Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Kill Chain

Posted by Charles II on May 18, 2015

On Book TV, Andrew Cockburn in his book Kill Chain gives a realistic assessment of what drones can and cannot do (see here for an unrealistic estimate).

* We were warned by Pentagon whistleblower Tom Christie that drones only hit 21% of their targets (current accuracy may be better)
* A study of intercepting illegal border crossers in the US showed that a spotter in a Cessna outperformed five drones
* A large part of the push to drones is financial
* Drone imaging is not good enough to tell the difference between a young teen and an adult man, or between a woman and a man, especially in low light
* Targeted assassination doesn’t work. According to a study in Iraq by Rex Rivolo, attacks increased after leaders were killed. The replacements for leaders are often their relatives, intent on revenge and, of course, any collateral damage improves recruiting.
* Liberals are very keen on drones as a means of limiting casualties. However, drones terrorize and disrupt whole societies, since civilians know they are being constantly watched. Therefore, even as tools of reconnaissance, they have problems.

I recommend listening to Cockburn.

Posted in Afghanistan, drones, Iraq, terrorism | Comments Off on Kill Chain

Is Al Qaeda winning the long war?

Posted by Charles II on March 28, 2014


PATRICK COCKBURN: The Saudis have got rather nervous at the moment that—having supported these jihadi groups, that are all either linked to al-Qaeda or have exactly the same ideology and method of action of al-Qaeda, so they’ve introduced some laws saying that—against Saudis fighting in Syria or elsewhere. But it’s probably too late for this to have any effect. The al-Qaeda-type organizations really control a massive area in northern and eastern Syria at the moment and northern and western Iraq. The largest number of volunteers fighting with these al-Qaeda-type groups are Saudi. Most of the money originally came from there. But these people now control their own oil wells. They probably are less reliant on Saudi money.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010. In a December 2009 memo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. She writes, quote, “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority… donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move onto a segment next on Iraq. And earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents in western Anbar province.

PATRICK COCKBURN: …these declarations of victory, I think, just divert attention from the fact that you look at the map, that al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-type groups, that are no different from those that followed Osama bin Laden, now control a large territory. They have large revenues from oil wells. They have lots of experienced people. At the moment, they’re fighting against Assad and the Iraqi government. But they don’t like the governments of the West anymore. They’re not ideologically committed to only one enemy in their home countries. So if they do want to start making attacks in the West again along the lines of 9/11, they’re far better equipped militarily and politically, financially and any other way than they were when the attacks of 9/11 were originally made.

Beau Barnes, Small Wars Journal, describing the late Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book:

These new leaders—with both strong local ties and loyalty to Al-Qaeda—will then render the broader jihadist movement inextricable from organizations like the original Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Somalia’s Al Shabaab. According to this logic, if every Muslim militant organization in the world is “part of Al-Qaeda,” then Al-Qaeda itself will never be defeated.

I’ve been reading the book and, while I think that Shahzad got caught up with the romance of rebellion, what he describes is a great intensity and focus by the Taliban… unlike certain US generals who are focused on affairs and self-enrichment.

The Taliban, who are the water in which Al Qaeda swims, strengthened itself by establishing a system of justice in an area of Pakistan where government incompetence and corruption was the rule. The long war is the war to establish genuine representative government. When we have so done, our cause has usually prevailed. When we have not, it has generally failed.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan | 1 Comment »

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Posted by Charles II on April 11, 2012

“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” —John Kerry, before he joined the Dark Side.

Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis:

[Executive Summary]
Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war. The single greatest penalty our Nation has suffered, however, has been that we have lost the blood, limbs and lives of tens of thousands of American Service Members with little to no gain to our country as a consequence of this deception.

Final Takeaway: If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer.

You know, counterinsurgency is not actually that difficult. If people want you to help them suppress a violent faction, they will help you to do it. If they are not helping, it is a very good bet that they do not want your help.

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Posted in Afghanistan, wrong way to go about it | 2 Comments »

Why we fight?

