Religious Exemption To Mandatory Covid Vaccination

Herschel Smith · 24 Aug 2021 · 13 Comments

I authored this paper for an individual who wishes that the name be removed.  The name has been redacted from the copy provided here. In order to assist the reader with a framework for understanding this paper, it should first be emphasized that it is written from a very specific theological perspective.  The necessary presuppositions are outlined at the beginning. It could of course be objected that there may be other (what I am calling "committed Christians") who do not hold one or…… [read more]

Marines in Bakwa, Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

Marines on patrol make their way toward a village in Bakwa, Farah province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, May 1. The Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, are operating in Bakwa to maintain security in the rural area. U.S. Marines are in Afghanistan to reinforce success and sustain the momentum of the ongoing progress by alliance forces. Company I’s mission is to conduct counterinsurgency operations while training and mentoring the Afghan national police.

The Coming War in the Caucasus

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

In It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus we described a potential logistics route through the Caucasus region in lieu of the problematic and troublesome Pakistan routes (especially through Khyber).  The recommended route involved transit from the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus Strait in Turkey, and from there into the Black Sea.  From the Black Sea the supplies would go through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.  From here the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.

In addition to this region being a potential viable alternative to Pakistan, we noted this region as being an up-and-coming economic power due in part to the massive quantities of energy buried beneath its soil.  The engagement of the Caucasus region would potentially lead not only to logistics routes, but political and energy partnership as well.  But the darker truth that accompanies this potential is that Russia is also interested.

Russia is interest for several reasons, including the fact that Russian bases in Armenia have no viable land resupply and logistics route except through Georgia.  Recent NATO exercises in Georgia infuriated the Russian administration, causing the Russian ambassador to say that “Differences between Russia and U.S. on a number of issues still persist. The most recent example is NATO maneuvers in Georgia. It disappoints us as it assures Georgian government that regardless of what it did towards Russia, it will gain NATO membership. Unfortunately, no lesson was drawn from August events,” referring to their 2008 invasion of Georgia.

This is the first admission of the real reason behind the invasion of Georgia, veiled though it was.  It was all about “lessons” for the U.S. and Georgia.  The most recent warnings are less veiled.

A Kremlin policy paper says international relations will be shaped by battles over energy resources, which may trigger military conflicts on Russia’s borders.

The National Security Strategy also said that Russia will seek an equal “partnership” with the United States, but named U.S. missile defense plans in Europe among top threats to the national security.

The document, which has been signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, listed top challenges to national security and outlined government priorities through 2020.

“The international policy in the long run will be focused on getting hold of energy sources, including in the Middle East, the Barents Sea shelf and other Arctic regions, the Caspian and Central Asia,” said the strategy paper that was posted on the presidential Security Council’s Web site.

“Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can’t be excluded,” it added. “The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated.”

Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin, who is now Russia’s powerful prime minister, often accused the West in the past of trying to expand its clout in the ex-Soviet nations and push Russia out of its traditional sphere of influence. The Kremlin has fiercely opposed NATO’s plans to incorporate its ex-Soviet neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia currently controls most natural gas export routes out of the former Soviet region, but that grip is coming under growing pressure from China and the West.

The European Union, which depends on Russia for about one-quarter of its gas needs, has sought alternate supply routes, including the prospective Nabucco pipeline that would carry the Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe but skirt Russia.

Intensifying rivalry for influence in the ex-Soviet region fomented tensions and helped stage the ground for last August’s war between Russia and Georgia, which sits astride a key export pipeline carrying Caspian oil to Western markets.

The war erupted when the U.S.-allied Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili sent troops to regain control over the separatist province of South Ossetia, which had close links with Russia. After routing the Georgian army in five days of fighting, Russia recognized both South Ossetia and another Georgian rebel province of Abkhazia as independent nations and permanently stationed nearly 8,000 troops there.

President Barack Obama’s administration has sought to rebuild ties with Moscow, which plummeted to a post-Cold War low under his predecessor and focus on negotiating a new nuclear arms control deal. Medvedev and other Russian officials have hailed what they called the new administration’s constructive approach and voiced hope that Washington will drop plans to deploy missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic — a top irritant in U.S.-Russian relations.

Reflecting the Kremlin’s hope for better ties with Washington, the strategy paper said Russia will seek “equal and full-fledged strategic partnership with the United States on the basis of coinciding interests.”

But it warned that missile defense plans and prospects to develop space-based weapons remain a top threat to Russia’s security, and said Russia will seek to maintain a nuclear parity with the United States. However, it added that Russia’s policy will be pragmatic and will exclude a new arms race.

The Captain’s Journal has recommended engaging the Caucasus by means of friendship, assistance and special dispensation for business partnerships.  This remarkable admission by Russia, signed by Medvedev, directly admits that war is possible over energy.

