Monday, August 17, 2009

Suicide truck bomb in Ingushetia kills 20

Today in the Russian region of Ingushetia -- contiguous to Chechnya and proximate to other troubled north Caucasian territories -- a truck bomb exploded outside a police station, killing 20 people.

Russia’s interior ministry said the truck, driven by a suicide bomber, smashed into the gate of the police station in Nazran, the Ingush capital, before exploding as officers assembled for morning parade.

The blast, which injured 118 – including women and children – led to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, sacking the Ingush minister of the interior, saying the atrocity could have been prevented.

“I suggest [the attack] was not just the result of problems connected with terrorist activity, but also the result of the unsatisfactory character of law enforcers’ work in the republic,” he said.

It was the deadliest in a string of recent high-profile attacks that are destabilising the mainly Muslim regions on Russia’s southern flank.

In June, the interior minister in Dagestan was gunned down in a Mafia-style killing at a wedding and weeks later there was an assassination attempt on Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the president of Ingushetia.

The Kremlin has blamed the escalating violence on Islamist extremists.

Not Yevkurov, though, who made noises about Western involvement, suggesting that Russia's purported return to great power status might be too much for the rest of us to handle.

“I have stressed this [before] and am saying again now: the west will strive not to allow Russia to revive its former Soviet might,” he told Russian radio.

Mr Yevkurov, a former paratrooper, was appointed by the Kremlin last October to bring order to Ingushetia, an impoverished region bordering Chechnya.

Of course, everyone's favorite insurgent/terrorist-turned-brutal-sub-governor-turned-patriotic-defender-of-Russian-security, Ramzan Kadyrov, isn't really worried about who did it. He just knows he's going to F that guy up bad when he finds him.

Just hours after the attack on Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Kadyrov told Reuters he had been ordered by the Kremlin to fight insurgents in Ingushetia. His comments provoked speculation that Kadyrov was seeking to widen his clout over neighbouring regions in the North Caucasus. Ingush politicians warned such a move could tip the region further into chaos.

"We will conduct our investigation in line with the law of the mountains and our revenge for Yunus-Bek Yevkurov will be ruthless," Kadyrov was quoted as saying in the local capital, Magas, where he met acting Ingush president Rashid Gaisanov.

The statement indicated Kadyrov was referring to the region's ancient tradition of
blood feuds. Ingush officials said Kadyrov's visit had been a surprise.

Kadyrov, of course, has been implicated in just about every sort of brutality you can imagine in the North Caucasus. Just yesterday, the L.A. Times ran a feature piece on Kadyrov's involvement in the campaign of terror sweeping across Ingushetia -- and this was before the bombing.

Day after day, insurgents attack police and government officials with ambushes and bombings. And day after day, security forces unleash what human rights activists describe as a campaign of killings, abductions and torture in their efforts to force calm upon the land.

Now Ingushetia is struggling under the weight of a new terror, one that seeps over the mountains from Chechnya, a neighboring mostly Muslim Russian republic.

Having brutally squashed dissent in his own restive republic, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a young Kremlin-backed former rebel known for his ruthless style of rule, is sending his notorious squads of fighters to hunt down rebels in Ingushetia.

With Kadyrov's authority creeping over the boundary, Ingushetia has become a land without accountability. Killings may be attributed to the Russian government, local authorities, separatist rebels or Chechens. Lives disappear in the tangle of overlain bureaucracy and shrugged shoulders.

This article does a pretty good job of giving Kadyrov's backstory if you're unfamiliar with it.

Interestingly, the Chechens seem to have become the Kremlin's sort of shock troops in recent years (since Kadyrov's turning). Pictures emerged last year, in the early days of the Georgian war, showing BMPs in the Russian invasion force with "Yamadayevtsi" graffiti, manned by irregulars. Here's some analysis from that time:

a number of the Russian tanks and armored vehicles have “Chechnya Vostok" and “Yamadayevtsi” painted on the hulls.

The Eastern Battalion (Chechnya) is composed of loyalist (pro-Moscow) Chechens; they are led by a man named Sulim Yamadayev, who is — along with Ramzan Kadyrov, a name you might know — among the most influential loyalist Chechen warlords. He fought against the Russians in the first Chechen War (pre-1996), and eventually turned with Kadyrov. If you listen to him, it’s because he opposed the Islamic extremists who gained control of the Chechen separatist movement. Others say Putin bought him off.

In any event, what this means is that the Russians have committed battle-hardened veterans to Georgia, not their poorly-paid, poorly-trained, and poorly-equipped regulars. Also interesting to see this war against a Caucasian people being prosecuted by other Caucasians who have felt the brunt of Russian oppression.

Also of note: the British media has reported that the Yamadayevtsi (what those of the Eastern Battalion call themselves) routinely sexually abuse and torture captured civilians to death, also often severing the heads of enemy dead.

