Saturday, May 02, 2009
Gates also raised questions about the Marines' new amphibious landing craft because, saying it's unclear how often U.S. forces will need to storm beaches. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) already has cost at least $1.2 billion in research and development.
Gates' action follows his push to accelerate delivery of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq to replace Humvees after generals and members of Congress complained the Humvees provided inadequate protection from bombs planted by insurgents."
Failure to learn lessons about improvised explosive devices — which have accounted for at least half of troop deaths in Iraq and are a growing menace in Afghanistan — doomed the eight types of vehicles included in the Army's Future Combat Systems.
.Gates says the vehicles' flat bottoms that sit 18 inches off the ground in the original design reflected "no lessons learned" from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MRAP, by contrast, has a V-shaped hull that deflects roadside blasts and makes survivability far more likely...
[bth: Gates is absolutely right. It is amazing that the marines and army can't seem to find it within themselves to adjust their doctrine or equipment without outside intervention from Gates or the Congress. "No Lessons Learned" has it just about right.]
Sales for the year to date were down 45 percent to 585,910 compared with the first four months of 2008.
GM’s total truck and sport utility vehicle sales of 102,032 were down 28 percent and car sales of 71,775 were off 41 percent compared with a year ago."
[bth: 45% decline year to year?! Definitely bankruptcy]
zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Strangling OSINT, Weakening Defense, Censoring Criticism: The Pentagon
Sadly, no. DOD is doing it. Someone in DOD is putting blinders on American troops."
I do not know who is behind this particular bit of idiocy. It may be the security trolls. They always like to restrict access to information, because doing so increases their bureaucratic power. One argument points to them, namely an assertion that the other side may obtain useful information by seeing what we are looking for. That is like arguing that our troops should be given no ammunition lest muzzle flashes give away their positions in a fire-fight.
But the fact that websites of American organizations whose views differ from DOD’s are also blocked points elsewhere. It suggests political involvement. Why, for example, is access to the website of the Center for Defense Information blocked? CDI is located in Washington, not the Hindu Kush. Its work includes the new book on military reform America’s Defense Meltdown, which has garnered quite a bit of attention at Quantico.
The goal of the website blockers, it seems, is to cut American military men off from any views except those of DOD itself. In other words, the blockaders want to create a closed system. John Boyd had quite a bit to say about closed systems, and it wasn’t favorable....[bth: it is my sad observation that open source information is the only means of screening out or offsetting institutional bias or group think with multiple (often enemy) perspectives on issues. Blocking US military personnel from web access and dissenting opinions is just a bad idea and one reason and indicator of why creative thought is crushed in the US military establishment much to our detriment and failure.]
....The inaccuracy of the DF-3A, combined with its 2,000 kg throw weight, has raised speculation as to the true Saudi Arabian intentions for the missile. Saudi Arabia is well aware of the inaccuracy of the weapon, claiming that they were not fired at Iraq in 1990/1991 to avoid civillian casualties. "King Fahd ruled out that option because of the fact that you cannot control it accurately. Our problem is that our war was not with the Iraqi people, it was with Saddam Hussein and his clique," stated Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan. This is in contrast to the alleged targeting of Iranian population centers.
Saudi Arabia has been known to have had an interest in nuclear weapons for some time, dating back to the construction of a potential nuclear research center in 1975. Evidence suggests that Saudi Arabia was financially and perhaps technologically involved in the nuclear weapons programs of both Iraq and Pakistan. The Iraqi capability to develop nuclear weapons was removed in the 1980s during the Iranian and Israeli air raids on the Tammuz reactor complex southeast of Baghdad. Pakistan presents an interesting option. It has been suggested that Saudi Arabia would be provided with Pakistani nuclear weapons should Iran achieve the capability to produce nuclear weapons of its own. Pakistani warheads on Saudi Arabian weapons would not only represent a significant threat to Iran, but also to India. Saudi Arabian DF-3A garrisons are well defended and would be much more difficult for India to strike during a time of conflict, potentially providing Pakistan with an added nuclear deterrent capability due to close relations with the Kingdom.
At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia does not currently possess a nuclear warhead for the DF-3A. The nation signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1988, and has stated that it would not arm the DF-3A with either nuclear or chemical warheads. Evidence of Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions cannot be ignored, however, and a nuclear-armed Iran could be the impetus needed for Saudi Arabia to finally acquire a nuclear capability for its ballistic missile force. It should be noted, however, that past Saudi Arabian assurances that chemical or nuclear warheads would not be acquired are ominously significant. Saudi Arabia did not unequivocally state that weapons of mass destruction would not be used to arm the DF-3A, raising significant questions....
