Saturday, August 14, 2010

U.S. soldiers' mission shows Afghan war's uncertainties | McClatchy

U.S. soldiers' mission shows Afghan war's uncertainties | McClatchy: "ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan — Setting out on one of their final patrols in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army and Afghan soldiers waded through waist-deep streams, scampered over crumbling 9-foot-tall mud walls and were closing in on a suspected bomb-making factory when their mission came to an unexpected halt.

Fifty yards short of their target, an Afghan soldier had been stung in the head by a bee. Now he wanted to abort the mission and head back to base.

American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division rolled their eyes as they told the pained Afghan fighter that scrapping their mission wasn't an option.

'He's like a little girl,' one of the U.S. soldiers said with disdain as a medic persuaded the glaring Afghan to press on.

After months of deadly and often demoralizing fighting alongside mediocre Afghan forces in one of the Taliban's most intractable strongholds outside Kandahar city, the Americans in this Army company are asking themselves if it had been worth it.

'I'm ready to get out of here,' said Sgt. Joshua Middlebrook, 25, of Sanford, N.C., as the patrol made its way back to base after coming up dry in the search. 'I'm tired of picking up body parts.'...

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bth: this article is worth reading in full. It is evident that no hand off to the Afghan forces is going to be possible in Kandahar.

Michelle Obama popularity falls | Washington Examiner

Michelle Obama popularity falls | Washington Examiner:... "Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama's popularity is falling, not rising....

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bth; this was a politically tin eared trip to Spain. A let them eat cake moment in American politics.

61 trucks loaded with 300 tons of explosives go missing in central India

61 trucks loaded with 300 tons of explosives go missing in central India: "NEW DELHI, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Some 61 trucks loaded with over 300 tons of explosives have gone missing in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a senior police official said Friday.

'The trucks were sent from a state-owned factory, Rajasthan Explosives and Chemicals Limited, in Dholpur to a private company called Ganesh Explosives in the state's Sagar district. But it never reached there,' the official said.

A massive search is on to track down the trucks as fear is mounting that if the explosives, including detonators and gelatin sticks, reach the wrong hands it could be devastating, he added....

US Muslims concerned over Eid, 9/11 anniversary overlap - Yahoo! News

US Muslims concerned over Eid, 9/11 anniversary overlap - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (AFP) – US Muslim groups have urged law enforcement agencies to be on guard during Eid al-Fitr, the end-of-Ramadan holiday which this year coincides with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, officials said Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an advocacy group, said local and federal agencies across the country were being asked to remain vigilant during the Eid celebrations....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pentagon push to phase out top brass causing much consternation

Pentagon push to phase out top brass causing much consternation: "Of all the spending cuts and budget battles the Pentagon is confronting, none is causing more angst than Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's vow to start getting rid of generals and admirals.

By almost any measure, the military is more top-heavy an institution than it has been for decades. Today, there are 40 four-star generals and admirals -- one more than in 1971, during the Vietnam War, even though the number of active-duty troops has shrunk by almost half.

The number of active-duty generals and admirals of all rank, meanwhile, has increased by about 13 percent since 1996.

It is, as Gates puts it, "brass creep."...

The school bus that goes 367 mph | Technically Incorrect - CNET News

The school bus that goes 367 mph | Technically Incorrect - CNET News: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

20 Haqqani Network fighters killed in raids in eastern Afghanistan - The Long War Journal

20 Haqqani Network fighters killed in raids in eastern Afghanistan - The Long War Journal: "Afghan and Coalition forces killed more than 20 Haqqani Network fighters and detained several more during a raid on a district known to harbor al Qaeda and other foreign fighters in eastern Afghansitan.

The Haqqani Network fighters were killed 'during an on-going clearing operation aimed at disrupting the Haqqani Network's freedom of movement' in the district of Zadran in Paktia province, the International Security Assistance Force reported in a press release.

The Haqqani Network fighters were killed as Afghan commandos backed by US forces were engaged by 'dozens of insurgents occupied entrenched fighting positions throughout the mountainous area' with 'machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.' The combined force called in airstrikes on the Haqqani Network positions, killing more than 20 fighters.

ISAF described the district of Zadran as a 'known Haqqani Network safe haven' which is 'used to stage attacks into Kabul and the Khost-Gardez pass.'...

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bth: so while the media pines away at Kandahar, real serious battles are occurring in the eastern mountains. The media seems to be disconnected from the actual war; perhaps because it is so remote and the US military may be wanting to take action without a lot of embeds around. It seems to me the marines and Brits are getting the headlines but the action is taking place among US army infantry units and Afghan commandos against real terrorist networks in the hills.

Longtime al Qaeda operative runs mosque closed by German authorities - The Long War Journal

Longtime al Qaeda operative runs mosque closed by German authorities - The Long War Journal: "On Monday, German authorities announced that they closed down the Taiba mosque in Hamburg. The mosque achieved infamy as home to several of the 9/11 plotters under its previous name -- Al Quds.

The name change did not stop the mosque from continuing to serve as a meeting ground for Islamist extremists and terrorists. Thus, the Germans, who along with other Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring the mosque for years, decided it needed to be shuttered.

This is not surprising. Western intelligence agencies have suspected since the 1990s that the imam in charge of the mosque, Mamoun Darkazanli, is one of al Qaeda's top operatives in Europe.

Darkazali was one of the first suspected al Qaeda figures to have his accounts frozen by the US Treasury Department and the United Nations following the September 11 attacks. He had established a lengthy dossier by then. Despite being a known extremist with a plethora of terrorist ties, however, Darkazanli has avoided a lengthy prison sentence.

German laws have consistently gotten in the way of bringing Darkazanli to justice....

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bth: worth a full read. I don't understand how German law would tolerate terrorism from this mosque's leaders in such consistent and extreme degrees. He has facilitated numerous attacks for over a decade and a half.

Republican Party Only Winning Key 2010 Poll In Southern States

Republican Party Only Winning Key 2010 Poll In Southern States: "Findings released in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggest that the Republican Party is very much a Southern regional white party in terms of the demographics of its supporters.

MSNBC relays the numbers:

The GOP has a HUGE generic-ballot edge in the South (52%-31%), but it doesn't lead anywhere else. In the Northeast, Dems have a 55%-30% edge; in the Midwest, they lead 49%-38%; and in the West, it's 44%-43%.

MSNBC notes that many of the races in which Republicans stand to make electoral gains are taking place in the South 'where you have whiter and older voters,' or in congressional districts with Southern-like constituencies.

Earlier this year, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele raised eyebrows when he suggested the GOP for decades has pursued a ''Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South.'...

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bth: The Republican Party has pigeonholed itself into the Southern White People's party. The country benefits from a vibrant 2 party system, not when one party or the other gets taken over by nut jobs.

