Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The True Face of "al-jihad" - $$$

From an Iraqi blogger, covering local media in Iraq

Local Iraqi TV aired recorded confessions of Ahmed Farhan Hassan. Hassan, who was captured in Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad a few days ago, spoke about his connection to al-Baghdadai, and I’m paraphrasing: “I have four emirs operating under my command. I receive money directly from Abu Omar and then I distribute it among the members of my units according to the number and size of operations they carry out.”

I wish I had a catalogue of all of the statements that reveal just how much money is the lifeblood of those pretending to al-jihad. It would be the best anti-recruitment video I might imagine ...

Can Israel Negotiate with an "Ambiguous" Partner?

The answer appears to be yes, and much to their credit:

FM Livni says Israel agrees to discuss terms of Palestinian state By Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told European lawmakers on Tuesday that Israel had agreed "to conduct a dialogue on the conditions for establishing a Palestinian state," according to a ministry statement. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will hold biweekly meetings mediated by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The American secretary, in making the announcement Tuesday at a Jerusalem press conference, added she would join them "from time to time" to help them along.

Meanwhile, there is no way that an abject 1967 borders demand can be met, but they can form the starting point for land-swap deals, which were part of the prior discussions. Anyway, it's refreshing to see the wheels turning, especially the creation of 'working groups', which might add something if they can do away with the "Summit Mentality" that has plagued the approaches to peace making in the past, in my opinion.

A draft of the final resolution to be approved by the [Arab] summit relaunches the peace initiative without changes. But it also creates working groups that will meet with the United Nations, United States, Europe and Russia in an attempt to push the plan forward.

U.S. allies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the working groups as a way to repackage the initiative in a way that could lead to further negotiations. One proposal is that Arab leaders would insist that Israel accept the Arab peace plan in principle before returning to any talks, while be willing to soften their conditions once negotiations began, Arab diplomats have said.

Wouldn't be a laugh-hoot, if reasonable, preliminary settlement guidelines were to be agreed on the Bush's watch?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

To Have Laid Such a Sacrifice Upon the Altar of Freedom

Iraq Online Veterans Memorial

I've been looking for something like this for a while. There are some other lists, but the ones I've come across are not always current and don't always have photos (I wanted to do a gallery each week, if possible).

This is an online patchwork of people and stories. "Moving" is an understatement.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Popular Press Now Covering Counterinsurgency History

From Slate, David Silbey writes a short history of the Phillipines insurgency under Theodore Roosevelt:

What does this tell us about today? Interestingly, many of the same issues that have dogged the current American campaign in Iraq dogged American efforts in the Philippines. These include the inability to recognize that the war was not over simply because we thought it should be over, the difficulty in adjusting to a new kind of war, the constant interaction of domestic politics and military affairs, and the divided command structure in the Philippines. And yet, the United States in the Philippines won not only the conventional war but the insurgency. Why?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Update: Lebanon

David Schenker of Counterterroismblog debriefs the latest (7th) report on the Hariri murder:

Based on forensic findings, it is “highly unlikely” that Abu Adass was the bomber.

The Commission added a new motive to the reasons why Hariri was killed: In the last months of his life, Hariri was focused on the 2005 elections and in particular, the draft electoral law, including the redrawing of constituencies. This newly discovered possible motive should be added to wider context (see paragraph 53 of the report), which generally suggests a leading Syrian role.

Many believe that Syria was trying to reconcile with Hariri when he was assassinated. The Commission has a working hypothesis that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement, leading to a situation where “two tracks…were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives, and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway.” (See paragraph 63).

As for the investigation into the assassination of member of Parliament and An Nahar editor Gebran Tueni, the Commission believes that a remote detonated IED was responsible for the murder.

The Commission has 104 persons currently working full time staffing the investigation bureaucracy, and has budget for up to 188 staff.
A longer piece by the author reviews the dicey ground and significant 'nation building' hurdles still facing US-Lebanon policy:

The change in focus has been profound. Once a backwater of American foreign policy interest, Lebanon today is at the forefront of the Bush administration’s Middle East agenda. ...

And just weeks ago in its fiscal year 2007 supplemental request, the administration asked Congress to approve some $770 million for Lebanon to meet Washington’s Paris donor conference pledges. When this is approved, Lebanon will become the third largest recipient of US assistance per capita. Before the Cedar Revolution, Washington provided some $35 million per year to Beirut.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Zakaria points out how badly US has been flanked in Central America under Bush

In a terse but scathing piece, Fareed Zakaria outlines the broad details of what we might come to think of has Bush's little noticed foreign policy failure in Latin America. If I thought these problems were simple miscalculations, rather than ideologically driven screw-ups (a point on which I agree with Fareed), I'd be more charitable.

