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September 30, 2008

Just A Click Pays Soldiers' Angels

The good folks at The $80,000 Squidoo Charity Giveaway are running a project. It's simple.

Just go here, scroll down and click on "Soldiers' Angels." Because they are that.

Here's how this works

One vote = $2

Vote for your favorite one of our Squidoo partner charities, in the poll below.

For each vote, we'll give that organization $2.

It's that easy.

We'll do it until October 15th, or 40,000 votes (which is $80,000). Whichever happens first.

It really is that simple. How fantastic is that?

They do absolutely phenomenal work for our troops. And if $2 doesn't seem enough, please head over to the Soldiers' Angels site and you will find all manner of projects you can contribute to. The holidays are coming, and the gathering and assembly of holiday care package materials is already underway. Somewhere in this world, a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is separated from his or her family.

From a guy who's been deployed to the Gulf during the holiday season, trust me that nothing brings a smile faster or longer than a surprise package from anywhere and anyone back in the states.

In fact, it's the ones from families you never knew that were the best. Snacks were packed in, assorted other small items, and pictures colored by kids saying thank you. They did it just because. That leaves a mark. Please, leave a mark.

Olmert Explains Why He Must Go

The first two paragraphs of today's New York Times report, Olmert Says Israel Should Pull Out of West Bank, reveals unequivocally why so many Israelis seek Olmert's departure. They fear him and his policy intentions far more than Israel's enemies Hizballah, Hamas, and Iran do.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published on Monday that Israel must withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians and that any occupied land it held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory.

Perhaps Mr. Olmert has not noticed what happened after the honorable withdrawal from Gaza. Left to their own devices, how has that worked out?

He goes on.

He also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue...

“What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me,” Mr. Olmert told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot in the interview on the occasion of the Jewish new year, observed from Monday evening till Wednesday evening.

And the Israeli leaders before him have never said such things because such things are interpreted as weakness by groups prepared to strike Israel and destroy her, "from the sea to the river."

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations, if believed to be producing the nuclear weapons Iranian leaders have said could smote Israel in one strike, is hardly "megalomania." It is survival under threat and self-defense.

This is not to say that the solution to the generations of conflict is solvable by muzzle and turret alone. But at the same time, while the New York Times may laud it as a "soul-searching interview" with Ehud Olmert, it smacks more of cowering defeat than introspective intellectualism.

Tzipi Livni waits in the wings to largely assume stewardship of Olmert's policy designs. And this has Israeli conservatives afraid for the defense and welfare of Israel, even fearful of her survival. Her enemies have never been stronger.

Or We Shall Taunt You A Second Time

While stopping short of making light of an un-light situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the title above was an initial reaction to Mullah Omar's retreat offer, which warned America that it will suffer the same demoralizing fate as the Soviet Union before us.

"I say to the invaders: if you leave our country, we will provide you the safe context to do so," Omar said in the statement marking the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr. "If you insist on your invasion, you will be defeated like the Russians before you."

The situation in Afghanistan has been trending toward difficulty, but never flirting with loss or capitulation. This is, keep in mind, the same warning issued in October of 2001. One distinct difference is that the warning is being issued not from Kabul, but across the border in Pakistan where Mullah Omar stands a chance of avoiding the pre-mature collection of his 72 virgins. And recall that in 2001, his warnings were echoed by the faithless in America who warned breathlessly of 'quagmire' and a 'new Vietnam.' Long? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Quagmire? No.

The good mullah goes on.

"The Americans, with their advanced technology, could not have predicted their defeat but now, with God's help, every day they welcome their soldiers' dead bodies and are facing severe losses of lives and finance," he said. "Several years ago, no one thought that Americans and their friends would face such hard resistance, that today the (Afghan) President and his ministers would beg for money, weapons and soldiers while no one gives a positive answer".

"They came to our country seven years ago and they have not succeeded in their targets - and they will never succeed, even in a hundred years," he added.

Three things. First, again note that this dire warning is issued from the safety of Pakistan, most likely Quetta. Not an unimportant distinction.

Second, the rate of attrition is exponentially lopsided, and not in favor of the Taliban. And their recent recruiting difficulties can be read into the wave of forced conscription taking place inside Pakistan.

Third, if you do not think that our economy is inextricably linked - nay meshed - with our national security, then you recognize even less than the Good Mullah and his compatriots, as emphasized above in bold.

Iran's manipulation of the security perception of oil supply among traders via timely released threats to shut the Strait of Hormuz teamed with some OPEC driving forces on real supply are examples of economic warfare intended to cripple our economy. It is when the intent crosses from business/profit and into the arena of inflicting harm upon another economy that such transitions from the realm of international trade and into the realm of economic warfare. Such is even better than a blockade in that what drains from the US economy deposits in the accounts of those exacting the warfare.

The situation is not one to laugh at. However, there is one thing that hard core leftists and terrorists have in common. You can fight them, you can argue with them, but just don't ever, ever laugh at them. Man, do they hate that.

And it is within that context that I picture Mullah Omar atop the castle wall shouting down at King Arthur in his Quest for the Holy Grail, "Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!" I hear he sleeps with one eye open.

Meanwhile, we continue about the serious business of defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban where they operate, and with the assistance and cooperation of a Pakistani ally that appears sometimes to understand the threat, and at others dismissive in popular criticism of American efforts.

September 29, 2008

A Look at Things to Come

Almost every day I see releases about new technology being developed that could have an impact on our future security deployments.

A new forensic analysis technology that would seem more appropriate for the Cold War than the GWOT has been slated for evaluation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to analyze and print out the contents of single-strike carbon typewriter ribbons. Old technology? Not really says the company.

"The surprising continuing widespread use of single-strike carbon typewriter ribbons, from which typed text can be read directly, provides investigators with a potential source of evidence and information."

This new process displays everything on the ribbon and reduces the time for decrytping the tape from days to hours.

Another approach, currently being tested by the Human Factors Division is called Malintent, and is apparently being developed by the Department of Homeland Security. Malintent scans the people rather than their bags as they apss through security check points, using sensors to detect temperature, heart rate and respiration as passengers walk through an archway, searching for cues to predict whether a person intends to cause any harm to fellow passengers.

If you're rushed or stressed, you may send out signals of anxiety, but FAST isn't fooled. It's already good enough to tell the difference between a harried traveler and a terrorist. Even if you sweat heavily by nature, FAST won't mistake you for a baddie.

"If you focus on looking at the person, you don't have to worry about detecting the device itself," said Bob Burns, MALINTENT's project leader. And while there are devices out there that look at individual cues, a comprehensive screening device like this has never before been put together.

While FAST's batting average is classified, Undersecretary for Science and Technology Adm. Jay Cohen declared the experiment a "home run."

MALINTENT is part of a broader program coined FAST, or the "Future Attribute Screening Technology" that is designed to get passengers through security in two to four minutes, and often faster.

Still further away from utlization, but still interesting in its application is a company that just received a patent for a product that will send real time digital photos to law enforcement

ElBaredei Warns But No New Sanctions on Iran

In a turn of events several years overdue, and perhaps far far too late, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei says Iran is on its way to atomic bomb capability.

Iran is on its way to mastering technology that would enable it to build atomic bombs, if it so chose, International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei said in remarks published on Friday. [ . . . ]

Beyond seven confirmed nuclear weapons powers, there is a wide range of countries with access to components -- fissile material or the equipment to produce it -- that could give them an atomic bomb "in a matter of months or a year," he said.

Meanwhile, as even ElBaredei now concedes Iran is potentially months from a nuclear weapons, the pace to intervene has more roadblocks and slows in pace. Case in point, there are no new sanctions in the next U.N. Iran resolution.

According to a text seen by Reuters, the 10-line draft resolution would call on Iran to "fully comply, without delay" with previous council resolutions, which demand that it halt enriching uranium. It also urges Iran to meet the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution aimed, not to impose new sanctions against Tehran, but rather to show unity after disagreements with Russia over its invasion of Georgia.

"It's also especially important that the Iranians recognize that the P5 plus 1 process is intact," Rice told Reuters in an interview, referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and Germany, the powers seeking to persuade Iran to halt its suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

December is likely a decisive month, representing a window between US administrations for Israeli action.

UPDATE: "Russia and U.S. agree to press Iran, but without sanctions." [Ed. - That'll leave a mark, I am sure.]

Airport Security - A Question of Scale

A short note on airport security. I was in DC last week, and without getting into detail, the following stories should be mentioned. The task of ensuring secure air travel is not an easy one, sometimes processing hundreds of people in just a few minutes.

(1) In a meeting with one of our federal agencies, I heard how a team had traveled by air, and on arrival needed to open a package. One of the individuals then removed a pocketknife from a carry-on and proceeded to slice open the box. When asked, the individual commented that she always carried the pocketknife with her (sort of as a letter opener) and had forgotten that she had it in her carry-on, even when queried by TSA in the security line about whether there was anything in the carry-on.

(2) A scientist traveling to a recent meeting carried sample of a harmless liquid chemical in his pocket. The liquid is clear and was carried in two 3-milliliter vials and one 10-microliter ampoule. The containers were all glass with no metal.

I, for one, believe that air travel is significantly safer today than it was on September 10, 2001 as a result of the added security, surveillance, and yes, the vigilence of the TSA. Is there a bit more inconvenience, especially as it comes to the 3-1-1 program? Sure, there is. Are improvements still needed? Yes, there are. Are these two stories harmless occurences? Yes. At the same time, the tools of terrorism change constantly.

September 28, 2008

Taliban Conscripting Sons In Pakistan

A Frontier Corps officer in the tribal region in Pakistan says that the Taliban has conscripted sons in the region, threatening families if they refuse to submit their male children.

On Friday, a Pakistani military commander accused insurgents of forced conscription.

"All families were asked to give their one male child to this (militant) movement, and this was done forcibly, and if somebody doesn't do it, his house would be destroyed," said Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

It is nearly impossible to independently confirm the details provided by Khan and others in the military.

Perhaps it may be difficult to confirm this particular instance, but this is one of the means by which al-Qaeda sought to bolster their forces in Iraq, and one which ultimately undermined their existence as the Iraqi people turned.

Long made short, this represents a few things.

1. A sharp fall in man power. Pakistan has claimed to kill 1,000+ in the area since August ops began.

2. Difficulty recruiting. Enticing the faithful followers has proven for the moment not enough.

3. A certain level of desperation. Such measures are not taken when a group senses imminent victory, but more so when holes need plugged.

This is as close to an admission that Pakistani military operations have met with some success as you are likely to ever see. An admission in actions, not words.

September 25, 2008

Media Militants In Pakistan

One of the problems with the recent fire burning among many Pakistanis seemingly enraged over US operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda on their soil has been that these same individuals fail to acknowledge - to others and perhaps to themselves - that the enemy we target it their enemy. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are enemies of Pakistan that seek to consume the Muslim nation and use it as the cornerstone for the establishment of a regional - then global - caliphate, ruled by the brand of Islam that al-Qaeda's ideological terrorists demand all subscribe to.

Aniq Zafar, writing in Pakistan's The News, calls these Pakistanis more predisposed to loathe the United States than the terrorists among them "Media Militants." Read this excerpt, and perhaps the entire article, Marriott tragedy: No Illusions!

But the Marriott blast has shown a stark naked reality to the people of Pakistan that the challenge for the state and the society is much larger than what the Media Militants have tried to make us believe. Media Militants like Ms. Shireen Mazari and Ahmad Quraishi on these pages of the newspaper have been arguing since long that Pakistan needs to move away from this fight and tell the US that it’s “her war” not ours.

The apologists of extremists and terrorists have all along been arguing that the root cause of militancy and terrorism is US's policies in the region. One has consistently argued that those Media Militants fail to understand that the grand political objective of the al-Qaeda or Taliban is not getting the US out of Afghanistan. The grand objective is to create an Islamic state without borders across all Muslim nations. This objective is sometimes reflected in the slogans of Hizb ut Tehrir and at other times can be read as subtext in the literature of almost all the militant organizations. Getting US out of Afghanistan and creating a state of their own kind in Afghanistan and then in Pakistan are just two steps in that direction.

