Saturday, December 18, 2010

Air Force officials overturn Osprey crash findings | McClatchy

Air Force officials overturn Osprey crash findings | McClatchy: "Senior Air Force generals overturned the findings of their own investigation team and ruled that the fatal crash of a CV-22 Osprey in Afghanistan in April was largely due to flight crew mistakes and not a mechanical problem.

But the general who led the crash investigation said Thursday that there was strong evidence to indicate that the $87 million-plus aircraft, which has a history of technical problems, experienced engine trouble in the final seconds leading to the crash....

- bth: worth reading to see how a bad airframe just won't die even though its crew does.

Official: CIA officers escape Yemen attack | Antiwar Newswire

Official: CIA officers escape Yemen attack | Antiwar Newswire: "A U.S. official confirms the four Americans who narrowly escaped a attack on their vehicle in Yemen's capital worked for the CIA.

None of the agency employees were hurt in the bombing that took place Wednesday outside a restaurant in Hadda, a commerical district in the capital. The bomb went off under a pick-up truck carrying the U.S personnel.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because details about the incident remain secret.

The official said there was 'no indication that the perpetrators knew specifically who they were targeting.'

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa previously put out a statement on its website that 'foreign residents ... were targeted for attack' Wednesday, but did not give further detail.

- bth: so let me get this straight. A bomb goes off under a pickup full of CIA agents and the Embassy says that they weren't targeted. Meanwhile in Pakistan the CIA station chief is whisked away to avoid being targeted.

Pakistani Role Is Suspected in Revealing U.S. Spy’s Name -

Pakistani Role Is Suspected in Revealing U.S. Spy’s Name - ..."American officials said the C.I.A. station chief had received a number of death threats since being publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police this week by the family of victims of earlier drone campaigns.

The American officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the C.I.A. officer’s identity — possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. ...

That relationship has often frayed in recent years. American officials believe that ISI officers helped plan the deadly July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as provided support to Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks later that year. ...

The legal complaint in Pakistan that identified the station chief was filed Monday over drone attacks that killed at least four Pakistanis. The complaint sought police help in keeping the station chief in the country until a lawsuit could be filed. The C.I.A.’s decision to remove the station chief from Islamabad was first reported Friday morning by The Associated Press.

The C.I.A. officer’s name was revealed last month in a news conference by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer who filed the complaint this week.

Soon afterward, the name began appearing on a number of Pakistani Web sites generally believed to have a close association with the ISI. One Web site mentioned the C.I.A. officer on Dec. 14 and asked readers to track down pictures of him. ....

Friday, December 17, 2010

RealClearPolitics - Election Other - President Obama Job Approval

RealClearPolitics - Election Other - President Obama Job Approval: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpile (video) | Singularity Hub

Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpile (video) | Singularity Hub: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The war in Afghanistan: How we can win -

The war in Afghanistan: How we can win - Two Achilles' heels could still hamper coalition attempts to translate tactical accomplishments into lasting strategic success: lack of good governance in Afghanistan and the presence of Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

To address the former problem, Petraeus has created a task force, Shafafiat ("Transparency")under the capable leadership of Army Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster to ferret out corruption. The recent decision to bar a trucking firm partly owned by Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's allegedly corrupt brother, from bidding on coalition contracts signals the seriousness of this effort.

Even greater strides are being made at the local level. We found that wherever a strong governor, police chief and intelligence chief are present in a district, progress is being made. In Kabul, two state organizations, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance and the Civil Service Institute, are working to seed more competent officials across the country.

The existence of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan is harder to address. We will be unable to persuade Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which sponsors the Taliban and the Haqqani network, to break ranks with the insurgents in the near term. Instead, we should strive to make the sanctuaries less relevant by solidifying security and governance in Afghanistan. Stabilizing Afghanistan may very well prod Pakistan to cut loose its proxies as a bad bet. In this regard, too, the 2014 deadline is crucial because it shows our staying power to Islamabad....

