Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Caesarism raises its head once again..

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Caesarism raises its head once again..: "In May,Mrs. Clinton wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates with a reasonable question: Had the Pentagon done any planning for withdrawal from Iraq? What she got back was a belligerent brush-off. Mr. Edelman, who said he represented Mr. Gates, wrote that “premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.” " NY Times Editorial


Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution is clear in stating that Congress shall have the power:

"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."


Senator Clinton is a member of the Senate committee that exercises oversight with regard to the Armed Forces of the United States and the Defense Department. That includes Mr. Edelman. The Senate has the responsibility of deciding whether or not it will confirm the president's "nominations" (constitutional language) in appointing and promoting officers and senior civilians like Mr. Edelman. With the House, it legislates the organization and missions of the armed forces and the Department of Defense generally. As we all know (I hope), the senate acts on the money bills that originate in the House of Representatives that fund everything in the government, including the Department of Defense. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires the Congress to give the Executive Branch anything in particular it asks for in terms of budget and authorizations.

Mr. Edelman, like many in this administration do not seem to understand, or at least accept that the Congress is a branch of government equal to and independent from the executive branch. This White House speaks of the Congress in such a way as to make it clear that it regards the legislature as an adversary in a contest for control of the government. That tendency is much more apparent now that the Democrats control the Congress and the enthusiastic endorsement of White House wishes is no longer automatic.

Senator Clinton had every right to ask if there were serious contingency plans being made about HOW we would withdraw from Iraq. A civil and constitutionally correct response to her question would not have required a public and unclassified answer. So far as I know, she does not have a record of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Others do, (and not all of them in the Congress), but she does not.

As she has observed, it would be a massive undertaking to safely withdraw our forces from Iraq. Whether the withdrawal takes place in a benign condition following the victory that the administration still anticipates or in a hostile environment, the removal of our forces would require a level of systematic planning in detail that could not safely be made while trying to withdraw. As Senator Clinton has observed, "You don't snap your fingers, and begin to withdraw." In fact, a prudent program of withdrawal would require many months. Such contingency plans would rightly be kept secret for the reasons that Edelman mentions. Secrets can be kept. Edelman knows that. It is not true that everything "leaks" to the media.

Skeptics will say that the administration has not had such plans drawn up because it does not intend to leave Iraq in the foreseeable future. The continued egregious references to the US presence in Korea and Europe reinforce the skeptics' view. If the skeptics' view is correct, then the same flawed understanding of the Middle East that underlay the intervention in Iraq must still persist. The fact is that there will never be even relative peace in Iraq so long as our forces attempt to police hostile populations there.

We are going to have to leave as a pre-requisite for the bloody, messy process that will take place in Iraq before the warring ethno-religious nations there settle the question of who will rule and where. The victors in that struggle will deal with the foreign jihadis. They will have a lot of surreptitious help from outside Iraq.

If we are going to leave a training and supply presence behind and a much smaller force for protection of that effort, the protective force will have to be located among friendly people. I have dealt with that question elsewhere in these pages. (Someone will show you where)

In any event, Senator Clinton was not, in any way, "out of line" to ask to be told what is being done to safeguard American forces in all contingencies. Mr. Edelman should be disciplined for the outrageous answer that he gave her.

We live in an age in which the forces of anti-republicanism and anti-constitutionalism are strong.

Franklin was right. We can have a republic if we are strong enough to keep it. pl

The Blotter: Secret Report: No Iraq Oil Deal by September

The Blotter: Secret Report: No Iraq Oil Deal by September: "A confidential intelligence report prepared for U.S. officials this week concludes a key U.S. benchmark of progress in Iraq, a law to divide oil revenues equitably among the provinces, 'will not be agreed by September, even if cosmetic legislation is put in place.'"

An agreement on how to divide oil profits among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish areas is one of 18 key benchmarks of progress to be reviewed by the U.S. in September.

More than 90 percent of Iraq's revenue comes from the export of oil.

But the report, obtained by the Blotter on, says the issues the three sides are too far apart to agree on are the "role of foreign companies in the oil sector" and the division of the oil profits.

The report also includes a grim assessment of the possibility of an increase of oil output in Iraq despite its huge reserves.

It concludes that security in Iraq is so unstable "it is unlikely that any major foreign oil company will be able to invest in Iraq during 2008 (unless they are heavily underwritten by the U.S. government)."

The report says the Kurds favor foreign oil companies playing a larger role, but that is opposed by many Shi'a in the south "because of a fear they will lose control of their assets to outsiders."

[bth: if Washington establishment types and oil executives conclude no agreement is possible with a national Iraqi government, then one wonders whether they will suddenly shift this fall to supporting a breakup of Iraq - finding it easier to negotiate with the Kurds and the Southern Shea than an impotent national government. Still you have to get the oil out and that means secure pipelines, waterways and highways. Could a mercenary army - err private contractors -- provide that security free of the rule of law in Iraq? Ultimately 90% of the Iraq economy comes down to cash from oil exports. One wonders]

The Blotter: U.S. Intel Chief: Tall Buildings and Mass Casualties Top AQ's Hit List

The Blotter: U.S. Intel Chief: Tall Buildings and Mass Casualties Top AQ's Hit List: "Chicago's Sears Tower and other iconic buildings in Seattle, Dallas and Los Angeles still top al Qaeda's target list in the U.S., according to the top U.S. intelligence official."

"Their intentions are mass casualties larger than 9/11 inside the United States," Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in an interview with the D.C. radio station WTOP. "A very large building. The Sears Tower, or some large building in Seattle or L.A. or Dallas."

McConnell also confirmed publicly what senior officials had told ABC News privately.

"In some cases they've got people positioned, more in Europe -- we suspect here in the United States, but we have no clear and compelling evidence they're in the United States," McConnell told WTOP. reported last week that senior law enforcement and intelligence officials had "multiple and credible" reports that an al Qaeda terror cell may be on its way to the United States or could already be in the country.

The Library Tower in Los Angeles has always been on al Qaeda's hit list.

In February 2006, ABC News reported that al Qaeda's original plan for 9/11 was to use a fifth jet to bring down the 73-story tower on the West Coast.

And as previously reported on the Blotter on, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a written statement, admitted he was responsible for planning and financing a "second wave" of attacks targeting the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank in Washington state and the Empire State Building in New York.

Echoing the National Intelligence Estimate released earlier this week, McConnell said the safe haven al Qaeda enjoys in Pakistan has re-energized the terror group to pre-9/11 levels and said the group has stepped up its planning and training efforts for future attacks.

McConnell joins other officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in voicing his concern of al Qaeda's threat against the U.S.

"We do worry about whether they are rebuilding their capabilities," Chertoff told the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune last week. "We strike at them; we degrade them; but they rebuild."

[bth: their persistence at financial and symbolic targets offering media coverage and mass casualties is very interesting. I have some concern that the stock market reaching a new high may be being used as an indicator that its time to whack the western markets again. That they seem unable or unwilling to attack more vulnerable but less spectacular targets may give us some advantage and it suggests to me that that their organization's ability to project violence into North America may require more command and control than say Lebanon or even the UK.]

StandUp Congress: Anti-War Room (July 20)

StandUp Congress: Anti-War Room (July 20)

The Arms Control Otaku Military doctrine under 'informatization'

The Arms Control Otaku 『軍備管理のオタク』: Military doctrine under 'informatization': "Despite my earlier jab, Barry Rosenberg's cover article from this month's Armed Forces Journal is really fantastic. His thesis? The U.S. military must be prepared to make some enormous cultural changes if it really wants to embrace network-centric warfare:"

Until recently, collection assets would feed information up the line to divisional commanders and they would pass it up or parcel it down on a need-to-know basis. However, today, many war fighters have access to the same data as their commanders and are being given the opportunity to not only critique that information but also to act upon it independently of commanders' orders.

As a result of everyone having access to the Global Information Grid (GIG), leaders are faced with the challenges of commanding young men and women who have been plugged in to communications and entertainment devices since they were kids, while at the same time respecting the traditional pyramid model of command. In many instances, the growing pains are obvious.

"There's no way to run a military without a hierarchical structure," said retired Lt. Gen. William Odom, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan. "When you hook everyone up to the Internet and give them processing capability, you are essentially flattening the chain of command. If everybody is making independent decisions, the likelihood they will be coordinated to a mission goes down."

Odom said that what we're experiencing today are "constipated information channels" and "diarrhea of the e-mail." Both have increased the capability and propensity of senior leaders to micromanage from afar. The question now is whether the military can develop senior commanders who will allow lower commanders to make decisions — and then stay out of their hair and live with the results.

In the broadest sense, LTG Odom is right -- the military requires a certain amount of hierarchy that is irreducible. If the general knew his history though, he would know that the idea of 'hierarchy' is sometimes flexible.

