Essay submitted at American Military University

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Here’s my final essay, submitted to American Military University.  I’m currently studying military intelligence at AMU.  Feel free to comment.

Douglas John Moore, Student #: 4212140

Course Name:  Tactical Intelligence (INTL422 I Sum 11)

25 September 2011

Course Instructor:  John Casey


Intelligence Operations in OIF:  What the US Got Right, What it got Wrong, and How it Adapted.

     Thesis Statement:  Intelligence for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) can be divided into three distinct phases.  The intelligence estimates created and analysis conducted following the attacks by al-Qaeda on the Twin Towers and during the buildup for OIF constitute the first phase of intelligence operations for OIF.  The second phase of intelligence is represented by tactical intelligence gathering and dissemination during the US’s conventional operations against Iraqi military targets while the third and final phase of intelligence operations occurred as al-Qaeda attempted to bring the full force of the global insurgency to bear against coalition forces in Iraq by inciting sectarian violence and attacking coalition forces.  Each phase produced successes and failures which strongly impacted the outcome of the war.




Phase 1: Intelligence as an Extension of Politics

     The US intelligence community was thrust into the international spotlight after the attacks by al-Qaeda on 9 September, 2001.  Problems with information sharing between intelligence agencies and the FBI highlighted the discussion.  As the US government began its investigations into who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks and to what level the attackers were backed by foreign national governments, eyes turned to Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime.  Faced with the possibility of transnational proliferation of nuclear weapons and shocked by terrorist attacks of unprecedented cunning and ferocity, the Bush administration turned to the intelligence community to answer two questions:  Does the Iraqi military possess Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)? And, to what extant does Saddam Hussein harbor or fund al-Qaeda terrorists?

These two issues were important because they represented the lever which the Bush administration used to make politically viable preemptive war against Saddam Hussein.  According to a CNN report covering Bob Woodward’s book:  Plan of Attack, President Bush found scant evidence of WMD in Iraq even after he viewed satellite imagery and signal intercepts.  President Bush believed the issue of WMD to be central to gaining the trust and backing of the public.  He asked then CIA director, George Tenet to tell him if Saddam had WMD: Tenet’s response was categorical:  “It’s a slam dunk case.” [1]

Interestingly, CENTCOM never deeply investigated whether Iraq had WMD, weaving the assumption that Iraq possessed chemical weapons into the planning of OIF.  The primary question that CENTCOM analysts sought to answer was whether the Iraqi military would use WMD, not if it possessed them.[2] Also of interest is that although the primary criticism directed at the US intelligence community was that it did not share information efficiently, it was information sharing that fed a large portion of the brief General Colin Powell gave to the US Security Council in 2003.  An intelligence source, Codename: CURVEBALL, provided information to the German foreign intelligence agency, which in turn shared the information with the Defense Intelligence Agency which then passed the information on to the CIA.  Neither the DIA nor the CIA ever had direct contact with CURVEBALL, and several analysts, both German and American, found CURVEBALL’s attestations of Iraqi “Mobile Production Facilities for Biological Agents” to be dubious.  Never the less, the information provided by CURVEBALL was used to justify OIF.[3]


C. Powell testifies in ’03, WH archives

     Intelligence assessments outlining Iraq’s WMD capability were largely wrong.  Hooker states:  “CBW were not employed, indicating the increased likelihood that Iraq did not have stocks of weaponized chemical or biological agents ready to employ.”[4] In the end, the US intelligence community along with many in the Bush administration bore the brunt of political backlash.  The Iraq Intelligence Committee wrote:

“The Intelligence Community’s performance in assessing Iraq’s pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure. The failure was not merely that the Intelligence Community’s assessments were wrong. There were also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers.”[5]

The interpretations of intelligence regarding al-Qaeda’s connections with Saddam Hussein seem to be divided along political and ideological lines.  However, it cannot be denied that known terrorists operated within Iraq’s borders and given Saddam’s autocratic rule, it is likely the terrorists operated with Saddam’s blessings.  In Colin Powell’s testimony before US Security Council in 2003, he told the council that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi , a trained Jordanian terrorists with direct ties to Osama bin laden, operated in Iraq and had even moved his operations to Bagdad.  US intelligence had tracked Zarqawi’s movements and conducted link analysis showing some of his associates.[6]

Zarqawi Network, Whitehouse Archives

     This analysis proved true.  Though the extent to which Saddam helped Zarqawi to achieve his goals is unknown, it does seem that Zarqawi was able to operate in Iraq with Saddam’s approval.  Zarqawi would haunt the Coalition through the dark days prior to the American troop surge and until McChrystal’s Joint Special Operation’s Command (JSOC) finally doomed the arch-terrorist.



