Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Pakistan: A gaggle of US senior leaders led by Hillary Clinton with a supporting cast of Chairman, JCS, General Dempsey and CIA Director Petraeus reportedly conveyed a strong message to Pakistani leaders that they must crack down on insurgent strongholds used to assist in attacks on Afghanistan.
A clear, firm message must be sent to the Pakistani people and government that they are part of the solution, Clinton said. They must rid their country of insurgents who kill their own people and others in Afghanistan. Pakistan must lead this fight because there is no other place to go, and there will be strict consequences if this is allowed to continue, she said.
Special comment: Secretary Clinton's public statement is posturing. Clinton almost certainly did not talk that way to the Pakistani government leadership because the Obama administration needs Pakistani military flank support a lot more than Pakistan needs the US, thanks to the Chinese.
The more likely main topic of business was managing the US and NATO withdrawal by arranging some Pakistani flank support in return for US intelligence. The idea apparently would be that the US would provide intelligence support and drone support to help Pakistan restrain the Taliban and other anti-Afghan government groups from attacking the withdrawing Westerners as they withdraw. The US also probably offered to provide intelligence assistance to help protect the Pakistan Army and government....
-bth: Nightwatch is always worth a morning read.
Money from defense contracts, a mainstay of the Massachusetts and New England economies, is dwindling as America pulls troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. And military expenditures in the region could drop even more dramatically as the Defense Department confronts $400 billion in budget cuts and Congress seeks more reductions in the massive US budget deficit.
A study by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute found that the value of military contracts in the Bay State fell 7.7 percent in 2010, to $14.3 billion, from $15.5 billion the year before.
Regionwide, spending was down 9 percent, to $29.1 billion.
“There’s going to be a continued downward trend across the nation as the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down,’’ said Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council and the Defense Technology Initiative, a consortium of New England government agencies and defense contractors.
“There are obvious concerns about our regional economy if further cuts are absorbed,’’ he said.
Defense spending accounts for 4 percent of the Massachusetts and New England economies.
A separate study from the Aerospace Industries Association showed that defense budget cuts could lead to sizable job losses in Massachusetts.
That report estimates more than 31,000 Massachusetts workers are directly employed in aerospace- and defense-related industries. A $1 trillion cut in defense spending, for example, would eliminate about 8,200 jobs, with another 17,600 indirect job losses caused by a reduction in economic activity.
Massachusetts is a major producer of high-technology military gear....
-- bth: As congress moves to derail the Small Business Innovation Research program which hundreds of small regional high tech companies depend on, the impact on the region will grow worse, but because small companies do not have organized and well oiled lobbyists they will be disregarded. Then a few years from now, Congress will try to reestablish this program to help the unemployed. Idiots in DC right now.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
WASHINGTON – Attacks with homemade bombs are growing worldwide and pose an increasing threat to the United States, said the head of the Pentagon agency charged with combating makeshift bombs.
Attacks with improvised explosive devices outside Afghanistan and Iraq have more than doubled in the last three years, according to Pentagon data. From January to September, there were an average of 608 attacks per month in 99 countries. During that time, there were 367 homemade bomb attacks in the United States.
"It's cheap, effective and readily available," said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
"If we think it's going to go away after Iraq and Afghanistan, we're dreaming," he said. "It's going to confront us operationally for decades and domestically. We need to come to grips with that. It's an enduring threat."
Their popularity among criminals, narcotics traffickers and terrorists continues to grow, aided by the spread of online of bomb-making technology, Barbero said.
Tactics used against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated to places such as Somalia, he said. African peacekeepers recently have been targeted with sophisticated armor-piercing IEDs.
Another growing concern is the use of readily available fertilizer as the key component for homemade explosives.
Barbero estimated that 80% of improvised explosvies in Afghanistan are made with fertilizer produced in neighboring Pakistan. Those bombs cause 90% of U.S. casualties there....
-- bth: so why are we cutting the Combating Terrorism Technology Support Groups budget in half?
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In hundreds of millions of offices around the world, this routine repeats itself every day: People sit down, turn on their computers, set their mobile phones on their desks, and begin to work; now, what if a hacker could use that phone to track what the person was typing on the keyboard just inches away?
