This photo, released today by the Pentagon, shows a member of a security force securing the Dahla Dam in the Kandahar province. Spc. Marshall carries what seems to be a backpack carried IED jammer, one we haven’t spotted before…
Saturday, September 24, 2011
(AP) DENVER — A third of military personnel who committed suicide last year had told at least one person they planned to take their own lives, a newly released Defense Department report says.
Nearly half went to see medical personnel, behavioral health specialists, chaplains or other service providers sometime in the 90 days before they died, according to the 2010 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report.
That doesn't necessarily reflect a failure in the Defense Department suicide prevention program, said Richard McKeon, chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration....
So the heat was rising well before Mullen's testimony. Yet the ISI also knows American and European support for staying in Afghanistan is dropping. Canada has already left. Obama has started withdrawing faster than his generals wanted. The Pakistani officers want to accelerate this process—the sooner NATO is gone, the better for them. So their advice to their Afghan proxies is to carry out operations designed to impact the home audience in America and Europe. Make the war look unwinnable and hopeless. Make Kabul appear chaotic and unsafe. Kill any hope for a political process. The darker Afghanistan appears on TV screens, the sooner the foreign armies will be called home.
Reality is less important than image in this war. The Army leadership also feels it can weather any blowback from Washington. The generals assume U.S. military aid will be cut or eliminated by Congress sooner rather than later, and they are confident that the Saudis and Chinese will fill the gap. They also know NATO's logistical supply line to Kabul runs through Karachi (more than half of everything NATO eats, drinks, and shoots arrives via Karachi despite intense efforts to find alternatives). They have leverage and they know it. And of course, they have the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world with a developing tactical nuclear capability. They feel they hold a lot of aces, maybe more than they should. Cocky poker players are dangerous.
Turkey has imposed an arms embargo against Syria for its brutal crackdown on the country’s uprising, and it has stopped a Syrian-flagged ship, the prime minister said Friday. “If there are planes carrying weapons, or such shipments by land, then we would stop and confiscate them as in the past,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, above. He did not say when or where the ship was stopped, or whether any weapons were found aboard. Turkey intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria in August, and it seized the cargo of an Iranian plane bound for Syria in March.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The Obama administration for the first time Thursday openly asserted that Pakistan was indirectly responsible for specific attacks against U.S. troops and installations in Afghanistan, calling a leading Afghan insurgent group “a veritable arm” of the Pakistani intelligence service.
Last week’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a Sept. 10 truck bombing that killed five Afghans and wounded 77 NATO troops were “planned and conducted” by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network “with ISI support,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The ISI is the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
“The government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI” have chosen “to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy” to maintain leverage over Afghanistan’s future, Mullen testified during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also testified.
Mullen’s statement represented a sharp break with a long-standing administration policy of publicly playing down Pakistan’s official support for Taliban insurgents who operate from havens within its borders. U.S. officials have typically described Pakistan as a troublesome but valuable partner in the struggle against terrorism.
The testimony capped a week of increasingly critical administration statements in the wake of the recent attacks and reflected a rising conviction that a new strategy is needed.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar condemned Mullen’s allegations and issued what sounded like a veiled counter-threat, warning that the United States could ill afford to risk its relationship with Pakistan.
“If they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost,” Khar told the Pakistani television network Geo on Thursday from New York City, where she is attending a U.N. General Assembly meeting. “Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it is not acceptable,” she said....
-- bth: I hope there is a productive purpose for making this kind of statement.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
...Clinton affirmed that the United States should veto the Palestinian resolution at the U.N. Security Council for member-state status, because the Israelis need security guarantees before agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state. But the Netanyahu government has moved away from the consensus for peace, making a final status agreement more difficult, Clinton said.
"That's what happened. Every American needs to know this. That's how we got to where we are," Clinton said. "The real cynics believe that the Netanyahu's government's continued call for negotiations over borders and such means that he's just not going to give up the West Bank."
Afghanistan: Media reports stating that the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Afghan High Peace Council chairman and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani are baseless, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said 21 September.
The Taliban's information regarding the attack is not complete, and they cannot say anything on the issue, Mujahid said. The Taliban demanded that Reuters investigate the report that said the Taliban took responsibility for Rabbani's death and demanded the agency provide an explanation. Mujahid added that Reuters has falsely attributed quotes to the Taliban on several occasions in the past.
Comment: The tone and content of the Taliban denial are good indicators that fighters associated with Mullah Omar did not kill Rabbani. The groups with the best access to Kabul are those of Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Haqqani is less likely because in the past week his group associated itself with Omar's leadership in talks.
That leaves Hekmatyar. He was prime minister when Rabbani was president in 1996. His career is littered with the murders of rivals, even during the fight against the Soviets....
-- bth: KGS speculates on Hekmatyar as the culprit and with good reason. The press release listed on the next post clearly says that a number of Haqqani leaders have been killed and captured with links to the Kabul raid.
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 – Combined Force Captures Suspects in Kabul Attacks
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force today captured a Taliban leader in Afghanistan’s Paktiya province, military officials reported.
The man and his associates are linked to multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, including the Sept. 13 attacks on the NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The man, who also planned vehicle-bomb attacks, was captured in Paktiya’s Zurmat district.
In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader in the Shirin Tagab district of Faryab province. The man ordered attacks on Afghan forces and gave orders to arrest Afghan government supporters.
-- A combined patrol seized a cache of improvised explosive device-making materials in the Musa Qal ‘ah district of Helmand province. The cache contained 2,090 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a material used in making IEDs.
-- In the Nawah-ye Barakzai district of Helmand province, a combined force detained five suspects during a search for a Taliban leader involved in roadside and bombings.
-- A combined force detained multiple suspects during an operation targeting a Haqqani insurgent responsible for vehicle-bomb attacks in the Kandahar district of Kandahar province.
-- Combined forces killed six insurgents and detained six suspects during separate operations in the Regional Command East area.
In Sept. 13 Afghanistan operations:
-- In the Zurmat district of Paktiya province, a combined patrol discovered a weapons cache containing 728 pounds of homemade explosive, seven mines, and several IED-making components.
-- A combined force captured a Haqqani leader and an associate in the Khost district of Khost province. The man coordinated attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, to include the Sept. 13 attacks on NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
-- In the Ghazni district of Ghazni province, a combined force captured a Taliban leader and two suspects. The leader managed fighters and directed attacks against Afghan forces.
-- bth: this press release clearly assertsa a link between Haqqani and the Kabul attacks. Haqqani is a paw of the ISI in many regards.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
U.S., other donors supported 90 percent of Afghan budget over five years, GAO finds - Checkpoint Washington - The Washington Post
It’s no surprise that the Afghan government is dependent on foreign aid to function. But it’s striking to contemplate just how dependent it has become.
According to a new analysis by the Government Accountability Office, the United States and other donors funded 90 percent of Afghanistan’s total public expenditures from 2006 to 2010. In fiscal 2010, the Kabul government’s entire domestic revenues came out to about $1.6 billion.
For comparison’s sake, since 2002, the United States has allocated over $72 billion to the mission in Afghanistan.
In a letter to Congress, the GAO notes that it has repeatedly raised concerns about Afghanistan’s ability to fund its public expenditures, a concern that is particularly salient with the drawdown of U.S. forces. Three years before foreign troops are slated to hand over all security responsibility to the Afghan government, there are growing questions about how Kabul will be able to support its army and police force, among other parts of the government.
Full report from the GAO can be found here.- bth: essentially the Afghan government will not function, nor its army or police, without foreign funding.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The counterinsurgency tactic that is sending U.S. soldiers out on foot patrols among the Afghan people, rather than riding in armored vehicles, has contributed to a dramatic increase in arm and leg amputations, genital injuries and the loss of multiple limbs following blast injuries.
These devastating injuries affected unit morale. And they gave rise to talk on the battlefield that some troops had made secret pacts not to help each other survive if they were so severely injured, a new report said Tuesday.
The number of U.S. troops who had amputations rose sharply from 86 in 2009, to 187 in 2010 and 147 so far this year, military officials said Tuesday, releasing the report on catastrophic wounds.
Of those, the number of troops who lost two or three limbs rose from 23 in 2009 to 72 last year to 77 so far this year. Only a dozen or so of all amputations came from Iraq and the rest were from Afghanistan, where militants are pressing the insurgency with roadside bombs, handmade land mines and other explosives.
Officials said genital injuries also have risen significantly, but they did not give specific figures.
The sharp rise in severe injuries came as a buildup of foreign forces expanded the counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to protect civilians, win their support away from insurgents and help build an Afghan government the population will embrace instead. The soldier on foot is at greater risk for severe injuries, Tuesday's report noted, "and the injury severity (in Afghanistan) confirms this."
Military doctors told a Pentagon news conference that their study found that while the severity of injuries was going up, the rates of those killed in action was going down. They attributed the improved survival rate to improved care both immediately on the battlefield - such as applying tourniquets - and in their later care.
The report, completed in June, was ordered early this year by the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, to look into the causes of the steep increase in severe injuries, prevention, protection, treatment and long-term care for the troops. The task force report made 92 recommendations, including some on training, injury analysis, improved blood products and improved care for the injured during transport - some of which have already been implemented.
But officials said they weren't just looking at saving lives, but also saving lifestyles.
"These are life-defining injuries for these warriors and their families, but it is not desperate," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., an army doctor and head of the study. "It's not just about saving lives, it's about doing everything military medicine can do to help them lead full and productive lives."
Their care addresses what he called the "emotional and spiritual" aspects of the injuries, which Caravalho noted some of the troops could be living with for the next 60 years or more.
The task force was looking into what the doctors called "dismounted complex blast injuries" - dismounted meaning those suffered by troops on foot and complex in that they produce a pattern of wounds. It involves amputation of at least one leg, severe injury or loss of a second extremity and wounding of the pelvis, abdomen or urinary tract and genitals. The report said that these devastating types of injuries "took their toll on unit morale....
-- bth: they are getting their legs and nuts blown off from $265 costing ANFO bombs activated by simple pressure plates and command wires. Further we are walking them in a predictable pattern into predictable locations with predictable methods. Then we are not giving them ballistic underwear that prevents loss of genitals and destruction of their lower GI track.
Monday, September 19, 2011
...“For the regional balance of power, we want to have a strong, very strong Egypt,” said Mr. Davutoglu, who has visited the Egyptian capital five times since Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in February. “Some people may think Egypt and Turkey are competing. No. This is our strategic decision. We want a strong Egypt now.” ...
-- bth: can the Ottomans succeed diplomatically in the 21st century where they failed in the 20th? Perhaps. And let us hope so.
(Reuters) - A spokesman for Muammar Gaddafi said on Sunday that 17 "mercenaries," including what he called French and British "technical experts" have been captured in the Gaddafi bastion of Bani Walid in Libya.
"A group was captured in Bani Walid consisting of 17 mercenaries. They are technical experts and they include consultative officers," Moussa Ibrahim told the Syrian-based Arrai TV.
"Most of them are French, one of them is from an Asian country that has not been identified, two English people and one Qatari," he added....
-- bth: so now we swap and trade?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
...The Aug. 2 deal imposed -- without any further palaver required -- an initial phase of reductions on appropriations for the next 10 years totaling over $900 billion. While the precise budget obligation on the Pentagon in this first phase has not been entirely clear, most are now interpreting it to mean a $350 billion reduction. That means that the Pentagon budget would be effectively frozen at its current, fiscal year 2011 level -- precisely the level set by the Appropriations Committee's bill.
It safely can be predicted this will be the level of Pentagon spending the entire Congress endorses for 2012, after some theatrical grumbling by some Republicans about the bill's spending being $26 billion less than President Obama's now meaningless budget request from last February.
Even at the 2011 level, the bill is extremely generous. The amount -- about $529 billion after separate military construction and some other pieces are added -- will be almost as much "base" spending as the Pentagon has seen in any single year for decades.
If you add the separate funding for the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere ($118 billion), the amount is quite close to the Pentagon's highest level since the end of World War II -- and it is well above previous secondary peaks attained in the Korean and Vietnamese Wars and Ronald Reagan's fleeting zenith in 1985.
That "frozen" 2011 level will be more than twice the combined defense budgets of China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Somalia. It will be more than $80 billion more than we spent, on average, during the Cold War when we faced a threatening and heavily armed Soviet Union and a hostile, dogmatically communist China. In the absence of these two huge threats, we are now being told we need to spend more.
While the new DOD appropriations bill was described by its architect, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, as "not an easy allocation to meet," it is actually a defense budget quite flush with money.
The bill includes several gimmicks to permit higher spending than is apparent. There is the clumsy ploy of moving $6.5 billion out of the capped part of the Pentagon budget that the debt deal limited and adding the money back into the separate (uncapped) funding for the war in Afghanistan. (This, of course, permitted the "base" bill to contain $6.5 billion more than otherwise.)
Also, as the details trickle out next week, we will find the usual ruses, including cuts for "revised economic assumptions," "unobligated balances" and other phony games to pretend the committee is reducing money (rather than deferring it) and making good government decisions (rather than taking capricious cuts in military readiness while protecting procurement -- and contractors). (For more on these tricks, see here.)
The current defense bill is not a tough-minded but moderate action to impose restraint on the Pentagon; it is an effort to protect Pentagon spending as much as possible. With Robert Gates taking the lead and Leon Panetta bobble-heading in agreement, the Pentagon has resolved itself to that first phase of $350 billion in cuts over 10 years. They are not happy about it, but they will live with it in order to fend off further reductions. The Senate Appropriations Committee leadership is in deep sympathy with that sentiment.
Filled with bunkum to make it seem as if it's cutting at least moderately but is actually rescuing the unaffordable, underperforming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee is a rear-guard budget protection action.
The gambit will be successful. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., is quoted almost every day about the cataclysm that will occur if the defense budget is cut at all. This kind of hysteria makes the assertions of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., almost seem to be the middle ground: He threatened to quit the supercommittee if the Pentagon cuts go beyond the initial $350 billion. The response from Democrats and even Republicans who have previously favored meaningful Pentagon cuts has sealed the deal: They have been completely silent.
All that remains to be done is to let the supercommittee proceed on its clear path to failure. That will trigger the dreaded automatic cuts, but only nominally. As designed, those cuts would not occur until 2013. The big defense spender types will have all of 2012 to trash any opponents who dare to speak in favor of allowing them. They will use their traditional slander that to be against bloat in the defense budget is to be "anti-defense." It has always worked in the past, especially with Democrats who want to posture themselves as moderate, such as candidate Obama.
The debt deal will be rewritten. The defense budget will be "saved," and the next budget crisis will be made both inevitable and worse. We have a lot more dysfunction in Congress and the White House yet to observe.
Winslow T. Wheeler worked on Capitol Hill for 31 years; he handled national security issues for both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the Government Accountability Office. He is the editor of the new anthology "The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It," available online here.
...Haqqani refrains from attacking the Pakistani state, and analysts say Pakistan sees the Haqqanis as a counterweight to the growing influence of rival India in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have played down the significance of Tuesday's attack on Kabul's diplomatic enclave, which showered rockets on Western embassies in a show of insurgent strength.
It was the longest and most audacious militant attack on the Afghan capital in the decade since the Taliban was ousted from power, and a stark reminder of insurgents' reach as Western forces start to return home.
Five police and 11 civilians, including children, were killed in the multi-pronged attacks, which included three suicide bombings.
Asked if the Haqqani network was behind the assault, Sirajuddin said:
"For some reasons, I would not like to claim that fighters of our group had carried out the recent attack on U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters. Our central leadership, particularly senior members of the Shura, suggested I should keep quiet in future if the US and its allies suffer in future."
The Haqqani network is believed to have extensive ties with some of the world's most dangerous militant groups, including al Qaeda, in North Waziristan and elsewhere...
- bth: because the implication from all of this is that Pakistan via the Haqqanis surrogate network was behind the attacks on the US embassy and Nato?
SUNGAI KOLOK, Thailand – Thai authorities alleged Saturday that drug dealers had a hand in deadly coordinated bombings in the country's south that killed four people and wounded dozens more.
Police Col. Jakraporn Thaenthong, said the death toll from Friday night's three bombs in the border town of Sungai Kolok climbed to four after a wounded victim died in hospital. Jakraporn, the town's police chief, said that 13 of the more than 60 people hurt in the attack were severely wounded.
The attack by bombs concealed in a car and two motorcycles in the town bordering Malaysia was one of the biggest since Thailand's new government was installed in August. More than 4,700 people have been killed in the Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces of Thailand since an Islamist insurgency erupted in 2004. No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks....
- bth: note the tight link between Islamic extremism and the drug trade. I'm not saying its causal but it is related somehow across geographies. Same can be said use of vehicle bombs. It is surprising, or is it inevitable, that the use of vehicle bombs will increase in the US and Central America where drug lords are so strong but the use of such devices has remained relatively muted?
Turkish PM suggests Israel is responsible for releasing recordings of secret talks between Ankara's intelligence organization, PKK officials
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted Thursday that Israel is responsible for the release of tapes revealing secret talks between Ankara's intelligence officials and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish leader defended his country's National Intelligence Organization Chief Hakan Fidan. “We know certain circles have targeted Hakan Fidan in the past,” Erdogan told reporters, referring to Israeli accusations claiming Fidan is pro-Iranian....
-- bth: it certainly looks like things are going to get nasty between Turkey and Israel with the PKK as a pawn on the chess board