Saturday, February 18, 2006

Iraq oil sector lost over USD 6 bln. in 2005 -- of...2/18/2006

Kuna siteStory pageIraq oil sector lost over USD 6 bln. in 2005 -- of...2/18/2006: "BAGHDAD, Feb 18 (KUNA) -- Iraq has lost over USD 6 billion throughout 2005 due to sabotage operations against its oil sector facilities, a senior official told KUNA on Saturday.

Issam Jihad, Spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said the ministry experts have estimated the loss at USD 6.25 billion, while 138 security and technical personnel lost their lives in a series of 186 sabotage operations carried in 2005.

Operations to set oil fields ablaze cost the ministry about USD 400 million, while above USD 2.7 billion were lost in operations against crude oil pipelines. Destroying petrochemicals pipelines also cost over USD 3 billion, he concluded. (end) mhg."

[bth: This means each attack cost them $33 million in lost revenues. Pretty stunning for deadenders]

The Ballad of Dick Cheney

TBogg: "Come and listen to a story about veep named Dick
Went out shooting quail, but he shot himself a hick,
Had a few drinks, thought he'd have himself some fun
Turned to left and he shot the wrong one

In the face, close range, ow that hurts.

Well the security said, Dick get away from here,
Get back to the lodge and have yourself a beer
We'll clean up like we did with Valerie Plame
The victim can't talk, so he'll be the one to blame

Later, that is. In the morning. Have another drink.

Well the press they started to make a mighty fuss
The White House said, don't blame it all on us
Talk to the veep or Mary Matalin
Set it up with Hume, he'll help us with the spin "

Softball questions. No follow-up. Fake journalist

Well Dick went to Brit and he told a big lieSaid he was sober and he hopes the guy don’t dieThen went back to his bubble, kept from out of our viewWith a message for David Gregory: Hey Dave, fuck you.

Now the moral of our story is that Dick can do no wrongFighting for America, got to keep the country strongGonna keep us out of wars so we don’t get stuckAnd if you hunt with Dick Cheney, then you better learn to duck.Y’all fuck off now, y’hear?
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A true tally of war's costs

KR Washington Bureau 02/15/2006 A true tally of war's costs: "WASHINGTON - There are always costs in a war, human costs and hardware costs, and as we draw close to beginning the fourth year of our operations in Iraq it's time to tally those costs one more time."

As of this week a total of 2,270 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, the great majority of those losses suffered in combat. The number of wounded has reached 16,653, just over half of those marked wounded but returned to duty. A little known cost is in vehicles lost in combat. Just for the U.S. Army alone that number has reached nearly 1,000.

The cost for replacing those totally destroyed vehicles and overhauling thousands more worn out by heavy use totals $9 billion in this year's proposed defense budget and in the off-budget emergency wartime supplemental budget Congress passes twice each fiscal year.

Since the Iraq combat operations began in the winter of 2003 the Army has lost 20 M1 Abrams tanks; 50 Bradley fighting vehicles; 20 Stryker wheeled combat vehicles; 20 M113 armored personnel carriers; 250 Humvees; and some 500 Fox wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, mine clearing vehicles and heavy and medium transport trucks and trailers.

The bulk of these losses in tracked and wheeled vehicles were to the ubiquitous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that the insurgents employ to such deadly purpose.

To that equipment toll, for both Afghanistan and Iraq, add 27 Apache attack helicopters; 21 Blackhawk utility helicopters; 23 Kiowa Warrior assault helicopters; and 14 big Chinook cargo helicopters.

Only 17 of the helicopter losses are counted as combat downings.

The rest were destroyed in accidents.

This information and these figures are courtesy of The Army Times weekly newspaper, Feb. 20 issue, with thanks. The Army has ordered 19 new Stryker armored vehicles to be built to replace the losses. In the case of the Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and M113 personnel carriers which are no longer in production the Army pulls replacements out of mothballs and runs them through a frame-up depot rebuilding process that upgrades them to the newest high-tech versions.

In addition to replacing the totally destroyed vehicles, the Army is faced with near-total rebuilding jobs on literally thousands of other Abrams tanks, Bradleys, M113s, Humvees, trucks and aircraft that have been worn out by heavy use in the combat zones.

The wear and tear on those vehicles is estimated at five times normal peacetime use, and that wear factor is cumulative as the war drags on. Last year the Army's Materiel Command and its contractors overhauled 230 Abrams tanks. This year they expect to overhaul more than 700 of the huge tanks. Bradleys go from last year's 318 overhauls to this year's 600. Overhauls of Humvees, which totaled 5,000 in 2005, will hit 9,000 in fiscal 2006.

These totals do not take into account major repairs needed for small arms, radios, generators and all the other gear that an army runs on in a combat zone.

Why is so much of the equipment being ground down?

