Archive for the 'Far East' Category

On Leaving Iraq and The Long War

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 10 months ago

The press reports are repleat with analyses about the exodus from Iraq and what that might look like.  Most of them are poorly reasoned reports, but some are insightful and informative.  I had previously predicted that it would require more than a year to remove all men and materiel from Iraq.  It looks like this prediction is gratuitous.  The Director of CENTCOM Logistics Operations Center weighs in on just what is going to be necessary to pull off redeployment from Iraq.

Political and public demand for a quick withdrawal is rising. But nothing about withdrawal will be quick.

The 20 ground combat brigades deployed here will fill 10,000 flatbed trucks and will take a year to move, logistics experts say. A full withdrawal, shipping home some 200,000 Americans and thousands of tons of equipment, dismantling dozens of American bases and disposing of tons of accumulated toxic waste, will take 20 months or longer, they estimate.

Yet the administration, long intent on avoiding what it once called a “cut and run” retreat from Iraq, has done little to lay the groundwork for withdrawal, officials here said.

“We don’t have the plan in detail yet. We’re seriously engaged in trying to figure this out,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Gray Payne, director of the U.S. Central Command’s logistics operations center.

Even with the benefit of a detailed plan, Payne said, “this is going to be an enormous challenge.”

Extricating combat forces during an active war is a tricky military maneuver under the best of circumstances, according to interviews with senior military officers and dozens of tactical and strategic military planners and logistics experts in Iraq and at U.S. military facilities across the region.

A hastier departure could find military convoys stalled on roads cratered by roadside bombs, interrupted by blown bridges and clogged with fleeing refugees; heavy cargo planes jammed with troops could labor into skies dark with smoke rising from abandoned American bases.

How the United States manages to disentangle itself from Iraq, whether in a graceful redeployment that strengthens stability or in a more chaotic retreat, will have profound repercussions for American power and prestige in the region, military and civilian strategists said.

Indeed, even though the word withdrawal has become this summer’s most shopworn term in Washington, few have grasped the staggering difficulty, time and cost of actually carrying it out.

“It’s going to be mind-boggling – like picking up the city of Los Angeles and putting all the pieces somewhere else,” said an official of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, which will oversee much of the work.

Indeed, American power and prestige in the Middle East is an important parameter by which to perform planning for redeployment.  Time gives us a description of the strategic planning problems presented by redeployment in How to Leave Iraq, followed by my own recommendations.

The reality is that it’s difficult to get out fast. It took the Soviets nine months to pull 120,000 troops out of Afghanistan. They were simply going next door, and they still lost more than 500 men on the way out. Pulling out 10 combat brigades — roughly 30,000 troops, along with their gear and support personnel — would take at least 10 months, Pentagon officials say. And that’s only part of the picture. There are civilians who would probably want to head for the exit when GIs started packing. They include some 50,000 U.S. contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis who might need protection if we left the country.

Slowing things down further is the sheer volume of stuff that we would have to take with us — or destroy if we couldn’t. Military officials recently told Congress that 45,000 ground-combat vehicles — a good portion of the entire U.S. inventory of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, trucks and humvees — are now in Iraq. They are spread across 15 bases, 38 supply depots, 18 fuel-supply centers and 10 ammo dumps. These items have to be taken back home or destroyed, lest they fall into the hands of one faction or another. Pentagon officials will try to bring back as much of the downtime gear as possible — dining halls, office buildings, vending machines, furniture, mobile latrines, computers, paper clips and acres of living quarters. William (Gus) Pagonis, the Army logistics chief who directed the flood of supplies to Saudi Arabia for the 1991 Gulf War and their orderly withdrawal from the region, cites one more often overlooked hurdle: U.S. agricultural inspectors insist that, before it re-enters the U.S., Army equipment be free of any microscopic disease that, as Pagonis puts it, “can wipe out flocks of chickens and stuff like that.”

Once the U.S. decides to pull its forces back, the security risks to troops leaving the battlefield would increase, and the faster the U.S. withdraws, the greater the dangers. Departing troops lose their focus and become easy targets, says Pagonis. Local militias usually try to prove their mettle by firing at departing columns. “It would be ugly,” says retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, who supports a partial withdrawal. “You’d burn or blow up a lot of your equipment or hand it over to the Iraqis. You’d be subject to attack on your way down to the coast because on the way, people would say, ‘We can either throw rose petals or shoot at ’em,’ and they’d shoot at us.” A gradual exit rather than an immediate one isn’t merely the wiser course; it’s the only course.

A reduction in the U.S. combat presence would probably produce one clear benefit: a lower U.S. casualty rate. But a chilling truth is that as the U.S. death toll declined, the Iraqi one would almost surely soar. Just how many Iraqis would die if the U.S. withdrew is anyone’s guess, but almost everyone who has studied it believes the current rate of more than a thousand a month would spike dramatically. It might not resemble Rwanda, where more than half a million people were slaughtered in six months in 1994. But Iraq could bleed like the former Yugoslavia did from 1992 to 1995, when 250,000 perished.

