Saturday, September 04, 2010
The question, mostly directed to employees of the clandestine service branch, was: Which are the best allies among friendly spy services, in terms of liaison with the CIA, and which are the worst? In other words, who acts like, well, friends?
“Israel came in dead last,” a recently retired CIA official told me the other day.
Not only that, he added, throwing up his hands and rising from his chair, “the Israelis are number three, with China number one and Russia number two,” in terms of how aggressive they are in their operations on U.S. soil.
Israel’s undercover operations here, including missions to steal U.S. secrets, are hardly a secret at the FBI, CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. From time to time, in fact, the FBI has called Israeli officials on the carpet to complain about a particularly brazen effort to collect classified or other sensitive information, in particular U.S. technical and industrial secrets.
The most notorious operation employed Jonathan Pollard, the naval intelligence analyst convicted in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison for stealing tens of thousands of classified documents for Israel.
One of Israel’s major interests, of course, is keeping track of Muslims who might be allied with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, or Iran-backed Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.
As tensions with Iran escalate, according to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, “Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as in operating against critics.”
“There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab-American communities and have falsely represented themselves as ‘U.S. intelligence,’ ” Giraldi wrote recently in American Conservative magazine.
“Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate. It’s referred to as a ‘false flag’ operation.”
Giraldi’s piece continued, “Mossad officers sought to recruit Arab-Americans as sources willing to inform on their associates and neighbors. The approaches, which took place in New York and New Jersey, were reportedly handled clumsily, making the targets of the operation suspicious.”
“These Arab-Americans turned down the requests for cooperation,” Giraldi added,”and some of the contacts were eventually reported to the FBI, which has determined that at least two of the Mossad officers are, ironically, Israeli Arabs operating out of Israel’s mission to the United Nations in New York under cover as consular assistants.”
“Oh, sure, they do that,” the other former CIA official said, waving a dismissing hand, when I asked about Giraldi’s story. “They’re all over the place.”...
The decision was announced in a Foreign Ministry statement a few hours before a visit by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A spokesman for the ministry, Selcuk Unal, said the agreement at present did not include troops or combat equipment. He said that talks on the issue were still under way. The United States has been moving vast amounts of equipment out of Iraq since 2008, mostly through Kuwait. Some is being redeployed to Afghanistan. ...
bth: as President Obama supposedly put it to Turkey's PM last month, "are we still allies"?
Mahdi Karroubi's guards had to fire gunshots in the air to clear crowds that broke down the door of his home on Thursday night after days of gatherings outside, said the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran's pro-reform movement.
The report said the attackers were members of the plainclothes Basij militia that led the crackdown on the protests that swept the country in response to allegations of fraud in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election. Karroubi was one of the pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad.
Crowds again encircled Karroubi's residence on Friday, as Iranians filled a central Tehran square for the annual state-sponsored rally known as Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day.
The government uses the occasion as an anti-Israel outpouring and to show its support for the Palestinians. But last year, Karroubi and other opposition leaders used the day to gather tens of thousands of their own supporters into the streets, and violent clashes broke out with security forces.
Crowds of hard-line protesters have gathered at the gate of his building for several days, apparently because they believed he would try to attend the rally again this year, though none of the opposition leaders has called for demonstrations.
Karroubi's son, Hossein, told The Associated Press Friday that dozens of hard-liners were continuing to damage the opposition leader's home and that police were not responding to the scene.
President Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, addressed the Tehran rally, saying Israel and its supporters are too weak to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israel, the United States and other nations believe Iran intends to develop atomic weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear power program. Iran denies that, saying its nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes.
Gatherings for Quds Day were also held in other cities around the country.
Karroubi, a cleric, and Mir Hossein Mousavi were the two pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad in 2009. Mousavi claims he won the election but that it was stolen from him through massive fraud.
On Friday, Mousavi condemned the attack on Karroubi's home, saying it proved the government's 'enmity against Israel is an excuse' for attacking opposition figures. 'Karroubi and figures like him and other freedom-seekers are the real enemies of authoritarians.' ....
Friday, September 03, 2010
This memo was a startling revelation. Here was the US president hinting at mounting a giant con game to start a war: creating a phony incident to grease the path to an invasion. The memo—portions of which were published in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands' Lawless World—does not record Blair objecting to this potential subterfuge. (I have read the entire memo.)...
bth: sorry mother fuckers
The assessment by Maj. Gen. Richard Mills is a bright spot in an otherwise difficult war involving some 100,000 U.S. troops. American forces for several months have been bogged down in a fight with insurgents in the farming hamlets of Marjah, an area in southern Afghanistan considered at the heart of Afghanistan's drug trade.
