Saturday, May 12, 2012

Afghan NGO Safety Assessment Report

This is a link to one of the few more or less informed and objective assessments on trend lines in Afghanistan.  Nothing about it is encouraging other than a possible reduction in recent months as a result, it seems, of the players beginning to conserve their strength and wait for the inevitable end game where we escape the quagmire and move on leaving those tribes, ethnic groups and criminals to fight amongst themselves 1990s style.

Read the summary at the beginning of the report and scan the trend lines therein.

As NATO Summit Approaches, Taliban Strength Accumulates | emptywheel

As NATO Summit Approaches, Taliban Strength Accumulates | emptywheel

 NATO found it necessary yesterday to trot out a high-ranking spokesman to try to tamp down the suggestion from Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers over the weekend that the Taliban has increased in strength. Unfortunately for NATO, however, there are more reasons to believe that the Taliban is in a strong position than just statements emanating from Washington power players. The Taliban themselves seem also to sense their stronger position, as evidenced by their abandoning the “secret” negotiations that the US had entered into with them over the winter. The caution exhibited by Hamid Karzai as he prepares to accept the handoff of security control for more of Afghanistan also reflects a strengthening of the Taliban’s position....

New Report Finds It Is Time To Upgrade US-Turkey Ties - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

New Report Finds It Is Time To Upgrade US-Turkey Ties - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

...   “What we are talking about is … making Turkey — and ultimately the trajectory of US-Turkey relations — on the same level as the Brits and the French and the Germans,” Steven Cook, a member of the Task Force and Middle East expert with CFR, told Al-Monitor in an interview Tuesday, May 8.

Turkey’s rise, however, is not without worrying developments on the Turkish home front, the report notes. Among them: “the prosecution and detention of journalists, the seemingly open-ended and at times questionable pursuit of military officers … for alleged conspiracy against the government, the apparent illiberal impulses of some Turkish leaders, the still-unresolved Kurdish issue, and the lack of progress on a new constitution.” It says, “How these issues are resolved will have a major impact on the future of Turkey and its democracy. Indeed, for all the positive political change that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) oversaw in 2003 and 2004, Turkish leaders have sometimes resorted to authoritarian measures to intimidate and curb opposition to their agenda.”

Ankara’s rapport with Washington also faced strains in 2010 over two key events: Ankara’s downgrading of diplomatic ties with Israel in the wake of the May 2010 Mavi Marmara Gaza aid-flotilla violence, and Turkey’s vote in June 2010 against UN Security Council resolution 1929 sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program. (Turkey and Brazil voted against the measure after Washington rejected a nuclear fuel-swap deal they had negotiated with Iran.)

The Obama administration deserves credit for its measured response to both matters, Cook said. “The administration was not happy about it, but they handled it in a way that it did not cause a row between us and Turkey,” he said. “They understood that if they think about the relationship, having a row right now does not serve any interest. They then spent the next year and a half bringing them along.”

The United States and Turkey have found themselves growing increasingly aligned amid the Arab uprisings of the past 16 months. Erdogan — the most admired world leader in the Arab world according to a late 2011 poll by the Brookings Institution’s Shibley Telhami — has urged new Islamist political leaders in Egypt and Tunisia to pursue secular democracies, tolerant of both Islamic and non-Islamic citizens and parties. Meantime, the mounting death toll in Syria — of almost 10,000 people, with thousands more fleeing into Turkey — has sharply hardened Erdogan’s position against former ally Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan also won Obama’s trust by agreeing last September to host a powerful US radar as part of a NATO missile-defense shield monitoring Iran's missile activity. The decision advanced a key NATO alliance security objective, but was not without potential risk for the Turkish leader, who has insisted that intelligence form the radar not be shared with Israel.

“Apart from the NATO radar system that you just mentioned, Turkey has also played an exceptionally positive role in the Arab Spring, in keeping it on track,” Turkey’s envoy to Washington Namik Tan told me in January. “The situation needed someone coming from the Islamic tradition, with a free-market economy and democracy, with western institutions. No other country could play that role.”...

-bth: it should also be remembered that the largest number of NATO troops in uniform outside of the US are in Turkey.

Gen. Petraeus’ “rider” | The Back Channel

Gen. Petraeus’ “rider” | The Back Channel

...  One Agency veteran relayed what he described as Petraeus’ request list to the Back Channel. Among the items:
  • Fresh pineapple each night before he goes to bed (not canned)
  • Sliced bananas for his cereal in the morning
  • Someone to accompany him on his morning runs, and a route devised that preferably avoids crossing any streets.
  • Also, he noted, the former General doesn’t open doors. “All doors have to be open when he arrives,” the former senior CIA officer said.
In addition, the intelligence chief requests that six empty wine glasses be placed in his room, in case he needs to host foreign dignitaries or members of the travel party after a long day of meetings....

-bth: Pampered Prince

As U.S.-Taliban talks stall, hope for political solution dims - The Washington Post

As U.S.-Taliban talks stall, hope for political solution dims - The Washington Post

... Tajiks and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan, who ousted the Taliban government in 2001 with Americans’ help, fear that Karzai will allot positions of power to his fellow Pashtuns and have begun rebuilding militias that were disbanded after the Taliban defeat. They are openly seeking assistance from other Asian powers who share their concerns.