Posted by Charles II on March 2, 2012

Via Alyona on RT, George Zornick of The Nation:

According to a Defense Department spokesman, the most recent operation that killed an Al Qaeda fighter was in April 2011—ten months ago. However, there was an “Al Qaeda foreign fighter” captured near Kabul in May 2011, and an “Al Qaeda facilitator” captured in the Paktiya province on January 30 of this year.

By comparison, there have been 466 coalition fatalities since April 2011.

One cannot parody America of 2012. We are living in a cartoon.

Posted in Afghanistan | Comments Off on Why we fight?

Blowback Central: Online propaganda website

Posted by Charles II on November 26, 2011

Via Scott Horton, we learn from Foreign Policy’s David Trilling that the US taxpayer is funding the Pentagon’s lie machine to improve the image of dictators who boil their political opponents to death, and the like:

Over the past three years, a subdivision of Virginia-based General Dynamics has set up and run a network of eight “influence websites” funded by the Defense Department with more than $120 million in taxpayer money. The sites, collectively known as the Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI) and operated by General Dynamics Information Technology, focus on geographic areas under the purview of various U.S. combatant commands, including U.S. Central Command. In its coverage of Uzbekistan, a repressive dictatorship increasingly important to U.S. military goals in Afghanistan, a TRWI website called Central Asia Online has shown a disturbing tendency to downplay the autocracy’s rights abuses and uncritically promote its claims of terrorist threats.

Central Asia Online was created in 2008…

The target is “online audiences” in the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics, plus Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the material — mostly about security and published in English, Russian, Urdu, and Farsi — also seeps into local newspapers, websites, and news aggregators around the world, expanding the site’s readership. Though it is the responsibility of those outlets to attribute, many, at least in Central Asia, do not, billing the stories as original, local reporting, rather than DOD propaganda.

It’s not illegal for the US to lie to foreign countries. But now we have to assume that misinformation originating from the US could end up in places like Dawn or the India Times…and thence, perhaps, in The Washington Post or The Washington Times, where it can be used to mislead the people voting on…contracts to General Dynamics.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pentagon, propaganda | Comments Off on Blowback Central: Online propaganda website

Obama rocks Campbell

Posted by Charles II on May 6, 2011

Obama’s speech at Ft. Campbell was noteworthy not for what it said, but for where and to whom it was said. Ft. Campbell has suffered enormous grief from men who took their own lives from the stress of war and, very recently, from four deaths due to a suicide bombing. The 101st Airborne and other Ft. Campbell units, including a battalion of the Nightstalkers (the organization on the bin Laden raid) represent 20% of the soldiers in Afghanistan. Perhaps the 101’s proudest moment, one that will endure when people ask “Osama who?”, was when it helped to liberate Little Rock Central High School from the dark forces of oppression.

Obama’s message was pretty simple. He did not boast about killing bin Laden, but connected it seamlessly to the actions of the 101 in Afghanistan in 2001-2. He made it clear that there will be no abrupt change in troop levels in Afghanistan. In effect, he promised the men that the US will have a military victory over the Taliban, although that may be by means of Aghan proxies. And he told the troops and their families that we have to tough it out through the deaths, the recession, and all the other sorrows. He told the inspiring story of a girl who was four years old when her father called her from the World Trade Center, where he was trapped. He told her that he was unlikely to make it out, and that he wanted her to remember always that he loved her and would be watching over her. Today, she is doing well in school, looking toward the future, and helping younger students.

There are some pretty tough people at Ft. Campbell–the soldiers, too. But one could see some tears in the eyes of the men, men who had been given hope that someday this will be over.

May it be so.

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, military, Osama bin Laden | 1 Comment »

So long and thanks for all the wars

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2011

[corrected 11:51 PM Eastern] White House sources says that Osama bin Laden is dead.

President Obama has addressed the nation here. A small team of Americans attacked a compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan and killed bin Laden. There were no American casualties.

Maybe this will allow us to declare victory and stop the foolishness. The whole point of the September 11th attacks was to bait us into unwise, unjust, and extremely expensive action. Lured in by the deaths of 2,977 Americans at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Shanksville PA, we lost 5,885 American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additional troops from other countries have died, as have first responders (and others) afflicted with lung disease and other disorders due to the pollution of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans died as a consequence of war through the effects of malnutrition, disease, sectarian fighting, and combat with American forces. The costs of the wars will probably top 3 Trillion dollars. The damage to our civil liberties will never be undone.

