Saturday, September 19, 2009

YouTube - Leaving on a jet plane- peter, paul and mary

YouTube - Leaving on a jet plane- peter, paul and mary

The Week in Culture - The Daily Beast

The Week in Culture - The Daily Beast

Somali government says rebels have more car bombs ready -

Somali government says rebels have more car bombs ready - "MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's al Shabaab insurgents have six more stolen United Nations vehicles primed as suicide bombs, the government said on Friday.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's administration says it will not be bowed by twin suicide car bombs that hit the African Union's (AU) main base in Mogadishu on Thursday, killing 17 AU peacekeepers including the AMISOM force's deputy commander.

But the audacious attack by two U.N.-marked cars on the heart of the peacekeeping mission raises serious questions about the credibility of the deeply divided government, which controls little more than a few districts of the capital.

The state minister for defense, Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, a former warlord also known as 'Inda'ade' or 'white eyes,' said the insurgents had seized more U.N. vehicles in recent months.

'We were all aware of their suicidal preparations but we never thought they would penetrate the AMISOM compound,' he said. 'We knew they were masterminding eight cars ... they are left with six more cars. That is cowardice.'"...

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban making deadlier, high-tech IEDs

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban making deadlier, high-tech IEDs: "Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: The Taliban have been making simpler, cheaper anti-personnel bombs made of hard-to-detect nonmetal components, increasing the number of lethal attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Washington Times quoted a confidential military report as saying"

The shift in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) away from larger anti-armour bombs has allowed the Taliban to produce more devices and hide them in more places as they strive to kill larger numbers of US forces in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province and other contested regions.

The new Taliban tactics are disclosed in a confidential report from the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation, portions of which were obtained by The Washington Times.

The change in production from metal-dominated explosives to devices made of plastic is making it more difficult for ground troops to detect the buried IEDs with portable mine-detectors, creating an “urgent need” inside the Pentagon for better detection devices, the report said.

The area around Now Zad, northwest of Kandahar, has experienced some of the most ferocious fighting for control of southern Afghanistan since the surge of 21,000 US troops began last spring. News reports and military bloggers say US Marines on patrol face a constant threat from hidden IEDs.

The report said, “Smaller, lighter, more quickly constructed and quite often triggered by a victim-operated switch [booby trap], these IEDs have been a significant factor in labelling Now Zad the most dangerous location with the highest US casualty rate in either the Afghan or Iraq theaters.”

The August 11 report, titled, “The Taliban’s Emerging IED TTPs in the Proving Grounds of Now Zad, Helmand Province,” was written by an analyst at US Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. TTPs is short for tactics, techniques and procedures.

A military official, who monitors Afghanistan and asked not to be named, said the Taliban were shifting to small IEDs for a number of reasons.

He said the Taliban is also thwarting detection by using long pull-cords rather than an electronic signal to ignite IEDs. This way, the bomb cannot be defeated by electronic countermeasures on vehicles and aircraft that jam the signal.

The Pentagon report said the current mine detector, the AN/PSS-12, is not sufficiently sensitive to pick up the scarce metal in anti-personnel IEDs. “There is an urgent need to identify new man-portable detection platforms to expand the ability of US troops to detect anti-personnel IED-mines,” the report concludes.

[bth: I think we're talking about milk jugs with diesel and fertilizer mixed together and planted. Pressure switching being saw blades separated by rubber coated wood and a battery. At least that's my take piecing together reports out of Afghanistan on the matter. Detection is going to be very difficult. Anti-vehicle devices seem to be stacked anti-tank mines from prior conflicts.]

Bob Ainsworth: voters won't back higher defence spending - Telegraph

Bob Ainsworth: voters won't back higher defence spending - Telegraph: "Warning military leaders they must live 'in the real world' over future spending on the Armed Forces, the defence secretary said that defence faces “tough choices” in the years ahead.

Commanders are preparing for big cuts in defense spending whoever wins the next election as politicians try to re-balance the public finances. Some analysts predict defence spending could by cut by more than 15 per cent in the six years after the election."

The prospect of cuts has angered many officers, but speaking at Kings College London on Tuesday, Mr Ainsworth said there is little public appetite for higher defense spending.

"Military people say to me all the time, we need a bigger defence budget.

That is not the pressure MPs of all parties get from their constituencies,” he said.

“In my constituency, I do not get demands for a higher defence budget. Quite the reverse. “We need to live in the real world, where the British public are."

He added: "We cannot exclude major shifts in the way that we use our defence spending to refocus our priorities. There will be tough choices ahead."

Opinion polls show some support for Mr Ainsworth’s view. A YouGov survey in June showed that 51 per cent of voters named defence as the first area of Government spending they would cut, more than any other department.

Yet at the same time, public displays of support for the Armed Forces on the frontline in Afghanistan have grown.

Hinting at the apparently contradictory public positions on defence, Mr Ainsworth said Britain need a “genuine national debate” about its role in the world and how much it is prepared to spend on defence.

Political debate is shifting towards cutting spending, raising doubts about many large Government projects, which could hit Armed Forces procurement plans.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary on Monday suggested that a replacement for the Trident nuclear deterrent could be “put on the back burner” as part of a wider effort to cut Government spending after the next election.

However, Mr Ainsworth insisted that there was no change in the Government’s commitment to replacing Trident with a missile system that its critics say will cost taxpayers more than £70 billion over the next two decades.

Mr Ainsworth said: “There is no intention on this Government’s part of moving our position on Trident.”

[bth: I had some interesting discussions with Brits in London last week at DSEI. My take is that the public will support equipment given to protecting the troops on the front line but have low tolerance for spending on strategic initiatives like a Trident type missile. Yet in contradiction the companies involves in making missiles and carriers and such are most interested in supporting the big ticket items; so are the politicians. As a result we see what at first glance is a contradiction but at second is not. The public in the UK and the US is ahead of the military industrial complex and the politicians in prioritizing where we spend our defense money - namely on the backs of the soldiers and marines we send to war. If we focus there, at the end user, we will find ourselves realigning our spending and project priorities around the realities of 21st century warfare which is in essence multiple small and dirty wars rather than big ones. ... Big wars for example need big ships, whereas little wars need lots of little ones....]

War Is Boring - Deadlier IEDs or Just Cheaper Ones

War Is Boring: "The Taliban are an adaptive and learning enemy. Soldiers in Afghanistan had been telling me this since I arrived in August. A report from The Washington Times, revealing the Taliban tactic of using “plastic” IEDs to avoid detection, illustrates this perfectly."

Over at Combat Outpost Blackhawk, where I was embedded with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Spartan, I met a State Department police mentor who, in addition to his 25 years as a patrol officer in a large U.S. city, had spent three years in Iraq teaching Iraqi police counter-IED tactics. I’m not able to publish his name, but the grizzled 60-year-old-former Marine, who was in better shape than most of the soldiers I met, had a wealth of knowledge to share on the Taliban’s deadly, yet simplistic IED tactics.

