Friday, December 24, 2010

The Emergence of Horizontal Command Structures

Taliban fighters

We — the major Western powers, led by the United States — have been officially at war for the last nine years. It is not an all-out war, but there has been plenty of shooting and killing, and we have taken thousands of casualties.

Above all, it has been an expensive war. It’s hard to calculate a cost-benefit ratio for it, given that our objectives are so vague. If we were simply seeking conquest, we could measure success by the amount of territory gained, and say that our victory had cost us $50 million per square mile. Or whatever it actually cost.

But our goals are more nebulous. Besides killing hopped-up terrorists, we:

  • train police, soldiers, and administrators,
  • build schools and sewage treatment plants,
  • repair highways and bridges, and
  • write sharia-based constitutions.

Given this metastasis of mission, a pragmatic analysis becomes that much more difficult to carry out. Our overall aim is to avert new terror attacks, and since we can’t tell how many such attacks our overseas contingency operations have actually forestalled, there’s no way to tell how many billions of dollars each non-occurrence has cost us.

And who is the enemy?

We have officially decided that we are making war on “violent extremism”. Yes, that’s right: we aim to kill or capture “violent extremists”.

We can all agree that they’re violent — they are, after all, trying to kill us — but what, precisely, are they “extreme” about?

Do they enjoy extreme sports?

Do they eat extremely hot food?

Are they perhaps extreme hedonists?

When pressed, our leaders occasionally acknowledge that something called “Islam” is involved with all the extremism and violence. Or maybe not: Attorney General Eric Holder, when grilled during a congressional hearing, adamantly refused to say the I-word. However, if enough “Allahu akhbars” fill the air during a murderous attack, a military or national security official may sometimes grudgingly admit that “evil people who have distorted and hijacked the great and peaceful religion of Islam” may have been responsible.

Never before in history has such a powerful nation amassed such incredible firepower and spent such great treasure for such amorphous and poorly-defined goals. No wonder we’re still at war nine years later — and being blown up by the “allies” on whom we have lavished so much attention, training, and cash.

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A few days ago I discussed the fact that Western cultural and political leaders have cut themselves off from complete and accurate information about their own societies. By imposing a priori ideological constraints on information, they have foreclosed the possibility of gaining a true understanding of what is happening within their own populace in the face of Islamization.

The corollary to this fact is that the most crucial part of the current information war is being fought in a semi-clandestine fashion at the lowest levels via horizontally-linked distributed networks. Necessity requires that our most dedicated information warriors bypass official channels, since those channels deny the very premises on which the info-war is fought.

A mirror of this process is now underway in the shooting war in South Asia. The United States, in its dedicated effort to kill “violent extremists”, has developed successful techniques for taking out commanders at the highest levels of the Taliban leadership.

According to the standard doctrinal template applied to counterinsurgency operations, this should have damaged the enemy and dramatically impaired his effectiveness. Unfortunately, “cutting off the head of the snake” has not reduced the Taliban’s offensive capabilities as much as the model would predict. The disappearance of the vertical lines of command has resulted in the emergence of horizontal command structures. Although these groups lack a centralized command, they are able to mount simultaneous attacks over a wide area.

Before I suggest why this might be happening, take a look at this article from AKI:
Pakistan: ‘Butcher of Swat’ Was Striking Ceasefire Deal When He Was Killed by US Drone

Islamabad, 22 Dec. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Notorious as the “Butcher of Swat” in the Pakistani military circles for his merciless nature, Al-Qaeda commander Bin Yameen (also known as Ibn-e-Amin) was ready to strike a ceasefire deal with the Pakistani security forces to divert fighting to neighbouring Afghanistan when he was killed last week in an attack by US drone aircraft.

Yameen, the chief of operations in northwest Pakistan’s Swat Valley and the chief of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of the six brigades in Al-Qaeda’s Shadow Army called a meeting of other insurgent commanders but his movement was tracked by American intelligence.


Bin Yameen’s death has indicated a strange dimension in the South Asian war on terror theatre where American drones have successfully eliminated the big number of the vertical command of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated group leaders, but has developed a new situation in which thousands of freshly trained men have split in to small cliques, after the killings of their commanders. This is the most little known aspect behind the much boasted American drone strike successes in the AfPak war theatre.

A recently trained group of the surviving total 400 Swat militants under Bin Yameen in the Khyber Agency are likely to face the similar fate. They are oblivious of their commanders intention to strike a ceasefire deal with Pakistan, which would have diversified strategies in the region making it difficult to figure out by the international intelligence cartel operating in the region. [emphasis added]

In other words, the same type of battle will continue, but without central control or direction. It will be fought by the same kind of mujahideen, only these lower-level cadres are indifferent to — and possibly unaware of — any attempt to control them from above.


