Author Archives: whitesidenwc

The Islamic State and the Return of Revolutionary Warfare


The rise of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is not well understood at this point. This paper starts by comparing the Islamic State to the Vietnamese Communists in a revolutionary warfare framework and makes a causal argument that the Islamic State’s defeat of the Sahwa (Awakening) movement in Iraq was the key to its successful establishment of control of most Sunni areas and the mobilization of its population for support. Islamic State operational summaries and captured documents are used to quantitatively establish the impact of the subversion campaign against the Sahwa and Iraqi Government and trace the efforts of operatives in tribal outreach and recruiting. This research provides a valuable insight into the return of a powerful method of insurgency as well as a glimpse into the vast clandestine network that provides the strength of the Islamic State movement.

Paper link: (To Be Published, Aug 2016)

Research Data for replication purposes:ISI Awak Campaign Database_Website

Posted: 19 July 2016



Biography of Abu Omar al Baghdadi

Posted May 12, 2012 on Global Jihad Network

Original located:

“Stages in the Jihad of Amir al Baghdadi”

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Praise be to God, and blessings and peace be upon the messenger of God. Thereafter:

In the past, I wrote an article on the martyred amir, as I reckon him to be, Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, may the mercy of God be upon him, titled “The Mujahidin Will Remember and Pray for Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi.” However, after I published it, I found it to be a modest and brief biography for this lion. I wrote these lines about the shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, because many of the supporters of jihad and the mujahidin do not know Al-Baghdadi very well, especially with regards to some of the details of his jihadist march and the stages he went through since the beginning of the Crusaders attack on the Land of the Two Rivers and its occupation, until he passed away, may the mercy of God be upon him.

Before I start talking about the shaykh, I would like to refer to some points I find myself obligated to mention.

1- I did not mention some of the precise details of the shaykh’s life during his jihadist work, his movements, the areas he resided in, and other things for security reasons.

2- The reader might think that the writer of the article had accompanied the shaykh and was close to him because of some of the mentioned events. This is not true, as the humble worshiper is not among the people of the arena [of jihad], and I only support jihad with my writings. I conveyed all the information and incidents from the testimony of those who knew and accompanied the shaykh. I only wrote these lines for the sake of God Almighty.

Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi al-Husayni al-Qurayshi:

His Lineage and the Beginning of his Life:

His name is Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, was born in 1964 in the village of Al-Zawiyah, which is part of Hadithah City in Al-Anbar Province. He is related to the notables of the Al-Arajiyah, whose lineage is from Quraysh. He was born and raised in Al-Anbar Province. He graduated from the Police Academy in Baghdad, and he started working as an officer in the Iraqi Police in Hadithah. He was known for being opinionated and for having a Salafi approach. This became more visible in the early-nineties of the past century. He was exposed to a lot of harassment from the organs of the Ba’th regime, which was fighting the monotheists who follow the Salafi ideology. This continued until he was dismissed from the police on charges of having a Takfiri Salafi (Wahhabi) ideology. He was honored by God to depart from this corps in the early-nineties of the past century (1993).

It is worth mentioning that some Muslims in Iraq and in other countries like Egypt and others deemed it permissible to join the security apparatus as a way to support Islam and Muslims, and to refute harm against Muslims by preventing anti-religion individuals from assuming these positions. They drew a parallel between this and infiltrating into the enemy ranks to get information and prevent harm. This matter was the prevailing Ijtihad [Juristic reasoning] for many of the groups that adopted the Salfi ideology. Later, their views regarding this subject matured, and they were aware of the seriousness of this approach and this path. They abandoned these unlawful positions. Among them was our shaykh Abu-Umar, may the mercy of God be upon him. This change happened earlier to the shaykh, in the early-nineties of the previous century, as we had mentioned.

After the shaykh left his job, he worked in an electronics repair shop that was close to his home. He was a truthful and trustworthy man known by all the people in his village, in Hadithah and Al-Gharbiyah in general. They bear witness to his honesty and integrity.

