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    26 August 2007

    Where's this bin Laden guy?

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    Those interested in the hunt for Usama bin Laden would be well served to read the Newsweek report on the ever-continuing hunt. Consider it a concise version of Woodward's "Bush at War" and Gary Berntsen's "Jawbreaker" with additional contemporary, reporting. Here are some snips.

    This part would have made me laugh if it wasn't so serious and disappointing. Instead I just shook my head...
    The Iraq War, meanwhile, has proved to be a black hole for the Americans, devouring men and material and absorbing the attention of the brass in Washington. In 2005, the CIA gave President Bush a secret slide show on the hunt for bin Laden. The president was taken aback by the small number of CIA case officers posted to Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Is that all there are?" the president asked, according to a former intelligence official, who declined to be identified discussing White House meetings. The CIA had already embarked on a "surge" of sorts, and doubled the number of officers in the field. But many were inexperienced and raw recruits, and they produced little improvement in "actionable" intelligence.

    But it is encouraging to hear members of the military brain admitting these truisms
    In recent months, says John Arquilla, a Special Ops expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., the U.S. military has achieved a 100-to-1 kill ratio (100 dead guerrillas to every American). But by calling in airstrikes, the Americans also kill a lot of civilians, which breeds more jihadists. And according to Thomas Johnson, also at the Naval Postgraduate School, the military's continued fixation on body counts and kill ratios is irrelevant and even counterproductive. "When you kill a person it's a multiplication factor. It demands that all the male relatives join the fight."

    I, of course, have been saying this for years.

    Johnson, an Afghan expert, spent last February at Forward Operating Base Salerno near the Pakistan border, briefing commanders on the tribal custom of Pashtunwali. He says only about 5 percent of American troops in Afghanistan ever leave their bases—a statistic, he believes, that explains better than any other why Americans are struggling in the battle for intelligence. He says most soldiers in Afghanistan don't know simple phrases like "stop," "go," or "put your hands up." Americans continually make cultural blunders, like using canine units to search people's homes (dogs are considered unclean in Muslim culture). Meanwhile the Taliban works at winning the trust and confidence of villagers—or intimidating them. "They go into villages and say, 'The Americans have the watches but we have the time. We might not come back in a week or a year, but you bet your britches we'll eventually come back'," says Johnson.

    If the White House wants to use historical "comparisons" this one should definitely be first of their list...
    During the early days of the cold war, the old boys who ran the CIA began to reason that when it came to fighting against an underhanded foe in a battle for global survival, the rules of fair play they had learned as schoolboys no longer applied. If the communists fight dirty, we must, too, they rationalized—or freedom would perish. This ends-justifying-the-means rationale led to foolish and ultimately unsuccessful assassination plots and other dirty tricks that disgraced and demoralized the CIA when the agency's so-called Crown Jewels were revealed during Watergate. After 9/11, Bush administration officials, particularly Vice President Cheney, vowed to take the gloves off against Al Qaeda.

    or maybe this on Bush's reeducation camps in his Vietnam-Iraq misrepresentation from last week
    The danger now, says Arquilla, is that the longer the Iraq War goes on, the more skilled the new generations of jihadists will become. "They're getting re-educated," he says. "The first generation of Al Qaeda came through the [Afghan] camps. The second generation are those who've logged on [to Islamist Web sites]. The next generation will be those who have come through the crucible of Iraq. Eventually, their level of skill is going to be greater than the skill of the original generation."

    Posted by Geoff

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