State of the Union: Afghanistan Edition

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Afghanistan bazaar

A Look at Afghanistan

With the looming 2014 deadline for NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan many officials are anxious about the state of affairs in the nation.  Two intertwined issues endanger the unstable fledgling state: drug crops and a president Taliban.  Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan and the Obama administration are working jointly to solve these problems and attempt to bring peace to the war-torn nation.

The economic lynch pin of the Afghanistan economy is the humble poppy.  Poppy’s are the plant which produces opium, an addictive drug which had killed millions.  Approximately forty percent [article] of the world’s opium production is grown in the mountains of Afghanistan.  In 2008 a British spearheaded campaign drove the Taliban and poppy sharecroppers out of prime growing land.  Ongoing campaigns to educate farmers, plant wheat and cotton, and enforcing security have reduced the poppy output signficantly.  However, these reforms are suffering from diminishing returns.  The Taliban and their poppy-sharecroppers have established new havens in semi-arable deserts and are reestablishing a profitable trade.  Corrupt officials are additionally undermining the efficiency the reform efforts by protecting drug growers for kick backs.  The food zone’s in Afghanistan are currently are largely secured; however, the drug problem is certainly not eradicated.

The Taliban are still a major player in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the unstable sovereign government.  Every year since the abrupt destruction of their government after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the Taliban have been rebuilding more ruggedized networks and orchestrating the assassinations of more Allied troops.  Explosive suicide bombers, rouge gunman, and improvised explosive devices are the chief killers of the near 2800 allied casualties [article].  Countermeasures against this terrorism have been slow to mitigate the killings.  Peak levels of Allied casualties were suffered over the summer of 2010 and current levels of casualties are still nearly double what they were five years previously [article].  Many locals believe once the international forces leave then the killings and disruption will make a resurgence.

There are many different programs attempting to defeat this persistent enemy.  The Afghan military is focusing on building up its own air force to replace the American warplanes after 2014 [article].  These ambitious goals of this program are to have approximately 165 active aircraft online by 2016.  Just as importantly, the government is training in total 8,000 personal to keep these aircraft in fighting condition.  These planes will be able to supply isolated outposts, decimate Taliban patrols, and assure the Afghan people who their government can enforce the national security.  In addition, the Obama Administration is taking innovative steps to freeze this possibility and stabilize the region.  The American and Afghani governments have jointly begun to open dialogue with the Taliban [article].  While initial communications are still classified multiple officials have expressed optimistic first impressions.  Peace is a viable possibility.

I personally believe this silver-or-lead policy will stabilize Afghanistan.  Government supporters will be able to farm wheat and common in peace.  The firepower of the Afghan army and the dialogue will corner the Taliban into consenting to peace.  The country will doubtlessly be plagued by isolated extremists for at least the rest of the decade; however, peace will become de facto in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda Winning Hearts and Minds: How America Can Learn From Terrorists

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20110718 Mali arrests alleged al-Qaeda informants | مالي: اعتقال مُخبرين للقاعدة | Le Mali arrête des informateurs d'al-Qaida

West African forces are fighting Al Qaeda in West Africa, they face stiff resistance

Chocolate bars can do more to win wars than machine guns.

As their Middle East strongholds are besieged al-Qaeda branches have taken root in Mali.  Despite being vilified in the modern world as heinous terrorists the herdsman in Mali know them as neighborly philanthropists.  Armed patrols from al-Qaeda training camps regularly pass wells throughout the area and consistently make a sincere effort to ingratiate themselves with the locals.  The men make charitable donations to local herdsmen; children are given chocolate bars,the ill are given medicine free of charge, the injured are given food for free, and newborn babies get a fresh set of clothes.  All they take is water from the pumps, but it seems to the nomads that the Al-Qaida soldiers were not looking for water in the first place.

They were looking for trust.  They have found it in many of the increasingly loyal villagers.

