Saturday, January 12, 2008

American Journalist Nicholas Schmidle Deported From Pakistan

The Washington Note: "An American journalist, Nicholas Schmidle, who authored the article "Next Gen Taliban" that appeared in Sunday's New York Times Magazine has been deported from Pakistan. He was forced to leave today -- Friday, 11 January.

Schmidle will be returning to Washington, DC on Saturday and will be joining a panel I am moderating Monday afternoon titled "Pakistan in Peril" featuring veteran journalists and Pakistan-watchers Steve Coll and Peter Bergen as well as former Bush administration National Security Council senior official Flynt Leverett. Nicholas Schmidle will now be part of this panel.

Schmidle was informed that the Ministry of Interior was deporting him for unspecified reasons, but his speculation is that he was expelled because of his article which The Washington Note highlighted on Wednesday, 2 January -- before it came out on Sunday.

These are the latest dispatches that Schmidle has published in Slate.

Other journalists I have spoken to today tell me that there is a pattern of intimidation of journalists clearly emerging in Pakistan. While this may be the first deportation of an American journalist that most can recall, there have been other troubling incidents.

New America Foundation fellow and journalist Eliza Griswold was apparently held in custody by Pakistan authorities on one occasion. CNN Terrorism Analyst and New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen was denied a visa on one occasion in 2006 with no explanation given. Nir Rosen -- also a New America Foundation fellow who has reported extensively on Middle East affairs -- was threatened in Quetta, Pakistan by what some believe to be government "goons" and was told that he needed to leave immediately or he would be "the next Danny Pearl." New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall was beaten by thugs who identified themselves as Pakistani police.

Some believe that Schmidle's article antogonized Pakistani government officials because he conducted interviews in Quetta where the Taliban are operating in full public. These sources suggest that Pakistan government authorities want to limit exposure to the fact that they have done nothing to shut down the Taliban in Quetta and/or are turning a blind eye to the Taliban's operations theres.

For those in the Washington, DC area -- the event I will be moderating with Schmidle, Coll, Bergen, and Leverett will be from 2:30 pm til 4:00 pm on Monday, 14 January at the offices of the New America Foundation. A video clip will be posted later to the New America Foundation website.

-- Steve Clemons

Turkey may knock on US door in Spring for Ground Offensive

TODAY'S ZAMAN: "There has been increased speculation that Turkey may seek US coordination in the spring to launch land operations inside northern Iraq to pursue the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists.

The Turkish military has already staged two separate air raids since Dec. 16 of last year against PKK targets in northern Iraq with the help of US real-time intelligence, while simultaneously firing artillery shells from within Turkey.

But as a Turkish military official told Today’s Zaman, air operations against the terrorist targets are not enough to render the terrorists ineffective -- though those operations help considerably in intimidating the PKK and discouraging them from infiltrating Turkey. Thus, the military would like to see ground operations to ensure the success of their efforts.

According to Turkish Foreign Ministry sources, Turkey has not made any such request to the US for coordination of possible ground operations inside northern Iraq.

But it is highly possible that Turkey may seek US coordination for land operations when the snow melts in the harsh terrain.

During each Turkish air raid the US opened up Iraqi airspace, which it controls, for Turkish jet fighters, following the Turkish military’s notification shortly in advance of a strike.

But Turkey’s cooperation with both the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurds appears to be essential in facilitating its possible intention of conducting ground operations some time in spring.

US top commanders in Iraq nervous

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush’s statement after his meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Tuesday at the Oval Office that US support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK would continue indicated the continuation of Washington’s supply of real-time intelligence to the Turkish military, enabling it to find the PKK accurately while avoiding any civilian casualties.

However, US top commanders in Iraq in particular are said to still be nervous about Turkey’s military operations, fearing that those operations may cause not only friendly fire between Turkish and US soldiers but also civilian casualties.

The top US commanders’ fears have centered on possible adverse affects on the already fragile political stability of Iraq that any possible Turkish air raids might have as a result of accidental civilian casualties.

US commanders in Iraq are said not to be objecting to the Turkish air raids, but rather are concerned about their possible repercussions, including the alienation of the Iraqi Kurds, who play a key role in keeping the Iraqi government intact. Senior Turkish government officials told Today’s Zaman that Ankara shares the US concerns.

As the US has reportedly agreed on the continuation of the real-time intelligence supply to Turkey, provided that they will not lead to any friendly fire or civilian casualties, both Washington and the EU expect that Ankara will use the air operations as an opportunity to introduce a comprehensive solution to the Kurdish problem.

“Ultimately, the struggle against the PKK is not going to be won militarily. A comprehensive solution is needed to address the Kurdish problem,” said a Turkish government official, falling short of responding to criticism that the political leadership has been reluctant to introduce a broader package on the Kurdish issue in the near future.

[bth: if the Turks push into northern Iraq does that result in US allied troops and translators leaving their positions to defend their homes?]

Bush: U.S. could easily be in Iraq for 10 years

Bush: U.S. could easily be in Iraq for 10 years | Politics | Reuters: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush said on Friday the United States would have a long-term presence in Iraq that could "easily" last a decade, but that it would be at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

In an interview with NBC News, Bush was asked about recent comments by Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain that it would be fine with him to have a U.S. military presence in Iraq for 100 years.

"That's a long time," Bush replied, adding that there "could very well be" a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq at the invitation of the government in Baghdad. When asked if it could be 10 years, Bush replied: "It could easily be that, absolutely."...

Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs - New York Times

Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs - New York Times: "The puzzling site in Syria that Israeli jets bombed in September grew more curious on Friday with the release of a satellite photograph showing new construction there that resembles the site’s former main building....

‘Filipino Monkey’ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say - Navy News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Navy Times

‘Filipino Monkey’ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say - Navy News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Navy Times: "The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the “Filipino Monkey.”

Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the U.S. Navy has said it’s unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.

“We don’t know for sure where they came from,” said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. “It could have been a shore station.”

While the threat — “I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes” — was picked up during the incident, further jacking up the tension, there’s no proof yet of its origin. And several Navy officials have said it’s difficult to figure out who’s talking....

Friday, January 11, 2008

Inverse Kinematics

Minstrel Boy

PC World - Robots Need a Sensitive Touch

PC World - Robots Need a Sensitive Touch: "Making a robot laugh by tickling it may be fun, but robots could mean real business when they get arms and hands that mimic the dexterity and sensitivity of humans.

Robots with fully functioning arms would be able to set tables, load dishwashers and pick up delicate objects, said Tandy Trower, general manager of Microsoft's robotics group, during an interview at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.

"That will be the tipping point. Once robots can manipulate things in our environment in a safe way, they can do virtually anything a human can possibly do physically."

The hardware needed for that may be available in five years, but the real challenge will be in programming the robot, Trower said. Software that allows robots to figure out surface textures and identify objects will require many lines of complex code that takes a long time to write, Trower said.

While hoping for a fully-functioning arm is reasonable, expecting real intelligence is another matter, Trower said.

"The artificial intelligence community has struggled for years to create models that allow technology to be more expansive. What we find today are crude things," like robots with limited human interaction, Trower said.

Building smart robots that can interact with people requires not only smart robot programmers, but also experts in other fields like communications and interfaces...

UAV, Apaches tag team to take out IED emplacers

UAV, Apaches tag team to take out IED emplacers: "BAGHDAD Iraq - An Apache air weapons team killed four insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device on a dirt road south of Yusufiyah Jan 6.

An unmanned aerial vehicle initially spotted the individuals emplacing the IED, and then observed them cross a foot bridge and hide in reeds nearby.

The air weapons team from 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, consisting of two AH-64 Apache helicopters, was called in to engage the insurgents. The pilots were able to identify the targets with the help of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Apache helicopters fired a Hellfire missile and 30 mm rounds, killing the IED emplacers.

"It's good to see how my job fits into the larger picture and helps the air assets to successfully take out the target," said Spc. Matthew Westhoff, from Jacksonville, Fla., mission commander for the UAV, Company B, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

[bth: this combination of UAVs and manned platforms makes the most sense. Terminator type robots are unrealistic with today's technology. Even the most advanced systems have difficulty distinguishing combatants from noncombatants. This is a man's job, sustained surveillance is ideal for UAVs.]

Guard leaders visit N.D. soldiers

The Dickinson Press | Guard leaders visit N.D. soldiers:... "Not only are the soldiers doing a good job, but Sprynczynatyk and Cripe said the better equipment the guardsmen are using has helped make them safer and their jobs easier.