The romantic notions of influence in its so-called near abroad has been dropped in favor of more honest but crass verbal bullying and threats, targeted at an administration which wants to press the “reset” button with them.  The team of Putin and Medvedev intend to bloat the cash flow directly into Russia in payment for energy, this very energy being extorted by force if necessary.

Given the predisposition of the current administration to negotiate, talk, bargain and expect only the best of our supposedly erstwhile enemies, it isn’t apparent that Georgia, the Ukraine and other regional countries have any hope of continued sovereignty as it currently exists.  If extortion and threats don’t pave the way towards a re-emergence of the old Soviet style government, then they have made their only other option clear.  War is coming to the Caucasus.


Mutiny in Georgia

Obama, Russia and the Future of Georgia

It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy

More on General David McKiernan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

There continues to be robust conversation in e-mail, comments, articles and discussion threads over the replacement of General David McKiernan with General Stanley McChrystal.  Look.  Let’s cover a couple of details about this that we may have missed the first time around.  Every report about General McChrystal is positive, and if Petraeus had wanted him because of familiarity, then so be it.  It’s his call.  My concern is that it portends a larger sea change in Afghanistan, one that relies not on boots on the ground, but a much smaller footprint relying on a high value target scheme.  The small footprint is one thing that got us here to begin with.  But there is a narrative developing concerning this move that really seems to miss the point.  An example of it comes from Michael Goldfarb.

Earlier today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates unexpectedly announced that he had asked for the resignation of General David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. For most Afghan policy insiders, this came as cause for quiet relief. By all accounts, McKiernan is an honorable soldier who, to his everlasting credit, campaigned vigorously for the additional U.S. troops that are needed to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and that President Obama has begun to provide. But McKiernan also left a great deal to be desired. He was, in fact, an uncreative and conventional thinker who was failing palpably at figuring out how to adapt the principles of counterinsurgency into the specific operational context of Afghanistan — the kind of military art that made the surge a success. Indeed, many visitors to McKiernan’s Kabul headquarters walked away with the nagging feeling that he didn’t really have a plan to defeat the insurgency at all — just a vague commitment to keep on slogging, ideally with more resources.

The departure of McKiernan thus opens the door to a host of long-delayed reforms, including an expansion of the Afghan National Security Forces, a reform of the command structure, and the development of a joint civil-military campaign plan. Let’s hope that Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez prove up to the task.

Oh horseshit!  The Afghan forces are expanding as fast as they can possibly go, growing beyond what some analysts believe can be sustained by the Afghanistan economy or culture when the U.S. pulls out.  Additionally, the Afghan National Army is shot through with drug abuse, as is the Afghan police shot through with both drug abuse and corruption.  Required  viewing for all those who believe that rapid turnover to the Afghan Army is in the cards or can be a major part of the strategy at the present: Afghanistan’s Failing Army.  View it and then tell me about needed reforms concerning expansion of the Afghan National Army.

We’ve had MiTT teams for months and even years, the State Department has been begged to engage the campaign, and the U.S. Marines are in Now Zad while elements of the U.S. Army are in the Korangal Valley, both engaged in fierce fights with hard core Taliban.  We have Green Berets training the Afghan National Army recruits, and female Marines embedded with infantry to ensure cultural sensitivities aren’t violated when talking to the women of households (which under other circumstances is a violation of protocol since females aren’t allowed in infantry in the Corps).

What was McKiernan supposed to do with an under-resourced campaign and a drug-addicted medieval society?  Does General McChrystal have a magic wand that General McKiernan doesn’t?

There may be elements of truth to the reports, such as McKiernan was too comfortable with incompetent NATO allies, but since I have no direct knowledge of this I will leave it to those who do.  But when leveling accusations and charges, insults and charges of long-delayed reforms, we should be direct, honest, comprehensive, and our prose should be based on evidence.

I have evidence as to the incompetence of General Rodriguez, at least in terms of his judgment.  Most of the narrative coming out now is based on emotion rather than evidence.  To my knowledge there are no long-delayed reforms in the campaign except [a] too many troops stationed on large bases, and [b] NATO red tape.  These problems are fixable regardless of the chain of command, and the problem of troops on large FOBs is being fixed as we write.

The more likely scenario? “General McKiernan asked for 30,000 more troops in 2008 when he took over from the NATO mission which had essentially failed. Bush gave him 6,000 of those troops. Obama has given him, will have given him 21,000 by the end of this year and they’re considering another 10,000 next year. And it’s a fine old military tradition that you sack the guy who asked for reasonable resources and then give those resources to his successor who is then successful” (h/t Richard at Defence of the Realm).

Prior: General McKiernan Out in Afghanistan

Al Qaeda helped the Taliban, so the Taliban will help al Qaeda

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago is carrying an informative interview with a Taliban commander whose name is undisclosed.  The interview rambles for a while, but several salient points are lifted out and repeated below.