Phase 2: Shock and Awe

     The second phase of intelligence as it applied to OIF occurred during CENTCOM’s planning phase for the war and also in tactical applications during the actual invasion. The US government constantly monitored the Iraqi military force composition after Desert Storm and successfully predicted several outcomes in the conventional phase of the war.  The intelligence estimates were correct in assessing several of Iraq’s military capabilities and tactical intelligence assets effectively targeted hundreds of Iraqi military installations and assets for missile and bomb strikes.[7]  However, intelligence estimates were wrong on several counts.  For instance, analysts believed that Saddam would attack Israel, would probably use WMD and overestimated the Iraqi army’s willingness to stand and fight.[8]

Phase 3: Into the Maelstrom

     CENTCOM asked intelligence analysts to determine the most likely security situation in Iraq after the conventional fight came to a close (Phase IV).  The analysts concluded that while sectarian violence and attempts to fill power vacuums by tribal warlords was likely, coalition forces would not be the primary target of attacks.  Compared to the previous phases, phase IV of operations in Iraq received little attention in intelligence estimates.[9]  Although some analysts and pundits state that the insurgency found fuel when L. Paul Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army, Bremer presents evidence that this dissolving was little more than a formality.[10]

As an insurgency coalesced in Iraq, it became clear that the current force composition was unable to stop the rising tide of violence.  Abu Musab al-Zarqawi stepped to the forefront as the leader of a terror organization calling itself Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[11]  Attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi civilians rose greatly, and in 2006 several observers, including the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps, believed that America was losing the war in Iraq.[12] [13]Intelligence experts had massively underestimated the strength of al-Qaeda’s global insurgency, the attempt to recruit a transnational horde of terrorists and insurgents from around the world and direct them to do battle as al-Qaeda leadership saw fit.[14]

In order to address the collapsing security situation in Iraq, President Bush pushed nearly 30,000 additional US troops into the fight in 2007.  Additionally, special intelligence gathering and dissemination cells were created under the auspices of General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of JSOC.  Realizing that dissemination of intelligence was far too slow within a classic military hierarchy, McChrystal’s special operations forces realized something had to change.  The answer became mantra:  Become a network to defeat a network.  The strength of AQI and other insurgent groups in Iraq was their disparate, wraith-like nature.  The lumbering stiffness of “Big Army” was inadequate to defeat this new foe.  McChrystal’s organization made sharing intelligence an art and pushed information out in multiple directions as opposed to “stove piping” it in one direction.  Information on the location of a known terrorist may be gained from an informant.  That information was immediately pushed to analysts, who in turn notified kill or capture teams, who then moved immediately to find the suspect.  Any intelligence gathered at the site was pushed back to analysts who would push it out again.  The result was a cascading increase in operational tempo and capture/kill successes.[15] In the end, Task Force 145 killed Zarqawi.  With its elite interrogators drawing HUMINT from captured insurgents, TF 145 contributed heavily to the eventual systemic collapse of the insurgency in Iraq.[16]


     OIF highlights the nature of today’s intelligence operations.  The successes of analysts are not judged as black and white but as varying shades of gray.  The 24 hour news cycle and excitable political atmosphere lead many to ask not if assessments were right or wrong but “how right and how wrong.” Technology has increased the powers of the critic.  The failure of the intelligence community to accurately assess and convince on the matters of WMD in Iraq and to predict the outcome of the collapse of Iraq’s Baathist regimes weighs heavy.  The result though is increased efficiency in US intelligence capabilities with an emphasis on efficiency and information sharing.  How much this new emphasis will be able to resist the juggernaut of bureaucratic inefficiency remains to be seen.

Works Cited

Bowden, Mark. “The Ploy.” The Atlantic, May 2007.

Bremer, L. Paul. “How I didn’t dissolve Iraq’s Army.” The New York Times, September 6, 2007.

Chan, Sue. Iraq Faces Massive US Missile Barrage. n.d. (accessed September 25, 2011).

CNN Politics Article. Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’. April 19, 2004. (accessed September 24, 2011).

Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

McChrystal, Stanley. It Takes a Network. March/April 2011. (accessed September 25, 2011).

Peters, Ralph. “Last Gasps in Iraq.” USA Today, November 2, 2006: 13A.

Prados, John. The National Security Archive. November 5, 2007. (accessed September 24, 2011).

Ricks, Thomas E. “Situationn Called Dire in West Iraq.” The Washington Post, September 11, 2006.

Schultz, Richard H. Global Insurgency Strategy and the Salafi Jihad Movement. USAF Institute for National Security Studies, 2008.

The Iraq Intelligence Committee. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding Weapons of Mass Detruction. US Government, 2005.

US Government. The Whitehouse Archives. February 5, 2003. (accessed September 24, 2011).

Weaver, Mary Anne. The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. June 8, 2006. (accessed September 25, 2011).

[1]  CNN Politics Article. Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’. April 19, 2004. (accessed September 24, 2011).




[2] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.


[3] Prados, John. The National Security Archive. November 5, 2007. (accessed September 24, 2011).


[4] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.


[5] The Iraq Intelligence Committee. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding Weapons of Mass Detruction. US Government, 2005.


[6] US Government. The Whitehouse Archives. February 5, 2003. (accessed September 24, 2011).


