'Kandahar Shuffle' sounds like a particularly exotic dance. In what must be the best news from Afghanistan this month, the new governor for Kandahar, Yusuf Pashtun, took power from the former governor in a simple ceremony. It's not stability--but it's a bloodless and orderly transfer of power between men who would recently have been called warlords. That looks to me like a major step forward.
Two articles today on masculinity and the heroic life. This is of course one of the prime reasons for the existence of this blog, so I'll link to both of them. The first one is from National Review, and the other, via ParaPundit, is from FrontPage Magazine. I'll have more on these later this weekend.
Remember that post about military pay?
Mr. Bush spoke yesterday at Miramar Marine Corps Base to thank the troops just back from Iraq. You might consider thanking them by paying them, or rather their replacements. I'm sure it would mean more.
But where would we ever get the money for such a thing? Oddly, the same article mentions this:
The president raised more than $1 million for that campaign last night at the San Diego Convention Center, telling supporters, "You're laying the groundwork for what will be a great victory in 2004."A million bucks, eh? Taranto estimates that the cost of the continued pay bonuses will be rather more than that--$423 million. Still, if money is that tight, doesn't it seem that the President ought to be out there raising money for the troops instead of himself?
A lot of readers may not know that I am married, but I have a beautiful wife and a fine, strong son who is now a bit more than a year old. For your reading pleasure, a scene of domestic tranquility:
I decided to take a nap...
*BOOM* *BOOM* *BOOM*
"Baby boy, quit beating on the bedroom door.� I think your father is trying to take a nap.� We don't want to disturb him."
[five minutes pass]
"OK, I need to go talk to your father for a moment--if he's still awake."
"Dear, are you still awake?"
[SCREEEEEEEECH! of JOY from Baby Boy at seeing his father.]
"Ah, good.� I was hoping you would be.� I need to talk to you about this grocery list.� We're just heading out the door, and I need to know if you want anything."
[five minutes later]
"OK, good, I'll get that stuff.� Now, bye.� Oh, wait.� I haven't had a shower or changed clothes or anything!� Watch the baby for me, will you?"
[twenty minutes pass]
"OK, now we're really ready to go!� Come on, baby boy!� Daddy will finally get some peace and quiet!"
[sound of family trundling down stairs]
"But you'll need a binky, won't you?� Well, I'll find one.� Don't follow me upstairs!"
[ten seconds pass]
"What did I just say?"
[more sounds of wrestling with baby]
"Now we're really going!� Daddy can get his nap!� GOODBYE DADDY!"
[sound of door slamming shut]
[ten seconds pass]
"Um, hi dear!� I don't know where I put my keys.� Could you find them and bring them down?"
The Corner has this story on how the cuts in military pay, for our soldiers on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan, are coupled with increases in social spending. It's hard to say anything about this except, if only this were an election year. Well--don't forget.
Here's a good article from the archives at Winds of Change, which I missed the first time around. It's a program for counterinsurgency written by one John Boyd. The best bit comes right at the end: several very good ideas about reducing corruption and making sure the government you were backing was serving the people had asterisks by them. When you get to the bottom of the document, you see this:
*If you cannot realize such a political program, you might consider changing sides.Well said.
Blog Junky has a link to an interesting story out of Wired, which argues that we will soon be able to mass-produce gem quality diamonds.
"This is very rare stone," he says, almost to himself, in thickly accented English. "Yellow diamonds of this color are very hard to find. It is probably worth 10, maybe 15 thousand dollars."Outstanding. Fashion predition for 2019: Women will be wearing long skirts, long because they will be sewn entirely with glittery diamonds. Since diamonds have always been about showing your wealth, our celebrities will wear longer and less revealing garments until "showing ankle" is just as scandalous as it was in the 19th century.
"I have two more exactly like it in my pocket," I tell him.
He puts the diamond down and looks at me seriously for the first time. I place the other two stones on the table. They are all the same color and size. To find three nearly identical yellow diamonds is like flipping a coin 10,000 times and never seeing tails.
"These are cubic zirconium?" Weingarten says without much hope.
"No, they're real," I tell him. "But they were made by a machine in Florida for less than a hundred dollars."
Weingarten shifts uncomfortably in his chair and stares at the glittering gems on his dining room table. "Unless they can be detected," he says, "these stones will bankrupt the industry."
I have been reminded that I argued during the war in favor of classical education as the best way of preparing for the clashes of the modern war. The diaya link to wergeld, which students of Beowulf and the Norse Sagas understand entirely, is one such example. It happens that Arts & Letters Daily recently linked to a piece on a similar subject, on literature.
Al Jazeera seems to have the run on Saddam tapes, doesn't it? Here's today's, in which "Saddam" calls for a Shi'ite jihad against the Coalition forces.
Fat chance, "Saddam." A Shi'ite jihad is certainly possible in the long run, if the Coalition doesn't handle Iraq with cultural respect. However, the evidence is that we're doing so: consider our adoption of the Iraqi wergeld custom (subscription required: the Financial Times charmingly refers to it as "blood money," rather missing the point of the wergeld, which is called diaya in Arabic), or the rough and ready use of "Cajun Arabic" by the US Marine provincial governor of Wasit province, Lt. Col. David Couvillon. We've got serious trouble in the Sunni areas which were loyal to Saddam: but in the Shi'ite areas, all will be quiet at least until they are sure Saddam is dead and can never return.
After that, who knows? The figure to watch as the anti-Coalition, anti-Governing Council Shi'ite leader is al-Sadr. Yet he seems not to be looking for more trouble than he can handle: calling for a grand army of Shi'ites, for example, but then asserting that it will be an army without arms.
Saddam, if he were the one behind these messages, would of course know that. What to make of this show of support for a Shi'ite leader, then? One possible thought: it's an attempt to discredit that fellow, perhaps by Saddam, but equally possibly by anyone else with an interest and a line to al Jazeera.
I don't have a link for this yet, but AFP is reporting that Karzai has stripped a warlord of his post:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai hasScore one for the rule of law in Afghanistan. It's a small point, but it's a start.
stripped powerful warlord Ismail Khan of his post as military commander
of western Afghanistan in a major reshuffle of provincial governors and
officials, the official Bakhtar news agency said on Wednesday.
The National Security Council decided Khan could not retain
his post as military commander while governor of Herat province it
said, citing a decree by Karzai who said earlier this year that
officials could not hold both military and civil posts.
A new Herat military commander would be named shortly, it
UPDATE: Still no link to the AFP story, but here is the AP version.
It's time for another Boneheaded Congress update.
As a Classical Liberal, I believe that the legislature, being most immediately responsible to the public, is meant to be the most important branch. That position is harder to maintain when the Congress carries on behaving, during wartime, as if national defense was of no importance.
Today's example: Congress has decided to restrict the use of Special Operations. Henceforth, in order to deploy commandos, the President will have to write and sign a finding, and send it to Congress. The increase in turnaround time between recognizing a threat and acting on it is immense: now no one in the Pentagon or SOCOM will have authority to send commandos to address a threat. It has to go to the President himself.
This is exactly the opposite direction that Congress should be going. Congressional oversight is important and proper. It shouldn't be constructed in a way that detracts from our ability to respond to threats. Let's say we find a Qaeda camp in Pakistan and, thanks to a UAV, determine that bin Laden or some other ranking figure is there. Can we send the Delta Force, or the SEALS, or the new Marine Commandos? Yes, once the military has contacted the President, the President has written a finding, the finding has been sent to Capitol Hill... and then, once that's been done, we can tell the commandos to start on their way.
As this comes right after the DARPA business, where Congress shut down a great program they didn't understand without even attempting to understand it or have it explained, I am reconsidering the Congress. I frankly think that the problem is gerrymandering.
Congress was meant to be responsive to the people, especially the House. Because of gerrymandering, however, the number of Representatives who have competitive districts is incredibly small. As a result, Congress is free to engage in this kind of foolishness even during wartime without fear of voter reprisals.
The solution: legislation requiring that districting be done by nonpartisan contractors, who will be forbidden by law from considering party affiliations of members when they do it. I favor a system wherein districts are drawn by figuring lines drawn outward from a central point in the state, so that the only consideration is making sure each "slice" has the right number of people in it. In that way, districts become competitive, Congress is brought back to the heel of the public, and--coincidentally--problems like the one in Texas are avoided.
Sixty-one dead overnight in Afghanistan. Hear about it on the news today?
The news is not all bad. Some of the violence is provincial feuding among the Afghan warlords, which is background noise that can be ignored. The bus bombing is bad news, but--as we have seen in Saudi Arabia and Morocco--terror bombings on the old home ground are of negative utility for the force using them. It'd be like the USAF bombing a mosque in St. Louis: no one would see it as a great victory or a show of strength.
Two pieces of news are good from a warfighting standpoint. The first is that two students were killed while making bombs in their dormitory. It's always sad when young people die... well, no, not always.
The second piece of good news comes from this account of an ambush near Shinki. The American-trained Afghan army responded valiantly in a firefight that spanned several hours, and in spite of being ambushed, managed to kill eight of their attackers and captured two foreign jihadi:
The violence began late Tuesday when a group of suspected Taliban fighters attacked government soldiers in Shinki, a small village in Paktia province about six kilometres from the Pakistani frontier, said Khial Baz, an Afghan commander in Khost.We've discussed before on this page the relative successes of the US military in dealing with guerrilla warfare. One of the best things we have going for us is the counterinsurgency training that the US Special Forces provides, which includes things like dealing with ambushes. I think it's worth saying that SOCOM is doing great things in Afghanistan, especially the Green Berets. De Oppresso Liber!
After several hours of fighting, about 50 Afghan troops forced the attackers to retreat. They later found eight bodies.
Baz said troops also captured one Pakistani and one Arab, though his nationality was not known.
Troops also seized a cache of Kalashnikov assault rifles, a telephone, radios and ammunition used by the attackers, Baz said.
Afghan officials have repeatedly said Taliban rebels are using bases inside Pakistan to launch cross-border attacks.
The lads over at Winds of Change have obtained what they say is a copy of Donald Rumsfeld's top ten priorities. Do take a look, as it makes for interesting reading. My own thoughts are that WoC is right on when it comes to USMC helicopters v. Ospreys. I never liked the Osprey. The Marines have a long history of relying on proven technology, and making it work better than the newer stuff the USAR gets. There's something to be said for knowing your kit really works before you haul it into battle.
The Taliban have been killing pro-government Muslim clerics. Why would a group that is devoted to the glory of Allah slay Allah's devoted servants? In order to avoid pro-government fatwa being issued by the clerics. Unlike in the Catholic or Anglican churches, but much like a Baptist church, any Muslim can issue a fatwa if they dare. These fatwa, which is often mistranslated as "religious ruling" or "command," is really meant to be an educated opinion. This is why there are often multiple fatwa on any given question, sometimes in direct opposition to each other. Muslims must decide for themselves which ones represent Allah's true will, which they do in part by considering the age, wisdom, and reputation of the issuing cleric.
A group that claims the exclusive mantle of God must suppress any suggestion that God himself thinks otherwise. By eliminating the most respected clerics in the opposition, the Taliban not only silences opponents. It also changes the fatwa balance, if you like, so that the eldest and most respected surviving clerics are all pro-Taliban. Younger clerics may rise to replace their fallen elders, but they will have neither the age nor the reputation of the dead.
The only major-media news in Afghanistan is the NATO takeover of ISAF. This prompted MSNBC to print a list of major attacks in Afghanistan that have happened since 2002. The list is not impressive, certainly not impressive enough to explain the loss of a strategic province given the strength we have in the area. Read into that what you will.
Fallujah is a little town in the "Sunni triangle" of Iraq. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, Fallujah was the site of several firefights between US forces and locals (e.g.), as well as a highly dubious story about US shooting sprees and ramming ambulances with tanks. It was a frontier town in the sense that the new world of post-Saddam Iraq and the old world of tribal politics and rumor mongering were running head to head. It was often wild and bloody as a result.
You'd have expected it to stay that way, but progress is being made:
After months of bitterness, the heads of the seven major tribes of Fallujah have met for the first time with the Iraqi town's mayor and its American forces commander.Good work, lads. Good work. (Hat tip: Taranto.)
Clan leaders and their hangers-on packed the mayor's office at the morning meeting, described by Lt-Col Chris Hickey, US army Fallujah commander, as "an extremely important day".
They came from the Albuaisa tribe, from the al-Jumela and from the al-Halabsa. They greeted the sheikhs of the al-Mahamuda tribe, the Albu al-Wan, the al-Zuba'a and Albuaisa-Qais.
At a rowdy session, they agreed to work with American troops to stamp out the looting as well as the rocket and grenade attacks, that have made Fallujah a byword for instability and danger.
From the AP, via the Austin American Statesman, this news:
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Three U.S. warships appeared off the
Liberian coast on Monday, visible for the first time after the country's
embattled leader Charles Taylor surrendered power to his vice president.
Residents poured onto city beaches, pointing at the ships
they said were a sign that nearly 14 years of bloodshed were coming to
an end in the country founded by freed American slaves more than 150
``This is really peace,'' said a delighted Trokoh Zeon, 20,
as he turned and hugged a friend. ``I know the Marines coming is
The subject of Rangers has arisen again. In a post entitled "European lack of sophistication," the Crusader War College writes:
It is with annoyance that the Dean of Students notes a comment from Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, where she criticized President Bush for acting like the lone ranger in Iraq. . . .It happens that back in April this page advocated forming a new Texas Rangers for Afghanistan. Given the situation we're seeing in Zabul and the rest of the south, that suggestion looks better today than it did four months ago. I stand by it.
Displays of ignorance of this sort were common long before the Iraqi conflict, but Ms. Lindh has distinguished herself by plunging to new depths thereof. In the Pantheon of Cowboys, the Lone Ranger (note the caps, Reuthers) stands among the Major Gods, right up there with Will Rogers, Gene Autry, The Cisco Kid, and John Wayne. There are good reasons why the Texas state police are called the Texas Rangers (an organization that pre-dated that state's admission to the Union). The deeds of the Army Rangers are even more glorious.
UPDATE: So you want to be a cowboy too, eh? Well, get started with "Ringo," and if you like that, try some Gunfighter ballads ("Big Iron" is about an Arizona Ranger. They aren't as famous as the Texas Rangers, but deserve their spot in the sun too. Nor is that all: The Georgia Rangers were founded by James Edward Oglethorpe himself, not one but two units: the Coastal Rangers and the Highland Mountain Rangers. They still exist as a unit of the US Army, who trains her own Rangers in Georgia. I've had the pleasure of training in rappelling and other rope work at Camp Frank D. Merrill, as an invited civilian guest).
Not enough? Try the bravest of the modern-day cowboys, the Bullriders. Or strap on a rig and learn to throw lead from your own big iron. If you think clothes make the man, drop a line to JaSpurs Western Wear. I get my Ariats from there. If you aren't lucky enough to have inherited one from your grandfather like I did, you can get a line on Stetson Western hats, whose site says, "What man hasn't dreamed of being a cowboy?" Why, the French foreign minister, of course.
Just don't buy any Levi's jeans, if you would be so kind. Levi's, based out of San Francisco, contributes heavily to gun control organizations. You can get "Cowboy Cut" jeans from Wrangler, and others, if you're of a mind to.
Deepikaglobal.com has this report, which appears to draw on StratFor's premium services:
Taliban's control of Zabul, stalemate for US-led forces: StratforMeanwhile, this Voice of America piece confirms that the UN will not be operating in Zabul, among other areas. I dispute that the US is entirely focused on Iraq, as we are increasing aid to Afghanistan by a factor of three. Still, it is hard to dispute that we've lost control of most of Zabul, and other areas near the Pakistan border. I continue to hold out hope that this is Op. Anaconda writ large. As my correspondant Mr. Ware noted before, we have multibattalion strength special operations forces in Afghanistan. There is no telling what blow they may be preparing.
Washington, Aug 11 (UNI) The Taliban has wrested control of most of Zabul province in southeastern Afghanistan-- for the first time recapturing a province since being ousted from power by the US military in November 2001-- geopolitical analytical firm Stratfor reported.
The small size and disproportionate distribution of US-led coalition forces also has been a factor in the Taliban advances, it said. US-led forces number a meager 11,500, while the Afghan national army has only about 4,000 troops. Areas left thinly guarded were targeted by the Taliban, which has been able to set up checkpoints in Kandahar to eliminate key political and religious figures there and in other southern provinces.
Authorities in Zabul also have complained to the media about shortage of military funding from Kabul.
UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi had warned in early May that "forces believed to be associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda and [war lord] Hekmatyar have been stepping up operations in the south, southeast and east of the country," Stratfor pointed out.
Stratfor said the Taliban had began its campaign to retake Zabul about five months ago. Prompted by the May 27 killing of Taliban resistance leader Mullah Ghausuddin in Zabul during a battle with government troops, Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar reorganized his forces in the south.
Pamphlets were distributed in Zabul, urging Afghan soldiers and police to join the struggle against the Karzai regime and its US supporters.
When key Taliban guerrilla commander Mullah Abdur Rahim was wounded earlier this year, the Omar appointed a top intelligence officer from his former regime, Mullah Abdus Samad, to help him carry out operations, the report said.
The new round of attacks on US and Afghan government forces in Zabul and the neighboring provinces began after a three-day meeting in July of senior Taliban leaders and tribal elders, who appointed Mullah Jabbar as a rival governor in Zabul, it added.
Zabul's provincial deputy governor, Mullah Mohammed Omar (not to be confused with the Taliban supreme leader), was quoted as saying that the government's failure to pay troops' salaries was causing the army to lose strength, it said.
Before Zabul fell, the provincial military had warned of an imminent defeat if the central government did not send reinforcements and air support from the United States, the report said quoting press reports. It appears that the provincial forces retreated, paving the way for a takeover by the Taliban.
Stratfor said its sources have confirmed reports first published on a Web site maintained by Muslim jihadists, jihadunspun.com, that Taliban fighters, in concert with al Qaeda forces, have have retaken Zabul.
The advance also underscores the stalemate between the United States and its Afghan allies against the Taliban. It indicates that the alliance formed in early 2002 between the Taliban, al Qaeda and Hizb-i-Islami -- the party led by Afghan war lord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- is paying off for the militants, Stratfor said in a report.
It said Zabul is of strategic and military importance for a number of reasons. Taking Zabul cuts off US troops stationed to the south in Kandahar from the bulk of US troops located to the north toward Kabul, it said, and given that Helmand and Oruzgan provinces to the north of Zabul already are Taliban strongholds, the group can better try to isolate US and local provincial troops in Kandahar and eventually attempt to retake Kandahar as well.
Also, controlling Zabul gives the Taliban a way to cut lines of logistics, troop supply and communication between US and coalition troops in Kandahar and in Paktika and Paktia provinces to the east and along the border with Pakistan.
The Taliban's ability to retake virtually all of a province of such strategic importance is partly explained by the fact that the south has been the Taliban's traditional stronghold, Stratfor said.
Beginning in late March and early April -- expecting the United States would be preoccupied with the war in Iraq -- the Taliban perceived an opportunity to begin regrouping, particularly in Zabul, Oruzgan, Kandahar, Helmand, Nimruz and Farah.
Playing a key role in the Taliban's success has been disaffection among southern Afghans helping the ousted group to recruit fighters and to garner support from the local population. This disaffection stems partly from a sense that development promised by the central government and the United States is proceeding at a snail's pace.
Taliban attacks have halted virtually all work by international aid agencies, the report said. Also, many Pushtuns reportedly feel they are underrepresented at the national level, even though President Hamid Karzai is an ethnic Pushtun.
The takeover of Zabul also fuels accusations by the Afghan government that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban. Stratfor quoted its sources in Pakistan as saying that a significant portion of the Pakistani intelligence service and military, particularly junior officers, have not abandoned the Taliban. Though there might be truth to the government's accusations, it also is possible the Karzai government -- which has been criticized for being unable to extend its reach beyond Kabul -- is trying to defend itself by pointing fingers at Islamabad, Stratfor said.
Since the United States likely will launch a massive counteroffensive, Zabul might not remain in Taliban hands for long, Stratfor analysts predicted.
However, they said, the fact that Taliban apparently could regain control of a province, even temporarily, underscores the vulnerability of the Karzai regime and the military stalemate between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters.
Stratfor said its sources in Afghanistan say it is possible the Taliban could seize more provinces neighboring Zabul because of what it describes as the structural and functional inabilities of the Karzai government.
Meanwhile the US appears to be focused on Iraq and lacks a clear strategy for neutralizing the threat from the alliance between the Taliban, al Qaeda and Hizb-i-Islami as well as from other Afghan forces that don't necessarily share their Islamist ideology but oppose the US presence in Afghanistan, Stratfor said.
The larger question now is: What will happen in the long term, should the US military pull out of Afghanistan or should Afghanistan no longer enjoy its high-priority status on the list of US foreign policy initiatives?
Still and all, it looks grim--no pun intended. Fortunately the US and major international media remains blind to the business.
This is not exclusive to Zabul province, but includes neighboring provinces. Citing increased Taliban activity, the UN ceased activities in the southern parts of Afghanistan.
[UN Spokesman David Singh] said all U.N. missions to the border districts of Helmand and Kandahar provinces had been suspended and there were currently none to to Uruzgan, Zabul or most of northern Helmand.This is the third day that this space has been watching the fall of parts of Zabul province to Taliban forces. Readers who are new to this thread should start here, and then find more here.
Southern Afghanistan has seen stepped up activity in recent months by a resurgent Taliban guerrilla movement who Afghan officials say operate from border regions of Pakistan.