Saturday, November 20, 2010
An opinion survey carried out in Helmand and Kandahar provinces showed that 92% of the Afghan respondents (1000 men) had never heard of 9/11.
Most Americans are ambivalent about the Afghanistan War precisely because it is hard to dismiss the argument that the September 11 attacks were planned out there in some of 40 terrorist training camps that were aimed at waging war on the US.
If Afghans, 72% of whom are illiterate, have never even heard of September 11, then they have no idea why the United States and NATO are even in their country! And the entire lack of such knowledge would likely make them more hostile to that presence, since it would seem wholly unjustified and from out of left field to them.
Knowledge of the wider world is connected in part to information infrastructure. Afghanistan suffers from lack of electricity, which limits access to television and the internet. Internet penetration is only 3%, in part because of the high cost of satellite communications and the lack until recently of cheaper fiber optic cables. The satellite signals have allowed around 30% of Afghans to have cell phones.
But information is more available in urban areas such as Kabul and Mazar than in the mostly rural Pashtun south.
It is also possible that Pashtuns who had supported the Taliban are embarrassed by 9/11 and that their denials are a way of saving face.
--- bth: one wonders if all our propaganda money that we've dumped into websites, etc. might not be better spent on radio interviews in local languages explaining what happened on 911 and why the heck we are in southern Afghanistan kicking in doors. 92% of Afghans never heard of 9/11!
Over the past several days, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces have captured two key commanders of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network and two suicide operations facilitators during raids in the north and east.
A combined special operations team captured the top suicide operations facilitator for all of Nangarhar province during a raid in the Khogyani district yesterday. The suicide facilitator was "working for Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani [Network] and other insurgent groups," the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. The commander, who was not named, "moved suicide bombers into Afghanistan" from Pakistan.
The terrorist facilitator was detained just six days after the Taliban's failed suicide assault on Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Behsud district in Nangarhar. In that attack, US troops killed six enemy fighters and recovered two suicide vests along with multiple weapons....
--- bth: this is worth reading in full. What I find fascinating about it is that the article goes on to explain this group's links to ISI and to al Qaeda but then says that it is essentially a business and the leaders are totally reconcilable with Karzai and in fact have representatives in his government.
Earlier this week, Geo News reported that two al Qaeda operatives were detained in Karachi:
The law enforcement agencies have arrested two important Al Qaeda figures from Karachi's Sohrab Goth area and shifted them to Islamabad for investigation, Geo News reported Tuesday.
Umar Misri, and Mohammad Mohammad were arrested from a hideout on Super Highway. A satellite phone and a laptop were also recovered from them.
According to sources, both of them entered Pakistan via Chaman border.
Unfortunately there hasn't been any more information on these arrests. Here are a few quick observations based on the report:
- The Sohrab Goth area of Karachi is a known haunt for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as well as al Qaeda. In March, when the rumors that American traitor Adam Gadahn (Abu Azzam al Amriki) was detained in Karachi were raging, he was said to have been captured in Sohrab Goth.
- Chaman serves as a command and control center for the Afghan Taliban. Senior Taliban leaders Mullah Rahmatullah, Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Mullah Naim Barich, and Akhtar Mohammed Mansour have been publicly named by the US military as directing Afghan operations from Pakistan. Zakir is close to al Qaeda, and directs operations from Chaman.
- Two main al Qaeda-linked groups operate in Karachi: the Pakistani branch of Jundallah, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
- Based on his last name, Umar Misri (or Masri) appears to be an Egyptian.
Baghdad, 17 Nov. (AKI) - Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said Christians would be safe from sectarian attack if they move to Kurdistan in the country's north. He said the stay would be temporary until the Iraq could guarantee their security.
"It's necessary to immediately deploy special armed forces to protect the churches and the houses where Christians live," said the Kurdish founder and head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
Christians in Iraq are the target of violent attacks. An assault on a Baghdad church in October killed 58 people, injuring socres more. Subsequent bombings have claimed further victims.
An Al-Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad church attack and pledged to continue the violence.
The attacks have left members of Iraq's Christian minority of approximately 500,000 in fear of their lives. Most want to emigrate. Talabani urged the religious minority to move to Iraq's Kurdish north, rather than emigrating abroad.
""The Christians don't have to move abroad, but only go to the northern part of the country to the Kurdish zone. They can stay their until our country becomes safe again," Talabani said.
--- bth; Why isn't the Shea government in Iraq able to make a similar pledge or even provide a credible defense for christians?
...The high command is furious that Mr Karzai made his comments just as the new counter-insurgency strategy that was implemented at the start of this year is beginning to pay dividends. American officials have reported that 339 mid-level Taliban commanders and 949 soldiers have been assassinated by coalition forces over the past three months. As a result, the average age of Taliban commanders in Afghanistan has fallen from 35 to 25....
Friday, November 19, 2010
The apparent progress in UAVs is a stark sign of China's ambition to upgrade its massive military as its global political and economic clout grows.
The U.S. and Israel are currently the world leaders in developing such pilotless drones, which have played a major role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which analysts say could one day replace the fighter jet.
This year's models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could—in theory—fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan....
--- bth: somehow we think we have a monopoly on UAV and UGV technology. This could not be further from the truth. UAVs costing well less than a million will be able to locate stealthy destroyers and other ships we spend billions to field. The full and devastating impact of cheap and ubiquitous autonomous technology is just beginning.
Thomas de Maiziere said it was not immediately clear who had carried out the test, which sparked a major security alert Wednesday.
