» Terrorism Speak Victorian, Think Pagan Wed, 14 Nov 2012 22:05:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hakeemullah Mehsud is… Hard to Kill! Thu, 11 Feb 2010 11:39:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> neobuddh1687

Pardon my amateurish photoshopping.

It seems like every week brings a new report claiming the demise of Pakistan’s Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud only to have him pop up in a video days later, celebrating his continued existence in a mocking fashion. The latest and most infamous being his chummy appearance with Jordanian double agent, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi who killed 7 CIA agents in Afghanistan in late December.

Since January of 2008 there have been three major announcements from Pakistan of Mehsud  heading off to wherever murderous bastards end up after their mortal blight here on earth comes to an end. The latest has him dying from injuries sustained from a US drone attack in late January while enroute to hospital on February 9th. While Pakistani news sources quote alleged Taliban sources affirming his death US intelligence officials remain skeptical. Additionally Taliban leaders have claimed Mehsud is still alive but that he’ll no longer be showing up on video and audio recordings, a measure they claim will aid him in avoiding US/Pakistani detection.

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Don’t execute Khalid Sheik Mohammed Sat, 14 Nov 2009 15:48:17 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’m trying to understand US Attorney General Holder’s decision to try 9/11 “mastermind,” Khalid Sheik Muhammed, in a domestic court of law. Proponents state that KSM will be given a more fair trial in a federal court than what he might receive via a military tribunal. Of course given the fact that this summons will have him facing a jury of New York City residents I’m going to tip-toe out on a limb and suggest that impartiality within the jury pool will be about as helpful in getting him a fair trial as his awesome hairdo upon capture would have been in getting him a GQ cover. I suspect this move of KSM and three other Guantanamo detainees is the Obama administration’s “yeah, well it’s going to happen anyway” move against the overwhelming legislative backlash against his closing of Gitmo. The Republicans completely against it, the Democrats completely for the <i>idea</i> but against the reality that with the base closed those being held don’t simply vanish into thin air.

In either case, whether it’s by military tribunal or federal trial the outcome is almost certainly going to be the not so speedy execution of KSM. Which I think is a bad idea. A dead KSM becomes a martyr. A locked in solitary confinement for the rest of his life KSM becomes impotent and a more effective symbol of American retaliation. In short, if we catch you you lose your martyrdom card and the 72 virgins along with it. What’s the worst fate for an Islamic extremist? Certainly not a violent death. How about death by old age or disease, locked up like cattle and long forgotten by your cause?

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OIF Original Aims Wed, 14 May 2008 05:39:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Five years and going, the Iraq War has been subject to more spin, hyperbole and misinformation that anything else in our time. According to Douglas Feith, in his new book War and Decision, the two biggest errors of the Bush administration were: (1) Not communicating clearly the multifaceted reasons for going to Iraq and (2) allowing an occupation government (i.e. the CPA) to be set up, something which we had intentionally avoided in Afghanistan.

He notes that although the issue of physical stockpiles of WMD have been the main point of criticism, it was one of many reasons for neutralizing Saddam’s Iraq. Until 9/11 the aim of terrorism was primarily political and thus attacks were generally small in scale and in body count. However, 9/11 changed marked the beginning of a new phase, namely, that terrorists sought mass-casualties for their own sake. With that in mind, WMD and state support became central issues as WMD were the most attractive means of a massive attack. Hence, the Axis of Evil speech, in which the President outlined the three states of most concern in both areas. Iraq came to the forefront because diplomacy may still have a chance with Iran and North Korea, two states with which the United States has had little diplomatic contact whereas Iraq had defied over a decade of UN sanctions and had clearly demonstrated that no amount of reason, bargaining or diplomacy could disarm Saddam.

On the issue of a massive failure of public relations and strategic communication, contrast the following quote, which according to Feith, were the reasons for eliminating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, with conventional wisdom (page 460):

“We aimed to bring into being an Iraq that would seek peace, remain unified, develop its economy, abandon Saddam’s WMD and long-range missile programs, and oppose terrorism. We did not promise to put in place a stable democracy for the Iraqis; rather, we stated the more realistic aim of ‘a representative government that builds democratic institutions and is respectful of its diverse population.’”

saddam_alf.jpgHe notes that the reasons for liberating Iraq were that he maintained WMD capability (different from stockpiles) including numerous dual use facilities, teams of scientists researching biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, actively intended to produce WMD, was actively working to undermine sanctions after which he could continue his programs, was actively attacking British and American planes patrolling the no-fly-zone and actively supporting (including direct training and allowing them to use Iraqi territory) terrorist groups (Mujahedin-e Khalq, PKK, Abu Nidal organization, PLF, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Arab Liberation Front) and much more[1]. All these, however, have been obscured by the failure to find physical stockpiles of WMD.

Readers, with 5 years of hindsight, an Iraq which is beginning to make progress and new memoirs by figures such as Feith, Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Tommy Franks, how do you feel about Iraq, the decision to remove Saddam, our progress and the future of the war on terror.?

* To download a 3 hour interview with Douglas Feith about his book, click here.

[1] To view a detailed but not exhaustive list of Saddams many illegal activities click here for “A Decade of Deception and Defiance.”

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Whack a Mole in Failed States Fri, 02 May 2008 11:36:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Yesterday’s air strike against terrorist Aden Hashi Ayro has met with mixed feelings. While some extoll it as a step forward for Somalia and a tactical victory for the United States, others claim it is another mistake leading to the further destabilization of the country. Yet, even if it amounts to a whack-a-mole tactic, the fact remains that if you stop playing the game, you lose.

