Saturday, May 29, 2010

Taliban take control of district in Nuristan - The Long War Journal

Taliban take control of district in Nuristan - The Long War Journal

The Taliban have seized control of a district in the northeastern province of Nuristan after several days of heavy fighting.

Afghan police have abandoned the district center of Barg-e-Matal as fighting took place in the main town, Afghan political and police officials said. The Taliban now claim they are in control of the district and have boasted that their forces have raised the Taliban banner over the district center.

Afghan officials maintain they conducted a "tactical retreat" today from the district center in Barg-e-Matal after the fighting threatened nearby civilians.

"Since the district headquarters is inside the village in a crowded location we had to make a tactical retreat to avoid casualties to civilians" Jamaludin Badr, the governor of Nuristan, told AFP.

The Taliban control key facilities in Barg-e-Matal, said Mohammad Gul Himat, an Afghan border police commander. "Taliban have control over their radio facility which means Taliban have captured the district," Himat told AFP.

The fate of the Afghan policemen defending the district center is not known. It is unclear if they were killed, captured, or fled the scene of the fighting.

The Taliban issued two releases on the fighting in Nuristan on its website, Voice of Jihad. On the website, the Taliban claimed to have "seized complete control of the district" and "captured four military posts blocking off all the routes to the district center." Both releases included crudely photoshopped images of a white Taliban flag flying over a fighting position built by US forces.

The clashes in Barg-e-Matal began on May 25, when a large Taliban force estimated at between 300 to 500 fighters attacked the district center. Afghan police, backed by a lashkar, or militia of local Nuristani tribesmen, fought back. US air support was called in to aid in the fighting against the Taliban, but no US ground forces have been reported to have engaged in fighting in the area. ...

[bth: so when its all said and done, we lost the province. With total air dominance, how do we let 300-500 fighters amass attacks which last days? What's wrong with this picture?]

How the Taliban sees IR targeting lasers

Michael Yon is reporting that the Taliban are reacting to our drones' lasers which track their movements and target them. This is not hard to understand or expensive to figure out. Probably their commanders have access to night vision goggles now. Also if you pull out the internal IR filter from most commercial digital cameras you can detect IR as well.

The photo shone here is from a photographer that specializes in this art.

You know, we've been at war now for almost 9 years in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It isn't unusual for the enemy to adapt.

We can no longer send video streams from our drones unencrypted because the Taliban has learned how to intercept these feeds with modified TV satellite dishes. Its rumored that these dishes were modified to snatch free soccer games and surprise surprise the drones digital feed is captured too.

It also shouldn't be unusual for some clever Pakistani college student to figure out that stripping the filter from his digital camera allows him to see targeting lasers. It also allows him to see under women's garments which is probably how this all started.

One should never underestimate the power of gaming and porn to advance technology.

Taliban Leave Pakistan, but Afghans Repel Them -

Taliban Leave Pakistan, but Afghans Repel Them -

KABUL, Afghanistan — After five days of fighting, the Afghan border police, supported by American helicopters, repelled a force of Pakistani Taliban who appeared to have crossed the border to try to carve out a new haven in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province, according to Afghan officials.

Meanwhile, in Paktia Province in southeastern Afghanistan, the Taliban ambushed a joint force of Afghan National Police and NATO soldiers, killing at least five Afghan police officers, provincial police officials said.

The attacks not only indicated that the summer fighting season had begun, but also provided a reminder of the permeability of Afghanistan’s rugged border, which is difficult for NATO vehicles to patrol but well traveled on foot and donkey by insurgents who know their way over the high mountain passes.

In Nuristan, the fighting in the Barg-e-Matal district ended with two border police officers dead, three wounded, at least three houses burned and at least 25 Taliban dead, said Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the head of the Afghan Border Police for the country’s eastern region.

An American military spokesman in Jalalabad, Maj. T. G. Taylor, confirmed that helicopters had provided some close air support overnight.

“Large numbers of Taliban” were involved in the fight, General Mamozai said. He estimated that more than 600 insurgents were in the area. He said they came to Barg-e-Matal from the Pakistani areas of Swat, Bajaur and Chitral and included Chechens and Arabs as well as Pakistanis. ...

