Saturday, August 01, 2009

Did bad decisions set stage for 9 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan? | McClatchy

Did bad decisions set stage for 9 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan? | McClatchy: "In the days before one of the fiercest battles in America's eight-year war in Afghanistan, Army Capt. Benjamin Pry argued for more surveillance flights to help his beleaguered unit of fewer than 50 soldiers.

Since moving into a new outpost on July 8, 2008, they had struggled with shortages of water, fuel, food and heavy machinery to help defend against an enemy attack that they believed would eventually come. Lacking excavating equipment, the troops dug fortifications by scraping the rocky soil with spades and bare hands.

Then on July 12, headquarters commanders diverted drones — remotely operated planes outfitted with cameras to spot enemy movements — to another area. Pry argued so hard to undo that decision that he said he breached professional etiquette. Still, he was unsuccessful."

"We had no support from brigade, division or theater level assets at the time," Pry told Army historians in a study obtained by The Seattle Times.

That study, written by historian Douglas Cubbison of the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., documented missteps that preceded some of the bloodiest combat to date for American troops in the Afghanistan war.

Early in the morning of July 13, the outpost at the village of Wanat came under assault from some 200 enemy troops. The attack claimed the lives of nine Army soldiers — including Cpl. Jason Bogar, 25, of Seattle — and wounded 27 others, precipitating the withdrawal of U.S. troops from a valley in eastern Afghanistan.

The 254-page unreleased study challenges the Army's official battle investigation, which had concluded that leaders displayed "sound military analysis" and that no blame could be placed on commanders.

Cubbison noted suspect decisions by commanders, who allowed an understaffed platoon to plant itself in hostile territory without adequate support.

In the Wanat battle study, Cubbison concluded that:

-- No senior commander visited Wanat before establishing it as an outpost, and it was "highly questionable" whether these commanders exercised due diligence when they ordered a platoon to move there.

-- The lack of heavy equipment to fortify defenses and the lack of intelligence support directly contributed to the casualties suffered last July 13....

[bth: worth reading in full. A total breakdown of support from senior officers less to this near disaster. Further a terrible loss of brave airborne troopers for a valley we evacuated the next week and now rests firmly in Taliban hands. This had no strategic importance evidently so why put them there in the first place? Read the article in full. Note the lack of support for this unit at every level. Also note the lack of responsiveness even with the enemy known to be massing for an attack. Where was the fucking helicopters, the artillery, the drones as the enemy massed for attack? ... So the reason this is even being investigated is because the brave and now dead lieutenant's father was a retired colonel is pressing the matter. Yet no one will be held to account. Its been a year now. The two responsible senior officers have been promoted and moved on. Who will stand up for the enlisted personnel who bravely fought this battle and lie in graves and hospitals? I've followed this closely from the beginning and think I've read every public document on the subject. These soldiers were screwed by their senior officers who were derelict in their duty. That is my conclusion. Now will something happen or not?]

Did British bomb attacks in Iran provoke hostage crisis? - Middle East, World - The Independent

Did British bomb attacks in Iran provoke hostage crisis? - Middle East, World - The Independent: "The abduction of the British computer expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards was carried out partly in revenge for deadly bomb attacks in south-west Iran which Iranian officials blamed on Britain, according to a well-placed source in Baghdad.

The five men were abducted by an Iranian-backed group in 2007 and it is now believed four of them have been killed. The fate of Mr Moore remains unclear. The Iranians orchestrated the abduction through an Iraqi proxy, the Asaib al-Haq, which they largely controlled, the source said.

Their main motive was to obtain prisoners to be used as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib al-Haq, and other imprisoned militants who had split from the movement led by the Shia anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr."...

[bth: so we let the killer of 5 American soldiers who had been abducted free to try to help the Brits get their hostages back. So far we only got back the dead ones. As to the killer of the Americans? He walked out the door. All part of the catch and release program for terrorists. No body gives a damn about the families of those Americans one of whom lives up in Lawrence, MA. Just once you'd wish somebody would stand up for the families of normal American soldiers - not just the rich ones or ones with political pull. But no, it doesn't happen that way.]

2 indicted in $1 million Afghanistan bribe scheme | Antiwar Newswire

2 indicted in $1 million Afghanistan bribe scheme | Antiwar Newswire: "A federal grand jury has indicted two men for allegedly trying to bribe a U.S. Army contracting official with $1 million to win a road construction project in Afghanistan, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Rohullah Farooqi Lodin of Irvine, Calif., and Hashmatullah Farooqi of New York City each are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit an offense against the United States and one count of attempting to bribe a public official.

The indictment, filed in federal court in Virginia, alleges the men offered $1 million in bribes to an Army captain who is not named in the court documents. In exchange, the officer was to help disqualify lower bidders to build a road in Logar province and award the project to two general contracting firms in Afghanistan."...

Daily Kos: Building Codes to Save More Emissions Than 100 Nukes?

Daily Kos: Building Codes to Save More Emissions Than 100 Nukes?: "Architecture 2030 analyzed the Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) and really likes Section 201 which covers energy building codes because buildings are responsible for
• 50.1% of total annual U.S. energy consumption
• 49.1% of total annual U.S. GHG emissions
• 74.5% of total annual U.S. electricity consumption
• most of the projected 7.34 QBtu increase in U.S. electricity consumption by 2030

Section 201 strengthens building codes so that by 2010 buildings will be 30% below the baseline energy code (IECC 2006 and ASHRAE 90.1-2004), increases that to 50% below the baseline energy code by 2014-2015, and adds an additional 5% reduction every three years after, out to 2029-2030.

Whereas the 100 nuclear power plants only act as a replacement energy source, the updated building energy codes of Section 201 actually reduce energy consumption, eliminating the need for more plants. The codes also achieve more than six times the emissions reductions as 100 nuclear power plants. The codes accomplish all of this at a fraction of the cost."...

[bth: great idea]

Defence of the realm: not even a whimper - the British withdrawal from Iraq

Defence of the Realm: Not even a whimper
As of Friday, the British military presence in Iraq comes to an end. There will be no flags, no parades, no speeches and not even a formal withdrawal – just an administrative mess.

The warning signs were there in June when plans for Britain's final military mission in Iraq were in disarray, with no formal agreement finalised to maintain in place a Royal Navy detachment and upwards of 400 troops after the 31 July deadline, when the bulk of British forces were required to quit Iraq.

Defence of the Realm: Holding the line

Defence of the Realm: Holding the line:... "This was the inquest into the deaths of Marines Neil Dunstan, from Dorset, and Robert McKibben, from County Mayo, held at Trowbridge, in Wiltshire yesterday. The pair were killed, together with an Afghani interpreter, on 12 November 2008 in the Garmsir District. At the time, they were shadowing a logistics team across the 'moonscape' type terrain, deliberately avoiding main paths, along with soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces. Another Marine was injured.

Crucial facts to emerge were that the mission was considered 'low risk', to the extent that the crew were not wearing helmets, and that the off-road capability of the vehicle had been exploited to keep away from tracks, 'which were often mined.' But at a crossing, the vehicle had trigged a powerful explosion initiated by a pressure plate. The bomb used was estimated at 25kg of 'homemade explosives', which had turned the vehicle upside down. The surviving soldier had to be pulled from underneath it.

The incident, therefore, has the hallmarks of a classic ambush, relying on the vehicle having to negotiate a 'vulnerable point' where the trap was laid. Confounding the claims of the terrorists using 'bigger bombs' this device, like the first, was of a relatively modest size – possibly a drum of fertiliser – yet it managed to overturn the"...

[bth: so basically a barrel of fertilizer, two saw blades separated by wood and buried with a battery. The flat hulled vehicles just flip over breaking the necks and spines of the soldiers who don't burn. The vehicles are forced to cross streams and other natural obstacles at known points where the IEDs are placed. One thing is becoming obvious, you don't need to mine sweep the entire area, just the bridges and choke points. Also the blasts don't have to be big or sophisticated to destroy these British vehicles. I'll bet that entire bomb cost less than a $100]

Canadian General: Afghan Forces Won't Be Ready
By Steve Hynd

The Canadian presence in Afghanistan is scheduled to end in 2011, and Prime Minister Harper has so far resisted all pressure to rewrite that unilateral withdrawal date. Today a senior Canadian officer told an interviewer that there's no way the Afghan security forces will be ready to take up the slack.

In an interview with reporter Alec Castonguay, Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, is quoted as follows:

“There’s no way that Afghan forces will be able to assume responsibility for security in Kandahar in 2011. It’s absolutely impossible. …The decision to withdraw Canadian troops in 2011 was a political decision. As we leave, we will have to be replaced by another NATO country in Kandahar.”

In explaining the failure of our forces to achieve the objective set by the Conservative government in the 2007 Throne Speech and to meet the deadline set by Parliament, Brigadier-General Vance went on to say:

“In an insurrection, you need a strong security presence to protect the people. From the beginning of our mission in Kandahar in 2006, we never had sufficient military resources to make progress. We only had enough soldiers to contain the insurgency and to begin a slow improvement of the Afghan National Army.”

This really is one of the key facts about the Afghan occupation and the impending counter-insurgency surge's failure. Accepted counter-insurgency doctrine says it would take somewhere in excess of 650,000 troops to mount a proper COIN campaign in Afghanistan, but the best the US and its allies will ever mount is less than a quarter of that. The balance is supposed to come from a massive expansion of the Afghan army and police force.

But there's no sign that such an expansion can be accomplished in terms of recruitment and training on any timeline short of a decade to a decade and a half. The budget for such an expansion, some $80 billion over the course of that decade, is more than twenty times the entire anticipated revenue of the Afghan government for the period, meaning that US taxpayers will be footing the bill for as long as the US wants to maintain that many security forces in the field. And even if those two unpleasant facts weren't deal-breakers, it remains the case that normal Afghans would rather fight for the Taliban than see the notoriously corrupt and criminal Afghan police force hold power over their lives.

There's a massive disconnect at the heart of the McChrystal plan, a plan which everyone already expects to call for more US troops until that far off day when "they can stand up so we can stand down". And COIN advocates are answering that disconnect by simply wishing for a pony. Still, at least so far, few in America are calling them on it.

To other nations, the obvious has been blindingly so for some time. Not only will Canada withdraw in 2011, but so will the Dutch. Italy and Japan are both talking about withdrawal. Pressure is even mounting from both left and right for a unilateral British withdrawal. Obama is going to be left with a Coalition of One, rather than of the Willing, as he advances America's new Vietnam into its second decade.

Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report |

Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report | "The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country's armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.

Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.

'All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims,' the South African said.

Taliban fighters and their allies were named responsible for 59 percent of bystander deaths, caused mainly by roadside blasts, and Afghan government and international forces were also faulted for errant air strikes that claimed hundreds of lives."...

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Christians killed in Pakistan riots

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Christians killed in Pakistan riots: "A child and four women are among at least six Christians killed after 40 houses and a church were set ablaze amid riots with Muslims in eastern Pakistan, officials have said.

Dozens of people were also injured in the violence in Pakistan's Gojra village, which erupted after allegations surfaced that a Quran had been defiled, the officials said on Saturday.

'Six Christians including a child were killed and more than a dozen were injured in this sad incident,' Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal minister of minorities, told the AFP news agency by telephone."...

Admiral Porter’s Ironclad Hoax During the American Civil War » HistoryNet

Admiral Porter’s Ironclad Hoax During the American Civil War » HistoryNet: "Signal rockets pierced the darkness over Vicksburg, Mississippi, on February 25, 1863. Dozing Southern artillery crews sprang to life, yelling, ‘Ironclad approaching!’ Supporting a skull-and-crossbones flag at her bow, the iron hulk protruded guns from all sides. Both paddle-wheel housings bore the taunting legend ‘Deluded People Cave In.’ Angered by the vessel’s audacity, the Confederate batteries opened a blistering fire. ‘Never did the batteries of Vicksburg open with such a din,’ recalled Union Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter. ‘The earth fairly trembled, and shot flew thick and fast around the devoted monitor.’ Incredibly, the vessel simply cruised past at her leisure with no alteration in speed, nor did she bother to return fire.

On course to Vicksburg, the Confederate ram Queen of the West spotted the behemoth and swung quickly around. Her captain, James McCloskey, recalled, ‘Her guns were run out and her deck was cleared for action.’ With her steam up, Queenretreated downriver with the ironclad seemingly in pursuit. What the panic-stricken McCloskey failed to realize was that the giant Union ironclad was a giant hoax sent to prevent the salvage of a real Union ironclad, USS Indianola."....

[bth: fascinating, worth reading in full]
Crooks and Liars

Colombia To Aid U.S. In Taliban Fight - CBS Evening News - CBS News

Colombia To Aid U.S. In Taliban Fight - CBS Evening News - CBS News: "(CBS) U.S. forces are about to get some much-needed help as they fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan in an exclusive report. The Colombian commandos are U.S. trained and battle-tested from having defeated terrorists in their own country.

Ten years ago, they didn't even exist. Today, elite Colombian Special Operations troops are preparing to fight alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

For Colombia, it's a way to give something back to the U.S., and the American Green Berets who've spent the last decade training them.

General Freddy Padilla de Leon, Colombia's top military man, chose an interview with Logan to make the surprise announcement his men would join the fight in Afghanistan.

'Very soon ... Maybe in August or September. This will be our first opportunity in our history,' Padilla said."...

[bth: oh how the worm turns]

My Way News - Rocket launchers sold to Venezuela went to FARC

My Way News - Rocket launchers sold to Venezuela went to FARC: "BOGOTA (AP) - Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela years ago were obtained by Colombia's main rebel group, and Sweden said Monday it was demanding an explanation.

Colombia said its military found the weapons in a captured rebel arms cache and that Sweden had recently confirmed they originally were sold to Venezuela's military.

The confirmation strengthens Colombian allegations that Hugo Chavez's government has aided the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and exacerbated tensions between the neighboring nations over an imminent agreement to expand the U.S. military's use of Colombian air and naval bases.

The bazooka-like AT-4 single-use launchers, made by Saab Bofors Dynamics, lack the precision and range of surface-to-air weapons and there is no evidence FARC rebels have used any in combat."..

[bth: these are very serious weapons]

This Fucking War

This Fucking War

Video: I Was a Taser Guinea Pig | Danger Room |

Video: I Was a Taser Guinea Pig | Danger Room |

USAF officially launches light attack fighter comeback - The DEW Line

USAF officially launches light attack fighter comeback - The DEW Line: "The US Air Force has issued a request for information to identify sources that can supply 100 new fighters to perform light attack and armed reconnaissance roles.

Air Combat Command released a request for information on July 27 that calls for first aircraft deliveries to start in Fiscal 2012 and the first operational squadron to activate a year later.

The requirements call for a two-seat turboprop capable of flying up to 30,000ft and equipped with zero-altitude/zero-airspeed ejection seats, full motion video camera, data link, infrared suppressor, radar warning receiver and armored cockpit. Weapons must include a gun, two 500-lb bombs, 2.75-inch rockets and rail-launched munitions."...

Why Not the Killer Drones? « New Wars

Why Not the Killer Drones? « New Wars: ..."This should come as no surprise, since all air vehicles in past history have followed a similar course of development:

* Balloons in the Civil War are used as scouts and for artillery spotting.
* Airships (blimps, dirigibles) are used as scouts, for naval and land artillery spotting, and even as the first long-range bombers
* Heavier-than-air planes follow the same exact progression, but also start carrying light machine guns to usher in the age of the dogfighter.

