Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
And isn't it interesting that in this case al Qaeda is performing the same function that the ISI does? That is, al Qaeda is neutering commanders in northern Afghanistan who are not as committed to war as they should be, just as the ISI does in Pakistan
And isn't it interesting that in this case al Qaeda is performing the same function that the ISI does? That is, al Qaeda is neutering commanders in northern Afghanistan who are not as committed to war as they should be, just as the ISI does in Pakistan
Yet Army commanders have routinely denied Purple Hearts to soldiers who have sustained concussions in Iraq, despite regulations that make such wounds eligible for the medal, an investigation by NPR and ProPublica has found.
Soldiers have had to battle for months and sometimes years to prove that these wounds , also called mild traumatic brain injuries, merit the honor, our reporting showed. Commanders turned down some soldiers despite well-documented blast wounds that wrenched their minds, altered their lives and wracked their families.
bth: we know several soldiers personally that are now permanently disabled from head injuries caused by IEDs yet they did not receive Purple Hearts. This is simply wrong.
In 2003 10% of the Iraq War casualties were civilians, now its 90%.
The burning would occur the same day that a Florida pastor had threatened to burn Qur’ans, which drew condemnation from President Obama, religious leaders and others.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, who announced Westboro Baptist’s plan, said they don’t think that pastor, Terry Jones, will carry out the burning.
Westboro Baptist Church has received international condemnation for its protests at the funerals of gay people and U.S. servicemembers. Church members burned a Qur’an two years ago in Washington, D.C.
bth: the Westboro church members, which are essentially the extended Phelps family, is probably the worst group of haters I have ever personally seen.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
The professor told police that the device was part of an experiment designed to demonstrate what might have caused TWA Flight 800 to explode off Long Island, N.Y. on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 people on board. A report by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2000 that the plane might have crashed after the airplane's center wing fuel tank exploded.
The professor, however, had not advised Brown’s staff that he would bringing the device to his appointment, Daniel Linskey, superintendent in chief of the Boston Police Department, told reporters outside the building.
Building security staff stopped the professor as he approached the metal detectors on the first floor, and were interviewing him this afternoon, Linskey said. The professor, a former faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, had brought the device in a backpack, Linskey said.
“At this point, it looks like a case of bad judgment,” Linskey said, adding that it was particularly bad timing to bring a “sinister-looking device” into a federal building two days before Sept. 11....
bth: you think?
"I determined that someone -- and I didn't know [who] at that time -- was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades," said Paul Funk, who used to oversee the screening of Afghan linguists for the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor, Mission Essential Personnel. "Many who failed were marked as being passed."
After being asked about the allegations, U.S. Army officials confirmed to ABC News they are investigating the company.
Funk outlined his claims in a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed earlier this year against Mission Essential Personnel, saying the company turned a blind eye to cheating on language exams taken over the phone and hired applicants even though they failed to meet the language standards set by the Army and spelled out in the company's contract. He alleges that 28 percent of the linguists hired between November 2007 and June 2008 failed to meet the government's language requirements. The company has contested those claims in court, and this week rejected them as false in an interview with ABC News. ...
Increases in military power come at the expense of civilian normality. This is true even for small border skirmishes that only require civilian trucks to move forces to the border. It is uneconomical, inefficient and foolish to devote wartime levels of resources to the maintenance of the armed forces in peacetime. Thus, prudent leaders designate in advance those otherwise productive civilian resources that the government will commandeer in wartime and only in wartime.
The rule also works in reverse, in that the armed forces of a state are usually the only reservoir of manpower and organized technical resources that can be applied to alleviate a civilian disaster. The Pakistani response of using military assets to assist the civil sector during the flooding is typical of all nations. The draw down of military normality -- combat readiness -- is essential to stabilize a civilian disaster.
This is appropriate and typical. The most salient examples of the reverse flow of resources from the military into the civilian sectors occurred during the Chernobyl disaster, the North Korean famine and the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.
In Chernobyl, containment of the nuclear disaster required the engineering resources of the entire Soviet armed forces for a year. The Korean famine in 1995 and 1996 resulted in the Korean Peoples Army guarding grain fields in addition to growing food themselves. In the US, the use of the national guard for civilian relief has become a routine feature of a state's reserve assets for civilian relief and recovery.
