Saturday, January 01, 2011

'Human bomb' spills beans on all-women Taliban death squads - The Times of India

'Human bomb' spills beans on all-women Taliban death squads - The Times of India: "Islamabad: Taliban have set up all women suicide squads to carry out deadly terror mission on both sides of the Afghan-Pak border, a captured 12-year-old girl has revealed.

Meena Gul, trained to be a 'human bomb' was apprehended from the Munda area, in Dir close to the Afghan border in January, and her disclosures have sent shivers down the spine of Pakistani security establishment. Gul said that women suicide bombers were trained for their deadly task in small cells on both sides of the porous border and were dispatched to their missions with a sermon, 'God will reward you with a place in heaven'.
The 12-year-old Afghan girl was quoted by the Express Tribune as having told the police that she trained in a group which was headed by her sister-in-law Zainab and she battled Pakistani troops dressed as a man. She claimed that her younger sister blew herself up in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, but she had managed to escape as she was too scared to die. ...

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Pakistanis Rally in Support of Blasphemy Law - NYTimes.com

Pakistanis Rally in Support of Blasphemy Law - NYTimes.com: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A crippling strike by Islamist parties brought Pakistan to a standstill on Friday as thousands of people took to the streets, and forced businesses to close, to head off any change in the country’s blasphemy law, which rights groups say has been used to persecute minorities, especially Christians.

The law was introduced in the 1980s under the military dictatorship of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq as part of a policy of promoting Islam to unite this deeply fractious society. Many attempts to revise the law have since been thwarted by the strong opposition of religious forces, which continue to gather strength.

In fiery speeches across all major cities and towns, religious leaders warned the government on Friday against altering the law, which carries a mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam. ...

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Irony Alert: US Expresses "Concern" Over Pakistan Holding Prisoners Without Charges, Torture and Extrajudicial Killings | MyFDL

Irony Alert: US Expresses "Concern" Over Pakistan Holding Prisoners Without Charges, Torture and Extrajudicial Killings | MyFDL: "Without even a hint that they realize the deep irony in their story, the New York Times yields front page space on Thursday to a report that the Obama administration now suddenly is concerned about prisoners who are being held without being charged, possibly subjected to torture or even killed without a judicial pronouncement of guilt. The irony, of course, is that although there is strong documentation that the US engages regularly in these same acts, the US now condemns Pakistan for these injustices....

63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan

63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan: "BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, with 63 percent of the public now opposed to U.S. involvement there, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Just 35 percent of survey respondents say they still support U.S. involvement.

The increase in opposition to U.S. involvement comes as pessimism about how the war is going is rising. According to a poll done Dec. 17-19, 56 percent of the public believes that 'things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan.'

'The war has not always been unpopular -- back in March, when a majority thought that the war was going well, the country was evenly divided. But by September, the number who said that things were going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan had dropped to 44 percent, and opposition to the war had grown to 58 percent,' said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. 'Today, with Americans remaining pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan, they also remain opposed to the war.'

There are, however, at least two groups where there is still a slim majority of support for the war -- the Republican Party establishment, and Tea Party activists. Here's a look at the partisan breakdown of supporters and oppositionists:

TEA PARTY: 52 percent favor, 45 percent oppose.

REPUBLICAN: 52 percent favor, 44 percent oppose.

CONSERVATIVE: 49 percent favor, 48 percent oppose.

DEMOCRAT: 24 percent favor, 74 percent oppose.
Story continues below

LIBERAL: 20 percent favor, 80 percent oppose.

INDEPENDENT: 35 percent favor, 63 percent oppose.

MODERATE: 32 percent favor, 66 percent oppose.

Income level also seems to play a significant role: 70 percent of people making under $50,000 annually said they oppose the war; only 54 percent of those making more than $50,000 annually said the same thing....

- bth: when more than 60% of Americans start agree on something, politicians need to pay attention. Short of a massive terrorist attach originating in Afghanistan, I do not see these polling numbers reversing.

Hero deserves a salute - BostonHerald.com

Hero deserves a salute - BostonHerald.com: "Gov. Deval Patrick is making staff changes as he prepares to launch his second term, and one of those left on the outside looking in is Secretary of Veterans’ Services Thomas G. Kelley.

Kelley on Tuesday was summoned by a Patrick underling and asked for his resignation, told only that the governor wants to move the office in a “different direction.” That is Patrick’s right, of course; Kelley, 71, was already a holdover from past Republican administrations.