Because the vehicles and much of the other gear including body armor does not go home when units rotate out for a year's break from combat. Their equipment stays behind and the arriving unit just picks it up and puts it back to work without a break. Over 30,000 vehicles are on duty all the time in Iraq. Put simply our soldiers are literally driving the wheels, and tracks, off these vehicles, and will continue to do so for as long as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue.

One senior official of the Army Materiel Command estimates that if the war ended tomorrow there would still be two years' worth of work to fix all the vehicles and gear. That includes 30,000 Humvees, the modern replacement for the old Army Jeep. When they eventually come home some 6,000 of them will be declared surplus or beyond repair. The rest will be repaired and upgraded and parceled out to the Army units.

Equipment can be repaired or replaced. But nothing can replace a father or mother who has been killed in this war, or any war. Nothing can compensate for all the lives shattered when a soldier dies in combat. In Iraq it is estimated that the human toll includes nearly 1,000 spouses who have been left behind, alone, and more than 2,000 children who have lost a parent to the war.

Nor can you repair or replace what has been lost by hundreds of soldiers severely injured by powerful IED blasts and left double or triple amputees, blind or brain damaged, riddled by shrapnel. For them, and those who love them, life suddenly has become an unending struggle.

Remember them.
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Iraq Power Shift Widens a Gulf Between Sects - New York Times

Iraq Power Shift Widens a Gulf Between Sects - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 17 - Not long after the Americans occupied Iraq, strange things began happening in the family of Fatin Abdel Sattar, a Sunni Arab."

Her teenage son stopped giving his Sunni name in Shiite areas. Her sister's marriage fell apart as her Shiite husband turned his anger over old wounds on his Sunni spouse.
"We're concluding that it's better not to marry those from another sect," Ms. Abdel Sattar said, "to avoid problems in the future, to try to make our children's lives a little easier."

Of all of the changes that have swept Iraqi society since the American invasion almost three years ago, one of the quieter ones, yet also one of the most profound, has been the increased identification with one's own sect. In the poisonous new mix of violence, sectarian politics and lawlessness, families are turning inward to protect themselves.

"Since the state was dismantled in Iraq, institutions have disappeared and people have withdrawn into their clans and tribes," Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, said in a recent interview.

The trend badly damaged the fortunes of Mr. Allawi's bloc of secular parties in the December elections for Parliament, as the vast majority of Iraq's 11.9 million voters cast ballots along sectarian and ethnic lines.

As a result, tribal ties now bind more firmly. Social life has withdrawn from clubs to homes. Mixed marriages are more carefully considered. "For a parent, the first question now is going to be: Sunni or Shiite?" said Shatha al-Quraishi, an Iraqi lawyer who specializes in family law. "People are starting to talk about it. I can feel it. I can touch that something has changed."

At the same time, pent-up feelings that for years were kept hidden under Saddam Hussein's government are now bursting into full view, in some cases dividing families. Shiite husbands jailed under Mr. Hussein turn their anger on their Sunni wives. Children come home asking if they are Sunni or Shiite.

Sectarian tensions in private lives are far from universal: Iraqis of different sects have mixed for decades and still do. But anecdotal evidence provided in interviews with lawyers, court clerks and social workers suggests that fault lines that have always existed are now becoming more distinct.

An analysis provided by one family court in central Baghdad showed that mixed marriages were rare to begin with, making up 3 to 5 percent of all unions in late 2002. But by late 2005 they had virtually stopped: the court did not record any in December, and last month registered only 2 out of 742 marriages.

"For the coming 10 years you can record the biggest changes in the Iraqi community," said Ansam Abayachi, a social researcher who works with Iraqi women and families. "The Sunnis will be on one side, the Shia on the other, and there is no mixed family."

The changes have their roots in the recent upheaval in the order of Iraqi society....

[bth: Another indication that Iraq will inevitably breakup. ]
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Doing the President's Dirty Work - New York Times

Doing the President's Dirty Work - New York Times: "Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?

For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. It was supposed to start after the 2004 election, but Mr. Roberts was letting it die of neglect until the Democrats protested by forcing the Senate into an unusual closed session last November.

Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse."

Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry.

Stifling his own committee without even bothering to get the facts is outrageous. As the vice chairman of the panel, Senator John Rockefeller IV, pointed out, supervising intelligence gathering is in fact the purpose of the intelligence committee.

Mr. Rockefeller said the White House had not offered enough information to make an informed judgment on the program possible. It is withholding, for instance, such minor details as how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much and what kind of information is collected, and how the information is stored and used.

Mr. Roberts said the White House had agreed to provide more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee — hardly an enormous concession since it is already required to do so.

And he said he and the White House were working out "a fix" for the law. That is the worst news. FISA was written to prevent the president from violating Americans' constitutional rights. It was amended after 9/11 to make it even easier for the administration to do legally what it is now doing.

