Archive for the 'Intelligence Bulletin' Category



2-13-08 Intelligence Roundup

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 2 months ago

Four Arrested in U.S.-China Spy Case

The US on Monday announced a series of arrests in cases involving alleged spying by the Chinese government, including one where a Pentagon official was alleged to have helped Beijing obtain secret information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Gregg Bergersen, a Pentagon employee with top secret security clearances, for allegedly providing a Chinese government agent with information about US weapons sales to Taiwan. In another case, Chung Dongfan, a former Boeing employee, was arrested for economic espionage involving US military programmes.

Pakistan Nuclear Technicians Abducted

Two employees of Pakistan’s atomic energy agency have been abducted in the country’s restive north-western region abutting the Afghan border.

Police say the technicians went missing on the same day as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, was reportedly abducted in the same region.

Russian Bomber Buzzed U.S. Ships

U.S. fighter planes intercepted two Russian bombers flying unusually close to an American aircraft carrier in the western Pacific during the weekend, The Associated Press has learned.

A U.S. military official says that one Russian Tupolev 95 buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz twice, at a low altitude of about 2,000 feet, while another bomber circled about 50 nautical miles out. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because the reports on the flights were classified as secret.

Pro-Pakistan Government Tribal Elders Killed by Bomber in Waziristan

A suicide bomber killed six pro-government tribal elders and wounded nine others in Edak village in North Waziristan’s Mirali sub-district on Monday.  Local people said that a pro-government peace committee had been in session when the bomber struck at 12.55pm. Tribal elders were planning to form a force comprising local volunteers to go after foreign militants in the area.

Witnesses said the suicide bomber entered the open courtyard close to Madressah Nizamia and mingled with the people who were attending the meeting.  Haji Nekam, a tribal elder who heads the Edak peace committee, was wounded in the incident. He had survived an earlier bomb attempt on his life by militants.  ANP leader Nisar Ali Khan, who is contesting polls from North Waziristan as an independent candidate, also suffered injuries. He was said to be stable last night.

Muslim Aid Leaving Pentagon

In a stunning turn of events, a high-level Muslim military aide blamed for costing an intelligence contractor his job will step down from his own Pentagon post, WND has learned.

Meanwhile, his rival, Maj. Stephen Coughlin, a leading authority on Islamic war doctrine, may stay in the Pentagon, moving from the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the office of the secretary of defense. However, sources say a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey is trying to block his new contract.

The top Pentagon aide, Egyptian-born Hesham H. Islam, came under a cloud of suspicion after reports raised doubt about his resume and contacts he had made with radical Muslims. He is expected to leave the government next month, officials say.

Islam and Coughlin recently quarreled over intelligence briefings Coughlin presented showing a close connection between the religion of Islam and terrorism. Coughlin’s contract with the Joint Chiefs, which ends in March, was not renewed.

Pakistani Army Officers Recalled from Civil Posts

Pakistan Army on Monday called back all its serving officers from 23 civil departments, in what is being termed here as part of a plan to improve the image of the armed forces.

“More than 300 army officers are presently working in various civil departments and majority of them have been asked to report to the General Headquarters (GHQ) immediately,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn here on Monday.

He said the army authorities had written a letter to the federal government asking it to relieve all serving military officers from civil departments.

The move is in line with a decision taken by the 106th Corps Commanders’ Conference on Feb 7. The conference was presided over by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who had in an earlier statement, directed army officers to “stay away from political activities.”

The army chief’s decisions about reversal of officers from civil departments and restrictions on meeting politicians have been lauded by the civil society and all major political parties.

The induction of army officers in civil organisations has always been a controversial issue and has been questioned on different forums, including parliament.

The reversal of this policy is part of an ongoing diminution of the preceived power, authority and standing of the Pakistan army.  The army is seen as the center of gravity of Pakistan society, the king-maker, and the stabilizing force.  Or at least, this was once so.

Intelligence Bulletin #4

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the fourth entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #4 covers the following subjects: [1] Petraeus addresses rules of engagement, [2] Iranian nuclear program, [3] Chlorine gas attacks in Iraq, [4] Continued insurgent activity inside Mosques, [5] Iranian and Syrian threats in the covert war, [6] Ongoing coverage of the covert war against the CIA, [7] Continuing coverage of Anbar tribesmen in their battles against AQI, [8] Insurgents use women and children as shields, [9] Sadr’s Long Game, and [10] Thoughts on Walter Reed scandal.

Petraeus Addresses Rules of Engagement

Glenn Reynolds informs us of a communication by General Petraeus to his reports concerning rules of engagement.

Rules of engagement (ROE), highly criticized as being too restrictive and sometimes endangering our troops, have been “clarified.” “There were unintended consequences with ROE for too long,” Petraeus acknowledged. Because of what junior leaders perceived as too harsh punishment meted out to troops acting in the heat of battle, the ROE issued from the top commanders were second-guessed and made more restrictive by some on the ground. The end result was unnecessary – even harmful – restrictions placed on the troops in contact with the enemy.

“I’ve made two things clear,” Petraeus emphasized: “My ROE may not be modified with supplemental guidance lower down. And I’ve written a letter to all Coalition forces saying ‘your chain-of-command will stay with you.’ I think that solved the issue.”

In our rules of engagement coverage, we have argued for seeing the problems with ROE under four rubrics: The written ROE, the communication of the ROE, the application of the ROE in a counterinsurgency where fighters hide behind the population, and the main stream media feeding frenzy every time another story hits the wires, true or not.

The communication by General Petraeus addresses only one of the four categories above.  In our coverage we have cited:

[a] instances where NCOs have given us stories of lack of engagement that ultimately led to U.S. casualties:

… the ROE is vague and limiting.  And every time “violations? of the ROE came up it caused our soldiers and marines to question their actions and sometimes cause casualties.

[b] intelligence gathering by insurgents whose car(s) happens to break down at strategically located points to observe FOB layout (and soldiers who knew what was happening and were prevented from taking action):

Just recently press coverage was given to a nonlethal weapon (ray gun that increases the temperature of the skin), and while the technology was interesting to most readers, there is a nugget of gold in the report that is far more important than the ray gun.  It was reported that Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis often pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout U.S. forces.  “All we could do is watch them,? he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops “could have dispersed them.?

[c] and from David Danelo of insurgents who fired pre-staged weapons where U.S. forces could not act:

The vehicle commander, Corporal Ronnie Davis, is in front of me holding a pair of binos.  Three other Marines peer down a street where Mujahideen have been firing at us from multi-story buildings scarred by gunfire and explosions.  While we exchange fire with the Muj, other observation assets available to 1 st Battalion, 6th Marines are mapping enemy positions for future operations.

“That’s the same two guys.  They’ve crossed back and forth four times,? Corporal Davis announces, referring to a pair of unarmed Iraqis who have run for cover.  Because these men are unarmed, the Americans under the Rules of Engagement are not allowed to shoot at them—even though gunfire is coming at us from that direction.

While there are many more, this last example is perhaps the most interesting.  The sophistication of the tactics should not escape our notice.  The insurgents know that U.S. forces cannot fire upon unarmed persons, so weapons are apparently pre-staged, then fired, and then the insurgents relocate to another pre-staged weapon, and so on.  The instance above had the Marines observing long enough to see the same two insurgents running for cover across the street four times; the Marines were fired upon, yet never engaged the enemy.

To see the reflexive reaction to charges that arise against U.S. troops, we need to look no further than recent combat action involving a Mosque.

The U.S. military, Iraqi government officials and witnesses here offered conflicting accounts Tuesday of whether several people killed during a Baghdad raid Monday night were armed insurgents or civilians gathered at a mosque.

According to a U.S. military statement, Iraqi soldiers assisting in a search for insurgents entered the Imam al-Abass mosque in Hurriyah, a formerly mixed Baghdad neighborhood that is now a stronghold of the Shiite Mahdi Army, before 9 p.m. Monday. About 50 people were detained as a search of the area continued. They were later released, the military said.

After the search, the statement said, a separate group of about 20 armed men attacked Iraqi and U.S. soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and guns. The soldiers returned fire, killing three insurgents; three other armed men were detained, the military said. Military aircraft participated in the raid but did not fire, the statement said.

But Col. Mahmoud Abdul Hussein of Iraq’s Interior Ministry said six civilians were killed and seven wounded when U.S. helicopters fired on homes after coming under attack from armed men. Another ministry spokesman, Sami Jabarah, said late Tuesday that the casualties had risen to eight killed and 11 wounded.

Two witnesses described indiscriminate shooting, but no helicopter fire, by U.S. forces that resulted in the deaths of at least six civilians, including some armed guards.

Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, said in response to an e-mail query that the military would “research” the incident.

The U.S. has always claimed that the differentiation between our military and those of the balance of the world is the philosophy of the non-commissioned officer.  Indeed, the claim is made that this one approach is why the U.S. is militarily so powerful.  Yet we deny the truthfulness of these words every time another investigation or incident research is started, implying that only a report by an officer can bring authoritative closure to issues of engagement.  In the comments to our article Rules of Engagement and Pre-Theoretical Commitments (which was a catalyst for thoughtful and robust remarks concerning ROE), Theo Farrell, professor of war in the modern world at King’s College, London, commented:

I guess, given the Brit Army’s minimum force tradition, commands can feel confident that their soldiers will employ appropriate levels of restraint/force. And so, the real difference betw the Brit Army and USA/USMC may be down to differing org cultures rather than different ROEs.

But in this same article we detailed how Captain Robert Secher refused to fire indiscriminately.  The U.S. troops have been cautioned about so-called ‘overdefense’ of themselves, and the real difference it seems is not that there is a difference in culture of training, behavior or expectations, but rather, a difference in trust.  It also might be appropriate to point out that the British pullback from Basra has been confidently called a defeat, and the security situation in Basra has degenerated over the last couple of years.

It would appear that Petraeus has taken a good first step in the correction of the problems associated with ROE.  More is needed.

Prior:

Iranian Nuclear Program

The powers in Iran apparently don’t care much anymore about having a commercial light water nuclear reactor.