But it’s worth pausing for a moment to remind people of the kind of public servant the commonwealth is losing.

“Brilliant leadership, bold initiative, and resolute determination” - at least, that’s how the official Medal of Honor citation described Kelley’s heroics in Vietnam. Yes, Kelley is one of 86 living recipients of the military’s highest award for valor, bestowed for his heroic actions as a 30-year-old Navy lieutenant on June 12, 1969, on the Ong Muong Canal. Those qualities could well describe his service as a tireless advocate for veterans in the years since he ended his military career.

Kelley is a Boston guy through and through, as committed an advocate for the commonwealth’s veterans as any person could be. We’d wish him well in retirement, but we know that word isn’t in his vocabulary.

Activists stunned by ouster of veterans’ services boss - BostonHerald.com

Activists stunned by ouster of veterans’ services boss - BostonHerald.com: "Veterans advocates yesterday reacted with shock to the sudden ouster of Veterans’ Services Secretary Tom Kelley, who was praised for his work on behalf of thousands of Bay Staters who have served in the military.

“His dismissal is a surprise to me,” said Thomas O. Paul, 62, of Chicopee, state commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars from 2009 to 2010. “Massachusetts is the leader in vets services and I count Kelley for that.”...

- bth: Sec. Tom Kelley has been an utmost professional. Honorable, accessible, courageous. I cannot say enough about this friend of seven years and national hero - winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and public servant for 4 Massachusetts Governors.

Family of WWI veteran looks forward to 110th birthday - CNN.com

Family of WWI veteran looks forward to 110th birthday - CNN.com: "Washington (CNN) -- The family of Frank Buckles, the nation's lone living veteran of World War I, hopes he makes it to his 110th birthday about a month from now, despite troubling signs he is on the decline.

Buckles, who was born February 1, 1901, is thought to be the world's oldest living war veteran. Buckles has slowed down considerably in just the past two months, according to his daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives with him at the family home near Charles Town, in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. A family friend who visited two weeks ago says he is awake just a few hours a day.

'When he's awake, he's there with us,' said David DeJonge, a Michigan portrait photographer who has spent the past decade documenting the final few veterans from the war that ended 92 years ago. With only one veteran left, DeJonge spends the remaining time helping Buckles represent the memory of his comrades.

Despite his advanced age, Buckles had been coming to Capitol Hill to try to persuade lawmakers to grant federal status to an existing World War I monument in Washington that was built in the 1930s. The monument currently honors only those who served from the District of Columbia.

'I have to,' Buckles told CNN when he came to Washington a year ago to testify as part of what he considers his responsibility to those who've gone before him.

Although passed by the House, the legislation, known as the Frank Buckles Memorial Act, remains stalled in the Senate. Passage would bestow federal status to both the D.C. location and another WWI memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. His family is concerned he may never live to see the bill enacted.

Last month, Buckles was not strong enough and could not make a trip to Washington to review renovations as they began at the D.C. War Memorial. The National Park Service hosted a tour showing the first real improvements in decades at the site, fixing a neglected walkway and dressing up a deteriorated dome and marble columns.

Learning of Buckles' decline, the office of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, sent word to the family last week that 'she would like to offer her thoughts and prayers to him,' at a time 'Mr. Buckles' health has taken a turn for the worse.'

As an Army corporal in what was known as the Great War, Buckles drove an ambulance in France.

Even if the monument becomes part of Buckles' legacy, his family is concerned the Pentagon has not fully considered what can be done to honor him after his death.

His daughter says the Military District of Washington will support an honors burial at Arlington, including an escort platoon, a horse-drawn casket arrival, a band and a firing party. She has expressed concern that Army officials have told her they cannot provide honor staff for any related memorial services that don't take place at the National Cemetery.

A proposal from Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, calls for ceremonies in the Capitol, where Buckles' casket would be displayed with honors. The family is concerned they would have to bear the cost of supporting the display and that the U.S military would decline to participate.

U.S. World War I veteran Frank Buckles is just about one month shy of his 110th birthday.

So DeJonge, the family friend who also serves as president of the WWI Memorial Foundation, told CNN he has asked American allies to help give Buckles a proper sendoff when the time comes.

'The French are in,' DeJonge confirmed, 'they plan to send a Defense Ministry official, and hope to contribute at least two honor guards and pallbearers.' A British defense official has told the family that the UK would send the air-vice marshal and possibly the British ambassador.