This group of so called "Islamic ultra-nationalist" is so out of touch with the real world that they refuse to recognize the limitations of their policy advice. A recent statement from a Hizb ut Tehrir spokesman read "Is the US ready to have its supplies shut down by taking on Pakistan? Can America stop Pakistani missile attacks on its bases at Bagram and Doha? The truth is that the US not Pakistan, is vulnerable and not in a position to risk war. The US is already taking a beating in Iraq and Afghanistan. But our rulers are hiding their treason by claiming that Pakistan cannot defend itself against America."

Each line of the above statement speaks for itself. The statement reflects a mindset where emotions and a self proclaimed invincibility drive the policy choice. Policy formulation is a task where all variables and all options with pros and cons of each tactical step have to be evaluated. It cannot be an over assessment of self. It cannot be a wish. It cannot be a slogan.

No one can justify the US incursions into Pakistan's territory and one must not condone such acts. But there is a serious need for an inward review too. One simple though provoking question asked by a very senior editor in his recent columns in a sister publication would help us understand the dynamics much better. He asks why is that all those elements (Al Qaeda, Taliban) find hospitable ground in Pakistan while Afghanistan has other neighbours too?

The situation is indeed complex.

Failure to acknowledge the true enemy which seeks to consume you is not.

Shots And Salt: Measured in Grains

Expect to see reports regularly that Pakistani troops have fired on US helicopters or drones or other aircraft. They should be taken with a grain of salt until there is a US fatality or manned craft downed inside Pakistan.

Pakistani troops fired at American reconnaissance helicopters patrolling the Afghan-Pakistan border Thursday, heightening tensions as the U.S. steps up cross-border operations in a region known as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Two American OH-58 reconnaissance helicopters, known as Kiowas, were on a routine afternoon patrol in the eastern province of Khost when they received small arms fire from a Pakistani border post, said Tech Sgt. Kevin Wallace, a U.S. military spokesman. There was no damage to aircraft or crew, officials said.

"They did not cross the border and they did not fire back," Wallace said.

The Pakistani military disputed that assertion, saying its troops fired warning shots when the two helicopters crossed over the border -- and that the U.S. helicopters fired back.

"When the helicopters passed over our border post and were well within Paskitani territory, own security forces fires anticipatory warning shots. On this, the helicopters returned fire and flew back," a Pakistani military statement said.

Domestically, Pakistanis must see themselves as independent and protecting their sovereignty. The sad truth is that their sovereignty is under assault from within, and they remain politically and - perhaps - militarily incapable of defeating the Taliban-al-Qaeda enemy alone. Some may even argue unwilling to do so.

But domestic perceptions and considerations must be taken into account. It is not wild speculation to assume that US military and intelligence in theater understand this. For what it's worth.

UPDATE: From our friends at Rantburg: today, an article worth a look: Pakistani, U.S. clash won't escalate: analysts.

The Generals' War: Distinguishing Warfighters from War Fighters

In today's Wall Street Journal, Mackubin Owens makes pointed and accurate observations in Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq, explaining in part the counterproductive nature of some flag officers who opposed - and at times obstructed - the adopted 'Surge' strategy that replaced their own, and did so well into and throughout 'The Surge.'

In late 2006, President Bush, like President Lincoln in 1862, adopted a new approach to the war. He replaced the uniformed and civilian leaders who were adherents of the failed operational approach with others who shared his commitment to victory rather than "playing for a tie." In Gen. David Petraeus, Mr. Bush found his Ulysses Grant, to execute an operational approach based on sound counterinsurgency doctrine. This new approach has brought the U.S. to the brink of victory. Although the conventional narrative about the Iraq war is wrong, its persistence has contributed to the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward's account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.

There is no room in the execution of military orders and applied strategy for counter-movements from within the military, let alone among civilian counterparts. Actions such as denying travel to Iraq by Admiral Mullen for an advisor and 'Surge' co-architect (retired Gen. Keane) requested by General Petraeus, for example, are inexcusable, obstructive and an embarrassment.

At The Tank on National Review Online, I humbly weighed in that it is vital for us to be Distinguishing Warfighters from War Fighters.

I will not be opening up a David Petraeus Fan Club and entering into worship, but his profoundly positive impact on the armed forces will be felt for decades — beyond wresting military victory from the jaws of political defeat, popular narrative and common defeatism be damned. He is a leader of men, a warfighter and a thinker, not a uniformed executive hitting the DC cocktail circuits in search of friends and post-retirement opportunity. Men follow such leaders passionately and loyally.

And President Bush clearly came to distinguish between them, handing Petraeus authority over the selection process for the promotion of flag officers and, thus, the future leadership of the Armed Forces.

As Owen concludes, this is an issue of vital importance for our military and the nation's defense going forward.

If Mr. Woodward's account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln's war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president's policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic.

September 24, 2008

Russia's Scorched Earth Georgia Withdrawal

Michael Totten tells the story with prose and photos of The Scorching of Georgia, Russia's destruction of Georgia including setting its mountain forests ablaze. It is literally a scorched earth withdrawal, a tactic perfected by the Russians in the face of German invasion forces during World War II.

The air smelled strongly of smoke from burning wood, and the fires were in a strange state. I've seen many forest fires in my home state of Oregon. We get them every year. This is not what they look like. Forest fires, whether they were started by lightning, human negligence, or arson, tend to be large single infernos. Individual fires burned all over the place near Borjomi.

Had this been a United States operation, the global exposure and resultant outrage would be deafening. But it was not. And thus, it is not.

(With thanks to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.)

Leadership on HLS

This editorial at The Examiner is a pretty fair echo of the opinions vast majority of people in the land:

Seven years after the bloodiest attack on American soil, homeland security remains the federal government’s top domestic priority. But neither presidential candidate has presented voters with a detailed strategy to protect our nation while overhauling a dysfunctional agency plagued by high turnover and low morale. . .

Five years ago, President Bush caved to pressure from congressional Democrats and cobbled together 22 separate federal agencies to create the massive Department of Homeland Security. DHS has been working against itself ever since. . . .

It goes on, but you've heard this song before.

One point I've not heard raised yet is this: The basic dysfunction – border defenders vs. immigration, etc. – always existed; so did consolidation exacerbate these problems or just shine a spotlight on them? More to the point: If having a single authority over said missions has not improved functionality (which you would think would happen) what is the point of maintaining DHS?

Certainly there are very base political considerations at play here, like legislators who backed the plan now looking panicky and short-sighted. On the other hand it would be an excellent opportunity to look like the bigger man and an actual leader to point out imperial nudity and stand up to do something about it.

If it isn't improving the nation's security, bottom line, it's not worth doing. If it is worth doing, it's worth doing with a whip in your hand until people get their minds right about what it is we're trying to accomplish.

North Korea Kicks Out UN Nuke Team

The Washington Times reports that North Korea has just kicked out the IAEA inspection team from its Yongbyon plutonium plant with apparent intentions of restarting the facility once plutonium fuel can be supplied.

North Korea barred U.N. nuclear inspectors from its main nuclear reactor on Wednesday and within a week plans to reactivate the plant that once provided the plutonium for its atomic test explosion, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector said.

The North ordered the removal of the U.N. seals and surveillance equipment from the Yongbyon reactor, a sign it is making good on threats to restart a nuclear program that allowed it to conduct a test explosion two years ago.

But the North's moves could be motivated by strategy as well. It could use the year it would take to restart the North's sole reprocessing plant to wrest further concessions from the U.S. and other nations seeking to strip it of its atomic program.

Another example of how negotiating with unstable bad actors are increasingly endeavors with rapidly diminishing returns.

This and more today in our DailyBriefing for September 24, 2008. The DailyBriefing is posted each morning to provide an overview of conflicts, threats and developments around the world and is updated throughout the day.

September 23, 2008

Gul: Truth In The Absence of Criticism

While on the subject of Hamid Gul: Al-Qaeda's Man In Pakistan, consider this from the good general in the Washington Times regarding the Marriott bombing.

But reports that the government had received intelligence information of an attack in the capital two days earlier had many in Islamabad and elsewhere in the country enraged.

"The intelligence agencies had done their bit. Their job is to gather the information, and they had done this" said retired Gen. Hamid Gul, former director-general of the nation's intelligence agency. "The failing is on the part of the government, and it´s a huge and shameful failing."

Gen. Gul, who was instrumental in forming the Afghani Taliban in the 1990s, says the police and other security agencies were so busy in arranging protection for President Asif Ali Zardari´s first address to the parliament that they had ignored the security of the ordinary public.

Pakistan has limited resources, he said. "And when we dedicate these resources to over-protecting one man or a few VIPs, then the result is going to be underprotection of the rest of the city."

Yes. Secular government bad, compromised/infested intelligence agencies good.

Before the objective among us attempt to explain ways in which General Gul may 'have a point,' let's note for the record the complete absence - ever - of criticism of Taliban or al-Qaeda terrorists for murdering those in their path, the very people Hamid Gul seeks to insinuate championing with supposed interests in their own security.

Gul has no 'point.' He has a vision. It's called a global caliphate beginning with a Gul-lead and al-Qaeda-owned Pakistan.

Pay attention. It's free.

Hamid Gul: Al-Qaeda's Man In Pakistan

In our last Pakistan PrincipalAnalysis, Al-Qaeda's Progression On Pakistan's Demise, we spelled out the line of succession the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance desires in order to exact control of Pakistan and its resources, including its nuclear arsenal. The end-game in the progression rests upon the shoulders of Usama bin Laden friend and former Pakistani ISI director, retired General Hamid Gul. Paying attention to Hamid Gul's words and actions can serve as an excellent indicator of al-Qaeda aims and actions inside Pakistan.

To wit, notice this quote from Hamid Gul within a September 13, 2008 Washington Post article. He is talking within the context of US raids into Pakistan by both CIA Predator drones and US Special Forces ground units within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, North and South Waziristan in particular.

"If bombs were to fall in Karachi and Islamabad, that would then be considered an act of war. The Pakistani government wants to pretend that these areas [Note: FATA areas, not Islamabad & Kirachi] are not part of Pakistan, but they are," said retired Gen. Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). "Instead of solving the problem, it has only exacerbated it. If those people in those areas were not part of the Taliban forces before these strikes, they will be now."

Of course, gaining popular support among local Pakistanis in the tribal areas dominated by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance has always been a propaganda goal after every attack.

Further, barely one week later, a massive bomb did 'fall' in Islamabad at the Marriott Hotel. And by Hamid Gul's own definition, this is an act of war against Pakistan. Now, we know this is already the case, as the insurgency is seeking to decapitate the Pakistani government in order to usurp it and control its resources and population. Gul's words here are simply further illuminating regarding his opposition to the Pakistani government (no secret).

But perhaps no recent quote from Hamid Gul, the "Godfather of the Taliban," is more illuminating than what he told Syed Saleem Shahzad of Adnkronos International (AKI) Monday after the Marriott bombing.

Former Pakistani spy master, Retired Lt. General Hamid Gul said that the militants had watched their target for days and then selected a vehicle carrying construction materials and loaded the vehicle with over 600 kilogrammes of explosives.

While not a direct quote, note with clarity how Hamid Gul does not appear to be speculating, but rather stating as known fact. It would be easy enough to speculate the same, but he is not speculating. How, one must ask, does he know this?

The question is entirely rhetorical.

Pre-empting Campus Massacres

After Columbine, some high schools added metal detectors to their main entrances. After Virginia Tech, the debate raged as to how such incidents could be prevented in the future. Violence and terrorism is schools, clearly a “soft” target, is just one of our many fears. In the Beslan school shooting in 2004, 330 people including 186 children were killed. Just this morning there are reports coming out of Finland of at least nine people being killed when a gunman opened fire at a vocational school for adults. The list is fightening, and the threat of mass violence in schools is real, whether by a disgruntled student or by act of terrorism.

Some of the solutions posed ranged from installing multi-node communications alert systems on campuses to allowing students with carry permits to be armed on campus. What should we do and how far should we go to prevent another campus massacre? This past summer a community college in South Texas was forced to issue a restraining order against a student who was angry with her public speaking professor for giving her a “B” for a speech he didn’t understand. The student claimed that the professor ridiculed her and that the “B” would prevent her from becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Franchesca O'Neal, a 26-year-old political science major, sued for $5 million and an A in the class. However, the student’s own words would likely disqualify her from such career aspirations.

