Tag Archives: ISIS

Air Power vs ISIS–RAND Research Report on Operation Inherent Resolve

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “At the height of the battle for Raqqa [2017], the coalition conducted some 150 air strikes a day”.)

The introduction for the massive study:

The Air War Against The Islamic State

The Role of Airpower in Operation Inherent Resolve

Airpower played a pivotal role in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from 2014 to 2019 and contributed to the success of Operation Inherent Resolve. This report sheds light on the impact of the air operations in Operation Inherent Resolve and whether airpower could have been applied differently to achieve faster, more-sustainable outcomes. The authors incorporate interviews with U.S. and coalition personnel, primary-source documents, and U.S. and coalition strike and sortie data to document the operational history of the air war, assess the relationship between airpower effects, and analyze the strategic and operational impact of airpower in Operation Inherent Resolve [there are scattered references to the RCAF’s participation].

The authors find that, although airpower played an essential role in combating ISIS, airpower alone would not have been likely to defeat the militant organization. Instead, the combination of airpower and ground forces—led by Iraqi and Syrian partners—was needed to destroy the Islamic State as a territorial entity. The overarching strategy of Operation Inherent Resolve, which put ground-force partners in the lead, created several challenges and innovations in the application of airpower, which have implications for future air wars. To be prepared to meet future demands against nonstate and near-peer adversaries, the U.S. Air Force and the joint force should apply lessons learned from Operation Inherent Resolve.

Key Findings

*Airpower played a critical role in Operation Inherent Resolve, based on the “by, with, and through” strategy, which placed local partners as leaders of the fight to destroy the caliphate. In turn, partners’ capabilities and interests shaped how airpower was used.

*Although more-aggressive air operations might have slightly accelerated the defeat of ISIS, they are unlikely to have significantly altered the timeline.

*The deep fight in Operation Inherent Resolve affected ISIS’s finances, but it could not affect ISIS’s main center of gravity—territory—meaning that strategic attack did not play a decisive role in this operation.

*Critical enablers, such as remotely piloted aircraft and aerial refueling aircraft, were in high demand and provided vital capabilities but were at times overstretched.

*Essential wartime skills, such as deliberate-targeting and defensive counterair operations, were used for the first time in years in a real operation, requiring reinvigoration of these proficiencies.

*Battlespace management within the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition was a point of disagreement, particularly between the Combined Joint Task Force Commander and the Combined Air Forces Component Commander, and affected the development of the deep fight.

*Necessary efforts to prevent civilian casualties and reduce collateral damage depleted precision-guided munition stockpiles.

Recommendations

*The joint force should revise its targeting doctrine based on the experience in Operation Inherent Resolve, including potentially incorporating the strike cell construct into doctrine or determining whether to use the Joint Air Ground Integration Center to integrate airpower with ground partners in the absence of forward joint terminal attack controllers.

*The joint force should reinvigorate, reexamine, and revise the target-development process to make it more efficient.

*The joint force should modify the allocation process for high-demand assets in joint campaigns to reduce inefficiencies and increase agility.

*The joint force should reexamine battlespace management and revise doctrine or tactics, techniques, and procedures so that it can more dynamically manage both the close and the deep fights.

*The Air Force will need to limit civilian casualties and collateral damage, requiring it to allocate precision-guided munitions efficiently across theaters and identify how to safely use second- and third-choice munitions.

*The Air Force should continue to develop more targeteers and intelligence professionals to support a reinvigoration of the target-development process.

*Self-defense rules of engagement in air-to-air operations should be stressed to airmen in training and real-world flying events. Leaders should emphasize to airmen that they are empowered and expected to defend the airspace, while avoiding inadvertent escalation.

Relevant recent post:

Debunking Myths about USAF Air Power and Gulf War I

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3dsTwitter: @mark3ds

Terrorism, or, Keep our Eyes on the Jihadi Ball

Former Canadian intelligence analyst (CSE then CSIS) Phil Gurski (tweets here) says don’t just go with the latest trendy flow–at the Ottawa Citizen:

Gurski: Remember ISIL? It still poses a threat in Canada

It is rare for a terrorist group to entirely cease to exist. There have been several successful attacks over the past few years and there will be more.