In hundreds of millions of offices around the world, this routine repeats itself every day: People sit down, turn on their computers, set their mobile phones on their desks, and begin to work. Now, what if a hacker could use that phone to track what the person was typing on the keyboard just inches away?...
-- bth: disturbing.
Special Comment: NightWatch is a threat analysis commentary based on analytical techniques that were applied successfully for many years in US defense intelligence. That means that the comments that follow are not those of financial analysts.
The threats to the European financial system are systemic, arising from a loss of investor confidence which concerns the financial subsystem of the economy and the inability of debtors to pay their bills which concerns the vitality of the economy itself. The financial subsystem is one of several information subsystems in a nation, which is a processor of information, energy and matter to sustain life. The enforceabilitiy of promises is the foundation of contract law which underpins modern commercial life. Contract law is failing in some sectors of economic activity in Europe and the US.
The potpourri of bank recapitalization, downgrading of sovereign or bank debt and bail out loans reflects the angst of the financial subsystem managers and blends the tools for managing risk, not threat. Those measures do not address stress from systemic economic threat.
Threat is the probability of real damage in a measureable time. Threat arises, in this instance, from the consequence of real damage to the economy by past practices of the financial sector managers and the borrowers themselves.
In international security affairs, the processes for managing threat and for controlling and stabilizing damage are not the same as those for managing risk, which is a hypothetical construct about levels of possible damage. The difference is the difference between possible vs. actual threats, and real damage.
Threat invariably creates crisis which begets actual damage and further escalation. Significant economic damage has already occurred in Europe and the US. The obvious question is what are the damage limitation, damage control, stabilization and normality restoration plans that European and US political and financial leaders are following? These are the stages of crisis management. Thus far, only risk management -- vice crisis management -- proposals appear to be under discussion. No orderly crisis management is apparent on either side of the Atlantic.
In a living system analysis, the financial sector is an information subsystem of the larger economic system that processes information, energy and matter to produce a national economy, the GNP of any state. The financial information system is under stress in Europe, but the energy and matter processing sectors of the European economies have been seriously damaged. Remedies that relieve stress in the financial information systems miscarry as remedies for damage to the energy and matter processing systems.
Bankers and finance ministers do not seem to understand the incongruity. Their focus is on the information system, more than the energy and matter processing systems. They believe that confidence in financial information will result in new stuff. That linkage is tricky and arguably backwards. The normal historic pattern is that innovation in matter and energy production attracts venture capital and success builds investor confidence.
Thus far, the Eurozone parties continue to address risk, but fail to address damage and its multiplier effects on threat. When a solution fails to match a problem, the problem invariably gets worse. As damage grows, the threat of further damage expands, apparently in Malthusian fashion.
What this means is that France and Germany and international bankers, for example, are applying techniques that are mismatched to the underlying problems. They are treating symptoms, not causes. The financial sector is not just at risk, it is under threat because the underlying social economy of multiple European nations has been damaged, which in turn increases the threat to the financial sector, not just the risk.
The result of applying a risk solution to a threat problem is well known: it fails. In this case, the bailout money vanishes in the financial sector; the risks cannot be managed, even by using credit cards to pay credit card bills; the actual debtors will remain unable to pay and they will begin to agitate for systemic changes. This sequence is a no brainer. It leads to revolution.
- bth: I think highly of Nighwatch's analysis day in and day out.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
WASHINGTON -- The top Marine Corps general has decided to allow his troops to wear bracelets commemorating friends killed in action, settling a debate that has roiled some in the force.
Gen. James Amos planned to announce Tuesday that Marines can wear the KIA bracelets, usually thin rubber or metal bands bearing the names of the fallen, said Capt. Gregory Wolf, a Marine Corps spokesman.
The bracelets were technically not allowed under Marine Corps uniform regulations. Nevertheless, some troops have been wearing them while in uniform, and some but not all commanders have been telling them to stop...
- bth: a wise decision
The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.
Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan's armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated dramatically in recent months as American officials increased pressure on Pakistan to launch an offensive against the Haqqani Network, which mounts attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan from bases in North Waziristan.
