Saturday, April 10, 2010

U.S. officials say Pakistani spy agency released Afghan Taliban insurgents

U.S. officials say Pakistani spy agency released Afghan Taliban insurgents: "The recent capture of the Afghan Taliban's second in command seemed to signal a turning point in Pakistan, an indication that its intelligence agency had gone from helping to cracking down on the militant Islamist group.

But U.S. officials now believe that even as Pakistan's security forces worked with their American counterparts to detain Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other insurgents, the country's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, quietly freed at least two senior Afghan Taliban figures it had captured on its own.

U.S. military and intelligence officials said the releases, detected by American spy agencies but not publicly disclosed, are evidence that parts of Pakistan's security establishment continue to support the Afghan Taliban. This assistance underscores how complicated the CIA-ISI relationship remains at a time when the United States and Pakistan are battling insurgencies that straddle the Afghanistan border and are increasingly anxious about how the war in that country will end.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity and declined to identify the Taliban figures who were released, citing the secrecy surrounding U.S. monitoring of the ISI. But officials said the freed captives were high-ranking Taliban members and would have been recognizable as insurgents the United States would want in custody.

The capture of Baradar was 'positive, any way you slice it,' said a U.S. counterterrorism official. 'But it doesn't mean they've cut ties at every level to each and every group.' Initial reports said the arrest was made in February, but U.S. officials say that it occurred in late January.

U.S. officials think that Pakistan continues to pursue a hedging strategy in seeking to maintain relationships with an array of entities -- including the U.S. and Afghan governments, as well as insurgent networks -- struggling to shape the outcome in Afghanistan, even as it aggressively battles the Pakistani branch of the Taliban.

The ISI wants 'to be able to resort to the hard-power option of supporting groups that can take Kabul,' the Afghan capital, if the United States suddenly leaves, said a U.S. military adviser briefed on the matter. The ISI's relationship with the Afghan Taliban was forged under similar circumstances in the 1990s, when the spy service backed the fledgling Islamist movement as a solution to the chaos that followed the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan."....

[bth: looks like the Pakistanis didn't change after all. No its the same tricks, just a new day. Should have known. For once I thought things had changed with Pakistan for some reason, but it was just a lie.]

YouTube - Keep On Tryin' - Timothy B. Schmit (Poco) cover

YouTube - Keep On Tryin' - Timothy B. Schmit (Poco) cover

YouTube - Patsy Cline - I Fall To Pieces

YouTube - Patsy Cline - I Fall To Pieces

Survey: Military independents on the rise -

Survey: Military independents on the rise - "Political party affiliation has fallen sharply among those wearing the uniform today, a new Military Times survey shows.

An exclusive survey of some 1,800 active-duty troops shows the percentage of self-identified Republicans has decreased by one-third since 2004, from 60 percent to 41 percent, while the percentage of self-identified independents has nearly doubled to 32 percent during the same period.

These career-oriented officers and mid-grade and senior enlisted members are still far more conservative than liberal, but they are less likely today to identify with the GOP, the survey shows.

Much of the shift appears to have occurred only very recently, with the percentage of troops identifying themselves as Republican dropping nine percentage points from 2008 to 2009 and the percentage of those calling themselves independents increasing 10 points over the same period.

Respondents are also more pessimistic about the mission in Afghanistan, more optimistic about Iraq and virtually divided about President Obama’s performance as commander in chief.

Complete results of the unique survey, now in its seventh year, will appear this coming Monday in Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times."

[bth: with the exception of the officer corp, these results have largely matched the general population for some time. There is a distinct political split between career officers and enlisted personnel.]

Polish leader, 95 others dead in Russia jet crash

Polish leader, 95 others dead in Russia jet crash: "MOSCOW — Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96, officials said.

Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in Katyn forest of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland's political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

Although initial signs pointed to an accident with no indication of foul play, the death of a Polish president and much of the Polish state and defense establishment in Russia en route to commemorating one of the saddest events in Poland's long, complicated history with Russia, was laden with tragic irony."...