Iran no longer seems to be interested in the construction of its first nuclear power plant which Russia is helping it build in Bushehr, the chief of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in Italy’s southern port city of Bari, where Russian president Vladimir Putin held talks with Italy’s premier romano Prodi on Wednesday. “I’m taken aback,” Kiriyenko was quoted as saying by Russia’s Interfax news agency. “My impression is that the Iranian side has lost all interest in this project.”

“Not a single Kopeck has been transferred since the middle of January,” to end the 760-million-euro plant, said the head of Rosatom.

The Bushehr plant was scheduled to become operative at the end of this year but the project was repeatedly delayed over Iran’s failure to meet payment obligations.

See further coverage at World Nuclear News.  Yet Iran says it is is still determined to pursue the nuclear program, saying that this is merely a politically motivated business dispute.  But turning from the ruse to the real prize of enrichment, Iran adds that political pressure and meetings will end in failure.  “We have achieved the nuclear fuel cycle. We won’t give it up under pressure. You can’t stop the Iranian nation from this path through meetings,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state media.”  This assertion is a reiteration of previous claims.

It is instructive to note that a poll conducted for Russian nuclear workers indicates what they feel will be the likely outcome of the current showdown with Iran.  When asked for the most likely of four possible outcomes, they voted that ”Iran would quit the IAEA safeguards regime.”  True to form, Iran stopped UN inspectors from visiting an underground bunker where it is building an industrial-scale plant to make enriched uranium.

Just to ensure that the message is not lost by any possible mis-speak from their puppet Ahmadinejad (although misinterpretation is hard to fathom), the Mullah’s have spoken and insist that they will strike out at their enemies who try to stop their enrichment program.  The message could not be clearer.  Commercial nuclear power is a sideline activity that holds no real interest for the Iranians.  The real prize is the “nuclear fuel cycle,” or in this case, enrichment.  But since commercial nuclear power holds no interest for the Iranians, the purpose of enrichment has no other purpose than to create weapons grade fissile material.  Rather than enriching to 3.5 – 5.0 percent U-235 (appropriate for commercial pressurized water reactors), they are certainly targeting 90+ percent, something that is only necessary for making weapons or naval reactors.  Iran has no naval reactors.  Weapons-grade fissile material is the only remaining use.

Chlorine Gas Attacks in Iraq

In Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah, of the recent chlorine attacks we said:

The effects of acute exposure to chlorine inhalation can range from mild irritation to death, but given that explosive ordnance is far more effective in destruction and loss of life than chemical weapons, along with the fact that airborne contaminants disperse per Guass’s law with the square of the radius from the point of origin (with no wind), it is obvious that chlorine attacks are being used as an instrument of terror rather than for their usefulness as a weapon (and with wind, the contaminants still disperse according to meteorological theory, possibly in the unintended direction).  While the force due to conventional explosive ordnance also decreases with the square of the radius, conventional ordnance can be delivered directly to the desired point (given the weapons currently available to the insurgents), whereas the trucks used to deliver the chlorine can be interdicted.  If the insurgents continue to use these means, we predict that it will instill terror but yield meager tactical results.

Michael Fumento added his own observations on the gas attacks.

Insurgents launched three more chlorine truck attacks in Al Anbar province on March 17, killing two and sickening an additional 350. Is this a disturbing new trend? No. Had those trucks been filled with high explosives, each could have killed around 100 people. Instead, combined, they killed two. Probably all those sickened will recover with little or no lasting damage, as opposed to losing limbs and eyes. Chemicals have never lived up to their reputation as weapons.

That’s why even though the Germans invented Sarin gas, which is vastly more deadly than chlorine, they decided not to use it. Hitler didn’t forego its use because he was a nice guy. Rather, his generals convinced him that high explosives are far more effective in causing deaths, not to mention that all the poison gas in the world can’t destroy material objects. That said, gas is a good terror weapon because most people have a more innate terror of being gassed than of being blown up or shot. But that’s primarily or exclusively because gas is such a rare threat. The more the terrorists use chlorine, the less the terror effect will be.

We continue to believe that as long as the insurgents are wasting their time and energy on trying to make chemical weapons effective, they give coalition troops a deserved reprieve in the hunt and kill.

Continued Insurgent Activity Inside Mosques

The insurgent activity inside Mosques discussed above is not the only recent example of such tactics by the enemy.  Maliki has directed robust action against Mosques and schools and the typical hiding places of the insurgents, and on January 12 there was combat action by U.S. forces against a Mosque, followed on by a statement from the Multi-National Force that the U.S. does not “enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force.”  This statement was issued immediately after U.S. forces conducted a raid on a Mosque for the sole purpose of disrupting insurgent activities.

The instance of kinetic operations involving a Mosque cited above shows a pattern, and statements from the Multi-National Force that we do not enter Mosques but we do enter Mosques will be seen for the duplicity that they are as the security plan moves forward.  The story needs to be straightened out and clarified.  Maliki apparently has no problem threatening robust action against all hiding places of the insurgency.  We should follow suit.  In the end, a clear and robust policy concerning Mosques will save lives.  If the insurgents know that a Mosque offers no protection and there are no apologies for kinetic operations to remove hostiles from Mosques, then the appeal of the Mosque as a safe haven will disappear.

Iranian and Syrian Threats in the Covert War

In The Covert War with Iran and Regional Wars in the Middle East we discussed the heatup of the intelligence wars in the Middle East, and it appears that Iran understands that the U.S. is not absent in the war.  Iran has engaged in some saber-rattling of their own, saying that they are prepared to engage in international kidnapping to meet the threat.

Iran is threatening to retaliate in Europe for what it claims is a daring undercover operation by western intelligence services to kidnap senior officers in its Revolutionary Guard.

According to Iranian sources, several officers have been abducted in the past three months and the United States has drawn up a list of other targets to be seized with the aim of destabilising Tehran’s military command.

In an article in Subhi Sadek, the Revolutionary Guard’s weekly paper, Reza Faker, a writer believed to have close links to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that Iran would strike back.

“We’ve got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks,? he said. “Iran has enough people who can reach the heart of Europe and kidnap Americans and Israelis.?

The threat to match kidnapping with kidnapping is showmanship at its finest.  Even if the recent disappearances of senior Iranian intelligence and Quds officials was not voluntary, to imply that it was “kidnapping” to apprehend Jalal Sharafi on Iraqi soil while he was stirring up sedition along with Quds and the Badr Brigade is analogous to saying that a thief has a right to steal from your home.  True to form, Iran continues its involvement in the fomenting of terror inside Iraq.  On March 20 we learned that the Iranians have housed and trained Iraqi insurgents for several months.

Iran has been operating training programs for Iraqi Shi’ite militants at secret bases for several months as part of its efforts to destabilize Iraq, an opponent of the Iranian government said on Tuesday.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who accurately disclosed important details about Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been running the camps with the full knowledge and approval of the Iranian government.

“Over the past few months the Iranian regime has stepped up its efforts to destabilize Iraq and further escalate the violence there,” Jafarzadeh said at a press conference.

Jafarzadeh provided names, dates and details of alleged training activities he said had been provided to him by Iranian opposition groups.

While at the camps, militants are instructed by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force and Lebanese members of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Islamic militant group, in unconventional warfare, explosives and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft weapons.

Syria is not innocent in the regional war, as they are prepared to strike back if the U.S. hits Iranian enrichment facilities.

An American biodefense analyst living in Europe says if the U.S. invades Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, Syria is ready to respond with weapons of mass destruction – specifically biological weapons.

“Syria is positioned to launch a biological attack on Israel or Europe should the U.S. attack Iran,” Jill Bellamy-Dekker told WND. “The Syrians are embedding their biological weapons program into their commercial pharmaceuticals business and their veterinary vaccine-research facilities. The intelligence service oversees Syria’s ‘bio-farm’ program and the Ministry of Defense is well interfaced into the effort.”

Unless we are prepared to treat Operation Iraqi Freedom as the regional war that it is, it cannot be won.

Ongoing Coverage of the Covert War Against the CIA

In previous issues of the Intelligence Bulletin we have discussed the ongoing judicial and intelligence war against CIA agents in Italy and Germany.  In a Reuters article strangely titled Italy Hopes to Mend U.S. Ties After CIA Indictments, it appears that Italy doesn’t really want to mend ties.  Rather, Italy wants the U.S. to take actions to mend ties.

Italy hopes to mend strained U.S. relations over indictments against CIA agents for kidnapping and a U.S. soldier for murder, Italy’s foreign minister said, before meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday.

But Massimo D’Alema said Washington had more responsibility than Rome in overcoming the “turbulence” in bilateral relations and intelligence cooperation.

“These are two episodes that have created some turbulence in our relations and we want to work to overcome this turbulence,” D’Alema told Reuters in an interview hours before he was due to fly to Washington for a dinner meeting with Rice.

D’Alema said he would raise the issue with Rice and, asked what Italy could do to resolve the situation, said: “In truth, there would be several things that the United States should do, more than Italy”. He did not elaborate.

Continuing Coverage of Anbar Tribesmen in Their Battles Against AQI

A British general claims that the Anbar Province is reaping the benefits of the security plan.

The US-Iraqi offensive launched last month has put anti-government forces on the defensive in their former insurgent strong­hold of Anbar, Britain’s top general in Iraq has told the Financial Times.

“We’re getting momentum … We’re seeing a number of points … which would imply that [anti-government militants] are being challenged,? said Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb, deputy commander of the multinational forces in Iraq.

Lt Gen Lamb said that US and Iraqi forces were recruiting hundreds of police for the first time in towns in the Anbar region and that the forces were working together in shared combat outposts.

The insurgency “didn’t do too well in Anbar … Their claims have failed to come to fruition,? he said, referring to the declaration by Islamist radicals that they had established a “caliphate? encompassing much of western Iraq.

MEMRI has a lengthy analysis on this trend (only a small portion is reproduced below).

In late February and early March 2007, the London dailies Al-Hayat and Al-QudsAl-’Arabi reported on an escalation of the conflict in western Iraq between the local population and the Al-Qaeda in Iraq organization. Fierce battles were reported in Al-Amariyah and Al-Falluja between Al-Qaeda and the local Al-Anbar tribes, resulting in the death of dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters and in the weakening of Al-Qaeda in these areas.

