Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Securing Pakistan’s Tribal Belt

17 July, 2008

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a special report written by Daniel Markey – CFR’s senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia – entitled Securing Pakistan’s Tribal Belt [PDF].

The following is the ‘Introduction & Summary of Recommendations':

Today, few places on earth are as important to U.S. national security as the tribal belt along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The region serves as a safe haven for a core group of nationally and internationally networked terrorists, a training and recruiting ground for Afghan Taliban, and, increasingly, a hotbed of indigenous militancy that threatens the stability of Pakistan’s own state and society. Should another 9/11-type attack take place in the United States, it will likely have its origins in this region. As long as Pakistan’s tribal areas are in turmoil, the mission of building a new, democratic, and stable Afghanistan cannot succeed.

Nearly seven years after 9/11, neither the United States nor Pakistan has fully come to terms with the enormity of the challenge in the tribal belt. Washington has failed to convince Pakistanis that the United States has positive intentions in the region and is committed to staying the course long enough to implement lasting, constructive change. Pakistan, for its part, has demonstrated a disturbing lack of capacity and, all too often, an apparent lack of will to tackle head-on the security, political, or developmental deficits that have produced an explosion of terrorism and extremism within its borders and beyond. Islamabad’s conflicted views and priorities with respect to this fight have deep roots; for much of its history, the Pakistani state has employed militants as tools to project power and influence throughout the region.

In order to begin making progress in the tribal areas, the United States must build strong working relationships with Pakistani leaders and institutions, both military and civilian. The alternatives, ranging from reluctant, piecemeal cooperation to an outright rupture in bilateral relations, are bound to be far more costly and counterproductive to American interests over the long run. And despite the inevitable frustrations that will plague the U.S.-Pakistan partnership, it cannot be founded on coercive threats of U.S. sanctions or unilateral military activity. Such coercion is profoundly counterproductive because it empowers those in Pakistan who already suspect U.S. ill intentions and it undermines Washington’s real and potential allies in the Pakistani political system.

Rather than threats, Washington should employ a strategy of enhanced cooperation and structured inducements, in which the United States designs its assistance to bring U.S. and Pakistani officials closer together and provides Pakistan with the specific tools required to confront the threats posed by militancy, terrorism, and extremism.

In his first six months in office, the new U.S. president should articulate a formal, comprehensive vision for U.S. policy in the tribal areas, one that prepares both Americans and Pakistanis for a cooperative effort that extends to other facets of the bilateral relationship and will—even if successful—far outlast the next administration. The U.S. government should place Pakistan/Afghanistan second only to Iraq in its prioritization of immediate national security issues, and should move quickly to reassess assistance programming and to invest in U.S. personnel and institutions required for a long-term commitment to the region.

This report aims to characterize the nature of the challenges in Pakistan’s tribal areas, formulate strategies for addressing these challenges, and distill these strategies into realistic policy proposals worthy of consideration by the incoming administration. It
focuses mainly on U.S. policy, but recognizes that Washington’s choices must always be contingent upon Pakistan’s own course of action. The scope of this report is thus more constrained than exhaustive, and its recommendations for U.S. assistance programming
are intended to provide strategic guidelines rather than narrow prescriptions.

Read the whole report here.

H/T: Pakistan Policy Blog

COIN Inside the Wire – Jihadist Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia

6 July, 2008

Journalist Shiraz Maher has an interesting article in today’s Sunday Times looking at Saudi efforts to rehabilitate captured Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants.

Although the Saudi programme’s emphasis on rehabilitating and releasing captured terrorists back into society makes it controversial in some quarters, there is increasing appreciation among COIN practitioners of the importance of ensuring detainee operations are consistent with the wider strategic goal of winning the war of ideas and securing the support of the population – a concept now often referred to as ‘COIN inside the wire’.

As such, the Saudi model – itself inspired by the success of a similar programme run by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) in Singaporean prisons with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees – is increasingly being implemented by US detention programmes in Iraq (see The Financial Times article linked to below).

Extracts:

It has been called the Betty Ford clinic for jihadists and within minutes of arriving at the Care Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Riyadh, you can see why. The small complex, where the Saudi Arabian government is exploring a new way of reforming its wayward radicals, feels more like an exclusive boarding school than a Saudi jail.

The Times

Inmates have access to swimming pools, table tennis and PlayStations. In the evenings, guards and prisoners play football. An air-conditioned tent sits adjacent to the sports field, serving as a dining hall and common room where, when I visited, the prisoners were tucking into rice and lamb with fresh fruit for pudding.

In return for this privileged treatment, the prisoners – Islamic extremists, some of whom are convicted murderers – are obliged to attend lessons based around Islamic law and the jurisprudence of jihad. A team of psychologists teaches detainees how they should manage their emotions, particularly when reacting to world events.

….

The Saudi government insists all this is necessary to promote genuine rehabilitation and foster a meaningful relationship with the jihadists. But in the easy-going atmosphere of the “resort” – nobody calls it a prison – where inmates are referred to as “beneficiaries”, it is easy to forget the seriousness of some of their crimes.

The centre is divided into six areas, four of which hold Saudi nationals who fought (or tried to) in Iraq. The other two hold returnees from Guantanamo Bay.

….

The government has realised that the use of force alone will not contain Al-Qaeda. It has created an ideological security unit that coordinates the kingdom’s efforts in the war of ideas against its native jihadists. Those arrested in connection with terrorism are routinely subjected to attempts to reform their thinking.

Five jails, each housing 1,200 prisoners, have been built specifically for jihadists with the purpose of promoting ideological reform through dialogue and debate. Religious instruction in these prisons is directed by an advisory committee, which is also closely involved with the care centre.

The new prisons are far from the relaxed environment of the Care Rehabilitation Centre. Housing some of the most senior Al-Qaeda leaders in the kingdom, they are maximum security with sophisticated systems to deter any militants hoping to target them, including the use of buried seismic cables and microwave detection equipment.

CCTV also operates in the prisons, including cells and interrogation rooms. Most prisoners have a cell to themselves or occasionally share, although the rooms have been designed to minimise contact with other prisoners and are largely self-contained. Cells are fitted with their own televisions, encased behind toughened glass, and are centrally controlled by the guards. They are used to transmit religious education lectures prepared by the advisory committee directly into cells where inmates later have an opportunity to debate ideas and ask questions using an intercom.

After serving their sentence in these jails, prisoners are moved to the rehabilitation centre, which opened 18 months ago. It is designed to be a halfway house where ideas first introduced by the advisory committee in prison are consolidated and developed. The men are also given extensive support to help to reintegrate them into society after they leave, the thinking being that so doing makes them less likely to reoffend.

