Saturday, January 30, 2010
Nine soldiers were killed and 27 wounded in that battle.
In a statement, Army Secretary John McHugh said he has received the results of the Central Command investigation and is directing Gen. Charles Campbell, commander of Forces Command, to “review the recommendations and take action as he deems appropriate with regard to Army personnel identified in the report.”
Army officials declined to name or say how many people were identified in the CentCom report.
Campbell has to complete his review within 90 days.
Army and Central Command officials also declined to release the findings of the investigation until Campbell completes his review.
“We remain in close contact with the families of our fallen from this battle, and they will be invited to a comprehensive briefing on the investigation following Gen. Campbell’s actions,” McHugh said in his statement."...
[bth: I can hardly believe it. Finally. There may actually be an accounting for incompetence and negligence of senior officers that resulted in the deaths of brave soldiers within the 173rd. Finally. Maybe. We'll see.]
It is a phrase that should resonate through much of the industrial world, where high and long-standing unemployment is increasingly becoming a huge domestic political issue.
Speaking on a panel at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Summers said one in five American men aged 25 to 54 are unemployed. He said given a “reasonable recovery,” that rate could improve to one in seven or one in eight. That still contrasts with a 95% employment rate for that group in the mid-1960s.
He said the U.S. can gain from increased global integration, but if it is to be politically sustainable it “has to work for people.” That means job creation in the U.S. is a crucial issue."
[bth: well said]
Friday, January 29, 2010
One, Theresea Evans, asked the former prime minister to look her in the eye and say sorry for the loss of her son.
Evans, from Llandudno, North Wales – whose 24-year-old son, Llywelyn, died in a Chinook helicopter crash in 2003 – said: 'I would simply like Tony Blair to look me in the eye and say he was sorry. Instead, he is in there smirking.'
Anne Donnachie, from Reading, Berkshire, whose 18-year-old son, Paul, was killed by a sniper in 2006, said she blamed Blair for his death.
'From what I have heard this morning, he is just denying everything,' she said. 'He will just not face up to the facts. I believe he made a massive mistake when he sent my son to Iraq.'
Sarah Chapman, from Cambridge, whose brother, Sergeant Bob O'Connor, died five years ago, said it would be better if Blair was facing the families rather than sitting with his back to them as witnesses are required to do.
'He is being very adamant about his views, as we expected, but it is clear he did not share all the papers before the invasion with the rest of his cabinet,' she said.
'I am disgusted by that. It is obvious he acted alone.'
Anti-war protesters outside the inquiry were denied a chance to direct their chants at the former prime minister in person when he used a side entrance to make his way into the inquiry.
When he began giving evidence inside the QEII Centre in Westminster, a building fortified with steel barriers and lines of police, campaigners stopped their chants of 'war criminal', turned their backs and began listening as the names of civilians and military personnel killed in the conflict were read out.
The crowds dissipated at the end of the morning, but numbers were expected to build again towards the end of the afternoon when the session ends and Blair leaves the inquiry.
For many, today will be the last in a line of protests against the Iraq war which began when up to two million people took to the streets to march against the invasion almost seven years ago."....
So the recession has ended, right? Yes, say most economists. But a panel of academics who officially decide such matters has offered a different response: silence.
That's despite signs that the economy, juiced by government aid, has begun to hum rather than sputter. On Friday, the government is likely to go further: it's expected to say growth accelerated from October through December.
The housing market, the collapse of which triggered the recession, is creeping back. Industrial production is up. Layoffs have slowed, though companies remain reluctant to hire.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters estimate the economy grew 4.5 percent in the final three months of 2009. If so, it would mark the best quarterly performance since 2006. Some predict even more dynamic growth -- possibly hitting 6 percent, a level not reached since 2003.
But many analysts worry that growth could slow or even stop in coming months. They point to temporary factors that propped up the economy in the fourth quarter but will eventually fade."...
[bth: with shipments being down in double digits last year one wonders how this 4th quarter miracle could happen. I am highly suspicious.]
When the lieutenants came across another strange object, their instinct, again, was to hop out and check it out. After the mission, Curley lectured Iraqi soldiers on the importance of using their equipment.
