Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Retirement Orders Are In!

It is now official. I have received my retirement orders which are effective on my 60th birthday of February 28, 2009.

By the way, although I have spent my somewhat disjointed post-Vietnam military career as a non-commissioned officer (i.e. sergeant to sergeant first class), my retirement orders are for “First Lieutenant Charles M. Grist II”. I will retire at my old Vietnam platoon leader’s rank. (Twenty-one year old second lieutenant Grist is pictured above in 1970 just before he left for his first war.)

Yeah, I know; if I’d had my stuff together and I’d been a little more “politically correct” and ambitious, I would have retired a general, a colonel or a sergeant major. That’s O.K. I’ve spent my Army years either leading, serving with or training average soldiers like me and I consider that both a blessing and an honor.

I have a little more time to finish all my medical stuff and get my records up-to-date. Then I will begin my terminal leave in early December. My final mobilization as a reservist will end on January 31 and I will return to the police department. After all, there are still a lot of “neighborhood insurgents” who must be dealt with.

Time marches on, but I believe I am still a long way from the finish line. After all, I am a Baby Boomer and, like the rest of my generation, I will continue to seek more of life’s great adventures.

I truly believe that some of my best years lie ahead and that many of my greatest adventures are just over the next hill.

Rangers lead the way!

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Warrior Cops Train New Iraqi Police

The following article discusses the invaluable assistance that American police officers are providing to the new Iraqi police. I am also a cop and I will return to my police department in February. I am extraordinarily proud that my fellow law enforcement officers are willing to enter the world of war to make a difference, just as they are willing to put their lives on the line back here in the States.

I met many of these DynCorp Interternational instructors when I was in Baghdad in 2004 as the training of the Iraqi police was just getting underway. Several DynCorp police contractors have been killed or wounded during their own tours and our thoughts and prayers are with them, their families and their law enforcement communities.

Regardless of what some might say, police officers are warriors too and they put their lives on the line here and overseas. When people are threatened, these brave men and women use skills that range from effective and peaceful communication to the other extreme of deadly force. They stand between us and both foreign and domestic “bad guys” and that makes them members of America's elite warrior class.

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Los Angeles Times
October 4, 2008

U.S. Civilian Cops Offer Expertise To Iraq Police Force

By Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

RAMADI, IRAQ — Like most days in the field for Atlanta cop Brian Acree, this one was shaping up as a polite but determined competition between the Army way, the Iraqi way and the Georgia way.

Acree, a towering, slow-walking, shaved-headed police investigator, was crammed into an 8-by-10 office with three U.S. soldiers, three Iraqi policemen and an interpreter. As the air conditioner weakly rumbled in the background, U.S. Army Sgt. Chai Kim lectured his Iraqi counterpart on the proper role of a logistics officer.

"They keep the numbers on the vehicles. They don't fix them," Kim said through the interpreter. "How many trucks? Who took it out? How many miles? What purpose?" Iraqi police 1st Lt. Mushtaq Talib answered dourly.

"The motor pool, they have a guy for that," he said.

"That is going to change," Kim replied. "Being a logistics officer is about money management."

Acree stayed silent. But later, he let Mushtaq know that he thought Kim might have been a little inflexible.

"You know how to get your job done and I know you know," he had the interpreter tell the young Iraqi officer.

A key assignment

Acree, on leave from his post with the Georgia state police, is in the capital of Anbar province as a civilian consultant to the Ramadi Police Department. Eighteen months after the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq was run out of town, his job is to help rebuild a key institution in the western province.

Acree is one of about 800 civilian police officers working under a military contract with DynCorp International. Unlike the thousands of civilian contractors who have come to Iraq to supplement the military, Acree and his colleagues don't provide security services. They're here to impart their experience in urban police work to a young and inadequately trained and equipped force.

The consultants, whose pay starts at $134,000 a year, are assigned to U.S. military police units and travel in convoys of Humvees. Acree and two other DynCorp contractors bunk with a company of Marines in an abandoned warehouse on Ramadi's eastern outskirts.

The cops weren't authorized by DynCorp to give interviews, but the military police unit allowed The Times to come along for two days to observe the training program. The unit has been teaching neophyte Iraqi policemen, known as shortas, basic skills such as arrest procedures, traffic control and field communications. DynCorp runs formal classes on specialized subjects such as detective technique at the main military base, Camp Ramadi.