In a pleading filed in August, O'Neal said she knew murder was a crime, but wanted to shoot Falcon dead.

“I would even be willing to let the B stand to blow the back of his head out,” O'Neal wrote, noting that she was formerly in the military and knew how to handle a sidearm. She warned that teachers should be careful in how they treat students: “Students do not throw toilet paper into trees or soap up windows anymore. They pull weapons out of backpacks, and I for one do not want to find myself dodging bullets,” she wrote.

O'Neal said she never meant any harm; she was only trying to point out that a teacher's ridicule could push an unstable person over the edge.

“There are not many students who would pursue justice the way I have,” O'Neal said in an interview. “People do take matters into their own hands. (Falcon) does not know what someone is willing to fight back with.”

It is a hefty issue. Late last month a school district north of Dallas, in Harrold Texas, approved a change in policy that allows employees to carry licensed concealed weapons. Before you utter, “well it’s Texas” you should note that the arming of school police is being debated in Memphis Tennessee as well.

Random shootings, mass murders at schools, college campuses, shopping malls and churches have occurred across the country in recent years. How far do we go to prevent another campus massacre?

September 22, 2008

Hollow State at Home?

John Robb lays out a disturbing scenario:
The modern nation-state is in a secular decline, made inevitable by the rise of a global market system. Even developed nations, like the US, are not immune to this process. The decline is at first gradual and then accelerates until it reaches a final end-point: a hollow state. The hollow state has the trappings of a modern nation-state ("leaders", membership in international organizations, regulations, laws, and a bureaucracy) but it lacks any of the legitimacy, services, and control of its historical counter-part. It is merely a shell that has some influence over the spoils of the economy. The real power rests in the hands of corporations and criminal/guerrilla groups that vie with each other for control of sectors of wealth production. For the individual living within this state, life goes on, but it is debased in a myriad of ways.

Like all of John's writing it is worth a full read.

This is not going to happen here, tomorrow, but that it happens period is not out of the question. One need only look at the mayhem wrought by narco-gangs on what passes for a state just to our south, or any of the other examples John sites to know that it happens.

What is your primary loyalty and how will you defend it? Are you an American first and will you cling to whatever form the government takes and functions it affords regardless of the changes to your life, liberty and property; or will you join the retrograde movement down through regional, ethnic and familial bonds that were whittled away at the start of the last century? Perhaps more importantly, would the real threat to the US be - in the midst of such a scenario - the current state forcing us to participate in its decline with the full force and power at its disposal?

Food for thought.

Red On Red: Hamas v. al-Qaeda

From the Jerusalem-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center is a report examining a recent push by Hamas security forces to confront an al-Qaeda linked group in Gaza.
1. On September 15, 2008 , confrontations broke out between Hamas security forces and members of the Dughmush clan in the Al-Sabra section of Gaza City . The clan is important and powerful in the Gaza Strip. The confrontations began with security force attempts to detain two to its members, and led to the deaths of 11 Dughmushes and the wounding of 46. One Hamas policeman was killed and another wounded.

2. Among those killed and wounded by Hamas were a number of operatives of the Army of Islam , a radical Islamic group affiliated with Al-Qaeda (See the Appendix.) One of those killed was Ibrahim Dughmush, the brother of Army of Islam commander Mumtaz Dughmush, who may have been wounded in the fighting and/or detained by Hamas. The Hamas security forces also seized large quantities of weapons (light arms, RPGs, hand grenades and military equipment). Fifteen members of the Dughmush clan were detained following the confrontations.

3. Hamas represented the events as routine police activities were yet another Hamas step to suppress opposition in the Gaza Strip . Hamas is particularly eager to weaken the local clans (such as Dughmush and Hilles) and the terrorist organizations which do not accept Hamas authority, even if they are radical-Islamic, such as the Army of Islam.

4. The Hamas media were quick to represent the Dughmush clan members killed during the confrontations as criminals and the actions of the police as routing anti-crime police activity. However, the large force employed by Hamas indicates that the events were exploited to tighten security and control in the Gaza Strip by the violent suppression of focal points of anti-Hamas power and influence, which the organization regards as undermining its rule.

It's red on red, the best kind of conflict.

Danish Intelligence Primary Marriott Bombing Target?

Former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman has issued a report at the South Asia Analysis Group which indicates Danish intelligence - and perhaps not the American CIA - may well have been the primary target of the bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan. Raman cites previous attacks on Danish targets inside Pakistan and the connection to Islamist rage at the Dutch publication of cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad.

4. While Al Qaeda had claimed the responsibility for the blast outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on June 3, 2008, it did not in respect of the other strikes mentioned by Amir Mir. Al Qaeda targeted the Danish Embassy in protest against the cartoons on the Holy Prophet carried by the Danish media. It continues to call for more attacks on Danish targets.

5. After the controversy over the cartoons broke out two years ago, Denmark had drastically reduced the strength of its home-based staff in its Embassy in Islamabad. It was running a truncated mission with the help of either Pakistani recruits or Danish citizens of Pakistani origin. However, it is learnt that it was having a small office in the Marriott Hotel, which was staffed by officers of the Danish intelligence agency responsible for counter-terrorism. They were monitoring the developments relating to terrorism in Pakistan and maintaining a liaison with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The information about the presence of a small cell of the Danish intelligence in the hotel seems to have leaked out to Al Qaeda.

6. The official figures of fatalities in the blast are 53. Of these, one has been described as a Danish citizen. Another Danish citizen is stated to be missing. An Agence France Press (AFP) report from Copenhagen says as follows: "A Danish intelligence agent is missing after Saturday's devastating suicide bomb attack on the Marriott hotel in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, Denmark's Foreign Minister said on Sunday."We are talking about a member of the intelligence services stationed at the embassy in Islamabad, with no sign of life," Per Stig Moeller told TV2 news channel. "What we have heard is that a Dane likely figures among the dead. If that proves to be the case, it would be profoundly tragic," he added, because he had been sent to Pakistan to improve security for Danish staff there. The Danish intelligence agency, PET, said in a separate statement that one of its agents, a security advisor, had been posted missing, presumed dead. A second PET official was unhurt, it said. Earlier, the Foreign Ministry's head of diplomacy Klavs Holm told AFP that teams were scouring the city's hospitals and other places looking for the missing national. "Several other Danes were in the hotel, they have been slightly hurt" in the explosion, Holm said, adding that these people, three in number, were all employed by the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. Saturday's suicide blast was "an attack on cooperation between Pakistan and the international community, because these Islamists, these fanatics, want to break relations between the West and the democratically-elected Pakistani Government," he added.

As it stands, it appears one Danish intelligence agent is missing while at least two US Marines attached to the US Embassy in Pakistan are among the dead.

Whichever intelligence agency was the primary target, two things are important to come away from this with.

1. Distinguishing between 'al-Qaeda' as publicly perceived among Americans and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) fellow travelers suspected as being responsible and referred to in B. Raman's article is useful only in the micro-level. They are part of the al-Qaeda umbrella established in 1998 as the International Islamic Front (IIF).

2. The primary physical target was not the Pakistani political system or any Pakistani politician - not President Zardari (PPP) and not Prime Minister Gilani (PPP). The physical primary target was foreign intelligence, whether the CIA, the Danish intelligence office at the Marriott or some other nation's organization. The attack served its ever-present secondary psychological effect, which was to strike the perception of al-Qaeda capabilities and that of weakness in the Pakistani government and security in the eyes of the Pakistani public.

When it comes to al-Qaeda targeting Pakistani political figures - and those who lie in waiting to replace them - within the context of the Taliban-al-Qaeda insurgency, readers may wish to revisit the PrincipalAnalysis on the subject earlier this month.

Al-Qaeda's Progression On Pakistan's Demise: Schizophrenic Pakistan And The Coming Vacuum That Invites al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda must be (and has been) more discerning when targeting political figures in the Pakistani government. The useful PML-N politicians headed by Nawaz Sharif (bought and paid for al-Qaeda goods) cannot be included as victims in an attack as indiscriminate as a dump truck loaded with 1,300lbs of explosives, mines, mortars and aluminum powder. Remember, Bhutto was assassinated with a bullet, and the recent attempt on PM Gilani's life was with an armor-piercing sniper round that pierced the double-layered bullet-proof glass in his US-supplied armored limousine.

Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, virulent in their opposition to both the ruling PPP and the United States, are too useful to al-Qaeda to risk alienating them through collateral damage from attacks by imprecise and massive bombings.

September 21, 2008

FireWatch: Reprisal - Al-Qaeda Targets CIA

Late last night, I took a look at the Marriott bombing in Islamabad. Who were the real targets, who were the attackers, and what might it mean for Pakistan going forward. It was closer to morning than night when recorded, so forgive the less than smooth verbal discussion. I just decided to flip on the microphone and record a few thoughts.

You can give it a listen here:

Fire Watch: September 21, 2008

Czech Ambassador Missing After Pakistan Blast

CNN is reporting that the Czech ambassador to Pakistan has been missing since the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott. From the report:

The Czech Republic's ambassador to Pakistan has been missing since a deadly blast Saturday night at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the Czech News Agency reported.

Ivo Zdarek, 47, moved from Vietnam to Pakistan a month ago and was staying at the hotel, the national news agency said. It attributed its information to officials at the Czech foreign ministry.

September 20, 2008

Pakistan Bombing: CIA Officers Targeted?

A truck bombing of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel in Pakistan has killed at least 60 and wounded more than 200. The Marriott is about a quarter mile from Pakistan's national parliament and the prime minister's residence.

While the BBC reports a security official speculating that either of these was likely the primary target, the ThaiIndian News reports that senior CIA officers staying at the Islamabad Marriott were the primary targets.

Well placed sources said that Marriott Hotel is usual hotel choice of the US officials and it seems that militants tipped off that certain high level US intelligence officers were currently staying at the hotel.

While no confirmation was available but Pakistan sources said it was clear that the explosion was aimed at specific targets based on a tip off.

Recall that that on January 14 of this year there was a suicide attack on the luxury five-star Serena Hotel in Kabul. Like the Marriott in Islamabad, the Serena Hotel was the lodging of choice for key foreign dignitaries and UA FBI and CIA agents.

With the latest tension between the US and Pakistan, exacerbated by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance which seeks the divisive tension, US military and intelligence visits with Pakistani leaders have increased in an effort to cool the situation as much as possible. Thus, the Marriott was likely the target of choice, as the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance would be unlikely to cause added friction with the government that is currently serving its aims by distancing itself from the United States.

President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani, both of the ruling PPP, are on the Taliban's hit list. However, a more precise means of liquidation can be expected with such figures, rather than risk killing or driving away helpful others among the Pakistani government with a large, indiscriminate bombing.

The crater left by the massive truck bomb was approximately 30 feet. And while it appears to have detonated some distance from the main housing unit of the hotel, it ruptured a gas line which has set major sections of the Marriott ablaze.

This is not a preferred means of assassinating the president or prime minister given the current political climate. A bullet is much preferred. It is, however, a preferred means of attacking a Western hotel chain housing potentially hundreds of Westerners, including US intelligence officers.

UPDATE: From UPI, word that Pakistani president Zardari was nearby during the Marriott bombing.

At the time of the bombing, Zardari and the rest of the new government were nearby. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hosted an iftar dinner, the traditional evening meal after the daylong fast in Ramadan, at the Secretariat, the Pak Tribune reported. The five-star Marriott caters to foreign business travelers and officials and members of the Pakistani elite. The bomber struck at 8 p.m. when many Muslim guests were in the dining room, breaking their fast.

Also, expect the death toll to rise as rubble is cleared. Keep in mind that it was dark during the bombing. It should also be expected that Americans will be among those killed.

UPDATE II: See also the following updates added since this article published:

RapidRecon: Danish Intelligence Primary Marriott Bombing Target?
FireWatch: "Reprisal" September 21, 2008 (MP3 Audio)

September 19, 2008

Georgia v. Russia: Intercepts and Misdirects

From the International Herald Tribune, a story describing how Georgia has offered fresh evidence on the war's start. Namely, Georgia has released intercepted phone calls from the Russian-South Ossetia border as border guards discuss the crossing of Russian armor into South Ossetia 20 hours before Georgia launched it's defensive attack.

