Saturday, February 26, 2011

54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

Libya's War of the Colonels: Col. Gaddafi Meet Col. Hussein - TIME

Libya's War of the Colonels: Col. Gaddafi Meet Col. Hussein - TIME

At a former Army Air Defense base in a darkened, partially constructed neighborhood of Benghazi, Colonel Tarek Saad Hussein is readying the revolutionary forces for the ultimate battle. Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will likely fight to the death in order to keep control of his capital Tripoli, according to soldiers and revolutionary activists alike. But the banners in front of Benghazi's High Court read: "Libya, one body. Tripoli, our heart." The east is now under opposition control, but Libya will not split, they say: the revolution is not over until Tripoli is won and a dictator is toppled.

The liberation of Tripoli has become the battle cry in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. "We will never abandon Tripoli," shouted the Imam who led Friday's open-air noon prayer. In response, a chorus of "God is Great!" rose from the thousands who had gathered beneath the stormy Mediterranean skies to pray. (See Yuri Kozyrev's photographs from the liberated city of Benghazi.)

For Colonel Hussein, who sits in a stark office within a darkened base equipped with anti-aircraft guns, Libya's revolution is still very much a people's revolution. But the military that has defected to the opposition — more than 10,000 troops from Benghazi to the Egyptian border, he says — now have an important task at hand. "We are trying to collect as many as we can from Benghazi and other towns in order to prepare a force to march on Tripoli," he says....

bth: worth reading in full as I think these other army colonels will likely defeat Gaddafi.

They Carry in Memory of Michael Schaefer

Friday, February 25, 2011

True Stories about Security: Story# 11 The Blood Timber!

True Stories about Security: Story# 11 The Blood Timber!: ..."The Korengal insurgency does not consist of Pashtuns, the dominated ethnic and linguistic populace of Afghanistan, the Korengals are from a different ethnicity that speaks its own language. In fact, the Korengals are the business competitors of the Pashtuns. However, the scarcity of timber brings the communities together in order to smuggle timber outside of Afghanistan. Taliban in Pakistan smuggles the timber through the Pakistani boarders in exchange for having these different insurgency groups fight the U.S. soldiers in a proxy war[4]. Thus, the timber is fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan where Taliban is utilizing the profit to buy weapons and wage a proxy war against the U.S. soldiers.

Many U.S. soldiers have lost their lives, because of this proxy war, or because they got in between the timber and the smugglers.

A good question to ask is where does the timber go after being smuggled into Pakistan? The timber is sold in the global timber markets, and it will eventually find its way to the U.S. market. Is the U.S. buying timber that has the blood if its own soldiers on it? I believe so.

I think the case study of timber in Afghanistan challenges the traditional theory of environmental scarcity in which division is created between ethnic groups. In this case study, scarcity brought different ethnic insurgency groups together to smuggle timber and fight a proxy war.

Moreover, the case study shows that it is difficult to stabilize Kunar and Nuristan without proper management of the timber. Currently timber is managed by an executive decree that prohibits all timber cutting. While, the central government issued the decree in hopes of preserving timber and combating timber smuggling, the decree resulted in an adverse impact on timber management. By banning all timber cutting, the price of timber increased providing a strong incentive for the powerful groups within the community to smuggle it.

Thus, security is linked to the proper management of timber, not to the mere use of force....

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With eye on strike missions, U.S. plans to realign troops in remote Afghan valley

With eye on strike missions, U.S. plans to realign troops in remote Afghan valley: "U.S. military officials are planning a significant repositioning of troops that would reduce the number of bases in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous valleys and free up American forces to conduct shorter-duration strike missions into enemy havens.

The changes would cut the number of U.S. troops strung out in bases throughout the Pech Valley in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. The U.S. military has maintained a battalion of about 800 troops in the valley since 2006, and they have consistently been involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

In recent months, however, commanders have raised questions about the usefulness of fighting for such a remote area.

'Only about .2 percent of the population in the east is in that valley,' said Maj. Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. 'We have to realign our forces to better protect the Afghan people.'

U.S. commanders are hoping to complete the shift over the next several months but are still working to win the support of senior Afghan officials. 'We are not in total agreement in all of these areas,' Campbell said.

Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak, who is in Washington for high-level meetings, expressed concern about what would happen if U.S. troops left long-established bases in the Pech Valley.

'It will be difficult for Afghans to hold these areas on their own. The terrain there is very tough,' Wardak said in an interview. 'I personally fought against the Soviets in that area.'

Afghans see the Pech Valley and surrounding Konar province as key terrain because the insurgency against the Soviets in the 1980s first gained significant momentum in those areas. 'We have to be very careful in how we manage this area,' Wardak said.

The shuttering of U.S. bases in the Pech Valley would give Campbell additional troops for strike missions deep into the mountains where the Taliban and other insurgent forces maintain strongholds. Currently, Campbell said, too many of his troops in the valley are tied up guarding small combat outposts. 'If your forces are static, it takes away your opportunities and flexibility,' he said.

The changes envisioned by Campbell would shift the U.S. mission in some of the more remote and mountainous areas from classic counterinsurgency to the pursuit of concentrations of insurgents. In more built-up regions of eastern Afghanistan, American troops would remain heavily focused on counterinsurgency missions such as safeguarding the population and trying to build governance and commerce.

- bth: Afghan forces are not going to be able to hold this valley it seems when we leave. Perhaps ultimately this is what happens. Pech will in a matter of months be another Taliban controlled valley with Afghan's Army being the fall guy. On the other hand should we be in that valley in the first place? Does it hold any strategic value other than being a sanctuary for Taliban?

U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital -

U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital - "KABUL, Afghanistan — After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

The reorganization, which follows the complete Afghan and American withdrawals from isolated outposts in nearby Nuristan Province and the Korangal Valley, runs the risk of providing the Taliban with an opportunity to claim success and raises questions about the latest strategy guiding the war.

American officials say their logic is simple and compelling: the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance; those forces could be deployed in other areas; and there are not enough troops to win decisively in the Pech Valley in any case.

“If you continue to stay with the status quo, where will you be a year from now?” General Campbell said. “I would tell you that there are places where we’ll continue to build up security and it leads to development and better governance, but there are some areas that are not ready for that, and I’ve got to use the forces where they can do the most good.”...

- bth: this is an important article and worth reading in full. Basically we are now retreating. When the Soviets left this area to the Afghan government the same way we are doing it now, they had lost the valley in total within 6 months and there was a continued general retreat by the Soviets out of Afghanistan over several years thereafter. The Taliban and everyone else that wants to stay a live in Afghanistan at this point will be sitting up and paying attention. So if you are a school teacher or a mid-level government bureaucrat living in this area, you can bet Taliban will be making a house call in the near future. Locals may stop fighting us but any allies we had in the area will have to flee. It is worthwhile to study the comments section of the original NYT article. The overwhelming reader comments are that if Pech is not worth fighting for when over the last decade it was called essential to fight and die for, can the same be true for Afghanistan? I think this is the high water mark for America in Afghanistan. Watch carefully from here on out.

