Thursday, September 9, 2010


Are the Taliban a resistance movement or what ? There have been many debates and publications on this subject and today I came across this interesting article by W. J. Ford in the International Review the Red Cross in 1967. Here is the link:

14. Practice of War
A number of instances will now be given to show the status accorded to persons taking part in fighting without being members of the regular forces.
The Boer War (1899-1902) 2
In this war the British troops found themselves confronted with Boers who had united to form commandos. They were under the command of persons appointed by the government; some of them wore uniforms and they carried their arms openly. According to Spaight the Boers observed the rules of the law of war. From reports, both from the British and from the Boers, it may be deduced that the Boers were treated as prisoners of war, provided they were captured before the British proclaimed that they had annexed the Boer Republics. The British authorities took the view that after the annexation the belligerents could no longer be regarded as regular combatants but only as rebels. Theoretically, this point of view was correct but it is doubtful whether the actual
1 Continued from our October issue.
• J. M. Spaight, War Rights on Land, 1911.
situation warranted the annexation. At the moment annexation was proclaimed there was no peace treaty in which annexation had been agreed upon. Nor were the facts such as to warrant the unilateral British proclamation.
The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) 1
Both parties reported incidents which were judged under the provisions of Articles 1 and 2 of the Hague Regulations. In one case the Japanese court martial refused to recognize the right of prisoners to invoke Article 2 of the Hague Regulations, because it felt that the prisoners concerned could not be regarded as patriotic citizens, since they were convicts. The court ruled that such persons could not be expected to observe the law of war. Against this it may be argued that there is no rule depriving members of resistance movements of the status of privileged combatants because they have been convicted by a national court.
World JVar 1
In 1915 the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a report on the manner in which the Belgian population had resisted the German forces. 2 It was particularly the operations of the , garde civique ' that were considered to be unlawful. The Germans considered that Article 1 was not applicable, since the resistance fighters had not been placed under the command of a person who was responsible for his subordinates. Moreover, they did not wear any distinguishing mark. According to the German report, Article 2, could not be invoked either, since this Article recognizes a levy en masse only in non-occupied territory. This line of reasoning condemned
the resistance in towns like Aerschot, Andenne and Louvain.
In 1916 Belgium officially responded to the German publication
3. According to the Belgian authorities a distinction should be made between the garde civique active and the garde civique
1 Nagao Ariga, La guerre Russo-Japonaise au point de vue continental et Ie droit international d'apres les documents officiels du grand Etat-major japonais, 1908.
2 Die volkerrechtswidrige FilhrulIg des belgischen Volkskl'iegs.
3 Reply to the German White Book of May 10, 1915 .. Die volkerrechtswidrige Fuhrung des belgischen Volkskriegs", 1916.
non active. The former were regarded as constituting an armed force. The latter had to be regarded as militias who could be-and were---called up by Royal Decree. Members of the garde civique non active had to subject themselves to the rules of Article 1 of the Hague Regulations. Although the garde civique non active were originally intended to playa part in the defence of national indepedence,
their eventual task amounted to little more than policing the non-occupied part of the country. Since the garde civique non active were no Jonger regarded as militias it was no longer necessary for them to comply with the requirements of Article 1 of the Hague Regulations.
World War II
France. -In the course of 1943 the Forces fran~aises de l'interieur
(F.F.I.) were organized in such a way that they were ready to carry out strategic duties. In its ordinance of 9 June 1944 the Comite fran~ais de la Liberation nationale defines the F.F.I. in the following manner:
Les forces fran~aises de l'interieur {( F.F.I. », sont constituees par J'ensemble des unites combattantes ou de leurs services qui prennent part a la lutte contre l'ennemi sur Ie territoire metropolitain, dont l'organisation est reconnue par Ie Gouvernement,
et qui servent sous les ordres de chefs reconnus par lui comme responsables. Ces forces armees font partie integrante de l'armee fran~aise et beneficient de tous les droits et avalltages reconnus aux militaires par les lois en vigueur. Elles repondent aux conditions generales fixees par Ie reglement annexe a la convention de la Haye du 18 octobre 1907 concernant les lois et coutumes de la guerre sur terre.
The German military authorities stated in a proclamation that captured members of the F.F.I. would be executed in accordance with the rules of military criminal law. The provisional government of the French Republic pointed out that Article I of the Hague Regulations of 1907 were being observed and that captured members
of the F.F.!. would therefore have to be treated as prisoners of war. General Einsenhower decreed:
"1. The French Forces of the Interior constitute a combatant force commanded and directed by General Koenig, and form an integral part of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