'Experts from the (German) federal police force examined the luggage on site,' De Maiziere told reporters after a security conference with interior ministers from Germany's 16 states.
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'The outcome is that the luggage turned out to be a so-called real test suitcase made by a company in the United States. This company is a manufacturer of alarm and detection systems and these real test suitcases are built to test security measures.'
He said investigators were still examining who placed the suitcase with baggage to be loaded on to an Air Berlin plane at the international airport of the Namibian capital Windhoek, including whether German security forces could have been involved in the test.
'I consider that highly unlikely but that is one of the things we are looking into,' De Maiziere said....
- bth: I had assumed this was a terrorist dry run, but it looks like it may have been done by one of the so called good guys. Stuff like this can boomerang.
That option would not please the Pentagon. In a recent briefing, Department of Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell said, 'We'd much prefer to get an appropriations bill, an authorization bill, passed, rather than have to extend the CR again and potentially have to deal with appropriations and authorizations come next year with a new Congress.'
A defense-industry executive said that scenario could also force the Pentagon to 'reprogram' money, shifting funds to more urgently needed items until Congress is back in 2011 and can pass an appropriations bill.
Defense contractors and their lobbyists are now handicapping the chances for passage before the current session ends. Michael Herson, president of American Defense International, a defense-industry lobbying firm, said delays could stall new contract awards and create potential cost overruns
'From what I can tell, this threat is pretty serious,' he said. 'The whole supply chain gets affected, and troops in the field get affected by this. Many [defense] program managers are starting to get nervous.'
Several Capitol Hill insiders said the likely focus of the lame-duck session would be expiring tax cuts, not national defense. They raised the possibility that defense-appropriations legislation could be folded into an omnibus spending bill, or packaged with other items like homeland-security spending in a 'mini-bus' bill. Prospects for passage of a massive omnibus bill are uncertain, especially with a new Congress arriving in Washington next year in a budget-cutting mood. ....
Thursday, November 18, 2010
by Joe Lee
“The blast severed both my arms and killed my buddy,” said Army Sergeant Peter Damon of a horrific accident in Iraq a little over seven years ago. “At least that’s what I was told when I woke up in the hospital.”
Army Sergeant Peter Damon (Ret.) stands with his wife and his biggest inspiration, artist Ray Ellis, in front of Edgartown Art Gallery in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Courtesy photo.Army Sergeant Peter Damon (Ret.) stands with his wife and his biggest inspiration, artist Ray Ellis, in front of Edgartown Art Gallery in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Courtesy photo.In June of 2003, Damon left his wife and newborn son in Massachusetts to deploy to Iraq with his National Guard unit. He was doing his dream job – performing maintenance on UH-80 Black Hawk helicopters. But one day during a routine inspection of the landing gear, there was an explosion.
“I don’t remember any of the details from the accident,” said Damon. “I just remember the first thing that really bummed me out was learning that I lost my arms. Strangely, my first thought was how much of a shame it was because I was just getting good at drawing.”
To pass the time in Kuwait, Damon had rekindled and interest in an old hobby – drawing -- and became quite passionate about it. But now he would have to re-learn even the most basic elements of writing from scratch.
Specialist Paul J. Bueche was killed in the same accident that took Damon's arms. They were good friends. Courtesy photo.Specialist Paul J. Bueche was killed in the same accident that took Damon's arms. They were good friends. Courtesy photo.
After 15 months of recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Damon was fitted with a prosthetic on his left arm first because he still had the elbow on that arm. Unfortunately, he was a righty, which only added to his frustration.
“It was just like elementary school all over again,” said Damon, “where you had to write out a big ‘A’ then a little ‘a’ on the thick-lined paper.
“It took a while to get good, but once I started picking up the pace, I just kept going,” he said. “I realized at that point that if I could write letters, there’s no reason why I can’t still draw.”
The hospital recognized that by then Damon could pretty much take care of himself. So to make room for the influx of new amputees coming in from the battlefield, he was moved into the Malone House, separate quarters in the back of Walter Reed. It was there that drawing and painting quickly became a source of therapy.
“It made me feel like a whole person again,” he said. “It gave me a huge boost of self-confidence and helped me to realize that even though I lost my arms, I could accomplish amazing things if I set my mind to them.”
Damon’s artwork became more than just a morale-booster. It grew into a full-time career. The more he admired the works of Ray Ellis, Edward Hopper, Robert Henri, and local artist Nancy Colella, he began to realize how much talent it takes even an able-bodied artist to paint well.
As he focused day-in and day-out on his art, his works began to attract the attention of local art critics and it wasn’t long before he received his first offer to sell his work.
After teaching his son Danny how to fish, his wife Jenn took over and Damon sat down on his tailgate to capture the moment of mother and son fishing. Courtesy photo.After teaching his son Danny how to fish, his wife Jenn took over and Damon sat down on his tailgate to capture the moment of mother and son fishing. Courtesy photo.“One of my favorite pieces that I’m really not even sure I want to sell is called Fishing with Mom,” said Damon. “Sometimes I do ‘open-air’ art, and that day at the park was the day I taught my son how to fish. It was such a great day, that I had to sit right down on the tailgate of my truck and capture the moment.”
In 2006, Damon and his wife, Jenn, opened The Middleborough Art Gallery, where he could display and sell his artwork. Sadly, however, a downturn in the economy forced the Damons to close the doors after three years.
Recently, as an inexpensive alternative to a brick and mortar gallery, he began displaying his artwork online using a blog to interact with fans and critics.
“The blog gives me a reason to keep painting,” said Damon. “I still have pain, depression, and anxiety on occasion, and the painting gives me a reason to get up every day – it drives me to keep moving.