Our soldiers today are equipped better than they have ever been, in terms of the personal equipment that they have and the vehicles and the engineer equipment they have available for their missions,” Sprynczynatyk said.

Cripe, a Dickinson native, said the quality of the equipment is a 360-degree turn from where it was even two to three years ago. He said it would be impossible to tell the difference between the equipment of active duty Army soldiers and the Guard.

Cripe said the change is a result of better technology and the U.S. Congress’ push to get safer equipment for soldiers. The new equipment has sensors and a small robot that can be controlled to detect improvised explosive devices on roadways.

They’re very pleased with the Buffalo (armored personal carrier) and the improvements that have been made on it, as far as road clearance and the capabilities it has,” Cripe said.

Sprynczynatyk said he did not hear the soldiers say they were lacking any equipment; Cripe said he only heard of minor issues that were easily resolved.

They said it was 10 times better than when they were over there the first time,” Cripe said.

Cripe said, though, they’re happy to be past the holiday season.

“They say that that’s the hardest time when you’re deployed is that stretch over Christmas and New Year’s,” Cripe said. “The first sergeant said they got totally overwhelmed with packages from back home.”

Sprynczynatyk said one message the soldiers wanted to bring back to the residents is they are making a difference in Iraq, but are looking forward to returning home to U.S. soil.

“The moral of our soldiers is very, very, very high,” Sprynczynatyk said. “One thing that becomes obvious as you talk to the soldiers, even in the time they’ve been here…they have seen progress, in terms of the difference that we’re making, that our soldiers are making in the country of Iraq. It is a much safer environment today than it has been in the past, and that change is rapidly occurring.”

Along with the Sapper Company, Sprynczynatyk and Cripe visited the 34th Engineer Brigade from Bismarck and the 164th Engineer Battalion Headquarters from Minot during their two-day trip to Iraq.

The units are stationed in locations ranging from Balad to Baghdad

The Captain’s Journal » Taliban Now Govern Musa Qala

The Captain’s Journal » Taliban Now Govern Musa Qala: "Following closely on the heels of British negotiations with mid-level Taliban, the governorship of Musa Qala has been handed over to a Taliban commander.

A Taliban commander who defected hours before British and Afghan forces retook the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala has been rewarded with the governorship of the town.

Mullah Abdul Salaam switched sides after months of delicate secret negotiations with the Afghan government, as part of a programme of reconciliation backed by British commanders in Helmand.

In a move clearly intended to send a message to other potential Taliban defectors, the Afghan government has announced that he had become the new district governor with the backing of local tribes.

An Afghan government spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said that the move was consistent with the policy of President Hamid Karzai’s government.

“The president has said before that all those former Taliban who come and accept the constitution and who want to participate in the political process through non-violent means … they are welcome.”

He added that Mullah Salaam had provided crucial intelligence to the Afghan government.

Mullah Salaam is a leader of one of the three sub-tribes of the Alizai, the dominant tribal group in Musa Qala.

As The Daily Telegraph reported in November, Mullah Salaam opened channels of communication with the government after a violent rift emerged in the Taliban around Musa Qala, during which he survived an assassination attempt.

Mullah Salaam told The Daily Telegraph: “There are two groups of Taliban fighters in Musa Qala and I have the backing of the major one. The Taliban who are against peace and prosperity in Afghanistan - I will fight them.”

Local people confirmed that he enjoyed the backing of a large swathe of the inhabitants of the town.

The issue of Taliban defections remains a highly sensitive one, following the expulsion of a British and an Irish diplomat from Kabul last month on charges of having “inappropriate contacts” with militants.

Afghan government officials accused the two men of holding meetings with Taliban leaders in Helmand without authorisation.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has ruled out direct talks with the Taliban leadership, but it is well known in Kabul that both the British and Afghan intelligence agencies are devoting considerable resources to trying to “turn” Taliban-aligned tribal leaders.

As we have discussed before, this is the British version of the Anbar awakening combined with payment for concerned citizens who protect the people and fight al Qaeda. But the problem with this analogy is that it is no analogy at all. It has nothing at all in common with a true awakening such as occurred in Anbar. .....

[bth: one wonders what the hell is really going on here. Are the brits smarter than us as they would maintain or are they negotiating from a position of weakness again. I would note with some sadness that the Brits' 2007 handovers in Afghanistan had to be retaken by American troops with loss of life. What makes this situation different?]

RoboCop in Iraq -- In These Times

RoboCop in Iraq -- In These Times: "Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have killed 1,678 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since July 2003, according to Georgia-based Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. The death toll could have been much higher without the help of 5,000 IED-detecting robots that, according to CBS News, have found 10,000 roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the next step in the evolution of wartime robots looks to go from saving lives to taking them.

The U.S. Army soon plans to deploy armed robots with firepower into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Designed by Foster-Miller, these robots, known as SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detections Systems), are operated and fired by remote control. They can be outfitted with M240 or M249 machine guns or Barrett .50 caliber rifles.

The 5th Special Forces in Iraq evaluated the system, and three other systems have completed evaluation with the 3rd Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq in 2007. Meanwhile, the Army continues to assess alternative weapons, including grenade launchers and anti-tank rocket launchers. Each unarmed version of the robot costs $60,00
0.

SWORDS first received major media attention in 2005, when the Associated Press reported, “Military officials like to compare the roughly three-foot-high robots favorably to human soldiers: They don’t need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. They never complain. And there are no letters to write home if they meet their demise in battle.”

In addition to Foster-Miller, iRobot, founded in 1990 by MIT roboticists, is one of several robotic companies contracting with the military—though it may be most well known for its Roomba, the popular robotic, home vacuum cleaner. On Oct. 21, 2007, CBS reported that iRobot’s Warrior is expected in Iraq by 2009. The Warrior “is a serious robot,” said Joe Dyer, iRobot’s president of Government & Industrial Robots Division. “This is a 250-pound robot that will be able to run a four-minute mile.” Depending on the intensity of the mission, the Warrior could last up to 16 hours.

Warrior, like SWORDS, is currently being designed to have human operators, but engineers are simultaneously testing the ability of robots to “think” for themselves. This “disruptive technology,” Dyer said, is “going to change the way we fight, the way we live—it’s going to change our entire lives.”

Max Boot, senior fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees. “These are periods of momentous change when new technologies combine with new doctrines and new forms of organization to transform not only the face of battle but also the nature of the state and of the international system,” he says.

Boot, author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, notes that the U.S. budget for research and development for military technology alone—$71 billion in 2006—is more than any other country spends on its entire defense. And it’s only a fraction of the annual U.S. military budget, which is now at $500 billion—almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

In the next five years, according to DefenseLink, the Pentagon plans to spend $2 billion on robots. As Jim Braden, project manager of the Army’s Joint Robotics Program, told CBS, “It’s a tremendous capability to put a robot where you do not want to put a man.”

But it also raises serious concerns about the likelihood for increased military aggression when the potential for deaths for U.S. soldiers is eliminated or decreased in the equation of war. The problem, according to Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the forthcoming book, Wired for War, is that “we have an assumption of who fights wars that is increasingly outdated. While our understanding of war … assume[s] that combatants are only soldiers serving on behalf of states, the reality of war today is that combatants range from soldiers to terrorists to warlords to contractors, and now to unmanned systems.”

Singer adds, “To be clear, it doesn’t mean that the state or human soldiers are disappearing by any means, but that their monopoly is being broken.” He says history will look back at this period as “notable for the loss of the state’s 200-year-old monopoly over warfare and that of humankind’s 4,000-year-old monopoly over doing the job of fighting wars.”

Allen McDuffee is a Chicago-based researcher and writer focusing primarily on Middle East politics and American foreign policy.

[bth: the cost of the Sword fielded is much higher than is stated here and the Warrior's operational performance parameters are being overstated in practical operational time and speed. Still no one can deny the incredible contribution UGVs and UAVs have made in modern warfare over the last 5 years.]
 
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Robots to Start Killing Humans Very Soon « The Grumpy Owl

ABC News: U.S.: Voices on Recording May Not Have Been From Iranian Speedboats

ABC News: U.S.: Voices on Recording May Not Have Been From Iranian Speedboats: "Just two days after the U.S. Navy released the eerie video of Iranian speedboats swarming around American warships, which featured a chilling threat in English, the Navy is saying that the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship.

The near-clash occurred over the weekend in the Strait of Hormuz. On the U.S.-released recording, a voice can be heard saying to the Americans, "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes."


The Navy never said specifically where the voices came from, but many were left with the impression they had come from the speedboats because of the way the Navy footage was edited.

