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Interview with Michael Sheuer

February 10, 2011

over at Urban Infidel, a very interesting 5-part interview with the controversial former head of CIA’s ‘Bin Laden Unit’, Michael Sheuer.

Some interesting comments by Mr.Sheuer regarding the perceived strength of American military in the Mid East, notably that although we are strong, we are not willing to fully commit in defending our interests and allies via military means, ie, the Strong Horse principle.

Sheuer has a new book coming out called Bin Laden, which is a follow-up to his widely acclaimed and criticized work Imperial Hubris.


Afghan villages to setup local security groups

January 19, 2011

Afghan villages adopting a town-watch style security setup.

The Afghan government has organized more than 2,000 villagers into armed local defense forces so they can keep out insurgents and support coalition and Afghan forces.

The self-defense groups are part of an expanding U.S.-backed program that bears a resemblance to a similar tactic in Iraq that proved successful.

In Afghanistan, the program has helped protect villages from insurgent attacks and the plan could expand to up to 10,000 people, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said. If the plan proves successful it could grow even larger, he said.

“Wherever this is created people have welcomed it,” Bashary said.

The small defense forces are being established around the country, according to the Afghan government. The groups will have about 250 to 300 people each, the Pentagon said.

The plan resembles the “Awakening” in Iraq, in which sheiks and local leaders helped recruit followers into the local police or community defense groups in 2007. The Awakening spread throughout Iraq and contributed to the overall success in combating militants.

But Bashary says the tactic is evolving differently in Afghanistan, which has had a history of powerful warlords who commanded private militias. “Afghanistan and Iraq are two different countries,” he said.

The coalition and Afghan forces have attempted to carefully set up the program to avoid empowering “the militias or warlords that once terrorized Afghanistan,” according to a twice yearly Pentagon report to Congress on the Afghanistan war.

The Afghan government will carefully assess village dynamics before establishing organizations and the forces will be closely coordinated with coalition forces, the Pentagon says.

A number of villages have already stood up to the Taliban, according to the Pentagon.

Last April local villagers in Daykundi province in central Afghanistan fought against the Taliban with support from the Afghan government and coalition forces, the report said.

Since then there have been indications that communities in Herat, Paktika, Paktia, Oruzgan, Konduz, and Farah also defended their areas from Taliban incursions.

The program is designed to organize those efforts. Since August, when the program officially started it has shown results, analysts say.

In a district near Kandahar the presence of armed and organized villagers has disrupted Taliban communication lines between Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War.

The military views it as a temporary means to bolster security while conventional Afghan security forces are growing, according to the Pentagon.

“I don’t think expectations are that high,” said Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who said that one benefit of the plan is that it allows commanders to expand security into areas lacking heavy concentrations of coalition forces or Afghan soldiers.

Recruits who bring their own rifles have to register the weapons with the Afghan government, Bashary said.

The program is temporary and the villagers could eventually join the Afghan army or national police, which is similar to how the plan worked in Iraq.

“The local people are on board,” Bashary said. “The people will stand up against the bad guys.”



Haqqani network lies dormant in Afghanistan

December 27, 2010

NY Times, Dec. 26, 2010


Taliban Fighters Appear Quieted in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON — The deadliest group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has not conducted a complex large-scale attack in the capital city of Kabul for seven months, its momentum stymied as elite American-led commandos have escalated raids against the militants’ bomb makers and logisticians.

But in a testament to the resiliency of the fighters, the so-called Haqqani network, and a nod to the fragility of the allied gains, the White House is not trumpeting this assessment. Instead, it is tucked into a classified portion of the Obama administration’s year-end review of its Afghanistan war strategy, and senior American officials speak of it in cautious terms, as if not wanting to jinx the positive trend.

That is because even in its weakened state, the network remains the most formidable enemy that American troops face in Afghanistan, and the group is showing signs of adapting its tactics and shifting its combatants to counter the allied strategy, American commanders say.

“They’re financed better, they’re better trained and they’re the ones who bring in the higher-end I.E.D.’s,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the top allied commander in eastern Afghanistan, referring to improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs, which the Haqqanis have employed with lethal efficiency in the past several years.

In many ways, the war in Afghanistan, particularly in the rugged eastern part, is a war against the Haqqani family, whose patriarch, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was a legendary guerrilla fighter in the Central Intelligence Agency-backed campaign to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s. His son Sirajuddin now runs the group’s daily operations from his haven in Pakistan, and he has made aggressive efforts to recruit foreign fighters from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Central Asia.

The Haqqani network is considered a part of the Afghan Taliban, and is a key ally and protector of Al Qaeda’s top leadership, whose members are believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s remote border regions. American and other Western intelligence officials believe that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, shields the Haqqanis in exchange for the network’s attacks against Pakistan’s archrival, India, in Afghanistan.

American intelligence officials say that the Haqqani network planned the attacks in 2008 in Kabul against the Serena Hotel and the Indian Embassy. It has also been linked to the suicide bombing of a C.I.A. outpost in Khost last December, and has held an American soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, since he was kidnapped after walking off his Army base in Paktika Province in June 2009. The Haqqanis finance their operations with timber smuggling, kidnapping ransoms and donations from wealthy Persian Gulf individuals, intelligence officials say.

NATO commanders and senior Obama administration officials take heart in the fact that the Haqqanis have not conducted a complicated attack in Kabul since a suicide bomber steered his explosives-laden Toyota minibus into an American convoy on May 18. The attack killed 18 people, including 5 American soldiers and an officer from Canada, and wounded at least 47 civilians.

Allied officials attribute the tactical success to several factors. A sixfold increase in the past year in the number of Special Operations raids against insurgents, including the Haqqanis, has disrupted the militants’ operations. In the past three months alone, commandos have carried out 1,784 missions across Afghanistan, killing or capturing 880 insurgent leaders.

About one-third of those operations were directed against the Haqqani network, a senior NATO official said. He and two other NATO officials agreed to speak candidly about current operations if they weren’t quoted by name.

Jallaludin Haqqani


At the same time, 5,400 additional American ground forces have been deployed to eastern Afghanistan, bringing the total there to nearly 37,000. Combined with increased Afghan army, police and intelligence service operations in and around Kabul, the troop surge has hampered the Haqqani network’s ability to run suicide bombers in a crucial corridor between Kabul and Khost, adjacent to the group’s Pakistan sanctuary, allied commanders and independent counterinsurgency specialists say.

“We’re going after their networks — the I.E.D. suppliers and bomb makers, and lead fighters,” said the senior NATO official in Kabul.

To help offset the withdrawal of some troops from isolated outposts in the east, NATO has increased surveillance drone flights and positioned 68 tethered balloons with cameras and other sensors along the border with Pakistan, a senior allied official said.

Inside Pakistan itself, 99 of the 112 airstrikes launched by C.I.A. drones this year have been directed at North Waziristan, the operations hub for the Haqqanis as well as one of their Waziri allies, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, according to Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a Web site that monitors the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yet so wily and tenacious are the Haqqanis that Kabul is rife with rumors that their attacks in the capital have subsided for other reasons. One suggests that President Hamid Karzai’s government is paying the Haqqanis not to attack, while another suggests that the ISI has told the Haqqanis to back off in order to keep them in the mix for any Afghan reconciliation talks. NATO, Afghan and Pakistani officials deny such maneuvering.

American and NATO officials say the increased operations have degraded the Haqqani network in its stronghold of Paktia, Paktika and Khost Provinces, but not its ability to attack.

“While targeting multiple training camps and rat lines have yielded short-term gains, the resilience of the HQN in the area has made quantifying these gains difficult,” a second NATO official said in an e-mail, using the abbreviation for the Haqqanis. “The network continues to recruit fighters and take measures to conceal the extent of damage to their capacity. At this point, the effort has disrupted, rather than dislodged the Haqqani network.”

A recent report on the Haqqani network by the Institute for the Study of War, a research organization here, concluded: “The population that Haqqani relies on for recruits, shelter and support has grown increasingly frustrated with the preponderance of civilian casualties and the death of recruits in Haqqani-linked operations.”

In a sign of their resiliency, the Haqqanis are moving north and west to avoid the Special Operations raids and drone strikes, and take advantage of ties to family and criminal networks there, American intelligence officials say. “The insurgents are taking advantage of targets of opportunity and responding to pressure, rather than any concerted efforts to try to expand their influence,” the second NATO official said.

In addition, American commanders say the Haqqani network has shifted from staging complex attacks against targets in Kabul, to smaller suicide-bombings and a series of furious, largely successful assaults this past summer against remote American outposts near the border with Pakistan.

On Dec. 19, Haqqani-linked insurgents armed with AK-47s and grenades opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan army trainers. One attacker ran into the bus and blew himself up, killing five officers and wounding nine others.

Afghan and allied commanders say that the increased raids against the Haqqani network are just a piece of the broader counterinsurgency strategy of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, and the Karzai government, to win over the population with good governance and economic opportunity, as well as with improved security.

And this puts the United States in direct competition with the Haqqanis. “The Haqqani network’s goal remains territory,” said a third NATO official in Kabul. “While it does not have the capacity to unseat the government in Kabul, nor to really govern, it wants to seize territory because that allows it to generate income ‘Mafia-like.’ ”

Food Aid Cut After Bombing

KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — About 300,000 villagers impoverished by fighting in Pakistan’s tribal belt are scrambling to find food after a suicide bombing that killed 45 people outside a World Food Program center prompted a suspension of the relief project.

Pakistani officials said the attack was a sign of insurgent desperation, but the bombing challenged Islamabad’s claims of victory over Al Qaeda and the Taliban in this part of the border with Afghanistan.

Shahab Khan, World Food Program district coordinator, said Sunday that its four centers in the Bajaur tribal region had been shut since Saturday’s bombing. The centers feed the 300,000 people who returned to the district from camps for the displaced elsewhere in the country.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker contributed reporting.

R.I.P. Richard Holbrooke

December 14, 2010

Sad and tragic news today as one of our top and most experienced diplomats passed away. Richard Holbrooke will be sorely missed.


December 14, 2010
Associated Press

US diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies


WASHINGTON – Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died Monday, the State Department said. He was 69.

Calling Holbrooke “a true giant of American foreign policy,” Obama paid homage to the veteran diplomat as “a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace.” Holbrooke deserves credit for much of the progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president said.

Holbrooke, whose forceful style earned him nicknames such as “The Bulldozer” and “Raging Bull,” was admitted to the hospital on Friday after becoming ill at the State Department. The former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. had surgery Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta, the body’s principal artery.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Holbrooke one of America’s “fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants.”

“Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination,” Clinton said.

Holbrooke served under every Democratic president from John F. Kennedy to Obama in a lengthy career that began with a foreign service posting in Vietnam in 1962 after graduating from Brown University, and included time as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., called the loss of Holbrooke “almost incomprehensible,” adding that his “tough-as-nails, never-quit diplomacy” saved tens of thousands of lives. Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who will chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee next year, called Holbrooke “a dynamic force in American diplomacy” whose “stellar service is deeply appreciated and held in the highest esteem.”

Holbrooke’s sizable ego, tenacity and willingness to push hard for diplomatic results won him both admiration and animosity.

“If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes,” former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said. “If you say no, you’ll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful.”

He learned to become extremely informed about whatever country he was in, push for an exit strategy and look for ways to get those who live in a country to take increasing responsibility for their own security.

“He’s a bulldog for the globe,” Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, once said.

The bearish Holbrooke said he has no qualms about “negotiating with people who do immoral things.”

“If you can prevent the deaths of people still alive, you’re not doing a disservice to those already killed by trying to do so,” he said in 1999.

Born in New York City on April 24, 1941, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke had an interest in public service from his early years. He was good friends in high school with a son of Dean Rusk and he grew close to the family of the man who would become a secretary of state for presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Holbrooke was a young provincial representative for the U.S. Agency for International Development in South Vietnam and then an aide to two U.S. ambassadors in Saigon. At the Johnson White House, he wrote one volume of the Pentagon Papers, an internal government study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that was completed in 1967.

The study, leaked in 1971 by a former Defense Department aide, had many damaging revelations, including a memo that stated the reason for fighting in Vietnam was based far more on preserving U.S. prestige than preventing communism or helping the Vietnamese.

After stints in and out of government — including as Peace Corps director in Morocco, editing positions at Foreign Policy and Newsweek magazines and adviser to Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign — Holbrooke became assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs from 1977-81. He then shifted back to private life — and the financial world, at Lehman Brothers.

A lifelong Democrat, he returned to public service when Bill Clinton took the White House in 1993. Holbrooke was U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994 and then assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

One of his signature achievements was brokering the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. He detailed the experience of negotiating the deal at an Air Force base near the Ohio city in his 1998 memoir, “To End a War.”

James Dobbins, former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan who worked closely with Holbrooke early in their careers, called him a brilliant diplomat and said his success at the Dayton peace talks “was the turning point in the Clinton administration’s foreign policy.”

Holbrooke’s efforts surrounding Dayton would later lead to controversy when wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told a war crimes tribunal in 2009 that Holbrooke had promised him immunity in return for leaving politics. Holbrooke denied the claim.

Holbrooke left the State Department in 1996 to take a Wall Street job with Credit Suisse First Boston, but was never far from the international diplomatic fray, serving as a private citizen as a special envoy to Cyprus and then the Balkans.

In 1998, he negotiated an agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw Yugoslav forces from Kosovo where they were accused of conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign and allow international observers into the province.

“I make no apologies for negotiating with Milosevic and even worse people, provided one doesn’t lose one’s point of view,” he said later.

When the deal fell apart, Holbrooke went to Belgrade to deliver the final ultimatum to Milosevic to leave Kosovo or face NATO airstrikes, which ultimately rained down on the capital.

“This isn’t fun,” he said of his Kosovo experience. “This isn’t bridge or tennis. This is tough slogging.”

Holbrooke returned to public service in 1999, when he became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after a lengthy confirmation battle, stalled at first by ethics investigations into his business dealings and then unrelated Republican objections.

At the U.N., Holbrooke tried to broker peace in wartorn African nations. He led efforts to help refugees and fight AIDS in Africa. He also confronted U.N. anger over unpaid U.S. dues to the world body and persuaded 188 countries to overhaul the United Nations’ financing and reduce U.S. payments.

“What’s the point of being in the government if you don’t try to make things better, which means trying to change things,” Holbrooke told The Associated Press in a 2001 interview, reflecting on his time at the United Nations.

Holbrooke, with his long-standing ties to Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, was a strong supporter of her 2008 bid for the White House. He had been considered a favorite to become secretary of state if she had won. When she dropped out, he began reaching out to the campaign of Obama.

“Richard Holbrooke saved lives, secured peace and restored hope for countless people around the world,” Bill Clinton said in a statement late Monday.

Reflecting on his role as Obama’s special envoy, Holbrooke wrote in The Washington Post in March 2008 that “the conflict in Afghanistan will be far more costly and much, much longer than Americans realize. This war, already in its seventh year, will eventually become the longest in American history, surpassing even Vietnam.”

Holbrooke’s relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was strained after their heated meeting in 2009 over the fraud-tainted Afghan presidential election. Karzai brushed it off, saying he had “no problem at all with Mr. Holbrooke.” But the U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan, not Holbrooke, were the ones who ended up developed the closest relations with the mercurial Afghan leader. The State Department said Sunday that Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were among those calling to wish Holbrooke well.

Holbrooke rejected direct comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam, but acknowledged similarities and repeatedly pressed the administration to do more to win the hearts and minds of both the Afghan and Pakistani people.

He was fully engaged in that effort until his unexpected death.

A torn aorta — the condition that cost Holbrooke’s life — is a rip in the inner wall of the body’s largest artery. The result is serious internal bleeding, a loss of normal blood flow and possible complications in organs affected by the resulting lack of blood, according to medical experts. Without surgery it generally leads to rapid death.

“True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end,” said Clinton. “His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard.”

Holbrooke is survived by his wife, author Kati Marton, and two sons from an earlier marriage, David Holbrooke and Anthony Holbrooke.

Sunni ‘Awakening’ fighters re-joining Iraqi insurgency

October 17, 2010

terrible news due to lack of Iraqi political progress, as scores of Sunni tribal fighters are rejoining the insurgency.

Sunnis in Iraq Allied With U.S. Quitting to Rejoin Rebels

NY Times, October 16, 2o10


BAQUBA, Iraq — Members of United States-allied Awakening Councils have quit or been dismissed from their positions in significant numbers in recent months, prey to an intensive recruitment campaign by the Sunni insurgency, according to government officials, current and former members of the Awakening and insurgents.

Although there are no firm figures, security and political officials say hundreds of the well-disciplined fighters — many of whom have gained extensive knowledge about the American military — appear to have rejoined Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Beyond that, officials say that even many of the Awakening fighters still on the Iraqi government payroll, possibly thousands of them, covertly aid the insurgency.

The defections have been driven in part by frustration with the Shiite-led government, which Awakening members say is intent on destroying them, as well as by pressure from Al Qaeda. The exodus has accelerated since Iraq’s inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, which have left Sunnis uncertain of retaining what little political influence they have and which appear to have provided Al Qaeda new opportunities to lure back fighters.

The Awakening members’ switch in loyalties poses a new threat to Iraq’s tenuous social and political balance during the country’s ongoing political crisis and as the United States military prepares to withdraw next year.

“The Awakening doesn’t know what the future holds because it is not clear what the government intends for them,” said Nathum al-Jubouri, a former Awakening Council leader in Salahuddin Province who recently quit the organization.

“At this point, Awakening members have two options: Stay with the government, which would be a threat to their lives, or help Al Qaeda by being a double agent,” he said. “The Awakening is like a database for Al Qaeda that can be used to target places that had been out of reach before.”

The Awakening began in 2006, when Sunni insurgents and tribal leaders began turning against Al Qaeda and other extremists — a change that played a major role in pulling Iraq back from deadly sectarian warfare. The former insurgents were initially paid by the American military, with promises that they would eventually get jobs with the government.

But Awakening leaders and security officials say that since the spring, as many as several thousand Awakening fighters have quit, been fired, stopped showing up for duty, or ceased picking up paychecks.

During the past four months, the atmosphere has become particularly charged as the Awakening members find themselves squeezed between Iraqi security forces, who have arrested hundreds of current and former members accused of acts of recent terrorism, and Al Qaeda’s brutal recruitment techniques.

As part of the militants’ unusual, though often convincing strategy, Awakening members that Al Qaeda fails to kill are then sought out to rejoin the insurgency. They are offered larger paychecks than their $300 a month government pay and told that they would be far safer.

Hussam al-Majmaei, the Awakening leader in Diyala Province

The government, which says it is trying to integrate the Awakening into broader Iraqi society, has further angered the group recently by confiscating its weapons, saying Awakening fighters lack proper permits, and stripping some fighters of their ranks, which the government says were not properly earned. The pay of some Awakening leaders has also been reduced.

Iraqi officials in Baghdad say they are aware of only a handful of Awakening members who have quit recently, and they are unapologetic about the government’s treatment of the fighters.

“Fighting the Al Qaeda organization does not mean you are giving service to the government or to the people, and that you deserve gifts, rank, presents or benefits,” said Zuhair al-Chalabi, head of the National Reconciliation Committee, set up to heal the country’s sectarian divides. “It is a national duty.”

The Awakening has long complained about Iraq’s reluctance to hire more of its members into the army and the police, and about receiving salaries late. Those problems persist, members say.

As of July, less than half — 41,000 of 94,000 — of the Awakening’s fighters had been offered jobs by the government, according to the United States Defense Department. Much of the employment has been temporary and involved menial labor. The government has hired only about 9,000 Awakening members for the security forces, with officials blaming budget constraints.

Leaders of the Awakening, who so far do not appear to be among those leaving, say they are not surprised about the defections given what they call the group’s marginalization by the government and its abandonment by the American military.

United States forces had overseen the Awakening in some areas of the country as recently as last year, including in Diyala Province, the violent area northeast of Baghdad that is one of Al Qaeda’s remaining strongholds. The United States relinquished control of the group as it began ceding more oversight of security to the Iraqi government. The American military declined to comment on the Awakening’s troubles.

One Awakening leader in Diyala, Bakr Karkhi, said during an interview that nearly two dozen of his fighters had rejoined Al Qaeda during the past few weeks, a process he said had been occurring throughout Sunni areas of Iraq. Other fighters, he said, had abruptly stopped reporting for duty. “I became suspicious when some of them started making questionable comments, so I expelled them,” he said. “Others left the Awakening on their own and then disappeared from their villages. We found out they were conducting illegal operations and cooperating with armed groups, including Al Qaeda.”

Awakening fighters say recent entreaties by Al Qaeda — messages that have been passed along by relatives or posted on Internet Web sites — have included pledges not to disrupt tribal traditions, one of the issues that drove a wedge between the majority of Sunni tribes and the insurgency.

A man who identified himself as a member of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia said recently that the recruitment of disaffected Awakening members had been successful in Baquba, the capital of Diyala.

“Many of those who called themselves the Awakening felt remorse,” said the man, who used the nom de guerre Abu Mohammed al-Daeni. “They believed they were making a mistake by helping the occupiers and have now returned to Al Qaeda. I can say that the number is increasing every day.”

Diyala has also witnessed a number of events in which police say Awakening fighters have helped Al Qaeda detonate bombs and commit other violent acts.

“The Awakening is not helping the police,” said Lt. Gen. Tariq al-Assawi, the province’s security forces commander. “They are not telling us if Al Qaeda is in the area. They are not warning us about car bombs that go off in places they are responsible for securing. A lot of them are definitely helping the insurgents.”

Muthana al-Tamimi, head of the provincial council’s security committee, said Awakening members were clearly returning to the insurgency, but that Baghdad should share the blame.

“The Awakening needs government support,” he said. “They’re not getting it, so they’re an easy bite for terrorists.”

Since January, more than 90 Awakening fighters in Diyala have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism, the authorities said. During that same period, about 100 Awakening members have been killed or wounded by Al Qaeda, according to the Awakening. The police acknowledge that almost half of those arrested were later released for lack of evidence, bolstering the Awakening’s claims of harassment.

Al Qaeda’s carrot-or-stick strategy with the Awakening was on display during a recent phone call received by Hussam al-Majmaei, the Awakening leader in Diyala Province.

The caller was Jihad Ibrahim Halim, who had been a Qaeda commander before his arrest last year. He was calling from prison.

Mr. Halim, who is Mr. Majmaei’s cousin, told him that for his own good he should rejoin the insurgency because Al Qaeda would slaughter those who had opposed them, Mr. Majmaei included. Mr. Majmaei, 27, chuckled and made his own threats before hanging up. The call, he said, was part of an ongoing “seduction.”

So far, Mr. Majmaei said he had not been swayed by Al Qaeda’s promises of money and power.

“I would never join them,” he said. “But they have no doubts. They believe in what they are saying and I see how others might bend.”

Reporting was contributed by Yasir Ghazi from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Baghdad, Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Babil and Anbar Provinces.

Aid money: Federal vs. Tribal

October 6, 2010

an interesting new documentary dealing with US effort to pacify a province close to Jalalabad, by dealing directly with tribal elders rather than passing aid money through the corrupt and inefficient Afghan federal government.

FARC – a possible turning point

September 27, 2010

Latin American Herald Tribune, September 27, 2008

BOGOTA – Army troops found another body at the site where FARC military chief Jorge Briceño, known as “Mono Jojoy,” was killed in an airstrike last week in a mountainous section of the south-central province of Meta, Colombian media reported.

The body was found Saturday while soldiers were searching the site, located in an area known as La Escalera.

The body will be sent to the morgue in Bogota, where officials will try to identify the dead Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, member.

Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, better known as Jorge Briceño Suarez or Mono Jojoy, was killed early Thursday in a joint army, air force and police operation officials said.

Elite army units are pursuing about 700 FARC guerrillas who fled from the area after Mono Jojoy’s death.

President Juan Manuel Santos plans to visit La Macarena on Sunday to congratulate the troops deployed in the area.

A score of guerrillas who made up the security ring of the military chief – Colombia’s most-wanted man along with the FARC’s top leader, Alfonso Cano – were also killed in the airstrike.

Mono Jojoy was born on Feb. 5, 1953, in Cabrera, a town in the central province of Cundinamarca, and was a member of the secretariat, or high command, of the FARC.

He joined the rebel group in 1975 as a low-ranking insurgent and had been considered one of the FARC’s most radical and uncompromising leaders.

Both the Colombian government and the U.S. State Department had offered millions of dollars for information leading to his capture.

Even prior to Mono Jojoy’s death, the FARC, which has seen its numbers fall by more than half in recent years to roughly 8,000 fighters, had suffered a series of setbacks.

On July 2, 2008, the Colombian army rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers.

The FARC had been trying to trade the 15 captives, along with 25 other “exchangeables,” for hundreds of jailed guerrillas.

The rebels’ most valuable bargaining chip was Betancourt, a dual Colombian-French citizen the FARC seized in February 2002 whose plight became a cause celebre in Europe.

The guerrilla group is believed to still be holding some 700 hostages.

FARC founder Manuel Marulanda, who was known as “Sureshot,” died on March 26, 2008.

Three weeks earlier, Colombian forces staged a cross-border raid into Ecuador, killing FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes and setting off a regional diplomatic crisis.

Ivan Rios, a high-level FARC commander, was killed that same month by one of his own men, who cut off the guerrilla leader’s hand and presented it to army troops, along with identification documents, as proof that the rebel chief was dead.

The FARC, which has fought a succession of Colombian governments for decades, is on both the U.S. and EU lists of foreign terrorist organizations.

Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC’s main means of financing its operations.