YouTube - Toto - Rosanna (HQ Audio)

YouTube - Toto - Rosanna (HQ Audio): "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Pat Tillman's Father To Army Investigator: 'F--- You... And Yours' (EXCLUSIVE)

Pat Tillman's Father To Army Investigator: 'F--- You... And Yours' (EXCLUSIVE): "'You are a General,' Tillman's father writes Jones after being presented with a briefing book of his findings. 'There is no way a man like you, with your intelligence, education, military, experience, responsibilities (primarily for difficult situations), and rank... believes the conclusions reached in the March 31, 2005 Briefing Book. But your signature is on it. I assume, therefore, that you are part of this shameless bullshit. I embarrassed myself by treating you with respect [on] March 31, 2005. I thought your rank deserved it and anticipated something different from the new and improved investigation. I won't act so hypocritically if we meet again.'

'In sum: Fuck you... and yours.'

The two letters are worth a read, if only for the insight they provide into how haphazard and mismanaged (deliberately or not) the investigations were. Tillman's father comes off as emotional, for good reason. But the questions he raised -- while conspiratorial in tone -- offer compelling drama (both real life and for the upcoming movie). Take, for instance, the notion that the shooters of his son may have been blinded by the glare of the sunset.

'The shooters were always looking North or Northwest,' Tillman's father writes. 'Even in Afghanistan, the sun sets in the West - Southwest. How on God's green earth can you add in a 'glare factor' looking away from the sun that has set? (P-16) Immediately after the sunset , facing the wrong direction (North vs. Southwest), the glare impaired their vision? Don't you need sun to have glare?'
Story continues below

By the spring of 2007, indeed, evidence emerged that some of Pat Tillman senior's larger fears were driven not by emotion-driven conspiracy theories but by legitimate holes in the Army's story.

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bth: worth a full read.

US military sees heavier fighting in fall

My Way News - US military sees heavier fighting in fall: "...An independent survey of 552 men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in June found that a majority said the coalition is winning the war. Nearly three-quarters said they wanted their children to grow up under an elected government rather than the Taliban.

But the survey by the International Council on Security and Development also found deep resentment and mistrust of the international presence in Afghanistan.

Three-quarters of those interviewed said foreigners disrespect their religion and traditions and that working with foreign forces is wrong.

A large majority - 70 percent - said recent military actions in their area were bad for the Afghan people, and 59 percent opposed further operations in Kandahar.

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bth: can somebody explain to me why our entire Afghan mission depends on Kandahar? Is it that our Afghan government allies including Karzai's brother want a bigger cut of the drug trade in the area or what? It would seem that the international fighters that represent a true threat to us are namely in the mountainous eastern area of Afghanistan, not in Kandahar which we already occupy to a limited degree.

Saudi al-Qaida leader urges killing of Christians - Middle East - World - The Times of India

Saudi al-Qaida leader urges killing of Christians - Middle East - World - The Times of India: "DUBAI: A Saudi leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has urged sympathisers in the Saudi security forces to kill Christians living in the kingdom, in an audio message released on Wednesday.

The purported audiotape, posted on a website used by Islamists, also repeated an often-made call to overthrow the Saudi government and called for attacks on Israel.

'Those of you who work in guarding the tyrants of princes or ministers, or the compounds inhabited by Christians, or can reach them, should seek God's help and kill them,' said AQAP's number two, Said al-Shihri.

Shihri, a former inmate of the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claimed that AQAP has received correspondence from members of Saudi armed forces asking for 'guidance.'

He urged the Qaida followers, however, to make sure that they avoid killing Muslims by mistake during their attacks.

'Fear God with regards to Muslims' blood... even if that was a reason to postpone your attack,' he said.

Shihri also urged any followers in the armed forces to attack Israel from the northwestern tip of Saudi Arabia on the Gulf of Aqaba, across the water from the Israeli resort of Eilat.

'Carry your arms against Israel, which is only few kilometres away from you, whose lights you can see (at night) from the city of Haql,' he said.

'Whoever among you is a pilot should seek martyrdom in the skies of Palestine, and who works in the navy should aim his weapon at the Jews there,' he added.

Shihri called for forming cells within the armed and security forces to recruit sympathisers 'to make the toppling of Al-Saud easier.'

In June, Shihri urged al-Qaida supporters in Saudi Arabia to kidnap princes and Christians in order to secure the release of militants, including female 'preacher' Heila al-Qsayer, a widow of a Saudi al-Qaida militant killed six years ago by the Saudi authorities. ...


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bth: So this wasn't in the US media. This is an Indian paper. It explains the announcement by the Saudi government earlier this week that it is checking the issuance of fatwa's without government approval.

U.S. denies asking other nations to attack Wikileaks | Privacy Inc. - CNET News

U.S. denies asking other nations to attack Wikileaks | Privacy Inc. - CNET News: "The U.S. State Department has denied asking other countries to open criminal investigations into Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange.

'We have not approached any country to encourage them to do anything,' Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state, told CNET. The main Wikileaks.org Web site is located in Sweden.

Crowley acknowledged that U.S. officials have 'had conversations with a variety of countries' about Wikileaks, but said those discussions were limited to expressing 'concerns that we've had.'

That conflicts with a report earlier this week on TheDailyBeast.com, which said the Obama administration is 'pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations' into Assange and to limit his ability to travel freely. ...

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bth: I'm baffled. Why shouldn't the US ask other countries to put the hammer down?

Pat Tillman’s family hopes to get truth in own way | Antiwar Newswire

Pat Tillman’s family hopes to get truth in own way | Antiwar Newswire: "Pat Tillman's mother doesn't want any more congressional hearings or official inquiries.

Mary Tillman still doesn't believe she's been given anything close to satisfactory answers as to how her son died, or why the circumstances of his death were reported incorrectly for so long. But she knows it's unhealthy to keep pushing, and Pat wouldn't have wanted that for his family.

If new information were to come out because of the documentary being released this month, the Tillmans would take up the cause again. They just hope the film spreads the message of who Pat really was.

'The Tillman Story' opens in limited release Aug. 20. It tells the story of the Arizona Cardinals safety who became an Army Ranger and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Kurdish General Again Insubordinate, Angles for US to Remain in Iraq | Informed Comment

Kurdish General Again Insubordinate, Angles for US to Remain in Iraq | Informed Comment: "The public statement by Iraqi chief of staff Lt. General Babakr Zebari , at a defense conference that the Iraqi army would not be ready to stand on its own until 2020 and US troops should remain until then is not a statement about security issues in general but is a highly ethno-sectarian piece of insubordination.