He used to regularly visit a mosque close to his house, which is known as the Al-Asaf Mosque. It is a very simple mosque that lacks ornaments and drawings present in other mosques. He became the imam of the mosque. The shaykh was keen to teach people the fundamentals of the religion through Shari’ah evi dences. He cancelled the multiple Azan [call for prayers] and the sunnah prayers [offered before] the Friday prayers and other beliefs that contradicts the sunnah. He taught youth the Salafi doctrine and many of the youth gathered around and learned from him. Many of these youth joined him in the jihadist arena after the occupation, and became his best brothers. It is noted that some of them assumed important positions in the Islamic State [of Iraq] All of this happened by the grace of God Almighty, and because of the teachings of the shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him. We reckon him [to be a martyr] and God is the final arbiter.

The Beginning of his Journey on the Path of Jihad:

As soon as the Crusader forces entered and occupied Iraq and toppled Saddam’s regime, he started to prepare for the confrontation and inciting Muslims. He formed a group in Hadithah and prepared to wage war and jihad against the Americans. He began his task by coordinating and cooperating with jihadist groups active in the areas of Al-Anbar. He along with his soldiers and brothers started training on the arts of fighting. They started with running exercises on the shores of the Euphrates River with simple capabilities. They did not have weapons or money then, but they began by physical exercises in compliance with the words of the Almighty, “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies,” [Koranic verse, Al-Anfal, 8:60].

The observer of the interpretation of this holy verse and the words of knowledgeable people will find that physical exercise is one of the most important elements of jihad and the first step that must be taken by those who want to follow the path of jihad. From these Shari’ah’s principles, the shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, launched [his campaign]. He and his soldiers started with physical exercises and then he sought the help of his brothers who are experienced in training on the arts of fighting and weapons for military training. Indeed, the shaykh and his soldiers ignited the fire of war against the Crusaders in Hadithah and its surroundings. They first started targeting military convoys, and the war raged in these areas with an increased frequency.

His Arrest by the US Forces:

One night, after he returned from Baghdad, and after he had entered Hadithah and met with some of the immigrant brothers, and as soon as the meeting ended, the Crusader forces entered his house and searched it meticulously. They told the shaykh that they had received information indicating the presence of Arab fighters in this house. The shaykh denied this and said to them that this was malicious information meant to harm him. He talked a lot in his defense, but the Crusaders told him they have orders to arrest him and they did. They confiscated his personal computer, and he was transported to the Al-Asad Base. After they searched his personal computer, they found a book written by the shaykh that contains 70 [pieces of] evidence on the apostasy of Saddam Hussein. When he was asked about it, he said what is your relationship with this? Did not you say that Saddam is a tyrant? We are just saying the same thing. About 20 days later, the shaykh was released as no charges were brought against him.

His Pledge of Allegiance to Jama’at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad:

After he continued working with the sincere groups in Al-Anbar, and as the work of these group was through direct coordination with Jama’at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, and following his meeting with Shaykh Abu-Muhammad al-Libnani, may the mercy of God be upon him, and Shaykh Abu-Anas al-Shami, may the mercy of God be upon him, and some of the group’s leaders in the city of Hadithah, the shaykh and his soldiers joined and pledged allegiance to Jam’at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad. At that time, he was known as Abu-Mahmud. That was an important stage in his jihadist march that had a positive impact on t he way he managed the confrontation with the Crusaders, especially in uniting the ranks of Muslims, the clarity of the identified banner, and the strengthening of the support from all aspects.

A Funny Incident:

One time, the shaykh was going from Hadithah to Baghdad in a sedan with his family. This happened before he became the amir of Muslims. Ahead of him was a mujahidin escort vehicle that was exploring the road to check if there were Crusaders checkpoints. Suddenly after the escort vehicle had pulled away, there was a Crusaders and atheist guards [National Guards] checkpoint that stood on the way of the shaykh, and forced him to enter the city of Hit for inspection along with the other passing vehicles. As soon as he entered the outskirts of the city, he was stopped at the checkpoint that was composed of Americans and the atheist guards. He was asked by one of the guards to show his identification card, and the shaykh presented his Al-Arajiah notables identification card. The soldier was surprised and thought that the shaykh was a Shiite. He said to him, “Master how could you come to such a place, as these areas are filled with terrorists, and if they know about you, they will kill you.” He told him there was news from Hadithah stating there was a major terrorist who had left Hadithah accompanied by his family, and that he was heading east, and they must search all the vehicles. He did not search the shaykh’s vehicle and quarreled with the Crusaders and said to them, no, this man is from our area, meaning this man is one of our people and there was no need to search him. In fact, the shaykh was allowed to leave the checkpoint and he entered Hit. Then the brothers over there facilitated his departure to his destination.

