Analysis Of The Covid-19 Pandemic

Herschel Smith · 18 Mar 2020 · 37 Comments

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

    Fallujah, Navy SEALs and Effeminate Crying

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    Remember this?


    Right.  Four Blackwater employees dead (two strung up at the the green  bridge at Fallujah over the Euphrates River).  It was instigated by a terrorist named Ahmed Hashim Abed.  Several Navy SEALs captured him, and Abed came away from the experience with a busted lip.  Now three Navy SEALs are under charges.

    Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told

    The three, all members of the Navy’s elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called a captain’s mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

    Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named “Objective Amber,” told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

    Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.

    Matthew McCabe, a Special Operations Petty Officer Second Class (SO-2), is facing three charges: dereliction of performance of duty for willfully failing to safeguard a detainee, making a false official statement, and assault.

    Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe, SO-2, is facing charges of dereliction of performance of duty and making a false official statement.

    Petty Officer Julio Huertas, SO-1, faces those same charges and an additional charge of impediment of an investigation.

    Neal Puckett, an attorney representing McCabe, told Fox News the SEALs are being charged for allegedly giving the detainee a “punch in the gut.”

    “I don’t know how they’re going to bring this detainee to the United States and give us our constitutional right to confrontation in the courtroom,” Puckett said. “But again, we have terrorists getting their constitutional rights in New York City, but I suspect that they’re going to deny these SEALs their right to confrontation in a military courtroom in Virginia.”

    The three SEALs will be arraigned separately on Dec. 7. Another three SEALs — two officers and an enlisted sailor — have been identified by investigators as witnesses but have not been charged. obtained the official handwritten statement from one of the three witnesses given on Sept. 3, hours after Abed was captured and still being held at the SEAL base at Camp Baharia. He was later taken to a cell in the U.S.-operated Green Zone in Baghdad.

    The SEAL told investigators he had showered after the mission, gone to the kitchen and then decided to look in on the detainee.

    “I gave the detainee a glance over and then left,” the SEAL wrote. “I did not notice anything wrong with the detainee and he appeared in good health.”

    Lt. Col. Holly Silkman, spokeswoman for the special operations component of U.S. Central Command, confirmed Tuesday to that three SEALs have been charged in connection with the capture of a detainee. She said their court martial is scheduled for January.

    United States Central Command declined to discuss the detainee, but a legal source told that the detainee was turned over to Iraqi authorities, to whom he made the abuse complaints. He was then returned to American custody. The SEAL leader reported the charge up the chain of command, and an investigation ensued.

    The source said intelligence briefings provided to the SEALs stated that “Objective Amber” planned the 2004 Fallujah ambush, and “they had been tracking this guy for some time.”

    The Fallujah atrocity came to symbolize the brutality of the enemy in Iraq and the degree to which a homegrown insurgency was extending its grip over Iraq.

    The four Blackwater agents were transporting supplies for a catering company when they were ambushed and killed by gunfire and grenades. Insurgents burned the bodies and dragged them through the city. They hanged two of the bodies on a bridge over the Euphrates River for the world press to photograph.

    Intelligence sources identified Abed as the ringleader, but he had evaded capture until September.

    A punch in the gut, a busted lip, so on, and so forth.  Things that happen in America every day during High School football practice, gym class during wrestling instruction, brothers fighting each other at home, and U.S. Marine Corps hazing of boots.

    I simply cannot help but be struck at how effeminate and muliebrous this has become.  Does some lawyer-mommy want to take care of poor little Ahmed?  Did he get roughed up playing with the big boys?  Surely the enemy scoffs and mocks us.  We should be embarrassed even to ask the SEALs about something like this.  CENTCOM should be ashamed.  SOCOM should be ashamed.  It shows once again that we want to lawyer our engagements instead of win them and that we hold lawyers in higher regard than we do warriors.  This is what we have become.  We have lost the horror of 9/11, and this is the surest way to bring it back.

    Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed To Get Bin Laden

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has published a report entitled Tora Bora: How We Failed To Get Bin Laden and Why it Matters Today.  I didn’t read much of it, but let’s rehearse a bit of the executive summary.

