Saturday, October 31, 2009
The dramatic increase in amputees and other seriously injured service members comes as October marks the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Expanded military operations, a near-doubling of the number of troops since the beginning of the year and a Taliban offensive that has included a proliferation of roadside bombings have led to the great increase in casualties. U.S. troops in Afghanistan are suffering wounds at a higher rate than those who were serving in Iraq when violence spiraled during the military "surge" two years ago. In mid-2007, 600 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq each month out of about 150,000 troops deployed there. In Afghanistan, about 68,000 troops are currently installed, with about 350 wounded each month recently....
More than 1,000 improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, exploded or were found in Afghanistan in August, more than double any monthly total until this summer. The bombs account for 70 to 80 percent of U.S. and coalition casualties in that country, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
Metz told military reporters this week that IEDs are now the "weapon of choice" for Taliban fighters. The bombs are so powerful, he said, that they can take out the latest mine-resistant vehicles the Pentagon has employed to protect troops. In addition, insurgents have begun targeting troops on foot. He said that the rise in bombings has coincided with the doubling of U.S. troop numbers this year and that further troop increases -- now under consideration by President Obama -- would bring more bombs.
As U.S. ground forces moved in this year, Metz said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing this week, "the enemy was ready with a very thick array of IEDs. . . . Those soldiers and Marines ran into those IEDs, and it was what we predicted."....
[bth: Note a couple of things from the article. First the Taliban are targeting Americans. Second the number of Americans off a FOB at any one time are probably about 1:10 of the 65,000 there so 350/month wounded (not counting dead) against 6500 x 12 mohths is a 64% casualty rate if annualized.] Third for them to be placing 1000 ieds a month given the limited areas of contact between American forces and taliban, one wonders if we have any air assets monitoring the roads and pathways? Homemade IEDs required to flip an MRAP would have to weigh over a 1000 lbs. and probably a lot more. Those holes take time to dig and emplace.]
Friday, October 30, 2009
[bth: Bush and Cheney were no shows on this matter. In fact in Nov 2003 I was interviewed on NPR about Bush's decision to block coverage of funerals at Arlington and to prevent senior administration officials and senior military leaders from being seen at funerals prior to the then upcoming election. ... sort of out of sight out of mind. Also interviewed on that show was Reagan's speechwriter who had written an editorial on the dangers of hiding or running from the cost of the war - the human cost - and he cited Pres. Reagan's visit to the hangar holding the bodies of many marines from Beirut in stark contrast to Pres. Bush's approach. In the last year I've seen Mullen, Casey and others at Gold Star events. Prior to 2006 the only senior person I saw milling with Gold Star Families was one event with Gen. Pace as a speaker and that wasn't a funeral.]
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The military on Thursday took foreign and local journalists for a first look inside the largely lawless territory since it launched a ground offensive here in mid-October. The U.S.-backed operation is focused on a section of the tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban are based and are believed to shelter al-Qaida."
Soldiers displayed passports seized in the operation, among them a German document belonging to a man named Said Bahaji. That matches the name of a man thought to have been a member of the Hamburg cell that conceived the 9/11 attacks. Bahaji is believed to have fled Germany shortly before the attacks in New York and Washington.
The passport included a tourist visa for Pakistan and a stamp indicating he'd arrived in the southern city of Karachi on Sept. 4, 2001.
Scores of al Qaeda leaders and their operatives, including Osama bin Laden, are believed to be in hiding in the rugged border territory that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan, but both countries routinely accuse the other of being the main sanctuary
'I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to,' she told a group of newspaper editors during a meeting in Lahore.
'Maybe they are not 'get-at-able'. I don't know,' she said.
Clinton's pointed remark was the first public gripe on a trip aimed at turning around a U.S.-Pakistan relationship under serious strain, but bound in the struggle against religious extremism.
'I am more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States,' Clinton said, ''but this is a two way street....
[bth: reading the full article and her comments, I think Sec. of State Clinton has spoke plainly and fairly about the state of relations and the shared opportunities and issues between Pakistan and the US. She needs to get out more and in front of her special envoys.]