[bth: so let me put forward a wild assed speculative guess concerning all this chatter in open sources during recent weeks about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the risk that it might fall into Taliban/Al Qaeda hands and the underlying funding and control of those weapons. Combine this with articles like this that are showing up all over the place. ... Could it be that the Pakistani government/military, the Saudi Arabians and the Americans have decided that in the event the Pakistani government collapses, that the Pakistani nukes would be moved to Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia would assume nuclear responsibility and protection for Pakistan against India?]
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday said that he would like to implement top-level agreements with the government of Tehran.
'We will sacredly fulfill our agreements with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and expect more activity in projects earmarked for joint implementation,' President Lukashenko said in a message handed to the visiting Iranian Judicial chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi."...
[bth: it will be interesting to see where Iran places these missile defense systems]
In other words, thousands of American fighters armed with the latest killing technology are taking prescription drugs that the Federal Aviation Administration considers too dangerous for commercial pilots."...
At the same time Saudi Arabia acquired those missiles Pakistan achieved the capability to detonate a nuclear weapon.
Up to 1991 Saudi Arabia financed the Iraki nuclear program and probably also the Pakistani nuclear weapon program. It is not proven that Saudi Arabia really has nuclear warheads for its missiles, but so far it has not allowed any foreigner or the IAEA to inspect the relevant bases.Even if such inspections would be allowed, nuclear war heads made elsewhere would be hard to detect."...
Next week representatives of the Pakistani government will be in Washington for the next round of trilateral talks with the Obama administration and the Afghan government. After this report, and with the Pakistani Taliban approaching the gates of Islamabad, it’ll seem like whistling past the Kayani government’s graveyard.
Petty Officer Tyler Trahan was a 2004 graduate of Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical School in Rochester.
A Freetown sailor, destined to work in an elite unit in the military, his family said, was
killed in Iraq Thursday while conducting what the Navy called combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah.
Tyler Trahan, a 22-year-old Navy petty officer 2d class, was with two Marines when the three of them were killed, according to the Navy. Military officials would not provide further details, only saying the three were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, but Trahan's family has said that a roadside bomb exploded. It was not clear whether the device detonated on its own or was activated.
Trahan was a member of the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Twelve, based in Virginia, and was temporarily assigned to a Navy SEAL team in Iraq. He was deployed last month.
His family said yesterday that Trahan's goal when joining the Navy was to work in an elite ordnance disposal unit....
Prison guards jailed for abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq are planning to appeal against their convictions on the ground that recently released CIA torture memos prove that they were scapegoats for the Bush Administration.
The photographs of prisoner abuse at the Baghdad jail in 2004 sparked worldwide outrage but the previous administration, from President Bush down, blamed the incident on a few low-ranking “bad apples” who were acting on their own.
The decision by President Obama to release the memos showed that the harsh interrogation tactics were approved and authorised at the highest levels of the White House.
Some of the guards who were convicted of abuse want to return to court and argue that the previous administration sanctioned the abuse but withheld its role from their trials....
[bth: its ironic that you have to go to the British press to see this story]
Friday, May 01, 2009
Prosecutors said they will ask a judge to dismiss the case against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman because a series of court decisions had made it unlikely they would win convictions. The two are former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, an influential advocacy group."...
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Peres also said the new Israeli government of hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should work for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
'We've finished agreement with the Egyptians, with the Jordanians. Now we need to finish with the Palestinians. The differences [that require settling] aren't big.'
Until next month's meeting between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, all reports about the new government's intentions and policies were just 'talk.'
'The opening line will be in that conversation and each side will hear what it is really about.'"
John Young, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics, raised the issue Monday shortly before his replacement was sworn in.
While discussing problems with the acquisition process, Young mentioned that the Army and Air Force are not talking to each other about their unmanned aerial vehicles programs."
"The Air Force built a budget that didn’t include putting auto-land capability in their Predators, despite the fact that we’ve lost a third of the Predators we’ve ever bought, and a significant fraction of the losses are attributable either to the ground control station or the pilot’s operation of that ground control station, or the pilot’s operation of the vehicle," he said.
"Of the 65 mishaps, 36 percent are human error, many of those attributable to ground station problems, a Defense official said. "Roughly half of those happened during the landing phase."
Predators cost between $3 million and $4 million, Young said.
Army unmanned aerial drones have the ability to land themselves, and the Army has lost "an insignificant fraction" of the aircraft, Young said.
"I have mandated in acquisition decision memorandums that the Air Force move as fast as possible to an auto-land capability," he said.
With improvements to ground stations and the added ability for Predators to land themselves, Predator losses are expected to drop by 25 percent, he said....
[bth: this is a no brainer except that the Air Force is afraid that they must keep a 'pilot' in the loop. The Air Force would rather crash planes than automate them. Stupid.]
