Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Personal Pilgrimage

Many of you are aware that during my third deployment to Iraq in 2009-10 I lost one of my soldiers to suicide. The day I learned of SSG Amy Tirador's death was the worst day of my Army career and quite possibly the worst day of my life. I'm still haunted by it all to this day. I've written about it several times before including here, a few days after it happened; here, where I discuss the day in detail; the days following the incident; and finally, feeling followed by my memories.

In that last post I mention that one day I'll make the trip to New York to see her grave and hopefully make my peace.

I finally had that opportunity on Tuesday during a roadtrip to Albany, NY and Boston, MA. I'm certainly never going to forget what happened that day in Iraq, but I hope to get some closure with this visit and start putting my demons to rest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 "Global Concerns" 2014 Edition

This year's Warhorse Global Concerns is coming a few days early because I'm leaving shortly to go on a quick vacation and I don't want to have to think about it while sitting in a hotel room. As mentioned in last year's Top 10 I compile this list based on what I've read and my own personal analysis...and by analysis I mean bias. This is what the list looked like last year:

10. Nigeria
9. Iran
8. Tunisia
7. Somalia
6. Mali
5. North Korea
4. Iraq
3. Egypt
2. Syria
1. Afghanistan/Pakistan

Loyal readers of this blog likely recall that my Top 10 doesn't change all that much from year to year. There are some fluctuations and some countries fall off or are added, but for the most part conflicts continue to simmer. For this year, Iran, Tunisia, and Mali fell off. I also combined Iraq and Syria because, well, duh. Iran was removed due to my belief that they are way too distracted with Syria/Iraq to really try anything silly in the near term, but we shall see. Tunisia and Mali also fell off because while I don't think those particular conflicts (Tunisia's being residual leftovers from Arab Spring and Mali's being the Tuareg/AQIM uprising) are over, I do believe they are contained...for the most part. Enough blabbering! Here's the list for 2014:

10. South Sudan
Conflict between the government and rebels forced various African countries to send military forces into South Sudan. A peace deal was signed in May, but I don't think peace will last.

9. North Korea
I'm dropping Best Korea from 5th to 9th but I just can't take them off the list entirely. There is just too much tension between North and South and I'm not convinced of Kim Jong-un's sanity. If I were China, I would attempt regime change.

8. Xinjiang, China
Speaking of China...something is afoot in the western region of Xinjiang. Is there a red line for the Muslim Uighur population and how long before they attempt a full on revolt?

7. Somalia
African nations contributing peacekeeping/counter insurgency forces to Somalia continue to find themselves stretched thin by other conflicts. Al Shabaab has taken advantage and brought the fight to Kenya on a few occasions.

6. Nigeria
Hashtag activism isn't going to stop Boko Haram. Especially when I suspect they may be winning.

5. Egypt
There's a war in the Sinai but nobody seems to care. Things aren't exactly peachy in the west either.

4. Libya
I haven't been paying much attention here. From what I can gather there are lots of militia groups claiming territory and fighting over neighborhoods in Tripoli and Benghazi. The government is pretty much ineffective. What happens when you only help with one half of regime change? The situation in Libya happens.

3. Ukraine
This potential WWIII flash point certainly came out of nowhere.

2. Afghanistan/Pakistan
The Taliban made a "fighting season" push in Helmand but were not all that successful thanks to the Afghan security forces. The country also managed to pull off presidential elections. A glimmer of hope?

1. Iraq/Syria
A clusterfuck. That is all.

Edit: I did not include Israel-Palestine/Gaza on this list because conflict between those two is essentially "same shit, different day".

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Iraq Is Like A Really Messed Up Soap Opera

It's been about 2 weeks since The Islamic State (aka IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL, aka ISI, aka AQI, aka I'm done here) announced their name change and the formation of The Caliphate. As you'll recall from my last post there were quite a few important and influential folks who rejected this announcement and spoke out against it. So how are things working out for our newly minted Islamic State and Iraq as a whole since this announcement?

Just for honesty's sake, these links are all from the Long War Journal. I love those guys.

An Iraqi military convoy was ambushed in between Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar Province. Among the vehicles abandoned (and maybe non-operational?) were M113 armored personnel carriers and M1 Abrams tanks. So much for American military equipment being invincible no matter who uses them. If the Islamic State...and that's a big fucking giant IF...makes some kind of massive assault on Baghdad, I'm going to laugh my ass off if the head of the column is an Abrams. And then I'll cry myself to sleep a little bit.

It gets worse, much worse. The Iraqi military attempted to re-capture Tikrit. How did that go? Not so well. Iraqi troops were forced to withdraw from the city. Mortar fire and snipers will do that. Military commanders are blaming Prime Minister Maliki for being a micro managing jerk face.

ISIS...sorry...sorry...IS hasn't forgotten its bread and butter though. An IS suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shia shrine in Baghdad. My favorite part? The suicide bomber was Australian going by the name of Abu Bakr al Australi.

Not going so well for Iraq. But things aren't all peachy for the Islamic State either. Nobody wants to play along with their caliphate idea. Not Al QaidaNot the Al Nusrah Front (well there's a shocker). And not even the AQ franchise AQIM is on board.

So hard to start a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy these days.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Just Because You Announce Something, Doesn't Mean It's True

As I mentioned in my last post, ISIS/ISIL announced it has formed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. They've also rebranded and changed their name (again!). The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham/Syria/the Levant is now just The Islamic State (IS). Much easier to write out. My future carpal tunnel appreciates this.

Just for fun, let's list out the former names of this organization:

- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi forms al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in the 1990s and brings the organization into Iraq just prior to the US invasion in 2003.

- Zarqawi pledges allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and joins al Qaida in 2004. Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad becomes Al Qaida in Iraq.

- Zarqawi is killed in 2006. His successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, renames AQI to the Mujahadeen Shura Council.

- Short time later, MSC, is rebranded as the Islamic State of Iraq...although many cells still called themselves Al Qaida.

- Shit goes down in Syria and ISI joins the fun and names itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham/Syria and/or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant...depends on your translation.

- June 2014, the Caliphate is announced and now we just have the Islamic State.

But here's my question: how legitimate is the Islamic State and the announcement of a caliphate in the view of other Islamic groups and leaders in the region? Not legit at all. And those organizations ISIL was fighting with in Syria, they reject the Caliphate as well.

Essentially, al Baghdadi announcing the Caliphate has about as much authority as me declaring the Grand Duchy of Central Virginia. I demand you call me duke or lord or something.

Duke Warhorse, Lord and Viceroy of the Grand Duchy of Central Virginia. I like it.