Tag Archives: John Kerry

50+ U.S. intelligence analysts accuse Pentagon of altering their reports to present distorted rosy view of war against ISIS

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Centcom

Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef report for The Daily Beast, Sept 9, 2015, that more than 50 intelligence analysts of the U.S. military’s Central Command (Centcom) formally complained that their reports on ISIS/Islamic State and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being altered by senior officials to present the terrorist groups as weaker than the analysts had portrayed.

The analysts are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. Assigned to work at Centcom and the U.S. military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, they are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Ironically, the DIA was created to be immune from the pressures and biases of the officers leading the war, but the agency is supervised by officers at Centcom.

The analysts’ complaints prompted the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence.

The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command, charged with the war against the Islamic State, assesses intelligence. One defense official called it a “cancer…within the senior level of the intelligence command.”

In July 2015, two senior analysts at Centcom signed a written complaint to the Defense Department inspector general alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by Centcom higher-ups to adhere to the Obama administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

In recent months, members of the Obama administration have sought to paint the fight against ISIS in rosy hues—despite the latter’s seizure of major cities like Mosul and Fallujah. As examples:

  • In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” the Obama administration’s preferred acronym for the group.
  • Obama said in May, “No, I don’t think we’re losing.”
  • In July, John Allen, the retired Marine general charged with coordinating the ISIS campaign, outright declared, “ISIS is losing.”

The written complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, who are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples. Some of the analysts had complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The allegations echoed previous charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals. The analysts accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions. The complaints also accuse some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating a “Stalinist” unprofessional work environment. Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Reports by analysts which were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back down the chain of the command or not shared up the chain. Others, aware of “the climate around them,” censored themselves so that their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.

Two of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said that analysts began airing their complaints last October in an effort to address the issue internally and only went to the inspector general when that effort failed. Some of those who complained were urged to retire; some agreed to leave.

Yet a growing group of intelligence analysts persisted with their complaints. For some, who have served at CENTCOM for more than a decade, scars remained from the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, when poorly written intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when it did not, formed the basis of the George W. Bush administration’s case for war.

According to a report by the New York Times on Sept. 15, 2015, it is highly unusual that an investigation would be opened about the intelligence conclusions in an ongoing war.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is focusing on senior intelligence officials who supervise dozens of military and civilian analysts at Centcom, which oversees American military operations against ISIS. Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s inspector general, said in an email, “The investigation will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as examine any “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

Obama’s ISIL strategy reexamined: air strikes ineffective; weak coalition

One month 4 days after President Obama’s grand announcement of a U.S.-led coalition to combat ISIL/ISIS or Islamic State (IS) “terrorists” (Obama says they’re neither Islamic nor jihadist!), as predicted by analysts, including members of this Consortium (their comments below are colored green), the “counterterrorism” strategy is failing.

Air Strikes

“Every analyst recognizes that attacks from the air may degrade (to a certain extent) the enemy, but not destroy him.” –A. James Gregor

“Well, airstrikes usually don’t amount to much. In the classic reason: You fly in and drop bombs, your aircraft run low on fuel and leave, and the locals declare victory and display pieces of a plane they shot down there because they’re still alive and in charge. Unless some key thing of the enemy’s got specifically attacked and destroyed in the raid, it doesn’t accomplish much….  Unless we concentrate force from the air upon ISIS in order to get them to do something particular (unlikely, since we’d have to kill a lot of them and in a manner not rewarded in the afterlife to reduce their will to fight) somebody will have to go in there and make them stop. Probably our guys, too.” –Anonymous

“Air strikes are useful, indeed essential, but they are only the first step in attacking ISIL…. Air strikes can disrupt communications, slow down movement, destroy supplies and logistical support assets and blunt enemy attacks. They will make the enemy slower to react, weaker at the attack point and less flexible in operations. All of these are desirable, but they cannot retake lost ground or destroy the will of the enemy. Only ground troops can do that.” –rthurs

Islamic State advancesClick map to enlarge

From the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12 ,2014:

Islamic State militants have gained territory in Iraq and Syria despite weeks of bombing by the U.S. and its allies, raising questions about the coalition’s strategy of trying to blunt the jihadists’ advance while local forces are being trained to meet the threat on the ground.