“Maybe I’ll do the gallery thing again some day,” he added, “but the blog is actually more interactive. People from all over the world have the opportunity to weigh in and perhaps even purchase my work.”
Many of his featured pieces have already been sold, but he has been revealing new pieces on his blog every few weeks. And while he may not be able to paint a clear picture of the moment that caused him so much pain, he is more than able to capture on canvas the things that bring him happiness.
View Damon’s gallery on his blog, titled Sgt. Damon’s Art.
Damon poses for a photograph while bowling with his two kids. Danny (left) is now 8 years old, and his daughter, Allura (right) is now 13. Courtesy photo.Damon poses for a photograph while bowling with his two kids. Danny (left) is now 8 years old, and his daughter, Allura (right) is now 13. Courtesy photo.
Joe Lee is a Staff Writer for ON★PATROL.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign an agreement with the leaders of the NATO alliance on Saturday aimed at expanding the use of supply routes through Russia into Afghanistan, as part of an effort to improve ties between the former antagonists....
It’s the rare military plane, truck, ship, gun, sensor or service that comes in on time and under budget. So the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief has a proposal to keep costs in line with what defense contractors and the military promise they’ll be: go halfsies on any dollar over the agreed price.
In a recent memo to the military (.PDF), Undersecretary of Defense Ashton Carter insists that future contracts for purchases include a “50/50 share line,” meaning that the Pentagon and the vendor will equally split the fee if a program goes over budget.
And not infinitely over-budget: Carter wants caps of 120 percent on big-ticket items. Go beyond that, and the contract might get revoked. “When we get to $120″ on a $100 item, Carter told an audience at the Center for American Progress in Washington, “I’m out of Schlitz and it’s all yours.”
But Congress might refill the kegs. The undersecretary said that no matter how severely the Pentagon budget may get constrained by the deficit and the weak economy, the budget “certainly won’t be going up.” That is, if you factor out the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee....
The reason is that Al Qaeda have been using non-metallic bombs made from plastic syringes and IV type bags strapped to their crouch or their breasts. They are deliberately placing their difficult to detect weapons in places on their body that won't get searched.
So there are threats to attack holiday travelers.
What is TSA to do but get serious about body searches?
If you are not willing to get searched, you don't have to fly.
I wish al Qaeda wasn't going to try to blow up planes, but government policy can't reside in a fantasy - it has to work in the real world as we have it today.
That means you run the risk of a crouch grab from a middle aged TSA inspector if you want to fly. So get over it, news media and explain the problem to people. They aren't stupid.
The suitcase contained batteries, wires and a running clock, according to a news release from Germany's Federal Crime Office.
However, Namibian journalist John Grobler told CNN he learned 'it was no more than a carton full of old dirty clothes, possibly belonging to some tourists who didn't want to pack it in their suitcase.' He said, 'it was a false alarm.' Grobler said he got the information from police, then said it came from eyewitnesses.
Officials made the discovery Wednesday as baggage handlers were loading an Airbus belonging to the airline LTU/Air Berlin for its flight from the Namibian capital Windhoek to Munich.
Authorities have not yet determined if explosives were also inside the luggage, police said. Namibian Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitungu said explosives experts and forensic investigators were busy with the probe....
- bth: this is likely a decoy to check our scanning process and to force any intel sources we have to sound off and risk exposure.
Ghailani was convicted Wednesday of conspiracy to damage US government property, for which he could well face life imprisonment, but was acquitted of murder charges stemming from the deaths caused by the blowing up of the embassies.
The US right wing is jumping up and down and denouncing Attorney General Eric Holder for trying Ghailani in a civilian court instead of in a military tribunal, and implying that he got off because civilian law is more lax than that of the tribunals would have been.
For instance, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) thundered, “This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration’s decision to try Al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts.” King, defended Bush’s commitment to torturing people, saying “Bush deserves credit for what he did.” King should be aware that advocating war crimes itself was considered a crime at the Nuremberg trials.
In fact, the government case against Ghailani was undermined precisely by Bush and Cheney and their foaming-at-the-mouth supporters on the Right, which increasingly deserves to be called simply American Fascism. The case was undermined by the use of torture.
When Bush admitted in his memoirs to torturing people, he may as well have just grabbed the key from Ghailani’s prison guard and stuck it in the jail door and yelled for the Tanzanian to make a run for it.
Ghailani was waterboarded, i.e. tortured, into revealing his relationship with Hussein Abebe, who in turn provided the most damaging testimony against Ghailani.
As FDL perceptively wrote, it is possible that Abebe’s own testimony against Ghailani was itself coerced.....
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
'We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line,' he said, according to several Democratic sources. 'And if this president can't do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else....
- bth: Obama has got to be willing to fight for me as a small business owner and a middle class moderate person who voted for him. Obama doesn't fight.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
But in a sign that NATO's campaign against the Taliban may be hurting the militants far more than they have acknowledged, Mullah Omar also appealed for funding from Muslims around the world.
Mullah Omar, who has not been seen in public since being driven from power following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., said the Taliban wants to boost operations across Afghanistan to 'compel the enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them through tactical raids.'
In his message for Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, the Taliban leader also claimed that NATO forces were in Afghanistan for the 'achievement of some colonialist objectives and goals, so it is the religious and humane obligation of the Afghans to stand up.'
The U.S.-led coalition has ramped up its military campaign against the Taliban in their southern stronghold, capturing or killing hundreds of insurgent leaders. A senior coalition official has said the military has been averaging more than 200 special forces operations a month, with more than half resulting in the capture or killing of the targeted insurgents.