Today, the spokesperson for the U.S. admiral in charge of the Fifth Fleet clarified to ABC News that the threat may have come from the Iranian boats, or it may have come from somewhere else.

We're saying that we cannot make a direct connection to the boats there," said the spokesperson. "It could have come from the shore, from another ship passing by. However, it happened in the middle of all the very unusual activity, so as we assess the information and situation, we still put it in the total aggregate of what happened Sunday morning. I guess we're not saying that it absolutely came from the boats, but we're not saying it absolutely didn't." ...

[bth: so was the voice and footage interwoven to give a deliberate false impression?]
 
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

General: Anbar Ready for Handover

General: Anbar Ready for Handover: "WASHINGTON"(AP) - Iraq's western province of Anbar, hotbed of the Sunni Arab insurgency for the first four years of the war, will be returned to Iraqi control in March, a senior U.S. general said Thursday.
In a telephone interview from Iraq, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, commander of the roughly 35,000 Marine and Army forces in Anbar, said levels of violence have dropped so significantly—coupled with the growth and development of Iraqi security forces in the province—that Anbar is ready to be handed back to the Iraqis.

Thus far, nine of 18 Iraqi provinces have reverted to Iraqi control, most recently the southern province of Basra in December. The process has gone substantially slower than the Bush administration once hoped, mainly because of obstacles to developing sufficient Iraqi police and army forces. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he expects the process to continue.

Gates also said he was encouraged by security gains achieved in Anbar and Baghdad in the year since President Bush ordered an extra 30,000 U.S. troops to those areas of Iraq in what became known as a "surge." Gates said it has created new promise for long-delayed political reconciliation.

"We clearly are hoping that the reconciliation and improvement in the political environment that has taken place at the local and provincial level over the past number of months will now meet further progress coming at the national level," Gates told a Pentagon news conference.

Gates ticked of a list of statistical indicators of recent security improvements in Iraq. He did not mention the plan to return Anbar to Iraqi control in March, but did say the province has seen a remarkable turnaround on the security front over the past year.

"Anbar province, once considered a stronghold of al-Qaida, has been reclaimed for the Iraqi people," Gates said.

Having been largely driven out of Anbar, insurgents shifted first to Baghdad and more recently to the northern provinces of Diyala and Ninewa. ...

YouTube - Hillary, McCain Win New Hampshire

In the real, bloody world

Star-Telegram.com: 01/07/2008 In the real, bloody world: "By Joseph Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers

In the real world, there are consequences. For every action, there's a reaction, and often even inaction triggers a reaction.

The unfolding disaster in Pakistan after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is in part a reaction to a series of inactions and actions by the Bush administration during the last six years.

Bush and Company took their eyes off the ball and became preoccupied with the sideshow of their own creation in Iraq as things went sideways and backward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then they outsourced much of the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

After the attacks on America on 9-11, President Bush quite rightly took aim at al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that was sheltering the terrorist group responsible for those attacks.

A relatively small group of U.S. special operators rented enough tribal leaders and their armies and, backed by American air power, were able to topple the Taliban government and put al Qaeda on the run. A force of only 7,000 U.S. Army and Marine troops went in to chase the bad guys.

So far, so good, or so it seemed. But the administration declared victory prematurely and turned many of its resources and most of its attention to invading Iraq while Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership escaped into Pakistan.

Job 1 was Afghanistan, but it was left undone -- too unimportant a backwater for the foreign policy amateurs, neoconservative ideologues and military dilettantes advising the president. A pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and the toppling of a hated dictator in the heart of the Middle East -- a cheap, easy and quick cakewalk -- were what we needed.

Never mind that we'd chased a bunch of fanatical terrorists into a part of Pakistan that no central government has ever conquered or controlled. We'd just throw $10 billion to Pakistan's military dictator and get him to take care of our problem, as if he didn't have enough problems of his own dealing with Islamist fanatics.

Now both Afghanistan and Pakistan are coming unraveled and are likely to become two more disasters added to the growing list of "things to do" in the disaster department that Bush will hand to his unlucky successor in the White House a year from now.

Afghanistan is a mess. We installed a weak central government whose writ doesn't run much beyond the city limits of Kabul and starved it of the aid needed to repair a nation ravaged by three decades of war and civil war.

The Soviet Union sent 100,000 troops to wage unlimited and barbaric war and was defeated. By contrast, we have 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and we've browbeaten our reluctant NATO allies into sending an additional 50,000, many of whom are under orders not to take risks or get anyone killed.

The Taliban guerrillas, operating from safe havens in Pakistan's rugged frontier province, are on the march. They've learned from the war in Iraq, and their IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombers are taking a deadly toll. More American troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2007 than in any year since 2002.

In Pakistan, the radical madrassas are churning out recruits for the Taliban and al Qaeda faster than the allies and the Afghan army can kill them, and every time we've pushed Musharraf to send his soldiers in to clean out the sanctuaries, most of them have been killed or captured.

The administration's solution: Force Musharraf to take off his uniform and enter into an unholy alliance of sorts with the long-exiled Bhutto, whose time in power was marked mainly by an explosion of corruption remarkable even in a country where corruption is endemic.

All this might be of little interest if Pakistan didn't have a cellar full of nuclear warheads.

All of it is so complicated it must make George W. Bush's head hurt.

Joseph L. Galloway is a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340 jlgalloway2@cs.com

Study Puts Iraqi Death Toll at 151,000

Study Puts Iraqi Death Toll at 151,000 - Politics on The Huffington Post: "About"151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years after the United States invaded, concludes the best effort yet to count deaths _ one that still may not settle the fierce debate over the war's true toll on civilians and others.

The estimate comes from projections by the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government, based on door-to-door surveys of nearly 10,000 households. Experts called it the largest and most scientific study of the Iraqi death toll since the war began.

Its bottom line is far lower than the 600,000 deaths reported in an earlier study but higher than numbers from other groups tracking the count.

The new estimate covers a period from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2006. It closely mirrors the tally Iraq's health minister gave in late 2006, based on 100 bodies a day arriving at morgues and hospitals. His number shocked people in and outside Iraq, because it was so much higher than previously accepted estimates.

No official count has ever been available. While the U.S. military says it does not track Iraqi deaths, it has challenged some news reports of tolls from shootings and bombings as exaggerated _ indicating it does in fact monitor fatalities.

In November, a U.S. military official said the Pentagon was working with Iraqi authorities to better track civilian casualties. One goal is to avoid duplicate reports, said Col. Bill Rapp, a senior aide to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

The true toll may never be known because many deaths go unreported in the chaos that has gripped the country, or the numbers may be tainted by sectarian bias. The Iraqi security forces and government are led by Shiites. Muslim burial traditions add to difficulties _ many families are believed to simply bury loved ones before sundown on the day of death without ever reporting the fatality.

Still, Iraq's minister of health, Dr. Salih Mahdi Motlab Al-Hasnawi, defended the new estimate in a telephone interview with reporters Wednesday.

"This is a very sound survey" with a large sample and good methods, he said.

Richard Brennan of the New York-Based International Rescue Committee, which has done similar research in Kosovo, Uganda and Congo, agreed.

"The goal is not to give an absolute, precise number of deaths. The goal is to give a sense of the magnitude of the problem," he said....

[bth: with regard to Pentagon tracking of civilian casualties. Note that they say they don't track, which is almost certainly untrue, but come November 07 when the trend line is moving in favor of tracking its stated that the "Pentagon was working with Iraqi authorities to better track civilian casualties..." Last if memory serves the ministry of health was controlled by Sadr.]

US to Send 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan

US to Send 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan - Politics on The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to send at least 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan in April to bolster efforts to hold off another expected Taliban offensive in the spring, military officials said Wednesday.

The move represents a shift in Pentagon thinking that has been slowly developing after months of repeated insistence that the U.S. was not inclined to fill the need for as many as 7,500 more troops that commanders have asked for there. Instead, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed NATO allies to contribute the extra forces.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that a proposal will go before Gates on Friday that would send a ground and air Marine contingent as well as a Marine battalion _ together totaling more than 3,000 forces _ to southern Afghanistan for a "one-time, seven-month deployment."

Gates, he said, will want to review the request, and is not likely to make a final decision on Friday....

"The commanders need more forces there. Our allies are not in the position to provide them. So we are now looking at perhaps carrying a bit of that additional load," the spokesman said.

Morrell said the move, first reported Wednesday by ABC News, was aimed at beating back "another Taliban offensive" that is expected this spring _ as has occurred in previous years.

When Gates was in Afghanistan last month, commanders made it clear they needed the additional forces.