Since the foundations of  the African arm of  Al-Qaeda, whom call themselves AQIM meaning Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghred, has expanded operations from Algeria into Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Nigeria.  The nomads in Mali are friendly with the terrorist group just as the Mali government is; Al-Qaeda and the ruling party have adapted a live and let live policy.  This has brought peace to Mali while paramilitary operations and abductions of Western nationals have challenged the surrounding nations.  Many new recruits to AQIM are from Mali, due to the successful hearts and minds campaign.  Since 2006 the number of jihadists has grown from an estimated one hundred to estimates around three hundred.  They are no longer alien foreigners to the region; AQIM is just part of the culture.

With only funds ransomed through kidnappings, Al-Qaeda has secured a foothold for the future on the loyalties of a region on a budget.  Meanwhile the $1.283 trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought about an unstable peace, punctuated with corrupt governments and suicide bombings.  Chocolate bars have bought a more stability than the world’s armies.

Hearts and minds campaigns are far more important to the future of warfare than any other method of influence.  The best wars are the ones that you never have to fight.  Al-Qaeda has learned to win over a populace using sincere intentions and token gifts.  Osama Bin Laden did it in Afghanistan and now AQIM is doing it in Africa.  They know how to win hearts and minds.  America does not.

My point is simple; rather than expanding our military budget the American government should be expanding its international aid budget.  A B-2 bomber costs 2.4 billion dollars to build.  It costs a mere twenty-five cents to feed a child in Africa for a day.  Rather than building one plane to drop bombs and kill people we could get 9.6 billion meals for the impoverished.

The costs  for one plane could feed the continent of Africa three meals a day for three days; I believe full stomachs of potential allies would do more damage to Al Qaeda than the most precise of bombs.  America must adapt to wars of the twenty-first century and must make a determined effort to win the hearts and minds of the international population in order to prevent outbreaks of terrorism abroad and here at home.

Terrorists Sprung: 1000 Criminals, Notorious Mai Mai Commander Gédéon Mutanga On the Lam In Congo

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MEDFLAG 2010, Medical Skills Exchange, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, September 2010

2 Dead Following Disastrous Prison Break

Eight gunmen have sprung notorious Mai Mai Terrorist Commander Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga from death row in a Congolese prison.  At least one thousand inmates exploited the security breach, spilling out into the nearby Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the country.

National authorities are being mobilized  to contain the criminals, police are converging on the prison with close support by military forces.  Fast responses from authorities and local residences have recaptured 152 of the escaped convicts before the search had even begun.   United Nations spokesperson Madnodje Mounabai, from the mission in Congo to defeat roving bands of militants, has expressed great concern for this explosive development and urges national support for the country-wide manhunt.  Prospects are uncertain if the commander of the “triangle of death” will be brought to justice.

How was the Raid Conducted?

A miscellaneous minivan slipped by the security of a high security Congolese prison. Eight armed gunman sprang from the vehicle once it breached the walled perimeter, making a beeline for Gédéon. One guard and one visitor were killed before guards were able to retreat to safer position outside of the occupied jail.  Upon rescuing their leader, saving him from an imminent death sentence, the gunman encouraged all the other prisoners to make a break for freedom.  It is estimated that roughly 1000 escaped before the guards, reinforced by military and police, where able to secure the prison.

Why is Gédéon Dangerous?

During the Second Congo War, which officially ended in 2003, sporadic fighting destabilized Congo and central Africa as various countries vied for power and resources.  Mai Mai terrorists fought against the established government.  Since the war was resolved these militants have remain armed and dangerous throughout western Congo. Child soldiers, militants, and government forces have fought for power throughout the region since the official end of the war.  Mass rapes and firefights are commonplace.

Gédéon is a notorious terrorist; his name is associated with the Congolese “Triangle of Death” where Mai Mai militants wrought anarchy during the war and continued unrest since.  When he was captured it was a blow to their terrorism.  It was a landmark act of justice in Africa when he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.  If he was able to retake leadership of the militant organization again it may perpetuate more painful years of civil war.  This threat could cause the deaths and rapes of countless more innocents.

