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]

Former Afghan Spy Chief Slams Taliban Talks

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

From The Washington Post:

Peace talks with the Taliban will lead to disaster unless the insurgent group is disarmed first, Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief said Thursday.

Amrullah Saleh, who headed Afghanistan’s spy agency from 2004 until earlier this year, said the key to peace with the Taliban is cutting off their support from Pakistan and disarming and dismantling the group before allowing them to operate as a normal political party.

“Demobilize them, disarm them, take their headquarters out of the Pakistani intelligence’s basements,” Saleh said. “Force the Taliban to play according to the script of democracy,” he added, predicting the party would ultimately fail, “in a country where law rules, not the gun … not the law of intimidation.”

Saleh said the United States should give Pakistan a deadline of July 2011 to pursue top insurgents inside their borders or threaten to send in U.S. troops to do the job.

Saleh, who headed the Afghan National Directorate of Security until he resigned last June from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, warned an audience at the National Press Club that failure to cut off Pakistani support would allow the Taliban to only pretend to make peace, then sweep back to power after NATO troops leave.

The former spy chief’s comments display the dissension at the highest levels of Afghan political society over whether to engage the Taliban in talks, or keep fighting them. His criticism of Pakistan also highlights the widespread suspicion among Afghanistan’s elites that the neighboring power continues to allow militants to flourish inside Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have said that such a deal is key to drawing down U.S. and NATO troops, starting in July 2011, with eventual handover to Afghan forces in 2014.

Saleh said this year’s surge of U.S. troops had accomplished a “temporary effect” of securing some territory, but failed to change the “fundamentals.”

“The Taliban leadership has not been captured or killed,” he said. “Al-Qaida has not been defeated.”

He added: “The current strategy still believes Pakistan is honest, or at least 50 percent honest.” Still, he predicted Pakistan would continue to support the Taliban and other proxies to try to maintain influence in Afghanistan.

Saleh ran Afghanistan’s intelligence service after serving in the mostly ethnic Tajik Afghan Northern Alliance, which battled the Taliban before the U.S. invasion. Many members of Tajik regions together with other Afghan minorities have warned of another Afghan civil war if Karzai makes a deal with Taliban.

Not much talk here of digging wells, handing out candy to the children and providing governance to the people.  Much talk of killing Taliban and al Qaeda, incursions into Pakistan and disarming and dismantling the insurgents.

What a breath of fresh air to hear honest analysis from someone on the scene and who should be “in the know.”  As for killing or capturing Taliban leadership, he refers – it seems to me – to senior leadership.  That would be a good thing of course, and my lack of admiration for the HVT campaign has been primarily associated with mid-level commanders.  I applauded the killing of Baitullah Mehsud (TTP).

Still, I believe that the best way to handle the insurgency and marginalize the leadership is from the bottom up, not the top down.  Either way, Saleh deals with the whole of the insurgency when he discusses disarming, dismantling and killing.  That about covers it.

As for Pakistan, there is no hushed, reverent tone in his missive in respect for their being a nuclear power.  There is no respect for an imaginary Durand line.  There is only knowledge that the Taliban and al Qaeda live in the Hindu Kush, Nuristan, Kunar, Helmand and surrounding areas.  They must be killed.  Would that our own strategic thinkers were so clear-headed.

Afghanistan: Responsible Transition

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

LTG David W. Barno and Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security have authored a study entitled Responsible Transition: Securing U.S. Interests in Afghanistan Beyond 2011.  For my brief analysis to make any sense at all, the reader must refer to the original document.  I will not duplicate sections of the study, and I will not rehearse the arguments made by Barno and Exum.  My criticism of their study assumes a working knowledge of their efforts.

To begin with, Afghanistan is a thorny problem, and has been for a very long time.  No one should argue that the difficulties posed by Afghanistan are obviously posed or easily solvable.  But arguing that Afghanistan presents a “wicked problem” where the boundary conditions constantly change seems a bit apologetic up front for what they assume will be a tepid reaction to their recommendations.  No one embroiled in problems in industry, economics or family life gets the grace extended to argue that this one problem, out of all other problems on the globe, presents itself as the wicked problem.