NightWatch 20101216 - KGS

NightWatch 20101216 - KGS...Afghanistan-Germany: German Foreign Minister Westerwelle said on 16 December that Germany will begin withdrawing its forces in Afghanistan at the end of 2011, DPA reported. Speaking to the German parliament, Westerwelle said the deployments to Afghanistan were "the right thing to do" to defend its own security, however it must not go on without end, "and that is the right thing too."

Comment: The Germans command the Regional Command North which covers nine provinces and includes Swedish, Hungarian and Norwegian forces. The German contingent is 4,877 soldiers in Afghanistan, according to the NATO home page. Despite numerous offensives in Konduz since mid-2007, the Germans have not prevented the Taliban from establishing a reasonably effective fighting force that is supported by the Pashtun populations in Konduz Province. They have kept the Taliban from overrunning the province.

It is likely the Germans would draw down gradually, but, unless security conditions in Konduz improve and last, their departure would leave a gap in NATO capabilities along the two main northern supply links to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan....

--- bth: this will certainly be putting the other European allies in that region of Afghanistan, Sweden, Hungary and Norway, in a very difficult spot.

YouTube - RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot - Sexy Robots Videos

YouTube - RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot - Sexy Robots Videos: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ABC News-Washington Post Poll Exclusive: Afghanistan War Support Drops; Obama's Handling Gets Mixed Reviews - ABC News

ABC News-Washington Post Poll Exclusive: Afghanistan War Support Drops; Obama's Handling Gets Mixed Reviews - ABC News: "A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a grim assessment -- and a politically hazardous one -- in advance of the Obama administration's one-year review of its revised strategy.

Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation's longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war's been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Iraq: Al Qaeda Planning Holiday Attacks in West - CBS News

Iraq: Al Qaeda Planning Holiday Attacks in West - CBS News: "(AP) Iraqi authorities have obtained confessions from captured insurgents who claim al Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during the Christmas season, two senior officials said Wednesday.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press that the botched bombing in central Stockholm last weekend was among the alleged plots the insurgents revealed. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in a telephone interview from New York, called the claims 'a critical threat.' ...

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Congress sucks this year

Air Force blocks media sites that post WikiLeaks | Antiwar Newswire

Air Force blocks media sites that post WikiLeaks | Antiwar Newswire: "The Air Force says it is blocking computer access to The New York Times and other media sites that have published sensitive diplomatic documents released by the Internet site WikiLeaks.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Toni Tones, says more than 25 websites have been blocked and cannot be viewed by any Air Force computer. The ban does not apply to personal computers.

She says the action was taken by the 24th Air Force, which is commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Webber and is responsible for cyberwarfare and computer security for the service.

The Army and Navy say they have not taken similar actions.

- bth: stupid move

Blue Dogs Ask Pelosi For No 'Delay' Or Changes To 'Essential' Tax Deal

Blue Dogs Ask Pelosi For No 'Delay' Or Changes To 'Essential' Tax Deal...On Tuesday, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) -- one of the deal's chief critics -- summarize the sentiment beginning to prevail throughout the caucus when he told The Hill: "It is academic, OK. The bottom line is that it is a fast moving train and that has become clear and Washington is doing what it is finding easy to do."

- bth: Washington does what it finds easy to do pretty much sums it up.

NIE Questions Progress in Afghanistan | Informed Comment

NIE Questions Progress in Afghanistan | Informed Comment: "Congress has been briefed on a new National Intelligence estimate on Afghanistan that is said to throw cold water on the idea that the US military has made significant progress in Afghanistan as a result of President Obama’s troop escalation.

