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Old 10-18-2009   #121
Tukhachevskii
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Default Hizballah and tribes, useful networks for vetting

I was mulling this over. Given the ethnic and sectarian bases of Hizballah's power base I am sure that the tribal network is useful in terms of the vetting of potential recruits, information sharing and counter-intelligence. Much harder to break into Hizballuh if you have no-one to vouch for you. That said, I think the tribal issue is peripheral to Hizballah's internal political/military structure or system of mobilisation but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a role to play.
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Old 10-18-2009   #122
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Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
I was mulling this over. Given the ethnic and sectarian bases of Hizballah's power base I am sure that the tribal network is useful in terms of the vetting of potential recruits, information sharing and counter-intelligence. Much harder to break into Hizballuh if you have no-one to vouch for you. That said, I think the tribal issue is peripheral to Hizballah's internal political/military structure or system of mobilisation but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a role to play.
Absolutely concur and very much supported by the Israelis utilisation of studying extended families within the Middle-east.
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Old 10-18-2009   #123
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The whole "tribal warfare" thing irritates me a bit.
I know "tribal warfare" as warfare composed of raids for loot, done by semi-permanent warbands that are led by a charismatic leader.

It shouldn't be difficult to identify those who benefited of loot or to identify a well-known charismatic leader.

It shouldn't be very difficult to make raids less profitable.
Actually, I don't see where there's loot to be had in attacking outposts and burning fuel trucks.

So maybe it's not as much tribal warfare as it is about highwaymen (taxation of civilian truckers at checkpoints), racketeering and smuggling (drugs, weapons, whatever) that keep the enemy (note I don't wrote 'Taliban') up economically?

Wouldn't "Mafia" be a better description than "tribe"?
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Old 10-18-2009   #124
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So maybe it's not as much tribal warfare as it is about highwaymen (taxation of civilian truckers at checkpoints), racketeering and smuggling (drugs, weapons, whatever) that keep the enemy (note I don't wrote 'Taliban') up economically?
I do not know how it works in Afghanistan, but in Sudan, the tribes conduct razzia to exchange cattles against weapons from Somalia and Erithrea...
It is the youth that conduct such actions without any elderly support. The trick is that they need to proove the are men and warriors.
Also, the business men from Kenya are in the loop. Most of the razzia are done with already someone to purchase the cattle heads.
You mix that with politics... And you have endless stories.
If the situation in Afghanistan as the same characteristics concerning the razzia, then you may have an impact on the economical ressources of the ennemy. But you have to be carefull on the political aspect.
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Old 10-18-2009   #125
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I agree. But I think in theatre experience is far more valuable than class room study. .

............Nonetheless, I find many of your findings fascinating if only as confirmation or negation of previous classroom study.
Thanks for the props - and I agree that field work is the key. I spent four years in Iraq dealing with tribesmen - and it took me many years to understand how and why tribesmen think the way that they do. My work is currently giving predictive power that I wasn't expecting.

Tribal analysis offers us a secular doorway of dealing with extremist phenomena.

As for lack of tribal identification, but rather identification with Hamula, or clan, or whatever - these are are all tribal identifications. (you didn't bring this up, but somebody else did) Semantic nit noiding aside, there is no doubt that tribal counterinsurgency TTPs are in their nascent state in the west, including Britain. The problem is in the language - and there is no place to start but in the classroom. Regardless of how many British anthropologists are working in Africa or elsewhere, there aren't enough of Americans or Brits that really speak Arabic.

And there is no better way to create misunderstanding than to hire interpreters from 7-Eleven or liquor stores and try to use them to bring understanding between two members of radically different cultures and mindsets. Anybody who has any experience in the middle east knows the importance of relationships. Most interpreters ruin the possibility of this - and the answer is for us to learn their languages if we hope to get anywhere at all.

And none of this is worth doing unless we are successful.

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Old 10-18-2009   #126
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As Rex, - someone extremely familiar with Hezbollah - notes, the tribal issue is almost certainly a "so what." If indeed you can trace a tribal structure to Hezbollah, where does it get you?
Sir, it gets you secular lines of communication and influence over those who are working for extremist thugs.

