US envoy warns against Russian base in Abkhazia

US envoy warns against Russian base in Abkhazia

BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Russia must refrain from opening a naval base in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia and should agree to extend the mandate of U.N. monitors in the region, said a senior U.S. envoy.

The NATO alliance has already expressed concern at a recent report Moscow plans a naval base in Abkhazia.

A separatist official told Reuters this week that Abkhazia expects to sign a deal over an airbase and naval base within a few months, but there has been no official confirmation from Moscow.

“The possible deployment of a naval base in Abkhazia, an airbase in Abkhazia and a military base in South Ossetia seems to be moving in the wrong direction,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza told Reuters in an interview.
Georgia’s pro-Western leaders accuse Russia of effectively annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a second breakaway region that was the focus of Russia’s war with Georgia last August.

“Russia pledged to reduce its troops to the levels and locations of before the Russia-Georgia war,” said Bryza, an envoy to the region. “Russia is already in violation of those commitments… Deploying a naval base would be another violation.”

He said Russia should not prevent the extension of a mandate for United Nations observers in the region, which needs extending by Feb. 15.

“We’ve put compromises forward and Russia has rejected them so far,” he said. “We hope Russia won’t reject the compromise for the United Nations.”

Russia’s crushing of Georgian forces in the five-day war raised concerns in the West about a new Russian assertiveness in its traditional sphere of influence and stirred fears for the safety of energy supplies that run through Georgia.

This winter’s gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, which cut off supplies to Europe, stoked those fears further and highlighted the need for renewed investment in Ukraine, said Bryza.

The United States is considering putting its weight behind an $800 million pipeline that would de-bottleneck gas flows from Ukraine into Slovakia.

“From a U.S. perspective it makes it all the more urgent,” he said.
“With this less than a billion dollar investment it is possible to increase the transit of gas by almost 15 billion cubic metres, so about half of the South Stream pipeline for a very small investment,” he added, referring to Russia’s preferred gas project for bypassing Ukraine.

But Ukraine will have to work hard to reassure private investors, who might view the project as too risky.

“It’s time for both sides to rebuild their respective reputations…maybe this proposal to expand gas transit through Ukraine is a way to bring it all back together.”


Groups review Gaza conflict for war crimes

Groups review Gaza conflict for war crimes


Now that Israeli forces have left the Gaza Strip and fighting has largely ended, human-rights organizations are combing the detritus of war, surveying the extensive destruction, interviewing shell-shocked victims and building cases of war crimes against both combatant parties.

While Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and, therefore, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, nearly all European courts have claimed authority to investigate and prosecute war crimes of other countries. It was a Spanish magistrate who prosecuted the case of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and, just Friday, another Spanish court announced it was investigating several Israeli officials for their alleged role in a 2002 military assault on Gaza.

The main danger to Israelis is expected to come from lawsuits brought by individuals and organizations, rather than governmental attempts to undertake official investigations. “We are preparing for a wave of international lawsuits,” Israeli Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s principal researcher in Israel and the Palestinian territories, warned: “Those [Israelis] giving the orders, and even those pulling the trigger, should not plan on taking any overseas holidays.”

Related Articles

The allegations against Israeli forces operating in Gaza between Dec. 27 and Jan. 18 fall into five categories:

Unlawful killings

This is the broadest category, in which it is alleged that Israeli air, sea and ground forces carried out indiscriminate bombing and shelling of military targets without proper regard for the safety of innocent civilians in the area.

It is further alleged that the scale of Israeli attacks was often out of proportion to the value of some military targets, or to the threat the targets posed to Israel, leading to unwarranted collateral casualties.

The massive aerial bombing carried out without warning on the first day, the targeting of a police graduation ceremony, the shelling of an area near a UN school, the bombing of two other UN schools and shelling of the UN headquarters, all are cases being investigated.

“Those who embark on this course of action must be held responsible,” Ms. Rovera said. She said there were numerous cases of Israeli artillery being used against targets in built-up residential areas.

“It doesn’t matter if their indiscriminate attacks result in one unlawful death or a large number,” she said. “It’s the scale here [in Gaza] that’s new.”

