Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9th Morning Readbook

Iraq lawmakers' pay under scrutiny 

Maliki's actions, and Obama's inaction, threaten an Iraq democracy
Since the success of the 2007 surge in Iraq, violent attacks have fallen more than 90% and Iraqis have been making steady progress toward stability and democracy. That momentum is now threatened by the actions of Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Maliki, and by the inaction of the Obama administration.

Bombs planted in home of policeman kill 3 in Iraq
The bombing was one of several attacks around Iraq's north that killed at least 10 people over the weekend, a sign that authorities are struggling to maintain security as the country's politicians clamor over the shape of a new government two months after an inconclusive election.

Taliban gears up for Western offensive in Kandahar
In an apparent PR effort, a self-styled Taliban spokesman in Kandahar speaks to a reporter, declaring, 'The foreign occupiers have come to our city, and we will fight them.'

US warns Pakistan over Times Square bomb attempt
The United States has delivered a tough new warning to Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants or face severe consequences after the failed Times Square bombing.

U.S. drone missiles kill at least six in Pakistan
U.S. drone aircraft fired two missiles into a Taliban compound in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on the Afghan border on Sunday, killing at least six militants, Pakistani security officials said.

Kirkland man deported to Iraq for ties to Al Qaeda
A Kirkland man and Iraqi citizen was recently removed to his native country for ties to an Al Qaeda leader after a federal immigration judge deemed him a national security risk, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday.

The main headlines on Al Jazeera

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 8th Morning Readbook

Kandahar's Karzai confident despite criticism 

Are Al-Qaeda and Taliban running out of intelligent recruits in anti-American terrorist campaign
Judging by recent bungled bombing attempts it would seem as if terrorist organizations are scraping the bottom of the barrel and maybe have run out of reasonably intelligent terrorist bombers. Of course "reasonably intelligent" and "terrorist bomber" don't necessarily go hand in hand. The attempt by Faisal Shahzad to bomb Times Square and run, failed miserably. Even the "run" part of the equation didn't work too well. Add the botched job by another terrorist in Detroit on Christmas Day and you have the makings of some either weak links in the terrorist chain or some pretty dumb folks.

Pressure on Pakistan amid fresh terror links
Alleged links between the Times Square plot and extremist networks are adding to perceptions of Pakistan as a global exporter of terrorism and increasing pressure on its military to crack down on extremists along the Afghan border.

Afghanistan's Karzai to ask Obama for billions more to fight Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will ask for billions more in aid when he travels to Washington next week on a trip aimed at improving relations with Barack Obama.

Attacks signal end of poppy harvest in Afghanistan
The gunfire and explosions echoing across this Taliban-infested district in southern Afghanistan on Friday signaled the end of the opium poppy harvest as militants again turned their attention from agriculture to attacking NATO and Afghan forces.

Afghanistan readies for Kandahar 'operation' 

Iraq vote winner asserts right to form government
The leader of the top vote-getting coalition in Iraq's inconclusive March 7 elections insisted his bloc still has the right to form the next government despite an alliance forged this week between two rival Shiite groups.

'Big ideas' key to US surge success in Iraq: Petraeus
The US troop surge succeeded in Iraq because the army embraced new ideas about waging war against insurgents, focusing on winning the trust of local people, top commander General David Petraeus said.

The main headlines on Al Jazeera

Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7th Morning Readbook

Shia blocs form new Iraq alliance 

Fear of bloodshed in Iraq as Iran-backed bloc tries to take power
Two months after landmark elections, the State of Law party of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), which is dominated by Moqtadr al-Sadr, the radical cleric, announced that they would jointly form a new government. The deal was apparently put together with the help of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, which maintains close ties with Shia political parties. They expect to have a narrow majority in parliament.

Iraq vote winner asserts right to form government
The leader of Iraq's top vote-getting coalition in the inconclusive March elections is saying that his bloc still has the right to form the next government. Ayad Allawi returned to Iraq after touring the Mideast since his cross-sectarian Iraqiya party eked out a slim lead in the balloting. He met with the heads of other political parties late on Thursday.

Pakistani Taliban Are Said to Expand Alliances
The Pakistani Taliban, which American investigators suspect were behind the attempt to bomb Times Square, have in recent years combined forces with Al Qaeda and other groups, threatening to extend their reach and ambitions, Western diplomats, intelligence officials and experts say.

Pakistani Taliban: NY bomb attempt a 'brave' act
The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday denied any role in the botched car bombing in Times Square but praised the suspect for a "brave job," as New York authorities pressed him on his claims of terrorist training.

Obama talks about Afghanistan, Pakistan with national security team
It seems likely the Times Square bombing attempt came up today at President Obama's national security meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, though officials aren't saying much.

The main headlines on Al Jazeera

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Counterterrorism and Finite Deduction

There are an infinite number of ways to conduct a terrorist attack but a finite number of terrorists. Find the common link among these individuals.

Faisal Shazad
US Citizen
Allegedly trained in Pakistan

Najibullah Zazi
US Citizen
Trained in Pakistan

David Coleman Headley
US Citizen
Trained in Pakistan

Waqar Hasan
US Citizen
Training in Pakistan before arrest

At most this very basic behavioral profile can generate leads. Old fashion detective work like we witnessed only after the failed bombing in Times Square is still required.

Update on the Latest Failure

This undated image, obtained from on May 4, 2010, shows Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who is suspected as the driver of a bomb-laden SUV into New York's Time Square on May 1. (REUTERS/Courtesy of

For the second time since Christmas, the federal government has failed to prevent a terrorist attack against the United States. Only terrorist bomb making incompetence has saved the lives of an unknown number of Americans. Hopefully, US agencies with the responsibility to protect its citizens will correct their incompetence before terrorists fix their own.

Here is the latest update on the massacre that could have occurred in New York.

Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad said to implicate himself; probe expands to Pakistan
The suspect in a failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square admitted his role in the plot and told investigators he had received training in bomb-making in his native Pakistan, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

30-year-old Pakistani American Charged with Terrorism in Failed NY Bombing
U.S. authorities have charged a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen with terrorism related charges in connection to the failed Times Square bombing. Thirty-year-old Faisal Shahzad was charged Tuesday in a five-count complaint, one day after he was arrested while trying to leave New York on a flight for Dubai.  Authorities say he has admitted to receiving explosives training in Pakistan. 

Times Square suspect had explosives training, documents say
A suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing told law enforcement officials that he recently received bomb-making training in Pakistan, court documents filed Tuesday show.

U.S. Said to Learn Shahzad on Plane 30 Minutes Before Departure
Shahzad was placed on a no-fly list yesterday afternoon. The airline didn’t update its list before allowing Shahzad on the plane, according to the person, who couldn’t be identified because the matter is still under investigation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents learned Shahzad was on the plane when the airline presented a mandatory passenger manifest to U.S. officials just before take off, the person said.

Faisal Shahzad: Who is the Times Square terror suspect?
The 30-year-old Pakistani-American at the center of the botched Times Square car bomb plot was known in his neighborhood as a mysterious loner who kept odd hours and "always looked on edge," neighbors said Tuesday.

Inside Terror Training Camp Tied to Bomb Suspect
CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark reports Pakistani police have arrested at least two people in Karachi, Pakistan. One of them, Tauseef Ahmed, is believed to have traveled to the U.S. two months ago to meet with Faisal Shahzad. CBS News has also learned that Shahzad may have spent at least four months training at a terrorist camp - raided in early March by Pakistani forces. The camp is affiliated with Pakistan's Taliban, the group that claimed responsibility for the botched attack in Times Square. Its leader Hakimullah Mehsud threatened, "The time is very near when our fighters ....will attack the American states."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Times Square Car Bomb?

The scene at the corner of W 45th St. and Broadway in the heart of Times Square, where a car was found last night, that contained cans of flammable liquid and other explosive devices. (NY Daily News)

‘Very Lucky,’ Mayor Says, After Bomb
A crude car bomb of propane, gasoline and fireworks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers on a warm and busy night. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, there was no explosion, and early on Sunday the authorities were still seeking a suspect and motive.

Mayor: New York 'Lucky' Car Bomb Did Not Explode
Authorities in New York City are viewing security camera footage and examining other evidence to determine who may have tried to set off a car bomb in the Times Square entertainment district.

Time Square car bomb: Cops evacuate heart of NYC after 'potential terrorist attack'
Three heroic cops and a quick-thinking street vendor stopped a madman from detonating a car bomb in the heart of Times Square Saturday night, law enforcement officials told the Daily News.

'Very Lucky': Cops Comb Foiled Times Sq. Bomb Clues
A t-shirt vendor, a Vietnam veteran, saw something suspicious in New York's Times Square Saturday evening -- smoke coming from an unoccupied SUV -- so he alerted police. The tip led police to find the Nissan Pathfinder contained what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to called an "amateurish"-looking bomb and what Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told ABC News' "This Week" might have been part of a "one-off" attack.

Echoes of 2007 London attack in Times Square car bomb
An illegally parked car packed with propane gas cylinders and cannisters filled with petrol attached to a crude homemade detonator. That was Times Square, New York, last night. It was Haymarket, London, three years ago.

Napolitano: NYC car bomb is 'a potential terrorist attack'
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took to the Sunday talk shows this morning, ostensibly to talk about efforts to protect the Gulf Coast from a potential ecological disaster due to a massive oil slick headed for land. However, Napolitano instead found herself talking about the apparent failed car bombing Saturday night in New York's Times Square.

Times Square Bomb Scare: 'Very Deadly' Blast Averted 

May 2nd Morning Readbook

Inside Iraq - Resurgent violence 

Violence is back with a vengeance in Iraq - explosions in Baghdad have become common again and secret torture chambers are fuelling the cycle of hatred. But is the current political stalemate responsible?

The ‘Wanted Dead’ Option in the War on Terror
You can hardly blame Iraq’s beleaguered prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, for trumpeting the killing of the two leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq last month as a lethal blow to the local terrorist franchise.

Turmoil in Iraq threatens US withdrawal plans
Iraq continues to be embroiled in its messy post-election coalition-building process. It has become so messy that the US may well be rethinking its withdrawal plans, and particularly its withdrawal of all combat troops at the end of August.

Petraeus: Tough times ahead for south Afghanistan
Tough times are ahead for Kandahar in southern Afghanistan where thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are gearing up for the latest offensive of the war, a top U.S. general said in an unannounced visit there Friday.

US Army captain becomes king in Afghanistan
In the U.S. Army, Casey Thoreen is just a 30-year-old captain. Around here, he's known as the "King of Maiwand" district — testimony to the fact that without the young captain and a fat international wallet, local government here as in much of the insurgency-ravaged south could not function at all.

U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan get mixed response
The aircraft target Al Qaeda and the Taliban and minimize civilian deaths, U.S. officials say. Many Pakistanis decry them as indiscriminate; others approve, even some who have lost relatives.

Two Charged With Supporting Al Qaeda
Two former Brooklyn residents have been indicted on charges that they conspired to provide al Qaeda with material support, including computer advice. Wesam El-Hanafi, 33 years old, and Sabirhan Hasanoff, 34, were charged in a one-count indictment unsealed Friday with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

New York City Police Discover Car Bomb in Times Square
New York City authorities say they found a potentially powerful bomb in a vehicle in Times Square late Saturday. Swift action by police and city residents averted what could have been a deadly car bombing attack.

The main headlines on Al Jazeera

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Comparison of Iraq's 2005 & 2010 Elections

Voter Turnout

2005     79.6%
2010     62.4%

Shiite-Dominated Parties

2005 Total                          5,021,137

United Iraqi Alliance         5,021,137

2010 Total                           4,884,149

State of Law Coalition        2,792,083    
National Iraqi Alliance       2,092,066

Change                               -136,988 or -2.7%

Kurd-Dominated Parties
2005 Total                           2,799,860

Democratic Patriotic
Alliance of Kurdistan         2,642,172
Kurdistan Islamic Union        157,688

2010    Total                           2,554,442

Kurdistan Alliance                1,681,714
Gorran                                      476,478
Kurdistan Islamic Union          243,720
Islamic Group of Kurdistan     152,530

Change                                   -245,418 or 8.7% decrease

Sunni-Dominated Parties

2005 Total                                 3,317,504

Iraqi Accord Front                    1,840,216
Iraqi National List                        977,325
Iraqi National Dialogue Front      499,963

2010  Total                                 3,454,485

Al-Iraqiya                                  2,849,612
Unity Alliance of Iraq                  306,647
Iraqi Accord Front                        298,226

Change                                       +136,981 or 4.1% increase

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Non-Fictional Baathists Attempting Comeback

Members of Syria-based Iraqi factions attend the Baath Party's first public meeting in Damascus, dedicated to "the national Iraqi resistance." (AFP/Louai Beshara)

It is hard to determine who will make a greater come-from-behind, the Taliban or the Baath Party. Saddam's outlawed cadre has been used as a political straw man by the Shiite-dominated and Iranian-allied democratic Iraqi government since 2009. Recently, the Baath held their first public meeting in Damascus calling for a reunification of the party. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki blamed the Al Qaeda in Iraq bombing campaign in Baghdad on the Baath in Syria, a claim the Baathists denied. Maliki's accusations deteriorated relations with Syria. It will be interesting to see Maliki's reaction to this Baathist convention in Syria as he continues his attempt to steal the parliamentary election.

Saddam's loyalists in Syria blast US
Supporters of Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein gathered in Damascus Thursday to denounce the U.S. "occupation" of Iraq and demand that his loyalists unite. About 500 Saddam loyalists, including members of his outlawed Baath Party, vowed to continue their support to what they called "Iraqi national resistance," a term they widely use to describe Iraqi insurgents attacking only U.S. forces.

Iraq's banned Baath holds first public meeting in Syria
Iraq's banned Baath party, booted out of power in the 2003 US-led invasion, held its first public meeting in the Syrian capital on Thursday. "We have launched negotiations to reunite the party," Ghazwan Qubaissi, the number two in a wing led by Mohammed Yunes al-Ahmad, a former governor of Mosul under now executed dictator and Baath chief Saddam Hussein, told AFP.

Iraq 2003 Flashback: The Iraqi Tribes

Although many would like to take credit for the alleged success of the Iraq COIN campaign, a simple Google search reveals some of the earliest advocates for a tribal engagement strategy. The following is an excerpt from an 8 July 2003 Brookings Institution article:

How can the coalition and the new Iraqi government best rein in tribal power? There is no alternative to military action in cases of hard-core resistance, such as Fallujah. Yet it should be possible to control most local tribal challenges as the old regime usually did, simply by effective policing and nonviolent displays of force (although the regime also employed extreme violence to put down political opposition). Nevertheless, the most potent vehicle for central government control is the distribution of government services and other benefits. The Iraqi countryside desperately needs new infrastructure, as well as many basic services and goods, such as purified water, treated sewage, roads, electricity, schools, hospitals, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, irrigation systems, and even high-quality seeds. Within a few months the central government in Baghdad, whether it is still largely run by the coalition forces or by Iraqis, should be able to provide all this and more—even to the most remote villages. At that point, tribal shaykhs will have to work with the government or risk being overthrown by their own people.

As we constantly state on this blog, if you understand the culture the strategy writes itself. You can read the full article, "The Iraqi Tribes and the Post-Saddam System" here.