Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peak Power

Has the You Know What State/ISIS/ISIL reached the apex of military power?

For a few months, the marauding jihadis of ISIS might have looked like an unstoppable army. That’s when they were moving at high speeds, their power blurred by hype and velocity. Slowed down by real resistance, a clearer picture takes shape and the limits of ISIS’s military power come into focus.

At the so-called caliphate’s edges, in areas like the Syrian border town of Kobani, ISIS’s march has stalled and its armor is starting to crack. We may be reaching the limits of ISIS as a conventional military force.

Facing a small Kurdish resistance and Western airpower, ISIS has been unable to take Kobani, despite surrounding and besieging it for months. That doesn’t mean the group is giving up, though, or anywhere close to defeat. The façade of ISIS’s power as a conquering army may be wearing off, but they can still revert to terrorist form and continue killing even if they can’t take ground.

Early on, ISIS leaders committed to a risky gambit: They decided to form a state, which put them in open conflict with other world powers. The group could have survived as a terrorist organization or a local insurgency as it had for years, but instead wagered on the caliphate. That decision provided an aura of authority that attracted new recruits and seemed to pay off in the short term. But it also transformed a regional threat into a global enemy that was easier to target in the areas it controlled.

Since then ISIS had acted as part state, part Taliban-style insurgency, and part al Qaeda-style jihadi terrorist group.

Despite the pathological absolutism of ISIS’s beliefs, it has proved flexible on the battlefield. As the tactics that won ISIS its most stunning early victories become harder to pull off in the face of warplanes and fierce local resistance, the group has adapted.

Depending on the enemy it faces, and its own vulnerabilities, ISIS moves along the state-terrorist spectrum of power. Blending into the local population in one area to operate in the shadows, while marching openly through the streets elsewhere. In battle, it means the ability to shift from suicide bombers to tank columns and maneuver warfare in the span of a day.

While Mosul showed what ISIS was capable of against a weakened enemy, the Kurdish town of Kobani is proving the limits of ISIS’s ability against a determined resistance.

If ISIS can’t break Kobani through a conventional military assault, the group can always revert to terrorist form. On Monday in Baghdad—another city ISIS has been attacking for months with far less chances of capturing—a suicide bomber killed 17 people.

Without an opposing ground force capable of defeating them, air power may push ISIS back from Kobani’s walls, but that won’t stop its attacks. It’ll adapt again and survive as it has for more than a decade.

Pic - "What would happen to ISIS as a political, military and terrorist operation if Abu Bakr were eliminated? What would happen to the dream of a resurrected Caliphate that would organize all Islam?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Core al Qaeda

Last month, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula issued an unprecedented joint Twitter statement calling on easily excited and somewhat unhinged mohammedists “to support our people in Iraq and Sham” against “America, the source of evil and symbol of corruption and injustice.”

And this month AQAP, led by al-Qaeda general manager Nasir al-Wuhayshi, issued a statement urging “all Muslims to back their brethren” — the Islamic State — “with their souls, money and tongues, against the crusaders.”

The message coming from Ayman al-Zawahiri’s No. 2 stood in contrast to the refrain that al-Qaeda despises ISIS and their irreconcilable differences negate any threat of a unified terrorist front. “We call on anyone who can wear down the Americans to strive to do so by military, economic or media means.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told PJM that the White House “created” this problem of stronger al-Qaeda franchises by “taking their foot off the pedal and telling the American people al-Qaeda is on the run.”

“This ‘core al-Qaeda’ concept is a political narrative now coming back to bite all of us,” he said.

In a May 2013 address at National Defense University, President Obama declared, “Today, the core of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”

On Aug. 7, 2013, Obama told Marines at Camp Pendleton that “al-Qaeda’s top ranks have been hammered.”

“The core of al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is on the way to defeat,” he added.

Two days later, when questioned about this in a press conference at the White House, the president reiterated that “core al-Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated.”

“So it’s entirely consistent to say that this tightly organized and relatively centralized al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 has been broken apart and is very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity, and to say we still have these regional organizations like AQAP that can pose a threat, that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall and can kill some people,” he maintained.

And while Obama admitted in his State of the Union address that the “threat has evolved” with the growth of affiliates, he maintained “we have put al-Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat.”

Nunes said the administration hasn’t even hit al-Qaeda as hard as it can as the terror organization metastasizes and grows because of “so many restrictions on airstrikes,” resulting in limited campaigns that dent rather than destroy.