Based on crater analysis that he conducted from IED strikes on our convoys, he noted that the explosive of choice for the Taliban in our area was ammonium nitrate, commonly found in fertilizer, which makes sense in this heavily farmed region. “Just because it’s not military-grade explosive doesn’t mean it’s any less deadly,” he explained to me. “It just means it’s more dangerous to work with.” That could explain the surprisingly frequent reports of “work accidents” that killed quite a few Taliban in Wardak earlier in the summer.

But the key element behind these plastic bombs is simply the delivery system: plastic jugs. The amount of metal required is minimal, since they are designed to destroy vehicles, not kill dismounted soldiers. You kill vehicles with blast, and soldiers with metal shrapnel. The IEDs targeting dismounts are smaller and even easier to make than vehicle-killing bombs. They are often just old Soviet mines planted at an angle towards the expected patrol. They don’t even need to be hidden, since they’re triggered a good distance away from the patrolling soldiers and rely on their shrapnel to do the damage.

The tactics and counter-tactics in the IED fight are always changing. As the summer draws to a close in Afghanistan, the Taliban seem to be one small step ahead.

[bth: so the question I have is simple. Do chemical sniffers work on fertilizer based bombs that are buried? Initially one might answer yes but if its in an agricultural area with fields of poppies that have been fertilized my guess is that false positives would be very high.]

Chinese security forces 'uncover suicide bomb making operation' - World news, News -

Chinese security forces 'uncover suicide bomb making operation' - World news, News - "Chinese security forces uncovered a bomb-making operation in the volatile western region of Xinjiang, foiling plans to carry out attacks including suicide bombings, police said yesterday.

Forces arrested six suspects and seized large amounts of bomb-making materials in the raids, according to a notice posted on the Public Security Ministry website.

Initial investigations showed the suspects had begun making bombs following deadly ethnic rioting in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in July, the notice said.

It did not say when the arrests were made and calls to Xinjiang regional police headquarters were unanswered.

The ministry said the gang had set up three bomb making workshops on the outskirts of the city of Aksu, about 430 miles south-west of Urumqi, and had already assembled 20 explosive devices, the ministry said.

The gang had planned to place bombs on cars, motorcycles, and people and 'carry out terrorist sabotage activities,' but were prevented from doing so by the timely police action, the notice said."...

Asia Times Online :Taliban put their heads together

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan:... "Although they all pledge allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his resistance against foreign forces in Afghanistan, in their own constituencies they remain divided. For example, Mullah Nazir and Gul Bahadur are from the Wazir tribe and have always been at odds with Mehsud tribesmen. At times, they have supported the government's military operations against one another.

One of the main issues addressed at the meeting was the military operations in Pakistan as these have devastated the Taliban's supply lines into Afghanistan. In past years, the Taliban have launched thousands of men annually across the border; this number has now been severely reduced.

The leaders agreed that all Taliban groups, whether they were rivals or not, would maintain close coordination and also develop joint operations when required. Such coordination among assorted armed groups has worked in Afghanistan, but this is the first time it has happened at a regional level."

Cooperation between different anti-coalition groups, especially in north Afghanistan, has brought unexpected success. The attack on Italian paratroopers in a NATO convoy in Kabul on Thursday is a case in point.

The suicide attack, which claimed the lives of six soldiers and 10 civilians, according to official reports, was the result of coordination between a number of anti-coalition groups, even including the local administration.

A senior commander who is not authorized by the Taliban to issue statements did, however, talk to Asia Times Online. He called himself a jihadi with the name of Abu Abdullah.

"The [Kabul] operation was planned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, and about two dozen people were sent from Khost to Kabul at different times. They stayed at different locations in the Taliban's safe houses. One person was then picked for the suicide mission. The others are waiting for further operations in coming days," Abu Abdullah said.

According to Abul Abdullah, the operation was coordinated with local pro-Taliban people in Kabul who have deep penetration in the local administration and who track the movements of NATO convoys. An observation post was set up with the help of local sympathizers in the administration who alerted the attacker to three vehicles approaching through a main artery. The bomber's car then rammed smack into one of the vehicles.

Abu Abdullah claimed that all three vehicles had been destroyed and that 25 NATO soldiers had been killed.

"This is one of several successful attacks on NATO troops which has been actively supported by the masses, like the masses supported the resistance against the Soviets [in the 1980s]. If God is willing, we will carry out similar actions in the future," Abu Abdullah said.

In addition to such attacks, the Taliban are expected to concentrate on disrupting NATO's supply lines through Pakistan as well as those from Central Asian countries going into northern Afghanistan. Further clashes with the Pakistani security forces are also inevitable.

[bth: while the number of casualties are exaggerated the strategy probably isn't. Note the emphasis on the supply lines.]

Osama Bin Laden popularity falling

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "Eight years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Osama bin Laden has declining popularity among Muslims worldwide and the tactic of suicide bombings faces growing resistances as well, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project.

Bin Laden's approval rating, if you want to call it that, sunk from 59% to 25% in Indonesia between 2003 and 2009, according to the Center's polling data. OBL saw similar drops in Pakistan (46% to 18%) and Jordan (56% to 28%). Large majorities in major Muslim countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan agree with the statement that suicide bombing and violence against civilians can never be justified."...

US hero Pat Tillman thought Iraq war was 'imperial folly' - Telegraph

US hero Pat Tillman thought Iraq war was 'imperial folly' - Telegraph: "According to a new book, Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in 2004 and hailed as an all-American hero by the former president, was disillusioned by Mr Bush and his administration's 'illegal and unjust' drive to war.

In Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakauer, the author relates the strong views of Tillman - who gave up his NFL football career to serve his country - and his brother Kevin, who joined the same Rangers unit.

The war "struck them as an imperial folly that was doing long-term damage to US interests", Krakauer claims.

"The brothers lamented how easy it had been for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to bully secretary of state Colin Powell, both the houses of Congress, and the majority of the American people into endorsing the invasion of Iraq."

Tillman was held up by the administration as a hero. But it later emerged that the Pentagon had withheld the truth about the circumstances of his death. He was shot by fellow Rangers in an act described as "gross negligence".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Report: Growing Ranks Of Nouveau Poor Facing Discrimination From Old Poor | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Report: Growing Ranks Of Nouveau Poor Facing Discrimination From Old Poor | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Report: Growing Ranks Of Nouveau Poor Facing Discrimination From Old Poor

U.S. Condemned For Pre-Emptive Use Of Hillary Clinton Against Pakistan | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

U.S. Condemned For Pre-Emptive Use Of Hillary Clinton Against Pakistan | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

U.S. Condemned For Pre-Emptive Use Of Hillary Clinton Against Pakistan

YouTube - Dance Party in Iraq

YouTube - Dance Party in Iraq

Qaeda tells Germany to change government: monitors

The Raw Story | Qaeda tells Germany to change government: monitors: "Al-Qaeda warned Germans on Friday to change their government in the September 27 election, saying they will face a 'bad awakening' if they do not, according to two intelligence monitoring services.