[bth: so how is it that 600 enemy combatants could cross the border and be engaged in combat for 5 days and only have 25 casualties. While I applaud the Afghan police and villagers for putting up resistance, I don't understand how our air force and helicopters haven't obliterated this enemy force by now. What is wrong? I would think a massed enemy force would be just what the American air force wants as targets. What am I missing here?]

When Afghans Seek Medical Aid, Tough Choice for U.S. -

When Afghans Seek Medical Aid, Tough Choice for U.S. -

... For these ordinary medical conditions, unrelated to war but often urgent, Marines and Navy corpsmen in Helmand Province provide first aid. Getting approval for a Black Hawk is another matter.

The helicopters are few. They are spread out. Picking up Afghan civilians with routine ailments puts aircraft and crews at risk. It could also put a helicopter out of position for a gravely wounded soldier or Marine.

Often the decision is made against the patient: helicopters cannot be spared. Many aircrews, and many officers on the ground trying to forge relations with Afghan villages, do not like this. The choice is not theirs; flight approval is made by higher commands.

Maj. Jason S. Davis, a pilot and the commanding officer of Company C, Sixth Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, which provides a detachment of Black Hawks to fly medical missions in central and southern Helmand Province, described two conflicting truths.

“We can’t be Afghanistan’s E.M.S.,” he said. “But right now we are.” ...

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full. To me this is how we win hearts and minds - by deeds. Helping someone's sick or injured relative shows not only that we care but that we have the technical power to cure an ill - penicillin over Taliban prayers.]

Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths -

Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths -

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American military released a scathing report Saturday on the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians earlier this year, saying that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by a team of Predator drone operators helped lead to an inadvertent missile strike on a group of innocent men, women and children.

The report said that four American officers, including a brigade and battalion commander, had been reprimanded, and that two junior officers had also been disciplined. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who apologized to President Hamid Karzai after the incident, announced a series of training measures designed to reduce the chances of similar events.

...Immediately after their initial attack, the Kiowa crew spotted brightly colored clothing at the scene, and, suspecting that civilians might have been in the trucks, ceased firing. After the attack, the special forces team turned over the bodies to local Afghans.

Even so, General McHale said, officers on the ground failed to report the possibility of civilian casualties in a timely manner, despite clear evidence suggesting that something like that may have happened

The report, which had previously been classified, contains several words, phrases and sections that are blacked out.

On receiving the results of the investigation, General McChrystal recommended a battery of additional training exercises for servicemen and women coming to Afghanistan, and additional training for those already here. In addition to reprimanding the four officers and admonishing the other two, General McChrystal asked Air Force commanders to open an investigation into the Predator operators.

[bth: this incident is disturbing at 2 levels. First the attack was made on vehicles 7 miles away. That is a huge distance and hardly one that SF units would conclude was a flanking maneuver. Second, and most troubling, the ground officers hid what happened. I don't think additional training will cure that problem.]

Friday, May 28, 2010

Afghans: Pakistani Taliban commander rumored dead | Antiwar Newswire

Afghans: Pakistani Taliban commander rumored dead | Antiwar Newswire

Afghan officials said Thursday they were investigating reports that a Pakistani Taliban leader may have been killed in fighting in the remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

About 400 Afghan police supported by village militias have been trying to fend off an attack by hundreds of insurgents in eastern Nuristan province for five days, provincial police spokesman Farooq Khan said.

On Wednesday, the militants made a push to capture all of Barg-e-Matal district on the Pakistan border, sparking heavy fighting throughout the area.

A senior border police official said he had credible reports that Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah was killed Wednesday. Gen. Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, the commander for border police in eastern Afghanistan, said the information came from local residents where the fighting was taking place.

Fazlullah, nicknamed the "Radio Mullah" for his hard-line anti-Western broadcasts on a militant radio station in northwestern Pakistan, was the Taliban commander in the Swat Valley until the Pakistan military routed the group from the area last year.