Unsurprisingly, the elected prime minister of Iraq and head of the current caretaker government, Nuri al-Maliki, promptly refuted Zebari and insisted on civilian control of this decision-making. As prime minister, al-Maliki is beholden to the elected parliament, which set the timetable for withdrawal. The Obama White House is also committed to the withdrawal....

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bth: this explains a lot. Surprisingly the Guardian didn't mention this important fact in its story earlier this week.

Shocking Images of Dead Kurdish Fighters: Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons against PKK - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Shocking Images of Dead Kurdish Fighters: Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons against PKK - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International: "German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.

It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died 'due to the use of chemical substances.'

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?...
...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Feel the need for speed? Try Ferrari sim robot | Crave - CNET

Feel the need for speed? Try Ferrari sim robot | Crave - CNET: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Afghan troops reach 240,000 goal early - USATODAY.com

Afghan troops reach 240,000 goal early - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON — NATO has reached its goal of expanding the size of Afghanistan's army and police to 240,000 three months ahead of schedule, achieving a key measurement that will be used to gauge progress in the war.

The size and quality of Afghan security forces will be a central part of a review that the White House will be conducting in December to measure the effectiveness of its strategy of emphasizing protecting civilians in Afghanistan.

The improved recruitment and retention follow a pay raise and improvements in a payroll system. NATO has also increased the number of trainers dedicated to working with Afghan soldiers....

The quality of the recruits is also improving, according to statistics. A year ago, only about 25% of the soldiers graduating from basic training passed a weapon-qualification test. Today, between 90% and 95% pass the test, said Jack Kem, deputy director of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.

The size of the Afghan army has increased to 134,000 soldiers, up from about 97,000 in November, according to NATO. The police are at 109,000 now, up from about 95,000 in November.

The plan is to increase the size of the forces further in the coming year.

The quality and number of troops are only one goal that will be used to assess the White House's Afghanistan strategy, but the goal is considered a critical one....


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bth: this is definitely good news

Embedded with the Taliban in Kunar - Threat Matrix

Embedded with the Taliban in Kunar - Threat Matrix: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Taliban behind 76 percent of civilian deaths in Afghanistan: UN - Threat Matrix

Taliban behind 76 percent of civilian deaths in Afghanistan: UN - Threat Matrix: "According to statistics compiled by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Taliban have intensified their attacks against civilians while Coalition and Afghan forces have dramatically reduced the number of civilian deaths. The Taliban are responsible for 76 percent of of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan, while Coalition and Afghan forces are responsible for just 12 percent of the civilian deaths.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks against civilians with targeted assassinations of 'teachers, nurses, doctors, tribal elders, community leaders, provincial and district officials, other civilians including children, and civilians working for international military forces and international organizations.' Read the full UN report, portions of which are excerpted below, as well as some commentary by me on this topic at The Weekly Standard....

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bth: its hard for me to understand the local population's belief that the Taliban is a dispenser of justice when they have such disregard to human life. Its easier for me to understand the Taliban as a dispenser of fear.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

'More than 50% chance of attack on Iran'

'More than 50% chance of attack on Iran': "The chance that Israel will launch a military strike against Iran before next July is over 50 percent, according to an article to be published in the upcoming issue of the journal the Atlantic. The article's author, Jeffrey Goldberg, gleaned this information from interviews he conducted over the last year-and-a-half with forty current and past Israeli decision makers.

Goldberg claimed to have spoken with people in and out of government from various political parties. The consensus among them was that Iran is one to three years away from the being able to create a nuclear weapon. This fact, coupled with Iran's publicly displayed animosity toward Israel, makes a nuclear Islamic republic a threat to Israel's existence, and therefore a likely candidate to face an Israeli military strike....

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bth: this would seem to be about keeping the scare up

Checkpoint Washington - Pentagon: undisclosed Wikileak documents 'potentially more explosive'

Checkpoint Washington - Pentagon: undisclosed Wikileak documents 'potentially more explosive': "Pentagon officials say they are sifting through 15,000 classified Afghanistan war documents for sensitive material that could harm troops or civilians--documents they believe the on-line site WikiLeaks has obtained and might disclose.

The records at issue contain material that is 'potentially more explosive, more sensitive' than the information in the 77,000 Afghanistan field reports and assessments WikiLeaks put on-line last month in an effort to shed light on the U.S. military's war in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. ...

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bth: one wonders what the difference is between the 15,000 and the others. State Dept?

Iraqi army chief: We need US military until 2020 | Raw Story

Iraqi army chief: We need US military until 2020 | Raw Story: "Iraq's top army officer on Wednesday warned that a pullout of all US soldiers by the end of 2011 was premature, after eight of his troops were killed in a brazen attack that exposed shaky security here.

Lieutenant General Babakar Zebari's remarks, which run counter to those of his political leaders, coincide with the exit of thousands of American soldiers under a US declaration to end combat operations in Iraq at the end of August.

'At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here,' Zebari told AFP on the sidelines of a defense ministry conference in Baghdad.

'But the problem will start after 2011 -- the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011.

'If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020.'...

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bth: even if true, I find it surprising that an Iraqi general would say this.

Gwynne Dyer: Any attack on Iran would not end well | The Columbus Dispatch

Gwynne Dyer: Any attack on Iran would not end well | The Columbus Dispatch: "The Columbus Dispatch

When Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on NBC's Meet the Press whether the U.S. has a military plan for an attack on Iran, he replied: 'We do.'

General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely contingencies. But what the planning process will have revealed is that there is no way for the United States to win a non-nuclear war with Iran.

The U.S. could 'win' by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons on Iran's military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers (i.e. cities) and killing 5 million to 10 million people, but short of that, nothing works. On this, we have the word of Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three administrations.

Clarke revealed to The New York Times four years ago that, in the early 1990s, the Clinton administration had considered seriously a bombing campaign against Iran, but the military professionals told them not to do it.

The Pentagon's planners have conducted war games to model an attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just can't make it come out as a U.S. victory.

There's nothing the U.S. can do to Iran, short of nuking the place, that would force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy. It can bomb Iran's nuclear sites and military installations to its heart's content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years.

And there is no way that the United States could invade Iran. There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of them don't like the present regime, almost all are fervent patriots who would resist invasion. Iran is a mountainous country four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian army is slightly smaller than the U.S. Army. But unlike the U.S. Army, its troops are not scattered across literally dozens of countries.

If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor military incursions along Iran's south coast, senior American generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land war, the only lever the United States would have is the threat of yet more bombs - but if they aren't nuclear, they aren't persuasive.

Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on the United States. Just stopping Iran's own oil exports would drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for around 7 percent of internationally traded oil. But it also could block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking tankers coming from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.

The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the Chinese YJ-82. It has a 140-mile range, enough to cover all the major choke points in the Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of sound just yards above the sea's surface, and it has a tiny radar profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98 percent.