But at a minimum, the intercepted calls, which senior American officials have reviewed and described as credible if not conclusive, suggest there were Russian military movements earlier than had previously been acknowledged, whether routine or hostile, into Georgian territory as tensions accelerated toward war.

They also suggest the enduring limits — even with high-tech surveillance of critical battlefield locations — of penetrating the war's thick fogs.

The back and forth over who started the war is already an issue in the American presidential race, with Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican vice presidential candidate, contending that Russia's incursion into Georgia was "unprovoked," while others argue that Georgia's shelling of Tshkinvali was provocation. Georgia claims that its main evidence — two of several calls secretly recorded by its intelligence service on Aug. 7 and 8 — shows that Russian tanks and fighting vehicles were already passing through the Roki Tunnel linking Russia to South Ossetia before dawn on Aug. 7.

By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tshkinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.

Russia has not disputed the veracity of the phone calls, which were apparently made by Ossetian border guards on a private Georgian cellphone network. "Listen, has the armor arrived or what?" a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters asked a guard at the tunnel with the surname Gassiev, according to a call that Georgia and the cellphone provider said was intercepted at 3:52 a.m. on Aug. 7.

"The armor and people," the guard replied. Asked if they had gone through, he said, "Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived."

Russia's Short Shadows of Glasnost

Doug Farah writes on Russia's New Efforts to Arm State Sponsors of Terrorism over with our friends at the Counterterrorism Blog. It is well worth your reading time today, and another indicator for those who may harbor hopeful doubt that Russia is indeed an American enemy.

I am not a Russia expert, but it is clear that the Putin-led government is going out of its way to antagonize the United States and its allies. One of the primary, and most dangerous methods, is the sale of billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry to state sponsors of terrorism, particularly Iran and Venezuela.

These just happen to be the two states most intent on inflicting as much harm as possible on the United States and its allies, as well as the two governments funding the unrest that has pushed Bolivia to the brink of civil war and actions that are turning Nicaragua into the pariah state.

As the Times of London notes,the sales include anti-aircraft missiles and top of the line fighter jets, due in production in 2010.

It is interesting to note that Russia's deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, one of the closest allies of Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, visited Venezuela and Cuba this week. Sechin is widely reported to be the main backer of Viktor Bout, the notorious weapons trafficker in prison in Thailand, awaiting an extradition hearing next week to determine if he will be handed over to the United States to stand trial.

(In an ominous sign that Bout's extradition will not be approved, the Thai appellate court, for the first time this week, rejected a U.S. extradition request. This one was for Jamshid Ghassemi, an Iranian indicted in the United States for acquiring dual-use equipment and accelerometers for Iran's nuclear program. The court ruling gave no reasons for its decision, which is unappealable, and foul play is suspected.

There are several parallels to the Bout case, where the Russians have been offering large financial inducements, oil deals and preferential weapons deals in exchange for Bout's freedom. Another terrorist supplier under Russian protection.)

In the heat of the political season, which assures no shortage of rhetoric finding fault with American actions and causes first, it should be soberly acknowledged that these choices are Russia's and Russia's alone. Any assertion that American policy or leadership is the cause for Russia's continued embrace of Iran, Venezuela and Syria (among others) is both vapid and naive.

Remember, immediately after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Russia wanted to supply them with 50 armored personnel carriers and a pair of helicopters.

Iran Supplying Taliban

Iran is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan with devastating weaponry. This should not come as a surprise. Iran, through their EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) used as roadside bombs in Iraq, is responsible for over 10% of all US casualties in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. And that figure (10%) is not Iran's total attribution, but from just that one weapon, the EFP. When other weapons known to have been shipped in by Iran are taken into account - such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47's, ammunition, AA missiles and other explosives - the percentage increases. This must be understood.

So it is logical that, as the situation in Iraq cools and combat focus (for both al-Qaeda and the US) begins to shift to Afghanistan and Pakistan (yes, Pakistan), the Iranians who sought to kill and maim American forces in Iraq will shift their deadly wares increasingly to Afghanistan and the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance to their south. Within that context, please take the time to read the following from the BBC.

Iranian arms

He said their favourite weapons were Iranian:

"There's a kind of mine called the Dragon. Iran is sending it and we have got it. It's directional and very powerful."

The Dragon appears to be a local name for what is internationally called an Explosively Formed Penetrator.

As the commander testified, it can penetrate the armour of Humvees and even tanks.

He said it was only available to special groups and you had to have "good relations" with the Iranians to get it.

Former mujahedeen fighter Shahir - which is not his real name - said Iranian weapons commanded a premium price:

"The beauty of the Iranian-made AK47, for example, is that it can also fire grenades. It costs $200-$300 dollars more than a Kalashnikov made elsewhere."

Shahir said there were two routes for Iranian weapons to reach the Taleban.

"There are people inside the state in Iran who donate weapons. There are also Iranian businessmen who sell them."

Britain and America have also alleged that elements in the Iranian state are helping to fund the Taleban, but it is rare to get confirmation from the Taleban side.

The Iranian Embassy in Kabul denied the allegations, saying Tehran supported the government of Afghanistan.

Iran is our enemy. They kill us at every opportunity but prefer plausible deniability.

There is little space for US domestic political gamesmanship - such as the shameful gamesmanship surrounding the anti-Iran rally in New York. Iran does not care which party you belong to. A dead American soldier makes for their good day. That should be enough for the presidential campaigns to put politics aside and stand together - perhaps, just maybe, within the same camera lens.

UPDATE: Readers may wish to consider the following JCPA Report for context:

Hizballah's Role in Attacks Against U.S. and British Forces in Iraq

Taliban Claim Barcelona Plot

A report in a Spanish newspaper holds that the primary Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik-i-Taliban, claimed responsibility for foiled terror plan in Barcelona in which commuter trains were to be bombed once again.

The point to take from this is further reinforcement of what we have been asserting for some time: Differentiating al-Qaeda from the Taliban is an endeavor with rapidly diminishing returns.

The Taliban has long made public their intent to launch terrorist attacks beyond the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, and the attempt in Spain is an example of this intent. Intent and capability, thankfully, are two different matters. It is not incorrect to say that the various Taliban groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan have very localized grievances and aims. That of course remains so. But the Taliban have adopted their al-Qaeda guests' desire for extended reach and aligned much with their overall goals, including creating a global caliphate beginning with the consumption of Pakistan.

Goals of each, once seen as wholly different in aim and scope, are now inextricably merged as the 'Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance' - as I have termed it for some time - continues to show more signs of blending than distinguishing one from the other.

Meanwhile, hellfire-armed US unmanned aerial drones continue to patrol western Pakistani skies over al-Qaeda strongholds, regardless of Pakistani public posturing vowing to shoot down US aircraft. And in a strike earlier this week, an al-Qaeda commander and another 'Arab' were killed along with other occupants of the house hit with four hellfire missiles.

The war rages on.

September 18, 2008

Homeland Security and Open Source

A couple of days ago, the role and importance of open source intelligence was discussed in great detail by my colleagues in Open Source Intelligence - A ThreatsWatch Symposium.

So it shouldn't be too surprising that the Department of Homeland Security has been criticized for not meeting open source standards as established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In July 2008, the House passed a bill, H.R.3815 that required the DHS Secretary to establish an open source program.

The Democratic Majority Staff of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, at the request of the Chairman, Congressman Bennie Thompson issued this report.

"The Department is far behind the rest of the Intelligence Community in implementing a comprehensive open source intelligence program," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee. "I am convinced that the department must make a concerted effort to understand their intelligence needs and produce intelligence products that provide actionable recommendations for the cop on the beat."

This is an issue that crosscuts homeland and national security. While no system is perfect, and sometimes sensitive information becomes open through human error, more often, information is only sensitive in the hands of analysts who can put it the information in context. Analysts in states' fusion centers analyze information from multiple sources and juridictions. One of the more striking findings of the report is that respondents do not see DHS as a source of reliable open source information.

In the absence of a robust DHS program, the disparity in where law enforcement officers go to access open source intelligence could not be starker – most tellingly revealed when respondents were asked which Federal agency they relied upon most for actionable unclassified intelligence. Out of 329 respondents, 227 or 69% said the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met their needs. Just 58 law enforcement officials or 17% of the respondents stated that they relied mostly on DHS.

While I read a tremendous amount of material from many open sources, a good deal of the information that I get is through Infragard and its periodic releases of information. While some of it is from DHS, more often, it is from the Bureau. Sometimes, this information eventually wends its way to public information, while some remains off the radar screen of the general population.

ISI Flashpoint: Kiyani-Zardari Conflict

In today's DailyBriefing, we included a link to The Pakistan Policy Blog to a piece titled 'The Line of Control'. Below is an extensive excerpt that provides an important glimpse into the friction between General Kiyani and President Zardari. It may potentially evolve into the flashpoint that triggers yet another coup in Pakistan, as I alluded to last month in "Start Your Kiyani Coup-Coup Clock, Boys" at The Tank on National Review Online. It depends on how hard Zardari (and teh US) pushes for civilian control of the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence arm with historic and contemporary ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Neither the Pakistani public nor its security establishment will accept compromise on Kashmir in a context of weakness. Gen. Kayani has spoken of “peace through strength.”

TARGETING ISI WILL BACKFIRE ON ZARDARI

In this context, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s calls for the “reform” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence will hit a brick wall. The civilian government is, in effect, being thrown at this wall, i.e. the army, and will bear the direct consequences of such action. This is something Zardari must consider out of both self and national interest.

Moreover, the idea of reform presupposes the existence of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in this realm. Intelligence agencies by nature operate in an amoral universe. They are tasked with doing the government’s dirty work clandestinely and non-conventionally. Their sole task is to serve the national interest, unconstrained not by conventional bounds but simply by capability and risk. Criticizing one agency on moral grounds makes little sense — they all play the same game by the same (lack of) rules. There is not a conflict of morals, but of interests. These can only be dealt with by clandestine competition or dialogue and compromise at a conventional level. The latter is the more prudent path.

The first target of ISI “reform” would seemingly be the organization’s director general, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj. Indeed, some in Washington are pressing for civilian control of the ISI. This is a recipe for disaster. Zardari’s earlier attempt to bring the ISI under civilian control failed. After another attempt, he’ll find himself sitting out on the pavement outside of the presidential palace. Zardari lacks the legitimacy and power with which to assert himself over the military. While the Pakistani public supports the cessation of the ISI’s political role, there is no support for tying the organization’s hands in other matters. If pressed by Zardari, Gen. Kayani would be forced to enter the political realm, against his will, because of civilian excess. Zardari should be wiser and focus on his self-proclaimed mandate of roti (bread), kapra (clothing), and makan (a home).

And so, Gen. Kayani is delineating the parameters of acceptable discourse on Kashmir, and at a broader level, Pakistan’s national security issues. Gen. Kayani has given the civilians free reign over non-security matters. He has, however, drawn a line in the sand. The civilians cannot pass the line of control into his own domain. Given Zardari’s consolidation of power and the absence of checks and balances upon him, a foolish press against the military would compel that institution to intervene, making his presidency the shortest in Pakistan’s history.

I think Arif Rafiq's observations here are (again) very valuable to consider when attempting to project a near- to mid-term Pakistani environment.

Federal Charges Brought Against Suppliers of IED Equipment to Iran

American dual-use merchandise purchased primarily online was sent to Iran and then used to construct improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to kill US forces and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. So reads a federal indictment charging a combination of 16 companies and individuals, including six Iranians living abroad.

Charges were brought against six Iranians, two of them naturalized British citizens and one said to be "residing in Malaysia," and two other people of unlisted nationality living in Germany and Malaysia. Five indicted companies were said to be based in Dubai, two in Malaysia and one in Iran. None of the indicted people is in custody.

The indictment described a sophisticated conspiracy in which items including 12,000 micro-controllers -- which can be used to trigger IEDs -- 5,000 integrated circuits and 345 Global Positioning System devices were purchased from suppliers spread across the United States via e-mail orders and wire transfers. End-users were falsely identified as universities and companies in countries including Dubai, Malaysia and Britain.

