...At the same time, other ingredients are increasingly being used as the main ingredient in the bombs. Walters said 47 percent of the homemade IEDs used in Afghanistan are made with material derived from calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer. But he said that potassium chlorate is now the main charge in 45 percent of the bombs — an increase from 20 percent a year ago.
About 80 percent of the IEDs that the U.S. and its allies encounter are termed “homemade,” while others are made from old shells or other explosive ordinance....
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Syria is making preparations to strike Tel Aviv in case Israel launches another attack on its territory, The Sunday Times reported on Sunday.
The Syrian army has begun deploying advanced surface-to-surface missiles, the report said, adding that it has received orders to strike central Israel in case additional attacks against Syria are carried out.
The Sunday Times said that the information was obtained by reconnaissance satellites that were tracking the Syrian forces. According to the report, Syria was deploying advanced Tishreen missiles which are capable of carrying a holf-ton warhead....
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Hatay Police Department had informed the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) about preparations for a bomb attack in the province's Reyhanlı district, but MİT told the police department to take no further action because it was taking care of the plan, the media reported on Sunday.
On May 11, one car bomb exploded outside the town hall while another went off outside a post office in Reyhanlı, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity in Hatay. Fifty-one people were killed and as many as 100 were injured in the bombings.
Since the incidents, many people have begun to question whether there had been negligence on the part of state officials and if the attacks could have been prevented....
Saturday, May 18, 2013
...In Syria, thousands of Alawites have left their homes in war-shattered cities such as Homs, for the relative safety of the overwhelmingly Alawite provinces of Tartous and Latakia.
Syrian opponents of Assad say Alawite fighters are trying to carve out a breakaway enclave in the country's mountainous Alawite heartland by driving out local Sunnis. They say recent killings in overwhelmingly Sunni villages close to Alawite communities are meant to lay the groundwork.
Earlier this month, regime forces from nearby Alawite areas were blamed for killing dozens of civilians in Banias and Bayda, two Sunni communities in western Syria. The violence bore a closer resemblance to two reported mass killings last year in Houla and Qubeir, Sunni villages surrounded by Alawite towns in central Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper that having failed to control the entire country, Assad was now executing his "plan B" — which involves opening up an Alawite corridor between central Syria and Lebanon and driving Sunnis away from the area.
"There is an effort to cleanse the region," Davutoglu said in the interview, published last week. "This will cause turmoil in Lebanon too. It could cause a culture of revenge."
-bth: so this article says 35K of the 70K casualties in this war are Alawite. Given their very small percentage of the population the casualty rate must be severely felt. That they are fortifying their coastal enclave is also consistent with the location of Russia's last naval base in the region and its recent reinforcements securing naval access.
...These spreading fissures leave little optimism that Syria can be stitched back together under one leadership in the near future.
“The only real outcome I see in the next 5 to 10 years is a series of cantons that agree to tactical cease-fires because they are tired of the bloodletting,” said Mr. Holliday, the analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. “That trajectory is in place, with or without Assad.”
Friday, May 17, 2013
...The Navy has invested $813 billion in its unmanned X-47B, a project that is close to operational.
This might seem like a large amount until you consider that DOD plans to spend $1.5 trillion on its manned F-35.
Of course, these costs will grow as the robots are produced on a larger scale. And people will never be completely eliminated from the DOD: Pentagon commanders are likely to use robots as companions to human soldiers, not as replacements.
But because they’re cheap to maintain, the rise of robot warriors is likely to reduce DOD spending. As production increases, efficiencies will be found, reducing costs. All signs indicate that the cost of using a robot in battle is likely to be less than using a human.
The real savings come through medical costs. Robots do not require long-term medical care, the time and services of the Veterans Administration, or anything else connected to the government’s bottom line.
If the robots are destroyed, they’re replaced. If they’re damaged, they’re repaired. They don’t require rehab or multiple surgeries to recover. And they don’t require psychological care for costly and tough-to-treat afflictions like post-traumatic stress.
Unless they begin to think.
... But for the most part, lawmakers tried to be “realistic,” aides said, suggesting measures that could reasonably be expected to both improve the economy and pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The meeting produced no decisions, either about policy or about the length of any debt-limit increase. Aides said another date-certain suspension — rather than a higher limit — remains a possibility.
Another open question: When should the House act? Aides predicted that House leaders would settle on a strategy and push a bill through before the August recess, before real negotiations with Democrats begin sometime after Labor Day.
“We’re not hurrying this. We’re not going to rush it. We’re going to listen to members. This is the day when you sit down with a yellow pad and pencil and start listing the pros and cons,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.). “But we’re very serious about finding something that could get 233 Republican votes and pass the House.”
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The U.S. government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan recontruction — Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) following a report said the Finance Ministry of Afghanistan has levied nearly $1 billion since 2008 in business taxes and associated penalties on 43 contractors.
The report issued by SIGAR on 14 May stated that the Afghan govrnment levied nearly $921 million “illegitimate” taxes on contractors working on U.S. funded reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.
The taxes were levied on contractors despite both the U.S. and Afghan government agreed to be exempted, creating dispute between the government and the contractors, the SIGAR audit revealed....
-bth: another ripoff
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Local officials reported that due to ongoing threats from the Taliban 40 schools have been forced to close in the Shahjoi district of Zabul province.
According to local officials the education and training processes has been stopped completely for 6 weeks in that district.
The acting Governor Mohammad Jan Rassoul Yar has said that by closing the schools, the Taliban have shown that they want to keep the young generation away from education and use them for their illicit objectives in the future.
The local residents also confirmed that the schools have been closed and their children are not going to schools for over a month.
According to the local residents the Taliban have reacted against the recent regulation of the Qalat Traffic department that prevents them from using motorcycles in that district.
The local residents added that if the Government takes back its regulation on prohibiting the use of motorcycles in the district the problem would be solved.
Though a lot of efforts have been underway to re-open the schools, there is yet to be a positive result.
-bth: so the Taliban closed the schools so that they can get use of their motorcycles back to plant IEDs and ambush people. How is it that the Taliban retains popular support?
(Reuters) - Four U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on Tuesday, the coalition and officials said, a day after three Georgian soldiers were killed in nearby Helmand....
bth: Sadly, this barely makes the news. The US is mentally disengaged from Afghanistan. We need to get the hell out.