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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?» Forums » Sessions

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Geoffrey Wilson
United States
Rochester
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This is a solo after action report of Labyrinth: The War on Terror.
This was a 1 deck game, using the “Let's Roll!” scenario. (Jihadist funding Ample at 9, US prestige High at 7, 4 cells concentrated in Afghanistan.)
The AAR goes by year, each hand of cards being one year. I wrote this in a more narrative than technical style, with a narrative summary of how I did at the end. Enjoy, just a warning: it is long.

2001: Events unfold rapidly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Radicals inspired by the attacks spring up in Algeria, while the Taliban move forces south into Pakistan. However, the populist appeal of the Jihadists is weakened as Sunni fundamentalist tactics alienate the masses and bind tactics, and the (ostensibly) non-violent Islamist group Hizb Ut-Tahrir diverts away funding. Seeking to regain attention and therefore funding, the Jihadists carry out terrorist attacks in Algeria and Lebanon, where fresh radicals take up arms. The attacks restore funding to high levels as sympathizers see Jihadist competence in attacks. The US focuses War of Ideas diplomatic pressure and aid on government reform in its oil-rich Gulf State Allies: the royalty of those countries agree to greater accountability and civil rights reform, and achieve (by regional standards) Good governance. Guerrilla warfare in Pakistan undermines government authority there, rendering it Poor, as a radical cell forms in Sudan (a country with surprisingly Fair government) and moves into the adjacent Poor and Besieged Regime of Somalia. The terrorist force in Afghanistan swells, and the Somalian cell recruits a partner. Seeing the decline of government in Pakistan, the US brings the War of Ideas there, beginning a flow of Aid and shifting the Neutral into an Ally. Jihadists forces in Somalia grow to 3 cells. A fatwa issued by a prominent cleric redirects Jihadist efforts. The US attempts to War of Ideas the neutral UK to Hard posture, but this backfires and the government there focuses on Soft power instead. Previously successful War of Ideas efforts in Pakistan fall apart in the face of a coordinated suicide bombing, which scares off foreign Aid. Jihadist numbers in Somalia reach critical mass for a coup, though the Jihadists hold off for now. A new cell is recruited in Fair Governance Pakistan. Though US War of Ideas success in the Gulf States is a great victory, and the US has conserved its resources to focus on diplomacy, the failure to invade Afghanistan in 2001 has allowed an Islamist State to continue, hurting US Prestige.

2002: The first full year of the new War on Terror begins with the US in a conservative, Low Intensity Troop Deployment (only troops stationed in the region are in the Allies of Saudi Arabia and Gulf States), Medium Prestige levels, and with Jihadist funding Ample. Jihadists continue to flock to Somalia: a new cell is recruited there, and 2 terrorist cells moving from Afghanistan to Somalia are caught by border security and arrested. US War of Idea attempts succeed in the UK and Pakistan: the UK is now in strategic agreement on Hard Posture, and Pakistan is propped up to Fair governance levels after US prestige rises back to High. The newly elected Good government of Pakistan is undermined by another coordinated and deadly “Martyrdom Operation” in Islamabad. Yemeni President Saleh takes an Adversarial relation towards the US in the face of his Regime being Besieged, though at least he retains a Fairly competent government for the time being. Al-Qaeda second-in-command Zawahiri hurts US Prestige with effective propaganda videos. US Prestige is now barely in the Medium range. An Oil Price Spike increases the importance of oil-exporting nations this year, and brings funding and inspiration for more Martyrdom Operations. US attempts to raise Prestige through War of Ideas diplomacy in Canada backfire, and a deadly revolt in Lebanon throws out the Syrian occupation and weakens the governance of Syria itself, shifting it from a Fair to a Poor Adversary. Terrorist attacks in Algeria and Lebanon raise Jihadist funding, while the booming opium trade in Afghanistan leads to a swelling of the ranks there. Feeling threatened by future attacks on its own soil, the US passes the PATRIOT Act. The War of Ideas gets Saudi Arabia to Fair Governance, while the continued dominance of the Taliban in Afghanistan demolishes US Prestige to the lowest it could be. To make matters worse, 8 Jihadist cells now operate in Somalia. A suicide attack in Algeria kills and wounds dozens. The US cannot persuade Canada to cooperate in the War on Terror. This was a dark year for the United States: Afghanistan is still ruled by the Taliban, Somalia could be conquered any day now, and Prestige is pathetically Low, making further calls for reform of Muslim Governance extremely unlikely to succeed.

2003: The year starts off with a bang and a fizzle: a bang as a bombing in Lebanon raises Jihadist Funding, and a fizzle as CIA agents foil a Taliban Afghanistan sponsored Plot in the Gulf States. (The assassination Plot was part of anti-Western riots triggered by a Danish cartoon mocking Mohammed.) Radicals form a plot in Libya. US foreign policy leaders look at the situation, it is a mixed bag: American Prestige is depressingly Low, and there is one Islamist Rule state in Afghanistan with another likely to appear soon in Somalia. On the other hand, the US is leading in Resources, due to the Gulf States being at Good. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the Gulf neighbors, are both Fair Allies. Sudan and Yemen are also Fair, (Neutral, Adversary) and Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are all Poor. (The first 2 Neutral, the second 2 Adversary.) No cells are in Europe or the US. The UK and Israel are in strategic agreement with the Hard US, with Canada dissenting at Soft. The US decides to continue to avoid getting bogged down in direct military campaigns, and instead raise Prestige through War of Ideas in order to reform Muslim governance. After invoking the wrath of French and German leaders, and seeing negative Al Jazeera spin on troop garrisons turn Saudi alignment to Neutral, the Bush Administration Reassesses its war effort and switches to Soft Posture: in line with Global opinion. Pakistan sponsors Jihadists in Kashmir Province, and turns from an Ally to Neutral stance. Worse still, Jihadists take sanctuary in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. An Oil Price Spike raises fears of Al Jazeera again pumping out harmful misinformation. The US conducts diplomacy successfully to bring the UK and Spain onto its Soft side, gaining Prestige in the process. (Still Low, however.) The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is now in complete strategic agreement at Soft Posture. The many Jihadists of Somalia finally take over that country altogether with armed force, and control almost the entirety of the territory: the Islamist Caliphate of Somalia is born, and is quickly recognized by Afghanistan. US gubernatorial elections confirm popular support for Soft Posture: this domestic unity bumps US Prestige up to Medium. A cell is recruited in Afghanistan, and 2 cells travel from Islamist Somalia to Yemen. King Abdullah of Jordan emerges as an Ally of the US; his country has Fair Governance, and his support helps Prestige even more, while strangling Jihadist funding. Arab media spin turns Saudi Arabia from a Fair Neutral to a Fair Adversary of the United States, even as American troops are still stationed there and foreign aid is flowing. The 2 militant cells attempting Jihad warfare in Yemen are annihilated by government forces in their first battles. Homegrown Jihadists form a cell in the United Kingdom. US War of Ideas gets the Philippines to Soft Posture and boosts US Prestige. GWOT agreement cancels out the loss of Prestige due to Afghanistan and Somalia being Islamist-ruled.

2004: Russian influence in Central Asia turns those states into US Adversaries, even though their Governance level is Fair. A new Cell is recruited in Libya, and a Cell travels from Somalia to Yemen. American War of Ideas diplomacy in Thailand and Benelux is successful: US Prestige is High again. The Soft Posture focus on diplomacy and aid, instead of direct military force, is paying off. American intelligence agencies cooperate to figure out much of what the Jihadists are planning for the year. American Jihadist Adam Gadahn tries and fails to recruit followers in the US. The War of Ideas turns Pakistan back into an Ally and brings a flow of Aid to it. Terror bombings are done in Libya and Yemen, and Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia sponsor Jihad. America fails to improve Pakistan to Good, and a cell each from Afghanistan and Somalia fly to the US using clean ID's. The government of Sudan is pressured by the US due to its atrocities in Darfur, and due to High American Prestige bargains by becoming a US Ally in the War on Terror, and taking in Aid. The Yemeni cell is wiped out in guerrilla combat. US efforts bring Pakistan and Sudan to Good governance: both of the Islamist states, Somalia and Afghanistan, are surrounded by Fair and Good regimes. US support for Kosovo helps reputation in the Muslim world, but angers Serbia.

2005: A second Jihadist cell is recruited in the UK: there are now a total of 4 terrorist cells in the US and UK. Jaysh al-Mahdi Shia militias rise up in the Gulf States, but fail to make a dent in Government credibility and stability. American authorities track down and capture/kill the members of one of the terrorist cells in the United States itself. One terrorist attack each are attempted in the US and UK: both fail to materialize into real threats. Ansar al-Islam Kurdish Jihadists form a cell in Saddam's Iraq. UK and US authorities Disrupt cells in each of their countries, now just one cell remains, in the UK. (The Cadre of the last US cell remains free.) A new cell is recruited in Libya and the UK cell failed to multiply. Expensive UK intelligence efforts destroy the lone cell left, and hunt down and arrest its Cadre leadership. Cells are recruited in Somalia and Afghanistan, and 2 cells move from Somalia to Yemen. The War of Ideas reaches Ally Jordan, failing to spurn Good reform, but bringing in Aid. Meanwhile, cells from the launch-pads of Somalia and Afghanistan exploit Schengen Visas to travel to Spain and Benelux. The Islamist government of Somalia begins cooperation with local pirates, bringing a wealth of Funding to the global Jihadist cause. A plot attempt in Benelux falls flat. The War of Ideas still fails to bring complete reform to Jordan.

2006: The secular authoritarian rulers of the former Soviet Union assert themselves and turn Central Asia, on the aggregate, into a Neutral in the War on Terror. A cell travels from Afghanistan to Jordan, as Jihadist leadership recognizes the threat of US efforts in that country. The US still can't get further Jordanian reform. Jihadist warfare fails in Jordan and leads to the destruction of the cell there, but in Yemen is successful in gaining control of some of the countryside and undermining government trust, (shift from Fair Adversary to Poor Adversary) despite heavy casualties to the Jihadist forces. (One cell lost.) Jemaah Islamiya comes out strong in Neutral and Poor Indonesia, with 2 cells formed. After a protracted effort, the Jordanian monarchy, in an effort to undermine domestic Jihad, allows wide democratic elections, and opens up freedom of the press and labor organization, while maintaining capable police and intelligence forces: the country has reached Good Governance. Heavy US usage of its Guantanamo Bay detention facility imprisons many terror suspects, but ends up hurting US Prestige, though that Prestige is still High. (It is now at risk of slipping down to Medium, rather than raising up to Very High.) A Plot in Spain fails. Saddam Hussein begins giving oil-money to Jihadist groups: they are the enemy of his enemy the United States. The US has maintained a policy of containment against Iraq, imposing sanctions and a no-fly zone, and general blocking of Iraqi ability to attain WMD. Outright invasion and regime change has lacked political support during the entire War on Terror thus far. The War of Ideas sees the growing Jihadists numbers in Indonesia, and persuades that country and Malaysia to Fair Ally status. Jihadist guerrilla warfare responds from the jungles of Indonesia, turning the country back to Poor governance. A plot in Benelux fails. The US gains Italy as a strategic partner in its efforts, even as Serbia remains in disagreement. An expansionist Jihadist cell travels from Somalia to Yemen, meeting up with the other cell already there in the Poor, Besieged state. Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza lead to an Israeli ground invasion. US support for Israel in that war hurts US Prestige, though it is still High.

Assessment:
United States foreign policy analysts assess the events of the Global War on Terror, a little over 5 years after its start: US strategy has focused on maintaining high prestige and posture cooperation with Allies in order to ensure success in the War of Ideas, to improve governance in Muslim countries, and therefore cut off extremism at its roots. Strategically, the US has avoided any invasions of Muslim countries: this was done to preserve US resources for diplomacy, foreign aid, and counter-terrorism efforts, and to avoid being bogged down in quagmires of counter-insurgency wars that could harm US prestige in the Muslim world and sap domestic will for the long War on Terror. The US bent rather than broke when faced with uncooperative allies: purely hardline rhetoric and focus on military action proved unpopular with vital US allies such as the UK, Canada, and the EU countries, so the US switched its posture to a softer footing in order to gain diplomatic cooperation and help its prestige in the Muslim world. The US failed to capture al-Qaeda leadership, end Islamist rule where it already existed, (Afghanistan) or stop the spread of Islamist rule into Somalia. Adversaries of the US remained in power in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, and then Yemen and even Saudi Arabia became adversaries.

The Jihadist enemy was successful in gaining a foothold on the Horn of Africa with the Somalian Caliphate, and reaped great profits there from piracy. The Jihadists posed a major threat to the US and UK with numerous cells there at one point, and ended 2006 with cells in Spain and Benelux. However, the Jihadists failed to conduct a single post-9/11 plot in a non-Muslim country, and failed to damage the stability of the Gulf states or Saudi Arabia; their success in the Gulf was limited to using propaganda to turn Saudi Arabia against the US, and turning Yemen into a poorly governed adversary, and therefore terrorist haven. The Jihadists failed to obtain weapons of mass destruction. They failed to inflict significant casualties on US troops during the entire 5 years: partially due to lack of trying, partially due to US caution in troop deployments, and partially due to US counter-terrorism efforts.

Sudan, Jordan, the Gulf States, and Pakistan all became allies of the US, and undertook US-induced reform to good governance, with greater accountability, responsiveness, openness, and representation for their citizens. Central Asia and Saudi Arabia were at fair governance, although not allies. Overall, the United States was successful in the War on Terror from 2001 to 2006: economic resources of good-governed countries far outnumber those of Islamist-governed countries, (7 Good resources, more than 3 times the value of Islamist resources), including the vital oil-exporting countries of the Gulf States and Sudan. American prestige remains high, its casualties low, its non-Muslim allies in cooperation, and its Muslim allies effectively governing. A couple impoverished countries are ruled by Jihadists: big deal. America wins.
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Agung Waspodo
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Jawa Barat
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A great session report, I would love to see a final map of your solitaire session. I really need to get a solitaire session myself.
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Volko Ruhnke
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Terrific representational narrative!
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Geoffrey Wilson
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Thank you Mr. Ruhnke!

Always an honor to get praise from the game designer.
 
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Yaron Feldheim
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A wonderful solo-report! Great story-telling while keeping the process of the game clear. Would love to see another one in the future, perhaps with 2-decks?
 
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Shawn Baldwin
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Very good session report!

Best part of the whole thing:
Quote:
A couple impoverished countries are ruled by Jihadists: big deal. America wins.

+1 thumbsup
 
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Geoffrey Wilson
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One error I noticed just now;

I played Jaysh al-Mahdi the same as Iran, rather than making it automatically reduce governance by one level as it's supposed to.

Oops.

I doubt it would've changed the result of the game.

Also, I am continuing this game and AAR with a second deck, with the goal of 9 resources. Playing/typing it right now.

 
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