Barno and Exum generally argue for a reduced footprint in Afghanistan beginning in 2011 – comporting with Obama’s wishes – to be supplanted by more robust engagement of the Afghan National Security Forces.  There seems to be a general knowledge with the authors that there are discipline problems with the ANA and ANP, but the extent of these problems do not seem to dissuade Barno and Exum from recommending reliance on them for the security in Afghanistan and the defeat of the indigenous Taliban (or at least, militarily holding them at bay).

I am not nearly as optimistic in the discipline and capabilities of the ANSF as Barno and Exum.  As we have discussed before, the ANA has been observed sitting in heated trucks while the Marines engaged in combat, has refused to go on night patrols, has routinely been observed firing off their weapons into the air while high on opium and hash, has colluded with the insurgents to kill U.S. troops, has been observed running from engagements, and so on the awful list goes.  Even a recent ANA showcase engagement about four months ago turned to a debacle until U.S. support arrived.

There are deeper problems associated with the ANSF, touching on societal, religious, familial, cultural, institutional and world view.  Even after years now of attempting to stand up the Iraqi Security Forces, one recent engagement by the ISF, called the Battle of Palm Grove, was a tactical nightmare.  Arabic and Middle Eastern armies lost wars for a whole host  of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of anything like a Non-Commissioned Officer Corps.  Barno and Exum suggest that the end state will be about 20,000 – 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the ANSF providing the primary combat against the Afghan Taliban.  I think that this is wishful thinking rather than good analysis.

Next, Barno and Exum rely primarily on Special Operators Forces to be the main stay of our presence in Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond.  For a whole host of reasons I think that this is a mistaken goal.  Regular readers know about my objections to the high value target campaign as being generally ineffective.  More of the same from 25,000 SOF troopers won’t stop the insurgency in 2014 any more than it did the job before now.  Furthermore, this reflexive reliance on SOF and SOCOM is interesting and colloquial, but completely impractical.

First of all, it’s simply infeasible to tie up all of our SOF and SF in Afghanistan beginning in 2014.  There aren’t enough of them to go around, and there will be engagements in Africa, South America and other places that require SOF.  Throwing SOF and SOCOM at problems typifies modern DoD thinking, but it’s just impractical.  Second, 25,000 SOF operators will suffer the same fate in 2014 that they would if this is all that existed in Afghanistan in 2011.  The Taliban would kill off the ANSF within six months and recovering and saving the SOF operators remaining in Afghanistan would become itself a SOF effort.  Third, logistics would be non-existent.  Barno and Exum seem to believe that air support, base security, FOB force protection, fuel, food, ammunition, and all other forms of support could materialize out of thin air, when in fact that is provided by tens of thousands of U.S. troops plus tens of thousands more of military and security contractors.  It is simply inconceivable that 25,000 SOF operators can simply exist in Afghanistan.  It doesn’t work this way.  It won’t even work to have 10,000 SOF operators and 15,000 support troops (totaling their end result of 25,000).  This isn’t a large enough support to infantry ratio.

To nitpick, I think that the categories that they create for the enemy are generally not useful.  I recognize the distinction between the Quetta Shura, the Haqani network, the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the LeT, and so forth.  But I think that among Afghanistan analysts there is a general lack of coming to terms with the degree to which these elements swim in the same waters.  A decade or more of exposure to radical Arabic Wahhabist ideology has given all of these elements a transnational focus and globalist import that may not have existed before.  Thus, while there is certainly internecine fighting within the ranks, and while neat categories may have been able to be drawn five or six years ago, I no longer believe in these neat categories.  I believe that this is simplistic thinking.

Joshua Foust has a critique of this study that deserves attention.  I concur with a lot of what Josh has to say, as always.  I demur on some of his points.  Concerning logistics:

I find it ridiculous that Exum and Barno think the U.S. can, conceivably, reduce or cancel Pakistan’s aid. It’s not just a question of Pakistan’s cooperation on logistics and counterterror measures—when the Pakistani government was mildly annoyed at a single incursion into Pakistani territory by a single U.S. helicopter earlier this year, it shut down the Khyber Pass and hundreds of supply trucks got destroyed. This is the policy equivalent of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face—no matter how much promise it holds, the Northern Distribution Network simply cannot handle the slack needed to eventually pressure Pakistan in this way. We are severely constrained by Pakistan’s position, and we cannot change that in the near term.

