I don't even know where I come off complaining about Tom Friedman. Yesterday, I was sitting in the CNAS conference room going over our presentations for tomorrow with my colleagues when, through the glass, I noticed a story on CNN about how actor Jon Voight was speaking out against President Obama. Russell Simmons then appeared to defend the president.
I suppose I could have just shaken my head about how ridiculous U.S. cable television news is and gone back to listening to Nagl talk about Iraq, but instead I had to work hard to keep from laughing because all that was going through my head at the time was this bit of Dave Chappelle monologue. This could be NSFW (language), depending on your workplace, so use headphones:
It is worth noting that the investigating officer for this report was not some cuddly JAG officer who has never seen combat but rather one of the most respected special operators in the U.S. Army -- a man who has no problem, I can assure you, killing bad guys. (His ridiculous bio is here.) On the one hand, it's nice to see the U.S. military step up and admit fault. On the other hand, if this incident is emblematic of a culture in the U.S. forces in Afghanistan that plays free and loose with 2,500-pound bombs, that's not good at all.
According to the senior military official, the report on the May 4 raids found that one plane was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but then had to circle back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs, leaving open the possibility that the militants had fled the site or that civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.
In another case, a compound of buildings where militants were massing for a possible counterattack against American and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, the official said.“In several instances where there was a legitimate threat, the choice of how to deal with that threat did not comply with the standing rules of engagement,” said the military official, who provided a broad summary of the report’s initial findings on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was not yet complete.
And finally, this might be the worst news of the day. Yesterday's hearings on Capitol Hill were kind of important, right? I mean, the confirmation of a controversial new commander for the war in Afghanistan should have attracted as much attention as the Spring 2007 hearing with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, right?
The insurgents’ modern gear and the relative sophistication of their tactics and marksmanship indicated that these were not local guerrillas. The use of body armor, helmets and smoke grenades is “fairly rare” anywhere in Afghanistan, and “most likely indicates a skilled group [of] … foreign fighters with funding and previous experience [and] training,” an Army source in Afghanistan said.
This view was supported by the fact that coalition interpreters monitoring the guerrillas’ communications said they heard two non-Afghan languages. One was Farsi, Cannata said, adding that the interpreters had specifically identified the language as such, rather than Dari, a language spoken in northern and western Afghanistan that is closely related to Farsi but is not usually spoken by the Pashtuns from whom the Taliban draw their recruits.
Farsi, or Persian, is the principal language spoken in Iran. But Cannata was quick to caution against assuming that the presence of Farsi-speaking insurgents indicated that Iranian operatives were fighting U.S. troops. “That doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Iranian,’ I wouldn’t want to lead anybody down the wrong route on that,” Cannata said. Versions of Farsi are also spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Let me make this clear: JSOC did not "win" the Surge and was not primarily responsible for the security gains in Iraq in 2007. They just played a significant role that has yet to be explored by any of the books and articles written. (We will learn a lot, in fact, when everything is declassified one day.) And I do not have any "inside take" on what happened in 2007, a year I spent in London and not Baghdad. This is sensationalist. I may know many of the planners and strategists responsible for the security gains of 2007, but a) those people disagree among themselves about what happened in 2007 and b) so do about 1,000 other people."Indeed, Andrew Exum, an ex-Ranger better known as the blogger Abu Muqawama and one of the leading public experts on counterinsurgency, told Ambinder that his inside take on the 'surge' in Iraq was that it was won not by the increase in U.S. troop levels, but by the elite killers of JSOC — as led by Stan McChrystal." [emphasis mine]And here's what Ambinder actually wrote:"Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq, wrote yesterday on his pseudonymous blog, Abu Muqawama, that 'I do know that many policy-makers and journalists think that McChrystal's work as the head of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command was the untold success story of the Surge and the greater war on terror campaigns.'" [emphasis mine again]