Islamabad has fiercely resisted American pressure, claiming its forces are overstretched and stating its priority is to fight Taliban factions which have declared war on Pakistan, rather than those, like the Haqqanis, who focus on cross-border attacks on Nato forces...
-- bth: you've got to be kidding. If I'm reading it in the UK Telegraph, its a pretty sure bet the element of surprise is out of the bag in N. Waziristan. Jeez.
On International Street in Nogales, Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border, smugglers tunneled under the fence and neatly cut out rectangles below the pavement of parking spaces; using false-bottomed vehicles parked above the holes, smugglers would wait as individuals loaded the vehicle from below
In their latest efforts to smuggle drugs across the border, Mexican cartels have dug a series of elaborate tunnels under an Arizona parking lot with false concrete covers.
On International Street in Nogales, Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border, smugglers tunneled under the fence and neatly cut out rectangles below the pavement of parking spaces. Using false-bottomed vehicles parked above the holes, smugglers would wait as individuals loaded the vehicle from below.
Once the transfer was completed, smugglers would then use jacks to hold the concrete covers in place and the driver would head off to distribute the drugs.
U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered sixteen tunnels leading to eighteen different parking spaces each with neat, symmetrical holes below them...
This weekend marked a new milestone for the war in Afghanistan: the total number of US troops killed in the war has doubled since President Obama took office, according to icasualties.org and our US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush web counter. That means that two-thirds of the total US troop deaths have occurred in the last two years and eight months, which accounts for roughly a third of the duration of the war to date.
1728 US troops have died in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, with 1153 of those deaths having occurred since President Obama's inauguration. 575 US troops died in Afghanistan during President Bush's term in office....
Furthermore, if the Pentagon gets its way, it will be a long time before our military leaves Afghanistan. In August, the Telegraph reported that the Pentagon was in negotiations with the Afghan government to leave 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024. Just to give you a little context: there were 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan in 2007. So, a drawdown to 25,000 troops by 2014 would merely be a return to 2007 troop levels. Funny thing that a support mission would require just as many troops as a combat mission!
But perhaps you're thinking that the support troops will have a different role than the combat troops.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had something to say about that. When asked what the difference is between combat and non-combat troops, Gates said that non-combat troops have a “combat capability” and will engage in “targeted counterterrorism operations.” Which prompts the question: how, again, are non-combat troops different than combat troops?
In 2007, 111 US troops died in Afghanistan. Extrapolating from this data, if the US leaves 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan from 2015, the beginning of the support mission, until at least 2024, we may lose over a thousand troops under the guise of a support mission.
This is unacceptable. A recent CBS poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans support ending the war in Afghanistan within the next two years. If Americans knew that the war isn't coming to an end in 2014, if they knew how insufficient the proposed US withdrawal really is, I think that they'd be angry. I think they'd be angry enough to do something....
-- bth: American support for an unending presence is Afghanistan has faded away. It is time to think about moving on.
A boy who escaped from the Pakistani Taliban after being kidnapped near the tribal area of Bajaur has given details of his daring getaway.
Sixteen-year-old Abdullah told the BBC Urdu service he endured a gruelling trek across mountains while being pursued by his captors.
He said he and a friend walked and ran for nine hours to make it home.
The Taliban said they had kidnapped boys from the Mamund tribe because the tribe supported the government.
In all, about 30 boys were snatched. Abdullah and his friend were abducted at the beginning of September and escaped from their captors last week.
The group of youths - some reported to be as young as 10 - were kidnapped when they were taking a bath in a spring on the Afghan side of the border.
It is thought that the rest of them remain in Taliban captivity...
-- bth: I don't understand how the Taliban can retain popular support with conduct like this.
... SEOUL — Younger South Koreans are increasingly second-guessing a national goal. They don’t think an eventual unification with North Korea will restore order and salve old wounds; they think it will turn a prosperous country into a chaotic one. More than half of those in their teens and 20s don’t even think unification is necessary — though they’re taught to believe as much starting in fifth grade.
