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

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The Endgame in Iraq

From Jack Keane, Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan writing for The Weekly Standard.

On September 16, General Raymond Odierno will succeed General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. The surge strategy Petraeus and Odierno developed and executed in 2007 achieved its objectives: reducing violence in Iraq enough to allow political processes to restart, economic development to move forward, and reconciliation to begin. Violence has remained at historic lows even after the withdrawal of all surge forces and the handover of many areas to Iraqi control. Accordingly, President Bush has approved the withdrawal of 8,000 additional troops by February 2009.

With Barack Obama's recent declaration that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, it should now be possible to move beyond that debate and squarely address the current situation in Iraq and the future. Reductions in violence permitting political change were the goal of the surge, but they are not the sole measure of success in Iraq.

The United States seeks a free, stable, independent Iraq, with a legitimately elected representative government that can govern and defend its territory, is at peace with its neighbors, and is an ally of the United States in the war on terror. The Iraqi leadership has made important strides toward developing a new and inclusive political system that addresses the concerns of all Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups. But it has also taken steps in the wrong direction.

These authors of the surge of American forces in 2007 provide an interesting and insightful analysis of not only military, but political considerations in Iraq. They discuss how and when we should drawdown force, long-term security agreements, and the way ahead to ensure Iraq remains a stable democracy and ally to the United States.

For a full read, click here.

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Jihadi Hellish message to Pakistan

Walid Phares' take on the bombing in Pakistan.

As shown by world networks, the hellish flames ravaging the Mariott Hotel in Islamabad seemed like a vision of the Apocalypse. That's at least how many survivors of the Terror attack that massacred more than 60 and wounded hundreds have described it: "The end of the World." But beyond the barbaric bloodshed and the human suffering ensuing, the heavy question fuses fast: How to read this Jihadi mayhem and what is the message behind the bombing?

As usual, Walid Phares provides interesting insights into Islamists tactics and objectives.

For a full read, click here.

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Explosion at Pakistan Marriott hotel kills 40

From AP.

A massive truck bomb devastated the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100. Officials feared there were dozens more dead inside the burning building.

The Marriott has been a favorite place for foreigners as well as Pakistani politicians and business people to stay and socialize in Islamabad despite repeated militant attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Pakistan has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions.

Al Qaeda/the Taliban are ramping up violence in Pakistan. Such a high profile and civilian target will result not in the government backing down but instead in loss of popular support (over time) for these Islamists groups.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Government Will Now Pay ‘Sons of Iraq’ Citizen Volunteers

From MNF-I.

The government of Iraq (GoI) has pledged millions of dollars to begin paying the ‘Sons of Iraq’ (SoI), the highly-successful, volunteer groups of citizens who have been instrumental in decreasing violence throughout the country.

Beginning, Oct. 1, 2008, American taxpayers will no longer pay to support the SoI program.

The United States currently pays SoI members $300 a month. By the end of November, the Iraqi Army will pay SoI members in Iraqi Dinar, said Maj. J.D. Highfill, deputy team leader with embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad – 5, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division.

A good news story.

For a full read, click here.

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US strikes in Pakistan aimed at stopping the next Sept.11 attack

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

US Special Operations Forces have stepped up attacks inside Pakistan's lawless tribal agencies in part of an effort to prevent the next major attack inside the United States, senior military and intelligence sources told The Long War Journal.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said reports that the Bush administration is focused on "getting Osama bin Laden," the elusive leader of al Qaeda's global network, are overblown.

"Getting bin Laden would be nice, and it would clearly be a victory, but at the end of the day, al Qaeda's network will still exist," one source told The Long War Journal. "We need to take down that network to stop the next attack on US soil. Al Qaeda is more than bin Laden."

The cross-border raids are designed to disrupt al Qaeda's training camps and safe houses that aid in preparing for attacks against the West, sources say. The US is also targeting al Qaeda's Taliban allies in Pakistan, such as the powerful Haqqani family in North Waziristan and the Taliban forces of Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan.

Once again, Bill Roggio provides excellent analysis of ongoing Predator strikes in Pakistan and their overarching objective.

For a full read, click here.

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Muslim support for suicide attacks, bin Laden down: poll

From AFP.

The number of Muslims around the world who say suicide attacks are acceptable has fallen sharply in the past six years, as has Muslims' confidence in Osama bin Laden, a survey by a US think-tank showed Thursday.

Many pundits tell us that our War on Terror has only incited Muslims. However, as this article shows, the War on Terror has hit home with most Muslims. Overwhelmingly, they do not like suicide attacks. While the article states,

But, the Pew Research Center warned in its Global Attitudes Project, significant minorities of Muslims in eight countries surveyed continue to endorse suicide bombings and support the Al-Qaeda leader.

This significant minority of Muslims is never above 1/3 for suicide attacks and is a similar low percentage for support for Osama Bin Laden.

The question becomes why?

First, extremists muslims have killed fellow muslims which has caused intellectual turbulence among muslims. In fact, their attacks, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, are almost solely directed against fellow muslims.

Second, the extremists have lost in Iraq thanks to the surge of American forces which provided time for the Iraqi Army to build capacity. If we would have pulled out of Iraq and left it a quaqmire, I am sure support for Osama Bin Laden and suicide attacks would have been much higher.

Finally, as I have stated before, people, whether muslim, christian, or other, just want to be able to work and provide for their family. Extremist muslims, the type supported by Bin Laden who commit suicide attacks, prevent this from happening when they extort money, blow up shops, prevent commerce, etc, etc. Fellow muslims see and know this effect firsthand. They do not like it.

We must use this drop in popularity to our advantage in the information war against muslim extremists. This change in attitude is important to capitalize on. Bullets will never win this war. Changes in attitudes will. Changes in attitudes are happening.

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Iraqi Army Surging Ethics Training

From MNF-I.

The Iraqi Army wants every Iraqi Soldier to receive ethics training just like he receives marksmanship or drill and ceremony training.

Since 2003, the primary focus for the Iraqi Army has been building the force. Getting Soldiers trained to fight took precedence over many other military functions. Iraqis came from all locations and all walks of life to join the fight to secure their country from terrorists.

Every one of those Soldiers brought a unique set of values with him: personal values, family values, community values and religious values. Creating a culture of ethical behavior means that each Soldier must now learn and accept Iraqi Army values.

Those core values are the same as the United States Army’s: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage. [emphasis added]

Why is the Iraqi Army leadership now focusing on ethics training?

The decline in violence in Iraq has given the center some breathing room to push training out to the field. Mobile training teams are visiting all the Basic Combat Training locations as well as the four military academies. [empahsis added]

For all those folks which still believe Iraq is surrounded in violence, this should be proof enough that the focus in Iraq is shifting from security to reconconstruction. One of parts of reconstruction is to ensure the Army also reconstructs itself correctly. It is also of note that the Army is using the same values which are used by American Soldiers.

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Iraq's Nouri Maliki breaking free of U.S.

From the Los Angeles Times.

Once dependent on American support to keep his job, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has consolidated power and is asserting his independence, sharply reducing Washington's influence over the future of Iraq.

Iraq's police and army now operate virtually on their own, and with Washington's mandate from the United Nations to provide security here expiring in less than four months, Maliki is insisting on imposing severe limits on the long-term U.S. military role, including the withdrawal of American forces from all cities by June.

America's eroded leverage has left Iran, with its burgeoning trade and political ties, in a better position to affect Iraqi government policies.

Ned Parker provides a very interesting read in this Los Angeles Times article. As the American surge of forces allowed Iraqi forces to build capacity resulting in PM Maliki strengthening his position, American influence has wained.

However, a few points which Ned Parker washes over allow the US to retain influence on PM Maliki. First and foremost, is air power and logistics. Iraqi Security Forces need assistance from the US with building their airforce and also current air power capabilities. In addition, while logistics have improved in the Iraqi military, US support is still needed.

Secondly, PM Maliki will have to treat the Sons of Iraq correctly or these folks will melt back into the insurgency. Right now, the US is seen as the arbiter of these forces. If not treated correctly, these forces can quickly turn on Iraqi forces.

Thirdly, Iraqis, whether Sunni or Shia, do not want a theocratic state in Iraq that is subservient to Iran. The Shia coalition will faulter rapidly if this is the is seen as the future of the Iraqi state.

Finally, provincial elections and upcoming national elections are a concern for all parties involved and will significantly change the dynamics in Iraq. Free and fair elections will result in a drastic change in Sunni leadership both at the local and national level which can function as an effective opposition party, especially when united with the Kurds. Provincial elections will result in a more secular focus at the local level resulting in this bottom up movement reaching the Iraqi parliament -- very similar to the bottom up reconciliation which resulted from the Anbar Awakening movement.

PM Maliki is aware of all these issues and is trying to maintain a strong, vibrant coalition which he has built up in the last few months through the elections. His new found strength is dependent upon US forces present in his country providing air cover, logistics, internal security, and limiting external influences. PM Maliki must balance his yearning for independence against his military's capacity, which while able to maintain internal control (with assistance), cannot by any means thwalt an external threat from Iran nor maintain internal control if the Coalition leaves. If he fails to maintain his strong man persona and does not provide for his electorate (which has become the immediate concern), he too will find himself being replaced in upcoming elections.

The US can let both of these events happen if he becomes too unruly by letting him founder militarily or by not providing essential services for the populous. PM Maliki knows this and this fact still allows the US the needed influence over him.

However, I do agree with Ned Parker. Our influence is waning, but wane it should. We gave Iraqis a democracy. It is truly up to them to continue their democracy or resort to something else. We can help guide, but we cannot give them something they are not willing to fight for. I have to believe the events of the last several years will make Iraqis fight for the hard won democracy they now have. I believe, PM Maliki understands this fact.

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'This is Not Us'

From the Weekly Standard.

Photini Philippidou reports that there's a Pakistani protest song "Ye Hum Naheen", Urdu for "This Is Not Us", seeking to redefine Islam as anti-terrorist. The song has stirred 62.8 million Pakistanis to sign a petition, either by name or thumbprint, saying that true Muslims don't support terrorism. Check it out here.

It is interesting to note 62.8 million Pakistanis have signed this petition. Watching the video, it is noted that the Pakistani Soccer team also chanted this title.

It is reports like this which confirm what I have said in the past. Al Qaeda/the Taliban's extremism is not supported by the vast majority of Muslims. This fact was true in Iraq. It is true in Afghanistan. It is true in Pakistan.

However, Iraq had a surge of forces which secured the population enough so that fence sitters stopped their tacit support of the extremists eventually causing mass non-support for Al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunni population in Al Anbar which spread through much of Iraq resulting in the relative peace Iraq now enjoys.

More forces are needed in Afghanistan to also cause these "fence sitters" to stop their tacit support of the Taliban. Similarly, the Pakistani Army needs to move full force into the FATA/NWFP regions to provide security for these fence sitters. Several jirgas have been held in these regions which only resulted in death to the jirga members and no response from the Pakistani military. In turn, tacit support of Al Qaeda/the Taliban still exists in this region.

Al Qaeda is demoralized in Pakistan as US predator attacks continue unabaited. Now is the time to strike at the heart of Al Qaeda in this region, their last unassailable base and the homeland of the birth of Al Qaeda. Compensatory payments for collateral damage on our part will go a long way to ensuring the population does not move over to Al Qaeda. A massive military build up in these regions by Pakistani forces will ensure Al Qaeda's presence is reduced.

While a surge of American forces was needed in Iraq to allow time for Iraqi forces to gain capacity, Pakistani forces already have this capacity. They just need to use it. Yes, the Pakistani military is not well trained in COIN operations, but neither was the Iraqi Army which trained on the battlefield. So too can the Pakistani Army train on the fly as they have a much more robust officer and NCO corps than the newly capable Iraqi Army.

The US must continue its pressure in this region to bring the Pakistani Army out of its garrisons and into the fight. While risky, it is much more risky to allow Al Qaeda to retain its unassailable base in this region.

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