Saturday, January 19, 2008

Armchair Generalist

JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY: Pakistan awakes to home-grown jihadists

JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY: Pakistan awakes to home-grown jihadists: "There are signs that Pakistan's leaders finally are waking up to the threat that faces them from the Islamic jihadists who poured into the untamed provinces bordering Afghanistan six years ago and have spread their poison on fertile ground.

For most of those years, Pakistan's military and government turned a blind eye to the fact that the leaders of al-Qaida and of Afghanistan's Taliban not only had found shelter on their territory but also were beginning to realize that Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, is a much juicier target than Afghanistan.

America's top commander in that volatile region, Adm. William J. Fallon of the U.S. Central Command, has said that the increased terrorist violence in Pakistan in recent months has convinced Pakistan's leaders that they need to address the problem more intensively.

Fallon said the Pakistanis now realize that they have some real internal problems. Until now, they considered the al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists a problem for the United States and Afghanistan and only a distant threat to themselves.

The admiral said he believes that the Pakistanis are now more open to American suggestions that U.S. troops help train and advise the Pakistani army and border police.

Whether cozying up to the Pentagon at this stage will help an already beleaguered government in transition from military rule to a civilian democracy or only stoke the anger of Pakistan's own Muslim fundamentalists remains to be seen, however.

It also could be too little, too late.

Meanwhile, things aren't going all that well across the border in Afghanistan, either.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved a modest deployment of U.S. reinforcements to Afghanistan, ordering a full brigade of some 3,200 Marines into the fight and raising the total number of American troops there to fewer than 30,000.

Gates acted after it became clear that our NATO allies were resisting requests to increase the number of troops they've provided for Afghanistan duty, and that some of the NATO troops that have been sent have little or no training in counter-insurgency warfare and others are under orders to avoid taking casualties.

U.S. commanders have been asking for reinforcements for months as Taliban insurgents ("resurgents" might be more appropriate) have grown ever bolder and more aggressive, seeming to shrug off the heavy casualties they suffer from U.S. warplanes when they operate in the open. They have no trouble getting replacements and reinforcements from their Pakistani sanctuaries.

The fear is that spring will bring an even greater Taliban offensive, backed by IED's (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombers - al-Qaida tactics tested, refined and exported from the war in Iraq.

All this because the Bush administration started taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan in late 2001, siphoning off money, equipment and manpower for the invasion of Iraq. That's translated into penny-pinching the rebuilding of badly damaged or destroyed infrastructure in a country that's been at war for three decades, and a very slow standup of Afghan army and police forces capable of dealing with the insurgents.

Last week, suicide bombers attacked a luxury hotel that caters to foreigners and wealthy Afghanis in the capital of Kabul, underscoring the boldness of the Taliban resurgents and offering a glimpse of what's to come when the snows melt in the high mountain passes that are the guerrilla highways between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There's nothing like benign neglect of a dangerous place to make more trouble than you ever thought possible. By early 2002, we'd toppled the Taliban government and had them and their al-Qaida guests on the run. But before the mission was accomplished, our leaders turned away from Job One to prepare to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.

Now, if losing or fighting to a draw in Iraq would be a disaster, consider what the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan would mean. Then consider what it would mean for the world's only superpower to watch helplessly as Pakistan falls into the hands of jihadists allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

That's the real nightmare that should be disturbing the sleep of President George W. Bush and whoever hopes to succeed him

War Is Boring - Air Force's Big Tease

War Is Boring: "F-22s"in California, Oregon, Montana and New Jersey. Next-generation bombers in Texas and South Dakota. New tankers at 27 bases spread across the country. These are some of the prospective “bed-downs” Air Force officials outlined yesterday in their “Future Roadmap” for U.S.-based airplanes.

The document is “designed to meet one of the Nation’s most pressing needs: recapitalization and modernization of its aging Air Force fleet,” the service insists.
But the Air Force Association has another take:

Although senior Air Force leaders won’t say so in so many words, the service’s new beddown roadmap is a map of constituencies and effectively puts members of Congress on notice that if they want an Air Force mission in their district, they better support the buying of the new systems. If they don’t, and inventories continue to shrink, the missions — and the bases, and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command units associated with them — will surely go away.

It’s all part of the Air Force’s increasingly desperate sales pitch for new fighters, bombers, tankers and cargo planes. In the case of the F-22, the air service didn’t hesitate to use the recent (mostly temporary) grounding of old F-15s to advance its cause, arguing that the grounding was proof that the government wasn’t buying enough F-22s, or fast enough.

Camera Shy? Pentagon Builds a Portable Lens-Destroying Laser

Camera Shy? Pentagon Builds a Portable Lens-Destroying Laser: "The Pentagon's newest laser weapon has a peak power of more than a million megawatts, so intense that it warps the air around it. When the beam strikes the target it vaporises the impact site, producing a plasma fireball and a highly destructive shockwave.

The end result: a tiny crater barely visible to the naked eye.

That's because the so-called "laser crazer" is designed not to burn up missiles or tanks, but to scratch lenses. It's a portable nonlethal weapon designed to take out enemy optical systems at long range -- ruining an adversary's night-vision gear, sniper scopes and binoculars in a fraction of a second -- by sandblasting their lenses with ultrashort pulses of laser light.

While it's still in the research phase, the so-called "laser crazer" may shift the balance back to those who want to stay unseen, in an era of constant advances in zoom lenses, unmanned aircraft and night-vision cameras.

The project also represents a departure for the Pentagon's laser research, which typically embraces large-scale chemical lasers capable of cutting through metal. Because the anti-surveillance weapon only needs to crack a thin layer of glass, it can use a small, portable solid-state laser. The pulses it fires off require very little energy, because each lasts only a fraction of a nanosecond.

"The primary benefit is to allow very high peak energies to be transmitted in very-short-duration pulses," says David B. Law, technology division chief for the Pentagon's Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, or JNLWD, which is funding the research.

In a little-noticed 2006 test at University of Central Florida's Laser Plasma Laboratory, a 10-terawatt laser damaged a glass target 30 meters away using pulses lasting just 110 femtoseconds -- about 1/10,000 of a nanosecond. For that instant, the laser pulse was a million times more powerful than the Pentagon's best-known laser project, the megawatt-class Airborne Laser designed to be mounted on jumbo jets to destroy any approaching surface-to-air missile.

The power of the crazer pulse makes it effectively self-focusing: It's so intense that it warps the air in a way that cancels out any scattering. As each pulse slams into the target lens, it produces a tiny explosion in the glass, leaving a crater less than a millimeter across. When pulsed in quick succession, the combined shockwaves from multiple blasts cause much more extensive damage, and lenses are rendered useless in less than a second.

