Saturday, July 10, 2010
Canada borrows $19-million worth of electronic defence systems from U.S. | The Hill Times - Canada's Politics and Government Newsweekly
Cabinet approved an unusual directive last month giving Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) authority to borrow the sophisticated gear from the U.S. Marine Corps, prompting opposition questions about whether the Canadian government has done all it could over the past four years to protect soldiers against the deadly toll from so-called Improvised Explosive Devices.
As the war has dragged on, Afghan insurgents who initially engaged Canadian troops in open combat with rocket propelled grenades and small arms have turned almost exclusively to the deployment of landmines and IEDS—to the point that last year the improvised bombs claimed the lives of 29 of 32 Canadian dead. ...
bth: one wonders why Canadians didn't buy this equipment for themselves already?
The intern allegedly offered this reply, as the Wall Street Journal reports: 'With a donation of $2,400 or more,' activists pushing a fuel-standards bill 'can schedule a one-on-one hour long meeting with the Senator.'
Want a 'better chance to lobby Michael?' The intern offered this advice: Host 'an event for $5,000 or more.'
Such suggestions are not illegal - that line would only be crossed had Bennet offered legislative action in exchange for a donation - but they are, to say the least, unseemly. And hence the fate of the 22-year-old Middlebury College senior Jeffrey Garofano was sealed: Bennet's campaign said yesterday he had been let go....
bth: this is not uncommon, just unseemly
Lieberman, flanked at a Jerusalem press conference by his senate colleagues John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), used very tough language, saying the words “military action” in regards to stopping Iran’s nuclear program. Most US officials opt to tiptoe around the subject, saying “no options are off the table.”
Lieberman said that “a certain trumpet needs to sounded here for the Iranian regime to hear.”
bth: Senators Graham, McCain and Lieberman try to out tough talk one another as they pander to Israel and talk up war with Iran.
Predominantly Shi’ite, el-Khiam was, before the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, home to a detention center where Hizbullah operatives were interrogated. It is located about 4 kilometers from the border.
The maps and videos declassified by the IDF show the homes that Hizbullah has taken over and used to store weapons and establish bunkers and command-and-control centers. It also revealed the location of improvised explosive devices, some of them weighing up to half a ton, mostly at the entrance to the village.
The declassification is aimed at deterring Hizbullah from attacking by demonstrating the IDF’s deep penetration of its most carefully- guarded secrets. The IDF is also hoping to achieve a diplomatic victory. It recently sent a delegation of top officers to UN headquarters in New York to present the evidence to foreign diplomats. Northern Command also presented the evidence to UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas.
The release of the information also results from the lessons learned from the Goldstone report and the handling of the Gaza-bound flotilla in late May. In both cases, Israel felt that it was justified in taking action, but was genuinely frustrated by the world’s decision to ignore its case. As a result, it is now preparing the world for what will happen in the event of a new war. By showing the public the Hizbullah positions in villages, they will likely better understand why there will be so much devastation throughout Lebanon.
Israel’s main problem with Hizbullah continues to be its unprecedented military buildup. In 2006, Hizbullah had 14,000 fighters compared to 30,000 today; it had 15,000 rockets compared to 40,000 today.
And in 2006, just 10,000 of them were in southern Lebanon compared to 30,000 today.
It also has long-range missiles, such as the Fateh-110, 220 mm. and 320 mm. Katyushas and the Syrian-made M600 – which has a solid propellant and has a range of 250 km., a 500 kg. warhead and is equipped with a sophisticated guidance system. Hizbullah also recently received Scud missiles with a range of about 300 km.
Israel’s hands are pretty much tied when it comes to stopping the rearmament. Several months ago, when the government debated the possible bombing of a weapons convoy from Syria to Lebanon, the plan was nixed due to the fear that war would erupt – this according to foreign reports.
In closed-door meetings, Eizenkot has said a number of times that it is almost impossible to deter a state or terror organization from building up its military. “It is however possible to deter that state or organization from using it,” he said.
That is exactly what Israel is hoping for.
While it continues to prepare for war, it is no secret that the past four years have been the quietest in decades along the northern border....
bth: this might provide a military victory and even access to water in Lebanon but it would also be a PR disaster for Israel and very difficult ground to hold if taken.
The Labor Department estimates that about 1.7 million have lost benefits as of last week, after extended unemployment insurance expired in late May. Those numbers could reach 3.3 million by the end of the month if Congress doesn’t pass an extension after it returns from recess next week.
A bigger concern is the number of people who may lose benefits this month. The tally of people continuing to claim benefits plunged to 4.4 million, the department said. But that doesn’t include an additional 4.6 million people who received extended benefits paid for by the federal government in the week that ended June 19. That’s the latest period for which data are available.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said many people losing extended unemployment may seek aid through Social Security, food stamps and welfare.
Other economists noted that the end of extended benefits could cut Americans’ incomes by as much as $41 billion, potentially reducing consumer spending in the coming months.
