Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bird Raptor Internacional - Bird Strike Avoidance Systems

Bird Raptor Internacional - Bird Strike Avoidance Systems

Falco Robot GBRS from Scarfio on Vimeo.

52 Taliban killed in Khyber operation

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - 52 Taliban killed in Khyber operation
BARA/JAMRUD: Army helicopter gunships killed 52 Taliban when they targeted hideouts in Chapri and Feroz Khel areas along the border of Orakzai and Khyber Agencies on Friday.

“Fifty-two militants were killed and a huge ammunition depot and eight vehicles were destroyed in an attack by army helicopters,” Khyber Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat told Reuters.

Separately, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a trailer carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan and injured seven people in Tedi Bazaar area of Jamrud tehsil. Eyewitnesses told Daily Times the bomber was heading for Landikotal when Khasadars signalled him to stop. They said that he rammed his car into the trailer instead of stopping.

Fida Bangash, a senior political administration official said the bomber’s likely target were the army engineers repairing a bridge in Landikotal that was blown up on February 2. Following the attack, security forces cordoned off the area and rushed the injured to Peshawar.

Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar claimed responsibility for the attack. “It was our man who martyred himself in Jamrud,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP. “We warned the government to stop military operations in Khyber, Swat and other tribal areas, otherwise we will completely shut down the NATO supply line,” he said, adding, “We have shown that we can do that.”

Earlier, on Thursday night, another suicide bomber rammed a car bomb into a police station in Mingora, injuring 11 security personnel. qazi rauf and sajid ali/agencies

Saudi suspects seeking to revive al-Qaida

Saudi suspects seeking to revive al-Qaida: "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — One of the men on the Saudi Arabia's new most-wanted list is married to Osama bin Laden's daughter while another was involved in a plot to kill the U.S. ambassador in Yemen. A third smuggled militants into Iraq from Syria.

Documents profiling the 85 wanted men _ 83 Saudis and two Yemenis _ reveal that many of them either took part in planning attacks targeting oil, security and other installations in the kingdom or provided al-Qaida members with weapons, safe haven, false documents and money.

The documents illuminate the extent of Saudi participation in the shadowy extremist networks struggling to rebuild in the Arabian peninsula after a series of harsh crackdowns in past years. All the men on the list are hiding abroad, many in neighboring Yemen."...

Saudi Arabia issued the list on Monday and sought Interpol's help in arresting the men. They include 11 who have been released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and have attended the kingdom's touted extremist rehabilitation program. Among them were two Saudis who have emerged as the new leaders of Yemen's branch of al-Qaida.

Documents were available for six of those men, all of whom left Saudi Arabia in 2000 before eventually making their way to Afghanistan where they were captured and then taken Guantanamo. After being released to the Saudis and going through rehabilitation, the men slipped across the border into Yemen.

Another man on the list, Mohammed Aboul-Kheir, 34, is married to the daughter of al-Qaida leader bin Laden and worked as his bodyguard. He had links to Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five co-defendants facing murder and war crimes charges for alleged roles in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The documents put his whereabouts in either Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran....

[bth: Hello CIA? 4 in 10 of our anti-terrorism agents are in the UK. How about taking a look in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan?]

CIA warns Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US - Telegraph

CIA warns Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US - Telegraph:... "A British intelligence source revealed that a staggering four out of 10 CIA operations designed to thwart direct attacks on the US are now conducted against targets in Britain."....

[bth: what of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?]

China suffering worst drought in 50 years -

China suffering worst drought in 50 years - "China is suffering another natural disaster -- this time, the worst drought in half a century. The land is parched and the irrigation dams have dried up. Crops and livestock are dying."...

Shipping Digest Online

Shipping Digest Online: "The number of laid-up container ships reached 255 vessels by mid-January as the global economic downturn forces carriers to continue to retrench. The idle ships have a capacity of 675,000 TEUs. That represents 5.5 percent of the world container shipping fleet by capacity, according to AXS-Alphaliner, a Paris-based consultant....

The situation will only get worse for the carriers as deliveries of new ships will swell the world fleet about 14 percent this year, Alphaliner said."

Japanese output falls at record pace, worst may be still ahead - MarketWatch

Japanese output falls at record pace, worst may be still ahead - MarketWatch: "HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Japan's industrial output slumped by a record margin in December, indicating companies are likely to idle more production lines and unveil additional lay-offs, setting the stage for what may likely be the harshest recession since the end of World War II."...

South Korean Exports Fall by Record, China Manufacturing Slumps Economy: "Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- South Korean exports tumbled by a record in January and Chinese manufacturing contracted as the global recession sent growth sliding in export-driven economies across Asia.

