Saturday, January 03, 2009

Israeli Ground Troops Enter Gaza

gaza - Google Video
gaza - Google Video

Palestinian Militants Try To Find Ways to Overcome Israeli UAVs on Jihadi Forums - Internet Terror Monitor

Palestinian Militants Try To Find Ways to Overcome Israeli UAVs on Jihadi Forums - Internet Terror Monitor: "IAF reconnaissance planes proved to be instrumental in finding Hamas targets. So much so that Palestinian insurgents turned to Internet forums, trying to find a way to counter them. “The Son of Palestine” launched an urgent appeal on the m3ark forum today for anybody who could suggest a way to detect, intercept and jam the electronic signals transmitted by Israeli reconnaissance UAVs."

Call on Bin Laden To Avenge Palestinians

Call on Bin Laden To Avenge Palestinians - Internet Terror Monitor: "A call to al Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri to avenge Palestinians killed in the Israeli raids on Gaza has been posted on militant Islamist Internet forums. “Where are you Sheikh? We are waiting for your response…we are expecting from you and the soldiers of monotheism to do something to stop the malicious deeds of the Jews,” the message posted on M3ark forums said today."

[bth: just when OBL is about to become irrelevant, his ghost is summoned up. There is a downside to the disproportionate response from Israel on Gaza and this may be it. If OBL is alive, he might very well use this as his recall to popularity in the Muslim world. ... Not good. Not good at all.]

Adult-Proof Ringtone

Adult-Proof Ringtone | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Some teens are reportedly using a ringtone so high-pitched that most adults cannot hear it. What do you think?




Old Woman

Sasha Rhodes,

Paper Maker

"This should go great with my son's text messages, which are too small for me to read."



Black Man

Jerry Garver,

Systems Analyst

"What would really drive adults nuts is if they invented a silent ring option, like vibrate."



Old Man

Nate Steadman,

Lathe Operator

"With this new technology, I worry that today's girls are losing critical note-passing skills."




IDF begins shelling northern Gaza for 1st time since op began | Israel | Jerusalem Post

IDF begins shelling northern Gaza for 1st time since op began | Israel | Jerusalem Post: "For the first time since the start of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF began firing artillery shells into northern Gaza on Saturday afternoon, IDF officials said."

According to reports, the artillery units were attacking targets in northern Gaza from where Palestinian terrorists had been firing rockets at southern Israel.

The shelling was seen as a possible signal that a ground invasion could be nearing.

Warplanes, gunboats and artillery units blasted more than 40 Hamas targets throughout Saturday, including weapons storage facilities, training centers and Hamas leaders' homes....

[bth: sad to say it but artillery shells are cheaper than US purchased bombs especially when the primary targets have already been destroyed. Also the Israeli army needs to show they are doing something vs. the air force.
This is not Israel's finest moment.]

U.S.-installed Iraqi ex-PM says Bush utter failure

U.S.-installed Iraqi ex-PM says Bush utter failure | U.S. | Reuters: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Former U.S.-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has denounced the policies of President George W. Bush as an 'utter failure' that gave rise to the sectarian venom that ravaged his country."

In an interview published on Saturday in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Allawi found fault with American management of Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 as well as the government of present Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Allawi ruled Iraq for almost a year after U.S. occupation officials handed power to him in 2004 as prime minister of an interim government. He was selected by a council hand-picked by Washington after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"Yes, Bush's policies failed utterly," said Allawi, describing the U.S. administration that once backed him. "Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy."

"His insistence on names like 'democracy' and 'open elections', without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush's policy," he said....

[bth: I'm willing to take criticism from a lot of folks but Chalabi and Allawi are not two of them. They were fronted by the CIA. They were pathological liars who planted information that baited the US public. They were tools. They had every opportunity and totally screwed up their opportunity. ... So what is it about Arab leaders like Allawi that think it's a good idea to bad mouth outgoing US presidents who had befriended them? Arafat did it with Clinton. And there were others. If Allawi had any balls he could have said those things in 2004 but he didn't and here we are. He is a pathetic little man.]

Israel running out of aerial targets - The National Newspaper

Israel running out of aerial targets - The National Newspaper: "RAMALLAH // Six days in, Israel’s massive bombardment of Gaza shows little sign of abating. Israeli warplanes have flown more than 500 sorties, killing over 400 Palestinians and wounding hundreds. Israeli bombs have rained down on Gaza’s 1.5 million people from air and sea.

But with fewer targets left to strike – yesterday Israel bombed a mosque, the education ministry, the transportation ministry as well as the parliament building – a ground invasion would now appear imminent.

Hamas spokesmen have been unequivocal about their intention to continue firing rockets until Israel ends its offensive. True to their word, the rocket fire continues, reaching deeper into Israel every day. Four Israelis, three civilians and a soldier, have been killed so far.

Israeli spokesmen, meanwhile, have been equally unequivocal that there will be no end to the violence for as long as rockets fly."...

Indeed, opinion polls show that the offensive so far has been broadly popular among Israelis and has improved the standing of key ministers running for re-election, mainly Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and, more dramatically, Ehud Barak, the defence minister.