In Syria, fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, have taken large sections of the city of Kobani in recent days, said Ismet Sheikh Hasan, the defense minister of the city’s Kurdish administration. “Most of the eastern and southern parts of the city have fallen under the ISIS control,” he said. “The situation is getting worse.

This comes despite a week of heavy airstrikes around the city to help local Syrian Kurdish fighters keep Islamic State forces from the city center.

In Iraq, militant forces operating in a swath of territory the size of California have extended their control of the roads and commercial routes in strategically vital Anbar Province, which connects the capital Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.

Anbar, which has critical infrastructure and whose eastern edge lies only about 25 miles from Baghdad’s center, is also in danger of falling wholly under Islamic State control despite weeks of U.S. strikes aimed at weakening the group, local officials say. […]

Neither of the allied forces the U.S. had been counting on for help in the near term—the Iraqi army in the south or Turkish forces in the north—have been of much help, officials say. Iraq’s army has often proven unable to stop Islamic State forces, and Turkey hasn’t engaged in the fight despite its professed desire to halt the jihadists.

Which brings us to . . . .

A Coalition of the Unwilling

“In effect, there is no ‘broad coalition’ anywhere ready to support the ‘new’ strategy….” –A. James Gregor

“Turkey has a formidable army and can be decisive in Syria, but it lacks the political will to do so. Arab countries have some good troops, but lack the logistical base to project power into Syria and Iraq. And most of them are Sunni-dominated and are reluctant to fight other Sunnis.” –rthurs

“It is evident why most of the Arab nations make only modest and hesitant contribution to the “coalition against the network of death.” They have no assurance that the United States will stay the course…. The coalition cobbled together by the President is composed of participants (apparently now including Britain and France) prepared to lend a few aircraft to the bombing missions intended to ‘degrade’ ISIL forces, but there is no rush to supply ground troops essential to the ultimate defeat of the ‘radicals.’ ” –A. James Gregor

Immediately after Obama’s ISIL speech, Arab countries allied with the United States issued a joint communiqué supporting the U.S. strategy and vowed to “do their share” to fight the IS.

That was all lip service.

A day after Obama’s ISIL speech, Mark Sappenfield reported for the Christian Science Monitor that the speech “has been met with only slightly more than a shrug” among Arab countries — not so much because they are ambivalent about IS, but because “intersecting allegiances and strategic aims mean some Arab countries feel they must tread cautiously.”

Turkey: As a neighbor of both Syria and Iraq, Turkey would seem to have the greatest interest in stemming the influence of the Islamic State. But doing so might endanger Turkish national unity by empowering the Kurds, who are angling for an independent state of their own.

Other Arab states: Similar concerns weigh against strong support for the US in Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Defeating the Islamic State could give Iran, the region’s leading Shiite power — more scope to exert its authority.

Syria: Ironically, the Arab government most eager to join a coalition against IS was that of Syria, which Obama had already ruled out as a partner for what he described as terrorizing its citizens. (See Pulitzer-award journalist says Obama admin made up intelligence for war on Syria.) When the country most eager to help you is the one you have sworn to overthrow, that is not a good sign.

Gopal Ratnam and John Hudson write in Foreign Policy, Oct. 13, 2014:

Obama administration insists that it has a large and growing coalition of nations arrayed to fight the Islamic State . . . [but] the alliance may be far less robust than Washington says.

The latest row concerns the key question of whether Turkey, which hosts a sprawling American air base, will let U.S. warcraft fly from it into Iraq and Syria to batter the militant group. U.S. officials said Sunday that Ankara had given the green light. Less than a day later, Turkish officials categorically denied that they’d agreed to allow their bases to be used against the terror group.

[…] Incirlik Air Base, located about 50 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea in southern Turkey, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing and about 1,500 American military personnel and is key to protecting NATO’s southern flank.

[…] Washington may be consistently misreading its partners and overestimating just how committed they are to the fight. [,,,]Ankara wasn’t the only capital to experience a fit of stage fright after its potential involvement in the anti-ISIS coalition went public.

In September, when Foreign Policy reported details of a secret offer by the nation of Georgia to host a training camp for anti-ISIS fighters, the story prompted a strong public backlash in Tbilisi due to security concerns for the tiny Caucasian nation of 4.5 million. Within 24 hours, Georgian officials denied having made any such offer.

“I categorically rule out any military participation or training base in Georgia,” Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said.

