Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bomb kills Iraq Sunni leaders

Five Sunni tribal leaders opposed to al-Qaeda have been killed after a suicide bomber drove a minivan packed with explosives into a house north of Baghdad. The men were meeting in Jurf al-Milih, near Taji, about 20km north of the Iraqi capital, to discuss joining US and Iraqi forces in fighting al-Qaeda.

A police source said another 12 people were wounded in Sunday's attack and the death toll could rise. An Iraqi army source said the tribal chiefs were meeting after talks with local Shia leaders were held in Taji on Friday under the protection of US forces.

Special units

US military commanders have been trying to expand their plan, first used in the violent western province of Anbar, of recruiting local Sunnis who are tired of al-Qaeda violence into special provincial police units. Al-Qaeda is blamed for stoking sectarian hatred and violence between majority Shias and minority Sunni Arabs who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader. The US military began a security crackdown in Baghdad five months ago which initially helped bring down the number of sectarian murders but which also pushed al-Qaeda fighters out of the capital and into surrounding areas. US and Iraqi forces later launched another big operation in the middle of June coinciding with the arrival of the last of 28,000 extra US troops in Iraq.

Via Al Jazeera.


This was a rather foolish move on al-Qaeda's part. You'd think that the Uzbek incident of earlier this year would have taught them that it's usually a bad idea, when dealing with tribal peoples, to assassinate their chiefs, especially if their followers are so heavily armed they even carry AK-47s with them in the shower. Al-Qaeda has just ensured the undying enmity of these five clans.

Ironically, al-Qaeda may be one of Iraq's greatest hopes for peace. True, they have done everything in their power to sow discord and calamity, but in doing so, in fighting against all of Iraq, they are slowly uniting the nation against them. Consider the meetings described in the above article. Iraqi Sunnis, talking with Iraqi Shiites? Under the auspices of the US Army? And then going on to another meeting, to discuss joining forces with the government and the Coalition? Much has been made of the need for reconciliation. Isn't that what appears to be happening here?

This is reflected in the numbers. Another Al Jazeera article¹ provides the following statistic: "From July 13 to July 19, 2006, Anbar saw 428 incidents, including small-arm fire, indirect fire, rocker attacks and roadside bomb attacks. In the comparable period this year, that has dropped to 98 incidents." Anbar province, you will remember, is the center of the insurgency, home to Falluja, Ramadi, and Qa'im. Remember, too, that this is during the surge, which has been pushing militants out of the capital. Impressive, isn't it?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Waziristan Peace Treaty Ends

From the Al Jazeera article Attacks kill troops in Pakistan:

...Also on Sunday, tribal elders in the North Waziristan region called off a 10-month peace deal with the government after accusing authorities of violating the pact...

...The collapse of the North Waziristan peace deal did not appear to be linked to the Lal Masjid assault, but is likely to add to the problems security forces are facing. Under the pact, the authorities agreed to stop operations against the tribes in return for their pledge to not send fighters into Afghanistan or launch attacks on security forces. While US military officials in Afghanistan said the pact had not stopped armed raids into Afghanistan, it did lead to a sharp fall in attacks on Pakistani forces in North Waziristan.

A tribal leadership council said it was abandoning the pact because security forces had launched several attacks on them and the government had deployed more troops in the region. The council said in pamphlets that it would refuse all dialogue and co-operation with authorities after the government had failed to meet a Sunday deadline to abandon 25 new military checkpoints. The Pakistani army has been moving more troops into the tribal areas after Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said last week he would crush extremists and "root them out from every corner of the country". Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said many analysts feel Musharraf is plotting a dangerous course in the region where the military is at risk of confronting its own people.

Hyder said the president's policies are not going down well and there is a definite risk that attacks in the area will increase.

General Assad Durrani, former head of Pakistani intelligence, told Al Jazeera: "If you look at the pattern of the last five to six years, ever since we joined the so-called 'war on terror', there have been enough warnings from the people of this area to suggest that there would be some reprisal attacks.

"The warning from the president may be now ... but experts had already said many years ago that this was likely to happen."


It will be interesting to see what the repercussions of this will be. Unfortunately, I do not now have time for a detailed analysis, but God willing I will add one soon.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Al-Qaeda threatens war against Iran

The leader of an al-Qaeda umbrella group in Iraq, who was thought to have beeen killed by US forces, has threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shias in Iraq within two months. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing to wage a battle against Shia-dominated Iran.

Al-Baghdadi made the announcement in an audiotape that was posted on a web site commonly used by armed groups. The 50-minute audiotape, which was released on Sunday, could not be independently verified.

