Saturday, February 12, 2011

Musharraf allegedly knew of Bhutto plot -

Musharraf allegedly knew of Bhutto plot - "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had prior knowledge of the Taliban plot to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, a joint investigation determined.

Bhutto was killed in 2007 following a campaign rally for her Pakistan People's Party. She had returned to Pakistan from exile to run in January 2008 parliamentary elections.

Federal investigators investigating the assassination said 'Musharraf had prior knowledge' that the Pakistani Taliban was plotting to kill Bhutto, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

911 Memorial and to our friends the Coombs God's Speed

Detained US official met Taliban-linked extremists - Telegraph

Detained US official met Taliban-linked extremists - Telegraph: "Sources close to the investigation said Raymond Davis, 36, had made a series of telephone calls to South Waziristan, a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan synonymous with militant activity.

The mystery surrounding Davis has deepened since he was arrested in Lahore two weeks ago. He has told police officers he shot dead two men in self defence.

The US insists he is a diplomat based at the embassy in Islamabad and should be granted immunity.

However, security sources have leaked a series of details suggesting that he may have had a clandestine role.

'His phone records clearly show he was in contact with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for what reason we can only speculate,' said a police officer

A US consulate employee who shot dead two motorcyclists in apparent self-defence has been charged with two counts of murder.
- bth: isn't this curious. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. One wonders who the 2 were that he shot?

Indonesian cleric's trial puts focus on rising militancy | Reuters

Indonesian cleric's trial puts focus on rising militancy | Reuters

(Reuters) - The spiritual leader of the outlawed Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiah went back on trial Thursday in a case that refocuses attention on Indonesia's fight against Islamic extremism.

The charges against Abu Bakar Bashir, which carry the death penalty and which he denies, include setting up and financing a terror training camp that plotted to kill President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The trial began in the same week as two frenzied attacks by militant Muslim mobs. The hearing was immediately adjourned on a technicality until Monday.

Indonesia has won praise for largely defeating Islamic terror, but analysts and rights groups are concerned a recent spike in religious intolerance shows extremism still has a hold on the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Foreign investment has poured into Indonesia's bond and stock markets thanks to improved political stability and successful efforts to combat Islamic militancy since the last significant attack -- the bombing of two hotels in Jakarta in 2009.

But this week has twice seen mobs of youths running riot in the name of defending Islam -- first killing three members of the Ahmadiyya sect that is considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, and then torching two churches to protest against the perceived light sentence of a Catholic accused of blasphemy....

Multiculturalism has failed, says French president - Yahoo! News

Multiculturalism has failed, says French president - Yahoo! News: "PARIS (AFP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Thursday that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

'My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure,' he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

'Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want... a society where communities coexist side by side.

'If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,' the right-wing president said.

'The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women... freedom for little girls to go to school,' he said.

'We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,' Sarkozy said in the TFI channel show.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's ex-prime minister John Howard and Spanish ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar have also recently said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.

Merkel in October said efforts towards multiculturalism in Germany had 'failed, totally.'...

- bth: I think it is hugely significant that so many western leaders are declaring multi-culturalism dead. It seems a tipping point in Europe in particular has been reached.

YouTube - getting ambushed by the damn taliban

YouTube - getting ambushed by the damn taliban

YouTube - NATO - Afghanistan: Highway 1 IED Prevention

YouTube - NATO - Afghanistan: Highway 1 IED Prevention: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

YouTube - Kleines Kettenkraftrad SdKfz 2

YouTube - Kleines Kettenkraftrad SdKfz 2: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Taliban Militants Estimated at 35,000

Taliban Militants Estimated at 35,000: "There are approximately 35,000 Taliban militants all over Afghanistan, Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.

While emphasising on doing a proper survey, Ministry of Defence spokesperson, Gen. Azimi, said there are roughly 25 to 35 Taliban recruits all over the country.

'We estimate the number of Taliban insurgents at 25 to 35,000, but this is not established and is just a guess,' said Gen. Azimi.

The Ministry of Defence classifies the Taliban into three groups: The First are the ones fighting against the government and foreign forces, the second are those who are 'hired' to continue the fight and the third are those who only fight in exchange for money.

Meanwhile, Gen. Azimi claimed that the Afghan forces are able to undertake security responsibility for the country.

A commission comprised of Afghans and foreigners has recently been set up to be in charge of the transition process.

Ministry of Defence wants security transition to be started from partially insecure areas.

'The areas in Afghanistan should be categorised in low-level, medium level and high level insecurity, and the transition should begin from medium level,' Gen. Azimi said.

The Ministry of Defence claims to be ready to undertake security responsibility, but emphasises that internatonal community should stick to its commitments and equip the Afghan security forces

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Democracy as a Streetcar?

NightWatch 20110209 - KGS
In 1995 Prime Minister Erdogan said, "Democracy is like a streetcar, when you come to your stop you get off." Democracy as a tool is a different view of democracy from that which Americans and most Europeans hold. It accurately describes what Hamas did and maybe a guide for what other groups will do or have begun to do.

Nike Site Locations & Status Before Radar How Were Air Attacks Detected ?

Nike Site Locations & Status

And you thought the Nike Acquisition Radar was old fashioned!

Before Radar How Were Air Attacks Detected ?


bth: a fascinating website worth exploring in full.

Time for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan - president - Story - World - 3 News

Time for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan - president - Story - World - 3 News: "Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai says it is time foreign troops, including the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team, left his country.

Mr Karzai says the troops are now 'hindering progress.'

But both the New Zealand and Australian Defence Ministers disagree.

The Provincial Reconstruction Teams have been in Afghanistan for almost ten years....

- bth: Karzai wants the troops to leave and the private contractors to leave but the foreign governments to let their money continue to flow to Afghanistan, this time through his corrupt government offices.

KF-16 fighter jets carry 'smart' bombs to neutralize N. Korea's artillery

"The Air Force said Wednesday that it is deploying satellite-guided joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) on its KF-16 fighter jets, enhancing the capability to neutralize long-range North Korean artillery.

The South Korean Air Force has been working with the U.S. military since 2008 to modify the KF-16's computer systems to carry the all-weather 'smart' bombs guided by an internal navigation system.

'The JDAM is considered the most optimal munition to neutralize long-range artillery pieces hidden in mountain caves in North Korea,' the Air Force said in a statement.

- bth: I think this is a significant development.

Chase admits it erred in foreclosing on troops - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Chase admits it erred in foreclosing on troops - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times: "WASHINGTON — Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced foreclosure on their homes and illegally high interest rates, witnesses told House lawmakers Wednesday.

A top official from JPMorgan Chase & Co. acknowledged at a hearing before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the lender made mistakes affecting thousands of troops and has refunded them for overcharges.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for the entire financial services industry,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the committee’s chairman. “I have said recently and I will say again now, that our nation’s war fighters and their families should not have to fight to keep their piece of the American dream while they are on foreign ground defending that fundamental right for all of us.”

Other banks have made similar mistakes, according to testimony before the committee. But the extent of those errors wasn’t made clear at Wednesday’s hearing.

Congress began taking steps as far back as 1812 to make sure soldiers wouldn’t suffer financially while serving their country. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, active-duty troops pay 6 percent interest on debts and aren’t supposed to face foreclosure.

But according to a lawyer representing service members, problems emerged during recent mobilizations for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan:...

- bth: the problem was that the lenders did not obey the law and continued to abuse military personnel. The executive branch and judicial branch failed to hold financial institutions accountable and so the practice of abuse continued. Similar problem happened with reserve and guard units that were activated. It takes bringing these executives to congress to admit that the problem exists. It will take criminal prosecution of individual executives for this problem to be internally rectified among big lenders.

Churches destroyed after blasphemy sentence handed down -

Churches destroyed after blasphemy sentence handed down - "Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Three Christian churches in Indonesia were destroyed by an angry mob during clashes with police Tuesday that erupted after a local court handed down a verdict against a Christian man accused of blasphemy against Islam, authorities said.

The man was given a five-year sentence, said national police spokesman Col. Boy Rafli Amar, but the protesters wanted him to face a stiffer penalty.

The destroyed churches were in Temanggung, Central Java, Amar said. 'The scene is now under police control,' he said. 'It's calm but security is high.'