Mullah Omar appealed for funds in his holiday message, which suggests that NATO operations may be taking a toll on the insurgents.....
- bth: a war of attrition. Ironically it always seems to come down to that. They bleed us, we bleed them. Financially all comes to naught.
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 15, 2010) -- After 54 surgeries and losing both legs to an improvised explosive device, retired Capt. Ferris Butler said the adaptive home donated on Veterans Day will provide him freedom of movement.
Butler and his wife Laura received the keys Thursday to a specially-designed house along Chesapeake Bay on Kent Island, Md. The house was built by the organization "Homes for Our Troops," with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
"The functionality of the house is just incredible," Butler said while standing in his dress Blues following the home-dedication ceremony. Walking on two prosthetic legs, he emphasized to the crowd and television news cameras that the house was more than just a home. He said it represented reintegration back into mainstream life.
Butler said it was hard at first for him to accept the idea of the house, but felt very fortunate to have so many friends and family members pitch in to help build it.
More than 100 volunteers showed up for a three-day weekend in August to erect the exterior of the house, an event akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising. The Homes for the Veterans organization refers to this event as the "Building Brigade." And a number of Soldiers from Butler's brigade combat team came down from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., to help with the construction.
Lt. Col. Thomas Levine of the Massachusetts National Guard also traveled to Kent Island to take part in the "Building Brigade." And he said it was a great opportunity to be able to return Veterans Day for the home dedication.
Steve Muchnick was there for both events as well and said, "every American should get dirt under their fingernails helping to build a home for a veteran."
In addition, Muchnick helps raise funds for the houses by running marathons. He said he does it "because of the way it affects individual lives so positively."
John Gonsalves, founder and president of Homes for Our Troops said the organization has donated 81 houses so far to disabled veterans in 33 states. Three homes were dedicated on Veterans Day alone, and 20 more projects are currently under construction or in the planning stages.
Gonsalves has been building homes for vets since the spring of 2004. He was a commercial builder until then and said he watched a segment on the news about a disabled veteran that touched him so deeply that he began inquiring about what could be done to help.
"There was no organization like this," Gonsalves said. Now his non-profit Homes for Our Troops has more than 25 employees and thousands of volunteers and benefactors.
Gonsalves met Butler at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Ward 57.
"That's a life-changing experience to go there," he said.
Gonsalves said he wishes there wasn't a need for an organization like Homes for Our Troops.
"But as long as there is a need, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing," he said.
The adaptive homes have wide doors - 36 inches - to facilitate wheelchairs. The homes' interiors are spacious for the same reason, and there's room under the kitchen counter, sink and stove for a wheelchair. The bathrooms are automated with a keypad that flushes the toilet, a spacious specially-designed shower and a therapeutic whirlpool bath. There are also walk-in closets big enough for wheelchair access.
At first glance, however, it's difficult to tell the homes are specially designed for the disabled. And that's on purpose, Gonsalves said.
"We really wanted to make it functional, without having an institutional feel to it," he said.
When Laura Butler thanked the crowd assembled Veterans Day, there were more than a few tears shed.
"Everyone cried," said attendee Lorraine Moore. "Even the cameramen cried."
Laura herself said she had a rough time holding back the tears as she talked about community, family and friends.
Laura also met Capt. Butler in Ward 57 at Walter Reed . She was volunteering there three years ago for an organization called "Operation Second Chance" and met the captain just a week after he arrived.
Butler was injured Dec. 21, 2006 when his platoon was on a mission in one of the most dangerous sectors along the Euphrates River south of Baghdad. His Humvee was destroyed by an IED.
Laura said it took more than a year of visiting Ward 57 before Butler finally had the nerve to ask her out on a date. The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary last month. They moved into their new house this past weekend.
--- bth: Homes for Our Troops is a fantastic organization. Gonsalves is a visionary and a doer. I can't say enough about him and his crew.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
This summary comes from Sami the Finn a.k.a Sami Kovanen, the Senior Information Analyst at Indicium Consulting. Sami has been in Afghanistan for over six years now and is one of the best informed analyst working outside of the ISAF security bubble. He was kind enough to let me post this update and for those of you who are interested in additional analysis of this type you can reach Sami via the Indcium Consulting website at www.indiciumconsulting.net
On this week numbers of countrywide incidents decreased slightly in every category in comparison to previous reporting period, but in spite of the decrease on this week, the overall trend after the elections is still showing upwards, which is not a promising sign for this winter and expected lull in fighting what usually has started this time of the year. Even if the trend would turn in near future, still the difference between this and last year is drastic and actually been increasing from earlier months of this year (from last year TB / AGE incidents were approx 40% up during the first three months of this year, during the summer incidents were approx 80% higher than on last year and since the election TB / AGE (Taliban / Anti-Government Elements) incidents have been up approx 120%).
If the same trend will continue throughout the winter we will have total of approx 17500 – 18000 TB / AGE initiated incidents on this year, which would be approx 80% higher than last year. And if the current trend would continue throughout the next year we could be witnessing approx 34000 – 36000 TB / AGE initiated incidents during the next year. Although this is unlikely scenario and more likely the increase of attacks will not continue with the current pace, the outlook of next year is grim. This is a concern especially when considering the current situation and overstretched IMF / ANSF (International Military Forces / Afghanistan Security Forces) troops and their capacity. Even if the more conservative estimation of the next year’s attack rate is somewhere at around 30000 incidents, it still will pose a serious challenges for IMF / ANSF troops to manage the overall situation, especially if the TB / AGE elements are able to continue their infiltration into earlier “calm” areas like what is happening at the moment.
