Saturday, May 28, 2011

WikiLeaks accused Bradley Manning 'should never have been sent to Iraq' | World news | The Guardian

WikiLeaks accused Bradley Manning 'should never have been sent to Iraq' | World news | The Guardian: "Bradley Manning was thought unfit to go to Iraq Link to this video

The American soldier at the centre of the WikiLeaks revelations was so mentally fragile before his deployment to Iraq that he wet himself, threw chairs around, shouted at his commanding officers and was regularly brought in for psychiatric evaluations, according to an investigative film produced by the Guardian.

Bradley Manning, who was detained a year ago on Sunday in connection with the biggest security leak in US military history, was a 'mess of a child' who should never have been put through a tour of duty in Iraq, according to an officer from the Fort Leonard Wood military base in Missouri, where Manning trained in 2007.

The officer's words reinforce a leaked confidential military report that reveals that other senior officers thought he was unfit to go to Iraq. 'He was harassed so much that he once pissed in his sweatpants,' the officer said.

'I escorted Manning a couple of times to his 'psych' evaluations after his outbursts. They never should have trapped him in and recycled him in [to Iraq]. Never. Not that mess of a child I saw with my own two eyes. No one has mentioned the army's failure here – and the discharge unit who agreed to send him out there,' said the officer, who asked not to be identified because of the hostility towards Manning in the military.

'I live in an area where I would be persecuted if I said anything against the army or helped Manning,' the officer said.

Despite several violent outbursts and a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, a condition that meant he was showing difficulty adjusting to military life, Manning was eventually sent to Iraq, where it is alleged he illegally downloaded thousands of sensitive military and diplomatic documents and passed them on to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

In Iraq, Manning retained his security clearance to work as an intelligence specialist.

Two months after his arrival, the bolt was removed from his rifle because he was thought to be a danger, his lawyer, David Coombs, has confirmed.

A Guardian investigation focusing on soldiers who worked with Manning in Iraq has also discovered there was virtually no computer and intelligence security at Manning's station in Iraq, Forward Operating Base Hammer. According to eyewitnesses, the security was so lax that many of the 300 soldiers on the base had access to the computer room where Manning worked, and passwords to access the intelligence computers were stuck on 'sticky notes' on the laptop screens.

Rank and file soldiers would watch grisly 'kill mission' footage as a kind of entertainment on computers with access to the sensitive network of US diplomatic and military communications known as SIPRNet.

Jacob Sullivan, 28, of Phoenix, Arizona, a former chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, was stationed at FOB Hammer in Manning's unit.

'A lot of different people worked from that building and in pretty much every room there was a SIPRNet computer attached to a private soldier or a specialist,' Sullivan said

'On the computers that I saw there was a [sticky label] either on the computer or next to the computer with the information to log on. I was never given permission to log on so I never used it but there were a lot of people who did.'

He added: 'If you saw a laptop with a red wire coming out of it, you knew it was a SIPRNet. I would be there by myself and the laptops [would] be sitting there with passwords. Everyone would write their passwords down on sticky notes and set it by their computer. [There] wasn't a lot of security going on so no wonder something like this transpired.'

Manning is facing multiple charges of downloading and passing on sensitive information. No one else at the base has been charged. Manning denies all the charges. If convicted he could face up to 55 years in jail.

The US Defence Security Service is also investigating why Manning, who had been sent for psychiatric counselling before he was deployed to Iraq, was not screened more fully before he was allowed to work in intelligence.

Eyewitness accounts by soldiers who served with him there and friends in the US who spoke to the Guardian paint a picture of an increasingly unstable and at times violent man.

One soldier who served with him describes him 'blowing up and punching this chick in the face'.

Additional reporting by Daniel Fisher

- bth: watch the video attached to the original article. Basically there was a total security breakdown. The officers in charge need to be brought up on charges. Image an soldier that spends 24x7 on secure computers with passwords taped to them, who punches a female officer, throws chairs and is so unstable that they remove the bolt from his rifle, is gay, beaten and bullied because of it. That is Bradley Manning. An astounding leadership failure.