Iran's mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern side of the Gulf, and these missiles' mobile launchers are easily concealed. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the Gulf would become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region's oil exports.

Meanwhile Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut down the U.S. military effort there.

Iranian ballistic missiles would strike U.S. bases on the southern (Arab) side of the Gulf, and Iran's Hezbollah allies in Beirut would start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the world's industries and transport ground to a halt.

The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of the Gulf region. That was the outcome of every war game the Pentagon played, and Mullen knows it. It is all bluff. It always was.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries

Rep. Berman Halts US Military Aid to Lebanon -- News from Antiwar.com

Rep. Berman Halts US Military Aid to Lebanon -- News from Antiwar.com: "House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman (D – CA) today announced that he would be halting the $100 million in planned US military aid to Lebanon in retaliation for last Tuesday’s border clash with Israel, which left an Israel soldier, three Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese journalist dead.
Rep. Berman

“Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hezbollah’s influence – and can assure that the Lebanese army is a responsible actor – I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon,” Berman declared.

Reps. Eric Cantor and Nita Lowey also backed the delay, citing the Lebanese “provocations against Israel.” Though the $100 million is dwarfed by the billions in military aid the US sends to Israel annually, Israel has objected to the aid to what it considers an “enemy state.”

Israel last invaded Lebanon in 2006, and the current government has repeatedly threatened a new invasion, citing in some cases the “threat” posed by Hezbollah’s role in the Lebanese government and in other cases the prospect of Lebanon objecting to Israeli offshore drilling, which is taking place off the coast of southern Lebanon.

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next these 3 will want us to nuke Iran

How US Congressmen help Iran win friends and influence people in Lebanon

News From Antiwar.com » US Outraged as Iran Offers to Replace Military Aid to Lebanon » Print: "The US State Department has reacted with outrage today after the Iranian government offered to provide military aid to Lebanon to make up for what was lost when the US pulled all such aid yesterday.
State Dept Spokesman Philip Crowley

Incredibly enough, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley suggested that Iran’s military aid would “compromise Lebanon’s sovereignty,” yet no similar concerns were voiced when the US was providing much larger amounts of aid to the exact same country.

In fact, Crowley insisted US military aid had the opposite effect, and was actually helping “expand the capabilities of the government and thereby improve its sovereignty over its territory.”

Rep. Howard Berman (D – CA) announced yesterday that he was pulling all military aid to Lebanon because of last week’s border clash with Israel. In the clash one Israeli soldier was killed, prompting Israeli shelling which killed three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist.

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bth: So basically a couple of Israeli and Lebanese soldiers that want to shoot at each other over a couple of trees plus a neocon congressman pandering to Israel have given Iran great influence over Lebanon's military. Just fucking wonderful.

Pentagon plays down Karzai plan to dissolve security firms - Yahoo! News

Pentagon plays down Karzai plan to dissolve security firms - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Pentagon Tuesday played down Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's announced plans to dissolve all private security firms in Afghanistan, saying the issue was under discussion.

'I don't know that it's a decision; it's concerns that President Karzai has expressed,' said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer said earlier in Kabul that the Afghan president will soon set a deadline for dissolving the private security firms, calling it 'a serious program that the government of Afghanistan will execute.'

Lapan said the Pentagon understood there were problems with the private security firms, but was working to address the issues raised by Karzai in a way that also met US security needs.

'There are security needs that we have, that our forces have, that fall into that category so we want to make sure that we are addressing the Afghan government's concerns but meeting our requirements as well,' he told reporters....

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bth: what new extortion does Karzai have in mind of us today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fed Looks to Spur Growth by Buying Government Debt - Bloomberg

Fed Looks to Spur Growth by Buying Government Debt - Bloomberg: "Federal Reserve officials decided to reinvest principal payments on mortgage holdings into long-term Treasury securities, making their first attempt to bolster growth since March 2009 to keep the slowing U.S. economy from relapsing into recession.

“The pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement in Washington. “To help support the economic recovery in a context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level.” The Fed retained a commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate close to zero for an “extended period.”

With growth weakening in the second quarter and company job gains in July falling short of estimates, today’s step signals that risks of a downturn have increased enough for the Fed to delay its exit from unprecedented stimulus. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress last month that the Fed was “prepared to take further policy actions as needed.”

The Fed said it will “continue to roll over the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities as they mature.” The reinvestment policy applies to agency debt and agency mortgage- backed securities held by the central bank. ...

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bth: the problem with this strategy is that the banks which would normally hole treasuries in this case since they are now allowed to count treasuries toward their capital level requirements is that that money isn't actually being injected into the Main St. economy as the feds would hope. The banks can simply sit on their reserves, borrow and a 1/4 of a percent from the feds and invest in longer term treasuries which will now appreciate as the feds buy them off the market. This doesn't make loans to small businesses or inject cash into the equity markets. Loans to businesses are the key to getting jobs.

Matthew Simmons, peak oil proponent, dies at 67 - By Charles Homans | The Oil and the Glory

Matthew Simmons, peak oil proponent, dies at 67 - By Charles Homans | The Oil and the Glory: "The energy world lost one of its most provocative thinkers this weekend: Matthew Simmons, a former investment banker and adviser to President George W. Bush, who died of a heart attack at his home in Maine last night.

For the past five years, Simmons, 67, had been the premier pessimist in an industry that, on the main, tends towards optimism. He was arguably the most thoughtful and influential advocate of the idea that the world's steadily increasing appetite for petroleum would lead to peak oil -- the point at which production capacity can no longer ramp up to accommodate increasing demand -- and that it would happen sooner rather than later. ...

Simmons wasn't just the oil industry's prophet of doom. Perhaps more importantly, he was its prophet of uncertainty: His beef was with the prognosticators as much as it was with their prognostications. "The more I studied," he told an interviewer in 2005, "the more I started to realize that so many people who call themselves experts in the energy market, including government analysts, are in fact experts in their opinions and don't actually base a lot of it in actual data." In truth, even the most influential analysts often had limited data at their disposal, and were too willing to take petrostates and oil multinationals at their word on the size of reserves they had every reason to overstate. In the end, this may have been Simmons's most valuable contribution to the discussion about the future of oil: The idea that any prediction, regardless of how optimistic or pessimistic, should carry with it the burden of proof.
Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

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

Survey: Arabs lose faith in Obama - Focus - Al Jazeera English

Survey: Arabs lose faith in Obama - Focus - Al Jazeera English: "Arab opinion of the United States and its president Barack Obama has dimmed in the past year, while the popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has skyrocketed, according to an annual survey released by the US-based Brookings Institution on Thursday.

The survey found that a majority of Arabs continue to believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinians will never happen and that - unlike in past years - a larger number are identifying as Muslims, rather than as Arabs or citizens of a particular country.

The poll of nearly 4,000 people, done in conjunction with Zogby International,was conducted between June 29 and July 20 in six Middle Eastern countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Lost opportunity

Of those surveyed, 62 per cent said they had a negative view of Obama, compared with 23 per cent a year ago....

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bth: a lost opportunity

YouTube - The Doors - The end

YouTube - The Doors - The end: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Is Iran trying to scare us or boost their own courage with this mass grave PR stunt?

Iran Digging Mass Graves For U.S. Troops If They Attack:... "Moghadam repeated warnings that Iran will retaliate against U.S. bases in the Gulf if there is an attack on Iran. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters is based just across the Gulf from Iran in Bahrain.

If U.S. forces attack, 'Iran will have no choice but to strike the American bases in the region,' he said. 'The heavy costs of such a war will not be just on the Islamic Republic of Iran. America and other countries should accept that this would be the start of an extensive war in the region.'

The war of words has intensified between Iran and the United States after the U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of tougher sanctions in June in response to Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or material for an atomic bomb.
Story continues below

The U.S. and Israel have said military force could be used if diplomacy fails to stop what they suspect is an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

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bth: I would hope we have mapped out Iran's logical course of retaliatory actions.

With Korengal abandoned, COP Michigan bears brunt of Kunar fight - Afghanistan - Stripes

With Korengal abandoned, COP Michigan bears brunt of Kunar fight - Afghanistan - Stripes: "COMBAT OUTPOST MICHIGAN, Afghanistan — The crash of the first incoming rounds sent soldiers scurrying for cover.

Six weeks into their deployment at this besieged outpost, soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment were used to the barrage of fire from high ridges surrounding their fishbowl outpost, here at the mouth of the Korengal Valley.

Most ran through the protective maze of narrow tunnels formed by Hesco security barriers and concrete T-walls and into their bunkered buildings.

But Sgt. Terry Puffenbarger ran the other way, into the exposed area of the motor pool, where his mechanics were working under a tent. And there, in that one vulnerable position on July 10, he found his worst nightmare.

Spc. Carlos Negron, who always had laughter and candy to help lift the spirits of those around him, was lying in wreckage and smoke. He died a short time later.

“We would joke about it when the rounds would land close,” said Puffenbarger, 25, of Harrisonburg, Va. “You could hear the bullets fly by and [gravel would kick up.] But now, I don’t have any joke left in me.”

A tiny base under camouflage netting and surrounded by mountain walls, Combat Outpost Michigan sits in the center of the Pech River Valley, and at the mouth of the Korengal Valley, which U.S. forces abandoned in April. Once just another outpost, Michigan now takes the brunt of battle.

For years, U.S. forces struggled in vain to win over the Korengal, so insular and violent that its people defeated an entire Russian division.

Finally, on April 14, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division packed up their items and pulled the U.S. presence back to COP Michigan.

The 327’s 1st Battalion took over six weeks later.

“When they were back in the Korengal, [U.S. forces] took lots of hits in the Korengal,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Musgrave, 25, of Columbus, Ohio. “Now, we take hits. It’s really where the buffer is, whether it’s here or in the Korengal.”

Michigan is attacked so frequently now that soldiers at the other three Pech River Valley bases, who all have heavy fights on their hands, grimace when they hear that Michigan is a visitor’s destination.

In most places in Afghanistan, soldiers who stay inside the wire, meaning behind the base walls, are usually considered on safer ground. At Michigan, “sometimes guys feel like they are safer outside the wire,” said Capt. Dakota Steedsman, commander of Company D.

Soldiers spend 80 percent of their time just defending the base or reacting to attacks from the surrounding mountain walls, a far cry from the focus on counterinsurgency and governance in other parts of the country....

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bth: worth reading in full along with review of the photos

Former enemies US, Vietnam now military mates - Yahoo! News

Former enemies US, Vietnam now military mates - Yahoo! News: "ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a U.S. nuclear supercarrier cruised in waters off the Southeast Asian nation's coast — sending a message that China is not the region's only big player.

The visit comes 35 years after the Vietnam War as Washington and Hanoi are cozying up in a number of areas, from negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology to agreeing that China needs to work with its neighbors to resolve territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The USS George Washington's stop is officially billed as a commemoration of last month's 15th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the former foes. But the timing also reflects Washington's heightened interest in maintaining security and stability in the Asia-Pacific amid tensions following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which killed 46 sailors. North Korea has been blamed for the attack, but has vehemently denied any involvement.

Last month during an Asian security meeting in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also angered China by unexpectedly calling on the Communist powerhouse to resolve territorial claims with neighboring Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.

'The strategic implications and importance of the waters of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation is vital to both Vietnam and the United States,' Capt. Ross Myers, commander of the George Washington's air wing, said aboard the ship Sunday as fighter jets thundered off the flight deck above.

'I'm certain that the Chinese government and the Chinese people are trying to protect their interests,' he added when asked about China's increased aggressiveness within the area. 'It is more important for Vietnam (and) its partners to establish that they have an equal right to economic prosperity and peace within the region as well.'...

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bth: how the worm turns.

NightWatch 20100809 - Juarez

NightWatch 20100809 - KGS: "Mexico: BBC reported on 8 August police officers in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico detained their commander at gunpoint, accusing him of corruption and links to drug gangs. More than 200 federal police agents raided the hotel where their commander was staying and accused him of planting drugs on police officers to blackmail them into carrying out extortion. Some of the agents were injured when officers loyal to the commander defended him.

While some agents blocked off nearby streets to prevent their commander from escaping, others moved into the hotel where he was staying. They raided his room, where they say they found weapons and drugs. The federal officers allege that they were part of a stash, which their commander would plant on officers who refused to take part in his corrupt dealings. They say he would then blackmail the agents into carrying out extortion and other crimes.

The police officers held their commander captive until the Federal Police Commissioner General agreed to suspend him, pending an investigation. One of the policemen who took part in the protest told the Associated Press corruption in the higher ranks was putting them in danger. 'We risk our lives, we leave families behind and it's the fault of those officers that we go down,' he said.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Wikileaks Geospatial Attack Data

Pre-Emptive Raids to Prevent Terror Attacks?

So in the last day three things have happened.

First Indonesian cleric terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir has been arrested. He was once convicted of the Bali bombing among others but his conviction was overturned a few years ago and he continues to agitate trouble. He was heard yelling that his arrest was because of the Americans.

Second, in Germany the Hamburg Taiba Mosque which was the center point of the 911 terrorists has been closed by authorities who raided the place.

Third, Saudi Arabia has issued a warning to Americans that they may be the target of an imminent terrorist attack.

Is a preemptive action being taken? Are these incidents linked or just coincidental in time?

