Saturday, November 07, 2009
[bth: so it was a NATO airstrike after all. Note a few posting down on this blog a NATO spokesman Lt. Russell said it was caused by insurgents. I don't understand why PAO feel the need to so blatantly misstate facts which will only come back to haunt them. Foolish.]
[bth: these fuckers could care less about regular Americans like us. They view us as the chumps, the suckers, the ones that go to war, the ones that pay the taxes and backstop their debts when they skip the tab. We're the peasants, serfs who work the fields in fly over states.]
A financial disaster? How can that be? Visiting the F-35 plant in Fort Worth, Texas last August, Secretary of D Robert Gates assured us that the F-35 will be “less than half the price … of the F-22.” In a narrow sense, Gates is right. At a breathtaking $65 billion for 187 aircraft, the F-22 consumes $350 million for each plane. At $299 billion for 2,456, the F-35 would seem a bargain at just $122 million each.
F-35 unit cost will ultimately be much higher…the F-35 program will cost up to $15 billion more, and it will be delivered about two years late."...
o we see with these newer robot aircraft, a small military can quickly build its airpower resources, while a larger nation can enhance it’s own quickly, economically, and effectively. When you consider the less than 200 traditional jets have joined the USAF inventory the past decade, while literally thousands of UAVs have been deployed and seen combat during the same time period, can there be any doubt where the future lies?
[bth: If we don't shift our approach we will bankrupt our defense department producing too few, too overpriced and vulnerable aircraft. We need more UAVs and cheaper, less stealthy fighters in quantity. UAVs need machine guns as well as missiles, they need to provide ground support against individual targets, they need to go low and slow. We need a lot of them and we need them over main ground road routes. It is inexcusable in this day in age that our ground forces should be surprised by hundreds of Taliban.]
America’s military, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies already devote thousands of people and billions of dollars to tracking down top terrorists and insurgents. But even the most successful of these efforts — like going after Iraqi militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — have been “ad hoc” efforts, with units cobbled together from different corners of the government. Report author and retired Lt. Col. George Crawford instead would like to see a permanent group with clear authority, training, doctrine and technology to go after these dangerous individuals. These “manhunting teams would be standing formations, trained to pursue their designated quarry relentlessly for as long as required to accomplish the mission,” he writes."...
[bth: I looked over his report. This should be the domain of intelligence communities like the CIA and not the Pentagon. Do we really want the Pentagon running assassination teams? Intelligence collection is more important than muscle. The intelligence community should be able to obtain ad hoc support from military special operations when needed. I think the CIA is better able to lead a program like this and yes we need one for people like OBL. Getting the Pentagon in the middle of things goes a long way to eliminating the deniability we may need.]
The Taliban said the two missing soldiers were dead and it had recovered their bodies.
A statement by the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said more than 25 troops were wounded during a search and rescue mission.
Lieutenant Darin Russell, a spokesman for NATO forces, said the troops were wounded 'by insurgent activity.' He declined to give further details of the incident, which he said was under investigation.
He was unable to say how many of the wounded were NATO troops and how many were Afghans, or whether any of them had been killed.
The chief of police in Badghis province in western Afghanistan, Abdul Jabar, said NATO aircraft had struck their own troops during the search and that several Americans had died in the 'friendly fire' air strike.
NATO announced earlier Friday that two U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division had gone missing Wednesday while delivering supplies."...
[bth: it seems odd that two paratroopers would be delivering supplies on their own. ... Also so NATO says troops were wounded 'by insurgent activity' but the local police chief says that NATO aircraft struck our own troops and several died. I hope like hell the American officer giving this report is telling the truth and the local police chief is mistaken. ]
The Islamist militants' spokesman Qare Yousuf told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that they had recovered the bodies of the drowned soldiers on Wednesday in the western Badghis province."...
When two or more people have similar false beliefs about another person, it's possible this could influence the person's behavior....
