"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Suicide attack kills 5 police officers in Iraqi city of Ramadi

From Dawn.

Three suicide bombers attacked a police station west of Baghdad on Saturday, killing five police officers and wounding 10, police said.The attack took place in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.Police shot and killed one of the attackers at the entrance of the station, but the two others managed to detonate their explosives.

Two things are very interesting in this article.

1. An attack happened in Ramadi, which has not experienced Al Qaeda activity for several months.

2. Three suicide bombers caused the deaths of five policemen.


Al Qaeda is trying to show its resurgence in Ramadi. It failed. Three suicide bombers died to kill five policemen. This is hardly a good trade off, nor spectacular, except given the fact it happened in Ramadi.

Three suicide bomber undoubtedly expected to not only kill several Ramadi police officers, but more emergency personnel and cvilians that responded to the scene of the initial carnage. This did not happen. This fact indicates it was not rehearsed or planned well.

Given the reduction of Al Qaeda's freedom of operations, hence, its ability to rehearse, coupled with the fact that Al Qaeda has been removed from Al Anbar, this attack shows the weakness of Al Qaeda in Iraq vice its strength.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated, plain and simple.

In addition, given the fact that Ramadi police were able to kill one of the attackers, I do not believe Al Qaeda in Iraq will attempt a similar operation in the future. Three Al Qaeda dead. Five Iraqis dead. This trade off is hardly acceptable to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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All quiet on Quebec war protest front, despite casualties, antiwar sentiment

From the Canadian Press via Yahoo.

Quebecers were expected to rise in protest against the war in Afghanistan when hometown soldiers from the local regiment began to fall on the fields of Kandahar.

Instead, the return of 11 flag-draped caskets since the Royal 22nd Regiment took the lead of the mission last summer has triggered little outcry from the province's political leaders, public personalities or ubiquitous street protesters.

The quiet response has left Raymond Legault, a member of antiwar umbrella group Collectif Echec a la guerre, reaching for explanations.

"I think when soldiers get killed, people are more sad than angry," said Legault, who helped organize small protests this fall that failed to spread very far.

Polls have suggested about 60 per cent of Quebecers are against Canada's mission in Afghanistan, a level of opposition that has remained constant for nearly five years.

It is interesting to see these numbers. Sixty percent are against Canada's mission, yet there are no protests calling for an end of the mission. We see the same thing in America.

As often, I ask, Why?

In calling my Mom over the holidays to wish her a Merry Christmas, I was taken aback that she too thought it was time to bring our Soldiers home. Her explanations took three tones:

1. So many wounded.

2. Lack of progress

3. We have given them their freedom and all they do is continue to kill.

I addressed each of these issues with her.

1. We have less killed and wounded in seven years than we had on any given day of major battles in WWII. I thought this would have some effect since as a young girl she has vivid memories of WWI, but nothing at all. It just led to the second issue, the lack of progress.

2. I told her there had been substantial progress. Since she does not have a computer, she may just be getting her "lack of progress" from the MSM. I comforted her by stating we are doing to Lord work in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are bringing democracy to people who have not experienced it in their lifetime. She grudgingly accepted that and then went on to number three.

3. Iraqis and Afghanis will never accept freedom.. I told her, freedom is something you do not accept, nor is it something which can be given, it is something which is earned. Iraqis are now earning their freedom. They are doing nothing different than a young United States did in the late 1700s. When she asked what did I mean, I unfortunately had to refer her to "Washington's Gift" which she will never see since she is woefully technologically unsavvy, and she will never see this article that I shared with you all on Christmas Eve.

The reason I am sharing this story is it explains the "Why" earlier. Good, decent, God fearing people know what we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is right, but they cannot explain why or understand the complexities of the wars, so they choose to not support it, but will definitely not protest against it.

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington -- his refusal to take absolute power -- that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today's world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America's eight-year struggle for independence.

The story begins with Gen. Washington's arrival in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace -- just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for Gen. Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress -- without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers -- especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him "The Great Illustrissimo" -- a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.

Even Congress, at the birth of our nation, which is supposed to understand complex situations, failed to understand the significance of what had just occurred in the newly found (and formed)United States of Americq eight years after a very long war had started. Today, most Americans (and Canadians) do not understand "The Long War". They are still enjoying economic livelihood and freedom. They are still enjoying the fruits of many dead Soldiers without knowing what these Soldiers have really done for them, be it 1783 or 2008. I personally, believe that most Soldiers also do not understand what their sacrifices bring until they are much older, wiser, and separated from the actions they underwent.

It is simple however. Freedom is something one would not accept, interestingly enough. It is also something that cannot be given. It is something that must be earned by the brave. We gave Afganis their freedom in 2001. We gave Iraqis their freedom in 2003. Neither of these cultures accepted their freedom. In fact, they shunned this gift much like Congress did in 1783. Iraqis have began to accept their freedom now that they are earning their freedom. Afghanis are just beginning to understand this great gift since they are now earning it. Pakistanis will decide their course on 18 February 2008, but will have to battle Al Qaeda to earn their freedom.

Finally, there is another facet of gaining freedom which must be overcome. Rulers have to understand freedom (to step down) to allow a democracy to flourish, despite them. Washington understood this fact. Maliki is beginning to understand this fact. I am certain Musharraf now understands this fact.

Our Soldiers who are dying and being wounded on the on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan are doing nothing less pious than our first President did at 1200, 23 December 1783.

To understand why we are doing to Lord's work in Iraq and Afghanistan, click here to understand the the full extent of not only Washington's gift upon America, but the Continental Army's gift to America and the military's gift to subsequent nations more than 200 years later.

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Frontier Insurgency Spills Into Peshawar

From The New York Times.

For centuries, fighting and lawlessness have been part of the fabric of this frontier city. But in the past year, Pakistan’s war with Islamic militants has spilled right into its alleys and bazaars, its forts and armories, killing policemen and soldiers and scaring its famously tough citizens.

There is a sense of siege here, as the Islamic insurgency pours out of the adjacent tribal region into this city, one of Pakistan’s largest, and its surrounding districts

The story continues with,

At the core of the troubles here, many say, lie demands by the United States that the Pakistani military, generously financed by Washington, join in its campaign against terrorism, which means killing fellow Pakistanis in the tribal areas. Even if those Pakistanis are extremists, the people here say, they do not like a policy of killing fellow tribesmen, and fellow countrymen, particularly on behalf of the United States.

The people of Pakistan can blame the United States all they want. It is not the United States that is radicalizing the youth in Pakistan in madrasas, blowing up DVD shops, making girls wear burqas, and killing their policemen.

I believe that fact is something this article misses as it finds people who solely blame the United States and not the people who are actually doing the evil deeds.

In 2002, the MMA received 11% of the vote. The MMA is no longer a consolidated organization due to its loss of popular support. It is not expected to get half this percentage of votes in the 18 February elections.

One thing the article notes in passing is,

At one such school, in Shah Dhand Baba, a town on the northern fringes of Peshawar, the principal, Gul Bahar Begum, said she received a handwritten letter in the mail last February demanding that the students cover up or the school would be blown up.

Ms. Begum, who wears lipstick and lightly covers her hair with a scarf, and whose office is filled with sports trophies won by her students, said that about 70 percent of the girls now wore burqas when they stepped outside the school.

"It is the Islamic way to cover," she said of her instructions to the girls to cover up. "So the militants were right, but the way they imposed their decision was not."

The Sunnis in Iraq too thought initially it was the United States fault until they came under full control of Al Qaeda. Just as Al Qaeda lost popular support in Iraq due to their indiscriminate killing of innocent Muslims, so too is Al Qaeda losing support in Pakistan. It is only a matter of time before the people of Pakistan quit blaming others for letting evil doers into their cities.

Al Qaeda has no choice but to stop free and fair elections in Pakistan; otherwise it will have lost Pakistan. The elections of 18 February will end up being the deciding factor for many Pakistanis.

These Pakistanis still have one vital lesson to learn in route to becoming a democracy. A democracy is the land of the free, because of the brave.

Blaming others is only passing the buck. It is not being brave.

As Al Qaeda steps up its attacks a couple of weeks prior to the polls, we will see if Pakistanis are brave enough to have freedom.

For a full read, click here.

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Al Qaeda in Iraq's shrinking area of operations

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Nearly one year to the day of the announcement of the "surge" of US forces to Iraq and the change in counterinsurgency plan, Iraqi and Coalition forces have shrunk al Qaeda's ability to conduct operations inside Iraq, a senior US commander said.

During a press briefing in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said al Qaeda in Iraq has been ejected from its strongholds in the cities to the rural regions of Iraq.

It is interesting to see the areas where Al Qaeda has lost influence in the year since the surge was announce. It is quite significant.

For a full read, click here.

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The Long War Journal Roll Up of Incidents in Pakistan

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal regarding the claim that Pakistan killed 90 militants.

The fighting in South Waziristan continues for the third straight day. The military estimated over 90 Taliban were killed after ambushing a convoy and assaulting a fort. Both engagements were initiated by the Taliban.

What Mr. Roggio disputes is not the 90 militants killed but the unbalanced nature of the deaths.

While the incidents are more than common in Pakistan's tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan, the unbalanced casualties are not. The Pakistani military claimed only four wounded while claiming to inflict 90 kills on the Pakistani forces. Pakistani troops, particularly the paramilitary Frontier Corps stationed in the region, have suffered high casualties during engagements with the Taliban.

As always, Mr. Roggio expresses the facts for others to ponder.

For a full read, click here.

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Musharraf vows to defeat conspirators

From The News International in Pakistan.

President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday blamed internal and external elements for conspiring to destabilise the country but said the nation has the resilience to defeat all such elements.

“We can surmount all difficulties, [but] we need to have confidence in ourselves and faith in our abilities and we have to defeat such elements,” President Musharraf said at PTV’s weekly interactive programme ‘Aiwan-e-Sadr Sey’ on the “Challenges confronting Pakistan and the way forward.”

While it is important for Musharraf to rally Pakistanis for the upcoming battle, other statements made by Musharraf during this program are much more important when examining the way ahead in Pakistan.

Musharraf said the country currently faced three major challenges; terrorism and extremism; transition to democracy and need to sustain socio-economic growth. Musharraf said a few “misguided and lunatics” were attempting to force their way of life on the majority, but vowed that such elements will not succeed. “There is no place for al-Qaeda in Pakistan ... we cannot allow al-Qaeda to operate and commit acts of terrorism here or elsewhere.”

The president said “neither can we allow Taliban here or any support to them. No militants can be allowed here.” President Musharraf underlined the need for adopting a multi-pronged strategy; military, political and socio-economic to bring the country’s tribal areas at par with the rest of the country. He said there was a need to check growing extremism in the society, continue the ban on militant organisations and use of mosques for such purposes.

Musharraf strongly rejected reports of any foreign intervention in Pakistan in the garb of operation against the militants. “This is not possible ... till the time Pakistan Army is there,” he added. He said all security duties inside the country will be undertaken by the Pakistan Army. No one from outside can come into Pakistan.”

Musharraf rejected reports of any intervention in the country from across the border. He said if Pakistan needed any help in logistics or intelligence, it can ask for it. “But no one can forcefully enter Pakistan,” he added. (emphasis added)

What can be taken from Musharraf's words?

First, Musharraf discusses three major challenges:

1. Terrorism and extremism

2. Transition to democracy

3. The need to sustain socio-economic growth

He then identifies the enemy: Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In the past, Musharraf has made several references Al Qaeda and foreign "miscreants" in the past, but has never singled out the Taliban specifically. I believe this speech is the first time Musharraf stated the Taliban were not welcomed in Pakistan, nor should be supported by Pakistanis. He further states no militants can be allow in Pakistan. This change in attitude is significant and shows a fundamental shift in his policy with regards to the Taliban.

He later refers to a multi-pronged strategy to deal with with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. They are:

1. Military

2. Political

3. Socio-economic

This multi-pronged strategy, in relation to Musharraf's major challenges above, define how he is going to deal with these challenges.

1. His military focus is on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

2. His political focus is on the transition to democracy.

3. His socio-economic focus is focused on granting the FATA and NWFP regions the same rights as the rest of Pakistanis while continuing to transition the economy to a capitalistic based system.

What ground work has Musharraf laid to ensure success of his multi-pronged strategy.

1. He used emergency rule to move tens of thousand regular Army forces from Kashmir to the FATA and NWFP regions. In addition, he stepped down as Army Chief to ensure if he is impeached as president after the 18 February elections, the Army will still be solidly grounded in Pakistan under General Kayani and his impeachment would not be reflective on the Army.

2. He has banked his country's future on the 18 February elections. He has made relative peace with both the PPP and to a lesser extent the PML-N. In addition, it appears that a coalition may form between Musharraf's PML-Q and the PPP after the 18 February elections. This coalition would allow the PPP to focus on the economy and enacting laws granting freedoms to FATA and NWFP tribes on par with the settled areas of Pakistan. Musharraf can then focus on the military strategy. The transition to democracy will have succeeded on 18 February and will be unstoppable from that point on.

3. Major pipeline deals between India and Iran are already in the works. Construction at the port of Gwadar is underway. Global trade will move through Pakistan through the Gwadar port upon completion. Trade with India has increased further removing possible Kashmiri uprisings. Musharraf's transition from a national economy to a global one will result in GDP increases over the years, especially if he can keep pro-western support for his country. Basing his economy on capitalistic ideals may even make his impending war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban profitable to everyday Pakistanis.

Lastly, and possible most significantly, Musharraf has not discounted external support from the US military in Pakistan. He consistently talks of not accepting unilateral involvement of US forces. However, he clearly details that if he needs assistance, he will ask for it. Musharraf specifies that US assistance will clearly be subordinate to the Pakistani military needs and not the otherway around when dealing within Pakistan.

Musharraf has clearly implemented all elements of national power (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic) prior to the 18 February elections. for eventual success against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. By specifically naming the Taliban in his message, he has ensured the MMA will not reunite to form a opposition government. Without this opposition, the coalition with the PPP and PML-Q will use its elements of national power to rout out Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the FATA and NWFP regions.

The cards are dealt. The battlelines are being drawn. One side is trying to prevent 18 February elections. The other side is waiting on the results of the 18 February elections. Like so many purple fingers foretold of Al Qaeda in Iraq's eventual defeat, so too will successful elections in Pakistan lead to the defeat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. Just how important are these elections can be seen in Musharraf's speech.

“it is my guarantee that there will be a free, fair, transparent and peaceful election on Feb 18 ... I can say it with full sincerity.” He said the bugs, if any, in the electioneering had been removed and added that rangers and the army would be deployed to maintain the law and order, while the Election Commission would conduct the entire process.

I am wagering on Musharraf and expecting 18 February which will be celebrated in Pakistan for some time to come. It will mark the first step towards a capitalistic democracy. It will mark the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It will be the birth of Pakistan on the world stage and not just in the world papers due to its harboring of Islamic extremists.

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JI urges Taliban to give up violence

From Dawn.

The Jamaat-i-Islami leadership has decided to contact the local Taliban in Swat and Waziristan and persuade them to give up their activities which are creating an impression in the world that Islam is a religion of violence.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the JI leadership held after the conclusion of its Shoora here on Thursday. Qazi Husain Ahmad presided over the meeting.

According to a source, all the participants of the meeting belonged to the NWFP, except secretary-general Munawwar Hasan.

The source said the party expressed concern over the beheading of state functionaries, bombing of audio and video shops and forcing closure of shops of barbers and ladies tailors in tribal areas.

The meeting directed JI Swat Amir Fazle Subhan and party leaders in Swat, Waziristan and Mohmand Agency to convince the local Taliban that the violent methods they were using to promote their ideologies were not Islamic. It called upon them to stop such activities so that the West might not use them to tarnish the image of Islam.

The split among religious extemists is broadening.

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Israel flattens Hamas ministry in Gaza Strip

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Israel bombed the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza and closed border crossings with the strip on Friday, sharply escalating what it called a campaign to halt Palestinian rocket attacks.

The story continues noting even though the building was empty, one woman was killed and 30 were wounded and cites, "medical officials, but does not give names, but it then follows with specific source form Umm Fahmi.

"It felt like an earthquake," said Umm Fahmi, a woman who lives across from the blast site.

"My house did not only shake, it jumped from its foundations and back down. How could they drop such a bomb in a residential area on top of people's heads?" she said, peering through the dust at the concrete and steel remains of the security complex.

After noting the another building was damaged, calling it the "so-called naval headquarters", the story notes 33 Palestinians were killed this week in Gaza the story continues,

"This is part of our response to Qassam (rocket) fire against Israel," the spokeswoman said.

The Interior Ministry oversees Hamas-controlled government forces in Gaza, but not the group's armed wing. The armed wing claimed responsibility for most rocket salvoes since Tuesday, when Israel killed 18 Palestinians, mostly Hamas militants.

Again, we have an exact figure of the number of Paliestinians killed. In addition, we have the reporting validating the building is not used by the Hamas' armed wing without even citing a source. What is missing in this whole article is the number of rockets fired at Israel.

One has to go to another completely different article to find this number. On Thrusday, nearly 40 rockets were fired on Thursday bringing the total for the week to over 100. On Friday, an additional 30 prior to this response by Isreal.

My point being is this article is extremely biased. It cites that a total of 33 Palestinian were killed, states a woman was killed and 30 were wounded. It cites medical sources, but does not offer the name of the hospital or medical officials. It accepts that the building was the Interior Minister's building, but then notes it is not used by Hamas' armed wing (with no citation), and then labels the naval headquarters building the "so called naval headquarters". It also has a human interest portion from Umm Fahmi.

It lacks citing in the last week approximately 130 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip or the fact that many landed next to a school for kindergartners. Where is the human interest point from the Israeli perspective. Finally, the story start with how Israel is escalating the crisis.

I'm sorry, who fired the 130-ish rockets in the last week causing a response. It certainly wasn't Israel.

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Al-Qaeda calls for fresh attacks on Pakistani forces (Extra)

From South Asia News via M & C News.

Two major al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan's tribal areas near Afghanistan have called upon their followers to intensify holy war against security forces and seize control of the capital Islamabad, media reports said on Thursday.

'Jihad is compulsory in Pakistan as it is compulsory in Afghanistan,' Qadri Tahir Yaldeshiv the chief of the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan and the chief of Uzbek militants in North Waziristan, was cited as saying by Italian newswire Adnkronos International (AKI).

He also encouraged Muslims to avenge the army commando operation at the Red Mosque in July 2007 that left more than 100 militants and hardcore students of an adjoining Islamic seminary died in the action.

The action followed several weeks' standoff with the government that rejected their demand for Taliban-styled strict Islamic rule in the capital.

The video that was sent from Yaldeshiv's camp in the tribal district of North Waziristan also included a statement from Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, who supported the Uzbek militant.

For a full read, click here.

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General sees more Iraqi security forces

From Yahoo/AP.

A senior military commander told a House panel on Thursday that Iraq's security forces are on track to add another 80,000 personnel by the end of the year, putting them well within reach of their goal of more than 600,000. He said the forces are still a long way from becoming self-sufficient.

The reason most units are not self-sufficient is they cannot support themselves, do not have engineers, or indirect fire units. The Iraqi government and US forces focused on combat troops first and foremost because we can support Iraqi troops with these other items. However, this year, Iraqi forces will begin to add this capacity. What is important right now is can they take the fight to Al Qaeda? According to LTG Odierno,

"In terms of them being able to fight, they've really increased their capacity to do that."