The initiative was largely inspired by circumstance after a senior Al-Qaeda figure surrendered in response to a royal amnesty. Unsure about what to do with him, the government asked a local sheikh, Ahmad Jilani, to live with him and ensure that he did not abscond while it searched for a more permanent solution.

“We discovered that after living with the sheikh, who challenged his ideas, he began telling us everything about how he was recruited, what attracted him [to jihad] and how Al-Qaeda is operating in the kingdom,” said General Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the interior ministry.

….

Families are encouraged to make regular visits to the centre, allowing inmates to socialise with spouses and children. Families have a crucial role to play in reforming the radicals and the centre offers advice on how to help prisoners to readjust after release. The emphasis on preparing both the families and the inmates for reintegration is particularly relevant to those returning from Guantanamo Bay.

….

How successful the centre is being in challenging jihadist ideas is hard to measure. The majority of men I met there were not Al-Qaeda’s ideologues but its foot soldiers. Most had answered the call to jihad without fully understanding the Islamist world view and, although religiously motivated, were fuelled by events.

Since its inception none of the inmates from the care centre has reoffended, but a visit to the home of Mohammed al-Fawzan, who tried to join the Islamic army in Iraq and was arrested on the Syrian border, reveals a more intriguing reason why some of those released from the care centre might want to sustain their good behaviour. Parked outside his modest one-bedroom apartment in a poor district of Riyadh is Fawzan’s new Toyota Camry, costing just under £15,000. The flat has been renovated and modernised with a fitted kitchen and bedroom furniture installed in preparation for his wedding. Fawzan’s living room hosts a 37in high-definition television with surround sound and a Blu-ray player. All this has been provided by the government, including an additional £15,000 for his wedding. And incentives are not limited to financial aid. The government also ensured that Fawzan was reinstated in his old job.

.

Further Reading:

In addition to the above article, Shiraz Maher has produced a documentary segment about the care centre that will be broadcast on Wednesday’s Newsnight (BBC2 10.30pm).

Also of interest on the subject:

The Business End
Andrew K. Woods, The Financial Times

Provides a detailed profile of Major General Douglas Stone’s efforts to apply similar principles to the US detention programme in Iraq.

Extremist Reeducation and Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia
Christopher Boucek, Terrorism Monitor

Rehabilitating the Jihadists
IISS

Singapore’s Muslim Community-Based Initiatives against JI
Muhammad Haniff Hassan, Perspectives on Terrorism

Update (18 July 08):

Indonesia’s Approach to Jihadist Deradicalization
Kirsten E. Schulze, CTC Sentinel vol.1 no.8

Also relevant is the following extract from pp. 94-5 of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress [PDF]:

Detainee Operations

The broad “reconciliation” intent extends to an additional subset of the Iraqi population — those who have been detained by coalition forces.

Accountability. By the beginning of 2008, coalition detainee operations had evolved markedly from the days of the formal occupation, when they were characterized by under-staffing, limited facilities, and — due to ongoing aggressive military operations — a large and quickly growing detainee population. In the early days, it was common to find local communities frustrated first by detentions they perceived to be groundless, and then by the difficulty of determining the location and status of those detained.

One important, gradual change since then, according to coalition officials, is much better accountability, based on the introduction of biometrics, better information-sharing throughout the detention system, and simply better cultural familiarity with the multi-part names commonly used in the region.

“COIN Inside the Wire” Detainee Program. A second major change, introduced by the current MNF-I leadership, is a set of “COIN inside the wire” practices, designed to identify and separate the truly “irreconcilables” from the rest of the detainees.

This new approach is based partly on a better understanding of the detainee population, which apparently includes far more opportunists than ring-leaders — for example, under-employed young men who agree to emplace an IED in exchange for a one-time payment. The opportunism seems to be corroborated by the low recidivism rate — about 9 out of 100.

According to coalition officials, in the past, the coalition used its theater internment facilities simply to “warehouse” detainees. Those facilities effectively served as “jihadist universities” where detainees with extremist agendas could recruit and train followers. Today, the coalition cultivates the majority of the detainee population by providing detainees with voluntary literacy and vocational training, and bringing in imams to offer literacy and religious education. A family visitation program allows about 1,600 visits per week. According to a senior coalition official, “Now detainees themselves point out the trouble-makers.” To support this effort, two Theater Internment Reintegration Facilities are under construction, in Taji and Ramadi, to provide further education and skills training.

Detainee Releases. A third initiative is a planned release of detainees, projected to include a majority of the 23,845 current detainees in the coalition detention facilities. During 2007, the detainee population grew from about 14,000 at the start of the year to 25,000, due to surge operations and better incoming information from Iraqi sources. The release initiative is motivated partly by the overall emphasis on reconciliation, and partly by concerns that the forthcoming “security framework agreement” (see above, “Future Security Framework Agreement”) may place new constraints on coalition detainee operations. The targeted release program draws on the results of “COIN inside the wire” in separating the hardcore cases from one-time offenders. The program makes use of a guarantor system, in which tribal sheikhs and other local leaders may vouch for, and accept responsibility for, the future good conduct of detainees released back to their communities.

The release program calls for giving ground commanders the opportunity to comment on proposed releases. Some commanders have expressed concerns about the practical implications of the program, wondering in particular how jobs will be found for the released detainees, and what will restrain them from low-level, opportunistic criminality in the future if full-employment jobs are not found.

Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence – The Discrepancy Between COIN Doctrine and Ground Operations

5 July, 2008

RAND have released the latest in a series of occasional papers addressing counterinsurgency theory and practice. Entitled Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence — The U.S. Military and Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1960-1970 and 2003-2006, and written by Austin Long, the paper challenges the notion that the development of improved COIN doctrine necessarily translates into an equivalent improvement in the conduct of COIN operations on the ground.

Long compares the conduct of contemporary COIN operations by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq following the release of FM 3-24 with the conduct of COIN operations in Vietnam, and argues that in both cases organisational inertia has inhibited the force adaptation required to actually implement new doctrine on the ground.

Abstract:

The publication of a new counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine manual in late 2006 was widely heralded as an indication that the U.S. military was finally coming to understand the problems it has recently faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this interpretation assumes a tight linkage between doctrine as written and operations as actually conducted. By comparing modern counterinsurgency doctrine and operations to those of 1960s, this paper tests and ultimately disproves this proposition.