The use of anti-personnel weapons such as flechettes when shelling a physical or a narrow target is another example of unlawful killing, Ms. Rovera argued. Thousands of these five-centimetre-long metal arrows can be packed into tank shells, and evidence of their use has been found in at least two areas of Gaza, she said.

“X-rays showed flechettes embedded in people’s brains,” Ms. Rovera said.

Use of such weapons is not banned, but their use in civilian-populated areas runs afoul of humanitarian law, experts say.

White phosphorous shells is another example of a legal munition that may have been used illegally in Gaza. Intended to illuminate an area or to provide a smoke screen, the phosphorous ignites when exposed to air and cannot be doused with water. It ignites most material with which it comes into contact and burns human flesh to the bone.

Its use in heavily populated areas is a violation of humanitarian law, most agree.

Israel acknowledges using white phosphorous, but insists it did so only in open areas and in complete compliance with international law.

Wanton destruction of property

The neighbourhood of east Jabalya in the northern part of the Gaza Strip was an expansive industrial area containing factories and warehouses. Cement making, stone cutting, agricultural processing and small manufacturing all were carried out here, but an inspection of the district this week showed almost every single factory, warehouse and barn destroyed. Cement trucks all were overturned; buildings that weren’t shelled were bulldozed; a complete field of cattle lay dead on the ground.

Such destruction, experts say, may constitute an international crime. “They have destroyed the livelihood of thousands of people,” said Martha Myers, country director for Care International.

Israel has justified the destruction as an effort to remove possible rocket-launching sites – the area is not far from the Israeli border – and to destroy stockpiles of rockets and rocket-making factories.

On a smaller scale, an inspection of several sites this week found examples of how Israeli troops, occupying houses during their ground invasion, left homes unnecessarily trashed, desecrated and with hateful graffiti on the walls.

And in what appears to be a disregard for religious symbols in favour of sport, Israeli tanks shot the top off a great number of minarets in areas that Israeli forces occupied.

“Israelis say they only destroyed things that had potential military use,” Ms. Rovera said, “but the destruction was indiscriminate.”

Hindering medical relief

Numerous examples are cited of Israeli military action preventing neutral medical personnel from reaching civilian victims. The most infamous case is that of the Samouni family, whose house in the Gaza suburb of Zeitoun was destroyed by Israeli shelling. Ambulances were reportedly unable to reach the site for three days. When they did, they apparently found three crying toddlers lying by their dead mothers.

Israel denies it blocked any relief efforts and says the logistics of battle may have made the way unsafe in some situations.

Use of human shields

“We’ve heard a lot about Hamas using human shields,” Amnesty’s Ms. Rovera said. “But Israel used them, too.”

Israeli troops would go into a house, she explained, put the family on the bottom floor and take over the upper floor to use for sniping at the enemy.

“This constitutes using the family as a human shield,” Ms. Rovera pointed out.

Mistreatment of prisoners

Seven Israeli human-rights groups complained to Israel’s judge advocate-general Wednesday that prisoners taken in the Gaza operation were held in conditions so poor that their lives were often endangered.

They presented testimony that many were held in hastily dug pits exposed to cold for days; that many were held “near tanks and in clear combat areas,” and that several were victims of “serious and degrading violence.”

Such “disregard of ethical and legal obligations” makes Israel guilty of violations of international law, the groups argue.

More Zionist Than Israel?

More Zionist Than Israel?

German Policy and Media on Gaza
by Ali Fathollah-Nejad

The Gaza massacre, at least for the moment, is over — ended just before Barack Obama’s inauguration, so as not to cast an unwelcome cloud over his first hours as U.S. President.  The initial Palestinian death toll is 1,300 . . . and expected to rise.  (Four times that number were injured, and more wounded may be discovered).  The number of the Israeli dead — 13 Israelis, ten of whom were soldiers, lost their lives — was one hundredth of the Palestinian dead.  Such are the revealing casualty statistics of this so-called war — onslaught or even slaughter would be a more accurate term to describe the world’s fifth largest army using the high-tech weaponry of the world’s No. 1 military power against the civilian population as well as a scant number of armed combatants.