Last year was the most violent since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The number of attacks has surged, including roadside bombings and suicide assaults.

Currently there are about 27,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 14,000 with the NATO-led coalition. The other 13,000 U.S. troops are training the Afghan forces and hunting al-Qaida terrorists....

[bth: the combat situation in Afghanistan is becoming untenable without more troops. The NATO allies aren't really in the fight politically or militarily. The January Vanity Fair article on the combat situation in Afghanistan faced by the 173rd airborne made it evident that there simply were not enough troops to control a hotly contested mountain valley on the Pakistani border.]

9 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq in 2 Days

9 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq in 2 Days - World on The Huffington Post: "BAGHDAD — Nine American soldiers were killed in the first two days of a new American drive to kill al-Qaida in Iraq fighters holed up in districts north of the capital, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Six soldiers were killed and four were wounded Wednesday in a booby-trapped house in Diyala province, where joint U.S.-Iraqi forces were driving through a difficult web of lush palm and citrus groves, farmland and fertile river bottoms.

The military also announced that three U.S. soldiers were killed and two were wounded Tuesday in an attack in Salahuddin province. The operation began Tuesday.

[bth: 10 soldiers were killed or wounded in a booby-trapped house which could have been cleared with a robot but i-Robot and RobotFX were screwing around in a legal battle which held up the production of 3000 SUGVs that were specifically designed for this eventuality. Executives in corporations and procurement officers need to remember there's still a war on and people are dying.]

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Iran says US navy video is fake: report

Iran says US navy video is fake: report - Yahoo! News: "TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused the United States of fabricating footage claiming to show Iranian speedboats harassing US warships in the Strait of Hormuz, state television reported.

The footage released by the US Navy are file pictures and the audio has been fabricated," state-run English language channel Press-TV quoted a source in the naval section of the Revolutionary Guards as saying.

The state-run Al-Alam Arabic language international channel also ran a similar denial quoting a source from the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's elite military force.

The Pentagon released a video and audio tape Tuesday that it said confirmed US charges that Iranian speedboats swarmed around US warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday and radioed a threat to blow them up.

The video, which the Pentagon said was taken from the bridge of the destroyer USS Hopper, showed fast boats approaching the warships at high speeds and racing around the Hopper, the USS Port Royal and the USS Ingraham.

A man's voice is heard in an audio recording speaking in English amid a sailor's urgent warnings to stay clear of the ship.

"I am coming to you... You will explode in a few minutes," the voice is heard to say.

Iranian officials had already dismissed the US version of the incident as anti-Iran propaganda ahead of President George W. Bush's visit to the Middle East, saying what happened was an everyday occurrence.

The Revolutionary Guards have said that the Iranian forces merely identified the US vessels before both sides went on their way without any disturbance.

Bush landed in Iran's regional foe Israel on Wednesday on his first visit to the country since taking office in a bid to bolster recently-revived Middle East peace talks.

Israel Warns World War III May be Biblical War of Gog and Magog

Israel Warns World War III May be Biblical War of Gog and Magog - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Arutz Sheva: "IsraelNN .com) US President George W. Bush said a nuclear Iran would mean World War III. Israeli newscasts featured Gog & Magog maps of the likely alignment of nations in that potential conflict.

Channel 2 and Channel 10 TV showed the world map, sketching the basic alignment of the two opposing axes in a coming world war, in a manner evoking associations of the Gog and Magog prophecy for many viewers. The prophecy of Gog and Magog refers to a great world war centered on the Holy Land and Jerusalem and first appears in the book of Yechezkel (Ezekiel).

On one side were Israel, the United States, Britain, France and Germany. On the other were Iran, Russia, China, Syria and North Korea.

US President Bush said Wednesday during a press conference that Iran attaining nuclear weapons raises the risk of "World War III."

"If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it'd be a dangerous threat to world peace," Bush said. "So I told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested [in preventing a nuclear Iran]…I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran Tuesday and slammed the US’s refusal to rule out the use of force against Iran’s nuclear project. "Not only should we reject the use of force, but also the mention of force as a possibility," he said.

Russia has blocked tougher UN sanctions in the UN Security Council, where it has veto power. The Russian president asserts that there is no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons rather than a peaceful nuclear power program.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for a new Security Council resolution against Iran at a press conference following her meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday. "I do believe there is a need for another Security Council resolution,” she told reporters. “In the past, the need to get everybody on board - including Russia and China - led to some compromises on the nature of the sanctions. I hope this will not be the case this time."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Wednesday a sudden trip to Moscow Thursday morning, where he will meet with Putin about Iran. Other topics of discussion will reportedly be Russia’s continued supply of weapons to Syria, which have then made their way into the hands of various terrorist groups based there as well.

Those who talk democracy should listen to Iraq's people | Guardian daily comment | Guardian Unlimited

Those who talk democracy should listen to Iraq's people Guardian daily comment Guardian Unlimited: "Who"would have believed it? When George Bush arrives in Jerusalem today to salvage something from the wreckage of his attempt to impose a new pax Americana on the Middle East, there will at least be one ray of sunshine in an otherwise grim presidential vista. Iran may be resurgent, Hizbullah unbroken, the prospect of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement more remote than ever. But, as far as the US administration is concerned, things are at last coming good in Iraq. Its people are "reclaiming a normal society", Bush has declared, a theme echoed enthusiastically across the US and wider western media. American casualties are down, economic growth is up, refugees are returning home, and people can once again walk the streets of Baghdad in safety, the story goes.

"We are out of the woods," Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi government's national security adviser, insisted last month. And however such claims are regarded in Iraq, they are certainly having an impact on the US presidential elections. The Iraq war is still top of American voters' concerns, but it now jostles with the economy, immigration and healthcare and, while a clear majority want troops withdrawn, a record 40% believe the past year's troop surge is making things better. The result is that the leading Democratic candidates are hedging their bets on troop withdrawal - Barack Obama would keep trainers and special forces, Hillary Clinton is only committed to pulling most troops out by 2013. Meanwhile, the glad tidings from Iraq means pro-war Republicans are once again in with a fighting chance.

The one part of this tale that is true is that the level of violence has dropped sharply in the past three months, both involving Iraqis, and US and British occupation troops. The monthly average of US soldiers killed between October and December was 33, compared with 110 in April to June, and the number of Iraqi civilians reported killed in December was 902, according to Iraq Body Count, compared with 2,731 in May. Any reduction in the suffering of Iraqis in particular, who have certainly endured hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the invasion of their country, must obviously be welcome. But if that dip in violence is misinterpreted as reflecting the beginning of a successful stabilisation and reduces the pressure to end the occupation, it will only prolong that agony into the future.

The fact is that 2007 was the deadliest year for US troops, with 901 killed; and the second bloodiest for Iraq as a whole, with at least 22,586 civilian deaths. The level of resistance attacks on US forces is still running at 2,000 a month, and the level of violence is back to roughly where it was in 2004-05 - seen as disastrous at the time. The reasons for that drop are mostly not disputed. The first is the creation of "awakening councils", in effect US-backed Sunni militias, to police areas that have been at the heart of the resistance campaign.

Then there is the six-month ceasefire called by Moqtada al-Sadr's anti-occupation Mahdi army, the most powerful Shia militia in the country. And lastly, there has been the impact of the surge in US troop numbers and the change of tactics orchestrated by its architect, General Petraeus, including the carving up of cities such as Baghdad into ethnically cleansed security zones behind Israeli-style walls, barriers and checkpoints. Iraqis also report that US troops have sharply reduced their patrols and operations in the last couple of months in Baghdad and elsewhere, with fewer clashes as a result.

But already, the upsurge in bombings, assassinations and attacks on US forces in the last couple of weeks - including the first killing of American troops by an Iraqi soldier - should be a warning to those now talking up the success of the surge. Here are four reasons why the lull in violence is highly unlikely to hold. First, the occupation-funded awakening councils, which are now getting on for 80,000-strong, are an unstable mishmash of groups with different agendas, created in the teeth of opposition from the supposedly sovereign Iraqi government, which have already been drawn into sectarian clashes with Shia militias. To solve one problem, the US has created another.

Second, the surge was only ever a temporary fix, and US troop numbers are already being reduced.

Third, violence has been increasing in Shia areas and is likely to continue to do so, both as militias vie for power and as they come into conflict with US forces now tilting towards Sunni interests - or as a result of the clash between the US and Iran. But perhaps most important, there hasn't been the slightest move to a political settlement for which the surge was meant to buy time. The government barely exists, parliament rarely manages a quorum, and there has been no change in the fundamental issue which drives armed resistance: the foreign occupation of the country against the will of its people.