Last month, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said his government opposed terrorism, but expressed annoyance that his country was included in the U.S. government’s official list of anti-ISIS partners without being informed.

[…] Administration officials have said that at least 60 countries are part of the anti-ISIS coalition, but the vast majority aren’t contributing militarily.

In other cases, the United States has boasted about allied commitments of ground troops to fight ISIS, but the offers never materialized.

“We have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance,” Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS last month. He insisted that the United States would not send ground forces but that other countries “have offered to do so.” However, none of the Arab coalition partners, the nations most likely to provide ground troops, have yet to make such commitments in public. (In September, the Times of London reported that Jordan offered to send its Western-trained special forces to combat ISIS in Syria, but the Arab monarchy has yet to confirm the offer.)

The United States has also struggled to explain its relationship with another key player, Iran. The majority-Shiite country has a vested interest in eradicating ISIS from the region but Washington insists it is not coordinating directly with Tehran, though some discussions on the topic have clearly taken place.

“We’re not in coordination or direct consultation with the Iranians about any aspects of the fight against ISIL,” White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Meet the Press on Sunday, using another name for the militant group. When pressed, she noted that “we’ve had some informal consultations” with Iran about regional issues on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna, but did not elaborate. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, by contrast, said Sunday that the two countries had exchanged messages regarding the fight against ISIS. Outside of Syria, hundreds of Iranian troops have crossed into Iraq to fight against ISIS forces.

[…] During his visit to Colombia on Oct. 10, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the United States would like to get access to Incirlik as a base from which to launch strikes against Islamic militants, according to the Associated Press.

[…] Turkey wants the United States to get involved but differs on the goals…. Turkey wants the coalition to focus on removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while President Barack Obama wants to keep the focus on the Islamic State and preventing the fall of Baghdad….

[…] The Obama administration’s criteria about what it takes to be considered a member of the anti-ISIS coalition requires little effort on the part of coalition members.

Kerry and Hagel have listed five lines of effort against the terror group: providing military support to the coalition; impeding the flow of foreign fighters; stopping the group’s financing; addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region; and exposing ISIS’s “true nature.”

Given the limited effort it takes to release a statement in opposition to the terror group’s ideology, which technically would merit inclusion in the coalition, it’s little wonder that the United States was able to boast a list of 60 nations. Still, such rosters do little to indicate the depth of commitment any one nation may be offering. Slovakia, for instance, said it won’t send soldiers to the effort, but that it would contribute $25,000 to the International Organization for Migration in northern Iraq — not exactly a game-changing move, but sufficient to merit inclusion on the list.

See also:

~StMA

Obama admin considering a war against Syria, again

Free Syrian ArmyRebel insurgents of the Free Syrian Army

In his essay of Feb. 17, 2014,The United States of Decline,” for the National Review, Deroy Murdock, a fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University, writes that Obama’s Syrian policy is “a miserable flop”:

“… embattled Syrians flee the city of Homs while they and their United Nations protectors dodge incoming mortar shells. This sorry spectacle has exposed Obama’s Syrian policy as a miserable flop. So does the fact that Syrian president Bashar Assad has handed over only 4 percent of the chemical weapons that his deal last September with Obama and Vladimir Putin was supposed to neutralize. According to GOP senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Secretary of State John Kerry privately conceded to them that Obama’s approach in Syria has failed.”

After bringing the United States to the brink of war against Syria last summer, Obama reportedly is, once again, considering “military options” against the Assad government.

Press TV reports today that according to the Wall Street Journal, frustrated with the stalled talks in Geneva and with Russia’s refusal to put pressure on the Assad government, the Obama administration is revisiting plans for Syria, including renewed military options, to step up pressure on the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

“There is a general sense that it’s time to take another look,” a senior US official said of the military options, adding that the White House could engage in high-level discussion as early as this week. Senior US officials have already notified their European counterparts of the decision to reevaluate the plans for Syria.

John Kerry has been a “leading advocate” of reconsidering the options which range from using long-range missiles to prevent the Syrian government from flying its aircraft, to training and equipping the militant forces fighting to topple the government.

Yesterday, Feb. 17, in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Kerry accused Damascus of stonewalling the Geneva talks thanks in large part to support from Russia: “Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be distributing so much more weapons and so much more aid that they’re in fact enabling Assad to double-down. Which is creating an enormous problem.”

Exasperated by stalled talks, Kerry recently sat down with retired Army Gen. and former CIA director David Petraeus to discuss “military and intelligence options” in Syria.

White House National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said, “As the president has made clear, we are constantly looking at what options we can take to resolve the crisis in Syria. We are going to continue to work with all of the parties concerned to try to move forward on a diplomatic solution.”

A senior U.S. military officials says the Pentagon remains prepared to carry out the military options presented to the White House last year: “We have forces in the region. We have ships in the Med. Everything we need to carry out a military option is there.”

In a statement last Saturday, Senator John McCain, who has been beating the war drums against Syria, is also calling for “military intervention” against the Syrian government, insisting that “The only way to achieve success at Geneva is to change the balance of power on the ground. There are options far short of an Iraq-style invasion that can, and should, be employed to change the calculation of the Syrian regime, stem the violence, and ultimately achieve a negotiated political solution.”

The Obama administration has been funding, training, and supplying arms to the rebel insurgents in the Syrian civil war — “rebels” who increasingly are extremist Islamic jihadists.

See also:

~StMA

Foreign leaders openly scorn US President Obama

Fallen idolSic transit gloria mundi.

Even before he was (first) elected President of the United States of America, like many adoring Americans, foreign leaders and peoples across the world heaped praises on Barack Obama.

Who can forget the tens of thousands of Germans who mobbed him like a rock star on July 24, 2008 in Berlin?

Obama in Berlin 2008Obama in BerlinThen is then, and now is now.

Along with his plummeting approval ratings in the United States (a new Gallup Poll low of 39% approval vs. 53% disapproval), those outside of America also are increasingly disenthralled.

More seriously, leaders of other countries have begun openly mocking Obama and his administration and, by extension, the United States.

Last Monday, Jan. 14, 2014, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon mocked (and later apologized) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — and, by implication, Obama’s Middle East policy and his foreign policy in general  — as “messianic.”

Moshe YaalonNote Moshe Yaalon’s sarcastic reference to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, for which Obama inexplicably was nominated a mere two weeks after he first became president, and awarded 8½ months into his first term.

Mere days after Yaalon’s mockery, another foreign political leader is piling on.

Nico Hines reports for The Daily Beast, Jan. 15, 2014, that one of Britain’s most senior military advisors, Sir Hew Strachan, calls Obama “chronically incapable” of military strategy who falls far short of his predecessor George W. Bush.

Strachan, an expert on the history of war and advisor to the Chief of the Defense Staff, says that Obama’s strategic failures in Afghanistan and Syria have crippled America’s position in the world.

Strachan, a current member of the Chief of the Defense Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, cited the “crazy” handling of the Syrian crisis as the most egregious example of a fundamental collapse in military planning that began in the aftermath of 9/11. “If anything it’s gone backwards instead of forwards, Obama seems to be almost chronically incapable of doing this. Bush may have had totally fanciful political objectives in terms of trying to fight a global War on Terror, which was inherently astrategic, but at least he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do in the world. Obama has no sense of what he wants to do in the world,” Strachan said.

The dithering over intervention against President Bashar al-Assad has empowered the Syrian ruler, undermined America’s military reputation and destabilized the Middle East, said Strachan.  “What he’s done in talking about Red Lines in relation to Syria has actually devalued the deterrent effect of American military capability and it seems to me that creates an unstable situation, because if he were act it would surprise everybody. I think the other issue is that in starting and stopping with Assad, he’s left those who might be his natural allies in Syria with nowhere to go. He’s increased the likelihood that if there is a change of regime in Syria that it will be an Islamic fundamentalist one.”

If it’s any comfort to Obama, Strachan is equally critical of UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Britain’s shock parliamentary vote against military action in Syria also exposed Prime Minister David Cameron’s lack of a clear strategy. “It absolutely illustrated the failure to think through the strategic implications of his own actions,” said Strachan.

Strachan’s book The Direction of War, which will be published next month, examines the failure of modern political leaders to use strategy to predict and account for the implications of military action. Oxford University’s Professor of the History of War says the lessons learned at the end of the 2oth century proved to be damaging at the start of the next. “Using war did deliver. The wars were pretty short, the Falklands, First Gulf War, Kosovo, so people lulled themselves into an expectation that war was simply a continuation of policy and that it was successful. But it hasn’t been since 9/11,” he said.

