Friday, April 04, 2008

Lawyers: Extend cuddle ban to non-Muslims - Asia-Pacific -

Lawyers: Extend cuddle ban to non-Muslims - Asia-Pacific - "Islamic"lawyers meeting in Malaysia want an existing ban on unwed Muslim couples from cuddling or holding hands to be extended to non-Muslims caught flirting with the faithful, a local newspaper said on Thursday.

Experts in sharia law, which currently applies only to Malaysia's majority Muslims, proposed at a seminar that there should be a civil law to deal with non-Muslims found committing the Islamic crime of khalwat, or close proximity, with a Muslim.

"The Muslims can be sentenced in sharia courts and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties," a senior Malaysian sharia-court judge told the Star newspaper....

[bth: the shape of things to come]

Study finds lawmakers invested $165m in defense - The Boston Globe

Study finds lawmakers invested $165m in defense - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON"- Members of Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies that do business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the onset of the Iraq war, according to a study by a nonpartisan research group.

The review of lawmakers' 2006 financial disclosure statements, by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, suggests that members' holdings could pose a conflict of interest as they decide the fate of Iraq war spending.

Several members earning money from these contractors have plum committee or leadership assignments, including Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, and the House minority whip Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri.

The study found that more Republicans than Democrats hold stock in defense companies, but that the Democrats who are invested had significantly more money at stake

Pentagon: New MRAPs saving troops' lives -

Pentagon: New MRAPs saving troops' lives - "WASHINGTON"— Troops traveling in the military's new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks have survived attacks from the most lethal explosives in Iraq, according to military commanders and a Pentagon report.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multi-National Division-Central troops south of Baghdad, said his soldiers are facing more attacks from explosively formed penetrators (EFPs
). These weapons fire a molten slug of metal that can slice through armor even on tanks. MRAPs also have withstood blasts from huge improvised explosive devices (IEDs) deeply buried in roads

"The MRAPs, in addition to increasing the survivability of our soldiers from underbelly attacks, also have improved force protection for EFP attacks as well," Lynch said. "So I've had EFPs hit my MRAPs and the soldiers inside, in general terms, are OK."

Lynch's soldiers received their first MRAPs in November and now have 323, Maj. Alayne Conway, a military spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Lynch blamed Shiite extremists for the rise in EFP attacks.

The truck's V-shaped hull deflects explosions. Its chassis also sits high off the ground, where the force of buried bombs would be greatest. They're taller than Humvees, Lynch said, making them harder to target for insurgents using EFPs.

MRAPs are less vulnerable than Humvees and other vehicles to deeply buried bombs, another deadly form of IED, Lynch said.

"We've lost 140 soldiers under my command since we've been involved in this operation," Lynch said by phone from Iraq. "Many were the result of them being in uparmored Humvees or Bradleys or tanks. Underbelly IEDs, with significant amounts of explosive material, have been devastating. They cause catastrophic kills in those vehicles. Those same kind of attacks against MRAPs allow my soldiers to survive. I'm convinced of that."

The vehicles have performed well in other parts of Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

"The MRAP has demonstrated that it is much better than other wheeled vehicles in protecting troops from the effects of IEDs, and the newest of the MRAPs has sustained enormous explosions without any breach of the personnel compartment," according to the most recent Pentagon report on security in Iraq.

No Marine has been killed or seriously injured in an MRAP, Marine Gen. Robert Magnus said in written testimony to Congress on Tuesday. He told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness that Marines are up to five times more likely to be hurt in an attack on an armored Humvee than in an MRAP.

"While designs are improving, these vehicles provide the best available protection against IEDs, just as the enemy is trying to improve these crude but potentially lethal weapons," he wrote.

The Pentagon has shipped 4,380 MRAPs for troops on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military said. Of those, 3,200 are being driven in combat, the majority in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the trucks the Pentagon's top acquisition priority.

The military plans to spend $22 billion to buy more than 15,000 MRAPs.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, head of the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization, said adjustments have been made to the passenger compartments to prevent head and leg injuries.

"We've had some catastrophic hits on them, but soldiers inside have lived through it," Metz said.

Overall, IED attacks have decreased to 20 per day, down from the 2006 peak of more than 60 per day. The use of drones for surveillance of insurgents has contributed to the decline, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, told Congress in written testimony. Drones have allowed the military to kill more than "several hundred IED emplacers," he said.

[bth: The rise in EFP attacks are the natural and predicted response to fielding MRAPs. EFPs and armor piercing RPG warheads are two of the ways to defeat MRAPs. Further, the adjustments to seats and roofs to prevent back and leg injuries when the vehicle is blasted from underneath should have been done in the first place as it is common knowledge that those injuries would occur unless the seats were suspended from the ceiling. The South Africans made those adaptations decades ago but we refused to accept them I guess. Note the article says no marines have been killed in them, it doesn't say no army units have not been killed. Still despite the nuanced statements, MRAPs are a tremendous and expensive success. Keeping funding up is critical and that is why I think USA Today also ran the article which pointed out that IEDs are spreading out around the world. There are those in the Pentagon who want to pretend IEDs are not a permanent threat because that would mean certain favored armor programs would not get funded. IEDs are not a passing fad or temporary phenomenon. They are a low cost ubiquitous way to destory the best armor we have in the field. It is costing us billions to counter this cheap $150 per blast threat. In sum the timing of these articles is about funding priorities in the Pentagon and in Congress. MRAPS are expensive and they largely work. We need more. One last thought, note the very small number that are making it into combat. It looks like 1/3 are being scarfed up by REMFs and also that for all the talk, we actually are no where close to making the 17,000 discussed for over a year.]

IEDs go beyond Iraq, Afghanistan

IEDs go beyond Iraq, Afghanistan - "WASHINGTON"— Makeshift bomb attacks by insurgents — common in Iraq and Afghanistan — are on the rise in other countries, prompting concerns by military experts that the tactic is becoming the weapon of choice by terror groups worldwide.

There are 200 to 300 improvised explosive attacks each month outside Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the British Triton Report. Triton is part of the consulting firm HMS Ltd., which provides counter-IED training for the U.S. government and other governments and businesses. The IED threat outside Iraq and Afghanistan increased steadily in 2006 and 2007 and is on a pace to exceed those numbers in 2008, said Irene Smith, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

Terrorists realize the IEDs can have more impact than attacks with small weapons, Smith said. "Things that go boom draw more attention than things that go bang," she said in an e-mail.

The Triton report detailed how terrorist groups hide IEDs in balls and children's toys, notably in Colombia and the West Bank.

IED technology can be adopted easily elsewhere, says Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "This is the urgent threat facing us now," he said. "It's one of the few things capable of defeating us."

Last year, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Russia and Nepal were among the countries with the most IED activity outside Iraq and Afghanistan, according to JIEDDO, which relies on the Triton report for data on attacks. Among the IED attacks in February, included in the report:

•Sri Lanka: On Feb. 2, an IED killed 20 people and injured 80 at a bus stop.

•Somalia: On Feb. 3, a bomb blew up a bus in Mogadishu, killing five and wounding 10 others.

•India: On Feb. 8, guerrillas killed two members of Indian security forces and wounded four others with a makeshift bomb. On Feb. 27, an IED strapped to a bicycle killed one and wounded 14. Bomb attacks in India have doubled since 2006, the report said. The report cites 15 attacks in February.

•Venezuela: On Feb. 24, a bomb blew up outside the national Chamber of Commerce building in Caracas, killing a police inspector.

•Thailand: On Feb. 27, anti-government militants killed a person with a bomb buried in a roadway. Four people were wounded.

[bth: IEDs were perfected against South African troops years ago. That technology then transferred to Hezbollah which refined it against Israeli troops in Lebanon until they left. Then those manuals received wide circulation both in Iraq and Iran. So is it a surprise that IEDs are proliferating since they are inexpensive, easy to construct and effective? Why the no dah article in USA Today? Well I suspect its about MRAP funding, or moves to curtail MRAP funding. See following article.]