Others in the Afghan government were hesitant to confirm Mamozai's account. Nuristan police Chief Mohammad Qasim said it was difficult to identify the bodies of those killed.

At least seven militants and one police officer have died so far in the fighting, according to the Interior Ministry. About 500 Pakistani attackers have laid siege to the area, officials said.

Heavy fighting continued Thursday and government forces were running short of food and ammunition, said Khan, the police spokesman. NATO helicopters have flown in some weapons and ammunition but more is needed, he said. It takes two days by donkey to reach the site of the fighting through the one road that is open, he added.

In Pakistan, Maulana Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban chief in the Bajur area, told The Associated Press by phone that Fazlullah had gone to Nuristan with his fighters.

"We are trying to contact him," he said. "We believe that he is safe and he has not been killed."

Another Taliban commander in Bajur, Asad Ullah, insisted that Fazlullah was alive.

"Maulana Fazlullah was the guest of Taliban in Nuristan, and we don't think he can be killed so easily," he said.

The insurgents first attacked the district government building on Sunday.

Last summer, insurgents overran the main town in the district and were pushed out only after an offensive by U.S. troops. U.S. forces have closed a number of bases in the area as part of NATO's new strategy to consolidate forces around population centers.

A base to the south of Barg-e-Matal, Combat Outpost Keating, was the site of a massive attack in October 2009 in which insurgents breached the base's defenses and killed eight soldiers. Keating, already scheduled to be closed when the attack occurred, was abandoned soon after.


Associated Press writers Habib Khan in Bajur, Pakistan, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS in graf 3 that militant strike began Wednesday and continued Thursday, not started Thursday)

[bth: so to the point, where is the US air and ground support for our allies under siege? This appears to have gone on for 3 whole days. How in the world can we let hundreds of enemy amass for several days without totally obliterating them with close air support if artillery is not in range? What is wrong with our chain of command?]

MetroWest: Kerrigan: Find time this weekend to remember heroes

Kerrigan: Find time this weekend to remember heroes - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News
General John Logan, the dashing Civil War hero who helped create Memorial Day, actually worried it might come to this.

Surely Logan couldn't have imagined Americans' primary concern as spring turned to summer would be burgers, dogs, flip-flops and beach traffic. But Logan, who created Memorial Day as Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, knew well that time can clog memories, even of those loved and lost for freedom and country.

"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic," Logan said.

There remain traditions that personify his order, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country."

From Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who place 15,300 candles to honor the dead at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania to the members of the 3d U.S. Infantry who place some 260,000 flags at gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery, acts of remembrance still abound.

Locally, our record of remembrance is spottier and typically confined to personal efforts and parades. While families of those Massachusetts military heroes who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan don't begrudge anyone time off with our families, they believe it is time to reclaim Memorial Day.

This year, Massachusetts families, soldiers and volunteers will take a first step toward changing that.

On Thursday,families, friends, supporters and volunteers gathered on Boston Common amid 20,000 flags placed in memory of the countless Massachusetts service members who fell in service to our country. At this ceremony, we planted an additional 134 flags in honor of those heroes fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan and in support of the families they left behind.

It will be a startling weekend-long display in memorial to those who, as Lincoln said, "gave the last full measure of devotion" for our freedom.

We hear of military deaths on the news and see their funerals winding slowly through our town squares. We see the crying widows and friends, mothers clutching neatly-folded flags. Our hearts go out to the fallen and their families, we shake our heads and, understandably, most of us move on.

For Bay Staters to see the collective colors of those we have lost will, we hope, bring home the loss of the last eight years, the scale of the tears shed in their honor and the importance of not relegating their courage to Hollywood and literature.

The families and volunteers of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund are asking each and every one of the Commonwealth's 351 communities to embrace the true meaning of Memorial Day and to help the families of our fallen return Memorial Day it to its rightful place as our national day of remembrance.

Standing with us on Common will be Alma and Brian Hart of Bedford. Their son, Private First Class John Hart, always wanted to be in the Army and to serve his country joining the Bedford High rifle team and Junior ROTC and enlisting in 2002 after graduating from high school.