These results could be significant when applied to the context of stereotyped groups that frequently bear the brunt of negative, false beliefs. In their everyday lives, individuals from stereotyped groups more often confront unfavorable than favorable beliefs from multiple perceivers due to consensually held stereotypes. A favorable belief may not be able to counteract the harmful effect of an unfavorable belief when there is a preponderance of unfavorable beliefs competing with it. Over time, the negative self-fulfilling prophecy effects could become more powerful as the number of people with negative perceptions increases.
Many Still Believe That Saddam Hussein Was Behind 9/11, and Now We Have Some Idea Why | Media and Technology | AlterNet
Sociologists at the University of North Carolina and Northwestern University examined an earlier case of deep commitment to the inaccurate: the belief, among many conservatives who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, that Saddam Hussein was at least partly responsible for the attacks on 9/11."
Of 49 people included in the study who believed in such a connection, only one shed the certainty when presented with prevailing evidence that it wasn't true.
The rest came up with an array of justifications for ignoring, discounting or simply disagreeing with contrary evidence — even when it came from President Bush himself....The voters weren't dupes of an elaborate misinformation campaign, the researchers concluded; rather, they were actively engaged in reasoning that the belief they already held was true.
This type of "motivated reasoning" — pursuing information that confirms what we already think and discarding the rest — helps explain why viewers gravitate toward partisan cable news and why we tend to see what we want in The Colbert Report. But when it comes to justifying demonstrably false beliefs, the logic stretches even thinner....
The desire to believe this was more powerful, according to the researchers, than any active campaign to plant the idea.
Such a campaign did exist in the run-up to the war, just as it exists today in the health care debate....
"The implications for how democracy works are quite profound, there's no question in my mind about that," Perrin said. "What it means is that we have to think about the emotional states in which citizens find themselves that then lead them to reason and deliberate in particular ways."
Evidence suggests people are more likely to pay attention to facts within certain emotional states and social situations. Some may never change their minds. For others, policy-makers could better identify those states, for example minimizing the fear that often clouds a person's ability to assess facts and that has characterized the current health care debate....
Dr. Val Finnell was a classmate of Hasan's at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Both attended a master's in public health program in 2007 and 2008.
Finnell says he got to know Hasan in an environmental health class. At the end of the class, students gave presentations. Finnell says other classmates wrote on subjects such as dry cleaning chemicals and mold in homes, but Hasan's topic was whether the war against terror was "a war against Islam." Finnell described Hasan as a "vociferous opponent" of the terror war.
Finnell says Hasan told classmates he was "a Muslim first and an American second."
[bth: the 700 lb gorilla in the room.]
Friday, November 06, 2009
Saudi government officials said only that the air force had bombed Yemeni rebels who had seized a border area inside the kingdom, which they said had now been recaptured. The officials said at least 40 rebels had been killed in the fighting."
The Yemeni government -- which has long dismissed accusations by rebels that it has colluded with Saudi Arabia to combat them -- denied that Saudi planes had struck across the border.
"Saudi Arabia did not hit targets in Yemen," a Yemeni defence official told Reuters, declining further comment. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, has become increasingly anxious about instability and militancy in Yemen, which is also facing separatist sentiment in the south and a growing threat from resurgent al Qaeda fighters.
"As of yesterday late afternoon, Saudi air strikes began on their positions in northern Yemen," the adviser said, asking not to be named because operations were still going on.
"There have been successive air strikes, very heavy bombardment of their positions, not just on the border, but on their main positions around Saada," he said, alluding to the capital of the northern province where the rebels have been battling Yemen government forces since August.
Al Jazeera television quoted a rebel spokesman as saying the Saudi air force had raided six locations inside Yemen. One position had been hit by about 100 missiles in one hour. Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday a security officer was killed and 11 were wounded in an attack by gunmen who had crossed the border from Yemen -- the first such reported incursion since the long-running Houthi revolt flared up again in August.
The Saudi-owned Elaph website reported that a second soldier had died later from the same clash....
Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Americans were being squeezed from both directions. The Taliban moved closer. Ammunition was running low.
A helicopter hovered by the river bank and a medical stretcher slid out, laden with grenades and machine gun bullets.
Helicopters continued to hammer the Taliban but repeatedly had to return to a nearby base to rearm and refuel.
