Saturday, March 27, 2010

US Troop Deaths DOUBLE In Afghanistan

US Troop Deaths DOUBLE In Afghanistan: "KABUL — The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year as Washington has added tens of thousands of additional soldiers to reverse the Taliban's momentum.

Those deaths have been accompanied by a dramatic spike in the number of wounded, with injuries more than tripling in the first two months of the year and trending in the same direction based on the latest available data for March.

U.S. officials have warned that casualties are likely to rise even further as the Pentagon completes its deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and sets its sights on the Taliban's home base of Kandahar province, where a major operation is expected in the coming months."....

[bth: the question is is this from attacks we are initiating or from attacks the Taliban is initiating. If its just an increase in casualties because we have more trucks on a road or more soldier walking across a field then this is bad. If its because we are taking the fight to the enemy and their casualties are through the roof that is something else. Marjah to my knowledge didn't kill or capture many Taliban. They just melted away with all the hype and forewarning we gave them. We have to weigh what we gain by what we are losing. What are our tangible gains from the surge?]

Taliban Securing Kandahar Neighborhoods Ahead of US Invasion -- News from Antiwar.com

Taliban Securing Kandahar Neighborhoods Ahead of US Invasion -- News from Antiwar.com: ..."Despite claims from Gen. McChrystal last week that the offensive had already begun, there is comparatively little fighting in the city itself, and the Taliban continues to patrol neighborhoods with virtual impunity. In fact, McChrystal conceded it could take months of escalation to bring the force up to its full level.

For now the Taliban is increasing its presence through the city, launching attacks on the unpopular government and encouraging residents to keep guns and supplies in their homes in anticipation of the American invasion. As the weeks and months before the invasion linger on, Taliban fighters will have ample opportunity to prepare for what is looking like a very bloody upcoming battle over the city."

[bth: we give the Taliban plenty of warning we are coming, months of time and relatively uninterrupted preparation. So much for operational security.]

CIA paper reveals plans to manipulate European opinion on Afghanistan | Raw Story

CIA paper reveals plans to manipulate European opinion on Afghanistan | Raw Story: "'Out-of-the-box' CIA think tank proposes concerns over women's rights, fear of terrorism as ways to boost support for Afghan war

Evidently spooked by the collapse of the Dutch government over the country's involvement in Afghanistan, the CIA has put together a strategy proposal to prevent what it fears could be a 'precipitous' collapse of support for the war in Afghanistan among European allies.

A document marked 'confidential / not for foreign eyes,' posted to the Wikileaks Web site, suggests strategies to manipulate European public opinion on the war, particularly in France and Germany.

The document doesn't propose any direct methods by which the CIA could achieve this -- there are no references to planting propaganda in the press, for example -- but it does lay out what it sees as the key talking points to changing hearts and minds on the war. Among its proposals, the policy paper suggests playing up the plight of Afghan women to French audiences, as the French public has shown concern for women's rights in Afghanistan.

For the German audience, the document suggests a measure of fear-mongering about the possible fallout of NATO failure in Afghanistan. 'Germany’s exposure to terrorism, opium, and refugees might help to make the war more salient to skeptics,' the document asserts."...

[bth: We should watch to see if there is an increase in reporting of women's rights violations in Afghanistan or terror or opium stories in German.]

Friday, March 26, 2010

YouTube - Four Tops Baby I Need Your Lovin'

YouTube - Four Tops Baby I Need Your Lovin'

YouTube - Brook Benton - "Mother Nature, Father Time" (Scopitone)

YouTube - Brook Benton - "Mother Nature, Father Time" (Scopitone)

Marines want to go back to traditional amphibs - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times

Marines want to go back to traditional amphibs - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times: "More than two years before the amphibious assault ship America enters the fleet, Marine officials have already drawn up early plans for a version of the ship that includes a major component America is missing — a well deck.

The “LHA 8 concept,” as it was called in a presentation Monday by Marine Corps Combat Development Command, would combine new aviation features the Marines want in the America class with a traditional big-deck capacity for landing craft and green gear.

Although the Navy’s most recent shipbuilding program includes no plans for such a ship, the notional drawings for a hybrid LHA 8 — America is LHA 6 — show that elements within the Corps are eager to get back to traditional amphibs as soon as possible. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said it would be prohibitively expensive to alter the designs for America or the follow-on LHA 7, so they’ll be built as planned.

America and the unnamed LHA 7 were designed without well decks to create a “Marine Corps aircraft carrier” built around the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter variant and big rotary-wing aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey and the future CH-53K Super Stallion."...