South Korea’s shipments fell 32.8 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said. Manufacturing in China shrank for a sixth month, the CLSA China Purchasing Managers’ Index showed.

Plunging export demand is dragging down economies across Asia and the Pacific, where Japan and Hong Kong are already in recessions and Taiwan, South Korea and Australia are getting closer. South Korean steelmaker Posco will extend production cuts and Rio Tinto Group, the biggest iron-ore miner in Australia, may sell shares to raise cash after commodity prices plummeted.

“Things are getting worse as the global recession spills over to China and other emerging economies,” said Lee Sang Jae, an economist at Hyundai Securities Co. in Seoul.

Japan’s factory output slumped by a record in December from November, the government said last week, and Australia’s manufacturing contracted for an eighth month in January, a report showed today. Australia faces a “collapse in government revenues,” according to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, as the global and domestic economies slow."...

[bth: big time problems ahead]
Think Progress » Home Page

US Attorney probed RNC chairman for financial fraud

The Raw Story | US Attorney probed RNC chairman for financial fraud
A US Attorney's office "erroneously" sent a confidential court document to The Washington Post after the Post requested a different file, exposing that the newly-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee had his 2006 Senate campaign pay his sister's defunct company for services that were potentially never performed -- including $37,000 for "catering/web services" paid to her company 11 months after she filed to have it dissolved.

Federal agents have contacted Steele's sister, the chairman's spokesman told the paper. Former Steele campaign finance director Alan Fabian offered the information to the US Attorney's office as part of attempt to seek leniency for himself in another case.

"It is unclear how extensively his claims have been pursued. Prosecutors gave him no credit for cooperation when he was sentenced in October," the Post said....

[bth: no account]

KBR wins contract despite criminal probe of deaths - Yahoo! News

KBR wins contract despite criminal probe of deaths - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON – Defense contractor KBR Inc. has been awarded a $35 million Pentagon contract involving major electrical work, even as it is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The announcement of the new KBR contract came just months after the Pentagon, in strongly worded correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, rejected the company's explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements. A senior Pentagon official, David J. Graff, cited the company's 'continuing quality deficiencies' and said KBR executives were 'not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground.'"....

[bth: simply no accountability.]

US military pieces together Afghan supply chain

The Raw Story | US military pieces together Afghan supply chain: "Threatened with the loss of a key air base, the US military is making plans to move material and fuel to US forces in Afghanistan through a network of commercial links through Russia and Central Asia, a military spokesman said Friday.

Adding urgency to the planning is a looming military build-up in Afghanistan that will nearly double the size of the US force and dramatically expand the demand for all kinds of supplies.

Insurgents, meanwhile, have been attacking overland supply lines into eastern Afghanistan through Pakistan, intermittently closing a pass through which 80 percent of US military supplies enter the country.

On top of that, Kyrgyzstan announced this week that it will close access to a vital US-leased air base through which 15,000 troops and 500 tonnes of supplies pass through every month."...

The troops that went through Manas will likely be re-routed through southwest Asia, which could put an added burden on US air bases in the Gulf region, he said.

Armored vehicles and other heavy military equipment is already flown into the country, and planners are looking at the impact on the supply chain of equipping the enlarged force.

[bth: this fundamentally is why we need a lighter footprint - special forces, etc.. Also we need to look at consuming and purchasing more indigenous materials such as food like wheat (which might offset the surge to grow poppies), water (there is no reason to be importing this), and even tapping local fuel sources for non-combat equipment. ... also note the severe difficulties now airlifting heavy equipment and vehicles that were moving through Pakistan.]

Clinton concerned Pakistan nuclear scientist freed

The Raw Story | Clinton concerned Pakistan nuclear scientist freed: "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday voiced concern about a Pakistani court's decision to free Abdul Qadeer Khan, who operated an alleged nuclear proliferation network.

'I am very much concerned and will have more to say about that,' Clinton said when asked for reaction during a brief appearance before the news media with visiting Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman, told reporters earlier that 'it would be unfortunate if the court released him,' citing the 'serious proliferation risk' that he represents.

'The proliferation support that Khan and his associates provided to Iran and North Korea has had a harmful impact on ... international security and will for years to come,' Duguid said."...

[bth: ally? Is there no one to rid us of this meddlesome scientist?]

The Associated Press: Army looking for new ways to curb suicide rate

The Associated Press: Army looking for new ways to curb suicide rate: ..."According to figures obtained by The Associated Press, there were seven confirmed suicides last month, compared with five a year earlier. An additional 17 cases from January are under investigation.

Army Secretary Pete Geren acknowledged last week that officials have been stumped by the spiraling number of cases.