Osama bin Laden was not worth any of this.

Obama says that justice has been done this night. While there was never any doubt that bin Laden had to suffer for ordering the attacks of 9/11, it’s hard to call it justice when the death of one man is supposed to pay for loss this enormous. But maybe we will start to wake up from our national nightmare.

Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq war, Osama bin Laden | 10 Comments »

Like watching Civilization III

Posted by Charles II on January 28, 2011

The rising demonstrations in Egypt and Yemen, following the overthrow of the Tunisian government and tensions in Jordan and Lebanon is extremely serious, amounting to a region-wide insurrection. In Turkey, fortunately, the generals have allowed the accession to power of a genuine nationalist government, so the conflagration is unlikely to extend there. But Iraqis could very easily decide that now is the time to end American hegemony in that country. The troops in-country are no longer front line combat troops and, even if they were, it’s unclear what they could do. As I posted when it happened, “The prolonged wars that the United States has engaged in have shaken the very foundations of its power.”

Civ III, which is in many ways a laughably simplistic game employing racial stereotyping and reducing complex issues of international relations to simple bribes, nevertheless manages to capture this effect reasonably accurately. Genuine democracies are more productive than more authoritarian governments so, as long as they are militarily strong enough to deter threats of war, they tend to outperform authoritarians. However, when they engage in prolonged wars, democracy breaks down, the society becomes less productive with the rise of authoritarianism, and eventually–if they don’t end the wars–they decay into anarchy.

The US has been engaged in war really since 1941. After the World War, the Cold War started immediately, and had within it wars in Vietnam and Korea as well as dozens of interventions worldwide. Then, when the Cold War ended came the Gulf War. There was a brief lull in which there was still the Bosnian conflict, and then 911 with subsequent wars that have raged longer than any other American conflict. Of the 70 years since World War II began, only about 30 years have been even nominally free of open conflict.

At every stage since the end of World War II, the United States has alienated allies and made enemies around the world. It has done so by installing and sustaining dictatorships, by calling nations with shady elections, an unfree press, and brutal police states “democratic”, and by failing to deliver to the populations of many countries the prosperity that they see on television… even if most Americans live much more humbly. It has refused to lead on issues of vital interest to most of humanity, the refusal to do anything about global warming being the most recent and conspicuous. Instead, it has come up with an unbelievable number of means to make life more desperate for people, ranging from the austerity regimes of the IMF to its support for privatization of water, electricity, and other vital public services. And, of course, it has sold weapons like tear gas and armored vehicles, weapons that are used not for defense but for repression, to dictatorships like Honduras and Egypt.

The release of some documents by Wikileaks–certainly a consequence of lies and unjust wars, but also perhaps of the maltreatment of gays in the military, if Bradley Manning did the leaking–hasn’t done anything except validate what many of us have said all along. The US government is not acting as an honest broker. It is serving corporate interests, even when those interests endanger the national security.

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Posted in Afghanistan, Conflict in the Middle East, Iraq war | 2 Comments »

How Bush lost bin Laden and opened the door to the Afghan insurgency

Posted by Charles II on September 12, 2010

National Security Archive Update, September 13, 2010

“No-Go” Tribal Areas Became Basis for Afghan Insurgency Documents Show

U.S. had “Absolutely No Inclination” to Negotiate with Taliban September 2001; Pakistan Disagreed, Claimed “Real Victory” Only Through Talks

Washington’s Immediate 9/11 Demands to Islamabad

For more information contact:
Barbara Elias – (202) 994-7000 /

Washington, DC, September 13, 2010 – Pakistani tribal areas where Osama bin Laden found refuge were momentarily open to the Pakistani Army when “the tribes were overawed by U.S. firepower” after 9/11, but quickly again became “no-go areas” where the Taliban could reorganize and plan their resurgence in Afghanistan, according to previously secret U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive and posted today at

According to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann, the 2005 Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan was a direct product of the “four years that the Taliban has had to reorganize and think about their approach in a sanctuary beyond the reach of either government.” This had exponentially increased casualties as the Taliban adopted insurgency tactics successful in Iraq, including suicide bombings and the use of IEDs. Ambassador Neumann warned Washington that if the sanctuary in Pakistan were not addressed it would “lead to the re-emergence of the same strategic threat to the United States that prompted our OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] intervention” in 2001.

