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]

The Fifth Deployment

BY Jim Spiri
15 years, 1 month ago

The Fifth Deployment

April 27, 2009.  My son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, deployed again to the war zone.  This makes the fifth time in his 9-year career. He is an Army aviator.  As usual, he goes willingly.  It’s his job.  And, as usual, as his father, I and the rest of the family say, “Amen”.  But this time, it is not any easier than before.  It is actually harder.  One would think we would get used to it.  No one gets used to sending their son to war.

We’ve been there, in the war zone.  Both my wife and myself.  We have spent over three years there.  We are parents that actually got see our son in the war zone.  I actually got to fly with him on missions.  I’m a combat photographer. My wife and I both have worked for the military on numerous flight lines doing a variety of ground operations. I’ve seen a lot and know what happens in war.  I’ve never met anyone that actually gets used to war.

This time, I know I have at least one more tour in me.  Somewhere, somehow, I will find a way to visit my son during his tour as well as many, many other sons and daughters of America currently serving in harms way.  It is what I do.  I just cannot stay away.  Parents are depending on me to tell them that their sons and daughters are fine and strong and doing their jobs, willingly.  It is what warriors do.  It is the least I can do to stand in the gap for all the parents that cannot be there.  I never tire of wanting to be there and relay back home, “well done, soldier, marine, sailor, airman”.  Mother, father, relax! They are fine.  They are holding and carrying the torch we’ve passed to them well, very well.  I never will stop getting used to this.

I know loss.  I buried one son, a Marine, in 2001.  His name was Jesse.  From that suffering has grown a deep commitment to all the troops deployed and an even deeper commitment to the families at home awaiting their safe return.  My wife and I have been blessed to have worked with America’s finest since 2004 in the Iraq theatre of operations.  We’ve been there loading the wounded; we’ve been present during patriot details as fallen angels make their final journey home; we’ve loaded personal effects with great care and sent them home to the families; we’ve ushered in thousands of incoming troops and ushered home thousands more back stateside; we’ve seen them come on one, two, three and more tours; we’ve been there during attacks and been there on the front lines during extremely tense moments; and much, much more, too numerous to list.

The fifth time sending my son is harder than all the previous ones.  Not that the times are better or worse.  Rather, it’s the war zone and anything can happen as all who’ve been there know all too well.  It is all part of the job.  But this time, my son has triplet boys at home who will be awaiting his return.  They are 10-months old as he leaves this time, and when their father returns, they will be more than twice their current age, and they will not know their father other than email photos.  This hurts me for my son.  And my son will have another child born to him and his wife less than two months after he has deployed.  This time, this deployment is more than just a tour of duty.  It is a real life family affair with suffering already taking place just by the nature of the duration and the everyday life experiences of a young family growing as daddy goes off to war, again.

It is all part of the job.  But it does not make it any easier.  But we are all patriots who see the bigger picture.  The entire Spiri family marches in unison when duty calls, both in the war zone and on the homefront.  We are in one accord.  It is what we all must do.

This is not now nor never has been a time to debate the right or wrong of the mission those in authority over us have tasked us all with.  My son taught me long ago, early in his military career that I, as his father am always on a need to know basis.  And most of the time, I just don’t need to know.  However, I also taught my son early on from his youth that I have been in war zones since the time he was very, very young and that I am the one that told him daddy would come to the war zone should he ever get the call.  He now knows this by our joint experiences that this has come to pass and will come to pass once again.  Like I said earlier, this deployment is a family affair for the Spiris.

Our other children along with their children, (our grandchildren) support their uncle by writing letters, sending care packages from their school classrooms and adopting whole units who are my sons’ comrades in arms serving in harms way.  And as such, it stretches not just from a family affair, but all the way to a nation’s affair.  This is the reality of how a nation supports its warriors at war.  It starts at home and grows to the neighborhood and to the schools and eventually all across the nation support gains for those young warriors defending freedom a half a world away in very dangerous situations.  This is not just a theory, rather, it has been and will continue to be our experience.  It is the part we’ve all recited since our youth, “One nation, under God…”  It is real to the Spiri family.