So we see the UAVs simply following a natural pattern. The traditional services will never lead this effort though (it was the CIA which first used the Predator with Hellfire strike missiles), especially with the impending deployment of a new $100 million manned fighter, the JSF Lightning II. Still, we expect they will gradually come around to the idea, though kicking and screaming all the way!"

The Falklands’ Forgotten Lessons « New Wars

The Falklands’ Forgotten Lessons « New Wars: ..."25 years ago the first major air-land-sea war of the Missile Age was fought over a few sparsely populated islands in the far-off South Atlantic. Being the first major naval encounter since World War 2 with large fleet units on both sides, the 1982 Falklands Conflict offers many useful insights on conducting future warfare:

1. Numbers still count. Before the war, Britain was prepared to sell off a huge chunk of her Royal Navy, including a brand new aircraft carrier plus her 2 remaining assault landing ships, while reducing the number of Royal Marines. The timely Argentine invasion interrupted these plans with bare months to spare. Also, when several warships were lost due to cruise missiles and bombs, these were easily replaced in the frontline thanks to her large fleet of over 50 destroyers and frigates.

2. Military heritage still matters. Though the British armed forces were a shadow of her Imperial self, it still could field several old and highly skilled infantry units, including the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines, SAS Commandos, the Ghurkas. Such professional volunteers easily bested the ill trained and poorly motivated conscripts of the Argentine Army.
  1. Cruise Missiles decide strategy. The single factor in the placement of naval forces, other than the exceedingly long logistical chain to the South Atlantic, was the new power and reach of cruise missiles, as proven dramatically after the sinking of HMS Sheffield by a single Argentine Exocet missile. The British carriers were forced to sail at their planes’ operational limit to distance themselves from this threat, and the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano was decided for fear she carried such weapons. The loss of a single aircraft carrier might have changed the course of the war.
  2. Every ship is an aircraft carrier. The capabilities of the Harrier “jump jet” astounded friend and foe alike, with its capability against land based fighters, while being able to fly in the most adverse weather off any flight deck. Such planes could fly off a short runway of light carriers, or even a merchant vessel. The West’s future jump jet, the F-35B Lightning could be spread throughout the fleet, along with new unmanned aerial vehicles, rather than limited to a few vulnerable and expensive platforms.
  3. The submarine is the new capital ship. This can be seen after a few observations of the sinking of the Argentine ship Belgrano by HMS Conqueror. The escorting destroyers chose to flee for their lives after the sinking, when in WW 2 they would have immediately attacked the aggressor sub. Likewise the Argentine Navy fled to port for the duration of the conflict. The lesson here is: Ignore the power of the modern nuclear attack sub at your peril!

From this single battle we divulge these 5 lessons which matter most in future war: plenty or enough of the right weapons, well-trained infantry, non-traditional aircraft, precision guided weapons, and submarines. Future military strategists and politicians in charge of buying new armaments, please take note!

Informed Comment

Informed Comment:... "In Reese's favor is the Iraqi security forces' attack on Camp Ashraf of the Iranian 'Islamic Marxist' dissident movement, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors or MEK). The Iraqi government knew that the US did not want them to enter the camp in this way, but they did it anyway, and during the visit of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The assault left between 8 and 11 Iranians dead and hundred wounded, as well as some 17 members of the Iraqi security forces dead. If the Iraqi state is willing to act so brutally against persons designated as refugees by the United Nations when it is clear that the US wants them protected, then it is not trustworthy on a whole host of other issues, including putting pressure on Iran."...

Danger Room in Afghanistan: Defending Bagram (Part I) | Danger Room |

Danger Room in Afghanistan: Defending Bagram (Part I) | Danger Room | ..."“Our people need jobs,” he said. “And you’re supposed to help everyone. You guys help the Dari [ethnic Tajik] people working inside the base. But you don’t help the Pashtun people.”

Henson responded that he could help get passes for some of the men to work as day laborers on base — but added that he could not guarantee any jobs. “I can’t hire them, and I can’t make anyone hire them,” he said. “I’ll do my best to assist. … You know there are hundreds of villages around here and we’ll try to assist everyone as best we can.”

The captain then tried to sweeten the offer. What can we do for you? He asks. A clinic? A well? A paved road?

Laying down asphalt seems the most attractive idea. But Bashir has another idea he wants to discuss: He wants his own militia. “If the American want to make a local guard force, I can set up local guards and checkpoints to guard the area,” he said. “I told the ANA [the Afghan National Army] I have a bunch of people. I heard something about this – if you want me to make local guards, I will.”"...

[bth: interesting article. One might conclude that the most important war fighting action we could take is to get these guys some jobs. It costs us $50K per month to put a soldier into Afghanistan. We could probably support an entire village in some productive endeavor for that kind of money.]

Another step in America’s Defense Meltdown – a guest post by Winslow T. Wheeler « Fabius Maximus

Another step in America’s Defense Meltdown – a guest post by Winslow T. Wheeler « Fabius Maximus:... "The Senate system, political and otherwise, is not designed to stop producing much of anything — let alone weapons — especially in a lousy economy. The 58-40 vote to put the F-22 out of it misery offers a ray of hope that intelligent defense decisions can be made in Congress, even if it takes a massive effort by a determined secretary of defense, the president, and arm twisting by Rahm Emanuel. Perhaps the single individual to credit most for this important success is John McCain. Without him, and even with Gates, the vote would have been purely partisan, supplemented by pork crazed Democrats, such as Murray, Boxer, Feinstein, Byrd, and many others.

Important as it is, the vote should not be misinterpreted as a manifestation of Gates’ “reform” agenda. Put simply, reform is not his agenda; reorientation is. Clearly he wants to focus on fighting the wars at hand, and he is having some real success at that, but only inside the Pentagon. And, reform it is not."

Reform means a change in business as usual. That ain’t happening. Case in point: look at the F-35 program, which Gates is anxious to promote and which some touted as picking up the slack that killing the F-22 left. The F-35 is a classic example of buying a pig in a poke; in fact, we will buy 500 of them before the first definitive (IOT&E) test report lands on Gates desk, and it is a undiluted example of the same kind of design thinking and execution that got the Air Force into trouble with the F-22. Namely, costs so high, performance so compromised, and availability so un- that we get as a result an air force that is smaller, older, and less ready to fight at vastly increased cost.

The recently enacted Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act is another clear example of the non-, even anti-, reform agenda that dominates in Secretary Gates’ Pentagon. Riddled with loopholes and the thinking that the Pentagon should be left alone to fix itself, the original draft bill was given even more loopholes and self-report card writing after Deputy Secretary William Lynn’s interventions.

Both reform and Gates reorientation both have a long way to go to succeed. Despite a post-mortem death wriggle in the form of a CQ article that pretended there was new, but belated, news that the F-35 program is falling apart and therefore the F-22 merits reconsideration, the F-22 is a-goner. (News that the F-35 is having huge cost growth and serious performance problems is very plainly nothing new.)

But, Gates’ agenda to focus clearly on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is still very much under siege in Congress. It’s not just the porkers determination to fund more VH-71 helicopters, C-17s, F-18s, and several billions more in pork. Much more importantly, and with little opposition from Gates, the House and Senate Armed services Committees and the House Appropriations Committee are pressing ahead with their beating up on the most important account in the Pentagon budget as far as the two wars are concerned. Specifically, they all recommend billions in reductions in DOD’s Operation and Maintenance account to pay for the pork they add in the Procurement and R&D accounts.

O&M pays for training, weapons maintenance, fuel, and much more of the items basic to any war effort. Congress couldn’t care less; the O&M account (and to a lesser extent the military pay account) is their bill payer for pork. To their credit, Senators Levin and McCain pointed this out when they undid Saxby Chambliss’ revolting raid on these accounts to pay for his extra F-22’s. Very sadly, however, Levin and McCain left in tact other raids on O&M (over a $billion) to help pay for the rest of the pork in their bill. The House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee did much the same. The Senate Appropriations Committee will; it just hasn’t reported its bill yet.