For those who remember the Korean War and its aftermath, the Korean Peninsula’s split is untenable. “I will never accept it as a permanent condition,” President Lee Myung-bak, whose brother and sister were killed in the war, said last week in an address to the U.S. Congress..... Unification, the government’s reasoning goes, would reunite families, stabilize the peninsula and — eventually — generate new economic potential in a country whose population would be 73 million instead of the current 49 million. Likelier, though, is that the taxpayer-funded campaign will do little to change minds, leaving the South with new questions about whether its quarrelsome neighbor should be viewed like any other foreign country, albeit one that shares the same language and poses a security threat....
In the 1990s, more than 80 percent of South Korea thought unification was essential, according to government polls. But that number has dropped to 56 percent. About 41 percent of those in their 20s feel that way. Among teens, the figure drops closer to 20 percent.
Young people see little to connect with in North Korea, with its authoritarian government and isolated economy. If the two economies were ever to join, the shock could derail the South’s rapid rise from poverty to prosperity, costing up to $1 trillion. Lee last year proposed a “unification tax” to help Seoul brace for the price of integration.
“Young people think the financial sacrifice will be huge,” Lee said in a recent interview. “That’s why they may have negative emotions toward unification.”...-- bth: last week on the DC Metro I had about a 10 minute conversation with a South Korean Lt. Colonel about reunification. He felt that it was unnecessary and very costly and that over the separation period which actually began in the late 1940s, the two people had grown so ideologically and economically apart, that reunification wasn't worth the cost in his opinion. I was surprised by his opinion as one would not view him as a liberal or passive person. This survey data would seem to confirm that his opinion was very mainstream. Perhaps the US should listen to the survey trends of S. Korea and adjust our profile accordingly.
Weighing less than two kilos, the drone is small enough to fit into a soldier’s backpack and is launched from a tube, with wings quickly folding out as it soars into the air, according to manufacturer AeroVironment.
Powered by a small electric motor, the Switchblade transmits video in real time from overhead, allowing a soldier to identify an enemy, the company said in a press release last month.
“Upon confirming the target using the live video feed, the operator then sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it and lock its trajectory onto the target,” it said.
The drone then flies into the “target,” detonating a small explosive....
-- bth: works for me.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Memorial bracelets have become a regular reminder that the country is at war. President Obama wears one. Most soldiers wear them.
So do a lot of Marines.
And that has turned into something of a problem.
The Marines have always been among the most persnickety when it comes to their uniforms and their appearance. Recently, the Marine Corps Times, which is not affiliated with the service, noticed that some commanders have been ordering Marines to remove their “KIA bracelets,” which are meant to honor fallen service members.
The reason: The Marine Corps Uniform Regulations specifically prohibits the wearing of most jewelry.
Enforcement of that regulation has been spotty, and Marine non-commissioned officers have tended to allow the bracelets. But the article by the Times – which found plenty of Marines who were told they couldn’t have them – has caused an outcry.
At Quantico last week, home to about 6,700 military personnel, including many who have just returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marines described their fury over the issue. Some noted that the bracelets are sometimes sold by the spouses of service members to pay for the costs of funerals and the needs of a mourning family.
“I came from a unit that lost a lot of men,” said Sgt. Darren Covington. “We wear the bracelets to remember our friends. It shouldn’t be against Marine Corps regulations to remember your buddies ... especially when some guys are walking around here with flashy gold watches.”
Under Marine Corps Uniform Regulations, jewelry is not permitted, with the exceptions of wedding rings, engagement rings, watches and chains, provided they can be tucked under T-shirts. In 1972, the Navy secretary also carved out a special exemption for POW/MIA bracelets.
The upshot, though, is that Marines technically aren’t allowed to wear the KIA bracelets, even if they are similar to the POW/MIA bracelets.
At Quantico, dubbed the “Crossroads of the Marine Corps,” the issue has hit a nerve among even those who don’t wear the jewelry.
“It's a huge insult,” said one master gunnery sergeant who declined to give his name. “These are our fallen brothers. This is how we show our respect.”
The Marine Corps Uniform Board is revisiting the issue, and the expectation is that Marines will soon be able to wear the bracelets without any concerns about straying from official policy.