My son’s young wife, Pamela, will be delivering our next grandchild in mid June.  She already is missing the love of her life, my son.  And he’s only been gone two days as of this writing.  But she is a strong young woman who knows the phrase, “When duty calls.”  She is the daughter of an Army aviator and now the wife of one.  She knew what she was up against before she married.  But it does not make it any easier.  She will be fine.  There is a strong family network of support on both sides.  My son can rest assured that the support network is up and running and in full active mode, already.  It is what our families do.

The reason I’m writing this to all who will take the time to read it is this: Our nation is at war.  It is never time to let up on supporting the troops.  I can surely testify to this as one who is now in the current experience of sending my son to war, again.  But I know from past experiences that relaying the current experience as a fellow citizen to the rest of the citizens of our nation will in fact strengthen us all in a positive fashion.  This in turn will strengthen our troops abroad.  And even more importantly, it will result in comforting me as I know the rest of you will be on your knees praying throughout this deployment for ALL of America’s sons and daughters currently in harms way, of which, my son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, is one.  He just happens to be my son.


Jim Spiri

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Iran and Taliban Missiles

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

In July 2007 the Washington Times reported that the Taliban first used missiles against U.S. air assets.

Taliban militants used a heat-seeking, surface-to-air missile to attack a Western aircraft over Afghanistan for the first time last week, coalition military sources say.

The attack with a weapon thought to have been smuggled across the border with Iran represents a worrisome increase in the capability of the militants that Western commanders had long feared.

The sources said the Taliban attempted to bring down an American C-130 Hercules airplane flying over the southwestern province of Nimroz on July 22. The crew reported that a missile system locked on to their aircraft and that a missile was fired.

It closed in on the large C-130, pursuing it as the pilots made a series of violent evasive maneuvers and jettisoned flares to confuse the heat sensors in the nose of the surface-to-air missile, or SAM.

In April 2008 the Telegraph reported that the Afghan Taliban had used Iranian-made missiles on UK troops.

British troops in Afghanistan are being targeted by surface-to-air missiles supplied by Iran, a senior Army source said yesterday.

Officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are supplying hundreds of weapons, including the missiles, to Taliban insurgents, it is believed.

Most worrying is the news that SA7 Strella anti-aircraft missiles have been supplied to the Taliban. The weapons are a serious threat to helicopters supplying more than 6,000 troops.

It is not thought the Taliban are well trained in how to use the weapons most effectively. In southern Helmand yesterday they fired an anti-aircraft weapon at an American F18 fighter without hitting it.

Other weapons being smuggled in include plastic explosives, anti-tank mines, AK47s, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

These two attacks were apparently done with SA-7 missiles, one type of MANPAD system.  As of March 2009, U.S. intelligence believes that the successor to the SA-7, the SA-14 Gremlin, has been procured by the Taliban.

IRAN is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with surface-to-air missiles capable of destroying a helicopter, according to American intelligence sources.

They believe the Taliban wants to use the SA-14 Gremlins missiles to launch a “spectacular” attack against coalition forces in Helmand, where insurgents claim to be gaining the upper hand.

Although British and American helicopters operating in southern Afghanistan are equipped with defensive systems to deflect an attempted strike, the SA-14 can evade such counter-measures …

Special forces have previously intercepted arms shipments from Iran that would have helped the Taliban intensify a roadside bombing campaign that has killed 40 British troops over the past 18 months, including three last week.

However, coalition forces only became aware of the presence of SA14s two weeks ago when parts from two of them were discovered during an American operation in western Afghanistan.

In April 2009, U.S. forces destroyed even heavier anti-aircraft weapons.

The US-led coalition troops in a … air strike knocked down two anti-aircraft missile launchers in Nad Ali district, where Taliban militants have a significant influence.

The press release said locals informed security forces about the heavy guns installed on a truck to hunt down choppers of the international forces.

