Saturday, October 11, 2008

Land Warrior wearable war-smartphone survives Iraq baptism • The Register

Land Warrior wearable war-smartphone survives Iraq baptism • The Register: "The"world's first unit of digitally networked foot soldiers returns from combat in Iraq this week. Reports have it that the American troops' controversial "Land Warrior" wearable-node technology has changed in both role and configuration during its 15-month baptism of fire. Indications are that the equipment - slated for disposal by army chiefs just last year - has done well enough that it will now live on.

Land Warrior in many ways resembles the latest generation of high-end smartphones. It has GPS satnav, voice and data radios, a camera and an ARM processor. As with many handset satnav apps, you can hook up a group of buddies on the net so that each can see where the others are. Records can be kept of where everyone has been. You can even use Land Warrior to send text messages to teammates or HQ. And, just as in the smartphone world, there has been intense debate among Land Warrior designers and users as to the desirability of real versus virtual keyboards.

Unlike the latest iPhone, Nokia and HTC offerings, however, Land Warrior's camera had 12x zoom and was mounted on the barrel of a 5.56mm M4 carbine - supposedly "making every soldier a marksman" and allowing him to shoot or look round corners, too*. The display is a monocle rig attached to the user's helmet. And - unacceptably to unburdened smartphone users, let alone combat troops encumbered with body armour, water, weapons and ammo - a complete Land Warrior rig initially weighed fully 15 pounds. Furthermore, development has now cost the Pentagon half a billion bucks.

Early last year, the latest iteration of Land Warrior had been issued to an American combat unit - the 4th Battalion, 9th US Infantry, aka "the Manchus". Initially the 4th of the 9th were unimpressed with the gear, and in February 2007 the Pentagon decided to cut its losses and ditch Land Warrior. But then the 4/9th were scrambled to Iraq as part of the US troop "surge", and there was no time to retrain and re-equip with ordinary radios etc. So Land Warrior got an outing in Iraq despite being axed.

Once in the field, the Manchus - aided as far as possible by contractors from General Dynamics, makers of Land Warrior - began modifying Land Warrior to make it more to their liking. For a start, many of them got rid of it altogether. Only the leader of each four-man "fire team" - the basic infantry unit - and higher-ups kept their net hookup.

Next, the 4/9th team leaders began throwing stuff away. As General Dynamics exec Mark Showah told Defense Technology International yesterday:

“Essentially we took all the equipment, laid it on the counter, disconnected it all, said ‘here’s some [body armour], go ahead and put the equipment where you want it and we’ll figure out how to make it a more permanent solution’… and they came back with a design that was much better than we could have ever produced.”

One of the first things to go was the always rather laughable gun-cam, according to earlier reports from the 4/9th last year. The soldiers' brisk field redesign slimmed Land Warrior down to 10lb, and further efforts by General Dynamics got it down to 7lb as of now.

It turns out that one of the most popular aspects of Land Warrior was text messaging. Rather than this being a matter of kids today being born2txt, this was because the radio net could get text traffic through even when voice comms were down. Unreliable voice comms have been the bane of infantry operations time out of mind - especially in urban warfare - and it seems that this feature saved a number of missions from being aborted.

Still, apparently soldiers - or anyway, Manchus - aren't natural iPhone lovers. Text-happy patrol leaders on the mean streets of Iraq wouldn't have anything to do with the original virtual-keyboard Land Warrior setup, and insisted on hardware buttons. Admittedly, the original Land Warrior didn't use a touchscreen, but a more cumbersome process where a chest controller moved a mouse across keys on the monocle display.

“They liked one that was similar to a BlackBerry style keyboard, about the same size, that had a USB interface that plugged right into the system," Showah told DTI. "Now not only does he have a mouse, but he can flip open a small cover and have a keyboard

Now the 4/9th are home after their long tour, all but the 37 of them who were killed (more than five per cent for a battalion at typical strength, and that doesn't include the wounded - it's always the infantry that takes the strain).

Meanwhile, Senators in Washington overruled the Army chiefs and kept Land Warrior funded; and a new unit, the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, has requested 1000 sets of the new leaner and meaner Land Warrior. It would seem that the day of the digital soldier is upon us at last. ®

*Apparently there was never any intention to have compulsory gun-cam recordings whenever a soldier fired his weapon, though this is being mooted for US policemen at present

AIG Spa Trip Fuels Fury on Hill -

AIG Spa Trip Fuels Fury on Hill - "Just"as frustrating to the committee members, Sullivan and Cassano seemed to have been rewarded for their performance, even though the company plunged under their stewardship.