One poll indicates that Mr Barak’s Labor Party has gained about five parliamentary seats in the past week, while his personal approval rating has soared by nearly 20 per cent. Nevertheless, the same poll also shows that while most Israelis favour a continuation of the air campaign only 19 per cent of Israelis support a ground invasion, the same as support a negotiated ceasefire.

Any significant losses Hamas might be able to inflict on the Israeli army could soon turn around the polls, just as happened in Lebanon.

For Hamas, the political outlook is considerably narrower. With so many Palestinian casualties, the Islamist movement must secure some kind of gain from the fighting.

While support for Hamas appears to be growing as a result of general sympathy with Gazans’ plight, once the dust settles Palestinians will want to see that people did not die in vain, a suggestion West Bank Palestinian Authority officials have been keen to promote, even as criticism of Hamas from Ramallah is now being toned down.

Only one eventuality can now cause Hamas to agree to put down guns – an opening of crossings into Gaza, whether from Egypt, Israel or both and for more than just humanitarian goods. For this, Israel will want a complete end to rocket fire, so far the only clearly stated goal of its assault, and will possibly throw a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006, into any bargain.

Cairo has already stated the price Hamas must pay for it to open the Rafah crossing in the south, which is to hand control to the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president...

[bth: based on this situation I think a ground invasion - besides a raid - is pretty unlikely. Col Lang in his blog notes the Israeli tanks are lined up administratively and not for an assault. Also if one subscribes to the idea that this is about Israeli elections and not the one Israeli killed by rockets before this unpleasantness and the three that were killed afterward, then one can reasonably predict that this attack - such as it is - will not end before Obama is sworn in and will likely progress toward the Feb. 10 Israeli elections and perhaps through them. Note AEI is delivering a paper against Iran - essentially a war paper around Jan 30 - which I take as a first test on Obama to see how pro-Israel he really is. The fact is we delivered over a thousand of these small be GBU-39 bombs to Israel a couple of months ago, probably anticipating this attack on Gaza, so it could not have been a surprise to us that they are used in Gaza. This is being choreographed right down to the media coverage - or lack thereof in the US.]

Growing Taliban use of marksmen worries U.S. military

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/02/2009 | Growing Taliban use of marksmen worries U.S. military: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters increasingly are deploying precision marksmen to fire on U.S. troops at greater distances throughout opium-producing southern Afghanistan, according to the top two commanders for the southern region."....

Instead of gathering in company-sized units to take on foreign troops, Taliban forces also are resorting increasingly to explosives and bombings, attacks that require fewer people and pose less risk to themselves, the commanders said. Explosives attacks rose by 33 percent last year, as did deaths of coalition troops, according to the International Security Assistance Force, which leads the coalition forces stationed here.

"They are reverting to tactics that tell us they are suffering heavy losses," said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander for the southern regional command. "They are trying to minimize their exposure."

The expanded use of precision marksmen comes as the fighting shifts from eastern Afghanistan to the south, where the Taliban are trying to protect opium production, which is reputed to be their economic base. The number of coalition troops killed in southern Afghanistan has increased sharply in the past two months....

So far, shooters have made use of long-barrel rifles, not specialized sniper weapons, and Nicholson said there was no indication that they had trained snipers. Instead, they take advantage of the rough terrain to shoot at troops safely from afar, he said....

Coalition officials said they didn't have statistics on how much more often the Taliban were employing precision shooters, how far they were expanding their distances or casualties related to the change of tactics. A Marine officer who's faced Taliban fighters said he'd seen them shoot from as far away as 400 yards. Statistics compiled by the International Security Assistance Force show a 25 percent increase in direct-fire incidents last year, which could include shots by marksmen.

Most of them are Afghans, not foreign fighters, the officials said. The Afghan use of marksmen goes back hundreds of years, in a country in which fighting is commonplace.

The use of precision shooters "is more a kind of intuition that I have. But sometimes we see high-quality enemy in the area of central Helmand. . . . It shows we have a very capable enemy," said Maj. Gen. M.C. de Kruif, the Dutch commander for Regional Command South.

[bth: there is little here to indicate a move to high grade snipers. It is as likely that the insurgency is getting smarter, evolving and getting bigger. A good indication that it is simply expanding is the number of IED attacks. The article fails to mention the increased use of Chinese armor penetrating rounds by the Taliban.]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Lashkar plotting to target INS Viraat: US intelligence-India-The Times of India

Lashkar plotting to target INS Viraat: US intelligence-India-The Times of India: "NEW DELHI: The US Technological Intelligence Unit has alerted Indian security agencies about a possibility of the Lashkar-e-Taiba carrying out
an airborne attack on the Indian warship INS Viraat. ( Watch )

The aircraft carrier Viraat is currently undergoing repairs at the Cochin shipyard, where its security cover has been beefed up after the alert."...

[bth: if we are not careful two very powerful countries - Pakistan and India - will be goaded into war by terrorists leveraging national pride and hatred.]

Bribes corrode Afghans' trust in government - International Herald Tribune

Bribes corrode Afghans' trust in government - International Herald Tribune: ..."Governments in developing countries are often riddled by corruption. But Afghans say the corruption they see now has no precedent, in either its brazenness or in its scale. Transparency International, a German firm that gauges honesty in government, ranked Afghanistan 117 out of 180 countries in 2005. This year, it fell to 176.