In Important Undercurrents in Anbar we discussed the terror, houses of horror and torture tactics in use by AQI, and how these heavy handed tactics have gone so far as to be the very cause of lack of security.  Even when the population acquiesces to their demands, they shoot from behind their women and children, fill the streets with sniper fire, and steal and kidnap innocent people for pleasure or ransom.  The population is turning on AQI.  In relative importance, security trumps everything else.

Insurgents Use Women and Children as Shields

That Hezballah used women and children in the war with the IDF as human shields, fought amongst the population and ultimately used civilian deaths to their political advantage is well documented.

Hizbullah stored ammunition and weapons in mosques, knowing that the IDF does not attack religious sites. Civilians were not allowed to leave so that Hizbullah could use them as cover. IDF officers said they ordered pilots not to strafe Bint Jbeil in order to spare civilian casualties.

A United Nations peace keeping officer from Canada told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Hizbullah used the same tactic to draw fire on the UNIFIL post which resulted in the death of four U.N. observers. “This is their favorite trick,? he said. “They use the U.N. as shields.?

We see the same tactic being used in Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle with two children in the back seat after US soldiers let it through a Baghdad checkpoint over the weekend, a senior US military official said Tuesday.
The vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint but was allowed through when soldiers saw the children in the back, said Major General Michael Barbero of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

“Children in the back seat lowered suspicion. We let it move through. They parked the vehicle, and the adults ran out and detonated it with the children in the back,” Barbero said.

The general said it was the first time he had seen a report of insurgents using children in suicide bombings. But he said Al-Qaeda in Iraq is changing tactics in response to the tighter controls around the city.

There is another report that the children lost their lives in this attack.  The most significant asymmetry between the U.S. and the insurgents is not one of military might.  It is of moral character.

Sadr’s Long Game

Martin Sieff (with whom we have significant disagreements most of the time) has an analysis and opinion piece up at UPI entitled Sadr’s Long Game.  This one is worth the time to read entirely.  Sieff connects the stand-down of the loyal Sadrists with their effort to wait out the “surge,” rebuild, and prepare to respond inside Iraq to a potential U.S. attack on Iran to destroy enrichment capabilities.  We agree.  As we have argued before, Sadr’s organization, however loosely coupled, must now be seen in international terms.  In Intelligence Bulletin #3 we have further argued that:

… if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This analysis appears to be more important with each passing day.  We must not make the mistake that Robert Haddick discusses concerning the radical Sunni insurgency, of assuming that as a group, they were “in play.”  Moqtada al Sadr and his loyal followers are no more “in play” to reconcile with the Sunnis and join the political process than the disaffected Saddam Fedayeen and other radical Sunnis were.  Failure to effect the ‘strategic disappearance’ of Sadr as we have recommended will entail the failure of OIF.

Thoughts on the Walter Reed Scandal

In Intelligence Bulletin #2 we discussed the Walter Reed scandal and the troubles at the VA, saying that six months was not long enough for General Weightman to get the lay of the land, and that the troubles did not seem to point to Walter Reed proper so much as outpatient care of the wounded.  The real problem would seem to be inadequate congressional funding given to the Army for this care, along with an overgrown and inefficient bureaucracy at the DoD.  In this case, it is easy for the congress to point the finger of blame at someone else and cry foul.  In fact, this might be just what has happened.  WSJ has an opinion piece up (h/t ROFASix)that argues that the fiasco that this has become has caused the wrong man to be fired, the only one, in fact, who might have been able to ameliorate the failures.

Doubtless, the VA and Walter Reed in particular have some gifted, motivated, well-trained and highly qualified individuals performing their jobs.  The very last thing that this head hunt should do is force these people into retirement or into a defensive posture.  The goal is to fix the problems, not find the culpable party.  There is enough blame to go around.

Intelligence Bulletin #3

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the third entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #3 covers the following subjects: [1] More forces deploy to Diyala province, [2] Disappearance of Jilal Sharafi yields intelligence bonanza, [3] More on international war against the CIA, [4] U.S. tracking whereabouts of al Sadr (and why his ‘strategic disappearance’ is necessary for the success of the security plan), [5] Balancing act by Saudi Arabia, [6] Martyrdom operations by Ansar al Sunna, and [7] Gates rolls back defense intelligence.

More Forces Deploy to Diyala Province

In The Surge and Coming Operations in Iraq we discussed the redeployment of insurgents from Baghdad to surrounding areas just prior to the implementation of the security plan, most particularly to the Diyala Province.  True to form, the insurgents are beginning to cause problems wherever they are, and more U.S. forces are being deployed to Diyala.

More than 700 U.S. troops rolled into Diyala on Tuesday in armored vehicles to help quell escalating violence in the Iraqi province that has become a haven for insurgents targeted by the Baghdad security crackdown.

The Army battalion was transferred from Taji to Baqubah, capital of the religiously mixed province that extends from Baghdad to the Iranian border, the military said. It joined about 3,500 U.S. troops already stationed there.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander for northern Iraq, had requested the reinforcements to confront a rise in sectarian and insurgent attacks in outlying regions since U.S. and Iraqi troops began a crackdown in Baghdad last month.

U.S. commanders believe insurgent fighters have moved into the province from Baghdad and Al Anbar, the western Iraqi province that is the center of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

“We see the Sunni insurgency trying to desperately gain control of Diyala, because it helps in their effort to control Baghdad and to prevent the government of Iraq from succeeding,” Mixon told Pentagon reporters via video link from Iraq last week.

U.S. officials did not specify how long the new battalion would be based in Diyala. But Mixon said he was “cautiously optimistic that in the next 30 to 60 days that we’re going to see some significant differences in the security situation in Diyala.”

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Monday that U.S. commanders had anticipated that the Baghdad crackdown could drive some insurgent and militia leaders into areas such as Diyala. He said troops would spread out into communities on Baghdad’s fringes, where insurgents are believed to be operating car-bomb factories (italics mine).

The talk of anticipating the influx of insurgents to Diyala seems forced.  If this had been properly anticipated as claimed, troops deployments should have been done to Diyala prior to implementation of the security plan.  Failure to do so doesn’t point to the need to avoid a heavy footprint in Iraq, since the tribal leaders in Diyala had requested that they be included within the security plan.  This appears to be a numbers problem.  Larger force size would have given U.S. command the ability to avoid the chase.

Disappearance of Jalal Sharafi Yields Intelligence Bonanza

The disappearance of Jalal Sharafi and five other Iranians has apparently yielded an intelligence bonanza for the U.S.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security has revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that it had no updates regarding its investigation into Jalal Sharafi’s disappearance early last month. Kidnapped in front of the Iranian state-owned Bank Melli in Baghdad, it is alleged that Sharafi was abducted by US-supported Iraqi Defense Ministry elements. Likewise, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the al Quds Brigade’s investigations have failed to yield any leads pertaining to their members who have disappeared in Iraq over the past few weeks.

According to statements made by an official from the Iranian armed forces, the possibility of the detention of eight members from the IRGC and five elements from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence by US forces was “likely?, as the concerned parties had no evidence of their escape …

Furthermore, the information supplied by the five Iranian officials detained in Irbil last month [US troops confiscated vast amounts of documents and computer data], considered highly classified information has facilitated and enabled US forces to arrest more figures from the IRGC and al Quds Brigade in Iraq.

In a humorous sidebar, it should be noted that Iran has demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq due to the fact our presence is fueling the violence.  In related news, General Petraeus has come out strongly concerning the role of Iran and Syria in Iraq.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq said in an interview released Monday that it’s “indisputable” Iran is training and arming militants to fight against U.S.-led troops in Iraq.

Gen. David Petraeus also told ABC News that suicide bombers are streaming across Iraq’s border from Syria and making their way into the country’s volatile western Anbar province.

His comments follow a harsh exchange of words over the weekend between the U.S. and Iran at a conference in Baghdad on Iraq’s security.

More on International War Against the CIA

In Intelligence Bulletins #1 and #2 we covered the international war against the CIA, exemplified in the formal charges against CIA agents in Italy and Germany, and we noted that the U.S. has refused any discussion of extradition.  The Strategy Page gives us a little more detail concerning how this war is shaping up and who the players are.

A new trend has emerged. Germany is charging 13 CIA operatives in connection with the capture of one suspected terrorist. Italy has charged 26 with the capture of another suspected terrorist. Again, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in involved with these efforts.

In essence, the CCR is trying to protect terrorists from the United States military. For an example of who they are protecting, one of their clients, Mohammed al Khatani, is worth a closer look. Khatani is believed to have been slated to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11. Information he gave up provided leads that enabled the break-up of terrorist cells before they could carry out attacks.

Khatani’s interrogation diary was leaked to Time Magazine in 2005. The methods used during the detainee’s interrogations were portrayed as routine. They were not – the techniques had been authorized as part of a special protocol. Naturally, human rights groups have been complaining about this, and their concerns are amplified by sympathetic news reports. Having lost in the legislative arena, they now have turned to foreign courts.

And the foreign courts are all too happy to oblige (although with all due respect to the Strategy Page, the war against the CIA has more players than just CCR).

U.S. Tracking Whereabouts of al Sadr

General David Petraeus said that discussions are ongoing with Sadr’s organization, adding that “over time the Mahdi Army, as with all the militias, has to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society in some fashion.  The militia will not be allowed to join the Iraqi security forces as an organization.”  We would dryly observe that unless Moqtada al Sadr himself is out of the picture, this is probably not possible.  It must be remembered that Sadr is not merely the spiritual leader of a movement.  He essentially commands the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Further, if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Balancing Act by Saudi Arabia

In Regional Wars in the Middle East we pointed out that Saudi Arabia has been equipping and training Sunni extremists in Iraq (as has Jordan).  But there is an interesting twist in the case.  Al Baghdadi claims that Saudi Arabia is trying to undermine the extremists in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is involved in a conspiracy to undermine the project of the Islamic State of Iraq, the group’s leader has announced in online remarks, according to a report in Arabic on al-Jazeera Net.

In a recording of spoken remarks, published online, a voice attributed to the figure known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, accuses the kingdom of attempting to break its link with its “popular base? in Iraq, by funding other armed groups to attack it, and involvement in a media campaign against it.

