The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

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

Concerning Hiding Insurgents

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

Our buddy Andrew Exum has a piece out today with The New Republic entitled No Place to Hide.  In it, he defends the Obama administration’s “renunciation of traditional counter-terror strategies.”  More specifically:

When the Obama administration announced the results of its review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policies on Friday, reporters quizzing the review’s authors seemed confused. They wondered whether the recommendations announced by the president amounted to an abandonment or endorsement of the kind of population-centric counter-insurgency strategy employed in Iraq in 2007. Were we embracing a more limited counter-terror mission? Or were we committing ourselves more fully to nation-building?

The aims of the strategy are quite modest: to deny transnational terror groups the ability to use physical space to plan and prepare for attacks on the United States in the way that al-Qaeda used Afghanistan in the years before the 9/11 attacks. And the central problem of the post-Cold War era is that these staging grounds are often in ungoverned spaces like the Pashtun belt straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The solution to this problem in those countries is improved governance from Kabul and Islamabad, respectively, which leads us to pursuing lines of operation quite unlike those most normally associated with the art of war–such as improving centralized governance, coordinating economic development, and providing essential services to the peoples of southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. The new Obama strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is thus better described as a “counter-haven” strategy then a counter-terrorism strategy. (I must credit a conversation I had with counter-insurgency theorist-practitioner David Kilcullen on Friday for that particular turn of phrase.)

So the plan announced by the Obama administration is actually a renunciation of traditional counter-terror strategies–which have employed special operations raids, drone strikes, and bombing campaigns to deter or reduce the capacity of transnational terror groups. In the administration’s strategy is the admission that solely “kinetic” means–blowing things up and killing people–cannot be relied upon to end the threat from terror groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I won’t repeat all of his prose here, but Exum launches into an interesting missive on the issue of Cartesian space versus virtual space.

The White House strategy, though, betrays an obsession with physical space at the expense of virtual space. This fixation very much reflects a generational divide among the scholars and policy-makers who focus on terrorism. Younger scholars such as Will McCants (now at the Department of Defense) and Thomas Hegghammer–in addition to being much more likely to actually be able to speak and read the relevant languages (Arabic and Urdu)–are “digital natives” rather than “digital immigrants” (to use the labels preferred by the counter-insurgency scholar Thomas Rid): They do not need to have the explosive potential of the internet explained to them, and McCants and Hegghammer especially have individually spent hundreds of hours on the more popular jihadi chatrooms to gather data about the debates and spread of information that is taking place in the virtual world

Well, Exum seems to be saying that we must be prepared to take on the enemy anywhere for this to work, and I tend to agree (and for that reason believe that the global counterinsurgency in which we are engaged is underfunded and under-resourced).  I also believe that we should be prepared to confront the conventional enemies, which is why rather than throwing several trillion dollars down the toilet, we should be funding the U.S. military.

But anywhere is still somewhere that is located in Cartesian space.  I’m not impressed with the alleged global power of the Internet jihadists, and most of them are still jihadist wannabes in cyberspace.  Let them pick up a rifle and do duty, but until they do, we are worrying about the wrong thing.  Have your IT experts, but what we really need are boots on the ground.

Our very good friend Professor Gian Gentile gives Exum nice props, and is perhaps being too gracious.  I’m not that gracious, something quite endemic to my nature, I’m sure.  Exum is playing make believe about the Obama administration renunciation of the counter-terror strategy and HVT campaign.  Only recently was it announced that the UAV strikes would expand to Quetta.

Now, I’m not against the strikes for the typical reasons: they kill innocents, they add to the rolls of the insurgency, etc.  In fact, I’m not against them at all.  But simply put, this strategy won’t work.  Neither will this strategy work when applied with SOF troopers who swoop into an area, kill a HVT, and then withdraw.

Stupid in the superlative, and we have discussed it before.  Have your airmen that can use a Milstar uplink to guide a JDAM to target by painting it with a laser; have your SEALs who can attach underwater demolitions.  Very well.  The ground is controlled by infantry, and if we win the campaign in Afghanistan it will be because the load is borne on the backs of the infantry and Cavalry.  They can converse with the population, they can gain intelligence, they can deliver logistics, they can fight the enemy, and they can fast-rope into an area and kill or capture the HVTs if that becomes necessary.

