Saturday, December 27, 2008

Georgian war spurred Russian military reforms - Instablogs

Georgian war spurred Russian military reforms - Instablogs: "The war with Georgia highlighted problems plaguing Russia’s armed forces and was the catalyst for the most sweeping military reforms in nearly half a century, Russia’s top military officer said Wednesday."

Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, said the government had drafted plans to streamline and modernize the military before the war in August but speeded up the changes after it.

“The conflict with Georgia worked as a catalyst,” Makarov said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. “In a way, it confirmed the reforms were necessary.”

Georgia launched a missile barrage against the separatist region of South Ossetia on Aug. 7 in an attempt to regain control. Moscow responded by sending in troops and tanks, quickly routing the Georgian military and driving deep into Georgia.

Despite the quick victory, the military acknowledged the war revealed poor coordination between different branches of Russia’s military and a shortage of modern communications equipment.

Military analysts said the outdated communications made it hard for officers to coordinate actions on the battlefield. Modern weapons like smart-bombs were scarce and Russian bombs and missiles often veered off-target and hit civilian areas.

Makarov said he personally talked to platoon and company commanders to better understand the problems they faced in the war.

The sweeping reforms announced by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in October envisaged cutting 200,000 of 355,000 military officers and disbanding nine of every ten army units by 2012.

Though downsized to 1.13 million troops from the 4 million-member Soviet Army, the Russian military had done little to reduce its number of officers, and many military units existed only on paper.

Makarov said reforms will cut the military down to 1 million, including around 150,000 officers, and create only fully combat ready units. The balky Soviet-era structure will be abolished, disbanding divisions and regiments in favor of more flexible brigades.

The reforms have drawn increasingly loud grumbling from the top military brass, and several senior generals who opposed them have lost their jobs. Some retired officers have called for Serdyukov to be prosecuted.

Makarov voiced confidence Wednesday the military will be able to conduct the reforms despite the global financial crisis and slumping oil prices that have sharply reduced government revenues.

He urged NATO to negotiate lower numbers of weapons in Europe as a condition for Russia to end its moratorium on compliance with the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. Moscow suspended its participation in the CFE last year.

Makarov also said Russia wants to negotiate a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States to replace the 1991 START I treaty that expires next fall.
By Vladimir Isachenkov, AP Writer, © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pakistan Stocks Drop Ninth Day as Brokers Try to Avoid Default

Bloomberg.com: India & Pakistan: "Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan stocks tumbled for a ninth day, extending a 29 percent drop this month, on mounting concern brokers may be forced out of business. Habib Bank Ltd. and Pakistan Petroleum Ltd. led declines."...

'The Hospitals In Gaza City Cannot Cope'

YouTube's Best Of 2008: Top Ten (VIDEO)

YouTube's Best Of 2008: Top Ten (VIDEO)

YouTube's Best Of 2008: Top Ten (VIDEO)

YouTube's Best Of 2008: Top Ten (VIDEO)

Editorial Observer - Ponzi Schemes - The Haul Gets Bigger, but the Fraud Never Changes - NYTimes.com

Editorial Observer - Ponzi Schemes - The Haul Gets Bigger, but the Fraud Never Changes - NYTimes.com: ..."What’s a Ponzi scheme but an illegal ruse to entice the gullible with the promise of too-good-to-be-true returns in arcane investments using an intimidating cloud of abstruse financial lingo? Ponzi frauds have the defining characteristic that returns to the first batch of innocents are paid from the money invested by the second batch. That sounds a lot like today’s American real estate market."

And Ponzi frauds often have similar ends to our increasingly frequent bubbles. Not only do they both usually collapse, but so many rich and influential French investors were taken by John Law’s fraud in the 18th century that the government felt compelled to bail them out. According to Utpal Bhattacharya, a professor of finance at Indiana University, it exchanged the investors’ worthless stock for bonds secured by Paris’s municipal revenues.

There are, of course, important differences between fraud and standard financial practice. Crucially, bubbles are powered by fools of increasing gullibility, who are willing to pay an even greater price to buy an asset from the fool that bought it in the preceding round. Ponzi schemes only require that their investors be foolish.

Yet these details do not negate the larger paradigm of finance, old or new: getting investors’ money requires a story. It doesn’t have to be true
.

Behind Analyst’s Cool Demeanor, Deep Anxiety Over American Policy - Biography - NYTimes.com

The Saturday Profile - Behind Analyst’s Cool Demeanor, Deep Anxiety Over American Policy - Biography - NYTimes.com: ..."Mr. Riedel is one of a chorus of terrorism experts who see the terrorist network’s base in the mountains of Pakistan as America’s greatest threat, and perhaps the biggest problem facing Mr. Obama’s new team.

He speaks angrily about what he calls a savvy campaign by Pakistan’s government under President Pervez Musharraf to fleece Washington for billions of dollars even as it allowed Al Qaeda to regroup in Pakistan’s tribal lands."

“We had a partner that was double-dealing us,” he said during an interview in his house in a Washington suburb. “Anyone can be snookered and double-dealt. But after six years you have to start to figure it out.”...

For example, he believes that the C.I.A.’s campaign of airstrikes using remotely controlled Predator aircraft should continue if there is solid evidence about the whereabouts of militant leaders inside Pakistan.

Washington must approach Pakistan with a “subtle and deft touch,” he said, and strengthen the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, the slain former prime minister, to act as a counterweight to Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus, which still dominates Pakistan’s political life.

Winning over the generals, Mr. Riedel said, could require a tough-love approach: overhauling military aid to Pakistan and cutting sales of the big-ticket weapons the country has used to keep pace with its archrival, India. Instead, he argues, the United States should be providing equipment like helicopters and night-vision goggles to help Pakistan’s military navigate the mountain passes where militants have established their base.

It was Washington’s too cozy relationship with Mr. Musharraf’s military government, he argues, that fueled the intense hatred for the United States in Pakistan. He cites polls that more Pakistanis blame the United States than either India or Al Qaeda for the recent surge of violence in the country.

Anytime in Pakistan where more people blame you than India for the country’s problems, you are in deep, deep trouble,” he said...

Today, however, he is in lockstep with his former C.I.A. colleagues on at least one matter: the necessity for Pakistan’s pre-eminent spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, to sever its longstanding ties to militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These are ties the Bush administration never found a way to break, as the ISI has used the militants as a proxy force there for decades.

And they will not be broken, Mr. Riedel said, until Pakistan’s generals and spy agencies acknowledge what Pakistan’s president learned only through heartbreak — that the struggle against Al Qaeda and its ilk is “their war” as much as it is America’s.