David Axe at War is Boring claims that the presence of OEF forces in Djibouti and their occasional involvement in Somalia is actually destabilizing the country with hard to predict consequences. But how you can further destabilize Somalia seems unclear to this blogger. On the other hand, Somalia’s embassy in Kenya has the opposite to say noting that “This will definitely weaken the Shebab, [...] This will help with reconciliation. You can’t imagine how many Somalis are saying, ‘Yes, this is the one.’ The reaction is so good.” So which is it? According to The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, a new think tank, denying terrorists the befits of places like Somalia is a more realistic and achievable goal than stabilizing such places.

While a concern with security vacuums is warranted, the implication is not that we must consistently prevent security vacuums. That takes immense resources, as the largely unsuccessful effort to end the security vacuum in Iraq [prior to 2007] show. Indeed preventing all security vacuums would be a Herculean task involving American power in numerous failed and failing states around the world. However, denying terrorists the benefits of security vacuums is likely a more feasible strategy.

Indeed, this blogger would have to agree. Part of the US strategy in the Global War on Terror is not retribution for 9/11 but defending the United States by, among other things, putting the terrorists on the defense. While pundits like to joke about the “fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here” line of thinking, it remains a legitimate, feasible and worthy goal. While it won’t be useful against the newest generation of DIY terrorists, it is indeed effective against others. Neither the United States, nor all of the West can hope to stabilize and pacify the world’s myriad of trouble spots, but denying safe haven to terrorists is not only doable, it is the duty of the government. This is why criticism such as Axe’s seems naive,

Far from being a failed state, for several years prior to 2006, Somalia was actually getting better, with the spread of the hardline Islamic Courts regime providing a measure of security that enabled real economic investment and governance. While some Al Qaeda operatives were possibly hiding out in the countryside, it’s unfair to say that Somalia was becoming a terror haven under the Courts — or becoming a worse “security vacuum.”

One could additionally argue that Afghanistan benefited from Taliban rule and indeed in some ways did, however stability does not equal security, something Mr. Axe should remember. While he does offer important insight and analysis into the situation in the Horn of Africa, it would be prudent to consider the West has its hands full with Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment. And as those cases show, stabilizing countries with long histories of chaos or dictatorship require more blood, treasure and above all willpower by the public than we have at the moment. Denying terrorists free reign in a failed state may not be the ideal solution but it is the most realistic.

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PKK in Kansas Update Fri, 21 Dec 2007 10:10:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> As as a follow up on my previous post on rumors that the PKK is moving to Nagorno-Karabagh, Jamestown has a new article on the same subject that is well worth reading.

Reviving a Forgotten Threat: The PKK in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Anar Valiyev

The decades-long war between the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish army has had a significant impact on Azerbaijani politics. Being a staunch ally of Turkey and suffering from problems of separatism and terrorism itself, Azerbaijan has always expressed its full support for the counter-terrorist actions of its neighbor and has even offered its assistance. The recent escalation of the conflict in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq has not left the Azerbaijani establishment passive. This time, however, the conflict has directly affected the interests of Azerbaijan. The reason is the alleged decision of the PKK’s leadership to move its bases from the Qandil mountain range in Iraqi Kurdistan to the Armenian-occupied regions of Nagorno-Karabakh (Azeri Press Agency, December 18; UPI, November 30; Today’s Zaman, November 30). Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani press has carried reports about the possible creation of a Kurdish autonomous district in the Armenian-occupied Lachin and Kelbajar regions (, December 3). While some analysts consider the prospect of establishing a new Kurdish state in the Caucasus as mere fiction, other experts do not deny the possibility of such a scenario developing. Before moving to an analysis of the current situation, it is worthwhile to look at the historical aspects of the problem.

Read the full article at Jamestown.

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The Right People, The Wrong Way? Thu, 20 Dec 2007 06:23:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Recent news reports the release of several former Guantanamo prisoners of British and and update on more of French nationality. But it didn’t make the news because of the controversy surrounding their detainment, but instead because they seem to indeed have been rightly jailed. According to the BBC:

Five Frenchmen who spent time at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay have been convicted of having links to terrorism by a court in Paris. All five were sentenced to one year in jail plus a suspended sentence, but will not return to jail having spent more than a year in US custody. The five were arrested in Afghanistan, where the US said they had travelled to fight with the Taleban.

For a country that has been historically tough on terrorism, it seems odd that a leftist lawyer would recommend suspended sentences rather than the 10 years that would have been called for. Nevertheless, it does go to show you that despite mistakes and legitimate concerns, Guantanamo isn’t filled with innocent men who just happened to be mingling with the wrong folks in Afghanistan. In British news, three recently released inmates sent back to the UK were immediately detained and face an uncertain future. UK authorities plan to decide whether criminal charges will be brought or whether they will be free to go as well as their immigration status.

While a dangerously stupid policy of rewards led many to turn in tribal enemies to the Americans as “terrorists,” the controversy masks a more important reality, what to do with those from country A, caught fighting in country B and detained by country C. Until this issue is discussed in earnest by Europe and the United States minus the protests, holier-than-thou attitudes and other silliness, Guantanamo will continue to fill a “market gap.” Perhaps the real way forward is maintaining US control but with foreign liasons on site and using Guantanmo as a processing center through which terrorists are sent back home to face trial.

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The Future of Terrorism Thu, 25 Oct 2007 10:34:19 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Could this be the the kind of future terrorism we’ll face? The cost of an attack is almost zero and the returns in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. No bomb making or specialist training necessary.

An interesting question: Why haven’t and/or why wouldn’t a terrorist group want to claim responsibility for this. Even if not actually responsible, it would spark another round of terrorism and civil rights debates as well as surely costing a great deal of money if not to better secure against such threats, then at least to endlessly talk about them.

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Be Careful What You Wish For Mon, 22 Oct 2007 16:57:42 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The border between Iraq and Turkey has been heating up the past few weeks and has reached a boiling point. Yesterday, a clash on the border claimed the lives of around 17 Turkish soldiers and over 30 PKK militants. The PKK purports to have taken hostages, a claim which has thus far been denied by Turkey although they later admitted to having 8 missing soldiers. With some form of military incursion looming, it would seem odd that the PKK is continuing to provoke Turkey by engaging in ever greater attacks. Are they trying to lure the Turks in? What is the bigger issue, the attacks or their frequency? Why are we only now suddenly hearing so much about the PKK in Iraq?

Turkey’s current Kurdish insurgency dates back to the 70s with the formation of the PKK and the beginning of its struggle for Kurdish independence. Since the 2003 liberation of Iraq, PKK militants have increasingly sought and found safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan and come into possession of a wealth of new weapons. Some sources speculate they receive indirect support from US intelligence services arming PJAC, a similar Kurdish group, against Iran. In any case, the frequency and deadliness of attacks in southeastern Turkey has been on the rise, unsurprisingly especially in the border regions with Iraq. Turkey has had enough.

Turkish parliament approved a bill green lighting the Turkish military to enter Iraq to pursue the PKK and in light of the recent attack, it seems more and more likely they will use it although. It is, however, unclear whether they will in fact do this for two reasons. Firstly, it would greatly anger the United States who wishes to preserve the success being enjoyed in Iraqi Kurdistan. Secondly, it would be exceedingly difficult to accomplish any kind of meaningful attack. The PKK bases in question, in the Qandil mountains, are far inside Iraqi Kurdistan and thus realistically unreachable by ground offensive lest a much larger battle ensue which would defeat the purpose of a quick punitive raid and potentially escalate into a much larger and longer conflict. According to Jamestown, the most likely course of action would be…

[...] the Turkish military will launch a combined air and ground operation in which ground troops will be deployed against the PKK’s forward bases in northwest Iraq, while F-16s will be used to bomb the organization’s camps in the Qandil Mountains (Milliyet, October 12). There have also been suggestions that the Turkish military would follow the F-16 bombing raids by using helicopters to airlift 4-5 teams of special forces, backed by Cobra attack helicopters, into the Qandil Mountains to destroy any remaining PKK forces and infrastructure

In addition, the Turks could expect resistance from the Peshmerga, the army of Iraqi Kurdistan with decades of experience fighting a guerrilla war against Saddam. The PKK in northern Iraq is not a new phenomenon and the border region where Turkey, Iraq and Iran meet is extremely rugged and mountainous, having long been a hideout and staging ground for the Kurds whether fighting against, Saddam, the Iranians or the Turks. With that in mind, Turkey may also consider setting up a buffer zone inside Iraq, where it already has several thousand troops stationed just over the border, and that could get very messy.

Why would the PKK wish to provoke the Turks into attacking Iraq? According to Jamestown’s recent newsletter,

Turkish analysts have speculated that it is hoping that the international community will intervene to curb any military operation before it has had the opportunity to inflict much damage. This would not only humiliate the Turkish government and military but, so the reasoning goes, could increase international pressure on Turkey to sit down at the negotiating table with the PKK.

Indeed. As the saying goes, war is politics by other means and the increasing PKK attacks may well be aimed at achieving several immediate political goals: isolating Turkey, legitimizing the PKK, pushing the US and Turkey further apart and drawing attention to Iraqi Kurdistan as a model for Turkish Kurdistan. As the Turkish Prime Minister’s statements become more belligerent and Turks from all sides call for action, it would seem the PKK is about to get its wish.

SIDENOTE: Although most eyes are currently focused on the Turkey-Iraq situation, one should not forget that the Iranians have and continue to shell northern Iraq and conduct covert operations there against the PKK and PJAK. While large scale operations are similarly unlikely, the danger of a larger regional war with Turkey and Iran seizing parts of Iraq exists.

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Revolutionary Guards now Terrorists? Thu, 16 Aug 2007 05:08:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Step over Osama and your rag tag mountain dwelling Taleban, there are new terrorists on the list,

The United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.

The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said.

However, regardless of whether the political timing of this move is bad, it does pose an important question. As the article notes,

“They are heavily involved in everything from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications and pipelines — even the new Imam Khomeini Airport and a great deal of smuggling,” said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Many of the front companies engaged in procuring nuclear technology are owned and run by the Revolutionary Guards. They’re developing along the lines of the Chinese military, which is involved in many business enterprises. It’s a huge business conglomeration.”

While a state military organization may not technically be a terrorist group, it does seem to engage in similar activities. Yet, where does one draw the line between covert operations and terrorism, or between a state run organization with tacit government approval and a non-governmental terrorist gorups? The definition of what constitutes a terrorist organization is becoming blurrier by the minute. As John Robb pointed out in Brave New War and Moises Naim in Illicit, many organizations often freely move between illegal activities and in addition, some switch between legal and illegal. Mexican smugglers may smuggle Mexican immigrants, drugs, weapons, terrorists, prostitutes and more. They may specialize in only transportation freely changing between products. Other cases, such as the Madrid bombings or FARC, show that terrorism is often financed by illegal activity such as the sale of narcotics. International criminal networks are often difficult to separate into individual “industries.”

If the definition of terrorism is broadened and bent for political purposes to include only “their terrorism” then we will be undermining the term itself by spreading it too thin to be credible. Should such a list be created for international organized crime, for example? One thing is for certain, the future is one of hybrids.

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It had to start sometime Tue, 14 Aug 2007 16:54:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Despite beheading videos having gone out of style for Jihadis in Iraq, it seems that one Russian extremist group is starting to copy the tactic. According to Radio Free Europe,

A Russian ultranationalist group has posted a video on its websites that appears to show the execution-style killing of two men from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Two men are seen kneeling on the ground in a forest, their arms and legs tied up. A large flag with a Nazi swastika stands in the background. “We’ve been arrested by the Russian National Socialists,” one of the two men says.

A third man walks up to the captives and beheads one of them with a knife. The second captive is shot in the head and falls forward into a freshly dug grave.Two masked men then raise their arms in a Nazi salute.

It is only a matter of time until the tactics of radical Islamists and insurgents in Iraq spread elsewhere, both geographically and ideologically. In fact, many already have as the video demonstrates and as similar tactics pop up in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Mexico and elsewhere. Coincidentally, this comes as a section of the main railroad between St. Petersburg and Moscow was destroyed and a train derailed by an IED.

As John Robb notes in Brave New War, Russia has long suffered such incidents, and although nowhere near as often reported as those in Iraq, are just as disturbing. In 2004, gas and oil pipelines all over the country were bombed and power lines severed. In the largest country in the world and one of the most sparsely populated, it seems that global guerrillas could just as easily use Russia’s energy as a weapon as the Russian government does. Interestingly, it would be an interesting counterattack option not just for Georgia, as Robb often notes, should Russia ever come into conflict with Europe and cut energy supplies.

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The World Upside Down Fri, 03 Aug 2007 15:35:42 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The following is a screenshot of Today’s Zaman, an English-language Turkish newspaper. One headline struck me:

One has to wonder if this is indeed a mistake or meant seriously. When soldiers are martyred (an incorrect use of the term anyway by either side) and terrorists are killed, well I just don’t know what the world is coming to.

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Goodbye Bumper Sticker Slogan Mon, 23 Jul 2007 21:38:11 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Britain officially drops “War on Terror” rhetoric.

Brown, it seems, has concluded that the war rhetoric employed by Blair was divisive, threatening social peace between communities in Britain, and counterproductive, making it harder to turn the British Muslim community into the security services’ eyes and ears. In other words, the Brown approach would be the approach of serious crime fighters around the world these days – community policing in which mutual trust is the cornerstone of crime prevention. In general, advocates of this approach avoid the rhetoric of war on the presumption that it only alienates the communities out of which criminals spring.

Britain takes the first step in redefining the battle instead of letting it be defined for us. A law enforcement perspective is far more credible and marketable than a military one, at least to the rest of the world. The question is whether Americans are ready for the change. As noted previously, it is time to declare victory in the WoT and move on. The threats won’t end and the men and women of our intelligence agencies, military and law enforcement will continue to work hard to protect Americans. But there are larger threats looming on the horizon and it’s time end our obsession with Islamic terrorism.

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IEDs Make Their Way to Turkey Sat, 30 Jun 2007 02:22:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]> While Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are nothing new, they are increasingly finding their way to other conflicts across the globe. Once unheard of in Afghanistan, they are now used with increasing frequency. But Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t the only ones. In the recent Jamestown Foundation newsletter (Terrorism Focus – Volume IV, Issue 20), recent events show that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is beginning to use them against Turkish targets.

Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) have been used by the PKK with deadly effect, killing both Turkish troops and civilians. In recent years, there has been a shift in PKK strategy; the organization now seems to prefer the use of IEDs over direct armed attacks against the Turkish military. More than 30 such attacks by the PKK have been carried out in the past six months alone.

[...] The odds greatly favor the likelihood that many of the components for the IEDs being used against Turkish troops and civilians are being obtained within Iraq, a fact that does not bode well for Turkey. In terms of supply, Iraq is virtually one large ammunition dump, with millions of tons of munitions lying around and in many cases simply ripe for the taking. This ensures that the PKK and others carrying out attacks on Turkey will have a continuing supply of IED components for many years. Basing and operating within Iraq also allows the PKK to train and deploy its members against Turkey from the sanctuary of a contiguous sovereign state, thereby at least slowing the military response, as is happening in this latest operation (Agence-France Presse, June 12). Iraq, of course, is also a crossroads and meeting place among trained members of al-Qaeda, as well as former members of the Saddam Hussein regime, who may be willing to impart knowledge of IED manufacturing on the PKK.

[...] Given the number of deaths from IEDs of more-experienced, better-equipped U.S. and Israeli troops in recent years, Turkey is likely to see the number of its troops killed and injured by IEDs climb further. Based on the number of successful bombing attacks recently against Turkish civilians, IED use in urban settings can be expected to continue as well. In asymmetrical warfare, IEDs have become the weapon of choice for the weaker foe.

With the recent attempted car bombings in London, how soon will it be until we see IEDs in Europe and North America?

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Are the Insurgents Bored? Fri, 29 Jun 2007 23:27:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> While Al-Jazeera seems to be overlooking the car bombs found in London, this interesting piece was prominently displayed on their website:

Vigilantes target Iraq porn surfers

Ibraheem Abdel-Qahar was tortured and made to drink his own urine and chicken blood for looking at pornography. The Iraqi Aid Association (IAA), a Baghdad-based non-governmental organisation working with displacement, children and youth issues, says dozens of Iraqis have been killed after using the internet to access erotic sites. Fatah Ahmed, spokesperson for the IAA, said: “We have received information from many sources that militants are operating spies inside internet cafes just to find out who is browsing sites they have deemed offensive to Islam.” Ahmed said most of the killings or abductions happen directly after the victims leave the internet cafes.

I mean, aren’t there infidels to kill and what not? What does this say about the insurgency? On a side note, anyone wishing to view pornography in Iraq should go to Kurdistan where it’s shamelessly viewed in internet cafes and where bellhops excitedly direct you to the porn channels when checking in at a hotel. Ain’t freedom great?

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Bombs Continue in Turkey Sat, 16 Jun 2007 14:53:50 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Diyarbakir, March 2007

One tends to noticed bombs in places he’s been. A few weeks ago there was a bomb in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan which I’d recently visited. Today, although unsurprising, there’s been a bombing in Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – A bomb exploded at a bus station in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir on Friday, injuring four civilians and a soldier, security officials said. The bomb targeted the mainly Kurdish city’s busiest street and a bus station used by army and civilian transportation. Tensions are running especially high amid mounting clashes between Turkish troops and separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas in southeastern Turkey.

The clashes have fuelled talk of a possible major Turkish army incursion into northern Iraq to attack PKK bases there. In recent weeks dozens of soldiers and civilians have been killed in suspected attacks by the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

While the PKK has been a longstanding problem for the Turkish state, the liberation of Iraqi Kurdistan has provided a safe haven for the group who has recently been stepping up attacks. Started in 1970s, it began an armed conflict with Turkey in 1984 which has since claimed around 37,000 lives. Globalization and immigration have helped expand the group internationally with operations all over Europe. Yet despite ceasefires in 2004 and 2006, fighting always flares back up.

Pro-PKK protest at Diyarbakir’s university, March 2007

Both the Turkish government and the PKK maintain hardline stances yet the Kurds of southeastern Turkey fall somewhere in between. My visit revealed widespread support of the PKK and overwhelming support for independence. Yet, in the same conversations, many remarked that they would be happy with equal rights and official recognition of being Kurdish (as they are still considered Turks by the government). As development crawls along in the East and tourism starts spreading from Western resorts into the less explored eastern regions, there would seem to be a bit more room for compromise. Yet, Turkey’s paranoid nationalism prevents it from even recognizing ethnic minorities like the Kurds, which are one of several. While a country’s territorial integrity is clearly a top security issue, one of the reasons Turkey downplays the Armenian massacres of the early 1900s, legitimate concerns have become an unhealthy obsession preventing it from pursuing more productive policies.

While in Istanbul last month, I took the time to visit the Turkish Military Museum. Aside from the many treasures it contained, there were two exhibits which went far beyond ridiculous and which anywhere else, I would have written off as the delusions of a third world dictatorship. The first was the “Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents” which was indicative of the myopic view Turkey takes with regard to its minorities. Emphasizing the fact that the Armenians were Ottoman citizens, albeit without equal rights and not of their own free will, it stressed the fact (with capital letters and bold) that the Armenians “betrayed their state,” naturally, the Turks are unable to see that Ottoman turkey wasn’t the Armenians state and in fact, they had aspirations towards their own. The same goes for the Kurds, also deprived of a state. While Balkan states managed to break free a few years earlier than the Armenians attempt for similar reasons, it seems the Armenians weren’t comparable.

Next, I came upon the “Internal Security Operation Section,” an interesting yet vague name. Most striking wasn’t the silly exhibits like “typewriter seized from terrorists” or the assortment of modern weapons behind glass but that the entire exhibit didn’t even mention “PKK” or “Kurds.” Not one single time. Instead, the PKK was continually referred to as “the terrorist organization” or “the separatists” (usually with an extended version such as “the terrorists who want to separate Turkish state and kill women and children”). While any such exhibit would likely be biased, the unwillingness to even refer to their enemy by name was disturbing. Until the Turks can see Kurds as a group with specific political goals and not “separatists” the government and military will remain unable to address the underlying causes of violence. Turkey’s denial is the US equivalent of “they hate our freedom.”

With the entrance of a safe, successful and largely independent Iraqi Kurdistan on the world stage, real competition has emerged for the Turkish state. While previously independence was a unrealistic dream and those wanting a future were forced to integrate and being “Turkicized”, an alternative future has emerged with which the Turks will not be able to compete and will be forced to rely on force and that, ironically, may be what ignites the outcome they so fear.

For more information, read my accounts of traveling Kurdistan this March.

Day 2 in Diyarbakir
Day 3 in Diyarbakir
Day 4 in Diyarbakir

More are available in the travel section of the archives, including my time in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Bottom up Big Brother Wed, 06 Jun 2007 08:05:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This is a very neat idea. Bring counter terrorism to the people.

DHS Wants Cell Phones to Detect Chemical, Radioactive Material

American cell phones can already check e-mail, surf the Internet and store music, but they could have a new set of features in coming years: the Department of Homeland Security wants them to sense biological, chemical and radioactive material.

Putting hazardous material sensors in commercial cell phones has been discussed in scientific circles for years, according to researchers in the field. More recently, the idea gained support among government agencies, and DHS said publicly in May that it wants businesses to start coming up with proposals.

The proliferation of cell phone cameras has already proved a big help for law enforcement officials everywhere, this almost seems to be another logical step. Just as programs like SETI came about to harnass the power of distributed computing by using computers’ free time, it seems that the same trend is coming for cell phones. While potentially a potent counter terrorism tactic, it may turn out ironically, that Big Brother doesn’t come from above but rather from below.

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Iraqi Exports to the US – GG’s in America Sat, 02 Jun 2007 21:22:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It seems global guerrilla infrastructure attacks aren’t just being exported from Iraq to Afghanistan, but also to the United States. This breaking news story of a disrupted plot in NYC is just a taste of what’s to come:

NEW YORK — As first reported by NewsChannel4′s Jonathan Dienst, three people were arrested and one other was being sought Saturday in connection to a plot to blow up jet-fuel lines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.

[...] Sources said the plot involved a plan to blow up a Buckeye jet-fuel pipeline at JFK setting off a potential massive explosion. Buckeye provides fuel to all three NYC-area airports. Buckeye spokesman Roy Haase said the company, which moves petroleum through pipelines in a number of states, had been informed of the threat from the beginning.

As planes become inaccessible targets, airports are the next down the chain. Filled with people, they are not just a mass-casualty target but also important transport nodes. A few coordinated car bombs, even if only in empty parking lots could shut down major airports across the country. I hope everyone’s read Brave New War.

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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? Or just one thankless rogue? Wed, 09 May 2007 06:08:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> By reading Chirol’s recent travelogue posts (which I am personally loving), one would think that the Balkan people who hate America the most are the Serbs.

First, the Albanian view:

The waiter asked where I’m from in decent English.

“America”Â? I answer.

“Which state you from?”Â?

“Georgia”Â? I respond

“How many you have, 51?”Â?

“No”Â? I say “there are 50. 48 are together and then you have Alaska and Hawaii. That’s 50″Â?

“No, Kosovo is 51″Â? he says with a smile. He’s Albanian.

Next, the Serbian view:

The shopkeeper was a balding 58 year old slavic Macedonian. He continued with pictures of his son’s wedding when a friend of his walked in. I said hello. They exchanged a few words and I managed to understand he was explaining I was an American visitor. The entering man’s face changed completely. He began what was clearly not a positive rant waving his arms around. The shop owner laughed. “He is Serbian. He hate your country. You help the muslims.”Â?

Yet in today’s breaking story about the Fort Dix plot, four of the six suspects arrested were Albanians.

The suspects include three brothers who are ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia: Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, who were living illegally in the United States and working together in a roofing business in Cherry Hill.

The others charged in the case were legal residents: Turkish national Serdar Tatar of Philadelphia, Jordanian-born Mohamad Shnewer of Cherry Hill and Agron Abdullahu, [an Albanian from the former Yugoslavia] and lived in Buena Vista Township, N.J. Shnewer worked as a cab driver, while the other two worked in a convenience store and a supermarket.

So who hates us in the Balkans, the Orthodox Serbs or the Albanian Muslims? As the Star Ledger reports, more than 4,000 Albanian Kosovars fleeing from ethnic persecution in their homeland came to the US in 1999. Where did they stay? Fort Dix. And among them was then 17-year old Agron Abdullahu, who came to the US with his family. Yet all the work by government and social service agencies, religious organizations and refugee groups to acclimate them to a new language and culture and ease them into a new life. And this is the result.

Most Albanians are horrified and stunned by the news. As the head of the Albanic-Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island said:

“It’s unbelievable. … As an Albanian, as a Muslim, this is against all what we believe in. This is against all humanity. We Albanians owe to this country a lot, more than everybody else. They have helped us during the war. They are still helping us. You could not explain it, why this could happen.”

For all the explanations of root-causes of terrorism being attributed to US foreign policy, poverty, clashes of civilizations, and whatever else, I couldn’t help but thinking about Robert Kaplan’s opening paragraph from the essay The Coming Anarchy regarding the chaos in Sierra Leone:

“In forty-five years I have never seen things so bad. We did not manage ourselves well after the British departed. But what we have now is something worse–the revenge of the poor, of the social failures, of the people least able to bring up children in a modern society.” Then he referred to the recent coup in the West African country Sierra Leone. “The boys who took power in Sierra Leone come from houses like this.” The Minister jabbed his finger at a corrugated metal shack teeming with children. “In three months these boys confiscated all the official Mercedes, Volvos, and BMWs and willfully wrecked them on the road.” The Minister mentioned one of the coup’s leaders, Solomon Anthony Joseph Musa, who shot the people who had paid for his schooling, “in order to erase the humiliation and mitigate the power his middle-class sponsors held over him.”

This, combined with today’s Fort Dix scare, shows that as America endeavors to save the world from itself, even the best results from the best intentions can result in further terror.

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Abe in ME Sat, 05 May 2007 05:54:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> After his first visit to the US, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a seven day trip through the Middle East visiting Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt. Two interesting things (in my mind) happened on this trip.

First, in Saudi Arabia Abe offered King Abdullah the “use of oil storage facilities in Okinawa”: in exchange for preferential purchasing rights in case of an emergency. Large storage tanks in Asia could help with distribution of Saudi oil in Asia. Abe is looking to deepen Japan’s energy relationship with Saudi Arabia. After having to back out of the Iran deal and getting hosed on the Russian deal, Japan’s search for a stable energy supply is leading them to “the Devil” as Robert Baer would say. Echoes of Japan and America’s special security relationship.

Second, in Abu Dhabi Abe “met with MSDF crew”: supporting anti-terrorism ops in the Gulf. He told them he hopes they will help “write a new chapter for Japan on the frontlines of international contribution.” Abe is staying on message here (e.g. on Constitution Day last week Abe’s office “released another statement”: calling for constitutional revision) with his goal to reform Article 9 and the Japanese constitution. The interesting thing here is he is bringing his message directly to troops on the “front line.”

All in all the trip abroad wasn’t terribly exciting. As usual Abe remains determined to push for a “Beautiful Japan.” Maybe not so usual is the new move to field alternative policies to protect Japan’s oil supply. Since this plays right into my thesis I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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TO READ: Brave New War Tue, 01 May 2007 13:51:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A new book on global “stragery” has hit the shelves, and it looks to be turning a few heads. “Brave New War”: is written by the venerable “John Robb”: of “Global Guerillas”:, a fascinating blog on “the first epochal war of the 21st Century.” Mr. Robb is one of the major hubs of the alternative military strategy subnetwork of the blogosphere. Other stars such as “Thomas Barnett”: and the Boyd Acolytes at “Defense and the National Interest”: have sparked a lot of debate between us here at Coming Anarchy, Mark at “Zenpundit”:, Dan at “TDAXP”:, “Schloky”:, Curtis from “Phatic Communion”: the “ChicagoBoyz”: and all our other 4/5GW homies. Many blogfriends of Coming Anarchy have already read and reviewed the book, and they approve. Let me give a quick rundown of what they are saying:

“ZenPundit says”: “Brave New War is the must read book of 2007.”

“AE says”: that the book is well-written, and “reads more like an action novel than a ponderous policy book.” He commends Robb “for tying together all of the theorists our corner of the blogosphere follow into a compelling, coherent narrative.”

“Michael Tanji enjoyed the argumentation”: “Point raised, supporting data, analysis, point made. No $.25 words, no fluff. It’s a 188-page narrative of what is going wrong and where things are headed if we don’t get our **** together as far as how we think about the conflicts of the now.”

Check out the full reviews of each (and of course the comments). I am still waiting for reviews from “Eddie”: and of course the “global-guerilla contrarian”: Dan from TDAXP.

I haven’t picked up the book yet myself as I am drowning in energy security stuff for the thesis, but it seems fairly short and well-written so I might get it for my upcoming trip to Canada for reading on the plane. Really looking forward to it.

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Expat-fueled terrorism Sun, 22 Apr 2007 00:52:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A proposed flag for KhalistanThere is “fear of a revival”: within the Sikh community of Canada of the “Khalistan movement”: — the creation of an independent Punjabi state along the border of India and Pakistan — which lead to much ISI-funded Sikh terrorism through the 1970′s and 80′s.

The revival attempt is ironic since northern India has experienced an economic boom and discontent is at an all-time low. But Punjabi immigrants abroad have other plans. John Thompson of the “MacKenzie Institute”: has “noted”:

There’s no chance for revival of the Khalistan movement on the ground in Punjab. But for the Sikhs who left in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, especially those who left because of their involvement in the Khalistan movement, as they get older their nationalism is likely to crystallize and stay stronger and they will try to pass it off to the younger generation.

First and second-generation Indo-Canadians could be supporting the movement from abroad much like Irish-Americans which funded the IRA and related groups, prolonging that struggle. This is also similar to the jihad movement, which attracts followers from immigrant families who feel culturally isolated. Britain is having a hard time facing this problem now. America seems better at integrating immigrants, but has it’s share of domestic militants. Canada’s mantra of multi-culturalism makes it similar to Britain. The Khadr family and the Toronto 17 are some recent examples. And people wonder why a country “with no enemies” needs an intelligence agency…

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Native terrorists Wed, 04 Apr 2007 02:12:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Oka Crisis

A draft of Canada’s latest COIN manual “lists radical native groups”: alongside more well-known terrorist groups as potential military opponents. “From”:: the (draft) manual:

bq. The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims. … Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve (“ËœFirst Nation’) level, through the threat of, or use of, violence.

The Mohawk Warrior Society was involved in the “Oka crisis”: of 1990, a stand-off over land claims that led to one of the rare deployments of the Canadian Forces in “aid to the civil power” (another famous deployment was during the “October Crisis”: The Warrior Society is thought of as having a hand in various face-offs with aboriginal groups across the Americas over the years. They use a string of reservations to ship illegal weapons into the United States and Canada. In one instance I have heard about from a researcher close to the Society, they had purchased two attack helicopters in New York state.

The mention of natives alongside other terrorist groups has aboriginal rights activists up in arms:

“I think it’s appalling for all First Nations people to be looked at from any Canadian agency or any international agency, putting us in the same boat as national terrorists.”
“”? _Michael Delisle, Mohawk Chief_

“It’s a complete attack on our political rights… What we’re seeing is the deliberate criminalization of the efforts of aboriginal people to march, demonstrate and rally to draw public attention to the crushing poverty that is the reality within our communities.”
“”? _Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs _

“It does a great disservice to aboriginal Canadians who are just trying to help Canadians understand the underlying issues to their social problems, and this isn’t going to help.”
“”? _Ed Bianchi, aboriginal rights activist_

Does that last quote sound like a “freedom-fighter” argument to you?

The negative reaction to the (draft) manual seems to be centered around the insinuation that a specific ethnic group can be identified with terrorism. Canada has seen a number of “terrorist attacks”: over the years from a variety of ethnic groups (including Cubans, Sikhs, Armenians and Quebecois) and Canada’s “list of banned terrorist organizations”: is a veritable rainbow of ethnicities including Arabs, Persians, Sikhs, Jews, Japanese, Afghans, Filipinos, Latinos, Uzbeks, Kurds and Sri Lankans.

I don’t think race is the crux here, rather it is the conflation of the terms “insurgency” and “terrorism”. Historically insurgents are often labelled terrorists, but “terrorism is different than insurgency”: The Mohawk Warrior Society might not be a terrorist organization, but it is very definitely a criminal organization with a politically subversive message which can lead to insurgency. Thus I think the (draft) manual quote is justified.

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Venezuela allied with Al Qaeda? Fri, 16 Feb 2007 08:59:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Via superb Venezuela blog DE comes this, a response by Chavez General Staff member Rear Admiral Luis Cabrera to a question about a possible Al Qaeda threat against Venezuela’s oil facilities:

“It should be seen how truthful that information is….it sounds illogical that Al Qaeda, that is against the North American imperialism would go against a State that is precisely fighting that hegemony, although differently.”

He went on to define “differently” as “with the Constitution, with legality, with morality and with the truth” as opposed to terrorism. Charming.

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RAF Terrorist to be  Freed Wed, 14 Feb 2007 23:03:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> You thought parole was broken in the United States? Terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt who has served the minimum of her five life sentences has qualified for and will be parolednext month in Germany. Mohnhaupt, a member of the left-wing terrorist organization known as the RAF or Baader-Meinhof Group has been in the maximum security Stammheim prison (here in Stuttgart) since the end of 1982. As far as Germany goes, five life sentences with no parole before 24 years is extremely harsh. Needless to say, this has been all over the German news the last week.

First of all, her list of crimes is extensive. She participated in murders, attempted assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. Although she as shown absolutely no remorse for her actions, the German court determined there was no security risk in paroling her. In fact, sickeningly, many German politicians across the political spectrum expressed approval and spoke of giving her a second chance with the Greens even noting she’d been imprisoned longer than any Nazi war criminal.

At a time when terrorism tops the agenda of many countries and the headlines of every newspaper, it would behoove us to remember that terrorism is nothing new and has come in many shapes and sizes for just as many reasons. Not only Germany, but France and Italy were also plagued by such despicable left-wing terrorist groups in the past. The fight against such urban guerrillas was a difficult one. They were educated citizens of the countries they fought, not easy to spot foreigners. They the most cultural, ethnic and linguistic advantages any terrorist could hope for. In addition, they received state support for their activities from East Germany which made the smuggling of money and weapons much easier than a far off foreign sponsor. Yet, in the end, governments prevailed and as their ideology was discredited in the mainstream, they faded away.

With similar groups all over Europe and support from Eastern European intelligence services, their reign of terror was defeated and their members killed or imprisoned. Can we learn from this? Has terrorism changed too much over the past three decades?

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Best served cold Wed, 10 Jan 2007 01:42:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

More Than 50 Die in U.S. Strikes in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 9 — More than 50 people were killed by American air strikes in Somalia on Sunday, most of them Islamist leaders fleeing in armed pick-up trucks across a remote stretch of the Kenya-Somalia border, officials of the transitional Somali government said today.

The air strikes began Sunday night, when an American AC-130 gunship operating from a base in Djibouti pounded an area where American officials said three terrorist leaders were hiding. The three men are suspected of being ringleaders in the 1998 bombing attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

It was not clear whether any of the intended targets had been killed.

But not all the news is good:

News of the air strikes set off fresh waves of anti-American anger in Mogadishu, the battle-scarred seaside capital of the country, which until recently was controlled by the Islamist forces.

“They’re just trying to get revenge for what we did to them in 1993,”Â? said Deeq Salad Mursel, a taxi driver, referring to the infamous “Black Hawk Down”Â? episode, when 18 American soldiers were killed by Somali gunmen.

The country’s transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, said today that he had given American forces permission on Sunday to carry out the strikes, according to news agencies.

And then there’s the history:

The United States has twice involved itself in Somalia in recent years, and neither episode ended well.

President Clinton abruptly ended a large American-led aid mission in the 1990s after the 18 soldiers were killed, leaving Somalia spiraling into chaos and bloodshed, conditions that still prevail in much of the country. Last summer, American efforts to finance a band of Somali warlords as a counterweight against a growing Islamist movement backfired when many Somalis learned of the hidden American hand and threw their support behind the Islamists.

The Islamists went on to capture much of the country, including the capital. But neighboring Ethiopia intervened two weeks ago by sending its troops in to aid the transitional government, saying that the Islamists were a growing regional threat.

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