    Bin Laden expected to die. His last will and testament, written on December 14, reflected his fatalism. ‘‘Allah commended to us that when death approaches any of us that we make a bequest to parents and next of kin and to Muslims as a whole,’’ he wrote, according to a copy of the will that surfaced later and is regarded as authentic. ‘‘Allah bears witness that the love of jihad and death in the cause of Allah has dominated my life and the verses of the sword permeated every cell in my heart, ‘and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together.’ How many times did I wake up to find myself reciting this holy verse!’’ He instructed his wives not to remarry and apologized to his children for devoting himself to jihad.

    But the Al Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected. Requests were also turned down for U.S. troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan. The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines. Instead, the U.S. command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack bin Laden and on Pakistan’s loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes. On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today.

    The decision not to deploy American forces to go after bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, the architects of the unconventional Afghan battle plan known as Operation Enduring Freedom. Rumsfeld said at the time that he was concerned that too many U.S. troops in Afghanistan would create an anti-American backlash and fuel a widespread insurgency. Reversing the recent American military orthodoxy known as the Powell doctrine, the Afghan model emphasized minimizing the U.S. presence by relying on small, highly mobile teams of special operations troops and CIA paramilitary operatives working with the Afghan opposition. Even when his own commanders and senior intelligence officials in Afghanistan and Washington argued for dispatching more U.S. troops, Franks refused to deviate from the plan. There were enough U.S. troops in or near Afghanistan to execute the classic sweep-and-block maneuver required to attack bin Laden and try to prevent his escape. It would have been a dangerous fight across treacherous terrain, and the injection of more U.S. troops and the resulting casualties would have contradicted the risk-averse, ‘‘light footprint’’ model formulated by Rumsfeld and Franks.

    But commanders on the scene and elsewhere in Afghanistan argued that the risks were worth the reward. After bin Laden’s escape, some military and intelligence analysts and the press criticized the Pentagon’s failure to mount a full-scale attack despite the tough rhetoric by President Bush. Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others defended the decision, arguing that the intelligence was inconclusive about the Al Qaeda leader’s location. But the review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants underlying this report removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora.

    This has limited usefulness because I already said it.

    Air Force special operators with satellite uplinks guiding JDAMS to target, CIA operatives making shady deals with halfway reliable (or all the way unreliable) allies, Delta Force operators in the background, gizmos, gadgets and thingamajigs, tribal elements in the foreground, minute-by-minute radio communications on the whereabouts of UBL, and cloak-and-dagger secrecy after the fact … it all makes for interesting television, civilian amazement, and even more honest books about the abject failure of the Rumsfeld strategy in Afghanistan.

    Marines are always in ready reserve, and if their forces needed supplementing, the 82nd or 101st Airborne should have been able to respond to the need of the moment. There is absolutely no replacement for infantry, and in this case, terrain control, interdiction and authority over transit was the solution to the problem. Infantry could have provided this, special forces could not. We let UBL escape, and it was not the fault of special forces. It was Rumsfeld’s fault. It was a strategic blunder.

    It isn’t a reflection on their specialized billets, their capabilities or their commitment. It’s a function of force projection. Special forces cannot supply the force projection necessary to win counterinsurgencies. Only infantry can do this. This is what we learn when we put aside the sophomoric posturing over who’s special and who isn’t.

    To be sure, the capture or killing of Bin Laden wouldn’t even have come close to ending the transnational insurgency called Islamic Jihad, but at least as regards Bin Laden, to the extent to which the Senate findings comport with our own, they are correct.

    Admin details

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    I don’t generally like to blogroll people who don’t blogroll me, and blogroll lists get old and in need of maintenance (for example, I have had to remove a number of blogs in my blogroll who have stopped active writing).  I have also blogrolled our friend Bruce at Flit, who offers interesting commentary.

    I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and gave God thanks for His blessings in your life.  I have taken a few badly needed days off from blogging.  It has become obvious to me (from repeat registrations of the same people, lost passwords, people who write in to say that they can’t leave comments, etc), that I have an annoying problem with the web site.  I’m not sure if it’s related to our own unique coding or something to do with this version of WordPress.

