Saturday, February 18, 2012

Afghan General Sounds Alarm On US Plan To Cut Local Security Forces | Fox News

Afghan General Sounds Alarm On US Plan To Cut Local Security Forces | Fox News

An American proposal to cut the size of Afghan security forces by more than one third after 2014 could lead to a catastrophe, Afghanistan's defense minister told The Wall Street Journal, underlining his government's growing fears of being abandoned after most foreign troops withdraw.

The minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, expressed his concerns after the U.S., which along with its allies funds Afghanistan's military and police forces, circulated a new proposal to cut troops to 230,000 after 2014, from 352,000 this year....

-bth: how does this make any sense especially when the NATO troops are pulling out? So Afghan forces will be down 122,000 of their own forces plus 100K from NATO in two years?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thai officials search for Bangkok bombers' target | World news | guardian.co.uk

Thai officials search for Bangkok bombers' target | World news | guardian.co.uk

... In Bangkok, the Thai official said the nationalities of the suspects had yet to be confirmed. "They have Iranian passports and documents but we haven't concluded that they are in fact Iranian," he said.

A fourth suspect was added to the case late on Wednesday after a court approved warrants for the arrests of four people travelling as Iranian nationals, the Bangkok Post reported. They were the alleged bomber Saeid Moradi, 28, Mohummad Hazaei, 42, Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh, 31, and Rohani Leila, 32, said to have rented the house where a cache of explosives was found. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Zadeh was detained in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday while trying to board a flight to Tehran, the Nation reported.

Moradi, who lost both legs in the last Bangkok explosion, is said to have flown to Thailand from South Korea and spent five nights in a hotel, where he was joined by a friend who had a large bag. The two men hardly left the room. "Mr Moradi was good-looking and dressed neatly as if he was a young entrepreneur," one employee told reporters. "He was also polite. I can't believe he would be a bomber."

The DIY explosives found in a Bangkok house after a series of blasts on Tuesday were similar to devices used against Israeli embassy targets in India and Georgia, Israel's ambassador said on Wednesday. But the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, dismissed the allegations as baseless and said Israel was attempting to sabotage Tehran's relations with Thailand.

Five people, including the alleged bomber, were injured in three explosions in Bangkok's bustling Ekkamai neighbourhood. The first explosion occurred at a house rented by three Iranian nationals who, according to police, fled after explosives accidentally detonated. Two men fled while a third, wounded and disorientated from the blast, attempted to hail a taxi before throwing a grenade at the car and another at police. He missed his target and the grenade detonated in front of him, blowing off one leg and requiring the amputation of the other.

Iranian bomb suspects in Thailand

Inside the house, Thai police found two magnetic bombs that could be attached to vehicles and resembling those used in attacks against Israeli embassy targets, said Israel's ambassador Itzhak Shoham.

"They are similar to ones used in Delhi and in Tbilisi," Shoham told the Associated Press. "From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror."...

-bth: I'd say that this is pretty damned implicating. They had everything tying them it Iran except a Tehran Sports Club gym card.

Army orders 1,100 micro-robots for $13.9 million - Finance & Commerce

Army orders 1,100 micro-robots for $13.9 million - Finance & Commerce

ReconRobotics of Edina on Wednesday announced the largest order in the 6-year-old company’s history: a $13.9 million U.S. Army order for 1,100 Recon Scout XT micro-robot kits.

The U.S. Army Contracting Command is buying the micro-robots on behalf of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force.

A soldier can toss one the handheld robots through a door and use its remote video camera to scan a room — without the soldier having to peek in. The SearchStick takes the capability even further, allowing a soldier to turn one of ReconRobotics’ Recon Scout Throwbots into a pole camera that can see over compound walls, onto rooftops and into culverts.

Such activities are critical in urban battle zones — such as Fallujah, Iraq, or Kandahar, Afghanistan — where U.S. soldiers have had to fight recently. Better a toy-sized robot gets shot than a soldier.

Over the past six months, ReconRobotics has received U.S. military orders for 1,800 Recon Scout XT kits. In addition, more than 350 law enforcement agencies use Recon Scout robots for reconnaissance during high-risk tactical operations.

-bth: $12.6K per unit is a good price. Note how they've made their design very low and narrow by altering the drive wheels and condensing the electronics

Pakistan’s Musharraf Has Been Accused of Knowing Osama bin Laden’s Hideout - The Daily Beast

Pakistan’s Musharraf Has Been Accused of Knowing Osama bin Laden’s Hideout - The Daily Beast

... Ziauddin says that the safe house in Abbottabad was made to order for bin Laden by another Pakistani intelligence officer, Brig. Gen. Ijaz Shah, who was the ISI bureau head in Lahore when Musharraf staged his coup. Musharraf later made him head of the intelligence bureau, the ISI’s rival in Pakistan’s spy-versus-spy wars. Ziauddin says Ijaz Shah was responsible for setting up bin Laden in Abbottabad, ensuring his safety and keeping him hidden from the outside. And Ziauddin says Musharraf knew all about it....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BBC News - Thailand blasts: 'Iranian' bomber injured in Bangkok

BBC News - Thailand blasts: 'Iranian' bomber injured in Bangkok

A man thought to be Iranian has had both legs blown off after attempting to throw a bomb at police in the Thai capital, Bangkok, officials said.

Two other explosions were reported in the same busy commercial district of the city, injuring four other people.

Police said one blast took place at the house the injured man rented with other Iranians. One of those men also threw a bomb at a taxi in the capital.