The recorded remarks continue on to claim responsibility for operations around Iraq, including the brazen raid on Badoush prison, near Mosul, last week which freed scores of prisoners.

And there is yet another twist given to us by the Strategy Page:

The war in Iraq has been very useful for Moslem nations trying to deal with Islamic radicals. Many of the most dangerous Islamic radicals have gone off to fight, and die, in Iraq. Those that come back home are far fewer than those who left, and easier to keep an eye on. Many are not transformed into “experienced terrorists” by their time in Iraq, but into disillusioned and shell shocked veterans of things they had not expected to encounter.

Most Islamic clerics have a hard time condemning the “martyrs” who “died for the faith.” But Islamic governments see an opportunity to overcome this, because in Iraq, the Islamic terrorists appear to have crossed the line. The numerous murders of Moslems, especially women and children (who are traditionally left alone when Moslems fight each other), has appalled most Moslems, and al Qaeda is way down in the popularity polls as a result. The Islamic radicals have openly condemned the new program to support moderate Islam, which indicates that this new policy may help. By declaring all “moderate Moslems” to be enemies, the Islamic radicals isolate themselves even more in the Islamic world.

The Saudi strategy seems to be to allow the radicals to cross the border into Iraq so that the U.S. can take care of the problem.  This has a beneficial side effect, in that a stronger Sunni population keeps the Shi’a in check, and thus prevents Iran from having complete control over Iraq as well as preventing the diminution of the Sunni presence in Iraq - or so the thinking goes.  After all, Iran is the biggest problem that Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt face.  After the removal of the Iraqi regime, the Middle East now lacks the strongman to hold Iran back.

But there is a huge difference between funding secular Sunnis, those who have been deposed from power and don’t like it, and religious lunatics like al Baghdadi.  The strengthening of the very enemies that could threaten the stability of the Saudi regime is risky and presents a bridge too far.  The goal is to assist those who would hold Iran in check, while also undercutting those who would be a risk not only to Iran, but the house of Saud as well.

Martyrdom Operations by Ansar al Sunna

The MEMRI blog has a description of recent martyrdom operations carried out in Mosul, and the description of the suicide bomber is important.

“Abu Al-Bara was the youngest son in his family. He told us that his mother loved him very much because he obeyed her and used to help her with the housework. A few days before he set out on the operation, his brothers the jihad fighters called his family in Syria, and he spoke with his mother and told her: ‘I bought a car and I am getting betrothed today. My brothers are with me and they are preparing to accompany me to the marriage ceremony.’ His mother replied, with tears in her voice: ‘Oh my son, do as you wish, and as Allah is my witness, I wish you and your brothers every success. Go on [your way], and may Allah bless you.’ Next, he spoke with his brothers and sisters and told them to obey Allah… and after finishing this call, he set out on the operation.”

Take note of where the suicide bomber calls home: Syria.

Gates Rolls Back Defense Intelligence

The National Journal has a must-read article on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to roll back defense intelligence.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is considering a plan to curtail the Pentagon’s clandestine spying activities, which were expanded by his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, after the 9/11 attacks. The undercover work allowed military personnel to collect intelligence about terrorists and to recruit spies in foreign countries independently of the CIA and without much congressional oversight.

Former military and intelligence officials, including those involved in an ongoing and largely informal debate about the military’s forays into espionage, said that Gates, a former CIA director, is likely to “roll back” several of Rumsfeld’s controversial initiatives. This could include changing the mission of the Pentagon’s Strategic Support Branch, an intelligence-gathering unit comprising Special Forces, military linguists, and interrogators that Rumsfeld set up to report directly to him. The unit’s teams work in many of the same countries where CIA case officers are trying to recruit spies, and the military and civilian sides have clashed as a result. CIA officers serving abroad have been roiled by what they see as the Pentagon’s encroachment on their dominance in the world of human intelligence-gathering.

A former senior intelligence official who knows Gates said that the secretary wants to “dismantle” many of the intelligence programs launched by Rumsfeld and his top lieutenants, Stephen Cambone, the former undersecretary for intelligence, and Douglas Feith, who was Rumsfeld’s policy chief. The former official added that the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has also expanded its human spying efforts, could be returned to a more analytical role.

Given the deplorable record of the CIA in HUMINT, Gates’ plan is completely inexplicable and perhaps headed for disaster.

Intelligence Bulletin #2

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the second entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #2 covers the following subjects: [1] victories and violence in Sunni areas, [2] Baghdad security operations: promise and problems, [3] Iraq awash in munitions, [4] distributed operations and snipers on the roof tops, [5] HUMINT and information warfare in Iraq, [6] update on Austrian sniper rifles in Iraq, [7] U.S. military preparedness degraded (special ops to grow?), [8] hard times at Walter Reed and the VA, [9] U.S. funding Iranian insurgency, and [10] update on international legal war against the CIA.

Victories and Violence in Sunni Areas

There is indication that AQI — and those who have chosen to align with them — may be wearing out their welcome in Iraq.  On Wednesday there was significant combat action near Fallujah, and the remarkable thing about this action was that it didn’t involve U.S. forces.

Iraqi security forces killed dozens of al Qaeda militants who attacked a village in western Anbar province on Wednesday, during fierce clashes that lasted much of the day, police officials said on Thursday …

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said foreign Arabs and Afghans were among some 80 militants killed and 50 captured in the clashes in Amiriyat al Falluja, an Anbar village where local tribes had opposed al Qaeda.

A police official in the area, Ahmed al-Falluji, put the number of militants killed at 70, with three police officers killed. There was no immediate verification of the numbers.

A U.S. military spokesman in the nearby city of Falluja, Major Jeff Pool, said U.S. forces were not involved in the battle but had received reports from Iraqi police that it lasted most of Wednesday. He could not confirm the number killed.

Another police source in Falluja put the figure at dozens.

“Because it was so many killed we can’t give an exact number for the death toll,” the police source told Reuters.

Witnesses said dozens of al Qaeda members attacked the village, prompting residents to flee and seek help from Iraqi security forces, who sent in police and soldiers.

Stars and Stripes gives us a similar recent report on population involvement in defeating the insurgency in the Sunni town of Hawijah.  It is so significant that large portions are reproduced below.

… even for a city with a “roughneck? reputation, the insurgent attack on Feb. 14 was ambitious.

Insurgents targeted five locations in the city and an American base nearby, destroying an Iraqi police station in the process.

“It was the first time we had seen such a large attack,? said 1st Lt. Gerald Lozauskas of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry. “Hawijah is violent, to say the least, but usually it’s very simple attacks. (Insurgents) were trying to take back the city.?

The assault backfired, U.S. military leaders said. Residents of Hawijah, who had been ardently anti-American, turned on the insurgents, to the shock of American forces.

“I have never seen anything like that before,? said 1st Lt. Nathanael Joslyn.

Hawijah is overshadowed in most ways by the more prosperous and strategically important Kurdish-led enclave of Kirkuk, about 43 miles to the northeast. But Hawijah has outstripped its neighbor in one dubious respect: the number of American casualties. The Hawaii-based 2-27 has lost 12 soldiers in seven months.

Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, the unit’s commander, has shaped many of the changes in Hawijah. But even for a commander who exudes tough assertiveness and confidence, there were moments when he wondered if the town was beyond repair.

“You begin to question almost immediately once you start losing soldiers if you will ever see success,? he said.

Hawijah is almost exclusively Sunni Arab, the ousted ruling class of the former regime, and residents took their fall from grace hard.

“The people were bitter,? Meyerowich said. “We were seen as occupiers.?

U.S. officials estimate coalition forces saw somewhere between 70 to 80 roadside bombs a month.

“There was a general mistrust,? Lozauskas said. “The city was such a hotbed.? Because of that, U.S. soldiers did a lot of “kicking in doors and tossing houses? when they first arrived.

But they shifted tactics and emphasized intelligence operations and humanitarian aid to win over residents. Residents received food and fuel along with messages that troops were there to help.

“That’s how this war has to be fought,? Lozauskas said. U.S. leaders also pushed the Iraqi army to take a more active role, stationing them on McHenry. The collaboration has not always been easy.

“All a U.S. soldier knows is to take the lead, take charge,? Lozauskas said. “It’s hard to understand that Iraqis need to be in the lead.?

Slowly results trickled in. Attacks once directed at U.S. troops shifted toward the Iraqis. Whether or not insurgents believed in the viability of the Iraqi army, it was clear that U.S. forces were determined to have them share the risks of policing Hawijah.

The culmination was a drive for police recruits that attracted more than 400 men, more than double the number expected.

Apparently, insurgents also had taken notice. The recruiting drive took place on Feb. 14.

When the first wave of attacks occurred that day, the would-be police officers had already left for the training academy in Kirkuk. “The insurgents didn’t know that,? Lozauskas said.

The article goes on to describe the battle scene, and then observes:

Their havoc complete, the insurgents began to melt away. Three attackers fled by car west out of the city with a U.S. helicopter close behind. A mile outside the city, they continued by foot and ran for the reeds.

The helicopter pilots later reported that while in pursuit, they noticed a crowd of 20 to 30 Iraqis gathering. Some men in the crowd had taken their shirts off and waved them in the air to attract the attention of the aircraft.

The crowd, their arms extended in unison, pointed to the reeds. Not content to just point out the men, however, the crowd took matters into their own hands. Armed with only sticks and their fists, they went after the insurgents and managed to drag one of the fugitives out, while the other two slipped away.

The crowd clubbed and tied the man until American forces arrived to take custody.

Rich Lowry’s ‘Pentagon Intel Guy’ notes the transition occurring in Anbar:

The recent bombings in ANBAR demonstrate red on red kinetic operations. Something which has been rare until the last few months. More and more Sunni tribes are pledging fealty to the Iraqi government and the Coalition and turning their back on the insurgents/AQI. This has caused them to be targeted.

We have seen the enemy bomb police recruitment drives, and now mosques of “apostate” Imams and Sheikhs who have sided with the Americans. This has happened twice in the last week. While the mainstream media considers this more proof of failure- it is actually a sign of the precarious position the terrorists are in. They need the Sunni population to protect them and shelter them. If they are now butchering them like everyone else- this could be a turning point in the relationship. This is crucial to watch. We need to protect the tribal leaders who have come over to us- and AQI knows that it is a death sentence for them if they can’t stop it.