    Upon typing in your login information, if it appears that you aren’t logged in and there is no dialogue box to use for comments, you might need to hit the refresh button.  When you do this the appearance will change and you can check your profile, leave comments and the other things a registered user can do.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  I don’t know how to fix the problem.  Again, there is an easy workaround if you know what to do.  Just hit the refresh button on your web browser.

    Finally, The Captain’s Journal web based e-mail has been dysfunctional for a very long time.  If you have sent me a note in the last half a year (not excluding the past couple of weeks), I never received it.  This problem has been fixed and I am now receiving e-mail.

    Thanksgiving 2009

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    It’s a wonderful thing to give thanks to those around you for their blessings upon you.  Family, friends and coworkers rarely get enough thanks from you – and vice versa.  But in the end, Thanksgiving is not really about thanking those around us.  It’s one of the truly unique Christian holidays, unencumbered by tainted and confused history.

    Thanksgiving, as conceived by the settlers to the new world, was about thanking God for His kind providence.  Contrary to the idiotic Wikipedia entry, it is not now and will never be a secular holiday.  One cannot truly know thankfulness without knowing the creator of the universe personally.  So watch your football, eat until you are sick, and thank those around you.  But this is only a shadow of its intent and purpose.

    As a Christian and thoroughgoing Calvinist I have no problem knowing that our lives and times are in God’s hands, and I give Him thanks for all of His lovingkindness and blessings.  I wish you well on this Thanksgiving and hope that you and yours not only give thanks to our creator, but know him personally.  Leave aside rumblings of war, and focus on something else for a few days.

    Afghanis to Marines: Don’t Leave Too Soon

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    As I have said before, I think too much can be made of one of the central themes or presuppositions upon which population-centric counterinsurgency is theoretically constructed.  The will of the people, it is said, is more than just critical.  It is determinative.  To be sure it does mean something even if it doesn’t take on the position of being the center of gravity in every situation.

    But the tired meme that the Afghanis don’t want us in Afghanistan just took another hard blow.  Continuing the claim to the best reporting on Afghanistan (maybe with the exception of C. J. Chivers), Tony Perry with the L.A. Times reports from Nawa, Afghanistan.

    It was at the end of a recent after-lunch meeting, with the two sides sitting cross-legged on a tattered rug, exchanging pleasantries and enjoying sweet tea and stone-baked bread.

    Haji Mohammed Khan, district administrator for Nawa, a government bureaucrat with three decades’ experience in war and shaky peace, had something he wanted to ask the Marines, some of whom will soon return to bases in the United States.

    “Please,” Khan said in a low voice, his sad eyes looking directly at his guests, “don’t let us be here alone. You used your young people, your vehicles, your helicopters to help us. Please don’t turn around and leave unfinished your business here.”

    Khan’s quiet plea echoes but one view of the hot-button issue of proper troop levels in Afghanistan, and Khan’s countrymen in Helmand province appear as divided as officials in Washington.

    “There are two kinds of people in Nawa,” said Taimour Shah, a farmer. “There are those who like the Americans, but others listen to the religious leaders who don’t want the Americans here.”

    There is also a third group: Those who are afraid to get too close to the Americans lest they be left vulnerable to the Taliban if the Americans leave as abruptly as they arrived.

    Since a combat battalion of U.S. Marines arrived unexpectedly one hot night in July to replace a platoon of British soldiers and break Taliban dominance in the region, the U.S. mission has been a counterinsurgency operation, which is slow, incremental, labor intensive and frequently frustrating for all involved.

    And with the American public agonizing over the U.S. death toll and impatient for the troops to come home, time may be the greatest enemy.

    “You [Westerners] have the watches, but we Afghans have the time,” Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand province, has been quoted as saying at a recent gathering.

    Even as the Americans are proud of the progress made here, there is a sense that all could be lost quickly if the U.S. military leaves prematurely.

    “I think we’re succeeding in Nawa, but like the elders say, if we leave, it will all be wasted,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Reggie Fox, a member of an 82nd Airborne platoon assigned to mentor Afghan security forces. “The insurgents aren’t dumb. They want to outlast the American population.”

    The Mosques in Fallujah also sounded off with Jihadist propaganda up until mid-2007, at least until the Marines were seen as winning.  At that point the theme shifted to one of helping the Americans.  There is no substitute for strength, force projection, and longevity.  The  District Administrator for Nawa sounds much like the elders in Garmsir in 2008 when the 24th MEU swept through killing some 400 Taliban fighters.  As the elder said when asking them to stay, “When you protect us, we will be able to protect you.”  So much for the notion that the Afghanis want the Taliban.

    Jirga with the Taliban

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    From Reuters:

    KABUL, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai could invite militants to attend a “Loya Jirga”, or grand council meeting, aiming to seek peace and reconciliation with the Taliban, a spokesman said on Sunday.

    The plans signal a more public effort to engage with militants during Karzai’s second term as leader, measures that Washington has encouraged in its counter-insurgency strategy.

    Afghanistan’s constitution recognises the Loya Jirga — Pashtu for grand assembly — as “the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan”.

    Karzai announced plans for a Loya Jirga in his inauguration speech last week, describing it as a measure to promote peace but giving few details.

    Under the Afghan constitution, a Loya Jirga made up of parliamentarians and chiefs of district and provincial councils can amend the constitution, impeach the president and “decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests”.

    The rare, colourful mass gatherings of elders have played crucial roles over the course of Afghan history.

    Two have been held since the fall of the Taliban in 2001: one that named Karzai interim leader and a second that adopted the constitution. A third gathering of tribal chiefs from both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier, was held in Kabul in 2007 to smooth over relations between the two countries.

    The giant marquee tent where those assemblies were held is still standing in a Kabul field.

    Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai, said the assembly envisioned by the president would not be the “Constitutional Loya Jirga” described formally under Afghan law but a “Traditional Loya Jirga”, which could have a different make-up of notables.

    “The meaning of the traditional Loya Jirga is how to bring about peace and how to invite the Taliban and opposition in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are not coming to talk about the cabinet and the administration. They are coming to bring security and peace.”

    Security and peace.  The Taliban who uses children in combat roles– Karzai is asking them for security and peace.  While the temperament of the people is important, much too much can be made of will of the population in the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency.  The U.S. Marine Corps campaign in Anbar encountered a people (i.e., the Sunnis) who had been disenfranchised because of the regime change in Iraq.  The will of the people was the very last thing the Marines had in their corner.

    The so-called Sons of Iraq (or concerned citizens) were eager to side with the Marines in the security of Fallujah in 2007 because, quite simply, they were weary of fighting the Marines.  Karzai is attempting to settle with the Taliban not because they are weary of fighting us, but because we are weary of fighting them.  Or at least, weary of not being allowed to fight them.  That’s the difference in the campaigns – or at least, one big one.

    So much for the Pakistani military offensive in Waziristan

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    As we discussed in Pakistan Crumbles, the Pakistan Taliban have melted away into the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the face of the Pakistani military offensive against them.  More detail:

    … there are those in the diplomatic circles of Islamabad who say the Pakistani military leadership would soon realize that the troops in South Waziristan are actually chasing shadows because the TTP militants have simply melted into the vastness of the inhospitable surrounding territory. It appears that the militants in Waziristan, headed by the Pakistani Taliban – the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – are bent on a long-term insurgency against the security apparatus. Although tough resistance was expected from up to 10,000 well-trained Taliban guerrilla fighters from the mainly ethnic Pashtun Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan, the military operation has been relatively proved easy so far, to the surprise of many. Fighting small rearguard actions, the Taliban deserted their bunkers and posts in the major towns, leaving space for the troops to occupy. An intelligence official overseeing the spying operations in Waziristan has been recently quoted as saying that many groups of Taliban were spotted moving to Shawal, a remote and inaccessible area near the Afghan border. Dense forests and ravines make the Shwal valley in North Waziristan a perfect terrain for a lethal guerrilla war. “Our troops will not enter the area, at least for now. It is a very difficult area”, the intelligence official was further quoted as saying.

    Other Taliban fighters have slipped away into at least four other tribal districts – Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur and Kurram – where the TTP controls large swaths of territory. “The militants started to shift their kin and cattle, and ammunition to other tribal districts after the government announced an operation in South Waziristan in May”, said the intelligence official on condition of anonymity. However, according to Javed Hussain, the former commander of Pakistan’s elite commando force – Special Services Group (SSG), the force involved in the offensive is too small to block the secondary routes and traditional smuggling channels used by the Taliban to flee. The troops have so far focused on securing the main town along the three main roads and the bases lost to the Taliban in previous encounters during their three-pronged operation, he added. And the Pakistani government maintains that forcing the Taliban militants to flee has been a success, pointing out the rebels have lost dozens of training facilities, including one to groom suicide bombers. But intensified suicide bombings and raids on civilian and sensitive military installations across the country in recent weeks definitely tell a different story. Security experts in Islamabad are of the view that the Taliban militants’ ability to hit at will has not been minimized – over 300 people killed in such attacks in October 2009 bear testimony to this.

    Azam Tariq, a Taliban spokesman, has already vowed to orchestrate a long guerrilla war by early next year, after an end to the snowfall that blocks the important passes, making the movement across the mountainous South Waziristan region of around 6,620 square kilometers very difficult. Analysts, therefore, warn that the Taliban strategy could have dangerous consequences for the Pakistani forces as the militants might regroup and return to South Waziristan with more force and make the troops continually bleed with deadly ambushes, raids and roadside bombings. The Taliban circles say the TTP militants are applying the same strategy which they were trained to use by the Pakistani security forces against the Indian army in Jammu & Kashmir during the 1990s. That included a pattern of not confronting a regular army once it was mobilized; rather, the militants dodged it and opened a new front far from the point of the army’s concentration. And much the same has happened in Pakistan over the past month, with a string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in various parts of the country, including in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

    The Shawal area is a historical staging point for attacks into Afghanistan, and is considered to be a no-man’s landdue to the terrain and inhospitable conditions.


    Under-resourcing the campaign, failing to cut off escape routs, failing to engage in the chase, ceding the rural terrain to the enemy, and under-estimating the longevity of the fight.  These are all errors in judgment made by U.S. strategists too.

    Yet another bungled attempt to defeat the insurgents … yet another opportunity crashes and burns.  So much for the Pakistani military offensive in Waziristan.  As a concluding thought, Shawal is just South of Parachinar where it is theorized that UBL resides.



    The enemy doesn’t feel threatened in this region, a place right on the Afghanistan – Pakistan border.  Does it make any sense to continue to ask the question why we are in Afghanistan?

    Pakistan Crumbles

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban in Swat has not produced the desired effect, as commander Maulana Fazlullah and many of his fighters have escaped the region (Fazlullah is in Afghanistan).  Much the same thing is happening with the Taliban in Waziristan as a result of the Pakistani offensive there.

    On Tuesday, the military escorted journalists on a tour of the area, where it closely restricts access, showing piles of things they had seized, including weapons, bombs, photos and even a long, curly wig. “It all started from here,” said Brig. Muhammed Shafiq, the commander here. “This is the most important town in South Waziristan.”

    But lasting success has been elusive, tempered by an agile enemy that has moved easily from one part of the tribal areas to the next — and even deeper into Pakistan — virtually every time it has been challenged.

    American analysts expressed surprise at the relatively light fighting and light Pakistani Army casualties — seven soldiers in five days in Sararogha — supporting their suspicions that the Taliban fighters from the local Mehsud tribe and the foreign fighters who are their allies, including a large contingent of Uzbeks, have headed north or deeper into the mountains. In comparison, 51 Americans were killed in eight days of fighting in Falluja, Iraq, in 2004.

    “That’s what bothers me,” an American intelligence officer said. “Where are they?”

    The Pakistani military says it has learned from past failures in a region where it lost hundreds in fighting before. It spent weeks bombing the area before its 30,000 troops entered. It struck alliances with neighboring tribes.

    But the pending campaign was no secret, allowing time for local people and militants to escape, similar to what happens during American operations in Afghanistan.

    “They are fleeing in all directions,” said a senior Pakistani security official, who did not want to be identified while discussing national security issues. “The Uzbeks are fleeing to Afghanistan and the north, and the Mehsuds are fleeing to any possible place they can think of.”

    Rather than fight the Pakistan military in a conventional operation, the Pakistan Taliban have declared a guerrilla operation against them.  The proliferation of bombs and terrorist attacks against Pakistanis and their own infrastructure, combined with an almost pathological preoccupation with India and a host of other conspiracy theories, almost surely contributes to the troubling (and pathetically amusing if not so serious) results of a recent poll of Pakistanis.

    A majority of Pakistanis see the United States as a greater threat to their country than traditional arch-rival India or the dreaded Taliban, a new opinion poll has revealed.

    According to Gallup Pakistan’s poll, 59% of more than 2,700 people surveyed across the country consider the US a threat. “Eighteen percent believe India is the threat while 11% say the Taliban are a threat,” said Gallup Pakistan chairman Ijaz Shafi Gillani. He said the survey findings show that some of the most vocal anti-Taliban groups were equally opposed to the US. Some Pakistanis believe that if the US is committed to eradicating militancy, it should try to solve the Kashmir issue to help Islamabad move its troops from the eastern border with India to fight the Taliban in the northwest.

    The poll group said Pakistanis were suspicious that Washington was working to control Islamabad’s strategic assets. “Earlier, anti-Americanism was confined to supporters of right-wing groups. But over the years, young, educated Pakistanis, left activists, people you’d normally expect to be pro-American modernists have turned against America,” said columnist Sohail Qalandar.

    The trouble doesn’t stop there.  There are serious internal political challenges soon to be faced within Pakistan and its Army.

    Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders are tangling in a series of political confrontations that could lead to a constitutional crisis or worse after the New Year, officials in both Islamabad and Washington tell NBC News.

    With the tenor and volume of debate rising over America’s commitment to Afghanistan, that struggle is complicating U.S. strategy to stabilize the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

    It’s not only that dozens are dying every week in suicide bombings or that there are concerns that the Pakistani military will not be able to hold the territory it has won in hard-fought battles in South Waziristan. The more profound issue, say Pakistani and U.S. officials, is the fate of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is engaged in a seemingly never-ending battles with the country’s powerful military and intelligence establishments.

    On Nov. 2, legislators opposed to Zardari, along with the military and intelligence community, thwarted an attempt by his Pakistani People’s Party to hammer through an extension of the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

    The innocuously named law, pushed through at the behest of the U.S. in 2007, froze criminal prosecutions against Zardari, his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, and their allies … on Nov. 2, other parties in the PPP-led coalition, along with the parliamentary opposition and the military, thwarted Zardari. Analysts in Pakistan and the U.S. say there is no chance the NRO will be renewed by the deadline, and in fact, Prime Minister Yusef Reza Gilani said this week it’s dead.

    One potential issue is whether Zardari has presidential immunity for any crimes committed before he was elected. He may have it for his time in office, but it’s uncertain that he does for any crimes alleged before he assumed office … U.S. officials are said to be alarmed by the development.

    The Army figures significantly in this power struggle, in that the campaign against the Taliban will recede in importance and a refocus on India will occur if a power shift occurs.  Zardari has driven the campaign against the Taliban, and without him the Army likely won’t continue the operations – at least, not to the same extent.

    At the same time that Pakistan is undergoing internal turmoil, the salient American question is why we are focused on Afghanistan when the danger is in Pakistan.  Strange question indeed, when pressure from either side of the imaginary thing called the Durand line causes the Taliban to flee to the opposite side.  Even raising the question about Afghanistan is tantamount to telling Pakistan, already crumbling, that their best military efforts against the Taliban will be met with nothing on the Afghan side when the Taliban relocate.

    With Pakistan in deep trouble, we are telling them that they are the key to defeating the globalists and in the same breath that we intend to abandon them to that very enemy.  Pakistan is crumbling within and harbors neurotic conspiracy theories about the threat America poses, while America is planning to place even more pressure on them to perform because we are searching for an exit strategy from Afghanistan.  These are not good days for Pakistan.

    Swat Taliban Commander Fazlullah Escapes to Afghanistan

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    From Dawn:

    PESHAWAR: Maulana Fazlullah, one of the most wanted Taliban leaders, has told the BBC that he has escaped to Afghanistan and is planning new attacks on Pakistani forces.

    Fazlullah was said by officials to have been wounded or killed in July, during the operation in Swat.

    ‘I have reached Afghanistan safely,’ he told BBC Urdu. ‘We are soon going to launch full-fledged punitive raids against the army in Swat.’

    The BBC reporter in Peshawar who spoke to the Taliban leader said the voice was recognisably Fazlullah’s — he has a very distinct way of pronouncing words. ‘I have spoken to him on several occasions and met him twice.’

    Fazlullah was calling from an Afghan number and sounded in good spirits when he called on Monday.

    He issued a warning to the North-West Frontier Province’s Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and said his fate would be like that of Najibullah, the Afghan president who was captured and hanged by Taliban in 1996.

    Recall that when examining the issue of focus on Afghanistan versus Pakistan I observed:

    The conversation on Pakistan versus Afghanistan presupposes that the Durand Line means anything, and that the Taliban and al Qaeda respect an imaginary boundary cut through the middle of the Hindu Kush.  It doesn’t and they don’t.  If our engagement of Pakistan is to mean anything, we must understand that they are taking their cue from us, and that our campaign is pressing the radicals from the Afghanistan side while their campaign is pressing them from the Pakistani side.

    Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis).  It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side.  Both suggestions are preposterous.

    This isn’t about nation-states and imaginary boundaries.  When we think this way we do err in that we superimpose a Western model on a region of the world where it doesn’t apply.  This is about a transnational insurgency, and it’s never better to give the enemy more land, more latitude, more space, more people, more money, and more safety.  Any arguments to this effect are mistaken at a very fundamental level.

    It’s an inconvenient truth, that the demarcation of countries doesn’t mean anything to the extremists.  The objection (to the campaign for Afghanistan) that we should focus on Pakistan where the hard line Taliban and AQ are located is a canard, and the escape of Fazlullah demonstrates it all over again.  The best way to pressure  the extremists is to do it from the Afghan side, avoiding the messy interference in a sovereign nation (Pakistan) while also ensuring them that we are serious about our commitment.

    Wanat Video II

    BY Herschel Smith
    10 years, 4 months ago

    In Wanat Video we saw from the U.S. perspective what the Battle of Wanat looked like, especially from the air.  Courtesy of the NEFA Foundation, ABC News aired a video of the battle from the perspective of the Taliban.  Taliban commander Maulvi Mandibula claims to have orchestrated the attack, but there some significant propaganda in this video.  He claims that the locals “tipped off” the Taliban to the location of VPB Wanat.

    This makes it sound like an ad hoc operation by the Taliban.  In reality, the U.S. had planned VPB Wanat for approximately one year and the Taliban began massing troops long before the fight.  As to the locals tipping off the Taliban, maybe.  Perhaps they did long before the attack, since it’s obvious that they began massing troops weeks and even months before the fight.

    But locals also warned U.S. troops that a Taliban attack was imminent.  The Taliban listened to the locals – while we did not.  Finally, there is some inaccuracy in the ABC report.  The estimate of 150 Taliban fighters is low, and better estimates point to 200 – 250 fighters.  Take note of the specifics of the fight that can be gleaned from the video (poor choice of terrain, initiation of the fight in hours of darkness, etc.).  It isn’t often that one can get as much information on a single battle as we now have on Wanat.  The first video combined with this one, along with the written accounts, add much to our stable of knowledge on the conditions and choices leading up to that fateful morning.  The ABC News commentary accompanying the video adds little to nothing.


    Wanat Video

    The Battle of Wanat, Massing of Troops and Attacks in Nuristan

    The Contribution of the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Wanat

    Investigating the Battle of Wanat

    Analysis of the Battle of Wanat

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