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]

Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

Nouri al Maliki has ruled out the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country’s security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq’s security, sovereignty and unity.  Maliki also said that “he wouldn’t allow his nation to be pulled into alignment with Iran, despite voices supporting such an alliance within his government.”

Thus does Maliki imagine fairy tales.  In what is being called the Battle of Palm Grove, the ISF proved just how problematic their tactical disadvantage is in fire fights.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

Concerning air space sovereignty, Iraq will be a protectorate of the U.S. for the next decade, and would be vulnerable without U.S. air support and defense.  U.S. control and influence is ebbing, and “even the Green Zone, once an outpost of Americana in a chaotic Iraq, is no longer a US zone of influence. The United States handed over control to Iraqi security forces last June, along with responsibility for issuing the coveted badges that allow access to the walled enclave, relinquishing the ability to control who may come and go.”

But if the diminution of U.S. influence is proceeding apace, the increase in Iranian influence is matching it.  Michael Knights has authored an important analysis in the West Point’s November Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, entitled The Evolution of Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq.  Selected quotes are provided below.

As the unclassified Iraqi government Harmony records collated by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point illustrate, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the business of sponsoring Iraqi paramilitary proxies for 30 years, practically the government’s entire existence. In some cases, the same Iraqi individuals run like a thread throughout the entire story, from Islamic terrorists, to exiled anti-Saddam guerrillas, to anti-American Special Group fighters in post-Ba`athist Iraq. Many of the historical patterns of Iranian support to Iraqi proxies hold true today …

The armed factions that make up the Special Groups have passed through significant changes in the last two years, and they continue to evolve. The government security offensives of spring 2008 caused considerable damage to Iranian-backed networks, and many Special Group operators fled to sanctuaries in Iran. Since the summer of 2009, these groups have been allowed breathing space to recover and begin to reestablish their presence in Iraq.

There are many reasons why recovery has been possible. In June 2009, the U.S.-Iraq security agreement ended the ability of U.S. forces to operate unilaterally in Iraq’s cities, where much of the fight against the Special Groups has been conducted. The U.S. military thereafter required an Iraqi warrant and Iraqi military cooperation to undertake raids against the Special Groups. In the extended lead-up to Iraq’s March 2010 elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to win favor with other Shi`a factions by using his direct operational control of Iraq’s Counterterrorism Command to place a virtual embargo on such raids. Lacking the judicial evidence to hold Special Group detainees transferred to the Iraqi government, and facing pressure from Shi`a groups, the government began to release Special Group prisoners as soon as they were transferred to Iraqi custody by the United States.

Knights goes on to detail the various manifestations of Iranian meddling, including both groups and tactics.  He ends with this warning.

The political situation in Iraq will have a significant effect on the further evolution of Special Groups. If, as seems likely, Moqtada al-Sadr joins key Iranian-backed parties such as Badr in the new government, many elements of PDB, AAH and KH will probably be drawn into the security forces as Badr personnel were in the post-2003 period. Some types of violence (such as rocketing of the government center in Baghdad) may decline, while targeted attacks on U.S. forces would persist or even intensify due to the new latitude enjoyed by such groups. Kidnap of Western contractors or military personnel has been the subject of government warnings during 2010 and could become a significant risk if U.S.-Iran tensions increase in coming years. Sectarian utilization of the Special Groups to target Sunni nationalist oppositionists could become a problem once again. If Iraqi government policy crosses any “red lines” (such as long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, rapid rearmament or anti-Iranian oil policy), the Special Groups could be turned against the Iraqi state in service of Iranian interests, showering the government center with rockets or assassinating key individuals.

And as Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Sadr has indeed joined Maliki in forming a new government.

Just before leaving for Baghdad last week, I spoke by phone to my Iraqi driver Salam, who was recently released from prison.

What he told me haunted me during my visit. It made me question what kind of Iraqi regime will emerge after U.S. troops exit by the end of 2011, and what sort of long-term relationship can develop between Washington and Baghdad.

Salam spent two years in jail on false charges brought by relatives of Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. These militiamen, who were killing Salam’s neighbors, were arrested after he tipped U.S. troops. When American soldiers left Baghdad, the killers used contacts inside Iraq’s Shiite-dominated army to get Salam – and his two teenage sons – jailed.

The three were finally freed by an honest judge. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has now made a political deal with the Sadrists in order to finally form a government, nine months after Iraqi elections. The deal, brokered by Iran, required that large numbers of Mahdi Army thugs – like those Salam fingered – be freed from prison. This deal resurrects a fiercely anti-American group that battled U.S. forces until it was routed in 2008.

As I have noted for more than two years, the Status of Forces Agreement under which U.S. troops have operated, combined with the precipitous decline in U.S. presence, has created a power vacuum in Iraq into which Iran has rushed.

