Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door."

The USO has spent 65 years in the service of the members of our armed forces. Yesterday, Chuck Norris visited several bases in Iraq, the USO's press release.

Photo credit: USO photo by Mike Theiler

USAF Senior Airman Adam Warden of Mound, Minnesota, jokes as Chuck Norris has him in a choke hold during a stop at the mess hall at base in Kuwait.

There have been a number of "Chuck Norris Facts" circulating on the Internet in recent years. They tend to be absurd and very humorous. I've read about "Chuck Norris facts" appearing in Iraq. I know from a friend that the Marines of a certain base in Iraq were very excited that Walker would be coming to visit. In early October, TIME magazine published a letter from a Marine intelligence officer concerning Iraq. There was a "best Chuck Norris moment" in that letter.

Visits such as this must have a tremendous positive impact on troop morale.

This post will remain at the top of this blog for the rest of the day.

Pressure builds in Iraq

There are four general goals for Iraq that must be achieved, or else the violence will continue and may intensify.
1. Disarm the Shiite militias

2. Disarm the Sunni insurgency

3. Share the oil wealth

4. Create a government that can draw in most ethnic/tribal groups
4.a. A government seen as legitimate

4.b. A government capable of providing security and services

4.c. A government that is not usurped by militias
When we review the state of affairs in Iraq, we should keep these in mind.

Thirty Shiite civilians were kidnapped from a bus on their way to Balad, BBC News.

Nouri al Maliki ordered the Iraqi and American forces encircling Sadr city to stand down, the New York Times. Zeyad, of Healing Iraq, said that the presence of military forces lead to coup rumors in Baghdad. This is another indication that Maliki does not have the political strength to take on Sadr's militia. The Washington Post:
Precisely at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST), the deadline set by Maliki, U.S. armored personnel carriers pulled away from the roadblocks. Young men in pickup trucks drove through the streets waving banners of the Mahdi Army, and drivers of other vehicles honked their horns in celebration.

It was the Maliki government's greatest demonstration of independence from the occupying U.S. military forces, following two weeks of heated exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials. But it was also a reminder of the degree to which Maliki must cooperate with Sadr, who leads the political party that comprises one of the biggest blocs in the governing alliance and effectively runs the Shiite stronghold named for his deceased father.

Maliki has been harshly criticized by U.S. officials here and in Washington for not acting aggressively enough to combat and disarm the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias, some of which have infiltrated Iraqi police stations . At the same time, the U.S. government has been calling on Iraq to embrace timelines and benchmarks for progress, and Maliki instead has stressed his independence from the United States.
Mike, of Born at the Crest of Empire, pointed out a New York Times story on Stephen Hadley's trip to Iraq. There are rumors that the United States may increase troop strength in Iraq by as many as 10,000 to 30,000. In the past, the U.S. has increased troop strength by a lesser degree -- brigade by brigade. CBS has reported that American commanders may request 100,000 more Iraqi troops for the total size of the force. CNN has reported the number may only be 30,000. According to CNN, there are 310,000 Iraqi troops that are trained and equipped. The goal is set at 325,000.

The Boston Globe reports that reconstruction projects are not living up to the hype:
WASHINGTON -- Deteriorating security in Iraq and bureaucratic wrangling between the State Department and the Pentagon have undermined the US government's effort to train provincial governments, according to a report to Congress released yesterday by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.


Now, a year later, only four provinces out of 13 examined by the special inspector general's office had US personnel that were "generally able" to carry out their missions, according to a detailed audit on the teams released by the inspector general on Sunday. Teams helping nine other provincial governments reported varying degrees of success, from "somewhat able" to "generally unable" to fulfill their missions.
The Iraqi government has asked for $100 billion in aid over the next five years, AP. This aid would be for the restoration of infrastructure. However, it is hard to actually estimate how much infrastructure will cost when there is a robust insurgency attacking infrastructure projects.

Iraqi forces have demonstrated a broad lack of reliability. Some units have carried themselves well, of course. Many Iraqis have sacrificed everything to try and bring peace and stability to their country. But, relying on Iraqi forces is not a prudent step in the near-term. Requests for six battalions of Iraqi forces for operations in Baghdad resulted in two units. If the United States wants to increase combat power in Iraq, they will have to hold units as more units rotate into the country. As Baghdad is the key to preserving this fledgling Iraq government, we should expect some units will remain on extended tours in Iraq. The last published source I read indicated that the Stryker Brigade (172nd, Alaska based) will leave Iraq in November. Their tour was originally extended till Christmas. The 4th ID is scheduled to leave Iraq in November. They will return to their base in Fort Hood. Their replacement is the First Cav, also based at Fort Hood. Michael Gordon of the New York Times wrote a few weeks ago that the 4 ID may stay in Iraq for a longer tour while their neighbors arrive in the capital. I think this is very likely to happen.

There are few developments that have a positive impact on the four main goals outlined at the beginning of this post. Most likely for this reason, U.S. commanders are privately thinking about timetables and benchmarks -- with teeth, I assume. The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON -- Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

"Deadlines could help ensure that the Iraqi leaders recognize the imperative of coming to grips with the tough decisions they've got to make for there to be progress in the political arena," said a senior Army officer who has served in Iraq. He asked that his name not be used because he did not want to publicly disagree with the stated policy of the president.

An "unholy" alliance against Tony Blair

The sub-headling for one Guardian account of tonight's vote is:
The government is facing an unholy coalition of Tories, Lib Dems, nationalists and, of course, their own rebels in tonight's Commons vote, writes Tania Branigan
Tony Blair may face a stunning defeat in the Commons tonight. The Guardian:
Downing Street has warned there would be "very real consequences" for British troops if the government is defeated tonight in a crunch vote on whether to hold another inquiry into the Iraq war.

The warning came amid increased speculation that opposition parties could succeed in their attempt to embarrass the government.

Tonight's motion, tabled by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, demands an immediate investigation of the war by a committee of senior MPs.

But a Tory amendment calls for an inquiry along the lines of the Franks report into the Falklands War at an "appropriate time" within the next year.

The Conservatives have warned that if their compromise is not accepted, they will "reluctantly" back the nationalists' call for an immediate inquiry in order to make the government think again.

The Tories' threat to back the Scottish and Welsh nationalists' motion is thought to have caught government chiefs unawares.

One insider said up to 50 Labour MPs are absent from the Commons today, making the likelihood of a government defeat even greater.

Tory and Scottish National party insiders seemed uncertain of victory but they claimed the closer the result the more embarrassing it would be for Mr Blair.
This vote will be close. But, it seems like someone might be counting seats and positioning Blair for a defeat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Britian's report geared to America's leadership

Tony Blair has quickly issued praise for this report. The Economist, not exactly a left wing paper, has a positive recap:
SIR NICHOLAS STERN, the head of the British Government Economic Service, has produced the world’s first big report on the economics of climate change. But his 700-page effort, although stuffed with figures, is not really about economics. It is about politics—the politics of getting America to lead a global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The purpose of Sir Nicholas’s report—commissioned by Tony Blair—is to deal with the argument of people who accept that climate change is happening, but who say that trying to do anything about it would be a waste of money. This argument is heard occasionally in Europe and frequently in America, where, for added potency, it is combined with the notion that European attempts to tax carbon are part of a conspiracy by socialists determined to undermine the American way of life.


But there is one country towards which Sir Nicholas gestures when he writes of the need for “demonstrating leadership” and “working to build trust”, without which all efforts to deal with the problem will fail: America. (China may well become a bigger polluter than America, but persuading it to do something about climate change will be near impossible if America does not act first). Sir Nicholas does not explain how to solve the difficulty of getting America on board. But if he succeeds in persuading policymakers that the American way of life is better preserved by dealing with climate change than by ignoring it, he himself might be part of the solution.

"Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits."

Perhaps you have seen the Chuck Norris emails, a sort of ironic and acrid improvisational movement housed on the Internet. (Click on that link to learn more about these jokes.)

Imagine how a chow hall full of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen will react to this, USO:
ARLINGTON, Va., October 26, 2006 – Film and television star Chuck Norris will soon depart on his first USO tour, visiting service members stationed in the Persian Gulf. Norris, who will be accompanied by actor Marshall Teague, will meet with service members and sign autographs.

An Air Force veteran, Norris is known around the world for his starring role on the TV hit “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He also has starred in more than 20 motion pictures, including “Delta Force,” “Missing in Action” and “Sidekicks.” The actor is an accomplished author and renowned teacher of martial arts. His autobiography, “Against All Odds,” was a New York Times best seller in 2004. He recently completed his first work of fiction, “The Justice Riders.” An in-demand public speaker, Norris has received numerous honors, including Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Celebrity Wish Granter of the Year and the Veteran Foundation’s Veteran of the Year.
"Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bloody and brutal winter in Afghanistan?