Security personnel are searching for those responsible for the attack on the churches, and authorities are 'asking local religious leaders to stay calm and find diplomatic ways to solve the problem.'

The attacks were the second violent incident against minority religious groups in Indonesia in the past three days. On Sunday, a mob of about 1,000 people, wielding knives and stones, attacked about 25 members of the Muslim minority sect, Ahmadiyah, in Cikeusik village in West Java's Banten province. Three people were killed and six others injured. The crowd opposed the presence of the Ahmadiyah in the village and demanded the group stop its activities.

Amateur video of the incident obtained by Human Rights Watch showed people pummeling what looked like lifeless bodies with sticks and rocks. The video has been posted on the internet, fueling public outrage.

In a televised statement Monday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the violence against Ahmadiyah and ordered a thorough investigation. Human rights activists, however, are calling for the government to revoke a ministerial decree issued in 2008 that bans the community's religious activities.

'How many Ahmadiyah have to die at the hands of mobs before the police step in?' said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. 'The Indonesian government should end this wave of hate crimes and immediately revoke the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree, which encourages these vicious attacks.'...

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Where are China’s Killer Drones? | Danger Room |

Where are China’s Killer Drones? | Danger Room | ...."China does possess prototypes for at least four medium-size drones similar in dimension to the Predator and Reaper. These include the propeller-driven Yilong and BZK-005 and the jet-powered Tianchi and WJ-600. The BZK-005 is the only one of these four drones to show up in a photo depicting a seemingly operational environment. That photo, seen above, was leaked onto the Internet in October 2009 and showed just two BZK-005s at what appeared to be an active PLAAF airstrip. Otherwise, China’s four medium drones appear to be mere prototypes. And only the WJ-600 is said to be capable of carrying weapons.

What’s holding China back? Engines, for one. Chinese industry has not proved capable of developing reliable military-grade motors. That’s been the biggest thing holding back China’s new fighters and choppers — and now apparently drones, too.

“Another obstacle probably is real-time, on-time delivery of precision photo imagery,” observed Arthur Ding, an analyst based in Taiwan. The Pentagon possesses scores of communications satellites for linking drones, ground troops and imagery analysts; China has just a handful of similar spacecraft. The same communication problem could also inhibit the PLA’s ability to control its UAVs.

But China’s biggest shortfall is probably not a matter of hardware. It takes nearly 200 skilled pilots, maintainers and analysts to support a single sortie by a high-end drone airplane. “There’s nothing unmanned about them,” former Air Force intel chief Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula said about cutting-edge drones. After a decade of war, the Pentagon employs tens of thousands of experienced robot-handlers. Hardware aside, it could take many years for China to build similar human capital.

Overall, the Chinese “are about two decades behind the U.S. in military technology,” Pike asserted. Hardware, software and manpower equivalent to what the Pentagon possessed in 1990 are all perfectly adequate for building aircraft carriers, attack choppers and even stealth fighters. But they won’t get you a lethal drone air force like America’s — at least not any time soon.

- bth: I believe there is no reason China cannot build a drone force right now except that they choose not to do so. It is rare that I think Wired is wrong. But this is one of them. To say China cannot build drone engines is to ignore that they are now likely the leading producer of engines of all sizes. Drone engines are usually piston based anyway. A lack of trained pilots may be a viable excuse, but that is easily rectified if they choose. Read time video? Please. That is nonsense. Maybe their stuff hasn't been ruggedized for military applications but that is not a 2 decade undertaking.

US air force backtracks over WikiLeaks ban | World news |

US air force backtracks over WikiLeaks ban | World news | "The US air force has backtracked after issuing guidance last week banning the families of staff from reading classified material released by WikiLeaks.

The guidance also warned that the families faced prosecution as spies if they read the leaked diplomatic cables.

But the air force, seeking to calm a growing row, said on Monday night that the advice had not been sanctioned by headquarters and it had been removed fromits website.

The row illustrates the extent to which the Obama administration has struggled to respond to the WikiLeaks disclosures, at times appearing sanguine and at others imposing Kafkaesque bans.

The federal government has warned millions of its employees not to read the thousands of state department documents, saying they remain classified, even though they have been published in the Guardian, the New York Times and other newspapers.

In the latest development, lawyers for the Air Force Materiel Command, one of the biggest branches of the service and which conducts research and development of weapons, issued guidance on 3 February that extended the ban for the first time to families of military staff, saying they too would be subject to prosecution under the Espionage Act.

The lawyers said: 'If a family member of an air force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage.'...

- bth: one step back from stupidity

Jim Webb To Retire From Senate

Jim Webb To Retire From Senate: "RICHMOND, Va. — Freshman Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia announced Wednesday he will retire when his term ends next year, deepening the challenge to his party as it struggles to maintain a Senate majority in the 2012 elections.

In an e-mail announcement, the 65-year-old former Navy secretary said that after much thought and consideration, he had decided to return to the private sector. He offered no additional details about his plans but said he has 'every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.'

The announcement leaves Democrats scrambling to field a strong candidate who can keep the GOP from regaining the seat lost by Republican Sen. George Allen, who was ousted by Webb by about 9,000 votes in the 2006 election. Allen, a former governor and congressman, is running for his old seat but faces primary opposition.

Webb's exit poses potential problems for Democrats, who are clinging to a narrow majority in the Senate and have struggled in state elections since President Barack Obama's 2008 win....

- bth: this is a sad loss for those interested in improving accountability in the Army

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Poll: 72 Percent Of Americans Want Faster Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Poll: 72 Percent Of Americans Want Faster Withdrawal From Afghanistan: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Air Force Warns Everyone Is a Criminal for Reading WikiLeaks -- News from

Air Force Warns Everyone Is a Criminal for Reading WikiLeaks -- News from "Is it a hint at mass prosecutions to come, or simply another example of the administration’s bluster overreaching and coming off downright absurd?

It is unclear, but the US Air Force is certainly capturing headlines today with a “guidance” to its service members that not only are they at risk of prosecution if they read WikiLeaks, but that their families and everyone else are as well.

The release, dated Thursday but only coming to public knowledge today, cautions that anyone who reads the documents could be prosecuted for “espionage under the Espionage Act,” and cautions members to make sure their families don’t try to read the whistleblower’s leaks.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force insisted the guidance was designed “to give guidance to military and civilian service members and employees to control their young’uns,” but now say that the warnings are under review based on reports that there may be a secret, alternative guidance from the Justice Dept.

Though administration officials have raised the possibility that the seldom-used Espionage Act could be used against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (even this appears to be a matter of no small speculation) for releasing the files, there has never in US history been an attempted prosecution of a citizen for espionage for having read a website, nor does it seem like such moves are immediately forthcoming.

- bth: what a farce this has become. Laughable.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Documents show Army's disservice to broken soldiers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Documents show Army's disservice to broken soldiers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "WASHINGTON — The Army's special medical units should be healing more than 9,300 soldiers entrusted to their care.

But a nine-month probe by the Tribune-Review found America's sick and injured soldiers must struggle to mend inside 38 Warrior Transition units the Army has turned into dumping grounds for criminals, malingerers and dope addicts.

Originally designed to treat the wounded from twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, after nearly a decade of battle these barracks snag soldiers in red tape. Despite an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, brain injuries and substance abuse linked to repeated combat deployments, soldiers sometimes spend years desperately seeking psychological care.

Overlooked, over-medicated and overseen by a stressed staff, the hardest hit often are in the Army National Guard and Reserves.

Picked by President Obama's administration in early 2009 to alleviate suffering in the units, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Noel Koch said his tenure ended abruptly in April when he and his investigators at the Pentagon's Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy were in the midst of a nationwide investigation similar to the Trib probe.

After compiling reams of audits, reports and interviews with commanders, hospital personnel and patients nationwide and in Europe documenting these problems, Koch said he was given the choice of resigning or being fired by his boss, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley.

Koch says he quit.

'They're trying to fight two wars at the same time, and everything is breaking down,' said Koch, a Vietnam veteran and high-ranking official in President Ronald Reagan's administration. 'The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is a good man. He has a Pentagon to run and two wars to fight, so he pushed this down to the services to handle. But they need help.'