Kinetic operations by International Military and Afghan security forces have continued with high tempo. Militarily these operations have continued been success with significant amount of TB / AGE leaders, facilitators and fighters been killed, but the affect on the field is still unseen in many ways and TB / AGE elements have continued showing extreme capabilities to cope in spite of the significant loses. However, there are some indicators about the lower morale among fighters and especially disruptions of the supply chains, which might have an effect to ground level situation and bring some results in the future.
Total numbers of incidents on this week were 522 incidents (550 on last week); from which 393 were relatively serious incidents (420 on last week) and 482 incidents were related to TB / AGE elements (518 on last week). During the last three weeks there have been total of 1172 TB / AGE incidents in Afghanistan, which is significantly higher than 448 attacks on same weeks last year (162% increase from last year).
At Regional level TB / AGE incidents increased significantly in North-eastern Region (after last week’s similar drop) and slightly in Northern and Southern Region. In South-eastern, Eastern, Central Regions incidents decreased noteworthy, although still within the normal weekly fluctuation.
Breakdown of TB / AGE incidents by Regions:
1. South-eastern Region (140 incidents – 36% of countrywide incidents)
2. Southern Region (125 incidents – 32%)
3. Eastern Region (36 incidents – 9%)
4. Central Region (34 incidents – 9%)
5. Western Region (21 incidents – 5%)
6. North-eastern Region (21 incidents – 5%)
7. Northern Region (16 incidents – 4%)
8. Central Highlands (0 incidents)
Main types of attacks have remained consistent with earlier weeks; IEDs (163 – previous week 164) have remained the numbers one tactic, followed by CPX (complex) attacks (82 – previous week 81), SAF (Small Arms Fire) attacks (76 – previous week 101) and rocket / mortar attacks (43 – previous week 42). Suicide attacks have continued with average of 2.5 attacks per weekly, which is slightly lower than last year’s weekly average of 3 attacks per week. However, due to increasing usage of suicide bombers in complex attacks, the amount of “used” suicide bombers have continued increasing in Afghanistan.
Harassment / intimidation and direct attacks against civilian population (IEDs, rockets, SAF, assassinations, abductions, etc), or incident in which civilians are affected indirectly have continued at high level. On this week there were at least 98 incidents / attacks initiated by TB / AGE elements in which civilians were targeted directly or affected indirectly. Once again majority of these incidents occurred in Southern and South-eastern Regions.
bth: Free Range Intl. continues to provides excellent first hand analysis of Afghanistan
...Three years ago, the Taliban's control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness – although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan"; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word "Republic" and insert "Emirate", the emir in question being the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.
The most astonishing thing about this rebel district – and for Nato leaders meeting in Lisbon this week, a deeply troubling one – is that Chak is not in war-torn Helmand or Kandahar but in Wardak province, a scant 40 miles south-west of Kabul. Nato commanders have repeatedly claimed that the Taliban are on the back foot following this year's US troop surge. Mid-level insurgency commanders, they say, have been removed from the battlefield in "industrial" quantities since the 2010 campaign began. And yet Abdullah, operating within Katyusha rocket range of the capital – and with a $500,000 bounty on his head – has managed to evade coalition forces for almost four years. If Chak is in any way typical of developments in other rural districts – and Afghanistan has hundreds of isolated valley communities just like this one – then Nato's military strategy could be in serious difficulty....
In the middle of the night, after supper on the floor of a village farmhouse, I am taken by half a dozen Talibs to inspect the local district centre, a mud-brick compound garrisoned by 80 soldiers of the Afghan National Army who, Abdullah says, are too scared ever to come out. "We attack them whenever we like," he says, producing Russian-made night vision glasses and examining the ANA's forward trench positions. "In fact, we can attack them now if you want. Would you like that?" I politely decline the offer.
Kabul, Abdullah insists, controls just one square kilometre around the district centre; the rest of Chak belongs to the Taliban. "Last year, 30 ANP [Afghan National Police] came over to our side with two trucks full of heavy weapons... They could see how popular we were here, and that they were following the wrong path. They were all from the north. We sent them home to their villages." During this September's parliamentary elections, he adds with pride, 86 of the province's 87 polling stations remained closed. A local candidate, Wahedullah Kalimzai, has since been accused of bribing election officials to stuff the ballot boxes in the one polling station that did open. "And Kabul has the temerity to call these elections a success!"
A former engineering student at a Kabul polytechnic, Abdullah has also become a champion military truck burner since 2007. The eastern edge of Chak is delineated by the Kabul-to-Kandahar highway, a key supply route for the Nato war machine in the south. Repaved by the US just seven years ago at a cost of $190m, the road today is pockmarked with craters left by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Over the years, he says, his men have destroyed "hundreds" of Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) vehicles on this stretch. His personal record is a convoy of 81 fuel trucks ambushed in a single, memorable night.
"We were scared of the Americans at first," says Abdullah's deputy, Mullah Naim. "We heard they had technology so powerful that they could see a mouse blink from space. But none of that turned out to be true." This is not to say that the Taliban are not cautious. The Americans, Abdullah admits, have come close to catching or killing him more times than he can count. He issues his orders over a field radio and several mobile phones, on none of which he speaks for more than about a minute. He and his men seldom stop anywhere for long: in the 24 hours I spent with them we changed location six times, sometimes on foot, sometimes by car and, once, on a pair of Chinese motorbikes. Taking photographs of them is out of the question.