In a further demonstration that people leak classified documents all the time in Washington–it isn’t just Wikileaks — the NIE’s key findings were provided (almost certainly by congressmen) to the LAT and other newspapers. The LAT says that the analysts of 16 intelligence agencies in Washington “contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban” and that elements in Pakistan’s continue to train, support and behind the scenes use Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

In a significant turn of events, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), a contender for chairman of the House intelligence committee, said in response that it might be time to begin withdrawing toops from Afghanistan and for the US to have a ‘smaller footprint’ there. A small footprint approach (counter-terrorism) had been suggested in 2009 by VP Joe Biden but rejected in favor of a troop escalation and a wide-ranging ‘counter-insurgencey’ effort, which requires pacifying the whole country. Rogers seems to have been convinced by the new NIE that the latter is unlikely. Counter-insurgency depends on having a reliable local partner, but doubts have been raised about President Hamid Karzai’s dependability, to say the least (scroll down).

If the Republicans in Congress start calling for a troop withdrawal, it will be hard for Obama to resist starting the withdrawal process.

- bth: I highly respect Dr. Cole's analysis and blog. I've been following it daily for years

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top Marine: Soldiers could lose lives if ‘don’t ask’ repealed | Raw Story

Top Marine: Soldiers could lose lives if ‘don’t ask’ repealed | Raw Story: "Gay rights groups are calling for the resignation of the US Marines' top general after he asserted to reporters Tuesday that repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' would cost the lives of soldiers.

General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, cited a Pentagon study saying Marines fighting in Afghanistan were worried that permitting gays to serve openly could disrupt 'unit cohesion.'

'When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man ... who sits to your right and your left, you don't want anything distracting you,' Amos told reporters at the Pentagon.

'I don't want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs,' he said.

He added that 'mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives. That's the currency of this fight.'

Amos cited the Pentagon's report on 'don't ask,' released earlier this month, as showing that Marines in general are more opposed to repealing the gay ban than service members in other branches of the military.

While Amos has previously publicly opposed repealing the military's 17-year-old ban on gays serving openly, this is the first time that a senior Pentagon official has suggested that the repeal would cost lives, reports the Washington Post.

Much of the Pentagon's leadership -- including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen -- has voiced support for repealing 'don't ask.'

“General Amos needs to fall in line and salute or resign now,' Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said in a statement. 'General Amos needs to stop lobbying against his Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. If he cannot do that, the President should ask for his resignation.'...

- bth: probably time to step aside and make room for a new generation of leaders in tune with the 21st century.

Afghan Ultraviolence: Petraeus Triples Air War | Danger Room |

Afghan Ultraviolence: Petraeus Triples Air War | Danger Room | "November is ordinarily the month when the air war in Afghanistan — and really, the whole American-led campaign — ratchets down for the winter. This November, with Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the war effort, things have been different. Radically different.

NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.

It’s another sign of the bloody turn the Afghan conflict has taken since Petraeus took over. Petraeus unleashed special operations forces, who have killed or captured thousands of militants.

His generals relied on massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar, and ordered tanks to help crush opponents in Helmand province.

And then there’s the metastasizing air war.

In the last three months, NATO aircraft have fired their weapons on 2,550 sorties, according to U.S. Air Force statistics provided to Danger Room. During the same period last year, there were less than half the number of violent sorties — just 1,188.

But that was under a different general, who had a very different attitude about airstrikes — and about the utility of violent coercion in the Afghan campaign....

- bth: I do not have a problem using our technical advantages.

Does Facebook use correlate with political freedom? Looks like yes

NightWatch 20101213 - KGS -- Commentary on Korean Situation

NightWatch 20101213 - KGS: ..."Comment: US actions appear to be aimed at slow rolling the Korea confrontation. Statements by a US official and a former US head of intelligence appear to be hyping the 'risk,' which is a judgment about the consequences of Allied intentions and plans.

The North and South have lived with the danger of war since 1953. That is the threat. When Allied officials talk of risk, they are referring to the likelihood that South Korea will attack North Korea, after another provocation, precipitating an escalatory spiral that can lead to general war. That could happen but does not appear likely.