Gradually the soldiers made it to safety. The firefight had lasted about four hours. The entire operation, from dawn until the return to base, went on for about seven hours.
[bth: note that the Americans entry into the village was known to all including the Taliban, as was their route. Note that the Americans were channeled into the low ground and that despite helicopter coverage the enemy was able to engage the troops for 4 hours. Also shamefully the Assoc. Press says Honaker and Miracle were killed in Afghanistan in 1997. Has the AP fired its editors? It was 2007 you AP boneheads. Do your job.]
The financing would be on top of the $130 billion that Congress authorized for the wars just last month.
The military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not say how much additional money would be needed, but one figure in circulation within the Pentagon and among outside defense budget analysts is $50 billion.
Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House appropriations defense subcommittee, cited $40 billion last week as a hypothetical amount for the supplemental financing request. The number represented a standard calculation of $1 billion for every 1,000 troops deployed.
Defense officials said the final request would depend on the number of additional troops Mr. Obama decided to send to Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has asked for 40,000 more troops on top of the 68,000 American troops already there.
The request is likely to ignite objections from Democrats on Capitol Hill who are increasingly alarmed about the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan, and it could become a vehicle for a battle between Mr. Obama and his liberal Democratic base.At the National Press Club on Wednesday, Admiral Mullen said he anticipated the need for more money for the wars in the coming year beyond the $130 billion authorized for the 2010 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2009, until Sept. 30, 2010. He was responding to a questioner who asked, “Assuming that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan increase, do you expect that the Defense Department will submit an emergency supplemental funding request during the coming months?”...
[bth: folks, to state the obvious - its about the money. Rule of thumb estimates for troops in Afghanistan last year were $600K/year. Now its $1 million/year. Is the difference padding? Obama swore off non-budget supplemental funding. Now the Pentagon is forcing him back into it. Its about keeping spending high. Shouldn't somebody ask why we aren't seeing a reduction in spending in Iraq? No mention of the lower casualties, lower IED attrition on equipment, fewer troops in theater and consequent lower costs. No not a word. Nothing from Dems and especially Republicans. Mark my words, this is the core of the matter and if Obama doesn't give the Pentagon what it wants, the generals are going to take operations and maintenance money and leave us with a deficit or an unpaid army next September to force his hand.]
The U.N. is still reeling from the pre-dawn assault on a guesthouse in the capital that left five U.N. staffers dead.
The U.N. insists it remains committed to Afghanistan, but its actions show how much security has degraded in the country and raise questions about the future of its work if attacks continue.
The relocations follow a U.N. decision on Monday to suspend much of its work in the volatile northwest of neighboring Pakistan because of increasingly targeted attacks.
In Afghanistan, some 600 nonessential staffers will be moved for three to four weeks to more secure locations both within and outside of Afghanistan while the world body works to find safer permanent housing, spokesman Aleem Siddique said. He said they did not know how many would actually be leaving the country.
"We are not talking about pulling out," the head of the mission, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, told reporters. "We are not talking about evacuation."
He said a number of options were being considered for those who have to leave the country, including Dubai - a typical destination for international workers in Afghanistan on rest breaks....
[bth: One should note that al Qaeda have been targeting the UN and taking credit for the attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This outcome- UN withdrawal - has got to be the logical objective of our enemies. The same thing occurred in Iraq we should remember. Al Qaeda realizes that the UN has no spine and now it will increasingly be America's war.]
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The attacker fled after opening fire at a checkpoint in the Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province, where the vast majority of Britain's nearly 9,000 troops are based, on Tuesday and is being hunted down, the British defence ministry said.
The soldiers who were killed had been mentoring Afghan police and living at the checkpoint."...
The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.
With violence dropping in the past two years, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken down blast walls along dozens of streets, and he contends that Iraqis will safeguard the nation as American troops leave.
But the recent bombings of government buildings here have underscored how precarious Iraq remains, especially with the coming parliamentary elections and the violence expected to accompany them.