“We do not have the weapons the Americans have, we have no airplanes, but we have suicide bombings.” He is somewhat nonchalant when asked about the Taliban’s links with al-Qaeda militants. “Al-Qaeda helped the Taliban so the Taliban will help al-Qaeda,” he shrugs.

But, he adds, the Taliban’s goals are limited to Afghanistan. “We want peace in our land and an Islamic government,” he explains …

Asked why he joined the insurgency, [another Taliban commander] responds with another question. “If I came to your home and started fighting you, what would you do?” He complains about US air strikes that result in civilian casualties. “Why do the Americans attack our villages from the air, our wedding parties? Why do they kill small children in this way? They won’t come fight us face to face . . . I don’t like war but I have to fight the Americans.”

There is a wealth of information given to us in these short sentences.  First of all, for those whose plans revolve around settling scores and negotiating with the Taliban, it should be known that the Taliban don’t intend to force al Qaeda out of Afghanistan.

We have analyzed in detail the globalist sentiments of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (or Pakistan Taliban), who are perhaps more oriented towards a world wide insurgency than is the Afghan Taliban.  But with respect to Afghanistan as a safe haven for al Qaeda, there is little pragmatic difference between globalists and those who would give globalists sanctuary.

The second thing we learn is that we are utterly failing at the information war.  This Taliban commander cannot be swayed.  He will live [and perhaps die] as a fighter on the field of battle with the U.S.  But the telling part of the interview is that he is willing to inform the interviewer that he will support al Qaeda, and yet is willing to posit the question “If I came to your home and started fighting you, what would you do?”

“But you did,” the interviewer should have said.  Your having offered sanctuary to al Qaeda allowed the Hamburg cell to receive money, ideological training, support and motivation within Afghanistan, and here is a picture of some of the 3000 people who died that awful day as a result of your policy.

Then again, this kind of hard ball questioning might have gotten the interviewer killed on the spot.  But in spite of the softball interview, we learn that the Taliban still believe that it’s effective in front of their own people to parrot this ridiculous meme about the Americans coming to their doorstep to war against Afghans.

We simply must do better at communicating to the Afghan people what is really going on and what’s at stake.  The Taliban have the upper hand in this information and communications warfare, and they are using it to their tactical advantage.

General McKiernan Out in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

General McKiernan is out as the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today asked for the resignation of the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, saying the U.S. military “must do better” in executing the administration’s new strategy there.

Gates recommended that President Obama nominate veteran Special Operations commander Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to replace McKiernan, who would depart as soon as a successor is confirmed. Gates also recommended that Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the former head of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan who is currently serving as Gates’s military assistant, be nominated to serve in a new position as McChrystal’s deputy.

The leadership shift comes as the Obama administration has voiced increasingly urgent concern about the surge in violence in Afghanistan as well as unrest in neighboring Pakistan.

“We have a new strategy, a new mission and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership is also needed,” Gates said at a hastily convened Pentagon news conference.

“I think these two officers will bring . . . a focus which we really need in 2009. And I just didn’t think we could wait until 2010,” Gates said.

Gates praised McChrystal and Rodriguez for their “a unique skill set in counterinsurgency” as well as “fresh thinking.”

We learn just a bit more about why this decision has been made through undisclosed sources.

The officials say McKiernan, who’s been top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for about a year was too much “old army.” McChrystal, on the other hand, was one of the top Special Operations Forces commanders who led the operation that killed al Qaeda’s top leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Gates and CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus reportedly decided McChrystal was the most logical and best choice to lead the new counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics campaign in Afghanistan.

At The Captain’s Journal we simply cannot forget the awful judgment by General Rodriguez – probably parroting Army intelligence – that the Taliban were distracted and there wouldn’t be a spring offensive in 2008.  As for General McChrystal, his participation in the Zarqawi operation means that he knows how to accomplish high value target kills, a strategy that has failed us thus far in Afghanistan as a replacement for boots on the ground.  Thus far we aren’t impressed.

There is further trouble, and it is the phrase “counter-narcotics.”  The U.S. Marines in Helmand (24th MEU) specifically ignored the poppy, as their strategy was to kill the Taliban (some 400 of them) and provide for security for the population (begun before end of the campaign in Garmser, turned over to the British).  We have spoken against the poppy eradication efforts, as it will do little to accomplish the mission, but will infuriate the local farmers who are attempting to support their families and thus add to the insurgency.

As we have discussed, the Taliban raise revenue by any number of means, including kidnapping, taxes on small businesses, extortion, emerald mines, timber harvesting, and so forth.  A recent effort to replace poppy with pomegranates saw the Taliban at the town meetings, ready to tax pomegranates instead of poppy.  The problem is the Taliban, not the poppy.

It also doesn’t ring true to us that McKiernan is “old school.”  McKiernan showed great support and ownership of the U.S. Marine Corps operations in Garmser, from both the harder side to the softer side.  But this change does strike us as a strategic statement in Afghanistan.