AIG lost more than $5 billion in the last quarter of 2007 because of its risky financial products division, Waxman said.

Yet in March 2008 when the company's compensation committee met to award bonuses, Sullivan urged the committee to ignore those losses, which should have slashed bonuses.

But the board agreed to ignore the losses from the financial products division and gave Sullivan a cash bonus of more than $5 million.

The board also approved a new contract for Sullivan that gave him a golden parachute of $15 million, Waxman said.

As for Cassano, the executive in charge of the company's troubled financial products division, he received more than $280 million over the past eight years. Even after he was terminated in February as his investments turned sour, the company allowed him to keep as much as $34 million in unvested bonuses and put him on a $1 million-a-month retainer.

He continues to receive $1 million a month, Waxman said.

Asked why they didn't fire Cassano, Sullivan said they needed to "retain the 20-year knowledge of the transactions."

"What would he have had to have done for you to fire him?" Waxman said

[bth: no account. That is what has defined the Bush years. No accountability.]

Op-Ed Columnist - The Class War Before Palin -

Op-Ed Columnist - The Class War Before Palin - ..."The"political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clich├ęs took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.

[bth: an article worth reading in full]

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gates Urges NATO to Take On Afghan Drug Traffickers -

Gates Urges NATO to Take On Afghan Drug Traffickers - "BUDAPEST", Oct. 9 -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called on NATO allies Thursday to target Afghanistan's drug traffickers as part of a wider effort to confront a resurgent Taliban, which he said is using heroin money to fund the insurgency.

But the proposed new front in the war is meeting resistance from some European allies who argue that a counternarcotics campaign goes beyond the mandate of international forces in Afghanistan and is the responsibility of the Afghan government. Countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain also fear that drug interdiction could endanger their troops if it alienates segments of a population dependent on the cultivation of opium poppies.

"My approach was that we are not talking about a counternarcotics strategy; that route really is the Afghans' responsibility," Gates told a small group of U.S. and European journalists Thursday evening during a two-day summit here of NATO defense ministers. "What we are talking about is greater freedom to track down the networks of those who are funding the Taliban, which happens to be drug money."

Gates said earlier Thursday that the Taliban makes $60 million to $80 million annually from drug trafficking. Gates, however, ruled out any large crop-eradication campaign, which would probably alienate the country's farmers, many of whom survive on income from growing opium poppies.

European skeptics of the U.S. proposal have argued that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan lacks the legal mandate to conduct counternarcotics operations in any form. Some NATO troops, following their governments' interpretation of their role, have ignored even overt drug running in their areas of operation.

The NATO meeting comes at a time of growing alarm in Washington about a war against an enemy that combines the Taliban, parts of al-Qaeda and networks of local militants. U.S. officials argue that drug money is corrupting central and local authorities. "We know that corruption is a problem in the Afghan government, and to a considerable extent that corruption is fueled by narcotics," Gates said.

Both Gates and NATO officials noted that the problem is largely confined to seven provinces in the south. NATO spokesman James Appathurai, citing U.N. figures at a news conference Thursday, noted that poppy cultivation has fallen 20 percent this year, and 18 of 34 provinces are poppy-free.

"Where there is not enough progress is in the south, where you have a lethal nexus between insurgency and poppy," Appathurai said. "The Taliban in this area is like any mafia, protecting the crop, taking its percentage, using it to fund the insurgency."

Gates said the ministers are considering the possibility of a U.S.-led campaign against drug traffickers separate from NATO operations.

"One of the issues is whether people can in essence opt out, whether individual governments who do not want their forces to be engaged in this, to be involved in any way, can do that and not block others," Gates said. "I think that there are some concerns. There is merit to them. First of all, do you further antagonize some of the Afghan people by doing anything in this respect? There is a concern that it might put more soldiers in harm's way."

Gates said the United States will share the results of an Afghanistan strategy review nearing completion in Washington. The United States plans to boost its current troop level of about 33,000 by three brigades, or 12,000 to 14,000 troops. The number of non-U.S. forces in Afghanistan, about 30,000, has increased by 10,000 since last year. The United States would like to see NATO allies increase their deployments of troops and equipment, not draw down as more U.S. forces pour in.

