Iraq

Public Finally Realizes Military Failed in Iraq & Afghanistan, But Will Pentagon & Pols Learn?

PewAt long last, after over twelve years of war in Afghanistan and nearly eleven years since the invasion of Iraq, the majority of citizens in the US admit that the vaunted US military failed to achieve its goals in either effort. A Pew poll released yesterday showed that in nearly identical results, 52% of Americans feel our goals were not met in either country, while 14 to 15% fewer felt we had met our goals.

Back in August, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis had one prescription for addressing these failures when he argued that it is time to “Purge the Generals“. I quoted extensively from his analysis in a post shortly after it was published, but one of the primary points from Davis is that for too long, military leaders have lied about the status of military missions and never faced any consequences for their false claims of success.

We have seen a partial purge of higher military ranks lately, but these removals have been primarily for offenses that have caused acute embarrassment to the military, such as being caught using counterfeit poker chips in a casino. Congress also plays a huge role in the promotion of lies about success in military missions. As I noted last April, Armed Services Committee member Jack Reed delighted in getting Dunford to enter into the record a statement that we were “winning” in Afghanistan at the time.

The Pentagon and other inhabitants inside the Beltway would benefit greatly from some soul-searching into just how these two misadventures were allowed to start in blind rage and then be so badly mismanaged for so long. Of course, that will never happen, but we now have reached the stage where the folks who have paid the bill for the fiasco realize that the lives, money and effort have all been wasted. With public opinion running so strongly against the two latest high-profile wars, our politicians and the Pentagon will have to content themselves now with more clandestine actions using the Special Operations Forces that are deployed in over 100 countries around the globe.

After Petraeus Paid Them For Peace, Are Sunnis of Anbar Now Paid by Bandar For Killing?

Iraq has been seeping back into the headlines lately, as civilian deaths there have now reached a level last seen in 2008. What is striking about this increase is that it did not occur until almost 18 months after the last US troops left Iraq.

Here is a screen capture of the latest data on civilian deaths in Iraq by Iraq Body Count:

IBC

Recall that the final US troops left Iraq in the middle of December, 2011. The civilian death rate had leveled off in 2010 and remained steady throughout all of 2012, not rising significantly until May of 2013. Recall that earlier this week, conclusions of a National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan were leaked, suggesting that should the US completely withdraw troops from Afghanistan as we did in Iraq, the situation would deteriorate very rapidly. With Iraq now at high levels of violence, it would be very easy for politicians to lose sight of the very long gap between withdrawal of our troops and the rise in civilian deaths. Iraq should not be used as a cautionary tale against complete withdrawal though, since there was such a long gap between the withdrawal and the degradation of security.

Recall that David Petraeus was quick to accept praise for the drop in civilian death rates that began in late 2007 and continued throughout 2008. Many attributed this calming to Petraeus’ surge and others ascribed it to the “Anbar Awakening” that Petraeus exploited:

Controversially, he even started putting some Sunni groups – including some that had previously fought the U.S. – on the American payroll. The “Anbar Awakening” of Sunni groups willing to cooperate with the Americans had begun in 2005, but at a smaller scale. Petraeus recognized that the groups had real community influence and ability to bring security, whether he liked them or not, and brought them on board. At the program’s peak in 2008, the U.S. had “contracted” 103,000 fighters who were now ostensibly paid to assist an American-dominated peace rather than the disrupt it. That same year, according to Ricks, the U.S. signed ceasefire deals with 779 separate Iraqi militias.

Other analysts, especially Daniel Davis, came to the conclusion that most of the decline in violence was due to Sunni citizens in Anbar rejecting the extreme violence to which al Qaeda had sunk and especially its toll on fellow Muslims.