“They are working the issue fairly aggressively,” said a Marine Corps official who was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record. “We expect a resolution possibly by the end of the year.”
Staff writer Kevin Sieff contributed to this report.
-- bth: Nuts.
OINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Col. Harry Tunnell was far removed from the war crimes that took place when his Stryker brigade was sent to war, an Army investigation concluded, but his refusal to embrace military strategy created confusion in his top ranks and frustrated commanders both here and abroad.
Twice, Tunnell's disagreements nearly cost him his post as a combat leader in Afghanistan - once, six months before his 4,000 soldiers deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Afghanistan, and again when NATO commanders lost faith in him, according to the report.
Five soldiers under Tunnell's command allegedly murdered Afghan civilians between January and May 2010 in a district northwest of the colonel's headquarters in Kandahar. His conflicts with Army leaders have fueled questions about whether he cultivated an overly aggressive environment that enabled the killing of noncombatants.
In his investigation, recently obtained by The News Tribune, Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty found no evidence that Tunnell's behavior caused the war crimes.
Twitty, nonetheless, wrote that the colonel should never again be given a combat command because of the lack of maturity he showed in butting heads with NATO leaders in Afghanistan.
Tunnell now serves at Fort Knox, Ky., in an administrative post.
The unit he took to Afghanistan - the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - was later given a new identity as the 2nd Brigade. It is now training at its home base south of Tacoma for another, yet-to-be-announced deployment.
Its motto under Col. Barry Huggins is "Seize the High Ground" - a phrase that contrasts with Tunnell's "Strike - Destroy."
Tunnell didn't give any ground when he spoke with Twitty. He used his time with the investigator to settle scores with officers who disparaged him after news of the "kill team" broke.
He criticized his British commander in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, for having "a cavalier attitude toward the lives of his subordinates, particularly due to his emphasis on 'courageous restraint' whereby he directed that our soldiers assume extreme risk in order to prevent any civilian casualties."
Tunnell continued to criticize the Army's counterinsurgency strategy as a "colonial" approach developed by academics and European powers lacking in real military experience.
He wanted to practice counter-guerrilla warfare, which emphasizes neutralizing the enemy as a top priority.
The first hints that Tunnell was out of step with the Army's changing strategy in Afghanistan came in winter 2009, when he took his troops to the Army's National Training Center in Southern California for their big combat-readiness exercise.
The brigade's orders had recently changed from Iraq to Afghanistan, "causing additional stress, confusion and frustration," Twitty said.
Command-level trainers at NTC were critical of Tunnell because he wouldn't adhere to counterinsurgency doctrine. They certified the brigade as ready for combat only after a two-star general compelled Tunnell to drop his loudest complaints, according to the report.
Once the 5th Brigade arrived in Afghanistan, NATO leaders came to view Tunnell as a commander who would challenge nearly every order they handed him, a general told Twitty.
Tunnell initially reported to a Dutch commander who tasked Tunnell's troops with attacking the Arghandab Valley, a restive area that had not been touched by Western forces over much of the previous eight years. The brigade's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment subsequently lost 22 soldiers fighting there, Twitty noted.
In November, Carter, the British general, became Tunnell's direct supervisor in southern Afghanistan and changed course. He wanted the 5th Brigade out of the bloody fighting in the Arghandab; he put the unit in charge of securing a regional highway so that civilians could move freely.
Tunnell considered it "a misuse of his highly lethal Stryker brigade," Twitty wrote, and "vehemently disagreed" with his superiors about the new assignment.
Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, an American who served as Carter's deputy commander, told Twitty that they eventually lost confidence in Tunnell, but they didn't relieve him of his command because they wanted him to be successful.
"Looking back on my relationship with him," Hodges said, "I regret that I wasn't more involved in his professional development during his tenure as a brigade commander."
Twitty's report catalogs complaints from officers who served under Tunnell - subordinates who characterized him as "introverted, stubborn, unapproachable, close-minded, and as a person who thinks he knows more than most."
The report also includes favorable comments about Tunnell from soldiers who believed their leader was misunderstood.
