The Next Stage of Permanent War: Edit
We have moved beyond the need of an attack of the caliber of 9/11 to provoke a response like the War on Terror, all that is necessary now is simply an attack on 9/11. The attack on the CIA safe house in Benghazi, Libya has become the gateway to the next stage of permanent war. Now with the specter of our de facto perma-foe al-Qaeda haunting the region and spreading in northern Africa, we can not be anything but compelled to exorcise them. However, the substance of this next stage is radically different than the previous campaigns of invasion and occupation. The concept of elite, highly mobile, paramilitary forces hunting terrorists rather than units from large land armies occupying nations is not a new one according to a 2009 Los Angeles Times article:
The secret CIA program halted last month by Director Leon E. Panetta involved establishing elite paramilitary teams that could be inserted into Pakistan or other locations to capture or kill top leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, according to former U.S. intelligence officials.
The program — launched in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — was never operational. But officials said that as recently as a year ago CIA executives discussed plans to deploy teams to test basic capabilities, including whether they could enter hostile territory and maneuver undetected, as well as gather intelligence and track high-value targets.
The initiative evolved through multiple iterations, and was close to being scrapped several times as CIA officials struggled to find solutions to daunting logistical challenges. But even as the Predator drone emerged as a potent new weapon against Al Qaeda, CIA officials continued to pursue the secret program as an additional lethal option.
“You always want to have capacity because you cannot predict opportunities,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with extensive knowledge of the program.
With the emergence of the Predator, the official said, “we still wanted to explore having that capacity, but there wasn’t the same sense of urgency that may have existed before.”
Four years later and after a round of departmental musical chairs, President Obama has implemented the blueprint left to him by his predecessor, resulting in the killing of Osama bin Laden, other assassinations, war crimes, and a campaign of secret wars in at least 120 countries. Now with recent news of the CIA seeking to expand its drone fleet and US special forces and drones on standby to retaliate against al-Qaeda and associated forces, it seems that AFRICOM got its wish, albeit a year later:
The commander of U.S. troops in Africa said he wants more special operations forces to handle a growing demand for counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and to help build up Africa’s own militaries.
“I’d like more special operations forces now,” said Army Gen. Carter Ham [x], commander of U.S. Africa Command, at a defense writer’s breakfast Wednesday in Washington.
Ham said he expects to see incremental increases in the numbers of U.S. special operations forces in Africa over the next couple of years, but doesn’t expect to see a large-scale change until the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan after 2014.
The AFRICOM commander said North Africa’s three main terrorist groups — Al-Shabab, in East Africa; al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM; and Nigeria-based Boko Harem — are showing increased signs of collaboration in training and operations. Each group, he said, is a significant security threat to the United States because they have publicly voiced intent to target the U.S. and are gaining capacity to attack U.S. interests.
Now that the CIA, AFRICOM (who commanded its first war in Libya last year), and the DEA (yes, that DEA) are pivoting and focusing more on Africa, it is becoming increasingly apparent as to what Africa is possibly becoming– a testing ground for the future of U.S. para/military forces. The militarization of the CIA through the appointment of General Petraeus to the top spot, the intelligencification of the Department of Defence under Leon Panetta, the expansion of signature strikes percolating the blurring of roles between the Agency and JSOC [x], and events taking shape now are simply baby steps towards a “globally integrated” force, detailed in a document recently released by Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey, that is to be functional by 2020:
The CCJO is an ambitious document intended to provide a “high-order vision of how the future force will operate.” Its central theme is “globally integrated operations.” According to this idea, the U.S. military must learn to “quickly combine capabilities with itself and mission partners across domains, echelons, geographic boundaries and organizational affiliations.” As threats and challenges emerge, networks of U.S. and partner forces will fluidly “form, evolve, dissolve and reform.”
Looking past the convoluted prose, these are important ideas that commit the U.S. military to move beyond its cumbersome, rigid and bureaucratic mindset by mirroring organizational changes sweeping the private sector. The military must do so in order to master the exploding complexity and interconnectedness of the global security environment. Future conflict, according to the CCJO, will involve more than just traditional armed forces as a wide range of nonstate organizations — including militias, private or corporate security forces, terrorists, insurgents and transnational criminal organizations — increasingly populate the battlefield. Because of the diffusion of technology, many of these nonstate actors will have advanced capabilities.
Future conflict will also be driven by “transnational dynamics,” with space and cyberspace becoming increasingly important domains. Because of social media, cell phones and video-sharing technology, future military operations will be broadcast live, allowing “much of the world to observe unfolding events in real time.” To be successful in this environment, the future U.S. military will increasingly use “low-signature or small-footprint” capabilities like special operations and global strike systems. It will also need “deep regional expertise” to function in diverse cultural settings.
The Obama administration has overseen a significant reshuffling of military and paramilitary assets over the last four years– moving pieces around the board to forge an arsenal of elite, nearly instantaneous, nearly ubiquitous strike forces spread across multiple departments and agencies and augmented by a fleet of drones. These forces can indefinitely detain or kill any human being on the planet- including Americans- anywhere on the planet- including on American soil- all at the discretion of the president thanks to precedent set by the Obama administration, sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, and the U.S. justice system. The Executive Branch has become the custodian of a unilateral permanent global war which can be waged on any citizen of the planet. Who Americans select as their next president will not only have the obvious traditional ramifications, such as Supreme Court nominations and the general direction of the country, but also will determine the direction of the next stage in permanent war.
(photo: Chicago Tribune)