I have had very unsatisfactory e-mail exchanges with Exum on this issue, and while Exum continues to defend the Obama adminstration and its alleged repudiation of the HVT strategy, he then turns around and defends the use of SOF to kill or capture HVT.

We must fish or cut bait in Afghanistan.  We must not go in half way.  We must decide if we support the campaign or not.  If we support it, then we need to resource and finance it.  Send in the Cavalry and infantry.  Prepare for proper logistics.  If not, then let’s withdraw and live to fight another day, while protecting and training the sons of America.  They aren’t toys or pawn pieces with which to enact an administration’s damn foreign policy.  They are men, made in God’s image, your neighbors and loved ones.

Baitullah Mehsud Threatens Washington

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

The Captain’s Journal received numerous visits today from searches concerning Baitullah Mehsud.  It seems that he has threatened Washington.

The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on the White House that would “amaze” the world.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday’s attack on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore was retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

“Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world,” Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone. He provided no details.

Mehsud has never been directly linked to any attacks outside Pakistan, but attacks blamed on his network of fighters have widened in scope and ambition in recent years. The threat comes days after President Barack Obama warned that al-Qaida is actively planning attacks on the United States from secret havens in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s former government and the CIA named Mehsud as the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani officials accuse him of harboring foreign fighters, including Central Asians linked to al-Qaida, and of training suicide bombers.

In his latest comments, Mehsud identified the White House as one of the targets in an interview with local Dewa Radio, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

For regular readers of The Captain’s Journal, there isn’t anything new in this threat.  We have discussed it before.

The globalist jihad movement of al Qaeda has been merged with the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan.  The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud has saidWe want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”  Now there are even indications that the original Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar have morphed into an organization that desires regional Islamist revolutions.

Only recently (March, 2009) did the U.S. see the danger with him and begin to target Baitullah Mehsud with UAVs.  If readers will tool back through the archives for Baitullah Mehsud, you will find that we have been discussing him for approximately one year, warning throughout the last year of his globalist intentions.

What turns out to be big news today, you found out about one year ago.  That’s why you read The Captain’s Journal.

UPDATE: Welcome to Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for the link.  While you’re on board, drop by and check out reports of a son at war in Fallujah, 2007, and recently returned from the 26th MEU.

Pakistani Obsession with India

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

In The Afghanistan Strategy we discussed one problem with the administration plan, namely reliance on more money being a precursor to Pakistani operations against the Taliban.  Some powerful people in Pakistan don’t really believe that the Taliban are a threat to Pakistan’s stability, and still believe in using them as a counterbalance to what they see as the real threat: India.

This obsession is so severe, so embedded, and so thoroughgoing that the U.S. policy makers do not understand it and have not yet adequately incorporated this characteristic of Pakistani culture and politics into the calculus for moving forward with stability in Asia.

Case in point.  The PakTribune recently carried a stunning commentary on the relationships of the various intelligence forces involved in Pakistan.  It is simply so breathtakingly incredible that it bears at least partial reproduction below.

It is now getting clear as to why FATA has been declared most dangerous place on earth. After making series of allegations that FATA is the main breeding ground where militants and suicide bombers are trained for launching into Afghanistan; where the entire senior leadership of Al-Qaeda and Taliban is housed; and from where possible attack on US homeland would take off, so far not a single training camp has been located in FATA, nor any high-profile militant leader nabbed or killed. This is in spite of continuous hovering of spy planes and next door US-NATO troops equipped with latest state-of-the-art surveillance and detection gadgets breathing over Pakistan’s neck, and RAW-CIA-Mossad agents having infiltrated into FATA in big numbers. If CIA controlled drones can hit suspected houses, madrassas and Hujras based on intelligence, why have they been unable to detect so-called training sites and the top wanted leaders? Why have the drones not taken a pot shot at Baitullah Mehsud or Maulana Fazlullah if the US considers Pakistani Taliban a threat?