They described him as intelligent and proficient. They said he strictly adhered to the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict. They said he carried out all the tasks asked of a counterinsurgency leader, such as gathering support among local Afghan leaders.
"The only mistake Col. Tunnell ever made regarding the counter-guerrilla subject was not engaging in the war of perceptions," his deputy commander, Lt. Col. Karl Slaughenhaupt, told Twitty. "Had he made an effort to explain why he chose to use certain language, there may have been less concern by senior leaders and less friction for the brigade."
In the end, Twitty appears relatively generous to Tunnell. The general rejected a story from one of Tunnell's subordinates who described Tunnell as motivated by revenge from a serious combat wound he suffered in Iraq in 2003.
"If anything, the evidence shows that Col. Tunnell used his experiences as a motivating factor to do all he could to prevent casualties within his (brigade)," Twitty wrote. "It may explain the lengths to which he stood by his tactical philosophy even in the face of the conflict it created with his superior and subordinate officers. He felt that the counterguerrilla strategy allowed the (brigade) to better find and kill the enemy before the enemy killed them."
IED jammer ready for Afghanistan - Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Marine Corps Times
It doesn’t take a multibillion-dollar defense contract to design and build a state-of-the-art airborne electronic attack pod. The Marine Corps has developed its own.
The new Intrepid Tiger II communications intelligence and jamming pod will undergo a “quick look” assessment in early October on an AV-8B Harrier. If all goes as planned, it will deploy to Afghanistan by Thanksgiving.
Conceived as an emergency measure to counter improvised explosive devices targeting Marines on the ground, the program allows tactical aircraft such as the Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet to fly electronic attack missions in addition to the Corps’ principal electronic attack aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler.
These pods allow Marine assets to intercept and disrupt enemy radio communications, and jam IED detonators.
Intrepid Tiger II represents a key concept for the Corps’ future electronic attack capability, said Lt. Col. Jason Schuette, an electronic warfare requirements officer.
Long-term, Marine officials said they expect to see this technology used on Huey and Cobra helicopters, unmanned systems, and other platforms. The guts of the system have already been repackaged and tested on RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aircraft, Schuette said.
The Corps wants a system in which several inexpensive network pods covering different frequencies assume the electronic attack role.
Intrepid Tiger II has a open architecture, is fully reprogrammable and can operate over a far greater frequency range, Schuette said....
The son of the 'Blind Sheikh,' the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group who is in a US jail for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan, according to a statement released today by the terror group.
The Egyptian Islamic Group announced that Ahmed Omar Abdul Rahman, who is also known as Saif, "was killed in an American air bombing from an unmanned plane on the frontlines in Afghanistan," according to a brief statement that was released on the terror group's website. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Egyptian Islamic Group said Ahmed was killed today, but did not state where in Afghanistan he was killed. Ahmed's role in the Egyptian Islamic Group was not disclosed.
The International Security Assistance Force could not confirm the report of Ahmed's death. "We have no operational reporting of this event," an ISAF spokesman told The Long War Journal.
Ahmed is the son of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, or the Blind Sheikh, who is currently serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for his role in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 that killed six Americans. Al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed financed the operation, and several al Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, carried out the attack. The terror group detonated a large truck bomb in the basement of the building with the intent of bringing the North tower crashing down onto the South Tower. Eight years later, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed succeeded in bringing down both buildings by orchestrating the ramming of airplanes into the Twin Towers during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The Blind Sheikh took control of the Egyptian Islamic Group in the 1980s but maintained close ties to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was led by Ayman al Zawahiri, now the head of al Qaeda. The Blind Sheikh issued a fatwa, or religious decree, that justified the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was killed by members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1981. He spent several years in prison but was never convicted for his role in the murder of Sadat....
-- bth: the persistence of family ties in terrorism continues to fascinate me
The same poll that showed Elizabeth Warren with a 2-point lead over Scott Brown shows that she has an enormous lead over the rest of the Democrats hoping to take him on. As of now, here are the numbers (the details: “461 usual Democratic primary voters, with a +/-4.6% margin of error, from September 16th to 18th”).
“Who would you most like to see as the Democratic candidate for Senate next year?”