“Zardari knows it’s his war, because he buried his wife,” he said. “That tragedy is also an opportunity.”

[bth: what would motivate the Pakistani military and ISI to separate itself from its Taliban and al Qaeda surrogates?]

Face to face with the Taliban in Afghanistan | World news | guardian.co.uk

Face to face with the Taliban in Afghanistan | World news | guardian.co.uk: "...'Salar is the new Falluja,' declared Qomendan Hemmet emphatically. 'The Americans and the Afghan army control the highway, and five metres on each side. The rest is our territory.'"...

Salar district in Wardak province is 80km (50 miles) south of Kabul. The ­Kandahar-Kabul road that passes through this district is a major supply line for US and Nato troops. The road is reminiscent of the road from Baghdad to Falluja: littered with IED [improvised explosive devices) holes and the carcasses of burnt-out Nato supply trucks and containers.

The frequency of Taliban attacks is higher this year than at any time since 2001. Four British marines were killed last week, three of them when a 13-year-old boy blew himself up in Helmand province. Meanwhile, the area controlled by the Afghan government is shrinking to the fortified islands of the cities....

A couple of pick-up trucks packed with rocket launchers and Afghan militiamen, hired to provide security to the supply convoys, sped away from the battle leaving a cloud of dust. Down the road three American armoured trucks filled the air with the crackle of heavy machine guns.

It was the end of an hour-long battle and as the sun sank deep into the horizon, the shooting became more intermittent. A low-flying, dark grey F-16 shot past, leaving behind two columns of smoke in the horizon.,,,

"The Americans have installed hundreds of Afghan policemen, they patrol the street all the time, but they can't control it. Last week they came by helicopters, searching the area because they can't drive their vehicles here. They never come with tanks, the whole area is mined."...

Hemmet's lieutenants sat around the room. One of them spoke perfect Arabic with a thick Saudi accent that he had acquired from "fighting alongside the Arab brothers". His Kalashnikov, decorated with green and red tape, was laid on the floor between us. "My brother," he said, "those police and army, they are like the blind, they don't see anything."

Hemmet and other Taliban commanders I met explained the Taliban's sophisticated network of military and civilian leadership. Each province has its own Taliban governor, military leader and shura [consultation] council. Below them are district commanders like Hemmet, who in turn divides his force into smaller units. Many say the civilian apparatus of the Taliban-run districts operates a more effective justice system than the government's, which is corrupt and inefficient. Nominally, all the councils look to Mullah Omar for guidance. In reality each province and district has its own dynamics....

This is not just a guerrilla war, and it's not an organised war with fronts," he said. "It's both." He went on to explain the importance the Taliban attached to creating a strong administration in the areas it held: "When we control a province we need to provide service to the people. We want to show the people that we can rule, and that we are ready for the day when we take over Kabul, that we have learned from our mistakes."

Muhamadi said his group aimed to carry out around three attacks a week, but they did not always have enough ammunition. "We get intelligence that Americans or government people are coming and we hit them. Each area has a different strategy, here it's attacking the main road, but everywhere in this province the countryside is in our control."...

Also on the computer they showed pictures of an American soldier. In one he was sitting in a makeshift wooden office in front of a computer screen, two other soldiers behind him all smiling into the camera. In another he was outside with an Afghan interpreter. "We killed him and captured his computer," the mullah told me. "He had served in Iraq."...

"I joined the fight because I am resisting the kafir occupation," he said. "There are old Taliban, but most of the fighters in my unit are new. We joined after the fall of the Taliban, but the leadership is the same."

Amanullah explained how his village shared the burden of fighting the Americans and the government seen as its proxies. Each family devotes one of its sons to the jihad, while the rest of the men work in the field, "like in the madrasa, one son goes to study religion and the others work, it's the same with jihad: one son fights and the others work".

He dismissed the claim made by the government and US that the Taliban fights for money. "These are all lies. In the last few weeks we captured lots of trucks and government cars – if we were fighting for money why do we burn them?"...

Like Qomendan, Mawlawi Abdul Halim talked about the Taliban strategy of controlling the countryside, establishing an alternative administration and squeezing the cities by eroding the government control. "In the areas where there are government or international forces, they only control their posts and 1km around, and we control the rest. If we cut off the countryside then the cities will come under our control — we know that from our experience with the Soviets."...

"The main two problems we deal with in the Taliban courts are bandits and land disputes," Abdul Halim went on. "When we solve these problems we win the hearts of the people. We went from the jihad to the government and now we are in the jihad again. We have learned from the mistakes we committed. Lots of our leaders have experience in the jihad and in the government. The leaders are the same leaders but the fighters are new and they don't want to be like those who ruled and committed mistakes."

He said the failure of a recent voter registration drive in Ghazni showed how effectively the Taliban was cutting off the countryside. "We stood at road intersections and prevented people from registering for the coming elections — even if the planes were flying above our heads that didn't prevent us from manning checkpoints. And some of our men followed the people to the market to make sure they wouldn't register. Now registration has almost stopped in our province." But why were they determined to prevent people from voting? "It's better for them. Most of the people know that this new government won't help them but those who don't know we prevent them."...

"We monitor the situation and when we see any issue that can provide propaganda to the Taliban, we raise it and create awareness amongst the people: issues like the occupation and how they terrorise the people, the corruption of the government, anything that can help the cause of the Taliban." He said the website was updated hourly. "We have all the tools we need. Most of us speak English, Arabic, Pashtu and Dari."

He had not been a Taliban supporter when they were in power "but when the occupation came and we saw the atrocities we joined the Taliban. Lots of my university friends are with the Taliban not because they are Taliban but because they are against this government and the occupation. No one expected the Taliban to be back, but when the normal people saw the corruption of the government, when they saw that the warlords are back, people started supporting the resistance."

The Threki Taliban [the current Taliban movement] was not the same as the Taliban which had ruled, he said. And its grip on the country is tightening, he insisted: "The Taliban are squeezing the circle on Kabul, and the signs of the collapse of the government are similar to signs of the collapse of all governments that face an insurrection: they only control the cities, the streets are fed up with them and we have our intelligence even in the streets."

Another of the young men, Abdul Rhaman, explained that he studied in the morning at Kabul University and attended a private school, at night. In basic English he described how he worked as a recruiter for the Taliban among fellow students.

"I convince friends inside and outside the university that the Taliban are coming. We use all the facilities we have, our words and our pens to recruit for the movement, in the university, the bazaar and everywhere in the city."