[bth: holy cow. You can't make this stuff up.]

YouTube - Apocalyptica - Fade to Black

YouTube - Apocalyptica - Fade to Black

YouTube - nothing else matters

YouTube - nothing else matters

YouTube - Thin Lizzy-Whiskey in the jar

YouTube - Thin Lizzy-Whiskey in the jar

YouTube - Thin Lizzy- The boys are back in town

YouTube - Thin Lizzy- The boys are back in town

Washington Plans New Military Bases in Brazil and Peru to Contain Venezuela - Pravda.Ru

Washington Plans New Military Bases in Brazil and Peru to Contain Venezuela - Pravda.Ru: ..."It was then that the U.S. government classified Venezuela as a country 'that does not cooperate sufficiently with the fight against terrorism' and imposed a ban on the sale of arms and defense equipment to the country. As a result, the government of Hugo Chavez had to find another partner that was not subject to pressure from Washington. Venezuela, a country then dependent on the Americans, on defense, had two options: allow its military to weaken and the country become unable to defend itself or find other countries not subject to the agenda of Washington who also possess the technological capability to meet its defense needs."...

Up until now, Venezuela bought Russian weapons totaling $4 billion, and maintains projects on energy and transfer of technology with the government of Russia to seek closer relations between two mega-producers of oil and gas.


The Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a visit to Brazil in April to pursue plans for creating a joint military base in Rio de Janeiro to "monitor drug trafficking in the region." The base, which may be part of an axis between the United States, Portugal and Brazil, will cover the area of the South Atlantic and to serve multinational cooperation "against drug trafficking and terrorism."

[bth: interesting to read the Russian perspective in Pravda on tensions between Venezuela and the US. Note how it describes US, Portugal and Brazil as an axis. Weird.]

Friday, April 09, 2010

Andrew Bacevich: US Military Leaders Have 'Forfeited' Their Purpose With Afghan Victory Claims (VIDEO)

Andrew Bacevich: US Military Leaders Have 'Forfeited' Their Purpose With Afghan Victory Claims (VIDEO)

Definitely worth watching.

Armchair Generalist: Unoriginal Concepts, Waste of Money

Armchair Generalist: Unoriginal Concepts, Waste of Money:.... "Translated, 'our Robocop attachment allows our convoy drivers to see potential threats, tell other people, and shoot it real quick.' As for the rapid development and delivery, maybe it's because this program is pretty much like the Army's already fielded Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station or CROWS (another great acronym). Check out the CROWS picture and compare it to this system. Oh, there is one other difference - the Army's already fielded 6500 CROWS, and the Marines will have four GunPACS. Bravo, USMC, bravo.

Used to be the Marines were willing to accept Army equipment to develop certain capabilities for ground combat operations. In the past ten years, with all the heavy money flowing to DOD, they've been feeling aggressive about striking out and developing their own gear, regardless of the duplication of effort or additional cost. It would be nice to see the Marines get back to their roots as an expeditionary force using common defense gear rather than as a second heavy Army force using unique equipment, but I guess they have to find their own way.

Hat tip to InkSpots.

UPDATE: If I'm reading DoD Buzz's coverage of this project correctly, the USMC GunPACS is in fact the Army's CROWS plus an accoustic system, radio, and mapping system. That would explain the similarity of the systems. So I'm even less impressed. The Marines want an automated system that allows members of a convoy of vehicles to coordinate fire on a potential sniper, so they hobbled a few bits and parts and software together.

So glad they got the 'hidden solo sniper who doesn't move' scenario covered. Now they just have to worry about the RPGs, IEDs, heavy machine guns, and insurgent roadblocks. I still don't get why people think spending millions on technology upgrades is an adequate substitute for military tactics - you know, like improving relations among the locals so that they tip off US forces, randomly changing routes and times of convoys, aerial security, etc etc. I suppose it's the illusion of progress that makes them happy."

