Saturday, December 22, 2007

YouTube - Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline

YouTube - Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline: ""

Light on the wheels but heavy on duty

Los Angeles Times: Light on the wheels but heavy on duty: "Kelly Mixson remembers storms so fierce, they dumped a foot of sand in minutes. The deluge of grit was enough to sink a Humvee.

What worked better in the Middle East sandscape was an ATV, "a lighter vehicle," recalls Mixson, an Air Force master sergeant who served at Balad Air Base in Iraq, "that can cross those areas more easily."

One trip to the California desert on a winter weekend and you see what she means.

All-terrain vehicles are everywhere. Climbing dunes and crawling over rocks and chaparral, these off-road four-wheelers, with their low-pressure tires and all-wheel drive, are impervious to many obstacles. Which is why they're being "ruggedized" and pressed into service by the U.S. armed services.

Since the '80s, when the first four-wheeled "quad" rolled onto the market, America has been having a love affair with the ATV. There are 7 million in use in the U.S., owing to their versatility, ease of use and relatively low cost, which averages about $5,000.

In 2006, almost 900,000 ATVs were sold, more than the number of street bikes and triple the number of dirt bikes purchased in the same year.

Most ATVs are in the private sector, but the U.S. Forest Service, the National Guard, the Border Patrol and other federal agencies also like them. The Defense Department has employed ATVs since the vehicles first became available, but their use has increased significantly with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It really took hold after 9/11," says Mark McCormick, managing director of Polaris Defense, the defense arm of ATV, snowmobile and motorcycle manufacturer Polaris Industries. "Parts of the military were in need of an ability to travel over extreme terrain. Foot, mule, donkeys and other things weren't proving very successful."

The Kawasaki Mule, the Suzuki King Quad 400 and the Polaris MV800 are among the many models that have been deployed across the armed services since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, including by special operations forces and regular Army and Marine Corps units.

The Polaris MV800, introduced in October, is the first ATV to run on military-standard JP8 fuel, in addition to gasoline and highway diesel. The fuel-injected, 40-horsepower quad is outfitted with a steel exoskeleton (instead of the plastic fairings on consumer models), its ignition is keyless, and the low-pressure tires have been replaced with "run-flat" versions that can lose all their air and still function. It also has a heavy-duty D ring, so it can be airlifted or attached to other equipment.

Polaris has sold "several thousand vehicles" to the military, according to McCormick, "but to really get that additional big step in growth, the Patriot [JP8] engine is fundamental because a broader use and applicability to the military will really come into play when they don't have to make special arrangements to use the gasoline-powered engine."

The company, based in Medina, Minn., is one of six major ATV manufacturers, most of which are Japanese, and the only one that deals directly with the armed services through a dedicated military business unit.

Single-rider ATVs and multiple-passenger utility-type vehicles, or UTVs, occupy the low-cost, lightweight and versatile middle ground between foot soldier and Humvee.

An up-armored M1114 Humvee is 6 feet wide and 18 feet long, weighs 8,000 pounds, can haul 3,000 pounds and costs $150,000. It's best used "in front of the fence" -- in enemy territory -- on roads and in areas that are prone to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

By contrast, a militarized ATV or UTV is 4 feet wide and easily fits on a helicopter. It weighs 1,000 to 1,700 pounds, can haul 1,000 pounds and costs $10,000 to $20,000. Some have been modified to run more quietly, and therefore more stealthily, on the occasion the vehicles are used for reconnaissance.

"They're a unique product in that they allow you to cover rough terrain," says Tom Kaiser, associate editor of ATV Magazine. "They're a pretty natural fit for a lot of situations."

Dirt, rocks, sand. Grass, mud, hills -- ATVs and UTVs are equipped to handle a diversity of off-road terrain, with heavy-duty suspensions and transmissions that can switch between two- and four-wheel drive.

Specific uses for ATVs or UTVs vary by individual armed service and country of operation. Single-rider ATVs often are used by security forces to patrol fence lines in rough-terrain areas, whereas UTVs frequently are employed as carriers of multiple people and heavier loads.

Because they lack armor, both are commonly used "behind the fence" -- on base -- to move equipment, run supplies and messages and transport ammunition and fuel.

Dirt bikes also are used for such duties, but they don't haul as much, are less stable and are more difficult to ride in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, which are prone to high winds and sandstorms.

"A couple years ago, we had a high demand for military motorcycle training on the combat side," says Kevin Frantum, who teaches ATV and dirt-bike safety classes to the Marines at Camp Pendleton.

"Since Iraq's developed, the training desired has gone way down. As the commanders need different vehicles and different support in theater, training adjusts."

The adjustment: an increase in ATV training.

"It's easier to teach someone how to ride an ATV than a dirt bike," Frantum says. "You don't have a balance issue."

Ease of use is part of the reason ATVs and UTVs are so widely used, not only by the military but by fire and police departments and other government agencies.

"The biggest advantage the ATV has is going where there may not be an actual road," says Mixson, the Air Force master sergeant. "I've used a Humvee to do similar missions, but an ATV gives you the ability to go where a normal vehicle would not be able to go."

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

[bth: this is so much better than that shit box the Growler the marines are trying to buy from their cronies. You could field 10 of these for the cost of one Growler.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: "Achmed (sic) the Dead Terrorist"

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: "Achmed (sic) the Dead Terrorist": "Time for a mood lightener after wandering in the dark forest of post-modern history et al. pl

Download AchmedTheDeadTerroist.wmv"

China taps into U.S. spy operations - - The Washington Times,

China taps into U.S. spy operations - - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "China's"intelligence service gained access to a secret National Security Agency listening post in Hawaii through a Chinese-language translation service, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The spy penetration was discovered several years ago as part of a major counterintelligence probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that revealed an extensive program by China's spy service to steal codes and other electronic intelligence secrets, and to recruit military and civilian personnel with access to them.

According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, China's Ministry of State Security, the main civilian spy service, carried out the operations by setting up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii that represented itself as a U.S.-origin company

The ruse led to classified contracts with the Navy and NSA to translate some of the hundreds of thousands of intercepted communications gathered by NSA's network of listening posts, aircraft and ships....

[bth: keep in mind that Gertz is the favorite reporter for Pentagon players and defense contractors that want to dump information to the public, especially around budget cycle tiem, to trash China. It also doesn't hurt that the Washington Times is owned by the Korean Moonies.]
 
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Shiite leaders oppose expansion of U.S.-backed citizens groups

Santa Barbara News-Press: "BAGHDAD"- The leader of Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim political party warned Friday that the security organizations that American officials credit with helping to cut violence in Iraq must be brought under control.

Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, became the latest Iraqi leader to raise concerns that the U.S.-financed groups, which are predominantly Sunni Muslim and known as awakening councils or ''concerned local citizens,'' could become a potent army capable of challenging the U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated central government.

''We emphasize that it's important that these awakening councils become an aid and an arm to the Iraqi government in its pursuit of criminals and terrorists and not become a substitute for it,'' Hakim said in a speech that marked the Eid al Adha festival of sacrifice commemorating the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

The groups have become a controversial aspect of the U.S. military's counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. More than 75,000 people, 80 percent of them Sunni, have signed up for the groups under a U.S.-sponsored program that pays Iraqis $300 each to patrol their neighborhoods.

The groups began in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni area, where they're credited with curbing al-Qaida in Iraq, but it was the U.S. push to form similar groups in mixed Sunni-Shiite areas of Baghdad and Diyala province, as well as in mostly Shiite southern Iraq, that has sparked the anger of Shiite officials.

Recently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has directed that no councils be formed in the predominantly Shiite areas of southern Iraq, where violence is caused primarily by rivalries between the Mahdi Army militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council's Badr Organization militia.

In recent weeks, the government has taken steps to quash any possible formation of awakening councils.

On Dec. 7, police in Najaf, Shiite Islam's holiest city, arrested Adnan al-Hamaidi, the general secretary of the Independent Iraqi Politicians, after he told Najaf Gov. Assaad Abu Galal, a member of the Supreme Council, that he planned to organize an awakening council. Ahmed Duaibel, a spokesman for the governor, said al-Hamaidi was arrested because awakening councils are banned in Najaf and southern areas.

