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July 31, 2008

New Administration, DoD Leaks On Deployed Force Casualties Unpardonable

Today, another wave of irresponsible government leakers have jeopardized national security by divulging information on deployed forces in Iraq. Thankfully, Americans might be hard pressed to find a media outlet jeopardizing their integrity by publishing the leaked information. But one irresponsible news organization, Bloomberg News, has run with the story assembled from various government leakers in both the military and the Bush administration.

The number of American military members who died in Iraq dropped to 12 in July, the lowest monthly total since the 2003 invasion, as the U.S. said Iraqi forces were increasingly effective in combating militants.

The deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq was November 2004, when 147 members of the military died. The toll for June was 30. The monthly figures were calculated by Bloomberg News from the Defense Department’s daily totals.

It is unfortunate that a Department of Defense website irresponsibly makes such critical force data openly available through the Internet, an open information vehicle employed effectively by our enemies. Calls for investigation and InfoSec audits may be warranted. ThreatsWatch editors certainly would support such a move.

Exacerbating the situation, a high level Administration source has disseminated the following this morning:

“Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we’re now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker caution that the progress is still reversible, but they report that there now appears to be a “degree of durability” to the gains we have made.”

That senior Administration official, a suspected collaborator in the leak conspiracy exposed initially by the Los Angeles Times, has been under fire in certain congressional circles as the potential target of hearings, investigations and charges of war crimes.

ThreatsWatch will be utilizing its many military, intelligence, policy maker and administration sources to get to the bottom of what is proving to be yet another intolerable breach of confidentiality and information security at the highest levels of government. This clearly politically motivated and coordinated endeavor to sabotage future policy aims can be neither dismissed nor allowed to proceed unpunished.

We commend the overall media restraint displayed thus far in aiding the damaging propagation of this leaked data. While ThreatsWatch has often been critical of the major US media outlets in this regard, it must be acknowledged that this is a restraint they have been admirably consistent in demonstrating regarding this type of unnecessary wartime data that clearly serves no public service in exposing further.

We will keep readers updated as we ferret out the source, aims and damaging consequences associated with these irresponsible and unpardonable concerted acts.

UPDATE: The “senior Administration official” noted above has now added to the damage by leaking military intelligence data on Iraqi force structure. “Iraqi forces now have 192 combat battalions in the fight – and more than 110 of these battalions are taking the lead in combat operations against terrorists and extremists,” the senior official was quoted as saying to reluctant media sources, now pressed into covering the developing and clearly organized and systematic intelligence leak effort.

This level of detailed intelligence on Iraqi military force structure should not be made public by any means, and the “senior Administration official” propagating such must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. It is, nonetheless, unfortunate that US media organizations no feel compelled to cover a developing story that is now, regrettably, ‘out there.’ More to come as the situation develops.

July 30, 2008

Secret Iranian Nuclear Facility In Ahwaz?

This requires your attention if you’ve not yet seen the reporting.

From MEMRI: Kuwaiti Daily Reveals: Iran Building Secret Nuclear Reactor.

On July 29, 2008, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa reported that, according to “highly reliable sources,” Iranian authorities had begun construction of a secret nuclear reactor in the Al-Zarqan region close to the city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran, on the Iran-Iraq border.

The paper said that according to sources, Iran was working to distance its nuclear installations from international oversight. The English version of the report, published in the Kuwaiti Arab Times, said, “Disclosing [that] Tehran directed international A-bomb inspectors to other places, sources warned [that] the project poses a very serious threat to international security.”

Also according to the sources, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not know about this site at all, since it was not included in negotiations with Iran in Geneva held in early July.

According to the report, the sources said that during 2000-2003, Iran expropriated the lands and homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region, destroying homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region.

Read the rest, which includes an image of a purported secret IRGC letter to a construction company reminding of the need for secrecy and a satellite photo.

Keep in mind that the Arab minority in and around Ahwaz have not been in a general state of unrest simply because they dislike Persians, nor because they are ‘in the bag’ for America and her interests. The confiscation of homes and property just might have something to do with the overall grievance list, which has at its roots pervasive Persian discrimination from the central government in Tehran.

See also: ‘Secret N-plant discovered at Al-Zarqan area’ - Kuwait Arab Times

UPDATE: I left as obvious without saying, but should anyway, that “working to distance its nuclear installations from international oversight” is precisely the motivation that was behind the Iranian-Syrian-NoKor plutonium facility erased from the northern Syrian desert by Israel in September. It is also precisely the motivation that was behind Saddam Hussein’s farming out of his nuclear weapons research to the Libyan desert sands under the watchful eye of Muammar Qaddafi - another endeavor that the IAEA had no clue about.

The Cat Died

The possible spread of pandemic bird flu (or H5N1 and its variants) has been discussed in the past. There are many questions, with probably the most important one being whether or not (and possibly when) the H5N1 would make a jump to the broad human population. Now, in the South Korean city of Gimje, about 250 km south of Seoul, there is a reported incident in which a cat has died after being infected with a virulent form of the H5N1 virus.

According to health officials, this is the first mammal in the South Korea to have contracted the H5N1 virus, and the first report of a cat having the disease since one occurred in Thailand in 1996. The reassurances are not so reassuring, however.

”…there was little risk to humans as there has never been a known transmission of the virus from a cat to other mammals. “It is quite rare for a cat to be infected by the avian flu virus,” said Cho Hyun-Ho, a deputy director of the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service.

This is by no means intended to sound an alarm. According to some estimates, “only” 240 people have actually died worldwide from the H5N1 virus.

Scientists fear the virus will eventually mutate into a form that is much more easily transmissible between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

Referencing the article, BioResearch: The Risk/Reward Ratio, you can begin to understand the importance of careful diligence in studying diseases in animals and the possible vectoring of an animal-borne disease to the human population. As objectively as possible, it is important that animal diseases that could pass to humans be studied. No one knows just how H5N1 will (or even leaving some doubt, “if”) run to the human population and create the havoc of a pandemic. Staying ahead of the curve is the only logical way.

Here is something to be remembered. During the 2003 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is China, civet cats, mammals related to the mongoose and a distant relative of feline cats, were suspected as one of the paths of the jump to humans. In Southwestern U.S., however, there is a continuing fear of plague carrying rats (see Yersinia Pestis. There, the feral cat population is credited in some ways with controlling the spread of that disease by killing the rats. Mother Nature does influence an awful lot of what happens. In fact, in some ways, Mother Nature, through natural events like hurricanes or earthquakes, or through the spread of diseases, represents a significant threat to us.

Intelligence, Pakistani Whispers and 'Fighting The War For Ourselves'

Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani’s demands that the United States hand Pakistan intelligence and allow the Pakistanis to exclusively “do the job” themselves has been irking me all day and into this morning. Again, here’s what he said right after meeting with President Bush.

If the missile strike was proven to have been a US operation, it would be a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, he said. “Basically, Americans are a little impatient. Therefore in the future I think we’ll have more co-operation on the intelligence side and we’ll do the job ourselves,” Mr Gilani said.

I was going spend significant time writing why this is a wholly untenable alternative and explain it in simple, plain terms. But there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. An August 2007 PrincipalAnalysis on precisely this - cause and (adverse) effect in sharing target intelligence with Pakistan - is precisely the round peg for today’s round hole presented by Prime Minister Gilani.

From American Power Play In Pakistan: al-Qaeda Abandons Camps After US Intelligence Shared with Pakistan on August 13, 2007:

Sharing Intelligence Often Nets An Alerted Enemy

Adding fuel to the fires of concern, Syed Saleem Shahzad reported in his latest from the region, ‘Taliban a step ahead of US assault’, that the United States supplied Musharraf’s government with detailed and specific intelligence on 29 al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist training camps operating in the provinces of North Waziristan and South Waziristan. Not long after that transfer of intelligence, all but one of the terror camps went cold. They were abandoned completely “or are being operated by skeleton crews,” according to a senior US military intelligence official who spoke to The Fourth Rail.

The remaining camp not abandoned, run by Mullah Abdul Khaliq, was described by the official as “only churning out Taliban, not al Qaeda.” This is a reference to distinguish the difference between training rendered at al-Qaeda terrorist camps and those established for the purposes of quickly supplying conscripts as front-line Taliban cannon fodder, primarily for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan which endure extremely high casualty rates.

Not only have the al-Qaeda terrorist training camps been abandoned, but as Shahzad reports, top local Pashtun Taliban commanders have disappeared and melted away, and “the top echelons of the Arab community [read: al-Qaeda’s Arab core] that was holed up in North Waziristan has also gone.”

No Chain of Custody on Shared Intelligence

When intelligence is shared with another actor, it is driven by varying degrees of trust and necessity. Unlike evidence procedure in a criminal case, there is no ‘chain of custody’ for intelligence information once it is shared beyond the originating agency’s control. This is especially evident in the sharing between US Intelligence agencies and Musharraf’s Pakistani government and military, both in a general sense and especially in the matter of the information on the al-Qaeda camps in the Waziristan provinces.

It should be noted that the distrust factor is not necessarily between American intelligence services and the secular Musharraf, personally. Rather, the genesis of mistrust arises from Islamist elements within Pakistani military and intelligence ranks. For this reason, there is always a level of apprehension among the American intelligence community regarding Pakistani counterparts. After all, it was Pakistan’s military intelligence, the ISI, that fostered the Taliban and still has elements very sympathetic to al-Qaeda and its Islamist global aims. Even the alliance itself between Pakistan and the United States that arose following the attacks of September 11, 2001, is one more of necessity than of keen friendship.

Musharraf faced an American fury leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan in which the encroaching military juggernaut may not have cared to distinguish much between Afghan or Pakistani Pashtun hosts to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists. His decision to ally with the Americans was one of necessity. As Reuel Marc Gerecht aptly describes, since Musharraf’s necessary alignment with the US post-9/11, “Washington has resumed aid to Islamabad, with the result that Pakistan’s counterterrorist and anti-Taliban efforts have been executed with diminishing enthusiasm.” So too, in this instance, the intelligence sharing was driven far more by necessity than by the questionable degree of trust between the two allies.

Once intelligence is shared with Pakistan it must be presumed distributed in whole or in part to the enemy. To presume US intelligence professionals operate with this clearly in mind would be a well-placed bet, to say the least.

Why Share Intelligence If Pakistani Elements Inform al-Qaeda?

Most Americans likely wonder why we would share sensitive intelligence with Pakistan regarding al-Qaeda if it so clearly gets shared with al-Qaeda by Islamist elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence. After all, it is far from coincidence that 28 of the 29 al-Qaeda camps were vacated after the specific and detailed intelligence on them was shared.

There is much more, and it’s quite detailed yet fairly successfully avoids the drone of wonkish language. And every bit of it is germane and explains exactly why the Pakistani Prime Minister will never get - nor will be entrusted to exclusively act upon - the complete intelligence data he suggests his government and intelligence agencies are entitled to.

We may seem impatient to Mr. Gilani, but we should not seem unintelligent. ThreatsWatch readers a bit miffed by the Pakistani suggestion will want to revisit American Power Play In Pakistan: al-Qaeda Abandons Camps After US Intelligence Shared with Pakistan from August.

One may even feel compelled to suggest it to Mr. Gilani. But rest assured, there can be no doubt that he already knows in full, and far more than he can ever publicly acknowledge.

Strategy or Magic Numbers And Stump Politics?

It’s a fair question. Let me explain, and you be the judge.

In urging caution in pronouncing the death of al-Masri at The Tank on National Review Online, I repeated the observation made in yesterday’s DailyBriefing regarding the Pakistani reaction to the missile strike. I did so with some added commentary within the context of frustration shared by many at our limited ability to get at al-Qaeda senior leadership (AQSL).

And, while I really do not mean to self-promote, I am confident that the following observation, also made earlier today, points out an astute pattern to acknowledge, particularly when feeling frustrated about our inability to decisively shape events on the ground as much as we’d like within al-Qaeda’s “home base.”
Initial reactions [to the missile strike, regardless of al-Masri’s specific death or not] are the standard lot; Pakistani warnings against US attacks inside Pakistan, US assurances that it respects Pak sovereignty, and dead al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistani territory.

One day, overtly or covertly, we will have a decisive presence within al-Qaeda’s Pakistani mountain lairs. Until then, frustrating as it may be, we are doing as well as can be expected.

Unless, of course, someone is advocating a ground invasion of Pakistani territory — in which case one is then responsible for shaping discussion about the effects of flipping a reluctant ally into a combative adversary state and the task of fighting al-Qaeda and a largely American-trained and -armed professional military with nuclear capability. That’s about the time it gets really quiet. Not sure anyone’s quite up to that task yet, and we are thus left with spirited complaints about current policy and chirping crickets when it comes to tabling anything substantively different.