'It has long been my father's wish to be buried in Arlington, in the same cemetery that holds his beloved General (John. J.) Pershing (commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI),' Flanagan wrote, appealing for help from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia. 'I feel confident that the right thing will come to pass.'

- bth: perhaps the US army might yet take interest and honor this man, the last living veteran of WWI in the US, as the French and British are prepared to do. Why the US has not established a national monument to those of WWI absolutely astounds me. I believe I am familiar with the DC monument and it is lovely, but more can and should have been done. This is a simple request.

Report: Israelis Paid Spy $1.5M for Info on Syrian Nukes

Report: Israelis Paid Spy $1.5M for Info on Syrian Nukes: "CAIRO, Egypt -- Egyptian media released more details today about the breakup of an alleged Israeli spy ring, including leaked interrogation transcripts indicating Israeli intelligence was given information about a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in exchange for $1.5 million.

The Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm published a summary of the interrogation of Tareq Abdul Razzaq, an Egyptian national accused of spying for the Jewish state earlier this month in an operation purported to span Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the United Kingdom....

State-run media reported that the Egyptian government collaborated closely with Syria on al-Nijm's capture, providing the Syrians with details from Abdul Razzaq's interrogations.

Government newspaper Al-Ahram reported that an anonymous source in the Syrian foreign ministry confirmed Egypt "handed over to Damascus a dossier of sensitive technical information relating to Syria's nuclear program ... [that] has been a rich source of details for the discovery of an Israel spy network in Syria." Al-Nijm had supposedly been spying for Israel for 13 years before being executed in Syria last month.

The continued media frenzy over the alleged spy ring gives Egypt a boost in public opinion as the historic power's regional influence wanes and fallout continues from revelations contained in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

On Dec. 20, the Egyptian government announced that the 37-year-old Abdul Razzaq, along with two Israelis, had been recruiting telecommunications sector employees to tap the phones of Egyptian ministers before routing the calls through the United Kingdom to Israel.

"[The case] basically repositions Egypt as a major player in the region as it 'uncovers' a substantial Israeli spy ring," Adel Iskandar, professor of Arab Media at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said in an e-mail. "It shows good faith towards the Syrians and genuine competition with the Arab world's perennial foe Israel. ... While the cables reveal concert between the Egyptians and the Israelis, this spy leak may be an attempt to neutralize the media fallout of the WikiLeaks."...

-- bth: note how WikiLeaks has caused a shift in the way the Egyptian government reacts. Indeed Egypt's government is attempting to alter public opinion to appear more anti-israeli and more pro-arab.

Pakistan - Gilani assures NA of resolving drone strikes issue

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Gilani assures NA of resolving drone strikes issue: "ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Wednesday assured the National Assembly that he would resolve the issue of drone attacks by US forces in Tribal Areas of the country, terming the drone attacks ‘counter productive’.

Answering a point of order raised by parliamentarians from both treasury and opposition benches, the PM said that drone attacks were bringing tribes closer to terrorists.

He said the country’s military and political leadership had distanced local tribes from terrorists, but the drone attacks were creating sympathy for terrorists among locals, adding that Pakistan was asking the US to transfer the drone technology to it.

“Our military and political leadership had very ably alienated local tribesmen from the terrorists, but when a drone attack is carried out they get reunited again. This shows these (drone attacks) are counter productive, therefore we condemn it and we are against them,” he said.

“We have told the world and the US that this technology must be given to us so we take action on our own,” the PM said. Responding to a point raised by PML-Q member Faisal Saleh Hayat regarding the WikiLeaks disclosures about the country’s premier, Gilani said the WikkiLeaks revelations had no authenticity and were personal opinions of junior officers. He termed WikiLeaks ‘21st century diplomacy’.

“When they lack depth to say something, they leak such things,” he said, adding that WikiLeaks had also revealed many positive aspects of his personality.

“These leaks revealed that I wanted to negotiate with the Americans at the level of equality,” the premier said, adding that Pakistan, being a responsible country, was taking up the drone issue at all international forums. “Now, the world has started accepting our point of view,” he said....

- bth: fascinating to see how Wikileaks is impacting this debate in the Pak. parliament. Also it is interesting to see that the reason the Pak believe drones are ineffective is because it unified the locals in the area. No comment was made on whether it kills terrorists which it must be said might have some benefits too.

