Saturday, October 18, 2008

More than 50 soldiers killed in Russia clashes: opposition

The Raw Story | More than 50 soldiers killed in Russia clashes: opposition: "MOSCOW"(AFP) – An opposition website in southern Russia said more than 50 soldiers were killed by militias on Saturday in clashes that officials told Russian news agencies had killed only two soldiers.

The Ingushetia.org website cited a local official from the interior ministry giving the casualty figure, which would represent one of the worst losses for Russian forces since the end of major combat operations in Chechnya.

The website also quoted hospital sources and its own correspondent.

Russian officials in Moscow and in the province of Ingushetia where the clashes took place could not be reached for comment on the report.

Ingushetia, a mainly Muslim province neighbouring war-ravaged Chechnya, has been racked by a growing number of attacks against security forces that are frequently blamed on separatist rebels and Islamist fighters.

"A source from the Sunzhensky region interior ministry said around 50 soldiers were killed" in a single attack in which armoured personnel carriers and trucks were also destroyed, the Ingushetia.org website reported.

Five more soldiers were killed in two other attacks, the website said.

Interfax news agency quoted local prosecutor Pavel Belyakov saying two interior ministry soldiers were killed and nine others were injured in an attack on a military column that was carried out by rebel fighters....

The coroner who has put the MoD's back up - Home News, UK - The Independent

The coroner who has put the MoD's back up - Home News, UK - The Independent: "Andrew"Walker has proved a thorn in the MoD's side of since he became assistant deputy coroner of Oxfordshire in 2006.


The 40-year-old transferred from Hornsey in London to clear a backlog of inquests into deaths of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their bodies are usually brought back to RAF Brize Norton, which is under his jurisdiction. He accused the MoD of "inexcusable delays" in providing body armour to troops, after Sgt Steven Roberts was killed in Iraq in 2003; condemned "serious failures" after Pte Jason Smith died of heatstroke in Iraq in 2003; criticised the MoD for making Cpl John Cosby's family fight for documents after he was shot by a British bullet in Iraq in 2006; and called for the Nimrod fleet to be grounded after the inquest into 14 deaths in Afghanistan in 2006. Said to be disliked by the MoD and politicians, he has not had his contract at Oxford renewed and will return to Hornsey as chief coroner.

Afghanistan Diary: MRAPs Suck! | Danger Room from Wired.com#more

Afghanistan Diary: MRAPs Suck! | Danger Room from Wired.com#more: "Many"months and many billion dollars after they were declared a top priority, the the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicle, or MRAPs, are starting to hit the road in serious numbers.

In places with a reasonably developed highway system and decent ports – Iraq, for instance -- the MRAP is a decent proposition. It’s tough, survivable and reasonably agile. Problem is, MRAPs are poorly suited for Afghanistan, where the roads are narrow, primitive and poorly maintained. That is, when there are roads.

During my recent embed with Marines in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the number one gear complaint was the MRAP: it was too wide for most roads, and the top-heavy vehicles were prone to rollover.



As Captain Charles O'Neill, commander of B Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, told me, a few of the MRAPs had “gone into the wadi” – i.e., rolled over – during operations in Helmand. “The MRAP is an outstanding vehicle for force protection,” he said. “It would do great on paved roads. However, here in southern Helmand province, the roads don't facilitate the MRAP necessarily that well.”

With that experience in mind, the Marines are now re-assessing the requirements for MRAPs in Afghanistan, and they have asked the defense industry to come up with options for an “MRAP light.” Some of the fixes might include better off-road mobility, a more robust suspension and a lower center of gravity. Several MRAP manufacturers are getting set to unveil their versions of a lighter-weight MRAP.

Which begs the question: What will happen to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle? The JLTV is supposed to be the Next Big Thing, a vehicle that will combine the light weight and mobility of the Humvee and the survivability of the MRAP. But with the Pentagon spending gazillions on MRAP, there’s always been a question of whether the services can afford JLTV.

Bloomberg is reporting one possible outcome: Pentagon officials are going out to allied nations to get them to pony up research and development funds on JLTV. Stayed tuned on this one: it’s bound to get expensive.

Iraqi Military Looks at Unmanned Air Force | Danger Room from Wired.com#more#more#more#more

Iraqi Military Looks at Unmanned Air Force | Danger Room from Wired.com#more#more#more#more: "Drones"have become a cornerstone of American efforts in Iraq. Pretty soon, the Iraq military may get the robotic planes, too. Speaking today at the Iraq Security and Defense Summit in Washington, Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Anwer Hamed Ahmed said the Iraqi military needed more sophisticated surveillance tools for border security.

Asked if this might include unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, Ahmed said: "Yes, the borders need all means and all equipment, whether this is aircraft, or vehicles, or expertise. And I am here in order to be able to take whatever you have... in order to make this happen."

Some border security measures in Iraq -- like the berm along the Syrian border -- are decidedly low tech. But the the Iraqi Air Force is already building a fleet of surveillance aircraft, including Cessna turboprops tricked out with Hellfire missiles for counterinsurgency ops. While Ahmed gave no specifics, it seems the Iraqis may be in the market for unmanned aircraft as well.

Stopping insurgents is only one reason for the Iraqi interest in border surveillance. Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal Ahmedfahmi said narcotics traffic was also an issue. "Right now we are in great need of technical assistance concerning the drug business that is coming from Iran into Iraq," he said. "Iraq is a 'clean 'country and we do not agree with getting drugs and then sending them to other countries from Iraq."

Afghanistan Diary: Culture Clash | Danger Room from Wired.com#more#more#more#more

Afghanistan Diary: Culture Clash | Danger Room from Wired.com#more#more#more#more:... "I"spent some time with a group of ANA soldiers in their compound. With some coaxing from Dave, a British army captain who was part of the mentoring team, the Afghans aired a few complaints. Their food, they said, was inadequate. And several ANA soldiers said they were not fond of their new M16s, which required constant cleaning.

Dave said the plan to shift the ANA to more NATO-standard equipment was perhaps the wrong priority. “This equipment issue has now outstripped their training,” he said. “They are literally dumping this equipment on them and we are having to backtrack. It would be better if we could concentrate on the basics.” Another issue for the Afghans was their vehicles; they had no up-armored vehicles, only Ford Ranger pickup trucks that would be shredded if they hit a mine or a roadside bomb.

Said Sergeant Mohammad Nazir: “The US and the British have good vehicles. When they hit an IED, the American trucks will not be destroyed. When our vehicles hit an IED, they will be destroyed completely

Al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command was a Swedish citizen - The Long War Journal

Al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command was a Swedish citizen - The Long War Journal: "Abu"Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq's second in command who was killed by US forces in Mosul, was a naturalized Swedish citizen who was wanted by United States, according to information obtained by The Long War Journal.

Abu Qaswarah al Skani (the Swede), whose real name is Mohamed Moumou, was killed in Mosul during an Oct. 5 raid on an al Qaeda command center. He detonated his vest after being mortally wounded and killed three women and three children.

The US military said Abu Qaswarah was a Moroccan who trained in al Qaeda camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1990s. He had close connections with Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the slain leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and commanded al Qaeda forces in northern Iraq before being appointed second in command.

Today, a Swedish newspaper reported that Abu Qaswarah was a naturalized Swedish citizen. Abu Qaswarah was "born in Morocco and became a Swedish citizen in the 1990s," The Local reported. He was tied in with the notorious Brandbergen Mosque in Stockholm, which has been linked to other terror suspects....

FNew Home Construction at Lowest Level Since World War II - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - New Home Construction at Lowest Level Since World War II - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "The"nation is on track to build fewer homes this year than at any time since the end of World War II, adding to the woes of an economy that analysts said Friday has almost certainly entered a recession....

Venture Capital Investment Down 7 Percent in Third Quarter - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

Venture Capital Investment Down 7 Percent in Third Quarter - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com: "Venture"capital investment was down slightly in the third quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report released Saturday from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Venture capitalists put $7.7 billion into 1,033 deals, a decrease of 7 percent from the second quarter.

The third quarter of the year is generally slower for venture investing, and the analysts who produced the report said that the economic crisis is not yet affecting venture numbers. In future quarters, though, the industry will likely see a dip in investing, said Tracy T. Lefteroff, global managing partner of the venture capital practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. ...


Another sign of the impact of the financial turmoil on the venture industry: the number of start-ups getting funding for the first time fell 20 percent to 259. That is the lowest level since the first quarter of 2004. Investors are hesitant to fund new companies because they have so many portfolio companies in the pipeline that are ready to go public or be sold but are stuck because the exit markets are all but closed. ...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad"
Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad

12-Year-Old Boy Scouts Volunteer To Give Women Breast Exams | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

12-Year-Old Boy Scouts Volunteer To Give Women Breast Exams | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
12-Year-Old Boy Scouts Volunteer To Give Women Breast Exams"
12-Year-Old Boy Scouts Volunteer To Give Women Breast Exams

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/17/2008 | Commentary: What McCain and Obama didn't say

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/17/2008 | Commentary: What McCain and Obama didn't say: "Two"words were never uttered by either candidate or by the moderator during Wednesday night's 90-minute final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those two words, those two wars, have cost a cash- and credit-starved nation a trillion dollars or so, and no one bothered to mention them. John McCain abstained from doing his Iraq "path to victory" dance. Barack Obama said we could save $750 billion by ending our dependence on foreign oil imports, but he said not one word about how we could save more than $100 billion a year by ending the war in Iraq.

