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November 30, 2008

The Mumbia Attacks and The Global Jihad

Other have reported the details of the terrorist attacks in Mumbia (the new name for Bombay) India better than I, and as such there's no need for me to repeat them here. What I'll do is try and see how it fits into the big picture.

In brief, then, what we had was 10-25 Islamic terrorists attack 10 targets in the Indian city of Mumbia and kill approximately 172 people and wound 370. The attacks started Wednesday Nov 26 and did not end until Saturday Nov 29. Among other targets, they attacked hotels frequented by wealthy Indians. Mumbia is the financial and entertainment center of India and the most populous city in the world.

A previously unknown group called Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility, though Indian police say that information from a captured terrorist points to the Pakistan-based Muslim terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is not clear as to whether other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, were involved, at least directly.

What made this attack unique is that instead of bombs, suicide or pre-planted, the terrorists simply used automatic weapons and hand grenades, and ran around trying to kill as many people as they could. In some instances they took hostages, but there were no prolonged negotiations.

Last March I offered up four models for understanding the current situation with regards to all this. Here they are:

War of Ideas: Dr Walid Phares says that our enemy are Jihadists of the Wahabbi, Muslim Brotherhood, and Khumeinist variety. While some of the fighting will be by nature military, it is primarily a war of ideology, and the winner will be the side that convinces young people that it's ideas are better than the other. Future Jihad and War of Ideas are his two most important recent books.

World War IV: Norman Podhoretz believes that our struggle is best termed World War IV. While I have not read his book of the same name, there is much about it on the Internet, including this article in Commentary Podhoretz believes that democratization is the best way to defeat the extremists.

The Power of Demographics All of the strategy and ideas in the world may not help us if radical Islam takes over Europe by producing more babies. This is the theme of Mark Steyn's America Alone.

Global Insurgency: Lt Col (Dr) David Kilcullen spent 20 years in the Australian Army. Throughout 2007 he was a senior adviser on counterterrorism to Gen David Petraeus. He is not a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In his 2004 wor, Countering Global Insurgency, Kilcullen says that our enemy is best thought of as an insurgency, albeit on a global scale instead of just in one country.

In retrospect, I should have added another, and will do so here

Clash of Civilizations: In Samuel P Huntington's 1993 ground-breaking article Foreign Affairs magazine, he proposed that "World politics is entering a new phase, in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural. Civilizations-the highest cultural groupings of people-are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language and tradition." Later published as a book by the same name, Huntington warned that we should be worried not so much about Islamic terrorism but about Islam itself.

It is important to note that these five paradigms are not exclusive but compliment each other. All five may be in play at once, each operating on a different level.

So do the attacks in Mumbia fit into any of these models? I think that Kilcullen's idea of a global insurgency, Phares' of a War of Ideas are most apt. We'll start with the colonel.

What Kilcullen saw was a global movement of disparate groups, loosely allied, but all with the same fundamental objective; to destroy Western ideas and implement a sort of global Caliphate, or at least implement Sharia law throughout the world. al-Qaeda was at the center of this spider's web. It's role was not as Moscow's was during the Cold War, issuing orders to subordinates, but more Al Qaeda maintaining links with its affiliated organizations through a variety of links. These links are ideological, linguistic, personal, family relationships, financial, propaganda, operational and planning, and doctrine techniques and procedures. The relationship of the affiliates to al-Qaeda is that of patronage, with al-Qaeda having a patrion-client authority. Kilcullen explains that

What is new about today's environment is that, because of the links described above, a new class of regional, theatre-level actors has emerged. These groups do have links to the global jihad, often act as regional allies or affiliates of al Qaeda, and prey on local groups and issues to further the jihad. They also rely on supporting inputs from global players and might wither if their global sponsors were significantly disrupted.

Sitting above the theatre-level actors are global players like al Qaeda.

As mentioned earlier, the a previously unknown group called Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility. This conjures up images of Black September, the previously unknown group that carried out the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Munich, Germany. It was later discovered that the members of Black September that carried out this and other attacks were drawn from known Palestinian terrorist groups such as Yassir Arafat's al Fatah, the PFLP, as-Sa'iqa, and others.

Some media speculation is on whether al Qaeda was involved or behind the attack. To me, this misses the point.

Andrew McCarthy nails it, and I can't do any better

When he guest-hosted Hannity & Colmes last night, Rich had a very edifying couple of segments with Mark Steyn and Richard Miniter. Mark made the excellent point about the reluctance to come to grips with the fact that these attacks on iconic targets, which we're now seeing in Mumbai/Bombay but of course have seen elsewhere, are fueled by an ideology. That's exactly right. The obsession over whether al Qaeda or its endless jumble of affiliates pulled off the operation is a misguided attempt to mimimize the challenge. The bin Laden network is not unimportant, but it is tapping into something that is much bigger than itself.

"fueled by an ideology" is, of course, the key part.

Two and a half years ago The Washington Post published what was or should have been an eye-opening story about Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, a prolific writer described as the "architect of new war on the west."

Nasar's theory was that isolated cells could wage jihad without instructions from above. Individuals would form small groups, and would plan and execute their own attacks. However, if groups are not possible, individuals could and should act on their own.

It would all add up to a war, albeit a very decentralized one. Indeed Nasar saw a benefit to this decentraliztion, as it would be hard for counterterrorists to use one captured jihadist to reveal confederates of the details of a larger organization.

McCarthy goes on to say that

In July 2007, our intelligence community released findings of a National Intelligence Estimate that indicated jihadist ideology had become so extensively propagated in the West that the mediating influence of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda was no longer essential in order for radical cells to spring up and interconnect. Naturally, these local operatives are spurred, in part, by local and regional issues. But, though the mainstream press recoils from this reality, such local issues are fitted to an ideological framework that is global, hegemonic, and more about the ultimate triumph of fundamentalist Islam than, say, a Palestinian state, Kashmir, Danish cartoons, economic inequality, or whatever this week's complaint is.

So we see that Kilcullen is on to something, though his 2004 thesis may need qualification. The jihad may have reached the point where al Qaeda's guiding hand is not so necessary.

The ideas of Walid Phares are also relevant, in that we are foolish if we ignore the Islamic aspect. The network of terror is important insofar as counterterrorism is concerned. Follow the link to Kilcullen's work for details on how to fight it. But on another level we must also fight our enemies ideas.

Mark Steyn explains that the links between terrorist groups are important,

But we're in danger of missing the forest for the trees. The forest is the ideology. It's the ideology that determines whether you can find enough young hotshot guys in the neighborhood willing to strap on a suicide belt or (rather more promising as a long-term career) at least grab an AK and shoot up a hotel lobby....Where would you start? Easy. You know the radical mosques, and the other ideological-front organizations. You've already made landfall.

It's missing the point to get into debates about whether this is the "Deccan Mujahideen" or the ISI or al-Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba. That's a reductive argument. It could be all or none of them. The ideology has been so successfully seeded around the world that nobody needs a memo from corporate HQ to act: There are so many of these subgroups and individuals that they intersect across the planet in a million different ways. It's not the Cold War, with a small network of deep sleepers being directly controlled by Moscow. There are no membership cards, only an ideology. That's what has radicalized hitherto moderate Muslim communities from Indonesia to the Central Asian stans to Yorkshire, and coopted what started out as more or less conventional nationalist struggles in the Caucasus and the Balkans into mere tentacles of the global jihad.

Give that man a cigar.

Approaching the attacks in Mumbia from a law enforcement aspect is all very fine insofar as rooting out the networks, but at the end of the day we've got to find some way to make Muslims confront the aspects of their own religion that promote the jihad. And from what i can see, we're not doing it now.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 28, 2008

Gen. Barry McCaffrey Report - November 2008 - Iraq

General Barry McCaffrey (ret.) is back from another fact-finding tour of Kuwait and Iraq. He was there from Oct 31 to Nov 6 and met with dozens of American and Iraqi military and civilian leaders, including Gen. Ray Odierno, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. This, his latest After Action Report, can be found on the website of MCaffrey Associates. Readers are encouraged to download the entire report and read it in its entirety.

I find McCaffrey's reports valuable as a check on other sources by someone who can usually be counted on to provide a non-partisan no-holds-barred assessment. McCaffrey lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly. He does not seem driven by an agenda. He does not see the situation through rose-colored glasses, but by the same token is not knee-jerk "all is lost."

From his bio, McCaffrey served for 32 years in the U.S. Army, retiring in I think 2001 with the rank of four star general. He then notably served as "Drug Czar" until 2005, when he took a position as the Bradley Distinguished Professor of International Security Studies at West Point. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of International Affairs there. This most recent report was undertaken as part of his professorship.

None of this makes him the end-all-to-be-all, but he does have some credibility.

Here's his bottom line on the current situation in Iraq:

3. THE BOTTOM LINE:

a. The United States is now clearly in the end game in Iraq to successfully achieve what should be our principle objectives:

  • The withdrawal of the majority of our US ground combat forces in Iraq in the coming 36 months.
  • Leaving behind an operative civil state and effective Iraqi security forces.
  • An Iraqi state which is not in open civil war among the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds.
  • And an Iraqi nation which is not at war with its six neighboring states.

b. The security situation is clearly still subject to sudden outrage at any moment by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) or to degradation because of provocative behavior by the Maliki government. However, the bottom line is a dramatic and growing momentum for economic and security stability which is unlikely to be reversible. I would not characterize the situation as fragile. It is just beyond the tipping point.

  • Daily attacks hit a high of 180+ in July of 2007--- they are now down to 20+ per day.
  • Civilian deaths dropped from 3700 per month in Dec 2006 --- to 400 + in October 2008.
  • US military deaths dropped from 110 in May of 2007---to 10 in October 2008.
  • Iraqi Security Forces KIA dropped from 310 in June 2007--- to 50 in October 2008.)

c. The genius of the leadership team of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General Dave Petraeus, and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has turned around the situation from a bloody disaster under the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld to a growing situation of security. Ambassador Crocker will be very, very difficult to replace in February 2009. We are fortunate that General Ray Odierno has stepped in to take Joint command of MNF-I. He is very experienced, knows all the players and has sophisticated situational awareness. The Iraqis trust him enormously--- they refer to him as the "big man with the quiet voice."

All this is very good. We have come a long ways and should be thankful for it. President Bush belatedly recognized that things were going wrong, and appointed the new team of Gates, Fallon, and Petraeus to fix things. They did. Later in his report McCaffrey details some of the errors that we made early in the war, remarking that "It is hard to not be bitter about the misjudgments and denial of the DOD leadership during the first years of the war. It did not have to turn out this way with $750 billion of our treasure spent and 36,000 US killed and injured."

True enough, and I do not doubt that his assessment of what we did wrong is incorrect. I won't list it all here, though, because my purpose is what we should do going forward, not what we should have done.

McCaffrey's report is only 9 pages long, and every paragraph a gem, so it's tempting just to reprint the entire thing. Here, though, are a few key statements from his "Context" section

It is unarguable that the past 18 months have witnessed a dramatic, positive change in the Iraqi internal security situation. Iraqi and Coalition Security Force casualties in a comparative sense are now at rock bottom. Ethnic strife between the Shia and the Sunnis has all but stopped. The Shia militias have in general been neutralized--- and the Sunni insurgents bought out by the Sons of Iraq Program....

The lawless disintegration of the state at province and municipal level which was apparent on my earlier visits has now largely abated....

Iranian intervention is relentless, lethal, and implacably hostile to US interests--- but has to a great extent alienated the southern Iraqi Shia and been largely ineffective.

The Maliki government remains largely dysfunctional in its ability to deliver services to the population (jobs, electricity, clean water, infrastructure repair, oil production, budget expenditure, etc)... (but) Mr. Maliki clearly has matured and gained stature as a political leader....

We should have a sense of empathy for these Iraqi politicians. They have survived a poisonous Saddam regime and a culture of intrigue and murder from every side.....

Indeed what has always struck me is the lack of respect Iraqis in general get from people in the U.S. on both sides of the political isle. Conservatives tend to ignore them, crediting everything to the U.S. military, usually even ignoring Amb. Crocker himself. Liberals tend to use them in casualty counts to "prove" how brutal the U.S. led war has been to the Iraqi people. Both sides tend to denigrate Iraqi politicians, caricaturing all of them as corrupt and incompetent.

No doubt the Iraqi government has a long ways to go. We're all familiar with the infighting based on sect, factional, tribe, and clan loyalties. Many have used the security services to murder not just opponents but numbers of ordinary civilians. Corruption is not just rife, but a way of life there, as it is in most of the Third World.

Because the surge has been so successful, we now hear from some on the left "let's immediately stop spending $10bl per month, bring the troops home, downsize the Pentagon and get on with life."

This message comes from those who either never wanted Iraq to succeed in the first place or gave up on it completely sometime after the insurgency started. They opposed the surge, saying that only political progress could save Iraq. Long after it was obvious that the surge was working they continued to deny the obvious progress. Now that the lack of violence is undeniable, and there is a relative stability, they don't even care enough to want to make sure the country does not backslide. All we hear is the same tired mantra; "troops out now!"

Despite our progress, regular readers of this blog know that most commanders, including Petraeus, still say the situation in Iraq is "fragile." Just click on "Iraq II 2007 - 2008" and search for "fragile" and you'll see what I mean.

Knowing this, McCaffrey lays out four scenarios where "success in Iraq could turn to collapse." Download the report and read all four yourself, but here's one:

´╗┐Precipitous US military withdrawal before the Iraqis have developed a fully functional security presence among all eighteen provinces would also imperil the enterprise. The Iraqis do not have a functional Air Force (lift, gunships, transportation, and close air support). They do not have a Navy and Marine Corps yet capable of protecting their Gulf transportation and petroleum infrastructure. Their Border Security Forces are still anemic. The Iraqi Armed Forces in general lack adequate armor, artillery, maintenance, logistics, medical, and communications to function in counter-insurgency operations or border defense without US support. Their military officer corps is immensely better than a year ago--- but the bench is thin. The young officers at company and battalion level show great promise and courage. The legacy of the Saddam nightmare weighs heavily on the culture of the more senior officers. Finally, the confidence of the Iraqi combat force is still dependant on US mentoring and backup. Their officers are very explicit on this point---THE IRAQI SECURITY FORCES DO NOT WANT THE US COMBAT UNITS TO LEAVE---YET.

So much for blanket statements like "the Iraqis want us to leave." Indeed, USMC Maj. Gen. Martin Post offered a more nuanced statement in a press briefing that I covered Nov 11 when he said, in response to a question on the subject;

Candidly, it depends upon who you talk to. In some cases, if you talk to the local man on the street, they'll look at us and say, "Hey, I think we're ready for you to go."