(HT to Mike for the Observer link.) The Observer today:
The Taliban are planning a major winter offensive combining their diverse factions in a push on the Afghan capital, Kabul, intelligence analysts and sources among the militia have revealed.
The thrust will involve a concerted attempt to take control of surrounding provinces, a bid to cut the key commercial highway linking the capital with the eastern city of Jalalabad, and operations designed to tie down British and other Nato troops in the south.


Since their resurgence earlier this year the Taliban have made steady progress towards Kabul from their heartland in the south-east around Kandahar, establishing a presence in Ghazni province an hour's drive from the suburbs. They do not expect to capture the capital but aim to continue destabilising the increasingly fragile Karzai government and influence Western public opinion to force a withdrawal of troops. 'The aim is clear,' said the source. 'Force the international representatives of the crusader Zionist alliance out, and finish with their puppet government.'

A winter offensive breaks with tradition. 'Usually all Afghans do in the winter is try and stay warm,' said a Western military intelligence specialist in Kabul. 'The coming months are likely to see intense fighting, suicide bombings and unmanned roadside bombs. That is a measure of how much the Taliban have changed.'

The new Taliban, a rough alliance of Islamist zealots, teenagers seeking adventure, disgruntled villagers led by tribal elders alienated from the government, drug dealers and smugglers - is no longer the parochial, traditional militia that seized Kabul almost exactly 10 years ago and was ousted by the American-led coalition in 2001. Tactics, ideology, equipment and organisation have all moved on. The use of suicide bombings, roadside bombs and targeted assassinations of those cooperating with Western forces are methods copied from Iraqi insurgents.

'They can't engage in big groups so... they've moved on to these targeted assassinations,' said Naimatullah Khan, deputy chief of the local council in southern Kandahar province, who has seen several colleagues killed. More than 70 suicide bombings, four times as many as last year, have together killed scores of civilians. In 2001 the tactic was almost unknown among Afghans. French intelligence sources say militants are heading to Afghanistan rather than Iraq.
Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online appears to be better connected than most with the Taliban. Earlier in the month, he said that small unit actions will continue for the winter but that an "intifada" will start up as the snows melt. Mullah Muhammad Omar released a post-Ramadan tape stating that there would be many attacks in the coming months, CNN.

Mao detailed three phases of insurgency. The first is one of "survival". This is followed by a second phase that includes dramatic actions -- high profile attacks and small engagements. The third phase is a blend of insurgency and conventional attacks, it is the "decisive phase". The Taliban might believe that they are at a third-stage capability now, especially as the war in Afghanistan is less popular in Britain and Canada than most Americans realize. However, the Taliban are most likely overestimating their position if they believe this.

It is also possible that the Taliban will continue Iraq-like dramatic attacks through the winter, resulting in some carnage and a loss of popular support for Karzai's government and foreign troops. Then, perhaps the Taliban will try more decisive action and the seizure of additional territory.

Now is the time for more troops in Afganistan. If the Taliban try to do more than they can, they will suffer the consequences. However, insurgencies are adaptable. Insurgents make mistakes but quickly re-adjust. Even if the Taliban launches an ill-advised offensive and suffers losses, they will still be a thorn in our side for a number of years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Word play

A linguist offers some interesting points in today's New York Times:
To fully understand why the president’s change in linguistic strategy won’t work, it’s helpful to consider why “stay the course” possesses such power. The answer lies in metaphorical thought.

Metaphors are more than language; they can govern thought and behavior. A recent University of Toronto study, for example, demonstrated the power of metaphors that connect morality and purity: People who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn’t, the researchers found.

“Stay the course” is a particularly powerful metaphor because it can activate so many of our emotions. Because physical actions require movement, we commonly understand action as motion. Because achieving goals so often requires going to a particular place — to the refrigerator to get a cold beer, say — we think of goals as reaching destinations.

Another widespread — and powerful — metaphor is that moral action involves staying on a prescribed path, and straying from the path is immoral. In modern conservative discourse, “character” is seen through the metaphor of moral strength, being unbending in the face of immoral forces. “Backbone,” we call it.

In the context of a metaphorical war against evil, “stay the course” evoked all these emotion-laden metaphors. The phrase enabled the president to act the way he’d been acting — and to demonstrate that it was his strong character that enabled him to stay on the moral path.

To not stay the course evokes the same metaphors, but says you are not steadfast, not morally strong. In addition, it means not getting to your destination — that is, not achieving your original purpose. In other words, you are lacking in character and strength; you are unable to “complete the mission” and “achieve the goal.”

“Stay the course” was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president’s policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one’s moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.

And if the president loses, does that mean the Democrats will win? Perhaps. But if they do, it will be because of Republican missteps and not because they’ve acted with strategic brilliance. Their “new direction” slogan offers no values and no positive vision. It is taken from a standard poll question, “Do you like the direction the nation is headed in?”

This is a shame. The Democrats are giving up a golden opportunity to accurately frame their values and deepest principles (even on national security), to forge a public identity that fits those values — and perhaps to win more close races by being positive and having a vision worth voting for.

Right now, though, no language articulating a Democratic vision seems in the offing. If the Democrats don’t find a more assertive strategy, their gains will be short-lived.

The Thirty Years War

At first, I thought this would be a generic "Iraq news" post. Then I noticed two references to a long conflict in European history -- though the second might just be a time-frame.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the difficulty of Kurdish separatists in Northern Iraq. My excerpt might be the least important detail of the story, but I found it fascinating:
In northern Iraq, the PKK militants get training in Shakespeare and Goethe, in the military tactics of the Thirty Years' War and how to operate a Russian-made BKC machine gun and a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher.

"We are here for one reason, and that is to obtain the objective of the freedom of our people of Kurdistan," said a doe-eyed young guerrilla who gave her name only as Ozgur and said she joined the movement when she was 13.
The amount of violence in Baghdad has dimininished, at least for now, AP:
Since Ramadan's end, killings in parts of Baghdad where security forces have established a firm presence have fallen by 10% to 20%, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Thursday.

He speculated that was due to the holiday festivities, as well as massive deployment of U.S. troops in the capital to search for a missing Army linguist of Iraqi descent who was abducted while visiting relatives on Monday.
Paul Rogers, of Open Democracy, writes the following -- please do not consider this my endorsement:
But there would most definitely not be a wholesale US military withdrawal from the Persian Gulf region, which will remain the most important region in the world from Washington's perspective for at least a generation. Even if an utter fiasco ensues in Iraq, the Pentagon would hang on in the region and seek to use other methods to exercise influence and control.

This "solution" will, however, create a new, double-edged fault-line for the United States. Its first aspect is that any major US presence at the heart of the Islamic world in the region will remain a gift to al-Qaida and other jihadi groups. These groups will also be invigorated by the fact that the US's repositioning was the result - or could plausibly be presented as the result - of their victory in Iraq.

The second aspect is that a wholesale US withdrawal from Iraq will leave Iran as the main regional power. This would be unacceptable to Washington and would set the scene for a long-term confrontation.

An earlier column in this series, written just as the Saddam Hussein regime was collapsing in early April 2003, suggested with some temerity that a thirty-year war was in the offing ("A thirty-year war", 4 April 2003). With the extraordinary prospect of an American defeat in Iraq now possible, the only adjustment to that outlook is that such a decades-long conflict may not be restricted to Iraq but might now come to embrace the wider region.
Makes you think about that Thirty Years' War class, at the least.

While on the topic of history, there is a review of The Shia Revival at Asia Times Online:
The actual bones of Shi'ite-Sunni contention are control of state resources and wealth along communal lines. Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is the font of spirituality for the Shi'ites, who claim that the former anointed the latter as his successor at Ghadir Khumm. Initial usurpation of Ali's right to govern by the caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman is an affront to Shi'ite notions of ideal Islamic leadership. The martyrdom of Ali's son Husayn at the hands of Yazid in the battle of Karbala (AD 680) is confirmation to Shi'ites that the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates were illegitimate and oppressive. The Husayn story is often invoked to define Shi'ite troubles in modern times. Saddam Hussein is, for instance, likened to Yazid. Shi'ism's ideal is fighting for security against Sunni tyranny.

