Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

The Raw Story » Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely: ..."Rather than seek approval from Congress to hold some 50 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely, the administration has decided that it has the authority to hold the prisoners under broad-ranging legislation passed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Former President George W. Bush frequently invoked this legislation as the justification for controversial legal actions -- including the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program.

'The administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban,' the Times' Peter Baker writes. 'In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.'"....

Man arrested in alleged attempt to bomb Dallas skyscraper | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News

Man arrested in alleged attempt to bomb Dallas skyscraper | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News: "Federal authorities arrested a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen whom they said placed an inactive car bomb today at Fountain Place, a 60-story skyscraper in downtown Dallas."...

[bth: so did the FBI give him an inert car bomb? He sounds like a little shit to be sure. But did the FBI give him a fake bomb?]

Barack Obama’s churlishness is unforgivable - Telegraph Blogs

Barack Obama’s churlishness is unforgivable - Telegraph Blogs: "The juxtaposition on our front page this morning is striking. We carry a photograph of Acting Sgt Michael Lockett - who was killed in Helmand on Monday - receiving the Military Cross from the Queen in June, 2008. He was the 217th British soldier to die in the Afghan conflict. Alongside the picture, we read that the Prime Minister was forced to dash through the kitchens of the UN in New York to secure a few minutes “face time” with President Obama after five requests for a sit-down meeting were rejected by the White House."

What are we to make of this? This country has proved, through the bravery of men like Acting Sgt Lockett, America’s staunchest ally in Afghanistan. In return, the American President treats the British Prime Minister with casual contempt. The President’s graceless behaviour is unforgivable. As most members of the Cabinet would confirm, it’s not a barrel of laughs having to sit down for a chat with Gordon Brown. But that’s not the point. Mr Obama owes this country a great deal for its unflinching commitment to the American-led war in Afghanistan but seems incapable of acknowledging the fact. You might have thought that after the shambles of Mr Brown’s first visit to the Obama White House - when there was no joint press conference and the President’s “gift” to the Prime Minister was a boxed DVD set - that lessons would have been learned. Apparently not. Admittedly, part of the problem was Downing Street’s over-anxiety to secure a face-to-face meeting for domestic political purposes but the White House should still have been more obliging. Mr Obama’s churlishness is fresh evidence that the US/UK special relationship is a one-way street....

[bth: is this snub necessary? If we have a problem with letting the Pan Am terrorist go then we should say so. Let's not snub the Brits. And while everyone is taking a deep breadth let's remember that WWI and WWII weren't snubs by the Americans.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

YouTube - Inside Afghanistan-Fighting Alongside Stoned Afghan Soldiers

YouTube - Inside Afghanistan-Fighting Alongside Stoned Afghan Soldiers

YouTube - On the Frontline with 45 Commando: Part 1

YouTube - On the Frontline with 45 Commando: Part 1

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from FOD Team, Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Donald Faison, Linda Cardellini, Masi Oka, Ben Garant, Jordana Spiro, lauren, Drew

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from FOD Team, Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Donald Faison, Linda Cardellini, Masi Oka, Ben Garant, Jordana Spiro, lauren, Drew

Obama Is Considering Strategy Shift in Afghan War -

Obama Is Considering Strategy Shift in Afghan War - ..."Among the alternatives being presented to Mr. Obama is Mr. Biden’s suggestion to revamp the strategy altogether. Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Mr. Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.

The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan. Mr. Biden has often said that the United States spends something like $30 in Afghanistan for every $1 in Pakistan, even though in his view the main threat to American national security interests is in Pakistan.

Mr. Obama rejected Mr. Biden’s approach in March, and it is not clear that it has more traction this time. But the fact that it is on the table again speaks to the breadth of the administration’s review and the evolving views inside the White House of what has worked in the region and what has not. In recent days, officials have expressed satisfaction with the results of their cooperation with Pakistan in hunting down Qaeda figures in the unforgiving border lands."...

David Ignatius - Building a 'Citizen-Centric' CIA -

David Ignatius - Building a 'Citizen-Centric' CIA - "The question is how to put the pieces back together -- how to restore public trust in intelligence. I heard powerful presentations on that subject last Saturday in Geneva by Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA director, and Sir David Omand, former coordinator of British intelligence. They were speaking at a meeting of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Full disclosure: I am a member of that group's advisory council.)

