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A Short Rant……

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

“In the wake of the latest failed terrorist incident, the TSA announced a new round of security procedures designed to greatly inconvenience millions of air passengers without doing anything to increase their security…”

Here’s an idea. Let’s start using basic counterintelligence principles to screen prospective travelers to the United States and bar those young, unmarried, Muslim men having affiliations with radical mosques, madrassas, imams, extremist Islamist political groups or a history of  mental illness and erratic behavior from receiving visas to enter the United States. This clown should never have been able to get a visa. His own father, a senior government official of a foreign nation, was trying to red-flag him as a potential al Qaida terrorist  for us(!).

Would such a policy catch every prospective terrorist? No. Nothing will.

But it should at least keep out the no-brainer cases who currently are admitted to the U.S. under our politically correct TSA-DHS-State immigration regime. There’s really no upside to allow radical activists, recruiters for Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hezbollah fundraisers, and other enemies of civilized existence into our country. Or better yet, any Western country. Sure, CAIR will complain but as that organization is an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism case, in terms of civil rights, they are not exactly the NAACP.

In the meantime, maybe the airlines will start distributing catheters to pasengers whose landings are delayed.

Five Questions: An Interview with Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Those of you who also regularly read Steven Pressfield’s site, It’s the Tribes, Stupid have come across his interview series with Ajmal Khan Zazai, elected paramount tribal chief of his home district in the Zazi valley of Paktia province in Afghanistan ( near Tora Bora and bordering Pakistani Waziristan). Chief Zazai fought in the Soviet War and at one time, was imprisoned by Pakistan’s ISI. On March 15, 2000, the Taliban assassinated Chief Zazai’s father, Chief Raiss Afzal Khan Zazai in his family house in Peshawar, Pakistan.

As paramount chief, Chief Zazai raised a Tribal Police Force that is presently working with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division to secure the Zazi valley. Chief Zazai’s force has come under attack, as insurgents have fought to stop his efforts.  His commander, Amir Muhammad, has personally survived several assassination attempts in the last several months. On two occasions in 2008, warlord-financed hit men attempted to assassinate Chief Zazai. One attack nearly succeeded, leaving several wounded and one man deadzazai.jpg

Steve cordially arranged for me to ask Chief Zazai a few questions via email regarding his perspective on the historical background of the war against the Taliban and the current situation in Afghanistan. My questions are in bold type and Chief Zazai’s answers are in normal text:


1.  Some American academics have argued that the day of “the tribe” is long past in Afghanistan, having been battered by governmental intrusion and war since at least 1978, and that a better understanding of Afghan identity for Americans is to look at the “Qaum” and other very local loyalties. How accurate is that description?:

“Qaum” means “Tribe” in Pashtu and also in the Dari Language. 

The 1978 coup was not the first bloody revolution Afghanistan saw, as I have said on many occasions, Afghanistan has gone through many turmoils and turbulences throughout its history and has survived as a nation and country. For one to get convinced that after the 1978 Red revolution that the tribal structure was gone for good, then one would also have to argue how this tribal structure survived till 1978 when Ghengis Khan burned almost half of Afghanistan?  What about Hulagu Khan, Tamerlane, the Persian empire, the Mughals and prior to all that Alexander the Great? [The tribes ] having seen all these bloody empires and survive untill 1978 is amazing, isn’t it?

To justify the argument simply by referring to the 1978 bloody Red revolution and claim the tribal structure was gone, is dead and has vanished in Afghanistan, would simply be ignorance and a lack of understanding of the rich Afghan culture and Afghan way of life.

The Bonn Agreement appointed Hamid Karzai for 6 months as an interim President of Afghanistan back in 2002. When 6 months passed, did the UN or US call for election? No, of course not. Who then who appointed Mr. Karzai as a President for 2nd time to be the President of the transitional government? It was the “Loya Jirga” and not through the election process. A Loya Jirga is a pure Afghan Tribal process and procedure of making things happen!