I imagine a guy like Field Marshal Donald Haig back in 1915 would have rejected the idea of using fire teams to infiltrate enemy trenches. He would have argued that giving foot soldiers enough autonomy to maneuver on their own would reduce the 'likelihood they will be coordinated to a mission' as well. Two years later, Germany's stormtroopers mostly proved him wrong.

[On an interesting historical note, stormtroopers weren't actually a German idea, but were instead based on the writings of a French Army captain named Andre Laffargue. He proposed this strategy of small units and infiltration to the French General Staff in 1915 and they dismissed it out of hand. In response, Laffargue self-published the operational concept as a pamphlet, which the Germans captured and translated in 1916.]

So how should the military resolve this issue of autonomy? Rosenberg gives commanders a simple four-point plan: 1) Clearly articulate the objective, 2) provide your troops with operational boundaries, 3) set their rules of engagement, and 4) take a very hands-off approach. Frankly, I couldn't agree more. U.S. troops are smarter and better trained today than at any point in the military's history. Sure, they will probably need more classes in anthropology and foreign languages, but changing that is easy enough.

Rosenberg also converges with Marine General Charles Krulak's idea about the strategic corporal. Krulak argues that future battlefields and future missions will be so complex and fluid that troops on the ground will rarely have time to reach up the chain of command for orders. In response, the military should be prepared to devolve leadership to the lowest level, the squad leader, who is typically only a corporal.

Krulak's position seems reasonable enough, but there is a tension between his "strategic corporal" thesis and what is referred to as the "7000-mile screwdriver" -- a term coined to describe Donald Rumsfeld's micromanagement of the Iraq War. Improvements in headquarters-level situational awareness have encouraged commanders to micromanage their troops at a time when they need a greater amount of autonomy.

If current problems any indicator, giving troops more autonomy will probably be far more difficult than suiting them up for network-centric warfare. On the one hand, you have politicians who would rather blow millions on a pie-in-the-sky global strike program than take risks or ask for sacrifice. On the other, you have an inbred generation of military leaders who prefer to go into battle unprepared over providing civilian leaders with objective (but sometimes unpalatable) advice.

Matching doctrine to technology is definitely possible, let's just say I'm not confident about the prospects.

[bth: as an interested but inexperienced civilian observer to this train wreck of a war, I would only note that the lower level troops, particularly the enlisted and NCOs, have done an extraordinary - even phenomenal - job while the generals have been a national disgrace and will largely be responsible for the US losing its second war. Given current realities, I'd trust the lower level troops with the 4 parameters given by this author over any 7000 mile screw driver. Our generals are a national disgrace and anything that is increasing their reach is probably bad for this country. Give the information power to the grunts.]

Main and Central: War of the Bridges Archives

Main and Central: War of the Bridges Archives: "I’ve written a few times about the resistance tactic of destroying bridges. It’s a good tactic in an occupied country where much of the occupier’s forces are stretched thin, and must remain mobile in order to reinforce dispersed units, and to chase the evil al Qaeda and their evil Iranian handlers around the country in an ongoing game of whack-a-mole."

A list of all the bridge attacks is at the end of this article.

Our friend, Dubhaltach of Gorilla’s Guides left a comment on another thread earlier this morning reporting that two more bridges have been dropped.

2 bridges have been blown up in Haqlaniya (there's a fairly big base there)
The Wadi Hajlan bridge is a chokepoint for forces moving between Haditha and Hit.
The Haqlaniya bridge links Haditha to al-Boghdadi

Things in Anbar look like they're about to get (more) difficult again.

I held off on working on this, waiting for a bit more information. There’s precious little to work with, since MNF-I and CENTCOM seem to be a bit bashful about discussing this topic of destroyed bridges. Looking at it from the viewpoint of media management that’s understandable. They’re only interested in broadcasting victories. They have zero interest in discussing actions taken by the resistance that have negative tactical or strategic implications for the US.

Here is the best information available now:

Anbar, Jul 19, (VOI) – Unidentified gunmen simultaneously detonated two bridges in the city of al-Haqlaniya on Thursday, local residents from the Sunni al-Anbar province said.
"Unknown gunmen planted explosive charges under the bridges of al-Haqlaniya and Wadi Hajlan in western Iraq and totally destroyed them at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Al-Haqlaniya bridge, 200 meters long, was one of the most important bridges as it links the city of Haditha, 170 km west of Ramadi, capital of Anbar, to the city of al-Boghdadi, while Hajlan links Haditha to Hit, the witness said.

The bombings did not leave casualties, he said, adding Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops imposed tight security measures in the city afterwards.

If, like me, you’re vague about Iraq geography, here is a map to help you sort out the names. I’ve put it up as a reference rather than including it in this article because you get better resolution clicking the link.

I have no idea where any US Bases are and would be disposed to not advertise their presence on this webage. Dubhaltach may have good information or he may not. I will say it doesn’t seem to make any sense for the resistance to drop bridges that don’t inconvenience US troops.

Other articles about bridge attacks:

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

[bth: original source has the hyperlinks and the comments on the original source are worth reading as well.. Thanks to Meatball for pointing this post out.

A systematic removal of bridges would seriously disrupt our ability to project force in Iraq not to mention supporting our troop levels. It would also lead to a partition of the country, probably along ethnic lines. A fire break against ethnic cleansing?

Systematic destruction of bridges along major supply routes plus a significant surge in EFPs (maybe 65-150 per month now) to conventional IED levels (2500-5000/month) would devastate US forces. $20 billion in MRAP production would be shot up as quickly as they were fielded.

Neocons are quick to blame EFPs on Iran, but what is surprising is that there aren't many more of them. If Iran or Sadr for that matter wanted to veto our presence in Iraq, they could.]

Since these last two bridge attacks seem to be trying to isolate Haditha, I thought it would be worth posting this link regarding activity in Haditha. If you look at its history in recent years, one can only conclude that the most extreme elements of Sunni culture are at play there. Maybe cutting Haditha off form the world as we know it isn't a bad idea afterall. Its an awful place.]

Impeach Cheney Now

The Quaker Agitator

Riots erupt in airport near Egypt-Gaza border; 2 Palestinians injured in clashes

Riots erupt in airport near Egypt-Gaza border; 2 Palestinians injured in clashes - International Herald Tribune: "EL-ARISH, Egypt: About 100 Palestinians smashed doors and windows inside an airport building in this Egypt-Gaza Strip border town early Tuesday after being trapped there for more than a month since the border's closure, police and one of the rioters said."

Dozens of anti-riot police with batons and shields stormed el-Arish airport and clashed with rioters, injuring two of them, one of the rioters, Mohammed Ali, told the Associated Press.

A police official said that more troops have been deployed to the airport after Tuesday's clashes, fearing more riots and violence. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

An Associated Press reporter was denied entry into the airport Tuesday but saw dozens of riot police deployed outside the building.

The Palestinians, who do not have entry visas for Egypt, were transferred under security supervision to el-Arish airport after first arriving at the Cairo airport from trips abroad.

They had expected to then travel onward to the Gaza Strip, but they have been stuck in the el-Arish airport since Egypt sealed off its border with Gaza after the militant Palestinian Hamas took over Gaza last month.

The Palestinians, mostly students and government employees, trapped inside the airport have complained of increasingly desperate living conditions.

"We are living in a 100 square meters. There are no services. Water is salty and masses of mosquitoes attack us every night," Ali told the AP on the telephone early Tuesday.

"We have lost our minds. We broke the windows, the palm trees (inside the airport), the doors and everything around us in the airport," he added.

Along with the 100 Palestinian in el-Arish airport, there are about 4,000 other Palestinians stranded on Egypt's side of the Gaza border.

Palestinians stuck in the eastern Sinai Peninsula say they are having trouble finding food and shelter — shortages they blame on local authorities and Palestinian factions indifferent to their plight. A large number lack enough money to pay for lodging and instead are sleeping in mosques and under trees.

The Rafah border terminal has been closed since June 9, the start of the final round of bloody factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas that led to the Islamic group's takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has said it is ruling out opening the border anytime soon, the official MENA news agency reported, a move intended to put pressure on Hamas to resolve its current conflict with Fatah.

Egyptian officials are worried a Hamas-ruled Gaza on its borders could bolster Egypt's own banned Islamic opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, and spawn terror attacks.

[bth: so where are the ubiquitous Saudi Islamic charities? They seem to find themselves in the deepest recesses of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines but Allah be praised they can't seem to find these Palestinians at the airport.]

abu muqawama: Quote for the Week

abu muqawama: Quote for the Week: "'If 21st-century states prefer to fight their wars with professional armies, or contractors, it is not just for technical reasons, but because citizens can no longer be relied upon to be conscripted in their millions to die in battle for their fatherlands. Men and women may be prepared to die (or more likely to kill) for money or for something smaller, or for something larger, but in the original homelands of the nation, no longer for the nation-state. What, if anything, will replace it as a general model for popular government in the 21st century?'"

-- Eric Hobsbawm

For some odd reason Abu Muqawama has enjoyed two long conversations over the past 10 days with folks here in Morocco on the role private military companies play on the contemporary battlefield. Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan -- and in places like Darfur, where no Western power has the resolve to send its soldiers -- it is absolutely necessary to think long and hard about PMCs and the role they should play in the future. Here is something T.X. Hammes wrote recently as part of a larger article on 5GW that Abu Muqawama read and liked:

In the more than 300 years since the Treaty of Westphalia, we have developed diplomatic, economic, and military techniques for dealing with crises created when nation-states use armed force—or even threaten to use it. We do not have such mechanisms in place when nation-states or even private individuals employ armed contractors.

If China had announced that it planned to send multiple field armies to Angola to assist with security and construction there, the UN would at least have opened up a dialogue. Yet a Chinese company has signed a contract to do just that, except that it will substitute 850,000 armed and unarmed contractors for the field armies. This event has simply not shown up in international discussion. It is particularly interesting because China has just signed a 10-year contract with Angola to purchase oil at $60 a barrel. While the contractors are not an official branch of the Chinese Government, their presence clearly puts China in position to “resolve” any disputes with the Angolan Government over that contract. Thus, thanks to the creative use of PMCs, brokering agreements between nation-states and even the process of intervening to resolve disputes between parties has moved outside the international system. How does the UN respond to a contract dispute between an armed private company and a government?

[bth: damned good questions. In all this noise and confusion, shouldn't government stand for and represent the common man? The 4 freedoms? It strikes me that the nation-states have become controlled by special interests and no longer are 'for and by the people.' Our court system could have stopped the enroachment of civil liberties but it didn't. Our congress could have controlled the executive. The executive, the decided, betrayed the public trust and seeks to become a monarchy of power. The Founding Fathers anticipated this. What they didn't anticipate was that the other two branches of government would be controlled by wimps and moral cowards. The common man we send to war - who stands ready to fight for them? For us?]

Italy Arrests Three Moroccans for Running 'Terror School' in Mosque - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Italy Arrests Three Moroccans for Running 'Terror School' in Mosque - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "ROME — Italian police arrested three Moroccans -- an imam and two of his aides -- on Saturday to break up a militant cell that they said used a mosque in the central city of Perugia as a 'terror school.'"...

Iran to fund Syrian arms deals

Iran to fund Syrian arms deals - report - Israel News, Ynetnews: "Report says Ahmadinejad, Assad signed agreement according to which Syria will not enter peace talks with Israel in return for military assistance from Islamic Republic, including funding of future arms deals with Russia, North Korea "

Roee Nahmias Published: 07.21.07, 11:06 / Israel News

An Iranian source told the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that during their meeting in Damascus last Thursday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to boost military and political relations between the two countries.

According to the report, published Saturday, Tehran will help Syria fund future arms deals with North Korea and Russia, set up military plants there and back Syria on the Lebanon issue. In return, Assad promised Ahmadinejad to refrain from entering peace talks with Israel.

The two leaders signed a comprehensive agreement on strategic cooperation between Tehran and Damascus, according to which Iran will transfer a billion dollars to Syria for the purchase of 400 advanced T-72 Russian tanks, 18 MiG-31 warplanes, eight Sukhoi fighter jets and eight Mikoyan helicopters.

In addition, Iran will help Syria set up a mid-range missile manufacturing plant and equip the Syrian army with Iranian-made armored vehicles and tanks.

The deal states that the Syrian navy will receive C-801 and C-802 missiles, which were developed by China and are currently being produced also in Iran, as well as training for its air force and navy officers in Iran. Tehran will also assist Syria in developing a nuclear research program and advance its biological weapons capabilities.

'Summer will bring victories'

During the Second Lebanon War an Iranian-made C-802 missile fired by Hizbullah terrorists struck an Israel Navy missile boat off the Beirut shore; four Israeli crewmembers were killed in the incident.

In return for Iran’s military assistance and its promise to back Syria on the Lebanon issue, Assad pledged not to enter peace talks with Israel. According to the agreement, Ahmadinejad will exert his influence to prevent the Lebanese parliament from convening to elect a new president to replace Emile Lahoud, who will be stepping down in the coming weeks.

Ahmadinejad also committed to continue working toward toppling Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government.

In his meeting with Assad last Thursday, Ahmadinejad said that "Iran and Syria are allies and will remain allies".

According to him, Iran and Syria "are united against the enemies of the two countries and the region".

Asked about the possibility of another war breaking out in the region, the Iranian president replied, "We hope the summer will bring victories to the region's nations and failures to their enemies." He refused to elaborate.

On Friday the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat reported that senior Syrian officials told the Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Møller, that their country was "ready to renew negotiations with Israel under the auspices of the international Quartet".

Taliban claims to kill German hostages

Taliban claims to kill German hostages - Yahoo! News: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A purported Taliban spokesman said the hard-line militia killed two German hostages on Saturday because Germany didn't announce a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. "

South Korea's government, meanwhile, attempted to win the release of at least 18 Korean Christians, including 15 women, kidnapped in the same region on Thursday.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who claims to be a Taliban spokesman, said fighters had fatally shot the Germans, who were kidnapped on Wednesday along with five Afghan colleagues in the southern province of Wardak while working on a dam project.

"The German and Afghan governments didn't meet our conditions, they didn't pull out their troops," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Ahmadi offered no proof of the killings and said the Taliban would give further information about the two bodies later.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said he was lying.

"The information that we and our security forces have is that one of these two who were kidnapped died of a heart attack," Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said. "The second hostage is alive and we hope that he will be released soon and we are trying our best to get him released."

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jeager said a crisis team was pursuing "every clue" and was in close contact with the Afghan government.

Ahmadi said that 18 kidnapped Koreans would also be killed Saturday if South Korea didn't withdraw its 200 troops in Afghanistan.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged the Taliban to "send our people home quickly and safely." He said 23 South Koreans had been abducted.

Roh also spoke with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and asked for cooperation to quickly win the release of the South Koreans, Roh's office said.

A senior Korean official said the South Korean government was "maintaining contact" with the Taliban.

The South Koreans were kidnapped at gunpoint from a bus in Ghazni province's Qarabagh district on Thursday as they traveled on the main highway from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar. It was the largest-scale abduction of foreigners since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Ahmadi warned the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces not to try to rescue the hostages, or they would be killed. The provincial police chief in Ghazni province said his forces were working "carefully" to not trigger any retaliatory killings.

"We have surrounded the area but are working very carefully. We don't want them to be killed," said Ali Shah Ahmadzai.

Germany has 3,000 soldiers in NATO's International Security Assistance Force, are stationed in the mostly peaceful northern part of Afghanistan. South Korea has 200 soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition who largely work on humanitarian projects such as medical assistance and reconstruction work.

"We are doing whatever we can to secure their release, and we hope that those who have kidnapped them will respect the Afghan and Islamic culture not to harm them and let them go back to their homes safe and sound," Baheen said.

In South Korea, family members of kidnapped victims urged the government to accept the Taliban's demand, noting Seoul had already decided to bring home its soldiers by the end of this year.

"We hope that the immediate withdrawal (of troops) is made," Cha Sung-min, a relative of one of the hostages, told reporters.

South Korea's troops run a hospital for Afghan civilians at the U.S. base at Bagram, and the facility has treated over 240,000 patients. The kidnapped civilians are not affiliated with the military.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon reiterated Seoul's plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year as scheduled, hoping to appease the militants.

"The government is in preparations to implement its plan," he said.

Venezuela is key link for the drug smugglers

Venezuela is key link for the drug smugglers - Telegraph: "Venezuela has become the key link in the new drug smuggling route from South America to Europe. Its increasingly corrupt security forces are accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of smugglers - and possibly shielding drugs barons.

"We know that some people very high in the government and military have their fingers in drug pies," said an official from an international law enforcement agency.

Cocaine grown in Colombia is smuggled into neighbouring Venezuela and then sent onwards to West Africa and Europe. There are reports of a new cartel, dubbed the "Cartel of the Suns", after the stars worn by the Venezuelan generals who are thought to be complicit in the trade.

Stars and Stripes: Pace: Look for 12-month tours by spring 2008

Stars and Stripes: Pace: Look for 12-month tours by spring 2008: "JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Rumored 18-month deployments? "

Not according to Gen. Peter Pace.

And, he said while visiting troops in Afghanistan, tour lengths could return to 12 months by the spring.

“An 18-month tour has zero, zero, none, nada, squat, nothing, no … validity, OK? I want to make sure you got that,” the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Pace visited Forward Operating Base Fenty as part of a week-long farewell tour in Iraq and Afghanistan before before he retires at the end of September.

Pace said plans are in the works for deployment lengths to go back to 12 months in the early part of next year, and “that over time — not tomorrow — but over time, units … will deploy for 12 months and be home for 24 months, and in that 24 months get family time, get full-spectrum training and be ready to go wherever the nation needs them to go.”

In fact, Pace said, if Afghanistan and Iraq remain the military’s focus, he and the other top brass will stick to a plan that will reduce 15-month deployments to 12 in early 2008, meaning the next active-duty rotations will be away from home for only a year, with more reductions to follow after that.

Of course, all this came with one caveat: “If some other nation around the globe does something stupid tomorrow, and we need to respond to it … all bets are off,” Pace said.

Also addressing the issue of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Pace said, “We are going to see an increase of troop strength in Afghanistan to help the Afghan army before we
see a decrease.”

Citing a need for more U.S. trainers to help the Afghan army, Pace said, “We’re going to need another brigade’s worth of troops, about another 3,000-plus troops to be able to have the number of embeds with the Afghan army that will really help them.”

After a few more stops in Afghanistan, Pace said he’s heading to Germany to address family members there, specifically those whose loved ones have been affected by the active-duty tour extension.

“The families serve this nation as well as anybody in uniform, and I want to make sure that we respect them in as many ways as possible, to include standing in front of them, thanking them and answering their questions for what I intend on doing,” Pace said.

[bth: "... top brass will stick to a plan that will reduce 15-month deployments to 12 in early 2008..." I am going to hold Gen. Pace to these words. I have some respect for Gen. Pace because he had the integrity to show up at a major Gold Star families memorial event for New England last October. Unlike weasels like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Myers, he seemed to understand something deeper about serving one's country than the others.

But I worry that he has just lied to these men and their families and he won't have to face them again because he's punching out in October. I saw the same thing happen in 2004 when Meyers was interviewed by troops in Afghanistan and he swore to them that the humvee armor plants were running 24x7 and he knew that they were not.

So Pace says that these soldiers will be the last to be given 15 month tours instead of 12 months. Congressman Murtha in May told me that the Pentagon intends to go to 18 month tours to keep the troop levels up in Iraq. By my math it appears impossible to keep the troop levels up past March 2008 without such an extension.

My nightmare scenario is that Congress and the President end up vetoing the defense spending bill for 2008 which most assuredly will contain conditions for troop withdrawals from Iraq. The President, as petulant as ever will not withdrawal the troops even though the money is not there to keep them. A series of 2 month budget extensions will be used which effectively paralyzes the war effort. Then the president, realizing that he can't rotate new troops into Iraq without funding will simply extend their tours to 18 months and leave them in Iraq and Afghanistan as "a money saving measure" - but in fact it will be a means of turning the troops and their families against the Congress - namely the Democratically led Congress. It will work troops and families will be interviewed by Stars & Stripes and the usual talking heads will rant and rave on the radio. Of course the troops and their families will become hostages to Washington politics, but then the President has long sense shown he doesn't give a damn about them beyond his own political expedience.

If this scenario unfolds, I will be pushing for impeachment even if there are only a few months left in his term.

Pace should make his promises carefully.]

Friday, July 20, 2007

18 Koreans Kidnapped in Afghanistan - North Georgia's Newsroom: "KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban militants threatened Friday to kill at least 18 kidnapped South Korean Christians, including 15 women, within 24 hours unless the Asian nation withdraws its 200 troops from Afghanistan."...

Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons

Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons | The Register: "American stealth bombers will soon be equipped to drop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), the gigantic deep-bunker-blasting bomb currently being developed by the Yanks."

Northrop Grumman announced the relatively cheap $2.5m stealth-bomber refit contract yesterday. An undisclosed number of the US Air Force's 22 B-2 "Spirit" bombers will each be able to carry a brace of 15-tonne MOPs in around seven months' time....

EDO Receives Additional Orders for CREW 2.1 Counter-IED Systems

ASDNews - Aerospace & Defence News - EDO Receives Additional Orders for CREW 2.1 Counter-IED Systems: "(New York, July 19, 2007)"-- On July 16 the Department of Defense announced that EDO Corporation (NYSE: EDO) has received orders for 3,000 additional "CREW 2.1" vehicle-mounted electronic jammers, to be delivered by August 2008. This award is in addition to the 1,100 units ordered in April. The total value of this new fixed-price award is $210 million.

This award is for EDO's model known as the CVRJ (CREW Vehicle Receiver/Jammer) system. CREW is an acronym for an electronic warfare system that counters radio-controlled improvised explosive devices.

In making this award, the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare exercised options included in the original contract competitively awarded to EDO on April 6.

"We have been working in concert with our customer and our suppliers to gear up for the production capacity and quality required for this critical product," said James M. Smith, EDO's chief executive officer. "We have demonstrated to our customer that we have a process in place to meet the urgent and compelling need for this equipment."

[bth: so the jammers are going for $70,000 each]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Iraq's new coalition: the insurgents

Iraq's new coalition: the insurgents | Iraq | Guardian Unlimited: "Seven of the most important Sunni-led insurgent organisations fighting the US occupation in Iraq have agreed to form a public political alliance with the aim of preparing for negotiations in advance of an American withdrawal, their leaders have told the Guardian."

In their first interview with the western media since the US-British invasion of 2003, leaders of three of the insurgent groups - responsible for thousands of attacks against US and Iraqi armed forces and police - made clear that they would continue their armed resistance until all foreign troops were withdrawn from Iraq, and denounced al-Qaida for sectarian killings and suicide bombings against civilians.

Speaking in Damascus, the spokesmen for the three groups - the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Hamas - said they planned to hold a congress to launch a united front within the next few weeks and appealed to Arab governments, other governments and the UN to help them establish a permanent political presence outside Iraq.

Abu Ahmad, spokesman for Iraqi Hamas said: "Peaceful resistance will not end the occupation. The US made clear that it intended to stay for many decades. Now it is a common view in the resistance that they will start to withdraw within a year. "

The move represents a dramatic change of strategy for the mainstream Iraqi insurgency, whose leadership has remained shadowy and has largely restricted communication with the outside world to brief statements on the internet and to the Arabic media.

The last three months have been the bloodiest for US forces, with 331 deaths and 2,029 wounded, as the 28,000-strong "surge" in troop numbers exposes them to more attacks; the death toll inflicted by insurgents is widely recognised as having been a key factor in the growing political pressure in Washington for withdrawal from Iraq.

Leaders of the three groups - who did not use their real names in the interview - said the new front, which brings together all the main Sunni-based armed organisations except al-Qaida and the Ba'athists, has agreed the main planks of a joint political programme, including a commitment to free Iraq from all foreign troops, rejection of any cooperation with parties involved in the political institutions set up under the occupation, and a declaration that all decisions and agreements made by the US occupation and Iraqi government are null and void.

The aim of the alliance - which includes a range of Islamist and nationalist-leaning groups and is currently called the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance - is to link up with other anti-occupation groups in Iraq to negotiate with the Americans in anticipation of an early US withdrawal. The programme envisages a temporary technocratic government to run the country during a transition period until free elections can be held.

The insurgent groups deny support from any foreign government, including Syria, but claim they have been offered funding and arms from Iran and rejected it because of suspicion of Iranian motives. They say they have been under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to unite and claimed to have had indirect contacts with France about creating the conditions for establishing a political presence outside Iraq.

"We are the only resistance movement in modern history which has received no help or support from any other country," Abdallah Suleiman Omary, head of the political department of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, told the Guardian. "The reason is we are fighting America."

Central to the new alliance - which also includes the powerful Jaish al-Islami, Jami (the Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front), Jaish al-Mujahideen and Jaish al-Rashideen - is opposition to the murderous sectarianism that has gripped Iraq under occupation, and the role of al-Qaida in particular.

All three Sunni-based resistance leaders say they are acutely aware of the threat posed by sectarian division to the future of Iraq and emphasised the importance of working with Shia groups - but rejected any link with the Shia militia and parties because of their participation in the political institutions set up by the Americans and their role in sectarian killings.

Abd al-Rahman al-Zubeidy, political spokesman of Ansar al-Sunna, a salafist (purist Islamic) group with a particularly violent reputation in Iraq, said his organisation had split over relations with al-Qaida, whose members were mostly Iraqi, but its leaders largely foreigners.

"Resistance isn't just about killing Americans without any aims or goals. Our people have come to hate al-Qaida, which gives the impression to the outside world that the resistance in Iraq are terrorists. We are against indiscriminate killing, fighting should be concentrated only on the enemy," he said.

He added: "A great gap has opened up between Sunni and Shia under the occupation and al-Qaida has contributed to that."

[bth: this is probably an astute political move on their part. Now begins the negotiated partition of Iraq]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: A short life for COIN?