'Every man in the government is his own king,' said Abdul Ghafar, a truck driver. Ghafar said he routinely pays bribes to police who threaten to hinder his passage through Kabul, sometimes several in a single day.

Nowhere is the scent of corruption so strong as in the Kabul neighborhood of Sherpur. Before 2001, it was a vacant patch of hillside that overlooked the stately neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan. Today it is the wealthiest enclave in the country, a series of gaudy, grandiose mansions that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Afghans refer to them as 'poppy houses.' Sherpur itself is often jokingly referred to as 'Char-pur,' which literally means 'City of Loot.'

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about Sherpur is the owners of the houses. Many are government officials, whose annual salaries would not otherwise enable them to live here for more than a few days."...

[bth: More American soldiers to Afghanistan won't resolve this problem. Unless we can and are able to address corruption, all of our efforts - our blood and treasure - will go in vain. We must as Americans take a stand in favor of good government. If we fail to do so for whatever reason - what incentive will the local people have in backing us? None. We will win battles and lose the war. Some things really are that clear cut.]

Israel can't bomb its way to peace

Israel can't bomb its way to peace - Los Angeles Times
....The Israeli assault may even strengthen Hamas in the longer run and weaken its more moderate secular rival, Fatah. As Israel should know by now (as we all should know), dropping bombs in densely populated areas is a surefire way to radicalize civilians and get them to rally around the home team, however flawed.

Ironically, it's precisely this psychological phenomenon that Olmert, Barak and Livni are counting on among Israelis, but they seem to assume it doesn't exist among Palestinians. (Or, worse, they're too cynical to care, as long as they profit politically.)

Israel has no viable political endgame here: There's just no clear route from bombardment to a sustainable peace. But the damage caused by this new conflagration won't be limited to the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel's military offensive already has sparked outrage and protests throughout the Arab world. The current crisis also may destabilize some of the more moderate Arab governments in the region -- in Egypt, for instance -- where leaders now face popular backlash if they don't repudiate Israel.

And if you think that none of this really matters for us here in the U.S., you're kidding yourself. Arab and Islamic anger over Palestine continues to fuel anti-Western and anti-U.S. terrorism around the globe.

It's time for the United States to wake up from its long slumber and reengage -- forcefully -- with the Middle East peace process. Only the U.S. -- Israel's primary supporter and main financial sponsor -- can push it to make the hard choices necessary for its own long-term security, as well as the region's. In January 2001, the Taba talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority came achingly close to a final settlement, but talks broke down after Likud's Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister on Feb. 6, 2001. Sharon refused to meet with Yasser Arafat, and newly inaugurated President George W. Bush had no interest in pushing Israel toward peace.

Eight years later, Israel faces another election, and we're about to swear in a new president. When he takes office, Obama needs to push both Israelis and Palestinians to sit back down, with the abandoned Taba agreements as the starting point. Here's to a less bloody 2009.

[bth: I think the objective is the February 10 election and nothing more.  The current strategy has nothing to do with peace or even the pretense of peace in Israel.]

Op-Ed Contributor - The Next World Order - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Contributor - The Next World Order - NYTimes.com: ..."Both the Chinese and the Indians are convinced that their prosperity will only increase in the 21st century. In China it will be induced by the state; in India’s case, it may well happen despite the state. Indians expect to continue their relentless march toward a modern, democratic, market-based future. In this, terrorist attacks are a noisy, tragic, but ultimately futile sideshow.

However, Indians are painfully aware that they must reform their government bureaucracy, police and judiciary — institutions, paradoxically, they were so proud of a generation ago. When that happens, India may become formidable, a thought that undoubtedly worries China’s leaders."

[bth: a very good editorial worth reading in full. We need to be strengthening our relationship with India.]

A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.’s - NYTimes.com

A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.’s - NYTimes.com: ..."Last January, The New York Times published articles examining the cases of veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan charged with homicide after their return. At the time, it counted at least 121 such cases. In many of them, combat trauma and the stress of deployment appeared to have set the stage for the crimes.

At Fort Carson, at least four of the accused killers from the Fourth Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division were grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder and several had been injured in battle."...

[bth: worth a full read. We send young soldiers into combat for 15 months with two to four weeks off. What do we expect?]

YouTube - Political Christmas Song

YouTube - Political Christmas Song

Washington Times - Pakistan drives militants into waiting hands

Washington Times - Pakistan drives militants into waiting hands: "ALALABAD, Afghanistan | Pakistan's ongoing military offensive in its northwest tribal areas is chasing insurgents across the border, where they are being intercepted by a U.S.-Afghan security initiative, a U.S. commander says.

The level of violence over the past couple of months in the northeastern [Afghan] provinces of Kunar and Nuristan has risen significantly from the same period last year, and is expected to increase another 10 percent to 20 percent in the spring, largely because of the results of operations across the border in Pakistan´s Bajaur region, Army Col. John Spiszer told The Washington Times."...

[bth: so if Pakistan was driving the Taliban across the border, why were hundreds of our vehicles destroyed in supply convoys along with cargo? Why didn't the Pakistani military intervene to prevent these events even though they were occurring virtually right under their noses? One wonders whose being played here. Also its odd that this story would appear now and with a US colonel being quoted extensively. This seems contrived to offset the year end stats which show a tremendous increase in US and Afghan casualties this year. Also it appears in the Washington Times which usually means its planted by somebody. ... Best to be cautious about jumping to conclusions and review a wide array of open source material - sources that are international and harder to control or manipulate.]