Video | DoD Unveils Gunslinger Package|NewsChannel 8

Video | DoD Unveils Gunslinger Package|NewsChannel 8

Arctic meet turns frosty:

Arctic meet turns frosty:: "As the Arctic heats up, diplomatic meetings are getting rather frosty. You might have missed this, but Canada got a public rebuke from the U.S. yesterday over Arctic policy. From the Voice of America:

On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from five countries with Arctic coastlines for talks on maritime boundaries, disaster response and other issues. The U.S. and Canada were joined by Denmark, Norway and Russia.

But other countries with Arctic interests – Finland, Iceland and Sweden – as well as northern indigenous groups were not invited.

Clinton said in remarks to the meeting that significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. She said she hopes the Arctic will always showcase the ability to work together, not create new divisions.

Canada, who had invited only those countries with Arctic coastlines, irked Iceland, Sweden and Finland–who think that Arctic decisions need to be made by the 8 state Arctic Council. The Inuit were also upset. So the U.S. issued Canada a public rebuke–the first since the run-up to the Gulf War.

And today, Canada confirmed it was going to leave Afghanistan.

Other arguments aside, the Arctic debate is getting serious, and, given that the five participants have plans to operate 66 ice-ready, combatants, the time to talk is now–even if a few non-territorial claiming stakeholders are left out–after all, Iceland, Sweden and Finland won’t be fighting over places like, oh, Hans Island…

And then, to boot, where does one draw the line? If the Arctic Council participates, why shouldn’t China be allowed to participate? I mean, they might feel they have “legitimate interests”:

Earlier this month, a Chinese rear-admiral asserted that the Arctic belongs to all peoples. He was correct — if only with respect to the central Arctic Ocean where the water and sea-ice form part of the high seas and an area of ocean floor beyond the continental shelves of the five coastal states is part of the “common heritage of mankind.”

Sometimes it’s OK to have an exclusive club…and with Arctic Claims being seen as a basis for support of China’s claims in the East and South China seas, the five Arctic “owning” nations need to talk far more than argue."

CBC News - Canada - Don't extend Afghan mission, Canadians say: poll

CBC News - Canada - Don't extend Afghan mission, Canadians say: poll

A majority of Canadians oppose prolonging the country's military mission in Afghanistan, a new EKOS poll suggests.

IEDs in Afghanistan Double Over Past Year -- News from

IEDs in Afghanistan Double Over Past Year -- News from "The US has been scrambling to find a solution to the ever increasing number of attacks in the nation, a backdrop to the ever increasing overall violence, and is said to have spent billions of dollars on new equipment and adding to the number of road-clearing teams in the nation.

Lieutenant General Michael Oates insisted that the US was making “headway” toward containing the attacks despite the spike in deaths, and predicted that the situation would soon be well in hand.

But the cost of producing the primitive IEDs is comparatively trivial, while the cost to defend against them is astronomical (and rising every time a new piece of technology is developed). What officials are touting as “headway” may in fact be the insurgents’ strategy, draining billions of dollars in war funds annually tackling easily replicated explosives."

George W. Bush 'knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent' - Times Online

George W. Bush 'knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent' - Times Online:.... also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent ... If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

He added: “I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”

Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld, Colonel Wilkerson said, deemed the incarceration of innocent men acceptable if some genuine militants were captured, leading to a better intelligence picture of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration was desperate to find a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, “thus justifying the Administration’s plans for war with that country”."...

[bth: Wilkerson's claims have generally been credible in the past]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pope Vows To Get Church Pedophilia Down To Acceptable Levels | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Pope Vows To Get Church Pedophilia Down To Acceptable Levels | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "VATICAN CITY—Calling the behavior shameful, sinful, and much more frequent than the Vatican was comfortable with, Pope Benedict XVI vowed this week to bring the widespread pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church down to a more manageable level.

Addressing thousands gathered at St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, the pontiff offered his 'most humble apologies' to abuse victims, and pledged to reduce the total number of molestations by 60 percent over the next five years.

'This is absolutely unacceptable,' Pope Benedict said. 'It seems a weakening of faith in God has prevented our priests from exercising moderation when sexually abusing helpless minors.'