These days the U.N. requires all large commercial ships to broadcast their location and identity using the Automated Identification System beacon technology. In developing countries with poor maritime enforcement, especially in West Africa, the local coast guard can compare AIS tracks to a radar picture to figure out if any ships are trying to sneak around, perhaps with contraband, illegal fish hauls or even cargoes of slaves.The same basic method might help the world fight Somali pirates. Kongsberg Satellite Services in Norway has developed a simple, affordable method for spotting potential pirates and warning ships’ crews...
Cruise Ship Hero Fought Off Pirates With Deck Chair - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News
Wyn Rowlands was celebrating his 62nd birthday with a dream cruise onboard the MSC Melody near the Seychelle Islands when he spotted armed pirates in a speedboat trying to clamber on to the vessel.
Quick-thinking Wyn, a retired engineer from Bangor-on-Dee, picked up a deck-chair and flung it down at the gang before raising the alarm.
The ship’s captain, Ciro Pinto, was then able to out-manoeuvre the pirates to prevent them boarding the cruise ship."...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Arab world's most populous nation has been been badly hit by the H5N1 bird flu virus in recent years and the move to cull up to 400,000 pigs - seen by Muslims as unclean animals - was designed to calm fears of an impending pandemic.
But it left Egypt's large Coptic Christian minority up in arms, especially the slum-dwelling 'Zebaleen' rubbish collectors who rely on the hogs for their livelihood. Scores of them blocked the streets and stoned the vehicles of Health Ministry workers as they arrived to carry out the government's order at pig farms on the outskirts of Cario this afternoon.
“Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases,” said Adel Ishak, who feeds his pigs from the rubbish he collects in Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo."...
[bth: stupid and ignorant move by the Egyptian government]
Meeting with reporters in Germany, Holder also signaled the Obama administration might cooperate with a Spanish investigation of former Bush administration officials over the treatment of terror suspects.
Holder spoke hours ahead of a speech appealing for Europe's help in closing the military detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He said the U.S. is weeks away from asking certain countries to take detainees.
'We have about 30 or so where we've made the determination that they can be released. So we will, I think, relatively soon, be reaching out to specific countries with specific detainees and ask whether or not there might be a basis for the moving of those people from Guantanamo to those countries,' Holder said."...
[bth: why now? Well probably because photos of widespread torture are about to show up all over the world and there needs to be some offsetting news to suggest that this has become a thing of the past. What better way than to release some folks in a timely manner. My bet is that they are released on Friday and the press release of this is issued before 4 pm just in time for the press releases to be announced as investigative journalism by the reporters assigned to the Pentagon.]
The Commerce Department's report, released Wednesday, dashed hopes that the recession's grip on the country loosened in the first quarter. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 5 percent annualized decline."...
[bth: no kidding. check the manufacturing numbers for this country. manufacturing is about dead.]
He said the democratic system is an un-Islamic one and the judicial system of Pakistan should be according to the Sharia.
‘Now any appeal against the Qazi courts’ decisions can be made only through the Darul Qaza,’ he added. ‘There is no room for democracy in Islam.’
In line with these statements, Sufi has demanded the abolition of all judges in Malakand, giving April 23 as a deadline for the establishment of Darul Qaza.
Sufi wants Qazis appointed in all the districts within one month and also said that the government should start giving decisions in criminal and other cases according to the Sharia."
Today’s killer drone is a slow-flying, easy-to-spot turboprop plane that drops relatively-crude munitions on its targets. Tomorrow’s killer drone could be a stealthy jet, firing off missiles "the size of a loaf of French bread."
Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, California are expected in the next month to test out a five-pound missile, designed for use with unmanned aircraft. The two-foot-long Spike is about a "quarter of the size of the next smallest on the planet," Steve Felix, the missile project’s manager, tells the Los Angeles Times.
The Spike was originally designed as a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon, David Hambling reported for Danger Room, back in October.
The guidance system is highly original; in one mode it uses an electro-optical seeker, basically a video camera. Lock on before launch and it follows the target — even something agile like a motorbike. In another mode for night operation, the seeker can be set to home in on a laser spot, turning Spike into a laser-guided missile.
In a test firing in February , Spike engaged a remote-controlled van with a crossing speed of twenty miles an hour, at a range of a mile and a half. You can see the effects in the photo. Although the warhead weighs less than two pounds, high precision increases its lethality.
It’s designed to penetrate the target before detonating, so it could be used to target the window of a specific room in a building rather than demolishing the whole thing, like larger weapons.
The stock was buried underground in the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province and netted in an operation backed by NATO air support, General Mohammad Daud Daud told reporters.
'In a successful operation yesterday we seized 3,000 kilogrammes of morphine which was ready to be processed to heroin,' he said.