Germany was also told to withdraw its 4,200 troops from Afghanistan or face being attacked at home, the US-based groups said."

In video footage a man identified as Abu Talha the German, and speaking in German, says that if Chancellor Angela Merkel is re-elected, "bitter times await the Germans," according to IntelCenter and the SITE Intelligence Group.

He asks: "Mrs Merkel, what is the logical outcome reaped by the British and Spanish conservatives by their support for the Iraq war?" in an apparent reference to attacks in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005.

He appears to suggest that if German voters do not heed his warnings, Al-Qaeda will act within a fortnight....

[bth: this blackmail worked with the Spanish]

Editorial - Appreciations - Remembering Sergeant Monti -

Editorial - Appreciations - Remembering Sergeant Monti - "Staff Sgt. Jared Monti could have stayed where he was.

Under ferocious attack from about 50 Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan and taking cover behind rocks with his badly outnumbered patrol, he could have waited for artillery and airstrikes to beat back the enemy."

But only yards away, on open ground, one of his men, a private, lay dying. Sergeant Monti dashed out to bring him to safety. Enemy fire forced him to retreat. He ran out again. More bullets and shrapnel forced him back. The enemy was so close that the patrol members could hear voices; the gunfire was so withering that one soldier had a rifle blown from his hands.

The third time Sergeant Monti tried, he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. He died within minutes.

It’s impossible to pinpoint where Sergeant Monti, of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y., got his courage and selflessness. Maybe from his parents, a nurse and a teacher, or from the Army, where sacrifice and service are part of the drill. Maybe he had those virtues all along.

Whatever their source, they came out in full force on that desperate night in June 2006. When President Obama presented Sergeant Monti’s Medal of Honor to his parents, Janet and Paul, at the White House on Thursday, he retold the stunning act of valor. He repeated the sergeant’s words, which made it a simple matter of duty: “No, he is my soldier. I’m going to get him.”

It is no detraction from Sergeant Monti’s singular sacrifice to note that unselfish courage is hardly uncommon in combat. His story is one among thousands that have emerged from Afghanistan and Iraq, as in any war. Here is another: After the firefight, when the wounded private, Brian Bradbury, and a medic, Staff Sgt. Heathe Craig, were being hoisted to a helicopter, a cable snapped, and they fell to their deaths.

These are three of the dead from two conflicts that have killed more than 5,000 Americans since 2001. Rarely, very rarely, the country takes notice. Some of us paused briefly to do so on Thursday, then went on with our business. Medals and speeches, and newspaper articles, are inadequate in the face of such sacrifice, as Lincoln noted almost 150 years ago. There is little the rest of us can do, except to remember, with gratitude, what people like Sergeant Monti have done.

[bth: from the Harts to the extended Monti family, our best wishes and thoughts.]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Air Force Shoots Down Runaway Drone Over Afghanistan | Popular Science

Air Force Shoots Down Runaway Drone Over Afghanistan | Popular Science: "A drone pilot's nightmare came true when operators lost control of an armed MQ-9 Reaper flying a combat mission over Afghanistan on Sunday. That led a manned U.S. aircraft to shoot down the unresponsive drone before it flew beyond the edge of Afghanistan airspace.

The U.S. Air Force stated that a manned aircraft took 'proactive measures' to shoot down the Reaper, which ended up crashing into the side of a mountain. Reaper drones have typically engaged in hunter-killer missions over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by targeting enemies on the ground with Hellfire missiles."...

Sixth American dies while fighting with Shabaab in Somalia - Threat Matrix - by The Long War Journal

Sixth American dies while fighting with Shabaab in Somalia - Threat Matrix - by The Long War Journal: "The sixth American is thought to have been killed while fighting with Shabaab in Somalia. From Minnesota Public Radio:

Troy Kastigar's family received reports of his death within the past week, according to friends of the family. The circumstances of his reported death aren't clear, and the information could not be confirmed by the FBI.

Kastigar's involvement in Somalia is a puzzle in itself. He told his mother that he was going to Kenya when he left the Twin Cities last November.

Somali community members believe Kastigar was part of the last wave of Minnesota men who joined the violent militia al-Shabaab in Somalia. While some of the 20 or so men say they left to defend their homeland in a bloody civil war, Katigar's motivations are less clear.

Kastigar was unlike the five other Americas killed while fighting in Somalia. The five others had been born in America to Somali immigrant parents. Kastigar's parents were American-born, and he is a convert to Islam.

Kastigar converted to Islam about three to four years ago, a source in Minneapolis told me on Friday. He was married to a Somali woman for several years, but later divorced. He attended the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, the same radical mosqu...

Report: Gen. McChrystal Seeking Another 40,000 Troops for Afghanistan -- News from

Report: Gen. McChrystal Seeking Another 40,000 Troops for Afghanistan -- News from "Despite claims earlier in the day from President Barack Obama that no ‘immediate decision’ was pending on Afghanistan, Fox News is quoting sources in the government as saying General Stanley McChrystal has already made his long-awaited troop request, and it’s a doozy."

Gen. McChrystal is now ‘privately’ requesting another 40,000 troops for the eight year old war, which would bring the overall US presence there to well over 100,000 troops, and nearly triple the number in the nation with President Obama was elected last November.

The call’s “private” nature and President Obama’s protestation that no decision is pending are likely a function of growing Democratic opposition to the escalation. With polls showing a wide majority of Americans (and a dramatically larger majority of Democrats) now firmly against the war, several top ranking Congressmen are questioning the wisdom of continued escalation, and are expressing concern about the lack of concrete plans for an exit strategy.

How well the military is going to be able to cope with the increased number of troops deployed in Afghanistan is unclear, particularly with 131,000 troops still in Iraq (and more on the way).

It had previously been reported that Gen. McChrystal would seek 20,000 more troops for the conflict.

[bth: let's take some of the mystery out of this request. McChrystal knows that he cannot get a long-term increase in DOD spending while we move out of Iraq. It costs twice as much to keep a soldier in Afghanistan ($50K/mo) versus Iraq namely because of logistical costs. Thus, if we move 80,000 soldier out of Iraq in the next year, the maximum number of soldiers we can add in Afghanistan without increasing spending is about 40,000. Do the math. All the studies and analysis batted around means nothing when one considered the macro constraints we are operating under - budgetary and manpower.]

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. envoys hesitate to report bad news - Washington Times

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. envoys hesitate to report bad news - Washington Times: "U.S. embassies are discouraging or suppressing negative reports to Washington about U.S. allies, sometimes depriving officials of information they need to make good policy decisions, current and former diplomats say.

