Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nuclear engineer from Cern lab arrested for al-Qaeda links - Times Online

Nuclear engineer from Cern lab arrested for al-Qaeda links - Times Online: "Fears that al-Qaeda is planning an attack on the nuclear industry in Europe were renewed yesterday after French secret agents arrested a physicist working at an atomic research centre.

The 32-year-old man, who was detained with his brother, 25, is suspected of providing a list of terrorist targets to North African Islamic radicals. He worked for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, according to French police sources.

Agents were said to have intercepted messages in which the physicist, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, had suggested targets in France.

He is believed to have been in contact with members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian-based terror organisation that joined Osama bin Laden’s network in 2007."...

[bth: this entire article is written without ever using their names]

Gunmen Attack Pakistan Army HQ - WSJ.com

Gunmen Attack Pakistan Army HQ - WSJ.com: "Taliban gunmen disguised as soldiers infiltrated the headquarters of Pakistan's military Saturday, taking between 10 and 15 security officers hostage.

The militants slipped into the heavily guarded complex after they and others attacked it, sparking a gunbattle that killed four assailants and six soldiers near the capital.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said 'four or five' assailants were holding the troops hostage in a building close to the main gates of the complex. He said no senior military or intelligence officials were among those being held.

Saturday's assault was the latest in a week of broadsides from the Pakistan Taliban. The group has in recent days warned of a sustained campaign of terror attacks unless the military backs off plans to invade a militant stronghold along the Afghan border."

pakistan

[bth: it is not at all clear to me what the Taliban is trying to do here? Are they trying to deter the Paki Army or infuriate them?]

California’s Budget Suffers ‘Major Blow’ as Debt Sales Loom - Bloomberg.com

California’s Budget Suffers ‘Major Blow’ as Debt Sales Loom - Bloomberg.com: "Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- California’s revenue collections trailed its forecasts by $1.1 billion during the first three months of the fiscal year, showing new deficits are emerging in the budget Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed July 28.

Revenue was 5.3 percent less than was assumed in the $85 billion annual budget during the three months ended Sept. 30. Income tax receipts led the shortfall, as unemploymentreached as high as 12.2 percent in August.

“Revenues more than $1 billion under estimates and recent adverse court rulings are dealing a major blow to a budget that is barely 10-weeks old,” Controller John Chiang said in a statement. “While there are encouraging signs that California’s economy is preparing for a comeback, the recession continues to drag state revenues down.”"...
The Week in Viral Videos - The Daily Beast:

Friday, October 09, 2009

Al Jazeera English - Americas - US: Taliban has grown fourfold

Al Jazeera English - Americas - US: Taliban has grown fourfold: "Taliban-led forces fighting US and Nato troops in Afghanistan have increased nearly fourfold since 2006, according to a US intelligence estimate presented to the US president.

The report says that the number of Taliban fighters has grown to 25,000, from 7,000 four years ago, the officials said on Friday as Barack Obama convened a fifth cabinet-level meeting on his country's military strategy in Afghanistan.

The US president is considering whether to agree to a request by the senior commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan for up to 40,000 extra troops to be deployed."...
Naval Open Source INTelligence

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Go to jail or join jihad against India: ISI tells surrendered Taliban - India - The Times of India

Go to jail or join jihad against India: ISI tells surrendered Taliban - India - The Times of India: "NEW DELHI: In a new shift in tactics, Pakistan is planning to push as many as 60 'surrendered' Taliban into Jammu and Kashmir to become part of
the 'jihad' against India. The ISI is said to have offered the extremists the option of either going to jail or crossing the Line of Control.

The 'jail or jihad' option offered to the Taliban seems a useful diversion for ISI. The Pakistan military establishment has had to fight the Taliban, once its close allies in Afghanistan, but is looking to turn the situation to its advantage."...

CTV News | Berlin police launch search of suspected extremists

CTV News | Berlin police launch search of suspected extremists: "BERLIN — Authorities in Berlin on Wednesday searched more than two dozen buildings connected to three alleged Islamic extremists suspected of planning to carry out attacks in Russia.

Prosecutors said some 140 police officers launched a dawn raid on 26 residences and other locations in Berlin.