Part of the problem, Strachan contends, is that politicians are unduly worried about allowing military leaders to give frank and open advice. He criticized the way General Stanley McCrystal was forced to resign after making unflattering remarks about his political bosses in Washington. “The concern about the military speaking out shows a lack of democratic and political maturity. We’re not facing the danger of a military coup. The professional experts, who deal with war all the time, should be able to express their views all the time, openly and coherently, just as you would expect a doctor or a teacher to express their views coherently about how you run medical policy or teaching policy,” he said.

Winston Churchill held daily strategy meetings with his chairman of the Chiefs of Staff during the Second World War, which encouraged an open exchange of views. “The Churchill-Allan Brooke relationship was fraught at times but it worked because both were pretty frank with each other,” Strachan said. “Soldiers have a duty here as well—if they just say, ‘yes Mr. Prime Minister or Mr. President, we can give you exactly what you want,’ then they’re probably not being very honest.”

The extraordinary critique by a leading advisor to the United States’ closest military ally comes days after Obama was undermined by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who questioned Obama’s foreign policy decisions and claimed he was deeply suspicious of the military.

U.S. sends more troops and tanks to South Korea as part of U.S. Pacific pivot

DMZ Korea

David Alexander reports for Reuters that on Jan. 7, 2014, the Obama administration said the U.S. will send 800 more soldiers and about 40 Abrams main battle tanks and other armored vehicles to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to East Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying that the new U.S. troops would be deployed in North Gyeonggi Province, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.

The battalion of troops and M1A2 tanks and about 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, will begin a nine-month deployment in South Korea on February 1.

A Pentagon spokesman said the personnel would remain for nine months but on departing would leave their equipment behind to be used by follow-on rotations of U.S. forces.

Army Colonel Steve Warren said, “This addition of forces to Korea is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It’s been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean peninsula. This gives the commanders in Korea an additional capacity: two companies of tanks, two companies of Bradleys.”

Barack Obama had announced a strategic rebalancing of U.S. priorities toward the Pacific in late 2011, while ending the direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq and planning to wind down the long U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.

Since the announcement of that so-called “pivot” in foreign, economic and security policy, the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have all seen increased numbers of U.S. warships, planes and personnel.

In a meeting in Washington on Jan. 7 with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tated the U.S. position on nuclear weapons in North Korea: “The United States and the Republic of Korea stand very firmly united, without an inch of daylight between us, not a sliver of daylight, on the subject of opposition to North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities.”

The United States has some 28,000 troops based in South Korea, which has remained technically at war with Communist North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in stalemate.

The deployment of additional U.S. troops comes at a time of raised tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek in the biggest political upheaval in years.

Donna Miles reports for American Forces Press Service, Jan. 7, 2014, that the rotational deployment of a cavalry battalion of about 800 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, to South Korea next month is in support of U.S. Forces Korea and 8th U.S. Army. Officials said that posturing a trained, combat-ready force in the region allows for greater responsiveness to better meet theater operational requirements.

The Army rotational deployments are just one aspect of the rebalance. Marine Rotational Force Darwin was the first new rotational arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region designed to bolster U.S. theater engagement. In April 2012, the first rotation of about 200 Marines was deployed to Australia just months after the U.S. and Australia had announced an initiative for Australia to host a U.S. rotational presence of a 2,500-member Marine air-ground task force that would exercise with the Australian defense force and train regional militaries.

In late September 2012, the second rotation of U.S. Marines wrapped up its six-month deployment to Darwin, with the third rotation to increase five-fold when it deploys this spring. About 1,150 members of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, are scheduled to deploy from Camp Pendleton, Calif., complete with an infantry battalion, logistics and aviation detachment.

Meanwhile, the Navy has started littoral combat ship rotations in Singapore. USS Freedom completed its first rotation in November 2012, basing its operations at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base after its arrival in April.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, is a big fan of rotational units, which he said provide an “uptick in presence” that complements that provided by the 330,000 service members permanently based within the Pacom area of responsibility.

Locklear said, “What they provide is an ability to work with our allies and to leverage the capabilities of the allies across all aspects of peace to conflict,” Rotational forces also provide a regional presence that could pay dividends if the United States had to flow more forces into a particular area to protect the interests of the United States and its allies. (Hint: China!)