South Korea - North Korea Builds Up Special Forces - NYTimes.com

South Korea - North Korea Builds Up Special Forces - NYTimes.com: "SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has faster, more powerful tanks prowling the world's most heavily armed border and 200,000 special forces poised to carry out assassinations and cause havoc in South Korea, a major military review said Thursday.

Seoul's Defense Ministry report, released every two years, signals that the North's military threat has expanded. It comes as President Lee Myung-bak's administration scrambles to respond to criticism that it was unprepared for a Nov. 23 North Korean artillery attack on a front-line island that killed four people.

That attack, along with an alleged North Korean torpedoing of a warship in March, has prompted South Korea to define the North in the defense document as its 'enemy,' a stronger description than in 2008 when the North was only called a 'direct and serious threat.'

South Korean defense documents stopped referring to North Korea as 'the main enemy' — a constant subject of North Korean criticism — in 2004 amid then-warming ties. The North's state media angrily reacted to the new reference later Thursday, calling it a 'grave provocation' that could trigger war.

The new document says the North intends to rely on its nuclear program, special forces, long-range artillery, submarines and cyber warfare forces as a counterweight to South Korea's high-tech conventional military.

North Korea has 200,000 special operations forces, the report says, an increase from 180,000 in the ministry's last assessment in 2008. Those forces are aimed at carrying out assassinations and infiltrating and disrupting key facilities in South Korea, it said.

The North's army deploys many of its 13,600 long-range artillery guns along the Demilitarized Zone, ready to launch surprise artillery barrages on Seoul and its adjacent areas, the document said. Seoul is only about 30 miles (50 kilometers) away from the border.

The country also has developed a new kind of battle tank with better firepower and mobility than previous ones, and the modern tanks have been deployed near the border, it said. ...

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kevin Ivison Home

Kevin Ivison Home: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

YouTube - U2 - Peace On Earth / Walk On

YouTube - U2 - Peace On Earth / Walk On: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

NightWatch 20101229 - KGS - on Afghanistan

NightWatch 20101229 - KGS: ..."Afghanistan: A Coalition officer told the US press today that 'There is no practical way to secure the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and the U.S. military will fight insurgents outside Afghan villages where they are vulnerable.' The officer remarked that securing the border would take an inordinate amount of resources and would require more cooperation from tribes inside Pakistan.

Comment: NightWatch Readers should understand that the fight in Afghanistan primarily is waged by Afghan Pashtun fighters who live in Afghanistan and hate foreigners, especially from Christian nations. The data show that Pakistan is important as the channel for logistic support to the Afghan fighters. Pakistan is not a recruitment base for anti-government fighters in Afghanistan and not a winter refuge.

The Afghan Pashtuns fight where they live. They get ammunition and supplies from Pakistan. They do not spend the winter in Pakistan, which well informed Readers and old hands recognize as complete nonsense.

The purpose of controlling the Pakistan border is to stop the flow of supplies from Pakistan, or Iran in the four western provinces. Even in open sources, it is clear that truck convoys carrying explosive fertilizer, ammunition and other supplies enter Afghanistan via its main border crossing points with impunity.

Press statements from the Coalition command in December have perpetuated a story line that security conditions in Afghanistan would improve if Pakistan would cooperate in sealing the border. In fact, the data show that control of the two major border crossing points so as to halt the flood of fertilizer and garage door openers would do a lot to undermine Taliban capabilities. The supplies come from Pakistan and some from Iran, not the manpower.

Another narrative is that Coalition forces are driving the anti-government forces out of the main cities into sparsely populated areas where they can be killed and are protecting the major population centers. Open source data for November and December show that Kandahar, Ghazni and Jalalabad cities have experienced the highest number of Taliban attacks ever. Herat City is under Iranian protection so it seldom has many attacks.

Kabul also experiences few attacks, but the conventional wisdom is that President Karzai buys protection for Kabul. Thus, the open source data do not show that any major population centers are being protected....

- bth: I find NightWatch's analysis very enlightening. So fertilizer bombs require ammonium nitrate which is made in 2 locations in Pakistan. Because it is bulky it travels in trucks which means it must come through the controlled passes. One wonders what would happen if we put a check point behind the Afghan checkpoint to inspect trucks destroying all with this material. Also i watched an interview with a Taliban leader in Ghazni and he specifically said that they could attack Kabul but chose not to which seems to confirm what this writer is saying. Last one wonders what would happen if we pulled back from the Pashtun regions and kept our air bases near and on call along with night raids from special forces.