Acree and his roommates also make the rounds of the city's police stations to work with more senior officers, trying to improve procurement practices, discipline and accountability.

Like many of his colleagues, Acree, 37, is older than the MPs he works with and sometimes has more tolerance for the tradition-bound style of the Iraqi police, even as he pushes them toward a Western model.

Long-range view

Acree, who arrived in Ramadi in March, has made a commitment to stay in Iraq a year and expects to sign up for a second year. Because U.S. military units often deploy for less than a year, Acree was working with the Ramadi police before the arrival of the 914th Military Police, the unit he stays with, and will remain after it's gone. That, combined with his languid Southern style, gives him a longer-range view of his mission.

At times, a deep tolerance for frustration is Acree's most useful skill.

One morning, he and the MP unit commander, Staff Sgt. Jeff Klein, were dumbfounded by the timing of a request from the commander of the Adala station on the southern edge of Ramadi. The previous week, a worker using an earthmover had discovered 11 bodies in a shallow grave. An Iraqi lieutenant colonel asked Klein to send a forensic team to the scene.

Incredulous, Acree said it was far too late.

"Next time he finds a crime scene, if he needs our help, he needs to call us immediately," Acree told the interpreter.

Later, Acree told the Iraqi officer he was alarmed when he saw two mopeds enter the station without being searched.

"Ask him who searches people at the police station," Acree said. "There needs to be one on the ground and one in the tower. The guy in the tower may know the guy in the moped. But how well does he know him? He needs to at least stop him and look in the moped."

Then, catching himself, Acree acknowledged the limitation of his authority.
"Tell him I'm not demanding, just asking," he said.

Gentle persuasion

Later in the day, Acree adopted a more understanding tone when he teamed with Kim to counsel Mushtaq, the young logistics officer he obviously respected and liked. After Kim grilled Mushtaq about his job duties, Acree moved on to what he considered a more serious problem: the station's armory. AK-47 assault rifles were stored in a room at the end of a hallwhere detainees were lined up each day to wait their turn in the bathroom.

Worse, the ammunition was stored in the same room, and the shorta assigned to guard it was unarmed.

"Why do you have shortas in charge of the armory when he doesn't have a gun?" Acree asked. "I think he needs to have a Glock on his side."

"You have to be an officer to have a sidearm," Mushtaq told Kim.

Kim then instructed Mushtaq to assign his pistol to the guard each day, a prospect that put a sour look on Mushtaq's face. Noticing that Mushtaq didn't even have a holster for his gun and stowed it in his desk drawer, Acree found a way to defuse the tension.

"Ask him if he has a holster for his gun," he told the interpreter. Mushtaq shook his head.

"Tell him tomorrow I'm going to give him a holster that's mine," he said. A brightened Mushtaq then led them to the other side of the station, where the departing Marine unit had lived. It was going to be the new armory, he said. Seeing a look on Mushtaq's face that seemed to crave approval, he told the interpreter: "Tell him if I didn't like him I wouldn't be here with him."

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I am proud to be a soldier as well as a police officer and it is an honor to serve as a member of America’s warrior class.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Strategic Assessment of Al Qaeda

The following article from Stratfor brings us up-to-date on the status of Al Qaeda. This company has a great track record in forecasting and analyzing international military and political issues:

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By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Over the last year or so, a lot of debate has arisen over the physical strength of al Qaeda. Some experts and government officials believe that the al Qaeda organization is now stronger than at any time since the 9/11 attacks, while others believe the core organization has lost much of its leadership and operational capability over the past seven years. The wide disparity between these two assessments may appear somewhat confusing, but a significant amount of the difference between the two can be found in the fundamental way in which al Qaeda is defined as an entity.

Many analysts supportive of the view that al Qaeda has strengthened tend to lump the entire jihadist world into one monolithic, hierarchical organization. Others, like Stratfor, who claim al Qaeda's abilities have been degraded over the years, define the group as a small vanguard organization and only one piece of the larger jihadist pie. From Stratfor's point of view, al Qaeda has evolved into three different -- and distinct -- entities. These different faces of al Qaeda include:

The core vanguard group: Often referred to by Stratfor as the al Qaeda core, al Qaeda prime or the al Qaeda apex leadership, this group is composed of Osama bin Laden and his close trusted associates. These are highly skilled, professional practitioners of propaganda, militant training and terrorism operations. This is the group behind the 9/11 attacks.