The operations of the Pakistan armed forces, especially the helicopter crews, are four-square in the mainstream of the proper use of military forces to support civil authorities. The Pakistani relief effort is another textbook example of how resources shift in support of national priorities.
For new analysts: The lessons are inerrant and unmistakable. Always watch the interface of civil and military resources to diagnose national behavior. Whenever civilian normality is disrupted and the direction of resource flow is towards the military so as to increase military power, real war preparations are occurring -- always and in every country.
Whenever military assets are being used to support civilian disaster relief, the activity is not a cover for war preparations. The direction of flow of military resources to support civil authorities is an unambiguous indicator of a genuine national disaster.
The Pakistan floods are an obvious case, but in many crises and countries in the past 40 years, the situation has not been so clear because natural disasters occur during war preparations. The most reliable discriminator for distinguishing war preparations from civilian relief operations is the direction of flow of the resources....
bth: intersting. I wonder what resources are easiest to track as an analyst?
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
YouTube - Microsoft Surface and Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio for Multi-Robot Command and Control
bth: This shows how easy it is going to be to direct multiple robots or humans with Droids or iPhones and robots to a location such as a terrorist bio contamination site or to direct combat soldiers and robots to a location without clogging up the airways with verbal commands.
It was not previously known that the president's brother, Mahmoud Karzai, had benefited financially from Dubai real estate transactions involving Afghanistan's biggest but now deeply troubled bank. Kabul Bank is at the center of a financial and political crisis in Afghanistan following a rush by depositors to withdraw their money. The bank's disarray has cast a pall over President Karzai's administration and his American backers....
Karzai bought a villa on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, a high-end property development, for 7 million dirhams in July 2007 and sold it to an Iranian buyer in April 2008 for 10.4 million dirhams, for a profit of 3.4 million dirhams, or about $930,000 at current exchange rates.
Karzai said in a telephone interview that he could not recall the details but that the initial purchase involved a loan handled by Kabul Bank's now-ousted chairman, Sherkhan Farnood. "What is wrong with this? I borrowed money from the bank and made an investment," he said. He said he made a profit because he "sold at the peak of the market" but added: "I'm not a rich man."
Karzai became a shareholder in Kabul Bank in March 2007, four months before purchasing the Dubai property with money from the bank. He acquired his 7 percent stake in Kabul Bank with a loan - still outstanding - from the same bank, according to Karzai and other shareholders.
Kabul Bank's unorthodox lending practices form part of a skein of transactions that are under investigation by Afghan authorities as they struggle to hold together a financial institution critical to the country's economy and security. Kabul Bank handles salary payments for soldiers, police and teachers.
Karzai said he purchased his since-sold Palm Jumeirah villa to obtain Dubai residency status so that his children could attend local schools. He said he bought it from Farnood, the then-Kabul Bank chairman, who gave him a loan. This money, said Karzai and a person familiar with the transaction, was later repaid in full.
Kabul Bank has struggled over the past week to stay afloat in the face of waves of depositors trying to pull out their savings. The rush, triggered by news that the Central Bank on Aug. 30 forced Farnood and the bank's chief executive, Khalilullah Fruzi, to resign, now appears to have slowed. Depositors withdrew about $67 million Monday, down from the level of last week, and the withdrawals slowed further Tuesday, the bank said. ....
So first off note that the run on the bank has slowed, but if you look at the other article just posted on this blog, you see that all but one of the bank branch has closed and there was a riot out front yesterday. What the bank is doing doing is probably having one clerk count cash out one dollar at a time so the reason the run has slowed is that the poor honest smucks that really depend on the bank can't get their money out, not because there is new confidence in the bank.
Second, so Farnood lets Karzai buy into the bank for 7% with borrowed money from the bank - Karzai is out nothing and neither is Farnood since they used other people's money thus securing political favors. Then Farnood uses real estate deals in Dubai to get money and assets out of Afghanistan. He then cuts Karzai into the deal again with other people's money. Now to top it off, some unnamed Iranian steps up and decides to pay brother Karzai top dollar for the Dubai villa giving brother Karzai near a million dollar profit all legit - buys a property with a bank loan one year and sells it for a cool profit the next to the Iranians. Note the WaPo doesn't pursue who the Iranian is. One possibility is that he is the dumbest Iranian real estate investor on the planet. Another is that he is a conduit to give nearly a million to Karzai care of the Iran government or some drug laundering pipeline.