Their greatest concern is the risk of betrayal by "spies". That night, indeed, three strangers are arrested further up the valley after they were allegedly spotted taking pictures on their mobile phones. At 6am, after consulting by phone with Taliban headquarters in Pakistan, Abdullah announces that they will be tried by the local sharia judge – an official appointed, like him, by HQ – and that the three can expect to be hanged if found guilty. I ask if he has identified any enemies in Chak using data from Julian Assange's WikiLeaks website, which he knows all about. "Not yet, because there are no computers here," he replies, "but headquarters is still analysing the material... We have already learned a great deal, in general, about the way Isaf operates."
The atmosphere in Chak, perhaps unsurprisingly, feels oppressive and a little paranoid. No Western journalist has been to see these Taliban since my last visit, and they are careful not to advertise my presence unnecessarily now, insisting that I swathe my face in a woollen patou when we go outside. The community, self-contained even in normal times, has been cut off from the rest of the country for three years. The confusing maze of dirt tracks at the valley's entrance is frequently seeded with IEDs which travellers must deactivate and reactivate by punching a code into a mobile phone. The only way in for invaders is by helicopter, therefore – and since the summer, US special forces have launched airborne kill or capture raids in the district "almost every night". Sentries posted on mountaintops all around remain on permanent lookout for unusual helicopter activity: often the first sign of another night raid, and a signal for the Taliban to take to the hills themselves.
The effect of these night raids on Abdullah's command structure has been negligible, but the same cannot be said for the effect on public opinion. Dozens of blameless locals have allegedly been killed by "the Americans". Abdullah reels off a list of fatal incidents in the last two months alone – a taxi-driver here, a farmer asleep in his orchard there, three students trying to get home to their families over there – and it is clear that these attacks have done nothing but bolster support for the insurgents. "Thousands of people turn out at the funerals of our martyrs and chant 'Death to America'," one Talib tells me. This may be an exaggeration, but there is no arguing with what has happened at the bomb-shattered farmer's house that I am later taken to see. The apple tree outside is freshly festooned with strips of green cloth – the mark of a spontaneous local shrine.
Abdullah and his men seem to thrive under the threat of sudden death, as though infected by a kind of joie de guerre. He says it is the ambition of all of them to die as ghazi – that is, as martyrs, in battle against the infidel. "It is our religious duty to resist you foreigners," he tells me – just as he did in 2007. "You must understand that we will never stop fighting you – never."
The prospect of a negotiated peace is dismissed almost outright. "All this talk of a political settlement with Karzai... it is all tricks and propaganda," he says. "The Taliban will not negotiate with anyone until all foreign troops have left." His men are genuinely perplexed by General Petraeus's assertion that Nato's purpose in Afghanistan is to prevent the re-establishment of al-Qa'ida. "There were some foreign fighters in Chak for a while last year," Mullah Naim recalls, "Arabs, Chechens, Pakistanis. But they were fighting under the Taliban, obeying our orders. They were nothing to do with al-Qa'ida. There are no al-Qa'ida fighters in Afghanistan any more. I have fought in the south and in the east as well as here. In seven years of operations I have not seen a single al-Qa'ida fighter. Not one."
--- bth: it is not clear to me how to win this conflict.
For the soldiers, it is a short walk from the centre of Talukan, a village of some 1,500 people in southern Afghanistan, to the hamlet beyond its edge. From their outpost, it is just a few hundred metres across the cannabis fields to the first buildings.
But there is no such thing as a short walk in the battle for Kandahar. Direct routes are avoided for fear of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) armed with pressure plates and trip wires designed to take off the legs. So on Thursday, when men of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division were ordered to clear the hamlet, they skirted the fields by clambering over walls and, when there was no other safe path, through the houses, crossing over the mud roofs or walls breached by explosive charges to avoid walking along the main road.
The reasons quickly became evident: three command wires for explosive devices were uncovered in the tall stands of cannabis plants in the first few minutes. Half an hour later a cluster of mines was discovered lying in the open, close to a small madrasa (religious school) and mosque named after Mullah Bujan, a dead Taliban commander. Inside the madrasa and the nearby houses was what they had come looking for: a Taliban command centre including a bomb-making cell, ammonium nitrate for making explosives, and a cache of equipment for treating injured insurgents.
Thursday was a good day for the soldiers of Delta Company on the southernmost front of the struggle for Kandahar among the villages of the Horn of Panjwai. They suffered no casualties and two suspected Taliban were detained.
But in the battle for Kandahar – as in all of Afghanistan — three conflicts are being fought in parallel. To calculate whether the war at large is being won, it is necessary to separate them.
The first war is the one you hear at night. After the sun sets, the air becomes noisy with US jets dropping bombs that bleach the dark out of the sky in their sudden eruptions; with the ripping sound of the mini-guns of the Kiowa helicopter gunships and A-10 Warthogs hunting in the nearby desert.
The night is also lit up by brilliant flares that fall as slow as floating snowflakes, a visible sign of the commando raids into the villages beyond. It is a conflict heard, but not often witnessed.
The second war is more accessible but no less deadly – a daytime battle between the Taliban's bomb makers and the soldiers who come in to secure the villages, including those of the 101st Airborne who have been at the forefront of the struggle for Kandahar. Like Thursday's operation, it is a nervy and dangerously slow progression to clear alleys, paths and houses rigged with bombs of increasing sophistication. It matches robots, bomb dogs and detectors against the Taliban's ingenuity.
It is a conflict that is being fought less in Kandahar than in the surrounding countryside, in districts once used by the Taliban to put pressure on the city.