Al Qaeda franchises: These include such groups as al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Although professing allegiance to bin Laden, they are independent militant groups that remain separate from the core and, as we saw in the 2005 letter from al Qaeda core leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, there can be a great deal of tension and disagreement between them and the al Qaeda core. These regional franchises vary in size, level of professionalism and operational capability.

The broader grassroots jihadist movement: This group includes individuals and small cells inspired by al Qaeda but who, in most cases, have no contact with the core leadership.

Stratfor's Current Assessment of al Qaeda

We believe, as we did last summer, that the core al Qaeda group has weakened and no longer poses the strategic threat to the U.S. homeland that it did prior to 9/11. However, this does not mean it is incapable of re-emerging under less pressured circumstances.

On the franchise level, some groups -- such as AQIM, the Yemen franchises and the franchises in Pakistan and Afghanistan -- have gained momentum over the past few years. Others -- such as those in Iraq, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the Sinai Peninsula and Morocco -- have lost steam. In our estimation, this ebb and flow has resulted in a constant threat on the franchise level, though the severity has migrated geographically as groups wax and wane in specific regions. The franchises have done little to expand their operations outside of their regions of interest and to conduct attacks against the "far enemy" -- that is, attacks in the United States or Europe.

At the grassroots level, homegrown jihadists have posed a fairly consistent, though lower-level, threat. In the past, we have said that these jihadists think globally, but act locally. While there are far more grassroots jihadists than there are militants in the al Qaeda franchises and vastly more than in the small al Qaeda core, the grassroots jihadists tend to be highly motivated, but poorly equipped to conduct sophisticated terror attacks.

Beyond the Physical Battlefield

We believe that any realistic analysis of al Qaeda's strength must assess more than a basic head count of militants willing and able to conduct attacks. As we have noted previously, there are two battlespaces in the war against jihadism: the physical and the ideological. Although the campaign against al Qaeda has caused the core group to become essentially marginalized in the physical battlespace, the core has undertaken great effort to remain engaged in the ideological battlespace.

In many ways, the ideological battlespace is more important than the physical battlespace in the war against jihadism, and in the jihadists' war against the rest of the world. It is far easier to kill people than it is to kill ideologies. We have recently seen this in the resurgence of Bolivarian Revolution ideology in South America, despite the fact that Simon Bolivar, Karl Marx and Ernesto "Che" Guevara are long dead and buried. Ideology is the decisive factor that allows jihadists to recruit new fighters and gather funding for militant and propaganda operations. As long as the jihadists can recruit new militants, they can compensate for the losses they suffer on the physical battlefield. When they lose that ability, their struggle dies on the vine. Because of this, al Qaeda fears fatwas more than weapons. Weapons can kill people -- but fatwas can kill the ideology that motivates people to fight and finance.

We are not the only ones who believe the ideological battlespace is critical. A video released earlier this month by al Qaeda mouthpiece As-Sahab entitled "The Word is the Word of Swords," one of al Qaeda's leading religious authorities, Abu Yahya al-Libi emphasized this point from within the network.

In the video, al-Libi said the jihadist battle "is not waged solely at the military and economic level, but is waged first and foremost at the level of doctrine." He also said that his followers are in a war against an enemy that "targets all strongholds of Islam and invades the minds and ideas in the same way it invades lands and dares to destroy beliefs and meddle with the sacred things in the same way it dares to spill blood."

Interestingly, although the video recording is dedicated to detailing the preparations for the attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, the bulk of the 64-minute video addresses the ideological war against al Qaeda and how "true Islam" has been undermined by leaders such as King Abdullah and the Saudi religious establishment.

In an ironic twist, the progress of the combatants is easier to assess in the ideological rather than physical battlespace -- largely because most militants plotting terror attacks attempt to stay invisible until they launch their operations, while the ideological battle is for the most part conducted in plain sight.

