Quagmire Sump

November 24, 2014

isiscontrolSunshine Monday here on this little stretch of California’s northern coast — a cold-feeling wind does give bite to the flavor a bit, though. The word, ‘cold,’ is relative, of course.

We’re at about 45 degrees right now, and near about the same time — Dr. Jeff Masters: ‘It’s weather whiplash in Buffalo, New York, when the temperature surged to 61°F at 10 am EST Monday, following a week of near-record cold and heavy snow.’
Bizarre new-normal, huh?

Also not-so-peculiar, and a new-normal, too, the US drama of war whiplash.

(Illustration found here).

The latest quick-snatch was the change in war minister — DOD chief Chuck Hagel is gone-johnson. Apparently, in the works for awhile, and just announced last night to make the hard-news cycle this morning, Hagel wasn’t tough-enough, war-schemer-enough, or whatever, but perpetual war needs more than just a “steady hand” at the helm. Via USAToday: ‘The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported that Obama asked Hagel to resign on Friday after two weeks of discussions about the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State. The Times first reported the resignation Monday.’
In the crazed, creeping war against ISIS — a nut-ball, rolling-horror show, the self-titled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, by-far, the worse-morphed-nightmare-spawn off the terror/murder genre yet, a murderous, butchering crowd — Hagel apparently didn’t have enough military brain power to cope with it. In wake of the midterms, President Obama ain’t acting inert — along with immigration, one of his big ticket push-plus-items already is to create a momentum expansion in the disjointed campaign/war against ISIS.

A nightmare spawned off George Jr.’s daydream invasion. Last week, a story from the Washington Post that the US might be shifting emphasis of the ISIS campaign back to Syria by accelerating CIA operations against President Bashar al-Assad.
Creeping major point in the Post story: ‘Acceleration of the CIA training program could help compensate for that delay. It could also address an imbalance in Obama’s strategy that involves thousands of U.S. military personnel in Iraq to help that country’s military regroup but no comparable ground force to work with in Syria.’

Double the front, double the not-fun.

In the past year, the CIA has reportedly run a ‘clandestine’ enterprise has been training about 400 Syrian fighters a month in the war against Assad, and President Obama may jump-start that program, deepening US activities there — hence another quagmire effect coming.
The Post also notes: ‘Even so, there is little indication that U.S.-trained and armed moderates have had any substantial impact on the direction of the conflict in Syria.’
Assad is a murderous, cut-throating asshole, but also one tenacious, unshakable asshole.
So yesterday: ‘US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.’

This then creates/forges agreement/make-up thingies between hated enemies like upstart ISIS, and old-glory al-Qaeda — via Vox:

If the reports are true, this would be disastrous.
United, the two jihadi groups could slaughter Syria’s moderate rebels.
But the alleged deal isn’t a permanent merger, and there’s deep antagonism between the two groups’ leadership.
It’s hard to say how long this deal will last — if it exists in the first place.

War games. And in the last couple of weeks, top US military dog, Gen. Martin Dempsey, paid an ‘unannounced visit’ to Baghdad. Or this sentence within the scope of the category of ‘famous last words‘ from Dempsey: ‘“I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent.”
A similar note, off the Post story from retired  Gen. John R. Allen, White House guy for the ISIS coalition: ‘“There’s going to be fighting in Syria that we cannot necessarily predict.”

Especially if your intelligence ain’t worth a shit, maybe. Last week, one of the best foreign corrospondents around, Patrick Cockburn of the UK’s Independent, posted this piece about a plausible size to the ISIS actual force. Another CIA fuck-up (via Common Dreams):

The Islamic State (Isis) has recruited an army hundreds of thousands strong, far larger than previous estimates by the CIA, according to a senior Kurdish leader.
He said the ability of Isis to attack on many widely separated fronts in Iraq and Syria at the same time shows that the number of militant fighters is at least 200,000, seven or eight times bigger than foreign in intelligence estimates of up to 31,500 men.
Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said in an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday that “I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilise Arab young men in the territory they have taken.”
He estimates that Isis rules a third of Iraq and a third of Syria with a population of between 10 and 12 million living in an area of 250,000 square kilometres, the same size as Great Britain.
This gives the jihadis a large pool of potential recruits.
Proof that Isis has created a large field army at great speed is that it has been launching attacks against the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Iraqi army close to Baghdad at the same time as it is fighting in Syria.
“They are fighting in Kobani,” said Mr Hussein.
“In Kurdistan last month they were attacking in seven different places as well as in Ramadi [capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad] and Jalawla [an Arab-Kurdish town close to Iranian border]. It is impossible to talk of 20,000 men or so.”

In September, the CIA produced an estimate of Isis numbers which calculated that the movement had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters. The underestimate of the size of the force that Isis can deploy may explain why the US and other foreign governments have been repeatedly caught by surprise over the past five months as IS inflicted successive defeats on the Iraqi army, Syrian army, Syrian rebels and Kurdish peshmerga.

Which inspired Trevor Timm at the Guardian last week to comment:

Put aside for a minute that the Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly arming Syrian rebels with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons since at least 2012 – and with almost nothing to show for it.
Somehow the Post neglected to cite a front-page New York Times article from just one month ago alerting the public to the existence of a still-classified internal CIA study admitting that arming rebels with weapons has rarely – if ever – worked…

And Hagel’s head for under-achievement, according to the White House. Via CNBC: ‘The officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel, who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary, was brought in to employ.’

Hence, ‘passive.’ In a two-fronted campaign against ISIS, and the reversal already in the future agenda of US forces in Afghanistan — just as two American GIs were killed by a bomb this morning in Kabul — the next DOD honcho’s got to be tough as nails.
Marcy Wheeler concludes a post on Hagel/Afghanistan/perpetual war by this question: ‘I’m just hoping someone is reporting out the really important questions: who will be paying for the resumption of the forever war, and how it will be any more successful than the last 13 years?

And, too: Can you define bloody morass? Body bags? or maybe, shit-for-brains?

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Alice,’  found here).

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