Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AFRICOM still fumbling with humanitarian activities

HuffPost story discussing the Government Accountability Office's evaluation of AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA's humanitarian/development/winning-hearts-and-minds efforts. Ultimately the GAO report isn't very satisfying, says what they always say about these things - no metrics, no plan. There are some interesting anecdotes though, like a lost school.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pashtuns and Oath Keepers

Some commentators are prone to point to Pashtunwali and the idiosyncrasies of Pashtun culture to explain why establishing a stable government in Afghanistan is so difficult. We don't need to look far to discover strains within U.S. political culture. This excerpt is from the Oath Keeper's website:

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control” during any emergency, or under any other pretext. We will consider such use of foreign troops against our people to be an invasion and an act of war.

The Oath Keepers are a sovereignty movement composed of current and former law enforcement and military personnel.

I only bring this up to suggest cultural explanations are insufficient to explain incidence of conflict.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Somali pirates and Islamists don't play nice (Or why not to invade Somalia to end piracy.)

Reuters reports that Hizbul Islam is attempting to clear out pirate enclaves from the coast of Somalia. Hizbul Islam argues that they're taking on a policing function that the government of Somalia they're fighting against is unable to undertake. The pirates themselves claim Hizbul Islam wanted a cut of the ransoms, and so they're now being punished for refusing.

I've argued in the past against invading Somalia for fear that a foreign occupation would help popularize anti-Western sentiment (UPDATE: This is what I argued against). I think the above dispute indicates I was right, but it also indicates that the clock has started clicking down to the moment where there is an operational link developed between Islamists and pirates. The Somali pirates are not a monolithic movement with an ideological antipathy for Islamists. They just don't want to share. If in the absence of government counter-efforts Hizbul Islam is able to continue taking pirate towns, eventually these pirate communities will begin to pay the tithe, and from there how long till operational inroads are made by al Qaeda afficiated groups?

This isn't something I'm concerned about happening this week, but unless something changes we probably have crossed a threshold.