2. The French Forces of the Interior in the maquis bear arms openly against the enemy and are instructed to conduct their operations against him in accordance with the rules of war. They are provided with a distinctive emblem and are regarded by General Eisenhower as an army under his command."
The ICRC intervened1 and the German authorities declared orally that members of th~ EF.1. would be treated as prisoners of war. This oral declaration was never confirmed in writing.
Italy. -After the armistice of September 1943 groups of partisans
sprang up in Northern Italy. They took up arms against the Germans. The ICRC tried to induce the German authorities to regard captured partisans as prisoners of war, but their attempts failed.
Netherlands. -The resistance undertaken in the Netherlands was unique. Fighting against the Germans was restricted to smallscale
skirmishes like in Belgium. In addition the underground resistance movement performed acts of sabotage. The legal status of the underground army, the Forces of the Interior, was established on 5 September 1944 (Royal Decree). The Decree ruled that every one actively engaged in repelling the enemy was from then on a member of the Royal Netherlands Army. This decision removed any uncertainty as to the status of the persons concerned under the law of war.
Poland and Slovakia. -In October 1944 the German authorities declared that captured members of the Polish underground army would be treated as prisoners of war.! Under the provisions of the Warsaw capitulation agreement, captured Polish partisans were regarded as prisoners of war: they were subject to the 1929 Red Cross Convention. (cf. Schmid)
1 Schmid, Die volkerrechtliche Stellung del' Partisanen im Kl'iege, 1956.
Slovak partisans were treated differently. It was decided that the 1929 Red Cross Convention did not apply to them and when captured they were not regarded as prisoners of war but were deported to Germany.
U.S.S.R. -Russian partisans did not wear any definite uniforms.!
Those who had been in the army wore their old uniforms or parts of them. According to a political commissar assigned to a partisan unit the partisans were members of the Red Army. They were instructed to operate in the rear of the enemy.
Trainin asserts that Soviet warfare was not a private affair of volunteers.2 According to Trainin the population, which belonged either to the regular army or to partisan units, used all the defensive and offensive methods in defending their country. The Russian author goes on to say that this emphasized the fact that the struggle against fascism was a people's war. Therefore the leaders of resistance
groups subordinated their operations to those of the Red Army, Soviet Russia's main military machine. They were accountable
to the people, i.e. to the Red Army and its General Staff. Trainin emphasizes the fact that the orders of the highest commander,
field-marshal Stalin, were directed not only to the Red Army but also to the men and women fighting in the partisan units.
Yugoslavia. -The struggle carried on in the Balkans by the partisans partook of the nature of military operations. The centre of Yugoslav resistance was in Serbia. The resistance fighters carried out surprise raids on the German occupation forces to capture arms, food and clothing. There was no uniformity whatsoever in the way the partisans dressed. A newcomer was instantly recognizable as such because his clothes marked him as a farmer or as a townsman.
But after a few weeks he was wearing a German fatigue cap or an Italian tunic. However, they all wore the Red Star on their fatigue caps. By 1943 their number had increased to 250,000. The German and affiliated forces undertook seven large-scale offensives against the Yugoslav partisans in all. The fifth was carried out in
1 S. A. Kovpak, Les partisans sovietiques, 1945.
• I. P. Trainin, " Questions of guerilla warfare in the law of war ", Am. Journal 0/ Int. Law, Vol. 40, 1946.
the latter half of May and in the first few days of June 1943. During
this offensive General Kuebler, commander of the German 118th
division, issued an order that every partisan taken prisoner was to be
shot immediately and that all wells be poisoned. According to
Marshal Tito, leader of the partisans, wounded partisans were
mercilessly killed.
It may be gathered from the foregoing that the fighting of the
partisans was not as a rule limited to incidental resistance operations.
More often than not their resistance consisted of large-scale,
well-organized operations carried out by disciplined combatants.
This should have induced the Germans to control themselves when
dealing with captured partisans. Instead prisoners were shot. There
is no evidence that captured partisans were tried and granted all
the rights essential to the proper administration of justice.
15. Practice in armed conflicts not of an international character
The subject of the preceding chapter was the status of combatants
not belonging to regular armies in international conflicts. The present chapter deals with the status to be accorded to combatants
in armed conflicts not of an international character.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
The fact that the conflict was essentially a civil war made the parties to the conflict decide not to apply the law of war. Siotis reports that hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers were killed and executed.1 Hostages were shot and women and children were not spared. The parties to the conflict treated one another as murderers. The insurgents were not accorded the status of belligerents,
