Friday, August 28, 2009

All Along Procession Route, Lives Changed - CBS Evening News - CBS News

All Along Procession Route, Lives Changed - CBS Evening News - CBS News:... "Kennedy also cared deeply about education - from expanding Head Start to providing bilingual programs to spearheading No Child Left Behind.

But Kennedy was committed in a more personal way. For nine years he was involved in the program Everybody Wins, reading to D.C. elementary school students every week.

Larenai Swann was his last reading buddy. When he could no longer come every Tuesday, he sent her a letter.

And then there was Sept. 11. After that horrible day, the senator called each of the 177 families in Massachusetts who had lost a loved one. He sent a letter each family every year on the anniversary.

For Cindy McGinty, whose husband Mike died in the World Trade Center that day, Kennedy's support meant everything.

'He was my guardian angel,' McGinty said. 'And actually what he did for me was show me how to put one foot in front of the other after Sept. 11.'

And while Ted Kennedy was one of 23 senators to vote against authorizing the war in Iraq, he never forgot the men and women who are fighting it.

Private First Class John Hart was killed in Iraq in 2003.

"John called us the week before he was killed and actually was whispering into the phone, so that he wouldn't be overheard, that they were desperate for any kind of armor, " recalled the soldier's father, Brian Hart.

So Brian Hart and his wife Alma, lifelong Republicans, joined forces with their senior senator to provide better uniforms and equipment to protect the troops.

Kennedy invoked the Harts' plea on the Senate floor.

"I just hope that Sen. Kennedy will get credit for the thousands of lives he saved," Brian Hart said. "He loved his country. He really, truly loved it. He was there for us in our worst hour and now we're here for his."
Brian and Alma Hart's son John was killed in Iraq in 2003. Sen. Kennedy not only attended John's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, he fought in the Senate to provide more body armor for troops, something John had told his parents was badly needed shortly before his death.
Kennedy came to John Hart's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Now, like the young private from Bedford, Mass., he will be buried there as well.

Kennedy took public's battles to heart -

Kennedy took public's battles to heart - "'He's bigger than life,' says Casanova, tearing up as she realizes he is gone. 'He understood, having all the tragedies in his life … how it can impact you and how you want to really strive to do something about it.'

Cindy McGinty remembers picking up the phone soon after her husband, Michael, died in the terrorist attack in New York and hearing the distinctive Kennedy accent on the other end. 'He never spoke about the things he did' for 9/11 families, says McGinty, then a Foxborough, Mass., mother of two boys. 'He just did it because it was the right thing to do.'

In the days afterward, Kennedy's office helped locate Michael's Navy discharge papers so he could be buried with military honors. A month later, at a meeting of Massachusetts 9/11 families, McGinty told the senator she 'could barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone fill out 30-page forms,' so Kennedy assigned each family an advocate to cut red tape. Three years later, Kennedy invited McGinty to go sailing and asked her to keep tabs on the needs of 9/11 families long after public interest had faded.

'He understood what it was to lose somebody in a public way and to have to share that grief with the public,' says McGinty, 52, now of Bloomfield, Conn.

McGinty was at Thursday's vigil for the senator at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. So were Brian and Alma Hart, and others touched by Kennedy, whose empathy they say was born of personal experience.

The Kennedys became a Gold Star Family when Joe Jr. died on a mission in World War II, when Ted was 12. The Harts joined the same ranks of those who have lost loved ones in military service in November 2003, after their son John died in Iraq. Kennedy was at their side as they prepared to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the funeral procession waited, the Bedford, Mass., couple met their senator in the cemetery's administration building and told him of their 20-year-old son's complaints about the lack of body armor and armored vehicles. Kennedy would later hold pivotal hearings that led to better protections for troops on the battlefield, but on that day they spoke of families sharing a small, mournful plot of land overlooking the nation's capital.

"We asked him how do you deal with your family being buried at Arlington," a magnet for busloads of tourists, Hart recalls. The senator, who will be buried near his brothers Saturday, replied, "You go in the morning, because you want a private moment in a public place."

Posted by Picasa

For Massachusetts mourners, Kennedy was ‘one of their own’ |

For Massachusetts mourners, Kennedy was ‘one of their own’ |

Dorchester, Mass.

The mourners had supported his brother for president, shook his hand, or heard him speak. They called him Teddy, and felt he was a friend and trusted ally, even if they never met him.

To brave the mid-August sun and the crowds that built as the day wore on was the least they could do for a man who gave so much, they said.

The motorcade carrying Edward Kennedy’s body arrived here at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Thursday afternoon, passing from his beloved Cape Cod home to Boston on a pre-planned route where thousands of Bay Staters lined the roads.