'And let me remind our clergy of the holy vows they all took when they entered the priesthood,' he continued. 'They should know that they're only allowed one small child every other month.'

The pope said he was deeply disappointed to learn that the number of children sexually abused by priests was almost 10 times beyond the allowable limit clearly outlined in church doctrine. Admitting for the first time in public that the overindulgent touching of 'tender, tender young flesh' had become a full-blown crisis, the Holy Father vowed to implement new reforms to bring the pedophilia rate back down to five children per 1,000 clergy."...

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

Washington's Blog - Long Term Unemployment at Post WWII high

Washington's Blog: "As Barry Ritholtz pointed out Friday:

Long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks+) increased by 414,000 to 6.5 million.

Yesterday, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report noting that long-term unemployment is the worst it has been since the end of World War II. As summarized by Shahien Nasiripour:

More than three million Americans have been out of work for at least a year, according to a new analysis of unemployment data.

That represents 23 percent of the roughly 14.8 million Americans out of work and looking for a job -- a post-World War II high. For those 3.4 million Americans, the consequences from such a long time out of work -- a cost of the Great Recession -- can be calamitous.

'[T]he likelihood of finding a job declines as the length of unemployment increases,' notes the team led by Ingrid Schroeder, director of the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a program of the Pew Economic Policy Group and the Pew Charitable Trusts. 'People who are unemployed for a long time can lose their job skills. A long unemployment spell can mark them as undesirable, making it more difficult to compete against other job candidates. [Federal] data suggests that workers who are jobless for the longest duration incur the largest reductions in weekly earnings upon returning to work.'

The situation will not improve until the underlying causes are addressed."

US scientist who tried to spy for Israel: I won’t end up like Pollard - Israel News, Ynetnews

US scientist who tried to spy for Israel: I won’t end up like Pollard - Israel News, Ynetnews: ..."According to court documents, Nozette was contacted by telephone on September 3 by an undercover FBI employee. Nozette met the agent that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence.

Nozette agreed to provide information to the employee and asked for an Israeli passport, according to FBI officials.

FBI agents asked Nozette to answer a list of questions about US satellite information and also provided him $2,000 in cash, they said.

On September 16, Nozette was captured on videotape leaving a manila envelope in a designated post office box in Washington. The envelope contained answers to the list of questions, the officials said.

They said the FBI agents then asked Nozette to answer another list of questions about US satellite information and left a cash payment of $9,000 in the post office box.

On October 1, Nozette was filmed leaving a manila envelope in the post office box. It contained classified information on US satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence, and major elements of defense strategy, the officials said."

[bth: he says he is not another Pollard, but he is or aspired to be. He accepted cash for espionage in an FBI sting.]

Defense Dept. says F-35 fighter program's costs to significantly rise | McClatchy

Defense Dept. says F-35 fighter program's costs to significantly rise | McClatchy: "Defense Department officials have told Congress that the already ballooning costs of the F-35 joint strike fighter are likely to soar much higher when new estimates are completed in the summer.

In the Selected Acquisition Report for the F-35, a detailed document sent to Congress on Thursday, the Pentagon said it expects that cost studies now under way will produce estimates dramatically higher than those used in recent months to prepare the 2011 defense budget request.

Based on figures in the document, the average cost of one F-35 — $62 million when the program was launched in 2002 — could rise to $115.5 million, not counting inflation, by the time all 2,457 planes that the U.S. plans to buy are built.

Including inflation, the government now expects each F-35 to cost an average of $133.6 million. But even that figure could swell to more than $150 million when revised estimates are completed in June.

The report was obtained by the online news service, which reported it in a story posted on its Web site Wednesday. The Star-Telegram obtained its own copy of the report."

[bth: not worth it]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

At Least 83 Indian Security Forces Killed in Maoist Ambush -- News from

At Least 83 Indian Security Forces Killed in Maoist Ambush -- News from "In what appears to be the deadliest attack in the history of the nearly half-century old insurgency, over 500 members of the Naxalite faction, an Indian Maoist group, ambushed a group of soldiers in the forests of Chhattisgarh killing at least 83 members of security forces and wounding several others."...

