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Belmont Club

The Inside Job

May 28th, 2011 - 11:27 am

One of the Taliban’s favorite tactics has long been the “inside attack”, in which the enemy first gains your confidence or pretends to be one of you and then attacks from within. In 2006, a Canadian Civilian-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) officer sat down to talk to villagers “about access to clean water and other basic needs under Canada’s area of responsibility”.

After the soldiers removed their helmets, a common practice and show of respect, Abdul Kareem, a sixteen-year old boy, almost split Greene’s brain in half by hitting him with an axe. Kareem tried to hit again but was instantly shot -and killed- by other members of the platoon. The platoon then came under heavy fire while waiting for a US Army medical evacuation helicopter.

The Canadians had the advantage of combat power, training and goodwill. All of that lost to just one thing: duplicity.  The sucker punch is an awesome thing. The inside attack has been widely employed in the past. An Afghan policeman killed 5 British soldiers in 2009.  In 2010 a double-agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, blew himself up while attending a meeting inside a CIA installation killing 7 agency personnel. In April 2011, a man wearing an Afghan police uniform shot and killed 2 US trainers. In May 2011, “eight American troops and a U.S. contractor died Wednesday after an Afghan military pilot opened fire during a meeting at Kabul airport”. These are just a few examples, but there are many, many more.

Bill Roggio reports the Taliban has been ordered by its commanders to focus on “military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country.” Their tactics would include “group and martyrdom seeking attacks,” or suicide attacks and assaults; “group offensives,” or massed assaults; “city attacks,” ambushes, and IED attacks.”  Treachery is a favorite tactic of the holy warriors. Two days before September 11, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a US ally in Afghanistan, was killed by suicide bombers posing a Belgian journalists. Where the West sees journalism as freedom, the enemy sees journalism as a weapon. Sometimes literally.

John P. O’Neill was a counter-terrorism expert and the Assistant Director of the FBI until late 2001. He retired from the FBI and was offered the position of director of security at the World Trade Center (WTC). He took the job at the WTC two weeks before 9/11. On September 10, 2001, John O’Neill told two of his friends, “We’re due. And we’re due for something big…. Some things have happened in Afghanistan. [referring to the assassination of Massoud] I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan…. I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen… soon.” John O’Neill died on September 11, 2001, when the south tower collapsed.

But then September 11 was itself the prime example of using America’s own resources against itself. All the enemy needed to carry out the attack was hatred, the trusting nature of its enemy and some boxcutters. All that America has learned since is that ordinary obects like boxcutters are dangerous. Maybe that’s the wrong lesson. The enemy advantage is not in material but in they way they see ordinary objects and relationships as opportunities for mayhem.

The effectiveness of the “inside attack” can go beyond tactical tactics to politics. The idea of ‘pretending to be your friend while really being your enemy’ might perfectly describe the role of Pakistan and other US allies. The Economic Times reports that Hillary Clinton has US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not given a clean chit to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over its alleged complicity in Osama bin Laden’s sheltering in Abbottabad, her spokesman Mark C. Toner told reporters in Washington. That doesn’t matter. America will give Pakistan aid anyway, and Islamabad knew that from the beginning.

Perhaps the best characterization of the advantages of the mindset that produced September 11 and “inside attacks” was a line of script from Apocalypse Now. America is defeated by its “judgment”.

I remember when I was with Special Forces–it seems a thousand centuries ago–we went into a camp to inoculate it. The children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us, and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile–a pile of little arms. And I remember…I…I…I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it, I never want to forget. And then I realized–like I was shot…like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, “My God, the genius of that, the genius, the will to do that.”

Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they could stand that–these were not monsters, these were men, trained cadres, these men who fought with their hearts, who have families, who have children, who are filled with love–that they had this strength, the strength to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time were able to utilize their primordial i nstincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment–without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.

Now Lee Smith argues that another switcheroo may be in the offing. The Arab Spring may be turning into the “Arab Winter”. With the US seemingly determined to “live in a fantasy world” and take both sides of history, a far more clear-eyed Iran may be preparing to take over the Arab Spring. With Saudi Arabia circling the wagons and the US unwilling to move forcefully against Syria and Iran, Teheran may see an opportunity to forge alliances with Muslim brotherhood factions in countries in upheaval. The first indication something might be in the works was the Fatah-Hamas unity deal brokered in post-Mubarak Egypt, something that would never have happened under Mubarak. Smith writes:

Washington is starting to realize that one of the values of the late Mubarak regime was its implacable hatred of Hamas. Cairo’s present rulers, however, can no longer afford such an ideological luxury … unless Washington antes up. The concern is not that Egypt will jump sides entirely and join the resistance bloc, but rather make trouble by flirting with Iran, like with its decision to end the blockade of Gaza. …

“The fewer Shia there are in the immediate surroundings, and there are virtually none in Egypt and the Palestinian territories, the easier that is to do,” says Kramer. “The Muslim Brotherhood has their usual reservations about Shia, but they’re not anti-Shia like al Qaeda. The landscape of the Middle East is too broken for coalitions to have only the like-minded. If Saudi Arabia and Israel could be in the American circle, the Brotherhood could be in the Iranian crescent. The Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood both have an interest in reconstituting an arc of resistance.”

Outside forces are picking up the pieces of coalitions that America itself is breaking up.  Even Israel and Saudi Arabia, who might be allies against Iran in the same way Roosevelt and Stalin joined against Hitler in 1941, are being driven into their separate corners, but in each case away from America. Smith believes that Saudi Arabia will respond to the fall of Mubarak by funding repression all over the region. With the US taxpayer funding “democracy” and while their gas station payments indirectly fund repression in the region it to see which US funded program eventually wins.

In the Arabic-speaking states, there’s also a proposed expansion of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council to include one North African nation, Morocco, and another from the Levant, Jordan (which would gather all of the region’s hereditary rulers—sheikhs and kings and sultans and emirs—under one umbrella). The Arab press is awash with rumors that the GCC’s leading member, Saudi Arabia, has promised Rabat and Amman large influxes of cash so long as they resist Washington’s entreaties to reform—reform that, in the Saudi view, would pave the way for their own demise and eventually the fall of the House of Saud.

With Obama administration openly hostile to Israel, a region split between the GCC and a possible Iran/Muslim Brotherhood could compete for the favors of Hamas and Fatah against Israel. Israel may have not one, but two coalitions ranged against it with Washington on the fence. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Lee Smith suggests that far from regarding the Arab Spring as an enormous opportunity for America, the administration has actually seen it as a giant defeat. The soaring Obama speeches are mere squid tactics to conceal a tremendous sense of loss. “Given the Obama administration’s ambiguous statements regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other regional Islamist movements, it seems Washington is preparing for the likelihood of a region entirely remade in the image of political Islam, its Shia as well as its Sunni versions.”

Even in Libya Russia is looking to beat out the US at the tape when Khadaffy falls. “Russia abandoned one-time ally Moammar Gadhafi and offered Friday to mediate a deal for the Libyan leader to leave the country he has ruled for more than 40 years … With Gadhafi increasingly isolated and NATO jets intensifying their attacks, Russia may also be eyeing Libya’s oil and gas and preparing for the prospect that the lucrative Libyan market will fall into full rebel control … Medvedev said he is sending envoy Mikhail Margelov to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi immediately to start negotiating, and that talks with the Libyan government could take place later.”

Both tactically and politically the “inside attack” remains a potent force. When the enemy cannot get past the defenders of the walls, they simply send agents within and do their work with cash or treachery. It’s worked for the holy warriors before, maybe it can work again.

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