If you talk to the -- the leadership -- you know, the IP leadership or the Iraqi army leadership or the provincial leadership, they would probably tell you, "Hey, we need you here for some period of time longer." Not really ever saying, "We need you here for one year or two years," but I think we're still, if you would, that security blanket for them, in the -- standing behind them....

This makes sense. If I was an Iraqi I'd say that I want the Americans gone too. No one wants foreign troops in their country. We're lucky we got the Germans to accept such large numbers for so long, Soviet threat or no.

Further, although it has been a maddeningly slow journey to get the Iraqi security forces as far as they are, Gen. Petraeus warned about this in the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. Take the time to read it if you want to understand where we've been and where we're going.

Driving home the point, at the end of his report McCaffrey says that

...It is essential for both US and Mid East security that we pull out of Iraq in a deliberate and responsible manner--- and leave a stable and functioning state. This is clearly within our capabilities.

Again; "pull out of Iraq in a deliberate and responsible manner," not in the helter-skelter manner advocated by anti-war types.

Two more excerpts from the report and they I'll wrap it up. He has this to say about the senior military leadership:

Finally of note--- the senior leadership at general officer and brigade command is remarkable. They are visible to their troops and share the personal risk of the battlefield. (This is in marked contrast to the stacked helicopters of the Vietnam War commanders.) General Odierno has personally been under direct small arms fire and IED attack during his three combat tours at Division, Corps, and now theater command. LTG Lloyd Austin nearly got nailed by direct machine gun fire while directing forward operations during the recent battle to control SADR City in Baghdad. LTG Frank Helmick and BG Tony Thomas both recently survived an IED attack of an 800 lb suicide vehicle bomb which totally destroyed their MRAP vehicle. (The survivability of the MRAP vehicles has drastically reduced casualties among our forces.)

I've heard our generals talk about how they go out with the troops, and read stories on this too, but didn't know about the attacks they'd survived. We are lucky to have such able and brave leaders.

Lastly, a note to the future:

The likely strategic outcome will be a more rapid forced drawdown than desirable in Iraq in order to enhance combat power for Afghanistan. It will be a tricky balance--- but in my judgment we will pull this off successfully. Iraq will stabilize with the rapidly increasing power of the Iraqi Security Forces ---while we reinforce the inadequate NATO combat power in Afghanistan.

I'd already figured that my own coverage would see a shift to Afghanistan in coming months and years. I've noticed that I've posted more "Afghanistan Briefings" of late.

Previous McCaffrey Reports on Iraq
The December 2007 General Barry McCaffrey Report on Iraq
Barry McCaffrey on Iraq II, March 29, 2007
"The Most Brilliantly Led Military We Have Ever Fielded" May 14, 2006

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

Obama to Keep Gates at Defense

It seems to be true. From yesterday's New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama has decided to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in his post, a show of bipartisan continuity in a time of war that will be the first time a Pentagon chief has been carried over from a president of a different party, Democrats close to the transition said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama's advisers were nearing a formal agreement with Mr. Gates to stay on for perhaps a year, the Democrats said, and they expected to announce the decision as early as next week, along with other choices for the national security team.

To which I have this to say to all you lefties who thought Obama stood for change;

BRBRRRHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!

So let me get this straight. For the past two years, we have heard from Senator Obama that our military venture in Iraq was a failure, that the surge would not work, and when the violence did go down it wasn't because of the surge or anything our troops did at all, and now he's going to keep as his Secretary of Defense the very man who carried out the surge and has said (I am sure) that it was responsible for the reduction in violence?

Look, for the sake of our nation I'm glad Obama is keeping Robert Gates. I think he's an excellent Secretary of Defense. I think it is a signal that Obama will not precipitously leave Iraq, which would be a very good thing.

But you have to admit that the chutzpah on display by President-elect Obama is breathtaking. His anti-war supporters are surely very disappointed.

Sure, I know that liberals can turn it around and say to me "see, this proves he's not the extreme leftist you said he was." A fair point, though it's far too early to come to that conclusion. But the fact is that Obama ran on a platform of immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and from this history one would have just about thought that he'd appoint Dennis Kucinich to the post, not Robert Gates.

How is the left reacting? I'm not going to do a full survey, but the two diarists at the Daily Kos I found were upset but less than apoplectic. Kos Diarist bugscuffle says

I suppose it's bad news that a neocon warmonger is to remain at the Defense Department. I suppose it's good news that he's not a former member of the Clinton Administration.

Diarist Meteor Blades quotesChris Bowers at OpenLeft as saying that

This should be an open and shut case. If there was one message that Obama ran on loudly, clearly, and indisputably, it is that he was going to bring "change" to Washington, D.C. If Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on, and that it all happened because long-time D.C. operatives said it should. Keeping the same guy and all of his advisors at the behest of old establishment types is about as far from change as possible.

Some commenters try and rationalize the decision, others are mad as all get out. No doubt they don't want to give up on their god messiah leader easily.

Jon Soltz, writing at The Huffington Post, likes the pick, saying that

For those who worry that Gates will somehow drag President Obama to the right on Iraq, I think that fear is really unfounded. If the first question one must ask is, "Why is Obama picking Gates?" then the second question has to be "Why does Gates want to stay with Obama?"

It's not because Gates wants to preserve some neo-con view in the administration -- after all, Gates is a Bush I guy, a moderate who sees more eye-to-eye with Brent Scowcroft (an opponent of the war) than Paul Wolfowitz. It's not to preserve the current course, because Gates is smart enough to know that with Hillary Clinton, James Jones, and Barack Obama, staying the course will never win out.

The only reasonable answer is that Gates clearly understands that there will be a new course for our military, that includes redeployment from Iraq, and wants to make it work.

What Soltz even means when he says that "staying the course will never win out" is something of a mystery. Is he referring specifically to Iraq? Anyone who follows this blog knows that our military commanders in Iraq have been talking about a responsible draw down there for months, and that brigades are in fact coming out.

At least they're more honest over at The Nation, where John Nichols, in an article titled "A Secretary of Defense We Can't Believe In," starts off with

Barack Obama in February, 2008: "I don't want to just end the war; I want to end the mindset that got us into war."

Barack Obama in November, 2008: "Never mind."

I think that's more accurate than the rationalizations I've seen elsewhere.

Bill Clinton famously ignored many of his campaign promises, most notably his middle class tax cut, which he reneged on before even taking office. While this and two years of mistakes gained the GOP the Congress, it didn't do us any good in 1996.

On the other hand, Bill Clinton was elected president with a normal campaign. Obama was elected by a cult following who worships his every move. Their expectations are sky-high.

In the end, I think the left will suck this one up. They've invested far too much in Obama to give up this quickly.

Now, if he doesn't close Gitmo that'll be a different story....

My question for now, however, is how could Obama do this after all that he's said about Iraq? Maybe Shelby Steele was right, when he said that

Of of the things that troubles me about Obama's character is that he can get along with anybody. He can articulate a conservative point of view better than many conservatives can. He can be strikingly far left. The problem is not so much that he's going to reveal who he really is, the problem is that he may not be anybody. He may not have strong convictions.

(Follow the link and watch all five segments of Steele's analysis of Obama and the election. It's on par with the best I've seen or read)

Whether Steele is right or not only time will tell. I think what he does with our detention center in Guantanamo will be a telling moment.

Either way, forgive me for chortling a bit here. This post is a bit out of character. Friday I'll be back to my usual geek analysis with a piece on Iraq that you won't want to miss.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 24, 2008

Afghanistan Briefing - 21 November 2008 - Winning Hearts and Minds in Khost

This briefing is by Colonel John P. Johnson, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, otherwise known as Task Force Currahee. Last Friday he spoke via satellite from Forward Operating Base Salerno in the Khost province with reporters at the Pentagon.

Task Force Currahee is responsible for security and stability operations in the central eastern area of Afghanistan, along the Pakistan border.

I am not entirely sure of the chain of command here, but Johnson's's unit is part of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), the NATO operation in Afghanistan. It's commander is General David D. McKiernan. During the briefing Johnson mentioned "General Schloesser, my commanding general." Major General Jeffrey Schloesser is the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Afghanistan.

Col. Johnson has an "ISAF" patch on his shoulder, yet Task Force 101 is part of Operation Enduring Freedom, so I'm not quite sure how the chain of command works above Gen. Schloesser. I have yet to figure out the command structure for the units in Afghanistan. Be that as it may, please watch the briefing in its entirety.


This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

There was much of interest, but we'll concentrate on how we are separating the populace from the enemy and how this is part of a "hearts and minds" strategy.

From Col. Johnson's opening statement:

COL. JOHNSON: Thanks. To the press corps, good morning. Thanks for attending today. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss our current status here in Afghanistan and to provide some insight from the perspective of a brigade-level task force that has actually been in the fight for the past eight months.

First, let me say that we recognize and appreciate the role all of you play in keeping the American public informed on the tremendous service of their sons and daughters in uniform.....

Combined Task Force Currahee is comprised of approximately 5,000 NATO soldiers, built around the 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It also includes three U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams or PRTs, one Czech Republic PRT and coordination with a Turkish PRT.

We also have unique enablers, such as a human terrain team, law enforcement professionals and interagency advisors at the brigade level from the Department of State, USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Next February and March, we will also be joined by two Agribusiness Development Teams from the great states of Indiana and Tennessee.

The precise composition of the task force has changed over time and, up until last month, also included a Polish battle group that now serves as a separate brigade-level task force in Ghazni Province.

We partnered to accomplish our mission with two brigades in the headquarters of the Afghan National Army 203rd Corps, the 2nd Zone of the Afghan Border Police, which is roughly a brigade-sized element, and our regional, provincial, district-level Afghan National Police, composed of almost 5,700 policemen.

Our operational area is part of the U.S.-led Regional Command East, led by CJTF 101, and currently includes the five provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Lowgar and Wardak, three of which border Pakistan. The under our -- the area under our responsibility is vast, covering almost 43,000 square kilometers.

The terrain is extreme, with an average elevation at around 6,000 to 7,000 feet, and mountains at 10,000) to 11,000 feet. I'm speaking to you from the province of Khost, which includes our lowest elevations, from 3,500 to 5,000 feet....

As I said, the focus of everything we do is the Afghan people, and our intent is to separate the people from the enemy physically, but more important, psychologically. The enemy we face is very complex, but can be broadly defined as any actor the draws the population away from the vision of legitimate government of Afghanistan. This could range from criminals to ideological Taliban led by Mullah Omar to power-based groups such as those led by Jallaludin Haqqani and Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, alliance groups such as the Taliban of Pakistan, led by Baitullah Mehsud, as well as to a variety of foreign fighter elements -- some organized, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or the Islamic Jihad Union -- to ultimately al Qaeda.

As we separate the Afghan people from this complex enemy, we also strive to connect them with the legitimate government of Afghanistan and also connect them with their Afghan national security forces. We do all of this from behind, ensuring that our number-one priority is the capacity-building of the institutions, so vital to convincing the people to reject any alternate vision.

We discussed the "Human Terrain Teams" last week in Col. Spiszer's Afghanistan briefing, and saw the important role that they play. Follow the link for detains. Spiszer also discussed the challenges posed by the extreme terrain in his area of responsibility also, even going so far as to call it his greatest challenge.

The most important statement, though, I think, was Johnson's statement that they were trying to " separate the people from the enemy physically, but more important, psychologically." When I saw this it brought back that most important aspect of winning a counterinsurgency, that of "hearts and minds."

Unfortunately, it's also probably the most misunderstood phrase in warfare. Here's the definitive explanation:

"Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents.

Please, please, follow the link before that quote for the whole story.

Col Johnson continues:

Broadly speaking, our purpose here is to transform the environment in a way that increases the legitimacy of the Afghan government, at the provincial and the district level, an influences the people of Afghanistan to reject the ultimate vision offered by the anti-Afghan forces.

To secure the people and to accomplish our purpose, the preponderance of our effort has focused on conducting combined planning and operations, with our ANSF brothers of the ANA 203rd Thunder Corps as well as the regional police.

This is exactly what we did in Iraq. Before anything else can be done, the populace must be secured. Political and economic progress can only occur after security is achieved, not before.

It is also all straight out of the book then-Lt Gen. David Petraeus wrote (ok, he led the team that wrote it); the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. FM-3-24 provided the theory behind everything that we did in the "surge" in Iraq. It doesn't take a genius to know that there are lessons here we can apply in Afghanistan.

As to why we are still at this point in Afghanistan, well that's a long story. Suffice it to say here as Lt. Col. (Dr) David Kilcullentold Charlie Rose "There has never been a successful counterinsurgency that took less than 10 years." For what it's worth, Kilcullen contributed to FM 3-24 and was senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus during most of the surge.

Bottom like though, is that now that we've won the kinetic phase of Iraq we should be able to send more troops to Afghanistan. Hopefully President Obama will beat up our "allies" to do their share, but I'm not holding my breath that they'll come through.

Col. Johnson again:

Quickly shifting to development, we all know that we cannot ultimately succeed here with military power alone, and it is critical to comprehensively approach all of our operations. Where we achieve separation from the enemy, we have to quickly follow with non-lethal effects, such as the infrastructure development necessary to improving the quality of life for Afghans.

In our area, our flagship development project is the $100 million, USAID-funded Khost to Gardez Road, which we call the K-G Pass Road. It will connect the Khost Province, where I'm at, with the rest of the interior of Afghanistan. It also cuts at the heart of the operational intent of our main enemy in this area, the Haqqani Network, which aims to isolate Khost and has a clearly stated objective to prevent the road's construction.

The K-G Pass Road is an example of the "hearts" aspect, of "persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success."

Also, if we can convince the farmers to grow wheat instead of poppies, we deny the Taliban et al a major source of funding. See the UN report here and the US government report here for details on how that is proceeding.

From the Q & A, here's how we're trying to increase agricultural production of food crops and entice the farmers to stop growing poppies:

Q Colonel, it's Jim Garamone, from American Forces Press Service. You mentioned in your introduction something about two teams -- two Agribusiness Development Teams -- I guess one from Tennessee and the other one I didn't quite catch. What are these teams? Are they military teams? Are they -- and what are they going to do for you when they arrive?

COL. JOHNSON: We're really excited about gaining these two Agribusiness Development Teams in our area of operations. They are multi-disciplinary teams that are provided by the National Guards from different states.

There have already been some states -- as a matter of fact, I used to have the province of Ghazni under my area of responsibility. And they currently have an Agribusiness Development Team from the great state of Texas. We are going to gain two additional ones, one from Indiana and one from Tennessee.