As is well known, the turning point in 2007 Iraq came when the heart of the Sunni insurgency turned against al-Qaeda and joined with US Forces against them, dramatically reducing the violence in Iraq almost overnight. The overriding reason the Sunni insurgency turned towards the United States was because after almost two years of internal conflict between what ought to have been natural allies – al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the greater Sunni insurgency – a tipping point was reached whereby the Iraqi Sunnis finally and decisively turned against AQI. Had this unnatural split not occurred, by all accounts I have been given on both the Iraqi side and the US military side, “we would still be fighting in Iraq today,” in the words of two officers I know who fought there.

Although there likely are many factors that contributed to the eventual outbreak of violence in Iraq that elevated civilian death rates, one possibility that intrigues me is that the timing fits reasonably well to be a part of Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan’s play for regional dominance. Marcy noted this week that the recent bombings in Russia fit with Bandar’s warning delivered to Putin in a secret meeting last July. But if we go back to the report on that meeting, we see this about Bandar’s regional plan and especially how it applied to Syria: Continue reading

Clearest Indication Yet That Some Chemical Weapon Sites in Syria Are Under Rebel Control

One of the underlying assumptions for folks who joined the rush to claim that the UN report on the August 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus proved the attack was carried out by Syrian government forces was that only government forces had access to the refined versions of chemical weapons that the Assad regime had amassed. That aspect of the story began to crumble quickly once the accidental diplomacy kicked in and it became clear that chemical weapons inspectors would need cooperation from both the Syrian government and rebel forces to gain access to all sites where chemical weapons are present. Today’s New York Times presents the clearest indication yet that it isn’t just access routes to chemical weapons sites that the rebels control, but that the rebels control some of the sites themselves:

A Western diplomat in the Arab world said that though the Syrian government was legally responsible for dismantling its chemical weapons under an international agreement, its opponents should also cooperate in the process, because several chemical weapons sites were close to confrontation lines or within rebel-held territory.

Somehow, though, the Times only discusses this very important piece of information in light of the need for rebels to grant access to the sites to the OPCW without noting that the rebels had direct access to chemical weapons (or their immediate precursors) previously belonging to the Syrian government. This admission by a “Western diplomat” completely invalidates the assumption that rebels had access only to crude, “home-made” versions of chemical weapons.

Today’s news fully underscores the need for a true ceasefire (as I have been shrilly pointing out for some time now):

“The international community also expects full cooperation from the opposition,” the diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a delicate issue. “However divided the opposition might be, it would look very bad if the government was seen to be cooperating fully, while inspections were held up because of problems with the opposition.”

The inspection team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog group in charge of implementing the agreement along with the United Nations, has not publicly cited any specific instance of opposition fighters’ impeding access to chemical weapons sites. As with agencies that deliver relief aid, the inspectors face a complicated and uncertain process that requires cease-fires with multiple parties among fluid lines of combat.

Clearly, a general ceasefire by all parties would be much better than the current, piecemeal arrangement where it appears that localized agreements are put into place for individual excursions by the inspectors.

Finally, it should also be noted that however the Obama administration got to the diplomatic route involving the OPCW, we got new details over the weekend on how the Bush administration orchestrated the removal of the previous head of OPCW because he wanted to send inspectors into Iraq in 2001-2002 to verify that Iraqi chemical weapons had been destroyed in the 1990′s:

More than a decade before the international agency that monitors chemical weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, John R. Bolton marched into the office of its boss to inform him that he would be fired.

“He told me I had 24 hours to resign,” said José Bustani, who was director general of the agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. “And if I didn’t I would have to face the consequences.”

/snip/

But Mr. Bustani and some senior officials, both in Brazil and the United States, say Washington acted because it believed that the organization under Mr. Bustani threatened to become an obstacle to the administration’s plans to invade Iraq. As justification, Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war.

“Everybody knew there weren’t any,” he said. “An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.”

What a different place the world would be today if Bolton and his neocon buddies hadn’t held such sway during the George W. Bush presidency.

