Tag Archives: terrorism

The Drone War in Somalia

Somali militants say that a Moroccan was killed in a strike that a U.S. official said was carried out by an American drone. The statement Saturday (Feb. 25, 2012) on an al-Shabab website  [twitter account]named the dead Moroccan as Sheik Abu Ibrahim. The statement said two others — including a second foreigner — were killed in the overnight Friday attack.  A U.S. official told The Associated Press the attack was carried out by a drone. Somali officials identified another of the militants killed in the attack as a Kenyan citizen. Somalia’s al-Shabab counts hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks. It formally merged with al-Qaeda this month.

U.S. drone kills Moroccan militant, Associated Press, Feb. 25, 2012

 

The Benefits of War: how to train a fighting force

Perhaps no service was jolted by 9/11 more than the US Army. It reaped the benefits of developing a new way of fighting. …”The biggest change – the Army was really not an expeditionary force,” said retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who was a top aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus during the 2007 Iraq surge….”But ever since 9/11, the U.S. Army has been nothing but expeditionary. And soldiers who have grown up in the decade since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have gone through multiple deployments and have fought two wars,” he said. “So the Army has become an organization that is stressed, yes, but has also become comfortable deploying around the world and operating overseas. I think that’s one of the big changes.”

Along the way, the Army learned a new way to fight…. The big change: The Army used to stay in operating bases, launch raids into neighborhoods to kill insurgents, then return to barracks. Under the Petraeus plan, soldiers would set up shop inside insurgent territory to conduct strikes and protect civilians.  Said Col. Mansoor: “Counterinsurgents operate best when they operate among the people; … when you disperse your forces, getting them to live among the people, you generate a lot more intelligence and you insulate the people to a certain extent from insurgent violence and intimidation.”

Before 9/11, “we weren’t really thinking insurgency warfare, guerrilla warfare, irregular warfare,” he said. “We thought that was something we could pawn off on the special-warfare community. Since 9/11, obviously the U.S. Army has had to deal with it in a very serious way. And there have been a lot of growing pains in that regard, but the capabilities have increased enormously.”

Gen. Conway said that while the Army needed a new doctrine, the Marine Corps all along had been following a “small-wars manual” that had been developed over decades.  “It was new for the Army. It wasn’t new for the Marine Corps,” Gen. Conway said. “To his credit, Petraeus was always the best Army general at incorporating the things that we believe very strongly in. But the things he sort of brought to the Army were the things that we were practicing in stride.”

The irony is both of the nation’s land forces, the Marines and Army, had to switch roles. The Army became expeditionary like the Marines and then had to learn a new style of counterinsurgency. The Marines became a second land army, setting up shop in a foreign country to fight for extended periods.  “We’ve been able to morph into a second land army because that is what the country needed,” Gen. Conway said.

Counterinsurgency involves not only combat. A major challenge has been for the military to learn how to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the chief cause of casualties in Afghanistan. The Pentagon set up a new agency just for that purpose, pumping billions of dollars into electronic jammers, surveillance equipment, aircraft, metal detectors and robots.,,When Robert M. Gates succeeded Mr. Rumsfeld as defense secretary, he learned that the Marines and Army were building a new troop carrier that could repel explosions and save lives.  But why were they not out in the field? Mr. Gates demanded to know. He ordered the services to ramp up production of the vehicle known as MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) and sent them overseas.  Today, virtually every combat unit has MRAPs. The 9/11 attacks had led to a revolution in how troops move on the battlefield.

While 9/11 resulted in a gradual transformation for conventional forces, the al Qaeda strike brought immediate change for a backwater outfit in Tampa, Fla. – U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom).Created to correct flaws discovered in the disastrous 1980 Desert One rescue mission in Iran, SoCom was more bureaucrat than war fighter….As the Pentagon still burned, Mr. Rumsfeld was thinking of SoCom as the leader of the war on terror. Commando units were the perfect organizations to hunt down and kill an unconventional enemy who worked out of ungoverned territory, safe houses and mountain caves. First, he awarded SoCom the prestige of being a “supported” command as opposed to its old role as a “supporting” one. This gave the SoCom commander authority to plan and execute what is called direct action combat.”…

Money started flowing to Tampa. The command brought in a whole new cadre of war planners and began enlarging all its special-operations components. And the Marine Corps for the first time joined SoCom and nurtured its own commandos.  “He gave them somewhere between $1.2 [billion] and $1.5 billion to take that headquarters and turn it into a war-fighting headquarters,” Gen. Boykin said of Mr. Rumsfeld.

The secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), home to Delta Force, had spent most of its time training for hostage rescues. Now, it and other commandos started preparing for how to find and hit an al Qaeda or Taliban hideout.  In less than two months, Army Green Berets were leading the invasion of Afghanistan, teaming up with anti-Taliban fighters in Pakistan and crossing the border via low-flying helicopters.  “It was a godsend because unconventional warfare was losing its luster,” Gen. Boykin said. “It was way down on the list of priorities. Afghanistan refocused attention on the [unconventional warfare] capabilities.”

Today, the command stands at 61,000 personnel, up from 45,600 on Sept. 11, 2001. It has added three Ranger companies, five Green Beret battalions, a special operations aviation battalion and an unmanned aerial squadron….

While the Pentagon built up SoCom, it also knew the expansion would be meaningless without intelligence on where terrorists and their leaders were located.  Mr. Rumsfeld created a new post, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to coordinate information from the Pentagon’s various collection agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency. Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan now had a senior civilian to whom it could request intelligence assets for a particular mission.

In the field, it meant units such as the SEALs and Delta Force were fused into large task forces that included the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, a special military intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange, and the electronic eavesdropping National Security Agency.

The 2006 hunt for al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi illustrated the new alliance. The Delta task force intercepted communications that led it to a Zarqawi adviser, who in turn led it to his hide-out north of Baghdad. F-16s bombed the hut and killed one of the most ruthless al Qaeda operatives in the Middle East.

“They’ve really learned how to bring all the resources of the intelligence community into their operations to where the hard work is done really by the intelligence folks,” Gen. Boykin said.

The cost for all of this has been immense. The annual base defense budget since 2001 has nearly doubled to $570 billion. In addition, the wars themselves have cost an additional $1.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Excerpts, from Rowan Scarborough,9/11 changed war-fighting, Sept. 8, 2011

United States Official Position on the Killing of bin Laden

[A]s a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law. As a matter of domestic law, Congress authorized the use of all necessary and appropriate force through the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). These domestic and international legal authorities continue to this day.

As recent events have shown, al-Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al-Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. As you know, this is a conflict with an organized terrorist enemy that does not have conventional forces, but that plans and executes its attacks against us and our allies while hiding among civilian populations. That behavior simultaneously makes the application of international law more difficult and more critical for the protection of innocent civilians. Of course, whether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular location will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses. In particular, this Administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:

• First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and

• Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

In U.S. operations against al-Qaeda and its associated forces … great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.…[S]ome have suggested that the very act of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law. During World War II, for example, American aviators tracked and shot down the airplane carrying the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, who was also the leader of enemy forces in the Battle of Midway. This was a lawful operation then, and would be if conducted today. Indeed, targeting particular individuals serves to narrow the focus when force is employed and to avoid broader harm to civilians and civilian objects.…

[In addition] some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meetings. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law.

… Finally, some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems—consistent with the applicable laws of war—for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute “assassination.”

Given bin Laden’s unquestioned leadership position within al Qaeda and his clear continuing operational role, there can be no question that he was the leader of an enemy force and a legitimate target in our armed conflict with al Qaeda. In addition, bin Laden continued to pose an imminent threat to the United States that engaged our right to use force, a threat that materials seized during the raid have only further documented. Under these circumstances, there is no question that he presented a lawful target for the use of lethal force. By enacting the AUMF, Congress expressly authorized the President to use military force “against … persons [such as bin Laden, whom the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 …in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such … persons”. Moreover, the manner in which the U.S. operation was conducted—taking great pains both to distinguish between legitimate military objectives and civilians and to avoid excessive incidental injury to the latter—followed the principles of distinction and proportionality described above, and was designed specifically to preserve those principles, even if it meant putting U.S. forces in harm’s way. Finally, consistent with the laws of armed conflict and U.S. military doctrine, the U.S. forces were prepared to capture bin Laden if he had surrendered in a way that they could safely accept. The laws of armed conflict require acceptance of a genuine offer of surrender that is clearly communicated by the surrendering party and received by the opposing force, under circumstances where it is feasible for the opposing force to accept that offer of surrender. But where that is not the case, those laws authorize use of lethal force against an enemy belligerent, under the circumstances presented here.

In sum, the United States acted lawfully in carrying out its mission against Osama bin Laden.

