Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Computer virus in Iran actually targeted larger nuclear facility'

Experts on Iran and computer security specialists yesterday voiced a growing conviction that the worm that has infected Iranian nuclear computers was meant to sabotage the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz - where the centrifuge operational capacity has dropped over the past year by 30 percent.

The new analysis, based on the characteristic behavior of the Stuxnet worm, contradicts earlier assessments that the target was the nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Iranian spokesmen, led by the director of the Bushehr facility, had confirmed that Bushehr's computers were infected by the virus. But the director added that while senior staffers' computers were affected, the damage to the reactor's functioning was very limited and would not delay its launch, set for next month.

The Bushehr reactor, however, is considered less of a security threat than Natanz by the intelligence communities in both Israel and the United States. Because intelligence analysts believe Iran would have enough material for at least two nuclear bombs if it enriched the uranium held at Natanz from 3.5 percent to 90 percent, every scenario for an Israeli or American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has put Natanz high on the list of potential targets.

There have been reports in the past of other alleged efforts by Israel and the West to undermine the Iranian nuclear project, some of which also targeted Natanz. These efforts included infiltrating the purchasing networks Iran set up to acquire parts and material for the centrifuges at Natanz and selling damaged equipment to the Iranians. The equipment would then be installed on site and sabotage the centrifuges' work.

The centrifuge - a drum with rotors, an air pump, valves and pressure gauges - is an extremely sensitive system. Generally, 164 centrifuges are linked into a cascade, and several cascades are then linked together. But the centrifuges need to operate in complete coordination to turn the uranium fluoride (UF6 ) they are fed into enriched uranium. Their sensitivity makes them particularly vulnerable to attacks, since damage to a single centrifuge can create a chain reaction that undermines the work of one or more entire cascades.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors regularly visit Natanz, has reported that of the more than 9,000 centrifuges installed on the site, less than 6,000 are operational. The agency did not provide an explanation of this 30 percent drop in capacity compared to a year ago, but experts speculated that the centrifuges were damaged by flawed equipment sold by Western intelligence agencies through straw companies.

The recent revelations about the Stuxnet worm might provide new insights into the problems encountered by the enrichment facility. German computer expert Frank Rieger wrote in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday that Wikileaks, a website specializing in information leaked from government agencies, reported in June on a mysterious accident at Natanz that paralyzed part of the facility. Rieger now thinks the Wikileaks report was connected to the Stuxnet worm. He noted that whoever developed the virus refined its programming to allow it to damage small, sensitive components like regulators, valves and pressure gauges, all of which are found in centrifuges.

The New York Times wrote yesterday that the worm was not particularly successful, as it has also spread to other countries, like India, Indonesia and the U.S. It then contradicted itself by saying that the architects of the virus may not have cared how far the worm spread so long as its prime objective, damaging Iran, was achieved.

The prevailing assessment over the past few days has been that Stuxnet was developed by a highly capable intelligence organization, with Israel's Military Intelligence Unit 8200 and the Mossad being named as suspects.

The alleged breakdown at Natanz last year coincides with the Israeli cabinet's decision to extend the tenure of Mossad chief Meir Dagan. The decision was explained at the time by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's satisfaction with Dagan's work.

But it should be noted that even if a foreign intelligence agency did manage to partially sabotage the centrifuges, Iran can make do with the centrifuges it has already to continue enriching the uranium in its possession - which is precisely what Tehran is doing now.


'Credible But Not Specific' Threat of New Terrorist Attack

US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany and possibly the United States.

A senior US official said that while there is a "credible" threat, no specific time or place is known. President Obama has been briefed about the threat, say senior US officials.

Intelligence and law enforcement authorities in the US and Europe said the threat information is based on the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist allegedly captured on his way to Europe in late summer and now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

US law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of "Mumbai-style" commando raids on what were termed "economic or soft" targets in the countries. Pakistani militants killed 173 people with guns and grenades during the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.

In testimony before Congress last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats."

Officials in France have put the country on high alert for a terror attack and authorities in Paris shut down the Eiffel Tower for the second time in two weeks today after what was termed a "false alarm."

No bomb was found but officials in France are taking no chances, given what they believe is a very real threat.