An examination of COIN doctrine and operations in the 1960s reveals that operations seldom matched written doctrine. Instead of winning hearts and minds, improving civil-military relations, conducting small-unit operations, and gathering intelligence, most Vietnam War commanders and units attempted to defeat the insurgency through large-scale operations and overwhelming firepower.

Modern U.S. COIN operations in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate a similar preference for high-intensity warfare and a similar inability to adapt technologically and mentally to the requirements of COIN.

To help explain the discrepancy between written doctrine and actual operations, this paper posits that ingrained organizational concepts and beliefs have a much greater influence on operations than written doctrine. While embedded beliefs can help organizations as they conduct their preferred missions, they can be detrimental in other contexts.

Mental and material preparation for high-intensity warfare has made the U.S. military poorly suited to COIN. Altering these beliefs will require more than just new doctrine and some additional professional education: The services must reorient themselves mentally as well as physically.

Read the paper here.

The ‘Sons of Iraq’ and Elections in Iraq and the US

21 May, 2008

IRG member David Ucko has published an article in the World Politics Review on the Sons of Iraq phenomenon. The article is reproduced in full below.

The analysis is nuanced and also very timely, in that both Iraq and the United States are approaching elections that will, each in their own way, be critical to the future of Iraq. Examining the origins and evolution of the SoI partnerships, the article challenges some of the spin to surround this important issue.

The article concludes with some sobering analysis of the phenomenon, focusing in particular on the intransigence of the incumbent central government in Iraq to consolidate or react constructively to the new partnerships with tribal elements and former insurgents. The article argues that the US discussion on Iraq must now abandon the either-or option of staying or withdrawing and focus more closely on events on the ground, as they develop in the run-up to the Iraqi provincial elections in October 2008, and the US elections soon thereafter.

Read the full article below.

≠≠≠

Upcoming Iraqi Elections Must Consolidate Security Gains of ‘Sons of Iraq’ – David Ucko

In the typically polarized debate on Iraq, the significance of the “Sons of Iraq” — the predominantly Sunni militias now allied with the U.S. military against insurgents and terrorists — can easily be lost. Depending on one’s point of view, the U.S. military’s new Sunni friends are either “concerned local citizens” or “opportunist insurgents” — with pro- and anti-war camps each using the phenomenon to support pre-existing political positions. As Iraq approaches provincial elections in October, however, and the United States nears its own presidential vote, it is high time to abandon easy slogans and to examine the fresh challenges and many opportunities presented by recent events in Iraq. Among such events, the emergence of the Sons of Iraq stands out as particularly important.

Sons of Iraq (SOI) is the collective name used for the tribal elements, insurgents and civilians that turned against extremist groups active in Iraq and began working instead with the U.S. military. With the help of U.S. soldiers and Marines, the SOI have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence seen since the onset of the so-called “surge” in early 2007. The phenomenon, however, predates the surge, finding its origins in al-Anbar province in late 2006. There, the U.S. military and local Sunni tribes were able to seal security pacts with locals to work together against al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and other Islamist armed groups. This pattern soon repeated itself in other parts of Iraq, bringing stability to former insurgent and AQI strongholds. At present, an estimated 103,000 Sons of Iraq (70 percent Sunni; 30 percent Shiite) are working with the U.S.-led coalition.

The Sunni community was for a long time excluded from the state-building project in Iraq: Their ethnic affiliation suggested close proximity to the former regime and their tribal structure clashed with the democratic foundations on which the future Iraqi state was to be built. The decision to disband Baathist security forces also alienated the many Sunnis serving in the Iraqi Army. The added alienation of Sunnis from government — through U.S. military operations, which overwhelmingly targeted the Sunni community, and the ensuing Sunni sense of victimization, leading to their boycott of the January 2005 elections — made this community a natural ally of the insurgents and extremists establishing themselves in Iraq’s power vacuums. Such alliances were based on shared Sunni identity, opposition to the sectarian, Shiite-dominated central government, and to its protector, the American-led coalition. U.S. strategy, meanwhile, seldom differentiated between elements of the Sunni community. The few attempts by various U.S. military units to create and exploit extant rifts were on the whole unsuccessful.

In late 2006, two related factors changed this state of affairs. First, AQI rendered itself deeply unpopular among the Anbar tribes by disrupting or taking over informal business networks, seeking to marry into the higher tribal echelons and through its intimidation and violence. These efforts resulted in a backlash. It was not, as is commonly reported, primarily a matter of AQI brutality — though this aspect certainly accelerated the breakdown in relations. More fundamentally, the backlash grew out of a wider competition over resources, financial networks, social influence and political power. Differences in these areas were what fuelled the violence, itself a crude attempt by AQI to coerce the tribes into submission.

Secondly, the U.S. military changed its strategy, assisting and even enabling the decoupling of Sunni tribes and extremist groups. In short, a number of U.S. brigades moved from a narrow focus on rooting out the insurgency to a broader effort to “end the cycle of violence,” primarily by examining and engaging U.S. adversaries’ various motivations for picking up arms in the first place. This effort resulted in the identification of individuals within the insurgency with whom cooperation would be possible. By pursuing a strategy of co-opting and cooperating with the middle ground, the U.S. military helped achieve the common goal of greater stability while marginalizing more extremist elements.

(more…)

Documents of Note #3

3 May, 2008

The following is the latest in a periodic round-up of reports, papers, monographs, etc likely to be of interest to IRG members and the wider COIN/CT community.

≠≠≠

RAND has published Volume 5 in its Counterinsurgency Study series of monographs, which is co-authored by IRG founder John Mackinlay and Alison Al-Baddawy.

Rethinking Counterinsurgency

.
The May-June edition of the US Army Combined Arms Center’s Military Review includes the following piece by Philip Seib:

The Al-Qaeda Media Machine [PDF]

.
The Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College has published the following studies:

Precision in the Global War on Terror: Inciting Muslims through the War of Ideas – Dr. Sherifa D. Zuhur [PDF]

Global Climate Change: National Security Implications (ed. Carolyn Pumphrey) [PDF]

.
The SWJ Magazine has published interim versions of the following papers:

Social Epidemics and the Human Element of Counterinsurgency – CPT Nils French

Iraqi Non-Lethal Contributions to the Counterinsurgency - CPT Justin Gorkowski

The Counterinsurgency Cliff Notes - CPT Craig Coppock

.
The US Department of State has released the latest in its annual series of terrorism assessments:

Country Reports on Terrorism 2007

.
The International Crisis Group has released two new reports on Iraq:

Iraq after the Surge I: The New Sunni Landscape

Iraq after the Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy

.
The Combined Arms Research Library has made the following documents available. Original date of publication is provided if the document is not new.

Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958 – David Galula, 1963 (2006 Rand edition with foreword by Bruce Hoffman)

War by Other Means: Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency - RAND

55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism - Dr. Marvin Cetron and Owen Davies

Defeating Cross Border Insurgencies – Thorsten Joergensen, 2007

Tactical Handbook for Operations Other Than WarUK Ministry of Defence, 1998

Strategic Assessment of the Mau-Mau Rebellion – Robert Eatman, 2007

Chechen Suicide Bombers – Robert W. Kurz and Charles K. Bartles, 2007

The Evolution of Al Qaeda – Sean Wilson, 2007

Globalization and Asymmetrical Warfare – William Hartman, 2002

Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: A Seamless TransitionJohn Hahn, 2004

Asymmetric Warfare: An Historical Perspective – Frankling Miles, 1999

Why Insurgents Fail: Examining Post-World War II Failed Insurgencies Utilizing the Prerequisites of Successful Insurgencies as a Framework – Frank Zimmerman, 2007

.
Secrecy News
has made available the following reports from the Congressional Research Service:

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress [PDF]

Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy [PDF]

High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments [PDF]

Defending Stalemate

27 April, 2008

In an earlier post on this blog, entitled The Impregnable Force: A Case for Stalemate in Iraq, Jeff Michaels proposed a ‘stalemate strategy’ as an alternative to current counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. Following comments from David Ucko and Stéphane Taillat, Jeff has composed the following response.

≠≠≠

I hope you don’t mind, but for brevity sake I’d like to respond to both David’s and Stephane’s comments in a single response of my own. I must warn you that I will take a somewhat long-winded way of explaining the logic behind the stalemate strategy, but in the process, hopefully respond to all of their points.

1. One of the problems of offering a ‘radical’ take on any given subject is its shock value. In this particular case, to suggest that an approach other than the counter-insurgency type currently being employed in Iraq under Petraeus might be better for US national security in the long-term, definitely seems to go against the ‘dominant discourse’ of the day.

However, please consider this. Iraq does not constitute the only mission for the US armed forces. Nor does Afghanistan. That being said, too many counterinsurgency advocates look at a conflict such as Iraq and immediately see COIN as the ‘only’ strategy, without recognizing the broader context of these conflicts.

2. By contrast, an alternative grand strategy-based outlook must examine the long-term gains versus losses of maintaining the current approach, and compare these with other options.

This outlook mimics in a somewhat analogous way the view of a certain group of Vietnam dissenters (mostly military officers) who objected to US military involvement there, not for any moral reasons, but rather because they challenged the assumption that Vietnam was a critical battleground in the broader Cold War. Instead, they saw Europe as the central battleground, and viewed Vietnam as a sideshow that was consuming a disproportionate amount of national resources.

Obviously, the Vietnam/Cold War and Iraq/Global War on Terror are not entirely analogous. On the other hand, in both cases, the conflicts have been linked to broader struggles, at least within US political discourse. Iraq is purported to be the ‘central front in the GWOT’ and this mantra is used to justify the disproportionately large US military presence there versus Afghanistan, the Philippines, Horn of Africa, etc., which are presumably viewed as ‘lesser fronts’.

3. It is worthwhile considering for a moment the resources devoted to Iraq in relation to the broader GWOT. Why is it that Iraq requires 140,000+ troops, Afghanistan 30,000, Horn of Africa 1,500, and so forth? Is the US choosing its approach to the conflict because it is the ‘ideal’ approach, or because the approach is defined by the amount of resources available?

To put it bluntly, I would argue the fact that following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the US actually had hundreds of thousands of troops in the area, that this was the most important factor determining America’s subsequent approach to the conflict. In other words, had the US only had 30,000 troops in theater at the time, the US would have had to decide whether to massively increase the force level in order to wage a counterinsurgency campaign, or to keep its military presence at that level and choose an alternative strategy to deal with the problem.

The real issue here is that there are always different ways of doing things. The basis for the stalemate strategy rests on the assumption that US military resources are limited, and therefore present force levels in Iraq cannot be sustained indefinitely. In this case, keeping in mind that US forces in Iraq are bound to decline in number over time, what options are available?

The option many COIN advocates seem to push for, is to keep force levels at their maximum for as long as possible, until conditions have improved to the point where withdrawals can be justified. There are several faults in this logic.

Firstly, there is the assumption that once Iraqi forces are deemed capable of taking over security, thereby allowing US forces to leave, that this will increase the likelihood of stability. Secondly, is the belief that there actually can be ‘stability’. Thirdly, it presumes Washington would be able to recognize ‘stability’, or define it in terms that would allow for troops to be withdrawn? Fourthly, and perhaps most important, is that it ignores the fact there are many groups interested in, and capable of, maintaining a low-level of violence indefinitely.

Indeed, many COIN experts are well aware that it is usually, if not always, the insurgents that control the rate of attrition. As such, looking at the cost-benefit calculus of groups that wish to keep Iraq unstable and to ensure the US overstretches itself (I would include Tehran amongst these), how much effort on their part is required to ensure the US keeps itself committed at its current level until it exhausts itself. I would say this would not require very much effort at all. Even if violence was reduced by 90% but sustained indefinitely, would the US declare ‘victory’? Or would the prospect of the violence increasing again force the US to wage counterinsurgency indefinitely as well?

4. The stalemate strategy has been developed precisely to counter the notion that violence in Iraq will ever be eradicated or reduced to a ‘manageable level’. Instead, it assumes that low-level violence has the prospect of continuing indefinitely, that this violence in all likelihood has the prospect of escalating again, and that US military intervention can at best play only a limited role in containing the multitude of crises involving a multitude of actors.

The question for US policymakers is not whether a stable Iraq is possible. Even in the best case scenario in which stability emerges, will it be a stability that is beneficial for US interests? For instance, would the US gain anything from a stable Iraq that is run predominantly by pro-Iranian Shiites? Is such a rosy scenario worth the ‘three trillion dollars’ in expense and ‘breaking’ the army? Best-case scenarios are not the most likely ones, and without suggesting that worst-case scenarios of civil war are the likeliest either, the reality will probably be somewhere in between.

5. In the meantime, there seems to be no consensus amongst US policymakers about what they believe can actually be achieved in Iraq, nor about what the long-term US interest is. Instead of knowing what they want, most policymakers can at least agree about what they don’t want. Quite simply put, they don’t want to lose, they don’t want to be seen to lose, they don’t want to overextend the military, they don’t want to risk heavy casualties, they don’t want to break the bank, they don’t want Iraq to be the next Afghanistan, and they don’t want Iran to emerge as a winner.