Renegotiation of the SOFA, along with the realization by Maliki that his troops cannot secure Iraq, would be helpful, but the real need of the moment is regime change in Iran.  That may be Iraq’s greatest hope, although not in time for the Christians.

Merry Christmas!

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

Matthew 1:23: “Behold the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.”

Return of the Marine Corps Red Cells

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

From Marine Corps Times:

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos is bringing back “red cell” groups, which he used while commanding Marines in Iraq, to study enemy tactics.

The groups formed of officers and staff noncommissioned officers were handpicked to analyze the enemy threat, including tactics, techniques and procedures on the front lines, and determine the necessary operations to defeat that threat.

Now, Amos hopes to bring the groups back for use in Afghanistan.

Amos’ cells in Iraq included an eclectic group of personnel with backgrounds in intelligence, information operations, logistics, ground combat and civil affairs. What Amos wanted from them, said a former cell leader, were frank assessments and open discussion that challenged conventional thinking. He ended each meeting by reminding his staff: “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.”

A red cell “is a great way to insist you get a group of people looking at things differently than anyone else,” said retired Col. Gary I. Wilson, who coordinated Amos’ cell with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Al Asad Air Base in 2003 and 2004.

Amos’ operational principle was “don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen,” Wilson said.

When insurgents began to fire SA-16 anti-air missiles, Amos “immediately modified his tactics,” ordering more nighttime flights and adding survivable gear and equipment to helicopters, said Wilson, who later led one of Amos’ cells with II Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

But before we discuss Amos’ concept, there’s an important report from The New York Times:

QURGHAN TAPA, Afghanistan — The hill wasn’t much to behold, just a treeless mound of dirt barely 80 feet high. But for Taliban fighters, it was a favorite spot for launching rockets into Imam Sahib city. Ideal, American commanders figured, for the insurgents to disrupt the coming parliamentary elections.

So under a warm September sun, a dozen American infantrymen snaked their way toward the hill’s summit, intent on holding it until voting booths closed the next evening. At the top, soldiers settled into trenches near the rusted carcass of a Soviet troop carrier and prepared for a long day of watching tree lines.

Then, an explosion. “Man down!” someone shouted. From across the hill, they could hear the faint sound of moaning: one of the company’s two minesweepers lay crumpled on the ground. The soldiers of Third Platoon froze in place.

Toward the rear of the line, Capt. Adrian Bonenberger, the 33-year-old company commander, cursed to himself. During weeks of planning, he had tried to foresee every potential danger, from heat exposure to suicide bombers. Yet now Third Platoon was trapped among mines they apparently could not detect. A medical evacuation helicopter had to be called, the platoon moved to safety, the mission drastically altered. His mind raced.

“Did I do the right thing?” he would ask himself later.

Far from the generals in the Pentagon and Kabul, America’s front-line troops entrust their lives to junior officers like Captain Bonenberger. These officers, in their 20s and early 30s, do much more than lead soldiers into combat. They must be coaches and therapists one minute, diplomats and dignitaries the next. They are asked to comprehend the machinations of Afghan allies even as they parry the attacks of Taliban foes.

As commander of Alpha Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Captain Bonenberger was in charge not just of ensuring the safety of 150 soldiers, but also of securing the district of Imam Sahib, a volatile mix of insurgent enclaves and peaceful farming villages along the Tajikistan border.

Analysis & Commentary

The good Captain is working so hard he is likely losing very badly needed sleep.  He has been given an impossible mission.  Population-centric counterinsurgency with too few troops, too little time, too few resources, a corrupt government, and an American electorate who doesn’t understand what pop-centric COIN is or why one would need to conduct such a thing.

But allow me a pedestrian observation, if you will?  The American electorate knows at least a moderate amount about life-s decisions, and they set policy.  The American Generals are waging pop-centric COIN, but America expects us to be killing the enemy.  We shouldn’t be engaged in nation-building, but killing the enemy is complex when they hide amongst the people, and when some of them are the people.

The trouble with Captain Bonenberger’s trek up the hill wasn’t that he didn’t do everything he should have.  True enough, mine sweepers can only do so much.  The olfactory senses of dogs has proven to be much more reliable and informative in IED detection, and the Captain’s team should have had several good ones.

For reports of IEDs and dogs, see:

Combined Strategies Help IED Fight

Bomb Dogs See Action in Afghanistan

Training Dogs to Sniff Out IEDs

Bombs Frustrate High Tech Solutions

Marines Plan to Deploy More Bomb Dogs

And many more reports.  Forget the high tech solutions.  Defer to the only ones to whom God has given this skill – dogs.

But there is a deeper point to be made here.  We are trying to hold terrain when we do a march up a hill to secure it from the enemy.  He has been there, he has laid his traps and weapons, and we cannot match his knowledge of the terrain.

This all reminds me of our attempts to make the electrical grid in Iraq robust enough to withstand attacks from Sadr’s militia.  There aren’t enough engineers in the world to do such a thing.  Sadr’s militia had to be killed (and still must be).