Shi'ites are not content with Sunni-style dutiful observance of laws. They emphasize rituals associated with charismatic imams and saints who are intermediaries for healing, blessing and forgiveness. They love visual imagery and accord a higher status to women in piety, characteristics that anger puritanical Sunnis.
I will juxtapose the more pessimistic elements of this post with this from CENTCOM:
The Kirkuk Religious Unity Council consists of local and regional Muslim and Christian religious leaders that formed an alliance after a diversity conference 18 months ago. Since then, the group meets regularly to discuss how the community’s religious leaders can positively affect Kirkuk, according to Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Sterling, brigade chaplain, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

“The council is a unique organization. Its membership includes all the different religious sects and ethnic groups of the area,” said Sterling. “Through this humanitarian program they are recognizing the need to come together in a show of unity amidst their diversity for the needy people of the city. They have set aside their differences to do something good for their community,” he said.
It seems more and more apparent to me that we are forced to rely on the better angels of our nature in the current Iraq crisis.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Global war on terror news recap

The president's "substantial" statement

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post:
The text of President Bush's news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.

The president talked repeatedly about "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was "hypothetical."


President Bush also spoke several times yesterday about his flexibility, apparently as a way of countering critics calling for a major change in his approach to Iraq. But he made it clear that he was talking about tactical adjustments, rather than the kind of sweeping strategic revision being mulled by the Iraq Study Group led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton, and also being urged by a host of members of Congress and political pundits.


At the same time, the president's tone has changed markedly. Gone was the talk of past Bush administration news conferences about "steady progress" in Iraq and all the good news that the media was said to be ignoring there. Instead he began yesterday's session with a straightforward and even grim account of the events of the past month in Iraq. He noted the deaths of 93 U.S. soldiers over the past 25 days. "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq," he said. "I'm not satisfied either." So, he said, the American effort in Iraq is "constantly adjusting our tactics."

Yet under his sober mien and a newfound insistence on adaptability, he appeared to be quietly digging in his heels. "Our goals are unchanging," he emphasized in his opening remarks. "We are flexible in our methods to achieving those goals."

MILITARY chiefs today said that the number of British troops in Iraq could be halved early next year.

They claim that operations in Basra, in the south of the country, have proved to be a great success and the Army is close to reaching the "tipping point".

They hope that by February the number of UK service personnel serving in Iraq could be cut from 7200 to 3500 if the current campaign continues.
BAGHDAD, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Iraq's most notorious death squad leader escaped a major U.S.-led raid on a Shi'ite Muslim militia stronghold in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday.

In an interview with Reuters, Maliki said Wednesday's ground and air assault on the sprawling Sadr City slum targeted Abu Deraa, a feared warlord held responsible for a rash of brutal sectarian killings and kidnappings of Iraqi Sunnis.

The operation, carried out by Iraqi special forces with U.S. advisers and air support, killed 10 "enemy fighters", according to a U.S. military statement.

Maliki said he backed the raid but complained that it was conducted in a heavy handed way that could wreck a political deal he had worked on with Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical anti- American cleric who controls the Mehdi Army Shi'ite militia.

"I said we agree on arresting wanted criminals and we do not care whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ites, but that was not an arrest operation," said Maliki, who is himself a Shi'ite.

An uncertain peace/truce according to the BBC News.

BBC News:
Scores of civilians have been killed during Nato operations against Taleban fighters in southern Afghanistan, local officials and civilians say.

Nato says it will help Afghan officials investigate what happened after raids in two districts of Kandahar province.

The alliance had "credible reports" of some civilian casualties, but could not confirm reports of 60 dead civilians. It said 48 militants had been killed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Paper planning tigers

Ladies and Gentleman, we have a timetable. The New York Times:
President Bush said today that he was “not satisfied” with the situation in Iraq and that the United States was shifting its tactics and working on a timetable with the Iraqi government that includes political measures to stem some of the violence.

“As the enemy shifts tactics we are shifting our tactics as well,” said Mr. Bush, speaking at a news conference at the White House a day after the American ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, laid out a timetable for political measures he said the Iraqi government had agreed to take.
This is poor analysis. This conveys that the enemy is adapting tactics requiring the United States to counter. That might be true, for example the insurgency(insurgencies) have used different detonators for improvised explosive devices depending on countermeasures used by our military. Also, I have read about enemy IED behavior following two paths. One is a dead drop of the components necessary for an IED. I believe an individual goes the the area and constructs a device. This was portrayed recently by a CNN embed. There are also specific areas that are set for an IED. Several different insurgents construct the device and plant it in stages. A hole is dug. Someone drops a device. Someone covers the hole. Some devices are detonated with garage door remotes. Some with cell phones -- those can be jammed. Some are set to explode when sufficient weight is applied by a passing vehicle.

Those are tactics. They shift quickly and our military is very good as adapting to those without the advice of Tony Snow and George Bush.

The problems in Iraq are much more complicated than these shifting tactics. At the level of the administration and senior military leadership, the Iraq plan confronts huge obstacles. To confront these obstacles, the U.S. and the Iraqis have agreed on a set of goals and a timetable, the New York Times:
America’s top military and civilian officials in Iraq said today that the Baghdad government has agreed to a timetable for a series of milestones to be pursued in the coming year, including cracking down on Shiite militias, completing a “national compact” between competing political groups, persuading Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and settling contentious issues like the division of oil revenues.
Here are the bullet points:

1.) Disarm the militias

2.) Rework the constitution

3.) Disarm the insurgency

4.) Share the wealth

These points should all sound familiar. They have been the political objective of the United States from the beginning of the Iraq-lead government. It seems that the United States, with some Iraqi approval and involvement, has begun to increase pressure on Sadr's very problematic militia. However, Prime Minister Maliki is playing an odd public-game in the press. The AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces on Wednesday raided Sadr City, the stronghold of the feared Shiite militia led by radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disavowed the operation, saying he had not been consulted and insisting ''that it will not be repeated.''

The defiant al-Maliki also slammed the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for saying Iraq needed to set a timetable to curb violence ravaging the country.

''I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it,'' al-Maliki said at a news conference.
This might be bluster meant to placate Sadr. If it is, it will not work. Australia's ABC News notes this:
The US military said Iraqi special forces backed by US air strikes conducted the raid in the Sadr City district of Baghdad "to capture a top illegal armed group commander directing widespread death squad activity".

Unusually, the US statement specifically said the raid had been "authorised by the government of Iraq".

But Mr Maliki, who is under mounting pressure from an impatient Washington to curb violence so US forces can start to go home, said there was a "lack of coordination" in the raid.
It would be wonderful to find out if this was authorized and who was the party that agreed to it.

In my previous post, I discussed how combat power in Iraq limits the ability to clear areas, hold them and then build political, social and economic infrastructure. That is the only solution, the only way to succeed in Iraq. The amount of combat power necessary to achieve these three phases in Iraq (indeed, just in Baghdad this summer) has increased. Meanwhile, the amount of available combat power lags behind, Michael Gordon of the New York Times:
But that laudable goal seems far removed from the violence-plagued streets of Iraq’s capital, where American forces have taken the lead in trying to protect the city and American soldiers substantially outnumber Iraqi ones.

Given the rise in sectarian killings, a Sunni-based insurgency that appears to be as potent as ever and an Iraqi security establishment that continues to have difficulties deploying sufficient numbers of motivated and proficient forces in Baghdad, General Casey’s target seems to be an increasingly heroic assumption.

On paper, Iraq has substantial security forces. The Pentagon noted in an August report to Congress that Iraq had more than 277,000 troops and police officers, including some 115,000 army combat soldiers.

But those figures, which have often been cited at Pentagon news conferences as an indicator of progress and a potential exit strategy for American troops, paint a distorted picture. When the deep-seated reluctance of many soldiers to serve outside their home regions, leaves of absence and AWOL rates are taken into account, only a portion of the Iraqi Army is readily available for duty in Baghdad and other hot spots.

The fact that the Ministry of Defense has sent only two of the six additional battalions that American commanders have requested for Baghdad speaks volumes about the difficulty the Iraqi government has encountered in fielding a professional military. The four battalions that American commanders are still waiting for is equivalent to 2,800 soldiers, hardly a large commitment in the abstract but one that the Iraqis are still struggling to meet.
In a sense, the Bush administration deserves credit for establishing a sound plan. That is where the credit ends. We now have another sound-on-paper plan, according to David Ignatius:
Some months ago, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was explaining to a senior Bush administration official his plan for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq over 12 months, in consultation with the Iraqis. "We're going to do the same thing," the senior official confided, "but we're going to call it victory."


So what are the right guideposts for a gradual American withdrawal from Iraq? How can the United States, in its search for an exit, avoid compounding the mistakes it made in invading Iraq? To help light the way, we are blessed with a deus ex machina in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and ex-congressman Lee Hamilton.

A starting point is to understand what the United States is actually doing in Iraq now. A strategy of phased withdrawal is already underway -- on paper. The latest affirmation was yesterday's proposal by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey of a security timetable to transfer control to the Iraqis in 12 to 18 months. The plan envisions a "national compact" among Iraq's different factions. By the end of this year, they would agree on terms for demobilizing militias, sharing oil revenue and easing de-Baathification rules. It all looks sensible -- on paper.