In dealing with North Korea since the tree cutting incident of 1976, NightWatch judges that North Korea and North Koreans are fundamentally risk averse. They bluff a lot because they are so poor and seek to hide it. However, they will defend themselves vigorously and self-righteously, even if they provoke national suicide. That, however, is not their present intention. They would prefer to become prosperous, but know no otherway to achieve prosperity except through their variation of armed extortion.

North Korea: The Communist party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, carried a commentary Monday that condemned U.S.-South Korea military cooperation as 'nothing but treachery escalating the tension between the North and the South and bringing the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the Korean Peninsula.'

Comment: The commentary was a propaganda reaction to the start of South Korean artillery exercises. In the past, the North never referred to nuclear war in its threats, preferring to dwell on general war to reunify the Peninsula. Open acknowledgement of the threat of nuclear war indicates a judgment that the Allies are not deterred by North Korea's large but obsolescent conventional armed forces.

In short, the only deterrent the North's leaders think they possess is their nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems. This is a use and lose system. That means they can bluff with it, but if the North Koreans ever fired a nuclear weapon, the Allied response would destroy North Korea as a state. Kim Il sung would have no legacy. His progeny would be homeless international criminals, if they survived

- bth: excellent analysis worth reading in full.

ThinkProgress » Carl Levin: Obama Lacks ‘A Willingness To Fight Hard’ And Keep Senate In Town To Pass Priorities

ThinkProgress » Carl Levin: Obama Lacks ‘A Willingness To Fight Hard’ And Keep Senate In Town To Pass Priorities: "Appearing on CSPAN’s Newsmakers this Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) reiterated his pledge to stay in session after Christmas to give the Senate more time to consider end of year priorities like extending tax breaks for the middle class and passing the stand-alone Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal measure recently introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Levin also called on President Obama to use his bully pulpit to keep the Senate in town past the holidays, but lamented that he hasn’t seen “that kind of a willingness to fight that hard” from Obama:

LEVIN: One of the questions will be whether we stay long enough to get some of these things done and I hope we stay as long as we need. There are many days extra if we stay after Christmas, it adds a few days. It would add a few days, for instance, if we stayed in the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before Christmas. You can pick-up a few days, and if it will make a difference, and I think it can… I would hope we would take those few days and also to get Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell passed. [...]

The way I think the President needs to fight is to say that he is going to use all of the power he has of a bully pulpit and urge the Senate to stay in, right up to New Years. … [T]hat’s the problem that I don’t see that kind of a willingness to fight that hard, where he will take that kind of a position and that’s what’s necessary. The Senate and the House, these are tests of wills....

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Marine Corps MRAPs set for upgrades -

Marine Corps MRAPs set for upgrades - "LONDON, Ontario, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada has been given a $317 million task order for RG-31 MRAP Survivability and Mobility Upgrade kits.

The kits for previously delivered vehicles will bring the vehicles to the latest production configuration.

Upgrades include the addition of spall liners, an independent suspension axle system and an improved power pack.

'We appreciate the confidence that the U.S. military has in the RG-31 vehicle as they conduct their missions in a dangerous and uncertain environment,' said Sridhar Sridharan, senior vice president of General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada. 'With these improvements, we are able to further strengthen the performance of the RG-31 in theater and continue to protect the lives of U.S. soldiers.'

Delivery of the kits ordered by the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command is expected to be completed by next November....

- bth: resetting for Afghanistan

U.S. military weighs reusing damaged equipment -

U.S. military weighs reusing damaged equipment - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. military establishment is considering the feasibility of refurbishing military equipment damaged on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere under a high-tech program.

Details of an innovative scheme to reuse equipment and save costs would be considered when military leaders, industry experts and analysts meet at a conference in the Washington area next year.

The military is constantly retrieving or shipping back impaired equipment, including weapons, from battle zones and the plan offers a way out where much of the damaged inventory could have little immediate chance of redeployment....

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US treading in bloody footsteps | The Australian

US treading in bloody footsteps | The Australian: ..."Whatever the friction between the allies, they agree that the longer the Taliban is able to fight in Sangin, the more lethal an enemy it will become.

