Saturday, October 09, 2010
Friday, October 08, 2010
Rather than probing the implications of this fact -- relying on the force of arms to eliminate terrorism is a fool’s errand -- two administrations have doggedly prolonged the war even as they quietly ratcheted down expectations of what it might accomplish.
In officially ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq earlier this year -- a happy day if there ever was one -- President Obama refrained from proclaiming “mission accomplished.” As well he might: as U.S. troops depart Iraq, insurgents remain active and in the field. Instead of declaring victory, the president simply urged Americans to turn the page. With remarkable alacrity, most of us seem to have complied.
Perhaps more surprisingly, today’s military leaders have themselves abandoned the notion that winning battles wins wars, once the very foundation of their profession. Warriors of an earlier day insisted: “There is no substitute for victory.” Warriors in the Age of David Petraeus embrace an altogether different motto: “There is no military solution.”
Here is Brigadier General H. R. McMaster, one of the Army’s rising stars, summarizing the latest in advanced military thinking: “Simply fighting and winning a series of interconnected battles in a well developed campaign does not automatically deliver the achievement of war aims.” Winning as such is out. Persevering is in.
So an officer corps once intent above all on avoiding protracted wars now specializes in quagmires. Campaigns don’t really end. At best, they peter out.
Formerly trained to kill people and break things, American soldiers now attend to winning hearts and minds, while moonlighting in assassination. The politically correct term for this is 'counterinsurgency.'
Now, assigning combat soldiers the task of nation-building in, say, Mesopotamia is akin to hiring a crew of lumberjacks to build a house in suburbia. What astonishes is not that the result falls short of perfection, but that any part of the job gets done at all.
Yet by simultaneously adopting the practice of “targeted killing,” the home builders do double-duty as home wreckers. For American assassins, the weapon of choice is not the sniper rifle or the shiv, but missile-carrying pilotless aircraft controlled from bases in Nevada and elsewhere thousands of miles from the battlefield -- the ultimate expression of an American desire to wage war without getting our hands dirty.
In practice, however, killing the guilty from afar not infrequently entails killing innocents as well. So actions undertaken to deplete the ranks of jihadists as far afield as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia unwittingly ensure the recruitment of replacements, guaranteeing a never-ending supply of hardened hearts to soften.
No wonder the campaigns launched since 9/11 drag on and on. General Petraeus himself has spelled out the implications: “This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives.” Obama may want to “get out.” His generals are inclined to stay the course.
Taking longer to achieve less than we initially intended is also costing far more than anyone ever imagined. Back in 2003, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey suggested that invading Iraq might run up a tab of as much as $200 billion -- a seemingly astronomical sum. Although Lindsey soon found himself out of a job as a result, he turned out to be a piker. The bill for our post-9/11 wars already exceeds a trillion dollars, all of it piled atop our mushrooming national debt. Helped in no small measure by Obama's war policies, the meter is still running.
So are we almost there yet? Not even. The truth is we’re lost in the desert, careening down an unmarked road, odometer busted, GPS on the fritz, and fuel gauge hovering just above E. Washington can only hope that the American people, napping in the backseat, won’t notice.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His bestselling new book is Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. To catch Bacevich discussing how the U.S. military became specialists in quagmires in a Timothy MacBain TomCast audio interview click here or, to download it to your iPod, here.
- bth: Andrew certaintly knows how to articulate the current situation.
“We’ve got thousands of up-armored Humvees out there sitting around [and we're] wondering what we’re going to do with them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway tells InsideDefense.com.
Defense News reports that the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is wrapping up testing of a protective capsule that could be bolted on to today’s Humvees, making them safer rides for the troops inside — and further undermining the case for the JLTV.
“There’s no way that the Marine Corps is going to be able to afford $300,000 a copy for a utility vehicle, so that starts out being way overpriced,” he adds. “I don’t think we’re going to have the money to buy new.”
If anything, Conway may be low-balling the JLTV’s cost. Fully loaded with weapons and radios and electronics, the final sticker price could be as much as $600,000, InsideDefense.com reports. Which has got the Army wondering, too, how many of the vehicles they should really buy. Rather than replace all of their Humvees, InsideDefense.com hears, the service is now mulling a plan to buy 50,000 vehicles — by 2035. Which means troops may still be driving Humvees more than a half-century after the U.S. military drafted ‘em into service.
- bth: leave it to Conway to repeat the same mistakes made by the Marines early in the Iraq war. He doesn't learn shit.
The price of keeping flat bottomed humvees is not $300,000 per vehicle saved ($600-300K), its 2.4 casualties per IED hit vs. 1 in 13 for v-hull vehicles.
Conway can only hope that our future enemies, not to mention the Taliban, Yemenis and Somalis will forget that IEDs work well on flat bottomed humvees.
And he insists on light vehicles in the misguided plan to throw these vehicles into Ospreys which despite Marine claims to the contrary after 20 years crash a lot and cost way to much to be realistically used in actual combat - their main mission being to fly generals around Afghanistan to pretend they are actually in use in theater.
The world has moved on and the humvee is obsolete except for use in North America, on bases and in general not in combat where IEDs and mines are used. It is just that simple.
Conway undoubtedly will try to say Marines don't need all that electronic gadgetry he doesn't understand but if he cuts it out, our enemies will go right back to mines and IEDs triggered with cell phones and walkie-talkies cutting his men to threads.