Think tank report says Turkey should focus on Syria

Think tank report says Turkey should focus on Syria: "A report released by an Ankara-based think tank indicates that as the Syrian regime faces hardships with the continuing public uprisings for a more democratic regime, Turkey should develop policies to influence the process to evolve democratically, since Syrian matters are “family matters” to Turkey.

The report released on May 9 by the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) titled “The Name of Walking in a Mine Field: Forcing Change in Syria,” indicates that Syria is in need of “urgent change” and Turkey needs to develop policies in the direction of democratic change, as human rights groups say the death toll from Syria's crackdown on a nine-week uprising has exceeded 1,000.

The report states that Turkey's priority should be preventing a foreign intervention.

“A foreign intervention in Syria means disaster for both Turkey and the region. A solution is necessary before it reaches that point. Turkey should focus on Syria with all of its power. If the issues in Syria are not solved as soon as possible, Turkey's initiatives in the region will fail,” the report said and continued: “Turkey's assertion to be a model state in the region will weaken in particular. A Turkey that cannot be influential in solving matters in Syria will lose its positive image in the eyes of the Arab public. The situation in Syria could be seen as a foreign policy problem in other countries, but it is a family matter for Turkey. Events in the region will greatly affect Turkey.”....

- bth: this article is worth reading in full.

Contractors in Afghanistan in Jeopardy

The very best blogger in Afghanistan is Free Range International. Unfortunately it just went off the air because of rising threats of death and kidnapping for international private contractors. It seems the Taliban is targeting them now. Also corrupt Afghan officials retaliate against NGOs and contractors whenever official government corruption is highlighted in the news. ...

I view the loss of Free Range International and their plans to pull up stakes and leave Afghanistan all together as a very very bad sign of things to come. I think while we may be showing some progress against the Taliban militarily the contractors that support them are the weak link the Taliban is going after. These contractors also appear to be the target of corrupt Afghan officials who want their money and really don't give a damn about the people they supposedly serve. Time to be worried.

I fear the loss of Free Range International is like watching the death of the canary in the coal mine.

Memorial Day flag display -

Memorial Day flag display -

Alma at Memorial Day Event

Memorial Day Flag Planting Ceremony 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Alma interviewed regarding ceremony to honor state's fallen ahead of Memorial Day

WHDH-TV - Ceremony honors state's fallen ahead of Memorial Day
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

China rejects Pakistan's naval base request

China rejects Pakistan's naval base request - The Times of India
BEIJING: Apparently jolted by the Taliban attack on Pakistan's naval base, China on Tuesday indicated it would not invest funds on creating another naval base in that country.

Chinese foreign ministry said it had not seen any proposal to build a naval base in Pakistan. The statement amounts to a rejection of Pakistani defense minister Ahmad Mukhtar's claim that his government was pushing Beijing to build a naval base near the Gawdar port.

"China and Pakistan are friendly neighbors. Regarding the specific China-Pakistan cooperative project that you raised, I have not heard of it," Jiang Yu, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman told a regular news conference in Beijing....

-- bth: so China doesn't mind being played against the US by Pakistan until it comes down to hard cash.  Not an unreasonable position.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We died and never knew,
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you
Went the day well?
--John Maxwell Edmonds

Foot patrols in Afghanistan boost IED detection -

Foot patrols in Afghanistan boost IED detection - ..."The U.S. military's counterinsurgency strategy has emphasized increased use of foot patrols as a way to hunt down insurgents without endangering civilians, and as a result troops are in a better position to find and defuse improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

In April, troops on foot discovered more than 200 bombs before they blew up, about double the number from April 2010. In April 2009, troops on foot found none.