I think you can connect the dots from there.

-Tribeguy

Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-18-2009 at 10:09 PM.
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Old 10-18-2009   #127
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Absolutely concur and very much supported by the Israelis utilisation of studying extended families within the Middle-east.
And that doesn't have any application to Hezballah?
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Old 10-19-2009   #128
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Sir, it gets you secular lines of communication and influence over those who are working for extremist thugs.

I think you can connect the dots from there.

-Tribeguy
So? Exploiting personal relationships for HUMINT purposes? The Brits were doing that in Northern Ireland for 40 years. The same basic understanding works against organised crime for the FBI, NYPD and many others. Exploiting family ties is something we are good at, have done for years and it's far from new.
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And that doesn't have any application to Hezballah?
It has application against every individual in the world who has an extended family. I assumed that your point was the detailed knowledge of tribes allowed you to craft policy towards them. - and I agree on that, IF it is relevant to the context of the policy.

I see that as largely irrelevant in Hezbollah's case, because, it does not speak to a policy and they are largely meritocracy - but with strong connections to the Lebanon's organised crime families.

Yes you can look at some Terrorist groups and see their command structure break down along family/clan/tribe lines. Folks have been doing the same with the Mafia for years. This is not insightful. Everyone working in the Africa, Asia and Mid-East has been doing it for 100's of years - and still does.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 10-19-2009   #129
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Default Akhbar fil-Yemen

A brief, disjointed, hurried and all round grammatically suspect (but no less reliable) set of field notes regarding tribes and tribal influence from Yemen (c. 2007). Tribes have often been kingmakers especially in Yemen, but they also constitute a shadow/alternative governance structure often at odds with the “legitimate” Government. Saleh owed his power due to the largesse and support of Sheik al-Ahmar (who was also, in tribal terms, Saleh’s superior given that Saleh’s tribe was part of Al-Ahmar’s Hashid tribal confederation). The Yemeni state doesn’t control anything outside the cities and even then places like Aden have a mind all their own (due to it being a Yemeni Socialist Party stronghold). Although to all intensive purposes (King of Queens reference there for all you fans) Ali Abdallah Saleh (be careful how you pronounce that last one) may appear to be a ‘typical’ Arab dictator in fact his power is severely limited to the cities. De facto control in the hinterlands, especially the lawless east opposite the Rub-Al-Khali desert is tribal controlled. The Tribal Shura Council, although lacking legislative authority, wields tremendous power for the above reasons and can rarely be ignored. The GPC / Tribal relationship has often paid dividends in the past (Saleh would never have defeated the South or achieved Union without them) and is currently useful in bolstering his armed forces in the Sa’ada war up north given the unreliability of certain sectors of the army.

However, the relationship is politically volatile especially when it came to Saleh trying to extract funds from the US for his supposed counter-terrorism effort (which the Ttribes saw as betrayal of Islam and which even the Al-Houthi insurgency in the North managed to capitalise on). Saleh cleverly ensured that the Political Security Organisation (’Amn As-Siyasiia) allowed key prisoners to escape thereby satisfying the tribal sense of sharafi’ (honour). This is the same PSO that is now largely staffed by ex-Iraqi Ba’athists! (I believe Iraq wants them back for trial). The relationship has benefitted the tribes in many ways such as when they insisted that Saleh turn the schools over to fully clerical/Islamic control (he had wanted them partially secular) when unification was finally achieved in 1994 (after the tribes helped Saleh destroy what was left of the South and the YSP’ military apparatus which, incidentally, still exists in the form of disgruntled ex-servicemen angry about the non-payment of their pensions which were promised when Saleh threw them out and replaced them with his own sycophants).

The Al-Ahmar led Hashid confederation briefly flirted with parliamentary politics by creating the explicitly Islamic (Hizb Al-) Islah reform party which included a wing led by sometime Bin Laden confidant Sheik Ali Az-Zindani (who is very well respected amongst all of Yemen’s Tribes, bar the Zaiydi’s up north). Even though Islah remains largely dominated by Tribal elders the Al-Ahmar Hashid Confederation is still inclined to throw its support behind whomever it considers useful financially and politically thus acting both constitutionally and extra-constitutionally to derive the most benefits and ensure its demands are met. Given that the tribes are overwhelmingly pious (or fundamentalist, depending upon your angle) Muslims those demands are obvious. Indeed, Zindani’s right wing of the Islah party and Al-Ahmar’s Hashid Confederation (amongst others) supported the creation of an extra-judicial morality police, along similar lines to that in Saudi, to patrol the godless streets of the cities (traditionally Saleh’s sphere of influence) even though, legally, they have no power to do so (the government has not stopped them).

Both Saleh’s presidential party the GPC (General People’s Congress) and the former ruling party of South Yemen (and now Yemen’s real opposition party) the Yemeni Sociality Party flirt with and court the tribes to varying ends; the 2006(?) presidential elections were contested by Islah and YSP in unison even though Shiek Al-Ahmar publically announced his Hashid confederation would “morally” support Saleh. Al-Ahmar died in December 2007 leaving leadership of the Hashid confederation to his son, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who is known to hate Saleh but who is pragmatic enough not to break with him entirely in return for largesse and financial rewards which, given the role of tribal levies (10,000+) in the continuing Sa’ada war is going to be substantial.

Last edited by Tukhachevskii; 10-19-2009 at 12:00 PM. Reason: slleping mistaskes
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Old 10-27-2009   #130
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Default authority, obligation, mobilisation

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Tribal leaders in Iraq eventually realized that Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups came with the intention of taking away tribal leaders’ authority. This suggests to a counterinsurgent fighting an Islamic extremist group that in the event that no other viable authority exists, finding a viable way to empower tribal leaders against the insurgents may be most wise from a cultural perspective. Taking authority from a tribal leader without compensation is a recipe for disaster, as this certainly played a role in the rapid growth of the Sunni insurgency in 2003.)
I found the excerpt on the whole very interesting but it was the above proposition that caught my eye. I think one of the things we tend to forget is that structures are constantly in flux with elements of both order and disequilibrium present. Although it may make sense to empower local elders/sheiks/clan leaders this may merely stoke the fires (or dampen them, but that's a contextual issue). What I mean is that if we look at Yemen (tribes) and the Caucasus (Clans) part of the appeal of the Wahhabi style of Islam was that it bypassed the elderly, rigid and largely ossified chains and networks of authority and loyalty which the young felt stifled by.

In Yemen the threat of AQ Yemeni/Southern Arabian branch is precisely in its ability to appeal to the dissaffected youth who feel constrained by the tribal system. Similarly, young people in the caucasus found their clan based systems of obligation to be politically, culturally and economically stifling. Having to bow to pressures of "elderly elders" who usually bowed to Russian government requestes or saw loyalty to Mosocw as traditional/acceptable meant those same eleders/sheiks were seen as collaborators. The flattening or equalising force of Wahhabism which stressed the indiviual's submersion into the will of Allah and thereby removed any mediating authority was greatly appealing. Thus, a relatively unexamined aspect of the Wahhabi phenomenon is it's demographic underpinnings fuelled by a population explosion of dissafected youngsters who feel constrained by tribes/clans and who thurst for freedom under Wahhabism (it is not, contra Fromm, of Muslims desiring to escape from Freedom but, rather, that they seek social freedom through the levelling effect of Wahhabism).

It was this, IMO, that forced tribal elders in Iraq to counter AQ; that they would lose control of their own cadres and thus their own systems of nepotism, patronage and influence. This is also, I recall, one of the reasons that Saddam kept an eye out for Sunni extremism. Gievn that he was suppressing, incorporating and balancing the tribes the last thing he wanted was for an alternative non-tirbal source of mobilisation which couldn't be bought off. Interesting excerpt nonetheless, is the book widely avaliable?
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