Only two and a half years after the last Israeli onslaught in which a comparable number of people were killed — with the difference that the Lebanese, unlike the imprisoned Gazans, had a better chance of fleeing from the murderous bombs dropped on them — much of the world found themselves in a state of shock again as they witnessed the reemergence of barbarity at its worst.  Israel did not allow any Western journalists to cover the bloodbath of its “Operation Cast Lead,” though the non-Western world, watching Al Jazeera, Press TV, or TeleSur, could witness the carnage inflicted upon Gaza.

Needless to say, the “pictures” shown by the West’s “enlightened” media were antipodal to those shown by the non-Western alternatives mentioned above, which the same Western media promptly denounced as “propaganda.”  Let’s take Germany for example, Europe’s economically as well as demographically strongest country, whose Constitution (Basic Law), as a lesson of the terrible experiences of the Nazi period, commits the German people, “[c]onscious of their responsibility before God and man, . . . to promote world peace” (Preamble), emphasizing that “The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world” (Art. 1, para. 2).1 One might expect the German people’s political representatives to feel obliged to respect those principles.  Nothing of the sort!

“Unlimited Solidarity” Reloaded

In a telephone conversation on the second day of Israel’s attacks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “agreed that the responsibility for the development of the situation in the region clearly and exclusively lies with Hamas.”  Berlin’s spokesperson further declared: “Hamas unilaterally broke the agreement for a ceasefire, there has been a continuous firing of . . . rockets at Israeli settlements and Israeli territory, and without question — and this was stressed by the chancellor — Israel has the legitimate right to defend its own people and territory.”2 Merkel’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier embarked on a “peace mission” — the German media’s description — where he observed from a safe distance in Rafah the “self-defending” Israeli bombs being dropped upon “self-responsible” Palestinians.  Steinmeier, who as Schröder’s chief of staff played an inglorious role in keeping Germany-born innocents in the Guantánamo camp,3 is running as the Social-Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for the chancellery.  Impressive seamlessness!

Like the United States during the immediate post-9/11 days, today Israel is the unmerited beneficiary of Germany’s “unlimited solidarity” aiding and abetting crimes.

Now, what about the German media, which in turn are bound by the German Press Code stating that “[t]he freedom of the Press enshrined in the Basic Law includes the independence and freedom of information, the right of expression and criticism” (Preamble) and that “[r]espect for the truth, preservation of human dignity and accurate informing of the public are the overriding principles of the Press” (Section 1)?  Their story of “civilizational” war — comfortably embedded within the good-versus-evil scheme — was not surprising at all, though hardly compatible with the above principles.

The media overwhelmingly and across the political spectrum represented the interpretation given by the Israeli leadership, i.e. that the “Jewish State” was fighting a “defensive war” against rocket-throwing “Hamas terrorists,” pursuing the noble cause of defending “Western democracies,” such as Israel, in the “war on terror” against Islamism.  Despite this narrative’s non-sense in moral, political, and legal terms, it was echoed in papers of every political couleur.  The only newspaper consistently and extensively covering the “systematic nature of the destruction” (UN humanitarian chief Sir John Holmes)4 has been the left-wing junge Welt — which, alas, has only a small readership. This sole anti-imperialist German paper has been severely demonized by the ideologues of the mainstream but has received much praise from such respected personalities as Hans von Sponeck, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, who resigned in protest of the UN Security Council-mandated genocide of Iraqis in the 1990s.

Embedded Narratives

The country’s most prominent televised political discussion “Anne Will” announced that it would run a show on Gaza on 11 January, but in an unprecedented step canceled the topic only three days before the scheduled date, replacing it by a program on “suicide” — as if suicide were more important than mass killings.  Seeing the freedom of press and democracy in peril, a protest initiative was launched, signed by over 700 worldwide.5

When not outright erased as in the case of the canceled “Anne Will” program, the Gaza coverage à l’Allemande was fundamentally composed of (1) prescribed discriminatory terminology, with “radical Islamist Hamas” used as a journalistic mantra to describe Israel’s opponent while such loaded terms as “radical Zionist” were never attributed to Israel; (2) the tale of “double hostage-taking” of both Israelis and Gazans by Hamas; and (3) the repetition of Israeli government positions even by journalists working for the most prestigious public broadcasters.  German correspondents joining from Tel Aviv were practically embedded with Israel’s army.