But Gates stressed that bolstering the military is just one aspect of any new strategy.

"I think we all recognize that there are significant challenges in Afghanistan and we need a better-coordinated effort between civilian economic development and reconstruction efforts and the security efforts," he said.

The Pentagon chief also emphasized the need to build up the Afghanistan army, which the United States would like to see double in size to more than 130,000 troops. "We need to have the Afghans in the lead," Gates said. "There is I think broad support for expanding the Afghan army and doing that as quickly as possible."

The United States is seeking financial support from countries that do not have troops in Afghanistan, such as Japan, to pay for the expansion of Afghan forces. The Pentagon estimates that building up the Afghan army could cost $17 billion.

[bth: so most of that heroin is ending up in European cities. Ironic really that they are unwilling to do anything about it and that they seem to think Afghanistan is as one person put it - summer camp. .... So I heard a presentation down in Washington DC two weeks ago by Erik Prince of Blackwater. He said that his contracted employees seized a huge stash at a processing plant and had to call in an airstrike on it to make sure it was destroyed. It seems to me then, that the US is already attacking the processors and the funding path way for the Taliban.]

Extreme Weather Alert: Meteorologists Predict Intensely Brisk Autumn

Militants strike Pakistan's antiterror police - The Boston Globe

Militants strike Pakistan's antiterror police - The Boston Globe:... "The suicide"bomber in Islamabad delivered a box of sweets just before the blast was set off. It contained a note demanding an end to military offensives in the tribal lands along the Afghan border where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have found sanctuary, intelligence officials said.

Police were investigating how a civilian car managed to drive unchallenged inside the police compound, with its numerous checkpoints. The driver set off the explosives moments after delivering the sweets.

The attack came as Pakistani lawmakers were receiving a second day of closed-door briefings from senior military officials about Pakistan's ongoing confrontation with insurgents.

Among the senior officials appearing before lawmakers were General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, and Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the incoming head of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, the main spy agency.

One reason that so few people were injured in the bombing was that nearly all the antiterrorism police had been deployed throughout the capital to guard against attacks during the parliamentary session.

Some analysts saw the special parliamentary session as the first real effort on the part of the country's new government to come to grips with formulating a coherent strategy for confronting the insurgents. The militants not only have staged a relentless campaign of suicide attacks inside Pakistan, they also have sent fighters to attack Western troops inside Afghanistan...

[bth: this report is full of interesting tidbits. Maybe just maybe this Pakistani government is serious about reigning in its extremists.]

US report paints grim outlook on Afghanistan

The Raw Story | US report paints grim outlook on Afghanistan: "Fears"over the Afghanistan conflict rose another notch Thursday, amid reports of a bleak draft US intelligence assessment detailing its slide into corruption, drugs and insurgent violence.

"The trends across the board are not going in the right direction," Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters at a breakfast.

"It will be tougher next year unless we get at all these challenges."

The New York Times said the draft National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) casts doubts on the ability of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to stem the resurgence of the Taliban Islamic militia.

A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not acknowledge the existence of such an NIE on Afghanistan....

[bth: any intelligent person would wonder why we are not immediately shifting several brigades of light infantry over to Afghanistan and pulling them out of Iraq. One would wonder why we are not vastly increasing our language and cultural training, our civil affairs, our engineering and our special forces for Afghanistan and Pakistan. One would wonder why we are not increasing immediately our economic aid to Afghans - power, education, healthcare? One would wonder why we are not developing viable plans for an Afghan economy not based on opium. One wonders what in heck is going on.]

Nuclear Aid by Russian to Iranians Suspected -

Nuclear Aid by Russian to Iranians Suspected - "International"nuclear inspectors are investigating whether a Russian scientist helped Iran conduct complex experiments on how to detonate a nuclear weapon, according to European and American officials. As part of the investigation, inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency are seeking information from the scientist, who they believe acted on his own as an adviser on experiments described in a lengthy document obtained by the agency, the officials said....

[bth: so the Iranians can't get access to Pakistani scientists this year. As a result they shift to Russian hired guns. Amazing what kind of talent petrol dollars can buy.]

Assassinations replacing car bombs in Iraq

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/09/2008 | Assassinations replacing car bombs in Iraq: "U.S." and Iraqi officials are seeing a shift in violence in Iraq from mass car bombings to assassinations using magnetic bombs, weapons with silencers and bicycle bombs. As provincial elections approach, some officials worry that assassinations will increase as political parties try to eradicate their competitors.