One diplomat told The Washington Times that he has decided to resign in part because of frustration with 'rampant self-censorship' by Foreign Service officers and their superiors that has gone so far as to ban 'bad news' cables from countries that are friendly with the United States."...
War Is Boring

New Jersey Poll: Birthers, Truthers, And The Anti-Christ -- Oh, My!

New Jersey Poll: Birthers, Truthers, And The Anti-Christ -- Oh, My! | TPMDC
My home state of New Jersey is one crazy place, according to the new survey of the state by Public Policy Polling (D).

Dave Weigel points out that one out of every three New Jersey conservatives think that Obama could be the anti-Christ. To be precise, 18% of self-identified conservatives affirmatively say that Obama is the anti-Christ, with 17% not sure. Among the self-identified Republican label, it's 14% who say Obama has the number 666 hidden underneath his hair, plus 15% who aren't sure.

But oh it gets even worse on some other questions -- among both the right and the left.

It turns out that 33% of New Jersey Republicans say that Obama was not born in the United States, plus 19% in the Birther-Curious undecided category.

But Democrats shouldn't be too eager to laugh at this. On the other side of the political spectrum, there's some significant 9/11 Trutherism among Dem voters. We've got 32% of Jersey Democrats who say that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. In addition, another 19% of Jersey Dems are Truther-Curious, in the undecided column.

So that's only 48% of Jersey Republicans who definitively are not Birthers, and 49% of Dems who are officially not Truthers. Don't you just love our polarized politics?

[bth: its the independents that keep this country sane]

The Raw Story » Senate Smackdown: Wrestling exec to challenge Dodd in Connecticut

The Raw Story » Senate Smackdown: Wrestling exec to challenge Dodd in Connecticut

White House Details Ways to Rate Progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan -

White House Details Ways to Rate Progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan - "The Obama administration delivered to Congress on Wednesday about 50 measures to determine whether a broad military and nation-building campaign to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan was succeeding, paving the way for the White House to argue that the American combat effort in the region would not be open-ended.

The long-awaited measures were delivered in closed meetings with key members of the House and Senate, just as President Obama emphasized that he would take his time in evaluating a forthcoming request from the military for more combat forces."...

[bth: the Pentagon has been screening embedded reporters and classifying measures of success or levels of conflict most of this year. I'm suspect of any government produced numbers or metrics at this point. The Brookings Institute has been running pretty good objective measures in Iraq for some years. I'm going to check for Afghanistan as well and see what we find.]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Change at Fort Riley part of shifting Army focus - AP State GA -

Change at Fort Riley part of shifting Army focus - AP State GA - "FORT RILEY, Kan. -- A mission that has trained more than 15,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen to be advisers in Afghanistan and Iraq is leaving Kansas after three years, shifting focus as it moves to Louisiana.

Instead of training teams of 12 to 16 people, the mission to be based at Fort Polk, La. will turn combat brigades of 3,500 soldiers into a brigade focused on advising. The change is part of the next phase in Iraq aimed at the withdrawal of troops in 2011.

The shift reflects not only a change in location for the training, but a change in the adviser mission.

Instead of training small groups and sending them to work as liaisons between U.S. forces and Iraqi forces, the teams will be brigade-sized and do much the same task. The idea is that with larger groups, the brigades can do a better job of training the Iraqis as the U.S. pulls back from combat operations.

Defense analyst John Nagl, president of the Center for New American Security in Washington, said the new system was a move in the right direction, giving brigades additional skills without compromising their combat abilities.

'We are figuring this thing out. This is a learning process,' said Nagl, a former Army colonel who trained advisers at Fort Riley and helped write the Army's counterinsurgency" manual....

[bth: good idea. too bad it didn't happen years sooner]

Panel says Nato has lost trust of Afghans - The National Newspaper

Panel says Nato has lost trust of Afghans - The National Newspaper: "SYDNEY // The Nato-led coalition fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan is not being out-fought but out-governed, according to rule of law and counterinsurgency experts who gathered here for a conference on bringing stability to the war-torn Central Asian state."
“We have to remember that we are in a popularity contest,” said Whit Mason, a former UN official in Afghanistan and an organiser of the September conference, held at the University of New South Wales.

Panellists, who spoke on a range of issues from the opium trade to corruption and the immense difficulty of trying to implement good governance in a country that has undergone three decades of non-stop fighting, noted that the Taliban in some rural areas have proven far more effective at governing than the western-backed regime of President Hamid Karzai.

District-level shadow governments run by the Taliban collect tax from farmers and shopkeepers, maintain a degree of public security and run a court system that is rudimentary but widely seen as fair and far less corrupt than the state version. The Taliban system may be based on fear and intimidation, but in many parts of the south, where corrupt warlords and police have also victimised local populations, the Taliban have come to be seen by many locals as the lesser of two evils, in particular since Taliban commanders are known to punish their own fighters in cases where they determine members of the public have been mistreated.

“We are facing a crisis of legitimacy at the local level,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert and an adviser to the Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal. “Local populations in any insurgency are in a lethally uncertain environment. In these environments, support follows strength, not the other way around.”

Gen McChrystal, who has been given the job by US President Barack Obama of implementing a revitalised strategy for the war in Afghanistan, recently reported to Washington that the Taliban insurgency was stronger than previously realised. The US administration initially narrowly defined its goal as defeating al Qa’eda and other extremist groups and denying them sanctuary. Increasingly senior US and Nato military officials have concluded that reaching that goal will require a sweeping counterinsurgency campaign aimed at protecting the Afghan population, establishing good governance and rebuilding the economy.

“This is very easy to say,” said Mr Kilcullen. “But it is really hard to do.”

With public support for the war in Afghanistan dwindling in many Nato nations, including the US, there is decreasing appetite for a campaign that many experts predict will be bloody, drawn-out and expensive.

Panellists in Sydney agreed that exacerbating the problem was the history of poor co-ordination between the members of the Nato alliance and the lack of a clearly defined exit strategy for the growing number of western troops deployed there.

Participants at the conference agreed that the August 20 presidential elections, which were widely seen to be marred by ballot box stuffing and phantom voters, had left Afghanistan at a critical tipping point. More than three weeks since Afghans went to the polls, there is still no declared winner and votes from dozens of polling stations remain quarantined for suspected fraud.

The latest partial results have Mr Karzai with 54 per cent of the vote and the leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, trailing with 28 per cent.

The numbers put Mr Karzai on the path to outright victory – unless the votes eliminated over fraud complaints pull him back down below the 50 per cent threshold requiring a two-man runoff.

The panellists, some of whom had observed the electoral process on the ground, said evidence of vote rigging was impossible to ignore.

“There appears to have been industrial scale fraud,” said William Maley, an Australian professor and the author on several books about Afghanistan. He described the vote as “a massive triumph of political power over rule of law”.

Francesc Vendrell, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School who served as the EU special representative to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2008 concurred, adding that: “Unless we come out firmly against this, we will have very little leg to stand on with the Afghans and ... no way to promote the rule of law in Afghanistan.”