Most of the items ended up in the hands of Dubai-based trading companies, principally a firm identified as Mayrow General Trading, which then allegedly transferred them to Iran via Iran Air, the Iranian national airline.

September 17, 2008

'In China We Trust': Senators Closed Door to US Oil Investment In Iraq

In No Oil for Blood, co-architect for the successful surge strategy in Iraq Fred Kagan details how three US Senators killed an Iraqi deal with US oil firms to develop part of their industry. And in so doing, the door was opened for China to seize the contracts instead. It's maddening, and on par with the logic of watching Chinese oil companies drill for oil and gas resources just off the Florida coast and not us.

The Iraqi government was poised to sign no-bid contracts with those firms this summer to help make immediate and needed improvements in Iraq's oil infrastructure. The result would have been significant foreign investment in Iraq, an expansion of Iraqi government revenues, and an increase in the global supply of oil. One would have thought that leading Democratic senators who claim to be interested in finding other sources of funding to replace American dollars in Iraq, in helping Iraq spend its own money on its own people, and in lowering the price of gasoline for American citizens, would have been all for it. Instead, Senators Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Claire McCaskill wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice asking her "to persuade the GOI [Government of Iraq] to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies until a hydrocarbon law is in effect in Iraq." The Bush administration wisely refused to do so, but the resulting media hooraw in Iraq led to the cancellation of the contracts, and helps to explain why Iraq is doing oil deals instead with China.

Senators Schumer, McCaskill, and Kerry claimed to be acting from the purest of motives: "It is our fear that this action by the Iraqi government could further deepen political tensions in Iraq and put our service members in even great danger." For that reason, presumably, Schumer went so far as to ask the senior vice president of Exxon "if his company would agree to wait until the GOI produced a fair, equitable, and transparent hydrocarbon revenue sharing law before it signed any long-term agreement with the GOI." Exxon naturally refused, but Schumer managed to get the deal killed anyway. But the ostensible premise of the senators' objections was false--Iraq may not have a hydrocarbons law, but the central government has been sharing oil revenues equitably and there is no reason at all to imagine that signing the deals would have generated increased violence (and this was certainly not the view of American civilian and military officials on the ground in Iraq at the time). It is certain that killing the deals has delayed the maturation of Iraq's oil industry without producing the desired hydrocarbons legislation.

Iraq wanted immediate investment. Three senators - Kerry, Schumer and McCaskill - denied American participation. They stopped nothing and accomplished nothing other than empowering China in the global competition for resources and hurting our own American position, again.

It begs the question: Who do you trust, America's Exxon or China's CNOOC? We know who they seem to openly hate. Our own.

September 16, 2008

Pakistan Orders Mil To Fire At Americans, Planes

You might want to pay a bit of special attention to the following from The Associated Press.

Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.

The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.

Pakistani officials warn that stepped-up cross-border raids will accomplish little while fueling violent religious extremism in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some complain that the country is a scapegoat for the failure to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pakistan's civilian leaders, who have taken a hard line against Islamic militants since forcing Pervez Musharraf to resign as president last month, have insisted that Pakistan must resolve the dispute with Washington through diplomatic channels.

However, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids.

"The orders are clear," Abbas said in an interview. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."

Pakistan is approaching the clarity some within it desire, such as Nawaz Sharif and Hamid Gul.

We will be either forced to accept it as such or retreat from al-Qaeda.

The choice begins to appear clear, much to Pakistan's short and long term detriment. The clock ticks...

ADDED NOTE: Rules of Engagement (ROE) agreed to since 2001 have stated that US forces can cross into Pakistan up to 6 miles if they are in "hot pursuit" of retreating Taliban/al-Qaeda attackers. That appears out the window with this order. It should be, or should be treated as such by American forces. If not, then there will most assuredly be an event of 'confusion' and a very hot battle with disastrous results.

UPDATE: If Gen Abbas is trying to walk back his comments, he is not doing a very effective job of it.

But talking to Dawn, Maj-Gen Abbas downplayed the report and said there was nothing new about it. “Our policy is that we reserve the right to defend our soldiers and people against any incursion from across the border.”

He said he had been quoted out of context by the AP. He said he had been asked how would Pakistan retaliate. The answer was that it would be done by engaging those who violated the sovereignty of the country.

He said that the engagement would mean opening fire if a similar raid was carried out.

Community Organizing, Pakistani Style

Pakistan's high commissioner to Britain has warned the UK that the US attacks on the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan are making Britain vulnerable to attack. From The Age:

Wajid Shamsul Hasan said the attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects were making the streets of Britain less safe and that resentment was mounting among Pakistanis in the country, with community leaders calling for that anger to be "organised".

His remarks followed outrage in Pakistan over five attacks in the past 10 days, including a ground assault in the town of Angoor Adda in which 20 people were killed. US officials said all were supporters of terrorism but Pakistan insists they were civilians, including women and children.

Mr Hasan said: "This will infuriate Muslims in this country and make the streets of London less safe. There are one million Pakistanis in the diaspora here and resentment is mounting.

"I'm being flooded by text messages from community leaders saying we must organise our anger. The Americans' trigger-happy actions will radicalise young Muslims. They're playing into the hands of the very militants we're supposed to be fighting."

Don't ever fall for thinking that the radicalization of Pakistanis or any other group is the fault of the United States and its war against terrorists in the region. Likewise, don't fall for thinking that all Pakistanis are prey to radicalization. There is a difference between anger and radicalization.

Bottom line: If we feel compelled to go after Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistan - the same terrorists who also target Pakistanis - and this angers some, even many, this is a consequence we will have to accept.

For the consequences of doing nothing - or relying upon Pakistani forces to continue ineffective actions that amount to nearly nothing - are far worse than the alternative.

UPDATE: In reading the Daily Times of Pakistan, there seems to be mixed messages being sent from Britain. Jack Straw says the UK does not support US atacks in Britain, while Prime Minister Brown has voiced his support.

The United Kingdom does not support [foreign] strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Dawn News quoted UK Secretary for Justice Jack Straw on Monday. In a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore, Straw reiterated the UK’s commitment to stop cross-border movement of terrorists and attacks by US led forces in Pakistan, the channel said. It said Straw’s statement was in contrast with an earlier statement by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown backing US incursions into Pakistan.

One way or the other, a bit of clarity here, Britain?

September 15, 2008

Pawns And Politics?

Someone in the Obama campaign will have to work long and hard to explain a quote from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, appearing in a New York Post OpEd column. According to the Iraqi official - notably on record and not as an anonymous source - Senator Obama sought to influence the Iraq government to delay talks on implementing a draw down of US troop levels in Iraq until after the election, presumably when an Obama administration would be in office and thus capable of assuming credit for reducing US troop levels in Iraq.

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

If Zebari's account is accurate, it is at minimum a violation of the Logan Act as noted by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Color me skeptical in one aspect of Taheri’s argument. He claims that this would have hypocritically delayed the withdrawal of American troops until 2011, and you have to read the column to see how he calculates that through Iraqi elections and parliamentary procedure. That assumes, however, that an Obama administration would bother to negotiate a drawdown and withdrawal with Baghdad. Obama probably will just pull American troops out of Iraq without worrying about such niceties as a status-of-forces agreement. Hypocrisy isn’t the issue here; it’s the interference of Obama in military and diplomatic affairs. Just on diplomacy, interfering with the United States in its diplomatic efforts is a Logan Act violation. Interfering with war policy treads on even more serious ground, especially since the primary motivation appears to be winning an election without regard to whether it damages our ability to fight the enemy or drives wedges between us and our ally, the elected, representative government in Baghdad.

Ed is right to give pause to the emotional aspects that the Taheri column has aroused - namely of hypocrisy on the part of the Obama campaign. But a violation of the Logan Act based on the Iraqi Foreign Minister's words - should they be accurate - is fully separate from the emotionally charged political implications.

For me, what it demonstrates is a political-first utility that appears to be surfacing from the Obama camp. Remember the Marines landing on Somali shores to the waiting lights and cameras of the media in the early 1990's. Their utility in that respect was for political gain as well. And if this is the case with Obama meddling in US-Iraq relations regarding US force levels during a political campaign, the parallels are undeniable.

Such would not bode well for the US Military going forward.

See also: Instapundit and Wizbang.

September 14, 2008

What's the Point

I can appreciate the political and perhaps emotional motivation that brought about this decision, but from an intelligence and security perspective it makes little sense:

The Internet has become a powerful tool for terrorism recruitment. What was once conducted at secret training camps in Afghanistan is now available to anyone, anywhere because of the Web. Chat rooms are potent recruitment tools, but counterterrorism officials have found terrorist-sponsored videos are also key parts of al-Qaida's propaganda machine.

YouTube is in our own back yard and keeping an eye on what training, instruction, discussion or messages are being promulgated therein was a trivial exercise. Now the producers and promoters of such content are forced to use other systems; systems probably more difficult to find and monitor. The CT business just got that much harder.

But hey, it feels good, so that makes it OK.

September 13, 2008

When the Media Says Too Much

Frankly, if we're going to be serious about fighting this War on Terrorism, we also need to start getting serious about keeping certain types of information out of the public domain.

U.S. officials also told The Times that the new surveillance systems allow the operators of the unmanned Predators to locate and identify individual human targets "even when they are inside buildings. ... The technology gives remote pilots a means beyond images from the Predator's lens of confirming a target's identity and precise location."

This comes on the heals of a revelation made by Bob Woodward and his book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2007." This is opinion. But I'm not talking about censorship. I'm talking about discretion.

September 12, 2008

Afghanistan Raid: 3 Arrested Over 'Massacre'

Nearly one month ago, a US airstrike on a position within Afghanistan resulted in dozens of deaths. The US was certain that Taliban members were killed. That was, after all, the intelligence they acted on. Locals and the Afghan government decried it as a "massacre" by Americans on civilians.

As it turns out, they were both right. The dead were civilians, and the US was acting on intelligence provided about Taliban locations. Why? Because one Afghan clan decided to use false intelligence given to the US forces to settle a local score against another clan.

But while you heard nearly incessantly about accusations of an American "massacre," you are far less likely to see the apparent truth coming to light in your local front page headlines.

You should know the following, reported by Reuters.

Afghan police have arrested three men on suspicion of giving false information which led to the death of civilians in a U.S. air strike in western Afghanistan last month, the interior ministry said on Friday.

Anger has mounted over the Aug. 22 raid in the village of Azizabad in western Herat's Shindand district in which the Afghan government says more than 90 people, mostly women and children, were killed, an allegation backed by the United Nations.

The U.S. military, which said 30 to 35 militants were killed, plans to reopen the investigation after a cellphone video emerged showing bodies of people said to have been killed in the strike.

"After examining all the police reports and direct claims made by people in the area, three suspects who are said to be key people in giving false information regarding the bombardment of Azizabad, have been arrested in a police operation," the Afghan interior ministry said in a statement.

Villagers said earlier that an Afghan had fed false information about the presence of Taliban in the area to the coalition forces, leading to the raid.

Exclusive Translation: Intercepted Letters from al-Qaeda Leaders

An important note from my colleague Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the newly opened Center for Terrorism Research (CTR) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, regarding that state of al-Qaeda's network in Iraq. I strongly recommend you read the linked article:

"Yesterday, Center for Terrorism Research (CTR) adjunct fellow Bill Roggio posted an important report at the Long War Journal. He noted that a series of letters intercepted by Multinational Forces-Iraq—letters that chronicle the communications between al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi—sheds light on how 'Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has lost confidence in its commander in Iraq and views the situation in the country as dire.' These communications highlight divisions in the organization, the failures in its leadership, and problems with communications and propaganda efforts.

Today the Center for Terrorism Research provides an exclusive translation of these important documents, courtesy of CTR research fellow Tony Badran. We believe that this translation constitutes an important primary document for understanding the current state of the al-Qaeda network inside Iraq. To see the translation, click here."

Missing Uranium in Iran

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that those monitoring Iran's nuclear program have discovered that 50-60 tons of "yellow cake" uranium have gone missing from the Esfahan uranium enrichment complex. Such quantities could be used to produce up to six atomic bombs:

By conducting a careful study of the amount of material stored at Isfahan, and the amount of "yellow cake" known to have been processed at the plant, nuclear experts believe between 50-60 tons of uranium - which if enriched to weapons grade level would be sufficient to produce five or six atom bombs - has gone missing from the plant.

IAEA officials believe the Iranians have deliberately removed the uranium at a stage in the production process that is not under their supervision. "The inspectors only have limited access at Isfahan, and it looks as though Iranian officials have removed significant quantities of UF6 at a stage in the process that is not being monitored," said a nuclear official. "If Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful, then why are they doing this?" Nuclear inspectors have also been concerned to discover that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, recently ordered scientists to increase the amount of UF6 being diverted from Isfahan to another storage facility.

IAEA officials have no idea where the missing uranium is being stored, but suspect it could be held at one of several suspicious installations that have been spotted by American spy satellites.

The Iranians will be asked to give a full account of the missing enriched uranium when the IAEA's board of governors meets in Vienna later this month to discuss the continuing crisis over Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.

It will be interesting to see if IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei comments on the missing uranium when he delivers his latest report on Iran on Monday.

In related news, ElBaradei has announced that he will not seek another term as head of the IAEA and will leave his post in 2009. Perhaps Iran can unveil a nuclear weapon as a farewell gesture...

Convicted Bali Terrorists: Firing Squad Is Torture

In my e-mail this morning, a curious article:

Bali bombers call infamous militia leader to testify - The Age

IN A constitutional challenge to their death penalties, the Bali bombers will call notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres — the only person jailed over the murderous rampage in 1999 against East Timorese independence supporters — to testify that shooting people is torture.

Speaking after the challenge began yesterday, the bombers' lawyer, Adnan Wirawan, said Mr Guterres would give evidence next week because "he is the person who has seen people get shot".

Mr Guterres wanted to testify and "he will speak about his experience during the East Timor war when defending Indonesia", Mr Wirawan said.

In a last-ditch attempt to avoid execution, the bombers are claiming firing squads commit torture and are unconstitutional.

OK, fine. So blow them up instead. That seems to be well within their ethical wheelhouse.

September 11, 2008

New Nuclear Materials Detection Technology

A major resource of this country is the National Laboratory system. While sometimes the work done at the Labs is "basic research" area, other times, major breakthroughs occur in areas of significant and timely importance. Since September 11, 2001, one of the concerns for Homeland Security has been the tens of thousands of cargo containers entering our 93 maritime ports, and the possibility that one could contain contraband nuclear material.

It has now been announced that scientists at Idaho National Laboratory, teaming with engineers from the Idaho Accelerator Center have developed a prototype technology that may be capable of accurately scanning cargo containers for smuggled and shielded nuclear materials at long distances.

The technology, developed by INL scientist Dr. James Jones and a team of INL and Idaho Accelerator Center engineers, is known as the Photonuclear Inspection and Threat Assessment System, or PITAS. The system uses many of the same commercial components found in modern cancer treatment devices, including a linear accelerator that creates an invisible high-energy photon beam, which interrogates and identifies suspected nuclear materials. The beam works by inducing fission reactions in nuclear materials that create an assortment of prompt and delayed neutron and gamma rays. The delayed rays are analyzed by a series of detectors that looks for peaks and signatures consistent with illicit nuclear materials.

The financial award made by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, just $25,000, is dwarfed by the potential and serious benefit that this innovation could have.

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation awarded its 2008 Homeland Security Award to recognize the PITAS technology for its numerous enhancements and advantages over current screening technology. The Foundation and its co-sponsor, AgustaWestland North America, annually award one scientist a $25,000 prize for development of technology that has the potential to solve a complex national security challenge.

Of course, this is just a first step toward providing a solution to the question of non-intrusive inspection of cargo containers, non-proliferation security, and guarding against the possibiity of a radiological weapon attack. Maybe not obvious is the challenge of having a company to duplicate and scale this development into a deployable system. That is the element of technology transfer, commercializing new and important technological solutions. Technology transfer is an area of personal interest.

Priorities

Perhaps I should be watching the Presidential Forum on all the news networks. However, I can't turn from the biography of Rick Rescorla on the History Channel, "Rick Rescorla: The Man Who Predicted 9/11". For the fourth time.

It's a matter of priorities.

The Difference Between Polls And Poles

A recent international poll showed that less than half believe al-Qaeda struck the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville. The next most widely believed responsible, according to the poll of 17 countries, was the United States. Worse, in one US poll a couple of years ago, 35% of those identifying themselves as Democrats believed that the US Government carried out the attacks, and/or that President Bush had prior knowledge.

Whoever it was that was voting 'other than al-Qaeda' in the international poll, they were not Poles.

Bagram All,

On 11 Sept. when terrorist affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four jet airliners and then intentionally crashed them into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and Shanksville, we saw that all of America was touched by this huge tragedy. "Enemies of freedom" committed an act of war against your country. We saw the United States of America had to face a new challenge, but the attack on your freedom was also the attack on other democratic countries, so we understood that this terror cannot go unpunished.

Today we are together with you in the common operation in Afghanistan, because we remember the morning of 11 Sept. and wounds to your country inflicted by terrorists from a criminal organization. We are not able to accept such a senseless attack, killing thousands of innocent people, because we will never accept terrorism in the World.

We will remember 11 Sept. It changed our generations and our history. We have realized since that tragedy we are in danger, and we have every reason to be fearful. Because we want things to go back to normal we have to be together against people who try to destroy it.

Bagram 11 September 2008

Polish Soldiers
Polish Military Contingent

The Poles. Tough as nails. Solid allies. Friends unafraid.

Kiyani Rebukes US Over Pak Raids

From Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff, generally seen as a person the US could work with going forward, comes a stinging rebuke and a warning to the United States regarding its unilateral attacks on Taliban-al-Qaeda positions and figures holed up inside Pakistan's tribal areas.

“No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan,” the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said in what amounted to a direct rebuff to the United States by the Pakistanis, who are regarded by the Bush administration as an ally in the campaign against terrorism.

When General Kayani took over as chief of the army in November, American officials spoke highly of him and were counting on him to be their ally in much the same way, perhaps even to a greater degree, as President Pervez Musharraf had been. Mr. Musharraf was president and army chief for almost all of his nearly nine-year rule.

General Kayani’s statement on Wednesday seemed to call into question the extent of his cooperation and that of Pakistan’s army.

This is profoundly significant and may serve to be a harbinger of a clarifying - if unwelcome - moment in Pakistani-US relations going forward.

Analysis forthcoming before sunrise.

The warning came the day after the swearing in of the new Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, and was interpreted here as a swift repudiation of Mr. Zardari, who is widely viewed as being pro-American.

Israel Going Alone

If Israel is going to attack Iran, it is going to have to go at it alone. While direct U.S. involvement in any Israeli-led mission was not likely, some analysts believed that the Bush administration would allow the U.S. to play, at minimum, an indirect role - either by supplying some of the technical necessities, or providing an air route over Iraq. I have long been skeptical of the idea that the U.S. would involve itself in such an attack for a number of strategic and political reasons. An article today in the Israeli daily Haartez seems to confirm my suspicions:

The security aid package the United States has refused to give Israel for the past few months out of concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor to Iran, an advanced technological system and refueling planes.

Officials from both countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months. Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran, if such a decision is made...

Diplomatic and security sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of components Israel included:

Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs: In 2005, the U.S. said it was supplying these bombs to Israel. In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and was turned down.

Air-space authorization: An attack on Iran would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If you want, coordinate with him."

A few weeks ago, Haaretz and Israel's Channel 10 reported that the U.S. had turned down an Israeli request to purchase new refueling planes:

It emerged on Wednesday that the United States has refused to sell Jerusalem new refueling planes, fearing such a transaction could be interpreted as support for an Israeli attack on Iran.

Haaretz reported last week that the U.S. had rejected a request for military equipment that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Jerusalem denied that report.

But new information released Wednesday revealed that the nature of the equipment refused would strengthen the Israel Air Force in one of its weakest areas. The IAF has in its possession only seven refueling planes, many of which are more than 40 years old. Israel had requested new Boeing 767 planes, necessary for refueling during long-distance operations.

The Americans rejected the request roughly three weeks ago during a visit to Washington by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The administration's refusal to provide Israel with technical and logistical support is a crushing blow to any Israeli plans to attack Iran. The route over Jordan and Iraq is the shortest, most direct line of attack, and even that approach would require refueling (according to most reports, Israel lacks a fighter jet that can reach the nuclear facilities in Iran on one tank of fuel). Without proper refueling technology, an Israeli air attack doesn't stand a chance.

It seems, then, that Israel will have to wait until the next administration if it truly intends to bomb Iran's nuclear sites with any hope of success.

On This Solemn Day

I beg the indulgence of my colleagues and friends and all of the readers of ThreatsWatch for this momentary expression of personal thoughts on this solemn day.

On the Eleventh of September 2008, it is seven years, and it is too soon to forget. And yet, I fear, that many people have allowed the clouds of other controversies to erase their memories and to distract them from the issues at hand. On the Tenth of September in the year 2001, we still believed that the oceans protected us from harm. The next day, we learned how wrong we were.

I was late leaving my home that morning. It was at 8:46am on the Eleventh of September seven years ago, that I stared in shock and awe at the television screen. I saw the visions and heard the words of the commentators who along with the rest of us watched as the first plane, American Flight 11 and then the second missile, United Flight 175…both filled with human beings crashed headlong into the buildings of the World Trade Center. After the second plane struck, I hurriedly left my condo to drive to my office. I felt a strong need to be with other people.

I drove a convertible back then. As I drove north along the Meadowbrook Parkway, in the sky only 30 miles to my west, a plume of black smoke rose in the crystal clear blue sky. It was cloudless and yet, my eyes were blurry with emotion. The 15-mile drive was eerie as there were no airplanes in the sky overhead. The FAA had already closed the skies to air traffic and the airports were closed. When I arrived at my office, fire engines from the surrounding community were staging for their trips into Manhattan on the side street of the Industrial Park.

It was not long afterward, at 9:45 am eastern, that American Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. At 10:05 am the South Tower crumbled in a roar, people screaming and running away from the billowing smoke mixed with cement and stone and pulverized humanity. At 10:10 am, United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. And then, at 10:28 am, the North Tower came down, and we knew then, as we know now, that our lives had changed forever.

That Saturday morning my wife and I drove to the ocean at Jones Beach, West End 2. From there, the normal view had been the reaching and majestic skyline at the Southern tip of New York City’s Manhattan Island. This very clear morning, however, was different. The battleships were visible off the shore surrounding Long Island where I lived, and a place that I loved. And in the very close distance, not 20 miles as the crow flies, instead of the glass Towers, smoldering smoke rose from the rubble pile of humanity.

Perhaps to some, the memory of that day has faded. And maybe to others, world events have made that day a speck in time now clouded by the controversies of geo-politics. To me, that day and those moments are indelibly etched in my mind and I will carry to my grave the emotions that well-up in me each time those images flash into my present.

Inside, each day, I cry a little, remembering those moments and my feelings of anger and anguish. I have one of my own photographs of the World Trade Center on my computer now, as a wallpaper that I see each time that I view my desktop, to remember and never forget. Each time I hear a patriotic tune, or see a picture of the Towers as they once were, I cry too. I cannot go to a sporting event or to my step-daughter’s graduation from UTSA, as I did last Spring, and not have tears roll down my cheek when I listen to the Star Spangled Banner. “This” is far from over, no matter who says anything to the contrary. No doubt that we all have different feelings and emotions, and have dealt with that day and the aftermath in personal ways. That is why I know that the work I do and direct through my company is so important now. And that is why, when I can, I contribute to Threatswatch, and thank my friends for the opportunity to do so.

A lifetime will be too short for me to forget that day, the Eleventh of September in the year 2001.

Will Lebanon be a Casualty of Breaking the Syria-Iran Alliance?

As Israel and Syria continue the motions towards a supposed peace deal, many analysts argue that the most significant outcome from this process is the wedge being driven between Syria and Iran. The U.S. has long sought to create strife between these two allies, but with little success. In July 2006, Bush administration officials hoped that the promise of renewed relations (the U.S. recalled its ambassador in February 2005) and the pleadings of Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be able to convince Syria to reverse its support for Hizballah - a key element in its relationship with Iran. According to one administration official, "We think that the Syrians will listen to their Arab neighbors on this rather than us... so it’s all a question of how well that can be orchestrated." In November 2007, Syria's presence at the Middle East Summit in Annapolis - thanks to significant pressure from the U.S. - was reportedly not received well in Tehran. Hossein Shariatmadari, an adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, was quoted in the Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat as saying, "We were surprised by the Syrian position [to attend], and we said that we do not support the conference."

The current round of talks with Israel has reignited concerns within Iran that Syria, despite stern warnings, might not be as reliable a partner as it once was. While there are numerous reasons to believe that the Syrian-Israel peace process is heading nowhere, it seems that Iran is taking what one might call precautionary steps to ensure that its interests are secured - specifically with regards to Lebanon. In a recent article in the Middle East Times, Claude Salhani argues that recent efforts to pull Syria away from Iran, including Syria's invitation to attend Bastile Day celebrations in Paris, have led the Islamic Republic to "reinforce its position in Lebanon."

The move was intended to bring Syria out of the cold, and in the process further isolate Iran. And it may very well have initiated a crack in Syrian-Iranian relations. But that too did not entirely produce the desired results. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Tehran began to take steps to reinforce its position in Lebanon.

But in the deadly game of chess that is Middle East politics, a game in which the strategic stakes are immensely high and losing is not an option, the Iranians seem yet again to have taken the upper hand and are moving in to capture the queen -- at least momentarily.

All this is being done, of course, through Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite, political/paramilitary/social organization that is trained and financed by Iran.

Hezbollah is rapidly positioning itself in all aspects of Lebanese society, turning into a force that no longer can be ignored in the political and military arenas. And that is becoming true not only of Lebanon but more and more regionally.

The Jerusalem Post, quoting an unnamed Israeli Defense Force official, is claiming that Iran has taken a more active role in Hizballah's leadership and operations, even at the expense of secretary general Hassan Nasrallah:

Iran is consolidating its grip on Hizbullah and has instituted a number of structural changes to the Lebanese group, under which Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah no longer enjoys exclusive command over its military wing, top Israeli defense officials have revealed.

According to the officials, following the Second Lebanon War, Iran decided to step up its involvement in the Hizbullah decision-making process and has instituted a number of changes to the terror group's hierarchy, under which Nasrallah has to receive Iranian permission prior to certain operations.

"There is real Iranian command now over Hizbullah," a top IDF officer said. "This doesn't mean that Nasrallah is a puppet, but it does mean that whenever he pops his head out of his bunker he sees an Iranian official standing over him."

Reports of Iranian discontent with Nasrallah had begun to surface following the 2006 war, which Teheran reportedly was not interested in at the time. Several reports in the Arab press claimed that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ousted Nasrallah from his post as Hizbullah secretary-general and replaced him with Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's second in command. Iran has denied the reports.

"Iranian supervision grew tremendously following the war," the top officer explained. "Nasrallah is still in a decision-making position but Iran's influence has dramatically increased."

A report in a Syrian opposition paper claimed Sunday that a high-level delegation of Iranian Revolutionary Guards visited Beirut last week to coordinate the integration of some Hizbullah branches into the Guards' Al-Quds Force, which is in charge of Iran's terror activities in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

According to the Reform Party of Syria, parts of the Hizbullah operation structure will now be under the command of Brig.-Gen. Faramaz Ghasem Suleimani, commander of the Al-Quds Force. Suleimani is listed by the US as a terrorist and the Guards was declared a terror group in 2007.

The paper claimed that Iran's ultimate plan was to dilute Syrian influence over Hizbullah in case Damascus strikes a peace deal with Israel.

The rumors of Nasrallah's demise may well be premature, and there have been no other mainstream reports to substantiate the claims made in the Jerusalem Post. Nevertheless, it seems that Iran is not taking any chances with Syria - much to Lebanon's detriment.

September 10, 2008

Between Hitler And Mugabe

When an aging pop starlet implicitly likens an American presidential candidate to notorious global dictators, is it in anyway relevant to national security? On the surface, one feels inclined to respond resoundingly, “No.” Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

In the September 15th, print edition of National Review, readers are enlightened to some fairly jaw-slackening political imagery from Madonna. According to NR:

During a recent performance by the chlorine chorine, McCain’s photograph was juxtaposed with images of Adolf Hitler and Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe. Barack Obama’s mug, in contrast, was appropriately included in a series with John Lennon, Al Gore, and Ghandi, three global celebrities who sought to transcend traditional politics while offering sometimes-loopy policy prescriptions.

There we have it. John McCain, an eminently mainstream American politician and a man who eschewed early release from a prisoner of war camp, is apparently in league with two of the 20th Century’s most vile despots to some ambiguously defined degree. 'She sure as heck doesn’t speak for me,' many of you might be thinking. Mercifully, Madonna does not speak for all Americans. On the other hand, and quite tragically, she does speak for some Americans.

What does it all mean, and what does any of it have to do with national security?

First and foremost, none of this should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of John McCain’s candidacy or an end-around rejection of Barack Obama’s. Both are reasonable men and neither project even a hint of despotic inclinations, much less despotic inclinations coupled with genocidal ambitions in the case of Hitler. Yet, to a vocal and often influential segment of Americans, equating the political leaders of the United States with global tyrants past and present makes perfect sense. Particularly those deemed to be on the “right” of the ideological spectrum.

And therein lies a dangerous precedent. If at least one of our guys (in this instance, John McCain) is to be perceived as just as bad as their guys (such as Mugabe or Hitler), who are we Americans to then pass judgment on unsavory international actors? That they might threaten American security seems irrelevant to the this line of thinking.

From an increasingly uncooperative Russia, to China’s military expansionism to the threat of Islamic extremism, the forces aligned against Western democracy symbolized by the United States have been gathering strength. One of the best and perhaps the best instrument for security at our disposal is the ability to actually decipher the good guys from the bad guys.

Stunts like Madonna’s, and those who would support the intellectual dishonesty behind them, cloud our collective ability to recognize legitimate malevolence in the world at a time when Americans need unity, not more division born of disingenuous moral equivalence.

A Call To Arms: Defending Honor

At Wizbang!, I have posted a Call To Arms: Defending Honor. It is a response to a challenge of Senator John McCain's honor.

It is not about politics. It's about character. And no matter his policies and whether one agrees or disagrees with them, his character and honor are never in question. As a veteran, I felt compelled to defend honor, not just his, but the very definition of that pillar of American military service.

I hope ThreatsWatch readers will consider Call To Arms: Defending Honor within the context it was written this morning.

September 9, 2008

Change We Can Believe In: Pakistan Raids

From my friend Eli Lake at The New York Sun:

While American special forces and military contractors have conducted raids in Pakistan, such actions were rare and required Cabinet-level approval. In July, the leadership of Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was given the sole authority to approve ground assaults in Pakistan. Late last month, the American military began launching ground attacks in the country on a near daily basis, depending on local conditions and intelligence, according to a military official who requested anonymity.

The escalation in Pakistan is due in part to the incoming leader of Central Command, General David Petraeus, who has been credited with changing the course of the Iraq war and is said to have the full trust of President Bush. Before formally taking the reins at Central Command, General Petraeus began meeting in June with Pakistani political leaders to develop an effective strategy for combating Al Qaeda in the border provinces.

Most important for the Bush administration, however, has been the political implosion in Islamabad since the resignation of America's longtime ally, President Musharraf.

"With Musharraf gone, the policy of self-deterrence is now gone," a former senior counterterrorism official for both the Clinton and Bush national security councils, Roger Cressey, said. "We would deter ourselves from doing anything for fear that any action would destabilize Musharraf."

"The other point here is the brazenness and frequency of Taliban-led raids really required U.S. forces to be aggressive," he said. "I think this is less about getting bin Laden than it is about responding to the Taliban."

It is far preferable for the Pakistani military - the Army, not the Frontier Corps - to execute precision operations against the Taliban-al-Qaeda undertaking an insurgency within their own country. But that's just not going to happen. So the buck falls to... you guessed it.

NOTE: In a US strike yesterday, a Taliban commander was killed, apparently with quite a crew around him including "Arabs," which should be taken to mean al-Qaeda terrorists.

Suspected US drones hit the house and seminary of former Taliban commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani in Dandi Derpakhel area of North Waziristan on Monday killing 23 people, including three Arab and two Azerbaijani nationals among them.

According to sources, Maulvi Jalaluddin’s eight grandchildren, wife, sister, sister-in-law and other relatives were killed. Fourteen other people were injured.

What's the significance of this Jalaluddin Haqqani character, you ask? Well, the bio sketch of Haqqani from PBS' Frontline opens, "A warlord and head of the Taliban in North Waziristan, Jalaluddin Haqqani is believed to be the architect of the Taliban's current attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and he's credited with introducing a new tactic -- suicide bombing."

We wish we would have gotten him years ago, but regardless, he is what you would call a 'big fish,' a very high value target. Considering the crew around him at the time of the attack, referring to him as a "seminarian" and a "former commander" is, shall we say, a bit too generous of a description.

This was not 'just another missile strike' on some mud hut in the badlands of the Hindu-Kush mountain ranges.

September 8, 2008

NIMBYism and S&T

As the decision date slowly creeps toward us in real time, the "not in my backyard" impacts on science and technology are becoming more and more apparent. Although some people anticipate that the final decision might be delayed until after Election Day, the Department of Homeland Security has indicated that a decision on the site for the new National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) will be made sometime in the 4th Quarter.

Since I wrote the article, BioResearch: The Risk/Reward Ratio, local pressures have mounted, potentially narrowing the field of six (Butner, North Carolina, Athens, Ga., Manhattan, Kansas, Flora, Ms., and San Antonio, Tx. plus the possible re-designation of the Level 3 Plum Island facility to a Level 4).

Despite a "conclusion" (in quotes because the NBAF EIS did not actually say this) that the the Department of Homeland Security says that Plum Island's relative isolation would make an accidental pathogen release less costly relatively to such release from a mainland-based lab, New York officials strongly disagree. In fact, New York State business and political leaders agree with Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal that the Plum Island facility should not be upgraded to a Level-4 BioLab, but they argue that it would be safe to keep it operating at its current level as a Level-3 Biolab. Such a decision does not meet the needs of our National Security.

Two other significant events have occurred:

The North Carolina Consortium for the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility has suspended its community outreach efforts, clearly bending from the local community objections and concerns. Citing that the EIS did not adequately address the concerns of local citizens, the North Carolina Consortium for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility said:

“There is enough concern now that the local politicians have. Most of them were enthusiastic in their support a year ago. Now they either have become neutral, or have come out against most recently and said they do oppose it, because they feel their questions have not been answered thoroughly” in the Department of Homeland Security’s draft environmental impact statement describing the project, released in June, said Dave Green, a spokesman for the North Carolina Consortium for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

This, despite the comments that the NC-NBAF Committee still wants the DHS to consider it proposal.

In Athens Georgia, local citizens have threatened a law suit if the DHS decides to locate the NBAF there. A document drafted by the environmental law firm of Stack & Associates is especially critical of the EIS and its findings.

"(B)ringing deadly foreign diseases onto the mainland puts the entire nation at great risk, and is clearly not justified considering the safer location of Plum Island and Homeland Security's overarching mandate to protect the public," the comment says. "A mainland NBAF would not protect the general public, the environment, the economy or the United States' security interests. "An Athens, Georgia, NBAF is an especially outrageous option."

According to a DHS spokesperson, the threat of a law suit does not automatically disqualify the Georgia proposal.

When you then consider that the Flora Ms. site was included in the final five despite being rated 14th of 17 in the initial ratings, the "competition" for the NBAF (a facility that some of the finalist cities clearly do not want), comes down to Manhattan, Kansas and San Antonio, Texas.

It's not easy for me to be objective here.

Politics or Proximity?

Have not read Woodward's other books in the series, but I might just start with the last one and work my way backwards based on the WaPo excerpts. My favorite so far:

"When does AEI start trumping the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this stuff?" Schoomaker asked at the next chiefs' meeting.

As stated previously in this space, the so-called "first customer" can shop anywhere he likes and if he's not getting satisfactory service – at an intelligence agency or from his military advisors – he's perfectly justified (political creature that any President is) in shopping elsewhere. That could work out very badly, but in this case not so much.

Was Gen Schoomaker and the rest of the JCS wrong? Well, an obvious (if facile) look tells you there is no small amount of incongruence when your man on the ground is telling you its fair winds and following seas and the person next door is telling you to abandon ship. Stay the course and Iraq would not be where it is today; change course and well, here we are.

Analysis often gets berated for being focused too much on cold, hard numbers or inappropriate historical references and largely ignorant of issues on the ground that are not reflected in data. Here the guys on the ground had data and "ground truth" but it took outsiders (AEI's team Kagan) to sort through the fog of war. The Kagan's aren't superheroes and the Generals aren't stupid; the guy who listens to the former or ignores the latter isn't a genius: he's just doing his job by not operating in a bubble. Take the politics out of it. If you're about to make a big decision in any aspect of your life, do you apply some vigor or do you just grab the first thing that comes along and pay list price?

. . . and how does your spouse feel about the answer you just gave? ;-)

The point is, O'Sullivan didn't win out over the be-medaled gray beards and seasoned military advice did not lose to ideological partisanship: the first customer looked at the idea marketplace and shopped around. There is always the risk of picking up a lemon, but then both the quantity and quality of ideas in today's marketplace are much higher than when the previous generation went shopping for solutions.

Yon From Afghanistan: Where Eagles Dare

Michael Yon is in Afghanistan and his latest, Where Eagles Dare, is important reading today.

Among the English-speaking troops, there seems to be a sense of mission. American and British officers with experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere—leaders whose opinions I greatly value—do not think we are losing here in Afghanistan. Yes, they will acknowledge that the situation is deteriorating, but they still believe we are making progress. And it’s hard to disagree with them (though I do), given the blow that ISAF forces just delivered to the Taliban.

Go read - and see - the rest.

September 7, 2008

Pakistan Stops NATO Supplies At Khyber Pass

This is not good.

Pakistan stopped supplies to the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan through its western Torkham border on Friday, citing security concerns.

A senior official said the measure followed increasing Taliban threats to trucks carrying the supplies.

“All Afghanistan-bound supplies for the International Security Assistance Force have been stopped as the [Torkham] highway is vulnerable,” Khyber Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat told Daily Times, dismissing the impression that the decision is a reaction to continued United States attacks in Waziristan.

“This decision has nothing to do with the situation in Waziristan or the US attacks. This is purely a security issue and we want no untoward incident to take place as far as supplies for ISAF are concerned.” The international Torkham Highway was closed for “vulnerable vehicles”, he said referring to trucks carrying ISAF supplies, and the supplies would resume after the highway was cleared.

More at The Long War Journal, and more analysis here at ThreatsWatch later today. Until then, it's clearly something you need to know.

Note: A massive blast from an explosives-packed truck trying to enter the NWFP capital of Peshawar killed over 50 yesterday. It was not a NATO fuel tanker, but is worth noting for some context.

An explosives-packed pickup truck blew up a police security checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens more, the day after a foiled militant kidnap attempt led to another 24 deaths in the volatile region. The suicide attack occurred on the outskirts of Peshawar on Saturday, as lawmakers across the country voted to elect Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as the new president. Zardari has vowed to be tough on militancy.

Make no mistake, Pakistan is facing an increasingly active insurgency from al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Moves to distance itself from the United States will not help it in that regard. The insurgency wants Pakistan, not a change in Pakistani foreign policy.

September 6, 2008

Time Just Isn't Right...

Filed under "You Don't Say," Rice says 'Time isn't right' for US-Russia nuke deal.

Now is not the right time for the U.S. to move forward on a once-celebrated deal for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

Her comment increased speculation that President Bush is planning to punish Moscow for invading Georgia, a former Soviet republic, by canceling the agreement. Such a move is being planned, according to senior Bush administration officials, but is not yet final.

September 5, 2008

Unpredictability and Disaster Response

It is imperative that we look at the response to every natural disaster in the context of learning what could happen in the event of a mass casualty terrorist attack. Therefore, on the top-line, the response to the Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Gustav earlier this week should be seen in a positive light. The response of FEMA was especially encouraging, as noted by Andy Cochran (Counterterrorism Blog). Yes, FEMA and the local emergency response orgranizations acted in advance and they acted decisively. The mandatory evacuation orders made it clear that government authorities did not want to see a repeat of the pitiful pictures in the media of people stranded on house roofs during Katrina three years ago. Happily, the preparedness by the Texas emergency management people helped to make it alot easier this time for evacuees to situate in San Antonio, and then, after the storm abated, return to their Coastal homes.

Now, in the aftermath however, there are some striking questions that still need to be addressed.

Not surprisingly, infrastructure was affected by the hurricane. Even though the majority of service was restored the next day, power outages caused by Hurricane Gustav brought down cellular and Internet service in parts of Louisiana, but the storm's impact was much milder than Katrina's.

Further way from the coast in Baton Rouge, Gustav took down a 20 transmission towers. Officials now estimate that some parts of the region could be without electricity for three weeks.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the projected timeline for restoring power is unacceptable. "One of the things that absolutely has to be worked out is what more could be done to harden the lines and make the distribution system more safe for future storms or intentional acts, whether it's additional redundancies or a hardening of the assets," he said Thursday.

The need for alternative sources of power are clear. The current Situation Report from the Department of Energy makes very clear the serious impact Gustav had on the energy infrastructure, with 30% of the state without electricity as of 1500 Eastern on September 5th.

The evacuation routes quickly became clogged with traffic.

Motorists reported enduring journeys of 10 hours north to Jackson along I-55, instead of the usual three; 11 hours to Meridian along I-59, instead of the usual three; and 15 hours up I-59 to Birmingham, instead of the usual six. By contrast, motorists leaving for Baton Rouge at dawn Sunday sailed the 85 miles there nearly unimpeded, passing miles of creeping northbound traffic headed for Jackson by way of I-55.

One of my relatives was in Beaumont Texas and left immediately when the evacuation orders came. In fact, because she knew that her car was low on gasoline, she left her hotel (on business) leaving most of her belongings behind. At one point when she called, she was travelling at 3 mph.

While the contraflow traffic plans have now been tested and worked following the Katrina and Rita evacuations, the question of the capacity of the road infrastructure to deal with a mass evacuation of the Coast has to be raised. Similarly, a plan of dispersed traffic flow (avoiding everyone trying to go in the same direction away from the area), warrants evaluation and possible implementation.

The mandatory evacuation orders came in an instant. Many people fled with little of their belongings and then found themselves without resources to readily return home. Whether or not it is warranted for people to complain about the lack of a government subsidy to purchase gasoline is less the issue than determining future plan for such similar future evacuations. Some people of limited means may have a point, but I cannot conceive of an easy solution since hand-outs are not the answer.

It truly has to be argued that people may have still waited too long before taking flight and moving away from the land strike. Also, people who live in hurricane prone areas simply cannot leave themselves open to elongated escapes by not having their vehicles ready to leave on a moments notice.

Why is all of this important? We need to recognize that whatever or however low the probability of a mass casualty attack is by terrorists, the possibility remains very real. And against that backdrop, there is the realization that our ability to detect the release of radiological or biological weapon is still dependent on plans and programs that are still in disarray. If and when a CBRN attacks occurs, we may not getting advanced warning, and our ability to evacuate mass population from the effected area will determine how well we can control the casualty rate.

Mother Nature is providing us with valuable learning opportunities.

September 4, 2008

The Anbar Lens: News From The Iraqi Awakening

Earlier this week in Understanding Iraq Through Anbar's Lens, I regretted not expanding more and articulating clearly the distinction between the 'Sons of Iraq' (as we call them) and the Iraq Awakening political movement. I also promised to revisit this in greater detail in order to clarify.

Well, thanks to Sterling Jensen, I will likely not need to organize many words in explanation. Few, either in America or even perhaps in Iraq, know as intimately the Iraq Awakening like Sterling.

He is now explaining this and much more as he heads up the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' newest offering, the Voices of the Awakening project. And as if on cue and in timely response to events on the ground and in the Iraqi political arena, he explains rather succinctly the difference between the SoI and the Iraq Awakening political movement.

Last week, the Western media reported a new GOI crackdown on Awakening councils in and around Baghdad. Such reports gave the impression that the Shia-led government was turning against the U.S.-backed Sunni Awakening councils who recently played a key role in reducing violence in Iraq. On August 26, the Iraqi Awakening published an interview with the official spokesman of Baghdad Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atah, saying the GOI sought good relations with Awakening elements in Baghdad and was not moving to eliminate them—but rather sought to either integrate them into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) or provide them other means of employment. The spokesman said that groups seeking to ruin the relationship between the Awakening councils and the GOI were spreading rumors that the government wanted to eliminate Awakening councils in Baghdad.

INSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE: It is important to differentiate between two different types of Awakening councils. First, Mutammar Sahwat al-Iraq, or the Iraqi Awakening, is a registered national political party that began as the Anbar Awakening tribal movement mid-2006 in Ramadi, Anbar. By early 2007, the Anbar Awakening’s popularity grew into other Sunni areas in Baghdad, Salahideen, and Diyala, at the same time coalition forces started recruiting tribal-oriented Sunnis into its Sons of Iraq program. Many Sons of Iraq program participants organized themselves into self-proclaimed Awakening councils, even though they might not have any official affiliation with the Anbar Awakening. In early 2007, as the Anbar Awakening transitioned into the Iraqi Awakening, many of these other Awakening councils either joined the Iraqi Awakening organization, or just continued operating under their own ad hoc organizations.

Today the GOI has good relations with the Iraqi Awakening, and recognizes it as a legal political entity. However, GOI is weary of self-proclaimed Awakening groups not integrated into the Iraqi Awakening, because some of these groups do not operate according to new Iraqi laws and are not seen as subservient to GOI. Some of these ad hoc Awakening councils/Sons of Iraq are basically former nationalist insurgents whose reason for turning against AQI was purely tactical. The Iraqi Awakening would not necessarily be against GOI cracking down on these groups that work against the party’s platform principle of recognizing GOI’s authority and allowing only ISF-approved groups to use weapons.

When Sterling writes the "Insider's Perspective," trust me when I say that his perspective is very much that of the insider.

If you follow events in Iraq and seek to understand (and decipher) news reports from there and what developments mean, add News from the Iraqi Awakening from Sterling Jensen to your regular reading list.

Here's hoping the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, and other media outlets' journalists do the same. While it would not be unlike many of them to do so and not reference or credit the source, at least they - and by extension more Americans - would stand a far better chance to understand and 'get it right.' And that's much more important than any public acknowledgment and credit, by far.

Thanks to Sterling Jensen for his incredible service to both this nation as well as Iraq and Iraqis. Equally, we extend a thanks to those in 'the chain' who saw the wisdom of making such information publicly and readily available. And thanks to FDD for giving this resource a home.

September 3, 2008

Taliban Hit List: A Where's Waldo? Pakistani Style

An interesting hit list has emerged from the Taliban in Pakistan. From Syed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times, see if you can guess who is missing from the list.

The initial skirmishes have already started in NWFP, where members and political allies of the ruling Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party have been targeted. Four top leaders have already been killed and many homes have been gutted. Scores of anti-Taliban political workers have fled from the Swat Valley and other areas.

Taliban sources have confirmed to Asia Times Online that high-level targets are also planned, including army chief Kiani, the leader of the lead party in the ruling coalition, the Pakistan People's Party's Asif Zardari and Rehman Malik, the powerful advisor to the Ministry of Interior. Zardari has vacated his private Islamabad residence in favor of the prime minister's house and he has also curtailed his public appearances.

On Wednesday, shots were fired at Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's motorcade, his spokesman said. The attack took place on the road to the airport in Islamabad. Gilani was not believed to be in the motorcade.

The Bajaur operation, which was intended to eliminate key figures in the "war on terror", could end in leading figures in Pakistan being killed.

Why, whoever can the missing figure be? Hint, Hint.

Any questions?

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