This appears to be something heavier than MANPADS, and the Taliban certainly are not capable of fielding this kind of weaponry themselves.  Iranian hands are all over the supply of the SA-7 and SA-14 to the Taliban, and while it is unknown where these specific heavier weapons came from, one thing is clear.  If the Taliban are armed with anti-aircraft ordnance and the know-how to use it, the campaign in Afghanistan has gotten a lot more dangerous and problematic.

So much for Obama’s attempt to pursue constructive ties with Iran.

Nicholas Schmidle on How to Save Pakistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

Nick Schmidle has written an essay in Slate on How to Save Pakistan.  Nick, with whom I have exchanged e-mail, is not only a first rate Pakistan and Taliban scholar (see his work on Next-Gen Taliban), but an all around nice guy (and if he sends me a copy of his new book, I would give it a great review).  He deserves to be read by anyone interested in the future of Asia and its implications for our own security.  Parts of his piece are reproduced below.

This is the only country in the Islamic world where tens of thousands protest in the streets for the rule of law. Sure, there’s some support for the Taliban and their ilk, but as last year’s election, in which the Islamist parties were drubbed, showed, the Islamists don’t enjoy as much grass-roots support as their American-flag-burning rallies would suggest. (Unfortunately, the civilian government that took power last spring has squandered much of its goodwill and is, like Pervez Musharraf’s government before it, increasingly seen as toadying to the Americans.) So what can Washington do to save Pakistan?

For starters, it can ignore the tribal areas, NWFP, and regions already under Taliban control. The Taliban cannot be defeated militarily, as the Americans have learned in Afghanistan. You kill one of them and immediately create 10 or 20 or 50 more. Bombing their strongholds merely breathes life into the insurgency. It is not just that ordinary Pakistanis tend to sympathize with the Taliban when they are under attack but also that the Taliban ably turn each bombardment into propaganda, play themselves up as victims, and attract more foot soldiers. Moreover, the Pakistani army usually, if not always, loses. Groomed to battle columns of Indian tanks, the army is untrained to wage a counterinsurgency against a bunch of rebel bumpkins.

… there is a critical ethnic difference between these areas under already Taliban control and Punjab: The NWFP and FATA are mostly Pashtun, while Punjab is populated mostly by Punjabis. The Taliban have succeeded in part by marrying their religious and political program with an ethnic and nationalist agenda. While not every Pashtun belongs to the Taliban, nearly every member of the Taliban is a Pashtun. Punjabis, on the other hand, are one of the only ethnic groups that identify first and foremost as Pakistanis. Besides the ethnic distinctions, there are physical ones, too: The Indus River divides the two provinces.

If there’s any hope of containing the insurgency, it’s by building a wall along the Indus River. Not a physical wall, like the one Musharraf proposed constructing along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border, but an imaginary barrier that the Taliban wouldn’t be able to breach. How would you go about building such a thing? First of all, the United States would immediately divert much of the $1.5 billion it is planning to spend annually in FATA and NWFP to Punjab. While development projects in South Waziristan are futile at this point in terms of building confidence in the state, they may still accomplish that goal in the villages and towns of Punjab, and even down in Karachi. Since these places are the next battlegrounds between the Taliban and the Pakistani state, U.S. funds could also be diverted to train the Punjab police, who will probably become embroiled in the insurgency over the coming months.

First of all, Nick is right that the province of Punjab is the next battle space.  And in Karachi more than 100 Taliban fighters launched an attack on a Christian neighborhood, killing some, burning homes and brutalizing others.  Nick is right to be concerned about the most central and important province in Pakistan.

But is his solution the right one?  To say that the Islamist parties were drubbed in the last election misses the point, in my opinion.  The elections were more about rejection of the old guard’s ability to govern rather than their view of the Taliban (who completely sat out and ignored the elections based on theological principle).  But we may overlook this point since this is still in the provinces that Nick is recommending we abandon.  His focus is on Punjab.  His recommendation is basically geographic seclusion.

