Spencer Ackerman

Mapping Failure in Afghanistan

By: Monday December 27, 2010 3:05 pm

The Wall Street Journal scores some classified United Nations maps of Afghanistan showing the deterioration of security in the north and west without notable improvements in security in the south and east during 2010. Joshua Foust properly notes that he told you so.

I’m not going to embed the images of the maps, since I’m not sure what’s fair use here and I’d rather not tempt a lawsuit. But if you click through, you’ll see something striking that escapes comment in the Journal story. Among the changes from the March 2010 map to the October 2010 map is that there are now(ish) more high-risk areas surrounding Kabul. That fits with a longstanding insurgent strategy, as assessed by ISAF and explained to me over the past two years, of infiltration and resupply from the Pakistani tribal areas in the east to the areas near the capitol city, where they lie in wait for the moment to do something big.

Afghanistan to the East: Deterioration

By: Sunday December 26, 2010 2:00 pm

The eastern provinces of Afghanistan abutting the Pakistani tribal areas provide cross-border access to the Taliban-led insurgent coalition. Whatever else you think about the Afghanistan war, the Obama administration decided in 2009 to deemphasize security operations in the east at the expense of a wide-ranging effort to reverse Taliban momentum in the south. The best that can be said of that effort so far is that Taliban momentum, by the administration’s account, is stalled.

Obama to Issue Indefinite Detention Orders We Can Believe In

By: Tuesday December 21, 2010 4:20 pm

In other words: Combatant Status Review Tribunals/Administrative Review Boards 2.0: Now With Lawyers. And that means the executive is going to have to come up with another series of rules, from scratch, to govern this review process. The courts have accepted — to the dismay of civil libertarians — wide prerogative for the executive in detention. But they’ve taken a dim view of ad-hoc solutions.

A Northern Soul: Southern Afghanistan Drains Resources, COIN Suffers

By: Monday December 20, 2010 9:00 am

More Taliban attacks in northern Afghanistan. The south gets the attention and the resources, the north and west deteriorate, and the east — the area most centrally important to the stated al-Qaeda-centric objectives of the war — is in a state of drift, as best I can tell.

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Muslim In America?

By: Friday December 17, 2010 3:20 pm

Rep. Peter King will hold hearings on “the radicalization” of American Muslims when he gets his gavel for the House’s homeland-security committee. Framing the question that way predetermines its outcome: millions of Americans will be presumptively guilty of drifting into fellow-traveling with al-Qaeda. But King is right that even a statistically miniscule rise in homegrown terrorism deserves thorough analysis. The question is how real King will allow his hearings to get.

Reptilian Brain

By: Sunday November 28, 2010 7:00 pm

To be sure, it’s ugly and cynical to say we need to emphasize science education lest Our Military Strength Be Imperiled, but what else works in American education discourse?

Uncompelling WikiLeaks Responses

By: Sunday November 28, 2010 10:30 am

Admiral Michael Mullen claims Wikileaks doesn’t understand how small pieces of information can create a new understanding. To the contrary, Wikileaks appears to understand this quite well.

Happy Thanksgiving: al-Qaeda Is Having Fun With You

By: Thursday November 25, 2010 7:00 pm

Success comes from provoking a U.S. overreaction. Like a TSA agent’s hand on a traveler’s genitals and a resultant national freakout. These people, simply put, are fucking with us, and hoping we’ll treat them as a Threat To Civilization. Happy Thanksgiving from al-Qaeda.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Tony Shaffer, Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan — and The Path to Victory

By: Saturday November 20, 2010 1:59 pm

When people who’ve worked in sensitive intelligence positions want to write their memoirs, they typically submit their manuscripts to their parent agency; there’s a back-and-forth about what can be revealed; it’s resolved; and the book goes to the printer. For Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer — and someone in the rare position of being both an operations guy and an analyst — something different happened. The Pentagon bought the entire 10,000-copy first printing of Shaffer’s memoir, Operation Dark Heart, and destroyed it.

But This Time, We Call It “Awe and Shock!”

By: Friday November 19, 2010 8:54 am

I have a hard time believing that anyone quoted in this piece actually believes what they’re telling the public. “We’ve taken the gloves off, and it has had huge impact,” for instance. Or how “you’re connecting the government to the people” by making them travel to a district-government office and submit a claim for a NATO-demolished house.

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