This trend of the disappearance of the vertical command structure among the militants, deepened in 2010, and the emergence of the little known horizontal commands has become so significant throughout the region it appears that it could create an identical situation of 2007 and 2008 when the Pakistani army conducted military operations in Lal Masjid Islamabad and Swat areas at the simultaneously while scattered groups unleashed opened fronts all across the country. Amid this process, former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and Pakistani security forces suffered a record number of attacks. However, this time militants are gathered all around the border regions and there is a threat that chaos shall spread throughout Pakistan and into Iran and Afghanistan.


Bin Yameen was a rebel and defiant but still Pakistani security forces communicated with him before he was killed in drone strike. This was one of the several communication channels which security forces opened with the militants allowing for a relatively calm during the month of Muharram. The talks were close to arriving at a ceasefire deal when Yameen was killed.

So Bin Yameen was part of the elaborate symbiotic South Asian ecosystem which includes tribal leaders, independent jihad fighters, the Taliban, and elements of the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency). That fragile web of relationships has now been shredded, and a decentralized spontaneous jihad by lower-level operatives is continuing without any direct chain of command.

And, most importantly, this outcome was previously unknown and unanticipated by our military.

Could it have been known? Could the persistence of venom in the “headless snake” have been predicted?

Maybe; maybe not. But we completely foreclosed any possibility of predicting the enemy’s likely behavior by denying our analysts at every level the tools to examine the ideology and motivations that guide the mujahideen of the Taliban.

When you fight “violent extremism”, you can’t get a handle on what is going on inside the head of an “extremist”. In order to understand what makes him tick, you’d have to be familiar with the Koran, the hadith, the sunna, and the basic tenets of sharia law. You’d need a good grasp of the deadly political ideology known as — gasp! — Islam.

All of these horizontally-organized groups share this ideology. They know exactly how it works. They pass around the same audio and video tapes reminding them of why they fight, and what their deen requires of them. They are awash with weaponry and explosives bought with opium money from North Korea, Iran, and God knows who else. They don’t need orders from headquarters to coordinate and carry out attacks. They are aware of what has to be done, and how to do it.

An understanding of all this is fairly routine within the horizontally organized information networks of the Counterjihad. But it is not clear at the top levels of the U.S. military command, because our commanders have deliberately made themselves opaque to any information that would permit them a deep understanding of the enemy. They cannot examine jihad. They cannot investigate Islam. They cannot even say these words without risking their careers.

This is a failure of mind-boggling proportions. We have spent nine years and a gazillion dollars to fight an enemy whom we cannot possibly comprehend.

The horizontal networks of the Counterjihad could teach our military and political leaders a thing or two about what motivates and energizes the horizontal networks of the Swat Valley. But I doubt we’ll ever get the chance.

Hat tip: C. Cantoni.


rickl said...

Hopefully this suicidal see no evil/hear no evil/speak no evil policy will change with the next administration.

But if not, then at some point people who do understand will be forced to take direct action themselves.

Not only that, but the most fundamental duty of a government is to protect its own citizens. Any government that refuses to perform that duty is illegitimate by definition.

Which would require additional direct action on the part of its citizens...

doxRaven said...

Islamization is the infection but the root cause is an auto-immune deficiency as a result of by PC/MC.
The infection cannot be defeated without eliminating the root cause.

It's as simple as that.

The battle is not in Afghanistant it is delisional energy and foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The battle is with Socialism, Kainsianism and the resulting miopic spend today.

Gregory said...

Good article. I have always thought that E.Holder was undermining American intelligense and effectiveness. He should be fired, but obummer is too que*r for him. Birds of a feather.....

Zenster said...

Unfortunately, “cutting off the head of the snake” has not reduced the Taliban’s offensive capabilities as much as the model would predict.

That’s because the Taliban aren’t so much the snake's "head" as its ANUS. Not quite the tail-end where all the cannon fodder is but very close, especially considering their end product.

Chopping off the snake's head involved killing people like:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi (al Qaeda CEO)
Prince Sultan Ibn Abd al-Aziz
Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz
Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz
Yasin al Qadi (Saudi terrorist financier)

These are the real drivers of global terrorism. The Taliban, even its top commanders, are just so many puffed up "big turbans" whose power is in direct proportion to their stocks of guns and ammo that they have on hand. Take away their weapons and watch just how fast other Islamic predators will eat their lunch.

They are awash with weaponry and explosives bought with opium money from North Korea, Iran, and God knows who else.

Which absolutely beggars the question of — with all the millions of dollars being thrown around — why don't we simply tell the opium growers that we‘re the only game in town. We will outbid any other organization, pay the growers a fair price and then process the harvest for use by hospice organizations.


Growers who do not comply get their fields napalmed. Period.

Why we are not boarding for inspection or sinking every ship that sails out of North Korea is another question entirely.

Another explanation is SIMPLE INCOMPETENCE. Examine this aerial photograph of a Taliban commander's funeral. The 2006 Bush White House KNEW that these last rites were in progress and declined to attack what was regarded as "a religious service".

