Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Afghanistan ─ Reality and the way out (FB Ali)

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Afghanistan ─ Reality and the way out (FB Ali)

...Based on his conversations in recent years with people close to the Taliban leadership, Dr Lieven believes that “a peace settlement between the US, the administration in Kabul, and the Afghan Taliban would probably have to be based on some variant of the following elements:

(1) complete withdrawal of all US troops according to a fixed timetable;

(2) exclusion of al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups from areas controlled by the Taliban;

(3) a government in Kabul headed—at least nominally—by men the Taliban would see as good Muslims and Afghan patriots;

(4) negotiations on a new Afghan constitution involving the Taliban and leading to the transfer of most powers from the center to the regions;

(5) de facto—though not formal—Taliban control of the region of Greater Kandahar, and by the Haqqanis of Greater Paktika;

(6) a return to the Taliban offer of 1999–2001 of a complete ban on opium poppy cultivation and heroin production in the areas under their control, in return for international aid”.

He thinks that there is a good chance of the Taliban agreeing to such an agreement; he also believes that a settlement along these lines would meet the security needs of Pakistan and would be acceptable to it....

-bth: this is worth reading in full.

U.S. makes emergency shipment of protective gear to troops in Afghanistan

U.S. makes emergency shipment of protective gear to troops in Afghanistan

As catastrophic injuries from improvised explosive devices continue to mount in Afghanistan, officials are working to bring better pelvic protection to U.S. troops.

But American efforts trail those of the British military, whose troops have been using pelvic protection units since the end of 2010.

In December, the Department of Defense's Joint IED Defeat Organization, noting the successful use of the British body armor, made an emergency $19 million shipment of 45,000 ballistic overgarments and an additional 165,000 antimicrobial undergarments to troops in Afghanistan.

Although some U.S. troops — notably Marines fighting alongside British troops — previously had been wearing the protective gear, U.S. officials argued that at least 18 injuries could have been prevented with wider use of the body armor.

"The Commanders have determined that it is an unacceptable risk to leave Soldiers and Marines exposed when an interim solution exists," the request for the protective units said. "Every day that a Soldier or Marine patrols without this protection, he or she is at a greater risk of injury and death than if they had this protection."

Before the shipment, some U.S. troops received so-called blast boxers from home.

One British manufacturer said it has received numerous orders from family members — an echo of the early years of the Iraq War, when worried families sent bullet-resistant vests to troops.

Bureaucratic delays in the procurement process, as well as a the lack of battle-tested, American-made protection units spurred the emergency shipment, said Maj. Daniel Hilliker , a Canadian air force exchange officer and program integrator for the joint IED group.

Hilliker said the Joint IED Defeat Organization was able to bypass time-consuming procurement regulations in making its December shipment....

Unit Commander Among Marines Urinating on Corpses |

Unit Commander Among Marines Urinating on Corpses |

WASHINGTON -- One of the Marines shown urinating on three corpses in Afghanistan in a widely distributed Internet video was the unit's platoon commander, two U.S. military officials have told McClatchy, raising concerns that poor command standards contributed to an incident that may have damaged the U.S. war effort.

Even before the unit deployed to southern Afghanistan last year, it suffered from disciplinary problems while the troops were based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the officials said.

As Pentagon officials investigate the incident - the latest in a string of high-profile cases of U.S. troops abusing Afghans and Iraqis on the battlefield - the revelations renew questions about whether the U.S. military will hold commanders responsible when their troops misbehave or commit crimes....

-bth: its a problem when the simpletons that should be reprimanded and disciplined include senior NCOs in the unit that should have prevented this mess in the first place.

AF Chief Warns Service Must Wean Itself Off War Funding |

AF Chief Warns Service Must Wean Itself Off War Funding |

ORLANDO -- In the face of shrinking budgets, the Air Force must shift billions of dollars of war funding into its regular budget in order to protect everything from training hours to weapons systems that were developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service’s leader said Thursday.