What was scrupulously omitted in the media’s narrative was the history of the conflict, particularly the fact that we had, on one side, an illegal occupying power flouting world opinion as enunciated by numerous UN resolutions and international legal opinions and, on the other, the brutally occupied who were being practically starved to death.  At best, this was only considered a marginal detail diverting one’s attention from the “continuous rocket attacks” by Hamas which rendered normal Israeli life impossible.  No mention of course was made about the worthiness of Palestinian life.

What Lessons from the Judeocide?

Still under the long shadow cast by the monumental — and in its industrial fervor unique — genocide of the European Jews, the country’s media did not provide space for any discussion worth its name about the great ordeal that Gazans suffered while the “international community” acted in complicit silence.  And when debated, as was done in “Anne Will”‘s competitor political talk show “Hart Aber Fair” (“Hard But Fair”), it was carefully made sure that the talk was not “switched” to a “discussion of facts.”  Instead, in a highly obvious manner, a frantic effort was made to connect anti-Semitism and criticisms of Israel.  While anti-Semitism certainly exists among some Germans, the more prevalent form of racism in today’s Germany is Islamophobia, which went un-discussed, despite it being relevant as a factor that explains official ideology and public opinion.  Hardly a fair practice.

What was even more scandalous was the fact that Jewish voices against Israel’s operation were widely ignored.  To be heard in the mainstream mass media, Jewish critics of Israel were forced to take out an ad.  In the SüddeutscheZeitung, under the header “German Jews say NO to the murder by the Israeli army,” European Jews for a Just Peace (EJPJ) Germany said: “We are appalled by this inhumanity. . . .  Do German politicians really believe that it is a compensation for the murder of our Jewish families and relatives that Israel can now . . . do whatever crosses her mind? . . .  Hamas is using terrorist methods, but this is also what the elected officials of Israel do, in fact a hundred times more effectively.”6

It is deeply disturbing, and particularly sad for someone who has grown up in Germany, to raise the question “What have Germans learned from the Holocaust?” and to hear either embarrassed silence or “We must not criticize Israel.”  I thought the lesson to be learned from the Holocaust was the duty to resist any kind of racism, oppression, and wars of aggression and to refrain from demonization which effectively paves the way for tacit acceptance of violence and war.   That is the lesson codified in the Basic Law, too, albeit held in contempt by the German media and politicians.  Despite the narratives promoted by them, however, polls suggest that a significant number of Germans are increasingly becoming aware of the moral hollowness of such “unlimited solidarity” and beginning to recognize that barbarity must be called barbarity, no matter who the perpetrators are.

A Rogue State: “If the Cap Fits. . . .”

Jewish Oxford international relations professor Avi Shlaim concluded his article on Gaza: “. . . Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders’.  A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism — the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.  Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it.”7 As the leading scholar on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Norman Finkelstein corroborates Shlaim: “The record is quite clear.”  Well, it is.

This is why it makes sense to launch a campaign against Israel in the same way it was done against Apartheid South Africa, which was a Western colonial state with entrenched racism, backed by “Western democracies” and engaged in apartheid and oppression . . . much like Israel.

I agree with the historian Ilan Pappé: it is now high time to expose the links between the Zionist ideological factor and the crimes committed by the “self-righteous ideological state” of Israel.8 This might conceivably awaken those Germans who remain asleep in a highly disturbing state of moral apathy.

In the end, one awaited in vain a major German, or any other European, newspaper headlining an article — as Le Monde did after 9/11 with “Nous sommes tous Américains” (We are all Americans)9 — with “Nous sommes tous Palestiniens,” Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.  Instead, it’s as if the same headline blared, on the front pages of virtually all papers: “We are all Zionists.”

1 Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Promulgated by the Parliamentary Council on 23 May 1949, as amended up to June 2008, Berlin: German Bundestag, 2008.

