Saturday, January 07, 2012

Think about these things

Finally, beloved,
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
 -- Philippians 4:8

Afghan endgame: Pakistan boycotts key peace meeting - CSMonitor.com

Afghan endgame: Pakistan boycotts key peace meeting - CSMonitor.com
According to an initial US report, NATO forces may have been "lured" into attacking the border posts by the Taliban, the Associated Press reports. It appears a joint US-Afghan patrol was attacked by the Taliban that morning and, while pursuing the militants in the ambiguous border region, the patrol mistook Pakistani border outposts for Taliban encampments.

US officials say the reports suggest the Taliban may have deliberately tried to provoke a cross-border firefight that would set back fragile partnerships between the US and NATO forces and Pakistani soldiers at the ill-defined border....

-bth: it is very difficult to understand what Pakistan wants at this point.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Iran Mounts New Web Crackdown - WSJ.com

Iran Mounts New Web Crackdown - WSJ.com

...

A conservative cleric blogger based in the holy Shiite city of Qum, Ahmad Najimi, said in his blog last week that the government was paying hackers hired in the network known as the "Cyber Army" the equivalent of $7 per hour to swarm the Web with positive comments about the Islamic Republic and post negative comments against dissidents.

That is consistent with comments from the Revolutionary Guards Corps' commander in Tehran, General Hossein Hamedani, who in October announced the creation of two Cyber War centers in the capital. Gen. Hamedani said some 2,000 bloggers had been recruited and trained as Cyber Army staff.

"In the soft war against Iran, there is an opportunity for everyone to be present and we have to be ready for widespread counterattacks," Mr. Hamedani said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Iran announced in March 2011 that it was funding a multimillion-dollar project to build an Iranian intranet—a necessity, its telecommunications ministry said, to offer Iranians an alternative to the un-Islamic and corrupt content on the World Wide Web. An economic affairs official called it "a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level."...

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Military's Gold Star families feel disconnect – USATODAY.com

Military's Gold Star families feel disconnect – USATODAY.com



"...Whether it's awkwardness or indifference, the mention of his name at social gatherings or political events elicits silence or a change of subject.
"People don't know what to say, or they don't say anything at all," she says.
She could not be prouder of how Christopher gave his life for his country, but she feels many people are uncomfortable with the topic.
TAPS spokeswoman Neiberger-Miller says Jane's reaction is very common among families whose loved ones died in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Gold Star is a precious commodity among them, says Neiberger-Miller, whose brother, Christopher, was killed in Iraq in 2007.
They don't wear the pin "for people to go, 'Oh, look at them they're the sad people,' " she says. "We do it because we're proud of our loved ones and what they gave this country and we want people to know it."
Jane thought the Gold Star pin would be a conversation starter. But it isn't.
"This is like code: 'My husband was killed in the war.' But nobody knows what it means."
-bth: this widow's thoughts and comments are very much on the mark. The article should be a must read for casualty affairs officers and chaplains.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

President John F Kennedy Secret Society Speech version 2 - YouTube

President John F Kennedy Secret Society Speech version 2 - YouTube

Iran warns U.S. over aircraft carrier - CNN.com

Iran warns U.S. over aircraft carrier - CNN.com

(CNN) -- Iran warned the United States Tuesday not to return a U.S. aircraft carrier "to the Persian Gulf region."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning," said Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, commander of Iran's Army, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

Salehi "said the country will not adopt any irrational move but it is ready to severely react against any threat," the report added.

The commander spoke at the Port of Chabahar in southern Iran, as forces held a military parade the day after Iran ended naval drills in the region, IRNA reported....

-bth: when you see statements like these from Iran you just wonder if they are being belligerent, reckless, incompetent or just what?

Pentagon to Present Vision of Reduced Military - NYTimes.com

Pentagon to Present Vision of Reduced Military - NYTimes.com

... Studies by the Center for a New American Security, the Sustainable Defense Task Force and the Cato Institute, which represent a spectrum of views on defense spending, estimate that the savings from cutting the ground force could range from $41 billion by reducing the Army to 482,400 and the Marine Corps to 175,000 (from its present size of 202,000) all the way up to $387 billion if the Army drops to 360,000 and the Marines to 145,000. The final numbers will make it clear that the United States could not carry out lengthy stability and nation-building efforts, like those ordered for Afghanistan and Iraq, without a huge mobilization of the National Guard and the Reserves.