On that issue I have gone even further than Barno and Exum.  I have recommended complete disengagement from logistics through Pakistan and even forceful engagement of enemy elements currently provided sanctuary within Pakistan.  As to whether the Northern supply route can accommodate our needs, suffice it to say that this is a well worn theme here.  Let’s not refer to Russia.  Let’s refer back to the passage through the Black Sea to Azerbaijan and Georgia, across the Caspian to Turkmenistan as I have suggested (or Uzbekistan) and then into Afghanistan via the Northern route.  It isn’t a pipe dream.  It happened with some of the logistics from Iraq to Afghanistan.  This route could have been more well-developed than it is, and U.S. engagement of the Caucasus could have been a good defeater argument for the coming Russian aggression against Georgia in an attempt to relieve isolated Russian bases in Armenia.  The lack of a completed, fully functioning Northern supply route at this point is not only a tactical and strategic failure of the Obama administration, it is a complete policy failure.  It is a failure of vision.

With Foust, I agree that the notion of tribe is too easy to apply to Afghanistan, and I don’t believe that the Taliban is a Pashtun insurgency.  If tribe was so important, why was Baitullah Mehsud able to knock off so many hundreds of tribal elders in his solidification of the power of the TTP?  Government means something in Afghanistan, although I don’t know exactly what at this point.

Unlike Foust, I believe that we can more succinctly describe “victory” in Afghanistan.  It may not be Shangri-La, and woman’s rights may not be fully actualized.  Crime will still exist (the U.S. still has the Crips and Bloods), and there will still be corruption within the government (witness the disenfranchisement of military votes in the most recent U.S. Presidential election).  But al Qaeda, their enablers, and all other globalist elements within the AfPak region will have been killed or marginalized and put on the run.

Sadly, Barno’s and Exum’s recommendations do not get us there.

The HVT Campaign and New Breed of Taliban Commanders

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

From The Telegraph:

The special forces onslaught hailed by Nato as helping turn the momentum against the Taliban was in fact making peace more remote he claimed.

Mullah Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a deputy leader of Hamid Karzai’s peace council tasked with finding a political settlement, said the attempt to wipe out the Taliban hierarchy was “in vain”.

The comments by the former Taliban ambassador to the United Nations contradict buoyant Nato commanders who have boasted the raids by troops including the SAS have rattled the insurgency.

By driving Taliban from their heartlands with Barack Obama’s surge reinforcements, while targeting the command, Nato believes it can drive insurgents to the negotiating table.

Mullah Mujahid however said an older more pragmatic generation of Taliban leaders was being replaced by zealots opposed to any reconciliation.

He said: “Any older commanders that have been killed, the fanatical ones have come in their place.

“In that way we are losing a lot of politically-minded Taliban. The new ones have a more religious mentality. They are only fighters.” Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, a hardliner and former Guantánamo Bay prisoner who rose to become deputy leader this year, typified the new breed he said.

While regular readers know all about my lack of advocacy for the HVT campaign, I don’t want to read too much into this report.  Mujahid’s account isn’t reason enough to abandon the HVT campaign if it’s working.  My claim isn’t (and has never been) that we are replacing bad actors with worse actors, or that the SOF operators aren’t highly qualified and useful warriors, or that it wouldn’t be a good thing to have more Taliban commanders dead.  My claim has heretofore been that it is a mostly ineffective strategy and misuse of highly skilled operators who should be matrixed to infantry Battalions (as in the Marine Corps, i.e., Force Recon and Scout Sniper).

Nor have I been a proponent of the ridiculous reconciliation program.  There is absolutely no point of similarity between the Sons of Iraq program – implemented when the Iraqi insurgents were losing badly – and the supposed Taliban reconciliation program.

However, there is an interesting revelation that comports with a theme I have been following, that is, the increased religious radicalization of the Afghan Taliban given the protracted nature of the campaign and the prolonged exposure to foreign (Arabic) religious influences.  The longer this thing draws out, the more we are facing (what was once) a national insurgency that has now become a transnational insurgency.

Afghanistan: We No Longer Give Pens and Stationary Away

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

We recently discussed one officer lamenting the tactic of wearing body armor and carrying grenades on patrol.  Presumably, he wants to jettison those tactical advantages when confronted by Taliban insurgents, though not even the mayor of Kandahar feels safe from insurgent violence.  Now comes the latest in fine thinking concerning the campaign.

MARAWARA DISTRICT, Afghanistan —  After nine years of reconstruction efforts that have cost billions of dollars, U.S. military and civilian experts are trying a different strategy in this remote corner of eastern Afghanistan: doing more by doing less.

