Morning Report: July 19, 2007

More Russian cloaks and daggers are sighted in a Western capital; analysts ponder the future of Pakistan; a general discusses evolving strategies in the Middle East; and some American soldiers adapt to their new environment.

Putin behind Russian murder plot? The Telegraph reports that exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of being behind a plot to kill him. 'The emergence of a second assassination attempt on British soil following the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy, is bound to worsen the already tense atmosphere between London and Moscow.' And it has: Russia has said it will expel four UK diplomats and suspend cooperation with Britain on counterterrorism activity.

Hugh Hewitt interviews General David Petraeus. Hugh Hewitt:
HH: Welcome, General. You took over command of the multinational forces in February of this year, February 10. In the past five months, how have conditions in Iraq changed?

DP: Well, obviously, we have been surging our forces during that time. We have added five Army brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, and a Marine expeditionary unit, and some enablers, as they’re called. And over the last month, that surge of forces has turned into a surge of offensive operations. And we have achieved what we believe is a reasonable degree of tactical momentum on the ground, gains against the principal near-term threat, al Qaeda-Iraq, and also gains against what is another near-term threat, and also potentially the long term threat, Shia militia extremists as well. As you may have heard, that today, we announced the capture of the senior Iraqi leader of al Qaeda-Iraq, and that follows in recent weeks the detention of some four different emirs, as they’re called, the different area leaders of al Qaeda, six different foreign fighter facilitators, and a couple dozen other leaders, in addition to killing or capturing hundreds of other al Qaeda-Iraq operatives.

HH: Do you think al Qaeda in Iraq is buckling, General Petraeus?

DP: Well, it’s probably too soon to say that, but we think that we have them off plan. Now having said that, they clearly retain and have demonstrated, tragically in recent, the past week or so, the ability to continue to carry out sensational attacks. They continue to demonstrate the ability to counterattack against our forces, and those of our coalition partners. But the detention, or the capture or killing of the number of leaders that we have taken out in recent months, and weeks, actually, and the progress in terms of just clearing areas of them…as you know, Anbar Province has really become quite relatively clear of al Qaeda. ...

Read the rest at the link. Of particular interest is this section in which Gen. Petraeus describes the process of learning and adaptation:
[Sectarian violence] is undeniable, it was tragic, and it has, as I mentioned earlier, ripped the very society, the fabric of Iraqi society. It’s caused very significant fault lines between sects and ethnic groups to harden, and it has created an environment that is much more challenging that before it took place. Beyond that, though, I typically will note that our leaders and our troopers get it about what it is that we’re trying to accomplish here in a way that certainly was not the case at the outset, or even perhaps a year or two into this endeavor. The typical leader here now has had at least one tour in Iraq, some have actually had two. They have, during the time they’re back in the States, they studied this. Of course, while we were back in the States, we revamped the counterinsurgency manual, as you mentioned, published that, revamped our other doctrinal manuals, overhauled the curricula of the commissioned, non-commissioned and warrant officer education systems in the Army, Marine Corps and the other services, completely changed the scenarios at our combat training centers, the one in the Mojave desert, the one in Central Louisiana, the one in Germany, and also captured lessons learned, created the ability to virtually look over the shoulder of those who are down range through expanded pipes in the military secure internet, just a host of initiatives have been pursued, changed organizations, changed equipment, and have given us capabilities, particularly in the intelligence realm, and with the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles, much larger pipes, the ability to shoot much bigger data, if you will, down them, and so forth. All of this has enabled our troopers in a way that certainly was not the case when we did the fight for Baghdad, or even, frankly, when I was here for my previous second tour. And so again, our leaders get it, our soldiers get it, they are these flexible, adaptable, thoughtful, culturally astute, and by and large, leaders and soldiers and Marines, and they are showing that on a daily basis here.

The Belmont Club comments: 'Of course these "software" multipliers have all been recognized by the media. But all on the enemy side. We are told that the enemy is becoming more experienced, sophisticated, tough and wily. That blowback from Iraq in the form of super-Jihadis unleashed on the West is imminent. But for some strange reason the same advantages are never believed to accrue to the US Armed Forces.' In from the Cold adds: 'General Petraeus doesn't attempt to sugar-coat the situation, but his comments indicate that the troop surge is producing its desired results.

Equally telling are his observations on SOF operations. The exceptionally high tempo of special forces activities suggests that they have been "unleashed" in Iraq, and are engaging the enemy with deadly efficiency. While most media reports focus on conventional units, engaged in large-scale operations (such as the recent clearing of Baquba, there is another, equally important conflict being waged in the shadows. And that's where Al Qaida is taking a major beating.'

150 PSI meets the streets of New York. ThreatsWatch has the bottom line:
This wasn’t a terrorist attack and it wasn’t an act of sabotage. It was a breakdown of seriously old underground infrastructure. It also appears that emergency response reacted quickly and decisively. Frankly, you would expect New York City to respond this way. Clearly after the attacks of September 11, emergency response in New York City was under close scrutiny. Former Mayor Giuliani placed emphasis on the response component and Mayor Bloomberg continued the effort and vigilance.

But now, there is the lingering question of what was released into the air (even if “they” say that the asbestos would have been wet because of the steam). This was an unpredictable event. It looks like the reaction and response was quick. The residual health effects, like those after the crumbling of the World Trade Center towers, remain uncertain. This wasn’t a terrorist attack, but it awoke some dormant memories in peoples’ minds. Maybe this is a good thing, as many believe that a blanket of complacency has covered some of us.

“We dealt with it as if it was 9/11,” one harried doctor said. And well they should.

My comment to my daughter was that events like this, whether natural or man-made, will occur. The best advice is to be aware of your surroundings. Yet, the possibility exists that terrorist tactics may shift toward more conventional means like car bombs. You can’t be too careful and yet, there is an unpredictable aspect of these times that makes it difficult to be sure how, when or if something will happen.

Fumento on Musharraf: "Malevolent buffoon" has outlived his usefulness. Michael Fumento: 'First there was that nasty incident concerning the Taliban Red Mosque right in the capital of Islamabad. Now Musharraf's deal with the Taliban and other militants in western Pakistan has fallen completely apart, with the tribesmen saying they were declaring war on Pakistan. Mind you, for the most part the Taliban simply ignored the deal anyway. Musharraf promised to leave them alone so long as they didn't use the territory as an entry point into Afghanistan and so long as they were peaceful towards the Pakistanis as well. Naturally, the deal didn't stop a single Taliban from going to Afghanistan. Some people just might call that a deal breaker, but not Musharraf. But now they're attacking the Pakistanis as well. Meanwhile a new National Intelligence Estimate report and another report from the National Counterterrorism Center states that al Queda has practically rebuilt itself in northwest Pakistan because we're stupid enough to honor a border Musharraf can't control. ... As to western Pakistan, we have to be quite clear that since he cannot control the area, that it's basically not part of his country, it's happy hunting grounds for us. We will enter it whenever it suits our purpose and we will kill and capture any enemy of the United States.' Captain Ed is a little leery of that idea: 'If Musharraf refuses and we invade anyway, we've just committed an act of war against Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and probably an inclination to use them in case of an invasion, certainly one by India and probably one by the West. They also have a large, professional, well-equipped army, which we know because we equipped it to keep the Islamists at bay. Instead of using them against the Islamists, they would likely join the Islamists in fighting us.' But then again, "entering" isn't exactly the same thing as "invading": 'If Musharraf wanted us in Waziristan, we'd be there already. If he doesn't, we don't have much choice but to operate on quieter levels and take a chance now and again at a decapitating strike.' Also on Pakistan, here's Steve at ThreatsWatch: 'Musharraf has nothing to give the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance that they do not already have in trade for the restoration of the ‘peace accord.’ That is, except for even more Pakistani territory. So, after Lal Masjid and the false appearance of an emboldened Musharraf, the al-Qaeda strategy (Lal Masjid was a staged, planned al-Qaeda ploy) will net a stronger Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and an even weaker Musharraf. One more ever-patient cut, seeking to slowly bleed Musharraf out and usurp Pakistan with its military - and thus the security of its nuclear arsenal - intact.'

Arrowhead Ripper forces clearing Old Baqouba. MNF-Iraq: 'Iraqi and Coalition Forces continued operations in the eastern part of Baqouba, known as Old Baqouba, in renewed efforts during Operation Arrowhead Ripper July 18. Throughout the day Soldier from the 5th Iraqi Army Division, along with the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, and 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion made several arrests and discovered several weapons caches as they moved through the neighborhood. In one incident, 5-20 IN Soldiers arrested a man suspected of being an improvised explosive device builder. A search of his home revealed various IED components and two other individuals were arrested at that location.'

A long way from Nome. Baked Alaska? CENTCOM covers some native North Americans on their tour in Kuwait: 'The hottest weather that many of them experienced before the Alaska Guard's largest deployment since World War II brought them to the desert was 70 degrees, depending on the part of Alaska they're from, since the state has a wide range of temperatures over an area more than twice the size of Texas. Unit members claim the heat has approached 150 degrees in Kuwait during their deployment. "Big difference for us; horrible," said Pfc. Darin Olanna, 23, from the Alaskan coast near Nome where the record high is 86 and the record low is minus 54. "As soon as I smell the ocean, it feels like home. I miss the mountain tundra. The wilderness is right out your back door." A wilderness is right out the back door of Camp Buerhing, too – a sparsely populated flat desert. The coldest temperature on record in Kuwait? In January 1964, 21.2 degrees, according to the country's United Nations representatives. No "minus" in front of that number. Drinking water, increasing food intake, seeking shade and – perhaps counter-intuitively – increased exercise regimens have helped the Alaskans cope with the heat, they say. Some douse themselves in cold water, as they would during peak heat back home. "To me, it's the same survival techniques as being in the Alaskan winter," said Master Sgt. John Flynn, 40, a Yup'ik Eskimo. The extreme cold presents similar challenges to extreme heat, including dehydration, he said. Blinding sandstorms remind him of blinding snowstorms. "The only difference is when it's cold you put more layers on, but here even when it's hot you cannot take layers off," he said.' Full story at the link.

Commentary. I haven't posted anything on the Democrats' latest desperate attempt to prevent the Bush Administration from winning the conflict in Iraq, mostly because I'm tired of the infantile politics of this tiny-minded bunch of clowns. There are more important things going on.

I do want to amplify the point Wretchard made about the media's reports of the enemy's adaptivity versus ours. How many times have you heard the cliché "If we kill terrorists, it'll just breed more terrorists"? It's a meme that a lot of nitwits in the general population have internalized.

As you'll have noticed, I've been in light-posting mode lately. Looking forward to getting back into full swing here at DiL. More details to come.