New rules of engagement hamstring U.S. troops in Afghan war

tired soldierRowan Scarborough reports for The Washington Times, Nov. 26, 2013:

The new U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement adds restrictions on already bureaucratic rules of engagement for American troops by making Afghan dwellings virtual safe havens for the enemy, combat veterans say.

The rules of engagement place the burden on U.S. air and ground troops to confirm with certainty that a Taliban fighter is armed before they can fire — even if they are 100 percent sure the target is the enemy. In some cases, aerial gunships have been denied permission to fire even though they reported that targets on the move were armed.

The proposed Bilateral Security Agreement announced Wednesday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State John F. Kerry all but prohibits U.S. troops from entering dwellings during combat. President Obama made the vow directly to Mr. Karzai.

“U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals,” Mr. Obama pledged in a letter to the Afghan leader.

Ryan Zinke, who commanded an assault team within SEAL Team 6, said of the security deal: “The first people who are going to look at it and review it are the enemy we’re trying to fight. It’s going to be a document that can be used effectively against us. This is where we either fight or go home. What’s happening is we’re losing our ability to fight overseas.

Mr. Karzai wants to defer the document’s signing to his successor in April’s presidential election, but Afghan legislators are pressing him to sign the deal now.

Even before the security agreement’s rules of engagement were drafted, troops complained about meeting the requirements of an increasingly burdensome checklist before they can fire. The rules grew stricter in 2010 after a series of mistaken U.S. bombings killed civilians and special operations troops raided villages and homes at night.

Said retired Army Col. Ken Allard, now a military analyst: “Call me crazy, but what on earth is the point of remaining there under these [rules of engagement], much less subjecting American soldiers to another set of restrictions that make sense only in proportion to your distance from the combat zone?”

The security agreement lays out the legal status of U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when all international combat forces are set to leave the country. As many as 18,000 international troops — including 8,000 from the U.S. — will remain for 10 years to train and assist Afghan security forces and hunt terrorists.

Terrorist-hunting missions will require U.S. personnel to engage in combat by accompanying Afghans on counterterrorism raids and supplying close-air support. That is why the rules for when U.S. troops can and cannot fire on the enemy or enter a dwelling remain important.

A rare look at today’s classified rules of engagement is contained in the huge investigative file on the Afghan Taliban’s downing of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter last year that killed 30 U.S. troops, including 17 members of SEAL Team 6. The report notes service members’ frustration at seeing people they knew were Taliban fighters during the August 2012 operation in Afghanistan’s Tangi Valley, but they were denied permission to shoot.

An AH-64 Apache gunship pilot said he saw the spot from where Taliban operatives fired the rocket-propelled grenade that felled the chopper. “Due to [rules of engagement] and tactical directives, I couldn’t fire at the building where I thought the [shooter] was, so I aimed directly to the west of the building,” the pilot testified, according to transcripts obtained by The Washington Times.

During the battle that preceded the shootdown, the crew of an AC-130 gunship spotted two armed Taliban fighters who were moving into new positions. “There were several opportunities where we could have engaged with 40 mm ensuring zero [collateral damage estimate] on any buildings,” the navigator testified. “The opportunity was definitely there for us to engage those two guys or even provide containment fires to try to slow their movement.”

Investigator: “Did you ask to engage them?

Navigator: “Yes, sir.”

Investigator: “And it was denied, right?

Navigator: “Yes, sir.”

AC-130 commander: “I think he spoke with the Ground Force Commander and he said, ‘No. No-go. Just maintain eyes-on.’”

Mr. Zinke, the former SEAL, said he talks to guys coming back home who are frustrated because the rules of engagement “are too restrictive.”

“I’ve always been a champion of, if we are going to fight, fight to win,” said Mr. Zinke, a candidate in the Republican primary for a House seat in Montana. “And you’ve got to give our troops that are in harm’s way every tool and every advantage that is possible. “And when you start restricting [rules of engagement] — when you limit our ability to fight at night, where you restrict the ground commanders’ ability to react quickly without having to go up the chain of command and also when you’re forced to bring along the Afghan forces who are notorious for the lack of security — then I think it puts troops in greater risk.”