This is the same Marine force that pretended it wasn't receiving urgent needs statements for MRAP type vehicle through 2006 at the expensive of hundreds of Marines that died needlessly because of shitty vehicles they were forced to ride in - improvised armor, trucks with welded on metal boxes far worse than those used in Vietnam before 1968.
Who remembers the stupidity of having 14 men at a time blown up in LAVs designed for water transport being driven around Anbar province blow to smithereens by buried IEDs? Conway doesn't remember. He is hell bent on repeating the same stupid mistakes the marines keep making on ground vehicles.
The world has moved on. Broad flat bottom vehicles are death traps in a world of electronics and IEDs.
This week, as the ninth anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war was observed, we learned that the death of each Taliban fighter we battle costs at least $50 million. That's a conservative estimate. It could actually be $100 million. This figure came not from the Pentagon, which goes to great lengths to conceal such accounting, but from an enterprising reporter named Matthew Nasuti, who works for Afghanistan Press.
Consider the source, you say. OK, but aside from the fact that Mr. Nasuti worked 'at a senior level' within the U.S. Air Force, math is math. Numbers don't tell the whole truth about anything, but they tell a lot.
The best estimate of Taliban killed annually by coalition forces is roughly 2,000.The direct cost to the Pentagon of waging war in Afghanistan for 2010 is about $100 billion. Indirect costs are approximately another $100 billion....
bth_ holy cow
Thursday, October 07, 2010
ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan said Thursday it has not decided when to reopen a key border crossing NATO uses to ship supplies to Afghanistan despite a U.S. apology for a helicopter attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers.
Both the U.S. and NATO expressed their condolences Wednesday for the Sept. 30 attack and said American helicopters mistook the Pakistani soldiers for insurgents being pursued across the Afghan border.
The apologies raised expectations that the Torkham border crossing along the famed Khyber Pass could reopen very soon. But Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Thursday during a news conference that authorities were still evaluating the situation and would make a decision "in due course."
The delay could be short-lived since U.S. and Pakistani officials predicted the border crossing would be reopened in a matter of days even before the apologies were issued...
--- bth: part of the shake down. See it for what it is.
...Afghanistan- International Security Assistance Force (ISAF): ISAF announced it will use an alternate supply route from Russia and Central Asia to bypass the main supply routes through Pakistan, The News reported on 6 October. The US Central Command's decision reportedly was based on Pakistan's refusal to give a timeline for the resumption of the NATO supplies at the Torkham border. The alternate route will carry supplies from Riga, Latvia, through Russia, around the Caspian Sea, through Kazakhstan and south through Uzbekistan.
Comment: Islamabad also has demanded $600 million in compensation for using the country's road network.
Readers also should expect Pakistan to demand contractual, consequential and punitive damages as the result of the US apology for the 30 September attack. That seemingly modest, honest concession will open the flood gates to multiple high-dollar law suits for losses in Pakistani courts because the US has admitted liability....
Nato supply convoys travelling through Pakistan to Afghanistan have regularly come under attack in the past, but following Pakistan's decision to block their route through the Khyber Pass, they now face an even bigger security threat.
Hundreds of tankers and trucks have been left stranded on highways and depots across Pakistan, with little or no security.
Taliban militants have regularly been targeting the convoys, even when they are heavily protected.But many believe it is not just the militants who pose a security threat to the convoys.
The owners of oil tankers being used to supply fuel to Nato in Afghanistan say some of the attacks on their convoys are suspicious.
They say there is evidence to suggest that bombs have been planted in many of vehicles by the "Nato contractors" - individuals or companies who have been contracted by Nato to supply fuel and goods to forces in Afghanistan.
The contractors subsequently hire the transporters who then carry the goods.Selling fuel
Dost Mohammad, an oil tanker owner from Nowshera district, said a Nato contractor had recently been caught trying to plant a bomb in an oil tanker.
"This happened in the area of Paiyee, when he was putting the bomb under the vehicle."
"At that time, a few men also opened fire on the tankers. The deputy later told the police that he had been told to plant the bomb by the contractor."
Dost Mohammad said the contractor had apparently sold off the fuel first.
"Only 2,000 litres from the original 50,000 litres had been left in the tanker to cover up the crime," he said.
Dost Mohammad said it is a win-win situation for the contractors.
"If an old vehicle is burnt, Nato gives them money for a new vehicle. In addition, they receive compensation for all the fuel lost as well."
But the Deputy Minister for Interior, Tasneem Ahmed, dismissed the transporters' claims.
"We have no such information that the Nato contractors are themselves setting the tankers on fire," he told the BBC.
"No such complaints have been lodged, to my knowledge."
The BBC also spoke to a Nato contractor, who was similarly dismissive of the allegations.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said Nato insured all the goods being transported and the vehicles carrying them.
"Nato pays the premium and bears the relevant charges with the local companies who provide the schemes. The transporters are then reimbursed on the basis of their actual losses," he said.
But he said the policies were only valid within Pakistan.Driver arrests
But Nowshera's police chief, Nisar Tanoli, had a different account of events.
• Up to 80% of Nato supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan
• Majority are driven 1,200 miles (1,931km) from port of Karachi to Kabul via Khyber Pass
• 1,000 container lorries and tankers travel daily through the pass to Kabul
• Khyber Pass is 53km long (33 miles) and up to a height of 1,070m (3,444ft)
• About 150 lorries go via the southern supply route through Chaman to Kandahar.
Talking to the BBC, he confirmed that at least two attempts to blow up oil tankers had taken place in the district.
"One took place in Paiyee, and the other in the area of Watak near Akora Khattak," he said.