Since the battle in Sunni areas is one for the heart and soul of Iraq by AQI and AAS, just as we have observed in the past, there will be an increase in the terror and brutality against the Sunnis who have aligned with the government, since brutality is the primary weapon of AQI.  There has also been an increase in U.S. casualties over the past couple of months, attributable directly to the end-battle with AQI.

So there are positive aspects to the operations in Anbar, but AQI is still in existence and will fight furiously for survival.  In Ramadi, there are still snipers everywhere, and Anbar is still the most dangerous place on earth.

Baghdad Security Operations: Promise and Problems

There has previously been action taken against the Sadrists, but no concerted effort to clear the Shi’ite neighborhoods of the rogue elements.  This is all changing.  The Baghdad security plan shifts into fourth gear in the coming weeks, targeting not only AQI, but Sadr City as well.

U.S. and Iraqi troops will soon launch a major sweep in the Shi’ite militia bastion of Sadr City, military officials said on Thursday, a pivotal moment for the make-or-break security crackdown in Baghdad.

American-led forces have conducted targeted raids in the Mehdi Army militia stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr aimed at death squad leaders, but have so far held off from a concerted push into the teeming slum.

In the new campaign, U.S. and Iraqi troops will set up joint checkpoints in Sadr City and conduct large-scale door-to-door operations on houses and buildings, a significant escalation in a plan regarded as the last chance to avert sectarian civil war …

“We have conducted special operations in Sadr City for some months but this will be the first time we will launch full-scale operations there and the first time we will have a permanent presence there,” said Colonel Billy Don Farris, coalition forces commander for Sadr City and Adhamiya neighborhoods.

“There will be no sanctuaries in Iraq. We are going to go to every building and every house and incrementally clear the area. We will target any group that attacks Iraqi and U.S. troops,” he told Reuters.

But this is still primarily a U.S. operation.  Many of the Iraqi troops deployed to Baghdad are no-shows, and the some of the ones who have shown up are Kurds who face a language and culture barrier.  Ralph Peters has a slightly optimistic but still sober assessment of the current Baghdad situation.  But here at TCJ, we believe that the most important question remaining to be answered is not whether temporary security can be brought to Baghdad.  With enough effort Baghdad can be pacified.  The real question is whether it will remain this way after “the surge,” and in order to answer that question, we must first answer the question “will Sadr be allowed to return?”  If the answer is “no,” then permanent security may result from these operations, assuming that the Sunni insurgency is quieted.  If the answer is “yes,” then in our assessment it is a strategic blunder of epic proportions to continue to expend American lives and resources to pacify Baghdad.  If Sadr returns, the ethnic purging will continue when the U.S. stands down and the surge has ended.  After that, Iraq will be tightly allied to Iran and thus the U.S. will not have Iraq as an ally in the global war on terror.  This result is not worth another American life.

Iraq Awash in Munitions

Within the past couple of weeks, the Multi-National Force web site has focused a dizzying amount of attention on weapons caches, including (but not limited to) the following six press releases:

This is of course partially a result of the increased kinetic action as part of the security plan.  But the weapons, in addition to being shipped in from Syria and Iran, were there under the previous regime.

Four years after the Iraq war began, the country remains awash in Saddam-era munitions that provide key ingredients for homemade bombs used against U.S. troops, according to administration documents and military officials.

More than $1 billion has been spent to clear about 15,000 sites of the unsecured weapons. To clear the remaining 3,391 sites, the Pentagon says it needs part of a $1.2 billion request for items to protect U.S. troops in Iraq …

More than 400,000 tons of weapons have been destroyed, and another 19,000 tons have been set aside for the Iraqi army, he said.

“There’s no telling how many soldiers and Iraqi civilians that we’ve saved by the amount of stuff we’re taking off the streets,” Sargent said.

In yet another reminder of the effects of inadequate force size, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Army officer, said there weren’t enough U.S. troops in Iraq to destroy the weapons.  Here at TCJ we agree with that assessment.

This is why the Small Wars Manual recommends increasing force size until no longer necessary and disarming the population, counsel that wasn’t followed after OIF1.

Distributed Operations and Snipers on the Roof Tops

We have been a proponent of the robust use of non-conventional assets in the counterinsurgency in Iraq, and this is not intended to point to the use of Special Operations Forces.  In Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops and Unleash the Snipers! (where it was recommended that Marines use their rifle skills as snipers, augmenting or adding to the teams of snipers) we proposed a method for addressing the sniper threat in Anbar that should be seen in the light of a recent entry at the Strategy Page on distributed operations:

SOCOM (Special Operations Command), the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are trying to come up with a working version of “distributed operations.” What they are looking for is a way to let many small (from 10-30) groups of infantry operate out of sight (and thus mutual support of) each other. This is nothing new. It’s actually an ancient practice, and the troops doing it have come to be called “light infantry.” That term has also come to mean infantry who don’t operate out of armored vehicles, but just ignore that one for now. Classic light infantry were used to harass the enemy, or just keep an eye on the opposing troops. Light infantry were just that, light, and not capable of standing up to the advance of regular infantry.

Ever since the 1920s, generals have tried to develop a modern version of classic light infantry, one that could use distant artillery, or warplanes overhead, to handle just about anything. By the 1960s, the concept finally found a way to work, in the form of elite recon or Special Forces troops. These small teams (usually less than dozen men) had radios and knew how to call in air or artillery strikes. These guys also knew how to stay out of sight, and evade contact with enemy troops. This last skill was essential, even more so than it always has been for light infantry.

While SOCOM has lots of troops who can do this sort of thing, the marines and the army do not, and they want to change that. The marines and the army do have long range recon units, who can handle this modern “light infantry” sort of thing, but the LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) troops are not supposed to be calling in firepower, but mainly collecting information. The problem with training more modern light infantry is just that, it requires lots of additional skills. That takes more time, and only a fraction of current infantry could absorb all those new skills. That’s why there are so few Special Forces and LRRP troops.

This kind of thinking is seen as risky partly because it is, but also because it does not comport with the doctrine of force protection.  But rather than see the danger in this type of tactic, we recommend seeing it as crucial to the success of OIF.  In fact, it is being currently implemented in the Baghdad security plan by the use of snipers:

While some areas of Baghdad are calm, house-to-house searching and deadly attacks continue in others. American forces conducted several raids in Baghdad al-Jadida. In the Sha’ab area, IEDs are a particular danger, even though the US is patrolling for them. US forces have stationed snipers on many buildings in the area.

Distributed operations.  Just so. 

HUMINT and Information Warfare in Iraq

The Guardian and Aljazeera published the same report several days ago, where a bomb was alleged to have killed eighteen children at a playground.  Here at TCJ, we saw this story as being dubious from the beginning for reasons to lengthy to detail here.  As it turns out, Stars and Stripes (and other news outlets) gives us the real story behind this incident:

RAMADI, Iraq — When it comes to the fog of war, things don’t get any clearer when viewed through the Internet’s deadline-a-minute news cycle. At least that’s the conclusion some may draw from a recent blizzard of confusing reports on an explosion in Ramadi’s violent downtown Tuesday evening.

One widespread report — that 16 children were killed by a car bomb while playing soccer in downtown Ramadi — was offered up by Iraqi police sources and local tribal leaders. According the U.S. military, it is entirely false.

While insurgents have repeatedly used car bombs to kill Ramadi officials and civilians (15 people, mostly adults, died in a car bomb blast Monday), the U.S. military said no car bombings occurred in southeast Ramadi at the time of the reported soccer field bombing.

What did happen, they said, was that 31 men, women and children were injured when U.S. bomb disposal technicians conducted a “controlled detonation? of seized explosives and propane tanks and misjudged the size of the blast. The blast occurred around 5:30 p.m., and all but one of the injured were civilians.

“The blast was much larger than expected, shattering glass in surrounding buildings and injuring the civilians,? a U.S. news release read. The victims were struck by flying glass and debris; none of the injuries appeared to be life threatening.

Despite the fact that no soccer field bombing occurred, media across the globe seized on the story. Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times carried quotes from the offices of President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemning the bombing. Maliki blamed “criminal gangs? for the “crime against children in their innocent playgrounds.?

At best, the confusion was the result of simple coincidence. Tuesday’s controlled blast by U.S. forces occurred after the discovery of a dump truck containing explosives. Experts disabled the truck bomb and searched for more ordnance, discovering 15 rice bags filled with a substance that appeared to be explosives as well as a dozen propane tanks.

The story is important not just because of its own merit, but also in that it shows that information warfare is occurring in Iraq.  This specific example is the first tier, but there is a higher tier that is even more important, and it involves human intelligence.  At a recent symposium on Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, the following viewpoint was expressed:

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 28, 2007 – The United States should approach the global war on terrorism as it would an insurgency, a senior military official said today at the 18th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium here.

“If we look at is as terrorism, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to kill or capture all the terrorists. That’s a never-ending process,? Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support, said.

“We’ll never be successful, we’ll never get there, if we think that’s the primary solution,? he said. “But if we approach it from the perspective of an insurgency, we use the seven elements of national power.?

The general defined the seven elements of national power as diplomacy, military, economy, finance, law enforcement, information and intelligence. Focusing on the latter two elements in a keynote speech here, Boykin first discussed the shortcomings of the U.S.’s information capability.

“In the information age,? he said, “information should be something we’re good at, … and I do not believe that to be the case.

For the Defense Department, human intelligence is “much broader than clandestine operations,? Boykin said. “Interrogations and debriefings, the things our attaches do, two guys in a spider hole putting eyes on a target is human intelligence? …

Boykin said the Defense Department has been working “hand in glove with the CIA? on rebuilding DoD’s HUMINT capabilities. “Now that we’re in an insurgency, there’s nothing more important than human intelligence,? he said. “We need to leverage every HUMINT capability.

Here at TCJ we agree wholeheartedly with this opinion.  HUMINT — and the means to develop it — was eviscerated in the Clinton years, and rebuilding it has been difficult.  The article cited above goes on to argue for the centralization of HUMINT resources, a position that we do not necessarily advocate.  But we do concur with the need for resourcing and cooperation in order to maximize the value of the information upon which we act.  We especially like the notion of “two guys in a spider whole putting eyes on a target” as being the best intelligence.

