The hunt continues for the remaining suspect involved in the Boston marathon bombing, their trail of destruction leaving almost 200 wounded and four dead. The brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are the alleged perpetrators behind the bombing and their motives are still being debated.
Something we’ve been thinking of since they released the background information on the two brothers was re-iterated perfectly by Peter Bergen – if they were radicalized Chechen extremists, then they should be out blowing up people in Moscow, not in the United States. Russia is the number one enemy of Chechnya, not the “far Satan” AKA the United States in al-Qaeda lingo.
It seems likely that the brothers will turn out to have personalities that are inconsistent with our preconceptions about radical Islam. Like the 9/11 hijackers who drank alcohol and hung out at strip clubs, the Chechen brothers listened to secular non-Islamic music and even smoked marijuana. Human beings are terribly inconsistent when it comes to ideology so this shouldn’t surprise us in the least.
While on the run last night, the brothers car jacked a vehicle and apparently forced the driver to take them around town and make ATM withdrawals in order to build up a war chest for their escape. The circumstances are unclear but at some point in the night they made contact with law enforcement and a firefight broke out, killing Officer Sean Collier.
Get the run down here.
When I heard about Linda Robinson’s Council on Foreign Relations sponsored white paper I was expecting another abstract academic work which was frighteningly detached from anything resembling reality but was pleasantly surprised at Robinson’s down to earth recommendations. Her outline of SOF and policy recommendations are impressively on target, especially for someone on the outside looking in, without getting into classified aspects of the Special Operations community. You can read Robinson’s paper, The Future of US Special Operations Forces on the CFR website.
As someone who was an insider, I felt that I had a bit of an opportunity to expand on a few of her points from a soldier’s perspective. I should note up front that what you will read here are my personal opinions and in no way represent official statements from SOCOM or for that matter the unofficial opinion of the Special Operations community as a whole.
Direct vs. Indirect Approaches
Much have been made over the last ten years about Special Operations Forces, in particular Special Forces, getting fixated on Direct Action operations. While units such as SEALs and Rangers are designed for Direct Action, Special Forces is designed for Unconventional Warfare. Unconventional Warfare emphasizes a long term approach to influencing the battle space by developing host nation military forces (Foreign Internal Defense) and engaging with the local community on various civil projects among other activities. The accusation has been made that SOF has gotten obsessed with conducting Direct Action High Value Target raids at the expense of keeping an eye on the long game.
Read the rest on SOFREP!
Hey folks, I am taking a poll right now. Who is your favorite character from the Deckard series of novels? Please go and vote here.
Special thanks to Brad for doing this piece of fan art that depicts Deckard from my novels Reflexive Fire and Target Deck. Awesome work Brad!
While underway, pirates are known to begin probing commercial ships as they pass around the Horn of Africa. The vast majority of probes and attacks are at night, although pirates are also known to hide in the fog during they day. The maritime security contractor on shift at night monitors the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, radar on the ship, and when he gets a blip on the screen he begins looking for pirates, usually in stolen fishing vessels, with his binoculars. In high winds, the older AIS systems will get feedback as they may read whitecaps out in the ocean, giving off false signatures and making it difficult for contractors to discern real threats.
AIS was originally developed for aircraft flying in and out of San Diego to help them avoid mid-air collisions during thick cloud cover. The system worked well enough with airplanes that the harbor started making use of it as well, and then the International Maritime Organization was lobbied to make it mandatory for all vessels over a certain size.
The AIS is essentially a line-of-site VHS receiver and transmitter that has an electronic display chart, about the size of an iPad, mounted in the bridge, which shows ships in the area and lists their heading, speed, and callsign. It will display this information to other vessels even when turned off, so the bad guys have to completely disable their AIS to remain undetected.
Read the rest at SOFREP!
My latest article, on piracy and counter-piracy.
Piracy has probably existed since man first took to the sea, but it took on new dimensions with the advent of commercial shipping. SOFREP wrote about this very topic recently in Benghazi: The Definitive Report, which includes historical background on America’s first war on terror against Barbary pirates off the coast in Libya. Perhaps the formation of the US Marines was America’s first strike back against piracy.
When you start to look at the privateers, who were pirates that were semi-sanctioned by various governments, and the Letters of Marque, which authorized said pirates to ply their trade against enemy nations, we get into a gray area of commercial maritime activity, unconventional warfare, mercenaries, pirates, and criminals…one that exists to this day, if in different forms.
During the 1980′s and 90′s, the US Navy often pre-positioned equipment and supplies on ships around the world in places that were difficult to get to, so that if a war broke out, much of the logistics and resupply infrastructure would already be in place. Since it would be massively expensive for the US Navy to actually position their own supply ships around the world, they leased or contracted commercial vessels. Some of these ships were “gray-hulled,” while others were painted commercial colors. Of course, when these ships, filled with food or medical supplies, were stationed off the coast of impoverished countries, the locals would occasionally board them and loot the ships of vital supplies. Even in the 80′s, there were Nepalese security guards being stationed on some of these ships.
The rise of the Private Military Company and private security contractors (often bemoaned by the same politicians who make use of their services or use them as proxies while keeping their hands clean) is something that simply is not going away. With ships valued at hundreds of millions of dollars carrying equally valuable cargo on board, it only makes sense to take on a few guns for hire when these commercial vessels travel through the maritime choke points frequented by pirates.
Read the rest on SOFREP!
My appearance on a Colombian news show! By far one of the stranger experiences I’ve had. Picture this: I’m in a room by myself in NYC looking at a remote controlled camera with an ear piece in connected to a smart phone which a producer somewhere in Colombia is asking me questions through. I then have to look straight into the camera and answer like someone is there! I wore a nice black shirt but had to take it off because it was blending into the background. So instead you get to check out my way cool Ghost in the Shell anime t-shirt and Sumerian seal tattoo!