One such visible indication on the ideological battlefield was a book written by al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, which was released in March. The book -- known as "The Exoneration" -- is a long response to a book written by Sayyed Imam al-Sharif. Also known as Dr. Fadl, al-Sharif is an imprisoned Egyptian radical and a founder (with al-Zawahiri) of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Published in 2007, al-Sharif's book, "Rationalizing Jihadist Action in Egypt and the World," provides theological arguments that counter many of the core jihadist teachings. Included among those teachings is the concept of takfir, or the practice of declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever in order to justify an attack against him. Al-Sharif also spoke out against killing non-Muslims in Muslim countries and attacking members of other Muslim sects.

Al-Sharif was a significant player in the development of the jihadist theology that shaped the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and eventually, through al-Zawahiri and other EIJ members who became influential members of al Qaeda, al-Sharif's concepts became instrumental in shaping the ideology of jihadism as promulgated by al Qaeda. One of his books, "The Essentials of Making Ready for Jihad," was reportedly required reading for all new jihadist recruits at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The renunciation of jihadist ideology by such a pivotal figure was a significant threat -- one serious enough to spur al-Zawahiri's refutation.

The Saudi ulema or Muslim scholars and former jihadist ideologues are not the only people assailing the ideology of jihadism. Of course, Western figures, such as Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders have been highly critical of jihadism. But these outsiders have little ability to sway Muslim opinion on the street -- a critical objective in fighting the ideological battle. In recent years, however, we have seen more Muslim figures speak out against jihadism, which they believe is a perversion of Islam. However, criticism is not without danger. Figures such as Egyptian political analyst Diaa Rashwan have been threatened with death because of their criticism of al Qaeda and jihadist ideology.

In addition to the previously discussed video, As-Sahab has released two other lengthy videos this month. The first, to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary, was called "The Harvest of Seven Years of Crusades." The second, called "True Imam," was released Sept. 29. Essentially, it was a tirade against the government of Pakistan and a tribute to Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the July 2007 storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad by the Pakistani military.


Sometimes, things that emerge in the ideological battlespace can provide indications of important developments in the physical battlespace.

For example, one of the As-Sahab videos featured clips of Mustafa abu al-Yazid (aka Sheikh Said al-Masri). An Egyptian al Qaeda military commander, al-Yazid had reportedly been killed in an Aug. 8 operation in Bajaur. But since al-Yazid makes reference in the video to the Aug. 18 resignation of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, he obviously was not killed 10 days earlier.

Two others noticeably absent from these three videos were Osama bin Laden and Adam Gadahn. Bin Laden, who has not been heard from since a May 18 audio message, is once again rumored to be dead. Gadahn may also be dead, according to rumors that he was killed in a January airstrike in Pakistan's North Waziristan agency in which senior al Qaeda military commander Abu Laith al-Libi was killed. Gadahn, who has appeared in several al Qaeda video messages since emerging on the scene in 2004, has been conspicuously absent from the organization's propaganda since the January strike.

Typically, al Qaeda has been fairly forthcoming in "declaring the martyrdom" of fallen commanders like al-Libi. The death of a central figure such as bin Laden, however, could be seen as severely detrimental to the jihadist world's morale. Therefore, the group could be motivated to conceal his death. If bin Laden is still alive, however, we anticipate a message from him by the U.S. presidential elections Nov. 4, given his appearance before the 2004 presidential elections.

It would be somewhat out of character, however, for al Qaeda to avoid publicizing the death of a lesser figure such as Gadahn. With all the rumors circulating about jihadists seeking to use European-looking operatives in attacks against the West, one wonders if the silence regarding the American-born jihadist's fate is designed to keep U.S. authorities in suspense -- or if it is a real indication that Gadahn is alive and has left his post in the ideological battlespace in order to go operational on the physical battlefield.

Of course, the fate of these individuals, even a central figure such as bin Laden, is not nearly as important as the fate of the ideology. And we will continue to focus on the ideological battlefield for significant developments there.

One place that needs to be watched carefully is Pakistan, where events like the Red Mosque operation and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto have potentially sown the seeds for a ripe ideological harvest for both sides. It will be important to watch and see if the Marriott bombing will, as some claimed, prove to be a watershed event that marks a change in public opinion capable of rallying popular support against the jihadist ideology in Pakistan.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with
attribution to

Copyright 2008 Stratfor.

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Check out the Stratfor website – good stuff..

Charles M. Grist