McKiernan wanted a heavier footprint, just as did Mr. Obama during his campaign for Presidency.  He continually requested more troops.  John Nagl, who is now head of the Center for a New American Security (which, ironically, is currently advising the Obama administration), has stated that up to 600,000 troops would be required in Afghanistan, and advocated such a commitment.

The Captain’s Journal has advocated a larger commitment, but had never believed that it would require 600,000 troops, just more of the style of counterinsurgency conducted by the Marines in Helmand (minimal ratio of support to infantry troops, deployment to areas where the Taliban are the strongest, kinetics followed on by remaining in the AO to provide security for the population, etc.).  Yet reality seems to have sunken deep into the administration.  We don’t have 600,000 troops to commit.

In sparsely covered news, there also seems to be a deep reluctance to deploy more than about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan.  So another strategy must be employed.  It’s difficult to tell with certainty what this strategy entails, since this administration isn’t telling us and has declared the metrics for the Afghanistan campaign to be classified.  But a relatively good guess might be that heavier reliance will be made on special operations forces attacks on high value targets, which would be more of the same strategy that had failed us so far in Afghanistan.

Finally, there is a debate among counterinsurgency experts as to where to deploy what additional resources the administration is willing to commit – urban population centers or rural terrain where the Taliban function, get their resources, and enforce their government.  The former seems to have won.  The troops are going to the population centers, a mistake that the Russians made during their campaign.  The Russians were prisoners of their own armor and city boundaries until their logistical difficulties and constant drain of casualties took enough of a toll for them to withdraw in defeat.

We have been advocates for the deployment of special operations forces (and specialized billets) as part of and attached to infantry units.  Directing SOF to conduct raids against targets they won’t engage the next morning to examine and answer for the destruction is separating them from the counterinsurgency they need to support.  Disengaging SOF from the population is a profound mistake, almost as bad as disengaging infantry from performing these direct action kinetics.  Large forward operating bases to house large forces of support units were a strategic mistake in Iraq, and will be in Afghanistan.

The Captain’s Journal is less than sanguine about these changes.  Only time will tell if they succeed or fail.

Final British Withdrawal from Basra

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

The Captain’s Journal has provided extensive coverage and commentary of the British misadventure in Basra, and without repeating much of what we have said over the past couple of years, it bears mentioning that the U.K. has turned over security to the U.S. and will complete its withdrawal from Basra.  While we have provided extensive analysis of the devolution of security (e.g., see Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement), a recent Asia Times article gives yet another datum that should have been a warning to the Brits concerning the state of affairs in Basra.

Informed British military opinion has repeatedly castigated the British government’s failure – ever since the war’s outbreak – to adequately resource its own soldiers. For the 2003 invasion of southern Iraq – Operation Telic – the British deployed some 46,000 troops, but rapidly reduced this number to around 9,000. This was in hindsight a highly overconfident decision. Furthermore, the initial British post-invasion strategy focused on the use of counter-insurgency techniques learned in Malaysia and Northern Ireland rather than a surge in numbers as effectively piloted further north in Baghdad in 2006 by US General David Petraeus.

But Basra proved not to be like Belfast at all during the British occupation. In the teeth of a fanatical Shi’ite insurgency from 2004 – led by the Shi’ite Mahdi Army and Iran-linked Badr Brigades – mortar, rocket and roadside bomb attacks plagued the overstretched British contingent badly.

Surge tactics were not used while the British lacked sufficient numbers of helicopters and the types of armored vehicles needed to protect against roadside improvised bombs effectively. Relations between the Basra city police – obviously infiltrated by Shi’ite militants – and the British army during 2005-2006 were uncomfortable to put it mildly.

Equally, the British military’s decision in August 2006 to hand over a forward base at Abu Naji, al-Amarah, to Iraqi security forces – many of whom were likewise linked to Shi’ite insurgent groups – has been criticized consistently. This permitted insurgents a safe haven in which to manufacture roadside devices for use against the British with relative impunity.

The hope is that the Iraqi people will be able to reject Iranian hegemony alone, including ridding its own forces of sympathetic elements.  But at least early on, the ISF simply could not be trusted.  Recall one experience of U.S. forces in Anbar.

About a month ago, the Iraqi brigade, which is predominantly Shiite, was assigned a new area and instructed to stay away from Nasr Wa Salam, Colonel Pinkerton said. But he said he believed that the Iraqi soldiers remain intent on preventing Sunni Arabs, a majority here, from controlling the area. He cites a pattern of aggression by Iraqi troops toward Abu Azzam’s men and other Sunnis, who he believes are often detained for no reason.

Recently, and without warning, Colonel Pinkerton said, 80 Iraqi soldiers in armored vehicles charged out of their sector toward Nasr Wa Salam but were blocked by an American platoon. The Iraqis refused to say where they were going and threatened to drive right through the American soldiers, whom they greatly outnumbered.

