Permissible Arms

Rather Late Monday Errata. (Still catching up.)

Posted in afghanistan, counterinsurgency, europe, isaf, islam, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 12 July 2010

A handful of links:

  • Paul McCleary has a good article on the Afghan NCOP and police forces: “And generally speaking,” [Ward] added, “when they’re partnered, we see the right kinds of behavior.” But the question is: what happens when they’re not partnered? Good question.
  • The NYT At War blog reviews reports on Afghan opinion polls. According to the findings, corruption remains the third-biggest concern to Afghans, following security and unemployment. One in seven adults experienced direct bribery in the past two years. The total of bribes paid by Afghans in 2009 added to roughly $1 billion, almost double the amount in 2007. The average bribe paid was $156. There are some nice charts, as well. How on earth does an average Afghan have $156 to burn on a bribe?
  • The Big Picture covers Afghanistan, June 2010. Quite frankly the best photojournalism column around. This gets my pick, though there are some truly awe-striking photos in this collection. There are at least three or four of Afghan girls and women, as well.

This June 4, 2010 picture shows the starry desert night over Camp Hansen at Marjah, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Hyunsoo Leo Kim)

  • MikeF (hi Mike!) started a robust discussion of David Kilcullen’s Counterinsurgency at Small Wars Council worth your time; he very kindly posted links to Starbuck’s review and my own. Now that I’m a bit removed from my initial reactions to the book, I do think it has merit, certainly as an introduction to counterinsurgency as a practical concept and as a handy portable version of the doctrine, such as it is. I’m doing a re-read of “The Accidental Guerilla” at the moment, and I do think it’s interesting to see how Kilcullen’s ideas have shifted over time, as he’s gained more insight and experience. Still, as a whole book I do think it has some structural flaws. Well worth the $15 (₤10).
  • And also, h/t Starbuck for Bing West’s review of Counterinsurgency at the National Interest. I particularly liked this line: Stack plays Thomas Hobbes to Kilcullen’s John Locke. Very well put.
  • If you were as baffled by this whole Dave Weigel-getting-fired business as I was, check out this Diavlog with the man in question. (H/t Ackerman.)
  • CHUP on the burqa ban and fear. Such policies and practices, regardless if it means banning the burqa or banning criticism of it, are ultimately unproductive because it further polarizes the debate rather than resolving any of its underlying issues. Good discussion in the comments.
  • As you all surely know, Mattis is for CENTCOM which is an excellent power shuffle around the board. One might think his pass over for Commandant was orchestrated to get him into CENTCOM, if one was a particularly twitchy conspiracy theorist. Which I am not. For more on Mattis, AFJ has excerpts from Tom Ricks’ “Fiasco” available for ungated reading.
  • Paul Staniland recently did a guest post series at the Monkey Cage on how counterinsurgencies end. I wish they were all linked together, but if you have the time its worth poking around for them all.
  • Embedistan, also on the At War blog.

Transatlanticism

Posted in afghanistan, europe, united kingdom by Karaka on 25 May 2010

Okay, I may have some problems with Rory Stewart’s general perspective on things, but I was taken by surprise to find that he was elected MP of Penrith and the Border in this month’s UK election.

A former diplomat, army officer and tutor to Princes William and Harry, Stewart was a deputy governor in southern Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, founded a charity in Afghanistan and has made the New York Times bestseller’s list with a book about his hike.

He’s already regarded as a possible successor to Cameron, even though he only joined the Conservative Party last summer.

Yet, only last year, Stewart thought a political career was out of reach. [AP]

A possible successor to Cameron–isn’t that something. I wonder how much influence Stewart will end up having over the Ministry of Defence.

Steve Coll wrote today about the new British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and Stewart’s advice to David Cameron going forward on the matter of Afghanistan:

During his visit to Washington, Hague spoke cautiously about Afghanistan and emphasized his government’s desire to forge unity with the United States. He said the new government saw no need to “rush into a disagreement” with the U.S. about the subject of talking to the Taliban. Acknowledging that American commanders prefer to postpone serious consideration of such talks until after they have carried out their military push into Kandahar during the next six months, he added, “You can easily see that people would have different views about timing.” Nonetheless, he made clear that “it will be a big part of our job to support the peace process” and that the British push for more politics in Afghanistan, and less fighting, would persist.