If they were to assess the threat from terrorism to the West as of August 2020 based solely on media coverage and “expert” input, most Canadians would probably say unequivocally that the greatest terrorism “flavour” today is represented by what has been loosely termed the “far right” – usually referred to as “RWE” (right-wing extremism). The term tends to encompass a dog’s breakfast of ideologies: white supremacists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, fascists, etc…

In keeping with this perceived shift in terrorist threat, many are calling on Canadian agencies such as CSIS and the RCMP to retool and shift investigative resources from the “traditional” terrorist threat – traditional in the sense of post 9/11 – from Islamist extremism to RWE, as if the former has been “resolved.”

I have bad news: it hasn’t.

A very recent case in Kingston brought this to the fore in a big way. A teen pleaded guilty to four terrorism offences and admitted that he had “pledged allegiance” to Islamic State (ISIL). In addition, he had worked with an “attack planner” based in Syria to plot bombings in Canada, to possibly include nightclubs, churches and sporting venues, all places “good to kill Christians,” according to the youth…

What this means is that the growing calls to refocus counter-terrorism investigative resources on RWE are wrong. The Islamist terrorist threat to the West (there have been several attacks and foiled attacks in several European cities in recent months) has not gone away, no matter what U.S. President Donald Trump said about ISIL’s “total defeat.” Most credible analysts see an ISIL on the ascendancy in Iraq and Syria, with growing affiliates in Asia and Africa, as well as self-starters in the West, much like the Kingston youth. Other violent Islamist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and a number of “independents” are also very active around the world.

The simple truth is that the Islamist threat must remain a priority for CSIS and the RCMP, which must also deal with a possibly rising RWE threat. It is not a case of either/or: it is a case of both/and…

…the Kingston case demonstrates that the Mounties carried out a textbook counter-terrorism investigation that involved human agents and (likely) warranted intercepts. The evidence gathered was so strong as to convince the youth to plead guilty rather than challenge the findings in court. That, too, speaks volumes.

What, then should Canadians take from this news? Several important lessons:

• Islamist terrorism is far from dead;

• RWE extremism deserves to be investigated but not at the expense of Islamist terrorism;

• Canada’s public safety agencies are competent and standing on guard for us; and

• Canada is not immune from terrorism planned by individuals inspired by groups such as ISIL: there have been several successful attacks over the past few years and there will be more.

Can we please not see terrorism as a zero-sum game when it comes to our attention? It does not work that way.

Phil Gurski is the Director of the Security program at the University of Ottawa and a former strategic terrorism analyst at CSIS.
www.borealisthreatandrisk.com

Mr Gurski is featured at this earlier post, note the discussion at the UPDATE:

“No, COVID-19 is not an ‘intelligence failure’”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Looks Like Trump Moving to Lessen US Support for France’s Anti-Jihadi Op BARKHANE in Sahel…

…or, taking the bark out of helping Barkhane?

First the French:

1) ‘Critical to our operations’: French defense minister asks Esper to maintain US presence in Africa

French Defense Minister Florence Parly made a public plea this week for the United States to remain engaged in Africa.

The military relationship between NATO allies Paris and Washington is “as solid as ever,” she said, adding that France knows “perfectly, Washington’s priorities, which are increasingly looking towards the Far East.”

“We understand that,” Parly said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Mark Esper after a Monday morning meeting at the Pentagon. But she said, “The U.S. support is critical to our [combat] operations and that its reduction would severely limit our effectiveness against terrorists.”

Esper said his review of the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Africa is not complete, and “no decisions yet have been made.”

“In due course, we will make them. I’ve been consulting now with Minister Parly for many months, and we will continue to do so as we make decisions and as we consult, going forward.”

Esper credited France for being “a real leader” in the Sahel region of northern Africa, noting its commitment of thousands of troops, but — echoing a theme of the Trump administration — said other countries need to fill the departing boots of U.S. service members.