Holger Freund, a spokesman for Berlin prosecutors, said the investigation was focused on three German men with 'Arabic backgrounds' aged 28, 30 and 36 living in Berlin, but declined to identify them further.

Freund said police did not have sufficient evidence at this point to arrest them or anyone else in an extremist group that is believed to include between 15 and 24 people.

'The suspects are believed to have been planning an attack on Russia,' but it was unclear where in the country and how exactly the group members might be involved, Freund said."...

China: Al-Qaeda urges holy war to defend Muslims - Adnkronos Security

China: Al-Qaeda urges holy war to defend Muslims - Adnkronos Security: "Rome, 7 October (AKI) - A leading Al-Qaeda militant on Wednesday called on Muslims worldwide to defend Uighurs in China's restive northwestern region of Xinjiang. He told Uighurs to prepare for a holy war or Jihad and urged a 'vast media campaign' to raise awareness of their fate at the hands of 'oppressive' China.

In the video posted to jihadist websites, Abu Yahya al-Libi appeared to launch a frontal assault against China.

'This massacre is not being carried out by criminal Crusaders or evil Jews who have committed crimes against our nation,' al-Libi stated.

'Today, a new massacre is being carried out by Buddhist nationalists and communists against the Muslim population in eastern Turkestan,' said al-Libi."...

Al Qaeda and the Taliban: together again - Threat Matrix

Al Qaeda and the Taliban: together again - Threat Matrix:..."Sa'id is clear that Mullah Omar was unwilling to turn over bin Laden after the US demanded it in late 2001, and that there is no reason to break from al Qaeda now when the Taliban have the upper hand:

'US and western sources talk about their readiness to accept the Taliban in the Afghan future political structure should it leave the Al Qaeda. However, these sources close the eyes to the fact that Mullah Mohammad Omar has lost his throne [ruling] upon his refusal to hand over one person who is Osama bin Laden. Thus, will Mullah Mohammad Omar agree to a condition which he refused when he used to rule and when the United States was at the top of its might, and accept it now while he is on the threshold of a victory over his enemies?'

Then there is this from Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, whose eulogy for slain Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud outlines how the Pakistani Taliban sheltered al Qaeda after they fled the US offensive during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom:

'Amir Baitullah (may God have mercy on him) was a generous, strong, courageous, and noble person when it came to making decisions, especially the decision to host, aid, and shelter his migrating mujahidin brothers. It was he and"...

Afghanistan: Taliban Attacks on NATO Convoys Increase - TIME

Afghanistan: Taliban Attacks on NATO Convoys Increase - TIME: "To supply nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its Western allies rely on road convoys with dozens of trucks to carry in everything from jet fuel to frozen pizza. But increasingly these convoys are coming under savage attack by the Taliban. And experts say that if the ambushes get worse, it could impair NATO's efforts to keep a supply lifeline running to its troops in forts and camps scattered across the mountainous country."

Often, the death of a private security contractor in Afghanistan goes unheralded; after all, they risk their lives for money, not country. Yet the drivers and guards who ride shotgun on the long convoys snaking over the mountains also suffer heavy casualties. Many have died heroically. Figures released to TIME by NATO showed that from June to September, more than 145 truck drivers and guards were killed in attacks on convoys and 123 vehicles were destroyed....

Taliban say have hoisted flag after battle with U.S. | Reuters

Taliban say have hoisted flag after battle with U.S. | Reuters: "KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban fighters said on Wednesday they had hoisted their flag over a remote district of Afghanistan, four days after inflicting the worst battlefield casualties on U.S. troops in more than a year in an attack there.

U.S. forces denied they had left the area, although they said they will leave eventually under plans announced before the attack.

On their website, www.shahamat.org, the Taliban said they had raised their flag in Kamdesh district of Nuristan province on Wednesday morning at a function attended by locals.

Hundreds of fighters attempted to storm two remote U.S. outposts in the mountainous district along the Pakistani border on Saturday. Eight U.S. soldiers and at least two Afghan troops died defending the outposts in a day-long fire fight.

U.S. forces have since said they killed more than 100 fighters in the battle.

The fight showed the tactical risks U.S. troops may face in carrying out a new strategy ordered by their commander, General Stanley McChrystal, who is moving forces out of remote areas like Nuristan and into more populated locations....

