Friday, October 21, 2016


Admiral Tidd, who commands Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) which directs American military operations in South America, needs ships. He wants innovative solutions to get them in an age when his command is low priority for Navy hulls. I suggest modularized auxiliary cruisers as one solution.

Yes, SOUTHCOM isn't likely to get Navy ships any time soon as the Navy pivots to the Pacific while forced to deal with Iran and cope with a newly aggressive and hostile (well, a new level of aggression and hostility, anyway) Russia.

But SOUTHCOM still needs ships:

U.S. Southern Command wants to be a hub for innovation, both in serving as an early tester for new technologies and ideas that can be brought into theater and also in seeking creative ways to get more ships into theater to train with regional partners.

SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Kurt Tidd said today at an event co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute that his theater has changed drastically from the days when leadership focused primarily on interrupting the narcotics trade and could do so primarily with frigates and maritime patrol aircraft. Instead, the threat set has grown increasingly complex – networks are engaged in moving illicit goods, trafficking both criminals and refugees, laundering money and more – and ships and planes at SOUTHCOM’s disposal are all but gone, due to both the retirement of the frigate fleet and more urgent needs for ships in the Pacific and Middle East.

Tidd said he doesn’t need a carrier strike group to counter this more complex threat – and he noted that he wouldn’t get one if he asked for a CSG – but he does need ships to go on presence missions, to train with regional partners and to help search for sophisticated semi- and fully submersible vehicles now used to move people and drugs into the United States.

Sure, perhaps he could leverage a loan of ships transiting to other commands for brief visits as our 6th Fleet gets in the Mediterranean Sea with ships transiting the area between our east coast and CENTCOM. But that won't be any kind of persistent presence for engaging with regional partners.

I suggest using leased container ships equipped with shipping container-housed systems to turn the ships into auxiliary cruisers, which are civilian ships equipped to supplement fleets (usually during wartime) and which have a long tradition in naval warfare.

I thought that Africa Command--AFRICOM--could exploit this opportunity given their low priority for naval assets, and focused on them in the article "The AFRICOM Queen" that Military Review published earlier this year, which was a play on the Humphrey Bogart movie The African Queen.

But SOUTHCOM is even lower on the priority list than AFRICOM. Indeed, in the article I quoted a prior commander of SOUTHCOM who said that his naval needs were basic. Said Marine General Kelly, “So as I said, I don’t need a warship. I need a ship, something that floats, with a helicopter.”

I thought that was a great argument for my suggestion. He didn't need something fancy. He needed something.

A modularized auxiliary cruiser for SOUTHCOM could be equipped with missiles, guns, boarding parties, air and sea drones, and helicopters, using standard shipping containers mounted on the deck as the building blocks of mission packages, which would vary depending on the missions envisioned for the cruise.

The modularized auxiliary cruiser could be equipped with medical and classroom containerized mission modules to host regional partners for training on the vessel--or to provide medical help instead of sending a hospital ship.

And as I noted in the article, mission packages consisting of different containerized mission modules could be unloaded to perform a mission in one location while the modularized auxiliary cruiser continues on to other locations for other missions with different partners.

I wrote about the concept for Africa Command because I'm more familiar with the security issues of that region rather than South America, because there are more landpower missions in AFRICOM, and because of the opportunity to use the title, truth be told.

But SOUTHCOM could easily be the pioneering command for the use of modularized auxiliary cruisers if Admiral Tidd wants his command to be a hub of innovation.

Preparing for Mobile High Intensity Combat

Fighting enemies rather than fighting disorder has reappeared on the horizon as Russian aggression in Europe yanks us back from counter-insurgency focus since 2003. So we need the tanks again.

I wrote that while upgrading our Stryker vehicles to 30mm cannons is nice, it is not enough to make our Stryker brigades capable of standing up to heavy armor. It would be necessary to attach Abrams tank units to the brigades to make them more than speed bumps, I thought.

The Army tested out adding tanks to Stryker units, and not too surprisingly, tanks made a difference:

This article explores the experiences of 3-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division during National Training Center (NTC) Decisive Action Rotation 15-08.5 at Fort Irwin, Calif. Here, 3-2 SBCT had the unique opportunity of task-organizing tank platoons to a Stryker rifle company within the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. The creation of Stryker-tank company teams provided the brigade commander with a more lethal strike force and created unique opportunities to experiment with maneuver tempo across restrictive terrain and during a combined arms breach. The addition of armor assets significantly increased the company’s sustainment requirements, specifically for Class III and IX, and also presented challenges for breaching operations.

Not surprisingly, the addition of heavy Abrams tanks greatly increased logistics needs of the unit.

Disturbingly, the mission command systems of the Abrams and Stryker units could not communicate with each other. It's bad enough when Army units can't operate with Marines or allies (highlighting an underappreciated role of NATO in pushing common system capabilities and procedures), but when our own Army units can't work seamlessly with different Army units, that's seriously messed up.

It was good to read this. When the threat of conventional war rears its ugly head, killing off the end of history, it's good to have heavy armor around.

Really? This is Your Complaint?


U.S. President Barack Obama said Donald Trump's embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin was unprecedented and said he was troubled that other Republicans were supporting the Republican presidential candidate's positions on Russia.

So wanting to reset relations with Russia after Russia invades a friend of ours is unprecedented?

Yeah, remember the "reset" effort with Russia mere months after Russia invaded and dismembered our friend Georgia?

Good times. Good times.

Unprecedented, indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?

According to the logic of an AP fact checker, if you said America fought Japan in World War II because we spent far more effort fighting the Germans in World War II, your statement would only be partly true.

I'm hardly going to defend the Syrian government or call them a reliable ally, but come on!

AP deleted a tweet saying Trump was wrong that Syria's Assad is fighting ISIS. His remark is only partially true. A new tweet is upcoming.

Once again, my nuance deficiency is highlighted, I suppose.

I never consider the verdict of a so-called "fact checker" as the final word on any left-right issue.

They usually try to make the left accurate with all the "context" that is necessary to bring in, while never giving someone on the right (which Trump is considered at the moment by the media, notwithstanding my opinion that Trump is just a Democrat wearing a Republican skin suit after he killed and cleaned the carcass of the party) any benefit of reasonable interpretation.

Where the Visible Hand Crushes Hope and Life

Watch out! Venezuela is gaining on South Sudan and Congo!

Venezuela’s overall infant mortality rate—defined as deaths within the first year of life—is currently 18.6 per 1,000 live births, according to the most recent government statistics. That is well beyond the upper range of 15.4 Unicef estimates for war-torn Syria.