Transferring his Work to Baghdad:

With the increasing frequency of jihad in Iraq in general, and in Al-Anbar in particular, the shaykh became known among his brothers. He met with the amir shaykh, Al-Zarqawi, and became very close to him. Shaykh Al-Zarqawi spent a lot of time as a guest of Abu-Umar, may the mercy of God be upon him. As the Crusader forces were facing daily violent attacks in Iraq’s western areas, they recruited agents and spies to identify the mujahidin and their leaders. The Crusaders came to know that he was one of the leaders of the mujahidin there. At that time, the shaykh became among the most wanted by the American forces in Hadithah and western Al-Anbar. After that the shaykh moved to Baghdad, and at that time he was working in the Shura Council and Shari’ah Council of the organization. His nickname at that time was Abu-Marwah. He was also in charge of security in Baghdad Province for some time. His work placed him closer to Al-Zarqawi. The shaykh moved to the core of the confrontation between the Muslims and the non-believers in Baghdad. He fiercely fought the Crusaders and their apostate agents over there. At that time, Baghdad was experiencing bold and heroic operations against the Crusaders and the apostates.

Becoming the Governor of Diyala Province:

Following a major jihadist and Da’wah [Islamic call to submit to God] work in Baghdad in the company of the leaders of jihad, the shaykh became the governor of Diyala. It was the time when Diyala witnessed unprecedented control by the mujahidin. This province became the most powerful province from where attacks against the Americans and their agents were conducted. Many of its regions were applying Islamic Shari’ah, and Muslims control of this province was apparent.

The Shaykh is in Charge of the Organization:

The penultimate position of the shaykh was being in charge of all the provinces. He was in charge of choosing the leaders and governors in all the lands controlled by the mujahidin. He was also in charge of supervising their work, and no amir or governor was appointed without his recommendation. It is worth noting that the shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, did not accept the joining of any soldier to the organi zation without knowing his belief and testing him. He, may the mercy of God be upon him, refused to allow those who hold a nationalistic ideology and fight for the sake of democracy to join [the organization]. He used to check out in details the biography of the soldiers and amirs, fearing they might act in a way that will harm the reputation of Muslims and the organization. He even rejected many from joining the organization and pledging their allegiance because of their reputations and positions, which lacks the sound doctrine. He used to warn against them and called upon his brothers to not accept their pledges of allegiance, until some of the leaders among the brothers told him that they need everyone, the battle is great and long, and it needs many men. The shaykh was against this opinion, but in agreement with the opinion of the majority, he accepted some groups under the condition that they did not commit anything that is against Islam or there is no indication that points out to their non-belief.

His Mandate Over Muslims:

Regarding this issue, the shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, said: “God knows that I repeatedly refused this thing — I mean the leadership of Muslims — because my dream had been only to be a soldier among the ordinary people to fight those who do not believe in God until God alone is worshipped.  I have never been a leader of one of these groups, but the people agreed on us and thought that something good is expected from us. I pray God to be better than what they think of me.”

In reference to his words “a leader of one of these groups,” the shaykh meant that he was not an amir of one of the eight groups formed by the Mujahidin Shura Council, and afterwards the Islamic State of Iraq.

Following the martyrdom of Shaykh Al-Zarqawi, may the mercy of God be upon him, and the announcement of the [establishment] of the Islamic State of Iraq, Shaykh al-Baghdadi received the pledge of allegiance as the amir of the Islamic State of Iraq. He was forced by his brothers in the Shura Council to accept this matter. The shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, did not want it, but he accepted the decision of the Shura Council.