In his 11 months on the job, Koch said he tried to meet with Gates but was rebuffed. He said Stanley, a former Marine Corps. general, also declined weekly briefings until that fateful staff meeting in early 2010.

After delivering his report, Koch said Stanley uttered a single word, 'Wow,' and then gave him a cryptic warning: 'He did not address me by name, but he did look directly at me and said the following: 'It is important to be careful what is put in written reports. These can affect people's careers.' '

Gates, Stanley and other Pentagon leaders declined to comment.

When the Trib filed a request to view these reports under the Freedom of Information Act, Stanley's department heavily redacted the released versions, citing secrecy and security needs typically reserved for classified military plans.

Concerned that the Pentagon was covering up shoddy treatment of soldiers, insiders then passed unredacted files to the Trib. They soon were joined by Army employees nationwide who exposed problems at their bases.

In a written response, the Army's former commander of the Warrior Transition program said he couldn't 'understand Mr. Koch's perseverating' on the program.

'Unfortunately, I'm not sure Mr. Koch has ever fully understood the consequences of 10 years of warfare and the challenges of deploying brigades with a year or less at home station between deployments,' wrote Maj. Gen. Gary Cheek in October.

Most of the Army's top medical commanders refused to speak to the Trib for months. On the eve of publishing these articles, the Army's Inspector General released a report echoing the findings both of Koch's investigators and the Trib...


- bth: worth reading in full. This is an important article and a rare case of serious investigative journalism. Rather than paying the cost to fix these people, the services are simply warehousing them and doping them up. Unfortunately I don't think there is anyone in congress or this administration that is really interested in addressing these matters as they cost money and aren't glamorous to talk about. Unless this research is followed up with Congressional hearings on the subject, I don't think anything meaningful will change.

Mergers and spinoffs shake up the defense industry

Mergers and spinoffs shake up the defense industry: ..."The shake-up is likely the most significant since the early 1990s, when reductions in defense spending forced widespread consolidation. That was the era when today's contracting behemoths were formed; Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta became Lockheed Martin, while Northrop Aircraft and Grumman Aerospace became Northrop Grumman. The number of companies able to serve as a prime contractor for tactical missile programs, for instance, fell from 13 to three, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

This time around, the corporate moves suggest the industry is working from a different playbook.

'The previous wave of consolidation of the defense industry reflected a collapsing threat and the willingness of policymakers to lead sector consolidation,' said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant at the Lexington Institute. Today, 'threats may actually be growing and the Pentagon isn't all that eager to see further consolidation.'

That helps explain why the recent flurry of buying and selling seems more strategic in nature. So far, at least, the industry has shied away from any blockbuster deals.

'This is neither the '90s nor the last decade; it's different,' Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said at a June briefing. 'It's an environment in which we're going to have slow real growth, and our senior managers and our partners in industry need to manage accordingly.'

As a result, companies are seeking to reorient their businesses, selling off units that pose potential conflicts of interest or are not core to a company's operations and buying businesses in what are widely considered growth industries like cybersecurity, health IT and cloud computing.

Whether it's Northrop Grumman's decision to liklely spin off its shipbuilding business or McLean-based ATS Corp.'s recent declaration that it is pursuing strategic alternatives, the moves have at times been unpredictable, leading to a feeling that there's little consensus in the industry on the best way to adapt.

Companies have 'got to be prepared to go every direction, and that makes it very hard right now,' said David Berteau, senior adviser and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' defense-industrial initiatives group. ...

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Navy chief concerned about budget - Jen DiMascio -

Navy chief concerned about budget - Jen DiMascio - "With congressional gridlock making it more likely that the Pentagon will receive the same amount of funding this year as last year, the Navy’s top officer is throttling up the pressure to change course.

Congress has yet to pass a spending bill for fiscal year 2011, instead carrying over funding from the previous year in a continuing resolution. Lawmakers have until March 4 to either approve a new spending bill or pass another continuing resolution, and with just three weeks of legislative action on the calendar, Democrats are beginning to raise the specter of a government shutdown. ...

- bth: Navy letting congress know that they are going to share the pain of the budget fight.

Karzai Seeks End to NATO Reconstruction Teams -

Karzai Seeks End to NATO Reconstruction Teams - "MUNICH — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan called Sunday for the speedy dismantling of NATO-run provincial reconstruction teams, the first time he had made such a demand.

To an audience of foreign ministers and defense experts attending the annual Munich Security Conference, Mr. Karzai also repeated his call for allied governments to stop using private security companies, contending that they, along with the civilian-military reconstruction teams, are an impediment to the central government’s expanding its authority throughout the country.

Mr. Karzai, who is under renewed criticism from Western governments over the corruption scandal engulfing one of the largest banks in the country and involves members of his family, made his remarks to an audience that included Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe.

Donor and coalition countries finance the reconstruction teams directly rather than through the Afghan government because of corruption concerns.

Mr. Karzai was asked several times whether he really wanted the teams to be wound up so quickly. “Yes,” he said.

The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, speaking on the same panel with Mr. Karzai, said the international community was right to ask questions about whether international money was reaching the intended recipients.

“We can only justify our engagement, which costs our German taxpayers and other taxpayers of the alliance enormous amounts of money, if we know and can be assured that this is something that is really for the people,” Mr. Westerwelle said.

Admiral Stavridis, who oversees the operations of the 143,000-strong NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, was quick to counter Mr. Karzai’s claims, saying the reconstruction teams posed no challenge to the central government. He said there was no doubt that they would be phased out as the United States looks to begin withdrawing its 98,000 troops this summer, and as the Afghan Army and security forces take control throughout the country.

We are in a dialogue of transition,” Admiral Stavridis said.

Mr. Karzai said he would announce next month — to coincide with the Persian New Year — when Afghan forces would be ready to take control of the entire country.

Admiral Stavridis said that whatever dates Mr. Karzai decided upon, the big issue currently facing the coalition was “how we consolidate our security gains” that NATO has made in recent months against the insurgents.

“There is cautious optimism. Now is the time to sustain the solidarity,” Admiral Stavridis said, referring to those countries that have troops serving in Afghanistan.

Despite the gains by NATO, one U.S. senator, Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said it was unwise to set the beginning of any exit date.

If anyone starts to race ahead toward the door, then there will be a rush that could result in failure,” Mr. Lieberman said. ...

- bth: this whole debacle will unwind in the next 4 years as our NATO allies bail out starting a year from now. The fundamental problem is that no one trusts Karzai.

Chinese weapons fall into hands of militants: US cables - The Times of India

Chinese weapons fall into hands of militants: US cables - The Times of India: "LONDON: China's failure to enforce export controls on arms to Iran has led to the Chinese-made weapons falling into the hands of insurgents fighting coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, secret US cables leaked by WikiLeaks have revealed.

US diplomats also feared that Chinese companies were selling materials to Iran that could be used to build nuclear missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, the Daily Telegraph reported Thursday, citing the leaked documents.

Chinese-made guns, as well as rocket-propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles containing Chinese-made components, have all been used against coalition forces or civilian targets in Iraq, the US claims, while other weapons have been obtained by militants in Afghanistan.

The US was so concerned about Chinese arms and components being sold to Iran that in September 2008 the state department launched a major diplomatic offensive to put pressure on Beijing. ...

They included "new-condition Chinese produced small arms" which were "found together with newly-produced Iranian military material" and a surface-to-air missile fired at a Boeing 747 civilian airliner over Baghdad in August 2004 "assembled in Iran using a mix of Chinese and Iranian parts".

Raising concerns about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme, McNerney added: "Certain state-owned Chinese entities and private firms continue to export or transship key items and/or dual-use technology needed to develop weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery, as well as conventional weapons to Iran."

She told US diplomats: "Getting China to aggressively implement United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as more effectively enforce its own export controls regarding transfers of dual-use and military items to Iran is an essential component of our overall diplomatic strategy to thwart Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction."

In 2008 the US also confronted China over a shipment to Iran of 208 tonnes of potassium perchlorate, which can be used as rocket fuel. ...