Roubini: 'Housing Prices Can Only Move Down' - CNBC

Roubini: 'Housing Prices Can Only Move Down' - CNBC: "According to economist Nouriel Roubini, the housing market is in a double dip.

And negative Case-Shiller Home Price numbers out today only confirm that unpleasant truth.

'It's pretty clear the housing market has already double dipped,' says Roubini. 'And the rate of decline is stronger than in previous months,' he said of the new housing data.

Aside from below trend economic growth, there are two factors specific to the housing market that are putting downward pressure on home prices.

The first factor is the expiration of federal home buyer tax credits for first time home buyers.

'If you look at the data, Case Shiller has been falling every month since the tax credit expired in May. Everyone who wanted to buy a home did so by April,' Roubini said.

'That tax credit stole demand from the future and its expiration led to another 30% fall in home sales, pushing Case & Shiller lower for the last few months,' Roubini wrote in a text message earlier this morning.

The second factor putting downward pressure on home prices is the ongoing chaos with mortgage documentation, and the consequent suspension by banks of mortgage foreclosure proceedings—which has actually worsened the underlying problems in the housing market.

'There has been an effective moratorium on foreclosure,' said Roubini.

And the beginning of the end of that moratorium means more housing supply is about to become available on the market.

'The shadow inventory of not-yet-foreclosed homes—due to the moratorium—will surge in the next year,' Roubini says.

Both factors, taken in concert, set up a scenario where market fundamentals put downward pressure on prices: 'Supply will increase, demand will drop,' Roubini said. ...

- bth: look out below.

Last police officer in Mexico border town vanishes - World news - Americas - msnbc.com

Last police officer in Mexico border town vanishes - World news - Americas - msnbc.com: "CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The last remaining police officer in the Mexican border town of Guadalupe has disappeared, and prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state said Tuesday they have started a search for her.

Twenty-eight-year-old officer Ericka Gandara held out despite the desertions and resignations that left her as the only officer in the Juarez Valley town, which was served by eight police a year ago.
Story: 2 mutilated bodies found in Acapulco

But Gandara hasn't been seen since Dec. 23. While some local media have reported Gandara was kidnapped, prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said her relatives have not filed a kidnap complaint....

- bth: High Noon on the Mexican border. Isn't this more relevant to US security than what happens in shit hole valleys of Afghanistan in 2011?

Malaysia colleges a hotbed for militant recruiting

Malaysia colleges a hotbed for militant recruiting: "KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S universities have become prime recruiting grounds for Islamic militants looking for youngsters to draw into terrorist networks, security experts warn.

Unlike neighbouring Indonesia and Thailand, the moderate Muslim-majority nation has remained largely free of terror attacks but there are fears that lax admission policies have created a haven for jihadists.

A string of arrests and detentions this year have highlighted the growing presence of radicals using Malaysia as a base to sign up supporters and plan attacks. ...

US: No way to seal Afghan-Pakistan border | Antiwar Newswire

US: No way to seal Afghan-Pakistan border | Antiwar Newswire: "There's no practical way for U.S. troops to seal Afghanistan's vast border with Pakistan and stop all Taliban fighters from slipping through, so they are focusing on defending vulnerable towns and fighting insurgents on Afghan soil, a U.S. military commander said Tuesday.

Army Col. Viet Luong said that 'to secure the border in the traditional sense' would 'take an inordinate amount of resources.' He said it also would require far more cooperation from the tribes inside Pakistan who often provide Taliban fighters safe passage.

Other senior U.S. military officials have said they hope the Pakistan military does more to shut down Taliban hideouts. But the U.S. has denied reports that American forces are pushing to expand special operations raids inside Pakistan's tribal areas to target militants.

'It's naive to say that we can stop . . . forces coming through the border,' said Luong, who oversees troops in a part of eastern Afghanistan that includes the volatile Khost province and 261 kilometers of border.

Instead, Luong said, he is choosing to fight insurgents outside Afghan villages where they are more vulnerable anyway....

Suicide bombings in Pakistan: the bloodiest year | Analysis & Opinion |

Suicide bombings in Pakistan: the bloodiest year | Analysis & Opinion |:... "On an average, the “human bombs” killed just over a 100 people each month, which tells you just how much the country has been sucked into the fires of extremism. The latest attack was carried out, according to Pakistani media. by a burqa-clad woman bomber in a food distribution centre where people displaced by the fighting earlier between security forces and Taliban militants had gathered for aid.