Dempsey said the issue was vital to an Army that has been at war for seven years and may well be at war for several more"...

[bth: Stumped? Here's a clue - 15 month tours, little R&R times 3 tours. Stumped.]

Friday, February 06, 2009

Venezuela behind on payments to oil contractors

Venezuela behind on payments to oil contractors - Yahoo! News
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's state oil company is behind on billions in payments to private oil contractors from Oklahoma to Belarus, some of which have now stopped work, even as President Hugo Chavez funnels more oil revenue to social programs.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, says unpaid invoices jumped 39 percent in the first nine months of last year — reaching $7.86 billion in September. And that was when world oil was selling for $100 a barrel.

With prices plummeting by more than half, PDVSA is trying to renegotiate some contracts. But analysts say hardball tactics to reduce charges from crucial service providers could backfire by lowering Venezuela's oil output. And foreign debt markets are reflecting jitters about Venezuela's finances.

Oil accounts for 94 percent of Venezuela's exports and funds nearly half the socialist government's budget, and Chavez uses it to bankroll an international aid bonanza, showering allies with cheap fuel, refining projects and cash donations....

[bth: something to watch.  Also the election results in Feb. 14]

Oil prices sink under $40 after poor US data

Oil prices sink under $40 after poor US data
Oil prices plunged below 40 dollars a barrel in New York on Friday, as grim unemployment data stoked concerns about weak energy demand in key consumer the United States, traders said.

New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, fell as low as 38.60 dollars per barrel. It later stood at 39.54, down 1.63 dollars from the close on Thursday.

Brent North Sea crude for March dropped 1.23 dollars to 45.23 dollars a barrel in London.

The US unemployment rate surged in January to 7.6 percent, the highest since 1992, as 598,000 jobs were cut, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The number of job losses for the recession-hobbled economy was the worst since 1974, according to the monthly Labor Department report on nonfarm payrolls, seen as one of the best indicators of economic momentum.

The oil market has been hit this week by mounting concern that the US -- the world's biggest energy consuming nation -- will slash its energy demand to cope with a dramatic downturn, according to analysts.

Official data showed Thursday that initial claims for US unemployment benefits surged to 626,000 last week, the highest level since October 1982, heightening fears about the length of an economic slump.

"Crude oil fell on concern that fuel demand in the US... may decline, as a report showed the number of newly jobless climbed to a 26-year high," said BetOnMarkets analyst Dave Evans...

[bth: so what are the consequences of this to Russia, Iran and Venezuela.  Three big mouth countries full of hate toward the US.  $40 bbl. means mullahs can't afford to stuff as much into their private Swiss accounts and Putin can't park as much their either.  As the Venezuela?  Well. We'll see.]

Iran: US must rethink policies for reconciliation

Iran: US must rethink policies for reconciliation
MUNICH (AP) - Iran sternly dismissed decades of U.S. policies targeting Tehran and declared Friday that the new American administration had to admit past wrongs before it could hope for reconciliation.

The comments by Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at an international security conference in Munich appeared to be the most detailed outline yet of Tehran's expectations from President Barack Obama's administration.

"The old carrot and stick policy must be discarded," he said, alluding to Western threats and offers of rewards to coax Iran to give up nuclear activities the West views as threatening. "This is a golden opportunity for the United States."...

He condemned Washington's backing for
Iraq in its 1980s war against Iran and its support of Israel. Larijani
said those policies and others in the region failed in their declared
purpose of rooting out terrorism and finding hidden weapons of mass

On the nuclear standoff, he said, Washington "has
tried to sabotage any diplomatic solution." Without U.S. acknowledgment
of failure and wrongdoing, "do you expect this pain to go away?" he

[bth: 30 year anniversary.  Big talk in public.  What is happening in private?]

Russia rattles sabres in Obama’s direction / Europe - Russia rattles sabres in Obama’s direction
...First, they leaked details of naval and air bases to be established on the shores of the Black Sea in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, whose independence is recognised by Moscow alone. Then they signed an air defence treaty with the former Soviet republic of Belarus, apparently paving the way for an anti-missile defence system to counter one planned by the previous US administration across the border in Poland. Moscow appears to have persuaded the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan to oust the US from its air base at Manas, outside Bishkek, in exchange for $2bn (€1.6bn, £1.4bn) in loans, and $150m in financial aid.

Russia and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – the so-called Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – have agreed to form a “rapid reaction force” which is intended to be just as good as the equivalent force operated by the Nato alliance, according to President Medvedev.

Outside analysts are sceptical whether any of these moves amounts to a particularly effective military gesture but they are certainly intended to suggest that Russia is not rushing to embrace the new US administration.