If processed the stock would produce over 2,000 kilogrammes of heroin and then smuggled overseas, he said."...
Tank, Pakistan - Haneef Mehsud was a normal teenager who spend most of his time hanging out with friends and playing cricket before he was recruited by the Taliban and turned into a suicide bomber.
Less than a month after his 17th birthday, Haneef killed two soldiers when he rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into an army convoy in late 2008 on a road not far from his home in Pekai, a hamlet in the militancy-plagued South Waziristan region of northern Pakistan.
"We tried to stop him when he visited the family two weeks before the attack and informed us that he was soon going to embrace shahadat," or martyrdom, Haneef's father, Ghazi Mehsud, recalled.
"I don't know what they [the Taliban] did to my son," Ghazi said as tears rolled down his cheeks and disappeared in his long grey beard. "His mother and sisters were crying, but he stood there like a stone. He only requested us to forgive him in the name of the love we had for him and left."
Ghazi moved to the neighbouring district of Tank in the North-West Frontier Province, which is also the gateway to South Waziristan, to save his second teenage son from the influence of his fellow tribesman and local warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who he blames for Haneef's recruitment and death.
But hundreds more children are still undergoing brainwashing at dozens of "suicide nurseries" run by the ethnic Pashtun militant commander.
Mehsud, in his 30s, has emerged as the most dangerous militant commander in recent years. He heads Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group for around a dozen Pakistani militant outfits and has close links with al-Qaeda.
The notorious commander is believed to have been behind several dozen suicide bombings across the country, including the one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in late 2007.
During the Bhutto case investigations, the authorities detained Aitzaz Shah, 15, in North-West Frontier Province. Shah told the investigators that he was deployed as the "back-up bomber" for Bhutto's assassination by Mehsud's men.
In January 2008, during a short offensive, the military discovered a suicide nursery in the Spinkai area of South Waziristan.
Four months later, the military showed reporters video footage of a classroom where a masked teacher taught children how to carry out a suicide attack. The children, sitting in rows, were wearing white headbands inscribed with Koran verses.
Major General Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman, said that soldiers had rounded up over 50 boys who were undergoing suicide attack training.
The training centre was reopened months later after the military retreated from the area under a controversial peace deal with the Taliban.
According to intelligence estimates, more than 5,000 child suicide bombers between 10 and 17 have so far been trained by the militants.
Most of them are dispatched to Afghanistan to target international troops and Afghan security forces, but some are deployed for strikes inside Pakistan....
With their success in Buner, the Taliban felt flush with success and increasingly confident that they could repeat the template, residents and analysts said. In the main prize, the richest and most populous province, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, the Taliban are relying on the sleeper cells of other militant groups, including the many fighters who had been trained by the Pakistani military for combat in Kashmir, and now felt abandoned by the state, they said.
It would not be difficult for the Taliban to seize Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, by shutting down the airport and blocking the two main thoroughfares from Islamabad, a Western official with long experience in the province said.
At midweek, a convoy of heavily armed Taliban vehicles was seen barreling along the four-lane motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar, according to Mr. Sherpao, the former minister of the interior.
Across North-West Frontier Province, the Taliban are rapidly consolidating power by activating cells that consisted of a potent mix of jihadist groups, he said.
In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but"in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said. Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said...
[bth: an article worth reading in full]
The co-opting of former warlords as anti-Taliban allies by the US and its coalition partners is a well-established practice in Afghanistan.
But the Australian Defence Force is reluctant to reveal too much about its well-developed links with Colonel Mutiallah Khan and his private army, which is known as the Kandak Amniante Uruzgan.
The ADF will neither confirm nor deny knowledge of payments to Colonel Khan, whose paramilitary force is used to ensure security for overland convoys travelling from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt.
The supply route is vital for the delivery of the fuel and logistics used to run the sprawling joint Australian-Dutch military base at Camp Holland on Tarin Kowt's outskirts."...
The alarming shift, according to U.S. military and counterterrorism officials, fuels concern that Somalia is increasingly on a path to become the next Afghanistan -- a sanctuary where al Qaeda-linked groups could train and plan their threatened attacks against the western world.
So far, officials say the number of foreign fighters who have moved from southwest Asia and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to the Horn of Africa is small, perhaps two to three dozen.
But a similarly small cell of militant plotters was responsible for the devastating 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And the cluster of militants now believed to be operating inside East Africa could pass on sophisticated training and attack techniques gleaned from seven years at war against the U.S. and allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said."...
The enlisting of the heavyweight help is the latest sign that the California Democrat intends to push back hard against what she sees as an attempt by current and former national security officials to damage her reputation by providing alleged excerpts from transcripts of her surveilled phone conversations to the press. In the end, Harman may be able to make a public case that she was the victim of an abuse of power, including by the decision of Porter Goss, a former fellow House intelligence committee member turned director of central intelligence, to authorize a wiretap of her. She may also argue that the leaks of the alleged wiretap excerpts constitute a criminal act that merits prosecution.