“France has reached out to other European allies,” he said. “I think it’s time for other European allies to assist, as well, in the region, and that could offset whatever changes we make as we consider next steps in Africa [emphasis added].”

Parley reiterated that U.S. support “is really critical to our operations,” especially in light of this month’s agreement between France and the G-5 nations of West Africa to combine their military forces, as well as Paris’s commitment of an additional 220 French troops.

2) France to send 600 more troops to Africa’s Sahel

A French soldier in front of a Cayman helicopter of Operation Barkhane, July 29, 2019, in Ndaki, Mali.
A French soldier in front of a Cayman helicopter of Operation Barkhane, July 29, 2019, in Ndaki, Mali. © Benoît Tessier, REUTERS

France will deploy 600 more soldiers in the fight against Islamists militants in Africa’s Sahel, south of the Sahara, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Sunday [Feb. 2].

The reinforcements would mostly be sent to the area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Parly said in a statement. Another part would join the G5 Sahel forces.

Parly added that Chad “should soon deploy an additional battalion” within the joint force of the G5 Sahel, which brings together Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in the three borders zone. It’s the epicenter of the fight against jihadist groups, including the Islamic State group in the Grand Sahara (ISIS-GS).

“The reinforcement … should allow us to increase the pressure against the ISIS-GS… We will leave no space for those who want to destabilise the Sahel,” she added.

France already has 4,500 soldiers stationed in the Europe-sized region as part of Operation Barkhane, supporting poorly-equipped, impoverished local armies that in 2017 launched a joint anti-jihadist G5 Sahel force.

Despite the French presence and a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force dubbed MINUSMA in Mali, the conflict that erupted in the north of that country in 2012 has since spread to its neighbours, especially Burkina Faso and Niger [Justin Trudeau’s government pulled the Canadian Armed Forces our of MINUSMAin 2019 as fast as they half-decently could, more here] .

Jihadist fighters have recently stepped up their campaign against military and civilian targets. UN chief Antonio Guterres warned last month that “terrorist groups are gaining ground”…

And now for the Trump effect:

US military downgrades efforts against extremists in Sahel

The U.S. military has switched from trying to degrade Islamic extremist groups in West Africa’s sprawling Sahel region to merely trying to contain them as their deadly threat increases, a new U.S. government report says.

The quarterly report by the inspectors general for the Pentagon, State Department and USAID released this week was the first one to be unclassified as interest surges in the U.S. military’s activities in Africa. Security allies are worried as the U.S. considers cutting troops on the continent to counter China and Russia elsewhere in the world.

Top concerns in Africa include the fast-growing threat from multiple extremist groups in the Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert and the enduring threat by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab in Somalia, which killed three Americans in an unprecedented attack against U.S. forces in Kenya last month…

About 6,000 U.S. military personnel are deployed across Africa, the report says, including 500 special operations forces in Somalia and about 800 personnel in West Africa.

The security situation in Burkina Faso “is deteriorating faster than anywhere else in the Sahel,” says the new report, citing AFRICOM. The West African nation is staggering under a growing number of extremist attacks as fighters move in from neighboring Mali. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled.

Extremist groups affiliated with the Islamic State group and al-Qaida in West Africa’s Sahel “are neither degraded nor contained,” the report warns, citing AFRICOM.

Late last year, AFRICOM told the Pentagon inspector general that the new U.S. military strategy has switched from trying to degrade, or reduce the effectiveness, of those extremist groups to trying to keep them from growing their membership and spreading into new areas.

Mali’s president this week told French media outlets his government is now in contact with leaders of the most active extremist group, the al-Qaida-linked JNIM, a sign that troubled West African countries are exploring various options, including negotiations, to curb the threat…

The U.S. military in the Sahel largely supports the militaries of France and African countries in their fight against the extremists, including with “limited counterterrorism operations,” and carries out airborne intelligence and surveillance operations…

On verra how all this plays out. Meanwhile MINUSMA’s peacekeeping is having a hard time being effectual:

UN official sees dire security situation in Mali, asks for more peacekeeping resources

Ah, those shifting Saharan sands.