[bth: looks like the Taliban claim to Nursitan is real unfortunately]

In the past, when U.S. troops have left hard-fought areas, the Taliban have launched attacks to show strength and lay claim to them.

Colonel Wayne Shanks, a senior press officer for U.S. and NATO-led forces,"

American troops in Afghanistan losing heart, say army chaplains - Times Online

American troops in Afghanistan losing heart, say army chaplains - Times Online: "American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taleban.

Many feel that they are risking their lives — and that colleagues have died — for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion.

“They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. “They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through.” The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not."...

The base is not, it has to be said, obviously downcast, and many troops do not share the chaplains’ assessment. The soldiers are, by nature and training, upbeat, driven by a strong sense of duty, and they do their jobs as best they can. Re-enlistment rates are surprisingly good for the 2-87, though poor for the 4-25. Several men approached by The Times, however, readily admitted that their morale had slumped.

“We’re lost — that’s how I feel. I’m not exactly sure why we’re here,” said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose closest friend was shot dead by a renegade Afghan policeman last Friday. “I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out here or if I’m going to die.”

Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: “If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.”

The only soldiers who thought it was going well “work in an office, not on the ground”. In his opinion “the whole country is going to s***”....

[bth: no clear mission. that's the point]

Afghanistan Attack Kills 8 US Soldiers - ABC News

Afghanistan Attack Kills 8 US Soldiers - ABC News: "One U.S. military official told ABC News that they believe the insurgents started a fire as they began to attack. 'They burned the base down,' said the official.

The smoke from the fire initially limited the air support U.S. soldiers requested, according to a military official. The fighting lasted 'throughout the day' as there were signs that the insurgents were able to breach the base before being 'repelled.' As insurgents fired from three or four different locations above the base, they also maneuvered and over took one of the observation posts on higher ground, taking out a post meant to protect Camp Keating from enemy fire."....

[bth: so the article goes on to explain how the patrols into the village had stopped, how the base was adandoned after the fight and was slated to be closed anyway. So what made it worth it? What was the point of this base in the bigger picture? Did it have one at all?]

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Arlington unveils a new unknown soldier | Salon News

Arlington unveils a new unknown soldier | Salon News: "Oct. 7, 2009 | For the first time in a generation, Arlington National Cemetery has marked the burial of an unknown on its storied grounds. Only this time, 25 years since the last interment at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the identity of the body remains a mystery not because the ravages of war made identification impossible, but because in a bureaucratic error the cemetery lost the paperwork showing the identity of the remains."
News

Arlington recently installed a headstone marked "Unknown" above grave 449 in section 68 of the cemetery. "A grave marker has been placed at grave 449 in section 68 noting the remains as Unknown," Army spokesman Dave Foster confirmed to Salon in a statement.

This is the first time the cemetery has marked an unknown since 1984, when Arlington entombed the remains of a Vietnam veteran in the Tomb of the Unknowns in a ceremony rife with pomp and circumstance. Former President Reagan presided, posthumously awarding that service member the Medal of Honor. And that unknown soldier was supposed to be the last unknown interred in any U.S. military cemetery, given advances in DNA technology and a multimillion dollar effort to account for every soldier and identify all remains. A body that could not be identified was supposed to be a thing of the past.

ut Arlington's newest unknown, buried without special ceremony, is the exception to what was intended to be the rule. The cemetery buried someone in grave 449 -- likely relatively recently, since that section is an active part of the cemetery -- and then lost track of the paperwork showing the identity of the remains. In 2003, workers went to bury a newly deceased service member in that plot, only to find unmarked remains in the ground. Paper records had listed the plot as vacant.

Rather than publicly admit this error, Arlington quietly left the remains unmarked for six years. For those six years, passersby saw only an empty plot of green grass in spot 449, surrounded by stones etched with names.

This remained the case until this past summer, when Salon began working on tips from current and former workers at Arlington who said these kinds of mistakes occur with disturbing frequency at the cemetery, which calls itself "our nation's most sacred shrine."...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Pakistan Taliban head cracks jokes, vows vengeance

My Way News - Pakistan Taliban head cracks jokes, vows vengeance: "SARAROGHA, Pakistan (AP) - Flanked by heavily armed fighters, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban sat on a blue blanket, amiable and relaxed as he cracked jokes and mixed in threats of vengeance for deadly U.S. airstrikes.