He continued to lead Muslims and conduct jihad against the Crusaders and the apostates for long time. Under his command, provinces were conquered, and during those years, the mujahidin were in control of most of the lands of Iraq, especially the Sunnis areas. The shaykh was keen on unity among the factions, and he sent messengers to call the sincere factions to unite. He met with many of the leaders of the mujahidin and tribal shaykhs, and he incited them to support the religion and Muslims. God made him victorious in many conquests and he fought battles against the Crusaders and the apostates in Diyala, Baghdad, Al-Mosul, Al-Anbar.  The conquests, raids, and attacks used to pound the fortresses of the infidels, and the banner of there is no god, but God, was fluttering in the Muslim areas, despite the will of the infidels, until the name of the shaykh became a threat to the entity of the Rejectionist [derogatory term for Shiites] state, and his voice shook the pillars of their black zone [derogatory for Green Zone] through the messages he sent as threats in words and actions.

His Relationship With the Leaders of the Group:

The shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, was generous and modest with a high moral character. He was loved by all his brothers and he enjoyed close relations with the leaders of the group; first, by virtue of his work, and second, because of his good treatment of others. He was as we mentioned previously, very close to Abu-Mus’ab, may the mercy of God be upon him. Even Shaykh al-Zarqawi used to stay for months in the city of Hadithah close to Shaykh Abu-Umar. In addition, to his close relationship with Shaykh Abu-Azzam al-Iraqi, may the mercy of God be upon him. Their relationship was very strong to the point that the first place Abu-Azzam, may the mercy of God be upon him, went to after the second battle of Fallujah was the city of Hadithah, where the shaykh [Abu-Umar] had arranged a place for Abu-Azzam. The shaykh also had a close relationship with the heroic minister, amir Abu-Zahra al-Issawi, the former minister of Information of ISI. Perhaps the reason behind his relationship with these shaykhs was because all of them made up the first nucleus of the jihadist Salafi group, represented by Jama’at al-Tawhid Wal Jihad and some other factions. These shaykhs and others I did not mention among the people of the [jihad] arena were the first who established this ideology in the Land of the Two Rivers, and they worked on the maturation of the jihadist project fighting for the application of Islamic Shari’ah.

Important Information:

Some media mentioned in their reports that Shaykh Abu-Umar had travelled during the eighties of the last century to Afghanistan, met the leaders of Al-Qa’ida there, and returned in the early nineties. This is not true, as the shaykh did not leave the Land of the Two Rivers as he was an officer in the Iraqi Police during that time; so how could he have left and travelled? It is important to point out to this point. God knows best.

His Bravery and Keenness on the affairs of the ISI:

The shaykh, may the mercy of God be upon him, was very keen on the safety of his brothers. He used to personally follow all the affairs of the provinces, travelling from one province to another, contrary to the rumors of the malicious media rumors, which reported that the shaykh was in hiding all these years. He, may the mercy of God be upon him, travelled a lot between the provinces. He even travelled in Al-Anbar Province, where his photographs were prevalent everywhere. He used to visit it quite often and moved between the apostates accompanied by a driver. He was always wearing his [explosive] belt, which proved his bravery and courage. He even used to enter areas under the control of the apostates to personally help a governor with the sectors; because he was keen on his brother’s affairs.

An Event Worth Mentioning:

Some of the nine men who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq had split under the pretext of false claims regarding the approach of the Islamic State of Iraq. The shaykh called them to a debate, and at that time he was the amir of the believers, but they did not know that. A meeting was set-up in one of Diyala’s towns.  The shaykh went personally to debate them in a town controlled by the apostates. The shaykh went with the governor of Diyala in a vehicle with the driver. The shaykh was wearing his explosive belt; He sat, debated, and refuted their claims. They repented in the presence of the shaykh and renewed their pledge of allegiance after the shaykh clarified the truth for them. He told them before his departure that he is Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, and they were surprised. It is worth mentioning that one of the suspicions launched by those was that the approach of the Islamic State of Iraq was inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood This is ironic, as how can they believe such a thing about the Islamic State [of Iraq], and its ideology? Glory be to God, this is a great lie.

His Martyrdom, as we Reckon him:

He continued his jihad, steadfastness, and confrontation with the infidels for many years. He was separated from his family, beloved, and many of his brothers and companions. However, he endured the difficulties and all the obstacles did not stop him from continuing on his path, until he died in the Al-Tharthar area after a confrontation that lasted for six hours with the Crusaders and the apostates. He and those with him refused to surrender. He initiated the fight and they were not able to end the battle until they bombed the house with warplanes after one of their helicopters was downed and some of their soldiers were killed. The shaykh died honorably as he lived honorably. We saw him smiling and looking forward to meet his Lord in proof of the eternal saying: “The truthfulness of our Da’wah is through the martyrdom of our leaders.”