And they bring forward a significant amount of expertise in agriculture in a wide variety of ways, not only hydrology, farming, dairy to chicken farming. But as you know -- and I may not have described well in my opening statement, but Afghanistan is largely an agrarian society. But right now, it is largely subsistence farming. And there is a tremendous amount of capacity and potential that is lost every year and food security remains a prime concern over here.

These Agribusiness Development Teams are going to assist the Afghans through Afghan government as well as the development of business models to move from subsistence farming to really sustainable farming, where they have an entire system that allows them to increase production and take advantage of all of the great potential that is here.

They lose a lot of potential every year. And as an example, here in the province of Khost, much of the wheat that is produced here is -- you know, really provides excess capacity for the province, and most of it has to go to Pakistan for processing into flour and then is returned back to Afghanistan and sold at premium, especially when flour prices are high.

Q Colonel, how large are these teams?

COL. JOHNSON: They're roughly 50 to 80 soldiers strong. Much of it, however -- there is a security force element to it. But I would tell you at the heart of it is about 20 or so soldiers that have a significant amount of agricultural, you know, experience. And much of them -- and the entire agribusiness development team also has great backing with academia. They're tied to university systems and a large and growing collaborative network back in the United States that's going to help them, you know, solve problems while they're deployed over here.

Look, I know things aren't going as well as hoped in Afghanistan. I've discussed this in some detail before, so click on "Afghanistan" under "Categories" at right for more.

It is not at all clear, though, that had we not "been diverted' by Iraq we would have won in Afghanistan. Go back and follow the link to Kilcullen's interview with Charlie Rose. it's long but well worth it. Remember that it took the Brits 12 years or more to defeat the communist insurgents in Malaya. We didn't win in El Salvador in a year or two either. Fighting insurgencies is not like World War II. This is what they call "low intensity" war for a reason; it's not all bombs and bullets and it's not all over quickly.

But I also don't really care, as the last thing I want to do is argue over what we should have done. We are where we are. We need to finish up in Iraq and tackle Afghanistan anew. Let's get on with it.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2008

Creeping Sharia Update

Time for another update on how we're slowly losing our civilization to the jihad.

Losing? To the jihad? Impossible, you say?

Yes, we can lose. Let us not think that what we have will or can last forever. Our bombs and bullets are important, and surely we must win in Iraq and Afghanistan. But let's all be clear that our Muslim extremist enemies aren't simplistic enough to just come at us with their own bombs and bullets. Strykers with cage armor will help us win on foreign battlefields, but here at home we must open our eyes to what is going on around us, be strong enough to withstand the forces of political correctness when they try and denigrate us.

On with it, then.

Bye Bye, First Amendment?

The indomitable Nina Shea reports on two international conferences that were held to promote interfaith dialogue, tolerance, peace, love, understanding... you get the point. One, called the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), was organized by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and held under the auspices of the United Nations. Its 20 member states are without exception Islamic.

Reading the OIC's charter, their objectives all look quite unremarkable and innocuous. But are they?

According to Shea, the

(OIC) has pushed the U.N. to adopt a universal ban on defaming Islam. This measure would aim to curb the freedom not only of Danish cartoonists but also of scholars, writers, dissidents, religious reformers, human rights activists, and anyone at all anywhere in the world who criticizes Islam.

Not it all becomes clear. Their version of tolerance and respect are quite different than ours. Islam must be tolerated and respected; no criticism is allowed. Indeed, Shea says, the good king is trying to strike a bargain with the West; "Suppress criticism of Islam and you will be spared retaliatory violence."

The New York Post (h/t Islamist Watch) has more on what the OIC is up to:

Consider one key draft resolution at the event. Introduced jointly by the Philippines and Pakistan, it openly seeks to limit press freedoms. Sure, as read by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, the language pays lip service to the notion of freedom of expression.

But the document then goes on to emphasize the "special duties and responsibilities necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals."

Translation: Don't even think of publishing those Danish cartoons or anything even close to them. And forget about questioning authorities in places like, say, Riyadh.

Come now, is it really that bad? Yes it is

Consider one key draft resolution at the event. Introduced jointly by the Philippines and Pakistan, it openly seeks to limit press freedoms. Sure, as read by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, the language pays lip service to the notion of freedom of expression.

But the document then goes on to emphasize the "special duties and responsibilities necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals."

Translation: Don't even think of publishing those Danish cartoons or anything even close to them. And forget about questioning authorities in places like, say, Riyadh.

All that "freedom of speech" stuff is, you know, so old fashioned.

The second conference was called A Common Word. This one was a bit more ecumenical, with Christians apparently being represented too, including some from the Vatican.

A Common Word might prove useful, if, as Shea notes, "open discussion of these texts is permitted in Muslim societies." Otherwise, it's all pointless. We are and should be free to examine any religion here in the West, and it must be that way in Muslim countries also.

What the Muslims want is obvious; they want to make it illegal to criticize Islam, even in the West. Shea further notes that this is not as inconceivable as it may seem, for "already Canada, the Netherlands, France, and Italy, without real debate, have taken tentative steps to deploy defamation, hate-speech, and even long-dormant blasphemy laws."

Yup. Just ask Bridget Bardot about the European version of "free speech."

How About A 0% Savings Account?

The most important aspect of "creeping sharia" is the attempt by Muslims to force their culture and laws on us. Let me be clear from the outset: Sharia (or "shariah")is a totalitarian system of laws that is antithetical to everything that we in the West hold dear. And for you leftists, no I don't want the book of Levicitus incorporated into our legal code (and I'm a conservative Christian evangelical), so don't make fools of yourselves by leaving comments about "Christian theocrats."

"Sharia Finance" is that system of banking and economy based on Sharia law. Follow the link and you'll learn all you need to know about it. You'd better, because it's coming to the United States:

The U.S. Treasury Department is submitting to Shariah - the seditious religio-political-legal code authoritative Islam seeks to impose worldwide under a global theocracy.

As reported in this space last week, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmitt set the stage with his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Persian Gulf states. His stated purpose was to promote the recycling of petrodollars in the form of foreign investment here.

Evidently, the price demanded by his hosts is that the U.S. government get with the Islamist financial program. While in Riyadh, Mr. Kimmitt announced: "The U.S. government is currently studying the salient features of Islamic banking to ascertain how far it could be useful in fighting the ongoing world economic crisis."

Yes well if that's what it takes to recycle those petrodollars. Looks like the Wahhabist plan to undermine us is working out nicely. Walid Phares must be smiling... or shaking his head.

What's the big problem, you say? If you weren't good and didn't follow the link to Spencer's site above, take it from Frank Gaffney:

What makes the Shariah-Compliant Finance gambit both a big and troublesome "deal" is that, unlike these other religious traditions, Shariah's adherents are pursuing a global theocracy. They believe they must impose their agenda on everybody else, religious and secular alike, using violence if necessary. And SCF is explicitly described by leading practitioners as a complement to violent holy war: "financial jihad" and "jihad with money."

In other words, there is no such thing as free-standing Shariah-Compliant Finance. According to all of the recognized authorities and institutions of Islam, Shariah is a unified, indivisible program to which all faithful Muslims must adhere comprehensively.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the Saudis & Co. are not simply seeking to insinuate Shariah-Compliant Finance into our capital markets. They are also advancing creation of a parallel Shariah-governed society through various other means.

One of these techniques will be in evidence when the Saudi monarch himself convenes a meeting in New York City in the hope of imposing Shariah blasphemy laws worldwide.

Get it now?

The Illusion of Safety

A recent case makes it clear that you don't have to actually make criticism of Islam outright illegal to get the same end result. Just this past summer, Random House was on it's way to publishing The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, a book about Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed. Then they suddenly changed their mind. Was it because they thought it wouldn't sell? Unfortunately, no.

Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry said in a statement the company received "cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

"In this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel," Perry said.

Ah yes, safely. Mustn't upset the Muslims, else some of them become, you know, violent.

And in this case although the decision was cowardly, the concern was warranted. In September the eventual publisher in the UK had his house firebombed.

One might take as the lesson here not to publish books critical of Islam, or you will find yourself targeted. Some will say that because of the firebombing, Random House was therefore correct. I would say that the very reason some find themselves targeted is because others refuse to stand firm in the face of threats. By backing down Random House only encouraged the extremists.

Fortunately, stout hearts at Beaufort Books in the United States and by Gibson Square in the United Kingdom published Ms Jones' book.

Parallel Legal Systems, Parallel Countries

Across the pond, they've decided to let the Muslims have their own court system. Only for family cases, they assure us. For now.

Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims....

Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.

So what's the problem if they want to have their own court system? Isn't it all voluntary? And don't the Jews have their own courts?

I rather think that we should all know by now that there's not much of anything that's voluntary under Muslim rule. The whole purpose of this is for Islamist community leaders to keep their people, and especially their women, in their place.

Then there's the whole aspect of social cohesion. Diversity yes, but let's draw some limits. At the end of the day we have to all recognize the same laws. Once you head down the path to parallel legal systems you effectively have two different countries.

As for the objection "aren't the Jews allowed their own courts," oh please. The Jewish community is hardly expanding, their culture is not at all based on coercion, and they don't threaten anybody and everyone knows it. More to the point, their system is not parallel to English law but simply complementary. And they're not really legally binding.

Londonistan it is, then.

No Weenies Allowed

Just thinking about this story makes he hungry. Again, from our friends in the British Isles we have this:

Some 300 modern-day Scouts (the word Boy was dropped in the 1960s) settled down to a meal prepared in a 'kitchen marquee' and consisting entirely of vegetarian food - so as not to offend any religious faiths.

Clare Haines, a spokesman for the Scout Association, said: "It was really to do with religion that we were not able to provide sausages and burgers and all that kind of food.

"We have been very careful to make sure food is provided to everybody's tastes and beliefs, so no one feels left out.

"They enjoyed their vegetarian meals, especially vegetable chilli, fresh salads and jacket potatoes."

Oh yes I'm sure they did.

Although the story didn't mention any particular religion, I've never heard of Christians objecting to burgers and weenies.

Not At Your Desks, You Don't!

Glad I don't live in Scotland. I always eat at my desk at work. Of course, we don't really have a lunchroom so it's not much of an option. This time the virus of political correctness strikes Scotland:

The NHS (National Health Service) in Lothian has advised doctors and other health workers not to have working lunches during the 30-day fast, which begins next month.

The health service's Equality and Diversity Officer sent an e-mail to all senior managers, giving guidance on religious tolerance. This includes ensuring Muslim staff are given breaks to pray, and time off to celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan.

It is understood they also advised hospital managers to move food trolleys away from areas where Muslims work.

A Brief Time-Out

Lest you think I'm just picking on merry old England, au contraire. Just scroll down through my "creeping sharia" posts and you'll see I've gone after everything from Muslim footbaths at George Mason University to the Islamic Saudi Academy.

Ok, now back to picking on England

The Polls! The Polls!

Some people have bought into the standard PC line that "the vast majority of Muslims are just like us, it's only a few extremists causing all this trouble."

I wish.

Less than two years ago John Hood reported on a poll in the UK that showed that

...nearly four out of 10 of British Muslims aged 16 to 24 say they would prefer to live under Sharia law than under British law. That's according to a survey commissioned for the independent think tank Policy Exchange. "The emergence of a strong Muslim identity in Britain is, in part, a result of multicultural policies implemented since the 1980s which have emphasized difference at the expense of shared national identity and divided people along ethnic, religious and cultural lines," said the main author of the report.

Some 13 percent of the young British Muslims expressed admiration for "organizations like al Qaida."

Polls showing this sort of attitude are a dime a dozen, and have been reported on regularly. Either you have your eyes open, or you don't.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008

Afghanistan Briefing - 18 November 2008 - Task Force Duke

This briefing is by Col John Spiszer, Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. On Wednesday he spoke via satellite from Kabul with reporters at the Pentagon.

Col. Spiszer's unit is known as Task Force Duke, and they are responsible for security and stability operations in the northeastern area of Afghanistan, along the Pakistan border.

I am not entirely sure of the chain of command here, but Spiszer's unit is part of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), the NATO operation in Afghanistan. It's commander is General David D. McKiernan. I'm not sure if McKiernan reports up through NATO or CENTCOM. If it's the latter, his commanding officer is Gen. David Petraeus, who in turn reports directly to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. If, on the other hand, ISAF reports directly up through NATO, I'm not sure, as their structure is more than I have time to figure out. Take the Wikipedia article on ISAF for what it's worth.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

There was much of interest, but we'll concentrate on four topics; Provisional Reconstruction Teams, Human Terrain Teams (something new to me), relations with the Pakistani military, and the fractious nature of the insurgency.

From Col Spiszer's opening comment, where he discusses the PRTs (Provisional Reconstruction Teams):

COL. SPISZER: ...We have very high hopes for our area. We see great potential in N2KL. A lot of progress has already been made through CERP and by good coordination and the hard work of all of our PRTs, which just rotated over the past few weeks.

In FY 2008, they worked numerous projects to the sum of $160 million toward the advancement and development of Afghanistan.

All the provinces were very heavy into road building, as was Nangarhar, which was also focused on some of its irrigation projects and bridges. Kunar developed a trade school to teach Afghans necessary skills for carpentry, painting, road construction, welding and masonry. Nuristan has started a forest conservation program. And Laghman is working on its agricultural capabilities. It has three rivers that actually run through it, that have water in them year round.

PRTs bring civilian expertise to various projects designed to defeat insurgencies by providing essential services to the people. According to Wikipedia,

There are currently 12 US PRTs in Afghanistan. Within the PRTs in Afghanistan, there are typically three to five civilians; the remainder is made up of military forces. PRTs are backed by local and international security forces. PRTs were originally built and operated by US forces as means of facilitating reconstruction efforts in provinces outside the capital, Kabul. Following NATO's involvement in Afghanistan, command of some PRTs was transferred from the US to the nations under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

It would seem that we're trying to ramp them up, as there are job openings in PRTs listed at the State Dept website.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret) noted that they have been extremely successful in Iraq, and recommended that while we've been using them in Afghanistan too, they'd work a lot better there if the international community would step up and provide some help.

On to the Q & A, and something called a "human terrain team"

Q Colonel, Jeff Schogol with Stars and Stripes. I'm interested to know, are you working with a human terrain team, and if so, what value do they -- does the data they provide bring you?

COL. SPISZER: Well, yes, we do have a human terrain team, got a very good officer on my staff who in his training prior to this point had some good relationships with those guys as they formed out of Fort Leavenworth and out in Monterey. And it's a been a great value added to us. It provides kind of the critical element to our staff that we need to help us understand and gather some of the data that we need to get a full picture of the environment that we're operating in.