“They’re very limited — not just in Syria and Iraq, but all over the globe they’ve been on a downtrend,” he said of strikes against cells. “Which is troubling, because al-Qaeda’s been on an upswing.”

Nunes, 41, who began serving in Congress in 2003, announced his intent to go for the Intelligence Committee gavel soon after Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said this spring he would retire at the end of the term.

The California Republican stressed to PJM that as the administration plays up divisions between these terrorist organizations, the bottom line is “they’re all radical Islamists and they’re all cousins.”

“It’s not even that complicated,” Nunes said, noting that self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi worked for late al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and claimed the mantle of al-Qaeda leader after Osama bin Laden was killed. “It’s not even tactical differences. That’s what the fight is over.”

Zawahiri stressed in February that ISIS is a separate entity from al-Qaeda; since then, official al-Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have mended fences in their common cause.

Nunes cited former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who called the well-organized, deep-pocketed Islamic State “al-Qaeda 6.0.”

“They know the truth; they don’t care,” the congressman said of the administration’s reaction to the snowballing threat. “It’s all politics to them at the end of the day. They did the same thing in Benghazi. It’s just ridiculous.”

Pic - "The extremists have recently taken a back seat in western media to their more evil counterparts, ISIS, but they are still plotting the destruction of America"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A few hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers and Zero fighters began a devastating offensive against the U.S. Far East Air Force based in the Philippines. Japanese soldiers landed ashore the same day.

For several months, American and Philippine troops battled the Japanese onslaught. Despite a fierce defense of the Bataan Peninsula and heavy enemy casualties, 32 ordered the commanding general, Douglas MacArthur, to retreat to Australia before the Philippines was cut off completely.

Before leaving and then again upon arrival in Australia, MacArthur bitterly vowed, “I shall return.” Seventy years ago on Monday, MacArthur fulfilled his promise.

It would take over two and a half years for the Allies to return. In that time, the Japanese front expanded in the Pacific from the Aleutian Islands in the north to the Solomon Islands in the south. Hundreds of Americans and thousands of Filipinos died at the barbaric hands of their captors during the Bataan Death March. The Axis advance was finally stemmed in 1942 as the United States won a decisive naval victory at Midway and American and Australian forces repelled Japanese land troops in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. A bloody campaign at Guadalcanal that claimed tens of thousands of lives then ended Japan’s offensive capabilities. By 1943, Allied forces were ready to begin “island hopping” or “leapfrogging” toward the Japanese home islands.

With American forces gaining greater control of the Pacific by the summer of 1944, a decision needed to be made over the Allies’ push into the western Pacific. MacArthur believed Luzon, the largest Philippine island, needed to be taken before moving closer to the Japanese main islands. Overruling Admiral Chester Nimitz, who favored bypassing the Philippines and invading Formosa (Taiwan), Roosevelt sided with MacArthur. Some speculate that MacArthur pushed for the Philippines primarily because of an obsessive notion of redemption. MacArthur also did not want the Australians to play a prominent role in the recapture of American territory.

The Allies were ready for the amphibious retaking of the Philippines in October. A guerrilla resistance movement comprised of former Philippine soldiers, American soldiers who had never surrendered, local militias, and civilians had been harassing the occupying force and providing intelligence to MacArthur, but the operation would not be easy as the Japanese had amassed hundreds of thousands on the archipelago to defend Japan’s critical oil and supply lines from Southeast Asia.

On Oct. 17, U.S. Army Rangers orchestrated raids on the small islands off Leyte to make way for the main invasion force on Oct. 20. After hours of naval bombardment, American forces landed and quickly secured on the eastern shores of Leyte. With a grand, photographed entrance, MacArthur and his staff waded ashore near the town of Palo that day. The larger-than-life commander proclaimed, “People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil.”

As American and Philippine forces pressed inland, a massive naval battle, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, unfolded. Having lost hundreds of aircraft and three carriers at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the crippled, desperate Imperial Japanese Navy attempted to cut off the invasion at Leyte, but it encountered a much larger American force of two fleets.

From Oct. 23 to 26, American and Japanese ships and aircraft fought in a sea battlefield of over 100,000 square miles in what is arguably the largest naval battle in history (More ships were involved at Leyte Gulf than in any other battle, but greater tonnage of shipping was present at the Battle of Jutland in World War I). During Leyte Gulf, the Japanese introduced a new tactic: the terrifying Kamikaze attack. Despite the attacks from sea and air, the Allied naval force repelled the Japanese Navy, which would longer have the strength to conduct to large-scale offensive operations for the remainder of the war.