“It’s difficult because, in their army, the robot or the arm may be considered more expensive than the soldier,” he said. “But when they do get it right, it gives us a real sense of pride.”"
[bth: it shouldn't be this way. Robots parts can be made less expensive and always should be cheaper than risking an Iraqi soldier's life.]
Elders from the Shinwari tribe, which represents about 400,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, also pledged to send at least one military-age male in each family to the Afghan Army or the police in the event of a Taliban attack.
In exchange for their support, American commanders agreed to channel $1 million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders and bypass the local Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt.
“The Taliban have been trying to destroy our tribe, and they are taking money from us, and they are taking our sons to fight,” said Malik Niaz, a Shinwari elder. “If they defy us now, we will defeat them.”
The pact appears to be the first in which an entire Pashtun tribe has declared war on Taliban insurgents.
But the agreement, though promising, is fragile at best. Afghan loyalties are historically fluid, and in the past the government has been unable to prevent Taliban retaliation. The agreement may also be hard to replicate, since it arose from a specific local dispute and economic tensions with the Taliban....
[bth: hello. $1 million is the cost of one or two US soldiers. We should say yes. Several times over in fact.]
Afghanistan war: Why US disappointed by Germany troop levels / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
As violence reaches record levels in Afghanistan, the war has become increasingly hard for European capitals to support. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was mindful of that when she announced Tuesday that Germany would send only 500 troops, with another 350 on 'flexible reserve.' They will complement the 4,300 German troops already in Afghanistan. Hoping to reach a compromise that will placate her American counterparts, Chancellor Merkel also announced an additional $500 million in development funds, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was even less forthcoming, saying “France will not send another single soldier,'"...
But two other important allies, the Netherlands and Canada, are also grappling with their future in Afghanistan. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that Canada, which has 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, will withdraw in 2011. And the Dutch, who have 2,000 troops deployed, may decide in just weeks to bring their operations to a close by the year’s end, reports Canada’s CTV News.
Disappointed US officials have warned that NATO's failure to pony up could undermine overall efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, reports the Washington Post. The US says it needs – and was counting on – more NATO troops to train the Afghanistan police and the Army.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told said Monday that NATO allies had provided only about 10 percent of the trainers promised for Afghan security forces, a situation he called "totally unacceptable."
Kouchner, speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour from the one-day meeting on Afghanistan that drew representatives from more than 60 countries and organizations to London, said, 'No more fighters. We are in charge. We don't want to send more troops to fight.'
But Kouchner did not rule out the possibility of sending more trainers for the Afghan army and police. France currently has about 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, just over a third the number that Britain has deployed there.
The United States is sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and NATO and other partners have promised at least 7,000 more reinforcements as part of President Barack Obama's new strategy to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban."...
[bth: a good portion of the surge will simply be to replace retreating NATO partners. No official wants to talk about this. You would think that the news media would get real about reporting the fact that we are offsetting Dutch, Canadian, German troop departures in the upcoming year but they do not. That would require a modicum of research and effort. ]
Any assault on the Pakistani supply route is worrisome to the US-led forces in Afghanistan, who use it to ship three-quarters of their materials and will need it even more as the surge of 30,000 US troops progresses.
But the attack in Karachi – which is the commercial capital of Pakistan, and has largely escaped the bomb attacks troubling other major cities and the northwest – raises particular concern, especially if it marks the beginning of a trend."....
The Afghan government claims that the ANA numbers more than 100,000 troops. NBC News has obtained an unpublished preliminary military report written in mid-December 2009 for Central Command Commander Gen. David Petraeus. The report indicates that at least some ANA battalions (Kandaks) are undermanned by as much as 50 percent and no way near combat ready.
Nevertheless, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi expects to expand the ANA to 240,000 soldiers for which the United States has pledged an additional $16 billion, not including an additional NATO contribution.
U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, admits that after eight years of recruitment and training, the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police are not sufficiently effective to take ownership of Afghanistan's security.
He said, 'The Afghan national army must accelerate growth to the target strength of 134,000 by fall 2010, with the institutional flexibility to continue that growth to a new target ceiling of 240,000.'"
NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reported that an unpublished report obtained by NBC News indicates it will take much more time to expand and rehabilitate Afghan forces than U.S. President Barack Obama's schedule to draw down the troop surge starting in July 2011. The report said it "cannot take a year to fix this problem." Both Azimi and the report authors expect the process to correct the current deficiencies in the ANA to take up to four years.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Engel discussed the report's conclusion that, above the company level, the Afghan army is "not at war." Many ANA field grade officers "work short days, are often absent and place personal gain above national survival." The ANA senior leadership suffers from "corruption, nepotism and untrained, unmotivated personnel," which makes "success all but impossible."
The critical absence of adequate ANA leadership and motivation are only exacerbated by numerous reports of illiteracy, language differences among recruits, drug use, lack of fire discipline during combat operations and desertion rates as high as one in four.
The New York Times reported that newly appointed Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, responsible for building and improving Afghanistan's security force, intends to devote unprecedented time and effort to improving the quality of leadership, rather than merely concentrating on increasing the number of troops.
No doubt changes in the ANA leadership to end corruption, self-interest, nepotism and a lack of devotion to duty are essential for ultimate success. Nevertheless, replacing entrenched high-level ANA officers will be time consuming and a bloody political process. There is simply not enough time for a trickle-down effect.
Engel may have, however, identified a more effective approach to building the ANA into an effective fighting force more quickly. He stated that small, company level units (100-200 soldiers) on the ground are fighting, and these could provide the potential to regain the initiative against the Taliban....
[bth: notice how a country of around 30 million can't produce 100,000 effective troops? Notice that there is no draft in Afghanistan.]
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
General Ray Odierno told reporters at least two of Monday's attacks at the Sheraton, Babylon and Hamra hotels involved gunmen in a first car shooting to kill security guards before a second driver detonated his bomb-laden vehicle.
'What happened was there was two cars,' he said. 'The first car came in with small arms fire, followed by the suicide bomber. We have not seen that before.'
Odierno was speaking at a media briefing arranged prior to the coordinated attacks which also wounded 71 people less than six weeks before Iraq's March 7 general election.
'It was reported as a new tactic, although we had some intel (intelligence information) that they were going to try to conduct some of these attacks under the cover of small arms fire. We've had that for about a month.'
The hotels targeted by the bombers are used by foreign businessmen as well as locals. One of the hotels is also home to several international journalists.
Odierno said US forces were immediately called on by Iraqi security forces to help investigate evidence at the scenes of Monday's attacks, and more time was needed to complete their findings."...
[bth: so say it had nothing to do with the execution of Chemical Ali which has been anticipated for weeks is nonsense. To say that this is a novel technique is bull. So usually if they go after a hotel they use two bombers, one for the gate or wall and one for the building. So to use gunmen early and then try to run in is just saying that they may be short suicide bombers or rather have 3 targets instead of one hotel to go after. And if the intel were known for a month, that would mean that the perps would be known as well.]
The village elders who issued the fatwa against the girl also fined the girl's father and warned him that his family would be forced into isolation if they didn't pay.
According to the Telegraph, the girl was so ashamed that she did not lodge a complaint about her attack. Human rights activists say that she married quickly after the attack, but was divorced not long after when it was revealed she was pregnant. She told the Daily Star that the rapist had 'spoiled' her life.
'I want justice,' she said."
Report: Army Medical Examiners Were Suspicious of Pat Tillman's Death Among New Details - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum
'The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,' a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman's comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman's death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.
The medical examiners' suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request."...
[bth: worth reading in full. There is no way 3 bullets to the head at close range came from friendly fire in the valley below.]
Somerset authorities seize grenade launcher, weapons cache from Virginia man at motel | New Jersey Real-Time News - - NJ.com
Lloyd Woodson, 43, whose last known address was Reston, Va., today faces multiple offenses, including second-degree unlawful weapons possession and fourth-degree possession of prohibited weapons, Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest said.
Read the update: Virginia man had weapons cache, grenade launcher stashed in N.J. hotel roomAt the time of his arrest, Woodson was wearing a military-style ballistic vest with a reinforced steel plate and carrying a .223-caliber assault rifle that had been altered to fire .50-caliber ammunition, Forrest. He was also carrying four loaded magazines with hollow-point ammunition, Forrest said."...