The reality of the surge is this: the number of people displaced from their homes has quadrupled to over 2 million, and detention without trial has risen dramatically (the US alone holds 25,000 prisoners).

Another 2 million have fled the country since the occupation began - and about 30,000 have returned, mostly because of lack of cash and visa restrictions. In oil-rich Iraq, electricity is now available in Baghdad for only eight hours a day, half the level before the invasion; unemployment is over 60%; food rations are being cut; corruption is rampant; and 43% of the population now lives on less than a dollar a day.

The surge has bought time for the US but achieved nothing to prepare the way for an end to the occupation. On the contrary, Bush recently signed an agreement with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a long-term presence in the country. On Monday, a spokesman for what is regarded as the largest Sunni-based resistance group in Iraq, the Islamic Army, rejected any cooperation with the awakening councils and pledged to "resist the US forces as long as they are in Iraq". Meanwhile, focus-group surveys carried out for Petraeus in five Iraqi cities last month found that all sectarian and ethnic groups believe the US invasion is the primary cause of violence in the country and regard the withdrawal of all occupying forces as the key to national reconciliation. Those who preach democracy for Iraq should listen to its people.
s.milne@guardian.co.uk

New Hampshire Primary

I figured McCain by a nose and Obama by a mile.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Go figure.

Note both Clinton and Obama had more votes than McCain overall.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nato secrets USB stick lost in Swedish library

Nato secrets USB stick lost in Swedish library | The Register: "The discovery of a USB memory stick containing classified NATO information in a library in Stockholm has prompted a meeting between the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service and foreign defence officials.

The Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service is a division of the Swedish Armed Forces Central Command responsible for Sweden's military intelligence.

According to Swedish daily Aftonbladet, the stick contained material on NATO's ISAF peace-keeping force in Afghanistan, as well as an intelligence report on the attempted assassination of Lebanon's defense minister and the murder of Sri Lanka's foreign minister.

Colonel Bengt Sandström of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service says this kind of carelessness is intolerable and can result in up to six months in prison.

It is unclear how the USB stick ended up in the library.

It isn't the first time the military has lost USB sticks with secret files. In 2006, a memory stick containing files on the Dutch military mission to Afghanistan was lost in a rented car. The documents also included information about the rules of engagement for Dutch troops in Afghanistan and the personal protection of Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp.

Also in 2006, the Dutch Defense Ministry reported the loss of another memory stick containing sensitive information about military intelligence agency MIVD.

If proper precautions are taken, the loss of a USB stick needn't mean the loss of information. A couple of companies already offer USB sticks with military-grade AES hardware-based encryption. Some can even self-destruct (internally) and erase everything on the drive using technology that physically overwrites every byte, making the data entirely unrecoverable.

RAF makes £500m bid for drone bombers

RAF makes £500m bid for drone bombers - Telegraph: "The RAF has made a £500 million bid for a squadron of drone aircraft to seek and destroy Taliban forces in Afghanistan, it has been disclosed.

An "urgent operational requirement" has been made by Air Force chiefs to purchase 10 Reaper aircraft, which could play a major role in defeating the insurgents in Helmand.

Commanders have been desperate for the cutting-edge technology that the most advanced ''unmanned aerial vehicle" would give.

The Reaper can fly faster, higher and for longer than its predecessors and carries a deadly array of weapons

Packed with sophisticated eavesdropping and surveillance equipment the aircraft, which could be directed by an operator in London, can drop laser-guided bombs or missiles on to Taliban targets.

On several occasions in the past year military commanders have been frustrated at having to wait for up to an hour for fighters to get over a target that has been located by surveillance aircraft.

RAF crews working alongside American Reaper operators have become considerably impressed with aircraft working from the base in Kandahar.

With a turboprop jet engine, the Reaper, the size of an executive jet, can fly at 250mph and carry four Hellfire missiles and two 500lb bombs.

Its biggest asset is being able to loiter over the battlefield for 14 hours, flying at 50,000ft and unseen by the enemy.

However, with the final talks for the MoD's budget for this year already begun, the order is under threat.

A spokesman for the MoD said the proposal for 10 Reapers was "at this stage an expression of interest" and "not an intention to buy".

The price of action and inaction - 01/07/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

The price of action and inaction - 01/07/2008 - MiamiHerald.com: "In the real world, there are consequences. For every action, there's a reaction, and often even inaction triggers a reaction.

The unfolding disaster in Pakistan after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is in part a reaction to a series of inactions and actions by the Bush administration during the last six years. Bush and Company took their eyes off the ball and became preoccupied with the sideshow of their own creation in Iraq as things went sideways and backward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then they outsourced much of the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

After the attacks on America on 9/11, President Bush quite rightly took aim at al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that was sheltering the terrorist group responsible for those attacks.

A relatively small group of U.S. special operators rented enough tribal leaders and their armies and, backed by American air power, were able to topple the Taliban government and put al Qaeda on the run. A force of only 7,000 U.S. Army and Marine troops went in to chase the bad guys.

So far, so good, or so it seemed. But the administration declared victory prematurely and turned many of its resources and most of its attention to invading Iraq while Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership escaped into Pakistan.

Benign neglect is a dangerous policy in the badlands along the Afghan-Pakistani border, where the bleached bones of invading armies litter the mountain passes and the inhospitable deserts. Rudyard Kipling, the poet laureate of the British Indian Army, had this to say :

``When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up your remains,

Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier.''

Job One was Afghanistan, but it was left undone, too unimportant a backwater for the foreign policy amateurs, neoconservative ideologues and military dilettantes advising the president. A preemptive invasion of Iraq and the toppling of a hated dictator in the heart of the Middle East -- a cheap, easy and quick cakewalk -- was what we needed.

Never mind that we'd chased a bunch of fanatical terrorists into a part of Pakistan that no central government has ever conquered or controlled. We'd just throw $10 billion to Pakistan's military dictator and get him to take care of our problem, as if he didn't have enough problems of his own dealing with Islamist fanatics.

Now both Afghanistan and Pakistan are coming unraveled, and are likely to become two more disasters added to the growing list of ''things to do'' in the disaster department that Bush will hand to his unlucky successor in the White House a year from now.

• Afghanistan is a mess. We installed a weak central government whose writ doesn't run much beyond the city limits of Kabul and starved it of the aid needed to repair a nation ravaged by three decades of war and civil war. The Soviet Union sent 100,000 troops to wage unlimited and barbaric war and was defeated. By contrast, we have 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and we've browbeaten our reluctant NATO allies into sending an additional 50,000, many of whom are under orders from home not to take risks or get anyone killed.

The Taliban guerrillas, operating from safe havens in Pakistan's rugged frontier province, are on the march. They've learned from the war in Iraq, and their IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombers are taking a deadly toll. More American troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2007 than in any year since 2002.

• In Pakistan, the radical madrassas are churning out recruits for the Taliban and al Qaeda faster than the allies and the Afghan army can kill them, and every time we've pushed Gen. Musharraf to send his soldiers in to clean out the sanctuaries, most of them have been killed or captured.

The administration's solution: Force Musharraf to take off his uniform and enter into an unholy alliance with the long-exiled Bhutto, whose time in power was marked mainly by an explosion of corruption remarkable even in a country where corruption is endemic.

It's no surprise that she was killed. She was buried next to her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, another smooth talking, Western-educated darling of the foreigners, who was hanged by a previous military dictator.

All this might be of little interest if only Pakistan didn't have nuclear warheads. Real nuclear weapons, unlike the imaginary ones our leaders brandished as a reason to invade Iraq or the one they trotted out to turn up the heat on Iran -- until the intelligence community pulled the rug out from under that crusade.

All of it is so complicated it must make Bush's head hurt.

Joseph L. Galloway is a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Real heroes of 9-11 sacrificed everything for their country.

The REAL Rudy: "
 
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alJazeera Magazine - Pakistan is 'central front,' not Iraq

alJazeera Magazine - Pakistan is 'central front,' not Iraq: "Intelligence evidence, gathered from intercepted al-Qaeda communications, indicate that Laden’s high command views Iraq as a diversion for U.S. military strength, not the ‘central front’.


By Robert Parry

The chaos spreading across nuclear-armed Pakistan after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is part of the price for the Bush administration’s duplicity about al-Qaeda’s priorities, including the old canard that the terrorist group regards Iraq as the “central front” in its global war against the West.

Through repetition of this claim – often accompanied by George W. Bush’s home-spun advice about the need to listen to what the enemy says – millions of Americans believe that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders consider Iraq the key battlefield.