There is no debate about why: in the wake of an American pullout, Baghdad would be quickly dominated by Shi’ite militias largely unbloodied by the American campaign. Already, well-armed security forces that pose as independent are riddled with militiamen who take direction from Shi’ite leaders. Death-squad killings of Sunnis would rise. Against such emboldened forces, Sunni insurgents and elements of Saddam Hussein’s former regime would retaliate with their weapon of choice: car-bomb attacks against Shi’ite markets, shrines, police stations and recruiting depots.

One result of the military’s “surge” strategy is that the U.S. has handed over to Sunni tribal sheiks much greater responsibility for their security — and even the weapons to back it up — in exchange for severing their links to al-Qaeda. That’s a manageable risk while U.S. forces are nearby; if they depart, it becomes tinder in a dry forest. The danger would be not just sectarian slaughter but outright anarchy as well. “Our immediate concern,” says a senior Arab diplomat, “is that sending a signal of complete withdrawal could encourage some elements in every faction in every political group that they can now impose their own agenda. It would be not only Shi’ite versus Sunni … but [war] inside each community itself. The worst case is a Somalia-ization of Iraq.”

Consistent with the thematic presentation here at TCJ, we believe that we are in the “long war.”  It is past time to jettison old paradigms of global conflict from fifty years ago when we were planning to protect Europe from The Soviet Union and the Far East from China, and enter the twenty first century.  The Far East has come of age, and it is time for Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to prepare for its own self defense.  It is simply too costly, both in wealth and in misdirection of U.S. resources from the real conflicts of the future, to continue to defend the Far East.

We favor a redeployment as soon as possible, but one from Germany, Japan, South Korea and Okinawa to the Middle East.  The idea that after expending such blood and wealth to secure a toehold in the Middle East we would relinquish it to be burned and used against us as we depart is not only sickening and psychologically debilitating, but dangerous and inadvisable.  It does not comport with our understanding of the conflict in which we are engaged.

Of course, it will be necessary to reformulate the model.  FOBs and combat outposts in Anbar will eventually go away, much to the delight of the U.S. Marines.  It is doubtful that the Shi’a will acquiesce to British presence for the long term, a problem we will address in upcoming articles.  But make no mistake.  U.S. deployment in some fashion – perhaps to the Kurdish region, for Iraq/Iran and Iraq/Syria border security, assistance with specialized kinetic operations, training of Iraqi troops and police, etc. – is necessary and good for the foreseeable future.  We should be in the Middle East for a long, long time.  The intractable myth that our presence in the Middle East is merely a recruiting tool for the Salafists is nothing more than pitiful hand-wringing.  The U.S. should become one of the most powerful “tribes” in the Middle East.

The way to avoid the paradoxes associated with redeployment of our entire military back to the U.S. is to avoid redeployment to begin with.  It will save the deployment costs associated with the next Small War in which we engage in the Middle East.

China Supplies Weapons to Insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 11 months ago

From Bill Gertz of The Washington Times:

New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.

U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers. The ploy has been used in the past by China to hide its arms-proliferation activities from the United States, according to U.S. officials with access to the intelligence reports.

Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.

The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.

According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted.

The weapons were described as “late-model” arms that have not been seen in the field before and were not left over from Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.

U.S. Army specialists suspect the weapons were transferred within the past three months.

The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that the flow of Iranian arms to Afghanistan is “fairly substantial” and that it is likely taking place with the help of the Iranian government.

Defense officials are upset that Chinese weapons are being used to kill Americans. “Americans are being killed by Chinese-supplied weapons, with the full knowledge and understanding of Beijing where these weapons are going,” one official said.

The arms shipments show that the idea that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism is “utter nonsense,” the official said.

John Tkacik, a former State Department official now with the Heritage Foundation, said the Chinese arms influx “continues 10 years of willful blindness in both Republican and Democrat administrations to China’s contribution to severe instability in the Middle East and South Asia.”

Mr. Tkacik said the administration should be candid with the American people about China’s arms shipments, including Beijing’s provision of man-portable air-defense missiles through Iran and Syria to warring factions in Lebanon and Gaza.

The Bush administration hides the destabilizing influence of China in the Middle East because they are “pro-business.”  In China, anyone – Chinese citizen or visitor to the country – can legally purchase any piece of software for $5 or less because of the pirating being done in China, with the full approval of the Chinese government.  There is China’s pro-business policy for you.  It costs U.S. software developers and code writers billions of dollars each year.  China has always been and is currently a nation run by a band of criminals.

With each passing day, new evidence emerges that indicates that this administration doesn’t want to win the war.

Nuclear Japan

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 7 months ago

We now know that the “nuclear” explosion in North Korea was more of a fizzle than a bang (h/t Virtually Theo).  Either something went badly wrong with this test, or it was in fact a conventional explosion.  More to the point, as we have discussed concerning the Wen Ho Lee incident, the miniturization of nuclear weapons is a technology that apparently China does not have (and so North Korea certainly would not possess this technology).  The U.S. leads the world in this technology due in no small part to the work of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.

But the world may never know if this was nuclear or conventional.  Further, if this was a dud, then North Korea will certainly continue until it succeeds.  In Kim Jong il’s world, heads will roll until the engineers and physicists have constructed him a nuclear weapon that has been proven to work.  Potential death is a great motivator for the workers.  The proverbial Jeenie is out of the bottle.  The Far East will never be quite the same.