2 Agence France-Presse (AFP), “Germany’s Merkel Blames Hamas for Gaza Violence,” 29 December 2008.

3 Cf. Navid Kermani, “Wir sind Murat Kurnaz” [We are Murat Kurnaz], die tageszeitung (taz), 23 March 2007.

4 “UN ‘Shocked’ by Gaza destruction,” BBC News, 23 January 2009.

5 See my report “German Media Censorship on Gaza?”, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 22 January 2009.

6 “Deutsche Juden und Jüdinnen sagen NEIN zum Morden der israelischen Armee,” advert in Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17 January 2009, p. 10.

7 Avi Shlaim, “How Israel Brought Gaza to the Brink of Humanitarian Catastrophe,” The Guardian, 7 January 2009.

8 Ilan Pappe, “Israel’s Righteous Fury and Its Victims in Gaza,” The Electronic Intifada, 2 January 2009; cf. also Ilan Pappe, “Dummy or Real,” London Review of Books (online), 14 January 2009.

9 Jean-Marie Colombani, “Nous sommes tous Américans,” editorial, Le Monde, 13 September 2001.

Ali Fathollah-Nejad is a German–Iranian political scientist focusing on the international relations of the Middle East.  For the open letter protesting the cancelation of the TV debate on Gaza

Islamic militancy is a foreign policy tool of the US and Pakistani establishments


Islamic militancy is a foreign policy tool of the US

and Pakistani establishments

By Yousuf Nazar

Admiral Mike Mullen (first from left), the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Pervez Kayani (third from the left) and next to him, the ISI Chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha (then Major. Gen. and Director General Military Operations) aboard the US naval carrier Abraham Lincoln in Indian Ocean; in a secret meeting on August 26, 2008. Pasha was promoted to the rank  of  Lt. Gen. and appointed as the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence on Sept. 29, 2008.                                            –_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Who stands to gain the most from the Mumbai attacks?

The Pakistani media was quick to dismiss Indian allegations about the complicity of elements from Pakistan in Mumbai attacks. Some channels even carried stories that there was no Aslam Amir in Faridkot, only to contradict themselves later. We need to reflect upon the whole paradigm of ‘terrorism’. For this purpose, it is essential to to take a holistic view including examination of some important and critical events since 9/11, US’s strategic interests in the Middle East and Central Asia, the relationship between the US and Pakistan authorities, and the murky nature of CIA’s involvement with the so-called Islamic militants.

In Pakistan, there are two extreme viewpoints. One view sees things through a conspiracy paradigm where India-US-Israel nexus is out to destroy Pakistan and Pakistani establishment is an innocent bystander. The other view sees fundamentalism as purely a home grown issue that has gone out of control. There are elements of truth in both the views. But the reality, as always, is far more complex.

It has been made more complex due to the fact there is big money involved on both the sides. The Americans have poured money into so-called Pakistani think-tanks and media groups. Some of these think-tanks have clear and identifiable linkages to those run by neocons or are indirectly funded by the US. Their views are given platforms by large and respected groups such as DAWN and GEO TV without bothering to make disclosures about conflict of interest; a standard practice.

Some of the so-called funadamentalists enjoy cosy relationship with the Arab kingdoms and the Pakistani intelligence agencies. These agencies are very close to the CIA and the Pentagon.

Hence, the exponential increase in militancy and terrorist attacks in Pakistan since 2004 cannot be analysed in isolation from the role of the establishment, the US policies, and the biggest ever [ongoing] covert operations of the CIA since the end of the Afghan war in 1989.

Continue reading

Tickled To Death!

CIA HAS BEEN TICKLING PEOPLE TO DEATH FOR YEARSBy: Peter ChamberlinMichael Hayden said the clandestine agency is using Predator missile attacks to tickle enemy groups, to provoke a reaction.We use military operations to excite the enemy, prompting him to respond.The agency director was jokingly referring to the policy of committing multiple mass-murders of innocent citizens of Pakistan, as a tactic for provoking retaliation by their relatives.http://therearenosunglasses.wordpress…Category: Science & Technology

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Tickled To Death!“, posted with vodpod

Mike Vickers Author of Anti-Soviet Strategy Now Plots the “Take-Over-the-World Plan”


Sorry, Charlie. This Is Michael Vickers’s War.


By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2007; A19

Defense officials once jokingly described Michael Vickers as being in charge of the “take-over-the-world plan.”

In the Pentagon’s newly expanded Special Operations office, a suite of sterile gray cubicles on the “C” ring of the third floor, Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael G. Vickers is working to implement the U.S. military’s highest-priority plan: a global campaign against terrorism that reaches far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wide-ranging plan details the targeting of al-Qaeda-affiliated networks around the world and explores how the United States should retaliate in case of another major terrorist attack. The most critical aspect of the plan, Vickers said in a recent interview, involves U.S. Special Operations forces working through foreign partners to uproot and fight terrorist groups.Vickers’s job also spans the modernization of nuclear forces for deterrence and retaliation, and the retooling of conventional forces to combat terrorism — a portfolio so expansive that he and some Pentagon officials once jokingly referred to his efforts as the “take-over-the-world plan,” one official said.

Vickers, a former Green Beret and CIA operative, was the principal strategist for the biggest covert program in CIA history: the paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” released last weekend, portrays Vickers in that role, in which he directed an insurgent force of 150,000 Afghan fighters and controlled an annual budget of more than $2 billion in current dollars.Today, as the top Pentagon adviser on counterterrorism strategy, Vickers exudes the same assurance about defeating terrorist groups as he did as a 31-year-old CIA paramilitary officer assigned to Afghanistan, where he convinced superiors that with the right strategy and weapons, the ragtag Afghan insurgents could win. “I am just as confident or more confident we can prevail in the war on terror,” Vickers, 54, said in a recent interview, looking cerebral behind thick glasses but with an energy and build reminiscent of the high school quarterback he once was. “Not a lot of people thought we could drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.”

Vickers joined the Pentagon in July to oversee the 54,000-strong Special Operations Command (Socom), based in Tampa, which is growing faster than any other part of the U.S. military. Socom’s budget has doubled in recent years, to $6 billion for 2008, and the command is to add 13,000 troops to its ranks by 2011.

Senior Pentagon and military officials regard Vickers as a rarity — a skilled strategist who is both creative and pragmatic. “He tends to think like a gangster,” said Jim Thomas, a former senior defense planner who worked with Vickers. “He can understand trends then change the rules of the game so they are advantageous for your side.”

Vickers’s outlook was shaped in the CIA and Special Forces, which he joined off the street through a “direct enlistment” program in 1973. In the 10th Special Forces Group, he trained year-round for a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union. One scenario he prepared for: to parachute into enemy territory with a small nuclear weapon strapped to his leg, and then position it to halt the Red Army.

Vickers recalled that the nuclear devices did not seem that small, “particularly when you are in an aircraft with one of them or it is attached to your body.” Was it a suicide mission? “I certainly hoped not,” Vickers said.

An expert in martial arts, parachuting and weapons, and second in his class at Officer Candidate School, Vickers was also fluent in Czech and Spanish, which made him overqualified when he joined the CIA’s paramilitary unit in 1983. Soon after, he received a citation for combat in Grenada.

But Vickers’s greatest influence was in the clinically precise way he reassessed the potential of Afghan guerrilla forces and prescribed the right mix of weaponry to attack Soviet weaknesses. This brash plan to create a force of “techno-guerrillas” able to fight year-round called for exponentially more money, which through sheer force of logic Vickers was able to obtain.

Today Vickers’s plan to build a global counterterrorist network is no less ambitious. The plan is focused on a list of 20 “high-priority” countries, with Pakistan posing a central preoccupation for Vickers, who said al-Qaeda sanctuaries in the country’s western tribal areas are a serious threat to the United States. The list also includes Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia and Iran, and Vickers hints that some European countries could be on it. Beyond that, the plan covers another 29 “priority” countries, as well as “other countries” that Vickers does not name.

“It’s not just the Middle East. It’s not just the developing world. It’s not just nondemocratic countries — it’s a global problem,” he said. “Threats can emanate from Denmark, the United Kingdom, you name it.”

The plan deploys a variety of elite troops around the world, including about 80 to 90 12-man teams of Army Special Forces soldiers who are skilled in foreign languages and at working with indigenous forces. Today, those forces are heavily concentrated in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as their numbers grow, they will increase their presence in other countries.

“The war on terror is fundamentally an indirect war. . . . It’s a war of partners . . . but it also is a bit of the war in the shadows, either because of political sensitivity or the problem of finding terrorists,” Vickers said. “That’s why the Central Intelligence Agency is so important . . . and our Special Operations forces play a large role.”

Vickers is pressing Congress to double “train and equip” funding from levels approved in recent years for the military. The funds, which total $325 million for fiscal 2007, allow the U.S. military and Special Operations forces to pay indigenous fighters and paramilitaries who work with them in gathering intelligence, hunting terrorists, fomenting guerrilla warfare or putting down an insurgency.

The funds are “very important . . . so we can move rather rapidly to train and equip foreign security forces” and more will be needed, Vickers told senators at his confirmation hearing in July. “If you don’t have close cooperation, you can’t fight the war,” he said later.

But while local forces can be far more effective in countering terrorism in their regions, creating the forces must be done carefully, said Thomas, the former defense planner. “The last thing we want to do is create a bunch of right-wing goon squads that go out and shoot jihadists with very little legitimacy.”

Vickers is also arguing for billions of dollars in new technology: specialized stealthy aircraft able to fly over countries undetected, unmanned aerial vehicles and other equipment for distant and close-up surveillance, and technology to “tag” and “track” individuals and cars for long distances over time.

Finally, Vickers seeks authority for more flexible and rapid “detailing” that would allow Special Operations forces, in larger numbers, to be seconded to the CIA and allowed to work under agency rules.

“It’s striking to see how quickly he moves through large amounts of information” and then gives guidance how to get things done, said Kalev Sepp, deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, who works under Vickers. “He knows the key players on Capitol Hill. . . . He understands what level of general officer has to be contacted to make decisions,” Sepp said.

But with just over one year left in the Bush administration, Vickers is impatient with bureaucratic infighting within the military and between the Pentagon and other agencies, current and former officials said. One official noted that it took Socom about three years to write the counterterrorism plan, and two years for the administration to approve a classified “execute order” against al-Qaeda.

Vickers, who has advised President Bush on Iraq strategy, is convinced that more U.S. troops are not enough to solve the conflict in Iraq and that working with local forces is the best long-term strategy for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Its imperative that the Iraqis provide . . . security, so transitioning to an indirect approach is critical,” he said. “The surge has been phenomenally effective . . . but not sufficient,” he said, adding that he thinks that without political change the effects of the troop buildup “will dissipate.”

Working with proxy forces will also enable the United States to extend and sustain its influence, something it failed to do in Afghanistan, he said. “After this great victory and after a million Afghans died, we basically exited that region and Afghanistan just spun into chaos,” he said.

“It’s imperative that we not do that again,” he said.

Counterterrorism Mastermind Vickers Addresses Israeli-American Lobby On Terror War

Building the Global Counterterrorism Network

Featuring Michael Vickers
November 4, 2008

On October 24, 2008, Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers addressed a Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute as part of the Institute’s 2007-2008 counterterrorism lecture series. The U.S. Senate confirmed Mr. Vickers as assistant secretary of defense (special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities) on July 23, 2007. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of his remarks.

Although much work still remains on the counterterrorism front, the past seven years have seen notable achievements. The Philippines and the area of Southeast Asia referred to as the “terrorist transit triangle” have seen considerable success against Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. In the Middle East, the tide turned against al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula in 2003, and al-Qaeda in Iraq is now only “a whisper of what it used to be.” Moreover, although there have been many plots, no attacks have occurred on the U.S. homeland since September 11, 2001.

The threat, however, remains significant. Al-Qaeda has demonstrated an ability to regenerate, and its ambitions remain high. The group aims to catalyze an Islamist insurgency, break up and prevent the formation of international coalitions arrayed against it, exhaust and expel the West from Muslim lands, overthrow “illegitimate states,” establish a caliphate, and transform the international balance of power in favor of this new Islamic polity.

In Iraq, the situation has improved, but General Petraeus and others have pointed out that the durability of the past year’s dramatic change is difficult to measure, though the signs are pointing in the right direction. In Afghanistan, the insurgency has intensified over the past two years, and the international community faces a growing challenge to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and a source of instability.

The tribal areas of western Pakistan remain the most significant strategic threat, and the problem has escalated over the past decade. In late 2001 al-Qaeda’s senior leaders fled Afghanistan after the successful U.S. operation there and managed to align themselves with local Pakistani groups in this unsettled region. These groups have become more militant as a result and now present an internal threat to Pakistan’s government; in the past year, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have declared open war on the country. Not only is this threat serious for Pakistan, it poses an immense challenge to international strategy and stability in the region and beyond.

Furthermore, the United States faces challenges in the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Yemen, the Levant, and the Maghreb — all areas that al-Qaeda targets strategically. The threat remains global, emanating not just from traditional Muslim lands but also from the United Kingdom and other parts of Western Europe. In fact, we have seen just as many or more threats emerging from Europe over the past decade as we have seen emanating from the greater Middle East.

The long-term strategic challenge of the war on terror is dealing with a threat that has spread across the globe to some sixty countries. We can take either a direct approach, applying power ourselves as primary actors, or an indirect approach, working through others whom we advise, train, and enable. A clandestine component is also imperative, as this is primarily an intelligence war, or a “war in the shadows.” Our intelligence disciplines are therefore essential — particularly covert action, which was the decisive instrument of the Cold War and remains critical to the war on terror today.

Above all, the critical operational instrument of this war is what we describe as a global counterterrorism network. This network’s purpose is to create a persistent, ubiquitous presence in many countries that prevents adversaries from gaining traction and gradually smothers them over time. Ultimately, it takes a network to defeat a network. It is not enough to have a strong partner in one or more countries; we must be stronger than our adversaries everywhere. The principal operational element of this network is the intelligence community, which gives us our global reach and allows us to move at the speed of war.

In particular, the national clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency, in conjunction with U.S. Special Forces and the security apparatuses of our partners around the world, is central in this battle. Special Operations Forces have grown tremendously in the Department of Defense in recent years. By the end of the decade, the forces will be twice as large (reaching upwards of 64,000 in terms of total manpower) than they were at its outset, with more than double the original budget. In addition, more senior leaders will have special-operations backgrounds.

The core of U.S. Special Forces consists of approximately 15,000 ground operators, ranging from Army Special Forces and Green Berets to Rangers, Seals, Marine Corps Special Operations, and other classified units. Each of these elements has increased its capacity by a third since 2001, constituting the largest growth in Special Operations history. These forces are present in sixty countries around the globe, with more than 80 percent concentrated in the greater Middle East, the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, we are expanding our force significantly to achieve broader global coverage.

These forces have invented a new way to fight the war on terror, waging it from an operational perspective and taking a proactive and sustained approach to counterterrorism. We now have intelligence-driven operations, with new tactics, techniques, and procedures — the cumulative effect of which will enable us to take down a network over time.

Gaps, however, still exist in the areas of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. We need to increase capacity in civil affairs and psychological operations, and we are also taking steps to acquire foreign-language expertise, in part by recruiting foreign-born operators. Additional organizational reform may also be in order, such as greater integration and consolidation, as exemplified by the Department of Homeland Security. We are looking at alternative command arrangements within the Department of Defense as well as mainstreaming Special Operations officers into senior leadership positions. We have the necessary institutions, but we must now focus on getting the right people and ensure that that they receive the necessary resources and authority.

Some of our current capabilities, capacities, and relationships predate the September 11 attacks, some have been significantly expanded since then, and others will reach the projected end state by the end of the next administration. There will likely be a need for more integration as we go forward, and we must operate simultaneously in countries with whom we are not at war. Thus, partner development and partner alignment remain critical issues, making diplomacy essential to achieving our goals. The pieces are gradually coming into place as we gain more experience and enhance our ability to build and develop a far more capable network. We are well on our way to building a global counterterrorism network — the critical instrument for keeping America safe through the next decade and beyond.

This rapporteur’s summary was prepared by Sana Mahmood.