Tags: MidPoint | Scott Mann | ISIS | al-Qaida | Taliban

Ex-Green Beret: Think, And Act, Local in War on Muslim Extremists

By    |   Tuesday, 17 February 2015 03:26 PM

Air strikes and night raids on targets in the Middle East will not vanquish the Taliban, Islamic State and al-Qaida — U.S. forces also have to be on the ground in close quarters with tribal populations that can fight the jihadis but too often become their accomplices, says a former Green Beret.

But that's not happening yet, retired Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann told  "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Tuesday, asserting that U.S. policy makers either don't, or won't, recognize that "there are actually a lot of folks in these [tribal] areas that are willing to push back, and are pushing back."

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The U.S. role, said Mann, should be to help them win: send in Special Operations forces, such as the Green Berets, to cultivate these potential allies; equip them to fight the extremists in their midst; and offer them — or let them develop — alternatives to the preferred jihadi narrative of Western oppression.

"We can defeat them," Mann said of the Middle East's sectarian terror organizations, including the most prominent of late, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

That's not happening, despite recent claims of progress, he said.

"My professional opinion is that we're losing the war against not only ISIS but Islamist violent extremism," said Mann, an author and global stability consultant who, as a Green Beret, served three combat tours in Afghanistan.

"We are losing [to] their narrative that Islam is under attack by the West," he said, "and that it's the duty of every Muslim to defend it."

While that portrayal of reality "is resonating from every village and shantytown across the Islamic region of the globe," said Mann, "our narrative is not even present."

Mann said that informational void might be a product of dated strategic thinking.

"What we have to do is not just necessarily to default to the Industrial Age kind of response that we do to threats from the past," he said of confronting today's breed of violent extremist.

"We have to recognize that the way these guys operate is, they go into fragile states like Iraq and Yemen and Syria and Afghanistan, and they basically co-opt tribal society from the bottom up," said Mann, likening that play to moves in a global chess match:  "They mobilize marginalized, honor-based clans and they move them against a larger narrative."

"We've got to get into those spaces and take that space away [from extremists] by helping locals push back," said Mann. "We're not doing that right now; we're ceding 80 percent of the terrain, human and physical, to the violent extremists by not going local."

Cultivating tribes — along the lines of the Anbar Awakening of 2007, which helped U.S. reverse the tide against Iraqi insurgents — has paid strategic dividends in other, post-9/11 combat theaters, he said.

"I saw this in Afghanistan," said Mann. "The last couple years of the war, Special Forces got back to its roots and did this in the rural Afghan villages.

"And we were squarely inside the wheelhouse of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and other senior leaders who were basically on record as saying, 'we cannot allow this to stand,' " he said. "Because they know if communities stand up against them, they will be rendered irrelevant, and they're done. They're just thugs at that point."

Mann said the go-local approach is not a six- or twelve-month project; it's longer-term.

But to even get started, he said, the U.S. must overcome a political and strategic "paralysis," and a reliance on top-down, bomb-first military options "which frankly are not only ineffective, they engender clan revenge against us at home," by playing into jihadi narratives.

"You have to do some of that," he said of air strikes and raids, "but it needs to be in the broader context."

Mann said that U.S. leaders also "have to decide that we're going to defeat these guys, that we're going to win, and stop trying not to lose.

"That's the first thing," he said. "We've got to make up our minds that we can defeat Islamist violent extremists and call them what they are, and it starts with that."

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Air strikes and night raids on targets in the Middle East will not vanquish the Taliban, Islamic State and al-Qaida — U.S. forces also have to be on the ground in close quarters with tribal populations that can fight the jihadis, says a former Green Beret.
Scott Mann, ISIS, al-Qaida, Taliban
Tuesday, 17 February 2015 03:26 PM
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