FISA does not in any way prevent Mr. Bush from spying on Qaeda members or other terrorists. The last thing the nation needs is to amend the law to institutionalize the imperial powers Mr. Bush seized after 9/11.

[bth: this is just another astonishing example of the total lack of Congressional oversight with regard to the Executive branch. Who is looking after our constitutional rights - little things like the fourth amendment? I will not willingly give up my constitutional rights without a fight - not to a man in a cave or to an unbridled President and his Republican collaborators that control Congress. Isn't there a civil libertarian in the Republican Party left standing or enough Democrats willing to attack this head-on? Where are the patriots?]
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IRAQ: SHIITE MILITANT LINKS IRAN TO BASRA DEATH SQUADS

IRAQ: SHIITE MILITANT LINKS IRAN TO BASRA DEATH SQUADS: "Basra, 17 Feb. (AKI) - The former leader of an Islamic militant group in Basra admitted on Friday that his movement 'took part in death squads which operated in this city' with input from the Iranian secret services. Abu Kazem, who declined to name his group, told Adnkronos International (AKI) the 'members' of his political movement 'were part of a group tasked with carrying out murders in Basra'.

Iraq's interior ministry on Thursday set up an inquiry into on-going allegations from the Sunni minority of death squads within the police force, after a US general revealed the arrest of 22 policemen allegedly on a mission to kill a Sunni.


'We met from time to time at the base of one of the [Islamist] organisations along with members of the Iranian secret services who gave us instructions on the people who were to be killed' Abu Kazem said.

'All the parties and the movements were in possession of a variety of arms which were usually used for this [murders] along with police uniforms and police cars which were provided to the parties at the time by the former chief of police' he added.

Abu Kazem underlined that the decisions on which people to kill were made 'according to orders from Iran, and first and foremost targets were local officials, academics and journalists'.

He denied taking part personally in these attacks, saying his role was limited to 'planning, while the former members of my group took part in at least ten of these hit operations'. He did not specify who was killed or when."...

[bth: there is a reasonable chance that this story was planted. Note he does not specify what group is was with.]
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Ex-Press Aide for NASA Offers Defense

"George C. Deutsch, the young NASA press aide who resigned on Tuesday amid claims that he had tried to keep the agency's top climate scientist from speaking publicly about global warming, defended himself publicly yesterday."

Speaking to a Texas radio station and then to The New York Times, Mr. Deutsch said the scientist, James E. Hansen, exaggerated the threat of warming and tried to cast the Bush administration's response to it as inadequate.

Mr. Deutsch also denied lying about having a college degree and trying to inject religion into some NASA Web presentations.

"I have never been told to censor science, to squelch anything or to insert religion into any issue," he told the radio reporter, Brian Cain.

Parts of that interview were posted on the Web site of WTAW-AM, in College Station (wtaw.com), where Mr. Deutsch attended Texas A&M University until he joined President Bush's campaign in 2004.

After seeing a transcript of some of the criticisms, Dr. Hansen said, "This is so wacky that it deserves little response."

In the radio interview, Mr. Deutsch also criticized others within NASA who supported Dr. Hansen's view that he was being suppressed. Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer who told The Times of several conversations in which Mr. Deutsch said his job was to "make the president look good," said she would not comment on his assertions.

"The House Science Committee is conducting an investigation because they were concerned and I'm just not prepared to stoop to his level," Ms. McCarthy said in a telephone interview last night.

Starting in late January with several interviews in The New York Times, Dr. Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, and several career NASA public affairs officials and scientists complained about what they said were intensifying efforts by political appointees in NASA, including Mr. Deutsch, to control more closely his lectures and Web presentations.

Last Friday, after more NASA scientists and public affairs officers told The Times of other instances in which political appointees altered news releases or Web presentations in ways the workers said were tinged by politics, Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, issued a "statement of scientific openness" to all NASA employees saying, "we have identified a number of areas in which clarification and improvements to the standard operating procedures of the Office of Public Affairs can and will be made."

Dr. Griffin also said "it is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."

The Times reported on Wednesday that contrary to his résumé on file with NASA, Mr. Deutsch, who is 24, never graduated from Texas A&M. Yesterday, in an interview with The Times, Mr. Deutsch said he had written the résumé in anticipation of graduating.

"When I left college," he said, "I did not properly update my résumé. As a result, it may appear misleading to some.

However, I was up front with NASA about my undergraduate status when they hired me."

In an e-mail message, Mr. Deutsch said that remarks about religious views on the creation of the universe sent last October to a Web designer working on a presentation on Albert Einstein were "personal observations" and never were reflected in the material that was posted online.