"We currently have reached a spike in the threat of an attack, which is unquestionable," said the head of the French National Police last week. He also said France was at particular risk from al Qaeda's North African affiliate.

The new threat to France, and to Germany and Britain and the U.S., is coming from Pakistan, according to intelligence officials. The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.

US intelligence officials said they believed an attack on American soil was more likely to come from terrorists connected to the al Qaeda group in Yemen, known as AQAP, al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.

But an official of the New York Police Department said while the most specific information was about Europe, NYPD intelligence officers were following the new information closely. "Nobody here is letting their guard down, the NYPD is watching," the official said.

Germans Training in Al Qaeda-Connected Camps
In the last four years, dozens of German citizens have been recruited to train in al Qaeda-connected camps in Pakistan, according to US and German law enforcement officials. German language jihadi videos on the internet help to attract more trainees.

"Some are German converts, many are Turks, many are Arabs," said Guido Steinberg, a counter-terrorism analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "Right now we already have the first Afghans and even Iranians in these circles. It's a very mixed bunch of people -- quite international."

"The American authorities are extremely nervous about what is going on, the Germans are extremely nervous about what's going on," said Steinberg.

"The advantage, of course, is the passport," said Steinberg, "because with the German passport it's a lot easier to travel."

Travelers with German passports do not require a visa to enter the United States. Officials now believe at least one team of German jihadists was dispatched to Europe over the summer, travelling on German passports.

Steinberg said that many of the German jihadis who train in Pakistan are killed, "but those who come back are a threat. "And they are a threat not only to Germany," added Steinberg, "but also to our allies and especially the U.S. because they are extremely anti-American."

Steinberg said the Germans were recruited from mosques in Berlin, Bonn and Hamburg, including the same mosque in Hamburg where Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers gathered. German authorities shut down the Taiba mosque in Hamburg, previously known as the al Quds mosque, in August.

"Young men were being turned into religious fanatics there," said Christoph Ahlhaus, secretary of the interior for the city of Hamburg at the time.

"Hamburg cannot become a cradle for Islamists capable of violence," said Ahlhaus.

Steinberg said it was "quite shocking" that the former al Quds mosque was still producing jihadis. "There is a certain amount of continuity in German jihadism,' said Steinberg.

Drone Strikes Along Pakistan Border
US officials said the CIA has been in frequent touch with European counterterrorism officials since the threat emerged this summer.

The threat may help explain the increase in U.S. air strikes in the mountainous area along the Pakistani and Afghan border.

There have been at least 70 attacks this year alone, with new ones announced each day, as General David Petraeus explained in an interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

"The sanctuaries and safe havens, again, there will have to be more done about them," said Gen. Petraeus. "There were will have to be more pressure on them, no question."

In a statement to ABC News, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declined to discuss the threat.

"We are not going to comment on specific intelligence, as doing so threatens to undermine intelligence operations that are critical to protecting the U.S. and our allies," said Clapper. "As we have repeatedly said, we know al Qaeda wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al Qaeda. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats."

The FBI declined to comment.


They better try something, getting their asses handed to them in body bags.

Family Security Matters: Diana West Interview

Credit: Family Security Matters

The main point of COIN is not to “win” military objectives, but to win the local population’s “hearts and minds.” This phrase may have unfortunate connotations of Vietnam, but it was nonetheless resurrected by Gen. David Petraeus, who as commander in Northern Iraq posted signs in every barracks asking US troops, “What Have You Done to Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds Today?”

In Afghanistan, this same doctrine has now turned the US military into a contestant vying for the All-Afghan Miss Popularity Award against the rival Taliban. The fact that after seven years in Afghanistan (eight, unofficially) we still haven’t won the crown should tell us something: that infidels can’t fight for the soul of an Islamic country and win it. Given that our leadership closes its eyes to all things Islamic, this notion doesn’t enter its collective mind. Instead, our leaders continue to believe that if only we do more – build more bridges, wells, schools, mosques, offer more payola, make more efforts to reduce civilian casualties to zero regardless of US cost, show more respect for Islamic and tribal culture -- we will “win.” Read more...