Elizabeth Warren: 55%
Alan Khazei: 9%
Tom Conroy: 7%
Bob Massie: 2%
Marisa DeFranco: 2%
Setti Warren: 1%
Herb Robinson: 1%
Someone else/not sure: 22%
Yes, Elizabeth Warren has benefited from a lot of free media coverage that the other candidates haven’t had (as of now, she has “69% name recognition with Democratic primary voters compared to only 42% for Khazei, 30% for Setti Warren, 22% for Massie, and 19% for Conroy”). Nonetheless, that’s a lot of ground for the others to make up. Also striking to me were the favorable/unfavorable numbers, which look like this:
Candidate: Favorable/Unfavorable/Not Sure
Elizabeth Warren: 55/14/31
Alan Khazei: 21/21/58
Tom Conroy: 5/14/81
Bob Massie: 9/13/79
Setti Warren: 13/17/70
The Army did not properly test $2.5 billion worth of body armor according to federal policy, raising questions about the quality of life-saving equipment used by U.S. troops, the Pentagon's inspector general has found.
In a 51-page report, defense auditors said quality monitoring of ballistic inserts from seven companies fell short of contract requirements.
Ballistic inserts are components for interceptor body armor, which protect soldiers by stopping or slowing down bullets and fragments. The audit covers five millioin inserts the Pentagon purchased based on contracts awarded from 2004 through 2006, as demand for body armor grew along with the number of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the report, officials responsible for Army equipment did not conduct all required ballistic insert tests for two of the contracts "because they had no protection performance concerns on these inserts."
For six contracts, weather and altitude tests were also not conducted. These tests were "routinely eliminated" or substituted with "ballistic inserts shot at ambient conditions to expedite FATs [first article tests]," auditors said.
Weather and altitude tests take a week to complete. Officials expedited testing "in support of the urgent wartime operational requirement for IBA [interceptor body armor]."
The report found that officials did not present evidence that failure to conduct the weather and altitude tests did not affect results.
For all seven contracts, Army officials "did not always use the correct size ballistic insert for FATs, use a consistent methodology for measuring the proper velocity, or enforce humidity and temperature requirements."
Auditors recommended conducting a risk assessment on two lots of ballistic inserts to determine whether the components will peform as manufactured. They also said weather and altitude tests should be conducted to comply with contract requirements.
The report is the fourth issued by the Pentagon's inspector general on body armor procurement since 2008 in response to a request by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who was chair of the House Rules Committee before Republicans gained control of the chamber last year.
In 2009, an audit found that 16,000 sets of body armor were not properly tested.
Addressing the shortage and ensuring the quality of body armor became a primary concern for lawmakers after a Massachusetts soldier, John Hart, was killed in an ambush in Kirkuk in 2003, the same year the war in Iraq began.
Hart's death became a rallying point for Bush administration critics and lawmakers led by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy to increase funds to improve protective gear for troops.
- bth: this is John D. Hart's lasting legacy to his comrades and his country.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
In 2005, two years into the Iraq war, American soldiers began vaccinating cows across that nation not only to improve their health but also to garner goodwill among Iraqi farmers.
But instead of appreciating the help, the farmers stepped up support for the insurgents and even joined the violence.
Why? Because of a single, well-placed rumor that the Americans were actually poisoning livestock to starve the Iraqis.
A rumor, it turns out, can be as deadly as an IED, the improvised explosive devices favored by insurgents.
That's why the U.S. Navy is paying $1.6 million to San Francisco State University Professor Daniel Bernardi and three Arizona researchers to track, collect and find ways to defuse stories used as weapons.
Those who doubt the lethal power of "narrative IEDs," as Bernardi calls them, might recall the impact of another falsehood initially spread by now-deceased Iraqi President Saddam Hussein: that his country had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration used that rumor to justify invading Iraq and for a war that continues today.
"Like their explosive cousins, rumors can be created and planted by nearly anybody, require limited resources to utilize, can be deadly for those in its direct path, and can instill fear," said Bernardi, a Naval Reserve officer who served 10 months in Iraq and six months in the Pacific.
He calls them a "low-cost, low-tech weapon."...
-- bth: worth a full read