AQ and the SecDef and Acronyms
Argghhh! makes the argument that this was an intended consequence of our invasion of Iraq. By forcing AQI to fight for Iraq, we managed to kill lots of them and discredit them pretty completely. Of course, we'll never really know until historians of my grandchildren's generation start digging through piles of unclassified records and most of us who were involved are on our last legs. Good history is rarely written before the participants are dead. But I digress. Whether it was intended or not, it worked.
My prediction: We keep seeing attempts to regain credibility, flashy violent attacks in Afghanistan. A certain amount of troops get shifted to Afghanistan, but not the numbers that Barak Obama wants you to believe he'll send. The problem, exceedingly ticklish in my opinion, has to do with Pakistan. Afghanistan we can fix with patience--although it will NEVER be like, say, Pennsylvania. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state which has some common interests with the United States. On the other hand, Pakistan cares about things that the US doesn't, like avoiding having open armed rebellion in the Tribal Areas. Solution is not to invade Pakistan as Barak Hussein Obama keeps promising he'll do. That's about as dumb a concept as could be imagined, and while I do not think that Barak Hussein Obama is the recruiting director for al-Qaeda, he'd make a fine one if he actually were so stupid as to invade Pakistan and also withdraw from Iraq at the same time.
Solution is to make Afghanistan more stable and secure, to secure the border areas as best as we can, and to support and gently nudge the Pakistanis into doing the right thing. No one will make the tribal areas into neat suburban communities with white picket fences and sidewalks. The best thing to do is to ensure that they don't make trouble elsewhere and support internal elements that will be more cooperative. Which leads to my next point.
The Honorable Mr. Robert M. Gates, SecDef, has been quoted extensively as saying that the State Department needs to pull its head out of its ass and start realizing that the State Department has a bigger job than attending high tea in nations with flush toilets, and issuing visas. Actually, he's been making these noises for months. He wants State to get into Counterinsurgency. I'm in favor of that, shockingly. I don't like most government employees, because many of them are lazy bastards. But State has the ability to do stuff that we don't, aren't trained to do, and have questionable legal authority to do. A completely military counterinsurgency approach has the potential to be fairly one-sided, focusing on catching bad guys and the security situation. We're doing a LOT better than we were, say, four years ago. Part of this is the idea that counterinsurgency is just a form of "war" in the WWII sense, and that civilians need to 'get out of the way' and let the military handle it.
In the sense that politicians need to NOT Monday-Morning Quarterback tactical decision making processes and micromanage the war from the air-conditioned comfort of their videoteleconference room in Washington DC, they do need to butt the hell out. But in the sense of pushing people out to theater and getting involved in interagency action to approach the entire bundle of problems that support an insurgency, the civilians need to get more involved.
What do I know, I'm just a staff, right? Anyway, the problems I've seen in the historical instances have to do with unity of command. The State folks belong to the Ambassador who may or may not have a good working relationship with the military folks. Who outranks whom in this circumstance? If State gets more heavily into the fight, a framework to coordinate the military and civil chains of command sounds like a necessity to me.
All I know is that I'm NOT a diplomat, and my approach to problem-solving is pretty BFI. But I'm just bright enough to know that once the initial security situation starts to get under control, you need to start doing a little more than shooting people in the face. Besides, any history of Iraq (and much of the rest of the Third World) more complex than the Wikipedia article makes it abundantly clear that one of the main reasons for dictatorial government has been the high degree of politicization of Iraq's military. How can we tell them that civil control of the Armed Forces is a good thing, indeed a prerequisite for effective democracy, if the only leadership they see comes from green-suiters?
The Small Wars Journal has an interesting article on the subject, do go download and read!
Regarding acronyms: I do run on the assumption that this blog is read by a fairly small readership (what, four or five folks) most of whom are at least passingly familiar with many if not most acronyms.
MRAP: Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected. This is a fun new buzzword which refers to several families of vehicles, the Buffalo, the 'jerv' (I think that one's JEERV), the Cougar, Husky, Meerket, the RG-31, the RG-33, etc. All of them are of South African origin and are trucks with a v-shaped hull that ride fairly high on large tires. Their armor is effective against small arms fire, IEDs, and RPGs to a certain extent. They do have a high center of gravity, however.
IRAM: Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortar. Not sure the origins of this term, but it was applied to IEDs made from propane tanks with rocket motors attached. The rocket motors were intended to launch 3 lb warheads thousands of meters, and hence can only chuck an 80 pound warhead on a high trajectory that has a few hundred meters of range.
BFI: Brute Force and Ignorance. Shooting people in the face, for instance.