Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Haiku of OSINT for 12/17/13

Afghan endurance
Stay to fight terrorism
Grow your beard longer

Hidden Narratives in Afghanistan

Critics of the US/NATO mission in Afghanistan point to unintended consequences of military actions.  Their objections have merit if substantiating evidence exists.

One commonly heard allegation is that many attacks on US forces are the result of ordinary Afghans' frustrations with humiliating raids and cultural offenses.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made much of these claims and insisted that the US-Afghan security pact include severe restrictions on such raids.  The fact that the US agreed to this restriction shows that its basis has merit.  International news media reports of US troops raiding hospitals do not help America's image.  The rationale for Afghan forces' attacks on their international allies is difficult to pin down.  Analysis reveals a mix of cultural misunderstandings that escalate into perceived offenses, triggering many attacks.  If the most likely attackers are ethnic Pashtuns recruited into Afghan forces from border regions with Pakistan, US forces should focus fratricide prevention efforts on that specific population.

Drone strikes have been a continual point of contention between the US and its Af-Pak partners.  A drone is only as accurate as the intelligence feeding its controller.  Local sources who report faulty information on an HVT's whereabouts may be using US firepower to settle personal scores.  The pending force drawdown will severely limit the number of reliable sources US forces can successfully cultivate.

Human Rights Watch noted in 2001 that combatants employed landmines in Afghanistan long before US forces arrived.  Much of rural Afghanistan still contains mines that kill and main civilians.  The international community does its part to remove landmine hazards through the Halo Trust's de-mining efforts and other organizations.  The US should include funding for de-mining programs as part of its continued US support to Afghan rural development.

The predominant media narrative for the US intervention in Afghanistan is one of misunderstanding, miscalculation, and missed opportunities.  The US's enduring presence in Afghanistan must begin to tell a new narrative in 2014.  The story should lead with something other than interjections into tribal conflict.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Value of International Food Security

Food security matters.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs puts the human requirement for food right on the bottom as a fundamental prerequisite for pursuing everything else.  Spiraling prices for food staples were one major reason the Arab Spring spread so quickly among disaffected populations that had dissimilar ethnographies.

CGIAR and IFPRI are creating the theoretical framework for policy innovation in food security.  The USDA's Economic Research Service has long published a Food Security Assessment with years of data to support policy.  This year's First International Conference on Global Food Security shouldn't be so quick to style its work as unprecedented, if only they'd look up the history of the World Food Summit.  The UN's World Food Programme and USAID's Bureau of Food Security often do the heavy lifting of underwriting relief and investment in emerging nations that lack food security.  The G-20's Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) is putting the developed world's money to work in food aid.  There's a lot of money in play creating demand for innovative food solutions.

Intrepid entrepreneurs are trying to monetize food security.  The International Food Security Fund is an effort to create private sector demand for food security solutions.  I'm disappointed that its documentation is only viewable behind a login portal.  The Global Food Exchange has publicly available information on its relief vault product.  I understand the demand for commodities as relief goods but I don't understand the purpose of creating an exchange to support the pricing of prepackaged modules.  The modules themselves are good ways to organize relief shipments but relief agencies may balk at relying upon a single source for relief supplies.  The cost of physical storage and an illiquid exchange add a markup to the price relief agencies must pay.

Big Data and drones may do more for food security than any high-minded relief effort if they allow small farmers to optimize production.  Food security and water security are inseparable.  The market for food and water is as large as the world's population.  Third Eye OSINT will have more to say about the potential for instability from food and water scarcity.