As current U.S. strategy increasingly pursues policies to reconcile or “flip” the Taliban, the document collection released today reveals Washington’s refusal to negotiate with Taliban leadership directly after 9/11. On September 13, 2001, U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin “bluntly” told Pakistani President Musharraf that there was “absolutely no inclination in Washington to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban. The time for dialog was finished as of September 11.” Pakistan, as the Taliban’s primary sponsor, disagreed. Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) Chief Mahmoud told the ambassador “not to act in anger. Real victory will come in negotiations… If the Taliban are eliminated… Afghanistan will revert to warlordism.”

The new materials also illustrate the importance of the bilateral alliance to leaders in both Islamabad and Washington. One cable described seven demands delivered to Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) Director Mahmoud by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage two days after the attack, while another reported Pakistani President Musharraf’s acceptance of those requests “without conditions” the next day. However, the documents also reveal fundamental disagreements and distrust. While Pakistan denied that it was a safe haven for anti-American forces, a State Department Issue Paper for the Vice President claimed “some Taliban leaders operate with relative impunity in some Pakistani cities, and may still enjoy support from the lower echelons of Pakistan’s ISI.”

Posted in Afghanistan, BushCo malfeasance, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan | Comments Off on How Bush lost bin Laden and opened the door to the Afghan insurgency

Right-Wing Nutjobs Allied With Al-Qaeda

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 7, 2010

David Dayen points out the extreme conservative rejection of General Petraeus’ eminently sensible statement concerning the inflammatory effect (and consequent public-relations bonanza for America’s enemies) that a Florida preacher’s planned burning of copies of the Koran is likely to have on the Muslim world:

Shut the Fuck Up Pussypants Petraeus!… If we want to help our troops, we need to remove Obama and Petraeus from the battlefield and let our troops do their job—eliminate the enemy—the ragheads. Not fucking coddle and community organize them…

General Petraeus treasonous to freedom… Let it be known that in the name of freedom others may burn the Bible, build mosques on our sore spots but they cannot stomp on our freedoms… To imagine that we should give up freedoms in order to help an Islamic nation is beyond absurd. It is treason to the cause of freedom…

General Petraeus needs to be blunt: People like the Florida preacher and his defenders are among Al-Qaeda’s best recruiters.

Per Terrorist Strategy 101 (written nearly six years ago, but still unfortunately pertinent):

Question 4: What is Bin Laden’s immediate goal?

If you’ve been paying attention, you should get this one right: His immediate goal is to radicalize the hundreds of millions of Muslims who sympathize with the vision of a restored Caliphate, but have better things to do with their lives than join the jihad. A particular problem for Bin Laden are all the Muslims who think that they can find an acceptable place for themselves in a world order dominated by the United States.

I won’t insult your intelligence by asking you who his best allies are in reaching this goal: President Bush, obviously, and all of the neo-conservatives in the Pentagon who push for the most aggressive response to the terrorist threat. Also the Christian leaders like Franklin (son of Billy) Graham, who regularly denounce Islam in terms that look fabulous on Al Qaeda’s equivalent of the locker-room bulletin board. John Ashcroft — and anyone else who mistreats assimilating Arabs and thereby convinces them that they will never really be welcome in America — is also an ally.

It doesn’t matter how much they hate him or denounce his deeds; anyone who radicalizes Muslims is doing Bin Laden’s work for him. President Bush may as well have been reading from an Al Qaeda script when he referred to the War on Terror as a “crusade”. Muslims know their history and know exactly what a crusade is: Christians invade and steal your land. People who didn’t believe this when they heard it from Bin Laden have now heard it from the Crusader-in-Chief.

Posted in 2010, Afghanistan, anti-Muslim, eedjits, evil, Iraq war, rightwing moral cripples, terrorism | 31 Comments »