Yet the possibility that rejecting the vote results could spark further violence also troubled panelists.

We have to distinguish between what is ideal and what is possible,” said Astri Suhrke, a Norwegian political scientist.

Some described the situation in Afghanistan as beyond repair, and suggested it may be too late to be holding conferences about state-building and establishing rule of law.

“I feel like we are standing on the bridge of the Titanic, with the water rising,” said Graeme Smith, a reporter from Canada’s Globe and Mail. “And we are sitting here discussing how icebergs form.”

Belmont Club » A whole new world

Belmont Club » A whole new world:... "With the old media model rapidly growing bankrupt, the focus of its floundering managers has been to find new revenue models to replace subscriptions or advertising. But maybe they are failing because their business analysis is incomplete: it doesn’t take into account the changes it must make to the groundrules having to do with those who are in power. They can no longer deal with any part of their environment from a position of monopoly, as Cronkite once did and as Brokaw finds he can no longer do. The media has become far closer to a competitive market than at any time since the Gutenberg press was invented."...

The Associated Press: AP IMPACT: Illiteracy undermines Afghan army

The Associated Press: AP IMPACT: Illiteracy undermines Afghan army: "KABUL — Afghan army recruit Shahidullah Ahmadi can't read — and neither can nine out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army.

The lack of education points to a basic challenge for the United States, as it tries to expand the Afghan army in the hopes that U.S. and allied forces can one day withdraw. Just as in Iraq — and perhaps even more so — the U.S. is finding it no small task to recruit, train and equip a force that is large and competent enough to operate successfully on its own.

'I face difficulties. If someone calls me and tells me to go somewhere, I can't read the street signs,' Ahmadi, 27, a member of a logistics battalion, said while walking through downtown Kabul. 'In our basic training, we learned a lot. Some of my colleagues who can read and write can take notes, but I've forgotten a lot of things, the types of things that might be able to save my life.'"....

Russia Gives Up Mass Army | NOSInt

Russia Gives Up Mass Army | NOSInt: "Leading Russian military expert Vitaly Shlykov spoke during one of the sessions of the Valdai Discussion Club last week about the sweeping reform of the country’s armed forces, which begins in December and will cut the number of tanks from 20,000 to 2,000 and reduce the number or reservists to just 100,000.

The reform, which Shlykov described as nothing short of a revolution, will significantly affect the Kremlin’s approach to the composition of and future cuts to the country’s military arsenal.

Shlykov, who heads the Security Policy Commission of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, is a former deputy minister of defense and a retired colonel of the GRU military intelligence service."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Queens terror raids part of FBI probe into Denver-based cell plotting attack on 9/11 scale

Queens terror raids part of FBI probe into Denver-based cell plotting attack on 9/11 scale: "The massive FBI probe that triggered raids in Queens is focused on a Denver-based terror cell plotting another attack on the scale of 9/11, the Daily News learned Tuesday.

Hundreds of FBI agents are on the ground in Colorado, conducting round-the-clock surveillance on five suspects - including a man who recently visited Queens, sources told The News.

New York authorities searched three Flushing apartments and detained several men - later released - after getting a warrant to look for bomb-making components, explosive powders and fuses.

'The FBI is seriously spooked about these guys planning another 9/11,' a former senior counterterrorism official told the News. 'This is not some ... FBI informant-driven case. This is the real thing.'

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters it's an ongoing investigation with plenty of 'substance.'"...

[bth: in the NYC raid, no arrests were made. The article goes on to say the FBI is furious with the preemptive action of the NYC police and the NYC police deny it. Maybe someone in the administration ought to make a comment here.... Its a save bet that if hundreds of FBI are swarming Denver, and its in the paper, the cat is out of the bag.]

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Musharraf guaranteed 'safe exit'

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Musharraf guaranteed 'safe exit':... "Ahsan Iqbal, a PML-N leader, told journalists that in closed door negotiations Mr Zardari had 'categorically told us that Saudi Arabia and the UK were guarantors' in a deal that provided Mr Musharraf with 'safe exit' from power.

Mr Musharraf has been commenting on Pakistani politics and economy lately, and many observers say he may have political ambitions."

[bth: it was widely reported at the time that the Saudi's had offered a place of exile for Musharraf. It was not reported that Britain had done the same. It is not clear to me what Musharraf is trying to accomplish.]

YouTube - PETE STARK: "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg"

YouTube - PETE STARK: "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg"

[bth: Pete Stark was a leading reformer in healthcare. The Stark I and Stark II regulations blocked doctors from profiting from their own referrals. I'm surprised he didn't punch this guy]

China training Afghans, Iraqis in mine clearance as part of efforts to short up ties

China training Afghans, Iraqis in mine clearance as part of efforts to short up ties: "BEIJING — China’s army is training Iraqi and Afghan soldiers to clear land mines, a sign of Beijing’s desire to expand engagement with the two countries despite wariness over the presence of U.S. forces.

The two-month course is the first known instance of China offering such training to troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, which together are home to close to 200,000 U.S. troops.

Twenty officers from each country are being hosted by a People’s Liberation Army academy in the eastern city of Nanjing, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. On graduation, they will return to their home countries with large amounts of mine detection and clearing equipment donated by China, Xinhua said."...

China opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has remained aloof from multinational military operations to stabilize Afghanistan and combat a resurgent Taliban. Beijing is especially unhappy with the presence of American forces in Afghanistan, with which it shares a narrow border.

Beijing has pursued strong bilateral ties with Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is the source of 95 percent of the world’s heroin, and abuts China’s volatile Xinjiang region where cheap Afghan heroin has fueled high levels of drug addiction. Chinese authorities also say radicals among the region’s Uighur Muslim minority have trained in Taliban camps in Afghanistan.

Beijing’s policy has been to promote Afghan stability through economic means and China was quick to offer aid following the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime. The U.S. has praised China’s work on road building and fiber optic cable installation in Afghanistan along with a Chinese firm’s plans to develop copper deposits that could create 10,000 jobs and annual revenues of $400 million for the Afghan government.

In Iraq, China’s state petroleum companies are developing oil fields on which the government in Baghdad relies almost entirely for its revenues.

Gestures such as the de-mining training are a way to further build bridges and the course “showed the positive attitude of the Chinese government to assist the two countries’ economic recovery and social reconstruction,” Xinhua said.

[bth: it would be well to remember that the US usurped Britain and France in the Middle Eastern oil fields early in the 20th century. China is now doing that to us. We are the military power but the commercial contracts are going to non-threatening entities like China.]

Iraq, Afghanistan combat veterans have vastly higher unemployment rate than non-veterans | | Appleton Post-Crescent

Iraq, Afghanistan combat veterans have vastly higher unemployment rate than non-veterans | | Appleton Post-Crescent: "The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 21 percent higher than the rate for all Americans, a sign of trouble for newly separated or retired service members looking for work in a tight job market.

A Labor Department report shows an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in July, up from 5.9 percent one year ago and well above the 9.7 percent overall U.S. unemployment rate — itself the highest in 26 years."...

Iraq Troops' PTSD Rate As High As 35 Percent, Analysis Finds

Iraq Troops' PTSD Rate As High As 35 Percent, Analysis Finds: "The Veterans’ Administration should expect a high volume of Iraq veterans seeking treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, with researchers anticipating that the rate among armed forces will be as high as 35%, according to the Management Insights feature in the current issue of Management Science, the flagship journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®)."...

BBC NEWS Musharraf admits US aid diverted

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Musharraf admits US aid diverted: "Former president Pervez Musharraf says the US military aid given to Pakistan during his tenure was used to strengthen defences against India.

The money was used to arm the troops who moved with their equipment from the western border to the east based on the perceived threats, he said.

The US gave $10bn dollars to Pakistan to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In 2007, Pakistan rejected a report which said it had used $5bn on weapons systems designed to fight India.

Pakistan's military had described the New York Times report as 'nonsense'."...

[bth: imagine that, Musharraf admit to being a liar and a con. News at 11. He is an never was a friend or ally. Why we pretend that he is is beyond me.]

Wilson Sends Dukakis to DC? - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

Wilson Sends Dukakis to DC? - Page 1 - The Daily Beast: ..."The joke in Massachusetts is that if Dukakis were to get the Senate job, he’d ask two things: How come we’re not for single payer? And how do I get more money for Amtrak? His love of public transportation is so strong he’d probably take the train to Washington in September and arrive sometime in January.

Dukakis is still well-known and respected by many Democrats around the country. He is almost as passionate about universal health care as he is about mass transit. He would do more than show up in committee and on floor votes. He’d be engaged in the back and forth of revamping health-care policy. There’s nothing he loves more than the details of policy."...

[bth: the real reason Dukakis might be selected for the interim position replacing Kennedy is that he will vote for health care with certainty and equally assured, he has no chance of winning the seat in the general election.]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Down to the wire - The Intl. News Pak.

Down to the wire: "Monday, September 14, 2009
The melodrama that is the Afghan elections is grinding towards the final act. There has been much speculation that the scale of fraud and corruption within the electoral process is as large as to invalidate Hamid Karzais’ victory but the US envoy to Afghanistan says…”Don’t jump to conclusions.” Richard Holbrooke is saying that the independent election commission must be allowed to complete its work before any judgment about the poll or the victor; and that a rerun of the elections is not a viable option – which brings into question the legitimacy of any future Karzai presidency at just about every level. Even allowing for the fact that there was a presupposition that the elections were going to be flawed it is difficult to see how, if the election commission finds fraud on a scale which takes the Karzai vote below fifty per cent, he can govern with any hope of his mandate being accepted. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has weighed in with his own view; largely supportive of Holbrooke and speaking to the BBC he said that he felt that ‘a fair result can be achieved.’

One wonders if these men exist in some sort of parallel universe which has a reality separate to that which we perceive in our own celestial incarnation. ‘A fair result can be achieved’ Mr Miliband? Just how do you deduce that from the available evidence? The election commission has now invalidated results from seventy polling stations in the south and east of the country, where nearly all of the votes were cast for Karzai. The commission has ordered recounts at many other polling stations. There are reliable reports from NGOs working on the election that ‘ghost’ polling stations operated widely, again harvesting Karzai votes. Women were mostly excluded from the vote and there are innumerable reports of multiple voting by individuals resulting in a more than 100 per cent turnout in some areas. This election was not just flawed, Messrs Holbrooke and Miliband, its goose was well and truly cooked. Holbrooke has drawn the line in the sand that is a virtual guarantee of a Karzai victory no matter what the election commission eventually reports – and investigations into irregularities are going to take several months. Whoever the Americans and the British and the other sponsors of this exercise in how-not-to-run-an-election decide has won when the dust has settled, we may be certain that the people of Afghanistan lost it.

[bth: This is how even the Pakistanis view the election - a fraud? Why the hell are we abiding by Karzai? Do we not stand for something?]

Al-Qaeda struggling for support

Al-Qaeda struggling for support: ..."''Al-Qaeda has become a liability for the Taliban,'' said Mustafa Alani, a terrorism expert at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai who visited Waziristan in July. ''There is a good possibility that the Pakistanis or the Americans will be able to get good intelligence on the ground and kill bin Laden.''

Amid a mood of cautious optimism, some experts talk of a ''tipping point'' in the fight against al-Qaeda. Others argue that only bin Laden's death will bring significant change. But most agree that the failure to carry out mass attacks in the West since the 2005 London bombings has weakened the group's ''brand appeal'' and power to recruit.

''In order to stay relevant al-Qaeda have to prove themselves capable and they haven't been able to do that,'' said Norwegian scholar Brynjar Lia.

But no one claims victory can be declared. Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, said in an interview with USA Today this week: ''Yes, they retain the capability of striking overseas. They are still lethal.'' Intelligence experts say the trends are favourable but point to the IRA maxim that ''you only need to get lucky once''."

[bth: I strongly feel that articles like this, similar to news accounts I saw in London last week, are a propaganda effort by the Pakistani government and the US military to suggest progress is being made. Its seems to me that until OBL is killed, we will not be able to walk away from this region or problem.]

Riots in Ghazni City as the Province Falls —

Riots in Ghazni City as the Province Falls — "Ghazni Province is falling to the Taliban. There’s no two ways around it: Radio Shariat is transmitting in the area again, and security forces are having a hard time tracking it down because apparently it is being broadcast on a mobile transmitter. Now Tim Lynch reports on a riot in Ghazni City itself:

“The demonstrators moved towards Masoud Chowk area, and the demonstration turned violent. Demonstrators reportedly began throwing stones at ANSF, and ANSF opened fire. The demonstration has apparently dispersed due to the said clash. Casualties have occurred, and initial reports suggest that 4 demonstrators were killed and 8 were wounded.”

Indeed. The people were apparently protesting in response to the abduction and murder of Shams al-Din, a popular anti-American cleric in the eastern part of the province. Naturally, the men who abducted him from Abu Hanifa mosque weren’t identified. The protesters were, according to Press TV, specifically anti-American protesters, assuming the U.S. to be responsible for al-Din’s death."....

[bth: losing ground]

'We're pinned down:' 4 U.S. Marines die in Afghan ambush | McClatchy

'We're pinned down:' 4 U.S. Marines die in Afghan ambush | McClatchy:... "The first shot cracked out at 5:30 a.m., apparently just as the four Marines and the Afghan unit to which they were attached reached the outskirts of the village. It quickly swelled into a furious storm of gunfire that we realized had been prepared for our arrival.

Several U.S. officers said they suspected that the insurgents had been tipped off by sympathizers in the local Afghan security forces or by the village elders, who announced over the weekend that they were accepting the authority of the local government.

'Whatever we do always leaks,' said Marine Lt. Ademola Fabayo, 28, a New Yorker who was born in Nigeria and is the operations officer for the trainers from the 3rd Marine Division. 'You can't trust even some of their soldiers or officers.'

Sniper rounds snapped off rocks and sizzled overhead. Explosions of recoilless rifle rounds echoed through the valley, while bullets inched closer to the rock wall behind which I crouched with a handful U.S. and Afghan officers.

Lt. Fabayo and several other soldiers later said they'd seen women and children in the village shuttling ammunition to fighters positioned in windows and roofs. Across the valley and from their ridgeline outposts, the Afghans and Americans fired back.

At 5:50 a.m., Army Capt. Will Swenson, of Seattle,"WA, the trainer of the Afghan Border Police unit in Shakani, began calling for air support or artillery fire from a unit of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. The responses came back: No helicopters were available.

"This is unbelievable. We have a platoon (of Afghan army) out there and we've got no Hotel Echo," Swenson shouted above the din of gunfire, using the military acronym for high explosive artillery shells. "We're pinned down."

The insurgents were firing from inside the village and from positions in the hills immediately behind it and to either side. Judging from the angles of the ricochets, several appeared to be trying to outflank us to get better shots.

"What are you going to do?" Maj. Talib, the operations officer of the Afghan army unit, asked Maj. Williams through his translator.

"We are getting air," Williams replied.

"What are we going to do?" Talib repeated.

"We are getting air," Williams replied again, perhaps knowing that none was available but hoping to quiet Talib.

At 6:05 a.m., as our position was becoming increasingly tenuous, Swenson and Fabayo agreed that it was time to pull back and radioed for artillery to fire smoke rounds to mask our retreat.

"They don't have any smoke. They only have Willy Pete," Swenson reported, referring to white phosphorus rounds that spew smoke.

Fifty minutes later, as a curtain of white phosphorus smoke roiled across the valley, Swenson and Fabayo unleashed an intense volley of covering fire while the rest of us sprinted back some 20 yards to a series of dirt furrows, weighed down by our flak vests and water carriers.

The two officers raced back to join us. Everyone jumped up and ran for the next stone wall. Everyone but me. Afraid that too many people were jammed together as they raced, offering easy targets, I waited behind for a break in the gunfire, an Afghan border police officer crouched next to me....

[bth:This report from Jonathan Landay of McClatchy is worth reading in full. A must read. Also the video/audio is worth the listen. There is something seriously wrong with our air and artillery cover. We just can't seem to get it right. Is it an Army/Marine thing that they won't coordinate or where these guys left out hanging and some screw up at a higher level. Whatever the case, it killed good marines and Afghan allies and gave the Taliban a victory.]

Murtha: No More Troops in Afghanistan |

Murtha: No More Troops in Afghanistan | "Murtha’s dissent comes at a critical juncture, with the Washington debate heating up and public support for the war effort dropping. The Pennsylvania congressman is only the latest senior Democratic lawmaker to come out against a troop increase, following similar statements last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin.

But opposition from Murtha, who has deep contacts among the military brass, could ultimately prove more problematic for an Obama administration that has yet to launch a full-throated to defense of the war. …

House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton has come out in favor of continuing the mission, expanding it if necessary, invoking “resolve” as impetus."

[bth: unless Carl Levin and John Murtha are on board for a 'surge' in Afghanistan, I don't think its going to happen.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis : January will bring the curtain down in Iraq.

Sic Semper Tyrannis : ....January will bring the curtain down in Iraq.: "The question is whether the Obama administration is paying more attention than the rest of the country. Some of its own supporters are worried: Kenneth Pollack, an expert at the Brookings Institution, says that the administration is not using its leverage with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on matters crucial to the success of the elections. One is whether Iraq will allow voting for its parliament by district; many of its parties favor a system of national slates that could reinforce sectarian divisions. Another is whether Mr. Maliki will promote the staging of a referendum on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Such a vote could help the prime minister win reelection -- and force a precipitous American withdrawal.' Washpost


Everything I have heard about the referendum isssue indicates that there will be such a referendum. The outcome of that vote seems certain. In the Kurdish north the referendum will not ask for our withdrawal. Everywhere else it will do so and thus will end the continuing neocon fantasy about Iraq.

We should accelerate logistical planning for withdrawal and prepare to deal diplomatically with the Iraq that we have created."....

You buy the Ticket You Get the Full Ride | Free Range International

You buy the Ticket You Get the Full Ride | Free Range International: ..."Look at this quote I pulled from an interview with Air Force Lt Gen Gilmary Hostage:

“The first thing we do is fly over head, and the bad guys know air power is in place and oftentimes that’s enough. That ends the fight, they vamoose,”

Say What? You really think that the ambushers described in yesterdays fight were going to break and run because they heard an A-10? This is too stupid for words and I am exercising great restraint by not breaking into a signature rant. But my God has this senior General read one after action report from the Marines in the Helmand? You know, the reports which repeatedly say that the Taliban will not run from fire that they need to be hit in order to impressed by our fire power?"

Counterinsurgency warfare (COIN) focuses on developing a secure environment for civilian activities which means it focuses our efforts on winning the civilian population. COIN is a set of tactics not an operational strategy and COIN tactics are only appropriate for the areas in Afghanistan where the population wants to be helped which is a majority of this country. There are many places where the people do not want our help and it is stupid to try to approach these areas using COIN focused tactics or objectives.

The areas where people are not interested in helping us build infrastructure are a problem which can only be solved by Afghans. The instability in Kunar Province is being financed by timber barons. In Nuristan Province it is gem merchants who finance anti government activity. The villages located in the areas controlled by these anti government forces are hostile and there is nothing we can offer these people which will bring them onto our side – seven years of experience tell us that – so why do we continue to try doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result? We are never going to get enough troops here to do a proper “clear, hold, build” program going countrywide and even if we did the State Department and US AID will never supply the manpower they said they would provide to stand up “District Stabilization Teams.”

We cannot reach out to people who have displayed seven years of belligerence, they are Afghans and their problems can only be solved by Afghans. When we go into hostile villages like Ganjagal it should be a fully supported advance to contact and if they attack us they need to be crushed – all of them.

With a very modest infusion of cash an implementing company operating like we operate now could fix every irrigation system in Nangarhar Province within 8 months. One American and the rest Afghans on the project and maybe 2 to 3 million and bingo every Karez and every intake of every canal could be refurbished, reinforced with stone masonry and the people of Nangarhar would be set up for success and happy.

But you have to be operating outside the wire to do that and there are not that many of us out here doing that at the moment. What is more alarmng is that the space in which you can easily operate is shrinking rapidly. Just this afternoon there was a riot in Ghazni City – here is an eyewitness report:

“The demonstrators moved towards Masoud Chowk area, and the demonstration turned violent. Demonstrators reportedly began throwing stones at ANSF, and ANSF opened fire. The demonstration has apparently dispersed due to the said clash. Casualties have occurred, and initial reports suggest that 4 demonstrators were killed and 8 were wounded.” ...