Will it work to isolate the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province?  My sense is that it won’t.  Nick is smart and does mention right up front that there are dangers with this approach, such as the fact that the Taliban won’t be content with holding this terrain.  Their goals have been both regional and global.  He also mentions that the Taliban will continue to have sanctuary for attacks against NATO troops from these regions of Pakistan.

AM mentions that Dave Kilcullen also raised the question of logistical routes which flow from Karachi to either the Khyber pass or Chaman, yet another risk with this approach.  So did I by telling you that the Taliban strategy included interdiction of logistical routes – more than one year ago (then also covering logistics issues for the last year).  I also recommended an alternative route through the Caucasus, although as mentioned earlier, it might require hitting the “make my day” button with Russia rather than the more effeminate “reset” button.

Either way, Nick is interesting and compelling reading.  He seems to have landed on the last option before I have, and unless we can project increased force into the near regions of Afghanistan (Helmand, Nuristan and Kunar Provinces) and convince the Pakistan Army to conduct counterinsurgency in Pakistan, Nick’s recommendations may indeed be our last and best option.  I don’t think it is lost yet.

I can do counterinsurgency in one week!

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

From VOA:

Pakistan’s military has opened a new front in its offensive against Taliban militants in the country’s northwest. Troops are pursuing an estimated 500 militants in Buner district, a region just 100 kilometers from the capital.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says security forces, backed by attack helicopters and jets have moved into Buner district. He says the operation is focused on the estimated 500 Taliban militants now camped out in the mountainous terrain.

“First and foremost is to eliminate them or to expel them out of the area,” said Abbas. “So therefore we will start from various positions and will move forward with our firepower and clear the valley of militants.”

Abbas declined to give details about the numbers of troops involved, but said planners expect the operation to last about one week.

Er … is this some kind of joke?  Is he a stand-up comic?  One week?  Seriously?  Do they not understand that they cannot accomplish this mission?  The Taliban would simply melt away, wait for the Pakistan Army to leave, and then re-enter the area and kill anyone who cooperated with the Army.  Or if they stand and fight, the history of the Pakistan Army indicates that they will simply pull back and sign a new peace deal.

No concept of clear, hold and build.  No concept of staying in the area and providing security.  No concept of intelligence driven raids, learning the population and enabling them to resist the Taliban, no concept at all of modern counterinsurgency tactics, techniques and procedures.

My God.  This is awful.  Does the Pakistan Army have any idea what they’re doing?  This statement by their Army spokesman is perhaps the most serious indicator yet that the answer to the previous question is a resounding no.  They don’t even have doctrine to support counterinsurgency in this region, much less strategy or TTP.  Will the Punjab Province be next?

Taliban Attack Christians in Karachi

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 1 month ago

In news that is both remarkable and under-reported, the Taliban have launched an attack against Christians in the major Pakistan port city of Karachi.

The Taliban, emboldened by their success in Swat Valley and advance near Islamabad, have attacked a Christian neighborhood and executed two residents after Christians held a rally protesting graffiti ordering them to convert to Islam or die.

On April 20, residents of Taseer Town in Karachi woke up to find pro-Taliban messages chalked onto the walls of two churches.  The messages included, “Long Live the Taliban,” “Talibanization is our goal,” and “Embrace Islam or Prepare to Die.”  The next day, the Christian residents staged a protest in the hopes of attracting the attention of the local government to provide protection.  Officials, however, did nothing.

The night of the protest, April 21, more than 100 masked terrorists invaded Taseer Town with automatic rifles.  The terrified Christian residents ran to their homes and locked themselves inside.  According to Asif Stephen, a Christian politician, one of the protestors said, “We were protesting peacefully and all of sudden (sic), a few militants carrying the latest weapons rushed in.  Some of the attackers entered homes and pillaged money and jewelry and abused the women and burned their properties.  The elderly were injured and one child fell to the ground and died in my friend’s arms.”