The problem is that this approach hasn't been working. Since January Khalilzad has been prodding Iraqi leaders in the Green Zone to make precisely these compromises. But out in the real world, the hopes for reconciliation have fallen apart, for a simple but terrifying reason: Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites are so enraged that they have stopped believing compromise is possible.

How will withdrawal plans deal with the reality of this sectarian hatred? The administration's answer has been to try to build up the Iraqi military so it can impose a monopoly of force. But that hasn't been working, either. The Iraqi troops simply can't match the brutality of the insurgents and death squads. The U.S. military can do the job, but the cost in American lives is becoming unacceptable. If we are serious about a withdrawal timetable, we will have to accept Iraqi solutions, ragged and violent though they may be.
If we are attempting the same plan, those four points of compromise and disarmed militias, then we should address why the plan has not worked to this point. The answers to that one are simple: 1.) combat power. I am not talking about another division or two, which is what we could do, but an increase of many orders of magnitude. Iraqi combat power -- we clearly have seen in Balad, Amarah and Baghdad -- has not proved sufficient. The best case planning of General Casey still assumes that this will change. 2.) The second factor required in the potential re-building or Iraq is time. This is not a timeline of 12 to 18 months, again that is best-case on a limited goal. This timeline is five to ten years.

The president's grasp on the reins of power is about to slip. The four goals, while reasonable, are not attainable given the political and military positioning of the United States. We must realize this and therefore must alter that positioning. In fact we must do this NOW. The amount of combat power necessary to clear, hold and build has increased during the summer. This has been demonstrated by the deployment of coalition forces in Baghdad, and their lack of success in securing the capital. Violence has increased throughout the country. Militias and the insurgency grow more powerful. Hence, more power is needed to clear and hold. Azzaman Online:
Iraqi tribes are getting more and more involved in the sectarian strife that is tearing the country apart.

Both Arab and Kurdish tribes still wield influence in the country and many thought they could play a decisive role in halting the current bloodshed.

But the tribes, like other sectors of the society, find themselves drawn into the current sectarian struggle.

Kurdish and Arab tribes in the northern city of Mosul and restive oil-rich city of Kirkuk fight each other and Sunni and Shiite tribes across the country are also involved in the fight.

Affiliation particularly among Arab tribal hierarchy has little to do with sectarian divisions as many major tribes have both Shiite and Sunni members.

But the ferocity of the present strife and its heavy toll in casualties is setting them apart.
The United States would have to greatly expand its combat power and the timeline for Iraq involvement -- two steps that may not be possible in our political climate. Or, the United States has to figure out a different set of goals in Iraq. That new set could be as limited as a phased withdrawal, over the horizon. Yes, that would be the Murtha plan -- something designed to attack al Qaeda positions in al Anbar and to prevent a broad, regional conflict.

Sole responsibility for the overreach in Iraq and the failure to adapt resides with the president. He is the "decider".

The ramifications shall be global.

"One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires will be victorious"

I have been very critical of the Bush administration's strategic confusion concerning Iraq. This week, there was a very public re-definition of the Iraq war "strategy" (it's nothing more than a slogan). The administration realized that "stay the course" was a very lousy mantra for an administration viewed as close-minded and unwilling to change to confront events. President Bush has articulated a number of other strategtic points in the course of this war. They include, but are not limited to, "stand up/stand down" and "clear, hold, build".

Yesterday, the Guardian blog linked to an entry of mine on the Bob Woodward book, "State of Denial". The author most likely found this quote to be compelling:

"One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires will be victorious"
- Sun Tzu (R. Sawyer translation)

I juxtaposed that with Bob Woodward's interview on 60 Minutes:
And, according to Woodward, another key general, John Abizaid, who’s in charge of the whole Gulf region, told friends that on Iraq, Rumsfeld has lost all credibility.

"What does that mean, he doesn’t have any credibility anymore?" Wallace asks.

"That means that he cannot go public and articulate what the strategy is. Now, this is so important they decide," Woodward explains. "The Secretary of State Rice will announce what the strategy is. This is October of last year." She told Congress the U.S. strategy in Iraq is "clear, hold and build."

"Rumsfeld sees this and goes ballistic and says, 'Now wait a minute. That’s not our strategy. We want to get the Iraqis to do these things.' Well it turns out George Bush and the White House liked this definition of the strategy so it’s in a presidential speech he’s gonna give the next month," Woodward tells Wallace. "Rumsfeld sees it. He calls Andy Card, the White House chief of staff and says 'Take it out. Take it out. That’s not our strategy. We can’t do that.' Card says it’s the core of what we’re doing. That’s two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq. They cannot agree on the definition of the strategy. They cannot agree on the bumper sticker."

"General John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, you quote him as saying privately a year ago that the U.S. should start cutting its troops in Iraq. You report that he told some close Army friends, quote, 'We’ve gotta get the f out.' And then this past March, General Abizaid visited Congressman John Murtha on Capitol Hill," Wallace says.

"John Murtha is in many ways the soul and the conscience of the military," Woodward replies. "And he came out and said, 'We need to get out of Iraq as soon as it’s practical' and that sent a 10,000 volt jolt through the White House."

"Here’s Mr. Military saying, 'We need to get out,'" Woodward continues. "And John Abizaid went to see him privately. This is Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s commander in Iraq," Woodward says.

"And John Abizaid held up his fingers, according to Murtha, and said, 'We’re about a quarter of an inch apart, said, 'We’re that far apart,'" Woodward says.
To be fair, this account by Woodward misses key points. Rumsfeld is right to state that "clear, hold, build" cannot be the United States strategy in Iraq. The U.S. does not have the combat power to do that for the entire country (in addition to securing the borders and training the Iraq military). Don't take my word for it, here's General Thurman of the 4 ID in the New York Times this week:
“What takes the combat power is the holding piece,” said General Thurman. “We can do the clearing. But once you clear if you don’t leave somebody in there and build civil capacity in there then it is the old mud-hole approach. You know the water runs out of the mud hole when you drive through the mud hole and then it runs back in it.”
The plan has always been for Iraq's security forces to augment the combat power of the United States -- in particular with the "hold, build" part of the policy. There are great concerns about the Iraqi military and police forces. Moreover, they will confront entrenched militias with popular support -- and apparently the support of the Prime Minister.

My main point concerning the complete strategic break down of this administration is valid. Bush and others, including Secretary Rice, have been too fond of strong assertions that depart from the underlying strategic plan. No doubt, this bothers the hell out of word-conscious Rumsfeld. I can picture him freaking out as he diagrams the sentence: "we will clear, hold, build". He most likely would prefer: "we will clear, the Iraqis will hold and build". In terms of domestic politics, which is our center of gravity for the insurgency's offensive operations, a confused articulation of strategy is a terrible setback.

George W. Bush is scheduled to make a substantial statement on Iraq today. I will review those remarks soon after they happen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two weeks before the election, and stay the course has backfired

With violence in Baghdad and throughout Iraq skyrocketing this summer, George W. Bush expressed his stance as "stay the course" compared to "cut and run". In terms of United States politics, this was a massive error. Bush must have assumed that the Baghdad security plan would demonstrate some success before the elections. His generals have indicated otherwise. This is also an indication that the Bush adminstration fails to see what it can and cannot achieve in Iraq, both politically and militarily. Bush and his administration waged a public relations campaign earlier in the year that tried to show how much the president "got" that Iraq was complicated and troubling.

Then, the administration came up with a slogan and put a great amount of faith in the Baghdad security plan. That plan has been sent back to the drawing board, mostly because Iraq's police and military forces cannot handle their tasks in the clear, hold, build plan.

Was "clear, hold, build" just another slogan? Did it sound good, like "axis of evil"?

Peter Baker in the Washington Post notes:
But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course." A phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow worse by the week, Republican strategists say. Democrats have now turned "stay the course" into an attack line in campaign commercials, and the Bush team is busy explaining that "stay the course" does not actually mean stay the course.

Instead, they have been emphasizing in recent weeks how adaptable the president's Iraq policy actually is. Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. "What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration," Snow said yesterday.
Remember that other election mantra, the one that said America could stand down when Iraq stood up? Iraqi police are heavily infiltrated by Shiite militias. The British left Amarah and the city quickly saw violence between Sadr's followers and Hakim's.

There are so many slogans, and the situation continues to degrade. It is becoming increasingly clear that the administration is adept at short, cutting slogans. They are incompetent strategists.

Ehsan Ahrari of Asia Times Online notes the slogan-drift (not even a mission-drift!) of this administration:
When weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, "spreading democracy to the Middle East" became one of the chief objectives of the Iraq war. In the worsening pace of civil war, the explanation from Washington was there was no civil war, just violence getting out of control. Recently, we were told that the US was not going to pull out of Iraq. "We don't cut and run," was the favorite line of top Bush officials.

Now, the new operative phrase is "flexibility", which sounds as though all options are being considered, including withdrawal. In
other words, defeat by any other name is anything but defeat. This is how the ultimate truth is being spun from Washington.

One of innumerable tragedies of the Iraq war is that America's top decision-makers never leveled with the American voters. What went right from the perspectives of President George W Bush and his top aides, including his super-secretive Vice President Dick Cheney, is that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks scared the daylights out of US citizens. The age-old notion of America's invulnerability to such attacks went out of the window. Consequently, the "Joe Lunchbuckets" and "soccer moms" of America readily accepted the fear rhetoric of the congressional elections of 2002 and the presidential election of 2004 as "facts".

But the moment of truth has finally arrived. The American people now know, first, that the Iraq war has entered a phase of no return. In other words, they have no trouble admitting that it is not winnable. Second, they also know that the old explanation that US troops would "stand down" from Iraq when the Iraqi security forces "stood up" is a hollow and unachievable slogan. Third, the American people also know that their men and women in uniform are not only being targeted by insurgents (the former "dead-enders" of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, the predecessor of Central Command's General John Abizaid), but also by other militias.
General George Casey and Diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad gave a press conference today expressing optimisim that Iraqi forces are 12 - 18 months from leading security operations, CNN's account, the transcript.

One passage from their press conference strikes me as odd. George Bush and others in his administration insist that tactics will change. However, note this from the Washington Post (my emphasis):
"The enemies of the American people believe that their will is stronger than ours and that they can win by outlasting us," said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who appeared at a news conference along with Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "We should not acquiesce, but instead make adjustments in our strategy and redouble our efforts to succeed."
Paul Reynolds of the BBC wrote:
The problem for General Casey is that he has said all this before. In July 2005 he predicted major troop withdrawals by this summer, only to have to accept today that he had had to reverse that trend when summer came because the Iraqis could not cope with the surge of sectarian violence in Baghdad.

He even said today that he would ask for more troops if necessary.

Inter-Iraqi violence appeared to be the main threat identified by both men.

The thrust of the briefing was one of reassurance, perhaps to US voters as they prepare for the mid-term elections in a state of doubt. Whether it convinces is an open question.

And how much the tactical briefing will pre-empt the review of Iraqi policy that the Baker group might precipitate also remains to be seen.

It showed perhaps the limits in the options facing people at the sharp end.
There is an ambitious set of goals for the Iraq government in the next year. It seems as though we have stumbled into a timetable with benchmarks, even though the Bush administration said that this would be a significant error. The New York Times details the goals:
America’s top military and civilian officials in Iraq said today that the Baghdad government has agreed to a timetable for a series of milestones to be pursued in the coming year, including cracking down on Shiite militias, completing a “national compact” between competing political groups, persuading Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and settling contentious issues like the division of oil revenues.
Whether this set or a significant amount of this set will be achieved is questionable.

Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 24 -- Iraq has ordered its security forces to crack down on unlawful acts by armed factions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday in a rare public rebuke to the Shiite militias allied with his government.

Although the statement was bolder than usual for Maliki, it fell short of directing that the illegal militias be disbanded, a move that American officials are increasingly urging as sectarian bloodletting and other violence soar.
Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times sees more trouble on the horizon for Amarah:
Amarah, the southern city racked by weekend fighting, is among the areas all but handed over to Iraqi forces. Authorities braced for more violence with the discovery of Hussein Bahadeli's bullet-riddled body, which bore signs of torture and was found in a rural field near the city, said an official at the forensics department of Amarah's main hospital.

Bahadeli was kidnapped Thursday, presumably to avenge the slaying of the provincial director of intelligence a day earlier. Hundreds of heavily armed black-clad militiamen loyal to Bahadeli's brother, Al Mahdi militia leader Sheik Fadhel Bahadeli, swarmed the city, attacking police stations and fighting gun battles on Thursday and Friday that left as many as 25 dead.

In possible retaliation, unidentified gunmen early Friday morning shot and killed a police officer as he left home in downtown Amarah and abducted another whose body was later found with several gunshot wounds.

Witnesses described the atmosphere in the city as tense, but Lt. Col. Sharhan Hassan, spokesman for Iraqi forces there, denied reports that a curfew had been imposed or that fighting continued Monday.

"The army is deployed in the city to protect the people if anything might happen, and so far there are no armed conflicts in the city," he said.

Al Mahdi army militiamen, loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, are fighting militiamen loyal to other Shiite clerics and factions for control of southern Iraq. Though Maysan province's governor is a Sadr loyalist, forces loyal to cleric Abdelaziz Hakim dominate the security apparatus. Hakim leads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite rival to Sadr's organization.

British forces vacated Amarah this summer, handing over de facto control to Iraqi forces.

Decades-old tensions between followers of the Hakim and Sadr clerical families have at times turned bloody, introducing another volatile dynamic in a country already reeling from sectarian and insurgent violence.
Adapt to win. Clear, hold, build. Stay the course. Stand up, stand down.

A tale told by George W. Bush. Full of sound and furry, signifying nothing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"This is it."

Michael Gordon's military analysis in the New York Times deserves further review. In italics, you will find passages from the story. My comments are included.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 22 — After three years of trying to thwart a potent insurgency and tamp down the deadly violence in Iraq, the American military is playing its last hand: the Baghdad security plan.

The plan will be tweaked, adjusted and modified in the weeks ahead, as American commanders try to reverse the dismaying increase in murders, drive-by shootings and bombings.

But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects, underwritten mainly by the Iraqi government. There is no fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.

This is a stark assessment from a well-connected military analyst.

The Iraqi capital, as the generals like to say, is the center of gravity for the larger American mission in Iraq. Their assessment is that if Baghdad is overwhelmed by sectarian strife, the cause of fostering a more stable Iraq will be lost. Conversely, if Baghdad can be improved, the effects will eventually be felt elsewhere in Iraq. In invading Iraq, American forces started from outside the country and fought their way in. The current strategy is essentially to work from the inside out.

“As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq,” observed Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who commands American forces throughout Iraq.

This quote could be the beginning of a long period of reconstruction. Or, it might be the beginning of the end for Iraq.

Many ideas — new and not so new — are being discussed in Washington, like a sectarian division of Iraq (which the current government and many Iraqis oppose); and starting talks with Iraq’s neighbor, Iran (which the Iraqi government is already doing, but the United States is not). Some of these ideas look appealing simply because they have not been put to the test.

However the broader strategy may be amended, nothing can work if Baghdad becomes a war-torn Beirut. Baghdad security may not be a sufficient condition for a more stable Iraq, but it is a necessary condition for any alternative plan that does not simply abandon the Iraqis to their fate.

It is hard to see how any Iraq plan can work if the capital’s citizens cannot be protected.

The current operation is called Together Forward II, the second phase of an effort begun in July to reduce violence in Baghdad. The name reflects the core assumption that the Iraqi government is to be an equal partner in regaining control of its capital. Necessarily, the security plan requires an integrated political and military approach, since its goal is not to vanquish an enemy on a foreign battlefield but to bring order to a militia-and-insurgent-plagued city.

But the early returns have raised searching questions as to whether the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is truly prepared to tackle the mission.

“It is a decisive period,” said Maj. Gen. J. D. Thurman, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division and the senior commander of the American forces in Baghdad.

“They either seize the opportunity or they don’t,” he said. “If they don’t, then our government is going to have to readjust what we are going to do, and that is not my call.”

What this general is basically saying: the call will be a huge addition of troops or pulling out with a chaotic mess left in Iraq.

Since it would take several months to secure and begin reconstruction in the dozen or so strife-ridden neighborhoods that are the focus of the plan, American commanders said the viability of the strategy could not be properly assessed before the year’s end. So far, however, the plan has been short on resources as well as results. The Iraqi Defense Ministry has supplied only two of the six Iraqi Army battalions that General Thurman has requested.

There have been reports of a potential new plan in 2007.

That is not just a question of numbers. Some American military officers say they believe the Iraqi Army may be more effective than the Iraq police, and more trusted by local citizens. Yet several Iraqi battalions have deserted rather than follow orders to go to Baghdad, according to American military officials. In the case of these units, summoning them to the Iraqi capital was tantamount to demobilizing them.