"Some of the organizations that are seeking political power are resorting to intimidation and violence," said Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, the commander of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, whose area of command includes most of southern Iraq. "So you'll see individual bombs used against a prominent member of a party. I personally think we will see an uptick of that type of violence as we go into the election cycle because . . . the way some people deal with political tension here is to eliminate the other parties by using violence."

On Thursday, a prominent parliament member from the Shiite Muslim faction led by radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr was killed near his home when an explosive-laden motorcycle rammed his convoy. Saleh al Ugaili died in a Baghdad hospital of his wounds.

In the largely Shiite south, a Karbala city council member was killed by a magnetic bomb attached to his car. In Baghdad, another magnetic bomb killed a man as he drove through a busy shopping district.

The Ministry of Interior has issued a warning asking people not to park in public places to avoid militants attaching magnetic bombs to vehicles. The weapon is then remotely detonated using a cell phone....

[bth: why now besides the upcoming elections? Why weren't these pretty sophisticated assassinations being carried out last year or the year before? These aren't just random amateurs. Note besides reference to some Shiites the article doesn't suggest who the culprits are. Ten from the interior ministry kiilled with silencers? Undoubtedly there is a whole story behind that one but it doesn't seem to have made it to print. Why?]

Monday, October 06, 2008

Source: Saudi hosts Afghan peace talks with Taliban reps -

Source: Saudi hosts Afghan peace talks with Taliban reps - "LONDON"England (CNN) -- In a groundbreaking meeting, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia recently hosted talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group, according to a source familiar with the talks.

The historic four-day meeting took place during the last week of September in the Saudi city of Mecca, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

King Abdullah broke fast during the Eid al-Fitr holiday with the 17-member Afghan delegation -- an act intended to show his commitment to ending the conflict.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar was not present, the source said.

It marks a significant departure by the Saudi leadership to take a direct role in Afghanistan, hosting some delegates who have until recently been their enemies.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has generally dealt with Afghanistan through Pakistan
The desert kingdom's current foray marks a significant shift and appears to recognize the political weakness of Pakistan and the need to stem the growth of al Qaeda. Watch CNN's Nic Robertson report on the meeting »

The current round of talks is anticipated to be a first step in a long process. According to the source close to the talks, it has taken two years of behind-the-scenes meetings to get to this point.

The talks took place between September 24 and 27 and involved 11 Taliban delegates, two Afghan government officials, a representative of former mujahadeen commander and U.S. foe Gulbadin Hekmatyar, and three others.

It was the first such meeting aimed at bringing a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict and for the first time, all parties were able to discuss their positions and objectives openly and transparently, the source said.

Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban leadership during its rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s, but that relationship was severed over Mullah Omar's refusal to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

While Mullah Omar was not present at the talks in Mecca, the source said the Taliban leader has made it clear he is no longer allied with al Qaeda -- a position that has never been publicly stated but emerged at the talks.

It confirms what another source with an intimate knowledge of the Taliban and Mullah Omar has told CNN in the past

During the talks, all parties agreed that the only solution to Afghanistan's conflict is through dialogue, not fighting. The source described the Mecca talks as an ice-breaking meeting where expectations were kept necessarily low.

Further talks are expected in Saudi Arabia involving this core group and others.

The reasons for Saudi Arabia's involvement are numerous, including having the trust of the United States and Europe to play a positive role at a time when the conflict appears to be worsening and the coalition's casualty toll is climbing.

Also, Saudi Arabia may fear that Iran could take advantage of U.S. failings in Afghanistan, as it is seen to be doing in Iraq

Several Afghan sources familiar with Iranian activities in Afghanistan have said Iranian officials and diplomats who are investing in business and building education facilities are lobbying politicians in Kabul.

The Afghan sources wish to remain anonymous due to their political roles.

Coalition commanders regularly accuse Iran of arming the Taliban, and Western diplomats privately suggest that Iran is working against U.S. interests in Afghanistan, making it harder to bring peace.

Saudi sources say perceived Iranian expansionism is one of Saudi Arabia's biggest concerns

Somali pirates: Islamist insurgents demand weapons from hijacked ship - Telegraph

Somali pirates: Islamist insurgents demand weapons from hijacked ship - Telegraph: "The"Islamist gunmen from the al Shabaab group opposing Somalia's weak interim government have also received a five per cent cut of the $1.5 million paid out for a Spanish ship released several months ago.