In the case of the Captain’s hill, it would have been better to have spent his time putting up gated communities, taking census of the population, kicking in doors at night, and finding and killing the enemy.  As it is, not only did the Captain lose men, but he failed in his mission to secure the terrain – at least, initially.  There would seem to be a better way.

Returning to General Amos’ red cells, understanding Taliban TTPs is a step in the right direction.  But during the brutality of war, brutality that affects not only men but equipment, dogs are better than electronic equipment, mules are better than robots for transporting supplies, the backs of Marines is better than trucks that break down over impossible terrain, and finding and killing the enemy is better than trying to anticipate his next move with a crystal ball, with all due respect to Sun Tzu.

The Feds Muscle In On Long Gun Sales

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

From Yahoo (AP):

The federal agency that monitors gun sales  wants weapons dealers near the Mexican border to start reporting multiple sales of high-powered rifles, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has asked the White House budget office to approve an emergency request requiring border-area gun dealers to report the sales of two or more rifles to the same customer within a five-day period.

The emergency request, published Friday in the Federal Register, is likely to face stiff opposition from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association. ATF wants the Office of Budget Management to approve the request by Jan. 5.

NRA officials did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Monday. Last week the group’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told the Washington Post that the “NRA supports legitimate efforts to stop criminal activity, but we will not stand idle while our Second Amendment is sacrificed for politics.” The Post first reported the proposal.

High-powered rifles have become the weapon of choice for Mexico’s warring drug cartel. More than 30,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug war since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the powerful drug gangs shortly after taking office in late 2006.

Officials on both sides of the border have said weapons bought legally in the United States are routinely smuggled into the Mexico. The proposed reporting requirement would apply to sales of two or more semi-automatic guns more powerful than .22-caliber rifles that use a detachable magazine within a five-day period.

[ … ]

Currently there are no reporting requirements for rifles.

If approved by the White House, the new reporting requirement would affect nearly 8,500 border-area gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas and be in place for 180 days.

Analysis & Commentary

Ah.  It all has the ring of reasonableness and exigent need, doesn’t it?  Who in their right mind could possibly object to the sale of multiple long guns with detachable magazines being monitored and approved by the federal government if those same weapons could end up harming U.S. citizens?  Or so the thinking goes.

Besides chipping away at Second Amendment rights, the trouble with this plan is that it doesn’t do anything to fix the problem – it only pretends to be a solution.  It merely throws a band aid on symptoms of the problem.  The problem is a porous border, with lack of robust rules for the use of force for border guards, and even when the National Guard is deployed to the border, they have been deployed to do paperwork, report illegal border crossings, and do fence repair.  In most cases, their orders don’t even include having a weapon with a chambered round.

As I have said before, piracy and illegal immigration exists because we want it to.  Build the fence, imprison the CEOs of corporations and even small companies who hire illegals, and secure the border with robust rules for the use of force, and the problem is solved.  There is no need to “deport” anyone.  They will leave of their own volition, at least if we cease and desist funding their families with government sponsored programs.

Illegal immigration isn’t a hard problem to solve.  We just don’t want to badly enough.  Rather, our government would just as soon go after long guns under the guise of stopping trouble on the Southern border.

Don’t believe the ruse.

And in Second Amendment quick hits (something that will become a regular feature of The Captain’s Journal):

Someone in Kansas is telling us that police assistance is available in a matter of minutes, when in fact, most violent crimes are over in seconds.

We do not live on the frontier. Police help is available to citizens with cell phones in a matter of minutes. And if your call to the police is an overreaction, you can apologize to the police. You can never apologize to the person you’ve shot because they cut you off in traffic, or to the neighbor who comes over to check on you because he hasn’t seen you out of your house for a week, and who tries your door when you don’t answer the bell.

And Fred Grimm with the Miami Herald is lamenting rapid fire.

Like accountants working a cold night in hell, crime scene technicians recorded the number of gunshot holes in Ciara Lee’s Liberty City home, scrawling a black numeral where each bullet had penetrated the concrete block wall or blasted through a window.

On the front stoop, clustered around a door and window, gunshots 64, 65, 66 . . . up through 73 had been dutifully marked.

The gunmen missed a toddler’s purple tricycle stashed by the porch.

But not the child inside.

Down the west side of the house, the techs enumerated bullets 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87.

It’s the gruesome new numerology of Liberty City and other neighborhoods where teenage gangbangers wield the same weaponry carried by soldiers and insurgents in war-afflicted places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 100 bullets were fired at the block house about 1 a.m. Tuesday from military assault weapons.

Police think there were two shooters. They fired so many shots so quickly a cop outside the crime scene Wednesday wondered whether the weapons were semi-automatic, the AK-47-style weapon available at any gun shop, or guns converted to automatic — converter kits are available on the streets — transforming these rifles into virtual machine guns.