Mission Creep Hits Syria Targeting, Training Before First Tomahawks Fly

Even while Barack Obama and John Kerry are busily lobbying for a positive vote in Congress for their Not-War in Syria, it appears the Defense Department isn’t waiting for a pesky thing like Congressional approval or even the official start (as opposed to already ongoing but covert) of US actions to begin their usual process of mission creep that is undoubtedly to be followed by cries of “Just six more months and victory will be ours!”. The mission creep on targeting threatens the propaganda push that so far has been centered on selling the action as limited. We have New York Times articles this morning stating that Israel goes along with the idea of limited strikes but definitely doesn’t want to go all the way to regime change where radical Sunni groups might seize power, while at the same time we have the Pentagon claiming they’ve been tasked with expanding the number of targets for the strike. From the latter:

President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.

Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan.

For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.

See? It’s the fault of all those dirty hippies insisting on following an old piece of paper and forcing the President to get a permission slip from Congress before taking action. That delay is why we have to expand the number of targets.

We are left to ponder just how it will be possible to magically target and kill Syrian forces tasked with moving chemical weapons around without actually hitting those weapons–which the forces are in the process of hiding. What could possibly go wrong here?

But I want to focus more fully on this AP article. Marcy had just read it when she sent out this tweet:

That, along with the title: “US officials: US considers training Syria rebels”, suggests that the article is an expansion of the effort I outlined earlier in the week, where Barack Obama is trying to change both the date and the size of the first CIA-trained death squads to enter Syria, most likely because they are somehow tied up either as targets of the chemical weapons attack or as perpetrators of a false flag operation.

Diving into the article, though, we see that this is about adding to the death squad training by expanding into a much larger operation where US troops are directly involved in training a large force (for the Afghanistan analogy, this proposal is to move beyond the CIA training Afghan Local Police–the militias who become death squads–for our military to train the actual Afghan National Army, which is about ten times larger): Continue reading

Joby Warrick Is the New Judy Miller

Poor Joby Warrick. With Judy Miller so disgraced that Fox News had to issue a “she has nothing to apologize for” press release when they hired her back in 2008, Joby drew the short straw yesterday and was assigned to transcribe the hyped bullshit concerns arising from Israel Syria’s neighbors that Syria might be contemplating use of biological weapons. The entire Warrick article needs to be read to get a full feel for its credulous recitations of completely unfounded speculation being passed off as actual intelligence, but I will stick with just a few paragraphs. Warrick opens by making a completely baseless claim:

Last month’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus has re­focused attention on Syria’s 30-year-old biological weapons research and raised concerns about whether the government there could activate an effort to make a weapon.

Really, Joby? Aside from those “intelligence officials in two Middle East countries” who fed you this material, has anybody else voiced a concern that Syria is contemplating use of bioweapons, or even could produce bioweapons if they wanted to?

Even Warrick has to admit that any work on bioweapons in Syria is now over 30 years old. But that doesn’t deter Warrick and the spooks whispering in his ear:

Syria’s bioweapons program, which U.S. officials believe has been largely dormant since the 1980s, is likely to possess the key ingredients for a weapon, including a collection of lethal bacteria and viruses as well as the modern equipment needed to covert them into deadly powders and aerosols, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials and weapons experts.

Wow. the “US and Middle Eastern officials and weapons experts” guiding Warrick’s hands on the keyboard as he types are saying that despite not working on bioweapons for thirty years or so, they have the deadly organisms and equipment that would be needed to make “deadly powders and aerosols”.

Warrick and the spies who feed him have absolutely nothing on which to base this accusation. Let’s check a neutral source on what the real status of biotechnology capability in Syria is and whether it can be rapidly adapted to bioweapons. The Nuclear Threat Initiative provides a report on Syria’s potential bioweapons capability that was last updated in February of this year. They come to very different conclusions than Warrick (emphasis added):