Given more time, the laser could blank larger areas of glass. For example, a vehicle windshield could be whited out to force it to stop at a checkpoint, without having to open fire with a lethal weapon.

The machine used in the Florida test was desk-sized, but by 2009 a separate Darpa program aims to have a shoe-box sized laser (.pdf) that can produce millijoule-strength pulses at the rate of 10,000 a second while consuming less energy than a 100-watt bulb.

As for applications: Whoever has the laser crazer owns the night. Any night-vision device used by the enemy -- light intensifiers, thermal imagers or infrared scopes -- could be swiftly nullified. And crews of enemy armored vehicles might find that their only way of seeing out is to open a hatch and expose themselves to fire.

The crazer could also be slaved to existing military devices that can precisely locate any lenses pointed in their direction using a technique called retro-reflection. That would make it an instant sniper-blinding tool. In the future, a laser crazer could even blind laser-guided or heat-seeking missiles in flight.

Perhaps the most controversial issue is the potential to cause eye damage to the enemy: Femtosecond lasers are the same ones used for eye surgery. "Eye hazards are a risk when using any laser," says Law.

"We continue to research the human-effects issues surrounding this type of laser."

Even if it could cause eye damage, such a laser would not be outlawed by an international weapons treaty, which "only bans lasers intentionally designed to blind," says Neil Davison of the Bradford Disarmament Research Center. "A weapon designed to damage lenses rather than eyes would not be covered."

The crazer is still at the laboratory, with researchers looking for the best way of combining shockwaves to maximize the area of damage. Meanwhile other countries, including France and Germany, are working on their own high-powered femtosecond lasers.

Taliban overrun military fort in South Waziristan

Taliban overrun military fort in South Waziristan - The Long War Journal: "The Taliban in South Waziristan have overrun a fort manned by the Frontier Corps in the town of Sararogha. During a massed assault, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the military post manned by 42 paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps. The military claimed seven soldiers and up to 50 Taliban were killed. Reports indicate 20 paramilitaries may have been captured by the Taliban.

The Pakistani military confirmed the assault. "Around midnight 400 miscreants attacked the Frontier Corps at Sararogha," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. "The fort was captured by militants, we are taking stock of the situation." There are reports of 40 to 50 dead miscreants, while seven personnel embraced martyrdom." Fifteen of the paramilitaries are said to have escaped, but the "exact location of rest of the FC [Frontier Corps] men in the fort [totaling 20] ... is not known," said Abbas. An unconfirmed report from Xinhua stated 30 troops were killed and up to 100 were killed during the fighting.

The Taliban conducted a well-planned military operation. Reports indicate a force sized from 400 to 1,000 Taliban fighters, indicating a battalion- to brigade-sized assault force. Organizing such a large assault force for a night operation requires planning and training. The Taliban breached the wall of the Sararogha fort using explosives, then rushed through the breach to capture the fort.

The Sararogha region, which abuts the Afghan border, is a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah's fighters captured a company-sized military convoy in South Waziristan during a complex military operation in early September 2007. The Taliban and al Qaeda operate 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan, and the Taliban have been organizing along the lines of military formations. A senior US intelligence official familiar with the Taliban resurgence in Pakistan who wishes to remain anonymous stated the Taliban have organized militarily at the brigade level, if not higher.

Baitullah is the leader of the newly created Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah was appointed leader of the orgnaization after a gathering of local Taliban leaders throughout the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province in mid-December. Pakistani intelligence intercepted a communication where Baitullah took credit for Benazir Bhutto's assassination and stated he was in the town near a Afghan border.

On Jan. 1, 2008, Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said the Taliban would "expand its actions from Waziristan to Kohistan and [the] settled districts" unless military operations were halted in Swat. Baitullah has been feuding with pro-al Qaeda and Taliban warlord Mullah Nazir, a rival in South Waziristan.

See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information on the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province and beyond.

Militants overrun Pakistan fort

BBC NEWS South Asia Militants overrun Pakistan fort: "Hundreds of militants have overrun a paramilitary fort in north-west Pakistan, killing or kidnapping many troops, the military says.

At least eight soldiers died in the raid and 15 escaped, the army says. The whereabouts of another 25 are unknown.

A Taleban spokesman told BBC Urdu that 16 troops had been killed and another 12 captured during the fighting. Two Taleban died in the fighting, he said.

South Waziristan is a known stronghold of pro-Taleban and al-Qaeda militants.

The region has been at the centre of fighting between the army and the militants in recent months.

Gunfire

"About 200 militants charged the fort from four sides," army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said.

"They broke through the fort's wall with rockets."

Local officials and other reports suggest the number of militants may have been nearer to 1,000.

Observers say this is the first time that militants have captured a fort in Pakistan.

The army says that up to 40 attackers were killed in the fighting, something the tribal fighters deny.

Taleban spokesman in South Waziristan Maulvi Umar told BBC Urdu service that two fighters had been killed.

There is no independent confirmation of these figures.

Officials said troops at the fort came under rocket and automatic weapons attack from militants on Tuesday night.

Soldiers returned fire and the battle went on until early on Wednesday morning. People in the Sararogha area told the BBC Urdu service the exchange of fire went on for four hours.

They said the militants entered the remote military outpost and started shifting weapons and troops they had captured out of the fort.

It is unclear whether the militants are still inside the fort.

Correspondents say that Sararogha Fort dates back to the British colonial period.

It is one of several such posts located along South Waziristan's mountainous border with Afghanistan.

Military personnel at the base monitor and patrol the frontier which it is claimed is used by militants to transport weapons into Afghanistan.

Militant leader

Correspondents say the Sararogha area is a stronghold of pro-Taleban militant leader Baitullah Mehsud.

He is accused by the government of being behind the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on 27 December and a wave of other bombings in recent months.

Meanwhile, the political administration of South Waziristan agency, based in neighbouring North West Frontier Province, has called a council of the Mehsud tribe to try to resolve the issue.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that in recent weeks there has been an increase in skirmishes on Mehsud tribal lands.

Sources say the government is considering an economic blockade of the tribe.

[bth: so one wonders why in 5 hours the Paki military couldn't have even organized some air cover or even called the US to provide some. How screwed up are they? Also note the tremendous disparity of figures, even those missing. One wonders if the fort wasn't betrayed from the inside.]

Despite Deadly Clashes in Iraq, Shiite Pilgrims Spared

Despite Deadly Clashes in Iraq, Shiite Pilgrims Spared - New York Times:... "Mahdi militia members had been accused of acting as death squads, ousting thousands of Sunnis from their homes as well as targeting American and Iraqi government soldiers. However, some of the recent fights between them in the south have appeared to be about little more than which one will control a neighborhood or city.