Instead, the candidates spent a large chunk of time talking about their positions on Roe v. Wade and abortion, a subject that's been and ought to remain a matter of great interest only to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy. The other recurring theme, of course, was McCain's friend Joe the Plumber.

The two rightly focused a good deal of attention on the financial meltdown that's eating up the national treasury, the housing and jobs market and everyone's 401(k) and IRA stock market investments and retirement dreams.

But they said not a word about the two ongoing wars that have taken the lives of more than 4,500 Americans, wounded or injured more than 70,000 others and scrambled the lives of millions of Iraqis and Afghanis while grinding down our Army and Marine Corps.

The silence is incomprehensible, as though Franklin D. Roosevelt had done an entire Fireside Chat in 1944 without mentioning World War II....

Chinook inquest: Caught in the Kajaki landmine trap | UK news | guardian.co.uk

Chinook inquest: Caught in the Kajaki landmine trap | UK news | guardian.co.uk: "He"came to call it "the day of days". Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, commander of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, lost three of his men and personally zipped up and carried the body bag containing one of his dead soldiers from a helicopter as it landed in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

That man was Corporal Mark Wright, a 27-year-old from Edinburgh, who was posthumously awarded a George Cross for bravery to mark his actions on that terrifying day on September 6 2006. In the hours leading up to his death, three of the soldiers beside him were to lose a limb.

A mortar fire controller with 3 Para mortar platoon, Wright was operating in the Kajaki Dam area when it came over the radio that a fellow para had been injured after treading on a landmine less than a mile from his location.

While on patrol, Lance Corporal Stuart Hale had jumped over what he thought was a dry riverbed when he heard an explosion. As he looked down through a dusty maelstrom, Hale realised he was missing a finger and part of his leg.

Wright and eight other men, including medics and stretcher bearers, set off in the direction of the explosion. A path had been cleared to Hale, and he was given morphine. A tourniquet was applied to what remained of his leg.

The party then began prodding the arid, rock-strewn ground for landmines so they could plot out a helicopter landing strip for a casualty evacuation.

Back at Camp Bastion, Tootal's screams for a Black Hawk rescue helicopter were lost in Nato bureaucracy. He had a choice, wait 12 hours until engineers could clear the area of any potentially fatal ordnance and have his soldier bleed to death, or send in a Chinook that risked landing on a mine – he picked the latter.

There was no winch equipment on board the helicopter and the crew faced a perilous task.

Stepping back across the cleared path Sergeant Stuart Pearson stumbled and set off another landmine. Within seconds it became clear to everyone that any move could be their last – they were stranded in the middle of a minefield.

No one could help Pearson, so he had to apply his own tourniquet and stab an ampoule of morphine into himself.

Over the shouting of orders, the whirring thump of a Chinook's rotor blades could be heard. Landing precariously on its two back wheels, the crew motioned to the paras to cross the cleared path to the helicopter.

But the terrified soldiers were signalling to them to take off – they knew the downdraft from the blades could set off more mines. As the paras crouched to the ground, there was another blast. Fragments flew everywhere, hitting Wright in the chest, face, arms and neck.

A medic who was next to him was also hit in the chest. In spite of his injuries, Wright continued to give first aid to those around him.

In his testimony to the inquest, Tootal said: "Perhaps something could have been moved by the helicopter, perhaps the helicopter taking off could have caused Mark Wright to move or move a bit of equipment. I think there is definitely a causal link to the helicopter and the detonation. That is implying no fault on the helicopter crew – they were doing their best."

With seriously injured soldiers lying everywhere, a medic, Corporal Paul Hartley started throwing his medical rucksack into the minefield so that it would detonate any mines it landed on.

He then jumped onto the cleared spot on which the bag had landed so that he could get to the injured. As he reached Wright, one of the soldiers standing close by him, Fusilier Andy Barlow, stepped back a few inches to make room. He too lost a leg.

Back at headquarters, a furious Tootal – who had been following what was happening to his men on the radio – finally had his request for Black Hawk helicopters granted, three hours after the first landmine had exploded. No longer in the army, the former commander said he believed red tape and delays cost one of his men his life and others their limbs.

On the ground, the men stayed as still as they could, stemming the blood from their wounds and trying to stay conscious by talking about girlfriends and family at home. After what seemed like an interminable wait, the Black Hawks arrived and with a winch began hoisting up the injured and the rest of the party.

Although he was conscious for some of the journey, Wright succumbed to his injuries and died before reaching the field hospital.

His citation for the GC read: "Despite this horrific situation and the serious injuries he had himself sustained, Cpl Wright continued to command and control the incident. He remained conscious for the majority of the time, continually shouting encouragement to those around, maintaining morale and calm amongst the many wounded men."

When survivors of that day gave evidence to the inquest, they were told by Andrew Walker, the deputy Oxford coroner: "You are courageous and utterly fearless. I have nothing but admiration for you and your fellow soldiers."

The Kajaki landmine trap was just the first of three major incidents on that day of days. In total, three of Tootal's men died, 18 soldiers were injured, with three of those losing their limbs.

Friendly fire in Iraq -- and a coverup | Salon News

Friendly fire in Iraq -- and a coverup | Salon News
Informed Comment

Analysts: Al Qaeda Not Feeling Effects of Economic Woes - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Analysts: Al Qaeda Not Feeling Effects of Economic Woes - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "CAIRO"Egypt — Al Qaeda, which gets its money from the drug trade in Afghanistan and sympathizers in the oil-rich Gulf states, is likely to escape the effects of the global financial crisis.

One reason is that Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists have been forced to avoid using banks, relying instead on less-efficient ways to move their cash around the world, analysts said.

Those methods include hand-carrying money and using informal transfer networks called hawalas.

While escaping official scrutiny, those networks also are slower and less efficient — and thus could hamper efforts to finance attacks.

"It would be inconceivable that large amounts of [terror-linked] money would transit through the formal financial system, because of all the controls," said Ibrahim Warde, an expert on terrorist financing at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The question of where Al Qaeda and its sympathizers get their money has long been crucial to efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. A 2004 U.S. investigation found that banks in the United Arab Emirates had unwittingly handled most of the $400,000 spent on the Sept. 11 attacks....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

YouTube - John McCain Brings Down The House - Al Smith Dinner Part 1

YouTube - John McCain Brings Down The House - Al Smith Dinner Part 1: ""

Press TV - 100 Somali soldiers surrender to UIC

Press TV - 100 Somali soldiers surrender to UIC: "Some"100 Somali soldiers in the capital Mogadishu have surrendered their weapons to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) fighters.

The soldiers escaped from a military check post near an Ethiopian base in southern Mogadishu and handed over their weapons to the UIC after they came under a heavy attack by the insurgents, Press TV correspondent reported Tuesday. The soldiers were stationed in the area to defend Ethiopian troops in the nearby base.

“Thank God, Somali soldiers understood that if they had died defending Ethiopian troops, they would have died in vain,” a UIC combatant said.

The incident comes just hours after 10 Somali soldiers and military officers in Mogadishu surrendered their weapons to the al-Shabaab group, an offshoot of the UIC.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the Horn of Africa nation dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. In 2006, US-backed Ethiopian troops invaded the country in an attempt to back Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

[bth: looks like we just lost Somalia again]

Troop Pullout Leaves Government On Brink (from Sunday Herald)

Troop Pullout Leaves Government On Brink (from Sunday Herald): "SOMALIA'S"FRAGILE government appears to be on the brink of collapse. Islamist insurgents now controls large parts of southern and central Somalia - and are continuing to launch attacks inside the capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopia, which launched a US-backed military intervention in Somalia in December 2006 in an effort to drive out an Islamist authority in Mogadishu, is now pulling out its troops.

Diplomats and analysts in neighbouring Nairobi believe the government will fall once Ethiopia completes its withdrawal, and secret plans have been made to evacuate government ministers to neighbouring Kenya.

advertisementThat may happen sooner rather than later. A shipment of Ethiopian weapons, including tanks, left Mogadishu port last month as part of the withdrawal. Bringing the equipment back to Ethiopia by land would have been impossible - analysts believe Ethiopian troops and their Somali government allies control just three small areas in Mogadishu and a few streets in Baidoa, the seat of parliament. There are now estimated to be just 2500 Ethiopian soldiers left inside Somalia, down from 15,000-18,000 at the height of the war.