Some of the Iraqi police forces the Americans must work with have been infiltrated by militias. One Iraqi National Police unit has already been withdrawn from the streets and a training program has been instituted to improve the others. The Americans are carefully monitoring a number of police stations that they say have made common cause with some of the militias and intend to report them to the Iraqi government.

The original concept behind the plan was that American forces were to hold cleared areas for 60 to 90 days, during which the process of economic reconstruction would begin. Then American forces would turn the sectors over to Iraqi police and army units, freeing up American troops to tackle security challenges elsewhere in the city. Without sufficient Iraqi forces, however, this process has been hampered and it has been more difficult to prevent militias and insurgents from sneaking back into cleared areas.

“What takes the combat power is the holding piece,” said General Thurman. “We can do the clearing. But once you clear if you don’t leave somebody in there and build civil capacity in there then it is the old mud-hole approach. You know the water runs out of the mud hole when you drive through the mud hole and then it runs back in it.”

Clear. Hold. Build. Or, exactly what Rumsfeld has been against for the entire war.

Delays in Iraqi government programs to improve electrical, sewage, water and health facilities have also hampered the effort. It had been expected that such Iraqi programs would begin before Ramadan, the monthlong holiday that is about to end. But the programs are now projected to start in November. In the absence of large-scale Iraqi programs, the Americans have sponsored some smaller efforts to improve sanitation and repair services, programs that have generated jobs and helped lower the unemployment rate in the city.

While the sectarian violence would be far worse if not for the American efforts, the number of murders in the Baghdad area has not decreased as hoped. Fifty-two bodies were found in General Thurman’s sector, which includes Baghdad and large swaths of territory north and south of the city, during the first week of August, when the security operations began. During the week that ended Oct. 14, the body count was 176. For the week that ended Oct. 21, the body count was 143, a noteworthy decline but still more than at the start of the operation.

There are a number of ideas being discussed in private to fix the plan. Americans still hope to receive additional Iraqi Army forces next month. They also hope to persuade the Iraqi government to purge police stations infiltrated by militias. Iraqi deployment areas may also be realigned.

American forces have already shifted some forces to new high-violence sectors and may make further adjustments. Shrinking the military zone controlled by the American Baghdad-based division, which now extends south to the cities of Najaf and Karbala, has also been discussed as a way to increase the density of American troops in the capital.

Erecting more barricades to section off parts of the city has been proposed by some officers. So has legitimizing some neighborhood watch organizations. That idea cuts against the policy to abolish militias but has been advocated by some military officials as a useful expedient.

Keeping the Army’s Fourth Division in place in Baghdad instead of rotating it home when it is to be replaced by the First Cavalry Division would substantially increase the number of American troops in the city. But there have been no indications that such an idea is under serious consideration.

We may see this happen.

In the final analysis, American officers say, much is in Iraqi hands. The American military is looking toward the Maliki government to finally disband the militias and reintegrate them into Iraqi society. It is not clear if the Iraqi government will follow through on such a step since some senior Iraqi officials have said the militias cannot be broken up until the Sunni-based insurgency is brought to heel.

Here is the difficult balance, the same issue that plagued Northern Ireland. One side will not disarm with the other side in the field. It took effective British counterintelligence and police work a long time to dismantle the Provisional IRA's combat power. The Provos could not hold a candle to what we see in Iraq's al Anbar province. Infiltration of the al Anbar insurgency will also be far more difficult than infiltrating the Northern Ireland insurgency. Lastly, the process took many years in the United Kingdom.

American officials also say that the Iraqi government needs to more strictly enforce bans on the possession of illicit weapons and accelerate its reconstruction and job creation programs.

“Part of our problem is that we want this more than they do,” General Thurman said, alluding to the effort to get the Iraqis to put aside sectarian differences and build a unified Iraq. “We need to get people to stop worrying about self and start worrying about Iraq. And that is going to take national unity.”

“Until we get that settled I think we are going to struggle,” he added.

More questions on the strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Observer on Sunday reported another prominent British (retired) general's problems with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former head of Britain's armed forces, has broken ranks to launch an attack on the current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, warning that British forces risk defeat in Afghanistan.

In one of the strongest interventions in the conduct of the War on Terror, Inge also charged a lack of any 'clear strategy' guiding British operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His comments came as President George Bush met his military and political officials to consider fresh tactics over Iraq, amid a mood of crisis in Washington over the violence.

The remarks by the former chief of the defence staff, who also served on the Butler Commission into intelligence failures in Iraq, follow those by the present head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, who warned that the presence of British troops in Iraq had 'exacerbated' security problems in the country.

Inge's intervention, coming amid growing speculation about Britain's exit strategy from Iraq, is the first criticism of operations by a former head of the British army. His comments, made at a meeting of European experts on Tuesday and published here for the first time, reflect the growing dismay among senior military officers and civil servants involved in defence and foreign affairs, that in the critical areas of Afghanistan and Iraq Britain lacked clear foreign and defence policies separate from the US.

'I don't believe we have a clear strategy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I sense we've lost the ability to think strategically. Deep down inside me, I worry that the British army could risk operational failure if we're not careful in Afghanistan. We need to recognise the test that I think they could face there,' he told the debate held by Open Europe, an independent think tank campaigning for EU reform.

Inge added that Whitehall had surrendered its ability to think strategically and that despite the immense pressures on the army, defence received neither the research nor funding it required.

'I sense that Whitehall has lost the knack of putting together inter-departmental thinking about strategy. It talks about how we're going to do in Afghanistan, it doesn't really talk about strategy.'


Although Bush has admitted that tactics on the ground could change in response to the latest violence, he insisted in his weekly radio address yesterday that there would be no change in the overall strategy.

Pakistan's potential role with terror

The headline states: "Indian officials split on Pakistan role in bombings"

But, that might be the worst possible headline for what this story actually reports.

International Herald Tribune:
NEW DELHI Three weeks after the police in India accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of colluding in serial bombings on the commuter train line in Mumbai, the commercial capital, a senior Indian official said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the evidence was short of "clinching."

"There are some pieces of the puzzle missing," the official, M. K. Narayanan, the Indian national security adviser, said in an interview on CNN-IBN, a private television network. "If the courts decide they want the full puzzle, it will be difficult. So I am hesitant to say that the evidence is clinching. But it is pretty good."

Narayanan spoke against the backdrop of a new accord between India and Pakistan, longtime rivals, to share evidence of terrorist acts. Its first test would be the blasts in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. He said that the police had uncovered "enough connectivity, linkages, confessions and arrests based on those confessions," but that legal issues remained about the nature of the confessions.

Several suspects this month retracted confessions in which they had described going to guerrilla training camps in Pakistan, saying the police had beaten and coerced them. Indian legal experts have said, though, that once the case goes to court, the defense would have to prove that the confessions were false and involuntary.

The July 11 bombings, one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent years, killed more than 180 people. The police quickly described them as the work of two banned groups, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Students Islamic Movement of India.

On Sept. 30, the police in Mumbai for the first time pointed at the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, in Islamabad. At the time, the Pakistani Foreign Office quickly issued a rejoinder, calling the police statements "unsubstantiated allegations, which the Indian officials and media keep making for propaganda purposes."
Officials in India have expressed different levels of certainty, but they have hardly "split" on their assertions.

The reality of drill holes: How the course is changing

Facts have overwhelmed the White House, though they try to spin that truism away. Apparently "stay the course" never was the strategy, though there are many video clips and transcripts that show otherwise.

A major course correction is in the cards. It seems that the American military will try to make the Baghdad plan work, with some modifications. Militias have to be disarmed. The government has to govern. The stakes are very high and the challenges are staggering.

The present plan

Michael Gordon on the Baghdad security operation:
The plan will be tweaked, adjusted and modified in the weeks ahead, as American commanders try to reverse the dismaying increase in murders, drive-by shootings and bombings.

But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects, underwritten mainly by the Iraqi government. There is no fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.
The Times of London:
AMERICAN forces are negotiating an amnesty with Sunni insurgents in Iraq to try to defuse the nascent civil war and pave the way for disarmament of Shia militias, The Times has learnt.

The tactic marks a dramatic reversal of policy by the US military, which blocked attempts to pardon insurgents with American blood on their hands after handing over sovereignty to a secular Iraqi Government in June 2004.

The U-turn comes amid the bloodiest fighting for two years and growing domestic opposition to the war as Americans prepare to vote in crucial midterm elections.
The Times of London:
SENIOR Republicans increased pressure on the White House to change its Iraq strategy yesterday by demanding that the Government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, should assume responsibility for securing the country.

Washington is to set Baghdad deadlines for disarming militias and taking control of its own security. The change in tactics comes amid one of the bloodiest months for US troops in Iraq for two years, with 81 killed, and an admission by the American military that a two-month offensive to stabilise Baghdad is failing.