PFC Hart called home from Iraq a few days before his death to tell his father how unsafe he felt in the Humvee used to patrol the streets of Iraq. On October 18, 2003, near Kirkuk, Hart's convoy was ambushed. He fired every bullet in his weapon, giving, as his commander wrote to Hart's parents, "everything he had for the safety of others."

There are 133 other stories just as compelling and heart-rending as his, and they will all be displayed on the Common the Thursday before Memorial Day in honor of the service members and their families, Massachusetts heroes all.

Thousands have sacrificed for our community, our commonwealth and our country, whether in this generation or in General Washington's Army. It is time to keep our promise to General Logan, to Private First Class Hart and all the others that Memorial Day honors.

Let 2010 be the first step toward that renewal.

Stephen J. Kerrigan is president of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, a private, non-profit organization providing which supports the families of fallen military service personnel from Massachusetts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taliban's families expelled from Pakistan's Swat - army | South Asia | Reuters

Taliban's families expelled from Pakistan's Swat - army | South Asia | Reuters

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Tribesmen in Pakistan's Swat Valley have evicted about 125 relatives of Taliban militants from their homes to pressure insurgents to surrender, a community leader and a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Pakistani Taliban are pushing to make a comeback in Swat a year after they were largely driven out of the scenic valley, where residents and officials said they were killing opponents and security personnel after imposing their rule.

Despite being routed by the army, some militants stayed behind with relatives or in mountains. Others shaved their beards and blended in with the population, security officials say.

Keeping the Taliban from returning to former bastions is critical for ensuring long-term stability in Pakistan, which ally Washington sees as a key partner in its war against militancy.

A tribal jirga, or council of elders, had set a May 20 deadline for the militants to surrender or their families would face expulsion from their homes, a military spokesman said.

Some areas of Pakistan are largely governed by tribal codes, not state laws.

"After the deadline, on May 21, the jirga expelled some 25 families, about 120-125 individuals, including women and children, from Swat," army Colonel Akhtar Abbas told Reuters.

The army helped transport the evicted families, who put up no resistance, to Palay, a former camp for Afghan refugees, he said. The army was providing shelter and food, he said...

[bth: one wonders how serious the Pakistani army really was about dealing with the Taliban in Swat. Here the army actually provides transport for the Taliban families.]

Rage Against the Machine Gun | Mother Jones

Rage Against the Machine Gun | Mother Jones

Thousands of frontline troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been relying on World War I-era machine guns to survive combat—and as the weapons wear out, US contractors have been shipping the soldiers defective replacement parts, a Pentagon investigation has found.

The cash loss doesn't amount to much—at most, $11 million—but the faulty parts left those thousands of soldiers in peril, the Department of Defense inspector general’s office (DODIG) said in a report released in January. The Pentagon's logistics agency, which was responsible for the gun-parts contracts, "is not providing effective customer support to the warfighter and is missing opportunities to identify contractors with performance problems and to obtain adequate compensation for deficient parts," the report concluded.

That investigation—which is accessible on the DODIG's website (PDF) but has received little mention in the press—is one of several examples of contractor waste and abuse likely to be raised today at a hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Washington, a source familiar with the commission’s agenda told Mother Jones.

The machine gun in question has been an American fixture for nearly a century: The M2 .50-caliber Browning, an 84-pound behemoth called "Ma Deuce" by generations of soldiers, entered military mass production in the 1930s, but versions of it have been around in some version since it was first designed by gunsmith John Browning in 1918. Nowadays, the heavy-duty weapon is most often mounted on military autos, from Humvees to the more heavily armored Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles. As of March 2009, there were about 32,000 M2 machine guns in the military, according to the IG report. Roughly 10,000 of those are in the field in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The M2’s longevity proves it's a tough, effective weapon, but its hundreds of moving parts wear down under heavy use. "The timing on this gun is just like the timing on a car, where you have a timing belt and a piston," Major Mike Pottratz, an Army weapons systems specialist, recently told Army Times. "If your timing belt breaks or is off…the gun will cease to function."

