Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jihadi Communications Techniques (Link List)

I have stumbled across a number of fairly recent but obviously not new articles about how various Islamic extremist groups use modern media and the internet to communicate. The titles and the links are listed below, in case you haven't seen them (click on the link to download the full text):

Communication And Media Strategy In the Jihadi War Of Ideas

The Radical Dawa In Transition: The Rise Of Islamic Neoradicalism In The Netherlands (Not technically about communications strategies but there is a section in the report on these strategies)

A Framework For Understanding Terrorist Use Of The Internet

Al Qaeda: Propaganda And Media Strategy (with thanks to The CARL!)

Darfur: A Cultural Handbook (ARAG)

The Advanced Research And Assessment Group of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom published last April an outstanding cultural guide (written by Tony Lindsay) on the Darfur region and the ongoing crisis there (Download the full text here). It would make an excellent primer for a student or analyst who was new to the region or as a quick reference guide for a more seasoned analyst. I was particularly impressed with the extensive list of Darfuri and Chadian rebel groups, the section on the Sudanese naming system and the annex on how to do business in Darfur.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pakistan-US Relations (Lead And Background Info: CRS)

In the wake of the Bhutto Assassination, I thought this recent CRS document (download full text here, hosted by the FAS) might prove interesting. Written in October 2007, it gives some detailed background information that might be of use. Beyond the background, there are some leads here as to who might be the perpetrators (Italics, bold and hyperlinks are mine):

  • "On October 18 (2007), former Prime Minister Bhutto made good on her promise to return to Pakistan after more than eight years of self imposed exile and was welcomed in Karachi by up to one million supporters. (Hours later, two bomb blasts near her motorcade — likely perpetrated by suicide attackers — left at least 115 people dead, but Bhutto was unharmed.) While Bhutto continues to enjoy significant public support in the country, especially in her home region of rural Sindh, there are signs that many PPP members are ambivalent about her return and worry that her credibility as an opponent of military rule has been damaged through deal-making with Musharraf."
  • "Bhutto has alleged that some pro-jihadist retired Pakistani military officers have plotted her assassination, and Baitullah Mehsud (plus more here and here), a pro-Taliban militant commander in South Waziristan, vowed to launch suicide attacks against her. The government deployed thousands of security troops to safeguard her Karachi arrival (Zahid Hussain, “Triumph or Tumult for Bhutto?,” Wall Street Journal Asia, October 18, 2007)"
  • "The leadership of the country’s leading moderate, secular, and arguably most popular party — the Pakistan People’s Party — seek greater U.S. support for Pakistani democratization and warn that the space in which they are allowed to operate is so narrow as to bring into question their continued viability as political forces. They also identify a direct causal link between nondemocratic governance and the persistence of religious militancy in Pakistan. According to former Prime Minister Bhutto, “Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism .... Civil unrest is what the extremists want. Anarchy and chaos suit them.” She asserts that elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus are sympathetic to religious extremists and that these elements can only be neutralized by being made answerable to an elected government."
  • "Many analysts consider a potential accommodation between President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Bhutto to be the best option both for stabilizing Islamabad’s political circumstances and for more effectively creating a moderate and prosperous Pakistan (some reports have the U.S. government quietly encouraging Musharraf to pursue this option). Such accommodation might include Musharraf retiring from the military following his reelection as President and allowing Bhutto to return to Pakistan and run for national office. Even as this arrangement may be in process, it is highly unlikely to alter the army’s role as ultimate arbiter of the country’s foreign and national security policies, but might create a transitional alliance that would empower Pakistan’s more liberal and secular elements."

Watching The Story Unfold: The Bhutto Assassination (Wikipedia)

One of the best open source places to watch a story unfold such as the Bhutto Assassination is on Wikipedia. Authors from all over the world rapidly converge on the site to update it with current news and speculation. As with any source, it is not definitive but it can be up to date and often includes views from all over the world. Currently the site contains a useful list of international reactions and some information regarding the immediate reaction in Pakistan itself. There is also a fairly exhaustive reference list. Expect this site to be updated regularly (a number of references were added while I type this).

Intelligence Estimates: How Useful To Congress? (CRS)

The CRS recently released a report (now available here in full text through the FAS) on NIEs and their increasing importance to Congress. The thing that interested me most was the discussion of the role of Congress in the recent spate of public NIE releases (including ones on Iran's Nuclear Intentions, Prospects For Iraq's Stability, the original and the update, the Terrorist Threat To The Homeland and Trends in Global Terrorism). Here are some of the other highlights from the Conclusion (I have separated the findings in order to make it easier to read and, as always, the boldface and italics are mine):

  • "Congress is and will continue to be an important consumer of national intelligence, but there are concerns that heavy emphasis on mandating NIEs may not assist the legislative process to the extent that some anticipate. NIEs can provide the Intelligence Community’s best evidence and analysis on major issues of national security and can highlight areas where information is lacking, but they usually require lengthy preparation and coordination before they can be disseminated."
  • "The example of the NIE on Iraqi WMD suggests that compressing the production schedule can be counterproductive."
  • "Moreover, conclusions of NIEs may not be informed by knowledge of initiatives planned or underway by others in the executive or legislative branches."
  • "A more public role for NIEs in debates on national security policy issues could obscure their inherent limitations and distort the discussion of the policy issues."
  • "In some cases, Congress may find intelligence assessments or briefings prepared in a less structured way and within tighter time constraints better serve its legislative needs than formal NIEs."
  • "The creation of the Office of the DNI provides a focal point from which the analytical capabilities of all intelligence agencies can be brought to bear on given issues, even ones that are narrowly focused. It is considered likely that a combination of NIEs on some topics, supplemented by more limited assessments supported by an ongoing dialogue with intelligence analysts, may provide the most effective support to the legislative process." (Historically, of course, the Executive Branch has been the primary consumer of intelligence. While this is unlikely to change, an increased interest by Congress -- the branch that controls the purse strings -- coupled with the DNI as the primary POC, is likely to lead to a more independent intel community and a stronger DNI.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Al Qa'ida's Foreign Fighters In Iraq (CTC West Point)

Released just before Christmas and available here for full download, the CTC at West Point has done a stellar job analyzing the Al Qai'ida records captured in the raid near Sinjar along Iraq's Syrian border in October 2007.

Highlights from the Conclusion include (Hyperlinks are mine):

  • "Saudis made up the largest contingent of foreign fighters entering Iraq. Libyans were second (first if measured in percapita terms) and Syrians a distant third. In terms of sheer numbers, Saudis constituted the largest group of foreign fighters and contributed the most overall suicide bombers, but the percentage of Saudi fighters listed as suicide bombers was actually lower than non‐Saudis."
  • "Recent political developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the prevalence of Libyan fighters in Iraq, and evidence of a well‐established smuggling route for Libyans through Egypt, suggests that Libyan factions (primarily the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) are increasingly important in al‐Qa’ida."
  • "The Sinjar Records reinforce anecdotal accounts suggesting that al‐Qa’ida’s Iraqi affiliates rely on smugglers and criminals—rather than their own personnel—to funnel recruits into Iraq."
  • "Many of the foreign fighters entering Iraq arrived with a group from their hometown, suggesting that al‐Qa’ida’s recruiters try to attract groups of friends simultaneously."
  • "The majority of fighters that listed their occupation before traveling to Iraq were students. Universities have become a critical recruiting field for al‐Qa’ida."
  • "Al‐Qa’ida’s reliance on criminal and smuggling networks exposes it to the greed of mercenaries. In many cases, the United States should target work to destroy these networks, but the U.S. must remain flexible enough to recognize opportunities to co‐opt, rather than simply annihilate, such systems."
  • "The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s unification with al‐Qa’ida and its apparent decision to prioritize providing logistical support to the Islamic State of Iraq is likely controversial within the organization."
  • "The Islamic State of Iraq has failed politically because it has been unable to balance the practical demands of its local Iraqi constituency and the religious demands of its foreign supporters."
  • "The Syrian and Libyan governments share the United States’ concerns about violent salafi‐jihadi ideology and the violence perpetrated by its adherents. These governments, like others in the Middle East, fear violence inside their borders and would much rather radical elements go to Iraq rather than cause unrest at home. U.S. and Coalition efforts to stem the flow of fighters into Iraq will be enhanced if they address the entire logistical chain that supports the movement of these individuals—beginning in their home countries – rather than just their Syrian entry points."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Defeating Cross Border Insurgencies (Thesis)

The new batch of CGSC masters theses are online and available for download here. One that stood out immediately due to its topic was Major Thorsten Lyhne Jorgensen's thesis, "Defeating Cross Border Insurgencies" (The full text can be downloaded here). MAJ Jorgenson is from Denmark yet his thesis is better written and more methodologically sound than many I have read. Using a comparative case study as the broad method and the theoretical models of Collier-Hoeffler combined with the counter-insurgency insights from O'Neill to help focus his research, MAJ Jorgenson has identified some trends that appear to be constant across a wide realm of cross-border insurgencies. Highlights from the abstract and the text include (Italics are mine):

  • "This thesis assesses whether COIN efforts can be successful when the insurgents are operating from safe havens in neighboring states."
  • "In order for the COIN to be successful, a number of prerequisites must be in place. The political and military leadership and the civilian and military operators on the ground have to be historical and cultural aware with regards to the region in which operations are conducted, especially with regards to the structural aspects in effect amongst the local populace." (There are a couple of typos in the above and they were in the original. MAJ Jorgenson's thesis is 130+ pages and English can't be his first language. No foul, then, to the author; but I felt like it needed an explanation...)
  • "A well planned and coordinated application of the DIME is the key to success. The regional aspects of the cross border insurgencies call upon a diplomatic approach involving regional players as well as IO, IGO and NGOs."
  • "The Informational instrument of national power is a proactive tool in the fight against the insurgency. This powerful instrument is difficult to control by nature, needs to be both primitive and sophisticated in nature and message. Primitive in nature when dealing with the local goatherd or illiterate and sophisticated and professional when dealing with the world press."
  • "The Military instrument of national power is a necessity in securing the populace. The application of the Military instrument must be immediately followed by reconstruction efforts aiming to mitigate poverty and everyday suffering. Executing projects, both long and short term, utilizing local labor is a way to counter the alarming unemployment figures which are potential recruitment bases for the insurgency. Sufficient boots on the ground is essential to maintain presence and thereby maintain legitimacy of the entire COIN effort."
  • "The Economic instrument is important especially when dealing with underdeveloped populaces such as the ones in Oman, Kashmir and Afghanistan. A significant and long term effort like the one in Oman stands good chances of success. Decreasing poverty and providing jobs through economically secured programs are a safe way to gain legitimacy and support within the local populace. As for the previous instruments of national power, the Economic instrument must be applied in accordance with a well coordinated regional plan."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Presents, Presents, Presents! (Happy Holidays!)

It is the holiday season just about everywhere so here is a list of goodies for just about every type person (or every type person that reads this blog...).

For The Operationally Inclined:

Operation Christmas. Ever wonder how the jolly old elf does it? Wired magazine has finally dug the dirt and ripped the lid off of Santa, Inc.

NORAD Tracks Santa. NORAD has been doing this for years and has recently upgraded to a real-time version integrated with GoogleEarth and live video.

For The Audiophile:

Vintage Christmas Wax. SAM is all about independent and new music and there is nothing more "indie" than these cleaned up .mp3s of old wax canister versions of classic Christmas songs. You never heard the Edison (as in Thomas Alva Edison) Mixed Quartet sing "O Come All Ye Faithful"? Here is your chance.

Sara Bareilles. Not all that Christmas-y but if you like Norah Jones you will likely like Ms. Bareilles.

For The Historian:

Christmas At War. The Imperial War Museum has put together a very interesting online exhibit of a number of stories and images of Christmas at War. Once you have finished with this exhibit, I recommend you check out the rest of this detailed site.

For The New Year:

Writing Proper Thank-You Notes. Excellent outline for doing what we know needs to be done.

Beating The Little Hater. A little hip-hop motivational lecture for the New Year from IllDoctrine.

Getting Back To School, Work Or Both: Find the best seats on every plane, every airline.

In-Flight Fitness Guide. The American Physical Therapy Association comes to the rescue with this series of tips for keeping yourself loose and healthy on long flights.