The fact is that whatever has been said about FATA is pack of white lies uttered with sinister designs. All sorts of harrowing stories were cooked up to justify drone attacks as well as ground raids in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt. Blatant lies are similar to the WMD falsehood to justify invasion of Iraq. Why not Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan or for that matter India which has become the hub-centre of extremism and terrorism been added to the list of most dangerous places?

Stop here.  In order to get the full force of the cultural obsession with India in this commentary, let’s rehearse a bit.  The RAW (Research & Analysis Wing, India’s intelligence services), the CIA and the Mossad are said to be in cahoots with each other.  Literally, the intelligence services of the U.S., India and Israel are claimed to be working together in Pakistan!  Israel doesn’t have its hands full with Hamas and Hezbollah, and even has the time to involve their assets in Pakistan.  Why would something like this come to pass?  Keep reading.

Other than the militants, which the US is keen to eliminate, Pakistan army and the ISI also continue to remain in CIA’s firing line. CIA is deliberately leaking out stories in US leading newspapers while CNN, Fox News drum beats scandalous news on electronic media to malign the two institutions.  The allegations made against the two institutions range from collaboration with the Taliban and playing a double game. The themes played are: One, the army is either incapable of dealing with militants or is soft towards them; Two, the army has surrendered FATA and Swat to the Taliban; Three, the army uses the Taliban as a weapon to regain strategic depth in Afghanistan; Four, the army is not under civil government control; Five, the ISI trains, equips and launches militants into Pakistan to hit Afghan-Nato targets.

Well, this is a fairly comprehensive and accurate list of the problems endemic to the Pakistani military.  A hit dog always yelps, as the saying goes.  Continuing:

The CIA and ISI have always enjoyed cordial relations. The Afghan war against the Soviets brought the two very close to each other. This closeness got reinvigorated when Pakistan volunteered to become the frontline state against war on terror. The two sailed along smoothly till as late as 2007 after which there was a sudden shift in CIA’s attitude. This change in attitude occurred after ISI learnt about CIA playing a double game in FATA and Baluchistan by providing all out assistance to RAW to destabilize the marked regions. When ISI became cautious and started to take protective measures, it irked CIA and started to distance itself. CIA’s relations with Pak army and the ISI became strained when the army-ISI outspread details of drug trade in Afghanistan in which CIA, RAW and Mossad were deeply involved … It transpired that CIA assisted by India was sponsoring multi-billon dollar Afghan drug trade. The duo banks on $3 trillion worth of drug money each year, generated through heroin production and its subsequent sale across the world. Drug money is used by CIA for carrying out covert operations in the world. RAW utilizes drug money for running tens of training camps, for recruiting and equipping agents and suicide bombers and funding dissident elements within Pakistan.

The scenario has now become rather twisted.  The CIA-RAW-Mossad coalition is supposedly involved in the drug trade in order to raise money for international operations.  That the very source of income would be in jeopardy if the destabilization occurred from CIA operations doesn’t matter.  The fact that the CIA would be involved in something (i.e., funding the Taliban with drug money) that ran contrary to the objectives of the Army and Marines in Afghanistan doesn’t matter.  Consistency, according to this author, must be the hobgoblin of little minds.

We needn’t go any further with this commentary.  No doubt this author has his sources inside the Pakistan Army.  And no doubt these sources also believe their fantasies, at least to some degree.  The sad part is that Talibanization of the NWFP, FATA, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad continue unabated while the Army concocts elaborate schemes and fairly tales to convince themselves that they have an evil neighbor.  In fact, they do.  They just happen to fear the wrong one.  Until we understand this aspect of Pakistani politics, we are operating from an impoverished perspective.

26th MEU Homecoming

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

It’s nice to receive my son home from his second deployment, the first in Fallujah in 2007, the second on the 26th MEU.  We stayed on beautiful Emerald Isle for the week, and the LCACs were a bit late getting on to shore on Monday.  The reception was a night time event.


The Afghanistan Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

The administration has announced its Afghanistan strategy, parts of which are reproduced below.