In Talukan, US soldiers hold the area around the bazaar and an imposing compound-fort that was used as a madrasa. There are IEDs still in the little cemetery with its fluttering flags and on the ridge behind; mines on the paths and on the main road beyond the area of American control. When the soldiers first came, there were booby-trapped houses. In those first days soldiers from the US army's most deployed unit cleared 28 devices and destroyed a cache of 4,000lb of ammonium nitrate capable of supporting the local bombmakers for two years.
Captain John Hintz, an imposing Iowan who sold up his share in a pair of tattoo parlours to rejoin the army after 9/11, points to the ruins of a house that was rigged up with IEDs – with some in the surrounding trees. "The Taliban had the family held hostage. They would fire at us to try to get us to attack the house and bring it down on us."
We pass a hole in the main road that transects the Horn of Panjwai. The soldiers had walked over the mine hidden here for days, until one day they arrived to find that villagers had circled its location with stones. "I was looking behind me when I nearly put my foot in it," says Sergeant David Gasper, 39, who, like Hintz, joined after 9/11. "We had walked over that spot every day. But someone had placed a circle of red marked stones around it, with another in the middle painted with a sunburst.
"Afterwards we tried and tried to figure out what exactly we had done right to encourage the villagers to do this."...
--- bth: this fascinating article worth reading in full should have been written by an American journalist but it isn't. The foreign press is so much better than our own at getting to a ground truth.
...The Justice Department initially fought the lawsuit, but finally gave Mr. Sobel a partial copy — with more than 1,000 passages and references deleted based on exemptions for privacy and internal deliberations.
Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the department is committed to transparency, and that redactions are made by experienced lawyers.
The full report disclosed that the Justice Department found “a smoking gun” in 1997 establishing with “definitive proof” that Switzerland had bought gold from the Nazis that had been taken from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. But these references are deleted, as are disputes between the Justice and State Departments over Switzerland’s culpability in the months leading up to a major report on the issue.
Another section describes as “a hideous failure” a series of meetings in 2000 that United States officials held with Latvian officials to pressure them to pursue suspected Nazis. That passage is also deleted.
So too are references to macabre but little-known bits of history, including how a director of the O.S.I. kept a piece of scalp that was thought to belong to Dr. Mengele in his desk in hopes that it would help establish whether he was dead.
The chapter on Dr. Mengele, one of the most notorious Nazis to escape prosecution, details the O.S.I.’s elaborate efforts in the mid-1980s to determine whether he had fled to the United States and might still be alive.
It describes how investigators used letters and diaries apparently written by Dr. Mengele in the 1970s, along with German dental records and Munich phone books, to follow his trail.
After the development of DNA tests, the piece of scalp, which had been turned over by the Brazilian authorities, proved to be a critical piece of evidence in establishing that Dr. Mengele had fled to Brazil and had died there in about 1979 without ever entering the United States, the report said. The edited report deletes references to Dr. Mengele’s scalp on privacy grounds.
Even documents that have long been available to the public are omitted, including court decisions, Congressional testimony and front-page newspaper articles from the 1970s.
A chapter on the O.S.I.’s most publicized failure — the case against John Demjanjuk, a retired American autoworker who was mistakenly identified as Treblinka’s Ivan the Terrible — deletes dozens of details, including part of a 1993 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that raised ethics accusations against Justice Department officials.
That section also omits a passage disclosing that Latvian émigrés sympathetic to Mr. Demjanjuk secretly arranged for the O.S.I.’s trash to be delivered to them each day from 1985 to 1987. The émigrés rifled through the garbage to find classified documents that could help Mr. Demjanjuk, who is currently standing trial in Munich on separate war crimes charges.
Ms. Feigin said she was baffled by the Justice Department’s attempt to keep a central part of its history secret for so long. “It’s an amazing story,” she said, “that needs to be told.”
--- bth: so the Justice Dept has prevented this report from being released. One wonders if the Justice Dept. has losts its way and purpose.
Warning that another 26/11 type attack could result in an Indo—Pak war, a former Bush—era diplomat has highlighted the need for the U.S. to target the LeT hideouts in drone strikes in view of Pakistan’s reluctance to act aggressively against the terror outfit.
“What we’re suggesting is that we include LeT in this target list, because if the Pakistanis aren’t willing to see this as a threat and indeed an existential threat to them, then we see it that way, and we’re going to prosecute it,” Richard Armitage, former deputy Secretary of State, said.
Mr. Armitage was speaking at the release of a report by an independent task force at the Council on Foreign Relations —— a Washington—based think—tank —— on ‘the U.S. Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan’ The nearly 100—page report is authored by Mr. Armitage and two other experts on South Asia —— Samuel R. Berger and Daniel S. Markey.
“I would hope they would see the Haqqani Network in the same way they see Pakistani Taliban, that this is ultimately a threat to them as well. On Lashkar—e—Taiba, they have to see this as something that is — that could be, in a single stroke, — something that causes war between India and Pakistan, something that I think would delight al—Qaeda no end,” he observed.
“And why do I say this? LeT is trouble. As I’ve already indicated, if they have one more strike, another Mumbai—type attack, I do not think the Indian government can be held back.
But they’re also in Afghanistan. They’re killing us. I take it personally,” Mr. Armitage, who was deputy Secretary of State from March 2001 to February 2005, said.
“If we can’t be successful in the jawboning, pressuring or sticks—and—carroting them into this, then in the long run, we’re dealing with very dangerous situation,” Mr. Armitage warned.
Noting that he would not want the US to go to war with Pakistan, Mr. Armitage said it is very difficult for him to see much difference between the drone attacks that the US is having with some success right now and what the report is suggesting.
Mr. Markey said the report suspects an unstable U.S.—Pakistan relationship because lesser progress by Islamabad against combating terror would hamper their ties. “If we were to suffer an attack from Pakistan, we would be forced to, I think, take a very different line,” he argued.
“So it’s a recognition of that political reality, which leads us to look at what those alternatives would have to be.
It’s not a desire to go there, and it’s not an inherent threat or anything that we’re trying to level against the Pakistanis.
“It’s a recognition of the strategic reality that we both face and how uncomfortable that is for both sides,” Mr. Markey noted.
Mr. Armitage argued that defeating and dismantling the LeT network is crucial for the regional peace as well.
“It’s not totally necessary that drone strikes are the only weapon you have against LeT or, for that matter, the Haqqani network. The Afghan Taliban and the Quetta Shura and all of that, my own view is we ought to use all means necessary to root them out if we can’t get assistance from Pakistan,” he added.
--- bth: a few year s ago I would have taken Armitage at his word. No longer. Too many people want us to fight other people's wars.
U.S. Army Spc. Dale Kridlo was performing route clearance duties in Kunar province, Afghanistan, when he and a fellow soldier were fatally wounded on Sunday by insurgents who attacked their unit with small-arms fire, according to officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., where his unit was based.
It was an extremely dangerous task, according to the battalion commander. But the hardest and most dangerous jobs were the kind that Kridlo, 33, of Hughestown, would request, his father said Wednesday.
“He would always ask for the toughest one,” said Albert Kridlo, 61, of Hughestown. “He had one of the most difficult jobs in Afghanistan, and that’s coming from Maj. Gen. (Karl R.) Horst. Unfortunately, the toughest is also the most dangerous. And he lost his life when his team got ambushed.”
Horst, Albert Kridlo said, spoke with him and his son’s mother, Michelle Dale, at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., where their son’s body was returned on Monday. As of Wednesday night, the soldier’s body had not yet been released to the family.
Kridlo and Cpl. Aaron Cruttenden, 25, of Mesa, Ariz., both died of wounds suffered in the insurgent attack. They were assigned to the 161st Engineer Support Co. (Airborne), 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat), based with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.
“Specialist Dale Kridlo and Corporal Aaron Cruttenden were outstanding soldiers who died fighting to protect their platoon and fellow soldiers,” Lt. Col. Alan Dodd, the soldiers’ battalion commander, said in a press release.
“Although route clearance is an extremely dangerous and challenging mission for any soldier, it is because of the bravery of heroes such as Kridlo and Cruttenden that routes are safer from (improvised explosive devices) for both Coalition Forces and the Afghan people. They laid down their lives in the service of others and their sacrifice will not be forgotten in the 27th Engineer Battalion,” Dodd said....
Sgt. Michael Paranzino of Middletown, R.I., killed in explosion in Afghanistan | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal
MIDDLETOWN — They were proud to be there in Boston in August 2007, when their son was sworn in as a volunteer in the Army. They were there in Kentucky when he graduated from advanced basic training.
But Saturday night, the family of Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino, a 2006 graduate of Middletown High School, were present for an honor they would have gladly forsaken as his flag-draped coffin was somberly removed from a plane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Photo courtesy of the Paranzino family
The Department of Defense said Paranzino, just shy of 23, was killed Friday by an improvised explosive device while serving near Kandahar in Afghanistan. The decorated soldier had been a cavalry scout with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
He had been in Afghanistan since March, after serving a tour in Iraq.
Throughout the day on Sunday, an electronic sign in front of the Middletown Police Department summed it up in flashing lights: “MPD salutes fallen hero Sgt. Michael Paranzino.”
More honors will follow once the Army releases his body and he is brought back to Rhode Island for burial. Those arrangements were still incomplete Sunday.
Paranzino leaves behind a wife, Lindsey, and sons Maxton and Logan, all in Calcium, N.Y., outside Fort Drum, and his parents, Melane and Francis “Butch” Paranzino of Middletown.
Being a soldier was a job Michael did proudly, his sleep-deprived father said Sunday afternoon. He and his wife had just returned from the “dignified transfer” ceremony marking the return of their son late Saturday night at Dover.
Family and friends were beginning to arrive at the home, tucked away at the edge of a farm on Vanicek Avenue. A friend, fresh from church where a Mass of Remembrance was said on Michael’s behalf, brought food. Others lingered sorrowfully in the kitchen. The Paranzino answering machine gave a beep every 10 seconds, signifying messages waiting to be checked....
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D – CA) today announced that he has agreed, following a thorough review from the Obama Administration, to end his ban on military aid to Lebanon, allowing the $100 million aid package to resume.
“I continue to be concerned about developments in Lebanon,” insisted Berman, adding that he was “satisfied” with the review the Obama Administration conducted regarding the aid. Berman banned all aid in August to punish Lebanon for a border clash with Israel.
The revocation of the military aid led to an offer from Iran to replace the funds, sparking outrage from Obama Administration officials and calls to hurry up and resume the American funding of the Lebanese military.
Interestingly, US officials had threatened to suspend all military aid from Lebanon in October to punish them for allowing Iranian Presient Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to vist. The threat was of course an empty one because at the time all military aid had already been suspended. Now that the aid is officially resumed, US officials will once again be able to threaten, credibly, to revoke it.
bth: is Rep. Berman representing the best interests of the U.S. with stunts like this?