Though I didn’t take the time to say so directly, the concluding graph above was made with presidential candidate Senator Obama’s two plans squarely in mind.

On the one hand, he begrudgingly acknowledges the reduction of violence in Iraq and appears loathe to credit the US military and its implemented change in strategy (population protection vice principally force protection) and says he would still not support the surge knowing what he knows now. What he “knows now” is a rather curious topic of debate, as the senator is less than clear in his expression.

On the other hand, at the same time the would-be Commander in Chief is proffering a ‘surge’ in Afghanistan to the tune of 10,000 troops. Yet, unlike the Iraq surge he opposed (and still opposes), where increased numbers were based on a mission transition in 2007 and requirements to fulfill that mission, Senator Obama’s surge plan for Afghanistan appears on its face to have little concrete vision or alteration beyond sending in more troops. What’s more (and perhaps telling) is that there is little in the way of detailing how that specific number of additional troops was arrived at. The roundness of the number - and lack of accompanying explanation - suggests it may be just that, a number. This, if so, is not a plan.

In brief, as much as the current strategy in Afghanistan is hotly criticized, the Obama campaign has still failed to articulate anything substantively different than the current strategy being criticized.

Perhaps his military advisors may want to sharpen their pencils and share a thought or two. Perhaps we simply missed them amid the frequent criticism. Or perhaps the senator may reverse course and return to his once-stated predisposition to send US troops into Pakistan.

Otherwise, it all rings as hollow criticism without serious alternative. That’s not a plan. And it’s not a strategy. That’s simply stump politics.

Wrong arena, sir.

July 29, 2008

Pak PM to Bush: We Are "Fighting The War For Ourselves"

The Australian quotes Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani warning President Bush against attacks on al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. His chosen words are wont for substantive evidence of effective actions and tangible results.

Speaking immediately after his meeting with the US President, Mr Gilani said: “This action should not have been taken by the United States. It’s our job because we are fighting the war for ourselves.”

If the missile strike was proven to have been a US operation, it would be a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, he said.

“Basically, Americans are a little impatient. Therefore in the future I think we’ll have more co-operation on the intelligence side and we’ll do the job ourselves,” Mr Gilani said.

Much to say here, with no shortage of direct challenge to the notion proffered by the Pakistani prime minister. For now, it must suffice to say that in “fighting the war for themselves,” Pakistan’s professional military has been somewhat decisively defeated on the battlefield by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, and the more localized paramilitary Frontier Corps forces have been thoroughly infiltrated by the Taliban and local Taliban-sympathetic men.

There are many ways for the Pakistani government to “fight the war for themselves.” I suppose that’s a way.

The subject of the ‘peace accords’ establishing safe haven for terrorists and insurgents has not even been factored in yet. Nor has the issue of Pakistan exclusively acting on intelligence shared with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) - the same outfit which largely built and in many quarters still supports the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Much more to come and soon. It will be neither a fun nor a pleasant exercise, but one that appears necessary.

Iran Winning For No Good Reason

Over at National Review Online, Michael Ledeen effectively details the Iranian regime’s significant domestic troubles, and rightly says that the mullah regime is winning (against us) for no good reason. Argue if you must, but he is solidly correct.

Many of the pundits, in public print and in the oxymoronically mislabeled “Intelligence Community,” would have us believe that the regime is stable, and that the Iranian people have given up their hopes for freedom. But the mullahs’ decision to carry out mass executions gives the lie to that analysis, as does the recent attack on a Revolutionary Guards convoy in the country’s capital city. The RG are the pretorian guard of the regime, and if they cannot protect an armed column (apparently carrying arms to Hezbollah for the next campaign against Israel), they cannot protect anything. No wonder the Supreme Leader and his viziers are worried.

This assault against the symbol of the mullahs’ power is only the latest such event, and news of it arrived slowly in the West. But there have been several other attacks, including a bomb in a prominent mosque, and other RG units in areas of ethnic repression such as Baluchistan and the Arab zones near the Iraqi border.

The RG are also doing badly on foreign battlefields. In Iraq, its agents and officers are now routinely killed and arrested — often without putting up a fight — by Coalition and Iraqi security forces.

Read it all.

Urging Caution On al-Masri Death Speculation

It should be noted that it is still unconfirmed whether or not Abu Khabab al-Masri was killed in Pakistan in a CIA missile strike. A couple of things to consider.

First, ThreatsWatch’s Nick Grace observes that the al-Qaeda forums are still mum on the issue of whether or not al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical expert has met his maker. This, Nick notes, is unlike back in January “when Laith al-Libi was taken out [and] the forum immediately began to buzz. An official eulogy was posted within hours.” Not so in this instance regarding al-Masri, which is a very significant indicator - if imperfect - to judge by.

Second, I have had no conversation with any contacts that have expressed confidence. All express hope and most express caution, some not even cautious optimism.

Our rather deadpan observation in today’s DailyBriefing is worth repeating here.

2. Though confirmed only by an anonymous Pakistani intelligence source thus far, it is believed that al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, was killed in a US Predator drone strike inside Pakistan. Initial reactions are the standard lot; Pakistani warnings against US attacks inside Pakistan, US assurances that it respects Pak sovereignty, and dead al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistani territory.

In hindsight, the wording above seems to convey a bit of optimism on our part, which was a poor choice in wording. The greater point to be made is not whether or not al-Masri is dead. Time - and al-Qaeda - will tell. But the greater point is to recognize continued US efforts, continued Pakistani domestic objections, continued US assurances, followed by continued US attacks (based on intelligence data) when a high value target is believed within striking distance.

Pakistan must maintain the domestic image of independence, but reality in the current is that they are quite dependent and, like it or not, are just as much an al-Qaeda and Taliban target as America and American forces.

July 28, 2008

Cuba, Russian Bombers And Shadows of Khrushchev

Rather than with armored thrusts and counter-thrusts on the plains of Europe, the United States and the former Soviet Union waged the Cold War through violent and stability dislocating proxy wars, unseemly regional alliances, and mutual great state brinkmanship. Nowadays, the U.S. and Russia engage in all but the first in an ever-escalating standoff reminiscence of Cold War tensions.

Cuba, once the principle conduit for Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere, has once again resurfaced as a potential American pressure point in this latest version of an old global game. Apparently as a strategic rejoinder to a U.S. anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which neither reduces much less negates Russia’s nuclear deterrent capability, a Russian newspaper—Izvestia—claims the Kremlin plans to utilize Cuba as a refueling base for nuclear capable bombers. From a July 23rd _Reuters _article:

Russia’s Izvestia newspaper this week quoted a “highly placed source” as saying Russia could land Tu-160 supersonic bombers nicknamed “White Swans” in Cuba in response to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe that Moscow opposes.

Officials in Russia, according to the Reuters piece, have “denied the Izvestia report.” Nonetheless, the specter of Russian bombers capable of delivering a nuclear payload refueling on Cuba invokes a famous Cold War parallel: the Cuban Missile Crisis. More germane to the present day, however, it strongly suggests that Latin America is at least theoretically in play again.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union cultivated relationships with a number of Latin American Leftist leaders besides Fidel Castro. Nicaraguan Carlos Fonseca Amador, co-founder of the anti-Somoza dynasty Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) and an unapologetic Marxist, for example, served as a trusted KGB agent under the codename GIDROLOG.(i) Likewise, the KGB dispatched a veteran KGB agent, Svyatoslav Kuznetsov, from the KGB’s Mexico City residency to “co-ordinate” covert operations to help get Salvador Allende elected president of Chile in 1970.(ii)

Today, Russia seems content to make nice with anti-American agitators like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Given Chavez’s bellicose rhetoric and capacity for regional geo-strategic mischief and more, and Russia’s continued “know-how” in the black arts of weapons manufacture, this relationship bears watching. If Chavez was willing to clandestinely support one terrorist organization (FARC) to the detriment of one his nation-state enemies (Columbia), the United States should not discount the possibility that he would aid another (Al Q?) to damage the great “imperialist empire” to the North. And how might his weapons procurement potential from Russia impact the nature of such assistance?

Whether driven by ideology, ala the Cold War, or animus at perceived encroachments on a sphere of influence (U.S. anti-missile defense system components in Poland/Czech Republic), Russia is serving notice that America’s backyard can be reopened as a front in any prospective new “Cold War” against the one-time “Main Adversary.” The good news is, we have seen this all before. The bad news is, we have seen this all before.

Footnotes:

(i) Andrew, Christopher and Mitrokhin, Vasili, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, (New York: Basic Books, 2005) p. 41

(ii) Andrew and Mitrokhin, p. 71

Torture In Palestinian Jails?

The cynical reaction is to cry out, “Say it isn’t so.” But this ABC News report says it is.

Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by bitter Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, and Associated Press interviews with three victims and a doctor backed the reports of abuse.

The findings emerged as the two sides carried out fresh arrest sweeps in the West Bank and Gaza — highlighting deep tensions in the Palestinian territories after a flare-up in violence over the weekend.

In the West Bank on Monday, the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rounded up more than 50 suspected Hamas supporters, including mosque preachers and intellectuals, in retaliation for a similar sweep of Fatah loyalists in Gaza, set off by a bombing that killed five Hamas members Friday.

[Editor’s Note: There are no known US Forces running Palestinian detention facilities in the West Bank or Gaza, a past barometer of how widely the reporting can be expected to reach. Further, the relatively safe practice of waterboarding is not known to be administered in said facilities, as it is by US trainers in various American Special Forces training regimens.]

China and Iran: Partners Cement Ties

From the regime-run Fars News Agency of Iran, the headline reads, “Iran, China to Cement Cooperation.

China’s oil giant Sinopec Group has signed a big gas deal worth 100 billion dollars with Iran. Known as the “deal of century” by energy experts, Sinopec is going to buy 250 million tons of natural gas in 30 years from Iran, and will help Iran to develop its giant Yadavaran oilfield in exchange for Tehran’s commitment of exporting 150,000 oil barrels per day to China for 25 years at market prices.

China’s economic initiatives in Iran go far beyond the energy field and include a wide spectrum of areas, ranging from infrastructure construction to trade and tourism. Beijing is helping Tehran to build dams, shipyards and many other projects. More than 100 Chinese state companies are operating in Iran to develop ports and airports in the major Iranian cities, mine-development projects and oil and gas infrastructures.

This while virtually the rest of the civilized world contemplates tougher and tougher sanctions against the epicenter of state sponsored international terrorism.

Abu Khabab al-Masri: Unconfirmed Kill In Pakistan

This is not the first time, but it is being reported that Abu Khabab al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical weapons expert, has been killed in a missile strike inside Pakistan.

An al-Qaeda expert in chemical and biological weapons was the target of a missile attack just inside Pakistan that killed three men and three boys on Monday, security officials said.

Unconfirmed reports said Egyptian-born Midhat Mursi al Sayid Umar was killed by missiles fired from an unmanned U.S. Predator aircraft overnight along the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. has long had a $5 million bounty on his head.

Four missiles reportedly were fired on a religious school and nearby home.

Speculation of this sort on al-Masri has been made before (see our own headline in January, 2006) and while we can remain ever hopeful that this man has exchanged oxygen for the last time, our friend Andy Cochran at the Counterterrorism Blog makes the wisest observation in caution we’ve seen yet.

Furthermore, as the London Times notes, “The attack came just before Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, was due to meet President Bush in Washington for talks focusing on co-operation in the War on Terror.” That raises the possibility of a politically motivated announcement of the death of a senior AQ leader, and that has happened before also.

We’ll keep an eye and an ear out for confirmation, but for now, understand clearly that this is not confirmed. Yet.

UPDATE: AQ Confirms: Bomb and Chemical Expert al-Masri Dead - ThreatsWatch

IED Detection Technology Program

This caught my eye this morning and warrants a quick mention. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has announced a Phase One program seeking companies that can provide a mobile or handheld detector to identify improvised explosive devices from 10 meters away at a speed of 8 mph (or faster).

Sounds great, right? Well, not when you consider that at 55 mph, a vehicle is travelling at more than 80 feet per second. In January 2006 it was reported that some IEDs, in the case of this one report, a 155mm artillery shell rigged as an improvised explosive device, have a blast kill radius of 75 meters (246 feet).

It is probably a given that all IEDs are not equal, and therefore the “kill radius” is less or more depending on the explosive device. What is also a given, is that at 55 mph, a vehicle will be in the blast kill zone long before the IED is detected. Consider the problem a slightly different way. Even if a detector can “see” an IED from 100 yards away, depending on the speed of the vehicle, it could still be in the blast zone when the alert is sounded.

That is the serious problem facing our military, and illustrates the challenge for technology to succeed in this new type of warfare.

