Thought for the Day

"No matter how busy you are, you must find tome for reading, or you surrender yourself to to self-chosen ignorance." Confucius

Monday, July 21, 2014

(north Korea) KPA Uniforms Betray Growing Military Disparities

Here is another potential indicator of military organizations being 'de-prioritized" by the regime.  This could be very significant if the regime is unable to take care of all its military.  Once conflict among units begins over competition for resources it could be a short path to wide spread instability as the military loses coherency and support for the regime.  Recall that in the 1990's we tried to define regime collapse and we did so by saying that regime collapse may occur when the regime loses central governing effectiveness and the loss of coherency of the military.  See the chart on uncertainty and complexity below the article (from the late 1990's).

KPA Uniforms Betray Growing Military Disparities

Kwon Hyo Jin  |  2014-07-18 19:37
Failures of central rationing and equipment distribution to the military have resulted in exacerbated disparities from region to region. According to one Daily NK source, a quick glance at a soldier’s uniform is sufficient to predict his or her region, or even unit.

The source from the port city of Chongjin in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on July 17th, “Soldiers get very uncomfortable because they are not getting the appropriate uniforms for each season. That's why fabric for military uniforms sells so well in the jangmadang [market].”

“These uniforms make the soldiers look terrible. You wouldn't know from looking at some of them whether they were kotjebi [homeless orphans] or members of the military,” he remarked. “Nowadays, you even need money if you want to wear the right uniform and do your military duty properly.”

In principle, Chosun People’s Army (KPA) soldiers should be provided with two sets of both summer and winter uniforms, in addition to essential toiletries, socks, and undergarments.  However, this stopped happening regularly during the Arduous March of the 1990s, when the distribution of most types of rations ceased.

According to the source, this state of affairs led some ordinary soldiers and most ranking officers to go and buy the fabric to make uniforms for themselves. Of course, poorer soldiers were obliged to either wear whatever they were given, or resort to stealing.

This situation, which continues today, created a niche market for the fabrics to make military uniforms. According to the Daily NK source, the material for a basic uniform costs 10-20 USD (at a black market exchange rate of 7,500 KPW/1 USD), while the material for ranking officers (unitcommanders and higher) runs at about 100 USD.

The fabric used to make uniforms differs depending on rank. General uniforms are made fromTetron, a polyester-rayon blend that gives off a soft luster, whereas those of senior officers are made from wool for a more refined look. Given that a kilogram of rice currently costs in the region of 5000 KPW, this means that even a general uniform can cost its wearer 15-30kg of rice. 

Depending on the region where a soldier is stationed, living conditions can vary drastically. Border Guard units stationed areas near the Tumen and Amnok rivers do relatively better, as do those with Escort Command and Capital Defense Command in Pyongyang. The 4th Corps in South Hwanghae Province, 8th Corps in North Pyongan Province, and 7th Corps in South Hamkyung Province are also relatively desirable locations, as they are purported to come with better conditions.

“Parents overwhelmingly prefer their offspring to be with the Border Guards,” the source said. “This is generally because they can take bribes from smugglers and other traders on the border and reap quite large sums of money. Within three years or so they've got enough to get discharged, enter the Party, and build a life for themselves.”

“Pyongyang and parts of South Hwanghae Province have decent transportation and guarantee relatively better living conditions, making parents feel relieved when their children are stationed there,” he continued. “Some parents will present the Military Mobilization Department [Military Manpower Administration in South Korea] with bribes to get their children stationed in those areas.”

At the other end of the spectrum are areas under the remit of the 2nd Corps in North Hwanghae Province, and especially the 1st and 5th corps in Gangwon Province, whose poor conditions have earned their members the name “Kotjebi Corps”, the source claimed. 

Predictably, the class stratum of regional placement within the military results in local spikes in criminal activity by soldiers, Daily NK’s source revealed. For example, “The night before the Party meeting to commemorate 20 years since the death of Kim Il Sung, 3-4 soldiers from the 9th Corps in Chongjin assaulted a group of passing soldiers and robbed them of the uniforms they were wearing and their personal belongings.”

