Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pentagon ponders ‘logistical nightmare’ of Afghan withdraw - RT (Russia Times)

...Indeed, the sheer amount of troops and equipment that needs to be brought home is staggering: in addition to 30,000 soldiers, the Pentagon must oversee the return of 48,000 vehicles, and a total of 81.5 million items, valued at some $33 billion.

The main problem confronting Pentagon planners is choosing the best exit route, an option that has substantially decreased thanks in large part to Washington’s failure on the diplomatic front, for example, with Russia over the ongoing political crisis gripping Ukraine.

One of the most reliable methods of moving military equipment in and out of Afghanistan has been via the Northern Distribution Network, 3,000 miles of winding railroad that passes through Central Asia into Kazakhstan, Russia and through parts of northern Europe to the sea.

In fact, 75 percent of military supplies into Afghanistan were delivered by this slow but reliable route.

However, recent violent protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, which led to the overthrow of the government and Crimea voting in a referendum to become part of the Russian Federation - an event that Washington has attempted to label as a “Russian military invasion” – have put a severe strain on Russia-US relations.

One result of the diplomatic breakdown is that Russia now refuses to permit NATO military cargoes from passing through its territory....

Top US Spy: Intel Cooperation With Pakistan ‘On the Upswing’ - ABC News

The strained spy relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. is “of late… on the upswing,” according to America’s top intelligence official.
“I have to be careful what I say here,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told students at the University of Georgia today. “First I’ll say that Pakistan is a very important ally, partner — particularly as we draw down in Afghanistan and won’t have the presence there that we’ve had in the past, whatever form that takes…”
“Many times our interests converge and sometimes they don’t,” Clapper said, adding that while thousands of Pakistani citizens have been killed or injured because of domestic militant actions, for the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), neighboring India is their greatest strategic concern.
“When we can converge with our interests, particularly in the intelligence realm – [I] can’t say too much about that publicly – we do. Of late, particularly with the new government in Pakistan, I think that cooperation has been on the upswing,” he said....


-bth: US KIA's fell to zero last month.  Relations with Pakistan are on the upswing from a OBL low.  Northern supply lines in jeopardy and India sides with Russia on the Ukraine.  Many trends to ponder.

Pak-Afghan relations: Ashraf seeks to forge 'special relationship' - Pak Bus Recorder

Afghan presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani says rapprochement with Pakistan, along the lines of France and Germany after World War II, is key to ending instability in his conflict-torn nation. The race to succeed President Hamid Karzai has narrowed to a two-way fight between Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah following the release of early partial results on Sunday.

Former World Bank academic Ghani told AFP he wants to end years of suspicion and mistrust with Pakistan and forge a "special relationship" with the nuclear power. In an interview with AFP, Ghani said Afghanistan's eastern neighbour had changed and a more harmonious relationship was critical for the region and the world.

"Pakistan is a different country. In the past, there was a distinction made between 'Good Taliban' and 'Bad Taliban'," he said. But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected in May 2013, "sees extremism as the fundamental challenge", Ghani said. "The goal is a special relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan that would resemble that of France and Germany after World War II," he added.

It sounds like an ambitious task but Afghanistan has already proven pessimists wrong, he said. With Nato winding down combat operations, security for the April 5 vote was in the hands of Afghan forces and the relative peace of polling day demonstrated they were up to the task of tackling the Taliban, he said....
Pak-Afghan relations: Ashraf seeks to forge 'special relationship'

Prominent Afghan Taliban Figure Missing After Peace Overture to Kabul - WSJ

A prominent Afghan Taliban figure who recently launched a peace overture with the government in Kabul has disappeared in the United Arab Emirates, Afghan officials and Pakistan-based militants said.

Confirming rumors that have circulated for weeks, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Shekib Mostaghni said Agha Jan Mutasim, the head of a breakaway faction of the Afghan Taliban, was missing. His disappearance cast new doubt on prospects for peace amid Afghanistan's delicate political transition.

The Afghan government was seeking information from the U.A.E. on his whereabouts, Mr. Mostaghni said. U.A.E. officials couldn't be reached for comment.

A leader of the Afghan Taliban, who said he had spoken to Mr. Mutasim's family, and a former Taliban official both said there was concern he had been taken into custody by U.A.E. authorities....

bth: what to make of this?

Syrian Rebels Using American-Made BGM-71 TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missiles i...

HKonJ, MoralMarch, We are North Carolina

Examining the pro-Russian campaign in Eastern Ukraine

Division widen in Ukraine as Kyiv is urged to rein in pro-Russian separa...

Monday, April 14, 2014

75th Anniversary of the Grapes of Wrath

... “Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank - or the Company - needs - wants - insists - must have - as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.” ...
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Putin Can Take Ukraine Without an Invasion, and Probably Will - The Daily Beast

A former top advisor to Vladimir Putin says the Russian president probably thinks at this point he can whip Ukraine back into line without having to resort to a full-blown invasion. Although it appears no Western power is willing to take military action to defend Kiev, overt Russian military action would risk deeper and more disruptive Western economic sanctions. So Putin’s willingness to play a longer-term game rests on his “cynical recognition” that he has three years to accomplish his objective before there is a change of leadership in the White House and the possibility of a more resolute American response.

“Putin’s objective remains to regain control of Ukraine, but I suspect he now thinks he can do this without ordering in the tanks,” says Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin economic policy advisor and now an unstinting critic of the Russian leader.

Illarionov tells The Daily Beast he expects Putin to maintain an intimidating offensive build-up of Russian forces along the Ukraine border, nonetheless, and that there will be no let-up in the fomenting of separatist agitation in the eastern Ukraine towns of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk and now Sloviansk. The aim is to destabilize Ukrainian politics, weaken Ukrainian state institutions and help Putin’s political allies reassert their power in Kiev....


Kharkiv Rebelled Against The Russian Invasion In Ukraine

Separatists Seized Police Station In Slaviansk, Donetsk Oblast Ukraine

Shootout During Seizure Of City Police Department In Kramatorsk By Russi...

Russian Separatists Seized The Building Of The Security Service In Slovi...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The problem remains that denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good

The West's post-Holocaust pledge that genocide
would never again be tolerated proved to be hollow,
and for all the fine sentiments
inspired by the memory of Auschwitz,
the problem remains that denouncing evil
is a far cry from doing good
--We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow
We Will Be Killed With Our Families,
Andrew, Gourevitch

Rwanda massacre twenty years ago this week.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Will ‘revise and update’ India’s n-doctrine, says BJP manifesto - Indian Express

...Sheshadri Chari, convener of the BJP’s foreign affairs cell and a member of the group that formulated this section of the party’s manifesto, said: “Why should we tie our hands into accepting a global no first use policy, as has been proposed by the Prime Minister recently?”
The BJP has seemingly leaned towards a growing view in strategic circles that India needs to revisit its NFU doctrine in the light of Pakistan’s reported effort to increase stocks of tactical nuclear weapons. The other fear is of Pakistan-based jehadi groups or rogue generals getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and using it against India, experts say....

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Stem cells and light restore paralysed muscles

Kiev sees Russian federalization plans as attempt to destroy Ukraine -WaPo

... Russia has been insisting that Ukraine adopt a federal form of government that would give regions nearly boundless authority. It’s a means to make the regions vulnerable to Russian interference, Ukrainians say, and eventually tear the country apart. And, they point out, Russia would never tolerate such a system itself.

“The issue of federalization is absolutely artificial,” said Yuriy Yakymenko, a political expert at the Razumkov think tank in Kiev. “It’s part of Russia’s plan to impose control over Ukraine and prevent it from integrating with Europe.”

Overall, 14 percent of Ukrainians support federalization, according to a poll released Saturday by the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-financed organization that supports democracy. Federalization was more popular in the south, 22 percent, and the east, 26 percent.

The poll, which included Crimea, was carried out from March 14 to 26 as Crimea was being annexed by Russia. The results contradict the assertions Russia has made to justify its annexation of Crimea and its threats to intervene in eastern Ukraine, instead finding widespread opposition to Russian incursion and a growing preference for ties to Europe rather than Russia.

Ukraine definitely needs decentralization, said Oleksiy Haran, a professor of comparative politics at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Cities and villages want real self-government, he said. But federalization?

“This is an idea developed by the Kremlin,” he said, “as a tool to divide Ukraine and play one region against the other.”...

-bth:  It look a little while to understand the Putin-Lavrov strategy, but it is now, to incite internal turmoil as pretext, use diplomacy and energy blackmail to force a negotiated federation that will then be cleaved into session one by one.  The tanks will sit on the border threatening all but I suspect that there aren't enough to conquer and hold much of the Ukraine and best serve as threats than realities.  But energy prices and political uncertain are a different matter.  And as this article points out armed groups are being organized with the Russians or by the Russians to cause turmoil in areas Russia wants to take from the Ukraine.

U.S. policeman-Devyani comparison ridiculous: India - The Hindu

NYPD official was held in Delhi as his baggage had live ammunition

The Indian Consulate in New York “dismissed as ridiculous” the notion that there was any connection between the detention of a New York Police Department official in New Delhi and the December 12, 2013 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, former Deputy Consul General, in New York.
In a statement forwarded by the Indian Embassy, a consulate spokesperson said, “The NYPD official was detained after his baggage was found to contain a few rounds of live ammunition when the bags were screened in New Delhi airport, prior to him taking a domestic flight. In India, this is a violation of the Arms Act.”
The spokesperson added that the official was released on bail “immediately” and was currently in India “awaiting a court date to resolve the case.”
Meanwhile, the State Department declined to comment on specifics of the case although it appeared to be aware of the incident....

-bth; at this time I would not underestimate the pettiness of the Indian authorities when it comes to US relations. The new tit-for-tat philosophy is a matter of national pride to be carried out to unending stupidity.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Hail and farewell - Catullus

“Driven across many nations, across many oceans
I am here, my brother, for this final parting,
to offer at last those gifts which the dead are given
and to speak in vain to your unspeaking ashes,
since bitter fortune forbids you to hear me or answer,
O my wretched brother, so abruptly taken!
But now I must celebrate grief with funeral tributes
offered the dead in the ancient way of the fathers;
accept these presents, wet with my brotherly tears, and
now and forever, my brother, hail and farewell.

Memorial ceremony set to read names of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead at Vietnam Wall - WaPo

“Last month was the first month that no American was killed in Afghanistan” since the start of the war there, said Jan C. Scruggs, president of the fund and the creator of the memorial and its wall.
“It just seemed like the time was right to do this,” he said. “And the Vietnam veterans are the ones who have to do this. We’re not going to let happen to these people what happened to us.
“This will provide them some recognition,” he said. “This will be a way for the nation to honor the war dead.”
The event is sponsored by, among others, the memorial fund, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the American Gold Star Mothers of America. The names will include in-theater hostile and non-hostile deaths, the fund said.
Andrews, for example, was reportedly killed in Qatar in a forklift accident while building a runway. He was an Air Force master sergeant.
On five previous occasions, the fund has hosted the reading of the 58,000 names of those killed in Vietnam and listed on the wall. That program takes 19 hours a day over four days, Scruggs said.
Such readings are “another step in the process, if you will, of a nation going to war” and coming home again, said David Petraeus, a retired Army general who served as the top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There are a number of these steps,” he said. “At some point, there will be a memorial for those who served in the post-9/11 wars.” The reading is one of those milestones, he said.
He said he plans to attend the ceremony and read some of the names.
Barbara Benard, 67, of Columbia, Pa., the national president of American Gold Star Mothers, said: “It means a lot to us mothers from this generation. Who knows when there will be anything built for our sons and daughters?
“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing this,” she said....


-bth: I am very grateful that the Vietnam era veterans arranged to make this name reading happen for Iraq and Afghan war dead.  After scouting out locations for a possible memorial to Iraq and Afghanistan last summer on the Washington Mall and the ensuing publicity, I have become doubtful that a memorial will ever be raised for the current era veterans in DC.  The political will is simply not there.  By law it will take at least a decade post conflict and the Afghan conflict is at least another year away.  I just don't think the DC folks care enough and the politicians there would sooner forget than have the country remember their contemptible culpability which created the Iraq war in the first place. Still one hopes and as Petraeus said this is the first step in what will be a long process of recognition.