Friday, December 14, 2012
First came the news earlier this month that Japan had slipped back into recession for the fourth time in 12 years. Then on Dec. 12, North Korea defiantly fired a missile that flew over Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa. Finally, a day later, the deepening dispute with China over a handful of uninhabited isles in the East China Sea hotted up with Tokyo accusing Beijing of violating its airspace for the first time ever by sending a surveillance plane into Japanese-controlled skies. (Until recently, the territorial spat had been merely maritime.) Suffice it to say that Japan has been feeling a little edgy these days—and that unease will likely manifest itself in the Dec. 16 general elections through a victory by tough-talking nationalists. The latest polls indicate that Shinzo Abe, the leader of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), will soon become Prime Minister...
-bth: things are going to get rough in Asia
Thursday, December 13, 2012
After a contentious closed-door vote, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a long-awaited report Thursday concluding that harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs, officials said.
The 6,000-page document, which was not released to the public, was adopted by Democrats over the objections of most of the committee’s Republicans. The outcome reflects the level of partisan friction that continues to surround the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other severe interrogation techniques four years after they were banned.
The report is the most detailed independent examination to date of the agency’s efforts to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress, a period of CIA history that has become a source of renewed controversy because of torture scenes in a forthcoming Hollywood film.
Officials familiar with the report said it makes a detailed case that subjecting prisoners to “enhanced” interrogation techniques did not help the CIA find Osama bin Laden and often were counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, declined to discuss specific findings, but released a written statement describing decisions to allow the CIA to build a network of secret prisons and employ harsh interrogation measures as “terrible mistakes.”...
-bth: these actions were not only ineffective, but they were a stain on our country. Our actions here define who we are as a people and we need to uphold to the principals we have cherished and so long espoused.
The air force--in separate deals--plans to acquire 15 Chinook CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters and 22 AH-64D Block-III Apache attack helicopters from the U.S. company, the minister told lawmakers in the lower house of parliament.
Mr. Antony said the "acceptance of necessity cost" for the Chinook helicopters is about 24.68 billion rupees ($457 million) and that of Apache helicopters is about 30.95 billion rupees ($573 million)....
-bth: An excellent opportunity for both India and the US.
....Given its huge potential and population, the most significant player - apart from China - within the region is India. However, when compared to its neighbour to the northeast, India's economy and domestic technological skills are primitive. The country has squandered decades in setting up a high-tech base that, except in a few areas, has been a failure. More than 80 per cent of core defence equipment still needs to be imported. As for the Indian economy, it is less than a third of the size of China's (which had half the GDP of India in 1949).
What India has in plenty is trained manpower, as well as a military that has been continuously primed for combat since its inception. In contrast, China's People's Liberation Army forces have rarely seen a weapon fired in anger; those who have participated in combat operations in the past have almost all left the military.
But the fact remains. Although India's ruling Congress Party has spent an average of $9 billion (Dh33 billion per year) on purchasing defence equipment, mainly from France, Russia, Israel and the US, the reality is that India's economy cannot support the navy and the air force it would need to face a challenge in Asia.
There is only one way forward, which would be for the United States to once again begin a Lend-Lease programme of sorts, handing surplus military stock to India and, on a smaller scale, Vietnam. Surplus stock might include naval vessels, aircraft and ammunition - this is the only practical way by which the Indian and Vietnamese militaries could reach the needed level of combat capability....
The US has said it will have no problem if Afghanistan seeks any direct military assistance from India for its armed forces in dealing with security issues born out of insurgent activities in the country, The Indian Express reported Tuesday.
According to a senior US defense official Washington had discussed the issue with the Indian and Afghan officials.
The officials said, “We have had discussions with the Indians about this issue and about the Afghans, and I don’t see any particular problems with the overall approach here at all.”
The official speaking on the condition of anonymity said, Afghan military commanders and intelligence officials have begun urging India to provide direct military assistance to the country’s fledgling armed forces.
According to reports key military equipment including medium trucks with capacity of carrying 2.5-7 tonne cargos, bridge-laying equipment and engineering facilities, light mountain artillery along with ordnance were sought by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Reports also suggest India was also requested to help Afghanistan build close air-support capabilities for its troops in preparation of drastic scaling-down of western forces in 2014....
-bth: Watch for increased US/Indian/Afghan support efforts
The decision by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to withdraw her name from consideration to be the next Secretary of State is a bow to political reality as it defuses a near-certain showdown between the Obama Administration and Republican Senators over her potential nomination....
-bth: I think it will go to Powell or Kerry.
Monday, December 10, 2012
"In terms of the indices of overall power – GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment – Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined," the report concludes.
“Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" — prepared by the office of the National Intelligence Council of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — projects that the "unipolar" world that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union will not continue.
"With the rapid rise of other countries, the 'unipolar moment' is over and no country – whether the U.S., China, or any other country – will be a hegemonic power," the report argues....
ISLAMABAD — American drone missile strikes in northwest Pakistan have killed two al-Qaida commanders, according to Pakistani intelligence sources, including a militant leader who had replaced al-Qaida's second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, killed by a drone missile this summer.
The sources said Sunday that Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, a senior al-Qaida leader who had replaced al-Libi, was killed in a drone strike Thursday near the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the tribal region along the Afghan border that has long served as a stronghold for an array of militant groups, including al-Qaida commanders, the Afghan Taliban wing known as the Haqqani network, and the Pakistani Taliban.
Al-Libi became al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri's top deputy following the May 2011 U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Al-Libi was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan's tribal belt in June....
A123 Systems Inc., the Waltham battery maker, said Sunday that it plans to sell nearly all its assets to the North American arm of China’s largest auto parts manufacturer for $256.6 million, pending approval by US Bankruptcy Court and the federal government....
-bth: another strategic asset sold off to China.
KABUL — A senior Afghan woman activist was shot dead by unknown armed men on Monday in Afghanistan, officials said, the latest assassination of its kind against women’s rights activists in the country.
Two assailants riding on a motorbike gunned down Najia Seddiqi as she was heading for her office in eastern Laghman province, said Helai Nekzad, the chief of information at the Women’s Affairs Ministry in Kabul....