UPDATE: As for those European allies:

1) UK:

Since July 2018, London has contributed three heavy-lift Chinook helicopters to France’s Sahel fight. They have clocked up some 1,600 hours of flying time to date, transporting about 11,000 personnel and 800 tonnes of freight.

The twin-rotor helicopters can haul nearly four tonnes of supplies and more than 30 troops at a time — a vital contribution in a region where road access to frontline troops is long and dangerous, with a high risk of mines and militia attacks.

The helicopter support “allows us to devote ourselves to air combat missions while our British comrades provide logistics, refuelling and troop transport,” said Loic, who heads France’s Barkhane air combat group in Mali…

2) Denmark:

Danish contribution to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region

Since the middle of December 2019, a Danish helicopter contribution, incl. app. 70 persons, has been deployed to the French-led Operation Barkhane to support the international effort to counter terrorism in the Sahel region. The Danish helicopter contribution is placed in Gao in the eastern part of Mali where it will carry out transportation tasks, including transport of troops and equipment. It is the first time that Denmark contributes to Operation Barkhane and the deployment is planned end in December 2020…

3) Estonia:

Estonian special operations forces are set to join the new France-led Task Force Takuba in the Sahel in the second half of 2020, the Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday, November 13.

Estonian troops have been deployed to Operation Barkhane in Mali since August 2018, and the parliament last week approved a planned increase in the number of troops deployed to 95, including special operations forces…

“The current contribution of an infantry platoon will be strengthened with the additional capabilities of medical, EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] and JTAC [joint terminal attack controller] domain, starting from April 2020,” Murof said, adding that the platoon will continue in its primary force protection role…

You won’t see Justin Trudeau’s government even thinking about deploying elements of the Canadian Armed Forces to support such a combat mission as France’s Barkhane. Even though our francophone cabilities would be a good fit. Not warm and fuzzy, don’t you know?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent vs the Kurds (plus ISIS/Syria)

This murderous terrorism,

Istanbul bombing: Terror attack death toll rises to 38 including 30 police as officials accuse PKK
PKK blamed for attack which is the latest in an escalating scale of violence in the country

will only make this worse–at the NY Times:

As Turkey Cracks Down, Kurdish Mayors Pack Bags for Jail

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — When Kurdish officials here in Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish city in the world, say they’ve been “unavoidably detained,” it is not just an excuse for lateness.

Even before I arrived, the co-mayors, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, were jailed on terrorism charges that rights groups say are trumped up. Interviews in prison are not possible because, officially, foreign journalists are barred from the city.

Ahmet Turk, 74, a Kurd despite his name and the venerable mayor of another Kurdish city, Mardin, was out of jail at the moment. But his press officer, Enver Ete, said that it would be hard to arrange an interview: “We can’t give a time since so many people are getting arrested we can’t foresee what will happen.”

Kamuran Yuksek, a Kurdish politician, was on the phone with a reporter when he was detained briefly — just after being released from five months in prison.

I could not see Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., the country’s third-largest, although he lives in Diyarbakir. He, too, was jailed, along with nine other H.D.P. members of Parliament, so I arranged to see his wife, Basak, instead.

She canceled, not because she was jailed, but perhaps because she worried she would be, and she had two small children at home.

Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish politicians, officials, news outlets, schools, municipalities, think tanks and even charities has been so thoroughgoing that it has left those who remain free expecting arrest at any moment. “My bag is packed for prison,” said Feleknas Uca, an H.D.P. member of Parliament. “Everybody has a bag in their house for prison. Now, everyone can be arrested at any moment.”

The crackdown on Kurds is part of a broader assault by the government on Turkey’s democratic freedoms after a failed coup in July, even though hard-line Islamists, followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who are rabidly anti-Kurdish and hardly democratic paragons themselves, are accused of the overthrow attempt…

The crackdown on democracy has been nationwide, but on the political front it has been concentrated in the mostly Kurdish southeast, though there is no evidence, or even a government accusation, that Kurdish parties, legal or illegal, had any role in the attempted coup.