Monday, Bloody Monday

Today’s DailyBriefing (July 28, 2008 Archives) skims the surface of developments, but a wave of terrorist attacks globally seems underway. While not pointing to a definitive ‘start point,’ since last week’s blasts in Bangalore, India, there has been a wave of bombings from Istanbul, to Baghdad, and from Ahmadabad, India to Yemen.

If most of these are not coordinated in some manner of men agreeing to a wave of terror, it is a striking coincidence with no singular event, conflict or grievance connecting them beyond the common aims of the greater radical Islamist terrorist sentiments.

Though it has taken place over the span of a few days, many Westerners are likely to wake to a new work week greeted by news of separate bombings in separate locales by different groups on the same Monday morning. For them, today will be Monday, bloody Monday.

UPDATE: With littel commentary at the moment, readers should be aware of the following.

&bul; New York Jihad Birthday Invitations Warn of Terror Threat In Lower Manhattan - National Terror Alert

The only comment I will offer at the moment (pressed for time) is that the nature of the warning and the imagery is inconsistent with that employed by Islamist terrorist groups in the past. Very much so. Viewed here with much skepticism as to stated and actual source. More to come as time avails.

July 27, 2008

After Action Report - Hurricane Dolly

With Hurricane Dolly bearing down on the Texas coast last Wednesday, thoughts raced back to Katrina and Rita and then to last year’s near-miss from Dean. No doubt that regional preparedness for natural disaster is a sensitive subject. One of the remaining questions in many peoples’ minds though is if we’ve actually learned anything about disaster response.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly, a storm that “only” briefly reached a Category 2 level of intensity and then quickly dissipated to a Category One as it came ashore, local officials are trying to look at the performance of the various elements of the region’s response. This one assessment in the San Antonio Express-News attempts to present a balanced look.

According to the Governor, the biggest issue was restoration of electric power to the more than 200,000 people who lost it. That a tourist destination was directly affected I suspect created the sense of urgency to get the lights back on, however.

The governor was quick to credit a coordinated, proactive — and thoroughly planned and drilled — local, state and federal response as a key reason lives were spared in Texas. “The government has come a long way in the past three years,” agreed David McIntyre, an expert on disaster strategies who directs the Integrative Center on Homeland Security at Texas A&M University.

Generally, Dolly dumped less rain than had been expected, and the fragile levees holding back the Rio Grande river held. But no evacuation was ordered, so more than 10,000 people remained on South Padre Island and rode out the storm. Since no evacuation was ordered, the more than 200 buses that had been staged in San Antonio, never began the almost 400 mile trip down to the coast. Some people wondered why, without knowing how the storm would affect the area, that the buses weren’t closer. One answer I heard was that the drivers needed to sleep before making the trip. Perhaps one of the reasons was that in the Hurricane Dean ramp-up, some criticism was launched at local politicians who prepped the buses, only to find them not needed, and costing the tax payers thousands of dollars.

Lessons learned being drawn by Texas officials?

● determine which school districts are ready to house evacuees

● provide back-up generators to schools, a gasoline stations

● address the lack of staffing at shelters (apparently the Red Cross policy is that they don’t “man” shelters fearing liability if shelters flooded and volunteers or evacuees got hurt).

The Rio Grande Valley is one of the poorest areas of the country. Many people do not own cars. Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos (South Padre Island is located in Cameron County) commented that he saw alot of complacency because Hurricane Dolly was “only” a Category One storm.

The “after-action” report on Hurricane Dolly can easily sugar coat the deficiencies in a regional response to a natural disaster event. Hurricanes are unpredictable in nature. In fact, Mother Nature is unpredictable. So while the costs of action are high, whether to act or not to act remains a very real question. It would seem that a tiered approach to such natural events would be more appropriate. If, as in the Rio Grande Valley, you have 100,000 residents who are either disabled, frail or without vehicles, and there are only two major highways exist to get people out quickly, maybe the appropriate response is to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable no matter what. Call that a Level One evacuation. When there is a threat more violent weather and more tragic consequences, go to a higher level of response, but do it sternly and without delay. As with many cases in life, I suspect that it is easier to answer the quesiton of why action was taken in anticipation of a Katrina/Rita or Hurricane Dean natural event, then to answer the questions of inaction, after-the-fact. Therefore, another question that should be asked is “what will it take before it is realized that all of the drills and exercises mean nothing if plans are not executed, or if the plans in place aren’t flexible enough to allow for local officials to act.”

On a return flight from another business trip, my flight to Denver was delayed by weather. My concern was not getting to Denver, but getting home since my flight wasn’t due in until 11pm local. I figured that any delay in leaving Denver could easily have me flying straight into the storm as it barrelled up into South Central Texas. Clearly, my concerns were dwarfed by those of the people living in the direct path of the storm as it slammed into Brownsville and South Padre Island.

July 26, 2008

U.S. Bioterror - A Matter of Time?

The overriding question is whether the U.S. is “ready” for a bioterror attack. The answer could well rely on the “other” question of what bio-agent and what’s the source? In 1991, 40,000 Russian scientists dispersed throughout the world, with knowledge of what the U.S.S.R. was doing in chemical and biological weapons. The question is to whom did they sell their knowledge? Some believe former Soviet scientists sold technology to countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Lurking is the spectre of al-Qaeda, a group that the Pentagon says continues to pursue biological weapons.

Another scenario is an outbreak of a pandemic. How would the U.S. deal with an infectious disease outbreak? The picture, despite reassurances, is not pretty. Until now, the U.S. has experienced two major biological attacks.

In 1984, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers attempted to take over the town of Dalles, Oregon by contaminating salad bars in the town. In 2001, there was the as yet unsolved mystery of the anthrax letters that killed five people.

But the question of bioterrorism extends to potential threats against our food supply and our clean water resources. It also extends to the threat of outbreaks of diseases in our animals populations. Here, the concern are diseases that attack animals but that can jump to humans. These are referred to as zoonotic diseases. The World Health Organization defines zonnotic diseases as:

Any disease and/or infection which is naturally “transmissible from vertebrate animals to man” is classified as a zoonosis according to the PAHO publication “Zoonoses and communicable diseases common to man and animals”. Over 200 zoonoses have been described and they are known since many centuries. They involve all types of agents: bacteria, parasites, viruses and unconventional agents.

There should more in time on the subject of animal to human transfer of diseases. However, looking at two examples, you can get an idea of the importance of dealing with zoonotic diseases. The first is a thing called Chronic Wasting Disease.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

If it wasn’t an issue, there wouldn’t be such strong warnings for hunters.

Another example is a disease called Brucellosis. In the case of Brucellocis, there is a current outbreak in Yellowstone Park that is leading to the killing of animals suspected of being infected to prevent them from leaving the Park.

So the real problem that we face is not whether or when, but what and how (will we respond to an outbreak).

July 25, 2008

An Aside. . . Or Is It?

I’m not saying trans fats are good for you. But at what point do we begin to acknowledge (or rediscover?) the limits of government? Is there such a point, or have we plunged headlong off the cliff beyond the point of no return?

Do we really need the federal government and/or state governments to regulate every aspect of our lives? It would be nice if the basic function of domestic security were addressed with such vigor and these ancillary intrusions that creep forth consistently like vines could be consciously reconsidered.

Aside from security, the mandate of governments state and federal is that of a truck. But these governments have grown beyond that of massive ocean liners.

Or so it seems.

Trans fats?

Terrorist Watch List - Facts and Fiction

The more time that passes, the more certain individuals insist that steps that our government has taken since September 11th to protect us, actually encroach on their rights. One area of “myth” exceeding truth and reality is the so-called Terrorist Watch list (or “No Fly” list). In response to the ACLU’s claims of abuse and inconvenience, the TSA is fighting back.

Widely circulated in “certain circles” are the claims that the Watch List contains the names of over 1 million people (terrorists). Aside from the fact that the Terrorist Watch List is not a product of the TSA (TSA subscribes to the information through the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center. And with that in mind, the TSC has publicly stated that it has “only” 400,000 names on the list (actually less than), and that about 95% of them are not U.S. citizens and most are not in the United States. Further, the actual “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists contains the names of fewer than 50,000 people.

Individuals on the no-fly and selectee lists are identified by law enforcement and intelligence partners as legitimate threats to transportation requiring either additional screening or prohibition from boarding an aircraft.

Yet all passenger manifests are matched against this list.

What is the truth about who is on the terrorist watch list and what benefit has it served?

The 1000’s of Americans reportedly detained simply are not being detained. According to a GAO Report last October, the Terrorist Watch List has identified nearly 53,000 matches with the list between December 2003 and May 2007. It has clearly helped in the fight against terrorism. Its use has also enabled law enforcement to identify situations when known “bad actors” were found to be together.

So, let’s get to the core issue. I have been travelling a great deal over the last few months, certainly much more than I have since before September 11th. I have not lost a single one of my rights. I stand on the security line, I remove my shoes and place my laptop in its own bin, and I walk through the magnetometer. The entire process, even in the most heavily travelled airports at peak travel time, has taken no more than 15 minutes. It is simply part of the process. Of course I have nothing to hide. The interesting part of this is to witness the bahvior of other people. I’ve heard people complain about the delays. I’ve seen people try to go through security with a pocket knife in their possession. I’ve seen people complain when having their 20 oz. bottle of soda confiscated, or their shampoo taken. I’ve even sat in front of a “fool” who insisted that it wasn’t necessary for him to turn off his cell phone after being asked nicely to do so by the flight attendant (I have no idea what effect an activated cell phone really has on flight safety, but a rule is a rule). It’s people who don’t know enough to follow the rules and procedures who inconvenience me when I travel.

As for the “No Fly” or “Selectee” lists, as far as I’m concerned, they protect me from being blown from the sky. Know the truth before you believe the myths about air travel. All of this security? Its a good thing. Of course, it’s pretty easy for me to say. I’m not on any list, and I haven’t been selectively screened since insisting that a supervisor inspect the carrying case of a sensitive piece of electronic equipment.

Spam - Not Just for Lunch

Computer security is one of the more important and volatile areas of security. Hopefully, you run a secure computer and take every opportunity to protect yourself and the people you know from spam and malware. A new report from Message Labs reveals that if you want to avoid being spammed, your best option is to move from Illinois (if you live there).

The ten most spammed states are:

  • 1. Illinois
  • 2. South Dakota
  • 3. Oregon
  • 4. New Hampshire
  • 5. Wisconsin
  • 6. North Carolina
  • 7. Indiana
  • 8. Texas
  • 9. Pennsylvania
  • 10. Alabama
In June 2008, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources, was 76.5% (1 in 1.31 emails), a decrease of 0.3% on the previous month.

You can see a map of this here

Maybe even more scary is that 1 in every 134 emails in June contained malware. Web borne computer threats are on the increase, and it remains true that as you or your company enhance your protection, it makes everyone else who is less vigilant more susceptible to the threat.

Please protect yourself, because the computer that you save, could be mine (even though I run redundant security on my computer, but I think that you get the point).

Ally Or Parasite? OpEds And ROE

[Updated below.] Is it possible that some NATO allies commit limited troop deployment levels based on thinking on the part of its political leaders that is more parasitic than allied?

Consider first that small numbers are contributed to the Coalition in Afghanistan, and are sent with rules of engagement (ROE’s) more akin to those of a risk-averse clandestine intelligence agency than professional soldiers. Then consider a revealing reaction to Senator Obama’s speech yesterday in Berlin, and the question of ‘Ally or Parasite’ - at least in the minds of some decision makers - is not as over the top as it first seems.

Deutsche Welle’s German Press Review of reactions to Senator Obama’s speech in Berlin included the following from the Financial Times Deutschland. (Via the Castle Argghhh!.)

The Financial Times Deutschland gave a more sober assessment. “Obama’s speech was an advertisement for the struggle against terrorism,” it wrote. “He called upon the spirit of the Berlin air lift and used this to demand Germany’s solidarity. The federal government now finally knows that he will expect more participation in Afghanistan. The United States doesn’t accept that they have to be worn down in the fight against the Taliban while the Germans play the role of friendly reconstruction worker. While the government already knows what to expect, the voters of the large political parties will soon experience a rude awakening when they see that Obama’s new America pursues the old goals.”

Suggesting that this thinking permeates the decision making of the German government writ large would be conjecture. However, the ROE ordered to German (et. al.) troops deployed placing a premium on combat avoidance makes the sober consideration of such thinking throughout the government(s) well within the bounds of reason.

To put it bluntly, a self-serving belief that Americans “have to be worn down in the fight against the Taliban while the Germans play the role of friendly reconstruction worker” is not the stance of an ally. It’s the stance of a parasite. That much is fact.

