Saturday, July 09, 2011

Friday, July 08, 2011

House passes $649B defense spending bill - St. Petersburg Times

House passes $649B defense spending bill - St. Petersburg Times

...The measure includes $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While House Republican leaders slashed billions from all other government agencies; the Defense Department is the only one that will see a double-digit increase in its budget beginning Oct. 1.

Amid negotiations to cut spending and raise the nation's borrowing limit, the House rejected several amendments to cut the Pentagon budget, including a measure by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to halve the bill's increase in defense spending.

"We are at a time of austerity. We are at a time when the important programs, valid programs, are being cut back," Frank said.

Scoffing at the suggestion that "everything is on the table" in budget negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders, Frank said: "The military budget is not on the table. The military is at the table, and it is eating everybody else's lunch."

Still, the overall bill is $9 billion less than President Barack Obama sought.

The White House has threatened a veto, citing limits on the president's authority to transfer detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and money for defense programs it didn't want....

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb maker says North Korea paid bribes for know-how - The Washington Post

Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb maker says North Korea paid bribes for know-how - The Washington Post

The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program asserts that the government of North Korea bribed top military officials in Islamabad to obtain access to sensitive nuclear technology in the late 1990s.

Abdul Qadeer Khan has made available documents that he says support his claim that he personally transferred more than $3 million in payments by North Korea to senior officers in the Pakistani military, which he says subsequently approved his sharing of technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists.

Khan also has released what he says is a copy of a North Korean official’s 1998 letter to him, written in English, that spells out details of the clandestine deal.....

--- bth: the original article is worth reading in full and I recommend reviewing the Korean letter which is linked above. While this information isn't exactly new, what I wonder is why now? Why is Khan coming public with this letter and why now? What has changed?

Mullen Claims Islamabad 'Sanctioned' Journalist's Killing - Yochi J. Dreazen - NationalJournal.com

Mullen Claims Islamabad 'Sanctioned' Journalist's Killing - Yochi J. Dreazen - NationalJournal.com

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, right, pictured with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, center, and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, accused the Pakistani government of being complicit in the death of a prominent journalist.

The United States believes the Pakistani government "sanctioned" the murder of a prominent Pakistani journalist who had been probing links between the country's security services and its Islamic militants, said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It was sanctioned by the government," Mullen told journalists at the Pentagon on Thursday. "I have not seen anything to disabuse the report that the government knew about this."...

--- bth: Wow. Astonishing that Mullen would say this so bluntly.

House votes to forbid military aid to Libyan rebels | The Raw Story

House votes to forbid military aid to Libyan rebels | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives voted Thursday to forbid the Pentagon from providing military equipment, training, advice or support to Libya's rebels.

By a 225-201 margin, lawmakers debating an annual Pentagon spending bill adopted an amendment restricting Washington's ability to help fighters looking to overthrow longtime Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

The House was expected to vote Friday on approving the underlying bill, but the provision on Libya's rebels could face stiff opposition in Senate, which must approve the legislation to send it to Obama to sign into law.

Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma introduced the measure at a time when many US lawmakers have expressed anger at President Barack Obama's handling of the conflict, which is unpopular with the US public....


--- bth: I don't see anything that prevents the CIA from doing the same thing. To me this looks like political theater with little substance. The CIA will fill the void I suspect.

Memories of Taliban still haunt Pakistanis in Swat | Provinces | DAWN.COM

Memories of Taliban still haunt Pakistanis in Swat | Provinces | DAWN.COM

MINGORA: It is more than two years since the Taliban roamed Pakistan’s Swat valley with impunity and threatened to kill him, but Mohammad Karim is still scared when he remembers how they paralysed life.

“The bad days are over…they (the Taliban) are in the past now and I don’t think they will ever come back,” he told AFP as he prepared to close up his music and video shop and rejoin his family for the evening.

It was his merchandise of popular songs and films that saw the Taliban effectively shut down his shop two and a half years ago, after the picturesque mountain valley first started to slip out of government control in July 2007.

Radical cleric Mullah Fazlullah led hundreds of Taliban in sowing terror in an area once loved by holidaymakers for its balmy summers and snowy winters.

His supporters beheaded opponents, burning schools and fighting to implant a harsh brand of Islamic law.

But in April 2009, Pakistan launched a major offensive to reclaim Swat from the Taliban, along with the neighbouring districts of Buner and Lower Dir.

Heavy fighting displaced an estimated two million people, but the military declared the region back under control in summer 2009 and tentative efforts began to kick-start development and revive the economy.

Two years later, the army is still a heavy presence in Mingora, the main town of Swat, and commanders confirm they are preparing to create a military-run cantonment area in a bid to protect long-term stability....

YouTube - ‪The Last Post‬‏

YouTube - ‪The Last Post

‬‏

Takeover is the Taliban plan for Afghanistan

Takeover is the Taliban plan for Afghanistan

...The Taliban long-term strategic plan is simple: practice taqiyya to gain terrain and power; resume jihad to eliminate the other forms of governance; and implement their version of Shariah to reverse democracy.

Al-Taqiyya

Al-Taqiyya has historical and, by some accounts, theological meaning. Originally, the term referred to a defensive tactic Shia dissidents employed to protect themselves from the wrath of the Sunni caliphate during times of war between the two sects in the early part of the seventh century.

Taqiyya sanctions deception to conceal intentions and affiliations to avoid retaliation by those in power. Today, Sunni Salafis and Shia Khomeinists have added to the meaning of the term making it an offensive tactic of war as well.

In contemporary usage, the term refers to subterfuge or dissimulation by war planners and commanders to deceive a foe regarding their ultimate aims. Used this way, Taqiyya is strategic deception, not much different that Cold War maneuvers used by the Soviets.

Negotiations take place “under the table” via third parties to lure administration officials into accepting the Taliban’s offer. To the U.S. the Taliban might respond, “We will accept a deal but we can’t say so in public.” But to their constituents they would assure: “Americans think we will cut a deal with them but the only thing we’re going to cut in pieces is our commitment to them.”

The bottom line: The administration will sail out of Afghanistan on an ocean of Taliban deception. With taqiyya, the Taliban can make Washington believe that jihadi militias have mutated into a soft AKP or a stealthy Muslim Brotherhood.

Jihad

As they deceive Washington policymakers, the Taliban have no compunction about pursuing jihad until their banner flies again on the presidential palace in Kabul. Why would they do anything else?

Jihadi ideology and planted hallucinations define the movement. If they abandon these tactics they will become marginalized warlords with no political identity.

The Taliban exists, intimidates, and attracts, because they practice jihad. There is no countermeasure in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban’s jihad strategy. The U.S. wants to bestow legitimacy upon the Taliban without a counter-radicalization strategy. The new administration counterterrorism doctrine is targeted strikes against Taliban leaders and units but does not include a counterinsurgency that mobilizes the general populace against the jihadists in order to isolate them. Jihad’s most important component, indoctrination, is not on U.S. radars anymore. But ironically it is the fuel of the Taliban’s war machine.

Shariah

Clearly, the Taliban’s goal in Afghanistan is to implement Shariah on every square inch of land they bring under their authority. The imposition of Shariah is non-negotiable. “Talib ul Shari’ah” (English: “student of Shariah”) is the origin of the movement.

What this means is that communities under Taliban rule will be governed according to their laws as was the case before 2001. Women (especially girls), religious minorities, and secular political parties will be affected. Advances in liberty since the Taliban’s fall will be reversed.

Taliban’s Shariah is not just about divorce and inheritance; it is about eliminating all other forms of man-made law. The Taliban will transform the government into an emirate.

The Taliban plan for Afghanistan isn’t new; they will adapt it to the new U.S. plan for that country. It will be dominated by taqiyya, jihad, and Shariah.


Author
Dr. Walid Phares

Afghanistan: Twenty-four de-mining workers kidnapped - Adnkronos Security

Afghanistan: Twenty-four de-mining workers kidnapped - Adnkronos Security

Kabul, 6 July (AKI) - Twently-four people working as de-miners in western Afghanistan have been kidnapped by Taliban militants, according to news reports.

The group of de-miners in Farah province were kidnapped early Wednesday along with their four drivers, according to provincial head of police Syed Mohammad Roshandil, news agency Xinhua reported.

The kidnapping occurred while the de-miners were at work. They are all employed by the Afghan non-government organisation Demining Agency for Afghanistan.

An average of 52 Afghan civilians lost their lives per month in 2010 due to landmine explosions, according to Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan, a humanitarian group

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

US special forces to hit Afghanistan | The Australian

US special forces to hit Afghanistan | The Australian

A mini-surge of Navy Seals, Army ''Green Beret'' Rangers and other special units is being drafted from across the world, including Iraq and the Philippines, to ensure that there is enough combat power to expand covert raids as America withdraws 33,000 troops over the next 15 months.

The secret deployment reflects the concerns of military commanders that the withdrawal will be a blow to military progress in the country. ...

The military sources revealed that 16 special operations personnel were considered to be worth the equivalent of 100 conventional troops....

The first hint of the move was given last week by Vice-Admiral William McRaven, the mastermind of the Osama bin Laden raid in Pakistan on May 2, who was nominated by Mr Obama to be the next commander of US Special Operations Command (Socom). "As the drawdown continues in Afghanistan there will be an additional requirement for special operations forces. I don't know the size yet," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are more than 7000 US special forces in Afghanistan and about 3000 in Iraq. But it is expected that many of those in Iraq will be moved to Afghanistan.

Socom has doubled in size to about 61,000 personnel over the past nine years, but the number posted overseas has quadrupled. Admiral McRaven said that there were operatives in 60-80 countries, although sometimes in only small numbers....

-bth: fascinating ratios 16:100. One wonders how they can be in more than one place at a time which ultimately is the advantage of quantity over quality.


Android taking the lead in smart phones

Phys Ed: How Exercise Boosts Mood - NYTimes.com

Phys Ed: How Exercise Boosts Mood - NYTimes.com

...Perhaps best of all, Dr. Lehmann does not believe that hours of daily exercise are needed or desirable to achieve emotional resilience. The mice in his lab ran only when and for as long as they wished, over the course of several weeks. Other animal experiments have intimated that too much exercise could contribute to anxiety, and Dr. Lehmann agrees that that outcome is possible. Moderate levels of exercise seem to provide the most stress-relieving benefits, he said. Dr. Lehmann does not have a car and walks everywhere, and although he lives in Washington, a cauldron of stress induction, he describes himself as a “pretty calm guy.”

TRENDING: Poll: Romney still ahead in New Hampshire – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs

TRENDING: Poll: Romney still ahead in New Hampshire – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs

...More than one-third of likely Republican primary voters–35 percent– said they would vote for Romney, who also sought the GOP nomination in 2008. Twelve percent said they'd back Bachmann.

But support for the three-term congresswoman has increased by 8 percentage points since a well-received performance at the first CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union-Leader GOP primary debate and the formal announcement of her presidential bid in June.

With single-digit support, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has not announced a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, are tied at seven percent in the poll. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, another candidate still mulling over a bid, are also all tied up at three percent support each.

Two percent of likely primary voters support both former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain. One percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum polled below one percent support.

The top pick for Republican primary voters fares well against incumbent President Barack Obama in the poll, and better than any other potential GOP nominee: Romney leads Obama 47 to 43 percent in a hypothetical matchup. But the four-point margin falls within the poll's sampling error, indicating the match is statistically tied.

Most voters simply haven't made up their minds. Three-quarters of voters likely to vote in the first primary in the nation say they're still trying to decide whom to support for president....

-- bth: Romney is the man to beat in NH.

Canadians transfer Kandahar battle command to Americans - CTV News

Canadians transfer Kandahar battle command to Americans - CTV News

Canada's front-line fighting role in Afghanistan officially ended Tuesday when soldiers of the Royal 22e Regiment handed battlefield combat responsibilities over to the Americans.

Almost all Canadian troops are out of Kandahar's dangerous combat zones, except for a few soldiers who are attached to American platoons for a few more weeks.

Canada's war in Afghanistan is now effectively over after five years of fighting throughout farmland and dusty villages in one of the country's most dangerous areas. It cost Canada the lives of 157 soldiers, one diplomat and one journalist, not to mention the many soldiers left with life-altering injuries.

Canadians have been working towards completion of the combat mission since Parliament voted in 2008 to end the mission by July 2011.

A low-key ceremony happened at Ma'sum Ghar in Kandahar province, marking the changeover in combat roles.

On Thursday, Canada's Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner will formally hand over his command of NATO troops in Panjwai and Dand districts to an American counterpart....

- bth: Afghanistan is quickly becoming America's war as its NATO allies quietly depart. The Canadians fought hard. How much of the 'surge' in Afghanistan is really replacing Nato departures? My guess almost all of it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Pakistani Military Still Cultivates Militant Groups, a Former Fighter Says - NYTimes.com

Pakistani Military Still Cultivates Militant Groups, a Former Fighter Says - NYTimes.com

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said....

There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi, a former intelligence officer who was convicted of attempting a coup against the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 and who is now dead, was one of the most active supporters of the militant groups in the years after Sept. 11, the former commander said.

He said he saw General Abbasi several times: once at a meeting of Taliban and Pakistani militant leaders in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province as they planned how to confront the American military in Afghanistan; and twice in Mir Ali, which became the center for foreign militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including members of Al Qaeda.

There were about 60 people at the Taliban meeting in late 2001, soon after the Taliban government fell, the former commander said. Pakistani militant leaders were present, as were the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Muhammad Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network.

Several retired officials of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were also there, he said, including a man known as Colonel Imam but who was actually Brig. Sultan Amir, a well-known trainer and mentor of militants, and General Abbasi. The militant groups divided Afghanistan into separate areas of operations and discussed how to “trip up America,” he said.

The Pakistani military still supports the Afghan Taliban in their fight to force out American and NATO forces from Afghanistan, he said, adding that he thought they would be successful....

“The government is not interested in eliminating them permanently,” he said. “The Pakistani military establishment has become habituated to using proxies.” He added that there were many sympathizers in the military who still supported the use of militants.

Pakistan has 12,000 to 14,000 fully trained Kashmiri fighters, scattered throughout various camps in Pakistan, and is holding them in reserve to use if needed in a war against India, he said....

Many of the thousands of trained Pakistani fighters turned against the military because it treated them so carelessly, he said. “Pakistan used them and then, like a paper tissue, threw them away,” he said. “Look at me, I am a very well-trained fighter and I have no other option in life, except to fight and take revenge.”

Indeed, he was first trained for a year by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba at a camp in Kunar Province, in Afghanistan, in the early 1990s. The war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan was over, and Pakistan turned to training fighters for an insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

He became skilled at firing Russian-made rocket-propelled grenades, and he was sent to fight, and train others, in Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. Over the years he worked with different militant groups, and he estimated that he personally trained up to 4,000 fighters.

The entire enterprise was supported by the Pakistani military and executed by Pakistani militant groups, he said. He was paid by a wing of the ISI, which is an integral part of the army.

Fighters were paid about $50 a month, he said, and commanders about $500.

But now, he said, Pakistan and the United States would be much better able to counter terrorism if they could redirect the legions of militants toward the correct path of Islam to rebuild and educate communities, he said.

Pakistan, and especially America, needs to understand the true spirit of Islam, and they need to project the true spirit of Islam,” he said. “That would be a good strategy to stop them.”


-bth: fascinating interview worth reading in full. Also of note the people he named as leaders within the Pakistan military and government are dead. One wonders who has replaced them?


How much does it cost to buy a suicide bomber? $70-93K

Insurgents "bought" suicide bomber - Afghan spy agency - Yahoo! News
...The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's intelligence agency, said the bomber was a Pakistani national and was detained by NDS agents in Jaji Maidan district of eastern Paktia province before he could carry out his mission.

Sher Hassan was sent by the Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous insurgent groups fighting in Afghanistan, but had not signed up to join them, the NDS said in a statement.

Instead he said he was bought by the group to target "Azizullah," a commander whose affiliation and rank were not given by the NDS. Hassan then spent a month after his sale training with the Haqqani network.

"The detained man added that a commander under Hakimullah Mehsud sells suicide bombers at 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 Pakistani rupees ($70,000 to $93,000), to the Haqqani network for suicide missions," the statement said....

Points of Interest with Regard to Supply Routes into Afghanistan and Out

U.S. turns to other routes to supply Afghan war as relations with Pakistan fray - The Washington Post

  • The U.S. military is rapidly expanding its aerial and Central Asian supply routes to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that Pakistan could cut off the main means of providing American and NATO forces with fuel, food and equipment.
  • Air delivery costs 10 times as much as ground routes.
  • Today, almost 40 percent of surface cargo arrives in Afghanistan from
    the north, along a patchwork of Central Asian rail and road routes that
    the Pentagon calls the Northern Distribution Network. Military planners
    said they are pushing to raise the northern network’s share to as much
    as 75 percent by the end of this year.
  • For instance, more than one-third of the northern-route cargo passes through tiny Azerbaijan, a country saddled by “pervasive corruption,” according to the State Department’s annual human rights report.
    U.S. defense officials also say the northern supply lines would not be
    possible without the cooperation of Russia. One new route runs through
    Siberia.
  • The biggest potential choke point is Uzbekistan.
  • Truck route to Germersheim Germany takes 60 days.
  • There are two big limitations, however, on what the Pentagon can ship
    through Central Asia. First, supplies are generally restricted to food,
    water and construction material; ammunition, weapons and other “lethal”
    cargo are prohibited.

Afghanistan Northern Logistical Distribution Network Map

China Wants to Buy Facebook - Gordon G. Chang - New Asia - Forbes

China Wants to Buy Facebook - Gordon G. Chang - New Asia - Forbes

...Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly “wary about the compromises Facebook would have to make to do business there.” If she loses her argument with Zuckerberg and Facebook enters China, the company will eventually be subject to demands to censor its sites, those both inside and outside China. That’s apparently why the Chinese want to own a big stake in Facebook. They are, in short, looking for control in the long run. No other explanation is consistent with the Party’s other media and “educational” initiatives.

Of course, a Beijing-influenced Facebook will be hit by even more bad publicity—and inevitably defections. Other social networking sites will spring up to capture fleeing users. The genius of America is that its open and broad market eventually punishes the arrogant and the na├»ve by allowing choice....


-- bth: It will be interesting to see if the cool is kicked out of face book if the Chinese government buys a hunk. Could it be worse to cool than grandma getting her own page?