Think about that for a minute. More than one out of every hundred people has been unemployed for so long the Republicans and deficit hawks in Congress think they’re just slacking and should be cut off. Of course, those one out of every hundred people aren’t evenly distributed throughout the population: the less educated, people of color, and people over 50 are suffering disproportionately during this recession.
Nevertheless, they represent a huge chunk of our neighbors, our customers, our family members. And our country seems to have decided they and those who depend on them are expendable.
bth: so with 3.3 million following closely behind how does this impact consumer spending for the most needy? It will drive the economy into a renewed recessions.
India-Pakistan: Update. Next Thursday, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan and the Indian Minister of External Affairs will meet in Islamabad to resume their dialogue. A Pakistani spokesman said all issues are on the table, but then immediately removed one, namely the Indian concern about the Chinese plan to build a railroad through the Karakoram Mountains.
He also referred to Pakistan's concern for the human rights of people living in "Indian-occupied" Kashmir. However, the spokesman said Pakistan is approaching the meeting with an open mindset.
Pakistan: Security. Several Chinese engineers working in Baluchistan survived an attempt on their lives when unidentified assailants fired two rockets at a five -star hotel in the provincial town, in a pre-dawn attack on Wednesday. According to reports, the Chinese engineers left the hotel elevator minutes before the attack, which damaged a portion of the hotel building.
The Chinese engineers had arrived in Gwadar recently and were reportedly working on an oil refinery. Official sources believe that they were the targets of the attack. Security officials and paramilitary forces cordoned off the area after the attack and began investigations against unidentified assailants.
Comment: Baluch hostility to foreigners is less interesting than that the Chinese are building an oil refinery in Gwadar, in western Pakistan. That provides the motive for building a railroad link to Xinjiang, China, or maybe a pipeline, if that is feasible.
China is developing lines of communication through Pakistan and Burma to complement oil pipelines in central Asia that will ensure crude supplies to China in the event of a crisis in Northeast or Southeast Asia in which US Naval forces would disrupt the maritime supply route through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.
bth: i would only add that a similar attack a few years ago on French engineers upgrading Pak submarines appeared at first to be from the Taliban but later it was determined that Paki officers who had expected bribe money from the French that they did not receive organized and executed the attack and blamed it on terrorists. One wonders if this is a similar situation - delete French, insert Chinese.
Israel: An army inquiry into the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound maritime flotilla criticized the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) planning but did not single out any military officials, Ynet reported 8 July.
The inquiry's report said there was a lack of coordination between forces involved in the raid, mishaps in planning and failure to make use of available intelligence. The report said the military planners thought IDF forces would only face low-level violence.
Note: The after-action report indicates there is little learning occurring in the IDF, despite the intelligence and tactical failures of 2006. Lieutenant General Ashkenazi should offer to resign. Israel cannot afford to tolerate these continuing and repeated intelligence and operational failures. If no senior officers tender their resignations, that means the entire exercise is fraudulent, political and not to be accepted at face value.
The men from Alpha Company rarely see who they are fighting and if they eventually do catch up to them, the insurgents have hidden their weapons and melted back into the population.
'It gets really frustrating trying to walk the line between a counter-insurgency fight and not harming the populace and trying to kill the enemy,' said Platoon Commander Staff Sgt. Aaron Best.
Best, a bright 28-year-old on his second Afghanistan tour, understands the counter-insurgency message coming down from commanders, but that does not stem platoon level frustration.
'In 2007 I was getting blown up and shot at. I come back now and guess what, I'm getting blown up and shot at. Nothing's changed,' he said.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have become the main weapon used against international and Afghan forces fighting to end an insurgency increasingly seen as bogged down in favour of the Taliban.
The equipment was 'at least doubling' current counter-IED capacity as forces did not have all they needed to take on an escalating threat, said Ashton Carter, US undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics.
The new equipment, including tethered surveillance blimps, heavily armoured vehicles and detection machinery such as robots and mine detectors, would arrive in Afghanistan in the coming months, he told reporters.
Carter said the equipment would be accompanied by about 1,000 counter-IED experts, including laboratory technicians, intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials.
'This is an enormous plug of extra effort,' he said, adding that the equipment would be shared with coalition and Afghan forces. ...
bth: so the question of whether or not JIEDDO keeps its doors open just got answered.
The devastation struck Yakaghund town in the district of Mohmand, one of seven that make up Pakistan's northwest tribal belt that Washington has branded a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.
It was the deadliest attack in nuclear-armed Pakistan since gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed prayer halls belonging to the minority Ahmadi community in the city of Lahore in May, killing at least 82 people.
A Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked bombing spree across Pakistan has killed around 3,500 people in three years since government troops besieged a radical mosque in the capital Islamabad in July 2007.
bth: So does al Qaeda and the Taliban function with the support of the local community or by terrorizing it? I find it hard to see how this approach of killing so many indiscriminately wins them any friends. So much for swimming amongst the fish. Or is the message fear and terror?
