31 October 2009
30 October 2009
Today, Wired.com ran an article which highlighted a new group on Facebook entitled "I Hate Reflector Belts", which has amassed nearly 4,000 fans so far from nearly every branch of the Armed Forces.
The homeland of Osama bin Laden's father, Yemen has long been a top U.S. security concern. For years, al Qaeda militants -- including at least one Saudi released from U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- have taken refuge here. One complication surrounding the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo is what to do with the nearly 100 Yemeni detainees there. U.S. intelligence officials say they have little confidence in the Yemeni government's ability to keep them in prison back in their home country.Since the 2000 al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, U.S. officials have reported mixed results from the Yemeni government in the fight against terrorism. President Ali Abdullah Saleh established a rehabilitation program for jailed Islamic militants, but hasn't curbed the growing network of al Qaeda fighters who have flocked to lawless parts of Yemen and are using the country as a launching pad for attacks.
The new offensive comes as al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, as the local branch of the militant group is called, appears to be gaining strength. An Arab intelligence official says that al Qaeda fighters fled to Yemen this summer from Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the movement has suffered military setbacks in recent months.
While the number of fighters retreating to Yemen is unknown, the movement is worrying Yemen's Arab and African neighbors. Recently, al Qaeda announced the merging of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of the organization in Yemen after a crackdown by Saudi authorities.
A Saudi militant, traveling from an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen, injured Saudi Arabia's deputy interior minister in a failed suicide-bombing attack last month.
In 2008, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for two suicide-bomb attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, in which 16 Yemenis were killed. This year, the group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed four Korean tourists and two of their Yemeni security guards.
Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen are also aiding Islamic rebels trying to topple the Somali government, according to U.N. officials in Somalia and Yemen. Al Shabab, the Somali insurgency group that U.S. officials view as an al Qaeda proxy in East Africa, restocks with fighters and weapons through Yemeni smugglers working the narrow Red Sea passage between the two countries, these officials said.
The details emerged between sobs: the arrival of the security forces earlier in the day, her husband's panicked attempt to flee, the gunfire that erupted without warning. He was a law student, barely 20 and "so beautiful," she said, but the soldiers planted a rifle next to his body and called him an Islamist rebel. Then they took everything of value -- the family's savings, a set of dishes, even baby clothes, she said.
Such heavy-handed tactics by the Russian security forces have helped transform the long-running separatist rebellion in Chechnya, east of Ingushetia, into something potentially worse: a radical Muslim insurgency that has spread across the region, draws support from various ethnic groups and appears to be gaining strength.
Moscow declared an end to military operations in Chechnya in April, a decade after then-President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the breakaway republic. But violence has surged in the mountains of Russia's southwest frontier since then, with the assassination of several officials, explosions and shootouts occurring almost daily, and suicide bombings making a comeback after a long lull. On Sunday, a popular Ingush opposition leader was fatally shot, months after the slaying of Chechnya's most prominent human rights activist...
...Russia has long blamed violence in the region on Muslim extremists backed by foreign governments and terrorist networks, but radical Islam is relatively new here. In the 1990s, it was ethnic nationalism, not religious fervor, that motivated Chechen separatists. That changed, though, as fighting spilled beyond Chechnya and Russian forces used harsher tactics targeting devout Muslims.
In 2007, the rebel leader Doku Umarov abandoned the goal of Chechen independence and declared jihad instead, vowing to establish a fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate that would span the entire region. After Moscow proclaimed victory in Chechnya in April, he issued a video labeling civilians legitimate targets and reviving Riyad-us Saliheen, the self-described martyrs' brigade that launched terrorist attacks across Russia from 2002 to 2006.
29 October 2009
28 October 2009
- From Gizmodo: Liveblogging Couple May Have Been Captured By Somalian Pirates. (Somalian pirates, we!)
- What could be more eagerly anticipated than the revised DOD policy regarding social media? How about a revised policy regarding USB drives? Seriously, I hate burning CD-ROMs five to ten times a day. What is this, 1999? (H/T Karaka Pend)
- Congratulations to Pat O, an ROTC cadet in his last year of college at Georgetown University, who just discovered that he was branched infantry, which was his first choice. Pat, you are far braver than I!
- The Onion exclusive: US Continues Quagmire-Building Mission in Afghanistan. Pure genius (H/T Abu Muqawama)
- Spencer Ackerman reports that Nuristan province is almost completely under the control of the Taliban. Worse news, Taliban 2.0 has much stronger ties to al Qaeda than Taliban 1.0, which is one reason I oppose complete abandonment of Afghanistan.