The irony is that in working the cities to recruit for the Taliban, Abdul Rhaman is using the freedom of speech that is provided by the Afghan government. "There is freedom of speech now in Afghanistan and we are not scared of the government. We work cautiously, we talk to the people as if we are talking about political and daily issues. The government is too weak to follow us or monitor us."

A couple of weeks ago I called Mullah Muhamadi again. I wanted to go down and meet Qomendan Hemmet again. "No," he replied in Arabic over the phone. "The weather is too cold now. We are leaving to a neighbouring country. See you next year."


[bth: the article is worth reading in full]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Taliban threaten to kill Pakistani schoolgirls: officials

The Raw Story | Taliban threaten to kill Pakistani schoolgirls: officials: "ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Taliban extremists in Pakistan's troubled northwest Swat valley have banned girls from attending school, threatening to kill any female students, officials said Thursday."...

Already Taliban militants have destroyed 252 schools, mainly those where girls and boys were studying together."...

Free Range International

Free Range International

....It is not the inconvenience of being stuck behind a convoy or how they conduct mobile vehicle repair which is the biggest problem, it is the tendency to indentify a potential vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED’s) and fire at them that is the problem. This tactic has never successfully (to the best of our knowledge) stopped a VBIED attack. It has caused hundreds of deaths amongst Afghans who tend to drive a little irresponsibly (to be charitable.) I have been told that we have lost at least one soldier who was leaning over the top of his vehicle engaging a real VBIED when it detonated instead of getting down behind the cover provided by his armored vehicle. It is almost impossible to distinguish the erratic driving mannerisms of a VBIED driver (erratic behavior is the main pre incidence indicator of VBIED’s) from your typical Afghan driver. Afghans routinely drive so aggressively that they would have caused every soldier and contractor I know to light them up if we were all in Iraq. I have traveled route Irish (the road between the Baghdad Airport and the Green Zone) many times and understand how to do so safely. Safe convoys were convoys which kept all Iraq traffic well away from them or (better yet) ones in armored low visibility vehicles hidden amongst the local traffic. But Afghanistan is not Iraq – there are no multi lane separated highways here. You cannot force all traffic away from you like we routinely did in Iraq. Afghan roads are two-lane, poorly maintained affairs with plenty of blind curves, steep grades, and narrow bridges. Vehicles heading towards you pop up fast with little time or distance with which to make an accurate determination of intent. You can train people to work the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop only so fast.

If the TTP you are using has caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians and demonstrated over and over that it will not stop a VBIED and if that TTP has caused the loss of troops who were exposed shooting at a VBIED instead of taking cover when it detonates, if that TTP causes aggravation, traffic accidents, and the alienation of the local population then why are we still using this TTP? I know that my idea of blending in with the traffic is easy for me to say because I’m always in a low profile vehicle. But it would not cause you to take more VBIED strikes because the way you are trying to keep them away fails every time. If you allowed the civilian traffic to flow around your vehicles every time you did take a VBIED strike it would cause even more collateral damage to the surrounding civilians. We are not the only combatants who do not like to inflict collateral damage amongst the population. The various Taliban, neo Taliban, sorta Taliban, etc… are not Al Qaeda. They are fighting to control the civilian population; they understand that you can inflict only so much misery on them before reaching a tipping point. And when the Afghan population reaches a tipping point history shows us that they are not the least bit hesitant to let their antagonist know it. There is an information warfare opportunity in moving with the locals if attacked and again - I don’t think you are inviting more attacks because everyone they launch is either successful or goes off before it hits home due to operator error or design flaws....

[bth: this analysis is definitely worth reading in full. This excerpt doesn't do it justice. It seems to me the foot print of a large troops presence may simply not be worth it. Perhaps better use of special forces, contractors and indigenous personnel holds greater promise]

Army Officials Say Many More Active-Duty Troops Are Needed

Army Officials Say Many More Active-Duty Troops Are Needed: ..."But the demand for soldiers extends beyond those countries, with the Pentagon creating new missions that require troops trained in cyber-warfare, homeland defense, intelligence-gathering and other areas, Ford said. 'We have five to 10 new missions, and we are already stretched now.'

The Army is currently on track to grow to 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the war. But Ford and other Army officials say that, with rising demand for ground troops for Afghanistan and other contingencies, the increase is insufficient.

The service needs 580,000 soldiers 'to meet current demand and get the dwell time,' Ford said, referring to the amount of time soldiers have at home between deployments to train, rebuild and spend with families."...

[bth: I buy the expansion of the Army but to have all brigades trained for the full spectrum of conflict is an unrealistic goal. Further while there are surplus personnel in the Navy and the Air Force it seems to me that many missions such as cyber warfare need to shift to these other branches. ... And while I'm at it how on earth can the army justify increasing the number of active duty troops required for North America as the article later states? What nonsense. The Army needs to be sharpening its pencil and focusing on the current threats and we need to be reducing our legacy presence in Korea and Europe.]

The Raw Story | Britons protest Ahmadinejad Christmas speech

The Raw Story | Britons protest Ahmadinejad Christmas speech

[bth: amazing that he would be chosen to give the opposition view vs. the queen in the UK. I guess Satan didn't show for the taping so they got a stand-in.]

Holiday dinner prep: 5 snappy retorts to your right-winger loved ones - 236.com - News

Holiday dinner prep: 5 snappy retorts to your right-winger loved ones - 236.com - News: ..."Oh you don't mind that Rick Warren compared gays to pedophiles? Then I guess we should start calling cousin Petey a pedophile and stop referring to him as a 'confirmed bachelor.'"

- Yup, both Obama and Blagojevich were involved in Chicago politics, but that doesn't mean Obama's corrupt. When you got fired from the Safeway because your drawer kept coming up light we gave you the benefit of the doubt, didn't we Aunt Kim?

- Um, yeah, I do see Hillary for Secretary of State as "change." Had he appointed Condi and Rumsfeld, and decided to let Cheney run the entire executive branch I might not. But yeah, this is f**king change. Speaking of change Uncle Pete, when we were kids your daughter Jolie used to steal twenties out of your wallet to buy smokes. That was a lotta change!

- No, I'm not eating all of this ham because Obama is going to force us all to stop eating pork when he takes office as decreed by the Muslim religion. I'm eating all of this ham to keep my mouth full so I won't be able to call you a frigging [choose from the following: BIGOT/ASSHAT/SHIT-FOR-BRAINS REDNECK HICK/ALCOHOLIC]!!!

and for almost every other subject, use the following...