The suicide bombers who managed to get two tons of explosives into downtown Baghdad on Oct. 25, killing 155 people and destroying three ministries, had to pass at least one checkpoint where the ADE 651 is typically deployed, judging from surveillance videos released by Baghdad’s provincial governor. The American military does not use the devices. “I don’t believe there’s a magic wand that can detect explosives,” said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who oversees Iraqi police training for the American military. “If there was, we would all be using it. I have no confidence that these work.”
The Iraqis, however, believe passionately in them. “Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives.
Dale Murray, head of the National Explosive Engineering Sciences Security Center at Sandia Labs, which does testing for the Department of Defense, said the center had “tested several devices in this category, and none have ever performed better than random chance.”
The Justice Department has warned against buying a variety of products that claim to detect explosives at a distance with a portable device. Normal remote explosives detection machinery, often employed in airports, weighs tons and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The ADE 651’s clients are mostly in developing countries; no major country’s military or police force is a customer, according to the manufacturer.
“I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” General Jabiri said. “I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.”
He attributed the decrease in bombings in Baghdad since 2007 to the use of the wands at checkpoints. American military officials credit the surge in American forces, as well as the Awakening movement, in which Iraqi insurgents turned against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, for the decrease.
Aqeel al-Turaihi, the inspector general for the Ministry of the Interior, reported that the ministry bought 800 of the devices from a company called ATSC (UK) Ltd. for $32 million in 2008, and an unspecified larger quantity for $53 million. Mr. Turaihi said Iraqi officials paid up to $60,000 apiece, when the wands could be purchased for as little as $18,500. He said he had begun an investigation into the no-bid contracts with ATSC.
Jim Mitchell, the head of ATSC, based in London, did not return calls for comment.
The Baghdad Operations Command announced Tuesday that it had purchased an additional 100 detection devices, but General Rowe said five to eight bomb-sniffing dogs could be purchased for $60,000, with provable results.
Checking cars with dogs, however, is a slow process, whereas the wands take only a few seconds per vehicle. “Can you imagine dogs at all 400 checkpoints in Baghdad?” General Jabiri said. “The city would be a zoo.”
Speed is not the only issue. Colonel Bidlack said, “When they say they are selling you something that will save your son or daughter on a patrol, they’ve crossed an insupportable line into moral depravity.”
Last year, the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization seeking to debunk claims of the paranormal, publicly offered ATSC $1 million if it could pass a scientific test proving that the device could detect explosives. Mr. Randi said no one from the company had taken up the offer.
ATSC’s promotional material claims that its device can find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes three miles high. The device works on “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction,” ATSC says.
To detect materials, the operator puts an array of plastic-coated cardboard cards with bar codes into a holder connected to the wand by a cable. “It would be laughable,” Colonel Bidlack said, “except someone down the street from you is counting on this to keep bombs off the streets.”
Proponents of the wand often argue that errors stem from the human operator, who they say must be rested, with a steady pulse and body temperature, before using the device.
Then the operator must walk in place a few moments to “charge” the device, since it has no battery or other power source, and walk with the wand at right angles to the body. If there are explosives or drugs to the operator’s left, the wand is supposed to swivel to the operator’s left and point at them.
If, as often happens, no explosives or weapons are found, the police may blame a false positive on other things found in the car, like perfume, air fresheners or gold fillings in the driver’s teeth....
[bth: at last someone in the media does their fucking job. These devices have and always were a scam that has gone on for years. So $53 million was spent? BS. It was stolen by corrupt Iraqi officials and con men in the UK. Try to go to the company's website - its down for repairs. How convenient. This con was about money, not luck, magic or technology. Hundreds of people died as a result. ... Besides several thousand pounds of explosives in a vehicle are visible to human inspection - you see the stuff. A checkpoint has to open the trunk of the vehicle- not use some antenna on a swivel to guess which car to check. Nuts. Murder. I've been aware of this piece of shit device for at least 2 years and I'm not even in Iraq. Now the politicians in Iraq are going to try to tell us that they didn't know! Next thing you'll see is that this general and a couple of politicians and subordinates are going to flee Iraq - seek political asylum. Why does it take a mass killing to get media attention or to put a stop to government corruption at the highest levels?]