Venezuela is falling apart under their countries batshit crazy socialist rulers have effed up a wet dream--because sometimes war and natural disasters aren't enough to destroy a society.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, socialism kills more babies than war:

There is a lesson to be learned from these data points: economic policy matters. While Venezuela’s socialism has managed to kill more infants than a full-blown war in Syria, Chile’s incredible success story shows us that by implementing the right policies, humanity can make rapid progress and better protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of society. Today it is hard to believe that infants in Chile were once more likely to die within a year than their contemporaries in Venezuela and Syria.

Young people--who not that long ago believed in Santa Claus--flocked to Bernie Sanders' banner in the mistaken notion that his talk of caring for people would actually lead to people being taken care of, when people are far better off when they are enabled to take care of themselves.

A Newfound Respect for Intelligence Consensus

I find it amusing that Hillary Clinton belittled Trump for refusing to believe the American intelligence agencies who think Russia is behind the hacking of Democratic email systems.

Not that I doubt the Russians are involved up to their hips, contrary to Trump's disbelief of what Hillary said:

"We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election," Clinton said. "I find that deeply disturbing."

But I recall when our intelligence agencies said it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had chemical weapons ready to go prior to the 2003 Iraq War (as did the agencies of our allies), yet when we did not find recently manufactured chemical weapons after we defeated the Saddam regime (which was horrible on many non-WMD levels, too), Democrats slammed President Bush for believing that intelligence even though Democrats believed Saddam was a WMD threat, too:

Deeply disturbing, indeed.

This is Either Sadly Deluded or Sadly Transparent

Seriously, South Korea?

South Korea's military is planning to significantly enhance operational capabilities to strike the North Korean leadership should Pyongyang be first to launch a nuclear attack.

So if North Korea sets Seoul--which has a quarter of South Korea's population--on nuclear fire, South Korea's plan is know exactly where Kim Jong Un and his top leaders are bunkered and guarded deep in North Korea and to helicopter in special forces to kill them?

So America's nuclear umbrella is insufficient to deter North Korea from nuking South Korea but a threat of a commando raid will be? No?

Okay, then this really is the retaliation plan?

Even if such a raid works, China might consider that a great trade: Seoul is smoldering, glowing wreckage and the difficult North Korean leadership is dead, making it easier for China to get a more compliant leadership in the north.

Will South Koreans consider that a good trade?

The only way this story makes sense is if the raiding capability is a part of a decapitation strike on North Korea prior to North Korea using nukes on South Korea in order to stop such a strike, using a joint American-South Korean ground division to occupy nuclear launch sites while South Korean forces carve out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul from conventional fires.

Although pray tell, how will we defend the nuclear threat as imminent and so justifies decisive military action?

Mind you, I can understand why South Korea doesn't want to admit what it might want to do and so sticks with this story. But I don't buy it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Friend Indeed

The Philippines is going to get hammered:

Philippine forecasters warned that a super typhoon set to slam into the country's northeast late Wednesday may bring widespread damage similar to that wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and asked people to flee out of harm's way.

Let's see if President Duterte calls on his new crush, the Chinese, for help when the typhoon passes and the Philippines has gone to Hell, or if America gets the call again.

And we will help. As we always do.

UPDATE: Seriously?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he was announcing his "separation" from the United States.

He said that while in China. What is that man thinking?

On the bright side for the Philippines, the typhoon was bad but does not appear to have killed a lot of people because of precautions taken.

Seriously, what is Duterte thinking?

UPDATE: Other members of the government seek to nullify the impact of their president's statement

The Meal Worm Foreign Policy

We are pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, which demonstrates a few fascinating features about our foreign policy.

So America said we wanted a ceasefire in Yemen where our ally Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition with our support to defeat Iranian-backed Shia factions:

The United States and Britain called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end violence between Houthis and the government, which is supported by Gulf states.

A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy criticism since an air strike this month on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations' estimate and 82 according to the Houthis.

We did get a three-day truce:

The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire that will take effect shortly before midnight Wednesday, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen said.

Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes the temporary truce can lead to "permanent and lasting end to the conflict."

One, our pursuit of a ceasefire comes after attempts by Iran-backed forces in Yemen to sink our warships in the Red Sea. Which indicates that despite not hitting our ships, the attacks worked by getting us to back reining in our Saudi allies to the benefit of Iran.

Two, we are apparently going to enforce a red line over a mistaken Saudi attack on a funeral long after we abandoned our red line on Syrian chemical weapons attacks on Assad's enemies when it became apparent how much we'd have to do to enforce that empty declaration by our president.

The body count at Assad's hands in Syria is astronomical while the body count in Yemen is actually pretty small--and even when Saudi weapons have done the killing, the Saudis don't bear the legal responsibility for those deaths if the Houthi rebels deliberately use human shields to protect their military assets.

Say, just where are the European human shield volunteers, anyway? Shouldn't they be flocking to Syria by now?

And three, isn't this a fascinating result of a president who wants to "lead from behind?"

I did warn that allies capable of acting without us taking the lead can do things we don't like.

Yet that isn't quite what we have here. We've backed the Saudi effort with logistics, and you have to admit that for an administration that doesn't want to act, having an ally take action should be a feature rather than a bug.

And here we are calling for a ceasefire in a war that our ally has been willing to fight and which they are slowly winning after checking the enemy advances that threatened to put Iran-backed forces at the southern entry to the Red Sea.

We don't have a foreign policy. We have a foreign policy bureaucracy that reacts to unpleasant stimuli by changing directions to avoid the unpleasantness of the moment.

Break Them Up and Sell Them for Parts?

Oh good, it isn't bad enough that Syria and Iraqi fragmentation threatens to break down these two states. But as long as they are in danger of falling apart, Turkey figures they might as well pick up one or two prime pieces of the wreckage.

Oh goodie:

A dispute continues to deepen between Ankara and Baghdad over the presence of Turkish soldiers near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.

He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. Although Erdogan focused his criticism on the loss of Aegean islands to Greece, it is Turkey’s southern borders he had in mind, according to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen.

“The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes," Ulgen said.

Really, if Russia and Turkey have come to some sort of arrangement to pull Turkey away from NATO (perhaps a "pact" at the expense of third parties?), Russia could force Syria to give up territory to appease Turkey while not harming Russian interests in bases in western Syria--which Turkey would accept--to exert influence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

And Iran could probably make Iraq suck it up if the Kurds pay the price of Turkish demands--especially if Turkey is friendly to Iran (tip to Instapundit) and provides them overland access to Iranian strongholds in western Syria.

Iran really just needs western Syria as an access point to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon and doesn't have hope of getting influence in Iraq's Kurdish regions anyway--so why not let Turkey strip away some of Iraq?

Really, although Turkey and Russia have a long history of warfare which should keep Turkey in NATO, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey no longer has a direct land border with Russia, which gives Turkey more room to maneuver and cut deals with Russia to expand Turkish influence without risking a Russian invasion.