Thursday, July 08, 2010
WASHINGTON, Jul 6, 2010 (IPS) - The follow-up investigation of a botched Special Operations Forces (SOF) raid in Gardez Feb. 12 that killed two government officials and three women, ordered by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal Apr. 5, was ostensibly aimed at reconciling divergent Afghan and U.S. accounts of what happened during and after the raid.
That implied that the U.S. investigators would finally do what they had failed to do in the original investigation - interview the eyewitnesses. But three eyewitnesses who had claimed to see U.S. troops digging bullets of the bodies of three women told IPS they were never contacted by U.S. investigators.
The failure to interview key eyewitnesses, along with the refusal to make public any of the investigation's findings, continued a pattern of behaviour by McChrystal's command of denying that the SOF unit had begun a cover-up of the killings immediately after the raid.
Both the original report of the U.S. investigation and initial NATO report on the Feb. 12 night raid in Gardez remain classified, according to Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the officer who was spokesman for McChrystal on the issue before the general was relieved of his command Jun. 23....
bth: McChrystal covered up the Tillman affair. Why would anyone expect him not to coverup his own mess with this incident? He brought dishonor to himself on 3 occassions - Tillman coverup, Rolling Stone insubordination interview and this sham of an investigation.
Hundreds of trucks and buses leave the main highway in northwest Pakistan each evening at sunset to wait out the overnight closure of a strategic tunnel. Taliban attacks there are raising the cost of supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan and hurting the local economy.
As darkness falls, the drivers smoke, chat or doze on the dusty earth of a roadside camp 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the border. Since 2002, militants in Pakistan have killed about 120 local drivers hauling war supplies from the country’s main seaport, Karachi, to bases in Afghanistan....
The violence and road closures -- which also affect
commercial shipments -- are the latest blow to a local economy
wracked by war and a national power shortage.
Almost 80 percent of factories in the ethnic Pashtun
northwest -- mostly stone processing plants and flour or textile
mills -- have closed during the eight-year war, said Riaz Arshad,
president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce in Peshawar, the
capital of Khyber-Pakhtunwha province.
While the U.S. government has committed $750 million in aid
to boost development in the northwest and undermine the Taliban,
“our industrial units are closing and moving,” Arshad said by
phone. “Two-thirds of our population is less than 24 years old,
which is normally a positive. But with no jobs here, it is as
dangerous for us as a nuclear bomb.”
The two-lane highway, which for most of the Afghan war
carried 75 percent of U.S. troops’ food, uniforms and vehicles,
was designed in the 1980s to pull investment and trade into a
region where isolation and poverty fuel extremist growth.
Drivers say rising violence and fuel costs since 2006 have
forced them to double the rates they charge for the run to
Afghanistan. That increase, plus the new Central Asian supply
lines and other logistical challenges, bring the war’s cost to
almost $1.2 million annually per soldier, 73 percent more than
the $685,000 cost of a soldier in Iraq, according to a June 29
analysis by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and
As the U.S. sends 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan this
year, military supply shipments have increased by 13 percent
over early 2009, according to figures e-mailed by Transportation
Command spokeswoman Cynthia Bauer at Scott Air Force Base in
Largely by using local Pashtun truckers, who dominate
Pakistan’s transport industry and come from the same ethnic
group as the Taliban, the U.S. military has kept its losses on
Pakistani roads to less than 1 percent of cargo, Bauer said.
Still, markets outside Peshawar offer U.S. Army uniforms,
binoculars and cots. In 2008, Taliban hijacked a U.S. convoy
that contained Army Humvees and paraded in the infantry vehicles
for Pakistani television.
‘Lethal and Sensitive’
The Transportation Command flies 20 percent of war supplies,
including “all lethal and sensitive cargo,” directly to
Afghanistan, Bauer said. And it sends the equivalent of 28,000
standard shipping containers monthly, enough to fill two of the
world’s largest container ships, by sea and land.
Half of all war supplies to Afghanistan pass through
Pakistan, the Transportation Command says, at a rate of 580
truckloads per day, its figures show.
Truckers have raised their rates to $2,470 from $1,100 four
years ago for the 1,750-kilometer drive to Bagram air base north
of Kabul from Pakistan’s port of Karachi, said Himayat Shah,
general secretary of the All-Pakistan Combined Trucks and
Trailers Welfare Association.
Since the Pakistan supply route opened in 2002, militants
have killed between 120 and 150 truckers for hauling U.S.
military supplies, Shah said in an interview at his office in
Karachi, the Arabian Sea port to which the Defense Department
ships goods to be trucked to its Afghan bases.
“We have lost anywhere between 5,000 and 6,000 trucks and
oil tankers,” he said.
To avoid attacks, many drivers now detour hundreds of
kilometers around the Taliban-dominated Pashtun lands, driving
northeast through Punjab province instead. Last month, the
militants hit that route, too, killing eight people and
destroying at least 50 trucks with U.S. military shipping
containers that were stopped for the night at a depot outside
Islamabad, the capital.