In Diwaniyah, 11 men who said they were members of a local awakening council were arrested earlier this week for setting up a checkpoint in the southern city, which is notorious for battles between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces, many of whose members also belong to the Badr Organization.

Awakening councils ''are connected to facing al-Qaida,'' said Sheik Humam Hammoudi, a leading Supreme Council member. ''Al-Qaida is not in Najaf or Diwaniyah or Nasariyah,'' he said, naming three major cities in the Shiite south.

Hammoudi complained that the American offer to pay members of awakening councils was encouraging instability. He said that the Americans are risking Iraqi stability by expanding an idea that's better limited to Sunni areas.

''The American project for 70,000 members of the awakening councils will encourage other parts of Iraq to be unstable so they can get $300 a month,'' Hammoudi said. ''This is a long-term danger.''

So far, the only official U.S. payments in Iraq's south are going to 2,015 people in Diwaniyah, where the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army are fighting for influence.

U.S. officials say that the effort to bring more Shiites into the awakening councils is in response to the Iraqi government's insistence that the groups be more balanced between Sunnis and Shiites. But the officials said it's hard to recruit Shiites because Shiite militias threaten those who try to join.

In Baghdad's Abu Disheer neighborhood, a Shiite area in the mostly Sunni Dora district, one man reported that he tried to join the local security volunteers organization, primarily because $300 was double his current salary as a cleaner. But the Mahdi Army threatened to kill anyone who joined and burn down the local council's building. Fliers headlined ''the final warning'' were posted throughout the area.

One U.S. official declined to discuss the issue on the record to avoid antagonizing the Shiite-dominated government.

A senior U.S. military official who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak on the subject said the councils threaten both the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization.

The officer said numerous tribal sheiks have approached him asking to form groups in the south to counteract the power of those Shiite militias that are attached to religious political parties.

''That would be frankly what these groups would be protecting the people from,'' the official said. ''It will be a powerful movement. It also crosses another struggle and that's the struggle between the tribes and the religious groups.''

Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, a Sunni tribal sheik from Anbar who works closely with awakening councils in Baghdad, said the Shiite government is threatened because the councils are more secular than the religious parties that dominate the government.

''In the south it's different because they are dominated by the turbans,'' he said, referring to the clerics. ''Bush is paying to have a new group established that is made up of nationalistic people. Why don't they take the garbage government and throw it away?''

Suleiman said that Iraq still needs to confront Shiite militias, which he said prey on civilians.

''Who will rid them of killers targeting displaced Shiites on the highway as they drive to the borders? Who will avenge the lives lost in bombings?'' he asked. ''The Sunni tribes avenged those lives, but what about the Shiite tribes? Who will avenge their dead? Will they
?''


[bth: there is no indication from this article that a settlement between Sunnis and Shiites is on the horizon. Moreover it suggests that in the last six months battle lines have been drawn without any political progress whatever. Is the Petraeus peace merely a pause between storms?]
You say you'll change the Constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

--Revolution, The Beatles
 
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40,000 troops may be home by July 

40,000 troops may be home by July - - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "The"Pentagon expects that more than 40,000 U.S. troops will be home by July if the situation in Iraq remains stable, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.

Declining to cite exact troop numbers, Mr. Gates told reporters that five brigade combat teams are scheduled to be home by July. Defense officials said there are nearly 4,000 front-line troops for each plus about that number of support personnel, who are expected to redeploy as well.

"The situation on the ground, I think, makes it likely that General [David H.] Petraeus will be able to decide and bring out the first five [brigades] by July, as he indicated in September," Mr. Gates said, referring to the U.S. commander in Iraq. "We obviously want to sustain the gains that we have already made."

Gen. Petraeus' assessment of the mission in Iraq will be a determining factor in troop reduction, said Mr. Gates, who was joined by Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Defense Department estimates that the current 20 combat brigades could be reduced to 15 by next year, leaving roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq. Some redeployments are set to begin next week.

If the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, Mr. Gates said troops could be reduced to roughly "10 brigade combat teams" by the end of the administration. Mr. Gates, who was celebrating his first year as defense secretary, did not specify how many troops will remain, but 10 brigades can be as much as 100,000
.

"We've disrupted, particularly in Iraq, the al Qaeda activities — their ability to organize, their ability to reinforce, move logistics, move people around and do training. But not enough," Gen. Cartwright said.

The secretary also cautioned Congress that funding only half of what the president requested for the military could put at risk the progress made during the past year.

Although Congress approved $70 billion in war funding, it is only half of the $140 billion requested by the president this year to sustain troops and war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is important to note that it represents only a partial solution," Mr. Gates said. "We're still analyzing the bill, so we don't yet know the specifics. But we do know that having received less than half of what the president requested to fund global military operations, absent timely congressional action in the new year, we will again face the risk of running out of money."

The secretary said that although the number of al Qaeda terrorists coming into Afghanistan from Pakistan was down nearly 40 percent, in some areas of the country, the number was growing. Al Qaeda is also showing clear signs that it has "turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people," Mr. Gates said.

The Defense Department is beginning dialogue with the Pakistani army to address the growing threat and to assist operations against al Qaeda "through both training and equipment."

"I would say, with respect to Osama bin Laden, that we are continuing the hunt," he said, adding that "the progress will be the day that the president goes out in front and says that we have either captured or killed him."

Mr. Gates added that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are requesting a small number of troops to offer support and train the local Afghan military. He suggested that sending the roughly 7,500 requested troops may be easier next year after U.S. troops begin to redeploy from Iraq.

"You're talking about probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,500 troops," he said. "So it's not like moving 100,000 troops from one place to the other. ... But there is clearly, in the view even of the commander in the field, no requirement for a substantial plus-up of forces in Afghanistan
."

[bth: this troop movement has to do with election year cycles in the US more than it does about conditions on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Petraeus is probably a good officer but he is also a good politician because he is giving both US parties something to crow about come election time.]
 
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The State of Iraq: An Update - New York Times

The State of Iraq: An Update - New York Times: "AS"2007 comes to close, how should we understand the situation in Iraq? Are we witnessing the greatest American military comeback late in a war since Sherman’s march to the sea in 1864? Or is Iraq still a weakly governed and very violent place where sectarian reconciliation is starkly absent?

The problem for American policymakers, troops and voters is that both these situations are simultaneously real. Iraq’s security environment is considerably improved, with security at its best levels since early 2004. This is largely thanks to the surge-based strategy of Gen. David Petraeus and the heroic efforts — and sacrifice — of so many American and Iraqi troops and police officers (more Americans have died in Iraq in 2007 than in any previous year, though death rates have dropped greatly in the last few months). But Iraq’s political environment and its economy are only marginally better than a year ago. High oil prices have helped the latter, but violence and rampant corruption remain huge problems.

The number of trained Iraqi security forces steadily rises. It had better, since American troop levels are scheduled to drop to pre-surge levels by summer, although the new strategy, with its emphasis on protecting the civilian population, is to continue. Given Iraq’s fragile sectarian relations and weak institutions, the likelihood is that further American troop reductions will have to be slow and careful if the progress is to continue.

Jason Campbell is a senior research assistant at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at Brookings. Amy Unikewicz is a graphic designer in South Norwalk, Conn.
 
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Wreaths for the Fallen

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Strategy that is making Iraq safer was snubbed for years

Strategy that is making Iraq safer was snubbed for years - USATODAY.com: "When Army Capt. Jeremy Gwinn's company patrolled Baghdad in 2005, the approach toward roadside bombs was simple: avoid them or die.

By early 2006, that strategy had begun to shift: Instead of hunting for the bombs, the soldiers hunted for bombmakers. "We started to know a lot of people in the community and develop contacts," recalls Gwinn, now a major. "There was a noticeable change … in the way we were doing things."

Today, that change has swept across Iraq, and attacks using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have declined steadily for eight months. Casualties from the bombs are at their lowest point since 2003, the first year of the war. Troops have seized twice as many weapons caches this year as they did all of last.

"Just about every single night, we are identifying and engaging one or more cells caught in the act of planting IEDs," Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, said in an interview.


Efforts to stop IEDs by targeting the insurgent networks that finance, build and plant the bombs showed results only after the Bush administration adopted a broader counterinsurgency strategy this year — and sent 30,000 more troops to Iraq to support it.