Let me start by addressing the way forward in Pakistan. The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people. They have a rich history and have struggled against long odds to sustain their democracy. The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want. An end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams and the security that can only come with the rule of law. The single greatest threat to that future comes from Al Qaida and their extremist allies. And that is why we must stand together …

So, today, I’m calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years, resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy …

Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals. I’ve already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that have been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east and give us a great capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.

This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August. At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That’s how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security and how we will, ultimately, be able to bring our own troops home …

The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring, we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police.

Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police for the of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 …

At a time of economic crisis, it’s tempting to believe that we can short change the civilian effort. But make no mistake, our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future. And that’s why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs.

These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run because it’s far cheaper to train a policeman to secure his or her own village that to help a farmer seed a crop or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

Analysis & Commentary

We fear that this strategy will be disastrous in the superlative degree.  Several points are in order prior to summary and conclusion.

  1. This strategy places too large of a bet on similarities between Americans and Pakistanis.  We weighed in concerning the Pakistani elections one year ago amid the celebration among U.S. politicians that the Pakistanis had rejected religious extremism, saying that their analysis missed the point.  The elections rejected the incompetence of the official Islamic clerics who had poorly governed the tribal regions, but the party that had been put into power represented what those who were more familiar with Pakistani politics had feared – a voter rejection of the war on terror.  The Tehrik-i-Taliban (Taliban of Pakistan) and their supporters boycotted the elections and were untouched by the votes.
  2. More money is exactly what the Pakistan government wants.  As one former Pakistani official told Dexter Filkins,  The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the officialcalled the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior officialspoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.  “Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the officialtold me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”As an example, he cited the Pakistan Army’s first invasion of the tribal areas — of South Waziristan in 2004. Called Operation Shakai, the offensive was ostensibly aimed at ridding the area of Taliban militants. From an American perspective, the operation was a total failure. The army invaded, fought and then made a deal with one of the militant commanders, Nek Mohammed. The agreement was capped by a dramatic meeting between Mohammed and SafdarHussein, one of the most senior officers in the Pakistan Army.“The corps commander was flown in on a helicopter,” the former official said. “They had this big ceremony, and they embraced. They called each other mujahids. ”“The army agreed to compensate the locals for collateral damage,” the officialsaid. “Where do you think that money went? It went to the Taliban. Who do you think paid the bill? The Americans. This is the way the game works. The Taliban is attacked, but it is never destroyed. “It’s a game,” the official said, wrapping up our conversation. “The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”
  3. 17,000 troops have not been requested by General McKiernan.  This additional force presence meets only around 2/3 of what McKiernan had requested as of February 2009.  Furthermore, this request should be seen in the light of the fact that the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan are so under-resourced that contractors are now being sought to provide Forward Operating Base (FOB) force protection.  Quite literally, contractors will be used to stand post at FOBs because there aren’t enough troops supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
  4. As we have pointed out before, the Afghan National Army is the most trusted institution in Afghanistan, and so the campaign must eventually expand, empower, train and equip the Army to protect the population.  The Police aren’t far behind in the trust the population places in it, but there are extreme problems with both corruption and drug abuse (on duty) within the police.  The Afghan Army is shot through with drug abuse as well.  The campaign has lacked force projection and destruction of the enemy’s power to intimidate the population, and it simply isn’t the time or season for the effort to rely so heavily on indigenous forces.
  5. We have supported efforts at reconstruction and agricultural assistance, but it must be remembered that agricultural efforts won’t rid the country of Taliban.  We’ve pointed out a clever plan to replace poppy and opium as the crop of choice with pomegranates.  Asked about the how this plan might affect the Taliban, the proponent said “In the complexity of the tribal system in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in every element of society.  When I talked at the three tribal gatherings, the Taliban were present. I believe that if we don’t communicate with every faction of this problem, we’re not going to solve it.”  So the plan to replace poppy with pomegranates redounds to fixing Afghanistan as the opium supplier of the world while it continues to strengthen the Taliban because the plan has no parallel line of effort to kill the Taliban.