- Finally, you may remember a quick article I wrote while I was hung over on R and R leave in Australia about the BigDog, a walker-like robot suited for the terrain in Afghanistan. (The article got picked up by the Early Bird--the Pentagon's official news wire. God, their standards must be low). Well, look out BigDog, here comes a two-legged walker variant called "Petman". While the technology probably isn't workable for an actual battle droid just yet, I think that in the next thirty or forty years, we might see robotics technology like this really take off. (I eagerly await my Cylon Model Six).
27 October 2009
26 October 2009
Tom Ricks linked to a great article on CompanyCommand.com (only available to those with an AKO address, sorry) which listed eight lessons to learn before going to Afghanistan.
Know your enemy and know yourself, and in a thousand battles, you will have a thousand victories.--Sun Tzu
Small Wars Journal provided a link to an article in The New Yorker which, among other things, shed some light on a new Taliban training manual for guerrillas. (Related question for the audience--how many in the Taliban are illiterate?). From the New Yorker:
Over the summer, the Afghan Taliban’s military committee distributed “A Book of Rules,” in Pashto, to its fighters. The book’s eleven chapters seem to draw from the population-centric principles of F.M. 3-24, the U.S. Army’s much publicized counter-insurgency field manual, released in 2006. Henceforth, the Taliban guide declares, suicide bombers must take “the utmost steps . . . to avoid civilian human loss.” Commanders should generally insure the “safety and security of the civilian’s life and property.” Also, lest anxious Afghan parents get the wrong idea, Taliban guerrillas should avoid hanging around with beardless young boys and should particularly refrain from “keeping them in camps.”
I took the opportunity to thumb through the Taliban manual. While I agree that the manual for insurgents places considerable emphasis on the support of the population, this has been a hallmark of guerrilla movements since the earliest days. Indeed, it's a little arrogant to claim that the Taliban are reverse-engineering our Counterinsurgency Field Manual...many of these points are lifted from Mao Tse-Tung's "On Guerrilla War", and a number of them refer to the administrative structure and notes of the organization. (I half expect them to discuss the reflector belt policy).
In all, though, a good read--be sure to get inside the enemy's OODA loop and read it at least twice.
25 October 2009
Yeah, I love a funny video just as much as the next guy, and I'm not totally averse to pictures of detainees. But putting them in your funny video is probably not the best of ideas.
Note: Boyd notes that Decide and Act can often be done simultaneously, especially when one has a highly developed sense of intuitive thinking and knows exactly what needs to be done in many situations (often developed by experience). This can also, in my case, be a result of alcohol.
But could OODA be applied to talking to women at the club? The Intel Officer and I go undercover at SUNY-Oswego in order to find out.
True to form, the Intel Officer had credible intelligence to suggest that SUNY-Oswego had bars and girls. Unfortunately, when we got to Oswego, we found out the intelligence was flawed, as SUNY-Oswego was not in session for another few weeks.
We went into a few bars to see whom we could talk to. We wound up going to one club, where, after a few beverages, I needed to relieve my bladder. I was trying to get over the fact that I didn't remember college-aged girls looking so, well, young, when the Intel Guy came up to me and told me that he had struck up a conversation with two girls who wanted to "dance". (I put that in quotation marks because, well, after watching the pure awesomeness that was the Stormtrooper Dance from yesterday's entry, this didn't qualify as dancing.)
That's when I noticed something alarming about these two girls.
Observe: I see little X marks on the hands of these two girls.
Orient: Previous experience has taught me that this means that someone is under 21, which is not good in my current predicament.
Decide-Act: I make some nonverbal gestures at the Intel Officer which basically means we need to get the hell out of there quickly.
Observe: One girl starts to pop her collar.
Orient: Analysis and Synthesis...I remember that popping one's collar is a part of a great Chuck Norris joke. Previous experience tells me that everyone loves those Chuck Norris Jokes.
Decide-Act: I say, "So, you're popping your collar? You know, Chuck Norris doesn't pop his collar. His shirt just gets an erection from being on his back."
Now we have an unfolding interaction with the environment, which leads me to observe this:
Observe: The girl is not laughing at my joke. Instead, she has a puzzled look on her face and asks, "Who's Chuck Norris"?
Orient: How the hell does this girl not know who Chuck Norris is? Cultural traditions and previous experience have told me that this either means that a.) She's way too young to know who Chuck Norris is or b.) She's an idiot. I realize that since Chuck Norris jokes are all over collegehumor.com, the average college student must be aware that they exist, so I settle on a.) this girl is an idiot.
Decide: I need to bail now.
Act: The Intel Officer is still doing well with his girl, so, being a good wingman, I decide to wait this one out.
Fortunately, I observe that...
Observe: The girls want to leave the club to go eat.
Orient: I realize that this will give us an excellent opportunity to escape.