But a USA TODAY investigation shows that the strategy now used to defeat the bombmaking networks and stabilize Iraq was ignored or rejected for years by key decision-makers. As early as 2004, when roadside bombs already were killing scores of troops, a top military consultant invited to address two dozen generals offered a "strategic alternative" for beating the insurgency and IEDs.

That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The core of the strategy: Clear insurgents from key areas and provide security to win over Iraqis, who would respond by helping U.S. forces break IED networks and defeat the insurgency.

Bush administration officials, however, remained wedded to the idea that training the Iraqi army and leaving the country would suffice. Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show.

Even after the Pentagon began committing substantial resources to combat IEDs, USA TODAY found, its spending focused mostly on high-tech devices with limited utility. Some silver-bullet solutions, such as microwave beams designed to destroy IEDs before they blew up, never worked.

By the time the Pentagon moved to a counterinsurgency strategy at the end of last year, the bombs had been the top killer of U.S. troops for three years, claiming more than 1,160 lives. To date, they are responsible for more than 60% of combat deaths.

"What's astounding is how long we spent not applying traditional counterinsurgency principles to fighting what obviously was an insurgency," says Fred Kagan, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and former West Point instructor. "It's not that we've solved the IED problem, per se. It's that we've begun to have success in defeating the insurgents."

Andrew Krepinevich, the consultant who addressed the generals in 2004 and met with Libby in 2005, says the price of that failure was profound.

"One is the human cost, both in terms of the suffering of Iraqis and the Americans killed and wounded," he says. "Second is the material cost. And third is the failure to accomplish the mission."

Krepinevich, who has advised several secretaries of Defense and the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, says "the American military is on the clock in this war, and the American people, in a sense, gave the administration several years to make progress. Those years, to a significant extent, were wasted."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says the administration weighed all strategy options and made "appropriate decisions."

"Throughout the war, many people have come forward with various suggestions and ideas, from 'more troops' to 'get out now,' " he says. "The president has listened to the commanders on the ground and the Defense Department."

Rumsfeld declined to comment.

'This mind-set of the short war'

Rumsfeld and other civilian and uniformed war planners "had this mind-set of the short war, a liberation vs. an occupation," says retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command.

He says many combat commanders were frustrated by the Pentagon's failure to recognize that a force larger than the 120,000 U.S. ground troops in the initial invasion was needed to secure the country — and its ammunition dumps, which held the explosives that insurgents continue to use to build IEDs.

Officials also failed to send the right kind of vehicles.

In July, USA TODAY reported that until 2006, the Pentagon balked at pleas from battlefield commanders to send safer armor to protect U.S. troops from IEDs. The armored vehicles, called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, weren't fully embraced by the Pentagon until mid-2007, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's successor, made them his top procurement priority.

Today, 11,941 MRAPs have been ordered, and about 1,200 of those are being used by troops in Iraq. "These are a vast improvement in terms of protection," Petraeus says.

Petraeus cites other crucial steps — among them the 30,000-troop "surge" — that have led to a decline in violence and a better chance to secure the country. Most are key components of the strategy favored by Krepinevich and others during the first months of the war.

When asked about the previous strategy, Petraeus says he is focusing not on the past, but on what's happening now -- and its apparent successes. "It's not just the additional forces. It's also how they are used," Petraeus says. "The deployment of our forces and Iraqi forces into the neighborhoods, to the areas where the bad guys are located, is key. You have to live with the population to help secure it. "

He says that "in the past couple of months, we have been finding greater than 50% of the IEDs (before they go off), which is a first."

Zinni credits Petraeus with shifting U.S. fortunes. "It's about Americans being out there and being visible, providing security, building confidence among the people," he says. "It's paying off."

No 'coherent strategy'

For years, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials resisted just such an approach. Although generals such as Petraeus put their theories into action on a small scale in Iraq as early as 2003, the military still lacked a detailed, nationwide plan for battling the insurgency.

In September 2004, 18 months into the war, Krepinevich flew to Nashville at the invitation of top generals. Krepinevich, then 54, wore a jacket and tie; except for the spouses many generals brought to the session, he was one of few in the hotel conference room not in uniform. It added to his trepidation.

Krepinevich had the credentials: A graduate of West Point, he had been an officer for 20 years and now ran the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent Washington think tank. What he didn't have was the experience: He hadn't been to Iraq. Moreover, he was about to tell the generals that the Pentagon's approach to the war made no sense.

He would be embarrassed if they told him he didn't understand the situation in Iraq, he recalls thinking. But if they agreed with his assessment, it meant trouble for U.S. efforts to secure the country.

"It is difficult to discern a coherent U.S. strategy for defeating the insurgency," he told them. The solution: "Win the hearts and minds, and … deny insurgents easy access to the population, thereby enhancing intelligence on the enemy."

Krepinevich's call for a new direction drew no criticism. "It told me they didn't have an approach" for winning the war, he says.

Retired Army major general Paul Eaton, who was at the meeting and had been directing the training of Iraqi forces, said Krepinevich "was saying what had become increasingly obvious to many of us."

"What we had was a secretary of Defense who denied (the insurgency existed) … and the senior leadership of the Army would not challenge him," Eaton says. "But Krepinevich could. A lot of us were thinking, 'He gets it; maybe he can reach some of the leadership.' "

Krepinevich would become one of several analysts and retired military officers who helped develop the counterinsurgency strategies. But their ideas wouldn't gain footing with decision-makers for years.

Meantime, the Pentagon had spent billions of dollars on technology to detect or defeat IEDs.

The high-tech solutions

Most of the money went toward "jammers" — devices to block the electronic signals used to detonate IEDs by remote control. Jammers remain one of the more successful electronic IED countermeasures. As insurgents shifted to new types of detonators, new jammers were introduced. This year, the Pentagon has spent $2 billion on them.

Other high-tech initiatives in the IED fight have failed entirely:

•Forerunner, a remote-controlled truck, was to be driven ahead of convoys to detect IEDs. It was scrapped after almost $7 million in spending. It didn't work.

•BlowTorch was designed to use microwaves to fry the circuitry in IEDs from afar. It was abandoned after more than $8 million was invested. It didn't work either.

Defense officials acknowledged that technology alone would not defeat IEDs, but spending soared. In 2006, the Pentagon's counter-IED office, the Joint IED Defeat Organization, spent 67% of its $3.5 billion budget on jammers and other technology to "defeat the device."

But IED deaths kept rising.

Retired Army general Montgomery Meigs, who took over the IED office at the end of 2005 and led it until this month, began pushing for a new focus in 2006. "We made attacking the network No. 1" on the priority list, he says.

Krepinevich had continued to push the same message. In an Aug. 23, 2005, memo to Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, Krepinevich warned that technology wasn't the answer.

Instead, as Krepinevich says today, U.S. forces needed to provide "enduring" security that would make it "risky for people to go out and plant" IEDs. "You needed to think not just about technology; you needed to think about how you defeated the overall problem. The key … was intelligence."

Krepinevich says he told that to Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, during a July 2005 meeting in Libby's office. In May, just two months earlier, Cheney had declared that the Iraqi insurgency was in "its last throes." Now, Krepinevich was suggesting the administration refocus its approach around that insurgency. Libby "took it all in and asked a few questions," Krepinevich recalls, but that was it.

Krepinevich says the only meaningful support he got came from Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who was briefed by Krepinevich just before heading to Baghdad in June 2005. Despite Khalilzad's apparent interest, the approach got no traction with administration war planners.

Khalilzad, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declined through a spokesman to comment.

Failures prompt change

Turning over security to newly trained Iraqi forces remained the hallmark of U.S. strategy in Iraq until early 2007. Army Gen. George Casey, who led coalition forces in Iraq until February, often said the goal was to have U.S. forces stand down as Iraqi forces stood up.

In June 2006, Kagan and three other military experts visited Camp David for a meeting with the president's war Cabinet. Each took a turn addressing the officials, who included Rumsfeld, Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and Gen. Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kagan's message — "We've got to do some counterinsurgency on these guys" — didn't take.

Within weeks, the Pentagon launched "Operation Together Forward." Coalition forces would "clear" an insurgent stronghold and Iraqi forces would "hold" it. When Iraqi forces failed to hold, violence soared. After two months, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell acknowledged that Together Forward had "not met our overall expectations."