That Massachusetts loved its senior senator was evident long before his passing Tuesday. It was obvious every six years. Senator Kennedy won eight elections in total, six with more than 60 percent of the vote. Two of those times, he took more than 70 percent.

Only two men – Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd – have held seats in the United States Senate longer.

Mourners here – both Massachusetts natives and visitors from as far afield as Florida – felt the weight of that service.

..."Instead, Kennedy is praised for his service to poor and minority communities, for his work in healthcare reform, and for the disabled.

“He stayed with us in our worst hours,” says Brian Hart, who lost his son, John, in Iraq in 2003. Kennedy helped him send armor and equipment to the soldiers his son left behind.

Mr. Hart first met Kennedy during his son’s funeral at Arlington National Ceremony, where Kennedy will also be buried.

“We’ll see him there again, I suppose,” Hart said.

But for now, he’s come here to honor him."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taliban can hit Europe, US, says rebel commander

Taliban can hit Europe, US, says rebel commander: "A Pakistani Taliban commander has said his organisation is committed to fight the foreign troops in Afghanistan and capable of hitting targets as far as London, Washington and Paris, the Online news agency reported.

Militant commander Waliur Rehman Mehsud said US President Barrack Obama is 'number one enemy' of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and would fight till the US and its allied forces are expelled from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Taliban did not fear death, as they preferred death to dishonourable life, he said. He also claimed that he has been in charge of the group's administrative affairs since past two months"

Behind the scenes, Kennedy labored to fix individual wrongs - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe

Behind the scenes, Kennedy labored to fix individual wrongs - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe: ...."Because of the personal tragedies he weathered, Kennedy was widely seen as a leader with deep reserves of empathy, who understood loss and suffering firsthand. His own struggles made him human to his legions of supporters, who drew hope and strength from his long perseverance through the loss of family members, career-altering public disgrace, and, most recently, his battle with brain cancer.

Fred Fay, a disability rights activist from Concord who broke his neck and was paralyzed in 1961, said he felt a close connection to Kennedy, who suffered serious injuries of his own, and lifelong back pain, as the result of a 1964 plane crash. A leading supporter of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Kennedy worked closely with Fay, and visited him at his home, where the two men shared coffee, muffins, and strategies for coping with physical limitations.

‘‘He came back from so much that would have made other people give up on themselves,’’ Fay said. ‘‘He set a pattern over many years of being a real survivor, someone who comes back from challenge ... He was a very compassionate man.’’"

His compassion rarely ended with a single gesture. When a terrified father called Kennedy’s office in 1987 and said his son could not get access to the latest cancer drug, the senator’s staff intervened on his behalf. When the drug could not save the young man and he was sent home to die, his father called Kennedy again, distraught over the uncomfortable, hand-cranked bed the VA hospital provided. The next day, an electric bed arrived.

Kennedy befriended Brian and Alma Hart of Bedford in November 2003, after their son John was killed in Iraq. Told it would be a six-week wait to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery, they appealed to Kennedy, who helped cut the wait in half. The senator attended the funeral of the 20-year-old soldier, and listened in a conference room nearby as a stricken Brian Hart voiced his terrible suspicion that better equipment could have saved his son’s life.

Then Kennedy went to war in Congress, fighting for and winning huge advances in funding for protective body armor and armored vehicles. Production of armored Humvees climbed from 800 to 10,000 a year; previously 1 or 2 percent of all vehicles, they became standard equipment. Ballistic plates, used in body armor to stop bullets, were issued to every soldier; previously, one third of the troops in Iraq had such plates.

‘‘It gives some meaning to our son’s death,’’ Brian Hart said. ‘‘It’s a legacy for him ... Undoubtably, several thousand lives have been saved.’’

On Sept. 11, 2001, Kennedy famously called every Massachusetts family who lost a member and offered his help. Cindy McGinty, whose husband, Mike, was killed on that day, soon learned the senator really meant it, when she lamented the tangle of red tape she faced in the aftermath, and he took immediate action, creating an advocate program to help victims’ families.

Kennedy never spoke publicly about the help he gave them. ‘‘We talk about it,’’ said McGinty. ‘‘He downplayed it.’’

Every year that followed, the senator contacted her on the anniversary of the tragedy, and sometimes more often, to check on her and her children, said McGinty.

‘‘I really wondered how I would ever go on, and he’s been such a role model,’’ she said. ‘‘He taught me how to put one foot in front of the other, and do for other people ... I really think that he’s my hero.’’

For the Abrahams, the Ethiopian couple whose lives unfolded in America because of Kennedy’s help, the senator became a symbol of all the best qualities of their adopted country. His presence in the Senate made them feel secure, Abe Abraham said, that those ideals, such as equal rights, would be upheld.