Despite such dangers, Jan, the truck driver, says northwest
Pakistan’s unemployment keeps him hauling U.S. supplies.
“I have seven children, and this is the only good business
I can get to make the money to take care of them,” he said.
bth: I'm glad to see some reporters finally looking at the Pak logistics train and putting some figures together on the economics. Unfortunately they do not address what the Pak Taliban cut is per vehicle to cross the border. If its like Iraq I'm guessing between $500 and $1000 per truck and that might explain the rate increase noted in this article. Note though how important local jobs are in the story. One wonders just how much of the fighting is being driven by economics. How much drug trafficking, how much corruption, how much religious fervor is just about putting food on the table. If we more judiciously put some of our military aid to work in civilian jobs programs and less in troop buildups would we have a more favorable outcome? If we allowed logging in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan - or more like make it legal again to log - would we be better off? I suspect so. Perhaps our greatest weapon is a fat wallet and maybe we ought to be using it more effectively - less payment to Karzai et al and more toward local projects hiring local labor. We can probably hire 100 Afghans for the cost of one US soldier and I can't help but think that is a better investment on our part at many levels.
An indictment unsealed today by the Dept. of Justice reveals that the foiled 2009 NYC subway terrorist attack uncovered in the Najibullah Zazi investigation was a much more ambitious plot than previously known. The NYC plot was planned to coincide with a similar suicide attack on the London transit system and was coordinated by senior leaders of al Qaeda's external operations unit.
At the heart of this investigation is the leader of al Qaeda's American external operations unit, Adnan el Shukrijumah, charged with planning and coordinating attacks on US soil (more in depth piece on Shukrijumah from Thomas Joscelyn here). Along with Shukrijumah, charges have been brought against Adis Medunjanin, Tariq Ur Rehman, a man only known as "Ahmad," "Sohaib" or "Zahid", and Abid Naseer - London's would-be version of Najibullah Zazi....
In a move with big political as well as military implications, Liam Fox, the defence secretary, announced a major redeployment of troops in Afghanistan, a move the government hopes will reduce the rate of casualties and hasten the end of British combat operations there.
As David Cameron told MPs 2010 was the "key year" for the mission, Fox said an extra 300 soldiers would be sent to central Helmand province, where British troops would in future be responsible for securing a much smaller area....
Nearly 10,000 British troops in Helmand will now concentrate on a smaller, area to the north and west of Lashkar Gah, Helmand's capital. Fox said: "The result will be a coherent and equitable division of the main populated areas of Helmand between three brigade-sized forces, with the US in the north and the south, and the UK-led Task Force Helmand, alongside our Danish and Estonian allies, in the central population belt."
He told the Commons: "British troops will not be there in a combat role, or in significant numbers, in five years' time, but we can expect them to still be there in a training role."...----
bth: going, going gone.
...In plain language this means that two American brigades will be in charge of just under three quarters of the territory in Helmand and the British the remaining area, mainly the urban population centres in central Helmand.
This, again, reflects the respective strengths on the ground. Until now the British, with 31 per cent of the Western forces, were supposed to be covering 70 per cent of the population. It was an untenable situation that resulted in areas being taken from the Taliban, often at a cost of life and limb, only to be abandoned because there were not enough "boots on the ground".
The 1,400-strong 40 Commando Royal Marines battlegroup will withdraw from Sangin in the autumn. Their replacements, a battlegroup led by the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, will be partly deployed in a belt from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gar, to Nad-e-Ali and Gereshk. The new ratio would be 31 per cent of the troops providing security for 32 per cent of the population.
The idea is that this will reinforce a "security envelope" where reconstruction is taking place. But the broader aim, as the Prime Minister made clear again yesterday, was to hasten the departure of the troops. "2010 was the key year for the mission in Afghanistan," said Mr Cameron, and time for concerted military and political pressure. But he stressed: "Let me be clear. Do I think that we should be there in a combat role in significant numbers in five years' time? No, I don't. This is the time to get the job done and the plan we have envisages making sure that we wouldn't be in Afghanistan in 2015."
General Dannatt talked of past failures and future pitfalls. "The intention when we went into southern Afghanistan was to try to get the country on its feet economically," he said. "We all know it didn't turn out that way. We spread our small resources thinly and that inevitably made the small number of British soldiers like flies in a honey pot. We got into this cycle of fighting.
"We have got to make sure that the general public in this country understand why we are in Afghanistan, what we are doing, and that the cost – while very, very tough for the families who lose loved ones – is worth the price we are paying. I don't want to see the figures get to 400 but realistically they probably will."...
bth: Let's get real here. The Afghan war is extremely unpopular in Britain. The British troops who are fine infantry are under resourced by their government, i.e., helicopters, jammers, radios, and they are small in number. Indeed the British military budget is going down and their army in its entirety is about the size of our marine corp. They are preparing to exit Afghanistan or more precisely to disengage from the fighting and then linger like they did in Basra a few years ago.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Gates, General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt and venture capitalist John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, are among the well-known business people involved in high-level lobbying effort on clean energy.