Eventually, with Apache helicopter gunships circling overhead and American gunners aiming their weapons at them, the Iraqi soldiers retreated. “It hasn’t come to firing bullets yet,” Colonel Pinkerton said …

Colonel Pinkerton’s experiences here, he said, have inverted the usual American instincts born of years of hard fighting against Sunni insurgents.

“I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib,” he said, “and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers.”

And one example from Fallujah, 2007.  The Marines fought alongside former insurgents and against hard core insurgents and al Qaeda, and the relationship was one of trust.  As for the Iraqi Security Forces of which people like Nibras Kazimi sing the praises, the Marines would never sleep around them without an armed duty Marine, and without being separated by concertina wire and other indicators of intrusion into their area.  They were treacherous and untrustworthy troops.

The Brits ought to have known than handing a FOB over to the ISF in this area and at this time would have led to safe haven for Iranian-backed insurgents.  They were simply married to COIN doctrine developed in the womb of the relatively safe Northern Ireland.  But the lesson for Iraq, Afghanistan, and indeed, the balance of the world, is that COIN doctrine developed among your own people (who hold to roughly the same religious views, speak the same language, have the same cultural morays, etc.) will lead to large scale dysfunction of your troops when applied anywhere else.  The fault lies not with the enlisted man, but the British Army leadership.

Pakistan’s Future: An Interview with Mullah Nazir Ahmad

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

The Jamestown Foundation recently provided us with the main contents of an important interview of Taliban Mullah Nazir Ahmad.  The entire interview is worth study, but two paragraphs will be repeated here.

When asked why the mujahideen fight the democratic and Islamic government of Pakistan, Maulvi Nazir said Pakistan is run by an infidel government equivalent to Christian and Jewish governments, corroborating his claim by quoting a verse from the Quran that forbids Muslims from allying themselves with Christians and Jews. In typical Salafi fashion, Maulvi Nazir considers democracy a defective and mundane system devised by Western infidels. “Any system resulting from counting the votes of Shiites, Christians and alcoholic electors is a blasphemous and defunct system.” On the legitimacy of the mujahideen drive to implement Shari’a, Mullah Nazir said the religious scholars and shaykhs that support Shari’a had either been arrested or killed by the regime. The mujahideen consider Islamabad’s approval of Shari’a in some areas in Pakistan a hoax to manipulate the Mujahideen into laying down their arms.  The mujahideen will only do this when Shari’a is applied across all of Pakistan.

Mullah Nazir is sure the rocket attacks that have killed many mujahideen are perpetrated by the Pakistani army with the help of U.S. forces and not solely by the Americans, as the Islamabad government claims. According to the Mullah, Pakistani spies use SIM tracking systems to pinpoint mujahideen locations for attack. Mullah Nazir promised no amnesty for government agents captured by the mujahideen, threatening to kill them immediately.  He also pledged to shoot down Pakistani spy planes, such as the two planes shot down by anti-aircraft guns near the city of Angur Adda a few months ago. On suicide bombings, Mullah Nazir denied mujahideen involvement in the bombings of mosques and crowded places and accused the ISI of carrying out the attacks to undermine the mujahideen. In spite of the war waged by the Pakistani government against the mujahideen, Mullah Nazir claims that mujahideen morale is very high and they will continue their jihad until they reach Islamabad.

This couldn’t be clearer.  They intend to go right to the doorsteps of Parliament.  Pakistan will be theirs before they stop, or at least, so they say.  The Taliban, the invention of the Pakistan ISI, became a monster too violent to tame, and yet the Pakistan Army ISI and Army are still the problem – the ISI because of their continued support of them, the Army because of its continued preoccupation with India.

But the problems in Pakistan run somewhat deeper than this, all the way to institutional recalcitrance.

Put simply, the Taliban, murderous as it is, is not the problem. The problem is the Pakistani military and the stubborn refusal of Washington to comprehend this basic reality. We need to remind ourselves that Pakistan is not a sovereign state with a military, but a sovereign military with a state at its disposal to use as it sees fit. And it has been that way almost from the beginning of Pakistan’s existence, despite an occasional short interlude of civilian rule. To maintain its undisputed dominance and its claims to a huge chunk of the national treasure, the military needed the specter of a powerful enemy and an ideology capable of mobilizing the largely illiterate masses behind its self-image as savior of the nation. It found the former in India, the latter in radical Islam …

… what needs to be done without delay is to start the process of transforming the Pakistani military back into an instrument of the state from its current status as a state within the state. The military must be denied once and for all the role of political kingmaker it has long exercised, as well as the inordinate influence it has in the economy. Further, the ISI must be either closed down or put under strict civilian control. Islamabad must also seriously consider doing away with the special status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which has contributed to the prevailing lawlessness that the Taliban has exploited. A reconciliation with India is an essential precondition to the success of all of these measures and is very doable; a reconciliation with the Islamist thugs is not. This is the only kind of Washington agenda that would offer real hope of stabilization in Pakistan and the eventual defeat of the Taliban across the border. Unless some progress is made along these lines, Congress should refuse to provide even one more penny in aid, regardless of what Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari promises.