“We’ve been like Santa Claus, going through money, whatever you need,” said Navy Cmdr. William B. Goss, who commands the 100-person reconstruction team at Forward Operating Base Wright, near the Kunar provincial capital of Asadabad.

The funding for U.S. projects wasn’t always steady, nor was the oversight, and the planning was often criticized. Now there’s a change of focus.

Goss and his contingent, who arrived here in late October, still oversee the construction of desperately needed infrastructure and promote the role of women in this deeply conservative region, but the focus is on tutoring local officials.

Development projects now are running on Afghan, rather than American, schedules, even if it takes longer to build a road or school. Fewer projects are started, and only those with the prospect of continuing after foreign troops leave.

This is a real makeover: U.S. troops here have even stopped handing out candy and pens to the young boys who gather whenever they leave the base.

Kunar is a test ground for Vice President Joe Biden’s declaration last month that it’s time for the United States “to start to take the training wheels off” in Afghanistan.

Whether the strategy succeeds in Kunar and elsewhere in Afghanistan will determine – along with combat operations – whether the United States leaves behind even a minimally stable country.

Biden’s philosophy was on display in November when Goss and his team visited the U.S.-funded Lahore Dag Middle School to inspect the moss green and white structure, which opened in late October to 206 students.

Headmaster Faiz Mohammed was happy with his clean, new 14-room school. The electricity and plumbing worked as promised. His students no longer would have to study in tents or outdoors under trees. But Mohammed was hoping for a little more American largesse.

“If it’s possible … to receive any stationery?” he asked. The answer was a polite “no.”

Whether jettisoning our body armor or withholding pens and stationary, there you have it.  The Captain’s Journal.  Keeping you apprised of the best that American strategic minds has to offer.  We’re in the very best of hands.

In Kandahar: “These people don’t give a damn about us”

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

From MSNBC (lengthy excerpt with important ending):

Over the last six months, U.S. troops have wrested the school away from insurgents. They’ve hired Afghan contractors to rebuild it, and lost blood defending it.

But the tiny school has yet to open, and nobody’s quite sure when it will.

American commanders have called the Pir Mohammed primary school “the premier development project” in Zhari district, a Taliban heartland in Kandahar province at the center of President Barack Obama’s 30,000-man surge.

The small brick and stone complex represents much of what American forces are trying to achieve in Afghanistan: winning over a war-weary population, tying a people to their estranged government, bolstering Afghan forces so American troops can go home. But the struggle to open Pir Mohammed three years after the Taliban closed it shows the obstacles U.S. forces face in a complex counterinsurgency fight — one whose success depends not on firepower, but on the support of a terrified people.

Similar battles are taking place across the country. In Marjah, for example, a former Taliban stronghold in neighboring Helmand province, several schools have opened since American-led troops overran the district in February. But many parents are still too afraid of violence and Taliban threats to let their children attend.

In Senjeray, too, “there are teachers … and we’ve found them and talked to them,” said Capt. Nick Stout, a company commander from the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment. “We say, ‘When the school’s built, do you want to come teach?’ And they say, ‘No, no, I don’t, not at all.'”

Perched amid majestic mountain crags at the base of a fertile river valley, the village of Senjeray resembles a walled fort, 10,000 people living in a labyrinth of steep, hardened mud walls.

Pir Mohammed sits at the southeastern edge of the village, a pair of modest, single-story buildings that once served hundreds, maybe thousands of children. A small plaque at the entrance engraved with black words on light gray marble indicates U.S. troops refurbished the school “in friendship with the People of Afghanistan” in November 2002 — one year after the American invasion.

Canadians finished the school and opened it in 2005. But in 2007, Taliban fighters attacked it, breaking windows and busting doors off hinges. They took away a dozen students, cut the fingers off some and killed the parents of others, said Bismallah Qari, a 30-year-old black-bearded mullah from Senjeray.

The Taliban opposes Western-style education, and apparently saw the school as a symbol of government authority. Qari said the Taliban also believed children would be forced to study Christianity there.

Since then, Senjeray’s children have had only one place to go: a handful of Islamic madrassas run by conservative mullahs like Qari that some American commanders say are radicalizing a new generation of Afghan youth, turning them away from President Hamid Karzai’s government and the NATO coalition.

