Friday, November 21, 2014

Taliban, Shabaab, and ISIS...Oh My

I've got some interesting stories/articles to share for you to peruse at your leisure this weekend and/or while you are trying to avoid interacting with family during Thanksgiving. Some of this news is good, some is neutral, and some is bad. Spoiler alert: it's all going to end up bad in the long term. There I go being pessimistic again.

News out of Afghanistan is that the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, is dead. The information is coming from the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) so I'm going to take it with a grain of salt. Having said that, I tend to believe NDS reporting over some of the crap the US puts out concerning the Taliban. The NDS also claim that due to Mullah Omar's death, Taliban leadership has split into three groups and "differences" have arisen.

Here's my perspective: Mullah Omar hasn't been credibly seen since fleeing Kandahar on a motorbike back when the US invaded Afghanistan. There have been many reports saying he's dead and many reports saying he's alive. On occasion Mullah Omar has issued written statements but those statements could just be some senior Taliban leader claiming to be Mullah Omar. As for Taliban infighting, that's probably pretty likely. During my brief time in Kabul there was information out there about senior Taliban members splintering off or creating discord due to difference of opinions. It's a slight glimmer of hope I have for Afghanistan that the Taliban can't/won't be organized enough to completely over-run the country again.

For some actual optimism, the Somali president claimed that by the end of the year Al Shabaab fighters would be pushed out of all the remaining territory the group holds. For awhile on this blog I was predicting every few months that Al Shabaab only had about 6 months left until it was defeated. Well screw it, I'm saying it again: by the middle of next year Al Shabaab will hold no territory and be nothing but a small terrorist group that is merely a thorn in the side of the Somali government and the African Union.

Feel free to call me out on that in June.

ISIS just captured the Syrian town of Derna...wait did I write Syrian? I meant Libyan. THE FUCK IS ISIS DOING IN LIBYA??!! Calm down, no need to panic. Apparently some punks called the Islamic Youth Council changed their name and flag and pledged their allegiance to ISIS. It helps that members of that particular militia just returned from Syria after fighting for ISIS; so it's not so much as ISIS suddenly expanding and more like ISIS attempting to set up a colony. Eastern Libya was already pretty extremist to begin with (think Alabama/Mississippi of Libya) and the whole country is just a mess so I'm not overly concerned.

I'll become concerned when ISIS can actually make some real friends.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Iran Makes Its Own "Beast"

Iranian military development is at it again...or so they claim. Back in 2011 the U.S. apparently lost a super secret UAV (the Beast of Kandahar) along the border area between Iran and Afghanistan. Iran claimed to have recovered the aircraft and paraded it to news media (or at least a flimsy looking mock up).

Now Iran is stating to have reverse engineered the U.S. drone and made one of their own. The video they've released does not create any sense of dread for me. It looks like a strong breeze would blow that thing off course.

It's not like Iran would lie about new military technology.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Another Goodbye

I woke up Wednesday morning to some expected but sad and unfortunate news. A former coworker of mine, Major Christopher Franco, passed away after a long battle with cancer. I will always remember Chris fondly as a quirky guy who always pushed himself and didn't let anything bother him.

I first met Chris when I was in the 296 Brigade Support Battalion and he came over from 5-20 Infantry (or as he called them, "The Tweez"). Chris was a former infantry officer branch detailed over to logistics, but he refused to give up his infantry mentality. One memory I have of him is from PT when the officers were scheduled to run the route around the airfield on FT Lewis. Chris shows up in his PT uniform plus his flak vest with the kevlar sapi plates inside. As he put it to us, he wasn't about the BSB "make him soft."

We both worked on staff and since I was a 1st lieutenant still figuring things out and Chris was a captain, he took me under his wing a bit. He was there to talk to when I was going through a tough period in my life and during the 2006-07 deployment he could be counted on to always have a ridiculously funny story about his first trip to Iraq.

Rest in peace Chris. I'll meet you at Fiddlers' Green.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Few Links To Keep You Occupied

I've been feeling rather lazy lately so instead of a full post I'm just going to link to some interesting articles I've come across over the past several days.

The first is a fun little interview with John Nagl. For those not in the know, Dr Nagl is a former U.S. Army officer and one of the leaders in counter-insurgency movement that swept the U.S. military around 2006. The Army is currently moving away from counter-insurgency to focus more on conventional force on force tactics which I find a bit frightening. After the Vietnam War, the U.S. believed the conflict was an anomaly and refocused on tank vs tank warfare. The U.S. moving back to that "big armored formation" mentality now that Afghanistan is winding down and Iraq is several years over (or is it?). Lessons that were learned through blood, sweat, and treasure are going to have to be relearned sooner rather than later...and it will be hell to pay.

Some brighter news, Iraq is getting rid of fake bomb detectors that the Maliki government stubbornly refused to give up. Even with no moving parts; even after being told time and time again they don't work; even after the man that sold them was arrested in the UK; the Iraqi government kept ADE-651s on checkpoints in and around Baghdad. How many innocent Iraqis died because of this hubris?

Remember back in September when it was reported that the government of Nigeria was in talks with Boko Haram to release those kidnapped school girls? Do you also happen to remember that I wrote that I had assumed the girls had already been sold into slavery? I hate to say this, but it appears I may have been right. Boko Haram is denying a cease-fire with the government and is also claiming the school girls have already been "married off".

I'll be over here in the corner attempting to not be so cynical.