Saturday, August 07, 2010

No economic recovery

A look at US unemployment « Fabius Maximus
...This gives us various measures of unemployment depending on definition of the labor force and unemployed, ranging from 9.5% to 16.5% (table A-15). All have been flat for the past 3 months. None of these measures are more “right” than the others. None are easily comparable to those of the great depression (the government began measuring unemployment in the 1940′s; earlier numbers are rough estimates).

The median duration of unemployment is 22 weeks. Almost half of those unemployed (7 million) have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more (table A-12) — a post Depression record.

The Recovery

Wall Street and the media obsess over each month’s tiny changes, while telling us the recovery started last June. And the progress since then? Compare July 2009 with July 2010, (in millions):

* Population: 236 vs. 238
* Employed: 139 vs. 139
* Unemployed: 15 vs. 15
* Not in the labor force: 82 vs. 84

The results for the past three months are similar to the year-over-year results (on a seasonally adjusted basis). The population is up, employment and unemployment flat, not in the labor force are slightly up. Recovery!

New claims for unemployment have been stable since late December 2009 at roughly 463 thousand/week — an annual rate of 24 million per year. Only aprox 80% of workers are covered by UI (no independent contractors and self-employed), and the unemployment rate is higher for uncovered workers. So the job loss rate is probably running at aprox 30 million/year. This shows considerable stress on the US economy....

YouTube - The Doors - Touch Me

YouTube - The Doors - Touch Me: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

McClatchy blog: Nukes & SpooksPoll: Taliban, al Qaida and U.S. deeply disliked in Pakistan

McClatchy blog: Nukes & Spooks: "If there is a bright spot in the latest public opinion poll in Pakistan, it may be this: ordinary Pakistanis have grown less worried that Islamic extremist groups might seize control of their nuclear-armed country.

The poll of 2,000 adults, conducted April 13-28 by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, found that 51 percent of Pakistanis are concerned about a militant takeover - compared to 69 percent last year. Last year's poll was taken during the failed Pakistani Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley, about 100 miles from Islamabad.

Pakistanis also feel less endangered generally by terrorism, with 54 percent viewing the Pakistani Taliban as a serious threat, compared to 73 percent last year; 38 percent consider al Qaida a serious threat now, compared to 61 percent last year. Both groups remain unpopular, however, with 65 percent giving the Pakistani Taliban a negative rating and 53 percent holding a similar view of al Qaida.

Pakistanis were more mixed in their attitudes toward Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al Qaida-linked group blamed for attacks in India, including the Mumbai rampage in November 2008 that killed more than 160 people, and regarded with rising concern by Western governments as an international terrorist threat. The poll found that just 35 percent of people held a negative view of LeT, one in four expressed a positive view and 40 percent had no opinion.

Pakistanis continue to hold a low opinion about the United States, with only 17 percent having a favorable view - compared to 18 percent for al Qaida - despite the five-year, $7.5 billion development aid program the Obama administration won from Congress as part of an effort to improve relations and boost Pakistani support on Afghanistan. Fifty-nine percent describe the United States as an enemy, while only 11 percent consider it a 'partner.'

Few Pakistanis are positive about the state of their own nation, with only 14 percent satisfied with internal conditions. Seventy-eight percent say their economy is in bad shape and 50 percent expect the economic situation to worsen over the next year.

Losing Ground in Eastern Afghanistan

Troops strive to hold the line in Pech valley - Afghanistan - Stripes

.... A year before U.S. forces left the Korengal, they pulled out of the bases of Wanat and Keating to the north in Nuristan. Both were the scenes of deadly attacks by insurgents who overran the small American outposts.

“The insurgents leading here saw us go out of Wanat, out of Keating, out of the Korengal,” said Campbell, the RC-East commander. “It emboldened them.”

The base in Korengal was so remote that it took enormous air resources just to keep it supplied, while the men were regularly attacked.

Pulling forces back to COP Michigan brought the fight to the main road, where there is easier access and backup.

A July 2009 report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War called for the U.S. to pull out of not only the Korengal, but also the Pech, saying the posts were small and ineffective.

“U.S. forces would be better utilized in conducting active patrols to secure the population along the lower Kunar River Valley ... where the population desires U.S. support and presence, unlike the population of the Korengal,” the report said.