- bth: it takes Wikileaks to confirm what soldiers have known for years? Also was the surface to air missile used in 2004 a US stinger modified with Chinese batteries to replace the US ones? Likely.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Winning: Hiding From The Enemy And Blowing Holes In Roads Doesn't Work

Winning: Hiding From The Enemy And Blowing Holes In Roads Doesn't Work: "January 30, 2011: The Taliban believed that the roadside bomb (IED, or Improvised Explosive Device) was the key to victory in Afghanistan, and a wonder weapon that would succeed where other ideas had failed. This is unlikely, but this is what Taliban commanders have been telling their subordinates for the last few years. As a result, the ineffectiveness of the bombs last year is believed to be a major blow to Taliban morale. The Taliban have greatly increased the bombing effort in the last three years, based on the promise that it would drive the foreign troops away. In 2008, the Taliban planted 5,600 roadside bombs, and that increased to 15,000 in 2010. Thus in 2008, it required 21 roadside bombs (including anti-vehicle mines and suicide bombs) to kill one foreign soldier. Last year, it required 23. A disproportionate number of these deaths were among non-U.S. NATO troops, who did not have as many MRAPs, or counter-bomb technology that the Americans possessed.

NATO and American troops encountered 457 bombs a month in 2008 and 1,250 in 2010. This is still much smaller than Iraq at its peak, where over 2,500 of these bombs were being encountered each month in 2007. As in Iraq, most of the bombs in Afghanistan are detected before they can be used, or otherwise neutralized (often with electronic jammers, or by catching and killing Taliban as they try to plant the bombs.)

The U.S. and NATO troops have several ways to limit the effectiveness of these bombs. For example, there are now nearly 10,000 MRAPs in Afghanistan now (about the same number in Iraq at its peak) The current number of MRAPs cut current U.S. and NATO casualty rates by 20-30 percent. NATO casualties in Afghanistan are already lower than those in Iraq, which are, in turn, only a third of the casualty rates in Vietnam and World War II.

The U.S. developed intelligence and surveillance techniques in Iraq that predicted where bombs would be placed, and found them before they could be detonated. That, plus the MRAPs for troops who do get hit by a bomb, will keep the U.S./NATO casualties down. U.S. troops have transferred their Iraq counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Device, or roadside bomb) techniques and technology to Afghanistan. ...

- bth: this author seems to say that IEDs are ineffective in Afghanistan. I tend to disagree.

Kerry favors reduced US role in Afghanistan war - The Boston Globe

Kerry favors reduced US role in Afghanistan war - The Boston Globe: ..."Once a key supporter of President Obama’s surge of troops in Afghanistan, Kerry said he has concluded that the US strategy in Afghanistan has to be revised. He is calling for a more limited focus and fewer American troops than the 155,000 that are in place now.

“What I don’t want is to be party to a policy that continues simply because it is there and in place,’’ Kerry said in an interview about his evolving views of the war in Afghanistan. “That would be like Vietnam. And that is what I am determined to try to prevent.’’

In the coming weeks, Kerry said he will hold a series of oversight hearings to delve into how the Obama administration expects military gains in recent months to be sustained over the long term by a viable Afghan government.

“Obviously, I think progress has been made in military terms, but everybody agrees there is not a military solution,’’ Kerry said. “What I worry about is whether or not the governance [improves] sufficiently to make a difference.’’

Kerry aides say the lineup of upcoming hearings is still taking shape, but there are plans to air a wide array of viewpoints, not just those of top commanders like General David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other diplomats and government officials.

Fellow members of the Senate panel say Congress must soon decide whether a large-scale US military operation should be sustained for at least three more years, as the Obama administration plans.

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat, wants to know how and when the Afghan army and police forces will be ready to take over from the US and NATO forces in the country.

“The patience of the American people on this is not unlimited,’’ Casey said in an interview. “We need to give more of a report to the American people. We are going to reach a point this year where we are going to have to make a very tough assessment of the policy.’’....

- bth: this is a very significant move. Kerry is going to become the Fulbright of our era in the Senate and Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Pakistan will be the focus. This is worth reading in full.

Iran: Deepening Crisis on Rights | Human Rights Watch

Iran: Deepening Crisis on Rights | Human Rights Watch: "(New York) - The Iranian government's high rate of executions and targeting of rights defenders, particularly lawyers, in 2010 and early 2011 highlights a deepening of the human rights crisis that gripped the country following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said in issuing its World Report 2011 Iran chapter. According to Iranian media reports, authorities have executed at least 73 prisoners - an average of almost three prisoners per day - since January 1, 2011.