Hayden drew a Venn diagram to explain where the CIA needs to operate. First, he drew three circles that represent the traditional parameters: An activity must be technically feasible, operationally relevant and lawful. Then he added a fourth requirement. The activity must also be 'politically sustainable,' through more transparency with Congress and the public. 'We need a program that does not have an on-off switch every two years,' he said.

Omand argued that the intelligence community must accept a 'paradigm shift.' The old 'secret state,' in which intelligence agencies could do pretty much as they liked, is gone. In its place is a 'protecting state,' in which the public gives the intelligence agencies certain powers needed to keep the country safe. It's a 'citizen-centric approach,' Omand explained, based on the reality of mutual dependence. ...

[bth: worth reading in full. What the CIA doesn't get is that it a. was expected to get OBL and b. it was expected to obey the law and work for the public good, not spy on it. It lost the public trust and seems to be largely ineffective at its job of protecting us. No wonder the CIA has problems with the American public.]

YouTube - Twitteleh

YouTube - Twitteleh

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

YouTube - Animal House - Bluto's Inspiration Speech

YouTube - Animal House - Bluto's Inspiration Speech

That doesn't look like the wall of a cave to me

U.S. Plans to Shift Forces to Populated Areas of Afghanistan -

U.S. Plans to Shift Forces to Populated Areas of Afghanistan - "BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top military officer in Afghanistan, has told his commanders to pull forces out of sparsely populated areas where U.S. troops have fought bloody battles with the Taliban for several years and focus them on protecting major Afghan population centers."

But the changes, which amount to a retreat from some areas, have already begun to draw resistance from senior Afghan officials who worry that any pullback from Taliban-held territory will make the weak Afghan government appear even more powerless in the eyes of its people.

Senior U.S. officials said the moves were driven by the realization that some remote regions of Afghanistan, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains that range through the northeast, were not going to be brought under government control anytime soon. "Personally, I think I am being realistic about this," said Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. "I have more combat power than my predecessors did, but I won't be as spread out. . . . This is all about freeing up some forces so I can get them out more among the people." ...

[bth: this appears to me to make a lot of sense.]

McChrystal's Review Creates Divide on War in Afghanistan -

McChrystal's Review Creates Divide on War in Afghanistan - ..."But senior military officials have expressed growing frustration, while warning that delay could be costly. 'Time does matter,' said one military official. 'The longer the situation deteriorates, the tougher to reclaim' the initiative against Taliban forces. Military and civilian officials agreed to discuss White House decision-making and McChrystal's report on the condition of anonymity.

This military official and others cautioned that any strategy revision that resulted in a pullback by U.S. and NATO forces would leave Taliban forces in uncontested control of territory and could lead to a return of civil war in Afghanistan, opening the door to reestablishment of al-Qaeda sanctuaries there.

But some civilian officials believe that such a scenario is based on possibly faulty assumptions about who the Taliban insurgents are, what their aims may be, and whether some can be co-opted. If Obama's core objective is to prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, this reasoning goes, it may not depend on defeating the Taliban. An equally viable policy, they argue, could include stepped-up, targeted attacks on al-Qaeda's sanctuaries in Pakistan and convincing amenable Taliban fighters that it is in their best interests to keep al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan."

[bth: much of the troop estimates are based on a simple calculation. We have between 60 and 100,000 troops coming out of Iraq. It costs twice as much to put a soldier into Afghanistan as Iraq. So you take the number of troops out of Iraq and divide by 2 and send them to Afghanistan because the DOD budget isn't going to go up while we get out of Iraq. McChrystal's estimates could have been done on the back of a napkin and have very little to do with the actual deployments in Afghanistan and a lot to do with the budget and politics of Washington. One also needs to factor in the loss of German and Italian troops from Afghanistan in the coming year. It hasn't happened yet but it will.]

