In the past seven days, we’ve seen a major terror attack on Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad Iraq where 500 prisoners, including senior members of al Qaeda were freed by terrorists, and now we’ve got reports of a major attack on a prison complex in Pakistan has meant several hundred more terrorists and Taliban have been freed.
Pakistani Taliban disguised as policemen attacked a prison in the country’s northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, freeing more than 300 prisoners late on Monday.
The jail officials said that several of the prisoners, four security personnel and two assailants were killed in the attack. The prison was housing at least 5000 prisoners, 250 of them hardcore militants.
Malik Qasim Khattak, advisor to the ministry of prisons, said that around 50 to 60 gunmen attacked the jail with bombs and guns before entering into the detention facility. “They detonated about 60 bombs inside the facility which caused the collapse of prison wall. The assailants succeeded in freeing more than 300 prisoners,” Khattak said, adding that the militants blew up two electricity transformers which created complete darkness.
While accepting responsibility for the attack, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed that their attackers had freed around 300 inmates.
Bill Roggio indicates at least 30 of those escapees were hardcore militants. Roggio further indicates those responsible are the Ansar al Aseer, a joint Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan unit that has been designated to free imprisoned jihadists.
At the time of the attack on Abu Ghraib (now called the Baghdad Central Prison), I warned that those freed would not only rejoin the insurgency in Iraq, but could spread across the region causing mayhem in Syria’s civil war, or spark violence in Jordan, Egypt, or Turkey.
Now, we’ve got a second high profile incident involving attacks on detention facilities where high value al Qaeda and/or Taliban prisoners have been held - in a single week.
That doesn’t just happen out of thin air, though this is not the first time that the Taliban have attempted attacks on detention facilities with the goal of freeing Taliban/ and/or al Qaeda leadership. It’s part of a long term trend to bolster their numbers by taking on a major offensive. High profile attacks against detention facilities would do the trick.
The breakout in Pakistan means that terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the frontier provinces that are nominally under Pakistani control are likely to be emboldened to carry on further attacks, including against detention facilities. They may also seek out attacks against the ISAF in Afghanistan, the supply lines, as well as India. This doesn’t bode well for those countries as the terrorist attacks have largely resulted in significant civilian casualties.
American infantry carry automatic weapons but most of the time they fire one precise shot at a time. In Afghanistan and Iraq the locals quickly got to know when American troops were fighting in the area. They were the ones firing single shots. The other guys fired their AK-47s on full auto. But it was the sparser American firepower that dominated. Better training, and high tech sights, made the U.S. troops very accurate. This led to wider use of snipers, with up to ten percent of American troops qualified and equipped for this kind of shooting. Snipers alone have greatly changed American infantry tactics. Using night vision scopes, small UAVs, and personal radios for every soldier American infantry battalions can quickly deploy a dozen or more two man sniper teams that will turns a large area into deathtrap for enemy forces.
July 20, 2013: Terrorist deaths so far this month indicate at least 700 will die from this violence this month. The terrorist violence in Iraq has been steadily increasing since the Americans left in 2011. In the first six months of this year over 3,000 were killed. That’s far from the 2007 carnage, where over 3,000 a month died, but it is still a big jump from only a year ago.
The terrorist violence in Iraq has been steadily increasing since the Americans left in 2011. In the first six months of this year over 3,000 were killed. That’s far from the 2007 carnage, where over 3,000 a month died, but it is still a big jump from only a year ago. If the current death rate continues this year will suffer about a third of the losses inflicted during the worst years of the terror attacks (2006-7). What is likely to prevent that is growing anger among the Shia majority and the increased activity by Shia terror groups and their death squads that simply kill any Sunnis they can find.
Tens of thousands of servicemen and women are dealing with lasting brain damage as the Pentagon scrambles to treat these invisible wounds. David Martin reports.
The following is a script from “Invisible Wounds” which aired on May 5, 2013. David Martin is the correspondent. Mary Walsh, producer.
We all learned a lot in recent years about the dangers of head injuries from contact sports like football. We now know that a hard hit can cause brain damage that only becomes apparent after an athlete’s playing days are over. Football is violent, no doubt, but it’s nothing compared to war. And just as the National Football League has struggled to come to grips with head injuries so has the military - but on a much vaster scale.
