The Maskirovka Slips XIII: A Few Thoughts

In the comments to the Maskirovka Slips XI post, PJ wrote:

Even a Putin critic like Masha Gessen has claimed that Russophobia is behind the allegations connecting Trump with the Russians, and that there’s nothing to see here, folks.

This is a good point to raise and something to keep in mind as everything continues to play out. My guess is that PJ was referencing this article by Gessen at The NY Review of Books. Gessen’s essential thesis is that:

Russia has become the universal rhetorical weapon of American politics. Calls for the release of Trump’s tax returns—which the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) hopes to have subpoenaed as a result of its lawsuit alleging the violation of the Emoluments Clause—are now framed in terms of the need to reveal Trump’s financial ties to Russia. And the president himself is recapturing the campaign debate’s “No, you are the puppet” moment on Twitter, trying to smear Democratic politicians Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi with Russia.

The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. If that happens, it will have resulted largely from a media campaign orchestrated by members of the intelligence community—setting a dangerous political precedent that will have corrupted the public sphere and promoted paranoia. And that is the best-case outcome.

And that this almost unrelenting focus is obscuring equally, if not more important matters:

Imagine if the same kind of attention could be trained and sustained on other issues—like it has been on the Muslim travel ban. It would not get rid of Trump, but it might mitigate the damage he is causing. Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.

Gessen has likely forgotten more about Putin and how he operates than most people will ever know, and I doubt she’s forgotten much if anything. And her concerns and caveats are important to keep in mind going forward. However, I think her concerns, as rooted in her excellent column on autocracy from November 2016, are also missing something: the overwhelming, open source reporting and documentation about the connection between the President, his business the Trump Organization, his children, and both senior and peripheral members of his campaign, his transition, and now his Administration with Russian government officials, Russians connected to Russian Intelligence – formally and informally, Russian oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian Oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin, and people – Russian and non-Russian tied to Russian organized crime.

As I’ve been stating here, and Malcolm Nance has been tweeting and stating on a variety of news platforms:

And, to quote Ian Fleming, as many have:

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action.

As Evan McMullin tweeted:

While I think it is important to keep Gessen’s concerns in mind, we have significant amounts of circumstantial evidence as a result of open source reporting and documentation. What we don’t have, what we don’t really know, is what the material that the Interagency Counterintelligence (CI) Task Force investigating all of this has. And here, I think, is where some of Gessen’s concerns begin to break down: a lot of the leaking hasn’t been anything that wasn’t either already known in the open source reporting and documentation for those that knew where to look or were looking and/or were intended as warning shots across various people’s bows. For instance, the leaks about Attorney General Sessions were the latter. They were intended to put him on notice that if he tried to muck about with the CI investigation the next shot wouldn’t be for range, it would be for effect. And to his credit, AG Sessions was smart enough to recognize this and recused himself.

As I’ve written here before, several times:

As a national security professional, what I would like to see is the President-elect address the now long standing and ongoing allegations regarding his connection to Russia. If the allegations are spurious, as he and his team have claimed every time they’ve come up, or if there is a straightforward and simple explanation that can be made, he needs to make it. I think a lot of the foreign, defense, and national security policy concerns that many across the political spectrum have with the President-elect’s longstanding policy preferences dating back to 1987 arise from all of the smoke around the claims of Russian connections and interference for Russia’s, not the US’s, not the President-elect’s, interests.

The sooner the President-elect and his team can either provide evidence for why the allegations and rumors are spurious or provide a simple and straightforward explanation for the seeming preference for Russia and the abandonment of the post WW II and post Cold War international order the better.

Unfortunately we’ve reached a point where I’m not sure a straightforward and simple explanation can be made. The circumstantial evidence we’re all able to review from the open source reporting and documentation seems to have obliterated that possibility. Yesterday several of the surviving members of the investigative reporting team that included the late Wayne Barrett provided even greater details and granularity into the Trump Organizations connections to Russian organized crime via Felix Sater and Sater’s ties to the Department of Justice and the FBI, specifically the New York Field Office. Today WNYC reported on some of Paul Manafort’s real estate transactions that appear to follow the same patterns as those done to launder money. These stories broke almost at the same time as Richard Engel’s reporting on Manafort’s financial dealings in Cyprus, USA Today‘s reporting on the Trump Organizations alleged ties to Russian and other state’s organized crime,* The New Yorker‘s multiple reports, and Michael Issikoff’s reporting on the ongoing mess that Congressman Nunes’ actions and statements have made of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This includes functionally shutting the committee down so that the House of Representatives no longer conducts oversight of the US Intelligence Community given that all future business of the committee has now been postponed indefinitely.

