December 6, 2009

We Still Don’t Get It

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:06 pm

Afghan Quest proves Twain’s aphorism that a lie gets halfway around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on.

The French had found rocket fragments from two rockets. One was Chinese and the other of Russian manufacture. They did not get the word out immediately. In fact, the reaction of the French leadership was to cancel a mission that they had planned and “wait it out.” They did not hit the streets immediately, telling the story and showing the rocket fragments to everyone they could find. This gave the Taliban time to concoct a ludicrous lie that, in the absence of any information to the contrary, some people were believing.

How many years in and we still haven’t figured out that the first lie wins the mindshare? That if you don’t push truth out there quickly, you’ll get your hat handed to you by people who are building a win out of any BS excuse story that sticks?

Why have so few people in DoD seen things like Pallywood? The bad guys know this; it’s their biggest force multiplier and they protect this capability.

This Certainly Gives Me Confidence

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:00 pm

Months after telling a guy to do a job, everyone gets in a room to discuss how he’s going to do it…and immediately begin disagreeing as to what the job is.

…a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: “Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population.”

“Is that really what you think your mission is?” one of the participants asked.

In the first place, it was impossible — the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. “We don’t need to do that,” Gates said, according to one participant. “That’s an open-ended, forever commitment.”

But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan — the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff.

“I wouldn’t say there was quite a ‘whoa’ moment,” a senior defense official said of the reaction around the table. “It was just sort of a recognition that, ‘Duh, that’s what in effect the commander understands he’s been told to do.’ Everybody said, ‘He’s right.’”

You’d think someone between the staffs would have figured this out in the half a year interval between assignment and briefing. And “impossible”? Come on. That may be hard, it may be not what we want to do, but impossible?

Update: Weekly Standard blames the NSC.

December 2, 2009

Who’s An Abolitionist Today?

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:36 pm

Update: Phyllis Chesler doesn’t like some comparisons used in the piece. Good point.

The correctness of the statement is damning.

It is 150 years to the day since John Brown was hanged, and more Africans are being enslaved today than at the height of the infamous Atlantic slave trade.

November 29, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:57 pm

Bit of a rogue’s gallery, eh?

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:56 pm

We’ve never been that good at information warfare, I suppose.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.

The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya.

November 24, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:10 am

Why is the Secretary of State discussing peace talks with the Taliban?

November 22, 2009


Filed under: — Chap @ 4:57 pm

Update: Embassy denies secret talks.

If true, this is bad.

An Afghan source in Kabul reports that U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is holding secret talks with Taliban elements headed by the movement’s foreign minister, Ahmad Mutawakil, at a secret location in Kabul. According to the source, the U.S. has offered the Taliban control of the Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan, Kunar and Nuristan provinces in return for a halt to the Taliban missile attacks on U.S. bases.

Source: Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), November 22, 2009

Hat tip: Steve Schippert, who is seething.

My translation of the article, fast pass, I’m out of practice, no computer translation:

Picture caption: Afghan children look at American patrols in Paktika region yesterday

Kabul, Islamabad: (agency name)

A well-informed Afghani source confirmed details of secret discussions happening between (name?) of the Taliban movement, among them the designated minister of war, and the American ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. (and there was agreement). The same source [said there was] complete agreement before the American ambassador party request and it resulted in US conditions for proceeding.

Ambassador Eikenberry proposed that the movement be granted sovereign
power / authority in Kandahar state and Helmand and Orzkan and Kanr and Nuristan, in exchange for the ending of attacks on American bases in Afghanistan.

November 18, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:10 pm

Noted for later reading: an article called The Cold War Never Ended.

November 13, 2009

New Book: Militant Islamist Ideology

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:12 am

CDR Aboul-Enein’s finally done it. I’m going to rave about it sight unseen, based solely on his reputation.

Back in the mid-nineties, the Navy tried to build a Foreign Area Officer program. It didn’t work due to structural problems, but I was selected for the subspecialty along with a few other officers. I built a professional relationship with a few, including one guy with an unusual name who seemed to know a lot about the Middle East. As soon as I got back into port after 9/11, he was the first guy I emailed; I was worried about the potential for him to get caught up in harassment or trouble.

Turns out the opposite happened. He wound up being the guy who in the E-ring. He taught his fellow Americans about the insidious nature of islamist ideology and how normal folks in the Middle East think about warfare, a quiet, professional voice between the appeasers and the overly Jacksonian militants. This is very hard to do when so many people who oppose American values speak different things to different audiences, and lie to calm rational concerns about threat to people very willing to accept a reasonable-sounding voice. (Other officers I know have failed at this. Perhaps you remember a particularly ugly catfight between two in ’07 in the Pentagon from people who may resemble this.)