Mills said the insurgency in Marjah is a shadow of what it once was and that the Taliban's loss in revenue has made it difficult to resupply fighters. But, he added, the Taliban is continuing to terrorize the locals at night and hide explosive devices that are killing U.S. forces and civilians....
bth: the other variable that must be considered is the price of heroin. If supply goes down prices go up and record production in recent years had driven prices rock bottom. Certainly an area for more research. ... Could this be tied to the bank run? Are the Saudis who finance the drug lords getting their cash out of Afghanistan all the sudden?
The badly decomposed body of Yuri Ivanov washed up last month on the shore of the Mediterranean, and was discovered by Turkish villagers in the province of Hatay, Turkish newspapers reported today. Reports suggest that he was quietly buried in Moscow over the weekend.
Ivanov was the second in command at Russia's foreign military intelligence unit, the GRU. The general had last been deployed to review military installations in Syria, amid Kremlin attempts to reassert its influence in the Middle East, reports suggested.
Major General Ivanov's body was found on 16 August but was only identified last week. Russia's Red Star newspaper confirmed his death on Saturday in a brief obituary. Russia's defence ministry declined to comment further.
Today, however, the Russian media questioned the official version of his death – that he had died while going for a swim – and pointed out that, as a top-ranking spy, he would have been accompanied everywhere by bodyguards.
The news portal Svobodnaya Pressa also pointed out that Ivanov was the second top GRU agent to die in unexplained circumstances. Another senior agent, Yuri Gusev, was killed in 1992 in a 'car accident'. His fellow officers later established that he had been murdered, the paper said, adding: 'Spies of that rank are well protected. As a rule, they don't die by chance.'
After finding the body, Turkey's foreign ministry approached neighbouring countries for further information, with Damascus reporting that Ivanov had gone missing while on assignment in Syria.
The general was last seen visiting the building site for a new Russian military base in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus, which is being expanded as a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet.
After his visit, he left for a meeting with Syrian intelligence agents. He then went missing, the Turkish newspaper Vatan reported today.
GRU is the country's main military intelligence and reconnaissance agency, and reports directly to the general staff of Russia's armed forces. The directorate is much bigger than the KGB – which was broken up after the collapse of communism into two agencies: the foreign intelligence service, the SVR, and its domestic equivalent, the FSB.
Historically, Russia's intelligence agencies have often been fierce rivals.
The Kremlin assigned Ivanov to lead its war against Chechen separatists in 2000, and he allegedly masterminded a series of assassination attacks, which the Russian secret service carried out on Chechens living abroad. In 2004, two GRU agents killed the Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, blowing up his SUV in Qatar.
The Qatar authorities swiftly arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment two Russian GRU spies who were said in court to have been acting under direct orders from the Russian leadership. The pair were extradited back to Russia in 2005 to serve out their sentences on home soil. Both then promptly disappeared.
The report of the 11,000 strong Chinese invasion of the border region of Gilgit-Baltistan emerged last week in an opinion piece in the New York Times, and gained an enormous amount of currency in the Indian media.
India’s External Affairs Ministry announced earlier his week that they were investigating the media reports and that it would be “a matter of serious concern” if it turned out the Chinese military had invaded and occupied the territory.
The ability of such a rumor of a Chinese occupation to float around for nearly a week before formal denial is primarily because the Pakistani government has severely limited media access to the area, as a way to keep their own Kashmiri separatist movement as quiet as possible.
bth: very curious. Do we have soldiers disguised as railroad workers as the NYT implies?
Afghanistan: Chicago Army reservist alerts Congress to alleged unprepared unit set to be deployed - chicagotribune.com
Alejandro Villatoro, 28, is one of about 160 soldiers from across the Midwest in the 656th Transportation Company, based in Hobart, Ind. He said he didn't want his unit to be unprepared like his was in 2003.
In Kuwait, Villatoro said, his unit conducted missions with trucks used in the Korean War and trained using Vietnam tactics, like digging foxholes. When his unit invaded Iraq, some soldiers did so with scant bullets.
"This is an example of what a commander does, where they put the mission first before the safety," said Villatoro, of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. "My concern is I want to put safety first to make sure that our soldiers are properly trained before we take on a mission."