Somalia's overlapping conflicts go back, at the very least, to 1991, the year the country's last recognised government was overthrown. Men and women who were children then have since given birth to a second generation of Somalis who have known only war.

But analysts believe Somalia is now in the midst of its worst ever crisis. The ongoing conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least 9000 civilians and forced more than 1.1 million to flee their homes, has combined with devastating droughts and rocketing food prices to create one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes.

Almost half the population - 3.2m people - are in need of emergency aid (the figure has almost doubled in the last 12 months). One in six children is thought to be malnourished.

"This crisis is broadening as well as deepening," said Mark Bowden, the head of the UN's humanitarian effort. "It is now the world's most complicated crisis."

Violence and insecurity have made it almost impossible for aid to get through, and 24 aid workers have been killed in Somalia so far this year. A recent shipment of food aid needed a military escort to navigate Somalia's pirate-infested waters. But within hours of the food being unloaded in Mogadishu's port most of it was stolen by gun-toting gangs.

Oxfam, Save The Children and 50 other aid agencies working in Somalia last week said the international community had "completely failed Somali civilians".

As the crisis worsens thousands are trying to leave the country every week. Around 6000 people are now crossing the border into Kenya every month - despite the Kenyan government's decision to close the border. Some are arriving at the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, which is now one of the largest refugee camps in the world with nearly 250,000 people.

Others try to leave by sea, travelling to the northern town of Bosasso and paying $100 to people smugglers who ram more than 100 people onto a small fishing boat and set sail for Yemen.

Many do not make it. Smugglers last week forced 150 people off the boat three miles off the Yemeni coast. Only 47 made it to shore.

Attempts to find a political solution have stalled. The UN claims progress has been made, citing an agreement signed in neighbouring Djibouti by the Somali government and the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS).

But the deal has been signed only by the moderates on each side: Prime Minister Nur Adde and the ARS's Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

President Abdullahi Yusuf, a former warlord who controls the government's security forces, has refused to get involved. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the hardline Islamic leader of another faction of the ARS, has denounced the deal, as have the leaders of the insurgents, a group called Al Shabaab.

Since the deal was struck in June, the level of violence has increased.

Few Somalis will weep if the government falls. In most respects it is a government in name only. Few ministries have offices, let alone civil servants to fill them. There are no real policies - and no real way to implement any.

Worst of all, this government, which is backed by the United Nations and funded by Western donors including Britain and the EU, has been accused of committing a litany of war crimes. Its police force, many of whom were trained under a UN programme part-funded by Britain, has carried out extrajudicial killings, raped women and fired indiscriminately on crowds at markets. Militias aligned to the government have killed journalists and attacked aid workers.

The government's fall would mark the end of a disastrous US-backed intervention. For six months in 2006, Somalia was relatively calm. A semblance of peace and security had returned to Mogadishu. The reason was the rise of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a loose coalition of Islamist leaders who had driven out Mogadishu's warlords.

Hardline elements within the UIC vowed to launch a jihad against Somalia's traditional enemy, Ethiopia. The US viewed the UIC has an "al-Qaeda cell" - a belief not shared by the majority of analysts and diplomats.

Ethiopia, with the support of the US, sent thousands of troops across the border to drive out the UIC. It took just a few days to defeat them. Their leaders fled towards the border with Kenya, while many of the fighters took off their uniforms and melted into Mogadishu.

Within weeks, an Iraq-style insurgency had begun, targeting Somali government and Ethiopian troops. Al Shabaab began laying roadside bombs and firing at Ethiopian troops from inside civilian areas.

The Ethiopians responded by bombarding residential areas. Hundreds were killed and hundreds of thousands fled Mogadishu. Human rights groups accused Ethiopia of committing war crimes.

The US must now be wondering whether it was all worth it. Western backing for the unpopular Somali government and US support for the Ethiopian intervention has created a groundswell of anti-West sentiment in Somalia.

The Islamist leaders they were so keen to oust are the same ones they are now engaged in negotiations with. US officials have met both Sheikh Sharif and the more hardline Sheikh Aweys in an effort to find a peace deal.

Meanwhile, in Somalia, the Islamists taking control of towns and villages across the country are considered far more extremist than Aweys. "They are real international jihadis," said one Nairobi-based diplomat. "The Americans' fear of al-Qaeda in Somalia is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Toxins Found in Russian Rights Lawyer’s Car - NYTimes.com

Toxins Found in Russian Rights Lawyer’s Car - NYTimes.com: "The"French police are investigating the discovery of toxic mercury pellets in the car of a human rights lawyer who was taken ill in Strasbourg on Tuesday, a day before pretrial hearings in Moscow into the killing of one of her best-known clients, the journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya.

The case recalled events almost two years ago when Alexander Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer and a vocal critic of Vladimir V. Putin, died after ingesting a highly radioactive toxin, polonium 210. Scotland Yard said he had been murdered.

Ms. Politkovskaya, who had chronicled allegations of abuse in Russia’s wars in Chechnya, was shot to death in her apartment building in Moscow a few weeks before Mr. Litvinenko was poisoned. Critics of Mr. Putin, then president and now prime minister, said the two killings were part of a pattern of Kremlin-backed actions against its foes.

On Wednesday, pretrial hearings into Ms. Politkovskaya’s killing began behind closed doors in a military court in Moscow. But her lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko — a prominent Russian human rights lawyer — was not there. ....

The Raw Story | Video may show friendly fire cover-up in Iraq

The Raw Story | Video may show friendly fire cover-up in Iraq: "Salon".com has released video footage suggesting that a friendly fire attack was responsible for the death of two American soldiers, Pfc. Albert Nelson of Philadelphia and Pfc. Roger Suarez-Gonzalez of Florida on December 4, 2006.

Nelson's mother, Jean Feggins, didn't believe the Army's explanation. While originally she was told that her son was "possibly" killed by friendly fire, it was later said to be enemy mortars. "I always felt like they were lying to me," Feggins said. "I could never prove it."

During the attack in Ramadi, the footage recorded with a camera in Sgt. 1st Class Jack Robison's helmet suggests that the soldiers believed they were being fired on by an American tank. It also shows Pfc. Nelson after his injuries, with others attempting to save his life. The sergeant is heard being overruled by a superior officer when he tried to report the deaths over the radio as friendly fire.

The footage also contradicts the Army's explanation that Pfc. Nelson was killed instantly; his comrades attempted to get him to a field hospital while he bled to death. The ground unit which arrived to take the wounded had already left, having misinterpreted a report that Suarez was dead to mean that there were no others to transport.

"I'm not going to have any closure until I know exactly what happened to him," Feggins said. "I don't care how gruesome it is...Tell me the truth. I can handle it."

Reporter Mark Benjamin's extensive investigation can be read at Salon.com.

Government unveils 'Big Brother' plan: Now they want to snoop on every phone call, email and text message | Mail Online

Government unveils 'Big Brother' plan: Now they want to snoop on every phone call, email and text message | Mail Online: "Plans"for a massive expansion of ‘Big Brother’ state surveillance to cover every phone call, email, text message and internet visit in Britain were unveiled yesterday.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed that storing details of individuals’ communications was vital to prevent further terrorist atrocities.

Activities which will be subject to snooping for the first time include visits
to social networking sites such as Facebook, auction sites such as eBay, gaming websites and chatrooms.

Police and security services will not be able to access the precise content but will know each site visited, and to whom and when a phone call, text message or email was sent.

If this sets alarm bells ringing, they could seek a Ministerial warrant to intercept exactly what is being sent, including the content.

The billions of pieces of data are likely to be stored for a year or more. The cost
is estimated to be at least £1billion, and could be far higher.

Internet phone calls are crippling fight against terrorism - Times Online

Internet phone calls are crippling fight against terrorism - Times Online: "The"huge growth in internet telephone traffic is jeopardising the capability of police to investigate almost every type of crime, senior sources have told The Times.

As more and more phone calls are routed over the web – using software such as Skype – police are losing the ability to track who has called whom, from where and for how long.

The key difficulty facing police is that, unlike mobile phone companies, which retain call data for billing purposes, internet call companies have no reason to keep the material.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, outlined plans yesterday for a huge expansion of the Government’s capability to access data held by internet services, including social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, and gaming networks. ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

U.S. military to deploy more surveillance planes to Afghanistan | csmonitor.com

U.S. military to deploy more surveillance planes to Afghanistan | csmonitor.com: "Washington"- The military is expanding the number of airplanes for reconnaissance and surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to demands from the Pentagon chief to assume a "war footing" in getting more planes into the air.

The US Army is sending a new unit of remote-controlled aircraft, similar to one it fielded in Iraq two years ago, to Afghanistan to monitor insurgents and enemy targets. The Air Force, meanwhile, is deploying about three dozen small turboprop planes with reconnaissance and surveillance crews to add to the unmanned planes already being used there. Both services are also trying to put more laptop computers in the hands of soldiers on the ground so they can benefit from the data provided by the "eyes in the sky."

The moves are prompted by criticism from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said it was like "pulling teeth" to get the services to provide more remote controlled aircraft over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unmanned planes produce "full motion video" for commanders attempting to locate insurgents or track their activity. The planes range from small, hand-launched craft to much larger planes that can fly at 65,000 feet for hours. Their value comes in how much they can do for long periods of time. It took nearly 600 hours of air time, for instance, before the US military could find the leader of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a US airstrike in June 2006.

Gen. David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, said at the Pentagon last week that he has an immediate need for more such planes in Afghanistan, where the US is desperate to turn around the battlefield equation but probably won't be able to provide more troops for months to come.

Mr. Gates believes the services have been slow to respond to this critical need in a time of war, seeking instead ideal solutions that can take much longer. The issue has been on Gates's mind since spring, when he created a special task force to prod the services to move faster on providing surveillance capability. Last week, Gates reiterated the need for the military to adapt its acquisition mindset.

"Our conventional modernization programs seek a 99 percent solution in years," he told students at the National Defense University in Washington. "Stability and counterinsurgency missions, the wars we are in, require 75 percent solutions in months."

The push from the top has triggered an exchange of recriminations and one-upmanship between the Army and the Air Force as the two race to provide more capability to war commanders. But recent initiatives show that both services are to some extent listening to what Gates is saying.

The Air Force, which has as much as 88 percent of its "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance" or ISR capability in the battle zones now, says it expects to expand by December the number of air patrols by unmanned aircraft. In addition, it will also send a few dozen Beech C-12 Huron twin turboprop manned planes under the banner Project Liberty. Although manned, these aircraft have been modified to allow them to perform many of the same duties as unmanned planes.

"We're trying to get every bit of capacity downrange to support the combatant commander," says Col. Eric Mathewson, director of the Air Force Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force in Washington.

The Army has also stepped up its efforts to "thicken" the amount of surveillance and reconnaissance it can provide, officials say. They will send an aircraft unit called Task Force ODIN to Afghanistan, similar to one in 2006 that "helped change the tide in Iraq," says Col. Randolph Rotte, deputy director of Army aviation.

The Army, which has been criticized for keeping too many remote-control planes at home for training, is also deploying more Shadow remote-control planes to the war zone, and modifying them to fly longer. Colonel Rotte emphasizes that the Army's answer to the demand for more reconnaissance and surveillance in the battle zones is not just about getting new platforms but adapting existing ones.

Taliban mock West for calling Afghanistan unwinnable - The Long War Journal

Taliban mock West for calling Afghanistan unwinnable - The Long War Journal: "The"Taliban have seized on what US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described as "defeatist" comments made by Western officials on the ability to succeed in Afghanistan to score a propaganda victory.

In a press release issued on Oct. 10 at Voice of Jehad, the Taliban's official website, the group described the recent statements that that war in Afghanistan is unwinnable as “a hue and cry” and reiterated their terms of peace are complete and unconditional withdrawal.

"The Islamic Emirate wants to make it clear that the only solution and the most successful path for resolving the Afghanistan problem is for the foreign forces to leave Afghanistan unconditionally and to respect Afghanistan's national independence and Islamic faith," the statement, issued in English, read. "Surely it is only then that peace, stability and prosperity would return to Afghanistan, otherwise all hue and cry and slogans will be empty, fruitless and ineffective."

"If the Americans, British, and at their behest the United Nations wish to keep the invading forces of 38 countries in Afghanistan, and at the same time ensure peace and reconciliation to their liking, they are dreaming an immature and empty fantasy."

The Taliban said the al Qaeda-linked group is "on the verge of victory" while the West is engaged in "a series of artificial gestures and a hue and cry about talks."

The Taliban issued three prior statements on the reports of negotiations between the Taliban and Western and Afghan officials. The statements derided the negotiations and said the Taliban would only settle for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces. One of the statements was issued by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The first statement, issued by the Taliban on Sept. 28, rejected any idea of a peace agreement. "The Shura Council of the Islamic Emriate of Afghanistan considers such baseless rumors as part of the failed efforts by our enemies to create distrust and doubts among Afghans, other nations, and the mujahideed," the statement read. "No official member of the Taliban--now or in the past--has ever negotiated with the US or the puppet Afghan government... A handful of former Taliban officials who are under house arrest or who have surrendered do not represent the Islamic Emirate."

The second statement, signed by Mullah Omar on Sept. 30, made it clear the Taliban believed it was close to victory. Omar offered the West harsh terms for peace. "If you demonstrate an intention of withdrawing your forces, we once again will demonstrate our principles by giving you the right of safe passage, in order to show that we never harm anyone maliciously," Omar said.

The third statement was made by Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar on Oct. 3. "We reject an offer for negotiation by the Afghan's puppet and slave President Hamid Karzai," Baradar...

[bth: we are hardly in a position to have satisfactory negotiations. I think a troop level increase is going to be needed before any form of satisfactory negotiations can unfold. Also we will have to coordinate more with the Pakistani Army, duplicitous as it is, in this matter.]

ISAF repels attacks in Helmand, launches strike into Pakistan - The Long War Journal

ISAF repels attacks in Helmand, launches strike into Pakistan - The Long War Journal: "US"British, and Afghan forces defeated two Taliban attacks in eastern and southern Afghanistan on Sunday. Seventy Taliban were killed during the two engagements. Five were killed as they attempted to attack from inside Pakistan.

In eastern Afghanistan, US forces launched two separate artillery strikes into Pakistan after Taliban mortar teams attempted to hit a US outpost inside Afghanistan. The outpost is located in the border district of Barmal in Paktika province, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told The Long War Journal. The strikes were launched across the border into North Waziristan.

ISAF said the strikes were coordinated with the Pakistani military. US forces launched the first artillery strike after three Taliban were seen setting up a mortar tube. Pakistani forces confirmed two Taliban were killed. An hour later, a Taliban mortar team was seen setting up to hit a Pakistan Border Point. US forces launched a second volley "in defense of the Pakistani military." Three Taliban were confirmed killed by Pakistani forces.

The artillery strikes occurred the same day as a US Predator strike was launched against a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. Four Taliban were reported killed.

The Haqqani family and Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar run a parallel administration in North Waziristan, and have launched multiple cross-border strikes in Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces this year. Taliban and allied al Qaeda forces have attempted to over US and Afghan outposts and district centers in eastern Afghanistan this year.

In southern Afghanistan, US and Afghan forces killed more than 65 Taliban fighters after they attempted to attack an Afghan National Security Forces outpost in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. The Taliban were seen gathering outside the town and were preparing a mortar attack when British and Afghan forces launched a counterattack. An airstrike resulted in most of the casualties, ISAF said in a press release. Mullah Qudratullah, the commander of the Taliban force, was killed in the attack, the provincial governor's spokesman told Reuters.

The attack in Helmand comes as the British are pushing for peace talks with the Taliban and news has broken that a senior Pakistani military officer was killed during a raid in Helmand province more than a year ago. British intelligence believes the Taliban have split from al Qaeda, and the time is right to cut a deal. Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were pushed by the British. But the so-called Taliban representatives have no standing with the group. Several members have been expelled from the organization.

US intelligence told The Long War Journal that there is no evidence of a Taliban-al Qaeda split, and in fact believes that the Taliban and Mullah Omar's ties to al Qaeda are stronger than ever. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the US would be willing to negotiate with the Taliban, but only with “reconcilable” elements – those without links to al Qaeda. Mullah Omar and other senior Taliban leaders are not considered among the reconcilable elements of the Taliban.

Afghan officials accuse the Brits of covering up a report of the death of a Pakistani military officer who was advising Taliban forces in the Sangin district in Helmand province. "When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body," The London Times reported. The Brits covered up the incident "because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul," an Afghan official told the paper.

At the time, the British were in the process of secret negotiations with the Taliban and had set up "training camps" for Taliban fighters. British diplomats claimed "the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things." The cover-up and subsequent secret negotiations infuriated the Afghan government, and two British diplomats were later expelled after they were found to be conducting secret negotiations with the Taliban

The reality of war in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe

The reality of war in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe: "DESPITE"their differences over how to pursue the US war in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama both want to send more American troops to Afghanistan. Both are wrong. History cries out to them, but they are not listening.

Both candidates would do well to gaze for a moment on a painting by the British artist Elizabeth Butler called "Remnants of an Army." It depicts the lone survivor of a 15,000-strong British column that sought to march through 150 kilometers of hostile Afghan territory in 1842. His gaunt, defeated figure is a timeless reminder of what happens to foreign armies that try to subdue Afghanistan.

The McCain-Obama approach to Afghanistan, like much of US policy toward the Middle East and Central Asia, is based on emotion rather than realism. Emotion leads many Americans to want to punish perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They see war against the Taliban as a way to do it. Suggesting that victory over the Taliban is impossible, and that the United States can only hope for peace in Afghanistan through compromise with Taliban leaders, has been taken as near-treason.

This knee-jerk response ignores the pattern of fluid loyalties that has been part of Afghan tribal life for centuries. Alliances shift as interests change. Warlords who support the Taliban are not necessarily enemies of the United States. If they are today, they need not be tomorrow.

In recent weeks, this elemental truth has begun to reshape debate over Western policy toward Afghanistan. Warlords on both sides met quietly in Saudi Arabia. The Afghan defense minister called for a "political settlement with the Taliban." Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would not go that far, but said he might ultimately be open to "reconciliation as part of the political outcome."

Gates, however, struck a delusionary note of "can-do" cheeriness by repeating the McCain-Obama mantra: More US troops can pacify Afghanistan. Speaking days after a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the United States was caught in a "downward spiral" there, Gates asserted that there is "no reason to be defeatist or underestimate the opportunity to be successful in the long run."

In fact, long-run success in Afghanistan - defined as an acceptable level of violence and assurance that Afghan territory will not be used for attacks against other countries - will only be possible with fewer foreign troops on the ground, not more.

A relentless series of US attacks in Afghanistan has produced "collateral damage" in the form of hundreds of civilian deaths, which alienate the very Afghans the West needs. As long as the campaign continues, recruits will pour into Taliban ranks. It is no accident that the Taliban has mushroomed since the current bombing campaign began. It allows the Taliban to claim the mantle of resistance to a foreign occupier. In Afghanistan, there is none more sacred.

The US war in Afghanistan also serves as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. It is attracting a new stream of foreign fighters into the region. A few years ago, these jihadists went to Iraq to fight the Great Satan. Now they see the United States escalating its war in Afghanistan and neighboring regions of Pakistan, and are flocking there instead.

Even if the United States de-escalates its war in Afghanistan, the country will not be stable as long as the poppy trade provides huge sums of money for violent militants. Eradicating poppies is like eradicating the Taliban: a great idea but not achievable. Instead of waging endless spray-and-burn campaigns that alienate ordinary Afghans, the United States should allow planting to proceed unmolested, and then buy the entire crop. Some could be turned into morphine for medical use, and the rest destroyed. The Afghan poppy crop is worth an estimated $4 billion per year. That sum would be better spent putting cash into the pockets of Afghan peasants than firing missiles into their villages.

Deploying more US troops in Afghanistan will intensify this highly dangerous conflict, not calm it. Compromise with Al Qaeda would be both unimaginable and morally repugnant, but the Taliban is a different force. Skillful negotiation among clan leaders, based on a genuine willingness to compromise, holds the best hope for Afghanistan. It is an approach based on reality, not emotion.

Stephen Kinzer is author of "A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It."

Former N.H. police officer is killed in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe

Former N.H. police officer is killed in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe: "The"city of Franklin, N.H., was mourning yesterday after National Guard officials confirmed that one of their own - described as a likable, longtime municipal police officer - was killed in action in southern Afghanistan

Corporal Scott Dimond, 39, died from injuries from an improvised explosive device after his military convoy was attacked Monday near Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, said Major Greg Heilshorn, spokesman for the New Hampshire National Guard.

Mayor Ken Merrifield of Franklin said the community is grieving.

"Our hearts go out to the Dimond family," Merrifield said. "The community is deeply shocked. I've been receiving phone calls all day."

Merrifield remembered Dimond's years on the police force, from 1988 to 2006, as an officer and a sergeant.

"He was a very likable, very approachable fellow, a real asset to the city," Merrifield said. "We are very saddened, but we obviously appreciate his service both as a police officer and as a National Guardsman - always putting himself between us and danger throughout his career."

Dimond, a Guard member since 2006, served with C Company, Third Battalion, 172d Mountain Infantry Regiment, working as a mentor to the Afghan National Guard and national police force. He deployed in January as part of an Army Guard embedded tactical training team.

Before he served in Afghanistan, Dimond was a member of the Guard Honors Team, which supports military funerals, Heilshorn said.

Dimond's family could not be reached for comment.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Scott's family during this time of deep sadness," said Major General Kenneth Clark, adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard. "May they take some comfort in knowing that Scott was committed to serving others . . . His sacrifice for our freedom will never be forgotten."

Governor John Lynch issued a statement, offering his thanks and condolences to the Dimond family. "My thoughts and prayers, and those of my wife, Susan, are with the family," Lynch said

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drones May Double in A'stan; Troops, Not So Much | Danger Room from Wired.com

Drones May Double in A'stan; Troops, Not So Much | Danger Room from Wired.com: "NATO's"senior commander for Afghanistan was back stateside yesterday, all-but-begging for more troops, and more civilian assistance. What he may get instead is more robotic planes.

"We found we were in a heavier fight, a larger fight [t]han we had anticipated, so we asked for some immediate forces," Gen. David McKeirnan told a Pentagon press conference. "The additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible."

But the bulk of the extra troops won't be coming, any time soon. "Three additional brigades that McKiernan has requested will not be available until later in 2009, after the U.S. withdraws more forces from Iraq," the L.A. Times notes. And McKiernan's request for 3,500 trainers to help mold the Afghan Army and police "is being reviewed right now," the General said.

To help plug the gaps, an anonymous "senior defense official" tells the AP, Defense Scertary Robert Gates has "asked aides to find both unmanned surveillance drones and mine-resistant vehicles to divert to Afghanistan in the coming months until a more coordinated effort early next year. One focus is protecting the strategic main highway."



The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the effort has not yet been made public, said the military is looking to nearly double the 24-hour aerial surveillance patrols, from 27 now to about 55.

But that may be easier said than done. drone-maker General Atomics is having trouble keeping up with all the new orders. And the Air Force is short on robo-planes and remote pilots, despite Gates' repeated calls for more. The air branch is reportedly looking to supply old-school, pilot-in-the-cockpit, turboprop planes planes instead.

Pelham man earns Bronze Star for innovative work in Iraq - EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Pelham man earns Bronze Star for innovative work in Iraq - EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA: "PELHAM"— Fewer soldiers are dying in Iraq, thanks to the brainchild of a 40-year-old Pelham man

William Grinley used his knowledge of metal fabrication to come up with a way to free soldiers trapped inside blown-up military vehicles.

Grinley, a metal fabricator by profession and a member of the Army Reserve, received the Bronze Star medal for his accomplishment.

Today, he will be honored at a ceremony in Pelham in which Gov. John Lynch will present him with a state proclamation for receiving one of the military's highest honors.

During his deployment in Iraq, Grinley was credited with designing an extraction system that frees soldiers trapped inside armored security vehicles that are knocked over by explosive devices planted in the ground by the enemy.

"He built it; it's his brainchild," said Patrick Nelligan, Army Command chief warrant officer for the 94th Regional Readiness Command Center at Fort Devens, Mass. "I'm proud of Bill."

Grinley, who was deployed to Iraq in April 2007, oversaw an operation of 28 Army technicians who equipped military Humvees with metal armor to better protect them in battle.

He noticed that certain military vehicles, which look like the famous duck boats in Boston, were prone to rollovers when they drove over explosive devices.

Soldiers were often trapped inside these vehicles. Freeing them before the vehicles caught fire or a second explosive device went off was crucial to their survival, Grinley said.

But the doors could only be opened from the inside, for security reasons, which left soldiers outside trying to rescue those trapped inside in a quandary.

Grinley put his metal fabrication and welding know-how to work. He came up with a way to modify the doors so soldiers responding could open them from the outside by using a handle from their Humvee, which usually was the first vehicle on the scene.

All armored security vehicles have been undergoing the modifications Grinley designed. His extrication system has already saved dozens of lives, Nelligan said.

"His knowledge of metal fabrication is light years ahead of the other soldiers," Nelligan said. "When he saw the need for an extraction system, he just put his brain to work. He used his civilian and military experience to design the system."

It also appears Grinley's device is discouraging the enemy from planting explosive devices, which is also saving lives, Nelligan said. That's because the enemy realizes soldiers now have a way to get out of these vehicles, Nelligan said.

Grinley said what he did was "kind of like reserve engineering."

He returned home from his deployment in May, but waited two weeks before he even mentioned his Bronze Star to his wife, Kristen.

"It's quite an honor," he said, "but there's a lot of soldiers who gave a lot more of themselves than I did."

Grinley, who grew up in Windham and moved to Pelham 10 years ago, joined the Army after graduating from Pinkerton Academy in Derry in 1985. He has been a member of the Army Reserve since 2000.

He owns Patriot Welding & Fabrication in Pelham.

He said the toughest part of being deployed was leaving his family — including 10-year-old twins — and business behind for that long. His wife and one of his employees kept the company going.

His citation credits him with "exceptionally meritorious service" as an Army technician in charge of the Frag 5 Site, which equipped military vehicles with armor and turrets.

He took on many projects, according to his citation, including modifying 39 Romanian combat patrol vehicles for radio jamming equipment, providing special tools for medical helicopter mechanics, and performing a multitude of modifications to vehicles for special forces soldiers.

Copycat Kidnappings Spreading In Iraq

esides the personal tragedy, his disappearance and those that have followed have taken on a larger significance. They mark a turning point in terrorist tactics that U.S. intelligence officials say has produced a startling statistic: a 500 percent increase in foreigners taken hostage around the world as militants adopt the methods of the most violent figures in the Iraq insurgency.

Figures compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency from classified and unclassified sources _ provided exclusively to The Associated Press _ show that in 2004, some 342 foreign and U.S. hostages were taken by terrorist and insurgent organizations.

By 2006 that number had grown to 501. By 2007 it had jumped to more than 1,500, and it is on track to rise even higher this year, according to Thomas Brown, director of the office that analyzes information about prisoners of war and those missing in action.

His office does not count in the total the kidnapping of a country's own residents by terrorist or insurgent groups _ a much more frequent and long-standing practice.

Guantanamo prosecutor who quit had 'grave misgivings' about fairness

WASHINGTON -- Darrel J. Vandeveld was in despair. The hard-nosed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, a self-described conformist praised by his superiors for his bravery in Iraq, had lost faith in the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals in which he was a prosecutor.

His work was top secret, making it impossible to talk to family or friends. So the devout Catholic -- working away from home -- contacted a priest online.

Even if he had no doubt about the guilt of the accused, he wrote in an August e-mail, "I am beginning to have grave misgivings about what I am doing, and what we are doing as a country. . . .

"I no longer want to participate in the system, but I lack the courage to quit. I am married, with children, and not only will they suffer, I'll lose a lot of friends."

Two days later, he took the unusual step of reaching out for advice from his opposing counsel, a military defense lawyer.

"How do I get myself out of this office?" Vandeveld asked Major David J.R. Frakt of the Air Force Reserve, who represented the young Afghan Vandeveld was prosecuting for an attack on U.S. soldiers -- despite Vandeveld's doubts about whether Mohammed Jawad would get a fair trial. Vandeveld said he was seeking a "practical way of extricating myself from this mess."

Last month, Vandeveld did just that, resigning from the Jawad case, the military commissions overall and, ultimately, active military duty. In doing so, he has become even more of a central figure in the "mess" he considers Guantanamo to be.

Vandeveld is at least the fourth prosecutor to resign under protest. Questions about the fairness of the tribunals have been raised by the very people charged with conducting them, according to legal experts, human rights observers and current and former military officials.

Vandeveld's claims are particularly explosive.

In a declaration and subsequent testimony, he said the U.S. government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information -- material considered helpful to the defense.

Saying that the accused enemy combatants were more likely to be wrongly convicted without that evidence, Vandeveld testified that he went from being a "true believer to someone who felt truly deceived" by the tribunals. The system in place at the U.S. military facility in Cuba, he wrote in his declaration, was so dysfunctional that it deprived "the accused of basic due process and subject[ed] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct."

Army Col. Lawrence J. Morris, the chief prosecutor and Vandeveld's boss, said the Office of Military Commissions provides "every scrap of paper and information" to the defense. Morris said that Vandeveld was disgruntled because his commanding officers disagreed with some of his legal tactics and that he "never once" raised substantive concerns.

Morris said last week that he had no idea why Vandeveld had become so antagonistic toward the tribunal process, adding that the lieutenant colonel's outspokenness angered him because it was unfair and was a "broad blast at some very ethical and hardworking people whose performances are being smudged groundlessly."

Vandeveld, who was prosecuting seven tribunal cases -- nearly a third of pending cases -- has declined to be interviewed about the particulars of the Jawad case. But he did engage in a series of e-mails with The Times about his general concerns, before being "reminded" last week that he could not talk to the press until his release from active duty was final. In the future, he said, he plans to speak out.

"I don't know how else the creeping rot of the commissions and the politics that fostered and continued to surround them could be exposed to the curative powers of the sunlight," he said. "I care not for myself; our enemies deserve nothing less than what we would expect from them were the situations reversed. More than anything, I hope we can rediscover some of our American values."

Some tribunal defense lawyers are preparing to call Vandeveld as a witness, saying that his claims of systemic problems at Guantanamo, if true, could alter the outcome of every pending case there -- and force the turnover of long-sought information on coercive interrogation tactics and other controversial measures used against their clients in the war on terrorism.

For years, defense lawyers and human rights organizations have raised similar concerns in individual cases. "But we never had anyone on the inside who could validate those claims," said Michael J. Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel for the commissions.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Vandeveld led a relatively placid life outside Erie, Pa., with his wife and four children. He worked as a senior deputy state attorney general in charge of consumer protection in the region, and he served on his local school board in Millcreek Township.

Anyone who knows him, Vandeveld, 48, told The Times, "will probably tell you that I've been a conformist my entire life, and [that] to speak out against the injustice wrought upon our worst enemies entailed a weather shift in my worldview."

Mark Tanenbaum, an English teacher whose children are friends with Vandeveld's, remembers talking to him while sitting around campfires at high school gatherings. "We talked a lot about religion. I'm Jewish. We'd talk about faith, value-based philosophy. We were kindred spirits in this.

"With him, it is all about doing the right thing."

Vandeveld, called to active duty after 9/11, received glowing evaluations as a Pentagon legal advisor and judge advocate in Bosnia, the Horn of Africa and Iraq. "An absolutely outstanding, first-class performance by an extraordinarily gifted, intelligent, knowledgeable and experienced judge advocate, whose potential is utterly unlimited," his commanding officer, Gen. Charles J. Barr, wrote in his June 2006 evaluation. "One of the corps' best and brightest. Save the very toughest jobs in the corps for him."

From his Iraq assignment, Vandeveld went to Guantanamo, where he began locking horns over the Jawad case with Frakt -- a law professor at Western State University in Fullerton and a former active-duty Air Force lawyer who volunteered for the tribunals.

Frakt believed that his Afghan client was, at worst, a confused teen who had been brainwashed and drugged by militant extremists who coerced him into participating in a grenade-throwing incident with other older -- and more guilty -- men. He insisted that the prosecution was withholding key information or not obtaining it from those at the Pentagon, CIA and other U.S. agencies that had investigated and interrogated Jawad.

Vandeveld believed that Jawad was a war criminal who had been taught by an Al Qaeda-linked group to kill American troops and, if caught, to make up claims he had been tortured and was underage. Vandeveld insisted that he had been providing all evidence to the defense.

But by July, Vandeveld told The Times, he had grown increasingly troubled. He kept finding sources of information and documents that appeared to bolster Frakt's claims that evidence was being withheld -- including some favorable to the defense, such as information suggesting that Jawad was underage, that he had been drugged before the incident and that he had been abused by U.S. forces afterward.

Vandeveld also was having difficulty obtaining authorization to release documents in his possession to the defense.

On Aug. 5, he e-mailed Father John Dear, a well-known Jesuit peace activist. Dear, who boasts of being arrested 75 times in protests, encouraged him to act, saying he might "save lives and change the direction of the entire policy."

With Frakt pressing for the charges against Jawad to be dismissed due to "outrageous government misconduct," Vandeveld proposed a plea agreement under which Jawad, now thought to be 22, could return to Afghanistan for rehabilitation. But his superiors rejected it, Vandeveld said.

By late August, he had told Frakt that there were other "disquieting" things about Guantanamo and that his superiors were refusing to address them or to let him quietly transfer out, Frakt said in an interview.

"Now might be a good time to take a courageous stand and expose some of the 'disquieting' things that you have alluded to, whatever they may be," Frakt replied in a Sept. 2 e-mail, noting that there would soon be a change of administrations in Washington.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea to distance yourself from a process that has become largely discredited, or at least distinguish yourself as one of the good guys, an ethical prosecutor trying to do the right thing," Frakt wrote.

On Sept. 9, Vandeveld e-mailed Dear to say he had resigned from the Guantanamo military tribunals: "The reaction was the expected outrage and condemnation. I have and will maintain my equanimity and, while scared for me and for my family, know that Christ will watch over me."

That, however, was only the beginning. In late September -- after the military, according to Frakt, initially tried to block it -- Vandeveld testified by video link for the defense, saying he believed that insurmountable problems with the tribunals might make them incapable of meting out justice fairly.

Morris said that Vandeveld is not qualified to speak about systemwide problems at Guantanamo. But Frakt said that he is and that Vandeveld's testimony and declaration only scratched the surface of his concerns, judging by their extensive conversations and hundreds of e-mail exchanges.

"There is a lot more that he knows," Frakt said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Afghan war not lost: US general

The Raw Story | Afghan war not lost: US general: "The"commander of international forces in Afghanistan, US General David McKiernan, said Sunday that the West had not lost the war against Islamic insurgents but more troops and equipment were needed to tackle the rebels.