The air defence deal with Belarus is on a par with Mr Medvedev’s announcement, on the day Mr Obama was elected, that Russian Iskander missiles would be sited in the Kaliningrad enclave to counter the US missile defence system. It appears to negate a subsequent conciliatory gesture from Moscow, saying those missiles would not be deployed if the US also held back.

As for the Abkhaz naval base, it may be intended as an insurance policy for the day when, or if, Russia is forced to vacate the existing base for its Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol in the Crimea, which is leased from Ukraine until 2017. Oksana Antonenko, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, believes all the actions are part of a pattern, intended to provoke a US reaction, and give Russia more bargaining chips in negotiating a new relationship with Washington. “In Russia there has never been any euphoria about Obama as there has been in the rest of Europe,” she says. “Russia is still very mistrustful of the US, and Putin profoundly so.

“But there is an overwhelming view in Moscow now that the Americans are in decline and will be forced to negotiate with Russia from a position of weakness. They seem to expect all the concessions to come from Obama. It is very unrealistic.”...

[bth: Moscow can certainly make us miserable but $40 bbl can wad their underwear too.]

High stakes for Obama at weekend security conference - International Herald Tribune

High stakes for Obama at weekend security conference - International Herald Tribune: ..."Administration officials have concluded that Russia pressed Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, to close the American base in that country, which they interpret as a shot across the bow. The base is crucial to the American-led fight in Afghanistan that Obama has identified as his central national security objective. Obama plans to deploy as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next two years; shaky overland supply routes through Pakistan would make it difficult for the United States to adjust to the loss of the base, in Manas, Kyrgyzstan."...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Kyrgyzstan Starts Moves to Close U.S. Airbase

"BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyzstan began moves on Wednesday to close a U.S. military air base in the former Soviet republic that is vital for supplying U.S.-led troops fighting in Afghanistan.

The decision by a traditional Russian ally in Central Asia sends a tough signal and challenge to new U.S. President Barack Obama as he plans to send additional troops to Afghanistan."

The base is an important staging post for the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban and its role has been heightened as Washington seeks to reinforce supply routes that bypass Pakistan, where supply convoys face security risks.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced that the base would be shut after securing Russian financial aid at talks on Tuesday in Moscow, which wants to reduce U.S. influence in regions it considers part of its traditional sphere of interest.

The Kyrgyz government sent parliament a decree on closing the base on Wednesday, government spokesman Aibek Sultangaziyev said in the capital Bishkek.

"It is up to parliament now to decide when to hold discussions on this," he said.

U.S. officials said talks on the future of the airbase near Bishkek were still underway with Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country of about 6 million people.

"We have been discussing the base with Kyrgyz authorities for some time now. We hope those discussions will continue to the point where we reach some mutually beneficial outcome," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Moscow, which operates its own airbase in Kyrgyzstan a few dozen kilometers away from Manas, has long been irritated by the presence of U.S. troops.

During his visit to Moscow, Bakiyev received a promise of more than $2 billion in credit and aid from Russia — the equivalent of about half of impoverished Kyrgyzstan's gross domestic product — to combat an economic crisis....

[bth: this is a shakedown and negotiation to hose the US.]

Pakistan: 10 trucks torched along US supply line

Pakistan: 10 trucks torched along US supply line: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan รข€” Assailants torched 10 trucks stranded in Pakistan by the bombing of a key bridge on the main supply route for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.Increasing attacks on transport depots and truck convoys heading to bases across the border have raised doubts about Pakistan's ability to protect the vital road as the U.S. prepares to send as many as 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year."...

[bth: this is why a large increase in conventional forces is problematic]

Secret report recommends military shift in Afghanistan - Deep Background -

Secret report recommends military shift in Afghanistan - Deep Background - "The Pentagon is prepared to announce the deployment of 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan as early as this week even as President Barack Obama is searching for his own strategy for the war. According to military officials during last week's meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon's 'tank,' the president specifically asked, 'What is the end game?' in the U.S. military's strategy for Afghanistan. When asked what the answer was, one military official told NBC News, 'Frankly, we don't have one.' But they're working on it.

Senior military officials confirm to NBC News that a secret report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Obama recommends a shift in the military mission in Afghanistan to concentrate solely on combatting the Taliban and al-Qaida and leave the 'hearts and minds' aspect of the war to other U.S. agencies and NATO.

The officials stress this strategy would NOT abandon the so-called 'soft-side' of the war, to establish good governance, law enforcement, economics, education, etc., but instead hand those responsbilitities over to the State Justice, Agriculture departments and others. 'This is a classic counnterinsurgency strategy, but the military can not do it alone.'"....