He left behind a glorious history filled with events. He left behind an entire generation of mujahidin and supporters of jihad. He left this world, but he remained in the hearts of the free Muslims. His biography will remain forever amidst the biographies of the heroes. I believe he is full of joy with the grace bestowed upon him by God. The shaykh departed and we were bereaved by his departure, and at that time, some of us believed, including the author that the fire of jihad was extinguished, until we evidently saw the victories and conquests of the Muslims, which leveled the dens of the infidels by the hands of the heroic amir, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, may God protect and guide his steps. We rejoiced and learned with certainty that the Ummah that gave birth to Al-Zarqawi and Al-Baghdadi is capable of giving birth to heroes.

“How many of the prophets fought (in Allah’s way), and with them (fought) Large bands of godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah’s way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor give in. And Allah Loves those who are firm and steadfast,”[Koranic verse, Al-Imran, 3:146].

Praise be to God, Who brings glory to the believers and humiliates the non-believers. O Abu-Umar, may the mercy of God be upon you. You were the best scholar who put forth his knowledge to work. You were the best amir and shaykh. By God, if we were asked, we will say the truth, and if we are martyred, we will testify that you were indeed a man among the men of Islam. You fought until you were killed on the path of God. We will remember, pray for, and praise you as long as we live.

In this stance, we should not forget to pray to God to protect the amir of the believers of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu-Bakr al-Husayni al-Baghdadi, may God protect him and protect all his ministers, governors, and soldiers.

Do not forget us in your supplications.

Penned by the servant of Islam and Muslims.

Abu-Usama al-Iraqi.

How soldiers like Bowe Bergdahl can wind up hating good commanders

February 8 at 9:55 AM

It’s an axiom among military leaders: command is not a popularity contest. That folk wisdom has given a measure of comfort to many officers whose soldiers resent them for sending them into harm’s way — and frustrated many more soldiers convinced that their commander really does not have their best interests at heart.

What no commander expects is for a junior soldier, when he does dislike his commander, to walk off into enemy territory. But that was what Bowe Bergdahl did — and, by his own account, excerpted at length in the latest episode of the hit podcast “Serial,” that was why he did it.

The commander of Bergdahl’s unit — then-Lt. Col. Clint Baker, the Texan graduate of West Point who led the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment — was an “out-of-control” menace, Bergdahl told filmmaker Mark Boal in one of the interviews the podcast excerpted. “I wouldn’t put it past him to purposely put me and my platoon-mates in harm’s way just because he has a personal grudge against us” or for other nefarious reasons hidden from junior soldiers.

By walking across Taliban territory to another base, Bergdahl claims, he hoped to cause an emergency which would then allow him to bring Baker’s leadership failures to the attention of a general.

[In ‘Serial’ podcast, Bowe Bergdahl said he likened himself to Jason Bourne]

But a soldier who served in 1st Battalion as a lieutenant, Nate Bethea, told Checkpoint in an interview that Bergdahl’s assessment of their battalion commander could hardly have been farther from the mark. “Colonel Baker got that battalion because he was a good officer,” Bethea said. “He’s a genuinely, sincerely nice person who actually liked being out there doing operations with his soldiers and sharing their risk.”

Craig Whiteside, a retired lieutenant colonel who was with 1st Battalion on its previous deployment, gave an even more glowing endorsement of Baker, his former West Point classmate.

“It’s true that the Army sometimes puts people in command who don’t deserve to be there, but the Army did not make a mistake in selecting Clint Baker to be a battalion commander, and I say that as the guy who was in competition with him to command that battalion and lost out,” Whiteside said in an interview. “I’d go work for Clint right now. He’s just an absolutely fantastic officer, solid-headed, with no ego, to a rare degree. I’ve never seen anyone work harder to dedicate their life to being a good Army officer.”

So how could one disgruntled soldier reach such a radically different conclusion about a lieutenant colonel he saw only occasionally?