Speaking through an interpreter as American troops searched a recently filled hole in his madrassa they suspected held a weapons cache, Qari said he wanted his kids to attend Pir Mohammed, too, but “we can’t do it.”

“The Taliban won’t allow us to go there,” he said. “They’ll kill us, they’ll kill our children.”

Pir Mohammed occupies ground highly valued by the insurgency — part of a corridor the Taliban use to traffic arms and guerrillas through villages along the Arghandab River and into Kandahar city.

In April, American troops seized the school in a military operation backed by Afghan troops. They found it in ruins, its rooms reduced to toilets littered with needles, apparently for drug use.

When Stout’s unit arrived in May, he deployed two platoons to protect the school round the clock. On their second day, a U.S. soldier was shot in the lung, but survived.

For weeks, firefights erupted almost daily.

U.S. engineers knocked down walls and trees nearby where insurgents hide. Afghan security forces set up checkpoints on surrounding roads. And armored American trucks stood guard to defend the school’s crumbling outer walls.

The school itself was turned into a de facto military base: Stout’s men stacked sandbags in the windows and installed machine gun nests on the rooftops. They filled rooms with metal boxes of ammunition and anti-tank rockets, and slept on cots inside it.

The American occupation drew the ire of village elders. In mid-July, more than 300 turbaned men from Senjeray urged the provincial governor to pressure the Americans to leave Pir Mohammed. Stout said that in meetings afterward, elders told him the Taliban had pressured them to do so. Nevertheless, they reiterated the plea — and made a crucial promise in return.

“They were saying, ‘Look, if you get out of the school, we’ll protect the school,'” Stout recalled. “They said, ‘We got it. We’ll keep attacks from happening. And people will go there.'”

Withdrawing, in fact, was exactly what Stout wanted. It fit with the wider strategy of letting Afghan forces take on security, and freed Stout’s troops to secure more ground elsewhere.

So the American platoons pulled out in mid-August, leaving their Afghan counterparts in charge.

Instead of the peace the elders promised, attacks actually increased, Stout said. Within days, the school suffered two grenade assaults and a pair of shoulder-fired rocket strikes, one of which killed a seven-year-old boy playing outside.

At meetings that week with mullahs and elders, Stout’s team displayed a poster-sized photo of the wounded boy just after the explosion, his face bloodied with shrapnel.

“We said, ‘Look, how does this sit in your stomach? Does this bother you?'” Stout recalled. “We told them: ‘These people clearly don’t care about you, your family, or your livelihood.'”

The elders agreed, and Stout made a proposition: “Come bleed with us and defeat the bigger problem, help drive the insurgents out.”

At that, the elders drew back.

Some said they didn’t know who had carried out the attack. Others said there were no insurgents in Senjeray. Most said they were mere farmers, and if they cooperated with the Americans, the Taliban would cut their heads off.

Stout rebutted with a grim warning: “As long as you guys tolerate this, as long as you turn your backs, your children are going to continue to suffer.”

The elders nodded. They promised to escort American troops through Senjeray, where attackers hidden on rooftops tossed grenades at U.S. patrols nearly every time they passed by.

But in the weeks that followed, nobody ever turned up.

Qari, the local mullah, said Senjeray’s residents were caught in the middle and could not control the insurgency.

“We told the Taliban we don’t want your support, and we don’t want the support of the U.S. Army,” he said. “We told them: ‘We can ensure our own security, just leave us alone.'”

Part of the difficulty of winning over people in Afghanistan is that NATO-led forces are trying to do it in full body armor.

American troops live in fortified bubbles surrounded by blast walls and dirt-filled barriers. Their window onto the country is often an alien landscape that’s hard to see through inches-thick bulletproof glass covered in dust.

On the ground, American strategy often rests on fragile agreements between two groups worlds apart: young muscle-bound troops with crew cuts and tattoos and conservative white-bearded elders in turbans.

There may be no place tougher to win hearts and minds than Zhari. Here is where the Taliban movement was founded 16 years ago. A few miles to the west is Singesar, where Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar once ran an Islamic school.

“Obviously there’s a lot of Taliban sympathy out there,” Stout said. “These people don’t give a damn about us … and quite frankly, why would they? We’re strangers, we’ve been here for a few months, we walk around the town with guns, 40 pounds of body army and (a lot of) grenades.”

Afghan troops, too, acknowledge the cold reception in Senjeray, where they are seen as foreigners trying to finish off an old war. Much of the Afghan army’s rank and file here is drawn from the north — Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara — who fought the overwhelmingly Pashtun Taliban in the 1990s.

“The people in this town hate us,” said Lt. Said Abdul Ghafar, an ethnic Tajik soldier based at Pir Mohammed. “The Taliban tell them we’re not real Muslims, that we’re infidels. So the children throw rocks at us and won’t even say hello.”

Analysis & Commentary

This report is remarkably depressing.  The irony is that there is not a single problem discussed above with the U.S. campaign in Kandahar that couldn’t have also been said of the U.S. campaign in Fallujah or Baghdad in 2007.  We weren’t loved in the least.

But note what the focus of the discussion is not.  It isn’t about wasting time, resources and blood defending an inanimate object that can neither hurt you nor love you (i.e., the school).  It isn’t about the need to chase the insurgents and kill them.  It isn’t about force projection of U.S. troops.

Note now what the discussion is about.  The problem, says Stout, is that our boys are wearing 40 pounds of body armor and carry grenades.  The problem is that they don’t “give a damn about us.”  Stout’s focus is not on the legitimacy of U.S. troop actions, but of the ANA.

Is this the depth of strategic thinking among our officer corps?  We are failing in Kandahar because we are wearing 40 pounds of body armor and carrying grenades?

In Fallujah in 2007, the IPs are the ones who didn’t give a damn about what the population thought of them.  The fact that they knew they had the backing of the U.S. Marines made all the difference, and force brought legitimacy for the IPs.  The notion that body armor separates the Soldiers from the people is patently absurd.  What are we supposed to think about this?  That the solution to winning their hearts and minds is to jettison the body armor and grenades?  How many unnecessary deaths would that cause and how laughable would the U.S. Army appear to the population?  How does it say “we’re here to win” if we get rid of our weapons and allow ourselves to be shot?

In Fallujah and Baghdad in 2007, there was no focus on holding terrain or even attempting to stand up a legitimate government until the insurgency had been dealt a significant blow.  Recalling what we did in Iraq (from an Army officer):

One thing that I think many people forget about Iraq (or maybe it wasn’t reported?) is that in 2007 and 2008 we were killing and capturing lots of people on a nightly basis. Protecting the populace was A priority. When speaking to the folks back home, in order to sell the war, perhaps we said that it was the priority. But on the ground, I do not recall a single Commander’s Update Brief spending any time at all discussing what we had done to protect anyone. We were focused on punching al-Qaeda in the nuts at every opportunity and dismantling their networks. The reconcilables got the message loud and clear that they could take money and jobs in return for cooperation, or they would die a swift death when we came knocking down their doors in the middle of the night. The rest of the populace made it clear to them that they should take the offer. The only protection that the population got from us was good fire discipline so that we did not kill non-combatants. We made it clear that the government intended to win this thing and we did not send that message by delivering governance or digging wells. We shot motherf******s in the face.  Pop-COIN blasphemers, your scripture is false teaching.

This wasn’t just SOF.  This was everyone.  This posture is what I don’t currently see in our campaign for Afghanistan.

CIA Involved in Climate Change Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

So you say that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has become a joke?

With United Nations climate negotiators facing an uphill battle to advance their goal of reducing emissions linked to global warming, it’s no surprise that the woman steering the talks appealed to a Mayan goddess Monday.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

One would think that the revelations about the shysters at the University of East Anglia would have at least held the hoax in abatement or slowed it a little.  Not if the CIA has anything to do with it.

Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial “Copenhagen accord”, the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.

Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries’ negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental “treaty circumvention” and deals between nations.

Rather than seeking out ways to effect regime change in Iran, the CIA is spending time on AGW.  Is it even possible at this point to rebuild the edifice of national intelligence that has been dismantled over the last three administrations?  Is it too far gone at this point?  Have we lost entirely the capability to do covert information gathering and warfare in our focus on things like AGW and … ahem … [wink] … domestic extremists?

Improved Marine Corps Language Training

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

From Marine Corps Times:

Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Camp Pendleton, Calif., now have the option of pursuing intermediate and advanced language study before deploying to Afghanistan.

The bases recently added two new courses in Pashto and Dari which are Afghanistan’s main languages. The new courses were added in answer to demand from operational forces, most now working to tame Helmand province in the country’s south.