The trio discussed the need for clean energy investment at a press conference here today, and are slated to discuss it further with President Barack Obama this afternoon....
"We can't keep our eye off the importance of having an energy policy that meets the needs of the next generation and ensures that the United States is the leader when it comes to energy policy," said Obama. "We are not yet that leader, and that's what I want us to do."
The U.S. isn't the worldwide leader in clean technology today, agreed Doerr during the press conference. America is a worldwide leader in biotechnology and information technology, he said, but "that's not the case in today's energy technologies."
Of the top 30 new energy technology companies worldwide that produce batteries, solar technologies and advanced wind energy, only four are headquartered in the United States, Doerr said.
"It's very sad that Americans spend more on potato chips than we do on investment in clean energy R&D," said Doerr. ...
bth: for the life of me I don't see why this effort doesn't have table pounding supporting in Washington. Congressmen and the President talk about green jobs but they don't have a clue what that is or where one can get one. But an energy policy that is technology driven and environmentally positive makes immense sense and we should be getting on with it.
"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering," Bolden said in the interview.
The NASA administrator was in the Middle East last month marking the one-year anniversary since Obama delivered an address to Muslim nations in Cairo. Bolden spoke in June at the American University in Cairo -- in his interview with Al Jazeera, he described space travel as an international collaboration of which Muslim nations must be a part. ...
bth: what? Time to get a new NASA administrator.
Today, Turkey is a fast-rising economic power, with a core of internationally competitive companies turning the youthful nation into an entrepreneurial hub, tapping cash-rich export markets in Russia and the Middle East while attracting billions of investment dollars in return.
For many in aging and debt-weary Europe, which will be lucky to eke out a little more than 1 percent growth this year, Turkey’s economic renaissance — last week it reported a stunning 11.4 percent expansion for the first quarter, second only to China — poses a completely new question: who needs the other one more — Europe or Turkey?
“The old powers are losing power, both economically and intellectually,” said Vural Ak, 42, the founder and chief executive of Intercity, the largest car leasing company in Turkey. “And Turkey is now strong enough to stand by itself.”
It is an astonishing transformation for an economy that just 10 years ago had a budget deficit of 16 percent of gross domestic product and inflation of 72 percent. It is one that lies at the root of the rise to power of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has combined social conservatism with fiscally cautious economic policies to make his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., the most dominant political movement in Turkey since the early days of the republic.
So complete has this evolution been that Turkey is now closer to fulfilling the criteria for adopting the euro — if it ever does get into the European Union — than most of the troubled economies already in the euro zone. It is well under the 60 percent ceiling on government debt (49 percent of G.D.P.) and could well get its annual budget deficit below the 3 percent benchmark next year. That leaves the reduction of inflation, now running at 8 percent, as the only remaining major policy goal. ...
bth: I'm not at all certain that Turkey is an ally, but it is certainly not an enemy and the US needs to be strengthening its relationship with Turkey. Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, Niger, the US needs to be building a long term and stronger relationship with these countries.
“I’m saying: ‘Winter is coming. Buy a coat,’ ” he said. “Other people are advising people to stay naked. If I’m wrong, you’re not hurt. If they’re wrong, you’re dead. It’s pretty benign advice to opt for safety for a while.”
His advice: individual investors should move completely out of the market and hold cash and cash equivalents, like Treasury bills, for years to come. (For traders with a fair amount of skill and willingness to embrace risk, he suggests other alternatives, like shorting the market or making bets on volatility.) But ultimately, “the decline will lead to one of the best investment opportunities ever,” he said.
Buy-and-hold stock investors will be devastated in a crash much worse than the declines of 2008 and early 2009 or the worst years of the Great Depression or the Panic of 1873, he predicted. ...
bth: Elliott Wave theorists are full of crap.
The CIA has repeatedly tried to penetrate the ISI and learn more about Pakistan's nuclear program. The ISI has mounted its own operations to gather intelligence on the CIA's counterterrorism activities in the tribal lands and figure out what the CIA knows about the nuclear program.
Bumping up against the ISI is a way of life for the CIA in Pakistan, the agency's command center for recruiting spies in the country's lawless tribal regions. Officers there also coordinate Predator drone airstrikes, the CIA's most successful and lethal counterterrorism program. The armed, unmanned planes take off from a base inside Pakistani Baluchistan known as "Rhine."
"Pakistan would be exceptionally uncomfortable and even hostile to American efforts to muck about in their home turf," said Graham Fuller, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism who spent 25 years with the CIA, including a stint as Kabul station chief.
That means incidents such as the one involving nuclear fuel rods must be resolved delicately and privately.
"It's a crucial relationship," CIA spokesman George Little said. "We work closely with our Pakistani partners in fighting the common threat of terrorism. They've been vital to the victories achieved against al-Qaida and its violent allies. And they've lost many people in the battle against extremism. No one should forget that."
