Friday, October 12, 2012

Roadside counter IED grates never installed

In a major fraud allegation made public on Thursday, the independent watchdog for Afghanistan war spending claimed it had discovered that Afghan contractors did not install or properly install potentially life-saving devices intended to prevent the use of roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The devices in question are on a “major highway” in Afganistan, but the office did not provide additional details immediately. In a letter dated October 10, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), told war commander Gen. John Allen and Central Command’s Gen. Jim Mattis that there was now an “increased risk of IED attack against U.S. forces resulting from the missing or defective culvert denial systems.” As a result, Sopko said, “we are providing this information to you for immediate action and dissemination to all relevant personnel.” The devices in question are called “culvert denial systems” and are used to keep people from entering culverts, or storm drains and channels that tunnel beneath roads. “We have identified potentially significant contract fraud in the installation and inspection of culvert denial systems designed to prevent access to roadway culverts by insurgents,” Sopko wrote. “Through our preliminary investigative work, we estimate that a large number of culvert denial systems might have been falsely reported by Afghan contractors as complete when, in fact, the denial systems were not installed or were installed in a defective manner, rendering them ineffective and susceptible to compromise by insurgents seeking to emplace IEDs.” Sopko became the new SIGAR in July and has pledged to step up both full investigations and other smaller tools of his trade, like partnering with prosecutors earlier, as the U.S. tries to ensure that civilian projects endure as the military draws down. UPDATE: The E-Ring has learned that the SIGAR investigation officially began in August after a tip from inside the military. A SIGAR official who was not authorized to name the contractor in question because the criminal investigation is ongoing said the contract in question is a $361,680 award from February 2011 to provide about 125 of the culvert denial systems, which the official described as “basically metal grates.”... -bth: so basically people are getting blown up because of a fraud. Time to hang somebody from an overpass to set an example.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reporter Lara Logan brings ominous news from Middle East - Sun Times

Reporter Lara Logan brings ominous news from Middle East - Chicago Sun-Times
...This was no ordinary rubber chicken affair. That was my reaction to the extraordinary keynoter at Tuesday’s Better Government Association annual luncheon.

Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” delivered a provocative speech to about 1,100 influentials from government, politics, media, and the legal and corporate arenas. Such downtown gatherings are a regular on Chicago’s networking circuit. (I am a member of the BGA’s Civic Leadership Committee, and the Chicago Sun-Times was a sponsor).

Her ominous and frightening message was gleaned from years of covering our wars in the Middle East. She arrived in Chicago on the heels of her Sept. 30 report, “The Longest War.” It examined the Afghanistan conflict and exposed the perils that still confront America, 11 years after 9/11.

Eleven years later, “they” still hate us, now more than ever, Logan told the crowd. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished, she added. They’re coming back.

“I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated . . .” Logan declared in her native South African accent.

The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban.

There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years,” Logan said. It is driven in part by “Taliban apologists,” who claim “they are just the poor moderate, gentler, kinder Taliban,” she added sarcastically. “It’s such nonsense!”

Logan stepped way out of the “objective,” journalistic role. The audience was riveted as she told of plowing through reams of documents, and interviewing John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban commander trained by al-Qaida. The Taliban and al-Qaida are teaming up and recruiting new terrorists to do us deadly harm, she reports.

She made a passionate case that our government is downplaying the strength of our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a rationale of getting us out of the longest war. We have been lulled into believing that the perils are in the past: “You’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script.”

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

As a journalist, I was queasy. Reporters should tell the story, not be the story. As an American, I was frightened.

Logan even called for retribution for the recent terrorist killings of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other officials. The event is a harbinger of our vulnerability, she said. Logan hopes that America will “exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil. That its ambassadors will not be murdered, and that the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.”...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How the US Quietly Lost the IED War in Afghanistan - antiwar.com

How the US Quietly Lost the IED War in Afghanistan by Gareth Porter -- Antiwar.com
... Over the 2009-11 period, the U.S. military suffered a total of 14,627 casualties, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Casualty Analysis System and iCasualties, a non-governmental organization tracking Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties from published sources.

Of that total, 8,680, or 59 percent, were from IED explosions, based on data provided by the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). And the proportion of all U.S. casualties caused by IEDs continued to increase from 56 percent in 2009 to 63 percent in 2011.

The Taliban IED war was the central element of its counter-strategy against the U.S. escalation of the war. It absorbed an enormous amount of the time and energy of U.S. troops, and demonstrated that the counterinsurgency campaign was not effective in reducing the size or power of the insurgency. It also provided constant evidence to the Afghan population that Taliban had a continued presence even where U.S. troops had occupied former Taliban districts.

U.S. Pentagon and military leaders sought to gain control over the Taliban’s IED campaign with two contradictory approaches, both of which failed because they did not reflect the social and political realities in Afghanistan.

