered to families, it takes more time to arrange such services and so those who want the funerals more quickly are likely to decline. The full honors also will be arranged for members of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, if requested, officials said.

    As it should have been all along.  There should never have been any difference between the way enlisted men and officers were treated at Arlington National Cemetery.  That idea is about as screwed up as anything we’ve seen lately, and had we known it there would have been a fight long before now – we would have been glad to pick it.  This is a good change.

    Pakistan Redeploying Troops to Indian Border

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    Pakistan is beginning troops movement away from the North West Frontier Province towards the border with India.

    Pakistan began moving thousands of troops from the Afghan border toward India, officials and witnesses said Friday, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors and possibly undermining the U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

    The country also announced that it was canceling all military leave in the aftermath of last month’s terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.

    Glenn Reynolds speculates that this is the effect that the Mumbaiattacks were intended to produce.  Most certainly so, and The Captain’s Journal forecast this effect one month ago.

    While the new Pakistan administration sees the need for the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Pakistan Army mostly doesn’t and wishes not to be fighting their own people. The Army also has an almost pathological preoccupation with India, and the rumblings in India over the Mumbai attacks have given both the Pakistan Army and the Tehrik-i-Taliban the perfect cover to end their cooperation with the U.S. and NATO over the Taliban safe haven in the Pakistan FATA and NWFP.

    This has long term ramifications for the campaign in Afghanistan, but the most serious ramification is a short term one having to do with lines of logistics.  Recent large scale attacks on NATO supply lines through Khyber (in Peshawar) were newsworthy for their magnitude and scope, but the chronic persistence and results of these attacks is the important story.

    For NATO the most serious problem is not even the depots in Peshawar but the safety of the road that winds west to the 3,500-foot Khyber Pass. The route used to be relatively secure: Afriditribesman were paid by the government to safeguard it, and they were subject to severe penalties and collective tribal punishment for crimes against travelers.

    But now the road is a death trap, truckers and some security officials say, with routine attacks like one on Sunday that burned a fuel tanker and another last Friday that killed three drivers returning from Afghanistan.

    “The road is so unsafe that even the locals are reluctant to go back to their villages from Peshawar,” said Gul Naseem, who lives in Landi Kotal, near the border.

    The largest truckers’ association here has gone on strike to protest the lack of security, saying that the job action has sidelined 60 percent of the trucks that normally haul military goods. An American official denied that the drop-off had been that severe.

    “Not a single day passes when something doesn’t happen,” said Shakir Afridi, leader of the truckers’ group, the Khyber Transport Association. He said at least 25 trucks and six oil tankers were destroyed this month. “Attacks have become a daily affair,” he said.

    This means that the potential logistical supply via Georgia being pursued by the Pentagon takes on urgent importance.  The upcoming Obama administration might have to make some tough decisions regarding Georgia.  “Georgia is the center of gravity in this plan, and our willingness to defend her and come to her aid might just be the one thing that … saves Georgia as a supply route.”

    Russia has thrown down the gauntlet regarding her intended future and what she considers to be her near-abroad.  “In the latest of a series of combative moves by the Kremlin, a senior government official in Moscow said the Russian military would commission 70 strategic missiles over the next three years, as part of a massive rearmament programme which will also include short-range missiles, 300 tanks, 14 warships and 50 planes.”

    The nexus of Vladimir Putin’s aspirations, the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, and the future of the Russian near-abroad has been all but ensured by the Taliban program to interdict supplies in Khyber, and more specifically by less than a platoon of well-trained teenagers who inflicted terror on Mumbai for three days in late 2008.


    U.S-Georgia Strategic Partnership

    The Logistical Battle: New Lines of Supply to Afghanistan

    The Search for Alternate Supply Routes to Afghanistan

    Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

    More on Lines of Logistics for Afghanistan

    How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?

    Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

    Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

    Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

    Interdiction of U.S. Supplies in Khyber Pass

    The Torkham Crossing

    Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

    Merry Christmas

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    The Captain’s Journal wishes all a very Merry Christmas, from our son who is on the 26th MEU, to the U.S. Marine Corps, to all of the military, and then to our readers.  Remember those who are far away in foreign lands fighting on behalf of our country this season, and pray for peace and safety for them.  Finally, remember the reason for the season – a celebration of the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.

    How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    Defense Tech links an editorial by the New York Times on How to Pay for a 21st Century Military.  Ward at Defense Tech doesn’t like the editorial very much, and neither does The Captain’s Journal.  Ward summarizes the recommendations as follows:

    End production of the Air Force’s F-22. (Recommends the use of “upgraded” F-16s until the F-35 comes into production.)

    Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. (Advises the production of the Littoral Combat Ship instead.)

    Halt production of the Virginia class sub. (Recommends extending the life of existing Los Angeles class submarines instead.)

    Pull the plug on the Marine Corps’s V-22 Osprey. (Recommends buying more H-92s and CH-53s instead.)

    Halt premature deployment of missile defense.

    Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.

    Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.