Obama resists top Nato commander's call for troop increase in Afghanistan | World news |

Obama resists top Nato commander's call for troop increase in Afghanistan | World news | ..."Obama has already approved an additional 21,000 US troops this year, raising the total to 68,000 alongside 38,000 other Nato soldiers. But with public and political support for the war eroding in the US, and increasingly drawn parallels with America's long war in Vietnam likely to be strengthened by McChrystal's talk of boosting the numbers of troops and winning hearts and minds, Obama has said that he is in no hurry to increase the size of the coalition force in Afghanistan."

White House officials say the president stands by the comments he made at the weekend when he told talk shows that he is hesitant to escalate the numbers of troops in Afghanistan but agrees that a new strategy is required to combat the Taliban and al-Qaida. "Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy, I'm not going to be sending some young man or woman over there beyond what we already have," Obama said on Meet the Press.

The president said that if a new counterinsurgency strategy can be shown to be effective "then we'll move forward".

"But, if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or ... sending a message that America is here for the duration," he said.

Political support for the war has weakened amid a creeping concern that the war may be unwinnable as US casualties rise sharply. A recent Washington Post poll showed that 51% of Americans thought the war "not worth fighting".

The chairman of the Senate's armed services committee, Carl Levin, has said that the administration should train more Afghan soldiers before sending additional US troops. McChrystal proposes nearly tripling the size of the Afghan army to 240,000 troops....

[bth: one big concern I have is that a US troop increase will be matched by a NATO troop decrease. I think the Europeans are planning on pulling back or out.]

Afghanistan Pullback: U.S. May Focus On Drone Attacks On Terrorists

Afghanistan Pullback: U.S. May Focus On Drone Attacks On Terrorists: "WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's strategy against al-Qaida may shift away from more troops in Afghanistan and toward more drone strikes against terrorist targets.

As the war worsens in Afghanistan, Obama could steer away from the comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy he laid out this spring and toward a narrower focus on counterterror operations.

Two senior administration officials said Monday that the renewed fight against al-Qaida could lead to more missile attacks on Pakistan terrorist havens by unmanned U.S. spy planes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.

The armed drones could contain al-Qaida in a smaller, if more remote, area and keep its leaders from retreating back into Afghanistan, the officials said."...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Columbus Dispatch : Friends, family of Delaware soldier killed in Iraq pass along love to wife, daughter

The Columbus Dispatch : Friends, family of Delaware soldier killed in Iraq pass along love to wife, daughter: "Pigtailed Rowen Myers tilted back her head and squinted up at the 545 yellow balloons that illuminated the bright blue sky outside the funeral service.

The 14-month-old smiled, pointed toward the horizon above the distant tree line and gave her father, Army Spc. Zachary T. Myers, her own salute."

"I know her daddy is looking down at her and Megan (Myers' wife) right now," said one mourner outside the Vineyard Church of Columbus. "He'll always be by their side, protecting them, just like he protected all of us."

Several hundred family members, friends and supporters gathered yesterday in Westerville to honor the military service and celebrate the life of the 21-year-old Myers.

Myers, of Delaware, was killed Sept. 8 while riding in an armored vehicle hit by an explosive in Baji, Iraq. Also killed in the blast were Staff Sgt. Shannon M. Smith, 31, of Marion, and Pfc. Thomas F. Lyons, 20, of Fernley, Nev. The three soldiers served with the 545th Military Police Company, which deployed from Fort Richardson, Alaska, to Iraq in May. The 545 balloons were released to honor Myers' company.

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Us or Them in Afghanistan?

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Us or Them in Afghanistan?: "When I visited bases and training grounds in July, I heard some American trainers describe their Afghan trainees in the same racist terms once applied to African slaves in the U.S.: lazy, irresponsible, stupid, childish, and so on. That's how Afghan resistance, avoidance, and sabotage look to American eyes. The Taliban fight for something they believe -- that their country should be freed from foreign occupation. 'Our' Afghans try to get by.

Yet one amazing thing happens to ANA trainees who stick it out for the whole 10 weeks of basic training. Their slight bodies begin to fill out a little. They gain more energy and better spirits -- all because for the first time in their lives they have enough nutritious food to eat.

Better nutrition notwithstanding -- Senator Levin, Senator McCain -- 'our' Afghans are never going to fight for an American cause, with or without American troops, the way we imagine they should. They're never going to fight with the energy of the Taliban for a national government that we installed against Afghan wishes, then more recently set up to steal another election, and now seem about to ratify in office, despite incontrovertible evidence of flagrant fraud. Why should they? Even if the U.S. could win their minds, their hearts are not in it.

One small warning: Don't take the insecurity of the Afghan security forces as an argument for sending yet more American troops to Afghanistan. Aggressive Americans (now numbering 68,000) are likely to be even less successful than reluctant Afghan forces. Afghans want peace, but the kharaji (foreign) troops (100,000, if you include U.S. allies in NATO) bring death and destruction wherever they go. Think instead about what you might have won -- and could still win -- had you spent all those military billions on food. Or maybe agriculture. Or health care. Or a civilian job corps. Is it too late for that now?

Ann Jones is the author of Kabul in Winter (Metropolitan, 2006) and writes often about Afghanistan for TomDispatch and the Nation. War Is Not Over When It's Over, her new book about the impact of war on women, will be published next year.

[bth: where to go from here? One can certainly conclude that the McChrystal report was leaked from the military in order to box Obama in. But let's do a little math. The GDP of Afghanistan is in the 20 billions range and we are spending $4 billion a month to provide US troops to it so about $48 billion. What if we reduced the troop strength and injected the savings right into the Afghan economy? What if we brought jobs to the economy instead of death and destruction? Would the Afghan attitude toward us and the Taliban change?]

TomDispatch: Ann Jones, Us or Them in Afghanistan?

TomDispatch: "In Washington, calls are increasing, especially among anxious Democrats, for the president to commit to training ever more Afghan troops and police rather than sending in more American troops. Huge numbers for imagined future Afghan army and police forces are now bandied about in Congress and the media -- though no one stops to wonder what Afghanistan, the fourth poorest country on the planet, might actually be like with a combined security force of 400,000. Not a 'democracy,' you can put your top dollar on that. And with a gross national product of only $23 billion (a striking percentage of which comes from the drug trade) and an annual government budget of only about $600 million, it's not one that could faintly maintain such a force either. Put bluntly, if U.S. officials were capable of building such a force, a version of Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule for Iraq would kick in and we, the American taxpayers, would own it for all eternity."

On the other hand, not to worry. As Ann Jones makes clear in her revelatory piece below, the odds on such an Afghan force ever being built must be passingly close to nil. Such a program is no more likely to be successful than the massively expensive Afghan aid and reconstruction program has been. In fact, for all the talk about the subject here, it's remarkable how little we actually know about the staggering expensive American and NATO effort to train the Afghan army and police. Stop and think for a moment. When was the last time you read in any U.S. paper a striking account, or any account for that matter, in which a reporter actually bothered to observe the training process in action? Think how useful that might have been for the present debate in Washington. ...

Groin armour 'would help British troops to survive' - Asia, World - The Independent

Groin armour 'would help British troops to survive' - Asia, World - The Independent: "British soldiers are suffering catastrophic injuries not seen among their American comrades in Afghanistan because their armour does not cover the groin and neck."

The most senior surgeon in the British field hospital in Afghanistan, US Navy Captain Joseph Rappold, told The Independent: "We have seen a lot of groin and neck injuries in UK soldiers not otherwise seen in US soldiers and Marines because of this piece of equipment."

US Marines, who deployed this summer with British forces in Helmand, wear an additional groin guard hanging from the waist of their body armour, as well as a higher neck-piece. In the bloodiest summer to date in Helmand, a tour in which the number of soldiers killed and terribly injured rose dramatically, many have suffered leg amputations from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that litter the terrain. Captain Rappold said they often suffer life-changing groin wounds...

[bth:3 to 5 years behind the US on this important issue. British soldiers are getting their nuts blown off because their government has been slow in upgrading their vests. Next time you see a photo of British soldier in Afghanistan note that their camouflage doesn't even match the terrain. You'd think that that would at least be a minimum since they have less than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and none in Iraq.]

McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure' -

McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure' - "McChrystal makes clear that his call for more forces is predicated on the adoption of a strategy in which troops emphasize protecting Afghans rather than killing insurgents or controlling territory. Most starkly, he says: '[I]nadequate resources will likely result in failure. However, without a new strategy, the mission should not be resourced.'"...