For those of us that have been following these things for a while, a lot of this wasn’t new, surprising, or both. And that’s really why I think Gessen’s caveats and concerns are important to keep in mind, but that she is also missing the forest for the trees. There is just too much coincidence here. The US Intelligence Community does not form Interagency Counterintelligence investigations willy nilly. Nor do judges approve FISA warrants for spurious or frivolous reasons. I honestly have no idea where all this will lead. And I do agree with Gessen and others that even if these investigations ultimately demonstrate actual connections and collusions between the President’s campaign and the Russians which given how things have been intertwined under Putin basically includes the Russian government, Russian intelligence, Russian oligarchs, and Russian organized crime, we may not see the resolution that many are hoping for. These connections are all linked together, which also makes unravelling this ball of yarn difficult. Part of the problem going forward is exactly why we have been in a Constitutional crisis for months. It is unclear which, if any, of the institutional protections and remedies that the Constitution delineates actually could be used to resolve what we have been watching slowly unfold since last Summer when the leaks of hacked DNC, DSCC, DCC, and John Podesta emails began to trickle out. If there is nothing to see here, as Gessen attests, then there certainly is a whole lot of a very specific type of nothing** all around the President, his family, his business, his campaign, his transition, and his Administration.

* The Who, What, Why?USA Today, and WYNC reporting are not actually breaking news. They do provide substantially more details about things that have been previously reported, documented, and/or known.

** And this nothing doesn’t even get into financial ties between the President and PRC state owned banks, which are facially violations of the emoluments clause as a result of the President’s failure to properly and fully divest from his business.



Open Thread: Trump & Russia – Fair Summary, So Far?



The Dearth of Expertise: My Concerns with the Recent Actions by the North Korean Government

The Kim government’s recent activities – increasing missile testing, increasing the developmental process for assembling, fielding, and potentially deploying a nuclear weapon has most people concerned. As has the recent, official US statements in regard to these actions. At Foxtrot Alpha, Terrell Jermaine Starr makes an excellent argument for why there is no good military option for dealing with the Kim government’s recent actions. Starr specifically references an excellent post at Lawfare by Jacob Stokes and Alexander Sullivan. Stokes and Sullivan make very well thought out points- about how the US should engage with China in regard to this problem set.

And here’s where we get to the real problem and my real concern: we have precious few actual subject matter experts regarding North Korea. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: the Kim family has kept North Korea essentially closed to everyone and everything outside of North Korea while at the same time heavily indoctrinating their own population. A population that is, by the measures we’re aware of, is incredibly impoverished. There are a few Americans that have gotten permission to spend extended periods in North Korea. Two of them have written books/parts of books about this, which are, of course, partially opposed to the other’s theses (h/t: The XX Committee). And there are also defectors to South Korea and other East Asian states. And, of course, the South Koreans have a significant portion of their Intelligence Community focused on their northern neighbor.

But, the real problem here is that we don’t have the ability to know about North Korea the way we do other places. Even when Iran and Cuba were under full US sanctions, we still had some Americans, as well as citizens of other countries traveling to them. Despite the sanctions both countries tried to be engaged with the rest of the world, albeit on their own terms As a result people did advanced academic/scholarly study of both countries, their politics, culture, religion, economics, etc. And because the leadership of each country had not tried to establish complete isolation from the outside world, subject matter expertise, from many different disciplines and approaches, and from many different people in different places developed.

This dearth of expertise – the lack of a significant number of professionals with deep subject matter expertise into the politics, culture, religion/spirituality, economics, kinship dynamics, etc – in regard to North Korea is a significant shortfall that the US, its allies, and partners will have to overcome in regard to adapting existing and developing new policies and strategies, and the contingency planning in regard to the Kim government’s actions. Moreover, this dearth of expertise is, right now, compounded by the new Administration’s falling behind in staffing the critical political appointments at our National Security departments, agencies, and offices. And the folks that are in place holding stopgap positions, and some who are in more permanent ones, do not exactly inspire confidence that they actually have the credentials, knowledge, skills, abilities, and expertise to help overcome this low information gap.

Trying to work through the North Korean problem set of the Kim family government is, itself, a wicked problem. This dearth of expertise comes at a particularly bad time for the US as we’ve moved into what Tom Nichols*, Professor of National Security Affairs at US Naval War College, calls the death of expertise. The Death of Expertise, is, in fact, the title of Nichol’s recent book. And we can see, in the North Korean problem set, the combination of both dearth and depth. For instance, should the US, its allies, and its partners, most likely working in conjunction with the People’s Republic of China, have to respond with military power to either a military provocation ordered by the Kim government or using all elements of National power (diplomatic, information, military, and economic/DIME) to a humanitarian crisis the lack of significant subject matter expertise in regard to North Korea combined with what seems to be key, senior officials’ within the new Administration antagonism towards expertise will make an effective response very difficult to almost impossible.