[bth: wow. I've never heard of this movement]

U.S. Military | All about American forces, Afghanistan, Iraq -

U.S. Military | All about American forces, Afghanistan, Iraq - "The U.S. military said Tuesday it can't find its copy of a video that shows two employees of the Reuters news agency being killed by Army helicopters in 2007, after a leaked version circulated the Internet and renewed questions about the attack.

Capt. Jack Henzlik, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said that forces in Iraq have not been able to locate the video within its files.

'We're attempting to retrieve the video at this time,' Henzlik said.

It's the latest twist in a three-year saga that raises questions about the rules of engagement in battle and the safety of journalists sent to cover wars.

Advocates for increased government transparency also have questioned why the military withheld the video from the public, even though Reuters requested a copy through the Freedom of Information Act after watching it in an off-the-record meeting with the military in 2007."...

[bth: this 'can't find the tape' scenario is just typical BS that I've seen played out several times now including seeing it personally. Its a game played to avoid FOIA disclosure. It has nothing to do with truth or integrity. Just the opposite. Sad. Truly sad.]

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rafael's Pincher Micro Counter-IED Robot, launching Fiery Arrows (pirophoric arrows) to Neutralize IEDs

Rafael's Pincher Micro Counter-IED Robot, launching Fiery Arrows (pirophoric arrows) to Neutralize IEDs: "Rafael's Pincher system comprises a miniature remotely operated multi-launcher system, which comes integral with a robotic platform, sensors, aiming devices, and remote control.

The eight inch (20 cm) long arrow-shaped rocket has a miniature rocket motor and stabilizing fins. Unlike kinetic projectiles fired from a gun, the arrow stores enough kinetic energy to fracture the outer envelope of the target, however, its unique pyrophoric material (an incendiary mixture comprising various metal powders such as titanium-boron-Teflon combinations), creates a thermal effect as it combusts in flames at very high temperature instantly as it penetrates the target, burning the explosive compound in a consuming it in a 'non violent' process, without causing an explosion.

Israel's Ministry of Defense Research & Development Directorate has already tested representative miniature arrows for possible use on miniature unmanned ground vehicles. Such mini UGVs could be employed in 'micro-tactical' applications, used indoors to seek targets, locate and deactivate IEDs, clearing buildings while avoiding excessive risk to soldiers and innocent human lives.

Once an IED or hazardous object is detected, the robot will be sent to engage, controlled by the EOD expert from a safe distance. As it approaches the suspected target an arrow is pointed precisely at the target. Using a robotic remotely controlled launcher assembly and the weapon's laser pointer, the pyrophoric arrow is fired from a maximum distance of several tens of meters, hitting precisely the target in the desired location. The Pyrophoric arrow self-ignite on target penetration, causing a non violent, quiet consumption of the energetic material, without risking collateral damage or blast.Operating from a safe distance, the robot itself is maintained intact and continue its mission. The system can be integrated on a dedicated, miniature robotic platform or as an an add-on upgrade for existing EOD robots."...

Blakenship's Massey just doesn't give a damn about the employees killed

Karzai Rails Against U.S. Ahead of Western Withdrawal - TIME

Karzai Rails Against U.S. Ahead of Western Withdrawal - TIME: ... "Like Pakistan over the past eight years, Karzai has been biding his time, positioning himself for the battles and power shifts that will come when the Americans leave, his goal — like Islamabad's — being to protect his power. And the arrival in Washington of the Obama Administration signaled the onset of the endgame. Driven by a desire to conclude America's fiscally burdensome wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and alarmed by the downward security spiral in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration put Karzai on notice that failure to tackle the corruption that was deemed to be fueling the insurgency would jeopardize his ties with Washington. And in the weeks leading up to last August's election, U.S. officials in Afghanistan were widely perceived to be backing rival candidates. Karzai has also noted that key U.S. officials like special envoy Richard Holbrooke have spoken frankly about giving Pakistan a greater role in shaping the political outcome in Afghanistan.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in the endgame, Karzai has revealed an agenda quite distinct from that of Washington — just as Pakistan has done. The premise of the U.S. policy, after all — just like that of the Pakistanis, Karzai, the Taliban and every other player in the game — is that sooner or later, the Americans will leave. And it's that reality, now more than ever, that is shaping everyone's game."