I've Come For Your Soul, Mad Tom

Credit: Yahoo

It's the famous Hillary Demon Photo...

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Pakistan say NATO airstrikes breach its air space

KABUL, Afghanistan – Pakistan vehemently protested NATO helicopter strikes that killed more than 70 militants, saying Monday that U.N. rules do not allow the choppers to cross into its air space even in hot pursuit of insurgents.

NATO said it launched the strikes in self-defense after militants attacked a small security post in Afghanistan near the border.

Although unmanned CIA drones frequently attack insurgents hiding on the Pakistani side where coalition forces are banned from fighting, strikes by manned NATO helicopters are uncommon there.

Pakistan's protest, which plays to anti-American sentiment in that country, contrasts with its muted criticism of a sharp rise in suspected drone attacks in North Waziristan — a rugged, mountainous tribal area of Pakistan largely controlled by militants who stage attacks on coalition troops across the border.

The dispute over the strikes only fuels unease between the two countries. The Pakistani military has fought Pakistani Taliban fighters, but it has resisted pressure to move against the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network. The Haqqanis, who control vast stretches of territory in North Waziristan and the bordering Afghan province of Khost, carry out attacks in Afghanistan — but not in Pakistan.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the U.S. followed the appropriate protocol in the situation.

"Our forces have the right of self-defense," Lapan said. "They were being attacked, and they responded."

U.S. officials say there is an agreement to notify Pakistani officials of cross-border incidents to allow the coalition to defend itself. In this instance, coalition forces could not reach the Pakistani military before they needed to defend Afghan National Security Forces under attack, a NATO official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information publicly.

Pakistan denied that such an understanding exists with the military coalition, or International Security Assistance Force.

"These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the U.N. mandate under which ISAF operates," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The said mandate terminates/finishes at the Afghanistan border. There are no agreed `hot pursuit' rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable."

NATO confirmed that it launched two airstrikes on Saturday and a third attack on Monday — all in tribal regions of Pakistan located opposite an increasingly dangerous area in eastern Afghanistan. Initially, the coalition said NATO helicopters chased insurgents into Pakistani airspace. But late Monday, the NATO official said that while Pakistani air space was breached during the first strike, initial indications were that choppers involved in the second and third strikes fired from Afghan air space and hit targets on the Pakistan side of the border.

The first strike occurred after insurgents, firing from Pakistan, attacked an Afghan security force at outpost Narizah in Khost province. Abdul Hakim Ishaqzie, the provincial police chief in Khost, said police at checkpoints at the border came under attack, engaged the militants in a gun battle and then called for air support.

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, described the clash in Khost as an example of NATO forces being out in front of the enemy.

Speaking to reporters after a tour of the main U.S. detention center in Afghanistan near Bagram Air Field, Petraeus said the air strike killed nearly 60 members of the Haqqani faction, which frequently attacks coalition troops.

"They were trying to infiltrate from Pakistan into Afghanistan in Khost, and attacked two Afghan border police posts, and ISAF forces responded and caught those out in the open there," Petraeus said, adding that NATO recently increased its force in Khost.

The second strike, which killed four insurgents, occurred when helicopters returned to the border area and were attacked by insurgents — again firing from across the border in Pakistan. "The helicopters returned to the scene and they received direct small arms fire and, once again operating in self-defense, they engaged the insurgents," U.S. Capt. Ryan Donald, a coalition spokesman said.

The NATO official confirmed that the coalition carried out a third strike, killing 10 insurgents who were firing at coalition forces. Pakistani intelligence officials. speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said two NATO helicopters fired down on the village of Mata Sanger in the Kurram tribal area — across the border from the Afghan provinces of Paktia and Nangarhar.

Meanwhile, in southern Afghanistan, NATO pressed ahead Monday with a combat operation to drive Taliban fighters from areas around the southern city of Kandahar in the insurgent heartland. The push in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency, is a key part of the U.S. war strategy to rout insurgents from populated areas and rush in development aid and better governance.

"We have begun the operations into Zhari and Panjwai (districts), which turns out to have been a safe haven for the Taliban for some five years and only in recent months, when we increased the density of our forces, has there been a recognition of how significant that safe haven has been," Petraeus said.