This leaves the Americans in the position of either watching 250,000 Afghan government employees get screwed or covering the banks obligations.
We've got soldiers dying to prop up this sham.
More than 500 government employees, including local police officers, Afghan National Army soldiers and teachers, mobbed the sole Kabul Bank branch that remained open, only to be kept at bay by armed police from the country's National Directorate of Security. The crowds pressed in so closely that the NDS police started punching and shoving people to keep them back. The guards also threatened to destroy the cameras of journalists attempting to take pictures of the scene. An Associated Press cameraman was punched before jumping into a car and speeding off.
"This is shameful that these simple police officers are beating up more high-ranking officers," said Abdul Hanan, a policeman who had come to collect his $450 monthly salary. "We are educated people, not animals. We need to get our salaries. I have worked in more than 20 provinces but I am standing out here unable to get my salary."
The standoff was the latest setback for attempts by President Hamid Karzai's administrationto control public fears about the future of Kabul Bank, whose top two executives were forced to resign last week after the discovery of a series of risky off-the-books loans and property investments in Dubai.
Since then, panicked Afghans have removed well more than half of the bank's $500 million in liquid cash, despite assurances from the Karzai administration and Afghanistan's Central Bank that Kabul Bank is solvent and not in need of a government bailout. Kabul Bank, the country's largest private bank, handles payments for 250,000 government employees, and U.S. officials say a meltdown could affect the war effort to defeat the Taliban.
On Tuesday, according to a source in the Ministry of Finance, Karzai ordered that all government funds in the bank -- estimated at between $100 million and $150 million -- cannot be transferred elsewhere, a bid to ensure the bank is able to continue to pay salaries.
Wednesday was the final day that salaries could be cashed before the four-day Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. Families often spend significant money on food and presents for the holiday.
Abdul Samad, an employee of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, was in the crowd demanding their salaries at Kabul Bank. He said he had not been paid in two months. ...
bth: so a corrupt bank affiliated with Karzai's family is about to take the life savings of 250,000 government employees including police and soldiers.
BRUSSELS — The NATO-led coalition has overwhelming numerical superiority over the Taliban around the key southern Afghan city of Kandahar and expects to clear the area of insurgents by November’s end, a top commander said Tuesday.
Whether the operation’s success will last, however, will depend on the Afghan government’s ability to offer the area long-term security, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter said.
The operation to firm up security in Kandahar, with a population of about a half million with another half million in the hinterlands, is by far the biggest in the nine-year war.
The city served as the capital of the Taliban when the Islamist militia rose to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden used it as his base during the 9/11 attacks. Now, the insurgency draws its greatest strength from the province and the neighboring region, dominated by the ethnic Pashtun majority who form the Taliban core.
Carter said there were 10,000-12,000 Afghan national army troops in the region along with 5,000 Afghan police, besides about 15,000 international troops. They face about 1,000 guerrillas, said Carter, who heads Regional Command South, where Kandahar is located.
Coalition forces have been trying for years to pacify villages around Kandahar City, which the insurgents use to infiltrate the biggest urban center of the south.
Although the international force has always been successful in clearing the militants, they have managed to return within months because the NATO-led coalition didn’t have the forces to hold on to the areas.
“You need to dominate the population and dominate the ground ... in order to secure the solution,” Carter said....
bth: planning for WWII D-Day didn't take this long - literally. This offensive has become a PR stunt to show progress as the winter rolls around.
The president of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Sheikh Sharif Ahmed fired the country's top military chief Monday due to allegations that he 'sold weapons' illegally, Radio Garowe reports.
According to inside sources, Gen. Mohamed Ghelle Kahiye was accused by TFG President Sharif of being "responsible" for tons of weapons missing from the government's military facilities in Mogadishu.
"The President fired the military chief and several subordinates, after a scandal surfaced linking him [Gen. Kahiye] directly to tons of weapons missing from military facilities," said a senior military official in Mogadishu speaking on condition of anonymity.