In November 2006 — a day after Democrats won control of Congress — Bush accepted the resignation of Rumsfeld, who had backed the stand-up, stand-down strategy. Bush chose former CIA director Gates to replace him. By December, the shift to a counterinsurgency strategy had begun.

Iraq was boiling over: 69 U.S. troops would be killed that December by IEDs, the most IED deaths in any month since the war began. On Dec. 6, the Iraq Study Group, a panel of military and political thinkers, issued a report calling the Iraq situation "grave and deteriorating" and urging a phased U.S. withdrawal.

The next Monday, Dec. 11, Bush met with retired generals and top military analysts. One, retired Army general Jack Keane, pushed hard for a "surge" of U.S. troops coupled with a secure-and-hold strategy for Baghdad and other key areas.

Keane and other experts had developed the idea with Kagan, who was invited to the White House later that week to meet with Hadley. It was one of several strategy options, and the only one calling for a big increase in U.S. troops. Keane and Kagan proved persuasive.

Even so, it took what Kagan calls "a perfect storm" to put it in place. The deteriorating situation in Iraq, the grim report from the study group and growing calls for U.S. withdrawal made the administration more flexible, he says.

On Jan. 5, Bush chose Petraeus, who had finished writing the military's counterinsurgency doctrine, to take charge in Iraq. Five days later, Bush outlined a new strategy: "to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods … protect the local population, and … ensure that the Iraqi forces … are capable of providing" security.

It was precisely what his administration had rejected — and counterinsurgency advocates had championed — for years.

[bth: another Gold Star Father from Wisconsin who has been working on getting improved convoy training and MRAPS in the field forwarded this article to me. Besides the USA Today's new tradition of pandering to those MOFOs over at AEI that will give interviews, this article is pretty good. At least these reporters are bothering to do original research. The pure arrogance of Rumsfeld, the cowardice of his military leadership toward him and the pure stupidity and negligence of the White House cost thousands of lives. Its a tribute to the enlisted personnel and the junior officers of this country that we haven't out and out lost this war - lost it to ourselves.]
Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Rocket launched into space; carries satellite to guide weapons -- OrlandoSentinel.com

Rocket launched into space; carries satellite to guide weapons -- OrlandoSentinel.com: "CAPE CANAVERAL - A rocket carrying a GPS satellite to better guide military weapons was launched into space Thursday.

The Delta 2 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 3:04 p.m. with the modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block 2R military navigation satellite aboard for the U.S. Air Force.

The satellite is part of a constellation of 24 and one of eight that were modernized to more precisely guide weapons and a variety of civilian applications.

Powered by a solar panel that can produce up to 800 watts of power, the 4,540-pound satellite is expected to circle the earth for up to a decade before becoming obsolete

PSYOPS Tech: Voices in your head

COMOPS » PSYOPS Tech: Voices in your head: "At"a government workshop some time ago I head someone describe a new tool that was described as the “voice of Allah.” This was said to be a device that would operate at a distance and would deliver a message that only a single person could hear. The story was that it was tested in a conflict situation in Iraq and pointed at one insurgent in a group, who whipped around looking in all directions, and began a heated conversation with his compatriots, who did not hear the message. At the time I greeted this story with some skepticism.

Lo and behold, today I saw this item on CNET News:

The folks who heard the ad for A & E’s TV show “Paranormal State” emitted from a billboard in New York City’s Greenwich Village must have thought it was pretty weird. As they walked into the targeted area they were exposed to highly focused sound, picked up not by their ears, but by their skulls. The otherwise inaudible sound waves are experienced via bone conduction–the sound resonates inside the passerby’s head.

The system is being developed for commercial use by Holosonic Research Labs which besides the billboard stunt has installed systems at the Seattle Space Needle, at museums, and at Disney EPCOT center.

Here is a clip of an ABC news story about use of the technology in a CourtTV promotional campaign that has reactions from, um, victims that are amazingly like the one recounted about the insurgent.

Memo to self: Don’t be so quick to doubt stories you hear from defense technogeeks at government workshops.

[bth: this link will take you to a paranormal sonic board video clip.]

"Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" Dec. 2007

Here is a report to Congress from the Dept of Defense regarding stability and security in Iraq. It's worth a good read. I focused in on EFPs and it appears that that weapon continues to be used with regularity and without a noticeable decrease despite a ceasefire with JAM, seizing large caches and a pledge from Iran. In part I think the Administration and the talking heads at DOD have themselves in a bind. They hyped Iran's involvement in EFPs when in all probability most of the trainers were Hezbollah, now the heads have to continue the story line. Other factors are highly favorable in the report though it appears that a political settlement with the Sunnis in Anbar combined with a Shiite victory via ethnic cleansing in Baghdad has essentially created a temporary hiatus in violence. Will it continue? I doubt it without a political settlement.

Putin, the Kremlin power struggle and the $40bn fortune

Putin, the Kremlin power struggle and the $40bn fortune | Russia | Guardian Unlimited: "An"unprecedented battle is taking place inside the Kremlin in advance of Vladimir Putin's departure from office, the Guardian has learned, with claims that the president presides over a secret multibillion-dollar fortune.
Rival clans inside the Kremlin are embroiled in a struggle for the control of assets as Putin prepares to transfer power to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in May, well-placed political observers and other sources have revealed.

At stake are billions of dollars in assets belonging to Russian state-run corporations. Additionally, details of Putin's own personal fortune, reportedly hidden in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, are being discussed for the first time

The claims over the president's assets surfaced last month when the Russian political expert Stanislav Belkovsky gave an interview to the German newspaper Die Welt. They have since been repeated in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times, with speculation over the fortune appearing on the internet.
Citing sources inside the president's administration, Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40bn (£20bn). The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man.

In an interview with the Guardian, Belkovsky repeated his claims that Putin owns vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies, concealed behind a "non-transparent network of offshore trusts".

Putin "effectively" controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia's third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and "at least 75%" of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president's, Belkovsky alleges.....

50 Killed in Pakistan Bombing - New York Times

50 Killed in Pakistan Bombing - New York Times: "ISLAMABAD" Pakistan -- A suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb inside a crowded mosque in northwestern Pakistan Friday morning, killing as many as 50 men and wounding 80 as they prayed to mark the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, Pakistan's former interior minister said.

The attack appeared to be the second assassination attempt on the former minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, in eight months.

“It was a massacre,” said Mr. Sherpao, who was unhurt. “That's what I can say.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Sherpao said the bomber detonated the device in the row of worshipers just behind him and his family in his ancestral village of Sherpao as they prayed Friday morning. He said he did not know the identity or affiliation of the attacker.

Eight months ago, a suicide bomber killed 28 people when he attacked a rally by Mr. Sherpao’s political party in the town of Charsadda. Mr. Sherpao was slightly wounded in that attack.

An attack inside a mosque during Id al-Adha, an important Muslim holiday, appears to represent an escalation of violence by militants who have carried out a record number of suicide bombings in Pakistan this year. Mr. Sherpao is running for Parliament in elections scheduled for Jan. 8.

Many of the suicide bombers are believed to be trained in the country’s lawless tribal areas, where 100,000 Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban and foreign militants. Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, is believed to be hiding in the area.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Military sets sights on at least 15,000 MRAPs - USATODAY.com

Military sets sights on at least 15,000 MRAPs - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON"— The Pentagon remains committed to buying at least 15,000 new armored vehicles to withstand roadside bombs and may seek more based on requests from commanders in Afghanistan, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday.
The Pentagon currently plans to procure at least 15,374 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Morrell said. It has ordered almost 12,000 MRAPs to date, including orders announced Tuesday for 3,100 with a total value of about $2.7 billion.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said recently that, because of improving security conditions, forces there might need fewer MRAPs than earlier anticipated. Commanders have said since the inception of the MRAP program that they would revise needs based on battlefield conditions.

Last month, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway said the Marines would cut their projected needs from 3,700 MRAPs to 2,300.

Demand for more MRAPs could come from elsewhere, Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon news conference

I can tell you just this week, for example, that the commanders in Afghanistan are of the mind that perhaps they would like more in Afghanistan than they have originally requested," he said.