McKiernan commands about 70,000 mainly Western international soldiers deployed in Afghanistan to fight an insurgency led by remnants of the Taliban which was toppled from government seven years ago.

Since then, the insurgency has increased every year, raising concerns in the troop-contributing countries that the mission here is failing.

"We are not losing in Afghanistan," the four-star US general, who commands both the 40-nation NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the separate US-led coalition, told reporters in Kabul.

"The insurgency will not win in this country. The vast majority of people who live here do not want the Taliban," he added.

Reacting to recent Western media reports about failures of international military operations in Afghanistan, the general said "I absolutely reject that idea, and I don't believe it."

But the general said he needed more troops and military gear, including helicopters, to speed up the war against insurgents.

"We have insufficient security forces to adequately provide for the security of the people of Afghanistan," he said.

Besides soldiers, there were needs "such as helicopters, such as ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), such as logistics and transportation, civil affairs or other capabilities," the general added.

He called on alliance countries to provide him with the necessary troops and equipment....

[bth: the generals are trying to shape the political discussion in the US and within NATO. If they aren't careful they will lose the public support that exists to fight in Afghanistan. This would not be good. At this late date, it is hard to imagine that we are still short equipment and troops. It is hard to belive we have done so little in civil affairs after seven full years. It is hard to imagine such a terribly mismanaged war.]

Iraq pours in police to protect Christians

The Raw Story | Iraq pours in police to protect Christians: "Iraq"dispatched nearly 1,000 police to the northern city of Mosul on Sunday to protect Christians fleeing the worst violence perpetrated against them in five years, the government said.

"Two (national police) brigades were sent to Christian areas in Mosul and churches were surrounded and put under tight security," interior ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf told AFP.

The reinforcements were deployed from midnight on Saturday along with two investigation teams, one security and the other criminal, sent in to probe the incidents, he said.

Nearly 1,000 Christian families have fled their homes in the city since Friday, taking shelter on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province after at least 11 Christians died in attacks since September 28....

There were around 800,000 Christians in Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, a number that has since shrunk by around a third as the faithful have fled the country, the archbishop said.

In March, the body of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Paul Faraj Rahho, 65, was found in a shallow grave in the city two weeks after he was kidnapped as he returned home from celebrating mass.

Iraq's Christian community includes various denominations, including Syrian Orthodox and Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic congregations...

[bth: if they are fleeing north and east as the article says, then they are going to the kurds for protection.]

U.S. gasoline price marks biggest drop ever

U.S. gasoline price marks biggest drop ever -survey | Industries | Energy | Reuters: "NEW YORK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States recorded its largest drop ever as consumer demand continued to wane and oil prices slid, a prominent industry analyst said on Sunday."...

"Plummeting oil prices and caving gasoline demand have combined to bring the biggest retail gasoline price cut in the history of the market," Trilby Lundberg, who compiles the survey, said in an interview. "We've been doing this 58 years. This is truly the biggest price drop."

On Friday, fears of a global recession helped drive down U.S. crude oil futures prices more than 10 percent to the lowest settlement since September 2007. U.S. crude for November delivery CLX8 settled on Friday at $77.70 a barrel, down $8.89, or 10.27 percent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Meanwhile, travel on all U.S. roads fell 3.6 percent, or nearly 10 billion vehicle miles in July, compared with the same period last year, according to the most recent figures provided by the Transportation Department. It was the ninth straight month of declining driving activity....

[bth: this is a very strong indication of a large economic slow down.]

Alma Hart in Section 60 Arlington National Cemetery September 25, 2008

Photos of Arlington Section 60 July 30 2008 taken by Brian Hart

Danny DeVito & The Contract from Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito & The Contract from Danny DeVito
See more Danny DeVito videos at Funny or Die

Paris Hilton Gets Presidential with Martin Sheen from Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton Gets Presidential with Martin Sheen from Paris Hilton
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Swear Jar--Funniest Commercial Ever! from slygirl1007

Swear Jar--Funniest Commercial Ever! from slygirl1007
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Interview With a Terrorist from ishu

Interview With a Terrorist from ishu
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Playing with Fire"

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Playing with Fire": "The"McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain's call Friday to "be respectful." Back in February, the Arizona senator apologized for the "disparaging remarks" from a talk-radio host who sneered repeatedly about "Barack Hussein Obama" before a McCain rally. "We will have a respectful debate," McCain insisted afterward. But pretending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.

What I find most unconscionable is the refusal of the McCain-Palin tandem to publicly condemn the cries of "traitor," "liar," "terrorist" and (worst of all) "kill him!" that could be heard at recent rallies. McCain is perfectly capable of telling hecklers off. But not once did he or his running mate bother to admonish the people yelling these obscene -- and potentially dangerous -- words. They may not have been able to hear the slurs at the rallies, but surely they have had ample time since to get on camera and warn that this sort of ugliness has no place in an election season. But they have not. Simply calling Obama "a decent person" is not enough. " Washpost....

McCain and Palin Are Playing With Fire - washingtonpost.com

McCain and Palin Are Playing With Fire - washingtonpost.com: "I"prefer to discuss politics through my novels, but I am truly dismayed these days. Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.

Never mind that this evokes -- and brazenly tries to resurrect -- the unsavory, cruel days of our past that we thought we had left behind. Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama's middle name makes him someone to distrust -- and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama's middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there's something wrong with my name?

But never mind any of that.

The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin. Neither has had the moral courage, when taking the stage, to grasp the microphone, turn to the presenter and, right then and there, denounce the use of Obama's middle name as an insult. Instead, they have simply delivered their stump speeches, lacing into Obama as if nothing out-of-bounds had just happened. The McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain's call Friday to "be respectful." Back in February, the Arizona senator apologized for the "disparaging remarks" from a talk-radio host who sneered repeatedly about "Barack Hussein Obama" before a McCain rally. "We will have a respectful debate," McCain insisted afterward. But pretending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.

What I find most unconscionable is the refusal of the McCain-Palin tandem to publicly condemn the cries of "traitor," "liar," "terrorist" and (worst of all) "kill him!" that could be heard at recent rallies. McCain is perfectly capable of telling hecklers off. But not once did he or his running mate bother to admonish the people yelling these obscene -- and potentially dangerous -- words. They may not have been able to hear the slurs at the rallies, but surely they have had ample time since to get on camera and warn that this sort of ugliness has no place in an election season. But they have not. Simply calling Obama "a decent person" is not enough.

Is inaction tantamount to consent? The McCain campaign certainly thinks so when it comes to Obama and incendiary remarks from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. By their own inaction, then, are McCain and Palin condoning these slurs? Or worse, are they willfully inciting the angry and venomous response that we have been witnessing at their rallies? If not, then what reaction are they hoping to evoke by their relentless public suggestions that Obama is basically an anti-American liar who won't put "country first" and has an affection for terrorists? Do they not understand the kind of fire they are playing with?

I -- and, I suspect, millions of Americans like me, Republicans and Democrats alike -- couldn't care less about Obama's middle name or the ridiculous six-degrees-of-separation game that is the William Ayers non-issue. The Taliban are clawing their way back in Afghanistan, the country that I hope many of my fellow Americans have come to understand better through my novels. People are losing their homes and their jobs and are watching the future slip away from them. But instead of addressing these problems, the McCain-Palin ticket is doing its best to distract Americans by provoking fear, anxiety and hatred. Country first? Hardly.

Khaled Hosseini is the author of "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns."

[bth: The Republican Party has encouraged willful ignorance to gain power, hate and fear to hold it. The party of Lincoln. The party of responsibility is dead. Their rallies have become traveling lynch mobs.]

Registan.net » Some More Thoughts on Opium

Registan.net » Some More Thoughts on Opium: "Joel"Hafvenstein, the author of Opium Season, sent me an email with some additional thoughts on the prospects of opium in Helmand. He happens to know a lot about the topic, as he spent many months trying to run a USAID alternative livelihood program there before being evacuated after several members of his staff were brutally murdered in 2005.

I agree that no one knows what share of Taliban funding stems from opium; I would be surprised if it funded a majority. The military has on occasion asserted a number like the 40% you cite, but I have yet to see any convincing analysis (or even detailed guesswork) backing the numbers up. The Taliban are able to claim “taxes” and other extortionary fees on a wide range of economic activity, legal and illegal, across the Pashtun belt. They still reportedly get willing support from the prosperous Pakistani “trucker mafia”, a major funder of their initial conquests in the ‘90s. There’s no knowing what friendly elements in the ISI are channelling to them, or what money comes in through al-Qaeda connections.




Meanwhile, as you point out, the opium trade is organically connected to government officials at every level, who can be expected to resist any serious attempts to reduce their profits. The anti-Taliban governors and police chiefs in the north and east who have cracked down on poppy cultivation continue to profit handsomely from trafficking routes. Or take Sher Muhammad of Helmand, from the Costa quote you cited, who is related by marriage to the Karzais and was demoted from governor to senator at British insistence after 9 tons of opium were discovered in his office. Since his ouster, he has allegedly been encouraging the skyrocketing levels of poppy cultivation and violence in the province, to strengthen the case that only his family can control the place. Karzai has reportedly been arguing with the British to reinstate him over the last few months.

In short, a major campaign against opium is thus unlikely to cripple the Taliban, and is likely to inspire underhand resistance from powerful elements in the Afghan government. If the US did spray the fields, there’s every possibility that it would hurt the Taliban’s enemies in the government more than the Taliban themselves. So what to do about poppy? Nothing hurried, nothing that presumes that the war will be won or lost on opium money. And policy-makers should take a bit of a longer perspective on the market forces at work. For the last couple years, UNODC has calculated that Afghanistan is producing more opium than the total world demand for illegal opiates. Driven by this oversupply, opium’s raw economic advantage is shrinking as the price descends from the heights it hit after the 2000 Taliban ban, back toward its 1990s average. It should be no surprise that this year has seen a drop in cultivation in most areas of the country, as the regions with a comparative advantage become clear.

The price of poppy has fallen fastest in the north (where the poppy has a lower morphine content), and in Badakhshan, farmers can already make more from okra or onions than opium — though to be fair, vegetables sell at a premium up there, which may diminish as the USAID highway-paving projects reach ever further into the mountains. (A consequence not widely recognized by those who trumpet roads as a COIN/development panacea!)

Still, the other “institutional” advantages of opium — e.g. access to contract farming arrangements and credit from traffickers — remain, and the key aim of alternative livelihoods programs should be to provide the same services and risk reduction measures for legal crops that the traffickers do for opium. “Legal opium” as advocated by Hitchens and others would not automatically have these advantages — and if the Afghan government could provide them for poppy, it could provide them for other crops....

Warning signs of an Israeli strike on Iran | David Owen - Times Online

Warning signs of an Israeli strike on Iran | David Owen - Times Online: "Some"key decision makers in Israel fear that unless they attack Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities in the next few months, while George W Bush is still president, there will not be another period when they can rely on the United States as being anywhere near as supportive in the aftermath of a unilateral attack.

In the past 40 years there have been few occasions when I have been more concerned about a specific conflict escalating to involve, economically, the whole world. We are watching a disinformation exercise involving a number of intelligence services. Reality is becoming ever harder to disentangle.

Last month a story in The Guardian claimed that on May 14 Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, in a meeting with Bush, had asked for a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. We were told that Bush refused. He believed Iran would see the United States as being behind any such assault and Americans would come under renewed attack in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shipping in the Gulf would be vulnerable. We were told that the source of the story was a European head of government and “his” officials – as if to exclude Angela Merkel and Germany. It is, however, improbable that Israel abandoned its option to take unilateral action.

Three weeks later the Israeli military conducted an exercise over the Mediterranean to demonstrate to the United States as well as Iran that it could attack. More recently there have been a number of stories raising concern about what is happening in Iran. One said Iran’s first nuclear electricity generating plant would go critical in December and thereafter any air attack would become impossible since it would trigger a nuclear explosion. Then we were told that a US radar system had been deployed in Israel with US personnel to strengthen Israel’s defence against Iranian airstrikes. There was also an interview with Olmert where he dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel should attack Iran. He appeared to be trying to disrupt the Israeli coalition negotiations.

Finally, on Friday, The New York Times revealed that in February an IAEA inspector had talked of experiments in Iran that were “not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon”. Iran denied the claim.

Before the Israeli negotiations got under way, Ehud Barak, the Labour leader, spoke first to Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud opposition party, rather than to Tzipi Livni, the newly elected leader of Kadima. This indicated that Barak was interested in an all-party coalition, presumably believing that a Palestinian settlement is not yet achievable and that Israel needs maximum unity to deal with a world transfixed by the economic crisis and resigned to Iran becoming a nuclear weapon state.

If Israel were to attack Iran, one Iranian response would be to block the Strait of Hormuz. On September 16 Iran said its Revolutionary Guards would defend the Gulf waters. In the narrow strait just one oil tanker sunk would halt shipping for months. Insurance cover would be refused and owners would fear the risks of sailing even if the US navy cleared mines.

The Revolutionary Guards are committed to a war against Israel and prepared, in the process, to take on the rest of the world. They have good equipment and operate from the land, sea and air. They will be suicide soldiers, seamen and airmen. If Iran is attacked, Russia and China will supply it with arms.

The circumstances surrounding Georgia’s decision to attack South Ossetia are worth remembering. The Georgian president was advised by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, not to attack but there were powerful voices in Washington that, by a nod and a wink, were encouraging action, so the Georgian government felt confident in going ahead.

Following an Israeli attack and Iranian countermeasures, the American military would be bound to follow Bush’s orders. The president-designate or, if before the election, the two candidates, would be wary of criticising him. It is imperative that voices are raised in America and Europe to warn Israel off unilateral action against Iran. The experience of Georgia has given an amber, if not a green, light to Israel and only Bush can switch that to red.

Bush’s legacy would be best served by taking dramatic diplomatic action to prevent a war with Iran. He should publicly warn Israel that the United States will use its air power to prevent it bombing Iran, while announcing that he is sending Rice to Tehran to start negotiating a grand bargain whereby all sanctions would be lifted if Iran forgoes the nuclear weapons option. He could indicate that the negotiations would not continue indefinitely, but they would give his successor, as president, time to consider all the options, military and economic. It would also allow time for Israel either to negotiate a coalition to last until 2010 or to hold elections. It would replace the present multilateral negotiations, which are stalled with Russia and China unwilling to move on strong economic sanctions. Above all, it would be a last act of real statesmanship from Bush who is otherwise destined to end his term a miserable failure.

David Owen was foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979

[bth: so polling data shows that unless there is a terrorist event, Obama will be president. Also if December is the time when the Iranian nuclear plant goes critical, another outer paramter is set. Does Israel feel compelled to act now against Iran? Oil is below $100 and it seems unlikely that Israel would be blamed for the financial ruin of the West since it seems Wall Street has done that for us. America is on the verge of negotiating a deal that would allow us to disengage from Iraq - something Israel doesn't want to see. We have been concerned that Israel might strike out after the US elections but before the new president came on board. Now I am concerned that they may not wait - but act now and then reproach with the US's new president before he takes office. Fearful times, when war appears is easier than peace.]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Can the Taliban be Defeated?

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "In"a piece that appeared in the London Times earlier this week, U.K. Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said the Taliban could not be defeated. Carleton-Smith, who had just finished serving in Afghanistan said: “What we need is sufficient troops to contain the insurgency to a level where it is not a strategic threat to the longevity of the elected Government,”

The report followed a leak earlier this month to a French publication, in which Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador, reportedly said the strategy in Afghanistan was “doomed to failure”.

I don’t think the timing of these reports is coincidental, but a concerted effort to get the United States to sit up and take notice of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. And it has. Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. forces-Afghanistan commander, and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both said things will get worse in Afghanistan and pushed for more U.S. involvement. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked eastern Europe to send more troops. And now Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. Central Command commander, is reassessing the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. What all this will lead to remains unknown. For now, the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is adrift.

Carleton-Smith suggested that the best way to deal with the Taliban is to somehow incorporate them into political process, something akin to the political reconciliation promoted in Iraq. But which Taliban? Like the Iraqi insurgency, the Taliban is not a monolithic group. Some are more reconcilable than others. And if they choose to join, how will the coalition protect them?

I think as the U.S. military reconsiders its strategy in Afghanistan, this idea will get more traction. Indeed, the military community is increasingly embracing this concept. The RAND Corporation had a fascinating study that found the best way to defeat insurgency is to include them into the political process. It’s the lesson of Iraq – reconciliation is more effective than fighting insurgents out.

So can the Taliban be defeated? Who knows? But all signs, from across the pond and beyong, suggest that more troops are not enough. The U.S. military and its coalition in Afghanistan will have to approach the Taliban in a more sophisticated way.

[bth: The Brits did such a crappy job around Basra, and the fact that they are fully tapped outfinancially and militarily, pretty much dictates their position .... and the fact that they don't have a crater in the middle of their largest city like we do. But is there a smarter way than our current unfocused and misdirected course? Usually the British officers are about six months ahead of military policy later articulated in Washington. Perhaps we are there again. ... A new day, a new president and a new plan. While what we are doing isn't great and may indeed be losing ground, things can and may in fact get worse. ... We need this discussion. ... Tactical defeat of the enemy on a battlefield is not a strategy for long-term peace and security. Ultimately it comes down to a political reconciliation. We need a plan that focuses on our strategic interests and their economic and political needs. We also need Osama Bin Laden's head on a stick - we all do. He has taken so much from this country and this world. He must die for this chapter in our national history to close.]