'If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together' then 'there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military se"
In interviews, Pentagon officials in charge of the press and community relations offices — which worked in partnership on the military analyst program — equivocated on the subject of whether the program has ended.
Last May, the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General issued a memorandum rescinding a Bush administration investigative report on the retired military analyst program because it “did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.” The now-retracted report had exonerated officials of using propaganda and referred to the program as just 'one of many outreach groups.'
Yet Donald Horstman, Pentagon Inspector General deputy director, also stated in the memorandum that his office wouldn’t probe further because the “outreach program has been terminated and responsible senior officials are no longer employed by the Department.”"...
[bth: still at it, it seems]
The vest, called ‘Ricochet’, solves the problem shared by all body armour designs that use ceramic or metal plates for protection. Regular plating can be pierced relatively easy if a bullet hits it at an angle close to 90 degrees. The new jacket uses a large number of small balls made from a special alloy. An incoming bullet is almost guaranteed to ricochet from them, helping the armour absorb its energy or deflect it completely, reports Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.
The jacket can stop a close range shot from a Kalashnikov assault rifle or a Dragunov sniper rifle, says chief designer, Colonel Andrey Kochubei from a police academy in the city of Volgograd in Russia’s south.
Thanks to the novel design the ‘Ricochet’ vest is very light. It weights just two kilograms as opposed to the standard issue for the Russian police, which weights ten kilograms.
The design is now undergoing laboratory tests. Its biggest drawback, according to the police, is its cost. The vest is estimated to have a price tag of $US 5,000."
A prototype track-mounted combat platform tailored to use Russian weapons has been unveiled at an arms show in Moscow. Producers say it beats the similar American bot widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.
The bot, called MRK-27-BT, was produced by the robotics lab of the Moscow Bauman Technical University. It was shown to the public at the Interpolitex-2009 arms exhibition.
MRK-27-BT’s standard armament includes two Shmel rocket launchers, two grenade launchers, a Pecheneg machine gun with a 100 round ammunition belt, and six smoke grenades. It is operated with a couple of joysticks and has a maximum range of 500 meters. All the weapons are standard issue used by human soldiers and can be detached in the field.
The project is similar to SWORDS, a weaponized version of Foster-Miller’s TALON platform. While the platform is extensively used by US military for disposing of explosives and other tasks, the real weapon-wielding bot was never used in actual combat.
Russian developers say their project beats the American counterpart in mobility and speed thanks to a superior track design. Its weapon mount is more flexible and can extend over a foxhole edge. It also has a built-in recoil suppressor. At the same time the Russian robot is larger, standing 1.5 meters tall with its mount raised, while SWORDS is barely knee high.
Designers hope that Russian Defense Ministry will order a trial series of the platform. However, according to RIA Novosti’s sources, top brass want a developed doctrine about the use of combat robots before committing.
On a clear fall night, Obama flew by Marine One helicopter to Dover Air Force Base to greet the flag-draped cases of 18 Americans killed in action this week.
After landing, the president, wearing a dark topcoat, got into a motorcade to a base chapel, where he met privately with families of the fallen Americans. He had arrived on the base at 12:34 a.m. today and was expected to be back at the White House before dawn.
Obama was taking part in a solemn process, to unfold in four movements: the transfer of the fallen 15 soldiers and three Drug Enforcement Agency agents from the back of the C-17 to a transport vehicle to a base mortuary."...
[bth: to his credit, at least Obama showed up. Bush kept himself and all high ranking military or admin. staff away from such events fearing it would draw attention to the war. He reached this conclusion after a meeting in Nov. 2003 with Karl Rove and Rumsfeld to outline his 2004 reelection campaign strategy.]
This is pro circuit work - 10 firing switches were recovered in Herat Province last summer and reportedly were of Iranian origin. Amateurs are not going to invest in screw terminals and the boards are from a mass production run which have been modified. This is probably a high end commercial firing circuit which has been modified by somebody who knows what he is doing.
The Pentagon maintains that they had been planning to abandon the bases at any rate, and that it was only a coincidence they were attacked just a few days before the move. Two other US posts in Nuristan has been attacked last year, and were also abandoned.
