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

Blood from Stones

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Dangerous Times in Colombia and Iraq
Among the most dangerous times in a counter-insurgency campaign, inherent in asymmetrical warfare, is when the insurgency is close to being defeated.

Desperate to remain relevant and to motivate its followers as the situation becomes more trying, the groups grasp for a spectacular action that will give it a new lease on life.

In both Iraq, where al Qaeda in Iraq
seems to be in deep trouble,
and in Colombia, where the FARC is on the ropes, public statements by officials give hints of a premature sense of triumph.

This lesson is not lost on some, including a senior intelligence official who told the Washington Post:

"I think it would be premature at this point," a senior intelligence official said of a victory declaration over AQI, as the group is known. Despite recent U.S. gains, he said, AQI retains "the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks."

That is not to deny significant progress has been made. Clearly AQI has suffered sharp defeats. The FARC has much of its senior leadership through death and desertion, and is clearly in its deepest crisis in decades.

One needs only look at the history of past groups that have been on the edge of extinction, only to escape and come back stronger-and more vicious-than ever.

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, is a case in point. Reduced to a few dozen ill-equipped combatants in the bush in the mid 1990s, having been pushed out of the diamond fields and under assault, the group was tied down to a small piece land on the Liberian border. But they were allowed to regroup, rearm, and wreak havoc.

The sense of danger faded and attention wandered, and the price was terrible. The same is true for countless other groups, including the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, Laurent Kabila's forces in Zaire (DRC now), and the FARC in its earliest days.

The FARC still has access to millions of dollars in drug money. AQI is not at a loss for would-be martyrs and deep-pocket donors to keep the war going.

Giving these groups a respite in the confidence that they have been seriously wounded is a potentially-fatal mistake. They need to remain relevant, and will use their diminishing resources produce the most spectacular results. That is why it is imperative to continue the sometimes-boring but necessary systematic work of following up every lead and continuing the pressure as if our lives depend on it. Because they likely do.

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