Map of Pech District

Libyan: Qaddafi forces shoot hospital patients - World Watch - CBS News

Libyan: Qaddafi forces shoot hospital patients - World Watch - CBS News: "A resident of the increasingly violent Libyan capital of Tripoli told CBS Radio News Thursday that armed supporters of Muammar Qaddafi, the country's longtime leader, have stormed into hospitals to shoot wounded demonstrators and take dead bodies to an unknown location.

'They go in with guns into hospitals,' said the resident, identified only as Adel to protect his safety. 'They take the bodies that are dead. In some hospitals, they have shot the wounded. This is true. I know it's very strange for the States, but this is happening today in Tripoli.'...

- bth: this report would seem at odds with one today from Robert Fisk that all was orderly and well on the surface in Tripoli

Libyan revolutionaries used dating website to dodge Gaddafi's secret police | Herald Sun

Libyan revolutionaries used dating website to dodge Gaddafi's secret police | Herald Sun: "Former business and opposition leader Omar Shibliy Mahmoudi said he used Muslim dating site Mawada to rally people together while staying out of the gaze of the Libyan secret police, which monitors Twitter and Facebook.

Mahmoudi - leader of the Ekhtalef, or 'Difference,' movement - acted as if he was looking for a wife under the profile name 'Where is Miriam?' and sent coded love letters to spur people to revolution.

Since men cannot talk to other men on the site, revolutionaries posed as women to make contact with Mahmoudi, taking on names such as 'Sweet Butterfly,' 'Opener of the Mountain,' 'Girl of the Desert' and 'Melody of Torture.'

Supporters would use phrases such as 'May your day be full of Jasmine,' referring to the uprisings in the region which have been dubbed the 'Jasmine Revolution.'

The coded conversations were used to gauge support for the cause and direct people to social networking site Yahoo Messenger for more detailed conversations. The revolutionaries would then use the messaging service and text messages to organize their activities further, avoiding scrutiny from authorities.

Communications would continue through text messages and Yahoo Messenger, to avoid authorities becoming suspicious.

Mahmoudi said he attracted 171,323 'admirers' to a number of profiles on the dating site before Libya's internet crashed Saturday. He had aimed to attract 50,000 as a sufficient number to take to the streets in protest.

- bth: fascinating use of the internet and mobile technology for revolution.

Raymond Davis 'was acting head of CIA in Pakistan' - Telegraph

Raymond Davis 'was acting head of CIA in Pakistan' - Telegraph: "Raymond Davis, a 36-year-old former special forces soldier, had taken command after the CIA station chief's cover was blown, according to reports.

American officials insist he is entitled to diplomatic immunity and that he be released immediately. ...

- bth: it seems odd that if he were acting chief he would be doing field work by himself.

Did FBI compromise lives of American hostages? - Americas, World - The Independent

Did FBI compromise lives of American hostages? - Americas, World - The Independent: "An FBI negotiator's unwillingness to continue talking to two Somali pirate leaders about the release of four Americans being held aboard a yacht may have led to a shootout that killed the hostages, it was reported yesterday.

Citing an unnamed official with the US military, The New York Times disclosed details of the incident, which took place off the coast of Oman on Tuesday. While hijackings by pirates have become a persistent threat in the area, deaths of hostages are unusual.

The FBI negotiator on board a US warship decided he could not take the pirate leaders seriously. The remaining 17 pirates on the yacht were told their leaders were being held in custody on the USS Sterett and an offer was made: release the hostages and the men could go free, either with the yacht or aboard one of the navy's smaller vessels.

The men asked to sleep on the offer and the Americans said they had eight hours to decide. There was nothing to indicate anything was seriously amiss at this point. But hours later a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the Sterett and gunfire was heard on the yacht. Navy special forces in small boats stormed the pirates, killing two, but the four Americans were dead.

- bth: isn't it odd that there is almost nothing in the US media about what happened here but this article is from the UK Telegraph

Robert Fisk with the first dispatch from Tripoli - a city in the shadow of death - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent

Robert Fisk with the first dispatch from Tripoli - a city in the shadow of death - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent: ..."There is little food in Tripoli, and over the city there fell a blanket of drab, sullen rain. It guttered onto an empty Green Square and down the Italianate streets of the old capital of Tripolitania. But there were no tanks, no armoured personnel carriers, no soldiers, not a fighter plane in the air; just a few police and elderly men and women walking the pavements – a numbed populace. Sadly for the West and for the people of the free city of Benghazi, Libya's capital appeared as quiet as any dictator would wish.

But this is an illusion. Petrol and food prices have trebled; entire towns outside Tripoli have been torn apart by fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces. In the suburbs of the city, especially in the Noufreen district, militias fought for 24 hours on Sunday with machine guns and pistols, a battle the Gadaffi forces won. In the end, the exodus of expatriates will do far more than street warfare to bring down the regime.

I was told that at least 30,000 Turks, who make up the bulk of the Libyan construction and engineering industry, have now fled the capital, along with tens of thousands of other foreign workers. On my own aircraft out of Tripoli, an evacuation flight to Europe, there were Polish, German, Japanese and Italian businessmen, all of whom told me they had closed down major companies in the past week. Worse still for Gaddafi, the oil, chemical and uranium fields of Libya lie to the south of 'liberated' Benghazi. Gaddafi's hungry capital controls only water resources, so a temporary division of Libya, which may have entered Gaddafi's mind, would not be sustainable. Libyans and expatriates I spoke to yesterday said they thought he was clinically insane, but they expressed more anger at his son, Saif al-Islam. 'We thought Saif was the new light, the 'liberal'', a Libyan businessman sad to me. 'Now we realise he is crazier and more cruel than his father.'

The panic that has now taken hold in what is left of Gaddafi's Libya was all too evident at the airport. In the crush of people fighting for tickets, one man, witnessed by an evacuated Tokyo car-dealer, was beaten so viciously on the head that 'his face fell apart'.

Talking to Libyans in Tripoli and expatriates at the airport, it is clear that neither tanks nor armour were used in the streets of Tripoli. Air attacks targeted Benghazi and other towns, but not the capital. Yet all spoke of a wave of looting and arson by Libyans who believed that with the fall of Benghazi, Gaddafi was finished and the country open to anarchy. ...

- bth: so how to separate Gaddafi form Tripoli?

173rd Airborne Brigade commander suspended - News - Stripes

173rd Airborne Brigade commander suspended - News - Stripes: "The Army has formally suspended Col. James H. Johnson III as commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which has about 3,300 soldiers in Italy and Germany. The Army took action Feb. 17, according to Col. Bryan Hilferty, chief of public affairs for U.S. Army Europe.