Cyberwar America: Lockheed Martin Corporation (Military Contractor) Has Top Secret Data Stolen

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Above: Battlefields of the upcoming Cyberwar

Hackers have infiltrated Lockheed Martin Corporation and many other critical American military contractors have.  Renegade programmers broke through the extensive security protecting top secret military weapons data, most likely planning to sell the next generation information to the highest bidder on the black market. Nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for this attack but many speculate that superpowers China or Russia are behind the technically advanced and sophisticated  assault that underscores the fact that the world has progress to the next level of warfare, cyberwar.

Why is this Attack Significant?

Anarchists, terrorists, and dangerous governments be able to create their own cutting edge weapons with the stolen blueprints.  America currently is roughly ten years ahead, technologically, of most superpowers, such as Russia or China, in the world and twenty to thirty years ahead of rouge anti american nations, such has North Korea or Iran.  Whoever, or whomever, ends up with the critical data will instantly close that gap to a matter of months, or the amount of time it takes to physically build next generation weapons.

They will also be able to discover specific weaknesses in American armaments that could be used to decimate the American armed forces in future wars.  In the past breaches of security of the magnitude have endangered the American public and the free world for decades afterwards.  One textbook example is how leaks in the Manhattan project gave the USSR the information it needed to build nuclear weapons of it own.  This security fault snowballed into the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.

What Damage Has Been Done to Lockheed Martin Corporation and the other Military Contractors?

Reports state that the damage to the computers themselves was “minimal“, some speculate this is because the criminal want to be able to access new sensitive at a future date.  By not crippling the secrutiy netowrks today they give themselves the opportunity to steal more information later with sleeper code they might have installed into the mainframe, which would send data daily from behind the Lockheed Martin firewalls.  Attacks like this will only increase in number and magnitude, with more painful results as well.

What Does with Mean For the Evolution of Warfare?

On March 8, 2011 Anonymous, a hacker group responsible for both malicious and devastating attacks across the web, announced a “cyberwar” against America.  This was the only warning many ever got of the oncoming conflict.

America struck first, against Iran, during this new age of cyber warfare.  In early 2011 the nuclear reactors in Iran, which were thought to be used to weaponize uranium, were crippled by an American synthesized virus called Stuxnet that broke the centrifuges in the reactors.

Since then major corporations, with data sensitive to the American military, such as Sony, Google, and EMC have had their networks infiltrated by hackers, whom have dealt trillion dollars of damage and have torpedoed key elements of the international economy.

Today, the largest military corporation in the world had top secret data, that could be anything from budget reports to blueprints for weapons of mass destruction.

A perpetual, undeclared war has begun by faceless specters on the internet, such as the infamous group Anonymous,  against the pillars of stability of the governments of the world.  The public was not warned, nor will they until they are individually attacked when they get caught in the crossfire between these two behemoths.  Already more than seventy million Playstation 3 users have had their personal information and credit cards stolen in an unprovoked attack.  Attacks like this will only get worse as the Cyberwar evolves.

Morale Gone: American Troops in Afghanistan Endangered More by Mental Disorders than Insurgents

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Afghanistan
Morale for the 100,000 troops, fighting the longest war in the history of the United States, is at an all time low.  The terror tactics of the guerrilla Taliban have killed dozens of Americans without firing bullets and have injured thousands with life threatening Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental disorders.  Suicides have risen and morale has plummeted.  All American troops are now endangered, both by psychological assaults and a weakening military.

Why is Morale Failing?

The psyche of the soldiers is under assault from a perpetual threat of terrorism; the psychological weight of the war puts soldiers at risk to themselves and their fellow combatants.  The mental stamina of American troops has degraded during this war.  Psychologists confirm (what common sense tells) that terrorism is linked to mental health disorders.  This naturally sinks morale

What Evidence Shows Morale is Falling?