'They have an amazing ability to watch what we do and to adapt their tactics to ours,' Owen says.

Holes cut in mud walls through which Taliban fighters shoot at passing patrols are now drilled at angles to avoid casting shadows. Fishing lines are used to detonate IEDs from afar. Battery packs - often the only component metal detectors can pick up - are hidden up to 400m away from the main charge, making it almost impossible to detect.

The men of Almas gathered to hear an address from their commander after corporal Derek Wyatt was shot through the head as he lay prone on a mud roof. His wife was only two days away from giving birth.

'There's no panacea,' captain Mathew Peterson said. 'It's about situational awareness. The only ground that's safe is the ground you are standing on. We must use cover wisely. We have to make ourselves harder to kill.'

Progress is hard to measure. Efforts to win over the tribes that profit from the insurgents' ability to protect the drug trade are constantly stalling; and the military and personal costs of the casualties are high.

'The first couple of times it f . . ks with you: you can't believe that your friend was with you a few minutes before and now he's dead,' Buckholz says. 'But after a bit, it's so sad, you become desensitised. That's when you start to wonder whether that's even more f . . ked up. There's the thought that you're not dealing with it right now, but that you're going to have to eventually. I don't want to be a different person when I get home.'

- bth: worth reading in full. Frankly this is better than reporting coming from American embeds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Karzai says he’d ‘choose the Taliban’ over US | Raw Story

Karzai says he’d ‘choose the Taliban’ over US | Raw Story: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai says would side with the Taliban if he had to do it all over again.

In late October, Gen. David H. Petraeus, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other top officials were trying to convince Karzai to back down on an order banning all foreign private security contractors from Afghanistan. The Afghan president decided he had heard enough, according to a new report in The Washington Post.

'If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban,' Karzai seethed.

The 'main enemies' of Afghanistan are the Taliban, the United States and the international community, according to Karzai....

-- bth: in the 90s the Taliban hung his predecessor.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Remember Those Green Jobs? Might Label Them Made in China | The Economic Populist

Remember Those Green Jobs? Might Label Them Made in China | The Economic Populist: "Remember all of those green jobs hyped up during campaigns that would save the economy?

Remember how we learned 84% of Stimulus money for green jobs went offshore?

We have a new added dimension. China is subsidizing it's green industries unfairly.

The U.S. Steelworkers made a trade compliant about China and the Obama administration took it on:...

The USW wrote up a 5800 page report, detailing China's unfair practices on green technologies. Here are the 5 main broad areas:

1. Restrictions of Access to Critical Materials
2. Prohibited Subsidies Contingent on Export Performance or Domestic Content
3. Discrimination Against Imported Goods and Foreign Firms
4. Technology Transfer Requirements for Foreign Investors
5. Trade-Distorting Domestic Subsidies

Just yesterday the New York Times reported China is widening it's embargo of rare earth minerals, key raw elements in advanced manufacturing.

China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday. ...

China's Global Dominance in Green Jobs Growing, Report Says | SolveClimate News

China's Global Dominance in Green Jobs Growing, Report Says | SolveClimate News: "China is prevailing in the global race for green jobs in sectors from solar panels to advanced lighting, and appears to be on an unstoppable upward path, an annual report by cleantech research firm Clean Edge said on Wednesday.

The Chinese government spent $34.6 billion last year to propel its low-carbon economy, more than any other nation and almost double what the U.S. invested. The country is now headquarters for six of the biggest renewable energy employers—up from three in 2008—according to Clean Tech Job Trends 2010.

Ron Pernick, managing director of Clean Edge and a report author, called the economic giant's 'meteoric' surge 'very striking.' But, he said, it is 'not a fait accompli that China will dominate' across the entire industry.

There is 'serious competition on the global playing field,' Pernick told SolveClimate News.

The report said clean energy is spawning millions of high-paying green jobs worldwide, even as the global economy continues to sputter.

Total jobs surpassed three million in 2009, recent data from global research group REN 21 finds. China accounted for 700,000 of that amount, due in large part to measures that promote solar heating.

But Brazil, South Korea, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and other nations are still very much in the game, as clean-energy manufacturing grows and becomes more complex...

- bth: why aren't we investing more in the US on this area?

IEEE Spectrum: DARPA Seeking to Revolutionize Robotic Manipulation

IEEE Spectrum: DARPA Seeking to Revolutionize Robotic Manipulation

Danger Room

Danger Room: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Afghanistan, Pakistan Get Bleak Intelligence Brief -

Afghanistan, Pakistan Get Bleak Intelligence Brief - "WASHINGTON -- New U.S. intelligence reports paint a bleak picture of the security conditions in Afghanistan and say the war cannot be won unless Pakistan roots out militants on its side of the border, according to several U.S. officials who have been briefed on the findings.

The reports, one on Afghanistan, the other on Pakistan, could complicate the Obama administration's plans to report next week that the war is turning a corner. U.S. military commanders have challenged the new conclusions, however, saying they are based on outdated information that does not take into account progress made in recent months, says a senior U.S. official who is part of the review process.

The analyses were detailed in briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week and some of the findings were shared with members of the House Intelligence Committee, officials said....

The new report on Afghanistan cites progress in 'inkspots' where there are enough U.S. or NATO troops to maintain security, such as Kabul and parts of Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Much of the rest of the country remains Taliban-controlled, or at least vulnerable to Taliban infiltration, according to an official who read the executive summary.

The report contains public opinion polling that finds Afghans are ambivalent, as willing to cut a deal with the Taliban as they are to work with the Americans, the official said.

It also shows U.S. efforts are lagging to build infrastructure and get trained security forces to areas where they are needed, the official said. And it says the war cannot be won unless Pakistan is willing to obliterate terrorist havens in its lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

The new report on Pakistan concludes that the Pakistani government and military 'are not willing to do that,' says one U.S. official briefed on the analysis.

The document says Pakistan's government pays lip service to cooperating with U.S. efforts against the militants, and still secretly backs the Taliban as a way of hedging its bets in order to influence Afghanistan after a U.S. departure from the region.

In describing the Afghanistan report, military officials said there is a disconnect between the findings, completed in recent weeks, and separate battlefield assessments done by the war commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and others that contain more up-to-date and sometimes more promising accounts.

A military official familiar with the reports said the gloomier prognosis in the Afghanistan report became a source of friction as a preliminary version was passed among government agencies.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the contrast between the Afghan estimate and Petraeus' reports.

'It's a very disciplined, structured process, so it's got a cutoff date that's substantially earlier in the game than, say, the military review,' Cartwright said in a recent interview.

He said officials will have to grapple with whether intelligence and battlefield reports are starting to diverge or whether the gloomier intelligence analysis is 'more an artifact of time. Those are the questions that we'll have to work our way through and either feel comfortable about or not feel comfortable about.'

While the intelligence assessments show the Obama administration may still be struggling to change Pakistani behavior, former Obama war adviser Bruce Riedel disputes the hypothesis that the war cannot be won if Pakistan does not close terrorist sanctuaries.

'If the U.S. continues to strengthen the Afghan state and army, that may force Pakistan to reconsider its support for the Taliban,' said Riedel, a former CIA officer, and author of the forthcoming book, 'Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad.'

Amrullah Saleh, who led Afghanistan's spy agency from 2004 until early this year, told a Washington conference Thursday that the key to defeating the Taliban is cutting off their support from Pakistan. 'Demobilize them, disarm them, take their headquarters out of the Pakistani intelligence's basements,' Saleh said.

Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban.

- bth: While the battle space may have improved in the last few months, the overriding conclusion is that unless Pakistan controls and clamps off Taliban activity in its territories, we will not win in Afghanistan in any measure we could recognize as a victory. This is a sound an sobering conclusion. I believe we need to shape our activities an strategy according to this reality.

Venezuela acquires 1,800 antiaircraft missiles from Russia

Venezuela acquires 1,800 antiaircraft missiles from Russia: "BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -

Russia delivered at least 1,800 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Venezuela in 2009, U.N. arms control data show, despite vigorous U.S. efforts to stop President Hugo Chavez's stridently anti-American government from acquiring the weapons.

The United States feared that the missiles could be funneled to Marxist guerrillas fighting Colombia's pro-American government or Mexican drug cartels, concerns expressed in U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and first reported in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. ....

Matt Schroeder, a missile expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the missiles are among the most sophisticated in the world and can down aircraft from 19,000 feet.

"It's the largest recorded transfer in the U.N. arms registry database in five years, at least. There's no state in Latin America of greater concern regarding leakage that has purchased so many missiles," he said, referring to reports of Venezuelan arms flowing to Colombian guerrillas.

The database also shows that from 2006 through 2008, Russia delivered to Venezuela 472 missiles and launching mechanisms, 44 attack helicopters and 24 combat aircraft, purchases funded by Venezuelan oil sales.

A self-styled Socialist who claims that successive U.S. governments want to topple him, Chavez told his countrymen during the 2009 military parade that "we don't want war with anyone, but we are obligated to prepare." Months later, in December 2009, he said in a nationally televised address that "thousands of missiles are arriving" but did not say what kind.

Secret American cables said that the United States was concerned about the Chavez government's acquisition of Russian arms, which also included attack helicopters, Sukhoi fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. ...

--- bth: Besides providing weapons to FARC and Mexican drug lords, it is very likely that these weapons will make their way via direct airline flights between Venezuela and Iran.

Share of national income for top 1%

WikiLeaks: Nato allies have secret plan for defending eastern Europe from Russia - Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Nato allies have secret plan for defending eastern Europe from Russia - Telegraph: "The plan, which is code-named Eagle Guardian, was secretly agreed in January and covers the defence of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by troops from the US, Britain, Germany and Poland.

It expands an existing plan to cover the Baltic states and was initiated by Germany after years of diplomatic wrangling within the western alliance over the defence of the region.

The move was welcomed by Latvia and Estonia, cables sent back from those countries show. But Poland was concerned about having its security lumped in with the other states. ...

However, another memo discloses the Polish government was furious that the much-vaunted US Patriot missile systems that have been rotated into the country earlier this year were not actually armed.

"Deputy Defense Minister Komorowski angrily responded that Poland expected to have operational missiles, not 'potted plants'," Victor Ashe, the former US ambassador to Warsaw reported.

-- bth: why on earth would Poland want Patriot Missiles if they weren't armed for goodness sake? Why are we jerking around our Polish allies. Better not to place Patriots there at all or wait until they are functional.

Spending millions to kill each terrorist - Baltimore Sun

Spending millions to kill each terrorist - Baltimore Sun: "Is there any way to look at the war in Afghanistan as anything but a mounting failure? I don't think so. The 'metrics,' as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would say, aren't looking good.

This week, as the ninth anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war was observed, we learned that the death of each Taliban fighter we battle costs at least $50 million. That's a conservative estimate. It could actually be $100 million. This figure came not from the Pentagon, which goes to great lengths to conceal such accounting, but from an enterprising reporter named Matthew Nasuti, who works for Afghanistan Press.

Consider the source, you say. OK, but aside from the fact that Mr. Nasuti worked 'at a senior level' within the U.S. Air Force, math is math. Numbers don't tell the whole truth about anything, but they tell a lot.

The best estimate of Taliban killed annually by coalition forces is roughly 2,000.The direct cost to the Pentagon of waging war in Afghanistan for 2010 is about $100 billion. Indirect costs are approximately another $100 billion.

'One has to simply divide one number into the other,' says Mr. Nasuti. 'That calculation reveals that $100 million is being spent to kill each Taliban soldier.'

He cut the estimate in half by doubling the number of slain fighters to 4,000, even though that is highly unlikely. So, under the lower estimate, the cost to the American taxpayer to kill 20 individual Taliban members is a breathtaking $1 billion.

Using Mr. Nasuti's calculations, Killing the estimated 35,000 Taliban fighting the occupation would cost $1.75 trillion. We've been at it over there for nine years, and our generals say a military victory is not in the cards...

An inescapable conclusion on Afghanistan - Gordon Lubold -

An inescapable conclusion on Afghanistan - Gordon Lubold - "KABUL, Afghanistan — The Obama administration’s long-awaited assessment of the Afghanistan war may come as soon as next week. But commanders on the ground here have already reached their own verdict.

“We’re going to need more time,” says Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell.

Campbell runs Regional Command-East, an “area of responsibility” that includes several forward operating bases in Kunar Province near the Pakistan border. Since summer, he says, coalition forces have captured or killed some 3,500 insurgents in Kunar province. But they've also dropped 850 bombs in the process — leaving locals as frustrated with the coalition as they are with the Taliban.

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured Afghanistan’s eastern and southern stretches this week, he heard the same story again and again: While the United States is making gains in some areas, the security situation is improving in some areas, there are still big problems in others. The inescapable conclusion: The nine-year-old war isn’t going to end anytime soon.

At a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday, Gates said he will return to Washington "convinced that our strategy is working."

But back home, part of the administration's political strategy turned on the so-called "December review" — a vow to take a hard look at the success of the president's plan to build up the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, then start pulling out in July 2011.

Almost as soon as Obama promised a serious December review, the administration and the Pentagon started to downplay it. Coming so soon after the surge, it couldn’t be definitive. It would be less of a final grade and more of a midterm progress report. And, as military officials have begun to say, "2014 is the new 2011."...

-- bth: what Gen. Campbell forgot to mention is that we were chased out of Kunar a couple of years ago. So now we raid the place and bomb the crap out of it. Which is fine by me I'd prefer to see us fight in that province using raids and bombs. We need to reset our goals in Afghanistan to ones we can realistically and cost effectively achieve. Then the strategy and tactics can reset themselves.

Will Republicans take the P out of NPR? - Keach Hagey -

Will Republicans take the P out of NPR? - Keach Hagey - "NPR is facing the most serious threat to the “public” part of its identity since Newt Gingrich’s days as speaker, thanks to a resurgent, tea party-inspired Republican House with budget cuts on its mind and recent stumbles that have left the broadcaster vulnerable to its ideological critics on the right.

By far the greatest and most galvanizing of these issues was the firing of Juan Williams. But some Republicans also are seething over NPR’s decision to announce a $1.8 million grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by financier George Soros, just a few days before Williams was fired.

Republicans such as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Eric Cantor (Va.) — as well as conservative commentators such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck — all have cited the Open Society grant in their calls to strip federal funding from National Public Radio....

Bombings in Sweden | Video |

Bombings in Sweden | Video | "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

YouTube - USAF C17 crash July 2010.wmv

YouTube - USAF C17 crash July 2010.wmv: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Pakistan police avert 'massive' truck bomb attack

Pakistan police avert 'massive' truck bomb attack: "PESHAWAR: Police in northwestern Pakistan yesterday seized a pick-up truck packed with a tonne of explosives, averting an attack that they said could have caused mass destruction.

Dilawar Bangash, a local police chief in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said the attackers intended to use the truck bomb to target religious processions in the city of Kohat marking the Islamic holy month of Muharram.

Two suspects were arrested, he said, adding that two suicide vests were also seized in the operation.

'Thanks to God, they failed to carry out the attack. It could have caused massive destruction,' Khalid Umarzai, local administration chief told private TV channel Express 24/7.

Pakistan has stepped up security for Muharram, which begun on Wednesday.

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