You know CDR Aboul-Enein if you took JPME II and studied the region, or were in the E-ring after 9/11, or in a variety of jobs we shall not mention here. He has written regularly in a number of publications, and has a particular skill in reviewing a book and giving you the essence of what’s going on–and he does that with books in Arabic that normally we would have no idea about. I’ve learned a lot about the region from his scholarship–and this has served me well when I got yanked from my previous warfare community into FAO work in the Middle East, where I’m deployed.

So he’s a friend of mine. I trust his instincts and read what he has to write.

And the guy snuck up on me and finally wrote a book. This is actually a book that could put him and his family at risk: not only the overheated response from the “kill ’em all” crowd, but also the risk from the irhabi types who will see the book pop up on their radar. It’s a summary of years of work he’s done, looking at who these people we’re fighting are. How do these people think? What’s the pump that draws from the pool of normal people and spits out these jerks? What’s the scholarship trail?

Here’s the book, published by USNI.
Admiral Stavridis has written the foreword. Can’t get much higher recommendation than that.

Book cover

November 8, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:21 pm

Oh now this is heartening: check out the new man for Iran.


Filed under: — Chap @ 8:06 am

So, I’ve been looking into the ops going on at the Yemeni border. Something reminded me of the losing side of the Hama massacre, and I mentioned that to a counterpart. Counterpart tells me he visited Hama, and claims it took at least six days of continuously shooting people in order for Hafiz Assad’s army to kill every man, woman and child in the town.

Here’s my 2006 analysis of Al-Qaeda’s lessons learned for the failed ops that culminated in the massacre. The reason Hama came up in my mind is because three unrelated organizations, covertly sponsored by Iraq, came together despite strong differences to try and take over the country. A lot of innocents died because of their combined effort and the reaction of the Assad regime. Yemen has unrelated organizations, and I assert they are working together and there’s trouble brewing beyond this week’s combat operations.

The northern Yemeni border is a mountainous and hard-to-navigate territory with a mix of tribal people who live on both sides of the border. The region also holds gun runners, drug smugglers, human traffickers, desperate refugees, hardened fighters, ultraviolent religious extremists, Houthieen, Al-Qaeda, and even (it is rumored) insurance salesmen.

Okay, maybe not the insurance salesmen. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

A ‘humanitarian crisis worse than Darfur‘? In Yemen. That US Army major that shot fifty people and killed over a dozen in Fort Hood? His imam’s in Yemen. The AQ leaders we released from Guantanamo? They’re in Yemen. More than one official says the Iranian Republican Guard is supporting ops in Yemen, and I don’t think it’s merely a Sunni vs. Shi’a acrimony driving that analysis. The hirabi escaping from Pakistan are moving into Yemen.

Even if the current ops calm down soon, this ain’t going to go away soon. Time to start looking close at this region, folks.

November 3, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:03 pm

An FPRI analysis of the flow of foreign fighters and how to mess with it, recommending a holistic approach.

October 31, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:15 pm

Well, that’s an interesting culture clash: An article in an Israeli paper about Saudi issuing ‘how-to’ instructions for visiting the West.

October 6, 2009

Back On Deployment

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:23 pm

Multiple AMCROSSes, etc., etc. I don’t recommend Frankfurt terminal B for long layovers.

I did give a stranger my hundred year old copy of Butler’s Life of Gordon, though. She was a Euro cop going to Darfur to do work there. Figured she needed it more than I did. The UN dudes told me they’re still planning for 25,000 troops; I told them everybody wants someone else to bell the cat, and good luck.

October 2, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:30 pm

I haven’t linked Brad Todd’s “109 Minutes” column in a while, and it’s hard to find on the web these days. Here’s a copy.

September 29, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:43 pm

Eliot Cohen lays out two choices on Iran, and I don’t think he’s oversimplifying too much; there are possible third choices that all look like the first one to greater or lesser extents.

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:30 pm

Hey, you remember that National Intelligence Estimate that got all the press? Yeah, not so good now, is it?

September 25, 2009

The Irritating Dude Telling The Truth Is Valuable

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:39 pm

Michael Yon’s a pugilistic fellow sometimes. He doesn’t mind getting into a scrap, and occasionally I’ve wondered why he got so antagonistic when dealing with something.

This doesn’t seem to be one of those times. He’s got a pretty damning case against the Brit public affairs guys, and lays it out in detail here. Keep fighting, Mike; a couple more bucks going your way.

September 24, 2009

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:45 pm

I’m trying hard to avoid politics on the Web. It makes for some boring posts, but the alternative is having Facebook and Twitter fights, which will resolve nothing. But these two unrelated links (first, second) are worth posting without comment.

September 22, 2009

Escape To The US

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:04 am

Turns out the divorcée asking for help to leave Bahrain was also an Air Force vet.

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