Archive for October, 2010
PAKISTAN: Relations Remain Strained
Is the U.S.-Pakistani alliance against insurgents going up in smoke? Pakistani officials, outraged by a U.S. Helicopter incursion into their airspace that left two border guards dead, have closed a crucial crossing point into Afghanistan.
Despite U.S. Apologies, the Pakistanis are still miffed and the key border crossing for NATO’s overland supply lines remains closed. Meanwhile, Taliban militants have burned more than 100 fuel tanker trucks in the past week. And thousands of other trucks remain idle – and vulnerable – waiting for the main crossing to reopen, reports the Voice of America.
According to the Pentagon:
“A joint report released yesterday (Oct. 6) by International Security Assistance Force and Pakistani military officials said two coalition helicopters passed into Pakistani airspace several times Sept. 30 and later fired on a building identified as a Pakistani border outpost in response to shots fired from the post.
The assessment team considered it most likely that the Pakistani troops had fired in an attempt to warn the helicopters of their presence, the report said. Following the engagement, it was discovered that members of the Pakistan Frontier Scouts had been killed or wounded.
IRAQ: A Civilian Answers the Call to Duty
Counter insurgency experts have been saying for years now that there needs to be more non-military government representatives in Iraq and Afghanistan to help with reconstructing civil society through agricultural, economic and law enforcement assistance.
While more needs to be done in those areas, the Defense Department’s Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program trains and equips civilians to deploy overseas in support of military members and missions worldwide.
Now Barbara Eberly, a 58-year-old Defense Department civilian, has volunteered to deploy to Iraq as part of that program. The Armed Forces Press Service says Eberly, a mobilization planning specialist for Defense Logistics Agency Distribution in New Cumberland, Pa., is now working with the 199th Garrison Command public works department at Camp Victory.
AFGHANISTAN: Ninth Year of War Ends
The war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year on Oct. 7. ABC reports there is uncertainty over whether the U.S. strategy in the war ravaged country is working.
Not Just a Gringo Problem
In the Sept. 24 Friday Foto we we wrote U.S. Marines doing some exchange training with the Kaibiles, tough-as-nails, jungle warfare experts in the Guatemalan Army.
At the time we mentioned the Kaibiles were no strangers to controversy – with unorthodox (some would say borderline sadistic) training methods and a brutal past in Guatemala’s decades-long civil war.
Now a recent study by a Washington think tank notes that some former members of the Kaibiles have been working as enforcers (read: killers) for a Mexican drug gang, Los Zetas. The report, issued by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) also notes that Guatemala “has become a haven for various drug trafficking organizations” including the Zetas, who set up a training camp in the untamed part of northern Guatemala that borders Mexico.
“Zetas increasingly recruit ex-Kaibiles, the special operations division of the Guatemalan army,” says the report: Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and U.S. National Security, which likens the narcotics-fueled violence and corruption in Latin America to a “criminal insurgency.”
In addition to Guatemala, Mexican drug gangs – like the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Federation and the Beltran Leyva Organization – are dealing directly with cocaine producers in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Meanwhile, the Colombian leftist rebels, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), are financing their 40-year war against the government in Bogota with drug money and using Venezuela as a narcotics shipping point, the report says.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese-based terror group, have both made business inroads – legal and illegal – into Latin America, according to experts cited in the report.
Written by Robert Killebrew, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and Jennifer Bernal, a CNAS researcher, the report says interlocking narcotics cartels operate within 14 sovereign nations in the Americas and pose a threat to civil society in those countries.“It’s not just a Gringo problem,” says Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings institution fellow and expert on military conflict and illegal economies. She spoke at a panel discussion of the report’s findings last week.
But the report says the insurgency should not be viewed as an attempt to take over any government – but rather a drive to destabilize it and destroy its credibility with its citizens – making it easier to do business. “Since the cartels’ survival depends on controlling regions where governmental control is non-existent and populations may be impoverished and alienated,” the report says successful strategies “are fundamentally counterinsurgency strategies developed by the concerned states themselves and supported by the U.S.”
The risk to the U.S. doesn’t stop at the Mexican border, the reports says, noting Mexican drug cartels operate “branch offices” in more than 230 U.S. and Canadian cities. The Salvadoran gang, MS-13, operates in 30 U.S. States.
“Whatever national strategy is developed to counter the cartel insurgency, the focus must ultimately include supporting local police departments and the cop on the beat, who confronts the gangs every day,” the report declared.
Unlike Mexico or Colombia, where thousands have been killed in open warfare between drug gangs and the government, there is no counter insurgency role within U.S. borders for the U.S. military, says Killebrew, a former Special Forces officer and Airborne commander.
He says the U.S. Defense Department can support and train militaries and law enforcement agencies in other countries – but must maintain a small footprint. It’s better for the U.S. to train locals in intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance than to do it for them, he adds.
“We have to help people help themselves … the further in the background we can be, the better off we all are going to be,” Killebrew says.
End of the Road
Who are these people and why are they running and shouting? This week’s FRIDAY FOTO shows two military policemen from Fort Richardson, Alaska being cheered on as they run toward the finish line of the 13-mile road march, the final event in the 14th Annual Military Police Warfighter Challenge.
The challenge, held last month at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., brings together MP units from throughout the Army to determine who is the best in their field. The four-day event includes 11 grueling challenges ranging from marksmanship and a team obstacle course to a lengthy written exam and the final endurance march. All crammed in to 72 hours. Get the details here.
The winning team from the 385th MP Battalion from Fort Stewart, Georgia consisted of Staff Sgt. Adam Norton and Specialists Gene Thompson and Joseph Kajer. “It’s a test of endurance, physically and mentally, so it’s a huge accomplishment just to finish,” said Regimental Command Sgt. Major Charles Kirkland of the Army’s Military Police School.
Of the 36 teams that competed, only 22 finished intact. Eight finished a man short and five had to drop out.
To see a slide show of the competition, click here.
For additional photos on Facebook, click here.
To view a three-minute-video, click here (turn down the volume, the soundtrack music is kinda LOUD.)