Ah, but six months will go by quickly–it doesn’t even mark the end of the calendar year. As Germany finally steps up to the plate and the infil of soldiers and civilians from US agencies continues, how long before inside opinion in Parliament becomes a matter for the floor? Particularly given recent polling that indicates 52% of the British populace are against the war. I can’t help but be chary of what this means, exactly:

Hague was asked to define success in the Afghan war. He replied, “To arrive at a point where Afghans can look after their own affairs without presenting a danger to the rest of the world.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s one long-term, large-scale project right there.

In other news, the Security Crank has returned from hibernation. Let the verbal savagery begin again.

Monday Errata

Posted in europe by Karaka on 19 April 2010

Okay, I was trying to figure out how to talk about this crazy epic volcano while still making it tenuously relevant to this blog, and the NYT gave me an out. Military Scrambles Soldiers, Staff and Supplies:

Volcanic ash and no-fly orders by European air-control authorities forced the U.S. military to reroute several planes flying wounded soldiers out of Afghanistan and to cancel hundreds of training flights in Europe, military officials said Monday. In addition, U.S. bases struggled with staff shortages because thousands of soldiers on leave were not able to make it back to base.

See? Relevance! Now check out these badass images from The Big Picture.

I know this is all a terrifying and vastly inconvenient display of nature, but wow, it looks flipping awesome. (In the classical sense of the word.)

And how is your travel ban this quarter?

Posted in europe, libya by Karaka on 19 April 2010

Qadaffi says: no watches for you! Fear not, O Reader. Even during health-downturn-the-extended-remix I still kept vigilant on Qadaffi Watch 2010. By which I mean to say, March was a very special month for the Man from Libya. (April is looking pretty good too.)

In February of this year, Qadaffi called for jihad against Switzerland after its rather ridiculous and alarmingly bigoted minaret ban. This was some icing on the safra for Qadaffi, because it offered the perfect opportunity to publicly retaliate for the arrest of his son (on charges of beating his servants) in Geneva in 2008. Though Libya claimed its next action was not caused from a response to this, the country promptly detained two Swiss businessmen for over a year.

Switzerland responded by banning 188 Libyan citizens from entering Europe via its borders. Libya, in turn, said f*** that and promptly blacklisted the 25 countries (plus bonus trade embargo!) in the Schengen Area from entering its nation.

This kind of ticked the EU off. At Switzerland. (Probably at Qadaffi, too, but publicly at Switzerland.) So Switzerland dropped its ban like a hot potato, and finally, at the end of last month, Libya dropped its as well, thus more-or-less ending the 19-month bickering over whether Switzerland stepped over the line by making an alien resident of its country adhere to its laws regarding employee abuse.

The Economist has a pretty cogent rundown of events, with some additional notes about how the scuffle affects the country’s economy:

Libyans susceptible to populist slogans may have chuckled over the visa fight, but its biggest effect was to reinforce the impression that Libya is a risky place for tourists or businesspeople alike.

Such self-inflicted damage is neither occasional nor restricted to higher policy. Consider the case of an Egyptian grocer who spent years building a thriving business in Libya, then made the mistake of going home on holiday. Abrupt changes to visa rules mean he can no longer return. Earlier this year, the new manager of a hotel in Tripoli, an expatriate, fired some staff and switched suppliers. This prompted someone to make a telephone call. A sudden snap health inspection of the hotel larder revealed a few tins past their sell-by date. The manager is now in prison.

Qadaffi is the world’s longest-serving non-hereditary ruler at 41 years and counting, but if he can be so capricious in the last three months (or the last three years, for that matter) as to upset the balance of his economic and diplomatic ties to the rest of the world–after only really opening them up in the last decade–one wonders whether he veering closer to actual senility or merely overconfidence in his rule.

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