But, as the Anne Flaherty reports,

Still, the burgeoning force remains plagued by numerous issues, including a large absentee rate with 23 percent gone at any one point. Also, the Iraqi army lacks enough midlevel officers needed to lead units. Equipment and infrastructure also are lacking, particularly a logistics system that can sustain combat units with such necessities as food and fuel.

Let's attack these one by one.

1. Twenty-three percent gone (on leave) at any one point. In the American Army we get one month leave per year, or eight percent. So Iraqis are triple our numbers. Two items are worth mentioning here. One, we get to go home after a year, reconstitute, retrain, and go back after say one year off. That is equivalent to about a 58% absentee rate. Iraqi forces continue to fight year after year after year. Their absentee rate is 23%. In addition, to account for this absentee rate, Iraqi Security Forces are filling their ranks to 120%. Therefore, most units will be manned at 97%, on average (and that is taking into account that the 23% absentee rate is accurate). So, actually their annual absentee rate will become 3% down from 23% but still significantly less than the US forces absentee rate of 58% on average.

2. Mid level officer shortage. The Iraqi government just passed the Accountability and Justice Law which has the potential to bring in several mid level officers. The US forces are not much better with regards to mid level officer shortages. We too have significant shortages in this range especially as we are expanding our forces.

3. Logistics, equipment, and infrastructure lacking. Again, the focus was on combat units. We can resupply Iraqi forces, we can house Iraqi forces. Over time, they will get new equipment. Another way to look at this is prior to Desert Storm, Iraq was the fourth largest Army with 4000 tanks. After Desert Strom they had 2000 tanks, many of which had significant mechanical problems. After OIF, they had about zero. It took Saddam 20 years to go from zero to 4000. It will take a little time to rebuild the equipment capacity.

But I go back to what LTG Odierno stated,

"In terms of them being able to fight, they've really increased their capacity to do that."

This is what is key. We can supply them beans and bullets (food and ammo). We can assist with mid level officer shortages with MTT (pronounced mitt) teams. Their absentee rate is better than our vacancy rate, and they have a plan in 2008 to fix their absentee rate.

Iraqi forces are now proficient at their combat mission, to close with and destroy the enemy. Are they as proficient as US forces? Heck, I should hope not. Are they more proficient than Al Qaeda forces, clearly. Did we totally destroy and disband their Army infrastructure almost five years ago? Yes, we did. And in five short years, they have become a tactically proficient force. Are they technically proficient? Not yet, but they are getting there.

Were we a tactically and technically proficient force during our Revolution? Heck no. But over time, we got better. And during the revolution, our proficiency was good enough. Right now, during Iraq's revolution, their proficiency is good enough.

For a full read, click here.

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Militants make a claim for talks

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

The capture by militants of a fort in Pakistan near the Afghan border is not just another isolated incident in the volatile region. It represents a concerted fightback by al-Qaeda to derail any peace initiatives unless the group itself is directly engaged, rather than local resistance leaders.

Mr. Shahzad notes this was in response to a,

Pakistani Taliban shura (council) headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan responded positively to a government offer of a ceasefire, despite opposition from Takfiri elements who view non-practicing Muslims as infidels.

In addition, he infers,

This response is orchestrated by al-Qaeda from its camps around the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Al-Qaeda views any peace agreements with the Pakistani Taliban as a government maneuver to split the militants, and also says Islamabad has been consistently intransigent over the years.

Al-Qaeda demands that it be the chief interlocutor in any peace talks, and it has set its bottom line: guarantees of the withdrawal of all security forces from the tribal areas; enforcement of sharia law, the release of Maulana Abdul Aziz of the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), who was apprehended last year; and that President Pervez Musharraf step down.

I have documented the split among Taliban and Al Qaeda's hostile take over of the Taliban before in this blog. Mr. Shahzad continues with,

Al-Qaeda believes it has sufficiently changed the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that the first regional dialogue with al-Qaeda - involving Britain, the United States and Pakistan - will start in South Asia.

Indeed, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in audio and video messages last year, surprised many when he urged the West for dialogue.

Of course, this was not a straight-forward offer of an olive branch, but an indication that al-Qaeda aims to be the main negotiator of Muslim issues, rather than local groups such as the Taliban, Iraqi tribes and Hamas in Palestine.

For a full read of Mr. Shahzad article, click here.

It is important for all to understand that Al Qaeda is reconstituted in the FATA and NWFP regions of Pakistan and now believes it has sufficient forces to bring the battle to the Pakistani settled regions which it has done already with Bhutto's assassination and several bombings.

Currently, Musharraf and General Kayani are massing forces in both the FATA and NWFP regions but not engaging in major combat until after the 18 February elections. Al Qaeda understands this fact and is doing all it can to prevent elections or kill Musharraf's rivals to further weaken his power, portraying to Pakistanis that Musharraf is stopping the elections to remain in power.

Expect the week proceeding the elections in Pakistan to be punctuated by several bombings in the settled areas.

However, like in Iraq, Al Qaeda cannot stop the elections. It will begin killing more and more fellow Muslims much like it did in Iraq. This will cause a backlash against Al Qaeda, but this time, the backlash will be in its last remaining stronghold. However, unlike in Iraq, the split is already present, so the backlash against Al Qaeda will be much swifter than it was in Iraq. Also, unlike Iraq, the Pakistani government and military are firmly established. Finally, there does not exist the decisive ethnic rivalries that exist in Iraq today due to three decades of suppression among Shiites.

2008 is shaping up to be a violent year in Pakistan. However, power sharing agreements between the PPP and Musharraf will signal a unified, democratically elected front against Al Qaeda and transition Pakistan to a freely elected democracy.

Try as it might, Al Qaeda cannot battle against this ideal. It will fight hard. It will slaughter many innocent people. But it will ultimately be defeated in Pakistan just like it has in Iraq. During the spring of next year, Al Qaeda's efforts will be focused in Pakistan and will need its fighters concentrated in this region. Afghanistan next year will be tame compared to this year and Iraq will be further on its way to a strong, vibrant democracy.

The only possible way to turn the tide is to assassinate General Kayani and Musharraf which is why Al Qaeda has already targeted these two for assassination.

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PAKISTAN: Jockeying For Position

From South Asia Analysis Group. A great primer on the upcoming elections.

With just a month to go before the postponed general elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan, which are now to be held on February 18, 2008, the election campaign is once again picking up the momentum, which it had lost after the shocking assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, on December 27, 2007. Apparently rendered wiser by the shock and grief caused by her assassination, which was in part due to her habit of flouting security regulations, the political leaders have been more restrained in their campaigning, with their public exposure restrained to the minimum unavoidable. The consequences of another assassination by the jihadi terrorists would be incalculable for the future of the country and its political stability.

For a full read, click here.

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Hunt for Baitullah Provokes more Reprisals - International Terrorism Monitor

From South Asia Analysis Group. A great update on events in Pakistan.

The Pakistani authorities, including President Pervez Musharraf, continue to be convinced that the assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto at Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, was masterminded by Baitullah Mehsud ( stated to be 32 years old), the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, who is the head of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan. Baitullah himself has strongly denied this and accused the Pakistani Army of spreading disinformation in order to divert attention away from the alleged involvement of military officers in the assassination. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Benazir has not accepted the claim of the Government. It claims that before Benazir's assassination Baitullah had sent a message to her through an intermediary that he would pose no threat to her.

For a full read, click here.

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Senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader killed in Miqdadiyah

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

As Operation Phantom Phoenix and its subordinate operations progress in central and northern Iraq, Coalition forces confirmed killing a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Diyala province. Coalition force killed Abu Layla al Suri, who is also known as Abu Abd al Rahman, during an intelligence-driven raid in the city of Miqdadiyah in Diyala province, where al Qaeda has established a safe haven.

Al Suri, which translates to "the Syrian," was leader in Diyala, the province al Qaeda claimed as the capital of its Islamic State of Iraq during late 2006. Multinational Forces Iraq did not respond to an inquiry from The Long War Journal about al Suri's nationality. He was "intricately involved in the terrorist network operating in the Diyala River Valley region since October 2006, and was closely associated with several al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders," Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

Abu Maysara, a member of the inner circle of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri who served as a senior adviser providing spiritual guidance to wage a terror campaign, was among al Suri's associates. US forces killed Maysara, a Syrian national, in November 2007. Al Suri also "had ties to the al-Qaeda in Iraq propaganda cell leaders in Baghdad, due to his involvement in terrorist media and propaganda operations in Diyala."

For a full read, click here.

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Operation Phantom Phoenix: Tip leads MND-North Soldiers to extremist car bomb factory and large cach

From MNF-I.

Multi-National Division – North Soldiers discovered a car bomb factory, terrorist command cell and large cache in the western desert of Salah ad Din province Jan. 8 as a result of tips from local citizens during Operation Phantom Phoenix, a countrywide effort to kill or capture al-Qaeda and other extremists.

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) found an extensive enemy training camp, training manuals, video equipment, four vehicle-borne IEDs, 1,000 pounds of homemade explosives, 30 pressure plate road bombs and multiple mortar rounds.

“The Soldiers of the “No Slack” Battalion severely weakened the enemy operating in southern Salah ad Din province when, thanks to the help of an informant, they discovered and destroyed an enemy training camp and sizeable explosives cache,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Hauerwas, 1st Brigade Combat Team executive officer. “The action degraded the enemies’ ability to intimidate and terrorize the people of Iraq.”

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Iraq crackdowns take hold of Al Qaeda

From Alsumaria - Another Al Qaeda Emir killed.