How pervasive is such a stance and thinking quietly held by decision makers within the German government? That much is conjecture. Asking this question is not to suggest that the whole of the German government subscribes to this parasitic thinking. But wondering just how pervasive this is does not constitute an unreasonable - if unfortunate - ponderance.

One thing is for certain: Changing the ROE (and thus mission) for at least certain elements of the German military forces and enabling them to actually seek and combat the terrorist enemy inside Afghanistan would do much to dispel speculation and fears on the part of those wading into the fisticuffs usually without a European ally in sight, save for the British.

Actions speak louder than the words of a German newspaper’s commentary. At the moment, however, one screams while the other whispers quietly.

UPDATE: The German foreign minister made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to ensure that the embattled country and the US understand Germany’s commitment to supporting Afghanistan. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Germany change its deployment pattern or ROE’s.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Afghanistan in a bid to assure the country of Germany’s continued support. On the first day of his unannounced visit Steinmeier travelled to the western town of Herat. Germany has contributed to restoring the old town of Herat and its drinking-water facilities. Germany has promised 1.1 billion euros in aid from now to 2010 for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. On the military front, Germany has faced growing pressure to bolster its presence in Afghanistan and redeploy troops from the relatively calm north of the country to the south where NATO forces are battling Taliban insurgents. Berlin has announced plans to boost its contingent in northern Afghanistan later this year by up to 1,000 soldiers to 4,500 troops.

Germany is ‘surging’ troops into areas where the Taliban isn’t killing. Isn’t that special?

It’s like telling the doctor you have a compound fracture in your leg, and the skittish surgeon keeps remarking about your damaged cuticles as he gives you your third manicure since arriving in the emergency room.

Anyone got a better analogy?

July 24, 2008

A Daily Prescription: SWJ Roundups

For what it’s worth, if you are trying to stay up to speed on things and not making the Small Wars Journal Blog a daily and early visit, you really should. I do. In particular, their “Daily News, Op-Ed, Blogs and Events Roundup” is always up before most of the rest of the country wakes, is comprehensive and a great way to jump into the news cycle.

I’m not sure when Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle sleep, but I know when they get up. And it’s damn early. (Jarheads… Always have to be first at everything.) Stop by and make use of an incredibly valuable and consistent resource.

Nice job, guys. And thanks for a well-oiled and reliable jump start every day.

July 23, 2008

Don't Call Us - We'll Call You, Al-Rishawi

The leader of the Iraq Awakening is still waiting for that call from an interested US broadcast news organization.

Crickets…

Yesterday in That Was Counterterrorism, Senator, I directly challenged Senator Obama’s assertions about ‘The Surge,’ specifically as it related to what is today the Iraq Awakening: Iraqis who took to their own defense against al-Qaeda - and for some time, without our proper support.

As much as a splash as the senator’s words made throughout the media - whether praise, echoes or scorn - it should be striking that no one in the American media circus following him through Iraq and the rest of the Middle East were inclined to perhaps speak to the leader of the Iraq Awakening. Yesterday, it was Barrack Obama under the glare here. Today, it’s the fawning US media which gives every appearance of lack of interest in understanding the situation and more interested in prescribing remedy regardless. This is unfortunate, and incredibly frustrating.

No major broadcast anchor lifted the phone to contact Sheikh Ahmad al-Rishawi, who met with Senator Obama, to inquire about the discussion from his perspective. He has a number and can be reached. But it is as if his views as the head of the Iraq Awakening - an important Iraqi living an Iraqi reality - just don’t matter. How else to explain it?

Leave it then to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya network to bother to ask al-Rishawi a single question. Below is a transcript of a three-minute phone call between the Saudi network and al-Rishawi, aired in Arabic by Al-Araibyah yesterday.

Note how the reporter [Azzam] continues to try and steer al-Rishawi back to justifying a concrete timetable, and how al-Rishawi consistently refuses. The concept of shaping a desired reality around a schedule in war is wholly illogical, as reality dictates ever-shifting chronological goals. That is, of course, if you want to win the war in question. The enemy, after all, is listening and has a say.

Following is the full translation of the interview:

“[Azzam] Does not this demand contradict the support that Obama received through statements by Iraqi political leaders on the importance to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops?

[Abu-Rishah] We stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces and security agencies in order to be able to protect the country after the US forces leave. We also stressed the need to provide economic and scientific support so as to rebuild infrastructure, which has been damaged because of wars. Thirdly, we stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Iraqi people and land and denounce any plan to partition Iraq.

[Azzam] Excuse me, but cannot these requirements be met within a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops? Many countries depend on US military training and financial and economic support while US troops are not actually present on the ground.

[Abu-Rishah] As I told you, we stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces to be able to protect the country after the withdrawal of US troops. We also said it is necessary to implement the agreement between us and President George Bush on reinstating the former Iraqi Army on national and professional bases.

[Azzam] You say that the withdrawal should not take place unless the Iraqi forces are capable of taking control of the situation on the ground, while Obama speaks of withdrawal after two years. Does this mean you are pessimistic about the chances of the Iraqi forces taking control of the situation on the ground?

[Abu-Rishah] If things go seriously, the Iraqi forces can be built within a year. In the Iraqi war [word indistinct]. We used to form brigades in the army within months. Should things go seriously, the Iraqi Army would be built in a year. In the present, we do not have an army that can protect the country after the US forces leave. This army is not capable enough. We need to support this army by providing it with weapons and supplies. The Iraqi defence minister complains about the rise in the prices of weapons. Sometimes he takes weapons from Al-Ramadi. We want weapons from one country and the entire Iraqi Army should be trained on these weapon. It is not right to have part of the army trained on weapons from Al-Ramadi while the other part trained on Italian weapons, for example. We want weapons from the US Army that can be effectively used to protect the country, and the Iraqi Army should be fully trained on these weapons.”

Originally published by Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1504 22 Jul 08.

Why wasn’t anyone in the American Media Parade curious enough to pick up the phone and speak to al-Rishawi? He was sufficiently important for Obama to have a face-to-face with. Were they satisfied that campaign spokesmen already told them what they needed (and thus you needed) to know?

This whole episode is revealing itself as a gross under-service to the American public, with a candidate seemingly working hard to mold reality into his desired solution and a major media entourage that is either wholly disinterested or grossly uninformed about the subject matter they are presenting to the public.

And one wonders why the American public is so under-informed or mis-informed and generally unaware. Whose fault is that?

July 22, 2008

That Was Counterterrorism, Senator

Presidential Candidate Obama’s statements in and about Iraq in the past 24 hours have been nothing less than shameless and disgraceful. While we strive to avoid political discussion at ThreatsWatch, criticism of his words transcends rank political partisanship if for no other reason than his claims are simply and flatly untrue, made in a war zone, during a time of war and while running to become the Commander in Chief of US Military Forces. This simply cannot stand unchallenged.

Not only does Senator Obama apparently think the Anbar Awakening and the Shi’a militia stand-downs that have occurred are somehow separate developments from the surge, which is a remarkable feat of logic in and of itself, but he is implying that they are part and parcel indigenous to what his ‘plan’ for ‘political progress’ would have afforded.

In an interview on ABC World News Tonight last night (Partial transcript here, at bottom), Senator Obama said that, even knowing what he knows now, he would not support ‘The Surge’ if he had it do do over again. No matter our success, shared among Iraqis and American troops. In order to shore his position, he cheapens the Anbar Salvation Council (as it was known in September 2006, perhaps long before the senator knew who they were) as a mere “political factor.”

I think that, I did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct.

Of course he didn’t anticipate it. He probably had no idea who they were and is still demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of counterinsurgency.

I would remind the candidate that the Anbar Salvation Council (which later grew exponentially and developed into al-Sahwa al-Iraq - the Iraq Awakening) started with one man, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu al-Risha, and seventy men fighting al-Qaeda in defense of their families, not in pursuit of a ‘political’ anything. They simply wanted to live and end al-Qaeda’s assassination and murdering spree against their families and tribe. Sheikh Abdul Sattar, later assassinated by al-Qaeda in Iraq, had seen 10 family members, including 4 brothers, killed by al-Qaeda for their cooperation with US forces. He had had enough.

Obama’s plan - unoriginal and pieced together like a quilt from others against the Iraq war - was entirely Baghdad-centric, about laws and revenue sharing and conferences. The Anbar Awakening had nothing to do with Baghdad when they began and when they turned the neighborhood tides in Ramadi and elsewhere in Anbar province. It was about killing the terrorists before the terrorists killed them. One must, after all, live to ultimately see progress on any scale beyond one’s neighborhoods.

Obama wanted laws written, press conferences, and an immediate pull back of US troops. As Senator Chuck Schumer so brilliantly said at the time about ‘the plan,’ US forces were to withdraw post-haste to the periphery “in more of a counterterrorism role.” This would have abandoned the Anbar Salvation Council - and Anbar Sunnis and Shi’a alike - entirely. It would have been feeding them to the bloodthirsty wolves of al-Qaeda so that domestic American political figures could champion themselves as ‘ending a war’ and conducting business “in more of a counterterrorism role.”

This is precisely what I tried to scream when I wrote “This Is Counterterrorism, Senator” over a year ago for National Review Online. And winning the counterinsurgency is about aligning a population with us. Neither of these, counterterrorism nor counterinsurgency, could have been successfully addressed by ‘The Plan’ put forth by Obama and others in opposition to The Surge. The Surge was all about protecting the population within their own neighborhoods, while ‘The Plan’ was about abandoning said population to complete animals unassisted. Yet Obama - and surely others - would oppose it all over again.

The Iraqis have done what they have done for themselves in spite of the likes of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and all the rest. What’s more, now that The Surge has accomplished much of what it set out to do to help the Iraqis - again in spite of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and the rest - a presidential candidate who opposed the surge, would still oppose The Surge and had absolutely no clue about the Anbar Salvation Council when it was pleading and begging for US support (since at least September of 2006) wants to champion their success as somehow his brainchild and a sign of the political development he envisioned?

One is left to suppose that he overlooks the fact that so many in Anbar and throughout Iraq are alive in spite of attempts to push such a sacrificial ‘Plan.’ There’s no other way to describe it. Dead people - crucified, baked and beheaded - do not live to contribute to ‘political progress.’ Sheikh Abdul Sattar - and today, his brother Sheikh Ahmed al-Rishawi - understood this. Too many Americans seem flip to dismiss this comfortably from afar.

The Anbar Salvation Council didn’t have a damn thing to do with political resolution. It needed to simply survive first; family by family, town by town, tribe by tribe. The movement that eventually saved Iraq laid ignored and unsupported until General David Petraeus changed that when he arrived to command The Surge that Obama said he would still oppose.

Obama’s (et al) ‘plan’ and ‘political’ demands would have fed them to the wolves, slaughtered with their families while we were to have breathed a sigh of relief that the war was finally over. Funny thing about the Iraqis: They want to live, no matter what our politicians profess.

Today’s remarks simply could not be left to stand unchallenged.

Update: It is perhaps illustrative that Senator Obama met with Iraq Awakening leader Sheikh Ahmad al-Rishawi and no one in our own media asked al-Rishawi a single question. Don’t Call Us - We’ll Call You, Al-Rishawi, or so it seems. Al-Arabiya called him. Transcript at the link.

July 21, 2008

Homeland Security: How Not To Instill Confidence

Or so Jeff Stein’s latest from Congressional Quarterly could be alternatively titled. As it stands, the interview with Washington, DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency interview is titled D.C. Homeland Security Chief Predicts Chaos in Event of Nuke Attack.

Q: Who would be in charge if a small nuclear bomb went off downtown?

A: Well, again, the incident really drives who’s in charge, who takes charge. Obviously, the local government has a big responsibility in the incident you just described, you’re going to have a large federal presence simply because the resources to deal with that only the federal government has.

Q: Well, you have the fire trucks, ambulances.

A: We have those types of things. But obviously in a nuclear event you’re going to have a huge swatch of area.

Q: What would happen if a small nuke went off near the White House right now? You’d have an immediate area of damage, but then other things, like a radiation plume moving right toward your office. It could be there in 10 minutes, so you guys would be radiated here.

A: Yeah.

Q: So if it happened right now what would you do?

A: If it happened right now, the first thing we would do is notify some federal officials and get some assets that would help us provide immediate assistance, to get as many people away from ground zero, if you will, try to do the best thing we can to coordinate that area so that no one gets into it. We have plume modeling equipment here in our office. So I would ask my plume-modeling folks to as quickly as they can let me know where that plume is going to be, so we can start evacuating people. We would be sending out text alerts, a reverse 911, to anyone in the district who has a listed telephone number, explaining to them what actions to take, which areas to evacuate. We would also immediately pick up our emergency hot line to all the emergency agencies explaining to them what happened, where we are trying to evacuate people to, such as VDOT, so we can start our evacuation routes to West Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina.