[bth: a dispatch post absolutely worth reading in full]

Al-Qaeda target killed in US raid on Somalia: US official

The Raw Story | Al-Qaeda target killed in US raid on Somalia: US official: "A top Kenyan Al-Qaeda operative wanted by the FBI for the 2002 attacks in Mombasa was killed in a US military raid in southern Somalia on Monday, a US official said.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, named the dead man as Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. He did not confirm any of the details of the air strike, as US media reported at least one US helicopter was involved.

US media ABC news and Fox News, quoting US officials, said Nabhan was killed when at least one US helicopter fired on a convoy carrying suspected Al-Qaeda targets in southern Somalia.

An American official told ABC that a US Navy ship had been nearby to monitor the situation and provide assistance if needed.

Earlier Somali elders and witnesses said foreign military forces onboard four helicopters staged a raid on a convoy in the small village of Erile, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, shortly after 1:30 pm (1030 GMT). They opened fire on a vehicle, killing people inside."...

[bth: so maybe not French? One wonders.]

McChrystal says few al-Qaida in Afghanistan

Fwix / McChrystal says few al-Qaida in Afghanistan: "THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said Friday he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country, but says the terror group still maintains close links to insurgents.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal spoke on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al-Qaida that prompted the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The invasion quickly toppled the Taliban regime that had sheltered al-Qaida leaders who plotted the 9/11 attacks, but has since bogged down amid a deadly insurgency.

'I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now,' McChrystal told reporters at the Dutch Defense Ministry, where he met military officials.

But he warned that Osama bin Laden's network still maintains contact with insurgents and seeks to use areas of Afghanistan they control as bases.

'I do believe that al-Qaida intends to retain those relationships because they believe it is symbiotic ... where the Taliban has success, that provides a sanctuary from which al-Qaida can operate transnationally,' he added...

[bth: I'm asking myself, what are we doing then? If we left these contested areas of Afghanistan and the Taliban remained would we be attacked from Afghanistan? Isn't that our ultimate objective? To not be attacked again and to kill Osama Bin Laden?]

Foreign troops raid south Somalia village: witnesses

The Raw Story | Foreign troops raid south Somalia village: witnesses:... "'There was a military operation carried out by four foreign choppers in Erile village. A car was destroyed, we are also hearing that some of the vehicle's passengers were taken on the choppers,' Abdinasir Mohamed Adan, an elder from the nearby village of Barawe, told AFP by phone.

Several local witnesses gave the same information, adding that some of the passengers in the targeted vehicle were killed.

A local Islamist commander who asked to remain anonymous claimed that the helicopters were French.

'We are getting information that French army gunships attacked a car, destroying it completely and taking some of the passengers. We are waiting for some more details,' the Shebab official told AFP."...

[bth: curious]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Personal observations from the DSEI show in London 2009

Here are some quick observations from my trip to the DSEI 2009 defense show in London last week.

- Unmanned air vehicles are now widely available around the world from different governments including third world ones. Note the preceding post regarding Pakistan's push into UAVs.

- Unmanned ground vehicles are quickly becoming third world as well. I would note a Taiwanese knockoff of the QinetiQ Talon which showed up for the first time. Also there was a curious weaponized UGV from Jordan and a pretty impressive EOD UGV from Turkey being sold in the Middle East and Africa. The French have a decent line up and the British have some nice units coming out but they cost too much to be exported and it seems to me that even the Brits are having second thoughts about all expensive equipment based on comments from vendors at the show. The Brits are simply unwilling to spend money on their soldiers in Afghanistan as noted by the lack of suitable vehicles, helicopters and even little things like camouflage uniforms which match the terrain.

- My take on the British public that we met is that they are simply not interested in fighting America's war in Afghanistan. They don't see a purpose any more from their perspective and they want out. The news was constantly asking why British soldiers were killed rescuing a journalist as if they'd have preferred the journalist be beheaded. Someone anonymous kept leaking to the media that the ransom negotiations for the journalist were going well until the raid - whatever that means. Does it mean the British were going to pay a ransom again like they did in Iraq or have a hostage exchange with the Taliban? Also the families of the killed in action are outraged by the lack of suitable equipment and outright lies being told by the Ministry of Defense about some of the deaths. The Brits have this process that involve a civilian coroner rendering an opinion as to the cause of death. This conflicts with the MOD spin doctors. As a result some soldiers KIA that raised questions had their records left empty as to death by hostile action denying soldiers for up to a year eligibility for the Elizabeth Medal. This is how democratic governments lose the popular support for war - by breaking the trust with the public.

- The show was about 80% the previous year's size based on my estimate. That said, its the biggest trade show I go to and it took me a full two days to walk the show.

- Notably absent were iRobot. Also Allen Vanguard. QinetiQ's booth was a fraction of last show's size.

- People there are anticipating a general decline in defense spending.

- Protesters were all but nonexistent. In the prior show in 2007 there was a pretty good organized protest for a couple of days and very intense security. This time security was tighter than any trade show I've been at, including x-ray machines upon entry (like an airport), and bomb dogs, but the armed submachine gunned police weren't there like in 2007. My take on this is that the British public has decided to get out of Afghanistan. Its a gut feel on my part, but the government seems to have other issues to deal with and the public seems largely to be indifferent or oblivious to the situation. There are no soldiers in uniform out on the streets. There are not even the recruiting ads I saw on the side of buses like I saw in 2007. There is no visible indication amongst the public that it considers itself at war.

- Pakistan was actively pushing a propaganda message on CNN and BBC that it was arresting 4 Taliban leaders. There were staged interviews with a Pakistani major and a local militia group. It aired multiple times but seemed to me to be a PR stunt. One wonders what they are up too? Usually it means a diplomat is coming to meet with them or they want money from Congress.

Super-soldier exoskeletons ready for troop tests in 2010

Sic Semper Tyrannis : The news from Afghanistan - FB Ali

Sic Semper Tyrannis : The news from Afghanistan - FB Ali: ...."Whatever the cause, the effects of this situation are quite clear. However the election drama (low comedy, really) plays out, at the end Karzai will still be President. But a Karzai who is now absolutely clear that he has outlived his usefulness to the US, and who can be expected to act accordingly. He will either use the US-NATO military effort to improve his bargaining position and then do a deal with the Taliban, or he (and his family) will redouble their wealth accumulation so as to be ready to make a quick exit at a suitable moment. In either case, with relations between the Afghan government and the foreign forces deteriorating, the war is going to go badly (surge or no surge). Western publics, already doubtful about the whole enterprise, will become increasingly disenchanted; at some point politicians will have to take note. NATO countries will start dropping off first, and then, in the not too distant future, the US Congress will pull the plug."...

Al-Jazeera reports on Pakistan's UAV strategy

The DEW Line