Anyway, the whole story unfolds:

Bush's new look at the region will not do much good. It's too little, too late.
Until Bush's election in 2000, American foreign policy toward Latin America had been on the right track for two decades. ...

The tragedy here is a familiar one. When Bush had enormous room to maneuver in 2001, when loaded with political capital in 2002 and 2003, he embarked on a series of ideological exercises that severely diminished American influence and prestige. Now, battered by failure, he has moved toward more-sensible policies—not just in Latin America, but in North Korea and even the Middle East.

But the president is now walking alone, with few supporters at home or abroad, and little capital that he can draw on to execute any of his new approaches. In region after region, on issue after issue, that might well be the recurring theme of George W. Bush's foreign policy in his final 22 months.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Deadly Revolving Door

One starts to see how Saddam's system of nesting groups to watch other groups (including "stiffners") may have gotten its impetus: weak policing within the ranks.

For at least the second time in the past 5 months, some of the most dangerous terrorists have been able to escape from an Iraqi jail guarded by Iraqi police. Today, militants stormed Mosul's northwestern Badoush prison and freed over 140 prisoners, most of whom are described as "insurgents." You can bet they weren't traffic violators; they were probably key operatives in terrorist cells who were painstakingly hunted down by the U.S. military and Iraqi army. The overwhelmed police asked the U.S. military for help, but too late to stop the escaping terrorists - Andrew Cochran, CT Blog

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bad Day for ... the face of the military


IDF arrests caught on tape raise questions on military practices - AP

In retreat/regroup after attack, US troops may have hit civilian targets - AP

Over the years, Israeli credibility on ops has taken hits from 'fabricated' human-shield allegations.

On the latter, there must be some way for the NATO command to learn from and avoid

  • (a) falling prey to deliberate falsifications
  • (b) doing something other than shrugging it off, if there might have been some unintended consequence to an action, even if circumstances might justified this or that action (such as aggressive situation management, prompt payments of damages, political assurances - and above all, honesty, not secrecy), and
  • (c) actually taking negligible chance that any weak links do not get a professional pass, even if it just means getting some folks off the battlefield for a while, rather than full-scale prosecution.

It seems harsh and maybe even a costly effort, depending on the tactics employed; but these stories can be the foundation of an insidious political mythology that can take on a life of its own, if not handled head-on (by visible, senior-level involvement?), but dodged.


They can shape the political landscape, and individual ethics. In counterinsurgency, that might be tantamount to shaping the battlefield, in unintended ways. Accordingly, it's serious - the Army has to watch its culture on the matter (not that it isn't, that I know, but just 2-pundit-cents).

Battle for Baghdad: By the Numbers, Feb Update

The guys over at Fourth Rail (linked on right) have put up an update to the Baghdad Order of Battle, which includes, broadly speaking, and update on the deployment/control of the Iraqi 6th Division and the "Augments" that have been pulled in as part of the Baghdad Security Plan. (Be sure to scan the reader comments, as well.)

The amount of work being put in to keep that blog spiffy is worth a medal. Bill is now doing daily updates (link).

Months ago, Rumsfeld said that we would find out if the 'parties in Iraq' would be willing to bet 'their future on a piece of paper', the new Iraqi Constitution. I wonder if he was thinking about the majority government and whether they would abide by rule of law, even when provoked ...


There is a very worthy glossary attached to the OOB.
For those skimming this material who need a little structure background, the basic org units run as follows:
Division (DIV) - 10-15K organized into Brigades
...Brigades (DBE) - 1st sub-unit
......Battalions (BN) - next sub-unit
......includes: Support Battalions (BSB, supply/support and BSTB, headquarters)
.........Company (CO) - sub-unit of Battalion
............Platoon (PT) - sub-unit of Company

IA - Iraqi Army
IAD - Iraqi Army Division
IGFC - Iraqi Ground Forces Command

Quotus re Quotus

Counterinsurgency Quote for the Day:

In a head-on clash between violence and power, the outcome is hardly in doubt. If Gandhi's enormously powerful and successful strategy of nonviolent resistance had met with a different enemy--Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, even prewar Japan, instead of England--the outcome would not have been decolonization, but massacre and submission. However, England in India and France in Algeria had good reasons for their restraint. Rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost; it is precisely the shrinking power of the Russian government, internally and externally, that became manifest in its "solution" of the Czechoslovak problem--just as it was the shrinking power of European imperialism that became manifest in the alternative between decolonization and massacre. To substitute violence for power can bring victory, but the price is very high; for it is not only paid by the vanquished, it is also paid by the victor in terms of his own power. This is especially true when the victor happens to enjoy domestically the blessings of constitutional government.
(On Violence, Hannah-Arendt, 1969, p.53)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Guiliani Lays out Counterterrorism Plan: More "War"

Speaking at the C-PAC get-together in D.C. today (3/2), Rudy Guiliani laid out his vision for counterterrorism. In short, more "war" and keep on the "offense".

"War" means that he most likely is not going to view counterterrorism as a multi-dimensional effort to dispassionately bring justice to criminals and marginalize their political messages. In fact, "justice", longtime staple of anti-terrorism doctrine, was never on his lips even in lip-service, just "prosecution". Few, if any, of America's allies that I know of think of war-footing as appropriate to counterterrorism cooperation and execution, and, if they do, not as conceptually foundational in the way that the GOP is embracing it.

According to Rudy, the USA will continue to "use our military" and hope for the time when "down the road" Americans and others are friends again.

Being on the "offense" includes always responding to terrorism (he finds fault in inactions like an absence of response to the USS Cole bombing, he says). "Offense" also includes the PATRIOT act and "interrogation".

He skips over whether Operation Iraqi Freedom is/was relevant or not as a "response", a silence that will surely catch up to him, along with the fact that the response to Cole and the African Embassy bombings was to improve intelligence and an Executive finding for the CIA (as best I recall without looking it up), rather than just 'blow shit up', although that was tried too, when Clinton blew up what turned out to be a fertilizer factory.

At a time when Spain and Britain have brought criminal trials for post-9/11 acts and the US Administration's actions may have greatly complicated the same, his legal approach seems like an blind endorsement of all things Bush, including indefinite detention at the behest of the CIC and what seems to amount to a largely procedural justice doled out by the ninth-circuit, who handle the few appeals available related the combat-tribunals set-up in political haste before the mid-term elections by the last Congress.

Nothing - nada - on the long war or the long, twilight struggle. Nothing - nada - on how to confront extremism and the growing threats from rampant antiamericanism. Nothing - nada - on energy independence. Nothing - nada - on paying for "war". Nothing - nada - on readiness at home. Nothing on nation building. Nothing on the problems with the military and the inter-agency process that Newt, a former insider with some knowledge of Washington and not just a former mayor with a speech in hand, has been on about (see prior postings on Newt).

In other words, his speech amounted to George Bush, not even George Bush lite, in which we placate ourselves by "talking tough" about and to terrorists. I guess these feel-good speeches are what play to the crowds at C-PAC.

Still, it is political mastery to know your crowd well enough that you can simultaneously call the Congress cowards for ducking hard decisions with their no-confidence vote, while delivering a speech that avoids many of the hard questions about National Security!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Critiquing COIN 'orthodoxy' and Blostering OEF

Over at Oxblog, Patrick Porter and Taylor Owen have put up interesting thought pieces, Patrick's on veteran military guy Ralph Peter's critiques of COIN (Killing Insurgencies) and Taylor's on keeping NATO's Afghan ops on track.

Bush may find that pretzel was nothing to swallow compare to this


Iraq has always been a race for control on the ground. Evidence of the U.S. not thinking in those terms, let alone actively keeping one-step ahead on the curve in this race, goes back to 2003 (I'm thinking now of the grab of the religious Awqaf, the endowment funds, in the South that was widely reported ...).

"Forced withdrawal" has long seemed a remote possibility, it would seem, given the capabilities of the troops on the ground. However, it has been a looming consideration here, especially juxtaposed with those commentators who seem to think that a contained, limited-scale civil war are the worst outcomes for the U.S., in some ways.


And here is the rub: some violence can unleash geometrically expanding forces, while economic stability steps are weakly self-reinforcing, and often slow, linear or episodic ...

Now comes this assessment, that maybe, after a long, long string of "stay the course", the situation may actually be on the brink of really coming down to ... leave or escalate. In other words, "go long", once thought to be a viable strategy, is losing it's ... event horizon.

Alarmist or not? Hard to say with any certainty - even in reverse key turning points are hard to identify in similarly typed conficts, but I could never take it off the table, the way some folks seem to have done ...

Simon Tisdall - The Guardian
Wednesday February 28, 2007

An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

Part of the trouble with "stability operations" is that you don't get a lot of re-tries. There is a cumulative aspect to the impact of them. What's more, terrorism has powerful tools, force multipliers. And here is the rub: some violence can unleash geometrically expanding forces, while economic stability steps are weakly self-reinforcing, and often slow, linear or episodic in implementation.