because the government feared that by doing so they would weaken the position of the Spanish Republic. People may wonder whether the position of the Spanish Republic was really at stake and whether it would not have been better to recognize the rebels as belligerents, because it would probably have had a moderating effect on the fighting, which went far beyond local disturbances. This
1 Jean Siotis, Le droit de fa guerre et les conj!its armes d'un caraetere 1I0ninternational.
alternative would have been all the more apposite, since the position of the Spanish Republic would not have suffered if its opponents had been accorded the status of belligerents. Had been possible to grant the insurgents the minimum rights provided for in Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, it is reasonable to assume that many lives would have been saved on both sides.
The Greek Civil War (1946-1949)
According to Siotis the law of war was completely ignored during the conflict in Greece. Aiding the insurgents was a crime punishable by death. Insurgents captured with weapons in their hands were brought up before a court martial. Most of them were sentenced to death. Prisoners who refused to join the insurgents met with the same fate. The ICRC attempted to mitigate the conflict by invoking the resolution of the Preparatory Conference of Red Cross Societies of 1946. In this resolution it was suggested thatinthe case ofanarmedconflict notofaninternationalcharacter the convention be equally applied by each of the parties unless one of them explicitly refused to do so. According to Siotis, the Greek Government argued that the conflict was not a civil war. The ICRC persisted in its view and by its tenacity succeeded in securing
certain results. The Greek Government allowed the Committee to do its humanitarian work for the Greek people, which actually took the form of aid to the Hellenic Red Cross Society. The JCRe launched a large-scale drive to help people taken prisoner by Government
troops. Attempts to organize similar activities among the insurgents failed, their leader claiming that war time conditions prevented him from getting into contact with the ICRC direct.
Vietnam (1946-1954)
In spite of the fact that Vietnam was " un Etat libre ayant son gouvernement, son parlement, son armee et ses finances" the conflict was regarded as an " armed conflict not of an international character" because Vietnam was not an independent state in the international intercourse of states. France prevented Vietnam from having contact with other powers. According to Siotis the parties to the conflict seem to have been prepared, at all events initially,
to apply the rules of the law of war. But this gradually faded when it became apparent that it was impossible to reach a compromise. The ICRC could not properly perform its duties, such as visiting and exchanging prisoners, because of material and other difficulties. Although the conflict was regarded as an armed conflict not of an international character, the French authorities felt that it did not fall entirely outside the scope of the rules of international law.
Guatemala (1954)
An international struggle broke out in Guatemala in 1954. Right from the beginning the extent of the conflict was such as to make the Red Cross Society of Guatemala accept intervention by the ICRC. This intervention consisted mainly of activities after the short-lived conflict proper had come to an end. They included visits to prisons and the submission of a report on these visits to the Minister of the Interior of Guatemala. This procedure constituted a precedent for intervention by the ICRC during and after hostilities.
At first the Algerian conflict was just a matter of maintaining public order but soon its scope widened, so that the regular French army began to take part in the fighting. The result was that measures
based on criminal law no longer sufficed and that the conflict developed into an armed conflict not of an international character to which Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions was applicable. The French Government recognized this development and, according
to Siotis, the Algerian nationalists, too, declared that they intended to apply the Geneva Conventions. This meant that both parties had pronounced themselves in favour of applying Article 3 to this armed conflict not of an international character.
But Siotis reports that in actual practice things left much to be desired. The two parties committed many acts that were contrary to the humanitarian principles on which Article 3 was based. But the two parties repeatedly urged the persons concerned to observe the provisions of Article 3. The violations of Article 3 caused Siotis to state that the new rules of conventional law contained in this article
were "en derniere analyse" not regarded as having obligatory force. This standpoint does not seem very satisfactory as the obligatory force of legal provisions does not depend on the number of times these provisions are violated. The competent authorities that accept the rules contained in Article 3 may be expected to be able to ensure their practical application and enforcement, which may be interpreted as proof of discipline and organisational maturity.
The rules of Article 3 are of considerable importance in the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, because the national legislations, which are adapted to normal conditions, may prove to be inadequate in the event of internal disturbances, so the possibility of excesses must not be ruled out.
(To be continued).
Dr. W. J. FORD