The decision to consider lifting the freeze came after a fact-finding tour by several high-ranking members of the Sadr organization in which they visited Samawa, Diwaniya, Kut, Amara and Basra, according to Mr. Obaidi. He said that for Mr. Sadr to remain credible with his followers, he has to stand up for them when they become targets.

Mr. Hakim criticized the political process in Baghdad at an outdoor speech commemorating Ashura, which celebrates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, who is perhaps the Shiite sect’s most revered figure other than his father, Imam Ali.

Mr. Hakim called on Parliament to become “real representatives” and hasten to pass legislation on sharing oil revenue and holding provincial elections. ...

[bth: for Sadr, the threat may be worth more than the reality.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: NATO amounts to what?

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: NATO amounts to what?: "'Britain, with a higher percentage of its forces deployed worldwide than the United States, is stretched thin in Afghanistan. Not only did the British have insufficient force strength to hold conquered territory, but the reconstruction and development assistance that was supposed to consolidate military gains did not arrive.

"It's worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps," said one sympathetic former U.S. commander in Afghanistan. "

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The British Army including its resrve forces has around 135,000 men. The Royal Marines around 6,000. The other NATO countries committed in Afghanistan have even smaller forces. Only France is a serious land power and they are not "playing the game" there.

We tend to think of these armies in termas of World War 2 or the Cold War when they were much larger forces. No more. Now, they are pitifully small shadows of their former selves.

The alliance retains some political meaning but it also constitutes a burden in dealing with the fears and anxieties of Russia.

As military reinforcements the NATO armies are not very significant.

This alliance was built to deal with the USSR. That country is gone, long gone. Maybe NATO should be gone also. pl

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/14/AR2008011402722_2.html?hpid=topnews

Sadr may end militia ‘freeze’

Arab Times :: Sadr may end militia ‘freeze’: "Iraq’s radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr may end a freeze on his militia’s activities, eliminating a key factor behind recent improved security in the country, his spokesman said on Friday. Sadr ordered a six-month freeze of the Mahdi Army’s activities late last August after allegations that his fighters were involved in bloody clashes in the central Shiite city of Karbala. The suspension was scheduled to last until the end of February, but the statement from Sadr’s office warned that the freeze may not be extended because, it said, the security services remain infiltrated by criminals. “The decision to suspend the Mahdi Army’s activities has not been rewarded with good results because the government is still counting on criminal gangs inside their security system in the provinces (outside Baghdad) without taking any legal measures against their crimes,” said Sadr’s spokesman Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi. “We have emphasised to the Mahdi Army that if the suspension is not extended they must be calm and stay within legal restrictions,” he added....

US military chiefs weigh Iraq deployments' strain on force

US military chiefs weigh Iraq deployments' strain on force - Yahoo! News: ..."The army, in particular, is now so stretched that soldiers are being deployed for 15 months, with only a year at home between combat tours.

Mullen said he informally samples the stress on the force during visits with troops at military installations around the world.

"I think the biggest immediate lever is to get the 15 month deployments down to 12 months, to get back in balance on a one to one rotation. And then based on the overall requirement to move ahead to get that from 12 to 15 months (at home)," he said.

"There are other pieces to that balance, but that is probably the single biggest lever we have to ease the strain on the force
," he said.

Mullen also said the need for forces in Afghanistan also is a consideration. The marines are sending a 3,200 man force in April to help counter a surge in Taliban violence.

"It's very clear, and I've said before, in the Afghanistan campaign this is an economy of force. If we had more forces available, we would use them," he said.

"So the question is, over time if we have more forces available what would we do with them and where would they go," he said. "We haven't answered that, and we won't answer that in this assessment."

[bth: we do not have enough combat infantry to sustain the tempo of operations in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. We must balance this out or it will wear out the soldiers and their families. ... And why by the way are marines allowed to maintain six month rotations while army is driven to 15? There is something just grossly not right about this.]

Friday, January 18, 2008

 
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Trooper's Eyewitness Account Of ESAPI Plate Failing To Stop Second AK-47 Round

"Editor's Note:"The following account was submitted by an eyewitness to the informal "ballistic test" of an ESAPI (Level IV) plate. Some identifying information has been deleted to protect the source. This is his report of the event, in his own words. Any other observers out there who care to report successes or failures are encouraged to contact me at sftteditor@aol.com. All sources must be willing to establish bona fides before their information will be reported.

Just wanted to drop you a note. My last deployment was in Afghanistan. I did some research and ended up getting some Dragon Skin level 3. With all the controversy, I've traded emails with Pinnacle Armor several times. After all, I was wearing their armor on the "Scary Road of Death" as we called it (between Bagram and Kabul). I was supposed to go to Iraq this fall and was going to purchase the Dragon Skin level 4, but don't need it now.

Anyway, I've had the opportunity to see some explosives and firearms demonstrations.

The demo included two rounds of 9mm and two rounds of 7.62mm NON-armor piercing rounds going into a Level 4 Interceptor plate. Nothing scientific about the demo, just a vest hanging on a post, shot from about 25 yards.

One of the 7.62 rounds made it through! [Emphasis added.]

The weapons guy said that after one round hits a plate, there's a 7" "triangle of death" centered on the strike, which will most likely allow another round to penetrate.

Now I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm thinking there are a lot of fully-automatic weapons being fired in the direction of my brothers and sisters in arms, and the likelihood of two rounds impacting a plate seems fairly high.

I'm pretty upset by the results, but the Marines and some other soldiers (including some SF guys) looked like they were going to be sick.

Just thought you'd like to know, and I saw it with my own two eyes.

EYEWITNESS TROOPER

Report: Troops to war despite broken leg, torn rotator cuffs

Report: Troops to war despite broken leg, torn rotator cuffs - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times: "DENVER — Soldiers who were medically unfit or considered borderline have been sent to the Middle East to meet Army goals for “deployable strength,” The Denver Post reported Thursday.

Quoting internal Army e-mails and a Fort Carson soldier, the newspaper said that more than 50 troops were deployed to Kuwait en route to Iraq while they were still getting medical treatment for various conditions. At least two have been sent home.

Capt. Scot Tebo, the surgeon for Fort Carson’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, wrote in an e-mail obtained by the newspaper that “We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who we would otherwise have left behind for continued treatment.”

Master Sgt. Denny Nelson said he was sent to Kuwait last month despite a severe foot injury. He was sent back to Fort Carson after a military doctor in Kuwait wrote that he never should have been shipped out.