Some officials here argue that the buffer that the American forces have created in Pech is necessary to absorb the fight and keep it from spreading into the center of the country. The developments in Korengal could bolster their argument.

Still, many are wondering if anything can be achieved in the Pech River Valley and if U.S. manpower and resources would better serve in places where they can actually take root.

“This is a hard one to crack,” said Campbell. “It’s different from other places.”


bth: one question I've had is why are we putting our surge troops into the Helmand province and not into the eastern portions of Afghanistan where troop strength might make a decisive difference.  We are fighting with an economy of force and at best slowly giving ground.  What is it about Helmand that is so important?  Is it the drugs and the political corruption or is there something more strategic?  If al Qaeda ever needed a place to operate out of, they are most assuredly back and have it in eastern Afghanistan.

Reduction of Textile Import Duties from Pakistan into the US makes immense practical sense - Hello State Dept. Wake Up

DAWN.COM | Business | US urged to give market access, not aid
KARACHI: Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister Zubair Motiwala said on Monday that the United States should give market access instead of aid to enable Pakistan to expand its trade and absorb the unemployed youth in the socio-economic mainstream.

The strategy could save the vulnerable segment from the influence of the extremist elements.

He suggested to the US to deduct the loss in duty collection from the aid pledged to Pakistan if it allows duty free access to local products.

Speaking at the ceremony jointly organized by the USAID and Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea) to give awards to 320 youths, who took training in apparel and home textile, he said that though Pakistan was confronted with many economic problems but the expansion of economy and creation of jobs is the most pressing of all issues.

Zubair Motiwala said that Pakistan was being discriminated against countries like Bangladesh, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Jordan, which get preferential treatment from the US.

He further said that the US assistance was needed by Pakistan in difficult areas like circular debt, current account deficit, energy and water sectors. He suggested to the officials from USAID attending the ceremony to look into the issue from Pakistan’s perspective.

Regarding duty free access to US market he said at the most the US will have to dish out around $500 to $700 million if Pakistan was allowed market access and this amount could even be adjusted against the aid approved by the US Congress.

The training of 320 young male and female workers in the field of apparel and home textile under a crash programme of five months was funded by the USAID and carried out by Pakistan Readymade Garments Technical Training Institute (Prgtti).

Mr Motiwala suggested that a permanent training institute be established under USAID for skill development to improve quality of products and production.

Speaking on the occasion chairman Prgmea Mohsin Ayub Mirza asked the US to review its decision with regard to ROZs.

He said these free zones will be of no benefit to Pakistan businesses because they are being planned in areas where even the government officials are not willing to go.

He said that if the US is serious in helping Pakistan and its people it should plan such duty free zones in cities where all basic infrastructure as well as trained workers are available.

LWJ has this report but virtually no other news sources are reporting here

Commandos again retake northeastern Afghan district - The Long War Journal
... Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed that the Taliban withdrew from the district center to avoid incurring high casualties in a fight with Afghan and Coalition forces, according to BBC News Pashto Service.

Control of Barge-e-Matal has shifted back and forth between the Afghan government and the Taliban four times since the end of June. Hundreds of Afghan Taliban fighters, backed by the Pakistan Taliban, Arabs, and Chechens, have launched repeated assaults against the Barge-e-Matal district center over the past month.

Afghan officials claimed that an estimated 700 to 1,200 enemy fighters were involved in the assault. While the estimates may be high, Taliban casualties indicate several hundred fighters have been involved. More than 100 Taliban fighters have been reported killed in Barg-e-Matal since the end of June; 50 of those were killed in a single operation on July 23 in a Taliban camp near the district center.

Terror attacks around the globe - Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan lead

DAWN.COM | Front Page | Al Qaeda suffered setbacks but remains a threat: US
According to the report, terrorist attacks in Pakistan declined last year, to 59 in 2009 from 80 in 2008, but the number of attacks remained high due to the deteriorating security situation across the country.

The highest number of casualties from terrorist attacks was reported from Iraq where 3,654 were killed in 2009. Afghanistan was second on the list with 2,778 deaths and Pakistan was third with 2,670 deaths.

In hostage taking, Pakistan was on top of the list as 3,366 people were kidnapped in the country during 2009. India was second with 2,088 hostages. Afghanistan was sixth with 619 hostages and Iraq was at the bottom of the 15-state list with 47 kidnappings.

Suicide attacks showed a worldwide decline, from 405 in 2008 to 299 in 2009. This was largely due to declining violence in Iraq. A total of 13 countries experienced suicide attacks in 2009. The country with the highest number of suicide bombings was Afghanistan with 99, followed by Pakistan with 84, and Iraq with 82.

Attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for about 60 per cent of all terrorist attacks in 2009.

Of the 10,999 reported attacks, about 4,850, or 44 per cent, occurred in South Asia. These attacks accounted for approximately 6,270 fatalities or 42 per cent of the worldwide total in 2009.

Attacks in Afghanistan nearly doubled from 2008 and increased in Pakistan for the third consecutive year.

On Oct 25, Al Qaeda in Iraq killed 155 people, including 24 children, and wounded 720 in a double suicide attack in Baghdad. This was the highest number of casualties in any terrorist attack in 2009. The second highest, with 127 deaths, was also in Iraq. The third highest was in Pakistan where on Oct 28 extremists killed 117 people and injured 200 others in Peshawar.

Tanker damage blamed on attack, Japan seeks details | Reuters

Tanker damage blamed on attack, Japan seeks details | Reuters: "(Reuters) - Militants attacked a Japanese supertanker with explosives near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important shipping routes, the United Arab Emirates state news agency said on Friday....

"An examination carried out by specialized teams has confirmed that the tanker has been the subject of a terrorist attack," state news agency WAM said, quoting an unidentified coastguard source.

"UAE explosives experts who collected and examined samples found a dent on the starboard side above the water line and remains of home-made explosives on the hull," the source said.

Two days ago, a militant group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the incident....

The ship's hull was damaged on the starboard side, and a lifeboat was blown off the deck and windows and doors were smashed....

A Japanese Transport Ministry official said that samples from the tanker, including some taken from the dent, were on their way to Japan to help pinpoint the cause of the damage.

"We've asked for any remains that could help us identify the cause. Some kind of soot may be among them. Something melted could be among them," the official said.

Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center said while details were still vague, it appeared that inexperienced militants had made a "very amateur attempt" at mimicking the 2000 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. warship Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, where a boat rigged with explosives killed 17 U.S. sailors.

The French-flagged oil tanker Limburg was attacked off Yemen using a bomb-laden dinghy in 2002, killing one crew member. Al Qaeda-linked militants linked to both attacks escaped from jail near the Yemeni city of Sanaa in 2006.

bth: amazing how this is so lightly covered in the US media.

AFP: Serbia delivers first military planes to Iraq: ministry

AFP: Serbia delivers first military planes to Iraq: ministry: "BELGRADE — Serbia has delivered the first three of 20 military training aircraft to Iraq as part of a 100-million-dollar weapons deal between two former allies, the defence ministry said Friday.

Iraq was the largest economic partner of Serbia's defence industry in 2009, the ministry said in a statement after Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac visited Baghdad earlier this week.

The 17 remaining Lasta 95 planes will be delivered by the end of the year, it said.

Serbia and Iraq in 2009 agreed to export weapons worth 100 million dollars (75.8 million euros) to Baghdad.

Six Serbian military factories -- employing more than 6,000 workers -- are involved.

The defence minister said the Iraqis are so satisfied with the deal that they are looking to involve Serbia with rebuilding an air base, building a military hospital and supplying ammunition of all calibres.

Last year Serbia's defence industry exported goods worth 300 million dollars and concluded new deals totalling some 500 million dollars, with Iraq, Algeria and Egypt.

Before his ouster in 2003, late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a close ally of the communist former Yugoslavia's leader Josip Broz Tito and later of his successor in Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic.

Even after Milosevic was overthrown in 2001, Serbia's new democratic government was suspected of having supplied Saddam's army with weapons despite a United Nations arms embargo, an accusation that Belgrade has persistently denied.

bth: you can be assured that bribery is involved with this deal just their helicopter deal a few years ago with Iraq. A couple of indications: after the US spending billions on air bases and military infrastructure in Iraq doesn't it seem odd that Serbia would be asked to build an airbase and military hospital? ... Also not however that the Iraqi air force has been reduced to virtually nothing, making them dependent on US support and giving Israel a clear sky to fly over if it tried to bomb Iran on a direct path.

Pentagon to Troops: Taliban Can Read WikiLeaks, You Can’t | Danger Room |

Pentagon to Troops: Taliban Can Read WikiLeaks, You Can’t | Danger Room | "Any citizen, any foreign spy, any member of the Taliban, and any terrorist can go to the WikiLeaks website, and download detailed information about how the U.S. military waged war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009. Members of that same military, however, are now banned from looking at those internal military documents. “Doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks,” according to one directive issued by the armed forces.

That cry you hear? It’s common sense, writhing in pain.

There was a time, just a few months ago, when the Pentagon appeared to be growing comfortable with the emerging digital media landscape. Troops were free to blog and tweet, as long as they used their heads and didn’t disclose secrets. Thumb drives and DVDs could be employed, as long as they didn’t carry viruses or classified information. But the WikiLeaks disclosures — tens of thousands of classified documents — seem to have reversed that trajectory....

Every officer in the military — and many of the enlisted men, too — have a basic, “secret,” clearance. That’s hundreds of thousands of potential sources to WikiLeaks. Seems to me that the only plausible explanation for the Pentagon’s arm-waving is to remind troops not to spill secrets. The question is: Does clinging to military regulations at the expense of basic logic encourage people to respect classification policy — or only make the secrecy regime seem more absurd?

Update: “Take ‘wikileaks’ out of your headlines,” one Army contractor e-mails Danger Room. The web filter “has been updated to block anything with wikileaks in the URL.”

“So, yeah, common sense out the window,” the contractor adds.

Read More


bth: This is an unbelievably stupid response to a security breach that is now in the public domain. Its like asking someone to gouge their eyes out for looking at porn. ... So how exactly is the DOD going to help protect it's Afghan informants and civilian allies from Taliban reprisal jf our very army is denied access to the information WikiLeaks has released into the public domain including to the Taliban?

SKorea: Afghan security guards staged attack on SKorean base in northern Afghanistan | Washington Examiner

SKorea: Afghan security guards staged attack on SKorean base in northern Afghanistan | Washington Examiner: "SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Afghan authorities have found that local guards staged a fake rocket attack in June on the construction site of a South Korean base in an apparent scam to get more danger pay, South Korean officials said Friday.

There were no casualties or damages from the June attack on the site that would become the base for a South Korean reconstruction team in the northern province of Parwan, Foreign Ministry official Lim Jung-taek said.

Some of the security personnel fired two rounds of rocket-propelled grenades at the site and their accomplices at the site also opened fire in a staged exchange, the official said. The guards were among the 120 local security detail and dozens of South Korean construction workers who were at the site when the rockets fell, Lim said....


bth: one wonders how much of Afghanistan's apparent violence is a strange form of negotiation or ruse.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Nightwatch: Demographics that are 20% Pashtun seem to show Taliban activity

NightWatch 20100804 - KGS
...One lesson from the NightWatch studies is that demographics matter. The districts of Baghlan in which more than 20% of the population are Pashtun have become security threats. Below 20%, the Taliban seem uncomfortable in establishing a permanent fighting presence.

Contradicting Pakistani President Zardari's statement that the international community has lost Afghanistan, it is neither lost nor found. A stalemate is in effect and will last until one or the other side can no longer maintain the current level of resource commitments...

bth: worth reading in full.  If this is the case then a counter insurgency strategy based on demographics might hold promise.

Chinese developing missile that can destroy an aircraft carrier | Raw Story

Chinese developing missile that can destroy an aircraft carrier | Raw Story: ..."U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles)....


bth: so every half year this same article comes up when the appropriation committees are deciding which projects to fund. This is a PR piece disguised as news that is issued to lazy journalists in order to generate angst and funds in DC. Its a stunt which is part of a larger marketing campaign by large prime defense contractors. If Assoc Press acted like real journalists they'd say this, but they didn't.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

YouTube - Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water (From "Live At Montreux 2006" DVD)

YouTube - Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water (From "Live At Montreux 2006" DVD): "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

US Military banned from viewing WikiLeaks

U.S. Military BANNED From Viewing WikiLeaks
The Pentagon has banned the U.S. military from viewing anything related to WikiLeaks, the website for whistleblowers which controversially released thousands of classified government documents detailing the war in Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told the Washington Times that all four services -- the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard -- have told their staff that the site is off-limits.

In a memo obtained by the Times, the Navy told its employees: "There has been rumor that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain. This is NOT true."

Meanwhile at the Air Warriors forum, a member by the name of "heyjoe" circulated an email on July 27 that allegedly came from an official military channel:

Yesterday, the media released information regarding a large number of documents containing U.S. national security information posted on a publicly available website called WikiLeaks...Personnel are reminded not to confirm nor deny information contained on the website. In addition, personnel should not access the WikiLeaks website on government owned systems, in order to avoid a proliferation of potential electronic spillages (ES).

The ban appears to include public and personal usage. In a memo circulated yesterday via another forum, the Marines Corps released this warning:

USMC Personnel (Marines/Civilians/Contractors) are hereby cautioned and directed to NOT access the WIKILEAKS website from a personally owned, publically owned or US Government computer system.

By willingly accessing the WIKILEAKS website for the purpose of viewing the posted classified material - these actions constitute the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an UNAUTHORIZED computer system not approved to store classified information. Meaning they have WILLINGLY committed a SECURITY VIOLATION.

bth: I could see trying to arrest Assange, prosecuting Manning, cyber attacking Wikileaks.  But this is just stupid.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Iran's Ahmadinejad survives blast near motorcade - Yahoo! News

Iran's Ahmadinejad survives blast near motorcade - Yahoo! News: "TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad survived an attack with a homemade explosive device on his motorcade during a visit to the western city of Hamadan on Wednesday, a source in his office said.

The source said Ahmadinejad's convoy was targeted as he was traveling from Hamadan's airport to give a speech in a local sports arena and the president was unhurt but others had been injured in the blast.

One person had been arrested, the presidency source said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The populist, hard-line Ahmadinejad has accumulated enemies in conservative and reformist circles in the Islamic Republic as well as abroad.

Al Arabiya television said an attacker had thrown a bomb at Ahmadinejad's convoy before being detained.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television cited its own sources as saying the bomb had hit a car carrying journalists and presidential staff.

Ahmadinejad appeared on live Iranian television at a sports stadium in Hamadan. He was apparently well and made no mention of any assault.

During a speech to a conference of expatriate Iranians in Tehran on Monday, Ahmadinejad said he believed he was the target of an assassination plot by Israel. 'The stupid Zionists have hired mercenaries to assassinate me,' he said....


bth: so many people want to assassinate him I'm sure he has trouble keeping them straight. They have to take a number.

YouTube - Thin Lizzy- The boys are back in town

YouTube - Thin Lizzy- The boys are back in town

Pentagon refuses Afghanistan embed request by Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings | Raw Story

Pentagon refuses Afghanistan embed request by Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings | Raw Story: "The author of the Rolling Stone article that ended the military career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, has been denied permission to join U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Defense Department spokesman Col. David Lapan told reporters that freelance writer Michael Hastings was rebuffed when he asked to accompany, or 'embed,' with American forces next month.

The rejection came as the Pentagon ramped up an internal investigation into the circumstances behind some of the most salacious material Hastings used in his article in Rolling Stone. The Army inspector general is interviewing current and former McChrystal aides, The Associated Press has learned.

The inspector general's review began shortly after Rolling Stone published the article that torpedoed McChrystal's three-decade Army career.

The inspector general, an independent investigator, is considering whether officers were insubordinate and how far up the chain of command responsibility for decisions involving the Hastings interviews extended, officials said. Defense officials outlined the investigation on condition of anonymity because it is ongoing and has reached no conclusions...


bth: I think this is a way of trying to intimidate other reporters - to say 'tow the line or lose your access and hence livelihood as a combat reporter.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Afghanistan Civilian Deaths: NATO Data Shows Sharp Increase In Attacks After Civilians Killed

Afghanistan Civilian Deaths: NATO Data Shows Sharp Increase In Attacks After Civilians Killed: "WASHINGTON — Each time U.S. or NATO forces accidentally kill Afghan civilians, insurgents and their sympathizers typically retaliate with six additional assaults on foreign forces over the next six weeks, researchers using newly declassified NATO data conclude.

A new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research supports the prevailing view of counterinsurgency strategists who believe civilian casualties help Taliban recruiting drives. The study found that attacks on foreign forces increase slightly even when the insurgents are to blame for the deaths of non-combatants.

'Our results show that if counterinsurgent forces in Afghanistan wish to minimize insurgent recruitment, they must minimize harm to civilians despite the greater risk this entails,' says the study, to be released Tuesday through the Washington-based New America Foundation....

bth: note the retaliatory strikes occur even when the Taliban causes the injuries. One wonders if the Taliban experiences a similar increase in attacks.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Afghanistan war: Burden of war in Afghanistan shifts even more to the U.S. -

Afghanistan war: Burden of war in Afghanistan shifts even more to the U.S. - ..."But Germany, like other NATO allies, is paying heed to unmistakable antiwar sentiment at home, putting further pressure on U.S. forces. Canada has announced plans to bring its troops home from Afghanistan in 2011. Britain handed over a particularly dangerous district of Helmand province to American control.

And the 1,600-member contingent from the Netherlands, based mainly in the province of Oruzgan, heads home this week, a development greeted with satisfaction by the Taliban. Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid congratulated the Dutch for what he called a wise decision.

With greater overall visibility than other national contingents, the United States and its forces often become a lightning rod for Afghan resentment over civilian suffering, even if American troops are not involved in a particular incident.

Angry anti-U.S. protests broke out Friday in Kabul, the capital, after a vehicle driven by American contractors with DynCorp International was involved in a traffic accident that killed at least four Afghans, police said.

In the north, the Americans are sometimes welcomed, but with a distinct undercurrent that the people believe the fight could go either way....


bth: someone needs to do the math to determine how much of the surge is really just replacing NATO allies that are departing. I suspect the majority of it is just an offset.

Exit Under Way | Kings of War

Exit Under Way | Kings of War: ..."Now try taking a step back. “A new phase of the war has already begun,” Coll tells us. He’s not sure American decision makers always recognize and acknowledge that we’re in a transition phase — I certainly know the feeling from Europe. “The exit strategy is already under way,” he says. The date is not certain yet, but certain is that it will be some time between 2011 and 2014. That is not far off, mind you. “Every actor in the war knows it’s coming.” And “everybody” is “hedging for a post-NATO combat role in Afghanistan.”

Now, here Mr Coll might be a bit too optimistic. There can be little doubt that some actors are preparing for a post-NATO — read: post-counterinsurgency — Afghanistan: yes, the Taliban are patiently preparing; many among the local population are preparing; probably the current regime in Afghanistan is preparing; certainly Pakistani intelligence is hedging its bets in the shadows. But what about Washington? What about London and Berlin? In the past month I took part in two pretty high-level off-the-record workshops on irregular war and Afghanistan, one in the United States and one in Germany. In Berlin I asked a colonel, a diplomat, and a development expert about the government’s plans in case the current strategy does not work in the next year or two. First was silence. Then they said it will work. Hoping seems to be the West’s choice, not hedging.

Most informed observers – some seem stuck in 2006 — would probably agree with Coll, the big issue is not: “can [Washington, or NATO for that matter] achieve a military victory, but can it manage this transition so that Afghanistan does not collapse back into civil war or produce a second Taliban revolution.” What a heavy dose of realism....

Al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri Criticizes Turkey, Seeks Ottoman Restoration - The Daily Beast

Al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri Criticizes Turkey, Seeks Ottoman Restoration - The Daily Beast: ..."Zawahri and al Qaeda have long been fond of the Ottomans. He has repeatedly pointed to the great golden age when the Ottoman sultans ruled from the gates to Vienna to the Arabian Sea as a model for what Islam should seek to revive, a caliphate that can unite the Islamic world or at least a large part of it, drive out the West, and be a player on the international political stage. In his years of writing and speaking about al Qaeda’s vision, Zawahiri has often lamented the fall of the Ottomans in World War I as the great blow that led to Islam’s current weakness, setting in motion a “wave of psychological defeatism and ideological collapse” through the Islamic world that it has yet to recover from. The creation of Israel, the West’s worst crime of all, flowed directly from the Ottomans' defeat in Palestine in 1917.

Some will dismiss Zawahiri and al Qaeda’s historical wish list as the ramblings of crazy fanatics. There is no doubt they are fanatic and Zawahiri’s new messages are full of threats to repeat the massacres of 9/11, the London and Madrid subway attacks, the Bali nightclub bombings, and other terrorist outrages. His absence from the airwaves was noted in the jihadist underworld and his return to diatribe and threat will be welcomed by the extremists he is appealing to.

But the infatuation with the Ottomans reflects something deeper as well. Al Qaeda’s top leaders are not trying to recreate some mythical pure fundamental state that existed in the early middle ages in Arabia. They are men of power politics and global ambitions. They want Islam, or their tortured vision of Islam, to be a dominant world power like the Ottomans were for centuries. Then they can destroy Israel and recover lost territory like Spain and Chechnya for their new caliphate. They are not trying to sell a thousand-year-old vision of the future, but one that existed less than a hundred years ago. It may still well be a crazy idea but it is not medieval.

They are not alone. Their ally in Pakistan, Lashkar e Tayyiba, has its own twisted vision of recreating the Mughal Empire that ruled most of India at the same time the Ottomans were at their height in the west. LeT does not just want to recover Kashmir like other Pakistan-based terror groups, its vision is to rebuild the Mughal domination of the subcontinent and restore Muslim rule of the Hindu majority. Similarly, some jihadists in Indonesia talk of building a caliphate that would stretch across Southeast Asia.

Of course all of these visions are fantasies that will never happen. But it is always important to get inside your enemies’ heads and understand what they are trying to achieve, even if it is sometimes a walk on the wild side of jihadi nightmares.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Long War photos

Afghan Air Force rescues flood victims - Photos - The Long War Journal

Afghan Air Force airmen and US Air Force advisers respond with two Mi-17 helicopters and crews to an urgent request to rescue civilians affected by rising flood waters at the Kabul and Laghman rivers about 11 miles west of Jalalabad in Laghman province, Afghanistan, July 28-30, 2010. Crews rescued more than 2,100 people from the flood, most under the threat of Taliban and insurgent fighters. US Air Force photo by Colonel Kennetgh Madura.

F-35 Wikipedia edits traced to bizarre source - The DEW Line

F-35 Wikipedia edits traced to bizarre source - The DEW Line: "The fall-out of Canada's decision to buy 65 F-35s continues to build. Canadian defence journalist David Pugliese has traced scandalous edits on Wikipedia's F-35 page to three computers at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, where the fighters will eventually be based. Here's an excerpt from Pugliese's article today:

Nine attempts were made July 20 and 21 to alter the online encyclopedia's entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, including the removal of any information critical of the Conservative government's plan to spend at least $16 billion on the new fighter aircraft.

Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults, aimed at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, into the Wikipedia Joint Strike Fighter page.

Ignatieff has questioned the proposed purchase. Quotes from news articles outlining opposition to the arms deal by University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, a former NDP candidate, were also removed.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

YouTube - ChickenChuckingF35canopyFLVreally.flv

YouTube - ChickenChuckingF35canopyFLVreally.flv: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Senators battle for Wanat » Top News » Valdosta Daily Times

Senators battle for Wanat » Top News » Valdosta Daily Times: ..."The parents got even more help when thousands of documents detailing military maneuvers in Afghanistan were posted on the Web site Wikileaks over the weekend.

The documents, which number in the thousands, detail various battles, outposts and insurgent movements.

Gay said one document released discusses a report that a predator drone documented 60-plus insurgents carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades in 12 trucks headed toward Wanat in the days leading up to the company’s move to the village.

Looking at that report, among others that detail similar attacks on other outposts in the area, makes it imperative for parents and family members to speak out, he said.

“It just proves, no doubt, that everybody knew the attack was there, everybody knew the Taliban were there,” Gay said.

Gay has been informed that the senators hope to meet with McHugh before Congress recesses in two weeks. If the meeting does not happen before the recess, it will occur once Congress reconvenes.

McHugh, to Gay’s knowledge, has yet to respond to the senators’ request.

For Gay the negligence did not occur the day of the attack but over the weeks and months spent planning the move.

“There was no commander oversight, no risk mitigation. They ignored the reports from the platoon leader and the company commander didn’t get there until that Saturday afternoon, so he didn’t have enough time to do anything,” Gay said. “That’s when the decisions were made, not in the heat of battle.”...

bth: as the Wanat families try to find some justice through their senators, the army seems to have sent a flack to post comments on the newspaper article under the discussion section. Generally you can tell this when the punctuation and syntax have been refined and proof read. The commenter Bryan Taylor is in the Army now. Also it is curious to note that while 5 senators are asking to meet with the Sec. of the Army McHugh, the same jackass that screwed up the review of Arlington National Cemetery then let Campbell sweep the Army's dirty laundry under the rug for Wanat, is visiting the 173rd in Italy. Last oddity is that the WikiLeaks release is providing information the Army usually withholds to parents in such inquiries. The information shows that drones had stopped the converging Taliban on the base; something the officers reportedly denied knowing as only rumor. I guess 12 truck loaded with armed men spotted by drones isn't just idle rumor. Is it?

Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan -

Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan - "Some of the feelers to the Taliban are being put out by the Karzai government and some by the Pakistanis. Some, eventually, will be handled by General Petraeus and other military officials. Contacts are being kept under wraps, several officials said, because any evidence that insurgent leaders are talking to American or Afghan officials could be used against them by rival insurgents.

Another factor that has spurred talk of reconciliation is a classified military report, called “State of the Taliban,” prepared by Task Force 373, a Special Operations team composed of the army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals, which has captured insurgents and taken them to Bagram Air Base for interrogation.

While the report does not offer a silver bullet for how to deal with the Taliban, one official said that for the first time, it gives Americans and their allies “a rich vein of understanding of why the Taliban was fighting and what it would take them to stop.” The report depicts the Taliban as spearheading a fractured insurgency, but one in which conservative Pashtun nationalism and respect for Afghan culture are both at play, this official said.

Despite deep American concerns about Pakistan’s trustworthiness as an ally, Pakistan has also emerged in recent months as a potential agent for reconciliation. Mr. Karzai has held at least two meetings with General Kayani of Pakistan. American officials say they believe that their talks have not yet delved into the details of negotiations with insurgent leaders, but Pakistan is eager to play a role in talks with the Haqqani network, a major insurgent group based in the country that has close ties to its intelligence service.

The links between Mr. Karzai and General Kayani, officials said, helped seal a recent trade deal between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which required concessions on the part of the Pakistani military.

“The best hope for resolving Afghanistan lies in Pakistan, and we have made some progress there,” said Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent visitor to the region.

bth: killing Osama bin Laden would certainly resolve a lot of open issues and allow the US to withdrawal

Afghan tribal chief killed, dozens of others threatened - Monsters and Critics

Afghan tribal chief killed, dozens of others threatened - Monsters and Critics: "Kabul - A tribal elder was killed in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, where around 70 other elders have received letters threatening them with death, officials said Saturday.

Khalifa Abdullah was shot in Arghandab district on Friday night, Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the provincial governor said.

No group took responsibility for the attack.

Members of Kandahar's provincial council told local media that around 70 tribal elders in Panwayi district had received death threats unless they leave the country within five days.

The officials said the letters bore Taliban's stamps.

Taliban militants, whose government was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001, have killed dozens of tribal elders on suspicion of working with the Western-backed government, according to Afghan and NATO officials.

In an effort to woo Taliban militants to renounce violence and re-join mainstream society, the government recently urged tribal elders to mediate between officials and rebel fighters.

NATO said earlier this month that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had sent to his followers a list of tribal leaders to kill.

Mullah Omar, who has a 10-million-dollar bounty on his head, is believed to hiding in Pakistan's Balochistan province, according to US and Afghan officials. Islamabad denies the claim.

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