After receiving a bevy of complaints from field soldiers about the scarcity and poor quality of replacement parts—backorders took eight months, on average, to reach the war zone—DOD inspectors took a look at the materiel contractors were providing Army units. They tested 21 different spare parts as well as a 98-part kit, all of which were deemed "critical application items"—parts that are "essential to the preservation of life in emergencies…the failure of which would adversely affect the accomplishment of a military operation."

The conclusion: "Contractors provided at least 7,100 nonconforming M2 gun parts on 24 contracts," the report stated. "As a result, increased risk was put on the warfighter."

In one case, soldiers complained that more than 1,000 trigger bars had been sent with a a bend that curved to the right instead of the left. The contractor, it turned out, had misread the gun’s blueprints. It promised to correct the error, but 11 months later, it had only replaced half the parts.

Inspectors also took the Army to task for its byzantine paperwork requirements for soldiers’ complaints about the parts shipments. Service members in Iraq and Afghanistan had to fill out special "product quality deficiency reports" to register their complaints. "US Army officials also expressed concerns that the number of PQDRs may not reflect the complete magnitude of the quality problem," the report stated, "because many soldiers do not have the time to prepare PQDRs during wartime."

Then there were those 98-part maintenance kits. DOD inspectors found that contractors "had provided the US Army with only 2 complete kits; the other 58 kits were missing parts." 31 kits, nearly a third, were missing 13 or more parts; one was missing 35. Army officials told inspectors that when the kits turned up incomplete, "They had to resort to other means to obtain the required parts"—name, stripping other guns for parts.

Mother Jones' source said the contracting commission—a bipartisan investigating panel set up by Congress—was likely to be tough on DOD managers testifying before it in discussing the report today. That's because procurers at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which oversees the gun-parts contracts, never withheld payments from any of the civilian suppliers. Taken together, those firms—whom the report didn't identify—took in $9,925,045. That doesn't include another $455,000 in late fees the contractors never paid, or $655,000 Army weapons depots spent to try to fix the parts problems themselves.

"DLA needs to implement measures that will allow the Supply Centers to consistently hold contractors accountable and obtain sufficient compensation when contractors deliver late," the report concluded.

Adam Weinstein is Mother Jones' copy editor. For more of his stories, click here.

[bth: just unfucking believable.]

Hakimullah, Allies Said to Leave North Waziristan -- News from

Hakimullah, Allies Said to Leave North Waziristan -- News from

According to reports citing an unnamed Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) source, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and his followers have agreed to leave the North Waziristan Agency after being asked to by warlord Hafiz Bahadur, who has a tenuous peace deal with the Pakistani government.

Since taking control of the TTP last August, Hakimullah has turned the group from a little known umbrella group in Pakistani tribal regions into one of the most aggressive militant outfits in central Asia, and has cultivated a personal reputation for surviving assassination attempts that has become almost ridiculous: Hakimullah has been “confirmed” killed on at least seven separate occasions since August.

Having apparently left North Waziristan at the very time when the US government is agitating for a Pakistani military invasion of the region, Hakimullah and the TTP leadership are said to be returning to South Waziristan, their traditional home territory.

South Waziristan was invaded late last year by the Pakistani military, an offensive that officals lauded as a great “success” but which failed to kill or capture any significant TTP figures. The military has virtually left South Waziristan at this point and is attacking Orakzai Agency, which will leave the TTP free to return to their starting positions unchallenged.

It is a story which has recurred in many parts of northern Pakistan, including the Swat Valley and twice in Bajaur. While the Pakistani military is good at blowing up “suspected” homes and driving hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes, the offensives ultimately accomplish very little and the militants simply move on until the attack finishes and then return. The “victory” in South Waziristan, as with so many other places, has proven short-lived.

[bth: as usual information like this shows up after the US government's aid package to Pakistan has been agreed to. There is this strong feeling that we are being gamed by all parties in the region.]