[bth: failure to build a well deck should be a crime punishable by hanging. Building a ship that depends on the F35 and MV-22 Osprey, the F35 being delayed and overpriced and the Osprey being a known failed project for over a decade just screams of the stupidity and hubris of senior marine and navy leadership. Stuff like this gets people killed in a real war against real enemies.]

The Navy’s Immunity Syndrome « New Wars

The Navy’s Immunity Syndrome « New Wars: "by Mike Burleson

I thought the following quote from Navy Times, taken from Admiral Mullen at recent Congressional hearings just astounding:

If there are “tradeoffs” between the new submarine and existing ship programs, Mullen — a former chief of naval operations — said, aircraft carriers and big-deck amphibious ships typically are immune from such discussions.

Considering they are the most expensive, and for the new warfare at sea, the most nonessential vessels. In a real war involving the launching of guided missiles, they likely will be the first vessels targeted, their giant bulk so much fodder for stealthy subs. Historically though, the most money in peacetime is spent on weapons useless in war."

As US exports and Iran develops drone tech, Gates frets over ‘non-state actors’ | Raw Story

As US exports and Iran develops drone tech, Gates frets over ‘non-state actors’ | Raw Story: "US Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed concern Thursday over Iran's aerial drone program, saying the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.

'Countries like Iran are developing their own UAVs and already have a UAV capability,' Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee, using the acronym the military uses for drones -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

'That is a concern, because it is one of these areas where -- if they chose to, in Iraq, in Afghanistan -- they could create difficulties for us.'

Drones however 'are relatively slow flyers and we have a very capable Air Force. So I actually think that our ability to protect our troops from these things, particularly in a combat theater like this is quite good.'

The main concern, he said, was that terrorists could get hold of the drones."...

[bth: this last statement from Gates is dumb. Hezbollah has already flown drones and al Qaeda flew the most sophisticated ones right into NYC, DC and PA. There are over 200 UAV programs around the world now and most countries have them in some capacity. Israel is selling their technology to Russia and Georgia. India, China, even Pakistan have them, Brazil, South Africa.]

Despite ‘Tensions,’ US OKs Massive Arms Shipment to Israel -- News from Antiwar.com

Despite ‘Tensions,’ US OKs Massive Arms Shipment to Israel -- News from Antiwar.com: "As reports continue to fly about the ever-worsening relationship between the Obama Administration and Israel’s Netanyahu government, it is business as usual for the nations’ defense establishments, which today reached an agreement on a $210 million arms deal."

The deal will involve the delivery of three C-130J “Super Hercules” airplanes, which were manufactured specifically for Israel. The actual contract will not be signed until April according to officials.

Israel’s air force will take delivery of the planes in 2013, but they won’t actually pay for them. The entire cost of them will be covered by the US as part of its annual military aid to Israel.

The deal is just a drop in the bucket compared to the upcoming F-35 warplane deal, which is estimated to be worth over $3 billion. Israel is not expected to see any F-35 deliveries until 2014....

Obama Presses for $33 Billion War Supplement -- News from Antiwar.com

Obama Presses for $33 Billion War Supplement -- News from Antiwar.com: "In a move that was widely expected, Obama Administration officials headed to the Senate to press for approval of a $33 billion war supplemental bill, with most of the money going to pay for the Afghan War."

The $33 billion supplement would be in addition to the record $708 billion military budget reported in January. The Obama Administration had defended the record military funding by saying that the war costs would be folded into the military bill instead of being part of a supplement, though at the time they had already conceded that they would need a supplement.

The Obama Administration was already reporting the $33 billion request in January, on the grounds that the latest escalation into Afghanistan was not covered in the budget. At the same time, however, portions of the request did not involve the escalation, including around $1 billion in funding for Iraq....

[bth: so much for no more supplementals.]

NightWatch For the Night of 25 March 2010

..."Pakistan-Afghanistan: Update. The former governor of the Afghanistan’s Oruzgan Province under the Taliban, Abdul Hai Salik, and another man were arrested in the Sohrab Goath area of Karachi, Pakistan, Aaj News reported 25 March. Salik is also reportedly a close companion of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. The other man arrested was Zaki Izzat Mohammad.


The arrests indicate the Pakistanis are continuing their roundup of Afghan Taliban notables. Note that yet another senior Taleb was caught in Karachi."...

[bth: Salik is a bad guy. Note Karachi pops up again. Is Omar in Karachi too?]

Defense.gov News Article: Afghanistan Troop Level to Eclipse Iraq by Midyear

Defense.gov News Article: Afghanistan Troop Level to Eclipse Iraq by Midyear: "WASHINGTON, March 24, 2010 – This summer will mark the first time since 2003 that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will overshadow the American presence in Iraq, the top U.S. military officer told Congress today.

