Saturday, November 06, 2010
Taliban in Afghanistan may be rallying despite General Petraeus insistence enemy is worn out: source
But morale problems are actually rare among the 'Afghan mujahideen,' as the Taliban call themselves, and they are fighting better than ever - and apparently a lot smarter - despite taking years of heavy losses and facing 100,000 G.I.s on the ground in President Obama’s surge.
'Most of the stupid Taliban are dead,' said one senior U.S. counterterror official in Washington, in an exclusive war briefing. 'Even in the south, the adversaries are becoming more tactically capable.'...
An eye-popping 4,000 Taliban have been killed by Special Forces along Highway 1 southwest of Kandahar City over the last two years — but they just keep coming from Pakistani madrassahs.
'Clearly it wasn’t all of the Taliban, because Highway 1 isn’t safe,' said the senior U.S. counterterror official, who has served in Afghanistan.
And troops in the thick of the fight are taking no chances with an enemy who has been counted out many times before.
'If you ever underestimate this enemy, that’s the day they’ll take a bite out of your ass,' said a Green Beret team leader in Kandahar. 'They’ve had nine years to observe our tactics, techniques and procedures. Even if they’re not hitting you, they’re still watching you.'
- bth: retired Gen. Keane is just full of shit and says whatever will assist his Washington neocon agenda regardless of what is seen on the ground. Surely if the taliban were demoralized and on the ropes we would start to see it in the combat statistics, but we have not.
Staff at the centre are refining their methods for caring for soldiers with far more severe injuries than they have previously worked with, Tuck said. 'The admission numbers are going up because the patients are more complex and they are coming back more frequently, that's a definite.'
A surge in Afghanistan earlier this year put unprecedented pressure on medical services both at the intensive care unit at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham, and at Headley Court. New facilities have been opened in both centres in recent months. 'We just opened a new ward over the road. It is not in the ideal place but it's in the place where we could build fastest,' Tuck said.
Joe Townsend, 22, a marine whose legs were blown off when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand province in 2008, is still receiving treatment at Headley Court.
'When I got here first there was nowhere near as many in the same situation as now. It's crap but that is how it is. There is a lot more use of IEDs now than before and the lads are treading on them more often,' he said.
Jerome Church, general secretary of Blesma, said: 'It's possible that the enemy's bomb technology has improved, but medical intervention and trauma management is improving in leaps and bounds.
'People are surviving now who perhaps even as little as a year ago wouldn't have survived.'
- bth: what gets overlooked in the stats is the greater number of full or partial blindings occurring.
The arrests provoked an angry response from Russia's Foreign Ministry, which accused Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of suffering from 'chronic spy mania' because of his antipathy toward Russia.
A series of spy flaps in recent years has aggravated already tense relations between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a brief but bitter war in 2008.
The arrests, which took place in October, were announced on the day Russia's military intelligence agency celebrates its professional holiday, Day of the Military Intelligence Officer.
Georgia's Interior Ministry said its counterintelligence department had succeeded in planting its own agent, a former Soviet army officer, into the military intelligence agency, known by its Russian initials, GRU.
The operation led to the exposure of dozens of people working covertly for GRU and the arrests of 15, the ministry said. Two were released under a plea-bargain agreement.
The Georgian citizens arrested included six air force pilots, a naval radio operator accused of passing on secret military codes and the founder of a non-governmental group called the Globalization Institute. Most are accused of providing Russia with information about Georgia's combat readiness....
Friday, November 05, 2010
Face transplants are only the start. The Pentagon's Afirm Program, a collaborative effort between 14 institutions, is already in clinical trials on a new approach to transplanted hands. By eliminating the need for immunosuppressant drugs, surgeons minimize the risk of long-term side effects.
And lifelike prosthetics, including ears, noses and eyes, are now customized to the patient, thanks to 3-D modeling, skin-tone matching and titanium implants that allow the prosthetics to adhere to the body using magnets
The Canadian Press: US military looking for higher-tech drones that can fly in heavily guarded airspace
Breedlove declined to detail what the Air Force is considering, but said that it may require new or upgraded aircraft that are stealthier and less visible to radar.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates has pressed the Air Force to boost the number of drones over Afghanistan and Iraq to improve intelligence and surveillance for U.S. ground troops. In response, the Air Force has gone from a handful of drones operating 24 hours a day in early 2007 to 45 as of Tuesday.
Breedlove said that by January, the Air Force's drones will have logged a million hours of combat air patrols over war zones. The goal is to have 50 of the 24-hour air patrols operating by the end of Sept. 2011, and 65 by the same month in 2013.
The increase has strapped the Air Force, as it continues to look for ways to fund and staff the increase.
'The number one manning problem in our Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms,' Breedlove told defence reporters at a breakfast Thursday. He said it takes between 180-200 people to fly and maintain one 24-hour drone patrol, staff its launch and recovery, and interpret and distribute the intelligence it gathers.
One effort to meet the growing workload includes the deployment of a new sensor technology that would allow drones to watch a broader area, and collect and dispense information from several locations at one time.
The so-called 'Gorgon Stare' sensor is undergoing final testing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and is expected arrive in the war zone in December. The sensor is named after a Greek mythological gorgon, whose stare reputedly would turn a person to stone.
The court papers accused two Greek men, 22 and 24, of using the materials to foil courier screeners and authorities and send explosive packages as far as the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The papers say one suspect is a college student and the other his unemployed friend...