The basic language course is unchanged. Marines will still complete about 40 hours of live instruction and 100 hours of computer-based self-study which will help them master about 50 words and phrases.

But motivated Marines who have a knack for languages can now boost their communication skills with intermediate and advanced options.

The intermediate course will emphasize two-way communication teaching Marines how to ask questions and interpret basic answers. This will help them gather intelligence by understanding descriptions of colors, clothing and vehicles; and how to discuss locations and directions. Through intermediate study, Marines will learn about 200 words and phrases. The whole evolution takes about 80 hours of live instruction and 72 hours of self-study.

The advanced course will help Marines expand their vocabulary to 600 words and phrases through 160 hours of live instruction and 72 hours of self study. By the courses end, they should be able to communicate mission-specific information.

The classes aren’t designed to make marines fluent, but they will provide them with the ability to interact with village elders, farmers or children with a better understanding of their culture and more words and phrases to work with, said George Dallas, director of the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

The courses, detailed in Marine administrative message 652/10, will be available through 2014. Participation is at a unit commander’s discretion.

If I was commanding officer it would certainly be my “discretion” to have as many Marines trained as deeply as possible in the indigenous language before deployment.

While I have derided the many civil affairs projects implemented with no security, thus wasting time and money, and while I have certainly been a proponent of force projection in all phases of a counterinsurgency campaign, this is one area where I have focused my advocacy.  I can’t think of a greater skill to take to Afghanistan than an understanding of the language.  Language training is right up there in importance beside skill in weapon use, fire and maneuver tactics and having good logistics.  After all, we are trying to find and kill an enemy who hides among the indigenous population.

This is a good development.  More is needed.

Drone Front and Other Recommended Reading

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

Loyal reader and blogger Rick Keyes has made a contribution for our education this weekend.  Rick has cataloged and analyzed the recent drone strikes in the tribal region of Pakistan.  Make sure to study his report Drone_Front.

Next, the Army has finally published an official historical analysis of the engagement at Wanat.  The study is from The Staff of the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  It is entitled Wanat: Combat Action in Afghanistan, 2008.

On page 255 three of my articles are listed.  I am proud to have contributed in some small degree to this important work.  I had wanted for a long time to publish Douglas Cubbison’s preliminary work in full, but it was forwarded to me in confidence and I have held that confidence until today.  Now the study is complete, although not exactly in its original form or with all of its original content.

Iran Busy Inside of Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 4 months ago

More from Wikileaks (courtesy of WSJ):

Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables provide new details on the U.S. assessment of how Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has promoted Tehran’s influence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The demise of archenemy Saddam Hussein, with whom Tehran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, presented the Iranians with an unprecedented opportunity, and they appear to have exploited it from Day One.

The leadership of the Qods Force—the Guards’ paramilitary and espionage arm—”took advantage of the vacuum” in the aftermath of the fall of Mr. Hussein’s regime to begin sending operatives into Iraq when “little attention was focused on Iran,” according to an April 2009 dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The cable was part of a trove of classified U.S. diplomatic communications made public this week by WikiLeaks.

Early priorities for the Iranian operatives included assassinating former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, according to a December 2009 dispatch from Baghdad. As of the end of last year 180 pilots had been killed, according to the report.

But Iran’s broader goals have been the establishment of “an economically dependent and politically subservient Iraq” and the undermining of rivals, in part through paramilitary means, the cables suggest.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaie-Far denied in a recent interview that Iran was meddling in Iraq’s affairs or supporting militias.

Since 2003, Qods Force commander Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani has been “the point man directing the formulation and implementation” of the Iranian government’s Iraq policy “with authority second only” to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to another dispatch from Baghdad dated November 2009.

Through his officers and “Iraqi proxies,” Gen. Soleimani “employs the full range of diplomatic, security, intelligence, and economic tools to influence allies and detractors in order to shape a more pro-Iran regime in Baghdad and the provinces,” according to the same dispatch.

Some Qods Force operatives have entered Iraq under the guise of charities or the Iranian Red Crescent—the Islamic version of the Red Cross—according to an October 2008 dispatch from America’s Iran Regional Presence Office based in the Gulf Arab emirate of Dubai.

The cable, which cites an “Iranian with detailed knowledge of the country’s Red Crescent” as a source, says the organization contracted companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards to build clinics in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra, Hilla, Karbala and Najaf to the south. The clinics were used “for treatment but also as warehouses for military equipment or military bases if needed.”

Other Iranian operatives came in as diplomats, including some allegedly as senior as Tehran’s former ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who is described as “an associate” of the Qods Force in the November 2009 dispatch. His successor, Mr. Danaie-Far, was a naval commander in the Revolutionary Guards.

In addition to training, funding and arming Shiite militias in Iraq involved in attacking U.S. interests, Gen. Soleimani has overseen economic development assistance to Iraq and the promotion of bilateral trade that reached an annual level of almost $4 billion by the end of 2009. He also oversaw the furthering of Iranian “soft power” through activities such as the renovation of Iraq’s revered Shiite shrines by Revolutionary Guards-owned companies, according to several dispatches.

The Iranian commander also “enjoys longstanding close ties” with several top Iraqi officials such as President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a dispatch from Baghdad.

The November 2009 cable says Iran hands out cash payments to “Iraqi surrogates,” which include some of the political parties currently in power. It says while exact figures are unknown, Tehran’s financial assistance is estimated in the cables at $100 million to $200 million a year, with an estimated $70 million going to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) party, which was based in Iran before Mr. Hussein’s fall.

In one cable, U.S. diplomats in Baghdad say sensitivity by Iraqi leaders toward being seen as “Iranian lackeys” will ultimately constrain Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Even though both countries are majority Shiite Muslim, they embrace opposing clerical traditions. Iraq’s revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is Iranian-born but rejects Iran’s clerical rule.

One dispatch that followed a visit by U.S. diplomats to Mr. Sistani’s base in Najaf last year said the reclusive cleric personally prohibited the enrollment of Iranian students at seminaries in the city in order to prevent infiltration by the Revolutionary Guards.

Right.  Like Iranian meddling inside of Iraq is some sort of newly-discovered fact.  It was known years ago.  Take careful note.  I have been watching this man General Qassem Suleimani, and have specifically called for his assassination.  It would have been better for Iraq had this man been dead long ago.  Note also that I have more recently called for more assassinations of Iranians in key places within the Quds forces.

This follows a rich tradition here at The Captain’s Journal, where I called for the assassination of Moqtada al Sadr.  It’s simple.  Reverse executive order 12,333 prohibiting assassinations.  It’s way past time to wield this simple but effective tool.

Concerning the assassination of Iranian nuclear physicists which I applauded just recently, the New York Post has taken what I perceive to be a very significant step.  They have endorsed the same thing.

Who is killing the great nuclear scientists of Iran?

Who cares?

That is, as long as enough of them are offed to stymie development of a deliverable Iranian nuke.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he knows who’s behind the recent drive-by bombings of the scientists. He sees “the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments” — by which he means Israel and the United States.

Maybe. (The answer will no doubt be in the next WikiLeaks dump.)

According to news reports, unidentified assailants riding motorcycles carried out two bombings in Tehran on Monday, attaching explosives to the scientists’ cars and detonating them remotely.

One attack killed Majid Shahriari, manager of a “major project” for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and an expert in neutron transport — a key stage in the chain reactions behind nuclear weapons.

The other bomb seriously injured Fereydoon Abbasi, a senior Ministry of Defense scientist who’s said to work closely with the notorious Revolutionary Guard and reportedly is believed by Western intelligence to be a key figure in Iran’s drive to build nukes.

As one unnamed US official told the Times: “They’re [both] bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to design a bomb.”

Israel, of course, has been warning about an Iranian nuclear arsenal for some time now — and is believed to have been behind last summer’s Stuxnet computer-worm attack, which reportedly sent Iran’s nuclear centrifuges out of control.

If the US government has finally come to realize that a more hands-on approach is needed — and, as the latest WikiLeaks disclosures show, Washington is being pressed hard by a clearly terrified Arab world — that’s all to the good.

Not so significant for a Military Blogger.  Monumentally significant for a main stream news organization, even one which leans more conservative.  To the New York Post: welcome.  My position actually cost me readers (I know because of demands to remove e-mails from my auto-distribution).  I suspect that it will for you as well.  But I’m not in this to max out my readers.  I have a stake in what we do in this transnational insurgency in which we unfortunately find ourselves.  I suspect you feel that you do as well.

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