Driving the eclipse is the 30,000-troop surge President Barack Obama announced for Afghanistan in December, roughly a third of which is in place, and with 18,000 of the additional forces expected to be in Afghanistan by late spring as troop levels in Iraq continue to drop.

“Indeed, by the middle of this year, Afghanistan will surpass Iraq, for the first time since 2003, as the location with the most deployed American forces,” said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mullen told members of the House Appropriations Committee the remainder of the 30,000 will arrive as rapidly as possible over the summer and early fall, making a major contribution to reversing Taliban momentum in 2010."...

Report: Netanyahu to ask Obama for weapons to strike Iran - Haaretz - Israel News

Report: Netanyahu to ask Obama for weapons to strike Iran - Haaretz - Israel News: "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will use a visit to Washington this week to press the U.S. to release advanced weapons needed for a possible strike on Iran's nuclear sites, the Sunday Times reported."...
Reports on Saturday that United States was transporting 387 of the high-tech bunker-busting bombs to its air base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean appeared to indicate that despite his diplomatic efforts, Obama has not ruled out an American strike in Iran.

Final destination Iran? - Herald Scotland | News | World News

Final destination Iran? - Herald Scotland | News | World News: "Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons."...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama 'dumped him for dinner' - Times Online

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama 'dumped him for dinner' - Times Online: "For a head of state to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of.

Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip seen in Jerusalem tonight as a disastrous humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”."

Left to talk among themselves, Mr Netanyahu and his aides retreated to the Roosevelt Room. He later spent a further half-hour with Mr Obama and extended his stay for a day of emergency talks aimed at restarting peace negotiations, but left last night with no official statement from either side. He returns to Israel dangerously isolated after what Israeli media have called a White House ambush for which he is largely to blame.

Sources said that Mr Netanyahu failed to impress Mr Obama with a flow chart purporting to show that he was not be responsible for the timing of announcements of new settlement projects in east Jerusalem. Mr Obama was said to be livid when such an announcement derailed Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel this month, and his anger towards Israel does not appear to have cooled. ...

[bth: true to form this is reported in the UK Times and quotes unnamed congressmen to show that Bibi was taken to the woodshed. Bibi plays the victim well to the home crowd. Theater at its best. Is Bibi best or Israel?]

UPDATE 1-Gates: Lopsided F-35 costs drove me nuts | Reuters

UPDATE 1-Gates: Lopsided F-35 costs drove me nuts | Reuters: "WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was driven 'nuts' by the revelation that taxpayers were funding 70 percent of the overhead at a plant involved in the increasingly expensive F-35 fighter jet, even though the work used only 6 percent of the floor space.

The lopsided overhead charge 'just drove me nuts' when it was revealed at a briefing, Gates told the House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee on defense on Wednesday. 'I think we can fix that,' Gates added."...

[bth: I've been particularly impressed with Sec. Gates]

KBR mechanics worked as little as 43 minutes a month

KBR mechanics worked as little as 43 minutes a month | Raw Story

KBR charts 640 KBR mechanics worked as little as 43 minutes a month

[bth: great. the US is falling apart and these guys are gold bricking.  couldn't these guys be fixing up new orleans?]


China takes lead in clean-power investment - latimes.com

China takes lead in clean-power investment - latimes.com: "Reporting from Washington - China overtook the United States for the first time last year in the race to invest in wind, solar and other sources of clean energy, according to a comprehensive new report that raises questions about American competitiveness in a booming global market.

U.S. clean energy investments hit $18.6 billion last year, a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts said, a little more than half the Chinese total of $34.6 billion. Five years ago, China's investments in clean energy totaled just $2.5 billion.

The United States also slipped behind 10 other countries, including Canada and Mexico, in clean energy investments as a share of the national economy."...

[bth: our country is losing it long term vision. We need to lead this by a wide margin]

CIA Brought Birthday Cake For Suicide Bomber Who Killed Seven Agents In Afghanistan

CIA Brought Birthday Cake For Suicide Bomber Who Killed Seven Agents In Afghanistan: "WASHINGTON — CIA officers in Afghanistan were so eager to meet the spy they believed would help them crack al-Qaida's leadership they planned a birthday celebration for his visit in December, current and former U.S. officials said.

A birthday cake was waiting.

But before they could even begin to question their golden source, he detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and seven CIA employees in one of the deadliest attacks in the agency's history."...