[bth: hard to imagine that after 8 years of being in Afghanistan our military leadership says there is no end game or comprehensive plan. While our troops have done admirable work, our leadership has been all but nonexistent even gutless.]

Iraqi woman had 80 women raped to recruit suicide bombers | Herald Sun

Iraqi woman had 80 women raped to recruit suicide bombers | Herald Sun: "A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.

Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.

In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets."...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Marines; New Ride Rolls Out Years Late

Marines' New Ride Rolls Out Years Late -

Today, instead of one vehicle that could serve both functions, there
are two -- one for reconnaissance and a shorter version that tows the
mortar and ammunition trailer -- built by the same company.

The first Growlers in the mortar program -- officially called internally transportable vehicles, or ITVs -- have been deployed to

Marine units, but with limited combat capabilities. Because of their
light armor and ammunition safety problems, "you can't run it up the
highway in an urban area such as Iraq," said John Garner, the Marines'
program manager for the vehicle. "But it could accompany foot-mobile
Marine infantry in a not-built-up area such as Afghanistan," he added.

The inspector general report said that the average cost of a single Growler has risen 120 percent, from about $94,000 when the contract was awarded in 2004 to $209,000 in 2008. The unit cost for the vehicle with mortar and ammunition trailer has grown 86 percent,

[bth: read the full article and vomit. This is a total shitbox of a vehicle.  ABC Detroit has been doing investigative reporting on it including getting a reporter into the plant and getting the plant manager to brag about how the company's retired colonel had gotten his friend who was in charge of procurement to sling the contract. This vehicle is so bad it couldn't under current rules of engagement leave a base in Iraq. It was built to suit an Osprey which is a failed program in its own right. They've taken a vehicle that south american companies can by for less than $50k and make it cost almost as much as a full up armored humvee. This is a fucking crime again the taxpayer and the marines that will get shot in this bucket of bolts.]

Waste, Fraud In Iraq Being Repeated In Afghanistan

Waste, Fraud In Iraq Being Repeated In Afghanistan: ..."The U.S. has devoted more than $30 billion to rebuilding Afghanistan. Yet despite the hard lessons learned in Iraq, where the U.S. has spent nearly $51 billion on reconstruction, the effort in Afghanistan is headed down the same path, the watchdogs told a new panel investigating wartime contracts.

'Before we go pouring more money in, we really need to know what we're trying to accomplish (in Afghanistan),' said Ginger Cruz, deputy special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. 'And at what point do you turn off the spigot so you're not pouring money into a black hole?'"...

[bth: we rebuilt Europe after WWII for less in inflation adjusted terms]

Generals Seek To Reverse Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Decision

Generals Seek To Reverse Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Decision: ...."Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, 'Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama.'"...

Keane, who had certainly been briefed by Petraeus on the outcome of the Oval Office meeting, argued that implementing such a withdrawal of combat troops would "increase the risk rather dramatically over the 16 months". He asserted that it would jeopardise the "stable political situation in Iraq" and called that risk "not acceptable".

The assertion that Obama's withdrawal policy threatens the gains allegedly won by the Bush surge and Petraeus's strategy in Iraq will apparently be the theme of the campaign that military opponents are now planning.

Keane, the Army Vice-Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2003, has ties to a network of active and retired four-star Army generals, and since Obama's Jan. 21 order on the 16-month withdrawal plan, some of the retired four-star generals in that network have begun discussing a campaign to blame Obama's troop withdrawal from Iraq for the ultimate collapse of the political "stability" that they expect to follow U.S. withdrawal, according to a military source familiar with the network's plans.

The source says the network, which includes senior active duty officers in the Pentagon, will begin making the argument to journalists covering the Pentagon that Obama's withdrawal policy risks an eventual collapse in Iraq. That would raise the political cost to Obama of sticking to his withdrawal policy.

If Obama does not change the policy, according to the source, they hope to have planted the seeds of a future political narrative blaming his withdrawal policy for the "collapse" they expect in an Iraq without U.S. troops....

[bth: Petraeus hopes to be president one day. Instead of supporting the president and the people who voted him in, Keane, Odierno, Petraeus are trying to game the system. If Iraq has problems it will be Obama's fault according to their narrative. I'm beginning to think keeping Gates wasn't a good idea]

Taliban Hits NATO Supply Route

Taliban Hits NATO Supply Route -

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Supplies intended for NATO forces in Afghanistan were suspended Tuesday after Taliban militants blew up a highway bridge in the Khyber Pass region, a lawless northwestern tribal area straddling the border with Afghanistan.

Hidayatullah Khan, a government official in the region, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the 30-yard-long iron bridge was located 15 miles northwest of Peshawar, the capital of the restive North-West Frontier Province.