Stalin blocked attempts to kill Hitler: general | Reuters

Stalin blocked attempts to kill Hitler: general | Reuters

A plan to attack Hitler's bunker in 1943 and a 1944 plot involving an assassin who had gained the trust of the Nazi leadership were both canceled on Stalin's orders, General Anatoly Kulikov told a historical conference in Moscow.

"A plan to assassinate Hitler in his bunker was developed, but Stalin suddenly canceled it in 1943 over fears that after Hitler's death his associates would conclude a separate peace treaty with Britain and the United States," Russia's RIA news agency quoted Kulikov as saying.

In 1944 the Soviets again plotted to kill Hitler after a potential assassin managed to gain the trust of the Nazi leadership. "A detailed assassination plan was prepared, but Stalin canceled it again," Kulikov was quoted as saying.

Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945, as Soviet forces closed on Berlin, effectively ending the war in Europe and setting the stage for the Cold War stand-off between Russia and the West.

An estimated 27 million Soviet citizens died in the 1941-1945 war with Nazi Germany....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons | World news | The Guardian

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons | World news | The Guardian

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence....

The secret military agreement signed by Shimon Peres and P W Botha

[bth: so the old rumors of a deal were true. Fascinating.]

Support: How The War On IEDs Is Fought

Support: How The War On IEDs Is Fought


The Taliban, unable to withstand foreign troops in a gun battle, have put most of their resources into an IED campaign. Thus the number of IEDs encountered went from 2,678 in 2007 to about 8,200 last year. But signs of how effective the Iraq counter-IED methods can be are already showing up. For example, in March, there were 989 roadside bombs encountered in Afghanistan, compared to 429 in March of 2009. But casualties are not up by nearly as much, with, 39 foreign troops killed, compared to 28 in March, 2009. IED deaths were 275 last year, but are running at a rate that is only 13 percent higher this year.

As the use of IEDs in Iraq moved to Afghanistan, so did all the techniques U.S. troops developed to deal with these devices. In Iraq, the U.S. mobilized a multi-billion dollar effort to deal with IEDs, and that paid off. New technology (jammers, robots), tactics (predictive analysis and such), equipment (better armor for vehicles and troops) and a lot of determination did the job. Gradually, IEDs became less dangerous. In 2006, it took about five IEDs to cause one coalition casualty (11 percent of them fatal). By 2008 it took nine IEDs per casualty (12 percent fatal).

In 2006, only 8 percent of IEDs put out there caused casualties. In 2007, it was nine percent. In 2008, it was less than five percent. The main objective of IEDs was to kill coalition troops, and at that, they were very ineffective. In 2006, you had to use 48 to kill one soldier. In 2007, you needed 49 and by 2008, you needed 79. In Afghanistan, it currently takes 53 IEDs to kill one foreign soldier, and that number is rising....

[bth: this guy plays it loose with the facts. The core reason casualties per IED decreased is vehicular armor. If you dialed back to the early half of the Iraq war you's be seeing around 40% of detonated (by the enemy) IEDs causing casualties and when the did cause casualties there were around 2.4 per IED. As you can see from this guys figures 5% of IEDs were causing casualties and half of them were detected prior to detonation (a point the author fails to note). Since radio transmitters are rarely used today because of the advent of radio jammers, one can assume that the jammers didn't cause the drop off in casualties. Its the armor on the vehicles in particular the release of large quantities of MRAPs that turned the tide.]

Channel NewsAsia - British defence minister on Afghan visit calls for troop withdrawal -

Channel NewsAsia - British defence minister on Afghan visit calls for troop withdrawal -

KABUL : Senior British officials, including new Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Afghanistan Saturday with a warning that Britain wants to withdraw its troops as soon as possible.

Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell are set to meet President Hamid Karzai in their first visit to the country since a new coalition government took power in London this month.

Hague described Afghanistan -- where around 10,000 British troops are helping fight a Taliban-led insurgency well into its ninth year -- as "our most urgent priority" in comments released from London as the party touched down.

In an interview with The Times newspaper before arriving in Kabul, Fox made clear the visit would focus on speeding up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, and that no new troops would be deployed.