[7] Chan, Sue. Iraq Faces Massive US Missile Barrage. n.d. (accessed September 25, 2011).


[8] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.


[9] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

[10] Bremer, L. Paul. “How I didn’t dissolve Iraq’s Army.” The New York Times, September 6, 2007


[11] Weaver, Mary Anne. The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. June 8, 2006. (accessed September 25, 2011).


[12] Peters, Ralph. “Last Gasps in Iraq.” USA Today, November 2, 2006: 13A.


[13] Ricks, Thomas E. “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq.” The Washington Post, September 11, 2006.


[14] Schultz, Richard H. Global Insurgency Strategy and the Salafi Jihad Movement. USAF Institute for National Security Studies, 2008.


[15] McChrystal, Stanley. It Takes a Network. March/April 2011. (accessed September 25, 2011).


[16] Bowden, Mark. “The Ploy.” The Atlantic, May 2007.


In the War on Terror, some refuse to ask themselves the right questions

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I’ve noticed that when it comes to discussing the decisive topic of fighting  the global terrorist threat, the ideological left tries to shut down argument by stamping “Case Closed” on crucial points that are clearly up for debate.

For instance, consider water boarding.  Those who oppose water boarding justify their argument primarily by using two deceptive arguments.

First, they use the term “torture” to replace the term water boarding.  There is no room for discussion, apparently, as to if water boarding should truly be considered torture.  To the opposition, it just is.  We should ask ourselves if holding down suspected terrorists and tickling them until they spill the beans is also torture.

Secondly, the opposition duress that water boarding does not work.  The argument implies that real intelligence is not gained from those under the duress of the declared torture.

There are several issues at stake here.  First, if water boarding is truly torture,  how did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed withstand 183 sessions of water boarding without going mad?  Moreover, how did he suffer through this ordeal without providing any intelligence of significant value to the CIA?  KSM states that he provided false information to the CIA in order to shorten the water boarding sessions, while this is a possibility, it seems equally if not more possible that KSM gave up important information concerning the al-Qaeda network and its operations.   Under duress, it would seem easier to  state the truth rather than make out of whole cloth a plausible untruth.  But even if KSM did provide false information, does this take away from the truths he provided?  of course he lied to the CIA.  He was and is an arch-terrorist.   But given his universally accepted role within al-Qaeda,  (no one I know of believes KSM was not part of AQ, not intimately involved in the planning of the 9-11 attacks, and not responsible for beheading Daniel Pearl), KSM possessed vital knowledge concerning al-Qaeda operations around the world.

Suppose a terrorist is being water boarded, and provides the location of a terror cell which is plotting to blow up several public transit hubs in a large city.  He also makes up facts during his interrogation, hoping to shorted the session.  Let’s, for the sake of argument, say he makes up ten facts.  He may even say that the Man in the Moon is providing weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.  But a few days later the terror network is busted, its members arrested and bomb-making material seized.  Do any of the lies take away from the fact that the water-boarding did its job?  That a terror attack that could have injured or killed hundreds and severely damaged the confidence of a population has been stopped?

Of course, those against water boarding will say that terrorists subjected to it won’t give up the location of terrorist cells, they’ll just use the time-proven “brainstorming” method for making stuff up. I say that’s absurd.  The former counter-terrorism chief of the CIA says that the method worked, that KSM gave up information that led to verified results.  In fact, information gained from the KSM interrogation led directly to the identification of Osama bin Laden’s courier, which then led to OBL’s death.  

Again for argument’s sake, let’s assume the utility of water boarding is debatable. That trained CIA interrogators wasted their energy on 183 water applications on KSM without ever gaining anything of value.  But now, ask this question to those against the technique: What if you knew water boarding would save the lives of 200 people in a planned terrorist subway bombing?  You absolutely knew this would work and stop the event.  Humans can argue anything, I realize, but to make a point, let’s assume that it is beyond doubt that water boarding could stop this catastrophe.

I say that whomever refuses to water board in such a case is a stubborn, ideological monster.

It seems that whatever the arguments against water boarding, the argument that it doesn’t work is one of the least valid.  It is similar to the vegetarian argument.  When animal rights groups began protesting, suddenly, meat became bad for us.  There is little science to back this assertion, but it was important because people wouldn’t stop eating meat if they thought meat was good for you.  And so it is with water boarding.  If people really believed that water boarding could save innocent lives, most of them would be all for it.  So it was important to make the argument that it doesn’t work without actually referring to the facts.

But the facts are in.  The CIA and JSOC tracked down Bin Laden using evidence gained from the water boarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  Other terror plots were broken up before their fruition because of the intelligence gained from KSM’s interrogation.  Before we condemn harsh tactics (what could be harsher than shooting a terrorist or Taliban member? ) we should at least ask ourselves the important question: Does the tactic work?