[bth: he breached security at multiple levels and the source appeared to control the meeting. Is this the current level of trade craft at the CIA?]

Informed Comment: Sadr Emerging as Kingmaker in Iraqi Intelligence;
Will Muqtada demand Quicker US Withdrawal

Informed Comment: Sadr Emerging as Kingmaker in Iraqi Intelligence; <br> Will Muqtada demand Quicker US Withdrawal:... "The Sadrists, the leading bloc within the National Iraqi Alliance, deeply dislike al-Maliki because he sent the army in after their paramilitary, the Mahdi Army, in both Basra and Sadr City in spring-summer of 2008. The State of Law may well have to sacrifice him to get an alliance with the more religious Shiite parties.

Abdul Hadi al-Hassani of the State of Law also announced talks toward merging the two blocs. He said that the two 'agree on most issues,' aside from the question of who should be prime minister and how to distribute cabinet posts by party, as well as how to run the executive branch. He said he expected the two to merge, given that they were most compatible in their platforms. He downplayed Sadrist dislike of al-Maliki and said what was important is that the two have a similar governing structure and could settle issues by a vote. He envisaged a further partnership, with the Kurdistan Alliance and with the Accord Front (Sunni fundamentalists).

It sounds as though the State of Law leadership is entirely prepared to throw al-Maliki under the bus to get the votes required to form a government.

The State of Law could end up with over 90 seats, and the National Iraqi Alliance may well get over 70. An alliance would take them very close to the 163 seats needed to govern Iraq. State of Law says it is also working on an partnership with the Kurdistan Alliance, which would be needed to elect a president on the first ballot."...

[bth: so Sadr rises to power after all.?]

General Works to Salvage Legacy of Iraq War - NYTimes.com

General Works to Salvage Legacy of Iraq War - NYTimes.com:... "“This” is the end of the war in Iraq, a conflict that General Odierno has shaped as much as any other American commander.

From the 2003 invasion to the capture of Saddam Hussein, from the bloodiest days of sectarian carnage to the counteroffensive known as the surge, he has served the administration that started the war and now the one whose president campaigned to end it.

As the senior American officer in Iraq since the fall of 2008, he has struggled against popular anger and apathy at home and fought internally for Iraq’s share of matériel increasingly flowing to Afghanistan. Ultimately, he is laboring to salvage the legacy of a deeply unpopular war.

“People have to get past why we came here,” he said in an interview after his briefings, referring to the bitterly disputed reasons for invading Iraq seven years ago this month.

“You have to stay away from that argument and understand we’re here,” he went on. “We have an opportunity. It could be better not only for the United States, but for overall stability in the Middle East. And we should take advantage of that.”"...

[bth: In 2003 when Odierno was head of 4th ID and our son was killed under his command he sent us a letter saying how John had been promptly evacuated and despite receiving the best of medical care had succumbed. John in fact had been cut off, left behind by the convoy and run out of ammunition defending the three others with him, and then gunshot in the neck. There was no evacuation and no medical treatment for him whatever. Odierno made the evacuation and treatment in his letter up and sent it to us... Why? I really don't know. It has bothered me to this day that he is in command of so many of our troops there and yet in a moment I saw who and what he was, and worse was not.]

Somali Backlash May Be Militants’ Worst Foe - NYTimes.com

Somali Backlash May Be Militants’ Worst Foe - NYTimes.com: ...."But could Somalia finally be reaching a tipping point against the Shabab?

Not only is Somalia’s transitional government gearing up for a major offensive against the Shabab — with the American military providing intelligence and logistical support — but Mogadishu’s beleaguered population, sensing a change in the salt-sticky air, is beginning to turn against them.

Women who have been whipped and humiliated by morality police for not veiling their faces are now whispering valuable secrets about the Shabab’s movements into the ears of government soldiers. Teenage students outraged that Shabab-allied fighters hoisted a black flag in front of their school recently pelted the fighters with stones. Defectors are leaving the Shabab in droves, including one 13-year-old who said that he was routinely drugged before being handed a machine gun and shoved into combat.

Since 1991, when Somalia’s central government collapsed, the people here have endured one violent struggle after another, which has reduced the capital, Mogadishu, to ruins and this nation to the archetypal failed state. But never before has the Somali public had such a vested interest in who wins as they do in the coming showdown against the Shabab."...

[bth: perhaps the Somali people can do for themselves what others could not - free themselves from fear and tyranny.]

Army to refurbish Humvees, not buy more - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times

Army to refurbish Humvees, not buy more - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times: "Having concluded that it has more Humvees than it needs, the Army will use Humvee-procurement funds to refurbish existing ones instead, Army Secretary John McHugh told lawmakers March 23.