Government investigators found that Gen. Kahiye and a number of his staff and subordinates were involved in the missing weapons scandal, which included reports that the weapons were sold to anti-government forces, such as Al Shabaab militants.
Since President Sharif's election in early 2009, the U.S. government has provided direct military aid to the TFG by donating tons of military equipment to the besieged interim government in Mogadishu, backed by more than 6,500 African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM).
Mogadishu's residents have often accused AMISOM troops of shelling civilian areas, a development Al Shabaab and other militants have exploited to turn the public against the government and its AMISOM allies.
President Sharif is expected to appoint a new military chief soon, the sources added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of TFG troops in the few areas under government control have mutinied due to "nonpayment of salaries," according to local reports.
Residents said TFG troops stopped the flow of traffic along several roads including the strategic Maka al Mukarama Road that connects the presidential palace Villa Somalia to the city's airport, which is a major base for AMISOM peacekeepers.
The troops withdrew to their bases later Monday, but President Sharif has not spoken publicly about the mutiny....
bth: fire the guy? How about execute him.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military's new armored trucks in Afghanistan are significantly reducing troop deaths in roadside attacks at a time when insurgent bombings are at record levels, according to statistics provided to USA TODAY.
Deaths of U.S. and allied troops fell from 76 in July 2009 to 57 in July of this year, according to the military command in Afghanistan.
Nearly 80% of roadside bomb attacks on Humvees from January 2009 through the end of July 2010 killed occupants, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Johnson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, the top command in Afghanistan. That figure dropped to 15% for attacks on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, and an all-terrain MRAP model tailor-made for Afghanistan's rugged terrain. The trucks are designed to shield people from roadside bomb blasts.
The military estimates that MRAPs have reduced deaths and injuries by 30% over that time. That amounts to dozens of lives saved each month.
More than $40 billion will have been spent by the end of September to build, ship and maintain MRAPs.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the armored truck the Pentagon's top priority during the most intense fighting of the war in Iraq in mid-2007. Humvees, the onetime workhorse vehicle of the military, have been mostly confined to bases in Afghanistan in recent months.
The trucks' performance in Afghanistan, where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have become the insurgents' weapon of choice, has prompted Gates to continue to push for more of them, said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary. There are about 12,000 MRAPs in Afghanistan and about 100,000 U.S. troops.
'This is precisely why the secretary has been so adamant that we get as many MRAPs as possible to Afghanistan,' Morrell said. 'In the counterinsurgency fight, one of the best ways to protect our troops has been the MRAP.
The MRAP's ability to reduce casualties is important, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But other factors are also considered in determining its usefulness.
'Ultimately it will be judged more on whether it helped U.S. troops accomplish their mission in Afghanistan than on its ability to reduce casualties,' Krepinevich said in an e-mail. 'Right now the war's outcome is still in doubt. If we succeed, the MRAPs, despite their high cost, will be seen as worth it. If we fail, some people will likely question whether we could have succeeded by adopting a different strategy and employing our resources differently.'
Meanwhile, IEDs remain deadly in Afghanistan. Last week, seven troops from the U.S.-led coalition were killed by roadside bombs.
Military officials rarely release data regarding attacks on vehicles, citing concerns about providing information of use to insurgents.
Johnson, the military spokesman in Afghanistan, said there has been a drop in deaths and injuries from IEDs in the past 12 weeks compared with the same period in 2009. 'This period covers what is historically the enemy's last offensive push before retreating for the winter,' Johnson said in an e-mail.
bth: MRAPs have become a program of record in the last week or two which will mean that they are a permanent part of our defense structure not just something whipped up as an expedient for Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a real positive step in the right direction after only 9 short years of war and almost 2 decades since Mogadishu showed the deficiencies of humvees in a fire fight. What I question though is the current stat on humvees quoted in the article and whether those were older versions or newer ones with factory built armor. Also it would be useful to distinguish in Afghanistan between MRAPS and M-ATVs which have active suspension systems and a lower weight level than MRAPS initially deployed into Iraq.
No one was hurt and no shots were fired in the short standoff at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, said fort spokesman Kevin Larson. Military officials said the hostages were able to calm the gunman and keep him away from patients until he surrendered.
Military police arrested the gunman, who was being questioned Monday afternoon. His name was not immediately released.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, a senior Fort Stewart commander, said the former soldier was seeking help for mental problems that were "connected, I'm quite certain, to his past service."
"He hadn't gotten the care that he wanted and he wanted it now," Phillips said, based on what one of the hostages had told him. "He'd had some experiences that could lead one to believe there were aftereffects to his service."
Both he and Larson declined to be more specific, citing the active investigation.
The suspect walked into the hospital's emergency room at about 4 a.m. carrying two handguns, a semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic version of a submachine gun, Phillips said. He took a medic hostage and headed to the building's behavioral treatment wing on the third floor.
An Army psychiatric nurse spotted the gunman and approached him to talk, Phillips said. That nurse was then taken hostage along with a behavioral health technician who refused to allow the gunman through a locked door to the patient area.
Still, the nurse — an Army major — was able to start calming the man.
"Working together, they maintained the situation, kept the gunman out of the territory where he could harm someone else and bought time for someone else to get there," Phillips said.
Military police soon arrived and surrounded the hospital. Army investigators trained in hostage negotiations worked their way to the floor.
In less than two hours, they persuaded him to put down his weapons and surrender.
Because the suspect is a civilian and the standoff involved hostages on a federal installation, the FBI was called in to help with the investigation. It was unclear Monday what charges the man would face....
bth: once these soldiers become civilians their ability to get care just plummets. I'm seeing multiple cases of this personally.
He writes in his book: “History will pass judgment on these foreign adventures in due course, but in my view Gordon Brown’s malign intervention, when chancellor, on the SDR by refusing to fund what his own government had agreed, fatally flawed the en tire process from the outset.
“The seeds were sown for some of the impossible operational pressures to come.”
Mr Blair “lacked the moral courage to impose his will on his own chancellor”.
The general also admits he was “bemused” by Mr Brown’s decision to write his book, Wartime Courage, about the generation that suffered so much in winning the Second World War. He adds: “I am still not sure whether he ever realised that by denying the proper funding of his own government’s declared policy, he was condemning more young men and women to the same sacrifices he railed against in a previous generation.”
Asked why he thought Mr Blair did not overrule Mr Brown, he replied: “To me it seems extraordinary that the prime minister, the No 1 guy, cannot crack the whip sufficiently to his very close friend apparently, his next door neighbour, the chancellor. ...
bth: it is a fact that British troops have been under funded and under equipped. Suitable vehicles in particular, but also body armor, jammers, sniper detectors and particularly helicopters.
Security checks have now been stepped up with the British Army last night admitting they have taken the extraordinary measure of using sniffer dogs as troops step off their plane.
The alleged drugs cartel is thought to involve soldiers from the Commonwealth who pass the heroin on to drugs barons for sale on Britain's streets....
bth: the surprise is that we haven't seen more of this.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Iraqi soldiers deploy at the site of bomb attacks in Baghdad September 5, 2010. Up to five suicide bombers, some armed with rifles, tried to storm an army base in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 people and wounding 36 less than a week after Washington declared U.S. combat operations in Iraq over. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)
bth: look at this picture. Note that the barrier gate which is steel literally was blown around and crashed into the side of the humvee. Also note the front appears to be melted off and the cab is intact but that the impact of the gate was such that it caved in the frame around the right rear door. This must have been a tremendous blast.
Officials said president Hamid Karzai revoked Blue Hackle's operating licence on Sunday, with immediate effect. There were conflicting reports yesterday over whether that decision would be reversed amid tense meetings between Mr Karzai, General David Petraeus, the commander of US and Nato forces, and other senior western officials.
Blue Hackle guards the headquarters of Nato's training mission - a major US base adjacent to the presidential palace in Kabul - and employs more than 1,000 people across the country. It also protects a large diesel power plant in Kabul, paid for by the United States Agency for International Development, and a Canadian command centre in Kandahar.
The surprise decision has strained relations between Mr Karzai and Nato.
Thousands of aid contractors - part of Barack Obama's civilian surge - have been warned they could be evacuated if other security companies suffer a similar fate. Deloitte, which operates various US development contracts in Afghanistan, has made enquiries about emergency plane charters to airlift staff out of the country, if they are unable to guard the compounds where they live....
bth: what is Karzai angling for here?