Let’s take a look at how the current Afghan Constitution was approved  and came into an effect:

The constitution of Afghanistan was not approved by the Afghan Parliament and Senate as the Parliament and Senate did not exist at the time. In fact the constitution was approved by the “Loya Jirga”; although there was a large presence of the Warlords and criminals in both those Loya Jirgas, nevertheless they served their purpose.

Now, why would one argue that the tribal structure does not exist in Afghanistan or it’s a thing of the past? Closing our eyes from the truth does not mean the truth would vanish. We have a phrase in Pashto which means “One can not hide the sun with just two fingers”.

If one believes they need to find local loyalties in Afghanistan, the locals are the tribes. Why would some go around in [semantic] circles and confuse themselves? 

2.  In your interviews with Steve Pressfield, you discussed the presence of warlords in the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, men with very bad records.  There have also been reports in the media, from time to time, of Ex-Khalqi Communists serving the regime. Are these men a similar problem to the warlords in your view?

When the Russians withdrew their forces in 1989 and left behind the Communist regime of Dr Najibullah, many thought that the regime would collapse in just days or in weeks, but Najibullah’s government survived for five long years despite the daily rains of rocket attacks on Kabul and only collapsed in 1992. Then the so-called Mujahideen took charge of Kabul and Afghanistan, but soon we saw that these power hungry men started fighting each other over the Throne of Kabul. Their bloody civil war of lasted from 1992 untill 1996 and turned Afghanistan into a pile of rubble.

 Many Afghans were turned against these so-called Mujahideen because these leaders and their commanders became involved in killing innocent men, women and children, looted people’s livelihoods and literally turned all of Afghanistan into a war zone. We witnessed that in just five years these “Mujahideen” warlords destroyed Kabul and all other major cities in Afghanistan. People started to hate them more than they hated the old Communists, so in a way, the crimes which were initially committed by the Communists were covered up when the Afghan people witnessed the subsequent brutality of these so-called Mujahideen leaders and commanders.

I strongly believe the Afghan civil war was also orchestrated by the  KGB/FSB in order to engage these Freedom fighters in Afghanistan and prevent them from crossing over to infiltrate the [formerly Soviet] Central Asian States, and also to cover the atrocities committed by the Red Army against the Afghans in Afghanistan. The KGB/FSB calculated shrewdly that if these “Mujahideen” leaders accomplished a united Islamic government in Afghanistan, it would spill over into the entire Central Asian countries. Although many believed in the West at the time that Russia was almost finished and gone, that was a mistake Westerners made in trying to understand the Russian mind set. 

I strongly believe that the Afghan Communists are responsible for the destruction of Afghanistan. They still have the Marxist-Leninist theory in their heads and we recently have witnessed that many of these Afghan ex-Communists are keeping close ties to Moscow. I believe these Khalqis and Parchamis are now part of the problem as they are now receiving support from Russia.   

3.  Afghanis, especially Pushtuns, have a well-deserved historical reputation as fierce fighters.  Yet there is more to life than war, even in a warrior society. What does a young Afghan man in his late teens or twenties hope for?  What would he see as “progress” or better times?

Much is been said about the Afghans, Pashtuns in the media and honestly I disagree with much of it because no nation, no tribe no people wish for a war as war only brings devastation, destruction and miseries.

Yes, the Afghans are great fighters, but that does not mean they wish for a war all their life. We needed to fight against the Russian invasion and I still strongly believe we have done the right thing defending our country and nation against Communism; as I said earlier, things went wrong when these so-called Mujahideen or Freedom fighters leaders started fighting one another. I believe every Afghan wishes for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Yes there are some who will continue fighting, but we all know they are small in numbers and are not significant. The reason many young men are part of the Taliban and other insurgents is the lack of employment , lack of better life conditions and of course lack of any positive attention from their government in Kabul. At this moment if you ask me, why are these young men are turning to Taliban and are fighting the US, NATO and the Afghan government? You will hear a simple answer from me and that is lack of employment opportunity for these youth who are mostly uneducated.