Villatoro contacted the offices of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Staff members from each office said they attended a joint meeting in August with an Army Reserve official about investigating Villatoro's concerns.
First Lt. Caleb Shinn, commander of the 656th, stressed that his unit has several more weeks of training and must be certified at least twice that the soldiers are ready for combat.
"We worked closely together," Shinn said of Villatoro. "At no point did he bring (his concerns) up to me, that I'm aware of."
Three weeks after he contacted the Tribune and lawmakers, Villatoro said his unit was informed that training would be more thorough and that soldiers with concerns should use the chain of command rather than the news media.
It's unusual for a sergeant to reach out to Washington about readiness, said Richard H. Kohn, a University of North Carolina professor of military history.
Military officials have argued about readiness since after the Vietnam War, bickering about standards and whether they are the same for active soldiers and reservists, Kohn said.
The lines are blurred, it often is a question of funding and there's constant pressure from the top down to report "we're ready" because it reflects on the chain of command, Kohn said.
"These commanders are taught to make do," Kohn said.
Troops in the 656th learned in February they would be leading convoy missions to patrol Afghanistan, yet they hadn't been trained to drive mine-resistant, top-heavy vehicles yet, said Villatoro, who joined the Reserve 10 years ago.
Funding was cut for their two-week training in June, Shinn confirmed. Instead of days full of activity, soldiers simulated online scenarios they might encounter overseas. They didn't have training equipment such as blank bullets, pyrotechnics or soldiers from other units who would act as the enemy, Villatoro said.
They crammed in computer classes about what do to if they became prisoners of war and maneuvered vehicles around dummies strewn on the side of the road that acted as explosives. Soldiers were supposed to radio someone to disarm them, but the radios didn't work, Villatoro said.
Most of Villatoro's concerns don't consider up to five weeks more of training the unit is scheduled to complete before it leaves for Afghanistan, Shinn said.
Villatoro said the unit is scheduled to deploy near the beginning of October.
"It's kind of like a crawl, walk, run phase," Shinn said. "We're more in the walk phase."
Soldiers in June weren't in the training phase yet to be using training equipment, Shinn said, adding that some soldiers were sent to Texas to master the mine-resistant vehicles.
Villatoro acknowledged that he tried only once to talk to Shinn, but said he wasn't allowed to talk to his commander.
Gary Tallman, a U.S. Army spokesman, said military officials have been contacted by members of Congress about Villatoro's allegations and would look into them.
"We won't deploy a unit that isn't prepared," Tillman said. "We owe them that much."
bth: first soldiers have the prerogative to contact their elected officials. They usually are punished for it, but they have the right. Second note that their training funding was cut in June. Third, not training with the equipment they are going to fight in will cause fatalities and transport companies have taken very heavy casualties in Iraq and it looks like the repeat is happening in Afghanistan. Units need to train especially with radios in jammed environments and with MRAPS and MATVs that are top heavy and tend to roll over killing the occupants unless the drivers are properly trained in the vehicles themselves.
The house of cards that is the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul may be falling before our eyes, as vast, globe-spanning webs of corruption, formerly hidden in shadows, have suddenly had a spotlight thrown on them. The crisis raises the severest questions about whether the Obama administration can plausibly hope to stand up a stable government in Afghanistan before US troops depart....
bth; a government to die for? Perhaps this explains the poor recruitment and retention of Afghans for their military and police. After all there are over 25 million people there and it would seem odd that so few would want a job working for the government. What do they know that we do not? Well apparently where to bank.
....Obama campaigned on a pledge to let cuts expire for the richest 2 percent of households, but some Democrats say the economy is too weak to raise anyone's taxes right now. And they fear a backlash from small-business owners who could be hit with higher taxes.
Pairing targeted business tax breaks with an extension of middle-class tax cuts could help alleviate those problems.
Permanently extending the research credit would cost roughly $100 billion over the next decade, tax analysts said. And depending on its form and duration, a payroll-tax holiday could cost more than $300 billion. While costing significantly less than last year's stimulus package, both ideas would be far more dramatic than anything the White House has so far acknowledged considering.
More spending on infrastructure, particularly transportation projects, is also under discussion. But it would be easier for a package composed purely of tax cuts to "avoid the stain of a 'bailout' or 'stimulus' label," said one official familiar with the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private.
The president could roll out additional measures as soon as next week. Senate leaders hope to begin debating the tax issue in late September....
bth: so just fucking do something, anything but go on another vacation.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
In the past, the Taliban have shown no aversion to using these kinds of methods to achieve their aims.
The Long War Journal has noted some of these incidents over the past few years. On Nov. 12, 2008, the Taliban sprayed six girls with acid outside a girls’ school in Kandahar; two of the victims were blinded in the attack. A few weeks later, 10 Taliban fighters were arrested for the acid attacks, and they stated that senior Taliban leaders based in Pakistan had paid them to conduct the attacks.
In April of this year, at least three separate poison gas attacks sickened over 80 Afghan schoolgirls and teachers in Kunduz. Then in May, 30 schoolgirls were hospitalized after poison gas was released in Kunduz and Kabul. Another attack followed in early June, when 16 girls were hospitalized in the wake of a poisonous gas incident. Later that same month, 60 schoolgirls in Balkh province were hospitalized for poisoning, and the CNN news report called it “at least the third suspected poisoning of girls attending schools in Afghanistan this week.”
Most recently, on Aug. 25, at one girls’ high school in Kabul, 73 schoolgirls and their teachers were hospitalized with poison gas symptoms; the following day, 45 students and four teachers from a different girls’ high school in Kabul were hospitalized with similar symptoms.
The gravity of this developing threat cannot be allayed by any temptation to mischaracterize the nature of the attacks. As the NYT article points out, the poison gas attacks cannot be dismissed as ‘female hysteria.’ They are undeniably chemical attacks with pronounced physical effects, including loss of consciousness, urinary distress, vomiting, diarrhea, and near asphyxiation (including cyanosis, or turning blue for lack of oxygen).
Despite the extensive evidence pointing to Taliban involvement in the poison gas and other attacks on Afghan schoolgirls, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid recently denied any responsibility, in a phone call to the NYT: “We have not and will never take such action against innocent girls,” he stated.
Denials aside, the sheer scope and persistence of the various kinds of attacks on Afghan schoolgirls is staggering. Last year, the Afghan Ministry of Education and CARE published a joint study called “Knowledge on Fire,” [PDF here ] which observed:
Throughout 2008 alone, 670 attacks on the Afghan education system were carried out including arson and the murder of teachers and students. Between January 2006 and December 2008, 1,153 attacks of different natures were reported: grenades, night letters or verbal threats to teachers, killings of students and education personnel. According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), 230 people died as a result of attacks on schools, students and personnel between 2006 and 2007. [footnote omitted]
The study’s executive summary went on to state:
Girls’ education is clearly targeted more than boys; findings from this research indicate that the main perpetrators against the education of girls are the armed insurgency or internal community members. Of all attacked schools, girls’ schools account for 40%, while mixed schools (32%) and boys’ schools (28%) make up for the rest. There are, however, less than half the number of girls’ schools than boys’ schools in the country, which clearly signals a gender bias in the attacks....
bth: once again where is the local outrage? If someone attacked a school in the west they would be hunted down like dogs by the parents. But here we have the dog that didn't bark.
A new book by Tom Segev, to be published on Thursday, reveals that the Mossad supported Wiesenthal - and also shows that Israel did more to capture Nazi war criminals than was previously known. ...
bth: So little is as it seems.
The Times reports the UK-based oil giant is on the warpath against a drilling reform bill passed by the House earlier this summer that would effectively bar BP from getting new drilling permits in the US.
The CLEAR Act, passed by the House in July, includes an amendment (PDF) that states any oil company that has received more than $10 million in safety fines, or has seen more than 10 workers killed in the past seven years, is barred from being granted new drilling permits. The Times notes that, currently, only BP fits that criteria.
BP officials reportedly insist that their warnings to Congress don't mean that they are backing away from the $20 billion escrow fund the company established to pay damages to victims of the oil spill. But the Times reports that BP is using some of its voluntary payments as 'bargaining chips' with lawmakers....
bth: BP was behind the UK deal to free Pan Am terrorists to Libya. BP destroyed the Gulf of Mexico and the lives of thousands. Now it threatens blackmail. If the Administration had any stones at all they would let BP know that they are finished in North America if they pull a stunt like this. But we don't and we won't.
I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore
More than 20 members of the Haqqani Network were killed after launching an early morning attack on Combat Outpost Margah in the Bermel district of Paktika province.
"The attack began in the early morning with small arms and indirect fire directed against the outpost," the International Security Assistance Forces stated in a press release. US troops repelled the attack with mortar and small-arms fire, then called in helicopter gunships to finish off the attackers.