Amir provides an interesting breakup of the suicide attacks by geography and by the targets of the attacks. There isn’t a part of Pakistan untouched by the suicide bomber, though Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or North West Frontier Province as it was formerly called, was by far the most common staging ground for such attacks. followed by the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and then Punjab. Of the 52 suicide attacks, not counting the latest one, 37 took place in the Pashtun belt of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

Quite a dramatic transformation of the battleground because suicide bombing in Pakistan was earlier seen as a Punjabi phenomenon with most of the attacks in Punjab and Sind, and none in the Pashtun heartland of the northwest. The trigger, according to strategic affairs writer Manzar Zaidi ,was provided by the operation to evict suspected militants from Islamabad’s Lal Masjid in 2007. That year saw a dramatic increase in the number of suicide attacks over the previous year with the sharpest rise in the northwest, he wrote in a piece for Dawn back in August. Many others believe the raid on the mosque was the turning point in the Pakistani state’s conflicted ties with militant groups.

The targets of the suicide attackers vary too. While in the northwest the rise of the suicide bomber has resulted in Muslims killings Muslims and Pasthuns killing Pashtuns, in the Punjab, the targeting is much more precise. The attacks have been concentrated on Shias, Ahmadiyas, and within the Sunni divide, on the Barelviswhom the Wahabis and the Deobandi Taliban consider as kafirs because they visit shrines of saints, offer prayers and believe music, poetry and dance can lead to god.

Pakistan has a battle on its hands, quite apart from the war in Afghanistan. Indeed the suicide bombings show up the deep fissures in its society as much as the militants’ wrath against the Pakistani state for turning or trying to turn against them. But what if the foreign forces were to leave Afghanistan, which is where the story begins ? Will it stop the bomber in Pakistan or will he continue on a self-destruct path ? Robert Pape, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and coauthor of “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop it,” suggests that historicallysuicide bombers have targeted what they see as local military occupation. So suicide bombings in Iraq are down, because the U.S. military is pulling out. Likewise in Gaza and the West Bank where the attacks are down “like 99 percent” following the Israeli withdrawal, Pape is quoted as saying in the Christian Science Monitor.

- bth: worth reading in full.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Taliban deliberately wounding children to gain base access?

Afghanistan War | U.S. Troops | War Photos: ..."Razia’s father had appeared at a small, American compound earlier that day, his daughter’s limp body in his arms. He accidentally spilled boiling water on her, he explained to the translator. She needed help.

A quick check of the girl told the medics he was lying. Over half of her body was scalded, the tissue blistered and raw. But the injury came from grease, not water. Even more telling, she had burns between her toes, running up her thigh and into her genitals, under her arm and behind her knee. The mechanism of injury didn’t add up to the story they were given.

“As a medic, you see that there is no way for that injury to have manifested itself from the family’s description,” Adame said.

Patterns of violence also point to an intentional design behind the abuse. Raines recalled a rash of young girls coming in with gunshot wounds to the stomach earlier this year.

“It’s usually not fatal, it’s not a killing shot,” he explained. “But it’s a bloody and traumatic scene so the military doesn’t hesitate to try and save that life. And throughout that whole process their escort follows us along and gains an immense amount of intelligence.”

In a two-week period over November and December, the medevac crews from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Dwyer treated more burned children than soldiers hit by improvised explosive devices, the most common war-related injury here in Helmand.

For Adame, a father of two himself, Razia was one child too many that week. As the helicopter landed back at Camp Dwyer he walked away from the Blackhawk, its propellers still spinning furiously. Pulling out a pack of Marlboro reds he breathed deeply, seeking space to deal with what he described as “the anger boiling up inside of me.”...

- bth: this article is worth reading in full. It concludes that the Taliban is burning and gunshot wounding in the abdomen girls in order to gain access as an escort on to US military bases.

Boston area housing values drop

Boston area housing values drop: ...."Nationwide home prices in October fell in all 20 cities and six areas -- including Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami and Portland -- notched their lowest home values since prices began to fall around the country in 2005. The recent negative numbers is attributed to the sluggish economy and the after affects of the federal homebuyers tax credit, which expired in September and lured many buyers into the market earlier this year.