(Ralph Peters later did a story on this same subject. Of course, he used it as evidence that we should be going to war with those dirty, inscrutable Russkies. Or something.)

In any event, I guess I don't have much of a point with all these peripherals except to say that considering Russia's history with quelling Islamist, ethnic, and separatist insurgency, and Kadyrov's history of involvement in this sort of dirty business, I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage. If we later find that Kadyrov's people are responsible for the "insurgent" violence, giving the government an opportunity and rationale for cracking down, I won't be the least bit surprised. Nor would I be if he was acting without Moscow's approval.

Worth keeping an eye on it.

10 comments:

  1. Just to add to this:

    I did some work (with a group of analysts) on the spread of violence to Ingushetia about two years ago. I highly doubt that Kadyrov was involved. I guess you could argue that he had his people do it so he could justify a wider crackdown, but he didn't need justification. Kadyrov and Putin have purused a "kill 'em all" COIN strategy for years, which has only moved the center of violence outside Chechnya. Also, Kadyrov remains in Putin's good graces as long as it doesn't get out of hand in the NC. I don't see how staging such a spectacular attack would aid him. But it isn't entirely improbable. The insurgency has so many layers in the NC, and if Kadyrov wanted to frame the entire insurgency as an Islamic resistance, this could be useful. However, I don't see how this would help him achieve his more immediate goal of maintaining his position in Putin's patronage network.

    http://caucasus.wikispaces.com

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  2. Thanks for chiming in, RA -- had hoped you would. Good comments.

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  3. I discussed this Russian attack here:
    http://tachesdhuile.blogspot.com/2009/08/inside-story-of-mckiernans-removal.html#comments

    Could this attack be AQ linked (from one of the Chechan AQ linked networks)? If so, Haqqani and the Punjabi Taliban have close links to the Chechan groups.

    To bring the discussion back to Afghanistan: to date, Russian offers to train the ANSF have not been warmly received, despite repeated Russian offers to do so. Does anyone here think that incorporating Russia into CSTC-A wouldn't be a good thing? I think Russia could contribute a lot.

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  4. AQ links are shoddy at best, and and have increasingly dwindled since the support of Saudis fell off post 9/11.

    Umarov, the Emir fo the North Caucasus Emirate, has desired more high profile attacks for the past two years, but his largest successes have been SAM attacks on Russian helicopters. However, after a few years of low level attacks, maybe he was able to put this together. It is important to note that in 2007/2008 Umarov appointed Magas (an ethnic Ingush) as his second-hand man to increase the importance of the Ingushetia campaign.

    The target of this attack also fits the profile of Umarov and Magas' homies. Their main targets are police military forces, installations, bases, and command headquarters. The Caucasus Emirate utilizes the "tactic of the bee" as they call it, by constantly rotating jamaats and cells through specific areas using hit and run ambushes and roadside detonation of hidden IEDs and mines to refresh the strength of the fighters and keep constant pressure on key areas. I don't know if this can be seen as part of that strategy.

    Also I just checked my database and in 2007 12 people died in a similar attack in Dagestan.

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  5. Anand -- To bring the discussion back to Afghanistan: to date, Russian offers to train the ANSF have not been warmly received, despite repeated Russian offers to do so. Does anyone here think that incorporating Russia into CSTC-A wouldn't be a good thing? I think Russia could contribute a lot.

    I don't have a whole lot of information on this, but I don't think that Russia is particularly serious or sincere about offers to assist with training. (I'm not sure how well-received they'd be in Afghanistan, either.) It seems more likely to me that they're going to maintain a strategic hedge through influence in Central Asia (influence over our supply lines, among other things, as we've seen in the Manas episode).

    Now having said that, the ANSF are being equipped with and trained on an absolute shitload of Russian gear... by -- you guessed it! -- CTSC-A. This obviously goes down to the level of things like AK-47s, but we're also talking about mortars, artillery pieces, and even helicopters. CENTCOM, CSTC-A, and the Afghans have collectively decided that the Mi-17 is the best fit for the medium-lift rotary wing requirement, citing stuff like its simplicity, the Afghans' familiarity with the platform, low cost, etc etc, but ignoring scarcity, lesser capability, and the fact that we have to spend time and effort training a bunch of U.S. helo pilots on a useless airframe just so we can train Iraqis and Afghans on someone else's gear (that we're selling them). Meanwhile the U.S. is having a really difficult time turning out helos because of problems with demand and other complications in the industrial base. Seems like a good fit, right?

    And then you consider the long-term training and sustainment relationship, and the fact that if we give the Afghans (or the Iraqis, or the Pakistanis for that matter) a bunch of broke-down old Russian shit and let them say "nah, we're not going to pay for spares or sustainment or maintenance training up front, we'll worry about that later," you're going to have about 10% of those aircraft operational in a few years.

    But big deal, we've got operational needs, and we need to expedite the delivery of Russian helos!

    So I'd ask you (and this is only peripheral to the Russians), is CENTCOM doing its job? What about CSTC-A?

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  6. Gulliver,

    Thanks for your comments on Russia. Here is the thing, I am tired of hearing Russians complain that their offers of assistance to the ANSF are not being appreciated or utilized (I have seen several top Russian officials state this.) I want the Russians to have skin in the game, so they can't just sit back and bash ISAF for all of Afghanistan's challenges. There is also the fact that many Afghans believe that the US secretly backs the Taliban and Pakistan against them; and that the ISAF mission is really about anti Russian geopolitical encircelment rather than about helping the Afghans against the Taliban. Part of the proof given for this is how ISAF blocks Russian help for the ANSF; and a bunch of junk about how ISAF isn't doing nearly enough to train and equip Afghanistan's beloved army (Afghans almost religiously love their army) and its less beloved but still popular police. Several Afghan newspaper articles have been arguing this and have significantly soured the Afghan public on ISAF.

    CSTC-A's air transition command currently has three contributors for ANAAC training: the US, UK and India. I suspect that India has been doing some of the training on the Mi-17s, An-26s and An-32s. (CSTC-A and its air transition command's briefings haven't exclicitly deliniated all the ways India is training the ANAAC, so this is conjecture.) Russia could signfiicantly help out the ANAAC if it chooses. Russia could send many of its best officers and NCOs to CSTC-A, which would significantly accelerate the throughput of the ANSF (the number of ANSF that can be trained at one time.)

    I am fascinated that milblogs seldom speak about how to involve non European countries (other than the Aussies, New Zealanders, and maybe the Japanese and Koreans.) Why this huge obvious omission?

    I might answer your questions on CENTCOM and CSTC-A another time. ;-)

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  7. It would be nice to have an anti Russian demonstration or two by Afghans demanding that the Russians do more to help Afghanistan, including more to train the ANSF. Openly and publicly bringing the subject up might encourage this.

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  8. Anand -- Let's take your points from last to first:

    It would be nice to have an anti Russian demonstration or two by Afghans demanding that the Russians do more to help Afghanistan, including more to train the ANSF. Openly and publicly bringing the subject up might encourage this.

    Here's the thing, though (and you would know the answer to the question much better than I would): do the Afghans really want help from Russia? I wouldn't blame them if there was a slight historical hangover.

    I am fascinated that milblogs seldom speak about how to involve non European countries (other than the Aussies, New Zealanders, and maybe the Japanese and Koreans.) Why this huge obvious omission?

    I can only speculate, but I'd say that it's a function of most milblogs not really being strategically focused. Yes, there are niche capabilities with which partner countries can assist, but generally people associated with the American military tend to assume that we're the most capable and competent, and that using partner nationals to train is like playing the second-string. Of course, I can't really put those words in anyone's mouth, but I'd suggest that this reasoning (and a lack of focus on the big-picture strategic gains to be made from burden-sharing and broad international buy-in) has something to do with it.


    CSTC-A's air transition command currently has three contributors for ANAAC training: the US, UK and India. I suspect that India has been doing some of the training on the Mi-17s, An-26s and An-32s. (CSTC-A and its air transition command's briefings haven't exclicitly deliniated all the ways India is training the ANAAC, so this is conjecture.)


    I can't say that I'm certain about this, but I'm confident that U.S. trainers are handling the Mi-17s. Here's a good story from earlier this year.

    There is also the fact that many Afghans believe that the US secretly backs the Taliban and Pakistan against them; and that the ISAF mission is really about anti Russian geopolitical encircelment rather than about helping the Afghans against the Taliban.

    You'll have to forgive me if this sounds ignorant or Orientalist, but I didn't figure there was the sort of elevated geopolitical consciousness in Afghanistan to even imagine that this might be going on. It's hard to fathom how involvement in Afghanistan could be advancing our position vis-a-vis Russia (why not just cut out the middle man and get involved in Tajikistan, for example?), but I suppose in a place where suspicions about the U.S. supporting the Taliban are prevalent, you can't count anything out.

    I want the Russians to have skin in the game, so they can't just sit back and bash ISAF for all of Afghanistan's challenges.

    While I understand what you're saying, how much is "skin in the game" doing for our allies, whose armies can't handle the same sort of sacrifice that we're expecting from our own. When the Canadians depart in two years, what will the U.S. and the rest of the coalition get for that "skin in the game"?

    As much as I'd like Russia and China to have a stake in Afghanistan's success, I'm not sure we can simply will that into reality at this stage.

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  9. America should try to separate Ingushetia from Russian rule and then invite them to join NATO.

    Although I sleep good at night knowing that Slovenia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria are our allies, I would feel so cozy knowing that the combined power of Ingushetia and Georgia were our NATO partners.

    America needs more backwater 3rd world shit-holes to be our allies.

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  10. "August 18, 2009 5:28 PM " :LOL:

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