In the past, unclassified statements by U.S. officials occasionally claimed reason to suspect Syria of maintaining an offensive BW program. [2] However, in contrast to discussions of Syrian chemical warfare (CW) capabilities, such claims have not included any details on the size and scale of Syria’s potential BW program, and are not presented alongside supporting evidence. Instead, discussions on this topic have focused on speculative extrapolations of Syrian dual-capable industry and on Syrian political motivations. Such analysis can be neither detailed nor comprehensive. Although the existence of a biotechnology industrial base would suggest that Syria has some indigenous expertise useful for developing a biological weapons capability, it does not imply and cannot confirm the existence of an offensive biological weapons program. Furthermore, given that Israel, a state that is understood to possess a nuclear arsenal and continues to occupy the Golan Heights, remains Syria’s primary security concern, and given the risk of “blowback” when deploying biological weapons, such weapons would be of questionable tactical desirability from a Syrian perspective. While public sources on the nature of Syria’s chemical and nuclear programs are limited, even less exists about Syria’s biological program, and “there is no hint of its existence from open sources.” [3]

The report goes on to detail what Syria’s biological industries do (again, emphasis added): Continue reading

Will Souring US-Russian Relations Enable US-Iran Bilateral Nuclear Technology Talks?

Michael Gordon reports in the New York Times that Iran may be making overtures for direct bilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear technology. As Gordon points out, however, news of the overture came to the US through Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, prompting some to wonder whether this is just Maliki trying to broker a deal:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq told the Obama administration this month that Iran was interested in direct talks with the United States on Iran’s nuclear program, and said that Iraq was prepared to facilitate the negotiations, Western officials said Thursday.

In a meeting in early July with the American ambassador in Baghdad, Mr. Maliki suggested that he was relaying a message from Iranian officials and asserted that Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s incoming president, would be serious about any discussions with the United States, according to accounts of the meeting.

Although Mr. Maliki indicated that he had been in touch with confidants of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he did not disclose precisely whom he was dealing with on the Iranian side. Some Western officials remain uncertain whether Iran’s leaders have sought to use Iraq as a conduit or whether the idea is mainly Mr. Maliki’s initiative.

Gordon goes on to note that negotiations so far have taken place in the P5+1 format and that “it is difficult to make major headway in such a committeelike forum”. However, besides including Russia in the list of countries comprising the P5+1 group (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the US), the article does not mention worsening relations between the US and Russia over the Edward Snowden situation and the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

I find it significant that Maliki made the overture to the US in early July. Snowden has been holed up in the Moscow airport since June 23 and so early July coincides with the point at which the US began to realize that Russia does not intend to turn Snowden over to the US. Add to that the fact that the P5+1 negotiations mainly revolve around the Russian “step by step” plan, with the June 2012 negotiations on that plan having taken place in Moscow. It would make sense to me that Rohani would see that with US-Russian relations souring quickly, the US would be hesitant to follow a negotiation path set by Russia.

If this really is an Iranian overture, I see it as a very a good sign. It would suggest that Iran sees the worsening US-Russia feud and wants to suggest a way to remove that feud as an issue to be overcome in bringing a resolution to the nuclear technology situation. By suggesting such a course of action, it seems that Iran may be serious about finally resolving the nuclear technology issue.

Arguing against this rosy interpretation is the fact that Iran sees Russia as a strong ally, so cutting them out of the negotiations could be seen as Iran choosing sides in the feud and thereby risk their own relations with Russia. The timing could be explained simply by noting Rohani’s election in mid-June and the mere act of floating the idea of direct talks would be seen as cementing Rohani’s positioning as a moderate, even if the direct talks never materialize.

The situation bears close watching over the next few months.

Washington Post Tries to Ram Petraeus Down Our Throats Again

No. In the name of God, Thor, Zeuss, Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no. There are few people who personify the vapid, amoral fetid swamp of Washington politics and defense policy more than David Petraeus. Taking a huge part of the blame for propelling Petraeus from a solely military into an entirely political career is the Washington Post, which gave Petraeus a prime op-ed slot in September 2004, where he spewed wildly optimistic numbers on his accomplishments while training Iraqi troops. Petraeus further told us how victory was just around the corner, implying that if only Americans would re-elect George W. Bush, his plan would achieve full fruition. Active military personnel are not supposed to engage in politics, but Petraeus became political with that op-ed and Washington overlooked it, because that’s what Washington does and that’s what the Washington Post does.