This constitutes a mini-OODA loop within a larger one. (You can go backwards through the loop, according to the diagram, as you constantly process new information).
Observe: The Intel officer must be reading my mind, because he says, "We should leave, like now".
Orient: I realize that there is no more perfect time to do so.
Decide-Act: As the girls are placing their order, presumably expecting us to pay for everything, the Intel Officer and I bail out the back door of the pizza place, hopefully leaving these girls to pay for their meal unexpectedly. Heh heh heh.
Bonus--Quote of the Evening:
Girl who doesn't know who Chuck Norris is: (Looking at my beer) Do you drink until women look cute?
Me: No, but tonight's a good night to start...
Vietnam is the nuclear option of historical analogies. Yet, rather than fear that Afghanistan will become another Vietnam, we should embrace the prospect. If the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan eventually resembles the one we now have with Vietnam, we should be overjoyed. Little more than a generation after a bloody, frustrating war, Vietnam and the United States have become close partners in Southeast Asia, exchanging official visits, building an important trading and strategic relationship and fostering goodwill between governments, businesses and people on both sides.The lessons of the Vietnam War are clear and sobering, but history does not end in 1975, when the last American diplomats fled Saigon. Once large-scale fighting ends in Afghanistan, Washington should strive for the kind of reconciliation it has achieved with Vietnam. America did not win the war there, but over time it has won the peace. As unlikely as it seems today, the same outcome is possible in Afghanistan......Today, however, 76 percent of Vietnamese say U.S. influence in Asia is positive, according to a 2008 study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs -- a greater percentage than in Japan, China, South Korea or Indonesia. When President Bill Clinton visited Vietnam in 2000, citizens greeted him like a rock star, mobbing him whenever he stepped out in public. Two-way trade now surpasses $15 billion annually, compared with virtually nothing in 1995, the year the two countries normalized diplomatic ties. American companies have descended upon Vietnam, and last year foreign direct investment in the country tripled compared with 2007.
U.S. Navy ships now call at Vietnamese ports, and the two governments have institutionalized high-level exchanges, including a 2003 Pentagon visit by Vietnam's defense minister -- the highest-level Vietnamese military trip to Washington since the war. Following up on Clinton's visit, President George W. Bush traveled to Vietnam in 2006; the previous year, Bush welcomed Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on a visit to America.
Why the dramatic reversal? Time helped, certainly: Just as Americans will forget Mohammad Omar, eventually the images of tortured American POWs and massive bombing of the Vietnamese countryside began to fade on both sides. But more important, American war veterans publicly made peace with their old adversaries. In the Senate, vets John Kerry and John McCain pushed for the normalization of ties between the nations in the 1990s. And on the ground in Vietnam, groups of veterans met with civilians from the areas where they had served. These meetings had a profound impact on Vietnamese public opinion.Hanoi reciprocated American goodwill and allowed a U.S. investigative commission to scour the country for any remaining prisoners of war, a major concern of the U.S. veterans community. The commission reported in 1993 that it had found little evidence that any POWs remained. The report, more than any other gesture, helped bring the American public on board for reengaging with Hanoi.
24 October 2009
I particularly like how the book ended. After discussing the insurgency which developed in that particular Middle Eastern nation, the author writes about his experience visiting some of the ancient ruins in the area, and reflects upon the thousands of years of history in the region, and the uncertain future of the nation. Although I got a strange sense of deja vu--I could have sworn I read a book that ended just like this...
23 October 2009
[A]s it devises a new Afghanistan policy, the Obama administration confronts a complex geopolitical puzzle: two embattled governments, in Afghanistan and Pakistan; numerous militias aligned with overlapping Islamist factions; and hidden in the factions’ midst, the foe that brought the United States to the region eight years ago, Al Qaeda.
But at the core of the tangle are the two Taliban movements, Afghan and Pakistani. They share an ideology and a dominant Pashtun ethnicity, but they have such different histories, structures and goals that the common name may be more misleading than illuminating, some regional specialists say.
“The fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion,” said Gilles Dorronsoro, a French scholar of South Asia currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
This week, Mr. Dorronsoro said, as the Pakistani Armybegan a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban, many Americans thought incorrectly that the assault was against the Afghan Taliban, the force that is causing Washington to consider sending more troops to Afghanistan...
...“To be honest, the Taliban commanders and groups on the ground in Afghanistan couldn’t care less what’s happening to their Pakistani brothers across the border,” said Mr. Strick van Linschoten, who has interviewed many current and former members of the Afghan Taliban.
In fact, the recent attacks of the Pakistani Taliban against Pakistan’s government, military and police, in anticipation of the army’s current campaign into the Pakistani Taliban’s base in South Waziristan, may have strained relations with the Afghan Taliban, saidRichard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer who tracks Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the United Nations.
The Afghan Taliban have always had a close relationship with Pakistani intelligence agencies, Mr. Barrett said recently. “They don’t like the way that the Pakistan Taliban has been fighting the Pakistan government and causing a whole load of problems there,” he said...
...Before 9/11, the Afghan Taliban hosted Osama bin Laden and the other leaders of Al Qaeda, but the groups are now separated geographically, their leaders under pressure from intensive manhunts. On jihadist Web sites, analysts have detected recent tensions between Al Qaeda, whose proclaimed goals are global, and the Afghan Taliban, which have recently claimed that their interests lie solely in Afghanistan.
Mr. Dorronsoro, the French scholar, said the Afghan Taliban were a “genuine national movement” incorporating not only a broad network of fighters, but also a shadow government-in-waiting in many provinces.
By comparison, he said, the Pakistani Taliban were a far looser coalition, united mainly by their enmity toward the Pakistani government. They emerged formally only in 2007 as a separate force led by Baitullah Mehsud under the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Students’ Movement of Pakistan....
...Polls show that Americans, frustrated by the United States’ supposed allies and confused by the conflict, are losing their fervor for the fight. “The complexity of all this is hard enough for experts to understand,” said Paul R. Pillar, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst now at Georgetown University. “It’s not surprising if it baffles a lot of ordinary people.”
22 October 2009
I knew nothing about COP Keating until after the battle. When I saw some of the photos, I said to myself “oh sh*t, I can see why these guys got pounded.” Anytime the opposition can direct fire down on you, you’ve got a big helping of hurt on your hands. On the other hand, it didn’t look like there was much in the way of flat ground, or even a reasonable slope, on which to set up a base in the hills. And locating it too far up the hill would have meant that resupply could probably only be done by helicopter. I gather that that’s not a real solid link at times during the year.
I had some questions, though. Did these guys have listening posts out? Did they do nighttime patrols in the village and in the hills around their base? How was their intel capability within the village? If something out of the ordinary was going on, would they have known about it? How were they keeping an eye on the mosque (which was an obvious rallying point)? Did they set ambushes every night? The impression I’ve gotten is that the answers to these questions might be kinda negative. It strikes me that if they were doing these things properly, it would have been fairly difficult to assemble over 100 fighters without our troops knowing about it.
If you have a base on bad ground, you absolutely cannot sit around and wait for the other guy to come to you. You have to project your eyes and ears outward so you have advance warning. You also have to make the enemy cautious about approaching you. That’s the purpose of foot patrols and ambushes.
In the kind of guerrilla warfare that we’re facing now, the enemy is always going to go for the lowest hanging fruit on the tree. The T’ban undoubtedly spent a fair amount of time observing this base, absorbing what their routine was and then figuring out how they could use the terrain (including the buildings in the village) to their advantage. Had their observation been adequately disrupted, they may well have said “hey, these guys are on their toes — let’s go somewhere else.”
Part of effective pre-flight planning involves the inadvertent IMC plan--what to do if one accidentally punches into the clouds. For multi-aircraft operations in particular, the flight crews know to turn away from one another and climb to safe altitudes, with each aircraft in the formation climbing to a different altitude to avoid colliding with one another. During the preflight briefing, all pilots know what altitude to climb to, so that, in the event of an emergency, the actions are instinctive.
Note that the pilot of this Bonanza simply takes the lazy route and looks at his GPS to keep him away from a mountain ridge, failing to climb to the published minimum safe altitude. He almost dies as a result.
Don't let GPS make you lazy--remember your pre-flight planning from flight school. It might save your life.
21 October 2009
Not too long ago, the U.S. military was brain dead about social media — banning sites from their networks, and grounding troops for their postings. But things are changing, fast. Not only is the Pentagon poised to allow troops access to Web 2.0 sites, if a draft policy is approved. The Defense Department is also getting more clever about how it talks to its people about the sites. Gone, apparently, are the bad old days whenads like this one filled the military’s airwaves. Now, we’re seeing spots like the one below that are even kind of funny. Go figure.
The only bad news? We all might be a little more bored at work, without our videos of snake-eating soldiers and ghost-riding G.I.s.
Wait, "Ghost Riding" troops? Yes, thanks to Wired.com's Danger Room, I've actually discovered something on Youtube that I'd never seen before. (Those of you that know me will find this shocking, I know).
Warning: While I find this absolutely hilarious on one hand, I have to caveat this by saying that this is by far the quickest way to remove one's self from the gene pool. You can read up on the trend here. Anyway, without further ado, here's the "Ghost Riding" video.
Seriously, never fucking do this:
That video kind of reminds me of the dumbasses that did this: (full version of this video can be found here)