As such, rather than develop strategies to achieve best case, yet highly unrealistic outcomes, it seems much wiser to develop a strategy that achieves the minimum requirements of policymakers. The stalemate strategy is intended to achieve precisely this.

6. Rather than overextend US forces indefinitely, hoping that elections will bring to power virtuous Iraqi leaders who are capable of reversing Iraq’s sinking fortune, a prospect that not only does not exist, but even if it did, it would take many years to accomplish, it would be at risk from any number of potential catastrophes, it would be opposed by all those groups that stand to lose out, and incidentally it would require a heavy US military presence during this entire process.

As much as I would like to have faith in the Iraqi electorate, Iraq’s politicians, and Iraq’s civil service, I’m not entirely sure history provides any grounds for optimism. It is certainly not the sort of optimism that I would base a strategy on. This is not to denigrate the Iraqis per se; I’d assume it would take US and British civil servants faced with the same circumstances many years to begin making real progress as well. To suggest that elections may provide a ‘real turning point’ seems to be the same sort of false expectation that existed prior to the last elections. As to whether or not elections would be held, or could be held effectively, without a massive troop presence on the ground providing security on election day, one would hope that the Iraqi security forces can turn out in full force and provide an adequate level of protection.

7. Waiting for the Iraqi political and administrative system to reform itself runs completely counter to reaching the set of minimum requirements mentioned earlier. In the meantime, US forces are focusing on managing low-levels of violence that seem to remain low-levels of violence year in and year out. As the years go by with few results to show for all the effort, the army becomes frustrated and the US public becomes restless. At some stage, something will have to give.

It is my contention that the longer US forces remain in Iraq at the present levels, the more likely there will be calls for ‘total’ withdrawal. However, if the forces can be reduced significantly, with a corresponding drop in financial cost, the minimum requirements can still be met, and the American public will more likely support an indefinite military commitment. In other words, the more steep the drawdown, the longer it can be sustained.

8. As mentioned in the article, the US drawdown should be based around the concept of an impregnable force that is based around a division headquarters as its main operational component, rather than the present day corps headquarters. The purpose of the force would not be to take part in countering low-level violence; instead it would act to ensure the long-term survival of the Iraqi state, to include protecting the center of administration.

Maintaining the Green Zone maintains the Iraqi state, or at least the illusion of the Iraqi state. Even under the best of circumstances, the Iraqi government based in the Green Zone has only a marginal impact on the day-to-day running of the country. However, despite the limitations of their actual power, they still constitute a legitimate government, and one that still has far greater capabilities than any other group that could threaten to overthrow it.

With a secure base, the Iraqi government can gradually assert control, or at least grant limited sovereignty to parts of the country until such time as the power of the federal government has strengthened to the point where the balance of power is in their favor.

9. In the event of civil war, or heightened levels of sectarian violence, it is unclear what role either the Americans or the Iraqi government would play, except perhaps to stand aside, or support various factions. Under the present counterinsurgency strategy, there is no way to guarantee that civil war won’t occur, particularly once US troop numbers drop below pre-surge levels.

Likewise, there is no guarantee that a civil war will occur if the US opts for the stalemate strategy. The risk of civil war hangs over Iraq no matter which strategy is chosen. That being said, the US military is not supposed to be in the business of stopping an Iraqi civil war. Again, this is why it is important for the US to remain on the sidelines. No matter which group emerges they will ultimately have to deal with the US. Meantime, maintaining the impregnable force in Iraq would serve to dissuade any Iranian attempt to overtly intervene in the conflict.

10. There is no question the current Iraqi government is ‘far from sacrosanct’. Indeed, this makes any defense of COIN all the harder to justify. How can COIN possibly work if the Iraqi government is such a shambles? How on earth can we tell Iraqis to support a government that we have no faith in ourselves?

The stalemate strategy has no great expectations as far as the Iraqi government is concerned, and is not reliant on this government to improve life for ordinary Iraqis. The US interest in the Iraqi government would be limited to ensuring the Iraqi government continues its support of the US presence.

To clarify this Catch-22 situation, it is necessary to refer back to the minimum requirements. For the US, not being defeated, or seen to have been defeated, is a paramount concern for numerous reasons to include its positive impact on Al Qaeda propaganda, lowering of US public and military morale (the Vietnam syndrome), etc. The best way to avoid defeat is to remain in Iraq, and the only way to remain legitimately in Iraq is to have the support of the Iraqi government.

As such, the impregnable force becomes the guarantor of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi government becomes the guarantor of the US presence. The main purpose of the US presence will have little to do with domestic Iraqi politics except as it relates to the presence itself. As mentioned in the article, because the Iraqis cannot force the US out of Iraq by military means, they can only do so by legislative means. Thus, the US can work to ensure the various factions that constitute the Iraqi legislature do not develop a consensus aimed at removing the US presence.

11. Maintaining the US military presence will not be an end purely in itself, but will give added teeth to enhanced diplomatic and covert efforts, and also provide a reliable staging post should US forces be required for any other regional contingencies. The US should not employ its military forces on direct action missions against low-level adversaries.

Defining the enemy is no easy task as has already been alluded to. The names have changed over time, and different groups have different motivations. The key point that needs to be emphasized is that the only enemy that will potentially be a target for US forces is whatever adversary emerges that challenges to overthrow the state. In other words, the various insurgent groups, to include Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), will not feature on an enemies list for the US military. These groups are too small to merit a massive military campaign aimed at eradicating them.

Instead, the Iraqis (both government and non-government) can take the lead, but supported with US funding, training, and arms; in other words, all means short of direct military intervention. An important goal of US efforts will be to ensure no group gains too much power at the expense of the central government or develops capabilities that could threaten the overthrow of the central government.

12. Should any group emerge as a potential challenger to the state, it is inevitable they will have to mass in which case they will be vulnerable to superior US firepower. Likewise, groups that intend to control territory must have armed forces to defend it. In the recent case of Basra, Mahdi Army militiamen were out in force. Had the Iraqi government forces been better armed and led, they would most likely have inflicted very severe blows on the Mahdi Army, certainly to the extent that it would have severely degraded their capabilities.

The notion behind using heavy firepower is not one that is limited to the stalemate strategy. Indeed, it should be remembered that under Petraeus’s command, the US Air Force has employed B-1B bombers dropping heavy ordnance against reported Al Qaeda sanctuaries. The key difference between the two approaches is that whereas Petraeus has been content to employ heavy ordnance to counter low-level violence, a stalemate strategy would limit use of heavy ordnance only to those cases where the enemy had massed in significant strength and could not be dealt with by other means.