US forces had earlier claimed to have killed al-Baghdadi. Major General William Caldwell, the commander of the multinational force in Iraq, told a press conference in Baghdad that US forces had killed Muharib Abdulatif al-Juburi on May 1. Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf, operations director at the Iraqi interior minister, told state television that al-Juburi was also known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Audiotape "We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," al-Baghdadi said. Iraq's Shia-led government is backed by the US but closely allied to Iran. The United States accuses Iran of arming and financing Shia militias in Iraq, charges Tehran denies. In the recording, al-Baghdadi also gave Sunnis and Arab countries doing business in Iran or with Iranians a two-month deadline to cease their ties. "We advise and warn every Sunni businessman inside Iran or in Arab countries especially in the Gulf not to take partnership with any Shia Iranian businessman, this is part of the two-month period," he said. Al-Baghdadi said his group was responsible for two suicide truck bomb attacks in May in Iraq's northern Kurdish region. He said the attacks in Irbil and Makhmur showed the "Islamic jihad" was progressing in the Kurdish areas.

Via Al Jazeera.


This is an interesting—and somewhat disturbing—development. On the one hand, al-Qaeda launching a war against Iran would do wonders for Iranian-US relations. This silly "I'm not talking to you, so there!" mentality has gone on quite long enough. Also, I doubt there is a doubt in anyone's mind—except the Far Right's—that a war with Iran would completely break the US military. Our army was designed to be able to fight to a standstill on two fronts simultaneously (why it wasn't designed to win on two fronts is something only Rumsfeld knows); three fronts is too many. We need that army for fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, so as much as Bush might like to roll around Khorasan in a tank, blasting away at random buildings, anything that makes peace with Iran more likely is good.

On the other hand, of course, are the repercussions this would have on the people of Iran. First and foremost, being the target of a concerted campaign of terrorist attacks is no fun, in fact it is quite often fatal. Attacks on civilian targets would cause a great many casualties, attacks on Iran's precarious supply of gasoline would greatly exacerbate an already unpleasant situation, attacks on religious targets, such as the Shrine in Mashhad, would even further inflame sectarian tensions across the world, and attacks against cultural landmarks, such as Persepolis or Azadi Tower, could contribute to internal strain between Iranian Persians and Iranian Arabs. Also, as you may have heard, the Iranian government is not exactly benevolent. A war with al-Qaeda would further damage the Iranian democracy, which is already dominated by theocrats and weirdos. Of concern to me personally, the government would also almost certainly use it as an opportunity to ratchet up its persecution of the Bahá'ís. True, the notion of a Bahá'í-al-Qaeda link is so far fetched as to be laughable to the point of hilarity, but common sense has never stood in the mullahs' way before.

Another reason this is somewhat disturbing is that it indicates al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to get back on course. The original plan was to drive out the British, Americans, and miscellaneous crusading infidels, then use their existing resources and popularity among the pious masses to create an Islamic state, the stability of which the Iraqis would flock to as their world disintegrates around them. Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi screwed up that plan by exterminating as many civilians as possible, brutally beheading captive noncombatants, and generally being twisted, maniacal, and evil. By the time Osama and Zawahri woke up to what was happening and exterminated Zarqawi, it was too late, and the pious masses loathed al-Qaeda with a passion. Equally problematic was the rise of the Mahdi Army, which would have been in a far better position to take over as Iraq's de facto government even if it weren't for Big Q's image problem.

Al-Qaeda had been responding to these difficulties via the always effective Ostrich Method, wherein al-Qaeda continued on as though everything was normal, and God sends down a plague of locusts or something to defeat the Mahdi Army and the Coalition. Unfortunately, they now seem to have noticed that God, for whatever reason (and God, verily, has the best of reasons) is failing to come through, so it's up to them to do something constructive. Going after the Mahdi Army's funding by threatening—much less attacking—Iran won't work, as no sane government would give in to a terrorist demand unless it had absolutely no other choice, but I still don't like it that al-Qaeda is beginning to demonstrate some awareness of reality.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Senior Taliban 'held in Pakistan'

Afghan intelligence sources have told Al Jazeera that four senior members of the Taliban movement have been captured in Pakistan. The men were arrested in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province near to the border with Afghanistan, the sources said on Sunday.

The men are believed to include two senior aides to Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, his chief of staff and the group's head of communications. Pakistan's security services have refused to confirm the reports.

Mullah Omar has not been seen since 2001 when he fled after US-led forces pushed the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan. In January, Afghan authorities released a videotape of a captured alleged Taliban spokesman in which he said that Mullah Omar was living in Quetta under the protection of the Pakistani security services. Islamabad has denied hiding the Taliban leader and repeatedly says it is working to stop the group from operating in southwestern Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees live in the province making it easy for Taliban members to hide among them.

Via Al Jazeera.