The Kandahar gambit -

The Kandahar gambit - "They intend to try, and are focusing talent and money on an elaborate 'sub-national governance' plan to recruit and empower local councils, the shuras. 'We're going to shura our way to success,' one of the operation's planners said. Among the first goals: persuading local councils to actually invite the U.S. military to enter their areas unopposed, making the offensive less bloody.

But even the operation's planners acknowledge that the outcome is uncertain. 'This is hard stuff, and it will take a while to work out,' one said.

Kandahar's provincial government has one big complicating factor: It's run by Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. U.S. officials call him AWK for short and consider him an organized-crime kingpin as much as a politician. 'He runs a vertical syndicate of corruption,' said one senior officer. Besides old-fashioned graft and a slice of the opium poppy trade, AWK also has been accused of collaborating with the Taliban, an allegation that infuriates U.S. military officers.

But AWK has two powerful defenders: his brother the president and the CIA, which considers him one of its main assets in Kandahar, according to officials in other agencies. So U.S. officers are hoping to persuade AWK to cooperate with their efforts. That won't be easy, especially since one purpose of the shura-building operation in Kandahar is to empower new leaders who aren't beholden to AWK, and AWK knows it.

One more factor to watch: Will President Karzai publicly approve the offensive, or merely accede to it? 'He's got to be seen as the guy who's leading this fight,' another officer said.

But Karzai initially balked at U.S. proposals that he travel to Kandahar to address a shura. And on Thursday, he delivered a speech in Kabul that was sharply critical of Western military operations in Afghanistan, saying the troops are walking a fine line between 'invasion and cooperation,' and warning that Afghan opposition to foreign military operations 'could become a national resistance.'

If the civilian piece of the offensive in Kandahar succeeds, the impact could be enormous, the most important success since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001. It would be graphic evidence that McChrystal's strategy of using military force to build functioning local governments can succeed if Americans are willing to stick with it for several more years.

But what if the military offensive succeeds and the civilian effort falls short? Then the lesson won't be so encouraging. We'll face the same wrenching question Afghanistan posed before McChrystal arrived: How many more American lives are worth losing to a project that's unlikely to succeed?

'In our strategy there is a bet,' one of McChrystal's strategists told me. 'We can only get the Afghans to a certain place, and at some point they are going to have to deliver on the governance piece. The bet is that if we create the conditions . . . they can deliver.'

The odds on that bet still seem long, especially in Kandahar. The province was chosen because it is a difficult place, the Taliban center of gravity. Success there will be harder to achieve and more impressive if it comes. But failure would be crushing."
Informed Comment

Monday, April 05, 2010

Drones Batter Al Qaeda and Its Allies Within Pakistan -

Drones Batter Al Qaeda and Its Allies Within Pakistan - ...."The question of civilian deaths is an almost daily worry, all four men said. “Civilians are worried because there is hardly a house without a fighter,” the militant said.

Two of the government supporters said they knew of civilians, including friends, who had been killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, they said, they are prepared to sacrifice the civilians if it means North Waziristan will be rid of the militants, in particular the Arabs.

“On balance, the drones may have killed 100, 200, 500 civilians,” said one of the men. “If you look at the other guys, the Arabs and the kidnappings and the targeted killings, I would go for the drones.”"

[bth: at a minimum it has got to be raising the cost of living for arab al qaeda in the area.]

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Scorpions - Send Me An Angel

U.S. Admits Role in February Killing of Afghan Women -

U.S. Admits Role in February Killing of Afghan Women - "KABUL, Afghanistan — After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

The admission immediately raised questions about what really happened during the Feb. 12 operation — and what falsehoods followed — including a new report that Special Operations forces dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the true nature of their deaths.