Gates has a long way to go in Congress to enforce his effort to take the wars seriously.

As for real reform, the 58-40 vote in the Senate shows that with huge effort some progress can be made. Among the 58 who voted against more F-22s are some potential leaders in Congress against the bad ideas in the defense budget that make us weaker at increasing cost. Based on what I am hearing from some of them, there is a real chance we will see more such actions. The longest journey starts with the first step.

Jharkhand farmers despair at drought

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Jharkhand farmers despair at drought:

In Satbarwa village in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, scores of Muslim farmers have gathered in the village square. Their arms raised, eyes fixed on the sky, they pray for rains.

"Allah, forgive our sins, reward our good deeds. Our ground is parched, our cattle are dying. Please bring in the rain."

Some distance away, a group of Hindu farmers ring the temple bells, hoping to catch the ear of the rain god.

With the monsoon bringing little rainfall this season, the land is dry and unfit for cultivation and the worry lines are getting deeper.

"There has been no rain so far this year," says Abdul Sakur, a farmer from Khola village.

"We have not been able to sow rice. Our corn crop has been destroyed by pests. We have nothing to eat. We have nothing to feed our cattle.

"There is a pond in our village. But it has no water. It's all dry."

"We are in the throes of a famine," says Vinod Thakur, a resident of Makri village.

"Water shortage is our biggest problem. We have had no rains this year so we can't grow rice."

... "There are existing government schemes to feed the poorest of the poor, provide them with free food grains or offer rice and wheat at highly subsidised prices.

But, across India, a lack of political will has meant the grains meant for the poor often get lost in transit - they are pilfered by corrupt officials and sold on the black market.

'If the government builds a dam on Kanhar river, it will irrigate the whole of Garhwa district And that will solve our problem But the government is interested only in projects which make them richer,' says farmer Nand Gopal Yadav.

'Cruel weather and uncaring authorities are threatening our existence. No one really cares.'"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pakistan Injects Precision Into Air War on Taliban -

Pakistan Injects Precision Into Air War on Taliban - "The Pakistani military has moved away from the scorched-earth artillery and air tactics used last year against insurgents in the Bajaur tribal agency. In recent months, the air force has shifted from using Google Earth to sophisticated images from spy planes and other surveillance aircraft, and has increased its use of laser-guided bombs."...

Since May, F-16 multirole fighter jets have flown more than 300 combat missions against militants in the Swat Valley and more than 100 missions in South Waziristan, attacking mountain hide-outs, training centers and ammunition depots, Pakistani military officials said.

In conjunction with infantry fire, artillery barrages and helicopter gunship attacks, military officials say, the air combat missions reinvigorated the military campaign in Swat and have put increasing pressure on the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan. ...

Pakistani officials are urging the Obama administration to lease Pakistan upgraded F-16s, until its own new fighters are delivered in the next year or two. This would allow Pakistani pilots to fly night missions, impossible with their current aircraft.

Pakistan has argued that it needs the more advanced versions of the F-16 to more effectively battle the Taliban insurgency. In the past, American officials raised concerns that Pakistan’s arms purchases and troop deployments were geared mainly to bolstering its ability to fight its traditional enemy to the east, India. “Of course, there is a real threat from India,” Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Pakistan’s air force chief of staff, said in an interview at his headquarters here. “But right now we have to tackle the threat from the militants.”

Nearly every day in the past few months, Pakistani warplanes have pummeled militant targets in the contested Swat Valley and South Waziristan. The campaigns are a big change from operations in Bajaur last fall.

“The biggest handicap we had in Bajaur was that we didn’t have good imagery,” Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. “We didn’t have good target descriptions. We did not know the area. We were forced to use Google Earth.

“I didn’t want to face a similar situation in Swat,” he said.

In advance of the Swat campaign, the air force equipped about 10 F-16s with high-resolution, infrared sensors, provided by the United States, to conduct detailed reconnaissance of the entire valley.

The United States has also resumed secret drone flights performing military surveillance in the tribal areas, to provide Pakistani commanders with a wide array of videos and other information on militants, according to American officials.

In most cases, officials said, the Pakistani Army provides target information to the air force, which confirms the locations on newly detailed maps. Identifying high-value targets through the use of army spotters or, in some cases, a new, small group of specially trained air force spotters, the air force was able to increase its use of laser-guided bombs to 80 percent of munitions used in Swat, from about 40 percent in Bajaur, Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. ...

[bth: 600 bombing runs via Pakistani Air Force vs. 36 CIA drone bombings this year? I had no idea Pakistan was running such an air campaign. Also note that their F16s can't bomb at night according to this article which I find suspect, but if true, we ought to fix that right away. And as to detailed ground imagery, why the hell aren't we supplying something more usable than Google Earth for goodness sakes. Its not like the Pakistani Air Force will use enhanced satellite imagery of Swat to attack India. You'd think the US would be wanting to help improve the accuracy of these bombing runs. What's holding us up?]

Warship honors Marine who died protecting comrades

The Associated Press: Warship honors Marine who died protecting comrades
BATH, Maine — Marines flushing out Iraqi insurgents after an ambush came upon a column of vehicles. A van with a father and son. A pickup truck. A tractor. A BMW with a couple of sheiks. And a Toyota Land Cruiser with four young men, all of them insurgents.

As Marines began searching the vehicles, the driver of the Land Cruiser jumped out and attacked Cpl. Jason Dunham. The two men tumbled onto the dirt road. Two Marines ran up to assist but Dunham cried out, "No, no, no, watch his hand!"

A grenade exploded, rocking the narrow street.

Dunham, 22, of Scio, N.Y., mortally wounded as he saved his comrades that day, will be honored Saturday at the christening of the Navy's newest destroyer, the USS Jason Dunham. The young corporal who threw his Kevlar helmet and his body onto the grenade became the first Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor.

His mother, Deb Dunham, said she can't think of a greater tribute.

U.S. Adviser’s Blunt Memo on Iraq - Time ‘to Go Home’ -

U.S. Adviser’s Blunt Memo on Iraq - Time ‘to Go Home’ - "WASHINGTON — A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”"...

Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans....

Colonel Reese’s memo lists a number of problems that have emerged since the withdrawal of American combat troops from Baghdad, completed June 30. They include, he wrote, a “sudden coolness” to American advisers and the “forcible takeover” of a checkpoint in the Green Zone. Iraqi units, he added, are much less willing to conduct joint operations with their American counterparts “to go after targets the U.S. considers high value.”

The Iraqi Ground Forces Command, Colonel Reese wrote, has imposed “unilateral restrictions” on American military operations that “violate the most basic aspects” of the security agreement that governs American and Iraqi military relations.

“The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the U.S. for attacks on the U.S.,” he added....

But while General Odierno has drawn up detailed plans for a substantial advisory role, Colonel Reese argued in favor of a more limited — and shorter — effort, and recommended that all American forces be withdrawn by August 2010.

“If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past,” he wrote. “U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it. The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the I.S.F. is incapable of change in the current environment.”

[bth: interesting. Also note the blog, the Enchanters Corner, referenced in the article has been totally stripped of its content and its author - most likely the colonel himself. Odierno strikes.]

US envoy: most Taliban funds come from overseas

The Associated Press: US envoy: most Taliban funds come from overseas:... "'More money is coming from the Gulf than is coming from the drug trade to the Taliban,' Holbrooke told journalists at NATO headquarters in Brussels. He didn't identify the countries where the sympathizers were donating from, but nations located on the Persian Gulf include Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

NATO military officials in Afghanistan have estimated that the Taliban raise $60-$100 million a year from the trade in illegal narcotics, which has ballooned since the 2001 invasion of the country by U.S.-led forces.

The Taliban deny they are collecting money from drugs, pointing out that they had largely abolished illegal production of drugs while they held power in Afghanistan."...

He said there was no evidence that governments in the Gulf or anywhere else were providing the financing.

"The money is coming in from sympathizers from all over the world with the bulk of it appearing to come from the Gulf," he said, adding that he did not have hard figures for the amount of overseas funding reaching the Taliban.

"What I believe happens is that the Taliban funds local operations in the Pashtun belt out of drug money, but the overall effort gets massive amounts of money from outside Afghanistan," Holbrooke said.

A NATO official said it was a well-established fact that the militants continue to receive substantial amounts of cash from overseas. Drug money represents only a portion of their operational funding, but it's not known how large that sum is compared with overseas donations, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter....

Special Forces Getting High-Tech Soldier Suits for Iraq Mission | Danger Room |

Special Forces Getting High-Tech Soldier Suits for Iraq Mission | Danger Room | ..."The remnants of the Land Warrior project were offloaded on the “Manchu” soldiers of the 4/9 infantry battalion in Iraq, who stripped down the package and sharpened its features. It worked so well, an entire Army brigade was equipped with the ensembles, and just shipped off to Afghanistan. Then the Pentagon approved a request by a special forces commander at Ft. Bragg, N.C. to get the improved Land Warrior, called the Ground Soldier Ensemble, tested and ready to outfit a brigade in Iraq by 2010.

Like the Land Warrior, the GSE is a camo suit equipped with a digital radio, a GPS beacon, a wearable computer, and a screen which soldiers can see through an eyepiece attached to their helmets. The eyepiece shows digital maps of the terrain with the location of other soldiers on a video game-like interface. But the new GSE should be slim, thanks to battery and microprocessor technology. They’ll also have “digital chem lights,” arguably the suits’ most useful feature, which soldiers in the 4/9 division added when they re-jiggered the old test suits.

Chem lights come up on the digital screen as green lights. They let buildings, escape routes, and potential enemy locations be marked in green on every soldier’s monocle. In an urban environment like Iraq, the lights also mark houses that have been checked and cleared, to prevent soldiers from kicking down the same civilian doors twice....

McChrystal Preparing New Afghan War Strategy -

McChrystal Preparing New Afghan War Strategy - "The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is preparing a new strategy that calls for major changes in the way U.S. and other NATO troops there operate, a vast increase in the size of Afghan security forces and an intensified military effort to root out corruption among local government officials, according to several people familiar with the contents of an assessment report that outlines his approach to the war."


To accomplish that, McChrystal has indicated that he is considering moving troops out of remote mountain valleys where Taliban fighters have traditionally sought sanctuary and concentrating more forces around key population centers.

The assessment report also urges the United States and NATO to almost double the size of the Afghan security forces. It calls for expanding the Afghan army from 134,000 soldiers to about 240,000, and the police force from 92,000 personnel to about 160,000. Such an increase would require additional U.S. forces to conduct training and mentoring.

McChrystal and his top lieutenants have expressed concern about a lack of Afghan soldiers to patrol alongside foreign troops and to take responsibility for protecting pacified areas from Taliban infiltration. In Helmand province, where U.S. Marines are engaged in a major operation, fewer than 500 Afghan soldiers are available to work with almost 11,000 American service members.

Some U.S. and European officials involved in Afghanistan policy warn that the Afghan government does not have the means to pay for such a large army and police force, but McChrystal and his assessment team believe additional Afghan troops are essential to the country's stability. U.S. officials have said that they would like European nations to help cover the cost of training and sustaining additional Afghan forces....

U.S. Marine 1st Sgt. Julio Meza, left, and Cpl. Matt Worley guide their light armored vehicles back after a mission in the southern province of Helmand.

Informed Comment

Cash For Clunkers To Be Suspended: AP

Cash For Clunkers To Be Suspended: AP: "WASHINGTON — The White House said Thursday it was reviewing what has turned out to be a wildly popular 'cash for clunkers' program amid concerns the $1 billion budget for rebates for new auto purchases may have been exhausted in only a week."...

[bth: oh just fabulous. one program that actually helps stimulate car sales, helps dealers and auto workers and actually helps the little guy with a clunker. Nope, can't keep that kind of program going. It just doesn't help enough banksters and other wards of the state.]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan:... "An important upshot of this is that Islamabad has begun a crackdown on jihadi assets its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) raised in the 1990s for asymmetric warfare against India after losing three battles against its much bigger neighbor.

Asia Times Online has learned that a nascent crackdown on militants in Pakistan's largest province, Punjab, will turn into a major operation and the remnants of all defunct jihadi organizations, no matter how peacefully they operate inside Pakistan, will be dismantled. A showcase of this exercise took

place Monday in Anti-Terrorist Court II in Rawalpindi, the garrison city twinned with the capital Islamabad.

In front of a mass media presence, yesterday's hero of the Pakistani military establishment, former Pakistani member of parliament Shah Abdul Aziz, appeared with a shaven head like any ordinary criminal and was ordered on judicial remand to be detained in Adyala Jail Rawalpindi in connection with the abduction and murder by the Taliban of a Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September 2008. He was beheaded by militants in February after talks with the government for the release of captured Taliban members failed.

Although Aziz was ordered to be jailed, Asia Times Online contacts say that he was bundled off to an intelligence safe house for further" interrogation....

[bth: curious]
Informed Comment
Informed Comment
Informed Comment

[bth: interesting how journalistic reporting in Iraq has gradually shifted to alJazeera]

Taliban could target oil depots, grid stations

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban could target oil depots, grid stations
LAHORE: Taliban could target oil depots, grid stations, railway tracks and river bridges in Punjab, according to a provincial Home Department notification. The department has already directed police to put security on high alert in light of the threat. Also, young suicide bombers trained in Swat have been assigned high-value targets and sent to Punjab, according to intelligence reports available with the Interior Ministry. Law-enforcement agencies have been directed to tighten security arrangements. aaj kal report

[bth: interesting.  The face of war is changing in Pakistan]

Middle East News | Bin Laden's son likely not dead: Osama's friend

Middle East News | Bin Laden's son likely not dead: Osama's friend: "A close friend of Osama bin Laden told Al Arabiya that he thought the al-Qaeda mastermind’s son was probably still alive casting doubt on reports by American media that he was killed in Pakistan.

Yemeni national Rashad Saied, who stayed with bin Laden in Afghanistan before the September 11, 2001 attacks, said there is no proof to U.S. media reports last week that Saad bin Laden was killed in an American airstrike on Pakistan earlier this year."

"If Saad had been killed, al-Qaeda would have announced that," Saied told Al Arabiya. "They announced the death of many key figures in the organization before. It is considered a source of pride for them."

According to American officials, the 29-year old Saad fled to Pakistan after spending years in Iran, where he was arrested in 2003. Intelligence officials said bin Laden’s third-oldest son played an active role in establishing a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda....

No case registered yet against Sufi

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - No case registered yet against Sufi
ISLAMABAD: The government has not yet registered any criminal case against Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi chief Sufi Muhammad after he was arrested by law enforcement agencies along with his two sons from Peshawar, sources told Daily Times on Wednesday. According to the sources, Sufi was under protective custody. They said a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was interrogating Sufi’s role in the insurgency in Malakand and the findings of the JIT would determine his fate. “We are waiting for the JIT findings and a decision on registering a criminal case against him or otherwise would be made once that happens,” a source in the Interior Ministry said. tahir niaz

Electrocuted soldier's mom drops lawsuit against KBR - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Electrocuted soldier's mom drops lawsuit against KBR - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "The mother of a Texas soldier electrocuted in Iraq in 2005 said it was a difficult decision to drop wrongful death lawsuits filed in two states against defense contractor KBR Inc."

Larraine McGee, mother of Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Everett, said Tuesday she felt she had no choice when she agreed to KBR's request to dismiss federal complaints filed against the company in Texas and Louisiana. She said she feared "losing the whole case," which also names as a defendant Arkel International LLC, a defense contractor based in Baton Rouge.