Leave Afghanistan Now

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The burning of the Korans at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and the subsequent riots and murder of 5 NATO soldiers put all questions to rest about our future in the country.  There is nothing more the US can gain in this war.  Amid our apologies and groveling, our warped attempts to prove we are not imperialists, the Taliban and crime lords thrive, resting peacefully in Pakistan.  And we still pace the floor like Hamlet churning the possibilities through Washington’s mushy head.

The cultural differences between the US and many Afghans are so great, they simply cannot be overcome in a  manner that benefits in any meaningful way the US.  The country is still largely run by thieves and criminals, and outside Kabul there is little true support for the US effort.  Our national prestige is being drained away by the ridiculous “sensitivity” of Pashtun Muslims, whom seize upon any sleight as a reason to engage in mayhem.

Why are we still there?  It’s time to leave, and let Afghanistan face the reality it created for itself.  A future of crime, chaos, fundamentalism and misery.  To the Afghan government and the Taliban:  Keep your evil inside your own borders this time.To Washington:  Stop embarrasing your nation and its troops with your equivocating and hand wringing.  Bring back the pop-up targets you’ve provided for blood drenched, hateful Islamists.

Bring our boys home.

The Long War gets longer

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Moammar Gaddafi has been wrenched from power by a group of rebels whose composition remains ambiguous and possibly quite dangerous.

In the end, it seems like the West is worse off than it was a year ago; the entire Sinai Peninsula is essentially under the control of the combined forces of al-Qaeda in Iraq, The Muslim Brotherhood, and a rag-tag group of insurgents whose loyalties will likely go to the highest bidder.  We now have to worry about Gaddafi’s massive stocks of surface-to-air missiles and his alleged loads of chemical weapons.  What? WMD you say?  The rebels descending on Tripoli have already raided some of the Libyan military’s weapons stores.  We must assume that al-Qaeda has operatives stalking the land trying to get their hands on weapons not otherwise easily obtained.  After all, the highest numbers of foreign fighters that entered Iraq to join the insurgency were from Libya and one of the Libyan rebel leaders admits to fighting and recruiting for al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

Without NATO forces on the ground, expect chaos to reign and civil war-lite to be the order of the day in Libya.

Meanwhile, the media largely ignored events in Egypt prior to the recent death of Egyptian security officers in clashes between Palestinians and the IDF. Egyptian prisons were opened up after Mubarak resigned, releasing hundreds if not thousands of hard core jihadists.  Many Egyptian police stations are subject to attack and some have been abandoned.  The gas pipeline between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai has been attacked 5 times.   Yet nary a peep from the media, whom loves a good revolution.  A look at history shows bad things happen in Egypt when the jihadists are released from jail, even in an act of goodwill.  Sadat paid the price for such folly.

Perhaps most troubling is that Egypt and Libya border one another.  While it may not be the Caliphate, it seems the same forces are active in both countries, and their proximity will make whatever plans al-Qaeda has in the region all the more tenable.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and its the elements that are most willing to employ force in the Muslim world that always fill the voids.  Fundamentalist Islam has doomed the Muslim world to these options:  Either a heavy handed if anti-extremist ruler controls the country with harsh laws and uses of his security forces to crush extremists; religious extremists maintain power in many of the same ways while funding proxy terror orgs, as Iran does; or fundamentalist militants rain chaos and destruction,  such as in Somalia and Yemen.

None of this bodes well for Israel, and ultimately the West.  The Long War just got longer.

The man who almost defeated the American military

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The Hunt for Zarqawi, Part 1


Alexander in the Af-Pak War

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America no longer has the will to fight and win wars.  If our enemies are able to weather our airstrikes, we are wholly unprepared at nearly every level to place sufficient pressure on fanatical guerrillas whom find war a preferable state to peace.  Never in history has an army enjoyed such a monopoly on firepower and mobility as does America, and yet been so unwilling to use it. 

We are blessed by the geographical bulwarks of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and cursed with partisan demagogues in Washington who know little of military history or the culture of war.  Perfectly willing to start a war, the politicians don’t want to hear what it takes to win it.  No matter how much data multi-million dollar computer networks feed those in the Pentagon and Congress, few of the recipients of that data can feel our wars; the data crunchers and politicos can know the wars, but the visceral sensations of ground commanders and grunts will always be beyond them, as thus we can assume that almost all of their decisions will prove inadequate.  When war does not fit into comfort zones or proffered theories, many believe we just need to try harder to make the theories work.  Few would question the theories themselves lest horrible answers become truths.  

Washington’s elites are safe when we lose.  The 25 year old squad leader in Afghanistan is not. 

The quaint mythologies of counterinsurgency theorems have us following a Yellow Brick Road paved by Non-Governmental Agencies and State Department aid money.  We hoped that Oz was a place where suicidal zealots laid down their rifles and stopped making bombs in exchange for a school house and a new pair of shoes.  When the curtain was thrown aside to reveal the Wizard, we saw his bloody hand raised skyward, grasping the severed head of the school teacher.  And even when the sheer brutality and power of the Taliban terrorist revealed itself, we refused to believe what we saw.  We prefer to think that all men want peace, that brutality doesn’t work, and that killing cannot be the answer.  Convenient dreams for those in Washington whose greatest daily danger is a Tweeted revelation of sexual misconduct.  We question ourselves whereas the men of old, seeing the world more clearly than do we, quickly identified the problem and dealt with it.  Swimming is oceans of information, we find it more difficult to choose proper paths, but the ancient warriors of yore, though lacking technological aids—perhaps because he lacked those aids—instinctively discerned human psychology. 

