Saturday, May 05, 2012

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites - now | Security & Privacy - CNET News

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites - now | Security & Privacy - CNET News

 CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory....

-bth: why the hell are we tolerating this?  Since when did government every ask that people have more rights?  This is power we have to hold ourselves, but as long as we keep electing the same boobs that pass laws taking them away, the more erosion of basic civil liberties we will see.  Bye bye 4th amendment.

POLL-Americans favor limited US role in Afghanistan - AlertNet

POLL-Americans favor limited US role in Afghanistan - AlertNet

WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - Most Americans want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and oppose a significant long-term commitment to support that nation's economy and security, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Friday.

But the poll also indicated that most Americans favor keeping some U.S. forces in Afghanistan to help train that nation's troops, and to continue missions targeting al-Qaeda.

Taken together, the findings suggest "Americans essentially want to be done with Afghanistan," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.

NATO's roughly 130,000 troops there - of which about 99,000 are from the United States - are scheduled to withdraw by 2014. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the Obama administration would like to remove most U.S. combat troops by the end of next year.

The poll was conducted in the days after President Barack Obama marked the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death with a surprise trip to Afghanistan and the signing of an agreement laying out a long-term U.S. role in Afghanistan.

The agreement is not particularly specific, but it calls for the United States to provide training for Afghan troops and other aid through 2024.

Almost two-thirds of the 776 Americans surveyed in the online poll said they did not want Washington to be committed to supporting Afghan economic and security development that long.

Seventy-seven percent said they wanted all U.S. combat troops - excluding trainers and special forces - to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012. Nearly the same amount, 73 percent, said they did not want the United States to establish any permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

"But if you start to talk about some specifics like hunting down al-Qaeda or even providing trainers for the Afghan security forces, you have a small majority of people who support those notions," Jackson said.

Six out of ten Americans said they favored having the United States keep forces in Afghanistan to conduct missions targeting al-Qaeda and 57 percent were in favor of having troops in the country to help with training.

"Basically since before the 2008 election there's been an increasing sense of war fatigue with the American population," Jackson said. "They want things to be done with but they don't want them to be done in a way that makes it seem like we've lost or were defeated. They want to end it with a win."...

NATO supply routes closure causing massive equipment backlog: US DoD – The Express Tribune

NATO supply routes closure causing massive equipment backlog: US DoD – The Express Tribune

... Safe havens in Pakistan

The DoD report says that the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan including the Haqqani network’s presence in North Waziristan are among the reasons why the security situation in eastern Afghanistan remains volatile.
The report also said that while attacks decreased by eight percent as opposed to the same time last year, 34% of all attacks in the country were in eastern Afghanistan, which had increased by 3% as opposed to the same period last year.

The report also calls safe havens in Pakistan and the “limited capacity of the Afghan government” as the biggest risks to Afghanistan’s security and transforming the state into a durable and sustainable one. Additionally, the report says that Kandahar remains a contested province in Afghanistan, partly due to the “insurgent safe havens and freedom of movement across the border in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.”

The insurgency benefits from safe havens inside Pakistan with notable operational and regenerative capacity. The insurgency remains a resilient and determined enemy and will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence this spring and summer through assassinations, intimidation, high-profile attacks, and the emplacement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Additionally, the Afghan Government continues to face widespread corruption that limits its effectiveness and legitimacy and bolsters insurgent messaging.”

“Pakistan’s selective counterinsurgency operations, passive acceptance – and in some cases, provision – of insurgent safe havens, and unwillingness to interdict material such as IED components, continue to undermine security in Afghanistan and threaten ISAF’s campaign.”

While citing meetings between Afghanistan and Pakistan’s leadership, the report says, “pervasive mistrust, long-standing tensions, and divergent strategic interests continue to make genuine cooperation difficult.”
Pakistan continues to seek a stable, secure Afghanistan, an Afghan government with primacy for Pashtuns, and limited Indian influence. To this end, Pakistan has allowed an insurgent sanctuary in its border areas to persist, offering a safe haven to Afghan Taliban and associated militant groups including the Haqqani Taliban Network in North Waziristan Agency. Pakistani leaders have tolerated this due to their concerns that Pakistan will be left alone to confront an unstable, an unfriendly, or an Indian-influenced Afghanistan on its borders.

Accordingly, Pakistan seeks to play a key role in the peace and reconciliation process to advance a political settlement that considers Pakistani interests.”

Al Qaeda relying on Haqqani leaders 

The Department of Defense report also says that even though al Qaeda has been degraded, it is increasingly relying on a “shrinking cadre of experienced leaders primarily inside a Haqqani-facilitated safe haven in North Waziristan.”

The insurgency’s funding comes “from a variety of external sources, including Persian Gulf-based donors, state and non-state actors in Pakistan and Iran, and various transnational and criminal enterprises, but remains dependent on poppy cultivation and the narcotics trade as its primary source of revenue. Insurgents suspend operational efforts to provide labour for the poppy harvest, which typically begins in April and continues to June, as revenue from the poppy harvest is critical to insurgent operations throughout the year.

Pakistan-based outfits, said the report, also support the insurgency through sanctuary, training infrastructure, and financial and operational support. “The insurgency also receives material support from Iran, although to a lesser degree than from Pakistan.” The report cites the corridor from Pakistan’s Kurram Agency through Azra District as the most vulnerable area in the east of Afghanistan.

The report says that the implementation of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement has not been realised due to political tensions between Pakistan and India.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Progress report cites Pakistan as top deterrent to success in Afghanistan - News - Stripes

Progress report cites Pakistan as top deterrent to success in Afghanistan - News - Stripes

...  Afghan National Security Forces have grown from about 285,000 army and police personnel last March to about 345,000 now. In September 2011, no Afghan National Police units and only one Afghan National Army brigade had been rated by NATO commanders as “independent with advisors.” As of the end of March 2012, 13 ANA brigades were considered largely independent, as were 39 ANP units.

It’s unclear if the small but rising numbers of competent Afghan troops translates into sufficient security forces in the future, said Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

“Once most U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, will they be able to effectively provide security?” he said. “I think that remains an unknown.”

To maximize chances for success, the international community must continue supporting Afghanistan, Nelson said, adding, “If it’s not going to come through large numbers of troops … then it’s going to have to come in the form of foreign aid.”

The mission to train Afghan forces has been plagued by violence, particularly in recent months.

The report notes a rising number of attacks on International Security Assistance Force troops by Afghan forces — more than 50 since May 2007. A recent Associated Press report noted that 19 of the ISAF combat deaths this year were in so-called “green-on-blue” attacks. As of April 29, there had been a total of 138 combat deaths this year, according the independent website iCasualties, which tracks coalition deaths in Afghanistan....

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah

recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah

(CNN) -- On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.

Buried inside them was a pornographic video called "Kick Ass" -- and a file marked "Sexy Tanja."
Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence -- more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.

Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage....

"The document delivers very clearly the notion that al Qaeda knows it is being followed very closely," Musharbash tells CNN. "It specifically says that Western intelligence agencies have become very good at spoiling attacks, that they have to come up with new ways and better plotting."

Part of the response, according to the document, should be to train European jihadists quickly and send them home -- rather than use them as fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- with instructions on how to keep in secret contact with their handlers.

What emerges from the document is a twin-track strategy -- with the author apparently convinced that al Qaeda needs low-cost, low-tech attacks (perhaps such as the recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah) to keep security services preoccupied while it plans large-scale attacks on a scale similar to 9/11.

Those already under suspicion in Europe and elsewhere would be used as decoys, while others would prepare major attacks.

That is yet to materialize, but Musharbash believes a complex gun attack in Europe is still on al Qaeda's radar.
"I believe that the general idea is still alive and I believe that as soon as al Qaeda has the capacities to go after that scenario, they will immediately do it," he says.

While "Future Works" does not include dates or places, nor specific plans, it appears to be a brainstorming exercise to seize the initiative -- and reinstate al Qaeda on front pages around the world.

Monday, April 30, 2012

AP EXCLUSIVE: US not reporting all Afghan attacks - Yahoo! News

AP EXCLUSIVE: US not reporting all Afghan attacks - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.
The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn't report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed....

The insider threat has existed for years but has grown more deadly. Last year there were 21 fatal attacks that killed 35 coalition service members, according to ISAF figures. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.

ISAF has released brief descriptions of each of the fatal attacks for 2012 but says similar information for fatal attacks in 2011 is considered classified and therefore cannot be released.

Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported, he said....

-bth: the stats of green on blue attacks are being deliberately understated.

Autonomous Army Trucks

NightWatch 20120429 - KGS - Europe and the Grey Market as a Social Safety Net

NightWatch 20120429 - KGS

 ... Romania: Prime Minister Ungureanu's center right government fell last Friday from a vote of no confidence because of his program of austerity measures to comply with the cutback requirements of the International Monetary Fund.

Ungureanu's government was only two months old. The socialists said they have had enough of pension and salary cuts.

The Social Liberal Union, a left wing party led by Victor Ponta, is expected to be invited to form a new government by President Traian Basescu by 7 May. Several MPs from an ethnic minorities group are expected to back the new government together with a junior grouping UNPR - a former ally of the coalition ousted from power on Friday.
Comment: Ponta is a leftist, bordering on being a communist, who will resist or reverse austerity measures, but gradually, he says.

The Ungureanu government is the fourth or fifth government of a European state to fall because of EU or IMF demands for austerity. Non-elected bankers toppling elected governments is a new political phenomenon that is generating a powerful backlash that is emerging across Europe.

The Brussels bankers seem clueless about the nature of the threat… not the risk. The political indicators suggest they could lose everything over time, from Paris to Bucharest.

Romania, like Greece and other southern European states, has a large safety net in its grey economy. This is the combination of black market, unreported, unrecorded and informal transactions plus tax evasion. In 
Romania the value of transactions in the grey economy equal more than 30% of the state's GDP. In Greece its value is nearly half of GDP.

The grey economy works as a social safety net in hard times because of its elasticity in absorbing labor. This elasticity explains why there are not more riots in Bucharest or Athens. It also reinforces the leftist political leaders in resisting the austerity requirements of the international bankers.

Socialist and utopian political movements are gathering momentum in opposing membership in the European Union....

U.S. drone strikes resume in Pakistan; action may complicate vital negotiations - The Washington Post

U.S. drone strikes resume in Pakistan; action may complicate vital negotiations - The Washington Post

...   Prominent politicians predicted that the new drone strikes, the first inside Pakistan since March 30, would provoke a backlash against further negotiations on the supply lines and stir outcries that the United States has no regard for Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“There will be repercussions whether in the government or in the public or in the Parliament,” said Aftab Khan Sherpao, a National Assembly member who sat on the committee that drafted the guidelines. “In no case would we allow the NATO supplies now.”

Others saw the drone attacks as a provocation that undermined any notion that the United States had engaged in sincere, meaningful talks last week.

“The CIA could have opted not to go for a drone strike at such a crucial time, when senior U.S. officials are trying hard to iron out differences with Pakistan,” said Sheik Waqas Akram, a member of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet. “It shows that it has no regard for the Pakistani Parliament’s resolution.”

The target of Sunday’s attack was in Miran Shah, the largest town in North Waziristan and a base of operations for extremist groups including al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. A senior U.S. official said intelligence had indicated that operatives there were “preparing explosives for use in attacks in Afghanistan, like the high-profile attacks in Kabul” on April 15.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the CIA’s covert drone program.

“Only individuals working directly on the explosives were killed or injured in this action, which we know with certainty helped protect Afghan and American lives,” the official said.

But Pakistan, in a statement late Sunday, called the attacks illegal and “violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

-bth: at this point I do not see a path forward for Pak/US relations.