Morrell estimated that the need in Afghanistan could increase from about 500 to 600 MRAPs.

The MRAP, with its raised chassis and V-shaped hull, disperses the force of explosions better than the Humvee, the workhorse vehicle of the military.

However, MRAPs are heavier and less nimble than Humvees. That lack of mobility can limit their use in Afghanistan's steep, rugged terrain. Still, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have taken a heavy toll on U.S. troops there, and commanders are asking for more MRAPs, Morrell said.

"Commanders there clearly believe that there is use for these vehicles in numbers even above and beyond what they originally thought were necessary," he said. "So, despite whatever limitations there might be on the vehicles, they are proving to be extraordinarily valuable, lifesaving, and the commanders in Afghanistan seem to want more of them."

Tuesday's order for 3,100 MRAPs included an order for second-generation vehicles capable of withstanding explosively formed penetrators, the most lethal IEDs. The Pentagon's MRAP office will pay $18 million for further testing of the Bull, a thickly armored vehicle.

The Pentagon anticipates meeting its goal of fielding 1,525 MRAPs in Iraq by Dec. 20, Morrell said.

[bth: it would really be foolish not to order enough for anticipated needs, not just historic, lagging requests. To do otherwise condemns us to a 'too little, too late' procurement approach. The marine commandant wants its forces to go back to being an expeditionary force, storming beaches in the Pacific or whatever, but the facts are that now and for the foreseeable future, our needs are for mounted or semi-mounted infantry in desert conditions. This means vehicles. Unless our worlds enemies decide to unilaterally disarm and give up their IEDs, the need for MRAPs and marine MRAPs will continue to grow. One obviously should note that vehicle attrition is destroying the US land fleet. Perhaps the folks over at USA Today might just ask the Pentagon how the attrition rate on vehicles impacted the available armored humvees in Iraq. I suspect there is an 8000 vehicle shortage based on normal attrition rates in that climate - a useful life of 2.5 years - and that doesn't take into account the increases in IED damage and activities of 2007. I'll bet money we don't have enough armored vehicles in an operational state.]

Hillary Clinton Ad

Democrat Taylor Marsh Broadcasts Live Talk Radio and Blogs Politics
Given the drivel that passes for political ads up here in the New Hampshire/Mass. primary and TV viewing area, this one is a cut above.

KBR hearing centers on handling of rape kit

KBR hearing centers on handling of rape kit | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle: "WASHINGTON"— A former KBR worker who says she was gang raped while working in Iraq told a House panel Wednesday that an Army doctor who examined her after the alleged assault turned the physical evidence over to KBR security personnel.

And at some point, some of the medical evidence apparently went missing.

Jamie Leigh Jones, 23, formerly of Conroe, was calm and controlled as she told a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security how her life changed in July 2005.

Four days after arriving at Camp Hope in Baghdad's "Green Zone" to work for the Pentagon's largest military contractor, Jones accepted a drink from a group of company firefighters.

"I believed that we were all on the same team," she said.

She awoke the next day, bruised and bleeding between her legs. She was taken to an Army support hospital and examined. The physician, Jones said, told her it was apparent she had been raped.

The doctor took photographs and prepared what's known as a "rape kit," containing forensic evidence, and handed the materials over to KBR security personnel, Jones told the panel.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne, in an e-mail Wednesday, said a company security coordinator "was given the sexual assault examination kit by the Army hospital upon Ms. Jones' release from the hospital.

"The kit was transported with Ms. Jones back to Camp Hope and was placed in a safe in the KBR security department's office," Browne said. "The kit was released by KBR Security to State Department investigators when the investigators arrived three hours after the kit was received. KBR Security secured a signed property/evidence receipt from the State Department."

Jones said she spoke earlier this year with a special agent of the State Department Diplomatic Security — the State Department's law enforcement arm — who was unaware of the rape kit's existence.

Eventually, the agent found the kit, but the photographs and doctor's notes were missing, Jones said.

KBR officials say they have no knowledge of any materials that have gone missing. KBR declined to address other specifics from Jones' testimony, citing ongoing litigation.

The Chronicle reported last week that KBR President and Chairman Bill Utt told employees in an e-mail that the company disputes Jones' allegations.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, a former state district judge in Houston, said the doctor should have turned the rape kit over to law enforcement — not KBR.

The State Department Diplomatic Security has since turned over its evidence to the Justice Department, State Department spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said.

The Justice Department, in a letter sent to the House panel late Tuesday, acknowledged it was conducting an investigation into Jones' allegations but declined to send a representative to appear at today's hearing.

"In light of the department's concerns about potentially compromising our ongoing investigation, the department did not believe it was appropriate to testify," spokesman Peter Carr said in an e-mail.

Whether all of the evidence was eventually recovered remains unclear.

But more than two years after the alleged assault, investigators are left with evidence that, as Poe sees it, was "tampered with after it left the doctor's hands."

Questions about the chain of custody of the evidence could seriously complicate any efforts to prosecute the case.

"It makes an awful steep, uphill battle to get a conviction," said Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School.

Why the Army hospital would have turned over the evidence to a civilian contractor was not immediately clear.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce could not comment on that, but said that normally, such materials "would be kept within the government."

After her medical exam, Jones said, she was locked up and denied access to food or a telephone. Finally, a sympathetic guard shared his cell phone and she called her father in Texas. He got in touch with Poe, who contacted the State Department.

Jones said she since has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Since Jones went public with her story, 11 women have come forward alleging sexual harassment while working for KBR in Iraq, said Jones' lawyer, Todd Kelly.

david.ivanovich@chron.com

[bth: KBR simply functions outside the law. The position of KBR's CEO Utt is revolting. Bad enough Utt should have an employee on employee gang rape on his hands, but he seems to be siding with the rapists/shareholders - its hard to tell the difference. Further, the chain of custody of evidence has been destroyed by the US government and KBR. That tells you a lot about what we've become. We can't outsource morality. But KBR was a Halliburton subsidiary and Halliburton was Cheney's company and somehow they've become above or at least outside the law.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Don't Try to Stay in Iraq.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Don't Try to Stay in Iraq.: "Because of the greatly improved situation in the counterinsurgency war in Iraq there will be a terrible temptation to think that Iraqis have now accepted a long term American military presence in their country. That would be a mistake.

The improved military situation has largely been the result of Iraqi revolt against takfiri jihadi oppression and the emergence of a coalition military leadership philosophy that welcomed that revolt and which provided fnancial, materiel and operational support to the rebels against Al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia and its freinds. The urge to attribute the success in the last year and a half to the increased presence of American combat forces must be strong, but, in fact, that presence has been helpful but not decisive.

Many problems remain in Iraq. The central government remains the monstrous engine of ethno-religious factional politics that the Coalition Provisional Authority created. It is dominated by returned exiles and politicians who "played the game" with Saddam for their own benefit. Such men are not inclined to abnegation in the "national" interest. The Kurdish/Turkish conflict is reaching crisis proportion in the north and the swirling cockpit of Shia militia competition is now becoming more visible in the south.

These problems can only be resolved through the kind of determined diplomacy throughout the region that I have often advocated.

At present the US has accepted as temporary allies many of those who fought against us before the "Anbar Awakening." That is as it should be. We should continue that policy in other parts of the country.

What we should not think is that our former enemies have become reconciled to a permanent US military garrison in their country. To think that would be a terrible mistake.

If we want to have a reasonable relationship wth whatever Iraq there will be, then we should understand that the basis for resistance to us was rejection of the idea of foreign military occupation.

Bottom Line? Those who fight beside us now will fight us again if we decide to occupy their country permanantly. pl

[bth: Col. Lang is right.]

Torture house, mass graves discovered in Iraq - CNN.com

Torture house, mass graves discovered in Iraq - CNN.com: "BAGHDAD"Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition forces found 26 bodies buried in mass graves and a bloodstained "torture complex," with chains hanging from walls and ceilings and a bed connected to an electrical system, the military said Wednesday.

The troops made the discovery while conducting an operation north of Muqdadiya, Iraq.

From December 8 to 11, the troops who found the complex also killed 24 people they said were terrorists and detained 37 suspects, according to a statement issued by Multinational Division North at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

The moves were part of an operation called Iron Reaper that has been in progress across northern Iraq for the past few weeks.

