Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Morphing War Against Al Qaeda in Iraq
One of the fundamental truths of dealing with networks, terrorist or otherwise, is that they will morph quickly to survive and adapt as the environment around them changes.

This seems to be the case in Iraq, where, as we know from captured documents that al Qaeda linked groups there have been badly hurt in recent months.

The strategy may now be to move outside Iraq and wage a different type of war from surrounding countries.

The indicators, as outlined by Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, are leaders leaving with cash and seeking refuge outside of areas of intense U.S. pressure.

If anyone remembers the drug wars in the Andes in the 1980s and 1990s (which I covered intensely for more than a decade), one will remember the great joy at the felling of the individual cartel leaders (Rodriguez Gacha, Pablo Escobar, the arrest of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers etc.), and the inevitable statements that these actions would have a significant impact on the amount of cocaine entering the United States.

Of course, the flow of cocaine was never dented at all. The organizations simply regrouped, decentralized, became much more difficult to attack frontally, and business went on.

The point is that, while there seems to be little doubt that the al Qaeda-linked groups in Iraq are hurt, the next iteration of the groups may make them even harder to get at.

We seldom think down the road or red team scenarios adequately to be able to predict what a network will morph into when under extreme duress. Often, because we view success as a one-time achievement rather than an ongoing process that needs to constantly be redefined and reassessed, when one outcome is achieved, we view the conflict as having been won.

However, in conflicts where small numbers of people, not only willing but seeking to kill themselves for the cause, are able to wreak havoc, success will never be fully achieved.

Predictive capacity as to where they will land, how they will regroup in the face of what they now know their weaknesses to be and how that will affect their operational capacities, are all vital questions.

The military leadership in Iraq has shown a high level of adaptability in recent times. It is imperative that the flexible mind set predominate.

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