Army psychologists have identified over 66,935 cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a severe anxiety disorder which plagues soldiers with asocial tendencies and painful flashbacks, during the War in Afghanistan.  The number of cases grows with each year.  Further evidence suggests a generally low morale; there were 339 non combat related deaths of American personal 60, or roughly twenty percent, were suicides.  More soldiers have been injured by mental disorders than by insurgent encounters.

The battlefield is even more dangerous to the integrity of the soldiers minds. A vicious onslaught of terrifying assaults from Taliban back militants have killed more American troops in the spring of 2011 than at any point in the entire war, except the initial invasion.  In this last February there were twenty lost, in March there were 31 casualties, and during April 47 American troops who were killed in action.  Soldiers are under higher threats of death and injury; this knowledge burdens them.

In addition these American sacrifices, to restore democracy to a troubled nation and defeat the Al Qaeda, seem to be in vain.  Afghanistan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world with an economy dependent on opium.  The Taliban are only growing in strength and Al Qaeda is threatening to take control over revolting countries in the Middle East.  Morale has fallen off a cliff.

Why Does Morale Matter? 

Morale dictates the soldiers willingness to fight.  A strong sense of nationalism and faith in the war gives soldiers a reason to fight and definitively gives them a better chance of wining any battle.  Soldiers with low morale are less likely to fight effectively, endangering themselves and the entire army.  In the worst situations, which it has not deteriorated to in Afghanistan, armies simply desert en masse.  Low morale aided American defeat in Vietnam, however high morale during World War Two succeeded in a one-sided two-front victory.  Morale wins wars.

How will Morale Be Restored?

It wont. Unless there are decisive social victories in Afghanistan

The infamous Osama Bin Laden Assassination in Pakistan was a single bright flare of hope for the troops.  Recently they have been clearing out the worst combat zones of Afghanistan; grueling and dangerous work as they search enemy territory for combatants and weapons caches.  The Taliban is stepping up the pressure at the same time, launching daring guerrilla raids and diabolical IED explosions.  The Defense Department has announced that it expects higher casualties because of these methods.  This will continue to erode morale.

American forces have planned to leave the struggling democracy in 2014.  At such times morale will rise, because soldiers are no longer fighting in a perpetual war in an unstable region of the world.  Morale will return after it is needed.

Pipeline Bombed: Egyptian Extremists Cut Off Oil to Israel and Jordan

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Fire ripped across the deserts of Egypt today as extremists detonated bombs on the Egyptian-Israeli pipeline, cutting off the flow of oil.  Emergency services dispatched to the area have reported that the fire will take days to extinguish.  While the flow of oil was quickly halted the fire continues fester.  Nobody was killed in the explosion.  Civilians have been evacuated and advised to not return to the area until the fire is completely under control.

Israel confirmed that the flow of oil has stopped and is looking into alternative means of supporting themselves while the pipeline is repaired.  Jordan, who relies on eighty percent of their energy from the Egyptian-Israeli pipeline have been forced to import Radicals in the Egyptian government and populace seek to permanently cut off supply to Israel, due to historic hostilities.  This would be catastrophic for the countries relations; the fragile Middle East rests on the ominous edge of another tortuous conflict.

This is the third attempted bombing of the pipeline.  The first explosion halted the oil delivery for a full thirty-eight days.  The second explosives, set over a month later, failed to explode and were safely removed by Egyptian bomb squads.  Today, the third set detonated, causing skyrocketing flames and a rain of debris.

Many Egyptians are outraged that Egypt is sending valuable oil to its traditional enemy Israel; not only does more than half of the population want to stop the oil transfer many want to terminate the peace treaty between the nations.  This anger, amidst an uneasy peace that has gripped Egypt, has resulted in radicals targeting the pipeline.

Previously the Energy Minister of Egypt was arrested and interrogated for the low rates the pipeline has delivered oil to Israel. Many believed, whether they were biased by their cultural tendencies, that the oil was under priced far below market price and selling the oil to Israel was against the interests of Egypt.

Both Israel, who receives forty percent of their energy from the pipeline, and Jordan, who receives eighty percent of their oil from the pipeline, are forced to get alternative sources of fuel.  Israel is pushing forward with opening up its own oil fields, called the Tamar Gas Fields, to supplement its own energy needs.   Jordan has announced that they will import the more costly diesel.

Some are speculating that the region is set for war regardless of how this crisis is resolved, the radicals in Egypt and Jordan have gained enough power to win governmental support for attack Israel.  This pipeline sabotage might be the opening move in a long and costly war.  If this is the case, oil will be the least of concerns to what will doubtlessly evolve into the most devastating war of the twenty first century and the Jasmine Revolution.

The IRA Rises Again: Terrorism in Northern Ireland Reignites

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Continuity IRA 2006

The Irish Republican Army

The IRA have recently reactivated, causing terror and chaos throughout Northern Ireland.  On April 3 they assassinated a young policeman, Ronan Kerr, with the detonation of a car bomb in Omagh, United Kingdom.  Today, an undetonated 500 pound bomb was discovered inside an abandoned van next to a major highway.  Fast reacting bomb squads disarmed the explosives before it detonated, doubtlessly saving dozens of lives and millions of dollars of damages.  Despite this decisive victory a dark, foreboding question has emerged in Northern Ireland: has civil war returned?

Why Have the IRA Gone on the Offensive?

They are copycats.

They are mimicking the violence seen around the world in the fallout of the Tunisia revolution.  When the non-humanitarian government of Tunisia was overthrown a domino effect rippled across the world.  The tyrants in Egypt and Algeria were overthrown and those nations are in the process of stabilizing.  Meanwhile, other revolts around the world sprang up; for example there were anti-corruption protests throughout Croatia, the prime minister of Bolivia was forced to flee Oruro when outraged strikers invaded the city, and the IRA emerged from hibernation in Northern Ireland.  The IRA’s actions were ignited by the sparks in the Middle East combined the yearning hope of a people’s revolution and what they believe to be a fair government.

Who Are the Modern IRA?

This recent spike of conflict was most likely initiated by splinter groups of the original IRA, such as the Continuity Irish Republican Army or the Real Irish Republican Army.

After the Belfast Agreement of 1998, which ended the century long struggle between Irish Separatists, Irish Loyalists, and the Her Majesty’s government the majority of conflict in Ireland ended.  Isolated incidents, caused without the approval of any recognized party, continued until 2001, dwindling steadily in number and magnitude; the attacks are attributed to these two groups, one or both of wish have gone on the offensive once again.

These smaller, radical groups never accepted the ceasefire or turned in their arms, unlike the majority of the Irish Republican Army did after the Treaty of Belfast.  They were still determined to bring Northern Ireland under Irish government, despite what the population want.  The people of Northern Ireland, as a whole, may want to reunify with Ireland, but not at the cost of war.

Will These Incidents Ignite A Large Scale Revolution?

No. The population is too heavily divided for a large-scale rebellion to gain momentum.

There are major portions of the population who would be favorable of the IRA, many North Irishmen did not sympathize with the police in regards to the recent assassination of Ronan Kerr.  However, these elements do not reflect the population as a whole.

Protestant minorities strongly favor the British Government and the Catholic majority in the region is heavily divided.  This largely silent majority is split between favoring Irish and British; however both most definitely want to avoid further conflict. The region suffered billions of dollars of damage in the concluding years of the conflict; nobody wants to return to guerrilla warfare.

More incidents of death and destruction will occur, however once the culprits are captured these bombings will cease.  Northern Ireland will return to its uneasy peace.

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