Sunday, July 28, 2013

Top 10 "Global Concerns" 2013 Edition

It's that time of the year again (why I originally started this in late July I will never remember) for Warhorse Intel's Top 10 "Global Concerns". I compile this list based on the reading I do throughout the year and is entirely my own biased assessment. 2012's list is here. Here's what it looked like:

10. Greece
9. Iran
8. Mexico
7. Kurd/Arab line Iraq
6. Somalia
5. North Korea
4. Yemen
3. Mali
2. Syria
1. Afghanistan/Pakistan

Once again the list between this year and last year are very similar. I'm not going to go in depth as much with each of these or provide links to back up my statements because 1) I don't have a whole lot of time and 2) I'm feeling especially lazy and 3) I'm in Afghanistan, what do you want from me? You're lucky you get a list at all. Anyway, as for the changes...Greece fell off because I think their economic issues are not going to lead to much violence beyond rioting. Mexico also came off as it appears from my little corner of the world that the narco gangs may be losing influence and power, but we'll see. Yemen was also dropped because Al Qaida In the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) does not appear to be gaining strength and that conflict may be more tribal than anything else and is unlikely to spread. Now, on to the 2013 list!

10. Nigeria
Violence caused by Boko Haram led to a goverment crackdown in the north. That crackdown has led to more violence. My question is, when will Al Qaida officially jump into the fray and openly support Boko Haram?

9. Iran
Maintaining the spot at #9 only because at any time they could announce that they have a nuclear weapon which would lead to an Israeli airstrike which would then lead to...well...chaos. Will a new president lead to any significant change? This analyst says no.

8. Tunisia
Arab Spring woke up some demons in Tunisia. Extremists are becoming increasingly vocal and political assassinations are on the rise. Al Qaida In the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is also likely looking for a spot to cause some havoc after being routed in Mali.

7. Somalia
Will Shabaab ever quit? I keep saying they are 6 months from being dead but they keep refusing to die.

6. Mali
The Tuareg tribe took over the north with the help of AQIM and friends. The Tauregs immediately regretted this decision and worked with the French to boot AQIM. Tentative peace has followed. I don't think it's going to last.

5. North Korea
For awhile there I thought war really was going to break out but then cooler heads prevailed. I keep them on this list because one day Best Korea may just actually do it and invade again.

4. Iraq
It's no longer just the Kurd/Arab line that's a problem. Violence has reached 2008 levels throughout the country. Everything Prime Minister Maliki does just creates more tension. At what point do the Sunnis revolt? At what point do the Kurds declare independence? At what point does the US return?

3. Egypt
Holy hell this place escalated quickly. Fallen regimes, Muslim Brotherhood in charge, coups, violence, and a growing extremist threat in the Sinai.

2. Syria
A clusterfuck.

1. Afghanistan/Pakistan
I've spent nearly 9 months here in Afghanistan and now have the hands on experience to repeat what I have said in my previous Top 10s...fuck this place.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm Going To Get Myself In Trouble

You may recall that for some baffling reason I've been allowed to name the objective names for one of ISAF Joint Command's target sets. That target set happens to be the insider attackers (also known as green on blue shooters) who have escaped after conducting their attack. I've had a maddingly good time naming these assholes and I have to supress my giggling when a few of them are mentioned in a meeting. I can also see that others often have to supress their own giggling. It brings a bit of joy and humor in this frustrating and stressful headquarters.

Yesterday I was sitting in an update to IJC's officer in charge of intelligence (a 1 star general) on this current target set when at the end he asks about Fuzzy Jackal and who named him. My boss laughed a bit and then indicated that I was the one who named a majority of the individuals on the target set. For a moment I thought I was going to get lectured about professionalism but luckily for me I think the general is just as amused by the objective names as the rest of us.

However, there is a bit more to the story, as there usually is. For some odd reason, a majority of the insider attack perpetrators...and potential perpetrators for that matter...come from one province. The insider attacks are an Afghan wide problem but for reasons unknown to me at this time, this particular province breeds individuals who join the security forces and eventually conduct an attack more than any other province.

So the general tasked us with developing and targeting the network in this province. He mentioned that since 60% of the attackers come from this province we need to go after the facilitation network. Where did that 60% figure come from? An off-hand comment that I made a couple of days prior to a colonel when he asked how many of the attackers come from this province. I made a quick "ball park" guess based off what I was seeing in the reporting. Now my SWAG (scientific wild assed guess) is being quoted by general officers. Shit...I really need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Luckily I'm pretty sure that 60% number is somewhat accurate.

The general also tasked us with naming this network so it gets some attention. A colonel quickly spoke up and said...

"Mike is not allowed to name the network."

Damn, fun times are over.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Ever wonder what we spend those billions of dollars in Afghanistan on? $34 million headquarters buildings apparently. I really wish this was an Onion or Duffleblog article, but it's not.

How does something like this happen? How does some jackass at the Pentagon decide that the Marines require a new headquarters building? How does the headquarters in Kabul not realize the Marines don't want the building?

There are some majors and lieutenant colonels at fault for this, I just know it. Of course this should have been caught by a general officer somewhere down the line. You'd think someone would have asked the question, "do the Marines even want this?"


The crazy thing is that there is a new headquarters building here at NKAIA as well. Nobody is occupying it and no one seems to know who it is for. Would not shock me to learn if they decide to bulldoze it after a year.

Feels like a damn circus around here sometimes.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

X-Files: Kabul?

Remember during my last deployment to Iraq how 1-14 Cav had some strange shit flying around COP Cobra and nearly shot down a national level aerial asset? No? Well here's the link so you can catch up. I bring this up because I had assumed that when I came to ISAF Joint Command I'd probably never look up to the night sky and say, "what the hell is that?!"

I was wrong.

This story is not quite as interesting as my Diyala UFO story but it's slightly weird nonetheless. It occured last night as I was walking home. A plane was coming in to land and as I watched it something caught my eye. Looking up I saw three, very bright, very orange, stars in the shape of a triangle (I am aware that any 3 points are going to look like a triangle). After about a second the stars/lights/whatever were gone. My first thought was that they were flares.

But flares don't burn away that fast. They were way too high to be flares anyway. What about the landing plane? If it had shot off flares they would have been behind the aircraft. These were in front of and waaaaaaaaaaaaay above. Another plane? I didn't see anything else in the sky.

Perhaps it was the blimp that floats over the Green Zone/US Embassy/ISAF HQ? Nope, the blimp was blinking its standard lights and was pretty low to the ground from my perspective.

The hell did I see?

Like I said, not as interesting but still strange.

But back to the Diyala story...I now have more to add. A college buddy of mine found himself here at NKAIA for a couple of days about two weeks ago. I just happened to tell my "UFO's flying over my combat outpost" story and he gives me a funny look. Apparently he had been talking to someone awhile back to was in Iraq at USF-I HQ around late 2009. This individual told my friend the story of some trigger happy jackasses on a patrol base who tried to shoot down a US aircraft.

Hell yeah, I'm one of those jackasses. Perhaps trying to shoot down US aircraft is why we had so much trouble getting collection assets...