To some extent, it’s a built-in feature of how a military units works, especially in combat, several veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan of different ranks said in interviews. Commanders give orders; junior soldiers blame the commanders for anything bad or frustrating that happens as a result of those orders, while soldiers higher up the food chain get a better view of commanders’ motives.

“A soldier will point the finger at whoever comes up with mission orders, and that’s the company or battalion commander,” one former infantry platoon leader with two deployments to eastern Afghanistan, Ray McPadden, said.

During a deployment in the violent Korengal valley, McPadden served under a notoriously unpopular commander. A lieutenant at the time, McPadden understood his soldiers’ anger and sometimes shared it, but in retrospect thinks it was unfair. “My commander seemed like the bad guy by virtue of the situation, not because he didn’t care about his dudes,” McPadden explained. “It would be easy to present a viewpoint that he was in la la land and was ready to send us out to die and didn’t care about us, but the situation was more complex than that.”

Ben Richards, a retired Army major who as a cavalry commander during the Iraq “surge” often dealt with complaints his soldiers directed toward him or subordinate officers, told Checkpoint that the problem was common and often exacerbated in counterinsurgency operations where soldiers have a hard time understanding their mission.

“By design, junior guys see a much smaller piece of the picture,” Richards said. “The least popular commander can be the most effective and the most popular the least effective. I’d get complaints from soldiers about an officer saying, ‘He’s putting us in danger, he’s taking too much risk,’ but from my perspective he was doing exactly what he needed to be doing and what I wanted him to do.”

[Disillusioned and self-deluded, Bowe Bergdahl vanished into brutal captivity]

Sometimes, time and reflection — and promotion to leadership positions — can bring soldiers around on commanders they despised at the time.

At the darkest point of his Iraq deployment, Richards regularly spotted graffiti in latrines and guard towers with a mutinous tone, a reaction to his decision to work with some Iraqi insurgents against other ones: scrawls of “Captain Richards is a Haji Lover,” a rough drawing of an armored vehicle bearing Richards’s call sign being blown up.

Years later, Richards received a Facebook message from a former platoon sergeant who had been angry about Richards’s decisions at the time. “I know there was some mutiny in the ranks,” the soldier, who had since joined a specialized unit called the Asymmetric Warfare Group, wrote in the message. “The more I have learned in AWG, the more I learned that you had it right on Baquba. Your strategy was spot on….I just thought you should know that.”

Bergdahl, of course, didn’t have a cathartic post-deployment change of heart about Clint Baker — 1st Battalion’s tour had barely begun when Bergdahl’s actions derailed it.

Besides the normal dynamic of soldiers’ frustration with their commanders, Bergdahl’s unusual personality and tendency to hold people he encountered to unattainable standards probably drove his decision to walk off base. That’s what then-Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who led an investigation into the Bergdahl affair, told a preliminary hearing of an Army court, or Article 32 hearing, last fall.

Dahl, whose investigative team included an infantry platoon sergeant, a  psychiatrist, and a psychologist, sought to understand Bergdahl’s frame of mind as thoroughly as he could, spending two days talking to the returned prisoner so extensively that the transcript of their conversation ran 371 pages.

“He has very high standards and a very idealistic view of people,” Dahl testified, referring to Bergdahl. “When he describes his experience in basic training, everyone was a disappointment” except for one drill sergeant, a pattern that continued as he went to infantry training and joined 1st Battalion in Alaska. “I asked him, ‘Wasn’t there anything or anyone that measured up?’ And he said no.”

In Paktika, Dahl said at the Article 32 hearing, the focus of Bergdahl’s disappointment and ire became Baker. Bergdahl was horrified with a harsh remark Baker made when Bergdahl’s platoon came back from their first really dangerous mission, although other soldiers shrugged the remark off.

After Baker angrily reprimanded some solders at an observation post for failing to wear all their protective gear, Bergdahl was furious. As Dahl understood it, Bergdahl’s concern was that when Baker disciplined the soldiers, the rocks the colonel was kicking in the dirt to demonstrate his ire were really Afghan graves — which could have badly offended any local resident who witnessed the incident. (Dahl wasn’t “able to corroborate” that the rocks were graves, although Bethea told Checkpoint that he did remember there being a graveyard near the observation post in question.)