The counterinsurgency environment is all about the people, and understanding how to connect to the people, to provide them security and to provide them good governance. And without that understanding, we have a really hard time. And these guys are giving us some of that critical effort.

The thing that we've done mostly is to push them down to the lower unit so they could start interacting and engaging in gathering that information that we need, so that we can further our plans and coordination.

But there's definite value added, and I wish I had more of them, in fact.

Googling around, the best I can find as a definition in the short time for all this I have is again, alas, from Wikipedia:

The Human Terrain Team (HTT) program, begun in late 2003, is a controversial, experimental counter-insurgency effort of the United States military which embeds anthropologists with combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan to help tacticians in the field understand local cultures. "Academic embeds" as the social scientists on teams are known,[3] help troops understand relevant cultural history, engage locals in a way they can appreciate, and incorporate knowledge about tribal traditions in conflict resolution.[2] In interviews, US military officers in Afghanistan have stated that the aim of the program is to improve the performance of local government officials, persuade tribesmen to join the police, ease poverty and protect villagers from the Taliban and criminals. The deputy director is James Greer.

Everything is controversial to someone. These teams sound like a pretty good idea, though. Googling around, I found this article that describes how one HTT (is that the acronym?) helped soldiers in Iraq "understand the cultural landscape." We also get this pearl:

Outside the military, however, the teams have sparked some controversy. Much of the opposition has come from people in the academic world, who, according to Prof. Matsuda, fear the Army will misuse the knowledge offered by social scientists.

"Some are saying anthropology can't be part of the Army without being corrupted," he said.

Prof. Matsuda said some of the concerns are valid, and some are motivated by knee-jerk antimilitarism. Regardless, he said, the stakes are too high in Iraq right now to sit on the sidelines.

Knee-jerk anti-military attitudes in academia? Perish the thought!

Last, we'll cover a few exchanges which touch on relations with the Pakistani military;

Q Colonel, this is Jim Garamone, from American Forces Press Service. Two questions, really. Do you have the coordination centers set up where you work with the Pakistani army and Frontier Corps? And second, what's the trend in violence right now? Has the winter sort of cut down on the number of violent episodes in your AO?

COL. SPISZER: ..But I have not seen a real reduction in the level of violent acts. But it -- you know, I compare it from last year to this year, and May and June were higher. July and August were lower. September was about the same, and October was actually higher. So this past month in my area it was actually higher, despite what was going on with the Pak military in the Bajaur Agency. I think part of that is because of what's going on. Initially we saw a drop when they started their operations, and now I think they might actually be pushing some guys back this way, which might account for some of the rise.

So it's hard to categorize when you compare from one year to the next, and it's also a matter of qualitative differences. Many of the contacts we see now are much less in duration or intensity as well, almost more just -- just to do something is kind of how I characterize it. They're out there just trying to do something. They haven't had very great effect on us at all, in fact, in the last month, despite the levels.

So overall we've had a slightly more this year than last year, but it's been different....

And later, Col Spiszer was asked about what he considered to be his greatest success and greatest challenge. For our purposes here we won't go through the questions. First his success

COL. SPISZER:...The biggest success I'll tell you straight up is the cooperation and coordination that's developing between the Pakistani military. I wish I had more resources to devote to it, and we will have more over the -- over the coming months, but it's also paving the way in this cooperation.

...from my perspective, what they've been doing over the last two months is a sustained offensive that's really put the pressure on the enemy in a way that I don't think, from what I've learned in the past, has happened before. So I think that's the biggest change.

Ok but we also learn that the Paks seem to want to shoot down our drones. I'm not at all saying that Col. Spiszer is being anything less than completely honest. It's just that the Paks are cooperating in some areas, but certainly not in others. I doubt their military is even completely under the control of the government.

And although it doesn't touch on our topic directly, his greatest challenge is of course relevant to understanding the overall situation there:

COL. SPISZER:...Well, I -- you know, along the border, terrain's a pretty big impediment. (Laughs.) Everything else seems to pale beside the terrain.

We've got -- let me take a look at my -- 470 kilometers of -- (audio break) -- N2KL and virtually all of it's above 5,000 feet. So it can't get much worse than that. And then you've got about 10 kilometers of mountains stretching into Pakistan and 10 kilometers or so stretching into Afghanistan. So it's a pretty big mountain range with very few roads and trails through it.

And then, like other places, the enemy's actions as he goes through there and attacks different sides, it makes it hard for them to trust each other and work together because they're never sure who's who. It's very difficult. So the enemy's actions themselves in targeting the border posts make it the next most difficult thing, I think.

I don't know which would be worse, the heat of Iraq being enough to fry your brain, or the mountaintop thin-air cold of Afghanistan.

This next exchange highlights the complexity of fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan. As with Iraq, there is no completely unified insurgency. Neither country is like Vietnam, whereby our enemy was quite unified.

U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 speaks to how an insurgency can be quite different from one village to the next, and as such there is no "one size fits all" counterinsurgency strategy. Commanders must be able to evaluate each situation and adapt as needed.

Q Can I follow up(David Morgan of Reuters)? If you could -- can you please tell us what sort of volumes you're seeing in terms of militants coming across the border? And are they Afghan, Taliban returning to Afghanistan? Are they foreign fighters? Who are they?

COL. SPISZER: Okay, well, if I saw them all, they wouldn't be around anymore. So I can't give you real definitive figures on what I see happening there. We have a very broad mix up in this area.

In the south, we have what's called the Taliban front, or, correction, the Tora Bora front, which is kind of successors of the Hezb-i-Islami Unis Kalis (ph) faction. We also have a lot of drug smuggling. Then as you work your way up to the eastern side, we have TNSM, which is a Pakistani -- Islamic fundamentalist group that's associated with the Pakistan Taliban. Then we also have Taliban and we also have LET (ph) the Kashmiri separatists.

And they all kind of come across and do different things. Some of them come over here and basically train. They fight us to train to go do things in Pakistan or in Kashmir. Some of them come here because they're paid to. So there's a lot of different reasons and different groups here that don't coordinate their activities very well, which in fact gives us an advantage here.

But I don't see large numbers of foreigners. We hear lots of rumors of foreigners. And you got to remember, up in Nuristan, a foreigner is anybody not from that valley. So it gets very hard to sort some of that stuff out, because it's very isolated. But, you know, and a foreigner is definitely a Pakistani or Punjabi, which we -- is not what we're thinking of when we talk about it. We're talking about Arabs and Chechens and Uzbeks. We hear about them quite a bit, but finding good, solid evidence is very rare.

We face a lot of problems in Afgthanistan, but at least one of them isn't a unified insurgency, which made Vietnam that much harder. Winning here, I think, is going to take longer than Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 17 November 2008 - Impact of the SOFA in Sadr City

This briefing is by Colonel John Hort and Dr. Theodore Andrews. Col. Hort is Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Dr. Andrews is the leader of the Baghdad Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team 3. They spoke via satellite from Forward Operating Base (War) Eagle with reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The 4th ID headquarters Multi-National Division-Baghdad. it's area of responsibility is Baghdad and the surrounding cities and towns. The 4th ID, and Colonel Hort, deployed to Iraq in December of 2007. Dr. Andrews took up his responsibilities in March of 2008.

Col. Hort reports to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, commanding general of the 4th ID and MNF-Baghdad. Hammond, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, who in turn reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

Although much was discussed, there were three main topics covered during the course of this briefing. One was the dramatic reduction in violence caused by the neutralization of the "special groups" criminals, and the Jaish al-Madhi (or Jaish al-Mahdi) militia (which was created by Muqtada al-Sadr). Second was the transitioning of the Sons of Iraq from an independent force into the security services, and third was the impact of the recently signed SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). Although all are important, after reviewing the Colonel's opening remarks we'll concentrate on the SOFA.

From Col Hort's opening remarks

COL. HORT: Thank you, Bryan, and good morning, everybody. Colonel John Hort, as Bryan said, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

But first of all, we've got the Adhamiya District on the east side of the river on the northeast side of Baghdad as well as Sadr City. So they're two very large districts -- Fort Baghdad, about 4 million strong, in terms of the population density. About 40 percent of the Baghdad population kind of resides in our area of responsibility, as well as one Iraqi army division, the 11th Iraqi Army Division, which comprises the 42nd Iraqi Brigade as well as the 44th Iraqi Brigade that partners with us in the security component of our responsibilities over here.

Significant amount of progress, as I'm sure that you all know, has been made in the last year in terms of security, as well as the local governance and economic and essential services progress that we're seeing here on the ground.

To start off with Adhamiya briefly, we've -- when I got here, we were averaging roughly around six to seven attacks a day, which was actually down from the 14 attacks they were -- they were seeing prior to the surge. Since I've been here, in about a year now, we're down to less than one attack a day in the Adhamiya District, which is primarily a Sunni area, just on the river. And then it kind of transcends over to the Shi'a side as you move farther to the east. So a significant reduction in violence in that part of our area of responsibility. And I attribute that largely to what the Iraqi security forces have been able to do over the last year as we partner with them in defeating al Qaeda, which tends to be our biggest threat over here, as well as some special groups of criminals that do, in fact, operate in the Adhamiya district.

What I would call our main effort -- Ted and I's main effort -- is Sadr City, comprised of about 2.5 million people, as most of you might be familiar with; a large population density -- probably the largest density of Iraqis living in one area in Baghdad and probably all of Iraq; prior to the March time frame a very very kinetic area to operate in, not only for coalition forces but for Iraqi security forces.

But through the March-April-May time frame, a significant amount of combat operations were conducted in this area against the special- groups criminals, and some Jaish al-Madhi militia, that resulted in the cease-fire that you probably heard about in May that has really turned the corner, in our estimate, in terms of the special groups being significantly disrupted over here and, some would argue, actually defeated in some cases.

But they're certainly on the run inside and outside of Sadr City....

Most of the key leaders fled around the middle of May, went to various countries or south of Baghdad, and today we're seeing some of those individuals try to make it back, but what's different -- what's different today that they did not see before is that they are, in fact, fugitives now. The Iraqi army is in pursuit of them, attacking them, capturing them and bringing them to justice. And I think that's one of the most significant changes that I have seen in my 12 months, is the Iraqi security forces' willingness and capability to actually go after some of the special-groups criminals that really did not have that to worry about, about seven months ago....

We've been able affect health clinics, schools, parks, to some extent, the electricity in this part of Sadr City as well as trash and sewage, which has been a major focus. And that has worked extremely well, not only in the security component but also giving the people a sense of normalcy and bringing this part of the city back to life.

And it's also had an impact on the government of Iraq, as they have watched kind of our support to the local government down here, in the south part of Sadr City, also start to see some progress up in the northern parts or the parts beyond the gold wall, as we call it.

So once again we see the success of the surge. Not only did it quell the violence, but it has led to political progress. The Iraqi security forces are picking up the pace, and local Iraqi governments are stepping up. As Col Hort noted at the end, there's a cascading effect whereby the central government is affected by success at the local level. Some have said that it progress could only happen from the top down, but this has been disproven by facts on the ground.

Next was the Q & A between Hort, Williams, and the assembled reporters. As mentioned above, we'll concentrate on those questions that touched on the SOFA.

A Status of Forces Agreement is a legal document that provides the legal basis for one country to keep military forces in another. It also covers all manner of legal issues that pertain to individuals and property, both those of regular military personnel and civilian contractors. For example, it covers whose court system tries a soldier or civilian if they are accused of A or B crime. It covers damages that might be made to civilian property by military vehicles in the course of exercises or warfighting. The United States has a SOFA with every country where we have troops.

As everyone knows, a long-awaited SOFA was signed between the governments of the United States and Iraq over the weekend. I have neither the time, the inclination, nor the expertise to analyze the details and all that they mean. That said, The Washington Post has a useful backgrounder(and see this Post story. The Iraq Oil Report claims to have a leaked copy of the agreement itself, though I'll let readers judge the reliability of it for themselves.

So far, Maliki's cabinet has unanimously approved the SOFA, which is good news. Now it must go before the Parliament, and like in any democracy there will be at least some disagreement.

Let's go to the Q & A:

Q Colonel, this is David Morgan from Reuters... The question is this: Given the Sadrist opposition to the SOFA agreement, how do you assess the threat of violence on that count? And is it possible that the May cease-fire could be vulnerable to violence coming from opposition to the SOFA?

COL. HORT: What -- my assessment right now of that particular part of the insurgency is that it is -- it is severely disrupted. As I mentioned, a lot of the leaders left, and they -- we've seen some return of the leadership, either from different countries like Iran or Syria or wherever they fled to, or in parts from the south that they've come back. But they have not all come back. And so that part of the leadership -- at least 50 percent, in my estimation -- is still missing that we saw prior to the May cease-fire. So the leadership itself is not completely intact yet to really affect a large-scale uprising or anything that we have seen before. We still watch that very closely.
...

Q Ken Fireman from Bloomberg News. A question for both Colonel Hort and Dr. Andrews. It now looks like there's a good chance that the SOFA will take effect, given what happened in the cabinet yesterday. If it does take effect, how will that affect the environment -- the political and the security environment in which both of you and your people operate? And how will it affect your day- to-day operations?

COL. HORT: Did you want to --

DR. ANDREWS: Let me just -- excuse me, let me just take an initial swing at that. I don't see any immediate effect on our operations. Our -- (audio break) -- in promoting governance, promoting economic development, promoting essential services for the people.

On this day-to-day level, the SOFA is not a big issue, not with the local-level politicians with whom we're working most closely. It's obviously a piece of the background news and people, I think, will be a little bit apprehensive in the day or so after it, but there's no great apprehension of major problems.

The election is coming up. A lot of the leaders down at the provincial level are really concerned about that. A lot of them are going to be running for the election. And they're also really worried about how are they going to get services in their area. And that's the focus of things, not the SOFA.

COL. HORT: I would just say from the -- taking the security standpoint as we look at SOFA -- (audio break) -- obviously been able to read, kind of, exactly what all of the points and pieces of it are, but as I understand it, it will probably look something like a transition period for coalition to move more to a perimeter type of, you know, support to the Iraqi security forces inside of Baghdad.
...

And so, I think there will be some transition that we have to work through if that's, in fact, where's going. But in general right now, with the exception of Sadr City, we're kind of already moving in that direction, even prior to the SOFA with the Iraqi army taking more and more responsibility, more and more of the lead, particularly the targeting of the bad people -- and I talked about, the special groups, but also the al Qaeda that is not -- is still somewhat out there within certain parts of our area. So I don't -- I don't see a significant change.