I will tell you my own experience: I was only 16 when I used to go to Afghanistan from Pakistan from time to time to fight against the Russians. I knew the consequences of being killed, but I was not going to Afghanistan in order to be killed, I was going to Afghanistan to fight the Russians. Now things are opposite, many young men are brainwashed by evil men and these young men wish to die, that’s why there are many suicide attacks now. I remember very well in my days when we were busy fighting the Russians, that we never had suicide bombers. This is very new to us and it has been brought form outside Afghanistan.

I believe the Afghan government and the US/NATO should provide training programmes to all those young Afghan men at around age of 16 and above who have lost the chance to go to school and get education. By learning skilled trades, I believe they will be in a position to earn a loaf of bread for themselves and their family and in this way we will prevent many young men from falling in the trap of believing being a suicide bomber means a life in the hereafter with the 72 virgins which will await them at the corridor of heaven.

4.  You have spoken at length with Steve Pressfield about the 10th Mountain Division and your positive relationship with them.  How successful have American and NATO units been in making connections elsewhere with Afghan tribal leaders compared to the 10th Mountain Division?

I do not have any information to the regard that if the US Army has any close contacts with other Tribal leaders. In my case, I have pushed hard for this partnership, regardless of any obstacles that were created for us to even have a decent understanding, but now it seems to be working. In the entire Afghanistan, I am the first Tribal Leader who denounced the Taliban and Al Qaeda openly and more practically, by forming TPF (Tribal Police Force) from my Tribesmen to fight these evil men without any financial assistance from the US Army, US Government, NATO or the Afghan Government. My TPF programme is by the people and for the people – I think it is on the same lines of your democracy “By the people and for the people”!

5). A friend of mine, the strategist Thomas PM Barnett, has been advocating a much greater international presence in Afghanistan, including not just NATO but China, Russia and India, with direct business investment as well as providing military and civilian aid workers. Would this development be a welcome one?

I believe this is a positive step in bringing a broader coalition and the entire International community to help and be involved in Afghanistan; but although this approach might be purely for business purposes, it could pose a future problem as most of these nations are not very sure of the US and NATO policy in the long term and present intentions. Afghanistan has always maintained very good and close relations with India, and throughout this friendship, India had no political ambitions and that what made India look good until the 90’s when India supported the Northern alliance. [As a result] I believe India has lost that status of being a neutral friend of Afghanistan. Also, the growing presence of Indians in Afghanistan is sending some disturbing alarms to our immediate neighbor (Pakistan).

Things needs to be balanced and Afghanistan needs a better understanding [of FDI] and not just bringing in anyone which could only lead to disruption and anxiety in long term. As an example, the large copper mines in Logar Province were won in a biding by a Chinese company – later it was revealed that the Chinese paid large kick backs to the minister of mines. In my opinion, involving more Chinese and Russian corporations would mean more corruption in Afghanistan.

Russian firms are already involved in Afghanistan. Most of them are involved in espionage and there are Chinese corporations and I believe they are doing the same. It would be more fruitful [for Afghans] for your friend to encourage Western corporations and companies to invest in Afghanistan.

Thank you, Chief Zazai.

Gaddis on Grand Strategy

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Hat tip to Ian!

The Human Face of War

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


The Human Face of War by Dr. Jim Storr

An important new book on military theory and history by British defense expert Dr. Jim Storr, a retired Lt. Colonel, King’s Regiment and an instructor at the UK Defence Academy, was reviewed in Joint Forces Quarterly ( hat tip Wilf Owen) by Col. Clinton J. Acker III:

The Human Face of War

….Surveying an array of disciplines including history, psychology, systems theory, complexity theory and philosophy, Storr (a former British officer) looks at what a theory of combat should include, then provides one. He goes on to apply that theory to the design of organizations, staffs, leadership, information management and the creation of cohesion in units. In doing so, he takes on many currently popular theories such as Effects-Based Operations, the observe-orient-decide-act loop, the use of postmodern theory and language.

