Saturday, October 16, 2010
The latest poll from CNN and Opinion Research Corporation found only 37% of all Americans favor the war, 52% say the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Vietnam.
Those numbers are going down as US commitment to the war is going up, significantly....
It's that balance between perceived progress and deadly setback that the administration will begin considering first this December when the strategy is reviewed and then again next year ahead of the July 2011 deadline President Barack Obama set to begin withdrawing the increased troops.
That date – July 2011 – has many wondering if the ultimate calculus is about a number that is more important in the US than Afghanistan – the number 2012.
The new strategy for Afghanistan appears tailored with that date in mind. When the president announced more troops, he made sure to indicate that the government would begin to drawdown the troop surge by July 2011.
Critics said the July date was more to ensure being able to say the troops are coming home come election time, than a reasonable timeframe to expect progress.
But for all the investment of lives and money, the war is not registering with Americans. At least not while the numbers in everyone's bank accounts are a preoccupation. In a September poll by CNN and Opinion Research, only 9% of respondents thought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the most important problem facing the country, 49% thought the economy mattered most.
Russia's S-300 air defense systems, which Moscow refused to deliver to Iran following a new round of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, could be sold to Venezuela instead, a Russian arms trade expert said on Friday.
Russia signed a deal to deliver five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defense systems to Iran in 2007 but banned the sale in September, saying the systems, along with a number of other weapons, were covered by the fourth round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against Iran over its nuclear program in June.
"Russia is looking for a buyer of five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defense systems ordered by Iran, which are worth $800 million, and Venezuela could become such a buyer," said Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on the international arms trade....
bth: so in the last few weeks or so Russia has stopped S-300PMU-1 air defense sales to Iran and announced like deals going to Venezuela. Same goes for nuclear plants.
Then Israel has agreed to provide $400 million in UAV technology to Russia, the US has sold billions of new defense equipment to Saudi Arabia.
One gets the feeling that a mega defense Yankee swap was negotiated whereby Russia denied Iran key air defenses leaving Iran's nuke plants exposed to the Israelis, while getting to Russia to sell identical systems to Venezuela with a wink to the US and in turn Israel offers and gets a sweetheart deal to Russia on UAV technology they were falling behind on. End result, Russia gets arms sales, Iran is vulnerable to air attack and thinking more about negotiations, Saudi Arabia is beefed up on defense acquisition steroids, Israel gets sales of key technology to Russia and Russia stays current on UAV technology. Venezuela - the leading producer of oil in South America - gets to invest in nuclear power for 'peaceful' purposes after failing to invest in its own O&G industry causing domestic energy shortages and air defenses in America's southern backyard.
Connected dots or strange coincidence?
Now family members and the military are asking a central question: How could their commanders not know what was going on?
“I just don’t understand how this went so far,” said Christopher Winfield, the father of Specialist Adam C. Winfield, one of the platoon members charged with murder. “I’ve been in management for 20 years; you know what your people are doing.”
But interviews in recent days and hundreds of pages of documents in the case offer a portrait of an isolated, out-of-control unit that operated in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan with limited supervision and little oversight from senior commanders.
There are indications of missed warnings among Army officers who saw trouble with some platoon leaders but did not dig deeper — let alone suspect the extent of the problem — until investigators began asking questions in early May, nearly four months after prosecutors say the first of three murders of Afghan civilians occurred.
The documents, which have not been made public, include sworn statements from soldiers and some of their officers. So far, neither the leaders of the 30-man platoon nor more senior officers in the Fifth Stryker Combat Brigade have been charged or disciplined in one of the most gruesome war crimes cases to come out of nearly a decade of conflict in Afghanistan. It is unclear whether action will be taken against them in the future.
Five platoon members of lower ranks have been charged with murder and all have said they are not guilty. Seven more were charged with lesser offenses. ...
--- bth: one wonders where the fucking senior NCOs were or where the officers were in all this. Not one of them is going to be held to account - we live in a no account era within the Army. Enlisted personnel will get life but the officers will skate away as at Abu Ghraib, Wanat and Keating.
Why wasn't a simple drug screen done when officers were clearly aware there was hash being used in the unit? Isn't this the responsibility of the command structure?
Why the lieutenant tolerated the use of drop pieces is more evident as it is a recurrent reality in both Iraq and Afghanistan in cases of ambiguous shootings or accidental killings. This is more the norm than the exception. The lack of a willingness within the command structure to hold officers accountable explains why they were allowed to go rouge. Accountability just doesn't matter to the command structure in the US Army anymore.
The career officer corp is estranged from the civilian soldier model this country was based upon and is now resembling the Prussian general staff model. The senior career officer corp will become disengaged from the American public and as a result will not recognize the changing attitudes and priorities of the American people it no longer believes it is accountable to. No doubt in 2 years the senior officers will blame the public for its impatience with perpetual war without victory much as the German military blamed the home front for ending WWI.
That these murders are being investigated at all is exceptional.
The Paki supply route doesn't have to be shut to destroy our mission - just made uneconomical for contractors
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The proportion of supplies for American troops in Afghanistan passing through Pakistan has dropped by half in the past two years, as attacks and bureaucratic delays have forced Pakistani transport companies and individual truck drivers to reconsider the job.
While investigations have found no high-level extremist involvement behind recent attacks on the supply convoys, U.S. officials said, the risks of the journey through Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan remain high, with some 150 trucks burned and several drivers killed this month.
"Price and reward don't seem to balance out any more. A lot of people are talking about getting out of the business," said Nadeem Khan, the chief executive of Raaziq International, a Pakistani transportation company that sub-contracts to truckers for delivery into Afghanistan. "You reach a point where you wonder: Is it worth it?"...
bth; if supplying NATO becomes uneconomical for the Pakistani government or its retired officer run trucking companies then our mission will come to an end in Afghanistan.
Yet every day, say taxi drivers, security officials and border shop owners, Taliban insurgents cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan with nary a second glance from border officials.
'Every day, 40,000 to 70,000 people pass through the border, we can't handle it,' said Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, the commander of the Afghan Border Police stationed at Torkham gate. 'For us it's very difficult, and it's not possible to ask every single person where they are going and if they have a passport....
Pakistan's willingness to allow sanctuary for Afghan insurgents long has strained ties with the U.S., and its closing of one of NATO's critical supply routes to Afghanistan added to tensions. However, Afghanistan also shares the blame for failing to guard its own front door.
For nearly a decade, the U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to cut off the remote, high altitude mountain trails Taliban forces use to smuggle weapons and fighters into Afghanistan.
Now, the U.S. military is turning its attention to the border crossing.
'More and more we've realized that they are not coming through the passes, they're just coming through the . . . gate,' said one U.S. government official in Afghanistan who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could candidly discuss the unfolding plan to focus on the border crossing.
The U.S.-led coalition is setting up a special task force in eastern Afghanistan to deal with the insurgents who are coming into the country through the front door.
Torkham is one of America's busiest military lifelines into Afghanistan. About half of the U.S.-led military coalition's supplies come through Torkham, which is on the western edge of the fabled Khyber Pass, and the southern crossing at Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
Not only have convoys headed for Torkham been idled, but Taliban officials in Pakistan also have claimed credit for a series of attacks on fuel trucks along the country's second supply route bound for NATO bases in Afghanistan.
Less dramatic, but every bit as troubling, is the suspected flow of insurgents using the porous crossing to dispatch new fighters, coordinate attacks and return to relative safety on the Pakistan side of the border.
No one can say how many foreign fighters pass through Torkham. Gen. Mamozai of the border police said he suspects that more insurgents use clandestine routes, but Torkham now has the attention of U.S. military officials.
'This area is our first priority,' said a U.S. military official in eastern Afghanistan who also agreed to discuss the evolving program only if he could speak without being identified....
--- bth: so we are 10 years into this war and we don't have a facial recognition system or electronic finger print system on the Afghan side of Torkham? I understand that the border is long and porous but I'd at least like the Taliban to have to walk to the battle instead of being allowed to take a taxi in plain sight and then go home to Pakistan for dinner.
The deal was signed Tuesday by IAI Chief Executive Officer Itzhak Nissan and Andrey Reus, director-general of the Oboronprom Russian Industrial Corp.
The contract calls for IAI, Israel's largest industrial exporter and a leader in the design and production of unmanned aerial vehicles, to provide drone kits to Oboronprom for assembly in Russia.
- bth: fascinating.
Citing sources close to the case, the Post said the wife of David Coleman Headley warned FBI agents in August 2005 that her husband had undergone intensive training with Lashkar-e-Taiba and was in contact with extremists.
Headley is accused of having scouted locations for the coordinated attack, which terrorized the Indian city over the course of three days, leaving 166 people dead and over 300 others wounded.