The new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has flatly declared that Japan will not reverse its stand on a prohibition of nuclear weapons.  Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have lived for the last 50 years under the umbrella of protection provided by the U.S.  But there are signs of strain in this relationship.  The U.S. will always be an ally of these three countries, but there is strain associated with the heavy deployments of U.S. forces around the globe.  The U.S. has drawn the ire of both South Korea and Japan in the current dispute over who will shoulder the financial burden of U.S. troops deployments to South Korea, and the U.S. has said that there will be troop force reductions unless more of the financial burden for troop deployments is borne by South Korea.

But there is an even more important reason for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to consider re-arming.  Stratfor recently discussed the situation, concluding that there is no effective military solution to North Korea’s military infrastructure.  Seoul is within striking distance of conventional artiliery from North Korea, and it is postulated that North Korea is capable of placing several hundred thousand high explosive shells per hour on the South Korean capital.  Further, war-gaming has shown that there is no solution that can be implemented quickly enough to prevent massive casualties.

The situation for Japan is not much better.  North Korea has shown that they can direct missiles at Japan with impunity, and the U.S. (and Japan) cannot now act quickly enough to prevent massive casualties should North Korea prove itself capable of building a nuclear weapon small enough to deliver by its missiles.

War with North Korea would have unfathomable consequences.  But there is a solution short of war.  It is prevention by strength.  The Strategy Page discusses the current situation for Japan.

October 11, 2006: The North Korean nuclear tests will have the effect of spurring the growth of a new military superpower in East Asia. Japan has, since World War II, not felt the need to re-arm. However, the recent North Korean tests are likely to change that, awakening what is arguably the sleeping military giant of Asia.

From Japan’s perspective, they have no choice. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998. North Korea has also kidnapped Japanese citizens, and despite diplomatic protests, attempted to test both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in 2006. North Korea is not the only neighbor of Japan who has done some pretty irrational things. In the past decade, two Chinese generals have made very thinly-veiled nuclear threats towards the United States. From Japan’s perspective, East Asia is obviously a neighborhood that is becoming a lot less safe than it was in 1990.

At present, Japan spends about one percent of its GDP on the defense budget ($42.1 billion in 2005). Compare this to China, which spends about 4.3 percent of its GDP on defense (to the tune of $81.48 billion in 2005). Japan’s relative lack of defense spending still has not prevented it from turning out what is arguably the best navy and air force in the region, one that outclasses even China.

As one example, Japan has 40 destroyers in its Maritime Self-Defense Force. China has 25, only nine of which are really modern. China has 45 frigates, of which perhaps 15 are modern. Japan has nine. Most of China’s submarines are very old Romeo-class submarines or the Ming-class ( which is a variant of the Romeo). Only 22 of China’s subs are relatively modern. Japan has 16 modern diesel-electric submarines.

The respective air forces also show a technological disparity. The bulk of the 1,250 fighters in Chinese service are J-6 and J-7 models, copies of the 1950s era MiG-19 and MiG-21, respectively. China’s only modern fighters are the 200 J-11 (Su-27) and 180 Su-30MKK Flankers. The Japanese air defense force centers around 180 F-15J fighters and 130 F-2s (best described as an F-16 that took steroids).

Japan has been able to keep pace with China with a defense budget that is one percent of its GDP. Were Japan to spend the 2.4 percent of GDP, the same percentage that the United Kingdom spends, its defense budget would be $101.4 billion. If Japan were to spend 4.3 percent of its GDP (what China spends), its defense budget would reach $181.03 billion. What does a Japanese military with those budgets look like? For one thing, Japan easily could increase its military and equip it with modern ships (like the Atago and Takanami classes of destroyers), submarines (like the Oyashio class), and aircraft (like the F-2). Japan also could easily operate several “Harrier carriers” as well, giving Japan the ability to project power. Japan could also decide to build nukes – and has the ability to do so very quickly (within six months).

Japan would have no trouble spending big bucks on arms. The government already spends that kind of money on wasteful, “make work”, projects. It’s good politics to keep people employed, and it doesn’t matter if they are building warships, or highways to nowhere.

Such a buildup would make South Korea, China, and other countries in Asia very nervous. For that reason, Kim Jong-Il’s recent nuclear tests are going to make him a very unpopular person in East Asia, where old memories of Japan’s conduct from 1931-1945 are still fresh. They would much rather that the potential of Japan’s military remain potential, and not become realized. China, in particular, doesn’t want to see Japan start a buildup, because they will not be able to keep up.

If war with North Korea would have unfathomable consequences, the failure to prepare for it and prevent it would be worse.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should give his government more latitude in addressing the deteriorating security situation for Japan.  A nuclear Japan – to an extent that North Korea and perhaps even China could not match – is the warless answer to the situation, and thus is it is the most humane, kind and loving solution for both his own people and the North Koreans.  It is determent, and it is called peace through strength.  It has a proven track record.

Also blogging: Cop the Truth with Japan on the Edge.

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