Asked why he didn’t bring his concerns about Baker to his team leader, squad leader, platoon leader, or company commander, Bergdahl told Dahl that “all of them were, you know, pretty much unfit to lead and didn’t have the right perspective; and [that] they were only in it for the money or they were only in it for the rank or they were only going to protect themselves.”

It’s possible that Bergdahl saw leadership problems in his unit at a very low level, former 1st Battalion officer Bethea acknowledged. But Bethea dismissed out of hand the notion, apparently central to Bergdahl’s motive in abandoning his platoon, that Baker either did not exercise due care in exposing his men to risk or was insensitive to local people’s customs and concerns.

“Colonel Baker was the first field-grade commander I ever met who actually really seemed to get counterinsurgency and understand how to work with local civilians and relate to them,” Bethea said. “To have him portrayed as some kind of William Calley—he would just stop and chat with Afghan civilians as he went about his business.”

Wesley Morgan’s book on Afghanistan’s Pech valley is forthcoming from Random House. Follow him on Twitter: @wesleysmorgan.

The “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne again facing Mosul

Article by Maurin Picard of Figaro published Jan 27, 2016


When the first armored jeeps Hummer hit the sand-colored stars and stripes of the United States entering Mosul, in this day of April 2003, the deserted streets exude an atmosphere of end of reign. The shops closed in haste, abandoned police stations, government ministries open to all winds. The population earth, concerned about the events. Saddam Hussein has just collapsed under the blows of the US military engaged in a crusade “against terror” post-September 11, 2001. None of this will concern General David Petraeus, head of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States, which received the order to occupy and pacify Mosul, the second largest city. The task in this Nineveh province (northwest) predominantly Sunni and loyal to the former Baathist government, is a challenge. Petraeus will take up the challenge, turning its builders men, winning the battle “hearts and minds”, unique in Iraq under US tutelage in 2003.
Thirteen years later, the 101st Division has received orders eerily echoing the recent past, still fresh in our memories. On January 13, 2016, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the famous “Screaming Eagles” that they walked away in Iraq. Final destination: Mosul, in the hands of the Islamic state since 10 June 2014. Objective: “Advise and Assist”, train and mentor Iraqi regular troops and Kurdish peshmergas supposed to reclaim the capital of Nineveh, and “tackle the cleaning of territories that the EI control in Iraq and Syria. ”
Place Iraqis
Some 1,800 men of the 101st Airborne will be deployed at the end of February in Iraq, according to a specific word order: they are not there to fight. Barack Obama say again to the attention of the American public: no “boots on the ground (ground forces),” not hear the boys involved in conventional military offensives. Place the Iraqis, only able to reclaim their country. “The Iraqi and Kurdish peshmergas you are going to train, advise and assist have already proved their determination and, increasingly, their skills, insisted Carter. But these soldiers need you to build on these successes. We must be careful not to Americanize the conflict. ”
Impossible to ignore almost dialectical contradiction Washington 1800 US paratroopers will soon be hard at work, but America refuses to commit ground troops. “Troops on the ground? But there are already 3500, ground troops! “Retorted Ashton Carter in Davos on January 22, referring to the number of” advisors “already present at the bedside of Iraqi government forces. To regain Mosul, the Pentagon suggests, it will send the boys, not just the handful of special forces already deployed. This is a recent change of paradigm, expressed in Paris on 20 January by Carter: to eradicate the “cancer” jihadist, we will have to engage in conventional forces in large numbers.
“The Iraqi and Kurdish peshmergas you are going to train, advise and assist have already proved their determination and, increasingly, their skills”
The US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter
The definitive recapture of Mosul, Baghdad and Washington planned for 2016, should see the Americans take part in the fighting on the frontline. The 101st would ideally fulfill this dual role train units to take possession of Mosul in the wake of “forces-against terrorists.” And, if necessary, fight alongside them. “Ramadi was a schoolyard brawl. Mosul is the final of the heavyweight boxing championship, “nevertheless warns Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a consultant for Fox News. In Ramadi, the forces against terrorist-backed Shiite militias have stepped over seven months to finally win 700 jihadi fanatics. Everything indicates that Mosul will be a different story, with up to 2,000 enemy fighters entrenched in a major city like Paris, street fights that could turn into a Middle Eastern Stalingrad.
So the military reconquest of Mosul will be the first step in the new anti-Daech strategy detailed by Ashton Carter. Remains the second step: the pacification of the city. Large program, judging by the past two years. Since the fall of Mosul in the hands of jihadists, 1.8 million people were plunged into a dark night as the flag of the “Caliphate” proclaimed, enduring executions and looting, rationing, curfews, temporary power cuts, d ‘final Internet. Vibrionnante once a city, now a prisoner of religious madmen and criminals licensed.
The nostalgia of the “groundwork”
Overseas, the elders of the 101st Airborne Division following the events, dismayed. “The fall of Mosul in the hands of the Islamic state was a tragedy for me, who thought back to all those men who served with me in this area in 2003-2004, when there were so many promises, says one David Petraeus terse Figaro. I said as we redonnions hope to a people who had lost hope. “Since his spacious Manhattan office in New York, the one that the inhabitants of Mosul had dubbed the” King David “has swapped the tinsel for those four-star general consultant of a firm of investment, but it retains a nostalgia for the “substantive work” made in Mosul in 2003-2004. He remembers the talent of its multilingual university, the reopening of shops and schools, the direct relationship established with many residents, when it was a point of honor to walk without a helmet or body armor each morning in crowded streets of downtown. “King David” displays on the walls of his headquarters a compelling reminder to his young officers, “What have I done for Iraqis today?”
“Each of my men put his talents to work, tells David Petraeus. We receive no civilian assistance: the State Department has been conspicuously absent, as are other US institutions. We will still hold the first free elections in Iraq. A governor is elected, Ghanim al-Basso, a reconciliation commission set up, also the first in the country. “But sectarian hatreds are released in post-Saddam Iraq. And “rebirth” too fast Mosul Sunni, educated and modern, displeases the fundamentally new Shi’ite power. Applications renovation, financing, appointments are mercilessly rejected. The governor, Ghanim al-Basso, threw in the towel in February 2004, when the 101st Airborne and “builders” Petraeus pack up.
Winning the peace is another matter
The dark Nineveh province in chaos. The Sunni insurgency takes over, cornaquée by the bloodthirsty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, magnified by Daech since. In July 2004, the successor of al-Basso is killed in an ambush. In November, after running many agents, the head of the municipal police and most of its 5,000 men spend in the camp of the insurrection with arms and baggage. The chaos will last ten years. Mosul is pacified in 2008, cleared of insurgents last but definitely not rallied to the central authority of Shiite Nouri al-Maliki. Is that why the city again falls like a ripe fruit in 2014? As in 2004, the armed forces who defended it, this time 30,000 men, took to their heels before 1500 attackers.
“The fall of Mosul in the hands of the Islamic state was a tragedy for me, who thought back to all those men who served with me in this area for 2003-2004»
General David Petraeus
Here 101st Airborne at work, once again. When the offensive will begin, Iraqi troops will attack from the south, the peshmergas from the north, close to the encirclement and cut retirement jihadists to the Syrian border. Winning the war, the US elite troops can do. Winning the peace is another matter. The “builders” 101st Airborne know that this challenge is nothing like that of 2003, it will regain the confidence of the inhabitants sandwiched between Raqqa and Baghdad, hostages of the complex political chessboard and sectarian Iraq . “I am reasonably worried, confesses Craig Whiteside, former officer of the 101st and professor of international politics at the Naval War College in Monterey (California). The EI has successfully established without firing a shot in Mosul, draining wide support among the population and cuddling an extensive network of sympathizers “made in 2004 by Zarqawi, despite the death of it two years later. “If they were able to place in Mosul set cutting and holding an iron fist since it is not by chance or by accident,” says Whiteside, who does not seem to anticipate the popular jubilation entry of Iraqi-US forces in the city.
This time, moreover, it will be without the ingenious “King David”: a time threatened a heavy prison sentence for having communicated to her biographer of documents classified “confidential” from the time he headed the CIA in 2011 -2012, the old “peacemaker” Mosul is the subject of an administrative demotion procedure, on the express request … Ashton Carter. The Obama Administration, unwillingly plunged back into the Iraqi quagmire, wants to cut the last ties with the remains of the George W. Bush era, when America still believed possible to achieve lasting stability in the “land of the two rivers “.