Obama Adviser Calls for 60,000-80,000 U.S. Troops To Stay in Iraq Through 2010

Obama Adviser Calls for 60,000-80,000 U.S. Troops To Stay in Iraq Through 2010 | The New York Sun: "A"key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000–80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).” ...

[bth: 80,000 matches the lowest 1 year numbers I understand that the Pentagon has estimated possible. Obama would be wise to talk in terms of realities instead of political slogans.]

More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight - New York Times

More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight - New York Times: "More"than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The crisis created by the desertions and other problems with the Basra operation was serious enough that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki hastily began funneling some 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into his armed forces. That move has already generated anger among Sunni tribesmen whom Mr. Maliki has been much less eager to recruit despite their cooperation with the government in its fight against Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs.

A British military official said that Mr. Maliki had brought 6,600 reinforcements to Basra to join the 30,000 security personnel already stationed there, and a senior American military official said that he understood that 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqi forces had deserted or underperformed. That would represent a little over 4 percent of the total....

[bth: it may be 4% of the total but it was evidently a much higher percentage when compared to those actually engaged.]

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Video of Infantry Robot Testing

Video of Infantry Robot Testing - Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A Battalion’s Worth of Good Ideas - New York Times

A Battalion’s Worth of Good Ideas - New York Times: "THE"surge” of American forces in Iraq, coupled with an adherence to classic counterinsurgency principles, has gone a long way toward improving security there. Ultimately, though, success must be handled by the Iraqis themselves. And the key to success — in Afghanistan as well — rests largely with a small group of American military advisers who live and fight alongside foreign forces

In a speech last fall to the Association of the United States Army, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates argued that the most important military component of what the Pentagon calls the “long war” against radical extremists will not be the fighting we do ourselves but how we “empower our partners to defend and govern their own countries.” This is something we know how to do, though we often move too slowly in shifting the burden of fighting from our own troops to those we are trying to help.

Based on American experiences in Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, an advisory strategy can help the Iraqi Army and security forces beat Al Qaeda and protect their country. (Obviously, these are my personal views, and do not represent those of the Army.) However, doing so will require America’s ground forces to provide at least 20,000 combat advisers for the duration of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — men and women specially equipped and trained to help foreign forces bear a greater share of the combat load.

Unfortunately, America’s military did not have the advisory capacity it should have had after major combat operations ceased. The first attempt to create a new Iraqi Army was farmed out to private contractors. When that effort failed, and it became clear that the assistance needed to help the fledgling Iraqi Army far exceeded the capability of the Army’s Special Forces, regular Army troops were called on to fill the gap. Given their lack of training, these soldiers did remarkably well, but it was always a stopgap measure.

Fortunately, the advisory effort has been improved in the last couple of years. No longer do our troops receive training of varying quality conducted at different Army posts; since 2006, all Army, Navy and Air Force adviser training has been centralized at Fort Riley, Kan., under the Army’s First Infantry Division, where I lead one of the training battalions engaged in this effort.

Graduates deploy in 10- to 16-person teams that embed with Iraqi and Afghan security forces, assist in their training and accompany them into combat. Not only does this give those foreign troops exposure to our military tactics, it also provides a critical link to American artillery, air support and logistics during operations. Still, we have not seen the urgency the mission requires.

Doctrine — a standard enumeration of the purpose of a military organization and how it will accomplish its goals — is still nonexistent for the adviser mission. Organization is inconsistent, for example, with most Afghanistan teams consisting of 16 soldiers with no medic, while most Iraq teams contain 11 soldiers, including a medic. The fact is, both types of teams are too small for the tasks they have been assigned, and many consequently have been augmented on the ground by regular troops on an ad hoc basis.

This is simply because not enough advisers are being produced — just 5,000 per year. We are going to need ever more experienced, trained advisers as the size and complexity of the Iraqi and Afghan police forces and armies grow and as the combat burden increasingly shifts to them.

Part of the problem is institutional. The United States military’s ability in battle is unmatched, but we have a spotty history in terms of helping allies fight for themselves. Advisers who live and fight with a struggling “poor cousin” local army often do their dangerous and sometimes frustrating work out of sight of the brass, and it can be a career-killer for ambitious young officers.

In Vietnam, the advisory effort got off to a slow start and was too often neglected in favor of United States-only operations. Only after Washington committed in 1969 to so-called Vietnamization at the direction of President Richard M. Nixon did advisers get the resources and recognition they deserved, and by then it was too late. In the words of an (anonymous) Army officer who served in that war, “Our military institution seems to be prevented by its own doctrinal rigidity from understanding the nature of this war and from making the necessary modifications to apply its power more intelligently, more economically and, above all, more relevantly.”

Too much of that statement still rings true today. In the long term, we need to institutionalize our ability to field advisers and provide effective military assistance to allies. As it stands now, the troops we train at Fort Riley do their tour and are then moved back into conventional roles, while the embedded training teams are demobilized. This is as senseless as if in World War II we had decided that the First Infantry Division, which had gone ashore in North Africa and Sicily, was to be disbanded and replaced on D-Day with a division that had no experience landing on hostile ground. What we need, even after the Iraq and Afghanistan missions have ended, is a standing advisory corps of about 20,000 troops that can deploy wherever in the world we need to get our allies up to speed.

Ultimately, a successful shift of the combat load from American forces to the Iraqi and Afghan armies depends on four things.

First, United States military and civilian leadership must recognize that resources to support this major shift in strategy have to be re-routed from our regular forces. Left to themselves, the military services will inevitably neglect advisory efforts to sustain conventional forces. It took presidential direction to Vietnamize the war in Southeast Asia, and it will take a similar push to successfully “Iraqify” this war.

Second, shifting the burden from our forces to Iraqi and Afghan troops will call for close coordination between our civilian leadership and commanders in the field. Even as American combat forces draw down in favor of adviser-supported local armies, American combat support in the form of firepower, intelligence and logistics will continue to be crucial, possibly to the tune of tens of thousands of Americans in the combat zone. Politically, that may be a tough sell at home, but the success we’re finally seeing will falter without a continued American presence.

Third, the United States’ success depends on the willingness of the Iraqi and Afghan armies to fight with tenacity and skill. Soldiers of both countries are good fighters when well led. But we’ll let them down if we don’t send more and larger teams to embed with locals.

Finally, the American people must continue to be patient. In the 20th century, the average counterinsurgency campaign took nine years. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to run longer, and other commitments loom in this protracted struggle against Al Qaeda and its imitators. Bitter experience has long recognized that only local armies can ultimately prevail in counterinsurgency operations.

For the United States, helping our friends defend themselves will be critical for victory in the long war, and improving our adviser capacity will be the foundation of a long-term strategy.

John A. Nagl, an Army lieutenant colonel, is the author of “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam.” He was one of the writers of the new Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual

[bth: this is a critical article.]

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says"
9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says

Dinosaur killer found in volcanic bubbles - life - 01 April 2008 - New Scientist

Dinosaur killer found in volcanic bubbles - life - 01 April 2008 - New Scientist: "One"of the chief suspects in the demise of the dinosaurs has been hiding inside rare time capsules.

A surge of volcanic activity around 65 million years ago could have triggered a mass extinction by pumping sulphur and chlorine into the atmosphere. But geologists were not sure that enough gas was released.

Now Stephen Blake and colleagues at the Open University in the UK have found rare glass inclusions in volcanic rocks in the Deccan Traps in India, which have been linked to the dinosaur extinction. These inclusions hold a record of the gases in the magma before eruption, and show that at least 1012 tonnes of sulphur and chlorine were released - more than enough to cause drastic climate change.