Update on Austrian Sniper Rifles in Iraq

In Intelligence Bulletin #1, we covered the issue of the Austrian sniper rifles, eight hundred of them, ordered by Iran, with one hundred of them said to be recently captured inside Iraq.  We are still following this story, but it is noteworthy that IraqSlogger has posted an article questioning the accuracy of the report (perhaps to the point of excoriating the Telegraph article).  We believe that IraqSlogger was too hard on the Telegraph, and may not be privy to the evidence they possess or sources they use.  However, more significant in our opinion is the interesting Stratfor article on the same subject, amended with the following editorial note at the beginning of the article:

Editor’s Note: In our ongoing investigation of the presence of Steyr HS.50 sniper rifles in Iraq, we have been unable to confirm an initial report that any of the specific weapons referred to in the following analysis have, in fact, turned up in the country. We will continue to examine this issue.

One source indicates to me that the number of rifles captured (at one hundred) is likely highly inflated.  We will continue to follow this story and report on what we learn.

U.S. Military Readiness Degraded

We have earlier noted that a confluence of things has caused a degradation in the military readiness and the ability to conduct concurrent campaigns, including (what we believe to be) over-commitments of troops and resources in the Far East and Europe, and the effect of more than four years of warfare in the Middle East on men, morale and equipment.  The so-called “surge” has had troubling ramifications for men and equipment as shown by recent testimony before the Congress:

Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said.

The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties, according to Army and Marine Corps leaders.

“The response would be slower than we might like, we would not have all of the equipment sets that ordinarily would be the case, and there is certainly risk associated with that,? the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, told the House Armed Services Committee last week.

President Bush’s plan to send five additional U.S. combat brigades into Iraq has left the Army and Marines scrambling to ensure that the troops could be supported with the necessary armored vehicles, jamming devices, radios and other gear, as well as lodging and other logistics.

Trucks are in particularly short supply. For example, the Army would need 1,500 specially outfitted — known as “up-armored? — 2 1/2 -ton and five-ton trucks in Iraq for the incoming units, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for force development.

“We don’t have the [armor] kits, and we don’t have the trucks,? Speakes said in an interview. He said it will take the Army months, probably until summer, to supply and outfit the additional trucks. As a result, he said, combat units flowing into Iraq would have to share the trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance.

General Peter Pace has made it even clearer that the warfighting capability of the U.S. armed forces is eroding:

Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace’s review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Pace’s report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

The review grades the military’s ability to meet the demands of the nation’s military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Cuba or China.

The debacle concerning readiness didn’t come about ex nihilo.  It has been years in the making.  As stated by one officer,

The politicians mentally went to war with the Army built by Reagan when in actuality they went to war with the Army which was decimated by Bush 41/Clinton.

More here.  Also, concerning special operations, Major Cliff Gilmore sends us notification of the first aniversary of Marines special forces, and sends us to the MARSOC web site.  In an attempt to elicit a reaction, several years ago we asked a marine if there were marine special operations, and he replied, “sir, we are special.”  Indeed.  Major Gilmore has worked hard to convince us of the rationale for MARSOC, while we still politely question whether the idea of recon that has to be “attached” to a unit really comports with the doctrine of the self-contained expeditionary force that trains together.  But Major Gilmore reminds us that there is a difference between “special,” and “specialized.”  Major Gilmore informs us that the work has paid dividends, and there are currently small units of Marine special ops already deployed and active.

Concerning special operations, there is expected to be a growth in the size of special operations in the future.  But Michael Fumento has a good reality-check of this idea, and his article is recommended reading.

Hard Times at Walter Reed and the VA

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was troubled by reports a few weeks ago concering out-patient care of wounded veterans, and the threats started:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday branded the outpatient care of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan “unacceptable” and promised officials would be held accountable for the failings.

The Bush administration has scrambled to address problems at the flagship Walter Reed Army Medical Center after newspaper reports showed wounded troops were living in shoddy conditions and struggling with bureaucratic procedures.

“After the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable,” Gates said on a visit to the hospital, making his first public comments on the issue.

The stunning and troubling exposé done by Bob Woodruff on traumatic brain injury — and the lack of readiness to deal with out-patient care even at this late date — probably didn’t help matters.  It appears that when Bob Gates threatens, he is not merely engaging in chest-pounding.  The head of Walter Reed Medical Center has been sacked:

The Army on Thursday fired the general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, saying he was the wrong person to fix embarrassing failures in the treatment of war-injured soldiers that have soiled the institution’s reputation as a first-class hospital.

Less than a week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Walter Reed and said those responsible would be “held accountable,” the Army announced it had relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman of command. He is a physician who had headed the hospital for only six months.

In defense of Weightman, six months is probably not long enough to get the lay of the land, and the Woodruff story on TBI showed the hard work by Walter Reed, as opposed to the awful state of affairs with out-patient care back home after discharge by Walter Reed.  It doesn’t matter now: Weightman is sacked.  And for the foreseeable future, there will likely be some blood-letting at Walter Reed and the VA.  On the issue of out-patient care of veterans suffering from TBI, there is absolutely no excuse for loss of paperwork with veterans sitting at home unable to get care.  None.  Look for a very much needed revamping of the procedures and protocol for out-patient care.

U.S. Funding Iranian Insurgency

As we discussed in The Covert War with Iran, there is significant Iranian activity inside of Iraq, and currently Iran is actively recruiting Shi’ite elements in Iraq for their insurgency.

Iran has recruited its own network of Iraqi Shi’ite extremists to use armor-piercing weapons against U.S. and coalition forces rather than against Sunni rivals, current and former intelligence officials say.

The secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has circumvented Shi’ite organizations like the Mehdi Army to enlist individual militants and train them in the use of explosively formed penetrators, the officials said.

The weapons, known as EFPs, have killed 170 U.S.-led coalition troops, according to the Pentagon. U.S. officials have said these weapons have come into greater use over the past year.

“The purpose appears not to be to shore up Iran’s political partners in Iraq against the Sunnis, but to cause problems for American troops,” said a former intelligence official who closely monitors events in the Middle East.

There may be dual motives in the Iranian-fueled insurgency.  Continuing:

Some experts believe Iran has supplied traceable weapons to show the United States what ground troops might face in any military intervention.

“Tensions between these two countries have escalated dramatically since 2003, and everybody has suspected for a long time that Iraq could become a battlefield,” said Vali Nasr, Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School.

“I’m sure these (munitions) have been used to let it be known that the Iranians have these capabilities in Iraq.”

Added an intelligence source: “They could be saying, ‘This is the merest taste of what you would face if you came across the border or bombed us or knocked out our nuclear reactors’.”

Iran is under pressure to abandon enrichment activities that Washington believes are aimed at developing nuclear arms, a charge Tehran denies. Bush has said repeatedly the United States is not planning a war and the administration this week opened the door to dialogue with Iran and Syria over Iraq.

But combative U.S. rhetoric and America’s military build-up in the Gulf have fueled worries about a U.S. attack.

Others believe the increasing use of EFPs may be linked to Tehran’s suspicions of covert U.S. and British operations inside Iran, where tensions among minority Arabs, Kurds and others have led to violence.

Former intelligence officials who monitor the Middle East said a covert Pentagon operation set up by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used ethnic separatists as U.S. proxies in Iran.

“Incidents, particularly among the Arab minority inside Iran, have caused the Iranians some problems,” said one former official. “Speculation is that this is their tit-for-tat.”

Seymour Hersh has recently reported that the U.S. is funding radical Sunni groups to counter the Shi’ite groups backed by Iran (note that Hersh routinely writes without sourcing his articles, and we question the main thesis of this one).  When asked whether the Shi’ite police in Iraq were being trained, Hersh responded:

Well — the Shia police, no. Here’s the wonderful irony of it, of course, is that after 9/11, after we invaded Iraq, the neoconservatives in Washington wanted nothing to do with the Baathist party — that’s Saddam’s party, most of them were Sunnis — disbanded the Baathist party, disbanded the military — a lot of Sunnis, a lot of Shia in the military, too, of course — and threw in our weight with the Shia.

Within months, the American intelligence community was raising a lot of questions internally. I was talking to people about this by the late spring of ’03. They were trying to tell the White House: you guys are making a big mistake, because Iran is the big winner of this war, particularly when we began to see signs of the insurgency, and the Shia are going to support Iran. The Shia are going to go with the Shia of Iran over you.

And the neocon mantra — there had been a war between Iran and Iraq for eight years during the 1980s, a very, very devastating war, thousands killed in any one set-piece battle. They would just rush each other. And the assumption of the neoconservatives was that the Iraqi Shiites, having fought the Iranian Shiites for so long and so brutally, would be loyal to Iraq.

Well, it turned out the Shia tie, particularly when the occupation began and the American troops began, like all occupiers, became hated, I don’t think there was much we could do. We certainly — our activities and the bombing and the violence didn’t help, but no matter how we behave, occupiers historically are always hated. And so, once that happened, and we became — the Americans became essentially the 200-octane fuel that drove the resistance, once that began, the Shiite immediately began to work with the Iranians much more. And all of this was ignored by the White House for years, because it didn’t fit in with their preconceptions.

We thoroughly disagree with Hersh’s absurd description of the U.S. as the “200-octane fuel that drove the resistance,” and it seems that Hersch is as biased as he accuses the “neocons” of being.  Furthermore, there have been serious questions raised as to the journalistic merit of Hersh’s article.  But it is of interest that the American IC saw this early on — or at least, so says Hersh.  If true, this is one more way in which proper planning for the war after the war was not done, adding to the already long list including IEDs, the sniper threat, the lack of State Department involvement in Iraq reconstruction, and the lack of troop size to provide a blanket of security in Iraq so that politics could have a chance to take root.

Update on International Legal War Against the CIA

In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we covered the legal action against CIA agents in both Germany and Italy, the wet blanket that this type of thing throws over the international intelligence community, and the possibility that extradition of these agents would be requested.  As a brief followup to this, it should be noted that recent indications are that the “war” against the CIA might be active in the legal communities but not in the seats of power.