Mr. Kerry said last week that the security deal demonstrates to Mr. Karzai that Washington is listening to his concerns about civilian deaths. “It’s very important for President Karzai to know that the issues that he’s raised with us for many years have been properly addressed, and it’s very important for us to know that issues we have raised with him for a number of years are properly addressed,” the secretary of state said.

***********

I have two questions for Obama and Kerry:

  1. Do the Taliban abide by “rules of engagement”?
  2. Why fight a war if not to win? – unless, of course, you have other reasons why you want American soldiers wounded, maimed, and killed in Afghanistan.

See also “Afghanistan to reintroduce stoning for adultery,” Nov. 25, 2013.

Crisis Over Senkaku: China declares East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone

SenkakuAgence France-Presse reports that on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, China announced that it has set up an “East China Sea air defense identification zone” that includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, which Chinese call Diaoyutai and over which China also claims ownership.

The Chinese Defense Ministry said the zone was created to “guard against potential air threats,” and dispatched its air force jets, including fighter planes, to patrol the new zone.

The outline of “East China Sea air defense identification zone” is shown on the ministry website and a Chinese state media Twitter account — pic.twitter.com/4a2vC6PH8O. It covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan, and includes the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets.

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneI added the English translation

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Saturday that the establishment of the zone, which China said entered into force as of 10 a.m. Saturday, was aimed at “safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order. It is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defense rights. It has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace. China will take timely measures to deal with air threats and unidentified flying objects from the sea, including identification, monitoring, control and disposition, and it hopes all relevant sides positively cooperate and jointly maintain flying safety.”

Along with the new zone, the Chinese ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that it says must be followed by all aircraft entering the area, under penalty of intervention by China’s military.

Aircraft are now expected to provide their flight path, clearly mark their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication in order to “respond in a timely and accurate manner to identification inquiries” from Chinese authorities.

Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, reported late Saturday that it had conducted a sweep of the area using early warning aircraft and fighter jets. “The patrol is in line with international common practices, and the normal flight of international flights will not be affected,” Shen said.

Four Chinese Coast Guard boats briefly entered Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus on Friday, after multiple incursions at the end of October and the beginning of this month further aggravated tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

Reaction from Tokyo

In Tokyo, Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged a protest by phone with Han Zhiqiang, a minister at the Chinese Embassy, according to a statement issued by the ministry. Ihara told Han that Japan can “never accept the zone set up by China,” as it includes the Senkakus. He further said the new zone will “escalate” already fraught bilateral ties over the uninhabited but potentially resource-rich islet chain, branding China’s move “very dangerous.”

Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki plans to summon Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua as early as possible Monday to state Tokyo’s position on the matter.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in late October said the repeated incursions are a threat to peace and fall in a “gray zone (between) peacetime and an emergency situation.”

A few days earlier, his Chinese counterpart had threatened Japan that any bid to shoot down China’s drones would constitute “an act of war.” That move came after a report said Japan had drafted plans to destroy foreign drones that encroach on its airspace if warnings to leave are ignored.

Sino-Japanese relations have remained icy for more than a year because of the Senkakus dispute, which was revived when Japan purchased three of the five main islets in September 2012, effectively nationalizing the entire chain. Since then, China has regularly sent coast guard vessels to the islets, which lie 400 km west of Okinawa and 200 km northeast of Taiwan.

Reaction from Washington

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is “deeply concerned” over China’s move to establish an air defense zone over a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea. “We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” Hagel said in a statement. “This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”

Hagel said the map will have no effect on how the United States conducts military operations in the area, and that concerns are being conveyed to China “through diplomatic and military channels.” Hagel also said the United States believes that the Senkaku islands are included as part of Japan in the U.S. Japan Mutual Defense Treaty.

In a separate statement, Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to exercise restraint with foreign aircraft that don’t identify themelves inside the air defense zone. “Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” Kerry said. “Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific.”

Sources: The Japan Times; Politico

Now we know why Beijing has been making those bellicose saber-rattling threats against the United States. It’s China’s warning to the Obama administration to stay out of the Senkaku territorial dispute. See:

Update (Nov. 25):

Here’s a map showing how China’s newly-declared East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone overlaps with Japan’s (h/t Jim H.). English translations are mine:

Click map to enlarge

ADIZ overlap map

UPDATE (Nov. 26):

U.S. directly challenges China’s air defense zone with B-52 bombers.