Citing unnamed sources, CQ's Jeff Stein first broke the story, subsequently echoed in the New York Times, that sometime between 2004 and 2005, Harman was asked by an interlocutor already under U.S. government surveillance and described as a suspected 'Israeli agent' to help seek leniency for two former officials with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC. The two men were indicted in 2005 on charges related to unauthorized disclosure of national defense information"...
Dennis Hastert, the former House majority leader, has also told CQ that he was informed by a CIA-connected "whistleblower" in 2006 that Harman was captured on the wiretap. The Justice Department reportedly rebuffed Hastert's query on the matter for weeks, ultimately saying there was nothing to inform him about. Hastert's aides, CQ reported, subsequently became worried about the "whistleblower."
"At that point, Hastert's aides grew concerned that the whistleblower 'was becoming agitated' and that the existence of the wiretap might surface, which would have the twin effect of exposing a highly classified operation and unfairly 'smearing' Harman as a foreign agent herself," CQ's Stein reported this week.
It's a concern that seems to have been validated by recent events.
Meantime, in the seemingly low level proxy war between competing factions, the Harman camp has scored perhaps one under the radar victory. A former top Harman aide and minority general counsel on the House intelligence committee, Jeremy Bash, has become chief of staff to Obama's new CIA director, Leon Panetta.
The Taliban move into Mansehra puts them along the strategic Karakoram Highway, a road that links Pakistan to China in the north. A Taliban takeover of Mansehra would also open up a direct route into Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-held Kashmir. Kashmiri terrorists, reportedly backed by the Pakistani military and intelligence services, have surged into India held Kashmir and have stepped up attacks to destabilize the region."...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of 'the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes' in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out."...
[bth: totally stupid. Someone should lose their job over this]
Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin said the Bulava missile needs thorough testing because 'the reliability of all aspects of the rocket needs to be achieved' in comments carried by state news agency RIA Novosti.
The submarine-launched Bulava missile has a reported maximum range of about 6,200 miles and capacity for up to six individually targeted nuclear warheads. It has been hailed as a key future component of Russia's nuclear forces, although mixed results in testing have tempered enthusiasm."...
[bth: by putting these on subs this is how the Russians beat a US missile defense shield. Fire them right off the coastline of the US. I would imagine that the Chinese will follow suit.]
For now, both Obama and Netanyahu are still engaged in "pre-game sparring" and other preparations for the big confrontation between them that may well erupt next month.
For the past 16 years - including during Netanyahu’s earlier term in office, 1996-99 - there has not been any big open rupture between Washington and Tel Aviv over the peace process or any other issue.
Throughout those years, successive Israeli prime ministers could always rely both on the support they had in the White House and on the deep funds of support Israel always had in Congress. Thus, if a president looked as if he might even be considering starting to apply pressure on Israel, the Israelis felt they could always rely on Congress to bring the White House to heel.
But now, the level of support that Israel formerly always enjoyed in Congress, regardless of the content of its policies, has been significantly reduced.
Back in February, Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that congratulated Mitchell on his appointment and expressed clear support for the two-state solution. The bill now has 101 co-sponsors, and is slowly gathering yet more.
Obama, Clinton, and Mitchell all enjoy considerable support - and considerable political clout - in both houses of congress. The threesome also enjoys considerable support in the country as a whole, including in the Jewish community.
The American Jewish community is much more diverse that it once was. In recent years, several new Jewish organisations have emerged that have agendas that are both pro-Israel and pro-peace.
M.J. Rosenberg is the Washington policy director of one such group, the Israel Policy Forum.
"I guess Netanyahu is counting on pro-Israel organisations in America to line up behind him and not Obama," Rosenberg wrote recently. "He is wrong."
*Helena Cobban is a veteran Middle East analyst and author. She blogs at www.JustWorldNews.org . (END/2009)
Last week, the Taliban took over Buner, a strategically important district just 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, and less than 20 miles from the Tarbela hydropower plant, which provides one-third of Pakistan's electricity. The military's response was anemic -- it deployed a small, lightly armed constabulary force.
In Swat, I heard the same story again and again: Before the peace deal, soldiers would stop people at checkpoints and say, "Don't go that way, the Taliban are slitting someone's throat." But they wouldn't intercede to stop the throat-slitting.
The problem, as many see it, is that there's no alternative. Yes, the Taliban routinely place near the bottom of opinion polls, and in elections they garner less than 10 percent of the vote. But we seem to be an exhausted society, incapable of rising to this challenge.