Enter Alexander The Great.  Imagine for a moment that future technologies could spring the Macedonian king back to life and the modern social and political delusions that prevent decisive victories in war have vanished by the wayside.  Now place Alexander in command of history’s most powerful military and charge him with defeating the insurgency in Afghanistan.  First, we’ll have to listen to Alexander give us a history lesson.  Contrary to revisionists whom extol the invincibility of Afghans fighters, Alexander was never defeated by the people inhabiting the land we now call Afghanistan.  And then he would tell us that his tutor, Aristotle, wasn’t about giving peace a chance; the father of Western philosophy implored young Alexander to force Hellenistic ethnic supremacy upon the world of the barbarians. 

To the Neo-Alexander, defeating the Taliban begins with an offer to meet insurgent leadership at the bargaining table.  And here’s the offer: Submit or die.  This language resonates with the Taliban at a far deeper level than does the current Coalition Force offers of reintegration and power sharing.  A reasonable man, Alexander offers the Taliban their religion and way of life in exchange for their weapons.  The sovereign lines of the Pakistani border mean nothing.  They are semi-porous membranes that hold back American power and allow insurgents to move freely to and from their safe havens in Pakistan.  In response to each suicide bomber making his way from Western Pakistan, Alexander orders biometric identification through DNA testing, and using covert CIA intelligence cells seeded throughout Pakistan, identifies the village from which the suicide bomber originated. The Macedonian orders B-2 bomber and Reaper drone strikes on all known Madrassas in the village.  No apologies are offered for civilian casualties.  The retributive strikes are timely and painful.  The suicide bombers quickly transform from heroes to sources of great pain in the villages.  Soon, being a suicide bomber is disgraceful, not honorable. 

The terrorists resort to using their greatest weapon: The media.  In response, all media embeds are ordered to leave Afghanistan.  Journalists stream into North and South Waziristan, hoping to document American atrocities.  Members of the Haqqani Network set up ad hoc repeater stations, hoping to broadcast propaganda from small, handheld Motorola VHF radios.  America counters by dropping electromagnetic pulse bombs at random intervals into the tribal areas.  These weapons destroy any modern electronic equipment, leaving journalists to their pens and notebooks and Haqqani insurgents to courier communications.  

As for terrorist infiltration along the Pakistan border,  Alexander knows that not every infiltrator can be stopped.  However, it is possible to make crossing into Afghanistan too painful a gamble.  Areas along the border are declared free-fire zones.  Approximately 5 kilometers on each side of the border are free-fire; that is, since the areas are assumed cleared, anyone in those areas can be fired on.  The 5 kilometer range allows for ranges of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and Haqqani Network rocket fire, such as which killed two American Soldiers at FOB Salerno in May of 2011 (with no punitive action taken by the US military out of respect to our Pakistani “friends”). 

Entire villages will be held accountable for the actions of individuals that live within them.  Villagers in Afghanistan always know what goes on within the village.  Villages where US forces are attacked will be subject to curfews and those found to be involved in insurgent activity shall be given a field trial by US military officers and if found guilty, executed.  Special Operations night raids and air assaults will be constant in areas infested with Taliban, al-Qaeda and Haqqani fighters.  Protests by villagers about the night raids will be ignored, as most of these protests are spawned by agitated insurgents. The cooperation of local villagers is the goal, but America under Alexander will place the safety of her troops and the destruction of the insurgency above the safety of villagers.  Civilian casualties will be avoided when possible, but local Afghans will need to provide intelligence and information to American forces in order to ensure that America kills the right people.  Otherwise, the insurgents will merely use civilains as living shields.  Cooperation will help both the Afghans and America.  The “sanctity” of the people will no longer be assumed; entire populations can be just as evil as individuals.  The terrorists will be held to the same standards that the US military is held.  All war crimes will be prosecuted in the field if possible. 

The shrines of dead al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters will be closely monitored by payed CIA informants.  Sympathizers who come to venerate terrorist grave sites will be followed, and at a convenient time, interviewed and their biometric data entered into a huge data base known as BATS–Biometrically Automated Toolset.  These people will be placed on watch lists, denied entry to US bases, and denied the possibility of serving within Afghan government security forces for 5 years.  Individuals assessed to be of a higher threat level shall be denied access and government work on a permanent basis. 

Alexander will reward the friends of America.  India, the largest democracy on Earth, will be provided special trade rights.  She has earned it.  A full embargo of Pakistan will commence.  We have treated our enemies better than our friends in hopes that our goodwill would bring them to our side.  But they mistook our goodwill for weakness.  Those who fought bravely beside us, such as Britain, did not get 4 billion dollar rewards, such as did Pakistan. 

