Saturday, 19 September 2020
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Iraq

By Raoul Sherrard

Recently an American military video has been leaked on the website Wiki leaks. The event may be deeply damaging to public opinion and can even have ramifications for national security and the armed forces, even if it does not lead to further investigation by American authorities. It highlights important issues in public opinion, freedom of information in conflict and the complexities of the internet in attempts to control information.

The video shows a US apache gunship engaging an indiscriminate group of potential combatants through the lens of its targeting system almost a kilometre away. As they circle they call in their command and are given permission to engage. The "hostiles" are quickly dispatched with several bursts from its cannon. As one man survives and crawls away the crew urge him to pick up a weapon to allow them to open fire. A van stops and several other unidentified individuals try to carry him away. The gun operator clamours to stop them before they get away as they wait for permission. He is given the all clear they and they duly dispatch them.

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By Scott Stewart

On Oct. 25, militants in Iraq conducted a coordinated attack in which they detonated large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at the federal Ministry of Justice building and the Baghdad Provincial Council building nearly simultaneously. The two ministries are located in central Baghdad near the Green Zone and are just over a quarter of a mile apart.

The bomb-laden vehicles were driven by suicide operatives who managed to detonate them in close proximity to the exterior security walls of the targeted buildings. The attack occurred just before 10:30 a.m. on a workday, indicating that it was clearly designed to cause maximum casualties -- which it did. The twin bombing killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds of others, making it the deadliest attack in Baghdad since the April 18, 2007, attacks against Shiite neighborhoods that killed more than 180 people.

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By George Friedman

Though the Iraq war is certainly not over, it has reached a crossroads. During the course of the war, about 40 countries sent troops to fight in what was called "Multi-National Force-Iraq." As of this summer, only one foreign country's fighting forces remain in Iraq the United States. A name change in January 2010 will reflect the new reality, when the term "Multi-National Force-Iraq" will be changed to "United States Forces-Iraq." If there is an endgame in Iraq, we are now in it.

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Text of memo from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq, published in New York Times 31st July 2009

It's Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home

As the old saying goes, "guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose. Today the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are good enough to keep the Government of Iraq (GOI) from being overthrown by the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the Baathists, and the Shia violent extremists that might have toppled it a year or two ago. Iraq may well collapse into chaos

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By George Friedman

After U.S. airstrikes killed scores of civilians in western Afghanistan, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the United States would continue with the airstrikes and would not tie the hands of U.S. generals fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has cautioned against using tactics that undermine strategic U.S. goals in Afghanistan - raising the question of what exactly ARE the U.S. strategic goals in Afghanistan. A debate inside the U.S. camp has emerged over this very question, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the region.

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NATIONAL SECURITY IN THE 21st CENTURY - PART ONE

by Paula Jaegar

Later this year General Sir Richard Dannatt will step down as UK Chief of the General Staff, ending a career spanning almost four decades. No doubt gongs and plaudits will continue to crown him. But little, I suspect, can please him more than his reputation as the soldier's soldier. At the heart of his leadership is his constant and unfailing duty of care to the rank and file. And the core of his success is his realisation that in the end it all comes down to the training, equipping, condition and morale of every single man and woman under his command.

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By Noor R Ampssler

Winning the "hearts and minds" of the people has become enshrined as a pivotal component of counter-insurgency warfare ever since 1952 when General Sir Gerald Templer declared it would be the key to success in fighting the communists. The Malayan Emergency is still regarded as the shining paradigm of how to properly wage a counter-insurgency campaign and Templer's emphasis on hearts and minds established in military circles a fixation with these operations. However, what if during the Emergency the hearts and minds campaign was not the crux upon which victory turned and if the evidence for the effectiveness in this area is ambivalent at best. What if other factors during the Malayan Emergency, especially the unique context in which the counter-insurgency campaign was fought, more plausibly explain the victory of the government security forces? Does one then question the established wisdom and think the unthinkable: that an overriding emphasis on hearts and minds is simply overrated and even misplaced?

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By George Friedman

It is August 2010, which is the month when the last U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq. It is therefore time to take stock of the situation in Iraq, which has changed places with Afghanistan as the forgotten war. This is all the more important since 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, and while they may not be considered combat troops, a great deal of combat power remains embedded with them. So we are far from the end of the war in Iraq. The question is whether the departure of the last combat units is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with three goals: The first was the destruction of the Iraqi army, the second was the destruction of the Baathist regime and the third was the replacement of that regime with a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad. The first two goals were achieved within weeks. Seven years later, however, Iraq still does not yet have a stable government, let alone a pro-American government. The lack of that government is what puts the current strategy in jeopardy.

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By George Friedman

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

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By Chris Newton

In order to prevail over Al Qaeda and Islamist terrorism, democratic countries need to win the support of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan, the moderate Islamic community, and its own electorates. This is the crucial battleground in the 'War on Terror'. However, many academics and commentators have concluded that the Islamists currently have the advantage in this area. Just as the situation in Iraq in 2006 demanded a review into US military strategy, the situation today requires just as important a review into the west's approach to strategic communication. This article examines the flaws in the current approach and provides suggestions as to how the west can establish a better 'strategic narrative'. It predominantly takes a UK perspective.

Losing the war of words?

Scholars and analysts have not rated the west's efforts so far on this front. Indeed, the various opinions polls suggest that British public support for the war in Afghanistan is waning. Why? As David Betz suggested in an article on propaganda in 2008, there Islamist strategic narrative is more coherent than the west's. The Islamists tell a story of victimhood which its audience can relate to. It combines elements of truth, such as the Abu Ghraib incident, with fiction into an emotive narrative of western persecution and aggression. It disseminates its message across the world, using the internet and the media effectively. And as a result, regardless of how preposterous their claims are, the coherence of their argument makes it compelling to its target audience.

The western narrative, as David Betz showed, lacks coherence and is rather confused. The different objectives for the Afghan mission, ranging from getting rid of Al Qaeda to the elimination of poppy crops has confused people as to why we are really there. And given that the main military part of the 'War on Terror' is taking place in a distant land, the audience finds it difficult to relate Afghanistan to security in the UK and the west. What makes it even harder for a western narrative to gain currency is that so many of the public are cynical towards politicians and are consequently susceptible to anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, and anti-war narratives. This is because of the disintegration of unity and a lack of self confidence within western countries, especially the UK. Moreover, Islamist ideology is only one narrative that the west has to tackle in addition to the established narratives of Marxism and emerging narratives put forward by authoritarian rulers.

But is the west really doomed to fail here? David Betz contrasts the west's performance in the war on terror with western societies' marketing and public relations activities in business, fashion, and popular culture. Why can't we translate this success to the area where we need it most war? In domestic politics, politicians hire public relations professionals to develop its own narratives about the state of the country and how they will change things. Political party offices hire people to monitor the words and actions of their opposition and they develop material that highlights inconsistencies and hypocritical actions. But for some reason, governments and news organisation are extremely poor at communicating to the public the inconsistencies of the Al Qaeda narrative.

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