Summary: Here is an interesting analysis by Stratfor of our expedition to Afghanistan. Note how — deep in this report — Friedman mildly mentions that crushing al Qaeda is not our goal in Afghanistan. Now that we’re enmeshed in a failing war, the war’s advocates can quietly slide away from the Big Lie. Other posts about the war are listed at the end.
The advocates of Af-Pak War, Stratfor amongst them, have devised a long series of reason for the war. Al Qaeda was first and primary, of course — preventing it from staging another 9/11 (although Afghanistan was of little relevance to 9/11), punishing it, preventing it from conquering Pakistan. As Friedman said in February 2008:
It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping. Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.
With the government now admitting that only a few hundred al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, new reasons for the war must be found. Friedman, as always a window to the thinking of our elites, attempts to explain. The result is excellent analysis, concluding in a muddle. Perhaps he does not dare to follow his own logic and recommend withdrawal of combat forces — with continued financial and military support.
“The 30-Year War in Afghanistan“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 29 June 2010 — Red emphasis added. This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR”
The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase.
The Afghan War’s First Three Phases
“From Failed Bombings to Armed Jihadist Assaults“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 27 May 2010 — “This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR”
One of the things we like to do in our Global Security and Intelligence Report from time to time is examine the convergence of a number of separate and unrelated developments and then analyze that convergence and craft a forecast. In recent months we have seen such a convergence occur.
The most recent development is the interview with the American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki that was released to jihadist Internet chat rooms May 23 by al-Malahim Media, the public relations arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In the interview, al-Awlaki encouraged strikes against American civilians. He also has been tied to Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was charged in the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the failed Christmas Day 2009 airline bombing. And al-Awlaki reportedly helped inspire Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested in connection with the attempted Times Square attack in May.
The second link in our chain is the failed Christmas Day and Times Square bombings themselves. They are the latest in a long string of failed or foiled bombing attacks directed against the United States that date back to before the 9/11 attacks and include the thwarted 1997 suicide bomb plot against a subway in New York, the thwarted December 1999 Millennium Bomb plot and numerous post-9/11 attacks such as Richard Reid’s December 2001 shoe-bomb attempt, the August 2004 plot to bomb the New York subway system and the May 2009 plot to bomb two Jewish targets in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft. Indeed, jihadists have not conducted a successful bombing attack inside the United States since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Getting a trained bombmaker into the United States has proved to be increasingly difficult for jihadist groups, and training a novice to make bombs has also been problematic as seen in the Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi cases.
The final link we’d like to consider are the calls in the past few months for jihadists to conduct simple attacks with readily available items. This call was first made by AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi in October 2009 and then echoed by al Qaeda prime spokesman Adam Gadahn in March of 2010. In the Times Square case, Shahzad did use readily available items, but he lacked the ability to effectively fashion them into a viable explosive device.
When we look at all these links together, there is a very high probability that jihadists linked to, or inspired by, AQAP and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — and perhaps even al Shabaab — will attempt to conduct simple attacks with firearms in the near future.
Threats and Motives
Summary: As I wrote 3 years ago, America has made many geopolitical mistakes, some very serious. Nothing critical for a superpower, so long as we do not make too many. But Israel operates far closer to the edge. Small, geographically and economically vulnerable, surrounded by enemies, and heir to millennia of western antisemitism (Passages from Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies could be read with applause at some American universities). This insecurity makes them more likely to take bold gambles — and increases the odds of mistakes having horrible consequences. They may have just made a big mistake, with potentially horrible consequences.
The forces at work were described in The Fate of Israel (July 2006) and Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran (December 2007). Stratfor describes how this plays out today.
“Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 31 May 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.
A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.
The ‘Exodus’ Scenario
“Setting the Record Straight on Grassroots Jihadism“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 13 May 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are “moving toward the “British model.” This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.
A close look at the history of jihadist plots in the United States and the operational models involved in orchestrating those plots suggests that this so-called British model is not confined to Great Britain. Indeed, a close look at people like Shahzad and Zazi through a historical prism reveals that they are clearly following a model of radicalization and action seen in the United States that predates jihadist attacks in the United Kingdom. In fact, in many U.K. terrorism cases, the perpetrators were the children of Muslim immigrants who were born in the United Kingdom, such as suicide bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain and cyberjihadist Younis Tsouli, and were not first-generation immigrants like Faisal Shahzad.
Now, this observation does not mean that we’re trying to take a cheap shot at the press. The objective here is to cut through the clutter and clearly explain the phenomenon of grassroots jihadism, outline its extensive history in the United States, note the challenges its operatives pose to counterterrorism agencies and discuss the weaknesses of such operatives. It is also important to remember that the proliferation of grassroots operatives in recent years is something that was clearly expected as a logical result of the devolution of the jihadist movement, a phenomenon that STRATFOR has closely followed for many years.
A Long History of Plots
By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 29 April 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
On April 25, The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) posted a statement on the Internet confirming that two of its top leaders, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, had been killed April 18 in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation in Salahuddin province. Al-Baghdadi (an Iraqi also known as Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi), was the head of the ISI, an al Qaeda-led jihadist alliance in Iraq, and went by the title “Leader of the Faithful.” Al-Masri (an Egyptian national also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir), was the military leader of the ISI and head of the group’s military wing, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Al-Masri replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006. Al-Zarqawi had alienated many Iraqi Sunnis with his ruthlessness, and al-Baghdadi is thought to have been appointed the emir of the ISI in an effort to put an Iraqi face on jihadist efforts in Iraq and to help ease the alienation between the foreign jihadists and the local Sunni population. Al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the military leader of the ISI, was considered the real operational leader of ISI/AQI efforts in Iraq.
STRATFOR viewed the initial announcement by Iraqi authorities of the deaths of the two leaders with a healthy degree of skepticism. After all, they had been declared dead before, only to later release statements on the Internet mocking the Iraqi government for making false claims. But the details provided in the April 19 press conference by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (complete with photos of the deceased) and the confirmation by the U.S. military helped allay those initial doubts. The recent admission by the ISI, which made a similar statement following the death of al-Zarqawi, has all but erased our doubts about the deaths.
But the ISI’s statement has raised some other questions. It claimed that the deaths of the two leaders would not affect the group’s operations in Iraq because new members had recently joined it. But when viewed in the context of other recent developments in Iraq, it appears that the operational capability of the ISI will indeed be affected — at least in the near future.
More about what might be the greatest threat to American sovereignty. At the end are links to other articles about our crisis to the south.
By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 6 April 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
This week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report provided a high-level assessment of the economic forces that affect how the Mexican people and the Mexican government view the flow of narcotics through that country. Certainly at that macro level, there is a lot of money flowing into Mexico and a lot of people, from bankers and businessmen to political parties and politicians, are benefiting from the massive influx of cash. The lure of this lucre shapes how many Mexicans (particularly many of the Mexican elite) view narcotics trafficking. It is, frankly, a good time to be a banker, a real estate developer or a Rolex dealer in Mexico.
However, at the tactical level, there are a number of issues also shaping the opinions of many Mexicans regarding narcotics trafficking, including violence, corruption and rapidly rising domestic narcotics consumption. At this level, people are being terrorized by running gunbattles, mass beheadings and rampant kidnappings — the types of events that STRATFOR covers in our Mexico Security Memos.
Mexican elites have the money to buy armored cars and hire private security guards. But rampant corruption in the security forces means the common people seemingly have nowhere to turn for help at the local level (not an uncommon occurrence in the developing world). The violence is also having a heavy impact on Mexico’s tourist sector and on the willingness of foreign companies to invest in Mexico’s manufacturing sector. Many smaller business owners are being hit from two sides — they receive extortion demands from criminals while facing a decrease in revenue due to a drop in tourism because of the crime and violence. These citizens and businessmen are demanding help from Mexico City.
These two opposing forces — the inexorable flow of huge quantities of cash and the pervasive violence, corruption and fear — are placing a tremendous amount of pressure on the Calderon administration. And this pressure will only increase as Mexico moves closer to the 2012 presidential elections (President Felipe Calderon was the law-and-order candidate and was elected in 2006 in large part due to his pledge to end cartel violence). Faced by these forces, Calderon needs to find a way to strike a delicate balance, one that will reassert Mexican government authority, quell the violence and mollify the public while also allowing the river of illicit cash to continue flowing into Mexico.
An examination of the historical dynamics of the narcotics trade in Mexico reveals that in order for the violence to stop, there needs to be a balance among the various drug-trafficking organizations involved in the trade. New dynamics have begun to shape the narcotics business in Mexico, and they are causing that balance to be very elusive. For the Calderon administration, desperate times may have called for desperate measures.
Another brilliant analysis from Stratfor, about (as Martin van Creveld foresaw two decades ago) one of the major threats to America. This is a another perspective to the recent articles about the “end of Mexico.” At the end are links to other articles about Mexico.
George Friedman, Stratfor, 6 April 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.
Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.
First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico.
Mexico’s Core Problem
Let’s begin by understanding the core problem. The United States consumes vast amounts of narcotics, which, while illegal there, make their way in abundance. Narcotics derive from low-cost agricultural products that become consumable with minimal processing. With its long, shared border with the United States, Mexico has become a major grower, processor and exporter of narcotics. Because the drugs are illegal and thus outside normal market processes, their price is determined by their illegality rather than by the cost of production. This means extraordinary profits can be made by moving narcotics from the Mexican side of the border to markets on the other side.