And the ongoing Erdogan purge of Turkey's government, military, and other institutions of people who can be described as pro-Western (if the coup had as much support as the purge indicates, the coup would have worked) certainly helps Erdogan shift Turkey's focus south and east.

Yeah, It Sucks When That Happens

The Syrian government is worried that the Iraqi offensive to take Mosul will result in ISIL forces fleeing to Syria where they will be a problem for Syria. That's kind of funny.

Assad is worried:

Both the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have warned of what they have called a U.S. plan to open a path of retreat for Islamic State from Iraq into Syria. A Pentagon spokesman called the claim "ludicrous".

I noted that it seemed like Iraq was keeping the western side of Aleppo open to allow ISIL to retreat. Despite some claims to the contrary, the advances seem to confirm this.

This approach has been a longstanding practice of the Iraqi army to avoid trapping ISIL and forcing them to fight to the death. While I disagree with the idea of allowing enemies to survive to fight and kill you another day, this has been standard operating procedure for the Iraqis to keep your casualties this week lower. Tomorrow is another day to worry about the next week.

Further, the Iraqis would rather the enemy runs rather than fight inside the city of Mosul where civilians will be used as human shields and also get caught in the crossfire.

For the Syrians, the complaint is kind of funny given that during Iraq War 1.0, the Syrians funneled Sunni jihadis into Iraq where American, coalition, and Iraqi troops had to fight them and try to keep them from killing Iraqi civilians. So bust out a tiny violin for these Syrian complaints.

And keep in mind that the Syrians have been part of an effort to funnel Moslem refugees into Europe to put pressure on the Europeans to make nice with Russia by giving in to Russian goals for Ukraine and Syria in exchange for help in shutting down the refugee flow to Europe.

The Iraqis clearly aren't interested in blocking the western escape route, and have punted to the Americans:

"It is the responsibility of the coalition to cut the road to Syria for Daesh," Iraqi state television quoted Abadi as saying, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the coalition earlier on Tuesday of planning to allow safe passage into Syria for IS militants fleeing the battle for Mosul.

As I also noted, I figured we would try to use our air power to smash up fleeing ISIL members. So it is possible that we can have a battle of annihilation and help the Iraqis avoid casualties among their troops and civilians.

But I'm skeptical that air power can manage to shoot up running ISIL forces as fully as we'd like, assuming that the jihadis learned any lessons from trying to run under our air umbrella.

Not much news this morning other than the fact that ISIL resistance is light on the approach to Mosul, relying on suicide car bombs and mortar fire to delay the Iraqi advance. No word on mines, booby traps, or physical obstacles to do the same.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Floor Wax AND a Dessert Topping?

The Royal Navy wants to adapt their new biggish deck carriers to also carry marines if necessary. Is this how America's Ford class carriers should be adapted?

This is interesting:

The UK Royal Navy (RN) is conducting study work to determine how to optimise the planned integration of an amphibious capability element into its Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

The two carriers - the future HM ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales - are dedicated to generating carrier strike operations. However, the size and scale of the 65,000-tonne platforms provides the flexibility to support additional roles.

The British want to the carriers to be able to launch a two-company assault force, which sounds like the ship could hold a battalion in total.

Given that our large amphibious ships are to have a secondary strike aviation role with the ability to operate a small number of F-35s, I wondered if we should eventually replace our amphibious ships with a smaller number of Ford class carriers in order to have a better back-up aviation role, while reducing the number of dedicated strike carriers (because I worry about their survivability in sea control missions) so we can build more ships and subs better able to fight for sea control while not representing a catastrophic loss if sunk in battle.

We would have more Fords in total than we have big deck strike carriers and big-deck amphibious shops combined now, but would have the ability to switch their roles depending on the needs.

The dedicated Ford strike carriers would then have a back-up amphibious role to complement the amphibious Fords with a strike back-up role.

Just a thought. Remember that The Dignified Rant is not a ship designer.

If War is the Answer to Putin's Question

So let me ponder a scenario of war if Russian rhetoric is telegraphing intentions.

Mind you, this is mostly my wargaming mind let loose, contemplating opportunities on a map with cardboard counters.

Let me start with assumptions:

--Rather than being a reason to avoid war, Russia's financial and economic problems from sanctions, corruption, and low oil prices could be viewed by certain paranoid people as an act of war against Russia, that justifies war in more kinetic terms.

--Russia is far weaker than America in conventional military power.

--Russia matches us in nuclear weapons.

--Russia has a military advantage close to their western borders in the short run.

--Russia's allies in this will be Iran, Syria, plus a flipped Turkey and a secretly cooperative Pakistan.

--China is a wild card, that may or may not want to be involved.

Russia's goals are to weaken NATO as a barrier to Russian westward expansion, to claw back some ground, and to portray America as powerless to resist Russia, thus setting the conditions for reconstruction of the Russian empire in Europe at a future date when Russian conventional power is greater, rather than going for broke right now to win it all.

So let's go from north to south, and then head east.

Russian forces pretending to be Estonian rebels occupy Narva, on the border with Russia. They dig in with Russian forces providing air defenses, artillery, logistics, and replacements from across the border in Russia. Everyone will know that this is all a lie but it won't matter because Russia will deny everything.

Russia announces a quarantine of Estonia, arguing that this is an internal Estonian matter. Russian ships and planes patrol the Baltic Sea. Russia seizes Sweden's Gotland Island "for the duration of the crisis" and Russia announces that it has planted mines in the Baltic Sea to prevent outside interference.

Russian forces--of low quality but overwhelmingly large, move up to the border of Latvia.

In Kaliningrad, Russia announces that their Iskander missiles are equipped with nuclear warheads. Russian air defense forces in the exclave light up everything flying over Poland, and Latvia.

Russia reinforces their air force in Belarus and flies in paratroopers to prevent NATO aggression against their fraternal friend Belarus. Belarus is helpless to object.

Hungary's Putin-friendly ruler announces that he considers the crisis in Estonia an internal matted that NATO should stay out of.

Russian separatist sock puppets in the Donbas supported by Russian forces begin operations to secure the Ukrainian region from Kharkov to the sea of Azov.

Russia reinforces Crimea with air, naval, and paratrooper units to threaten the Black Sea coast of Ukraine.

Turkey announces that the Estonian crisis is an internal matter and closes the Dardanelles and Bosporus to NATO sea traffic for the duration to prevent unwanted incidents in the Black Sea. Turkey also shuts down the NATO base at Incirlik for the duration of the crisis. American and NATO personnel in Turkey are confined to their bases, essentially becoming hostages.

Russian air and naval forces--reinforced from the Black Sea because Russian traffic is not blocked in the Turkish Straits.

Moqtada al Sadr--Iran's hand puppet Shia warlord in Iraq, stages an uprising in Iraq supported by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. If the Iraqi army units we trained are leaning forward in the offensive on Mosul, with Sadrist militias in their rear, the Iraqi army might again collapse between ISIL and the pro-Iran elements.

Many American advisors--lacking American combat units to protect them--are captured, although the bulk of them manage to seek shelter in the Kurdish north and the American embassy in Baghdad. But the American remain cut off and unable to quickly evacuate. Sadr raises the issue of whether Kuwait is the 19th province of Iraq.

Turkey moves troops into Syrian and Iraqi territory, beginning the rebuilding of the Ottoman Empire, gaining their part of the bargain with Russia. Turkey also overruns the ethnic Greek portion of Cyprus, completing the invasion begun by Turkey 40 years ago.

Russia closes the Suez Canal, blocking American routes to the Central Command region in the Persian Gulf. This might be with a block ship sunk in the canal, with paratroopers occupying a segment while on training missions in Egypt, or with missile strikes from Russia's Mediterranean naval forces. This also blocks any oil traffic from Saudi Red Sea facilities going north.

Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz with minefields and covered by naval forces and shore-based anti-ship artillery and missiles, blocking Gulf oil exports.

Iran fires several ballistic missiles with the range to reach Saudi oil fields into the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea to warn Saudi Arabia.

A pro-Shia uprising initiated by Iran takes place in Bahrain, supported by Iran. Saudi Shia riot in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Iranian and pro-Iranian Yemen forces block the southern entry to the Red Sea with mines and anti-ship missiles to further block Saudi oil exports going south.

Heading east, Russia convinces Pakistan to quietly flip--perhaps with a Chinese assist behind the scenes to offer to make up for lost American support. Already worried about American pressure to behave, Pakistan closes--or allows to be closed by bandits--all supply routes to Afghanistan. Combined with Russian efforts to close off American lines of supply through the "Stans" and an Iranian closure of routes through their country, thousands of American and NATO personnel are isolated in Afghanistan for the duration--and effectively hostages. And Pakistan opens the spigot to the Taliban who put American bases under siege in Afghanistan.

Faced with multiple threats from the Baltic to the mountains of Afghanistan, what does America do?

With so many American military personnel plus civilian personnel at risk in hostage situations, do we take military actions against any of the threats and risk losing them to prison or massacre?

Or do we sit back an let Narva and the Donbas be annexed to Russia at the price of freeing our trapped military personnel?

Do we abandon Iraq, and by caving in notify Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and everyone else in the region that Russia and Iran are the strong horse and they'd best make their deals with Moscow and Tehran--which will include ending all support to Sunni resistance to Assad in Syria--because they can't count on American support?

Do Hungary and Turkey then pull out of NATO, beginning the "Nexit" (NATO Exit) stampade out of NATO by countries too close to Russia to risk their ire?

Does Greece follow quickly, making a financial deal with Russia in exchange for hosting Russian forces on their soil, to contain Turkish ambitions at their expense and to avoid being the last to leave NATO, so reducing the price Greece might get for flipping to Russia?

Do Sweden and Finland make their peace with Russia by ending NATO ties? Does Sweden even get Gotland back?

Or does America declare war and mobilize to keep our allies on the line with us? Setting the stage for a major war against Russian and Iranian aligned forces, risking nuclear war if the Russians sense they are losing as we mobilize forces for a long war to repel the Russian and Iranian advances?

We would win such a war, I have no doubt, if it remains conventional. And Russia could very well remain rational on the nuclear escalation issue as they lose ground despite their rhetoric. But it will suck to count on Russian rationality, no?

And keep in mind that this does not require a lot of decent quality Russian ground forces at the pointy end of the stick. Relatively small capable ground forces plus larger numbers of bluffing troops that just have to look scary will suffice to win if we back down or fight on a narrow front at one point of the offensive. Mind you, if we don't back down and significant pieces of the scenario don't play out, we have the option of mobilizing resources to win the war.

With the threat of nuclear escalation looming over the war, of course.

I don't mention China. My guess is that rather than making a play for Taiwan or the South China Sea or East China Sea islands that they claim during the chaos, China would rather see if a crisis in which China is strictly neutral escalates to the point of taking out or reduces their two biggest military threats--America and Russia. Why risk getting involved and really rattling America to the point of triggering irrational (nuclear) actions as we see threats coming at us from everywhere?

China might well think they can play the long game and take advantage of the loss of America's reputation as an ally if we back down across Europe and the Middle East; or benefit from the end of the pivot to the Pacific as American military power is sent to the European and Middle East fronts.

Or they might jump in thinking they can get a short and glorious war to bolster the authority and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party as the economic basis of that authority erodes dangerously.

Perhaps that is how a regional war against a couple of regional powers becomes a global war.

And maybe North Korea announces they've sold Iran nuclear warheads for their new missile force.

Like I say, this is just a wargaming scenario that could make for an interesting game. What are the odds of all or even significant portions taking place in the real world?

For want of a resolute president the last 8 years, the kingdom might fall and burn.

UPDATE:  Strategypage looks at Russia's military problems. Remember, Russian aggression so far depends on Russia choosing weak targets that don't get American support to clearly defeat the Russians. If Russia is able to rebuild their conventional military forces, their target list will expand. Note too that Russians are worried about China even though Russia loudly complains about a NATO threat that is only prompting NATO to prepare to fight Russia again.

Begin the Aleppo Airlift

I doubt that any direct American military intervention in Syria could be more than too little and too late, unless we bizarrely conclude that we must risk war with Russia to achieve our goals. But we have options to defeat Assad.

Well, it is hard to argue our policies the last 5 years have worked as we flail about for options to save eastern Aleppo from the Russian-backed offensive:

Some U.S. defense officials are skeptical that U.S. military power can help as the White House deliberates how to alleviate the suffering Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian airpower, have completely encircled the opposition rebels in eastern Aleppo, along with about 250,000 civilians, who are running out of food and water.

Air strikes against Assad's forces in western Syria are too risky now that Russia is on the ground with air defenses.

Maybe we could manage to use long-range tube, rocket, and missile artillery to strike Assad's fixed assets near Aleppo.

But other than increasing arms shipments to rebels--even at the risk of arms leaking to jihadi groups (and I don't think the jihadis could hold Syria even if they lead the advance into Damascus. Unless Sunni Syrians really are all just Islamists, the majority of Syrians will support resistance--which we will support--to any such victory)--we could do something that will give the residents of Aleppo hope and inspire resistance to Assad.

We could begin to airlift humanitarian relief supplies to Aleppo.

This option is raised in the article near the end (although I think we'd find the Russians and Syrians would dare to stop ground convoys of aid, so that won't work).

Not by landing supplies at an airfield like we did in the Berlin Airlift. I don't know where we'd do that. But by air dropping supplies.

By using GPS-guided parachute systems, we could accurately drop humanitarian supplies into Aleppo without exposing the aircraft to ground gunfire. Such an operation would at least give the residents some hope and if scaled up enough, do real good.

I've read that we aim for up to 30 kilometer range on these systems. Even with that kind of offset, we'd have to enter Syrian air space where long-range air defense missiles would threaten them. So that's a risk.

Unless we can rig these devices for over 45 kilometer range so our transport planes could remain within Turkish air space, the Russians or Syrians could shoot at the planes.

Also, unlike their use to resupply outposts in Afghanistan, we'd have to count the systems as one-time use items rather than collecting them for return.

It might be that we could only send high-value aid like medicine, baby formula, water purification supplies, and vitamins.

I can't rule out that we could ramp up the effort to send real amounts of supplies given enough time.

And I can't rule out that we could figure out a way to have the GPS systems sent back to the Turkish border for re-use.

But even if the effort never gets large, a Western air drop campaign would at least give the residents hope that they have not been forgotten.

And as always, the ultimate humanitarian solution is to defeat the Assad regime that is bombing and starving the residents of Aleppo (and other civilian urban areas).

Monday, October 17, 2016

In Contact With the Enemy

Yes indeed, the big offensive to take Mosul has begun. As long as it remains a fight between ISIL and Iraqi forces backed by the coalition America organized to help them, the offensive will be a victory for Iraq. The main variables will be the speed and casualties.

Announced yesterday, the offensive is on:

Some 30,000 federal forces are leading the offensive, backed by a 60-nation US-led coalition, in what is expected to be a long and difficult assault on IS's last major Iraqi stronghold. ...

The Pentagon described the long-awaited operation as a "decisive moment" in the fight against IS but the US-led coalition's top commander warned it could last weeks or more.

The beginning of the assault also saw aid groups voice fears for the hundreds of thousands of civilians remaining in the city, with IS expected to use them as human shields.

The ISIL defenders number 3,000 to 4,500. Although this article says it is 4,000 to 8,000.

I imagine the advance will be slow, with units avoiding getting ahead of units on their flanks, and using precision firepower to kill and rattle the ISIL defenders ahead of them while avoiding casualties. It took a long time to train these troops and I doubt there is a pipelines of replacements being trained.

Mine and obstacle clearing will keep engineers busy and keep the advance slow. I doubt we will see anything so dramatic as a major helicopter-borne assault unless an ISIL collapse is apparent.

And even at the high end estimate, the ISIL defenders are outnumbered just by the spearhead Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service (or Force, depending on where and when I've read stories about them)

But I'm not sure how hard the ISIL defenders will fight. Yes, this is their de facto capital in Iraq and without it, the caliphate is only located in Syria for all practical purposes. So one would expect ISIL to fight hard--to the death, even, as their jihadi reputation holds them to be eager to do.

But for the last year, jihadis have not fought hard at all in Iraq to hold their ground. Contrast this record with the jihadis in Syria and Libya where they fight hammer and tong in the face of superior firepower.

With stories of executions of ISIL members for retreating, plots among even ISIL people, actions to keep ISIL people from fleeing Mosul, plans to revert to insurgency and terror, and the effects of two years of bombing, the chances of ISIL standing their ground seems low to me.

It likely will take weeks to push into Mosul just from the logistics of moving forward and clearing potentially mined ground carefully--and screening refugees for ISIL members trying to escape in a flow of refugees fleeing the city--which has been held by ISIL for more than two years.

What worries me is that the battle for Mosul has been obvious for a long time. That was unavoidable considering that it was the obvious target. But perhaps our enemies have prepared rather than waiting patiently for the killing blow to fall on them.

Could ISIL attack and blow that shaky dam that looms over Baghdad? Iraq would need every soldier they could get to cope with rescue and recovery in those circumstances.

Might Iran unleash their hand puppet Sadr to stage a coup in Baghdad while the best Iraqi troops are leaning forward into their northern offensive and while pro-Iranian Shia militias are lurking to the rear of the offensive, present but not allowed to get too close to the battle so they won't abuse and kill non-Shia civilians?

Would the Iraqi units then collapse between the ISIL forces in front of them and the new threat behind them that cuts them off, shaking the morale of the Iraqi government loyalists as Sadrists storm government buildings in Baghdad?

Or maybe this plan survives contact with the enemy. You never know. Let's hope.

UPDATE: I hear that the offensive is leaving an escape route to the west open so ISIL defenders could retreat toward Syria.

In past attacks on ISIL, the Iraqis have done this too, not believing that letting an enemy live to fight another day is a bad idea if it reduces casualties this day.

Not being trapped in Mosul, the ISIL defenders won't be compelled to fight to the death. I suspect with a retreat option open the vast majority will choose to run.

And on the bright side, I imagine the ISIL forces trying to flee to Syria will run an aerial gauntlet that will smash them up quite a bit.

UPDATE: This article says that Iraqi forces will attempt to cut off routes from Mosul to Syria, rather than leaving a path open as I heard on television.

UPDATE: Although some Iraqi forces have halted, our people deny that there is a pause in the offensive:

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition had earlier said the operation was proceeding as planned and that Iraqi forces were making "excellent progress."

"There's no pause in efforts to liberate Mosul. Troops are on the move on various axes of advance toward the city," said Col. John Dorrian. "Some commanders have reached their objectives ahead of schedule after encountering light-to-moderate resistance."

It sounds like that this is a tidy offensive, with phase lines that Iraqi forces are to reach to keep the advance from opening gaps that the enemy could exploit to work behind or into the flanks of advancing Iraqi units; and to prevent Iraqi units from approaching friendly forces from unexpected directions and perhaps triggering "friendly fire" engagements between Iraq units (and God forbid, between Iraqi and Kurdish units).

For an army that is uncertain of its abilities, this is better than a damn the flanks drive on Mosul.

The Mythical Perfect Plan

I've long complained about the notion that before we go to war we need to have a perfect plan for sorting out the peace. Winning is hard enough and the post-war is too unclear to pretend we have that kind of knowledge to fully control. One problem at a time, I say.

The notion that we failed to have a post-war plan for Iraq, which the Left has insisted is true to this day, is both wrong on the narrow fact and in the end pointless given our past experience.

And here we have a report that addresses this notion:

The United States and its allies do need to look beyond the fighting, and beyond tactical victory. They also, however, need to understand that they cannot control the end state, that conflict termination agreements almost never shape the aftermath of a conflict even when it actually ends, and that the real world challenges of moving from conflict to stability are far greater and involve far longer time periods.
“End States” are a Historical Myth

In broad terms, efforts to control the “end state” of conflicts have almost always failed. Serious wars almost inevitably change the states involved in ways that none of the participants ever anticipated. They change social structure, economics, and interactions between different ethnic, sectarian, and other groups within society. Political stability and effective governance is often difficult to impossible to achieve, and anger, revenge, and opportunism create major patterns of post-conflict instability.

There are reasons why virtually every war in Europe has been the prelude to the next regardless of the peace settlements involved and the desired end state. As for the United States, it could not succeed in shaping the end state of its own civil war, and has spent a century trying to come to grips with its aftermath in terms of human rights. No one—especially Woodrow Wilson—could control or anticipate the real world end state of World War I. The well-intentioned goals of the United States at the end of World War II did reject the Morganthau Plan’s dracononian end state for Germany; and the efforts of the United States, Britain, and other states had many positive effects. They did not, however, prevent the Cold War, nor did they bring global peace. The U.S.-led victory in the first Gulf War did not bring a stable end state any more than the U.S. “victories” in Afghanistan from 2001-2014, or the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the fighting that followed from 2004-2011.

You'll note that I never complained about the lack of a post-war plan for the 2011 Libya War--other than to highlight the error of complaints about the Iraq War.

Winning on the battlefield is tough enough against enemies who want to win at least as much as we do, without insisting that the blunt instrument of war settle all the problems that led to the fighting in the first place.

As the expression goes, success in a foreign policy problem is merely the entry ticket to the next problem.

So work the problem and stop looking for the silver bullet to resolve all; and stop insisting we can't do anything until we identify said silver bullet.

Remember, when we refuse to act effectively, we get blamed anyway. Even by the Global Left that believes our intervention is the root of all evil (or have I somehow missed the mass protests in America and Western Europe opposing Russia's wars in Ukraine and Syria? I suggest "No Blood for Soil!" if they need a chant).

On the bright side, this odd reverence for planning an uncertain post-war future at least is better than the ridiculous notion that we should have an "exit strategy" for a war that anticipates when we lose. [And sorry, but the link to my 1997 paper no longer works.]

Understand? Yes. Accept? No

It drives me nuts that there are Americans who excuse Russian aggression because Russia of course (!) fears the West.

Cue Ted Galen Carpenter:

NATO can and does menace important Russian interests without posing an existential threat. As I have described elsewhere, it would be a useful mental exercise to consider what the reaction in this country would be if an alliance dominated by another major power, say China, began to add the Caribbean countries, the Central American countries, and the northern tier powers of South America to a military alliance that it controlled. Consider further the probable reaction if the Chinese equivalents of neoconservatives campaigned to bring Canada and Mexico into such an alliance and deploy Chinese military forces in those countries. Would any U.S. leader—indeed, any prudent American—not consider that a threat to the nation’s security?

That is essentially what the United States and NATO have done to Russia. Yet Twardowski believes that the Russians have no legitimate complaints. His response is an operational definition of willful blindness.

Note to readers. I don't believe I've ever read anything by Carpenter that I didn't think was nonsense.

This mental exercise only works if you assume that America and the other state are hostile and enemies. If China created military alliances in the Western hemisphere I sure would worry.

If Britain, Japan, or even France did that, I'd sleep just fine at night.

So for Carpenter's comparison to work, you have to assume that America and Russia were from the beginning enemies.

Yet Carpenter claims that America's expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellites pushed Russia to become our enemy.

Yet if we were friends initially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, why would the expansion of a friendly power's military alliance be more threatening to Russia than the creation of a French or British military alliance in the Western Hemisphere would be to America?

So apparently, we did not in fact push a friendly Russia--which was already suspicious, hostile, and paranoid--into hostility, eh?

Further, Carpenter's argument rests on the defense of the Brezhnev Doctrine when Brezhnev and his communist system is long gone.

Consider that Carpenter's formulation means that because central and eastern European countries once were controlled by Moscow (when it was Soviet), those newly free countries cannot chart their own future and free associations with the West because Moscow (now controlled by Russians) won't like it.

It's not like we conquered those ex-Soviet countries and compelled them to be in our empire to be used as tools to crush the Russians. No, these ex-Soviet vassals chose to join a free association of (mostly) free democracies--NATO--that offered hope of remaining free.

No, according to Carpenter, these countries once controlled by the Soviet empire can never oppose what the Russian empire--however shrunken--wants. They must remain subservient to Russia. Forever.

And what are the limits of this Russian worry about threats to them? It is only in this year in response to Russian aggression both on the ground and verbally with nuclear sabre rattling that NATO decided to put four battalions of ground troops in new NATO countries that border Russia!

Just four thousand NATO ground troops 25 years after the Soviet Union collapsed!

When Russia was the USSR, sitting on the Elbe River with over 20 heavy divisions in East Germany (and many more behind them) wasn't enough of a buffer against a hostile NATO--which was created in response to Russian threats to keep moving west, recall. The Soviets planned to drive to the Rhine River to gain more of a buffer to keep the threats far from Moscow.

So should we understand and accept Russian solutions to their paranoid fears regardless of where the Russians draw the line of security du jour? Do that for long enough and we'll be talking about Hadrian's Wall as the frontline against the Russians.

Fine. Understand that the Russians are a paranoid nuclear-armed mess, which makes them aggressive and perhaps even 100% convinced that their aggression is really defensive in nature.

But that does not mean we have to accept the Russian aggression that flows from being a paranoid nuclear-armed mess.

Don't enable the Russian paranoia--as too many Western analysts do--by going along with their dark fantasies of nefarious Western plots against them.

Oh, and for bonus Carpenter nonsense, in the article he actually blames Georgia for the 2008 war with Russia when possession of a semi-functioning brain stem should make it obvious that Russia set Georgia up, even practicing the war in July prior to their invasion

Georgia was foolish to fall for the provocation, but if Georgia hadn't fallen into the trap, Russia would have just made up an excuse as they did for Ukraine.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Of Course You Realize, This Means Cyber-War

Rejecting the notion that more people die from bathtub slip and falls than from Russian hacking, our president has decided to go after the Russians:

The Central Intelligence Agency reportedly is preparing a major cyber attack against Russia in response to the theft of records from the Democratic National Committee and its affiliates, allegedly by Moscow-backed hackers.

Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News, which first reported that the Obama administration was considering retaliatory measures, that the U.S. would be "sending a message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden added that any cyber action would come "at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."

I assume the CIA is tasked with this because our military would prefer not to reveal the cyber-cards in our hand so we can preserve them for use in wartime if it comes to that.

I wonder if the CIA will subcontract this work to outsiders or do the work themselves?

Maybe the CIA will find Hillary Clinton's missing emails over there.

UPDATE: Wikileaks released some rather dull emails from President Obama, back when he was a candidate:

The correspondence includes some early discussions about his potential Cabinet as well as a memo about his possible participation in the G-20 summit if elected.

Of course, coming from the Russians, the point of the release isn't the contents of the emails. The point is to display that the Russians have the president's emails.

Is this a Russian strike to preempt our announced cyber-assault by letting our president know that the cyber-war doesn't end after we counter-attack?


So has the Big Offensive to take Mosul begun?

The U.S. military deployed to the east of Iraq’s Mosul has started shelling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets as part of an operation to retake the city, a Peshmerga commander said on Oct. 15, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.

Peshmerga Commander Omer Huseyin told the agency that American howitzers, deployed some 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away from Mosul city center, were hitting ISIL targets.

Huseyin said the U.S.-led coalition warplanes also hit areas where ISIL militants were positioned.

American officials say it has not begun. Which is either true or what you'd expect us to say if the offensive has begun.

Of course, in a sense the offensive has been going on a while in the "shaping" operations that have gone on to isolate ISIL in Mosul, degrade ISIL's ability to fight, and gain advantageous geographic positions from which an attack into Mosul can begin.

Remember that prior to crossing the berm into Iraq in March 2003, we had been "shaping" that battlefield for months with air attacks (enforcing a no-fly zone) and special forces missions.

But it is possible that this might be H-Hour officially. If so, it's about time.

UPDATE: It sure sounds like the offensive has officially begun:

The Iraqi army dropped tens of thousands of leaflets over Mosul before dawn on Sunday, warning residents an offensive to recapture the city from Islamic State was in its final stages of preparation, according to a military statement in Baghdad.

Denials or no, I think the offensive is a go.

UPDATE: It is official, the Big Offensive to take Mosul has Begun:

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday announced the start of an offensive to retake Mosul, the capital of Islamic State's so-called caliphate in Iraq.

"I announce today the start of the heroic operations to free you from the terror and the oppression of Daesh," he said in a speech on state TV, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Putin, demonstrating that Russian sense of humor we love, stated that he hoped we'd avoid inflicting civilian casualties during the operation.

About that Pucker Factor Dial

I week ago, I noted Russia's surge in hostile rhetoric. Let's recall a slightly less recent surge.

Is Russia's recent barrage of hostile language just militaristic masturbation (it feels good but accomplishes nothing else) or does it telegraph intentions? I recently asked that:

Sure, the Russians are just using mean words. That is in part a substitute for the generally inferior Russian military (apart from their growing nuclear arsenal) compared to America's military.

But Russia can deploy power superior to ours in regions close to Russia and far from our power. And unless we mobilize and deploy enough military power to reverse any gains Russia makes until we can do that, Russia will make territorial gains while they have a temporary advantage in the theater that they have chosen to fight in.

My worry when foes start to talk with hostility and contempt is that rather than being a substitute for action, the verbal tirades reflect behind-the-scenes decisions to use military power, and so telegraph military action.

And when looking for something else, I ran across this post of mine several weeks before Russia invaded and captured Crimea from Ukraine (quoting the Daily Beast):

Russian politicians and analysts have started using loaded language when talking about what to do with Ukraine and its intractable protesters. Recently, a former advisor to Russian president Vladimir Putin, political scientist Andrey Illarionov, opined that Russia is extremely eager to seize Ukrainian territory. According to Illarionov, Moscow’s propaganda machine is running at top speed in order to prepare for such an outcome. He quoted Kremlin sources as saying, “we should wait ‘til the Sochi 2014 Olympics start and then set about finding the solution to the Ukrainian Question.”

Yeah, in answer to my question, I should have dialed my pucker factor to 11 in early February 2014.

Russia hasn't renewed the war with Ukraine as I expected already, but Russia just might have different factors controlling their timing than I do.

And the Russian rhetoric out there really is rather shocking as we sit in our comfy peacetime America contemplating whether a clown or crook shall "lead" us for the next four years:

With tensions between Russia and the United States at their highest since the Cold War, there have been alarming signs coming out of Moscow that suggest the country is ready for war.

Almost no one believes the Kremlin is actually preparing for a military conflict with the United States. Most analysts instead see it as a show, intended to boost support at home and to deter Western countries from intervening militarily in Syria.

There are some unsettling things Russia has done, however, to give the impression that war is looming[.]

But don't worry, most analysts think this is all just ego stroking. The world will wait patiently while we sort out which unacceptable loser we will vote for to sit in the Oval Office. Oh the suspense! Will that symbol of American power have slot machines in it or coin-operated turnstiles at the door to get in?

So consider my Pucker Factor dialed up.

Remember that in December 1941, Japan's GDP was about a tenth of America's. When foes believe our lack of will is a decisive factor that reduces our superior physical power to levels close to zero, making for a temporary advantage in the correlation of forces, foes can and have chosen to strike.

Have a super sparkly day.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

Here are some stories that I didn't get around to blogging, but which are interesting to me.

Libyan militias--with our air support--are making further progress in clearing Sirte of ISIL fighters. Whatever else you may say, the Libya ISIL members seem to have more fight in them than the Iraq branch of the caliphate.

I don't understand why people insist that Britain's exit from the European Union will weaken NATO when the existence of the EU weakens NATO as the EU aspires to its own military capabilities that must come at the expense of capabilities allocated to NATO; and when you consider that NATO's capabilities have shrunk as the EU pursued ever closer union. Focus on NATO rather than EU (which the Europhiles oddly credit with protecting European prosperity rather than NATO) military capabilities, and Europe will be better off because "when it comes to security and defense, 'NATO is the only show in town.'"

ISIL holds the small Syrian town of Dabiq. Based on Moslem quasi-scripture, jihadis think "if they mean to have an Apocalypse, let it begin here."

I mentioned an earlier air attack on an ISIL chemical weapons plant in Iraq. But according to Strategypage it was just a source of raw materials--and our rules of engagement don't allow us to strike chemical weapons plants from fear of collateral damage from escaping poison gas.

A brief discussion of India and Pakistan military options under the threat of nuclear weapons. With short missile flight times, small arsenals, and lack of a third country where "tactical" nuclear warfare can take place (the Germans in the Cold War can be excused for not seeing the difference between tactical nukes exploding on their soil and strategic nuclear war), any clash however small it is intended to be, could lead to mushroom clouds.

A top Hillary Clinton aide thinks there are people in this country who have bastardized their religion which features backwards gender relations and whose members don't appreciate democracy. What a raging Islamophobe--wait, what? The aide was talking about Catholics? Well, move along. Nothing to see.

The Russians are trying hard ("a campaign of covert economic and political measures") to undermine democracy in several eastern and central European countries, including Hungary. So it is nice that the Pentagon has an exhibit up on the Soviet 1956 invasion of Hungary (better to be publicized in Hungary, however).

Think we have explored everything strange in our current election? So what happens when the Electoral College makes the vote official?

Romania and Ukraine have signed a defense project cooperation agreement. Ukraine isn't a member of NATO, but for countries like Romania which is in NATO, keeping Ukraine as a buffer between them and the Russians is the smart thing to do.

Pakistan's civilian government has a message for their army (and intelligence agency) with a state: "The message: military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action" Usually when push comes to shove, the military just pushes the civilian government aside and rules directly. In a "clarification" on the story, the government denies the story is true at all. So this is interesting.

The Navy has commissioned the amphibious warship  (LPD-26) John P. Murtha. Which is a shame in case al Qaeda ever gets a navy. What will they name their first ship with this name taken? Seriously, this is an insult to every Marine who will serve on that ship.

The X-37B continues to rack up the hours in space. Doing what, I have no idea. Although if the Air Force has decided to "aim high" that's good.

If FBI agents are truly outraged that Hillary Clinton was let off from being prosecuted for her security outrages for political reasons, those agents need to do more than quietly leak their complaints.

The fall of Mosul won't actually "turn the tide" against ISIL in the battle for Iraq--that happened last year with the recapture of Ramadi. But it will signal a step down the escalation ladder to insurgency/terrorism for the Iraq branch of the caliphate. Likewise, the capture of Aleppo by Assad's forces will require the rebels in that region of Syria to revert to insurgency tactics rather than holding territory. We'll see how the Iraqis and Assad's allied forces handle that job.

Yes, Trump is a clown and quite likely a louse who I would never want near any female in my family. He would be an awful president. I've always thought that. Despite that, I still might have to vote for him if it looks like my failure to vote for him could contribute to a Hillary Clinton win (although a Clinton win looks increasingly likely every day). Because Clinton would be a damaging president with few restraints placed on how much damage she could do to rule of law.

I think I'm going to make this a semi-regular practice. Heck, with a little more restraint on word length, it's almost Tweeting.

The Iraqi Strike Force Must Be Awesome By Now

I'm confused about our training effort in Iraq (from a DOD briefing) that is going on two years now:

Since its inception in 2015, the fund has expended close to $1.6 billion to train and equip over 54,000 members of the Iraqi security forces, including over 26,000 Iraqi army soldiers, 8,500 counterterrorism service soldiers, 12,000 Peshmerga, and over 5,800 federal police and border security soldiers.

I'd like now to go ahead and answer the anticipated question of whether the Iraqi Security Forces are ready for Mosul by first confirming that each brigade that will participate in Mosul will have completed some Coalition training. And then I would like to describe broadly what is accomplished at these BPC sites.

To date, the Coalition has trained 12 brigades, which includes anywhere from 800 to 1600 troops with a varied period of instruction, depending on the type of capability that the brigade needs. We provide these brigades with individual equipment packages that include personal protective equipment, such as body armor, helmets and M-16s. Each unit also receives a complement of up-armored and soft skinned vehicles.

Those are very small "brigades." If 12 combat brigades are trained, and each has a maximum of 1,600 troops, that's just 19,200 troops. You could have small brigades that are not infantry or armor, but I thought the 12-brigade program was for ground combat units.

We trained 26,000 army troops. Even if all 26,000 are in those 12 brigades, that's over 2,150 troops per brigade. Which is still small for a maneuver brigade and indicates a unit with infantry and not much combat support integral to the brigades. What are brigades with 800 to 1600? Groups of 2-3 small infantry battalions with a small command element and little to no combat support?

Or does this mean that we've trained up to 1,600 troops per brigade, each of which is larger and has personnel that didn't go through our training program?

Or has the training program gone on so long that some of the early trained troops completed their terms of service and went home? Or does this include those who are casualties from being in battle already?

The Peshmerga would have 3 of the trained brigades. Are they at 4,000 each or does this count troops outside of the brigades, as well?

The training of the CTS troops is interesting. It appears to be triple the size that it was at the time of the fall of Mosul and the rest of the northwest.

And we seem to be shy about 2,000 to reach the total. Are those navy or air force personnel?

I still don't get why it has taken so long to train up so few troops. They had better be awesome by now. Because by the time we help Iraq get around to launching the offensive, all the pro-government resistance in Mosul might be dead:

Islamic State has crushed a rebellion plot in Mosul, led by one of the group's commanders who aimed to switch sides and help deliver the caliphate's Iraqi capital to government forces, residents and Iraqi security officials said.

Islamic State (IS) executed 58 people suspected of taking part in the plot after it was uncovered last week.

The casualties mount because we haven't defeated the Islamic State in Iraq.

I seriously expect that the offensive to take Mosul will go far smoother than the fearsome reputation of ISIL would indicate. As I noted nearly a year ago, these jihadis just don't seem to be eager to die for the cause.

Afrika Korps

The Germans will operate out of Niger:

Germany will build a military base in Niger to support the UN mission fighting jihadists in neighbouring Mali, Berlin's ambassador to Niamey said on Wednesday. ...

"Niger is a central partner for us in this respect (and) a key country in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration" from West Africa.

Niger is getting crowded. America is upgrading our presence there, too.

Sadly, there will be plenty to do in the region because Libya doesn't seem to be getting much better:

Libya's UN-backed unity government suffered a blow in its Tripoli base late Friday when a rival seized key offices in the capital and proclaimed the reinstatement of the former administration.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) is the centrepiece of Western hopes to stem an upsurge of jihadism in the North African nation and halt people trafficking across the Mediterranean that has led to thousands of drownings.

United States Army Africa has a lot of work to do.

Odds are, Sunni jihadis won't be the only problem that Germany and America will encounter in the region. Iran, too, is looking to cause problems:

With Boko Haram fading from the headlines Shia Islamic terrorism is becoming more visible. Iran backed groups were always advised (often via training in Iran) Nigerian Shia radicals to maintain a low profile, especially if Sunni Islamic terrorists were active. Since the 1980s Iran has been sponsoring (paying for) Nigerian Shia to make religious or educational visits to Iran where many were recruited to receive training in how to form political and para-military organizations. This low key approach paid off as there are now a lot of Nigerian Shia willing to defend Shia Islam in Nigeria with violence (organized or otherwise). This is another victory for the Iranian Quds Force (which supervises Iranian sponsored terrorism overseas). This Quds involvement became visible in 2010 when Nigeria reported to the UN that Iran had illegally smuggled weapons to Nigeria.

Strategypage has much more, so do read it all.