Maj. Harvinder Singh, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s rear detachment commander, said he did not believe medically unfit soldiers have been sent to Iraq. He said soldiers with medical problems are deployed only if they can be assigned to light-duty jobs and if medical services are available at their destinations.

Fort Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt said she knew of no Army policy defining “deployable strength” levels that Army commanders must meet.

Singh said commanders have goals, “but there is no repercussion if you don’t hit that goal.”

Nelson, a 19-year Army veteran who was given the Bronze Star, said he fractured his leg and destroyed tendons in his feet while jumping on his daughter’s trampoline.

He said he was sent to Kuwait last month even though Fort Carson doctors ordered that he not run, jump or carry more than 20 pounds for three months.

Nelson said two other soldiers were deployed with torn rotator cuffs, another was deployed even though he was taking morphine for nerve damage and another had mental health issues.

Nelson said the soldier with nerve damage was sent home after medical staff at a clinic in Iraq turned down his request for more pain medication.

Nelson said that while he was in Kuwait he was told by superiors he would be in charge of 52 soldiers who were receiving medical treatment.

“I expected to find a whole bunch of people, but when I got there, they were all gone. They were already all in Iraq,” Nelson said.

Singh said those soldiers would have received medical treatment in Iraq.

Nelson was sent back to the U.S. after a physician in Kuwait, Maj. Thomas Schymanski, sent Fort Carson officials an e-mail saying, “This soldier should NOT have even left [the continental United States] ... In his current state, he is not full mission capable and in his current condition is a risk to further injury to himself, others and his unit.”

Nelson said he feared he would be a liability to fellow soldiers because of his inability to carry full combat gear.

“I’m not going to Iraq not being able to wear any of my gear, not carry a weapon,” he said. “I become a liability to everybody around me because if they get mortared, they’re going to have to look out for me because obviously, I can’t run. I can’t look out for myself. Now I’ve got soldiers worrying about my welfare, instead of their own.”

U.S. says Iraq forces could control provinces this year | Reuters

U.S. says Iraq forces could control provinces this year | Reuters: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

"We look at it every month. We make recommendations. I think that if we continue along the path we're on now, we'll be able to do that by the end of 2008," Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said when asked when Iraqi forces could take the lead in all provinces.

He said that a joint operation under way led by Iraqi troops and supported by U.S. troops against al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul was a model for the future.

"That's how I see our role frankly in the future here," he told Pentagon reporters via videolink from Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces are now in control of nine provinces after assuming control of Iraqi's southern oil hub, Basra, in December. Iraqi forces are also expected to take control in Anbar province, a one-time insurgent stronghold, as early as March.

The ability of Iraqi forces to take the lead in security operations is vital to President George W. Bush's plan to withdraw 20,000 U.S. troops by the middle of this year.

The troops were sent to Iraq last year in a bid to quell sectarian violence in a war now in its sixth year. With U.S. troop levels up to about 155,000 now, violence levels have since dropped sharply.

"All the evidence available to me now suggests we will be able to complete the drawdown," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters separately.

"(It) remains my hope that the pace of the drawdowns in the second half of the year will be what it was in the first half of the year," he said.

Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commander of security transition in Iraq, told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the number of Iraqi security forces, or ISF, could exceed 580,000 by the end of the year, up from the current 500,000....

[bth: always a surprise and coincidence that our draw downs coincide with the US election cycle. If things hold then just after our November elections there will be a surge in National Guard activations. Amazing these coincidences.]

U.S. To Give Over 4,000 Humvees To Iraq This Year

U.S. To Give Over 4,000 Humvees To Iraq This Year - Pentagon | January 18, 2008 | AHN: "Washington D.C. (AHN) - More than 4,200 up-armored Humvees will be turned over to Iraqi forces by the U.S. in the next 13 months, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The first 627 Humvees to be distributed to local security forces are now undergoing maintenance overhaul, U.S. officials said. The officials said the goal is to turn over 4,244 vehicles by the end of 2008.

Another 4,000 Humvees will be given to the Iraqi government by the end of 2009, the American Forces Press Service reported.

"These vehicles are very important to the Iraqi National Police as well as the Iraqi army forces," Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani was quoted as saying in Taji, Iraq.

The workhorse Humvee "will provide protected mobility for the many Iraqi security forces," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George Smith, director of the Security Assistance Office.

[bth: about damned time. I've only been advocating this as the most logical course of action due to cost and procurement leadtimes since 2005. Further is solidifies Iraq as an American client for future military gear and it allows us to transitionto MRAPs in a logical manner. How many Iraqi soldiers did we let die in unarmored pick-ups waiting for this obvious course of action? 1000, 2000?]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

War rages, but Congress moves on

War rages, but Congress moves on - Martin Kady II - Politico.com: "As Congress opens the 2008 session, it’s hard to find Iraq anywhere on the official agenda.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has no Iraq hearings scheduled, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee is focusing on Pakistan.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also has yet to schedule any Iraq-related hearings, although Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is tentatively scheduled to appear on Feb. 6.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which focused on Iraq contracting fraud last year, has moved on to steroids in baseball as its high-profile cause.

The House Armed Services Committee is the only major panel with a scheduled Iraq hearing early in the 2008 session, and the focus in that panel reflects the new realities in Iraq, with a subcommittee hearing entitled “Post-Surge Alternatives in Iraq.”

It’s a stark contrast to January 2007, when Iraq dominated hearing rooms and floor speeches throughout the Capitol under the new Democratic regime. But a year ago, Iraq was beset by a wave of seemingly unending violence — mayhem that has significantly decreased in many parts of the country under the surge policy of President Bush.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) chaired 12 Iraq hearings in the first month of 2007, while his counterpart in the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), used hearings to call administration officials to account for the lack of progress in Iraq.

The two Armed Services committees were engulfed by the issue as well — the House panel chaired by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) held seven hearings in the first month of 2007.

Neither House nor Senate leaders have scheduled any Iraq votes on the floor in the near future, although Democrats caution that all options are still on the table and they plan to continue a vigorous push to change Iraq policy in 2008.

And Democrats say the session is just getting started, so the committee schedules are still being finalized....

White House Copied Over E-Mail Tapes - on The Huffington Post

White House Copied Over E-Mail Tapes - on The Huffington Post: "The White House acknowledges recycling backup computer tapes of e-mail, a practice that may have wiped out many electronic messages from the early years of the Bush administration, including some pertaining to the CIA leak case.

The disclosure about recycled backup tapes came minutes before midnight Tuesday under a court-ordered deadline that forced the White House to reveal information it previously had refused to provide....

[bth: how convenient.]