Either way the firepower was so formidable it didn’t matter that Ciara Lee, 24, a state corrections officer, and her 2-year-old son Devin, were “safe” inside their home, asleep in bed. Both were killed. Tony Lee, 49, Ciara Lee’s cousin, was hit in the leg.

Once again, innocents in communities like Liberty City suffered the murderous reality created by Second Amendment absolutists — those who talk of the right to own military assault weapons as if these guns should be regarded no differently than handguns or hunting rifles.

Fred wouldn’t like my weapon.  You know, we wouldn’t want American citizens to own the same weapons owned by insurgents in, oh, let’s say, Afghanistan.

Those long guns can do some damage.  Shouldn’t we regulate pistols, too, given the capability to deliver rapid fire?  How about the Kel-Tec PMR30?

Goodness.  The philosophical and even tactical problems are so immense for the statists.  It’s so hard to stay consistent, is it not?

In Iraq Allawi Deals and Christians Flee

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

Allawi has apparently made a deal with Maliki to form a unity government in Iraq.  This is good news, good to the extent that Allawi will be involved, and Maliki – good friend of Iran – will apparently be somewhat neutered.  But actions and decisions have consequences.  In fact, some decisions have effects that come calling on our conscience years after they are made.  Supporting Maliki, leaving Sadr alive and the pitiful SOFA under which U.S. troops labor are such decisions.

There is an increase in foreign fighters flowing into Iraq, and it isn’t apparent that the ISF are any match for them.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

The Iraqi soldiers fled from the palm grove and requested American firepower, Molinari says. So the Americans employed bombs, mortars, grenades and special forces. But the enemy only hid in drainage ditches, waited, then came out again, shooting.

In all, five Iraqis were killed and 13 were wounded. Two Americans were wounded as well. By the second night of battle, the Iraqis had ordered a full retreat from the palm grove.

After the battle, Molinari and the Iraqi commander in Diyala decided to set up a monthlong training session based on what went wrong in the Battle of the Palm Grove. The training is taking place in another palm grove that was once a vacation home for a commander in former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army.

On the first day of training, Molinari’s men draw diagrams of how soldiers should move in diagonals, not straight lines.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Tariq Abdul Wahab Jassim acknowledges that Iraqi soldiers made mistakes in the Battle of the Palm Grove and asks what to do differently next time.

Molinari responds that the Iraqis should have sent in just one platoon with one commander. And, he says, the Iraqis should never have given up their ground.

“Once the firefight starts, you do not break contact with the enemy,” Molinari says. “You continue to focus on him, and if you cannot maneuver, other forces come in — until he’s dead.”

After the question-and-answer session, Molinari’s men move into the trees to demonstrate how it’s done. A loudspeaker simulates how a message would be sent to civilians to evacuate the area before the fight begins.

American soldiers fire blanks at a simulated enemy target. The unit’s spokesman, Maj. Gabe Zinni, says this is the kind of training that any American soldier would receive before going into combat.

“These are … fundamentals,” he says. “Absolutely.”

In other words, if the enemy is hiding in a densely wooded area and shooting at you, advance on him and keep firing at him, while more of your men sneak around and attack him from the side or from behind.

In the end, it turns out that only four or five insurgents were fighting in the Battle of the Palm Grove.

And despite the efforts of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, about 50 American soldiers, and massive firepower, the insurgents eventually managed to escape from the palm grove.

In the wake of Islamic militancy on the part of not only the foreign fighters coming into Iraq, but also the militant, pro-Iranian elements within Iraq, Iraqi Christians are fleeing North.

At a time when Christians in various parts of the Muslim world are feeling pressured, Iraqi Christians are approaching their grimmest Christmas since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and wondering if they have any future in their native land.

They have suffered repeated violence and harassment since 2003, when the interreligious peace rigidly enforced by Saddam Hussein fell apart. But the attack on Our Lady of Salvation in which 68 people died appears to have been a tipping point that has driven many to flee northward to the Kurdish enclave while seeking asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere.

What seemed different this time was the way the gunmen brazenly barged onto sacred ground, the subsequent targeting of homes by bombers who clearly knew every Christian address, and the Internet posting in which al-Qaida-linked militants took responsibility for the church attack and vowed a campaign of violence against Christians wherever they are.

Moqtada al Sadr continues to make trouble, but this time he is beclowing himself.  He has banned his followers from accepting work from foreign oil companies.  This will likely only do harm to his standing and that is a good thing.  But it does go to show that Sadr is nothing if not persistent in his anti-Americanism.