JIEDDO spent more than 18 billion dollars on high-tech solutions aimed at detecting IEDs before they went off, including robots, and blimps with spy cameras. But as the technology helped the U.S.-NATO command discover more IEDs, the Taliban simply produced and planted even larger numbers of bombs to continue to increase the pressure of the IED war.

The counterinsurgency strategy devised by Gen. David Petraeus and implemented by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, on the other hand, held that the IED networks could be destroyed once the people turned away from the Taliban. They pushed thousands of U.S. troops out of their armored vehicles into patrols on foot in order to establish relationships with the local population.

The main effect of the strategy, however, was a major jump in the number of “catastrophic” injuries to U.S. troops from IEDs.

In his Aug. 30, 2009 “initial assessment,” McChrystal said the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) “cannot succeed if it is unwilling to share risk at least equally with the people.”

In an interview with USA Today in July 2009, he argued that “the best way to defeat IEDs will be to defeat the Taliban’s hold on the people.” Once the people’s trust had been gained, he suggested, they would inform ISAF of the location of IEDs.

McChrystal argued that the Taliban were using “the psychological effects of IEDs and the coalition force’s preoccupation with force protection” to get the U.S.-NATO command to reinforce a “garrison posture and mentality.”

McChrystal ordered much more emphasis on more dismounted patrols by U.S. forces in fall 2009. The Taliban responded by increasing the number of IEDs targeting dismounted patrols from 71 in September 2009 to 228 by January 2010, according data compiled by JIEDDO.

That meant that the population had more knowledge of the location of IEDs, which should have resulted in a major increase in IEDs turned in by the population, according to the Petraeus counterinsurgency theory.

But the data on IEDs shows that the opposite happened. In the first eight months of 2009, the average rate of turn-ins had been three percent, but from September 2009 to June 2010, the rate averaged 2.7 percent.

After Petraeus replaced McChrystal as ISAF commander in June 2010, he issued a directive calling for more dismounted patrols, especially in Helmand and Kandahar, where U.S. troops were trying to hold territory that the Taliban had controlled in previous years.

In the next five months, the turn-in rate fell to less than one percent.

Meanwhile, the number of IED attacks on foot patrols causing casualties increased from 21 in October 2009 to an average of 40 in the March-December 2010 period, according to JIEDDO records. U.S. troops wounded by IEDs spiked to an average of 316 per month during that period, 2.5 times more than the average for the previous 10-month period.

The Taliban success in targeting troops on foot was the main reason U.S. casualties from IEDs increased from 1,211 wounded and 159 dead in 2009 to 3,366 wounded and 259 dead in 2010.

The damage from IEDs was far more serious, however, than even those figures suggest, because the injuries to dismounted patrols included far more “traumatic amputation” of limbs — arms and legs blown off by bombs — and other more severe wounds than had been seen in attacks on armored vehicles.

A June 2011 Army task force report described a new type of battle injury — “Dismount Complex Blast Injury”— defined as a combination of “traumatic amputation of at least one leg, a minimum of severe injury to another extremity, and pelvic, abdominal, or urogenital wounding.”

The report confirmed that the number of triple limb amputations in 2010 alone had been twice the total in the previous eight years of war.

A study of 194 amputations in 2010 and the first three months of 2011 showed that most were suffered by Marine Corps troops, who were concentrated in Helmand province, and that 88 percent were the result of IED attacks on dismounted patrols, according to the report. In January 2011, the director of JIEDDO, Gen. John L. Oates, acknowledged that U.S. troops in Helmand and Kandahar had seen “an alarming increase in the number of troops losing one or two legs to IEDs.”

Much larger numbers of U.S. troops have suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries from IED blasts — mostly against armored vehicles.

Statistics on the total number of limb amputations and traumatic brain injuries in Afghanistan were excised from the task force report.

In 2011, U.S. fatalities from IEDs fell to 204 from 259 in 2010, and overall fatalities fell from 499 to 418. But the number of IED injuries actually increased by 10 percent from 3,339 to 3,530, and the overall total of wounded in action was almost the same as in 2010, according to data from iCasualties.

The total for wounded in the first eight months of 2012 are 10 percent less than the same period in 2011, whereas the number of dead is 29 percent below the previous year’s pace....

-bth: one surprising bit of news is actually how low the civilian turn in rate is - <2% - where as I think in Iraq that rate was 40% or so. Also the surge in Iraq had the same impact of a change toward dismounted soldiers and marines with consummate increase in injury and death which isn't hard to understand for two reasons - first more boots stepping on the ground means more stepping on IEDs and second dismounts are more vulnerable to danger than those in an armored vehicle like a MRAP or MATV.

The reduction in wounded appears to reflect in part the transfer of thousands of U.S. troops from Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where a large proportion of the casualties have occurred, to eastern Afghanistan. The number of IED attacks on dismounted patrols in the mid-July 2011 to mid-July 2012 period was 25 percent less than the number in the same period a year earlier, according to JIEDDO.