"In both incidents the tankers were parked in the area for a couple of days. During this time, bombs were made in nearby houses and then used on the tankers."
He said the contractors were "in a hurry" to get a copy of the initial police reports into the incident and were "not interest in prolonging the investigations".
"The insurance agents also showed up a few days later," he said.
Mr Tanoli says the police carried on their investigations and the facts eventually came to light.
"We have now arrested some drivers and their helpers," he said.
"The people behind them are not residents in the district, but we have issued warrants for their arrest."
He added that there have been incidents in which fuel for aircraft has been sold off.
"The contractors later said it had leaked, or the tanker caught fire."'Open target'
All, then, is not as straight forward as it seems, as far as the threat to the Nato supply route is concerned.
But despite these additional concerns, the main danger continues to come from the Taliban.
"We are very scared at the moment - we are an open target for the militants," said Israrullah Shinwari, a spokesman for the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association.
"Since the blockade was enforced, we have 3,000 tankers stranded across Pakistan."
"The blockade itself has cost us tens of millions of rupees in losses. This does not include the damages suffered in the attacks.
"The Taliban have openly declared they will target the tankers, but we have been provided with no security."
Since 2007, the militants have destroyed or captured dozens of Nato transport vehicles, especially in the Khyber tribal region.
But a security analyst said the latest move was "tantamount to encouraging the militants to have a real go at the convoys".
"The fact that government ministers are calling the attack an expression of public anger shows that some may just be payback," he said.
"Pakistan's intelligence and security apparatus may be encouraging the attacks by looking the other way. In fact, there are suggestions that agencies may themselves be behind some themselves."--bth: so the contractor, likely with Pak army connections, sells the fuel then torches his old truck making it look like the taliban did it. Then he files an insurance claim with NATO that covers his cargo and his old truck which NATO pays for as if it were a new truck. Just another scam.
A British court has awarded between $55 million and $75 million to Peter W. Galbraith, the former United States diplomat who advised the Kurds during the negotiations on Iraq’s Constitution, and a Yemeni investor for their stake in a widely criticized oil deal involving Iraq’s rich northern fields, the oil company ordered to pay the award said Wednesday. ...
Iraqi government officials and American analysts have asserted that Mr. Galbraith’s dual role during the constitutional negotiations implied a conflict of interest, since the provisions he championed could have increased the value of his own interests. But he has rejected such claims, saying that he was merely helping the Kurds press their long-stated policy goals. “So, while I may have had interests, I see no conflict,” Mr. Galbraith said last year. ...
--- bth: I once had a lot of respect for Galbraith's analysis of the Middle East but it became increasingly evident about 2 years ago that he was just another double dealing scoundrel.
In the furore following a German central banker's blunt comments about Muslims failing to integrate, moderate leaders including President Christian Wulff have urged Germans to accept that “Islam also belongs in Germany”.
The debate comes against a backdrop of US and British concerns over the threat of terrorist attacks by militant Islamists living in Germany, with Berlin toning down such fears.....
- bth: so is the US overstating its fears about German Muslim terror or is Germany underplaying it?
The explosive accusation is the strongest yet in a series of U.S. criticisms of Pakistan, and shows a deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military and development aid to Pakistan for its support.
The U.S. and Afghanistan have sought to persuade midlevel Taliban commanders to lay down their weapons in exchange for jobs or cash. The most recent Afghan effort at starting a peace process took place this week in Kabul.
But few Taliban have given up the fight, officials say. Some Taliban commanders and U.S. officials say militant leaders are being pressured by officers from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency not to surrender.
"The ISI wants to arrest commanders who are not obeying [ISI] orders," said a Taliban commander in Kunar province....
US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that it was no coincidence that the major attacks against NATO supplies began immediately after the Khyber Pass was closed to NATO traffic. Pakistan closed the vital crossing point in response to US military cross-border helicopter strikes that have occurred in pursuit of Haqqani Network fighters fleeing from Afghanistan into safe havens in Pakistan's tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Kurram. The Khyber Pass is NATO's main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan; more than 70 percent of the supplies move through this strategic crossing point.
'Massive attacks against our supplies such as we've seen over the past several days have been rare inside Pakistan, yet the KP [the Khyber Pass] is closed, and all of the sudden the Taliban is roaming wild, destroying convoys at will?' one intelligence official said. 'Look at the location of these attacks: they are well out outside Taliban heartlands in the northwest or along the border in Baluchistan. Where is the security? Either the Pakistani military is turning a blind eye to the attacks, or it is directing them, and neither prospect is good.'
Over the past few months, US defense and intelligence officials have grown more vocal about Pakistan's support of terror groups in Afghanistan. And now, US officials and even Taliban commanders are accusing Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate of spurring the Taliban to step up their attacks on Afghan civilians and NATO forces, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The Pakistani military and the ISI have long provided covert support for the Afghan Taliban [see LWJ report, Pakistan's Jihad].
- bth: until India and the US hold the Pak government responsible for crime and terror emanating from within Pakistan's borders, acts like this and Mumbai raids will continue. ISI is simply too good at using surrogates to do its dirty work and Paki military and civilian governments are utterly corrupt.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
A rummage through some of the roughly dozen market stalls unearthed several documents that would be of potential use to militants, perhaps most alarmingly the booklet on jammers for military vehicles. The 171-page manual is marked 'for official use only' and urges the information not be openly discussed and that it should be destroyed rather than thrown away.
The owner of the market, Hanif Afridi, pointed out one shop, closed during a recent visit, that sold army computers and other electronic equipment he said were 'so heavy you need a truck' to lift them. Other traders said it was possible to order most goods, including bulletproof glass and fortified vehicle chassis.
And rumor has it that firearms, even American-issued ones, are also for sale. While an Associated Press reporter did not find any, occasional bursts of gunfire could be heard in the distance.
'That is people trying before buying' at stalls just across the frontier, explained one man who asked not to be named.
Earlier this month, Pakistan's Frontier Corps raided warehouses in the tribal regions and recovered helicopter spare parts, medical instruments, flak jackets and family photos of U.S. soldiers. The head of the Pakistani Taliban was filmed last year driving a U.S. Humvee seized from one container....
--- bth: so much for security. Jammer manuals sold in the bazaar. Great.
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The discovery was made Tuesday in a customs office in the western province of Nimroz on the Iranian border, deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Musa Rasouli said.
'We found these materials hidden in a 40 foot shipping container that had come from Iran. The explosives were disguised as merchandise like food, toys and kitchenware,' he added.
Bombs made from old ammunitions and explosives are the main weapon used by the Taliban and other insurgents fighting against the Western-backed Afghan government and Western troops, and cause the bulk of military casualties.
Foreign military commanders and some Afghan officials have accused Iran of providing weapons to the Taliban, the chief group leading the insurgency since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted its regime from power.
Tehran, a long-running U.S. foe, denies the charges and senior Afghan administration officials say they have no evidence against Iran.
The U.S. and NATO have more than 150,000 troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and keep President Hamid Karzai's administration in power.
-- bth: 22 tons of explosives disguised as toys doesn't count as evidence?
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An Associated Press-GfK poll shows whites without four-year college degrees preferring GOP candidates by twice the margin of the last two elections, when Democrats made significant gains in the House and Senate. The poll, conducted last month, found this group favoring GOP hopefuls 58 percent to 36 percent - a whopping 22 percentage-point gap.
In 2008, when Obama won the presidency, they favored GOP congressional candidates by 11 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters. When Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006, the Republican edge was 9 percentage points.
Compared with better-educated whites, working-class whites tend to be older and more conservative - groups that traditionally lean Republican and are uneasy with the young president's activist governing. Their wariness is reinforced by a prolonged economic funk that has disproportionately hurt the working class and shown scant signs of improvement under Obama and Congress' majority Democrats....
- bth: if Democrats can't get the blue collar white or latino vote out, there will be big trouble.
The leadership knows “that they are going to be sidelined,’’ the source said. “They know that more radical elements are being promoted within their rank and file outside their control. . . . All these things are making them absolutely sure that, regardless of [their success in] the war, they are not in a winning position.’’
A half-dozen sources directly involved in or on the margins of the talks agreed to discuss them on the condition of anonymity. All emphasized the preliminary nature of the talks.
The United States’ European partners in Afghanistan, with different histories and under far stronger domestic pressure to withdraw their troops, have always been more amenable to a negotiated settlement.
“What it really boils down to is the Americans both supporting and in some cases maybe even participating in talking with the enemy,’’ a European official said.
“If you strip everything away, that’s the deal here. For so long, politically, it’s been a deal breaker in the United States, and with some people it still is.’’
- bth: I wonder how the president can move a deal like this along politically in the US? The idea of Taliban in the Afghan government will be very difficult to address given US politics.
"Look at that one," said an American 101st Airborne trooper, pointing out an ANA soldier who wandered down a vineyard track in the midst of the shooting, glassy-eyed, without any weapon.
"Guess he knows Afghan judo. I don't know what it is with this unit, but they are worse than useless. We are supposed to get some local intelligence benefits from working with them. We don't. Cultural understanding? None. They are a complete liability."
The surge in ANA recruitment is central to the US and Nato strategy in Afghanistan, which is intended to give local forces an increasing lead in the conflict as the clock ticks toward President Obama's deadline next summer to start scaling down US forces in the country.
By October 2011 Afghan security forces, including police and soldiers, should have reached 305,000, of which 171,600 will be ANA.
In the past year alone ANA recruitment has doubled, giving the army a current force, at least on paper, of 134,000.
For the US troops of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne, fighting in Zhari as part of Operation Dragon Strike, the ANA's lack of professionalism is of special concern....
Few soldiers among the 4th ANA Company seemed even to know how to fire their weapons properly.
Their machinegunners had left most of their ammunition behind. They refused to provide sentries, or else slept at their posts.
Drug use was rife and overt. With one exception, a tough Tajik from the north, their officers were weak.
The company commander seemed to be in hiding for most of the operation while one of their platoon commanders, shortly after US troops discovered an improvised explosive device, simply walked away from his men as he beat a retreat for the safety of a compound.
There were cultural tensions, too. A group of ANA soldiers became visibly angered when US troops collected literature from an abandoned compound for intelligence assessment.
The ANA thought the Americans had got hold of a Koran, and demanded that it be returned. Feelings on both sides ran high before an interpreter explained that there was no Koran among the books and documents.
"Most of these troops are completely illiterate," a junior American officer noted. "They see a book and associate it with the Koran."...
--- bth: I truncated some of the comments in the original article. The junior officers and NCOs from the 101st are saying these ANA guys are ass clowns while the senior officers are making excuses for their conduct and writing it off as inexperience. Well I tend to trust the junior officers and NCOs whose lives are on the line for a candid assessment and I'm very skeptical that an ANA unit can be turned around when there is heavy drug use going on. I think we're being hoodwinked that this ANA upgrade and expansion is a success.