….Storr’s position is best summed up with this passage:”Critically, military theory should not be a case of ‘this is the right course of action’ but rather ‘doing this will probably have beneficial outcome’

I have not read this book, as it is new and not yet released over here but I have to stop here and comment that the ability to make effective, reasonable, probablilistic estimates based on uncertain or incomplete information is perhaps one of the most important cognitive skills for strategic thinking. This applies whether we are discussing decision making in business, sports, warfare or games of strategy.

….After developing his precepts in the first three chapters, Storr uses the rest of the book to deal with the specifics about how to apply those precepts to “Tools and Models”, “Shock and Surprise”, “Tactics and Organizations”, “Commanding the Battle”, “The Soul of the Army” ( a fascinating discussion of leadership styles) and “Regulators and Ratcatchers”….The discussion in these chapters presents a superb treatise on the use of examples and counterexamples to support points of view. A single counterexample is not sufficient to falsify an argument, for there are no absolutes. Rather we are looking for patterns that appear better than others…”

Read the rest here.

Recommended Reading

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Top Billing! PunditaAlden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 2: Once upon a time in Saigon and Mumbai

A post of dramatic scope and fury as Pundita deftly sifts the shadowy underground of Af/Pak policy:

 ….Washington has yet to confront that the insurgency in Afghanistan, to the extent it exists, is miniscule and can be handled largely by non-military means. The major part of the fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan is directed by Pakistan’s military and their intelligence service. As Rajeev Srinivasan explained earlier this month:

[…] Pakistan has clearly articulated its pursuit of strategic depth which, for instance, involves having a Plan B even if its major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, close to the Indian border, are obliterated in a possible Indian nuclear second strike (after Pakistan has wiped out Delhi and Mumbai in a first strike). They want to regroup from Afghanistan and continue their jihad against India from there.The Taliban, of course, are Pakistani Army and ISI soldiers dressed in baggy pants and beards for the occasion. The fact that alleged seminary students (whom the Taliban are supposed to be) suddenly started driving tanks and flying planes is indirect evidence that they were trained soldiers.Therefore, Taliban rule in Kabul means Pakistan has achieved its strategic depth. Clearly, they have no desire to fight or eliminate the Taliban, despite the fact that some factions (such as the one from the Mehsud tribe) have begun to inconvenience Pakistan through a campaign of suicide bombings. Dead Pakistani civilians are considered acceptable collateral damage by the ISI, but their attacks on the military apparatus is a big no-no. They are clearly ‘bad Taliban’, and will not get any share of the spoils.[…]

Got all that? As to what to do about it: For a few minutes set aside al Qaeda, the War on Terror, and Islamism. Get into the ballpark of what’s actually going on in Pakistan. From there it’s a hop and skip to working out a better war strategy in Afghanistan. Reaching the ballpark starts with realizing that we can’t ‘solve’ Afghanistan until we confront what Pakistan is and what we’ve been supporting in Pakistan since (drum roll please) 1947: a form of feudalism that’s supported by a caste system.

….There’s no need to ask, ‘How did it come to this?’ We just need to look back down the yellow brick road. What started with a photograph in LIFE ended up with many American troops murdered in Afghanistan by agents of a U.S. client state — and with Washington’s only protest to engage in butterknife rattling at the client state. And, perhaps in the hope that two clattering butterknives would equal the sound of one rattling saber, London joined Washington in telling Pakistan’s military and ISI that if they didn’t stop blowing up ISAF troops in Afghanistan, well, they needed to stop. This tough line was followed by Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown fobbing hush money on Pakistan’s government to the tune of £60m, “which will include funds for education and clean drinking water for children, to be delivered before the end of the financial year.”

