Saturday, September 23, 2006

Terror Group Posts Footage of Bodies

BREITBART.COM - Terror Group Posts Footage of Bodies: "An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video Saturday purporting to show the bodies of two American soldiers being dragged behind a truck, then set on fire in apparent retaliation for the rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by U.S. troops from the same unit.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council _ an umbrella organization of insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq _ posted another video in June showing the soldiers' mutilated bodies, and claiming it killed them. It was not clear whether the video posted Saturday was a continuation of that footage, or why it was released.

It was impossible to identify the bodies, but the footage was believed to be of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, who went missing after being attacked by insurgents on June 16 at a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Their remains were found three days later, and the U.S. military said they had been mutilated. "

The video showed masked men dragging the corpses, first by hand, then behind a truck, beheading one of them and then setting them on fire. Below the graphic footage is a subtitle: "The two soldiers belong to the same brigade of the soldier who raped our sister in Mahmoudiya."

The U.S military has charged four soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division _ Spc. James P. Barker, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard _ in the March 12 alleged rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

A fifth suspect, Pfc. Steven D. Green, was discharged from the army because of a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known. He has pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges and is being held in a civilian court in the United States.

Mahmoudiya is an extremely violent region in Iraq in an area known as the "triangle of death" for the numerous attacks by insurgents.

The two slain soldiers also were from the 101st Airborne Division.

Future tanks could surprise critics (9/20/06)

Future tanks could surprise critics (9/20/06): "Just seven years ago, every self-styled strategic thinker knew that history had ended, that the dot-com boom would last forever, and, in military circles, that the tank was dead. The steel behemoths that had ruled the plains of Europe for six decades were too ungainly for a new world order that required rapid deployment of troops to small conflicts across the globe. "

In 1994, Chechen guerrillas armed only with rocket-propelled grenades had destroyed more than 200 Russian armored vehicles in 30 days, and the U.S. Army was so slow in deploying its heavy machinery to the Balkans in 1999 that the ground forces never participated in the war in Kosovo.

"Power is increasingly defined not by mass or size but by mobility and swiftness," then-presidential candidate George W. Bush said at the Citadel military academy in September 1999. "Yet, today our military is still organized more for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century -- for Industrial Age operations, rather than for Information Age battles."

Just three weeks later, Gen. Eric Shinseki, President Clinton's Army chief of staff, announced a "transformation" program to replace the Army's 70-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank with vehicles weighing less than 20 tons, light enough to be flown around the world into areas with only dirt landing strips.
This "Future Combat System," as the Army termed it, would be protected not by heavy armor but by a linked computer network of sensors, robots, and precision weapons designed to find and destroy the enemy from a distance.

September 11, 2001, seemed the final proof of lightweight warfare. Nineteen terrorists with box cutters bypassed the entire American military. The United States retaliated against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan with special forces and smart bombs, but no tanks.

Sixteen months later, the Bush administration rebuked Shinseki for insisting on a larger, heavier ground force for the invasion of Iraq. But Iraq showed that the age of the armored dinosaur was not over after all.

It was 70-ton M1s and 34-ton M2 Bradley infantry carriers that spearheaded the Iraq invasion -- not only by racing across the open desert but also by pushing deep into downtown Baghdad, shrugging off the same RPGs that had destroyed the Russians in Grozny a decade before. And once the insurgency began, the nimble 2.6-ton Humvees that the Pentagon preferred for "low-intensity" operations proved fatally vulnerable to ambush by rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices.

It was the 70-ton Abrams that plowed through IEDs and RPGs as coalition forces retook Falluja and Najaf. As late as 2002, the Army's armor school at Fort Knox had been teaching tankers to bypass urban areas altogether. But in Iraqi cities today, said Col. David Hubner, who led armored forces into Samarra, "I'd tell my tankers, 'You should have the same mind-set as Tyrannosaurus rex. There's nobody who's going to take you out.' "

While heavy armor is crushing the enemy when called upon in Iraq, back in Washington, the Future Combat System is facing extinction. "The project is over budget, behind schedule, and probably impractical," declared a July cover of Congressional Quarterly; the headline inside was "Dream Army's Rude Awakening."

The FCS has four big problems. The first is financial: The Army is squabbling with outside estimators over whether the program as planned will cost $130 billion, $200 billion, or as much as $300 billion.
The second problem is technological: By the last independent assessment, the computer network protocols, the digital radios, the armed scout robots, the system to shoot down incoming RPGs -- all told, 32 of 49 "critical technologies" that make up the Future Combat System -- have been tested only as "basic technological components" and only in a "simulated environment."

The third challenge is physical: The vehicles that are the linchpin of the FCS have swelled to 26 tons, making them too heavy for the Air Force's standard C-130 transport but still too light to match the protection of the massive M1's armor.

The fourth obstacle is conceptual: The Army has crammed so many ideas into the FCS -- "18+1+1 Systems" (that is, 20 systems), including a computer network, seven kinds of robots, and eight kinds of manned vehicles, according to the latest official Pentagon white paper -- that even program officials struggle to describe what the goal of the FCS program actually is: an updated brigade, built around a light-to-medium-weight armored vehicle, which will be supported by many more computer networks, sensors, and robots than any current mechanized unit.

Yet when describing the FCS, Army spokesmen oscillate unconvincingly between impenetrable jargon such as "soldier-centric" and late-night infomercial-speak such as "see first, understand first, shoot first, and finish decisively!"

So the same vultures of conventional wisdom that circled the heavy tank just seven years ago are now eyeing the Future Combat System. In 1999, everyone said that tanks were too big and too hard to maneuver in a modern, unconventional war, especially in cities. In 2006, everyone says that FCS vehicles are too small and too delicate to survive in a modern, unconventional war, especially in cities.

And now, as then, the conventional wisdom appears to be mostly wrong.

The Army's inarticulate enthusiasm for the FCS has fostered three self-defeating myths: that the 26-ton FCS vehicles will replace 70-ton M1s in every capacity; that FCS units will deploy en masse by air to anywhere in the world; and that FCS troops will outfight every enemy, from Arab insurgents to North Korean missiles, by substituting information technology for heavy armor.

Congress, think tanks, and reporters are understandably incredulous. "You've got to be careful not to be taken in by all this great revolutionary bullshit, because none of it is field-tested," said retired Army Col. Douglas MacGregor, a vitriolic and influential critic. But some very real lights are hidden under this bushel of unproven high-tech hype:

Although the Army will mothball some big tanks, FCS brigades will serve alongside heavy-armored units -- using today's M1 Abrams and M2 Bradleys upgraded with new electronics -- until well after 2020, providing a hedge against technological shortfalls or unexpected threats.

Whatever the limits of airlift, the hybrid-electric FCS vehicles will be much more fuel-efficient on land than the huge turbine-driven M1s -- which get half a mile to the gallon -- maneuvering more quickly and needing fewer of the supply convoys that have proven so fatally vulnerable in Iraq.

Whether their high-tech defenses materialize or not, the eight variants of the 26-ton FCS vehicle will have at least as much old-fashioned armor as anything today except the M1. In fact, of the 332 vehicles that run on tracks rather than tires in a current "heavy brigade," from mortar carriers to mobile command posts, 111 are lighter and less-armored than their proposed FCS replacements.

The revolutionary rhetoric was overblown from the beginning, and since 1999 the Army has quietly reinserted traditional military virtues into the program. As recently as April, for example, the Pentagon white paper depicted the FCS "reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle" as a lightly armed platform reliant on long-range sensors, but data given to National Journal in recent weeks show instead a heavily armed machine capable of fighting ambushes as it advances and sentries as it scouts ahead.

The FCS vehicles aren't well suited for head-on slogging matches with big enemy tanks -- that will remain the job of the massive M1 -- but they are arguably better than the M1 for the fluid wars of the future that will have no clear front line.

The truth about the Future Combat System is that it is far less revolutionary than the Army likes to claim. And that's a good thing: It means that it is far more likely to work than the critics believe.
You Say You Want a Revolution?

The U.S. is a superpower of technology. But American ingenuity goes only so far. This summer, after six years of sticking to a 20-ton ceiling for the FCS, the Army publicly accepted that some variants would weigh as much as 26 tons.

"There are too many compromises in an 18-ton vehicle," said Col. Charles Bush of the Army staff's Force Development Division. "The sweet spot is about 24 to 26 tons," he said. "At that weight, I can achieve most of my lethality, survivability, and deployability objectives."

At this weight, the Army says, the FCS can provide all-around protection against mines, the rocket-propelled grenades favored by guerrillas, and quick-firing cannon shells as large as 30 millimeters, the standard caliber of the guns on Russian-made infantry carriers.

An FCS vehicle won't stop the 125 mm shells fired by larger Russian-made tanks -- in both wars with Iraq, shells fired by such tanks bounced off the M1's front armor -- but an FCS vehicle will provide protection equal to that of the M1's side and rear, and to the armor on all sides of the latest-model M2A3 Bradleys that have accompanied the bigger tanks deep into Baghdad, Falluja, and Najaf.

In fact, the infantry carrier variant of the FCS closely resembles the Bradley. The FCS vehicle has a slightly larger gun, 30 millimeters instead of 25; it loses the Bradley's TOW anti-tank missiles, which have seen little use against Iraqi insurgents and which fly so slowly that a targeted tank could fire back, lethally, before they hit; and the FCS has double the carrying capacity -- a full squad of nine infantrymen instead of the Bradley's four to six.