There is certainly a steady rise in strikes, but talking about it as “intense combat” is absurd. Wired says the U.S. Air Force (USAF) reported it flew a peak of 19,500 close-air-support sorties in the Iraq War in 2007, and has flown 4,620 so far in 2010. Wired reports that the USAF has said it flew an average of over two thousand a month in Afghanistan in 2009, and over two thousand five hundred a month in 2010. The total number of UCAV strikes in Pakistan over the entire war is a fraction of the air strikes per month in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a tiny number by the standards of any previous air war....
War remains horrible and still kills the innocent as well as the enemy. But, we need to be realistic. Pakistan is at best a tenuous and divided ally. Islamabad was unwilling to attack Afghan Taliban targets and conduct a major campaign against al-Qaeda before the flood; elements of the ISI remain tied to the Taliban and al-Qaeda; and its civilian government has far too many elements that are corrupt, incompetent and unwilling to act. Fighting a war in Afghanistan that has given the enemy a sanctuary in Pakistan, and al-Qaeda immunity in Pakistan, has little point. More bluntly, if Pakistan cannot provide at least enough cooperation to passively allow such strikes, it is not an ally, it is a major strategic liability.
Andrew Faulkner, 42, of Spalding, pleaded guilty to being involved in the exportation of controlled goods at Southwark Crown Court in London.
He was arrested after a shipment of 100 sights was intercepted at Heathrow Airport in February last year.
Faulkner had been due to be paid about £10,000 for his role.
Sentencing him, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith told Faulkner: 'You put your own financial needs ahead of your responsibilities to your past and future colleagues in the Armed Forces.'
The high-spec German-manufactured Schmidt and Bender sights, purchased for about £105,000, were due to be sold on for a profit of nearly £60,000....
- bth: I wonder how fast these would be used against US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan?
'It is really is going to hurt us,' said Col. Dave Bellon. 'It is a terrible time to lose valorous men and women whom we have come to rely on. That is as straight as I can be. It couldn't be worse.'
Bellon's remark followed by a day an appeal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the mother of a Canadian who died in Afghanistan to extend Task Force Kandahar's current mission, which is slated to end on July 1, 2011. Another parent who lost a son warned against quick solutions in Afghanistan and urged his countrymen to be patient.
'From a strictly military point of view, Canada punches above its weight,' said Bellon. 'Their soldiers fight. I am not saying that others don't, but these guys do. When you take a critical piece out, it hurts . . .
- bth: the NATO allies are bailing out of Afghanistan. The increase in US troops is largely going to be consumed replacing our fickle NATO allies. It will soon be entirely America's war.
Pakistani officials have said they don't lack the will and that they have generally stepped up their efforts in response to U.S. requests, getting too little credit for it. But they say their army is already stretched thin—a problem exacerbated when soldiers were diverted to respond this summer to the worst flooding in the country's history.
'The Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan,' the White House concludes, referring to the Pakistani tribal region that U.S. officials say is being used as a staging ground for attacks on troops in Afghanistan, as well as to plot attacks on targets in Europe.
U.S. officials say they are increasingly frustrated by Pakistan's decision not to send large numbers of ground forces into North Waziristan. 'This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets,' the unclassified, 27-page report finds....
This was revealed by MNA Munir Orakzai while speaking on SAMAA's program, 'Mohaaz' (to be aired on Saturday morning at 11:30 am).
Orakzai said that additional troops would be deployed to monitor the newly installed defense system.
“Now no helicopter will be able to escape after entering Pakistani territory,” he claimed. SAMAA
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Comment: Pakistan's strong reaction to the drone strike has built domestic support for the Gilani government at American and NATO expense. In this action, Gilani is not much different from Musharraf. Americans are the allies the Pakistanis love to trash in public while taking as much aid as they can get.
The Torkham gateway will reopen soon because its prolonged closure hurts Pakistani enterprises that carry on trade with Afghanistan, separate from support for NATO forces. Many of the trucking companies reportedly have Pakistani military or Pakistani Taliban backing and will not tolerate the loss in revenue much longer.
One assessment found that overland shipment from the Baltic by rail across Russia to Afghanistan is exponentially cheaper than overland shipment from the Indian Ocean by truck to Afghanistan. If that study is accurate, the US payments for truck convoys from Karachi port to NATO forces in Afghanistan are a disguised form of American public aid, over and above the cost of transport.
-- bth: I'd like to see the economics of the overland rail route as I've previously read that it was much more expensive. If that is not the case then perhaps we should fully play this alternative. We will never win this war if Pakistan and the Taliban can cut off our supply route at will. We simply will never be able to get at the al Qaeda and Taliban leadership holding up in Pakistan. This situation will be worst than Cambodia. At least there Cambodia didn't control our supplies.
Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.
The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.
Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters — in the latest attack, oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early Monday. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.
“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.
“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”...
- bth: "There are a lot of profound reasons for doign this, but for us at the core it's practical," said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary..." No shit Sherlock. Maybe if we put more emphasis on alternative fuels we wouldn't be held hostage by Pakistan and we wouldn't have fought a needless war in Iraq or be nice to oil suppliers that hate our country. When I see predictable reactions like this to known strategic and tactical threats I get a little upset. Our political and military leaders have no sense of strategy. Our commitment to fossil fuels and foreign sources is killing this country.