I received this very interesting article written by George Friedman which I post below. Food for thought ?

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war -- and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

At the root of all of this was a profound lack of understanding of al Qaeda, particularly its capabilities and intentions. Since we did not know what was possible, our only prudent course was to prepare for the worst. That is what the Bush administration did. Nothing symbolized this more than the fear that al Qaeda had acquired nuclear weapons and that they would use them against the United States. The evidence was minimal, but the consequences would be overwhelming. Bush crafted a strategy based on the worst-case scenario.

Bush was the victim of a decade of failure in the intelligence community to understand what al Qaeda was and wasn't. I am not merely talking about the failure to predict the 9/11 attack. Regardless of assertions afterwards, the intelligence community provided only vague warnings that lacked the kind of specificity that makes for actionable intelligence. To a certain degree, this is understandable. Al Qaeda learned from Soviet, Saudi, Pakistani and American intelligence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and knew how to launch attacks without tipping off the target. The greatest failure of American intelligence was not the lack of a clear warning about 9/11 but the lack, on Sept. 12, of a clear picture of al Qaeda's global structure, capabilities, weaknesses and intentions. Without such information, implementing U.S. policy was like piloting an airplane with faulty instruments in a snowstorm at night.

The president had to do three things: First, he had to assure the public that he knew what he was doing. Second, he had to do something that appeared decisive. Third, he had to gear up an intelligence and security apparatus to tell him what the threats actually were and what he ought to do. American policy became ready, fire, aim.

In looking back at the past nine years, two conclusions can be drawn: There were no more large-scale attacks on the United States by militant Islamists, and the United States was left with the legacy of responses that took place in the first two years after 9/11. This legacy is no longer useful, if it ever was, to the primary mission of defeating al Qaeda, and it represents an effort that is retrospectively out of proportion to the threat.

If I had been told on Sept.12, 2001, that the attack the day before would be the last major attack for at least nine years, I would not have believed it. In looking at the complexity of the security and execution of the 9/11 attack, I would have assumed that an organization capable of acting once in such a way could act again even more effectively. My assumption was wrong. Al Qaeda did not have the resources to mount other operations, and the U.S. response, in many ways clumsy and misguided and in other ways clever and targeted, disrupted any preparations in which al Qaeda might have been engaged to conduct follow-on attacks.

Knowing that about al Qaeda in 2001 was impossible. Knowing which operations were helpful in the effort to block them was impossible, in the context of what Americans knew in the first years after the war began. Therefore, Washington wound up in the contradictory situation in which American military and covert operations surged while new attacks failed to materialize. This created a massive political problem. Rather than appearing to be the cause for the lack of attacks, U.S. military operations were perceived by many as being unnecessary or actually increasing the threat of attack. Even in hindsight, aligning U.S. actions with the apparent outcome is difficult and controversial. But still we know two things: It has been nine years since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war goes on.

What happened was that an act of terrorism was allowed to redefine U.S. grand strategy. The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British strategy in Europe -- maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining the balance of power in Europe protected any one power from emerging that could unite Europe and build a fleet to invade the United Kingdom or block its access to its empire. British strategy was to help create coalitions to block emerging hegemons such as Spain, France or Germany. Using overt and covert means, the United Kingdom aimed to ensure that no hegemonic power could emerge.

The Americans inherited that grand strategy from the British but elevated it to a global rather than regional level. Having blocked the Soviet Union from hegemony over Europe and Asia, the United States proceeded with a strategy whose goal, like that of the United Kingdom, was to nip potential regional hegemons in the bud. The U.S. war with Iraq in 1990-91 and the war with Serbia/Yugoslavia in 1999 were examples of this strategy. It involved coalition warfare, shifting America's weight from side to side and using minimal force to disrupt the plans of regional aspirants to gain power. This U.S. strategy also was cloaked in the ideology of global liberalism and human rights.

The key to this strategy was its global nature. The emergence of a hegemonic contender that could challenge the United States globally, as the Soviet Union had done, was the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the containment of emerging powers wherever they might emerge was the centerpiece of American balance-of-power strategy.

The most significant effect of 9/11 was that it knocked the United States off its strategy. Rather than adapting its standing global strategy to better address the counterterrorism issue, the United States became obsessed with a single region, the area between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. Within that region, the United States operated with a balance-of-power strategy. It played off all of the nations in the region against each other. It did the same with ethnic and religious groups throughout the region and particularly within Iraq and Afghanistan, the main theaters of the war. In both cases, the United States sought to take advantage of internal divisions, shifting its support in various directions to create a balance of power. That, in the end, was what the surge strategy was all about.

The American obsession with this region in the wake of 9/11 is understandable. Nine years later, with no clear end in sight, the question is whether this continued focus is strategically rational for the United States. Given the uncertainties of the first few years, obsession and uncertainty are understandable, but as a long-term U.S. strategy -- the long war that the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing for -- it leaves the rest of the world uncovered.