Foot patrols 'provide troops better situational awareness and observation capability than operating from vehicles,' said Air Force Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a military spokesman in Kabul, Afghanistan.

But so-called dismounted operations come at a risk: Greater chance of harm to the troops. A U.S. military survey of soldiers and Marines in 2010 found that half said they had been within 55 yards of an IED that exploded while on foot patrol. In 2010, bombs wounded 3,366 U.S. troops and killed 268.

The military data on IEDs, declassified at USA TODAY's request, show troops in vehicles are far less likely to discover bombs before they explode. Troops discovered 41% of the bombs prior to detonation in about 150 IED attacks on trucks in April. The rate for troops on foot was 79%.

The data show that high-tech equipment may not be the key to finding and eliminating the IED threat, says Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a retired Marine officer. The key is likely to be a wary infantryman on foot, perhaps with a bomb-sniffing dog or hand-held detector.

'Training and experience are key to counter-IED operations,' Wood says. 'There will always be a technological contest between explosives and explosive detectors. It seems the humans involved on both sides are the real determinants to success.'

The Pentagon has bought $40 billion worth of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates has credited with saving hundreds of lives. The Obama administration asked for $3.3 billion in 2011 and $2.2 billion in 2012 for counter-IED equipment including mine detectors and drones to spy on insurgents.

Insurgents planted 13,147 IEDs in 2010, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, who runs JIEDDO, said recently that an increasing number of bomb attacks is the result of increased coalition penetration of Taliban-held territory.

'It means you're out there, you're getting after them, and taking the fight to them,' he said. 'So total incidents will go up but a lot of soldiers and Marines are trying to prevent them.'

- bth: this is a particularly poorly written article by Tom Vanden Brook who usually is quite on point and informative. The Pentagon is trying to justify higher casualties by foot patrols versus mounted vehicles and are likely to try to reduce armored vehicle spending while spinning the stats. Sure dismounts spot a higher percentage of IEDs before detonation, but the ones that aren't spotted have devastating casualty results. That is the missing stat from this article. What percentage of IEDs that are not spotted create human casualties when dismounted? Well since people step in them or trip them the stats are going to be very high body armor or not. In the case of armored vehicles, the percentage spotted before detonation will be much lower (though distance traveled will be vastly higher) and the consequence of detonation while in a MATV or MRAP will be very low as well - an important point not raised by Brook. Someone should ask what percent of casualties from IEDs are dismounted versus mounted? You'll find that most casualties are now dismounts whereas they were almost non existent in Afghanistan just a couple of years ago. The surge is increasing dismount casualties from IEDs - more feet, more steps, more foot faults with deadly consequences.

Mullah Omar left Pakistani hideout: Afghan intelligence

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: International :: Mullah Omar left Pakistani hideout: Afghan intelligence
KABUL: Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said Monday that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had disappeared from his Pakistani hideout but did not confirm a claim, fiercely denied by the militants, that he was dead.

“We can confirm that he has been disappeared from his hideout in Quetta, [the capital of the southwestern Pakistani province] Baluchistan,” said Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for the National Directorate of Security.
“He has been disappeared from his location during the last four to five days,” he added, speaking in English. “So far we cannot confirm the killing of Mullah Omar officially.”

Mashal’s comments came hours after an Afghan intelligence source called a handful of reporters to tell them on condition of anonymity that Omar had been killed in Pakistan by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

A separate source later told AFP that he had been missing for 11 days.

The Taliban have furiously denied that he is dead or missing.....

-- bth: missing, not dead.

Leaked cable says Pakistanis sabotaged own air missions

Leaked cable says Pakistanis sabotaged own air missions - Washington Times
Pakistani airmen sabotaged their fighter jets to prevent them from participating in operations against militants along the border with Afghanistan, according to a leaked U.S. Embassy cable.

Another cable reveals that Pakistan's army chief asked U.S. military officials for “continuous” coverage by Predator drones along that border despite criticism of the strikes by Pakistani officials in public.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has provided a batch of U.S. diplomatic cables to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper and India’s New Delhi Television and the Hindu newspaper.

A March 2006 cable cites the Pakistani deputy chief of air staff for operations, Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry, as telling a visiting U.S. delegation that he was receiving monthly reports of acts of “petty sabotage” of jets by airmen.

Vice Marshal Chaudhry interpreted these acts as an effort by “Islamists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent [Pakistani air force] aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas along the Afghan border,” the cable says....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Iran opens production lines of new ammunitions

ISNA - 05-21-2011 - 90/2/31 - Service: / Politic / News ID: 1772030
TEHRAN (ISNA)-Iran unveiled new ammunitions on Saturday as it prepares to mark anniversary of liberation of its southwestern city of Khorramshahr on Tuesday.

Iran launched production lines of anti-armor Thaqeb 105mm and 125mm [shells] on Saturday with the presence of Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi.

"The ammunitions are capable of annihilation of newly-made, advanced and multi-layered armors," he said in the opening ceremony.

The ammunitions move with kinetic energy, enjoy the speed of five times more than sound, capable to penetrate into objects by 50 centimeters and hold high mass," the minister said.

"Today, Iranian Defense Ministry builds indigenous tanks and all kinds of ammunitions through soft-ware and hard-ware know-how," he added.

The projects are part of Iran's plan to shore up its defense capabilities and warn against any possible military threat posed by some countries.

Iran has already warned enemies that any possible military threat against its soil would receive a tough and crushing response, but reiterating that its defense projects and capabilities only aim to protect the country.

Iran recaptured the city of Khorramshahr from Iraq on May 24, 1982 during Iran-Iraq war. The liberation is celebrated in Iran on its anniversary.

End Item
--  bth: odd announcement for the Iranians to make especially given the rise in Shia attacks on US vehicles in southern Iraq.

Stars & Stripes: Army soon to field double-V hull Strykers to protect against blasts

Army soon to field double-V hull Strykers to protect against blasts - News - Stripes
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FRONTENAC, Afghanistan — In the coming weeks, the Army will begin sending150 “double-V hull” Stryker armored personnel carriers to Afghanistan in hopes the new design will better protect troops against deadly roadside bombs.

The Army eventually will get 450 of the modified eight-wheeled vehicles, the Army’s official website announced last week.

Following the deaths of dozens of soldiers who were riding in “flat-bottomed” Strykers, the vehicles’ manufacturer was tasked with coming up with a design that deflects explosions from the crew compartment, and includes enhanced armor, wider tires and blast-attenuating seats.

The double-V hull design, which went from conception to production in less than a year, will replace conventional, flat-bottomed Strykers that have seen extensive service in Iraq and made an inauspicious debut in Afghanistan in June 2009 with the deployment of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Kandahar province.

Members of that brigade, which had 37 troops killed in action and 238 wounded during its yearlong mission, reportedly called the vehicles the “Kevlar coffin.” Things got so bad that part way through the deployment, the Stryker unit was diverted away from the main fighting in Kandahar to a “freedom of movement mission” guarding roads on the periphery of where the toughest combat was taking place.

Unfortunately, the strain of repeated combat tours necessitated the Strykers’ deployment to Afghanistan to “take their turn downrange,” said retired Lt. Col. David Johnson, executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. Stryker brigades’ soldiers — if not their vehicles — need to deploy to Afghanistan so that other units have enough dwell time at home.

But the Stryker vehicle itself might not be the best option in places like Afghanistan, he said. It was designed to be a rapidly deployable, medium-armor vehicle that would fight in a medium- to high-intensity conflict, carry troops to an assault position and dismount the troops.

“[It] isn’t perfectly suited for the environment in Afghanistan or a low-intensity conflict with IEDs,” he said. “The Stryker is a platform. If it doesn’t work, use another tool.”

Other units often change their equipment when they deploy, Johnson said. The Grafenwoehr-based 172nd Infantry Brigade, for example, will leave its tanks and tracked vehicles in Germany and rely on dismounted patrols, helicopters and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for transport when it deploys to Afghanistan this summer.

The vehicle’s efficacy, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan is debatable, Johnson said.

Neither the Army, nor the vehicle’s manufacturer, General Dynamics, would comment on concerns that the flat-bottomed Stryker is vulnerable to large buried bombs.

General Dynamics representatives referred inquiries to Col. Robert W. Schumitz, Project Manager Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Schumitz, whose staff interacts daily with General Dynamics on upgrades to the Stryker’s armor protection, said data on soldiers killed in Strykers or multiple casualty incidents involving the vehicles is classified.

But news reports have detailed attacks on Strykers that resulted in mass casualties. On Oct. 27, 2009, for instance, seven soldiers and an interpreter were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the Arghandab River Valley.

‘Essentially a death trap’

The Germany-based 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment — which replaced the 5th Stryker troops in Afghanistan — has had 14 troops killed in action and five noncombat deaths, with more than 100 wounded, during its current deployment, even though the unit was conducting road-guarding missions similar to the 5th Strykers.

In fact, some 2nd SCR soldiers said they count themselves lucky to be alive.

In one incident in August, a 1st Squadron flat-bottomed Stryker was struck by a massive bomb hidden in a highway culvert in Kandahar province. The blast peeled away the armor protecting its engine like the skin of an orange, snapped off a wheel at the axel and mangled the metal cage that was designed to protect troops from rocket-propelled grenades.

Pfc. Dustyn Applegate, 19, of Amarillo, Texas, was one of two “air guards” standing in the Stryker’s rear hatches when the bomb detonated.

“It felt like I got hit by a moving vehicle,” Applegate said soon after the blast. “I got thrown into the side of the air guard hatch and then someone pulled me back into the vehicle, and I was banging around like the inside of a clothes dryer.”

Applegate said he doesn’t rate the Stryker as a good vehicle for the sort of counter-IED mission that his unit was engaged in.

“I personally believe they (Strykers) would be better in a city,” he said. “They were made for driving through cities and taking attacks from buildings. Not driving down the road getting blown to pieces. I don’t think they are as safe as they could be. Inside of it is essentially a death trap.”

If the Stryker had rolled another yard, the IED would have blown a hole in the troop compartment and everyone inside would have been hurt, Applegate said.

That’s the bad thing about the Stryker,” he said. “It has a flat bottom, so when the blast happens, it just blows up instead of up and out like with an MRAP. There is no safe place on the Stryker.”

A 1st Squadron medic, Spc. John Lilienthal, 40, of Healdsburg, Calif., said he got to the stricken vehicle and found it next to a 6-foot-deep crater. Much of the blast was absorbed by the Stryker’s engine block, he said.

“We probably would have had a multiple-casualty incident if the blast had hit further back [on the vehicle],” he said.

Why use them at all?

Even some senior commanders appear to be aware of the limitations of the conventional Stryker.

During a visit to troops in Kandahar province last summer, 2nd SCR commander Col. James Blackburn jokingly reminded one of his squadron commanders, who had traveled in an MRAP during a particularly dangerous mission, that he was a member of the 2nd “Stryker” Cavalry Regiment.

So, why is this vehicle, which seems to be poorly constructed for the country’s No. 1 hazard being used instead of seemingly better alternatives such as the MRAP?

Because MRAPs, which can weigh 50,000 pounds, lack mobility, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Mueller, 31, of St. Louis, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist who deployed to Spin Boldak in support of 4th Squadron, 2nd SCR.

In this area, there aren’t many places we can’t go, but in other parts of Afghanistan there are places where an MRAP physically won’t fit, or off-road situations where it doesn’t have the mobility to move around,” Mueller said. “I’ve seen roads collapse under them. In thick mud, they sink.”

The mobility of the Stryker is one of the advantages cited by its advocates, who include many of the senior officers from the 2nd SCR — which has been handing off its mission, in recent weeks, to another Stryker unit, the 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

“We have all the vehicle types in Afghanistan available to us,” Lt. Col. Omar Jones, commander of 2nd Squadron, 2nd SCR, said last year. “If I wanted to ride in an M-ATV, I could, but I prefer to ride in a Stryker, hands down.”

Jones, who deployed to Iraq twice in Strykers, said the vehicles give their crews much better situational awareness than they’d get in an MRAP. The combination of the Stryker’s high-tech communication systems and the way the vehicle is manned, with three soldiers peering out of top hatches, makes the Stryker particularly effective in a counterinsurgency fight, he said.

“The ability to understand what is happening around the vehicle is unprecedented,” he said. “Soldiers [in the Stryker] are ready to engage when they get out — whether that’s a lethal fight or, more likely here, a community engagement.”

The Stryker’s eight wheels also give it the mobility to navigate off-road terrain and move quickly and quietly on paved roads — something Jones rated as a bonus for the 2nd SCR mission, which involved operations over a wide swath of southern Afghanistan. The fact that a Stryker can carry an 11-man squad into battle is another advantage compared to an MRAP, which typically carries eight soldiers, he said.

What’s ahead

Until the new and improved Strykers arrive, the Army has been making changes to the vehicles already in Afghanistan. The Army has been adding armor and blast-attenuating seats to flat-bottomed Strykers in country, something Schumitz said enhances the soldiers’ survivability.

“We have had a continuous effort since Iraq and carried on into Afghanistan to improve where we can the ballistic survivability of the platform for soldiers both in the crew area and in the driver’s area,” he said.

The Army currently has seven Stryker brigade combat teams, and it is about to start fielding an eighth, Schumitz said.

The fact that 2nd SCR is being replaced by another Stryker unit, “… answers big Army’s belief that the Stryker brigade combat team is a proper structure to have in Afghanistan,” he said.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an expert on Afghanistan, said adding the double-V hull to the Stryker would cut against its original purpose — to be rapidly deployable — but he emphasized that the most important thing right now is keeping troops alive.

Who cares if this invalidates the original vision of the Stryker?” he asked. “You have to keep your people alive and accomplish your mission.”

Until the double-V hull Strykers are fielded units in Afghanistan should have a choice of whether to use Strykers or MRAPs, depending on the mission, he said.

“They have got to be willing to use MRAPs whenever the tactical situation would dictate,” he said, adding that he’s not convinced by soldiers who say they feel safer in a Stryker.

“Their instincts are more battle tested than mine, [but] we have been doing this for a long time and we have data,” he said. “When someone says, ‘I feel safer,’ that makes me nervous. There is a fine line when you are making decisions based on emotions and instincts and what you subliminally want to do.”

The Army should take a dispassionate look at its data on Strykers’ performance in Afghanistan, he said.

“If on a given route in Afghanistan we have seen twice as many casualties with Strykers as with MRAPs, it is time to start using MRAPs,” he said. “We know enough about safer ways of operating in Afghanistan that we shouldn’t be relying on emotional arguments and what people have to say based on the original vision for Stryker 10 years ago.

“We need to be a bit more rational and data driven at this point.”

--- bth: the Stryker like the Osprey has a pedigree that will not die even its its crew does. The Stryker has been made obsolete by modern IEDs and AT mines. It is that simple. They may be better off road capabilities than MATVs, but then why are they used for convoy escort on paved roads? And further more what idiots in the Army command structure thinks that China or Iran wouldn't use road mines, IEDs or EFPs to cut Strykers to shreds? Perhaps the dual hull will give it some more life. Perhaps the the Army should have followed decades old leads from such forces as the South Africans and provided blast suppressing seats that would protect the crews from leg and neck injuries. This program has been run by idiots.