13. The acquisition of intelligence will not be significantly hindered by adopting a stalemate strategy for the fundamental reason that the nature of the intelligence required to aid commanders will undergo a significant shift. The requirements of intelligence in a counterinsurgency are considerably different from those in a stalemate strategy.

For instance, due to the fact they would no longer be carrying out raids, US forces would no longer need to acquire such detailed intelligence on the whereabouts of insurgents living in a unit’s area of responsibility. Intelligence collection would be directed away from providing tactical intelligence and concerned more with strategic warning. Needless to say, HUMINT is just one means of collecting intelligence, and after 5 years of occupation, I am pretty certain the US intelligence system will not come crashing down over night.

14. When conceptualizing what a stalemate strategy would look like in practice, it is necessary to dispense with many of the preconceptions of counterinsurgency. As was mentioned in the article, the goal of stalemate isn’t to win; merely not to lose. This distinction is more than mere semantics. It reflects on an entirely different mindset and strategic approach, and this has operational consequences.

As such, there is no need to achieve ‘momentum and initiative’ for the purpose of ‘winning’, since ‘winning’ is not the objective. Nor is there a need to engage with the populace at the lowest levels. Indeed, apart from the Green Zone, the further away American forces are from the Iraqi populace the better. Engaging with Iraq’s political elites should suffice, and this will be more a function of the State Department and CIA than it will be for the US military.

15. Iraq is not a ‘total war’ for the US. It may be a ‘total war’ for the Iraqis, but US interest in Iraq must be viewed in a broader superpower framework of national security priorities. The counterinsurgency approach in Iraq compromises US security elsewhere.

This is a crucial point. With the bulk of the army committed to Iraq, it is not available for contingencies elsewhere. As a result, all other ‘crises’ become lesser crises, simply due to the fact there are less resources to deal with them. Thus, the ‘war’ in Afghanistan gets less attention from policymakers, and fewer resources devoted to it.

The current counterinsurgency approach in Iraq is unsustainable, and some sort of strategic shift in policy is probably inevitable. This is not to say that COIN is necessarily bad, or that it couldn’t work given time. However, at this particular moment in time, and projecting forward, it is more harmful than helpful. By contrast, the stalemate strategy offers a better chance to bring the US military commitment in Iraq more in line with national priorities, while ensuring that its minimum requirements are met.

Images from Afghanistan #1

26 April, 2008

Two UK newspapers currently have galleries of photographs taken in Afghanistan. The Guardian is showcasing the work of John D McHugh from his previous tours embedded with US troops, while The Times is showcasing the work of Richard Pohle from his current embed with UK troops from D Company 2 Para.

Examples from the John D McHugh gallery at The Guardian:

Members of Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Princess Patricia\'s Canadian Light Infantry, take part in a raid on a compound in Northern Kandahar, 8 May 2006. 10 Taliban suspects were arrested in the raid and subsequently handed over to Afghan National Police. AFP PHOTO / JOHN D MCHUGH

May 8 2006, northern Kandahar: Members of Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, take part in a raid on a compound. (John D McHugh)

US Troops in Afghanistan - John D McHugh

November 28 2006, Paktia province: US soldiers from 1-32 Infantry Battallion, attached to 4-25 Field Artilley Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, search for caves during a snow blizzard. (John D McHugh)

US soldiers from Blue Platoon, Able Company, 3/71 Cav, 10th Mountain Division, conduct a patrol from Observation Post (OP) War Height in Nuristan, north-east Afghanistan, 18 April 2007. OP War Height, which overlooks Kamdesh, is over 7,000ft above sea level, and at this altitude it is exhausting for even the fittest of soldiers to patrol wearing body armour and carrying all of their equipment and weapons. (John D McHugh)

US soldiers from Blue Platoon, Able Company, 3/71 Cav, 10th Mountain Division, conduct a patrol from Observation Post (OP) War Height in Nuristan, north-east Afghanistan, 18 April 2007. OP War Height, which overlooks Kamdesh, is over 7,000ft above sea level, and at this altitude it is exhausting for even the fittest of soldiers to patrol wearing body armour and carrying all of their equipment and weapons. (John D McHugh)

≠≠≠

Examples from the Richard Pohle gallery at The Times:

Mortar platoon of D company 2 Para based at the forward operating base in the district of Kajaki fire illumination rounds over Taliban positions during a night action (Richard Pohle/The Times)

Mortar platoon of D company 2 Para based at the forward operating base in the district of Kajaki fire illumination rounds over Taliban positions during a night action (Richard Pohle/The Times)

Soldiers of D company 2 Para on their first operational patrol since deploying to Afghanistan (Richard Pohle/The Times)

Soldiers of D company 2 Para on their first operational patrol since deploying to Afghanistan (Richard Pohle/The Times)

View all 20 John D McHugh images in The Guardian gallery here. View all 14 Richard Pohle images in The Times gallery here.

The Impregnable Force: A Case for Stalemate in Iraq

24 April, 2008

The following post was contributed by IRG member Jeff Michaels, and offers a radical and controversial take on the current counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq.

≠≠≠

The US military’s ability to bring heavy firepower to bear in Iraq offers the best means to maintain a favorable balance of power in the long-term. A US policy that reflects this view provides the most effective way of reducing force levels while retaining leverage over the many competing interest groups who seek to challenge the integrity of the state. Rather than continue adhering to the goal of defeating or degrading US adversaries in Iraq, a new approach could aim to achieve a stalemate. In other words, the strategic emphasis would shift from offense to defense, and place the onus of victory on the enemy. The goal of a stalemate strategy would be to ensure the inability of a third party to take over the Iraqi state. As such, the definition of victory would be limited to avoidance of defeat. The definition of defeat would be the forced removal of the US from Iraq, or even a voluntary decision to withdraw, which would in any case be portrayed as being forced out.

This approach contrasts sharply with the current unsustainable counterinsurgency strategy; a strategy that aims to maximize security gains at the local level and win ‘hearts and minds’. For the last five years, the adversaries in the US-led occupation have been what can best be described as ‘flavor-of-the-month’ enemies. The labels US forces have applied to them have shifted regularly over time, and include: ‘dead-enders’, ‘former regime elements’, ‘Al-Qaeda’, ‘illegal armed groups’, ‘special groups’, and so forth. The primary problem with the constant change of terminology has been to entrench within American discourse the perception that the main adversaries that must be confronted are a combination of perpetrators of low-level violence, as well as groups that wish to maintain dominance of their turf rather than cede it to government control. This has had the effect of elevating the importance of these adversaries into a significant threat, instead of the nuisance they actually constitute. Consequently, the US military has been jumping from one hot spot to the next and from one adversary to the next, with little or no conception of what purpose they are serving, other than as local firemen putting out very small fires. It would seem a paradigm shift away from counterinsurgency is long overdue. Such a shift should inform, and be informed by, a revised set of political objectives.

An alternative concept would have the US avoid intervention in cases where it would be countering low-level violence. Unlike the current approach that relies on dispersing forces in cities throughout Iraq, a new strategy should emphasize concentrating US strength outside the main urban centers, thereby allowing a reduction of forces to the point where a division-plus base level commitment can be sustained indefinitely. One of the key benefits this ‘stalemate option’ provides is to give the US the advantage of time; an advantage the enemy currently holds.

Under this new strategy, the US military would remain committed to supporting Iraq’s government, but would limit future interventions only to those cases where the balance of power had shifted away from the government. In other words, any direct action would be limited to countering those groups having the capability to overthrow the state itself. As such, groups with limited capabilities, such as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), would no longer be a focus for the US forces. This approach would accept the strategic reality that the US has the heaviest firepower, and that groups such as AQI cannot dislodge US forces from Iraq by force. Within the Green Zone, and on their large bases throughout Iraq, the US military constitutes an impregnable force. No other armed force has the firepower of the Americans, and a new US strategy should stress this comparative advantage.

Since 2003, US adversaries have fought on the strategic defensive, even if they have occasionally engaged in tactical offensive operations. However, in every instance when confronted with US heavy firepower, the adversaries disengage from the fight. This firepower advantage guarantees that adversaries must limit their methods to ‘asymmetric’ means. Advocates of the counterinsurgency approach have traditionally argued this reflects a US weakness rather than an enemy one, and is the primary reason they use to justify restructuring US forces to fight this low-intensity type of war. However, if the US chooses to limit its political objective to denying victory to its adversaries, there is no reason to fight the war on enemy terms. Instead, the US can ensure any group attempting to seize power must ultimately fight on American terms.

There are only a limited number of ways US forces will be removed from Iraq. Whether it is political opposition to the war, fiscal strain, armed forces overstretch, or a combination of these that contributes to withdrawing US forces, this will be a decision made in Washington. The only power the Iraqis potentially have to evict US forces is to legislate them out. By contrast, as long as US forces maintain local firepower superiority, they remain a force to be reckoned with, no matter who takes power. It should be remembered that yesterday’s ‘insurgents’ are today’s ‘Sons of Iraq’. US strategy should reflect the reality that employing the US military to take direct action against adversaries is an option rather than a necessity. There are almost always indirect means available that can be employed to ensure a lack of unity amongst the various groups vying for power. At the end of the day, America’s most important long-term objective is to sustain a favorable balance of power, preferably at a far lesser cost in terms of blood and treasure. Such an approach ensures the US ability to deny perceived victory to both Al Qaeda and Iran, avoids the consequences of defeat, and significantly reduces the strain on the US armed forces. The term ‘stalemate’ may be considered a dirty one, but the time has come to dispense with any pretensions of ‘victory’, and not let false expectations serve as an alternative to sound strategy.

Arab Public Opinion, Al-Qaeda & the Long War

19 April, 2008

A recent opinion poll surveying Arab public opinion provides some fascinating insights on a range of issues relevant to anyone with an interest either in the region, in the countering of Al-Qaeda inspired transnational militancy, or in information operations.

The poll was conducted in March 2008 by the University of Maryland, in conjunction with Zogby International, and queried 4,046 people from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Outlined below are some of the findings I found particularly interesting.

Al-Qaeda

Only one question directly polled attitudes towards Al-Qaeda, but the responses are revealing:

When you think About Al Qaeda, what aspect of the organization, if any, do you sympathize with most?

30% – That it confronts the US.
21% – I do not sympathize at all with this organization.
18% – It stands for Muslim causes such as Palestine.
10% – Its methods of operation.
07% – It seeks to create a Taliban-style Islamic state.

Firstly, it is highly significant that the single most significant reason given for sympathising with AQ is its opposition to the US, rather than any inherent qualities of AQ itself. A similar result (33%) was returned in the 2006 version of the survey.

Taken in conjunction with the fact that only 7% of respondents sympathised with AQ’s ultimate goal of recreating a Salafist caliphate (also 7% in 2006), and the fact that 83% of respondents had either a ‘very’ or ‘somewhat unfavourable’ view of the US (see below), this would suggest that the single most effective strategy for countering AQ is not attacking either its ideology or its network – important as such efforts are – but reducing antipathy towards the US among AQ’s targeted constituencies.

Secondly, and most worryingly, the 21% of people claiming to have no sympathy with AQ at all is markedly less than the 33% who expressed no sympathy with AQ in 2006, suggesting that passive support for at least some aspects of AQ’s agenda is actually rising.

Much has been made of the suggestion that AQ’s brutal tactics, particularly the casualties inflicted on other Muslims, is turning ordinary Muslims against the organisation, with the rise of the Awakenings Movement in reaction to Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI) excessess rightly cited. However, while those who always had reservations about AQ’s tactics may have been further repelled by AQ’s escalating brutality, the fact that 10% of respondents sympathised with its methods of operation in 2008 – down only 1% from 2006 – suggests that few of those who previously sympathised with the use of terrorism as a tactic have been dissuaded by the increasing barbarity.

Also interesting is the fact that 18% of respondents sympathise with AQ because they believe it stands for Muslim causes such as Palestine, up from 14% in 2006. Recent AQ communiques have placed greater emphasis on AQ’s support for the Palestinian issue than has been usual in the past, and it would seem the propaganda is getting results.

The US, Foreign Policy & Information Ops

Bearing in mind the apparent importance in the struggle against AQ of improving perceptions of the US, it is worth examining those questions in the poll which provide an insight into the nature of anti-US sentiment.

Generally speaking, what is your attitude toward the United States?

64% – Very unfavourable.
19% – Somewhat unfavourable.
11% – Somewhat favourable.
04% – Very favourable.

Would you say your attitudes toward the US are based more on American values or American policy in the Middle East?

80% – Based on American policy.
12% – Based on American values.

The United States has been actively advocating the spread of democracy in the Middle East, especially since the Iraq War. Do you believe that?

65% – I don’t believe that democracy is a real American objective.
20% – This is an important American objective, but the United States is going about it the wrong way.
08% – This is an important objective of American foreign policy that will make a difference in the Middle East.