The Taliban militants went door to door, breaking into Christian homes and dragging the elderly and women out into the street by their hair.  The Taliban leaders shouted, “You infidels have to convert to Islam or die.  Why did you wash up warnings inscribed on walls of church and home doors?  How dare you are (sic) to take out procession against Taliban?”

The terrorists sexually assaulted several women and physically abused dozens more with clubs, iron rods, and whips.  They set a number of homes on fire.  When two Christians resisted, the militants killed them execution-style directly in front of their families.  The identity of those killed has not yet been confirmed.

According to AsiaNews, police have arrested seven of the Taliban militants involved in the attack.  However, they are unsure who was behind the incident.

This is yet another example of the Talibanization of Karachi, something we have discussed before.  The number of Taliban fighters in Karachi is unknown, but we do know that vast parts of the inner city are practically off limits for Westerners.  Assuming the accuracy of this report, to field more than 100 fighters in an attack as brazen as this one demonstrates proof of principle.  The Taliban are strong enough to be considered to be a legitimate insurgency in Karachi, hundreds of miles from the North West Frontier Province.

It should also be mentioned again that Karachi is the port city through which NATO supplies come (except for some small part that is transported by air).  If the Taliban manage to shut down shipping traffic in Karachi, the logistical routes into Afghanistan are all but dried up (unless the U.S. pursues the line of logistics we recommended through the Caucasus).

Finally, in another indication of the vacillation of the Pakistan police, the Christians were completely helpless in the face of the Taliban onslaught.  Lesson learned.  Purchase guns and ammunition, learn to shoot, and defend family and property.  It’s their God-given right.

Taliban Expansion and Nuclear Weapons: Where is the Pakistan Army?

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

Ms. Clinton recently weighed in on the awful prospects of a nuclear Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is worried about the “unthinkable” in Pakistan – – that the Taliban and al-Qaeda could topple the government, giving them “the keys to the nuclear arsenal.”

Clinton told Fox that “we can’t even contemplate” the consequences if the Taliban were permitted to overrun nuclear- armed Pakistan because of the failure of the government “to beat them back.”

This thinking is directly contrary to that recommended by The Captain’s Journal in Is Pakistan the Next Failed State?

Somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon, gaming should be occurring concerning use of U.S. military assets to ensure the security of the Pakistani nuclear ordnance, because if it becomes necessary to implement these plans, it will be no game.  But the continual degradation of logistics through Pakistan has led us to strongly recommend another route, free from influence by Russia.

From nuclear assets to logistics, to potential Taliban operations in Kashmir and certainly the affects to the campaign in Afghanistan, the failure of Pakistan will indeed dwarf the previous problems that we have seen in that region of the world.  Comprehensive planning should be underway to address the exigency of Pakistan as the next failed state.

Unthinkable?  We had better be thinking about it, and very extensively at that.  So in the face of the Taliban expansion towards the centers of power (e.g., Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi), where is the Pakistan Army?

Five thousand square kilometres of Swat are now under Taliban control — de jure. Chitral (14,850 sq km), Dir (5,280 sq km), Shangla (1,586 sq km), Hangu (1,097 sq km), Lakki Marwat (3,164 sq km), Bannu (1,227 sq km), Tank (1,679 sq km), Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orkzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan are all under Taliban control — de facto. That’s a total of 56,103 square kilometres of Pakistan under Taliban control — de facto.

Six thousand square kilometres of Dera Ismail Khan are being contested. Also under ‘contested control’ are Karak (3,372 sq km), Kohat (2,545 sq km), Peshawar (2,257 sq km), Charsada (996 sq km) and Mardan (1,632 sq km). That’s a total of 16,802 square kilometres of Pakistan under ‘contested control’ — de facto. Seven thousand five hundred square kilometres of Kohistan are under ‘Taliban influence’. Additionally, Mansehra (4,579 sq km), Battagram (1,301 sq km), Swabi (1,543 sq km) and Nowshera (1,748 sq km) are all under ‘Taliban influence’. That’s a total of 16,663 square kilometres of Pakistan under ‘Taliban influence’ — de facto. All put together, 89,568 square kilometres of Pakistani territory is either under complete ‘Taliban control’, ‘contested control’ or ‘Taliban influenced’; that’s 11 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass.