The Associated Press: Radical Indonesian cleric arrested in terror plot

The Associated Press: Radical Indonesian cleric arrested in terror plot: "AKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's anti-terrorism unit arrested a radical Islamist cleric Monday for alleged ties to an al-Qaida-affiliated cell accused of plotting high-profile assassinations and Mumbai-style attacks targeting foreigners in the capital.

Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been arrested twice before and spent several years in jail, was heading home after delivering a sermon when the police swooped, surrounding his van and smashing in the rear window when body guards tried to stand in their way, according to Bashir's son, Abdul Rohim.

'The United States is behind this!' shouted the white-bearded cleric, who was wearing his traditional flowing white robe. He smiled as he was escorted under tight security into police headquarters, and said: 'This arrest is a blessing ... I will be rewarded by Allah!'

The fiery 71-year-old is best known as one of the co-founders and spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked network responsible for a string of suicide bombings in the world's most populous Muslim nation, including the 2002 attacks on Bali island that killed 202 people, most of them Western tourists.

Bashir, who has always denied terrorist links, was also one of the founders of al-Mukmin boarding school in the Central Java town of Solo that produced some of the country's deadliest bombers....

Abedin: The Illusion of a ‘limited war’ against Iran | Informed Comment

Abedin: The Illusion of a ‘limited war’ against Iran | Informed Comment: ...."The truth is that whilst the IRGC has a sizeable economic wing centred on the Khatam ol-Anbia complex (Qarargah-e Khatam ol-Anbia), its economic and financial activities are kept strictly separate from its fighting units. In any case, the IRGC is foremost an ideological army that is totally and unequivocally committed to the survival of the Islamic Revolution, and the political-religious system that emerged from that revolution. Even former reformist president (and now opposition leader) Mohammad Khatami referred to the IRGC as the “most ideological armed force in the world.”

American political and military leaders would be mistaken if they believed they could get away with a “limited” military strike on Iran, designed to destroy that country’s nuclear infrastructure. Any military strike on Iran by the United States will be interpreted by Iran’s rulers, and their IRGC enforcers, as a direct assault on the integrity and the very existence of the Islamic Republic. From a strategic point of view, IRGC commanders will interpret any American strike as the beginning of an existential conflict, and will respond appropriately.

A top priority for the IRGC high command is to respond so harshly and decisively so as to deter the Americans from a second set of strikes at a future point. The idea here is to avoid what happened to Iraq in the period 1991-2003, when the former Baathist regime was so weakened by sanctions and repeated small-scale military attacks that it quickly collapsed in the face of American and British invading armies.

The range of predictable responses available to the IRGC high command include dramatic hit ad run attacks against military and commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the use of mid-range ballistic missiles against American bases in the region and Israel and a direct assault on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these options are likely to be used within 48 hours of the start of hostilities.

What is less predictable is the response of the IRGC Qods Force, which is likely to be at the forefront of the Pasdaran’s counter-attack. One possible response by the Qods force is spectacular terrorist-style attacks against American intelligence bases and assets throughout the region. The IRGC Qods Force is believed to have identified every key component of the American intelligence apparatus in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are likely to put this information to good use, especially since the Qods Force suspects that the CIA had a hand in last October’s Jundullah-organised suicide bombing targeting IRGC commanders in Iran’s volatile Sistan va Baluchistan province.

The IRGC navy will also play a key asymmetrical role in the conflict by organising maritime suicide bombings on an industrial scale. By manning its fleet of speedboats with suicide bombers and ramming them into American warships and even neutral commercial shipping, the Pasdaran will hope to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 40 percent of world crude oil supplies pass.

The combination of these asymmetrical forms of warfare with more conventional style missile and even ground force attacks on American bases in the region will likely result in thousands of American military casualties in the space of a few weeks. The IRGC has both the will and wherewithal to inflict a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.

Even if the United States manages to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and much of the country’s military assets, the IRGC can still claim victory by claiming to have given the Americans a bloody nose and producing an outcome not dissimilar from the Israeli-Hezbollah military engagement in the summer of 2006.

The political effect of this will likely be even more explosive than the actual fighting. Not only will it awaken the sleeping giant of Iranian nationalism, thus aligning the broad mass of the people with the regime, it will also shore up Iran’s image in the region and prove once and for all that the Islamic Republic is prepared to fight to the death to uphold its principles. Suddenly Iran’s allies in the region – particularly non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas – would stand ten feet tall.

Ironically U.S. military aggression will likely accelerate the actualisation of the very scenario that American political and military leaders insist they are determined to prevent, i.e. a nuclear armed Iran. Even if we accept the contentious proposition that Iran’s nuclear programme has a military dimension, the immediate reaction of Iran’s rulers to military aggression would be to start a crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon, as a means of deterring future aggression.

Contrary to what Mike Mullen and other American military commanders appear to believe, a military attack on Iran really is the very worst option. Its consequences for Iran, the region and the United States are dangerously unpredictable, to the extent that any decision to attack would be nothing less than stunningly reckless and quite possibly the worst strategic mistake in American military history. Responsible actors in the international system should exert the maximum effort to avoid an Iranian-American War.

Mahan Abedin is a Middle East analyst.

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bth: this article is worth reading in full. Attacking Iran is not going to be the same as Iraq.

Iran launches four home-made submarines | World | Reuters

Iran launches four home-made submarines | World | Reuters: "TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran showed off four new domestically made small submarines Sunday that Tehran said would bolster its defence capability as it vows to confront any military threat from countries opposed to its nuclear program.

State-run Press TV showed the submarines sailing from an Iranian port. Iran's fleet of the 120-tonne Ghadir-class vessels, first produced in 2007, now numbered 11, it said.

They have 'excellent shallow depth performance, and can carry out long-term coastal missions,' Press TV said.

'With the mass production of this submarine alongside various guided-missile launchers the country's defensive production chain is complete,' Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said.

'These capabilities will be used to served peace, stability and security in the Persian Gulf region and the Sea of Oman.'

The launch of the new submarines comes as Iranian officials deliver daily messages of defiance to the potential threat of a strike by Israel or the United States against the nuclear program Tehran says is entirely peaceful.

Iran has said it could close the Strait of Hormuz -- the gateway to the Gulf through which 40 percent of the world's traded oil travels -- if it comes under attack.

Press TV said Iran also has three Russian-built Kilo class submarines and operates another homemade 500-tonne submarine in its patrol missions in the Gulf.

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bth: these might be ineffective against war ships but they would be devastating against tankers. That and 200 speed boats dropping mines would make for a heck of a time in the Persian Gulf.

Mosque once used by Sept. 11 attackers shut down

Mosque once used by Sept. 11 attackers shut down: "BERLIN -- A Hamburg mosque once frequented by some of the Sept. 11 attackers was shut down Monday because German authorities believe the prayer house was again being used as a meeting point for Islamic radicals.

The Taiba mosque was closed and the cultural association that runs it was banned, Hamburg officials said in a statement.

'We have closed the mosque because it was a recruiting and meeting point for Islamic radicals who wanted to participate in so-called jihad or holy war,' said Frank Reschreiter, a spokesman for Hamburg's state interior ministry.

He said that 20 police officers were searching the building and had confiscated material, including several computers. He was not aware of any arrests.

Authorities have said the prayer house, formerly known as the al-Quds mosque, years ago was a meeting and recruiting point for some of the Sept. 11 attackers before they moved to the United States.

Reschreiter said it was the first time the mosque had been closed, and that it had been under observation by local intelligence officers for 'quite a long time.'

A 2009 report by the Hamburg branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency also said the mosque had again become the 'center of attraction for the jihad scene' in the northern port city.

It said some people who belonged to the mosque's cultural association and prayed there had traveled to a radical training camp in Uzbekistan.

A group of 11 militants that traveled to military training camps in Uzbekistan in March 2009 was formed at Taiba mosque, the report said. ...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The economy still stucks

A Relatively Painless Submarine Detection Capability - CGBlog.org

A Relatively Painless Submarine Detection Capability - CGBlog.org: "The Navy is currently fielding a new version of it’s ASW helicopter, the MH-60R, and it’s new dipping sonar is proving much more effective than it’s predecessor. The complete sonar system can weigh less than 600 pounds.

The Soviets also used dipping sonars, but not just on helicopters. They used them on small surface craft as well. These vessels would work in teams using a sprint and drift tactic.

The same transducer might also be hull mounted with relatively little impact. There is also the possibility that with relatively minor modifications it could be made into a towed variable depth sonar. A combination of hull mounted transducer and variable depth sonar working off the same console could offer some advantages.

Certainly not very effective for chasing nucs, and I’m not suggesting we need a big program to look for Narco subs, but, should the need arise, it could be work against the ultra quiet but slow moving diesel electric subs that might lurk in the high noise areas of the littorals.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"
First Draft: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

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Dismembering Afghanistan by Conn Hallinan -- Antiwar.com

Dismembering Afghanistan by Conn Hallinan -- Antiwar.com:... "The most radical of these schemes is being floated by the former U.S. ambassador to India, Robert Blackwell, a neoconservative mainstay and currently a lobbyist for India. Blackwell proposes partitioning Afghanistan into two countries: an independent, Pashtun-dominated south, and a northern and western section where Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras make up the majority. According to the scheme, 'Pashtunistan' would be kept in line by armed drones and 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. Special Forces.

Such an independent country would almost certainly destabilize Pakistan’s Northern Frontier and Tribal areas , where 40 million Pashtuns currently reside. Many of those Pashtuns have never accepted the 1893 Durand Line that the British used to divide Afghanistan from what was then India.

Pashtunistan would also be a template for an independent Baluchistan, further dismembering Afghanistan — certainly something the Indian Army would be delighted with — and serve as a rallying cry for marginalized ethnic groups all over the region, including those in Kashmir, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Russia, and areas in northern India.

It is not clear how much support the partition plan has, given the deep opposition of countries like Pakistan and China, but Blackwell has sprung the genie, and getting it back into the lamp will not be easy.

A second proposal — to create an army of local militias to fight the Taliban — is already underway, in spite of the disastrous experience with similar armed groups during the Soviet occupation. Those militias turned into warlord armies, which shook down local residents, protected the growing drug trade, and fought over tribal turf.

U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus insists that the armed groups will not be 'militia,' but more like police — uniformed, armed, and paid by the government of President Hamid Karzai. But given that the Kabul government has virtually no presence outside the capital, how these groups will be controlled is not obvious. Furthermore, if for some reason these militias do confront the Taliban, they will be outgunned by more experienced guerilla fighters.

A June 9 incident in Kandahar is a case in point. The Taliban attacked a local militia that had gathered to celebrate a wedding, killing 40 and wounding 87. The unit had been recruited by U.S. Special Forces, which promised weapons and ammunition. But according to the New York Times, when militia commander, Mohammed Nabi Kako went to the Special Forces, the commander fobbed him off to the Karzai regime, which turned down his request — whether from fear of forming independent militias, or plain old corruption is not clear. When the Taliban attacked, the militia couldn’t defend itself....

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bth: poor choices all

Afghanistan: 'Don't get too close - if he goes up you'll go with him' | World news | The Guardian

Afghanistan: 'Don't get too close - if he goes up you'll go with him' | World news | The Guardian: "Guardsman James Stephenson is just 20 years old, but when the soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards leave their base in the Babaji area of Helmand, he leads the patrol. Stephenson's nickname is 'Steveo', but on duty in Afghanistan, everyone calls him 'Vallon Man'. The Vallon is the metal detector used to sweep for bombs – and being a Vallon Man is one of the army's most dangerous jobs.

The last five years have seen a sharp increase in the use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Afghanistan. According to figures leaked last month, the number of IEDs increased from 308 in 2004 to 7,155 last year; a total of 16,000 were planted in those five years, killing at least 7,000 Afghan civilians. These devices have also caused the vast majority of all British and American deaths during the conflict, and are seriously hampering Nato's operations in the country. Of the IEDs recorded in last month's figures, 8,582 were found and cleared, but 7,553 exploded. The threat is so high that every patrol must be led by a soldier sweeping with a metal detector. However, the insurgents have started cutting down on the metal they use in the devices, making them harder to detect and more likely to have their desired effect.

In February, Stephenson's friend Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, from the same battalion, stepped on an IED and was killed while patrolling as a Vallon Man. Five of the battalion's soldiers have died during this tour and a further six have lost their legs – all victims of IEDs. Stephenson admits to feeling terrified each time he leaves the gates of the patrol base.

The patrol is on the move. An Afghan interpreter with the Coldstreams monitors the Taliban's radio transmissions and relays what they say to the company commander – everyone can hear. The soldiers pause at a farm compound and, over the radio, the insurgents say they have laid IEDs to the south of the patrol and prepared an ambush to the west. Stephenson looks nervous. With a pistol in one hand and a metal detector in the other, he steps out of the compound to face whatever is waiting....

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bth: worth reading in full

Overnight gunfight at Baghdad bomb factory kills 5 | Antiwar Newswire

Overnight gunfight at Baghdad bomb factory kills 5 | Antiwar Newswire: "Gunmen killed five Iraqi policemen in an overnight shootout that lasted until dawn at a suspected bomb workshop in western Baghdad, security officials said Saturday.

Later on Saturday, explosions ripped through a marketplace in Iraq's second-largest city and left emergency officials hurriedly loading bloodied bodies into ambulances.

In the Baghdad shootout, police who were tipped off by a carjacking trailed the suspects to a house in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Saidiya, where they came under fire from an unknown number of gunmen.

The shooting lasted for hours until daybreak, when the gunmen slipped away through a rear entrance, according to two Baghdad police officers and an Interior Ministry official. Two of the attackers were nabbed later Saturday while hiding in an orchard in a suburb north of Baghdad, the officials said.

When police searched the house at the scene of the shootout, they found one gunman dead with a pistol at his side.

Seven policemen and six residents, including two women and a 14-year boy, were also wounded in the shootout, the officials said. An emergency room worker at Yarmouk Hospital confirmed the casualties.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Also inside the house, police said they found a cache of bombs, chemicals and other devices to make explosives.

A minibus packed with explosives was also found in the garage, officials said, adding that there was a trail of fresh blood in the house from at least one of the gunmen....

Mexico drug cartels use gory videos to spread fear | Reuters

Mexico drug cartels use gory videos to spread fear | Reuters: "(Reuters) - Powerful drug cartels are increasingly using gruesome videos of executions and interrogations to intimidate their rivals, police and an already terrified public in Mexico's vicious drug war.

The drug gangs, battling for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States, have long attached handwritten notes to victims they dump in public as a way to scare rival gangs and pesky state officials.

But they are now airing more and more of their dirty work and threats on blogs or Web sites like YouTube, and bullying Mexican media into putting their gory tapes on television for wider play.
...

"The message is always the same: be afraid," said Maria Guadalupe Licea, head of the government prosecutor's office in Baja California state, home to the violent city Tijuana.

Licea said the use of new technologies and media is part of a spiraling cycle of violence in which ever more shocking attacks inspire copycat killings.

Authorities say that the videos, while graphic, are often little use in tracking down drug gangs.

A spokesman for Mexico's federal police said the apparent murders cannot be investigated until an official complaint is raised and there is no way to prove the videos are real.

No one has been arrested yet for posting the videos.

There are signs the cartels are taking their propaganda war to a new level.

In a frightening development last week, traffickers kidnapped four journalists in northern Mexico and pressured their employers to air 15 minutes of videos showing allegedly corrupt police and rivals being interrogated as a condition for release.

"It is free publicity. A company has to pay thousands of pesos to promote their products. But for these criminal groups ... it just takes a threatening telephone call or grenades chucked at a television station," said Javier Oliva, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University.

The push for the spotlight poses a new danger for journalists in Mexico, already one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters. More than 30 journalists have been killed here since Calderon took power.....

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bth: new technology, old fear

Corps adopts new casualty care guidelines - MarineCorpsTimes.com

Corps adopts new casualty care guidelines - MarineCorpsTimes.com: "Marines will now get more in-depth training on treating battlefield casualties with an update to the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.

The revamp of the course’s curriculum will provide Marines with more information on keeping a casualty breathing, stemming blood loss and treating eye injuries.

The changes are summarized in the July 21 Marine administrative message 406/10, and are aimed at standardizing training, while going into a deeper level of detail in certain areas of casualty care.

As before, different levels of proficiency are expected and depend on the role Marines serve in their units. Most Marines will achieve a basic level, while others who are designated combat lifesavers will reach a higher proficiency level. Navy corpsmen will be expected to have the highest proficiency in the TCCC skills set and will continue to train Marines.

In addition to the switch to Combat Gauze as a clotting agent and the replacement of the TK-4 tourniquet with the CAT II tourniquet, the message also formally changes the term for casualty evacuation, or CASEVAC, to tactical evacuation, or TACEVAC.

Those and other changes outlined in the TCCC guidelines are derived from best practices and lessons learned downrange, which are reviewed and incorporated into training as close to real time as possible.

The course is broken down into three sections — care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation care — and changes are reflected in each section.

Here are some other changes set forth in the MarAdmin:
Care under fire

• The use of hemostatic agents is deleted, and more specific guidance on the use of tourniquets directs the caregiver to apply it over a casualty’s uniform.

The CAT II — combat application tourniquet — is a one-handed tourniquet that uses a cylindrical crank handle to provide pressure and locks into place. The TK-4 model it replaces uses an elastic latex band with a steel S hook at each end and is just as effective. But when Marines showed a preference for the CAT II and started buying it on their own, the Corps followed suit.

Combat Gauze replaces QuikClot, a hemostatic powder that’s poured directly into a wound and sometimes burns surrounding skin, making the removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue difficult.
Tactical field care

• Treatment of penetrating eye trauma was added, with guidance to first perform a quick visual acuity test; if the eye needs to be covered, a rigid patch, not a pressure patch, should be used; if the casualty is not able to orally take the 400 mg moxifloxacin antibiotic tablet provided in the combat pill pack, an intravenous or intramuscular antibiotic should be administered.

• Additional detail in the breathing section specifies the use of a 14-gauge, 3.25-inch needle to decompress a casualty who may have air or gas pressuring the lungs or has suspected torso trauma. Guidance also is given for placement and direction of the needle.

• The breathing section also guides the caregiver to immediately cover a sucking chest wound with an occlusive, which is an air- and water-tight dressing, and monitor the casualty’s chest cavity for the possibility of a collapsed lung.

• More detail in the bleeding section reinforces use of a tourniquet, guiding the user to place it 2- to 3-inches above the wound and recommends a minimum three minutes of pressure when using Combat Gauze.

When time and conditions permit, the guidelines state, the caregiver should ensure there is no pulse on the affected limb below the tourniquet. If there is, the use of a second tourniquet should be considered to avoid further blood loss.

• Documentation of care will be noted on a TCCC casualty card.
Tactical Evacuation Care

• Change of terminology from CASEVAC to TACEVAC. This change also applies to the term medical evacuation, or MEDEVAC.

• Treatment protocols are the same as outlined in the tactical field-care section, with reassessments to the casualty.

The concepts that created TCCC were developed in 1996 as a Special Operations initiative and in 2001 the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care was stood up as a vehicle for gathering lessons learned on the battlefield for analysis and incorporation into training and operational guidelines.

The committee has medical representatives from all the services, including Navy corpsmen, conventional Army and Special Forces medics, Air Force pararescuemen and civilian medical professionals including trauma surgeons, emergency medicine and critical care physicians, scientists and educators who meet quarterly.

The TCCC program is credited with significantly reducing the number of fatalities on the battlefield and creating the highest combat survival rates in U.S. military history.

Guidelines established by the TCCC committee were reviewed by all the services and have been adopted by the Marine Corps.

To see TCCC changes online, go to www.lejeune.usmc.mil/fmtb/index.shtml.