"We need to accept we are at the limit of numbers now and I would like the forces to come back as soon as possible," he was quoted as saying.

"We have to reset expectations and timelines.

"National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened," Fox said.

With Karzai having promised that Afghan forces will take on responsibility for the country's security by 2014, Fox said he would see if training could be accelerated to that end.

"I want to talk to people on the ground, our trainers, to see whether there is room to accelerate it without diminishing the quality," he said.

... Britain is the second biggest provider of troops and aid to Afghanistan, behind the United States.

...US and NATO troops are building up operations against the Taliban in Kandahar, with military planners saying they hope to have pushed the insurgents out of the city, and the province of which it is capital, by the time the fasting month of Ramadan starts in August.

Hague said before his arrival in Kabul that the new counter-insurgency strategy of General Stanley McChrystal, head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, needs "time and support to succeed".

...Britain's new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has said it wants to cut the defence budget by at least 25 percent but has pledged to support the country's armed forces in Afghanistan. ...

[bth: note how little coverage this is receiving in the US. The Brits are about to cut an run again just like they did in Basra. So they are going to cut their defense spending by 25%. Hum. Their army is the size of our marine corp, about 150K. They can't field enough helicopters to support 9K troops as it is, forget the 25% cut. They can't get them vehicles suitable for an IED littered world. Britain has effectively ceased to be a viable military power. I just find it astonishing. With another 25% cut, they won't be able to project a flash light much less military power anywhere.]

In Kandahar, the Taliban targets and assassinates those who support U.S. efforts

In Kandahar, the Taliban targets and assassinates those who support U.S. efforts


In Kandahar, the Taliban's most powerful weapon has become the calculated assassination. The tools of this campaign are rudimentary -- ropes, knives, old rifles -- but the results have been devastating. By executing those who work or sympathize with the government, the Taliban has made clear that those supporting the American military effort here are risking their lives. Each new death brings more dread in a city of hunters and hunted.

"They're watching us. We don't know who, but they're watching," Ahmad said. "Nowhere is safe. We cannot escape."

The killings take aim at the fundamental goal of the U.S. military's planned summer offensive in Kandahar: to build a credible local government that responds to the needs of the people. In the past month, about six people have quit the already understaffed provincial government, and other federal ministry representatives in the province have taken leave. Targeted by bombs and killings of their local staff, foreigners working for U.S. government contractors and the United Nations have fled for Kabul.

The tactics in Kandahar differ from those in other major cities, such as Kabul, where attacks often involve high-profile, multipronged assaults by gunmen and suicide bombers against government or commercial buildings. The killers here rely on stealth and speed.

The spate of killings has reached the rate of one to two a week. Targets are everywhere: government bureaucrats, policemen, aid workers, tribal elders. In the first four months of the year, 27 government officials or Afghans working with foreign contractors in Kandahar city were assassinated, according to U.S. figures. In the same period in 2009, there were 15 such killings; in 2008, there were six....

[bth: its amazing that fewer than 100 sensational killings per year could cower this violence prone population.]

Insurgents Attack NATO's Kandahar Base

Insurgents Attack NATO's Kandahar Base

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban claimed responsibility Sunday for a nighttime assault on NATO's biggest base in southern Afghanistan. Insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons tried to storm Kandahar Air Field – the second such attack on a major military installation this week.

Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded in the assault Saturday night, but there were no reports of deaths, officials said.

A Canadian Press news agency report from Kandahar said artillery and machine gun fire reverberated through the base, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Kabul, several hours after the attack began. Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8 p.m. (15:30 GMT) and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter, officials said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the Associated Press that its fighters attacked the base from two sides and fired more than 15 rockets.

It was the third major attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan in six days.

The attacks follow a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive against NATO forces and Afghan government troops – their response to a promise by the Obama administration to squeeze the Taliban out of their strongholds in the southern province of Kandahar....

Kandahar Attack

[bth: besides headlines and propaganda value, I don't see what the Taliban are trying to accomplish hitting these large bases with small and ineffective forces. It must just be the headlines they're after I guess.]