To be sure, Darrell Darnell’s task in any such event would be daunting, to say the least. And some level of chaos is, quite frankly, unavoidable amid the civilian panic that would certainly ensue.

That said, there is an awful lot in Mr. Darnell’s answers that leave much to be desired and little that instills much confidence that the challenges of unavoidable initial chaos and panic would be quickly overcome. Certainly not at the local level in DC.

For instance, one might find more confidence in an answer that, rather than deferring to ‘plume model’ software and experts, the head of DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency had said something like, “Well, I would check wind direction and immediately make calls for evacuations within X miles of the blast (depending on estimated weapon size) and outlying areas beyond the blast in the direction of the blowing wind. Later, within minutes likely, we could adjust the evacuation scope based upon plume models.”

Tough job to be sure. You just wish you walked away with more of a sense of ‘in charge until someone takes it’ than ‘holding the fort until someone else arrives’ and deferring to others. Take the bull by the horns, Mr. Darnell. Own it.

July 19, 2008

Al-Qaeda Shifting Resources To Pakistan

In explaining increased Taliban-al-Qaeda activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months, we’ve been saying this for some time now. Today, General Petraeus says so publicly: Al-Qaeda has been shifting its resources to the relative safety of Pakistan for operations from there rather than investing more in Iraq, where the terrorists have been getting hammered.

Senior leaders of al-Qaeda may be diverting fighters from the war in Iraq to the Afghan frontier area, the top American commander in Iraq told the Associated Press on Saturday.

Gen. David Petraeus also said al-Qaeda may be reconsidering Iraq as its highest priority war front.

“There is some intelligence that has picked this up,” he said in the interview in his office at the U.S. Embassy along the Tigris River. “It’s not solid gold intelligence,” he added, stressing that the reliability of the information has not been confirmed.

Nonetheless, he cited the signs as part of a broadly positive review of conditions in Iraq, where al-Qaeda fighters have been driven almost entirely from Baghdad and pummeled in other urban areas.

July 18, 2008

Scrubbing The Surge

At The Weekly Standard, John McCormack notes the peculiar scrubbing of attribution from “The Surge.” Since it actually has worked.

Funny thing: by the time of the April 2008 Petraeus hearings, the Democrats were no longer talking about the “Bush-Petraeus report.”

We also no longer hear about “the Bush-Petraeus surge,” as Sen. Chuck Schumer dubbed it in September 2007. “[T]he Bush-Petraeus surge had failed to meet its objective,” Schumer said at a press conference. “And let me be clear: the violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge.”

And for some reason, I don’t think that any Democrats will be calling the surge “The McCain Doctrine” ever again.

He’s referencing this piece today by Peter Wehner.

NWFP Provincial Gov't Rejects Taliban Ultimatum

Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper has published another NWFP politician publicly rejecting Baitullah Mehsud’s ultimatum.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, July 18 (PPI): NWFP Senior Minister and parliamentary leader of ANP Bashir Ahmad Bilour Friday reiterated the firm pledge of his government that it will not resign nor become hostage to any group. “Rather peace and security in all settled areas of the province including Hangu will be ensured while Swat peace agreement will be implemented in letter and spirit,” he maintained. He made the comments while talking to various delegations which lauded the steps of the provincial government for peace and security in the region, adding that no government could think of using force against its own people but also could not tolerate its writ being challenged.

The problem with senior minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour’s argument that “no government could think of using force against its own people,” is that it simply cannot stand when a not insignificant number of “its own people” are using force against that very government. It may not be a pleasant choice to make, but it is the choice before Pakistan - one which its internal enemies have thrust upon it.

How Large Is al-Qaeda's Carbon Footprint?

As ABC News reports, former vice president Al Gore insists today that global warming trumps terrorism as the greatest threat to the United States.

“Both are serious and must be addressed. That having been said, I think that the climate crisis is, by far, the most serious threat we have ever faced,” Gore told ABC News’ Claire Shipman after the speech.

Oh really? I’ll see your Debate and raise you one Reality.

Taliban Ultimatum: Mehsud Demands NWFP Gov't Resign Or 'Face Consequences'

We and others have been working to explain that the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance is an insurgency within Pakistan with eyes on the whole of Pakistan, beyond the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), usually reported to the American public as the Pak-Afghan border regions. Well, the ever patient creep east toward Islamabad may be picking up speed and accompanying inertia as Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has issued an ultimatum to the government of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is situated directly between the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s FATA lairs and Islamabad.

As Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports, Mehsud has given the NWFP government 5 days to resign and essentially surrender the territory or “face the consequences.”

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud has asked the NWFP government to either resign within five days or “prepare itself to face the consequences”.

“The NWFP government is not sincere about restoring peace, rather it is responsible for lawlessness in the tribal areas, Hangu and Swat,” TTP spokesman Maulvi Umar quoted Baitullah as saying on Thursday.

The TTP spokesman told Dawn that the Taliban reserved the right to take action against the provincial government if it did not resign in five days. He said the NWFP government was a powerless entity and Taliban would not hold talks with a weak government.

Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said people had given the government a mandate for five years.

“This is just nonsense and we know from where they are getting dictation,” he said, adding that the statement of Baitullah Mehsud was regrettable.

He said the government would not step down, nor would it follow the dictates of a person or group.

Generally the Taliban says what it means and means what it says, so discounting this as bold bravado is a mistake.

The terrorists’ creep toward Islamabad (and the whole of Pakistan) continues apace, and next week looks to bring with it some defining events.

The ambitions on Islamabad have been executed with extreme patience, as the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been very careful to secure tangible and consistent gains toward their ultimate Pakistani ambitions without doing so in a manner and velocity that would tip Pakistan into removing “reluctant” from the characterization of Pakistan as being in reluctant cooperation with the United States against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They have, thus far, succeeded in ensuring the maintenance of Pakistani reluctance.

Most Americans are relatively uninformed on this very critical issue that is at the very heart of the War on Terror. We will do our level best to explain the dynamics, risks, and possible outcomes in the coming week. One thing’s for certain: It’s time to pay attention.

July 16, 2008

Afghanistan: Force Consolidation Offensive or Defensive?

Following the Taliban-al-Qaeda overrunning of a US FOB in Wanat (now abandoned), one of the latest in a significant increase in Taliban-al-Qaeda attacks, US forces returned fire on the Taliban inside Pakistan in response to another recent shelling. Also being reported is a buildup of US forces along the Pakistani border. The question is one of intent. Pakistanis suggest that the US is preparing for an ground incursion.

Tribesmen in North Waziristan, who shelter power Taliban leaders such as the Haqqani family and Gul Bahadar, vowed to defend their territory from any US incursion. “More than three million tribesmen would fight along the Pakistani security forces if foreign troops enter the Tribal Areas,” Malik Afzal Khan told the Daily Times. The tribes also vowed to support the Pakistani Army against any US invasion.

The reports of troop movements have not been confirmed by ISAF or the US military. But the likelihood is US troops are reinforcing established positions and building new ones in the region due to the heavy volume of Taliban attacks over the past several months, and in light of the Taliban and al Qaeda attack that came close to overrunning the forward outpost in Nuristan last weekend. The buildup in eastern Afghanistan comes as Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a surprise visit to Pakistan and expressed concern and frustration over the rise of extremist groups in northwestern Pakistan and the impact on Afghanistan’s security.

Roggio’s report is almost certainly correct in concluding a likely defensive posture. A couple things to keep in mind here.

First, the massing of 300-500 troops is not sufficient for any significant operation into rugged terrain and territory in which you have had no assets in place. And if the operation is not significant in size and scope, it is highly unlikely that US commanders are going to risk the lives of their troops simply to stage a show of force.

Second, much of the Taliban-al-Qaeda attacks have been cross-border shelling. It is not lost on American commanders that they could be being baited with a rather unpleasant surprise in store on Pakistani mountainsides. Keep clearly in mind that our Apache and Cobra ground support attack helicopters are the new HIND’s.

Third, it should be kept squarely in mind that al-Qaeda no longer sees Iraq as a theater requiring significant investment - nearly a lost cause. As such, the available resources - human and otherwise - can be funneled and brought to bear either at arm’s reach northwest into Afghanistan or at arm’s reach southeast into the heart of Pakistan. That they are reaching northwest into Afghan territory may bring Pakistan deceptive comfort for the time being, a kinetic reach by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance in neither direction would bring comfort to a sober American observer. The consequences of either are equally fraught in different ways with strategic peril and cost.

At the same time, it would be more than helpful if some of our NATO allies with contingents in Afghanistan would issue their forces ROEs(Rules Of Engagement) that did not forbid the “E.”

Compounding matters, the Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have already been defeated on the ground in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province, and as such we - like 2001 and 2002 - still lack a reliable (let alone cooperative) anvil into which to swing any hammer through the Taliban-al-Qaeda dominated regions.

Be assured: No matter how much the international community insisted that the proper fight was in Afghanistan in objection to the Iraq invasion, we remain the only nation with the political will and fortitude to commit to the fight. Sure, we have a ‘coalition.’ But we bear the burden of nearly all of the risk and its consequences with few but notable exceptions, such as Canada.

And so we stand, virtually alone. As we’ve been there before, this is not a proclamation of doom, but rather simply an expression of frustration and an acknowledgment of the situation.

EMP Woes

This is an issue that deserves more attention than it is getting. It speaks to a number of issues of interest: info ops, nukes, economics, society and resilience, among others.

The bad news is that an adversary capable of launching such an attack need not be perfect or even accurate; a blast “in your general di-rec-shun” is sufficient to be successful (physical destruction and fallout being a bonus from the other side’s point of view).

Given that there are few potential adversaries with such capability there is a tendency to push this issue to the back burner, but consider a notional scenario where such an attack is perpetrated by, say, a country where we get most of our electronics from in the first place. Replacing and rebuild our info-infrastructure? Sure, let’s just get on the phone to talk to the people who just zapped us …

As with so many issues of this import and scale, the fix is expensive and painful, which is why we can be fairly sure that if it does happen, we will be taking a very long time-out from the info age.

The US-EU-Iran-Saudi-Russia Jigsaw Puzzle

First there is the news that President Bush has authorized under secretary of state William Burns to sit in on this weekend’s EU-Iran talks in Geneva, home of the IAEA’s headquarters. What this exactly means is likely less obvious than the first round of reporting generally suggests. More on that in a bit.

Interestingly, this development comes with related Saudi context: Saudi Arabia just offered to buy $1.6 billion worth of Russian weapons and an $800 million railroad construction contract totaling a $2.4 billion sweetener in exchange for Russia to break its support of the Iranian regime in Tehran.

Kommersant sources in the defense industry say that concluding an agreement about military and technical cooperation is to become the corner stone of the allied relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The latter has shown much interest in concrete armaments: February Riyadh claimed eager to purchase more than 100 BMP-3s (infantry fighting vehicles) for a total of $200 mln, some 150 T-90S tanks for $600 mln and more than 160 Mil Mi-17, Mi-35 and Mi-26 helicopters for a total of $1.6 bln. In connection with Iran’s recent tests of missiles, which can hit targets on the entire territory of the kingdom, Saudi military are particularly interested in different air defense systems. According to the information of Kommersant, recent negotiations have mainly concerned purchases of tanks and helicopters. Most likely, the details of these agreements were thrashed out during the talks in the Kremlin and in the White House especially. The Prime Minister’s Press-Secretary Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant that apart from Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov, who is in charge of the military-industrial complex, and Head of the Rosoboronexport federal state unitary enterprise Anatoly Isaykin took part in the meeting with Bandar bin Sultan.

In the view of experts, developing the arms market of Saudi Arabia, whose military budget is expected to reach $44 bln by 2010, will be quite a success for the Russian military-industrial complex. “This market will never be completely Russian. The USA, Great Britain and France have retained strong positions there,” Konstantin Makienko, expert with CAST (Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies), told Kommersant, “However, if the current dynamics of oil prices keep on, the arms market in the country will grow, so, controlling even 5% of it will truly boost the profits of Russia’s enterprises.”

At the same time, the counterparts are not going to confine themselves to armaments. Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant that one of the major issues discussed during the negotiations in the White House was the future of Russian Railways’ $800 contract to construct a railroad Az Zabirah-Riyadh, which the company got in January. In May the authorities of Saudi Arabia canceled the results of the tender and announced a new one. According to the sources of Kommersant in the diplomatic circles, the reason for it was Russian Railways’ getting a contract in Libya, whom Saudi Arabia has complicated relations with. Nevertheless, Riyadh stated that Russian Railways will be allowed to participate in the second tender. Now the company wants to get the contract back, and it seems to reckon with political support.