But time is of the essence. The Taliban may not be at the gates of Islamabad yet but the ongoing radical Islamization of the country may be reaching the tipping point. The North-West Frontier Province is, for the most part, no longer controlled by the government. The greatest immediate danger lies in the huge inroads made by the fanatics in the Punjab heartland, especially southern Punjab and the key urban areas (Lahore, Multan, and Karachi). If the Punjab becomes ungovernable, Pakistan will not survive long as a unitary state.

We’ve documented the difficulties that Punjan will soon face, as well as the ongoing Talibanization of Karachi.  Noted one well-connected Pakistani politician, “Karachi is the jugular vein of Pakistan,” said Farooq Sattar, head of the MQM, as he sipped an iced yogurt drink on one of Karachi’s main streets, surrounded by guards carrying AK-47s. “If Karachi is destabilized, the whole country is dead.”

The Taliban have told us of their intentions, and the pieces are falling into place in large cities in Punjab.  The only question is how long it will take for Pakistan to wake and denude the dangerous ISI and turn the Army loose on the real state enemy, the Taliban?

Drones, ROE, Raids, Fathers and Sons, Diamonds and Goats

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

I thought I would give you a lot of loosely correlated things to think about for the weekend.  First of all, Bird Dog at the FORVM says call off the drones in Pakistan.  They have been a tactical success, he notes, but in the same breath, points out that they have been a political failure.  I think that this is about right.  I am not opposed to the drones; nor do I believe that the unfortunate noncombatant souls who get in the way should be reason enough to call a halt to the program.  I just don’t believe that it works considered holistically.  As regular readers already know, we don’t cover high value target hits.  The HVT program doesn’t impress us as a replacement for counterinsurgency with boots on the ground.

Concerning drones, Victor Davis Hanson mentions that “at some point, Obama must answer why waterboarding mass-murderers and beheaders like Khalid Sheik Mohammed is wrong, while executing by missile attack (no writs, habeas corpus, Miranda rights, etc.) suspected terrorists and anyone caught in their general vicinity in Waziristan — or pirates negotiating extortion — is legitimate.”

I think that this is correct, except that I have one better than Hanson.  We’ve covered the rules of engagement fairly extensively, and linked and and provided commentary on the standing rules of engagement, the Iraq-specific ROE, and the rules for the use of force.  Hold that thought for a moment for us to consider the tactical generals.

An amazing revolution is taking place in the history of war, and even perhaps of humanity. The U.S. military went into Iraq with just a handful of drones in the air and zero unmanned systems on the ground, none of them armed. Today, there are more than 5,300 drones in the U.S. inventory and another roughly 12,000 on the ground.

And these are just the first generation, the Model T Fords compared with the smarter, more autonomous and more lethal machines already in the prototype stage. And we won’t be the only ones using them. Forty-two other countries have military robotics programs, as well as a host of non-state actors …

But like any major change in war, the robots revolution is not turning out to be the frictionless triumph of technology that some would describe it. Unmanned systems are raising all sorts of questions about not only what is possible, but also what is proper in our politics, ethics, law and other fields. And these questions are already rippling into all aspects of the military endeavor, well before we get to any world of machines making decisions on their own.

Our technologies are making it very easy, perhaps too easy, for leaders at the highest level of command not only to peer into, but even to take control of, the lowest level operations. One four-star general, for example, talked about how he once spent a full two hours watching drone footage of an enemy target and then personally decided what size bomb to drop on it.

Similarly, a Special Operations Forces captain talked about a one-star, watching a raid on a terrorist hideout via a Predator, radioing in to tell him where to move not merely his unit in the midst of battle, but where to position an individual soldier.

Besides being absurd, can anyone outline how a four star general sitting behind a desk and deciding to drop a bomb on a person who isn’t currently a threat to him doesn’t violate the ROE?  Remember, the ROE doesn’t have any discussion whatsoever of offensive operations.  The entire document is built around self defense, which is why General Kearney wanted to charge two snipers with murder because they shot a Taliban commander who didn’t happen to be pointing a weapon at them.  Not that the ROE is pristine in this failure to address offensive operations – it happens to be ridiculous in this omission.  But the point is that we aren’t holding Generals and drones to the same ROE as we hold the Soldier and Marine in the field.  Not quite fair, huh?

Bird Dog also links The Captain’s Journal and mentions that we point out the obvious similarities between drone attacks and Special Operations Forces that swoop in conducting raids in the middle of the night leaving carnage everywhere, expecting the infantry to clean up their mess the next day – and week – and months.