One day later, a suicide bomber attacked a U.N. office in Islamabad.

Hakimullah Mehsud met with reporters Sunday for the first time since winning control of the militant group, quashing speculation that he had been slain in a succession struggle following the killing of his predecessor in a U.S. drone attack.

He also described his group's relationship to al-Qaida as one of 'love and affection.' Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding out in the remote border region with Afghanistan, possibly in territory controlled by Hakimullah.

The militant vowed to retaliate against the U.S. and Pakistan for deadly attacks on his allies and said his fighters will repel an anticipated Pakistani offensive into his stronghold."...

[bth: well not dead yet I guess.]

Hakimullah Mehsud may be dead: US official

Hakimullah Mehsud may be dead: US official: "WASHINGTON: Newly appointed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud may have been killed recently during clashes with a rival faction, a senior US counter-terrorism official said on Saturday.

“There’s reason to believe that Hakimullah may have died recently — perhaps as a result of factional infighting within the Pakistani Taliban,” the official told AFP. The US and Pakistani officials are reviewing information about the alleged incident and have yet to confirm the death. The Pentagon declined to comment."...

[bth: killed. again. still dead? we'll see.]

Billions in US Aid Never Reach Pakistan’s Military -- News from Antiwar.com

Billions in US Aid Never Reach Pakistan’s Military -- News from Antiwar.com: "According to top generals, of the $6.6 billion in American military aid to the nation between 2002 and 2008, only about $500 million of it actually ended up in the hands of the military.

Exactly where the rest of that money went is unclear, but officials say much of it went to then-President Pervez Musharraf’s various subsidy programs to try to bolster his sagging domestic image."...

[bth: news at 11. He took the money for years. That's why their helicopters were grounded for lack of spare parts that we paid for. He took the cash and spread it around his political friends and senior generals. The Frontier forces meantime went to battle without more than a clip of ammunition.]

Sunday, October 04, 2009

8 Troops Killed In Afghanistan; Remote Outposts Attacked

8 Troops Killed In Afghanistan; Remote Outposts Attacked: "KABUL — Militant fighters streaming from an Afghan village and a mosque attacked a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistani border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and as many as seven Afghan forces in one of the fiercest battles of the eight-year war."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack for coalition forces since a similar raid in July 2008 killed nine American soldiers in the same mountainous region known as an al-Qaida haven. The U.S. has already said it plans to pull its soldiers from the isolated area to focus on Afghan population centers.

Fighting began around dawn Saturday and lasted several hours, said Jamaludin Badar, governor of Nuristan province. Badar said the two outposts were on a hill – one near the top and one at the foot of the slope – flanked by the village on one side and the mosque on the other.

Nearly 300 militant fighters flooded the lower, Afghan outpost then swept around it to reach the American station on higher ground from both directions, said Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, the provincial police chief. The U.S. military statement said the Americans and Afghans repelled the attack by tribal fighters and "inflicted heavy enemy casualties."

Jangulbagh said that the gunbattle was punctuated by U.S. airstrikes and that 15 Afghan police were captured by the Taliban, including the local police chief and his deputy. A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said a council would decide the fates of the police, confirming the capture of the two top local officers.

Badar said five or six Afghan soldiers died, as did one policeman.

Afghan forces were sent as reinforcements, but Jangulbagh said all communications to the district, Kamdesh, were severed and he had no way of knowing how they were faring Sunday. The area is just 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Pakistani border and 150 miles (230 kilometers) from Kabul.

"This was a complex attack in a difficult area," U.S. Col. Randy George, the area commander, said in the American statement. "Both the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fought bravely together."

Story continues below

Jangulbagh said the bodies of five enemy fighters were found after the battle....


[bth: Col George last showed up last October when he was in charge of a unit that destroyed friendly fire records the day after Mark Benjamin of Salon released a video from a helmet cam documenting a 2006 friendly fire incident which had been covered up. That evening several enlisted personnel were assigned to destroy the records. They tried to get in touch with CID but got no answer and had to follow orders. They then told Kit Bond what had happened and were transferred to different units (4 of them) for their own protection.]

Obama adviser: Afghanistan gov't must do better

Obama adviser: Afghanistan gov't must do better: ..."'I don't foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling,' Jones said.

'The al-Qaida presence is very diminished,' he said. 'The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.'"...
Informed Comment

Army chief warns of 'terrifying prospect' of failure in Afghanistan - Telegraph

Army chief warns of 'terrifying prospect' of failure in Afghanistan - Telegraph: ..."Sir David has issued his unprecedented warning because he believed the public and even members of the government had not 'woken up' to the 'enormous risks' which would result if the war was lost.

He said: 'Failure would have a catalytic effect on militant Islam around the world and in the region because the message would be that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have defeated the US and the British and Nato, the most powerful alliance in the world. So why wouldn't that have an intoxicating effect on militants everywhere? The geo-strategic implications would be immense.'

Sir David, who succeeded Gen Sir Richard Dannatt as head of the Army, said that a failure by the public to back the war would ultimately 'delete' troop morale – an effect which, he said, would be far more damaging than a lack of resources.

The Army chief declared that Britain was ready to send more troops to Afghanistan if called on to do so in the wake of the revised strategy which has been drawn up by Gen Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato troops in southern Afghanistan.

He said that more troops would result in fewer casualties and would allow British and Nato troops to deliver greater security more quickly."....

[bth: this guy has been systematically under equipping his few troops in Afghanistan, shorting them of helicopters and mine resistant vehicles. There is no way in hell the British are going to deploy more troops to Afghanistan when they can't even support the few thousand that are there. Who is this guy kidding?]

Why Would the Pentagon Worry About Improved Success of Predator Airstrikes in Pakistan? - Political Punch

Why Would the Pentagon Worry About Improved Success of Predator Airstrikes in Pakistan? - Political Punch:... "An unofficial analysis of U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan through September 2009 by the reputable website LongWarJournal, based on the publicly available data, indicates that 404 Taliban/al Qaeda were killed by Predator strikes in 2009, with 43 civilians killed.

In 2008, Predators killed 286 Taliban/al AQaeda, with 31 civilian killed. In 2007, 73 Taliban/al Qaeda were killed."

The Pentagon would not comment on the study. Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, says the information comes from press reports including local Pakistani newspapers -- Dawn, Daily Times, Geo News, as well as wire services such as AFP, Reuters, and AP.

The study noted that “more than one in three of the strikes have killed a High Value Target (HVT). An overwhelming number of strikes -- nearly 90 percent -- have taken place against al Qaeda and Taliban targets in North and South Waziristan. Notably, a large percentage of the high value targets killed were killed in a tribal region operated by a Taliban leader whom the Pakistani military and government considers an ally.”

As the number of strikes has markedly increased, the average casualty rate has increased as well -- from 10.64 killed per strike, compared to 8.81 in 2008.

Eight high-value targets were killed in 2008: Abdullah Azzam al Saudi, Abu Zubair al Masri, Abu Jihad al Masri, Khalid Habib, Abu Haris, Abu Khabab al Masri, Abu Sulayman Jazairi, and Abu Laith al Libi.

So far in 2009, six high value targets have been killed: Ilyas Kashmiri, Najmuddin Jalolov, Mustafa al Jaziri, Baitullah Mehsud, Osama al Kini, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.


[bth: looking at these number one can't help but think improved intel from Pakistan plus drones are having an impact on al-Qaeda leadership even if losses are replaced quickly. I don't think ground troops have had any success sneaking up on al-Qaeda positions since we let them go at Tora Bora. We simply lack stealth on the ground unless it comes from small special units that guide in air strikes.]

Avenger of the skies: new wave of drones takes off - Times Online

Avenger of the skies: new wave of drones takes off - Times Online: ..."Predators are about to rack up 1 million flight hours as military commanders clamour for their hi-tech surveillance and attack capabilities. There are now more than 35 Predators in the air at any one time.

Drone warfare is now at the heart of a furious debate within the Obama Administration.

Joe Biden, the Vice-President, insists that remote-control fighting is the best way to fight al-Qaeda, while the military favours more troops on the ground in a classic counter-insurgency campaign."....

A Predator Drone