Various commissions within the council have announced reform proposals that would affect the length of compulsory education and whether boys and girls are taught together, among other topics. Though the proposals still require adoption in the council’s general assembly, which was expected to be held late Wednesday or Thursday, and are not binding, many fear they add up to an attempt to impose an Islamic ideology over the country’s educational system.
A plan to change the current system of eight years of uninterrupted primary education back to a two-part system that allowed younger students to attend imam-hatip (religious vocational) schools is among the controversial proposals....
The linked article is an open source Dec 09 report on how IEDs are being used against convoys in Afghanistan and worth a full read.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
The emails, obtained by the website PARevolution.com, show that a private firm used twitter to collect intelligence on anti-war protests as a part of their contract with the department.
Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) monitored the activities of the Berks Peace Community, a group of Quaker-affiliated senior citizens, who routinely meet on the Penn State Bridge in Reading to protest America's 'war habit.'
Collecting intelligence by monitoring tweets is 'part of the intelligence effort that is conducted daily... on behalf of the PA Office of Homeland Security,' according to the emails....
- bth: further evidence of degraded rights to privacy
Just as Hague was arriving in Israel the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that they were unilaterally canceling a number of high-level talks with Britain to punish the nation for continuing to claim the right to prosecute foreign war criminals. The move was particularly galling for Britain as Hague was said to be planning to announce that the law was being changed later this week as part of a campaign pledge to protect Israel....
- bth: a stupid, childish and insulting act on the part of Lieberman.
Captain Mukundan, the ICC’s director, said: “The multinational naval fleet has been doing a great job, but it simply can’t be everywhere. It’s a very big ocean”.
Each hijacked ship and its crew will bring the pirates holding it a ransom of anywhere between £1.5 and £3 million pounds. The 435 sailors now in Somalia are those for whom deals have not yet been negotiated, or work for owners who either cannot or will not pay the ransom. ...
The Islamic State of Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for Sunday's assault on a Catholic church during Mass in downtown Baghdad, said its deadline for Egypt's Copts to release the women had expired and its fighters would attack Christians wherever they can be reached....
The northernmost base will be built at Paradip in Orissa State, closer to Bangladesh and opposite the Malacca Strait. The southernmost base is at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu State, opposite Sri Lanka.
The Tribune commentator assessed that the two new bases are a counter to China's increased naval presence in the Bay of Bengal, including in Burma and Bangladesh. The Navy has smaller stations in the eastern Indian Ocean, but no full-size bases capable of providing all logistics support, supplies, replenishment, repair and maintenance. A third base for nuclear powered submarines also will be built at a separate location in the Bay of Bengal. The bases will take at least three years to build.
Comment: Chinese naval interest in the eastern Indian Ocean is spurring the expansion of India's naval infrastructure. China has announced its intention to build a deep sea port at Sonadia near Cox Bazar, Bangladesh. It is also building ports in Burma/Myanmar. All are in the Bay of Bengal.
Most major Indian naval infrastructure construction has been focused against the threat from Pakistan. The new bases represent a shift in Indian strategic thinking -- to counter the threat from Chinese poaching in the Indian Ocean, without reducing vigilance against Pakistan. A new naval base in western India was announced in April 2010.
- bth: this probably explains the 45 US warships that are going to India along with Obama. A way of showing the flag while the president visits to drive home the point that India could use an ally with a strong navy as it begins to deal with Chinese naval expansion in the Indians' patch.
Brice Hortefeux provided no other details in an interview on France's state-run France-2 television, or say where he got the information about the timing.
'One of the packages was defused only 17 minutes before the moment that it was set to explode,' he said.
When investigators pulled the Chicago-bound packages off cargo planes in England and the United Arab Emirates Friday, they found the bombs wired to cell phones and hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers. The communication cards had been removed and the phones could not receive calls, officials said, making it likely the terrorists intended the alarm or timer functions to detonate the bombs, U.S. officials have said.
They also that each bomb was attached to a syringe containing lead azide, a chemical initiator that would have detonated PETN explosives packed into each printer cartridge. Both PETN and a syringe were used in the failed bombing last Christmas of a Detroit-bound airliner....
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The 600-yard tunnel -- which features a rail system, lighting and ventilation -- connects a warehouse in Tijuana with one in the Otay Mesa industrial area of San Diego, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack.
About 26 tons of marijuana had been transported through the tunnel to San Diego, and 10 of those tons were intercepted Tuesday by authorities as a tractor trailer was transporting the load from the Otay Mesa warehouse, officials said. About five tons were found by the Mexican military inside the Tijuana warehouse and the tunnel, officials said....
he 30 tons is considered significant by U.S. and Mexican authorities even though Mexican authorities seized 105 tons of marijuana in Tijuana last month, the largest Mexican bust in recent years, Mack said.
"So there's been some pretty big drug busts," she said. "We're not letting our guard down."
In the past four years, 75 smuggling tunnels have been discovered on the U.S.-Mexican border, most of them in California and Arizona, authorities said. In all, about 125 tunnels have been found since the early 1990s, when authorities began keeping count, with just one of them on the U.S.-Canadian border, Mack said.
Authorities will be investigating the owners of the Tijuana and San Diego warehouses, officials said.
A special U.S. border tunnel task force hunts for underground smuggling operations in and around San Diego. The task force consists of agents from ICE, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Border Patrol, and they also work with Mexican authorities, Mack said.
In its surveillance of the Otay Mesa warehouse, the task force noticed suspicious activity Tuesday when they saw a tractor-trailer leave the facility. Agents followed the truck to a Border Patrol checkpoint at Temecula, California, and authorities found 10 tons of marijuana hidden in cardboard boxes on pallets, said ICE director John Morton.
A married couple driving the truck was arrested, he said.
The task force became the first of its kind in 2003, when it was assembled to deal with a growing number of underground smuggling routes on the California-Mexico border. The unit was also assembled as part of a post-September 11 security concerns, Mack said.
The longest tunnel discovered, found in 2006, had a length of seven football fields. That tunnel also connected warehouses in Otay Mesa and Tijuana.
The task force uses robots to scout out a newly discovered tunnel before agents are sent into it. Federal agents are trained like miners on how to negotiate confined spaces, and the San Diego-Mexico region is even used to test the latest ground-penetrating technology to detect tunnels, including by the U.S. military, Mack said.
The sophisticated tunnels -- with lighting, oxygen pumps and rail lines -- are typically used to ferry drugs from Mexico to the United States. The more rudimentary tunnels are just big enough to smuggle people into the country, Mack said....
-- bth: Our Black-I Robotics unmanned ground vehicles are being tasked with this mission.
Take a last look at the membership list of the House committee. Longtime Democratic leader and outgoing chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri lost his seat. So did next-up John Spratt of South Carolina. So did next-up-next-up Solomon Ortiz of Texas (though a recount is possible). So did naval-subcommittee chairman Gene Taylor of Mississippi. So did Georgia’s Jim Marshall, New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter, Virginia’s Glenn Nye, Maryland’s Frank Kratovil, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and New York’s Scott Murphy. Three other Democrats retired from the committee — one of them, Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak, lost a Senate race last night — and things look tough for Washington’s Rick Larsen, as well.
So say hello to likely incoming chairman Buck McKeon of California. As we reported last month, McKeon’s a big proponent of missile defense, a skeptic of the Obama administration’s plan to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next July, and no great fan of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. One of his key allies, Virginia Republican Randy Forbes, has blasted the administration for neglect of the Navy and Air Force and general “lack of concern … for the men and women in uniform.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to cut $100 billion in defense overhead in five years is going to get the fine-tooth-comb treatment from the committee. Expect hearings on all these issues practically as soon as Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner gavels the next Congress into session in January.
That’s hardly the only upcoming fight. Next month, the Pentagon will complete a military study on repealing the ban on open gay service. Unless the Senate can pass a stalled defense bill during the lame-duck session before January, the ban will remain in place until Congress chucks it. Only now it faces much steeper chances in a GOP-run House: Repeal of the ban only passed the House this year after Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania — who, by the way, just lost his seat — added it as an amendment to the House version of the defense bill, to much GOP criticism. Forbes, the incoming chairman of the readiness subcommittee, wants to get the results of the military study before considering an end to the ban. But even if the study finds no problems with repealing it, wide GOP House majorities make it unlikely to get through the chamber. (And the Senate isn’t so hot on it, either.)
Skelton, a 34-year congressional veteran, wasn’t a big fan of repealing the ban, either. But his departure heralds big changes in other areas. While at odds with the Obama administration over a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, he’s had a good working relationship with Gates and indicated an openness to the defense secretary’s signature attempt at trimming budget fat. (Though not without caveats.) McKeon may not be as receptive to Gates’ budget initiatives. He has urged Gates not to cut the troubled Airborne Laser anti-missile weapon, for instance, and has wondered whether Gates can really get $100 billion in savings without sacrificing core military priorities.
Taylor’s defeat could be big, too. He chaired the congressional shipbuilding caucus and helped add a provision to this year’s defense authorization bill requiring the Navy to build three ships for every two it retires. Plus, he was a major backer of nuclear-powered ships. Republicans on the panel are big shipbuilding fans as well, so it’s possible that they’ll intensify efforts to get the Navy up to a planned fleet of 313 ships — or even more. But as Politico notes, Steven Palazzo, the GOPer who upset Taylor, isn’t as big a support of nuclear power. (It remains to be seen if Palazzo will join the committee. But as of right now, the subcommittee doesn’t have any Mississippi members, which can’t be encouraging to employees of Northrop Grumman’s Pascagoula shipyard....
- bth: wow. Ike Skelton has been a superb and conscientious member of this committee. Gene Taylor was the guy that got troops training on actual equipment they were being fielded with a few years ago and put the heat on Rumsfeld to get electronic jammers into the field at a quicker pace when my old buddy Rummy decided 200 jammers was enough, and then later 1 for the lead vehicle in a convoy instead of getting ones on all vehicles out of the gate that needed it to stay alive. Taylor was willing to stand up to the bastard when it mattered. Patrick Murphy lost his seat which is crying shame. Sestak I couldn't really care much about one way or the other. All the sudden junior members like Niki Tsongas finds herself pushed up the seniority list for Dems on the committee and she does a good job on specific issues. So in short, major changes have occurred and Wired has a full article linked here that is worth reading in full.
Curtis was 24.
The Department of Defense reported that Curtis was wounded by an improvised explosive device when insurgents attacked his unit. He later died from his injuries.
Killed along with Curtis in the attack was Pfc. Andrew N. Meari, 21, of Plainfield, Ill.
They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Curtis is the middle son of Pamela, an after school teacher at the Butler Elementary School, and Phil, who is well known in Belmont as a long time member of the Warrant Committee who resigned his chairmanship in June.
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It's arguable that the real scoop belongs to the Government Accountability Office. On page 7 of the 17 March 2010 report on the F-35 program, the GAO's auditors predict:
'Additional cost increases and more time to complete development are possible. The preliminary estimate by the [Joint Estimating Team] projected as much as a 30-month extension in the schedule for completing development flight tests, more than the 13-month extension ordered in the restructuring. Defense officials acknowledge that the revised schedule for completing development, testing and supporting the full-rate production milestone is still aggressive. Also, the 2011 budget estimate does not include costs beyond 2010 for the alternate (or second) engine program. Should that program go forward, an estimated $1.6 billion may be needed to complete development in 2016.'
His finding was unsurprising. But in today's Iraq, it had the potential to be politically explosive. What the ministry did in response to the inspector general's conclusion speaks volumes about how the Iraqi government works these days - and why so often it doesn't.
For years, U.S. military officials have called the devices a scam. The British government this year jailed the manufacturer of the ADE-651 gadgets on fraud charges and banned the company from exporting more.
But as damning evidence against the wands mounted, senior Iraqi security officials, including Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, said the critics were uninformed. The officials maintained the devices, which are supposed to detect explosives inside vehicles and prompt police to search them manually, had saved countless lives.
When faced with the inspector general's findings, Interior Ministry officials did not pull the devices from hundreds of checkpoints that snarl traffic around Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Instead, they shelved the report and quietly granted immunity to the official who signed the no-bid contracts, worth at least $85 million.
The only public mention of the finding was a small blurb in the report to Congress submitted by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction last week. The Iraqi ministry's inspector general, Aqeel Al Turaihi, 'reports that many lives have been lost due to the wands' utter ineffectiveness,' the report said.
The devices remain ubiquitous across Iraq.
Iraqi policeman Mohammed Shaker, 36, said he was not surprised to hear that the devices are a sham. 'We all knew they're a failure,' he said. 'They don't achieve anything. It's all a show for the public.'
Turaihi and other ministry officials did not respond to requests for comment sent by e-mail and phone text messages and through aides. Ali al-Dabbagh, the government spokesman, also did not return numerous phone calls.
The controversy began in 2007, when the Interior Ministry, which oversees Iraq's police force, placed its first order from ATSC, a British company. U.S. military officials at the time expressed alarm, saying the device, which has an antenna that is supposed to pivot sideways when it detects explosives, had been debunked as a scam in other countries.
The ministry went ahead with its order, paying as much as $60,000 for each gizmo.
The manufacturer says the wand is powered by static electricity generated when its user marches in place while holding the instrument straight ahead.
'The simple way to explain this technology is to take an inflated balloon and rub it on your hair,' the company explains on its Web site. 'A static electric 'charge' is created, making the balloon 'attract' it to say, a wall or other flat surface.'
U.S. military explosives experts found that laughable. Worried about the effect that relying on the device could have on their effort to interdict the slew of bombs killing Iraqis and American soldiers daily, many U.S. officers tried to persuade their Iraqi counterparts to ditch them....
In January, British authorities arrested ATSC chief Jim McCormick, accusing him of 'fraud by misrepresentation.' Company officials did not respond to an e-mail asking for comment on the Iraqi inspector general's finding.
When news of the arrest broke, Iraqi officials vowed to launch investigations, including one by the security committee in parliament that lawmakers said would establish who placed the order, who authorized it and whether bribes were involved.
In 2009, Parliament provided a modicum of oversight over state security agencies, but it has been inactive for nearly a year because lawmakers have been consumed by stalled negotiations to form a government after the March 7 election.
The interior minister stood his ground, telling state-run Iraqiya television station in January that the wands had prevented more than 16,000 bombs. The Iraqi government has not disclosed who authorized the orders.
Ministry officials at the time surveyed policemen at checkpoints about whether the devices were showing results.
'We told them they were working fine,' an Iraqi police lieutenant said Wednesday, standing next to a checkpoint where his men were using the wands near the neighborhood where a Catholic church was attacked Sunday by a band of suicide bombers. 'That's what they wanted to hear,' he added. 'They want to try to give citizens an image of security that is false.'
That attitude infuriates many U.S. officers who have fought in Iraq.
'I'm finding it harder and harder to see any humor in this,' Lt. Col. Dennis Yates, who was among the device's critics when he last served in Baghdad in 2008. 'This piece of junk did, in fact, significantly contribute to an unknown - and pathetically large - loss of innocent lives. The guy who bought it should rot in one of the stinking jails that dot Baghdad.'
- bth: this has and was one of the worst frauds and scams I have ever seen. An Ouija board would have the same effect. It was a car antenna stuck in a piece of ABS plastic with a couple of batteries included. Usually the batteries weren't attached to anything. The Iraq Interior Ministry and probably the minister himself bought $85 million worth of this shit at up to $60K each and it was all a fraud. It was just a way of skimming money, probably American money, by the Interior Ministry. As a results thousands have died or been wounded in Iraq due to undetected car and vehicle bombs. It was a total fucking fraud. No Iraqi government employee has been held to account for this fraud which in my opinion would be best avenged by a public execution involving a bag of snakes, whips and a drowning in a river the old fashioned Roman way. Now these good Shea politicians are happy to see Iranians stone women for adultery or cut off thieves' hands but they don't seem to mind tolerating open corruption like this that cost innocent civilians their lives.
Over the next four years the government plans a roughly 8 percent real reduction in the budget, 10 percent cut in uniformed personnel, one-third reduction in heavy artillery, 50 percent cut in tanks, twenty-five thousand reduction in civilian personnel, assorted naval cutbacks and full troop withdrawal from Germany.