We do have some joint security stations and combat outposts that are inside the city that we would probably have to push more out towards the perimeter of the city, but I think that we can work through all of that. And I just will say that the Iraqi army today, more so than when I was an adviser, has got a tremendous amount of confidence in themselves and is doing more and more each and every day that we work with them.

Q For Dr. Andrews, you said that some people in your area may feel a little bit of apprehension about the SOFA. Could you specify what the source of their apprehension would be? What will they be concerned about?

DR. ANDREWS: No, I think -- I'll backtrack a little bit from that, but the issue's that they hear the news stories and just wonder whether things might happen. A few days ago we met with some leaders and they said: Oh, did you hear, the -- you know, that the cabinet had made this decision? Do you think anything is going to happen? And we could say we don't think anything serious will happen.

So it's an issue in the news. People here have been through a lot over the last few years, and they've got very -- you know, they have paid, almost all of them, some sort of personal price. So they've got an obvious concern, but I don't think there's anything specific that they know that we don't know about, of any great danger, that's going to arise simply by the signing of this.

I'll take these two at their word because it makes sense that the signing of the SOFA would cause little immediate effect in Sadr City. It will be interesting to see what happens in future briefings, especially by senior commanders such as Lt. Gen. Austin or Gen. Odierno.

As for the larger picture, an article in yesterday's Washington Times says that the Iraqi PM sees the pact in terms of restoring sovereignty. Iraq is an "honor society," and as such image and perception are all-important. All people want to run their own affairs, and the Iraqis are no different. What is different between them and post-WWII Germany and Japan is that we beat the latter two into oblivion before occupying their countries. Their people were so war-weary they were in no mood to resist whatever treaty or constitution we foisted on them. Our experience in Iraq has been dramatically different, to the point where the Iraqis are asserting themselves sooner.

From our perspective, there certainly are problems with the SOFA. First, although our troops will be tried in our military courts for any alleged crimes they commit while in Iraq, our contractors will have no such protection. Second, we cannot use Iraq as a base for operations against other countries. Third, all U.S. troops must be out by 2011.

Even with these I'm not as worried as some. All this is renegotiable and it won't be for a year or so before we know where things are really headed.

The editors at National Review see mostly good in the pact, saying that it's successful conclusion is "a blow to the schemers in Iran -- and to their cat's-paw, Moqtada al-Sadr -- who did all they could to torpedo the pact." True enough.

On the other side, Andrew McCarthy, also writing at National Review, sees cause for worry. He says that "behind the smiles" lies the inconvenient fact that "the Iraqis don't like us," and he cites polls to support his thesis. To McCarthy, winning is not about establishing a democracy, it is about defeating radical Islam. Because of the terms of the SOFA and leaks as to how the negotiations went, he concludes that the "Iraqis are more concerned about prosecuting Americans than embracing them."

Readers of this blog know that I have a lot of respect for McCarthy, and time will tell whether he's right or not. For now I think he's being a bit too pessimistic. Recall the Nov 10 briefing by Maj. Gen. Martin Post (USMC) in which addressed the issue of whether "the Iraqis" want us to leave or not and said that

Candidly, it depends upon who you talk to. In some cases, if you talk to the local man on the street, they'll look at us and say, "Hey, I think we're ready for you to go."

If you talk to the -- the leadership -- you know, the IP leadership or the Iraqi army leadership or the provincial leadership, they would probably tell you, "Hey, we need you here for some period of time longer." Not really ever saying, "We need you here for one year or two years," but I think we're still, if you would, that security blanket for them, in the -- standing behind them....

This makes sense. Things could go either way in Iraq but right now I'm cautiously optimistic.

More than that, though, I've always taken the long view with regard to Iraq. I know this sounds terribly Wilsonian (not to mention neoconservative!) but I do think that a pluralistic society in Iraq will serve American and indeed Western interests. It's not so much about this or that policy, or whether they allow us to have bases on their soil, but whether it changes their attitude towards the relationship of government to the individual and the role of religion. Sure, Islam is enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution, and I'm less than pleased about it. This may well though prove to have been a temporary measure to satisfy entrenched interests. The enemy of radical Islam or jihadism is pluralistic societies more than it is military bases or particular policies. I think McCarthy is wrong in that there is a link between democracy (or liberty or a pluralistic society, choose your term) and defeating jihadism.

Further, although in the long run having the Iraqis "like us" would be nice, in the short term it's not the point. Much of counterinsurgency revolves around winning the "hearts and minds" of the populace, and note that this is probably the most misunderstood term in all of warfare. From the book that then Lt. Gen Petraeus wrote (ok he led the team that wrote it), the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24

"Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Before we end, let's look at two other exchanges that highlight issues of importance. In this first one, in response to a question Dr. Andrews discusses something that goes to the heart of counterinsurgency warfare:

DR. ANDREWS: I would just add to that that the biggest problem that we would face is not the -- the biggest problem we would face is that people sometimes feel a little bit hopeless after all the years of fighting that they've had. And the thing we're trying to push them for is not to feel that, not to feel helpless, to let them know they've got institutions that can work to represent their interests, to push their interests. And we're trying to show that there's benefits of working in a democratic way, and I think the vast majority of people in our area get that. So there are services, there is pressure to get more services and that's -- (audio break).

Read this post at Small Wars Journal for the complete explanation.

Beating insurgents is about a lot more than what the military calls "kinetic operations." That's important, to be sure, but in the long run you can't shoot your way out of an insurgency. Sure, violent military operations are important, and no one is saying otherwise. But in the end you have to give the people a reason to side with the government other than that you'll kill them if they don't. This is where the "hearts" part of the phrase comes into play.l

See then-Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno's "exit interview" of February 2008. Odierno said of the Iraqi people that

As long as they (the Iraqi people) feel safe... they will continue to support us... if they feel rejected by their government.. that will be a turning point on what decision they make.

Dr. Andrews and his team are trying to make sure the Iraqi people believe that the government has their best interests at heart. Only if they do will final victory and a stable Iraq be assured.

And speaking of how the people see their situation, this last exchange is important:

Q Okay. This is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. Quick question. Based on your assessment, how do you see the current status of Jaish al-Mahdi, and how do you see its future?

COL. HORT: ...talking with the Iraqi military that operates a lot inside the parts of Sadr City that I don't go to, they are not seeing the militia that we used to see before, which was brandishing weapons, controlling neighborhoods, extorting money.

And one of the true signs that we see in change is the Jamila market. This market is inside Sadr City. It's the largest market in Baghdad, and I think in Iraq, if I'm not mistaken. It basically distributes out to all different parts of the city, as well as receives the goods in.

So it's a large, large market that supports, you know, millions of people in the city of Baghdad. That market used to be the primary funding -- financing of the Jaish al Mahdi militia, as well as parts of the special groups. Today, that's a free market, controlled by the market owners, the businessmen, as well as those that lease the stalls in that area, and we're not seeing any extortion at all. So that's a sign of progress that the Jaish al Mahdi militia are trying to step away from that type of nefarious activity that they were doing before.

Free markets, owned and operated by Iraqis, largely free of corruption, and where people feel safe, will save Iraq as much as any round from an M-4.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2008

Book Review - Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad

On February 26, 1993, Americans were stunned to learn that a bomb exploded in the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring 1,042. Scenes of panic were on our televisions, and for awhile Americans wondered if we weren't going to suffer a wave of terror as what plagued Europe in the 70s and the Middle East to this day.

Within a week, though, our law enforcement scored what seemed like a stunning triumph against what seemed to be stunningly incompetent terrorists. On March 4 one of the terrorists, Mohammad Salameh, was arrested as he attempted to retrieve his security deposit on the Ryder truck they had rented for the attack.

This in turn led to other arrests, and before too long it looked as if law enforcement had the entire thing wrapped up. I myself remember thinking that it we must either have the world's dumbest terrorists or the world's best law enforcement. From what I remember most other Americans thought the same thing.

But what if we had known that the FBI had had an informant inside the organization that carried out the attacks months before they occurred?

And what if we had found out that the informant had warned the JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force; FBI and local law enforcement) that this organization was actively training jihadists in guerrilla tactics for a campaign of assassination and bombing? Or that they were actively experimenting with explosives? And was apparently well-funded?

And despite all this, the JTTF ordered the informant to withdraw from the organization?

We'd have been outraged, that's what.

This and more is told by Andrew C. McCarthy in Willfull Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.

McCarthy is in a position to know what he's talking about, because at the time of the bombing he was the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against the masterminds behind it, most notably the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven others.

McCarthy's involvement only came after the 1993 bombing, so he was not a part of the missteps with the confidential informant. Nor did he prosecute the underlings who carried out the attack. His job was to go after the terror masters. He did, and his efforts led to the conviction of all of them. The Blind Sheikh was the most important, and dangerous, terrorist ever tried in the United States.

If McCarthy's book was only about the bombing, investigation, and trial of the accused, it would be an interesting but not a terribly important book. As it is, however, McCarthy goes well beyond a simple narrative of the investigation and trial. Much of the book is a discussion of the nature of the jihadist threat that we face.

The Blind Sheikh

Omar Abdel Rahman was born in Egypt in 1938, and lost his sight as a child to diabetes. Early on recognized as something of a prodigy, impressed his teachers early on by memorizing the entire Quran. He attended the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he obtained a degree in Qur'anic studies. He was recognized as a specialist in Islamic law, authorized to issue fatwas and binding legal opinions. Rahman, by now called the "Blind Sheikh" adopted the most radical views, calling for the imposition of Sharia law wherever possible.

The Blind Sheikh saw America, Israel, and secular Arab governments as his main enemies, and called for the overthrow of all of them. Nothing the United States did on the behalf of Muslims anywhere held any water for him. Mubarak, and Sadat before him were mere puppets of America. As for Israel, well, "Zionist" conspiracies were everywhere.

The Blind Sheikh's entire history is long and complicated, but suffice it to say that he developed ties to seemingly every radical and terrorist group in Egypt. He even led fundraising tours for MAK, or Mektab al-Khidmat, the organization from which al-Qaeda would grow.

While in Egypt he became the spiritual leader of an organization called Gama'at al-Islamia, or simply the Islamic Group. Formed in 1973, it is considered an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is closely tied to al-Qaeda. Their original motivation was to overthrow the secular government of Egypt, but as their ties and size grew, they "branched out" into full-fledged jihad against the West as well.

The Blind Sheikh's method was to issue fiery denunciations of, say the government of Egypt, backed by the relevant Islamic scholarship, but stop short of calling for outright violence. He simply let his followers figure out what he meant. Imprisoned for a time in Egypt, amazingly enough he beat the charges in court by simply quoting Islamic law to the effect that it was every Muslim's duty to engage in jihad against anything anti-Islamic. Since Sadat's government was openly secular, the court was forced to admit that Rahman was right.

He entered the United States on a tourist visa in 1990, this despite his name being on our terrorist watch list. Deciding to stay here, his lawyers successfully fought off deportation orders. He brought his organization with him, and, while continuing to issue orders to his followers in Egypt, also started to pursue jihad against the United States.

The result was the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

Worse than that, his organization was working toward bombing five New York City landmarks: the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. It was for this conspiracy, as well as the World Trade Center attacks, for which he and his co-defendants were convicted.

Willful Blindness

On Nov 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir David Kahane was shot and killed by El Sayyid Nosair after giving a speech in Manhattan. A subsequent search of Nosair's apartment revealed what would seem to be a treasure a trove of documents. Box after box of notebooks, assassination manuals, handwritten notes, and jihadi literature was removed. Amazingly, the authorities ignored all of it. They had convinced themselves that Nosair was a loner, and no further investigation was required.

It was an act of willful blindness. The reality was that Nosair was part of a jihadist conspiracy led by the Blind Sheikh.

The Informant

Emad Salem, a former Egyptian army officer living in the United States, had infiltrated the Blind Sheikh's organization for the best of motives; he believed that jihadists had perverted the religion and he wanted them exposed and convicted. His undercover activities started in 1991. He'd even met Rahman on several occasions, and had so thoroughly convinced him that he, too, was a jihadist that the conspirators had asked him not only to design their bombs but to help build them also.

Therein lie the problem. The JTTF did not want its informant actually building bombs. "Imagine the liability," they said, if Salem engaged in bomb building, and then the jihadists escaped the FBI's surveillance and were successful in exploding their bombs. After all, even the FBI does not have magical powers, but rather limited resources, and such a thing was eminently possible. Thus the decision to withdraw Salem from the jihadist organization altogether.

In retrospect it was clearly the wrong decision, but given the attitudes at the time, an understandable one.

What outraged McCarthy is not just that the JTTF ordered Salem off the case, but that they dropped the investigation altogether. As he points out, they still could have conducted surveillance and used other investigative techniques.

After the World Trade Center bombing, Salem was allowed to re-infiltrate the terrorist organization. He was so successful in collecting evidence that long story short, eventually the Blind Sheikh and his fellow jihadists were all arrested.

A "Perverted Islam"?

In planning his strategy for prosecuting the Blind Sheikh (as McCarthy calls him throughout the book), McCarthy realized that he would have to present a clear motive to the jury. Jurors, he explains, are hesitant to convict on forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony alone. They want to know why the accused did what he or she did. Without a convincing motive, jurors will tend towards giving the accused the benefit of the doubt.

It was clear that the Blind Sheikh was motivated by jihad. For years he had railed against the secular Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, and ever since moving to the United States had taken up the cause against us here.

The question to McCarthy was not how to present this to the jury, for that was easy. The danger was how he would cross-examine the Blind Sheikh should he take the stand. He knew he couldn't engage in a wide-ranging debate about Islam with the Blind Sheikh, for the latter was a world renowned scholar on the subject. Rather, he would try to trip him up on a few points of Islamic theology, showing that the Blind Sheikh had twisted the true, peaceful, nature of Islam into something violent and hateful. After all, we've all been assured by "moderates" that Islam is a religion of peace.

But as he studied Islam, he came to realize that it was the Blind Sheikh who had the better understanding of Islam. McCarthy concluded that "Islam is a dangerous creed" that threatens Western values. The way the religion is practiced today, it's hard to disagree.

As it was, the Blind Sheikh never took the stand, so no cross examination occurred. But if it had, McCarthy concluded, neither he nor anyone else would have been able to show that the Blind Sheikh had twisted Islam into something it wasn't.

The Pre-9/11 Mentality

Much of the book details the comedy of errors that our various government bureaucracies made in dealing with terrorist suspects in the 1980s and 90s. Time and again agencies such as the CIA, INS, and FBI didn't communicate with each other, so that while one would list a particular person as a terrorist suspect and flag him as "no entry" to the United States, the others would not get the message and the suspect would be granted a visa. Four times, for example, the Blind Sheikh applied for visas to enter the United States, and on only one occasion was he denied entry, this despite his history of radicalism if not outright support of terrorism.