British Muslim computer geek, son of diplomat, revealed as al Qaeda's top cyber terrorist

British Muslim computer geek, son of diplomat, revealed as al Qaeda's top cyber terrorist | the Daily Mail: "A computer nerd from Shepherd's Bush, West London, became al Qaeda's top internet agent, it can be revealed today.

Younes Tsouli, 23, an IT student at a London college, used his top-floor flat in W12 to help Islamist extremists wage a propaganda war against the West.

Under the name Irhabi 007 — combining the James Bond reference with the Arabic for terrorist — he worked with al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and came up with a way to convert often gruesome videos into a form that could be put onto the Web.

Videos he posted included messages from Osama bin Laden and images of the kidnapping and murder of hostages in Iraq such as American Nick Berg.

His capture led to the arrest of several Islamic terrorists around the world, including 17 men in Canada and two in the US.

Associates linked to Tsouli in the UK have also now been detained. His 10-year jail sentence was increased to 16 years last month.

At first intelligence operatives who came across his activities dismissed him as a joke. It was only when anti-terrorist detectives began trawling through files on his computer after his arrest that they realised his true significance.

When he was seized, forensic science officers found that Tsouli had been creating a website called YOUBOMBIT.

At his trial at Woolwich crown court a jury heard how the Met trawled through a “hugely gigantic'' amount of material — computers, CDs and memory sticks — to bring Tsouli and two other men to justice.

Detectives found literature urging Muslims to take up the fight against other religions. It was the first time anyone in Britain had been prosecuted for inciting terrorist murder purely based on the internet, the court heard.

Tsouli, who set up and ran several sites over the summer of 2005, was described as the most prominent of the three on trial. The other two were also jailed. One intelligence source said: “In a network structure, if you get the right guy the whole thing goes down.”

Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, the head of the Met's counterterrorism operations, said: “It was the first virtual conspiracy to murder that we have seen.”

Tsouli arrived in London in 2001 with his father, a Moroccan diplomat. He studied IT at a college in central London and was quickly radicalised by images of the war in Iraq posted on the internet.

By 2003 he had already begun posting his own material including a manual on computer hacking and a year later had moved on to publishing extremist images and al Qaeda propaganda on the web.

It is claimed al Qaeda leaders in Iraq spotted Tsouli's work and took the decision to recruit him, using his expertise to post their own extremist videos to a wider audience.

In 2005, Tsouli became administrator for the web forum al-Ansat, used by 4,500 extremists to communicate with each other, sharing such practical information as how to make explosives and how to get to Iraq to become a suicide bomber.

But the enterprise had become so huge, it began to attract the attention of cyber-trackers who monitor the internet for extremists, leading to Tsouli's arrest.

High-tech robot to aid state bomb squad - BostonHerald.com

High-tech robot to aid state bomb squad - BostonHerald.com: "The State Police Bomb Squad headquartered at Logan International Airport will test a new robot designed to detect and disrupt car bombs and other explosive devices without setting them off.

The robot will be the first civilian model of the LandShark, a lower-cost, unmanned ground vehicle created by Tyngsboro-based Black-I Robotics Inc. The Bomb Squad will keep the prototype following testing, which is being funded by the federal Technical Support Working Group, an interagency research and development program for combating terrorism.

“In this day and age, we have to worry about everything from vehicle-born (improvised explosive devices) to person-borne IEDs,” said Sgt. David Thompson, bomb squad supervisor for Troop F, which polices Logan and other Massport properties. “The biggest advantage is that we’ll be able to work with TSWG and Black-I to develop a robot from the ground up that’ll fit our needs.”

The LandShark model is being designed to handle conventional bomb squad techniques, such as removing and destroying suspicious luggage, and carrying and deploying an X-ray scanner or bomb-sniffing sensor, said Black-I president Brian Hart. Weighing nearly 500 pounds, it will be capable of dragging a heavy trailer or person, and will be outfitted with a modified shotgun to tear through luggage or other items.

To disrupt car bombs, the LandShark will be equipped to carry heavy water “disrupters” to the side of a vehicle, which it can then destroy with a very high-velocity blast of water. The idea is to quickly take apart a “Timothy McVeigh-type truck” without destroying the building that it sits next to, said Hart, referring to the man executed for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“The most valuable thing about a robot is that it’s a robot,” said Thompson, a nationally recognized explosives expert who disabled the shoe bomb of convicted terrorist Richard Reid, after his trans-Atlantic American Airlines [AMR] flight was diverted to Logan in 2001. “So if something goes wrong, a person is not killed, it’s a robot.”

That was Hart’s impetus in starting Black-I. He and his brother founded the company after seeing a CNN video in 2005 that showed a Marine in an armored humvee trying to push a bomb-implanted vehicle, which resulted in both being blown up and destroyed. Hart’s own 20-year-old son, Army PFC John Hart, had died two years earlier of a gun shot wound to the neck while serving in Iraq, after his open, unarmored humvee was cut off in an ambush.

“We feel that unmanned ground vehicles can and must be low-cost and mass-producible to be widely fielded,” Hart said. “That is the niche we see for Black-I Robotics.”

Armchair Generalist: Air Force Counterinsurgency "Success"

Armchair Generalist: Air Force Counterinsurgency "Success": "Last week, Robert Farley noted Major General Charles Dunlap's attempt at explaining how totally awesome the Air Force has been in its fighting the insurgency in Iraq. This general has been a constant trumpet for air power uber alles. I was wondering, perhaps, if he meant examples such as the 49,000 tons pounds of ordnance dropped on Baghdad recently.

In one of the heaviest aerial bombardments since the US-led invasion in 2003, US bombers and jets on Thursday dropped 47,500 pounds (21,500 kilograms) of explosives on 47 targets in a 10-minute blitz on Arab Jabour, a Sunni rural area on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

The full impact of the strikes has yet to be detailed by the US military but a tribal sheikh said an Al-Qaeda leader in the area had been killed along with 20 other militants.
---------
The US military said it could not yet assess whether militants were killed but confirmed there had been no reports of civilian casualties.

A US military commander Colonel Terry Ferrell, told a Baghdad press conference Friday via a video link that the strikes had targeted roadside bombs and arms caches rather than people.

"We believe we were able to destroy several major improvised explosive devices (roadside bombs)," said Ferrell. "We believe we were also able to identify and destroy several weapons caches."

It's great that the Air Force was able to assist in a little IED-clearing operation, but one has to wonder if it's really worth the ordnance - and the impact on the Iraqi population. I am relatively sure that there are mine-clearing systems that probably would work just as well, and with far less publicity. As much as Maj Gen Dunlap would like to think that the Air Force can win Iraq without groundpounders, the facts remain obstinently against him. Some day, the Air Force leadership might recognize that, in counterinsurgency operations, Air Force is a supporting arm, not the lead. And this kind of support, I'm not sure is what we need.

Informed Comment: Ayatollah Huckabee Condemns US Constitution with new Fatwa

Informed Comment: Ayatollah Huckabee Condemns US Constitution with new Fatwa

Huckabee wants to change the constitution to be in line with the word of God.

Informed Comment: Ayatollah Huckabee Condemns US Constitution with new Fatwa

Informed Comment: Ayatollah Huckabee Condemns US Constitution with new Fatwa: "Mike Huckabee says he wants to amend the US constitution to bring it into line with the divinely revealed law of the living God:



' "I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."


Ayatollah Huckabee is behind the times. Ayatollah Khomeini has already rectified this unfortunate secular humanist lapse in the Iranian constitution, way back in the early 1980s:


"Article 2

The Islamic Republic is a system based on belief in:

1.the One God (as stated in the phrase "There is no god except Allah"), His exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands;
2.Divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws;
3.the return to God in the Hereafter, and the constructive role of this belief in the course of man's ascent towards God;
4.the justice of God in creation and legislation . . .


Even Michigan's evangelicals appear to have been put off by Huckabee's theocratic tendencies. Mitt Romney beat him in Michigan among evangelicals by a small margin, in contrast to what happened in Iowa before the dark (and sometimes bumbling) side of Huckabee became apparent.

[bth: Juan Cole has the You-Tube of the Huckabee speech. Click on the original link to watch.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

War Is Boring- Treasury Blocks Insurgent TV Mogul

War s Boring: "On Wednesday the U.S. Treasury blacklisted an Iraqi parliamentarian-turned-crook-turned-media mogul that the agency claims is supporting Iraqi insurgents. Mish’an Al-Jaburi, expelled from parliament in 2006 for embezzlement and now reportedly based in Syria, allegedly has used his Al-Zawra TV station — aka “Insurgent TV” – ”to broadcast open-coded messages through patriotic songs to the Sunni terrorist group Islamic Army of Iraq.” (Click the photo for a sample video.)

The listing is part of Treasury’s six-year-old counter-terrorism campaign, which aims to freeze terrorist assets and block the flow of funds from financiers to extremist cells. In July President Bush expanded Treasury’s mandate to include targeting Iraqi insurgent groups and their supporters. Prior to that, the U.S. successfully pressured Egypt to block Al-Zawra from its state-owned satellite TV network. The “pro-insurgency” station “broadcasts graphic videos of insurgent attacks against U.S. forces, advocates violence against Shia, and calls upon Iraqis to unite and take up arms against Coalition Forces.”

Being both a member of parliament and a terrorist info-warrior required a delicate balancing act for Al-Jaburi, Treasury reports. He was “publicly critical of Al-Qaeda in Iraq” while “work[ing] with an AQI jihadist umbrella organization, the Mujahadin Shura Council, to fund Sunni extremist operations. Additionally, Al-Jaburi’s television station broadcast recruitment videos for AQI’s Abu Bakr Al-Sadiq Al Salafi Battalion.”

[bth: Mr. Axe certainly has a good website.]

Raid shows risks in new tactic to hunt al-Qaeda

Raid shows risks in new tactic to hunt al-Qaeda - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON"— When the two Army Rangers slipped inside the house of suspected assassins in the dark on Christmas morning in Mosul, they expected a fight. They got one.
Two gunmen, using an 11-year-old boy as a shield, confronted the soldiers. One, a Ranger staff sergeant, shot them dead with his rifle. The boy was unharmed, according to an Army document that outlined the assault.

That clash — recounted to USA TODAY by four of the Rangers involved and confirmed by the military command in Baghdad — kicked off what U.S. military officials say was a 17-hour firefight that resulted in the deaths of 10 al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents, including the head of an assassination cell, a financier and a military leader. At least one fighter was from Saudi Arabia, according to the military account of the raid. Intelligence gleaned from the fight led to 10 follow-up operations, the Rangers' commander said.

The Dec. 25 raid occurred in what military officials say has become the most dangerous part of Iraq — Mosul and surrounding areas, about 200 miles north of Baghdad. The assault was a preview of a U.S.-led campaign to root out insurgents in Mosul and Diyala province who have targeted those who cooperate with Americans. It was part of a broader operation that led to the combat deaths of nine U.S. soldiers last week in Diyala....


[bth: this article is worth a full read.]

Monday, January 14, 2008

 
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2 tons of explosives found amongst humanitarian aid en route to Gaza - Israel News, Ynetnews

2 tons of explosives found amongst humanitarian aid en route to Gaza - Israel News, Ynetnews: "Security workers employed by the Israel Airport Authority uncovered two tons of fertilizer used in the manufacturing of Qassam rockets on Monday afternoon, the substantial amount of explosive material was concealed in a truck allegedly transporting humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip."

The security officials manning the Kerem Shalom border crossing discovered the smuggling attempt during a random inspection of vehicles carrying humanitarian equipment and goods.

This is the second such incident to occur this week...

TorontoSun.com - Peter Worthington - Our front-line fight

TorontoSun.com - Peter Worthington - Our front-line fight: "A DND analysis claims Canadian deaths in Afghanistan are proportionately greater than any other country's in the alliance, and greater even than the ratio of Canadians killed in the Second World War.

Our soldiers are apparently being killed at a rate two to four times higher than British or American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even higher than American soldiers in Iraq are being killed.

As reported in the National Post, this seems a horrifying statistic -- even if the number killed since 2001 is 76, which ain't the Somme.

As well as horrifying, I suspect it's a misleading statistic.

While it's arguably true the 2,500-member Canadian battle group in Kandahar has the toughest, most dangerous job of all the 26 NATO and nine "partner" nations with troops deployed in Afghanistan, we also have, proportionately, the greatest number of combat troops.

Some 26,000 of the 40,000-plus allied troops in Afghanistan are American, but the U.S. has a greater percentage of administrative and non-combat troops in Afghanistan than Canada.

Most of our 2,500 troops go into the field, where they risk ambush, mines, roadside bombs, open combat. So simply dividing the overall number of troops in theatre by the number of combat fatalities is bound to be misleading when half the overall number may not be at the sharp end.

To suggest soldiers are far more likely to be killed in Canadian forces than in U.S. or British forces, is valid only if it applies to those who go beyond the wire.

'TERRORIST WAR'

Editorially, the Post says Canada's high casualty rate is because the Brits and Yanks are better prepared "for this kind of terrorist war." That implies they are better trained -- something anyone who has experienced Canadians soldiers in the field might dispute.