"KBR had us tied up in appeals, and Arkel didn't appeal anything," said McGee, of Huntsville, Texas. "I was afraid of losing it all. I felt I had to do this so the case against Arkel could continue."

Houston-based KBR yesterday issued a statement indicating that its removal from the cases absolves the company of responsibility in the death of Everett, 23, who was killed while power-washing sand from a Humvee in a motor pool on Sept. 7, 2005.

"The dismissal orders affirm that, despite repeated criticism and statements made by several public officials on Capitol Hill and related media reports, KBR had no involvement in the factors that led to the tragic death of Sergeant Everett," said Andrew D. Farley, KBR senior vice president and general counsel.

The Army's criminal investigation into Everett's death is ongoing, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Defense inspector general.

[bth: how big companies beat small people.]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Raw Story » CNN: Bombs slowly destroyed US soldier’s brain

Raw Story » CNN: Bombs slowly destroyed US soldier’s brain: "Nearly three years after surviving the last of a series of explosions in Iraq, Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Raymond Trejo Rivas, 53, of New Braunfels, Texas, was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Rivas committed suicide after struggling with multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that had been repeatedly misdiagnosed.

Rivas was sent back to the battlefield after each bomb blast until doctors realized that his brain was slowly being destroyed. After a 2006 mortar blast during a tour of duty in Iraq, he was sent home for good. At Walter Reed Medical Center, the full extent of his brain injuries seemed to elude doctors.

Rivas couldn’t do simple things like get dressed and feed himself."...

Colleen Rivas said her husband was devoted to serving his country. “He always put duty and his country first,” she said. But after sustaining eight concussions, he changed dramatically.

“He was like two different people,” she said. “When he came back (from Iraq), we had to re-teach him everything … He wrote like a second grader … He couldn’t add or subtract. He had to relearn so much.”

“This was a man with a master’s degree in engineering,” Brian said.

Doctors told Colleen her husband would be in a nursing home by 2011. His death came as a shock, she said.

A study at Walter Reed Medical Center found that 52 percent of soldiers severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.

“TBI is caused by the supersonic shockwave produced by an explosion — often from an IED — which damages or destroys brain cells,’ says a report in Japan’s Mainichi Daily. “A soldier caught in the blast may not even know he or she has been injured.”

Human Rights Group Campaigns To End Use Of Child Politicians In Africa | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Human Rights Group Campaigns To End Use Of Child Politicians In Africa | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Human Rights Group Campaigns To End Use Of Child Politicians In Africa

Police Still Searching For Missing Productive, Obedient Woman | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Police Still Searching For Missing Productive, Obedient Woman | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Police Still Searching For Missing Productive, Obedient Woman

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As Last British Troops Leave Iraq, a Coalition Ends -

As Last British Troops Leave Iraq, a Coalition Ends - ..."Two days from now, there will no longer be any other nations with troops in Iraq — no “multi” in the Multi-National Force. As Iraqi forces have increasingly taken the lead, the United States will become the last of the “coalition of the willing” that the Bush administration first brought together in 2003.

That has come about as much through parliamentary maneuvering as anything else. The Iraqi Parliament recessed Monday and left a ream of undecided legislation behind — including an extension to an agreement that would allow the British military to keep a residual training force of 100 soldiers in Iraq. As a result, those troops will withdraw to Kuwait by Friday, according to a British diplomat, who declined to be identified in keeping with his government’s practice.

The other two small remnants of the coalition, the Romanians and Australians, will also be gone on Friday, if not before then. NATO will keep a token training presence in Iraq, but those troops were never considered part of the multi-national force because of widespread opposition to the war from many member countries."...

Afghan war questioned as more bodies flown home

Afghan war questioned as more bodies flown home:..."The surge in troop deaths has sparked a political row over resources for troops in Afghanistan, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown forced to defend Britain's strategy after calls for more equipment and boosted soldier numbers.

But according to a poll in the Independent on Tuesday, the majority of Britons now think the war in Afghanistan is 'unwinnable' and want troops to be withdrawn immediately.

Fifty-eight percent see the offensive against the Taliban as a lost cause, while 31 percent believe the conflict can be won, according to a ComRes poll conducted between July 24 and 26.

Fifty-two percent of the 1,008 polled want the troops out while 43 percent want them to stay put.

Britain has around 9,150 troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority fighting Taliban militants in troubled Helmand.

In a keynote speech at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Miliband reiterated Britain's call for other countries to do more -- while stressing the need for the Afghan government to engage with moderate Taliban elements.

'We need to help the Afghan government exploit the opportunity, with a more coherent effort to fragment the various elements of the insurgency and turn those who can be reconciled to live within the Afghan constitution,' he said."...

[bth: shitty equipment leads to needless casualties leads to collapsing poll numbers.]

N Korea 'tests weapons on children'

Al Jazeera English - Asia-Pacific - N Korea 'tests weapons on children': ..."Today it is estimated the country has accumulated a stockpile of more than 5,000 tonnes of biochemical weaponry; from mustard gas, to nerve agents such as sarin, to anthrax and cholera.

The extent of the stockpile is a concern to Kim Sang-hun, a retired UN official who has spent years investigating the North's chemical and biological weapons programme.

He believes over the past 20 years, the programme has advanced at a startling pace, specifically because the country’s rulers approve and support the use of human test subjects."...

[bth: so this defectors information was kept back for 10 years? Why now?]

12 bombs found aboard ferry in Philippines

12 bombs found aboard ferry in Philippines: "Twelve bombs were found hidden inside a bathroom in a ferry in Masbate in the Philippines

The bombs raise fears of another bombing campaign by suspected Islamic militants.

According to AFP, the improvised explosive devices, made of bottles with gunpowder, blasting caps, shrapnel, and wiring, were found hidden in a sack in the bathroom of the MV Blue Water Princess on Saturday just as it was about to depart the city of Lucena for the central island of Masbate.

Explosive experts and bomb-sniffing dogs were immediately dispatched to check the vessel for other bombs, said coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.

It was not clear if the bombs were intended to go off inside the ferry or were to be used elsewhere, said Balilo who also declined to identify any suspects.

He said it was the coast guard's second discovery of large amounts of explosive material in just two weeks. Last week, a supply of ammonium nitrate and blasting caps was found in a port in the central city of Mandaue."...

[bth: hello.]

Navy kills mini-sub effort, calls repair cost too high | |

Navy kills mini-sub effort, calls repair cost too high | | "The U.S. Special Operations Command has canceled its mini-submarine program, a project designed to deliver Navy commando s close to their target and protect them on the way.

Northrop Grumman's Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) hit numerous hurdles since it was conceived in the late 1990s. The latest, in November, was a fire that burned for six hours while the sub's batteries were charging at a Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, shipyard.

The command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, said in a news release that it would scrap ASDS altogether rather than pay for repairs that would take almost three years. The fire affected all of the boat's operating systems, the release said, damaging its sonar, motor, controllers, anchor, battery system and hull.

The repair price, $237 million, dwarfed the command's $57 million budget for the mini-sub program.

A 2003 General Accounting Office report said the program, which initially called for six vessels, was six years behind schedule and almost 300 percent over budget.

Only one sub was delivered to the military. In 2006, the rest of the vessels were canceled.

The command took possession of the boat in 2003, and declared it operational in 2007. It offered several advantages to the way SEALs typically travel aboard submarines - transferring into small, open boats miles from their destination, exposed to heavy seas, bad weather and fatigue.

[bth: $237 million repair against a $57 million budget. 3 fold overrun and six years behind. That just says it all.]

The command took possession of the boat in 2003, and declared it operational in 2007. It offered several advantages to the way"

Russia Loses India as Second Largest Defense Customer - Pravda.Ru

Russia Loses India as Second Largest Defense Customer - Pravda.Ru: ..."Russian military analysts say that the principal reason for India’s decision to develop defense cooperation with the USA lies in Russia’s numerous violations in execution of contract terms with India. India was outraged when Russia delayed the modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, as Russia did previously with the delivery of warships and submarines.