An estimated quarter million servicemen and women have suffered concussions over the past decade of war. Tens of thousands — no one knows the precise number — are dealing with lasting brain damage. The Pentagon, which did not recognize the problem until the war in Iraq was almost over, is now scrambling to treat these invisible wounds. And soldiers suffering from them sometimes end up wishing they had a wound people could see.
Ben Richards: If I could trade traumatic brain injury for a single-leg amputation I’d probably do that in a second.
More: Invisible Wounds of War
A number of U.S. politicians and news media, to include the New York Times, have called for the removal of Iraq’s PM Nuri Kamal Al Maliki.
The New York Times printed a story by Nussaibah Younis ” Why Maliki Must Go”: “Nobody wants another civil war in Iraq, yet events are propelling it in that direction. War can be averted only by a new political understanding among three main groups, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds but Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has become too divisive to deliver it.”
But who will take his place?
Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, remains in exile, having fled the bogus charges on terrorism and then been given a death sentence in absentia. Similar moves to charge Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi, a moderate Sunni, led to the protests and riots that have now engulfed Iraq’s Sunni heartland and alienated other communities. An army response to a protest encampment caused more violence.
While Iraq is now governed by Shiite Muslims in line with the Iranian Shiite regime, Maliki has allowed Iranian aircraft to fly over Iraq to provide arms and other support to the Bashar al-Assad Shiite forces.
April was the deadliest month for Iraq in nearly five years, with more than 700 people killed in violence, the United Nations said on Thursday.
“The month of April was the deadliest since June 2008. A total of 712 people were killed and another 1,633 were wounded in acts of terrorism and acts of violence,” a statement from the UN mission in Iraq said.
I have just finished a book I had found at the Pikes Peak Library District called “Origins of a Catastrophe.” The book was written by the last ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmerman. In it I have learned a great deal, and had some thoughts about it and its message, along with what it could mean to the future.
The big lesson out of this was exactly how Yugoslavia broke apart and why, along with with actors responsible for it. The biggest actor in terms of responsibility was Milosevic. A duplicitous, double talking slime, he publicly pushed for a united Yugoslavia, while at the same time disenfranchising and marginalizing non-Serbians.
As for the initial cause of the spiral out of control, it would ironically be the last part of the fallout solved, Kosovo. Kosovo had been unstable for some time, having never found a good equilibrium point during the existence of Yugoslavia, shifting between Anti-Serb sentiments to Anti-Albanian sentiments a few times during the Cold War. However, Milosevic took it to heights unheard of in the region since the Albanian Genocide in 1913. That particular incident resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, possibly over 100,000, and the loss of over half of Albania to Serbia and Greece, along with predation against Albanians by those two that continued to the present day (Continued hostility against Albanians in Kosovo and the Presevo Valley in Serbia’s case, and a continued push for disproportionate rights for ethnic Greeks in Albania by Greece), along with the retaliatory antagonism against Montenegro in the form of a joint Albanian-Croat venture of having a Nuclear Reactor at the Albanian-Montenegrin Border.
However, to get back on track, Milosevic was not the only player in this tragedy. In addition, we have the governments of Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. Slovenia is guilty in terms of getting the ball rolling. In the paraphrased words of Zimmerman, a self-absorption on the part of the Slovenian Government in becoming independent and totally in line with the west left the other 20 million Yugoslavians on a road through hell that continues today. Croatia, largely thanks to Tudjman, become obsessed about imposing ethnic dominance over all areas of Serbia, and taking the parts of Bosnia dominated by Croatians. And Serbia got wrapped up in the Greater Serbia Project, in essence wanting to unify all Serbians in the region under one state.
It should be noted that, for all the antagonism between Milosevic and Tudgman, they have several traits in common. For one, they made a plan to split Bosnia between themselves, making the accusation the Muslims were fanatical Islamists who would created a haven for terror, and must not be allowed self-determination. Most of you have heard this argument before. In fact, this argument is today now used by US Republicans about Muslims in the US at large. I will get back to this later. In addition, I think an argument could be made to Milosevic and Tudjman to be classified literally as fascists, as defined by promotion of Hyper-Nationalism and loyalty to the state, in addition to actions that were Nazi-esque.
This tragedy also has some good guys, albeit they were simply underpowered considering the demagogues they were facing. For example, we have the last Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic, an ethnic Croat and a reformer looking to both westernize Yugoslavia and keep it together. In the end, the actions of Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia stymied his efforts to the point of failure. You also had the Presidents of both Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kiro Gligorov and Alija Izetbegovic. The Presidents of these two republics became activists for the continuation of the Yugoslavian experiment, largely as a result of knowing how much they stood to lose.
While Gligorov has a largely clean record, Izetbegovic is largely rougher. During WWII, he was part of the Young Muslims group in Bosnia, which later divided between the SS Handschar Division, and the Tito’s Partisans. Izetbegovic served 3 years in prison as a result of this after the War. There is a Social Context to this. First off, the Nazis exploited a completely real and justified feeling among Bosnians of being constantly persecuted. It should also be noted that the Nazi’s recruiting goals fell well short among the Bosnians, and were forced to allow in a large number of Croats to fill out the division. In addition, the Unit had an extraordinary attrition rate, as people defected or mutinied, especially in a very notable case while in training in the town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue in the South of France. In addition, Izetbegovic put on a treatise in regards to Islam and the State in 1970, which was highly controversial in its pan-Islamism and assertion that Islamic Institutions must hold power in the Muslim World.
While he certainly went too far in calling for what sounds like a hyper-conservative Caliphate to unite the entire Muslim World (something that hasn’t happened since the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate in 750 CE), he seemed to be greatly different in dealing with Bosnia itself, and with the neighbors in Western Europe and North America. For one, he had a deep appreciation for Christian Culture, and only reluctantly went for Independence when the seccession of Croatia and Slovenia would cause Bosnia to go to the un-tender mercies of a thuggish Serbia. In the following war however, we did get a proper view of the man when forced to enact policies, rather than commentate. During the War, he and is party acted very competently and tolerantly, being quite willing to take a compromise that left the Bosnians very little land, giving concessions to the Croatian faction, and holding the distinction of being the least dirty faction of the very, very dirty Bosnian War. In fact, the dominant party at the time, his party, the Party of Democratic Action, have the distinction of not having major organized persecution of Croats and Serbs, in addition to continuing protection of Serbian Orthodox and Catholic Churches within their domain, as compared the destruction of a staggering 800+ mosques at the hands of the Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. In addition, Bosnia at the time made serious efforts to reign in the mujaheddin supporting them doing investigations into war crimes committed by them, along with stripping mujaheddin of citizenship they obtained during the war in the decade following it. Bosnia was in summary, the only reasonably good actor in the Bosnian War, between the fascist Serbia and Croatia.
However, the US, and especially Europe, hold some responsibility in regards to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the wars thereafter. The US was not nearly as forceful to getting people to the negotiating table to keep the multi-ethnic state together, and Germany outright pushed for the fragmentation, though the neighboring Netherlands attempted to support Markovic and his reforms as much as possible. A ceasefire was later obtained within a year or so for the Croatian War of Independence, with led to the Republic of Serbian Krajina, which would later be liquidated, along with most of the Serbs, in Operation Storm in 1995. However, Europe and the US were much more reticent to aid Bosnia, though the UN, for its incompetence, did remarkably well in making sure that the many indigent and homeless Bosnians did not die as a result of the elements, if not being able to protect them from the barbaric mass murder and organized mass rape of the Serbs. Part of this reticence was likely a result of prejudice. While we came forward for Croatia reasonably quickly, we did not for Bosnia. It took 3 years for a US-led intervention to occur. In Zimmerman’s estimation at the time, this cost an extra 100,000 lives. I would posit that Europe and the US felt more cultural affinity for the Catholic Croatians than the Muslim Bosnians. In addition, there was something of a moral cowardice in terms of action from the Bush and Clinton Administrations, and the Pentagon. All were afraid of potential casualties from an intervention, and the Pentagon frequently shot down proposals for support. In fact, this would cause Zimmerman to retire in 1994, after frustration with the Government. There were however, actors in favor of intervention. The 2 that come most to mind are Senators Dole and Biden. In the end, they would manage to gradually change the game, and intervention would later occur, though much too late.
In regards to Kosovo, unlike Bosnia, their had been not history of inter-ethnic co-operation, namely as a result of the Serbian aggression at the beginning of the last century. This resulted in a see-saw of discrimination between the Albanians and the Serbs. By 80’s, as stated earlier, the discrimination was heavily against the Albanians. However, contrary to propaganda, they did not start violent. That would not happen until 1998. Until then, they were led by a peaceful, gandhi-esque figure named Ibrahim Rugova, who abhorred violence, and would go on to become Kosovo’s first President. An odd fellow, he was known to give out samples from his rock collection as gifts, with size of the crystal serving as an indicator of how Rugova felt about the outcome of the meeting. This led to the odd circumstance of Diplomats comparing the size of their stones.
But I digress. By 1998 however, militants became more prominent, and started attacks. Milosevic would use this as a pretense for a final solution, to push the Albanians out of Kosovo by Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide. The world was much quicker to deal with the problem this time, and only 10,000 died, and most Albanian Kosovars were able to return within a few years. This would rupture any chance of reconciliation. Kosovo would become independent in 2008.
Which leads us to today. What will the next several years hold for this region. For one, many of the neighbors of Serbia will likely join NATO, with Albania and Croatia only being the first 2. This will likely serve to isolate the Serbian State. However, their is trouble on the horizon. For one, the government of Serbia is now less by Serbian Radical Party, which is radical nationalist and promotes the fusion of Republika Srpska and Serbia. This is compounded by the fact that Ethnic Croats and Ethnic Bosnians can not return to the areas they were purged from by the Republika Srpska in 1990’s. There have been a very large number of attacks against those attempting to return, with no attempt by the Serb Democratic Party to stop this. In addition, the Serb Democratic Party is still spewing anti-Muslim crud nearly 20 years on from the war. In addition, a recent crisis has started in Vojvodina, with the autonomous province under the control of another party rather than the Serbian Radical Party. As a result, just like in the 80’s the Serbian Government is claiming persecution, and trying to yank away as much of the autonomy as possible.
To be blunt, we are likely to have another spate of Balkan Wars in my lifetime. It will likely revolve around the continued existence of the Serbian Puppet Republika Srpska and Vojvodina’s continued autonomy. As a result, the US does need to prepare for this. For one, the US and the NATO needs to push for the abolition of Republika Srpska, and the repatriation of the ethnically cleansed and their descendants to these areas. We must also prepare for the fact that any war will likely have to be much harsher. The US and its allies must prepare for the coming follow-up to this.
And now you wonder, “how does this affect Syria?” Well, this is a little involved. Syria has now been in Civil War for 2 years, claiming the lives of at least 120,000 Syrians, plus 528 foreign nationals, including Palestinians. There is a very real threat that the different groups will attempt Ethnic Cleansing, namely Al-Qaeda influenced fanatics cleansing and murdering secular and moderate Sunnis, and Alawites and Christians in general. In addition, the Alawites may attempt to form a little state-let in the Latakia region, pushing out Sunnis. This also affects Iraq, largely because of a recent revolt by some Sunnis in Iraq against attempts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take as much power from the Sunnis as possible. If we aren’t careful, the entire region of the Bilād ash-Shām (the area between the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula, and Iran) could turn into an inferno. Any intervention here will have to go big or go home. Unlike Libya, there are no outright good guys to support, with the exception of the runt of the litter, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. To be very explicit on this, an intervention in Syria will look a lot less like Bosnia and Libya, and more like Kosovo and Iraq. But, given the consequences of not intervening, this poison pill may be less costly in the long run. It may be worth considering reconsidering having a Greater Syrian State under Jordan.
And as for the disturbing anti-Muslim rhetoric now coming out of the Republican Party, it bears some distinct similarities to the rhetoric used formerly by Milosevic and Tudjman. Namely, they both made the assertion that all Muslims are extremist, and that they need to be denied a voice, along with trying to promote persecution (both there and here under the guise of anti-terrorism), and among those like Bachmann and Gellar, outright trying to get physical persecution as well. The Republican Party is trying to turn the US into Serbia, with the requisite persecution of Muslims included. This must be resisted, for the sake of the 7-10 million Muslims in the US, including myself and major number of converts.