While the Canadians have no helicopters as have the Brits, Americans and Dutch (to whom Jean Chretien sold our helicopters when he was PM in order to cut DND costs), our greater use of ground transportation entails increased danger.

If our military had helicopters and used them to transport soldiers, it would only take one downed helicopter to cause our casualty rate to soar, and feed a panic reaction back home to quit the mission, or demand our troops get an easier, non-fighting role.

MORALE IS HIGH

Reality is, the better soldiers are, the tougher the jobs they get. Morale among our troops is high.

Canada's prestige and influence rise as our soldiers cope with the toughest role in Afghanistan with the greatest effect.

The Vandoos in Afghanistan have exceeded expectations.

They've been tigers in the field and done their province and country proud -- perhaps alleviating criticism in Quebec by their deportment.

The implication that Afghanistan is more dangerous or lethal than the Second World War (where 42,000 Canadians were killed) is just plain silly. It's a different, more nerve-wracking war, perhaps, but not as deadly. In World War Two, for every soldier shooting at the enemy, 15 were in non-combat roles. Canada's Afghan mission involves more "fighting" soldiers than in previous wars, with fewer rear-echelon types.

Of nearly 700 allied troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001, over 400 were American. While every soldier killed is a tragedy to some family, our 76 dead in six years is not extreme, considering the job they're doing.

As well as combating the Taliban, our troops help in reconstruction, building schools, providing wells, training the National Afghan Army, and developing skills that will serve in future emergencies.

The cost may be high, but it's not too high.

The families who have lost loved ones seem to realize the pride, honour and sense of duty felt by those who have died in Canada's name.

Canadian soldiers are making a difference.

[bth: On behalf of our family and our country I want to thank our northern neighbors for their help and their sacrifices.]
 
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Chelsea campaigns at Farm

Chelsea campaigns at Farm - The Stanford Daily Online: "Chelsea Clinton ‘01 fielded questions about her mother’s presidential bid last night before an audience of more than 100 young women packed on the floor of the Pi Beta Phi lounge.

The former first daughter’s address followed a smaller round table discussion at Old Union. Campaign organizers reached out to sororities in an effort to target women, one of Hillary Clinton’s “core demographics,” according to Carolyn Forstein ‘10, an associate with the Clinton campaign in San Francisco and a member of Stanford Students for Hillary....

[bth: if McCain had spoken at an all men's club or Romney at a Mormon church there would have been outrage... is this different?]

WSJ.com : Dancing Spychief Wants to Tap Into Cyberspace

Washington Wire - WSJ.com : Dancing Spychief Wants to Tap Into Cyberspace: "Spychief Mike McConnell is drafting a plan to protect America’s cyberspace that will raise privacy issues and make the current debate over surveillance law look like “a walk in the park,” McConnell tells The New Yorker in the issue set to hit newsstands Monday. “This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”

At issue, McConnell acknowledges, is that in order to accomplish his plan, the government must have the ability to read all the information crossing the Internet in the United States in order to protect it from abuse. Congressional aides tell The Journal that they, too, are also anticipating a fight over civil liberties that will rival the battles over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Part of the lawmakers’ ire, they have said, is the paltry information the administration has provided. The cyberspace security initiative was first reported in September by The Baltimore Sun, and some congressional aides say that lawmakers have still learned more from the media than they did from the few Top Secret briefings they have received hours before the administration requested money in November to jump start the program.

In a series of interviews that began in July, McConnell also weighs in on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the past six years, McConnell says, U.S. intelligence agencies have stopped “many, many” terrorist attacks. But his deputy David Shedd says that in the search for America’s most-wanted terrorist, “the trail is cold.” McConnell says that while bin Laden is believed to be in the tribal region of Pakistan, the U.S. will not invade the country to chase him down. You cannot indiscriminately attack a sovereign nation,” he says, adding, though, that if the U.S. can pinpoint his location, “we’ll bring it to closure.”

On interrogation policy, McConnell said he reviewed the secret U.S. policy on interrogation and evaluated it with the advice of the doctors who oversee the process. “Our policies are not torture,” he said, defining torture as “excruciatingly painful to the point of forcing someone to say something because of the pain.”

Asked specifically about waterboarding, McConnell appears to suggest waterboarding would be torture, but he then backtracks.

“If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful!” McConnell says. “Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.” Asked later about that comment, McConnell says he did not mean to suggest he personally condemned it. “You can do waterboarding lots of different ways,” he says. “I assume you can get to the point that a person is actually drowning.” Yet McConnell declined to be more specific, because “if it ever is determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it.”

On McConnell’s apparent equivocation on waterboarding, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said in a statement today that, McConnell’s comments amount to “a very strong endorsement of the value of CIA’s detention and interrogation program,” noting that McConnell also said the interrogation program has saved “tons” of lives. Mansfield added that the procedures have been deemed lawful by the Department of Justice, approved by the National Security Council, and shared with congressional intelligence committees. ...

[bth: I cannot believe congress would even consider this bureaucratic, this abuser of constitutional rights, this torturer. If politicans will not protect our constitutional rights, then we must remove them from office. We have to fight for our rights from threats foreign and domestic. We cannot surrender our rights to fear.]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

 
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Prisoners 'to be chipped like dogs'

Prisoners 'to be chipped like dogs' - Independent Online Edition > UK Politics: "Ministers are planning to implant "machine-readable" microchips under the skin of thousands of offenders as part of an expansion of the electronic tagging scheme that would create more space in British jails.

Amid concerns about the security of existing tagging systems and prison overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice is investigating the use of satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor criminals.

But, instead of being contained in bracelets worn around the ankle, the tiny chips would be surgically inserted under the skin of offenders in the community, to help enforce home curfews. The radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, as long as two grains of rice, are able to carry scanable personal information about individuals, including their identities, address and offending record.

The tags, labelled "spychips" by privacy campaigners, are already used around the world to keep track of dogs, cats, cattle and airport luggage, but there is no record of the technology being used to monitor offenders in the community. The chips are also being considered as a method of helping to keep order within prisons.

A senior Ministry of Justice official last night confirmed that the department hoped to go even further, by extending the geographical range of the internal chips through a link-up with satellite-tracking similar to the system used to trace stolen vehicles. "All the options are on the table, and this is one we would like to pursue," the source added.

The move is in line with a proposal from Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), that electronic chips should be surgically implanted into convicted paedophiles and sex offenders in order to track them more easily. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is seen as the favoured method of monitoring such offenders to prevent them going near "forbidden" zones such as primary schools.

"We have wanted to take advantage of this technology for several years, because it seems a sensible solution to the problems we are facing in this area," a senior minister said last night. "We have looked at it and gone back to it and worried about the practicalities and the ethics, but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come."...
 