"We are both Christians, and I was sharing with him my personal opinions on the Big Bang theory versus intelligent design," Mr. Deutsch wrote to The Times. "What I said about intelligent design did not affect the presentation of the Big Bang theory in the subsequent Einstein Web story. This is a very important point, because I have been accused of trying to insert religion into this story, which I was not trying to do."
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Ahmadinejad on the warpath

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs: "As the Iranian revolution enters its 28th year this month, the Islamic Republic stands at the most critical stage of its history. While power is being transferred to second-generation revolutionaries, the country is on a collision course with the United States over its controversial nuclear program.

At the center of this unfolding drama is the perplexing figure of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has managed to isolate," enrage and frighten important domestic and external constituencies in the space of only six months. Left to their own devices, Ahmadinejad and the second-generation revolutionaries who stand behind him are likely to change the Islamic Republic beyond recognition in the years ahead.

But the complicating factor in all this is the increasing possibility of some form of military confrontation between Iran and the United States within two years. The key question is whether Ahmadinejad and his inner circle believe that military confrontation serves their long-term political and socio-economic agenda. A controversial presidentAhmadinejad's first six months as president have had a mixed reaction.

Domestically, he has tried to buttress his position among his core constituency, namely the urban poor and the lower classes who rallied around his calls for the revival of the Iranian revolution's egalitarian message. While it is clearly too early to judge his performance as a champion of a more egalitarian society, it is important to point out that the Ahmadinejad government has not undertaken a single serious policy that would reverse the country's widening wealth gap.

That said, there has been no let-up in the populist rhetoric and sloganeering that marked his election campaign. Lack of progress on the economic and social-justice front notwithstanding, Ahmadinejad has introduced massive changes to the face and operations of the executive branch.

Virtually all provincial governors have been replaced by Ahmadinejad loyalists, who tend to be young and hail from the Islamic Republic's security establishment, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC - or the Sepah-e-Pasdaran). Moreover, Ahmadinejad has replaced most senior bankers and other important figures in charge of the country's finances. Furthermore, many of the country's most experienced diplomats have been recalled from abroad and replaced by less experienced figures, with backgrounds in the Sepah-e-Pasdaran and other security outfits.

At a superficial level it appears that the Ahmadinejad government is preparing for conflict and is reordering the entire machinery of government accordingly. But the changes introduced since August have a deeper meaning; they signify the coming of age of so-called "second-generation" revolutionaries who were propelled into a position of leadership by Ahmadinejad's surprise election victory last June.

The most important feature of the second-generation revolutionaries is that they developed their political consciousness in the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, and not in the revolutionary struggle against the Pahlavi regime. While they are intensely loyal to the memory of the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the leader of the Iranian revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic), the second-generation revolutionaries have tenuous ties (at best) to the conservative clerical establishment that controls the key centers of political and economic power.

Contrary to Western reporting, Ahmadinejad's performance has generated more controversy and ill-feeling within the corridors of power in Tehran than in the crucible of Western public opinion. Arguably, the most surprising development in the past six months is the extent of Ahmadinejad's independence and freedom of action.

Originally dismissed as the lackey of the clerical establishment, Ahmadinejad has proved time and again that the only agenda that drives him is his own. In the space of a few months the former IRGC commander has emerged as certainly the most independent and arguably the most powerful president in the republic's 27-year history.

Even the Islamic Republic's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, does not seem to have any appreciable influence over Ahmadinejad and his inner circle. While liberals and reformists are, broadly speaking, in opposition to the Ahmadinejad government, it is the conservative establishment that has emerged as the second-generation revolutionaries' most formidable adversary.

This is not surprising, given that the latter aspire to reorder fundamentally the socio-economic system in the Islamic Republic, changes that would fatally weaken the conservatives. The conservative establishment hoped to delay the coming of age of the second-generation revolutionaries by positioning Hashemi Rafsanjani in the presidency. But Rafsanjani lost to Ahmadinejad, and he has since played the part of a bad loser.

Indeed, the most vociferous opposition to the changes of the past six months has been made by Rafsanjani in his unofficial capacity as the public head of the conservative establishment.

Consequences of war

While Iranian-US relations have reached an all-time low, it is important to note that not even the most committed anti-American elements in Iran see war as a foregone conclusion.

Near-universal public support for the country's nuclear program notwithstanding, Iranians are acutely aware of the consequences of military confrontation with the US. Insofar as Iran's standing in the region and the wider world is concerned, the stakes could not be higher. Reformists and conservatives alike are desperate to avoid war, for diametrically opposed reasons.

For the former, aggression by the US would spell the end (at least for another generation) of the country's emerging grassroots democracy movement. Reformists fear that war would entrench the conservatives domestically and enable radical elements to seize control of the country's foreign policy and reverse the gains of the past 16 years.

Ironically, conservatives fear war more than the reformists, even though they are confident of being entrenched politically, at least in the short term. What the conservatives fear losing (as a result of war and its concomitant extreme international isolation) is their economic and commercial privileges.

Contrary to Western reporting, the conservative establishment is not held together by ideology, but by vast (and impossibly complex) networks of patronage and economic/commercial monopolies.

