Saturday, 14 August 2010

Not so wonderful

Many years back I worked as the UK and Europe leg man for a investigation and security consultancy based in America. The boss man was former FBI and was then about 75 years of age. When I visited him to debrief on any complicated matter, he would go to great lengths to tell me just how much he enjoyed his life at that age. This came from one who had had a very active working life before he left the Bureau and one would think that there was not much that would surpass that career. His experience led me to have hopes for my life after retirement.

Well, my experience to date is that he was wrong. I find little charm in advanced age - if I qualify for that now (I shall be 77 on Sunday). My arthritis and dodgy hip cause very limited physical ability. I never thought when pounding along behind an Army PTI on a bike that it would be something I'd miss but ill-health is morale-sapping.

Then there are the funny little mental quirks. I've already mentioned the sleeplessness arising from multiple streams of thought dashing around in my brain and the occasional difficulty with remembering words. I now seem to have gained a new bug.

Right after breakfast yesterday the opening words of the song 'Drinking rum and Coca Cola, working for the Yankee dollar' came into my head. And remained there ever since. I have not the slightest idea whence this came from; the tune is one where I once knew many verses of the Soldiers' version but I have not sung it - or even heard it - for many years prior to yesterday.

I have tried all sorts of things to get out of this repeated phrase or to find out what has triggered it. Gone back over my internet stuff - nothing. Way back into e-mails - nothing. Scanned the week's papers - nothing.In bed last night I tried diversions. Algebra rules - still singing those damned ten words. Recited chunks of Kipling - nothing. I dropped off to sleep early this morning with the hope it would go away when the brain relaxed. My first thought this morning was? - you guessed it.

So Bill - your words about the wonders of ageing were duff. Makes me wonder about those tales of infiltrating the Klan (but they sounded more like provocation anyway)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Black to win - checkmate in five moves

Nowhere amongst all the newsprint dealing with President of Pakistan Zadari's visit was there any examination of his contention that we are losing the battle in Afghanistan. There was enough to tippy-toe around without going down that road. Especially as he was most likely correct anyway; a position that would complicate his declared intention to straighten up and fly right.

So far, things have followed a plan of campaign that was scripted possibly as far back as 9/11. In this dance of death the lead part has been taken by the terrorists and we have just kept in step. The terrorists have applied the four basic tactics that are standard for any insurgent movement.

They have committed atrocities - provocative events to cause us to over-react in ways that harm our interests. They have led us to repressive actions that alienate the population and lead to instability. 9/11 itself was set up so as to lead the US into massive retaliation and America played right into their hands.

In addition to provocation, they have resorted to intimidation which prevents locals from co-operating with coalition forces. Those who do collaborate are killed in brutal and public executions. Police and local officials especially were targeted as well as organisations such as United Nations aid workers - the murder of the doctor and her companions was another example of this. These were not aimless or random killings. They were planned and intentional.

A further tactic is prolonging the conflict so as to exhaust their opponents resources, kill off their political will and sap the public support for the conflict whilst avoiding losses on their own side. When things get too hot, they withdraw into the bad lands and empty areas. We saw it happen when we first went after Bin Laden. He went to ground in 2001, regrouped and returned to campaign again in 2003.

These fighting methods eventually lead to exhaustion by way of financial pressure, stressing the support systems, tiring the soldiers. Exhausting lives, resources and financial capital. The IED campaign together with well placed ambushes has led us to up-armour vehicles and personnel and slow down the kinetics of the battles. A by-product is this separates our military from the population and hampers the hearts and minds initiatives we consider important. Everything takes longer and increases frustration whilst bumping up the costs. The reduction in the training periods of our EOD operatives is another facet of the exhaustion tactic with the pay-off that the civil population back home gets even more resistant to continuing to struggle.

I see no way to combat these methods. The genie is out of the bottle and we seemingly have no way of drawing a red line and starting again. The fuss concerning the war logs released by wikileaks proves that we are constrained to play fair and fight clean whilst the Taliban can continue doing what it does so well - provoking, intimidating, protracting and exhausting.

I think that both us and the Americans would enter into talks with the other side but are loath to do so unless we speak from a position of strength that we do not currently possess. There have been reports that the Taliban have rejected the overtures we have made. Karzai would be willing to talk but the level of corruption is so high we would be foolish to trust the reported results of his meetings.

There will have to be a fudge. We will have to make it look as if the Afghan Army and Police can look after things and we can then withdraw. Just how long it would take for things to regress is anybody's guess but for sure the Taliban would not just fold their tents and go away. There is a further danger here - what would Al Queda do? Pakistan must look like a peach ripe for plucking. They cannot cope with natural disasters much less a flood of terrorists. A very cheap way for Iran to satisfy it's nuclear ambitions. This alone could suck Obama into further adventures in that part of the world. And what would Cameron do then given that he has just kissed and made up with promises of aid and support to Pakistan?

I think that if I were white in this chess game, I would just take my king off the board. As soon as possible. Not just off the board but put him back in the box.