Saturday, October 08, 2011
ISLAMABAD — A large crowd of Islamic militants rallied this week in the heart of Islamabad to voice support for Pakistan's army and to condemn the United States in another sign of a growing tide of extremism sweeping the country.
The Thursday rally by Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a violent group considered close to al Qaida that has been banned by Pakistani authorities, was followed Friday by protests in several Pakistani cities against the death sentence handed down a week ago to an extremist who earlier this year gunned down a senior Pakistani official whom he'd accused of blasphemy.
The new evidence of rising Islamic extremism comes as the United States and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan's military and its main spy agency of supporting jihadist groups — even as extremist violence besieges Pakistan....
-- bth: the fact that this rally occurred with evident official sanction speaks volumes about the two faced nature of this conflict.
Robots are a perfect tool to give soldiers in the field "eyes" on a potentially hazardous situation without placing themselves in harm's way. With soldiers often operating in difficult terrain or entering buildings, the easiest way to get such robots into place is usually to throw them. Currently, many units use a small tactical robot called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle 320 which is equipped with video reconnaissance technology. However, this robot weighs a not very pack-friendly 32 pounds (14.5 kg), so the call has been put out for a lighter robot that is more easily transportable by dismounted units on the move and is able to be thrown into forward locations such as buildings and caves. To this end, the U.S. military is set to put three different types of lightweight, "throwable" robots through a series of combat assessments in Afghanistan.
In response to a joint urgent operational needs statement (JUONS) calling for an ultra-light recon robot to support dismounted operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEIDDO) are working to procure and deliver thousands of small, easily transportable "throwable" robots. These robots are to be equipped with surveillance cameras designed to beam back video from confined spaces, buildings, tunnels and other potentially dangerous locations.
After conducting a survey of commercially-available technologies and performing quick tests on numerous small robots, JIEDDO chose three lightweight, throwable robots for a series of combat assessments in Afghanistan: iRobot's 110 First Look robot, MacroUSA's Armadillo V2 Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle, and QinetiQ North America's Dragon Runner....
--bth: this is an excellent article worth reading in full on the state of small throwable robots for military applications. One dynamic not mentioned in the article is cost which is an important factor in any wide spread use.
Dozens of U.S. paratroopers injured after mock battle with Slovakians goes horrifically wrong | Mail Online
Dozens of U.S. Army paratroopers have been hurt during a massive airborne drop in Germany.
Sixteen of the 47 injured men are still in hospital, two of them in intensive care after the jump involving 1,000 soldiers went terribly wrong. They suffered head, spine and pelvic injuries.
The exercise pitted soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade in a mock-battle scenario with Slovakian soldiers and American troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team over the Hohenfels training area in Bavaria, southern Germany.
Exercise: U.S paratroopers jump out of a military airplane on Wednesday in a massive airborne drop exercise that left dozens injured
The American army said the drop was part of a scheme to switch the military focus back to fighting conventional forces as operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down....
But the military said that they would not be staging an inquiry into what happened because the injury rate was “acceptable”.
Civilian spokeswoman for the Joint multinational Training Command, which is under U.S. Army command, Denver Makle, said as the numbers injured 'was within expected margins' an investigation was not necessary.
Speaking to The Local, a German website, she added: 'Airborne operations are always dangerous. There is very little margin for error.'
She explained an injury rate of up to 3 per cent is normal in this type of exercise....
Friday, October 07, 2011
A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.
The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.
“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”
Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don’t know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they’re sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.....
- bth: well if it was detected 2 weeks ago my guess is that its been tracked to a source. Which is?
Stanley McChrystal: Understanding of Afghanistan ‘frighteningly simplistic’ - Tim Mak - POLITICO.com
...McChrystal pointed out that coalition forces have lacked - and still lack - a solid comprehension of Afghanistan’s situation, culture and history, and made the bleak assessment that the work is only about half done.
“We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough,” he said at the Council on Foreign Relations, reports the BBC. “Most of us - me included - had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”
The retired four-star general said that U.S. forces did not know the country’s languages and did not make “an effective effort” to learn them.
The invasion of Iraq put a strain on military resources, McChrystal said, and also changed the way the Muslim world viewed America’s foreign policies.
“When we went after the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, there was a certain understanding that we had the ability and the right to defend ourselves and the fact that al Qaeda had been harbored by the Taliban was legitimate. I think when we made the decision to go into Iraq that was less legitimate” in view of the Muslim world, McChrystal said....-- bth: not just in the muslim world but here at home as well.
Monday, October 03, 2011
Two-thirds of Americans have confidence in their local governments’ ability to handle local problems, a marked contrast with the withering dissatisfaction that voters feel toward the federal government, a new poll shows.
Trust and confidence in local government has hovered around 70 percent for the past decade, and the recent gridlock at the federal level has done little to sully local impressions of government. In fact, 68 percent of respondents to a new Gallup poll on Monday said they had a “fair” or “great” deal of trust and confidence in their local governments....
From June through August, U.S. troops detected or were hit by 5,088 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the most for any three-month period since the war began in 2001.
Those bombs killed 63 troops and wounded 1,234, Defense Department records show.
More than 80% of the IEDs are homemade explosives using calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer produced in Pakistan, said Navy Capt. Douglas Borrebach, deputy director for resources and requirements at the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization.
"The border is a sieve," Borrebach said. "You can do your checkpoints, but that's not going to help stem the supply."...
bth: assuming an IED costs $256 on average then for between 1 and 2 million dollars the US receives 80% of its casualties.
Sunday, October 02, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Al-Qaida's top bomb maker in Yemen did not die in a drone strike on a convoy, a top Yemeni official said Sunday, a report that dashed the hopes of U.S. officials who thought the attack might have killed a trio of top al-Qaida personnel.
The U.S. drone strike Friday killed U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and an American propagandist, Samir Khan, who published a slick English-language web magazine that spouted al-Qaida's anti-Western ideology.
U.S. intelligence officials had said it appeared that bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was among the dead. However, on Sunday the Yemeni official released a list of two others whose bodies had been identified and noted that al-Asiri was not one of them. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters....
(AP) SANAA, Yemen — The killings of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and another American al-Qaida propagandist in a U.S. airstrike have wiped out the decisive factor that made the terrorist group's Yemen branch the most dangerous threat to the United States: its reach into the West.
Issuing English-language sermons on jihad on the Internet from his hideouts in Yemen's mountains, al-Awlaki drew Muslim recruits like the young Nigerian who tried to bring down a U.S. jet on Christmas and the Pakistani-American behind the botched car bombing in New York City's Times Square.
Friday's drone attack was believed to be the first instance in which a U.S. citizen was tracked and killed based on secret intelligence and the president's say-so. Al-Awlaki was placed on the CIA "kill or capture" list by the Obama administration in April 2010 — the first American to be so targeted.
The strike took place in the morning hours in the eastern Yemeni province of al-Jawf. A second American, Samir Khan, who edited al-Qaida's Internet magazine, was also killed in the airstrike.
Late Friday, two U.S. officials said intelligence had indicated that the top al-Qaida bomb-maker in Yemen also died in the strike — Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was linked to the bomb hidden in the underwear of the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because al-Asiri's death has not officially been confirmed. Al-Asiri is also believed to have built the bombs that al-Qaida slipped into printers and shipped to the U.S. last year in a nearly catastrophic attack....
-- bth: this is indeed good news if true. Al-Asiri is a very dangerous man for Americans.