A NATO official also said Sunday in an interview that an Afghan-led team of investigators had found signs of evidence tampering at the scene, including the removal of bullets from walls near where the women were killed."...

NATO military officials had already admitted killing two innocent civilians — a district prosecutor and local police chief — during the raid, on a home near Gardez in southeastern Afghanistan. The two men were shot to death when they came out of their home, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, to investigate.

Three women also died that night at the same home: One was a pregnant mother of 10 and another was a pregnant mother of six. NATO military officials had suggested that the women were actually stabbed to death — or had died by some other means — hours before the raid, an explanation that implied that family members or others at the home might have killed them.

Survivors of the raid called that explanation a cover-up and insisted that American forces killed the women. Relatives and family friends said the bloody raid followed a party in honor of the birth of a grandson of the owner of the house.

On Sunday night the American-led military command in Kabul issued a statement admitting that “international forces” were responsible for the deaths of the women. Officials have previously stated that American Special Operations forces and Afghan forces conducted the operation.

The statement said that “investigators could not conclusively determine how or when the women died, due to lack of forensic evidence” but that they had nonetheless “concluded that the women were accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men.”

“We deeply regret the outcome of this operation, accept responsibility for our actions that night, and know that this loss will be felt forever by the families,” said Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, a spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul.

The admission was an abrupt about-face. In a statement soon after the raid, NATO had claimed that its raiding party had stumbled upon the “bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed” and hidden in a room in the house. Military officials had also said later that the bodies showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife, and that the women appeared to have been killed several hours before the raid.

And in what would be a scandalous turn to the investigation, The Times of London reported Sunday night that Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.”...

[bth: WTF? So we killed the prosecutor and chief of police by accident and 3 women, 1 a mother of 6 and another a mother of 10, faked how they died by tying them up and cutting them, and cutting the bullets out of them, poured alcohol on the wounds and the walls. Then we lied about it repeatedly until admitting it today after the Times of London wouldn't give up the story. Totally fucking awful. We will totally lose credibility by covering this stuff up and appear on the wrong side of what is right.]

Kristol: ‘Better’ for US to attack Iran than if Israel did | Raw Story

Kristol: ‘Better’ for US to attack Iran than if Israel did | Raw Story: ..."An Israeli Deputy Defense Minister said last week that he expected Israel would have to attack Iran within a year. Kristol believes it would be better for the US to attack first.

'I think we have to have a credible threat of force and the preparation to use force against Iran. It would be much better if we used force against -- to delay the Iranian nuclear program than if Israel did and there is no evidence that the US government is being at all serious about the use force there,' Kristol told Fox News' Chris Wallace Sunday."...

[bth: it always seems that there is some neo-con more than happy to send some other man's son to war.]

Rep. Lewis: U.S. lacks 'moral leader' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Rep. Lewis: U.S. lacks 'moral leader' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room: "On the 42nd anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, a member of Congress who marched with King said that the country still lacks a 'moral leader.'

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was a young civil rights demonstrator in in the 1960s, heaped heavy praise on King.

'We are missing the moral leader of America who had emerged not just the moral leader of America but of the world,' Lewis said in an interview on CNN. 'This man gave us hope in a time of hopelessness. He had the ability and the capacity to bring the dirt and the filth from under the American rug out into the open light in order for us to deal with it.'"...

[bth: I had the honor of meeting Rep. Lewis when we were making the Ken Burns documentary on Sen. Kennedy for the Dem. National Convention. I was truly impressed by him. Its a shame that Rep. Lewis hasn't had an opportunity to take a higher profile in American politics.]

Editorial - When It Comes to Terror, We Can’t Tell You -

Editorial - When It Comes to Terror, We Can’t Tell You - ..."The new suit over the FISA amendments points out that the Supreme Court recognized more than 40 years ago that there are few threats to liberty “greater than that posed by the use of eavesdropping devices.” In fact, FISA was originally passed because of spying conducted on anti-Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists.