Consider that the Russians have used the American absorption in this region as a window of opportunity to work to reconstruct their geopolitical position. When Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008, an American ally, the United States did not have the forces with which to make a prudent intervention. Similarly, the Chinese have had a degree of freedom of action they could not have expected to enjoy prior to 9/11. The single most important result of 9/11 was that it shifted the United States from a global stance to a regional one, allowing other powers to take advantage of this focus to create significant potential challenges to the United States.

One can make the case, as I have, that whatever the origin of the Iraq war, remaining in Iraq to contain Iran is necessary. It is difficult to make a similar case for Afghanistan. Its strategic interest to the United States is minimal. The only justification for the war is that al Qaeda launched its attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. But that justification is no longer valid. Al Qaeda can launch attacks from Yemen or other countries. The fact that Afghanistan was the base from which the attacks were launched does not mean that al Qaeda depends on Afghanistan to launch attacks. And given that the apex leadership of al Qaeda has not launched attacks in a while, the question is whether al Qaeda is capable of launching such attacks any longer. In any case, managing al Qaeda today does not require nation building in Afghanistan.

But let me state a more radical thesis: The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States. Let me push it further: The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States. Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attack. That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy. Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it. But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world's only global power cannot be captive to this single threat.

The initial response was understandable and necessary. The United States must continue its intelligence gathering and covert operations against militant Islamists throughout the world. The intelligence failures of the 1990s must not be repeated. But waging a multi-divisional war in Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. The balance-of-power strategy must be used. Pakistan will intervene and discover the Russians and Iranians. The great game will continue. As for Iran, regional counters must be supported at limited cost to the United States. The United States should not be patrolling the far reaches of the region. It should be supporting a balance of power among the native powers of the region.

The United States is a global power and, as such, it must have a global view. It has interests and challenges beyond this region and certainly beyond Afghanistan. The issue there is not whether the United States can or can't win, however that is defined. The issue is whether it is worth the effort considering what is going on in the rest of the world. Gen. David Petraeus cast the war in terms of whether the United States can win it. That's reasonable; he's the commander. But American strategy has to ask another question: What does the United States lose elsewhere while it focuses on the future of Kandahar?

The 9/11 attack shocked the United States and made counterterrorism the centerpiece of American foreign policy. That is too narrow a basis on which to base U.S. foreign policy. It is certainly an important strand of that policy, and it must be addressed, but it should be addressed through the regional balance of power. It is the good fortune of the United States that the Islamic world is torn by internal rivalries.

This is not dismissing the threat of terror. It is recognizing that the United States has done well in suppressing it over the past nine years but at a cost in other regions, a cost that can't be sustained indefinitely and a cost that could well result in challenges more threatening than a rising Islamist militancy. The United States must now settle into a long-term strategy of managing terrorism as best as it can while not neglecting the rest of its interests.

After nine years, the issue is not what to do in Afghanistan but how the global power can return to managing all of its global interests, along with the war on al Qaeda.

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

Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mullah Omar says Afghan Taliban close to victory

I woke up this morning and the first article I read was about Mullah Omar
saying the Afghan Taliban are close to victory. Mullah Omar says his fighters are winning the war in Afghanistan and that the Nato-led campaign has been "a complete failure". I find this hard to believe although one has to acknowledge the Talibans are growing in number and achieving small victories here and there. Soldiers defending their own country always have a huge advantage, and add the religious fervour they have, one has to take Omar's statement seriously.

In a rare statement, the shadowy leader called on US President Barack Obama to withdraw his troops "unconditionally and as soon as possible".

Nato has boosted its presence in Afghanistan to 150,000 soldiers in a bid to finally defeat militants.

Mullah Omar's statement, which marked the end of the Muslim festival of Ramadan, was posted on jihadist websites and relayed by the Site Intelligence Group.

"The victory of our Islamic nation over the invading infidels is now imminent and the driving force behind this is the belief in the help of Allah and unity among ourselves," he said.

"In the time to come, we will try to establish an Islamic, independent, perfect and strong system."

He claimed that those behind the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan which overthrew the Taliban "admit themselves that all their strategies are nothing but a complete failure".

He also commanded his fighters to observe the Taliban's code of conduct and avoid harming civilians.

Spiritual head

Mullah Omar is still considered the spiritual head of the Taliban in Afghanistan, although others are believed to be in day-to-day command of the hardline movement.

President Obama ordered a further 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan last December following a review of the war.

Gen David Petraeus, who commands US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said last month he saw "areas of progress" in the war and that momentum by the militants had been checked in their strongholds of Kandahar and Helmand.

He has made winning civilian hearts and minds a key part of his strategy to defeat the Taliban.

However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that civilian casualties were undermining the counter-insurgency in his country.

He also said that US plans to begin withdrawing troops next year have given the Taliban "a morale boost".