This brings up a testy exchange between me and Andrew Exum over SOF, where I exchanged e-mail and posts over time (for the last one, see here), charging him with being obsessed with SOF.  Andrew responded that in fact he wasn’t, and that “the so-called “general purpose” forces are the ones responsible for carrying out the main effort.”  He also missed the point – the point being that when piracy has led to a hostage situation it has gone too far.  Sending SEALs into every hostage situation is not logistically sustainable.  But let’s go with the flow here for a minute.

Nuance is in order here.  To be sure, there are qualifications – e.g., HALO jumps, use of underwater rebreathers, etc. – that are unique to some and not all.  When you need those billets, there is no replacement for having those billets.  But Andrew goes further.  He said: ” … an average platoon of Marines or Army light infantry does not have the capabilities or the training to carry out the missions executed by Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and other SOF (to include the SMUs).”  He went further in previous posts to extend this to the “cool boys” doing what amounted to direct action kinetics in counterinsurgency campaigns as “the way we play offense.”

Indeed.  I have discussed this with other active duty officers who found this silly.  The offensive part of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have involved more than just SOF.  From my perspective, having a son deployed to Fallujah, I know that he knows how to fast rope, that he conducted direct action kinetics, that he cleared rooms (not just trained to do it, but did it under fire), and he did it with a SAW (so much for those who complain that a short barrel carbine is needed for small doorways – my son used a SAW and led the way at times).  They used all of the infantry tactics used by SOF, but they weren’t just trained to do it.  They actually did it under fire.

So I have concluded that I simply don’t understand what Exum is talking about.  This notion of the SOF being the ones to conduct direct action kinetics while the General Purpose Forces do the softer side of COIN is an Army brainchild.  It’s foreign to me.  Some brainchild.  I think that the child is braindead.  The problems associated with this thinking could fill a book.

And this is the perfect segue into what I believe fathers ought to be doing with their sons.  Fastroping?  Harumph.  My son knew how to rappel before he ever entered the Marines.  How about the hard work to learn horsemanship that the original SOF guys did when they went into Afghanistan (the Horse Soldiers)?  My Marine son knew how to ride horses before he ever entered the Corps, and my other two sons and I have ridden the trails as well.  In fact, my Marine has broken and trained horses up to and including showing them in the ring for judges.

In fact, all three of my boys were humping a backpack at 6000 feet elevation about as soon as their bones were developed enough to take it.  They have all ridden horses on treacherous trails, they have all rappelled, and they have all pitched camp in dangerously cold weather at a very young age.  I have lifted weights with all of them, and always wanted each one of them to know that if they ever gave their mother a hassle, I would be happy to throw down with them at any place, any time.  As a father, if your time is being spent watching football on the weekends instead of teaching your son(s) to do algebra, analyze the Scriptures, lift weights, start a fire, neck rein a horse, belay a rope or hump a pack, then your priorities need to be re-evaluated and adjusted accordingly.  You’re not locked in on the important things.  You’ve lost focus, and expect other “special” people to do the hard work for you.

Without any segue whatsoever, I’ll leave you with Tim Lynch of Free Range International.  He linked my Analysis of the Battle of Wanat (the category is still second on Google).  At any rate, Tim argues for ignoring the isolated battle spaces such as in the Nuristan and Kunar Provinces and focusing instead on the population.  This parallels the argument of David Kilcullen, but runs counter to my own counsel and that of Joshua Foust.  I will weigh in on this later.

In the mean time, he makes this tantalizing statement: “The Taliban will not come back in power here – not in a million years.  Even if they did they would not be stupid enough to provide shelter or assistance to Al Qaeda.  We have reduced Osama and his surviving leaders into walking dead men who freak anytime someone gets near them with a cell phone or a plane flies overhead.  They could no more pull off another 9/11 than I could pull a diamond out of a goats ass.”

Well, I have spent some time studying the Hamburg cell, financing for the Tehrik-i-Taliban, al Qaeda strategies and tactics, and so forth, and I’m not sure it’s that simple.  Money, language training and willingness to die.  They have all three.  But while I wanted to discuss this with Tim over e-mail, what do you know?  Tim has no e-mail address.  Apparently, he doesn’t correspond via e-mail, doesn’t own a computer, or doesn’t know how to use one.  At least, he provides no such address over his site.

Calling Tim?  Drop me a note?

New al Qaeda Recruits Gravitate to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

We pointed out over a year ago that by early 2007, new al Qaeda recruits were heading for Pakistan rather than Iraq.  This trend has been growing, and yet Yemen is also heavily in the mix.

The flow of foreign militants to Pakistan worries Western governments, which fear the south Asian country has replaced Iraq as the place to go for aspiring Islamists planning attacks on the West …

The goal today for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighbouring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.