Story continues below
Details about the CIA's relationship with Pakistan were recounted by nearly a dozen former and current U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
An ISI official denied that the agency runs double agents to collect information about the CIA's activities. He said the two agencies have a good working relationship and such allegations were meant to create friction between them.
But the CIA became so concerned by a rash of cases involving suspected double agents in 2009, it re-examined the spies it had on the payroll in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The internal investigation revealed about a dozen double agents, stretching back several years. Most of them were being run by Pakistan. Other cases were deemed suspicious. The CIA determined the efforts were part of an official offensive counterintelligence program being run by Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI's spy chief.
Pakistan's willingness to run double agents against the U.S. is particularly troubling to some in the CIA because of the country's ties to longtime Osama bin Laden ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (gool-boo-DEEN' hek-mat-YAR') and to the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Taliban faction also linked to al-Qaida.
In addition to its concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program, the CIA continues to press the Pakistanis to step up their military efforts in North Waziristan, the tribal region where Hekmatyar and Haqqani are based.
CIA Director Leon Panetta talked with Pasha about ISI's relationship with militants last year, reiterating the same talking points his predecessor, Gen. Michael Hayden, had delivered. Panetta told Pasha he had needed to take on militant groups, including those such as Hekmatyar and Haqqani, a former U.S. intelligence official said.
But the U.S. can only demand so much from an intelligence service it can't live without.
Recruiting agents to track down and kill terrorists and militants is a top priority for the CIA, and one of the clandestine service's greatest challenges. The drones can't hit their targets without help finding them. Such efforts would be impossible without Pakistan's blessing, and the U.S. pays about $3 billion a year in military and economic aid to keep the country stable and cooperative.
"We need the ISI and they definitely know it," said C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies. "They are really helping us in several critical areas and directly undermining us in others."
Pakistan has its own worries about the Americans. During the first term of the Bush administration, Pakistan became enraged after it shared intelligence with the U.S., only to learn the CIA station chief passed that information to the British.
The incident caused a serious row, one that threatened the CIA's relationship with the ISI and deepened the levels of distrust between the two sides. Pakistan almost threw the CIA station chief out of the country.
A British security official said the incident was "a matter between Pakistan and America."
The spate of Pakistani double agents has raised alarm bells in some corners of the agency, while others merely say it's the cost of doing business in Pakistan. They say double agents are as old as humanity and point to the old spy adage: "There are friendly nations but no friendly intelligence services."
"The use of double agents is something skilled intelligence services and the better terrorist groups like al-Qaida, Hezbollah, provisional Irish Republican Army and the Tamil Tigers have regularly done. It's not something that should be a surprise," said Daniel Byman, a foreign policy expert at the Saban Center at Brookings Institution.
Nowhere is the tension greater than in the tribal areas, the lawless regions that have become the front line in what Panetta described Sunday as "the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA."...
bth: As far as ridding Pakistan of al Qaeda, of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden or Omar, we have totally struck out. After 9 years one might conclude that ISI is either blocking us or incompetent or both. In any case it doesn't address the key element that would allow the US to extricate itself from Afghanistan and the region - the capture or death of OBL.
A warm red-carpet welcome is expected, in stark contrast to Netanyahu's previous visit in March when he was given the cold shoulder by Obama because of a row over the expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.
A diplomatic flurry in the run-up to this visit, including talks on Monday between Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, suggested movement in the stagnant peace process.
The political calculus has also changed with Obama more jumpy about the important US-Israel axis in the run-up to mid-term elections and Netanyahu appearing keener for direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
"I believe that a main part of my conversations with President Obama in Washington next week will be focused on how to start direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians right away," Netanyahu said last week.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will hold a working lunch with the Israeli leader from 12:35 (1635 GMT), according to the White House.
While no major announcements are expected, US officials talked optimistically about the chances of progress after weeks of shuttle diplomacy by Obama's Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell...
bth: this article and others imply that Obama must make a deal of some sort with Netanyahu in order to preserve his mid-year election prospects. This is an Israeli media push. It won't impact Obama and the Democratics' mid-term prospects one bit. What impact if any it has for Israel and specifically Netanyahu is hard to say but his penchant for exaggerated self importance leads me to think Netanyahu believes he has something to bargain with even if he doesn't. I think he is overplaying his hand.
Monday, July 05, 2010
Restoration Of 'Star Spangled Banner' Uncovers Horrifying New Verses | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network
Restoration Of 'Star Spangled Banner' Uncovers Horrifying New Verses
Only an international campaign designed to pressure the regime in Tehran can save her life, according to Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty.
"Legally it's all over," Ahadi said Sunday. "It's a done deal. Sakineh can be stoned at any minute."
"That is why we have decided to start a very broad, international public movement. Only that can help."
Ashtiani, 42, will be buried up to her chest, according to an Amnesty International report citing the Iranian penal code. The stones that will be hurled at her will be large enough to cause pain but not so large as to kill her immediately.
Ashtiani, who is from the northern city of Tabriz, was convicted of adultery in 2006.
She was forced to confess after being subjected to 99 lashes, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei said Thursday in a telephone interview from Tehran.
She later retracted that confession and has denied wrongdoing. Her conviction was based not on evidence but on the determination of three out of five judges, Mostafaei said. She has asked forgiveness from the court but the judges refused to grant clemency.
Iran's supreme court upheld the conviction in 2007....
bth: the barbarity of that old time religion.
....Prime minister targets media
But in a country where YouTube is banned, thousands of Web sites are blocked and journalists are jailed for "insulting Turkishness," it remains tricky for journalists to know what they can write without penalty.
More than 700 cases involving journalists are pending in the courts, according to Sibel Gunes, general secretary of a Turkish journalists association. Roughly 60 journalists are in jail.
Intimidation of journalists is not without precedent here, especially when it comes to limiting reporting on the Kurdistan Workers' Party: Journalists who have quoted members of the separatist group have been convicted of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.
What is new is Erdogan's challenge to the secular media elite to back down from personal criticism of him. He has publicly urged Dogan to fire columnists and has sued at least five cartoonists, alleging libel and other crimes. In nearly all his recent speeches, he has described the media's role in nationalist terms.....
bth: can freedom of the press exist in an Islamic country?
BEIJING -- An American geologist held and tortured by China's state security agents was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday for gathering data on the Chinese oil industry in a case that highlights the government's use of vague secrets laws to restrict business information.
In pronouncing Xue Feng guilty of spying and collecting state secrets, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court said his actions "endangered our country's national security."
Its verdict said Xue received documents on geological conditions of onshore oil wells and a data base that gave the coordinates of more than 30,000 oil and gas wells belonging to China National Petroleum Corporation and listed subsidiary PetroChina Ltd. That information, it said, was sold to IHS Energy, the U.S. consultancy Xue worked for and now known as IHS Inc....
bth: and why wouldn't the Chinese government view this with suspicion?
LAHORE: Al Qaeda has devised a plan to trap US forces in Afghanistan even beyond 2011 through a well-organised guerrilla war, highly informed sources from official and unofficial quarters revealed. In this connection, al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden has told Pakistani terrorist groups and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to accelerate recruitment and training process, sources said.
The plan was unearthed after the October 2009 attack on the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, when investigators managed to arrest a few operatives of the most-feared terrorist group – the Ilyas Kashmiri Group, who confirmed that some of the terrorist groups are closely working with al Qaeda.
Pakistan’s official sources disclosed, “Kashmiri’s operatives revealed that Harkatul Jihad-e-Islami chief Qari Saifullah Akhtar met Osama in August 2009 near the Pak-Afghan border (on the Afghan side) and sought support for the GHQ attack.” The sources said Bin Laden simply rejected the idea. Ilyas Kashmiri is the head of Brigade 313, a wing of Akhtar’s group.
The sources continued, “Osama told Akhtar that he and other terrorist groups should serve the greater cause – jihad against America – and provide them warriors.” They claim that Osama discussed his plan with Akhtar and mentioned that he does not want US forces to go back so easily. “He wants to carry out guerrilla attacks on the US forces wherever they have bases in the region.”
Battlefields: The sources said Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and the Indian Ocean would be the major battlefields for al Qaeda operatives. In this regard, the group is looking for more manpower from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Burma and some African countries, the sources added. There are reports that al Qaeda has already established its network and training camps in Somalia.
Pakistan’s top brass has shared this information with their American counterparts. “That’s the reason the US has stepped up negotiations with the Taliban to weaken al Qaeda-Taliban ties,” the sources said....
Sunday, July 04, 2010
... Should the US be in Afghanistan? Absolutely not. Three reasons:
* There's no compelling interest for the US to be in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda isn't there anymore. It's broken as an organization and unable to launch large attacks.
* Our presence in Afghanistan does us more harm than good in two ways. First, our efforts there have pushed Taliban fighters into Pakistan. Second, our drone attacks on Taliban leadership in Pakistan cause a significant number of civilian casualties. Both of these actions destabilize Pakistan which is against our strategic interest.
* We can't afford it. We're broke, running $1.5 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see. This deficit is a real national security problem as opposed to Afghanistan.
What should the strategy in the area be after we withdraw from Afghanistan? Three things:
* Play the role of the spoiler. Ally ourselves with any group that opposes the Taliban, in much the same way we "took" Afghanistan back in 2001.
* Maintain a special operations and drone presence in the area to prevent Al Qaeda from reforming in Afghanistan.
* Take advantage of the opportunity to finally realize the dividend afforded by the end of the Cold War. Cut the US defense budget, currently more than the rest of the world combined, by half. ....
....But that is perhaps a too optimistic take. The state and local government sector is vast, and now employs nearly 20 million people, or 15 percent of the national total. The great majority of those employees fall within the definitional boundaries of middle and working class, and their paychecks are fuel in the economy’s gas tank.