Astoundingly, the situation did not improve even after the 1993 WTC bombings, when all of the bumbling was revealed. "We caught them; problem solved." was the prevailing attitude. The public perception was that we were on top of our game and no fundamental changes need be made.

Islam and Terror

At some point during the investigation, it became clear to McCarthy that there was nothing "more elemental to Islamic terrorism than the radical Muslim ideology that fuels it." In order to prove motive it simply had to be addressed. From a legal standpoint it was more important to show that a criminal act affected interstate commerce, for example, than to show that a Salafitst interpretation of Islam was behind it all.

The root of modern Islamic terror, and the primary influence on The Blind Sheikh, can be found in the 13th and 14th centuries, most particularly in the writings of Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymayyah (1263-1328). As also explained by Walid Phares in Future Jihad, Ibn Taymayyan (spellings vary), concluded that the reason that the reason the Mongols had been able to sack Baghdad itself and end the Abbasid dynasty in 1258 was that Muslims had ceased to properly follow the dictates of Allah. The solution, then, was to purify Islam and eliminate or purge it of those who in his opinion were not practicing the religion properly.

To carry this out he developed the doctrine of the takfir, which is essentially the Muslim equivalent of the inquisition. This would later develop into the Salafist movement which would in turn spawn Wahhabism, which in turn spawned al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Ibn Taymayyah led what was essentially a "back to the Dark Ages" movement. Gone was enlightened or "progressive" thought. While Europe would go from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance and Enlightenment a few centuries later, the Muslim world did just the opposite. Taymayyah's ideas have dominated radical thinking ever since.

Central to Salafist/Takfiri thinking is the concept of the jihad. Some Westerners have attempted to distinguish between a "greater" and "lesser" Jihad, seeing the first as defensive, or good, and the second as offensive, or bad. The "lesser" jihad, in this thinking, is a vestige of the old days, and is no more. The current, "greater" jihad, is peaceful and used strictly for defensive purposes.

Unfortunately, the idea of a greater and lesser jihad is about as accurate as the portrayal of honor among the Corleone family in the Godfather series. It's good entertainment, but with little or no basis in reality. Even if jihad is strictly defensive, the radicals have been able to twist any and all circumstances into "defense of the faith." This even to the point where resisting the spread of Islam is said to be an attack on the faith and requiring a "defensive" jihad.

Others have tried to portray jihad as a "peaceful inner struggle" one has with oneself in order to purify oneself for God. As with the idea of a "greater" and "lesser" jihad, this is a notion mostly held by Westerners and some Muslims who live in the West. It is not held by many Islamic scholars.

The reality is that jihad is the central tenant that drives Islamic terrorists, and its goal is the worldwide imposition of Islamic law. Issues such as the Palestianian-Israeli conflict are tangential.

The other major influence on the Blind Sheikh was Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual father of modern jihadist thinking and the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood until his death in 1966. Qutb's focus was on replacing secular Arab governments with Islamic ones, which would be governed by Sharia law. As an Egyptian, his main focus was on Gamal Abdul Nasser. After Nasser died in 1970, the Blind Sheikh took up the cause of overthrowing first Anwar Sadat, and then Hosni Mubarak.

Moderate, progressive, Muslims want the entire concept of jihad to just go away. As McCarthy found out while preparing his cross examination of the Blind Sheikh, they have mostly proven themselves unable to debate with the scholars, virtually all of whom see violent jihad as part of the religion.

What attracts followers is the ideology of radical Islam. What keeps them there is success, and what drives them away is lack of success. It's the "strong horse/weak horse" thing, and so each victory fills their ranks, whereby each defeat depletes them. There are lots of fence-sitters who are watching closely.

Not that we should always expect the jihadists to tell us who they are. It has been said that "war is deceit," and the Blind Sheikh followed this to it's fullest. Interviewed by CNN's Bernard Shaw in 1992, he said that "I do not call people for any violence," a known lie even then as he was on record for calling for the murder of Egyptian officials. Caught gloating over his deception by an authorized Federal wiretap of his phone later that same day, Rahman not only admitted to the deception to an associate but found it hard to believe that some of his followers might not "get it."

Although it was clear to McCarthy and the JTTF that the Blind Sheikh and his fellow conspirators were guilty, there was some resistance to charging him at all. Some in the intelligence and foreign service communities thought that doing so would upset Muslims and make it harder for us around the world. They even said that it would be counterproductive; that it might provoke more attacks.

McCarthy rejects such reasoning. Terrorists, he says, thrive on weakness. As noted earlier, fence sitters look for the "strong horse," and join that side. Further, if they didn't prosecute, it would embolden the Blind Sheikh himself who would only order more terrorist attacks.

That he and his fellow conspirators were indited was due, McCarthy says, to the steely determination of two of his bosses; Mary Jo White and Janet Reno. White was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993-2002, and Reno needs no introduction. Both were Clinton appointees. As much grief as Reno has received from those of us on the right, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she did good in this case. My hat is off to them both.

Lessons Learned

McCarthy's experience has caused him to reject a strict law-enforcement model for dealing with jihadists. For standard criminal cases, "the law is our noble, all-purpose abstraction." Time and again he makes sure the reader understands that he and his fellow prosecutors followed such things as discovery procedures to the letter of the law, even when they very much helped the defense.

A problem with the law-enforcement model is that it ignores Islam as the fuel for Islamic terrorism. Prosecutors, as explained above, tend to concentrate only on the technical aspects of proving that the suspect planted or designed the bomb because of the way the law is written. Further, prosecutors are generally not interested in bringing up the overall aim of the terrorists, rogue-state facilitation, or who covertly financed the entire operation. They just want to prove that so-in-so designed or planted the bomb, or recruited the people to do it.

Traditional criminals may want to murder, but only individuals or small groups. They want to steal money or items. They do not want to overthrow any government, just work their evil around it. But terrorists, especially those of the Islamic variety, want to kill large numbers of innocent civilians, and the more the better. They do want to overthrow our government and replace it with an Islamic one. Because the two have different motives and objectives, we cannot use the same means to go after both. It is especially problematic to use standard legal means to pursue terrorism outside of the United States.

The reality is that we are not dealing with a small band of crazies who sometimes hide out in the wilds of Afghanistan or Pakistan. We face hundreds of thousands of jihadists (of one level of commitment or another) around the world.

Further, the means used to identify terrorists on this scale is necessarily different than what is used to gather evidence against criminals. While wiretaps are secret, they are revealed during discovery. We use national intelligence means to gather evidence against terrorists, and we simply cannot reveal "sources and methods" to the public.

Lastly, trials with their associated appeals take years to complete, cost tens of millions of dollars, and end up convicting relatively few people. Given the number of jihadists, it is simply not feasible to try them in criminal courts.

In the end, McCarthy says that it is Islam itself that must be confronted. Here too he and I agree. Far from a "hijacked" religion that is really about peace, Islam as it is and has been practiced for far too long incorporates many disturbing elements and beliefs. These can be changed, just as Martin Luther and John Calvin changed Christianity, but if will never happen if we remain wedded to political correctness.

As McCarthy says at the end; "We can open our eyes and see it. Or not."

Video Interviews of Andrew McCarthy on National Reivew: "Law & Jihad"
Chapter 1 of 5
Chapter 2 of 5
Chapter 3 of 5
Chapter 4 of 5
Chapter 5 of 5

Update

After rewatching the interviews I realize I didn't do justice to McCarthy's recommendations at the end of his book. The terrorists at Guantanamo are neither criminals nor enemy soldiers as properly understood. Therefore, they are due neither the protections of our constitution nor those of the Geneva Conventions (details on the latter here). As such, they fall into a never-never world where the traditional means to deal with them don't apply.

One of McCarthy's suggestions to help resolve this is to establish a National Security Court. President Bush should have established a board of advisers to help set this up immediately after 9-11, but better late than never. The idea is to take the best of both criminal and military court system. The benefit of the military justice system is that it better allows us to protect national intelligence. On the other side, the criminal justice system works much better in that federal judges do a better job of moving cases along to resolution. When the military is fighting a war court cases will by definition be on the back burner (and I would say there's probably a conflict of interest) so the federal court system can better handle the load and move cases forward.

That's the ultra short version. Buy the book and learn the rest.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2008

See, I Told You We Were Winning

Reporting from Iraq, Michael Yon tells Glenn Reynolds that

"The was is over and we won"

Lucky for the Democrats Iraq wasn't an issue in the election.

"There's nothing going on. I'm with the 10th Mountain Division, and about half of the guys I'm with haven't fired their weapons on this tour and they've been here eight months. And the place we're at, South Baghdad, used to be one of the worst places in Iraq. And now there's nothing going on. I've been walking my feet off and haven't seen anything. I've been asking Iraqis, 'do you think the violence will kick up again,' but even the Iraqi journalists are sounding optimistic now and they're usually dour." There's a little bit of violence here and there, but nothing that's a threat to the general situation. Plus, not only the Iraqi Army, but even the National Police are well thought of by the populace. Training from U.S. toops has paid off, he says, in building a rapport.

It turns out that it's even better than that. Reynolds one bit wrong, and Yon emailed in this correction:

"Actually, NONE of them have fired their weapons in combat during this tour, and about half of them are combat veterans from Afghanistan and/or Iraq."

With news like this it's no wonder that my liberal commenters have nothing to say about my Iraq posts.

After all, after Bush announced the surge in December of 2006, rather than support it the Democrats turned into Civil-war era Copperheads, squawking that the war was lost and there was nothing we could do.

But as I reported at the time, those who promoted the surge (General David Petraeus, Sen. John McCain, Dr. Fred Kagan, Gen. Jack Keane (ret), Australian Lt. Col. (Dr) David Kilcullen, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, and many others) said that no, we can do it.

Then, as the surge was implemented, throughout 2007 and into 2008 I reported on our progress through many "Iraq Briefings" and more. It became clear in late 2007 that we were winning, and since then we've done nothing but consolidate our gains.

Let us now review a little history.

First up is an excellent video documenting Senator Obama's pronouncements opposing the surge. Listen to him announce his "Iraq War De-Escallation Act of 2007" on January 30 of that year in which he demands an immediate withdrawal before the surge can take effect. Note also when he says that he believes that sending 20,000 additional troops would be counterproductive:

As late as last January, the Obama campaign was insisting that the surge was not working

Sorry, but although much still remained to be done, by January of 2007 it was clear that the surge was working.

I know, I'm "piling on." After all, Obama has been elected president and we on the right should just learn to deal with it.

Not to worry, I'll cut him a break when he takes office.

But the reason for this post is that I see a President Obama claiming credit for all this. Call me cynical, but I can just see him making big announcements everytime a unit comes home from Iraq, and all the leftie bloggers proclaiming too that it was all due to the wisdom of The One.

We'll know the truth, though, which is that Obama, Biden, and virtually all other Democrats wanted to quit the war back in 2006 if not earlier, and opposed the surge and all that it entailed. Then, months after it was apparent to everyone else that the surge was working and we were winning they denied it and continued to denigrate our effort.

Anyone who has followed the "Iraq Briefings" I've posted on this blog know that we have been so successful that troop withdrawals have in fact been going on for months.

Interestingly, our commanders on the ground tend to be more cautious than reporters like Yon. Last October, Col. Philip Battaglia said what we were "not yet at the tipping point" whereby success could be assured. Battaglia is commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which is part of Multi-National Division - Center, which in turn is headquartered by the 10th Mountain Division, which is the area where Yon reported from.

Still, that we have been winning is evident. Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, Commander of Multi-National Division-Center, and the 10th Mountain Division, reported last July on the incredible changes he'd seen since his last deployment, saying that "it's indisputable that the level of attacks are phenomenally low."

In that same month Col Tom James, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, part of f Multi-National Division - Center, headquartered by the 10th Mountain Division, told us about the confident and capable Iraqi leadership that he'd seen.

As for troop withdrawals, we've seen a lot of that too. Just last week Maj. Gen. Martin Post, Deputy Commanding General, Multi-National Force-West, headquartered by the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), spoke of how the Marines had reduced their forces by 50% and had turned over all of al-Anbar to Iraqi control. They're closing bases down (including Camp Fallujah!) and the remaining units are in oversight mode only.

Part of Multinational Division-Center, Col. Dominic Caraccilo, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), said that his 4,000 man unit will be replaced by two battalions that total 1,800 troops.

To be sure, some commanders are reporting that although their areas are stable now, things could take a turn for the worse if we're not careful.

Col. William Hickman, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which is part of Multinational Division-Baghdad and headquartered by the 4th Infantry Divison, said in October that although there has been much progress, "the situation's certainly fragile."

As always, Steve Schippert provides some of the best analysis of Yon's report and what's going on over at The Tank. Don't miss it.

In the end, though, if Obama wants to claim that the drawdown is all due to him, I'll just have to sit back and watch. I just hope that he listens to our commanders and follows their advice on just how fast we should bring them out.

Update

Here are two excellent articles by Peter Wehner in Commentary that are worth your reading

From April of 2008, "Obama's War," in which Wehner traces Obama's evolving position on the war. He's held several. Basically he went from total opposition before it, wondering whether he was wrong after seeing the statue of Saddam toppled, to wanting to send more troops to Iraq, to opposing the surge and finally denying that it was working. In other words,he's been anything but the model of consistency that he's claimed himself to be.

Second is "Liberals and the Surge." In this piece Wehner describes how no matter what the news about how successful the surge was, leading liberals continued their mantra that all was lost and that nothing was or could work. Finally, when it could no longer be denied that violence was way down, they claimed that it was not because of anything our military did or due to any Administration policy.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 13, 2008

Afghanistan Briefing - 12 November 2008 - Building the Afghan National Army

This briefing is by Major General Robert Cone, Commanding General of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. On Wednesday he spoke via satellite from Kabul with reporters at the Pentagon.

From it's website, the mission statement of CSTC-A:

Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan in conjunction with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan (ISAF) and the International Community, and nested with the US Forces - Afghanistan Commander's intent, plans, programs and implements the generation and development of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) in order to enable GIRoA to achieve security and stability in Afghanistan.

As stated, CSTC-A reports to ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), the NATO operation in Afghanistan. This is separate from OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), the main U.S. effort in that country.