In a sign of how under-resourced and poorly constructed this plan is, the administration plan was met with praise from both Presidents Zardari and Karzai – Zardari because Pakistan gets the right answer to their query to “show me the money,” and Karzai because he wants international forces to play a secondary role to Afghan forces.

It should be remembered that Karzai has aggressively sought a Status of Forces Agreement similar to the one under which the U.S. currently operates in Iraq.  Karzai also happens to be the Afghan President who said to Taliban leader Mullah OmarMy brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers.”

The Afghan Army and Police aren’t ready for a rapid or massive turnover of authority to them.  The government isn’t prepared to be the foundation for these institutions due to the endemic corruption, and the U.S. shouldn’t be ready to settle with any insurgents without first having a fight.

Finally, the most troubling aspect of the administration plan is its failure to address the issue of the Taliban.  Al Qaeda is mentioned, but the hosts for AQ training camps receive little attention.  In fact, while disparate and factious, the Taliban mission has steadily harmonized over the past few years: to “support the regional war and then the global war against Western hegemony; this is the concept driving the neo-Taliban.”

The globalist jihad movement of al Qaeda has been merged with the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan.  The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”  Now there are even indications that the original Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar have morphed into an organization that desires regional Islamist revolutions.

There are some indigenous poor who might be able to be stripped away from the hard core Taliban fighters, but the campaign is much more than a counterterrorism operation against some al Qaeda fighters.  It is a full blown insurgency that must be defeated with a full orbed counterinsurgency.  Anything else won’t do.  There still aren’t enough troops in the plan, and it is more likely to cause the diminishing of respect for American troops across the globe than simply withdrawing completely and going back in to topple the next problematic regime.

Financing the Taliban Part 2

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

In Financing the Taliban we addressed the issue of poppy, and why its eradication wouldn’t end the Taliban or the threat they pose to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the larger region.  In addition to poppy, Taliban support comes from taxation of various businesses as well as active participation in larger industrial-size operations.

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 …

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.

Taliban interest doesn’t stop with marble quarries though.  The recent deal with the Taliban in Swat has led to Taliban control over precious stone mines.

The Pakistani Taliban have taken control of mines producing precious lapis lazuli stones in the insurgency-hit Swat valley and started operating them on their own.

The Taliban have confirmed that they took control of the mines two months ago when they arrived in the hilly area of Fiza Ghat, a resort on the outskirts of Mingora, the main city in Swat valley.

The militants have appointed hundreds of local labourers to work round the clock to excavate lapis lazuli stones as authorities in the area had left the mines, BBC Urdu reported on Wednesday on its website.

One-third of the income from the mines is taken by the Taliban while the rest is offered to the labourers, a Taliban militant said. The Taliban have deployed senior commanders at several mines to monitor the excavation of stones.

The mines hold the promise of a significant source of income for the Taliban.

When fully operational, the mines yielded a quarter of a million carats of emeralds between 1978 and 1988. The last official estimate put the projected yield at about 13.2 million carats. Gemstone dealers say that most emeralds range from just under one carat to just over five. Prices range from $1,000 to more than $100,000 for a cut stone.

The problem is not pomegranate, marble, emeralds, or small businesses.  The problem is the Taliban, and until they are dealt with, the targeting of their sources of income will only end up harming our reputation among the very population whose cooperation we need to win the campaign.


Financing the Taliban

NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue Part 2

NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue

Daniel Hannan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

Is it possible to get Mr. Daniel Hannan to change citizenship to the U.S. and run for President? We need leadership like this because we currently have none of our own. Moral character, nerves of steel, and persuasive oratory.

The Global Aspirations of the Afghan Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know what we believe regarding negotiations with the Taliban.  Some indigenous poor may be stripped away from the hard core Taliban, but the hard core Taliban cannot be reconciled.  We needn’t rehearse this issue again.  But there is a recent analysis on negotiating with the Taliban that has both an important and related observation.

The premise underlying negotiations is that the insurgency can be short-circuited by splitting commanders who are fighting because of grievances like the civilian deaths in U.S. military operations away from true believers loyal to Taliban founder and Osama bin Laden ally Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Other experts have serious doubts. They say Omar and the leaders of associated militant groups believe that President Hamid Karzai’s government has lost popular support and they are winning against U.S.-led military forces. So long as they are of that view, there can be no peace, these experts say.

“Afghanistan was created by God for this kind of guerrilla fighting. It has high mountains and long valleys and narrow trails,” said Wahid Mughzdah, a former anti-Soviet fighter-turned-political analyst who worked in the Foreign Ministry during the former Taliban regime. “Al-Qaida and the Taliban understand that America doesn’t have a chance of success in this country.”

Further, he said, the Taliban are no longer only concerned with imposing Islamic rule on Afghanistan, but have adopted al-Qaida’s aim of staging Islamist revolutions throughout Asia and the Middle East.

We’ve already dealt with the evolution of the thinking of the Tehrik-i-Taliban to a much more global perspective in Resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda, something Nicholas Schmidle calls the next-gen Taliban.  Until now The Captain’s Journal has always been careful to distinguish between the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, emphasizing that the globalist perspective had thoroughly set in to the TTP world view, but somewhat less so for the Afghan Taliban.

Some may object that Wahid Mughzdah is exaggerating, but if so, for what purpose?  In either case, this data point suggests that there is less difference between the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban than we thought.  It is only a single data point, but it is an important one.  File this away with the label “very important” and tag it to make it easily search-able for instant recall.

Another Nonsense Strategy Page Article

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

Another nonsense Strategy Page article.

The U.S. believes that many al Qaeda leaders have fled to southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) to escape the increasing number of U.S. UAV missile attacks in the Pushtun tribal areas along the Afghan border. The UAV attacks are apparently following al Qaeda into Baluchistan. Both Britain and the U.S. are sending more trainers to Pakistan, to show the paramilitary Frontier Corps better techniques for dealing with the Taliban. The Frontier Corps recruits from the local tribes and normally acts as a rural constabulary. Fighting the heavily armed and fanatical Taliban is often more than the Frontier Corps troopers can handle.

The Baluchi tribes are not as violently opposed to the government as the Pushtun ones. While the Pushtun tribes want independence, the Baluchis mainly want more autonomy (and a larger share of the money from the oil and gas fields on their territory.) The Pushtun tribes (15 percent of the population, in the north and east, along the Afghan border) and the Baluchi tribes (four percent, in the southwest) do not get along with the majority Punjabis (45 percent of the population) or Sindhis (14 percent) in the eastern lowlands. The resulting violence has been going for over a thousand years.

Many Indians are coming to regard Pakistan as a failed state. Politically and economically unstable, with far more factional violence than India, the Pakistani leaders seem unable to agree among themselves, or act in concert, to solve fundamental problems. Not a lot of change since the nation was created 60 years ago, and many aspects of Pakistani society have gotten worse. Prospects are not good.

The big problem with Pakistan is that the many factions are more into themselves than they are “Pakistan.” The military, the Pushtun tribes, the Baluchi tribes, various religious factions and the few hundred families that own most of the country, all see themselves as more important than Pakistan. For the country to survive, there has to be more “civil society” (lots of Pakistanis of put the needs of the country above their partisan goals.) The Taliban are basically another faction, combining conservative tribal and extremist religious elements. The Taliban solve nothing, and just cause a lot of violence. Most Pakistanis realize this, and are willing to fight against the Taliban, but less enthusiastic about fighting for Pakistan.

In Indian controlled Kashmir, about twenty soldiers, civilians and terrorists were killed in the last few days. While the Islamic radicals have lost much of their capabilities there, the intense hostility between Kashmiri Moslems and Indian police remains.

In the Swat Valley, the Taliban have ordered all aid or advocacy groups out of the area. The Taliban plan to impose a strict Islamic lifestyle, which won’t work. Just like it didn’t work in Afghanistan in the 1990s. But the idea lives on.

Sometimes I wonder what those guys are smoking over at the Strategy Page.  So much of their analysis is interesting and timely, but they don’t do a good job of staying between the ditches.

Where to begin.  First of all, the Taliban are more than just troubling folk who cause violence.  They are taking over much of Pakistan, and their leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and others, have communicated a global ambition and vision.

Second, the Pakistanis have done nothing to cause us to believe that most of them are willing to fight the Taliban.  “Settlement” after “ceasefire” after “settlement” with the Tehrik-i-Taliban has allowed the continuing strengthening of the Taliban and the diminution of the writ of state in the NWFP and FATA.

Third, a strict, Islamic lifestyle has worked in the NWFP and FATA because of the threat of death to those who oppose it.  It also worked in Afghanistan until the Taliban were overthrown during the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Have the analysts at the Strategy Page forgotten that the Taliban were still in charge of Afghanistan during 9/11?

Finally, while the Pakistani political leadership has certainly shown the factious nature and incompetence in governing, that hasn’t caused the Taliban extremism in the NWFP and FATA.  Pakistan may be an almost failed-state, as are many nations in the world.  Not all of them have al Qaeda or the Taliban.  Poverty doesn’t lead to militant, Islamic radicalism, and militant, Islamic radicalism isn’t just another brand of insurgency seeking more influence and governmental legitimacy.

The Plan for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

It appears that details of the administration’s plan for Afghanistan is leaking out piece by piece.

President Barack Obama has been given a new Afghan war strategy that calls for linking aid to Pakistan to its willingness to fight extremists and narrowing the U.S. mission to preventing attacks on American soil from there or Afghanistan, said people familiar with the plan.

The strategy will entail increasing Afghan security forces and strengthening crop substitution to deny opium revenue to the Taliban, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said March 21 …

Previewing the new strategy, Holbrooke said the U.S. favors greater investment in agriculture to wean Afghanistan away from the opium poppy production that finances the Taliban insurgency. Opium is the raw ingredient in heroin …

The draft plan suggests raising U.S. non-military assistance to Pakistan, especially for job creation aimed at those drawn to militant action for money, while conditioning military help on measurable cooperation against extremists in the border province of Baluchistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where the Taliban has regrouped.

Measurable cooperation against extremists.  This sounds nice, but is naive in the superlative.  Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know about the games of duplicity in Pakistan.

ONE SWELTERING AFTERNOON in July, I ventured into the elegant home of a former Pakistani official who recently retired after several years of serving in senior government posts. We sat in his book-lined study. A servant brought us tea and biscuits.

Was it the obsession with India that led the Pakistani military to support the Taliban? I asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

Or is it the anti-Americanism and pro-Islamic feelings in the army?

“Yes,” he said, that too.

And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation — one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.

“Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the official told me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”

Read the whole thing.  If Holbrooke thinks that the games are finished because his contacts tell him so, then his is sadly mistaken.  Further, we have dealt with this issue of poppy and opium being the sole contribution to Taliban wealth.  The Taliban are able to turn a profit from kidnapping, mining operations, taxes on small businesses, and even pomegranates.  Stopping opium production only means that the Taliban turn to other means.  It doesn’t make them go away.

On another front, Rich Lowry of the National Review weighs in with prose on what hasn’t worked in Afghanistan.

If Afghanistan is far from lost, it isn’t susceptible to quick fixes, either. Scaling back our commitment to focus on only counter-terrorism operations — targeted strikes against high-value targets — risks a generalized collapse that would make much of the country a safe haven for terrorists and empower the extremists across the border threatening the Pakistani government. A regional meltdown would become all too possible. Reconciling with elements of the Taliban is another fantasy, since there aren’t moderate Taliban with whom to reconcile. Less-committed local fighters can be pulled away from the insurgency, but only if the insurgency is first beaten back.

No, the only way we can succeed in Afghanistan — i.e., create  a government minimally competent and decent enough to sustain itself — is by undertaking the hard work of counter-insurgency, as we did in Iraq with the surge.

So has someone  been reading The Captain’s Journal, we asked Rich?  Rich responded:

I’m with you hersch! How can we leave huge chunks of hemand prov open and uncontested to the insurgents and then conclude the war’s not working?? (I don’t think the development piece has been really been tried either)

Right.  Helmand Province, Khost, and all of the rest in Eastern and Southern Afghanistan.

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