Saturday, July 31, 2010

The War Is Boring Dutch-in-Afghanistan Primer

"After five years, $2 billion in direct costs and the loss of 24 soldiers, the Dutch military is leaving Afghanistan. The Netherlands’ 2,000-strong task force officially departs the southern province of Uruzgan on August 1. U.S. troops ze already filling in.
The Dutch occupation coincided with steadily increasing violence, including a major pitched battle in 2007 that left 100 people dead. Nevertheless, Dutch General Peter van Uhm hailed the mission’s “tangible results that the Netherlands can be proud of.” “We offer the majority of the population relatively safe living conditions and advancements in health care, education and trade,” van Uhm said."
War is Boring

First Look: BAE’s New Ground Combat Vehicle

It’s wide. It’s not light. It’s learned lessons from MRAPs and is survivable. It manages bandwidth so big fat transmission pipes like the doomed T-Sat satellites aren’t needed. It’s BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman’s offering for the Ground Combat Vehicle (a larger pic can be found here).

The base version is 53 tons. Going into a highly lethal environment? Then commanders may well want their troops to bolt on modular armor and storage pods that bring the weight up to 75 tons. Powering this vehicle that looks an awful lot like a tank, is a hybrid electric drive, technology that worries some in the Army who don’t believe it is sufficiently tried and true yet.

Mark Signorelli, BAE’s vice president and general manager for ground combat vehicles, told reporters that the decision to go with hybrid technology –“key enabling technology for the vehicle” — was one of the most “painful I’ve gone through.” The drive, produced by QintiQ NA, is the same as was proposed for BAE’s FCS offering. Signorelli said he knows the Army is split on the technology’s risk and benefits but argues that the commercial sector has used them for almost a decade in heavy construction equipment. Hybrid technology has “gone from being a radical idea to something we all ride” in on America’s streets, he said.

Among the benefits of hybrid drive: enormous torque; huge power supply for the vehicle and to power other equipment; 50 percent fewer parts so maintenance costs are lower; 10 percent fuel savings over comparable vehicles; added protection because the hybrid drive allows them to add some 4 tons of armor compared to a traditional engine. Will Army leadership buy BAE’s arguments and will testing bear out their claims? Wait and see time.

The GCV also uses something that Signorelli called a “hit avoidance system.” It is a combination of “hard kill protection” — something like what the FCS program called “active protection” — along with “soft kill” protection, a combination of jammers and decoys. Readers will remember that the active protection system was one of the failed promises of FCS. This will be an area to watch closely as the program develops.

Among the other attributes of the BAE’s GCV offering are a crew compartment designed for today’s larger soldiers who also carry larger and heavier loads. Signorelli said the new vehicle was designed to keep troops as rested as possible so they could go into action with minimal fatigue incurred by the miseries of riding in a cramped and bouncy ride.


But my one ton truck it cant be.

IAVA: The Rucksack on July 5th

"A couple weeks ago, Mrs. 13 and I received an email from IAVA—Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, announcing the new program called “The Rucksack” in partnership with Miller High Life.

The Rucksack is a special rewards program for Veterans and it features giveaways and prizes, including free tickets to popular sporting events and venues in various cities across the country.

Hearing that IAVA was going to be in SoCal for the Independence Day holiday weekend, we applied through email for tickets to the All Star Game in Anaheim (we’re big time Angels fans and live just a few miles south of Angel Stadium). Since demand was high, we also applied for tickets to that other Los Angeles baseball team—Los Doyers.

We like the Dodgers, a lot really, but we LOVE the Angels."
Rucksack to Backpack

Blogs and Bullets: Evaluating the Impact of New Media on Conflict

"The Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace and George Washington University's Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication hosted a public event exploring the role of new media in contested politics around the world. From Iran to Kenya to Colombia, the impact of new and social media on movements for political and social change has been the subject of much discussion, and controversy.

Watch video coverage of the event by C-SPAN"

h/t Raed in the Middle

Why Zawahiri is Optimistic

"President Obama can forget all his ambitious plans to improve relations with the Muslim world. A new audiotape from al-Qaeda reportedly promises Bin Laden and Zawahiri followers victory in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that these wars will eventually lead to a battle to liberate Jerusalem. Zawahiri is optimistic because he knows Obama's plans coincidentally fit into al-Qaeda's.

Remember Obama's plans that went from refusing to call Islamist terrorists radicals all the way to the top of NASA's agenda? Millions of dollars were to be poured into programs. Well, he and his administration should brace for a deterioration in relations. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have figured it out. But I'm not sure Obama has. What's the development? The U.S. is making or about to make a mistake that pretty much nothing can fix for the next several decades."

Al Sadr Surfaces

"OMG. Today I watched Moktada Al Sadr speaking on television and thought he actually made sense. The dude was on Al-Sharqiya, which is clearly supportive of Ayad Allawi. Mookie spoke with his usual speech impediment and his sleepy manner as though he just smoked something. Nevertheless, the guy explained some recent happenings.

First, he said he had met with no members of the State of Law party as was reported in the media. He had indeed met with Allawi in Damascus, and he said he hoped the results of the meeting would be "fruitful." He said the Sadr movment continues to oppose a second term for Maliki, and they are not about to change their position. He said no deals were made to release the prisoners.

Mookie criticized Maliki's government. He spoke against the random arrests of Iraqis. He said the detentions were not based on law. He said he couldn't accept a government that provides no services. And he said the security in the country is basically a picture, not real."

Al Qaida kills Iraqi Sunni Arabs too

""Gunmen launched a rare, coordinated attack on Iraqi soldiers Thursday in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad and briefly erected the black flag of Al-Qaida in Iraq near a smoldering army checkpoint.

According to an official with the Iraqi Interior Ministry, the death toll included six soldiers and police officers and 10 civilians.

The violence was the latest in a series of attacks in recent weeks claimed by, or attributed to, Al-Qaida in Iraq. Among them were the bombing of the Trade Bank of Iraq, an assault on the Central Bank, a suicide attack on a satellite news channel and the slaughter of more than 40 Awakening Council members."
Iraq Mojo

Losing Hearts and Minds

"Ben Arnoldy at the Christen Science Monitor penned an excellent tale on reconstruction efforts going pear shaped and the consequences resulting from such folly. It is an excellent piece of reporting from one of the truly professional foreign correspondents working the country today. The report was original, focused and resulted from Ben going to the remote Badakshan Province for a couple of weeks to get the details correct and to prove that traveling in the safer northern provinces is easy. This article is the perfect book end to last weeks Toronto Star piece on Panjwayi Tim and Ghost Team because it highlights the futility of traditional US AID standard operating procedures. Ben sums up the point of his article with these opening paragraphs:"

Second turn for the first time..

"I came back from Baghdad couple of weeks ago, after spending two weeks in my grandparents house, my grandma had sever disk prolapse , and she couldn't leave her bed for a month and half, and still she must stay in her bed for other two months..
So I spent the whole time doing housework , cleaning and cooking, I improved my cooking skills!!! , we also went shopping three times, and once we went to a nice park where my brother and sister played , it was a nice time ..
I've always loved Baghdad, I had the best memories ever there, and it's painful to see Baghdad in this dramatic change, weird faces, different language , weird costumes, and odd traditions!!.
the Shiites had a ceremony weeping on Al kadhem who died 1400 years ago or so while we were in Baghdad !! They walk to his cist for hours, and days !!"
Days of my Life

Could you imagine living in Miami and never having seen a Cuban?


On the Afghans (Updated)

"...There is a corollary to the above criticism of the Right, though. On the Left, you can often observe a similar phenomenon -- perhaps as the result of a post-colonial education that often preaches the evils of Western interventions through the years -- in that examining a conflict like Afghanistan, or Iraq, things like agency, responsibility and vulnerability are all disproportionately assigned to the (Western) external actor at the expense of local actors. There is a sign near my home in Washington, for example, in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, which reads: "End the War in Afghanistan." The assumption behind such a sign is that the war is for U.S. and other western policy-makers to end. You saw similar signs in 2005 and 2007 exhorting President Bush to "end" the war in Iraq. As if once the United States and its allies ceased combat operations, the war would somehow end and the grievances of local actors be forgotten."
Abu Muqawama

Faith Freedom: A Ladies undewear shop opened recently in Saudi Arabia

Credit: Faith

These images may look funny, but they underline the sad reality of the Muslim world. The segregation between men and women in Islamic countries make young men to grow without any understanding of women and with no ability to interact with them as equals.