Where is Pakistan army? To be fair, under our constitution law enforcement — and establishing the writ of the state — is the responsibility of our civil administration. Yes, under Article 245, the federal government can call in the army “in aid of civil power” but the overall strategy has to be devised by our politicians. Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency are very specialised operations. Textbook counter-insurgency has three elements: Clear-Hold-Build (C-H-B). The army may be required to ‘clear’ insurgents from a particular area but every army operation creates a vacuum that has to be filled by a civil-political administration. After the ‘clearing’ of insurgents it has to be the politicians to ‘hold’ that area and then fulfil the social contract — dispensation of justice, municipal services etc — between the ruled and the rulers (classic counter-insurgency is DDD, disrupt, dismantle and defeat).

At least 11 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass has been ceded to the Taliban. Where is the Pakistan army? I Corps is in Mangla, II Corps is in Multan, IV Corps in Lahore, V Corps in Karachi, X Corps in Rawalpindi, XI Corps in Peshawar, XII Corps in Quetta, XXX Corps in Gujranwala and XXXI is in Bahawalpur, In effect, some 80 to 90 per cent of our military assets are deployed to counter the threat from India. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and sees its inventory of 6,384 tanks as a threat. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian air force and sees its inventory of 672 combat aircraft as a threat. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and notices that six out of 13 Indian corps are strike corps. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and finds that 15, 9, 16, 14, 11, 10 and 2 Corps are all pointing their guns at Pakistan. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and discovers that the 3rd Armoured Division, 4 RAPID Division and 2nd Armoured Brigade have been deployed to cut Pakistan into two halves. The Pakistan army looks at the Taliban and sees no Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBT), no armoured fighting vehicles, no 155 mm Bofors howitzers, no Akash surface-to-air missiles, no BrahMos land attack cruise missiles, no Agni Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, no Sukhoi Su-30 MKI air superiority strike fighters, no Jaguar attack aircraft, no MiG-27 ground-attack aircraft, no Shakti thermonuclear devices, no Shakti-II 12 kiloton fission devices and no heavy artillery.

Pakistan is on fire and our fire-fighters are on the Pakistan-India border

That the Indian troops are on the Pakistan border because the Pakistan troops are on the Indian border doesn’t occur to the Pakistan Army.  But with this sad and dangerous Pakistani obsession with India, the U.S. must not rely on Pakistan for either logistical routes for Afghanistan or protection of its nuclear assets.

So in spite of Ms. Clinton saying that we can’t even contemplate the consequences of the Taliban taking control of Pakistani nuclear assets, somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, we had better be contemplating exactly this exigency.

Whether an expeditionary unit of Marines, Rangers, some combination, or whatever, insertion by air, Osprey V-22, Helicopters and fast-roping, the short term and long term security of the weapons grade fissile material in Pakistan warheads had better be front and center of some tactician’s planning.  We had better know where all of the nuclear assets are and have a plan to confiscate them.  As for this tactician or group of them, it had better dominate their day and night, control their thought processes, and govern their priorities.  We’d better have a plan.

More Attacks on Logistics Routes

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

While the Taliban are pushing towards the centers of gravity in Pakistan, they aren’t forgetting their central strategy of interdicting NATO supply routes.

Dozens of militants armed with guns and gasoline bombs attacked the truck terminal in northwestern Pakistan Thursday and burned five tanker trucks carrying fuel to NATO troops  in Afghanistan, police said (AP Photo – Mohammad Sajjad).

Police say militants attacked the truck depot near the city of Peshawar before dawn on Thursday, hurling petrol bombs which set fire to the five tankers. Several truckers drove their vehicles out of the terminal to save them.

The solution is fairly straight-forward, but it requires the willingness to press the “make my day” button with Russia instead of the “reset” button.