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: A short life for COIN?: "This is an opinion piece. pl"

In the last few weeks a new theme has emerged among the spokesmen and friends of the present policy in Iraq.

That theme maintains that the improvement in the situation on the ground in Anbar Province and perhaps in Diyala as well is the result of the increased number of US combat forces available for offensive counterguerrilla action on a large scale. The theme insists that US forces are driving the AQinM "foreigners" before them like game and that in the aftermath local leaders are stepping forward to embrace the cause of the Baghdad government. It is said that as a result police recruitment is significantly increased and these provinces are on the way to becoming an example to the rest of the Middle East and the "momentum booster"for regional revolution so long predicted by neocon theory.

This thematic emphasis accepts the idea that the application of sufficient combat power will reverse the present adverse situation and create altogether new conditions. If this is the basis of administration thinking, then the multi-faceted subtleties of the COIN doctrine laid out in the NEW US Army field manual are not necessary and it will no longer be necessary for senior commanders to try to "eat soup with a knife."

Spokesmen and administration friends like Senator Graham of South Carolina are now emphasizing the centrality of foreign jihadis among the enemy forces in Iraq and the necessity of defeating those foreigners there before AQinM extends its operations to America.


A few points:

- The tribals in Anbar were brought into cooperation with US FORCES (not the government) by the simple expedient of being receptive to tribesmen who feared and hated the AQinM threat to their tribal law and way of life. There is an increase in Iraqi police in Anbar. Yes, but they are really tribal auxiliaries to the Iraqi police and they are serving under their own leaders. This is a "deputization" of the tribesmen to clear their own dirahs. This is a good thing. what is not a good thing is to imagine that this phenomenon was caused by increased US combat operations. The outcome in Diyala remains undecided at this time.

- The situation in Baghdad is as bad as ever.

- The logic of the claims now being made by the administration leads to an outcome in which the September "report" asks for more time and more troops. It will be argued that the tide has turned, a recipe for success has been found and the implication will be clear that whomever wishes to give up and go home will have stabbed the armed forces in the back and exposed the American people to the future ravages of AQinM. Part of the logic of this argument will be the present inclination in the WH and NSC to "lock" the next president into the war in Iraq thus continuing Bush Administration strategy. General Pace revealed to reporters on his recent trip to Iraq that a troop increase is among the options being considered.

- COIN is difficult, complex and hard to measure success for. Most of the present seniors in the US forces are not equipped by personality type, education or life experience for that kind of work. Their efforts (under pressure) to master the subtleties of Bernard Fall's deceptively simple formula "Counterinsurgency = Political Action + Civic Action + Counter-guerrilla Operations" are painful to watch. they will be quite willing to accept a methodology that lets them return to an emphasis on what they call "kinetic operations."

- Where will they find more troops? There will be no draft. The Republicans would vote against it, much less the Democrats. I suggest that they will create third rate security units out of USAF and US Navy personnel to take over more or less static duties and "free up" first line troops for more offensive operations (kinetic). Artillerymen are already being used in second line duties of the same kind.

- The first COIN era in the US Army lasted roughly from the '50s to the end of the VN War when COIN as a doctrine was abandoned by the Army. It began with the publication of Maxwell Taylor's book, "The Uncertain Trumpet," and flourished in many theaters and in VN until the introduction of conventional units by the North Vietnamese Government in late 1964. This was met by the US with introduction of massive conventional power of its own in an attempt to destroy the NVA through kinetic attrition. This failed. The failure led to the re-introduction of a COIN based strategy after 1967. In the end, the Ho Chi Minh government won through attrition of the US public will to continue the fight. In this war, we began with an attempt at attrition of "dead-enders," then switched for the last couple of years to a COIN revival and now are reverting to a system based on kinetic operations as the key to attrition of the enemy's will to fight and to increased public adherence to the government.

The cycle has shortened. pl

How the Pentagon’s “Surrogates Operation” Feeds Stories to Administration-Friendly Media and Pundits

Visit Finland in the Lively Season!: "Earlier this week I wrote a story about a program run by the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs. This program seeks to bypass the mainstream press by working directly with a carefully culled list of military analysts, bloggers, and others who can be counted on to parrot the Bush Administration’s line on national security issues.

The unit was initially called the “Surrogates Operation” but was later rechristened as “Communications Outreach” after someone realized that the original title, while accurate, was embarrassing for those working with the Pentagon.

As I reported earlier, the unit is headed up by Erin Healey, a former junior assistant press secretary at the White House. Other players I identified were Julie George, a former campaign worker for ex-Senator Rick Santorum, and Jocelyn Webster, who formerly worked in the White House’s political operation. I’ve since learned that another key figure at the Surrogates unit is James Davis, who like Healey was apparently brought in as a contractor but was subsequently given a political appointee position. From what I understand, Davis is a political ally of former senator and GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

The Surrogates unit arranges regular conference calls during which senior Pentagon officials brief retired military officials, civilian defense and national security analysts, pundits, and bloggers. A few moderates are invited to take part, but the list of participants skews far, far to the right. The Pentagon essentially feeds participants the talking points, bullet points, and stories it wants told.

As far as I can tell, the conference calls with retired military officials and other analysts are not transcribed or made public, and I’ve been unable to learn who takes part in those briefings. But the calls with bloggers—who are often briefed by the same Pentagon officials who speak with the other groups—can be found on “Defend America,” a Pentagon website. “Welcome to the archives of the ‘Bloggers’ Roundtable’,” reads the site, adding forthrightly, “Here you will find source material for recent stories in the blogosphere concerning the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Global War on Terrorism by bloggers and online journalists.”

Recent calls with bloggers include a July 18 briefing by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox (“Coalition Forces in Iraq Taking Down Enemy ‘Cell by Cell’); one on July 11 with U.S. Army Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner (“Antiterrorism Successes Continue in Iraq Despite Foreign-Born Resistance”); one on June 27 with U.S. Army Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner (“Phantom Thunder Operations Disrupt Terrorists in Iraq”), and another on June 13, also with Bergner (“Local Security Engagements Squeezing Insurgents, General Says”).

I’m still going through the transcripts, which identify some but not all of the blogger-Surrogates. They include military writers like Andrew Lubin, from the aptly named blog On Point and Jarred Fishman, The Air Force Pundit. Other participants have included Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Gurwitz, an editorial writer for the San Antonio Express-News and contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, Victoria Coates and Streiff from RedState, Mark Finklestein of News Busters and Austin Bay, who blogs and conducts podcasts for Pajamas Media, and writes a national security column for Creators Syndicate.

Some of the bloggers are transparent about taking part in conference calls. Goldfarb took part in a June 26 call focusing on Guantanamo Bay with J. Alan Liotta, principle director for the Pentagon’s Office of Detainee Affairs; when he wrote about it he noted that Liotta’s remarks were made “to a few bloggers on a conference call this morning arranged by the office of the secretary of defense.”

Others have been less transparent but either way the Pentagon has successfully used its handpicked team to get out its message. On February 7, U.S. Army Major General Kenneth Hunzeker briefed bloggers from Iraq on encouraging signs he spotted with the Iraqi police training program.” The following day Finkelstein wrote an article for Cybercast News Service that quoted Hunzeker extensively and which carried the headline, “Media Exaggerate Militia Infiltration of Iraqi Police, General Says.”

I found other intriguing cases, including this one: In early July, soon after Liotta’s briefing, Deroy Murdock, a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, wrote an opinion piece published in a number of outlets that called for the expansion of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. He essentially endorsed torture in the piece, writing: “Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s lips were sealed until he experienced a few minutes of unpleasant but non-fatal waterboarding. Then he wouldn’t shut up.” In his piece, Murdock quoted Liotta as saying, “When you capture a lawful enemy combatant and hold them as a prisoner of war, you are entitled, under the laws of war, to hold that individual until the end of the conflict.” That quote came directly from Liotta’s conference call with bloggers.

It’s pretty amusing to note here that Murdock also quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying that he’d like to see Guantanamo Bay shut down. Murdock described that comment by Gates as “pathetic, embarrassing, and potentially fatal.” So the Surrogates apparently managed—directly, or indirectly in the event that Murdock is not an active participant—to have Murdock call their boss an idiot.

I emailed Murdock to ask him if he had participated in the conference call or was otherwise working with the Surrogates unit and, if not, how he came upon Liotta’s comments. If he replies, I’ll update this story.

By the way, just today the Surrogates program held a blogger’s roundtable with Brigadier General Robert Holmes and another conference call for civilian defense experts with Brigadier General Edward Cardon. Look for both men to be quoted—very sympathetically—in newspapers and on websites shortly.

Before these bloggers start to complain that they’ve done nothing wrong, I’d like to ask how they would feel if a group of handpicked, administration-friendly liberal bloggers had done the same thing during the Clinton years. I believe they would have objected vociferously–and I would have agreed with them. No one, on any side, should let themselves be used to spread the administration’s gospel. At least not anyone who can pretend to journalistic standards.

* * *
Note: Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark has written several good posts about Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dorrance Smith, who is apparently the father of the Surrogates program. Check out this one, in which he notes that while previously working as a media liaison in Iraq Smith would wear a “W 2004″ ball cap when working with U.S.-backed Iraqi news outlets. Lynch said that Smith’s “view of the media [is] inherently political,” and described another of his old efforts, a C-Span Baghdad project, as “a pure form of media as state propaganda.”

[bth: a couple of comments. First, about once a quarter I get emailed from the PA office asking to take story feeds from them. I have always declined. That these other blogs have become part of a propaganda machine isn't surprising. While I personally find it kind of pathetic, its a free country, or used to be and if people want to be tools, then so be it. When I contrast it with the parroting I see from defense specialists from the press corp reading press releases from the Pentagon as if they were fact and beyond reproach I want to barf.

Second, the reason this type of lame public affairs propaganda works, is because professional journalists are lazy. That's why the Pentagon Friday feel good stories work. That's why in December 2004, I watched Wolf Blitzer read a pentagon press release at about 5 PM on a Friday saying that the Army had driven up armored humvee production to 550 from 450 after Army Sec. Harvey browbeat Armor Holdings. What he didn't say is that Armor Holdings had been making it known to anyone that who would listen that they could make more and what Blitzer didn't say was that they Pentagon hadn't purchased more equipment, they simply advanced the schedule of delivery a few weeks - bottomline, Americans when home to the Friday news thinking the armored vehicle problem was solved and in fact not a single extra unit was purchased or produced. It was a head fake and Blitzer and many others bought it. They were lazy and manipulated. So who should be surprised that bloggers are being used as stooges as well?

Another time, in early 2006 when it was revealed by the NYT that the marines left the sides of our soldiers unprotected and a third of the casualties were getting gutshot from the unprotected sides, I was asked to debate on Scarborough Country a retired marine colonel who I later learned was a bought and paid force political talking head for the Pentagon. Shit, he was a paid propagandist in any other setting. Unfortunately I didn't learn this until a few days later.

Third, you see this also happening with talking points which are emailed to anyone talking to the media on armor issues - vehicular and body in particular. The Daily Show has done a good job of making fun of this parroting.

Fourth, the reason this process is failing for the Pentagon is that they lost the public trust. That's the key, without the trust, nothing seems to matter. When the Pentagon decided to start lying to the public on a variety of issues namely with regard to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, they just blew it. No matter what they say now, they aren't trusted without third party verification. This can be seen in the Iran debate today.]

YouTube - Steam explosion NYC

Wave of Homicide Bombings Leave 51 Dead Across Pakistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Wave of Homicide Bombings Leave 51 Dead Across Pakistan - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "KARACHI, Pakistan — Homicide bombers hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan and a police academy and an army camp in the northwest, killing at least 51 people in the latest violence in the week since the army stormed a mosque held by Islamic extremists.

The convoy was passing though the main bazaar in Hub, a town in Baluchistan province near the port city of Karachi, when a moving car blew up next to a police vehicle, officials said.

Hub Police Chief Ghulam Mohammed Thaib said 29 people were killed, including seven police. About 30 other people were wounded, some critically.

"It was laden with very heavy explosives but due to our spacing and our security measures, Allah has been very kind," said Maj. Gen. Saleem Nawaz, a commander of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Constabulary.

The police "sacrificed their lives and the Chinese friends were absolutely safe," Nawaz said on Dawn News television.

The Chinese citizens worked at a lead extraction plant in Dudhar in Baluchistan and were temporarily leaving the area for Karachi due to security concerns, police said....

[bth: it will be important to see how the Pakistanis react to this obvious wave of anti-government attacks.]

King George W.:  James Madison’s Nightmare

Truthdig - Reports - King George W.: James Madison’s Nightmare: "George W. Bush is the imperial president that James Madison and other founders of this great republic warned us about. He lied the nation into precisely the “foreign entanglements” that George Washington feared would destroy the experiment in representative government, and he has championed a spurious notion of security over individual liberty, thus eschewing the alarms of Thomas Jefferson as to the deprivation of the inalienable rights of free citizens. But most important, he has used the sledgehammer of war to obliterate the separation of powers that James Madison enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

With the “war on terror,” Bush has asserted the right of the president to wage war anywhere and for any length of time, at his whim, because the “terrorists” will always provide a convenient shadowy target. Just the “continual warfare” that Madison warned of in justifying the primary role of Congress in initiating and continuing to finance a war—the very issue now at stake in Bush’s battle with Congress.
In his “Political Observations,” written years before he served as fourth president of the United States, Madison went on to underscore the dangers of an imperial presidency bloated by war fever. “In war,” Madison wrote in 1795, at a time when the young republic still faced its share of dangerous enemies, “the discretionary power of the Executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”

How remarkably prescient of Madison to anticipate the specter of our current King George imperiously undermining Congress’ attempts to end the Iraq war. When the prime author of the U.S. Constitution explained why that document grants Congress—not the president—the exclusive power to declare and fund wars, Madison wrote, “A delegation of such powers [to the president] would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments.”
Because “[n]o nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” Madison urged that the constitutional separation of powers he had codified be respected. “The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war ... the power of raising armies,” he wrote. “The separation of the power of raising armies from the power of commanding them is intended to prevent the raising of armies for the sake of commanding them.”

That last sentence perfectly describes the threat of what President Dwight Eisenhower, 165 years later, would describe as the “military-industrial complex,” a permanent war economy feeding off a permanent state of insecurity. The collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the military profiteers and their handsomely rewarded cheerleaders in the government of a raison d’être for the massive war economy supposedly created in response to it. Fortunately for them, Bush found in the 9/11 attack an excuse to make war even more profitable and longer lasting. The Iraq war, which the president’s 9/11 Commission concluded never had anything to do with the terrorist assault, nonetheless has transferred many hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars into the military economy. And when Congress seeks to exercise its power to control the budget, this president asserts that this will not govern his conduct of the war.

There never was a congressional declaration of war to cover the invasion of Iraq. Instead, President Bush acted under his claimed power as commander in chief, which the Supreme Court has held does allow him to respond to a “state of war” against the United States. That proviso was clearly a reference to surprise attacks or sudden emergencies.

The problem is that the “state of war” in question here was an al-Qaida attack on the U.S. that had nothing whatsoever to do with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Perhaps to spare Congress the embarrassment of formally declaring war against a nation that had not attacked America, Bush settled for a loosely worded resolution supporting his use of military power if Iraq failed to comply with U.N. mandates. This was justified by the White House as a means of strengthening the United Nations in holding Iraq accountable for its WMD arsenal, but as most of the world looked on in dismay, Bush invaded Iraq after U.N. inspectors on the ground discovered that Iraq had no WMD.

Bush betrayed Congress, which in turn betrayed the American people—just as Madison feared when he wrote: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it compromises and develops the germ of every other.”

Stymied by G.O.P., Democrats Stop Debate on Iraq - New York Times

Stymied by G.O.P., Democrats Stop Debate on Iraq - New York Times:... "The latest New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 6 in 10 Americans say Congress should allow financing for the war in Iraq, but only on the condition that the United States sets a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. Still, 28 percent say Congress should allow all financing for the war without conditions. Just 8 percent of those polled said Congress should block all money for the war.

The poll, conducted July 9 to 17 with 1,554 adults nationwide, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points....

[bth: while the truncated debate makes sense from a Washington political party perspective, it basically went against the wishes of 68% of the public who an only get more frustrated with the whole group of politicians. This is an important point - Democrats are being viewed by the American public as part of the problem and not the solution. I fear a third party split off from both parties which might cause a presidential candidate without a plural majority from being elected President in 2008.]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Report: Iraq may have world's second largest oil reserves

World Tribune — Report: Iraq may have world's second largest oil reserves: "BAGHDAD — Iraqi oil production could double in five years, according to a new study."

The report found that Iraq's oil reserves may be almost twice as much as previously estimated. The study by the U.S. consultancy IHS said another 100 billion barrels of oil reserves could be found in Iraq.
IHS said the estimate would rank Iraq as having the second largest reserves in the world, following Saudi Arabia. Currently, Iran has the second largest oil reserves in the world.

So far, Iraq has reported reserves of 116 billion barrels of oil.

The consultancy said Iraqi oil production could also increase from two million to four million barrels per day.

The new estimate was based on exploration in Iraq's western desert near the border with Jordan. So far, Iraq has reported one commercial discovery in the region.

[bth: it would seem that we should be talking to the Iraqi people about helping them develop this abundant resource and seeing that the funds are equitably distributed instead of talking about an O&G law in the abstract. Iraqis need to see how they can benefit from the full development of these resources. Considering that we are spending $3 billion a week occupying the place, one wonders how we can't create an environment where by we invest $20 billion into their infrastructure and job creation. We're spending 4-5 times the full GDP of that country to occupy it. Nuts.]

U.S. Announces Major al-Qaida Arrest

U.S. Announces Major al-Qaida Arrest: "BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group. "

The announcement was made as the White House steps up efforts to link the war in Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, with a growing number of Americans opposing the Iraq conflict. Some independent analysts question the extent of al-Qaida's role in Iraq.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was the highest- ranking Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership when he was captured July 4 in Mosul, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said. ...

[bth: what's really telling about this announcement is that it, like previous ones of this type, are timed to impact the US debate on the war and have nothing to do with the timing of the capture. So as a result, you can tell when the administration feels uneasy about its position by when statements like this are released. Remember last year when the army kept catching the number 3 guy(s) in al-Qaeda in Iraq? Its like being the number 4 guy on the Star Trek Away Team. I'd take the announcement with a big grain of salt.]

U.S. Announces Major al-Qaida Arrest

U.S. Announces Major al-Qaida Arrest: "BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group. "

The announcement was made as the White House steps up efforts to link the war in Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, with a growing number of Americans opposing the Iraq conflict. Some independent analysts question the extent of al-Qaida's role in Iraq.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was the highest- ranking Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership when he was captured July 4 in Mosul, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said. ...

[bth: what's really telling about this announcement is that it, like previous ones of this type, are timed to impact the US debate on the war and have nothing to do with the timing of the capture. So as a result, you can tell when the administration feels uneasy about its position by when statements like this are released. Remember last year when the army kept catching the number 3 guy(s) in al-Qaeda in Iraq? Its like being the number 4 guy on the Star Trek Away Team. I'd take the announcement with a big grain of salt.]

FAS Project on Government Secrecy

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 73
July 18, 2007
Secrecy News Blog:
Support Secrecy News:


Does Congress have the constitutional authority to legislate limits on the conduct of the war in Iraq?

The answer may seem obvious. But to resolve any lingering doubt, the Congressional Research Service gave the topic a thorough analytic treatment in a newly updated report and concluded that Congress does have such authority.

"It has been suggested that the President's role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces provides sufficient authority for his deployment of troops, and any efforts on the part of Congress to intervene could represent an unconstitutional violation of separation-of-powers principles."

"While even proponents of strong executive prerogative in matters of war appear to concede that it is within Congress's authority to cut off funding entirely for a military operation, it has been suggested that spending measures that restrict but do not end financial support for the war in Iraq would amount to an 'unconstitutional condition'."

To rebut any such suggestion, the newly updated CRS report "provides historical examples of measures that restrict the use of particular personnel, and concludes with a brief analysis of arguments that might be brought to bear on the question of Congress's authority to limit the availability of troops to serve in Iraq."

"Although not beyond debate, such a restriction appears to be within Congress's authority to allocate resources for military operations," the report stated.

See "Congressional Authority To Limit U.S. Military Operations in Iraq," updated July 11, 2007:

See, relatedly, "Defense: FY2008 Authorization and Appropriations," updated July 13, 2007:
and "FY2007 Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Other Purposes," updated July 2, 2007:


The Congressional Research Service has produced several newly updated reports on Iraq for congressional consumption. CRS does not make its publications freely available to the public, but the following reports were obtained by Secrecy News.

"Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security," updated July 13, 2007:

"Iraq: U.S. Military Operations," updated July 15, 2007:

"Iraq: Reconstruction Assistance," updated June 25, 2007:

"Post-War Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Training, Peacekeeping, and Reconstruction," updated June 18, 2007:

"Iraq: Summary of U.S. Casualties," updated July 12, 2007:
"U.S. Embassy in Iraq," updated July 13, 2007:

"Iraq: Milestones Since the Ouster of Saddam Hussein," updated June 19,

"The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq," updated June 12, 2007:
"Iraq: Government Formation and Benchmarks," updated July 13, 2007:

"The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," updated June 28, 2007:

RG-31 EOD version with RPG cage protection.
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RG-31 no RPG protection
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Pentagon approves disputed Iraq costs "The Pentagon approves disputed costs on Iraq contracts at a much higher rate than on military contracts as a whole, Defense Department records show."

Through last October, almost two-thirds of costs challenged by Pentagon auditors as inflated, erroneous or otherwise improper — more than $1 billion — were eventually approved by project managers. That compares with 44% for all defense contracts in 2005.

The low rate of withholding payments to Iraq contractors is evidence the Pentagon is turning a blind eye to waste and fraud, says Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who has chaired several hearings into Iraq reconstruction problems for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

"I would have thought they would be apoplectic and furious about how they've been taken to the cleaners by some of these contractors," Dorgan said of Pentagon officials. "Some areas of the Pentagon seem to think, 'We're at war. What's a little waste?' "

Linda Theis, a spokeswoman for the Army office overseeing the largest contract in Iraq, said payments of questioned costs often happen when the contractor provides evidence justifying the spending.

"Sometimes the contractor is able to provide additional information or rationale to convince the contracting officer to include the cost in the estimate, and sometimes they do not," Theis wrote in an e-mail to USA TODAY.

Contracting officers often gave more weight to companies' justifications for costs in Iraq because they were operating in a war zone, the head of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), William Reed, testified at a congressional hearing in February. "I am satisfied they are fairly considering our recommendations," Reed said of Pentagon contract managers.

The audit agency provided documents detailing costs challenged on contracts in Iraq to USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.

The records show auditors have questioned $4 billion, or about 10%, of the $38.5 billion in Iraq reconstruction spending as of October. Contracting officers hadn't made final decisions on about $2.3 billion of that amount.

Here's how it works: Auditors review contract proposals and invoices for possible problems. They can recommend cutting proposed costs, withholding payments or temporarily blocking payments.

Contract managers make the final decision, usually after they investigate and document their reasoning in writing. The decisions are final and can't be challenged by the auditors.

[bth: there isn't really someone minding the store at this point.]

Voters unhappy with Bush; Congress: Reuters poll

Voters unhappy with Bush; Congress: Reuters poll - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. voters think the country is on the wrong track and remain deeply unhappy with President George W. Bush and Congress, but still feel good about their finances and optimistic about the future, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. "

Eighteen months before Bush leaves the White House, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction and give the president negative marks for his job performance.

An even bigger majority, 83 percent, say the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing only a fair or poor job -- the worst mark for Congress in a Zogby poll.

But despite their dim views of government, majorities of Americans remain upbeat about their personal finances and security, and nearly two-thirds are very or fairly confident their children will have a better life than they do.

Pollster John Zogby said the split between voters' views of government and of their personal well-being has grown in recent years, particularly after the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Americans feel their government is not accomplishing the people's business," Zogby said. "They feel the system is seriously broken."

In the national survey of 1,012 likely voters, taken July 12 through July 14, about 66 percent said Bush had done only a fair or poor job as president, with 34 percent ranking his performance as excellent or good.

That is up slightly from his low of 30 percent in early March and in line with other national polls showing Bush's approval ratings lingering at or near historically low levels amid continued chaos and bloodshed in Iraq.

But the marks for Congress, mired in gridlock over a series of partisan political battles after Democrats took power in the 2006 elections, continued to drop.

While 83 percent said Congress was doing a fair or poor job, just 14 percent rated it excellent or good. Last October, in its final days, the Republican-led Congress earned ratings of excellent or good from 23 percent of voters.

"There is a growing sense that people voted for change in 2006 and they aren't getting it," Zogby said.
The poll showed only 26 percent of Americans thought the United States was on the right track and 64 percent thought it was on the wrong track.

Americans also have little confidence in U.S. foreign and economic policy. Two-thirds of those surveyed, 66 percent, said the direction of economic policy was fair or poor, and 76 percent said U.S. foreign policy was headed in a fair or poor direction.

But on a personal level, Americans feel relatively secure and comfortable with their own finances and safety. Nearly 82 percent of Americans said they feel very or fairly safe from "threats from abroad," and nearly 70 percent feel very or fairly secure in their jobs.

While 14 percent rated their personal financial situation as excellent and 10 percent as poor, the vast majority found themselves in the middle. About 43 percent rated their finances as good, and 43 percent as fair.

"Americans have made a serious adjustment. Their expectations have been tempered," Zogby said. "With little faith in government, you feel you are pretty much on your own."

Several years of headlines about possible torture of U.S. detainees, treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and international anger over the Iraq war has not dented the pride of Americans.

About two-thirds of the likely voters surveyed said they were "very" proud of the United States, with 22 percent saying they were "fairly" proud and 8 percent saying they were not very proud of their country.
The national telephone survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

[bth: Democrats assume that they will get the public support in 2008 but I'm not so sure. Democrats in Congress are viewed as part of the problem now whereas in 2006 they were viewed as part of the solution.]

Senate Scuttles Troop Withdrawal Bill

Senate Scuttles Troop Withdrawal Bill: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled a Democratic proposal ordering troop withdrawals from Iraq in a showdown that capped an all- night debate on the war. "

The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate under Senate rules. It was a sound defeat for Democrats who say the U.S. military campaign, in its fifth year and requiring 158,000 troops, cannot tame the sectarian violence in Iraq.

"We have to get us out of a middle of a civil war" said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. A political solution must be found "so when we leave Iraq, we don't just send our children home, we don't have to send our grandchildren back."

As members cast their votes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hurried between private meetings with lawmakers in their Capitol Hill offices to make the administration's case for the war.

The Democratic proposal, by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., would have required Bush to start bringing home troops within 120 days and complete the pullout by April 30, 2008. Under the bill, an unspecified number of troops could remain behind to conduct a narrow set of missions: counterterrorism, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi security forces.

BAE's LROD Cage Armor

BAE's LROD Cage Armor (defense procurement, military acquisition, defence purchasing)#more: "Russian-designed RPG shoulder-fired rockets are a widespread threat in many parts of the world , including the conflict in Iraq. Though they are unguided, can be a bit tricky to aim, and have short range, their disadvantages are masked in the close-quarters reality of urban combat and other common modern battle zones. There are 3 standard approaches for protecting vehicles against incoming RPGs: (1) Heavy or layered armor the warhead can't penetrate; (2) Reactive armor tiles that explode outward when hit, redirecting the warhead and/or dissipating the blast; and (3) "Cage armor" that forces the warhead to detonate away from the armor underneath, 'unfocusing' its killer blast.

The bad news is that providing enough steel cage armor can add a couple of tons to vehicle weight, and dual-warhead designs like the RPG-27 will defeat cage armor. At the moment, however, the most common threats involve RPG-7 single warhead variants, which are also produced in quantity by China and by Iran (direct shipment to Iraq and Afghanistan).
Enter BAE Systems' LROD, developed in response to a fast-response Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to provide RPG protection for Hummer

Cage armor works by providing something solid enough for warheads to detonate against – it aims to trigger a blast, not stop one. This led BAE to ask if steel was really necessary…

Hence their LROD aluminum cage armor alternative that provides similar protection at less than half the weight of traditional steel. Army officials conducted more than 50 live-fire tests, and LROD has become standard equipment on the US Army's MRAP Class III Buffalo explosive ordnance disposal vehicles; over 100 kits have been delivered, and more are on the way for the UCMC's Buffalos.

BAE is working on LROD variants for the tracked BAE Hagglunds Bv206, BAE's amphibious AAV7 Amtracs vehicles, BAE's new RG-33s, and other MRAP-type vehicles as requested.

Meanwhile, an initial contract will also see LROD installed on installed on U.S. Army RG-31 and RG-31A1 mine-protected vehicles from BAE OMC & General Dynamics. The first 2 kits have been installed, and the US Army will procure 12 additional LROD kits for 2007 delivery to operational units in response to an Army Operational Need Statement. The Army has also expressed interest in procuring additional kits for the entire RG31 and RG31A1 fleet, which consists of about 425 vehicles delivered or on order.

EDO Wins Contracts for Land Mine Jammers

EDO Wins Contracts for Land Mine Jammers (defense procurement, military acquisition, defence purchasing): "On April 2/07 BB&T Capital Markets upgraded EDO Corporation to "buy," in part because they thought EDO was well positioned to win a part of the $200-$500 million Counter- Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare (CREW) contracts going forward. CREW systems are vehicle mounted electronic jammers designed to prevent the remote detonation of land mines, and EDO makes the Warlock jammer, a derivative of its earlier "Shortstop" product.
Those contracts appear to have come through…

Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan

Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, July 17 — President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged Tuesday that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan. "

The intelligence report, the most formal assessment since the Sept. 11 attacks about the terrorist threat facing the United States, concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years.

In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region.
“It hasn’t worked for Pakistan,” said Frances Fragos Townsend, who heads the Homeland Security Council at the White House. “It hasn’t worked for the United States.”

While Bush administration officials had reluctantly endorsed the cease-fire as part of their effort to prop up the Pakistani leader, they expressed relief on Tuesday that General Musharraf may have to abandon that approach, because the accord seems to have unraveled.

But American officials make little secret of their skepticism that General Musharraf has the capability to be effective in the mountainous territory along the Afghan border, where his troops have been bloodied before by a mix of Qaeda leaders and tribes that view the territory as their own, not part of Pakistan.

“We’ve seen in the past that he’s sent people in and they get wiped out,” said one senior official involved in the internal debate. “You can tell from the language today that we take the threat from the tribal areas incredibly seriously. It has to be dealt with. If he can deal with it, amen. But if he can’t, he’s got to build and borrow the capability.”

The bleak intelligence assessment was made public in the middle of a bitter Congressional debate about the future of American policy in Iraq. White House officials said it bolstered the Bush administration’s argument that Iraq was the “central front” in the war on terror, because that was where Qaeda operatives were directly attacking American forces.

The report nevertheless left the White House fending off accusations that it had been distracted by the war in Iraq and that the deals it had made with President Musharraf had resulted in lost time and lost ground.

While the assessment described the Qaeda branch in Iraq as the “most visible and capable affiliate” of the terror organization, intelligence officials noted that the operatives in Iraq remained focused on attacking targets inside that country’s borders, not those on American or European soil.

In weighing how to deal with the Qaeda threat in Pakistan, American officials have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss what some said was emerging as an aggressive new strategy, one that would include both public and covert elements. They said there was growing concern that pinprick attacks on Qaeda targets were not enough, but also said some new American measures might have to remain secret to avoid embarrassing General Musharraf.

Ms. Townsend declined to describe what may be alternative strategies for dealing with the Qaeda threat in Pakistan, but acknowledged frustration that Al Qaeda had succeeding in rebuilding its infrastructure and its links to affiliates, while keeping Mr. bin Laden and his top lieutenants alive for nearly six years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The intelligence report, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, represents the consensus view of all 16 agencies that make up the American intelligence community. The report concluded that the United States would face a “persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years.”

That judgment was not based on any specific intelligence about an impending attack on American soil, government officials said. Only two pages of “key judgments” from the report were made public; the rest of the document remained classified.

Besides the discussion of Al Qaeda, the report cited the possibility that the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, a Shiite organization, might be more inclined to strike at the United States should the group come to believe that the United States posed a direct threat either to the group or the government of Iran, its primary benefactor.

At the White House, Ms. Townsend found herself in the uncomfortable position of explaining why American military action was focused in Iraq when the report concluded that main threat of terror attacks that could be carried out in the United States emanated from the tribal areas of Pakistan.

She argued that it was Mr. bin Laden, as well as the White House, who regarded “Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.”

Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state, acknowledged that Al Qaeda had prospered during the cease-fire between the tribal leaders and General Musharraf last September, a period in which “they were able to operate, meet, plan, recruit, and obtain financing in more comfort in the tribal areas than previously.”

But Mr. Boucher also described General Musharraf as America’s best bet, and several administration officials on Tuesday cited his recent aggressive actions against Islamic militants at a mosque in Islamabad.

The growing Qaeda threat in Pakistan has prompted repeated trips to Islamabad by senior administration officials to lean on officials there and calls by lawmakers to make American aid to Pakistan contingent on a sustained counterterrorism effort by General Musharraf’s government.

Some members of Congress argue that concern for the stability of General Musharraf’s government had for too long dominated the White House strategy for dealing with Pakistan, thwarting American counterterrorism efforts.

“We have to change policy,” said Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who has long advocated a more aggressive American intelligence campaign in Pakistan.

In an interview on Tuesday, the New York Police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, called the report a “realistic and sobering assessment,” but said it had not caused officials in New York to take any specific steps to tighten security in the city.

“There is no surprise here for us,” he said. “Would we rather it be another way? Yes. But this is the world, as it is, and this is what we are guarding against.”

Al Baker contributed reporting from New York.

[bth: so instead of going after OBL in NW Pakistan, we'll write reports and handwring while we waste thousands of lives and hundreds of billions in Iraq. At least we will until OBL attacks the US again. Then we'll blame Musharraf instead of looking at Gen. Franks that let OBL and the Taliban go from Afghanistan.

Here's a thought just for giggles. We pull troops fron Anbar and send them along with the 5500 Brits down in Basra that are pulling out anyway over to Afghanistan-Pakistan along with that fleet of drone attack planes we're sending to Iraq. Then let's raise the rent on OBL in Pakistan by making it costly - in everyway - for local tribes to host him. Maybe he'll pack up and move back to the Sudan where at least they don't have fucking nukes. Just a thought.]