Handing the Iraqi Government “benchmarks”, as Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary described them, shows just how far the political debate in Washington has shifted. Americans have lost faith in the war, and President Bush’s mantra to “stay the course” is being rejected by Democrat and Republican voters.
The AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The fledgling Iraqi government must "step up and take more responsibility" for the country's security, a high-ranking White House official said Monday.

At the same time, Dan Bartlett denied in a television interview that the Bush administration's war policy has been a sweeping "stay the course" commitment, saying "what we aren't doing is sitting there with our heads in the sand."

In contrast to earlier White House statements, Bartlett did not deny a New York Times report saying the head of the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador were working on a plan that for the first time would set a specific timetable for disarming militias and meeting other political and economic goals.

"I was a bit puzzled about the report over the weekend because it was stating something that we've been talking publicly about for months," the senior White House counselor said on CBS's "The Early Show." Bartlett said the goal is to "define demonstrable milestones and benchmarks" and said it has been "very much a part of our strategy all along."
This is true, but now those benchmarks will be tied to a timetable. Iraq needs clear metrics. What are we willing to do and how long are we willing to try?

The troubles


The Christian Science Monitor:
Fighting in the past week indicates that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to disarm militias could be leading Iraq toward an intersectarian war between the Shiites in the government and the Shiites in the street.

Last week's battles in Amarah, capital of the southern Maysan Province, are emblematic of a widening Iraqi conflict to one where factions from the same sect vie for power.

Trouble there began with the assassination of Qassim al-Tamimi, a senior police officer in the city. He was part of the Badr Brigade, a militia loyal to the Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) whose members have taken a larger role recently in the police forces there. Local SCIRI officials blamed the Mahdi Army and arrested five Sadrists.

That touched off a massive show of strength by the Sadr supporters, who overran police stations. Fighting followed leaving at least 30 dead. Though the city is now under government control, residents say it remains tense.
The Guardian:
Residents described how fighters stormed three police stations in this city of 900,000 and blew them up. Around 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades patrolled the streets in commandeered police vehicles as others set up road blocks on routes into the town.

At least 30 policemen and 20 civilians were killed and more than 59 injured in what has become one of the most serious challenges to the authority of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

One Amara resident, Hossam Hussein, said he saw hundreds of gunmen, dressed in the Mahdi army's trademark black uniforms, swarming the city's main streets. "For the last few days, you could smell the trouble building here," he said by phone. "Amara is a battleground between the gangs the militia and the politicians. And sometimes you don't know who is who."

Patrick McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times:
"Drill holes," says Col. Khaled Rasheed, an Iraqi commander who is showing me the set of photographs.

He preserves the snapshots in a drawer, the image of the young man brimming with expectations always on top. There is no name, no identification, just a series of photos that documents the transformation of some mother's son into a slab of meat on a bloody table in a morgue.

"Please, please, I must show these photographs to President Bush," Rasheed pleads in desperation, as we sit in a bombed-out palace along the Tigris, once the elegant domain of Saddam Hussein's wife, now the command center for an Iraqi army battalion. "President Bush must know what is happening in Baghdad!"

The Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer:
What brought this Tigris River city north of Baghdad to this state of siege was a series of events that have displayed in miniature the factors drawing the entire country into a sectarian bloodbath: Retaliatory violence between Sunnis and Shiites has soared to its highest level of the war, increasingly forcing moderates on both sides to look to armed extremists for protection.

The Shiite-led government's security forces, trained by the United States, proved immediately incapable of dealing with the sectarian violence in Balad, or, in many cases, abetted it, residents and police said.

More than 20,000 U.S. troops are based within 15 miles of Balad, but, uncertain how to respond, they hesitated, waiting for Iraqi government forces to step up, according to residents, police and U.S. military officials.

And all that was left holding Balad, and Iraq, together -- the desire for peace and normality still held by the great majority of Iraqis, and the generations of intermarriage and neighborliness between ordinary Shiite and Sunni Muslims -- was ripping apart.

"The people of Balad should not kill the Sunnis who are among them," said one slightly built Shiite man, fleeing his home on the outskirts of Balad. He and 13 women and children of his family were crammed into a single, battered Toyota sedan, stranded by a flat tire near the highway turnoff to the city. "Our relations are not of months or years. It's since the beginning of time," he said. "This relationship has been destroyed in a second."

The principals involved give a straightforward timeline of how that happened.

The trigger event, U.S. and Iraqi officials said, was the killing of two or three Sunni men from the area earlier this month. One of the men had been a local leader of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman.

On Oct. 13, Sunni insurgents took their revenge. In Duluiyah, a Sunni hamlet four miles and across the river from Balad, insurgents kidnapped and beheaded 17 Shiite laborers who had come to work in the date palm groves there. The U.S. military later arrested two Sunni police officers from the town for alleged involvement in the deaths.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters instigated the killings, then stood by as innocent Sunnis were killed in the retaliation that followed, said police Maj. Hussein Alwan in Duluiyah.

Hours after the beheadings, outraged and frightened Shiite elders of Balad telephoned an office of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Kadhimiyah, a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. Sadr leads the Mahdi Army, the most feared Shiite militia in Iraq.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

If we were to take him at his word...

I hate to be so pessimistic when there are so many brave Americans and allies risking so much, but, the next 9/11 commission will be very harsh on the political leadership from both sides of the aisle.

A message from elusive Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, released at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, warns there will be a surge in violence in Afghanistan "at a surprising level," and advised militants fighting U.S. and NATO troops to stay united.

"By the will of Allah, the fight will intensify in the coming few months," the statement attributed to Omar said.

"Our predictions about the war have proved right in the past. I am confident that our fight will gain a strong foothold in the near future."

The statement came from Omar and was released Saturday in the hours before Eid al-Fitr a three-day festive period marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a Taliban spokesman told CNN

Eid al-Fitr begins Sunday or Monday, depending on when the crescent moon is sighted.

Omar congratulated Muslims on the occasion of the festival, which celebrates the end of fasting, noting "that it is the fifth Eid al-Fitr and our country is still running under the control of the crusader army."

"But I also congratulate you on another victory -- the defeat of the crusaders," he said, referring to American forces.

Omar denounced Pakistan for supporting "American propaganda," said Afghanistan's "puppet" government under President Hamid Karzai will have to face an Islamic court of justice, and urged NATO forces -- who are commanding most of the foreign troops -- to "leave Afghanistan at the earliest."

Omar heads the religious militia in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have made a dramatic resurgence. The United States has been searching for the leader, and is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture.

His was last seen in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, which he fled in December 2001 as U.S. forces closed in on the city.

The elusive Taliban leader is believed to be in or near Quetta, Pakistan, a city of 1 million in southwestern Pakistan, a U.S. intelligence source said in September. However, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf disputes this.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chaos in Amarah and the lessons of history

The situation in Amarah today is most disconcerting. CNN has this short paragraph on their main page:
Iraq is ordering troops to the restive southern city of Amarah where militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are said to have seized control. Video shows masked gunman on the streets and huge plumes of black smoke rising from buildings in the city where Iraqi forces took security control from the British two months ago.
We can draw a number of immediate lessons (or maybe just questions) from this incident. How much control does Sadr have over his fighters? Sadr had a recent meeting with Maliki. What exactly was achieved? How effective are Iraqi forces if a militia can take a town in one day? How wise is it to stand down in Iraq right now?

BBC News on that last question:
British troops are on standby to re-enter Amara in southern Iraq after an outbreak of serious violence.

The Army could return to the city just two months after it pulled out if the Amara authorities ask for help, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed.

Clashes between police and up to 300 gunmen have left at least 12 people dead and dozens injured.

Iraq officials say the violence has now been brought under control, but eyewitnesses report continuing gunfire.

The MoD pulled all UK troops out of Amara in August because the security situation was "relatively quiet" there.
The Guardian has extensive details:
About 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades patrolled city streets in commandeered police vehicles, while other fighters set up roadblocks on routes into the city and sound trucks circulated telling residents to stay indoors.

At least 15 people, including five militiamen, one policeman and two bystanders, were killed during the clashes between the Shia militias, local police and Iraqi security forces. The fighting wounded at least 59 people - 31 militiamen, six policemen and 22 civilians including three children - said Riyadh Saed, the duty physician at the city's main hospital.

In response to the assault on the city the Iraqi government dispatched 230 troops from Basra.

The militiamen later withdrew from their positions and lifted their siege of police headquarters under a temporary truce negotiated between envoys for the government and al-Sadr. It was not clear by the afternoon whether the security forces had reasserted control over the city.
The New York Times:
The power the militias have to destabilize the country is demonstrated almost daily, and the Maliki government is under mounting American pressure to stem the violence. Just last weekend, Shiite militiamen went on a killing spree in and around the town of Balad, murdering 38 Sunnis in reprisal for the beheading by Sunni extremists of 19 Shiite workers.