Every chance will be given to those in the Federally Administered tribal Region of Pakistan to formally surrender Siraj and Jallaludin Haqqani, the familial leaders of the Haqqani Network.  America will make war for a better peace denied her by maniacs.   Letters will dropped in each village in North and South Waziristan, telling the inhabitants to give up their weapons and submit to searches of their residences.  Aggressive actions taken by Pak military units will result in 5,000 lb GBU-28 Penetrator Bombs being dropped on all Pakistani nuclear missile sites, which have been carefully tracked by the National Ground Intelligence Center and the National Geospatial Agency for years.   Alexander–a genius at war–knows that this war will escalate.  All wars escalate.  But no one can out-escalate the United States Military.  

Villages not wishing to submit to search will be given 24 hours notice to evacuate.  Then the village will be razed by Fire Support Teams (FIST) utilizing 155 mm Howitzer fire and B-52 Arc Light strikes and tactical airstrikes under the guidance of Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) teams.  Not only will there be no apologies for these actions, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) units will broadcast images of the destruction to other villages, warning them of the implications of resistance. 

Anything less than the above guarantees an American defeat in Afghanistan.  If our leaders cannot do what Alexander would do, they should save the blood of our Soldiers and Marines and bring them home.  And they should never again begin or escalate a war for political gain if they don’t intend to win it. 



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Bin Laden, COIN, and the absurdity of war without escalation

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Recently, concerns have arisen about retaliatory attacks by al-Qaeda stemming from the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. 

This concern stems from the current small-wars counterinsurgency (COIN) meme; that by killing one enemy, you create 20 more.  However, this idea should by no means be considered a maxim.  Essentially, recent COIN methodology hoped for war without escalation, something that Clausewitz found to be absurd.  Clausewitz states that almost all wars must escalate:

“War is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force.  Each side, therefore, compels its opponent to follow suit; a reciprocal action is started which must lead, in theory, to extremes…To introduce the theory of moderation into the theory of war itself would always lead to logical absurdity.”[1]

But we know there is a limit to that escalation, otherwise history would have known only one war and it would have consumed all of humanity.  The question is always: What is the enemy’s breaking point? 

To illustrate the necessity of escalation in war, let’s picture two men arm wrestling.  As the match begins, one man—let’s call him Joe–thinks he is much stronger than the other (Steve) and doesn’t wish to humiliate or hurt his opponent, but does want to win, so Joe exerts only a percentage of his maximal possible force.  But suddenly Joe realizes that Steve is stronger than Joe expected, that his opponent actually seems to be giving it his all and doesn’t seem at all to care if Joe loses face in the masculine battle.  Joe cranks up the force, feeling a bit stupid at underestimating his opponent.  Steve senses Joe’s increased intensity, and he, too, leans into the match, his face turning a darkening red.  Now Joe again applies more pressure, and for once he sees Steve’s arm begin to move toward the table.  Steve is still giving it his all—his will is not yet broken—but he simply doesn’t have the power necessary to bring Joe’s arm down.  Finally, Joe senses victory and gives it everything he’s got.  As Steve’s wrist moves to within an inch of the table, Steve sees that defeat is inevitable and that further resistance will only bring pain.  Steve’s arm goes limp and Joe wins. 

Consider the above analogy with no escalation.  Both men would sit at the table forever.  The parallels to war are obvious.  Some may say that it is desirable that neither side escalate.  This is only the case if the war is not a shooting war, otherwise the killing would continue albeit at a slower rate, but for a much longer time.  At some point, one side’s will is sure to waiver.  It is highly unlikely that neither man in the arm wrestling match would choose not to escalate his use of power.  If neither man wanted to win an arm wrestling match, why did they take part in the first place?

The fallacy is that a war can be won without escalation.  If there is no escalation, it is not a war; it’s an intellectual debate. 

Yes, killing one man may indeed create 20 enemies.  This doesn’t mean the one man should not be killed.  Killing him would only be a mistake if analysis showed the enemy capable of out-escalating the killer.  There are a number of factors that dictate the level to which an enemy can escalate and many of them are not directly related to military strength.  In any case, no nation or enemy can escalate ad infinitum. To worry that al-Qaeda can escalate forever and always grossly overestimates their power and the constant media messaging hinting as al-Qaeda’s plots for revenge provide the terror group with moral courage.  It’s been said that America can’t kill an idea.  That’s true, but also moot.  America needs only make the actual practice of harmful ideas more painful than mere thoughts.  The COIN argument that killing one enemy makes 20 also shows itself to be overblown when we think about the effect of al-Qaeda and the Taliban killing one of our service people; do 20 more American soldiers magically sprout on the battlefield?  After enough deaths in a fight, do some Americans not begin to ask: Is it worth fighting on?  Losing soldiers has a real effect on our will and combat effectiveness.  It is the same with our enemies.