When we look overseas for support, we are confronted by the Americans demanding that we oppose the Taliban even as U.S. drones continue to kill impoverished civilians in the remote-controlled hunt for Taliban officials and the latest al-Qaeda No. 3. There is not a single Pakistani who supports these attacks or the way they are being conducted. They have made being pro-American radioactive. And they have also made opposing the Taliban that much more difficult.
What are people to do?
I got a glimpse of what they are already doing in Lahore. At a hotel that is so safe, I was told, that Americans often use it, I saw security guards posted at multiple entrances. You see private security guards everywhere in Pakistan, but one I spoke with had his pistol drawn. When I asked him why, he shrugged and said that those were his orders. But how he will guard against a truckload of explosives, a band of men armed with rocket launchers or an ideology that wants us to dress and behave like people in Mecca circa A.D. 570 remains unclear.
]bth: worth reading in full]
She would have had access to every sort of top secret intelligence possessed by the US government and would have been in a good position to influence policy. From the Israeli perspective, she would have been their spy, a highly placed agent of influence who could also provide every bit of sensitive intelligence in the CIA cupboard. The apparent fact that she agreed to help an agent of a foreign government and was to be rewarded with advancement makes her something like Kim Philby, the British spy of the 1960s who progressed through his own system while secretly working for another country, Russia. Philby was a whole lot smarter, but the essential betrayal was the same. Those who argue that Israel is no Cold War Russia miss the point, as the national interests of the U.S. and Israel are far from identical, particularly after a series of right-wing governments in Tel Aviv has culminated in the current monstrosity of Netanyahu-Lieberman.
Once you are on the hook in an intelligence relationship, there is no getting off it. Had Harman done a favor for the Israelis and been rewarded in return, it would have been a skeleton in her closet forever. The Israelis might also have taped the incriminating conversations, presumably unaware that the FBI was also on the line. The Israelis would surely remind her of her crime whenever they need a favor, and she would be forced to pay the piper whenever called upon. What could have been better for Israel than owning the director of central intelligence or the head of the House Intelligence Committee? What could have been worse for the United States?
To describe Harman’s actions as unacceptable would be an understatement. Unless the contents of her telephone conversation have been totally misconstrued, she should salvage what self-respect she has left and resign her office. But one suspects that she is yet another politician on the make with no sense of country or dignity. Don’t expect her to do the right thing.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The 40-millimeter crowd dispersal round delivers a strong, stunning blow to a threat's body without penetrating it. This round has a wide range of capabilities for tactical, law enforcement, I/R, and US military detention operations. In crowd control, it provides a nonlethal capability that can be used to break contact and enforce a buffer zone (standoff distance) with a violent crowd.
Although non-lethal ammunition is designed to help control a hostile individual or crowd without serious injury or death to targeted individuals, such instances may still occur even when non-lethal munitions are properly employed. Engaging targets at less than 10 meters greatly increase the potential lethality of this munition. Ten meters is approximately the length of two HMMWVs."...
Established in 1996, the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Program is supposed to be the U.S. military’s central clearinghouse for researching, developing, testing, and training troops on these less-than-lethal arms. It’s also responsible for policies and procedures for how and when to use the weapons — while coordinating “requirements” for what the Army, Navy and Air Force might need in the future. According to the GAO, failed in just about all of these efforts.
Take R&D, for instance. “The Joint Non-lethal Weapons Program has conducted more than 50 research and development efforts and spent at least $386 million since 1997, but it has not developed any new weapons,” the report says....
[bth: the FN303 works perfectly fine in most law enforcement settings. That the Pentagon was too bureaucratic and stupid to purchase paint balls and air cannisters from commerical vendors pretty much says it all. Also the programs that had potential usually were developed outside of this lab and then researched. Home grown programs simply seemed to fail and cost hundreds of millions in the process. Worth reading the full article.]
Sunday, April 26, 2009
British Spy Loses Top Secret Information in a Handbag - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News
The drugs liaison officer lost a computer memory stick said to contain a list of undercover agents’ names and details with more than five years of intelligence work.
It happened when the MI6-trained agent left her handbag on a transit coach at El Dorado airport in Bogota, Colombia. Intelligence chiefs were forced to wind up operations and relocate dozens of agents and informants amid fears the device could fall into the hands of drugs barons."...
There they go again, those folks in Washington, D.C. Everyone wants the power; nobody wants the responsibility.
We're back to the question of which Bush administration officials ordered Justice Department lawyers to concoct some legal way to use illegal torture methods on the prisoners we were taking in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
It appears that no one in power or recently out of power wants to know the answer to that question.
The Republicans in Congress, who resemble nothing so much as a dwindling flock of whooping cranes, have been nothing but surly since last November. Now they’re threatening to get nasty if the Democrats across the aisle insist on unearthing the truth - the who, what, when, where and why - about the torture question.