“We are developing a reprogramming request for the unexpended monies available in the Humvee procurement program that’s working its way towards the [Pentagon] comptroller, [Robert] Hale,” McHugh told members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

Humvee manufacturer AM General may compete for the refurbishing work, which could allow their production line to stay open longer, McHugh told the subcommittee."...

There are about 8,000 Humvees “currently on the lot, waiting for the Army to accept,” he said. Moreover, the Army will buy another 2,662 vehicles through an option in the existing contract, he said. The production line will stay open at least until the end of 2013, allowing the Army to fulfill its sales to foreign customers and other services. These account for an additional 8,995 vehicles, McHugh added.

“And after that, we expect the Humvee to still be a part of our vehicle fleet, but it’ll be much adjusted in its activity based on what we’ve experienced in Afghanistan,” said McHugh.

The Army requested $1.3 billion in 2010 to purchase 8,120 Humvees, but did not request any procurement funding for the vehicles in 2011. There is funding in the 2011 budget request for Humvee purchases for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

McHugh said the price tag of a new Humvee is roughly $184,000, while a refurbishment means “taking the old platform, in most cases stripping it right down to the frame, and rebuilding, and that costs between $90,000 and $100,000.”

[bth: I wonder if anyone is giong to track the $1.3 billion now that it isn't needed for this application.]

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan: "News that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had reached a plea bargain with David Coleman Headley, who played a key role in the planning of the terrorist strike in Mumbai in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed, has caused an uproar in India.

The deal enables the US government to hold back from formally producing any evidence against Headley in a court of law that might have included details of his links with US intelligence or oblige any cross-examination of Headley by the prosecution.

Nor can the families of the 166 victims be represented by a lawyer to question Headley during his trial commencing in Chicago. Headley's links with the US intelligence will now remain classified information and the Pakistani nationals involved in the Mumbai attacks will get away scot-free. Furthermore, the FBI will not allow Headley's extradition to India and will restrict access so that Indian agencies cannot interrogate him regarding his links with US and Pakistani intelligence.

In return for pleading guilty to the charges against him Headley will get lighter punishment than the death sentence that was probably most likely."...

[bth: I hope the information obtained will offset the ill will this creates if Indian victims we have much common cause with.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hulking, tough MRAP displaces Humvee - USATODAY.com

Hulking, tough MRAP displaces Humvee - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON — Within weeks, the Army will buy its last Humvee — its workhorse truck since the 1980s but a 'death trap' in modern warfare — and drive soldiers to war in vehicles with better armor.

The Army plans to buy about 2,600 more Humvees to fill out its requirement of about 150,000. But those vehicles will be confined primarily to bases in war zones, relief missions in safer parts of the world and on Army posts, said Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an Army spokesman.

For battlefield commanders, the Humvee is 'not the vehicle of choice' for troops in combat, Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr said in testimony he submitted recently to Congress. 'For example, commanders in Afghanistan are relying more heavily on their fleets of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.'

Commanders prefer MRAPs because troops are much more likely to survive a blast from an improvised explosive device than they are in a Humvee. Last summer, they had proved to be 'tens of times safer' than other vehicles in a bomb attack, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization. The Pentagon is rushing a new all-terrain version of the vehicle to Afghanistan that is designed for its rugged terrain. There are about 1,000 of those vehicles in Afghanistan.

'The single-biggest reason for the demise of the Humvee was that it was never designed for the level of force protection that we feel we must have,' said Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, which receives funding from the defense industry. 'America is facing a range of enemies we never thought we were going to have to deal with. They use cellphones to detonate roadside bombs.'

Army and Marine Corps commanders have known of the vehicle's vulnerability since a 1994 report, following the U.S. mission to Somalia, and said that even Humvees retrofitted with armor could be a 'death trap' in a blast. The Humvee's primary problem, a 2008 Pentagon inspector general's report said, was its 'flat bottom, low weight, low ground clearance and aluminum body.' Those factors make the Humvees vulnerable to IEDs, especially those buried in roads.

Insurgents in Iraq attacked that weakness relentlessly. The result: IED blasts became the top killer of U.S. troops.

In 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made fielding MRAPs a top priority for the Pentagon. Since then, 12,000 of the trucks have been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truck's raised chassis and V-shaped hull help protect troops from bombs buried in roads.

'Commanders consistently report that MRAPs, with their V-shaped hulls and added armored protection, are saving lives and reducing casualties,' Spoehr said in his testimony.

By September, the Pentagon expects to have 5,250 all-terrain MRAPs in Afghanistan, Spoehr said. The Army expects to buy its last new Humvee in April.

Humvees won't soon rust and fade away, however. The Army's still buying spare parts and refurbishing them, Cummings said. And Marine Corps Commandant James Conway said late last year that the Marines are exploring ways to retrofit them with V-shaped hulls."

[bth: Brooks is one of the few reporters that consistently covers this topic effectively and accurately.]

Saudi busts 101-strong Qaeda cell: ministry

The Raw Story | Saudi busts 101-strong Qaeda cell: ministry: "Saudi Arabia has broken up three cells of Al-Qaeda militants planning attacks in the kingdom, including on its oil installations, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

One cell consisted of 101 people and two smaller cells were made up of six men each.

The large cell comprised 47 Saudis and 51 Yemenis, as well as a Somali, a Bangladeshi and an Eritrean national, the ministry said in a statement read out on state television.

The two smaller groups were made up of 11 Saudis and a Yemeni.

Arms, ammunition, computers, pre-paid telephone cards and unspecified documents were all seized in the operation."...

[bth: its been my observation over the years that al Qaeda moves in Saudi Arabia against oil installations are usually designed to extort money for the group - sort of an action based negotiation. It could very well be that OBL is squeezed for cash having likely moved out of the tribal area, having part of his organization in Karachi and his family suddenly trying to get out of Iran likely because they've run out of bribe money to the IRG.]

Spy in the sky that sees round corners - tech - 20 March 2010 - New Scientist

Spy in the sky that sees round corners - tech - 20 March 2010 - New Scientist: "WHY jump in a cab to 'follow that car' when an airborne drone could do the job for you? The US Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing a radar system which sees around corners and down into 'urban canyons'. DARPA hopes to be able to track vehicles across an entire city using just a few uncrewed aircraft.

Traditional radar relies on direct line of sight, so it's tricky to track a vehicle that keeps nipping behind buildings. But DARPA believes that by using buildings as mirrors, it will be possible to identify a target vehicle from radar reflections. The experimental system is called Multipath Exploitation Radar."

The agency has been exploring how MER might work by driving vehicles around a simulated urban area and collecting returns from an overhead radar. Its researchers are aiming to combine the radar data with a three-dimensional map of the test environment to calculate how the radar reflects off and between vehicles and buildings. This process should highlight which signals in the returning radar data can be used to plot the target vehicle's path.

MER is expected to be compatible with the radar systems currently used to track vehicles, a DARPA spokesman told New Scientist. The team anticipates that using reflected radar will cover more ground than a line-of-sight system, making it possible to monitor a city of about 1000 square kilometres, such as Baghdad, with just three airborne radars. The three-dimensional model of a city needed to make sense of the reflection pattern could be created using LIDAR, the optical surveying technology which is routinely carried on aircraft....

[bth: fascinating capability]

Army issues career-ending letter to soldier who saved base | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

Army issues career-ending letter to soldier who saved base | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

Smear Tactic! Bush Wipes Hand on Clinton - ABC News

Smear Tactic! Bush Wipes Hand on Clinton - ABC News

Nightwatch on Taliban leadership changes

..."Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Daily Times reported on 24 March that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has appointed two of his top Taliban commanders from the south to replace his former deputy and long-time comrade-in-arms Mullah Abdul Ghani Berader who was arrested by Pakistani security personnel in Karachi last month.

A senior Taliban operative said that Omar has confirmed Abdul Qayum Zakir – a former Guantánamo Bay inmate – and Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor – a portly and personable rear-echelon leader – as his deputies, replacing Berader. Their appointments supposedly are intended to send the message that the fight continues despite the loss of Berader.

As one of their first orders of business only three days ago, Zakir and Mansoor reshuffled several shadow provincial governors in an effort to improve the insurgency’s effectiveness.

Comment: According to several knowledgeable, brilliant and perceptive Readers, Zakir’s appointment, most likely as overall military commander, is particularly troubling because of his vicious hostility to the US, as the result of his incarceration. His promotion means that power sharing talks are less likely to make much progress with the hard core Taliban."...

Informed Comment

Informed Comment

War Is Boring: We go to war so you don't have to.

War Is Boring: We go to war so you don't have to.

Pakistan comes with specific wish list for U.S. - Yahoo! News

Pakistan comes with specific wish list for U.S. - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan has given a wish list to Washington ahead of high-level meetings, asking for pilotless drones and helicopters as well as talks on nuclear cooperation, said U.S. and Pakistani officials on Tuesday.

The 56-page document, set to be discussed in talks in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, also gives other priorities such as water and energy requirements for energy-starved Pakistan as it struggles with power cuts.

Speaking after talks with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country's civilian government and the military had a 'very clear plan' for what needed to be done.

'We articulated that collectively, you know, what the Pakistani priorities are,' said Qureshi, who met Senator John Kerry, one of the authors of landmark legislation last year for a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan."...

[bth: considering that that cost equals a few weeks in Afghanistan we should make a deal. A deal tied to results, not promises.]

Bin Laden family pleads for refuge | Herald Sun

Bin Laden family pleads for refuge | Herald Sun: "AL-QAEDA chief Osama bin Laden's son issued a plea overnight for a country to accept members of his family seeking to leave Iran, where they have been held under house arrest since 2001.

After two of Omar bin Laden's siblings were released by Tehran to Syria in the past three months, he and his wife Zaina issued a statement pleading for a refuge for their other family members still in Iran, mentioning specifically Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

'The Iranian government has nowhere to send Omar's other siblings,' they wrote.

'We beg of any country to help us, either from the east or the western world. These are just as much innocent victims as anyone else,' they said.

'We ask again for the UAE or Qatar to please help them.'

The letter named 23 people still living in the Tehran compound where the family has been held since fleeing overland from Afghanistan in 2001 ahead of the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks on the United States."...

[bth: If memory serves one of them has escaped back to Pakistan where he has joined his father in jihad and it should be noted that they fled Afghanistan before the 911 attacks which means that they knew.]

Maliki Aide: We Won’t Recognize Election Results -- News from Antiwar.com

Maliki Aide: We Won’t Recognize Election Results -- News from Antiwar.com: "An aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today insisted that his State of Law party will not recognize the final election results, expected later this week, because the election commission declined their request for a manual recount."

The aide, Ali al-Adib, declared that the party had “strong, clear evidence” of fraud against them, though the only evidence cited was the “surprising” gains by the opposition Iraqiya party of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scary New GOP Poll - The Daily Beast

Scary New GOP Poll - The Daily Beast: "* 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.

The belief that Obama is a “domestic enemy” is widely held—a sign of trouble yet to come.

* 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
* 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was 'not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president'
* 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is 'doing many of the things that Hitler did'
* Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama 'may be the Antichrist.'"

[bth: totally nuts]

Halliburton, KBR drop court appeal in rape case | Business news | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Halliburton, KBR drop court appeal in rape case | Business news | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle: "HOUSTON — Halliburton Co. and KBR Inc. have withdrawn an appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a lawsuit by a former military contractor who says she was raped by KBR co-workers in Iraq.

KBR said in a statement Monday that it withdrew the appeal to not risk violating a recently passed federal provision it called 'very broad and vague,' that restricts the Defense Department from doing business with companies that prohibit employees from seeking redress for certain crimes through the courts.

'As a result, KBR did not want to risk being in violation of the amendment, so the company withdrew its petition,' KBR said in a statement.

Diana Gabriel, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, also confirmed the appeal was withdrawn but declined to elaborate.

Jamie Leigh Jones, of Texas, sued the companies after she says she was raped while working for KBR in Baghdad in 2005. KBR and Halliburton split in 2007.

The companies argued that Jones' contract required claims against them be settled through arbitration.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with Jones in September, saying her case could go to trial.

A trial date has been set for May 2011, Jones' attorney Todd Kelly said."...

‘Kingmaker’ Sadr Courted by Top Iraqi Parties -- News from Antiwar.com

‘Kingmaker’ Sadr Courted by Top Iraqi Parties -- News from Antiwar.com: .."Sadr’s followers have amounted to a small but vocal opposition, railing against the US military presence and the Maliki government on a number of issues. But a surprising level of political savvy this time around has netted enormous gains, and the Sadrist Movement is seen as picking up as many as 40 seats in the parliament, which would be the majority of the INA’s seats and would put Sadr in virtually unquestioned control over the entire bloc.

This would be significant itself, but is made doubly so as the top two blocs, Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya and Maliki’s State of Law, coast to what looks to be a virtual tie, with both needing the INA to form a government independent of the other. This has put Sadr in the position of kingmaker, and both sides courting him with what will likely be growing concessions in the coming weeks and months.

It is unclear what demands Sadr would have, but it is almost a certainty that any government including Sadr would be less than friendly to the ongoing US military presence, and might even try to ensure a pullout as the Obama Administration wavers."...

[bth: putting Sadr in this enviable position isn't good.]

Allawi Won’t Accept ‘One-Man Rule’ for Maliki -- News from Antiwar.com

Allawi Won’t Accept ‘One-Man Rule’ for Maliki -- News from Antiwar.com: "Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi today vowed that the process for forming a government would not be a quick one, and that his Iraqiya faction would prevent the return to the “one-man rule” of the Maliki government."