Note; yes this means there is a split command in Afghanistan, which is a problem. Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret) said yes it's a problem, and in another post I explained why the command is split (short version; some of our allies are "wobbly")

I may be missing a step, but somewhere Maj. Gen. Cone reports to General David D. McKiernan, the U.S. commander of ISAF. He, in turn, reports to Gen. David Petraeus, newly installed as commander of CENTCOM. Petreus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

There was much of interest in this briefing, and it was primarily focused on building the Afghan National Army.

From Gen. Cone's opening remarks:

GEN. CONE: ...The ANA (Afghan National Army) are leading about 60 percent of the operations they participate in and have proven themselves as an effective fighting force. The ANA is also in the midst of expanding from their current strength of 68,000 to an end strength of about 134,000. Last year, we trained and added some 26,000 soldiers to the Afghan National Army. This year, we plan to expand the ANA by an additional 28,000.

This expansion is much more than raw numbers, though. The Afghan National Army is undergoing at the same time a significant force modernization effort. We are already well into the fielding the force with NATO weapons and also have begun fielding up-armored humvees.

From FM 3-24, the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual the importance of an indigenous army.

6-1 Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, upholding the rule of law, and provide a basic level os essential and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.

6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".

Yes, but does it have to be this hard? I guess it's all part of that Clausewitzian friction:

Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war.

All of which is a fancy way of saying that war is harder than it looks.

On to the Q & A

Some people say that we should shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. If we were to do so, how soon might additional resources make a difference? Could we accelerate the development of the ANA?

Q General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR. There's a lot of talk here in all the reviews going on of Afghanistan about accelerating the training of the Afghan security forces. And when I was over there, they said it will take five years to double the size of the Afghan army to 134,000. And I'm wondering, can you accelerate that number? Can you shave off some of that time? And to do that, how many more trainers would you need? Have you estimated that?

GEN. CONE: Yes, we have. I would say that we are working on a number of options that would accelerate the development of the army far faster. I think right now the current plan would complete the army by the third quarter of 2013. And again, we're working on a plan that essentially would shave seven quarters off of that and deliver the 134k army by 2011. The key point would be a lot of the light infantry capabilities needed in the current fight would be delivered a lot sooner.

In fact, our challenge in the near term would be really three things that I think when you deal with the rapid acceleration of a force like this -- the first is sort -- is the dearth of human capital.

And I just had a very excellent conversation with the minister of defense today, talking about the need to accelerate officer and non- commissioned officer training programs. And again, that's really where we have -- because of the generational loss that has occurred here through years of war, and we really have to focus our energies.

The second complicating factor we have here is certainly the long lead time in terms of the purchase of equipment and the buildout of facilities. Here in Afghanistan, because it is such an austere environment, just to expand training facilities, what we would need are -- certain -- you have to scratch something literally out of the desert to -- to build a training center for the Afghans that can support the kind of quality of life that's necessary to do training in the army.

And then the last point I would make is that all of this has to be done in an accountable manner. And one of the problems you have here with corruption across this country is that you have to closely watch all of the things that you do. So you can't go too quickly or you'll create an environment that might be conducive to a loss of control and accountability. So we have to watch all of that very quickly.

The request in regard to the number of additional trainers that we will need will be about 60 additional training teams. And there are about 12 to 16 trainers depending upon what their purpose is, whether it be -- for instance, logistics is a smaller team; infantry battalion mentors are a slightly larger team.

So yes, we can accelerate, but it's not so simple, and you can only speed things up so much. As Gen. Cone said, if you go too quickly you'll lose control and accountability will suffer.

A bit of history quoted in FM-3-24 is relevant:

"It is a persistently methodical approach and steady pressure which will gradually wear the insurgent down. The government must not allow itself to be diverted either by counter-moves on the part of the insurgent or by the critics on its own side who will be seeking a simpler and quicker solution. There are no short-cuts and no gimmicks - Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam, 1966

Continuing with that line of questioning, Tom Bowman pursues the matter:

Q Have you put that request in, or is that something you're just considering?

GEN. CONE: The Afghans, I will tell you, are -- are moving out. I can tell you that we've already started in -- intake. We normally recruit about 2,000 Afghan recruits a month, and this month nearly 3,950 entered the training centers. And so we are -- the Afghans, within their capability and within their program, are going to aggressively move as fast as possible.

And when I say we can grow 28,000 in a year and bring eight battalions online sooner than was projected, I think if we, in fact, can meet those three constraints that I talked about, we could, in fact, go faster. And what we're looking at right now is getting the budgetary resources to have that -- that sort of flexibility.

Q Again, have you requested those 60 additional teams?

GEN. CONE: Yes. They are a part of the current requests for forces that are working both through NATO and through the U.S. channel.

So we'll see whether President Obama sends the additional resources to Afghanistan that he's been promising. If he does so, hopefully he'll do so without taking them prematurely from Iraq, or we're just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

This next exchange is also important in light of the financial crisis and our incoming administration:

Q This Daphne Benoit with Agence France-Presse. Good morning.

Given the resistance of NATO allies to contribute more, in Afghanistan, but also given the context of the financial crisis, are you concerned that you might experience a financial shortage, at some point, to fund your training programs? And can you remind us of the estimated cost of that program, please?

GEN. CONE: Actually I think everyone is aware of the financial crises and issues that are working currently both in the United States and around the world. But I think from our perspective, what we focus on, our request to the U.S. government, through the U.S. Congress, through the Department of Defense, and I'm relatively certain that they will make assessments, in regard to what is financially feasible. So our job is to really focus on the military dimensions of this and to allow others to make those kinds of assessments.

We have been told that a president Obama will be able to better work with our allies than was President Bush. Now that he's been elected, we shall see.

Lastly, the Sons of Iraq program (originally called Concerned Local Citizens) were very successful and contributed towards defeating the insurgency. It has been much discussed in the Iraq briefings I've covered. Would such a program work in Afghanistan?

Q General, Tom Bowman again with NPR.

As you know, there's a lot of talk about working more closely with the tribes over in Afghanistan. The word you keep hearing is empowering the tribes. Some say you should follow the model of Iraq, create maybe a Sons of Iraq-style program, sort of armed community watch kind of thing. Is that a good model, do you think, for Afghanistan?

GEN. CONE: I think there are a number of good ideas that come out of the experience in Iraq that we put to use here on a regular basis. I think that there is willingness today among senior Afghan government officials to engage in some form of -- actually the term they prefer to use is community engagement. And I think the point that I would make is there's some 425 tribes here in Afghanistan and oftentimes a single tribe might be on one side of a valley and another tribe on the other side. So you need to be careful about which tribe you engage because they may have traditional hostile rivalries, etcetera.

The notion the Afghan government is talking about today really focuses on community engagement that would take sort of an accumulation of the multitude of tribes that might be in an area and use a shura to provide additional members to assist in security. Typically the area they talk most about is in regard to highway security, the emerging requirement that we have there. So I think we're looking very carefully at the experience in Iraq, looking for lessons learned, but certainly doing it with a real sensitivity to the unique situation that we find on the ground here in Afghanistan, and trying to find the right mix. And I could tell you that the Afghan government, the ISAF leadership and CSTC-A are all involved in those discussions and I think we'll be fairly soon trying to work through some of those in meeting with some local tribal elders to further explore what is the right variant of that program for Afghanistan.

In response to a follow up question, Gen. Cone said that a decision on whether to proceed with such a program would come in a few months.

Surely there are lessons we can learn from Iraq. But each country is different, and must be approached as separate problem. FM-24 makes it clear that the nature of an insurgency can vary dramatically from one village to the next, and the counterinsurgents must vary their approach accordingly. Given this, the differences from one country to the next are even greater.

But all in all an interesting briefing and much can be learned from it.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 11, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 10 November 2008 - Anbar: "We don't think it's fragile out here"

This briefing is by Major General Martin Post, Deputy Commanding General, Multi-National Force-West, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), speaks via satellite with reporters at the Pentagonyesterday.

The I Marine Expeditionary Force took command from the previous MEF (Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, commanding) in February of this year. Gen. Post spoke Monday from Fallujah.

Gen. Post reports to Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) and MNF-West. Kelly, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, who in turn reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

The initial set of questions was about infiltration from Syria in the wake of the October U.S. raid into that country. Post replied that there has been little cross-border activity, and no fallout from the raid. All good news.

Since Obama won the election, I suppose we're going to get a lot of questions like this next one;

Q Sir, it's Mike Mount with CNN. The new president-elect has a kind of rapid timetable to start moving troops out of Iraq. You've just kind of given us a pretty positive look at the Iraqi security forces there. Do you have any concerns, if the U.S. troops are pulled out early, what effect that might have on advances that the Iraqi security forces have made?

GEN. POST: Well, obviously, I can't or won't comment necessarily on decisions being made in Washington or in Baghdad.

I know those discussions are going -- are being had and will be had here in the future. And obviously Multinational Force-West is providing recommendations to our higher headquarters, as far as how we believe our stance is.

I think, as you all know, since we arrived here last February, we've reduced over 50 percent of our ground forces, our actual maneuver battalions, if you would, with the coming down from the surge and then from the Army BCT that left, the two Marine battalions that left. And then just recently here as a matter of fact, this week, another Marine battalion is headed back home, without a replacement....

One of our big efforts has been to start to close some of the bases down, i.e., closing Camp Fallujah, as we -- General Kelly talked to you about here a couple weeks ago. And we've also -- there's been a big effort to move all the Marine forces out of the cities. And so as you go throughout, from Fallujah all the way up the Euphrates River Valley, up to Al Qaim, where we used to have Marines actually living in the cities, we've pulled them all out.

And so where we have our tactical locations, where the Marines are living, they're all in expeditionary facilities right now, outside the urban centers, if you will. And of course, that's one piece of the discussion here, as we wait to see what will happen with SOFA, if SOFA is in fact signed, and what the final agreement will be.

SOFA refers to the Status of Forces Agreement, an agreement between on country and another for keeping troops from one country in another. In this case, it refers to U.S. forces in Iraq. The idea is to reach a long-term agreement, and it would cover a range of issues, among them who gets to prosecute U.S. troops accused of various crimes against Iraqi civilians, and vice versa. Theoretically, if we cannot reach an agreement we'll have to immediately withdraw.

Lest you become alarmed, I think Steve Schippert has it right when he says that it's all just jockeying for position by the Iraqi government. The Iraqis are 1) trying to get the best deal they can so see no reason to sign before the deadline, and 2) have to look tough to their own people, this being what they call an "honor society."

A theme of recent briefings is the drawdown of U.S. forces. The Iraqis are now able to handle security on their own with the U.S. in a support role, and anyway violence is way down as AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and other insurgent forces near defeat.

Q Hi, General. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. Just a couple of quick questions. Can you talk a little bit more about the move, the headquarters move to Al Asad next week? How many Marines does that involve?....

GEN. POST: Yeah, I can. I'll first answer the comment here about the Camp Fallujah, I mean the basing. You know, we had -- when Camp Fallujah was full up with all the units, we had probably over 8,000 Marines and sailors and soldiers and contractors here on Camp Fallujah.....

So it's a -- really, numbers-wise, I mean, you can go from where we're going -- from 8,000 in here earlier this summer to zero. So we're just reposturing those forces. In some cases, some of those forces -- (audio break) -- you know, would be transitioned home....

Percentage-wise, obviously, you could probably look at -- you know, we were -- when we arrived here in Anbar Province, MNF-West was about 34,000 strong. That's between Marine forces, Army forces and our support from the -- from the Navy. We're probably going to be at the end of this month here, early December, down about 26,000. So you can see it's almost 8,000, approaching 9,000 service member -- men and women -- reduction.

Gen. Post also discussed upcoming elections that will seat new provincial governments. They'd hoped to hold them in October but they've been delayed. He stressed that unlike in 2005, when the Sunni's mostly sat them out, this time their polls showed they could expect a 70-80% turnout.

Several U.S. Army commanders have said in recent briefings that while there is much progress in their AORs (Area of Responsibility) it is "fragile" and we must be careful how fast we draw down. Not so for the Marines;

Q General, if you don't want to give figures for the coming six to 12 months, can you give us some idea -- we hear this word "fragile," that there's good progress, but it's fragile. How fragile -- or is it fragile in Anbar Province?

GEN. POST: No, I don't believe it's fragile at all. You know -- (audio break) -- for Anbar Province. The -- you know, as we say it, the AQI is marginalized here. The people of Anbar don't want that back. Surely we have -- we have incidents out here where we believe AQ is still trying to inject themselves when they and where they can and where we stay very heavily engaged on that, as you would expect....

Candidly, it depends upon who you talk to. In some cases, if you talk to the local man on the street, they'll look at us and say, "Hey, I think we're ready for you to go."

If you talk to the -- the leadership -- you know, the IP leadership or the Iraqi army leadership or the provincial leadership, they would probably tell you, "Hey, we need you here for some period of time longer." Not really ever saying, "We need you here for one year or two years," but I think we're still, if you would, that security blanket for them, in the -- standing behind them....

But what we're seeing is that -- they're comfortable in their role, and I would probably see -- as decisions would come out at CENTCOM and MNFI here, and later this year or early -- early 2009, there would probably be potential continued reductions out here. I think we would be able to probably handle that quite nicely.

Often I hear the anti-war crowd seize on one or another statement by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or a survey which purports to show that "the Iraqis don't want us there." As the statements by Gen. Post illustrate, this is simplistic thinking and the reality is a bit more complicated. I don't want to go through the whole issue with Maliki now but let's just say that he often seems motivated by factors other than what's best for Iraq.

No one wants foreign troops on their soil. The Germans got tired of us by the late 1970s, and we saw large protests over the placement of Pershing II and GLCMs in the 80s. Truth be told, I am halfway surprised we were able to keep such large numbers of troops and weaponry in Western Europe for so long.

So of course they want us out. The Iraqis are a proud people (when asked about Iraqi achievements, one response you hear is "we invented the wheel" - made only half in jest). And with violence so far down, everything I see (including from this briefing; watch the whole thing) the Iraqis are more concerned now with social services.

Mid-level Iraqis, however, know that for now they need U.S. support. The good news and bottom line lesson from this briefing is that the surge was a tremendous success (Obama and the left are wrong on the reasons for our success in Anbar), the Iraqis are able to handle the situation with less and less U.S. support, and that we can slowly draw down.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 9, 2008

Affleck Parodies Olbermann

Ben Affleck captures Keith Olbermann perfectly in this SNL skit. Wherever you are on the political spectrum I think you'll find it hilarious. What's ironic is that Affleck probably agrees with him on most of the issues.


Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 8, 2008

A Warning and A Hope

Melanie Phillips knows a thing or two about liberty and how a leader can destroy a nation. In Londonistan, she explained how her country had become a haven for terrorists because of political correctness. In a piece printed at National Review she tells of how Tony Blair

...directly promoted or did nothing to stop the long march through Britain's institutions -- the systematic undermining of the country's fundamental values and traditions, in line with the cultural Marxism strategy of the philosopher Antonin Gramsci. It tore up Britain's (unwritten) constitution, devolving power to Scotland and changing the composition of the upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, destroying the delicate equilibrium of the balance of power.

...set about changing the identity of the country. Promoting the doctrine of multiculturalism, it opened Britain's doors to mass immigration. In the state-controlled schools, teachers no longer saw their role as the transmission of Britain's historic culture, which was "racist"; accordingly, children were not taught the history of their country, but instead a concept of 'citizenship' which was all about changing the values of the country. It undermined marriage, promoting instead "lifestyle choice" by incentivising lone parenthood (official forms no longer refer to husband and wives, merely "partners"). It discouraged prison sentences because criminals were said to be victims of life and jail would make them worse.

Obama has talked about remedying what he sees as the flaws in the U.S. Constitution which promotes only "negative liberties," or freedom from something rather than positive rights to something. Well, through human-rights legislation Britain has exchanged its historic concept of "negative" liberty -- everything is permitted unless it is actively prohibited -- for the 'positive' European idea that only what is codified is to be permitted.

We already have something of a "victim culture" in our country, though nowhere near as bad as in the UK. Look for it to get worse.

More, Obama wants to change the meaning of "rights" to a greater degree than ever before. The way our Constitution is written, rights are certain things that you have because you are a person and the government simply cannot take them away from you. They are "negative" rights, as in you have the right to own firearms and the government cannot ban them.

Like Blair, Obama wants to add to that "positive" rights; a right to a job, a level of income, health insurance, etc. While FDR experimented with this idea, and one might say it was cemented in the minds of many during LBJ's "Great Society" days, it seems that Obama is more audacious than any previous president.

If you don't believe me listen to Obama himself in a very revealing 2001 interview he gave on Chicago Public Radio Station WBEZ FM

Stop the ACLU has a partial transcript.

What is the result of this type of culture? Phillips explains that

...this doctrine holds that the "powerless" can do no wrong while the "powerful" can do no right, injustice is thus institutionalized, and anyone who queries the preferential treatment afforded such groups is vilified as a racist or bigot.

All this constitutes a profoundly illiberal culture in which no dissent is permitted, group is set against group and intimidation is the order of the day. And this also happens to be the culture of ACORN, of the radical groups funded by the Annenberg Challenge and Woods Fund, and the 'educational' or criminal justice ideas of William Ayers, endorsed by Barack Obama.

I think we already see that here in the U.S.

A Hope

The good news is that we on the right are not down and out, but if anything are energized by the election. We knew from the outset that it would be a difficult year. It was the "perfect storm" for the Democrats. Our candidates were flawed, and that it took Sarah Palin to infuse any energy at all into the campaign is revealing.

Bill Whittle, also writing over at NRO, sees the same thing. Amateur historian that he is, he compares our situation to that of the Union in October of 1864. The war was at a stalemate, which meant that the South was winning.

General Phillip Sheridan rallied his troops after their rout at Cedar Creek and led them to victory. His troops had lost a battle, but weren't whipped. All they needed was leadership and direction. "We are going to get a twist on those fellows, men! We are going to lick them out of their boots!"

It has been a source of delight for me these past few days to see nothing but evidence of this, all across our defeated lines. Nowhere have I heard a shred of defeatism or despair. On the contrary. In point of fact, the magnanimity and graciousness I have seen in defeat in so many places on the right tells me that this is an eager and seasoned army, one able to look defeat in the face and own up to the errors in tactics and strategy that got us there. And nowhere do I see a call to abandon our core principles and sue for terms, but rather that our loss was caused precisely by our abandonment of the issues which we hold dear and which have served us so well on battlefields past.

So consider this, my fellows in arms: On Tuesday, the Left -- armed with the most attractive, eloquent, young, hip, and charismatic candidate I have seen with my adult eyes, a candidate shielded by a media so overtly that it can never be such a shield again, who appeared after eight years of a historically unpopular President, in the midst of two undefended wars and at the time of the worst financial crisis since the Depression and whose praises were sung by every movie, television, and musical icon without pause or challenge for 20 months . . . who ran against the oldest nominee in the country's history, against a campaign rent with internal disarray and determined not to attack in the one area where attack could have succeeded, and who was out-spent no less than seven-to-one in a cycle where not a single debate question was unfavorable to his opponent -- that historic victory, that perfect storm of opportunity . . .

Yielded a result of 53 percent.

Folks, we are going to lick these people out of their boots.

And I will do everything I can to make it happen.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 5, 2008

Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama

First, my congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama. He and his supporters certainly worked hard for their victory and I hope they enjoyed their celebration last night.

In another post at some point in the future I'll deal with the GOP. I've already written about President Bush and the failures of the GOP and I'm not going to do it again here.

Conservativism wasn't rejected because despite what leftist bloggers may think, because the McCain-Palin ticket did not offer a conservative platform in any meaningful sense. It is simply not factual to say that they, or George W Bush, are "far right-wing extremists."

Sean Hannity today offered his congratulations and then said "we want the new president to succeed." If I could have called, I would have asked him "succeed at what?"

Here is a partial list of some of what Obama wants to do

  • Employee Free Choice Act
  • Fairness Doctrine
  • Freedom of Choice Act
  • Nationalization of health care
  • Estate tax increases
  • "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" (driver's licenses for illegals)
  • Capital gains tax increases
  • Defense cuts
  • Liberal judicial appointments
  • Racial and ethnic preferences
  • Income tax increases
  • Bans on oil drilling
  • Global poverty tax/Kyoto

To which I can add

  • Gay marriage
  • International Criminal Court
  • National "hate speech" legislation
  • Reversal of DC vs.Keller (gun case)
  • National gun control or even confiscation
  • National "volunteer corps whose real function is political agitation
  • Pandering to everything but the most radical forms of Islam
  • Redistribution of wealth
  • A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq
  • Skyrocketing prices for electricity

Less likely, but not impossible, are prosecutions of Bush Administration officials like Don Rumsfeld for "war crimes."

Sorry, but I can't sign on for these things.

Contrary to what some readers might think, I'm not universally critical of recent Democrat presidents.

Sean Hannity seems to assume that he and Obama share the same goals for America, but only have different ways they want to get there. I do not think this is the case. Obama has a radically different idea of what America means, what type of nation we are, and what we should be. I don't even think he thinks of himself as an American in the traditional sense, but more as a "world citizen."

The biggest mistake many people make when thinking about things like retirement benefits or health care is that they see it as a giant math problem. They assume that there is a "solution" that we can discover if only we get enough experts together. This is false because much the issue is values based. I do not think that you have a right to health care coverage from the government.

A Fundamental Change

Make no doubt, whether the people who voted for Obama know it or not, this election represents a fundamental rejection of America as we have known it since colonial times. The damage Obama will do to our country will for the most part be permanent, or at least not fixable for several generations. This is not a question of the economy tanking, although it will. Nor is this an issue of a loss of U.S. power and prestige overseas, although that will happen too. We are on the road to a Western European, or dirigisme style relationship between government and business.

Finally, it's not a question of this or that policy or law being put into place.

The rejection I am talking about is about the relationship between the citizen and the government. It's about how much the government should be involved in the economy. It's about what constitutes a "right," and about what the government owes it's citizens. It's about whether the Constitution means anything other than procedure and the dates when we vote, and whether judges can twist it to suite their political agendas. It's about our role in the world, and whether we will remain truly sovereign or whether we'll cede most of it to international institutions. And of course it's about traditional values or forcing the new values of the radical left on all us whether we like it or not. It's also about free speech, and whether we'll follow the path of Western Europe, most nations of which restrict what their citizens can say to a degree greater than what most Americans realize.

Supreme Court justices are on the bench for decades. Once universal health care is out of the bag, you can't take it back. Once gay marriage is instituted, you can't cancel it. If Ronald Reagan couldn't even keep his campaign promise to eliminate what was then the new pipsqueek Department of Education, what makes anyone think we can dismantle what Obama creates?

Maybe even worse, Obama's election could signal the beginning of the end of the U.S. as a world power. Modern liberals in general don't like U.S. power, and think that we should be more beholden to what agreements we can get from the "international community" before acting. The idea of the U.S. as the leader of the world strikes them as "arrogant." They always want to cut military spending, which is necessary even for "soft power" projection. The war they claim they want to fight is always the one we're not actually engaged in. When we are in one their ability to stick it out is pathetic.

Making It Permanent

Further, conservatives and Republicans need to understand that this is not 1976, and if we only bide our time we can "re-elect" Ronald Reagan in 2012 or a GOP Congress in 2010 as we did in 1994. Neither of these scenarios is as likely to occur now as they did then.

For one thing, Obama might prove just popular enough to get reelected in 2012. He may not totally wreck the economy, or precipitate a foreign policy disaster. More to the point, it just might be that a majority of Americans really do want a socialist cradle-to-grave system.

Further, this time the Democrats will take measures to make their relections permanent too. Groups like ACORN Planned Parenthood, et al will receive a steady stream of federal funding. The left has learned a lot in recent years, and they're not interested in giving up their power. Byron York documented their various organizations in the wake of the 2004 election in his book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, and predicted that they would be back the next time with a vengeance. He was right.

The Democrats will encourage more illegal immigration through the promise of benefits, and "amnesty" for illegals already here. They will push through changes in state laws so that felons can vote. A

Remember also that we will have redistricting in 2010. With Democrats in such control everywhere they'll be able to gerrymander districts like never before.

The purpose of all of this is to keep their majority for as long as possible.

I could be wrong about all this, but I don't think I am.

Sarah Palin

Although this post is not per se about the future of conservatism or the GOP, I do want to say a few things about the Governor of Alaska.

Let's get one thing out of the way real fast; Sarah Palin did not "drag down" John McCain. McCain would have done worse had he selected any of the other presidential contenders as his running mate. As someone who is quite active in the local GOP, and who follows these things intimately on a national level, I am telling you that the only reason McCain had much of any support from the party at all was Sarah Palin. Conservatives were decidedly unenthusiastic about his candidacy, and if most of us were going to do anything at all it was because we didn't like Barack Obama, not because we liked John McCain. Sarah Palin fired up the base and at least gave us a fighting chance.

Sarah Palin faced an insanely biased media that treated her as a Dan Quayle from the get go. Barack Obama also faced an insanely biased media, but one that covered for him and his running mate at every turn. That Palin faced this with grace, style, and humor shows her good and steadfast character.

Palin and others like her, such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Tom Coburn (OK) are, I hope, the future of the GOP.

They represent clean government and new ideas. Best of all, all the right people hate them. That they're portrayed as "too religious" or some such means that they must be doing something right.

Stay In the Arena

Not to worry, though, because despite the pessimism of my post, I don't give up. If anything Obama has inspired me to work and fight harder than ever for my ideals.

As such, I think I'll end with the words Theodore Roosevelt that are especially appropriate for this moment

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 3, 2008

Barack Obama's Energy Plan: "Under my plan... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

If by chance you haven't seen Senator Obama telling the truth about his energy plan, here are the videos that are going viral around the Internet.

Both Obama and McCain want to implement what is called a "cap and trade" system which by definition would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The difference is in the details, and where the limits would be set.

In a stunning admission, Obama says that his proposal, "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Listen to him say it yourself:

Unbelievable. Only an envirocrazy could like something like this. Here's the transcript:

The problem is not technical, uh, and the problem is not mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. The problem is, uh, can you get the American people to say, "This is really important," and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake. Uh, and climate change is a great example.

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know -- Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I'm capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it -- whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.

They -- you -- you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, "Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they're going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars," or whatever their number is. Um, if you can't persuade the American people that yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.

If we can't make that argument persuasively enough, you -- you, uh, can be Lyndon Johnson, you can be the master of Washington. You're not going to get that done.

At least he's finally figured out that corporations simply pass their bills on to consumers. Either that or they cut jobs, salaries, or employee benefits.

I believe this is the reference to being asked earlier about coal that he's talking about:

Here's the transcript:

Let me sort of describe my overall policy.

What I've said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else's out there.

I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted.

That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.

The only thing I've said with respect to coal, I haven't been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.

It's just that it will bankrupt them.

Any other companies you'd like to bankrupt, Senator? Firearms manufacturers, perhaps? Drug companies so that you can take over that business too, perhaps? Petroleum producers? Once the government gets into the business if bankrupting companies, where does it end?

Obama makes clear that he's opposed to coal "as an ideological matter." Politicians who want to help people should rather be in favor of whatever works, regardless of what it is. We should have an open mind and favor whatever brings us the most energy and the lowest cost with the least pollution.

Look, I'm not at all opposed to alternative forms of energy. Yes, let's look into everything. Yes, I realize that we have a limited amount of fossil fuels and no matter what "clean technology" you implement they still pollute. But as of now things like solar and wind are pipe dreams that cannot supply but a small fraction of our needs.

I think we need more nuclear plants, but the left is unalterably opposed to that as well. Barack Obama doesn't even discuss nuclear power on the energy issues page of his website because he knows it would drive his supporters away from him. John McCain, on the other hand, sets the goal of building 100 new nuclear power plants by 2030.

Obama does say that we do need nuclear power, but we know he is not serious because he is opposed to storing the waste at Yucca Mountain. John McCain, however, supports storing our waste there, which is a prerequisite to building any more nuclear power plants.

Just to set some context, here are our current sources of electricity

figes1.jpg

As you can see, "renewable" and "envirofriendly" sources of energy make up a negligible percentage. Further, our electricity needs are going nowhere but up(source)

petawatt-consumption-history-chart.jpg


The bottom line is that demand for electricity is going nowhere but up and coal and nuclear have got to be part of the solution, at least in the short term, which we may define as the next 20-40 years. Barack Obama is opposed to both coal and nuclear power, and will make prices "skyrocket" prices for consumers.

This is not the type of change we need.

Tomorrow we go to the polls. Energy is yet another issue where McCain-Palin have the better plan.

Posted by Tom at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 2, 2008

More Creepy Obama Supporters

Via Jonah Goldberg at NRO


This is so wrong.

Frighteningly, there are more;



There is something about Obama that attracts this weirdness. As Mark Levin wrote earlier this week;

There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.

No kidding.

And yes I know there are a few pro-McCain songs out there but it's not at all the same. I've never seen anything like this Obama cult following for any Republican, even Ronald Reagan.

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The Creepyness of Obamamania


Posted by Tom at 8:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack