The perils of arming local forces

In 2014, the Islamic State captured weapons from Syrian rebels armed by the United States. In 2015, the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah acquired several M1 Abrams tanks sold to the Iraqi Security Forces by the U.S. This problem has spread as far as Afghanistan, where much of the Taliban’s armory comes from American equipment given to the Afghan military and police.

How do the transfers occur?

“The Taliban gets its hands on most of the equipment, particularly vehicles, through raids, but there are quite a few reports of the Afghan military selling weapons,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and editor of The Long War Journal. “The insurgents use this equipment tactically — to impersonate Afghan and Western soldiers. Considering how often they’re deploying it, they must have figured out a way to maintain the vehicles and weapons too.”

The title of the article is “How the US Is Indirectly Arming the Taliban” and the rest can be read at the Diplomat, here.

George Will on Afghanistan

Quoting from the much discussed Steve Coll’s book, “Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pak­istan,” Will writes,

…when Gen. Stanley McChrystal went to Afghanistan in May 2002, “A senior Army officer in Washington told him, ‘Don’t build [Bondsteels],’ referring to the NATO base in [Kosovo] that Rumsfeld saw as a symbol of peacekeeping mission creep. The officer warned McChrystal against ‘anything here that looks permanent. . . . We are not staying long.’ As McChrystal took the lay of the land, ‘I felt like we were high-school students who had wandered into a Mafia-owned bar.’ ” It has been a learning experience. After blowing up tunnels — some almost as long as a football field — thought to be created by and for terrorists, U.S. officials learned they were actually an ancient irrigation system.

You can read the rest here.

The current state of al-Qaeda.

The successive killings in 2011 and 2012 of Osama bin Laden; Anwar al-Awlaki, the movement’s chief propagandist; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, its second-in-command, lent new weight to the optimists’ predictions that al-Qaeda was a spent force. In retrospect, however, it appears that al-Qaeda was among the regional forces that benefited most from the Arab Spring’s tumult. Seven years later, Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as a powerful leader, with a strategic vision that he has systematically implemented. Forces loyal to al-Qaeda and its affiliates now number in the tens of thousands, with a capacity to disrupt local and regional stability, as well as launch attacks against their declared enemies in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Russia. Indeed, from northwestern Africa to southeastern Asia, al-Qaeda has knit together a global movement of more than two dozen franchises. In Syria alone, al-Qaeda now has upwards of twenty thousand men under arms, and it has perhaps another four thousand in Yemen and about seven thousand in Somalia.

The author is Bruce Hoffman and you can read the rest here.