The couple’s daughter, 27, runs her own successful business in Virginia, and their son, a recent Yale graduate, works at the White House as a legislative assistant.

His children, and the children of other successful immigrants aided by Kennedy, will carry on the senator’s commitment and his vision, said Abe Abraham.

‘‘We feel close to the values he stands for,’’ he said.

War Critic, Warrior Ally Kennedy Dies at 77

War Critic, Warrior Ally Kennedy Dies at 77: ...."Kennedy's liberal politics made him a lightning rod for criticism from Republican and conservative-minded politicians and groups. And nowhere in recent years was that more clear than on the issue of the Iraq war, which Kennedy opposed and voted against at a time when most in the Senate and House backed the invasion.

Kennedy called Operation Iraqi Freedom 'a fraud.'

'There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically,' the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

Despite his strong rejection of OIF, Kennedy worked to push billions in updated equipment to troops in combat, supporting supplemental funds for up-armored Humvees and later siding with his Senate colleagues to fund thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protective vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps."

Kennedy was able to separate his opposition to the war from his support of the warriors, said Brian Hart of Bedford, Mass., whose son, John, was killed in Iraq when insurgents ambushed the convoy he was riding in.

Before his son's burial Arlington Cemetery, Hart met with the senator and told him of a phone call from his son just a week earlier in which he learned that their Humvees were not armored and the men feared they were easy targets.

"I asked the senator if he could do something about it," Hart told "He did. Two weeks later he called a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting … on body and vehicle armor."

It was in that hearing, he said, that the public learned that a third of troops in Iraq didn't have the ceramic plates for their body armor, and that few Humvees had adequate armor.

"In the military community his name gets bandied around quite a bit, but when it comes to equipment for troops in combat, there's not a stronger advocate," he said. "And he deserves credit for getting the equipment there and I only hope he gets it."

Speaking today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, contributor and former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, a neighbor of Kennedy's at Hyannis Port, Mass., said that Kennedy regularly visited with families of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Barnicle, whenever Kennedy was being driven back to the Cape from Boston after undergoing treatment for his cancer, he would go first to the home of a fallen GI.

In the Senate, Kennedy was also known for his passionate liberal views and politics, but even opponents credit him with political deftness and a willingness to work together.

"Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement today.

The youngest of nine children born to a multimillionaire father and the brother of President Kennedy, Ted Kennedy won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1962, later making a name for himself as a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. He had served two years in the Army in the 1950s as a military policeman.

Kennedy served on the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2005 and 2006, where he was the ranking member of both the Seapower and Emerging Threats and Capabilities panels.

He was a strong advocate of nuclear arms control as an early advocate for a nuclear weapons freeze in the 1970s and helped pass the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction treaty with the Soviet Union that roughly halved nuclear weapons stockpiles. He was a vocal critic of Reagan-era anti-missile plans, saying in a speech on the senate floor that the president was pushing "misleading Red-Scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes."

Kennedy has also been a strong supporter of the so-called "alternate engine" program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by Massachusetts-based GE Energy "from the beginning," a company source said.

To the American public, Kennedy was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, father figure and, memorably, eulogist of an Irish-American clan plagued again and again by tragedy. But his career was forever marred by an accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969, when a car he was driving plunged off a bridge, killing a young woman.

Kennedy's death triggered an outpouring of superlatives from Democrats and Republicans as well as foreign leaders.

Vice President Joe Biden said he was "truly, truly distressed by his passing" and said that in the Senate, Kennedy had restored his "sense of idealism."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, the conservative Republican from Utah, called Kennedy "an iconic, larger than life United States Senator whose influence cannot be overstated."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving senator, said: "I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy."

Kennedy's family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," it said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all." Managing Editor Christian Lowe and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[bth: Senator Kennedy did a great service to our family, to the legacy of our son and in the service of our country. I hope in time he is recognized for his central contribution toward armoring our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.]

Kennedy instrumental in improving armor for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan | NECN

Kennedy instrumental in improving armor for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan | NECN

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raw Story » Man who sold Iraq war now vetting embedded journos: report

Raw Story » Man who sold Iraq war now vetting embedded journos: report: "A public relations firm that organized the opposition to Saddam Hussein during the 1990s and “coerced” journalists during the run-up to the Iraq war is now vetting at least some embedded journalists in war zones to keep out those who have a history of writing negative stories about the US military, a new report claims."

“Any reporter seeking to embed with US forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group, which gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress,” the military newspaper Stars & Stripes reports.