    Some, if not most, of these recommendations are stupid to the point of being dangerous.  We have already discussed the fact that existing nuclear weapons systems are in need of refurbishment in order to maintain viability, and also the fact that new nuclear weapons systems must be pursued in order to maintain deterrence and modernize the force.

    While aircraft carriers can project U.S. power deep into foreign terrain, and guided missile cruisers even deeper, the Navy hasn’t given us a single viable littoral combat scenario or reason to believe that the littoral combat program is anything but daydreaming.  On the other hand, every single ship in the active U.S. Navy has produced and participated in the national defense, whether actively or passively through deterrence.

    As for the F-22, we have already halted production after 183 have been purchased.  Good enough.  Continue with the 183 and halt any further production after that.  The proposal to cut the 183 that have been purchased comes from the same presupposition as the proposals to cut the nuclear weapons program deeply, pursue the littoral combat ships and halt missile defense.  This presupposition is that the only thing we will ever face in the 21st century will be asymmetric threats, guerrilla warfare and insurgencies.

    The Captain’s Journal believes in fighting and winning the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s foolish and shortsighted to assume that the future will necessarily look like the present.  Finally, short cutting planning, training and equipping for a conventional struggle and proper deterrence might just ensure that that’s the threat that is faced in the future by creating the very weakness that larger near-peer nation states seek.

    Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

    Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

    An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

    Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

    The 26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

    The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio and Military Equipment

    Marine Corps to Replace M249 SAW

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    The U.S. Marine Corps is seeking to replace the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon).

    The Marine Corps has awarded a limited contract to three rifle manufacturers for a weapon to replace its M249 Squad Automatic Rifle.

    The contract awarded Dec. 19 calls for a minimum of 10 weapons from each company to conduct further evaluation for an eventual down-select to one weapon. The final manufacturer could garner nearly $27 million for 6,500 of the so-called Infantry Automatic Rifles.

    Ashburn, Va.-based Heckler and Koch USA and FN Herstal of Belgium won two of the contracts, with West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt Defense winning two separate contracts for two different weapons they offered.

    Representatives of the three companies were not available for comment.

    The Corps plans to replace its entire inventory of FN Herstal-made M249 SAWs equipped to rifle squads and Light Armored Reconnaissance scout Marines with the 5.56mm IAR beginning in 2010.

    “The IAR seeks to enhance the automatic rifleman’s maneuverability and displacement speed while providing the warfighter the ability to suppress or destroy those targets of most immediate concern to the fire team,” said a Marine Corps release announcing the award.

    Unlike the belt-fed SAW, the IAR will pull its ammo from an attached magazine. Most of the 10 original candidate systems had a low-profile, M16-like appearance since the Corps wanted the IAR to be easier to maneuver “through constricted terrain” like houses and buildings.

    The SAW weighs nearly 17 pounds without its 200-round ammunition box and has an overall length of 41 inches. An M-16A4 weighs about nine pounds and is 39 inches long.

    The Corps also asked for IAR systems that could fire from both a closed and open bolt feed.

    “The IAR shall provide accurate automatic or semi-automatic fires against point (550 meters) and area (800 meters) targets in all light, environmental, and terrain conditions,” Marine Corps Systems Command told in October. “The IAR will be operated by a single Marine and employed from all doctrinal firing positions … [and] demonstrate improved portability, reliability and maneuverability through constricted terrain and conditions over the current M249 SAW.”

    The Corps hopes to take delivery of the first 10 weapons from each candidate by mid-March 2009 and conduct evaluations and operational testing — including endurance and reliability testing at “government facilities” — to decide a winner. The Corps hopes to have its first units equipped with IARs by 2010.

    The comments section to the article linked above are good and interesting, but The Captain’s Journal weighs in on this debate by advocating a slightly larger round than the 5.56 mm for the new SAW (while not up to 7.62 mm) with more grains of powder.

    We are aware of instances in Iraq where nine rounds were put into the torso of an enemy fighter (who may have been pumped up on epinephrine or atropine) who still kept advancing, and who finally have to be stopped by an M203 grenade launcher.

    Yes, we know all about the trade-off of caliber and the number of rounds of ammunition able to be carried by the Marine due to weight, and TCJ has been out front in advocating lighter weapons, equipment and body armor.  Even with the reduced number of rounds in reserve, we still advocate a slightly higher caliber and more powerful round for stopping power.

    U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership

    BY Herschel Smith
    11 years, 3 months ago

    A U.S.-Georgia security pact is said to be in the works.

    With Georgia’s hopes of quickly joining the NATO alliance deferred for the moment, Tbilisi is placing its hopes in the next best thing — a bilateral security pact with the United States.

    Details of the emerging accord are still unclear, but Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said the two sides are already discussing a “framework agreement” proposed by U.S. officials.

    “Intensive negotiations are under way,” Kalandadze told reporters in Tbilisi on December 17. “This treaty is being discussed mainly at the Defense Ministry, but also at the Foreign Ministry…. We will jointly analyze all its provisions in detail and in the end we will come to an agreement.”