Detectives later searched Woodson’s room at the Red Mill Inn on Route 22 and found weapons including a .308-caliber semi-automatic assault rifle with a defaced serial number, a grenade launcher, hundreds .50-caliber and .308-caliber rounds, a police scanner, and the maps of a U.S. military installation and an out-of-state civilian community, Forrest said. Woodson, who is a Navy veteran, had been staying at the hotel since last week.
Investigators also found Middle Eastern red and white traditional headdress, Forrest said.
Calls placed to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington D.C. and the FBI’s Newark office late this afternoon were not immediately returned.
[bth: Disaster averted.]
[bth: don't these guys get it? We need JOBS in the economy.]
Monday, January 25, 2010
'The condemned Ali Hassan al-Majid has been executed by hanging until death today,' said spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement.
On January 17, Majid was sentenced to death for ordering the gassing of Kurds in the northeastern town of Halabja, one of the worst atrocities of late dictator Saddam Hussein's regime that killed an estimated 5,000 people.
Three-quarters of the victims at Halabja were women and children, in what is thought to be the deadliest ever gas attack carried out against civilians"...
[bth: Good. The rat bastard deserved it.]
News of the incidents came hours after Home Secretary Alan Johnson lifted the threat level amid fears that al-Qaeda is planning an attack.
The new level, which means an attack is reckoned 'highly likely', is second only to 'critical'.
Security sources say an Egyptian was stopped last Saturday as he tried to board an American Airlines flight to Miami. A man from Saudi Arabia was banned from boarding a United Airlines flight to Chicago the next day and sent back to Saudi.
The incidents and the raised threat level follow the failed Christmas Day bombing on a plane over Detroit.
Anti-terror officials said the past week had seen an 'unusually high' number of people on their no-fly list trying to board US-bound planes."...
"BAGHDAD — Three car bombs exploded Monday near three Baghdad hotels popular with Western journalists and businessmen, killing at least 16 people and wounding scores more, Iraqi police said.
The first explosion struck at about 3:40 p.m. in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel, toppling high concrete blast walls protecting the site and damaging a number of buildings along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone, two Iraqi police officials said.
Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and al-Hamra Hotel, which is popular with Western journalists."...
[bth: there is no reason to think this won't occur in the US. It will have a shocking psychological effect on the American psyche that somehow concludes we are immune to car bombs.]
Sunday, January 24, 2010
That's how an Oxford coroner reacted to a recent ruling ordering the details of the former United Nations weapons inspector's death locked away for 70 years, according to a Mail Online report.
Kelly's story, however, was gravely important in 2003, just before he was found dead in the woods behind his home in Oxfordshire, U.K. As the BBC revealed in the wake of his passing, he had been the key source behind a story claiming intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was 'sexed up.'
Hours before his death, he reportedly e-mailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, warning her of 'many dark actors playing games,' according to the BBC.
Lord Hutton, the British judge who led the state's investigation into Kelly's death, also ordered his written records pertaining to the case sealed for 30 years, according to UK's Morning Star Online."...
[bth: why if there is nothing to hide?]
That’s no place for any politician of any party or ideology to be. There’s a reason why the otherwise antithetical Leno and Conan camps are united in their derision of NBC’s titans. A TV network has become a handy proxy for every mismanaged, greedy, disloyal and unaccountable corporation in our dysfunctional economy. It’s a business culture where the rich and well-connected get richer while the employees, shareholders and customers get the shaft. And the conviction that the game is fixed is nonpartisan. If the tea party right and populist left agree on anything, it’s that big bailed-out banks have and will get away with murder while we pay the bill on credit cards — with ever-rising fees."...
[bth: if you read one article today I recommend this one in full]
General Richards, Chief of the General Staff, believes that the Super Tucano offers a cost-effective alternative to fast jets such as the Cold War-era Eurofighter Typhoon in counter-insurgency operations such as those in Afghanistan. Resembling something from the Second World War, a Super Tucano costs about £5 million, a fraction of the £60 million estimated cost of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter ordered for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers or the £67 million of a Typhoon.