The military has killed 33 Taliban fighters and lost only one soldier during two days of fighting, according to the Inter Service Public Relations, or ISPR, the public affairs office of the Pakistani military.
Pakistani troops are now in full control of Kanigoram, a town that served as a stronghold for Uzbek and other central Asian fighters. 'Hundred percent of the town has been cleared and secured,' the ISPR reported.
The Army has also secured the village of China, which is just outside the town of Makeen, one of the Taliban's largest bases in South Waziristan. The military disabled 20 roadside bombs in China."...
"We are prepared for a long war," Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told the Associated Press. "The areas we are withdrawing from, and the ones the army is claiming to have won, are being vacated by us as part of a strategy. The strategy is to let the army get in a trap, and then fight a long war."
The real story in South Waziristan is difficult to discern, as the Pakistani Army has closed off communications from the region and has denied journalists the ability to report from the battle zone. Journalists are taken on closely orchestrated battlefield tours and are given a glimpse of what the Army wants them to see.
The military is evidently taking and holding ground in South Waziristan, but the Taliban clearly are not putting up a serious fight against the Army. During past operations, the Taliban have put up stiff resistance to military incursions.
At the outset of the South Waziristan operation, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that all indications were that the main body of the Taliban force and its commanders have left the region while a rearguard force was left behind to harass the Army [see LWJ report, "Pakistan launches South Waziristan operation"].
"The Taliban appear to want to deny the military a decisive victory so they have pulled up some units and key leaders," a US intelligence official said on Oct. 17. "A substantial rearguard unit will be left to bleed the Army."
Kalmanovich was one of Israel's most colorful Russian immigrants. He was well connected to Israel's political, military and business elite during the 1970s and 1980s, and as a KGB agent, he made concerted efforts to work his way into the centers of power in Israel.
During the latter part of his life, he became a successful international businessman, but became mixed up in fraud.
Moscow police said Kalmanovich was murdered while driving near his home, close to the local police station. Also in the car were his driver, a bodyguard and a friend. The driver was severely wounded."...
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
"O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.
Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all. - Amen"
While the riskiness of portfolio investments has effectively increased due to the near perfect correlation in asset prices, the VIX and risk premiums in general have been receding thanks to the Fed's (an other central banks') QE operations.
Moreover, the dollar weakness exacerbates the global monetary easing in a self-reinforcing manner: 'if there is no forex intervention and foreign currencies appreciate, the negative borrowing cost of the carry trade becomes more negative. If intervention or open market operations control currency appreciation, the ensuing domestic monetary easing feeds an asset bubble in these economies.'
What makes the carry trade unravel? First, the dollar cannot go to zero and at some point the cost of borrowing in dollars stabilizes. Second, the Fed cannot suppress volatility forever. Third, the Fed may tighten sooner than expected. Fourth, political risk may spark flight to safety. "The longer and bigger the carry trades and the larger the asset bubble, the bigger will be the ensuing asset bubble crash. The Fed and other policymakers seem unaware of the monster bubble they are creating." (11/01/09) ...
"I don't understand why the military is putting so much pressure on the White House now over Afghanistan," says a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. "Unless it has something to do with the presidential ambitions of a certain Centcom commander."
The military's campaign to force Obama's hand started in earnest in September, when the Commander's Initial Assessment of the war — a highly classified report prepared by McChrystal — was leaked to The Washington Post. According to insiders, the leak was coordinated by someone close to Petraeus, McChrystal's boss and ally. Speculation has centered on Gen. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff and Petraeus confidant, who helped convince George W. Bush to get behind the "surge" in Iraq. In the report, McChrystal paints a dire picture of the American effort in Afghanistan, concluding that a massive increase in troop levels is the only way to prevent a humiliating failure.
On Capitol Hill, hawkish GOP congressmen seized the opening to turn up the heat on Obama by demanding that he allow McChrystal and Petraeus to come to Washington to testify at high-profile hearings to ask for more troops. "It is time to listen to our commanders on the ground, not the ever-changing political winds whispering defeat in Washington," declared Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican from Missouri. Attempting to usurp Obama's authority as commander in chief, Sen. John McCain introduced an amendment to compel the two generals to come before Congress, but the measure was voted down by the Democratic majority....
[bth: This is an article worth reading in full. I only note a fewthings that seem to be missing from the discussions.
First, our Afghan policy has more to do with national pride than killing Osama bin Laden or bringing prosperity and democracy to Afghanistan. How many soldiers will die over pride not a strategy.
Second, the Afghan surge is about keeping defense spending at a consistent level - roughly half the troops at twice the price per soldier - as Iraq scales down, Afghanistan scales up or DOD spending goes down. Lower spending is bad for generals, contractors and congressmen.
Third, where were these hawkish generals the last 8 years when we diverted resources away from Afghanistan to Iraq? Where was their voice? Did a single one resign in protest of the diversion of resources from Afghanistan? Petraeus and the Republicans are positioning themselves to say Petraeus won Iraq and Obama lost Afghanistan in the 2012 elections.]
Monday, November 02, 2009
If nothing else, Conway's apparent resistance may be a warning shot to the White House by telegraphing arguments that opponents of repeal will invoke if the Senate holds hearings on "don't ask, don't tell." Given that we are fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, opponents will say, we just cannot take time out to focus on civil rights issues like gays in the military....
[bth: it's time for Gen. Conway to retire and let a new generation of officers step up. These same arguments occurred with segregation especially in the Navy. It is far more important to gauge the tolerance of the enlisted personnel who are younger and frankly live in a different world than Gen. Conway.]
Sunday, November 01, 2009
The response, in the past, has been to defeat the uprisings, by punitive expeditions, and by bribing the cooperative and peaceful tribes – tactics which buy temporary peace until the next demagogue emerges, when the whole cycle starts all over again.
Longer term, the answer has to be a combination of prosperity and, especially, secular education – it was that, after all which broke the power of the Catholic Church in backward Ireland, which for nearly a century maintained a monopoly over university education. Not for nothing, therefore, do the local Mullahs, invoking the 'Taleban' brand, target schools and, where they can, the universities.
These issues we must explore in future posts but, for the time being, with what we have from Novosti, we can veer towards two tentative conclusions. Firstly, opium/heroin control is irrelevant to the battle against the Taleban, while efforts to control the Taleban are making the drug problem worse.
Secondly, the presence and/or influence of al Qaeda does not seem to be the issue in Afghanistan. The real problems are the local Mullahs and their grip on an illiterate and superstitious population. In the name of Islam, they create their havoc. Break their power and the rebellions fade away. In the name of Islam, the population will have to be told to "lock up your Mullahs".
We could, incidentally, start that process in the UK.
'But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations,
pursuing invariably the same object,
evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism,
it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such government, and
to provide new guards for their future security.'"
McChrystal was the head of Special Operations command in Afghanistan during Army Ranger (and former football star) Pat Tillman's death. McChrystal was the one who approved paperwork awarding Tillman a Silver Star despite knowing (or at least suspecting) that he had died in fratricide and not, as originally determined, enemy fire.
This was once a big embarrassment for the army and, to a lesser extent, McChrystal himself (though he has copped to making an innocent mistake). But when the general was elevated to top spot in Afghanistan this past spring, relatively few publications revisited the affair.
That may change. On Sunday, journalist Jon Krakauer joined the Meet the Press panel to discuss his new book on Tillman's death called Where Men Win Glory. Krakauer offered a harsh assessment of McChrystal's conduct during that period and even stressed that the General's explanations upon reflection were 'preposterous' and 'unbelievable.'"....
[bth: Congress dropped the ball by letting McChrystal off the hook with his falsehoods concerning his role in the Tillman cover-up. The problem is that it comes down to trust when you are the general in charge of Afghanistan which he now is. If you lack character that warrants trust, then there is a big problem. A problem for this country. When this same general says 45,000 more troops, people from the President on down ask, "can I trust this man?" ... Well can we? It is woryh noting that he received his second star weeks after approving Tillman's Silver Star even though McChrystal knew he was lying about how Tillman died and the fact that he was not under enemy fire at all - except our own.]
Hunter said he’s been told repeatedly that Task Force Odin (Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize), a battalion established in 2007 in Iraq to ferret out networks that make IEDs, as the explosives are known, would deploy to Afghanistan “soon,” but he said it hasn’t happened yet and wanted to know why.
“We’re losing guys every day. What are we going to do tomorrow?” Hunter asked Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who commands a Pentagon shop that in four years has received about $16 billion to fight IEDs."
Testifying during the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, Metz explained that he helps fill requests from the commanders in theater – and that he tries not to manage the war from thousands of miles away.
IEDs have proven to be a simple and effective weapon against U.S. troops in Iraq, and the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars trying to counter them. They are now causing a rising number of casualties in Afghanistan. The enemy, Metz said, “has really upped the total volume and explosive power of the IEDs. That is the main trend that I would report to you.”
It’s posing a challenge even to the light mine-resistant vehicles that the military is pouring into theater as quickly as possible, he said.
At the height of the surge in Iraq, the military sent 86 route clearance teams to rid the roads of IEDS. The number of route clearance teams in Afghanistan today is more in the neighborhood of 25.
Asked about the difference, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying to provide immediate help, even while the president is reviewing the strategy for Afghanistan and the assessment provided by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan....
[bth: Rep Hunter is right. Why don't we have more IED teams in Afghanistan? What the hell are we waiting for? Whether or not the president increases troop levels, there is no doubt that we need more IED teams now.]
Peter Galbraith, who left Afghanistan abruptly last month after accusing the UN of failing to prevent Mr Karzai rigging August’s presidential election, said there was no doubt that the Afghan President was organising another massive fraud for the run-off against Abdullah Abdullah, his opponent, next Saturday.
He said that UN workers overseeing the latest poll run-off had contacted him in recent days to say that nothing had changed and that the second-round vote will again involve fraud on a grand scale.
“It’s a sure thing,” Mr Galbraith said. “It is beyond blatant. This is in your face. It has become clear that Karzai has no intention of instituting reforms. He simply intends to repeat the same fraud. It is the same exercise as before. At some point enough is enough."...
[bth: Galbraith has been the only one consistently telling the truth]
The soldiers “were sitting ducks,” said Larry Mace, father of Army Spc. Stephan Mace, who was killed in the Oct. 3 battle.
That attack was eerily similar to another Afghanistan battle 15 months earlier in Wanat, in nearby Kunar province."
Both ground assaults were on remote American outposts. The enemy struck with devastating speed and firepower, each time nearly overwhelming highly trained, battle-hardened defenders. Combined, 17 soldiers were killed, 51 wounded.
How could this happen — twice?
At a disadvantage?
There are some 150 outposts and forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan, many of them manned like those that were nearly overrun. The remote, undermanned and underresourced outposts are on bad terrain that frequently gives enemy forces the advantage, say experts, who predict more attacks unless the outposts are either reinforced or shut down.
Enemy Afghan forces dominated the terrain around the platoon-sized Wanat outpost and attacked on the morning of July 13, 2008, fighting with superior numbers and firepower. Defenders eventually repulsed the attack but not before the enemy knocked out the unit’s heavy weapons, killed nine soldiers and wounded another 27. The Wanat attack is now the subject of a second investigation to explore allegations of negligence at senior levels of command.
In the same way U.S. forces pulled out of Wanat, they have now left COPs Keating and Lowell and Observation Post Fritsche, all three in Kamdesh. This is part of a plan recently launched by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, that calls for pulling forces out of these small outposts and moving them closer to cities as part of a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at better protecting the population.
Experts maintain that the only way to prevent more of these types of attacks is to commit more troops and more resources to Afghanistan. This comes as the Obama administration is debating how to respond to McChrystal’s request for up to 40,000 more troops.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have to have more troops,” said retired Brig. Gen. David Grange, a Vietnam War veteran who later served in Delta Force and commanded the 1st Infantry Division. “If you can’t maneuver you are not on the offensive … if you don’t maneuver, you don’t win.”
“You have to do the mission [but] you don’t have the resources,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College and a Vietnam veteran. “Every time you remove a combat outpost, what happens? Either a key piece of terrain goes uncovered or something like the [attacks in Wanat and Kamdesh happen].”