Pentagon overspending, delays getting worse, auditors find -

Pentagon overspending, delays getting worse, auditors find - "The"Pentagon is $295 billion over budget on dozens of key programs and taking more time to deliver the systems to the front lines, according to a report released by a government watchdog agency.

The Defense Department programs suffering from cost overruns include a new presidential helicopter, unmanned aerial drones and improvements to the F-22A Raptor, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Monday.

Delays in delivering the systems were averaging 21 months, up from the 16 months it was when the GAO released its first report on defense acquisitions six years ago.

That time lag is forcing the military to keep equipment in use longer than planned, which is itself driving up costs, the report said.

The cost overruns mean the Pentagon is spending just over $118 for every $100 it budgeted.

The GAO couched its findings in management jargon -- calling the Pentagon's acquisitions "increasingly suboptimal" -- but its conclusion is blunt: The situation "needs to be corrected."

A Pentagon spokesman said the department needs time to study the report before commenting...

The GAO studied 72 programs chosen for their large budgets, congressional interest and stage of delivery. Not a single one met standards for best practices in development, the agency said.

The high-profile new presidential Marine One helicopter has been rebudgeted in such a way that the GAO said it cannot even calculate what it will cost. It appears likely to come in at least $1 billion over initial estimates, according to the watchdog agency.

The Pentagon spends too much on programs because it does not have enough information, the report stated.

Department of Defense "programs continue to proceed through critical junctures with knowledge gaps that expose programs to significant, unnecessary technology, design and production risks," leading to higher costs and delays, it said.

The Pentagon is not getting better in this regard, the GAO warns, concluding that "DOD programs are likely to continue to experience a cascade of negative effects that affect both costs and schedules."

The report urged the Pentagon to make better informed decisions. "This type of strategy is essential for getting better outcomes for DOD programs."

Among key findings of the report are:

More than 6 in 10 programs changed requirements after development began.

Fewer than half of program managers stay in their jobs as long as Department of Defense policy recommends.

Nearly half the staff members working on the programs are not government employees.

About half of all programs required more than a 25 percent increase in the amount of software code initially expected.

Research and development costs came in 40 percent higher than first estimates, while total costs per system were 26 percent higher. Both measures are getting worse rather than better over time.

The report is "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-08-467SP, March 31, 2008

[bth: so let's add this up. B52s are still flying and effective even though the last one was built in the early 1960s. All our B2 fleet is sitting on the ground because they crashed one and don't know why but at $2.2 billion a pop they are too expensive to use. The F15 fleet is falling apart and we have no cost effective alternative. We need UAVs like crazy because of the need for close air support and IED detection but can't get those programs funds. Most of the senior air force procurement staff was put in jail or fired over the last few years. The situation is broken and no one is fixing it.]

Informed Comment: Global Affairs: Rubin: Taliban and Telecoms -- Secret Negotiations Just Got Easier, and at a Price You Can Afford!

Informed Comment: Global Affairs: Rubin: Taliban and Telecoms -- Secret Negotiations Just Got Easier, and at a Price You Can Afford!: ..."Today the Taliban can't seem to get off the mobile phone. In the past six years, Afghanistan has gone from no mobile (and virtually no fixed) telephone service to 10% mobile phone penetration. The Taliban have participated in this technological development. Recently they attracted attention by threatening to blow up mobile phone towers if they were not switched off at night, claiming that NATO was using their signals to track their locations....

[bth: this is a fascinating article about how the Taliban negotiates with cell phone companies for protection money to keep towers activated and how phone cards can be used to transfer funds internationally. There is actually a copy of a receipt from the Taliban for tower protection. Worth a full read.]
Red State Update

Paltry results of Iraqi offensive silence U.S. withdrawal talk

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 04/01/2008 | Paltry results of Iraqi offensive silence U.S. withdrawal talk: ..."There"is no empirical evidence that the Iraqi forces can stand up" on their own, a senior U.S. military official in Washington said, reflecting the frustration of some at the Pentagon. He and other military officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the record.

Having Iraqi forces take a leadership role in combating militias and Islamic extremists was crucial to U.S. hopes of withdrawing more American forces in Iraq and reducing the severe strains the Iraq war has put on the Army and Marine Corps.

The failure of Iraqi forces to defeat rogue fighters in Basra has some in the military fearing they can no longer predict when it might be possible to reduce the number of troops to pre-surge levels.

"It's more complicated now," said one officer in Iraq whose role has been critical to American planning there.

Questions remain about how much Bush and his top aides knew in advance about the offensive and whether they encouraged Maliki to confront radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

A senior U.S. lawmaker and four military officials said Tuesday that the Americans were aware in general terms of the coming offensive, but were surprised by the timing and by the Iraqis' almost immediate need for U.S. air support and other help.

One senior U.S. military commander in Iraq said the Iraqi government originally told the United States about a longer-term plan to rid Basra of rogue elements. But Maliki changed the timing, and the nature of the Iraqi operation changed, he said.

"The planning was not done under our auspices at all," the American commander said. The plan changed because "the prime minister got impatient."

There's no evidence, however, that the U.S. tried to dissuade Maliki from executing either plan.

"My instinct is that we knew but did not anticipate" that American forces would be called on to help, said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Biden stressed that he's still seeking information from the Bush administration on the matter.

Another senior American military official in Baghdad said Maliki notified Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker less than two days before launching the operation.

"By then it was a done deal," this official said....

Petraeus and Crocker are due to testify to Congress next week about the strategy in Iraq now that the 30,000 troops Bush ordered there in a "surge" are being withdrawn.

In the larger sense, "this is a reminder that nothing has changed," said a senior State Department official, who also wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

As if to underscore that point, Britain announced Tuesday that it's freezing plans to withdraw 1,500 of its 4,000 remaining troops from southern Iraq due to the failure of the Iraqi offensive to crush Shiite militias.

Bush already has signaled that, following the Petraeus-Crocker report, he'll order a pause in further drawdowns of U.S. troops in Iraq below about 140,000, which is slightly more troops than were in Iraq before the "surge" began.

As part of its post-surge plan, the Pentagon planned to reduce troop levels by one brigade a month, thin out its presence in Iraq and lean more heavily on Iraqi forces. But the Basra offensive has some in the U.S. military fretting that Iraq's forces, while better than they were six months ago, cannot fully defend their communities.

Some say that Iraqi security forces are entangled in the intra-Shiite battle for power in southern Iraq. The Iraqi forces that Maliki sent to Basra contained a large number of one-time fighters in the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which vies for power with Sadr's Mahdi Army.

"We're not going to stop the tensions between the Shiite camps. Those were there all along; we've just seen them emerge," said retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency and a longtime war critic, during a conference call.

Indeed, violence began rising in places where the U.S. military drew down its forces. The first brigade left in December from the volatile Diyala province in northeast Iraq. The U.S. military moved two battalions out of Baghdad to cover parts of Diyala and Mosul, a Sunni stronghold in northern Iraq, according the military.

Violence in the capital then increased, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy

In January, civilian casualties and improvised explosive device attacks rose. U.S. military statistics showed that suicide vest attacks increased in January and February. The second brigade is leaving Iraq now.

According to, which tracks U.S. troop deaths, American losses rose slightly in March to 38, compared with 29 in February. Troop deaths also shifted toward the capital this year.

Biden said that the Iraqi offensive may indeed have been "a defining moment," but not in the way Bush intended. "The president may be half-right," he said.

[bth: let's deconstruct this a little.

First Petraeus may not be a great general bringing us victory but he is a great manipulator of news and publicity. See how he distances himself in this article from Maliki's apparent military setback after the fact. If it had been victory I'm sure he would have claimed credit, but now he says I didn't know. Bull shit.

Second, Maliki isn't stupid, he needed to mount this offensive before Petraeus testified in Congress because if he failed on the battlefield - which may or may not have happened - he won politically because he got that dumbass president of ours to do what he wanted to do anyway - keep up and burn up our armed forces in Iraq before the next President takes office. With Bush the buck doesn't stop here, he just passs the buck and the tab like he's done all his life.

Third not that Bush already has decided to keep troop levels up so you can bet you will know what Petraeus, the politician and future candidate, will say on the hill. It is so orchestrated, even his speech is timed to mark the 5th anniversary of our glorious faux victory.

Fourth, there is a huge difference between mounting an offense and a defensive operation. Maliki's forces are capable of defense. So to mount an offense you need air support, artillery and tanks. We've taken all these away from him. So is it any wonder that he asks the US for air support? Go figure. Of course he has to ask us for air support to mount the offensive. Our generals are shocked, shocked to be asked. Again BS.

Fifth, keep in mind that anytime someone says Basra, you can say its about oil. Its about oil because 90% of Iraqs exports flow through there - that's why Sadr blew up one of the two oil pipelines. Its about negotiating a split in oil revenues between Shia factions. It has nothing to do about governing greater Iraq.

So as I add it up just about everybody but the US taxpayer and basic infantrymen got what they wanted. The generals got to dodge responsibility for the recent conflict much of which is simply seasonal. The president got to pass the buck with an excuse. Maliki got the US to stay in Iraq to fight his enemies on our dime, Sadr got a renegotiated oil split. The Iranians gained more influence than ever, the Sunnis got to see the Shia split and Badr Brigade filled new vacancies in the army with militiamen. Just dandy.]

Report: Insurgents benefit from drone shortage -

Report: Insurgents benefit from drone shortage - "WASHINGTON"— Insurgents have freely planted and detonated roadside bombs that cause most U.S. casualties in Iraq, exploiting the Pentagon's inability to meet the soaring demand for surveillance from unmanned aircraft, military records and interviews show.

"The demand is huge because commanders no longer want pictures taken last week; they want streaming video with enough clarity and fidelity to anticipate the actions of the enemy," said retired major general Robert Scales, a military historian. "Thus, we are not even within 5% of what's really needed."

There's a 300% annual increase in requests for full-motion video, said Dyke Weatherington, deputy director of unmanned warfare for the Pentagon. That demand, he says, outpaces the Pentagon's traditional acquisition process.

"From the outside perspective, it may seem like the department isn't moving fast enough to incorporate new technology," Weatherington said. But he said the military prides itself on delivering proven technology that can be used as quickly as possible.

The military's fleet of drones has increased from 167 unmanned planes to 5,331 in the past five years. "We're using every tool in our toolbox, in some cases developing new tools, to meet that requirement," Weatherington said.

Yet the supply remains inadequate. A Pentagon presentation on drones last month showed that demand for video is more than four times the supply. The failure to meet the demand has led to more roadside bomb attacks, as insurgents have operated in the open without interference, military documents show.

An internal Marine report in January said insurgents, free from drone observation, have "prepared and executed … attacks with relative impunity."

That report echoed an urgent request in November 2006 from Marine commanders in Iraq for more video. Improvised explosive devices remain the top killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. Sunday, a roadside bomb killed four soldiers in Baghdad. Their deaths increased the U.S. death toll to at least 4,000, according to an Associated Press tally.

The Marine Corps responded in part to the November 2006 request by expanding a contract it had with a private company that provided surveillance with drones, Lt. Col. Christopher Patton said in an e-mail.

That's not good enough, said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. Drones will become more important as U.S. troop levels decrease, forcing commanders to rely on unmanned systems to collect intelligence. Congress, Bond said, needs to prod the Pentagon "to end bureaucratic delays of lifesaving equipment."

The failure to get more drones aloft resembles the delays in fielding Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, said retired Marine lieutenant general Wallace Gregson. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stepped in last year to make fielding MRAPs the Pentagon's top acquisition priority.

"Will we have to wait years for the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) surveillance and the bandwidth to exploit it?" Gregson said

Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven

YouTube - Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven: ""

Pentagon Releases 2003 Memo Approving Harsh Interrogation Tactics - Politics on The Huffington Post

Pentagon Releases 2003 Memo Approving Harsh Interrogation Tactics - Politics on The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON"The Pentagon on Tuesday made public a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects, saying that President Bush's wartime authority trumps any international ban on torture.

The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas _ so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captors.

Even so, the memo noted, the president's wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture.

"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

The memo also offered a defense in case any interrogator was charged with violating U.S. or international laws.

"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defense could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded.

The memo was rescinded in December 2003, a mere nine months after Yoo sent it to the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes. Though its existence has been known for years, its release Tuesday marked the first time its contents in full have been made public.

Haynes, the Defense Department's longest-serving general counsel, resigned in late February to return to the private sector. He has been hotly criticized for his role in crafting Bush administration policies for detaining and trying suspected terrorists that some argue led to prisoner abuses at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Yoo's memo became part of a debate among the Pentagon's civilian and military leaders about what interrogation tactics to allow at overseas facilities and whether U.S. troops might face legal problems domestically or in international courts.

Also of concern was whether techniques used by U.S. interrogators might someday be used as justification for harsh treatment of Americans captured by opposing forces.

The Justice Department has opened an internal investigation into whether its top officials improperly authorized or reviewed the CIA's use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, when interrogating terror suspects. It was unclear whether the Yoo memo, which focuses only on military interrogators, will be part of that inquiry.

The declassified memo was released as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit to force the Bush administration to turn over documents about the government's war on terror. The document also was turned over to lawmakers.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said its release "represents an accommodation of Congress' oversight interest in the area of wartime interrogations."

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project, said Yoo's legal reasoning puts "literally no limit at all to the kinds of interrogation methods that the president can authorize."

"The whole point of the memo is obviously to nullify every possible legal restraint on the president's wartime authority," Jaffer said. "The memo was meant to allow torture, and that's exactly what it did."...

Heavy Troop Deployments Are Called Major Risk -

Heavy Troop Deployments Are Called Major Risk - "Senior"Army and Marine Corps leaders said yesterday that the increase of more than 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has put unsustainable levels of stress on U.S. ground forces and has put their readiness to fight other conflicts at the lowest level in years.

In a stark assessment a week before Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is to testify on the war's progress, Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that the heavy deployments are inflicting "incredible stress" on soldiers and families and that they pose "a significant risk" to the nation's all-volunteer military.

"When the five-brigade surge went in . . . that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army," Cody testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness panel.

He said that even if five brigades are pulled out of Iraq by July, as planned, it would take some time before the Army could return to 12-month tours for soldiers. Petraeus is expected to call for a pause in further troop reductions to assess their impact on security in Iraq.

"I've never seen our lack of strategic depth be where it is today," said Cody, who has been the senior Army official in charge of operations and readiness for the past six years and plans to retire this summer.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, one of the chief architects of the Iraq troop increase, has been nominated to replace Cody. Odierno is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow.

The testimony reflects the tension between the wartime priorities of U.S. commanders in Iraq such as Petraeus and the heads of military services responsible for the health and preparedness of the forces. Cody said that the Army no longer has fully ready combat brigades on standby should a threat or conflict occur.

The nation needs an airborne brigade, a heavy brigade and a Stryker brigade ready for "full-spectrum operations," Cody said, "and we don't have that today."

Soldiers and Marines also lack training for major combat operations using their entire range of weapons, the generals said. For example, artillerymen are not practicing firing heavy guns but are instead doing counterinsurgency work as military police.

The Marine Corps' ability to train for potential conflicts has been "significantly degraded," said Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps

He said that although Marine Corps units involved in the troop increase last year have pulled out, new demands in Afghanistan, where 3,200 Marines are headed, have kept the pressure on the force unchanged.

"There has been little, if any, change of the stress or tempo for our forces," he said, calling the current pace of operations "unsustainable."

Magnus suggested that if more Marines are freed from Iraq they could also go to Afghanistan. Marines "will move to the sound of the guns in Afghanistan," he said. But he said it would be difficult to keep the force split between the two countries because the Marine Corps has limited resources to command a divided force and supply it logistically.

The Marine Corps is "basically in two boats at the same time," he said.

Both the Army and Marine Corps are working to increase their ranks by tens of thousands of troops -- to 547,000 active-duty soldiers and 202,000 Marines -- but newly created combat units will not be able to provide relief until about 2011.

U.S. soldiers are currently deploying for 15-month combat tours, with 12 months at home in between. Marines are deploying for seven-month rotations, with seven months at home.

Both services seek to give their members at least twice as much time at home as time overseas

"Where we need to be with this force is no more than 12 months on the ground and 24 months back," Cody said.

YouTube - Killing of Non-Muslims is Legitimate (British Mullah)

YouTube - Killing of Non-Muslims is Legitimate (British Mullah): ""

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Informed Comment

The beginning of the end for deliveries of Russian major conventional weapons to China

Naval Open Source INTelligence: "Since"the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 90 per cent of China's imports of major conventional weapons have been supplied by the Russian Federation.

In this period China has become one of Russia's most valued customers, accounting for 39% of Russian exports of major conventional weapons.

However, the SIPRI online Arms Transfers Database, which is updated today (Monday 31 March 2008) with information on deliveries and orders made in 2007, shows a 63% drop in Russian deliveries of major conventional weapons to China - to their lowest levels since 1998 - contributing to a 29% reduction in overall Russian exports for 2007 in comparison with 2006.

Further, there are no outstanding Chinese orders with Russia for big-ticket items such as ships or advanced combat aircraft. ...

Maliki: "Security operations in Basra will continue" - The Long War Journal

Maliki: "Security operations in Basra will continue" - The Long War Journal: ..."The"reasons behind Sadr's call for a cessation in fighting remain unknown, but reports indicate the Mahdi Army was having a difficult time sustaining its operations and has taken heavy casualties. "Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water," an anonymous US military officer serving in South told The Long War Journal. "In short [the Mahdi Army] had no ability to sustain the effort.

TIME's sources in Basrah paint a similar picture. "There has been a large-scale retreat of the Mahdi Army in the oil-rich Iraqi port city because of low morale and because ammunition is low due to the closure of the Iranian border," the magazine reported.

McClatchy Newspapers indicated a member of the Maliki's Dawa party and the leader of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, traveled to Qom, Iran to lobby Qods Forces officers to get Sadr to halt the fighting. The trip "had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq." The two men met with Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Qods Force, the foreign special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Mahdi Army has also taken high casualties since the fighting began on March 25. According to an unofficial tally of the open source reporting from the US and Iraqi media and Multinational Forces Iraq, 571 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed, 881 have been wounded, 490 have been captured, and 30 have surrendered over the course of seven days of fighting. ...

Upgraded B-52 still on cutting edge

Upgraded B-52 still on cutting edge: "LANGLEY"AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- The B-52 Stratofortress is continually modified with new technology making the 50-year-old airframe one of the Air Force's most effective long-range heavy bombers.

Modified B-52 aircraft with modern technology are capable of delivering a full range of joint-developed weapons and will continue to be an important element of national defense, said Air Combat Command officials.

Upgrades have not only given the B-52 pin-point targeting capability but also enable it to carry the largest variety of weapons among the heavy bombers, said Lt. Col. Grey L. Morgan, the ACC B-52 program element monitor.

"We are capable of attacking multiple targets with just one aircraft," Colonel Morgan said. "With the advent of (global positioning system)-capable weapons we can service more targets across the spectrum."

With the newer weapons and the B-52's capacity to carry them, it's no longer a question of how many bombers per target, it's evolved into how many targets per bomber, Colonel Morgan said.

An example of a recent advance in the B-52 is the LITENING advanced targeting pod that is used for targeting, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

The targeting pod contains a high-resolution, forward-looking infrared sensor that displays an image of the target to the aircrew. It has a wide field-of-view search capability and a narrow field-of-view acquisition and targeting capability. The pod contains a digital camera used to obtain target imagery in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, ACC officials said.

New modifications on the B-52 also include a laser designator for precise delivery of laser-guided munitions and a laser rangefinder for exact target coordinates.

One B-52 can engage dozens of targets simultaneously, said Lt. Col. Bryan L. Harris, the ACC B-52 weapon system team chief. "It is the most combat-capable bomber that we have in the U.S. Air Force."

The last B-52 built was delivered to the Air Force in October 1962 and currently there are only 94 of the original 744 aircraft still operational.

"Despite its age, the B-52 has the highest mission capable rate of the three heavy bombers currently in the Air Force," said Colonel Morgan. "It is still effective in many roles and its capable of performing missions that otherwise would go unfilled."

Other recent initiatives with the B-52 involve its use as a testing platform for synthetic fuels. The B-52 was chosen as the services first aircraft in synthetic fuel testing because it has a unique fuel management system that makes it possible to isolate various fuel tanks in the aircraft.

"This allowed us to put synthetic fuel in one fuel tank which we can control feeding into the desired engines and put more conventional JP-8 in the remaining fuel tanks for the remaining engines," Colonel Morgan said.

The Air Force will continue to upgrade the B-52 to sustain the aircraft's capability and effectiveness, ACC officials said.

The older airframe will continue to be useful as long as it can be modified with new technology at cheaper costs than purchasing new bombers, Colonel Morgan said.

B-2 bomber fleet not flying, but not grounded, either | 03/25/2008 | B-2 bomber fleet not flying, but not grounded, either: "The world’s most expensive airplane isn’t flying.

Since the crash of a B-2 stealth bomber at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam more than a month ago, none of the remaining 20 jets has left the ground.

Officials at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Mo., insist the jets are not grounded, a status typically reserved for planes with identified defects that need fixing. If B-2s were needed for combat, the Air Force says, they could fly immediately to any target in the world.

Rather, the command at the 509th Bomb Wing says the planes are idled in a “safety pause.” Initially, Whiteman officials said they would take advantage of a planned lull in flights to have pilots and ground crews train without flying and to prepare for a coming inspection of its readiness for nuclear missions. That was to last a few weeks.

But a full month after the Spirit of Kansas crashed shortly after takeoff from Guam, the planes remain indefinitely parked both on the western Pacific island and at the west-central Missouri base while an accident investigation moves forward.

“This is a temporary pause in flying operations, which is prudent after an aircraft crashes to allow time for a unit to review procedures,” said Lt. Candace Cutrufo, a Whiteman spokeswoman.

She said the planes would likely remain on the ground until a classified investigation was completed and then a second, public probe was done. That could be at least another month.

The Air Combat Command confirmed this week that the planes were not technically grounded, and that the decision to keep the jets in hangars was made by wing commander Brig. Gen. Garrett Harencak at Whiteman.

B-2 bombers started the year with a combined 75,000 flight hours since 1989 and almost 100 combat missions to targets in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Each time, the planes took off and landed without incident.

Then on Feb. 23, a B-2 leaving Guam bound for Missouri slammed into the runway after its two pilots — the plane has only room for the pair — ejected from the jet. One pilot survived with minor injuries and the other was hospitalized. Both pilots are now back at Whiteman in good condition.

Some published reports claim there was a fire on the plane before the crash, but the Air Force would not confirm that.

The crash has been called the most expensive mishap in the history of military aviation. Each B-2 costs $2.2 billion to design, build and update. And with the production line mothballed since the last of 21 ever built reached Whiteman in 1997, each is essentially irreplaceable.

“One aircraft crash in a fleet this size is going to have a major impact,” said Nick Cook, an aerospace consultant to Jane’s Defence Weekly. “Not flying is just a sensible precaution.”

The crashed bomber was one of four B-2 deployed to Guam for four months. The three others remain there. Much older B-52s have gone to Andersen to continue the Air Force’s increasingly high profile in the Pacific. The rest are at Whiteman or undergoing maintenance and upgrades.

Even before the incident, typically a fourth or more of the B-2s were out of commission for improvements or upkeep.

In 1990, the Department of Defense claimed the plane’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, fitted the plane with faulty parts in its flight-control system.

More recently, the Air Force has worked to repair cracking in the rear of the bat-winged plane and to protect engine fan blades from potentially catastrophic damage from foreign objects sucked into the jets’ intakes.

Cutrufo, the Whiteman spokesman, said the pause in flights was meant to give time to learn lessons from the crash before sending pilots back up on training missions. In the meantime, the length of the idle period has prompted speculation.

“The fact that they just called it a safety pause and haven’t grounded them and gone through some kind of fix suggests to me they’re not sure yet about what happened,” said Thomas Keaney, a retired bomber pilot and director of the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “It could be something with wear and tear on the plane or something in the way the pilots reacted.

“Not flying for this long is interesting.”

[bth: at $2.2 billion each one wonders how long manned combat flight will remain economical. Compare this to the B52 story.]
The Long War Journal

Monday, March 31, 2008

CIA enlists Google's help for spy work

CIA enlists Google's help for spy work - Times Online: "Google"has been recruited by US intelligence agencies to help them better process and share information they gather about suspects.

Agencies such as the National Security Agency have bought servers on which Google-supplied search technology is used to process information gathered by networks of spies around the world.

Google is also providing the search features for a Wikipedia-style site, called Intellipedia, on which agents post information about their targets that can be accessed and appended by colleagues, according to the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The contracts are just a number that have been entered into by Google's 'federal government sales team', that aims to expand the company's reach beyond its core consumer and enterprise operations. ...

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Quds force mediated Iraqi Fighting.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Quds force mediated Iraqi Fighting.: "'...."The backdrop to Sadr's dramatic statement was a secret trip Friday to Qom, Iran's holy city and headquarters of the dominant Iranian clergy, by Iraqi lawmakers.

There they held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.

In addition to Sadr, who is in Qom pursuing religious studies, Iraqi lawmakers met Suleimani, said Osama al Nejafi, a legislator on the parliamentary committee formed to solve the Basra crisis.

The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki - who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash.

In another blow to Maliki, his security advisor, Saleem Qassim al Taee, known as Abu Laith Al-Kadhimi, was killed in the fighting in Basra...." McClatchy Newpapers quoted on "The Friday Lunch Club."

If it is true that the commander of the IRGC Quds Force mediated the intra-Shia fracas, then the US policy in Iraq of favoring the ISCI/Dawa/Badr dominated Maliki government is in serious trouble.

The role of "Wasit" (intermediary) is highly significant in the Middle East. For the Iraqis to assign that role to the Iranians would indicate an acknowledgement of what they think the situation is going to be in the future.

A Reminder: The Quds Force is the IRGC element that the US Senate branded a terrorist organization some time back pl

[bth: combine this with the report from a NYT corresondent that Sadr's forces control Basra and one concludes very bad things there. Maliki is out, Sadr is in and Iran brokered the deal.]

How to fix the U.S. military. - By Phillip Carter and Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine

How to fix the U.S. military. - By Phillip Carter and Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine: "The"next president will inherit a military in strange shambles. Its soldiers fight extremely well, but its army is on the brink of breaking. Its budget is enormous, but most of the money goes to weapons that have little to do with promoting real security. Some official documents detail the problems and outline solutions, but too often they aren't translated into action. The principal task, therefore, is to do just that—in the face of enormous bureaucratic resistance

• Overhaul the budget. If you'd awakened from a 20-year-long slumber and glanced at the current defense budget, you'd think the Cold War were still raging. President Bush's budget request for the next fiscal year—totaling $541 billion, not including money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—is dominated by aircraft carriers, submarines, fighter jets, and ultratech combat fighting vehicles, i.e., the sorts of weapons you'd need to fight the sort of comparably armed superpower that no longer exists. Members of Congress impose no discipline on this extravagance—they scarcely even ask whether all these programs are necessary—for fear of accusations that they're weak on defense or soft on terror.

Yet there is a way out of this paralysis. In each of the past few years, Bush has put all the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, and "the longer war on terror" into a separate "supplemental" to the budget. The next president should ask the defense secretary to do two things: First, make sure everything in the supplemental really is needed for those wars (tens of billions of dollars' worth don't appear to be); second, announce that everything else is back on the table. There hasn't been a "bottom-up review" of the defense budget—a systematic look at the requirements of security—since the end of the Cold War. It's time to conduct one, seriously. We don't have the money to stay this course.

• Rejigger the military services. One obstacle to rational military planning is that, for the past 40 years, by unspoken agreement, the defense budget has been evenly split among the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. To do otherwise—to announce, for instance, that the Army needs 20 percent more money and the other services could each get by with 10 percent less—would set off a firestorm inside the Pentagon and wreck the interservice cooperation that has marked U.S. military campaigns in recent years. So, over the next several years, certain missions should be played up, others played down. Because the current Air Force is dominated by fighter pilots, the Air Force's No. 1 priority today is to build as many F-22 fighter planes as it can, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars—even though they would play no role in any foreseeable war over the next two decades. One way to wean them off such weapons is to build up (and put more money into) other Air Force missions—for example, cargo-transport planes (to carry ground forces and their gear), close-air-support planes (to fire shells or drop bombs in support of troops on the ground), or to provide security for bases (many Air Force personnel have been reassigned to do just that). The defense secretary could announce that the service's continued share of the budget depends on boosting the importance of those missions. (This is, bureaucratically, a long-term project.)

• Fix the Army. The Army is (barely) meeting its recruitment goals by lowering standards and dishing out large bonuses. And, despite paying equally large rewards for retention bonuses, it is now hemorrhaging talented junior and midgrade officers. The Iraq war, with its grueling and never-ending deployment schedules, is the main reason for this. (Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that Army recruiters face a serious challenge as long as signing up means getting assigned to Iraq.) But Iraq is only part of the problem—and thus getting out of Iraq will provide only a part of the solution.

• Invest in people. When the draft ended in 1973, the Army chiefs shifted incentives from veterans' benefits (such as the GI Bill) to enlistment bonuses. This approach has now gone too far, resulting in a "transactional" mindset that hurts morale and warps the military's credo of service. The next defense secretary should shift back to the old approach: Fund civilian education for enlisted personnel and officers; provide leave for them to pursue bachelors' and graduate degrees between deployments; give educational grants to family members as compensation for the hardships of repeated moves; invest in immersive training in foreign languages and cultures. These things will produce better officers, as well as happier ones.

• Promote the right leaders. Owing to a shortage of officers, almost anyone can get promoted to lieutenant colonel. Beyond that, the Army's promotion boards are a hidebound lot—notorious for favoring officers who resemble themselves and for especially screening out intellectuals, mavericks, and strategically minded warriors. (Gen. David Petraeus—who possesses a rare mix of leadership talent, soldierly prowess, intelligence, raw ambition, and luck—is one of a handful of exceptions.) Junior officers read each year's promotion list as they would tea leaves; it tells them what types of officers are desired and what types are not. Many creative officers leave the Army after realizing that it holds no future for them.

Technically, the president and Congress must approve all promotions. Therefore, either could require that a certain percentage of new brigadier generals possess specific qualities or backgrounds—for instance, that they have trained foreign military forces or proven adept in other skills that will likely be essential in future conflicts. (There is precedent for this: As a result of the Goldwater-Nichols reforms passed by Congress in 1986, all new generals must have had experience commanding a joint—i.e., multiservice—unit.) The Army should also consider "360-degree evaluation"—i.e., consultation by junior, as well as senior, officers—in order to identify the most talented leaders in its ranks. (Corporate America has long employed this technique.)

Create incentives for a real nation-building or counterinsurgency capability. The Army's new field manual on "Full-Spectrum Operations" says that "stability operations" are just as important as combat. However, these words will ring hollow unless and until more troops are trained in such operations and more officers with expertise in that area are promoted to general. A year ago, a unit was created in Ft. Riley, Kan., home of the 1st Infantry Division, specifically to train advisers—officers who would go advise Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Several Pentagon officials, including Secretary Robert Gates, said that this was one of the Army's most important missions. The commander of the unit was Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the Army's top experts in counterinsurgency. But Nagl has since complained that the unit was filled on an "ad hoc" basis and that many of the trainers had no experience as advisers. He has now decided to leave the Army. We—and, more importantly, other officers—will know that the Pentagon is taking this putative goal seriously when the unit is commanded by a general and when officers who go out in the field as advisers are promoted as routinely as those deployed as infantry fighters.

• Spread the responsibilities around. Civilian experts are probably better than sergeants at the kinds of stability operations described above. So, the next president should see that more money goes to the State Department, USAID, and other agencies—many of which have nascent offices of stability operations and foreign assistance—and let them do the jobs. Secretary Gates urged this course (even if he didn't volunteer to hand over any of the Pentagon's billions). Some senior Army officers have told us that, for certain urgent tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan, they would rather have 500 more Foreign Service officers than 5,000 more soldiers. If wars—or foreign policies generally—are national campaigns, the burden should be carried by the national government more broadly.

• Taxes. On that subject, if we're not going to return to military conscription, more citizens have to contribute something to national defense—if not their blood, then more of their treasure. All the steps outlined above—especially those that involve recruiting and retaining qualified personnel—are very expensive. And they can't all be paid for by canceling the F-22 and other Cold War relics. Nor should they be paid for by borrowing more cash from China. If we want to continue the kind of military we're pursuing, and the kinds of wars we're fighting, then let's pass a surtax to pay for it. If we don't want to pay for it, then let's drop the whole idea—scale back our missions in the world and figure out some other way to fulfill them

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 03/30/2008 | Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 03/30/2008 | Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire: "BAGHDAD"— Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.

But fighting continued in the oil hub of Basra, where a six-day-old government offensive against Shiite militias has had only limited gains.

So far, 488 people have been killed and more than 900 wounded in the offensive, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said.

The backdrop to Sadr's dramatic statement was a secret trip Friday by Iraqi lawmakers to Qom, Iran's holy city and headquarters for the Iranian clergy who run the country.

There the Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.

Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.

"The statement issued today by (Muqtada al Sadr) is a result of the meetings," said Jalal al-Din al Saghir, a leading member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "The government didn't have any disagreement with the Sadrists when it went to the city of Basra. The Sadrist movement is the one that chose to face the government."

"We asked Iranian officials to help us persuade him that we were not cracking down on the Sadr group," said an Iraqi official, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

He described the talks as successful but said hard-line Sadrists could goad the government into over-reacting and convince Sadr that the true aim of the Iraqi Security Forces is to destroy the Sadrists.

"I will not be surprised if the whole thing collapses," he said.

In addition to Sadr, who is in Qom pursuing religious studies, Iraqi lawmakers met Suleimani, said Osama al Nejafi, a legislator on the parliamentary committee formed to solve the Basra crisis.

"An agreement was signed," Nejafi said, referring to Sadr. "Iran was part of the problem and an effective part of the negotiations."

Sadr issued a nine-point statement Sunday saying he would renounce anyone who carried arms against the government and government forces. The statement also asked the government to halt all raids against the Mahdi army, end detentions of militia members who had not been charged and implement the general amnesty law.

To preserve the "unity" of Iraq Sadr called for an end to "all armed manifestations in Basra and in all provinces."

The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki - who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative.

"The delegation was from the United Iraqi Alliance (dominated by the Dawa party and the Supreme Council of Iraq), and the Prime Minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us," said Haider al Abadi, a legislator from Maliki's Dawa party. "We had evidence (that Muqtada and Iranian-backed militants were fighting security forces) and we sent people urgently...If we had been waiting for one year in Baghdad we wouldn't have had this result." The delegation is expected to return to Iraq Monday.

Maliki welcomed Sadr's statement as a positive development, said his advisor Sadiq al Rikabi. Anyone who abandons weapons and goes home would not be pursued, he said, adding that the offensive would continue against a list specific targets, but he would not give details, Maliki -- who had said he would not leave Basra until the Shiite militias were defeated -- was expected to remain in Basra for a few more days, he said.

Following Sadr's announcement a curfew was lifted in most of the capital, while the Sadr controlled areas of Sadr City, New Baghdad and Kadhemiya remained under 24-hour lockdown. The U.S. military still surrounded the Shiite slum of Sadr City, named for Sadr's father and a stronghold of support for Sadr. It was still unclear what the effect the statement had Sunday night.

In another blow to Maliki, his security advisor, Saleem Qassim al Taee, known as Abu Laith Al-Kadhimi, was killed in the fighting in Basra. The Dawa party member had lived in exile under Saddam's regime for 20 years.

"With great sorrow the prime minister's office mourns one of its employees," it said in a statement. "(He) was killed by a treacherous shell during his national duty which was launched by criminal hands who are stained by crime and killing."

In Basra Mahdi Army militants fought to keep their strongholds but were overrun by Iraqi Security Force in the eastern neighborhood of Tanuma. U.S. and British aircraft conducted four air strikes in the city, the U.S. military said. In downtown Basra in the area of al Timimiyah Iraqi forces surrounded the neighborhood as coalition aircraft struck Sunday morning, residents said.

But the Iraqi security forces still couldn't penetrate the vast Shiite slum of Hayaniyah or al Qibla, two Mahdi Army stronghold of Basra.

Following Sadr's statement both the Sadr office in Basra and Sadr City said that their fighters would obey the orders and go home. But militants on the ground in Basra said they would continue to fight in self-defense.

"We will stay in our positions because the government didn't stop the raids and the attacks against the Mahdi Army and their areas," Abu Muamal said. "We are waiting for clear orders from our command and we will not withdraw until the situation is clarified."

McClatchy Special Correspondents Ali al Basri contributed from Basra, Qassim Zein from Najaf and Laith Hammoudi from Baghdad

[bth: McClatchy is just about the only news syndicate that is worth its salt in Iraq. Note that it was Iran's revolutionary guard that brokered the agreement in Qom. The whole account is amazing and something you won't read in a Pentagon briefing.]

U.S. Army Transfers Humvees to ISF

U.S. Army Transfers Humvees to ISF: "CAMP"TAJI, Iraq - Ninety Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army Division stood proudly on the parade field during their graduation from the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute's Drivers Training Course March 13.

Not only did they have the honor of being the first Iraqi soldiers to go through the three-day course, but after graduation, they drove off the field in the first 45 M1114 humvees transferred from the U.S. Army to the Iraqi Army.

"These humvees have served as work horses for the United States military and will now serve the Iraqi Security Forces just as well," said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the Commanding General of Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq.

"The Iraqi Security Forces will have the improved capability fighting against those who seek to do harm against this nation and its people," Dubik said.

The drivers training program at IASSI is part of the U.S. Army's humvee fielding initiative, where the U.S. plans to transfer 8,500 humvees to Iraqi Security Forces in the next two years.

When U.S. Army units began trading in their humvees for the new Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles, the humvees were given to Foreign Military Sales and sold to the Iraqi Army.

"As the MRAPs were fielded to the U.S. Army, it created a situation where we had an excess capacity of up-armored humvees. So what happened was discussions were made at high levels within the Army to rather than move these up armored humvees back to the U.S. sell them through the Foreign Military Sales to the Iraqi government to go to the Iraqi Army," said Col. Kevin O'Connell, the commander of the 1st Sustainment Brigade.

"The 1st Sustainment Brigade's involvement is the transportation of the MRAPs between VBC and Taji for fielding to units within (Multi-National Division - Baghdad)," said O'Connell.

As the 1st SB helps field MRAPs to U.S. units, the humvees that are transferred to the IA undergo a refurbishment process to ensure the Iraqis receive quality vehicles.

When U.S. military units first turn in the humvees, the Redistribution Property Assistance Team collects vehicles and makes sure they meet the requirements to be refurbished.

The humvee has to have a gunner's protection kit, all basic items of issue need to be present, and the vehicle can only be in need of minor repairs.

After the vehicles are deemed fit to refurbish, all sensitive items are taken out of them. The chairs and floor mats are also taken out of the vehicles so that they can be washed inside and out.

Sometimes during the process of stripping the humvees, damage to the frame is found. If this happens, the vehicle is not refurbished, but used for parts for other humvees.

"Nothing goes to waste in this program," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Hasley, the officer in charge of logistical support operations for Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq.

Once the humvees are washed, they undergo a technical inspection to find any mechanical problems the vehicles may have. Depending on the issues the vehicles have, they are either sent to the speed line or heavy line when they go in for maintenance.

At the maintenance bay, Iraqi local nationals have been trained to work on the humvees. More than 1,500 people applied for the job, but only 300 were hired and another 200 workers are scheduled to be employed.

"The whole mindset is by the time the civilians get done with the 8,500 humvees they will be specialized on how to fix or repair the M1114s," said Hasley. "We're quite impressed with their work standards ... It's quite enjoyable because instead of asking them to fix something, they fix things without being told."...

In approximately two years, the IA will own more than 8,500 humvees, which is an upgrade from the pick-up trucks with guns mounted on the back of the ones they use to use on convoys

[bth: this practical plan could have been implemented years ago. It was obvious that as MRAPS came on line that we could start passing used armored humvees over to the Iraqis. This is essentially what we did after WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It is a practial step that also builds a lasting bond between US and Iraqi forces - not to mention saving their lives.]

Bin Laden will always be ahead: bodyguard

Bin Laden will always be ahead: bodyguard - World - "OSAMA"BIN LADEN is a workaholic who will always be one step ahead of Western intelligence, his former bodyguard says.

Many have claimed intimate knowledge of bin Laden over the years. But in the case of Nasser al-Bahri, a bearded and slightly portly 35-year-old taxi driver who lives in Yemen, the claim is not tainted by exaggeration.

For four years Mr Bahri fought in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda and was bodyguard to a man he remembers affectionately as "the Sheik".

Mr Bahri's experience makes him of intense interest to the FBI and CIA, but they have so far failed to persuade the Yemeni authorities to deport him for questioning.

"The thing I remember most about the Sheik is that he was very, very active," Mr Bahri said. "From the start of the day, before dawn when he began his prayers, to late at night he was always doing something, never resting.

"After prayers came administration and after administration came meetings with distinguished visitors, sometimes secret visitors, but all day he never stopped."

Mr Bahri shook his head at the colourful claims about his role protecting bin Laden in the late 1990s. He did not screen bin Laden's food for poison and he was not under orders to shoot bin Laden dead if he was about to fall into enemy hands.

Instead, he acted as an armed personal assistant, carrying his baggage, making sure his satellite communications were working and chivvying the various other members of the entourage, from cooks to drivers. "To be honest I have never killed a man," Mr Bahri said.

"The worst moment came when a Sudanese man came for a visit and he became very rude and disrespectful to the Sheik. I had to grab his hands, handcuff him and take him away. But even then the Sheik told me to let him go."

His time as bodyguard to bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 is perhaps of most interest to Western intelligence because it was when the al-Qaeda leader changed strategy.

"From the moment I knew him he was thinking all the time about extending the war everywhere," Mr Bahri said. "He would always say we must hit America on a front that it never expects. He kept saying he wanted to fight America on a battlefield it cannot control."

Mr Bahri said he had no idea at the time about the September 11 attacks, but that they fell into the pattern bin Laden had been formulating during their time together.

Mr Bahri left Afghanistan in 2000 because his father-in-law was ill with a kidney condition back in Yemen. He arrived before al-Qaeda attacked the USS Cole later that year.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Father of U.S. Soldier Missing in Iraq Since 2004 Says His Remains Were Found - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - Father of U.S. Soldier Missing in Iraq Since 2004 Says His Remains Were Found - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "BATAVIA"Ohio — The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 says the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.

Keith Maupin says an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify the remains of his son, Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, who went by "Matt."

Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad.

Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

That June, Al-Jazeera aired another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot. But the dark and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim's head and not the actual shooting

[bth: there was a total breakdown of leadership which resulted in this convoy's ambush and it being overwhelmed causing this brave soldier's capture. I truly feel for his family. Thankfully this body has been recovered. May this nation bring him home.]

Like the Wild, Wild West. Plus Al-Qaeda.

Like the Wild, Wild West. Plus Al-Qaeda. - ..."The"crescendo of local violence has been a bad tactic on the part of the extremists," says Bob Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad and former head of the agency's counterterrorism center. "The counterinsurgency is now being aided by the cruelty of the enemy; they are their own worst enemy." According to a recent poll by the anti-terrorism organization Terror Free Tomorrow, Pakistani support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda has fallen to all-time lows of 18 and 19 percent, respectively -- half what it was in a similar survey taken last summer.

The United States may already be exploiting these sentiments. Recent missile strikes in the FATA killed a number of high-ranking foreign militants and caused little collateral damage. Such a marked improvement in accuracy is the result of better intelligence, gathered by capitalizing on inter-tribal dissent to lure informers.

And the Pentagon hopes to re-create an "Anbar Awakening" in the FATA. Anbar is the Sunni-dominated province in western Iraq where tribal leaders ditched al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied with the U.S. military in 2006. The day after the bombing of the tribal meeting in Darra, I e-mailed a senior U.S. Army officer who's intimately familiar with the Anbar Awakening. I suggested that the tribal chiefs, under attack from all sides, would be hard-pressed to unite against the militants anytime soon. Based on his time in Iraq, he replied, "I would argue that attacks like yesterday's will only make the desire to organize against [al-Qaeda] and the Taliban more intense. Believe me, the murder of tribal leaders in Anbar was the impetus to the Awakening."

But for now, few elders dare to speak publicly against the militants, and even fewer would risk relying on the Pakistani army to guarantee their security if they did "turn." (Last fall, when a pro-Taliban cleric used his weekly sermons to merely criticize suicide attacks, he was shot and killed.)

And Pashtuns themselves admit that they can make for fickle strategic partners. The hashish dealers in Darra who were earlier driven out of business by the Taliban could just as easily be bankrolling them as fighting them tomorrow.

Last year, a man in Peshawar explained to me why the United States' efforts to subdue Afghanistan were faltering. "You thought Pashtuns were for sale, but you misjudged," he said, smiling. "We are only for rent."

Nicholas Schmidle, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is writing a book about Pakistan, where he lived from 2006 to January 2008.

Karl Rove: 'The tail and the horns are retractable'

The Raw Story | Karl Rove: 'The tail and the horns are retractable'

British join Iraqis in Basra firefight

British join Iraqis in Basra firefight - News: "THE"British Army yesterday fired artillery shells at Shi'ite militias in Basra for the first time since the Iraqi government launched a fresh offensive in the city six days ago.

The Ministry of Defence denied the move represented an escalation in the battle for Iraq's second city, but it will throw further doubt on plans to bring home 1,600 British troops this spring.

Major Tom Holloway, the British Army spokesman in Basra, said the artillery barrage on a mortar position in the al-Klalaf area of northern Basra was in response to a request from Iraqi ground forces.

British aircraft have conducted surveillance and precision-guided strikes but they had not previously been used to attack militia on the ground. On this occasion they were used as a warning to fighters on the ground....
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