Pakistani officials said they were assessing the damage and teams had been sent to repair the bridge. But it was not immediately clear how soon the trucks carrying crucial supplies for NATO forces would be able to travel through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan.

More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and coalition forces in Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. Attacks aimed at choking the supply lines have become increasingly frequent and brazen, despite the presence of Pakistani security forces in the area.

Previously, the militants attacked convoys of cargo trucks with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. Consequently, most truck drivers refused to make the trips as they became more dangerous.

In December, attacks by Taliban militants on NATO supply depots in Peshawar destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvee military vehicles.

The increasing vulnerability of the supply line passing through the border areas of Pakistan has forced United States and NATO to find new supply routes through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan

[bth: stupid question but wouldn't we be better off increasing CIA, special forces, expanding the Afghan police and army and pouring billions into economic development in Afghanistan instead of increasing conventional forces which cannot be logistically supported without being held up or blackmailed by Pakistani, Taligan or Russian players?]

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rep. Frank: Iraq will be largest spending bill in history

The Raw Story | Rep. Frank: Iraq will be largest spending bill in history: ..."'And I don't understand why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping somebody get health care, that's wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over $1 trillion before we're through--yes, I wish we hadn't have done that. We'd have been in a lot better shape fiscally.'

'The problem,' Frank went on, 'is that we look at spending and say, 'Oh, don't spend on highways. Don't spend on health care. But let's build Cold War weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don't need them. Let's have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check.''"....

Rob Crilly: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed: Somalia Elects Man Demonized By The West

Rob Crilly: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed: Somalia Elects Man Demonized By The West: "unny how things work out. Two years ago Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was on the run from an Ethiopian assault that had snatched Mogadishu from the Islamists who ran the city peacefully for six months. America had given its tacit support to the strike, fearing that Somalia was about to become a haven for al Qaeda. Sheikh Sharif was a wanted man."...

If there's one thing I've learned about Somalia in four years of reporting (aside from the fact that anyone who tells you they know what they are talking about is a fool) is that nothing will work unless it comes from Somalia itself. The British diplomats haven't learned that lesson, trying to dabble in Somalia's political process to promote their man (he has a Brit passport too) at the expense of Islamists.

Somalis generally throw in their lot with whoever looks like winning. Analysts tell me al Shabaab's strength is overestimated. So if Sheikh Sharif can hold on to a fractious bunch of MPs, start to bring order to Mogadishu as he did once before, clans will start coming in behind him. They have a well-attuned radar for knowing which side their bread is buttered. For now, at least, one of the men demonised by the West is Somalia's best chance of peace.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

M of A - The "Iranian" Weapon Ships

M of A - The "Iranian" Weapon Ships: ..."So let us summarize:

One Iranian ship with a humanitarian load was not allowed to land that load in Gaza or Egypt and therefore carried it to Beirut. Good food for poor Shiites in South-Lebanon I guess.

A Russian ship under Cyprus flag and on the way from Iran to Syria was held up and searched by the U.S. Navy, with permission from the master. The U.S. Navy did not find anything that would have allowed it to act under UN Resolution 1747 but escorted the ship to Cyprus for whatever.

The Russians say the ship carries only legitimate load.

All reports about anything more than a few small weapons on that ship are solely based on Israeli reports based on dubious sources.

There is a quite extensive effort by the Israeli disinformation circles to fudge these issue and to thereby make Iran look bad."

[bth: worth reading to dissect a disinformation program between Aviation Week, Jerusalem Post and DEBKA.]

Foreign Policy - Inside an Afghan battle gone wrong: What happened at Wanat? (I)

What really happened on July 13th when Taliban fighters attacked an outpost in eastern Afghanistan being established by U.S. Army soldiers - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

Wed, 01/28/2009 - 4:56pm

Just before dawn last July 13, Taliban fighters attacked an outpost in eastern Afghanistan being established by U.S. Army soldiers and fought a short, sharp battle that left many American dead -- and many questions. But the U.S. military establishment, I've found after reviewing the Army investigation, dozens of statements given by soldiers to investigators, and interviews with knowledgeable sources, simply has not wanted to confront some bad mistakes on this obscure Afghan battlefield -- especially tragic because, as the interviews make clear, some of the doomed soldiers knew they were headed for potential disaster.

First, here's my account of what happened that day, drawn from the official investigation and other sources:

The 45 Americans, mainly from 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, had begun building a patrol base in the Waygul River valley village of Wanat on July 8. There also were three Marines present, who were training Afghans, and 24 soldiers from the Afghan army. (The initial Army report said two Marines, but subsequent documents corrected this.) The platoon's leader was there the whole time, but the company commander was busy elsewhere and only arrived the day before the attack. None of their superiors visited the outpost during that time. Significantly, there was no overhead surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles because of bad weather, according to Army documents.

At 4:20 a.m., just before sunrise, volleys of rocket-propelled grenades began to hit the base. There were approximately 200 attackers, according to the Army investigation. They began by concentrating on the American's heavy weapons -- a 120 millimeter mortar, a TOW missile system, and a .50 caliber machine gun. It felt like "about a thousand RPGs at once," Spec. Tyler Hanson later told an Army interviewer. With the first two heavy weapons knocked out, the Taliban moved in to fight just feet away from the Americans, making it difficult to call in air strikes against them. Enemy fighters threw rocks into their Americans' fighting holes, apparently hoping they soldiers would mistake them for grenades and jump out, exposing themselves to fire. Enemy fire was coming from every direction. "The whole time we were thinking we were going to die," said Spec. Chris McKaig.

Many did. When most of the fighting was over, about an hour later, nine American soldiers were dead and another 27 were wounded. Between 21 and 52 of the attackers were killed. The Americans held the outpost, which is impressive, considering their 75 percent casualty rate.

Those are the facts of the matter. They are not in dispute, except for the size of the Taliban force, which one account claims is smaller than the Army's estimate of 200. You can read a redacted version of the Army's 15-6 investigation at the "Wanat" page on Wikipedia. Also, here is a Army Times' outstanding view of the battleground.

It is an interesting case to study especially because of the discrepancy between what is known about the incident and what has been learned from it. In other words, the facts gathered by Col. Mark Johnstone in the Army investigation are compelling, but the conclusions drawn from those facts are not. Rather, the Army appears determined to shy away from the lessons indicated by those facts. Here is what the Army concluded -- basically that we did OK, we should have had a Predator overhead, and that we shouldn't have trusted those lousy Afghans. And then let's talk about how brave our soldiers were:

The soldiers did fight valiantly at Wanat. I am in awe of them. As one reported to the Army investigator, "I continued to lay suppressive fire with the 240 [machine gun] but it was difficult because I was unable to stand due to wounds in both legs and my left arm." When this soldier ran out of ammunition he realized that he was the only one left alive in his corner of the outpost, with the enemy so close he could hear them talking.

It takes nothing away from the soldiers to say that there are other lessons to be learned here. "You go through the 15-6 and your heart sinks, as you see all this," said one person who has reviewed most of the data gathered on the battle.

Indeed, one way to honor them would be to look at what might have been done better to help them. But the Army seems positively determined not to study the Wanat incident. A few weeks ago, two interviews about the battle were posted on Fort Leavenworth's very good series of Operational Leadership Interviews -- but then were removed.

Screwups are inevitable in war. But there are serious questions to be addressed here -- and I hope to do so over the next few days on this blog, drawing on the investigation itself and other sources who have raised concerns with me about the painful, and so far unlearned, lessons of the battle. As one Army source put it to me, "The paratroopers sent to Wanat knew they were in big trouble. Although the battalion HQ was only 7km away, these guys lacked class 4 [construction and fortification materials], ran out of water and had little material to build up their defensive positions." Indeed, some of the statements made by those who fought raise the question of whether their concerns are being heard by their superiors.

Before leading the Wanat mission, Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, who died during the fight, told his best friend in the battalion that "he thought it was a bad idea and knew he was going to get 'fucked up,'" according to that friend's sworn statement.

Taking corrective steps is, of course, what the chain of command should be doing, but doesn't appear to have done. "I would not characterize this as anything more than the standard fighting that happens in this area in good weather that the summer provides," Col. Charles Preysler, commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, told Stars & Stripes about a week after the battle. In other words, nothing to see here, move on.

If the brigade commander and others in the chain of command don't want to think about the lessons to be learned here, then perhaps the Army Inspector General should-a good IG is more about instruction than punishment. Failing that, the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Pete Chiarelli, might direct Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Fort Leavenworth to have some experienced officers aid the Center for Army Lessons Learned in a review. I have heard that a historian at Leavenworth's Combat Studies Institute had been working on a history of the battle, but I've also been told that his study for some reason has been put on hold.

In the next several items, I will discuss specific lessons that might be learned about resources, planning, support and other life-and-death issues.

(Hat tip to Michael Zubrow of CNAS for research aid.)...

[bth: this entire 4 part series is worth reading in full along with the footnotes and attached 15-6.  One realizes that lessons aren't going to be learned by this command.  Even those obtained at such a high price.  If the Lt's dad hadn't been a colonel with evident influence with the Hawaiian senators, one wonders if this wouldn't have been entirely shoved under the rug like other events under these commanders.  Read it in full.  Investigative journalism is a rare thing these days  Ricks deserves credit.  Of special note note that the interviews posted at Leavenworth were pulled as this article came out.]

The lives lost to mistakes - UK Telegraph

The lives lost to mistakes - Telegraph
Marine Christopher Maddison, 24; Trooper David Clarke, 19; Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35; Fusilier Gordon Gentle, 19; Cpl Mark Wright; Privates Aaron McClure, 19, Graham Foster, 19, and John Thrumble, 21; Privates Ben Ford, 18, and Damian Wright, 23

Marine Christopher Maddison, 24; Trooper David Clarke, 19; Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35; Fusilier Gordon Gentle, 19; Cpl Mark Wright; Privates Aaron McClure, 19, Graham Foster, 19, and John Thrumble, 21; Privates Ben Ford, 18, and Damian Wright, 23
Clockwise from top left: Marine Christopher Maddison; Trooper David Clarke; Corporal Stephen Allbutt; Fusilier Gordon Gentle; Cpl Mark Wright; Privates Aaron McClure, Graham Foster, and John Thrumble, Privates Ben Ford and Damian Wright

1. Marine Christopher Maddison, 24, was killed in a friendly fire incident in southern Iraq in March 2003. At an inquest into the commando's death, the corner said Mne Maddison died through "serious failings of the chain of command".

2. Trooper David Clarke, 19 and Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, both killed in a friendly fire incident in March 2003 when their tank was fired on by another. The coroner said the deaths were "completely avoidable".

3. Fusilier Gordon Gentle, 19, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, was killed on 28 June 2004 in Basra when his Snatch Land Rover was destroyed by an improvised explosive device (IED). It later emerged that a vital piece of electronic countermeasures equipment, which may have prevented the attack, was not fitted to the vehicle.

4. Cpl Mark Wright was killed in Helmand, Southern Afghanistan on 6 September 2006, while attempting to rescue colleagues trapped in a minefield. The Oxford coroner said Army chiefs "should hang their heads in shame" after it emerged that a properly equipped helicopter might have saved the soldier's life.

5. Privates Aaron McClure, 19, Graham Foster, 19, and John Thrumble, 21, died in a friendly-fire incident on 23 August 2007 in Helmand, when a bomb was mistakenly dropped on their position. It later emerged that the mistake was made by a British forward air controller who gave the wrong location to a US pilot.

6. Privates Ben Ford, 18, and Damian Wright, 23, and a civilian interpreter, were killed in Helmand on 5 September 2007, when their Snatch Land Rover was destroyed by an IED. The Snatch Land Rover had not been fitted with electronic counter measures equipment.

The lives lost to mistakes - Telegraph

The lives lost to mistakes - Telegraph

All Bleeding Stops Eventually

All Bleeding Stops Eventually
....The tourniquet, surrounded by myth and controversy, has been used since Roman times. It gained a poor reputation during the American Civil War period largely due to misuse and misconception. Today we know that a good tourniquet is rightly viewed as an effective bleeding control device. Early tourniquets, especially those like the improvised cravats-and-stick and the World War II-era strap and buckle, were often ineffective as they did not generate sufficient tension to occlude the arteries running deep in the muscle tissue. Additionally, they were left on for long periods of time — sometimes for days during the Civil War — before more comprehensive medical care was delivered. This lead to the many complications still feared with tourniquet use today.

Research in the past several decades show that tourniquets hold far less risk than previously thought. They do not automatically lead to loss of the extremity as once believed if used as a short-term modality. Evidence of this can be found in the modern operating room, where tourniquets are often employed for periods of up to six hours during various surgical procedures.

Their presence on today's battlefield is almost universal. One example is the Combat Application Tourniquet currently deployed as the U.S. Army's preferred issue. The CAT does an outstanding job of controlling extremity bleeding when properly applied, and its strengths lie in its efficacy, its ability to be applied quickly, and ease of use for one-handed application for self-care. Tourniquets have become so popular in some venues that at least one company is manufacturing clothing with them built-in to the legs and sleeves.

Hemostatic agents
Hemostatic agents are the granules, powders and impregnated dressings created to increase blood clotting and stop serious hemorrhaging more quickly. They have been used in various forms throughout most of the 20th century, from hemostatic glues and patches used in surgery to the more common types used in today's emergency setting.

A great deal of research has been done on their use in trauma, especially in the context of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. A preponderance of this research shows that they all are basically effective in stopping bleeding — with some idiosyncrasies....

[bth: article is worth reading in full if you are interested in the topic.]