“It’s not enough to add more troops,” he said. “It’s also important to add more enablers, more artillery, more helicopters, [and] more tactical [unmanned aerial vehicles].”
Despite McChrystal’s previously announced plan, a spokesman refused to say whether the remaining outposts will be closed.
Closing “three out of 150 [bases] are negligible,” said Col. Wayne Shanks, spokesman for International Security Assistance Force. “These [three sites] didn’t have any effective control over the border region. They weren’t set up to do that. They were set up to interdict insurgent access routes throughout the region. The commanders across Afghanistan, regional commanders, are continuing to reassess their situation and realign their forces,” he said. “There’s always a possibility that we’ll close a base as we realign forces.”
Multiple warnings from citizens
Wanat and Kamdesh — and presumably many others — were placed in indefensible terrain and provided minimal personnel, making it difficult for soldiers to conduct offensive operations outside the wire.
The small force did not conduct patrols from the time they arrived at Wanat on July 9, 2008, to the time of the attack four days later. Most soldiers were busy either strengthening the new camp’s defenses or manning crew-served weapon systems. Nearly every soldier there was well aware of the efforts directed against them. Soldiers were receiving reports from the few citizens who remained in Wanat that an attack was imminent, but such warnings had been received so often, and were so vague, that they were discounted, according to a draft analysis paper on the battle written by Douglas Cubbison, a military historian at the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“There were civilians who were watching us all through the day,” remembered Sgt. Jason Oakes, a member of a Marine Corps Embedded Training Team mentoring and working with the Afghan National Army. “They knew exactly where we were … and there was nothing we could do. You can’t shoot somebody for walking around slowly.”
Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area think tank, said the strategy of scattering small combat outposts, each manned by platoon- or company-sized elements, in remote areas was not working.
“What’s the point of having a local presence when you can’t leave your encampment?” he asked. “But if you concentrate [solely] in the cities, you largely give over the countryside to the enemy.”
Experts maintain that McChrystal’s plan to close the outposts will only embolden Taliban-backed forces to plan more deadly attacks in the future.
“The Taliban are going to use that as a victory and tell everybody that they pushed the Americans out,” Grange said. “They’re influencing [American] public opinion, our Congress, and our media.”
David Brostrom, a retired Army colonel, said there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the battle in Wanat that killed his son, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, and the attack on COP Keating in Kamdesh.
“How can this COP, that’s been there for many years, be surprised and almost overrun by over 200 bad guys and we didn’t see it coming?”
When the enemy attacked in Wanat, Jonathan Brostrom and his soldiers, from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, had been in that location for less than a week.
COP Keating in Kamdesh was established in the summer of 2006, and the soldiers who battled the enemy on Oct. 3, from 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, had been there for more than three months.
“The amount of ammunition the enemy had was phenomenal, and that had to be stored in caches some place, or if they brought it up you’d think we would have seen it,” Brostrom said. “You kind of ask the questions, were there patrols in and around the base? Where was the [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]? And you’re probably going to find the ISR was someplace else because there’s not enough to go around.”
COP Keating was in extremely rugged and mountainous terrain with high ground on three sides around it.
When the terrain works against you
Army officials are still sorting through the details surrounding the battle at Keating, but the situation already sounds very similar to the fight at Wanat where COP Kahler occupied a large open field near the village and was surrounded by prominent ridges that approach 10,000 feet in peak elevation on the northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest.
One soldier candidly described COP Kahler as “being at the bottom of a bowl, surrounded by a whole lot of s— sandwich,” according to a Cubbison’s report.....
[bth: bad positioning allowing the enemy to fire down into the camp from fixed positions with direct and indirect fire, inadequate manning which caused a failure to patrol, repeated ignored warnings from the locals of an imminent attack, slow and inadequate air support, military leadership propaganda spin, an abandoned province as a result and what can only be described as a taliban victory if one concludes that they control the territory a few days after the engagement. .... The lesson learned by the army after Wanat is that there was no lesson learned. We are going to simply repeat the same scenario over and over until something within the leadership structure changes.]