Senator Obama promised repeatedly in the 2008 campaign to reverse Mr. Bush’s many abuses of power. This was one of them. President Obama should read this court ruling with chagrin and eliminate warrantless spying. It is also far past time to stop hiding behind spurious, often ludicrous, claims of national security."

[bth: worth reading in full. Its like we as a people have unilaterally given up our rights out of fear of some man in a cave.]

Washington's Blog - Analysis of employment figures

Washington's Blog: "What do the new BLS numbers - 162,000 nonfarm payroll jobs added in March - mean?

Barry Ritholtz provides a very useful summary:

Let’s break down the highlights into the good and bad:

• Average Hourly Earnings of all employees NFP fell by 2 cents, or 0.1%.
• Unemployment rate is unchanged at 9.7% (no improvement this month)
• U6 Unemployment, the broadest measure, rose to 16.9% –that’s off of the December 2009 peak of 17.3, but higher than January (16.5%) and February (16.8%) of 2010.
• Long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks+) increased by 414,000 to 6.5 million. (bad)
• 44.1 percent of unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks +. (Also very bad)
• Involuntary part-time workers increased to 9.1 million in March. (This remains a stubborn problem area)

• +162k is the best report since March, 2007.
• Average workweek was up by 0.1 hour to 34.0 hours in March.
• Temp help services added 40,000 jobs in March. That’s a cumulative add of 313k since September 2009.
• Census added “only” 48,000 workers — far below the 100-150k consensus. This pushes their hiring out into the rest of the year.
• Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate at 64.9% edged up in March
• Manufacturing continued to trend up (+17,000); Mfr added 45,000 jobs in Q1.
• Revisions: January 2010 data was revised upwards 40k (from-26k to +14k); February was revised up 22k (from -36k to -14k).

Stone-McCarthy points out that - if we subtract the temporary hiring of census workers, better weather and birth-death model adjustments - we're left with a net loss of 67,000 jobs.

Indeed, Goldman Sachs attributes the job gain as 'due mainly if not entirely to census hiring and weather rebound', finds 'little underlying improvement', and says that 'productivity gains have diminished sharply'.

Gallup puts underemployment at 20.3%:

Behind the rosy headlines, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also give a grim side of the employment picture." » Blog Archive » SIBEL EDMONDS: THE TRAITORS AMONG US » Blog Archive » SIBEL EDMONDS: THE TRAITORS AMONG US: "SIBEL EDMONDS, a former FBI translator, claims that the following government officials have committed what amount to acts of treason. They are lawmakers Dennis Hastert, Bob Livingston, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Stephen Solarz and Tom Lantos, as well as at least three members of George W. Bush’s inner circle: Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Marc Grossman. But is Sibel Edmonds credible?

“Absolutely, she’s credible,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told CBS’s 60 Minutes when he was asked about her in 2002. “The reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Edmonds’s remarkable allegations of bribery, blackmail, infiltration of the U.S. government and the theft of nuclear secrets by foreign allies and enemies alike rocked the Bush Administration. In fact, Bush and company actually prevented Edmonds from telling the American people what she knew—up until now.

John M. Cole, an 18-year veteran of the FBI’s Counterintelligence and Counterespionage departments, revealed the panic of upper-echelon officials when Edmonds originally started talking back in 2002. “Well, the Bureau is gonna have to try to work something out with Sibel,” Cole said an FBI executive assistant told him at the time, “because they don’t want this to go out and become public.”

But they couldn’t “work something out with Sibel” because, it seems, she wasn’t looking to make a deal. Edmonds says she was looking to expose what she believed to be the ugly truth about the infiltration of the U.S. government by foreign spies. They were enabled, Edmonds claimed, by high-ranking U.S. officials and insider moles planted at nuclear weapons facilities around the nation.

“Everybody at headquarters level at the Bureau knew what she was saying was extremely accurate,” Cole said recently. “They were trying to figure out ways of keeping this whole thing quiet because they didn’t want Sibel to come out.”"...