China sees missiles such as the Sizzler—and a missile currently in development known as the Dong Feng (DF)-21D—as key to its growing naval power in Asia. The Sizzler can be launched from submarines even when submerged, which could turn part of China’s sub fleet from a manageable threat to a “very problematic” one, says Patch. The DF-21D, a ground-launched ballistic missile with a 1,500-kilometer range—is being redesigned by China to dive from space, traveling at about two kilometers per second, to cripple an aircraft carrier. As of today, the U.S. has no reliable countermeasures. With the DF-21D likely to be ready for a flight test in two years or less, the West is suddenly regarding China’s anti-ship capabilities as “pretty daunting,” says Eric McVadon, a former U.S. Navy rear admiral and defense attaché to Beijing.
China’s new missile technology comes at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing are decidedly strained, and when the U.S. Navy has never been so threatened by weapons systems since the end of the Cold War. In May, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed reluctance to build new carriers, pointing to the growing range and accuracy of the anti-ship missiles of potential adversaries. For its part, Beijing is likely to continue to beef up its missile capabilities, and already boasts the world’s most active ground-launched programs, according to a recent Department of Defense report....
- bth: one obvious thing we can do is stop plowing our limited naval funds into new carriers which are simply becoming big targets. These missiles are likely to make carriers obsolete the same way shallow aerial launched torpedoes made battleships vulnerable in WWII. But now we will continue to build bigger and more expensive ships despite all indications that this is the wrong way to go.
...In order for this project to go forward, you will either need a LOT of guns, or simply cooperation from the tribes. With tribal cooperation you don’t need guns because they have guns coming out their ears. If they like you, they will fight for you...
bth: this article by Michael Yon is worth reading in full to better understand how to operate in Afghanistan. Michael Yon was virtually run out of Afghanistan by McChrystal and Michael was right. Read the article.
...The dependence on Pakistan includes more than geography, says Ontario-based defence analyst Sunil Ram of the American Military University.
“About 80 per cent of (NATO) fuel requirements are from refineries in Karachi,” he said. “It’s strategically easy for the Taliban to stop the convoys. Even if they cut off 15 to 20 per cent of the fuel it has a large impact on the war because it reduces the ability to operate.”
And, he points out, a number of international media reports contend the U.S. has reverted to paying the Taliban to stay away from the convoys.
Washington is also at odds with Pakistan over Islamabad’s responsibility for quelling the Taliban on its territory, although the dispute has diminished since massive floods hit the country and the army was deployed to aid displaced civilians.
“There are 70,000 troops deployed in flood relief, and 150,000 are in locations in the northwest and along the (Afghan) border,” said Nawaz. “But it’s still not enough to protect convoys going up from Karachi. The danger used to be when they approached the Khyber Pass. Now it’s starting from Karachi. The local Taliban has affiliates all over.”
Afghanistan itself may be working on a solution. Officials there “want to create a state-run military brigade equipped with its own trucks and thousands of soldiers to carry essential NATO supplies around the country,” said a report by McClatchy Newspapers.
But there is skepticism that Afghanistan, often at odds with neighbouring Pakistan, would be able to deal with the “highway barons” who control the roads and demand protection money — both at home and across the border.
bth: what we are about to witness is another shakedown of the US by the Pakis and the Afghan governments. The Pakis are going to claim that they can no longer afford to protect the convoys on their side of the border because their troops are spread too thin because of the flood which is a way for the Paki military to say to the US to stop giving money just to the Pakistani civilian government and give it directly to the generals who are gradually taking over. Keep in mind that the generals have seized control of every civiian government Pakistan has ever installed.
Then you have the Afghan government throwing out private contractors because the government wants the money and the political clout letting lucrative contracts gives. In short Karzai wants to route money to his Pashtun allies and away from the former northern alliance contractors. He knows the money is in the fuel and supply transport business - reportedly about $5K per vehicle skimmed off the top - and he wants a piece of the action.
In the end the US will agree because we have no choice if we want to maintain a surge of troops and we will pay more for the privilege of protecting the Afghans. Our costs are about to skyrocket. Now the US army will start paying lip service to solar and wind power etc but that is all that it will be. If we had wanted to address this problem, we would have far fewer air conditioners in building and have installed wind and solar system on bases years ago. Now we are going to pay and pay and pay.
We can't win a war where the enemy controls our supply lines.
Spc. Adam Winfield, 21, told Army investigators that he alerted his father to the civilian killings early this year and told him that he feared for his own life, according to an interrogation tape obtained by CNN. His father tried and failed to get the military to intervene, Winfield's attorney, Eric Montalvo, said....
- bth: the message the army is sending to soldiers is don't be the whistle blower or witness to these events.
Witnesses to events unreported can only take away a message that they should keep their mouths shut because if you don't you will be lumped in with the criminals your are witnessing against, you will have your family drug through the mud and you will be thrown in solitary confinement.
And again one asks, where were the fucking officers when all this was going on? They have moved on and left their troubles behind. Out of sight out of mind. And in the end the enlisted soldier witness will be the persecuted one. That is the message the army is sending to privates and corporals.
Amtrak is holding a high-security exercise Friday in which uniformed officers will be a visible presence on national transit routes. RailSafe will include all the local police agencies along the Amtrak routes involved in the exercise.
'If al Qaeda is planning simultaneous attacks in Europe,' said Richard Clarke, former White House national security official and now an ABC News consultant, 'there's nothing to say they could not also include the US on that list of simultaneous attacks.'
A senior DHS official said the rail exercise is 'long-planned' and 'is not connected in any way' to the terror threat in Europe.