How can one expect of such men to become normal husbands? Muslims grow up dysfunctional. Anyone marrying a Muslim is asking for trouble. Read more...

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Iconoclast: What have U.S.citizens gotten from their investment in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The $53 billion allocated for rebuilding Iraq, plus the missing $9.1 billion, are nowhere near the total cost of the Iraqi and Afghan wars, which is now into the trillions of dollars.

The entire Apollo space program cost a pittance in comparison, and for that money, U.S. citizens got the Cold-War prestige of getting to the moon before the Soviets, much scientific knowledge about the origin of our solar system, and most importantly, many technological innovations that have improved our lives.

What have U.S.citizens gotten from their investment in Iraq and Afghanistan? Read more...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Body of 2nd Navy sailor recovered in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The discovery of the body of a second U.S. sailor who vanished in Afghanistan last week only deepened the mystery of the men's disappearance nearly 60 miles from their base in a dangerous area controlled by the Taliban.

An investigation is under way, but with both sailors dead, U.S. authorities remained at a loss Thursday to explain what two junior enlisted men in noncombat jobs were doing driving alone in Logar province, where much of the countryside is not under government control.

"This is like a puzzle," said Abdul Wali, deputy head of the governing council in Logar.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley - father of two boys aged 5 and 9 - from Kingman, Arizona, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, from the Seattle area, disappeared in the province July 23. McNeley's body was recovered there Sunday and Newlove's body was pulled from a river Wednesday evening, Afghan officials said.

The U.S. Navy confirmed Newlove death on Thursday.

At the Newlove's house in west Seattle, where children's chalk drawings adorned the sidewalk, a big sign on the door said: "The family has no comment. Please respect our privacy."

Newlove's father, Joseph Newlove, broke the silence briefly to tell a TV station that his son's duties were limited to Kabul, and to wonder why he would have been so far off base.

"He had never been out of that town," the elder Newlove told KOMO-TV in Seattle. "So why would he go out of that town? He wouldn't have."

Officials at the NATO-led coalition headquarters in Kabul have not offered an explanation as to why the two service members were driving a heavily armored vehicle so far from their base at Camp Julien, a training facility on the western edge of the city.

A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case was being investigated, said it was unclear what the two were doing, what prompted them to leave their compound or whether they were on official business.

Senior military officials in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the sailors were never assigned anywhere near where their bodies were found.

The NATO official in Kabul shot down speculation that the two had been abducted in Kabul and driven to Logar - the same province where New York Times reporter David Rohde was kidnapped in 2008 while trying to make contact with a Taliban commander. Rohde and an Afghan colleague escaped in June 2009 after seven months in captivity, most spent in Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Samer Gul, chief of Logar's Charkh district, said the two sailors, in a four-wheel drive armored SUV, were seen Friday by a guard working for the district chief's office. The guard tried to flag down the vehicle, carrying a driver and a passenger, but it kept going, Gul said.

"They stopped in the main bazaar of Charkh district. The Taliban saw them in the bazaar," Gul said. "They didn't touch them in the bazaar, but notified other Taliban that a four-wheel vehicle was coming their way."

The second group of Taliban tried to stop the vehicle, but when it didn't, insurgents opened fire and the occupants in the vehicle shot back, he said. The NATO official confirmed that the vehicle had been shot up.

Gul said there is a well-paved road that leads into the Taliban area and suggested the Americans may have mistaken that for the main highway - which is much older and more dilapidated.

Wali, the deputy head of the governing council in Logar, insisted the Taliban did not plan the incident. Initially, the insurgents didn't know if they should claim responsibility or not, he said.

"The Taliban were just joking around with each other and they suddenly saw a big armored vehicle coming toward them," he said. "They thought it might be a trick - that if it got too close, there might be an airstrike against them - so they opened fire."

Din Mohammed Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar, said the governor's office was upset because the two Americans left their base without notifying Afghan security forces in Logar, which is the normal protocol. He called their presence in Logar an "abnormal situation."

The international force quickly launched a massive search for the sailors, setting up checkpoints and distributing hundreds of fliers, with reprinted photos of the two missing sailors. The fliers offered a $20,000 reward for information about their whereabouts.

The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the missing sailors for more than 48 hours after the ambush. A message posted on their website late Sunday claimed one American service member had been kidnapped in Logar and another was killed in a shootout.

On Thursday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that the Taliban, on Tuesday, left the "body of a dead American soldier for the U.S. forces" to recover.

U.S. officials did not provide details about how either sailor might have died. Darwesh, the provincial spokesman, said Newlove was shot once in the head and twice in the torso.

Mohammad Rahim Amin, local government chief in Baraki Barak, said villagers in the district called to report the body of a foreigner, clad in a uniform, in the river. He said coalition forces recovered it about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. He speculated the body could have floated downstream because the river was swollen by rain Tuesday night.

Amin said in recent days, security tightened around the Taliban, who were under pressure from Afghan forces, intelligence officials and coalition troops converging on the area in a massive search for the missing service member.

"It makes sense that the Taliban had nowhere to go, so they killed him," Amin said, referring to Newlove.

Newlove joined the Navy in March 2004, completed his duty and joined the reserve in December 2008. He was called back to duty and was in Afghanistan by December 2009. He was trained as a culinary specialist but it was unclear whether he was working at that job in Kabul.

McNeley joined the Navy in 2001 and deployed to Afghanistan last year. He was classified as a hull technician. The job entails skilled metal work to maintain ships.


Raging Russian fires destroy homes, people flee

MOSCOW (AP) - Raging forest fires encircled a southern Russian city and tore through provincial villages Thursday, forcing mass evacuations as Moscow suffered through a record, weeks-long heat wave and smog cloud caused by peat-bog fires.

Some 212,506 acres (86,000 hectares) were burning nationwide, and flames all but encircled the city of Voronezh, 300 miles southeast of Moscow. Forest fires on Moscow's outskirts reached the city's western fringe, in the Krylatskoye district, but were extinguished toward nightfall.

State television pictures showed the evacuation by ambulance of a Voronezh city hospital. Channel One said more than 800 patients were transferred to other facilities as flames approached the city's outskirts and thick smoke lowered visibility. Hundreds of children were evacuated from at least seven summer camps, according to the regional Emergencies Ministry website.

Distraught locals were shown next to their burning homes, with one elderly man peering into the camera and asking "Where are we to live now?" Over his head, plumes of thick black smoke sailed toward the city center. There, the few locals on the streets were shown holding handkerchiefs to their mouths, and stooping to cough.

Hundreds of homes in surrounding villages burned to the ground, the ministry said. The Interfax news agency reported that the 340 homes were destroyed in a village near Nizhny Novgorod, around 250 miles east of Moscow.

There were no reports of casualties.

Hot summers are usual even in Russia's more northern climes, where temperatures routinely reach the mid-80s. But Moscow on Thursday broke its all-time temperature record for the second time in a week.

The mercury hit 100 (37.8 Celsius) on Thursday, beating by a fraction a record set on Monday, the country's news agencies reported.

Muscovites have been urged to skip work and stay indoors due to the heat and potentially dangerous smog from peat bog fires outside the city, as the third week of a protracted heat wave approached.

While the heat, which is relatively mild for the United States but highly unusual in Northern Europe, was expected to ease in the coming days, the smog from the peat bogs could be around for weeks, officials have said.

The Moscow region has thousands of acres of peat bogs - wetlands full of decayed plant matter. When they are drained for agriculture and other purposes, they can become a fire hazard.

When moisture is especially low, such as during heat waves, the peat, which is high in carbon, is higly flammable and can ignite and smolder underground and give off dangerous fumes.

Environmentalists said smog that blanketed Moscow in 2002 killed hundreds of people.


I wonder how the permafrost is doing up there?

Al-Qaida plants flag, burns bodies in Iraq attack

BAGHDAD (AP) - Militants flew an al-Qaida flag over a Baghdad neighborhood Thursday after killing 16 security officials and burning some of their bodies in a brazen afternoon attack that served as a grim reminder of continued insurgent strength in Iraq's capital.

It was the bloodiest attack in a day that included the deaths of 23 Iraqi soldiers, policemen and other security forces across the country who were targeted by shootings and roadside bombs.

The mayhem serves as a stark warning that insurgents are trying to make a comeback three months after their two top leaders were killed in an airstrike on their safehouse, and as the U.S. military presence decreases day by day.

