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    29 August 2007

    "Surging" Nowhere: September Report Shows Failing Strategy

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    Portions of the much awaited report on Iraqi political progress by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, are beginning to leak out. As is painfully obvious, despite minimal results on the military and security front, the political progress has been a disaster. To remind the reader, President Bush's escalation came with 18 benchmarks in which to measure progress. In July, the White House claimed, in error, that "satisfactory performance" was being achieved in 8 of those 18 benchmarks. I opined in a post earlier this month:
    If you think back, the July "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" that claimed that "satisfactory performance" on nearly half of the proposed benchmarks was so fundamentally flawed that I doubt the White House can flaw it any more this time around. They set a fake bar, way too high, and now they won't be able to reach past it while still seeming realistic. They may have burned themselves...

    Back in July, this White House spin was promptly debunked as misleading rhetoric.

    As predicted here, the White House spin has fallen flat in the face of pragmatic, apolitical analysis. The GAO's report will conclude that not 8 but only 5 of the benchmarks (or is it only 3?) will be met as a result of the Presidents escalation in Iraq.
    Congressional auditors have determined that the Iraqi government has failed to meet the vast majority of political and military goals laid out by lawmakers to assess President Bush's Iraq war strategy, The Associated Press has learned.

    The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, will report that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks to measure the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq are unfulfilled ahead of a Sept. 15 deadline for Bush to give a detailed accounting of the situation eight months after he announced the policy, according to three officials familiar with the matter.

    Assuming the surge will continue due to a split Congress, a lack of promising alternatives and a President who has already made up his mind, we'll probably ride this out until the definitive timetable sets in early next year and forces our extraction (the realities surfacing as strain in our military). So instead of strategically assessing and addressing failed policy when we could, the 'stay the course' crowd has set us for withdrawal as a broken force with severely limited resources available for the greater threat: al Qaeda proper and their franchise terrorist outfits that plan and recruit with immunity.

    Fortunately, the smart folks at the Center for American Progress have inked a last resort plan for strategically removing our troops from the Iraqi morass. Not immediately and not in 4 years but in a span of about a year and with a residual force remaining to address the questions that will remain in the northern Iraq and to confront al Qaeda and other terrorists. They warn that our leaders need to begin planning for this now because if the escalation fulfills the White House's hopes and dreams or is another failure, we need to have a plan to get out. (We've witnessed how military campaigns conducted without plans end up.)

    So far I've read the synopsis linked above and have started to make my way through the whole report (.pdf). So far, so good; although I would allow some flexibility with the year time table. Say, to 15 months or so...

    Posted by Geoff

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    26 August 2007

    Where's this bin Laden guy?

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    Those interested in the hunt for Usama bin Laden would be well served to read the Newsweek report on the ever-continuing hunt. Consider it a concise version of Woodward's "Bush at War" and Gary Berntsen's "Jawbreaker" with additional contemporary, reporting. Here are some snips.

    This part would have made me laugh if it wasn't so serious and disappointing. Instead I just shook my head...
    The Iraq War, meanwhile, has proved to be a black hole for the Americans, devouring men and material and absorbing the attention of the brass in Washington. In 2005, the CIA gave President Bush a secret slide show on the hunt for bin Laden. The president was taken aback by the small number of CIA case officers posted to Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Is that all there are?" the president asked, according to a former intelligence official, who declined to be identified discussing White House meetings. The CIA had already embarked on a "surge" of sorts, and doubled the number of officers in the field. But many were inexperienced and raw recruits, and they produced little improvement in "actionable" intelligence.

    But it is encouraging to hear members of the military brain admitting these truisms
    In recent months, says John Arquilla, a Special Ops expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., the U.S. military has achieved a 100-to-1 kill ratio (100 dead guerrillas to every American). But by calling in airstrikes, the Americans also kill a lot of civilians, which breeds more jihadists. And according to Thomas Johnson, also at the Naval Postgraduate School, the military's continued fixation on body counts and kill ratios is irrelevant and even counterproductive. "When you kill a person it's a multiplication factor. It demands that all the male relatives join the fight."

    I, of course, have been saying this for years.

    Johnson, an Afghan expert, spent last February at Forward Operating Base Salerno near the Pakistan border, briefing commanders on the tribal custom of Pashtunwali. He says only about 5 percent of American troops in Afghanistan ever leave their bases—a statistic, he believes, that explains better than any other why Americans are struggling in the battle for intelligence. He says most soldiers in Afghanistan don't know simple phrases like "stop," "go," or "put your hands up." Americans continually make cultural blunders, like using canine units to search people's homes (dogs are considered unclean in Muslim culture). Meanwhile the Taliban works at winning the trust and confidence of villagers—or intimidating them. "They go into villages and say, 'The Americans have the watches but we have the time. We might not come back in a week or a year, but you bet your britches we'll eventually come back'," says Johnson.

    If the White House wants to use historical "comparisons" this one should definitely be first of their list...
    During the early days of the cold war, the old boys who ran the CIA began to reason that when it came to fighting against an underhanded foe in a battle for global survival, the rules of fair play they had learned as schoolboys no longer applied. If the communists fight dirty, we must, too, they rationalized—or freedom would perish. This ends-justifying-the-means rationale led to foolish and ultimately unsuccessful assassination plots and other dirty tricks that disgraced and demoralized the CIA when the agency's so-called Crown Jewels were revealed during Watergate. After 9/11, Bush administration officials, particularly Vice President Cheney, vowed to take the gloves off against Al Qaeda.

    or maybe this on Bush's reeducation camps in his Vietnam-Iraq misrepresentation from last week
    The danger now, says Arquilla, is that the longer the Iraq War goes on, the more skilled the new generations of jihadists will become. "They're getting re-educated," he says. "The first generation of Al Qaeda came through the [Afghan] camps. The second generation are those who've logged on [to Islamist Web sites]. The next generation will be those who have come through the crucible of Iraq. Eventually, their level of skill is going to be greater than the skill of the original generation."

    Posted by Geoff

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    Int'l Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Prez Forums

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    I've been asked to pass this along...

    Five presidential candidates confirmed they will take part in discussions of key domestic issues before more than 600 representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) on August 27 and 28 at the Disney Yacht and Beach Club in Orlando, FL. The schedule for the IAM's Conversation with the Candidates is as follows:
    Mon. Aug. 27, 3:30 pm - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton

    Mon. Aug. 27, 7:30 pm - California Rep. Duncan Hunter and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

    Tue. Aug. 28, 7:30 pm - Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

    The candidate conversations will be moderated by Erin Moriarty of CBS News.

    The event will be streamed, live, from the www.GOIAM.org web site. Streaming provided by ustream.tv.

    Posted by Geoff



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