- THAT'S BECAUSE HE'S NOT EVEN IN OFFICE YET!!!

YouTube - Afghanistan: Battle in Helmand Province

YouTube - Afghanistan: Battle in Helmand Province

YouTube - Poor Iraqi security helps drug smugglers - 22 Dec 08

YouTube - Poor Iraqi security helps drug smugglers - 22 Dec 08

Andy Borowitz: Recession Resulting in Crappiest Presents Ever

Andy Borowitz: Recession Resulting in Crappiest Presents Ever: "The recession in the U.S. has just racked up another casualty, the tradition of giving decent gifts for the holidays, with many Americans reporting that they have received the shittiest Christmas gifts in recent memory"....

YouTube - JibJab - 2008 Year In Review

YouTube - JibJab - 2008 Year In Review

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Man detained on bomb-making complaint in Oklahoma City; neighbors evacuated | NewsOK.com

Man detained on bomb-making complaint in Oklahoma City; neighbors evacuated | NewsOK.com

Pat Robertson on Bush and Obama

Talking Points Memo | Breaking News and Analysis

[bth: So I agree with Pat Robertson? .... WTF? Have one of us been sleeping next to a pod?]

Gear purchased with grant money didn't save two killed in blast

Center for Investigative Reporting: "A bomb explosion at an Oregon bank Dec. 12 that killed two police officers and seriously injured a third has raised questions about why officials didn't utilize sophisticated and costly equipment purchased by the state to prevent precisely these incidents from occurring. Officials plan to ask the FBI to help determine what went wrong.

One of the two men killed in the Woodburn, Ore. blast was a bomb expert with the Oregon State Police. Also killed was a Woodburn police captain. The city’s police chief lost part of his leg and remains hospitalized. Two suspects have been arrested in the case.

Reporters have revealed that state police failed to deploy at the scene an Explosive Ordinance Detection vehicle purchased for its bomb squad with the help of a 2006 federal grant, but no further details about the equipment were previously made public.

Records obtained from the state by the Center for Investigative Reporting show that the Oregon State Police in 2004 alone spent more than $600,000 in federal homeland security grants on bomb mitigation and armored-response equipment that apparently wasn't used to aid in ensuring the safety of the three men. urring. Officials plan to ask the FBI to help determine what went wrong"...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Map of the week: the mystery of the missing opium

BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Mark Easton's UK
It's a mystery that has got British law enforcement officials and others across the planet scratching their heads. Put bluntly, enough heroin to supply the world's demand for years has simply disappeared.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) describes the
situation as "a time bomb for public health and global security".



This week's Map of the Week comes courtesy of the UNODC. It shows their latest estimate of opium production in Afghanistan - another bumper year.Opium Production



A crop of 7,700 tonnes will produce around 1,100 tonnes of heroin -
it basically works on a 7:1 ratio.The mystery is that the global demand
for heroin is less than half that. In other words, Afghanistan only
needs to produce 3,500 tonnes to satisfy every known heroin user on the
planet.



Look at the graph, though.Opium Production



For the past three years, production has been running at almost twice the level of global demand.The numbers just don't add up.



There are two credible theories.



Theory 1: A large and undocumented market has opened up in countries
which don't want to admit the problem. Russia has long been in denial
over the scale of its heroin problem and the same may be true in
emerging drug markets like Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.



The Iranians are certainly increasingly anxious about the opium
fields on their doorstep. Border guards and police have been involved
in deadly shoot-outs with smugglers with experts suggesting that there
are now a million heroin users in Iran.



But the over-supply is so great that it is hard to conceive of it
all disappearing in to the blood-streams of new addicts in Tehran and
Ashgabat.



Theory 2: Vast quantities of heroin and morphine are being
stockpiled. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UNODC is convinced that is
the only explanation. In a recent bulletin he issues an urgent order:
'Find the missing opium.' "As a priority, intelligence services need to
examine who holds this surplus, where it may go, and for what purpose"
he says. "We know little about these stockpiles of drugs, besides that
they are not in the hands of farmers."



Further credibility is given to the stockpiling theory in that
'farm-gate' prices for opium remain pretty stable at about $70 per kilo.



So where are the thousands of tonnes of drugs that the UNODC describe as a "time bomb"?



Well a clue, perhaps, comes from a senior law enforcement official
who told me that British undercover teams in Afghanistan are reporting
seizures of "enormous quantities of precursors".



Precursors are the chemicals required to turn base opium into
heroin.The intelligence suggests that, rather than export opium to
established drug laboratories in, for example, eastern Turkey,
smugglers are processing the crop in Afghanistan.



The likelihood is that vast quantities of heroin are being warehoused somewhere close to the fields where the opium grows.



But there is another mystery surrounding the heroin market at the
moment. If the international drug cartels are so awash with product
that they are prepared to risk hiding billions of dollars worth, why
are there shortages on some British streets?



That is the peculiar state of affairs revealed in Drugscope's recent trends survey.



"Some areas are experiencing outright shortages or shortages of good
quality heroin. The quality of street heroin had dropped in 12 of the
20 town and cities surveyed, with five areas - Penzance, Cardiff, north
London, Luton and Birmingham - noticing a shortage of the drug on the
streets" the report says.



The field-work, conducted in July and August, finds shortages had
typically been in place for two months - a longer stretch than is usual
in a market well known for its peaks and troughs.



The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) believes the heroin
shortage in some parts of the country could have been sparked by a rise
in the price of UK wholesale heroin. "Current intelligence suggests
that some criminal groups are having difficulty getting hold of what
they perceive to be good quality heroin."



One theory is that smugglers are using new routes, increasingly
distributing heroin through East Africa.The switch in tactics may have
led to a temporary pause in supply which is being felt in the UK.



But very few would claim the shortages are the result of police
activity. The Drugscope survey concludes that "street level drug
enforcement had little long-term impact on illegal drug markets." At
best, operations only disrupt the flow of drugs for a few days or weeks
and merely displace drug use and drug dealing for a short time.



One serious anxiety is that the economic downturn will herald a new
wave of drug misuse.The recession in the 80s coincided with the British
heroin epidemic. In the US it was crack cocaine...

[bth: I heard Mr. Prince of Blackwater talk back in October and he claimed that his mercenaries destroyed a huge stockpile, one so large that they had to call in an air strike to fully burn it. If true then a huge amount of cash would be tied up in inventory.  One wonders if oil profits from the last few years are being plowed into heroin production.  Also people should remember that in the period around 2000-2001, the Taliban was seizing opium,  not destroying it.  When the Americans drove them out of Afghanistan - at least temporarily - the Taliban dumped their stockpiles on world markets to get liquidity.]