“They are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said one of several administration officials who discussed the sensitive matter on the condition of anonymity.

The northern leaders and many civil society activists consider an ongoing U.S. military presence as protection against Taliban expansion. But many other non-insurgent Afghans are suspicious of long-term U.S. aims and believe there will be no peace without a complete American withdrawal....

Kerry warns Pak to be more cooperative -

Kerry warns Pak to be more cooperative -

WASHINGTON: Top American Senator has warned Pakistan that the US would have no other option but to resort to “self-help” if Islamabad does not become more cooperative in the war against terrorism.

Such a warning, ahead of the Chicago summit later this month which is expected to take crucial discussions related to Afghanistan, came from none other than Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and architect of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill that allotted USD 7.5 billion to Pakistan for five years.

“I personally think it is simply unacceptable to have a zone of immunity for acts of war against armed forces and against the collective community that has tried to accomplish what it has tried to accomplish,” Kerry said in his remarks at a Congressional hearing convened by him on the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.

“That means Pakistan has to become more assertive and more cooperative, and we may have to resort to other kinds of self-help, depending on what they decide to do,” said Kerry, who in the Obama Administration is considered to be the best friend of Pakistan....

Friday, May 11, 2012

NightWatch 20120511 - KGS China and the Philippines

NightWatch 20120511 - KGS

China-Philippines: China warned its nationals against traveling to the Philippines, canceled tours and raised trade barriers on imported pineapples and bananas as the squabble over disputed fishing grounds in the South China Sea grew more intense.
Comment: The dispute over claims to islands and waters in the South China Sea shows no signs of easing. The Chinese warning coincided with the announcement of an increase in US Navy deployments to the Philippines....

bth: I'm surprised we are not seeing more in the news about this situation between China and the Philippines. NightWatch is very good about catching and analyzing this stuff.

Survey: Americans favor defense cuts, given budget data - Washington Times

Survey: Americans favor defense cuts, given budget data - Washington Times

... Three-quarters of Americans said they supported cutting defense to reduce the federal budget deficit, according to the survey, published by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland.

That majority is bipartisan: About 67 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats supported cutting the defense budget, the survey data show.

On average, those surveyed advocated an 18 percent cut from the current fiscal 2012 budget levels. Republicans wanted an average of a 12 percent cut and Democrats 22 percent....

Monday, May 07, 2012

May 6 2012, Mass Military Heroes Fund Families at Fenway Park

2012-05-06 Mass Military Heroes Fund Families - bth - Picasa Web Albums

2012-05-06 Mass Military Heroes Fund Families - bth - Picasa Web Albums

2012-05-06 Mass Military Heroes Fund Families

Remembering the Dead: New Names for a Wall That Keeps Growing -

Remembering the Dead: New Names for a Wall That Keeps Growing -

 A view of the E.O.D. memorial at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
... A message will be obvious as the roll call proceeds. During a year when one long war appeared to be winding down, with the end of American combat operations in Iraq, and the beginning of the Pentagon’s drawdown in Afghanistan, service in the field for E.O.D. techs remained as dangerous as ever. The list of the dead says as much. Of the 289 names that will be read on Saturday, 177 died from 1942 to 2001. In the 11 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, 112 more E.O.D. techs have died – a pace exceeding the rate at which they were killed in prior decades.

And after the unveiling of bronze name plates on the wall Saturday morning, 18 of the names will be new. They form the largest group of American E.O.D. techs ever to die in a 12-month period, the foundation’s officials said, making them a stark indicator of the role that E.O.D. has assumed at the front of modern American war
.Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, who died on April 26 in Afghanistan.
Even then the list is incomplete, and not just because it does not include the large number of those wounded. Since the list was finalized and the plaques were made for this weekend’s event, still more E.O.D. techs have been killed, including a Navy officer, Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, 28, who died on April 26 in Afghanistan, the victim of a hidden improvised bomb....

... The service members who will be added to wall are listed below:
1. Staff Sgt. Chauncy R. Mays
2. Staff Sgt. Eric S. Trueblood
3. Spc. Christopher G. Stark
4. Staff Sgt. Mark C. Wells
5. Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate
6. Tech Sgt. Daniel L. Douville
7. Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski
8. Staff Sgt. Michael J. Garcia
9. Staff Sgt. David P. Day
10. Staff Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solesbee
11. Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Dunning
12. Sgt. Daniel J. Patron
13. Staff Sgt. Nicholas A. Sprovtsoff
14. Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Null
15. Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig M. Vickers
16. Petty Officer First Class Chad R. Regelin
17. Airman First Class Matthew R. Seidler
18. Tech Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz

- The Washington PostPentagon report says Defense Department whistleblowers have been left vulnerable to reprisals

- The Washington Post

 The Defense Department has inadequately protected from reprisals whistleblowers who have reported wrongdoing, according to an internal Pentagon report, and critics are calling for action to be taken against those who have been negligent.

The report, dated May 2011, accuses the officials, who work in the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General, of persistent sloppiness and a systematic disregard for Pentagon rules meant to protect those who report fraud, abuses and the waste of taxpayer funds, according to a previously undisclosed copy. The report was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group....