"Aircraft from TF [Task Force] Viper conducted two passes over the area, killing at least 20 insurgents in two separate engagements," ISAF stated. No US or Afghan troops were killed or wounded in the attacks.
Combat Outpost Margah is the third US base to be assaulted by the Haqqani Network since Aug. 28. Haqqani Network fighters launched coordinated attacks against Forward Operating Bases Salerno and Chapman in Khost province on Aug. 28.
US and Afghan troops routed the Haqqani Network fighters, killing more than 35, including a commander, during and after the attack. Several of the fighters were wearing US Army uniforms, and 13 were armed with suicide vests. US forces killed and captured several commanders and fighters during raids in the aftermath of the attack.
A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that the Haqqani Network attacks, and similar assaults carried out against major US bases across the country, are ineffective.
"These sorts of FOB [forward operating base] attacks have become little more than exercises in target practice here," the official said in the aftermath of the Aug. 28 attacks. "They show up, we watch them; we kill them."
But a senior US military intelligence official and several US military officers contacted by The Long War Journal cautioned that the attacks show the Haqqani Network still have the capacity to organize and strike outside the walls of US outposts....
bth: quite candidly this is very good news. We have survived 3 significant FOB attacks. Haqqani Network is throwing lots of men into them and coming up with lots of casualties with little to show for it. 13 suicide bombers in one attack. What a stunning number and to have not lost allied forces during such an attack is just astounding. This probably wouldn't have happened so favorably in 2008 or 2009. Something fundamental is shifting in our favor, whether it is organizationally (less delay in air support), intel (perhaps we hacked into Haqqani's network) or technology (better unattended sensors, drones or acoustic shot detectors) I don't know but something has changed for the better. One can only hope Haqqani sends more like this.
I had the opportunity to visit the National Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning this week. It is a beautiful and moving place. In the family section, there was a quote which I copied down onto a piece of scrap paper.
I had the opportunity to visit the National Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning this week. It is a beautiful and moving place. In the family section, there was a quote which I copied down onto a piece of scrap paper.
American soldiers have been fighting and dying for their country since the birth of our nation. They do so willingly as members of the brotherhood of the close fight. As we honor their sacrifice we also honor the sacrifice made by their loved ones who must continue on after their grievous loss. The families and friends of fallen soldiers are forever members of the Army family, as we try to share the burden they bear."
This simple statement expresses elegantly our many thoughts and emotions.
The hard-line, regime-backed daily Kayhan, which already had called the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy a 'prostitute,' said her lifestyle meant she deserved a fate similar to that of the doomed Iranian woman Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
'Studying Carla Bruni's record clearly shows the reason why this immoral woman is backing an Iranian woman who has been condemned to death for committing adultery and being [an] accomplice in her husband's murder and, in fact, she herself deserves to die,' Kayhan wrote. ...
Robots Being Used To Pick Up Garbage For Small Italian Town Until They Discover They Are Being Used To Pick Up Garbage For Small Italian Town | The Daily Feed | Minyanville.com
All of this was so disconcerting that the Defense Department hired Cardinalli, a social scientist, to examine this mystery. Her report, 'Pashtun Sexuality,' startled not even one Afghan. But Western forces were shocked - and repulsed.
For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means 'boy player.' The men like to boast about it.
'Having a boy has become a custom for us,' Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. 'Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.'...
bth: you can tell a lot about a culture by how it treats its women and children.
Fielding questions on NATO's in-house TV channel, he also predicted that the future campaign would be 'slow and hard-fought.'
He said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) did not have 'the organization necessary' in place until last year when a new war policy was tried out.
But he said that the planned surge involving ISAF and Afghan forces would be completed as per schedule.
'For the first time, we will then have the tools, and what is required in place to carry out the kind of campaign that (is) necessary here with our Afghan partners, ' the four-star General said.
He counseled patience over the growing frustration being felt in America and Europe over the continuing engagement in the war-ravaged South-west Asian country.
'It is understandable that there is impatience and a desire to see progress right now, but the nature of these endeavors is such that progress is slow, it is hard-fought,' he cautioned.
Petraeus who echoed US President Barack Obama's promise regarding a complete pull-out from Afghanistan, however, said that it would depend on ground realities.
'July 2011 is a time when a process begins, the pace of which is determined by conditions on the ground. There has been a misinterpretation that this is when we race for the exits and find a light switch to turn them out before we leave the room. And that is not the case,' he added.
It was in the wake of the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal following his criticism of the Obama administration that Petraeus assumed charge, a lesser post from being the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command.
A widely-respected soldier, Petraeus is credited with turning around the conflict in Iraq.
bth: so Afghanistan was under resourced for years. Well Gen. Petraeus whose fault is that? You were in charge of both Afghanistan and Iraq as CENTCOM commander. So now the American public has moved on and you've just begun to fight in Afghanistan after 9 years?
Robert Baer, a decorated CIA field officer of two decades experience who had spent years in the Middle East, said any chances the US and its allies had of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan had already been squandered. The Coalition was fighting an unwinnable war, he said, and this was the case because victory required reliable intelligence.
''[US intelligence agencies] have the same problem they had before 9/11. It is a system that doesn't work.''
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That system sees CIA operatives and allied intelligence officers unable to gather reliable information because security concerns do not allow them to travel widely. And most do not speak the local language. ''They're all stuck behind the wire; they don't get out … it's like the crusades where you're stuck on your castle imagining what the natives are doing,'' he said.
Describing Washington DC as a ''blank spot on the map'', he said that despite the massive growth of the intelligence agencies post September 11, 2001, there remained systemic failings.....
bth: Stepping back and assessing the situation, I don't think we will accomplish much by pouring more soldiers into Afghanistan to trip over IEDs. We fundamentally need reliable intelligence. Once a target is identified our ability to smash it is overwhelming. The problem at its core is a lack of actionable intelligence.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
The Ministry of Defence described the report in The Times as 'speculation' ahead of the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, expected next month.
But a source said that ideas for all sorts of co-operation would be 'on the table' when Defence Secretary Liam Fox visited Paris for talks with his French counterparts on Friday, and did not exclude the possibility of the aircraft carriers being discussed.
The Times suggested that the proposal could be officially unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy at a summit in November.
Under the arrangement, British and French flagships would work together to defend the interests of both countries, said the paper. The plan would ensure that one of three ships - one French and two British - was always on duty at sea. And special protocols would be drawn up to make clear what should happen if a uniquely British interest such as the Falkland Islands comes under threat when the French are in charge.
If confirmed, the move could make it easier for the UK to scrap or downgrade one of the two replacement carriers being constructed for the Royal Navy at a cost of £5.2 billion.
The Times quoted a Whitehall source as saying: 'Liam has made it clear that we want more co-operation as we have to face up to the world we are living in.
'The advantage is that if we are going to have one carrier, then at least we can project our power on the sea even if we go down to a single carrier.'...
bth: while India adds carriers to its fleet, Britain downsizes its own to irrelevance.
The admission came in an interview, as a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health was answering questions about two new episodes in the last week. The spokesman, Dr. Kargar Norughli, said his ministry and the World Health Organization had been testing the blood of victims in 10 mass sickenings and had confirmed the presence of toxic but not fatal levels of organophosphates. Those compounds are widely used in insecticides and herbicides, and are also the active ingredients of compounds developed as chemical weapons, including sarin and VX gas.
Dr. Norughli did not explain why the confirmations had not been announced earlier.
But he emphasized that how the gas was delivered — and even whether the poisonings were deliberate — remained a mystery. There have been no fatalities, and no one has claimed responsibility for the episodes....
bth: It baffles Americans as to why Afghans aren't outraged by the poisoning of their school girls. Its like the dog that didn't bark. If something like this happened in a western society there would be a vigilante mob out for blood, but in Afghanistan it seems to be taken in stride, like a car wreck or an illness. Is it that they are girls and less valued in Afghan society or is it that the Afghan public has been so cowed by terror from the Taliban?
WASHINGTON: A Pakistani military delegation became the latest victim of the paranoia permeating US airports on Monday night, when US security officials detained a brigadier at Washington’s Dulles airport on a complaint by a passenger who said he did not feel safe sharing the flight with the delegation.
The brigadier was removed from the United Airlines flight, and others in this eight-member delegation were also detained after they disembarked. They were later released.
The dispute became a major diplomatic row as the delegation, offended by this treatment, decided to cancel an important meeting at the headquarters of the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, and return home.
By the time the US Department of Defence apologised to the delegation, their leader, a two-star naval officer, had already informed Islamabad where officials approved his decision to return home on Tuesday night.
The delegation included senior officials from all three services, the army, the navy and the air force.
Dawn contacted the US Transport Security Administration, whose officials had detained the brigadier, and the Department of Homeland Security but failed to get a response.
Mathew Chandler, a DHS spokesman, and Lauren Gaches of TSA, however, asked Dawn to contact the airline.
United Airlines officials, however, told the US media that the brigadier, whose name was not disclosed, had misbehaved with a stewardess and told her that “this would be her last mission”.
Information collected by Dawn showed that the incident that led to the cancellation of the meeting happened at Washington’s Dulles airport on Monday night when a passenger on the flight to Tampa complained that a Pakistani brigadier, while talking to his colleagues, had made remarks that he found threatening.
Officials of the airline informed the Transport Security Administration who detained the brigadier and later other officials as well.
A Pakistani official, when asked to comment on the airline’s claim, said: “This is a delegation of senior officials, led by a two-star officer, not unit captains and majors. Such responsible officers do not indulge in such behaviour.”
Information collected by Dawn also confirmed the Pakistani claim as the plane was delayed for 40 minutes before the airline’s mentioned the alleged altercation between the brigadier and the stewardess.
Later, an official of the airline came with a TSA security officer and asked the brigadier to disembark. She gave no reason.
The head of the delegation asked the brigadier to get down and cooperate with the TSA. The brigadier disclosed his identity.
There was no response for about 15-20 minutes and then the airline and security officials asked the entire delegation to get off the plane.
The leader of the Pakistani delegation showed TSA officials an invitation letter from the Centcom, confirming that they were going to Tampa for a meeting. He also showed them all the passports that identified the delegation as senior military officers.
He then requested to talk to a senior TSA official or the person in-charge of security at the airport but his request was turned down.
“They did not let them speak and treated them like terrorists,” said a Pakistani official. “The investigators were unprofessional, junior officials.”
The official said that the TSA and airlines officials kept telling the delegation that a passenger found the brigadier’s remarks threatening but did not say what those remarks were.
“The delegation was detained for two hours, telling them nothing, not allowing them to talk to anyone,” said the Pakistani official.
“They received no response even when they showed them their passports and the Centcom letter,” the official said.
“At the end, they realised their mistake and apologised but by then the delegation had decided it did not want to take that flight.”
Explaining why the delegation decided to cancel the meeting and return home, the official said it was basically because of the humiliating treatment by the TSA and airline staff.
“They could not prove any of the allegations. What we gathered is that one of the passengers became paranoid, so they decided to detain an official delegation. This is an issue of paranoia,” said the official who said the Pakistani forces will hold their own inquiry to determine what caused this humiliating behaviour.
In Islamabad, the Inter Services Public Relations said: “A Pakistani military delegation on a visit to US (on US invitation to attend a meeting at Centcom) was subjected to unwarranted security checks at Washington airport by US Transport Security Agency. Later, the delegation was cleared and US defence officials regretted the incident. However, as a result of these checks, military authorities in Pakistan decided to cancel the visit and call the delegation back.”
bth: what a giant cluster fuck. Would it have been unreasonable for the US military to have given these Pakistani military officers an escort or liaison?
Monday, August 30, 2010
Today's news should raise a fundamental question about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan: Where's the coordination? Why did the anti-corruption drive, emphasized by General Petraeus, roll up one of our intelligence assets? Why were we paying this crook in the first place? Why did diplomatic and military representatives of the U.S. government approach Karzai to remove his brother when the CIA was funding him? (An Afghan expert told me that Karzai's response was, in effect, 'I'll take him off my payroll when you take him off yours.) I've been asking both military and intelligence forces about the obvious conflicts here, but both sides deny there's a problem. Which is, of course, nonsense.
And it should raise even more fundamental questions about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan: Do we really need to continue the effort at this level? Wouldn't a presence that involved special ops, military and police training and some very targeted economic aid (that is, aid that can't be stolen by government officials) be sufficient? Isn't our most important national security goal here--and the main reason for a continuing, limited U.S. presence--to convince Pakistan that its Indian rivals won't be able to use Afghanistan as a strategic asset?
At this point, those who say we need to 'win' in Afghanistan seem totally deluded; and those who say we should 'just get out' are too simplistic. The Obama Administration's next big Afghan review in December seems a long way away: it's time to start thinking about creatively reducing the U.S. mission now.
“That tactic proved disastrous,” said General Freakley, who is now commander of US Accessions Command (recruiting and army cadets) at Fort Knox in Kentucky. “They thought of a platoon house as in Northern Ireland but in Afghanistan you have to be mobile against the Taleban. You can’t be in a fixed position because the Taleban will hit you.”
At the time General Freakley was receiving messages from President Karzai asking the military to restore the district centres, which had been overrun by the Taleban. “You do that by attacking the enemy, putting in Afghan police and then staying mobile,” he said.
Contradicting claims by British commanders in the past, he said: “I don’t believe Governor Daud [then the governor of Helmand] insisted on having the platoon houses.”
Despite his criticisms General Freakley underlined his respect for the men of 16 Air Assault Brigade who were in Helmand in 2006. “I have the greatest respect for those men,” he said. “It seems that . . . they thought they were going to be involved in some sort of peacekeeping force but they had to face a very complex environment..
bth: these asshole generals bicker, but several things seem obvious. First, the Brits didn't have enough troops nor helicopters and vehicles. Their ground vehicles sucked and got IEDs all the time so they largely walked on foot which meant that they couldn't cover more than a few miles from their platoon houses. Second, the platoon houses were too small and too isolated and too remote for prompt air support to be of much use. This is the same flawed strategy the Americans are using in the mountains to the east where we have had bases nearly overrun. Third, without a viable Afghan police or army to hold territory, the Brits would have to leave an area they took and the insurgents would back fill the same way the Sunnis did in Anbar province before the surge. So we have an American general criticizing the Brits and the reverse and the Taliban controlling Helmand. These generals have failed to lead the fine infantry both countries have provided them. A great national disservice.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.
It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich....
'I said, 'General Petraeus, winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans is not the job of a soldier. That's the job of an Afghan,' ' Daudzai said.
Daudzai described Karzai as 'concerned' and committed to changing the U.S. approach to the war.
'He's putting those conditions there, that if we do not review, then we will be on the path toward losing,' he said. 'We need to review our strategy, our code of conduct, so that Afghans believe that this is a sovereign state and President Karzai is the ultimate decision maker in this country.â€ˆ. . . We are in the last stage, the last chance of winning this war. So we cannot afford to spend a lot of time on accusations and counter-accusations.' ...
bth: nothing about this situation is improving.
Channel NewsAsia - Singapore deploys unmanned aerial vehicle task group to Afghanistan - channelnewsasia.com
SINGAPORE: For the first time, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) task group and institutional trainers to Afghanistan.
The 52-man group is in Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital of Uruzgan, together with a team of four institutional trainers in Kabul, as part of Singapore's contribution to the multinational stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
The UAV Task Group, which commenced operations on Friday, will be deployed till November.
The four institutional trainers, who started their operations a week earlier, will be deployed till December.
They will then hand over to a second rotation of institutional trainers who will be deployed till next April.
The task group will be carrying out surveillance of key roads to improve security for Afghan locals and international forces.
The four trainers are at an artillery school in Kabul to train the Afghan National Army in artillery operations and doctrine development.
They will also advise the school on the effective administration and conduct of artillery courses
bth: Singapore has been plowing money into small unmanned ground vehicles and larger unmanned air vehicles at an aggressive pace. They are clearly embracing unmanned systems at all levels. Compare this to the decline of UK forces.
Last night, hopes for extra funding were fading as Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander rejected demands for extra money from Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox and insisted the 20 billion pounds cost of replacing Trident had to be met fully by the MoD, The Observer reported today.
Quoting an expert, the report said the increasing costs of running the Gurkha's following actress Joanna Lumley's high-profile campaign last year to improve their rights, added to the sense that the 'writing is on the wall' for the Brigade of Gurkhas, which has 3,640 members.
Fox has been pushing hard for the Treasury to increase the MoD's budget in some of the toughest negotiations of the spending review aimed at slashing Britain's 155 billion pounds deficit.
The report said despite their fame and public following, the Gurkhas had long been a candidate for cuts.
"Ever since January 1, 1948, when the Brigade of Gurkhas joined the British army, their future has been up for discussion. They have been here before," the report quoted a defence insider.
A spokesman for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which cares for ex-Gurkhas and their families, conceded they were vulnerable. He said, "The government has made it clear there are no sacred cows."
The Gurkhas have been an integral part of the army since 1815, when the British East India Company signed a peace deal allowing it to recruit Nepalese soldiers.
The other regiments at risk are likely to be a tank regiment alongside the possible loss of a Scottish battalion such as the Black Watch or the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Big-ticket items are also to be re-evaluated including two new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers, which are to come into service in 2016 and 2018, and the RAF's Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft.
bth: the esp-re of such groups at the Gurkhas and the Black Watch will be hard to re-establish once abolished. What a waste.