Allawi said he wasn’t particularly concerned with “what kind of shape the government will take or how long it’s going to take,” but insisted that a quick resolution was a recipe for disaster.

Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc is neck-and-neck with Maliki’s State of Law party as the vote count nears an end. Whichever bloc ends up with more seats will get first crack at forming a government, and right now it truly could go either way....

Karzai in Peace Talks with Taliban Rival -- News from Antiwar.com

Karzai in Peace Talks with Taliban Rival -- News from Antiwar.com: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai spent today in face to face talks with the insurgent wing of the Hezb-e Islami organization, and the group is said to have presented a 15 point peace plan, which Karzai is studying."

Among those demands are the formation of an “interim” government and a specific timeline for the withdrawal of all the international forces from the nation. The group has spent decades as an insurgent group, though a portion of the group is also active as a significant opposition party in the Afghan parliament....
New Wars

Monday, March 22, 2010

Former Obama Aide New Head of AIPAC - A7 Exclusive Features - Israel News - Israel National News

Former Obama Aide New Head of AIPAC - A7 Exclusive Features - Israel News - Israel National News: "(IsraelNN.com) Lee “Rosy” Rosenberg, a jazz recording industry veteran capitalist who accompanied U.S. President Barack Obama on his campaign trip to Israel two years ago, takes over on Sunday as the new president of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Rosenberg also served on the president’s national campaign finance committee."

The new AIPAC president hails from Chicago, the home state of President Obama, and also is on first-name terms with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior advisor.

Steve Rosen, a former 23-year, high-ranking AIPAC official, told the Chicago Tribune, “I don't think AIPAC has made any secret of the reality that his friendship with the president played a role in Rosy's rise. He's a guy who works very hard at fundraising [and] in the political arena. It was not as if he was plucked out of nowhere. He paid his dues. But I'm sure nobody was blind to the fact that he's from Chicago.“...

On US Visit, Netanyahu Eyes Weapons for Iran Attack -- News from Antiwar.com

On US Visit, Netanyahu Eyes Weapons for Iran Attack -- News from Antiwar.com: ... "Netanyahu will reportedly press President Obama to provide the nation with “bunker buster” bombs to make Israel’s long-threatened military attack on Iran more convenient.

Israeli governments have been seeking the bunker buster bombs for years, with occasional deliveries intersperces with new demands for more advanced bombs. With the ever-present threat of attacks from Israel, Iran has been putting its civilian nuclear infrastructure deep underground, making such attacks unlikely to be successful."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

YouTube - Dire Straits Tunnel of Love Videoclip

YouTube - Dire Straits Tunnel of Love Videoclip

Afghan Cops: A $6 Billion Fiasco - Newsweek.com

Afghan Cops: A $6 Billion Fiasco - Newsweek.com:... "America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police 'an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption.' During the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan policy last year, 'this issue received more attention than any other except for the question of U.S. troop levels,' Holbrooke later told NEWSWEEK. 'We drilled down deep into this.'"...

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. One important note, read the section about how the Italian police are able to successfully train Afghan police but our US contractors are not. For example they start with shooting targets up close and them walk them back to establish confidence whereas the American contractor bitch at the students and have them firing at 50 meters. Also note how the Italians took the time to sight in the rifles whereas the Americans evidently did not. This is fundamental and explains just how incompetent our contractors are whether they are managed by incompetent State Dept. or DOD managers. What is wrong with our leadership that it tolerates and financially rewards out and out fraud and incompetence like this?]

Iranians train Taliban to use roadside bombs - Times Online

Iranians train Taliban to use roadside bombs - Times Online: "TALIBAN commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The commanders said they had learnt to mount complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for most of the deaths of British troops in Helmand province.

The accounts of two commanders, in interviews with The Sunday Times, are the first descriptions of training of the Taliban in Iran.

According to the commanders, Iranian officials paid them to attend three-month courses during the winter."...

[bth: I am skeptical of this story. First stories about Iran from the UK Times or Telegraph are often planted by Israel to prod the US against Iran. The timing of this story with Bibi in the US and friction between the US and Israel running high are hard to miss. Second the Taliban and the Iranians historically hate each other. I doubt this has changed. Third this article mixes Afghan Taliban with Pakistani Taliban upset with the Pakistani government. Fourth, if the Iranians really wanted to hurt us they'd be giving EFPs to the Taliban or anti-aircraft weapons. Neither is occurring.]