Of course, escalation need not take place at all costs.  There comes a time when the negative results of escalation outweigh anything that can be gained from it. That, too, is the same for our enemies.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) learned the cost of its Total Terror campaign and it also underestimated the ability and will of America to escalate.  AQI poisoned the sea in which it swam by killing too many Iraqi civilians and then America destroyed the insurgency by killing a lot of terrorists.  The violence in Iraq dropped dramatically. 

Will al-Qaeda plan revenge attacks for bin Laden’s death? Probably.  Would al-Qaeda have attacked the United States or other Western nations if bin Laden remained alive? Absolutely.  But in the end, al-Qaeda, like Japan at Pearl Harbor, banked on a knockout blow that it simply didn’t have the power to deliver.  Both escalated without giving thought to America’s ability to match and surpass her enemies’ violence.  To fret reprisal and hold back America’s power just as al-Qaeda strands ready for collapse will only empower terrorists and allow those almost dead to regenerate, to mock their betters in a war they know they can’t win without our help.

[1] Clausewitz, On War, Pg. 76.

Target: Bin Laden

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One of the most wanted men in the history of the world is dead.  And America killed him.  Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s terror-master, reportedly died within the last 24 hours, in Islamabad, Pakistan.  Bin Laden was not found in some remote cave.  He apparently lived quite comfortably in Pakistan’s capital.
The Pakistani government immediately declared that it’s shadowy intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, assisted the American government in finding bin Laden.   But in truth, the duplicitous  actions of the ISI hindered America’s efforts, cost American lives, and depleted the the will of the nation.  The ISI has direct ties to almost all strata of the insurgency in Afghanistan.  After bin Laden’s death was the declared, the Pakistani government scrambled to cover its crime of hiding bin Laden for a decade. When the CIA stopped sharing intelligence with the ISI, senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership started dying. In 2009, many terrorist leaders escaped because the ISI gave them forewarning of an impending CIA missile attack.   
A highly trained and competent covert special operations team located bin Laden’s residence, fought their way past his elite “Black Guard”, and finally killed bin Laden himself. 
Cynics will repeat the tired lines about making bin Laden a martyr.  These people do not understand the true nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan, nor the nature of war itself.  The truth is, the threat of martyrdom is part of the enemy’s propaganda, in hopes that we will be reluctant to kill important terrorist leaders.  The insurgents and terrorists are not fearless, all-knowing fighters, and their religious motivations for fighting are not as strong as sometimes reported.  Most of them fear death every day but are pushed into battle by leaders far from the frontlines.  Moreover, other al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders know that they can no longer depend on the Pakistani government for protection.  The game is up.  The message to other terrorists in Pakistan is: You are next.

Three Cups of Tea shatters into a Million Little Pieces

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 When I first arrived at Bagram Airfield in 2010 to begin my year-long tour in Afghanistan, Army leadership immediately implored me to Read Three Cups of Tea by Craig Mortenson. It was the way forward, some said. But a fellow intelligence analyst whom I trusted had little good to say about the book. He’d been to Afghanistan and Iraq for several combat tours and he told me the book gave the wrong picture of what was really happening on the ground.

 People kept talking about the book, so I took it upon myself to at least learn the author’s thesis. I did some digging and didn’t like what I found. I admit to never reading the book, primarily because much of what I read about Mortenson gave me the impression that he is a huckster with a genius for identifying useful idiots. And indeed, I believe his book created a whole host of acolytes in the military, bulwarked by starry-eyed 23 year old State Department employees who truly believe that if only we throw billions of dollars in the general direction of Islamist fanatics, the insurgency will melt away.

Instead, many of those billions have been wasted, and in many cases provided the Taliban with bullets and bombs. And we kept on making the same mistakes for years. Only now are we beginning to come around and remember that not all men want peace; as Vladimir Lenin stated:

“One man with a gun can control 100 without one.”

In many cases, while our military should have been concentrating on the basics of counterinsurgency in underdeveloped nations (building social structures and trust) we were building redundant structures of concrete and stone that often fell into disuse. When we should have been providing the friendly tribes with the ability to fight the insurgents, in many cases we fawningly erected near useless buildings that could not be maintained, hoping that these would act as scarecrows to the Taliban. Instead the development projects acted as a light to a swarm of hornets. The insurgents moved into many areas where development took place without first clearing the land of guerrillas and began a campaign of punishment and retribution amongst local villagers. Because of this, we lost the trust of some tribesmen. We built inanimate objects and ran away, forgetting that in warrior, tribal societies, it is not material goods that are most important, but the display of bravery, loyalty and honor. It was immoral to ask these villagers to reject the insurgency without providing them with the means to fight it because a well will not protect anyone from a Kalashnikov.

If the recent allegations about Mortenson are true, he lied about what he did in the mountains of Pakistan. But that is not where the damage to our efforts was done. The damage is in the implied effects of Mortenson’s possible fictions; that we can fight terrorism merely by engaging local populations and giving them things, that we don’t really need America’s warrior class in Afghanistan. I saw this attitude with my own eyes even amongst our military, where COIN became a euphemism for never firing a rifle.

 Mortenson’s good intentions, if he had any, were not enough and they have cost lives. Apologists for Mortenson (and they are legion), say that even if there are some parts of Three Cups of Tea that are not factual, the thesis of the book is true. That thesis, they say, is that we should be respectful of other cultures and treat people decently even while we fight our wars. Is this new American doctrine? Is it not common sense that we should not create any more enemies than is necessary to defeat the insurgency? This way of thinking was expounded by a much more qualified man than Mortenson in David Kilcullen’s, The Accidental Guerrilla. The effects that Three Cups of Tea has had in our war may be quantifiable by looking at the number of reviews written on Amazon—almost 3000. The Accidental Guerrilla is only worthy of approximately 70 reviews, and yet Kilcullen was the personal advisor to David Petraeus in Iraq. And I don’t suspect that many USAID people have read Kilcullen’s seminal work.

I cannot help but make the comparison between A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey and Three Cups of Tea. The writers of both books targeted a very specific audience and told them everything they wanted to hear about humanity. Mortenson has now admitted that parts of his book are “compressed versions” of what really took place. People who wanted pleasing answers were drawn to Frey’s and Mortenson’s stories and in both cases people in very high places were made to eat their share of crow. Fortunately we have moved forward from easy answers in Afghanistan. Since General David Petraeus took over, he has repeatedly communicated that there is a counter-terror aspect to all counterinsurgencies. Money, though still a weapon system, is a precision weapon, not a Rolling Thunder bombing campaign that makes things worse. In the south, the Taliban is on the run not because of tea time so much as the tough fighting of our troopers who treat locals with respect and decency, discover their underlying needs, and yet hunt America’s and Afghanistan’s enemies relentlessly, killing or capturing thousands of hardcore Taliban fighters.

Not exactly the stuff of Oprah’s Book Club.

It’s not about rights, it’s about adaption

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I remember when I was in college and driving on the University of Maine campus back in the early 90s. Young college students being the unenlightened ideologues they were and are, would often step into the road to cross without looking both ways for oncoming vehicles. I’m sure many of them simply regarded it as their right to cross the road, regardless of the dangers. It was the job of the car drivers to stop for them.

As a cop, I would tell people that “rights” were not force fields set against the laws of physics. Even if a person does have the right of way to cross, it’s still a good idea to look both ways before one steps into the street. Just because the state has given you the right to cross and mandates that a vehicle stop and wait (this is not always the case by the way), doesn’t mean that a .5 ton car will bounce off you in reverence of state law. As such, I consider a pat down the same as looking both ways. A little more time, but it’s worth it, with no material harm done. If the government took cash out of my pocket every time I stepped through security, then I’d have a problem. It seems the right to be un-offended is the only right being violated. And as a cop, I offended many sensibilities, to the point where I didn’t want to tell people what my job was, lest they give me a laundry list of how their rights had been violated by cops in the past.

And I think that this idea applies to pat downs and other security measures taken to minimize the threats of terrorism. Some want to stubbornly stand their ground claiming their right to be free of too much government intervention. But what about all of the people getting on the plane that want to know that no body else is carrying a bomb? Legal rights will not protect them from an explosion.

But as far as I can see, no one’s rights are being violated. People of course can sue the government claiming that search and seizure laws are being violated. If they are, I feel confident that the courts will figure it out. I also suspect they’ll come to the same conclusions as before.  

This also leads me to the second part of this posting, which is that some people want to call this a war, and yet do not want to feel the least inconvenienced by it. In this America and in this war, it is a very small percentage of the people doing the actual fighting and suffering. There’s been no draft, no co-opting of industry by the government, no forced imprisonment of Muslims simply for being Muslim. In fact the the majority of the discomfort experienced by Americans is the ceaseless drum beat of news coverage about the war. Would most people really know there’s a war on if the news didn’t tell them so?

All of these facts stand in stark reality to what Americans of past generations faced in war. Conscription, racially based imprisonment, huge death rates. None of which we face today. And yet a pat down has some saying that the terrorists are winning because we’ve been forced to change something in our day-to-day lives. Well excuse me for thinking that that’s to be expected in a war.

“We’re  only fighting yesterday’s threat”, some say. Yes. But if you didn’t fight yesterday’s threat, it would continue to be today’s threat. If I’m in a gunfight, and I keep shooting enemy soldiers in the chest because they have no body armor, guess where I’ll be aiming in the next fight? The chest–it’s the biggest target with plenty of blood in it. Put body armor on the enemy and suddenly I have to aim for something less lethal or at least smaller, like the head –a notoriously bad gamble in a gun fight. And so it goes with terrorists. Yes we have to constantly adapt. Sometimes that means inconvenience (in the most convenient age in history). When we find our rules too constricting, we, as now, will be forced to consider what we value more: Our rights and convenience or security.