Friday, May 13, 2011

This request from the Libyan Transitional Government is entirely reasonable and in order

What the Libyan Resistance Needs - NYTimes.com
..During my visit to Washington this week, we are asking the Obama administration and Congress to do the following:

INTENSIFY NATO OPERATIONS NATO saved our lives, but many Libyans remain in danger. With United States help, NATO needs to maintain the tempo of its actions and provide more support to protect civilians. Even though the opposition just succeeded in taking back the airport in Misurata, for example, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces continue to attack civilians and try to prevent the flow of aid into the city.

OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZE THE COUNCIL We ask the United States to join France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar in recognizing the council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people until free elections can be held. This signal would further isolate the Qaddafi regime in Tripoli, heighten opposition morale and improve access to diplomatic and humanitarian assistance.

ACCELERATE ACCESS TO FROZEN LIBYAN ASSETS In February, the United States froze $33 billion in assets that the Qaddafi regime had moved outside Libya. In Rome last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton committed to releasing frozen funds or devising an alternative financing plan; this needs to happen expeditiously. Whether through loans, trust funds or other mechanisms, we desperately need this money to provide basic services and humanitarian assistance and to begin rebuilding Libya.

SUSTAIN HUMANITARIAN AID The impressive American and international response helped avert an even greater humanitarian crisis. With thousands of displaced persons and widespread destruction, the need for assistance grows....

We need bases in Afghanistan to reach into Paksitan?

Bin Laden Raid: U.S. Needs Afghanistan Base in Al Qaeda Fight - The Daily Beast
...The U.S. raid into Pakistan's heartland that killed Osama bin Laden was possible only because America and NATO are engaged in Afghanistan. The crucial linkage between our Afghan war policy and President Obama's goal of defeating al Qaeda was underscored by the Navy SEALs' mission. Simply put, we can't put pressure on al Qaeda without Afghanistan forward operating bases, and we clearly can't trust Pakistan to handle al Qaeda alone....

-- bth:  the Taliban summer offensive of 2011 is not equivalent to the Tet offensive in scope as the author suggest, but his point is well taken, that we need bases outside but adjacent to Pakistan to deal with al Qaeda and Afghanistan offers the only realistic location for such bases.  Ships are too far away from key areas and India and iran are not viable for political reasons.

Canadian Forces can't redeploy overseas for a year due to Afghan pullout

Canadian Forces can't redeploy overseas for a year due to Afghan pullout
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canada's ability to deploy its combat forces overseas will be impeded for more than a year due to the complexity of repairing and repatriating huge quantities of gear at the end of the current combat mission, the commander of the army says.

"We are planning to be reconstituted to a level of deployability by November 2012," said Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin during a briefing on how to move tons of helicopters, ammunition, heavy armoured vehicles and about 1,000 sea containers of equipment back to Canada. "We will have the means, by December 2012, to deploy a capable task force — not of this size — to respond if the government of Canada wants to commit us."

When calculating the time it will take for Canadian Forces to return to full operational strength again, the general said it was necessary to also consider that its fleet of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) is slated to be upgraded over the next few years at a factory in London, Ont.

The de facto operational pause would also give combat troops much-needed time at home after multiple Afghan tours, and as well as a chance to attend courses that have in some cases been missed for years because of Afghan duty.

After Devlin completed his final battlefield circulation with troops from the Royal 22nd Regiment, who are still fighting the Taliban to the west of Kandahar City, the commander of Canada's follow-on training force, Maj.-Gen. Mike Day took over responsibility Thursday in Kabul for the NATO mission that is training the Afghan army.

"I have inherited a machine that since the start of the Second World War is unparalleled in its ability to create an army," Day said in an interview. "This is an industrial-level effort by the Afghans to recruit their people, bring them together as a national institution, field them and employ."...

-- bth: Canada might have been able to field armies for WWII but it can't keep a few thousand troops in the field.  It is no longer a credible fighting force.
Pentagon expects IED hits to rise - USATODAY.com
...Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the No.1 cause of fatalities and
injuries to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The devices have killed 657 U.S.
troops and wounded 6,330 since the war began in 2001 through March of
this year. Warmer weather and the end of the poppy harvest have
generally heralded the beginning of the toughest combat in Afghanistan....To protect troops, handheld mine detectors, small drones with cameras and bomb-sniffing dogs are being rushed to the front lines, he said.