Although Japan had been cut off from the Philippines, the fight for the islands was far from over. General Tomoyuki Yamashita decided Leyte should be the main line of defense. The fighting at Leyte lasted until the end of 1944, and individual Japanese soldiers would fight until the end of the war. The Allies would take the remaining major islands of the Philippines by April the following year, but, like Leyte, remnants of the Japanese Army would fight on the islands for months longer. The Allies suffered 62,000 casualties in the campaign, while the Japanese casualties reached a staggering 348,000.

Yamashita would pay for his ferocious defense of the Philippines with his life. After the war, he was tried for war crimes and was hanged after being found guilty. Many considered the trial a gross miscarriage of justice and Yamashita a victim of MacArthur's vengeance.

Pic - "I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil -- soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible, strength, the liberties of your people."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Path To Defeat
IS/ISL/ISIS on the rampage?

Despite its advances in northern Syria and western Iraq, there is every reason to think ISIL may finally be on the road to defeat. In spite of its technical competence and impressive adaptability, the militant group may have overreached. The range of territory controlled by its fighters involves vulnerable supply lines and large tracts of land that are highly vulnerable to attack and rollback.

This is particularly true in Iraq. ISIL may be apparently on the march, but as Michael Knights has recently noted in Politico, reaching the Sunni areas on the outskirts of Baghdad has probably maximised the limits of ISIL’s potential reach in that country.

Moreover, while the American-led coalition has obviously so far resisted ISIL insufficiently, many of the necessary steps to augment air power, particularly in the Iraqi battleground – including augmenting Iraqi government forces and creating a “Sunni National Guard” – are in the process of development. It may take a year or more, but both should be entirely achievable.

There’s almost no question that, having committed to “degrade, and, ultimately, destroy” the power of ISIL, the  administration has put Great Satan on an inevitable course of unavoidable and continuous mission expansion.

It cannot afford either practically or politically to back away. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recounts that American measures under consideration include: raising the number of air sorties from 10-20 a day to 10 times that number, the transfer of Apache helicopters to the Iraqi government, the creation of a no-fly zone on the Turkish border, the revival of a new moderate Syrian opposition force and the introduction of a limited number of American “ground troops” in the form of “advisers”.

Despite its reticence, Turkey is getting closer to being drawn into the conflict. Ankara’s concern about the Kurdish PKK/PYD forces in northern Syria, and its commitment to overthrowing the Damascus dictatorship are important indications of where the United States and its allies have to accommodate others. But, in the long run, it is virtually impossible that Turkey will openly side with ISIL.

ISIL is thus now surrounded by enemies. These include Westerners who know that they are the ultimate target of these millenarian fanatics; Shiites and other religious minorities who understand that the immediate future for them in any ISIL-controlled area is genocide or slavery; and the existing Sunni Arab powers and religious establishments that understand that ISIL is also a massive existential threat to them.

More even than Mosul, Fallujah is the key to the pushback. Should ISIL lose control of that city, as it simply has to, its foothold in Iraq will be profoundly disrupted, and a pushback into Syria guaranteed. The real battle will probably begin in Mosul, but the end of ISIL in Iraq will come with the liberation of Fallujah. Then will come the far more challenging prospect of expelling ISIL from Syria, or at least neutralising its threat there.

Finally, ISIL’s Arab poll numbers are simply dreadful. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy commissioned a recent poll in several Arab states. ISIL got a mere five per cent approval rating in Saudi Arabia – a most heartening repudiation. Egypt followed with three per cent and Lebanon with one per cent. Such marginal numbers tend to correlate with those fringe types believing in the most absurd conspiracy theories.

ISIL is clearly exceptionally unpopular outside of the areas it controls. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, because it poses as a group that brings order to chaos, and because most people prefer any form of law and order to mere anarchy, ISIL has managed to win hearts and minds in some parts of Syria and Iraq where it has falsely posed as a champion of local Sunni populations and a generalised Islamic universalist and apocalyptic agenda.

And what of the small percentage outside their areas who do favour them? Well, it’s already obvious that ISIL does, in fact, have a coherent narrative that appeals to a small but potent group of people who think that it really is a vanguard for the Muslims of the world.

There are always extremists and fanatics. The challenge, as in so many other instances throughout history and geography, is for mainstream societies to come together – as indeed they are starting to – to make sure that they are not able to destroy the regional system, the global order and balance of power, and, especially, Arab and Islamic civilisation as we know it.

