Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beijing rejects China spy ring report as `lies'

BEIJING (AP) - China on Tuesday denied a research report's contention that a China-based computer spy ring stole sensitive information from thousands of hard drives worldwide, calling the accusation a lie meant to feed anxiety over Beijing's growing influence.

In the government's first reaction to the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the conclusions were symptoms of a "Cold War virus" that causes people overseas to "occasionally be overcome by China-threat seizures."

The report by the Information Warfare Monitor added to growing concerns that China has become a center for cyber-warfare, spying and crime. Industry watchdogs have complained about junk e-mail generated in China. Officials in the U.S., Britain and Germany have accused Chinese hackers backed by China's military of intruding into their government and defense computer networks.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment directly on the latest allegation, saying only that officials were aware of it. Asked whether U.S. government computers had been compromised, spokesman Gordon Guguid said, "I have no information that that's the case."

The Information Warfare Monitor report released Saturday said that a network, based mainly in China, hacked into classified documents from government and private organizations in 103 countries, including the computers of the Dalai Lama and his exiled Tibetan government.

Speaking at a media briefing, Qin did not directly respond to questions about whether the network exists and if its actions are supported by the government. Instead, he said Beijing opposes criminal activities that compromise computer networks and criticized the report for claiming otherwise.

"China pays great attention to computer network security and resolutely opposes and fights any criminal activity harmful to computer networks, such as hacking," Qin said. "Some people outside China now are bent on fabricating lies about so-called Chinese computer spies."

"Their attempt to tarnish China with such lies is doomed to failure," he said.

The Canadian report said that while evidence pointed to China as the main source of the network, researchers had not conclusively been able to determine the identity or motivation of the hackers.

Experts have noted that China has 300 million Internet users and thus is home to many insecure computers and networks that hackers in other countries could hijack to disguise their locations and launch attacks.

The Canadian group said its research initially focused on allegations of Chinese cyber espionage against the Tibetan exile community but eventually traced a much wider network of compromised machines.

The Dalai Lama said Tuesday that private information on his government-in-exile's computers regularly seems to reach Chinese authorities. He said, for example, that China appears to know almost immediately when people have requested an appointment with him.

"Before that particular person asks for Indian visa, the Chinese already (have) protested to the Indian government. Such things happen," he said.

Thirty percent of the 1,295 hacked computers studied by the Canadian group were described by the report as "high-value diplomatic, political, economic, and military targets."

It said the spying network, dubbed GhostNet, was able to take full control of infected computers, rifling files and even activating microphones and Web cameras to spy on people present.

The sophistication and the focus on spying makes GhostNet sound more like traditional espionage rather than the nationalistic attacks carried out by Chinese hackers, said Jack Linchuan Qiu, a communications professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Chinese hackers would hack the White House history Web site and put a Chinese flag on it," Qiu said. "That's the kind of thing individuals would do ... This really sounds like something more organized."

Many Chinese hackers have a strong patriotic bent, unlike those in the United States and other Western countries who tend to belong to fringe cultures opposed to state power.

Or it may be that only those hackers who are share the government's ideals survive. Authorities closely monitor the Internet for content deemed politically destabilizing, so perhaps hackers whose ideas are in line with the government's are avoiding punishment.

Qiu, the communications professor, said he had heard of officials jailing Chinese hackers who break into computer systems of domestic banks in a bid to steal money or who infiltrate and vandalize government Web sites.

"I've never seen people who are targeting - never mind if it's an individual or an organization - targeting a foreign computer arrested in mainland China," Qiu said.


Pakistani Taliban threatens attack on White House

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan's Taliban chief claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a police academy, saying he wanted to retaliate for U.S. missile attacks on the militant bases on the border with Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, also vowed to "amaze everyone in the world" with an attack on Washington or even the White House.

The FBI, however, said he had made similar threats previously and there was no indication of anything imminent.

Mehsud, who gave a flurry of media interviews Tuesday, has no record of actually striking targets abroad although he is suspected of being behind a 10-man cell arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 for plotting suicide attacks in Spain.

Pakistan's former government and the CIA consider him the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. And Pakistani officials accuse him of harboring foreign fighters, including Central Asians linked to al-Qaida, and of training suicide bombers.

But analysts doubt that Taliban fighters carried off Monday's raid on the Lahore academy on their own, saying the group is likely working more closely than ever with militants based far from the Afghan frontier.

It's a constellation that includes al-Qaida, presenting a formidable challenge to the U.S. as it increases its troop presence in the region, not to mention nuclear-armed Pakistan's own stability.

Mehsud told The Associated Press that the academy and other recent attacks were revenge for stepped-up American missile strikes into Pakistan's border badlands.

"Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," Mehsud said in a telephone interview with an Associated Press reporter. He offered few details, though in a separate recorded conversation with local Dewa radio station, he said the White House was a target.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the bureau was not aware of any imminent or specific threat to the U.S., despite what the Pakistani Taliban leader said.

"He has made similar threats to the U.S. in the past," said Kolko.

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said he had not seen any reports of Mehsud's comments but that he would "take the threat under consideration."

The ruthless attack on Lahore's outskirts Monday left at least 12 people dead, including seven police, and sparked an eight-hour standoff with security forces that ended when black-clad commandos stormed the compound. Some of the gunmen blew themselves up.

The siege-style approach using heavily armed militants came just weeks after the deadly ambush of Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team in the heart of Lahore. Both attacks were reminiscent of November's siege of Mumbai, India - also blamed on Pakistani militants.

A senior police investigator, Zulfikar Hameed, told Dawn News TV, that the men arrested for the attack have corroborated Mehsud's involvement.

Besides Mehsud, a little-known group believed linked to him also claimed credit. Mehsud declined to discuss the group, Fedayeen al-Islam, or any others who might have been involved.

Pakistan Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said one attacker who was captured was Afghan, and that the initial investigation suggested the conspiracy originated in South Waziristan tribal region, Mehsud's stronghold. But Malik also said the al-Qaida-linked group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi might have played a role. Officials have said three gunmen are in custody.

"In my view, it's not done by one group," said Mohammed Amir Rana, a Pakistani analyst well-versed in the intricacies of militant groups. "One group has the major role in providing the fighters or one group might be providing the logistics or intelligence. And one group provided the financing."

A variety of militant groups operate in Pakistan beyond al-Qaida and the Taliban, and officials and analysts say it appears the coordination among some of them is increasing. Of particular concern are violent groups based in Punjab, Pakistan's most populated province, which borders India.

Some Punjabi groups have their roots in the dispute with India over the Kashmir region. The Pakistani spy agency is believed to have helped set them up and maintain some links, a prospect that vexes U.S. officials.

Others have different origins.

Jhangvi, for instance, is a sectarian extremist group blamed for a stream of actrocities against minority Shiite Muslims. In recent years, it has evolved, Rana said, and is believed to provide foot-soldiers and suicide bombers for al-Qaida operations. Qari Hussein, a Jhangvi member, was named in Mehsud's Pakistani Taliban council in 2007.

The groups' membership is fluid and overlapping. They are riven with feuds. But analysts say they are finding a common cause in striking America and its allies, while also focusing on spreading Taliban-style rule over more and more of Pakistan.

Interviews in recent months with three Afghan and Pakistani Taliban operatives, who demanded anonymity for security reasons, suggest a Pakistani crackdown on some groups following the Mumbai assault has prompted many operatives of Punjab-based groups to seek sanctuary in the northwest.

The Mumbai attacks were specifically blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Punjab-based group fighting in Kashmir. Both Taliban and American military commanders have reported Taiba members even in Afghanistan's northeast. Masood Azhar, a Kashmiri militant leader wanted by India, is reportedly in South Waziristan with Mehsud.

The militant activity may also relate to American plans to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have roared back more than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted their regime, said Shaun Gregory, an analyst at Britain's University of Bradford.

With more allies, the Taliban may feel more capable of taking on grander assaults like that in Lahore as opposed to suicide bombings favored when their resources are more depleted, he said.

Mahmood Shah, a retired military officer, voiced concern that the Taliban were embarking on a campaign of terror in Punjab similar to that employed in the northwest, where hundreds of police were killed before militants turned their attention to political leaders.

While the pro-West ruling party has been trying to persuade a skeptical public to close ranks against an increasingly powerful nexus of militant groups, it has been largely preoccupied with squabbles over power and privileges with a key opposition party.

In unveiling a new war strategy for Afghanistan last week, Obama urged Pakistanis to fight the "cancer" of extremism gripping their country and pledged more aid for them to do so. Still, his administration has resisted Pakistani pressure to halt the missile strikes, believed to be fired by unmanned CIA drones.

Doubts also remain about whether the powerful Pakistani military is committed to sidelining extremist groups it has used as proxies against India and Afghanistan.

Defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said Pakistan must evaluate its own links to some of these groups if it is to survive.

"We have to dig this out of our past," she said. "Unless we do that, unless we have a consensus on our strategy ... we aren't going to go anywhere."


Vatican to inspect Legionaries after scandal

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has taken the extraordinary step of ordering an investigation into a conservative Roman Catholic order that recently disclosed that its late founder had fathered a child.

OMG, a straight priest! Sound the alarm.

Analysis: Weekend uprising shows Iraqi tensions

BAGHDAD (AP) - The recent uprising by Sunni paramilitaries here is a sign of growing tension between the former insurgents and the Shiite-led government that runs Iraq - a distrust that could blow up again as the United States draws down its military forces.

The fierce weekend gun battles also dramatize the fact that Iraq, despite its new calm, still hasn't achieved true reconciliation among its religious and ethnic groups.

As bullets pinged off concrete walls and snipers aimed from rooftops, the city held its breath to see if the outbreak of street fighting in the poor neighborhood of Fadhil would spread, or turn into a problem that grows worse as U.S. soldiers pull back.

"We were well respected when we worked with the Americans," lamented Khaled Khodeir al-Luhaibi, a leader of another Sunni group outside the capital. "When the Americans leave, we will be caught between the Iraqi government that is pursuing us and al-Qaida, which wants to take revenge on us."

At the heart of the issue is whether Iraqis can put aside the bitterness of Saddam Hussein's legacy. That bitterness was sharpened by Shiite-Sunni bloodletting the last few years, after the U.S.-led invasion toppled his regime in 2003.

The distrust clearly lingers.

The uprising began Saturday when police arrested the leader of a neighborhood Awakening Council, one of the paramilitaries formed when many Sunnis abandoned the insurgency and joined forces with the U.S. and Iraqi military.

Government spokesmen said the local leader was involved in murder, extortion, robbery and other crimes. They also alleged he was organizing an armed force loyal to Saddam's disbanded party, which was dominated by Sunnis.

The U.S., which encouraged the rise of the Awakening movement in the fight against al-Qaida, endorsed the government move against the leader.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. David Perkins said the arrested leader was allegedly mixed up in "an extensive amount of criminal activity" and was "abusing his position as a leader" in Fadhil, a crime-ridden, slum neighborhood that was run by insurgents for years.

But the move into Fadhil also carried big risks - chief among them that Sunnis would view the action not as a legitimate move against a criminal, but a politically motivated Shiite push against Sunnis.

It came after arrests of other Awakening Council figures in Baghdad and nearby Diyala province. Some council leaders said pressure against them has increased since the U.S. transferred responsibility for managing and paying the councils to the Iraqi government last October.

With suspicions running deep, some council leaders questioned the government's motives - including why the warrant was issued in December but only served now.

"If the government persists to go down this path, then there will be problems between us and the government," said al-Luhaibi, leader of the council in the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba.

A showdown between the Shiite-led government and the councils has been brewing since the beginnings of the Sunni decision to side with the United States and turn against al-Qaida in 2006.

U.S. commanders encouraged the rise of the Awakening Councils, also known as Sons of Iraq, and believe they were instrumental in turning the side against Sunni insurgents. Paying them salaries keeps them from returning to the insurgency.

But the Shiite-led government never fully embraced the councils because their ranks included ex-insurgents. Many Shiite politicians consider the paramilitaries as little more than mercenaries who could turn their guns on Shiite civilians someday.

The government is especially concerned about councils in Baghdad, which ethnic cleansing has transformed into a largely Shiite city. It's also worried about Diyala, a mixed area near the capital with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

"None can deny that a large number of Awakening Councils have fought al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and purged their areas," the government-owned newspaper Al-Sabah said Tuesday. "But that doesn't give them the right to turn into groups that act as they please or give their allegiance to their leader rather than the law."

Under U.S. pressure, the government agreed to bring 20,000 of the more than 90,000 paramilitaries into the police and army. The government would pay the rest a salary until they could be found civilian jobs.

U.S. commanders were willing to accept even volunteers whom they suspected had killed Americans or Iraqis - because they were so eager to curb violence. But Iraqi Shiites - steeped in a culture of vendetta killings - have been less forgiving.

U.S. officials have encouraged the government to consider the Awakening Councils' contribution to security when weighing prosecutions against some members.

But U.S. influence is waning now that Washington has agreed to a complete troop withdrawal by 2011. The new U.S.-Iraq security agreement has given Iraqis more authority.

"We work very closely with the Iraqi government to make sure that the right signals are sent when it comes to reconciliation," U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. David Perkins said. "Some things are done better than others so it is a continual challenge."


British hand off to US in oil-rich southern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - Britain turned over coalition command of the oil-rich south to the United States on Tuesday in the first step toward withdrawing virtually all British troops from Iraq by July.

The pomp-filled ceremony marked the beginning of the end of an often-troubled British mission. The Iraqis have accused the British of merely standing by while Shiite militias wielded control of the country's second-largest city of Basra for years.

However, U.S. and Iraqi commanders had nothing but praise Tuesday for Britain's role as the second-largest contributor of troops since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

"The accomplishments of the British forces across Iraq, and especially here in Basra, have been nothing short of brilliant," Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said during the ceremony at the airport base outside Basra, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.

The British troops will be withdrawn in phases, with combat operations to finish at the end of May and all but about 400 troops withdrawn by the end of July. Those staying behind will focus mainly on training the Iraqi navy to defend oil platforms stationed off the coast, the British Ministry of Defense has said.

The Americans will move units to replace the British troops to ensure a smooth transition, the military said. U.S. military supply lines pass through the area en route from Kuwait to U.S. bases throughout the country.

The Iraq war has been extremely unpopular in Britain, and the issue shadowed the final years of Tony Blair's premiership.

At the height of combat operations in March and April 2003, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq. The British military has suffered 179 deaths since the war started.

Violence has dropped off sharply in most of Iraq, but a spate of high-profile bombings this month has raised concern that insurgents are regrouping ahead of the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by the end of June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011.

The number of Iraqis killed in war-related violence rose 12 percent to at least 323 in March, including 87 security forces and 226 civilians, according to an Associated Press tally. That compared with 288 Iraqis killed in February.

The AP began tracking the figure in April 2005 based on reports by police, hospital officials, morgue workers and verifiable witness accounts.

These numbers are considered a minimum, based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher since many killings go unreported or uncounted. The security personnel include Iraqi military, police and police recruits, and bodyguards. Insurgent deaths are not included.

Also Tuesday, a suicide truck bomber struck an Iraqi police station in the northern city of Mosul, killing at least eight people - four policemen and four civilians - and wounding 12, officials said.

At least nine U.S. troop deaths were reported this month - less than half from combat, according to an AP tally.

The latest death occurred Tuesday, when a Marine died in a "noncombat incident" in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

In all, at least 4,263 American service members have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, the AP tally shows.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Iran wins hanging contest

"Iran had the highest rate of execution in 2008. Congratulations, Mahmoud and Ayatollahs. KSA was a close 2nd - maybe 2009? Iraq was 5th, behind Libya. The number of worldwide executions doubled last year from 2007. Thanks Molly and As'ad for the links."
Iraqi mojo

On the Banks of the Tigris

"In his latest entry at Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax writes about sitting on the banks of the Tigris on a warm, sunny day in Baghdad with a newspaper in his hands. He comes across a headline for an AP article by Hamza Hendawi (about whom I've written here) about the very city he was sitting in. Stunned by the headline, Salam sets the newspaper aside, thinks about it, and then picks up the paper again and starts to look squarely at his hometown."

Story of ongoing pain

""I just can not understand why the insurgents target the civilians. They are not security forces like us. They don't cause any harm to anyone. They just want to live"

With thes words and with a strong will to control the tears, the policeman who escorted me to the scene of yesterday's explosion started the conversation. I couldn't give him any answer because the same question troubles my mind. The blast killed at least 16 people and wounded some 45. The death toll likely rose today.

I walked slowly down the street which was, until the explosion a lively street filled with men, women and children. I saw some of them but they were still under the effect of the explosion. Their faces tell the story of ongoing pain and suffering of Iraqis.

I took many photos of the place. I chose seven of them to tell the story of the ongoing pain."
Inside Iraq

They call that cheep fuses. That's what you get from a third rate insurgency

Comprehensive survey of Iraqis shows increasingly positive attitudes about the future of Iraq

"The survey, "Where Things Stand" is ABC's sixth national survey in Iraq since 2004. Interviews were conducted from Feb. 17-25, 2009.

Interviews were conducted by 133 trained Iraqi interviewers who traveled to 446 randomly selected locales across the country."

Saving Afghanistan (yet again) by Robert Kaplan

"Please, no more articles or policy papers titled “Saving Afghanistan.” It’s really getting confusing. Seriously, google “Saving Afghanistan” and check the first few pages of returns. Anyways, it is the content that truly matters, so let’s get to it:
“Saving Afghanistan” by Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic, March 24, 2009. Online.

Whoops! Wrong picture:"
Ghost of Alexander

Is Obama’s plan a Surge or the “same thing done better” approach?

"When a large bureaucracy like the Pentagon is faced with making a major decision regarding an issue as complex as Afghanistan experienced observers know they will see one of two approaches. The first (and by far rarest) option is a radical departure from current operational methods representing a new way forward. The way soldiers from the SBS and Delta handled the fight in Tora Bora during the opening month of the war on terror… sorry I guess it is now “overseas contingency operations” is a good example. Faced with a complex battlefield containing armed factions of dubious loyalty and motivation they improvised using small units to maneuver firepower in place of the manpower they did not have.

Their solutions or “lessons learned” according to the unit commander, Dalton Fury, were not recorded in the Army after action system and they have been forgotten probably because taking a truly decentralized approach when deploying American fighting forces is completely alien to senior Colonels and General Officers. The second and by far most common approach from the Pentagon is to do “more of the same but do it faster and better.” That is what the generals tried to sell President Bush back when he sold the surge idea to them. And it appears that is what the generals or most probably the national security team have sold President Obama. It will fail. Dismally."

Canadians find vast computer spy network: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spying operation that infiltrated computers and stole documents from government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

In a report provided to the newspaper, a team from the Munk Center for International Studies in Toronto said at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries had been breached in less than two years by the spy system, which it dubbed GhostNet.

Embassies, foreign ministries, government offices and the Dalai Lama's Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York were among those infiltrated, said the researchers, who have detected computer espionage in the past.

They found no evidence U.S. government offices were breached.

The researchers concluded that computers based almost exclusively in China were responsible for the intrusions, although they stopped short of saying the Chinese government was involved in the system, which they described as still active.

"We're a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms," said Ronald Deibert, a member of the Munk research group, based at the University of Toronto.

"This could well be the CIA or the Russians. It's a murky realm that we're lifting the lid on."

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea China was involved. "These are old stories and they are nonsense," the spokesman, Wenqi Gao, told the Times. "The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime."

The Toronto researchers began their sleuthing after a request from the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

The network they found possessed remarkable "Big Brother-style" capabilities, allowing it, among other things, to turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of infected computers for potential in-room monitoring, the report said.

The system was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian nations as well as on the Dalai Lama, the researchers said, adding that computers at the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated and a NATO computer monitored.

The report will be published in Information Warfare Monitor, an online publication linked to the Munk Center.

At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans are releasing an independent report, the Times said.

They do fault China and warned that other hackers could adopt similar tactics, the Times added.



A "friend" of Vice President Joseph Biden's daughter, Ashley, is attempting to hawk a videotape that he claims shows her snorting cocaine at a house party this month in Delaware.

The anonymous male acquaintance of Ashley took the video, said Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer representing the seller.

Dunlap and a man claiming to be a lawyer showed The Post about 90 seconds of 43-minute tape, saying it was legally obtained and that Ashley was aware she was being filmed. The Post refused to pay for the video.

The video, which the shooter initially hoped to sell for $2 million before scaling back his price to $400,000, shows a 20-something woman with light skin and long brown hair taking a red straw from her mouth, bending over a desk, inserting the straw into her nostril and snorting lines of white powder.

She then stands up and begins talking with other people in the room. A young man looks on from behind her, facing the camera. The lawyers said he was Ashley's boyfriend of a few years.

The camera follows the woman from a few feet away, focusing on her as she moves around the room. It appears not to be concealed. At one point she shouts, "Shut the f--- up!"

The woman appears to resemble Ashley Biden, 27, a social worker for a Delaware child-welfare agency and a visible presence during her father's campaign for the White House.

The dialogue is difficult to discern, but the woman makes repeated references to the drugs, said the lawyers, who said they viewed the tape about 15 times.

"At one point she pretty much complains that the line isn't big enough," said the second lawyer, who declined to identify himself. "And she talks about her dad."

Biden has been an outspoken crusader against drugs, coining the term "drug czar" in 1982 while campaigning for a more forceful "war on drugs."

The lawyers declined to name the person who shot the video, but said he knew Ashley well and had attended other parties with her at which there were illegal drugs


Now the cops can charge everyone at the party and the guy selling the tape.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

And That's how it goes down

"I have to pinch myself to make sure what I just witnessed was in fact reality and not a dillusion from my flu-ridden state. Yep, it hurts. It was real.
Nowadays its wonderfully sunny, and in general I lament every hour that i have to spend inside revising, or trying to anyway. Exams begin at the beginning of June and last for quite a while, so basically, I've got plenty of time to waste (or rather enjoy) before drowning in self pity and 'if only i revised'."
Fog al Nakhal

Newton's Third Law

"In the spring of 2006 when hardly anyone outside of Baghdad (including me) had even heard of a man named 'Jawad' al-Maliki the SCIRI leader made a strong statement to his officials. It was a private meeting and Hakim intended to make sure no one left the room with even a shred of doubt of his influence, power and status in Iraq. In the typical swagger that was, at the time, epidemic in the party Hakim said "Who is Maliki? I told Ja'fari that the road in front of him was closed. He had no other option but to step down. Now if I want to I can order Maliki to step down and make Abdul Mehdi the Prime Minister""
Eye Raki

Oh Canada

"Recently, I heard the sad news that four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan; in two separate IED incidents.

The news brought to mind an email I received a short time ago from a Canadian citizen who follows me on the social networking site, Twitter. From out of the red, white, and blue wrote Garwood:

"On Twitter you asked me what we Canadians think of war. I cannot speak for everyone of course, but the general consensus is that Canadians are pretty humble, docile people, who would prefer peace to war. Of course we have our military but certainly not the power and the might of your armed forces. We don't have a strong feeling about signing up for God and our country like you do in the United States, and I think that is sadly lacking in Canada. We see your love and enthusiasm for your country, your flag, and your military, and we envy that.""
Deployed Teacher

High school memories …

"Thursday was our last day in high school together, we had a great party, a lot of food, music and dancing, we played different kind of music, Arabic, western, Iraqi and Kurdish songs, I enjoyed every second, we kept hugging each other, old memories came back specially when my friend" A" said a lovely poetry about the six years we spent together and the teachers who taught us, it was very emotional..
I took my brother with me, and he had a pleasant time"
Days of My Life

Cat Shit One Movie Trailer - The Animated Series

h/t Jason

Shish Kebab Ministries!

"When Firas walked into the passport department to apply for a new passport they told him that he needed to pay 700 US dollars to process his application. When he argued that this amount was much higher than the normal renewal passport fees he was told that the fees are not fixed! On his way out someone told him that he ought to try the Shish Kebab man that serves Kebab near the front gate!! When Firas spoke with the Shish Kebab man – out of shear joke- about assisting in getting the passport renewed, the Kebab man took the paper work and went inside; 10 minutes later he walked out with the passport papers stamped for a mere 550 US dollars!! The Shish Kebab man at the front gate has special discount rates for passport renewal!!!"
Baghdad Connect

Coming to America - Expectations

"I don’t know what I’m going to face in America. All of my opinions about America, and American universities, do not come from people who have been there or from people who have lived that life. They just come from watching movies."
Baghdad Bureau

Prostate's Good

"Last night, I spoke to my dad's friend who has a hospital and asked him for a urologist. He told me to go to his hospital today. I got there at nine in the morning and he had already left. Over the phone the doctor told me to come to his clinic on the other side of Baghdad but a couple hours later I figured that I didn't have the time to go all the way over there. So I headed to a local street where lots of doctors are to be found and picked the first urologist I found. His sign was new, so I guessed that he probably was a doctor that returned as a result of the improved situation. In his office he still hadn't finished hanging all his plaques."
Baghdad Bacon & Eggs

9,000 standardized tests worth of pencils

"Roughly two weeks ago, the Bossman put together a little "request for
support" to Higher.
"Could we get," he asked, "some CR123A batteries, some writable CDs,
and perhaps some school supply type of stuff for the kiddies?"

Higher sat quietly, mulling the issue over. Many requests are, of
course, best handled by simply ignoring them. Some requests should be
directly disputed in regards to their scope or format, then
subsequently rejected. But this request...ahh...this request offered
opportunities to Get Rid Of Stuff."
Bad Dogs and Such

What's Happening to Me?

"There are only a handful of people in this world who don’t piss me off.

Now granted, I probably have more pet peeves and hang-ups than many, but most of the population in this world is self centered and ignorant of how they affect those around them. And of course everyone thinks they’re the smartest, wittiest guy or gal in the group, so I really can’t ever tell anyone how obnoxious or annoying they really are. After all, if there’s a problem it must be with me, right?"

Bye 1911, hello Ruger: Revolvers versus Automatics

"The beginning of my blog coincided with the purchase of a Springfield Arms 1911 Loaded, and that 1911 had the honor, therefore, of being the subject of my first post. Well, the 1911 is no more, traded in for a Ruger GP100 revolver with a four inch barrel. I liked the 1911 except for the fact that one batch of re-manufactured ammo gave it fits, but my wife had trouble with the slide so I sought-out an easier-to-use weapon. When I saw a used Lady Smith and Wesson 357 with a three inch barrel, I purchased it immediately. It was the perfect gun for my wife-medium sized and relatively easy to handle (the gun, not my wife). "This is so much easier. Why would anybody want the other kind?" she asked after comparing the two guns.

"Well," I began to explain and then I couldn't think of anything to say, "I don't know.""
Asymmetric Military

Firing a 50-caliber machine gun

"Today’s task is to fire a 50-caliber machine gun mounted on a HMMWV at pop-up targets at various ranges. Temperature is about 39 degrees and the wind chill makes it feel colder. We don all of our battle rattle and board a school bus to get to the range. I used to enjoy riding the school bus until now. School buses are designed for kids, not grown adults packing 50 pounds of gear. We all squeeze into the tiny seats and groan as we endure a 20-minute ride to the range. The task seems simple enough. We are supposed to fire 150 rounds of ammo at the targets. The targets are human silhouettes positioned at 400, 600, 700, 800 and a truck target at 1000 meters. I will let you do the math, 1 meter = 3.28 feet. So imagine shooting at a person 8 football fields away and trying to hit them. Oh yes, the weapon uses open sights. The weapons are surprisingly accurate. Besides even if you miss the enemy, having 50 cal rounds zinging by their heads will make them think twice about engaging."
Afghanistan my last Tour


"On 15 March 2009 on our way back to the FOB from assessing a future school site in Kot, the lead vehicle of our 4 vehicle convoy (I was in the 4th truck) struck an IED. The truck was occupied by SSgt Timothy Bowles, SGT Christopher Abeyta, SPC Robert Weinger and SPC Norman Cain, four great guys. Two of them were killed instantly and the other two passed shortly after being medevac’d out."
A Year in the Sandbox

Back in Kabul

"Once at KAF I could lay all my stuff out to determine what would continue on with me and what wouldn’t. At this point in the trip, all dirty clothes are gone right off the top. It seems I’m always organizing my stuff. When you travel light, I guess that would be expected. I’m always looking for ways to pack my gear as efficiently as possible, which leads to me never remembering where I put things. That, of course, leads to me always going through my gear in a ferocious cycle. Funny thing is: I have thrown away all sorts of things and my bag is still packed to the maximum and it is still as heavy as ever."
Battlefield Tourist

Friday, March 27, 2009

Report: Al-Qaida staged Yemen attack on S. Koreans

CAIRO (AP) - The militant group al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula is reportedly claiming responsibility for an attack earlier this month in Yemen that killed four South Korean tourists and their Yemeni driver.

In a statement posted on an Islamic Web site, the organization said the attack was intended to force the South Koreans out of Arab lands and to avenge the killing of al-Qaida operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The statement was also carried by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages on the Web.

The statement's authenticity could not be independently verified.

Yemeni authorities have said al-Qaida was behind the bombing.

Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, has long been home to Islamic extremists in its remote hinterland.


Fallujah is test case for post-US Iraq

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - The Americans are gone from Fallujah, but the "King of Kentucky Chicken Restaurant" is open for business in a bullet-pocked building.

The city that suffered some of the bloodiest episodes of the Iraq war is back under Iraqi control and bursting with entrepreneurial energy, from music stores and restaurants to workmen digging trenches for a long-delayed U.S.-funded sewage network.

But much war damage remains untended, unemployment runs high, farming has fallen into neglect and there are constant fears that the insurgents who waged war are waiting for the right moment to rekindle the conflict.

This city of 400,000 was the heartbeat of the uprising that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq - notorious for bombings, the killing of 17 people when U.S. paratroopers fired on protesters, and the ambush in which the burned bodies of four Blackwater security company men were hung on a bridge.

In November 2004, with Fallujah in insurgent hands, the U.S. military launched an operation to recapture the city. After 45 days that saw some of the heaviest urban combat for Americans since the Vietnam War, the U.S. announced it had crushed the last pocket of resistance in Fallujah.

Of at least 225 Americans who have died in action in Fallujah since the invasion, 78 were killed in the final operation, according to Pentagon figures. Insurgent losses were estimated at about 1,350.

U.S. forces continued to control the city tightly until last month, when they quit the last of their posts inside Fallujah. Now the city 30 miles west of Baghdad is a testing ground for the Iraqis' ability to keep the peace unaided.

Security is uppermost in people's minds here, their worries heightened by two suicide bombings in the Fallujah area this month that targeted Sunni clan leaders who fought against the insurgents. One of the bombers was thought to have recently been freed from Camp Bucca, the U.S. detention center in southern Iraq.

Thousands of detainees have been freed from U.S. custody in recent months to comply with a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that took effect on Jan. 1, and there are fears some of them will try to join up with al-Qaida sleeper cells.

"Bucca has reinforced their extremist ideology since the most radical detainees are kept together away from the rest," said Mushtaq al-Eifan, a prominent clan member who fought al-Qaida.

However, Fallujah is relatively calm, though its notoriety appears to endure.

Mayor Sheik Hameed Hashem says he is struggling to staff to capacity a $46 million, 200-bed hospital just built with government funds because of misconceptions about security in Fallujah. He is promising housing and police protection for out-of-town doctors who agree to work at the hospital.

Meanwhile, as Fallujah recovers some of its traditional vigor as a transport and trade hub, it is feeling pressures of a different sort - falling oil prices.

Hashem says his 2009 budget has been slashed by two-thirds to around 50 billion Iraqi dinars (about $43 million) because of the slump in oil earnings that underpin government revenue.

With unemployment at about 30 percent, he said he needs money for industrial and farming projects to create jobs. Also, he said he needs to build a power station as the government provides only 25 percent of Fallujah's electricity needs and the rest comes from private generators.

Still, in ways both big and small, the city is struggling back to normalcy. Along with the $100 million sewage network, construction of a stretch of elevated highway appears to be moving ahead. Music shops, torched or forcibly shuttered as un-Islamic during the seven months of 2004 that al-Qaida and its allies controlled the city, are open again.

Hashem said the U.S. paid $150 million compensation for 35,000-40,000 homes damaged or destroyed in fighting and that they have been repaired.

Ismail Haqi's "Kentucky" restaurant, its name posted in Arabic with two large images of Colonel Sanders, opened two months ago on a main street of Fallujah and offers a meal of chicken, fries and soda for the equivalent of about $4.50. The restaurant is inspired by - but not connected to - the American-based KFC.

"I decided to bring to Fallujah a global name," said Haqi, 19. "Some people come up to me and say 'this is an American company and we suffered so much in Fallujah at the hands of the Americans.' But I tell them that Kentucky exists across the world, so why not here?"

Some seem unready to put the fighting behind them. Several mosques still show the damage they suffered in the fighting, and Fallujans believe they are being deliberately left in disrepair as protests against what they see as the brutality of the 2004 U.S. offensive.

Col. Mahmoud al-Issawi, Fallujah's police chief, is more worried about al-Qaida and other militants using Fallujah as a refuge from U.S. and Iraqi search parties.

Al-Issawi, an energetic man in his mid-40s, said that in the five months since he took the job, his force has uncovered more than 200 arms caches in the Fallujah area, including roadside bombs, rockets, firearms and walkie-talkies which can be used as detonators.

Speaking at his heavily guarded office, he also voiced concern about the prisoner releases. He said 260 detainees from Anbar, Fallujah's province, were about to be freed from Camp Bucca, the largest U.S. detention center.

"I want them released into our custody and not to politicians in Baghdad. I will arrest those that I have evidence against and let the rest go free," he said, showing a list of the 260 men and their photographs.

"These people are filled with hatred and terrorism and they will want to come back and exact revenge," he said. "They may be tempted now that the Americans are gone."


Russia plans to create Arctic military force

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia is planning to create a dedicated military force to help protect its interests in the disputed Arctic region.
The presidential Security Council has released a document outlining goverment policy for the Arctic that includes creating a special group of military forces. The report was released this week and reported by Russian media on Friday.

Russia, the United States, Canada and other northern countries are trying to assert jurisdiction over the Arctic.

The dispute has intensified amid growing evidence that the shrinking polar ice is opening up new shipping lanes and allowing natural resources to be tapped.


Obama sets Qaeda defeat as top goal in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama unveiled a new war strategy for Afghanistan on Friday with a key goal -- to crush al Qaeda militants there and in Pakistan who he said were plotting new attacks on the United States.

"The situation is increasingly perilous," Obama said in a somber speech in which he sought to explain to Americans why he was boosting U.S. involvement in the seven-year-old war and expanding its focus to include Pakistan.

The new strategy comes with violence in Afghanistan at its highest level since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks on the United States. The militia has escalated its attacks, often operating from safe havens in border regions of Pakistan.

"The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked," Obama said, stressing that stabilizing Afghanistan required an international effort, not just an American one.

He said the U.S. military in Afghanistan would shift the emphasis of its mission to training and expanding the Afghan army so that it could take the lead in counter-insurgency operations and allow U.S. troops to eventually return home.

Obama plans to send 4,000 more U.S. troops to train the army, along with hundreds of civilian personnel to improve the Afghan government's delivery of basic services. The force will be in addition to the 17,000 combat troops Obama has already ordered sent to Afghanistan ahead of elections in August.

The 17,000 will reinforce 38,000 U.S. troops and 32,000 from some 40 NATO allies and other nations in Afghanistan.

The new strategy also calls for the United States to reach out to Afghanistan's neighbors, including U.S. foe Iran, step up military and economic aid for Pakistan, and ask NATO to send more troops for the election and to train the army and police.

Britain said it was ready to dispatch more troops, while other European Union countries welcomed the new U.S. plans and held out the prospect of more aid and doing more training.

Representatives of the EU, United States, Russia, China and Central Asian states, meeting in Moscow, pledged more help in Afghanistan's fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.


The Afghan government said it welcomed all the major conclusions of the U.S. review of Afghan policy, while Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said the new strategy reflected Islamabad's view that military action alone would not the solution.

Obama said his new strategy had a "clear and focused goal" -- to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Multiple intelligence estimates had warned that al Qaeda was actively planning attacks on the United States from safe havens in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan, he said.

"For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world. But this is not simply an American problem. The safety of the world is at stake."

The plan puts Obama's stamp on a war he inherited from his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, whom he criticized for becoming distracted by the Iraq war and failing to devote enough resources to the military effort in Afghanistan.

By stating that the main mission is to target al Qaeda militants, Obama played down more ambitious goals embraced by Bush and other NATO leaders, who said a year ago the aim was to build a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghan state.

Analysts say the success or failure of Obama's Afghan policy will likely help define Obama's presidency, although it is his handling of the U.S. economic crisis that will be the centerpiece of his term.

"To me it looks like very much the Bush strategy for Iraq in 2006, which focused on kinetic operations to try to kill or capture al Qaeda and handing responsibility to Iraqi security forces, and that ended up with a fiasco," said Christopher Schnaubelt, an analyst at NATO Defense College in Rome.

"It's going to take a lot longer to train up the Afghan army and police than the administration would recognize. They are already having trouble getting volunteers now. How they get new recruits, I don't think they've figured out yet."


Obama set no timetable for the strategy, but he said the United States would not "blindly stay the course" and would set benchmarks for the Afghan government to crack down on corruption and ensure it used foreign aid to help its people.

He said key to defeating al Qaeda was strengthening the weak civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari in Pakistan, where he said al Qaeda and its allies were a "cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within."

The United States would give economic and military aid to Pakistan to help it root out al Qaeda from the tribal areas, but, he added: "After years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check."

Obama's plan got broad support in Washington from fellow Democrats and opposition Republicans, although some expressed reservations over Pakistan's ability to take on al Qaeda, and whether the plan offered enough help for Islamabad.

In an illustration of the violence dogging Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed 37 people when he blew himself up in a crowded Pakistani mosque near the Afghan border on Friday, government officials said.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Afghan intel chief: Pakistan spies support Taliban

KABUL (AP) - Afghanistan's intelligence chief accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping Taliban militants carry out attacks in his country, highlighting one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama administration as it prepared Thursday to launch a new strategy for the Afghan conflict.

Many Taliban militants fled to Pakistan's border area from Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, finding a sanctuary that allowed them to mount cross-border attacks that have destabilized Afghanistan and jeopardized international efforts to rebuild the country.

President Barack Obama plans to dispatch 4,000 more U.S. troops along with hundreds of civilian advisers and will recommend increasing aid to Pakistan so long as leaders there confront militancy, people familiar with the forthcoming plan said Thursday. The latest additions, to be announced Friday, would follow Obama's decision to add 17,000 troops to the flagging war this year.

Obama called the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday to brief them on the plan, their offices said. Many believe that even with a stepped-up U.S. effort, chances for success are slim unless Pakistan effectively cracks down on Taliban and al-Qaida militants operating from its territory.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have repeatedly called on Pakistan to sever all links with the Taliban, which came to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s with significant support from Pakistan's military intelligence agency - known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Pakistan's government insists it no longer supports the militant group, but the country's civilian leaders have limited control over the agency.

Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament Wednesday that the spy agency provides support to the Taliban leadership council in the Pakistani city of Quetta headed by the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said the council sends militants into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and international forces.

The New York Times reported that Pakistani spy operatives provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders, with evidence of the ties coming from electronic surveillance and trusted informants. The report cited American, Pakistani and other security officials who spoke anonymously because they were discussing confidential intelligence information.

Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst, told AP Television that he believes the ISI may have links in Afghanistan. But he said that does not necessarily mean it is supporting the Taliban or is giving them material assistance.

He said the ISI maintains contacts with militants in order to monitor their activities, "because it is itself being hit by the Taliban."

A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad said Pakistani assistance to the Taliban has declined since 2001 but that links persist. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media.

Saleh, the Afghan spy chief, criticized Pakistani officials for denying that Taliban leaders are based in the country. He said the Pakistanis view militants on their border as "a kind of weapon" that can be used in both Afghanistan and India.

"The Pakistani government is making excuses by saying these areas are out of their control," said Saleh.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan's spy service or militants based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas of being behind several major attacks in Kabul, including the bombing of the Indian Embassy last July, an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April and an assault on the luxury Serena Hotel in January 2008.

By focusing the blame on militants in Pakistan, Saleh reinforced recent remarks by Obama, who has warned that militants using Pakistani territory to launch attacks should not be allowed free reign.

Many of the additional troops that Obama has pledged to send to Afghanistan will be deployed in the south near the border with Pakistan - the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, where militants attacked a police checkpoint Thursday, killing nine policemen, the Interior Ministry said.

Another officer was killed and two were wounded in a search operation the police launched after the attack, said the deputy provincial police chief Kamal Uddin.

Corruption also has been a significant issue at the highest levels of government, with reports that Karzai's relatives have profited from their family connections - charges they denied.

Karzai said Thursday that the accusations were false and politically motivated. He outlined his own savings and assets to head off any corruption allegations that might be leveled against him in the run-up to presidential elections this year.

Karzai said he has about $10,000 in a bank in Frankfurt, Germany, and that his wife has jewelry worth about the same amount. He said his salary is only about $500 per month.

"I have no private car, no land, no garden, no house," Karzai told a news conference.


Sudan says foreign airstrikes hit weapons convoy

CAIRO (AP) - Sudanese officials said foreign warplanes launched two separate airstrikes last month on Sudan near its border with Egypt, targeting convoys packed with light weapons and African migrants trying to sneak across the frontier.

Just who was behind the strikes remains a mystery, but the U.S. and Israel immediately came under suspicion.

Mubarak Mabrook Saleem, Sudan's State Minister for Transportation, told The Associated Press he believed American planes were behind the bombings about a week apart in early February and claimed hundreds were killed. A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed his account but said there were discrepancies on casualties. The U.S. denied any airstrike on Sudan.

Arab and U.S. media reports said Israel was behind the attacks because the convoys were smuggling weapons to Egypt destined for Gaza. The militant Hamas, which rules Gaza, smuggles weapons in through tunnels along the Egyptian border.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted Thursday at possible Israeli involvement.

"We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure - in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence," he said at an academic conference.

"It was true in the north in a series of incidents and it was true in the south, in a series of incidents," he added. There is no point in going into detail, and everybody can use their imagination. Those who need to know, know. And those who need to know, know that there is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place."

Asked specifically about the report, Israeli officials would not confirm or deny them.

The allegations come as Sudan is under scrutiny after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on March 4 for the country's president Omar al-Bashir. He's accused by the court of orchestrating a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that has involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. Sudan denies the charges.

A new Egyptian newspaper, al-Shurooq, was the first to report on Saleem saying two convoys trying to cross into Egypt were bombed by American jets. It said there were suspicions that the convoys carried weapons for Gaza.

According to Saleem, the first strike hit 16 vehicles carrying 200 people from various African countries being smuggled across the border. It also carried some "light weapons" such as Kalashnikovs, he said.

In the second attack on Feb. 11, he said 18 vehicles were hit and they were only carrying immigrants, not weapons. He claimed several hundred people were killed in each bombing and said the first strike was about a week before the Feb. 11 attack, but did not give a date.

"The technology used in the attacks was so sophisticated, they must have been American," Saleem said. "This is the first time such an incident happens."

A Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ali Youssef, confirmed the airstrikes.

"The incident took place," Youssef said. "There are discrepancies in casualties." He said the Sudanese government will soon release a statement to clarify what it knows.

The U.S. military denied any recent airstrikes in or around Sudan.

"The U.S. military has not conducted any airstrikes, fired any missiles, or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since the U.S. Africa Command formally began operations Oct. 1," said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the command.

Israel has long accused Iran of supplying Hamas with weapons and ammunition and has speculated that one route would be through Sudan.

In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel calling for an international effort to stanch the flow of weapons to the Hamas, which trains them on Israel. Israel's war in Gaza earlier this year was launched to stop near-daily rocket attacks on nearby Israeli communities and to stem the arms flow.

In recent years, Israel has been linked to an airstrike in Syria that the U.S. says destroyed a covert nuclear facility. It also has been accused to last year's assassination of a top Hezbollah operative in a car bombing in Damascus. Israel has not confirmed either incident.

Saleem said both airstrikes came around 2 a.m. and in very foggy conditions in a barren, desert area.

He acknowledged that both weapons and people are smuggled through Sudan to Egypt.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor, who accompanied Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on a visit to Egypt Wednesday, denied Sudan supplies Hamas with weapons and said he had no information about the strikes.

An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said a weapons deal for Gaza was foiled before it reached Egypt.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More Women Turning to Pole Dancing to Make Ends Meet

"One positive unintended consequence of this economic catastrophe is that "gentleman's clubs" are seeing an in-flux of babes looking to work the pole. From AP:"
LT Nixon Rants

There's always a silver lining
"Another drill weekend come and gone. Friday first call was at 1900. We showed up, got our 4100s for the June list (promotion point worksheet), and updated them because they're all fucked up as is to be expected. The company was reintegrated with the rear detachment; permanent brokedicks, people that transferred while we were gone, and newbies fresh from Infantry school. While we were gone, they didn't close the unit to transfers, so a shitload of NCOs got in and we are now double slotted in almost every slot for NCOs. This is absolutely disastrous and has destroyed morale."
Fobbits need ice Cream

What Price Victory for an Afghan ETT ?

"There’s been a lot in the news lately about what “victory” in Afghanistan looks like. I really don’t know, nor do I want to venture an opinion on that one. People at much higher pay grades than mine can figure that one out. All I can speak for is the little piece of Afghanistan that I share with my ANA and the local populace of Bermel.

I’ll tell you this; it’s little things. Try to accomplish much more you’ll begin a slow circle of the drain leading to frustration and self induced psychosis. What I’m about to tell you about is 5 kilometers. That’s 3.1 miles, not very far. But it might as well be a light year here."
Afghanistan Shrugged

Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15

"Number-two U.S. defense firm Boeing has designed a new “Silent Eagle” version of the venerable F-15 fighter that is stealthier than older models. Ares and AvWeek have the scoop.

The U.S. Air Force and the separate F-22 and F-35 fighter lobbies continue to make the claim that the future of U.S. air power depends solely on buying thousands of the latest stealthy, “fifth-generation” fighters. But Boeing, which also builds the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, is offering alternatives that are thoroughly tested, battle-proven and less risky, cost-wise."
War is Boring

Somali-American Jihadist has “Change of Heart”

"Last week Osama bin Laden exhorted Somalis to rise up in jihad against new president Shariff Sheikh Ahmed, a call that even Somali insurgent leaders rejected.
Earlier, as many as two dozen Somalis living in the U.S. sneaked into Somalia to join Islamic fighters combating the U.S.-, U.N.- and A.U.-backed government.

One recruit (pictured) became the first American suicide bomber, when he blew himself up in northern Somalia in October.

Now one surviving recruit has had a “change of heart,” according to a diaspora leader. The 22-year-old has reportedly returned to the U.S. and is now in hiding."
War is Boring

The messenger?

Veterans and Dust

"Good news, the expecting mother and child are stable and are doing well from what I hear. Hopefully the little guy stays put and goes to full term, lots of growing yet to do, please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. The Soldier has returned to us and is back with his platoon.

All of the platoons have been out in sector every day engaging the population with dialogue, eroding the insurgents ability to conduct operations, and working side by side with Iraqi Security Forces. We have partnered with a new Iraqi Army unit recently and we are looking forward to conducting successful joint operations with them. The old Iraqi unit had been here for quite some time and is rotating home for a well deserved rest and refit cycle. The Government of Iraq regularly moves units around the country. I am unsure of their reasons but I have my suspicions."
Whatever It Takes


"Hi all, I'm still in jordan and I recently applied to the IOM as a refugee trying to get assylum to the USA, and am still waiting for the jury's answer about my case...They'll answer me next saturday..pray for me that they accept me :)"
Nabil's Blog

Morocco clamps down on Shiites

RABAT, Morocco (AP) - Morocco's government is clamping down on homosexuality and alleged Shiite propaganda, saying it will tackle any group that threatens moral and religious values in the Sunni Arab kingdom.

A weekend statement from the Interior Ministry about defending those values came after Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran and accused it of trying to spread Shiite Islam in the North African country.

Several independent media last week urged Morocco to grant more freedom of speech to gay activists. An Interior Ministry official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of ministry rules, said Tuesday that the statement referred to the promotion of homosexuality.

"Certain media are taking a stand for certain ignominious behaviors, which is a provocation for the national public opinion," the statement said on Saturday. "Any act contrary to moral or religious values will be repressed."

Though they coincide, the twin moves against Shiite Islam and gay advocates did not appear to be related. Earlier this month, Rabat severed diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Shiite Muslim republic of trying to spread its faith in Morocco.

Rights groups have denounced the clampdown, saying it is an unusual step for Morocco - a nation mostly known for tolerance and openness within the Arab world.

Rights groups say about a dozen people have since been arrested in working class neighborhoods of northern Morocco towns on suspicion they had converted to Shiite Islam.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights warned that "the war being waged by Morocco against belonging to the Shiite rite" is against the country's strong move recently toward democracy and civil liberties.

Recent reports in the pro-government press accuse Iran of using Shiite Islam to undermine the stability of moderate Arab states. Several media quoted unidentified government officials as alleging Iran is trying to create a rift between moderate, pro-U.S. Arab states like Morocco or Saudi Arabia, and more hardline states like Syria.

Iran's influence has been rising in the Arab world, and some in Morocco worry that Tehran could use Shiite Islam to promote its cause. Iran denies this. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said it was surprised at Rabat's decision to sever diplomatic ties.

On Saturday, authorities closed down the Iraqi school in Rabat, the capital. The closure was triggered by a complaint by parents complaining the school was promoting Shiite Islam, Moroccan media reported.

The school taught about 400 children, mostly Moroccans. The Education Ministry said in a statement that the school was closed because "the pedagogy ... was contrary to the law" on private education in Morocco.


Al-Qaida says Sudan leader deserves arrest warrant

CAIRO (AP) - The Sudanese president's problems with the West are retribution for his expulsion of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden more then ten years ago, al-Qaida's No. 2 said in a message issued Tuesday.

Ayman al-Zawahri said even though President Omar al-Bashir tried to appease Western powers by expelling al-Qaida from Sudan in 1996, the West was still after him. The Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on March 4 on charges of war crimes in the Darfur region.

"The Bashir regime is reaping what it sowed. For many long years, it continued to back down and backtrack in front of American Crusader pressure," al-Zawahri said according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors extremist Web sites.

"It expelled the mujahideen, who had taken refuge in the Sudan, foremost among them Sheik Osama bin Laden," he added in the message posted on militant Web sites.

Al-Zawahri said that no matter how much the regime "continued to pant for the American approval" it was never enough and had culminated in the international demand for al-Bashir's arrest.

Bin Laden and al-Qaida loyalists were given haven in Sudan from 1991-1996 until al-Bashir expelled them under U.S. pressure.

Al-Zawahri contrasted Sudan's behavior back then with Afghanistan's after 9/11, when the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden despite U.S. demands.

The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri also addressed the Sudanese people, urging them to prepare for guerrilla war and the imminent invasion of the U.S. and its allies.

"You are being targeted so Islam can be eliminated from the Sudan," he said. "This is the fact which you must comprehend. And in order for Islam to be eliminated from the Sudan, a justification must be found for Western military intervention," he added, describing Darfur as that justification.

The only way for al-Bashir's regime to save itself is for it to abandon its "smooth-talking" and engage in jihad against the West.

Al-Bashir came to power in Sudan in 1989 together with Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi. Before a falling out, the two in the 1990s turned the country into a headquarters for Islamist movements from around the world, including al-Qaida.

The ICC charged al-Bashir on March 4 of leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. His government has been accused of unleashing Arab militiamen against Darfur civilians in a drive to put down a revolt by ethnic Africans in the region.

Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes in the conflict since 2003, according to the U.N.


Obama: US will stay on offense in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he will make sure the United States stays "on the offensive" in the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, the president did not divulge details of his administration's review of how to proceed in Afghanistan. The details of that review are expected to be announced shortly.

But Obama says the U.S. cannot allow "vicious killers" to have their way and establish a safe haven in Afghanistan. He said the U.S. will do what's required.

The president also says he anticipates a more focused, disciplined and coordinated effort with other coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Obama says he understands how much the sacrifice of troops weighs on the public in the U.S. and in other nations.


Yes, No?

Scientists in possible cold fusion breakthrough

Researchers at a US Navy laboratory have unveiled what they say is "significant" evidence of cold fusion, a potential energy source that has many skeptics in the scientific community.
The scientists on Monday described what they called the first clear visual evidence that low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), or cold fusion devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists say are indicative of nuclear reactions.

"Our finding is very significant," said analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of the US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, California.

"To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from a LENR device," added the study's co-author in a statement.

The study's results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The city is also the site of an infamous presentation on cold fusion 20 years ago by Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons that sent shockwaves across the world.

Despite their claim to cold fusion discovery, the Fleishmann-Pons study soon fell into discredit after other researchers were unable to reproduce the results.

Scientists have been working for years to produce cold fusion reactions, a potentially cheap, limitless and environmentally-clean source of energy.

Paul Padley, a physicist at Rice University who reviewed Mosier-Boss's published work, said the study did not provide a plausible explanation of how cold fusion could take place in the conditions described.

"It fails to provide a theoretical rationale to explain how fusion could occur at room temperatures. And in its analysis, the research paper fails to exclude other sources for the production of neutrons," he told the Houston Chronicle.

"The whole point of fusion is, you?re bringing things of like charge together. As we all know, like things repel, and you have to overcome that repulsion somehow."

But Steven Krivit, editor of the New Energy Times, said the study was "big" and could open a new scientific field.

The neutrons produced in the experiments "may not be caused by fusion but perhaps some new, unknown nuclear process," added Krivit, who has monitored cold fusion studies for the past 20 years.

"We're talking about a new field of science that's a hybrid between chemistry and physics."


Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama Says a Way Out of Afghanistan Is Needed

WASHINGTON — The United States must look for a way out of the war in Afghanistan, President Obama said, in a signal that the military build-up in Afghanistan will not be open-ended and will lead to the eventual withdrawal of American and NATO troops from the country.

“There’s got to be an exit strategy,” Mr. Obama said in a wide-ranging interview shown Sunday on “60 Minutes” on CBS. “There’s got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.”

European officials have been outspoken about their plans to leave Afghanistan in the next three to four years. Mr. Obama’s remarks, which were recorded on Friday, indicated that the administration, which has more troops and resources in Afghanistan than European countries do, is also working toward a long-term strategy.

Last month, he announced that he would send 17,000 more American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, adding to the 36,000 already there.

In the interview, Mr. Obama also signaled that the United States was redefining its mission in Afghanistan, away from the Bush administration’s broader strategy of promoting democracy, civil society and governance in Afghanistan and toward getting the country to a point where it is not used to start attacks on the United States.

Asked what the United States’ mission in Afghanistan should be, Mr. Obama replied: “Making sure that Al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies. That’s our No. 1 priority.”

Mr. Obama also defended his Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and signaled some unease with the House bill to tax executive bonuses at the American International Group at a 90 percent rate. The White House has yet to take a firm position on the bill, and Mr. Obama, when asked, would not say whether he thought it was constitutional. But he did sound an alarm.

“I think that, as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals,” he said. “I think you certainly don’t want to use the tax code to punish people.”

But, he added: “I think you’ve got a pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. And so let’s see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that uphold our basic principles of fairness, but don’t hamper us from getting the banking system back on track.”

Mr. Obama said that, so far, he was finding the job of commander in chief “exhilarating,” adding that while he was reading more now, most consisted of briefing books.

“You know, you get a little time to read — history or, you know, policy books that are of interest,” he said. “But there’s a huge amount of information that has to be digested, especially right now. Because the complexities of Afghanistan are matched, maybe even dwarfed, by the complexities of the economic situation.”

Mr. Obama said that his family was adjusting to life in the White House and that his daughters, Malia and Sasha, enjoyed having friends over to try out their new swing set. It is just outside the Rose Garden, where he can watch them play from the Oval Office.


RUN! Bambi, Run.

Mexico offers $2 million for top drug lords

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's government on Monday offered $2 million each for information leading to the arrest of 24 top drug lords in a public challenge to the cartels' violent grip on the country.
The list indicated that drug gangs have splintered into six main cartels under pressure from the U.S. and Mexican governments. The two most powerful gangs—the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels—each suffered fractures that have given rise to new cartels, according to the list published by the Attorney General's Office.

The list offers 30 million pesos ($2 million) in rewards for 24 top members of the cartels and 15 million pesos ($1 million) for 13 of their lieutenants. Arrest warrants have been issued for all 37 people on the list, the Attorney General's Office said.

Mexico's drug violence has killed more than 8,000 people in the past two years as gangs battle each other for territory and fight off a government crackdown. Some of that violence is spilling over into the United States, especially the Southwest, where kidnaps and killings are on the rise.

While Mexico has offered rewards for drug lords in the past, it has usually been done on an individual basis. The new list appears to be the first offering rewards for all the most wanted cartel members at once.

Some of the men, such as Joaquin Guzman and Ismael Zamabada, are also targeted by separate $5 million reward offers from the U.S. government.

The document offered insight into the reorganization of the cartels two years into President Felipe Calderon's military crackdown against them.

A gang led by Beltran Leyva brothers—once affiliated with the Sinaloa group under the Pacific cartel alliance—was listed as its own cartel. So was La Familia, which operates in central Mexico and was once considered a gang that answered to the Gulf cartel.

Calderon's government has attributed fractures in the cartels to the military crackdown, saying the arrest of drug kingpins have set off internal battles for control that have led to Mexico's sharp surge in violence. It dismisses suggestions by some U.S. officials that Mexico is losing control of some of its territory.

The list comes days before a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a month before President Barack Obama visits.



Thanks for the links M.G.

But I don't know, I'm worried. You have to read and heard the links to Free Range International, Tim has the scoop. "There are no weapons for sale at the shops in Kabul"..Right away you think spring offensive. But,,we are at special time in history. If I was OBL I would see a west ready to fold. I would attack on all fronts. So maybe the Afghans are getting ready just in case there is a major retaliation from NATO after the next 911 style attacks.

We need to put out the ABB (All Blogs Bulletin), and concentrate on news that matters. Obama using the prompter is just fuel to the fire.

Holbrooke = Loser, Sherzai = Winner?

"Sorry for lack of posts. Apparently my knowledge of Ishans, Hojas, Sayyids, Naqshbandis, Hanafi reformers, Hanafi conservatives, those “muwahiddun,” friends of brother Qutb, government-sanctioned ulema and other various competitors in the spiritual arena is lacking. I have therefore been punished with a sizable reading list. So I’ve been really busy.

So I’ll just point to some rather amusing stuff I’ve been reading."
Ghost of Alexander

Combat Operator Podcast and the Civilian Surge for Afghanistan

"I had a great interview with Jake Allen from the Combat Operator Ezine. He is just as talented on the radio as he is with the pen and it turns out we had met each other several years ago when his former rifle company commander Dave Furness and I dropped by his home in Salt Lake City. In the small world department I should be seeing the good Colonel tomorrow night when he swings through Kabul. Colonel Furness is irritating – over two decades of infantry service, multiple combat tours, and he remains in perfect shape and looks like he’s about 37 years old. Smart as a whip, writes way better than I do, no bad back or trick knee or even good scars but a great friend and I could not be prouder seeing him doing so well. There was that kidney stone incident which (unfortunately for Dave) was witnessed by then Captain now Colonel Eric Mellinger – acknowledged as one of the best comedic talent amongst our generation of infantry officers. That is a great story involving surprise, suspense, danger (Dave was driving when the stone hit) lots of bad language and a surprise ending. But you won’t get it from me – if there is a Marine lurking out there looking for Mess Night material the FRI blog respects the USMC bashido code so you’ll have to look elsewhere. But it is a damn funny story and one which the good Colonel is most reluctant to tell.

Jake and I had wide ranging interview which touched on contractors and reconstruction – a topic which is leading current news cycles. You can listen to the interview here"
Free Range International

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rolling in Rumadi

"I've typed this from my mobile, as my cousins watch in amazement. I'm in Rumadi now. The trip to here from Baghdad is a story in itself.

My cousins who live here visited us to our house, but we never visited them. Now I sit comfortably on a recliner that is only a few centimeters of the floor, making it quite difficult to actually get up once you've sat down.

To transport us from our house, we hired one of thos cars with black windows and large tyres, driven by a tall, quite intimidating guy.It really comfortable and large, and he bellows in laughter as he talks about the rumadi stereotype. I think we had to pass three checkpoints through the whole journey, and I didn't really do anything apart from stay seated as soldier after soldier would peer in suspiciously before exclaiming 'Family!' and letting us pass."
Fog el Nakhal

Define Innocent


"In searching for more information on this subject which was first pointed out by my friends at

One Percenters

I found that for every article about the end of stop loss, there were two about gays being thrown out of the Army.
Rather strange that they simultaneous keep individuals that want out, and discharge those who want to stay?

Following are links to a few article on the subject."
Diary Of A Military Dad

My diaries in short...

"I spend most the time these days studying, I stay up till 11 pm and wake up next day at 6:30 to go to school, I am not getting enough time to sleep, and my face looks tired, but I know these days will pass, but the result of my study will not fade away, so… I can sleep later.
The situation this week was very bad, many car bombs exploded, we hear shooting the whole time, many were killed or injured, and many roads were closed, I spend more than an hour trying to find an opened road in my way from school to my house, I arrive exhausted, with red face and killing headache after I take a nap for an hour to rest, I have physics or chemistry lectures at home, after that I do my homework while I listen to slow music, and my favorite songs ..(I like Whitney Huston, blue, west life, George Michael, Shania twin, Josh Groban, and too many to mention, I also like country music a lot, and I hear Arabic and some Iraqi music).."
Days of My Life

...On the AIG bonuses

"In a nutshell: Whatever those mid-tier AIG employees are getting in the way of contractually guaranteed bonuses is absolutely trivial when compared with the eventual cost of setting a precedent whereby Congress feels itself entitled to unilaterally, arbitrarily and retroactively abrogate legal contracts.

A Congress that thinks it is at all right and proper to retroactively tax into oblivion the proceeds from any business transaction legally and freely entered into by both parties is a Congress which is a threat to the liberty and prosperity of all Americans."


Going Green

"No, I haven’t turned into an environmentalist! Although I love the wilderness and consider myself a conservationist, I am absolutely *not* an environmentalist. The philosophy at the core of the environmental movement is deeply malevolent, and very destructive to man’s ability to live here on earth. The people who buy into it wholesale are seriously deluded, and the hard core “deep ecology” advocates are downright evil. But that’s a whole different discussion…

I am “going green” in another sense."
Brad's Adventure

Iraq: Paradise is only a Hawaiian Shirt Away

"If you were to describe Iraq to a person otherwise unaware that it was a country currently in the midst of a conflict, the description would probably sound a lot like a vacation resort. Well perhaps that is a bit of a stretch … but let us consider the facts. The weather is always hot – and clouds are virtually non-existent. The entire country is covered in sand – more sand than can be used to make even the most architecturally elaborate of sand-castles. And let us not forget the local vegetation – palm trees as far as the eye can see."
Boots on the Ground

The 2009 Milblogging Conference

"This time next month, many of your favorite military bloggers will descend on Washington, D.C. in a whirlwind of snark, booze and insightful panels at The Milblogging Conference. Someone made the grave error in inviting me to join a panel of my peers, and before they realized their mistake, I graciously accepted. I join a crowd that's really a who's who in the military blogging community and look forward to meeting a few heroes of mine. The panels are slowly coming together, so below are the panels already set for Saturday, April 25:"
Army of Dude

Spring Break!

"...I would be wrong not to mention that my last post is no longer valid- President Obama is no longer considering requiring combat wounded veterans with private insurance to use their policies for care "Based on the respect that President Obama has for our nation’s veterans and the principled concerns expressed by veterans’ leaders." Of course, a metaphorical 2x4 and (censored) WTF are you thinking!?! from Jon Stewart couldn't have hurt either."
Acute Politics

Holy Crap, A Monkey!

"On Saturday after I got back from Achin I was sitting in my office and my buddy Cal came in and said, “You have to come to the ECP (entry control point), they have a MONKEY!” So I grabbed my camera and we walked out there. When I got there I saw this little guy sitting on the Hescos:"
A Year in the Sandbox

Venezuela rally backs Chavez critic

Thousands of Venezuelans have protested in the oil city of Maracaibo against an attempt to arrest an opposition politician on corruption charges.

Activists from different opposition political parties who took part in the march on Friday spoke out against the attempt to detain Manuel Rosales.

They said it was a case of political persecution by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

A former presidential candidate, Rosales is the mayor of Maracaibo, the country's second largest city and the capital of Zulia state.

Addressing Friday's rally, he said: "There is no justice in Venezuela. But we will continue fighting."

Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Venezuela's capital Caracas, said: "What they want to do to Manuel Rosales is not a trial, it's a political lynching."

Oscar Perez, an opposition politician, said: "The persecution of the opposition is beginning.

"And I'm sure that Rosales won't be the last to go to jail."

Arrest warrant

Venezuela's public prosecutor on Thursday asked a court for a warrant to arrest Rosales.

He requested on Friday that Rosales' case be moved from Zulia, where he has wide support.

Since winning a February referendum allowing him to run for office as often as he likes, Chavez has moved to restrict the power of opposition mayors and governors.

He has stripped local government of responsibility for ports and airports, and put some police forces and hospitals in the hands of central government.

Rosales denies the charge that he became inexplicably wealthy during his time as governor of Zulia and says the move against him was ordered by Chavez.

Corruption is widespread in oil-dependent Venezuela, but charges are rarely brought against members of the government.

Chavez said last year Rosales should be arrested, accusing him of corruption, working with organised crime and supporting a coup that briefly ousted him seven years ago.

Chavez has in the past threatened political opponents with legal cases, but his government rarely jails them.

Several opposition leaders were imprisoned after the 2002 coup.

Last year the government used corruption charges to block several important figures from state and city elections in which the opposition won important states and cities, including Caracas.


Afghanistan's complex nature of fighting

US hands almost all Sunni guards to Iraqi control

BAGHDAD - Almost 90 percent of the tens of thousands of U.S.-backed fighters who helped purge much of Iraq of al Qaeda have been transferred to Iraqi control, the U.S. commander in charge of their programme said on Saturday.

Major General Mike Ferriter told journalists around 84,000 members of predominantly Sunni Arab “Awakening Councils”—neighbourhood guard units that were paid by the U.S. military to fight militants—were handed to Iraqi government authority and thousands of those had since left the programme for other work.

Only about 10,000, all in the northern province of Salahuddin, remained to be handed over in the coming months.

Putting the guards, many of whom were once insurgents who switched sides, on the payroll of a government they once fought is seen as a major test of reconciliation as the United States prepares to pull its combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010.

“The eyes of the world are on you, Iraq, and it’s the opportunity to prove that you’re going to pull it together...in spite of the many, many doubts,” Ferriter said.

Called Awakening Councils or “Sahwa” in Arabic, the units led mostly by Sunni Arab tribal sheikhs began turning against al Qaeda militants two years ago in western Iraq’s Anbar province, providing a model that was rolled out nationwide.

The guards had been receiving roughly $300 a month from the U.S. military, paid through local tribal sheikhs. In October, the Iraqi government started paying roughly 50,000 in Baghdad.

Since then, the northern provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh, the southern Shi’ite provinces of Wasit, Babil and Qadasiya, and in the west, Anbar, have been ceded to the Iraqi government, which will start paying salaries in these provinces at different times between now and May, Ferriter said.

Many former insurgents in the programme have feared arrest. Others feared being abandoned by the government, which has promised jobs in its security forces for a fifth of Sahwa members but says it will find civilian work or training for the rest.

Ferriter said the programme had defied gloomy predictions and Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had kept his word not to detain ex-insurgents or pursue vendettas against them.

“A lot of concerns that we’ve heard...have not come to fruition,” he said. “The concern that...they’d be disbanded or wouldn’t get paid or be arrested...haven’t occurred.”

Questions remain over their long term future. Iraq is committed to finding jobs for the four fifths who do not get into the security forces, but so far only the Education and Health ministries have vacancies, for 10,000 and 3,000, respectively.

The police have taken in 5,000 so far and the army, 500.

But Ferriter was upbeat. “It’ll take 6 to 7 months to complete the job transition and I predict success,” he said.

Khaleej Times