Nor are layoffs the only damage. David Rosenberg, chief economist for Gluskin Sheff + Associates and an economic bear, notes in his daily economic report that nine states so far have enacted sweeping changes in pension funds, and many more legislatures are pushing for higher monthly contributions, an older retirement age and diminished cost-of-living adjustments.
Such changes may be necessary to his view. But, he notes, these so-called reforms amount to a hidden and significant tax on middle-class workers.
“Employee contributions are going up — a de facto tax hike — and this will work directly against any upturn in consumer spending,” he said.
(This come at a time of ever-increasing income concentration at the very top of the income scale, and an ever-growing gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else, as demonstrated by another recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.)
This is a point that Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, underlines in a recent piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, in which he warns against the too-easy assumption that the states can limp by.
“Without more aid, states and cities will have no choice but to raise taxes and slash jobs and services, which could cut short the still-fragile economic recovery and trigger renewed recession,” he said. “Governments would have no effective way of responding at that point.”
.... What’s the evidence for the belief that fiscal contraction is actually expansionary, because it improves confidence? (By the way, this is precisely the doctrine expounded by Herbert Hoover in 1932.) Well, there have been historical cases of spending cuts and tax increases followed by economic growth. But as far as I can tell, every one of those examples proves, on closer examination, to be a case in which the negative effects of austerity were offset by other factors, factors not likely to be relevant today. For example, Ireland’s era of austerity-with-growth in the 1980s depended on a drastic move from trade deficit to trade surplus, which isn’t a strategy everyone can pursue at the same time.
And current examples of austerity are anything but encouraging. Ireland has been a good soldier in this crisis, grimly implementing savage spending cuts. Its reward has been a Depression-level slump — and financial markets continue to treat it as a serious default risk. Other good soldiers, like Latvia and Estonia, have done even worse — and all three nations have, believe it or not, had worse slumps in output and employment than Iceland, which was forced by the sheer scale of its financial crisis to adopt less orthodox policies.
So the next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.
bth: Krugman is right in my mind. The way I look at it, the fiscal problem is due to a lack of jobs in the economy. More jobs, more employment, more taxes and the reverse as we stand today. We need jobs in the system and fiscal austerity doesn't provide that.
...Recently, a fake Special Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet was discovered in Afghanistan by the manufacturer Tactical Medical Solutions, but Hodge said he and his team are still searching for information about this tourniquet and how it was discovered. An alert was also sent out in April about a Hong Kong company that had started selling tourniquets that mimic the appearance of the Combat Application Tourniquet, including the copyright markings on the back of the buckle.
“We’ve found maybe four or five (companies) that appear to make similar devices or direct copies,” Hodge said.
The only way the counterfeit tourniquets could have ended up in Afghanistan is someone bought the ersatz items outside of approved Department of Defense channels, said Maj. Brandi Ritter, assistant department head of Joint Medical Test and Evaluation. The logisticians are given discretion to buy items outside official DOD channels as way to get items faster and sometimes cheaper, Ritter said.
“The issue with the supply system is that it can be very frustrating when you are far forward,” she said. “The actual DOD system is very methodical, and it can take longer to get items than if you were to order directly from the company.”
But once logisticians buy items outside this system, it’s much more difficult to monitor quality. Both Ritter and Hodge said logisticians should buy tourniquets through approved DOD sources as a way to ensure authenticity.
“If you want to buy your Hershey bars from someone else, I guess that is OK,” Hodge said. “But I wouldn’t buy medical equipment from unapproved sources.”
All U.S. troops are issued a Combat Action Tourniquet prior to deployment. Slipped around a limb, the tourniquet’s nylon strap is cinched, and then a plastic bar on top is twisted, crimping the artery. When tightened, the tourniquet shuts off the flow of blood to the limb.
It has been proven that the Army’s CAT tourniquets save lives, and they have become big business recently as other emergency services, such as law enforcement agencies and ambulance services, stock up. “There’s a lot of money to be made,” Ritter said.
A Hong Kong company called World-Element purports that its tourniquets are meant for use in role-playing war games, such as paintball, or during training.
The tourniquets are sold on the company’s website for $8.50 each; authentic CATs cost about $30 apiece. The World-Element product is identical to the military’s tourniquet in almost every way, except for an important and potentially fatal distinction: the bar bends when twisted.
“The rod bends way too much. It’s like Gumby’s arms,” Kragh said. But unless you were an expert, he said, “you would have a tough time telling the difference. They have all the logos and the trademark items and instructions for use like a normal CAT, but they don’t work.”
Though it’s still not known whether the item was expressly intended as a counterfeit, Ritter pointed out that the company even duplicated the Defense Supply Center’s national stocking number, the most common way to identify the item. She said that the DOD is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a possible criminal investigation.
Ritter reminded troops that they should not be afraid to use their tourniquets, but they should be mindful about purchasing them online.
“The problem is,” she said, “You can Google CAT tourniquet and put the [national stocking number] in there, and you are going to get some of the counterfeit sites.”