The complex attack began when militants struck a checkpoint in the largely Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah, once a stronghold of insurgents that in recent years has become more peaceful. Then the militants set it on fire, burning several of the soldiers' bodies, according to an army officer who was on patrol in the neighborhood. Minutes later, attackers detonated three roadside bombs nearby.

Hospital, police and military officials all confirmed the death toll.

A large pool of blood and what appeared to be char marks could be seen on the ground near an Iraqi army truck. Authorities immediately sealed off the area. Police and army officials said between 16 and 20 assailants took part in the highly orchestrated attack; all appeared to have escaped.

A day before the Azamiyah attack, Vice President Joe Biden predicted there would not be an extreme outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq as all but 50,000 U.S. forces leave the country at the end of August. He said the American troops left behind would be more than enough to help Iraqi forces maintain security.

"I can't guarantee anything, but I'm willing to bet everything that there will be no such explosion," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show. He was speaking from Ft. Drum in upstate New York where he and his wife were welcoming troops home.

Still, the Obama administration is keeping a wary eye on Iraq's security. White House officials said Biden is sending two of his top national security advisers to Baghdad this weekend to help push along Iraq's stalled political process in a sign of impatience and concern that sectarian tensions could escalate as the Americans forces withdraw.

It has been more than four months since Iraq's March 7 election, with little indication that a government can be formed before the Muslim holiday of Ramadan begins in mid-August and brings a halt to business in much of the Middle East.

As politicians bicker, Iraqis point to such violent attacks as Thursday's as a clear indication that the terror groups are trying to use the political instability to regroup.

Officials in Azamiyah said the provocative flag-planting and bold attack are part of an attempt by the terror group to once again infiltrate the Sunni neighborhood.

"Al-Qaida is trying their best to return to Iraq or to Azamiyah because they have no existence here now," said a member of the Azamiyah provincial council, Haitham al-Azami. "Al-Qaida, by this act intends to pretend that they have an existence and to show their muscles."

The daylight attack was the boldest move by militants since their commando-style assault on the central bank in June that left 26 people dead during morning rush hour. Suicide bombings, roadside bombs and nighttime assassinations have tended to be their pattern of violence.

The Azamiyah blast was the deadliest of a series of attacks around the country, aiming to kill and maim members of Iraq's security forces who are increasingly taking over security from Americans.

Earlier, a suicide bomber drove a minibus into the main gate of an Iraqi army base near Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad, killing four soldiers, said police and hospital officials.

In the western city of Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, two roadside bombs targeting Iraqi army patrols killed two soldiers, police and hospital officials in the city said.

In the northern city of Mosul, a bomb attached to a police vehicle killed one policeman and injured two others, a police official said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The attacks underline the fact that militant groups can still strike with lethal force across Iraq, despite an improvement in the security situation over the last three years.

Also Thursday, an al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for a bombing earlier this week that targeted the Baghdad offices of a pan-Arab television station killing six people, describing it as a victory against a "corrupt channel."

The Arabic-language news channel Al-Arabiya is one of the most popular in the Middle East but is perceived by insurgents as being pro-Western.

"We take responsibility for targeting this corrupt channel, and we will not hesitate to hit any media office and chase its staffers if they insist on being a tool of war against almighty God and his prophet," the announcement said.


The O administrations greatest success...

Computer Evidence Ties Leaks to Soldier

Investigators have found concrete evidence on computers used by Pfc. Bradley Manning that link him with the leak of classified Afghanistan war reports, a U.S. defense official said.

The disclosure came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged Thursday to "aggressively investigate the leak" and find ways to prevent further breaches, and told reporters that he had invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist the probe.
Defense officials said the FBI was investigating whether civilians aided Pfc. Manning in providing the information to WikiLeaks, a Web-based group that this week released 76,000 secret reports from Afghanistan.

Pfc. Manning already was charged by the military in July with illegally taking secret State Department files and disseminating a classified video, which defense officials said was the one released by WikiLeaks showing a U.S. military helicopter firing on a group of people in Baghdad. Two Reuters journalists and seven others were killed in the 2007 incident.

PM Report: Gates Says Leaks May Cause Huge Damage
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Afghan leaks could cause extensive damage to the allied mission. Meanwhile, investigators have found evidence linking Pfc. Bradley Manning to the leaks, according to a defense official. Julian Barnes discusses. Also, Aaron Zitner discusses developments in the probe of Rep. Charles Rangel.

Friends and acquaintances of Pfc. Manning's in Oklahoma said they were interviewed by Army and State Department investigators last month, who asked whether they had received email or packages from Pfc. Manning.

The 22-year-old private worked in intelligence operations in Baghdad. He was supposed to be examining intelligence relevant to Iraq, but defense officials said Pfc. Manning used his "Top Secret/SCI" clearance to tap into documents around the world.

A search of the computers yielded evidence he had downloaded the Afghanistan war logs, the defense official said. It isn't clear precisely what that evidence is. Investigators combing through Pfc. Manning's computers also found other classified material that has not been made public, the same official said.

Pfc. Manning's military counsel didn't return a request for comment.

The release of the documents, Mr. Gates said, potentially harmed U.S. relations with Pakistan and other countries, and put in danger Afghans who had cooperated with the U.S. Defense officials are taking steps to figure if Afghans mentioned in the documents may now require help. "That is one of the worst aspects of this: will people trust us?" Mr. Gates said.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said WikiLeaks's founder Julian Assange would be responsible for any harm that came from the document release. "Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his sources are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier, or that of an Afghan family."

Childhood friends and acquaintances of Pfc. Manning describe him as smart, interested in current affairs, proficient with computers and not shy about sharing his opinions, which were often at odds with those around him in his hometown of Crescent, Okla. (pop. 1,281.)

Pfc. Manning believed in the theory of evolution, for example, and was intolerant of those who disputed it due to traditional religious views, associates said.

"His views were very different from everyone else's on the world and government, and maybe part of him wanted to take things into his own hands," said Chera Moore, 23, a Crescent classmate from kindergarten on.

Another longtime friend, Jordan Davis, 23, said Pfc. Manning's small size and outspokenness sometimes got him into trouble as a youth, and he was bullied by bigger kids. "I think the difference is that what made him angry was different than what made others angry," said Mr. Davis, who said he had been interviewed by investigators.

Though he earned average grades in school, Pfc. Manning seemed more interested in national and global affairs than his peers, according to associates.

"He was probably one of the more politically aware kids at that time, and he supported the U.S.," said Mark Radford, the editor of the weekly Crescent Courier newspaper, who once chaperoned Pfc. Manning and his class on a Washington trip. Mr. Radford also said he was interviewed by investigators.

Pfc. Manning's mother and father separated before he entered high school. Pfc. Manning's mother, Susan, a native of Wales, moved with him to a small house in Crescent for about a year and then moved to Wales with her son. She couldn't be reached for comment.

After returning to Oklahoma in 2005, Pfc. Manning briefly worked for an Internet firm in Oklahoma City, then moved to Tulsa, where he held a variety of jobs, including at a pizza parlor and a guitar store, according to Mr. Davis, who had also briefly moved to Tulsa.

Pfc. Manning eventually moved to Potomac, Md., to live with an aunt, and then in 2007 enlisted in the military.

When Mr. Davis, the childhood friend, last saw Pfc. Manning about nine months ago, Mr. Davis said he could sense a change in his friend, who he said "wasn't having an easy time" in the military and "felt he wasn't being treated fairly."

Pfc. Manning was demoted from specialist to private first class while in Iraq for an incident unrelated to the leak, a defense official said.

Crescent, Okla., is perhaps best known as part of the setting for the 1983 film "Silkwood" about a whistleblower who was killed in a suspicious car accident after exposing wrongdoing at a nearby plutonium plant. Ms. Moore said her class watched the film, but didn't know if Pfc. Manning was ever inspired by it.

"If he did it, it was not to make money or be famous," Mr. Davis said. "He would only do something like this if he thought it was right."


The internets wars first martyr

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Iraq political crisis deepens

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament indefinitely postponed on Tuesday what would have been only its second session since March elections, extending a deadlock that has prevented formation of a new government.

The delay is the latest setback in a nearly five-month process, and comes barely more than a month before US combat troops are set to withdraw from Iraq.

“We are postponing the session until further notice because the political entities failed to reach any agreement,” Fuad Massum, who as the oldest member of parliament holds the post of caretaker speaker, told a news conference.

“We held a meeting this morning with the heads of the parliamentary blocs and we agreed to give more time to political entities to reach agreement regarding the selection of a speaker and his two deputies.”

He added: “The representatives of the political entities insisted on calling the current government a caretaker administration.”

Tuesday’s session was to have been only the second since March 7 parliamentary elections. The first, on June 14, was adjourned after only 20 minutes.

The selection of a new speaker and president — ahead of the naming of a new premier — is likely to be part of a grand bargain among Iraq’s competing political blocs, further complicating the formation of a new government.

Iraq’s four main political groups, none of which has the 163 seats required for a parliamentary majority to form a government on their own, have been unable to hammer out a coalition deal since the nationwide vote.

The political vacuum continues to dog Iraq only around a month before US combat troops are due to leave the country at the end of August.

“It is a disappointing decision,” said Salim al-Juburi, an MP with the Sunni Tawafuq party.

“Each day that passes means the suffering is increasing, the security situation is aggravating, and we are moving far from the interests of the people.”

However, Kurdish MP Saeed Rasul said the postponement was “positive,” arguing it was “better than entering the parliament hall without having reached an agreement.”

In a statement following confirmation of the postponement, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh confirmed that the government had not “signed any strategic accords or treaties, nor made any special nominations, and has only distributed funds that have been approved by parliament.”

US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence as negotiations on forming a coalition drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staffs, arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to review plans for the American troop drawdown and efforts to form a governing coalition.

“We don’t see anything right now that will affect the transition and the continued troop drawdown,” he told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

When asked about the importance of a new government forming, he replied: “Certainly sooner is better in terms of government formation.”

His visit follows comments on Thursday from US President Barack Obama calling on Iraqi political parties to form a government “without delay,” and less than a month after Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq to urge politicians to put aside personal ambitions and form a government.

Former premier Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc finished first in the election with 91 seats, followed closely by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance with 89.

The Iraqi National Alliance, a group of Shiite religious parties, finished third with 70 seats.

Khaleej Times

EXCLUSIVE: DOJ Accused of Stalling on MOVE Act for Voters in Military

The Department of Justice is ignoring a new law aimed at protecting the right of American soldiers to vote, according to two former DOJ attorneys who say states are being encouraged to use waivers to bypass the new federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

The MOVE Act, enacted last October, ensures that servicemen and women serving overseas have ample time to get in their absentee ballots. The result of the DOJ's alleged inaction in enforcing the act, say Eric Eversole and J. Christian Adams — both former litigation attorneys for the DOJ’s Voting Section — could be that thousands of soldiers' ballots will arrive too late to be counted.

"It is an absolute shame that the section appears to be spending more time finding ways to avoid the MOVE Act, rather than finding ways to ensure that military voters will have their votes counted," said Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection Project, a new organization devoted to ensuring military voting rights. "The Voting Section seems to have forgotten that it has an obligation to enforce federal law, not to find and raise arguments for states to avoid these laws."

Adams, a conservative blogger ( who gained national attention when he testified against his former employer after it dropped its case against the New Black Panther Party, called the DOJ’s handling of the MOVE Act akin to “keystone cops enforcement.”

“I do know that they have adopted positions or attempted to adopt positions to waivers that prove they aren’t interested in aggressively enforcing the law,” Adams told “They shouldn’t be going to meeting with state election officials and telling them they don’t like to litigate cases and telling them that the waiver requirements are ambiguous.”

The MOVE act requires states to send absentee ballots to overseas military troops 45 days before an election, but a state can apply for a waiver if it can prove a specific "undue hardship" in enforcing it.

Sen. John Cornyn,R-Texas – who co-sponsored MOVE – wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on July 26 saying he is concerned that the Department of Justice is allowing states to opt out of the new law. Click here to read the letter.

“Military voters have been disenfranchised for decades, and last year Congress acted," Cornyn said in a statement to "But according to recent information, the Department of Justice has expressed reluctance to protect the civil rights of military voters under the new law. All our men and women in uniform deserve a chance to vote this November, and the Obama administration bears responsibility for ensuring that they have it.

“For far too long in this country, we have failed to adequately protect the right of our troops and their families to participate in our democratic process. The MOVE Act was supposed to end this sad history. The right to participate in democratic elections is fundamental to the American experience.”

In his letter to Holder, Cornyn cites minutes from the 2010 winter meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), during which Rebecca Wertz, deputy chief of the DOJ's voting section, told state election officials that the legislative language regarding waivers is not completely clear. Wertz described the provisions of the law as “fairly general” and “somewhat of an open question as to what type of information” a state needs to submit in order to for their waiver application to be granted. She said it was also unclear whether waivers are for one election only, or if they apply to future elections.

According to the meeting's minutes, obtained by, Wertz also said “that the DOJ is working to find effective ways to disseminate any information guidance that can help states with different questions about MOVE interpretation. She invited questions and dialogue from states, and said that litigation is always the last resort.”

Cornyn wrote, “If these are the positions of the DOJ, then they fly in the face of the clear statutory language, undermine the provisions in question, and jeopardize the voting rights of our men and women in uniform.”

He said the language of the law makes it clear that there is no ambiguity when it comes to states' eligibility for being granted a waiver, and that the statute does not leave room for the Justice Department to decide whether to enforce its requirements.

“If a state is not in compliance with the statute, there is little room for “dialogue” or negotiation, and the Voting Section should take immediate steps to enforce the law and safeguard military and overseas voting rights, including pursuing litigation whenever necessary,” Cornyn wrote. “The comments by the DOJ official, as reported in the NASS minutes, appear to ignore Congress’ clear legislative language and could facilitate the disenfranchisement of our men and women in uniform.”

Cornyn, who discussed Eversole’s allegations at a meeting with Defense Department officials last week, called for Holder to immediately provide guidelines to state election officials; to ensure that states are required to abide by the law; and to provide Cornyn himself with a state-by-state breakdown of which states have already applied for waivers and which are expected to be in noncompliance with MOVE in the November midterm election. He also called for full transparency in the waiver process.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Xochitl Hinojosa, declined to comment, other than to say Cornyn’s letter is being reviewed. obtained waiver applications submitted by Washington and Hawaii.

Defense Department spokeswoman Major April Cunningham told that New York, Delaware, Maryland, Alaska and Virgin Islands had also applied for waivers. (Cornyn's co-sponsor for the MOVE Act was New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat.)

"All waivers are currently under review. The Defense Department must respond, under the law, after consultation with the Department of Justice, no later than 65 days before the election, which is August 29, 2010," said Robert Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

“The voting section has taken this haphazard approach to enforcing military voting law,” said Eversole. “The voting section is asserting itself into statute to make a statute that’s not ambiguous, ambiguous. Can you imagine any other agency giving prospective defendants advice like this?”

“Everybody in Washington knows it doesn’t matter how good the law is; it comes down to who’s enforcing it,” said Adams. “This stuff should be transparent and online for the citizens of these states to comment on, the fact that it's being done behind closed doors tells you everything you need to know about how it will affect the voters.”

Adams and Eversole separately pointed out that the DOJ’s website lacks any mention of the MOVE Act. In fact, the section on military voting includes the outdated and nonbinding 30-day recommendation for sending out ballots. There is no mention of the the current 45-day mandate.

But the DOJ's online voting section includes a detailed section devoted to helping felons learn how get their voting rights back.

“It is just offensive to most Americans that we can send soldiers to the front lines but they can't vote,” said Eversole. “This is an issue that tugs at the heartstrings of America and people can’t understand why we can’t get that right. This is something we have to get right. We should be fighting as hard for their rights as they’re fighting for ours.”

Fox News

Ariel Sigler Amaya arrives in Miami

"It was an emotional and inspirational moment at Miami International Airport this afternoon when Cuban dissident, patriot, and hero Ariel Sigler Amaya was wheeled into a special area prepared for his arrival at Terminal J.

George and I arrived at Terminal J about an hour before Sigler Amaya made his entrance with his family and friends by his side. On the way into the airport the news vans were already set up with their satellite dishes extended and the news helicopters hovered above. It seemed like every television station and radio station in Miami was set up inside the small terminal to record his arrival, as well as international news crews. I had expected that a good number of people were going to show up to welcome him to the land of freedom, but what started as a small group when we first arrived swelled into a crowd well over a hundred people by the time Ariel Sigler Amaya appeared."
Babalu Blog

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

France declares war against al-Qaida

PARIS (AP) - France has declared war on al-Qaida, and matched its fighting words with a first attack on a base camp of the terror network's North African branch, after the terror network killed a French aid worker it took hostage in April.

The declaration and attack marked a shift in strategy for France, usually discrete about its behind-the-scenes battle against terrorism.

"We are at war with al-Qaida," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday, a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the death of 78-year-old hostage Michel Germaneau.

The humanitarian worker had been abducted April 20 or 22 in Niger by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and was later taken to Mali, officials said.

The killers will "not go unpunished," Sarkozy said in unusually strong language, given France's habit of employing quiet cooperation with its regional allies - Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria - in which the al-Qaida franchise was spawned amid an Islamist insurgency.

The Salafist Group for Call and Combat formally merged with al-Qaida in 2006 and spread through the Sahel region - parts of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

Officials suggest France will activate accords with these countries to stop the terrorists in their tracks.

"It's a universal threat that concerns the entire world ... not just France or the West," Defense Minister Herve Morin said Tuesday on France-2 television. "We will support local authorities so these assassins and (their) commanders are tracked, judged and taken before justice and punished. And, yes, we will help them."

Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger in April opened a joint military headquarters deep in the desert to respond to threats from traffickers and the al-Qaida offshoot. U.S. Special Forces have helped the four nations train troops in recent years.

The United States said it would help the French "in any way that we can" to bring those who killed Germaneau to justice, according to U.S. State Dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley.

"There is no religion that sanctions what can only be described as cold-blooded murder," Crowley said Tuesday.

Fillon refused to say how France would act. "But we will," he said in an interview with Europe 1 radio.

And perhaps it already has. On Thursday, the French backed Mauritanian forces in attacking an al-Qaida camp on the border with Mali, killing at least six suspected terrorists. It is the first time France is known to have attacked an al-Qaida base.

France said it was a last-ditch effort to save its citizen, while Mauritania said it was trying to stop an imminent attack by fighters gathering at the base.

For the French, the move may have backfired. The al-Qaida group said in an audio message broadcast Sunday that it had killed Germaneau in retaliation for the raid. However, French officials suggested, however, that the hostage, who had a heart problem, may already have been dead. Even now, "We have no proof of life or death," Morin said.

"We can expect an increase in the French riposte," said Antoine Sfeir, an expert on Islamist terrorists who has traveled in the region.

An estimated 400-500 such fighters are thought to roam the Sahel region, a desert expanse as large as the European Union.

Despite meager numbers, the region's al-Qaida fighters pose a clear threat. Among the more recent victims, a British captive was beheaded last year and two Spanish aid workers were taken hostage in Mauritania in November. Spain is working to free them. Mauritanian soldiers also have fallen in numerous attacks.

The head of the French Institute of Strategic Analysis suggested the French government's rhetoric was normal.

"It's important to make that kind of announcement," Francois Gere said. "I think it's made of the same stuff" as former U.S. President George W. Bush's tough line on al-Qaida.

But "a government has to make clear it must respond strongly" while maintaining the discretion needed to ensure cooperation, Gere said. In the past France has been cautious because those governments don't want the appearance of interference from the West, he said.

Spain has maintained a low profile as videos by the al-Qaida franchise regularly call for the conquest of "al-Andalus" - a reference to the period of Muslim rule of much of Spain in medieval times.


Maybe if they would have helped more in Iraq and Afghanistan last 10 years we would not be here today..

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hariri calls for calm after Nasrallah speech

Prime Minister Saad Hariri called on Saturday for "calm" in Lebanon in the face of expectations that a UN-backed court may implicate members of the powerful Hezbollah group in the 2005 murder of his father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

His comments came two days after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah revealed that he expected rogue members of his Shiite party to be indicted for Rafiq Hariri's assassination five years ago.

"There are those who fear or even hope that the (Hariri) murder case will unleash a Lebanese crisis or confessional strife," the prime minister said in a speech to members of his Future Movement.

"There are attempts... to organize campaigns aimed at sowing confusion and concern in the minds of the Lebanese people," Hariri said.

"There is no need for this fear... We call for calm," he added.

The UN tribunal's president, Antonio Cassese, said earlier this year he expects an indictment in the case between September and December, sparking fears in already tense Lebanon of a repeat of the violence that brought the country close to a new civil war in 2008.

On Thursday, the Hezbollah chief told a news conference via video link that Hariri told him some members of the Shiite movement would be indicted by the Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the murder.

"Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited me ... (and) he said: 'Sayyed, in this month or that month there will be an indictment which accuses members in Hezbollah, undisciplined members which the group has no relations with'," Nasrallah said, speaking by video link to a news conference in Beirut.

"That's where things seem to be heading," he said, adding that the impending decision by the UN-backed court had pushed Lebanon into a "very sensitive phase."

Hariri did not confirm or deny Nasrallah's accounts of their conversation.

But MPs from the prime minister's bloc denied that he had told Nasrallah Hezbollah members would be indicted.

"Hariri did not inform Nasrallah about the indictment sheet simply because he is not privy to its contents," MP Hadi Hbeich said in a radio interview on Friday.

MP Ammar Houri confirmed that Hariri and Nasrallah had met in May but said they had discussed "only press reports" suggesting that the UN-back court could link Hezbollah to Rafiq Hariri's murder.

Analysts have warned that Nasrallah's suprise announcement could trigger new violence in Lebanon like that in May 22D8 in which more than 12D people were killed when Hezbollah staged a spectacular takeover of mainly Sunni west Beirut following a crackdown on the party.

Oussama Safa, who heads the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, said the country had a "50-50 chance" of sliding back into chaos.

Al Arabiya

Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

While current and former American officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.

This month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in one of the frequent visits by American officials to Islamabad, announced $500 million in assistance and called the United States and Pakistan “partners joined in common cause.”

The reports suggest, however, that the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency runs what American officials have long suspected is a double game — appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.

Behind the scenes, both Bush and Obama administration officials as well as top American commanders have confronted top Pakistani military officers with accusations of ISI complicity in attacks in Afghanistan, and even presented top Pakistani officials with lists of ISI and military operatives believed to be working with militants.

Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said that Pakistan had been an important ally in the battle against militant groups, and that Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officials had worked alongside the United States to capture or kill Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Still, he said that the “status quo is not acceptable,” and that the havens for militants in Pakistan “pose an intolerable threat” that Pakistan must do more to address.

“The Pakistani government — and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services — must continue their strategic shift against violent extremist groups within their borders,” he said. American military support to Pakistan would continue, he said.

Several Congressional officials said that despite repeated requests over the years for information about Pakistani support for militant groups, they usually receive vague and inconclusive briefings from the Pentagon and C.I.A.

Nonetheless, senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan this month and said he and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, confronted Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, yet again over the allegations.

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities.”

The man the United States has depended on for cooperation in fighting the militants and who holds most power in Pakistan, the head of the army, Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, ran the ISI from 2004 to 2007, a period from which many of the reports are drawn. American officials have frequently praised General Kayani for what they say are his efforts to purge the military of officers with ties to militants.

American officials have described Pakistan’s spy service as a rigidly hierarchical organization that has little tolerance for “rogue” activity. But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s “S Wing” — which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India — broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.

American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s Embassy in Kabul.

From the current trove, one report shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack.

Another, dated August 2008, identifies a colonel in the ISI plotting with a Taliban official to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. The report says there was no information about how or when this would be carried out. The account could not be verified.

General Linked to Militants

Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, a time when Pakistani spies and the C.I.A. joined forces to run guns and money to Afghan militias who were battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. After the fighting stopped, he maintained his contacts with the former mujahedeen, who would eventually transform themselves into the Taliban.

And more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. The documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.

For example, one intelligence report describes him meeting with a group of militants in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, in January 2009. There, he met with three senior Afghan insurgent commanders and three “older” Arab men, presumably representatives of Al Qaeda, who the report suggests were important “because they had a large security contingent with them.”

The gathering was designed to hatch a plan to avenge the death of “Zamarai,” the nom de guerre of Osama al-Kini, who had been killed days earlier by a C.I.A. drone attack. Mr. Kini had directed Qaeda operations in Pakistan and had spearheaded some of the group’s most devastating attacks.

The plot hatched in Wana that day, according to the report, involved driving a dark blue Mazda truck rigged with explosives from South Waziristan to Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, a route well known to be used by the insurgents to move weapons, suicide bombers and fighters from Pakistan.

In a show of strength, the Taliban leaders approved a plan to send 50 Arab and 50 Waziri fighters to Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, the report said.

General Gul urged the Taliban commanders to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning “a blind eye” to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was unclear whether the attack was ever executed.

The United States has pushed the United Nations to put General Gul on a list of international terrorists, and top American officials said they believed he was an important link between active-duty Pakistani officers and militant groups.

General Gul, who says he is retired and lives on his pension, dismissed the allegations as “absolute nonsense,” speaking by telephone from his home in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters. “I have had no hand in it.” He added, “American intelligence is pulling cotton wool over your eyes.”

Senior Pakistani officials consistently deny that General Gul still works at the ISI’s behest, though several years ago, after mounting American complaints, Pakistan’s president at the time, Pervez Musharraf, was forced publicly to acknowledge the possibility that former ISI officials were assisting the Afghan insurgency. Despite his denials, General Gul keeps close ties to his former employers. When a reporter visited General Gul this spring for an interview at his home, the former spy master canceled the appointment. According to his son, he had to attend meetings at army headquarters.

Suicide Bomber Network

The reports also chronicle efforts by ISI officers to run the networks of suicide bombers that emerged as a sudden, terrible force in Afghanistan in 2006.

The detailed reports indicate that American officials had a relatively clear understanding of how the suicide networks presumably functioned, even if some of the threats did not materialize. It is impossible to know why the attacks never came off — either they were thwarted, the attackers shifted targets, or the reports were deliberately planted as Taliban disinformation.

One report, from Dec. 18, 2006, describes a cyclical process to develop the suicide bombers. First, the suicide attacker is recruited and trained in Pakistan. Then, reconnaissance and operational planning gets under way, including scouting to find a place for “hosting” the suicide bomber near the target before carrying out the attack. The network, it says, receives help from the Afghan police and the Ministry of Interior.

In many cases, the reports are complete with names and ages of bombers, as well as license plate numbers, but the Americans gathering the intelligence struggle to accurately portray many other details, introducing sometimes comical renderings of places and Taliban commanders.

In one case, a report rated by the American military as credible states that a gray Toyota Corolla had been loaded with explosives between the Afghan border and Landik Hotel, in Pakistan, apparently a mangled reference to Landi Kotal, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The target of the plot, however, is a real hotel in downtown Kabul, the Ariana.

“It is likely that ISI may be involved as supporter of this attack,” reads a comment in the report.

Several of the reports describe current and former ISI operatives, including General Gul, visiting madrasas near the city of Peshawar, a gateway to the tribal areas, to recruit new fodder for suicide bombings.

One report, labeled a “real threat warning” because of its detail and the reliability of its source, described how commanders of Mr. Hekmatyar’s insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, ordered the delivery of a suicide bomber from the Hashimiye madrasa, run by Afghans.

The boy was to be used in an attack on American or NATO vehicles in Kabul during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifices that opened Dec. 31, 2006. According to the report, the boy was taken to the Afghan city of Jalalabad to buy a car for the bombing, and was later brought to Kabul. It was unclear whether the attack took place.

The documents indicate that these types of activities continued throughout last year. From July to October 2009, nine threat reports detailed movements by suicide bombers from Pakistan into populated areas of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, Kunduz and Kabul.

Some of the bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections, held last August. In other instances, American intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

Sometimes the intelligence documents twin seemingly credible detail with plots that seem fantastical or utterly implausible assertions. For instance, one report describes an ISI plan to use a remote-controlled bomb disguised as a golden Koran to assassinate Afghan government officials. Another report documents an alleged plot by the ISI and Taliban to ship poisoned alcoholic beverages to Afghanistan to kill American troops.

But the reports also charge that the ISI directly helped organize Taliban offensives at key junctures of the war. On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities. At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border.

The planned offensive would be carried out primarily by Arabs and Pakistanis, the report said, and a Taliban commander, “Akhtar Mansoor,” warned that the men should be prepared for heavy losses. “The foreigners agreed to this operation and have assembled 20 4x4 trucks to carry the fighters into areas in question,” it said.

While the specifics about the foreign fighters and the ISI are difficult to verify, the Taliban did indeed mount an offensive to seize control in Maruf in 2006.

Afghan government officials and Taliban fighters have widely acknowledged that the offensive was led by the Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then the Taliban shadow governor of Kandahar.

Mullah Mansour tried to claw out a base for himself inside Afghanistan, but just as the report quotes him predicting, the Taliban suffered heavy losses and eventually pulled back.

Another report goes on to describe detailed plans for a large-scale assault, timed for September 2007, aimed at the American forward operating base in Managi, in Kunar Province.

“It will be a five-pronged attack consisting of 83-millimeter artillery, rockets, foot soldiers, and multiple suicide bombers,” it says.

It is not clear that the attack ever came off, but its planning foreshadowed another, seminal attack that came months later, in July 2008. At that time, about 200 Taliban insurgents nearly overran an American base in Wanat, in Nuristan, killing nine American soldiers. For the Americans, it was one of the highest single-day tolls of the war.

Tensions With Pakistan

The flood of reports of Pakistani complicity in the insurgency has at times led to barely disguised tensions between American and Pakistani officers on the ground.

Meetings at border outposts set up to develop common strategies to seal the frontier and disrupt Taliban movements reveal deep distrust among the Americans of their Pakistani counterparts.

On Feb. 7, 2007, American officers met with Pakistani troops on a dry riverbed to discuss the borderlands surrounding Afghanistan’s Khost Province.

According to notes from the meeting, the Pakistanis portrayed their soldiers as conducting around-the-clock patrols. Asked if he expected a violent spring, a man identified in the report as Lt. Col. Bilal, the Pakistani officer in charge, said no. His troops were in firm control.

The Americans were incredulous. Their record noted that there had been a 300 percent increase in militant activity in Khost before the meeting.

“This comment alone shows how disconnected this particular group of leadership is from what is going on in reality,” the notes said.

The Pakistanis told the Americans to contact them if they spotted insurgent activity along the border. “I doubt this would do any good,” the American author of the report wrote, “because PAKMIL/ISI is likely involved with the border crossings.” “PAKMIL” refers to the Pakistani military.

A year earlier, the Americans became so frustrated at the increase in roadside bombs in Afghanistan that they hand-delivered folders with names, locations, aerial photographs and map coordinates to help the Pakistani military hunt down the militants the Americans believed were responsible.

Nothing happened, wrote Col. Barry Shapiro, an American military liaison officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, after an Oct. 13, 2006, meeting. “Despite the number of reports and information detailing the concerns,” Colonel Shapiro wrote, “we continue to see no change in the cross-border activity and continue to see little to no initiative along the PAK border” by Pakistan troops. The Pakistani Army “will only react when asked to do so by U.S. forces,” he concluded.


State Dept: We Will Be in Afghanistan for "Many, Many Years"

That July 2011 "exit date" from Afghanistan has always had the phony feel of window-dressing, as confirmed here, which has failed to cloak the massive American build-up of infrastructure in the area that seems less short-term and makeshift than reorienting and permanent.

More proof of the exit fantasy was confirmed yesterday at the State Department. It subsequently showed up in the Indian press but, as far as I can tell, clear missed the US media.

From the Hindustan Times:

Read More »

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Iraqis Take Over Prisons, Top Terrorists "Escape"

#69. Three Stooges! by hawhawjames.

Iraqis Take Over Prisons, Top Terrorists "Escape" (Via The Iconoclast)


BAGHDAD — An outsize ceremonial skeleton key traded hands last week in the official transfer of Camp Cropper, the last jail in Iraq that had been under American control. The Iraqi government was, one American general said, “equipped, prepared and poised to take over.”

But it did not end the dark history of prisons in Iraq over the last seven years: Just five days later, four prisoners, at least three of them said to be high-ranking members in the nation’s most violent insurgent group, escaped. The warden and several guards are nowhere to be found...

It’s Islam, Stupid: Newt Gingrich’s, Others’ Kabuki Dance Hypocrisy on Ground Zero Mosque

By Debbie Schlussel


Memo to Newt & Co: It’s Not the Mosque @ Ground Zero. It’s Islam, Stupid.

Gingrich put out his statement against the mosque, this week. It is intellectually dishonest. He repeatedly talks about “Islamists,” but won’t bring himself to mention Islam, itself–not even once in his statement. Sorry, but the men who brought down the planes on 9/11 were not “Islamists.” They were Muslims. “Islamists” is a phony term invented by those who refuse to attack Islam. It’s a fiction. And if the 9/11 hijackers were “Islamists”–not Muslims–then why be against a mosque at the site? After all, the mosque is not “Islamist.” It’s Muslim (or Islamic). Yes, those who belong to it are extremists. But they are no more extreme than those who run almost every single mosque in America. Islam is extreme. It’s not simply that there is this extremist group within it, called “Islamists.” That’s a fraud, simply denial. Read more...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saudi man chains his son in the basement for six years because he is 'possessed by an evil female genie'

A Saudi man has been chained in a basement apartment for more than six years because his father believes he is possessed by an evil female genie.

'When he has fits he has convulsions and his entire body twists and his eyes become completely white,' said the father of the 29-year-old man who has been identified only as Turki.

'Then the voice of a woman can be heard coming from him.'

Evil spirits: Turki, 29, lies chained on the bed in the basement apartment where he has been for six years after being 'possessed by a genie'

Evil spirits: Turki, 29, lies chained on the bed in the basement apartment where he has been for six years after being 'possessed by a genie'

Read More at The Daily Mail

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Auschwitz survivor recalls his escape

Auschwitz survivor Jerzy Bielecki shows photos of himself... Alik Keplicz / AP

Auschwitz survivor Jerzy Bielecki shows photos of himself in 1944 and his Jewish girlfriend, Cyla Cybulska, in 1945, whom he rescued from the camp.

(07-21) 04:00 PDT Nowy Targ, Poland --

With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot.

The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his side.

His knees buckling with fear, he tried to keep a stern bearing on the long stretch of gravel to the sentry post.

The German guard frowned at his forged pass and eyed the two for a period that seemed like an eternity - then uttered the miraculous words: "Ja, danke" - yes, thank you - and let Jerzy and Cyla out of the death camp and into freedom.

It was a common saying among Auschwitz inmates that the only way out was through the crematorium chimneys. These were among the few ever to escape through the side door.

The 23-year-old Bielecki used his relatively privileged position as a German-speaking Catholic Pole to orchestrate the daring rescue of his Jewish girlfriend who was doomed to die.


Diana West: Monster Intelligence Machine Still Won't Protect Us From the Real Threat

Monster Intelligence Machine Still Won't Protect Us From the Real Threat

In all of these scores and hundreds and thousands of organizations created and boosted and buffed up since 9/11 there is one thing they all forgot.


I will bet my bottom dollar that in all of the hyper-burgeoning bureaucracies there is no single office organized to study, in Pentagon parlance, the "enemy threat doctrine" of jihad, which has, whether it is admitted or not, driven this intelligence boom in the first place. Similarly, I will bet there is no program designed to investigate the historical, canonical goals of jihad movements: namely, the spread of Islamic law (Sharia), and the attendant condition of dhimmitude that Sharia imposes on Islamized and Islam-dominated populations, even as such dhimmitude is an enabler of jihad. Instead, what we see in this frantic, government-led explosion is an Orwellian study in mass denial, a hamster-in-a-cage approach to what was first masked as "terror" and is now disguised as "transnational violent extremists" despite the fact that the threat is precisely and guilelessly presented by perps the world over as Islamic jihad.

Such is life in the politically correct, multiculturally dictated (read: dishonest) world. Read More...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Layla Anwar Fast And Furious

Arab Woman Blues

Credit: Layla Anwar and artist Betool Fekaki

What is there left to say ?

When "covering" the Iraqi elections, I said - If Allawi ever tries to form an alliance with the driller Muqtada Al-Sadr, responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Iraq, alongside other Shiites militias - I will stop blogging on Iraq in any serious way...

Well guess what ? Just as predicted, Allawi is forming an alliance with the chief driller, rapist, torturer of -- Arab Sunnis, Women, Gays, Christians, Palestinians, Sabaeans, Yazidis, and even some Shias... Read More...


Monday, July 19, 2010

A New Pumping Device Brings Hope for Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is recuperating from surgery to implant the kind of mechanical pump now being given to a small but growing number of people with heart failure so severe that they would most likely die within a few months without it.

The pumps are partial artificial hearts known as ventricular assist devices, and they come in various models. Mr. Cheney’s kind is about the size of a D battery and leaves most recipients without a pulse because it pushes blood continuously instead of mimicking the heart’s own pulsatile beat. Most such pulse-less patients feel nothing unusual. But they are urged to wear bracelets or other identifications to alert emergency room doctors as to why they have no pulse.
The pumps are not cures and do not replace the heart. They pose significant risks and are implanted as a last resort either for permanent use or as a bridge to transplant until a donor heart can be found. An estimated five million people in the United States are in various stages of heart failure. Patients in end-stage heart failure are severely short of breath, able to walk only a few yards at a time, or confined to a chair or bed.

As a small number of published studies have shown increasing success with the devices — which are powered by batteries that are about 4-by-6 inches and are connected by a wire that goes through the skin — leaders in the field are trying to increase public and physician awareness that such therapy is available and relatively safe if the patients are carefully chosen. Current belief is that the best time to refer patients for such therapy is before kidney, liver and lung damage develops.

By supplementing the amount of blood pumped through the body, the devices allow many recipients to lead active lives from home. They can bicycle, golf, play tennis, drive cars, shop and generally do what they could before they developed severe heart failure. Patients need to take an anticoagulant, like Coumadin (warfarin) and have blood tests to monitor the amount.

The latest model devices, “though imperfect, are a stupendous advance compared to 36 years ago,” said Dr. O.H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston. Dr. Frazier has been developing and implanting mechanical hearts over that time.

“Still, it is a big operation with risks because we are operating on mortally ill patients,” Dr. Frazier added.

In interviews, he and others not connected with Mr. Cheney’s case said the implants required opening the chest and could be as arduous for a surgeon as risky for a patient, particularly one like Mr. Cheney, 69, who has had earlier open-heart surgery. Mr. Cheney had a quadruple bypass operation in 1988.

Among the risks are bleeding that requires transfusions, infections, strokes and device malfunctions.

The most recently licensed pumps are smaller, quieter, easier to implant, allow quicker recovery time and last longer than earlier models. Recent reports show improvement over the earlier model mechanical hearts that carried a high rate of complications and death.

Nevertheless, said Dr. Allen S. Stewart, who directs the aortic surgery program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, “everyone wants a better device.”

One reason, said Dr. Stuart Katz, who directs heart-failure programs at New York University, is that many pump recipients still have symptoms from their heart failure.

Mr. Cheney has not said whether he intends to live with the device until his death or to sign up as a candidate for a human heart transplant. Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, where a very ill Mr. Cheney with worsening heart failure received his pump earlier this month, performs heart transplants.

Mr. Cheney’s heart has been severely damaged from five heart attacks, starting at age 37, with the most recent in February. Doctors cite him as a model for the benefits of modern cardiac care.

Over the years, Mr. Cheney has had angioplasty to unblock coronary arteries and stents to keep them open; an implanted pacemaker and defibrillator; surgery to repair aneurysms, or ballooning of arteries, behind both knees; and a number of visits to George Washington University Hospital for monitoring and observation, the last in June.

In a statement issued on July 14, Mr. Cheney said that he “was entering a new phase of the disease” with “increasing congestive heart failure” and chose a pump to “enable me to resume an active life.”

Mr. Cheney went to Ivona Fairfax Hospital apparently because George Washington University Hospital does not perform heart transplants or implant VADs. George Washington did not respond to inquiries.

Mr. Cheney received a HeartMate II device, according to a health care worker who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for Mr. Cheney. Thoratec of Pleasanton, Calif., sells the device and would not disclose how many have been implanted in the United States.

After heart transplants were first performed in 1967, they became the only treatment for end-stage heart disease. But with donor hearts in very short supply, and with improved drugs and other therapies allowing more people to live longer with chronic heart failure, the disparity between demand and supply has accelerated the need for researchers to come up with safe and effective mechanical heart replacements.

Over the years, doctors have implanted various kinds of mechanical hearts with definite, though erratic, progress.

The Food and Drug Administration has licensed two ventricular assist devices for both permanent and bridge-to-transplant use — Thoratec Heartmate XVE and Heartmate II. The agency has licensed four additional devices as bridges to transplant: WorldHeart Novacor, Thoratec PVAD, Thoratec IVAD and MicroMed Heartassist V (for pediatric use).

Also, the agency has licensed two total artificial hearts: SynCardia Cardiowest for bridge to transplant and Abiomed Abiocor on a “probable benefit” basis.

The current continuous-flow pumps are modified derivatives of one that Dr. Richard K. Wampler developed in the 1980s. The latest devices contain an impeller, or a rotor, that spins 8,000 to 10,000 times a minute to pump up to 10 liters of blood a minute without causing major damage to red blood cells.

The limited success has proved wrong the many experts who said people could not live without a pulse. The thought was that since the heart had a beat, that beat was needed for blood pressure and circulation. But now doctors believe that continuous-flow devices, which can be smaller and last longer, may function well. Doctors must use a Doppler machine to measure and monitor the blood pressure of such patients because it cannot be measured through standard cuffs. Some have developed high blood pressure that requires drug treatment, said Dr. Frazier, who implanted the first HeartMate II in November 2003.

Dr. Frazier said he had implanted a total of 170 such pumps as of June 1, more than any other surgeon. Of those, 24 were in patients 65 and older and 11 of the 24 were in patients older than 70. The oldest was 76. Nine of the 24 have died, and seven of the nine did not leave the hospital. Six of the 15 survivors received heart transplants. The remaining nine are living with the pump. The longest survivor at his hospital had an implant in his 30s and has lived five and a half years.

Medicare will pay for the pump and for implanting it, which is $150,000 to $200,000, said Dr. Ranjit John, who directs the device program at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

In The European Journal of Heart Failure in May, Dr. Roland Hetzer’s team at the Berlin Heart Institute in Germany reported a study of 60- to 80-year-old recipients showing that the continuous-flow devices have a significantly higher survival rate than the pulsatile devices in such patients.

Over recent years, doctors have significantly advanced the upper age limit for a heart transplant to about 72.

Doctors generally wait at least three months to allow the body to adjust to the new pump and recover from the major surgery before a possible transplant.

Patients and doctors give varying accounts of the quality of life with either a pump or transplant. Some patients prefer transplants. Others have chosen to stay with a pump because they do not like the prospect of taking the immunosuppressive and other drugs that are standard for transplant recipients.

Experts like Dr. Stewart and Dr. Frazier said they were awaiting development of newer and smaller pumps that could fit in the arm and not require chest surgery. They said that while the devices would pump about two liters of blood a minute, about one-fifth the amount current devices do, that would be sufficient to aid a failing heart.


The bionic VP

New powers given to Russia's security agency

MOSCOW (AP) - The upper house of Russia's parliament on Monday passed a bill granting expanded powers to the country's main security agency, a move that critics say echoes the era of the Soviet KGB.

The bill, which now goes to President Dmitry Medvedev to be signed into law, would allow the Federal Security Service to issue warnings to people suspected of preparing to commit crimes against Russia's security.

Human rights and democracy activists say this power could be used to intimidate government opponents and stifle protests.

"This law is targeted against the opposition ... It's a draconian law which is unprecedented in the world and is reminiscent of our repressive past," Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the opposition Solidarity movement, was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.

The security service is the main successor agency to the KGB.

The bill was approved by the upper house by a vote of 121-1. The sole vote against was cast by the house's speaker, Sergei Mironov, who said he had was apprehensive about the measure.

Opposition groups frequently are denied permission to hold rallies or are allowed to hold them only in out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Riot police often break up unsanctioned rally attempts swiftly and brutally.

The bill has raised doubts about President Dmitry Medvedev's commitment to promoting full-fledged democracy and freedom of expression. Medvedev often has spoken of instituting judicial and police reforms, and has taken a less hard line on many issues than his predecessor Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent and later head of the FSB.

Putin is now prime minister and many see his intolerance of dissent as influencing the Kremlin.

But Medvedev, when asked at a news conference last week about the proposed law, testily responded that the country has "the right to improve its own legislation."

The measure was introduced a few weeks after the March double suicide bombings on the Moscow subway system that killed 40 people. One of the bombers hit the Lubyanka subway station, beneath the headquarters of the security service.


Looks more like they are just trying to mirror they US, or at least try and keep up.

They'll probably will go bankrupt trying to create an authoritarian government as big as the one the US can build...

White House shifts Afghanistan strategy towards talks with Taliban

The White House is revising its Afghanistan strategy to embrace the idea of negotiating with senior members of the Taliban through third parties – a policy to which it had previously been lukewarm.

Negotiating with the Taliban has long been advocated by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the British and Pakistani governments, but resisted by Washington.

The Guardian has learned that while the American government is still officially resistant to the idea of talks with Taliban leaders, behind the scenes a shift is under way and Washington is encouraging Karzai to take a lead in such negotiations.

"There is a change of mindset in DC," a senior official in Washington said. "There is no military solution. That means you have to find something else. There was something missing."

That missing element was talks with the Taliban leadership, the official added.

The American rethink comes in the aftermath of the departure last month of General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama, apparently frustrated at the way the war is going, has reminded his national security advisers that while he was on the election campaign trail in 2008, he had advocated talking to America's enemies.

America is reviewing its Afghanistan policy which is due for completion in December, but officials in Washington, Kabul and Islamabad with knowledge of internal discussions said feelers had been put out to the Taliban. Negotiations would be conducted largely in secret, through a web of contacts, possibly involving Pakistan and Saudi Arabia or organisations with back-channel links to the Taliban.

"It will be messy and could take years," said a diplomatic source.

The change of heart by the US comes as Afghanistan hosts the biggest international gathering in its capital for 40 years, with representatives from 60 countries including Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

The dominant theme of the Kabul conference is "reintegration", which involves reaching out to low-level insurgents to encourage them to lay down their arms.

Earlier this year Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, distinguished between "reintegration", which the US supported, and "reconciliation" or negotiating with senior Taliban. Holbrooke said: "Let me be clear. There is no American involvement in any reconciliation process."

There is growing disenchantment in the US with the war in Afghanistan and members of the Senate's foreign relations committee last week questioned Holbrooke over what they described as a lack of clarity on an exit strategy.

The US has no agreed position on who among the leaders of the insurgency should be wooed and who would be beyond the pale. The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, would be a problem as he provided Osama bin Laden with bases before the 9/11 attacks.

The US would also find it problematic to deal with the Pakistan-based insurgents led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose group pioneered suicide attacks in Afghanistan. The third main element in the insurgency is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has hinted he is ready to break ranks.

A source with knowledge of the process said: "There is no agreed US position, but there is agreement that Karzai should lead on this. They would expect the Pakistanis to deliver the Haqqani network in any internal settlement."

The US has laid down basic conditions for any group seeking negotiations. They are: end all ties to al-Qaida, end violence, and accept the Afghan constitution.

A senior Pakistani diplomat said: "The US needs to be negotiating with the Taliban; those Taliban with no links to al-Qaida. We need a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan, and it will have to be negotiated with all the parties.

"The Afghan government is already talking to all the shareholders‚ the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar. The Americans have been setting ridiculous preconditions for talks. You can't lay down such preconditions when you are losing."

Some Afghan policy specialists are sceptical about whether negotiations would succeed. Peter Bergen, a specialist on Afghanistan and al-Qaida, told a US Institute of Peace seminar in Washington last week that there were a host of problems with such a strategy, not least why the Taliban should enter negotiations "when they think they are winning".

Audrey Kurth Cronin, a member of the US National War College faculty in Washington, and the author of How Terrorism Ends, said talks with Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network were pointless because there would be no negotiable terms.

She said there could be talks with Hekmatyar, but these would be conducted through back channels, potentially by a third party. Given his support for jihad, she said, "it would be unreasonable to expect the US and the UK to do so".

Asked how Obama's Afghan strategy was progressing, a senior former US government official familiar with the latest Pentagon thinking said: "In a word, poorly. We seriously need to be developing a revised plan of action that will allow us a chance to achieve sufficient security in a more sustainable manner."

Officials have mentioned possible roles in negotiation for the UN and figures such as the veteran UN negotiator, the Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi, who heads, along with the retired US ambassador Thomas Pickering, a New York-based international panel which is looking at such a reconciliation.

Another name mentioned is Michael Semple, an Irishman based in Boston at Harvard's Kennedy School who has extensive contacts with the Taliban.


Getting ready to negotiate a surrender