Whether getting in bed with criminals like Ahmed Chalabi, supporting Iranian lackey Maliki, laboring under a Status of Forces Agreement that has U.S. troops locked down as if under house arrest, allowing Iranian influence to go relatively unchecked in Iraq, or leaving Sadr alive after he was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines in 2004 and released in a tip of the hat to the British notion of soft counterinsurgency tactics, the situation in Iraq today can be directly traced, at least to some extent, to decisions made during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To say like so many Americans do that “We have given them a chance at freedom and if they screw it up it’s on them” simply doesn’t work.  We stacked the deck against them by leaving al Qaeda intact enough to cause regime destabilization, allowing Iran unmolested access to Iraq, leaving Sadr alive to cause regime destabilization, and leaving the Christians to the designs of the Islamic militants.

Thus do we bear at least some of the moral responsibility for the suffering today, in spite of the fact that we didn’t actively perpetrate the evils.  Pay close attention to these things.  History may be very hard on our decisions, and we should learn from this example for all such counterinsurgency efforts in the future.

China Undermining U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 6 months ago

From Aviation Week (courtesy of Tigerhawk):

Chinese advisers are believed to be working with Afghan Taliban groups who are now in combat with NATO forces, prompting concerns that China might become the conduit for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, improved communications and additional small arms to the fundamentalist Muslim fighters.

A British military official contends that Chinese specialists have been seen training Taliban fighters in the use of infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles. This is supported by a May 13, 2008, classified U.S. State Department document released by WikiLeaks telling U.S. officials to confront Chinese officials about missile proliferation.

China is developing knock-offs of Russian-designed man-portable air defense missiles (manpads), including the QW-1 and later series models. The QW-1 Vanguard is an all-aspect, 35-lb. launch tube and missile that is reverse-engineered from the U.S. Stinger and the SA-16 Gimlet (9K310 Igla-1). China obtained SA-16s from Unita rebels in then-Zaire who had captured them from Angolan government forces. The 16g missiles have a slant range of 50,000 ft. The QW-1M is a variant that incorporates even more advanced SA-18 Grouse (9K38 Igla) technology.

So far, there has been a curious absence of manpad attacks on NATO aircraft in Afghanistan. One reason is that the Russian equipment still in place is out of date and effectively no longer usable, the British official says. Another may be that the possession of such a weapon is a status symbol, so owners are reluctant to use it. However, the introduction of new manpads could change that equation.

Although there have been no attacks using manpads, “we act as if they exist,” notes the British officer. “We know they are out there,” he says, alluding to the proliferation of increasingly advanced missiles on the black and gray markets.

In fact, NATO officials know they exist, at least in Iraq, according to the classified U.S. State Department document. U.S. officials were instructed to provide the Chinese government with pictures of QW-1 missiles found in Iraq and ask how such missiles were transferred.

The report goes on to outline various question marks thrown up within the intelligence and diplomatic communities about this report.  But assuming its accuracy, it shows once again that China is at war with the U.S., and correctly and accurately speaking, unrestricted warfare.

Secretary Gates recently made a fantasy land visit to China, calling for the two countries to prevent “mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”  Into which category does providing weapons to insurgents in Afghanistan fall?

Growing Trouble for Aid Organizations in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 6 months ago

Comporting with population-centric counterinsurgency doctrine, the U.S. is gearing up for an increased civilian presence in Afghanistan, even as the military presence begins to abate in 2011.

The U.S. may be planning for a large scale military withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, but there’s every indication a significant diplomatic corps will remain in the country long afterwards.

The heavily fortified U.S .embassy in Kabul is undergoing a lightning-fast expansion in order to accomodate hundreds of American civilians arriving as part of the new counterinsurgency strategy.

Here’s what U.S. ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, says about the expansion: “Late 2008, the United States embassy — our mission here in Afghanistan — comprised of about 320 civilians and a majority of those were in Kabul. Now, about two years later, we have 1,100 civilians, still increasing.”

The idea is to create a military-civilian partnership — after the military clears an area of insurgents, civilians go in to help build up the local government, justice systems, and other institutions.

The problem is, Americans involved in this effort are arriving so fast that they’re hard pressed at the embassy to house them. A huge construction project is underway to build more offices and housing complexes. Until they’re ready, small trailers have been moved onto the current embassy grounds. Each holds at least two people. Others are crammed into existing buildings.

But who are these people who are flooding Afghanistan’s only real secure infrastructure?  “At least 100 relief workers in Afghanistan have been killed so far this year, far more than in any previous year, prompting a debate within humanitarian organizations about whether American military strategy is putting them and the Afghans they serve at unnecessary risk.

Most of the victims worked for aid contractors employed by NATO countries, with fewer victims among traditional nonprofit aid groups.

The difference in the body counts of the two groups is at the heart of a question troubling the aid community: Has American counterinsurgency strategy militarized the delivery of aid?

That doctrine calls for making civilian development aid a major adjunct to the military push. To do that there are Provincial Reconstruction Teams in 33 of 34 provinces, staffed by civilians from coalition countries to deliver aid projects. The effort is enormous, dominated by the Americans; the United States Agency for International Development alone is spending $4 billion this year, most of it through the teams.

The so-called P.R.T.’s work from heavily guarded military compounds and are generally escorted by troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.”

The plight of the aid worker is bleak, with increasing deaths, increasing numbers, lack of infrastructure and the need to use the protection of U.S. troops who will be there in smaller numbers beginning in 2011.  In fact, aid workers say that COIN doctrine leaves them exposed, and Red Cross claims that the security conditions in Afghanistan are the worst they have been in 30 years.

Spreading violence in Afghanistan is preventing aid organizations from providing help, with access to those in need at its worst level in three decades, the Red Cross said on Wednesday.

“The proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to access those in need. Access for the ICRC has over the last 30 years never been as poor,” said Reto Stocker, Afghanistan head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which rarely makes public comments.

“The sheer fact the ICRC has organized a press conference… is an expression of us being extremely concerned of yet another year of fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever-growing number of people in by now almost the entire country.”

Stocker said many areas of the country, particularly in the once peaceful north, were now inaccessible not only for the ICRC but for the hundreds of other aid groups in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month the ICRC in Geneva warned the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan was likely to deteriorate further in 2011.

So Red Cross doesn’t believe that this proposed smaller footprint, high value target campaign by SOF troopers is likely to make any substantial difference in their security in 2011 and beyond.  There is great concern among civilian aid workers.  The Taliban can’t distinguish between U.S. government contractors and NGOs, and really doesn’t care.  They’re all the enemy to the Taliban.  Security is failing for all of the aid workers, and they are flooding Afghanistan in a tip of the hat to FM 3-24, as they all await the decreased presence of U.S. troops while they attempt to deliver aid and governance to the people.

And things are going just swimmingly in Afghanistan.

The Worst Afghanistan Analysis I Have Ever Read

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 6 months ago

Now comes the worst Afghanistan analysis I have ever read.  Quoth Michael Hughes:

General David Petraeus, in a rare public show of indecorum, last week suggested that corruption has been a part of Afghan culture since the country came into existence, which is a sentiment that is not only, from a historical and anthropological perspective, wholly ignorant, but one that exposes intentions on the General’s part that seem both dubious as well as misplaced.

Reason being is that Petraeus is a smart guy – one doubts he seriously subscribes to the notion that corruption is some inherently Afghan deformity, especially considering a cursory reading of history informs that prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979 jobbery was no worse in Afghanistan than it was in the United States (when, odds are, graft was worse in Chicago than Kabul). Most embarrassing for Petraeus to look at is the direct role the U.S. played in corrupting Afghan society. So, not only is it false that the country was always this way, the reality is the U.S. has helped transform Afghanistan into one of the most corrupt places on the planet.

Unfortunately, it seems Petraeus was simply trying to protect the good name of Afghanistan’s top criminal, President Hamid Karzai – subtly painting Mr. Karzai as a victim awash in a culture of venality when the truth is that the Karzai family has sunk Afghan society to unparalleled depths of libidinous fraud, nepotism and extortion.

The General apparently believes he needs Karzai intact so he can execute a more seamless exit strategy, which doesn’t make sense because Petraeus’s counterinsurgency doctrine depends on winning the support of the local populace, which is mission impossible with Karzai as head of state.

For surely Petraeus must realize, as outlined in a new white paper by the New World Strategies Coalition, that not only was Afghanistan less corrupt during the forty-year reign of King Zahir Shah, a run that began in the 1930s and ended in the early 1970s, but the Afghan people also enjoyed unprecedented peace, stability, prosperity and progressive social reform. That type of society seems like ancient folklore in light of today’s conditions.

The before and after snapshots are mind-blowing, illustrating a near incogitable contrast between an Afghanistan that was free from external interventions versus an Afghanistan that is occupied and manipulated by foreign powers that have marginalized, weakened and corrupted centuries-old indigenous tribal institutions and value systems. One is challenged to find another example of a society that has experienced such dramatic economic, political, technological and cultural regression in such a short time period.

The state had been erected upon lessons learned through centuries trying to maintain peace within an insular acephalous tribal society with a penchant for infighting and was most functional when it resembled a “loose” confederation in which legislative and judicial powers were pushed down to the local level – a concept analogous to America’s states’ rights.

Good Lord!  Good Lord!  So much to cover, so little time.  I cannot possibly address all of the misconceptions and concept and word twisting.  Let me briefly address only a few.

Here we see the blame game at work.  Evil has to have an origin, a nexus, and is so bad that it must have someone to blame.  Enter evil American imperialism.  We have discussed American imperialism before, and Robert Kaplan’s first chapter to “Imperial Grunts” (Injun Nation), which all educated analysts must read.  There are deeper issues concerning the ethics and morality of defending the homeland abroad that should be considered in order to be complete and responsible in our analysis, such as the notion of Good Wars.  There is so much to consider, and so little time. Alas.

But dumbing this down to finding a boogie man that makes everything else bad is silly and ludicrous.  Mankind – all mankind – has fallen short of the glory of God.  All mankind is fallen, all mankind is sinful.  There is no noble savage, no such thing as the pristine, unmolested man who is corrupted by outside influences, whether American or Afghani.

The heart of man is the wellspring of death.  It cannot be attributed to a state, a plan, a person, a persona, or a place.  No amount of money causes good or bad.  Money can be used to provide medical care, or largesse to corrupt.  Guns can be used to defend women and children, or kill them.  Military materiel can be used to eject evil Soviet aggression against a hapless state, or cut off the heads of women who refuse to cooperate in their own abuse and subjugation.  Things are what the theologians call adiaphourous.  They are neither good nor bad.  Man is what puts them to use.

Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Romans 3:11 and many other passages show that it is man who is the nexus and conduit of evil in the world.  Michael Hughes doth imagine a devil around every corner, or at least, the corner of America.  Michael needs only to look at the hearts of the people who perpetrate evil against others.  They’re everywhere, Michael, not just in America.

Monday Night Comments

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 6 months ago

Following up a few odds and ends, and responding to several well-formulated comments, please take another look at Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns.  I’m exceedingly proud of my readers, and I don’t think you could find what I have at many other places on the web.  Note all of the learned comments posted after I merely pointed out Breyer’s logical blunders.  Expect more coverage and commentary on Second Amendment rights in the future (as well as a new contributor to The Captain’s Journal!).

Next, concerning my commentary regarding no longer giving pens and stationary away in Afghanistan, DirtyMick comments:

I was on the previous two PRTs in Kunar. They need to jettison the navy element and make it an army effort. Previous two Navy commanders (especially the one with the Nevada National guard in 2009/2010) focused too much on the soft aspect of coin, were in overall charge of the army manuever element at camp wright (like army running a ship), had a hard on for wanting to take non essential navy personnel (ie anybody not engineers) into places like the pech river valley and north of asadabad, and passing out badges and awards like candy on Halloween (so navy guys can be just as stacked as an 0311 marine cpl.). Torwards the end of this summer did my higher chain of command do things like cancel projects in the pech only after many months of us getting shot up in the pech. Why build a school for assholes when they’re shooting RPGs at us? I will never work on a PRT again.

And we wonder why we’re losing in Afghanistan.  Next, concerning my commentary on Andrew Exum’s work in Afghanistan transition, Bruce Rolston comments:

You assume the default state in the absence of U.S. troops is a Taliban takeover. I don’t see it. The ANA I worked with may be hapless in fighting a sensitive Western-style pop-centric coin fight in Kandahar province, but they will fight for their homes in the centre and north of the country. Their deeper thinkers see this whole last decade as a tactical pause between civil wars. Just because they’re not very good adjuncts to us doesn’t change that. Sebastian Junger made this point a couple days back, as well, and everyone who’s spent any real time with the ANA tends to agree. But the Hazara and Tajiks in particular face mass death if the Taliban come back, and lots of Kabuli Pashtuns like their new freedoms thank you very much. They will all fight, and fight hard; they just won’t fight well in the way we define for them in the meantime. (Having seen their working conditions and how little we actually invest in keeping them alive, I have trouble blaming them sometimes.) …

But they’re certainly not going to “kill off the ANSF in six months.” They might drive them out of Kandahar City and KAF, wouldn’t put that past them. But Bagram should basically be secure until the money runs out. If you want it, you’re likely always going to have that BAF “foot on the ground” from which to keep whacking Taliban, or any international terrorist camps that crop up in the places they control for that matter.

Herschel, not saying you have to agree with me, but if you take the previous as assumed for just a sec, wouldn’t it change your calculus above at all? If we said after 2014 our aim was to just stay engaged on the side we favour in their civil war until it stalemates of its own accord, why would SOF + FID + Fires/ISR not be enough? And if that’s the case, why not move as quickly as possible to that endstate?

And then Bruce comments concerning Kandahar:

Look, I’ve been in Zhari. It’s been as rough a warzone as there is in Afghanistan for 4 1/2 years. We haven’t killed as many actual Taliban as some might think, but we’ve certainly killed hundreds in that time. Probably thousands. And this article is just the latest indication it really seems to have made no discernible difference at all.

Maybe elsewhere in Afghanistan you could make the argument that a lack of bad-guy killing was the problem. But you can’t in Zhari.

As usual, Bruce thinks deeply about these things and poses the most difficult questions to address.  But I at least must try to defend myself from the onslaught.  The calculus.  We hang on by a thread.  The ANA and Taliban fight each other to a draw in the cities, the Taliban takes the countryside.  Bagram is secure until the money runs out.  Withdraw to Bagram, put some SOF troopers there, and focus on force protection.  Since there will be no infantry to collect atmospherics, and all cooperative intelligence assets would have been killed and our intelligence network strangled, there will be no HVT raids; and since there would no security at all on the roads, leading to logistics by air alone, we can pretend to care about the campaign until … the money runs out, with SOF troopers sitting inside Bagram Air Base.  (Oh, and this thing about the noble savage who will fight to the death to defend his loved ones from harm?  Remember that Baitullah Mehsud, in solidifying his power over the TTP and population, killed some 600+ Pashtun elders.  They are all dead now.  The Pashtun population is submissive to the TTP.)

Yes, we could choose to do that, but the question is why?  I could also choose to place my fingers in a table saw and cut them off, or stick a knife in my belly, or hit my testicles with a hammer.  But the question is the same on all accounts.  Why would anyone voluntarily choose to do something like that if they are in their right mind (and not suffering from some sort of mental disorder)?  Note that I have granted Bruce his point, i.e., that the ANA hangs on.  I don’t necessarily believe it, but I have granted the point in order to argue.

As for choosing, I can always choose to attribute the lack of progress in Kandahar to not killing enough bad guys.  Bruce’s point is not that I can’t choose  to do that (although that’s the way it’s posed), but that I wouldn’t be correct in doing so.

Well, in order to place Kandahar alongside a comparable city, one could consider Fallujah (comparable prior to Operation al Fajr, about twice the size of Fallujah after al Fajr).  Many, many more insurgents were killed in Fallujah than have been in Kandahar, regardless of how it feels to those who might have suffered through or be suffering through the campaign in Kandahar right now.  We are not yet at the tipping point, and have not yet reached troop saturation.

And finally I would argue that it isn’t that work until now has done no good in Afghanistan, any more than sacrifices in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq were in vain.  Those sacrifices laid the groundwork for what happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in Iraq.

Patience, please.  And robust ROE, troop saturation, and an administration that will resource the campaign.

Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 6 months ago

From FoxNews:

If you look at the values and the historical record, you will see that the Founding Fathers never intended guns to go unregulated, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer contended Sunday.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Breyer said history stands with the dissenters in the court’s decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., handgun ban in the 2008 case “D.C. v. Heller.”

Breyer wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He said historians would side with him in the case because they have concluded that Founding Father James Madison was more worried that the Constitution may not be ratified than he was about granting individuals the right to bear arms.

Madison “was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. ‘That can’t happen,’ said Madison,” said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison’s priority as, “I’ve got to get this document ratified.”

Therefore, Madison included the Second Amendment to appease the states, Breyer said.

“If you’re interested in history, and in this one history was important, then I think you do have to pay attention to the story,” Breyer said. “If that was his motive historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us.”

That being the case, and particularly since the Founding Fathers did not foresee how modern day would change individual behavior, government bodies can impose regulations on guns, Breyer concluded.

In July 2008, the concurring opinion in “D.C. v. Heller” written by Justice Antonin Scalia and shared by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. found that the district’s ban on handgun possession at home “violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

The ruling raised concerns by dissenters like Breyer that gun laws nationwide would be thrown out. That has not happened yet.

Breyer, who just published “Making Our Democracy Work,” a book about the role of the court in American life, outlined his judicial philosophy as one in which the court must take a pragmatic approach in which it “should regard the Constitution as containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances.”

Since the Founding Fathers could not foresee the impact of modern day communications and technology, the only option is to take the values of the Founding Fathers and apply them to today’s challenges.

“The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing,” Breyer said. “It’s not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended.”

He suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation’s capital.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that his history is correct.  Breyer’s rationale is this.  Because ratification of the constitution was a priority, Madison made it abundantly clear that the federal government had no business in the affairs of states regarding the bearing of arms.  The amendment was ratified, solidifying for all time this watershed statement of limits of control by the federal government.

Next step.  Because Madison made this deal, contrary to his intent (which Breyer implies but presupposes rather than proves), one may infer from this very amendment the right for states to regulate firearms, up to banning them outright.  But notice the sleight of hand.  Breyer has turned something dispositive and affirming concerning our rights (see the language in the Second Amendment) and flipped it on its head to mean that it’s merely the federal government that doesn’t have the right to remove our firearms.  Someone else does.

He further muddles his logic by referring to deals made in order to get necessary votes in place.  As one commenter notes, “Others have picked up on this point, but whether James Madison liked the idea or not, the states voted to ratify the Constitution because the Bill of Rights contained the Second Amendment. So the best that could be said, accurately, is that “a” founding father might have favored restricting weapons, but he obviously did not reflect the majority view.”

And one more commenter observes concerning Breyer’s logic, “So then by this logic, a single payer health system could be adopted through the Supreme Court since the “intent” of the law was to have a single payer system, but since the Libs just wanted to get it passed, they stripped out that part. Laughable and nothing but revisionist history and judicial activism.”

Rhetorical sleight of hand, and logical blunders.  And this is the level of scholarship on the Supreme Court of the U.S.?

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