Those two outposts were America’s last in the area, and this has meant that the eastern province has only a handful of US troops now, protecting the governor, and that Nuristan Province is now under the de facto control of a Taliban faction run by Qari Rahman.
Nuristan lies along the border with Pakistan’s tiny Bajaur Agency, which the US launched a rare drone attack against late last week. Militants linked to Rahman, having effectively secured Nuristan, say they have their sights set on Bajaur, and the US strike was likely a last ditch American effort to stave off that eventuality, the last thing Pakistan needs after starting a major offensive on the other side of the tribal areas under intense US cajoling.
[bth: link this posting with this one on how three reports of a pending attack by the Taliban were ignored. Also with this interview of an al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan explaining that the attacks into Nuristan were strategic in design to chase the Americans out so that al-Qaeda and the Paki Taliban would have a place to retreat to when the Pak Army began its attack on them in Pakistan.]
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
'The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,' UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.
'My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,' he said.
US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.
'The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren't in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,' he added."...
[bth: one wonders what he thinks about the summary executions which occurred at the UN building in Kabul today when suicide bombers attacked and killed people there.]
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the early morning assaults, which also included rocket attacks at the presidential palace and the city's main luxury hotel.
The chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said the attack 'will not deter the U.N. from continuing all its work' in the country. One of the six U.N. dead was an American, the U.S. Embassy said."...
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
McHugh speculated that gays might be allowed to serve in some units but not others, while also stressing that no such plans had been discussed. More importantly, he told the Army Times there was no reason to believe major disruption would ensue in the army if the ban was lifted.
'Anytime you have a broad-based policy change, there are challenges to that,' he said. 'The Army has a big history of taking on similar issues, [with] predictions of doom and gloom that did not play out.'"
[bth: it would be appropriate for the president to sign an executive order not to enforce don't ask don't tell. Does he have the political courage?]
The Democrats said CIA officials had either lied or withheld information from Congress. They also said CIA officials did not fully inform Congress about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques during a September 2002 briefing, which would validate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) claim that she was lied to about the program.
The ongoing probe found the practice of incomplete briefings or outright lying was part of a 'large disease' of misinforming even the chairmen of the select intelligence committees, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said at a Tuesday press briefing that highlighted the early findings.
Schakowsky and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are leading two subcommittees investigating the legitimacy of intelligence briefings to Congress."
[bth: this is going to continue until someone is held to account]
The bill also includes the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard bill, a Wyoming teen murdered in 1998 because he was a homosexual. The act provides additional support for local law enforcement and prosecutors to try violent crimes that are motivated by the victim's religion, color, gender, or sexual orientation.
Obama will sign the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday afternoon during a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden."...
Nozette, 52, was arrested last week by federal authorities and accused of selling sensitive government secrets for $11,000 to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence operative. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted of attempted espionage.
It is not the first time Nozette has faced legal jeopardy. In 2006, the NASA inspector general began investigating allegations that Nozette's nonprofit firm, the Alliance for Competitive Technology, was overbilling the space agency. Nozette was the founder, president and treasurer of the firm, which he ran from his Chevy Chase house.
According to the unsealed court documents, Nozette was charged with defrauding the government and tax evasion and pleaded guilty in January to overbilling the government $265,205 for work he and an employee did for NASA and the Defense Department between 2000 and 2006. Nozette admitted that he used that money to help pay personal credit card bills, car loans and maintenance costs for his swimming pool. ...
The second blast, from a Kia minibus, which happened a minute later, destroyed the Baghdad Provincial Council building a quarter-mile away."....
The family of Captain Kyle R. VanDeGiesen, 29, a Marine helicopter pilot, confirmed yesterday that he died in one of the crashes.
The family said they did not know what occurred and released a statement saying, “It is with sadness today that we learned that our son, brother, and husband, Marine Captain Kyle VanDeGiesen, was killed today in the line of duty in Afghanistan.’’
The statement continued, “He was a 1998 graduate of North Attleborough High School, a 2002 graduate of Saint Anselm College, and was currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif. He fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Marine helicopter pilot, protecting his family and serving his country.’’