“We necessarily will continue to evaluate which capabilities, particularly those which were achieved and developed during this past decade of combat, will be genuinely enduring,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz during a speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference here.

“With the anticipated elimination of [Overseas Contingency Operation] funds in FY14 or soon thereafter, we will face significant resourcing challenges unless some of that OCO funding is migrated back into the baseline budget.”...

-bth: I hope that F35 is worth the money and the sacrifice of more realistic capabilities needed to support it during a period of fiscal constraint.

Odierno: Army could drop to 32 brigades - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Odierno: Army could drop to 32 brigades - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Friday the Army could drop from today’s 45 brigades down to 32, depending on the results of an internal Army study.

With the unveiling of the new DoD strategic guidance in January, the Pentagon announced the Army would eliminate at least eight brigade combat teams and drop from 570,000 soldiers in the active duty force to 490,000. Army officials have said the number of brigade combat teams could fall even further with the conclusion of a force design/force mix study being done by Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)....

10,000 Marines to be cut in Afghanistan - Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Marine Corps Times

10,000 Marines to be cut in Afghanistan - Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Marine Corps Times

U.S. commanders plan to cut the Marine Corps’ footprint in southwestern Afghanistan dramatically this year, from about 17,000 personnel now to about 7,000 in October, said the top officer in the region.

The reductions will occur in coming months as the U.S. demilitarizes bases in Helmand and Nimroz provinces, Maj. Gen. John Toolan told Marine Corps Times in an interview Friday. The number of bases and outposts in the region also will drop, from about 250 last fall to about 28 in October, he said.

Toolan, commander of Regional Command-Southwest and II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), said his forces now have 108 bases and outposts in the region, primarily in Helmand province, where the majority of the Corps’ work in Afghanistan has occurred in the last few years. The drawdown will occur as Afghan forces in the region take on more responsibility for security.

We’re going to have some choices about where the greatest threat is and where the greatest need is as far as readiness of the Afghan national security force, and the commander is going to have some decisions about how to best apportion the forces he has come October,” Toolan said....

- bth: competent combat infantry are rapidly disappearing from Afghanistan.

Cartoon by P/ Jamiol


Juan Cole: Who is boycotting Iran and who isn't


-bth: with virtually all of Asia and south America not participating, how can a boycott actually work?

How Iran Nuclear Standoff Looks From Saudi Arabia: Mustafa Alani - Bloomberg

How Iran Nuclear Standoff Looks From Saudi Arabia: Mustafa Alani - Bloomberg

... Saudi and other Gulf country officials have made this point clear to Western governments, though not in public. They have told their Western counterparts that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, they would feel themselves under no legal or moral obligation to adhere to the treaty’s principles. In other words, they would be free to go down the nuclear path. From the Saudi point of view, the success or failure of the international community in restraining Iran’s nuclear program will determine whether the global nonproliferation regime survives.

Nor do the Saudis distinguish between Iran acquiring nuclear capability and actually producing the bomb. In their view, an unassembled nuclear weapon on the shelf is no less dangerous and intimidating than a completed one in storage.

The dominant feeling in the Gulf region is that U.S. policy, wittingly or unwittingly, has gifted Iran with painless and costless strategic gains over the past decade. When the U.S. removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and then toppled Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime in Iraq, it lifted what had been for Iran a state of siege and containment, imposed by the two hostile regimes on its long eastern and western borders. U.S. mishandling of the postwar situations in Afghanistan and Iraq handed a further bonus to Iranian policy.

Iran’s release from that vise is worrying to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations because they believe their Persian neighbor represents a hegemonic state that is attempting to implement aggressively interventionist and potentially expansionist policies. So far, these policies have successfully established states-within-a-state in both Lebanon and Iraq. Iran is now vigorously trying to repeat those experiences in other Arab countries that have Shiites among their populations....

- bth: it seems likely that at some point Saudi Arabia would buy its nukes from cash starved Pakistan and then build its own 'civilian' nuclear program.

Secret U.S. cable warned of Pakistani havens - The Washington Post

Secret U.S. cable warned of Pakistani havens - The Washington Post: The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan sent a top-secret cable to Washington last month warning that the persistence of enemy havens in Pakistan was placing the success of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in jeopardy, U.S. officials said.

The cable, written by Ryan C. Crocker, amounted to an admission that years of U.S. efforts to curtail insurgent activity in Pakistan by the lethal Haqqani network, a key Taliban ally, were failing. Because of the intended secrecy of that message, Crocker sent it through CIA channels rather than the usual State Department ones...

-bth: for being a top secret memo there was absolutely nothing revealing in it except that Crocker wrote what anyone could read in the papers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GPS chaos: How a $30 box can jam your life - tech - 06 March 2011 - New Scientist

GPS chaos: How a $30 box can jam your life - tech - 06 March 2011 - New Scientist

... Last has first-hand experience of how easy it is to block a GPS signal, and the effects it can have on modern technology. In 2010, he conducted an experiment in the North Sea, aboard the THV Galatea, a 500-tonne ship. The Galatea is the pride of its fleet, with all the latest navigation equipment. Last wanted to find out how it would cope without GPS. So he used a simple jamming device that overwhelmed the GPS signal by broadcasting noise on the same frequency as the satellites.

When Last activated the jammer, the ship went haywire. According to the electronic display on the ship's bridge, the Galatea was suddenly flying at Mach speeds over northern Europe and Ireland. Then alarms sounded. The ship's navigation backup – its gyrocompass – crashed, because it uses GPS to provide corrections. The radar did the same. Even the ship's satellite communications failed, because GPS points the antenna in the right direction. "The crew were well trained and briefed, so they knew what was going on," says Last. "But, like us, they were surprised."

Truck cheats

Last deliberately simulated a simple, commercially available jammer. Though illegal to use in the US, UK and many other countries, these low-tech devices can be bought on the internet for as little as $30. Sellers claim they're for protecting privacy. Since they can block devices that record a vehicle's movements, they're popular with truck drivers who don't want an electronic spy in their cabs. They can also block GPS-based road tolls that are levied via an on-board receiver. Some criminals use them to beat trackers inside stolen cargo. "We originally expected that jammers might be assembled by spotty youths in their bedrooms," says Last. "But now they're made in factories in China."

... Faking it

Todd Humphreys can trick you into thinking you are somewhere else. He uses a "spoofer" device that causes a GPS receiver to give an inaccurate reading.

Humphreys, at the University of Texas at Austin, has no mischief in mind, but built the device to demonstrate how straightforward it is to do. Such spoofers are not on the market yet, but when they are, could cause all sorts of havoc.

Unlike a GPS jammer, which has fairly obvious effects, the spoofer's impact is slow and subtle. "The victim usually won't realise they're being spoofed," says Humphreys. "It leaves no trace."

Humphrey's GPS spoofer looks like a wireless internet router. It picks up genuine GPS signals and synchronises its output to resemble them. Any nearby receiver will treat this output as a genuine signal from a GPS satellite. The spoofer then gradually alters its time output, changing from the true value by, say, 3 nanoseconds per second. Since GPS receivers use the time signature in a signal to find location or as an easily accessible clock, the error builds up.

"The biggest risk is probably complicit spoofing, where someone deliberately misleads their own GPS," says Humphreys. For example, unscrupulous fishing boat captains could spoof GPS to fake their location and fish in forbidden waters. "If mass-produced, they could be made for perhaps $400 to $500," says Humphreys. Such a spoofer could push another ship off course, just as ship-wreckers used to lure vessels onto rocks with false lighthouse lights.

-bth: these techniques could essentially disable many robots that rely on GPS for all or part of their waypoint navigation

NightWatch 20120222 - KGS - On Iran's Civil Defense Drills

NightWatch 20120222 - KGS

...Iran: The Civil Defense Organization plans to conduct drills in the country's petrochemical trade zone to boost crisis response capabilities, the organization's Caretaker of Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) Affairs Mansour Rostamifar said on 22 February.

Comment: This is a significant development, assuming the drills are held, because of the high cost of civil defense drills to the civilian economy. Such activities always are a net drain on the economy and, therefore, much more diagnostic of national leadership thinking than military activities. The leadership is concerned about an attack and has ordered prudent precautions.

The Iranian leaders appear to expect an attack would target their oil infrastructure, though the external threat is against the nuclear industry. The civil defense drills make sense if the nuclear facilities are located within the "petrochemical trade zone."...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

3,500 M-ATV underbody kit in-theatre installations completed - News - Shephard

3,500 M-ATV underbody kit in-theatre installations completed - News - Shephard
Oshkosh Defense has announced that along with the US military, it has completed the in-theater installation of the 3,500th Oshkosh MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) Underbody Improvement Kit (UIK) in less than seven months. The company called the milestone a significant achievement in the ongoing battle against improvised explosive devices (IED) in Afghanistan, giving warfighters new levels of protection against threats in theatre....

3,500 M-ATV underbody kit in-theatre installations completed

-bth: nice move all around.

iranian bomb parts

iranian bomb parts

iranian bomb parts

bth: note the hand grenade on the left and ball bearings

Gallup Finds Unemployment Climbing to Nine Percent in February |

Gallup Finds Unemployment Climbing to Nine Percent in February |

... The survey also found that “underemployment” – those unemployed and those working part-time because full-time jobs are unavailable – rose to 19 percent, up from the 18.7 percent Gallup found in January.
Gallup said its report reflected a continuing trend of weakness in U.S. labor markets, marking a “sharp deterioration” in job market conditions.
“Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measures show a sharp deterioration in job market conditions since mid-January.”
That decline was consistent with an economy struggling with weak growth and rising energy prices, Gallup said, making it “premature” to think that the economy would not be a major factor in November’s presidential elections.
“Further, it suggests that it is premature to assume the condition of the economy will not remain a major issue for Americans both financially and politically in 2012.”...

-bth: throw on top of this rising gasoline prices and I think we have the makings of an emerging recession

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Uncle Sam, Global Gangster | TomDispatch

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Uncle Sam, Global Gangster | TomDispatch

... The United States is finished with the business of sending large land armies to invade and occupy countries on the Eurasian mainland. Robert Gates, when still Secretary of Defense, made the definitive statement on that subject. The United States is now in the business of using missile-armed drones and special operations forces to eliminate anyone (not excluding U.S. citizens) the president of the United States decides has become an intolerable annoyance. Under President Obama, such attacks have proliferated.

This is America’s new MO. Paraphrasing a warning issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Washington Post dispatch succinctly summarized what it implied: “The United States reserved the right to attack anyone who it determined posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, anywhere in the world.”

Furthermore, acting on behalf of the United States, the president exercises this supposed right without warning, without regard to claims of national sovereignty, without Congressional authorization, and without consulting anyone other than Michael Vickers and a few other members of the national security apparatus. The role allotted to the American people is to applaud, if and when notified that a successful assassination has occurred. And applaud we do, for example, when a daring raid by members in SEAL Team Six secretly enter Pakistan to dispatch Osama bin Laden with two neatly placed kill shots. Vengeance long deferred making it unnecessary to consider what second-order political complications might ensue.

How round three will end is difficult to forecast. The best we can say is that it’s unlikely to end anytime soon or particularly well. As Israel has discovered, once targeted assassination becomes your policy, the list of targets has a way of growing ever longer.

So what tentative judgments can we offer regarding the ongoing WFKATGWOT? Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called “the dark side,” with implications that few seem willing to explore. Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose. Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair.

Is this progress?

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author most recently of Washington Rules: The American Path to Permanent War and the editor of the new book The Short American Century: A Postmortem, just out from Harvard University Press. To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses the changing face of the Gobal War on Terror, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

-bth: absolutely worth reading in full.