Lets just take one, technical military concern. And it would be a concern for both a military intervention and a whole of government approach, utilizing all elements of National power response, to a humanitarian crisis: setting the theater. Setting the theater is an Army doctrinal term defined in ADRP 4-0 as:

… all activities directed at establishing favorable conditions for conducting military operations in the theater, generally driven by the support requirements of specific operation plans and other requirements established in the geographic combatant commander’s (GCC) theater campaign plan. Setting the theater includes whole-of-government initiatives such as bilateral or multilateral diplomatic agreements to allow U.S. forces to have access to ports, terminals, airfields, and bases within the area of responsibility (AOR) to support future military contingency operations. Setting the joint operations area (JOA) includes activities such as theater opening, establishing port and terminal operations, conducting reception, staging, onward movement, and integration, force modernization and theater-specific training, and providing Army support to other Services and common-user logistics to Army, joint, and multinational forces operating in the JOA (FM 3-93).

After over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan we now know, though current doctrine does not reflect it, that there are some other important things to consider when setting the theater. Specifically the broadly defined socio-cultural* context of the host country population among whom we will be operating – regardless of type of operation. Given the dearth of expertise about North Korean society, culture, religion, politics – other than what little we know of the Kim family, their retainers, and their understanding of government and governance, economics, etc we have significant gaps in the contextual knowledge we need to properly set the theater. For instance, if Myers is correct that the Kim family and their retainers have heavily propagandized the North Korean population for going on four or five generations, then simply being concerned with where to put phase lines and base troops and establish MSRs and logistics routes and/or emplace artillery is going to be insufficient as we will be operating among a population that has been acculturated and socialized to despise and distrust everyone but their own government and people. No matter how good our planners and logisticians are, without subject matter experts with deep expertise into North Korea’s different socio-cultural components, any operation – military or humanitarian – to provide inputs on how North Koreans are going to respond as people, is going to be fraught with more danger than normally accompanies such operations. To use Clausewitzian terms: responding to provocation by the Kim government or to the humanitarian needs of the North Koreans themselves, will be a response plagued by significantly more fog and friction than we have ever encountered before. And that means developing effective strategies to respond to the Kim government’s actions is going to be very, very, very difficult.

* I have never met Professor Nichols. I did correspond with him once by email, to send him a report I had done in 2011 on a topic he’d just written a column on and managed to send him a corrupted file – as in the file name was right, the title on the first page was right, but something not germane (and largely not coherent) had been saved as the document. And I didn’t bother to open the file and check it before emailing it across as an attachment to an email introducing myself. 10/10, big win, would do it again!

**  The only official doctrine/concept definition that we have of culture comes to us from CJCSI 1800.01E, the Officers Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP). The definition is also mirrored in the Enlisted Professional Military Education Policy (EPMEP). No two doctrinal publications within the Army have the same definition for culture, hence the need to defer to this default joint definition. This definition is:

An interconnected set of ideas; all the information passed on between generations through language, writing, mathematics, and behavior. The distinctive and deeply rooted beliefs, values, ideology, historic traditions, social forms, perceptual predispositions, and behavioral patterns of a group, organization, or society that is learned, evolves and adapts over time, and is transmitted to succeeding generations.



The Maskirovka Slips XII: Anti-Corruption Protests in Russia Edition

Protests are underway in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Here’s the video that Weiss linked to:

And here’s an English translation (via Google Translate) of the caption and statement below the video:

He’s not Dimon to us.

Protest action in Moscow

In dozens of Russian cities on March 26, anti-corruption protests took place. They involved from several dozen to several thousand people. The rallies took place even in those cities where the authorities officially banned their conduct. Radio Liberty conducted a live broadcast of protest actions.

In Moscow, the uncoordinated action took place in the format of a walk. According to various sources, eight to 20 thousand people took part in it. The human rights project “OVD-Info” reports more than 600 detainees. The police used force against activists. Despite several injured at the hands of law enforcement officials, in the mayor’s office of Moscow, the police called “impeccable.”
The Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in early March published an investigation of the undeclared real estate of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his possible involvement in corruption. The film “He did not give you a Dimon” typed more than 10 million views on YouTube, but neither the Prime Minister nor his representatives responded to the charges, no federal Russian television channel told about the investigation of FBK. In this regard, Navalny appealed to his supporters across Russia on March 26 to go to protest rallies with the demand to investigate information about Medvedev’s real estate.