Great Britain still won’t be a pushover. It will remain one of the world’s few nuclear powers, with the globe’s fourth-largest military budget, and will still possess one of the world’s most capable forces....
oday U.S. security guarantees discourage the Europeans from doing more. Vassilis Kaskarelis, Greece’s Ambassador to the U.S., admitted: “They don’t have the capabilities, because in the last 50 years, the U.S. offered an umbrella in terms of military, security and stability.” Yet The EU alone has more than ten times the GDP and three times the population of Russia.
Moscow might beat up on its southern neighbor Georgia, but that is the extent of Russia’s ambitions and abilities. If that prospect worries Europeans, then they should respond. One can imagine other plausible threats—perhaps an Iranian missile strike—but a continent with a greater GDP and population than America has the wherewithal to confront such problems....
The U.S. is economically dominant, geographically secure, culturally ubiquitous, and allied with every industrialized state save China and Russia. America’s enemies are pitiful and few, and lack the means to hurt the U.S. heartland. The most pressing threat is terrorism, against which expensive nuclear missiles, air wings and carrier groups are of little value. Yet the United States accounts for roughly half global military outlays. In real terms military spending has doubled over the last decade. Washington spends more on the armed forces today than it did during the Cold War, Korean War and Vietnam War.
What does it do with all this money? Defend prosperous, populous allies, like the Europeans, South Koreans and Japanese. Engage in social engineering in failed or hostile states, such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia and Iraq. Create more enemies by intervening in divided, violent nations, such as Pakistan, and unpopular dictatorships, such as Saudi Arabia. Americans are less secure as a result.
Washington should stop acting as the globe’s dictatress, a mix of nanny, scold and enforcer. In particular, American policymakers should adopt stricter criteria before intervening militarily. Again, the United States could learn from the British government, which pledged to
be more selective in our use of the Armed Forces, deploying them decisively at the right time but only where key UK national interests are at stake; where we have a clear strategic aim; where the likely political, economic, and human costs are in proportion to the likely benefits; where we have a viable exit strategy; and where justifiable under international law."
bth: the article is worth reading in full though I am not convinced that the author is correct in his conclusions.
LONDON — Britain and France signed defense agreements on Tuesday that promised cooperation far beyond anything achieved previously in 60 years of NATO cooperation, including the creation of a joint expeditionary force, shared use of aircraft carriers and combined efforts to improve the safety and effectiveness of their nuclear weapons.
The agreements signed in London by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France were a landmark of another kind for two nations that spent centuries confronting each other on the battlefields of Europe. While neither leader mentioned Agincourt, Trafalgar or Waterloo, or French victories that included the Norman Conquest in 1066, both stirred a brief whiff of the troubled history of Anglo-French relations into the mood of general bonhomie.
The agreements envisaged a new combined force available for deployment at times of international crisis that is expected to involve about 5,000 service members from each nation, with land, sea and air components, and rotating French and British commanders. The pacts also foresee each nation alternating in putting a single aircraft carrier to sea, with the vessels operating as bases for French, British and American aircraft in times of need.
The nuclear agreement was in some ways the most surprising, since it committed the two nations to sharing some of their most carefully kept secrets. ..
In the late 1990s, Tony Blair, then Britain’s prime minister, and Jacques Chirac, then France’s president, promised deeper defense cooperation, but the understanding was undone by differences over the Iraq war. In both countries, there are significant political forces arrayed against anything that smacks of too close a military partnership with the age-old foe.
But after the Cameron government took office in May and began pushing for deep defense savings, it discovered a willing partner in Mr. Sarkozy. Britain and France have the biggest defense budgets in Europe, together accounting for more than half of all military spending in the 27-nation European Union. Both governments took care to say that their new cooperation was not intended to isolate Germany.
The nuclear agreement, carrying faint echoes of Britain’s shared role with the United States in the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb, will have the two governments setting up two joint research centers, one in France and the other in Britain.
The two countries also agreed on a shared program on spare parts, maintenance and training for the crews of the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, a costly, overbudget project intended to challenge American domination of the market for heavy-lift transports. They promised to work together on a new generation of remotely piloted surveillance aircraft.
Also on the list are shared projects to develop technologies for future nuclear submarines and military satellites, as well as countermeasures for mines and other antisubmarine weapons....
One concern about the new agreements that has attracted criticism among British defense experts centers on the shared use of aircraft carriers.
With both countries planning to have only one “flattop” in their fleets, having them configured for each others’ aircraft has been described by the two governments as extending their ability to deploy air power, as well saving large sums. Last month, Britain decided to have its future carrier, due for deployment in 2020, redesigned with the catapult mechanism and arresting gear necessary to accommodate French and American aircraft.
But British critics have said military operations that require carrier-borne aircraft could be compromised if Britain has to rely on France’s allowing its carrier to be used. The example often cited is the 1982 Falklands war, when France opposed Britain’s reconquest of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, and Argentina used French-made missiles to sink British ships.
Mr. Sarkozy described the criticism as outdated. “Can you imagine France sitting in our armed chairs and saying, ‘It is none of our business’ ?” he said.
Likewise, Mr. Cameron rejected suggestions that Britain would undermine its close military relationship with Washington. ...
In France, Marine Le Pen, the vice president of the National Front, a far-right party, called Mr. Sarkozy the “gravedigger of General de Gaulle’s policy of independence.” She went on: “It is clear that the objective of this accord is to shift our defense to Anglo-Saxon control, and obviously everyone will understand that behind Great Britain there is, of course, the American big brother.”...
bth: Mr. Sarkozy described the criticism as outdated. “Can you imagine France sitting in our armed chairs and saying, ‘It is none of our business’ ?” he said. Why yes, yes I can imagine France sticking it to the British just like they did in the 80s over the Falklands and to the Americans too whenever it suits their interest. This is a further indication of the collapse of Europe and in particular the British as a viable military ally capable of projecting power. What a loss to the free world.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
According to the Attorney General's Office, Juarez has seen some 2,387 drug trafficking-related deaths in 2010 compared to 2,666 for the entire state of Chihuahua - and those are only the ones reported. To give some perspective, 2009 was believed to have been the deadliest year on record for the state of Chihuahua, with 2,754 drug trafficking-related deaths. Now, 2010 - which has yet to have a month with fewer than 100 deaths - is on pace to break that record.
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Monday, November 01, 2010
President Karzai is determined to implement the ban on private security companies and apparently it has just dawned on the various embassy’s who are funding most of the projects that this time President Karzai is serious. There are now frantic consultations happening in Kabul with the Americans in the lead and they are asking for mountains of information, due in 48 hours, on the extent that new security platform will degrade technical results. When asked what exactly the new security platform is there is no answer because nobody at the embassy has any idea. When asked the money question ” who will pay for security provided by the ANP”? There is no answer because nobody at the embassy has any idea. What the American embassy made perfectly clear is ”The USG fully supports this decree. Any government should be able to regulate who has guns and what they do with them”. Sounds like a recipe for tyranny to me. Any government strong enough to take the citizens guns is strong enough to take everything else they have too. The Afghan government is not even close to strong enough to disarm their citizens but they can disarm international security operatives (except the ones at the embassy – they are exempt as are those guarding FOB’s, CIA agents, EUPOL police officer trainers etc…).
Why would the American government support a decree which is going to drive their implementation companies out of the country? It is not like the American government doesn’t use armed security contractors back in the states. Contractors guard prisons, fly convicts around the country, guard court houses and important officials. Why the hostility to security contractors in Afghanistan? Who knows? This is Afghanistan. But I’ll tell you this; as we work through how to move in districts with heavy kinetic activity you’ll be interested to know what the outriders are looking for. We no longer have to worry about getting stopped at Taliban checkpoints; if they set those up in Marinestan a Hellfire is sure to follow. What will cause us to abort a mission is an ANP (Afghan Police) checkpoint. Now that the Talibs can’t set up on the road they stay off in the tree lines knowing if a vehicle with foreigners or a wealthy Afghan pass through an ANP checkpoint they’ll get a phone call. We don’t have the same problems with the ANA (Afghan Army) but it’s the ANP who is going to be in charge of protecting convoys and outside the wire internationals....
- bth: one would logically think that the US government, NATO or Karzai has a plan for guarding foreign aid workers managing these projects. But then you'd also think that Gen. Franks and that asshole Rumsfeld would have had a plan for post invasion reconstruction of Iraq. I don't think we have a fucking clue what we are going to do to manage construction projects with disarmed foreign aid workers left as prey for Taliban and APA criminal elements. This article, read in full, would point this out. ... At what point do we stop supporting Karzai?
Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.
- bth: so I saw this article referenced and thought it must be a mistake, but Broder is actually advocating war with Iran to stimulate the economy? Fucking nuts. Where do Washington pundits get off sending other mens' sons to war? What does this jackass think war is? A stimulus plan?
Another person briefed on the incident said it is now believed the terrorists sent the package 'so they could track how long it took and whether there would be any problems for the package getting through the system.'
Senior administration officials told ABC News that, after the September shipment was discovered, U.S. intelligence agencies had specific concerns about the Yemen-based group's interest in Chicago, noting not only the destination of the September shipment, but also a photograph of the Chicago skyline in a magazine recently published by the terror group's propaganda arm.
US intelligence 'intercepted the packages in transit,' the senior intelligence official said, searched them, and then allowed them to continue to Chicago.
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President Barack Obama repeatedly has said he opposes "don't ask, don't tell" but favors ending it legislatively instead of through the courts. Over the summer, he worked with Democrats to write a bill that would have lifted the ban, pending completion of a Defense Department review due Dec. 1. The legislation passed the House but was blocked in the Senate.
The president has pledged to push for another vote during Congress' lame duck session after Tuesday's elections.
"The president claims to want to see 'don't ask, don't tell' ended. It is time that he stop talking and start working to make a real difference for gay and lesbian Americans by pushing for repeal when Congress returns," said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that sued to overturn "don't ask, don't tell" in Phillips' court,....
- bth: So how does President Obama plan to accomplish this legislative feat with a Republican House? And if he tries it during the lame duck session need it be pointed out that he lost the last vote on the Senate side which his own party controls? President Obama's pledge meant nothing and voters he is counting on at the polls find other things to do.
By that time Emirati authorities had received a warning call from Britain about a suspicious package there, and they identified the printer almost immediately, according to an official familiar with the investigation. Investigators removed and dismantled the explosive, which had been placed into the toner cartridge printer so carefully that all the printer’s components appeared to be in place and it might well have passed unnoticed.
A cellphone was concealed in the bottom of the printer, and the printer head was designed to detonate the explosives.
On Sunday, officials in Qatar said in a statement that “the explosives discovered were of a sophisticated nature whereby they could not be detected by X-ray screening or trained sniffer dogs.” ...
bth: note in this case the printer cartridge is actually in the printer. Somewhere in this device must have been a battery.
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Comment: A visit by a Chinese intelligence general to Pakistan usually signifies a problem. The usual problem is that Pakistan is harboring, aiding, training and abetting anti-Han Chinese Islamic terrorists in the 42 terrorist camps that Pakistani intelligence sustains in Pakistani Kashmir.
Chinese intelligence officials seldom visit unless there is a problem. The Chinese do not seem concerned that Pakistani-trained terrorists kill Indians or Americans, but they do object to Pakistan providing or tolerating training of Xinjiang Uighurs who want to kill Han Chinese.
- bth: curious.
Haqqani Network forces launched the attack just after midnight on Oct. 30, attacking Combat Outpost Margah in Paktika's Bermal district from four sides while mortar and rocket teams fired on the troops.
The Haqqani Network was backed by fighters from al Qaeda as well as the Taliban, and several hundred fighters as well as a large support element are believed to have participated in the attack, a US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The top US generals in the region attributed good intelligence and a well-sited observation post with aiding in the defeat of the Haqqani Network assault.
'We had multiple indicators an attack like this was going to happen in that area in an attempt to gain victory before the end of the fighting season, and our combined Afghan and coalition forces were ready for them,' said Major General John Campbell, the commanding general of Regional Command-East.
'COP Margah has a squad-sized observation element on the high ground near the COP to provide early warning to the main base,' Brigadier General Stephen Townsend, the operations chief for Regional Command East, said. 'Not only did the Soldiers and Afghan Border Policemen warn of the attack, they also disrupted it for approximately 20 minutes allowing the main defense to decisively respond. Once their mission was complete, they repositioned to reinforce the main defense.'
Since late August, the Haqqani Network has carried out six major assaults against US combat outposts in Khost, Paktika, and Paktia provinces. US and Afghan troops defeated all of the attacks, often inflicting heavy casualties on Haqqani Network forces. [For more information on the recent and previous assaults, see LWJ report, US troops repel Haqqani Network assault on eastern Afghan base.]...
'Planning, organizing, and executing a complex attack involving hundreds of fighters, mortar teams, and support elements requires command and control, and the Haqqanis still have those capabilities,' a military intelligence officer said. 'As long as they are untouchable in Pakistan, they'll be able to carry out attacks such as the one at COP Margah. And they only need to succeed once; overrunning a US base would have a devastating impact.'
- bth: compare this outcome to Wanat 2008 or Keating 2009. Intelligence in this case was not ignored as was the case in 2008 involving Wanat. Also the observation post was well positioned on high ground buying critical time unlike Wanat or Keating. I'll bet there were more air assets in the area and on call including UAVs since we've transferred assets to Afghanistan from Iraq. Astonishingly though Haqqanis is able to organize such large attacks 10 years into this war. Is there any indication that their network is weakening?
A Qatar Airways spokesman says a parcel carrying the mail bomb found in Dubai traveled on two separate passenger planes.
Express.co.uk - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | UK News :: BREAKING: UK plane bomb was viable
Following the COBRA meeting May said the device found in the UK was 'viable' and that the threat level in the UK is severe.
The Home Secretary also expressed that she has been in regular contact with PM and restrictions will be placed on all flights from Yemen.
The package was found at the East Midlands airport after MI6 spotted white power and wires coming from the device, which was concealed within a printer. It's also been reported the device was linked to a mobile phone.
The package arrived on a United Parcel Service flight from Yemen and was placed in a UPS storage depot just 300ft from the runway. The airport is a busy transport hub, used by by five million passengers a year.
From there, the package would have been transferred on to a cargo plane bound for Chicago.
Another suspicious parcel was found on a Dubai plane and confirmed as containing explosive material.
The two packages were both addressed to Jewish synagogues in the Chicago area and had originated in Yemen.
The parcel bombs were prepared in a professional manner, with a closed electrical circuit connected to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer.
bth: I would think this would be extraordinarily difficult to detect
Police say the bomber tried to board a police bus in Taksim Square. Seventeen civilians were also hurt.
No group has said it carried out the attack, but a two-month-old ceasefire by Kurdish rebels was due to expire later on Sunday, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul.
Police identified other bombs nearby and have been working to disable them....
- bth: is it my imagination or is there an increase in bombings outside Iraq and Afghanistan this month?
The near-miss shows that the suspected al-Qaida bomb was sophisticated enough to escape notice. It also shows how close terrorists came to getting the explosives airborne and bound for the U.S.
Intelligence officials were tipped off to a pair of explosive packages on planes in England and the United Arab Emirates early Friday morning.
After a six-hour sweep of cargo at the East Midlands airport in central England, Leicestershire police came up empty and removed the security perimeter they had set up, British aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said.
But when officials in Dubai said they had discovered a bomb disguised as a computer printer cartridge, authorities urged the British to look again, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
'As a direct consequence, they put the cordon back up again and looked again and found the explosives,' said Yates, relying on a report given to him by an eyewitness to the searches....
- bth: we are having difficulty detecting these devices even when tipped off by human intel.
Former U.S. deputy defense secretary: Jonathan Pollard must be freed now - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of spying on the U.S. for Israel.
Lawrence Korb said that Pollard should be freed since his punishment was too severe relative to the felonies he committed. ....
- bth: I find it astounding that an American deputy defense secretary would advocate releasing Pollard.
Governments, airlines and aviation authorities around the world are reviewing security after the bombs were intercepted in Dubai and Britain on Friday. The bombs had all the hallmarks of al Qaeda, U.S. officials said.
Yemeni police arrested the woman, a student believed to be in her 20s, after tracing her through a telephone number she left with a cargo company.
But when the shipping agent was called in to identify her, he said she was not the right person, a Yemeni official said.
'Authorities concluded that this was a case of stolen identity by an individual who knew the detained suspect's full name, address and telephone number,' he said....
- bth: so basically we had several Lockerbie bombs that were found and the perpetrators got away.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
New technologies bring the promise of deploying small robots which can search for bombs, map areas and detect hazardous materials -- all with little or no tele-operation or human intervention.
'We are moving along that spectrum from tele-operating to semi-autonomy where you can send a robot from point A to point B without any intervention. If it has a problem, it will pop up and indicate it has found an obstacle,' said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Thompson, project manager with the Robotic Systems Joint Program Office.
The Army and Marine Corps are working with industry and academic partners to look at ways to add new software to existing robots -- such as iRobot's PackBot and Qinetic North America's TALON -- enabling them to perform more functions and navigate uncertain terrain without needing their every move to be controlled or tele-operated by a human....
- bth: these robots are obsolete but the Army insists on sticking with decade old systems with very limited upgradability. This would be like WWII tanks being locked into a 1939 design in 1945 - obsolete with no hope of meaningful upgrade. This is a stupid and shortsighted decision by an unthinking bureaucracy.
The blockade comes amid reports that the Turis have once again refused to allow the militants to enter Afghanistan via Kurram.
The Taliban have been trying to launch operations around Kabul through the district, whose western tip lies just 90km (56 miles) from the Afghan capital.
The blockade means that the Turis are hemmed in by the military on one side and by the Taliban on the other.
Col Tausif Akhtar, of the Pakistani security forces, announced the move on Monday evening at a news conference in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram.
Five border crossing points - Terimangal, Spina Shaga, Khairlachi, Burki and Shahidano Dand - have been shut, with security beefed up.
'We have done this due to internal security concerns, because there have been sectarian clashes in Kurram and we do not want miscreants from outside to exploit the situation,' Col Akhtar told the BBC News website.
Note how the Pakistani military is characterizing the conflict as a sectarian fight, and not a clash between the Taliban and the Turis. This gives the Pakistani military the needed cover to side with the Taliban.
France’s announcement came a day after the release of a tape with a message believed to be from Osama Bin Laden, who threatened to attack French citizens because of their presence in Afghanistan and treatment of Muslims. French officials were quick to insist that there is “absolutely no link” between the threat and their decision to begin withdrawing troops in 2011. ...
- bth: going going gone
Viktor Ivanov said the unprecedented joint operation hit four laboratories near the border with Pakistan, caused up to $1 billion in damage to the wider drug trade. Mr Ivanov says they seized up to 200 million doses of heroin.
Leaders of the Cold War enemies believe cooperation in Afghanistan can expand as both countries concentrate on terrorism and drug exports.
So far it has mostly been limited to Russia providing its territory for U.S. military transit.
The raid destroyed three heroin labs and one morphine lab, which were located about three miles from the Pakistan border at an important drug trafficking crossroads, Ivanov said.
Russia frequently slams what it describes as slack anti-drug policies of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, leading to an increased flow of drugs into Russia via Central Asian countries.
Mr Ivanov travelled to Washington last week to discuss co-operation in fighting drug trafficking and accused the United States of failing to destroy heroin laboratories and crack down on poppy-growing land owners.
Russian drug control authorities have estimated that 30,000 Russians died in 2009 as a result of using heroin from Afghanistan, and a million have died over the last decade.
- bth: fankly with the human cost of heroin, 30,000 in Russia dead in one year alone, one has to wonder just what Afghanistan offers the world. Net positive or net negative?
Caterpillar Corporation stops shipment of armored bulldozers to Israeli military - International Middle East Media Center
Corrie was run down by a Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer in 2003 while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian doctor's home in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Her parents launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against Caterpillar Corporation in the US for their role in her death. Now, they are pursuing a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli military and the soldiers involved in her death.
Sydney Levy with Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the organizations that have been pushing for Caterpillar to divest from its contracts with the Israeli military, wrote on Friday, “We take this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law. The Corrie story is sadly just one of thousands of stories of loss and pain. A suspension of the sale of bulldozers is what we have been asking Caterpillar for over seven years now. “
He added, “Caterpillar's irresponsible behavior comes with a heavy price tag. In the last ten years, at least 11,795 homes have been demolished. These statistics, gruesome as they are, cannot do justice to the pain of so many families, to their razed livelihoods and their shattered dreams.”
Caterpillar itself has not made any statement apart from the notice of suspension of the sale. But activists are claiming a victory in their campaign against Caterpillar, and noting that this is the first time that Caterpillar has taken any action regarding the issue.
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday denounced a large-scale drug raid in which U.S. forces and Russian drug agents took part, calling it a violation of Afghan sovereignty.
The outburst marked the latest in a series of tense confrontations between the Afghan leader and his Western backers.
It also signaled a degree of disarray within the Karzai administration, because Afghan counter-narcotics police took part in the operation, playing what U.S. officials described as the lead role.
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On Friday, Russian officials and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration disclosed the raid, which took place earlier in the week in Nangarhar province, near the border with Pakistan. The strike targeted major opium and heroin production facilities, and millions of dollars' worth of drugs were destroyed, they said.
Karzai's office issued a harshly worded statement in response, describing his government as 'committed to joint efforts with [the] international community against narcotics' but condemning the raid as a 'blatant violation of Afghanistan's sovereignty.'
'Any repetition of such acts will prompt necessary reaction by our country,' the presidential palace warned...
-- bth: I guess the Karzai familiy won't get its cut of the drug profits.