The size of the military is determined not only to win wars, but also to deter adversaries from starting hostilities. That underpins the American rationale for maintaining a combat presence at overseas bases and for conducting regular air and sea patrols around the globe. With austerity looming, those, too, might be curtailed to save money.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, advocates saving $69.5 billion over 10 years by reducing by one-third the number of American military personnel stationed in Europe and Asia

“This option would leave plenty of military capability by maintaining strategic air bases and naval ports to provide logistics links,” Mr. Coburn wrote in a report on his budget proposals. Many Congressional budget experts also see ways to save billions of dollars by consolidating Defense Department facilities, schools and installations.

One of the largest expenses the Pentagon faces is to replace its aging strategic nuclear forces. While America’s nuclear warheads are relatively inexpensive to maintain on a day-to-day basis, all three legs of the nuclear triad that deliver the punch — submarines, bombers and ground-based missiles — are reaching the end of their service life at just about the same time.

“The world has changed,” said Stephen W. Young, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear watchdog group. “The United States can be more than secure with a far smaller arsenal than what we currently have.”

end to attacks on the Pakistani government’s forces and are instead going to unite in fighting against NATO’s troops

end to attacks on the Pakistani government’s forces and are instead going to unite in fighting against NATO’s troops

Four of the top militant factions inside Pakistan have released a statement saying that they are all pledging an end to attacks on the Pakistani government’s forces and are instead going to unite in fighting against NATO’s troops in Afghanistan.

The agreement is said to have included top leaders in various Taliban factions as well as Libyan militant Abu Yahya al-Libi, reportedly a top ally of al-Qaeda. The assorted groups have pledged to operate under the command of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The statement also warned militants to stop kidnapping Pakistanis for ransom and to stop summary executions of suspected collaborators. Pakistan’s government has yet to respond to the report.

If the statement turns out to be true, it could dramatically change the face of the conflict, taking the pressure off the Pakistani security forces in the tribal areas at a time when tensions with the US and NATO are already soaring, while upping the already massive violence in Afghanistan.

-bth: oh and by the way the fuel embargo continues from Pakistan. I wonder at what point we announce we will start bombing the tribal areas directly since there is not positive action we can take to mitigate the harboring of Taliban and others in Pakistan to fight against us?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Afghan travellers use Taliban disguise to stay safe - AFP

Afghan travellers use Taliban disguise to stay safe - Yahoo! News
...It is traditional for Pashtun men from the south, a hotbed of the insurgency, to wear kohl to darken their eyes. And although wise travellers have long adopted a Taliban look, the ringtones business has recently soared.

"My business is booming," says Abdullah, who only gives his first name and runs a music shop near the bus garage where passengers can upload 10 jihadi tunes to their phones for one dollar.

"Many passengers come to me every day asking to upload a Taliban song. They mostly prefer the songs that encourage suicide attacks."

He says he uploads 50 Taliban songs a day and, thinking of his profits, adds gleefully: "It's great. Thanks Taliban!"

Habib Rahman regularly travels back and forth from Kabul to Nimroz in the south and says he even upgraded to a Samsung smartphone just so he would be able to upload Taliban songs.

"They stop you but when they see you look like them and you have Taliban songs they smile at you. It can be life-saving sometimes," the 26-year-old shopkeeper says.

"We are poor people and these are the only ways we can reduce the threat we face."

He sets off his phone and a high-pitched voice echoes: "You Americans and your puppets are not gonna survive our wrath! We are all around you, killing you! Our rockets and mortars are falling on you like rain!"...

- bth: a further indication of a sea change occurring.

Seven Taliban Leaders Take Familities to Qatar - Tolonews

Seven Taliban Leaders Take Families to Qatar
The Afghan High Peace Council on Thursday announced that seven Taliban leaders have taken their families to Qatar while no official letters either from Qatar or US has arrived to the council.

After the government agreed with a Taliban liaison office in Qatar, the practical process has started in Qatar, The council's international advisor said. Afghan government has agreed to opening an office for Taliban in Qatar on condition that the negotiation process is led by Afghans.

The council says that it hasn't received details about the Taliban leaders who have gone to Qatar.

"We have heard through the media about it, but we haven't received any official letter from US, Qatar or the Taliban," Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, International Advisor of the Afghan High Peace Council said.

"We don't know their names and family members. We have heard that six to seven Taliban leaders and their families have gone there."

Meanwhile, the High Peace Council has put in some conditions for talks with the Taliban. But it says it hasn't received any response from the Taliban in this regard.