The Chief of Staff and the head of communications, excellent. I can't speculate about the "senior aides" without more information, but the capture of these two people will cause serious headaches for the Taliban—and possibly al-Qaeda. One of the Dadullahs, I forget which one, said that Osama bin Laden regularly sends communiqués to the Taliban. There is reason to be skeptical of this claim, but if it is true, Mullah Omar's head of communications may well know who the courier(s) is (are). That person, in turn, would likely know where bin Laden is, or at least might know somebody else who knows where he is. Even if the Dadullah was lying, though, the loss of his Chief of Staff and head of communications will throw the Taliban's executive office into turmoil for a while, possibly even temporarily severing it from the rest of the organization. Regrettably, it is Dadullah Mansour, not Mullah Omar, who is the Taliban's Commander in Chief, so the army is unlikely to be overly affected, but still, every bit of chaos in the enemy's camp is a good thing.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

'Supporting the troops' means withdrawing them

By General William E. Odom

Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it – with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems.

There are only two ways to fix this problem, both of which the president stubbornly rejects. Instead, his recent "surge" tactic has compelled the secretary of defense to extend Army tours to 15 months! (The Marines have been allowed to retain their six-month deployment policy and, not surprisingly, have fewer cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome.)

The first solution would be to expand the size of the Army to two or three times its present level, allowing shorter combat tours and much longer breaks between deployments. That cannot be done rapidly enough today, even if military conscription were restored and new recruits made abundant. It would take more than a year to organize and train a dozen new brigade combat teams. The Clinton administration cut the Army end strength by about 40 percent – from about 770,000 to 470,000 during the 1990s. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld looked for ways to make the cuts even deeper. Thus this administration and its predecessor aggressively gave up ground forces and tactical air forces while maintaining large maritime forces that cannot be used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the lack of wisdom in that change in force structure is being paid for not by President Bush or President Clinton but by the ordinary soldier and his family. They have no lobby group to seek relief for them.

The second way to alleviate the problem is to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible and as securely as possible. The electorate understands this. That is why a majority of voters favor withdrawing from Iraq.

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq.

The public is ahead of the both branches of government in grasping this reality, but political leaders and opinion makers in the media must give them greater voice.

Congress clearly and indisputably has two powers over the executive: the power of the purse and the power to impeach. Instead of using either, members of congress are wasting their time discussing feckless measures like a bill that "de-authorizes the war in Iraq." That is toothless unless it is matched by a cut-off of funds.

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.

To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

Via Nieman Watchdog.


I realize that this is not the type of article I usually post. However, the issue it addresses—that of troop fatigue and resultant atrocities—is becoming ever more central to the conflict in Afghanistan. According to Wikipedia,¹ there are currently some 25,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan. In order to function at peak psychological capacity, according to General Odom, that number would have to be increased by 25-50,000. The only place way we could get that many troops is by withdrawing from Iraq.

The Wiki reports that the United States has a quarter of a million troops in Iraq.² This number does not include those troops currently in between deployments (or preparing to deploy), but it is enough. With that many troops, you could assemble a force 83,000 to 125,000 strong, with adequate troop rotation. If transfered to NATO's command and sent to Afghanistan, this would at least triple, and possibly more than quadruple, the number of active duty soldiers at ISAF's disposal.³ I have long been in favor of quadrupling our forces in Afghanistan. It's high time this war once again became a one-sided exercise in American military might. It's been over a half a decade already, let's just get it over with so that we can all go home.

I understand that withdrawing from Iraq would have grave consequences, but short of mobilizing the country and instituting the draft (which is about as likely as Representative Ron Paul defecting to the Socialist Party) or a whole bunch of other nations suddenly offering us the use of their armed forces (which is about as likely as the Socialist Party endorsing Ron Paul), I don't see how we can succeed in Iraq. I had not thought it was possible for the United States of America to lose a war, but Rumsfeld and Bush have proven me wrong. Let's not lose Afghanistan, too.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Prince Naif urges imams to confront deviant ideology

Riyadh – Jamad Al Akher 06, 1428/ June 21, 2007– Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz yesterday emphasized the role of imams and khateebs in the Kingdom’s fight against terrorism and destructive thoughts and ideas. During an open meeting with more than 600 prayer leaders and those who give Friday sermons in mosques, the prince stated, “It is your responsibility to confront this problem by applying your knowledge, minds and courage. There are at least 14,000 mosques where Friday prayers are holding in various parts of the Kingdom. “This means we have 14,000 platforms. If the khateebs use this opportunity to expose the deviants and their ideology, it will have a great positive impact upon society,” he observed. [More]


This is good. While the West is obviously involved, the so-called War on Terror is in reality a war within Islam, the war between the Muslims and the Apostates. We can only do so much; it is on this battlefield that the war will be won.