(Spare me your e-mails about how waterboarding isn't torture; even John McCain, who knows more about torture than you do, agrees that it is.)
President Barack Obama doesn't want or need this issue sucking all the oxygen out of the Congress and his ambitious agenda, and he just wishes it would go away. His position, if you can call it that, changes daily, if not hourly. He and his people look and sound like a hokey-pokey line on the issue.
The problem is that they're all thinking and acting like politicians, and there's nothing in this issue for any of them except an opportunity to do the right thing. Whoever won an election by doing the right thing? Talking about doing the right thing is another matter.
Torture, however, isn't a political problem, but a legal and moral problem, and therein lies the painful rub....
[bth: as usual Joseph Galloway is on the mark. An article worth reading in full.]
y Gretchen Peters
The Obama administration has promised "a new way of thinking about the challenges" facing the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it's also high time it starts thinking in a new way about America's enemies themselves. The Taliban and al Qaeda have long portrayed themselves as holy warriors, battling under the flag of Islam. Most people in the West have accepted this characterization, imagining them as long-bearded fanatics, while Washington constantly refers to them as "terrorists" and "extremists." No doubt they are. But, having studied their operations at the village level in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than three years, another descriptor also seems useful to me: criminal. When you examine the day-to-day activities keeping their networks financially afloat and probe how they interact with local communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda start to look a lot more mafiosi than mujahideen....
With the help of local researchers, I have interviewed hundreds of Afghans and Pakistanis who live along the frontier. In these deeply conservative Muslim communities, where religious leaders hold tremendous authority, few dared speak out against people who define themselves as "holy warriors." But when we framed the insurgents as criminals, they opened up, describing in clear detail how the militants' illicit activities directly and adversely affect their lives. Speaking in terms the people there can understand will improve America's ability to win local support for the critical task of cutting off terrorist leaders from their illicit profits. In Islam, there is no one more reviled than a thief.
[bth: a short article worth a long read.]
“It’s the first time most of us have even seen the guys who were shooting at us,” said Sgt. Thomas Horvath, 21.
The next day, elders from the valley would ask permission to collect the villages’ dead. Company B’s commander, Capt. James C. Howell, would grant it.
But already, as the soldiers slid and climbed down the mountain, word of the insurgents’ defeat was traveling through Taliban networks.
Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours."
Even though the "new policy" appears to back away from nation-building, it holds more hope for success in and for AfPak than what we've been doing in the past. The "surge" may or may not be a wonderful thing in Afghanistan. It depends on whether the troops are used properly, but if GEN Petraeus pushes his authority and begins to be ruthless with commanders about enforcing a standard of counterinsurgent achievement, it will much more helpful than harmful. I'd like to quote an email from my friend and fellow blogger Vampire 6 here regarding the counterinsurgent behaviors versus words he finds in field grade officers in Afghanistan, but I didn't ask for permission. Suffice it to say that there is a significant variance. Of course, that is only the military side of the question.
What is even more encouraging is the recognition of the importance of the civilian/economic aspects to stabilizing the societies of both Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan. This war is about society and its conditions in both areas, really. The insurgency will never be resolved through killing bad guys exclusively. While we should never shy away from killing bad guys, an exclusive quest for kinetic engagements is a great way to fail at COIN. While this causes many military listeners to shut down completely (a symptom of the problem we have in successfully implementing COIN doctrine tactically,) the more military leaders can hear that message and understand the linkage, the more success we will find. Each one who "gets it" is then capable of making a difference in their discrete area of operations. All politics is local, and as these discrete areas come under the influence of leaders who are making a difference, the balance will start to swing.
It starts at the top. While today's hearings are only one day's hearings, the momentum towards an effective application of national abilities in the pursuit of sane and rational foreign policy objectives is mounting. I see wicked smart people being listened to at the highest levels, and this is extremely encouraging. Nobody is perfect, and just like a sports team on game day, we play with the team we have. President Bush went to war with a team that had never anticipated or trained for, and had a policy of stringent avoidance of, irregular warfare. He had a Secretary of Defense who was more interested in showing off the conventional primacy of the our nation by beating Iraq's military with one hand tied behind our backs, totally missing the larger picture. He had officers who had never seriously contemplated the challenges of counterinsurgency and an Army and Marine Corps without a relevant doctrine. It took the Bush administration's Army and Marine Corps over five years after the start of hostilities to publish the relevant doctrine, and there are still traditionalist dinosaurs who resist the promulgation of the only doctrine that has a hope of succeeding against an insurgency, which is not AirLand Battle Doctrine, but Counterinsurgency Doctrine.
These are our cavemen. If GEICO were to make doctrine commercials, the slogan would have to be, "COIN; So difficult a caveman can't do it."