Now, porous borders, corrupt officials and inventive smugglers mean a determined foreigner has little problem simply entering Pakistan, experts say, although reaching a camp in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas can be harder due to U.S. drone attacks and tougher security checks by militant groups.

Counter-terrorism experts also say that Somalia and Yemen are also emerging as destinations for aspiring al Qaeda fighters.

Rob Wainwright, Director of the European Union police agency Europol

“We see a pattern which shows Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have replaced Iraq as preferred destinations for volunteers wishing to engage in armed conflict … We still see that recruits travel to training camps as part of their radicalisation process.

“Those who get training on the Pakistani-Afghan border are from various backgrounds — for example European converts and persons with Arab, North African and Turkish backgrounds.”

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team.

“Training over the last couple of years has typically taken place in small compounds which you find throughout the area of northwest Pakistan, rather than in large purpose-built camps. I have also heard of it taking place in apartments or houses in places like Karachi. It is hard to spot and quantify.”

Brian Glyn Williams, Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen epitaphs of Kazakhs, Turks, Azerbaijanis, and Uzbekistanis on recent jihadi websites (related to the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflict zone).

Raphael Perl, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“There’s no question that people are still going and the campaign to recruit people has intensified greatly.

“A small percentage go into active operations immediately. Some are just used for cannon fodder, in that part of Asia. And some of the very capable ones are sent back and told blend into society.”

Noman Benotman, Libyan former anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan.

“I think the message many Arabs receive from al Qaeda leaders nowadays is – don’t come here (to Pakistan). We don’t need you here: Go to Yemen’.”

“And we have seen a move to Yemen, mainly by Saudis, to strengthen the al Qaeda base there. It represents a big danger.”

Pakistan is front and center in terms of the training and indoctrination of globalist Jihadi fighters, and the three locations to which they are being sent, if not for their homelands to lay low until used, are Pakistan / Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.  Finally, there has been an evolution in the training of the jihadists.

Mustafa Alani, Gulf Research Centre

(Whether in Pakistan or Yemen), the major al Qaeda investment is in recruitment, not training. Most action now involves suicide bombers or exploding a car by remote control. This mainly requires influencing the mind of the subject, while most of the physical training can be done in a room. The old-style camps we saw on the publicity videos, where fighters climb over obstacles or go across fires, are mostly in the past. The groups have passed this stage. Now it is about how to evade things like monitoring in an airport. And that is a response to the new technology of counter-terrorism.”

There is good news and bad news.  First the good.  The drone attacks have been at least moderately successful, and so the recruits have been driven indoors or onto smaller compounds.  This means that classical guerrilla warfare conducted with hit and run attacks by small arms fire, small munitions, and so forth, may be training that the recruits have not had.

Now for the bad news.  The new recruits may know how to avoid detection in transit, and may in fact have uttered vows of death as they strap suicide bombs to themselves.  And for more bad news.  The recruits who are sent to the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan learn guerrilla warfare with haste.  There is no replacement for human intelligence, and we must be pursuing direct knowledge of these operations.

Pentagon Plans Huge New Bureaucracy

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

We all know that the weapons procurement process doesn’t work well.  The whole process is a bureaucratic nightmare.  So the answer?  A huge new bureaucracy.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s Defense Department plans to create 20,000 new government jobs to help revise how it buys more than $100 billion of weapons each year, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official told Congress.

The Pentagon also plans to tie contract fees more closely to performance and make deals spanning two years, or more, only when “real, substantial” savings result to taxpayers, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Lynn said the planned jobs growth would take place over the next five years. Included would be more than 9,000 positions at two Pentagon agencies that audit and manage contracts for everything from bullets, to bombs, to bread rolls.

The remaining 11,000 new hires would come from the conversion to federal civilian slots of jobs that had been outsourced to contractors.

“This unprecedented, five-year planned workforce initiative will result in a properly sized, well-trained, capable and ethical workforce,” he said.

Lynn and Shay Assad, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, said bringing more work in-house would cost less than relying on contractors over the long run.

The current workforce is made up of 127,000 government employees and 52,000 contractors for a total of 179,000, said Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman.

“We are going to 147,000 and 41,000 contractors for a new total integrated workforce of 188,000,” he said in an emailed reply to Reuters.

Assad told Reuters after the hearing that the U.S. Army would seek to restructure its costliest arms program, the $159 billion Future Combat Systems, as part of the Pentagon drive to link contractors’ profits more closely to their performance.

The problem with the future combat systems is not that there aren’t enough people holding the contractor responsible.  The problem is that the system, including the exoskeleton, should never be implemented to begin with.

And the problem with the system is not that there aren’t enough bureaucrats.  Contractors’ earnings can be linked more closely to performance now, without a huge increase in the Pentagon “system.”  Whatever else this growth in bureaucracy is meant to achieve, it has little to do with weapons procurement.  It would be better to take the cost associated with this and put it towards an increase in the size of the Marine Corps.

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