Excerpts, Harold Hongju Koh, The Lawfulness of the U.S. Operation Against Osama bin Laden,  opinio juris

Social Networking in the Fight against Terrorism

In the Netherlands, the jailhouse recantation of a convicted terrorist renouncing violence has circulated online. Counterterrorism officials say it could make disaffected youth think twice about joining violent extremist ranks.In Pakistan, the authorities are posting on YouTube gruesome videos of mosques bombed by Islamic extremists, to show that such attacks kill fellow Muslims.  And here in Saudi Arabia, a government-supported program has enlisted hundreds of Islamic scholars turned bloggers to fight online radicalization by challenging the interpretations of the Koran posted on extremist social networking forums.

In recent years, governments and allied grass-roots advocacy groups had largely ceded cyberspace to extremists, who use the Internet to recruit, raise money, spread their ideology and disseminate instructions on bomb-making and other terrorist techniques. Governments have carried out covert operations to undermine or take down extremist Web sites, but many pop back within days or weeks.

Now these governments, often working with international organizations like the United Nations and European Union, and more quietly with private or nonprofit groups, are opening a counterattack to try to undermine the appeal of terrorists, expose their lack of legitimacy, and attack the credibility of their ideology and online messengers.

Counterterrorism officials from more than 30 countries met here last week under the auspices of the United Nations and Naif Arab University to share tactics and strategies on how to use the Internet to counter the appeal of extremist violence.  “The terrorist message, for all its deviancy and destructiveness, has gone unchallenged for too long,” said Richard Barrett, a conference organizer who heads a United Nations office that monitors sanctions on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Many of these efforts to counter violent extremism on the Web are just getting off the ground. In some cases, small local initiatives are having success, and could find wider use globally, but many others have foundered.  Officials measuring the campaigns acknowledge that finding the right messengers — from extremists who have renounced their pasts to Pakistani cricket stars who presumably have wide appeal among the youth solicited by both sides — is as important as tailoring messages about the issues that attract people to violent extremism.

There are signs that the new campaigns may be having at least a temporary impact. Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant Web sites at the security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said a growing number of extremist forums are using password-protected sites to thwart hackers and dissenters.  Counterterrorism officials acknowledge the challenge in coming up with an effective counter to Al Qaeda’s simple but powerful narrative: that the United States and the West are at war with Islam; that Muslims are unjustly discriminated against and persecuted; and that only violent action can bring change.  “Communicating on the Internet leads to a virtual ideological ghetto of like-minded jihadists,” said Wil Van Gemert, a senior counterterrorism official in the Dutch Interior Ministry.

Sidney Jones, an expert on Islamic terrorism at the International Crisis Group’s branch in Jakarta, said a 6,000-word critique of an Indonesian extremist group posted on several radical Web sites last March offered insights that could be used in broader counter-radicalization campaigns. The critique was disseminated after the Indonesian counterterrorism police raided an extremist training camp in Aceh, in northern Sumatra.  “It argued that by running off to the jungle with guns and losing so many of its members, the movement was depleting its own resources and undermining its prospects for victory,” Ms. Jones wrote in a paper for the conference here.

Without credible messengers, however, even the most effective message will fail, counterterrorism experts say.  In Saudi Arabia, the independent, nongovernmental Sakinah campaign, supported by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, uses Islamic scholars who oppose terrorism to interact online with seekers of religious knowledge.  This approach is turning up elsewhere. “We need to use the Koran to persuade others,” said Hamoud al-Hitar, Yemen’s minister of religious endowment and Islamic affairs, whose program results have been mixed.

In the Netherlands, counterterrorism officials hailed a letter written last November from jail by the convicted terrorist Jason Walters, who called on his brethren to abandon violence. Mr. Walters, formerly of the Hofstad Group, an organization of Islamists largely of Moroccan origin, had been convicted in 2006 for wounding four police officers in a grenade attack while resisting arrest two years earlier.

The United States government has struggled in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to develop an effective campaign to counter the ideology and messages of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. In one measure, the State Department is overhauling and expanding its digital response teams that counter violent extremist messages.  Mr. Kohlmann of Flashpoint Global Partners said, “The problem is, you don’t have people in the U.S. government who are of the right generation to understand how social networking works, and at the same time who are knowledgeable enough about the Muslim world.”

ERIC SCHMITT, Governments Go Online in Fight Against Terrorism, NY Times, January 31, 2011, at A5