These networks thrive in a wider context of socio-economic stability; stability that would be blasted away by conflict and its repercussions. The central question is how the second-generation revolutionaries led by Ahmadinejad view potential conflict with the US.

The answer to this question lies in a better understanding of the second-generation revolutionaries' background, ideology and socio-economic agenda. The key personalities in this vast network are former IRGC commanders; this includes Ahmadinejad and nearly all members of his inner circle.

This military-ideological background is accentuated by a strong sense of Iranian nationalism and Shi'ite supremacism. Some influential second-generation revolutionaries (including Ahmadinejad himself) even harbor millenarian beliefs.

While they do not welcome conflict, they see it as an opportunity for a full-scale catharsis. To men like Ahmadinejad, the Islamic Republic is unconquerable; with its ability to project power well beyond its size and resources, rooted in its "undeterrable" nature.

On a more practical level, the second-generation revolutionaries may see conflict as an opportunity for entrenchment and a context-generator for their long-term socio-economic policies.

They would certainly see it as an opportunity to reverse Westernization and bring Iran more in line with developments in the wider Muslim world (where anti-Western feelings proliferate and Islamic movements are increasingly on the rise).

While a US assault on Iran would probably engender all the above, it also runs the risk of unleashing dynamics that will elude the control of the Islamic Republic.

First and foremost, conflict will almost certainly strengthen militant Islam in Iran, but of the kind that even the most hardline elements in the regime would not countenance.

There are already many small networks of Shi'ite extremists in the country, but they are kept in check by the country's stability and an effective security establishment. Any weakening of the state will enable these networks to widen and deepen their influence exponentially.

More worrying, conflict would significantly strengthen Sunni militancy on the country's fringes, particularly in the near-lawless Sistan va Balochistan province (bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan). A US assault on Iran would run the very real risk of enabling al-Qaeda to gain a foothold in the country.

While Ahmadinejad and his supporters are correct in their belief that war would not fatally undermine the Islamic Republic, it is not at all clear whether they have properly thought through the potential consequences.

At a time when the Americans are giving every indication of preparing for a long-term containment strategy over the controversial Iranian nuclear program (likely characterized by periodic bombings followed by long spells of tense standoff - eerily reminiscent of the containment strategy employed against Iraq from 1991-2003), Iranians of all political persuasions ought to be thinking of avoiding this scenario, at unacceptable costs if necessary. Mahan Abedin is the editor of Terrorism Monitor, which is published by the Jamestown Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in research and analysis on conflict and instability in Eurasia.

The views expressed here are his own.
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Afghan leader confronts Pakistan over terror support

Telegraph News Afghan leader confronts Pakistan over terror support: "President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has handed over extensive intelligence dossiers to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf detailing how suicide bombers who attack targets in Afghanistan are being recruited, trained and equipped in Pakistan.

Although Mr Karzai stopped short of accusing Pakistan's military regime of perpetrating the attacks, he said the US and Britain would be 'stepping up pressure on Islamabad' to take action to stop the attacks, as British troops soon deploy in southern Afghanistan."

Mr Karzai was on a landmark three-day visit to the Pakistani capital Islamabad which ended yesterday.

At least 30 suicide bomb attacks have killed nearly 100 people in Afghanistan, including civilians, over the past three months.

Mr Karzai faces extreme pressure at home where anti-Pakistan sentiment is rising. There have been dozens of demonstrations over allegations that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is giving support to the Taliban.

"We have provided President Musharraf with a lot of very detailed information on acts of terrorism being carried out in Afghanistan and we discussed in great detail what actions Pakistan could now take," Mr Karzai told The Daily Telegraph....
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Five bodyguards killed as Iraq bank chief kidnapped - World - Times Online

..."According to the US military, calls to the Iraqi Interior Ministry's kidnap hotline have jumped from nine a week in mid-December to 26 a week last month, and a report published by the Brookings Institute, an American think-tank, estimates that there were 30 Iraqi kidnappings a day in December, up from ten a day the same month a year previously.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said that the numbers of those taken hostage include at least 425 foreign citizens and 5,000 Iraqis.

The links between organised crime, terrorist and insurgent groups, tribal feuds and top-level corruption have made kidnapping something akin to a national industry. "...

Near Concord's North Bridge, March 04 Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 17, 2006

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Gas attack. WWI

Battle with al-Qaeda 'will last decades'

"BRITAIN's security forces are nowhere near getting to grips with al-Qaeda, the country's top anti-terror police officer said yesterday, warning the struggle could take decades.

Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch, said it was 'hopelessly optimistic' to think that the threat from al-Qaeda could be contained within five or ten years."

One report even suggests that the current generation of al-Qaeda leaders have drawn up a "50-year plan", he said.