And the quarter-century of materials research since the Bradley's basic structure was designed in the 1970s has made it possible to get the same protection in a 26-ton vehicle as in the old 34-ton tank.
Another evolutionary improvement lost in the revolutionary hype is that almost every bit of super-technology being developed for the FCS could be installed on the M2 Bradley or the M1 Abrams. Shinseki's successor as chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, has repeatedly overhauled the FCS program, ultimately delaying deployment of a fully FCS-equipped brigade by four years (to 2016). But he has ensured that current armored vehicles will be retrofitted with selected FCS technologies.

Even the computerized communications-and-command network -- the fundamental system linking all of the FCS's disparate parts -- builds on a principle a decade old. In 1997, the Army tested a prototype of such a network on every M1 tank and Bradley in an armored brigade, and then expanded it to an entire division. In 2003, a stripped-down version of that network, "Blue Force Tracker," was hastily installed on selected vehicles of other Army and Marine units going into Iraq. Troops have increasingly come to rely on the new technology.

"It was great to be able to look on the screen and see blue icons" representing friendly units, said Capt. Sam Donnelly, a staffer for a battalion command post during the Iraq invasion. "But our primary means of command-and-control was an FM radio, a map, and thumbtacks." As the campaign progressed, however, troops warmed to the new system -- and as units dispersed beyond the effective ranges of their Cold War radios, Donnelly said, "the only real contact we had with them was through [network] text message."

Still, the weakness of the improved communications network was the lack of good information. Donnelly's unit fought through repeated ambushes, and the Army nearly lost a critical bridge over the Euphrates, "Objective Peach," because neither scouts nor spy planes nor sensors spotted 8,000 Iraqis with 70 armored vehicles lurking under old-fashioned camouflage until they counterattacked. Since then, network upgrades and more unmanned drones have hardly made U.S. forces immune to surprise attacks.

The Stryker Experience

One way to judge whether the FCS vehicles will work is to look at the Army's other light-armored solution to modern warfare: the Stryker, a personnel carrier that moves on giant rubber tires instead of tracks and, in its 19-ton basic configuration, doesn't stop anything bigger than a .50-caliber bullet.

Ordered in 2000 as an "interim" step toward the FCS, Strykers were supposed to substitute information for mass. They were battle-tested in Iraq, where they came protected not only by their new electronics but also by an extra 2.5 tons of old-fashioned armor.

That additional metal made a difference, said Lt. Col. Michael Gibler, who was a battalion commander in the eastern half of Mosul in 2004 and 2005: "Twenty-seven RPGs hit Strykers in my battalion alone; not one of them penetrated." His unit of 70 Strykers was also hit by 250 roadside bombs and car bombs: "My vehicle was hit by three; my sergeant major's was hit by five," he recalled. "I only lost one soldier to an IED. He was exposed in an [open] hatch." Although both critics and cheerleaders call Stryker and the FCS an unprecedented lightening of the Army, these systems are actually a turn toward heavier forces in the long struggle toward quick deployment. Gibler's battalion, for example, is much heavier today than it was before the Shinseki era.

The unit had been stripped of its armored vehicles and heavy artillery in the early 1980s, when the enemy was the newly Islamic Iran that threatened interruption of vital oil supplies far from established U.S. bases. The Army tried to create a force that could be deployed quickly to the Middle East by air: first, the "Rapid Deployment Force"; then an experimental "High-Technology Light Division," with air-droppable armored vehicles and missile-shooting dune buggies. The end result was plain old "light divisions" consisting of foot soldiers, towed artillery pieces, and a handful of Humvees.

The unit that actually did dash by air to Saudi Arabia in 1990, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, was the 82nd Airborne, a division of foot soldiers backed by a handful of air-deployable but notoriously breakdown-prone M551 Sheridan light tanks. The 82nd's troops had so much less firepower and mobility than the Iraqi tank divisions arrayed against them, and so little hope of stopping an attack, that they bitterly called themselves "the speed bump."

But Saddam's tanks stayed put in Kuwait, and the heavy U.S. M1 tanks, M2 infantry carriers, and self-propelled M109 howitzers arrived by sea to devastate the Iraqi armor. So, in the drawdown that followed the Persian Gulf War victory, the Army sacrificed its light forces to save the heavies.

In 1996, Gen. Dennis Reimer, the Army chief of staff, not only phased out the Airborne's last M551 Sheridans, the only air-deployable armored fighting vehicle in service, but also canceled its replacement, the M8 Armored Gun System, which could be stripped down to 19 tons for airlift and then beefed up to 26 tons with bolt-on armor -- the same weight as an FCS machine fully loaded for combat.

Armored Gun Resurrected

The Army missed this light-armored capability just three years later in 1999, when its heavy forces struggled to quickly deploy from Germany south to the Balkans, and missed it even more in 2003, when Turkey denied U.S. forces permission to cross its territory into Iraq.

Instead of the 15,000 soldiers and 1,500 armored vehicles of the 4th Infantry Division, the northern front shrank to the 2,000 foot soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, reinforced by just 41 Humvees, 15 M113 armored personnel carriers, five M2 Bradleys, and five M1 tanks, all laboriously delivered by air.

The elite Airborne still managed to fight off much-larger Iraqi forces. But with so few vehicles, troops could not dash south to trap Saddam's loyalists before they retreated into his hometown of Tikrit and formed the first center of the insurgency.

Before a 2005 deployment to Afghanistan, the 82nd Airborne was "begging" to break the few Armored Gun System prototypes out of storage, said MacGregor, the Army critic, who considers the cancellation of the gun system one of the Army's great missed opportunities to fill the light-armored gap. "We've wasted years."

Maybe not so coincidentally, one of the FCS variants, called the "mounted combat" version, has a 120 mm cannon and looks a lot like an updated Armored Gun System vehicle. Described by many as "the replacement for the Abrams tank," the mounted combat FCS vehicle is actually nothing of the kind. It is the resurrection of a light-armored capability that the Army had for decades and then threw away.

What "lightweight" vehicles bring to battle is not just new electronics but also, ironically, more old-fashioned mass -- not to the tank brigades, which hardly need it, but to the light infantry, which desperately does. Bitter experience in Iraq shows that even up-armored Humvees are vulnerable to roadside bombs.

Robert Scales is a retired Army major general and an influential author who has fought for more light-armored vehicles since the mid-1990s, when he started the "Army After Next" war games that gave birth to the FCS. Scales has collected data from Korea, Vietnam, and Falluja showing that "soldiers mounted [in armored vehicles] are 10 times less likely to become casualties than soldiers who are not," he said. But "there's nothing in my data to relate thickness of armor to survivability," he added. Even light armor saves lives.

"Eighty-one percent of all deaths in combat since 1945 have been [among] dismounted infantry," said Scales, who is now a consultant to the FCS program. "Yet the Army's had 23 percent of the defense budget since 1952. That's why we go to war in Humvees."

The Mobility Myth

But armor is only half of the solution to the wars of the 21st century. The other half is speed -- deploying quickly to the war zone, and then maneuvering quickly within it. How to balance the weight of armor with the necessity for speed remains the Army's dilemma.

America is the superpower of the air, just as Britannia once ruled the waves. Still, the U.S. Air Force has its limits. The Army, however, based its Future Combat System on a naive faith in its sister service's ability to transport the equipment to any battlefield. Until this year, Army spokesmen insisted that the FCS vehicles would weigh less than 20 tons, making them light enough to fly in fleets of C-130 transports, land on dirt strips, and roll off ready to fight.

"The problem with that concept is that it was developed by tankers who didn't have a clue," said Robert Killebrew, a retired infantry colonel who worked for Scales in the war games of the 1990s and is now part of his team again. Killebrew, who served with the Special Forces in Vietnam, has commanded ad hoc dirt airstrips set up for C-130s, "and I'll tell you," he said, "you beat them to pieces with that kind of traffic; they cannot be maintained, they're easy targets for artillery and rockets -- and the Air Force doesn't have that many C-130s, anyway."

The United States has 514 C-130s. With each plane carrying one FCS vehicle -- still do-able with the current 26-ton design, if crews unbolt most of the armor, fly it separately, and then bolt it back on, a process the Army says should take less than eight hours -- it would take all 514 to lift a single brigade's 332 FCS armored vehicles and a reasonable amount of supplies.

But even that unlikely scenario wouldn't keep Shinseki's promise to "deploy a brigade anywhere in the world in 96 hours." Most C-130s, fully loaded, have a range of only 1,000 miles, a third of the way across the Atlantic.

The newer, larger C-17s can carry three FCS vehicles, fully armored, around the globe. But even the Air Force's boldest budget requests only 220 C-17s, which means a theoretical maximum carrying capacity of 660 FCS vehicles or, more realistically, one brigade with a few of its hundreds of supply trucks.

The dirty secret is that Scales and company never actually wanted the C-130 for rapid deployment overseas. They knew perfectly well that the plane's range was just too short. They wanted the C-130 to maneuver brigades in 500-mile sprints once they had arrived in the war theater, outflanking ground-bound enemies in an airborne blitzkrieg. Imagine being able to "drop five brigades around Baghdad," Scales told National Journal in 2003. "The war's over in a day."

Faced with the limits of air transport, the Army now talks of airlifting only about one-third of one brigade behind enemy lines: "We could move a battalion through the air in an operationally meaningful way," said Col. Robert Beckinger, the FCS manager for the Training and Doctrine Command.

That's dialing things way down from the war games of the mid-1990s. But it is still many more armored fighting vehicles than the United States ever moved by air before it gave up its last airmobile light armor in 1996.

Supply Trains

For all the romance of airborne war, it is when the FCS vehicles reach the ground that they could really speed up operations. Built to burn jet fuel, the M1 Abrams's turbine engine makes the 70-ton tank one of the fastest vehicles ever to fight once it's on the battlefield, but the long journey to that battlefield is painfully slow because of frequent stops for gas.

"Every eight hours, you're going to burn 300 gallons, whether it's moving or not," because the engine also powers the tank's electronics, said Capt. Ray Bolar, an Army tank officer who has served two tours in Iraq. Even compared with six months of fighting in Ramadi in 2005, Bolar said, being a supply officer in the 2003 invasion "was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done."

Driving around the clock, the M1s covered 350 miles in 72 hours, nearly 120 miles a day, twice as fast as Patton's 3rd Army moved in 1944. But the M1s had to pull into improvised refueling stops three times a day.

By Scales's count, unarmored fuel trucks made 30,000 supply runs, averaging 800 miles apiece, through Iraqi territory to keep the big tanks moving. Support units got scrambled in the process. "Some New Mexico National Guard guys somehow got roped in and followed us to Baghdad," Bolar said. "It was, 'You got fuel?'

'Yeah.... '

'You're coming with us.' "

That April, at the moment of U.S victory, commanders nearly withdrew the famously successful quick-strike "thunder runs" of tank columns into downtown Baghdad because of a supply shortage. Instead, they shut down their M1s for two hours while the more fuel-efficient M2 Bradleys stood watch.

Meanwhile, in the fiercest fighting of the day, the rear guard escorted unarmored trucks full of volatile fuel and ammunition into the city.

To keep the road into the city open, Maj. Harry (Zan) Hornbuckle, then a captain, held a crucial highway intersection called "Objective Curly" through eight straight hours of fighting. "I didn't have any tanks," he said, and his five Bradleys had no extra armor, just external storage racks for his troops' equipment: "The RPGs would hit the duffel bags and detonate [prematurely]."

All of his vehicles, and all of his men, survived the fight. But when the unarmored supply column drove through, "a couple of fuelers and a couple of ammo trucks got destroyed," Hornbuckle recalled. "That was the only killed-in-action of the day."

Despite desperate retrofitting with armor, the supply convoys remain the most vulnerable part of the U.S. force in Iraq. "Most people don't understand how dependent M1s and Bradleys are on that logistical umbilical cord," Scales said. Heavy armor can smash into cities, he said, "but it can't stay there and control populations."

By contrast, Stryker units routinely kept their much lighter vehicles in downtown Mosul for three days at a time without resupply, said Lt. Col. Gibler. And in the Shiite uprising of 2004, one Stryker battalion drove 300 miles from Mosul to Al Kut in the south -- fighting insurgents along the way -- in 48 hours.

The Army contends that an FCS brigade will need 10 to 30 percent less fuel than today's heavy brigades, 66 percent fewer mechanics, and one-third fewer supply trucks. Defense programs from fighter jets to warships have promised, and failed, to deliver such efficiencies before -- although the goal is more realistic this time because "you couldn't design a less fuel-efficient engine than the M1's," Killebrew said.

The FCS prototype chassis now being completed is the first U.S. military vehicle with a hybrid-electric drive. That means not only better mileage on the go but also enough batteries to run electronics with the engine off, and even a lighter transmission.

All of the mundane machinery of the FCS benefits from 30 years of refinement since the M1 and the M2 were designed in the late 1970s, said Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, the FCS program manager. Compact electric motors replace bulky hydraulic and mechanical systems. High-strength rubber tracks replace traditional steel tracks, allowing for a lighter suspension and saving almost two tons of weight.

The 120 mm cannon uses the same ammunition as current versions but weighs about a ton less and has recoil systems that enable a 26-ton vehicle to withstand the shock. Unlike today's mix of M1s, M2s, M109s, and M113s, Cartwright added, "every one of these manned ground [FCS] vehicles has the same engine, a common computer, a common chassis." And the FCS vehicles simply have less mass to move and maintain.

The Replacement Myth

In 1999, Gen. Shinseki proposed replacing the entire Army armored infrastructure with a uniform force of Future Combat System vehicles. Skeptical Capitol Hill staffers joked about a "big-bang theory" of modernization.

But the money never matched the ambition. As early as 2000, Army officials and documents acknowledged that it would take decades to replace the last M1s and M2s. Today, the Army's budget plans call for equipping just 15 of its 42 active-duty brigades with FCS vehicles, with the first brigade fully fielded by 2016 and the last by 2020. Larger tanks will remain in service through at least 2035, said Rickey Smith, an Army "capabilities integration" expert.

And the service will equip many M1s and Bradleys with FCS electronics. An all-FCS force, Smith said, is something "the nation can't afford and wouldn't want."

Even ardent FCS advocate Scales emphasizes using combined arms -- all kinds of light and heavy forces -- rather than relying on a single silver bullet to fight any war. "You don't just dump a bunch of [FCS] vehicles in the midst of the enemy," he said.

Scales's war-fighting scheme has Special Forces scouting the ground first, then airborne Rangers seizing the landing strips, then C-17s carrying FCS raiding parties behind enemy lines -- acting as the winged hammer to an overland anvil of both FCS and heavy brigades, with M1s on hand to crack the toughest nuts.

Modern armies always mix battle-tested and cutting-edge weapons, said Bruce Gudmundsson, a retired Marine major and the author of the definitive trilogy On Armor, On Infantry, and On Artillery.

"FCS aficionados feel compelled to compete directly with the M1," he said, but the two systems are very different -- and complementary. "Adding networked, [light-] armored vehicles armed with precision-guided missiles to our armored forces is a good idea," Gudmundsson said. "Replacing traditional armored vehicles with them is not."

War remains a brutal business. As long as the physics of breaking human bodies stay the same, the sheer weight of metal will have its uses, just as does the finesse provided by training, tactics, and intelligence. For all of the Army's emphasis on information technology, the future force will need mass as well.

"It won't be perfect in any environment," Killebrew said of the FCS. But it will be more adaptable across all environments, a "nice balance" between the foot sloggers of the light infantry and the fuel hoggers of the heavy armor. And, he added, the unpleasant surprises of the last five years are proof that "the Army has got to have more balance than ever, because we don't know how future wars are going to be fought."

Britain's top soldier defends military performance in Afghanistan

Britain's top soldier defends military performance in Afghanistan: "Britain's highest ranking officer dismissed criticism of the air force's performance in Afghanistan as isolated and said the armed forces were 'doing an extremely good job.'

For a second consecutive day, the chief of the general staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, issued a strong defense of the armed forces which are facing heavier-than-expected resistance from a resurgent Taliban.
'If the odd person has had a disappointment in that an airstrike being called in has not identified the target or has identified the wrong target, that is understandable in the fog of war and the heat of battle,' he told BBC radio Saturday.

Sky News reported Friday that e-mails written by an unidentified major condemned the Royal Air Force as "utterly, utterly useless" and underlined that more soldiers and equipment were needed "desperately."

Dannatt appealed for teamwork and solidarity.

"It is disappointing that some members of the team have seen fit in a private e-mail to criticise other members of the team. We don't need that," Dannatt said.

"This is difficult and dangerous work but we are doing it successfully because we are doing it as a team," he told BBC radio.

Although he said that the armed forces were "coping" in Afghanistan, Dannatt said that they were working to maximum levels.

"Quite simply we are fully committed on what we are currently getting on with and doing an extremely good job in those areas," Dannat told BBC radio.

"It is a matter of priorities. If the government wishes more to be done by the military, it needs a bigger military."

The general acknowledged that there had been some problems passing on details of troops wounded in Afghanistan to service charities which help with their rehabilitation.

However, he denied that the ministry of defense was trying to cover up the true scale of casualties.

He said the latest figures were due out shortly and would be made public.

"We have got nothing to hide as far as that is concerned. The truth is what matters," he told Sky News.

Major Jon Swift, currently serving in Afghanistan, said Britain was sustaining higher casualties than official figures suggest and condemned the operation as "politically" driven.

"The scale of casualties has not been properly reported and shows no sign of reducing," he said in comments initially posted on a regimental website, but later withdrawn, according to the domestic Press Association.

Speaking to Sky News, Dannatt admitted that the number and resilience of Taliban fighters had been a surprise.

However, he said: "We went to Afghanistan to help those people enjoy the rule of law and the legal economy in a secure environment. We have got to get a secure environment before we can let the legal economy hold sway."

He framed allied battles against the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a wider war against a Muslim holy war movement, including in the Middle East and Sudan's Darfur region.

Since Britain took over command of NATO forces in the volatile south of Afghanistan in May, 33 British troops have died out of a total of only 40 for the entire period since NATO moved into Afghanistan in 2001.

US-led forces launched the war against the then ruling Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies in the weeks after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Sky News reported Friday that e-mails written by an unidentified major condemned the Royal Air Force as 'utterly, utterly useless' and underlined that more soldiers and equipment were needed 'desperately.'
Dannatt appealed for teamwork and solidarity."

United States has sunk to Osama bin Laden's level

American News 09/22/2006 United States has sunk to Osama bin Laden's level: "The torture of prisoners is not only illegal under American and international law, it is, put simply, immoral and unjust. It is also un-American."

It is amazing that we are still hung up in a debate over President Bush's insistence that we bend and break our laws and the Geneva Conventions so that our agents can do everything short of murder to make a man talk.

The president's bill - blocked in the Senate by three Republicans who know war and know the law and know what's right - would allow Central Intelligence Agency operatives to subject prisoners to water-boarding, or near-death by drowning; to being forced to stand for 40 hours at a time; to sleep deprivation; to being tossed naked into a freezing cold cell for days at a time.

I saw water-boarding long ago in Vietnam. A half-naked young man, suspected of being a local Viet Cong guerrilla, was handed over by his American captors to South Vietnamese troops.

Four of them held him down. An old, dirty rag was coiled around his face covering his nose and mouth. A fifth held a five-gallon tin of water slowly pouring it into the coiled rag.

The water took the place of air for that prisoner. His chest heaved violently as he sought the air and took in only water. I turned away before I could see whether he talked or drowned. An American captain shrugged; it was a Vietnamese thing.

There were other field expedient tortures in Vietnam, including the infamous telephone generator, where wires were clamped on genitals and the handle cranked at increasing speeds, and wattage, as the victim screamed and bucked.

Those abominations existed in Vietnam, but they were not carried out by Americans. There was a line that was never to be crossed. It was a line between barbarity and civilization. It was a line between them and us.

From the beginning of this war on terrorism our president and his counsel, now our attorney general, insisted that those we captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere were not prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention and could be subjected to the tortures discussed above.

The reaction was slow to come. It was only last year that Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham overcame White House objections and passed a law barring cruel and inhumane interrogation methods.

Then the Supreme Court threw out the president's plan to try the captives before drumhead military tribunals and impose sentences including death without benefit of their seeing the evidence against them; without benefit of appeal; without any of the legal protections accorded American citizens.

The fact that the CIA maintained secret prisons in countries around the world where even more draconian tortures presumably were put in practice - where prisoners were held incognito with no rights, no names and no hope - became known.

Then the panic set in.

If all these illegalities, if all this immoral and un-American conduct, were not set right and somehow made legal in some hasty legislation, then it would not only be the agents who poured the water and beat the prisoners who someday might face war crimes charges, it could also be those who bent and broke the laws and the treaties.

We once stood for something good in this world. We once upheld the Geneva Conventions not only because we expected our enemies to apply them in their treatment of American prisoners but because they were the law, and they were right.

Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida boys hiding in their caves in Waziristan are surely laughing over all of this. They have succeeded in dragging us down to their level of barbarity and inhumanity.

Joseph L. Galloway is a columnist for McClatchy Tribune Information Services. His column appears most Fridays.

[bth: " we once stood for something good in this world"]

Somalia and the Concept of Territoriality for Islamists

Douglas Farah: "The situation is going from bad to worse in Somalia, as the Islamist leaders become more and more like the Taliban and less and less the moderates they pretended to be. A population beaten down by years of abuse and civil war welcomes the initial stability and removal of armed groups. Then the hammer comes down. Nuns are assassinated. Theaters closed, radios censored, dress codes imposed."

This matters on more than just a humanitarian level or from the vantage point of a spreading conflict in a region that is fragile at best. It is important to understand that Islamists view the holding of a territory, virtually any territory, as vital to the re-establishment of the Caliphate. It does not really matter where the banner is raised. It is more important to raise the banner.

This was clear in Afghanistan, when Azzam, backed by many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, agreed that the Afghan struggle took precedence over the Palestian struggle because it would give them an Islamist state. Lawrence Wright points this out in detail in “The Looming Tower.”

It was true later when many in al Qaeda viewed the biggest loss, resulting from the 9-11 attacks, as the loss of the head of the Caliphate. This is not an abstract concept to Islamists. While the Shi’ia have their state in Iran, the Sunni Salafists have only the debauched states of the Arab Gulf, corrupt, flacid and abased before foreign powers.

This is why Somalia matters on a more fundamental level in the war on Islamists and their allies. I have been in meetings where the Islamist triumph in Somalia is dismisseed as unimportant because Somalia has no vital natural resources and is not viewed as being of strategic consequence for the United States. Neither did Afghanistan in 1996, when the Taliban rolled in.

There are several things wrong with that argument, but the main one is this: The establishment of the beginnings of a Caliphate is a huge psychological and real victory for Islamists. It is, by their own admission, a vital goal in the struggle to destroy the West, an intermediate step necessary to set up the anihilation of the non-Islamic world.

Assuming it is nothing more than an unpleasant and unimportant struggle in the hinterlands, of no strategic interest, is a serious mistake, being made now. We made the same mistake in Afghanistan, when we didn’t know better. Now, they explain their strategy to us, and we still appear to have learned very little.

Taliban take over district headquarters in western Afghanistan

The Raw Story Taliban take over district headquarters in western Afghanistan: "Islamabad- The Taliban has seized control of the Gulistan district headquarters in western Farah province of Afghanistan, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency reported Friday quoting the district chief. 'I confirm that 500 Taliban entered the district headquarters and took control of it, but I have not joined them,' district chief Mohammad Qasim Majboor told the private news agency refuting Taliban claims that he, along with his police chief, had surrendered.

'We have our arms with us and I have the support of my tribe,' Majboor said.

Gulistan police chief Rahmatullah told the Pakistan-based agency that they had called for reinforcement from the provincial capital.

Farah police chief Sayed Agha Saqib was quoted as saying that the government was thinking of ways to retake the headquarters from Taliban without causing harm to the civilian population of Gulistan.

It is the second time that the district headquarters has been taken over this week."

Pakistani killed in Afghan raid; Turk found dead

Khaleej Times Online - Pakistani killed in Afghan raid; Turk found dead: "KABUL - Gunmen in Afghanistan attacked a convoy of oil tankers importing fuel for foreign forces and a construction company, killing a Pakistani worker, an Afghan government official said on Friday.

Separately, a body found in southern Afghanistan was identified as that of a kidnapped Turkish guard. The Taleban said its militants had killed the guard after a Turkish construction company ignored an ultimatum to leave Afghanistan.

Gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades and rifles attacked the tanker convoy late on Thursday on the main road from the Pakistani border to the eastern city of Jalalabad, said district government chief Hazrat Khan Khaksar."

The tankers were parked at a petrol pump when they were attacked. A driver’s helper was on one of the tankers that caught fire and was killed,’ Khaksar said.

Three of the tankers that came from Pakistan were bound for a US military base and two were bringing fuel for a road construction company, he said. All five were destroyed....

Pakistani killed in Afghan raid; Turk found dead

Khaleej Times Online - Pakistani killed in Afghan raid; Turk found dead: "KABUL - Gunmen in Afghanistan attacked a convoy of oil tankers importing fuel for foreign forces and a construction company, killing a Pakistani worker, an Afghan government official said on Friday.

Separately, a body found in southern Afghanistan was identified as that of a kidnapped Turkish guard. The Taleban said its militants had killed the guard after a Turkish construction company ignored an ultimatum to leave Afghanistan.

Gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades and rifles attacked the tanker convoy late on Thursday on the main road from the Pakistani border to the eastern city of Jalalabad, said district government chief Hazrat Khan Khaksar."

The tankers were parked at a petrol pump when they were attacked. A driver’s helper was on one of the tankers that caught fire and was killed,’ Khaksar said.

Three of the tankers that came from Pakistan were bound for a US military base and two were bringing fuel for a road construction company, he said. All five were destroyed....

Norway says plot to blow up U.S. embassy

Norway says plot to blow up U.S. embassy - Yahoo! News: "OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian prosecutors unveiled on Friday evidence against four men detained on suspicion of plotting to blow up the U.S. and Israeli embassies and of participating in a shooting at the Oslo synagogue last weekend. "...

Crime pays way for Baghdad sectarian killers - World - smh.com.au

Crime pays way for Baghdad sectarian killers - World - smh.com.au: "SHIITE militias behind the sectarian killings in Baghdad are earning at least $US1 million ($1.3 million) a day through criminal enterprises, the US military believes."

The groups, which are accused of operating death squads to terrorise the city's Sunni population, are able to spend freely on weapons, pay salaries to the militiamen who carry out the killings and buy the loyalty of the Shiite population by funding social welfare programs.

Although it was known the militias were closely linked to crime, this is the first time the scale of their financial resources has been detailed.

At the same time, a United Nations human rights investigator has said torture is rampant in Iraqi prisons and police detention centres, and could be worse than under Saddam Hussein's rule.

"The situation as far as torture is concerned in Iraq is now completely out of hand," Professor Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture and cruelty, said in Geneva.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Brown, an intelligence officer who monitors the militias in east Baghdad, estimated that Shiite groups raised at least $US1 million a day through organised crime. The money came from "kidnappings, extortion, blackmarketeering and blackmail", Colonel Brown said.

Thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the overthrow of Saddam. Payments of $US50,000 are routinely demanded and paid. Many people are killed even after the ransom is paid.

Colonel Brown said that of particular concern was the control of many petrol stations by members of the Mahdi Army, the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite fundamentalist cleric whose political allies control the Ministry of Transport. The Mahdi Army is the largest and most powerful of the Shiite militias in Baghdad, with an estimated 10,000 members.

"You see the guards around the petrol stations," Colonel Brown said. "It is easy for them to sell 40 litres of gas then give only 35 litres."

The US military is monitoring 20 militias operating in the city. They have recently grown stronger as they provide security to residents at a time of rising religious violence.

At the same time they are accused of conducting many tit-for-tat sectarian killings.

Sadr's control over his militiamen seems to be weakening, with reports of a number of his followers operating independently. American concern has focused on one of his former lieutenants, known as Abu Dereh (Father of the Shield).

Abu Dereh is accused of abducting scores of Sunnis and dumping their bodies at al-Sada, a rubbish tip near the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City. His preferred method of murder is by crushing skulls with cinder blocks.

Professor Nowak said he had credible reports of torture in facilities run by Iraqi forces, as well as by the militias and insurgents who have kidnapped and killed hundreds of people since Saddam's overthrow in 2003.

"The situation is so bad that many people say it is worse than in the times of Saddam Hussein," he said.

He also cited reports of inhumane treatment in US- and foreign-run detention centres, but said conditions there seemed to have improved since an international furore over mistreatment of prisoners by US forces at the Abu Ghraib prison. Abu Ghraib was handed over to Iraqi control three weeks ago.

Professor Nowak said he had held talks with Iraqi officials in June about a fact-finding mission, but had not yet received an invitation.

U.S.: More Iraqi troops needed

U.S.: More Iraqi troops needed: "WASHINGTON - The United States needs 3,000 more Iraqi forces to join the battle in Baghdad, but requests have not been met because Iraqi soldiers are reluctant to leave their home regions, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday."

Maj. Gen. James Thurman said that while the United States has 15,000 troops in Baghdad -- which military leaders say is the priority battlefront in Iraq -- only about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers are there. That is just a fraction of the 128,000 Iraqi Army troops that the U.S. military says are now trained and equipped.

His comments came as the sectarian violence in Baghdad continued unabated. Gunmen opened fire on Sunni mosques and homes in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Hurriya, killing four people in an attack that drew the condemnation of Sunni leaders.

In east Baghdad, meanwhile, police found the blindfolded and bound bodies of nine men from a Sunni tribe who had been dragged out of a wedding dinner the night before by men dressed in Iraqi Army uniforms, police Maj. Mahir Hamad Mussa said. Four other bound and blindfolded bodies were found in other parts of the capital.

The U.S. military said a U.S. soldier was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb late Thursday.

Getting more Iraqi troops involved in the operation has been hampered by the fact that Iraqi soldiers generally join battalions in their geographic regions. And Thurman said that "due to the distance, [they] did not want to travel into Baghdad." He said the Iraqi minister of defense is working on the problem.
"I'm confident that they're going to meet that requirement here within the next few weeks, but it's going to take a little time," he said.

Thurman said he asked for the additional Iraqi forces -- a total of six battalions -- early on in the Baghdad campaign, which began in June. He added, "I don't think putting more coalition [troops] in here is the right answer."

As an example, Thurman said he has one U.S. battalion working with Iraqi Army and police in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Al-Baya neighborhood and the mixed southern neighborhood of Dora. But, he said, "I felt like we needed more Iraqi Army in there to work side by side with the police and the national police, because those have been bad areas. And we're clearing the enemy out of there and we don't want them to come back."

He said U.S. trainers are working with the Iraqi forces to make them more mobile. He added, "I think the government is trying to come to grips with the security needs."

In other developments Friday, 3,000 people demonstrated outside a mosque in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, demanding the return of the former dictator to power, organizers said. Saddam is on trial in Baghdad on genocide charges.

[bth: interesting that Iraq is unable to shift 3000 troops]

Friday, September 22, 2006

10 suspects arrested in North Waziristan -DAWN - Top Stories; September 21, 2006

10 suspects arrested in North Waziristan -DAWN - Top Stories; September 21, 2006: "MIRAMSHAH, Sept 20: Security forces have arrested 10 people from Lawara Mandi area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the North Waziristan Agency, officials said.

The action was taken after six US helicopter gunships intruded into the Pakistan airspace following clashes between the allied forces and Taliban across the border.

The intrusion by the US helicopters prompted the military and political authorities to proceed to the area along with tribal elders, including Fata parliamentarians.

The authorities, sources said, believed that Taliban guerrilla might sneak into Lawara Mandi after clashes with the US-led allied forces in Pipali area of Afghanistan close to the North Waziristan Agency.

After peace accord between the government and militants early this month it was the first action by the security forces in the restive region.

Under the agreement there would be no infiltration into Afghanistan for guerrilla activities from the tribal area.

The sources said that army and paramilitary forces in collaboration with the tribal elders, including MNA Maulvi Nek Zaman, besieged a cluster of houses in Lawara Mandi on Tuesday night and asked local residents to hand over suspects.

They said that tribal elders held negotiations with the people who voluntarily handed over 10 people, mostly Afghans, who were shifted to Miramshah jail for interrogation.

However, officials declined to disclose names of the arrested people.

Peshawar bureau adds: In a related development five bodies were brought from Afghanistan’s Paktika province to Miramshah, the administrative headquarters of the North Waziristan Agency, on Wednesday.

Official sources said that all the deceased, including a prominent militant comma"

Karl Rove Promises October Surprise

Karl Rove Promises October Surprise: "WASHINGTON -- In the past week, Karl Rove has been promising Republican insiders an 'October surprise' to help win the November congressional elections.
President Bush's political strategist is also saying that the final two weeks before the elections will see a blitz of advertising, and the Republican National Committee is deploying an army of volunteers to key locations to help the grass-roots effort and monitor the elections.

The RNC is offering to fly in volunteers and cover their expenses.

Rove is not saying what the October surprise will be. Asked if he would elaborate and give his thinking about the coming elections, Rove told NewsMax that his take largely parallels what RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a Sept. 5 NewsMax story.

As for the October Surprise, Rove said, 'I'd rather let the balance [of plans for the elections] unroll on its own.'"...

Iraq Says Abductees Used in Car Bombings

Iraq Says Abductees Used in Car Bombings - washingtonpost.com: "BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi insurgents are no longer using just volunteers as suicide car bombers but are instead kidnapping drivers, rigging their vehicles with explosives and blowing them up, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

In what appears to be a new tactic for the insurgency, the ministry said the kidnap victims do not know their cars have been loaded with explosives when they are released."

The ministry issued a statement saying that first "a motorist is kidnapped with his car. They then booby trap the car without the driver knowing. Then the kidnapped driver is released and threatened to take a certain road."

The kidnappers follow the car and when the unwitting victim "reaches a checkpoint, a public place, or an army or police patrol, the criminal terrorists following the driver detonate the car from a distance," the Defense Ministry statement said.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military. In the past, U.S. officials have said insurgents often tape or handcuff a suicide driver's hands to a car, or bind his foot to the gas pedal, to ensure that he does not back out at the last minute.

Although roadside bombs are the main weapon used by insurgents, suicide car bombers are designed to maximize casualties and sow fear among the population.

According to the Washington-based Brookings Institution, there have been 343 suicide car bombings causing multiple deaths in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Strained, Army Looks to Guard for More Relief - New York Times

Strained, Army Looks to Guard for More Relief - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — Strains on the Army from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become so severe that Army officials say they may be forced to make greater use of the National Guard to provide enough troops for overseas deployments."

Senior Army officers have discussed that analysis — and described the possible need to use more members of the National Guard — with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s senior adviser on personnel, David S. C. Chu, according to Pentagon officials.

While no decision has been made to mobilize more Guard forces, and may not need to be before midterm elections, the prospect presents the Bush administration with a politically vexing problem: how, without expanding the Army, to balance the pressing need for troops in the field against promises to limit overseas deployments for the Guard.

The National Guard has a goal of allowing five years at home between foreign deployments so as not to disrupt the family life and careers of its citizen soldiers. But instead it has been sending units every three to four years, according to Guard officials.

The question of how to sustain the high level of forces abroad became more acute this week as General John P. Abizaid, the senior American commander in the Middle East, said that the number of troops in Iraq, currently at more than 140,000, could not be expected to drop until next spring at the very earliest.

That disclosure comes amid many signs of mounting strain on active Army units. So many are deployed or only recently returned from combat duty that only two or three combat brigades — perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 troops — are fully ready to respond in case of unexpected crises, according to a senior Army general.

An internal Army document that was provided to The New York Times notes that the demand for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has greatly exceeded past projections that predicted earlier troop reductions. According to the document, the Army needs $66.1 billion to make up for all of its equipment shortfalls. Referring to the units that are to deploy next to Iraq and Afghanistan, or are in training, the document shows a large question mark to indicate their limited readiness.

The Army had to offer generous new enlistment bonuses of up to $40,000 to attract recruits into such dangerous jobs as operating convoys in Iraq. It was able to meet its active-duty enlistment goals this year with the addition of 1,000 new recruiters.

Enmeshed in negotiations with Bush administration officials over its spending request for next year, neither Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, nor any of his top Pentagon aides would agree to be interviewed about the personnel stresses they are confronting. But Army officials have shared their concerns with retired Army officers and members of Congress, and quietly distributed budget tallies, including the internal document on troop and equipment demands, to their supporters. Military officers and civilian Pentagon officials interviewed for this article would discuss the issues only on condition of anonymity.

An examination of the Army’s plan for deploying its force shows some of the ways it has been overextended.

In overhauling its structure, the active-duty Army is growing to 42 combat brigades. Army officials have said they want to establish a pattern in which an active brigade spends two years at home for each year it is deployed overseas.

But so many units are needed for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that combat brigades are generally spending only a year at home for each year they are deployed.

Military analysts concluded that this has severely reduced the number of forces that are available for other contingencies.

“The continuing frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. Army so thin that there are few brigades ready to respond to crises elsewhere,” said Lynn Davis, a senior analyst in the Arroyo Center, a division of the RAND Corporation that does research for the Army.

Ms. Davis said that there was no quick fix for the limited number of troops. The longer-term solution, she said, was to rely more on the National Guard or to increase the number of Army brigades, a move that would cost billions of dollars.

Gordon R. Sullivan, the former Army chief of staff and president of the Association of the United States Army, said in an interview that the Army was simply too small for the many responsibilities it faced and should be expanded from about 500,000 in the active force to some 560,000. It also needs to make greater use of the National Guard, he said.

The biggest challenge is manpower,” General Sullivan said.

Barry R. McCaffrey, the retired four-star Army general, also asserted that the armed forces needed to be expanded. “We cannot sustain the current national security policy with an Army, Marine Corps, Air Force lift capability and Special Operations forces of this size,” he added. “They are clearly inadequate.”

The pace of deployments and financing shortfalls, he said, had taken a toll of units in the active duty Army and the National Guard. “One third is completely ready to fight, and two-thirds are severely impaired,” he said.

Asked if it was true that only a handful of combat brigades not currently deployed were immediately ready for a crisis, a spokesman for the Army said he could not address specifics because the information was classified.

Mr. Rumsfeld has not favored substantially expanding the Army, concluding that such a step would draw money from programs he favors to overhaul the military and calculating that the high level of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will prove temporary. Congress, however, has mandated a temporary 30,000-soldier increase for the Army.

As for whether any decision on mobilizing more members of the Guard can be expected, Mr. Chu, the Pentagon’s chief personnel officer, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed on Army discussions about how to meet its needs.

But active commanders have highlighted the issue. At a recent conference at Fort Benning, Ga., Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the head of the Army’s Forces Command, which oversees training and mobilization for all Army forces in the continental United States, suggested that the service needed to make greater use of the National Guard if the United States was to pursue what the Bush administration has described as a “long war” against Islamic terrorists.

If we are going to prosecute this long war, we need relatively unencumbered access to the citizen soldier formations,” General McNeill said.

The equivalent of several Guard brigades are deployed today in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sinai, the Horn of Africa and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Sending more Guard units to Iraq is politically sensitive because of complaints from families and employers while the Guard and Reserve were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004.

Restrictions on the use of the Guard are a matter of interpretation. Guard officials said that under President Bush’s current mobilization order, its members may not be called up if they have served for 24 consecutive months. But a conflicting Defense Department policy interprets the order as limiting the call-up of those who have tallied 24 months of total service, regardless of the length of time served consecutively. That view would put more Guard members off-limits for remobilization without a new order from the president.

If the military cannot deploy enough members of the Guard by following either interpretation of the rules, officials may be forced to propose that Mr. Rumsfeld advise President Bush of the need to sign a new mobilization order that would reset the clock for many Guard members who have already served overseas.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, the head of the Guard, said his forces would be prepared to meet current requirements and to send more forces if needed.

“Can I sustain that?” General Blum said. “I say the answer is, ‘Absolutely’ — if three things remain, three critical things.”

He said Guard members must continue to feel that what they are doing is important and that they have the support of the American people. Finally, he said, “We’ve got to give them some predictability or some kind of certainty so they can balance their civilian life, with their employers and their family, with their military service to the nation.”

Given the lengthy lead time required for calling up, training, equipping and deploying Guard forces, Pentagon officials said that if more Guard members were mobilized, it would probably be for a rotation that begins in 2008.

Even so, Pentagon and military officials said that it was unlikely that any decision on a Guard mobilization would be necessary for several months or even into next year, which would place any announcement beyond the November mid-term Congressional elections.

To take on a greater load in Iraq and remedy existing equipment shortfalls, the Guard needs $23 billion over five years, Guard officials say.

“There is no brigade in the United States Army active, Guard or reserve that is completely ready back at home,” General Blum said. “That is to ensure that every brigade overseas is completely ready. And by ready I mean completely equipped. Right now, the key to readiness of the total force is equipping it, resetting it and modernizing it. It is a function of time and money.”

The stress of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted senior Army officers to pass a colorful hand card around Capitol Hill explaining that it will take $17.1 billion in extra spending over the next year to repair and replace tanks, trucks, radios and other equipment for the total force. The card indicates that another $13 billion is needed each year for the following five years to fix and replace equipment.

One Army official said this week that the service is seeking about $138 billion for the next fiscal year, compared with the $112 budget request the Army submitted last year.

[bth: the wheels are falling off the wagon. Through 2004 Bush played buget games, namely by deferring maintenance and replacements, until after the election. The army and also the marines played along. This year the forces met their recruitment levels by holding down the size of the army. Also during election years the regular troops are deployed overseas and in nonelection years (next year) the national guard is deployed. There will be a huge increase in NG call ups made just after this November election. The equipment costs are astounding. If you look at it, our monthly costs of deployment are several billion per month higher if equipment wear and tear is accounted for. Considering that we are hit by perhaps 2500 IEDs a month it must mean that it costs us around $80,000 or more to counter each IED attack (armor, damage, jammers, robots, deployed EOD teams, etc.). Considering that it costs insurgents only a few hundred dollars to place organize and detonate the IED attack, the defensive costs are around 200 to 1.... Also just of note, Venezuela and Iran can shout all they want, the US doesn't have the ground forces necessary to attack them. An air raid is about the best we could muster.]

Anti-roadside bomb efforts are paying off

Kansas City Star 09/21/2006 Anti-roadside bomb efforts are paying off: "WASHINGTON The Pentagon has made it a top priority to find new means to counter roadside bombs, and some of its latest improvements in training and equipment are saving lives."

Roadside bombs are the biggest killer of American forces in Iraq. The number of bombs planted against U.S. troops has more than tripled in the last two years and now averages around 1,200 a month. But nearly half of these improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as the military calls them, are found and disarmed before they explode, and most explosions cause no injuries or deaths.

In spite of a very large increase in the incidents, the casualty rate has remained fairly constant,” retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs, director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, said in a recent discussion with defense writers. “He (the enemy) is having to triple or quadruple his effort to get the same casualty effectiveness. … Most of it doesn’t work.”

About 75 percent of those wounded in the blasts return to duty within 72 hours, evidence that heavier armor on vehicles and other protective measures are saving lives, Meigs said.

More than 900 American servicemen and women have died from the bombs, which usually are hidden along roadsides and detonated by remote control when convoys pass. The task force, which Meigs was called out of retirement to head six months ago, has a staff of about 270 and a budget of $3.5 billion this year.

Meigs and other military officials declined to say in much detail what measures they have taken to counter the bombs, because they don’t want to give information to the enemy. The improvements mainly result from better training to spot the bombs, and better equipment.

One method that has been publicized is the use of radio-frequency jammers. The task force is planning to spend more than $1.43 billion this year on jammers designed to block the radio and microwave frequencies that insurgents use to detonate bombs. It plans to spend $613 million on other neutralization devices and $137 million on bomb material-detection equipment.

An analysis of official statistics and independent monitoring appears to bear out claims that U.S. casualty rates from roadside bombs have remained relatively constant despite a sharp increase in their use.

So far this year, U.S. forces in Iraq have averaged 29 deaths a month from IEDs, compared with 34 deaths a month in 2005 and 16 deaths a month in 2004, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks coalition casualties.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Note the extensive door frame damage and lack of ballistic glass in this older humvee picture. The result was likely fatal to the occupants Posted by Picasa

CREW RELEASES SECOND ANNUAL MOST CORRUPT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS REPORT - CREW

CREW RELEASES SECOND ANNUAL MOST CORRUPT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS REPORT - CREW: "Washington, DC – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its second annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress entitled Beyond DeLay:

The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and five to watch).

This encyclopedic report on corruption in the 109th Congress documents the egregious, unethical and possibly illegal activities of the most tainted members of Congress. CREW has compiled the members’ transgressions and analyzed them in light of federal laws and congressional rules. "

Two members have been removed from last year’s list of 13.

Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) is now serving an eight-year jail term for bribery and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has agreed to plead guilty to crimes that will likely result in a minimum two-year prison term. CREW has also re-launched the report’s tandem website, www.beyonddelay.org.

The site offers short summaries of each member’s transgressions as well as the full-length profiles and all accompanying exhibits.

CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress:
Members of the Senate:

Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Bill Frist (R-TN)
Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Members of the House:
Alan Mollohan (D-WV)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Richard Pombo (R-CA)
John Doolittle (R-CA)
Rick Renzi (R-AZ)
Tom Feeney (R-FL)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Katherine Harris (R-FL)
John Sweeney (R-NY)
William Jefferson (D-LA)
Charles Taylor (R-NC)
Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Gary Miller (R-CA)
Curt Weldon (R-PA)

Five Members to Watch:
Chris Cannon (R-UT)
J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)
Dennis Hastert (R-IL)
John Murtha (D-PA)
Don Sherwood (R-PA)

“CREW created this exhaustive go-to guide on corruption in Congress to expose and hold accountable those members of Congress who believe they are above the law,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today. “The officials named in this report have chosen to enrich themselves and their families and friends by abusing the power of their office, rather than work for the public good. Their collective corruption affects all Americans.” An August 2006 Harris poll shows that 77% of Americans have a negative view of Congress and a May 2006 Gallup poll indicates that 83% of Americans consider corruption a serious issue.

Sloan continued, “Congress persists in abdicating its constitutional responsibility to police itself, opting to ignore the ethical and legal transgressions of its members. Luckily for the public, at least the Department of Justice still believes that political corruption is worth pursuing.” Several other members’ careers have been tarnished or destroyed by their corrupt activities. In addition to Reps. Ney and Cunningham, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been indicted in Texas and is facing possible federal indictment in the Jack Abramoff scandal and Reps. William Jefferson (D-LA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), as well as Sens. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Bill Frist (R-TN) are now under federal investigation.

***Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit, legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Naomi Seligman Steiner at 202.408.5565/press@citizensforethics.org.
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No One Dares to Help - Los Angeles Times

No One Dares to Help - Los Angeles Times: "Because this account of daily life in Baghdad reveals where the writer lives, his name is not being used to protect his safety. He is a 54-year-old Iraqi reporter in The Times' Baghdad Bureau."

BAGHDAD — On a recent Sunday, I was buying groceries in my beloved Amariya neighborhood in western Baghdad when I heard the sound of an AK-47 for about three seconds. It was close but not very close, so I continued shopping.

As I took a right turn on Munadhama Street, I saw a man lying on the ground in a small pool of blood. He wasn't dead.The idea of stopping to help or to take him to a hospital crossed my mind, but I didn't dare. Cars passed without stopping. Pedestrians and shop owners kept doing what they were doing, pretending nothing had happened.I was still looking at the wounded man and blaming myself for not stopping to help. Other shoppers peered at him from a distance, sorrowful and compassionate, but did nothing.

I went on to another grocery store, staying for about five minutes while shopping for tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. During that time, the man managed to sit up and wave to passing cars. No one stopped. Then, a white Volkswagen pulled up. A passenger stepped out with a gun, walked steadily to the wounded man and shot him three times. The car took off down a side road and vanished.No one did anything. No one lifted a finger. The only reaction came from a woman in the grocery store. In a low voice, she said, "My God, bless his soul."I went home and didn't dare tell my wife. I did not want to frighten her.

I've lived in my neighborhood for 25 years. My daughters went to kindergarten and elementary school here. I'm a Christian. My neighbors are mostly Sunni Arabs. We had always lived in harmony. Before the U.S.-led invasion, we would visit for tea and a chat. On summer afternoons, we would meet on the corner to joke and talk politics.It used to be a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, bustling with commerce and traffic. On the main street, ice cream parlors, hamburger stands and take-away restaurants competed for space. We would rent videos and buy household appliances.

Until 2005, we were mostly unaffected by violence. We would hear shootings and explosions now and again, but compared with other places in Baghdad, it was relatively peaceful.

Then, late in 2005, someone blew up three supermarkets in the area. Shops started closing. Most of the small number of Shiite Muslim families moved out. The commercial street became a ghost road.

On Christmas Day last year, we visited — as always — our local church, St. Thomas, in Mansour. It was half-empty. Some members of the congregation had left the country; others feared coming to church after a series of attacks against Christians.American troops, who patrol the neighborhood in Humvees, have also become edgy. Get too close, and they'll shoot. A colleague — an interpreter and physician — was shot and killed by soldiers last year on his way home from a shopping trip. He hadn't noticed the Humvees parked on the street.

By early this year, living in my neighborhood had become a nightmare. In addition to anti-American graffiti, there were fliers telling women to wear conservative clothes and to cover their hair. Men were told not to wear shorts or jeans.

For me, as a Christian, it was unacceptable that someone would tell my wife and daughters what to wear. What's the use of freedom if someone is telling you what to wear, how to behave or what to do in your life?But coming home one day, I saw my wife on the street. I didn't recognize her. She had covered up.

After the attack on the Shiite shrine of the Golden Dome in Samarra in February, Shiite gunmen tried to raid Sunni mosques in my neighborhood. One night, against the backdrop of heavy shooting, we heard the cleric calling for help through the mosque's loudspeakers. We stayed up all night, listening as they battled for the mosque. It made me feel unsafe. If a Muslim would shoot another Muslim, what would they do to a Christian?

Fear dictates everything we do.I see my neighbors less and less. When I go out, I say hello and that's it. I fear someone will ask questions about my job working for Americans, which could put me in danger. Even if he had no ill will toward me, he might talk and reveal an identifying detail. We're afraid of an enemy among us. Someone we don't know. It's a cancer.

In March, assassinations started in our neighborhood. Early one evening, I was sitting in my garden with my wife when we heard several gunshots. I rushed to the gate to see what was going on, despite my wife's pleas to stay inside. My neighbors told me that gunmen had dropped three men from a car and shot them in the street before driving off. No one dared approach the victims to find out who they were.

The bodies remained there until the next morning. The police or the American military probably picked them up, but I don't know. They simply disappeared.

The sounds of shootings and explosions are now commonplace. We don't know who is shooting whom, or who has been targeted. We don't know why, and we're afraid to ask or help. We too could get shot. Bringing someone to the hospital or to the police is out of the question. Nobody trusts the police, and nobody wants to answer questions.

I feel sad, bitter and frustrated — sad because a human life is now worth nothing in this country; bitter because people no longer help each other; and frustrated because I can't help either. If I'm targeted one day, I'm sure no one will help me.

I was very happy when my eldest daughter married an American. First, because there was love between them, but also because she would be able to leave Iraq, and I wouldn't have to worry about her safety day after day. She left last year.If you had asked me a year ago whether I would consider leaving Iraq, I would have said maybe, but without enthusiasm. Now it's a definite yes. Things are going from bad to worse, and I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Four weeks ago, I came home from work. As I reached my street, I saw a man lying in a pool of blood. Someone had covered him with bits of cardboard. This was the best they could do. No one dared move him. I drove on.
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ABC News: Insurgency Gains Alarming Support Among Iraq's Sunni Muslims

ABC News: Insurgency Gains Alarming Support Among Iraq's Sunni Muslims: "Sept. 20, 2006 — A confidential Pentagon assessment finds that an overwhelming majority of Iraq's Sunni Muslims support the insurgency that has been fighting against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government, ABC News has learned.

Officials won't say how the assessment was made but found that support for the insurgency has never been higher, with approximately 75 percent of the country's Sunni Muslims in agreement. "

When the Pentagon started surveying Iraqi public opinion in 2003, Sunni support for the insurgents stood at approximately 14 percent.

The news comes as September is on track to become one of the deadliest months this year for U.S. troops in Iraq. Forty-nine Americans have been killed this month, with four deaths today.

The Iraqi toll is also climbing. At one Baghdad morgue, taxis and other cars line up to take away the bodies — the U.S. and Iraqi forces' big push to secure the capital seems to be failing to curb the violence.
"Where is the government?" one man asked. "Where is the promise of security? Where is the prime minister?"

U.S. officials are asking the same questions as they privately express frustration with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Officials say Maliki's government is not doing enough to win support of Iraq's Sunnis.

Former general Jack Keane said the Iraqi government has been "absolutely unable or unwilling to do anything about the Shia militia groups who are causing so much of the violence in Baghdad."

White House press secretary Tony Snow said reports that the president has lost faith in Maliki are "absolutely false." He said the prime minister has been in office just four months, and there has been "significant progress."

But many of the senior military officials ABC News has spoken to simply do not agree with that assessment.
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Majority of insurgents in Iraq are Sunnis, not Jihdists

Majority of insurgents in Iraq are Sunnis, not Jihdists : UAE Daily IndianMuslims.info: "Abu Dhabi, Sept 21 (NNN-WAM) A sweeping majority of the insurgents in Iraq are waging the guerrilla war against the United States and allied forces to serve their interests on the domestic Iraqi scene, according to a major United Arab Emirates (UAE) daily."

They have no interest in pursuing an anti-US armed offensive outside Iraq, said the Sharjah-based Gulf Today.

"Most of them are Iraqi Sunnis who fear that their interests would be totally undermined by the Shiite-dominated government. They are seeking to realise concrete, local political goals and are not running a terrorism campaign against the US", said the paper in its Wednesday's editorial comment.

The paper expressed its hope the US would listen closely to the message that came from Monday's meeting in Jeddah attended by nine Middle Eastern countries. The worsening crisis in Iraq, the paper notes, does not bode well for the region because Iraqi sectarian and ethnic tensions could spill over the country's neighbours.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz put the finger on the pulse when he expressed fear that "the wise could fall in the traps of the ignorant, in which case Iraq, its unity and people would be victims.

"The dangers of such a situation, God forbid, are not a jeopardy to Iraq alone, but they will have an impact on the security of the international community and (Iraq's) neighbours,", the paper quoted the Saudi minister as saying. The Saudi fear was echoed by Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi and his Turkish counterpart Abdulkadir Aksu.

According to the paper, the main item in the agenda for the Jeddah meeting was ways of bolstering Iraqi efforts to improve security.

Interior ministers from Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq and its neighbours -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait -- reaffirmed their resolve to prevent foreign fighters entering Iraq through neighbouring countries.

"Foreign fighters sneaking into Iraq through its porous borders account for only a small segment of the raging insurgency there. The insurgents of Iraq are mostly Iraqis who have a local agenda, only a small percentage of them are the so-called "international jihdists" -- like followers of Al Qaeda and some obscure groups.

A sweeping majority of the insurgents in Iraq are waging the guerrilla war against the US and allied forces to serve their interests on the domestic Iraqi scene", the paper observed.

This is the key fact that Bush and his aides conveniently sidestep when they affirm that insurgents in Iraq will not leave the US alone and therefore the US has to maintain its military presence in Iraq as long as it takes for Washington to satisfy for itself that it has eliminated the "security threat" that it perceives.

It follows that the insurgency would continue to grow in view of the US presence in Iraq and this in turn points to the danger that was highlighted at the Jeddah meeting, said the paper.

It concluded that regional countries and the rest of the international community know well that the US would not be able to successfully fight off the insurgency through military means. Instead of continuing to justify its military presence and aggressive policy in Iraq, Washington should be seriously looking at various options that would contain the crisis to within the borders of Iraq first and set the ground for a compromise among the various Iraqi communities.
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U.S. warns of increased violence in Iraq

U.S. warns of increased violence in Iraq: "BAGHDAD, Iraq — Top U.S. generals warned Wednesday that violence will increase in Baghdad during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and said al-Qaida in Iraq already has intensified its assaults against American troops.

The warnings came as violence killed some 65 people and wounded more than 100 in two days. At least 23 people died in bombings and shootings around the country Wednesday, and 10 bodies were found.

The day's deadliest attack took place in Samarra, where a suicide car bombing outside a Sunni tribal leader's house killed 10 and wounded 38."

The military said a U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday by small-arms fire in northeastern Baghdad, and reported the death of another American in a roadside blast in the same area the day before. A third U.S. soldier died in the capital in "a non-combat incident," the military said, without giving details.

"If you historically look at this time period just before and going into Ramadan, there has unfortunately been an increase in violence. That, in fact, is occurring within the city," said U.S. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the senior military spokesman in Iraq.

He said Iraqi and U.S. forces were carrying out operations against insurgents and terrorists to "disrupt their ability to coordinate violence prior to Ramadan."

Thousands of Iraqi and U.S. soldiers launched a security sweep around Baghdad on Aug. 7. The operation managed to lower violence in targeted areas of Baghdad, but attacks spiked in the rest of the city.

"Al-Qaida in Iraq, insurgents and death squads have recently increased their attacks" in the Baghdad area, Caldwell said.

"This past week, there was a spike in execution-style murders in Baghdad. Many bodies found had clear signs of being bound, tortured and executed. We believe death squads and other illegal armed groups are responsible."


Caldwell said it was believed that the increase in al-Qaida attacks against American forces came after a threat issued Sept. 7 by Abu Ayyoub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. The U.S. military, which killed the group's previous leader, has put a $5 million bounty on al-Masri's head.

The commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad told The Associated Press that he has been ordered to try to control the violence ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around Sept. 24.

"The thing that I was told to do, prior to the month of Ramadan, is dramatically reduce the number of mortars, kidnappings, assassinations and (car bombs) inside of Baghdad and predominantly try to reduce the sectarian violence," Maj. Gen. James Thurman said.

He said he was pushing Iraqi leaders to do more about sectarian militias responsible for killing thousands of people _ most of them in the capital _ and would also need more Iraqi troops.

"Militias are holding the rule of law in contempt. We're pushing this government to get a policy as to how they're going to deal with it so their own people know how to deal with the militias," Thurman said. "I would like to see more Iraqi forces. We are pushing that very hard."

Sunni Arabs have linked Shiite-dominated government ministries, including the Interior Ministry, to death squads. Both Sunni Arab and Shiite death squads roam the streets of Baghdad.

However, the U.S. general helping train Iraqi police said that so far none of the death squad members detained had ties to the Interior Ministry or other government agencies.

"From a general allegation that the Ministry of Interior is sponsoring death squads, it has not been borne out by those we have captured and detained to date," Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson said.

When asked which militias the death squad members seemed to have been recruited from, Peterson did not elaborate, except to say that "Jaish al-Mahdi is certainly one of them."

He referred to the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. There have been reports, however, that the militia has splintered recently _ with some groups breaking away from al-Sadr.

[bth: if an until the US or the Iraqi government is willing to stand up to the Mahdi army, this will continue. It is evident there is no US strategy anymore. You don't see it concentrating its forces for any, any decisive engagements. We are losing this war if for no other reason than we have no strategy to win it.]
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Saying Thank You to Those Who Answered the Call of Duty

Saying Thank You to Those Who Answered the Call of Duty - New York Times: "BANGOR, Me. — Shortly before 11 on a recent Monday night, Cathy Czarnecki made sure the macadamia nut cookies were on the table of treats in a room at Bangor International Airport. The commercial passengers had all left, but 260 soldiers would soon arrive to a welcome that few of them expected."

“Here they come!” someone shouted, and a dozen or so volunteers went out into the hallway and applauded as a line of soldiers in desert camouflage and tan boots poured into the small terminal.

“Thank you for your service,” one man said to a soldier while shaking his hand. “Welcome to Maine,” another greeter said.

“I think I’m going to cry,” a female soldier said after being hugged and cheered in the terminal.

The volunteers are members of Maine Troop Greeters, which was founded in 1991 to greet troops headed to the Persian Gulf war. Since May 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war, the group has welcomed every military transport flight that has arrived here.

The group came about, in part, because this is the country’s easternmost airport and it has one of the longest runways in the nation, making it a favored military refueling and transfer location.

The founder of the group, Bill Knight, 84, is a World War II veteran. He recalled how soldiers were treated after Vietnam and said he wanted to ensure that troops were thanked.

“The way they treated those troops was horrible,” Mr. Knight said. “We can’t go back, but we can try to make a difference from here on out.”

Maine Troop Greeters has about 100 volunteers who operate out of the small room, which is lined with American flags, signed military T-shirts and maps of Iraq. They arrive about three hours before a flight to set out cookies donated by a local Sam’s Club, pies baked by volunteers, and candy and donuts. They also make sure free cellphones donated by local providers are available for troops to use.

The greeters here on the recent Monday night had various reasons for donating their time.

Ms. Czarnecki joined in 2004 after her son was deployed to Iraq. “It was my security blanket,” she said.

“It was my way to stay connected with what was going on over there.”

Her son has returned safely, and she continues to volunteer.

Peter Jones, 51, started greeting troops here in March, shortly after his father, Freeland, died at age 82. Freeland Jones, a World War II veteran, volunteered until he was not strong enough, and his son said he felt that coming here honored both his father and the troops.

Mr. Jones said he became hooked his first day, when members of a New Jersey National Guard unit wept as greeters hugged them and shook their hands. “It lifts my spirit to know I can come out here and make a difference,” Mr. Jones said.

The plane on that Monday night brought troops from bases in California, Nevada, Utah and Washington, and was headed to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to the Middle East. It was the 1,774th flight greeted since May 2003, with 335,195 men and women and 35 military dogs having passed through the airport.

“Use a cellphone, call home,” Mr. Knight said as he doled them out. “Have something,” he added, motioning to the food.

Lt. Col. Eric Shalita, 43, did both, helping himself to a powdered donut after calling his wife and two daughters at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. “It was amazing,” Colonel Shalita said. “We were completely not expecting this.”

“It’s nice to know that people genuinely support us,” he added.

Staff Sgt. Stanley Siaosi, 26, was tired from the trip and missed his wife and children, who live at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Sergeant Siaosi said the greeting made him resolute about his mission.

“This is really motivating for us to go out there and do our job,” he said. “You come here on the other side of the U.S., and there are greeters there ready to shake your hand. It gives you that patriotic feeling.”

The airport’s restaurant and gift shop stayed open late, and the troops eagerly dug into cheeseburgers and chicken fingers, some washing them down with the last Budweisers and Coronas they will have for a while.

Others sat in the terminal, chatting with the greeters about life, family and Bangor’s most famous resident, Stephen King. Some said they really like Maine, despite having never set foot outside the airport, and most vowed to come back for lobster. Two hours after the troops arrived, the beer still flowed and most of the greeters remained, eagerly chatting.

“This is really good for the young kids,” Chaplain Jeff Neuberger, 56, said as he motioned to a room filled with baby-faced soldiers. “It’s one little gesture, but the support means everything to these guys and gals.”