Sunday, September 05, 2010
In an interview published on the website of the French magazine La Regle du Jeu and the blog Dentelles et Tchador, Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son Sajjad said they learned of the new punishment from released inmates.
He said that a prison judge confirmed that she was to be lashed for spreading 'corruption and indecency' by the publication of a photograph of her without a headscarf that appeared in a British newspaper.
The Times of London published on August 28 a photo of a woman without a headscarf that it said was Mohammadi-Ashtiani, however on September 3 it said the attribution of the photo, which it received from one of her lawyers that has fled Iran, was incorrect. ...
It is with said news that we realease the Deaths of our Brothers in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Vinson B. Adkinson III, 26, of Harper, Kansas
Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz, 20, of Redlands, California
Pfc. Matthew E. George, 22, of Gransboro, North Carolina
Pfc. James A. Page, 23, of Titusville, Florida
They were assigned to the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany.
Local chapters ask that you attend the funeral and show support for our fallen. Funeral arrangments are not finalized but mailing will be done to each states as they become avaialable.
A specialist in roadside explosives, Holley grew up in Casselberry and was planning to come home to the U.S. from Afghanistan for the birth of his first child — a daughter — in November.
On Sunday, however, Holley was killed during his third tour of duty in the Middle East, the Department of Defense announced this evening.
Holley, 36, died in Helmand province when he was hit by a blast from an improvised explosive device, the military said.
Holley was a linebacker for the Lyman High School football team in the early 1990s and also wrestled, said his childhood friend Shawn Whitaker.
He was popular with the ladies, but he flipped when he met Chrissy Sheridan, his wife-to-be, in Hawaii, said Whitaker, 37, of Casselberry. The couple married last year. She already had a son and a daughter, and is expecting Holley's first child in November.
'He was beyond being excited about being a father,' Whitaker said. 'He was all about family and love.'
Perhaps because he was raised mostly by a single mother, Holley longed for family connections. He was the man of the house, looking out for his older sister and younger brother, his friend said. His mother died a few years ago....
'He was all excited he was having a boy,' said his stepmother, Nancy Infante.
She said the 30-year-old soldier, who also has a 6-year-old daughter, Kassandra, planned to name the baby boy Jesse. 'He was going to be a junior,' she said.
Infante will never get the chance to meet his namesake. The staff sergeant died Monday in Afghanistan's Arghandab River Valley of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
A total of 23 Houston-area service members have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began, and Infante is the ninth so far this year. He was assigned to the 4th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Carson, Colo.
Four other soldiers from Fort Carson also died in the same attack: Capt. Dale A. Goetz, 43, of White, S.D.; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler, 32, of Canton, Ohio; Staff Sgt. Matthew J. West, 36, of Conover, Wis.; and Pfc. Chad D. Clements, 26, of Huntington, Ind.
On Wednesday, an American flag decorated with black ribbon hung from the roof of a carport in front of the Infante family's north Houston home. In the living room, the soldier's father, Jesus Infante, watched with red-rimmed eyes as a TV cameraman set up a tripod and studio light near the front door.
bth: you have to go to the local news to get the human story of this war. This is a shame because these brave soldiers and marines didn't die in a car accident, they died serving their country. Why is that just local news and not local news of national significance? Probably because people don't want to think about it because to do so would require them to do something about it.
One of them is Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, who last month took the politically risky course of trying to prosecute senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government. Two weeks ago, Mr. Faqiryar was fired from his job as deputy attorney general — on the order, it appears, of Mr. Karzai himself.
“The law in this country is only for the poor,” Mr. Faqiryar said afterward.
The ouster of Mr. Faqiryar illustrated not just the lawlessness that permeates Mr. Karzai’s government and the rest of the Afghan state. It also raised a fundamental question for the American and European leaders who have bankrolled Mr. Karzai’s government since he took office in 2001:
What if government corruption is more dangerous than the Taliban? ...
“What the Americans need to do is take these Afghans and put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain,” Mr. Hakimi said. “Kill them all.”
You hear that a lot here — that the kleptocrats are few in number; that most Afghans know who they are; and that the country would be better off if this greedy cabal met a violent end. Why not get rid of them?
Sometimes, it seems, American and Afghan leaders exhibit a kind of willful blindness. In June, President Karzai flew to Kandahar to speak to a gathering of about 400 local tribal elders about a pending military operation. He was accompanied by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of American and NATO forces....
Ahmed Wali Karzai denies taking any money from the C.I.A. or helping any drug traffickers. But consider, for a second, the other brother: President Karzai. When he receives that stern lecture from the American diplomat about ridding his government of corruption — and he receives a lot of them — what must President Karzai be thinking?
One possibility: That the Americans aren’t really serious.
The real difficulty, American commanders say, is that taking down the biggest Afghan politicians could open a vacuum of authority. And that could create instability that the Taliban could take advantage of.
American officers have every right to worry about stability. But the trouble with this argument is that, increasingly, there is less and less stability to keep. And, if Afghans like Mr. Mahmood and Mr. Hakimi are to be believed, it’s the corruption itself that is the instability’s root cause.
As for Mr. Faqiryar, he has become, at age 72, a national icon. A recent editorial in Kabul Weekly, a local newspaper, urged Mr. Faqiryar to carry on his fight against the gangster-state that his country has become. But the editorial struck a tone that was less angry than poignant, as if time were running short.
“We are a nation,” the editors said, “in desperate need of more heroes.”
The disagreements among the supposed allies are almost as frequent as firefights with insurgents. The Americans contend that the British forces they replaced this spring were too complacent in dealing with the Taliban. The British maintain that the Americans are too aggressive and that they are compromising hard-fought security gains by pushing into irrelevant places and overextending themselves.
“They were here for four years,” one field-grade Marine officer huffed about the British military. “What did they do?”
“They’ve been in Musa Qala for four months,” a British civilian in Helmand said of the US Marines. “The situation up there has gotten worse, not better.”
The disputes here, which also extend to the pace of reconstruction projects and the embrace of a former warlord who has become the police chief, illuminate the tensions that are flaring as US forces surge into parts of southern Afghanistan that had once been the almost-exclusive domain of NATO allies. There are now about 20,000 US troops in Helmand; the 10,000 British soldiers who once roamed all over the province are now consolidating their operations in a handful of districts around the provincial capital.
The new US troops in the south are intended to replace departing Dutch soldiers and relieve pressure on under-resourced and overburdened military personnel from Britain and Canada, where public support for the war has fallen even more precipitously than in the United States. But the transition entails significant new risks for US forces, who are now responsible for more dangerous parts of the country.
To the south of Musa Qala, US Marines are in the process of moving into Sangin district, where more than 100 British troops - nearly one-third of that country’s total war dead - were killed over the past four years. Senior Marine officers initially resisted being saddled with the area, which they dubbed “the killing fields,” but they relented after pressure from top US commanders.
The influx also has elicited conflicting emotions from coalition partners. British and Canadian officers say they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to confront a mushrooming insurgency by themselves, but they also cringe at the need to be bailed out by the United States....
bth: the surge is a back fill to replace departing NATO allies.
The explosion took place in the centre of Kunduz, the capital of the province of the same name, Kunduz Governor Mohammad Omar told the German Press Agency dpa.
'It was motorbike bomb and was remotely detonated when our policemen dismounted their vehicle in the main market of the city,' Omar said.
Eight police forces and eight civilians were also wounded in the blast, said the head of the provincial hospital, Humayun Khamoosh.
The scene was cordoned off by Afghan police and United States military forces. Several mud-built shops were partly destroyed in the blast, and police were trying to tow away a police vehicle that was also damaged in the attack. ....
bth: I don't see how it is possible to defend against attacks like this.
Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, who was told about the incident this week, is said to be furious that the weapons were allowed to be taken by the insurgents and, potentially, could have been used against British troops.
He has ordered an inquiry into why enough weapons to equip an infantry battalion could go missing without anyone noticing or being informed.
The light machine guns, which can fire 1,000 rounds a minute, were flown from Britain to Camp Bastion in Helmand last October. They were then transported overland to British forces operating at Kandahar airfield but it is believed the convoy was either ambushed or the weapons were illegally sold. No one realised or reported that they had gone missing until last month, when American forces operating in southern Afghanistan discovered two of the guns, whose serial numbers matched those stolen. Defence sources have described the incident as a “terrible embarrassment for British forces”.