Mr Clarke, speaking to a Whitehall gathering of security experts, gave a sobering assessment of the task facing police and intelligence officers trying to counter Islamic extremist groups.

"Five to ten years to get a grip on it is hopelessly optimistic. I don't think we'll be anywhere near," said Mr Clarke, a deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard.

Al-Qaeda, often described as more an idea than an organisation, was "resilient" to attempts to disrupt its structure and anticipate its activities.

At the same conference at the Royal United Services Institute, Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, signalled that the government also considers Islamic terrorism a long-term problem.

Ministers are moving away from the tradition that anti-terror laws are temporary and renewed by parliament on an annual basis, she suggested.

"Probably we all would have had a genuine hope that terrorism would be a temporary phenomenon and therefore our laws could be temporary.

"I think probably we are in a different position now."

Mr Clarke warned that the experience of police and MI5 officers attempting to monitor suspected terrorists shows that they can be very hard to track.

"Some of the people we are up against are extremely skilled, they are adept in anti-encounter surveillance," Mr Clarke said.

The only real way to counter the threat, he said, is better "public intelligence" from British Muslim communities, though he admitted that winning that trust and co-operation is "a long and difficult process".

"We're not reaching the parts of the community we need to through our traditional community-relations programmes," Mr Clarke said.

Part of the answer, Mr Clarke suggested, was greater public awareness and understanding of the terrorist threat and the authorities' attempts to meet it.

He pointed out that there are currently more than 60 people awaiting trial on terrorist charges, including plots to use poison, explosives, automatic weapons and even "radiological" material. However, because those people have been charged, there are legal restrictions on what the police can say about their cases or what the media can report.

Mr Clarke's argument for more public understanding of the security situation echoes a call from Lord Carlile, the government's independent assessor of terrorism laws, who said earlier this week that ministers should publish more information about possible threats and efforts to counter them.

[bth: if this timeline is correct then the US and its allies need to be more efficienct about fighting al-Qaeda. We cannot afford to spend $10 billion per month in Iraq on a sustained basis. We must become more efficient and more focused on al-Qaeda and less on Iraq.]
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The Lessons of Counterinsurgency

The Lessons of Counterinsurgency: "TALL AFAR, Iraq -- The last time the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment served in Iraq, in 2003-04, its performance was judged mediocre, with a series of abuse cases growing out of its tour of duty in Anbar province.

But its second tour in Iraq has been very different, according to specialists in the difficult art of conducting a counterinsurgency campaign -- fighting a guerrilla war but also trying to win over the population and elements of the enemy. Such campaigns are distinct from the kind of war most U.S. commanders have spent decades preparing to fight."...

[bth: this is an excellent article on what can work well in a counter insurgency operation. It is worth a full read.]
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Don't Dumb Down the Army - New York Times

Don't Dumb Down the Army - New York Times: "DESPITE claims to the contrary by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Army is facing a manpower crisis. The evidence can be found in two separate reports released last month -one commissioned by the Pentagon, the other by Congressional Democrats -and in this simple fact: last year the Army accepted its least qualified pool in a decade.

The Army inducted both more recruits without high school diplomas and more youths scoring in the lowest category of the Army's aptitude test, so-called Category IV recruits.

Welcoming more such recruits into the military has obvious appeal at a time when recruitment numbers are slipping, while manpower needs remain acute. But the adoption of lower standards to fill the ranks is shortsighted and imprudent. Moreover, continuing or expanding this policy would be a mistake for the Army and for the recruits themselves. Pentagon officials should know this better than anyone: their previous experiments with lower standards were clear failures."...

[bth: this article if filled with facts regarding a Project 100,000 which was conducted during Vietnam. It was a dismall failure. The parallels to current recruiting are striking. This is not good.]
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Apparent Death Squad Is Linked to Iraqi Ministry

Apparent Death Squad Is Linked to Iraqi Ministry: "BAGHDAD, Feb. 16 -- U.S. and Iraqi authorities discovered an apparent death squad operating within the country's Interior Ministry last month when Iraqi troops prevented a group of highway patrol officers from killing a Sunni Arab man the officers had arrested, an American military spokesman said Thursday.

The 22 men, dressed in the camouflage uniforms of special police commandos, were stopped by chance at an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Baghdad, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who gave a detailed account of the incident to the Chicago Tribune for an article published Thursday. When the soldiers asked the police what they were doing, they responded bluntly: They were going to execute their captive. Instead, they wound up in jail."...
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Bumpy road ahead to Iraq's first full government

International News Article Reuters.com: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - It could be weeks or even months before Iraqis get their first full-term government since the ousting of Saddam Hussein, with political factions wrangling over top ministries and conflicting visions of Iraq's future.

'I think this process will take until at least the middle of next month,' said Abbas al-Bayati, a Turkmen Shi'ite Muslim who belongs to the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

'There are two main problems: getting all the parties to agree on a government program, which may take time, and the distribution of portfolios, especially key ministries such as interior, defense and foreign affairs.'"...
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Al-Qaida's connections to Pakistan grow

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Al-Qaida is now reliant on Pakistani militants and groups, a U.S. terror expert said Wednesday.

ABC terrorism analyst Alexis Debat discussed the recent 'Pakistanization' of al-Qaida at the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank. He said recent developments required intelligence analysts to reassess the way the terrorist group functioned.

'The (al-Qaida) organization has filtered through those Pakistani groups and is now reliant on them,' Debat said. 'The militant community has evolved in a very interesting way. It's become a little al-Qaida in itself. If you look at a lot of developments of the past several years you'll see that those militant groups have a very important place in al-Qaida.'

This is not the first time al-Qaida has been linked to or even dependent upon Pakistani militants to support their mission, Debat said. 'In the '90s most of the volunteers trained in al-Qaida's camps were Pakistani,' he said. 'Beginning in '97 '98 '99, the trainers were Pakistani. The Pakistanization of al-Qaida was very strong back then.'

Debat said al-Qaida also had 'roots not only in the militant community but in the mainstream community in Pakistan.' He said al-Qaida operatives had been apprehended in safe houses owned or run by local government officials affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's largest religious political party. 'This holds a very fundamental challenge. We're not talking about just deep roots, we're talking about the main Pakistani society and political community,' he said.

Debat said that evidence suggested al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden spends part of the year hiding in Pakistan. He also said that the Pakistani militant community had acted as a subcontractor of al-Qaida in several of its operations including an assassination attempt on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the July 2005 bombings in London.
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Jason Leopold | Gonzales Withholding Plame Emails

Sources close to the investigation into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson have revealed this week that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has not turned over emails to the special prosecutor's office that may incriminate Vice President Dick Cheney, his aides, and other White House officials who allegedly played an active role in unmasking Plame Wilson's identity to reporters.

Moreover, these sources said that, in early 2004, Cheney was interviewed by federal prosecutors investigating the Plame Wilson leak and testified that neither he nor any of his senior aides were involved in unmasking her undercover CIA status to reporters and that no one in the vice president's office had attempted to discredit her husband, a vocal critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence. Cheney did not testify under oath or under penalty of perjury when he was interviewed by federal prosecutors.

The emails Gonzales is said to be withholding contained references to Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and CIA status and developments related to the inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Moreover, according to sources, the emails contained suggestions by the officials on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Joseph Wilson had been making about the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence."...
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INDONESIA: 3,000 DETONATORS AND FUSES SEIZED ON PASSENGER FERRY

"Nunukan, East Kalimantan, 17 Feb. (AKI) - Police arrested two people and seized some 3,000 detonators and fuses on a passenger ferry on the island of Borneo. The devices were sequestrated as they were being transferred onto the ferry from a boat that had arrived from Malaysia. The arrests were made last week but were only made public on Friday, said Maj. Gen. Sitompul.

The two men will be charged under laws regulating explosive materials that carry a possible death penalty, Sitompul said. He declined to speculate on whether the detonators were intended for terrorist use.

Borneo is a key transit point between militant training camps in the insurgency-wracked southern Philippines and their centres of operation in Indonesia. However, illegal miners and fishermen also use home-made bombs to break up rocks or stun fish, and regularly buy these on the black market in Indonesia.

Almost 250 people have been killed in a series of bombings in Indonesia in recent years, blamed on al-Qaida linked militants. The most recent was the attack on 1 October last year on restaurants popular with foreign tourists on the island of Bali that killed 20 people.

The Indonesian authorities are particularly wary of material that might be used in similar attacks in the future. "
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TERRORISM: THREE MOROCCANS CONVICTED OF HEADING AL-QAEDA LINKED BELGIAN CELL

"Brussels, 16 Feb. (AKI) - A Brussels court on Thursday found three Moroccan nationals resident in Belgium guilty of leading a cell that gave logistical support to the al-Qaeda linked Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (GICM), suspected by investigators to be linked to the Madrid commuter train bombings in March 2004 and suicide bomb attacks in Casablanca in May, 2003. The court was due to sentence the three men - Abdeldaker Hakimi, Lahoussine El Haski and Mustapha Lounani - later in the day, after it handed down verdicts for ten other defendants. The defendants deny all terrorism charges.

Eleven out of the 13 defendants in the high-security trial are charged with links to the GICM. The trial began on 3 November last year, and is the first to be covered by Belgium's new anti-terror law, which could see the defendants jailed from between five and 15 years. State prosecutors have requested a 10-year sentence for Hakimi and El Haski, and eight years for Lounani.