“The Military Police has detain the offenders and placed them under interrogation,” he reported. “Perpetrators usually admit to the crime, and will cite their desire for the victim’s uniform as the motivation.” 
Inline image 1

(north Korea) Beans Mean Leave for Gangwon's 5th Corps

This is quite an indicator on a number of levels: lack of food for the military and the impact of malnourishment, emphasis on "bribing" nKPA soldiers to fill the food supplies, the likely impact on the population as we re likely to see soldiers coerce people to collect the 500kg of beans in return for 6 months leave (and of course what are soldiers going to do for 6 months - this shifts the burden of feeding soldiers to the home towns and families - and the question is if the soldiers do not think they will be fed after 6 months of leave will they return - is the 500kg of beans the way they are "buying" themselves out of conscription?)  But most important this is an indication that Pyongyang is unable to sufficiently supply its military forces.  Once we see units "de-prioritized" by the regime we are likely to see breakdown of military control and a loss of military coherency and support for the regime.  If this is true this could be a very significant indicator of coming instability.

Beans Mean Leave for Gangwon's 5th Corps

Kang Mi Jin  |  2014-07-19 09:15
Soldiers stationed with the 5th Corps of the Chosun People’s Army (KPA) in southeast North Korea are being offered extended leave in exchange for quantities of beans, an inside source in Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on July 15th.

“Military units have been struggling to secure stocks of beans because of last year’s floods in Gangwon Province,” the source explained, “so they’re offering up to six months leave to anyone who can bring them 500kg of beans.”

As famine and malnourishment spread like wildfire through North Korea in the latter half of the 1990s, the KPA responded by granting officers 10-20 days leave at a time for the purpose of acquiring provisions and 1-3 months for ordinary soldiers to recover from malnourishment. However, it has never been common practice to offer leave in exchange for supplies of specific goods.

The reason for the decision stems from a visit from the top, it appears. “Military units have been obliged to guarantee bean supplies for their soldiers since a directive was handed down by Kim Jong Eun in January this year,” the source elaborated. “[To ensure that] military units adhere to this policy, inspections are being carried out not only by the General Logistics Bureau [of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces], but also by the General Political Department [of the KPA] as well.”

According to a KCNA report published in January this year, when he visited the General Logistics Bureau Kim Jong Eun “underlined the need to bring about a radical turn in improving the living standards of service personnel.” The bureau “must play the vanguard role in improving the living standards of service personnel,” he apparently commented. 

Daily NK’s source asserted that the 5th Corps has taken the step of offering extended leave to personnel in an attempt to curry favour by achieving compliance with Kim’s instructions.

Needless to say, however, the emphasis on beans as a source of sustenance for the KPA did not start with Kim Jong Eun; it dates back at least as far as the 1980s, when Kim Jong Il took over as Commander-in-Chief of the KPA. Kim stressed a three-pronged approach to army life: beans as food to nourish the troops, basketball for physical training, and playing cards during free time.

The call to “supply ample beans” to soldiers continued in the 2000sand now the Kim Jong Eun era has brought still greater stress on the importance of beans to bolster physical health. The KPA solves many of its food security issues directly through farming in situ, and beans are one of the easiest things to grow, they're also cheap, and are rich in nutrients.

However, flooding around Gangwon Province last year resulted in serious damage to bean crops. For four days beginning on July 10th that year, the province was pounded with 420mm of rain, memorably taking lives in a landslide at the construction site of Masikryong Ski Resort. This left the province's units short of supplies.

According to Daily NK sources, on July 14th the going rate for a kilo of beans in North Korea was roughly 5,000-5,500 KPW, the same as for rice. This price places the option of purchasing a quantity of beans at the market price beyond the reach of less fortunate soldiers.

The source revealed public concern at this emphasis on beans, and the incentive it provides to steal from farms and private plots. “Already people are chattering about how ‘cooperative farms here are going to be beset by KPA thieves’,” she said.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


This should be expected from the New Yorker as the MH17 shoot down provides the author the opportunity to resurrect past history to discredit the US.

But despite that the author does highlight the risks of using indigenous forces (or proxies) that cannot be controlled by the sponsor (and not just the US as a sponsor).  This history has to be studied and not overlooked whenever anyone decides that working through and with indigenous forces might be an option.  We should never discount that potential option solely because of the history as it may be the right method for a given strategic situation but we also must figure out how to mitigate the potential blowback from doing so.  But his conclusion regarding Putin is very important:

Characteristically, Putin was quick to lament the loss of life; he released a photograph showing him and Russian Cabinet members standing for a moment’s silence to honor the dead. Later in the day, he said that the incident was Ukraine’s fault. But by then evidence was emerging from multiple sources, including cell-phone intercepts, strongly suggesting that Putin’s rebels had done it. They still deny it. It may have been a hideous mistake made by fighters accustomed to firing on anything that appears in the skies above—and equipped with the means to do it. But, however it played out, this sort of tragedy is a natural consequence of giving weapons to violent men who feel that their powerful sponsor allows them to commit crimes with impunity.
Putin has been using the Ukrainian conflict to revive the notion of Russia as a superpower. Until now, his proxies—first his “little green men” in Crimea, and then the separatists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic—have provided him a thin veil of deniability. Now, though, he may have provided for his own blowback, and sooner than he might have guessed.

JULY 19, 2014


A day after a Malaysia Airlines jet was brought down over eastern Ukraine, President Obama placed the blame squarely on the area’s Russian-backed separatists. “We don’t have time for propaganda,” he said. “We don’t have time for games.”
One of the games being played in the region is an old and dangerous one: the proxy war. For a power that wants to meddle in another country, the great thing about fielding surrogates is that they give you deniability. The bad thing is that you can’t ever fully control them. Things were problematic enough in the nineteen-sixties, when the C.I.A. hired mercenaries to fight Soviet proxies in Africa and Latin America. The formula was simple: here’s a down payment, in money or arms. Go in and do your worst, and you’ll get more if you get something done. If you screw up, get caught, or get killed, we’re not involved. But, even with that protective distance, these kinds of agents could create terrible mischief, which often found its way home. When I was in Bolivia in the mid-eighties, Argentine pilots told me that the C.I.A. was hiring fliers to drop arms to the Nicaraguan contras. The pilots had a friend, recently employed by an infamous drug lord, who had just signed on. Later, it emerged that some of the contras had made a side deal with Pablo Escobar, the drug trafficker, allowing him to ship cocaine through their network of clandestine airstrips.
During the early Cold War, the West’s more infamous mercenaries—such as the Briton (Mad) Mike Hoare and the Frenchman Bob Denard—generally operated in backwaters, like the Congo or the Comoro Islands. Because there was little oversight, the powers that hired such characters rarely suffered much for their transgressions. In 1961, the U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash, on the border between Northern Rhodesia (now called Zambia) and the Congo, where he was attempting to resolve a bid for secession in the copper-rich Katanga Province. Many people believe that, rather than suffering a mechanical failure, the plane was shot down by Belgian mercenaries who supported the secessionists. But the official inquiries were inconclusive.
In the nineteen-eighties, the C.I.A. handed out Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the mujahideen fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, and, again, the thinking seemed simple enough. By giving these rustic fighters—who had begun their resistance with century-old Lee-Enfield rifles—the means to blast airplanes out of the sky, the West could covertly shift the war in their favor. The Stingers were effective, and soon the Soviet Army—which had enjoyed unhindered aerial dominance, thanks to its Hind helicopters and MIG jets—began to suffer. Scores of aircraft were shot down and, in 1988, nine years after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, they began to withdraw in defeat. By then, however, the C.I.A. had become nervous about the Stingers, fearing that the sophisticated mobile weapons it had handed out could be used against American interests. The Soviets and the Americans had both recently shot down civilian airliners by accident (KAL Flight 007, in 1983, and Iran Air Flight 655, in 1988, respectively), and so the risks to aviation posed by irresponsible proxies seemed very real. The Agency initiated a covert program to buy the Stingers back— with less than total success. In early 1989, in rural Kandahar, a mujahideen commander who owned two Stingers mistook me for a C.I.A. field agent, and said, “Tell your people I am not giving them back, ever.” But the jihadis whom the West supported eventually provided a different kind of blowback, thanks to Al Qaeda’s use of passenger jets themselves as weapons.
For decades, the Libyan despot Muammar Qaddafi fielded his own proxies in fights across Africa and beyond. The Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) was on his payroll at one point. Qaddafi’s agents planted explosives aboard a Pan Am jetliner that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988; a year later, in similar fashion, they blew up a French civilian passenger plane as it flew over Niger. When Qaddafi was deposed, in 2011, a motley group of “revolutionaries,” including some whom he had supported, swarmed into Libya and looted his vast armories. Among the weapons were large numbers of Russian-made heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. Peter Bouckaert, of Human Rights Watch, documented hundreds of them in unguarded caches, but, by the time weapons inspectors arrived, the missiles were gone. Where they are today, nobody knows. But Libya has become a hotbed of warring militia groups and jihadi extremists, and it seems likely that, sooner or later, the missiles will find a use.
(Continued at the link below)

Lawmakers leery of counterterrorism fund

There is a lot more in the world than terrorism.  I think we really need to cease being a one trick pony and putting everything in the counterterrorism box.  I am really coming to believe that our myopic focus on terrorism is one of the reasons we are unable to develop good policy and strategy with balance and coherency among ends, ways, and means.  Yes terrorism is a threat but it is not the only threat and it is actually only a part of or a supporting element of larger and more comprehensive strategies of our enemies.  But this is an illustration of the tired adage about nails and hammers. We need to take a step back from terrorism and force ourselves to think more strategically and creatively and understand the full range of strategic problems we face.  Further, rather than looking to establish these funds we should focus on informing Congress of the strategy and requesting funding for specific campaign plans designed to support national policy and achievement of the established objectives of the strategy.   Establishing these funds without clearly articulated strategy and campaign plans prevents us from exercising the intellectual rigor needed to address the security challenges we face.  In effect these funds make us intellectually weak.

All that said this is an important quote from GEN Votel:

“I do think it is important that we continue to have SOF forces forward deployed in locations where they can assess, they can understand, and they can, most importantly, work with our international partners who share our interests," he said. 

He is articulating some of the important tasks that are routinely conducted by SOF in the conduct of special warfare and that can facilitate surgical strike operations by appropriate forces when the situation warrants.  But the special warfare forces are the ones who can conduct continuous assessments of a wide range of security threats to include terrorism but also well beyond.  And it is the special warfare forces that are the appropriate ones to be working through and with international partners (and train advise and assist host nation and indigenous forces). If I were king for a day I would include the following among foundational SOF tasks:

       SOF (primarily those that conduct special warfare) must have as a primary task on every deployment (from JCET to JCS Exercise to Combat Operations
to others
) to spot and assess resistance and insurgent organizations and assess their resistance potential.
       These organizations (from potential to nascent to developed) must be identified, assessed, and tracked.  If "friendly" or aligned to our interests we can consider working through and with them.  If hostile to our interests (or friends, partners, and allies) then we must focus on developing the capability and strategy to counter them, often working through and with host nation elements.

With this as a foundational task, SOF would exploit its unique capabilities to provide situational awareness and situational understanding of significant threats around the world that would include those organizations that use terrorism as part of their strategy but also do so much more to threaten the interests of the US and its friends, partners, and allies.  

I would also take GEN Votel's comment one step further.  Rather than simply forward deployed, we need to have the right SOF forward stationed so that there is long term continuous presence in the right areas of the world and so we can eliminate the strategy of "random acts of touching" that characterize our deployments of JCETs, JCS exercises and others where we simply deploy forces for relatively short periods of time to conduct training when long term presence is needed to really support strategy and campaign plans (those short term deployments are necessary and important for some SOF and conventional forces but we need a long term presence of specific SOF to provide the capabilities to achieve our objectives).  We have many historical examples of SOF forward stationed to accomplish a variety of different objectives from DET-A in Berlin, 46th Company in Thailand DET-T in Taiwan, to DET-K in Korea and others.

And again at the risk of beating a dead horse this requires a comprehensive strategy and supporting (and supported) campaign plans.

Lawmakers leery of counterterrorism fund

By Kristina Wong - 07/20/14 06:00 AM EDT
President Obama is seeking $5 billion for a counterterrorism fund that will boost deployment of special operations forces to combat terrorists in hotspots such as Libya, Somalia and Syria. But Congress is balking at providing the funds without more details on how it will be spent.
With the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, the administration is increasingly relying on special operations forces to stamp out terrorist threats around the globe.
According to the administration, the forces would train and partner with foreign militaries in those nations as they take on terrorist threats. 
The administration also wants the funding to bump up conventional support forces, to provide intelligence, transportation and logistics for those foreign militaries.  
White House adviser Lisa Monaco said the initiatives are "vital tools to help our military and counterterrorism professionals confront this challenge" in a "turbulent and uncertain world." 
The initiatives are part of the president's $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations request for 2015. The fund was created in 2006 to pay for operations related to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, but has expanded to include counterterrorism operations in various places such as the Horn of Africa and Yemen. 
The new counterterrorism initiative would expand train and equip programs, currently undertaken by mostly special operations forces. 
Gen. Joseph Votel, nominated to become the next commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, has endorsed the idea.
“I think the Counterterrorism Fund could certainly help us with some of our partnership activities,” he said, during his July 10 confirmation hearing. 
“I do think it is important that we continue to have SOF forces forward deployed in locations where they can assess, they can understand, and they can, most importantly, work with our international partners who share our interests," he said. 
Monaco said the initiative “ultimately" would lead to less reliance on the U.S. military.
But in the short term, the effort would rely heavily on special operations troops who, commanders say, are facing strain after 13 years of war.
Defense officials say that special ops personnel could train vetted Syrian opposition forces, as one facet of the new counterterrorism initiative.
Officials say details of this $500 million plan are still being put together and are classified, though they said the training would likely occur outside Syria. 
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the program could train a force of 2,300, and that defense officials have promised to increase those numbers. 
Training and equipping Syrian rebels would be a new authority, defense officials said. The CIA is currently training and equipping small numbers of rebels, but the initiative would see the Pentagon taking over the mission to ramp up the program.
There is also in the request $500 million "to address unforeseen contingencies related to counterterrorism or regional instability."  
"The current situation in Iraq is one example that underscores the importance of reserving funds that can be allocated quickly based on unforeseen needs," according to a White House fact sheet. 
Training and partnering with foreign militaries would not require any new Pentagon authorities -- but would be an expansion of existing authorities: under Section 1206 — which allows for training and equipping partner military forces; Section 1207 — which allows the Pentagon to transfer materials to State to train and equip partner forces; and Section 1208 — which allows for training and equipping partner forces for classified operations. 
However, the initiative would increase current funding for these activities by $2.5 billion.
The spending request sparked a heated debate Thursday over increased funding and presidential authority, as the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the draft bill.
"There is just too much of a chance that those weapons will land in the hands of extremists, just like in Iraq," said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
Pryor., who is looking at a tough re-election battle this fall, proposed an amendment to quash the Syrian training program. His measure failed 9-21. 
Obama’s proposal also received sharp reactions in the House.
“If the president had this authority a year ago, we’d be involved in a war with Syria right now ... Americans are tired of being at war," said Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) at a House Budget Committee hearing on Thursday. 
Lawmakers at the hearing grilled defense officials on why the administration did not put its request for the counterterrorism initiative into its base defense budget request due in March, so lawmakers could scrutinize the proposal before drafting their defense authorization and spending bills. 
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said that the request could not be made earlier, because war funding depended on knowing troop numbers in Afghanistan, and those figures were not clear until May. 
“We were caught by a time issue,” he said. 
Rather than try to predict which account would need more money next year, it made more sense to have a generic fund they could tap into based on emerging needs, Work said. 
“We felt that this would be -- actually provide us with more flexibility,” Work said. 
Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, who testified alongside Work, said the Pentagon also was too constrained by Congress-imposed defense budget caps under sequestration. 
“See, most of the authorities that Congress has provided, sir, have caps on them. And the whole purpose of the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund was to use those existing authorities in a flexible way,” he said.
Lawmakers, however, said the details were lacking and accused officials of trying to create a “slush fund” they could tap into to spend without congressional scrutiny. 
“This seems like a lot of leeway that really hampers Congress' oversight mission,” said Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. 
“It seems this has become yet another slush fund where you can just transfer it between accounts without accountability and you can transfer it even between departments and you're asking for $5 billion, which seems like a large amount of money to have that little oversight on,” she said. 
Work responded that officials did not believe it was a “slush fund that will allow us to just go willy-nilly.” 
“We think there are going to be all sorts of checks and balances,” he adding that there is a 15-day notification for Congress for use of the funds. 
But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on the committee scoffed, referencing the administration’s decision to ignore a 30-day notification period in advance of releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for  Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. 
“I'm not sure arguing right now about notification requirements is the best approach with this committee,” he said. 

Read more:
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach

I saw the IDF spokesman's tweet before I saw this NY Times article.  I wonder how many other militaries and government organizations could have a response to the public as quickly as the IDF spokesman.  Or more specifically how many Lieutenant Colonel military public affairs officers could get something out as rapidly as LTC Peter Lerner  (or stated another way how many senior leaders in organizations trust their spokesman to allow such rapid responses without multiple rewrites through the staffing process in the vain attempt to make sure someone does not say something wrong - of course that is not fair as there are many senior leaders who do.  So to put it another way, how many organizations are willing to give up the conventional staffing process to allow information to flow with speed where it will do more potential good than harm (good information now is usually better than perfect information too late).

Retweeted by Blogs of War
The #IDF has commenced an investigation on the beach incident. The reported civilian causalities from this strike are a tragic outcome.

Civilians rushed to help after explosions hit a beach where children were playing in Gaza City. Four Palestinian boys died. CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
GAZA CITY — Four young Palestinian boys were killed Wednesday when two explosions hit a jetty and beach where they were playing at the fishing port of Gaza City, and witnesses and officials here said the cause was an Israeli naval or aerial attack. The port area had been considered relatively safe from the intense Israeli bombing campaign of the past nine days.
The Israel Defense Forces, which has been hitting Gaza with bombs and missiles to counter rockets fired into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups, said it was investigating what killed the boys. All were cousins in an extended family of fishermen who kept their boats at the port.
The first explosion left a small shack burning on the jetty. Several boys could be seen fleeing along the beach. About 30 seconds later came the second blast, and when the dust cleared, three figures lay motionless on the sand. One had most of a leg blown off, his body charred; a few yards away lay a smaller one with curly hair.

Men came running and scooped up the bodies. A fourth was found in the charred ruins of the shack on the jetty. A grown man, wounded, called for help from inside an outdoor beach cafe, and he too was carried away.
The two explosions were about 30 seconds apart. CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
Israel’s military says it has taken extensive precautions to avoid killing civilians. According to a running count kept by United Nations officials, of the more than 200 Palestinians killed so far, about 75 percent have been civilians. One Israeli has been killed.
Hamas and other militants have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since simmering hostilities erupted into military confrontation on July 8. Most of the Gaza rockets have fallen in open ground in Israel or been destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome interception system. Israel has struck houses, offices and farmland with airstrikes, missiles from Apache helicopters and shelling from naval boats.
(Continued at the link below)

Interesting tweet from the IDF spokesman

This seems like an example of good strategic communications.  A calm response to a potentially tragic event (if as reported).  Obviously it will not sooth Hamas or Israeli opponents but it seems to me that this is a good example of how to communicate bad news to the public.  It is not defensive, it acknowledges the possibility of the tragedy but it implies the need for patience while an investigation is conducted and it says that Israel is taking the incident seriously.  There is a lot of information packed into this little tweet.

 Retweeted by Blogs of War
The #IDF has commenced an investigation on the beach incident. The reported civilian causalities from this strike are a tragic outcome.

Obama's New CT Program Meets Bipartisan Resistance on Capitol Hill

The fundamental problem is in the name.  "Counterterrorism partnership."  First we need a strategy and second such as strategy has to look beyond terrorism.  Counterterrorism partnership is no substitute for strategy nor the intellectual rigor required to develop strategy.

The irony is that counterterrorism has become like communism in the Cold War.  The perception is anything to do with counterterrorism is going to be funded as we have seen since 9-11. Not only our friends, partners, and allies (and lesser developed countries in particular) have learned that all they have to do is play the counterterrorism card and they will receive funds, resources, and training; but also US state and local law enforcement and other agencies can play the counterterrorism card and will likely receive funding (and often massive amounts that provide dubious capabilities to really defend the homeland).

I think we need to put CT back in the box and make it the discreet operation that it should be (the other issue that many of us lament is how often our national mission forces are exposed in the media).  We would better protect and allow for more effective operations of our national mission forces if we reduced the emphasis and visibility on counterterrorism.   Our national leaders call attention to their every operation as they try to scare congress into providing resources. It is interesting to see Congress standing up and saying perhaps "No Mas."

Please do not misunderstand me.  Counterterrorism is critically important and not going away.  However, I believe it is a mistake to make it the "focal point" of our strategy.  (pun perhaps intended here)   But what we really need to focus on are effective policies and strategies that are broader than counterterrorism and that take a holistic, comprehensive (and dare I say grand) approach to our national security.  Sometimes I think our national focus on resourcing counterterrorism is an example violating the principle of doing the hard right over the easy wrong.  The hard right is getting our national security strategy right.  But we put everything in the counterterrorism box from Afghanistan to Iraq to Africa to developing our SOF partners around the world to fight terrorism for us (another dubious concept perhaps).  There is more to national security than counterterrorism.  We need to think bigger than counterterrorism because our adversaries are exploiting terrorism and our focus on it while they pursue much larger strategies through variations on unconventional and political warfare.

Obama's New CT Program Meets Bipartisan Resistance on Capitol Hill

Jul. 16, 2014 - 01:39PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments

Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, with US Army Africa, leads an after-action review with soldiers of the Ghana Army.
Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, with US Army Africa, leads an after-action review with soldiers of the Ghana Army. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — US House Armed Services Committee leaders struck a skeptical — and bipartisan — tone about a $5 billion counterterrorism program proposed by President Barack Obama.
Obama first proposed the CT program, designed to help train and equip US allies to fight violent extremist groups, during a major foreign policy speech at West Point in May. Since, Republicans have criticized him for providing scant details of what he envisions with the CT program and another proposal aimed at “reassuring” European allies.
The new program was codified in a $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) request the White House recently sent to Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the first panel dug into the request in a public setting.
“We understand that these initiatives were levied on the [Defense] Department by the White House without coordination, and you’re now working to develop spending plans,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., told a panel of senior Pentagon officials.
“But while counterterrorism partnerships and reassuring our European allies are important and necessary, the president’s approach lacks detail and is too broad in scope,” McKeon said.
The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, joined McKeon, as did numerous members of Obama’s own party.
“Most members of Congress are broadly supportive of building the capacity of our international partners and understand the necessity of providing a fair amount of flexibility to the department to carry out these activities,” Smith said.
“Nonetheless, the legislative proposal for the [CT program] the department submitted to the Congress can fairly be described as unconstrained — it is written so that it could be used for almost anything the department does,” Smith said, “up to and including refueling an aircraft carrier while circumventing all the normal reprogramming and transfer rules.”
HASC Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, viewed as the frontrunner to replace McKeon, also criticized the proposed CT fund.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, considered another contender for HASC chairman, said, “The reason people are concerned this a slush fund” is, in part, because “the detail is lacking.”
Moments earlier, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., questioned the Pentagon witnesses on how they could prevent the account from becoming a slush fund.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told the panel he sees a number of “checks and balances,” including a need to get White House Office of Management and Budget approval for any spending plans, which would prevent the Pentagon from “going willy-nilly” with the OCO monies.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, raised concerns that some of the requested OCO funds might go toward new initiatives that would be “duplicative” with existing programs.
Another Democrat, Rick Larsen of Washington, told Work “you’re not doing a very good job of explaining it.”
Work responded by saying the proposed CT fund would give the Pentagon greater flexibility to spend monies when crises happen around the world.
Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld said the department “is running out of” funds allocated for CT operations under existing programs.
Larsen said lawmakers spent the last decade ensuring a number of post-9/11 CT programs function as the executive branch wanted and in a way that suited Congress.
The new proposed program, he said, “seems backward.”
Work described the aims of the proposed CT program this way: “The overall goal of the CTPF is to increase the ability of partner countries to conduct counterterrorism operations, prevent the proliferation of terrorist threats from neighboring states, and participate in multinational counterterrorism operations.” ■