About two weeks ago, heavily-armed pirates captured the MV Faina near Hobyo town in central Somalia and are demanding a $20 million ransom. Several US navy ships are watching it to ensure none of the weapons is unloaded.

"Al Shabaab wanted some weapons from the Ukrainian ship but the pirates rejected their demands," a local official said.

"Al Shabaab went away after they were rejected by the residents and the pirates. I am sure the group is not far from the area," he added.

Somalia pirates have seized more that 30 vessels off the coast of their anarchic country so far this year and received amounts between $18-30 million in ransoms, according to a report by British think-tank Chatham House.

Residents confirmed fears that ransom payments to pirates were being passed onto the Islamist movement and were fuelling the insurgency against President Abdullahi Yusuf's government.

One resident and a relative of the pirates holding the Ukrainian vessel said the al Shaabab men received a five per cent share of the last ransom paid but had been demanding more.

"Al Shabaab demanded more money from pirates and they disagreed," resident Hussein Ali claimed. "They met the pirates near Hobyo and asked for more money... but the pirates refused."

They are also expecting a share of any money paid out for the Ukrainian ship and two Greek ships held at Hobyo, he said.

"They are waiting for some money from these three ships held in our area. Most of the al Shabaab who asked for money are in the same sub-subclan with the pirates around Hobyo," Ali said.

The United States has linked al Shabaab as a terrorist organisation to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

The waters between Somalia and Yemen are a major artery used by nearly 20,000 vessels a year heading to and from the Suez Canal.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain"
Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain

Military Times poll: Troops backing McCain - Air Force News, news from Iraq - Air Force Times

Military Times poll: Troops backing McCain - Air Force News, news from Iraq - Air Force Times: "Sen"John McCain enjoys overwhelming support from the military’s professional core, though race appears to be a decisive factor for career-oriented black service members, a Military Times survey of nearly 4,300 readers indicates.

McCain, R-Ariz., handily defeated Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., 68 percent to 23 percent in a voluntary survey of 4,293 active-duty, National Guard and reserve subscribers and former subscribers to Army Times, Navy Times, Marine Corps Times and Air Force Times.

The results of the Military Times 2008 Election Poll are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole. The group surveyed is older, more senior in rank and less ethnically diverse than the overall armed services.

But as a snapshot of careerists, the results suggest Democrats have gained little ground in their attempts to appeal to a traditionally Republican voting bloc in campaign messages and legislative initiatives, such as the recent expansion of GI Bill benefits, experts said.

Tina Fey As Sarah Palin In VP Debate On SNL (VIDEO)

Tina Fey As Sarah Palin In VP Debate On SNL (VIDEO)

Jewish "Modesty Patrols" Sow Fear In Israel

Jewish "Modesty Patrols" Sow Fear In IsraelJERUSALEM — In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law sometimes takes a back seat to the rule of God, zealots are on a campaign to stamp out behavior they consider unchaste. They hurl stones at women for such "sins" as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet.

In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography.

"These breaches of purity and modesty endanger our community," said 38-year-old Elchanan Blau, defending the bearded, black-robed zealots. "If it takes fire to get them to stop, then so be it."...

Obama takes big lead in new Minn. poll - Andy Barr -

Obama takes big lead in new Minn. poll - Andy Barr - Politico.comnew Minneapolis Star Tribune poll shows Barack Obama opening an expansive lead in Minnesota, which appears to further shrink the electoral map of John McCain.

Some 55 percent of respondents said they support Obama, compared to 37 percent who back McCain. The last Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, conducted in September, showed Obama and McCain deadlocked at 45 percent.

The 18-point improvement comes as 58 percent of respondents said the Illinois senator would do a better job handling the economy while only 30 percent said the same of McCain....

The Minnesota poll comes on the heels of news Thursday that the McCain campaign is pulling staff and resources out of Michigan, a reflection of a shrinking electoral map for the GOP ticket.

On Friday, the Obama campaign announced it was expanding its operation in traditionally red Nebraska.

On a conference call Thursday, the McCain campaign mapped out its electoral strategy for the remaining thirty days, with a focus on several states where the RealClear polling averages show Obama in front: Colorado (where Obama has a 4.4-point lead), Wisconsin (5), Pennsylvania (9.6), New Hampshire (5.6), New Mexico (7.8), Nevada (1.8)—and Minnesota.

[bth: its the economy]

NYT A Manhunt or a Vital War?

...India’s gravest problem — the one that has bedeviled its rise to great power status and with which its army is obsessed — is the fact that it shares long borders with dysfunctional states like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The more responsible Indian nationalists see their country’s expansion not in terms of hard conquest, but in terms of soft economic envelopment of its neighbors. And an American failure in Afghanistan would set in motion a string of consequences that threaten such a benign vision.

In the end, victory in Afghanistan can be defined by achieving the kind of security there that existed in the 1960s, when King Zahir Shah controlled the major cities and the roads connecting them, and a relative peace reigned. Even under a weak central government, Afghanistan could finally achieve economic salvation: the construction of a web of energy pipelines that have been envisioned for years connecting Central Asia with the Indian Ocean. These might run, for example, from the natural gas fields of Turkmenistan down through Afghanistan and into the dense population zones of Pakistan and India, with terminals at ports like Gwadar in Pakistani Baluchistan and Surat in the Indian state of Gujarat.

In other words, in Afghanistan we are not simply trying to save a country, but to give a whole region a new kind of prosperity and stability, united rather than divided by energy needs, that would be implicitly pro-American.

Indeed, a main reason the Pakistanis have been hesitant to work with us in the tribal areas is their fear that a manhunt is all we care about, rather than the region’s long-term prospects. The Pakistanis take note of our burgeoning strategic partnership with India, even as they believe that India’s recent opening of several consulates in Afghanistan is aimed at helping Baluchi separatists weaken Pakistan.

Consequently, they feel squeezed, and on the brink of being deserted by us once we track down Al Qaeda’s leading figures. Afghanistan is a strategic rear base that India and Pakistan are now fighting over; both countries fear chaos there and desperately want us to calm it.

What the Pentagon calls the “long war” is the defining geopolitical issue of our time, and Afghanistan is at its heart. The fate of Eurasia hangs in the balance

Scottish Activist Films Israeli Navy Shooting At Gaza Fishermen (from Sunday Herald)

Scottish Activist Films Israeli Navy Shooting At Gaza Fishermen (from Sunday Herald)

It comes down to the economy

War and Piece: - Regarding Dusty Foggo and the CIA corruption scandal

War and Piece:Where is the Weekly Standard when you need it, to defend Porter Goss's decision to appoint Dusty Foggo to the number three job at the Agency, now that Foggo has pled guilty to fraud and is going to jail? All that vigorous vetting at those Washington area poker games, never mind the contracts he took affirmative measures to hide that he was throwing at his friend Wilkes, and a few mistresses he badgered to have installed at various CIA jobs, according to just some of the the 28-count Foggo indictment (.pdf). What's a few million dollars in corruption and crony contracts if it's furthering the cause - well, what was the cause, installing chiefly fiercely partisan GOP loyalists throughout the Agency, as the White House was attempting to do at every other federal agency, Monica Goodling/Lurita Doan-style?

And where have Porter Goss and Patrick Murray snuck away? Don't they want to speak up, to defend their decision to appoint Foggo to the Executive Director job? And Patrick Murray especially interesting, since he was wired into the White House national security legal structure from the beginning, having served on the Bush/Cheney transition team, and been appointed by President Bush to serve as associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department from 2001 to 2003 (an appointment the White House seems to have removed from its website), before becoming Goss's right fist at the Agency. That would be the Justice Department that ended up in May 2006 authorizing the FBI to conduct the unprecedented raid on Foggo's CIA office. The humiliating details of the case forcing the White House to abruptly dump Goss, news he was delivered in a phone call from the White House during a Friday May 5, 2006 lunch he was hosting for a visiting group of think tank scholars (he excused himself, and headed for the White House, where he was publicly retired, a decision he did not know about when his lunch began, according to a source of mine who happened to be there for lunch with the Director that day).

Time to speak up, Goss and Murray. First off, on whose recommendation exactly did Goss make the decision to appoint Foggo to the number three job? And what was it about the revelation that the FBI was investigating Foggo that seemed to make Goss's removal of utmost urgency for the White House? And, since partisan hackery over competence, professionalism or evidently ethics was apparently what the appointment was about, do they plan to visit Foggo in jail? Any more card games planned before Foggo heads to the slammer? It all seems so much like the end of Alberto Gonzales, who suddenly doesn't have a friend in Washington. Another case study of cronyism, partisan zealotry, overreach and incompetence for the history books about this sorry era.

Update: I have a second source who was supposed to meet with Goss that day (May 5 2006) Goss ended up getting fired. Interestingly, the meeting came about as a result of the fact that Goss was starting to believe he had made serious mistakes in how he had let the Agency be run in such a hyper-partisan manner.

Update II: Would be interested in serious insights into Patrick Murray's time at the Bush Justice Department (he was associate deputy attorney general in the DOJ's National Security Division from 2001-2003, where he seemed especially interested in anti leak issues), and how closely he was wired into the Cheney/Addington network. (Like Murray, Addington used to be a Republican staffer on the House intelligence committe, for Cheney). Remember the strange case of another indicted co-conspirator in the Duke Cunningham case, Mitchell Wade, who won his first US government contract ever in 2002 from Cheney's office for the precise amount that another co-conspirator paid for a yacht that was given as a bribe to Duke Cunningham a month later.

(And, FWIW, Cheney's press secretary Jennifer Millerwise became Goss's press secretary at the Agency as well.) (Sources tell me Murray is now practicing law in the Chicago area.)

Secondly, did something about the FBI investigation of Foggo threaten to expose some connection between the White House and the wider Cunningham case? Certainly the Bush White House installed Goss and Murray at CIA; did it have a hand in the Foggo appointment, as a favor to Foggo's best friend, Brent Wilkes, who was a Bush/Cheney fundraising Pioneer? Did Cunningham, Goss's colleague on HPSCI, press someone at the White House to install Foggo as the number three, as a favor to Wilkes who had bribed him with a few hundred thousand dollars? Cunningham had been bribed by another co-conspirator in the case, Tommy Kontogiannis, to write a letter to the White House asking for a Bush pardon for Kontogiannis' past criminal convictions. And remember, Wilkes also had reason to press Cunningham (who he was convicted of bribing) to use his influence as a Republican on the House intelligence committee to get Foggo that position: Wilkes was discussing a few hundred million dollar CIA covert air services contract with Foggo when the FBI investigation came crashing down on their plans. The discussed CIA air services contract was worth approximately three times the $100 million in defense contracts Wilkes had managed to procure between 1995 and 2005 chiefly because of his bribes to Cunningham. Any real insights, email here.

[bth: wow. I try to keep up with this but there are too many balls in the air to keep these corruption scandals separated and distinct. Maybe that's it. They aren't distinct at all.]
Informed Comment

Adam Gadahn resurfaces in new al Qaeda tape - The Long War Journal

Adam Gadahn resurfaces in new al Qaeda tape - The Long War Journal: "Adam"Gadahn, al Qaeda's American spokesman, has resurfaced in a newly released videotape, squashing the rumors that he died in a US airstrike earlier this year. Gadahn was rumored to have been killed in a January 2008 airstrike in North Waziristan that killed Abu Laith al Libi, a senior al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan....

Gadahn, who is also known as Azzam al Amriki or Azzam the American, is the first American to be charged with treason since 1952. He was indicted in a US federal court under charges of treason and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization for making al Qaeda propaganda videos. "By aligning himself with al Qaeda, by moving overseas to be closer to al Qaeda’s base and leadership, and by joining in advocating al Qaeda’s terrorist agenda, an agenda that includes the overthrow of the United States government and the murder of American citizens, Adam Gadahn has committed treason against the United States of America," said US Attorney Debra Wong Yang.

The US has a $1 million reward out for information leading to his capture.

Rumors of Gadahn's death spread in early February and continued in March, but his death was never confirmed. He was said to have been killed in the Jan. 28 airstrike in North Waziristan that killed Abu Laith al Libi, al Qaeda's chief commander in Afghanistan, the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and a chief spokesman for the terror group. Gadahn was thought to have been attending a strategy meeting of senior al Qaeda commanders in North Waziristan.

At the time, senior US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal there was no evidence that Gadahn was killed, and in fact they believed he was alive. Al Qaeda never released a martyrdom video to celebrate his death.

Gadahn death rumors peaked after the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. He did not appear on the al Qaeda's Sept. 11 tape, as he had every year since 2004. - Officials: Taliban Angry Over Alleged U.S. Strike - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Officials: Taliban Angry Over Alleged U.S. Strike - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "DERA"ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — The Taliban are unusually angry about the latest suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan, a sign a top militant may have died in the attack, officials and residents said Sunday amid reports the death toll rose by two to 24.

Elsewhere in Pakistan's northwest, an official said some 15,000 Afghans had left a tribal region the military is trying to wrest from insurgents, but that tens of thousands more had yet to meet a government ultimatum to get out by Sunday.

The U.S. has ramped up cross-border strikes on alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban targets along Pakistan's side of the border with Afghanistan, straining the two nations' anti-terror alliance.

The U.S. says pockets of Pakistan's border region, especially in its semi-autonomous tribal areas, are bases for militants attacking American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It has pushed nuclear-armed Pakistan to eliminate the safe havens.

The frontier region is believed to be a possible hiding place for Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, and several Arab militants were said to be among the dead in Friday's strike in North Waziristan tribal region.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said that over the weekend two people wounded in the attack died at a hospital in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The officials sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media..

The insurgents were moving aggressively in the area while using harsh language against locals, including calling them "saleable commodities" — a reference to people serving as government spies, the officials said.

Two local residents said Taliban fighters had warned people not to discuss the strike, including with the media, or to try inspecting the rubble at the site. The residents asked not to be named for fear of Taliban retaliation.

The strike in Mohammadkhel appeared to be the deadliest of 11 reported cross-border operations by U.S.-led forces since Aug. 20. The area is a stronghold of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran Taliban commander regarded by the U.S. as one of its most dangerous foes.

The U.S. rarely acknowledges such attacks. Lt. Nathan Perry, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said he had "no information to give" about the reported attacks. He did not deny U.S. involvement.

The information is nearly impossible to verify independently because of the remote, dangerous nature of the areas.

Pakistani officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.

Earlier, however, Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said initial reports indicated that 20 or more people were killed. He said there was "speculation" that many were foreign militants, but cautioned that the army was still awaiting a detailed report.

Pakistan's military and civilian leaders have complained that the attacks violate the country's sovereignty, kill civilians and anger the local population, making it harder to crack down on the militants....

[bth: if victims were taken to a major hospital and it appears that the locals sold out their arabic brothers, one wonders who in fact was killed. The claims of ignorance on the topic hardly seem plausible for the Pakistani government given hospital records and a photo which I saw yesterday of soldiers at the blast site. Wonder what's going on?] - Al Qaeda Boasts Financial Crisis Is Proof of U.S. Defeat - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Al Qaeda Boasts Financial Crisis Is Proof of U.S. Defeat - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "CAIRO"Egypt — An American member of Al Qaeda pointed to economic troubles in the United States as proof that "the enemies of Islam" face defeat, in an English-language video released Saturday.

In a half hour video message, California-native Adam Gadahn urged Pakistanis to unite against their government and U.S. forces, and taunted Americans over their economic crisis, relating it to their military interventions.

"The enemies of Islam are facing a crushing defeat, which is beginning to manifest itself in the expanding crisis their economy is experiencing," said Gadahn, in a clip of the message distributed by the SITE Intelligence Group, a Washington-based monitor of militant Web sites.

"A crisis whose primary cause, in addition to the abortive and unsustainable crusades they are waging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, is their turning their backs on Allah's revealed laws, which forbid interest-bearing transactions, exploitation, greed and injustice in all its forms."

Gadahn, 29, grew up in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana in 2005 and charged with one count of treason and two counts of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The FBI says Gadahn moved to Pakistan in 1998 and attended an Al Qaeda training camp six years later, serving as a translator and consultant.

Gadahn also urged Pakistanis to unite and establish an Islamic state. Al Qaeda's media arm, al-Sahab, is increasingly using English-language videos to address Muslims in Pakistan who are unlikely to speak Arabic.

Gadahn warned Pakistanis to continue to fight their government which, according to him, bows to American interests.

"Someone wanted us to imagine that the same Pakistani government, which is probably responsible for the death of more Muslims in Pakistan than the Americans are, and the same Pakistan army (is) suddenly prepared to fight kufars (infidels) instead of Muslims," Gadahn said.

[bth: first I thought we had killed this little dirt bag, Gadahn, last summer. Second it is interesting to see their perspective - using English to address Pakistani citizens that do not speek Arabic and that they blame the Paki government for kiling for Muslims than Americans.]