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McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/10/2008 | U.S. counterfeiting charges against N. Korea based on shaky evidence

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/10/2008 | U.S. counterfeiting charges against N. Korea based on shaky evidence: "WASHINGTON — Two years ago, as he was ratcheting up a campaign to isolate and cripple North Korea's dictatorship financially, President Bush accused the communist regime there of printing phony U.S. currency.

"When someone is counterfeiting our money, we want them to stop doing that. We are aggressively saying to the North Koreans just that — don't counterfeit our money," Bush said on Jan. 26, 2006.

However, a 10-month McClatchy investigation on three continents has found that the evidence to support Bush's charges against North Korea is uncertain at best and that the claims of the North Korean defectors cited in news accounts are dubious and perhaps bogus. One key law enforcement agency, the Swiss federal criminal police, has publicly questioned whether North Korea is even capable of producing "supernotes," counterfeit $100 bills that are nearly perfect except for some practically invisible additions.

Many of the administration's public allegations about North Korean counterfeiting trace to North Korea "experts" in South Korea who arranged interviews with North Korean defectors for U.S. and foreign newspapers. The resulting news reports were quoted by members of Congress, researchers and Bush administration officials who were seeking to pressure North Korea.

The defectors' accounts, for example, were cited prominently in a lengthy July 23, 2006, New York Times magazine story that charged North Korea with producing the sophisticated supernotes.

The McClatchy investigation, however, found reason to question those sources. One major source for several stories, a self-described chemist named Kim Dong-shik, has gone into hiding, and a former roommate, Moon Kook-han, said Kim is a liar out for cash who knew so little about American currency that he didn't know whose image is printed on the $100 bill. (It's Benjamin Franklin.)

The Secret Service, the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department all declined repeated requests for interviews for this story....

[bth: its worth reading the full article. One comes to the conclusion that the evidence the Bush Administration for any recent activity from North Korea looks fabricated. There is also a connection cited in the article to a neocon over at the Heritage Foundation and our buddy John Bolton. It looks like they just made it up.]

YouTube - Rocky 3 Eye of the Tiger

YouTube - Rocky 3 Eye of the Tiger: ""

FBI Finds Blackwater Trucks Patched

FBI Finds Blackwater Trucks Patched - Politics on The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide repaired and repainted its trucks immediately after a deadly September shooting in Baghdad, making it difficult to determine whether enemy gunfire provoked the attack, according to people familiar with the government's investigation of the incident.

Damage to the vehicles in the convoy has been held up by Blackwater as proof that its security guards were defending themselves against an insurgent ambush when they fired into a busy intersection, leaving 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

U.S. military investigators initially found "no enemy activity involved" and the Iraqi government concluded the shootings were unprovoked.

The repairs essentially destroyed evidence that Justice Department investigators hoped to examine in a criminal case that has drawn worldwide attention. The Sept. 16 shooting has strained U.S. relations with the Iraqi government, which wants Blackwater expelled from the country. It also has become a flash point in the debate over whether contractors are immune from legal consequences for their actions in a war zone.

Blackwater's four armored vehicles were repaired or repainted within days of the shooting, and before FBI teams went to Baghdad to collect evidence, people close to the case said. The work included repairs to a damaged radiator that Blackwater says is central to its defense.

The damage and subsequent repairs were described to The Associated Press by five people familiar with the case who discussed it in separate interviews over the past month. All spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The repair work creates a hurdle for prosecutors as they consider building a case against any of the 19 guards in the Sept. 16 convoy. It also makes it harder for Blackwater to prove its innocence as it faces a grand jury investigation and multiple lawsuits over the shooting. The company is the target, too, of an unrelated investigation into whether its contractors smuggled weapons into Iraq.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said any repairs "would have been done at the government's direction." Blackwater's contract with the State Department requires that the company maintain its vehicles and keep them on the road.

The State Department would not comment on whether it ordered the repairs to the vehicles involved in the shooting....

[bth: how convenient.]
 
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Troops kill 50 militants in border region

Troops kill 50 militants in border region | NEWS.com.au: "PAKISTANI troops killed more than 50 Taliban militants after fighting off an attack on a military fort in a troubled tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The clash occurred near the town of Ladha in the rugged South Waziristan tribal district, where thousands of Pakistani troops are deployed to fight al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

"More than 50 miscreants were killed in the attack and an unknown number were also injured," a senior security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said the militants suffered "heavy casualties in the encounter" but said he had no official figures yet.

The fighting erupted late Wednesday night, just hours after thousands of armed tribesmen met at Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, to hunt down those involved in killing members of a tribal peace committee last week.

The tribesmen blame those killings on Baitullah Mehsud, a leading Taliban warlord, who has also been accused by the Pakistani government of masterminding the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last month.

Military sources said those who mounted the attack on the fort were mainly followers of Mr Mehsud. There was no immediate comment from local Taliban sources.

Pakistan has pushed more than 90,000 troops into the tribal belt to combat Islamic militants who fled Afghanistan after US-led forces invaded the country in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
 
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in secret Iraq talks with US - Times Online

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in secret Iraq talks with US - Times Online: "THE HEAD of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps slipped into the green zone of Baghdad last month to press Tehran’s hardline position over the terms of the current talks with American officials, it was claimed last week.

Iraqi government sources say that Major-General Mohammed Ali Jafari, 50, travelled secretly from Tehran. Jafari appears to have passed through checkpoints on his way into the fortified enclave that contains the American embassy and Iraqi ministries, even though he is on Washington’s “most wanted” list.

Last year Washington declared the guard a “foreign terrorist organisation” and imposed sanctions on it.

One of the accusations that led to the designation was the charge that the Quds Force, a branch of the guard, was supplying rockets, mortars and roadside bombs known as explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) to Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

In recent days there has been a sharp increase in the use of such bombs against American troops, and last weekend five Iranian speedboats were said to have harassed three American Navy ships, radioing a threat to blow them up.

On his tour of the Middle East yesterday President George W Bush put Tehran on notice over its support for the insurgency in Iraq. “Iran’s role in fomenting violence has been exposed,” he said in Kuwait.

Iran and the United States have held three rounds of talks over security in Iraq. They have made little progress so far but are considered a breakthrough because they are the first face-to-face encounters since 1980.

At the insistence of the Americans, the talks between Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, and Hassan Kazemi Qomi, his Iranian counterpart, have been kept to the issue of security in Iraq. But Tehran wants them broadened to include the release of Iranian diplomats being held in Baghdad by the Americans. It is understood Jafari was sent to Baghdad to ensure that this happened.
 
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