Count the people in that picture. Some 200 TOP TALIBAN OFFICERS were in attendance. The Afghan war could have been severely curtailed had not some moron politicians (Bush included), been allowed to interfere with our military's war-fighting objectives.

From the article: Under international law, it is a war crime to target troops during a funeral service. Cemeteries are also off limits during war times.

Save that those in attendance were not regular troops in uniform and therefore were not entitled to any protections as prescribed by International Law. As terrorists, they are entitled to DIE, however swiftly and efficiently our troops are capable of dispatching them. Again, what is this nonsense about "fair treatment" of an enemy that has ZERO compunction over beheading POWs or raping female troops taken prisoner in action?

This is how insane our leadership has become. We refuse to kill our enemies and go one step further by creating Rules of Engagement that prohibit our troops from killing Taliban snipers that have just been firing at them because the assailant has run out of ammunition.

More than anything, our cowardly politicians refuse to target jihad's prime movers because they know damn well that the terrorists would start coming after them.

These elected scum bags are content to send our young men and women overseas to die for our country but are ultimately reluctant to sacrifice their own lives for America. Notice the similarity to the "big turban" imams that never seem able to summon up the courage of their own convictions and strap on a bomb vest themselves?

The equivalence is real and that is why Western Politically Correct leadership is KILLING US in their abject fear of winning the war on Islamic jihad.

You always hear these cowards talking about "fighting the war on terrorism" but you never hear any of them talking about "ENDING THE WAR ON TERRORISM". That must change and change damn soon before a few major Western cities disappear in terrorist nuclear plasma.

1389 said...

I am of the opinion that none of the possible presidential candidates in 2012, except for LTC Allen West, understands anything about the jihad.

Unless he, or someone much like him, is elected, I firmly believe that secession will be the only way to stop the US government from continuing to sell us out to the Muslims.

I understand that the very idea of secession is considered to be politically incorrect to the point of being taboo in many circles. Ask me if I care!

See: Celebrating Secession

Zenster said...

1389: I am of the opinion that none of the possible presidential candidates in 2012, except for LTC Allen West, understands anything about the jihad.

This simple fact is a simultaneous danger for both the West and Islam.

Fact: Obama has ZERO military experience. Beyond that, he has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to absorb or act upon war-related information in a useful manner.

Fact: Western nations continue to load their governments, at all levels, with militarily inexperienced leadership.

Fact: Muslims around the world regarded the election of Obama as a victory for Islam, even though that perception has begun to erode.

Fact: Western political leadership's growing military naïveté continues to preclude a coherent and measured response regarding global jihad. The entire original post of this thread makes that unbearably clear.

What remains is the stark prospect that — having undergone even only one or two terrorist nuclear attacks — the West's militarily incompetent leadership will have few options but to unleash a major nuclear retaliation.

Thus do these pantywaist nancyboys currently running the Western political show represent one of the direst threats to Islam, save that it is only by default. Furthermore, that threat will only manifest after near-debilitating harm has been inflicted upon Western nations which will likely require decades to recover from.

That Islam remains ultimately shortsighted cannot be disputed. Congenital overreach continues to be a hallmark of Islam and global terrorism. It has declared Total War on Western nations that collectively possess SEVERAL THOUSAND nuclear weapons compared to less than a dozen that are held in Muslim hands.

At the same time, Islam continues to deceive itself with delusions of adequacy in terms of prosecuting the global war that it has declared.

Yet one more time, this is why Islam has "UNHAPPY ENDING" written all over it. Muslims encourage the election of appeasing and conciliatory Western leaders who will be utterly incapable of making a coordinated escalation of response to truly heinous jihadist WMD attacks.

Islam is clutching the Liberal Western viper to its breast and thereby ensuring that Muslims will pay the ultimate price for their monumental hubris.

Thus the Muslim holocaust.

Professor L said...

It's worse than that Zenster. Our leadership refuses to prosecute justice. They demand peace, and sacrifice justice to get it. Peace without justice is naught but an illusion.

They ensure that those who lead coups become players in new governments, that those who are traitors are rewarded for their treason.

Without justice, a true and lasting peace will never come. And our leadership, as well as lacking military experience and the guts to use armies, have thrown justice out with it.

I shudder at the thought of the monster we have helped to create. It is a hydra of chaos and war, and we only strike the heads snapping us, and never its heart with the arrow of justice.

felix said...

We've had this discussion many times before. If we can name the enemy, then we can win (or prevail) in the war. So identifying the enemy, radical islam, would then allow us to develop tactics and strategies to combat the enemy.

IMO the best strategy in the war with radical islam is denying the enemy and their sympathizers entry to the west. And deport radical islamists already here as a matter of public policy.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

This was predicted in some detail even before 9/11. The theory is already out there. Google :

"4th Generation warfare" or
"4GW" and "William Lind"

José González said...

When a country or a civilization decides to commit suicide nobody can stop it.

Unknown said...


You are so right !

What can WE do to push our politicans in the right direction ?