The clashes in Amara, culminating in what effectively was a seizure of the city by the militia, appeared to spring from the assassination this week of a senior police official loyal to another powerful Shiite militia, the Badr Organization. The official’s family and the Badr group accused the Mahdi Army of being behind that killing, according to an account from Amara. A brother of a Mahdi Army commander was then kidnapped in reprisal, the account said.

Sheik Abdul Kareem al-Muhammadawi, a prominent tribal leader, said in an interview by telephone today that the Mahdi Army responded by deploying its troops in the city. He said the police were outgunned, with insufficient weapons and ammunition.

“There is no state in the city right now,” he said.
The situation in Iraq is degrading at an alarming rate. The country may look very different in less than three weeks, when Americans vote in the mid-term elections. Ramadan is set to conclude early next week. One should anticipate a great deal of pressure.

Some recent news items:

The Los Angeles Times:
"We're obviously very concerned about what we're seeing in the city," [Baghdad] Caldwell said. "We're taking a lot of time to go back and look at the whole Baghdad security plan. We're asking ourselves if the conditions under which it was first devised and planned still exist today, or have the conditions changed and therefore a modification to that plan needs to be made."

Despite the joint operation, launched in June, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Arabs continues unabated. And U.S. troops are increasingly being targeted, Caldwell said. He charged that Iraqi paramilitary fighters were attacking American forces more frequently because of the upcoming U.S. midterm election, in which the Iraq conflict and the American lives being lost are key issues.
BAGHDAD, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Dozens of al Qaeda-linked gunmen took to the streets of Ramadi on Wednesday in a show of force to announce the city was joining an Islamic state comprising Iraq's mostly Sunni Arab provinces, Islamists and witnesses said.

Witnesses in Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province, said gunmen dressed in white marched through the city as mosque loudspeakers broadcast the statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, a Sunni militant group led by al Qaeda in Iraq.

"We are from Mujahideen Shura Council and our Amir (Prince) is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. God willing we will set the law of Sharia here and we will fight the Americans," said a man who identified himself as Abu Harith, a Mujahideen field leader.

"We have announced the Islamic state. Ramadi is part of it. Our state will comprise all the Sunni provinces of Iraq," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The Christian Science Monitor:
Mr. Cordesman, the former director of intelligence assessment for the US Defense Secretary, writes in an Oct. 19 report that, "Iraq is already in a state of serious civil war, and current efforts at political compromise and improving security at best are buying time. There is a critical risk that Iraq will drift into a major civil conflict over the coming months, see its present government fail, and/or divide or separate in some form."

As the death toll rises, comparisons to the Vietnam War are appearing again. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote this week that violence in Iraq poses "the Jihadist equivalent of the Tet Offensive,'' referring to the massive North Vietnamese and Viet Cong assault that began in January 1968 and ended with few strategic gains for the North. It badly shook American confidence of ultimate victory in Vietnam, and led then-President Lyndon Johnson to abandon his reelection bid.

But the violence or structure of the Iraq war does not mirror Vietnam, note historians. In that war, organized battalions of opponents overran key US and South Vietnamese positions only to be pushed back later.

Instead, the nature of Iraq's diffuse sectarian war is not about clearing and holding territory, but much more about spreading the fear that is contributing to the cleansing of Shiites and Sunnis from each others' strongholds.

Nevertheless, President Bush did admit a Tet Offensive parallel in that the violence may have an impact on US elections.

"He could be right,'' Mr. Bush told ABC News, referring to Mr. Friedman. "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence and we're heading into elections."
The AP:
GENEVA (AP) — At least 914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than a third since an increase in sectarian bloodshed at the start of this year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The overall number is likely to be much higher, said Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The agency has concluded that 754,000 displaced Iraqis remain in the country, while tens of thousands more have sought refuge abroad.
President Bush faces a number of difficult options in Iraq, most of them are not feasible. The New York Times outlines some of them, and adds:
But whatever choices he makes — probably not until after the Nov. 7 election, and perhaps not until the bipartisan group issues its report — they will be forced by a series of events, in Iraq and at home, that now seems largely out of Mr. Bush’s control, in Iraq and at home.

Every day, administration and Pentagon officials fume — privately, to avoid the ire of the White House — about frustrations with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, for not confronting the country’s Shiite militias, meaning that there is no end to the daily cycle of attack and reprisals. Mr. Bush finds himself increasingly unable to make a convincing argument that, behind the daily toll in American lives, the Maliki government is making measurable progress, or even that the problems in Iraq are subject to a military solution.
The Times of London noticed a comparison between President Bush's remarks and commanders in the field:
Mr Bush surprised America by admitting yesterday to growing similarities between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam. But he also emphasised that success should not be measured by the body count, but in terms of the ability of Iraqis to defend themselves, their access to healthcare and education.

“I define success or failure as whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves. I define success or failure as whether schools are being built or hospitals are being opened. I define success or failure as whether we’re seeing a democracy grow in the heart of the Middle East,” he told ABC News.

Only hours after his statement Major-General William Caldwell, spokesman for the US forces in Iraq, said that the results of a vast security operation to secure Baghdad — the key to this war — had been “disheartening”.
The Financial Times called this "an uncharacteristically gloomy admission" from General Caldwell.

There is a persistent rumor of a coup to unseat Prime Minister Maliki. The fact that militia under the so-called command of Sadr took over a town in southern Iraq will only fuel these rumors. Coups and revolutions are historical anomalies; an environment conducive to a coup does not necessarily produce a coup. But, the rumors are worth noting. Asia Times Online notes just a few sources:
Mutlaq, who is sympathetic to, if not affiliated with, the Iraqi resistance and its former Ba'athist leaders, explicitly called for Maliki to step down.

Colvin quoted Anthony Cordesman, an uber-realist, conservative US military analyst, claiming that there is a "very real possibility" Maliki will be toppled. "There could be a change in government, done in a backroom, which could see a general brought in to run the Ministry of Defense or the Interior."

David Ignatius - an exceedingly well-connected reporter at the Washington Post - wrote a column on October 13 citing Mutlaq as well, and suggesting that Iraq's own intelligence service (created, funded, and run by the Central Intelligence Agency - CIA) is involved.
A different Asia Times Online article reviews the past 150 days of Maliki's rule:
Under Maliki, according to a report in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, Iraqi men are carving tattoos on their bodies, with their home address and telephone number. This is so that if they are killed, mutilated or beheaded, police would be able to identify their bodies and send them back to their families for burial.
There is another potential Vietnam moment that may soon develop. We are now approaching the 43rd anniversary of the Diem Coup. George Washington University has a great page from a few years ago:
Washington D.C., November 5, 2003 - A White House tape of President Kennedy and his advisers, published this week in a new book-and-CD collection and excerpted on the Web, confirms that top U.S. officials sought the November 1, 1963 coup against then-South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem without apparently considering the physical consequences for Diem personally (he was murdered the following day). The taped meeting and related documents show that U.S. officials, including JFK, vastly overestimated their ability to control the South Vietnamese generals who ran the coup 40 years ago this week.

The Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963 captures the highest-level White House meeting immediately prior to the coup, including the President's brother voicing doubts about the policy of support for a coup: "I mean, it's different from a coup in the Iraq or South American country; we are so intimately involved in this…." National Security Archive senior fellow John Prados provides a full transcript of the meeting, together with the audio on CD, in his new book-and-CD publication, The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President (New York: The New Press, 2003, 331 pp. + 8 CDs, ISBN 1-56584-852-7), just published this week and featuring audio files from 8 presidents, from Roosevelt to Reagan.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Diem coup, a critical turning point in the Vietnam war, Dr. Prados also compiled and annotated for the Web a selection of recently declassified documents from the forthcoming documentary publication, U.S. Policy in the Vietnam War, to be published in spring 2004 by the National Security Archive and ProQuest Information and Learning. Together with the Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963, the documents show that American leaders discussed not only whether to support a successor government, but also the distribution of pro- and anti-coup forces, U.S. actions that could be taken that would contribute to a coup, and calling off a coup if its prospects were not good.

"Supporting the Diem coup made the U.S. responsible for the outcome in South Vietnam in exactly the way Bobby Kennedy feared on October 29," said Dr. Prados. "Ironically, though, as the conversation continued, he and the other doubters abandoned these larger considerations and concentrated only on whether a coup would succeed - nothing else mattered."
A replay may be well underway.

Cordesman's report, mentioned in the Christian Science Monitor, is available from CSIS.