Iraqi police killed Hamid Ukab, one of Al Qaeda Emirs in Salah Din Province, in crackdown operations in Al Shirqat District in northern the capital. In kirkuk, security forces found documents relevant to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and arrested six gunmen.

In a separate incident, head of police unit in Al Fadel region was killed with six others in clashed with gunmen while six civilians were killed including two policemen due to a roadside bomb explosion near the national theatre in Karrada.A second bomb exploded when a police force arrived to the blast scene wounding two policemen.

What is most impressive about the death of this emir is the fact the crackdown operations were taken by Iraqi Police with no apparent involvement of Iraqi or US Army forces.

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Toward a Nuclear-Free World

From The Wall Street Journal.

The accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material has brought us to a nuclear tipping point. We face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.

The steps we are taking now to address these threats are not adequate to the danger. With nuclear weapons more widely available, deterrence is decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous.

For a full read, click here. It is a great article focusing on dealing with nuclear proliferation.

What is most amazing is the number of folks who contributed to this article.

Mr. Shultz was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. Mr. Perry was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Mr. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. Mr. Nunn is former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The following participants in the Hoover-NTI conference also endorse the view in this statement: General John Abizaid, Graham Allison, Brooke Anderson, Martin Anderson, Steve Andreasen, Mike Armacost, Bruce Blair, Matt Bunn, Ashton Carter, Sidney Drell, General Vladimir Dvorkin, Bob Einhorn, Mark Fitzpatrick, James Goodby, Rose Gottemoeller, Tom Graham, David Hamburg, Siegfried Hecker, Tom Henriksen, David Holloway, Raymond Jeanloz, Ray Juzaitis, Max Kampelman, Jack Matlock, Michael McFaul, John McLaughlin, Don Oberdorfer, Pavel Podvig, William Potter, Richard Rhodes, Joan Rohlfing, Scott Sagan, Roald Sagdeev, Abe Sofaer, Richard Solomon, and Philip Zelikow.


Musharraf's dangerous liaisons

Olivier Guitta, writing for the Middle East Times comments on Musharraf's complicity in the Bhutto assassination.

Benazir Bhutto's recent assassination most likely by Islamist elements, most likely linked to the Taliban, is the latest proof of how central Pakistan is in the war against radical Islam. Bhutto's supporters were quick to blame Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf for her death. While it would be a stretch to see Musharraf's hand behind the plot, it is nonetheless clear that the president has some responsibility. First and foremost because of his dangerous liaisons with Islamists.

In another article for the Middle East Times, Mr. Guitta notes,

But the corps does not seriously fight the Taliban. Testimonies of Frontier Corps troops reveal that insurgents freely cross the border to fight the jihad in Afghanistan and return without hindrance. Furthermore, the populations house and feed them. Numerous locals actually join the underground. Also, Pakistani soldiers sometimes provide medical treatment when they return injured.

Some Frontier Corps fighters say that the army could finish off the Taliban in one day if it wanted to, but that the military commanders do not give the order to do so. Instead, they tell the troops that killing locals would create problems all over the country.

I concur with Mr. Guitta's assessment to a certain extent. The Pakistani government and the ISI made the Taliban with the expressed objective of limiting disruptive warlord influence in Afghanistan. Musharraf did not reign in the Taliban upon seizing power in 1999 and in fact continued to support their efforts. One can understand why when looking at the geopolitical climate in Pakistan. In short, with Iran and Afghanistan to its west and India to it east, Pakistan was surrounded by countries wishing it harm from its perspective. The Taliban were created to fight an insurgency with Iran and Afghanistan while his Army was positioned in the Kashmir region to prevent Indian aggression. But one cannot look at a moment in time to understand the underlying political dynamics of a country or region. One must look over time to get a general sense of geopolitical dynamics.

The fact that the Taliban were able to seize control of Afghanistan in 1996 caused the Pakistani government to increase their support to the Taliban under Sharif. The Taliban had effectively eliminated one rival country and was causing all sorts of issues in Iran, effectively keeping this theocracy, and its influence at bay in the Balochistan region so Musharraf could mine the vast mineral wealth of this region and build a vast warm water port at Gwadar to increase commerce to/from Pakistan.

However, all this changed on 9/11. Shortly after attacks on the World Trade Center, Musharraf was visited by Mr. Armitage who gave him the ultimatum that he can either join the US in it fight against terror or go down with the terrorists. For his part, Musharraf begin to assist the US.

However, one cannot change a country's political climate overnight. I also do not believe the Frontiers Corps can finish off the Taliban in one day as expressed for several reasons.

First and foremost, Alexander tried for several years to militarily defeat the Pushtan tribes in this region only to later negotiate a truce with them. So too did the British many years later. After waging a battle in this region from 2002 to 2006, Musharraf, like generals before him, negotiated a truce in the hopes of establishing neutrality in this region. However, this truce failed.

Secondly, since Pakistan created the Taliban, it would be hard to destroy them since they are part and parcel of the Pakistani government. It takes time to change attitudes within a government. While it can be argued that Masharraf could have cleaned house in the Army immediately after 9/11, this purge would have caused the Army to fracture, leaving Pakistan vulnerable to attacks from the Taliban internally, or Iran and India externally.

One thing he could do was to slowly but surely reduce their influence. He has/had three methods to accomplish this feat. First, he began a military campaign against the Taliban from 2002 through 2006 in the hope of weakening them to such an extent that their influence would be limited to the FATA and NWFP regions. Arguably, this worked to a certain extent until he negotiated a cease fire in all these regions and they began to reconstitute their forces. Being resentful of the last four years of war, the Taliban begin to look inward to Pakistan.

Secondly, he could control who makes rank in the Army. By slowly passing over pro-Taliban officers in his Army, he could diminish their influence. His appointment of General Kayani to succeed him as Commander of the Army is one example of this change. General Kayani, for his part, immediately changed out several higher officers in the Army and has recently told the Army to stay out of politics.

Another method Musharraf has pursued is to transition his country towards democracy. His first effort at this increased Islamists in the government in which the MMA was able to get 11% of the vote in 2002, the third highest. One can understand Musharraf's apprehension in using democracy to bring Pakistan into the modern age and help him to destroy the Taliban given their popularity both with the people and in the government.

However, with the Taliban's recent internal attacks, especially the Bhutto assassination, Musharraf may now have the opportunity to deal decisively with the Taliban as their support wains. Better relations with India has allowed him to pull tens of thousands of troop from Kashmir to the FATA and NWFP regions. Appointment of General Kayani, a pro-western and apolitical leader will allow Musharraf to go after the Taliban with assistance from the United States. However, nothing can be started until the elections are over on 18 February. At this time, we will see a concerted effort against the Taliban, either by Musharraf in conjunction with a coalition of the PPP or PML-N or by the Army itself if the PPP and/or PML-N forces Musharraf out of office.

Either way, we will have to wait until after 18 February to see which direction Pakistan goes.

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"Syria's Jihadists and Hezbollah are two arms of one body"

From Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog commenting on who targeted Ambassador Feltman.

Following the bombing of a US embassy car in Beirut this week many analysis were made available about the authors of this terror attack. Several thesis struggled with what they coined different and opposed possibilities. One main option being Hezbollah and the other option being Jihadi groups controlled by Syria. I argued that as long as it is either Hezbollah or Syrian-controlled Jihadists executing the operation, these two networks are two arms of one body. The decision-making process is at the "axis" level, that is Tehran and Damascus joint war room in the region.

Dr Phares cites Stratfor analysis of the attack which states it is unlikely to be Hezbollah which executed the attack, but instead believes the attack was executed by Jihadist forces. He points out that these two forces are linked.

"What is strange in the analysis is that it says that Hezbollah is unlikely to carry an attack against US target, but Jihadists controlled by Syria are very likely to do so. But these are two arms from one Terror body, the Syro-Iranian axis."

I concur with Dr. Phares. The two groups are different arms of the same body. They are all ultimately controlled by Iran.

For a full read, click here.

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A Message for Departing Ambassador Feltman

From Counterterrorism Blog.

Yesterday’s car bomb attack on a US embassy convoy in Beirut comes just days before US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman returns to Washington. The bomb, which killed three Lebanese civilians and injured dozens—purportedly at least one of whom was a host country national employee of the embassy—appears to have been intended for the Ambassador. According to press reports, the carbomb hit the wrong group of cars: Ambassador Feltman was traveling in another convoy and escaped injury.

Given the operational capabilities and extensive intelligence networks of the groups that most likely perpetrated this outrage (i.e., Hizballah, Syria, Fatah al Islam) it’s difficult to imagine that this was a failed operation. An alternative and perhaps more convincing explanation is that this attack intentionally missed the Ambassador. In this context, the bombing was intended as a message to Ambassador Feltman—who was a key driver of the robust US policy in Lebanon backing the democratically-elected anti-Syrian March 14th Government—and his successor, Ambassador Sison, who was confirmed by Congress last week and heads out to Beirut in February. Quite simply, this message is: “stay out of internal Lebanese politics.”

Lebanon is a dangerous diplomatic post for US personnel, and is increasingly becoming a dangerous locale for international deployed forces: UNIFIL has been attacked three times in the past year. The attack on the US Embassy and the increasing frequency of attacks targeting the international community are cause for serious concern. In the past, the response to these kind of developments has been for the US and the international community to draw down and scale back. Obviously, this response is what those who seek to destabilize Lebanon most want.

To counter this dangerous trend, it is increasingly important for Washington and the international community to strengthen the commitment to Lebanon. A good demonstration of this commitment would be to press forward expeditiously with the seemingly stalled UN-mandated international tribunal to prosecute the murderers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. Movement on the tribunal stands a chance of changing the current dynamic in Lebanon. At the very least, it would put the Syrians and their allies in Lebanon—who currently hold the initiative—on the defensive. (emphasis added)

David Schenker makes a great point. This could have been a message and should be followed up by an appropriate response. Expediting the international tribunal for the Hariri assassination should be the first step in a U.S. response.

