Tag Archives: counter-insurgency war

We GeoProfile You-where are you?

Population density with key. image from wikipedia

Guerrillas and terrorists are not fools. They are aware they may be under surveillance, and take what they hope are appropriate counter-measures. They are unlikely, for example, to make calls from inside a safe house in which they are living. Instead, they typically make calls from roughly spaced out nearby locations, taking care not to call too often from the same spot. They hope, thereby, that if their activity is being monitored, it will appear random and therefore meaningless.

Spacing things out like this is, in mathematical fact, anything but random: that, in itself, is suspicious. But true randomness would also be odd. As Ian Laverty, the boss of ECRI, a geoprofiling-software firm in Vancouver, observes, innocent phone calls have geographical patterns, because people have routines. Those who take steps to elude the authorities thus often end up unwittingly creating a profile of where their home base is—a profile that a piece of ECRI’s software called Rigel Analyst can spot. This software is used by more than 90 intelligence agencies around the world. Its applications include searching for Taliban rocket caches in Afghanistan.

Geoprofiling is thus already an important counter-insurgency tool…according to a geoprofiler in Denmark’s intelligence apparatus who prefers to remain anonymous. This operative uses geoprofiling software called ArcGIS that analyses Global Positioning System (GPS) data provided unwittingly by insurgents’ growing use of smartphones and other gadgets that are equipped, by default, with GPS kit. For example, simply right-clicking on propaganda images posted online often obtains a GPS “geocode” that reveals where the picture was taken.

Excerpts from Counter-Terrorism, Shrinking the Haystack, Jan. 16, 2016, at 86

McCrystal, Petraeus and Allen and the Tragedies in Afghanistan

The senior allied commander in Afghanistan has ordered new restrictions on airstrikes against Taliban fighters who hide in residential homes, coalition officials said Sunday (June 10, 2012), a move in response to a NATO attack in the eastern part of the country last week that Afghan officials say killed 18 civilians….Officials said the directive from Gen. John R. Allen, the commander for international and United States forces in Afghanistan, underscores NATO’s existing commitment to protecting civilians…On Sunday, however, American officials said General Allen’s order did not necessarily go that far and sought to describe it in more nuanced terms, saying that NATO would continue to conduct operations against insurgents who use civilian dwellings for shelter.  “When there is concern over the presence of civilians, air-delivered munitions will not be employed [ONLY] while other means are available,” said a senior United States defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the policy deliberations.  Militants often hide in civilian homes, so a complete ban on airstrikes could hinder the ability of American forces to pursue the Taliban. General Allen’s order does not affect ground operations against insurgents. An agreement between the two countries in April gave lead authority for night raids to the Afghans, although missions are to be conducted jointly and targets selected by consensus. Allied officials still retain control over dropping bombs in these operations, and Afghan officials say they were not involved in the decision to carry out the fatal airstrike last week.

The joint Afghan-NATO raid last week was hunting a Taliban commander and some of his fighters who had holed up in a home in Logar Province where a wedding had taken place, according to local residents. An early-morning firefight broke out between the coalition troops and the insurgents, with the civilians trapped inside. The coalition decided to call in an airstrike, which killed the insurgents but also 18 civilians, including 9 children, Afghan officials said.   On Friday, General Allen apologized for the civilian deaths and took the unusual step of meeting with the relatives of some of those killed……

General Allen’s directive comes nearly two years after Gen. David H. Petraeus, upon assuming command of international forces in Afghanistan, issued new guidelines on the use of force in Afghanistan that expanded restrictions on artillery strikes and aerial bombardment, but clarified that troops had the right to self-defense.  Troops widely complained that restrictions put in place by General Petraeus’s predecessor, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, exposed them to excessive risk by tying their hands when they sought to attack people suspected of being militants or destroy buildings used to harbor insurgents.  But General McChrystal’s rules were popular with Afghan officials, including President Karzai, and human rights advocates, who said the restrictions had significantly reduced Afghan civilian deaths.

On Sunday (June 10, 2012), human rights advocates expressed wariness about whether General Allen’s orders would have an immediate impact. “We’ve seen improvements in detention-related abuses and excessive force at checkpoints, but when it comes to civilian casualties, we’re still seeing tragic incidents, even today,” said John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s advocacy director for Asia.

ERIC SCHMITT, Allies Restrict Airstrikes on Taliban in Civilian Homes, NY Times, June 10, 2012

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On Tuesday June 12, 2012, NATO said that Allen had issued an order telling U.S. and coalition forces “that no aerial munitions be delivered against civilian dwellings.”But the statement also contained this caveat: “As always, Afghan and coalition forces retain the inherent right to use aerial munitions in self-defense if no other options are available.”

At a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday, officials repeated the policy outlined by Allen but denied it differed greatly from Karzai’s.-

Little Savage Wars of Peace, Afghanistan

While the Taliban has been pushed out of some areas of its southern heartland, the insurgency has intensified along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.  Remote Kunar with its steep mountain valleys, where bin Laden once had his base, has become the more active front of the war against the Taliban.  The area is used by insurgent fighters as an infiltration and smuggling route from Pakistan, which is just over the mountains to the west. The United States had largely pulled out of Kunar a year ago, focusing the war effort on the southern base of the Taliban, but it has since added troops.

“After 9/11, I had an idea that it was going to be a long, hard campaign. These smaller wars, these savage little wars of peace tend to go on for a long time. They’re not as quick and clean as America generally likes them to be,” said Captain Tim Blair of the 22nd Infantry from Long Island, New York.  The nature of the enemy was such that the war could go on for a long time with varying intensity. If the United States is to be kept safe, then its soldiers had to go out and take the fight to the enemy.

“I’ve always kind of thought of the Afghanistan operation as kind of one of those bug lights or lamps that you put on your front porch during the summer months to help prevent the bugs from getting into the house,” said First Lieutenant Edward Bachar from Freehold, New Jersey.  “You know, and that’s the way I think of our efforts here. We take care of the bad guys in their backyard so the people in the United States don’t have to worry about it.”

Excerpt from Nikola Solic, On the Afghan frontline, U.S. soldiers see longer war ahead, Reuters, Sept. 9, 2011