A new scandal arose several days before Clinton’s visit to Delhi. It proved that Russia had sold India defective air-to-air rockets.

Up to 50 percent of the rockets were reportedly defective. Therefore, the question of whether India continues to buy weapons from Russia remains open after the nation signed the defense cooperation agreement with the United States.

India will continue buying Russian tanks. However, it is going to co-operate with other suppliers in the sphere of operational aircraft and navy. Thus, Russia will lose its key position on the Indian arms market. For the time being, India is Russia’s second biggest customer.

The Russian defense complex is now unable to provide the production that would fully satisfy foreign customers, due to the loss of qualified personnel.

Another negative moment is that Russia has been purchasing navigation facilities, optical devices and avionics abroad for several years. The Russian military production is virtually ruined and military engineers have invented nothing new....

[bth: wow. This from Pravda. Not something we are reading in the US news for sure. So at several levels, it looks like the US and India are converging politically and militarily. Fascinating.]

Another negative moment is that Russia has been purchasing navigation facilities, optical devices and avionics abroad for several years. The Russian mil"

Rush Limbaugh is Bigger than Walter Cronkite « Margaret and Helen

Rush Limbaugh is Bigger than Walter Cronkite « Margaret and Helen: "Margaret. Forgive me honey for I have sinned… I realize now that President Obama is not perfect. I was wrong to suggest that Obama would rid the world of evil and walk on water while doing it. I was wrong to believe he was the Messiah. I can now say that he is not the smartest human to have ever lived and quite frankly he throws like a girl. Whew. That feels good to get off my chest."

am a big enough woman to admit when I am wrong. But there is one thing wrong with all of this. I never said any of those things in the first place and neither did any Democrat I know. I never said he was perfect. I never expected him to solve all the problems of the world. And I know lots of women who can throw a ball better than most men. I recognize that he is human and I am sure most people in their right minds know that as well. But you would never know any of this if you listen to Rush Limbaugh. Evidently we Democrats are deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to Obama.


I am not giving Obama a free pass. I’m giving him a chance. He has four years to “make it or break it” as they say. And considering what George Bush did to it, breaking it is the least of our worries. Healthcare in the United State is broken. Our reputation around the globe is broken. The banks are broken. The tax system… the school systems… the environment - all broken. Someone needs to try and fix it. So why not Obama?

When George Bush was President I didn’t want him to fail. I wanted him to stop acting like an idiot. I wanted him to be honest and listen to the debate of the people. I didn’t expect him to act like a Democrat. I expected him to act like an American. And I expected him to at least try to keep his campaign promises. Instead what we got was a moron of a President who crawled up Dick Cheney’s ass and lived there for 8 years....

[bth: I've got to say I love these two ladies - Margaret and Helen.]
Informed Comment

Naval Open Source INTelligence

Monday, July 27, 2009

Britain and US prepared to open talks with the Taliban | World news | The Guardian

Britain and US prepared to open talks with the Taliban | World news | The Guardian: "A concerted effort to start unprecedented talks between Taliban and British and American envoys was outlined today in a significant change in tactics designed to bring about a breakthrough in the attritional, eight-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Senior ministers and commanders on the ground believe they have created the right conditions to open up a dialogue with 'second-tier' local leaders now the Taliban have been forced back in a swath of Helmand province."

They are hoping that Britain's continuing military presence in Helmand, strengthened by the arrival of thousands of US troops, will encourage Taliban commanders to end the insurgency. There is even talk in London and Washington of a military "exit strategy".

Speaking at the end of the five-week Operation Panther's Claw in which hundreds of British troops were reported to have cleared insurgents from a vital region of Helmand province, Lieutenant-General Simon Mayall, deputy chief of defence staff, said: "It gives the Taliban 'second tier' room to reconnect with the government and this is absolutely at the heart of this operation."

The second tier of the insurgency are regarded as crucial because they control large numbers of Taliban fighters in Pashtun-dominated southern Afghanistan. The first tier of Taliban commanders – hardliners around Mullah Omar – could not be expected to start talks in the foreseeable future. The third tier – footsoldiers with no strong commitments – are not regarded as influential or significant players....

Lethal warriors day 2 | html, http, gazette - Top Stories - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Lethal warriors day 2 | html, http, gazette - Top Stories - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO: ..."Fort Carson started referring soldiers to private counselors in Colorado Springs in 2006. The number seeking private counseling surged from 11 in 2006 to 2,171 in 2008, according to Evans Army Community Hospital.

“We see that as a sign of strength, not weakness,” said Roger Meyer, Evans spokesman. “It shows we are having success in our efforts to educate soldiers on the signs of stress.”

In Colorado Springs, lawyers and law enforcement agencies have created an experimental veteran’s court to catch returning soldiers who get in trouble with the law and steer them toward help instead of jail. Soldiers charged with felonies will be sentenced to counseling and substance abuse treatment. The court is expected to take its first cases in August.

The Army has created Warrior Transition Units to manage the care of soldiers, like Needham, who are too mentally or physically disabled to stay with their units.

Colorado’s senators urged the Army last week to include Fort Carson in a pilot alcohol abuse program.

Graham said the Army is also trying to change the culture."...

[bth: absolutely worth reading in full]

Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

iFRAME | iframe, eastridge, audio - Life - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO: "Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraq eight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun."

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last....

[bth: this article is absolutely worth reading in full.]

US released senior Iranian Qods Force commander - The Long War Journal

US released senior Iranian Qods Force commander - The Long War Journal: "A senior Qods Force officer who led one of the three commands in Iraq assigned to attack US and Iraqi forces was one of five Iranians released by the US military on July 9.

Mahmud Farhadi, the leader of the Zafr Command, one of three units subordinate to the Qods Force's Ramazan Corps, was among five Iranians turned over to the Iraqi government and then subsequently turned over to the Iranians.

A spokesman from the Iranian foreign ministry identified Farhadi as one of the five men released on July 9, according to a report on Iranian state-run television.

Reports initially indicated that five Iranians who were captured by the US in Irbil in northern Iraq in January 2007 were released from custody. But US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that Farhadi was disguised as one of the Irbil Five to soften the blow of the release.

The US had previously released two members of the Irbil Five in November 2007, according to The Associated Press, but the report received little attention. This 'left room for Farhadi to be pawned off as one of the Irbil Five and snuck out the back door,' one official told The Long War Journal.

The US captured Farhadi during a raid in the northern Kurdish province of Sulimaniyah on Sept. 20, 2007 ...

[bth: I happen to have met the father of one of the five murdered US soldiers. I hope we got something meaningful in return for releasing Farhadi in our terrorist catch and release program. I suspect not however because if we did, we wouldn't have tried to sneak him out the back door.]

Captured weapons from the Swat Taliban - The Long War Journal

Captured weapons from the Swat Taliban - The Long War Journal

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pakistan arrests pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad -

Pakistan arrests pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad - "PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistani police on Sunday arrested pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad, who brokered a peace deal between the government and militants in the Swat Valley that has since faltered.

Muhammad, father-in-law of Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, negotiated a truce with the government in February that imposed Shariah, or Islamic, law in the valley in exchange for an end to two years of fighting. But it was widely seen as an acquiescence to Taliban control of the area.

The deal collapsed in April when the Taliban advanced into neighboring districts, triggering a military offensive that prompted a spree of retaliatory attacks by militants in the northwest and beyond.

Mian Iftikhar, information minister for the North West Frontier Province, said Muhammad was arrested for encouraging violence and terrorism.

'Instead of keeping his promises by taking steps for the sake of peace, and speaking out against terrorism, he did not utter a single word against terrorists,' Iftikhar said in a news conference in Peshawar, adding that the cleric's stance 'encouraged terrorism. It encouraged violence.'"...