“He’s been suspended,” Hilferty said, declining to comment further since the case is under investigation.

In response to written questions, Hilferty characterized the suspension as temporary pending resolution of the probe. No one else has been suspended or relieved in connection with Johnson’s case, he said.

Col. Kyle Lear, the deputy commanding officer of the 173rd, has been named as the interim commander, Hilferty said....

- bth: anybody know what this is about?

Taliban threatens Pakistan People's Party with assassination if David released

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban warn PPP against freeing Davis
MIRANSHAH: A Taliban commander has warned the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) against freeing Central Intelligence Agency agent Raymond Davis who is facing double murder charge for killing two Pakistani nationals in Lahore.

“Raymond is killer of Pakistanis and tribal people. We will pick one by one PPP leaders if the American was released,” Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani said on Thursday in a press statement.

He warned that the PPP leaders at provincial, district and town level would be targeted if Davis was released under pressure. “Hand him over to us if the government is hesitant to punish him for his crime,” the militant commander demanded.

The American undercover spy is languishing in Lahore jail waiting for legal battle over Washington’s claim that he is a diplomat and thus entitled to immunity under the Geneva Convention. “Raymond Davis is the killer of innocent Pakistanis. The tribal people will not let go the killer scot-free,” Haqqani warned.

10 Nato tankers torched; 4 dead in Peshawar

10 Nato tankers torched; 4 dead in Peshawar: "PESHAWAR: At least four people have been reportedly killed while 10 NATO fuel-supplying tankers have been burned to coal as they came under attack by unidentified miscreants at Ring Road here in the heart of Peshawar on late Thursday, Geo News reported.

According to details, the militants opened fire at standing fuel tankers parked by roadside. The bullets, sprinkled at tankers, led to eruption of fierce fire, which engulfed many tankers in no time, witnesses told police officials, adding that the atrocious act also ended up injuring some people.

Meanwhile, four persons, believed to be the drivers and cleaners of the containers, have also succumbed to dreadful attack and lost their lives.

Many fuel containers are still on fire as the fire is raging by the time; however, law enforcement agencies have arrived at the crime site and sealed the location for public traveling.

Fire tenders have been dispatched to the crime scene and efforts to tame blaze have been kicked off.

Investigations have been launched into the attack, police claimed.

- bth: it seems our fuel supply could be capped off at will

Newspaper: Ukrainian mercenaries flying Libya air force planes | Earth Times News

Newspaper: Ukrainian mercenaries flying Libya air force planes | Earth Times News: "Kiev - Mercenary pilots from Ukraine are flying Libyan air force planes supporting the regime of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, a major newspaper reported Thursday.

The Ukrainian pilots, some of whom hold senior rank in the Libyan air force, operate MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter jets as well as An-12 and An-26 cargo planes, the Segodnya newspaper said.

Stratfor, a private firm that does political analysis, reported on Tuesday that Ukrainian mercenaries piloted planes that had bombed hundreds of protesters near the Libyan capital Tripoli. A spokesman at Ukraine's embassy in Tripoli denied that report.

The pilots receive between 2,000 and 8,000 dollars a month, Segodnya reported, citing Ukrainian combat flyers.

A Ukrainian aircraft repair and overhaul facility reportedly has provided maintenance support for Libyan air force aircraft since 2008.

Ukrainian military professionals fighting on other nations' behalf have landed the former Soviet republic in hot water repeatedly.

The most controversial recent incidents involved Ukrainian helicopter gunship pilots attacking Albanian rebels for the Macedonian government in 2001, and Ukrainian missile gunners shooting down Russian aircraft for Georgia during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taliban Attack Video Shows Danger with U.S. Negotiations - The Daily Beast

Taliban Attack Video Shows Danger with U.S. Negotiations - The Daily Beast: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Taliban Attack Video Shows Danger with U.S. Negotiations - The Daily Beast

Taliban Attack Video Shows Danger with U.S. Negotiations - The Daily Beast: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Omar Suleiman Was Assassination Target During Egypt Uprising, Foreign Minister Claims

Omar Suleiman Was Assassination Target During Egypt Uprising, Foreign Minister Claims: "CAIRO — Egypt's former Vice President Omar Suleiman was targeted in an assassination attempt during the recent democracy uprising when assailants firing from an ambulance riddled his car with bullets, the foreign minister said.

One of Suleiman's bodyguards was killed and his driver seriously wounded in the attack, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told Egyptian television station Al-Hayat late Wednesday. He said Suleiman's motorcade came under attack in Cairo's neighborhood of Manshiyet el-Bakri near Heliopolis, site of Mubarak's presidential palace....

- bth: so early rumors of this are confirmed. I wonder who the perpetrator was?

Sarah Palin, lightweight

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators | Rolling Stone Politics

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators | Rolling Stone Politics

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation....

bth: what a surprise. Worth reading in full. It has reached a point where Rollingstone is doing what used to be called investigative journalism.

Senator vows to reform the PATRIOT Act | The Raw Story

Senator vows to reform the PATRIOT Act | The Raw Story

A Democratic senator from Oregon said Tuesday that Congress must use the three month extension of the PATRIOT Act to amend the legislation so that it does not violate American's civil liberties.

"Americans deserve laws that strike the best possible balance between fighting terrorism ferociously and protecting the rights and freedoms of law-abiding American citizens," Senator Ron Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement.

Congress passed a bill last week that extended three controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until May 27.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama in the coming days.

"The Patriot Act does not strike that balance," he continued. "It was written and passed six weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. Congress wisely included sunset dates for the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions, so that they could be thoughtfully considered at a later time. After ten years, it is clearly time for that debate."

Last week, Sen. Wyden introduced a bill to narrow the PATRIOT Act's section 215 provision, which allows law enforcement to obtain "any tangible thing," including library and bookstore records.

Under the PATRIOT Act, that information can be obtained without demonstrating that the person whose records are sought is connected to terrorism in any way.

"Government agents should not be able to collect this sort of information on law abiding American citizens without showing that they have at least some connection to terrorism or other nefarious activities," Sen Wyden said.

Wyden's bill would force law enforcement to demonstrate that the records were in some way connected to terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities before gathering the information....

bth: a step in the right direction.

NATO: Afghan attrition remains stubbornly high

AP Newswire | Stars and Stripes: ..."Robert Watkins said Afghanistan's security is 'at its lowest point since the departure of the Taliban' after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. He said the United Nations rarely can enter 40 percent of the country, including Kandahar and southeast regions where it must negotiate special access from all sides.

Watkins, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's deputy special representative in Afghanistan, is transferring to a similar post in Lebanon.

U.S. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of NATO's training mission in Afghanistan, said the Afghan army loses about 32 percent of its personnel each year. In the police, that number is nearly 23 percent.

Still, Caldwell said the NATO training effort remains on track to reach the goal of 305,000 soldiers and policemen by October because there is no shortfall of recruits for both the army and police.

'We have built enough capacity that would enable us to continue to grow, but also to replenish any attrition that may take place,' he told reporters.

Attrition includes all service members leaving the security forces, including those who have completed their terms of service or left due to medical or other reasons, losses in combat and desertions.

Caldwell said that recruits have been flocking into both the police and army. About 10 percent of those are being turned away after security vetting, or for other reasons.

Just 14 percent of the recruits were literate, he said. The training mission has therefore launched a massive program to teach them to read and write on a third-grade level, the international standard for basic literacy, he said.

But despite successes in the training program, the overall rate of loss has remained about the same over the past three years, Caldwell said.

During 2010, NATO officers said, the Afghan security forces recruited a total of 111,000 men. But at the end of the year overall numerical strength had increased by only 70,000.

Just 2 percent of the attrition occurred in army and police training units, Caldwell said. But 98 percent of those leaving came from units in the field.

Caldwell attributed the high rate of loss of trained personnel to the lack of leaders in the middle levels of the Afghan army and police, especially in areas of high-intensity operations.

'They're either continuously engaged in counterinsurgent operations without a break, or the leadership is not taking care of that,' he said, adding that the training and development of mid-level officers and NCOs is critical to reducing attrition levels in specific units.

Critics have said many of the men deserting the security forces - often with their weapons - are defecting to the Taliban and providing the insurgents with trained new fighters.

Afghan government officials have said they would like their army and police to grow to a total of 378,000 by 2014. But the international community, which is bankrolling the forces, hasn't agreed to that.

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Afghan Security at its Lowest Point in a Decade: UN

Afghan Security at its Lowest Point in a Decade: UN: "Security in Afghanistan has worsened to the lowest point since the collapse of the Taliban regime, a UN special representative said.

'It is fair to say that security in the country is at its lowest point since the departure of the Taliban,' said Robert Watkins, the outgoing UN deputy special representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan,
Before last year's surge in Nato military forces, the insurgency was centred in the south and south-east of the country, said Mr Watkins.

'Since the surge of Nato forces last year, we have seen the insurgency move to parts of the country where we've never seen before,' he said.

'While Nato is claiming that it has turned the corner... we still see these very difficult security problems,' he further said.

He sees 'conflation of political, military, developmental and humanitarian aid' as a key issue to developments in Afghanistan.

Recently there has been a dramatic rise in Taliban-led violence nationwide which has mainly claimed civilian lives.

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Artists, students can’t leave country without clearance: Malik | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

Artists, students can’t leave country without clearance: Malik | Pakistan | DAWN.COM: "ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik made it clear Wednesday that all artists and students on scholarships would not be allowed to leave the country without prior clearance from the home ministry, DawnNews reported.

Malik said while talking during the National Assembly session that the home ministry would involve intelligence agencies to find out which countries are providing scholarships to Pakistani students and for what purposes.

‘Thorough investigation will be carried out for all foreigners, their backgrounds and the foreign companies operating in the country,’ said Malik.

‘There is a conspiracy at work to divide the country,’ said the home minister. ‘Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is even more dangerous than the terrorists,’ he added.

- bth: I wonder what is triggering this heightened scrutiny of artists and students on scholarship?

Britain no longer has the military equipment for a no-fly zone in Libya – Telegraph Blogs

Britain no longer has the military equipment for a no-fly zone in Libya – Telegraph Blogs: ...."To start with I was struck by the irony that all the people who were so opposed to the invasion of Iraq to remove another brutal dictator – Saddam Hussein – now favour taking similar action against Gaddafi even if, for the moment at least, the mad dog of Tripoli has not yet used chemical weapons against his own people, as Saddam did against the Kurds in the 1980s. The problem is that the anti-war brigade can never own up to the reality that the Middle East is a far safer place now that Saddam is no longer in power. And it will be even safer if Gaddafi is overthrown.

As for the proposition that the British government should impose a no-fly zone over eastern Libya, they seem to be forgetting that we no longer have the means to do so.

Without an aircraft carrier – HMS Ark Royal is currently being broken up in Portsmouth – we would have to rely on our ageing fleet of Tornadoes to do the job. But to fulfil such a mission the Tornadoes need an air base to fly from, and it is highly unlikely that any of the countries that border Libya would be prepared to grant us permission.

Egypt and Tunisia have enough of their plate to start getting involved in a civil war in Libya, so we would probably have to look to Nato bases in southern Europe for a viable air base. If we still had an aircraft carrier, of course, we would not be experiencing these problems, as the Harriers could take off on sorties at will. But in its wisdom the Government decided to scrap our last aircraft carrier and the Harriers, and now it must live with the consequences.

- bth: a further indication that Britain has lost the ability to project military power.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pakistan's intelligence ready to split with CIA - Yahoo! News

Pakistan's intelligence ready to split with CIA - Yahoo! News: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan's ISI spy agency is ready to split with the CIA because of frustration over what it calls heavy-handed pressure and its anger over what it believes is a covert U.S. operation involving hundreds of contract spies, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Such a move could seriously damage the U.S war effort in Afghanistan, limit a program targeting al-Qaida insurgents along the Pakistan frontier, and restrict Washington's access to information in the nuclear-armed country.

According to a statement drafted by the ISI, supported by interviews with officials, an already-fragile relationship between the two agencies collapsed following the shooting death of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a U.S. contracted spy who is in jail in Pakistan facing possible multiple murder charges.

'Post-incident conduct of the CIA has virtually put the partnership into question,' said a media statement prepared by the ISI but never released. A copy was obtained this week by the AP.

The statement accused the CIA of using pressure tactics to free Davis.

'It is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode,' the statement said. 'The onus of not stalling this relationship between the two agencies now squarely lies on the CIA.'

The ISI fears there are hundreds of CIA contracted spies operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of either the Pakistan government or the intelligence agency, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told the AP in an interview. He spoke only on condition he not be identified on grounds that exposure would compromise his security.

Pakistan intelligence had no idea who Davis was or what he was doing when he was arrested, the official said, adding that there are concerns about 'how many more Raymond Davises are out there.'...

- bth: could it be that these tails were in fact ISI agents masking as robbers in order to get Davis' cell phones and GPS in his car?

YouTube - AeroVironment/DARPA Nano Hummingbird UAV flying

YouTube - AeroVironment/DARPA Nano Hummingbird UAV flying: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement | Informed Comment

30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement | Informed Comment: "If we begin at the eastern border of Libya with Egypt this morning and move west, we find the country is now divided in two, with the east largely in the hands of dissidents and the West still under the thumb of Qaddafi’s security forces. The border with Egypt is in the hands of the Youth Movement, and the Egyptian government at the Bedouin village of Sallum (pop. 14,000) is allowing the border to remain open, permitting supplies and medicine to flow into the eastern cities. This Egyptian policy is tacit support for the revolt.

Then Tobruk is in dissident hands, with what soldiers there are having joined the revolt and now directing traffic and keeping order for the new, civic leadership. Tobruk, a city of 300,000 (about 5% of Libya’s population), is the last major stop in the east on the way to the Egyptian border.

Aljazeera Arabic is showing footage of the Libyan military command in the district of al-Jabal al-Akhdar declaring its allegiance to the protest movement. This Arabic news article confirms that report and gives further details....

- bth: the key is Tripoli

Taleban fighters 'reluctant to return to Afghanistan front' - News

Taleban fighters 'reluctant to return to Afghanistan front' - News: "THE Taleban leadership is in danger of losing its grip on its field commanders after nine years of war and a spate of recent defeats.
Tensions between mid-level field commanders and top leaders in Pakistan have become fraught, with those who have borne the brunt of fighting increasingly reluctant to return to battle zones, Taleban members have revealed.

After suffering defeats with the influx of thousands of new US troops in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand last year, many Taleban fighters retreated across the border to Pakistan.

They are now coming under pressure from leaders to return to Afghanistan to step up the fight again, a Taleban commander said.

'I have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight,' one 45-year-old commander, with the Taleban since its founding in 1994, said in Kandahar.

He spoke on condition he was not identified. 'Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders and the leaders over their demands to go and fight.'

Secure across the border, and tightly controlled by Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, the top Taleban leadership remains uncompromising. At the urging of their protectors in Pakistan, Taleban members say, they continue to push mid-level Taleban commanders back across the border to fight. These commanders have little choice but to comply, as they also depend on sanctuaries in Pakistan, where they keep their families.

In a meeting across the border in Pakistan this month, Taleban leaders ordered each commander to send four or five men back to home areas to resume operations by planting bombs, he said. 'While commanders are worried for their lives, they have to go, or at least send some people,' he said.

Some of the dissension in Taleban ranks stems from raids by Nato forces aimed at eliminating Taleban field commanders. The raids have taken a toll on the quality of the Taleban's fighting forces and exacerbated differences between the fighters on the ground and their leaders giving orders from their sanctuary in Pakistan.

One close supporter of the Taleban in Helmand said insurgents lost 500 fighters last year, including virtually all its commanders. Survivors had remonstrated with the leaders in Pakistan over why they had to sacrifice so many men....

- bth: while encouraging, it does not reconcile with a large surge in Taliban initiated attacks of all kinds over the last year to record levels. Also Afghan Def. Min. estimates Taliban now at between 25-35K, also up. Also there is the possibility that this is a information operation by Petraeus since source is anonymous and timing corresponds with his Congressional testimony.

Army Wants Low-Level Soldiers Linked Into Its Data Nets | Danger Room |

Army Wants Low-Level Soldiers Linked Into Its Data Nets | Danger Room | "The Army’s on a crash course to get its futuristic information network available down to the lowest possible levels, says its deputy leader, a move that will provide soldiers with a “tremendous advantage that we’ve never had before.”

Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., Gen. Peter Chiarelli hailed the initial development of the Army’s Common Operating Environment as a potential gamechanger for the nation’s ground forces. Its proliferation will pave the way for soldiers to one day get equipped with smartphones, each linked in to access information from across a warzone or back home. It may take years to get networked phones to soldiers, but the Army’s trying to push its networks out to the “squad and team level.”

“It’s taken us way too long to get the network out to the soldiers,” Chiarelli said, lamenting the relative ease with which insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have been able to communicate and push out their message.

Enter the Common Operating Environment. Unveiled in October, it’s a series of standards by which software developers can design applications that tap into the Army’s data systems, known collectively as its Enterprise Network. Whether that developer is a soldier or works for a defense company, the Common Operating Environment is supposed to guide development of different communications tools, whether they’re radios or smartphones or applications for the phones.

That builds on last year’s big “Apps for the Army” contest — a proving ground to determine whether the Army community has enough developers who can design applications, says Lt. Col. Gregory Motes, head of a new group called the Mobile Applications Branch at Fort Gordon. Nearly 150 participated in the months-long challenge to build apps relevant to the Army; Motes and Capt. Chris Braunstein designed one that digitizes the Army’s physical-training standards.

As the Common Operating Environment matures, more sophisticated applications can be written and more equipment can be linked in to the Enterprise Network. Chiarelli said testing is still ongoing: in “June and July” he’ll observe a test of Rifleman Radio, a network-compliant radio system built by General Dynamics that allows squad and team leaders to get GPS coordinates on exactly where their soldiers are.

The Common Operating Environment is designed to be agnostic to any particular platform, instead elaborating the technical requirements that apps have to meet. Its goal is interoperability, in its founding document’s words, so data is “available anywhere on the network to authorized users from any suitable Army-managed device.”...

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Revolution in the Middle East: The lessons for America -

Revolution in the Middle East: The lessons for America - "The ongoing upheaval in the Arab world (and in Iran) has rendered a definitive judgment on U.S. policy over the last decade. Relying on their own resources and employing means of their own devising, the people of the Middle East intent on transforming that region have effectively consigned the entire 'war on terror' to the category of strategic irrelevance.

When first conceived in the wake of 9/11, two convictions underpinned that war. According to the first, precluding further attacks on the United States meant that the Islamic world needed to change. According to the second, because Muslims were manifestly unable to change on their own, the United States needed to engineer the process, with American military might serving as catalyst. Freedom (or at least submission) would issue from the barrel of a GI's assault rifle.

In Afghanistan, then Iraq and now, of course, AfPak, U.S. efforts to promote change have achieved — at best — mixed results. Meanwhile, the costs incurred have proved painfully high. In terms of treasure expended, lives lost and moral authority squandered, Americans have paid a lot and gotten precious little in return.

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It now turns out that those exertions were unnecessary or, at the very least, superfluous. For nine years, the U.S. has been pushing in on a door that opens outward. More amazing still, that door swings open of its own volition. Events of the last several weeks have made it abundantly clear not only that important parts of the Islamic world are ripe for change but that the impetus for change comes from within. Transformation is not something that outsiders can induce or impose or control. The process is organic, spontaneous and self-sustaining.

So poor Muslims tired of living in squalor, and the not-so-poor fed up with suffering under the boot of corrupt authoritarian regimes (not infrequently allied with the United States), don't need Washington's coaching. They don't need us to 'liberate' them. They are perfectly capable of liberating themselves. And their doing so basically doesn't cost the American taxpayer a nickel.

Whether Muslim self-liberation will see the rise of prosperous, stable, liberal democracies, tolerant of Israel and friendly to the West, remains to be seen. Yet with the United States doing little more than bearing witness — no need for an Operation Egyptian Freedom consuming hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives — the prospects of democratic change in Egypt and elsewhere in the region are greater today than at any time in memory.

For the inhabitants of the Islamic world, the moment is rich with possibility. For Americans, that moment is equally rich in irony.

Intent on positioning themselves on 'the right side of history,' senior U. S. officials busily amend whatever pronouncements they issued a week ago, hoping no one will notice. Determined to sustain the pretense that the United States remains capable of exercising 'global leadership,' pundits and policy analysts discreetly tap into Al Jazeera English in hopes of figuring out what's actually going on.

Yet Americans might also consider this an educational opportunity, with humility and contrition the order of the day, seasoned perhaps with a glimmer of hope. Here's what we should learn.

First, when it comes to divining history's purposes and intentions, the world's only superpower is clueless. 'The whole drama of history,' the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once observed, 'is enacted in a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management.' True when he wrote it more than half a century ago, the passage remains true today, notwithstanding the wonders of computers, iPhones and social networking.

Second, to disregard Niebuhr's counsel is to incur severe penalties. Arrogance invites punishment. The punishment that the United States has sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan merits not simply remembrance but sorrowful reflection: These were needless losses. For those who once advocated preventive war as the shortest path to peace, sackcloth and ashes might be appropriate.

At the same time, however, we might take some small consolation in this: The demonstrators filling the streets in Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Manama, Sana and Tehran give every indication of dreaming dreams not entirely dissimilar from our own. Rather than rejecting modernity, as radical Islamists such as Osama bin Laden have urged, these protesters want a bigger slice of what modernity has to offer. Though not guaranteeing harmonious coexistence, this convergence of aspirations does suggest that a cosmic clash of civilizations is avoidable.

If the Muslim masses demanding political freedom and economic opportunity prevail, they will do so not thanks to but despite the United States. Yet by liberating themselves, they will also liberate us. Our misbegotten crusade to determine their destiny will finally end. In that case, we will owe them a great debt.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is 'Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War.'

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

- bth: Andy continues to offer clarity and depth of understanding. I think in 50 years people won't be quoting Niebuhr, they'll be quoting my friend Bacevich. His son was killed in Iraq a few years ago.

Shirley Phelps-Roper: Lack of spanking to blame for ‘Anonymous’ hackers | The Raw Story

Shirley Phelps-Roper: Lack of spanking to blame for ‘Anonymous’ hackers | The Raw Story: "Shirley Lynn Phelps-Roper, who acts as a spokeswoman for the Westboro Baptist Church, said that groups like 'Anonymous' exist because parents no longer spank their children.

The website of the Westboro Baptist Church, which has become infamous for picketing soldier's funerals and carrying signs declaring that 'God hates fags,' was allegedly attacked by members the volunteer group of hacktivists known as 'Anonymous' on Monday.

During an interview on The David Pakman Show, Phelps-Roper denied that 'Anonymous' had taken down its website.

'Should we be more afraid of lawless, cowardly, hidden rebels than we are afraid of a large, lawless judiciary?' she asked. 'I've been on that website again and again today. Of course they have not taken it down.'

In response to a letter published to, an unofficial, uncensored channel for members of 'Anonymous' to post details relevant to their forthcoming actions, the Westboro Baptist's website declared that 'GOD HATES FAGS & LOUSY 'HACKERS!''

The website of the Westboro Baptist Church was down on Monday, apparently because of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

'They've made a terrible mistake,' Phelps-Roper continued. 'They have done this mischief against their own interests. They need to understand that they are exactly like the Pharaoh of Egypt when Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world.'

She said that God would punish the 'cowardly' members of 'Anonymous,' adding that some people know the identity of those participating in the group.

'This generation doesn't talk about spanking children, in fact, they don't,' Phelps-Roper explained. 'That's why we have groups like Anonymous running around. Just connect these dots.'

- bth: the thought that Anonymous could be due to Americans not spanking their children is just funny. Unfortunately is feeding the publicity machine for Westboro Baptist Church, perhaps the most disgusting group I've ever personally scene.

Navy to conduct large-scale antiterrorism exercise

Navy to conduct large-scale antiterrorism exercise: "NORFOLK - Sailors will don battle gear and take up fighting positions at U.S. naval bases starting Tuesday in the nation's largest antiterrorism exercise, officials said.

Navy installations in the continental United States, Guam and Hawaii will participate in Exercise Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield through Friday. The exercise is intended to give officials a snapshot of military readiness, as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks approaches, by reviewing the response to multiple attacks.

The Navy plans to simulate real-world threats, incorporating lessons learned from the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, among others. ....

- bth: what would really be helpful is if they went down to Somalia, freed that American yacht with 4 Americans aboard, then went along the coast of Somalia and closed a few ports full of seized ships.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Information Dissemination: Iranian Navy Exposes a US Navy Weakness

Information Dissemination: Iranian Navy Exposes a US Navy Weakness: ..."The Iranian flagship Alvand is not a naval threat to anyone in the region, and is not why Israel is raising concern. The ship has terrible anti-air capabilities that are no match against the capabilities of the Egyptian Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Israeli Air Force, or Carrier Air Wing One on the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). While the media portrayal of the Iranian Navy near the Suez is one of distressing concern, the reality is that corvette represents the biggest regional target at sea for thousands of nautical miles. The media may describe the presence of the Iranian corvette in the context of doubt, fear, and concern; but given Israel's outrage and tendency to be trigger happy - allow me to suggest the scariest place to be in the Red Sea today is anywhere near that ship. I note the irony between how the news narrative represents a complete disconnect between perception and reality.

Speaking of Israeli concern, assuming it is legitimate and not parochial; it likely has to do with the supply ship Kharg and not the corvette Alvand.

The supply ship Kharg is much more interesting. The Kharg is the largest ship in the Iranian Navy displacing around 33,000 tons and is a modified Olwen class fast fleet tanker. This is a big ship, and with the current tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel is likely very concerned about what the ship is carrying. As a Navy ship rather than a commercial ship, the ship will not be searched for cargo so the concern by the Israeli's is that the ship could carry weapons to Syria where weapons can be unloaded and sent to Lebanon. There are rumors that go back several years that the Kharg has been often been observed in the Gulf of Aden delivering weapons from Iran to destinations like Eritrea and the Sudan.

If you follow the Wikileaks cables you will note that this known arms smuggling connection between Iran and Eritrea was how the Government of Yemen believed the Houthis were being armed, although the cables actually reveal that is not how the Houthis are being armed based on different intelligence.

Are the Israeli's being paranoid? Probably not. The Kharg is the best choice of vessel to move substantial arms from Iran to Hezbollah quickly and without harassment. It is around 2,150nm from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - where these Iranian ships made port last week. While I understand that a little corvette might have to make stops every few thousand nautical miles - even a corvette with the range of the Alvand - why does a fast fleet tanker like Kharg need a fill up after only a few thousand miles travel?

Probably because the tanker is carrying more than fuel....

It is more than a little disturbing to me that a ~1,500 ton Iranian corvette built in 1971 with 4 ASMs and no air defenses escorted by an old oil tanker can send the price of US oil up 1.8% for simply sailing on the ocean. Iran just significantly shifted an economic market in the US with a piece of shit corvette even though the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was literally right there. Think about that a second...

An increase of 1.8% comes to $.67 per bbl of oil, and the United States uses 21,000,000 bbls of oil per day. That means that through soft power presence alone the Iranian Navy flagship, which by every modern naval standard is nothing more than a ~1,500 ton unrated corvette with a questionably trained crew and supported an old tanker, and yet the Iranian Navy just sent a $14 million shiver down the spine of the energy economy of the United States. To add insult to injury, that bump in oil cost could potentially sustain itself for several days while the Iranian Navy operates in that region.

How do we reconcile the ability of an Iranian corvette half way around the world to influence a US economic market with the rhetoric by the United States Navy leadership who attempts to link US naval power with US economy? How can observers not draw the conclusion that investors in this country have lost all association with American naval power and the sustainability of regional peace when an Iranian corvette can make this kind of economic impact while operating right next to a US aircraft carrier strike group? Investors in the US oil futures market must not even associate US naval power as a deterrent to economic disruption when oil shoots up 1.8% based on presence alone, and in this case the US naval power present is a carrier strike group. Is this a matter of stupidity or ignorance on the part of the investors, or does this say something about the US Navy's ability to articulate it's own value to the nation?

So, clearly the Navy has a communication problem... How can the US Navy address this? Well, if I was given 5-star rank for a day I would sail my Arleigh Burke class destroyer along side the Iranian Navy flagship for a "wave and hello" and take a photograph of the two ships side by side while underway. I realize that strategic communication is a forgotten, and perhaps lost art in the US Navy, but if you put a photograph on with the two warships in near proximity that illustrates the sheer size difference between the flagship of the Iranian Navy and a US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyer, I will predict that the unofficial PASSEX is worth several thousand words to a great many reporters and Americans while also being a photograph worth about $14 million in savings to the US energy economy a day.

With a single photograph the concerns of an Iranian corvette threat to the Mediterranean Sea can be turned into an opportunity to communicate a visual public reminder of what US naval power looks like, and likely turns the Iranian naval threat to the Mediterranean Sea into the punchline of a joke - exactly what it should be....

- bth: fascinating read. Worth going to the original and reading the entire thing.

Marines' amphibious vehicle program could end under House budget plan

Marines' amphibious vehicle program could end under House budget plan: "The House has approved legislation that could permit termination of the Marine Corps' multibillion-dollar amphibious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, giving Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates a victory in his attempt to reduce Pentagon spending on costly or unneeded programs. ...

- bth: this has been a long time coming. I'll believe it when I see it.

Al Qaeda operative, 'Punjabis' thought killed in South Waziristan Predator strike - The Long War Journal

Al Qaeda operative, 'Punjabis' thought killed in South Waziristan Predator strike - The Long War Journal: "A senior al Qaeda operative and several 'Punjabi' terrorists are reported to have been killed in yesterday's Predator airstrike in an area of South Waziristan that remains under the control of the Taliban.

Abu Zaid al Iraqi, an al Qaeda operative who is also known as Ali Khan, is said to have been killed along with several 'foreigners' in the Feb. 20 strike in the town of Kaza Panga in the Azam Warzak area of South Waziristan. Reports indicate that between five and seven 'militants,' a term used to describe Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and operatives, were killed in yesterday's strike.

Abu Zaid is said to be al Qaeda's top financier in Pakistan, The Associated Press reported, based on information from Pakistani intelligence officials. Previously, al Qaeda's top financial official in the Afghan-Pakistan region was Mustafa Abu Yazid, the Egyptian commander who also led al Qaeda in the Khorasan. Yazid was killed in a US Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on May 21, 2010.

According to The Associated Press, Abu Zaid shifted operations from Afghanistan to South Waziristan sometime in 2008.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports of Abu Zaid's death, but would neither confirm nor deny the reports. One official cautioned against accepting the report without some form of confirmation from al Qaeda.

'We've been burnt by numerous bad reports of supposedly dead al Qaeda and Taliban HVTs [high value targets] from Pakistani officials,' an intelligence official said.

Another report, from the BBC, said that several 'Punjabis' were killed in the Feb. 20 strike in South Waziristan. The names or number of the so-called Punjabis was not disclosed, however....

- bth: so I guess the moratorium on drone strikes in Pakistan is over. This corresponds with articles out this week that the strikes are not very productive against high value targets. On the other hand this hit may be to counteract that publicity or perception. Interesting that we seem to be more effective against the money handlers than we used to. I wonder why.

Detroit Schools Closing: Michigan Officials Order Robert Bobb To Shut Half The City's Schools

Detroit Schools Closing: Michigan Officials Order Robert Bobb To Shut Half The City's Schools: "DETROIT (AP) -- State education officials have ordered the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools to immediately implement a plan that balances the district's books by closing half its schools.

The Detroit News says the financial restructuring plan will increase high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidate operations.

State superintendent of public instruction Mike Flanagan says in a Feb. 8 letter that the state plans to install another financial manager who must continue to implement Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb's plan after he leaves June 30. Flanagan's said approval of Bobb's plan means the district can't declare bankruptcy.

Bobb filed his deficit elimination plan with the state in January, saying it would wipe out the district's $327 million deficit by 2014

Bobb was hired in March 2009 by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

- bth: I'm sure a class size of 60 is conducive to chaos.

US fires 118 drone bombs at Pakistan, killing just two most-wanted terrorists | The Raw Story

US fires 118 drone bombs at Pakistan, killing just two most-wanted terrorists | The Raw Story: "WASHINGTON – Over one-hundred drone strikes in Pakistan last year ended up killing a total of 2 terrorists on the US most-wanted list, according to independent estimates.

In 2010, the CIA launched a total of 118 drone attacks in Pakistan, each costing more than $1 million, The Washington Post reported. It was a year in which the US dramatically expanded the scope and frequency of the strikes, which began under the Bush administration.

But just two of the militants killed were on the most-wanted list, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, which keeps track of terrorist leaders. They are Sheik Saeed al-Masri, a top Al-Qaeda operative, and Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali, who helped carry out the US embassy bombings of 1998.

An additional thirteen were considered 'high-value targets,' while the vast majority of the 581 estimated militants killed were low-level operatives....

- bth: low level militants can still strap on suicide vests or shoot a weapon. So killing them isn't a lost endeavor. Is it wise given the rise in anti-Americanism in Pakistan? Hard to tell.

US in direct talks with Taliban: New Yorker | The Raw Story

US in direct talks with Taliban: New Yorker | The Raw Story: "The administration of President Barack Obama has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban officials, according to The New Yorker magazine report.

Surrendering Taliban militants are seen in Herat, in November 2010. The administration of President Barack Obama has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban officials, according to The New Yorker magazine report.

The talks were characterized in the story as an attempt by the Obama administration 'to assess which figures in the Taliban's leadership, if any, might be willing to engage in formal Afghan peace negotiations, and under what conditions.'

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll on Friday wrote that several sources, which were not identified in the story, briefed him about the talks.

Earlier Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that only a political solution will end the war in Afghanistan.

'We will never kill enough insurgents to end this war outright,' Clinton said during a speech in New York.

Clinton voiced hope for splitting off rank-and-file Taliban from Al-Qaeda extremists in Afghanistan.

Clinton said the surge in US-led troops over the past year was part of a strategy to 'split the weakened Taliban off from Al-Qaeda and reconcile those who will renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution.'...

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Number of Solidly Democratic States Cut in Half From '08 to '10

Army Armors More Heavy Tactical Trucks - ASDNews

Army Armors More Heavy Tactical Trucks - ASDNews: "Arlington, Va. - The Army has introduced modular, add-on armor capability to key portions of its fleet of heavy tactical trucks to include the new M915-A5 Line-Haul Tractor, Palletized Load System PLS-A1, and Heavy Equipment Transporter HET-A1, service officials said.

'These vehicles are designed so you can take armor off during peacetime to reduce the burden on the platform itself -- as well as drive down the peacetime operating costs,' said Col. David Bassett, project manager for Tactical Vehicles.
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The move toward scalable armor for medium and heavy tactical vehicles is part of the Army's Long Term Armor Strategy articulated in its recently released 2011 Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy - a document which lays out the Army's plans for its 290,000 vehicle-strong tactical fleet through 2025.

'The truck fleet that the Army has and is continuing to field today is really different than the one we went into these conflicts with. We've gone from having what was almost a completely un-armored fleet to one in which every vehicle that is used operationally overseas today is armored against the threats that face our Soldiers. We've rapidly modernized our fleet,' said Bassett.

These new armored trucks represent the most recent addition to a large TWV fleet of trucks already equipped with modular armor, including the new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, know at HEMTTs.

The modular armor approach - explained as an A-kit plus B-kit solution - allows a truck with a small amount of built-on integrated armor to accept additional add-on armor when dictated by the threat environment.

'In accordance with our Army modernization strategy, we are going to procure trucks that are adaptable so that they can be used in many different environments. They will have the ability to accept armor and then relinquish that armor when it is no longer needed,' said Maj. Gen. Tom Spoehr, director of force development, Army G-8.

The modular armor strategy is designed to allow for the rapid incorporation of newer, potentially lighter-weight armor composites as technology progresses and makes them available, Spoehr said.

'They will be able to accept new forms of armor as science and industry produce new materials,' he said. 'These vehicles will have growth potential.'

Source : US Army
Army Armors More Heavy Tactical Trucks

- bth: it took 10 years of war but I think we are finally on the right track, designing modular and removable armor for support vehicles. This is just necessary in the IED environment we live in today.

Enhanced Combat Helmet to Be Fielded in Fall - ASDNews

Enhanced Combat Helmet to Be Fielded in Fall - ASDNews: "Washington - The Army is looking at an improved combat helmet that surpasses the capabilities of what Soldiers are currently wearing in the field, and it may be available in the fall.

The new Enhanced Combat Helmet doesn't look much different than the Advanced Combat Helmet it's designed to replace, but the performance difference is huge, said Col. William Cole, project manager, Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.

'If you hold them in your hand, you'd have a tough time telling the difference, other than the relative thickness,' Cole said during a media roundtable Feb. 2 in the Pentagon. 'The ECH is a little bit thicker, also about an ounce to four ounces lighter depending on the size. But it's really a huge leap ahead forward in terms of head protection capability.'

During testing, he said, the helmets did so well that a new test system will need to be developed to evaluate their effectiveness at protecting a Soldier's head from fragments.

'The data we're getting from the prototypes going into the milestone was even better than we hoped,' he said. 'We had hoped for a 35-percent improvement over the ACH in terms of ballistic protection and it's way better than that.'

With smaller fragments, the lab was unable to determine a 'V50' rating -- that's a determination of what velocity is needed for 50 percent of fragments to penetrate a test material.

'In this case the test guns they had couldn't shoot fragments fast enough to penetrate the helmet,' Cole said. 'We don't know exactly what the V50 is, but we know it's better than anything we've seen before. We're going to have to build stronger test guns to figure out exactly how good it is.'

The Army wants 200,000 of the helmets, though Cole said, 'I'd be surprised if we stop at that number.' It's expected fielding of the ECH will happen this fall and will align with the Army's Force Generation Model, though Cole said he hopes to accelerate fielding. The Marine Corps is a partner in development of the ECH and will also purchase the helmets.

'It potentially could mitigate some traumatic brain injuries -- we're seeing it has great potential,' said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer Soldier. 'We're trying to work through getting that product accelerated.'

Source : US Army

- bth: this is good especially that it considers blast as well as ballistics. For IED head trauma, blast is sufficient and most likely to cause damage and not actual ballistic penetration of shrapnel. I think this is a step in the right direction.

Government Tries to Keep Secret What Many Consider a Fraud -

Government Tries to Keep Secret What Many Consider a Fraud - "WASHINGTON — For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.

Al Jazeera showing video of Osama bin Laden. Mr. Montgomery said he found coded messages in its broadcasts.

The Justice Department, which in the last few months has gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of the technology out of court, says it is guarding state secrets that would threaten national security if disclosed. But others involved in the case say that what the government is trying to avoid is public embarrassment over evidence that Mr. Montgomery bamboozled federal officials.

A onetime biomedical technician with a penchant for gambling, Mr. Montgomery is at the center of a tale that features terrorism scares, secret White House briefings, backing from prominent Republicans, backdoor deal-making and fantastic-sounding computer technology.

Interviews with more than two dozen current and former officials and business associates and a review of documents show that Mr. Montgomery and his associates received more than $20 million in government contracts by claiming that software he had developed could help stop Al Qaeda’s next attack on the United States. But the technology appears to have been a hoax, and a series of government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Air Force, repeatedly missed the warning signs, the records and interviews show.

Mr. Montgomery’s former lawyer, Michael Flynn — who now describes Mr. Montgomery as a “con man” — says he believes that the administration has been shutting off scrutiny of Mr. Montgomery’s business for fear of revealing that the government has been duped.

- bth: it is exactly cases like that that require open government and not a liberal dose of deception based on national secrecy.

Suicide blasts kill 38 at Afghanistan bank as soldiers collect paychecks

Suicide blasts kill 38 at Afghanistan bank as soldiers collect paychecks: "KABUL - Three suicide bombers stormed a branch of Kabul Bank in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing 38 people and wounding dozens more, according to Afghan officials.

The bombers blew themselves up as the branch in Jalalabad, in Nangahar province, was crowded with Afghan soldiers collecting their salaries, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Among the casualties were 21 members of the Afghan national security forces, including 13 policemen and seven soldiers, according to the Associated Press. ...

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