A strategic defence review expected after the general election is likely to recommend that each Service’s budget is cut by about 20 per cent."....
[bth: this idea is of course way to practical for either the US or British to implement.]
The 47-page report, entitled, “A modern navy with Chinese characteristics”, is still posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, a policy advocacy body (http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/oni/pla-navy.pdf).
The ONI report analyses the capabilities and the future direction of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N). Interestingly, the ONI assessment differs substantially with the conventional view — widely prevalent in India and the Indian Navy — of a China racing unstoppably towards naval superpower.
|CHINA’S NAVY TODAY|
|Diesel Attack Submarines||53|
|Nuclear Attack Submarines||6|
|Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines||3|
|Coastal Patrol (Missile)||80+|
The assessment notes China’s recent deployment of Task Groups — each consisting of two warships and a replenishment vessel — for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. This marks the first time in over 600 years that a Chinese flotilla has operated in waters beyond China’s immediate vicinity.
But the report concludes, “none of these operations indicates a desire on the part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to develop a constant global presence. Beijing’s ambition appears to remain focused on the East Asian region, with an ability to protect the PRC’s maritime interests in distant seas when required....
[bth: on balance very good news]
It’s so simple that it can be summed up in two words: medical diplomacy. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (who coined that term) was right on target when he said, “medical diplomacy is the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most.” Moreover, according to Thompson, “What better way to knock down the hatred, the barriers of ethnic and religious groups that are afraid of America, and hate America, than to offer good medical policy and good health to these countries?”
Between Secretary Thompson’s wisdom and the fact that the Navy’s two hospital ships, USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) and Mercy (T-AH-19), have proved themselves to be outstanding ambassadors of good will during their recent deployments, I say the Navy should go to the Office of Management and Budget and Capitol Hill and ask for the funds to begin laying the keels for an additional 13 hospital ships. The pros strongly outweigh the cons on this issue. For example:
•It would be a great boon for the shipbuilding industry that so desperately needs some work to remain afloat;
•There’s no shortage of hearts and minds to win in any of the regional combatant commands;
•Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said when he was CNO that he’d hand a part of his budget to the State Department “in a heartbeat,” assuming it was spent in the right place. These additional platforms in a medical diplomacy role would remedy the need to transfer funds from DOD to bolster the diplomacy efforts of the State Department;
• The wrath of Mother Nature is not projected by the experts to lessen any time soon. Additional hospital ships would speed up the U.S. response to natural disasters around the globe, saving lives in the process. Gone would be the lengthy transit times from San Diego or Baltimore. (emphasis added)
Unfortunately, the same people who several years ago wanted to decommission both the Mercy and the Comfort have now been diagnosed with advanced bureaucratic arteriosclerosis. Besides needing some follow-up care after reading this article, they will most likely use some red herrings to argue against expanding the size of the Navy’s hospital fleet, including: money is tight, other assets could perform the same mission, and there is not enough personnel to sail them. To borrow a line from U.S. Army Brigadier General Anthony G. McAuliffe of Bastogne fame, I say “Nuts.”"...
[bth: damned good idea. We could probably pay for them by reducing our propaganda budget and increasing our hospital ships. Nothing like actually getting real help when needed to sway the public opinion of people.]
Neither the Lockheed ship, a steel monohull design, nor a competing aluminum-hulled trimaran design built by General Dynamics Corp, was expected to 'be survivable in a hostile combat environment,' said the report prepared by the Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation."...
The intelligence input which came barely days ahead of Republic Day celebrations has prompted authorities to ensure a tight air security around all vital installations, official sources said here on Friday.
The input about movement of overground workers, owing allegiance to LeT, in Europe led the sleuths to find out that they were on a shopping spree for para-gliding equipment, the sources said.
Security agencies have carried out mock drills in different areas in the country as part of the exercise to prevent any air-borne suicide attack by LeT terrorists.
The input bears significance in view of the fact that government has already put all Air India planes operating in the country's neighbourhood on high security alert following intelligence reports from Western agencies that the LeT and other terror groups were planning to hijack a flight."