Bush rewarded Petraeus for his role in the election by putting him in charge of US troops in Iraq. Petraeus didn’t impress his immediate superior, Admiral Fallon, who termed Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” after their first meeting. Once in charge, Petraeus quickly established death squads. Things didn’t go all that well in Iraq, in part because everything Petraeus does fails miserably while he is busy explaining to us what a good job he is doing. By 2007, the Kagan brain-trust came up with the idea of the surge to “save” Iraq. Washington politics and defense policy prostitute Michael O’Hanlon was brought onto the job of helping to sell the surge. In the fall of 2007, an orchestrated  Washington event, complete with a sideshow purchased in the New York Times for the “General Betrayus” ad, gave us Congressional hearings that resulted in approval for the surge. Completely overlooked at that time was the inconvenient fact that a major part of the Iraq plan moving forward from that point involved a total restart of training Iraqi troops because Petraeus failed spectacularly in his previous attempt at training. But Washington and the Washington Post did not call out Petraeus for that failure, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.

Petraeus was next promoted by Bush in late 2008 to Fallon’s previous position in charge of CentCom.  It was quite clear to Barack Obama once he took office that Petraeus had his sights set on becoming president, so Obama made a very interesting move when he sent Petraeus down in rank to take command in Afghanistan after Petraeus’ protege Stanley McChrystal was fired for insubordination in July of 2010. Because lying about training had worked in advancing his career in Iraq, it appears that fudging the numbers on ANSF capabilities was one of the first things Petraeus did once in charge in Afghanistan. He was caught in this by the GAO, who pointed out that criteria for ANSF readiness were being changed to increase the number of troops qualifying for the most advanced classification, but it appears that only SIGAR and I care about those lies. Washington and the Washington Post ignored those dishonest moves by Petraeus, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.

After Petreaus had been in charge in Afghanistan for six months or so, political handlers stepped into the picture to try to burnish his image for a future run for president. Continue reading

Afghanistan Kills Yet Another Military Career: Allen to Retire

After multiple mis-steps, General John Allen has "chosen" to "retire" rather than face a Senate confirmation to be head of NATO.

After multiple missteps, General John Allen has “chosen” to “retire” rather than face a Senate confirmation to be head of NATO.

Many times throughout recorded history, would-be empires have attempted to conquer Afghanistan, only to fail. These failures often have been so spectacular that they end up taking the would-be empires down for their efforts, as most recently seen when the Soviet Union’s ill-fated war in Afghanistan was one of several factors leading to its demise.

Ignoring that history, the US invaded Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. The Bush administration subsequently diverted attention and resources from Afghanistan into its war of choice in Iraq. Barack Obama made Afghanistan his “necessary war” as he campaigned for office in 2008, and yet the joint management of the war in Afghanistan by his administration and the military has been no more professional than the fiasco under Bush.

Remarkably, there has been little criticism of the mismanagement of this war, although when General John Allen was snared into the panty-sniffing investigation of David Petraeus’ extra-marital affair, AP noted that Afghanistan has been killing the careers of top commanders:

At the international military headquarters in Kabul, it’s jokingly being called the curse of the commander’s job.

The last four U.S. generals to run the Afghan war were either forced to resign or saw their careers tainted by allegations of wrongdoing.

That second paragraph can now be revised, as the official announcement has now come out that Allen will retire rather than face a confirmation hearing on his previous nomination to head NATO. The official explanation is that Allen is resigning so that he can help his wife deal with a number of health issues, but Ed (“Did You Beat Tiger?!?”) Henry informed us last week that Allen was “pushed” in an article that strangely seemed to link the sacrifice of Allen with an expected eventual confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.

A voice in the wilderness daring to criticize the failures of military command in Afghanistan and Iraq has bee Tom Ricks. He wrote in the New York Times in November:

OVER the last 11 years, as we fought an unnecessary war in Iraq and an unnecessarily long one in Afghanistan, the civilian American leadership has been thoroughly — and justly — criticized for showing poor judgment and lacking strategies for victory. But even as those conflicts dragged on, our uniformed leaders have escaped almost any scrutiny from the public.

Our generals actually bear much of the blame for the mistakes in the wars. They especially failed to understand the conflicts they were fighting — and then failed to adjust their strategies to the situations they faced so that they might fight more effectively.

Ricks even understands why the military has escaped criticism: Continue reading

Five Years or Five Months? Sex Charge Sentence Depends on Which WMD Theater Team is Chosen

Left, playing for the government in WMD theater, Joe Sims got over 100 charges dropped, now serving five months.  On the right, Scott Ritter contradicted US government WMD theater claims, all charges prosecuted, now serving five years.

Left, playing for the government in WMD theater, Joe Sims got over 100 charges dropped, now serving five months. Right, Scott Ritter contradicted US government WMD theater claims, all charges prosecuted, now serving five years.

The pattern is so old that it would be boring if not for the damage done. The FBI latches onto a loser who faces significant charges and gets them to work for the government, “infiltrating” a group to incite grand plans of domestic terrorism with weapons of mass destruction. Then, the FBI arrests those entrapped and pats themselves on the back in the subsequent press release informing us that the public never had been in danger because the bad guys were under surveillance the entire time. Detailed reading of the indictment almost always shows that the “perpetrators” were nothing close to real terrorists, had zero chance of producing a real weapon of mass destruction and never even would have made the attempt without the prodding of the FBI infiltrator.

Future historians likely will point to the Waffle House Four plot as the archetype of this pattern. These poor schmucks were hangers-on with a poorly organized “militia” in north Georgia who, without FBI intervention, would never have done anything more dangerous than sit around Waffle House grousing about the government. But the FBI had Joseph Harold Sims in their grasp and he offered to bring evidence against the group in return for reduced charges in the massive child sex case against him. In the end, these “terrorists” were arrested while in possession of a few castor beans. The deadly toxin ricin is made from castor beans, but the beans themselves are weapons of mass destruction in much the same way that a lump of uranium ore is a nuclear bomb.

In addition to ruining the lives of the entrapped “terrorists”, though, we now have evidence of just how depraved this process of WMD theater has become. The sentence for infiltrator Sims was announced Thursday, and the ridiculously light sentence he has received is jaw-dropping:

More than 100 sex-related charges have been dropped against an FBI informant in a case involving four Georgia militia members accused of plotting terrorist attacks.

As part of a plea deal reached Thursday in Anderson, Joseph Harold Sims will serve less than five months in prison for possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to 21 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. According to indictments, Sims had stored images on a computer showing minors engaging in sexual activity.

But the 47-year-old Iva man will not stand trial on charges of incest, indecent exposure and disseminating obscene material to a person under 18 years of age. He also had been charged with two counts of attempting or committing a lewd act on a child under 16 years of age and dozens of additional counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, court records show.

I guess they just couldn’t drop those child pornography charges since that is one of the most important areas for prosecution for the Department of Justice. But dropping over 100 charges? Really? And dropping the incest charges, along with lewd act on a minor charges? Only because he had been on the government’s side in WMD theater did Sims get all those charges dropped. And that five month sentence, well the judge had to know how ridiculous that is, so there were a few maneuvers involved in getting it that low:

At a hearing Thursday in the Anderson County Courthouse, Sims received a 10 year suspended sentence from Judge Alex Macaulay. He also was ordered to spend one year behind bars, with credit for 219 days of time served in jail, according to court records.

Boy, that ten year suspended sentence is really going to sting.