Headley's wife, who was not named in the report, called a terrorism hotline after getting into a fight with him in August 2005, the Post said.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents followed up, and interviewed her three times, the newspaper reported in a story co-authored with journalism foundation ProPublica.
She told agents that her husband 'was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, had trained extensively in its Pakistani camps, and had shopped for night vision goggles,' the Post reported.
Despite the warning, Headley was able to continue moving freely, travelling to Pakistan, India, Dubai and Europe in 2006, gathering information and material that made the deadly attack possible.
US anti-terrorism agencies did warn Indian counterparts about a possible Lashkar plot to target Mumbai in 2008, but it was unclear whether the warnings were based on Headley's wife's tip-off two years earlier.
In a bizarre twist, Headley was reportedly also bragging about being a US government informant before the attacks, telling his wife and others that he working for the Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI.
Headley did work as an informant for the DEA in the 1990s when he was known by his birth name Daood Gilani and had been arrested for smuggling heroin from Pakistan.
After a second arrest and more work for the agency, he went to Pakistan, where he became radicalized, the Post reported....
bth: so what happened here? Did we let a terrorist/informant kill Indians even after being tipped off by his wife? So much for counter terrorism. What good is this situation if we allow terrorists to complete their missions?
U.S., Afghan and Taliban sources all declined to give details of the contacts, if they are taking place at all.
'There have been several very senior Taliban leaders who have reached out to the Afghan government at the highest levels, and also in some cases have reached out to other countries involved in Afghanistan,' Petraeus told reporters at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
'These discussions can only be characterized as preliminary in nature,' Petraeus said. 'They certainly would not rise to the level of being called negotiations.'
In Afghanistan, Taliban leaders have told followers that there are no official peace talks with the U.S.-backed Afghan government, an apparent move to persuade their rank-and-file to stay in the fight.
U.S. officials speaking anonymously say there have been preliminary discussions that date back a couple of months and involve mid- to senior-level Taliban but not top-level decision-makers.
Petraeus indicated that Taliban representatives had been given safe passage by coalition forces. It was not known if that included providing transport or other NATO facilities to support the talks...
- bth: so first of all the talks are in fact occurring despite denials up to now. Second astonishingly these talks are occurring in Afghanistan and not in Dubai or some neutral area. Is this an indication of how weak our situation is?
Though ANSO’s report is aimed primarily at keeping aid groups from being attacked in the dangerous warzone, it is also a damning indictment of the NATO war in Afghanistan, noting that the offensives in Kandahar and Marjah have failed to degrade the Taliban, failed to reduce civilian combat deaths, and failed to deliver the promised “boxed government.”
Rather it is the Taliban, ANSO insists, which is moving into “hold and build phase” in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where its leadership is formalizing its command structure and moving from an insurgency to a government in its own right, sending out foreign policy feelers to neighboring countries regarding the “upcoming system of the country.” The group seems to believe it has cemented a comparatively stable position for itself in the region, and is instead focusing on consolidating those gains while increasing recruitment in the north of the country.
- bth: another very damning indicator.
But back to the upcoming shellacking. Obama may very well be right that some significant portion of his agenda rests on challenging the court’s ruling, though it’s kind of hard to figure out how. Perhaps they will kick up less of a fuss if and when he decides, Nixon style, to choose “peace with honor” in Afghanistan. Perhaps not. But these are the same kinds of calculations he made when he offered up concession after concession to pass his health-care and financial-reform bills. One can argue the merits of these decisions, but the politics? Well, clearly they stink...
bth: a calculation of political expedience I guess.
... Given the condition of the economy and the high unemployment rate, the fact that most Americans largely cite those problems as the nation’s top issues is not surprising. What is surprising is that hardly any Americans cite the war in Afghanistan at all.
In a nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last month, 60 percent of Americans said that the economy or jobs were the most important problems facing the country. A mere 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan or the war.
A Pew poll earlier this month found that 23 percent of Americans said they were following the situation in Afghanistan very closely, far fewer than the 43 percent who were following the condition of the economy very closely.
When an ABC News/Washington Post poll released in early September directly asked how important a number of issues would be in deciding how to vote for Congress in November, the economy, health care and the budget deficit were all rated as very important or the single most important issue more often than the war was.
In contrast, in the period leading up to the 2006 midterm elections, the war in Iraq and concerns about terrorism trumped all other issues in Times/CBS News national polls. Amid broad dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq that year, American voters ushered in a new Democratic majority in Congress.
But Americans’ priorities shifted dramatically in 2008, as the economy took a severe turn for the worse. In the Edison/Mitofsky exit polls on Election Day 2008, with the country in the midst of an unfolding financial crisis, the economy was chosen by more than 6 in 10 voters as the most important issue facing the country, while 1 in 10 chose the war in Iraq (these voters were more apt to be Democrats) and another 1 in 10 cited terrorism (voters who were mostly Republicans and conservatives).
John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State University, said the “rubber band theory” explains the lack of interest in the war. “People mainly think about domestic issues, particularly economic ones, and from time to time their attention is pulled away by international events, but their natural tendency is for it to snap back to what they’re really interested in.”
Lack of focus should not be confused with support for the war. On the contrary: Americans’ assessments of the war are grim. A majority in the September Times/CBS News poll said the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan now, up 15 percentage points since December. And most said the war was going badly, down from its peak but well above the reading in the early years of the war, when broad majorities said it was going well.
... Speaking about the candidates, Dr. Mueller explained: “They would talk about it if they thought it would win them votes. It just doesn’t have much political traction. The big thing is the overwhelming impact of the economy, which is certainly straightforward and obvious.”
... Until the unemployment rate begins to fall dramatically, most Americans seem to feel that they cannot afford to focus on the war. “Jobs are the prevailing issue for everyone right now — we need to focus on jobs,” said one poll respondent, Michael Santalucia, a 47-year-old Democrat from Beavercreek, Ohio. “I don’t know how much we can do about Afghanistan right now, but we can do something about jobs here.”
--- bth: A 10 year war without measurable progress, plan or objectives; a collapsed economy; a failed budget; a loss of faith by the public in the Afghan or Iraq plans and in particular a loss of trust in our military and political leadership earned by two administrations and the Pentagon have added up.
General Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, made clear to Number 10 that he could not accept cuts in Army numbers and training which would hamper the Afghan operation. In the wake of Sir Peter’s warning, Downing Street sources last night said Mr Cameron had blocked a Treasury demand for a 10 per cent cut in the defence budget.
“He has intervened against the Treasury. The Army will be protected,” said a source.
Mr Cameron told the Treasury that he would not accept substantial reductions in Army numbers. Downing Street sources added that Mr Cameron was insistent that more savings be made from Trident.
Final details of the budget deal were still being hammered out last night in Whitehall, and military sources refused to declare victory in the power struggle.
Mr Cameron’s intervention followed a day of threats from senior defence figures. The angry response from the top brass came after the Treasury attempted to force the Ministry of Defence to make cuts deeper than those which had been agreed previously. Military chiefs had described the move as a “betrayal”....
--- bth: This is further evidence of the wholesale decline of British armed services. One cannot imagine a budget cut of 7% much less 10% while still being able to maintain anything like an effective fighting force already smaller than our marine corp.
The UK is simply gutting its defense establishment. Next you will start seeing a lack of helicopter support and proper armored vehicles to its combat troops. Are we about to be at a point, like a few years ago, where the US leaves tourniquets and other medical supplies on a loading dock for the British or Canadian troops to steal? What a crying waste of fine military forces from our key ally and the callous disregard for Britain's troops in the field by the British people and their elected officials who obviously could not give a rat's ass about their soldiers put in harms way.
The FBI said Friday it was charging Syed Omair Ali with “knowingly and willfully” making false statements to federal investigators.
Since May, Ali has been providing information to the FBI concerning “several individuals” who “were planning to commit a terrorist attack in the United States,” including an individual he said “has ties with the tribal guys back in Karachi-Pakistan” and “has been planning on hurting our motherland,” according to FBI documents....
- bth: so does this mean that the Germans were right that the recent terror alert was single sourced and unsubstantiated? Indeed that the source was an admitted liar to the FBI with a personal grudge against one of the recently accused as the article implies?
'We note for service members that altering their personal conduct in this legally uncertain environment may have adverse consequences for themselves and others should the court's decision be reversed,' Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley said in a memo.
California-based U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered the military on Tuesday to stop enforcing the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces.
She also directed the military to drop any pending investigations and discharges after ruling that the policy violated the Constitution.
The Obama administration on Thursday asked Phillips to stay her ruling while it appealed the decision, which overturned a 17-year-old compromise that allowed gay men and women to serve in the military only if they kept their sexual orientation private.
Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the Defense Department was abiding by the terms of the court's injunction but noted the Justice Department had appealed the ruling.
'It is possible that a stay of the injunction could be issued very soon, perhaps in a matter of days,' he said. If Phillips denies a stay, the Obama administration said it would seek one from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
'In light of the appeal and the application for a stay, a certain amount of uncertainty now exists about the future of the don't ask, don't tell law and policy,' Stanley said, cautioning service members against altering their behavior because of the situation....
- bth: Its time for Obama to act like Eisenhower instead of Carter.
"We have more important clients, including Department of Defense, airline manufacturers like Airbus and some Arab companies from Dubai," Doxer was quoted as saying. "I would be happy to provide information to you, but the limit of my information is invoicing and customer contact information."This marked the second sting of an American Jew by the FBI in connection with the relay of business data to Israel over the last year. In October 2009, an American Jew, approached by an FBI agent who pretended to be a Mossad officer, was indicted on charges of offering U.S. military and defense information to Israel.
Both cases appeared similar in that an FBI agent approached the Jewish target and, in the name of helping Israel, appealed for classified or proprietary data. Doxer, a 42-year-old employee in Akamai's finance department, was said to have been approached in 2007 by the FBI a year after he e-mailed an offer to the Israeli consulate in Boston. The FBI agent, who handled Doxer for 18 months, claimed he represented Israel....
--- bth: Did it take a change of U.S. administrations to start addressing espionage from Israel? FBI use of false flag stings should have been ongoing. Hopefully the same is happening with espionage from China.
Friday, October 15, 2010
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday asked a federal court to put a hold on a judge's order that declared the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing gays in the military unconstitutional, NBC News reported.
Asked directly at a town hall sponsored by MTV/BET why he hasn't used the power of his office to repeal the controversial policy, President Barack Obama said he's working to end the policy, but explained it can't be done with the "stroke of a pen," and that it has to be done orderly.
"This is a not a question of whether it's ending," he told the audience. "It will end on my watch."
Obama said the administration is "moving in the direction of ending this policy," but added that he has an obligation to follow existing rules....
bth: Obama is no Eisenhower in my opinion. Compare Obama's spineless approach to this controversial issue with Eisenhower enforcing school desegregation in Arkansas. Eisenhower enforced an extraordinarily controversial court ruling. Obama is so scared that he will be accused of supporting activist judges that he is contesting the court ruling which essentially gives him what he campaigned to achieve. What a wimp.
Moneybookers, a British-registered internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks donations, emailed the organisation to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist and on an Australian government blacklist.
The apparent blacklisting came a few days after the Pentagon publicly expressed its anger at WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange, for obtaining thousands of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan, in one of the US army's biggest leaks of information. The documents caused a sensation when they were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, revealing hitherto unreported civilian casualties....
- bth: Is Assange so disconnected from reality that he thinks espionage is an internet business operating outside legal structures? He is lucky he isn't arrested or worse.
Thailand-Pakistan: The southern insurgency. Police have detained 15 Pakistanis on suspicion of being involved with a foreign terrorist group. A combined force of 30 soldiers and police yesterday raided Yala My House hotel in Muang District and took the 15 men, who had checked into four rooms, away for questioning.
Investigating inspector at Muang Yala station, Police Lieutenant Colonel Sujarit Wongsagade, said an employee at a local private bank told police he had noticed irregularities in transnational transactions conducted by a group of Pakistani customers. The banker said the men had transferred money from their accounts to someone who is officially listed in the bank's database as a person involved with a foreign terrorist organization.
Sujarit said the suspects claimed they had gone to Yala to raise money to help orphans and flood victims in their homeland.
Comment: Research indicates the Islamist insurgency in southern Thailand has had no outside backing, limited organization and no clear sense of identity that distinguishes it from banditry. It has no history of contacts with Pakistani Islamic extremists.
The arrival of Pakistani agents provocateur provides further confirmation that Pakistani Islamist leaders have decided to export their beliefs and terrorist actions. The new information is that their targets are not just Europe and the US, but anywhere a Muslim population resides. The 15 detained in Thailand should be a warning to regional security authorities.
The Indian government is acutely aware of the terrorist threat spawned from Pakistan. The Southeast Asian security leaders should be on the lookout for Pakistani troublemakers, often in the guise of mendicants or relief workers, among the Cham people of Cambodia, in Malaysia, Indonesia and in the southern Philippines.