    Georgian officials say they hope a bilateral arrangement could not only enhance their security, but also jump-start their NATO bid. But analysts say it could also significantly raise the stakes in the South Caucasus by bringing the United States closer to a direct confrontation with Russia, which is solidifying its military and political presence in the pro-Moscow breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    “It’s potentially a very big deal,” says Lincoln Mitchell, a Columbia University professor and the author of the book “Uncertain Democracy: U.S. Foreign Policy and Georgia’s Rose Revolution.” “But the question is, does it formalize something that de facto already exists? What level of commitment does it really make?”

    Russian hegemony is likely far from finished regarding what it considers to be its “near abroad.”  We knew at the time of the Russian invasion of Georgia that hard decisions would have to be made, and it appears as if the hardest one was postponed (i.e., entry to NATO) in favor a partial alternative.  The question is well-framed above.  What level of commitment does it really make?

    Vladimir Socor of The Jamestown Foundation weighs in with an analysis of the potential agreement and its importance for Georgia.

    U.S.-Georgian bilateral security and military arrangements could come not a moment too soon. This strategic partnership should remedy the security vacuum that the United States, NATO, and the European Union had, each in its own way, allowed to develop in the Black Sea-South Caucasus region during the last few years. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August and the West’s paralysis in the face of that event dramatized the security vacuum in a region critical to Western interests.

    From Georgia’s perspective, “cooperation with our strategic partner is almost the only assurance of our security,” according to Batu Kutelia, hitherto First Deputy Defense Minister and now ambassador-designate to the United States (Rustavi-2 TV, December 17). The sentiment in Tbilisi, as columnist Eka Kvesitadze sums it up, is that “after we were left to face Russia one-on-one, a bilateral military agreement with the United States would be the only salvation for the country” (24 Saati, December 15).

    Such comments reflect the country’s vulnerability and the psychological pressure on Georgian society after the forward-deployment of Russian forces in the annexed territories. The CFE Treaty, already made useless by Russia in the North and South Caucasus well before this war, has been dead beyond recall since August, leaving no constraint and no transparency regarding Russian deployments. This situation jeopardizes the whole set of Western interests that converge in the South Caucasus.

    U.S. military assistance to Georgia must therefore be expected to include those basic capabilities for defensive operations that Georgia had lacked all along: respectable air defense, anti-tank and counter-artillery capabilities, command-control-communications equipment, intelligence systems, operational training for territorial defense, training of staff-level officers, and a system for reservist training and mobilization.

    Russia’s invasion exposed all those gaps in Georgia’s defense system. They are traceable to the limited content of U.S. assistance programs in recent years, which focused on distant counterinsurgency missions while underestimating the potential threats of a conventional military nature.

    The new U.S. program is expected to address those defense gaps. This would enable Georgia to raise the cost of another Russian attack to the extent of deterring it without necessitating the presence of U.S. forces, which in any case is not on the cards in the form of military bases. The lesson of August in Georgia (as in the Baltic states) underscores the need to rebalance the allocation of resources, which has tended to privilege expeditionary operations while sometimes short-changing homeland defense.

    If this analysis is correct, the U.S. can be expected to supply weapons and training to Georgian military forces in the near future in order to make more Russian military action much less attractive than it was several months ago.  Yet as The Captain’s Journal has pointed out in The Logistical Battle, a potential supply route to Afghanistan is being pursued (in light of the increased danger in the Khyber pass in Pakistan) that completely bypasses Russia, with supplies being “shipped across the Black Sea to Georgia, driven to neighbouring Azerbaijan, shipped across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and then driven to the Afghan border.”

    But while bypassing Russia, this supply line may place the U.S. squarely in position to deal with the Russian threat to the region.  The new security pact is in our interest as well.  As we observed:

    … interestingly, this leaves us vulnerable yet again to Russian dispositions, even with the alternative supply route.  Georgia is the center of gravity in this plan, and our willingness to defend her and come to her aid might just be the one thing that a) kills the option of Russia as a logistical supply into Afghanistan, and b) saves Georgia as a supply route.  Thus far, we have maneuvered ourselves into the position of reliance on Russian good will.  These “thawed relations” might just turn critical should Russia decide again to flex its muscle in the region, making the U.S. decisions concerning Georgia determinative concerning our ability to supply our troops in Afghanistan.

    Are we willing to turn over Georgia (and maybe the Ukraine) to Russia in exchange for a line of supply into Afghanistan, or are we willing to defend and support Georgia for the preservation of democracy in the region and – paradoxically – the preservation of a line of supply to Afghanistan?  The upcoming administration has some hard choices, and it’s unlikely that negotiations will make much difference.  The burden will rest on decisions rather than talks.

    It’s likely anyway that whatever pacts created in the current administration will be revisited in the next, so once again Georgian security is in question.  But it should be clear to the next administration that protecting Georgia not only means coming to the aid of an ally (Georgia committed troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom), but also potentially protecting the best independent logistical line of supply to troops in Afghanistan.

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