The United States will refuse any Italian extradition request for CIA agents indicted in the alleged abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

“We’ve not got an extradition request from Italy. If we got an extradition request from Italy, we would not extradite U.S. officials to Italy,” John Bellinger, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told journalists after meeting legal advisers to EU governments.

Milan prosecutors want the Italian government to forward to Washington their request for the extradition of the 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents. The previous government of Silvio Berlusconi refused, and Premier Romano Prodi’s center-left government has indicated it would not press Washington on the issue.

The 26 are accused in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in 2003.

Nasr allegedly was taken to Aviano Air Base near Venice, Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany, and then to Egypt, where he was held for four years and, according to his lawyer, tortured. He has been freed by an Egyptian court that ruled his detention was “unfounded.”

In a newspaper interview earlier this month, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella suggested the government would not seek the Americans’ extradition, saying that the friendship with Washington needed to be safeguarded.

The decision on whether or not to forward an extradition request would normally be made by the Justice Ministry. But in this case, Mastella has said the decision will be made by the whole government because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Still holding true, however, is our earlier observation that the careers of the CIA agents in question essentially become straight-jacketed.  They cannot enter countries that have extradition treaties with the Italy.  It is one thing for Italy not to force extradition from the U.S.; it is entirely another for the rest of the world.

Intelligence Bulletin #1

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

Intelligence bulletin #1 covers the following subjects: [1] Iran’s Quds forces, [2] international war against the CIA, [3] recent combat action in Ramadi, [4] State Department unauthorized absence in the global war on terror, [5] British pullback from Iraq and the Mahdi army, [6] Iranian activities inside Iraq and Israeli concerns, [7] the M-16, [8] speculation on thermobaric weapons inside Iraq, [9] the wounded, and [10] A-10 flyover video.

Iran’s Quds forces

The Quds Force is an arm of the IRGC that carries out operations outside of Iran.  The AP recently reported on Iran’s highly secretive Quds forces being deeply enmeshed within Iraq:

Iran’s secretive Quds Force, accused by the United States of arming Iraqi militants with deadly bomb-making material, has built up an extensive network in the war-torn country, recruiting Iraqis and supporting not only Shiite militias but also Shiites allied with Washington, experts say.

Iran likely does not want a direct confrontation with American troops in Iraq but is backing militiamen to ensure Shiites win any future civil war with Iraqi Sunnis after the Americans leave, several experts said Thursday.

The Quds Force’s role underlines how deeply enmeshed Iran is in its neighbor — and how the U.S. could face resistance even from its allies in Iraq if it tries to uproot Iran’s influence in Iraq.

But as quickly as the connection between the Shi’ite insurgency and Iran is pointed out, the report equivocates, saying “still unclear, however, is how closely Iran’s top leadership is directing the Quds Force’s operations — and whether Iran has intended for its help to Shiite militias to be turned against U.S. forces.”  This line is parroted in a recent Los Angeles Times article on the same subject, as the subtitle reads “Does the government control the Quds Force? Experts aren’t sure.”  Picking up on the same AP report, Newsday says the same thing.

As I discussed in The Covert War with Iran, the deep involvement of the Quds Forces, Badr Brigade and other Iranian personnel assets in Iraq is undeniable.  But it is fashionable to bifurcate the actions of the Quds and Badr Brigade from the “highest levels of government in Iran.”  Even General Peter Pace does this, recently saying after reviewing the intelligence on Iran’s involvement in Iraq, “that does not translate that the Iranian Government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this…What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers.?  This reply paints Pace in a bad light, as Tony Snow responded when asked if we were confident that the shaped explosives were delivered to Iraq with the explicit ok of the Iranian Government, “yes.?

If it is admitted that Iran’s involvement is intentional and goes to the highest levels of the government, then the conversation backdrop changes from one of a country “which is merely trying to secure its position in the region in the potential absence of U.S. forces,” to one of a country “which is at direct war with Iraq and the U.S. by covert means.”  The question becomes one not only pertaining to the success of OIF, but of the overall regional war in which the U.S. is now engaged.  At least Iran has no problem admitting the regional nature of the conflict.

International War Against the CIA

The Washington Times reports on Germany having issued arrest warrants on 13 CIA agents that they say are suspected in an abduction of a German citizen in what is alleged to be an anti-terrorist operation “gone wrong.”  Similarly, in Italy a judge has ordered 26 Americans, most of them thought to be CIA agents, to stand trial along with Italian spies for the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric, who says he was flown to Egypt and tortured.  This should be seen as more than a warning shot over the bow of the international intelligence community.  The proper context is a covert war against the CIA, where unilateral action meets quick reaction in the courts of the “offended” country.  Such, it should be noted, are the perils of participation in the international courts.  As it is, if convicted these agents merely lose their ability to travel to countries who have extradition treaties with Italy or Germany.  If the U.S. assists Italy or Germany, or if in the future the U.S. participates in the international courts, these agents could end up in prison overseas.

Consistent with the same theme, a U.S. soldier is on trial in absentia in an Italian court for a March, 2005, “killing” of an Italian in Iraq who did not heed warnings at a checkpoint.  This instance also raises again the important issue of rules of engagement.  As one officer writes to me, this soldier now has to avoid travel to countries which have extradition treaties with Italy.  And this, for the rest of his life — for doing the job that America asked him to do.

Recent Combat Action in Ramadi

February 22 saw intense combat action in Ramadi between U.S. forces and insurgents:

U.S. troops battled insurgents in fierce fighting that killed at least 12 people in the volatile Sunni city of Ramadi, the military said Thursday. Iraqi authorities said the dead included women and children.

The six-hour firefight began after U.S. troops were attacked by insurgents with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades Wednesday evening in eastern Ramadi, said marine spokesman 1st Lt. Shawn Mercer.

The fighting ended after “precision-guided munitions” damaged a number of buildings being used by the insurgents, he said. Twelve insurgents were killed and three wounded, Mercer said. He said there were no civilian casualties.

However, Dr. Hafidh Ibrahim of the Ramadi Hospital said 26 people, including four women and children, were killed when three houses were damaged in the fighting.

One local news station in Minnesota led the story with the headline “Women and children killed in fighting in Ramadi.”  The Middle East Online even reverses this story and headlines with “Marines kill civilians, claim killing Iraqi insurgents.”  Assuming for a minute the accuracy of the assertion that women and children were killed in the combat action, since “precision-guided munitions” were used the result was not a consequence of area bombardment either with artilliery or air-delivered munitions.  For those who would amend the outcome of this battle if it were possible, we are forced to ponder just what action was taken that should not have been, or what action should have been taken that wasn’t.

Turning away from the battle because there may be non-combatants in the structures means that the U.S. is confiming the insurgents in their choice of tactics.  If the U.S. will not fire upon insurgents inside structures, then the insurgents have safe haven from which to conduct offensive operations.  On the other hand, if the reader prefers room clearing operations to precision-guided munitions, then the choice is being made to sacrifice U.S. lives because there may be non-combatants in the structures, these operations themselves also being subject to killing of non-combatants.  Room clearing operations are highly casualty-laden operations, and in a battle such as was described here, there would certainly have been U.S. troops deaths had they conducted these operations.

Once again this turns to the issue of rules of engagement, which have been covered in the following articles:

There is also an article by Colonel W. Hays Parks, published in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, entitled Deadly Force is Authorized, that is recommended reading.

Absence of the State Department in the GWOT

On February 22, 2007, in my article Modern Counterinsurgency, I said:

But the Marines are frustrated, many with visions of OIF1 in their head.  Marines who have become experts at squad rushes and “closing with and destroying the enemy by fire and maneuver? are instead called to be social workers.  While the Marines can accomodate and adapt, the necessity to do this exists because the bumbling State Department has yet to engage in the global war on terror and thus hasn’t the people or infrastructure in place in Iraq to effect the vision of nation-building.

Chris Muir, recently back from an embed in Iraq, e-mailed Glenn Reynolds, and on February 23, 2007, Glenn published the note from Chris at Instapundit, including this snippet:

The State Department appears completely absent from the theatre, and the Army has done the work of infrastructure projects & rebuild, community relations, political organization, etc.

When I look around my home here this morning, I appreciate more readily the invisible but strong level of infrastructure only possible with an organization and co-operation of a society. This is what I saw the Army doing for Iraqis from scratch, and as they reiterated to me there, it ‘will take time’ for the Iraqis to get to that day.

Chris should have also mentioned the Marines in his note.  At Fort Leavenworth, officers recently discussed strategy for Iraq.  The following poignant observation was made by Brig. Gen. Mark O’Neill (h/t Small Wars Journal):

Part of the strategy being implemented by Petraeus and Iraqi forces is to station soldiers in smaller units in neighborhoods to keep their presence before the population. Keeping that constant face of security is critical, officers said, in gaining legitimacy for the Iraqi forces and improving their ability to provide security with little or no U.S. support.

O’Neill said the fight would remain difficult, but success is still possible.

“You’re up to your hips in it,” he said. “You don’t have the luxury of not being fully committed.”

But this is exactly what is occurring.  The State Department has been granted the luxury of not being fully committed.  The Army and Marines are at war, with the State Department UA.  Thousands of State Department employees, many who majored in international studies in college, read literature written by others on international relations and talk about talking.  Meanwhile, men who trained to perform battlefield maneuvers worry about and work on water, electricity, government, language and sectarian reconciliation on scene in Iraq.  So much for the college degrees in international studies.

British Pullback from Iraq and the Mahdi Army

The Brits have announced their pullback from Basra.  The usually brilliant Mark Steyn observes that Blair is having political troubles at home, but then defends Blair by saying:

If their job is all but done in the Shia south, why could not Blair redeploy British troops to Baghdad to share some of the burden of the Yankee surge? Well, because it’s simply not politically possible. Not even for a leader who shares exactly the same view of the Islamist threat and the importance of victory in Iraq as President Bush.

The misguided part is not that Blair cannot achieve redeployment of the British troops to Baghdad because of lack of political support.  This is true.  Rather, it is in calling the job “all but done” in Basra.  In fact, the pullback is being called a defeat.  There has been a degeneration in security for the British forces over the past couple of years (h/t SWJ):

Richard Beeston, diplomatic editor of The Times of London recently returned from a visit to Basra, his first since 2003. He says in 2003, British soldiers were on foot patrol, drove through town in unarmored vehicles and fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off. He says the changes he saw four years later are enormous.