Which TWO of the following factors do you believe are most important in driving American policy in the Middle East?

50% – Controlling oil.
47% – Protecting Israel.
33% – Weakening the Muslim world.
30% – Preserving regional and global dominance.
12% – Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
07% – Fighting terrorism.
06% – Promoting peace and stability.
04% – Spreading human rights.
04% – Promoting democracy.

While the extent of antipathy towards the US is discouraging, particularly since the respondents all come from countries whose governments have favourable relations with the US, the fact that only 12% of respondents objected to US values, compared to the 80% who objected to US policies, indicates that this situation is eminently reversible.

In part this requires not a change in policy, but a change in the way policy is presented and communicated. Redressing the fact that 33% of respondents believe that US policy in the Middle East is aimed at weakening the Muslim world would seem a good place to start. The fact that this allegation is one of the key platforms in the Al-Qaeda narrative is indicative of just how far our information operations lag behind those of AQ in influencing the populations that form the long war’s centre of gravity.

Regarding policy itself, the following policy shifts were advocated by the respondents:

What TWO steps by the US would improve your views of the US most?

50% – Brokering a Comprehensive Middle East Peace with Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capitol.
46% – Withdrawal of US forces from the Arabian Peninsula.
44% – Withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
28% – Stopping economic and military aid to Israel.
13% – Pushing even more to spread democracy in the Middle East.
13% – Providing more economic assistance to the region.

Other Findings

The following are some of the key findings of the survey, as selected by the survey’s publishers. Particularly interesting is the fact that in Lebanon only 9% express sympathy with the majority governing coalition, while 30% sympathize with the opposition led by Hizballah, and that Nasrallah has increased his popularity as the most admired leader in the Arab world, being nominated by 26% of respondents.

Iraq: Only 6% of Arabs polled believe that the American surge has worked. A plurality (35% ) do not believe reports that violence has in fact declined. Over 61% believe that if the US were to withdraw from Iraq, Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences, and only 15% believe the civil war would expand. 81% of Arabs polled (outside Iraq) believe that the Iraqis are worse off than they were before the Iraq war.

Iran: In contrast with the fears of many Arab governments, the Arab public does not appear to see Iran as a major threat. Most believe that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and do not support international pressure to force it to curtail its program. A plurality of Arabs (44%) believes that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, the outcome would be more positive for the region than negative.

The Arab Israeli conflict: There is an increase in the expressed importance of the Palestinian issue, with 86% of the public identifying it as being at least among the top three issues to them. A majority of Arabs continues to support the two‐state solution based on the 1967 borders, but an increasing majority is pessimistic about its prospects. If the prospects of a two state solution collapse, 50% believe it would lead to a state of intense conflict for years to come, while only 9% believe it would lead to a one‐state solution, and only 7% believe that the Palestinians would eventually surrender.

Palestinian Divisions: In the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, only 8% sympathize with Fatah most, while 18% sympathize with Hamas, and 38% sympathize with both to some extent. In so far as they see Palestinians as somewhat responsible for the state of affairs in Gaza, 15% blame Hamas’s government most, 23% blame the government appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and 39% blame both equally.

The Lebanese Crisis: Only 9% express sympathy with the majority governing coalition in the current internal crisis in Lebanon, while 30% sympathize with the opposition led by Hizbollah, 24% sympathize with neither side, and 19% sympathize with both to some extent.

Popular Leaders: Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, increased his popularity as the most admired leader in the Arab world (26%). There was also an increase in the popularity of President Bashar Assad of Syria. Also striking, however, was the emerging popularity of modernizing Sunni Arab leaders, particularly Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, when respondents identify the two leaders they admire most.

Attitudes toward the US: 83% of the public has an unfavorable view of the US and 70% express no confidence in the US. Still, Arabs continue to rank the US among the top countries with freedom and democracy for their own people. 32% believe that, from the point of view of advancing peace in the Middle East, American policy will remain the same, no matter who wins the US elections. 18% believe that Barack Obama has the best chance of advancing peace, 13% believe Hillary Clinton has the best chance, while 4% identify John McCain as having the best chance for advancing peace.

Global Outlook: France continues to be the most popular country, China continues to make a good showing, and views of Pakistan have declined.

Media: Al‐Jazeera continues to command the largest share of the Arabic news market, with 53% of Arabs polled identifying it as their first choice for news, with practically no change from last year. Egyptian Television and Al‐Arabiya have made some gains over last year. To a plurality of respondents, the quality of both Al‐Arabiya and Al‐Jazeera has improved over previous years, with only a small minority perceiving a decline.

Download the full survey here [PDF].

Update:

The Economist has an article on the increasing attention being paid to assessing opinion in the Muslim world by polling organisations such as Gallup and Zogby International.

Misplaced Military Priorities

17 April, 2008

IRG member Andrew Exum writes:

‘I have another op-ed in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free making the case for an Obama Administration from the perspective of the counter-insurgent. I give a special shout-out to Comrade Ucko.’

Extract:

The past seven years have been a painful learning experience for the US army and Marine Corps. After decades spent pretending we would never again fight a protracted counter-insurgency campaign along the lines of the Vietnam war, the US military has found itself in two such conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan with no clear end to either in sight.

The intellectual response to Iraq and Afghanistan, however, has been impressive. Stung by ineffective or counter-productive tactics and strategy that cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of innocent civilian lives in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military went back to the drawing board to produce a new counter-insurgency doctrine that places the security and welfare of the population at the centre of the mission rather than the destruction of the enemy. Has a military ever before enlisted Human Rights Watch to help it create doctrine? Surely not. The US military, then, deserves praise for its humility and impressive learning curve.

America’s civilian leadership, unfortunately, has not been as intellectually flexible as its uniformed officer corps. In Congress and the department of defence, elected representatives and bureaucrats continue to push the development and acquisition of expensive weapons systems despite the fact the US military is currently fighting two very low-tech wars in which cultural education and language training are more important than the latest fighter jets and artillery systems. Secretary of defence Robert Gates recently expressed exasperation that so much of his budget was being eaten up by the F-22, a state-of-the-art fighter-interceptor that has yet to fly a single mission in the two taxing wars in which the US military finds itself. Surely we need 30,000 more Marines more than we need the F-22.

Read the rest of Andrew’s piece here. Read David Ucko’s related paper, Innovation or Inertia: The U.S. Military and the Learning of Counterinsurgency, here.

Update: Check out David Betz’s comments on Andrew’s piece here at the Kings of War blog.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers