Saturday, August 27, 2011

Al-Qaida's No. 2 reported killed by US in Pakistan - Boston.com

Al-Qaida's No. 2 reported killed by US in Pakistan - Boston.com

WASHINGTON—U.S. and Pakistani officials said Saturday that al-Qaida's second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the U.S. believes to be on the verge of defeat.

Since Navy SEALs stormed Osama bin Laden's compound and killed him in May, the Obama administration has been unusually frank in its assessment that al-Qaida is on the ropes, its leadership in disarray. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al-Qaida's defeat was within reach if the U.S. could mount a string of successful attacks.

"Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them," Panetta said, "because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat."

A Libyan national, al-Rahman never had the worldwide name recognition of bin Laden or bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But al-Rahman was regarded as an instrumental figure in the terrorist organization, trusted by bin Laden to oversee al-Qaida's daily operations.

When the SEALs raided bin Laden's compound, they found evidence of al-Rahman's deep involvement in running al-Qaida.

Senior al-Qaida figures have been killed before, only to be replaced. But the Obama administration's tenor reflects a cautious optimism that victory in the decade-long fight against al-Qaida could be at hand.

"It does hold the prospect of a strategic defeat, if you will, a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaida," incoming CIA Director David Petraeus said in July....

-- bth: incredible that this isn't being more thoroughly reported.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Gadafy daughter who 'died' in 1986 alive - The Irish Times - Fri, Aug 26, 2011

Gadafy daughter who 'died' in 1986 alive - The Irish Times - Fri, Aug 26, 2011

A passport photo of Hana Gadafy, the adopted daughter of Muammar Gadafy, which was among documents discovered by The Irish Times in the Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli yesterday. Gadafy claimed she died as an infant in a 1986 US bombing.

The adopted daughter of Muammar Gadafy, whom he claimed died as an infant in the 1986 US bombing of his Tripoli compound, appears to be alive and worked as a doctor in the Libyan capital, documents discovered by The Irish Times indicate.

A room belonging to Hana Muammar Gadafy in the section of the Bab al-Azizia compound where the Gadafy family lived contained several documents that appear to indicate she grew up to study medicine in Tripoli and took English classes at the British Council in the Libyan capital.

Many Libyans have long doubted the story of Hana’s death, which Gadafy used to bolster the notion that he was a victim of western military aggression.

Among the items discovered by The Irish Times yesterday are an examination paper from a Libyan university medical faculty signed “Hana Muammar Gadafy” in Arabic, and photographs of Hana including one showing her with Gadafy’s blood daughter Aisha. A British Council certificate, dated July 19th, 2007, showed that Hana Muammar Gadafy had achieved an overall A grade in an English language course there.

In February, a German newspaper obtained a copy of a document related to the freezing of Muammar Gadafy’s assets in Switzerland after Libya’s uprising began. The document listed 23 members of the Gadafy clan, including Hana, whose date of birth is given as November 11th, 1985, making her six months old at the time of the US air strike....

- bth: so go figure


Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Much is the Newest Advanced Artificial Hand? $11,000 USD (video) | Singularity Hub

How Much is the Newest Advanced Artificial Hand? $11,000 USD (video) | Singularity Hub


Billions meant for struggling homeowners may pay down deficit instead | The Raw Story

Billions meant for struggling homeowners may pay down deficit instead | The Raw Story

With housing prices dropping sharply, and foreclosure filings against more than 1 million properties in the first half of this year, the Obama administration is scrambling for ways to help homeowners.

One place they won't be looking: an estimated $30 billion from the bailout that was slated to help homeowners but is likely to remain unspent.

Instead, Congress has mandated that the leftover money be used to pay down the debt.

Of the $45.6 billion in Trouble Asset Relief Program funds meant to aid homeowners, the most recent numbers available show that only about $2 billion has actually gone out the door.

The low number reflects how little the government's home loan modification and other programs have actually helped homeowners deal with the foreclosure crisis.

The programs have been marked by poor oversight and consistent under-enrollment. Homeowners have been forced to navigate an often bewildering maze at banks marked by slow communication, lost documents and other mistakes.

The amount of money spent is also low because the government pays out its incentive over a number of years. As of July, according to a Treasury spokeswoman, the government is on track to eventually spend $7.2 billion helping homeowners enrolled in its main loan modification program. That number doesn't factor in other homeowners who may enter the program before it ends in December 2012, but it does assume that all homeowners currently in the program will be able to continue making payments....

-- bth: so basically this is saying that the little guys got nothing but screwed.


Desi Deandre Wade, Pentagon Employee, Charged With Taking Bribe Over Afghanistan Contract

Desi Deandre Wade, Pentagon Employee, Charged With Taking Bribe Over Afghanistan Contract

ATLANTA -- A high-ranking Department of Defense employee was charged Thursday with taking a bribe at an international conference in Atlanta to steer lucrative federal contracts for work in Afghanistan to a contractor.

Desi Deandre Wade, the department's Chief of Fire and Emergency Services in Afghanistan, was arrested Wednesday at the Fire-Rescue International Conference in downtown Atlanta after he took $95,000 in cash from a contractor, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said.

"While he was supposed to be working to support our troops, he was lining his pockets," she said....

- bth: not surprising at all.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Elite Afghan force destroys insurgent explosives cache - Threat Matrix

Elite Afghan force destroys insurgent explosives cache - Threat Matrix

Members of an elite counterterrorism unit of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) called BOST 170 raided an insurgent explosive cache in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province on Aug. 21 and seized the largest amount of homemade explosive precursors in the area since 2006. Lashkar Gah district is one of several regions for which NATO transitioned security responsibility to the Afghan government and security forces in May.

Some 60 soldiers from BOST 170 helped conduct the heliborne operation that confiscated over four tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the key ingredient in over 80% of the main charges found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. The sacks of prohibited fertilizer were destroyed in place with assistance from Task Force Helmand's Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) demolition team.

afghan_haul_mod.jpg

NATO assisted with the creation of the elite BOST 170 counterterrorism unit in 2008 to help conduct reconnaissance, interdiction, and seizure operations.

The Helmand provincial governor released a statement on the recent raid and quoted NDS head General Nazar Ali Wahidy, who said: "These explosives were skillfully kept beside undergrowth and terrorists wanted to make IEDs from them and use them in different sorts of attacks. The NDS of Helmand discovered the ammonium nitrate parcels which could have made IEDs. By discovering and removing the explosives, the NDS stopped a big disaster."

The commando raid against the explosives cache highlights the continuing battle against the IED threat. From April to June this year, 3,845 IEDs exploded or were found, according to the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The numbers of Coalition forces killed and wounded in IED attacks rose 15 percent between April and June compared to the same time frame last year. In June, the usage of IEDs was 25 percent higher than average....

-- bth: Long War Journal has some excellent reporting. You just don't see this stuff in normal media channels.


The Associated Press: Turkey says it killed 100 Kurdish rebels in Iraq

The Associated Press: Turkey says it killed 100 Kurdish rebels in Iraq

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's military said Tuesday air strikes on suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq this week have killed an estimated 90 to 100 guerrillas and warned that it would press ahead with offensives against the group both inside Turkey and across the border.

The military also said in a statement posted on its website that than 80 separatist rebels were injured in six days of cross-border air raids that began Aug. 17, hours after eight soldiers and a government-paid village guard were killed in an ambush by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, near the border with Iraq.

"According to initial information obtained, between 90 and 100 terrorists were rendered ineffective, more than 80 wounded terrorists were moved to hospitals or villages, and contact with a high number of terrorists was cut," the military said. "Rendered ineffective" is a term used by the military to refer to rebels killed.

"Iraq's north and domestic areas will be monitored for separatist terrorist activity and air and ground operations will continue," it said.

The military said targets hit included 79 shelters and hideouts, 18 caves, eight depots, 14 PKK buildings or facilities, one ammunition depot, nine anti-aircraft gun positions and three rebel road blocks.

The rebels have denied any losses, insisting that areas hit by the Turkish warplanes were long-abandoned bases. The PKK said Tuesday that the military's claim of the number of rebel deaths was a "baseless fabrication."

"By giving these false numbers, the Turkish army commanders are trying to raise the spirits of their soldiers and to create more pretexts to continue their war against civilians," PKK spokesman Ahmet Deniz said....

-- bth: what I find surprising is that no one seems to care if Turkey crosses into Iraq.


NightWatch 20110822 - KGS

NightWatch 20110822 - KGS

Libya: Pro-Qadhafi media reported that Qadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, turned up early Tuesday morning at the Rixos Hotel, where about 30 foreign journalists are staying in Tripoli under the close watch of regime minders. He then took reporters in a convoy of black, armored SUVs on a drive through parts of the city under the regime's control.

Associated Press reporters were among the journalists who saw him and went on the tour. He told the reporters: "We are going to hit the hottest spots in Tripoli."

Comment: Two aspects of Saif's ostentatious gesture are worth noting. First, it provided some clarification to reports about the extent of rebel control in Tripoli. The fight for Tripoli is not ended, though the Qadhafi dynasty is.

Pro-Qadhafi forces hold enough of the capital sufficiently secure so that Saif al-Islam -- a Qadhafi son obviously not in custody as the rebels claimed -- was able to be driven around posh neighborhoods of Tripoli in a white stretch limousine with no difficulty.

The second point is that the neighborhoods in which Saif was driven apparently represent the neighborhoods of the richest retainers of the Qadhafi dynasty. Saif's bravado identified them as targets.


Afghan Villagers Stone a Taliban Commander to Death - NYTimes.com

Afghan Villagers Stone a Taliban Commander to Death - NYTimes.com


KABUL, Afghanistan — Angry villagers stoned to death a local Taliban commander and his bodyguard in southern Afghanistan Sunday after the militants killed a 60-year-old man accused of aiding the government, Afghan officials said.

It was a rare reversal of brutality aimed at the Taliban and, some Afghan officials believe, suggests a growing sense of security in an area where the insurgency has lost ground to NATO forces in the last two years. The stoning happened in the Nawa District of Helmand Province, a verdant agricultural area along the Helmand River Valley, now considered one of the safest places in the volatile south as a result of a heavy influx of American troops and aid dollars.

“People won’t tolerate the Taliban’s barbaric actions anymore,” said Dawoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand Province. “They will stand against them whenever they are harmed.”

The stoning occurred a day after insurgents in the northeastern province of Kunar stoned, hanged and shot two Afghan National Army soldiers returning from leave, Afghan officials said. The attacks were unrelated and happened far away from each other, but they underscored the grisly nature of the insurgency even as NATO officials say overall violence in the country is beginning to show a sustained downward trend for the first time in five years.

Enemy-initiated attacks were down in 12 of the last 16 weeks compared with the same periods last year, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, said Monday. Over all, levels of violence are higher than last year, NATO officials said, but the recent declines, coming in what is supposed to be the Taliban’s prime fighting season, have led to hope among the officials that violence by the end of 2011 will fall below 2010 levels, which were the worst since the war began almost 10 years ago.

The Helmand episode began Sunday evening when two armed insurgents roared up on a motorcycle to a mosque in the village of Trekh Zaber, where Yaar Muhammad, a local farmer, and his two sons were waiting to celebrate Iftar, the evening breaking of the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The men ordered Mr. Muhammad to come to them, and as he did, they fired their weapons, killing him instantly, said Hajji Hayatullah, a district council member. As Mr. Muhammad fell, his sons jumped the two gunmen and pulled them off their motorcycle. Other villagers joined in, officials said, beating the men to death with stones....


Monday, August 22, 2011

US censures report on drone casualties - Americas - Al Jazeera English

US censures report on drone casualties - Americas - Al Jazeera English

US officials have strongly rejected allegations in an independent UK study that a covert drone war in Pakistan has killed large numbers of civilians, saying the numbers are "way off the mark".

On Friday, US officials criticised the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism report's finding that there had been many more CIA attacks on alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban targets and far more civilian deaths than previously reported.

The report said that bombing raids by unmanned aircraft had killed up to 168 children in Pakistan over the last seven years.

"The numbers cited by this organisation are way off the mark," said a senior US official, who spoke to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

"In the past year, in the neighbourhood of 600 militants - including more than two dozen terrorist leaders - have been taken off the battlefield.

"In that same period of time, we can't confirm any noncombatant casualties," the official said.

A second US official, who also asked not to be identified, dismissed the report as unfounded, saying: "The numbers are wrong."

The officials said intelligence agencies took precautions to avoid killing civilians and that the robotic aircraft - equipped with missiles, video cameras and sensors- can linger over a target to ensure accuracy.

"This is a weapon - fuelled by good intelligence - that allows us to counter an urgent and deadly threat in otherwise inaccessible places," said the first official.

"And it's far more precise than conventional ground operations. What's the alternative to this kind of rigour, assuming the United States and its allies are unwilling to allow al-Qaeda and its friends to plot and murder freely?"...


-- bth: the US position that it has no confirmed civilian casualties is a word game and beggars credibility. It is a foolish bureaucratic position. Better to acknowledge that a certain percentage of civilians are killed and that it is an historically low level versus other wars or techniques.

Pakistan says it can bring Haqqani to peace talks - Yahoo! News

Pakistan says it can bring Haqqani to peace talks - Yahoo! News

...Ahead of his departure last month as head of Afghanistan's military operation, Gen. David Patraeus announced that the thrust of the war would be redirected against Taliban hideouts in the east of Afghanistan, where Haqqani's Afghan headquarters is located.

Yet at least two Western officials in the region say Haqqani's network cannot be defeated militarily. Speaking on condition of anonymity to allow them to speak candidly, the two officials, both of whom have Western military experience, said Pakistan's soldiers are poorly trained and equipped. A military operation in North Waziristan's Miram Shah would temporarily disrupt Haqqani's operation but not defeat it, they said.

They also said the calls for attacks on Haqqani safe havens in Miram Shah are part of the larger U.S. strategy that uses military pressure to bring insurgents to the negotiation table.

Pakistan has 140,000 soldiers deployed in its tribal regions. Battles with Pakistani insurgents there have resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 Pakistani soldiers, more than the U.S. and NATO combined.

According to the Pakistani military officer, an all out war with the Haqqani network would result in numerous military deaths and leave Pakistan, battered by relentless suicide bombings, vulnerable to more militant attacks.

Insisting Pakistan can bring the Haqqanis to the table without a military operation, the Pakistani senior military official says it's still not clear what the Haqqanis could be offered if they agree to open talks.

Mohammed Ismai Qasemyar, a representative of Afghanistan's High Peace Council tasked with finding a peaceful end to the 10-year war, said: "We won't make any deals with Haqqani." The only promises on offer so far are personal security guarantees and "every rights granted all Afghan citizens."

On their part, Haqqanis would have to denounce al-Qaida, he said.