A collection of related links to the acclaimed “Ecology of War” paper in Nature by Boorquez, Gourley, Dixon, Spagat, and Johnson. No, I have not finished digesting all of this yet:

Nature: -“Common Ecology Quantifies Human Insurgency
John Robb: JOURNAL: A Quantitative Examination of Open Source Warfare, JOURNAL: A Critique of Open Source Warfare
Drew Conway:On the Ecology of Human Insurgency, Response to John Robb Re: Ecology of Human Insurgency
Dr. Sean Gourley: – “The ecology of war” on the cover of Nature, Can there be a mathematics of war?, It’s more than power-laws and statistics, Quant Analysis and Open Source Warfare, 14 key features that define a successful insurgency, Mathematics of War.com

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett –Neocons are Alive and Kicking

Tom attacks the policy vision of the Krauthammers and Perles in this WPR piece but waxes brutally honest on the nature of China’s “authoritarian capitalism”

….Obama must spell out to Beijing the limits of America’s willingness to safeguard the developing world for China’s mercantilist resource-plundering strategies. And, quite frankly, Afghanistan is a great place to start, thanks to China’s recent $3.5 billion investment in one of the world’s last-remaining unexploited copper reserves. My guess is that, sometime just before his re-election effort, Obama will quietly deliver the following message to the Chinese: “I’ve held this line for as long as I can. Now it’s your turn to bodyguard yourself.”In the larger strategic sense, Obama has little interest in prematurely forcing this path upon the Chinese, since China’s underdeveloped capabilities would force Beijing to rely on a rapid expansion of its cash-centric form of “state graft.” Left to their own devices, the Chinese would simply turn much of the underdeveloped world into a sad, carbon copy of North Korea’s nationwide slave labor camp, self-righteously justifying such tactics as “non-interference.”

SWJ Blog – In Afghan war, officer flourishes outside the box

Good article. This guy isn’t following a recipe.

JFQ – “A Better War in Afghanistan” by Dr. John Nagl

Steve PressfieldInterview w/Tribal Chief #10: Pakistan, Interview w/Tribal Chief #11: Pakistan, continued

More grist on our “ally”, Islamabad.

MetamodernThe promise that launched the field of nanotechnology, Molecular Manufacturing: Where’s the progress?, Basement development? Big leaps?

Dr. Eric Drexler’s nanotech series.

When the first million readers encountered “nanotechnology”

Now, over 20 years after the fact, it is often forgotten that a concept called “nanotechnology” first swept into the minds of a large, science-aware public quite abruptly, in November 1986, when nearly a million readers encountered the cover story of a leading general-audience, science-oriented magazine of that time, OMNI. A month before this, the term and idea had been known to almost no one beyond early readers of Engines of Creation

FSJ – “My Secret Police File“- Frederick Quinn

Remembering the halcyon days of thuggish, East Bloc, state security goons and gumshoes.

Dr. Jarrett BrachmanJihobbyists: Come One, Come All, Ansarnet Jihobbyists Stumble Over Each Other to Respond to Me, The English-Language Jihobby Clownshow, Ansarnet’s Jihobby Orcs are at it Again, Making Jihobbyists our New Secret Weapon in Combating Jihobbyism, The Pros and Cons with “Jihobbyism”, “On Practicing What We Preach,” By Ansarnet Posters, The Fresh Face of American Jihobbyism: Abdullah as-Sayf Jones

Yes, this is an abusively large number of links from one blog but I’m highly amused by Dr. Brachman’s successful effort at annoying the Salafi equivalent of Trekkies living in their parents basement community. I’d like to encourage the spread of Brachman’s term “Jihobbyism”to tarnish the macho self-image of Islamist wannabes and fighting keyboardists everywhere.

That’s it.

UPDATE! Recommended Viewing:

Talk given by Dr. Noah Raford on complexity and strategy for organisations at the London School of Economics . I used the title “Dr.” because Raford has an academic-style beard.

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