"We set our conditions, we are waiting for Taliban's response," Mr Qasimi added.

The High Peace Council emphasises on Afghan leadership of the negotiation which is well respected by international community.

The conditions are:

- The office should only be used for negotiations

- The office should be in Afghanistan if the situation suits, if not in one of the Islamic countries preferably in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

- First arrangements should be made without intervention of the host country.

- War should be stopped in Afghanistan before the start of negotiations

- Armed oppositions should cut all their ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

- The achievements of last decade should remain unhurt.

- Afghan constitution must be respected.

- The sovereignty of Afghanistan must be recognised.

- Pakistan must support peace negotiations because the bases of the armed oppositions are there.

- Elected an powerful representatives from both sides should continue the negotiations.

- None of the third parties can interfere without consultation with Afghanistan.

NightWatch 20120101 - KGS - On Iraq

NightWatch 20120101 - KGS

Iraq: For the record. Prime minister al-Maliki declared 31 December a national holiday in honor of the end of the American military presence in Iraq. He described the US military departure as marking "a new dawn" in which Iraq would focus on rebuilding a nation after nearly nine years of war.

"Your country has become free," he said. "The faithful sons of Iraq have to preserve its sovereignty, unity and independence." He said the U.S. withdrawal that was completed Dec. 18 was proof of the government's ability to protect the country's sovereignty.

In Basra, the Badr organization, which is part of a key Iraqi Shiite political faction that was founded in Iran, celebrated the occasion by putting posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on the walls of government institutions and buildings.

Comment: Al Maliki did not credit nor thank the US for anything.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Obama signs defense bill despite 'reservations'

News from The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama signed a wide-ranging defense bill into law Saturday despite having "serious reservations" about provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

The bill also applies penalties against Iran's central bank in an effort to hamper Tehran's ability to fund its nuclear enrichment program. The Obama administration is looking to soften the impact of those penalties because of concerns that they could lead to a spike in global oil prices or cause economic hardship on U.S. allies that import petroleum from Iran.

In a statement accompanying his signature, the president chastised some lawmakers for what he contended was their attempts to use the bill to restrict the ability of counterterrorism officials to protect the country.

Administration officials said Obama was only signing the measure because Congress made minimally acceptable changes that no longer challenged the president's terrorism-fighting ability....

- bth: the President's press statements make it sound like he has reservations about detention of Americans without due process but in fact he specifically asked for those provisions and that it be extended to US citizens. This is wrong on many levels and while he may personally not choose to abuse that privilege, it does not mean that future presidents would feel likewise especially as this codifies very broad reaching presidential powers - perhaps even extra judicial. We as a country will come to regret this as it will be abused at some point in the future.

Denmark's take: Don't worry, China is going to get old before it gets rich - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

Denmark's take: Don't worry, China is going to get old before it gets rich - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

...Moreover, the nature of warfare has likely changed in the past 125 years. In 1885, the United Kingdom lost its manufacturing lead just when manufacturing output capacity was a key determinant of military power in a mass, mechanized age of warfare. Today, if my old boss Secretary Rumsfeld is correct, the key to military power is not only mass manufacturing capacity but rather a military that is quick, maneuverable, coordinated, and precise. These are tasks at which the U.S. military is exquisitely good, and our advantage in this sense is not likely to wane for the foreseeable future. China's defense industry, while improving in quality and technology, seems to still be a few steps behind and is unlikely to catch up any time soon. The key for China's military, therefore, is to use quantity to make up for lower quality.

Let's hope we never have to test these hypotheses. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it's far better to trade trade than to war war.

- bth: an older article worth reading in full especially about the aging Chinese population and the parity position of China relative to the US about 2020.

Iranian commander backs away from threat to close Strait of Hormuz, strategic oil route - The Washington Post

Iranian commander backs away from threat to close Strait of Hormuz, strategic oil route - The Washington Post

TEHRAN, Iran — Talk of blocking the strategic oil route through the Strait of Hormuz is a discussion of the past, a commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Saturday in comments that seemed to back away from an earlier threat. But he said Iran had other, unspecified strategies for reacting to any Western aggression.

“Discourse about closing the Strait of Hormuz belongs to five years ago. Today’s debate in the Islamic Republic of Iran contains new layers and the time has not come to raise it,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said in comments posted Saturday on the Guard’s website, sepahnews.com....

-bth: good

...