Gates on Release of the Interrogation Memos

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

The administration has recently pressed for the release of both the interrogation memos and the associated photographs.  Regarding this information:

“They should have fought it all the way; if they lost, they lost,” said Lowenthal, who retired from the Agency in 2005. “There’s nothing to be gained from it. There’s no substantive reason why those photos have to be released.”

Lowenthal said the president’s moves in the last week have left many in the CIA dispirited, based on “the undercurrent I’ve been getting from colleagues still in the building, or colleagues who have left not that long ago.”

“We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they’ve been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong,” Lowenthal says. “They don’t believe they have that cover anymore.” Releasing the photographs “will make it much worse,” he said.

Setting aside the issue of whether water-boarding is torture or whether certain interrogation techniques should be used, the release of detail concerning the same is bound to continue to undermine a CIA that lost much of its capability in human intelligence in the Clinton years.  Secretary of Defense Gates’ reaction to the release of the memos is interesting on multiple levels.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed concerns on Thursday that the release of Justice Department memorandums on harsh interrogation techniques might be used by Al Qaeda and other adversaries and put American troops at risk.

But Mr. Gates said that the public release of graphic, detailed information on American interrogation techniques for terrorists was inevitable and that he had focused his efforts in cabinet-level discussions on how the United States should deal with the expected international backlash.

Mr. Gates declined to say whether his private advice to President Obama was to release or withhold the documents and instead said he urged careful attention to dealing with the consequences of their disclosure.

“Pretending that we could hold all of this and keep it all a secret, even if we wanted to, I think was probably unrealistic,” Mr. Gates said. “My own view was shaped by the fact that I regarded the information about a lot of these things coming out as inevitable.”

The central question he posed in lengthy, intense debate among the president’s senior advisers, Mr. Gates said, was, “How do we try and manage it in the best possible way?”

Mr. Gates’s comments on the release of the documents by the administration were the first since they were made public. He spoke on a visit to Marines training here for a deployment to Afghanistan, and he expressed apprehensions that the release of the information “might have a negative impact on our troops” and that the “disclosures could be used by Al Qaeda and our adversaries.”

Mr. Gates said he had argued that Central Intelligence Agency officers who were following legal guidelines for interrogation be protected. He said he was concerned “first and foremost” that protection be guaranteed for “C.I.A. officers who were involved in the interrogations — and who performed their duties in accordance with the legal guidance they had been given by the Justice Department.”

Gutsy move.  Let’s translate the statement[s] above into a something more usable by giving the less political version that Gates doubtless wanted to say.

“Look.  You and I both know that this is stupid.  Whatever you might think of what was done, those involved should be protected.  It was inevitable, which means that I am alone on the Cabinet.  I did all that I could do, which is to argue for protecting the fidelity of our intelligence community and managing as best as possible the release of the information.  They were hell bent on doing it, and it was unrealistic to think that I could stop it.  Be glad you have me there – I am the lone voice of reason on the Cabinet.”

By the way, it appears as if Gates has recovered nicely from his broken arm.

Taliban Controls Buner

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

In Taliban Control Expanding Towards Pakistan Capital we discussed the aggressive patrolling and checkpoints in Buner, just an hour from Islamabad.  Within just a day we learn how effective this aggressiveness has been, or how timid the Pakistani police and paramilitary have been.

Sher Akbar, a retired lawmaker who represented Buner in parliament, tells VOA that Taliban fighters are now patrolling parts of the district and local police have not been seen in public.

Speaking by phone from Buner he says the Taliban are totally in control of the district and the local government has lost authority over the region.

Pakistani news media have reported government officials and aid groups have abandoned local offices. Sher Akbar says many in Buner are worried that fighting could break out soon between security forces and militants, and some people are preparing to leave.

The most troubling of the revelations is not what the Taliban are doing in Swat and adjacent areas.  The Tehrik-i-Taliban have made it clear that they will not stop until Pakistan is governed as they see fit.  We know their intentions.  But the most troubling revelation is that even after seeing the continual encroachment of the Taliban into the centers of power in Pakistan (Peshawar, Islamabad, etc.), the government still equivocates concerning the need to tackle the problem head on.

… Pakistan’s prime minister defended the government’s strategy, saying officials continue to favor pursuing talks with mediator Sufi Muhammad in dealing with the situation.

Time is short for the authorities to wake to the dire situation in which they are placing Pakistan with the continual appeasement of the Tehrik-i-Taliban.

In another report, we learn that Baitullah Mehsud has trained child suicide bombers.  “According to intelligence estimates, more than 5,000 child suicide bombers between the ages of 10 and 17 have been trained by the Taliban so far.”

As to the center of gravity of the whole effort?

Interior Advisor Rehman Malik said Taliban, Pakistani outlawed outfits and Al Qaeda have established a triangle.

In an interview to an Arabic channel, Malik stated that Taliban is a face of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Taliban chief Fazalullah and other leaders are operating under one leadership. All the clues of investigations ended up in Waziristan.

It apparently isn’t as disaggregated and factious as we have been led to believe.

Taliban Control Expanding Towards Pakistan Capital

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

We earlier observed that “Control over the North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas has allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to merge ideologies, recruit fighters and extort money for their operations.  In fact, the recent Pakistani approval of the “peace” agreement in Swat has allowed more recruitment through the local Mosques in that area.  Each successive agreement with the Taliban strengthens the Taliban and weakens the Pakistani government.”

We also observed that one characteristic of de facto power and authority is the presence of aggressive dismounted patrolling, which is increasing inside the city of Peshawar (a city of 3 million people).  Now we are watching the themes we discussed play out in real time.

Taliban militants from Pakistan’s Swat Valley are tightening their grip on a neighboring northwest district closer to the capital — patrolling roads, broadcasting sermons and spreading fear in another sign that a government-backed peace deal has emboldened the extremists to spread their reign.

Pakistan’s president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming Swat, where some two years worth of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up to a third of the one-time tourist haven’s 1.5 million residents.

The agreement covers Swat and other districts in the Malakand Division, a huge chunk of Pakistan’s northwest that borders Afghanistan and the tribal areas where al-Qaida and the Taliban have strongholds. Under the deal, the provincial government agreed to impose Islamic law in Malakand, and the Taliban agreed to a cease-fire …

In recent days, the Swat militants have set their sights on Buner, a district just south of the valley, sparking at least one major clash with residents. The moves indicate the militants want to expand their presence beyond Swat to other parts of Malakand at the very least, under the guise of enforcing Islamic law.

Many in Buner are now too frightened to speak to reporters. However, a lawmaker from the area told The Associated Press that the militants had entered the district in “large numbers” and started setting up checkpoints at main roads and strategic positions.

The Taliban are patrolling in Dagar, Sawari, Pir Baba, Chamla, Ambela and other areas of Buner.  This is little more than an hour drive from Islamabad.

What is worse is that the Taliban appear to be the only people capable of judicial efficiency.

Having established their headquarters at a majestic three-storey bungalow of a local businessman, the Taliban have virtually captured the strategically located Buner district in the North West Frontier Province, a report said yesterday …

The fearless Taliban commander Fateh is now calling the shots in Buner while Mufti Bashir has been made Qazi, or the judge, to address the complaints of the locals.

The residents of various villages thronged the Taliban headquarters to register their complaints and seek their assistance in resolving their longstanding issues and personal disputes.

“The cases which we have filed several years ago are still awaiting decision by the courts. We are sick of this delayed judicial process in which justice is only provided to the influential and rich people,” an elderly Mohamed Akbar of nearby Gokan village remarked.

Or perhaps rather than judicial efficiency, the plan is to align the poor with the Taliban by using the power of judgments in Kangaroo courts.  Either way, it seems as if we are watching the fall of Pakistan happen before our eyes.


Is Pakistan the Next Failed State?

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