The Iraqi National Congress was a dummy parliament composed of opponents of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It was headed up by Ahmed Chalabi, who would later serve as Iraq’s oil minister after the US invasion.

he news that the Rendon Group is now in charge of vetting war reporters is certain to raise concerns about government censorship and propaganda among the media watchdog community, many of whom are familiar with John Rendon’s track record in dealing with journalists.

A 2005 Rolling Stone article says that the Rendon Group was given a government contract three weeks after 9/11 to wage a public relations campaign against media that were perceived as hostile to the Bush administration’s war efforts.

According to the New York Times, Rendon was involved in the development of the Office of Strategic Influence, whose “mission was to conduct covert disinformation and deception operations — planting false news items in the media and hiding their origins,” as the Rolling Stone article put it....

Thus it appears it was that inability to “control” what media analysts said that led to the creation of the military analysts program, made infamous by the New York Times last year, which sought to place Pentagon-friendly analysts on TV news broadcasts.


Stars & Stripes, a newspaper devoted to US military affairs, has already experienced government censorship of war coverage first-hand. In June the paper was barred from embedding a report with the 1st Cavalry Unit in Mosul, Iraq, because it “‘refused to highlight’ good news in Iraq that the US military wanted to emphasize,” the paper reported.

That news was met with condemnation from media watchdogs.

“The Army and its individual commanders should not be in the business of making editorial decisions but that is what appears to have happened here,” said Ron Martz, president of Military Reporters and Editors, in a story at Editor & Publisher. “These actions are both unconscionable and unacceptable and MRE condemns them in the strongest possible terms.”

Some observers have suggested that overt censorship of embedded journalists will lead to the media rebelling against the embedding process altogether.

“If they put these kind of conditions on it, then I’d say the whole program will collapse,” Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader at the media think thank Poynter Institute, told Stars & Stripes. “It’s not meant to be a public relations program for the military.”


According to the Center for Media and Democracy, John Rendon is married to Sandra Libby, the sister of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who in 2007 was convicted on obstruction of justice charges in the Valerie Plame affair...

[bth: I had hoped for better from Obama. Business as usual. So Stars & Stripes didn't get an embed! WTF? And today Michael Yon just sent out an email saying his embed was pulled from Afghanistan. Rendon is bad. He organized lies that worked us into war with Iraq. He is like the Lincoln Group. Propagandists hired by the Pentagon against our people. Controlling embeds controls the news. Combine that with the lack of measurable metrics in Afghanistan, the classification of stuff involving IED attacks and now statistics related to enemy combatants killed undisclosed? What metrics and honest reporting is available to the American public, especially in Afghanistan? And Christ, his own brother-in-law is Scooter Libby. Read the referenced Rolling Stone article.]

Sunday, August 23, 2009

  US Had Warning of Attack in Nuristan by A Battlefield Tourist

US Had Warning of Attack in Nuristan by A Battlefield Tourist: "Area in Want where US Vehicle Patrol Base was located

Qourbon had been in the capital of Kabul just a few days when he got a call from relatives telling him things in Nuristan were turning bad. Not only that, but his home village of Want was about to become the epicenter of trouble.

As an interpreter for US forces, Qourbon is seen as both a patriot and a traitor. In the mirror, Qourbon sees a man who helps those that are helping his country during some very dark times. Now that war was on the doorstep of his small mountain village, he knew he had to return home. His first thought is to help protect his family. A second thought is to warn the soldiers he’s committed to that a large scale militant attack on their base is imminent.

Several email interviews were completed with “Qourbon” for this story, whose name has been changed in an attempt to protect his identity."
Area in Want where US Vehicle Patrol Base was located

[bth: a lot of good men died at this battle. So if we were so forewarned why so little protection or fire support? Why so little supplies? Why such a horrific position]

Khaleej Times Online - Iraq airs video confession of truck bombing ‘mastermind’

Khaleej Times Online - Iraq airs video confession of truck bombing ‘mastermind’: "BAGHDAD - Iraqi authorities on Sunday aired a video showing a senior member of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party confessing to being the mastermind of a devastating truck bombing in Baghdad.

In the video, aired on national television, the man admitted to plotting Wednesday’s attack at the finance ministry, one of two bombings that killed at least 95 people and wounded about 600.

‘I received a call a month ago from my boss in the (Baath) party Sattam Farhan in Syria to do an operation to destabilise the regime,’ said the suspect who gave his name as Wissam Ali Kadhem Ibrahim.

The 57-year-old said the truck bomb was prepared in Khalis, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and that he had called a contact in the nearby town of Muqdadiyah to ensure its safe passage to the capital.