The 649-page report, the organization's 21st annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights issues in more than 90 countries worldwide. In Iran, since November 2009 authorities have executed at least 13 people on the vague charge of moharebeh, or 'enmity against God,' following flawed trials in revolutionary courts. The government also harassed, arrested, detained, and convicted several lawyers in 2010 for their work defending the rights of others. At the same time, scores of civil society activists have spoken out against the government crackdown despite facing harsh consequences.

'The noose has tightened, in some cases literally, around the necks of activists in Iran,' said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 'The government's crackdown has gone beyond silencing post-election demonstrators and is now a broad-based campaign to neutralize Iran's vibrant civil society and consolidate power.'...

- bth: and then there is Iran.

Mauritanian army arrests al-Qaida suspect - Yahoo! News

Mauritanian army arrests al-Qaida suspect - Yahoo! News: "NOUKACHOTT, Mauritania – A suspected al-Qaida militant killed himself by detonating an explosive belt to avoid capture Saturday as security forces arrested his alleged accomplice in connection with an explosion earlier in the week, an army official said.

The army had cornered the two in Lexeiba, about 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Nouakchott, after a three-day search, according to the military officer, who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The two men allegedly had been part of a convoy of cars loaded with explosives that had entered Mauritania last week. Security forces opened fire Wednesday on one of the cars, which was loaded with explosives, as it attempted to speed into the capital, setting off an enormous explosion and killing three suspected al-Qaida-linked militants.

The militants may have been targeting the French Embassy. The assailants abandoned the second car in the desert, and soldiers were searching for a third which is believed to be carrying supplies.

The North Africa franchise of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attempted attack on a website in Mauritania, saying their target was the president of Mauritania who campaigned on an anti-terror platform and whose government has collaborated last year with the French military during a cross-border raid on a militant camp in Mali....

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Nahhas: US Ship Jamming Lebanon Internet - Naharnet Newsdesk

Nahhas: US Ship Jamming Lebanon Internet - Naharnet Newsdesk: "Caretaker Telecoms Minister Charbel Nahhas on Saturday said a U.S. ship was the cause of internet jamming in Lebanon.
'The problem, however, is due to a coordination error related to waves,' Nahhas told OTV, adding that an investigation was underway to find out whether this act is 'intentional or not.'

Earlier Saturday, An-Nahar newspaper reported that movement of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean sea has been disrupting the internet services in Lebanon over the past three weeks.

It said the interference which began as soon as PM Saad Hariri's government collapsed are not the result of operations conducted by UNIFIL's naval force.

The jamming, according to the daily, has affected big companies and banks from the southern city of Sidon all the way to the Lebanese-Syrian border in the north.

Engineer Antoine Bustani, a telecom expert, confirmed to Voice of Lebanon radio station that warship radars disrupt internet and other telecommunications services.

He said work is underway by the telecommunications ministry to solve this problem.

- bth: curious

Mubarak's net worth possibly 70 billion dollars: Report

Mubarak's net worth possibly 70 billion dollars: Report: "Cairo: Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak's and his family's net worth is estimated to be between US dollars 40 and 70 billion, a media report said.

The wealth of the Egypt's first family was built largely from military contracts during his days as an air force officer; Mubarak eventually diversified his investments through his family when he became President in 1981, the 'ABC
News' quoted experts as saying.

The family's net worth now ranges from US dollars 40 to 70 billion, by some estimates, the report said....

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Bush Cancels Visit To Switzerland Due To Threat Of Torture Prosecution, Rights Groups Say

Bush Cancels Visit To Switzerland Due To Threat Of Torture Prosecution, Rights Groups Say: "GENEVA, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.

Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner on Feb. 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.

Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.

Leftist groups had also called for a protest on the day of his visit next Saturday, leading Keren Hayesod's organisers to announce that they were cancelling Bush's participation on security grounds -- not because of the criminal complaints.

But groups including the New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold Bush accountable for torture, including waterboarding. He has admitted in his memoirs and television interviews to ordering use of the interrogation technique that simulates drowning....

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