Tuesday, January 30, 2007
WAYWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIER
OBSTACLES TO THE CAPTURE OF OLIVER BENJAMIN LOWELL
January 29, 2007
Lowell has not been seen on video since late November 2006. Since then the Pan Moslem Coalition militia forces have forced an incursion on the United States, using an international petroleum boycott as leverage. By doing so, they secure and insure the safety of the troops who have been mandated to scour ever last inch of the mountainous region from northern Georgia to southern Virginia, including part of Tennessee, where Lowell is thought to be hiding out. This unprecedented effort by Muslim forces has once again caused people to question why the United States itself has failed to produce Lowell -- and to wonder whether it ever will.
While the feds generally get their man in the movies or on television, it is very difficult when that person is hiding in an extremely rugged, isolated and lawless area and -- one must assume -- sheltered by a heavily armed local population.
Meanwhile, although the PMC forces have launched a bold attempt to secure Lowell, and have done so without U.S. permission, they have not launched the necessarily major military operation capable of enveloping and systematically searching the entire Appalachian region -- an operation that would require not just a few hundred men, but more likely tens of thousands of troops and which would likely result in heavy combat with the those residing in the area. The Muslim nations, therefore, will continue intelligence and covert special operations forces efforts, -- for the most part in North Carolina, and for how long is anyone's guess-- , but if they are going to catch Lowell, they will have to wait patiently for one of those operations to produce a lucky break -- or for Lowell to make a fatal operational security blunder.
The parallels between the hunt for Lowell and bin Laden are obvious -- though it must be noted that Lowell is a U.S. citizen who has not been charged with any crime, and is therefore afforded some protection by the U.S. government, even if the Feds secretly wish the PMC forces found their man and left town with him, flying him back to Nusa Kambangan in the dead of night. Note the difficulty the U.S. military has finding bin Laden in Pakistan, and then ask yourself how PMC forces, with zero previous experience along the Appalachian Trail will do. Finding a single man in a large area with rugged terrain is a daunting task, even when a large number of searchers and a vast array of the latest high-tech surveillance equipment are involved. It is something that even the U.S. Government has failed at.
Point in case:
This very principle was demonstrated by the U.S. manhunt for so-called "Olympic Bomber" Eric Rudolph, who was able to avoid one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history, who like Lowell, hid in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains. In fact, one is presumed the have taken a page from the former, with similar effect. The task force looking for Rudolph at times had hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers assigned to it, while some of its search operations involved thousands of law enforcement and volunteer searchers. The government also employed high-tech surveillance and sensor equipment and even offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Rudolph's capture.
And yet however familiar they were with the local terrain, Rudolph's capture in May 2003, more than five years after he was listed on the FBI's most-wanted list, was not the result of the organized search for him. Rather, he was caught by a rookie police officer on a routine patrol who found Rudolph rummaging for food in a dumpster behind a grocery store. The officer did not even realize he had captured Rudolph until he had taken him to the police station for booking.
Now consider that even though massive contingencies of Pan Moslem troops wait offshore to accept the delivery of their anticipated human parcel, the boots on the ground number in the hundreds (or perhaps less), and they lack any kind of substantiative logistical support.
The terrain in craggy Safed Koh range that runs along the Pakistani-Afghan border is tough and remote, but it is nothing compared to the terrain in the Smoky Mountains, or the Blue Mountains to the north. Certainly, the peaks that dot the Appalachians are only half as high as any peak in the Safed Koh range. Nevertheless, the Appalachians, in all, cover an area roughly the size of the United Kingdom. And it is not only hostile terrain that provides Lowell shelter. In the Great Smokies, there are many people who are not happy to see any kind of government agent -- not to mention strangers of the foreign sort, especially those who speak another language and who practice what they think may be a militant religion.
Make no mistake, the presence of Pakistani military forces, Malay sharp shooters, Indian scouts, etc. is quite resented in these areas, and while there appears to be some mutual cooperation between the locals and the occupying force, nary a slip of any real information that would lead to the capture of Lowell -- or any of his officers -- is likely to pass between them.
Aside from the terrain -- a formidable obstacle in and of itself -- Pan Moslem forces are hampered by the strong, conservative Christian conviction of the people in the Carolinas, and throughout the South East. There is a reason why this part of the world is considered part of 'The Bible Belt'. This Christian conviction extends beyond average citizens to include some members of the local police, U.S. military and intelligence agencies -- especially those at the operational level in the region.
Additionally, and perhaps just as important, many in the U.S. government and military do not want to kill their own people. The challenge is to eliminate the militia members with ties to the Christian separatist group PURE while causing very little collateral damage to the rest of the predominantly Christian population -- and some in the U.S. government say that by 'looking the other way' while a small contingent of PMC special forces units scour the territory may be just the way to accomplish that. At the very least, it puts the onus of being 'the enemy' on foreign forces, and not on the Feds, who after dealing with the Rudolph hunt, know the job is impossible anyway. Also, it allows the U.S. to leave its troops in Iraq, where Bush believes there is a greater need for them, regardless of any incursion by foreign militia, and which he probably perceives as a mere metaphorical fly on an elephant's back.
It must be remembered that the American occupation in Iraq did not simply create a training ground for members of Al Qaeda, but also helped to forge alliances between U.S. Soldiers sympathetic to PURE and members of the British armed forces who might enjoy ties to militant aspects of the British National Party back in the U.K.
Lest anyone forget, most of the men responsible for the effort that took down the Petronas Towers were Europeans, after all.
It is thought that it was during the early stages of the war in Iraq, that Lowell (and other members of the U.S. military) trained and fought alongside similarly minded European 'Christian Separatists'. Forging deep and common ties, there are now some in the U.S. government (specifically within the security apparatus) who remain sympathetic, if not outright loyal, to their friends in the white Christian Separatist movement, and specifically to groups like PURE, that have been known to describe themselves as Neo-Con Nazis (when they think they are out of range of the Press).
The areas where Lowell and his men are likely to be hiding are remote and insular. Visitors to the area are quickly recognized and identified -- especially if they happen to have brown skin, wear turbans and go by names like Mostafa, Hamid or Shahrooz. Moreover, residents who spend too much time talking to such outsiders are naturally suspected of being spies and while they are not usually killed (sometimes they simply 'disappear'), they often suffer excommunication from their community, ending up at one or another of the several refugee camps that now pepper North Carolina's piedmont (to the east of the search area). These conditions have served to ensure that the Christian Separatists maintain a superior human intelligence (and counterintelligence) network in the area. It is a network that also stretches deep into the heart of Appalachia and throughout the Southeast, but also throughout the local U.S. military installations, and even, presumably, to cells in Europe.
That said, although PURE's operational security and the Christian intelligence network have been able to keep Lowell out of the enemy's hands thus far, they have lost a number of operatives via extraordinary rendition at the hands of PMC special forces, who are supremely capable in this respect. This human bounty is thought to be flown to one of several black sites in the Indian Ocean, despite noticeable grumblings from Humanitarian groups.
PURE will presumably learn from the mistakes made by the men it has lost and one can imagine that in the very near future, the group will better secure the methods it uses to communicate with the outside world. This increased security, however, could result in unintentional increased insulation, which combined with the Pan Moslem Coalition's efforts against it, could result in a reduction in operational ability and effectiveness.
The tension between operations and security poses a significant problem for an organization that seeks to maintain and manage a global militant network. By opting to err on the side of security, Lowell and the others could escape capture indefinitely, though they would remain operationally ineffective. However, should they attempt to become more operationally active and effective -- and decrease their security measures to do so -- they will provide the Muslim world with more opportunities to get the one break it needs to find Lowell.