Dogs have become so vital to foot patrols that battalion commanders must sign off on operations that do not include them in their plans, he said.

Other gear in demand: heavy silk shorts to protect troops' abdomens from being pierced with bomb debris; miniature robots to probe suspected bombs from a distance; and explosive ropes that can be propelled 27 yards by a small rocket to blast a path through a minefield.

The need for counter-IED gear is so urgent that troops often see it for the first time when they arrive in Afghanistan. Barbero wants to obtain more of it so that soldiers and Marines can train with it at home before deploying.

The vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan (84%) are powered by homemade explosives whose main ingredient is fertilizer, Barbero said. Virtually all of that comes from Pakistan, and it is "ubiquitous" in Afghanistan, he said.

The Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies have formed a task force to reduce the amounts entering Afghanistan, he said. The fertilizer ammonium nitrate already has been banned in Afghanistan.

Reducing the fertilizer supply is a worthwhile effort, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity, a public policy organization focused on defense issues.

Because it takes a relatively small amount to make a bomb, the effort probably won't reduce the threat substantially, Pike said.

Instead, he said, establishing "persistent surveillance" of insurgents and areas where they might plant bombs shows the most promise. The military should field as many drones or unmanned aerial surveillance systems as possible, he said.

-- bth; So basically IEDs have accounted for about 2/3rd of the deaths in Afghanistan.  JIEDDO must really be under pressure to make something good happen.  We are likely to have an all time record of IED incidents.  One thought.  There are only 2 ammonium nitrate plants in Pakistan.  Either buy them out or burn them up.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

PM to visit Afghanistan amid regional uncertainty

PM to visit Afghanistan amid regional uncertainty - Hindustan Times
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Afghanistan for two days on Thursday to discuss security and development, the Prime Minister's Office said on Wednesday, amid regional uncertainty following the death of Osama bin Laden. Any quickening of the endgame in Afghanistan is a concern for the co untry, which fears a US withdrawal would leave it exposed to an unfriendly, Pakistan-dominated neighbourhood and unfettered militancy in its backyard.

The trip will be Singh's first visit to Afghanistan since 2005 and comes just over a week after bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan.

Singh will be visiting Afghanistan from May 12-13, his office said on its website on Wednesday....

-- bth: The game continues.  Pakistan tied to China.  India increasingly to the USA and to Afghanistan.

"If our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself," Singh said in a statement released by the country's foreign ministry.

"We will exchange views on developments in the region and our common fight against the scourge of terrorism. The quest of the Afghan people for peace, stability and reconciliation needs the full support of all countries in the region and the international community."

British PM: Begin Afghanistan Pullout Now

British PM: Begin Afghanistan Pullout Now -- News from Antiwar.com
On Tuesday much was made of high profile comments by several top British generals, including commander Gen. James Bucknall, calling for Britain to maintain troops in Afghanistan for years after the 2014 pullout. Those comments, it seems, were not made in a vacuum.

Rather they were a direct challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has reportedly been pushing recently for the nation to immediately begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, saying he wants to start reducing the size of the British commitment no later than July, when the nominal US drawdown is expected to begin....

Remember that our surge will roughly equal the number of troops our NATO allies are pulling out of Afghanistan

Gadhafi Stages Event to Show Libyan Tribal Unity
WASHINGTON—U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year's end, the first phase of a U.S. pullout promised by President Barack Obama, officials say.
The proposals, prepared by staff officers in Kabul, are likely to be the subject of fierce internal debate in the White House, State Department and Pentagon—a discussion influenced by calculations about how Osama bin Laden's death will affect the Afghan battlefield.

The plans were drafted before the U.S. killed the al Qaeda leader, and could be revised. They have yet to be formally presented to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who must then seek White House approval for a withdrawal.

If approved by top military officers and the president, an initial withdrawal of 5,000 would represent a modest reduction from the current 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, allowing the military to preserve combat power through this summer's fighting season. Some of the troops that leave in July will be combat troops but commanders hope to minimize the impact by culling support staff as well.

In addition to U.S. forces, there are more than 40,000 international troops in Afghanistan, some of whom could also begin pulling out this summer, officials said.

Mr. Obama set the July deadline in December 2009 as he announced the surge of an additional 30,000 forces, in an effort to reassure Democrats skeptical of the war that even as he was building up troops in Afghanistan he wasn't signing off on an endless conflict.

Military officials believe the White House doesn't want a precipitous drawdown that would undercut U.S. gains in southern Afghanistan, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban, whose top leadership in Pakistan have had longstanding ties to bin Laden and his terror organization.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said bin Laden's death could be a "game-changer" in Afghanistan. U.S. officials hope that the weakening of al Qaeda might make their Taliban allies more receptive to a negotiated settlement, though they say it could take six months or longer to know what impact bin Laden's death will have on the fighting....

John Kerry Next Sec. of State?

John Kerry headed to Pakistan - Jennifer Epstein - POLITICO.com
...Since the bin Laden raid, some members of Congress have expressed doubt about the billions in aid the U.S. sends to Pakistan, questioning whether and how officials there were unaware of the Al Qaeda leader’s presence in a suburb with a heavy military presence.

“There are some serious questions, obviously, there are some serious issues that we’ve just got to find a way to resolve together,” Kerry said, but “our interests and their interests, I think, are well served by working through those difficulties.”

Kerry said he had spoken to State Department officials about his trip, and planned to stop by the White House before taking off.

At a hearing of his committee on Tuesday morning, Kerry said the killing of bin Laden “provides a potentially game-changing opportunity to build momentum for a political solution in Afghanistan that could also bring greater stability to the region as well as ultimately enable the allies to bring their troops home.”

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found Americans more positive about the Afghanistan war effort after bin Laden’s killing. But the poll also shows a growing sense that the need is waning for a U.S. military presence there, with 59 percent of those asked saying they think the United States has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring troops home, while just 36 percent said U.S. forces still have important work to do there....

-- bth: I think the prospect of John Kerry being the next Sec. of State are high and furthermore I think he would make an excellent one.  Keep in mind last time he visited Pakistan he is rumored to have gotten several agents out of the country who were in serious trouble on his plane.

Is Pakistan's Arab Spring Coming?

Is Pakistan's Arab Spring Coming? - The Daily Beast
... Pakistan's social structure makes it almost implausible that someone like bin Laden could hide in Abbottabad for several years without assistance from some powerful individuals. It is the business of the army and the intelligence chiefs respectively to demand accountability within the service. However, they do need now to answer to the people why over these last many years they have responded with arrogance to the charge that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. They kept demanding intelligence to prove that he was in their midst. Yet, there he actually was and no one knew except a reported gold smuggler with a house surrounded by high walls? Foreigners cannot even own land in Pakistan where national identity cards are routinely required for many transactions normal elsewhere. Yet, we are to believe that an Afghan national was able to buy land right next to the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan's West Point, and build an unusual house over many months without anyone knowing for what it was intended.

Getting beyond embarrassment, the National Security Committee of the National assembly will be meeting in-camera to question General Ashfaq Kayani and General Shuja Pasha as to the operations of the security establishment and culpability of the bin Laden saga. The fact that these military leaders have even agreed to show up demonstrates their new sense of vulnerability before the political leaders to whom they normally pay scant attention. The media is full of questions asked by many Pakistanis reflecting the demise of the myth of military's superior place in society. While no one expects that the institution will or should collapse, given the tense relationship with neighbors, all are wondering whether in a new Pakistan, political supremacy over the military is finally due. As the potential for prolonged democratic rule becomes apparent, the United States would do well to side with the people in all of its assistance programming. Pakistan's stability and the region's security depend on it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tent covering a cave entrance? Curious

Osama Bin Laden's Wife Vowed To Be 'Martyred' Alongside Al Qaeda Leader
...Her father, Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, said they later learned through a courier that she had given birth to a daughter named Safiya.

Members of the family then went to Afghanistan to visit Amal al-Sada and the baby. Although they said the visit took place before the 9/11 attacks, this would be no easy trip.

They spent more than 20 days in a hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, under the watchful gaze of fighters loyal to bin Laden, according to the father. Among them were two men who had been on the same flight from Yemen.

One night, he said, a car took them to the Afghan border. Then came a six- or seven-hour ride in another vehicle until they reached a large tent guarded by mujahedeen. Inside the tent was an opening to an underground passageway. They walked in the passageway for about 30 minutes before emerging on the other side. Then another vehicle took them to bin Laden's cave, according to his account....

'ISI mulling action against Mullah Omar'

ISI mulling action against Mullah Omar
LONDON: A British paper, The Sun has claimed that both US and Pakistani special forces were hunting the Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar's hideout after new tip-offs.





In its 10th May 2011 report tabloid said: "Intelligence suggests the one-eyed warlord is being sheltered in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, near the Afghan border".

"Pakistan's ISI spy network was said to be desperate to find him first after being humiliated by the American operation which killed al-Qaeda chief Bin Laden. And US strike teams were fine-tuning plans for an assault on Omar's lair after collecting a treasure trove of data from Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad."

The newspaper report also added: "A senior ISI official confirmed they were going after Omar, adding: "There will be a huge military action in Quetta very soon. "The decision has been taken to act before the Americans have a chance to repeat their mission against Bin Laden. We will try to take him alive but if he resists he will be killed."

--- bth: it would seem almost certain that Omar would be displacing himself by now wherever he was living.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pentagon Expects More IED Attacks As U.S. Casualties Rise

Pentagon Expects More IED Attacks As U.S. Casualties Rise

Despite nearly a decade of costly and sometimes frantic struggle, the United States military has been unable to control the Afghan insurgents’ most deadly weapon, the improvised explosive device, or IED. As the war’s 10th fighting season opens, casualties are again on the rise, and senior U.S. officials expect the war’s grim toll will claim more even more dead and wounded.

In his first interview since taking over the Pentagon’s counter-IED campaign in March, Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told The Huffington Post he expects increased U.S., allied and Afghan casualties in the coming months as the fighting picks up and dismounted American troops push into areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan against fierce Taliban resistance.

“We’re going to have good days and we’re going to have bad days,’’ said Barbero, a soft-spoken West Point officer with vast combat experience, agreeing that the casualty statistics are “horrifying.’’ While Barbero acknowledged the skill needed to assemble and place IEDs, he insisted the growing casualties were not a sign that the insurgents are winning.

“As you put more cops in a bad neighborhood, your crime stats go up,’’ he said. “Is the neighborhood safer? Yeah! We’re putting in more troops and they are more active, so your contacts [with the enemy] go up. We expect that.’’

So far this year, 80 American troops have been killed by IEDs. Since the war began in October, 2001, 980 U.S. troops have been killed by roadside bombs. Thousands more have been severely wounded.

The United States has spent more than $20 billion trying to prevent the damage of these primitive but deadly homemade bombs in Afghanistan. Most of these explosives are made with ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in fertilizer, that is made in “a couple of factories in Pakistan,’’ Barbero said. The compound is packed in bags and carried by donkey cart or truck into Afghanistan. “It’s everywhere,’’ he said.

Much of the money the United States has spent to protect soldiers from IEDs in Afghanistan has gone to a dizzying array of high-tech devices, ranging from miniature robots to sensors mounted on balloons and unmanned drones, to handheld detectors, ground-penetrating radar and explosive-sniffing dogs.

The key stumbling block, Barbero said, is that soldiers and Marines are not well trained in using these technologies. “We have focused on pushing these equipments and enablers and detectors out to the theater -- and that’s the right answer,’’ he said. “But that creates a challenge of training.’’ In some cases, he said, the first time soldiers and Marines see the new equipment is when they show up for duty in Afghanistan.

Increasingly, American commanders are leaving behind their heavy armored vehicles and instead sending their fighters out on dismounted patrols. This tactic, expanded under the direction of Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, puts the troops at greater risk as they plod across sandy stretches of desert and along narrow dirt paths inside walled villages. But being dismounted also puts soldiers closer to the population and, the theory goes, makes it easier to can make friends and pick up intelligence.

“This enemy is savvy and smart,’’ he said, and has reacted quickly to a key shift in U.S. tactics: In some cases, troops have had to fight their way through belts of IEDs in order to reach a village. But once they reach key terrain and stay there, local Afghans increasingly tip them off to caches where Taliban fighters have stored explosives, detonators and other weapons. The increased communcation is already paying off, Barbero said, as growing number of IEDs are being discovered before they explode.

Fifty-nine percent of all known IEDs last month were found, either as the result of tips or good detection by U.S. troops, according to Pentagon data. Some IEDs exploded without causing casualties.

But an increasing proportion of the bombs that did detonate killed U.S. and allied troops. Deadly attacks increased from 16 percent of all IED attacks in March to 19 percent in April.

To lessen the risk on these dismounted patrols, the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the Pentagon agency lead by Barbero, is training soldiers and Marines to know which gear best detects the kinds of IEDs used in different parts of the country, and which detectors work best when mounted on armored vehicles. They are teaching battalion command staffs how to integrate the information from cameras mounted on balloons and UAVs with local tips to identify and track insurgent IED networks: the couriers who bring in the explosive, the bomb-makers who mix and dry the explosive, the financiers and the locals paid to dig in the bombs....

LA Times: Tweaked helmet would better protect our troops

Tweaked helmet would better protect our troops - latimes.com
A slightly larger helmet with more foam padding would better protect soldiers and Marines from traumatic brain injury, researchers find. The Department of Defense says that more than 130,000 military personnel have suffered such injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

April 24, 2011

It is the "signature wound" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: traumatic brain injury from the blast of the enemy's improvised explosive devices. Now two researchers say that minor changes in the military's combat helmet could reduce the incidence and severity of these injuries.

Using complex computer modeling to determine the impact of such blasts on helmets, physicist Willy Moss and mechanical engineer Michael King of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California concluded that soldiers and Marines would be better protected by wearing a slightly larger helmet with 1/8 inch more foam padding.

"I'm almost embarrassed," King said, that the finding was so simple.

The two researchers had been selected by the Army and its Joint IED Defeat Organization, which is looking for better ways to protect military personnel against improvised explosive devices, to perform the yearlong, $540,000 study based on previous work on blast-induced traumatic brain injury.

The assignment was to test which kind of helmet liner provided the most protection: two pads used by the Army, two used by the National Football League, and one used in other sports equipment. The pads had different configurations and hardness of foam, and different spacing and design of air pockets.

King and Moss found that the Army pads worked the best — but could work even better with just a slight change in thickness. "What we found amazing was that our results suggested a very low-cost strategy," Moss said.

The NFL pads, the two researchers found, didn't work as well because they were more rigid than the Army pads and thus allowed forces to be "transferred" to the head. The Army pad, 3/4 of an inch thick, absorbs a larger amount of the force.

The results of their tests have been forwarded to the Army and the Marine Corps for review and possible further testing.

At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, officials said the findings would be included in the continuing research in several Army commands to design the safest possible helmet. A meeting is set for next month for military researchers involved in helmet design.

"This is a 'physics' answer — now we're trying to tie it back to the head," said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, program executive officer with an Army command dedicated to developing improved equipment.

Traumatic brain injury is defined as a concussion that can occur even without the skin being broken. The Department of Defense says that more than 130,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Symptoms include headaches, loss of balance, difficulty driving, visual distortions, memory loss and trouble sleeping.

Earlier testing had suggested that the Army helmet, which is designed to cushion against a direct impact, was less suited to a blast-wave from an explosion, King and Moss said.

They found that if soldiers were to wear a helmet one size larger, with additional padding, their chances of avoiding traumatic brain injury would be improved by 24%. Helmets come in small, medium, large and extra-large.

However, the increased weight could be a stumbling block. Half of all soldiers and Marines wear a large-size helmet. The next size up is 9 ounces heavier, at 3 pounds 14 ounces.

Col. William Cole, a specialist in individual protection equipment, said soldiers at Ft. Benning, Ga., objected to adding even a single ounce to their helmets, let alone 9 ounces. A heavier helmet, he added, could also restrict maneuverability — although using a lighter material for the helmet could offset the added weight from the larger size.

Cole's experience at Ft. Benning differed from that of Moss when he went to Tampa, Fla., to meet with U.S. Special Forces soldiers. He said he was buoyed by their positive response to wearing slightly larger helmets.

"I used that as my sanity check," he said. "I trust those guys."

This is not the first time researchers have suggested that a change in the military helmet could better protect troops. Last year, a team from MIT suggested that a face shield could provide protection because the face is the "pathway" through which pressure from a blast travels to the brain.

Best known for its weapons design work, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does research projects for the departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security. Among its recent projects are environmental cleanup and cancer research.

The helmet project is just one of several attempts by the military to find solutions to the traumatic brain injury problem:

• The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the U.S. military hospital in Germany, this year opened a Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center with specialists in neurology, optometry, audiology, physical therapy, speech language pathology, occupational therapy, psychology and nursing. All patients brought to the medical center from Iraq and Afghanistan are tested for traumatic brain injury, which Air Force Major Megumi Vogt, medical program chief there, likens to "when something knocks the wheels out of alignment on your vehicle."

• The Marine Corps last year established a Concussion Care Center at Camp Leatherneck, the Marines' major base in Afghanistan, staffed by Navy doctors, a psychologist and a chaplain.

Marines and soldiers with symptoms of traumatic brain injury are evaluated and treated there. Only when they have not experienced a symptom for seven days are they allowed to return to their unit. In some cases, "even reading a book is too much strain for the brain in the first few days" after an injury, said Navy Cmdr. Earl Frantz, a doctor specializing in sports medicine.

• Studies are planned by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to evaluate various evaluation and rehabilitation strategies for traumatic brain injury. One study plans to look at 1,200 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan over 15 years.

tony.perry@latimes.com

--- bth: Alma and I met with BG Fuller about a year ago at a meeting set up by Rep. Tsongas to talk about lighter body armor and recent advances.  I was impressed that BG Fuller actually cared about what was coming out of his labs and had a good command of detail.  This helmet study which essentially says add more padding and oversize the helmet makes a lot of sense and seems to confirm anecdotal evidence previously available.  People seems surprised that sports equipment should be so radically different from soldiers' gear, but in fact they address many of the same problems and in fact early helmet improvements in WWII came from football gear changes in the 30s, i.e., tankers helmets.  Now it probably needs to be said that blast injuries need to be more heavily weighted in future studies relative to penetration injuries with regards helmets given the overwhelming number and cost of treatment of TBI from IEDs.  Also we need to start thinking about the fact the blast in coming from below and not from above as would have been the case in say WWII from artillery.  Mouth guards have also been demonstrated important in reducing concussions just as is the case for boxers.  Face shields as cited by MIT may also offer benefits though I wonder how important improved eye protection is in addressing head injuries.  Good stuff.  Nice to see some actual science and hard facts.

Tweaked helmet would better protect our troops

Military helmets: Slight tweaks would improve protection for our troops - latimes.com
It is the "signature wound" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: traumatic brain injury from the blast of the enemy's improvised explosive devices. Now two researchers say that minor changes in the military's combat helmet could reduce the incidence and severity of these injuries.

Using complex computer modeling to determine the impact of such blasts on helmets, physicist Willy Moss and mechanical engineer Michael King of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California concluded that soldiers and Marines would be better protected by wearing a slightly larger helmet with 1/8 inch more foam padding.

"I'm almost embarrassed," King said, that the finding was so simple.

The two researchers had been selected by the Army and its Joint IED Defeat Organization, which is looking for better ways to protect military personnel against improvised explosive devices, to perform the yearlong, $540,000 study based on previous work on blast-induced traumatic brain injury.

The assignment was to test which kind of helmet liner provided the most protection: two pads used by the Army, two used by the National Football League, and one used in other sports equipment. The pads had different configurations and hardness of foam, and different spacing and design of air pockets.

King and Moss found that the Army pads worked the best — but could work even better with just a slight change in thickness. "What we found amazing was that our results suggested a very low-cost strategy," Moss said.

The NFL pads, the two researchers found, didn't work as well because they were more rigid than the Army pads and thus allowed forces to be "transferred" to the head. The Army pad, 3/4 of an inch thick, absorbs a larger amount of the force.

The results of their tests have been forwarded to the Army and the Marine Corps for review and possible further testing.

At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, officials said the findings would be included in the continuing research in several Army commands to design the safest possible helmet. A meeting is set for next month for military researchers involved in helmet design.

"This is a 'physics' answer — now we're trying to tie it back to the head," said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, program executive officer with an Army command dedicated to developing improved equipment.

Traumatic brain injury is defined as a concussion that can occur even without the skin being broken. The Department of Defense says that more than 130,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Symptoms include headaches, loss of balance, difficulty driving, visual distortions, memory loss and trouble sleeping.

Earlier testing had suggested that the Army helmet, which is designed to cushion against a direct impact, was less suited to a blast-wave from an explosion, King and Moss said.

They found that if soldiers were to wear a helmet one size larger, with additional padding, their chances of avoiding traumatic brain injury would be improved by 24%. Helmets come in small, medium, large and extra-large.

However, the increased weight could be a stumbling block. Half of all soldiers and Marines wear a large-size helmet. The next size up is 9 ounces heavier, at 3 pounds 14 ounces.

Col. William Cole, a specialist in individual protection equipment, said soldiers at Ft. Benning, Ga., objected to adding even a single ounce to their helmets, let alone 9 ounces. A heavier helmet, he added, could also restrict maneuverability — although using a lighter material for the helmet could offset the added weight from the larger size.

Cole's experience at Ft. Benning differed from that of Moss when he went to Tampa, Fla., to meet with U.S. Special Forces soldiers. He said he was buoyed by their positive response to wearing slightly larger helmets.

"I used that as my sanity check," he said. "I trust those guys."

This is not the first time researchers have suggested that a change in the military helmet could better protect troops. Last year, a team from MIT suggested that a face shield could provide protection because the face is the "pathway" through which pressure from a blast travels to the brain....

--- bth: I'm also aware mouth guards like a football player or boxer wears will dramatically decrease concussions

Osama Bin Laden Son Missing From SEAL Raid, Pakistan Says

Osama Bin Laden Son Missing From SEAL Raid, Pakistan Says - ABC News
One of Osama bin Laden's sons went missing in the midst of the Navy SEAL raid that took the life of the al Qaeda leader more than a week ago, Pakistani security officials told ABC News today.

The officials said bin Laden's three wives, who are all in Pakistani custody, said that one of bin Laden's sons has not been seen since the raid. The son has not been identified, but Pakistani investigators agreed that it appeared someone was missing from the sprawling compound, the officials said.

U.S. officials said that one of bin Laden's sons, Khalid, was killed in
the raid. It is not known if another son, Hamza, was in the compound at
the time of the raid, though his mother is reportedly one of the wives
in custody. The U.S. has denied the SEALs took anyone from the compound
other than bin Laden's body.
...

-- bth: one wonders if we are not trading his debriefing with the Pakis for the wives' statements

Mexican drug smugglers tunnel 250 feet through SOLID ROCK beneath U.S. border

Smuggling tunnels used by drug cartels found beneath Mexican-U.S. border in Arizona | Mail Online
A tunnel running 250 feet beneath the U.S.-Mexican border has been discovered fully kitted out with electricity, water pumps and ventilation.

Authorities in Arizona said although they've found dozens of tunnels in Nogales, a city in Santa Cruz County since the 1990s, this one is by far the most sophisticated.
Alternative route: A smuggling tunnel kitted out with lights, pumps and ventilation has been discovered running under the Mexican-U.S. border in the city of Nogales
Chief border patrol agent Randy Hill said those who were building it had chiselled through solid rock and installed lighting and other equipment.
Alternative route: A smuggling tunnel kitted out with lights, pumps and ventilation has been discovered running under the Mexican-U.S. border in the city of Nogales

Alternative route: A smuggling tunnel kitted out with lights, pumps and ventilation has been discovered running under the Mexican-U.S. border in the city of Nogales

Border patrol found an entrance to the tunnel on May 2 in an abandoned building. An investigation has begun with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Mexican government.

More...

Arizona governor defies Obama to demand Supreme Court allow state's 'racist' immigration law
Arizona calls for online donations in bid to build fence along entire border with Mexico


The tunnel lies 15 feet beneath the ground and is three feet wide and five feet high.

Chief Hill said: 'This tunnel is more sophisticated than other recently discovered tunnels. They chiselled through solid rock and then installed electricity, lighting, water pumps, and ventilation....

-- bth: note that this story shows up in the UK papers but not in the US

Monday, May 09, 2011

Just got to wonder where Turkey is headed

Turkey: Thousands attend bin Laden 'funeral' - Israel News, Ynetnews
Thousands participated in a funeral ceremony for assassinated al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Istanbul on Friday, following Muslim burial rites but not including an actual burial.

Bin Laden was taken out by Navy SEAL troops last week and was subsequently buried at sea.

"The US, UK and Israel are the murderers of the martyr," the participants chanted. "The US is the terrorist, bin Laden is the warrior."....

The Terrifying Truth About Pakistan

Pakistan's Army: At War with Al Qaeda and In Bed With It - The Daily Beast
...The syndicate of terror in Pakistan is not a monolith. It has no single leader. Its fluidity is a strength, because it is so complex and multi-layered. Now it is clear it has put its agents deep in the Pakistani military. Obama was right not to trust it on Osama.

The Pakistani army, the fifth-largest in the world, is a maze of contradictions and complexities. Meanwhile it steadily builds more nuclear weapons faster than any other country in the world today. It has close ties to China and Saudi Arabia and troops deployed to back up monarchies like Bahrain and Oman.

It is easy to be confused and angry about Pakistan. But that is not a strategy. The right course calls for engagement, with tough redlines, backed by unilateral operations when needed.