India threatens to act if world doesn’t

India threatens to act if world doesn’t -DAWN - Top Stories; December 23, 2008: "NEW DELHI, Dec 22: India urged the international community on Monday to press Pakistan to weed out from its soil runaway terrorists who it says were behind the recent massacre in Mumbai and posed a great threat to global security.

Briefing Indian ambassadors from different world capitals, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said New Delhi was also aware that eventually it might have to deal with the problem on its own and it was keeping all options open for this.

“We have so far acted with utmost restraint and are hopeful that the international community will use its influence to urge Pakistani government to take effective action,” Mr Mukherjee said. “While we continue to persuade the international community and Pakistan, we are also clear that ultimately it is we who have to deal with this problem. We will take all measures necessary, as we deem fit, to deal with the situation.”"...

[bth: not good]

$98M to SAIC for Militarized Gamma-Ray Imaging Systems

$98M to SAIC for Militarized Gamma-Ray Imaging Systems: "Science Applications International Corp. in San Diego, CA received $98 million firm-fixed-price contract for 50 Militarized Mobile Gamma-Ray Imaging Systems for non-intrusive inspection of vehicles and cargo, as well as maintenance of these systems. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 24/10. The US Army Research Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) Acquisition Center at Aberdeen Proving, MD issued this contract (W91CRB-09-F-0003).

Gamma Ray Imaging is used in the biomedical field to yield specialized PET/ SPECT scans, but it has also begin to see use under the USA’s 2002 Container Security Initiative (CSI). SAIC makes the MobileVACIS system for this purpose, with the ability to scan a 40 foot container in under 6 seconds.

ASE’s popular Z-Backscatter technology is an X-Ray based alternative that uses specialized techniques to provide clear, high-resolution images, while highlighting organic materials and picking up radiation emissions."

Nightly News video : Afghan schoolgirls defy Taliban

Nightly News video : Afghan schoolgirls defy Taliban

CBS: KBR knowingly exposed troops to toxic dust

The Raw Story | CBS: KBR knowingly exposed troops to toxic dust: "A CBS News investigation has obtained evidence that a subsidiary of Halliburton, the giant energy company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, knowingly exposed United States soldiers to toxic materials in Iraq."

CBS interviewed Commander James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, who is dying of a rare form of lung cancer that he believes is the result of "months of inhaling hexavalent chromium" after his battalion was assigned in April 2003 to protect contractors from Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) working in Iraq at a local water plant. Other members of his unit are also suffering from cancers or rashes associated with the toxic chemical, which was all over the plant.

"We didn't question what we were doing," a grief-stricken Gentry told CBS. "We just knew we had to provide a security service for the KBR. ... We would never have been there if we would have known."

CBS has obtained documents which indicate that KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were informed. KBR employee depositions show there were "concerns about the toxins in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003," while later minutes detail symptoms of exposure, including bloody noses and rashes.

It wasn't until the end of August that the Indiana National Guardsmen were informed that the plant was contaminated, and some say they have only just learned about it this year.

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh told CBS, "I think the burden of proof at this point is on the company to come forward and very forthrightly explain what happened, why we should trust them, and why the health and well-being of our soldiers should continue to be in their hands."

KBR has issued a statement saying, "We deny the assertion that KBR harmed troops and was responsible for an unsafe condition."

KBR, which was spun off by Halliburton in 2007 as a separate corporation, has previously been accused of providing contaminated water to troops in Iraq, taking kickbacks, and sending workers to Iraq against their will.

The full CBS story can be read here. ...

[bth: I recommend going to the original source and watching the CBS video. It will break your heart. Now a few years ago KBR was knowingly giving contaminated water to soldiers, so this new story which had been known by KBR since May 2003 that their workers were exposed and our soldiers as well to highly toxic agents which are now giving them cancer is just too much. On the other hand one needs to remember that Kellogg and Brown & Root were huge profiteering contractors in Vietnam as well. People forget, that this story of corrupt contractors with these two companies goes way back to the 1960s when they were huge contributors and backers of LBJ and he in turn saw to it that they built NASA's facilities and many of the air bases and government facilities for the US military in Vietnam.]

Army halts use of new first aid item to study more

The Associated Press: Army halts use of new first aid item to study more: "WASHINGTON (AP) — Until more testing can be done, Army medics are being told to stop using a new product just sent to the war front to help control bleeding among wounded troops."

Officials were in the process of distributing some 17,000 packets of WoundStat, granules that are poured into wounds when special bandages, tourniquets or other efforts won't work. But a recent study showed that, if used directly on injured blood vessels, the granules may lead to harmful blood clots, officials said Tuesday.

The Army Medical Command will continue its research and work with the manufacturer in hopes of figuring out in the next few months whether to resume use of WoundStat, said Col. Paul Cordts, head of Army health policy and services.

WoundStat manufacturer TraumaCure, Inc., of Bethesda, Md., had no immediate comment.

The product had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was one of the latest in a series of Army efforts to improve survival rates on the battlefield....

A committee of Army medics, Navy corpsmen, surgeons and others recommended the Combat Gauze bandage — which has an agent that triggers blood clotting — should be the first-line treatment for life-threatening hemorrhaging in cases where a tourniquet could not be placed, such as the armpit or groin area.

The WoundStat granules were to be used if the bandage failed to work.

Cordts said the Army put out a message on Dec. 18, directing the temporary halt in use of WoundStat. Though it has arrived at the war zones, officials are unclear on how widely it has been distributed so far. They're working to identify any soldiers who got the treatment, study their cases and examine them for any problems with blood clotting, Cordts said.

He said he didn't know whether it had been used on any soldiers and thus had no reports back from the field — positive or negative — on how effective it might have been.

Cordts said that after an additional few months of study, officials will likely determine whether they should discontinue its use altogether or perhaps redistribute it with warnings for how it is to be used.

[bth: we're going to want to keep an eye on this development. Why are they pulling it if they can't confirm its been used in the field?]

Afghanistan: Soviet failures echo for US | csmonitor.com

Afghanistan: Soviet failures echo for US | csmonitor.com: "KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Recent headlines from Afghanistan have read like a history lesson from the Soviet 1980s."

That war "devolved into a fight for control of … the road network," concludes a 1995 US Army study. Militants are now stepping up attacks against American supply routes, destroying some 200 trucks in Pakistan this month.