"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government," McChrystal says. ...

McChrystal is equally critical of the command he has led since June 15. The key weakness of ISAF, he says, is that it is not aggressively defending the Afghan population. "Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect. . . . The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves."

McChrystal continues: "Afghan social, political, economic, and cultural affairs are complex and poorly understood. ISAF does not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities, nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, power-brokers, and criminality all combine to affect the Afghan population."

Coalition intelligence-gathering has focused on how to attack insurgents, hindering "ISAF's comprehension of the critical aspects of Afghan society."

In a four-page annex on detainee operations, McChrystal warns that the Afghan prison system has become "a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations" against the government and coalition forces. He cites as examples an apparent prison connection to the 2008 bombing of the Serena Hotel in Kabul and other attacks. "Unchecked, Taliban/Al Qaeda leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military."

The assessment says that Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents "represent more than 2,500 of the 14,500 inmates in the increasingly overcrowded Afghan Corrections System," in which "[h]ardened, committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalize and indoctrinate them."

Noting that the United States "came to Afghanistan vowing to deny these same enemies safe haven in 2001," he says they now operate with relative impunity in the prisons. "There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan," his assessment says. ...

He proposes speeding the growth of Afghan security forces. The existing goal is to expand the army from 92,000 to 134,000 by December 2011. McChrystal seeks to move that deadline to October 2010. ...

Overall, McChrystal wants the Afghan army to grow to 240,000 and the police to 160,000 for a total security force of 400,000, but he does not specify when those numbers could be reached.

He also calls for "radically more integrated and partnered" work with Afghan units.

McChrystal says the military must play an active role in reconciliation, winning over less committed insurgent fighters. The coalition "requires a credible program to offer eligible insurgents reasonable incentives to stop fighting and return to normalcy, possibly including the provision of employment and protection," he writes.

Coalition forces will have to learn that "there are now three outcomes instead of two" for enemy fighters: not only capture or death, but also "reintegration."

Again and again, McChrystal makes the case that his command must be bolstered if failure is to be averted. "ISAF requires more forces," he states, citing "previously validated, yet un-sourced, requirements" -- an apparent reference to a request for 10,000 more troops originally made by McChrystal's predecessor, Gen. David D. McKiernan. ...

[bth: what bothers me about reading his report is that 1. it doesn't go into much detail about how to train and organize Afghan forces nor place any time-line on getting it to a meaningful capacity and 2. I could have written then with the possible exception of the Taliban running operations from Afghan prisons. I guess I was hoping for some insight and some reason to think McChrystal would bring new insight into the debate that his predecessor lacked.]

Leaping Robot Hops Closer to War | Danger Room |

Leaping Robot Hops Closer to War | Danger Room |

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Military considers revised medical training for troops -

Military considers revised medical training for troops - "WASHINGTON — Troops trained in advanced trauma care could prevent up to 20% of combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military's top medical board says.

The Defense Health Board said in a recommendation to the Pentagon last month that enhanced Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) skills developed by military trauma specialists already have saved an estimated 1,000 lives in both wars."

For example, preventable combat deaths — primarily cases where troops bleed to death — have been eliminated in an Army Special Forces unit and the 75th Ranger Regiment, both trained in these skills. Among other techniques, the training emphasizes aggressive control of blood loss with tourniquets.

More than 4,000 U.S. troops have died from combat wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army's goal is to replace its first aid training with the TCCC curriculum by Jan. 1, says Col. Karen O'Brien, command surgeon for the Army Training and Doctrine Command. She says she decided to recommend changing the training after reviewing the same statistics presented to the Defense Health Board.

Most preventable deaths involved troops who bled to death, according to military trauma surgeons who studied autopsy and medical records of servicemembers who died from their wounds.

"We looked at all the things that were the most common preventable causes of death ... and what we could do to prevent that and the most striking example was tourniquet use," says Dr. Frank Butler, a retired Navy captain and former SEAL, who led development of the enhanced casualty care training techniques.

Controlling blood loss is the key, says Army Lt. Col. Russ Kotwal, regimental surgeon for the 75th Ranger Regiment. Soldiers of that elite unit have been skilled in these techniques since 2000. The Regiment has since suffered 550 to 600 casualties, including only 37 deaths, Kotwal says.

The Defense Health Board, an independent advisory panel to the secretary of Defense, unanimously recommended on Aug. 6 that "all deploying servicemembers who may become combatants ... (and) all deploying medical department personnel" be trained in TCCC.

Pentagon leaders are studying the recommendations, says Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a spokesman for the military's medical health service.

Improved training includes teaching troops how to better use tourniquets, dressings and bandages; and treating shock and chest wounds. The TCCC curriculum also teaches troops how to provide care during a firefight to limit the severity of injuries.

Because of advances in battlefield care, about one in 10 wounded troops die in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon data show, compared with one in five in World War II and 16% in Vietnam.

[bth: in 2005 Robert Little from the Baltimore Sun did a series of stories on the Army's failure to match their own medical board recommendations and match the marines who two years prior had issued single handed tourniquets to all marines as well as blood clotting agent. This resulted in 15% fewer casualties. The Army however did not follow through until publicity from Robert's articles so embarrassed them that the day before a congressional hearing following up his articles, the army announced that they had decided what kind of pouch to put the tourniquets in and by the by could issue and train all soldiers within six months. About late August 2005 they in fact did follow through, though I suspect hundreds died in the prior years from pure bureaucratic incompetence. There was a theory at the time which I believe talking to several people in the know that the Army had not wanted to accept a Marine/Navy solution, QuickClot, when the Army (actually a retired colonel) had received $6 million to come up with an alternative which in fact a few years later did develop and mass produce. So now we see that a further improvement in training will reduce combat deaths. Perhaps we should be getting on with this at the earliest convenience. Sec. Gates is a hell of a lot more competent than Rumsfeld. He also gives a damn. So we will see.]

CIA expanding presence in Afghanistan --

CIA expanding presence in Afghanistan -- "Reporting from Washington - The CIA is deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan, part of a broad intelligence 'surge' that will make its station there among the largest in the agency's history, U.S. officials say.

When complete, the CIA's presence in the country is expected to rival the size of its massive stations in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of those wars. Precise numbers are classified, but one U.S. official said the agency already has nearly 700 employees in Afghanistan.

The influx parallels the U.S. military expansion and comes as the nation's spy services are under pressure from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal to improve intelligence on the Taliban and find ways to reverse a series of unsettling trends.

Among them are a twofold increase in the number of roadside bombs, a growing sophistication in the kinds of assaults aimed at coalition troops and evidence that a Taliban group has developed an assembly-line approach to grooming suicide bombers and supplying them to other insurgent organizations."...

Officials said the insurgency is believed to have 15,000 to 20,000 fighters. The estimates are broad, officials said, because there are loose affiliations among the groups, each of which has fighters with varying commitments to the cause.

"You're not talking about fixed formations that rely solely on full-time combatants," a U.S. counter-terrorism official said. "Numbers ebb and flow; bands of fighters appear and vanish."

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment on the scope of the agency's presence in Afghanistan. But a U.S. intelligence official said that spy agencies "anticipated the surge in demand for intelligence." The official said the intelligence community "has, for some time now, been deploying more officers to Afghanistan."

The CIA's buildup is the latest in a series of escalations there. After having only a few operatives there after the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency's presence climbed to about 150 by the end of 2001, and 300 at the close of 2005....

McChrystal is expected to expand the use of teams that combine CIA operatives with special operations soldiers. In Iraq, where he oversaw the special operations forces from 2003 to 2008, McChrystal used such teams to speed up the cycle of gathering intelligence and carrying out raids aimed at killing or capturing insurgents.

"He was able to plan during the day and do raids at night, sometimes multiple raids if he could move the information quickly enough," said a former senior U.S. military intelligence official who worked closely with McChrystal in Iraq. "What he's trying to do is get his decision cycle quicker than the bad guys."

Afghanistan presents intelligence officials with steep challenges. Current and former CIA officials said that operatives and analysts account for only about one-third of the agency's footprint in Afghanistan. The others are involved in support functions -- such as providing security and managing computer systems -- that are particularly daunting in Afghanistan because of the country's size and the woeful state of its infrastructure.

The CIA is also carrying out an escalating campaign of unmanned Predator missile strikes on Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Pakistan. The number of strikes so far this year, 37, already exceeds the 2008 total, according to data compiled by the Long War Journal website, which tracks Predator strikes in Pakistan.

The agency recently submitted a request for additional Predators from the Air Force, which manages the U.S. drone fleet, one official said. For years, the CIA drones were operated from inside Pakistan, but some are also flown from an air base across the Afghan border near Jalalabad.

A drone strike last month killed Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud. U.S. officials said they are watching closely to see whether his death leads to even a temporary drop in the number of suicide bombings.

Mahsud's organization had become a major supplier of suicide bombers to other insurgent groups, training attackers that in some cases would be deployed to carry out strikes in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

"He turned it into a business," the Defense Department official said. "Putting people through a process to indoctrinate them, prepping them to execute and then basically they can be bartered or sold."

Though other U.S. officials said Mahsud did not appear to have been motivated by financial gain, they did confirm the supplier arrangement.

"He didn't sell suicide bombers like a commodity for profit," said a U.S. counter-terrorism official. "He'd offer resources -- in this case human beings ready to die -- to his sympathizers in exchange for things he needed. These were deals among tribal figures, not outsourcing agreements among corporations."....

[bth: if you look candidly at where we are at, we've lost the Pashtun population entirely. We haven't found OBL or Omar in 8 years. One wonders what we are really doing with all these agents. 700 CIA against 15,000 Taliban not counting US or Afghan or allied troops.]


RANGER AGAINST WAR: Rube Goldberg's COIN: ..."The September/October Columbia Journalism Review's cover story -- 'Too Close for Comfort?' -- questions the impartiality of reporter Tom Ricks' recent coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting Ricks has become a cheerleader for wars he once roundly criticized. And Ricks is not the only former critic-turned-supporter."

Ricks is the author of 2006's Fiasco, which savaged George Bush's war efforts as being ill-conceived and poorly executed with neither clearly stated plans nor goals. However, since 2007 Ricks has affiliated himself with the Washington D.C. think tank Center for a New American Security where he has an office, and he is now a champion of current U.S. counterinsurgency [COIN] efforts.

Ricks attributes what he is now lauding as the successes in Iraq and AFPAK to "dissidents" like General Petraeus, but a dissident never did wear 4 Stars on his uniform. A 4 Star is a playa.

Ranger wonders why he doesn't cash-in on COIN, cheerleading for phony wars and faulty COIN doctrine. The fetti must be good.

Tom Ricks is too good of a journalist not to know the basic flaws with COIN policy, some of which have been delineated by former COIN advocate Col. Gian P. Gentile, a man now on Rick's hit list. Some of the fallacies accepted as bedrock strengths are:

* ♥'s and Minds: It is erroneous to believe that either Afghan or Iraqi hearts and minds will be won by a foreign, Christian-based Western Army of Occupation. If any hearts and minds are won, they probably belong to the pimps and whores who are selling. What is the proof of hearts and minds won?

* Low Intensity Conflict [LIC] and Terrorism as existential threats to the welfare of the United States: While these are viewed as central to U.S. Defense Policy, there is no proof that we are, as the Review states, "[in] an age in which global terrorism and small-scale conflicts, rather than a cold-war enemy like the former Soviet Union, define the threats to the United States."

Defense policy should be based upon reality versus ambiguous, poorly understood and often overblown threats. Neither AFPAK nor Iraq will ever be key U.S. allies, nor do they contribute to the welfare of the U.S. -- they are money pits and albatrosses attached to our body politic. COIN sounds good, but how does the American taxpayer footing the bill benefit from LIC/CT in AFPAK and Iraq?

The security of the U.S. is a different creature than the security of these far-flung nations. Threats to Karzai and the Iraqi leaders are not threats to the U.S. These people are not allies -- they are U.S. inventions.

LIC and CT are not threats, though they are interpreted as such by a military and political class desperate to justify their existence and place at the public money trough. Terrorism is the threat.

* General Petraeus and followers emphasize "protecting the local population, rather than going after the insurgents," but what do you do when the insurgents are the population?

COIN has U.S. soldiers fighting and dying for foreign governments when there is no logical imperative for their sacrifice. COIN is an emotional construct, like "hope".

* In addition, no one explains how the insurgents in AFPAK and Iraq are a threat to the welfare of the U.S. An insurgent threat to these nations is not necessarily a threat to America. Insurgents are not always terrorists, and vice versa.

* Why does the U.S. have a right or obligation to impose its will upon failed or failing states.

U.S forces are placed in a position of fighting for foreign governments when there is no logical imperative for their sacrifice. We win neither hearts and minds nor allies, and only an idiot would believe these countries would come to the aid of the U.S. in a pinch. When our dollars die, so too will their love and devotion. Allies are not pimps, nor are pimps allies.

The weakness of COIN is that it is a top-down imposition, while the insurgents are building a bottom-up approach to opposing a foreign-controlled puppet regime. COIN cannot succeed in impoverished environments where concepts of democracy are not explainable to a tribal existence-level society.

Democracy demands an educated middle class, something which has fled Iraq and is in short supply in Afghanistan. Democracy cannot be intubated. Just because COIN makes for pretty words in a manual does not make it realistic or achievable.

Bottom line: It matters not who controls Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan -- the only thing that matters is that they not export terrorism, and COIN will not ensure that. The threat not CT, LIC or any other acronym -- the threat is terrorism.

The entire Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) is based upon a hyperbolic global threat. The real threat is failed nations and power vacuums thus created, and U.S. policy in isolation cannot solve the problem via fancy manuals and COIN policy.

The problem must be confronted via multi-national United Nations action. COIN is simply an extension of U.S. exceptionalism and unilateralism, and as such is DOA....

[bth: my only comment to this is that killing Osama bin Laden is from beginning to end one of the key milestones in this phony war. Forget what the generals say or the politicians; their words mean little. Were OBL to die, even of 'natural' causes though preferably lead poisoning, I think the public interest in staying in Afghanistan would end and the discussion would be left amongst neocons. Neocons no one would have any further interest in listening too.]
Belmont Club

Military growing impatient with Obama on Afghanistan | McClatchy

Military growing impatient with Obama on Afghanistan | McClatchy: "WASHINGTON — Six months after it announced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its objectives there and how many troops are needed to achieve them.

The conflicting messages are drawing increasing ire from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and frustrating military leaders, who're trying to figure out how to demonstrate that they're making progress in the 12-18 months that the administration has given them.

Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn't ready for it.

In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion 'premature.' Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 'time is not on our side'; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public 'to take a deep breath.'"...

[bth: this is the same military leadership that told the Congress for 7 years that we didn't need more troops in Afghanistan while we diverted them to Iraq.]

Raytheon resumes Excalibur deliveries | ®

Raytheon resumes Excalibur deliveries | ®: "Raytheon Missile Systems resumed deliveries last month of the Army's most accurate artillery shell, enhancing the U.S. effort to minimize civilian casualties and accidental military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The satellite-guided Excalibur shells were first deployed to the war zones in 2007 and demonstrated a precision within 20 feet of their target. Two were fired in a successful July 2007 attack against an al-Qaeda leader who was killed, the Army said.

Deliveries were halted in November 2008 after further testing uncovered 'unacceptably high' accuracy problems stemming from a navigation unit that's now been replaced.

Deliveries resumed on Aug. 21, and Raytheon will receive a payment of $72.4 million that had been withheld. The shells cost $46,500 apiece, and the Army plans to buy more than 30,000 at a cost of at least $1.395 billion. Including research and development, the program's projected cost is $2.2 billion.

Protecting Afghan civilians is essential to the success of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, according to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of American and NATO forces there. The Excalibur is one tool for attaining that goal, a spokesman said.

An unguided 155 mm shell can miss its target by as much as 900 feet. The Excalibur has a 50-pound warhead. The Army wanted a weapon with a much smaller warhead ....

YouTube - John Cale - Hallelujah

YouTube - John Cale - Hallelujah