By Alex Shone, UK Defence Forum Research Associate in Residence
The total number of drone attacks for 2011 has now reached 19 according to the Long War Journal resulting in a total of 83 insurgent and terrorist casualties. The journal now reports at least 21 civilian casualties as a result of attacks.
March has been a month of steady drone activity. Notable events were the controversial attack on the 17th March which is thought to have killed a large number of suspected militants, though perhaps also to have killed civilians.
It is also worthy of note the reaction by militant groups in the region to the drone strikes, particularly the strike of the 17th. Action taken by the militants against those they deem as 'spies', the human intelligence assets helping to target drone strikes, appears to have intensified.
The Taliban have created a group assigned to hunt down tribesmen suspected of providing information to the CIA that enables the Predator campaign to target terrorist leaders in Pakistani tribal areas.
The group, known as the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, or Army of the Khorasan, was established in North Waziristan last year by both the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The creation of the group was confirmed by Pakistani intelligence officials, tribesmen, and members of the Taliban.
A "dual hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander" who leads forces on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has threatened to avenge a recent controversial Predator strike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Qari Zia Rahman, who commands both al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, threatened to retaliate against US forces in Afghanistan for the March 17 Predator strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The strike, which was denounced by top Pakistani military and political leaders, killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
The Taliban executed four more so-called 'US spies' who were accused of providing information that led to last week's controversial Predator airstrike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
The Taliban also accused the men of aiding the US in the March 17 Predator strike that killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
US Predators carried out another attack in the al Qaeda haven of Datta Khel in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, the second in the area in two days.
Reports as to the precise number of casualties differ as do those surrounding the target of the strike. It is believed that a large number of militant fighters were among the dead, as were civilians and even perhaps members of the security forces.
This strike was strongly and openly condemned by Pakistan's top military commander, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Reviewed by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum
Between 1986 and 1998 STRATFOR'S Fred Burton was at the forefront of the United States' counterterrorism efforts. As part of the relatively low-profile Diplomatic Security Service's (DSS) Counterterrorism Branch, Burton gained first experience of religious terrorism and extremism. 'Ghost' is his attempt to take the reader into his – and the West's – struggle against terrorist atrocities. This is a journey into what Burton calls the 'Dark World' and as such throws light on the response to terrorism that is seen by all but a few.
Ghost is divided into three sections, each reflecting stages of Burton's career with the DSS and also developments within the international system. Part 1 details Burton's transition from a beat cop into a counterterrorism professional. It also covers the Beirut hostage crisis and the beginnings of Libya's support for Middle East terrorism. From the outset it is absolutely staggering just how inadequately prepared the United States was for international terrorism. Initially, the Counterterrorism Branch was comprised of just three federal officers. There were no set guidelines or standard procedures and you get the sense that Burton and the team truly made it up as they went along.
To begin, Burton applies a beat cop mentality to the task at hand. At times part 1 reads a little bit like a counterterrorism manual. It is full of anecdotes about lessons learned, advice to take out into the field and 'do's and don'ts'. Part 1 also provides the reader with the side of intelligence and counterterrorism that is regularly played out in Hollywood movies. Burton introduces us to the FOGHORN messenger facilities, the standard uniform and accessories of a federal agent and the near constant stream of intelligence that needs to be sifted and made sense of quickly. There is also a sense that because the Counterterrorism Branch was so small and compartmentalised they were a breed apart from Washington's other federal agencies. Yet all this is forgotten when it is discovered that they have lost one of their own.
As hostages are gradually released in Lebanon it becomes clear that William Buckley, the former CIA Bureau Chief in Beirut, died in captivity. Burton's memoirs capture the overall despair that all federal agencies felt in not saving the life of a colleague. Indeed the death of Buckley is one of many acts of extremism that Burton and his own take very personally. In doing so the Counterterrorism Branch shifts from being a regular place of work to almost the cornerstone of Burton's very existence. Holidays are lost, family commitments are overlooked and weekends merge into the working week.
A further demonstration of how all consuming counterterrorism became to Burton is his 'hit-list' of terrorists. For twelve years, Burton did not rest in his attempts to bring each and every name on that list to justice. Indeed many names were added to the list throughout his career. The bombing of the TWA Flight over Greece, the Lockerbie disaster and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre all bring the same heartfelt response from Burton. They also take him to the safe-houses and the back streets of the world in his attempts to capture those responsible. When Burton slips off the scene almost entirely, the reader joins him on a journey into the murkiest parts of the 'Dark World'.
Since November 3rd the United States has carried out 10 unmanned airstrikes.
November 7th: The US carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan today. Unmanned Predators or Reapers first attacked a vehicle and a compound in the village of Ghulam Khan in the Miramshah area. Nine 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.
The second attack targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – the term used to describe Arab and Central Asian operatives – were killed in the strike.
No senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were reported killed in the attack.
November 11th: Six missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Gulli Khel, Ghulam Khan. The attack targeted a group of 'fighters' returning to North Waziristan from Khost province in Afghanistan. Of the six killed in the attack none were believed to be senior operatives. However the nature of the strike suggests that a senior figure or wanted operative was the main focus of the attack.
November 13th: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound and a vehicle in the village of Ahmad Khel in the Mir Ali region of North Waziristan. Whilst Pakistani officials claimed four 'militants' were killed in the attack, reports from the scene also suggested that civilians may have been killed in the strike.
November 19th: Three 'militants' were killed in an attack on a vehicle travelling in the village of Norak, Mir Ali. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.
November 21st: The US struck a compound and vehicle in the village of Khaddi, near Miramshah. Pakistani intelligence officials initially indicated that six 'militants' were killed in the attack. However later press reports speculated that nine 'militants' were killed and that three civilians harbouring operatives were also amongst the casualties.
November 22nd: The second attack in as many days targeted a vehicle and motorcycle in the village of Khushali, Miramshah. Five 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, yet none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives.
November 26th: An unmanned airstrike today against a vehicle travelling within the village of Pir Kali, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. The area is known to host a number of al Qaida operatives. Yet of the four killed in the attack none were deemed to be senior figures.
November 28th: The US undertook a similar strike against a vehicle as it travelled within the village of Hasan Khel, Mir Ali. Despite the continued concentration on a region known to host al Qaida operatives, the four 'militants' killed in the strike were not thought be senior figures in this movement or the Taliban.
December 6th: After a period of relative quiet the United States today struck a vehicle and a compound in the village of Kyshore, Datta Khel. The U.S. drone first attacked the 'militants' vehicle, killing two whilst another three escaped. The drone then attacked a shop hiding the others. This strike killed the three 'militants' whilst wounding three others.
According to the Long War Journal the United States has carried 106 unmanned airstrikes to date throughout 2010. This is a 50% increase from last year, and just over 50% of all airstrikes undertaken since 2004. The focus of attacks has overwhelmingly been North Waziristan. To date, 92% of all strikes have been carried out here in comparison with 7% in South Waziristan. Interestingly there has been a significant shift in the targeting of al Qaida/Taliban factions. In 2009 the main focus of attack was the Mehsud network. However 2010 saw an increase in attacks on Bahadar network and to a lesser extent the Haqqanis.
Since October 13th the United States has carried out 12 unmanned air strikes.
October 15th: The United States today launched a pair of unmanned air strikes against villages in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. The first strike hit a compound in the village of Marchi Khel, killing five 'militants'. The second attack on a vehicle in the village of Aziz Khel killed an additional four 'militants'. No senior Taliban or al Qaida operatives were reported killed in the attacks.
October 18th: Six missiles were fired at a compound and vehicle in Sunzalai village, Datta Khel, North Waziristan. Six 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, with an additional five injured. Interestingly, four Predators appeared to circle over the scene after the attack.
October 27th: The United States launched its first strike in nine days with two attacks on targets in North Waziristan. The first attack struck a compound in the village of Spin Wam, Mir Ali. The target was a house belonging to a militant identified as Nasimullah Khan. According to the Associated Press foreign fighters were reported to be staying at the house. Two 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.
The second strike hit a vehicle in the village of Degan, Datta Khel. Two Arab al Qaida members and two 'Westerners' were reported killed in the attack.
In both instances, the exact targets of the strikes remain unclear, and no senior operatives were thought to be amongst the victims.
October 28th: The US launched their third attack in two days against a compound in the village of Ismail Khan, Datta Khel. Seven 'militants' were reported killed and were wounded.
November 1st: Two missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Haider Khan, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. According to Pakistani security sources the compound belonged to a local tribesman and was believed to be sheltering local 'militants'. Six 'militants' were reported killed; however none were thought to be senior operatives.
November 3rd: Thirteen 'militants' were killed in three separate airstrikes within North Waziristan. In the first strike four 'militants' were reported killed after two missiles were fired at a vehicle in Qutub Khel, a suburb of Miramshah. The vehicle was reportedly laden with arms and ammunition.
In the second strike another vehicle was targeted in the village of Kaiso Khel, Datta Khel. Five 'militants' were reported killed in this strike.
Yet another vehicle was attacked in a strike in the Mir Ali area. Four 'militants' were reported killed in this attack. Yet despite the intensity of today's airstrikes, no senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the dead.
November 7th: Two airstrikes today in North Waziristan killed 14 'militants', including five 'foreigners'.
In the first attack missiles were fired on a compound and vehicle in the village of Ghulam Khan, Miramshah. Nine 'militants' were killed in this strike.
The second airstrike of the day targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – a term used to describe Arab or Central Asian al Qaida operatives – were reported killed. However in both instances no senior operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.
In comparison with last month's Drone Wars, the United States appears to have dramatically scaled back its unmanned campaign. Nevertheless, the Long War Journal reports that the US has conducted 97 airstrikes to date in 2010. Should the attacks continue with the same intensity throughout the rest of November/early December then the United States is likely to double its tally of unmanned strikes in comparison with 2009.
North Waziristan remains the overwhelming focus for the majority of airstrikes. However on the 8th November the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) claimed that six Taliban groups in South Waziristan had now joined the larger organization. The groups have all reportedly expressed their confidence in the leadership of the TTP's Hakeemullah Mehsud. As a result of increased TTP activities in South Waziristan, it will be interesting to monitor how many airstrikes are undertaken here throughout the rest of 2010.
Since August 27th the United States has carried out 31 unmanned airstrikes.
September 3rd: The United States carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan. The first attack saw two missiles fired at a compound near Miramshah. Six 'local militants' were killed in the attack, with none believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban figures. A second strike hit a compound in the town of Data Khel. Nine Taliban fighters were reported killed in this attack, including a local commander known as Inayatullah.
September 4th: A third airstrike in the space of two days focussed upon a compound and vehicle in the Data Khel region of North Waziristan. Between five and eight militants were reported in the attack on the village of Mizer.
September 6th: Two missiles were fired at a vehicle in the village of Khar Qamar, Data Khel, North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that five militants were killed in the attack, although none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives. However, the Long War Journal indicates that not only is Data Khel the stronghold of Hafiz Gul Badahar – a leading Taliban commander – it is also a known hub for al Qaida's top leadership.
September 8th: There were four unmanned airstrikes over twenty-fours as the United States' campaign in North Waziristan gathered momentum. The first strike against a compound in the town of Danda Darpa Khel reportedly killed ten militants. This was followed by another attack claiming the lives of four Haqqani network fighters. A third airstrike took place in the town of Ambor Shaga, Data Khel. In this attack three missiles were fired at a vehicle, killing four militants. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were reported killed in these strikes.
The fourth airstrike of the day focussed upon the town of Miramshah. Three missiles were fired at a compound resulting in the death of six Taliban fighters and five injuries. It was reported that some of the victims were Afghans. Whilst no senior operatives at the time were believed to have been killed in this attack, the Taliban reportedly cordoned off the area and attempted to recover the dead and the wounded.
However on September 30th reports emerged that eight Germans and two Britons were amongst the dead in the Data Khel airstrike. They were involved in the recently exposed plot to conduct a range of Mumbai-style attacks throughout Europe. The casualties also included an Islamic Jihad Group commander who trained Europeans to carry out attacks on their home soil.
The Islamic Jihad Group – a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – is known to operate a 'German Taliban village' in Waziristan.
Today was the first time that the United States carried out four airstrikes within a 24 hour period.
Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism (2010), by Martyn Frampton
Reviewed by Dr Robert Crowcroft, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum
As recent events have made clear, the political instability that wracked Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles has not been consigned to history. The development of a seemingly tolerable political settlement in 2007, and exemplified by the Ian Paisley-Martin McGuiness 'double act', has not addressed the essential segregation between the Protestant and Catholic communities. Nor does it mean that there are not people on both sides who still prefer resistance to accommodation.
The most obvious of these factions is the dissident Republican movement. And this movement is the subject of Martyn Frampton's new book. In it, he traces the growth within the Republicans of opposition to the strategy developed by Gerry Adams. Beginning in the 1980s, tensions grew as Adams came to increasingly control Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA (PIRA). Gradually, he set the Provos on a new course. His was a masterclass in political leadership and manoeuvring, but Adams was not without internal enemies.
Eventually, this led to schism and the emergence of new Republican groups outside the PIRA/Sinn Fein, such as Republican Sinn Fein, the Real IRA, and the Continuity IRA. Academic work on these groups and what they are up to is sorely lacking, and Frampton does an admirable job of filling in the blanks. What follows is a well-researched analysis of the groups and their activities. The most striking thing is the fact that boundaries between these groups are highly porous; members of one faction will operate in conjunction with those from others. The whole thing is largely ad hoc. The professed purpose is simply to advertise the fact that Northern Ireland is not a 'normal' state and therefore perpetuate the instability; to this end, there is a willingness to co-operate with virtually anyone who will help.
Frampton's book will quickly become the standard work on the dissidents. Given the lack of research into the subject, assembling the book at all is a considerable achievement. Those readers with backgrounds in research will know just how punishing (and exciting) the work can be if one has to play detective and research a topic where no-one has gone before. Importantly, Frampton had access to numerous key dissidents and interviewed them. Their personal perspectives are cited frequently, bringing the mental universe of dissident Irish Republicanism to life.
But a number of problems emerge. Most are definitely not of the author's own making. The reality is that these dissident Republicans are, in a structural sense, largely irrelevant. Reading this account, I felt like I was reading one of those books on a very minor, peripheral left-wing faction. And the truth is that the dissident Republicans are operating very much in the margins. The current level of violence is perfectly sustainable, and there is no appetite whatsoever for a return to the Troubles. Their base of support is tiny. Of course, one cannot guess what will happen in twenty years time, but it is difficult to believe that any contemporary dissidents have futures worth commenting on.
Since the 25th July the United States has carried out five unmanned airstrikes:
August 14th: The U.S. carried out its first airstrike in almost three weeks on a compound in the village of Issori, near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Reports suggested that twelve al Qaida or Taliban operatives sheltering in the compound were killed in the attack. None were believed to be senior figures.
August 21st: Reports claimed that the United States fired four missiles from an unmanned aircraft at vehicles and a compound outside the village of Anghar Kala, Miramshah, North Waziristan. The airstrike killed six people, including 'foreigners'.
August 23rd: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, Miramshah, North Waziristan. Five terrorists and seven civilians were killed in the attack. In a second attack, five Taliban fighters were killed when UAVs fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Derga Mandi. The latter strike was the 53rd conducted by the United States this year. This meant that the United States had now matched its entire strike total for the previous year.
August 27th: The United States changed the focus of its unmanned airstrikes to the tribal agency of Kurram. An unmanned airstrike hit two vehicles near a compound in the village of Shahidano. Whilst no senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were amongst the four killed in the attack, Pakistani sources claimed the airstrike targeted members of Hakeemullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban. According to the Long War Journal the Taliban regrouped in Kurram after the Pakistani military launched its offensive in South Waziristan in 2009. The Taliban in Kurram are commanded by Maluvi Noor Jamal, who is regarded as a potential successor to Hakeemullah.
What follows is an edited version of an article which appeared in the New York Times on March 17th. The full article can be found here
A missile fired by an American drone killed at least four people recently at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda.
Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes have become one of the military's favourite weapons despite many shortcomings resulting from the rush to get them into the field.
By Bill Rammel MP, Minister for the Armed Forces
The first duty of government is to keep its people safe. Our National Security Strategy, updated earlier this year, sets out the threats we face. It shows how far the threats have evolved, and why an agile, cross-government response is required.
9/11 was a catalyst for change. Those images of planes flying into the twin towers are seared on our consciousness. On 7th July 2005, 52 innocent people were killed and 700 injured on the London underground and bus network by suicide bombers. This time the terrorists were British citizens working with Al Qaeda.
By Leila Ouardani
'The basic question is not whether terrorism can be defeated; even third-rate dictatorships have shown that it can be put down with great ease. The real problem is the price that has to be paid by liberal societies valuing their democratic traditions.'
Over the last two decades considerable academic debate has taken place concerning the correlation between differing political systems and terrorism. It has become somewhat conventional wisdom to argue that liberal democracies are disadvantaged, when compared to illiberal non-democracies, in countering terrorism because of institutional constraints that prevent them from responding to terrorism with repression.
Reviewed by Roger Green
Yemen is an obscure and impoverished country that has for a long time been an enigma to Western countries. Victoria Clark was born in Aden, the daughter of the BBC's South Arabia correspondent, and this accident of birth gave her the motivation to write this eponymous book. Over the years she has made several visits to the country and has met most of the influential leaders as well as many ordinary people. She paints a graphic pen picture of the cultural and social heritage of the country.
By Scott Stewart
On July 11, 2010, al-Malahim Media, the media arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), published the first edition of its new English-language online magazine "Inspire." The group had tried to release the magazine in late June, but for some reason — whether a technical glitch, virus (as rumored on some of the jihadist message boards) or cyberattack — most of the initial file released was unreadable.
The magazine was produced by someone who has a moderate amount of technological savvy, who speaks English well and who uses a lot of American idioms and phraseology. We did not note any hint of British or South Asian influence in the writing. A government source has suggested to us (and we have seen the claim repeated in the media) that Inspire was produced by a U.S citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia named Samir Khan. Khan is a well-known cyber-jihadist — indeed, The New York Times did an excellent story on Khan in October 2007. Given Khan's background, history of publishing English-language jihadist material and the fact that he reportedly left the United States for Yemen in 2009 and has not returned, it does seem plausible that he is the driving force behind Inspire.
During the Peter Nailor Memorial Lecture on defence, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) gave a terse but incisive assessment of the Afghanistan situation from the UK point of view.
The British Armed Forces have been under-resourced, as a result of an eight year squeeze on defence spending by the Treasury.
This country's leadership has failed to explain satisfactorily what we are trying to do. Until recently, it has been at best half hearted. This is now changing but seems to be more a reaction to perceived domestic political damage.
The Secretary of State for Defence (The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP): The significant increase in the number of international troops in southern Afghanistan is enabling commanders to make improvements in the laydown and command arrangements of coalition forces in the region. The first of these was the handover of security responsibility for Musa Qaleh district in Helmand province from UK to US troops on 27 March. This transfer allowed UK troops in Musa Qaleh to be redeployed to the population centres of central Helmand where they have increased ISAF's capacity to protect the Afghan civilian population from the threat posed by the insurgency, and to train and partner with the Afghan National Security Forces.
Together, the United Kingdom, the United States and our allies around the world, face a difficult security environment, where the outlook is sobering and the threats diverse, growing and unpredictable.
We live in a period in which direct military threats to our countries' territories are low.
But in this globalised world, the scourge of terrorism, the danger of nuclear proliferation, the ungoverned space created by fragile or failed states, and the competition for energy and resources, will test our ability to deter, contain and deal with risks to national security.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance". The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.
The Scots raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards". They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the frontline in the British Army for the last 300 years.
By Bill Roggio, who reports daily in The Long War Journal
Anti Taliban mayor and 12 other s killed near Peshawar
Bombing in Charsadda kills 24 , 3rd attack in north west in 3 days
Ten Pakistani paramilitary troops and 10 Taliban fighters were killed during clashes in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Mohmand. 8 missing.
Twelve Pakistanis have been reported killed and more than 40 wounded in an attack that targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency in the provincial capital. A second suicide attack killed five at a police station in Baka Khel, Bannu, NWFP.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org
As the US administration prepares to put 10 alleged terrorists on trial, 30 more have been released by federal judges because of lack of evidence and 15 federal judges are expecting to hear dozens more challenges to detention in Guantanamo Bay.
There are around 215 detainees still at the US base on Cub. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 4 others will be tried in a federal court. 5 others will go before a military commission – one of whom is alleged to have been behind the attack on the USS Cole.
By Scott Stewart, Stratfor
On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians and "civilian-populated areas under threat of attack." Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country's ability to interfere with the no-fly zone — and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels — it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.
Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries' access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya's past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi's threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi's use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.
By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent
Recent events in Libya have served to distract from the UK's main defence effort at the moment, Afghanistan. This morning at RUSI General David Petraaus commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave a presentation which served to remind the audience of the scale and complexity of the enduring Afghan campaign. In October 2009 Petraeus' predecessor Gen McChrystal gave a stellar exposition of the situation as he found it. At the time ISAF was struggling to understand the nature of the insurgency and the means necessary to deal with it. McChrystal had at least started asking the right questions.
Now the situation has moved on. The talk is of the end game and transfer of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to its own army the ANA. To some extent Petraeus is a lucky general, just as his forebear was unlucky. He has inherited a situation which he summarised as "only recently have we got the inputs right". Only in 2010 was ISAF able to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which Petraeus characterized as gaining momentum from 2005 onwards. He is referring not only to the uplift in troop numbers, but also to the way ISAF does business in terms of building up the governance of the country, and "getting the big ideas right". Up until then there were too many competing organizations working in silos without talking to each other. So part of the governance piece has been getting the NGOs and contractors as well as the UN and EU working together.
The NATO Lisbon summit committed ISAF to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. In addition President Obama has committed to the beginning of a draw-down of US forces, beginning in July this year. In answer to some questions on this aspect Petraeus made the point that both NATO and some troop contributing nations, including the UK, were discussing with the Afghan government arrangements for post 2014. He would not be drawn on specifics but mentioned that one key element of the Afghan security forces was still being developed, namely "enablers". These are the vital support functions such as artillery, medical and logistic services, as well as air lift and command and control functions. This might be taken to imply that some elements of NATO's on-going support after 2014 could involve surveillance and special operations forces.
One of Petraeus' earlier appointments had seen him re-writing the US Army's counter insurgency manual, so here was the man who wrote the book explaining how it works on the ground. He was at pains to stress that the military element was only one piece in the jigsaw of COIN. He has also previously been quoted as saying that Afghanistan "is all hard, all of the time"; so he does not see that progress is yet irreversible. He also stressed how important it is to keep our own public opinion supportive of the costly nature of the campaign.
An intriguing piece of the COIN jigsaw is what is called "reintegration" by which is meant the various strands being used to encourage members of the insurgency to lay down their arms altogether or to change sides. On this matter Petraeus was matter of fact, but opaque. There are efforts in hand to encourage both the lower echelon fighters to stop fighting, as well as the higher echelons. More emphasis is being put into tackling local corruption, which is often one of the grievances which cause people to join the insurgency.
There is also recognition by the Karzai government that the culture of patronage has to be dealt with, including his own family. On their own none of these things is a winner; but added to the improvements in ISAF's tactical situation, they all add up to reasons for wavering insurgents to remain at home, or to change sides. A British officer, Maj Gen Phil Jones is in charge of the force reintegration effort, to get ex-Taliban insurgents into the ANA.
Petraeus' presentation was much more assured than the one given by McChrystal in 2009. Back then ISAF was striving for credibility in the capitals of the NATO nations, never mind how it was doing in the campaign against the insurgents. Petraeus has managed his tenure well and things seem to be going reasonably well, although he didn't want to sound complacent. He said that there was still hard fighting ahead. It is to be hoped that should there be setbacks, as there may well be, Petraeus will not also find himself carpeted by his President, but given the top cover he needs to finish the job.