Apparently even the cows are fed up!

After several years of Putin directed propagandizing of his own citizens, crackdowns on dissent, and the consolidation of power in Putin’s hands it is encouraging to see that Russia’s Gray Zone, its civic culture still has some antibodies left to fight back.

We’ll keep an eye out in case things turn ugly.



Oy Vey! Transactional Politics Edition

Apparently the President tried to dun Angela Merkel and Germany for what he thinks are Germany’s unpaid NATO dues.

The Independent reports:

The US President is said to have had an “invoice” printed out outlining the sum estimated by his aides as covering Germany’s unpaid contributions for defence.

Said to be presented during private talks in Washington, the move has been met with criticism from German and Nato officials.

While the figure presented to the Germans was not revealed by either side, Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations – including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia – currently do.

But the bill has been backdated even further to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below two per cent over the past 12 years, then added interest.

Estimates suggest the total came to £300bn, with official figures citing the shortfall to be around £250bn plus £50bn in interest added on.

As you might imagine this did not go over well with the Germans.

The bill — handed over during private talks in Washington — was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.

“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

A couple of important points to keep in mind here, which the President and whichever senior advisors he’s listening to on this stuff do not seem to know:

  1. NATO is not a club. It is an alliance. The US does not own it. None of the member states pay due.
  2. Each member state has agreed to dedicate at least 2% of their budgets to defense. The vast majority of NATO member states, including Germany, do not meet this pledge. The US and its NATO allies have spent years working on how to resolve them. While it is still not resolved, progress has been made. That progress is now in jeopardy because of a stupid, dominance* politics stunt like this
  3. There is a very American reason that Germany in particular does not meet its 2% pledge: we taught them not to. That’s right, after WW II as we were working with the Germans to rebuild Germany and then basing significant US forces there during the Cold War, one of the initiatives we spent the most time on was teaching the Germans to think about and use the other, non military forms of National power (diplomatic, information, and economic power). As a result the Germans in 2017 are acculturated and socialized to the concept that they do no need to be and should not be a military power, that they should resort to the use of military power last, and that it should always be through the NATO alliance. We have been very successful in working with the Germans to break the socio-cultural systems that contributed to WW I and WW II so as to keep them from happening again. The downside, if it is one, is that Germany doesn’t get close to its 2% NATO budgetary commitment.

* Just a brief note about these dominance displays from the President and members of his senior staff/some of his senior advisors: if you have to constantly, loudly, and publicly tell everyone that you are tough, you aren’t. What you are is insecure and weak. Chancellor Merkel is the current leader of the free world because the President of the United States has abdicated that responsibility. She’s not scared of the President. The body language during last week’s photo spray in the Oval Office demonstrates that is the case. If anything, it is the other way around. Americans, through the mechanisms of the electoral college, may have decided that it didn’t want a woman as the leader of the free world, but they got that result anyway.



The Maskirovka Slips XI*: Updates to Four Ongoing Components

Three quick updates to our ongoing coverage of Putin’s campaign of active measures, dezinformatziya, kompromat, and cyberwarfare against the US, the EU and its member states, and NATO and its member states.

First up, if you’re going to try for clever keep your mouth shut!

Additionally Congressman Nunes had not actually seen anything that he talked about at his two press conferences or with the President on Wednesday. He does not actually know what, if anything, was incidentally collected or if anything even was.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know “for sure” whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson.

“He said he’ll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,” a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday. Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team executive committee.

And that was before he destroyed what was left of his committee this morning.

It is important to note that Congressman Schiff is a former Federal prosecutor who has successfully prosecuted an FBI agent who was working for the Russians. He understands counterintelligence and he has successfully prosecuted a criminal case that arose out of a counterintelligence investigation. Congressman Nunes has a masters degree in agricultural science.

Secondly, and still involving the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Paul Manafort wants to come in out of the cold.

And now Roger Stone and Carter Page are looking to get a foot in the door to play let’s make a deal!

But, you ask, what about LTG Flynn? Surely you couldn’t forget LTG Flynn? No, I have not. Our third entry this Friday afternoon is that LTG Flynn, while working for both the Turkish government as an unregistered foreign agent and the President as his campaign’s national security advisor, proposed kidnapping Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and rendering him back to Turkey – outside of the actual, formal, and required by law extradition process. This is usually referred to as kidnapping. It is also, usually, a crime!

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.

The discussion late last summer involved ideas about how to get Fethullah Gulen, a cleric whom Turkey has accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed military coup, to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, according to Mr. Woolsey and those who were briefed.

Mr. Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal he arrived at the meeting in New York on Sept. 19 in the middle of the discussion and found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal.

 Mr. Woolsey said the idea was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The discussion, he said, didn’t include actual tactics for removing Mr. Gulen from his U.S. home. If specific plans had been discussed, Mr. Woolsey said, he would have spoken up and questioned their legality.It isn’t known who raised the idea or what Mr. Flynn concluded about it.

You know you have lost what little grip on reality you may have had when you’re proposing things that make DCI Woolsey uncomfortable.

Finally, we have our fourth update: Marine Le Pen has traveled to Russia to meet with her handler, boss, and krysha, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin has received Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin in a surprise move likely to reignite fears in Europe about Russian support for the European far right.

Putin told Le Pen Russia had no intention of meddling in the French presidential elections, though the meeting is likely to send the opposite message.

 

Speaking after their meeting, Le Pen said Putin represented “a sovereign nation” and “new vision”.

“A new world has emerged in the past years. This is Vladimir Putin’s world, Donald Trump’s world in the United States, Mr [Narendra] Modi’s world in India,” she added.

“I think I am probably the one who shares with all these great nations a vision of cooperation and not one of subservience – a hawkish vision that has too often been expressed by the European Union.”

Putin, of course, stated that Russia has no intention of interfering in the upcoming French elections.

“We do not want to influence events in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do,” said Putin.

Bloomberg Politics reports that Le Pen’s visit is all about the money. Le Pen and the Front National are a bought and paid for arm of the Russian government. Which makes sense because otherwise a nationalist party that believes that the nation it seeks to lead should be dominated by Russia would be hard to understand.

“Russia is a decisive element of the balance of power that could help bring peace to the world,” she said during her Feb. 23 speech in Paris on foreign policy. “Russia has been mistreated by the EU and its vassal France,” she said.

Russia’s First Czech-Russian Bank OOO helped her finance an earlier campaign with a 9-million-euro loan in 2014. In the same year, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s political fund Cotelec received another 2-million-euro loan from a Russian-backed fund based in Cyprus, news website Mediapart reported.

Le Pen is still seeking a loan to help her finance her presidential run. She says French banks are refusing to lend her the millions of euros she needs. So far, she has a 6-million-euro loan from Cotelec, according to wealth filings with authorities made public this week.

A couple of final odds and ends. Putin has taken advantage of all the tumult in DC this week, as well as the successful attack in London, to escalate his war against Ukraine and to make some mischief in Belarus.

One last note: I’ve mentioned in comments a couple of times that all of the open source reporting and documentation is showing more and more penetration and penetration at all levels. This includes conservative organizations such as the NRA. If anyone was wondering how Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Trump campaign surrogate wound up in Moscow getting a briefing from Russia’s Foreign Ministry, well we now know:

In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.

The NRA delegation’s 2015 trip to Russia took place the same week, lasting from Dec. 8-13, according to Clarke’s public financial disclosure forms, (PDF), and included not only the people who met with Rogozin but a number of other NRA dignitaries, including donors Dr. Arnold Goldshlager and Hilary Goldschlager, as well as Jim Liberatore, the CEO of the Outdoor Channel.

Here’s the link to Clarke’s disclosure form.

I’ll have more about this next week.

Stay frosty!

* This is the actual eleventh maskirovka post, I misnumbered number ten as eleven. I apologize for any inconvenience.



This is One Important Reason Why We are Still Militarily Engaged in Iraq

I keep meaning to do a post on what is going on with the ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria – honest, but so much is going on I keep getting sidetracked.

Regardless, I just saw this and I think it is important to highlight it:

We in the US bear an incredibly large amount of the moral responsibility for what is going on in Iraq and Syria. It was the failure of American strategy, and in some cases just the actual lack of American strategy, in the post invasion phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom that set the conditions for the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq and its ultimate transformation into ISIL. Right now the US led coalition is pursuing a by, with, and through strategy with our Iraqi partners to drive ISIL from Mosul, and ultimately Iraq. By, with, and through is one of the key operational concepts of the US Army’s Green Berets, which has been borrowed and adapted by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. The Iraqi soldier who is saving that young Iraqi boy’s life in the video above is at the tip of the spear in the fight against ISIL. The US and our coalition partners are in support. Some of that support is training. Some of it is logistics. Some of it is air support. And some of it is direct and indirect fires. But day in and day out the Iraqi regular and irregular forces are at the forefront of fixing a problem created by the strategic malpractice of the US over the past fourteen years.

If you ever wonder what we’re still doing over there, that video is your answer. We’re providing support to the Iraqis that are risking their lives to protect each other in order to clean up a mess of our making.

We’re doing penance.