The strongest evidence, reading between the lines is that, slowly but surely, this is very much starting to happen, and ISIL is, thankfully, on a one-way path to eventual and decisive defeat.
Pic - "Walking Through The Ruins"

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse. 
Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers

Thus, sans further adieu (or a don't)

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


ISIL/ISIS/IS - Raid versus Invasion? 
In an invasion, you come to permanently occupy the terrain. In a raid, you destroy the enemy and leave.

Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former head of the Central Command, estimates that the equivalent of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades would be needed to systematically destroy the ISIS standing army; I agree.

That’s about 20,000 soldiers, with one brigade attacking east out of Syria and the second attacking west through Iraq. They’d meet at the old Iraqi-Syrian border in a classic squeeze play.

This would be a war the American people can understand. The number of cities and towns cleared of ISIS’ conventional combat power is quantifiable, and there is a recognizable military end state.

It would not be without cost. In retaking the Iraqi city of Fallujah alone in 2004, we lost 94 Marines and sailors killed while killing 10 times that many Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters.

This campaign of large-scale raids would likely be more costly and take months, but it’s preferable to armed nation-building, where body bags stream back for years.

It is likely that when driven from the occupied areas, ISIS’ people will disperse and try to consolidate elsewhere. We have to plan for that; you can destroy an army, but not an ideology. We may need to attack them again elsewhere sometime.

The political end state would be in the hands of the Syrians and Iraqis. We could do some advance good by training what passes for a moderate Syrian rebel coalition to administer and police the liberated areas of Syria after we’ve cleared them of ISIS fighters.

Similarly, we could work diplomatically with the Iraqis to rebuild the trust of the population and tribal leaders of the Sunni regions.

Yet there is no guarantee that they will succeed in governance, only that the ISIS threat will be dispersed.

We must prevent a terror sanctuary similar to that which existed in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. We are the indispensable nation in this effort.

And while we may be able to recruit a posse, a global marshal has to lead from the front.

Pic - "The Spy Who Told Me"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Oh America! Is there anything you can't do?

Juliet Marine Systems' Ghost exhibits a combination of "stealth fighter aircraft and attack helicopter technologies," and is designed to combat naval swarm attacks of fast enemy boats, waterborne improvised explosives, and piracy. 

As her name suggests, Ghost is intended to have zero radar signature, and the vessel is supposedly difficult for the enemy to spot, let alone target. She is like totally nonmagnetic and hard to detect via sonar, making her ideal for infiltration and surveillance of enemy areas

Our Navy is in a revolutionary period of change. Historic military tactics combined with modern materials and technology present a formidable fleet protection challenge for our Navy today. One of the greatest threats to our Navy is low tech vessel attacks with conventional explosives, as seen on October 12, 2000, when the USS Cole was attacked, killing 17 sailors and wounding 39 others and in the continued success of pirates. As a maritime systems think tank, Juliet Marine Systems provides offensive, defensive and ISR solutions that are developed in a skunk works operation able to rapidly invent and construct needed technologies and systems for the Navy and armed forces. We have already developed a surface variant of a super cavitating craft and are planning to apply our unique technology in a UUV prototype. 

While the GHOST is a surface vessel, the hydrodynamics of the twin submerged buoyant tubular foils are also a test bed for Juliet Marine's next planned prototype, a long duration UUV. The GHOST is a revolutionary proprietary technology vessel platform that will assure force protection through stealth fighter/attack capabilities along with integrated situation awareness. These vessels would create a protective fleet perimeter, providing sensor and weapons platforms, allowing no surface or subsurface intrusions.

The GHOST is a combination of stealth fighter aircraft and attack helicopter technologies packaged in a marine platform. The awesome capabilities of GHOST are designed to provide a marine surface and subsurface platform for tracking and identification of multiple targets. Systems for integrating on-board weapons will be designed to be capable of multi-target firing solutions while GHOST operates at very high speed. These weapons integration systems will also allow for attacking several targets simultaneously with a variety of weapons systems options.

The same capabilities that have made helicopters valuable to get to hard to reach locations fast, will apply to the GHOST in commercial applications in the maritime environment. Crew rotations or resupply runs for critical items to off-shore oil rigs can be accomplished two to three times faster than the craft currently in use and would be far less expensive and have fewer weather restrictions than using helicopter assets. The GHOST is two to three times as fast as most ferries in use today.

Pic - "A piece of the the action!"