“Nowadays all troop movement in and out of the city are conducted at night by helicopter because it’s been deemed too dangerous to go on the road and its dangerous to fly choppers during the day,” he says.

Beeston says during his latest visit, he noticed a map of the city in one of the military briefing rooms. About half of the city was marked as no-go areas.

IraqSlogger reports that the Mahdi army is in de facto control of Basra; the same organization the U.S. is battling in Baghdad has the loyalties of the police in Basra:

The town’s police is efficient, albeit dominated by members of the Mahdi, a Shiite militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. According to journalist Ghalid Khazal, 75 percent of the city’s police officers follow orders from Sadr headquarters. That number is roughly the same as that mentioned by General Major Hassan Sawadi, the former police chief of Basra, one and a half years ago, when he said. “I estimate that 80 percent of the force’s members do not obey my orders.”

All of this raises again the important question of Moqtada al Sadr.  The New York Times has an article that discusses the divided loyalties of the Mahdi army, summarized by IraqSlogger:

“Every question about Mr. Sadr’s motives touches on a different facet of Iraq’s future,? Damien Cave writes in the Times. Most interesting in Cave’s important review of Sadr’s position is his description of the cleric’s complex relationship to Iran, which both enables and undermines Sadr by aiding him directly, while at the same time supporting lower tiers of the Sadrist organization, encouraging them to be more independent. Sadr has responded by protecting loyal members from the security clampdown and purging disloyal elements, going so far as withholding protection to them from the Iraqi or American forces. Cave’s article is by far the most important Iraq article of the day and should be required reading for all those war pundits who still write about Sadr’s organization as though it were a monolithic and unitary force in Iraqi politics. That may be Sadr’s goal, but it’s not the reality. In the midst of the security clampdown, the Sadrist current is undergoing a centralization campaign, and its complex relationships with both Iran and the Iraqi government include both rivalry and partnership.

We have known for some time that the Mahdi army is a loosely coupled organization, and it appears as if Sadr is willing to sacrifice some of the more delinquent elements of his organization to save the whole.  When the whole is thus saved, it will still be friendly to Iran.  Michael Ledeen has some interesting remarks concerning Sadr and the NYT article.

Iranian Activities Inside Iraq

Austrian 0.50 caliber sniper rifles have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi insurgents, these rifles being ordered from an Austrian firm by the Iranian government.

More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids.  The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year.  This leaves approximately 700 more high-powered rifles potentially in the hands of insurgents, with direct responsibility attributed to Iran.  These rounds are not only easily capable of penetrating body armor, but also HMMWV armor as well (even up-armored HMMWVs).

Not limited to land, Iranian patrol boats have been probing Iraqi waters.  Iran has vowed not to ‘retreat one iota’ from its nuclear pursuit, and appears to be on course with the development of highly enriched Uranium for the purpose of a nuclear weapon.  The U.S. has contingency plans for an air strike on Iran, these plans making the British fearful.  Tony Blair has come out directly against military action, and Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to take the military option off of the table.

Unless the U.S. is in the region for years to come, it is doubtful that efforts to curb Iranian influence will be successful.  However, in spite of the lack of willingness to admit to the regional conflict in which we are now engaged, the situation may in fact force itself on the scene due to circumstances completely beyond our control.  Israel has asked the U.S. for permission to use Iraqi air space in an over-flight to target Iranian nuclear facilities.  Note well that Israel requested permission from the U.S., not Iraq.

The U.S. is under what the U.N. security council calls a ‘security partnership‘ with Iraq.  Sovereignty over the air space is questionable at this point if we have regard for the U.N. resolution (a position which I am not advocating).  But Israel, assuming that the U.S. will grant the permission, is on the clock.  They know that the troops will be coming home, and then there is no appeal.  The Iraqi government will not grant access to attack Iran.  In fact, they will warn Iran of the impending strike.  The current administration is in power for two more years, and Israel will not wait until after they leave office.  Olmert has likened Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon to a second holocaust, and he is relatively dovish compared to his possible successor Netanyahu.

The upshot of all of this is that in order for Israel to secure its future against a nuclear Iran, the next two years are not just vital.  They are literally determinative.  The next administration may not be the ally of Israel that this one is, and thus Olmert or his successor cannot entrust their security to the U.S. beyond the next two years.  The clock is ticking on a nuclear Iran and air strikes to stop them.

M-16

Every so often the issue of the M-16 comes up.  I published some thoughts on it in Kill Versus Wound — The M16A2 .22 Caliber Round.  I have been following the issue of the M16 and more discussion has occurred recently.  I also recently enjoyed shooting an M4 (actually, A-15, M4 mil specs) on a range in Pickens, S.C.  Eugene Stoner is universally regarded as a genius for the design of the Stoner system of armaments, and properly so.  The rifle I shot was light, tight, compact and accurate, and the sights could be trained on the target quickly due to the minimal recoil.  In my opinion it is a magnificent weapon (with one significant caveat).

The Strategy Page recently had informative article on the 5.56 mm round:

The debate over the merits of 7.62mm versus 5.56mm bullets has been going on since the M-16 was introduced in the 1960s. While each side has its proponents, only the “slow and heavy” crowd gets anything published, since only opposing the establishment is news. But there are plenty of supporters for the 5.56mm round. Many of them are in the US Army, and serving in combat.

Most of the complaints come from people who just like the larger (US or Russian) round, and their preference is more visceral than logical (as it is with many supporters of 5.56mm). The fact remains that soldiers would be able to carry fewer of the larger, 7.62mm, rounds. This is not a popular option among troops in the combat zone. Those combat troops know how to aim properly and take down the target, and find that the 5.56mm round does the job.

When a 5.56mm round hits one of those “slender” targets “that keep coming”, what nobody mentions is that the serious wound (the idea that they cause little damage is incorrect) means that the target is probably going to bleed out in not too long (unless he gets treatment from a medic, which takes him out of the fight). This is because the 5.56mm round is a “tumbler” and will “tumble” at very high velocity. This causes enormous flesh and organ damage.

Global Security documents the use of the M16A2 in Iraq, including some of its problems (such as barrel length, making it difficult for close quarters combat, and of course pointing to the M4 with its shorter barrel and retractable stock as the solution).  However — and here is the caveat to the magnificence of the Stoner system — it sustains frequent jams, and this is a problem that has had real consequences.  It is customarily asserted that weapon cleaning can prevent or reduce the frequency of jamming, but my experience is that jamming occurs as a result of ammunition and machining tolerances, and not necessarily having anything to do with weapon cleanliness.

The Marine Corps Times has an extensive article on a potential replacement for the M4/M16 initiated by special operations forces (followed on by a discussion thread at the Small Wars Journal).  But this will likely not be available to be implemented large scale for some time.  Weapons, in this instance, are like body armor.  There is significant inertia associated with the Department of Defense, and fielding equipment that is seen as “better” is not customary.  Difficulties with funding, studies, procurement and QA programs, usually causes the delay in deployment of new equipment until all known liabilities have been perfectly rectified (or at least that is the intent).  This means that the M4/M16 will likely be in service for the foreseeable future.  I have heard reports from members of the armed forces that for the well-trained infantryman, any jam can be cleared in five seconds or less.  While I am certainly not capable of this, I don’t doubt that training decreases the down time from a weapons jam.  There isn’t much an NCO or officer can do about the defense budget.  But they can ensure well-trained infantrymen.

Speculation on Thermobaric Weapons in Iraq

I have access to information on my readers, including (but not limited to) type (repeat/new visitor), content they read, how long they stay, location, network domain, network location, and search words.  A high level military network domain visitor (I will not cite the domain) recently searched on the words “thermobaric weapons terror iraq,” and visited my article Thermobaric Weapons and Body ArmorDefense Tech had an article late in 2005 which claimed that the insurgents in Iraq had not gotten thermobaric weapons yet.  However, they correctly noted that the Russians have constructed thermobaric weapons for a long time, and some of these have made their way to the Chechen separatists.

Have the Chechens and their thermobaric weapons made their way to Iraq?  Have rogue weapons made their way from Russia to Iraq?  At this point it is merely speculation, but it is educated speculation.

The War After the War

The wounded.  Perhaps the most important link in this article.

A-10 Flyover Video

A-10 Flyover.  Enjoy.

Announcing the Intelligence Bulletin

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

I have been blogging for more than half a year now, and the evolution has occurred from short, cantankerous posts to more sweeping analyses generally on one of several themes and usually dealing with issues associated with Iraq, counterinsurgency, weapons and tactics, policy and warfare.  These broader, more sweeping analyses were modeled after the work that David Danelo, Michael Fumento, Josh Manchester and Westhawk have done.  But I have found that I am constrained by several things that make this uncomfortable to me.

First, this style of writing is generally third person, emotionally disconnected, and reads more like term papers for college.  It is also more difficult and time consuming to generate, and I usually cannot draft more than an analysis per two or three days (and sometimes not that frequently).  I will continue to generate these analyses, but if I stick exclusively to this style, there is a vast swath of news and information that we are missing.  I am missing the opportunity to provide commentary on it, and the readers are missing the opportunity to respond with comments.

Further, the exclusive focus on a single theme (or a few themes) for each article is constraining, and I want to be able to convey larger quantities of information and analyses than this style allows.  So I am introducing the “Intelligence Bulletin.”  Of course, it will convey only open source information, so no OPSEC will be compromised.  However, recent events have convinced me once again that no matter how much time or energy a person has, no one can find and digest all of the available information.

By calling this the Intelligence Bulletin, the hope is not merely to rehearse old news, but rather, to find trends, patterns, and little-known but important stories.  Since I cannot find and analyze everything, the readers are invited to use the comments forum to follow up on my analyses.  Of course, as always, rude and insulting comments will be deleted.  I am not sure how all of this will transpire in the future or how many of these I will write, but hopefully we can weave together some important ideas into a tapestry that makes the issues that interest us more understandable.  If it doesn’t work out, there is nothing lost except a bit of effort.  Finally, readers can send links and analysis themselves that I can use as a building block for future bulletins.


26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
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