GICM members had lived in Belgium after the Madrid attacks and raised funds for the movement, the judge said in his summing-up of the case. The United Nations and the European Union consider the GICM a terrorist organisation that was involved in the Casablanca bombings which killed 45 people on 16 May, 2003, and the Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people on 11 March, 2004 and injured 1,900. "
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Bush seeks extra 72.4 billion dollars for Iraq, Afghanistan in 2006

"WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush has asked Congress for 72.4 billion dollars in additional funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, the White House said. "

If approved by Congress as expected, the request would raise war-related spending to nearly 400 billion dollars since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

"These funds support US armed forces and coalition partners as we advance democracy, fight the terrorists and insurgents, and train and equip Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their sovereignty and freedom," Bush said in a letter to Congress.

The bulk of the money -- 34.7 billion dollars -- will go to cover the cost of maintaining 138,000 US troops in Iraq and about another 15,000 in Afghanistan.

But billions of dollars more will go to train and equip Iraqi security forces, deploy better armor for US troops, replace equipment losses, and reorganize the US Army into more mobile combat brigades.

The Pentagon has come under repeated criticism for not moving more quickly to provide troops armor and other protection in a war zone that has claimed the lives 2,274 of US military personnel and wounded another 16,742.

Its response can be seen in the 2.6 billion dollars earmarked for improved armor protection, night-vision gear, sensors and systems to make helicopters more survivable.

Another 1.9 billion dollars will go for efforts to develop ways to counter improvised explosive devices, the top killer of US troops.

Replacing equipment that has been destroyed in combat or worn out through wear and tear will account for 8.3 billion dollars of the extra funding.

Reorganizing the army into smaller, more mobile brigade combat teams will be given 3.4 billion dollars.

The army and marine corps will get 340 million dollars to cover the costs of increasing bonuses and other incentives over the past year to overcome recruiting difficulties.

The request asks for 1.5 billion dollars to cover the costs of increased death benefits as well as benefits for military personnel wounded in combat.

A large chunk of the extra monies will fund efforts to build Iraqi security forces and strengthen the government.

That includes 3.7 billion dollars to train and equip the security forces, which now number about 227,000.

"This request provides the resources necessary to continue that effort so the coalition can continue to hand over control of more territory to Iraqi forces," Bush said in his letter.

Another 1.6 billion dollars will go for "counter-insurgency and stabilization activities"; 675 million dollars will be used to shore up provincial governments and generate jobs; and 293 million dollars will go to developing the capabilities of the national government.

In Afghanistan, the United States will use 2.2 billion dollars of the funds to train and equip the security forces.

The funding request also includes 75 million dollars for a new State Department campaign to promote democracy in
Iran' .

Joel Kaplan, the deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said 66.3 billion dollars of the latest request for supplemental funding will go to the Defense Department.

Another 3.2 billion dollars will go to the State Department, and 2.9 billion dollars for the intelligence agencies, he said.
The request is on top of 50 billion dollars approved earlier in fiscal 2006, raising the total for the year to 120 billion dollars.

Additionally, the White House plans to seek another 50 billion dollars in bridge funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal 2007, which begins October 1.

The Pentagon, which has requested a 439.3 billion dollar budget for fiscal 2007 earlier this month, typically funds military operations outside of its normal budget.

[bth: because the budget is split up its almost impossible to tell what this war is costing, but it look like about $10 billion in direct expenses per month.

Of key note, $16K+ is being allocated for every Iraqi policeman and soldier (assuming full staffing). Given that these folks are being paid much less than this, one wonders what is being paid by the Iraqi government! One can see that the entire Iraqi army and police force is effectively being paid by the US government and not the Iraqis at all! Astounding really. It means that the $20 billion or so being spent by the Iraqi government must be being used for other applications such as graft. Its clear that the Iraqi government really isn't functioning at all. Also of key note there is $1.6 billion line-itemed for propping up the local Iraqi governments.

Finally if one looks at the amount dedicated to paying for US casualties, one can estimate that they are funding 3,000 planned killed in action over the next 12 to 15 months. Why so much/many? This is about triple what should be needed if current trends continue.]
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Recruiting suicide bombers not terrorism - International Terrorism

"ROME - A panel of Italian judges upheld the November acquittals of three North Africans on international terror charges, ruling that recruiting suicide bombers to fight against U.S. soldiers is not terrorism, a lawyer said Thursday.

The verdict by the Milan judges, released Wednesday, echoes an earlier one in the case when a lower court judge ruled the actions of the three men were those of guerrillas, not terrorists.

Government officials condemned the latest ruling. Justice Minister Roberto Castell apologized to the victims of suicide attacks and their relatives, saying "there is in me a great feeling of shame, bitterness and powerlessness."...

[bth: so its not illegal in Italy to recruit suicide bombers if they kill Americans in Iraq along with civilians. If they just killed civilians then it would be illegal terrorism but since they killed Americans to it was guerilla activity and related recuiting which under Italian law made it perfectly legal. Amazing.]
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