Warlordism

StrategyPage has three interesting and somewhat related stories today.

IRAQ: Sunni Arabs Demonstrate Their Political Skills

When the 82nd Airborne division left the Sunni Arab region, and was replaced by the marines, lots of data on who is who in places like Fallujah was turned over. Some army intelligence experts stayed behind to work on some of the continuing information gathering operations. The armed gangs in places like Fallujah are a complex brew, since nearly everyone has a gun and a large percentage (perhaps as many as twenty percent of adult men in places like Fallujah) are willing to use them. Moreover, the gangs (some of which are clan or family organizations) are always jockeying for position. There are also illegal rackets (extortion, smuggling, kidnapping) to fight over as well. The marines are using aggressive patrols to gain undisputed and 24 hour control of the streets. This involves a lot of night operations, where the marines have an edge with their night vision equipment. The Sunni Arabs do not have to come to terms with the marines, they have to come to terms with the rest of Iraq, and themselves.

SOMALIA: What to do About the Warlords

Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia have been advising various factions in the Somalia peace talks in Kenya, and this has led to an inability to decide how the initial parliament will be formed. The problem is in determining who will get how many seats. Many of the warlords have an exaggerated view of their own power (political or military), and many have withdrawn from the final negotiations over allocating the parliamentary seats. Without the participation and agreement of all the major factions, the new national government won’t work. While the traditional clan leadership (a council of clan elders) is eager to establish a new government, mainly because the elders see their kinsmen dying from starvation and disease. The warlords cause death and fear as a matter of course, and only perk up when they see their power threatened. The warlords also know that an effective national government could soon become powerful enough to defeat, and kill or imprison, the warlords. Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia each support, or dislike, some warlords more than others. Dealing with the warlords is the key to Somalia’s survival as a nation, and so far no one has figured out how to do it.

PHILIPPINES: Islamic Terrorists Caught Making Bombs

The government has set up a Bomb Information Center, a national organization to pass out information on possible terrorist bomb attacks, and collect national information on bombing incidents, or possible bombing attempts. Abu Sayyaf has threatened to launch a terror bombing campaign in the capital. Abu Sayyaf members have been leaving their usual haunts in the south because of the intense anti-kidnapping campaign down there. Hundreds of American Special Forces troops and intelligence specialists have been helping out in these operations, as well as providing training. Abu Sayyaf , a splinter group of the larger MILF Moslem independence movement, has always been a combination of religious fanatics and bandits. That’s why they were tossed out of the MILF. But Abu Sayyaf scored big when they received some large ransoms from Libya two years ago, for the release of hostages they were holding. The money was used to buy the loyalty of locals, which made it difficult to track Abu Sayyaf members down. But some of the money went to buying weapons, explosives and the ability to travel freely. Some Abu Sayyaf members have also apparently been in touch with the larger, regional Jemaah Islamiah organization.

Police arrested four Turkish men as suspected members of regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. The four men were working as Arabic teachers in a private school.

In addition, police say they have, in the past few days, arrested six of ten men belonging to a terrorist cell that was planning a terror bombing campaign in the capital. The cell is thought to be a joint effort between the Jemaah Islamiah and Abu Sayyaf Islamic terror groups. Weapons, and nearly a hundred pounds of explosives, has been seized as well.

In all three cases, ethnic or religious tribalism is intermixed with a criminal subculture. While there is a large military role to be played in dealing with each of these situations, there is clearly the need for more sophistaced law enforcement techniques as well. Clearly a stronger police presence would be helpful in all cases, including more U.S. MP’s in Iraq. But it also points to the need to put in place a professional police investigative force in many of these trouble spots. The lawlessness in these societies is exacerbated by longstanding traditions of corrupt police that are sometimes worse than the criminals they’re after, since at least the criminals aren’t pretending to serve the people. We’ve often done a good job of instilling professionalism in the militaries of the developing world–including training a cadre of their officers at places like West Point and the Army War College. Perhaps we should be bringing more of them to Quantico to study at the FBI Academy as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.