'There is no good news in October's report. Home prices across the country continue to fall,'' said David M. Blitzer, chair of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

- bth: with tge value of middle class taxpayers primary asset falling and the ripple effect this will have on spending habits and construction trades, one wonders what good news could be on the horizon?

N.Korean troops' new uniform alarms S.Korea

N.Korean troops' new uniform alarms S.Korea: "Some North Korean troops stationed along the border have donned a camouflage uniform similar to that worn by South Koreans, apparently to practise intrusion drills, a defence ministry official said Tuesday.

The move prompted the South to advance the supply of new uniforms for its own troops to avoid confusion, the official told journalists in a background briefing.

'It's been confirmed some North Korean frontline troops are wearing uniforms with woodland camouflage pattern which is similar to those of South Korean uniforms,' the official said.

'Our judgment is that the North's special forces stationed there are staging intrusion drills wearing the uniforms.'

The South's military has begun supplying new 'digital camouflage' uniforms and is considering speeding up the distribution following the North's move.

The North is believed to have some 200,000 special forces and to have deployed some 50,000 of them along the border with the South, the ministry said. ...

- bth: curious

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s Representative: "New government below standard and weak" | Gorilla’s Guides

Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s Representative: "New government below standard and weak" | Gorilla’s Guides

During Friday prayers on 17 Muharram 1432/ Friday, 24 Dec 2010 in Imam Hussein mosque, in Karbala the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Sheikh Abdel-Mahdi al-Karbalai described the government now being formed as being "not up to the standards required by the Iraki people". (ممثل السيستاني في كربلاء ينتقد التشكيلة الوزارية الجديدة ويدعو لمحاربة الفساد | Gorilla’s Guides)

He said that ministers had been chosen to appease the leaders of political blocs rather than on the basis of professionalism and expertise, competence and integrity. The Sheikh who is a confidant of influential Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and whose sermons reflect the grand ayatollah’s thinking suggested the new government could prove to be weaker than the previous government. He called for the effective anti-corruption measures and for ministerial accountability.

Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010 | Informed Comment

Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010 | Informed Comment

10. “There has been significant progress in tamping down the insurgency in Afghanistan.”

9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.

  • Fact: In a recent [pdf] poll, only 36% of Afghans said they were confident that US troops could provide security. Only 32% of Afghans now have a favorable view of the United States over-all.
Afghan poll Dec. 6, 2010

Dec. 6, 2010, ABC/BBC et al. poll of Afghans

8. The “surge” and precision air strikes are forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

....

bth: worth reading in full. Draw your own conclusion.

U.N. Maps Rate Afghanistan Less Secure - WSJ.com

U.N. Maps Rate Afghanistan Less Secure - WSJ.com: "Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year's fighting season, countering the Obama administration's optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal was able to view two confidential 'residual risk accessibility' maps, one compiled by the U.N. at the annual fighting season's start in March 2010 and another at its tail end in October. The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country's districts into four categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.

In the October map, just as in March's, nearly all of southern Afghanistan—the focus of the coalition's military offensives—remained painted the red of 'very high risk,' with no noted improvements. At the same time, the green belt of 'low risk' districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled.

The U.N.'s October map upgraded to 'high risk' 16 previously more secure districts in Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar provinces; only two previously 'high risk' districts, one in Kunduz and one in Herat province, received a safer rating.

A Pentagon report mandated by Congress drew similar conclusions when it was released last month. It said attacks were up 70% since 2009 and threefold since 2007. As a result of the violence, the Taliban still threaten the Afghan government, according to the report. The White House's National Security Council declined to comment.

The director of communications for the U.N. in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, said he couldn't comment on classified maps. But, he said, 'in the course of 2010, the security situation in many parts of the country has become unstable where it previously had not been so. There is violence happening in more parts of the country, and this is making the delivery of humanitarian services more difficult for the U.N. and other organizations. But we are continuing to deliver.'...

- bth: this doesn't smell like victory.

Karzai Releasing Scores Of Drug Traffickers In Afghanistan, WikiLeaks Cables Show

Karzai Releasing Scores Of Drug Traffickers In Afghanistan, WikiLeaks Cables Show: "President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly released well-connected officials convicted of or charged with drug trafficking in Afghanistan, frustrating efforts to combat corruption and providing additional evidence that the United States' top ally in the country is himself corrupt.

'On numerous occasions we have emphasized with Attorney General Aloko the need to end interventions by him and President Karzai, who both authorize the release of detainees pre-trial and allow dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court,' reads a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to The New York Times. 'Despite our complaints and expressions of concern to the [government], pre-trial releases continue.'