Last month the US embassy warned of possible attacks in Bangkok.

The blasts come just a day after two bomb attacks targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.

Israel has accused Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah of orchestrating the attacks. Iran denied the allegations....

-bth: the article is actually kind of funny. One of the guys tries to hail a taxi and when the taxi refused to stop for him, he threw a bomb at it and accidentally blew his own legs off.

Maintenance: A crew works on an American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane in a makeshift airfield in the countryside following the invasion of Normandy, in August 1944

Maintenance: A crew works on an American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane in a makeshift airfield in the countryside following the invasion of Normandy, in August 1944

Maintenance: A crew works on an American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane in a makeshift airfield in the countryside following the invasion of Normandy, in August 1944

Drone attacks: When war machines work, and when they don’t - Yahoo! News

Drone attacks: When war machines work, and when they don’t - Yahoo! News

... The simple lesson may be that for all our science, we still need to remind ourselves that war is a human activity aimed at achieving a political mission among humans. New forms of weaponry give us a technical advantage that may be unbeatable on the battlefield, but even with such superiority the mission – achieving a durable peace and a political result – may remain elusive.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The time to honor Iraq vets is now - CNN.com

The time to honor Iraq vets is now - CNN.com

...To the argument that holding parades while we're fighting in Afghanistan would be premature, I say consider this: In 2002, the first of this generation of veterans left the military behind to rejoin their civilian counterparts. Since that time, the number has swelled to more than a million. We can't afford to wait for these wars to end to start taking care of those that fought in them.

These two wars are inexorably intertwined in the American consciousness, but for many, they remain separate. When the last troops return from Afghanistan in a few years, the Iraq War will be a distant memory.

For those who served, there will never be closure, but there can be reconciliation. I know firsthand, having protested the Iraq War and then served in it, how complicated the politics of the last decade were. But this isn't about a war overseas; it's about a struggle here at home to take care of this generation's veterans, that we'll carry with us into old age.

As a country, we're at a critical point where our approach to this generation of veterans will define whether we become the Next Greatest Generation or simply forgotten veterans of a forgotten war. I've seen the tremendous accomplishments of my fellow veterans overseas when we all worked together. Now it's time to do the same thing here at home. Will you have our backs?

-bth: worth reading in full.

Beres: Virginia, we can do this! | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Beres: Virginia, we can do this! | Richmond Times-Dispatch

...

The politics of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is not the issue here. This is about thanking the men and women who have seen two, three or four deployments to faraway places. It's an opportunity to show our appreciation to folks who have missed Christmases and weddings and even the births of their children so that our families can sleep safely at night.

Some have suggested that it is not yet time for a parade because there are still troops in Afghanistan. They are wrong. It has been an entire decade since the war on terror began. We are way beyond being tardy on a heart-felt thank you. In reality, all of our troops will never be home. We will always have men and women stationed far away, for as surely as one spot cools down, another hot spot will erupt demanding American boots on the ground....

-bth: its time for a parade.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Interpol accused after journalist arrested over Muhammad tweet | World news | guardian.co.uk

Interpol accused after journalist arrested over Muhammad tweet | World news | guardian.co.uk

Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation's red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport "following a request made to us by Interpol" the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet's birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you … I will not pray for you."

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled "The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari".

Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.

Kashgari's detention has triggered criticism by human rights groups of Malaysia's decision to arrest the journalist and of Interpol's cooperation in the process....

-bth: its as if we are quietly slipping into a police state. Interpol used to arrest a journalist who sent a tweet Saudi clerics objected to?

Afghan War Risks Are Shifting to Contractors - NYTimes.com

Afghan War Risks Are Shifting to Contractors - NYTimes.com
...Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan: 386 working for the Defense Department, 43 for the United States Agency for International Development and one for the State Department, according to data provided by the American Embassy in Kabul and publicly available in part from the United States Department of Labor.

By comparison, 418 American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year, according to Defense Department statistics compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that monitors war deaths.

That trend has been growing for the past several years in Afghanistan, and it parallels a similar trend in Iraq, where contractor deaths exceeded military deaths as long ago as 2009. In Iraq, however, that took place as the number of American troops was being drastically reduced until their complete withdrawal at the end of last year. And last year, more soldiers than private contractors died in Iraq (54 compared with 41, according to Labor Department figures)....

France Concerned Over High Price of North Supply Route

France Concerned Over High Price of North Supply Route

Pakistan supply route is more reasonable than Uzbekistan, says French Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet.

It seems that US efforts to re-open Pakistan supply route have failed.

"Uzbekistan supply could be too expensive for Nato," Mr Gerard said. "Talks with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are in progress."

This comes as Isaf Spokesman General Carsten Jacobson recently said that Isaf will find other supply routes if Pakistani blockade continues....

-bth: its coming down to a price negotiation with Pakistan

World News - Report: Saudi Arabia to buy nukes if Iran tests A-bomb

World News - Report: Saudi Arabia to buy nukes if Iran tests A-bomb

Saudia Arabia would move quickly to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran successfully tests an atomic bomb, according to a report.

Citing an unidentified Saudi Arabian source, the Times newspaper in the U.K. (which operates behind a paywall) said that the kingdom would seek to buy ready-made warheads and also begin its own program to enrich weapons-grade uranium.

The paper suggested that Pakistan was the country most likely to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons, saying Western officials were convinced there was an understanding between the countries to do so if the security situation in the Persian Gulf gets worse. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have denied such an arrangement exists....