However, intelligence evidence, gathered from intercepted al-Qaeda communications, indicate that bin Laden’s high command views Iraq as a valuable diversion for U.S. military strength, not the “central front.”....

The NIE also concluded that the Iraq War – rather than weakening the cause of terrorism – had become a “cause celebre” that was “cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”

The grinding Iraq War – now nearing its fifth year – also prevented the United States from arraying sufficient military and intelligence resources against the reorganized al-Qaeda infrastructure in Pakistan and the rebuilt Taliban army reasserting itself in Afghanistan.

So, when the Bush administration supported former Prime Minister Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in October 2007, the wishful thinking was that she could somehow energize the more moderate elements of Pakistani politics and marginalize extremists.

But the overstretched U.S. military and intelligence services could do little in helping to protect Bhutto beyond hectoring Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to give his political rival more security. Musharraf, who himself has dodged multiple assassination attempts, either couldn’t or wouldn’t ensure Bhutto’s safety.

Now, with Bhutto’s death and with unrest sweeping Pakistan, Bush’s Iraq War backers are sure to argue that these developments again prove the president right, that an even firmer hand is needed to combat terrorism and that the next president must be someone ready to press ahead with Bush’s concept of a “long war” against extremism.

But the reality again appears different. Though rarely mentioned in the American press, the evidence is that bin Laden and other extremists have cleverly played off Bush’s arrogance and belligerence to strengthen their strategic hand within the Muslim world.

By keeping Bush focused on Iraq, al-Qaeda and its allies also bought time to transform themselves into a more lethal threat in Pakistan, with the danger that the new turmoil could win al-Qaeda its ultimate prize, control of a nuclear bomb
.

-- Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
 
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More than 10,000 police will guard Bush during Israel visit

More than 10,000 police will guard Bush during Israel visit | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited: "Israeli officials in Jerusalem are to deploy more than 10,000 police officers in a vast security operation ahead of the arrival this week of George Bush, the first US president to visit in a decade. Graffiti are being cleaned off walls, road markings are being repainted and hundreds of American flags are being put up across the city. The floodlights which illuminate the stone ramparts of the Old City will stay on for an extra two hours every night, until 2am, to give the president the chance to catch the view.

Hundreds of hotel rooms across Jerusalem have been booked for Bush's group, as well as for the media and even Israeli officials, who fear they might not be able to make it home in the evenings.
Bush, who arrives on Wednesday for his first visit as president, will stay at the King David hotel. Eight truckloads of equipment have already arrived in advance of his two-night stay. All the hotel's rooms will be taken by his entourage - tourists have had their bookings cancelled.

The security precautions, dubbed Operation Clear Skies by the Israeli security services, are immense. Roads around the hotel will be blocked, despite the huge traffic jams that will entail. A force of 10,500 police and security staff will be deployed and Bush will be flown in to the hotel by helicopter from the airport near Tel Aviv. "There will be so much security nobody will be able to get anywhere near the president," said Micky Rosenfield, Israel's police spokesman....
 
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Israel to brief George Bush on options for Iran strike - Times Online

Israel to brief George Bush on options for Iran strike - Times Online: "ISRAELI security officials are to brief President George W Bush on their latest intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme - and how it could be destroyed - when he begins a tour of the Middle East in Jerusalem this week.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, is said to want to convince him that an Israeli military strike against uranium enrichment facilities in Iran would be feasible if diplomatic efforts failed to halt nuclear operations. A range of military options has been prepared.

Last month it was revealed that the US National Intelligence Estimate report, drawing together information from 16 agencies, had concluded that Iran stopped a secret nuclear weapon programme in 2003.

Israeli intelligence is understood to agree that the project was halted around the time of America’s invasion of Iraq, but has “rock solid” information that it has since started up again.

While security officials are reluctant to reveal all their intelligence, fearing that leaks could jeopardise the element of surprise in any future attack, they are expected to present the president with fresh details of Iran’s enrichment of uranium - which could be used for civil or military purposes - and the development of missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot this weekend, Bush argued that in spite of the US intelligence assessment, Iran still posed a threat.

“I read the intelligence report carefully,” Bush said. “In essence, what the report said was that Iran had a secret plan to develop nuclear weapons.

“I’m saying that a state which adopted a nontransparent policy and had a secret plan for developing nuclear weapons could easily develop an alternative plan for the same purpose. So to conclude from the intelligence report that there is no Iranian plan to develop nuclear weapons will be only a partial truth.”

Israeli security officials believe the only way to prevent uranium enrichment to military grade is to destroy Iranian installations. Many Israelis are eager to know whether America would give their country the green light to attack, as it did last September when Israel struck a mysterious nuclear site in Syria.

Bush refused to be drawn when asked whether he would support an Israeli attack. “My message to all countries in the region is that we are able to solve the problem in a diplomatic way,” he said, “but all options are on the table.”

[bth: Look for Israel to get oblong on Iran before Bush leaves office.]
 
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The Raw Story | McCain: I would have started Iraq war regardless of WMD

The Raw Story | McCain: I would have started Iraq war regardless of WMD: "According to presidential candidate John McCain, only the handling of the Iraq war was a mistake -- not the war itself.

"It's not American presence that bothers the American people, it's American causalities," said McCain in an interview with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday.

The validity of this conjecture is questionable, as fifty-nine percent of Americans say the U.S. should “stick to a withdrawal timetable." But McCain said in a recent New Hampshire debate -- and reasserted as much on Sunday -- that as long as Americans aren't dying, he sees nothing wrong with US troops staying as many as 100 years in Iraq.

"What I believe we can achieve is a reduction in casualties to the point where the Iraqis are doing the fighting and dying [and] we're supporting them," McCain said.

He said it would be "hard to say" how many U.S. troops would need to stay in Iraq, but assured that they would be "out of harm's way."

When Russert asked him if, like Bush, McCain would have supported the Iraq war even if no weapons of mass destruction were believed present in Iraq, McCain seemed to dismiss the question as irrelevant.

"If frogs had wings ... we can talk about lots of hypotheticals," he said. "The point is if we had done it right, you and I wouldn't even be discussing it now."

This video is from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast January 6, 2008

[bth: Raw Story posted the entire video of the interview. I had to watch it because I thought they might have exaggerated his statements. Stunning. As much respect as I have for the man, he just doesn't get it. Americans feel lied to, they feel they're being drained of blood and treasure and they want a new course. He ends by saying "I was right" about the surge. Well if that's the case why didn't he push it years ago and thousands of lives before and why did he let this president send us to war without a plan for occupation? What it really comes down to listening to the full interview is his ego.]
 
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Can you win on dull? - Roger Simon - Politico.com

Can you win on dull? - Roger Simon - Politico.com: ..."Both campaigns have now reduced their themes to single word.

Obama has a sign that says: Hope.

Clinton has a sign that says: Ready.

But will Clinton get a chance to be ready?...

After her speech, Clinton was asked if her campaign was going to change.

“If a campaign doesn’t evolve,” she said, “it is probably dead.” ..

[bth: this article is worth a read to get the mood of NH. Amazing how thing get distilled to single words.]

Sunday, January 06, 2008

YouTube - Who's On First

YouTube - Who's On First: ""

[bth: see in reference to the article below.]

The Belmont Club: Hope

The Belmont Club: Hope: "The phrase "can't we just move on?" encapsulates one of the deepest revolutionary yearnings of all: the desire to start from scratch. It is a feeling familiar to refugees fleeing a strife-torn country and equally familiar to those trapped in a loveless marriage contemplating divorce. It's the desire to be rid of the accumulated consequences of previous decisions. It's the longing for new beginnings. The two traditional ways to escape the weight of history upon the present -- "the dead hand of the past" -- were either in a return to some mythical past (like Osama's 8th century Islam) or in an insistence that events could be reset simply by willing them to be. The subtle difference between Hillary Clinton's mantra of "Change" and Barack Obama's promise of "Hope" is that the first retains a link to the past while the second taps into that truly revolutionary desire to start at a new point in history.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


But as anyone who goes back to recover a lost past or remarries soon discovers, the promise of a completely new beginning is largely illusion. William Dalrymple, writing in the International Herald Tribune, reminds us of what we would as soon forget about Benazir Bhutto: that she was no better than Pervez Musharraf and perhaps a good deal worse. Pervez Musharraf may be every bit as evil as he is made out to be; but Bhutto did not represent a return to a new beginning; she was at best the chimera of "Hope" -- the past tricked out as the future.

When, in May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India was killed by a suicide bomber, there was an international outpouring of grief. Recent days have seen the same with the death of Benazir Bhutto: another glamorous, Western-educated scion of a great South Asian political dynasty tragically assassinated at an election rally.

There is, however, an important difference between the two deaths: while Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan Hindu extremists because of his policy of confronting them, Bhutto was apparently the victim of Islamist militant groups that she allowed to flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was under Bhutto's watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency's dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

The redoubtable John Burns makes the same point as Dalrymple, but over a broader swath of history, pointing out that there have been no completely clean or idealistic leaders in Pakistan -- civilian or military -- for the last 60 years. To create a completely new start one would have to find a completely new country. But short of imagining one we are trapped by the "dead hand of the past" where one must play the ball as it lies.

For 60 years since its founding in the partitioning of British India, Pakistan has seesawed between military dictatorships and elected governments, and now new hope for stability is being placed on the chance that democracy there can be revived. But while attention is currently focused on the failings of Pervez Musharraf, the latest in a long line of military rulers, Pakistan’s civilian leaders, too, have much to account for in the faltering history of Pakistani democracy. Over the decades, their own periods in office have been notable mostly for their weakness, their instinct for political score-settling, and their venality. ...

While widely lauded in the West, Pakistan’s current generation of civilian politicians — indeed, most of its civilian political leaders, going back to the country’s origins in the portioning of British India in 1947 — have repeatedly failed to bring the stability and prosperity they have promised. And the reasons for their failure, many who know Pakistan’s history have concluded, rest about as heavily with the politicians as with the generals.

To make matters worse, Pakistan is trapped not simply in the recent past of post-Raj politics, but in the matrix of its own make-up. It was led, like many other Third World countries moving from colonial administration to Western-style nationhood, by elites whose primary loyalties were to their class or tribal allegiances instead of to the larger Nation. The label "Pakistan" papered over a crazy jigsaw of rivalries, hatreds and ambitions to present it as a single entity to Western eyes.

Historians trace some of Pakistan’s problems to the British conquest of Moghul India, when centuries of Muslim rule in the subcontinent gave way to an era when Muslims, alwaysn suspect among the British for resisting their new colonial masters, became ever more an underclass.

When the struggle for Indian independence began in earnest in the 1920’s, the leadership rested mainly with Hindus — especially Gandhi, whose philosophy was egalitarian, secular and nationalist. In the 1930’s, the Muslim League began agitating for a separate Muslim homeland, but power within the league rested with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an elitist, British-educated Bombay lawyer with a taste for expensively-tailored suits and little affinity for the common man. He would become Pakistan’s founding father.

Many of those who gathered around Jinnah were from the feudal landowning class, and tribal leaders. With scant interest in democracy, their concerns centered more on the protection of their ancestral privileges. When the British abandoned the struggle to fashion an independent India that would keep Hindus and Muslims together, the landowning aristocrats and the tribal chiefs became the political elite of Pakistan. From the beginning, they vied for power with the generals, in a struggle that intensified when the revered Jinnah died soon after Pakistan was established.

The gap between Western expectations and the natural aspirations of the Bhutto clan is highlighted by an anecdote in which a New York Times reporter shows Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, a sheaf of bank statements from French, Swiss and Middle Eastern institutions detailing tens of millions of dollars worth of kickbacks to the family. The NYT reporter probably expected Asif Ali Zardari (now the party leader following Benazir's death) to express regret or at least to deny the authenticity of the documents. He did no such thing. Instead, Bhutto's husband shrugged his shoulders and wondered aloud why the Bhuttos should be blamed for doing what was, after all, the done thing in Pakistan.

The bank statements were genuine, he said airily, as though confident — justifiably, as it transpired over the next eight years, which ended with his release from prison and flight, like Ms. Bhutto, into self-exile — that nothing much would ever be proved against the couple in a Pakistani court. But what bothered him, he said during a conversation in the prison governor’s office, was not so much the fact that a lawyer the couple had trusted had leaked their personal banking documents to investigators; it was The New York Times’s decision to investigate the financial dealings of himself and Ms. Bhutto, rather than others, including Mr. Sharif, who, he said, had grown rich in power. “You could investigate anybody who has held power in this country, and you’d find the same.” he said. “Why us?”

"Why us?" is the cry of a society which finds legitimacy, rather than confinement in the 'dead hand of the past'. The prerogative to exact a bribe, hang a rival or assassinate challengers is hallowed in Pakistan's past almost to the same degree to which politicians are allowed to promise some imaginary future or cure-all nostrum to voters in America. What happens when world history meets Washingtonian aspiration can be either tragic or comic. Often it is both. John Burns describes a strange kind of dialogue in which Pakistani politicians speak to Washington in words purposely calculated to be misunderstood, like some political equivalent of Abbot and Costello's conversation about Who's On First.

The legend cultivated by Pakistani politicians like Ms. Bhutto and her principal civilian rival, Nawaz Sharif, cast the generals as the main villains in stifling democracy, emerging from their barracks to grab power out of Napoleonic ambition and contempt for the will of ordinary Pakistanis. It is a version of history calculated to appeal strongly to Western opinion. But it has been carefully drawn to excuse the role the politicians themselves have played in undermining democracy, by using mandates won at the polls to establish governments that rarely amounted to much more than vehicles for personal enrichment, or for pursuing vendettas against political foes.

William Dalrymple, a British author who has written widely about India and Pakistan, put it bluntly in an article for Britain’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper in 2005. “As Pakistan shows, rigid, corrupt, unrepresentative and flawed democracies without the strong independent institutions of a civil society — a free press, an independent judiciary, an empowered election commission — can foster governments that are every bit as tyrannical as any dictatorship,” he wrote. “Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.”

Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.” But it's annoying to puzzle out the difference. And to voters tired of trying to tell one foreign leader from another, it is sometimes easiest for politicians to recast the problem in a simplified narrative, using terms with which we are familiar to describe phenomenon for which no English word has yet been coined to describe. The United States supported Pakistan against India for almost the entire duration of the Cold War, supported the civilian democratic process against Pakistan's own military leadership and in no other country in the region is it so universally despised. Stephen Sondheim in his musical play A Little Night Music, wrote what is perhaps the most poignant commentary on misunderstanding; about the desire to find new beginnings only to find that they were old; to seek love only to encounter rejection; and to crave transcendence only to be ridiculed.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

[bth: amazingly well written.]

The Belmont Club: The men without a country

The Belmont Club: The men without a country: "Islamic extremists have created "no-go" areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops warns today. The Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church's only Asian bishop, writing in the Telegraph, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology."

Bishop Nazir's comments are more than just another warning against the growing presence of Islamic extremism in the West; they are a sign that the open, liberal public space, a condition once considered an irreversible harbinger of things to come by those who forsaw The End of History, may now be passing into oblivion, at least in parts of Europe. The Telegraph continues:


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he compares the threat to the use of intimidation by the far-Right, and says that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christianity to be the nation's public religion in a multifaith, multicultural society. ... Echoing Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said that the country is "sleepwalking into segregation", the bishop argues that multiculturalism has led to deep divisions.

Nazir Ali's larger criticism is that Multicultural Project has achieved the precise opposite of tolerance and that European societies are in danger of being split up into new ethnic enclaves.

Paul Hasluck, a talented writer who went on to become Australia's Governor General in the 1970s, recalled scenes which were commonplace during his childhood in Western Australia in the 1920s in his autobiography, Mucking About.

Kalgoorlie schoolboys seemed to be given to chanting derisive rhymes. There were convent schools as well as state schools. The state school urchins used to follow the convent boys down the streets chanting.

Catholic dogs jump like frogs
And eat no meat on Friday.
Catholic dogs jump like frogs.
In and out of the water.

Hasluck's recollection reminds us that not so long ago -- within living memory -- it mattered very much whether you were Irish or Polish, Jewish or Protestant, Chinese or Filipino. But those difference -- as pundits analyzing Barack Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses never cease to point out -- seemed have become less important over the decades. In that context, Bishop Nazir Ali's warning that "no-go" areas have cropped up in Britain are all the more astounding. The perverse accomplishment of the Multicultural Project has been to reverse the process of community building it set out to hasten.

Why this paradoxical result should be the case is an interesting question to consider. Hasluck's biography itself provided a clue to the answer. The public space increased as love for the nation increased. As people began to identify themselves as Australians the relative differences between them decreased, as did the jeerings. But not only did a healthy patriotism actually expand the public space, it was, Hasluck argued, the prerequisite to respect between nations -- an observation that would shock the politically correct multiculturalist, who normally believes the precise opposite. Hasluck's argument is simple and commonsensical and for that reason probably incomprehensible to the post-modern. Describing his feelings following a return from England as a child, he wrote:

My own deeper love and knowledge of Australia is refined by a shared love of England. In love of our country each of us realizes a common humanity coming from deep wells. A feeling for one's own country is the clearest way to feeling deeply for men in other countries. The folly and failure of so many attempts by internationalists to do good comes from the fact that they lose sight of the true goodness in other countries when their own senses are blunted to the goodness of their own.

The observation that a genuine appreciation of other cultures must begin with a respect for one's own may seem self-evident until one realizes how rarely it is made. That argument naturally extends itself to a critique of multiculturalism. Having destroyed the feeling of security that comes from belonging to a larger home, the country, multiculturalism has left nothing for individuals but a retreat into the doubtful safety of sect, race and tribe. The Pale is back; and we are all beyond it.


[bth: I want to ponder this a bit.]

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap - Top Secret Audio: Dems Meet GOP at NH Debates

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Pie Fight

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog

Clinton Machine Shaken by Setback - TIME

Clinton Machine Shaken by Setback - TIME: ".... A modest rise in Iowa turnout from traditional levels — say by about 20,000 or 30,000 — might have been easy to write off as merely the result of superior tactics on the part of the well-funded Obama operation. But the fact that voters flooded the caucuses, and that Obama swept just about every demographic group, speaks to something larger that is going on in the electorate, Clinton strategists now acknowledge.

... How can she retool her message — and her identity as a virtual incumbent — to resonate with an electorate that seems to yearn more for change than any other quality? Says one longtime Democratic strategist, who is close to the Clintons: "Fundamentally, she is who she is; she can't change who she is, and maybe this is not her time."

...If Clinton also loses New Hampshire to Obama, Penn's future with the campaign may well be in jeopardy, strategists say. But that may be wishful thinking on their part. For one thing, there is no obvious candidate to replace him. Hillary's advisers and Bill's have never gotten along — and she has been particularly suspicious of his team. "Who they both trust — that's a very small group," says one former Clinton aide. "She is going to be very, very resistant to all of the white boys coming back."

[bth: don't these highlighted quotes just say it all? ... Democratic recruiters come to Bedford looking for support in New Hampshire - volunteer workers- but they are meeting resistance. Clinton's recruiters are paid, professional and female. Obamas are unpaid, young students and social activists. ... Who would you want on your side? ... Fundamentally Senator Hillary Clinton will be the Sen. Kennedy of our generation. A great senator representing a cause and constituency.... Its not her positions on the issues that are the problem - its her and the the horse she road in on. She's going to lose New Hampshire. You can feel it.]

CompactRIO Helps Nexans Spider Dredging System Level Seabed for Oil and Gas Exploration - Customer Solutions - National Instruments

CompactRIO Helps Nexans Spider Dredging System Level Seabed for Oil and Gas Exploration - Customer Solutions - National Instruments

U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan

U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan - New York Times: "This article is by Steven Lee Myers, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt.

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.

Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.

The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.

But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.

The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.

The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.

The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said
.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was on vacation last week and did not attend the White House meeting, said in late December that “Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people.”

In the past, the administration has largely stayed out of the tribal areas, in part for fear that exposure of any American-led operations there would so embarrass the Musharraf government that it could further empower his critics, who have declared he was too close to Washington.

Even now, officials say, some American diplomats and military officials, as well as outside experts, argue that American-led military operations on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan could result in a tremendous backlash and ultimately do more harm than good. That is particularly true, they say, if Americans were captured or killed in the territory.

In part, the White House discussions may be driven by a desire for another effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Currently, C.I.A. operatives and Special Operations forces have limited authority to conduct counterterrorism missions in Pakistan based on specific intelligence about the whereabouts of those two men, who have eluded the Bush administration for more than six years, or of other members of their terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, hiding in or near the tribal areas.

The C.I.A. has launched missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Mr. Zawahri, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village. But that apparently was the last real evidence American officials had about the whereabouts of their chief targets.

Critics said more direct American military action would be ineffective, anger the Pakistani Army and increase support for the militants. “I’m not arguing that you leave Al Qaeda and the Taliban unmolested, but I’d be very, very cautious about approaches that could play into hands of enemies and be counterproductive,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. Some American diplomats and military officials have also issued strong warnings against expanded direct American action, officials said.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani military and political analyst, said raids by American troops would prompt a powerful popular backlash against Mr. Musharraf and the United States.

In the wake of the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Pakistanis suspect that the United States is trying to dominate Pakistan as well, Mr. Rizvi said. Mr. Musharraf — who is already widely unpopular — would lose even more popular support.

At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” Mr. Rizvi said. “This will weaken Musharraf in a Pakistani context.” He said such raids would be seen as an overall vote of no confidence in the Pakistani military, including General Kayani.

The meeting on Friday, which was not publicly announced, included Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and top intelligence officials.

Spokesmen for the White House, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon declined to discuss the meeting, citing a policy against doing so. But the session reflected an urgent concern that a new Qaeda haven was solidifying in parts of Pakistan and needed to be countered, one official said.

Although some officials and experts have criticized Mr. Musharraf and questioned his ability to take on extremists, Mr. Bush has remained steadfast in his support, and it is unlikely any new measures, including direct American military action inside Pakistan, will be approved without Mr. Musharraf’s consent.

“He understands clearly the risks of dealing with extremists and terrorists,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “After all, they’ve tried to kill him.”

The Pakistan government has identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto. American officials are not certain about Mr. Mehsud’s complicity but say the threat he and other militants pose is a new focus. He is considered, they said, an “Al Qaeda associate.”

In an interview with foreign journalists on Thursday, Mr. Musharraf warned of the risk any counterterrorism forces — American or Pakistani — faced in confronting Mr. Mehsud in his native tribal areas.

“He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” Mr. Musharraf said.

The weeks before parliamentary elections — which were originally scheduled for Tuesday — are seen as critical because of threats by extremists to disrupt the vote. But it seemed unlikely that any additional American effort would be approved and put in place in that time frame.

Administration aides said that Pakistani and American officials shared the concern about a resurgent Qaeda, and that American diplomats and senior military officers had been working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to help bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.

Shortly after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, Adm. William J. Fallon, who oversees American military operations in Southwest Asia, telephoned his Pakistani counterparts to ensure that counterterrorism and logistics operations remained on track.

In early December, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the new leader of the Special Operations Command, paid his second visit to Pakistan in three months to meet with senior Pakistani officers, including Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Admiral Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from border tribes that the United States is planning to help train and equip.

But the Pakistanis are still years away from fielding an effective counterinsurgency force. And some American officials, including Defense Secretary Gates, have said the United States may have to take direct action against militants in the tribal areas.

American officials said the crisis surrounding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination had not diminished the Pakistani counterterrorism operations, and there were no signs that Mr. Musharraf had pulled out any of his 100,000 forces in the tribal areas and brought them to the cities to help control the urban unrest.

Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Islamabad, and David Rohde from New York.

[bth: we cannot give OBL safe haven. He has had it for six years. Who would ever have thought this on 9-11? We can't give him haven in Pakistan. We can't do it in Africa either - the next powder keg - or Saudi Arabia. ... Musharaff is toast. He'll steal the aid money and retire to Saudi Arabia in due course. Any thought that humanitarian aid was making it to girls schools, to roads, to orphanages through crocked tribal chiefs, religious fanatics or corrupt military officials is a joke... We will not make friends in Pakistan by intervening. The locals will be enraged. So what. Are they going to bomb our cities? Attack our troops? Attack our ships? Raise the price of oil? Distribute heroin to our children between dily prayers to Allah? ... We don't have friends there - we occasionally rent them like hookers but but that's about it. ... We can't let the extremists take over Pakistan. It's that simple and they see a chance to tear the government down along with any possible challengers like Bhutto. We are taking severe casualties in Afghanistan near the border. Our NATO allies are tepid and distracted. We need to decide what we are doing there and get on with it. What's the plan - what's the goal? If it's use an ice pick to get OBL then use it but if we can't get an ice pick then pick up a hammer - but use something.... There must be a cost to harboring OBL to the local population and that cost must be escalating. Mehsud must have a house. He must have a business. He must have relatives, a village, a bank account, a network of supporters. ... He calls it home. We should call it a target. That's why nation-states beat tribes. It doesn't look good on the news and it shouldn't last six years. Make the neighbors feel the pain. Make his rent go up. I realize these are at best temporary solutions but sometimes that's all we have.]