Karzai's ability to release prisoners comes from the transfer of detainees from the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility to the Afghan National Detention Facility, according to the cables. The transfers began in 2007, a year that saw one prisoner released pre-trial. In 2008, Karzai released 104. Halfway through 2009, when one cable was written, he had released 45 already....

- bth: is this man worth dying for?

Israeli foreign minister: Peace deal ‘impossible,’ ‘forbidden’ | Raw Story

Israeli foreign minister: Peace deal ‘impossible,’ ‘forbidden’ | Raw Story: "Israel's foreign minister said Sunday a peace deal with the Palestinians is impossible under current conditions and that Israel should pursue a lesser deal instead — a concept the Palestinians swiftly rejected.

The latest diplomatic spat between the two sides came as violence along the Israel-Gaza border simmered. After days of accelerated Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel and Israeli airstrikes in response, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians on the border early Sunday.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, told a conference of Israeli diplomats that instead of a full peace deal, Israel should seek a long-term, interim agreement on security and economic matters. Palestinians have consistently rejected that approach.

'It's not only that it is impossible' to reach an overall agreement, he said. 'It is simply forbidden.'...

- bth: its hard to imagine anything progressing with Lieberman in a senior position within the Israeli government

Understanding wounded brains helps soldiers: Top Army official | Raw Story

Understanding wounded brains helps soldiers: Top Army official | Raw Story: "The brains of US soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury remain a mystery to the US armed forces, according to a top US Army official.

'The issue is, we just don't know that much about the brain,' Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice-chief of staff, said in an interview on ABC's 'This Week' Sunday.

He continued, 'We automatically assume so many times that a person that's in a blast has a concussion. Many times, they don't have a concussion. Instead, they have posttraumatic stress.'

Gen. Chiarelli told host Christiane Amanpour that understanding soldiers' wounded brains is the key to meeting America's 'moral obligation' to help them transition into civilian life.

'You know, the problem with post-traumatic stress is that in the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health will tell you, for regular civilians, it is 12 years between the initiating event and when someone first seeks help,' he said....

- bth: Gen. Chiarelli might know a lot more if Tricare were authorized to fund brain injury rehab.

Afghanistan to look into missing medicine | Antiwar Newswire

Afghanistan to look into missing medicine | Antiwar Newswire: "The Afghanistan Defense Ministry said Sunday it will investigate missing U.S.-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant for its army and police.

A statement said that the ministry will asses and investigate how much is missing from the $42 million worth of medical goods the U.S. has donated this year.

The statement came after Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press last week that an investigation had been launched into the issue, and that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali had been removed from his post as part of the inquiry. Three officials from the country's top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, were fired, he said then.

It's unclear just how much has disappeared from the medical goods the U.S. has donated this year. U.S. officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans.

The Americans have repeatedly urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to root out government corruption to show that his administration can be a true partner in re-establishing control over the country. However, many anti-corruption campaigns have stalled. Last summer, Karzai blocked an investigation into high-level aides supposedly accepting bribes....

- bth: total corruption

Haqqani Network Quelled, at Least Temporarily, by Raids - NYTimes.com

Haqqani Network Quelled, at Least Temporarily, by Raids - NYTimes.com: ..."Afghan and allied commanders say that the increased raids against the Haqqani network are just a piece of the broader counterinsurgency strategy of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, and the Karzai government, to win over the population with good governance and economic opportunity, as well as with improved security.

And this puts the United States in direct competition with the Haqqanis. “The Haqqani network’s goal remains territory,” said a third NATO official in Kabul. “While it does not have the capacity to unseat the government in Kabul, nor to really govern, it wants to seize territory because that allows it to generate income ‘Mafia-like.’ ”...

- bth: this article is worth reading in full.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Way News - US medicines for Afghan soldiers disappear

My Way News - US medicines for Afghan soldiers disappear: "KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S.-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant to keep the new Afghan army and police healthy have been disappearing before reaching Afghan military hospitals and clinics, and the government said it is removing the army's top medical officer from his post as part of an investigation into alleged corruption.

Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali was being removed from his post as part of the inquiry. Three officials from the country's top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, have been fired, he said.

It's unclear just how much has gone missing of the $42 million worth of medical goods the U.S. has donated this year, and whether any Afghan soldiers have died as a result. U.S. officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans....