New Details Emerge in Salomi Hostage Case: High Drama in HTS
by John Stanton
Observers indicate that two individuals in HTS leadership positions on the ground in Iraq—Lieutenant Colonel Byrd (Program Management Office – FWD) and Michael Goains, GG-15 (Theater Coordination Element) had direct knowledge of Issa Salomi’s prior forays outside Camp Liberty/Victory Base Complex in Iraq unaccompanied by his teammates (team designation IZ-02,) or US military personnel. Salomi was apparently taken by an Iraqi insurgent group in January 2010 and a video of him recently appeared in global media outlets in February 2010.
Observers have also pointed out that Salomi is not, in fact, a contractor but is instead a temporary US Army Civilian employee. In 2009, HTS reverted to a government program and contractors were forced to choose between leaving or converting to US government civilian status.
“There is so much drama within the HTS program right now that it is unbelievable. Many, many people are being fired, rearranged and moved around due to management incompetence and personality problems,” said observers. “The amount of money being squandered is ridiculous.”
Steve Fondacaro and Montgomery Clough, senior program management of the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS), were warned as early as 2007 that Human Terrain Team members in Iraq and Afghanistan would become prey for insurgent groups. They were advised repeatedly that training must emphasize the dangerous environment HTS employees would be operating in. That training needed to focus on practices and procedures for handling life threatening situations to include kidnapping.
Issa Salomi, a 60 year old HTT member operating in a combat zone, was taken in January 2010 by an Iraqi insurgent group and a video of him was released on the Net in February 2010 by the same group. This tragic event drives home, once again, the core failings of the Human Terrain Team System: the inability to find qualified personnel, to train them properly and to, quite simply, take care of them. Some allege that many team leaders and HTS management itself have no clue where many of their teams are. “Some HTT members disappear for days and then return.”
Memorandum of Transmittal by Robert David STEELE Vivas
Subject: Counterinsurgency Conference Overview
Mr. Jason Liszkiewicz, Executive Director of the Earth Intelligence Network (EIN) and resident in NYC, attended the 20 November 2009 conference on counterinsurgency (speakers identified on page two), and provided me with the notes on pages 3-9. Below is my own exploitation of these notes.
IGNORANT US POLICYMAKERS. We have policymakers with crippling illusions about how the world is—worst ever—people in policy positions do not understand the problems they are making policy on—Congress is unsophisticated about Afghanistan; Washington-area decision-makers vastly misunderstand the enemy—Taliban is a super-bug adapting super-fast. This is NOT about Al Qaeda having a home base. Congress lacks next of kin engaged.
CORRUPT AFGHAN OFFICIALS. Afghan government officials own 32% of the Palm Islands in Dubai—election was “industrial-strength fraud”—tsunami of cash (US, Saudi, others) drives corruption. NOTE: No Afghans on any of the panels.
US LACKS AREA KNOWLEDGE & STRATEGY. We really do not “get” the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India context, detail, etcetera. US “strategy” of “ten cities” is a mirror of the Soviet strategy before defeat. Doctrine is not a substitute for Strategy. Water (Indus River) is central to Pakistan-India relationship (Kashmir is about water). Question NOT being asked: how do we do this without a US ground presence? “Cheap coat of paint” approach to challenges. “Tactics without strategy is noise before defeat.” Saudi money, Pakistan-Taliban axis will outlast US money and US ground presence.
COUNTERINSURGENCY MANUAL LACKING. Counterinsurgency manual is not realistic and warps policy debate—the reality of poppy crops is not in the manual, not in the “strategy/doctrine”
UN, AID, NGO OOB NOT WORKNG. UN not working, its role not thought out, shortfalls in specialized everything. Local corruption and family-political angling for contracts lead to some IED’s intended to block or redirect contract funds. AID giving contracts to Americans, not Afghans. US has no ability to create ministries from scratch. Civilian capabilities non-existent or not understood by military when they do show up. No inter-agency planning in part because the civilians have no idea why they are there or what they should do.
LOST IN TRANSLATION. Continue to lack Pashto translators. More Pashto speakers within NYPD than in all US forces across Afghanistan
EXIT OPPORTUNITIES. Afghan Army most respected institution in country, best fighters but worst policemen. US ground presence makes things worse. Solutions have to be Afghan. Afghan population wants sovereignty and independence. US troops simply surviving, not campaigning.
On page 10 I provide the “Lessons Learned” from my 1992 study of USMC operations.
Reasonable Outrage, Glib Delivery, Core Righteousness, May 30, 2009
Reasonable Outrage, Glib Delivery, Core Righteousness, May 30, 2009
I may have picked this up in an airport. I was inclined toward three or four stars but brought it back to five after a quick reread from over a year ago. It is a brief book, very [Herbert] Marcusian in its tone, I credit the author with courage and insight. See other recommended books and my summary reviews for context that elevates this author’s contribution.
Quote from page 37:
“The fact that 21st Century Americans are little more than laborers, captives, and like all prisoners throughout recorded history, are fearful, afraid to challenge the system in any serious way, axiously waiting on the next meal and a decent night’s sleep before the alarm signals another wretched day in the hive. The routine is safe and predictable but results in a form of imprisonment for the vast majority of Americans.”
Quote from page 44:
“When votes do not matter, when draconian laws and regulations weigh on people, when employment is uncertaqin, and there is no longer any outlet for expression, frustration and anger set in. That leads to violence.”
Although I have a note to myself quibbling with his sometimes qustionable “facts,” on balance, the book hits the mark–as the famous Dagwood and Blondie cartoon goes, “who cares about the facts as long as you get the story right…”
The author joins others with his own condemnation of the “collusive duopology” (the Republican-Democratic crime family owned by Wall Street that shuts out all others) and labels this a near-totalitarian ruling system with a two-tiered system of education and health, one for the haves, one for the have-nots. I agree. We have failed the public in part because the public has failed to live up to its sovereign responsibilities and allowed the govenrment at all levels to become fraudulent, wasteful, and abusive.
In that vein, the author recommends OpenSecrets.org and points out that the Pentagon has struck out:
He offers radical solutions (as Howard Zinn teaches us, a liberal still thinks government is part of the solution, a radical knows government is the problem) including a call for the development of a new party; a boycott of all corporations violating their pension obligations, and the nationalization of the US defense industry (to which I would add health as well as local education and the prison-slave industry).
The tone is sarcastic throughout and will alienate many (as I do), but truth is its own reward, and there I stand with the author. He’s on point.
On balance the best I can do to praise this author is point to other serious books that support his views. I am now a radical. Government as it exists today must be abolished or radically restructured. Obama is a captive, issuing policies so similar to Bush’s that even the dullest Democratic voter must now see that “the mafia” is in charge and the public interest has no play in Washington, D.C.