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Raid shows risks in new tactic to hunt al-Qaeda

USA Today has a great article about how US Army Rangers killed 1o terrorists in Mosul during a raid recently on 25 December 2007. The article is great in that it shows how US forces are closing in and defeating Al Qaeda who use women and children as human shields. While the article has its typical negatives the MSM is known for, it does show how US forces deal with tough situations vice how terrorists indescriminately use civilians to shield behind.

When the two Army Rangers slipped inside the house of suspected assassins in the dark on Christmas morning in Mosul, they expected a fight. They got one.

Two gunmen, using an 11-year-old boy as a shield, confronted the soldiers. One, a Ranger staff sergeant, shot them dead with his rifle. The boy was unharmed, according to an Army document that outlined the assault.

That clash — recounted to USA TODAY by four of the Rangers involved and confirmed by the military command in Baghdad — kicked off what U.S. military officials say was a 17-hour firefight that resulted in the deaths of 10 al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents, including the head of an assassination cell, a financier and a military leader. At least one fighter was from Saudi Arabia, according to the military account of the raid. Intelligence gleaned from the fight led to 10 follow-up operations, the Rangers' commander said.

For a full read, click here.

What the writer of this article fails to understand is what I highlighted above. It is raids like this that lead to follow-up operations. This particular one not only resulted in 10 insurgents being killed, but also led to 10 follow-up operations not discussed in this article.

Similarly this author misses another important point. Even with a million troops in Iraq, we cannot be everywhere all the time. This fact is why it is necessary to builid Iraqi Army capacity and to ensure these force are in/around the population providing for their security. The population can be our eyes and ears, as is evident in this article where a tip from the population led to this raid.

General Petreous fully understands this fact which is why special forces go after terrorist cells like the one in this article. Regular US and Iraqi forces simultaneously clear towns of insurgents. Iraqi Army forces are left behind to secure the population. These forces are assisted by CLCs. All forces in towns report to Joint Security Stations (JSSs). We then move on to other cells and clear other towns of insurgents in classical attrition warfare.

Everyday, more and more terrorists cells are destroyed. Everyday, more and more towns are cleared. Everyday, more and more of the population is secured. Everyday, more and more CLCs are helping to protect their communities. When Al Qaeda attempts to reinfiltrate, the populous and CLCs point them out.

Al Qaeda is in a losing battle and is being routed in Iraq. Make not mistake about it, the tide is on our side, the side of freedom precisely because of encounters like those faced by the Rangers in Mosul on 25 December 2007. The terrorists hide behind innocent women and children. We protect these same people and are giving them freedom for the first time in three decades. This fact is why they are turning on Al Qaeda and chosing to side with Americans.

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Freedom and Democracy

MEMRI has translated excerpts from Syrian sheikh 'Abd Al-Mun'im Mustafa Halima, who is also known as Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, from his article, "On the Jihad in Iraq" posted on his website on 23 NOvember 2007.

In the article, he condemned the ease with which Sunni jihad groups accuse one another of heresy and collaboration with the enemy, and he wrote that these groups ultimately reach the point of killing one another, thus violating the strict prohibition in Islam against spilling Muslim blood. Al-Tartousi called on the jihad groups in Iraq to join ranks and to base their activity on the principle of shura (consultation) - thus implicitly criticizing Al-Qaeda's attempts to impose its control on other jihad movements. At the same time, he unequivocally condemned those collaborating with the Americans, stating that nothing could justify such an act. Finally, he warned against the phenomenon of blind admiration for certain contemporary jihad leaders, which has spread in certain circles. This admiration, he said, causes them to direct "ideological and psychological terrorism" at any cleric or preacher who gives them advice that they dislike or that they deem offensive to the object of their admiration. (emphasis added)

Al-Tartousi discusses three points (highlighted above) which has caused the jihad in Iraq to suffer.

1. Exaggerate the Sins of Rival Groups

"The worst and most dangerous [mistake] is to accuse other [Muslims] of heresy on the basis of conjecture, suspicions, probabilities, and unfounded notions [based on one's] interpretation [of the facts]."

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups

"If one group disdains the principle of shura and imposes itself and its decisions on another, the result is inevitably mutual strife, war, division and the unlawful spilling of blood. This is happening today, and it is [precisely] what the enemy wants..."

3. Blindly following extremists

Lately, we have [indeed] observed in a number of people the phenomenon of zealously following certain contemporary jihadi [figures], to the extent that they reject any criticism or advice [regarding these figures], or any claim that [their mentors] are making a mistake. Anyone who offers such advice... is immediately considered suspect and accused of treason... even if he has an [impeccable] reputation for expertise, knowledge and jihad...

These mistakes are exactly the mistakes made by Al Qaeda in Iraq. They continue to be made as Al Qaeda in Iraq targets awakening members, most notable, Sheikh Risha in Al Anbar who started the Anbar Awakening. Al Qaeda is continuing to target CLC and Awakening leaders which will further alienate them from the population.

The two things I find interesting about this article are:

1. It contradictory nature. Al-Tartousi, and Bin Laden before him are eseentially telling a lion to quit being a lion. Do not exaggerate the sins of rival groups. Do not use force against rival individuals or groups. Do not blindly follow extremists. However, this is what Bin Laden preaches for Al Qaeda preaches and what Al Qaeda in Iraq executes on a daily basis. It is precisely why they have alienated the population of Iraq and are why they have lost the active and tacit support of the populous in Iraq, which is essential for a successful insurgency.

Side Note: What is interesting about any government, leader, or ruler, whether elected or not, is they need at least the tacit approval of the population. This tacit support can be gained by military force to prevent tacit approval from becoming active disapproval. Otherwise, they would be overthrown. This fact is as true now as it was in feudal societies in the ancient world.

2.The fixes suggested are being done by Awakening groups, but they are denounced in this article as heresy. The fix for exaggerating the sins of rival groups is to "sit down with the enemy and negotiate with him, or even [sign] a hudna or reconciliation agreement" This is precisely what Awakening groups in Iraq are doing with the Iraqi government. Instead of using force against rival groups, jihad forces must unify and execute a shura. The unity government that is being established in Iraq is an example of this principle as is the recently passed reconciliation law. I presume the problem with this shura or consultation which is happening is that it is based on a popularly elected democracy. Instead of blindly following extremists, one should seek spiritual leadership. Rival groups are seeking spiritual advice, most notably from Sistani who has been visited by both Sunnis and Shiites leaders alike for his guidance in Iraqi matters.

If I was a jihad fighter, I would be thoroughly confused by the contradictions being espoused by Al-Tartousi and in the earlier speech by Bin Laden. I presume this is precisely why fighters for Al Qaeda in Iraq are becoming disenchanted and disillusioned. It is also presumably why Iraqis are flocking to Awakening groups and CLCs and seeking reconciliation with the Iraqi government. Moving to these groups is perfectly in line with what is being stated by both of these individuals.

The problem both of these individuals have is the freely elected democracy in Iraq, the fact that this freely elected democracy has a Shiite majority, and possibly the most important, is this freely elected democracy was created by an infidel, the United States. The reason this freely elected democracy will prevail over Al Qaeda is precisely that it upholds the Muslim principles of shura (consultation) and hudna (reconciliation) and is enforcing the sharia (higher religious law) regardless of how Al-Tartousi attempts to twist the facts.

The problem is Iraq is not extreme enough which brings us to the third contradiction expoused by Al-Tartousi. Without stating it himself, Al-Tartousi's major issue is expressed several times above. He and Bin Laden do not like the freely elected democracy being established in Iraq.

Freedom and democracy is what they fear most. Freedom and democracy is what Bin Laden attacked and attempted to destroy on 9/11. Freedom and democracy is why they made Iraq their central front of terror. Freedom and democracy is why Al Qaeda went to Lebanon immediately after Hamas was elected. Freedom and democracy is why he and the Taliban assassinated Bhutto. Freedom and democracy is why he and the Taliban have brought the battle back to Pakistan.

An individual's desire for freedom and democracy is why evil groups, such as Al Qaeda, will ultimately fail. Freedom and democracy is why they haved failed in Iraq. Freedom and democracy is why they are failing in Afghanistan. Freedom and democracy is why they will ultimately fail in Pakistan.

Freedom and democracy will solve the Israel-Palestinian crisis as soon as the Palestinians realize three things.

1. Do not exaggerate the sins of rival groups.

2. Do not use force against rival individuals or groups.

3. Do not blindly follow extremists.

Thank you Al-Tartousi. You have put all these issues completely in perspective.

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Iran & Hezbollah Targeted U.S. Embassy Officials in Lebanon

From Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog.

Today's bombing which targeted a U.S. Embassy car in a northern Beirut neighborhood most likely was an assassination attempt by Hezbollah and their Iranian superiors on the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, or senior embassy personnel. The blast killed three Lebanese and injured a local embassy employee as Amb. Feltman was getting ready to attend farewell reception for him before his next assignment. Our special correspondent in Lebanon, "Karim," who has provided valuable information for us here before, reports, "Apparently the bombers didn't know which car in the convoy was his, this one turned off the main road, they assumed it was his and blew it up." He discounts another theory, that a judge on the Hariri tribunal was targeted: "Usually to assassinate a Lebanese judge, they would blow up his car or shoot him to send a message to others."

Retired Lebanese Col. Charbel Barakat, speaking on behalf of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution, considers this terrorist act as directed by Hezbollah's war room against the United States and Lebanese citizens. "It is an act of terror ordered by Tehran's Pasdaran against a U.S. diplomatic target in Lebanon as President Bush is visiting the region. It should be investigated by both Lebanese and international authorities." Col. Barakat warns of further terrorist attacks by Hezbollah against U.S. personnel and targets in Lebanon.

It is interesting they would choose to assassinate an ambassador who is leaving Lebanon. This would lead one to believe it was a vendeta against Ambassador Feltman, himself.

Taking a quick look at Wikipedia lends to a possible motive for the attack.

In a speech following the Israeli failed invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the "Secretary-General" of Hizbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, dubbed Fouad Siniora's government in Lebanon as Feltman's Government. Nasrallah's label stressed what Hizbullah sees as Feltman's deep influence on the Lebanese government's decisions. The title of "Feltman's Government" has since been widely used among several opposition parties in Lebanon whenever referring to Siniora's government.

This assassination attempt should be thoroughly investigated. If it can be tied to Hezbollah, we should strike a Hezbollah target itself in retaliation to send a message.

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Dubya's Middle East Agenda - Can He Consolidate His Revolution.

From Amir Taheri.

Once again, Amir Taheri has his hand on the pulse of the Middle East and apparently a better understanding of President Bush's purpose of his Middle East visit.

GEORGE W. Bush will set a new presidential record on his Middle East grand tour, visiting at least 10 countries in a short period. In some, he'll be the first US president to make a state visit. But what is the visit for?

Cynics would suggest that Bush is looking for photo opportunities that might add some spice to his future memoirs. More generous commentators might see the tour as the continuation of an American tradition: All US presidents since Woodrow Wilson have dreamed of themselves as peacemakers and tried to help others sort out ancient disputes.

While he states that both of these opinions may be true, he point to a larger reason.

But Bush realized post-9/11 that it was the very status quo that America had helped preserve that had produced its deadliest foes. He became the first US president to adopt an anti-status quo, not to say revolutionary, posture toward the Middle East.

While he notes that Iran, Russia, and China (America's chief rival) seem to have benefitted most from the change in the status quo, I believe he misses the point of a capitalistic democracy emerging in Iraq. Yes, countries such as Iran, Russia, and China have benefitted, in the short run. However, as the beacon of democracy which is Iraq begins to shine brighter each day and becomes a new model of government in the Middle East to replace the historic models of Turkey and Iran, the rest of the countries in the Middle East will benefit as will the rest of the world, to include the United States.

The United States always benefits where freedom and democracy prevail. While the war is costly, the benefits from a free, democratic Iraq will pay the United States back tenfold in commerce, which is our true benefit. Whether or not we own the corporations currently coming into Iraq is immaterial because the United States always benefit from more commerce as does the rest of the world.

President Bush has indeed kick started a revolution in the Middle East by bucking the status quo. Over time, more and more countries will become free, some may need to be forced, others will turn to freedom and democracy on their own. All transitions will be painful, as they should be since in order to remain free, a people need to have the courage to stand up to tyrannical forces that will appear and reappear in their country to challenge their freedom.

For a full read, click here.

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The Duel in Islam

From Amir Taheri.

Amir Taheri highlights the different ruling models in Iran and Turkey, whom he points have historically steered Islam for centuries and are beginning to do so again.

FOR centuries, Iran and the Ottoman Empire, of which modern Turkey and Egypt were parts, fought for influence in the Muslim world. That changed when Turkish westernizers under Kemal Ataturk and their Iranian counterparts under Reza Shah Pahlavi decided that religion was the cause of their nations' decline.

Ataturk adopted the legend that the Turks descended from the Celts while Reza Shah promoted the idea of Iran as an "Aryan nation."

Amir Taheri points to four major differences in how Iran and Turkey run their countries: provenance, dethod of gaining power, record in power, and road map for the future. The contrasts are quite clear. He notes that several other nations have began to adopt the Turkish model and in fact use the words, Justice and Development Party (AKP), in their names in several instances. He also notes a new party has emerged in Iran,

Last month, the AKP also found an Iranian imitator - the newly formed Justice and Development Party of Iran (Etedal va To'seeh), which unites elements disillusioned with Khomeinism. The new party has yet to make its position clear on the key issue of walayat faqih, but the outline of its program for next March's general election is an almost verbatim translation of the election manifesto of Turkey's AKP.

Recently, the new party received a wink and a nod from Hashemi Rafsanjani, the businessman-cum-mullah who's emerging as a challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's radical faction.

Amir Taheri end with a significant note.

Whether or not that is the case, what matters is that no one in Turkey is trying to imitate the Iranian model.

I would also note Musharraf in Pakistan is trying to implement Turkey's model; however, it is one country not using the term AKP in its party. In addition, it has both models vying for dominance in the country. The 18th of February will help determine which model succeeds in Pakistan and determine its fate for some time to come.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi sees need for U.S. military until 2018

From Yahoo.

Iraq's defense minister said on Monday his country would need foreign military help to defend its borders for another 10 years and would not be able to maintain internal security until 2012.

Abdul Qadir's remarks, in an interview with The New York Times posted on the newspaper's Internet site, could become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

"According to our calculations and our timelines, we think that from the first quarter of 2009 until 2012 we will be able to take full control of the internal affairs of the country," Qadir said.

"In regard to the borders, regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018 to 2020," he said.

Note, he did not say that the large contingent of American Forces will be needed until 2018 to subdue an Al Qaeda threat although this is what will be reported in the MSM.

He stated that in the first quarter of 2009 (around the time a new president being sworn in) Iraqis will be in full control of internal affairs; however, they will need help with external threats until 2018 to 2020 and is currently in the U.S. seeking U.S. Military hardware and weapons to ensure his country's Soldiers have the best equipment money can buy.

For a full read, click here.

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Senior Saudi Cleric: Suicide Bombers Doomed To Eternal Torment In Hell


Sheikh Dr. Salah bin Fawzan Al-Fawzan, member of the Senior Ulamaa Council and of the Saudi Fatwa Committee, said that anyone who carries out a suicide attack and calls it jihad in the path of Allah while hoping to die as a martyr is judged as someone who kills himself, and his punishment is eternal torment in hell, because jihad is innocent of such operations.

Several senior Saudi clerics are beginning to come out more and more against suicide bombings. This change is one which will benefit the Global War on Terror.

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Stay away from politicians, Pak army chief tells officers

From the Central Chronicle.

Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has directed all officers of the force to refrain from meeting politicians and indulging in politics. Kayani, who took over in November after President Pervez Musharraf doffed his military uniform, has written to his juniors, including commanding officers of key formations, that they had "no role to play in politics" and that soldiers should heed their professional responsibilities. He said the prime role of the armed forces is to carry out their professional duties and they should not indulge in the political affairs of the country....

When General Kayani took over, he declare 2008 the "Year of the Soldier" to address low morale in units. One way to bring up low morale is to train. As such,

Chairing his first meeting of the Corps Commanders earlier this month, Kayani said the "will of the people and their support" is decisive. He also called for the army to focus on training and operational preparedness to tackle internal and external threats.

For a full read, click here.

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Israel: 'No Options' Out on Iran Nukes

From NewsMax.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a powerful parliamentary panel on Monday that Israel rejects no options to block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a meeting participant said.

The statement was the Israeli leader's clearest indication yet that he is willing to use military force against Iran.

"Israel clearly will not reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran," the meeting participant quoted Olmert as telling the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "All options that prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities are legitimate within the context of how to grapple with this matter."

Olmert addressed the panel days after discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions in face-to-face talks with President Bush in Jerusalem.

Rather strong words. One can only hope the U.S. will not prevent Israel from ensuring Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

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Musharraf's cards and the future of Pakistan

Steve Schippert reports from Threats Watch that representatives of Musharraf engaged in talks with Shahzad Sharif, the PML-N in an effort to become a large part in any future Pakistani government.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) head Shahbaz Sharif dashed to Islamabad on Saturday and returned to Lahore in the evening after holding separate meetings with an aide of President Pervez Musharraf, the Saudi ambassador and a former bureaucrat, sources told Dawn.

The sources said the PML-N president had met Brig (retd) Niaz Ahmad, who passed a message from President Musharraf on to Mr Sharif about the formation of a national government before the general election.

Sources in the PML-N said the president had suggested Shahbaz Sharif to become a part of the proposed government. The sources said the president had also proposed a “future role” for Shahbaz Sharif after the elections.

Musharraf was to have formed a Coalition with the PPP and Bhutto, but since her assassination, Zardari has not been amicable to sharing power with Musharraf, until now. Dawn reports,

Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party said Monday it may work with Pervez Musharraf after elections next month. ''Our first priority is holding free and fair elections,'' said party spokesman Farhatullah Babar. ''All other things, working with Musharraf or not working with Musharraf, these are bridges which we will cross when they come. All options are open.''

Why is Musharraf working now with the brother of the leader he took power from in a military coup? Even more interesting, why is the PPP now interested in working with Musharraf?

The answer is simple, but complex. If the PML-N and PPP garner enough votes from the 18 February elections, they may gain 2/3 of the Parliament. With 2/3 control of Parliament, they can impeach Musharraf. Hence, Musharraf is trying to ensure his reign continues while pushing Pakistan towards democracy. While certainly self-serving, Musharraf does not believe Pakistan can survive the turmoil of an impeachment while battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda at its doorstep. Hence, he stated for a recent interview in The Australian,

President Pervez Musharraf has threatened to resign rather than face impeachment should the opposition seize government in general elections next month.

Mr Musharraf, asked about opposition threats to impeach him if, as seems likely, the main opposition parties win a two-thirds majority in the new National Assembly, said: “If that (impeachment) happens, let me assure that I’d be leaving office before they would do anything.

Musharraf must gain support from either the PPP or PML-N to ensure his presidency continues. This fact is his self-serving reason for negotiating with the PPP and the PML-N. However, if he cannot, he will resign to let these parties deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan to ensure the survival and integrity of Pakistan. This fact shows his support for the growth of democracy in Pakistan.

Appointing General Ashfaq Kayani, who is apolitical, believes in democracy, and is pro-Western is Musharraf's ace in case he is overthrown and turmoil commences between the PPP and PML-N.

General Kayani will step in as needed to ensure Pakistan continues on the road to democracy and simultaneously work to lessen the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Having worked as the Military Secretary under Bhutto before, Kayani was instrumental in setting up Bhutto's return to Pakistan and the power sharing agreement between her and Musharraf.

Musharraf has positioned Pakistan smartly to ensure it continues to pursue democracy, whether he is a part of this transition or not. He has expertly positioned Pakistan to begin battle with the Taliban and Pakistan. While, he would prefer to deal with the PPP since they are anti-Taliban/Al Qaeda (more so now since both are complicit in her assassination), he would also work with the PML-N (who is rather pro-Taliban/Al Qaeda) to ensure his country survives its upcoming battle. Even if both parties ban together to depose him (in which he will leave willingly), democracy will prevail and be strengthened while General Kayani will continue to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

All powers in Pakistan are awaiting the results of the 18 February election. They will be free and fair, Musharraf will guarantee this because democracy, above all else, is his ultimate goal for Pakistan.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda believe they have destroyed any hope for democracy in Pakistan by killing Bhutto, but Musharraf has several aces up his sleeves to ensure its continuation.

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Iraq and al-Qaeda, Victory and Caution

From Steve Schippert at Threats Watch.

There is an understandable temptation to declare victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq. And while Iraqi and American forces have teamed to drive them from every sanctuary al-Qaeda had carved - including now the “Triangle of Death” south of Baghdad - and deliver a decisive blow to the terrorists, the state of the terrorist fighters in Iraq is not permanent or final considering the sources of their foreign origins and outside support.

From a symposium panel at FrontPage Magazine,

Those improvements are indeed occurring, but as my colleagues capably point out, it is too early to declare AQI’s defeat. I spoke with a military intelligence officer who recently returned from Iraq, and spoke of AQI’s resilience. Part of the reason for this is that AQI draws its support from a broader transnational movement: AQI can be completely crushed inside Iraq yet still regenerate based on the support it draws from beyond the country’s borders. Recent events clearly demonstrate the links between AQI and the broader al-Qaeda movement. For example, the recently captured Khalid Al Mashadani, who was considered the most senior Iraqi in AQI’s network, had served as an intermediary between AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Key al-Qaeda leaders have made it clear that they view Iraq as a central front in their war against the U.S. And when U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed an al-Qaeda financier named Muthanna (described as the emir of the Iraq and Syrian border area), they uncovered a list of 143 al-Qaeda fighters who were en route to Iraq. These fighters came from all over, including Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and Yemen. This emphasizes the human resources that AQI can draw upon to replenish its ranks.

From Michael Ledeen at National Review.

If you read down to the small print, you will find that the most important Treasury target, Brigadier General Ahmed Foruzandeh of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, also works with Sunnis.

In early April 2007, Foruzandeh provided ($25,000 U.SD) to two men claiming to be members of a Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq, promising…additional funds if they would deliver videos of attacks against Coalition Forces.

A very well informed person in the intelligence community tells me that the “Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq” is a big deal, is in many ways coextensive with al-Qaeda in Iraq, and clearly shows what I and others have been arguing for a long time: Iran supports al-Qaeda. To have discovered that the Revolutionary Guards are in cahoots with al-Qaeda in Iraq is enormously important, because it reminds us once again that we are engaged in a broad war in the Middle East, of which Iraq is simply one front. And it shows once again that the considerable efforts by many in Washington to gainsay Iranian support for the terror war against us are misplaced, and potentially very dangerous for our troops on the ground.

These points are critical to remember. Al Qaeda is drawing support from many external partners from which it can replenish its forces. While Al Qaeda is trying to start another front of its Terror War in Pakistan, Iraq is and will continue to be its central front so that it can build it caliphate from Iraq and spread to the rest of the Middle East.

Finally, while we think that a Shiite dominated Iran would not support a Sunni terror organization, both have the ultimate goal of reducing US influence in the region. Without the US presence in Iraq, for decades to come, a great battle would unfold in Iraq between these forces for control.

We literally have three players in the war in Iraq. Ourselves and the Iraqis, who wish to establish a strong, vibrant democracy which will become the symbol for other countries in the Middle East (and therefore is not greatly supported by its neighbors for fear that their own citizens will be in awe of this democracy). The Iranians, who hope to establish a Shiite Crescent from Iran to Lebanon in order to destroy Israel. And finally, Al Qaeda with goals of reestablishing the Caliphate from Iraq to the entire Middle East and beyond.

For a full read, click here.

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At least four killed, 63 suspects arrested in Iraq - Update

From Earth Times.

In the Diyala province, some 60 kilometres north of Baghdad, a dozen of suspects of al-Qaeda terrorist network were killed and 63 were arrested during the joint US-Iraqi military operation given the code name "Operation Iron Harvest."

The operation was launched last Tuesday targeting al-Qaeda militants in the Iraqi province.

Earlier this week, at least 20 militant suspects have been killed and 10 were detained during this operation.

It will be difficult for Al Qaeda in Iraq to continue to suffer loses like these.

For a full read, click here.

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US must stay, says Iraq tribe fighting Al Qaeda

From the Khaleej Times.

An early pullout of US troops would spark a return of savage sectarian violence and be ”disastrous” for Iraq, a tribal leader fighting Al Qaeda in a province once fiercely anti-American told AFP.

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, leader of the “Anbar Awakening” that has ended much of Al Qaeda’s hold over western Iraq, warned that improvements in the security situation would be lost if the United States withdrew troops.

He added,

“The province used to be a place for terrorists and criminals, but our strong co-operation with coalition forces and Iraqi security forces changed this.

“We are pushing the wheel forward,” he said. “Schools and universities are back with full classes. We are now looking for companies from all over the world to come here and do business.”

For a full read, click here.

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Large cache, underground bunker system discovered during Operation Phantom Phoenix (Esalwid)

From MNF-I.

Coalition Forces discovered a complex cache site and underground bunker system inside a dense palm grove Jan. 12 near Esalwid, Iraq, during Operation Raider Harvest which is a division-level operation that is part of the countrywide Operation Phantom Phoenix.

Soldiers of Company I, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, found the 70-meter complex, which included a sleeping building, a building for storing food and a building for constructing improvised explosive devices, as well as two underground living bunkers.

Located at the site were numerous weapons and explosives, including various munitions, small arms, more than 10 IED cases, along with numerous other material for making IEDs, and various ammunitions and military gear. Coalition Forces also found several log books containing AQI members with their assigned weapons and a map of IED locations.

A power line leading to the site was traced back to the home of a nearby villager, who was detained along with five of his military-age-male family members.

Coalition Forces are now beginning to get into Al Qaeda's secret lairs. A 70-meter underground complex with sleeping quarters is a significant find. I am sure several move of these complexes will end up being found as Coalition Forces continue into the "Bread Basket" region

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Hekmatyar parts ways with Taliban

From The News in Pakistan.

Fugitive Afghan leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar told The Associated Press his forces have ended cooperation with the Taliban and suggested that he was open to talks with President Hamid Karzai.

In a video response to questions submitted by AP, Hekmatyar also recounted how US forces nearly caught him on two occasions but he got away. Hekmatyar, speaking in front of a plain white wall at an undisclosed location, indicated that his group contacted Taliban leaders some time in 2003 and agreed to wage a joint Jihad against American troops. “The Jihad went into high gear but later it gradually went down as certain elements among the Taliban rejected the idea of a joint struggle against the aggressor,” he said.

Hekmatyar was the former Prime Minister of Afghanistan prior to being overthrown by the Taliban. Since 9/11, he was expelled from Iran, backed Taliban fighters against the Coaliton, attempted to join Al Qaeda, and is said to be behind an assassination attempt of Karzai.

In every respect this guy is a true bad guy. It will be interesting to watch events as they unfold.

For a full read, click here.

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Taliban commander killed in clash in South Waziristan

From Bill Roggio writing for The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani military has killed a senior Afghan Taliban commander during a clash in the tribal agency of South Waziristan. Saifur Rahman Mansour, the Taliban commander at the first battle of Tora Bora in 2002, was killed in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency, Iranian Press TV reported.

"Mansour was a big time Taliban commander in 2001-2002 and led the battle at Tora Bora," said Matt Dupee, a contributor to The Long War Journal and Afgha.com. "He was allegedly paid not to interfere with the voting process in 2004 (his base is in the east, Paktia (Zurmat district) and ceased his activities in 2005. The Taliban subsequently removed him from the Rahbari Shura following rumors of his split. In 2006 he restarted his militant activities and became a part of the Peshawar Shura (really based out of Waziristan) once again and launched an offensive in the eastern areas alongside the Haqqani network. His main skill was commanding men on the battlefield and his in-depth knowledge of military tactics and guerilla warfare."

For a full read, click here.

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Why Al-Qaeda Is Losing

From Gary Anderson at the Washington Post.

The conventional wisdom is that al-Qaeda is making a comeback from its rout in Afghanistan. Many point to its success in killing Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and to its support of Islamic insurgents there as evidence. Not so. Al-Qaeda is waning. Its decline has less to do with our success than with the institutional limitations of the al-Qaeda organization. Simply stated, to know al-Qaeda closely is not to love it.

Everyplace where al-Qaeda has gained some measure of control over a civilian population, it has quickly worn out its welcome. This happened in Kabul and in Anbar province in western Iraq. It may well happen in Pakistan as a reaction to the killing of Bhutto.

No one likes to be brutalized and dominated by foreigners. The weakness of al-Qaeda is that everywhere it goes its people are strangers. This is no way to build a worldwide caliphate.

While I agree with Mr. Anderson's tenets regarding Al Qaeda up to this point, I do not agree with his premise that individual groups can overcome Al Qaeda. Mr. Anderson states the civilian population kicked Al Qaeda out of Kabul and the Anbar province. I believe this is a completely inaccurate statement.

While Al Qaeda definitely came to be despised in Kabul and Anbar, it was only with assistance of the US Military that these people were able to defeat Al Qaeda. It will only be with Pakistani Military assistance that tribemen in Pakistan will be able to defeat Al Qaeda. It is only with US Military assistance that Shiiites, who for three decades were under tyrannical rule, were able to defeat Saddam.

While I concur that Al Qaeda is winning the global information war, US Military presence in Afghanistan and Kabul wins the local information war precisely because we follow the rule of law. Over time, citizens in these countries have come to know the United States, through its military, not as the "decadent at best and downright threatening at worst" that is seen on the MSM, but as decent, just, fair, god fearing people, not unlike themselves.

It is this new perception of Americans, through our military forces, that gave Anbaris the strength to rise up against Al Qaeda. It was George Bush's strength and courage to stand up to Congress and the vast majority of the American people (if you can believe the polls) when they were calling for withdraw, which was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's (Al Qaeda's) back in Anbar.

It will not be money spent on advertisements showing how evil Al Qaeda is. These newly freed people know exactly how bad Al Qaeda is, their husbands, wives, sons, and daugthers have been killed by Al Qaeda. They have witnessed its evils ways firsthand. The reason they did not rise up the first time Al Qaeda brutally murdered one of their family is precisely because they did not have the strength and courage to do so.

Our presence gives them this strength and courage. It is not only the presence of our overwhelming firepower represented by our military that gives them strength and courage, but more so the presence of a decent, just, fair, and god fearing Soldier that is at the tip of that spear.

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Family rule is dangerous for PPP and Pakistan: Fatima

From the Daily Times of Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto’s niece described as ‘dangerous’ the idea that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) must be led by a member of the family in an interview published on Saturday.

Fatima Bhutto, 25, is still seen by some in Pakistan as a potential heir to the family dynasty, although her cousin, Benazir’s son Bilawal, was named the PPP co-chairman after his mother’s assassination on December 27.

Fatima told the Times newspaper in London that she might be interested in a career in politics, although would not be “a symbol” for anyone, and denounced the PPP as “desperate to cash in on her (Benazir’s) blood”.

Against democracy: “It’s become in a sense the family business, like an antique shop where it’s just ‘so and so and sons’, and then grandsons and great grandsons. It just gets handed down,” she said. “The idea that it has to be a Bhutto, I think, is a dangerous one. It doesn’t benefit Pakistan. It doesn’t benefit a party that’s supposed to be run on democratic lines and it doesn’t benefit us as citizens if we think only about personalities and not about platforms,” she said. (emphasis added)

Very interesting development.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistani troops kill more than 50 rebels near Afghan border

From Arab Time.

Pakistani troops killed more than 50 Taleban militants after fighting off an attack on a military fort in a troubled tribal region bordering Afghanistan, security officials said Saturday. The clash occurred on the night between Wednesday and Thursday near the town of Ladha in the rugged South Waziristan tribal district, where thousands of Pakistani troops are deployed to fight al-Qaeda and Taleban militants. “More than 50 miscreants were killed in the attack and an unknown number were also injured,” a senior security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP that militants suffered “heavy casualties in the encounter” but said he had no official figures yet.

It appears the miscreants being talked about were followers of Baitullah Mehsud.

Full a full read, click here.

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Operation Raider Harvest holding phase begins (Diyala)

From MNF-I.

Raider Harvest, an operation designed to clear al-Qaeda in Iraq from the northern Diyala River Valley, and keep them out, will soon switch into the holding phase as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix.

During the clearing phase, which began Jan. 8 and is currently ongoing, Coalition Forces killed four enemy fighters, wounded another four and detained 24 individuals.

In addition, CF also discovered and cleared 13 improvised explosive devices, 10 vehicleborn IEDs, four house-born IEDs and 15 weapon caches.

The northern DRV area, know as the ‘bread basket,’ was a traditional safe haven for AQI in Diyala province. Raider Harvest is not only clearing the enemy from this area, but also ensuring that they are unable to return.

“Although decisive, the combat operations will likely not have as great of an effect as the next phases,” said Lt. Col. James Brown, executive officer of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the unit conducting Raider Harvest.

“The big part of it is that now the area will be tied to Muqdadiyah, its closest and largest urban center, and Muqdadiyah will be tied to the province, so the chain of communication between local villages and the Iraqi government will be established. That chain was not there before, so the local people were ripe for AQI to fill that need for them. Now that the link has been established, the government will be able to provide what the people need, which will end AQI’s foothold in the area,” Brown said.

“As we transition into the next phase, you will essentially see a planting of the Iraqi flag in the northern DRV,” Brown continued. “You will start to see Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, which up until this point, had not patrolled in this area, and here shortly, you will see the linkage between the provincial leaders and the local leaders.”

One aspect of the next phases of the operation is the building of at least one Joint Combat Outpost in the area. (emphasis added)

This article is signifcant in that it lays out prcisely why Coalition forces are succeeding in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq now during The Surge, which not only provided an addional 30,000 troops on the ground, but also completely changed the way we fought the war.

In the march up to Baghdad, we avoided cities. However, once Baghdad was secured, we hunkered down in the cities or fought our way into cities (think Fallujah) and then hunkered down in them while leaving the countryside open for Al Qaeda in Iraq to use as a base of operations. Finally, there were many areas which Coalition Forces could not go either by higher orders or because we did not have the strength to fight our way into that area.

Now, we are not only moving into each and every area, but we are linking them to their major towns. We are clearing Muqdadiyah and subsequently the "Bread Basket" area which supports the town and which the town supports. Finally, we are ensuring that towns like Muqdadiyah are supported by neighboring towns and finally by the central government. We do this by building or occupying Joint Security Stations (JSS) or joint combat outposts as expressed in this article.

JSS's are important because they are occupied by US Forces, Iraqi Army Forces and local Police Forces to ensure unity of effort and unity of command. Local police, who interact with the population routinely, are able to provide intelligence to Iraqi Army forces who then pass it to American Forces. If in the capability of Local Police, they take care of the matter, if not, it moves up to Iraqi Army Forces. If beyond their capability, US Forces are used.

JSS's are also important due to the fact that they establish a continual security presence in the area. Over time, civilians gain courage due to the continual presence of security forces and begin to turn on enemy forces, providing intelligence which leads to further clearing and holding operations and subsequently the establishment of another JSS.

Finally, JSS's are linked so that if an enemy presence in one area is too great, then forces can be combined to kill or detain enemy forces through direction of the central government.

What makes JSS's so successful now is the fact that Iraqi Forces now have the capacity (numbers and expertise) to take the fight to Al Qaeda in Iraq. So, when US Surge Forces start to decrease, Iraqi Forces, along with CLCs, will have enough capacity to continue to hold an area and Al Qaeda in Iraq will be diminished enough to not present such a daunting threat.

Finally, I must point out something of equal importance. During this operation, Coalition Forces "discovered and cleared 13 improvised explosive devices, 10 vehicleborn IEDs, four house-born IEDs and 15 weapon caches." This is 10 VBIEDs and several IEDs from the 15 caches that will never harm an Iraqi again. The more and more Coalition Forces are able to prevent attacks, the safer Iraqis will feel, and the more they will provide intelligence of other Al Qaeda caches and personnel.

It doesn't hurt when Coalition Forces can take this many weapons or explosive devices off the street, nor does it hurt when we can kill, wound, or detain 32 Al Qaeda in Iraq members who used to harass and terrorize the people in the town of Muqdadiyah and its surrounding "Bread Basket".

These Iraqis can now get back to growing food which allows them to make a living and engage in commerce. Over time they will rebuild their villages, towns, and businesses with the help of micro-grants and other Coalition reconstruction projects.

Over time, Iraq will become a flourishing economy due to the efforts of Coalition Forces killing Al Qaeda in Iraq and providing security for the local population in places like the "Bread Basket" area of Muqdadiyah.

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Bush Wrongly Blames America

From J.R. Dunn at the American Thinker.

I take second place to no one in my admiration for George W. Bush. But there are times when he comes out with something so obtuse, so ill thought out, that it simply grates on the brain. Remarks of the "I have gazed into Putin's soul" variety. (I gazed into Putin's soul too. I needed two weeks of electroshock to straighten me out afterward.)

Last week gave us yet another example. Visiting Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum and memorial, a deeply moved Bush was heard to say, "We should have bombed Auschwitz."

Mr. Dunn goes on to explain how with 1940's technology bombing Auschwitz would not have prevented (or even slowed) the Final Solution. In fact, he notes it was bombed (accidentally) once.

The final irony, clear evidence that history holds all the cards and lays them down in exactly the order she pleases and none other, lies in the fact that Auschwitz was bombed. In late 1944 U.S. bomber forces carried out a strike against Buna, a camp only a few miles away from Birkenau. It was a synthetic rubber plant, a prime target, using slave labor from the rest of the Auschwitz complex. (There were several dozen camps in the entire system.) Somehow a stack of bombs, and perhaps more than one, found its way into Birkenau, an example of the CEP in action. The bombs blew up a number of buildings and killed several hundred people. All of them Jews. (emphasis added)

I too, like J.R. Dunn, believe the Allies did everything in their power to not only prevent the Final Solution, but also to end the Nazi regime that was responsible for it. Statements like this made by the President do not do justice to the memory of the quarter million Americans which fought and died to prevent things like the Final Solution.

For a full read, click here.

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