The stepped-up security comes as the French arrested 11 terror suspects in Bordeaux and Marseilles, and as the U.S. used CIA drones to attack a suspected center of the plot in Pakistan...
- bth: anyone that road Amtrak down the eastern corridor knows it is wide open.
Monday, October 04, 2010
"As long as the arabs fight amongst themselves, they will remain a little people, a silly people, barbarous and cruel." T.S. Lawrence
Note we in the US are hearing nothing about this but al Jazeera has video of the Taliban meeting Karzais cousin in a hotel in Kabul.
The Winfields had claimed in an interview with ABC News that in February they warned the Army by phone that soldiers in their son Adam's unit were thrill killing civilians. One of the murders with which Winfield and four other soldiers are now charged took place after the calls.
'The Army takes very seriously recent media reporting in which the father of Spc. Adam Winfield said he alerted the Army to allegations of crimes by Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan,' said the Army's statement. 'We have not yet found any evidence to indicate Mr. Winfield called the office of the Army's Inspector General.'
"We examined the phone records of the Winfield family, with their consent. Based on this examination we have determined that another federal agency's Inspector General was called by mistake." The Winfields had claimed in their interview with ABC News that they called the Army Inspector General's office.
The Army also confirms, however, that the Winfields "called the headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, as media reports have stated."
A review of the Winfields' phone records by ABC News shows that the Winfields called four different numbers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, including the command center, the main phone, the chapel, and criminal investigations, also known as CID. CID is responsible for investigating alleged criminal acts by Army personnel.
In a follow-up statement to ABC News, Army spokesman Tom Collins said, "The evidence shows that he called several numbers on a Sunday. He spoke to one individual for approximately 12 minutes. He did call the Army Criminal Investigations Division, but he did not leave a message and did not follow a prompt to call the 24-hour MP desk."
Collins said the conversation Winfield had was with someone at the Lewis-McChord Command Center. He declined to discuss the specifics of that conversation because the matter is still under investigation.
Christopher Winfield told ABC News that he spoke to a sergeant at the command center for 16 minutes, detailing his son's claims about the murder of an Afghan civilian.
Phone records also show that the Winfields called an investigations number at CIA headquarters in Virginia.
---- bth: how about the Army cut this family and that soldier some slack. They tried multiple times to make contact with someone in authority which is more than the Army did in this multiple homicide where the officers were no where to be found. The dad made a few wrong numbers but he did connect to the command center, the main base phone, the chapel and criminal investigations (CID). Just how much more did they want this dad to do? To an outsider this bureaucratic maze is difficult to sort out. This article also fails to mention that the father called their senator too. One wonders if anyone in the chain of command was paying attention or whether this type of thing was so routine as to be ignored by all in authority.
According to security officials, about 200 Nato oil tankers and supply containers were stranded at the Torkham border on Sunday after being rejected clearance to proceed. Security forces also sent Nato trucks and containers back to Peshawar from another check-post near the border.
The order to suspend the supply trucks from passing through Torkham border into Afghanistan came after Nato helicopters conducted strikes inside Pakistan. According to a Foreign Office statement, the route will be opened after public anger over the Nato strikes eases. – DawnNews
Mass. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, Dr. Joseph Desiato, Alma Hart, Laurie Desiato, Brian Hart and Sen. Scott Brown on Lexington Green Oct 2, 2010
An Army reserve unit did a unit march from Lexington Green to the Concord North Bridge on Oct 2 2010 carryin 125 bricks with names of soldiers and marines from Massachusetts killed in the recent conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The route was along the old battle road where the American revolution started.
The closing of the Khyber crossing and the exposure of stalled NATO convoys to attacks by Muslim extremists has roiled Islamabad’s relations with Washington. The Pakistani government appears to have felt that it had no choice but to take some visible action against the US, given the public rage throughout the country over the US attack on the Pakistani checkpoint and US violations of Pakistani sovereignty.
Some 75 percent of supplies (food, ammunition, even military vehicles) and 50 percent of the fuel needed by US and NATO troops in Afghanistan flow from the Arabian Sea port of Karachi in Pakistan’s Sindh Province up highways to Peshawar and then across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. The convoys are being impeded not only by the closure to them of the crossing at Torkham but also by all the bridges and highways washed out by Pakistan’s recent massive flooding....
--- bth: Juan Cole has a pretty good analysis of the tanker war situation in Pakistan. His article is worth reading in full. I would add this.
Note that the attacked vehicles are fuel tankers, probably insured, and not trucks loaded with military vehicles and such as happened a few years ago with several hundred humvees and military trucks being destroyed - I seem to recall about 400 US vehicles. So why fuel trucks? Well for one thing they look great on TV burning away. For another, the contractor can steal the fuel out of the truck, leave a little reserve and have the trailer set on fire. The trucker/bandit/ISI operative sell the fuel on the black market, pick up the insurance money and keep moving.
I would also note that usually about this time of year the Paki government tries to negotiate their semi-annual extortion of funds from the US. I think this is part of that negotiation for higher transit fees.
Perhaps most importantly, this is an indication that the Paki ISI has decided to throttle in the US surge and provides Obama an excuse for dialing the surge back. This is a strategic move and far more than a tactic the bickering Taliban would think up. Gen. Gul, that arrogant bastard, said as much in a recent interview. Undoubtedly if successful he will take credit for it even in semi-retirement as a general and part-time Taliban propagandist.
Now we will need to see what Russia and China do. Do they help us supply or do they seek their own concessions and extortion from us for supply routes.
60 odd tankers over 4 days. We process 250 tankers and supply trucks across the border a day. So doing the math we aren't losing much on a percentage basis. But fuel is being targeted and fuel is our weak spot.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Political insiders in Islamabad said the tottering economy could within months become a platform for a campaign, led behind the scenes by the country's powerful military, to weaken the government of Asif Ali Zardari, the president. There was more bad news as the United States said it would link its future financial aid to tax reform, including stricter tax collection from the wealthy. 'This is one of my pet peeves: countries that will not tax their elites but expect us to come in and help them serve their people are just not going to get the kind of help from us that they have been getting,' Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said about Pakistan yesterday at a conference in New York.
The alarms rang by the ADB, Asia's equivalent to the World Bank, in its latest economic update were clear. It said the Pakistani government was borrowing from the central bank to fund its operations. It has been printing huge sums of extra cash to pay its bills, helping to fuel a resurgence of inflation over the past year to an annual rate of more than 12 per cent in June from about nine per cent in October 2009.
The government was printing the money because its revenues were insufficient to pay the interest on its massive debt and cover its defence spending, consumer subsidies and pensions, the ADB said. It said the cost of keeping afloat state corporations, whose total losses represented 1.6 of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) last year, was also distorting the government's finances. As well, Pakistan's three years of slower economic growth - induced by political instability and violence as well as the global economic uncertainties - has slashed government revenue. It totals nine per cent of GDP, which is the broad measure of a nation's economy, among the lowest rates in the world.
More recently, the massive cost of reconstruction after recent floods, which have affected 20 million people, only underscores the need for the government to create 'fiscal space' by withdrawing remaining subsidies and raising taxes, the ADB said. The Pakistani government had privately hoped that international sympathy for the victims of the floods would persuade its creditors to either lend it more money, or reschedule payments on its foreign debt of US$50 billion (Dh184bn)....
- bth: we're about to lose our supply lines making a continuation of the current footprint impossible and Pakistan is about to lose its economy and its democracy - what little they have of both.
“May the undertaker bury you, your table and your body, which has soiled the world,” said Mr. Ahamdinejad, using unusually harsh language. Mr. Ahmadinejad made these remarks on Sunday on the outskirts of Tehran in front of crowds which included a large number of armed forces personnel....
- bth: this ass clown makes so many outlandish statements that he is not taken seriously.
..."Simply put, a lie can be sincere. There is more to it than “come on, I really mean it!”
The real foundation of public diplomacy is the tight coupling of words with deeds into smart, informed, contextual, and agile policies. This is more than synchronizing, it is the mutual support of words and deeds in a way that knowingly, not accidently, shape perceptions and ultimately actions of others. Sincerity is thus demonstrated not expressed.
Infrequently ascribed to public diplomacy is the other side of the coin: the adversary. The purpose of public diplomacy is to highlight the incongruities in the adversary’s words and deeds.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain. "
"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear --
kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor --
with the cry of grave national emergency.
Always there has been some terrible evil at home
or some monstrous foreign power that was going
to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind
it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded.
Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem
never to have happened,
seem never to have been quite real
Terrorism is the best political weapon
for nothing drives people harder
than a fear of sudden death
A thing is not necessarily true
because a man dies for it
--The Portrait of Mr. W. H., Oscar Wilde
How those cuts are apportioned will make a huge difference in what kind of world role the country will be able to play in the years ahead.
Put simply, the most important choice is between nuclear weapons and troops — specifically, whether to build four new nuclear missile-launching submarines or to preserve an army large enough to contribute to allied missions overseas. Even with painful cuts in other areas, there will not be money enough for both.
Britain’s annual military budget is $58 billion. Replacing all four submarines — as the Conservatives, the lead partner in the coalition government, want — would cost $30 billion over the next decade, or roughly $3 billion a year. Eliminating 20,000 army troops will save less than $2 billion a year. Scaling back the submarine replacement plan — or deferring it, as the junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, urge — could save enough to keep the army at its current strength of 105,000. ...
- bth: a further indication that Britain is fading away as a military power. Its entire army is 105K vs the US marines at 150K. It is fading away to nothingness.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland warned Mr Assange, who is an Australian citizen but runs his rogue website from Sweden, that he could not ''from the comforts of his office'' release sensitive information that endangered people on the front line.
WikiLeaks published 77,000 Afghan war documents in July and plans to release another 15,000 related documents soon.
Earlier this month, WikiLeaks announced plans to release a ''massive cache'' of classified US military field reports on the conflict in Iraq.
''Anything that puts those people who are serving their country and protecting our security at risk is entirely reprehensible, whether it's done for notoriety, whether it's done for commercial interests,'' Mr McClelland said.
''If these acts amount to an offence, the people involved will most certainly be prosecuted.''
He said it could be difficult to determine the location where an offence had taken place when that offence was committed online, but Australia was determined to work with any country to ensure those responsible were caught.
''Usually it's the country where [the offenders are] based that will take law enforcement action and these are the things we will certainly talk to international counterparts about ...'' Mr McClelland said.
''But in this day and age, it shouldn't come down to an issue of law enforcement, people should exercise responsibility and appreciate that people are placing their personal safety at risk in the interests of defending their nations [and] promoting international security.'' He would not comment on whether Australia had previously assisted other countries in pursuing Wiki-Leaks....
---- bth: this would appear to me to be as clear a warning as could be made to Mr. Assange that his actions will be prosecuted.