‘He told me that he will take care of the vehicle and facilitate its way through the checkpoints. The guy asked for 10,000 dollars,’ said Ibrahim, who said he was chief of police in now restive Diyala province until 1995 under Saddam’s rule.

The truck bombs targeted the ministries of finance and foreign affairs and were the the biggest attacks in Iraq in 18 months.


Pakistan foils suicide terror plot, minister says -

Pakistan foils suicide terror plot, minister says - ..."Malik also said the Taliban killed the father-in-law of its leader Baitullah Mehsud and several other relatives, accusing them of leaking information about his whereabouts.

Pakistan and U.S. officials contend Mehsud was killed in an August 5 drone attack in Waziristan at his father-in-law's house.

The Taliban claims Mehsud is alive but ill."

Pakistan Not Ready to Fight Taliban Again - World Watch - CBS News

Pakistan Not Ready to Fight Taliban Again - World Watch - CBS News: "'Once you feel that the conditions are right and you have been able to substantially dent their (the Taliban's) infrastructure and their fighting capacity, then you go in for a ground offensive,' Ahmed said as reported by Pakistan’s independently operated Dawn News TV after a meeting with Holbrooke. The station quoted Ahmed saying, 'That (attack on South Waziristan) may happen in winter or even beyond probably.'

Pakistani officials said the military will need new hardware, notably helicopters, to launch an attack in largely mountainous Waziristan region where access to different locations by road is often difficult. The U.S. is one of the larger suppliers of military equipment to Pakistan. But Pakistani officials have complained about Washington not moving fast enough at times to meet its hardware needs.

'Unless we have the hardware, how can we be expected to immediately launch an attack?' one senior Pakistani government official asked, speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

However, western diplomats, who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said the Pakistani military has already seized control of the main roads from Waziristan to other parts of the country, mainly to block the Taliban from fleeing out of the region. "It doesn’t matter how long it takes for the Pakistani military to strike in the region," one diplomat said. "They seem to have enough control to block a large scale exodus of the Taliban."

Ahead of Thursday’s presidential election in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials have said they are confident of playing an increasingly vital role in the medium to long-term security of Afghanistan. In recent months, the Pakistani military has successfully fought the Taliban in the northern Swat valley and blocked them from advancing from Swat to other parts of Pakistan.

[bth: the Pak army officers are coin operated. Also now they are going to extract a toll from the taliban for letting them go, or at a minimum channeling them back up to Afghanistan.]

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Petraeus in Pakistan for talks on military equipment

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Petraeus in Pakistan for talks on military equipment: "ISLAMABAD: US General David Petraeus and Pakistan military leaders would discuss on Wednesday expediting delivery of US equipment to Pakistan so it can expand its offensive against Taliban militants, US officials said.

With US troop strength growing in Afghanistan, the United States wants Pakistan to eradicate militant enclaves on its side of the border and prevent Taliban fighters from crossing into Afghanistan.

The Pakistani army has been battling militants in parts of the northwest for months but a commander said on Tuesday the army was short of equipment, including Cobra attack helicopters, needed for a large-scale ground operation.

‘It is part of a substantial effort to strengthen US-Pakistani military cooperation,’ US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told Reuters, referring to the Patraeus visit."...

[bth: a few years ago our helicopter fund given to the Pakistan military was diverted as bribes to army officers. So now the helicopters are in short supply or not flying. This is less about getting equipment to frontier forces and more about paying off the Pak. army.]

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Suspected Al Qaeda man found dead in Peshawar

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Suspected Al Qaeda man found dead in Peshawar: "PESHAWAR: The body of a suspected Al Qaeda leader was found in a house here on Wednesday.

According to officials, the body with multiple wounds was of Abdullah Noori, son of Abdul Qadir, an Algerian believed to be Osama bin Laden’s top aide.

They said the man had been suffering from kidney ailment and was being treated by a private physician in a rented house in Tehkal area on the University Road.

Ten other people in the house were also arrested, but seven of them were later released. The other three are said to be foreigners, one of them from Algeria.

Police said they raided the house on information that an important militant commander was hiding there.

According to a reliable source, the body bore deep cuts, needle pricks on shoulders and marks of wounds in fingers. A urine bag was attached to the body....

[bth: one wonders why the others were released. Also isn't it odd that such a high percentage of these guys seem to have diabetes or kidney problems? What is it?]

Pakistani Taliban quiz Mehsud kin over spying | International | Reuters

Pakistani Taliban quiz Mehsud kin over spying | International | Reuters: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani Taliban have detained four relatives of their leader Baitullah Mehsud, believed to have been killed this month in a U.S. missile strike, on suspicion of tipping off authorities about his whereabouts, security officials said."....

[bth: in all likelihood his in-laws tipped of the Americans to kill him and make him a martyr. They probably did it with his permission as he was on the roof of his father-in-law's compound with an IV in his arm, and his wife rubbing his diseased feet for all the Predators to see. I think he preferred to die a martyr instead of by disease and probably arranged for his in-laws to collect the reward money.]

Don't expect quick results in Afghanistan - Threat Matrix - by The Long War Journal

Don't expect quick results in Afghanistan - Threat Matrix - by The Long War Journal: ..."If you are hoping the influx of US forces into Helmand province and neighboring Kandahar will have a dramatic positive impact, this article at The New York Times should give you pause. To sum it up: the Afghan government has nearly no presence in much of Helmand. The police are near non-existent and the few that are on duty are crooked, ineffective, and poorly trained. There is only one Afghan soldier for every six US Marines, and some Afghan soldier believe they've been sent to Helmand for a 'vacation.' There are too few US troops to effectively patrol and secure much of the province. And finally, the Taliban enjoy significant support from the local population"...

Hakeemullah Mehsud appointed the new leader of Pakistani Taliban - The Long War Journal

Hakeemullah Mehsud appointed the new leader of Pakistani Taliban - The Long War Journal: ..."Baitullah is known to have diabetes and occasionally falls ill from the disease. Some intelligence officials believe Baitullah was at his father-in-law’s compound to receive treatment for his diabetes. Last year Pakistani officials thought Baitullah died from complications in September 2008, but he later surfaced at a feast celebrating his marriage to his second wife.

US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal refuse to confirm or deny Baitullah’s death, contradicting more definitive pronouncements made by National Security Advisor General Jim Jones and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

The officials contacted by The Long War Journal also said the reports of Taliban infighting are largely false. One official described the reports of an intra-Taliban feud as “highly exaggerated and in some cases manufactured.”

The report of Hakeemullah replacing Baitullah as the new Taliban leader does bolster the US and Pakistani government's claims that Baitullah was killed in the airstrike.

'No matter whether Baitullah is dead or alive, one thing that is clear is that he is out of the game for now,' a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. ...

WPR Article | War Is Boring: Afghanistan Casualties Could Portend British Pull-out

WPR Article | War Is Boring: Afghanistan Casualties Could Portend British Pull-out:... "But Britain's vital contribution to the Afghanistan war is increasingly undermined by weakening public support -- and by equipment shortfalls resulting from inadequate investment in the British armed forces. A poll of 2,100 people found that 57 percent wanted the U.K. out of Afghanistan, the Herald reported on Monday. 'There is no longer any appetite for this war,' wrote Richard North, author of the book 'Ministry of Defeat: The British in Iraq 2003-2009.'"...

Viraat refit done, but where are the jets?

Viraat refit done, but where are the jets? - India - NEWS - The Times of India
NEW DELHI: As it is, India solitary aircraft carrier, the 50-year-old INS Viraat, is being flogged to ensure it can operate for another five
years. To make matters worse, Navy is fast running out of fighter jets to operate from its deck.

This is just another example of how the utter lack of long-term strategic planning and execution continues to be a bane for India, which harbours notions of being a major player on the global stage.

The crash of another Sea Harrier jump-jet off Goa on Friday, which killed its pilot, means Navy is left with barely eight single-seater fighters and three twin-seater trainers.

Beginning 1983, Navy had inducted around 30 Sea Harriers, which take off from the angled ski-jump on INS Viraat and land vertically on its deck. But it has lost over half of them in accidents.

The remaining have undergone a "limited upgrade'' under a Rs 477-crore project, which includes Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multi-mode fire control radar and Derby beyond visual range air-to-air missiles.

The latest crash comes at a time when the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat is finally getting ready to become operational again after an 18-month extensive refit to boost its longevity as well as weapon and sensor packages, as reported earlier.

"A carrier without fighters is like a tiger without teeth,'' said a senior officer. Incidentally, as per earlier plans, both INS Viraat and its Sea Harriers were to be junked by this time.

But the plans were revised since the Navy wanted two fully-operational "carrier battle groups'' (CBGs), with their own complements of fighters, by 2009 to project force as well as act as a "stabilising influence'' in the entire Indian Ocean and beyond.

CBGs or "carrier strike groups'', with a complement of guided-missile destroyers, multi-purpose frigates, attack submarines and tankers, after all project power like nothing else. The US, for instance, has 12 CBGs deployed around the globe as a crucial ingredient of its power projection policy.

But repeated failures of successive Indian governments to take timely decisions has put paid to all such plans. For one, the refurbished 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov, undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia, will be available to the Navy only by 2013 at the earliest now.

For another, the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard, will be ready only by 2015-2016 after meandering through political and bureaucratic apathy for several years.

Navy, of course, will soon start getting the 16 MiG-29Ks contracted in the original $1.5-billion Gorshkov package deal signed with Russia in January 2004, under which the carrier refit cost was pegged at $974 million.

India and Russia, however, are still enmeshed in renegotiating Gorshkov's final refit cost, with Moscow demanding as much as $2.9 billion and India keen on shelling out around $2.2 billion.

The acquisition of another 29 MiG-29Ks for around Rs 5,380 crore is also on the cards, especially since both Gorshkov and IAC will require these fighters when they are ready to enter service.

[bth: Indian carriers without planes.  Not a good plan.]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks

Scholars and Rogues

War Is Boring - Jason Reich in Afghanistan: "Elections were a joke"

War Is Boring: "by DAVID AXE

“I’m dictating this message over the phone. I’m not in a place with any Internet access at all.”

So began War Is Boring correspondent Jason Reich’s message from Afghanistan. He was writing to get the news out, that despite NATO’s assertion that the election was “encouraging,” and Kabul’s claim that they represented a clear “success,” in Nerkh, where Reich accompanied U.S. troops providing broad election security, the vote was “a joke.” “My sources tell me that two people voted and there is very, very heavy fighting,” Jason wrote.

Expect more details once Jason has Internet access.
(Photo: Jason Reich)"

[bth: This is not good.]

Danger Room in Afghanistan: Hansel and Gretel vs. Roadside Bombs | Danger Room |

Danger Room in Afghanistan: Hansel and Gretel vs. Roadside Bombs | Danger Room | "CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The Marines in southern Afghanistan have largely left the roads, to avoid improvised bombs. But they’re still getting hit as they carve tracks through the desert. Now a reporter-turned-lieutenant may have found at least a partial answer: off-the-shelf GPS units, combined with a British tactic from the counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland."...

The battalion was driving as much as 110 kilometers off-road to resupply outlying bases. To keep from getting attacked, they tried to vary their paths through the desert. But the Taliban always seemed to know where they were going to be next.

So Pottinger hooked the battalion’s vehicles up with commercial Garmin GPS trackers, to record where they were driving. After a few runs, he plotted the routes on top of military-imagery databases. “You’d get this spaghetti network of track, and they’d converge in these places,” he says. Turns out the Marines weren’t changing up their routes nearly as much as they thought they were.

Small, almost imperceptible changes in the terrain were forcing the battalion’s vehicles into natural choke points. Near the town of Jamal Ghar, for example, there appeared to be nearly 3 kilometers between a mountain and an irrigation ditch. But Pottinger saw that all the vehicles were driving right on top of each other; most of those 3 kilometers was taken up by farmland. The Taliban had a natural point where they could plant bombs. And they did, attacking the Marines repeatedly.

Once the battalion realized they were going through ambush points, they began sending bomb-clearance teams to sweep the area for explosives. They found 69 percent of the bombs that were in their path. And they set up sniper teams, to target any militants looking to set an ambush....

[bth: this would imply to me that slow and intense road clearing operations would namely need only be focused on those 3 kilometers with the rest of the time, convoys moving a considerable speed. Focus on the choke points]

Rent-a-Helicopters Headed to Afghanistan | Danger Room |

Rent-a-Helicopters Headed to Afghanistan | Danger Room | ..."When the Marine Corps returned to Afghanistan last year, they brought a Marine Air-Ground Task Force with a pretty significant complement of helicopters (pictured here). But NATO and U.S. forces have looked to contracted aircraft to fill some of the gaps. NATO decided to lease civilian helicopters in late 2007; and the Army hired Blackwater Worldwide Xe to do 'low cost/low altitude' airdrop of cargo pallets to isolated combat outposts.

Carson helicopters, a firm that operates heavy-lift helicopters for firefighting and construction, recently signed a deal with to haul supplies for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The Mail Tribune, a southern Oregon paper, reports that the company will provide seven Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, along with parts and maintenance, to a partner company contracted by the Pentagon. Their partner? While Carson would not say, the Mail Tribune cited court documents and Department of Defense records that show the contract is with Presidential Airways, a subsidiary of the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide."

Bloodied Brits to Bail on Afghanistan? | Danger Room |

Bloodied Brits to Bail on Afghanistan? | Danger Room | ...."The 2006 rocket and mortar attack on Camp Abu Naji in Iraq convinced the British Army that it would be better off without small bases — “removing the irritant,” one officer called it. Besides, popular opinion back home was decidedly against the war, which eventually claimed nearly 200 British lives. So mobile patrols replaced outposts, and the Brits steadily withdrew to fewer and bigger bases. At the same time, the American “surge” saw thousands of extra U.S. troops dispersing into small, urban outposts, in order to protect the local population. The American strategy was the exact opposite of the Brits’.

By 2008, the British were essentially isolated at a single base outside Basra. When fighting flared between Iraqi soldiers and insurgents in Basra that spring, the British mostly remained inside their walls, while U.S. troops raced south to reinforce the Iraqis.

The same process seems to be playing out in Afghanistan. Last week, British fatalities in the eight-year-old Afghanistan war passed 200. A recent poll showed some 60 percent of Britons oppose the war. And as more U.S. troops pour into the country, the British are steadily handing over their patrol bases to U.S. Marines, pictured. Ministry of Defeat author Richard North describes a situation “where one"

[bth: I think the Brits are going to pull out of Afghanisan]

Danger Room in Afghanistan: FedEx for the Front Line | Danger Room |

Danger Room in Afghanistan: FedEx for the Front Line | Danger Room | ..."The statistics are telling: According to data provided to Danger Room, Air Force aircraft dropped a total of 3.8 million pounds of cargo last month. Since the beginning of the year, the service’s cargo planes have dropped 13.8 million pounds of supplies – more than was released in all of 2005, 2006 or 2007."...

Another view: We have clarity in our goals - Opinion -

Another view: We have clarity in our goals - Opinion - ..."First, there should be no doubt about the clear U.S. goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the collaboration of both countries, al-Qaeda and the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 are feeling relentless pressure. But should the Taliban be successful in its goal to take over Afghanistan again, there is no question that we and our allies would again be unacceptably threatened. That is why the president is focused on taking a comprehensive fight to the terrorists, and denying them the safe havens they seek. Al-Qaeda and its allies will not be successful if recent trends in executing our strategy continue."...

[bth: this is according to Jim Jones. Perhaps we should focus our methods and put them in line with this goal.]

Lawyers, Guns and Money: No Wars of Necessity

Lawyers, Guns and Money: No Wars of Necessity: "Let's turn this over to Thucydides:

Melians. As we think, at any rate, it is expedient- we speak as we are obliged, since you enjoin us to let right alone and talk only of interest- that you should not destroy what is our common protection, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and right, and even to profit by arguments not strictly valid if they can be got to pass current. And you are as much interested in this as any, as your fall would be a signal for the heaviest vengeance and an example for the world to meditate upon.

Athenians. The end of our empire, if end it should, does not frighten us: a rival empire like Lacedaemon, even if Lacedaemon was our real antagonist, is not so terrible to the vanquished as subjects who by themselves attack and overpower their rulers. This, however, is a risk that we are content to take. We will now proceed to show you that we are come here in the interest of our empire, and that we shall say what we are now going to say, for the preservation of your country; as we would fain exercise that empire over you withouttrouble, and see you preserved for the good of us both.

Melians. And how, pray, could it turn out as good for us to serve as for you to rule?

Athenians. Because you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the worst, and we should gain by not destroying you.

The Athenian point is clear; war is not strictly necessary, and the Melians will gain advantage from surrendering rather than fighting. The Athenians understood this quite clearly, and realized that the subjugation of Melos was necessary only insofar as they wished to preserve the empire....

The term is tossed around without specific invocation of the particular value that is at stake, and accordingly without any debate over whether the value in question is truly worth fighting for. War of necessity, accordingly, is worse than a useless term when it is used in the absence of invocation of, and debate over, the value which it is necessary to defend.

[bth: put simply, "War is necessary TO DEFEND ______? Invoker must complete the sentence. .... War is necessary to (?) in Afghanistan.]

Taliban Chopper Trap Snags Brit Chinook | Danger Room |

Taliban Chopper Trap Snags Brit Chinook | Danger Room | ...."For years, the Brits have been short of helicopters in Afghanistan. The shortages have gotten so bad that the MoD is using unprotected, chartered civilian choppers in dangerous areas. Some of these have been shot down, and their crews killed. When the Taliban destroyed a civilian Mi-26 in southern Afghanistan in July, they issued a press release mistakenly claiming they’d killed a Chinook.

While U.S. forces in Afghanistan rely more and more on aircraft for resupply, the Brits don’t have the same huge air fleets to call upon. There’s a tension in the MoD between using vulnerable choppers or sending ground convoys along Afghanistan’s IED-infested roads. Last week, British forces sortied a near-record ground convoy: 100 vehicles in a line five miles long."
Informed Comment

Larry Flynt: Common Sense 2009

Larry Flynt: Common Sense 2009:.... "The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It's time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves."