Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

ISIS atrocities, Libya feet first, a new President – here comes 2016

December 28, 2015


28 December 2015


2016 will be a sinister affair. That’s what they say in the darker alleys of Whitehall and across the river on the Albert Embankment.

The oil guys in the Middle East say ISIS is working up a nasty. Big hits in as many European capitals as they can manage on the same day. Make Paris look like a hooligan mugging. The Middle East oilmen having the most to lose and twice that to protect have been known to get it right.

They says something like this: four or five organisers with long placed hitters in seven or eight capitals. Museums are easy targets.  Metros have to be quick. Theatres.  Everyone dies in the third act. Yup.  There’s a lot of black humour out there. Why the third act? Security is sharper in Act I and Act 2.  Act 3 has a It Won’t Be Tonight feel.

On the wider screen for 2016, Libya is the hardest one to tackle. The factions are still spilling blood and revenge is easy done.  France and UK are all for getting in there with air support, intelligence gathering and special forces reconnaissance (SAS’s original role) and smart diplomacy i.e. soft and hard power operation.  Trouble is no one knows for certain where ISIS has got to in Libya and most importantly who is running it there.

In the Middle East proper there is every chance of a strong US-Russia partnership developing in Syria.  Give it a couple of months. Russia without a sign of Oooops-sorry! is intent on whacking as many anti-Assad rebels as possible before going the extra distance on some form of election.  Here’s something that is not going to change in 2016 unless Assad is taken down by his own people – palace revolutions will be a general feature through the world of British interests.

Moscow clearly believes that Assad is the best bet in Syria. A lot of people at State Department could copy that but it is never going to be official policy especially as in Moscow Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov could be running Putin.  Watch those two names next year.

Everything is tugging Washington (and the UK) into further involvement in the big places it has failed during the past decade. More troops and close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan has a ring of the military version of American Old Home Week.

The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of Pakistan – always has been. So watch for higher training programmes and arms supplies from Pakistan military to Taliban. Watch also for Taliban’s biggest enemy in Afghanistan in 2016: ISIS.

It is all heady stuff and somehow makes the UK-MOD headaches low budget stuff. But the work is underway to see how much of a battle group or an force projection the carrier programme could make.  One carrier means six or so frigate/destroyer escorts plus a couple of subsurface vessels.

In spite of promises paying for all this is a hard call.  But the toughie for all three services to be sorted in 2016 is manpower. A great tr-service fighting force emerging from the 2015 SDSR – but fewer and fewer people with on-going training programmes to “man” them.

The biggest event of 2016 will be on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November – when the US votes for a new President. On November 9 they will wake in every city anywhere you can name and ask Who Won? They should do.  The new incumbent will be the most important person in the whole world.

On present showing the presidential election will be the most racially influenced presidential election in decades. Latinos, Asian and Black America since Fergusson will pack a  punch this time.

Meanwhile the current tenant on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the 44th President, will be ending his term by going after ISIS in the biggest way he can: hopeless superpowerdom testing to destruction.

And that is almost it except for the little matter of the election of a new secretary general of the UN. Ban Ki-moon goes on December 31 2016.  Who get’s the job.  No one knows. My money – against all the odds called thus far – is on a Bulgarian, foreign minister Irina Bokova.  But what do I know?


Who Needs The United Nations? Answers On A Big Postcard

October 18, 2015


19th October 2015

New York

Do we really need the United Nations? Or as some say, if there was no UN would it have to be invented?

It was founded 70 years ago this week on the 24th of October 1945 just 89 days after the United States dropped two nuclear bombs over Japan, the final act in the most horrific war of all time.

The United Nation’s task in 1945 has never changed: to fix the problems of a world that knew there was more to come.

Here at 760 United Nations Plaza on the bank of the East River few of the thousands who work at UN headquarters would say the original objective – peace and security; the protection and promotion of human rights; and human development – has been achieved.

The UN was the great ambition born from the failed League of Nations set up in 1920 with a purpose of disarmament, collective security and ending disputes by arbitration and not military means and so prevent a second world war.  WWII happened.  The League of Nations had failed. Here was a time of butchered democracies, redrawn boundaries and global societies and economies bewildered and damned by the events of the previous five years. None believed a new institution was the fixit from recovery while many of the principles fought for were immediately threatened by the creeping Cold War.

The greatest hope was for the forum in which everyone could be heard and for all its weaknesses the UN is the only place where ambitions for a better world can be laid out and its frailties exposed.

The too often unworthy experiences of failure may be counted in post-1945 war zones. Yet recovery from failure, even partially, may constitute some form of success if not victory; 63 global peace keeping operations since 1945 (currently 16 plus 12 political missions across five continents) give a statistical value to the determination of the UN to bring about something more than a truce and the fact that the UN manages to get some form of military monitoring to protect such fragile agreements.

But here is the temper of the images and reputations of failure levelled at the UN. That original demand to fix problems, particular conflicts, has come to nothing. The Secretary General’s call for cease fires are platitudes and often the Secretary General must know this. That indifference – so much more damning than rejection of advice – says the UN has no function in matters of resolving conflict.

Here is an example of the misunderstanding of the value of the UN. The UN is not here to stop conflicts happening or bring them to a conclusion.

The UN has four roles.

Firstly it is the clearing house for the valuable UN agencies – heath, refugees, medicine, education etc.  It can coordinate efforts where as a single non-government organisation can’t.  These are the prime values within the workings of the 44,000 UN workforce.

The second role is the management of military conflict resolution.  At the out break of fighting or in the transition to conflict, the UN can provide a Resolution that the conflict is justified, for example to prevent war crimes or breaches of human rights. Thirdly the UN under the auspices of an agency such as the UN High Commission of Refugees can work to relieve the misery of conflict. Fourthly  the UN is there to guarantee any peace at the end of a conflict.

Public concentration is too often on military and political crises and where there is failure it is because the UN can only be the sum of the hopes of its 193 parts.  But all is not lost.

The UN’s true strengths are in the great High Commissions – Human Rights, Refugees and increasingly the UN lead on tackling Global Warming.

Finally we have to take on board that the UN’s major roles are governed by the rules that were drawn in 1945.

The great global anxieties of 2015 are similar to those that existed in 1945. For all the downplay, the world is a better place for millions than it was 70 years ago and the UN has done much to make it so.  It could never have prevented Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But it was there when others were not once conflict began.

Christopher Lee

August 30, 2012

Mali Jihadis ready to export terrorism to France & beyond

30 August 2012

Is Mali the new Afghanistan? That’s the big question for US Intelligence analysts as the CIA redraws the map of the West African state.

And the picture that emerges shows that more than half the country is now controlled by Ansar Dine, the Islamist army that translates as Defenders of the Faith.

The military commander of Ansar Dine is Omar Ould Hamaha and his message to the West is simple: the sun will never set on Islam.  In other words, his cause is to overwhelm first France, then the United Kingdom (two countries with large Islamic populations) and eventually the United States.

But maybe Ansar Dine is just another Islamist group and maybe Omar Ould Hamaha is just another slogan-strutting Islamist taking advantage of a collapsed civil state. They do not think that at Langley.  The CIA state board on Mali is a fast changing information platform. The scary bit for the US is that Ansar Dine is thus far firmly linked into Al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb and they have a hold on three important centres: Timbuktu, Kidal and Tessalit.

They have also established a weapons and support supply network that includes an airbridge through at least two important airfields. If that runway control persists then an offensive against Omar Ould Hamaha’s territory is harder.  On the other hand, without outside intervention, an internal counter offensive looks unlikely.

Ansar Dine’s ambitions do not rest in Mali. They follow the threat patterns that were seen more than a decade ago coming from Afghanistan. To indicate the seriousness outsiders take those threats, French Intelligence also has dedicated resources to track day-to-day events in Mali because Omar Ould Hamaha’s threat lecture to anyone who will listen – and plenty do – is that France is a number one external target.

At this stage, few but alarmists would see a military offensive spreading from Mali to France.  But standard terrorism against France and its overseas possessions including territory, commercial enterprise and embassies and individuals is taken very seriously. The north African emigre population in France for example, is an unknown quantity. French Intelligence is perfectly aware that terrorist and would-be terrorist groups in the United Kingdom come mainly from British nationals. So it could go in France with the al Qaeda inspired support from Mali.

Within Mali, there is a further terrorist threat. This is seen largely emanating from Nigeria and the Boko Haram jihadists, a sort of Taliban equivalent. Such Islamist created disorder and collapse of the national security authority suggests it is hardly surprising that jihadis from other African territories including Somalia and some as far afield as Pakistan are making for this revolutionary territory, just as happened in Afghanistan.

None of this is an overnight phenomenon. Africa has long been ungovernable in its remoter regions – neighbouring Nigeria is an example of civil war and Islamist discontent. Mali has in 2012 had the additional pressure of the Tuaregs who fought for Gaddafi arriving in the country demanding they be given a state of their own in the style of Palestinian and Kurdish demands in the Middle East.

What has the Mali government been able to do?  The answer: precious little because there is no proper government. The authorities in the capital Bamako display a very African style of corruption and one consequence is an unreliable army inclined even to mutiny.  It was one such mutiny that brought down the government and thus allowed the jihadis to gain such huge swathes of territory without any practical opposition.

The Afghanistan pattern is clear. The north is now under Sharia law with all its uncompromising demands.  The population is on the run – literally. Hundreds of thousands are attempting to escape the area causing an uncontrollable instability in the country and among neighbours ill-equipped to cope with such an influx.

Contingency plans for outside intervention suffer three difficulties.  No foreign military force can legally enter Mali until asked to by the government. The only rule in Mali is from those who set up the military coup.  That government is not internationally recognized and so the United Nations Security Council that would have to produce a Resolution supporting outside intervention, cannot move.

A West African brigade is on standby to go in, but cannot for the same reason.  The so-called governing army council is reluctant to call for outside help because the first task on an intervening army would be to take control of the capital.

Few doubt that Mali is Africa’s Afghanistan.  Perhaps Somalia may be a better comparison because its easier to control by jihadis. Whichever model is chosen – and a combination of the two is about right – Mali faces the bleakest of futures.  If the threats of exporting terrorist values persists, we should expect terrible times long away from Mali’s borders because disconnected peoples in Europe especially are looking for a banner under which they can make their furious actions which is why, the Afghanistan comparison stands up to scrutiny.