But a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., broke down last year, and since then fighting has claimed 2,393 lives on all sides, including civilians, according to a tally by the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Erdogan’s government had been stunned in 2015 elections when the H.D.P. decimated the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in the east especially, winning six million votes, sending 80 candidates to Parliament, and becoming overnight a nationwide political force and the third-largest party. Critics accused Mr. Erdogan of deliberately rekindling violence in Kurdish areas to stir nationalist passions and reverse his flagging fortunes.

Since the coup attempt, the government has focused on jailing officials of the H.D.P. and its local sister parties, arresting at least 45 mayors of Kurdish towns beginning in late October. New arrests are coming practically every day. This year, 2,700 local Kurdish politicians affiliated with the H.D.P. have been jailed…

Kurds have borne the brunt of the crackdown, not just in politics but also in the news media and other areas. The publications and media organizations ordered closed by the government included nearly every Kurdish outlet, except for the government’s Kurdish television channel. Some Kurdish publications have begun publishing under other names…

Meanwhile the Kurdish complication vs ISIS in Syria:

U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Syria in ISIS Fight

The military advance is complicated by the predominant role played by Kurdish militia members, who make up a majority of the 45,000 fighters and are the most effective American partner against the Islamic State in Syria. But the Kurdish militia fighters are viewed by Turkey — a pivotal American ally — as a terrorist threat.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known collectively as the Y.P.G., as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Kurdish rebel group that has sought autonomy from Turkey since the 1980s. Ankara has demanded that the Y.P.G. not take part in the fight to retake Raqqa.

Turkish forces in recent months have swept across the border into Syria to attack Islamic State strongholds, an offensive the Pentagon has applauded [e.g. recently: “Turkish Troops, Syrian Rebels Attack Key Town Held by Islamic State”]. But the Turkish advance has also served to blunt the Kurdish fighters’ efforts to carve out a contiguous swath of territory inside Syria stretching to the Iraqi border.

As Turkish and Kurdish forces repeatedly clashed, American officials and commanders intervened to curtail the fighting. Washington desperately needs the two sides to focus on fighting the Islamic State in Raqqa, not each other.

To that end, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has met twice in the last month with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, to consult on battle plans for Raqqa. American Special Operations troops were assigned to accompany Turkish troops in Syria, giving the Pentagon on-the-ground liaisons.

In another unusual move, Brig. Gen. Jon K. Mott of the Air Force, a senior operations officer from the Pentagon’s Central Command, was recently dispatched to the Turkish Army’s operations center in Ankara to help coordinate the war effort and defuse any conflicts with the Kurds.

Pentagon officials are also toning down their vocal support for Kurdish fighters to avoid further inflaming Turkish domestic political sensitivities about any collaboration between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters…

Where it will all end knows only…Earlier (Operation Euphrates Shield— this from August):

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria/Iraq Update: ISIS, Raqqa, Kurds…and Turkey, Plus Mosul

Further to this post,

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

the latest on the explosive ex-Ottoman mixture at the invaluable MILNEWS.ca:


“US Expects Anti-Daesh Operations in Raqqa, Mosul to Drag On”“Battlefield developments threaten to trigger Turkish intervention in Iraq and Syria against Kurdish and Iraqi Shia militias”…

Raqqa Latest “Raqqa: US, Turkey agree to develop plan for ISIS-held city”“U.S. Tries Convincing Turkey to Work with Kurds Against Islamic State in Raqqa”“US, Iraq Back Syrian Kurdish-led March on Raqqa, Turkey Objects”“Syria’s SDF: a risky US ally to take Raqqa”“Isolation, Liberation of Raqqa Key in Defeating ISIL, (Pentagon) Spokesman Says”“Turkey paranoid that Syrian Kurds will take Raqqa as their capital after dislodging Daesh”…

Mo’ on Mosul “The Campaign for Mosul: November 4-7, 2016” (ISW blog) “Mosul battle rages as IS strikes around Iraq”“Food Pre-Positioned for 1.25 Million People in Mosul”“Kurdish Peshmarga Storm Daesh-Held Town in Iraq as Army Battles in Mosul”“Peshmerga storm Daesh town in Iraq as army battles in Mosul”

Very interesting but dangerously messy.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – MI5 Chief Highlights Big Bear Spooky and Cyber Threats, Jihadis

Further to this post,

The Lions’s Cyber Roar: UK Getting Really Serious, Unlike Canada

the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service gives an unprecedented interview:

MI5 head: ‘increasingly aggressive’ Russia a growing threat to UK
Exclusive: In first newspaper interview given by a serving spy chief, Andrew Parker talks of terror, espionage and balance between secrecy and privacy

Russia poses an increasing threat to the stability of the UK and is using all the sophisticated tools at its disposal to achieve its aims, the director general of MI5 has told the Guardian.

In the first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history, Andrew Parker said that at a time when much of the focus was on Islamic extremism, covert action from other countries was a growing danger. Most prominent was Russia.

“It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

Parker said Russia still had plenty of intelligence officers on the ground in the UK, but what was different now from the days of the cold war was the advent of cyberwarfare. Russian targets include military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.

The spy chief also:

– Said that 12 jihadi terror plots had been foiled by the security services in the past three years.
– Identified the size of the homegrown problem: there are about 3,000 “violent Islamic extremists in the UK, mostly British”.
– Said that budget increases would see MI5 expand from 4,000 to 5,000 officers [emphasis added–so total personnel considerably greater?] over the next five years [by comparison the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a total strength of some 3,300)].
– Rejected criticism that the investigatory powers bill, due before parliament this week, was going too far in enabling intrusive surveillance, arguing that it correctly balances privacy and security…

Parker said the Islamic extremist threat was also enduring and generational. He broke it down into three segments: a large homegrown problem of potentially violent extremists in the UK – most of them British – about 3,000 in number; members of Daesh (Islamic State) in the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq trying to incite terror plots against the UK; and Daesh trying to spread its “toxic ideology” and promote terrorism online.

Critics of the controversial investigatory powers bill, which went before the House of Lords on Monday, say it will offer the security services access to personal data, bringing a reality to bulk surveillance. Parker said the data was necessary in the fight against terror and he thought the government had reached the right balance between privacy and security [see “UK Security Services’ Successful Bulk Data Collection; Need More Powers (Canada?)” plus “Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee“]…

Whilst on the foreign intelligence front:

MI6: UK HUMINT Spooks Going Cyber, Including Social Media

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – ISIS, Islamism and Pakistan’s CT Failure

The very knowledgeable Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid (pieces for the NY Review of Books here) excoriates his country’s government:

Viewpoint: Pakistan’s Quetta attack blame game

The attack that killed 61 police cadets in Quetta has once again been followed by a government-led blame game. But the government has not faced up to its own failure to conduct a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy against all extremist groups.

Within a couple of hours of the attack on the Quetta police college on the night of 25 October, and even before sifting through the bloody evidence or taking statements from the 120 injured, government ministers immediately accused Afghanistan of helping the militants, who according to the government, belonged to an extremist anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

A few hours later, several groups claimed they carried out the attack but the most believable was the claim by so-called Islamic State (IS), as it also issued a photograph of the three heavily-armed assailants, who blew themselves up in the attack.

The authorities however are in a state of denial about the presence of IS on Pakistani soil. After IS released the photograph, the government claimed that IS had ”outsourced” the attack to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

It is not the first time the government has dismissed a claim by IS. In August, IS said it carried out the suicide bombing of a hospital in Quetta that killed 70 lawyers and patients – a claim that was ignored by the government.

Convenient scapegoat

The government claims to have eliminated LeJ in its two-year-long counter-terrorism operations. But the LeJ is still a convenient whipping boy when Islamabad is trying to deny that IS has political support in Pakistan.

Accepting that IS is prevalent in Pakistan would make a mockery of the government’s claims to have eliminated all terrorist groups that attack Pakistani citizens.

Denying that IS is in Pakistan has become standard operational procedure for the government.

However IS has a powerful presence just across the border in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. This week IS militants killed 30 civilians in Ghor province in central Afghanistan…

The government has also provided no evidence of its second major accusation that Afghanistan, with help from India, is involved in arming and training LeJ so that it can launch attacks in Pakistan.

Afghanistan is hardly in a position to orchestrate such attacks. And there is no evidence of any direct Indian involvement, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made no bones about his desire to see unrest in Balochistan in a tit for tat retaliation for Pakistan allegedly fuelling unrest in India-controlled Kashmir [see “Indian PM Modi Pours (RAW) Fat on Pakistan’s Baluchistan Fire“]…

For Pakistani authorities, passing the buck has become the standard response to any terrorist attack. Yet the government and army promised two years ago that its first task would be to cleanse Pakistani soil of terrorism, that it would set its own house in order.

The military has eliminated many groups that have threatened the state but two sets of extremist groups remain untouched.

Comprehensive strategy

The first are the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, whose leadership is settled largely in Quetta and Peshawar and now partly in Iran.

The Afghan Taliban come and go at will between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last year Islamabad made serious efforts to persuade them to open talks with the Kabul regime but that effort has collapsed.

However, the real threat is that many militant groups receive protection and sanctuary from the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. These include multiple Pakistani groups, including the highly toxic Pakistani Taliban as well as al-Qaeda and groups from Central Asia, China, Chechnya and elsewhere…

The second grouping is the plethora of Punjabi groups that live in Punjab province along the border with India. Their significance has risen in recent months with their repeated attacks on Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir that have created a heightened tension between India and Pakistan.

It is unclear if these attacks were carried out by militants already in Indian-administered Kashmir or from the Pakistani side. The Indians believe the latter, while Pakistan insists there are no cross border attacks [see “Oh, Oh! Indian Troops Raid Pakistani Kashmir“].

Pakistan clearly needs to deal with these two sets of groupings in a more mature, realistic and believable fashion…

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux.

Earlier and very relevant:

Pakistan: What Can’t Be Said [Mr Rashid one topic]
Carlotta Gall [more here]

Pakistan’s Monster
By Dexter Filkins [more here]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

The ever more maximum president is certainly making things difficult for POTUS and many others:

Erdogan reasserts Turkey’s role in wars in Syria and Iraq

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday [Oct. 27] that he had informed President Obama of Turkey’s intent to participate in an offensive in northern Syria. His remarks are a reminder of the strategic conundrum facing the United States, which is working to defeat the extremist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq with both cooperation from Turkey as well as from Syrian Kurdish militias being targeted by the Turks.

In a televised speech from the Turkish capital, Ankara, Erdogan said he told Obama that Syrian rebels backed by Turkey in an ongoing operation called “Euphrates Shield” would advance on the Syrian border town of al-Bab, which is held by the Islamic State. They would then march on to Manbij, a northern Syrian city that earlier this year was liberated from the Islamic State by a coalition of Syrian militias led by a Kurdish faction known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Turkish government considers the YPG an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist faction that has waged a decades-long insurgency within Turkey and is deemed a terrorist group by both Ankara and Washington.

Then, Erdogan said, “we will go toward Raqqa” — the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria.

raqqa.jpg

…[In Iraq] too , Turkey hopes for “a place at the table.” As WorldViews noted earlier, Erdogan has demanded a role for Turkish troops in the Mosul campaign that nobody — neither the Americans, nor the Iraqis — has planned for and has invoked grievances from World War I and sectarian rhetoric while doing so.

“We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country,” Erdogan said, referring to the defeated Ottoman parliament’s disregarded 1920 territorial claim to Mosul and its oil-rich environs…

Oh dear. More here on President Erdogan.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – RCMP’s Anti-Terrorism Fight Giving Mob Increasingly Free Pass

Further to this 2015 post before the federal election,

Policing Terrorism in Canada: Feds Don’t Match Mouth With Money

the Liberal government is now not stepping up to its job properly to fund core federal responsibilities:

Terrorism investigations tax RCMP’s ability to fight Canada’s organized crime
Colin Freeze [very good Globe and Mail reporter]

The number of RCMP wiretaps on organized-crime groups is plummeting sharply as the force shifts its detectives to the fight against terrorism, according to statistics analyzed by The Globe and Mail.

In its federal policing role, the RCMP essentially has two major business lines – chasing mobsters and chasing terrorists. The priority the Mounties give to each of the two files has always been an issue, but the balance clearly shifted after the attack on Parliament Hill two years ago.

The RCMP has moved hundreds of officers from organized-crime probes to terrorism investigations in a bid to track suspected sympathizers of the Islamic State. This may come at a cost to other important RCMP missions, such as stopping human trafficking, getting guns off the street and curbing trade in illicit drugs such as fentanyl.

– Related: Guilty pleas end risk of revealing RCMP surveillance technology

– Related: Surveillance device used in prison sets off police probe

– Related: RCMP fight to keep lid on high-tech investigation tool

A spokeswoman for the police force does not dispute that a significant shift has taken place.

“The decrease in RCMP wiretap applications for serious and organized-crime investigations in the past year can partially be attributed to the shifting of a number of federal-policing resources to national-security criminal investigations,” Corporal Annie Delisle said in an e-mailed response to Globe questions.

…the focus of police investigations is clearly shifting.

In 2011, police sought wiretaps in hopes of laying charges for 82 Criminal Code offences that explicitly had to do with organized-crime. Only six such charges were contemplated in 2015.

Half of all wiretap applications still involve drug cases, yet the number of drug charges being pursued has plummeted.

In 2011, federal police were seeking wiretap warrants involving only three terrorism charges. In 2014, police were hoping to lay 97 terrorism charges. In 2015, that number was 68.

The Public Safety Canada electronic surveillance report is preliminary and the 2015 numbers may increase because police do not have to disclose data about all their investigations right away [the report is here]. Not every wiretap warrant of leads to an arrest or criminal charge…

Follow Colin Freeze on Twitter: @colinfreeze

Must be a whole lot nicer to be an organized gangster these days in the Great White North.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Iraq: Upcoming Battle for Mosul Update

Further to this post, things could get exceedingly nasty; can Iraq stay united (and how far will the Turks go, both around Mosul and to prevent any independent Kurdistan?). At Defense One’sD-Brief“:


Iraq’s counterterrorism police of the Golden Division have reportedly departed Camp Speicher en route to positions near Mosul.
Reminder: the upcoming offensive could become a big mess, the Washington Post’s Loveday Morris warned on Wednesday [Oct. 12], reporting from Baghdad.

For a sense of just how messy it could get, here’s a broad glance at the Mosul manifest: Iraq Army; CT police; PKK; Turkey-backed tribes; Shia militia [Iran-backed]; Assyrian, Christian and Yazidi militia; and, of course, the U.S.-led coalition. That makes seven generic categories of different forces, most of which can be further broken down into more specific elements. More here.

The humanitarian toll of the offensive is going to be enormous, and could include: use of civilians as human shields, chemical weapons use, and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, the UN warns.

How’s the UN prepared for all that so far? In a word: inadequately. “In order to house and support and accommodate 1 million people at dignified standards we would be looking at an operation of $1 billion,” said Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq [UN website here].

Reuters: “That is more than four times the $230 million the international body has received so far for the effort, funds which have only recently arrived. So far, a total of six camps have been built that can accommodate 50,000 people. Efforts are underway to construct 11 more, said Grande.”..

Lots more at MILNET.ca, scroll down to “Iraq”. And what role will the Canadian Forces’ closely assisting the Kurdish Peshmerga have in how Kurdistan matters play out? Our government should be giving that furious consideration.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds