Saturday, July 23, 2011

Honoring Ullom: Hospital corpsman laid to rest - Midland Daily News: News

Honoring Ullom: Hospital corpsman laid to rest - Midland Daily News: News

In ceremonies steeped in military rituals, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Aaron D. “Doc” Ullom was honored at his Friday funeral services as a hero who died saving another man’s life. Midlanders recognized his sacrifice by coming out in droves to pay their respects to him and to support his family.

Funeral services for the 20-year-old Midlander who was killed in action on July 12 in Helmand province of Afghanistan were Friday afternoon at Midland Evangelical Free Church. Ullom was taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom and was assigned as a hospitalman to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He deployed to Afghanistan in February for his first tour of duty and was to return home this fall.

His family and friends watched as he was awarded medals, among them the Purple Heart presented by U.S. Navy BMCS Russell Dotson, for his bravery. They also listened as his actions in the last moments of his life were shared.

Ullom’s mother, Debi Bartley-Ullom, read a letter her family received from the family of the U.S. Marine lieutenant her son died while administering medical aid to.

“Your son died saving our son’s life,” the man’s father wrote, adding the pair were in a very shallow ditch as his own son bled badly. Ullom did not hesitate to come to the other man’s aid, climbing on top of him to protect him, assessing his wounds and applying a tourniquet.

“Aaron protected him, and exposed himself,” Bartley-Ullom read from the letter. “There will not be a day in our lives that passes without thinking of Aaron.”

“I’m here today to honor and celebrate the life of a shipmate — Doc Ullom,” U.S. Navy RADM Donald Gintzig said. “Doc Ullom was a great sailor, a great shipmate, a hospital corpsman, a hero, a patriot.”

That Ullom chose to serve as a hospital corpsman tells a lot about him, Gintzig said, explaining a hospital corpsman is the one person who jumps up when the firing starts. “He lost his life doing what he was trained to do,” and was full of bravery while saving the lives of other soldiers. “He did what was necessary to defend our freedoms.”...

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran: report | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran: report | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online

An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday, Iran's student news agency ISNA reported without giving his name. "An Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated in front of his house today ... and his wife was also wounded," it said. No other details were immediately available. Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency, quoting an unnamed police source, said police were investigating the assassination which took place in an eastern Tehran area.

Worst Start To The European Earnings Season In A Decade | zero hedge

Worst Start To The European Earnings Season In A Decade | zero hedge

The global economy may be collapsing but at least companies are making out like bandits right? Wrong. While America is enjoying yet another above average earnings season when it comes to multinationals (and certainly not financials- those have had an abysmal earnings season), Europe, which has had a very lousy week despite the makeshift triage for the EUR which will last exactly a few months, as confirmed by both yesterday's PMIs and today's German Ifo survey, is on track to experience its worst earnings season in a decade! As Bank of America summarizes, of the 49 companies that have reported so far, 36.7% have beaten and a massive 53.1% have missed. And even more surprising is that the sectors which have outperformed in the US are precisely those that are doing the worst in Europe, specifically discretionary, industrials and staples....

-- bth: worth reading in full.

Wanting Foreign Governments to Have Different Preferences is Not a Strategy | Foreign Policy Watch

Wanting Foreign Governments to Have Different Preferences is Not a Strategy | Foreign Policy Watch

... Likewise with Pakistan. America would like Pakistan to stop caring about the threat posed by India, be less concerned with gaining “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, abandon its quixotic fits over the status of Kashmir, and thus be less inclined to openly and tacitly support Islamic militant groups that complicate American policy. From a certain American liberal point of view, Pakistan isn’t going to credibly compete with India for much longer anyway, and Kashmir is a nationalist hobbyhorse that the Pakistanis should stop riding. But, obviously, those in Pakistan’s government have different preferences and priorities. And hoping for that to change isn’t a strategy.

Israel and Pakistan are hardly the only examples of this phenomenon, but at the moment they’re the most consequential and illustrative. Not everyone sees the world through American eyes, and not everyone agrees with the American assessment of their strategic and political situation. American policymakers ought to try to understand the preferences of foreign governments and then shape their own policy accordingly (either by using carrots and sticks to encourage other states to reprioritize their goals, or by realigning American relationships). Hoping for others to see the light just won’t cut it.

Soldier describes a methodical murder --- Where were the officer?

Soldier describes a methodical murder at 'kill team' hearing - Sacramento Living - Sacramento Food and Wine, Home, Health | Sacramento Bee

A sergeant who allegedly schemed to murder Afghan civilians last year found a receptive audience among his platoon mates because they already had discussed planting evidence, according to witness testimony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Thursday.
Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly first raised the idea of murdering Afghans in combat-like scenarios, is back in court for a pretrial hearing slated to last two days.
The most highly anticipated purpose for the court date was to hear testimony from Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, Gibbs' alleged right-hand man-turned-key government witness. Morlock has pleaded guilty to murdering three noncombatants.
The hearing was the first time they've been in court at the same time since they were arrested on the murder charges a year ago.
Morlock said Thursday that planting weapons had been discussed before among members of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to justify battlefield decisions.
"It wasn't so far-fetched," he said. "The idea of drop weapons had always been around. It was a different spin that these weren't drop weapons to cover your ass. These were drop weapons to kill someone."
Gibbs, 26, of Billings, Mont., is accused of murdering three Afghans, keeping body parts as war souvenirs and assaulting the private who blew the whistle on misconduct in their platoon. He'll likely face a court-martial in early October in which he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole....
-- bth: so where were the officers while these murders were going on?

As UK sells old aircraft carriers, China buyers circle - Yahoo! News

As UK sells old aircraft carriers, China buyers circle - Yahoo! News

LONDON (Reuters) – As it sells off its flagship aircraft carriers over a government website, Britain is finding enthusiastic interest from an unexpected group -- Chinese businessmen potentially keen enough to outbid any other rivals.

But some Western strategists suspect the real agenda might be more to do with Beijing's growing naval ambitions, that they might be stripped for construction secrets or simply pressed into the service of the People's Liberation Army Navy.

The Royal Navy decommissioned HMS Invincible and her sistership Ark Royal as part of a wider round of austerity measures, listing them for disposal alongside unused printer cartridges, old office furniture and outdated uniforms. Both ships attracted immediate interest from buyers wanting to sail them to China to be used as floating commercial venues.

Whilst some foreign warships purchased by Chinese businesses have genuinely been used as leisure centers and night clubs, others are believed to have entered military hands. Such worries may have already helped scotch one potential UK carrier purchase and could stymie another.

"It is very difficult to gauge what is going on here," said James Hardy, Asia Pacific editor of Jane's Defense Weekly. "The links between Chinese businessmen and the Communist Party are always somewhat ambiguous.

"The Chinese have a reputation for playing a long game, as well as for reverse engineering ... It is (also) possible that they could (aim to) refit Ark Royal as a helicopter carrier. Such a ship would certainly be a useful vessel in terms of power projection in the South China Sea and possibly against Taiwan."

China's Defense Ministry declined to comment, while the buyers have been keen to stress their independence from government. But experts say China has prior form.

Its first aircraft carrier, due to start sea trials in the coming weeks, started life as the Varyag, an unfinished Soviet warship lying in Ukraine. Chinese buyers bought her in the late 1990s, ostensibly to be used as a casino in Macau.

In reality, she spent years being refitted in naval dockyards and some suspect a similar fate could be in line for any purchased British ships.

Not only might a sale breach a defacto European arms embargo on China, it might also raise eyebrows in Washington DC and irritate other Asian powers already worried by Beijing's naval growth.

-- bth: so match this story with the one about Brazil and its nuclear sub. There is a clear power shift occurring based on long term investments by developing countries and newly emerging developed countries: India, China, Brazil, Iran and those of the declining European countries. With the sale of these aircraft carriers, the UK lost its ability to project power as witnessed by its inability to do so in Libya which for all practical purposes abuts NATO.

Brazil's new nuclear subs to defend oil wells - Features - Al Jazeera English

Brazil's new nuclear subs to defend oil wells - Features - Al Jazeera English

Plans for a Brazilian nuclear submarine that had been postponed since the 1970s are beginning to materialise, as the nuclear-propelled sub is regarded as a strategic necessity to guard Brazil's deep water oil reserves, and to project global power.

Steel plates piled up in a warehouse at Nuclebrás Equipamentos Pesados (NUCLEP), a mixed capital company in Itaguaí, about 80km from Rio de Janeiro, are labelled "submarine plates".

President Dilma Rousseff made the symbolic "first cut" of a steel plate on July 16 at a ceremony marking the start of operations at the shipyard where the submarine hulls will be built.

"This is a very special moment", she said in her speech launching the Brazilian navy's submarine development programme (ProSub), which will initially produce four conventional S-BR submarines using French technology.

"Brazil is taking another step toward affirming its status as a developed country with sophisticated industry capable of absorbing, mastering and using advanced technologies."

ProSub originated in a December 2008 agreement between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

'Brazil is taking another step toward affirming its status as a developed country with sophisticated industry capable of absorbing, mastering and using advanced technologies.'

President Dilma Rousseff

Under the accord, France will transfer technological know-how to Brazilian industries involved in developing and building the submarines.

In addition, work has begun on building a shipyard, a naval base and a metal structures factory, and, according to the navy, more than 30 Brazilian companies are to start producing the more than 36,000 different components needed.

Brazil formed a company, Itaguaí Construçoes Navais (Itaguaí Naval Construction), as a partnership between the French state's DCNS (formerly Direction des Constructions Navales et Services), the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, and the Brazilian navy, which has veto rights.

The project is part of a more ambitious plan. According to the defence ministry, it is "the first step towards building a Brazilian nuclear-propelled submarine (SN-BR)," with delivery expected in 2023....

As Santoro recalls, Brazil has historical reasons to pursue this technology. The country joined in the First and Second World Wars because of German submarine attacks on Brazil's merchant navy in the South Atlantic, at a time when Brazil had no means of defending itself.

Moreover, as naval officers in Brazil never tire of arguing, the 1982 Malvinas-Falkland Islands war between the UK and Argentina would have had a different outcome if Argentina had had a fleet of nuclear submarines to back up its claim to the islands.

"From a strategic point of view, they are probably a navy's most effective defensive weapon," Santoro said.

Their use in defence, not attack, is always emphasised by the Brazilian government. ...

--- bth: coastal defense would be better served by diesel electric subs. Nuclear subs are about endurance and power projection. Brazil may be making it a symbolic projection, but projection it is. Given UK's decision to dismantle its aircraft carriers it will not be able to project enough power to protect the Falklands.

CIA Trains Covert Units of Afghans to Fight the Taliban

CIA Trains Covert Units of Afghans to Fight the Taliban

Covert forces of Afghans have been trained by CIA to keep the war against the Taliban on the track as US troops are leaving the country.

But a senior official in Karzai's Office expressed unawareness about the forces.

Members of one shadowy group of some 400 men in southern Kandahar province have given The Independent insight into their training and secret operations against militants.

A senior member of the 400-man shadowy force has said that they were taught hand-to-hand combat by foreign military advisors, were delivered to targets by US Black Hawk helicopters and have received a thank-you note from President Hamid Karzai for their work.

"These forces are the most shadowy and the most unaccountable in the country and it's a serious problem that nobody's taking responsibility for," Rachel Reid, a senior policy advisor to the Open Society Foundation, said.

Deputy Spokesperson for President Karzai, Seyamak Herawi, said: ''President Hamid Karzai has sought clearance about the units for several times."

The paramilitary groups are stationed in eastern and southern Afghanistan where they gather intelligence, secure the border with Pakistan, and launch raids on militants of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the host of other militant groups.

-- bth: honestly is this a surprise?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eric Cantor

Blue Mass Group | Reality-based commentary on politics and policy in Massachusetts and around the nation

In Pakistan's Tribal Areas, Organized Sports Have All But Collapsed - Radio Free Europe

In Pakistan's Tribal Areas, Organized Sports Have All But Collapsed - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2011

In many societies, organized sports are a major part of integrating young people into mainstream life.

In Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), that used to be as true as anywhere else. But not anymore.

Amid the decades of radicalization and conflict that have riven the tribal areas since the 1980s, organized sports have slowly crumbled.

Their collapse has been quieter -- but no less certain -- than that of poetry contests, song contests, and traditional dance festivals. All once composed the fabric of FATA's indigenous social life, which today is in tatters.

How did this happen? The story is partly one of what happens in any society when violence disrupts normal life, and fighting forces people from their homes.

But it is also a story of neglect and of Islamabad and its international allies failing to recognize that when opportunities for organized sports are no longer available, time does not just hang heavily on youths' hands. It also directly helps militants.

Haroon Shinwary, a spokesman of the nongovernmental FATA Rural Development Project in Khyber Agency, recalls that on Pakistani Independence Day, August 14, there was a traditional sports festival in Khyber Agency ever year. "It started in 1982 and was inaugurated by our Sufi poet Humza Baba," he said.

Shinwary said the festival included "every sort of sport, such as martial arts, a marathon, target shooting, and a soccer tournament, with some 50 to 60 teams from all over FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa participating. But now, for the past several years, all of it has faded away."...

-- bth: so we could assume that the presence of organized sports and other social activities such as music and poetry are bellwethers of the level of radical Islamic control in an area?

New study proves falsity of John Brennan's drone claims - Glenn Greenwald -

New study proves falsity of John Brennan's drone claims - Glenn Greenwald -

...Last night, they issued the findings of their study which, simply put, definitively establish that the administration's claim about civilian deaths is patently false. Contrary to Brennan's public assertions, "a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA 'secret' drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died." That count -- which includes numerous children -- covers only the civilian deaths which the Bureau could definitively establish by identifying the victims by name. Given how conservative their methodology was, these findings almost certainly under-count, probably dramatically, the number of civilian deaths at U.S. hands during the period about which Brennan made his claim: "at least 15 additional strikes warrant urgent investigation, with many more civilian deaths possible."

Other data similarly establish how false and misleading are Brennan's claims. A British photojournalist providing on-the-scene reporting of the aftermath of drone strikes in Waziristan documented this week that "far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit" and "for every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant." To describe Brennan's claims as merely "inaccurate" or "untrue" is to be unduly generous....

NightWatch 20110721 - KGS - On Funding Insurgencies

NightWatch 20110721 - KGS

...As for Afghanistan, the country's only sources of steady, year round and reliable financing are US payments and contract payments. Diversion of funds from US payments provides the best explanation why the Taliban can maintain a high level of attacks and IED emplacements even in winter, as they did this past winter. For example, Afghanistan does not make any of the ammonium nitrate that is used in most Taliban IEDs. All of it comes from Pakistan and none of it is free.
Some drug money goes to the Taliban, but the drug cartels are business enterprises and the crop is seasonal. Some money also comes from Islamic charities and Pakistanis, but those appear to be distant third and fourth sources of Taliban income.
Lessons for new analysts: The first rule of insurgency finance is that insurgents require significant and steady funding. The second rule is the financial system is usually entirely separate from the fighters. Third rule is the financial system is most often based on personal recognizance for security reasons. Thus elimination of the funds handlers and couriers is a significant threat to the survivability of any insurgency. The fourth rule is that the government and its benefactors almost always finance both sides of the fight, usually through leakage, embezzlement, theft or resales of weapons, ammunition and supplies....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

At Kabul airport, exodus of U.S. aid goes on - Checkpoint Washington - The Washington Post

At Kabul airport, exodus of U.S. aid goes on - Checkpoint Washington - The Washington Post

Kabul’s international airport has long been seen as a virtual black hole for foreign currency, the perfect venue through which travelers can smuggle out hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid that was intended for development projects.

More than a year after The Washington Post first disclosed American concerns about the airport, a report released Wednesday by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction concludes that attempts to choke off the exodus of cash have been plagued by a hard-to-fathom set of obstacles....

-- bth: If Afghans don't want it to work, it doesn't. This includes blocking smuggled US cash from leaving the country.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sugar Mama | State Dept. Contract Officer | Secret Husband | The Daily Caller

Sugar Mama | State Dept. Contract Officer | Secret Husband | The Daily Caller

A special investigation by The Daily Caller has discovered that a State Department contract specialist participated in awarding more than $52 million in taxpayer-funded contracts to a company owned and operated by her husband and daughter.

Kathleen McGrade helped their company, Sterling Royale Group, win 43 federally funded contracts over the last few years.

McGrade acted as the Contracting Officer (CO) for awards to Sterling Royale Group. McGrade’s husband, Brian Collinsworth, serves as the company’s Vice President. McGrade’s daughter, J.L. (Jennifer) Herring, is its president and CEO....

-- bth: wow. Great investigative research.

Ex-CIA officer: Israel likely to attack Iran i... JPost - Defense

Ex-CIA officer: Israel likely to attack Iran i... JPost - Defense

...Baer told the KPFK Radio on Tuesday recent comments made by Dagan that an Israeli attack on Iran could lead to a regional war, “tell us with near certainty that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is planning an attack, and in as much as I can guess when it’s going to be, it’s probably going to be in September, before a [UN General Assembly] vote on the Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu is “also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict – and in fact, there’s a warning order inside the Pentagon to prepare for conflict with Iran,” Baer said.

The retired senior CIA officer predicted that Israel would attack the Natanz nuclear facility, as well as “a couple of others to degrade their capabilities.”

“The Iranians will strike back where they can, and that will be in Basra and in Baghdad,” where the US has a reduced troop presence, Baer said....

- bth: something to keep an eye on.

Why U.S. Terrorists Reject the Al Qaeda Playbook - J.M. Berger - International - The Atlantic

Why U.S. Terrorists Reject the Al Qaeda Playbook - J.M. Berger - International - The Atlantic

....News coverage usually refers to these plots as "targeting the military." But, more than that, they are actively refusing to target civilians, mostly for moral and religious reasons. The conversations observed by law enforcement surveillance show a process of ruling out civilian targets, as opposed to simply settling on military targets.

Despite a relentless campaign of religious and political argument, Al Qaeda has failed to sell its complete package of ideology and tactics to more than a tiny handful of American Muslims -- even those so angry about U.S. policies that they are willing to carry out extraordinary acts of violence with little hope of personal survival.

Since September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda has become increasingly decentralized, an evolution driven partly by choice and partly by circumstance. That change has created important divisions and highlighted the terror network's failures of both tactical logic and social nuance.

The homegrown jihad movement has shown signs of growth in recent years, but its adherents are starting to look less like Al Qaeda. They think for themselves, and the gap between what Al Qaeda wants and what its handful of American sympathizers are willing and able to do appears to be growing.

By opening its elitist movement to popular participation, Al Qaeda has introduced cracks into the moral absolutes that it uses to justify its bloodthirsty excesses. The cracks are small so far, and it's too soon to predict where all this might end, but I suspect they are only going to widen with time.

- bth: very interesting article worth reading in full. It is surprising how little al Qaeda support actually exists in the US.

Taliban say Mullah Omar death report false, phones hacked | Reuters

Taliban say Mullah Omar death report false, phones hacked | Reuters

(Reuters) - The Taliban denied on Wednesday their supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died, saying false messages claiming his death had been sent to media after their mobile phones, email accounts and a website had been hacked into.

Mullah Omar, the Afghan Taliban's one-eyed, reclusive leader is among the most wanted men in the world, with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, and this is not the first time he has been reported dead.

"This is the work of American intelligence, and we will take revenge on the telephone network providers," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters to confirm the veracity of one text message.

The Taliban would be investigating the hacking and consider changing the way they put out news, using websites more than short text messages, said a second spokesman, Qari Yousuf.

The original text messages came from phone numbers used by both Mujahid and Yousuf and said "spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died" and "May Allah bless his soul".

Yousuf said the hacking was an attempt at psychological warfare by NATO-led forces....

-- bth: so one wonders what is going on here. There was rumor of an attack in Pakistan on his convoy in May. Now this saying he died of natural causes. So what is it? All seems to be rumor.

Germany Sells Nuke-Capable Sub to Israel

Germany Sells Nuke-Capable Sub to Israel

Germany will sell Israel a sixth Dolphin class submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles, German Defense Minister Tomas de Maiziere said.

De Maiziere discussed the deal at a meeting last week in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and The Jerusalem Post reported.

The German government will partly fund the deal, Ynetnews said.

The submarine is capable of launching nuclear armed ballistic missiles

Israel already has received three Dolphin class submarines from Germany and will get two more in 2012 and 2013....

-- bth: Iran is probably watching this closely.

Army to move hundreds of wounded troops as Walter Reed closes - News - Stripes

Army to move hundreds of wounded troops as Walter Reed closes - News - Stripes

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of wounded and sick servicemembers will be on the move in August as Walter Reed Army Medical Center enters its final weeks in existence.

About 445 troops currently are recuperating at the 102-year-old facility in Washington, D.C., which is slated for closure next month. Two-thirds of patients will be transferred in August to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., opening on the current grounds of Bethesda National Naval Hospital.

The remaining one-third will go to the soon-to-open Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, which is replacing the nearby DeWitt Army Community Hospital at the northern Virginia Army base.

The decision to close Walter Reed was one of the cost-savings measures outlined by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 2005. The new Walter Reed will be the U.S. military’s largest hospital and will focus on the most complex care, Vice Adm. John Mateczun, commander of Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical, said Tuesday.

“It will concentrate on what we would call tertiary and subspecialty care — very expert kinds of care, for instance, transplants and things that we don’t want to replicate in many places,” he said.

Seriously injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will head to Bethesda, while the new Fort Belvoir facility will care for patients who are “more ambulatory,” Mateczun said.

The new facility in Bethesda will have 345 hospital beds, 50 intensive care beds and 20 operating rooms. Fort Belvoir will have 120 hospital beds, along with 10 intensive care beds and 10 operating rooms....

-- bth: this is the end of an era.

Taliban defensive about UNAMA report on civilian casualties - Threat Matrix

Taliban defensive about UNAMA report on civilian casualties - Threat Matrix

...The human cost of the Afghan conflict for Afghan civilians rose in the first six months of 2011. Afghan civilians experienced a 15 per cent increase in conflict-related civilian deaths over the past first six months compared to the same period in 2010. This dramatic growth was mainly due to the use of landmine-like pressure plate improvised explosive devices or IEDs by Anti-Government Elements. We at UNAMA documented 1,462 civilian deaths for this period, with 80 per cent attributed to Anti-Government Elements, an increase of 28 per cent in civilian deaths from the same period in 2010.

A further 14 per cent of civilian deaths over the last six months were attributed to the Pro-Government Forces - this is the Afghan National Security Forces and International Military Forces. This was down nine per cent from the same period in 2010. And six per cent of civilian deaths we could not attributed to any party to the conflict....

-- bth: the problem is that we are the foreigners and the Taliban is not, so there never seems to be outrage because of the Taliban's actions, only ours.

Daily Times - Killer of Karzai’s aide received calls from Pakistan

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Killer of Karzai’s aide received calls from Pakistan

KABUL: The killer, of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s close ally Jan Mohammad Khan, had received telephone calls before and after the deadly shooting from Pakistan, the Interior Minister Besmullah Mohammadi told parliament on Tuesday. Jan Mohammad Khan, the former southern Uruzgan province’s governor and a key ally of Karzai, was killed in a gun attack at his Kabul house just days after the president’s younger brother was killed. Interior Minister Besmullah Mohammadi told parliament that the government was investigating two calls made to the gunmen, from Pakistan, according to another MP Mohammad Akbari. “The two terrorists who attacked Khan’s house received a call from Pakistan before their attack, and one call after they martyred Jan Mohammad, in which they congratulated the caller,” Mohammadi said during the general session of parliament, according to Akbari. afp

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BBC News - Iran to 'speed up' uranium enrichment at nuclear plants

BBC News - Iran to 'speed up' uranium enrichment at nuclear plants

Iran says it is installing newer and faster centrifuges at its nuclear plants, with the goal of speeding up the uranium enrichment process.

The foreign ministry says the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has "full supervision" of the operation.

The French government has condemned the move as a "new provocation".

France and other Western powers fear that Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is for civilian use...

--- bth: its looking like Iran is in fact in a weapons development program masked as a civilian initiative. The timing of the announcement is always suspect. One wonders if the fact that Iraq seems to have decided to decline to have US forces other than trainers in Iraq means the buffer between Iran and Israel is now eliminated come this fall.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Terrorists move to Skype, frustrate eavesdroppers - The Times of India

Terrorists move to Skype, frustrate eavesdroppers - The Times of India

...A senior intelligence officer said they had for sometime now been suspecting that the terrorists had moved their communications to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a communication technology that helps delivery of voice and multimedia data over Internet.

A senior Army officer said they were getting credible inputs in recent times that Kashmiri terrorists were being provided smart phones from which calls could be made using Skype, the popular Internet VoIP site. Though they haven't yet recovered any such Skype phones, Army found that communications over mobile and Thuraya satellite phones had mostly dried up, he said.

Ever since Indian agencies exhibited that they could easily listen in on radio sets of terrorist groups, they had moved on to satellite phones for their contacts across the border. Indian agencies took sometime to figure out how to listen in on satellite phones, mostly supplied by Thuraya. In recent years, this provided Indian intelligence agencies a wealth of data, and several real time updates on terrorists targeting India.

Now that terrorists have moved to VoIP communications, the Army officer admitted that they would have to figure out "foolproof methods" to monitor communications between India and Pakistan.

A senior officer with one of the intelligence agencies doing technical monitoring said the volume of Internet data in and out of India was so huge that none of the agencies had the manpower to do real time monitoring. "It is a major challenge, a really tough one," he said.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

British force in Afghanistan was 'unacceptably' weak: report - Yahoo! News

British force in Afghanistan was 'unacceptably' weak: report - Yahoo! News

The British task force sent into Afghanistan's Helmand province in 2006 was badly equipped, under-manned and not strong enough to take on the Taliban, a scathing government report concluded Sunday.
In the Operations in Afghanistan report, the Defence Select Committee slammed senior military officers and government ministers for their lack of foresight when taking over from US troops in the region five years ago.
The committee highlighted the shortage of air power and lack of urgency in responding to the increased threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as major factors in the unexpectedly high death toll among British troops.
Senior officers were rebuked for claiming that field commanders were satisfied with the back-up they received despite the opposite being true....

...Key flaws in the decision to deploy the force included the provision of only five Chinook helicopters, around half the necessary total, and the failure to supply any vehicles capable of withstanding an IED blast.

"We believe that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not respond quickly enough to these challenges as they developed," the report found....
--- bth:  Any honest observer at the time knew the truth of these statements. It was not necessary to rely on retrospect. The facts were evident then. These great British troops were betrayed by the government in the UK that let them down. Inadequate helicopters? Shit they were renting them from Ukrainians. As to IED resistant vehicles; it was a crime the way the British public was lied to and the troops under served, some paying with their lives for the penny pinching double dealing that went on. When the light weight LandRovers were blown up repeatedly, the Brits, instead of buying MRAPS or MATVs, sent left over tracked vehicles from Europe (designed to survive artillery barrages in the Germany, not IEDs in Afghanistan} that were certain to roll over IEDs with their treads and with their flat bottoms they took the blast flush and killed their occupants. To make matters worse, these tracked vehicles could go off road which would have given them an advantage, but standard British operating procedure prevented them from running through agricultural fields because that would destroy poppy plants. So the tracked vehicles drove the IED littered roads and sealed the fate of their occupants. A fucking crime against their troops and families.

CIA veteran: Israel to attack Iran in fall - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

CIA veteran: Israel to attack Iran in fall - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

A longtime CIA officer who spent 21 years in the Middle East is predicting that Israel will bomb Iran in the fall, dragging the United States into another major war and endangering US military and civilian personnel (and other interests) throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Earlier this week, Robert Baer appeared on the provocative KPFK Los Angeles show Background Briefing, hosted by Ian Masters. It was there that he predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to ignite a war with Iran in the very near future....

-- bth: speculative but worth reading in full.

Soldiers told not to shoot Taliban bomb layers - Telegraph

Soldiers told not to shoot Taliban bomb layers - Telegraph

They are instead being ordered to just observe insurgents and record their position to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

The controversial policy emerged at an inquest into the death of Sgt Peter Rayner, 34, a soldier from the 2nd Batallion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment who was killed in October last year by an improvised explosive device as he led a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Wendy Rayner, 40, disclosed that in the days leading up to his death her husband been told that it was not his job to attack insurgents laying bombs.

Mrs Rayner, who lives with their young son in Bradford, told the inquest that the insurgents were being allowed to get away with the murder of British troops.

She said: “They are not allowed to fire on these terrorists. If they can see people leaving these IEDs, why can’t they take them out? One officer even told him 'I am an army Captain and you will do your job'....

-- bth: allowing Taliban to place IEDs and not get shot at is just the stupidest policy. By this rule of engagement, IEDs are risk free for Taliban and deadly for British soldiers as placement of IEDs that are victim activated may be the only time the culprit is at the scene. Stupid.

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

MRAPs in Iraq being armored against Iran-made bombs - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide

MRAPs in Iraq being armored against Iran-made bombs - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide

The U.S. military is fitting new armor to its mine resistant, ambush protected vehicles in Iraq because of improved bombs coming from Iran, according to a story by Bloomberg.

The Caiman variant of the Army’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles is getting new armor, said Ashton Carter at the Brookings Institution, a Washington study center, was quoted as saying in the story.

The Pentagon is modifying the vehicle’s side armor specifically in response to Iranian-made Explosively Formed Penetrators designed to destroy the most dense U.S. armor, Carter says in the report.

“This is a very important effort so those vehicles are strengthened,” he said. “I am talking about armor plates on the side of the Caiman,” he is quoted as saying....

-- bth: so if we are taking this action which is expensive, it means the Iranian EFP threat has become serious again.

UK Defense Withers to Irrelevance

Defence shake-up means our smallest Army since the Boer War - Telegraph

The reorganisation will see the Army shrink to its smallest size since the Boer War, while Britain’s reserve forces will benefit from a £1.5 billion investment programme.

Members of the Territorial Army (TA), the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Air Force Volunteers Reserve will receive better pay and conditions, but more will be expected to take part in dangerous military operations when needed.

It is understood that by 2020 the Army will be reduced from its present strength of 101,000 regulars, to 84,000. The number of territorials will be maintained at 36,000....

...“We are now back to the mentality of the 1930s when the officers paid for the men to go on exercise. The reserves are a valuable resource and they are being wasted.”

The closure of RAF Leuchars will leave Scotland with just one functioning RAF base at Lossiemouth, currently home to a Tornado GR4 Squadron. The new barracks at the Leuchars site will house thousands of soldiers due to be withdrawn from Germany in the next few years.

The decision to transfer the two typhoon squadrons currently based at Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth was only finalised last Friday, although rumours of the move had been circulating for months.

It will also be announced that RAF Marham in Norfolk — another Tornado base — will remain open, primarily because it is the only Tornado servicing facility.

--- bth: so the UK will have very few air bases, almost no fighter bombers, a couple of divisions at best. It continues to slide into military irrelevance. The UK is unable to project force with this configuration. I doubt it could defend the Falklands at this point.