Compare Sims’ sentence with that of Scott Ritter, who played for the other team in a much earlier version of WMD theater. Continue reading

New Global Terrorism Index Demonstrates US War on Terror Is Abject Failure

Australia’s Institute for Economics and Peace released a study (pdf) today in which they have tabulated terrorist attacks over the past ten years. They have developed a Global Terrorism Index which, on a country by country basis, quantifies attacks by number of fatalities, number of injuries and property damage incurred and allows for trends over time. The top three countries in the index are, in order, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the US has spent the bulk of its efforts in the Great War on Terror since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The fact remains that after over ten years of effort, over a trillion dollars spent and thousands of US troops killed, terrorism remains at greatly elevated levels in those countries compared to the level at the beginning of the study in 2002. There has been a slight plateauing of the number of attacks since its peak in 2007, but there is no real trend toward lower numbers of attacks. The top ten countries, from the report:

What qualifies as terrorism differs greatly depending on the definition employed. The definition employed here is:

the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation

The study notes that in this context, drones are excluded:

This definition excludes perceived acts of state terror, such as drone attacks resulting in civilian casualties.

It should be noted that the scale employed is logarithmic and so small differences in the terror index number reflect large differences in the numbers of attacks and fatalities. For 2011, there were 1228 incidents in the top country Iraq with 1798 fatalities while the number nine country Russia saw 182 incidents with 159 fatalities. An interactive map of the data can be found here.

As mentioned above, attacks increased greatly from 2002 through 2007 and then plateaued. The trend of attacks over time can be seen here:

The study looked at the data in an attempt to find potential causes of terrorism (emphasis in original):

Analysis has also been carried out against a range of socioeconomic data to determine what factors may be associated with terrorism. The factors that correlated the strongest with the GTI were group grievances, intergroup cohesion, human rights, and political stability.

Interestingly, even though the US embarked on its Great War on Terror in response to an attack by al Qaeda, the study found only one incident in 2011 attributed to it. However, there are many offshoots of the group which remain active:

According to GTD data, however, the al-Qa’ida organization itself was responsible for only one incident – a kidnapping – out of the 5000 terrorist incidents in 2011, while 11 of the most 20 [sic] active groups globally were al-Qa’ida linked.

So while the primary al Qaeda organization is essentially defunct with regard to terror attacks, its offshoots remain active.  In terms of fatalities, the top three groups for the time period 2002 through 2001 were the Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq. Despite all the effort by the US, its targets remain the most effective actors in global terrorism in terms of deaths.

In a rational world, this report would prompt long, careful review in Washington and a reassessment of how our country goes about trying to stop terrorism. Instead, it is more likely to result in allocation of even more lives and treasure to tactics and strategies that have proven completely useless.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @runtodaylight Doubt it will go criminal, too many complications.But I do have a client who is a Dr. there from a previous matter.
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bmaz @FalguniSheth @adamsteinbaugh @emptywheel No calves. I have my cows all grazing on Uncle Sam's land up in Nevada. Beer smooth.
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bmaz @adamsteinbaugh @emptywheel @FalguniSheth Never had Founder's beer before. Pale ale is killer.
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bmaz .@emptywheel @FalguniSheth My Founder's beer from our patio bar seat tonight: http://t.co/T9gB3HT7iB
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bmaz @steve_vladeck @ACLU_NCA Yeah, and neither will the FISC and other courts apparently.
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bmaz In the not even close to news dept, breaking or otherwise, The Blue Angels are a bunch of rowdy fighter jocks http://t.co/17tfetOJAh
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bmaz @gideonstrumpet @nancyleong @ntswanson Is that a hospital in CT is it?
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bmaz RT @erinscafe: If you come to the premiere of Follow Friday the Film Friday at 5:45 pm, you can meet @LynsieLee, my fav stripper. http://t.…
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bmaz @yvonnewingett @barrettmarson @JimSmall Hey, I think I made that point already!
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bmaz I'd love to convict this Blackwater fuckstic; but the Stated Dept tanked the case w/Garrity statements at the get go http://t.co/d1zH3nNR2k
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bmaz @barrettmarson @JimSmall "Innocent"??
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bmaz @APribetic @gideonstrumpet @ScottGreenfield @kashhill @adamsteinbaugh My media strategy is "don't talk to the media". Nothing good happens.
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