Anti-Soviet militants controlled "the rural areas," says a former Soviet official. Today's militants have a "permanent presence" in 72 percent of the country, according to a Dec. 8 study.

There are differences between then and now. Yet 20 years later, many problems are similar: The US and NATO control neither the countryside nor the militants' hideouts in Pakistan, and as civilian casualties increase, Afghan anger is mounting.

To succeed, America needs solutions that eluded the Soviets. "It doesn't really matter what you do in Kabul or the provincial capitals," says David Isby, author of "War in a Distant Country – Afghanistan: Invasion and Resistance."

The problem, Mr. Isby adds, is that the Soviets "weren't able to control the grass roots."

The same thing is happening now, according to Dec. 8 report by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS). The pattern of attacks against coalition forces and the Afghan government suggests that militants have significant operations in provinces that make up nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan's area, it argues.

The US military has questioned the report, saying it overstates the opposition's influence. Yet Afghans say that coalition forces control little beyond Afghanistan's major cities.

"From the border of Kabul to the Iranian border, there is fighting everywhere," says Mohammed Yunus, an Afghan truck driver.

His tanker truck is one of scores sitting along the highway into Kabul, a miles-long roadside caterpillar of brightly painted metal waiting for 9 p.m., when trucks are allowed through the capital.

He has traversed Afghanistan for 10 years as a truck driver, but "during the past year, violence has gone to its peak," he says.

The ICOS study notes that three of the four major highways out of Kabul are "compromised by Taliban activity."

"It is no real surprise that the current strategy tries to control the cities and towns, but it is reminiscent of the Soviet era," writes Larry Goodson, a professor at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., in an e-mail.

"By the mid-1980s, the USSR concentrated on controlling the urban areas … and the major road network, conceding the countryside," he adds.

Still, the major threat to American convoys has arisen not here but in Pakistan, where militant groups have found sanctuary.

It is a renewal of tactics used in the 1980s. The Soviet Army's "ultimate survival depended on its ability to resupply itself," according to the 1995 study by Lester Grau of the Foreign Military Studies Office in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

"Afghan guerrillas learned to ambush supply convoys and cut the roads," he adds.

Moreover, it underscores the importance of Pakistani militants in Afghan wars. After the recent attacks in Pakistan, the local truckers' association said Monday it would no longer carry US equipment to the Afghan border. On Thursday, more than 10,000 Pakistanis, supporters of the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami party, protested allowing US forces to ship supplies through Pakistan.

The US supplies arrive at Karachi by sea. American officials are now looking into using the longer and more costly overland route through Central Asia.

"The Soviets were unable to close sanctuaries in Pakistan," says Isby, the author. "America really has to do it now."

In that regard, the US might have greater opportunity for success than the Soviets did.

America was working with Pakistan in the 1980s to undermine the Soviets, funding the mujahideen. Today, Pakistan remains America's ally, though its efforts to dismantle militant sanctuaries have been stuttering.

Also in America's favor is the fact that while the insurgency is spreading, its roots are in the Pashtun south. The anti-Soviet insurgency was national.

"Against the Soviets, the [most effective] insurgents were non-Pashtun," says Isby, citing Ahmed Shah Masood, an ethnic Tajik from north of Kabul who was assassinated just before 9/11 by alleged Al Qaeda agents.

Obama's 'surge' not enough?

From the perspective of Zamir Kabulov, the former Soviet official, President-elect Barack Obama's proposed troops surge for Afghanistan is not enough.

The Russian diplomat has perhaps a unique view on Afghan history. He was in Kabul at the height of the Soviet-backed Communist regime in the mid-1980s. He returned to see the government fall to the mujahideen in 1992. Now, he is Russia's ambassador to Afghanistan.

The Soviets had nearly 400,000 Soviet and Afghan soldiers at their disposal – more than twice what the US and NATO have here – and yet they still failed, he notes.

The coalition's stretched resources have created an unwanted echo of the worst of Soviet times, Professor Goodson says.

"As the war … went on, the Soviets realized they had to get at the mujahideen in the countryside and so began a genocidal policy toward the rural villages and households," he says. Today, "every incident of inadvertent civilian casualties … awakens bad memories for the Afghans."

So do America's attempts to change Afghan society, says Mr. Kabulov. Just as the Americans have tried to improve women's rights and instill democracy, the Russians tried to instill Communism.

"After [the Soviet-backed government] stopped trying to impose socialism on the people, the [Afghan] Army started to believe that they were fighting for their own cause," he says.

"The biggest mistake we made was to try to spread our ideology among them," adds Viktor Pavlov, chairman of the Yekaterinburg chapter of the Russian Union of Afghan War Veterans.

The best course, Kabulov suggests, is to help Afghans help themselves
.

US and NATO "underestimate the Afghans – they don't address the issue of … trying to build a strong national state," he says.

The Soviet failure illustrates the fruitlessness of military might alone, Goodson agrees: "A more effective approach centers on relief, economic development, rule of law, and good governance, with the security pillar of nation-building being just an enabler of the other pillars."


•Anand Gopal contributed from Kabul; Fred Weir from Moscow

World Politics Review | Kenyan Navy Fires Rhetorical Broadside against Pirates

World Politics Review | Kenyan Navy Fires Rhetorical Broadside against Pirates: ..."But Mombasa's business community pins its hopes on an international coalition, rather than on their own government acting alone. 'We have limited forces. Our forces are not armed in modern ways,' said Abubaker Omar, secretary general of Kenya's seafarer's union. 'What the world should do is mobilize the E.U. and NATO forces, let them come together and guard this part of Africa where piracy is occurring"

The E.U. is sending roughly ten ships to the Gulf of Aden. The first to arrive, the British frigate HMS Northumberland, on Sunday escorted a small coastal freighter from Mombasa to Mogadishu, Somalia, to deliver 800 tons of food aid.

NATO previously had conducted food-ship escorts with a flotilla of several warships, but has since withdrawn deeper into the Gulf of Aden, awaiting orders. Spokesman Franco Veltri said the NATO ships might soon return to the Mediterranean.

In addition to the E.U. and NATO forces, there are a dozen other warships from the United States, India, Russia and other countries conducting counter-piracy patrols. But these ships cannot remain forever. "It's bloody expensive having these ships go round and round in circles," Murphy said.

So foreign navies should train the Kenyan military to better perform its own campaign against pirates, Omar said.

On that point, Kianga might agree. He said that working with "partners" is a key aspect of his strategy to defeat pirates.

Frank get 'post-partisan depression' over Warren inauguration invite

The Raw Story | Frank get 'post-partisan depression' over Warren inauguration invite:... "'Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest,' said Rep. Frank (D-Mass) to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Monday. 'I found that deeply offensive and unfair.'

'I believe that [Obama] overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences,' said Frank.

'He talks about being post-partisan but I've worked, frankly, with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, and the current Republican leadership. The current Republican leadership in the House repudiated George Bush. I don't know why Mr. Obama thinks he's going to have them better than George Bush. And to be honest, when he talks about being post partisan, having seen these people and knowing what they would do in that situation, I suffer from post partisan depression.'"...

Monday, December 22, 2008

YouTube - Little Drummer Boy

YouTube - Little Drummer Boy

YouTube - Enya - Silent Night (in Irish) Christmas Lyrics

YouTube - Enya - Silent Night (in Irish) Christmas Lyrics

YouTube - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) - Allison Crowe live performance

YouTube - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) - Allison Crowe live performance

Report: $40 billion needed to expand Army - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times

Report: $40 billion needed to expand Army - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times: "The Army projects it will need $40 billion annually above current spending levels once a planned 74,200 troops are added, according to a draft service report for the Obama transition team.

The report says the planned force of 1.1 million soldiers would require a budget of “$170 billion to $180 billion per year to sustain,” well above the 2009 budget of about $140 billion."...

The Army paper, which outlines a broad range of service plans, strategic insights, future needs, goals and potential threats, does not spell out how service officials arrived at their $170 billion to $180 billion estimate.

At press time, an Army spokesman had yet to respond to a reporter’s inquiry seeking further details.

The CBO has estimated that sustaining the extra forces will cost about $14 billion per year, far less than the Army report suggests.

Several analysts declined to speculate about the discrepancy with the CBO figures....

David Ignatius - Mideast Election Dominoes - washingtonpost.com

David Ignatius - Mideast Election Dominoes - washingtonpost.com: ..."The string of political choices begins with the Palestinians. The term of President Mahmoud Abbas expires Jan. 9, and with it, his authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas had hoped that his term might be extended for a year as part of a reconciliation with the radical group Hamas."

Abbas may instead call for presidential and parliamentary elections early next year. Right now, polls show his Fatah organization ahead of Hamas, 42 percent to 28 percent. But the situation is explosive, quite literally, because Hamas's cease-fire with Israel expired on Friday. If Hamas votes with rockets, Israelis will become even more pessimistic about a two-state solution.

The next political domino is Israel itself. Elections will take place Feb. 10 to replace the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Polls are predicting a victory for hard-line Likud candidate Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been a sharp critic of Olmert's efforts to create a Palestinian state. A Netanyahu victory would complicate U.S. policy choices, to put it mildly.

"If hard-liners begin to win [among Palestinians and Israelis], that means the issue will be security," says Davutoglu. "Security will be more important than peace."

There is balloting ahead in Iraq, too. The Jan. 31 local elections could reinforce the accord reached when the Iraqi parliament endorsed a three-year limit on the U.S. military presence. But it could also deepen Iraq's regional and sectarian tensions -- and provoke a new flare-up of violence just as Obama is preparing to withdraw troops.

The line of political dominoes continues. Lebanon goes to the polls to elect a new parliament in April, with a final round of voting in June. Iran and Saudi Arabia already are pumping in tens of millions of dollars to support their favorite candidates. And then in June, a crucial presidential election will take place in Iran, which will determine whether radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stays or goes.

Davutoglu says his slogan is "zero problems on our borders." The next few months will test whether that optimistic strategy is viable.

As I noted earlier, not everyone here is enthusiastic about the Turkish government's new stress on regional diplomacy. Critics argue that although Erdogan is still officially committed to joining the European Union, he is actually abandoning that goal. "They have lost enthusiasm on the E.U. All their energy now is on regional politics," contends Sedat Ergin, editor of the daily newspaper Milliyet.

Some Turks also worry that as Erdogan turns away from Europe, he is becoming less tolerant of his opponents. Critics cite his call in September for a boycott of Milliyet and other papers that had reported on a corruption case in Germany involving members of his party. "His limit of tolerance for freedom of the press and freedom of expression is pretty low," argues Soli Ozel, a columnist for Sabah newspaper.

Davutoglu stresses that Turkey's new regional role isn't a throwback to the days of the Ottoman pashas. The world has changed. Democracy rules. But that doesn't guarantee people will vote the way the United States wants.


[bth: The active involvement of Turkey in the regional diplomatic mix should be viewed as a good thing in my opinion.]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saudi court rejects divorce plea from EIGHT-year-old girl married to 58-year-old man | Mail Online

Saudi court rejects divorce plea from EIGHT-year-old girl married to 58-year-old man | Mail Online: "A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom."....

The Navy's Fighter-Plane-Size UAV, the X-47B, Is Unveiled in California

Northrop Grumman Unveils X-47B Navy UAV - Fighter Plane-Size UAV from Northrop Grumman Unveiled - Popular Mechanics

Northrop Grumman unveils the X-4





Northrop Grumman unveils the X-47B UCAS-D air vehicle. (Photograph by Jeff Swann)
The Navy's latest, biggest and baddest unmanned aerial vehicle has just been unveiled. Yesterday in California, Northrup Grumman
showed off a completed X-47B Navy Unmanned Combat Air System, the first
of two fighter-plane-size UAVs that the company will produce for the
U.S. Navy. The second will follow in 2009. The Navy hopes to start
flying the X-47Bs next year. The UAV is expected to have the ability to
take off from and land on an aircraft carrier, and the Navy plans to start those trials in 2011.




The X-47 was designed to be adept at long-range surveillance because of
its large range and high flight ceiling. And despite being a
beast—it will have a 62-ft wingspan and weigh around 45,000
pounds at takeoff—the X-47B is designed for stealth. This
aircraft shows the Navy's growing embrace of unmanned technology,
including both unmanned underwater vehicles
and aerial vehicles. But the X-47B would be a technological step
forward—besides carrying stealth features, it is supposed to have
the ability to execute some maneuvers, such as refueling in midflight,
autonomously.





7B UCAS-D air vehicle. (Photograph by Jeff Swann)

US to replace British forces in southern Iraq

US to replace British forces in southern Iraq: "ASRA, Iraq — American troops will move into southern Iraq early next year to replace departing British forces, the top U.S. general in Iraq said."....

[bth: remember all that cut and run talk that went on a couple of years ago? Now all we hear are crickets.]

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs: "Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals."...

The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits....

Taliban chief proposes formula to end crisis in Afghanistan

FOCUS Information Agency: "Kabul. Taliban elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has forwarded a formula to end conflicts and bring about peace in his war-torn country, a local newspaper reported Saturday, cited by Xinhua news agency."

Mullah Omar delivered his plan through Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz," daily Outlook quoted Iranian television channel Press TV as saying.

Without going into the details of the formula, the newspaper added that the adamant Taliban chief, contrary to the past, in the plan stressed for timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

"Peacekeeping troops from Muslim countries should replace the NATO and U.S. troops to ensure a smooth transition until the Afghans can reach a consensus government," Omar insisted in the formula, according to the newspaper.

Another demand made by Mullah Omar is about sharing power with the current Afghan regime as he also demanded the consolidation of the Taliban fighters into the Afghan army and amnesty for them.

Taliban spokespersons were not immediately available for comments.

Omar, who has not been seen in public since being ousting from power by U.S.-led troops in late 2001, had previously conditioned any talks with President Hamid karzai's government with the pullout of more than 70,000-strong international forces from Afghanistan.

With mediation of Saudi Arabian Kingdom, a meeting was held between Taliban and pro-government figures including some Afghan parliamentarians in Riyadh some three months ago.

President Karzai, besides appreciating the talks, called on Saudi Arabian leader to play a role in strengthening security in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the fugitive Taliban chief, whose name is among the wanted men by the United States, in the formula warned to intensify attacks on foreign troops if the White House sends additional troops to Afghanistan.

Ambush Raises Unsettling Questions in Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

Ambush Raises Unsettling Questions in Afghanistan - NYTimes.com: "KABUL, Afghanistan — It was one of the most humiliating attacks the Afghan security forces had ever suffered. On Nov. 27, Taliban insurgents ambushed a supply convoy in the northwest province of Badghis, killing nine Afghan soldiers and five police officers, wounding 27 men, capturing 20 others, destroying at least 19 vehicles and stealing five, Afghan officials said."

The Afghan authorities quickly learned that the man suspected of having orchestrated the attack, Maulavi Ghulam Dastagir, had only weeks before been in police custody on charges of aiding the Taliban.

Mr. Dastagir had been personally released by President Hamid Karzai after assurances from a delegation of tribal elders that he would live a peaceful life, officials said this month.

The ambush, and the presidential pardon that allowed the insurgent to go free, have become the subject of a governmental inquest and the source of profound embarrassment for the Afghan government.

The case has also underscored the vulnerabilities of the Afghan security forces as the Taliban have multiplied their presence around the country and, in only the past few years, have gained strength in regions that were once relatively peaceful, like the northwest. Developing the Afghan security forces is a cornerstone of the American-led effort to defeat the insurgents.

“This is an important subject for everybody because we haven’t had these sorts of casualties before,” said Gen. Zaher Azimi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

Mr. Karzai has publicly said little, if anything, about the case. His spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, acknowledged in an interview last week that the president had released Mr. Dastagir from detention in September after a meeting with a delegation of tribal elders and politicians from Badghis who appealed for his freedom. ...

[bth: read the entire article. Its hard to draw positive conclusions from it. The situation is deteriorating and must have been for some time. The thousand Taliban in this province didn't spring up from rocks or overnight. The situation has been worsening and we are only now noticing.]

Counterterrorism Blog: OIC's "Defamation" declaration could be used by Jihadi Terror networks

Counterterrorism Blog: OIC's "Defamation" declaration could be used by Jihadi Terror networks: "Over the past nine months, a major campaign promoted by member-states in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and its Secretariat General has been aiming at forcing a declaration on 'defamation of religion' on the United Nations. The OIC, influenced by radical ideologues including the International Union of Clerics headed by Sheikh Yusuf Qardawi, wants the UN to vote a law banning and punishing any criticism of religion in general and of critical debates about Islam in particular. Aside from obstructing reformers and suppressing democratic movements within Muslim societies, the OIC move will be used by Jihadi Terror networks to further their ideological indoctrination.

Excerpt:

Jihadist abuse

Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of the adoption of vague 'anti-defamation' legislation -- allegedly to address 'Islamophobia' -- will be to embolden the Jihadi Islamist movements around the world into further violence. Indeed, both Salafists and Khomeinists already claim they are defending the Muslim world against infidels. If the OIC is successful in forcing such a declaration through the UN or the Durban II Conference into international law, Jihadists around the world will score a tremendous moral and psychological victory by claiming that the present conflicts are indeed about religion, and that Islam is indeed under attack at the hands of Infidels. An anti-defamation declaration will validate al Qaeda's agenda and reinforce the Iranian regime's ambitions. The Jihadists' ideology, based essentially on their interpretation of theology, builds radicalization by asserting that they are the defenders of the faith. A declaration against the defamation of Islam declaration will serve their strategic interests perfectly, and fuel their indoctrination processes. In short, it will protect their Takfiri ideology.

Following is the entire article:....

[bth: approving this would be a very bad thing. Free speech is, or at used to be, a valued right. The ability to discuss religion without fear of an inquisition was critical to the advancement of western thought , critical reasoning and science. To declare religion above critique or ridicule is to put western thought in jeopardy. We appease religious fanatics because we are afraid of them. Beware.]

...Until these theaters are stabilized—or unless stability
becomes infeasible—it will be essential to maximize U.S.
performance in these ongoing wars even if this reduces
future potential for some as-yet unseen war elsewhere....

I thought this quote sort of got to the heart of the discussion going on in the military today as to whether we should be training for today's conflict or for future and perhaps imagined engagements. More to the point, have our long term preparations been in fact for wars avoided over a decade ago against the former Soviet Union?

here a report worth reading if you are interested in the subject.

THE 2006 LEBANON CAMPAIGN
AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE:
IMPLICATIONS FOR ARMY AND DEFENSE
POLICY

by Stephen Biddle

Also I would note that much of the debate which seems to go on in the military avoids the obvious observation that the military can and will adapt to changing needs. That our procurement system has become slow and bureaucratic is our own fault and can be fixed as needed. Procurement of new systems and their timely development was not a problem in the first or second world wars and rarely a problem even as late as the Vietnam War. That it is a disaster today has much to do with our politics and the military industrial complexes need to keep processes moving at the expense of war fighting ability.

YouTube - Katrina's Hidden Race War

YouTube - Katrina's Hidden Race War