There is a saying that one good way to discredit a good idea is to execute it poorly, and as has been pointed out in two recent posts, we have an Officer Corps rife with those who wish to refuse the mission. These leaders will use all the right buzzwords and then proclaim the failure of a doctrine which is not really applied, but instead merely parroted....
[bth: very encouraging assessment to an otherwise pretty dismal month regarding Afghanistan policies.]
1/27/2009 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- To better fill combatant commanders' needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Air Force officials will begin using C-12 Huron turboprop planes as ISR platforms.
The program, called Project Liberty, involves Airmen operating a fleet of 37 C-12 aircraft providing ISR full-motion video and signals intelligence for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
The specialized crew of four will provide military leaders with real-time data and information to make key battlefield decisions....
The project is part of the secretary of Defense's ISR task force and derives from his direction to provide more ISR capabilities to U.S. Central Command. There will be two deployed units and one stateside training unit....
[bth: finally commonsense returns]
The poll suggests that a large majority of Pakistanis has negative views of Islamist militant groups such as al-Qaida and Taliban and considers them a threat. But at the same time, a majority also rejects military action against the militants, such as last year's assault on the Red Mosque.
The survey concludes that contrary to the impression in the West, a majority of Pakistanis do not favor Islamic militants....
[bth: so why is the 'majority' being rolled over by these militants?]
1) Six carriers doesn’t mean six carriers
China will never be able to sortie all six carriers at once. The usual rule of thumb is, for every one carrier on station, two others are in transit, training or in dry dock. By the time the sixth PLAN carrier is ready, the first will be due for an overhaul, and China will be in the same dilemma the U.S. Navy is, having a quarter to a fifth of its carrier fleet constantly undergoing a service-life extension.
2) Chinese carriers will be smaller and less capable
Chinese carriers are expected to be in the range of 50,000 to 60,000 tons displacement, or just around half the size of their American counterparts. They will have about half the air complement of an American carrier and not surprisingly, half the capability.
3) Standing powers don’t feel like sharing
Almost all carrier-owning countries are potential PLAN adversaries. These carrier experts are unlikely to contribute their expertise to help China develop its carrier fleet. Operating a carrier entails a steep learning curve, and the PLAN will be starting from scratch. There is more practical experience in aircraft carrier operation in the geriatric wards of Japan than in all of China. It will take the PLAN a generation to match the U.S. Navy in carrier proficiency.
4) Chinese carriers will create an arms race with Japan
The fielding of PLAN carriers will be intolerable to the Japanese. Not only is the historical rivalry a factor, but practically speaking, the PLAN would be theoretically capable of enforcing a naval blockade of Japan. Japan will be forced to either invest in carrier-killing systems or build its own flattop. And unlike China, Japan would have help.
5) Potential adversaries are way ahead of China
The U.S. fields 11 big deck carriers, the Europeans several more, and India will have two by 2014. A PLAN force of six carriers will be easily outnumbered by more than two to one. That’s just in hulls. If one considers performance, the gap widens. And China will never, ever be allowed to catch up.
6) In the event of war, the American leviathan will simply shut China down
The huge American advantage in stealthy platforms and precision weapons puts the entire Chinese coastline at risk. In a shooting war port facilities will simply disappear. Even if the PLAN manages to sortie there will nowhere for their ships to return to.
7) The PLAN lacks experience
The modern Chinese navy has never been in combat, and its sortie rate for advanced ships, like attack submarines, still lags far behind the West. It has never planned to protect carriers from air/undersea/surface/space threats before and has never organized carrier battle groups.
8) The Chinese are still a generation behind
The sensors, aircraft and weapons to be fitted to these carriers are still at least 20 years behind what is currently in the American fleet. By the time the PLAN carriers take to sea, these techs will be even older. It’s America that is talking about outfitting its ships with “kill-everything” lasers, not China.
9) They will be under constant surveillance
Chinese aircraft carriers will be the most watched ships in the world. America, Japan, India and Australia (the so-called “Quadrilateral Initiative”) will keep constant tabs on any PLAN carrier that puts to sea, removing the vessel’s ability to achieve tactical surprise.
10) There’s a very good chance the Chinese will be on our side
Incidents like the Impeccable aside, China would rather be a friend than an enemy. Besides, American and Chinese interests in the Pacific really aren’t that different.
It took a while but their strategy is now clear. The will buy as much natural resources as they can get for the currently depressed prices."...
The failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003. That year, the agency's inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, and recommended a study by outside experts on whether they worked."...
1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officerswho do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Heritage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demonstrates that the same is true of the officer corps."
- Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods—a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
- American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted personnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18–24 years old, and 95 percent of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007. New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of Southern military tradition.
The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because socijety offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country....