Russia had recently been upset at the Iranian failure to meet its $25 million monthly payments for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant. No such fear would likely exist with regards to Saudi remittance. And Russia’s support of Tehran has little to do with a genuine meeting of the minds between the two states, and everything to do with money - lots of it - and lending support to a state that vehemently and quite usefully opposes the United States.

The appearances of these developments - Burns to Vienna and Bandar bin Sultan to Moscow - suggests that the Bush Administration is beginning a new phase and pace of coordinated efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. The Burns flight to Geneva is likely less a change of direction or policy vis-a-vis Iran and negotiations with expectations of different results, as is implied by reporting thus far, but rather a move that can later be referred back to as an indication that Washington made efforts and bent a bit in efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis that is a potentially nuclear-armed messianic regime in Iran.

Site Technical Issues

This week, our server had significant technical failures resulting in the site being down for extended periods. As well, the July 14 DailyBriefing was lost and July 15 DailyBriefing could not be created. At least one RapidRecon entry was lost, though Michael recreated the entry and re-published.

We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our regular readers. The issues have been resolved with everything restored from backup. However, we are significantly behind production schedule, with the DailyBriefings behind and a pair of Commentaries awaiting final editing. We appreciate your patience and your readership greatly and are working hard to get everything back to normal.

July 14, 2008

Terrorism: It's the Surprise That Gets You

It is easy to get behind the sentiment voiced by Glenn Carle in his Sunday Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Let’s face it, a lot of good people toiled in AT/CT for a long time before the money-chasers bum-rushed the business. Not that some of that effort hasn’t produced good results, but our success at defeating a network with more hierarchy isn’t exactly stuff for the record books.

The problem I have with this sort of thinking is that it relies largely on cold, hard data. That sounds counter intuitive until you consider that in the intelligence business we’re paid to apply the little gray cells (lest we be accused to doing work primates won’t do) not simply send numbers through a methodological engine. For those of you looking for a pattern, it was a colleague of Glenn’s that said more or less the same thing just two months before September 11th. From a strictly data-based perspective both outlooks may stand on solid ground, but on that fateful day we were defeated by a bunch of angry cave-dwelling fist-shakers and their globally dispersed supporters despite being the greatest military power in the world. Does anyone think today we have the world’s best air, border or facility security and that there exists no gaps to exploit to catastrophic ends?

I don’t doubt Glenn’s veracity or integrity; I just cringe at the thought that this might be the prevailing wisdom in the IC and that we have stopped taking into consideration the patience, talent and desire of our enemies. Have all our responses been ideal? No. Should we slack off on what is working? Not a chance.

July 12, 2008

Homeland Security – Moving Past 2009

It should be no surprise that according to a recent survey done among 122 homeland security professionals (36% of whom has over 10 years experience and 32% had more than 5 years in the field), the top four priorities for the next administration are border security, emergency response, development of medical counter-measures to weapons of mass destruction, and port security.

More than 83 percent of homeland security experts expect major disaster or attack within next four years; 22 percent expect WMD attack on the Unite States; 54 percent say it would be a good idea to reorganize DHS.

While it is hard to debate those priorities and concerns, without politicizing this important message, the question is not the identification of these priorities, but having the ability to implement programs designed to meet these challenges. Thus, publisher of the Homeland Security Journal, Don Dickson said, "The purpose of the survey is to help set the priorities for homeland security as the next president and the next Congress take office." His comment reflects the importance of the transition to the next Administration since it will be the first time since September 11th that someone other than the Bush Administration had had oversight on the DHS. But the opinions are striking nonetheless:

· More than 83% expected a major disaster in the U.S.
· About 58% said the most probable scenario for a major disaster was a natural disaster, with 22% saying that the cause would be a terrorist attack with a WMD
· 72% expect change if Obama wins; 80% expect no change if McCain wins
· 54% said DHS should be maintained but reorganized; 30% percent said the agency should be unchanged; nearly 15% answered that the DHS should be broken up

In another report written by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and using interviews with 81 officials from both inside and outside DHS, , the DHS was urged to better integrate the roles of its 22 component agencies, many of which still operate as “stand-alone” entities and to consolidate the Congressional Oversight of the department.

You can read the full report here.

Given the greater risk to attack during the transition period when our jihadist enemies will be believe that the U.S. will be more vulnerable, wisdom supports the following of the NAPA suggestions on transitioning the DHS to the next administration, regardless of which political party wins.

July 11, 2008

We're Against It

"It doesn't matter what you say or do, and we don't care why or who, we're against it."

At least that's the catchy tune I keep hearing.

RE: Limited Resources: Iran and US Military Options

Earlier today, Warren made an observation that I feel compelled to take issue with. In Limited Resources: Iran and US Military Options, Warren wrote:

Meanwhile, despite the irrefutable fact that the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq has succeeded brilliantly, the strain of that theater coupled with the concurrent burden of waging war in Afghanistan continues to levy a heavy toll on the U.S. military. The wisdom of fighting two wars on two different fronts with a military that was so manifestly ill-equipped for the added exertion ranks as one of the great blunders of the present administration.

I understand that Warren's greater point is that our military is entirely too small to most effectively engage and sustain the conflict at hand, in all its theaters - present, looming and potential. And on that we certainly agree.

Debate over what America's next step should have been post-Taliban-al-Qaeda rout in Afghanistan is a healthy exercise.

However, calling the opening of a second front "one of the great blunders of the present administration" is well off the mark.

Let's keep in mind that the United States armed forces, while injuriously depleted during both the Carter and Clinton administrations, is one that has been built for the express capability of fighting two wars simultaneously. Its flag commanders had regularly certified it as capable of such, up to and including 2003.

Sure, this - in light of the massive reductions cited and the current persistent combat deployment rotation schedule - can be questioned. But in reading Warren's piece, one is left with the impression that the "blunder" was that of President Bush for employing a certified force rather than previous administrations and Congresses - from George H. W. Bush post-Gulf War to Bill Clinton - slashing unites, systems and bases in search of the elusive 'Peace Dividend.'

One thing that can be effectively extracted from Warren's words today is that the 'Peace' is the 'Dividend,' and one which can only be maintained through strength, not reduction. Our conventional threats may have subsided, but they have not disappeared. China grows while just this week Russia verbally made military threats against us. Further, the emergence of an asymmetrical terrorist threat currently engaged means that much of our military resources must thus evolve to meet it without ceding weakness on the conventional front.

This means growing our military and not shrinking it or merely maintaining it. This is what I interpret Warren's point to be.

But to call any additional engagement beyond Afghanistan a "blunder" is to presume that wisdom would have us wait until we spend decades growing and transforming our military forces to best meet the threat. The enemy will not wait for the opposing cavalry to field the ideal horses.

After the rout in Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda had poured over the border into Pakistan. We had three choices.

1. Hold and maintain a massive defensive line on the Afghanistan border.

2. Pursue the enemy into his chosen lair, invading Pakistan and turning an already reluctant ally into a battlefield foe with al-Qaeda able to join forces with a conventional army.

3. Hold the line in Afghanistan while taking the offensive against a state sponsor of terrorism with an eye toward the greater conflict at hand.

It has been and still is argued whether Iraq was the wisest choice as part of Option #3. That's beyond the scope of what Warren is addressing and largely academic at any rate. But choosing Option #3 can hardly be called a "greatest blunder."

While his words were repeated within an emotional context not present or intended when he spoke them, Donald Rumsfeld was flatly correct when he said after the Iraq invasion, "You go to war with the army you have, not the one you want."

President Bush and the Pentagon have taken measures to increase the size of the military - the Marine Corps has been slated to grow by 27,000, for instance. But that growth will not be actualized until 2011. The Army's slated growth by 74,000 is not expected until 2013. The men must be recruited and trained, the units equipped and formed.

Furthermore, Iraq did not go so badly for several years because the military was undermanned and under-equipped for a second front. Rather, as the strategy employed in 'The Surge' and its resultant and undeniable success shows, it was because of a failure of command military leadership - primarily though not exclusively from Generals Casey, Sanchez and Abizaid - who directed several years of a garrison-mode posture rather than forward-deployed population protection in counter-insurgency.

The buck must ultimately stop with the president. And I believe President Bush has ensured it does. But it is far more appropriate to ascribe "blunder" to the ambitious shrinking of our military after the Gulf War, or perhaps even to employing a garrison-mode counterinsurgency in Iraq rather than a population-centric strategy in place now since 2007.

But opening a second front was taking the initiative from the enemy, an invaluable aspect of both tactical and strategic warfare. What did falling into a garrison mode once there do? Cede initiative to the enemy. The Petraeus effect in counter-insurgency in Iraq was to take the initiative and deny it to the terrorist enemy.

The 'Army we had' in garrison mode then is the same 'Army we have' now, with dramatically different results. Had we begun doing in 2004 what we are doing now, where would Iraq be today? (There are many contributing factors - such as the development of the Iraqi Army and police forces - that prevent a direct extrapolation of time factor, but the point remains. As well, rather than simply lament the past, it is more constructive for tomorrow's engagements to learn from it rather than simply excoriate over mistakes. I say this purely in reference to my own observations above, not in criticism of Warren in any way.)

Yes, the Army and Marine Corps growth announced in January 2007 should have been implemented far sooner as well as in greater numbers. It is, after all, far quicker and easier to disband entire units than to stand them up. But to criticize opening a second front offensive as a "blunder" because we did not have 'the Army we want' is to cede the initiative to an enemy that had taken the initiative long before 9/11, and an enemy that extended far beyond mud huts and caves in Afghanistan, however inconvenient that unfortunate fact was and remains.

Limited Resources: Iran and US Military Options

With rumors of an Israeli rehearsal for attacks against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure still in the news, advocates of a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear stand-off once again urged diplomacy. And once again the Iranians seem intractable on the issue. From a July 7th Reuters article:

Iran's response to the latest offer of incentives by world powers shows no willingness to meet their core demand for a freeze or suspension of activities that the West suspects are part of a secret nuclear bomb program.

In response to Iran’s intransigence, opponents of a military solution readily cite the prospect of two crucial, and undesirable, consequences of attacking Iran—the increased likelihood of a wider war which could engulf much of the region, and the resultant burdens on an already over-taxed U.S. military. Neither of these should be drowned out by the din of a new military offensive.

On the matter of a wider regional conflict, Iran could indeed enlist the aid of its proxies in Lebanon (Hizballah) and Iraq (Shiite “Special Groups” in Iraq, and the Mahdi Army) to enflame the highly combustible tinder box that is today’s Middle East. Moreover, any strike against Iran, whether by Israel or the United States (or the two acting in concert) would probably engender enough worldwide condemnation to rival that expressed over the present conflict in Iraq. Such discontent with American or American endorsed foreign policy would surely injure any future attempts to bring rogue states to heel through the cooperative efforts of the international community.

Meanwhile, despite the irrefutable fact that the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq has succeeded brilliantly, the strain of that theater coupled with the concurrent burden of waging war in Afghanistan continues to levy a heavy toll on the U.S. military. The wisdom of fighting two wars on two different fronts with a military that was so manifestly ill-equipped for the added exertion ranks as one of the great blunders of the present administration. Former Missouri Senator and Senate Armed Services Committee member Jim Talent touched on the matter in a March 2007 article for National Review.
The ‘operational tempo’ of American conventional forces—the number, intensity, and duration of their deployments—has increased since the end of the Cold War. Yet the forces were almost twice as big in 1992 as they are today. The active-duty Army was cut from 18 divisions during Desert Storm to ten by 1994—its size today. The Navy, which counted 568 ships in the late 1980s, struggles today to sustain a fleet of only 276. And the number of tactical air wings in the Air Force was reduced from 37 at the time of desert storm to 20 by the mid-1990s. i

Together, the prospect of an overextended military confronted by the possibility of an expanded conflict should sober even the most ardent supporter of resolving the Iranian nuclear conundrum through force. On the other hand, what are the inherent risks of not employing military means to eliminate the threat of a nuclear armed Iran? Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “negotiate” succinctly: “to discuss a matter with a view to reaching agreement.”

For years, American officials believed that the application of sufficient force and an avowed willingness to engage in talks would eventually bring North Vietnam to terms. Unfortunately, nothing short of decapitating the regime in Hanoi could have dissuaded the North from seeking the reunification of Vietnam under the yoke of Communism. To some in North Vietnam’s leadership faction, the matter was simply non-negotiable. Brian Jenkins authored an “unofficial” paper for the RAND Corporation in 1972 which explained the North Vietnamese mindset.

The genius of the North Vietnamese people is their tenacity. It is also their most terrible weapon. Hanoi’s apparent determination to go on fighting reflects convictions that in their eyes seem correct—so correct that the alternative of not fighting may be inconceivable. Confucian doctrine imported from China centuries ago permeates the arguments put forth by the Vietnamese Communist. Terms such as ‘just cause,’ and ‘legitimate government,’ dominate the speech of their leaders. Vietnamese Communists firmly believe that they possess the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ to rule all of Vietnam and therefore must emerge victorious eventually. ii

What if Iran feels a similar ‘Mandate of Heaven’ about the acquisition of nuclear weapons and hegemony over the Middle East? After all, as the United States learned to its regret during the Vietnam War, it takes two to tango and each side has to be amenable to tangible and significant concession. The North Vietnamese were not so disposed. Despite the assurances of some well-intentioned area experts, can either the United States or its allies be sure that Iran can in fact be induced to surrender its nuclear ambitions? What if Iran harbors a desire to join the nuclear club with the same fervor as North Vietnam regarded the unification of Vietnam?

Furthermore, what assurance does the United States possess that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it ever produced one? Mutually Assured Destruction may have proscribed a nuclear exchange with a devoutly atheistic state like the former Soviet Union. But can it be assumed that such a convention would automatically hold true with a theocracy as well? Is it prudent to presume that every antagonist will necessarily act rationally and in its perceived best interest? By injecting a measure of ambiguity into the matter of disarmament, Saddam Hussein unwisely invited the sequence of events that ultimately ended his decades long reign as dictator of Iraq. What if the mullahs in Tehran view the destruction of Israel as an aspiration worth risking their power over?

While it is absolutely essential that the national discourse include a stark presentation of the hazards of military action against Iran, the aforementioned questions must also be addressed with rigid intellectual honesty. In order to avoid a repetition of the mistakes of the early years of the Iraq War, or those of the Vietnam War for that matter, all options—and their potential ramifications—must be weighed with transparency and on the scale of “what is” rather than what “should be.”

i Jim Talent, “More: The crying need for a bigger U.S. military,” National Review, March 5th, 2007 p. 32
ii Michael Lee Lanning and Dan Cragg, Inside the VC and the NVA: The real story of North Vietnam’s armed forces (NY: Ivy Books, 1994) p. 200-201

July 10, 2008

Transitioning Technology

Perhaps one of the most important, yet least understood elements of National and Homeland Security is creating a process of moving leading-edge technologies from the National Laboratory system to use by first responders and other homeland security agencies. One such program was recently moved ahead when it secured approval of from the House Appropriations committee for a $2 million homeland security initiative. The program's purpose is to move news ideas and technological solutions into the hands of first reponders and law enforcement.

This is just one of many "technology transition" (or technology transfer) initiative around the country. There will be more news about such efforts in the near future.

July 9, 2008

DNI OSINT Conference 2008

There are a lot of conferences and symposia one can attend on defense, security and intelligence issues, but few are both important and accessible to a wide audience. The DNI OSINT Conference is one of those that fit both categories. While the price is certainly nice, the fact that it pulls back the curtain (to a certain extent) and exposes you to the people and efforts that are trying to get ostensibly the information-centric enterprise more in sync with the information age is pretty neat.

No, I'm not getting paid to say this; I'll be standing in line just like everyone else. It's just a little PSA from a former practitioner who loves the idea that the IC is not going down w/o a fight.

Ahmadinejad: Peace Advocate, US Policy Advisor

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for U.S. bases around the world to be 'eradicated' and said that the next US administration must fundamentally change its foreign policy.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday called for U.S. military bases across the world to be "eradicated" and said there must be "fundamental change" in the next U.S. government.

"The greatest threat in the Middle East and to countries in the world is U.S. intervention," Ahmadinejad told a news conference after a summit of the Developing 8 Countries. "The military bases in the whole world should be eradicated and removed," he said.

"To build confidence in the region is to have fundamental change in the next U.S. government." The D-8 is an economic development alliance between Iran, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Translation: If you weaken yourselves to the point that America is unable to project power, we will then see this as a confidence-building measure.

If there were not so many Americans obsessed with building the confidence of the rest of the world - including our enemies - rather than our own, this would be a laughable statement.

But laugh at your own risk.

Different Kind of Threat

Normally we look at a variety of external factors that pose varying degrees of threat to the nation's security, but for a change I would like us to consider an equally insidious threat: domestic ignorance.

There are a number of reasons why politicians rarely talk about defense and security issues even in the midst of war. Complexity is one factor, but perhaps the most significant reason is simple politics: these are issues that do not regularly or directly – with any granularity - impact the lives of a majority of Americans. Contrast this to issues like health insurance, social security or taxes, which impact everyone to some extent and many people with great intensity.

We can argue about the state of our national security establishment and the impact related issues will have on the country over the next few years, but one thing we should all be able to agree on is that the more people know about these issues the better. We cannot expect everyone to become technical or functional experts, but we should at least be encouraging an increased dialog of said issues by those we hold responsible for looking out for our interests. That any attempt to limit any sort of discussion by elected officials – especially via means that are becoming increasingly popular with the present and future electorate – is something dangerously close to tragedy and creeping towards oppression.

July 7, 2008

If France Owned Our Drivers Licenses

A few weeks ago it was reported here that Digimarc had sold its Identity Systems business to L1 (formerly Viisage) for $263 million (cash and stock). Soon after that deal was announced and received tentative approval however, French defense electronics maker Safran had submitted a rival, unsolicited bid for Digimarc, raising the ante to $300 million (all cash).

The fact that Safran is owned partially by the French government has reaised security concerns in a number of circles, and especially in Congress. Raising CIFUS concerns, Members of Congress wrote recently to Secretary Paulson of the Department of the Treasury.

"As a major link in the nation's critical infrastructure for identity management and military support, it is our understanding Digimarc plays an important role in our national security," the Congressfolks wrote. "Digimarc provides services that enable the production of more than 60 million personal identification documents, including two-thirds of all U.S. driver's licenses. We are concerned foreign acquisition of Digimarc will leave the ownership and control of this critical U.S. infrastructure company in the hands of a foreign sovereign investor."

The question must be asked. Is our Nation's security being put in play and up for bid? Or is this, as the article suggests, "Franco-phobia, alive and well." Either way, L1's bid has been increased to $310 million.

Boyz To 'Men': Al-Qaeda's Youth Recruiting

CBS News is reporting an up-tick in al-Qaeda's recruitment of young boys into its terrorist ranks. While not questioning the core point of the report (youth recruitment), it may be worth pausing to re-consider the context provided. First, the article itself:

The mountains visible in the background of the video suggest that it was carried out in the rugged terrain somewhere in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The effort to recruit young boys for the cause has been extended to central Asia. We have reports that this effort may now be up to two years old,” said one senior Middle Eastern security official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

He said al Qaeda appears to have had more success in central Asian countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - the two states at the center of Islamic militancy - compared to other central Asian republics.

Though impossible to document the scale on which al Qaeda has successfully recruited young boys, the security official said, "You are looking at maybe a few hundred such cases."

While confirming the report of al Qaeda recruiting boys in central Asia, another Middle East security official said the militant group was eager to build its ranks in the former Soviet republics, which are seen as an emerging important frontier.

No doubt al-Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment of young boys into its terrorist ranks. However, this is not a new phenomenon for al-Qaeda.

The article mentions the young Taliban boy seen in a propaganda video beheading a 'spy for the US' in Pakistan. But al-Qaeda's Iraq arm recruited young boys as well, and was also depicted in video propaganda. Furthermore, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), al-Qaeda's 'farm team' in Somalia, fostered the formation of as-Shabab - which literally translates into "Youth Movement."

Al-Qaeda targets youth primarily because they are highly impressionable - often a blank slate upon which to create a radical in their own image. This is neither a new phenomenon for al-Qaeda, nor is it a new human phenomenon. Gangs and cults have targeted youth for recruitment for as long as the histories of either can be traced.

Kabul: Indian Embassy Bombing Kills 40

40 have been reportedly killed in a car bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul hours ago.

The massive explosion detonated by a suicide bomber damaged two embassy vehicles entering the compound, near where dozens of Afghan men line up every morning to apply for visas.

The embassy is located on a busy, tree-lined street near Afghanistan's Interior Ministry in the city center. Several nearby shops were damaged or destroyed in the blast, and smoldering ruins covered the street. The explosion rattled much of the Afghan capital.

"Several shopkeepers have died. I have seen shopkeepers under the rubble," a shopkeeper who was wounded in the blast, Ghulam Dastagir, said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Najib Nikzad, said the blast killed 40 people. Earlier, the spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, Abdullah Fahim, said the explosion killed at least 28 people and wounded 141, but an update of the number of injured was not immediately available. The Interior Ministry said six police officers and three embassy guards were among those killed.

In Delhi, India's foreign minister said four Indians, including the military attache, were killed in the attack.

The explosion appeared to be the deadliest attack at Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It was the deadliest in Afghanistan since a suicide bomber killed more than 100 people at a dog fighting competition at Kandahar province in February.

Kabul is the end of the northern-most leg of the ancient Asian trade route, the Great Trunk Road. Its final legs extend from Islamabad, Pakistan, through Peshawar and extending through the Khyber Pass and Jalalabad, Afghanistan. It also serves as a vital logistics route for getting goods and supplies to NATO forces - not without irony or difficulty through what is considered 'enemy territory' of Pakistan's FATA.

This week, we will be plotting the final leg of the Great Trunk Road, where conflict either upon or straddling the vital route continues apace.

UPDATE: From the South Asia Analysis Group, see also: Suicide Car Bomber Targets Indian Mission in Kabul - International Terrorism Monitor.

July 4, 2008

From The Stars To The Swamp On Independence Day?

Over at The Tank on National Review Online, I despair over the state of politics in our Nation and its debilitating effect on the prosecution of the War on Terror (or call it what you will), one which is defensive and reactionary in nature only after such was declared by attacks upon us. It opens with a still-relevant 1964 quote from Ronald Reagan.

We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.Ronald Reagan, 1964 Republican National Convention Address

The question addressed, or rather re-stated, ponders whether the enemy Reagan spoke of in 1964 at the height of the Cold War has truly been replaced with militant, radical Islamist terrorists and movements, or has the Cold War ideological enemy remained - simply with a closer proximity and with snarls replaced by enticing smiles.

Perhaps I was pushed over the edge into such thought by the disgraceful comments by Congressman Delahunt that he "glad they (al-Qaeda) finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington, given your penchant for being unobtrusive" in addressing Vice President Cheney's chief of staff David Addington during Congressional testimony. My reaction then was unrestrained and direct.

It is regardless ironic that as our Nation today celebrates its 232 years of Independence, roughly half of our population seems to be crying out for greater dependence upon a government - this time our own.

Perhaps it is indicative that fewer and fewer celebrate (or even understand) Independence Day, as more and more Americans simply gather for the 'Fourth of July.'

It was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who once said, "Politics is Islam, and Islam is politics." Along those lines, perhaps National Security is politics, and politics is National Security. And I wonder if I have been wrong in trying to extract one from the other for the past four years.

Terror Raids in Palembang

Handcuffed and hooded, the 9 Indonesian terror suspects rounded up in Palembang arrived in Jakarta yesterday as details of the cell and its ties to Mas Slamet Kastari and Noordin M. Top are beginning to emerge.

According to multiple local press reports, the Palembang cell had planned to bomb the well-known Kafe Bedubel in the Chinese section of Bukitinggi, West Sumatra. The plan was scuttled, however, because of the fear of killing muslims and the cell had begun planning operations in Jakarta, where the likelihood of killing foreigners and non-muslims would be greater.

Palembang cell terror suspects arrive in Jakarta.Members of the cell were also involved in a 2005 plot to assassinate a Christian pastor, Father Joshua, in Bandung.

The leader of the cell is believed to be a 35 year old Singaporean English teacher of Pakistani heritage named Mohammed Hassan (alias Omar, alias Fajar, alias Alim, alias Taslim, alias Abu Hazam) who was already wanted by Singaporean authorities. Hassan, Kompas reports, was a protege of JI bombmaker Dr. Azahari and had also trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He is alleged to have also met with Usama bin Laden on several occasions.

Hassan is believed to have run to South Sumatra with Mas Slamet Kastari. Kastari, an Indonesian national who served as the head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore, disappeared after a daring prison escape in February. "It's true," an Indonesian police source told the Batam Pos. "He is now here. I can assure you that we are hunting for him in every corner now."

Kastari, who had been extradited to Singapore in 2006, is now believed to be hiding in Central Java.

Hassan taught English at the Cambrichindo English Language Centre in Banyuasin, outside of Palembang, and lived with his pregnant wife and two children. His capture on June 28 followed the issuance of an arrest warrant by Singapore and after four days of interrogations led to the break that shattered the Palembang cell.

The other members of the cell, according to Detik News, are identified as:

- Musa (alias Abdul Rahman, alias Ifan), a 35 year old private sector worker who served as the head of the Anti-Apostacy Forum (FAKTA), which campaigns against religious conversion. He is suspected to be the main bombmaker and was involved in the plan to bomb Kafe Bedubel and the 2005 plot to assassinate Father Joshua in Bandung. He attempted to evade capture on his motorbike but crashed into a police motorcycle. During his capture he had a 38 mm Colt handgun with 6 bullets. "My feeling is that it's not possible," a neighbor who knew him told Kompas. "He always did the morning call to prayer at our local mosque. His voice was smooth with a bit of a Javanese accent."

- Sugi, a 22 year old student and member of FAKTA. He was trained in bombmaking and arrested at Warnet Mujahid (Mujahid Internet Cafe) in Lorong Banten, Palembang.

- Wahyudi, a 26 year old rubber worker and member of FAKTA. He lived with Heri Purwanto and is suspected of guarding the bombs.

- Heri Purwanto, a 25 year old freelancer and member of FAKTA. He lived with Wahyudi and is suspected of guarding the bombs.

- Rohman, a 35 year old private sector worker and member of FAKTA who participated in the Father Joshua plot.

- Agus Carang, a 36 year old Palembang prison employee and member of FAKTA who participated in the plans to bomb Kafe Bedubel and Father Joshua plot.

- Gandhi, a 42 year old alumni of the Afghan jihad and had fought against the Soviets between 1987 and 1992. He served as the headmaster of the Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah Islamic boarding school in Bumiarjo village and is suspected of harboring Hassan. He is also suspected to be the Indonesian leader of the Palembang cell.

- Agus Tiawarman, a 28 year old teacher at Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah. He is also suspected of harboring Hassan.

- Ali, a 30 year old teacher at Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah and member of FAKTA. He was captured with a bomb inside of a tupperwear container.

The investigation uncovered a cache of bombs and weapons, including 20 electronic pipe bombs, 50 38-calibre bullets, 2 cans of black powder, cables, various electronics, timers and a bombmaking manual. Some of the bombs were reportedly set to explode. A cache of chemicals were also discovered, including aluminium powder, pottasium nitrate, pottasium chlorat, nitrate and urea. Eighteen computers were also seized during the raids, which may provide significant information on the current status of JI.

"The Palembang group," police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira told Kompas, "is directly connected to JI cells in Wonosobo and Semarang, Central Java, that are controlled by Noordin M. Top. The bombmaking, however, comes from Mas Slamet Kastari's JI cell in Singapore."

According to various press reports, Hassan led authorities to Musa, who attempted to flee on his motor bike. His arrest then led to the Mujahid Internet Cafe, where Sugi was caught. They then descended on the rented house where Wahyudi and Heri Purwanto were protecting the bombs and bombmaking materials. At that point, Detachment 88 raided the Islamic boarding school in Bumiarjo village, where they captured Gandhi, Rohman, Ali and Agus Carang.

July 3, 2008

RunThat By Me Again?

Is it me, or does it sound like the highest ranking terrorist currently in US detention has approval/denial rights over images created by courtroom artists?

K.S.M. was not pleased. During a break in the proceedings, Hamlin saw Mohammed gesturing in disapproval as he examined her work. “They said, ‘Um, listen, K.S.M. doesn’t want to O.K. this,’ ” she recalled. “He says, ‘The nose is wrong, and tell the artist to go get my F.B.I. picture off the Internet and use that as a reference to fix it. ’ ” So began an hour-long process in which Hamlin was escorted to the media tent, where she printed out an image before returning—“always the gate, the search, the wand”—to make reparations.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "doesn’t want to O.K. this"? There is a wholly appropriate response to this, but its candor and color is simply inappropriate for this site.

Much more of this and our civilian courts' rolling decisions and there will inevitably be those (in military as well as intelligence services) who adopt an unspoken "take no prisoners" approach in the field.

Why bring them from a hot battlefield to a cold one where they enjoy significant advantage and potentially access to intelligence data, not to mention the right to disapprove a courtroom artist's drawing?

Make sense of that.

Global Vision: Trouble In Today's Pakistan

Feeling like a broken record, it is difficult nonetheless to find another way of saying "Ralph Peters nailed it (again) in New York Post," this time regarding Pakistan.

Of course, trouble on Pakistan's Afghan frontier isn't new: It was long the stuff of adventure novels and splendid black-and-white movies. A friend reminded me that, during World War I, the Brits fired artillery from the walls of the fort in downtown Peshawar to fend off tribesmen shouting, "God is great!"

But there's a vital difference now: In the past, jihads were tribal and local, if fierce. The Islamist rebellions sweeping the country's Northwest Frontier and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas reflect a global vision: It isn't just the Khyber Pass and Peshawar that are threatened these days.

Once more, no veneer to peel off or nuance to translate into reality. Ralph at his usual best.

July 2, 2008

Indonesia Breaks Up Terror Cell

Indonesia's elite anti-terror squad, Detachment 88, broke up a suspected terror cell on July 1 in south Sumatra and, according to local press reports, may have captured terror fugitive Mas Slamet Kastari.

The terror cell, according to Indonesian intelligence expert Dyno Cresbon in an interview with Tribun Batam, was being watched for over a year and had just begun to practice building bombs. "Noordin M. Top," he said, "after witnessing the disruption of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) cells in Java and the death of (bomb maker) Dr. Azahari in Malang, began going after new cadre outside of Java. He decided to move his efforts to the Mantiqi II area in order to spawn the birth of a new generation of JI."

The geographic structure of JI is built upon regional commands called "Mantiqi." Mantiqi II covers Singapore, Malaysia and Sumatra.

Tuesday's raids in Palembang netted a total of 9 suspects, Tempo Interaktif reports. Other reports put the total at 7 suspects.

According to Detik News, the raids began after the arrest in of an English teacher from Semarang, Central Java, who also has a Singaporean work permit. He led investigators to a rented house in the Kecamatan Ilir section of Palembang where a cache of weapons and bombmaking materials were discovered. The cache included 50 kg TNT, 10 guns, 4 fully assembled bombs, plastics, plaster, cabling and various electronic devices.

The house had been rented to two 23-year old men, Wahyu and Nanang (aka Fauzi). Wahyu, neighbors said, was quiet, reserved and a frequent visitor to the community mosque and gado-gado vendor. Sources have told Radio Elshinta that both men are proteges of Mas Slamet Kastari, a Javanese-born JI commander who recently escaped from detention in Singapore.

The arrest of Wahyu and Nanang led authorities to an Internet cafe, where two women were interrogated. The women, identified in the press only by their initials, denied that they knew anything about a terror cell.

Detachment 88 also raided the house of the head of the local branch of the Anti-Vice Activities Forum (Forum Anti Kegiatan Permurtadan), Fauzi, and took two Nokia mobile phones. Fauzi also denied to the press any involvement with terrorism. "I am shocked that my house was raided," he told Detik News, "I wasn't even home and my wife was alone there."

Police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira refused to provide specific details in a press conference late Tuesday night, however, he confirmed that suspects have been detained. There is suspicion, according to Radio Elshinta, that Kastari had taken refuge at one of the raided locations and that he could even have been captured.

Terror In Jerusalem

Three were killed and approximately forty injured when a terrorist went on a rampage inside a front end loader today. While more details about the terrorist's background and means of infiltration and attack will be clearer soon, in the meantime two stories tell you what you need to know

First, from Voice of America.

"The employee of a contractor company working on the street here in Jerusalem directed his bulldozer in the direction of civilian vehicles - a bus and cars that are on the street all the time yelling Allah al-akbar, apparent to us based on things we have experienced in the past,' said Daniel Seaman, a spokesman for the Israeli government. "This is undeniably a terrorist attack." Police say the attacker was a Palestinian who lived in East Jerusalem who held Jerusalem identity papers. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have access to Jewish West Jerusalem and carry out nearly all construction work in the city.

Second, from the Jerusalem Post.

Hamas said the terror attack was "a natural reaction to Israeli aggression." A Hamas spokesman, nevertheless, stressed that the group did not know who was behind the attack. The armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Quds Brigades, praised the attack. In a press release, the group said that the attack was a "natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation."

The driver was shouting "Allahu Akbar!" and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad - both heavily funded by Iran - praised the murderous rampage.

A scroll on one of the cable news channels this morning read "the attack is believed to be politically motivated," and I felt compelled to put something up as soon as able to give more 'political' context.

UPDATE: I knew there was a reason I felt compelled to put up something with the proper context of the Jerusalem attack. Note the following headline from the UK's Times Online and the usage of quotation marks around 'terror' attack: Bulldozer 'terror' attack on bus in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the editors mean something else, but most readers will infer that there are doubts about the linkage of terrorism to the attack.

July 1, 2008

Amerithrax - Unsolved

The country was still reeling from the attacks of September 11th when the anthrax letter attacks occurred in early October 2001. Speculation ranged from al-Qaeda being the culprit to Iraq being behind the anthrax laced letters. Despite other leads and potential suspects, on June 25, 2002, Steven Hatfill was questioned and his apartment was searched for the first time. At the time, an associate of mine who was involved in chem-bio analysis suggested to me that while Hatfill was a "person of interest," there were other scientists at Ft. Detrick who might also be considered, in cluding a report of a disgruntled former researcher (speculated to be an Egyptian scientist).

Still, Steven Hatfill remained a "person of interest." Afterall, it was suspected that he, among other things, had fabricated parts of his resume and had expertise in using "dry" biological agents. But there was no physical evidence linking Hatfill to the attacks.

Earlier this week, the U.S. government settled the 2003 law suit that had been brought by Dr. Steven Hatfill for the news leaks from the Amerithrax investigation. The settlement will pay Dr. Hatfill $2.825 million in cash and an annuity worth $1.8 million that will pay Hatfill $150,000 a year for 20 years.

The point of this post is not to judge the investigation one way or the other. The question that needs to be answered is "if Steven Hatfill didn't do it, who did?"

Naji: The Islamist's New Qutb?

Writing in today's New York Post, Amir Taheri writes of Sheikh Abu-Bakr Naji's new book, "Governance in the Wilderness." It is one of today's most important reads.

No one should feel safe without submitting to Islam, and those who refuse to submit must pay a high price. The Islamist movement must aim to turn the world into a series of "wildernesses" where only those under jihadi rule enjoy security.

These are some of the ideas developed by al Qaeda's chief theoretician, Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji, in his new book "Governance in the Wilderness" (Edarat al-Wahsh).

Middle East analysts think that the book may indicate a major change of strategy by the disparate groups that use al Qaeda as a brand name.

The Saudi police seized copies of the book last week as they arrested 700 alleged terrorists in overnight raids.

Naji's book, written in pseudo-literary Arabic, is meant as a manifesto for jihad. He divides the jihadi movement into five circles - ranging from Sunni Salafi (traditionalist) Muslims (who, though not personally violent, are prepared to give moral and material support to militants) to Islamist groups with national rather than pan-Islamist agendas (such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Filipino Moro Liberation Front).

All five circles are at an impasse, says Naji. Some accept the status quo while hoping to reform it. Others have tried to set up governments in a world dominated by "infidel" powers, and have been forced to abandon Islamic values. Still others failed because they didn't realize that the only way to win is through total war in which no one feels safe.

Naji claims that the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924 marked the start of "the most dangerous phase in history." Those events put all Arab countries, the heartland of Islam, under domination by the "infidel"- who later continued to rule via native proxies.

In Naji's eyes, it is impossible to create a proper Islamic state in a single country in a world dominated by "Crusaders." He cites as example the Taliban - which, although a proper Islamic regime, didn't survive "infidel" attacks and opposition by Afghan elements.

Instead, he says, the Islamic movement must be global - fighting everywhere, all the time, and on all fronts.

Read it all.

No Really, Iran Halted Its Nuclear Weapons Program

And he really, really means it.

America, and more specifically the Bush Administration, is always the problem with the world, especially if you are a disgruntled former CIA officer.

A former CIA operative who says he tried to warn the agency about faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs now contends that CIA officials also ignored evidence that Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb. The onetime undercover agent, who has been barred by the CIA from using his real name, filed a motion in federal court late Friday asking the government to declassify legal documents describing what he says was a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran that were contrary to agency views at the time.

If the Iranian nuclear weapons program was halted and his prescience ignored, explain the Iran-Syria-North Korea plutonium venture in Syria destroyed by Israel.

Note to disgruntled former CIA officer: This meme was tried in the politically-motivated wording latest Iran NIE summary (and not supported by the details of the report).

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