The complex was in an area thought to be an al Qaeda in Iraq haven and operating base, the military said. Iraqis had told the military about the site during an earlier operation.

"Evidence of murder, torture and intimidation against local villagers was found throughout the area," the military statement said.

Ground forces first found what appeared to be a detention facility, which was one of three connected to the torture complex, Multinational Division North said.

One of the facilities appeared to have been a headquarters building and a torture facility, it added
As the area was cleared, the bodies were found.

Eventually, 26 bodies were uncovered in mass graves next to what were thought to be execution sites, the military said.

The bodies are believed to have been dead between six and eight months, according to a gruesome military video shot at the scene. Some had their hands tied behind their backs. Identification is proving to be a challenge because of advanced decomposition.

Photos given to the news media show a filthy bed wired to an electrical system, with an outlet hanging from wires on the wall. In the video, troops point out rubber hoses and boxing gloves, a ski mask and a blood-covered sword and knives. Other still photos show an entrance to the underground bunker and barbed wire stretched outside it.

A short distance away from the complex, troops found a bullet-riddled Iraqi police vehicle. Some of the bodies may belong to Iraqi police, according to the military video.

The operation netted nine weapons caches, which have been destroyed, the military said. They included anti-aircraft weapons, sniper rifles, more than 65 machine guns and pistols, 50 grenades and a surface-to-air missile launcher and platform, the statement said.

Also found were mines, pipe bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar tubes and rounds and 130 pounds of homemade explosives

[bth: people in the US think the war is over and are at the mall. 2007 should be remembered as the year in Iraq and in Afghanistan when the US had the highest level of casualties of any year and in both locations to boot.]

Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters-study

Reuters AlertNet - Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters-study: "WASHINGTON Dec 19 (Reuters) - Most al Qaeda fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and Libya and many are university-aged students, said a study released on Wednesday by researchers at the U.S. Army's West Point military academy.

The study was based on 606 personnel records collected by al Qaeda in Iraq and captured by coalition troops in October. It includes data on fighters who entered Iraq, largely through Syria, between August 2006 and August 2007.

The researchers at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center found that 41 percent of the fighters were Saudi nationals.

Libyan nationals accounted for the second largest group entering Iraq in that time period with about 19 percent of the total, followed by Syrians and Yemenis each at 8 percent, Algerians with 7 percent and Moroccans at 6 percent.

On a per capita basis, Libyans accounted for the greatest share of foreign fighters entering Iraq.

Previous studies found Libyans accounted for a far smaller percentage of foreign fighters in Iraq, the West Point researchers said. They concluded the U.S. military either underestimated the Libyan contribution of fighters or that the pattern has shifted since a Libyan Islamic militant group strengthened ties with al Qaeda.

"The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked (to) the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa'ida, which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa'ida on Nov. 3, 2007," wrote authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman.

According to the study, the average age of the 606 fighters who entered over that one-year period was 24-25. One was 15 years old...

Informed Comment: Was Rice's trip to Iraqi Kurdistan Deliberately Sabotaged?

Informed Comment: Was Rice's trip to Iraqi Kurdistan Deliberately Sabotaged?: "So"when we left off the story yesterday, US Secretary of State Condi Rice had just made a surprise visit to the northern oil city of Kirkuk, apparently to congratulate the provincial council for a move toward Kurdish-Arab reconciliation. But while Condi was doing that, the Turkish army invaded Iraq! And then the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Authority, Massoud Barzani angrily refused to meet Secretary Rice, saying that the US had given Turkey the 'green light' to attack Kurdistan and that the incursion was a 'crime.' I guess that means Barzani is calling Rice a criminal

Look, it is absolutely impossible that Condi plans out a trip to Kirkuk and a meeting with Barzani with full knowledge that while she is there, Turkey will send 500 Turkish soldiers into northern Iraq to occupy the villages of Kaya Retch Binwak, Janarok and Gelly Resh. Or even that when she set out on her trip, she knew that Turkey was planning to bomb Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday, killing 3, wounding 8, and displacing 300 Kurdish villagers. (Turkey maintained that these villages were havens for the Kurdish Workers Party guerrilla (PKK) guerrilla group, which Ankara accuses of making cross-border raids to kill dozens of Turkish troops in the past few months.)

So there are only two possibilities. The first is that this whole affair is a SNAFU. Let us imagine that the US military is concerned about Barzani helping PKK guerrillas kill NATO troops (yes, Turkey is in NATO and a close US ally for decades). They complain to Irbil and Barzani blows them off. And the US military takes a little revenge on Barzani by giving the Turks real time intelligence on PKK movements. The Turks interpret this gesture as a green light for them to attack Iraq. In the meantime, the State Department has set up a secret trip to Kirkuk and Irbil for Condi.

That could explain Sunday's bombing raid, which was not a good omen for Rice's trip. But it can't explain Tuesday's ground invasion, which is an obvious provocation and done after it became known that Rice was in Kirkuk.

So in my view Turkey is trying to drive a wedge between the US and Barzani, and Turkish chief of staff Yasar Buyukanit deliberately embarrassed Secretary Rice and ruined her trip to celebrate Kurdish-Arab reconciliation (a reconciliation that is not actually good news for Ankara, which does not want to see the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government annex Kirkuk).

If the bombing raid was also not a SNAFU but was a deliberate attempt to thwart Rice's good feeling tour in Iraqi Kurdistan, then that would point to the Turkish military having received advance warning from someone in the US government about Rice's secret trip. That is, it would point to spying. That in turn would raise the question of whether there are relatively high USG officials who had knowledge of her secret itinerary, and who have an interest in bolstering the ties of the US with the Turkish military at the expense of Washington's de facto alliance with Barzani in Iraq. I'll bet you State is looking into this fiasco as we speak and if you hear fairly soon that someone high in the department (or another department who has similar clearances) suddenly resigns to spend more time with his family, you can reasonably speculate that he was the source of a leak to Buyukanit--if indeed there was one.

[bth: curious. one wonders.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Main and Central: Mosul Dam Bomb Attempt

Main and Central: Mosul Dam Bomb Attempt: "An"attempt to damage the Mosul Dam was apparently made on Monday.

BAGHDAD -- A truck bomb parked on a bridge connecting two gates of the Mosul dam exploded Monday, killing a security officer, officials said.

The attack on the dam was the latest reminder of militants' intent to undermine major infrastructure projects in Iraq, and highlighted continued instability in the northern province of Nineveh. American military officials acknowledge that insurgents have sought shelter in the north after being driven out of Baghdad and other provinces by major summer military offensives. The bombed bridge connects the right and left shores of the Mosul dam. It has been used by vehicles for the last three decades.

The dam, which is more than 25 years old, was formerly known as the “Saddam Dam.” For obvious reasons the name was changed in 2003. At the time of the American conquest of Iraq, a survey by the US Army Corps of Engineers noted that the dam, which was built on several layers of shale and sand, was suffering from weakness and in danger of collapse, threatening all those living down stream from a wall of water described as being “110 meters high.”

Reconstruction work on the Mosul dam, which was built in the 1980s, has been one of the major projects undertaken with the nearly $20 billion that the U.S. Congress approved for Iraqi reconstruction in 2003. The money was a one-time allotment and only about $2 billion is left, making extra costs caused by security breaches especially troublesome, said a U.S. official involved in Iraqi reconstruction work.

Repairs are needed on the dam to keep water at a safe level behind the reservoir, the official said. U.S. engineers have expressed concern about the dam bursting, causing massive flooding as far away as Baghdad, about 225 miles south.

I discussed this danger in late August, citing an earlier VOI report.

A McGraw-Hill Construction report of an inspection done shortly after the conquest by COL. Gregg Martin, commander of the 130th Engineer Battalion, indicates that the dam was functioning well, and the Iraqi engineer on duty, Jassam Hammad Saleh Mahmoud, said that leaks in the dam were being controlled by a system devised by a German-Italian engineering team that injected a grout mixture of bentonite, cement, water and air. The grouting process consumed approximately 50 metric tons of grout per day.

In late 2005 the Corps of Engineers reported that the repairs were under way, and should be completed sometime in 2006.

The driver of the truck stopped the vehicle, pretending it had broken down. Suspicious security personnel decided to confront the driver and he walked away from the truck. After the truck exploded he was captured by other guards.

A truck bomb on top of the roadway is not the best way to destroy a dam.
 
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The Army's Other Crisis - Tilghman

The Army's Other Crisis - Tilghman: ..."For"several years now, we've been hearing alarming warnings about the strain that the Iraq War has placed on the military. Since the conflict began, around 40 percent of the Army and Marine Corps' large-scale equipment has been used, worn out, or destroyed. Last year, the Army had to grant waivers to nearly one in five recruits because they had criminal records. There are no more combat-ready brigades left on standby should a new conflict flare.

These problems are of vital concern, and are reasonably well understood in newsrooms and on Capitol Hill. But the top uniformed and civilian leaders at the Pentagon who think hardest about the future of the military have a more fundamental fear: young officers—people like Matt Kapinos—are leaving the Army at nearly their highest rates in decades. This is not a short-term problem, nor is it one that can simply be fixed with money. A private-sector company or another government agency can address a shortage of middle managers by hiring more middle managers. In the Army's rigid hierarchy, all officers start out at the bottom, as second lieutenants. A decline in officer retention, in other words, threatens both the Army's current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its long-term institutional future. And though many senior Pentagon leaders are quite aware of the problem, there's only so much they can do to reverse the decline while the United States maintains large numbers of troops in Iraq.

n the last four years, the exodus of junior officers from the Army has accelerated. In 2003, around 8 percent of junior officers with between four and nine years of experience left for other careers. Last year, the attrition rate leapt to 13 percent. "A five percent change could potentially be a serious problem," said James Hosek, an expert in military retention at the RAND Corporation. Over the long term, this rate of attrition would halve the number of officers who reach their tenth year in uniform and intend to take senior leadership roles.

But the problem isn't one of numbers alone: the Army also appears to be losing its most gifted young officers. In 2005, internal Army memos started to warn of the "disproportionate loss of high-potential, high-performance junior leaders." West Point graduates are leaving at their highest rates since the 1970s (except for a few years in the early 1990s when the Army's goal was to reduce its size). Of the nearly 1,000 cadets from the class of 2002, 58 percent are no longer on active duty.

This means that there is less competition for promotions, and that less-able candidates are rising to the top. For years, Congress required the Army to promote only 70 to 80 percent of eligible officers. Under that law, the rank of major served as a useful funnel by which the Army separated out the bottom quarter of the senior officer corps. On September 14, 2001, President Bush suspended that requirement. Today, more than 98 percent of eligible captains are promoted to major. "If you breathe, you make lieutenant colonel these days," one retired colonel grumbled to me.

The dismay of senior leaders at this situation pierces through even the dry, bureaucratic language of Army memoranda. In an internal document distributed among senior commanders earlier this year, Colonel George Lockwood, the director of officer personnel management for the Army's Human Resources Command, wrote, "The Army is facing significant challenges in officer manning, now and in the immediate future." Lockwood was referring to an anticipated shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors until at least 2013; he estimated that the Army already has only about half the senior captains that it needs. "Read the last line again, please," Lockwood wrote. "Our inventory of senior captains is only 51 percent of requirement." In response to this deficit, the Army is taking in twenty-two-year-olds as fast as it can. However, these recruits can't be expected to perform the jobs of officers who have six to eight years of experience. "New 2nd Lieutenants," Lockwood observed, "are no substitute for senior captains."

Even the pool from which the Army draws its future leaders is being diluted. Last year, the Army commissioned more officers as second lieutenants than it has since 1989, when the Pentagon was still planning for a cold war-era force nearly 50 percent larger than the current one. (The commissioning figures are partially a reflection of the Army's restructuring efforts since 2002, which created a greater number of smaller combat units and increased the need for junior officers.)

Those new officers, however, are not coming from the traditional sources of West Point and ROTC programs, which supply recruits fresh from college. Instead, they are coming from the Army's Officer Candidate School—mostly attended by soldiers plucked from the enlisted ranks, who probably entered the military straight from high school. The number of OCS graduates has more than tripled since the late 1990s, from about 400 a year to more than 1,500 a year. These soldiers may turn out to be good commissioned officers. But they are also needed in the noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps, the parallel structure of senior-level sergeants who form the Army's backbone, responsible for ensuring that orders are effectively carried out, rather than making policy or strategic decisions. Yet the Army is already several thousand sergeants short and has been reducing NCO promotion times in order to fill the gaps. Sending more soldiers who are NCOs, or NCO material, to Officer Candidate School is merely robbing Peter to pay Paul.

raq, in one way or another, is a driving force behind many officers' decision to leave. For some, there's a nagging bitterness that the war's burden is falling overwhelmingly on men and women in uniform while the rest of the country largely ignores it. While many officers don't oppose the war itself, returning repeatedly to serve in Iraq is a grueling way to live. One of the many reasons for this is that it corrodes their families; the divorce rate among Army officers has tripled since 2003. Internal surveys show that the percentage of officers who cite "amount of time separated from family" as a primary factor for leaving the Army has at least doubled since 2002, to more than 30 percent. And family is a factor even for officers who don't have one yet. One young soldier I met at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said his primary problem with military life was the difficulty of finding a girlfriend while spending more than half his time in Iraq. As officers prepare for a third or even fourth deployment, a new wave of discontent is expected to wash over junior leaders. Studies show that one deployment actually improves retention, as soldiers draw satisfaction from using their skills in the real world. Second deployments often have no effect on retention. It's the third deployment that begins to burn out soldiers. And a fourth? There's no large-scale historical precedent for military planners to examine—yet.

Still, the roots of the phenomenon of officer discontent go far deeper than multiple deployments or the war in Iraq. Since the 1970s, societal and cultural shifts have created a tough environment for the Army to attract and keep bright young officers.....

[bth: this is an excellent article worth reading in full.]
 
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Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes

Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes - New York Times: "WASHINGTON"— At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel....
 
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Spy planes to recharge by clinging to power lines - tech - 18 December 2007 - New Scientist Tech

Spy planes to recharge by clinging to power lines - tech - 18 December 2007 - New Scientist Tech: "The"next time you see something flapping in the breeze on an overhead power line, squint a little harder. It may not be a plastic bag or the remnants of a party balloon, but a tiny spy plane stealing power from the line to recharge its batteries.

The idea comes from the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio, US, which wants to operate extended surveillance missions using remote-controlled planes with a wingspan of about a metre, but has been struggling to find a way to refuel to extend the plane's limited flight duration.

So the AFRL is developing an electric motor-powered micro air vehicle (MAV) that can "harvest" energy when needed by attaching itself to a power line. It could even temporarily change its shape to look more like innocuous piece of trash hanging from the cable.

Hanging aboutAFRL's initial aim is to work out how to make a MAV flying at 74 kilometres per hour latch onto a power line without destroying itself or the line....

Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan

Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan - New York Times: "ISLAMABAD", Pakistan — Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say....

[bth: I wonder if this has anything to do with the key suspect that escaped last week?]

YouTube - Neil Diamond - Holly Holy

YouTube - Neil Diamond - Holly Holy: ""

Senate Adds $70 Billion for Wars in Spending Bill - New York Times

Senate Adds $70 Billion for Wars in Spending Bill - New York Times: "WASHINGTON"— The Senate voted Tuesday night to approve a sweeping year-end budget package after adding $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the objections of Democrats who have been stymied all year in their efforts to change the course of the conflict in Iraq.

By an overwhelming 70-to-25 vote, senators moved to provide the money sought by President Bush after the defeat of two Democratic-led efforts to tie the money to troop withdrawals.

“We have come to a very successful conclusion of this year’s Congress,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who pushed for the added war financing.

The $555 billion budget plan, which finances all federal agencies except the Pentagon, passed 76 to 17 despite some Republican complaints about excessive spending. It goes back to the House for a final vote, expected Wednesday, on the war money.

If the measure clears the House, Mr. Bush has indicated he will sign the spending bill, which will end his standoff with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democratic leaders conceded they were not happy with having to accept the war money and hew to the president’s limit on spending. But they noted they were able to steer money to their priorities, win some spending against White House wishes, and complete all the spending bills, which they saw as a victory in itself....

[bth: election year pork was traded by congress for ending the war.]
 
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Infantry: Bulletproof Plates Stop Armor Piercing Bullets

Infantry: Bulletproof Plates Stop Armor Piercing Bullets: "December"17, 2007: The U.S. Army and Marines are in the process of replacing existing SAPI (Small arms protective inserts) ceramic bulletproof plates for protective vests, with thicker, but not much heavier ESAPI plates. The new ESAPI provides protection from armor piercing bullets, which enemy snipers are increasingly using.


The basic "Level 3" SAPI plates are 10x12 inches, weigh 4.6 pounds each and cost about $400. A lighter weight (3.3 pounds) plate costs $750. The older Level 4 plates, weighing about 6.4 pounds each, could stop armor piercing bullets, but the new ESAPI weighs less and have the same stopping power. ESAPI is more expensive, at $600 a plate. There are also smaller plates that can be worn on the side. Despite pressure from politicians to force the troops to wear the side plates (which constrict movement and add weight), the generals dug in their heels, and were allowed to let local commanders to decide if side plates had to be worn....

[bth: I love this statement 'despite pressure from politicians to force the troops to wear the side plates'. The way that should have been written is that the politicians enraged to learn in the NYTs that 1/3 of marines shot in the torso were being shot through the sides that were left unprotected because the marines didn't spend the necessary money to buy them. The public intervened, the side plates were made. Sometimes they are tactically useful and sometimes they are not, depending on the mission - this is commonsense. One important mission were they are important is on convoy. The writer goes on to describe how flak jackets alone are needed in a vehicle. This also is a load of crap.]

YouTube - The last of the Mohicans - The Kiss

YouTube - The last of the Mohicans - The Kiss: ""

M of A - The New Iraq Strategy - Waiting For Regime Change

M of A - The New Iraq Strategy - Waiting For Regime Change: "The LA Times has a preview of the post-surge plans for the U.S. military in Iraq:

In a change of plans, American commanders in Iraq have decided to keep their forces concentrated in Baghdad when the buildup strategy ends next year, removing troops instead from outlying areas of the country.

The original plans were to 'thin out' the troops, but to keep some posture in every part of Iraq.

The Iraqi puppet government is protesting against the plans, especially because control of Anbar will now go to the U.S. paid 'awakening' tribes.

But the occupiers don't care what the pesky Iraqi government thinks. Their plans include its likely removal:

[T]he day-to-day commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and his staff believe that the increasing competence of provincial security and political leaders will put pressure on the government in Baghdad that "will breed a better central government," said his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson.
[...]
"The grass-roots level will force change at the top because if they do not act on it, they will get overrun," said another senior military officer responsible for Iraq war planning.

Meanwhile the British have finally bailed out of any responsibility in south Iraq. This with typical imperial prancing:

"I came to rid Basra of its enemies and I now formally hand Basra back to its friends," the commander of British forces in Basra, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns, said shortly before he added his signature to papers relinquishing responsibility for the region in Iraq's far south. "We will continue to help train Basra security forces. But we are guests in your country, and we will act accordingly."

The Brits will stay at the Basra airport and reduce their troops bit by bit until none are left. Finally that has the U.S. concerned:

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said the handover was "the right thing to do" for southern Iraq, but American officials worry that a power vacuum could heighten the influence of Iran and threaten land routes used to bring ammunition, food and other supplies from Kuwait to U.S. troops to the north.

Whatever there is in south Iraq, it is not a power vacuum. Iran certainly already has a firm grip there. Odierno is rightly worried that the Persians pratically have him by the balls. But what is it about that route to Aqaba?


To get a bit of control over south Iraq, Pat Lang urges Odierno to repeat the Anbar strategy.

Clearly, the US should look at the possibility of applying the "divide and rule" methods it has applied elsewhere in Iraq to this problem. There is no reason to treat the Shia population as a monolith. There are analogous fissure lines among the various Shia factions and between them and the Shia tribes.

He, after all, has co-written the study the U.S. used to get control over the Anbar tribes.

But the Shia tribes in South Iraq and the economy are already under Iranian control. The Persians know very well how to pay off this or that faction to get things done in the way they like. I doubt that the U.S. can beat them in that trade.

The new "retreat to Baghdad" strategy the U.S. has unveiled is essentially the long expected retreat to the big bases. The task there is to wait for a change in government.

No, not to wait for a change in Baghdad - that government doesn't matter much anyway - but to wait for a regime change in Washington DC.

DemoKracy music video

MountainRunner

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: The Future of South Iraq

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: The Future of South Iraq: "Mowafaq"al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, said his government was ready and called on Basra's citizens to work together.

"Your unity is essential in rebuilding your city. You have to come together and unify — Sunnis, Shiites, Muslims and non-Muslims and nationalists," he said.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said the handover was "the right thing to do" for southern Iraq, but American officials worry that a power vacuum could heighten the influence of Iran and threaten land routes used to bring ammunition, food and other supplies from Kuwait to U.S. troops to the north.

"What we have to watch is undue Iranian influence," Odierno told a small gathering of reporters in Baghdad." Yahoo News

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Glad to see the supply route security issue has their attention now. It did not for a long time. A lack of imagination seems to be a continuing problem in the planning process.

On the issue of Iranian influence in the south, it sounds like Odierno is "channeling" the White House. The Iranians are obviously going to have a lot of influence in south Iraq. They intend to dominate Iraq generally without occupying any of it and they intend to dominate the Basra area most of all. How will they do that? They will continue to play the various Shia factions against each other to their own benefit. This is a winning strategy.

Clearly, the US should look at the possibility of applying the "divide and rule" methods it has applied elsewhere in Iraq to this problem. There is no reason to treat the Shia population as a monolith. There are analogous fissure lines among the various Shia factions and between them and the Shia tribes. Is a diagram necessary? pl

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071216/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq
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INTEL DUMP - Iranian Internet Intrique

INTEL DUMP - Iranian Internet Intrique: "Phillip"Carter, Monday December 17, 2007 at 12:37pm ]


From this morning's New York Times, via Reuters:

TEHRAN (Reuters) — The Iranian police have closed down 24 Internet cafes and other coffee shops in as many hours, detaining 23 people, as part of a broad crackdown on immoral behavior, official news media said Sunday.

The action in Tehran Province was the latest move in a campaign against Western fashions and other practices deemed incompatible with Islamic values, including women flouting strict dress codes and barber shops offering men Western hair styles.

“Using immoral computer games, storing obscene photos and the presence of women wearing improper hijab were among the reasons why they have been closed down,” said Col. Nader Sarkari, a provincial police commander.

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, promising a return to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution, hard-liners have pressed for tighter controls on behavior. Colonel Sarkari told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that the police had inspected 435 coffee shops in the past 24 hours, and 170 had received warnings.

The report did not make clear whether they were all Internet cafes, which have mushroomed in Iran over the past few years and are popular, especially among young people. The police were not available for comment.

If I were a spymaster today... this would represent a tremendous opportunity. Back in the day, we'd start a few clandestine programs to take care of this on the sly, hopefully in a way that left no public links to the United States. (We'd probably have bungled it somehow too, but that's another story.) Through various means of subterfuge, we'd covertly buy a series of Internet service providers, and maybe even sign a deal with a few satellite companies to provide Internet service in places that aren't that wired yet. Then we'd flood the markets in various targeted countries with Internet cafes, aiming to put one in every Third World neighborhood of interest. Or more -- maybe we'd even start competing with Starbucks for who could open the most storefronts. The idea would be to open these societies up to the maximum extent possible to Western media, Western culture, and Western influence, on the theory that those who like Britney, The Hills, and Nike tend to be our allies. Or, at least, their scientists will spend so much time talking about Spencer and Heidi's breakup that they won't have time to develop nuclear weapons or plans to annihilate us.

That cultural component of the program would be important. But of course, there'd be a hidden side too -- every piece of communication through these Internet cafes would also be channeled through the NSA's giant ear in the sky. The social network diagrams alone would provide an invaluable resource for our intelligence community, and you just never know who's going to walk into an Internet cafe in, say, Tehran or Kabul...

[bth: there is a pretty lively discussion which follows this original post at Intel Dump.]