Afghan Road Bombings, Kidnappings Doubled In 2008, Says US Diplomat

Afghan Road Bombings, Kidnappings Doubled In 2008, Says US Diplomat: "...Afghanistan's security situation has been deteriorating. The number of roadside bombs and kidnappings doubled in 2008 from the previous year, the U.S. ambassador said Tuesday.

The number of roadside bombs rose from roughly 1,000 in 2007 to 2,000 in 2008, while the number of kidnappings jumped from about 150 to 300, Ambassador William Wood said."...

Pakistan Kills 3 Militants In Afghan Supply Route Operation

Pakistan Kills 3 Militants In Afghan Supply Route Operation: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani troops killed three militants in an operation to secure the major supply route to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

The route through the famed Khyber Pass remained closed for a second day because of the operation but will hopefully reopen soon, said Fazal Mahmood, a local official.

The U.S. military has praised the campaign and said the temporary closure of the road was not a problem.

Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan rely on the winding, mountainous road for delivery of up to 75 percent of their fuel, food and other goods, which arrive in Pakistan via the port city of Karachi."...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

US Readying Surge Against Taliban In Southern Afghanistan

US Readying Surge Against Taliban In Southern Afghanistan: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's southern rim, the Taliban's spiritual birthplace and the country's most violent region, has for the last two years been the domain of British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers.

That's about to change.

In what amounts to an Afghan version of the surge in Iraq, the U.S. is preparing to pour at least 20,000 extra troops into the south, augmenting 12,500 NATO soldiers who have proved too few to cope with a Taliban insurgency that is fiercer than NATO leaders expected."....

[bth: this article is worth a full read and in the context of the other articles from the UK concerning troops levels and equipment (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan posted earlier today. The war is about to become an American one instead of a NATO war. What can one expect - the entire British Army is the size of the US Marine Corp]

IAF uses new US-supplied smart bomb | Israel | Jerusalem Post

IAF uses new US-supplied smart bomb | Israel | Jerusalem Post: "The Israel Air Force used a new bunker-buster missile that it received recently from the United States in strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday."

The missile, called GBU-39, was developed in recent years by the US as a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision and low collateral damage strikes.

Israel received approval from Congress to purchase 1,000 units in September and defense officials said on Sunday that the first shipment had arrived earlier this month and was used successfully in penetrating underground Kassam launchers in the Gaza Strip during the heavy aerial bombardment of Hamas infrastructure on Saturday. It was also used in Sunday's bombing of tunnels in Rafah.

The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world. The 113-kg. bomb has the same penetration capabilities as a normal 900-kg. bomb, although it has only 22.7 kg. of explosives. At just 1.75 meters long, its small size increases the number of bombs an aircraft can carry and the number of targets it can attack in a sortie.....


[bth: its actually a bomb with wings. Usually when you talk about a modern missile it has propulsion.
]

YouTube - Uncle Jay Explains: Year-end! 12-22-08

YouTube - Uncle Jay Explains: Year-end! 12-22-08

M of A - Bombing Gaza

M of A - Bombing Gaza: ..."Yesterday Israel let some 80 trucks with supplies into Gaza. That was not to get relief to 1.5 million prisoners there, but to prepare for the onslaught that started today. Too little supplies in Gaza would let too many people call for a 'premature' stop of the ongoing war against the Palestinian people there.

The first day of a brutal bombing campaign killed at least 195 people, all of them 'militants' and Hamas 'extremists' we are told.

The killing will go on for at least a week and more likely up to February 10 when Israel holds elections. Every politician in Israel seems to run a 'I will hit 'em harder' campaign. This is totally useless violence for the most cynic reason I can think of - to boast the personal egos of Livni, Barak and Netanjahu"

YouTube - GBU-39 Bunker Buster

YouTube - GBU-39 Bunker Buster

YouTube - Gbu 39 impacts

YouTube - Gbu 39 impacts

Dubvious News Reports from Afghanistan via Free Range International

Free Range International
...The first article was by Mark Ward, a senior Foreign Service Officer with US AID, who has just completed an impressively long tour in Afghanistan. Here is the opening paragraph:

“Nearly every observer of Afghanistan, from the most senior U.S. military officers to Washington think tank analysts and everyone in between, agrees that stability in that country demands a multipronged approach involving the military, diplomatic efforts and economic assistance. Having spent nearly the past five years as the senior career officer responsible for U.S. economic assistance to Afghanistan, I agree with those in the military who have said that 80 percent of the struggle for Afghanistan is about reconstruction and sustainable economic development and only 20 percent about military operations. In the face of a heightened Taliban insurgency, the U.S. military has changed its tactics. But if civilian U.S. agencies do not change the ways they deliver economic assistance, they jeopardize their chances for success and risk alienating the Afghan people.”He is spot on with this assessment – I would judge that he is
around six years late but better late than never. He then goes on to
discuss the ramifications to the morale of the American people if,
given relaxed security standards, Foreign Service Officers get killed
in the line of duty. What??? Let me answer that question free of
charge. The American public doesn’t even know what a Foreign
Service Officer is and they could give a hoot if a few buy the farm in
Afghanistan. You have already lost men in Iraq and that caused no
detectable disturbance in the body politic. One of those lost was a
friend of mine – the embassy security force camp in Kabul is
named after him and although his loss was a tragedy for his family and
friends (and the Department of State RSO program because he was one of
their best) it did not cause the slightest ripple on the consciousness
of the American public. My friend, Steve Sullivan was killed by a VBIED
in Mosul along with three Blackwater contractors. State Department and
contractor casualties are not the same as military casualties because
the main stream media doesn’t treat them the same....

There is a seven year track record in Afghanistan from both
governmental and nongovernmental organizations that are operating in
the exact manner Mr. Ward is advocating. The government of Japan has
over 100 of their “Foreign Service officers” (the Japanese
do not use that term) spread out from Mazar-e-Sharif to Jalalabad
working every day in Afghan ministries and offices mentoring their
Afghan colleagues. They do this on a security budget which is less than
the cost of providing bottled water to the US Embassy compound in
Kabul. The Japan International Cooperation Agency uses the same
security guidelines as every other international organization in
Afghanistan (with the exception of the US AID contractors who use DS
guidelines) and that is the UN minimum occupational safety standards
(UN MOSS.)

In contested provinces (Helmund, Zabul, Kandahar, etc…) the
UN MOSS standards are not applicable and in those provinces the best
solution would be to turn over all reconstruction monies to our
military who has demonstrated time and again they are better at
delivering reconstruction aid anyway. For the rest of the country the
US could start sending its FSO’s out into the provinces
immediately and be reasonably certain that any casualties they do take
would come from motor vehicle accidents which are one of the bigger
threats faced by internationals who live outside the wire. There have
been IGO and NGO casualties in Afghanistan but they are rare and
disproportionally suffered by those who choose not to use armed
security. By that I mean those organizations that place stickers on
their vehicles of an AK 47 with a red circle and a line drawn through
it. Nothing says “I am important and unarmed” like a new
SUV with “no weapons on board” stickers. This is not a
country where it is wise to advertise you are both important and
unarmed. It is a dangerous place but the risks are manageable and
reasonable which has been proven by JICA and the hundreds of other
organizations currently operating outside the wire in Afghanistan....


[bth: Free Range International is a blog I am increasingly impressed with with regard to Afghanistan.  I would encourage you to read the entire original posting and keep track of this blog.  We do not have time or patience as a country for new studies to tell us what local experts already know.  We need to be asking questions and taking advice from people who are in the know and on the spot.]


Sooner kill the Cure [ a misdirected armor program from the UK]

Defence of the Realm: Sooner kill than cure


....For once though, the details are there in the MoD release, there for anyone with wits enough to read between the lines, and do a bit of research.

Yet, the only journalist to have done an intelligent piece of writing on this tragedy is Thomas Harding of The Daily Telegraph, pointing out a worrying and potentially dangerous development in the way Corporal Deering was killed.

It very much appears that the Taleban used a tactic often employed by the Provisional IRA - a "come on" device in which two bombs are placed in the same spot.

Thus when, on Sunday morning the Viking armoured personnel carrier was caught in an explosion outside the town of Lashkar Gah injuring three and disabling the vehicle, Cpl Deering dismounted from his own Viking and approached the stricken vehicle to assess the damage. A second device went off killing him instantly.

The tactic, writes Harding, shows that the Taliban are now capable of not only defeating the armour of the Vikings but are also aware of the British tactics in dealing with disabled vehicles. It appears that the second device was deliberately planted to target troops who would have to deal with the damaged vehicle.

This is the first time we have seen in the public domain any record of the Taleban using such sophisticated tactics. With their ability, almost at will, to take out an increasing range of our vehicles - this is the sixth soldier to be killed as a result of enemy action against Vikings – this makes for a very serious situation.

At the heart of the problem, of course, is the dangerous vulnerability of the Viking – something which should have been obvious at the time it was considered for deployment. Whatever advantages offered in terms of tactical mobility, through the superb off-road performance of this machine, is lost as a result of its pitifully inadequate protection from mines and IEDs.

The pictures show a Viking which has suffered an IED/mine hit in Afghanistan and, as you can see, the explosion has punched a hole clean through the base and wrecked the vehicle. We have no further details, but it does not seem possible that all the crew survived.

Yet, our military geniuses – and the defence contractors who are only too keen to sell their highly priced mobile coffins – seem incapable of predicting the obvious, and are content to let men die wholly unnecessarily rather than provide them with the vehicles they need to protect them.

In January of this year, I wrote a piece pointing out that there was a serious gap in the market, with the absence of a mine-protected tracked vehicle for Afghanistan.

I also pointed out that the 50s vintage M48 US tank embodied the elements of mine protection, with a v-shaped hull design, built after the recent experience of WWII when the mine had been a major killer of men. But, so far has military science progressed that our current batch of geniuses believe they can ignore the lessons of the past, optimising vehicle designs for ballistic protection and low profile, the latter ensuring the current fashion in vehicle design is for sleek, flat hull bases.

Inconveniently, the insurgents of Iraq and now Afghanistan have not been impressed with our designers' ideas of what constitute ideal armoured vehicles and have been unsporting enough to exploit their weaknesses.....

[bth: I just don't understand why the Brits are doing such a crappy job on armoring their light vehicles and their tracked vehicles. It is like the bureaucracy in Britain refuses to acknowledge the reality of the IED against men and machines. Instead developing great tracks they should have been developing great IED protection that might or might not have tracks. As bad as the US DOD has been on the issue, from body armor, to armoring Rovers to poorly designed tracked vehicles the Brits have somehow found a way to be worse - worse than perhaps the worst military bureaucracy and procurement process in US history where too little too late is a motto which gets men killed. But when I was in Britain recently what disturbed me was not the anti-war sentiment. No the problem was no sentiment or even thoughts about the war at all. It was like - this is an American problem - and we're simply going to ignore it. In fact I didn't see a single military person in uniform in London during my stay there who wasn't a guard. Where were they? I truly feel for the families of the dead and wounded who must feel ignored and discharged from public view. I hope somebody over there in a place of authority looks at what a shoddy job they are doing in equipping their troops for today's conflict - not what some contractor or his pub buddy bureaucrat procures.]

TheHill.com - Obama dismisses Bush Pentagon appointees

TheHill.com - Obama dismisses Bush Pentagon appointees: ..."O'Beirne said that Gates had 'sought to keep virtually his entire team in place pending the availability of Obama replacements.'

Out of roughly 250 political appointees, 90 were dismissed."....

[bth: it would have been better to purge them all and give Gates a fresh start. The civilian leadership at DOD under Bush with the exception of Gates himself has been a disaster]

An Atlantic rift?

Defence of the Realm: An Atlantic rift?
...That is certainly the case, according to the Times this morning, which has it that the US is accusing Britain "over [its] military failings in Afghanistan."

The source of the accusations (plural) is identified as Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, a man who has some good knowledge of counter-insurgency operations and who has had some impressive things to say about his own military. Furthermore, he must have something going for him as he was appointed by Bush and has been asked to remain in his job under Barack Obama.

Anyhow, it is Gates who is "understood" to have expressed strong reservations about counterinsurgency operations in British-controlled Helmand province.

One of his concerns seems to be that, since a total of 132 British soldiers have now died in Afghanistan since 2001, the government is worried about public opinion turning against the campaign. It is thus, as it was in Iraq, overly risk averse, with strategy being dictated by the need to avoid casualties rather than by operational requirements.

This is coming to a head with US plans to mount a "surge", contrasted with the British reluctance to commit large numbers of extra troops. British officials are thus concerned that the US may take over control of Helmand – if the British fail to step up to the plate.

The willingness of the US to intervene in the British zone has been a recent feature of the Afghani campaign. Unlike Iraq, where the management of the southern zone was left entirely to the British – even when it was obvious that it was going belly up – US forces have already contributed considerable forces to operations in the British area, providing US airborne troops for the re-capture of Musa Qala last year and US Marines for operations in Garmsir earlier this year.

That the Americans have had to intervene may be behind what we are told are "grievances" over Britain's lack of equipment, including helicopters, the latter having left troops unable to perform the same tasks as US counterparts and led to more cautious tactics....

[bth: this article is worth an entire read]

Pakistan can stop drone raids: Air Chief

Pakistan can stop drone raids: Air Chief: "KARACHI: Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed said on Tuesday that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is fully capable to stop drones’ flights and missile strikes.

He said that it was up to the government to decide whether it wanted to benefit from PAF capabilities and deter the aggressors violating territorial integrity of the country."...

[bth: it is quite telling that they haven't stopped US drone flights.]
Pakistan Expands Unmanned Air Force | Danger Room from Wired.com

[bth: people just assume that the US dominates unmanned aircraft programs.  That just isn't true as this article regarding Pakistan demonstrates.  The Israelis are also very big into the space.  This is a large and growing area and the economics highly support a combination of UAVs and non-stealth manned aircraft working in combination.]

...Since 2002, Pakistan has dramatically expanded its robotic fleet in the sky, Defense News reports. The Pakistani Air Force has two UAV squadrons -- and is looking to build up to six.

"Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters use not just mobile and satellite phones for communication, but also sophisticated military radios," Defense News notes. So companies like East West Infiniti are building SIGINT [signals intelligence] for small drones and robotic blimps, to capture those conversations.....Rover



Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Column One: The 'realist' fantasy | Columnists | Jerusalem Post

Column One: The 'realist' fantasy | Columnists | Jerusalem Post: "Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas."...

Gunman wounds 2 Israelis in Denmark mall shooting

Gunman wounds 2 Israelis in Denmark mall shooting: "COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - A gunman shot and wounded two Israelis working at a packed central Denmark shopping mall Wednesday, police said.

Police spokesman Lars Thede said it was not immediately clear whether the Israelis were targeted because of their nationality. A video surveillance camera showed a swarthy man with a dark mustache and dark hair in his mid-20s pulling out a gun before opening fire."...

ANALYSIS / A hard look at Hamas' capabilities - Haaretz - Israel News

ANALYSIS / A hard look at Hamas' capabilities - Haaretz - Israel News: ..."Rocket attacks: The rockets and mortar shells were initially developed as a way of bypassing the border fence, which prevented militants from entering Israel to carry out attacks. Shin Bet security service head, Yuval Diskin, told the cabinet this week that Hamas already has rockets with a range of 40 kilometers, that are capable of reaching Ashdod and the outskirts of Be'er Sheva.

These are advanced Katyusha that were smuggled into Gaza in pieces through the tunnels and assembled in Gaza. These rockets have not yet been fired at Israel but Hamas and Islamic Jihad already have dozens of 122 mm. Grad rockets with a range of about 20 km. Gaza militants recently began using another Iranian-supplied weapon, 120 mm. mortar shells with an 8-kilometer range.

Hamas has also made significant gains in manufacturing its own rockets. It has learned to create Ammonium Perchlorate Compound, an advanced rocket propellant that in addition to extending the Qassam's range beyond 20 kilometers also - and more importantly - increases the rocket's shelf life.

That means the organization can, for the first time, maintain a supply of rockets for months at a time. Analysts believe Hamas currently has over 1,000 rockets. Islamic Jihad maintains its own production and storage facilities, but both rely on Iranian experts for training. Sources in"Gaza say that Hamas' "military industry" is working overtime to manufacture rockets, and that the organization can easily fire 80 rockets a day, as it did on Wednesday. ...

[bth: last I checked Israel had less than 1 casualty per 100 rockets fired so with 1000 Hamas rockets available we are talking about 10 casualties over what would be (1000 rockets/80 per day) ~12 days? Hardly seems existential for Israel unless you are a politician running in February elections. I would not rule out a terrorist attack against US or Israeli interests outside of Gaza, in Europe for example or Turkey, as a much more probable course of action by Hamas or its allies. Is Israel applying some sort of 100 to 1 rule of casualties?]

One of World's Worst: Russia Tanks 72% - Russia * Europe * News * Story - CNBC.com

One of World's Worst: Russia Tanks 72% - Russia * Europe * News * Story - CNBC.com: "Russia's benchmark RTS share index lost 72.4 percent in 2008, ranking it among the world's worst performing markets in one of the worst years ever for global stock markets."

It underperformed the MSCI Emerging Markets index by nearly 40 percent, according to Reuters data. The index underperformed its peers in the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) quartet of major emerging markets by 26-30 percent.

The index ended the day up 1.03 percent at 631.89 points, around 80 points above its year low of 549.06. It was not, however, Russia's worst annual percentage loss.

In 1998, the year Russia's public finances melted down and the rouble was devalued, the RTS lost 85 percent.

Hamas Fighters 'Using Hezbollah as a Model' | Danger Room from Wired.com

Hamas Fighters 'Using Hezbollah as a Model' | Danger Room from Wired.com: ..."If Israel ground forces were to roll into Gaza, they would face 15,000 fighters who have absorbed the lessons of the Lebanon War, Haaretz claims. 'For two years Hamas, with Iranian assistance, has been working hard on developing its military power, using Hezbollah as a model.'

Hamas' forces reportedly feature:

* A large stockpile of rockets and mortars
* Anti-tank weapons capable of targeting helicopters
* An extensive network of defensive bunkers, tunnels (pictured here) and booby traps

The heart of the force is the 1,000 elite Iz al-Din troops who 'undergo rigorous military training as well as participating in ideological classes held in mosques.'

They undergo urban warfare training, including exercises simulating an assault on a settlement complete with covering machine-gun fire and antitank fire prior to the assault. Some of the instructors were trained in Iran and Lebanon.

Haaretz does not doubt Israel's ability to retake Gaza. 'Israeli reservations about a broad military operation, therefore, are mainly linked to the question of what happens afterward.'"

[bth: so what is the end game? If Hamas refuses to negotiate while being bombed and Israel is running out of targets to bomb from the air? Then what? Lebanon 2006 redux?]

24/7 Wall St.: China's Canary In A Coal Mine: Shanghai Index Down 65%

24/7 Wall St.: China's Canary In A Coal Mine: Shanghai Index Down 65%: "he Shanghai Composite, which measures the combined share value of most of the large public companies in China, fell 65% this year. Among the major US indices, the sharpest drop was the 39% plunge in the Nasdaq. The Dow Jones Financial Index, which should have done as badly as any stock measurement in the world, was off 55%.

One of the most popular adages on Wall St. is that stock markets trade based on what investors think will happen to the economy and corporate earnings during the next six months. If that is true, the movement in the Shanghai Composite is ominous. It has dropped 20% in the last 90 days. Over that period, the DJIA is down only 12%."...

Robots: Unreal Snooping Bot Can Grow from 25 Inches to 20 Feet

Robots: Unreal Snooping Bot Can Grow from 25 Inches to 20 Feet
Geosystems Situational Awareness Mast (aka Zippermast) from Travis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza death toll from Israeli offensive exceeds 375, Medical Supplies, December 30 2008 - Truveo Video Search

Gaza death toll from Israeli offensive exceeds 375, Medical Supplies, December 30 2008 - Truveo Video Search

YouTube - More civilian casualties in Gaza amid raids - 30 Dec 08

YouTube - More civilian casualties in Gaza amid raids - 30 Dec 08

Iranian students break into UK Embassy residence

Iranian students break into UK Embassy residence: "TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's official news agency says dozens of hardline students have broken into the British Embassy residence in Tehran.

The IRNA agency says the students accuse Britain of supporting Israel's air assault on the Gaza Strip.

According to the agency, the students stormed the compound Tuesday evening and pulled down the British flag.

IRNA says the students then hoisted a Palestinian flag at compound's entrance before police forced them to leave.

The news agency says the break-in lasted about an hour and that the area is now calm. No injuries were reported.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called for an immediate cease-fire by both Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza."

[bth: when you see something like this you wonder how realistic it is for the US to open an embassy back up in Iran.]

Monday, December 29, 2008

A hundred eyes for an eye

Media Channel - Home: "Israelis and Arabs “feel that only force can assure justice,” I. F. Stone noted soon after the Six Day War in 1967. And he wrote: “A certain moral imbecility marks all ethnocentric movements. The Others are always either less than human, and thus their interests may be ignored, or more than human and therefore so dangerous that it is right to destroy them.”

The closing days of 2008 have heightened the Israeli government’s stature as a mighty practitioner of the moral imbecility that Stone described.

Israel’s airstrikes “have killed at least 270 people so far, injured more than 1,000, many of them seriously, and many remain buried under the rubble so the death toll will likely rise,” Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out on Sunday (Dec. 28), two days into Israel’s attack. “This catastrophic impact was known and inevitable, and far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians.” She mentioned that “the one Israeli killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Saturday after the Israeli assault began was the first such casualty in more than a year.”...

[bth: an article worth reading in full]
Media Channel - Home: "By MediaChannel."

TV News Winds Down Iraq Operations - NYTimes.com

TV News Winds Down Iraq Operations - NYTimes.com: "Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America’s three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq."

“The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it,” said Jane Arraf, a former Baghdad bureau chief for CNN who has remained in Iraq as a contract reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.

Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces.

Except, of course, in Afghanistan, where about 30,000 Americans are stationed, and where until recently no American television network, broadcast or cable, maintained a full-time bureau.

At the same time that news organizations are trimming in Iraq, the television networks are trying to add newspeople in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with expectations that the Obama administration will focus on the conflict there. ...

[bth: out of sight out of mind. One wonders why coverage has effectively ended if in fact Iraq were ever a matter of existential national interest for the U.S. If Iraq isn't worth news coverage, how can it be worth American lives?]

Taliban Hit Pakistan Town That Fought Back - NYTimes.com

Taliban Hit Pakistan Town That Fought Back - NYTimes.com: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Four months ago, the people of the Pakistani mountain village of Shalbandi gained national repute after a village posse hunted down and killed six Taliban fighters who had tied up and killed eight local policemen. The posse displayed the Taliban corpses like trophies for other residents to see, and the village was celebrated as a courageous sign that the Taliban could be repelled."

On Sunday morning, the Taliban struck back.

A suicide car bomber set off an explosion at a school in Shalbandi that was serving as a polling place, as voters lined up to elect a representative to the National Assembly. More than 30 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, according to local political and security officials. Children and several policemen were among the dead.

The attack was the latest demonstration of the Taliban’s bloody encroachment eastward and deeper into Pakistan from the lawless tribal areas on the western border. Shalbandi is less than 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, the capital, and lies just south of the lush Swat Valley, a onetime ski resort known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan” that has been largely taken over by the Taliban despite large-scale army operations.

In the frenzied aftermath of the car bombing, survivors and witnesses offered conflicting accounts of the attack, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for the North-West Frontier Province, where Shalbandi is located.

In one version, he said, the bomber sped his car toward the school but plowed into adjacent shops. The explosion was so large that it destroyed part of the school and killed many people waiting to vote. In the other version, he said, the killer parked near the school and told people he was having car trouble. As people gathered, he detonated the bomb inside.

“He pretended his car was not working, then he asked for help, people came and tried to push it, and then it blew up,” Mr. Hussain said. It was not clear which account was more accurate.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack as retribution for the deaths of six fighters, according to a Pakistani news channel.

The Pakistani military claimed over the weekend that it had killed 34 militants in Swat, just north of Buner, the district that includes Shalbandi. But the choice of Shalbandi for the attack left little doubt which six deaths the Taliban had sought to avenge.

“They singled out this village because it had clearly resisted and had expelled the Taliban by force,” said Afrasiab Khattak, head of the Awami National Party in the province, which now leads the provincial government after defeating incumbent religious parties with ties to militants in February elections.

Shalbandi had received constant threats after the posse hunted down the Taliban fighters. “Disrupting elections is a general strategy for these elements,” Mr. Khattak said.

The bombing on Sunday was not the first act of retaliation. The son of a village elder who had been a leader of the August posse was recently kidnapped by militants in Swat, Mr. Hussain, the provincial information minister, said. The elder responded by kidnapping the son of a well-known Taliban spokesman in Swat.

“These people cannot frighten us,” said Mr. Hussain, who added that voting for the legislative seat continued Sunday at other polling places. “We are ready for a dialogue, but if they continue with the violence, we will take strong action against them, even at the cost of our lives.”

[bth: I guess the question is whether terror will win out or not in Pakistan at the village level.]