His wife, Megan, is expecting their first son soon, and the couple have a daughter, Avery, who celebrated her first birthday in the spring while her father was in Afghanistan....
Monday, October 26, 2009
REX, which can carry up to 200 kilograms, is designed to assist groups of 3-10 ground soldiers on operational and logistical missions for up to 72 hours without refueling, and acts as a robotic 'beast of burden' for the modern soldier.
Experts at IAI estimate that the demand for such a product could amount to tens of thousands of orders, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in both the local and the international market, for a wide variety of military and civil applications.
'The REX platform is unique in its state-of-the-art operational capabilities and its user-friendly interface, both of which are central to the platform's superior performance,' explained Ofer Glazer, head of innovation at IAI. 'The robotic vehicle follows the lead soldier from a given distance, utilizing technology developed and patented by IAI. Using simple commands, including 'stop', 'fetch', and 'heel', the lead soldier controls the robot without being distracted from the mission at hand. Controlling the robot in this way allows for intuitive interaction and rapid integration of the product on the field within" a shot time frame...
Administration officials say Obama might settle on a plan but delay announcing it until after a runoff in the Afghan national elections, scheduled for Nov. 7. The president is to begin a 10-day trip to Asia on Nov. 11.
Early this month, McChrystal was told to delay a planned Washington trip until Obama had finished gathering facts on the way ahead. 'When you see McChrystal in town,' along with Eikenberry and Patterson, a senior administration official said, 'you'll know that [Obama] is close to a decision.'"
[bth: 45K troops to Afghanistan with 90K moved home from Iraq would probably be a financial wash as it is about 2 times more expensive to field in Afghanistan. I really question whether under any scenario discussed, we have enough troops to make a difference at this point given the tepid NATO allied support and the obvious incompetence of the Afghan government? When you see Senators like Kyl talking about a big push, one should ask him if he'd support a war tax and a draft to give us the resources we need to finish this job? Note how no one is talking like that in Washington.]
We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama’s passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush’s abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability.
In Britain earlier this month, a two-judge High Court panel rejected arguments made first by the Bush team and now by the Obama team and decided to make public seven redacted paragraphs in American intelligence documents relating to torture allegations by a former prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British national, says he was tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and at a C.I.A.-run prison outside Kabul before being transferred to Guantánamo. He was freed in February.To block the release of those paragraphs, the Bush administration threatened to cut its intelligence-sharing with Britain, an inappropriate threat that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated. But the court concluded that the actual risk of harm to intelligence-sharing was minimal, given the close relationship between the two countries...
The Obama administration has aggressively pursued such immunity in numerous other cases beyond the ones involving Mr. Mohamed. We do not take seriously the government’s claim that it is trying to protect intelligence or avoid harm to national security.
Victims of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including Mr. Mohamed, have already spoken in harrowing detail about their mistreatment. The objective is to avoid official confirmation of wrongdoing that might be used in lawsuits against government officials and contractors, and might help create a public clamor for prosecuting those responsible. President Obama calls that a distracting exercise in “looking back.” What it really is justice.
In a similar vein, Mr. Obama did a flip-flop last May and decided to resist orders by two federal courts to release photographs of soldiers abusing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, just in time to avoid possible Supreme Court review of the matter, Congress created an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates authority to withhold the photos.
We share concerns about inflaming anti-American feelings and jeopardizing soldiers, but the best way to truly avoid that is to demonstrate that this nation has turned the page on Mr. Bush’s shameful policies. Withholding the painful truth shows the opposite.Like the insistence on overly broad claims of secrecy, it also avoids an important step toward accountability, which is the only way to ensure that the abuses of the Bush years are never repeated. We urge Mr. Gates to use his discretion under the new law to release the photos, sparing Americans more cover-up.
[bth: we need to decide who we are as a country. I am very disappointed in President Obama. I would further add that laws were designed to prevent the abuse of power and that the executive asserted unconstitutional powers and now a new president wishes to keep that power. Is America functioning under the rule of law or not?]