[bth: theater. He will be released in a few weeks]

Afghan Quest » Blog Archive » The Double-edged IO Sword

Afghan Quest » Blog Archive » The Double-edged IO Sword: ...."Sholtis poses this question about the demands from the Taliban that the coalition end air strikes in certain areas in return for permitting PFC Bergdahl to continue to draw breath and make propaganda tapes for them:

Why do this unless air power represents a significant threat to the organization? And while it’s clear that the Taliban try to provoke strikes that will cause civilian casualties, it’s unclear whether this tactic is designed to whip up popular rage or encourage restrictive rules of engagement that will grant insurgents more breathing room. The answer is probably both.

Money. Right on the money. It is both. Remember a few things when looking at an insurgency;
# 1. the population is the prize
2. their actions are designed to support Information Operation (IO) message
3. they are all about preserving their force

You have to listen to the insurgent IO first. Not just truly listen, but listen from the viewpoint of the population. The population is what gives the insurgent his strength. The population is the water in which the fish (insurgent) swims. The population provides sustenance, information, shelter, concealment and recruits, as well as other aids. Without the population, the insurgent is irrelevant. What matters is not necessarily what is true, but what the population believes to be true. The insurgent IO (what is also called propaganda) is the conversation, the love call, of the insurgent. It is his attempt to either woo and seduce or to intimidate. The insurgent is a date-rapist. If the population buys his pickup lines and gives up the support willingly, so much the better; but if force is required, he’s prepared and willing for that, too.

The message about the air strikes is two things at once. First, it is in support of the message that the United States and her allies are forces of occupation attempting to dominate Afghanistan and all Afghans. His message is that we simply do not care about Afghan lives, especially Muslim Afghan lives. That would be just about… all of them. The implication is that the Taliban does care about Afghan lives; that they are the defenders of Islam, Afghan sovereignty and Afghan lives.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain… the Afghan civilians killed by insurgents. That’s the other side of the coin (pardon the pun.) That supports a whole ‘nother message.

Secondly, it is an attempt to force us to quiver our most feared arrows. Air power is a decisive edge in any engagement. Their objective is to get us to shoot ourselves in the foot either way. If they can goad us into the indiscriminate use of air power, then they can portray us as completely unmindful of Afghan lives in the pursuit of our goal of world domination. This supports their messages locally, nationally and even internationally. Is it believable?...

Just because the Taliban portray themselves as the defenders of Afghan lives and property doesn’t mean it’s so; but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how the population sees it. If they see the Coalition as willing to bomb civilians in a heartbeat, slow to admit the truth and having been caught in several untruths (another word for, oh… I don’t know… maybe… “lies?”) then the insurgent wins. We can see that the Taliban are perfectly willing to shoot at us from occupied houses or villages. We can see that the Taliban will slip us information about a massing of forces and get us to bomb a wedding. We can see them endanger civilian lives with reckless abandon. It matters not what we can see.

It matters what the man on the street sees… through the lens of the insurgent message.

All too often we have obliged him. We are so eager to kill the enemy that we can usually be counted on to reflexively lash out with as much firepower as we can get on that target. If we made tactical nukes available and didn’t make it too complicated to use them, I guarantee that someone would have employed one in some valley in Afghanistan. We like to swat flies with bricks.

There is another side to this coin (ooops, did it again…) and that is that the insurgent tells you how to kick his ass. He tells you what is important. If it’s not a deception, which is possible, he may be telling you where he is planning something or where you have hurt him badly. Why did he specify districts? We really need to take a look at that. What can we determine about him from his message?

When we listen to the enemy, he tells us how he plans to beat us. He tells us what is wrong with the government that, if we fix that problem, will alleviate some conditions that cause people to support him… like the courts in Wardak and Khost. In this case, if we listen to his message and watch the popular response, we can see that killing civilians hurts us and helps him. If we become very careful about civilian lives, even at a bit greater risk to ourselves, we take this away from him. He will always attempt to use it if we make an error, but we can take that high ground from him. That doesn’t mean that we can never use air power, but it does mean that we must be exceedingly careful so as not to feed the fish. Then we can put a few things in the water that the fish will find irritating; such as the Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) being the ones who are concerned about Afghan lives while the Taliban kills innocent civilians in their terror operations or in offensive operations against the Coalition and ANSF. We can coopt his message.

We can salt the water of our fresh water fish. Go pour some salt in your goldfish bowl and see what happens.....

Informed Comment

[bth: its a sad commentary on US media that the best information is coming from Aljazeera.]

CIA Sat on Alleged Drone Hit on Bin Laden’s Kid | Danger Room |

CIA Sat on Alleged Drone Hit on Bin Laden’s Kid | Danger Room | "U.S. drones may have killed one of Osama Bin Laden’s sons in Pakistan, according to a variety of reports. But the CIA has sat on the news for months for the ambiguous purpose of “messing with al-Qaeda.”

Saad Bin Laden, an al-Qaeda member and the eldest son of Osama Bin Laden and his first wife, Najwa Ghanem, is reported to have been killed by a drone strike in Pakistan sometime the past few months. In the absence of DNA evidence from the strike’s aftermath, one source told NPR that U.S. officials remain “80-85 percent certain” of Saad’s death. News of his apparent death was gleaned from intercepted communications and reports from the field, American officials say.

Saad was said to have been placed under an ambiguous “house arrest” in Iran in 2003 along with other al-Qaeda figures following their flight from Afghanistan. Some U.S. officials believe Iran held Bin Laden’s son and other al-Qaeda figures as collateral against potential attacks from the terrorist group. In a press roundtable this January, then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell stated that Saad had left Iran for Pakistan."...

[bth: the right question should be 'why now?" If we killed him months ago, why release the news now? My guess is that we needed some good news to report as the Pakistani 'offensive' stalls and we take casualties in Afghanistan. Killing OBL's son is like the 'third lieutenant' killings we saw among al-Qaeda in Iraq a couple of years ago. They are timely PR stunts to show progress as we classify other measures of success like body counts, and if I might ask, where the hell is OBL and Omar - probably the two real measures most Americans are interested in?]

Danger Room With Afghanistan’s Broke, Ammo-Starved Cops | Danger Room |

Danger Room With Afghanistan’s Broke, Ammo-Starved Cops | Danger Room | "BAMIYAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — In Bamiyan Province, the Afghan National Police are supposed to be the first line of defense against insurgents. Problem is, they are often out of gas, short of ammunition and in need of basic supplies.

On a recent patrol, a group of U.S and New Zealand troops attached to the New Zealand-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan happened on half a dozen Afghan National Police officers stranded by the road. They were on their way to Sayghan, farther north in the province. But their Ford Ranger ran out of gas shortly after they crossed over the pass from Bamiyan Valley.

The PRT convoy was already limping along with vehicle trouble. One of the Toyota 4×4s had a blown clutch — a casualty of Bamiyan’s primitive mountain roads — and it was being towed back to base. Still, the New Zealanders could spare a can of fuel. After filling up, the Afghans were back on their way.

Keeping the ANP properly equipped and supplied is one of the obstacles to maintaining security in Bamiyan Province. Warrant Officer Class One Ian Lawrence of the New Zealand Army described the challenges the PRT encounters when working with the local police.

“We’re supposed to train them, but they don’t even have training rounds for the weapons,” he said. “It’s a bit frustrating. When we take them out on joint patrols, we have to feed them, give them water, provide the diesel. They give them nothing, they have no supply system.”...

[bth: it costs us $50K per month to keep a soldier in Afghanistan. A ridiculous sum which surely doesn't show up in his paycheck. What would it cost us to field and properly equip Afghan soldiers and police? I think I ran the numbers a few months ago and think we could field and pay over a 100, I think the number was about 160 actually. They can't read, but at least they can speak the language and its their own freaking country.]