The commander noted that the number of Afghan security forces, civil order police and commandoes outnumber U.S., Canadian and other forces operating in the two districts.

Coalition forces are moving into two or three areas around Kandahar at once to pressure the Taliban "so they don't get the chance to run away," said Shah Mohammad Ahmadi, chief of Arghandab district northwest of the city. "Before, when we have tried to get rid of the Taliban, when we cleaned one area we found more Taliban in a different one."


US drone attack 'kills seven in north-western Pakistan'

US drone aircraft have killed seven suspected militants in two missile strikes in north-western Pakistan, intelligence officials say.

A house and then a vehicle were hit in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan near the Afghan border, they said.

Saturday saw at least four militants reported killed in a similar attack in the same area.

In the last three weeks, US drone strikes have killed about 100 suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal belt.

The US military routinely does not confirm drone operations, but analysts say it has the only force capable of deploying such aircraft in the region.


O said: If I'm going down, I'm taking them with me.

Worm hits computers of staff at Iran nuclear plant

TEHRAN, Iran — A complex computer worm capable of seizing control of industrial plants has affected the personal computers of staff working at Iran's first nuclear power station weeks before the facility is to go online, the official news agency reported Sunday.

The project manager at the Bushehr nuclear plant, Mahmoud Jafari, said a team is trying to remove the malware from several affected computers, though it "has not caused any damage to major systems of the plant," the IRNA news agency reported.

It was the first sign that the malicious computer code, dubbed Stuxnet, which has spread to many industries in Iran, has also affected equipment linked to the country's nuclear program, which is at the core of the dispute between Tehran and Western powers like the United States.

Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks — primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.

The malware is capable of taking over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.

In a sign of the high-level concern in Iran, experts from the country's nuclear agency met last week to discuss ways of fighting the worm.

The infection of several computers belonging to workers at Bushehr will not affect plans to bring the plant online in October, Jafari was quoted as saying.

The Russian-built plant will be internationally supervised, but world powers are concerned that Iran wants to use other aspects of its civil nuclear power program as a cover for making weapons. Of highest concern to world powers is Iran's main uranium enrichment facility in the city of Natanz.

Iran, which denies having any nuclear weapons ambitions, says it only wants to enrich uranium to the lower levels needed for producing fuel for power plants. At higher levels of processing, the material can also be used in nuclear warheads.

The destructive Stuxnet worm has surprised experts because it is the first one specifically created to take over industrial control systems, rather than just steal or manipulate data.

The United States is also tracking the worm, and the Department of Homeland Security is building specialized teams that can respond quickly to cyber emergencies at industrial facilities across the country.

On Saturday, Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reported that the malware had spread throughout Iran, but did not name specific sites affected.


US troops begin combat for Kandahar

* General says forces fight Taliban in backyard, allowing them no time to regroup

NEW YORK: The active combat phase of a US operation designed to drive Taliban out of districts around Kandahar has begun, The New York Times reported on Sunday, citing American military officials.

Code named Operation Dragon Strike, the push is focusing on clearing the Taliban from three districts to the west and south of the city, the newspaper quoted Brig Gen Josef Blotz, a NATO spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, as having said.

“We expect hard fighting. The aim, he said, would be destroying Taliban fighting positions so they will not have anywhere to hide. The operation, backed by Afghan troops, is the first large-scale combat involving multiple objectives in Kandahar province, where a military offensive was originally expected to begin in June,” it said.

The offensive was downgraded to more of a joint civil-military effort after the military encountered problems in trying to pacify the much smaller city of Marja and because of resistance from Afghan leaders concerned about the possibility of high civilian casualties.

“Winning over Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, is considered crucial to President Obama’s efforts to shift the balance of power in Afghanistan after the militants staged a comeback in recent years,” the newspaper pointed out. General Blotz said the combat phase of Dragon Strike began five or six days ago in Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwye districts, with shaping operations preceding that for several weeks.

He declined to release further details on the new operation, other than to say it involved a large number of troops with air support, and that for the first time in a major operation, more Afghan forces were deployed than the coalition ones. Bismillah Khan, the police chief in Zhari district, said the combat operation began there on Saturday, but he declined to give further details. Afghan and coalition forces are repeatedly hitting the insurgents in their backyard, allowing them no time to regroup, the general said.

No sooner had the first battalion of the US Army arrived here, five of its soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb directed at their convoy. The dead included the first army chaplain to be killed on active duty during the Afghan conflict. app


Un chip oculto en las botas del 'Mono Jojoy' permitió localizarlo en la selva

El fallecido jefe militar de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), alias 'Mono Jojoy', logró ser localizado por las autoridades presuntamente por un chip que le fue colocado en una de sus botas, según informó este viernes la prensa local.

La introducción del chip se logró después de que las autoridades interceptaron una comunicación de la guerrilla en la que se solicitaban unos zapatos especiales para el jefe guerrillero, según indicó en un reporte especial de RCN Radio.

"Fuentes oficiales revelaron que la tarea de inteligencia que permitió llegar al 'Mono Jojoy' se desarrolló en torno a la diabetes que padecía el jefe insurgente", señaló el medio.

La enfermedad del guerrillero al parecer le había afectado la circulación y le generó en sus pies heridas de consideración que lo obligaron a utilizar en los últimos meses un calzado especial.

"Organismos de seguridad interceptaron una comunicación de la guerrilla en la que se pedía unos zapatos especiales, los cuales fueron enviados con un localizador GPS que permitió establecer la plena ubicación del 'Mono Jojoy'", precisó el medio.

Para el bombardeo que dio muerte este miércoles a 'Jojoy' y varios de sus guardaespaldas en una zona rural del municipio de La Macarena (centro) las autoridades colombianas utilizaron cerca de 50 bombas y unas 57 aeronaves.

Durante la operación fueron confiscadas unas 15 computadoras y 60 memorias USB de la guerrilla, que serán analizadas por organismos de inteligencia.

El Mundo

Chip's ahoy

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jihad Watch: 8,080 computers, worth $1.8 million, paid for by American taxpayers, go missing in Iraq

Fine Art Illusion - See more at Xemanh.net

I've often noted the futility of such gift-giving. Attempts to win hearts and minds do not address the Islamic underpinnings of the hatred and contempt so many Muslims feel for America; a free laptop isn't going to change that. "U.S. Gift for Iraqis Offers a Primer on Corruption," by Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times, September 25 (thanks to Bill):

BAGHDAD -- The shipment of laptop computers that arrived in Iraq's main seaport in February was a small but important part of the American military's mission here to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq's reality.

The computers -- 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million -- were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of the American taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone. [...] Read more...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diana West Smacking Some Sense Into General Dhimmi Petraeus

Petraeus as quoted by Woodward:

"You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

That would be something like the next hundred years.

When will we rid ourselves of this insane thinking?

Meanwhile, could someone pls. ask the general what exactly his next century of "fighting" is for?

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

10 Riveting Reads About the Iraq War

"The horror of war has the weird ability to produce moving and conflicted works of literary art, as writers work through the best and worst of human emotion to come to grips with what they’ve seen, heard, and experienced. Novels have played a major role — the Civil War gave us The Red Badge of Courage; World War I gave us All Quiet on the Western Front — but works of on-the-ground reporting like the Vietnam-era Dispatches and The Things They Carried offer readers an immediacy and reality different from that found in fictional works or the nightly news. The current war in Iraq is no different, having inspired dozens of worthy titles since the 2003 invasion. The titles on this list are jaw-dropping in their honest and frank depiction of the politics and battles involved in the Iraq War (with some examining Afghanistan, as well), and they offer a variety of eye-opening viewpoints that bring home the complexity and brutality of war. For anyone who cares about what’s happening in the country today, they’re required reading."
General Studies Degree

Micho La Jolie Fille

I'm still here

It has been a very long time I know that and I feel shame, because since the first time I posted something here I decided to continue and write anyhting I want here and never stop. But After graduation from college, and entering a new chapter on my live by getting married and being a wife and getting a job, things became different, as I am trying to control my energy and time between my house, my self, my work.. for sometimes I felt like blogging is a time wasting, other times I feel it is part of my personality to speak and write and share.

Ramadhan passed so fast this year, I was realy hot and the electricity is still bad, the situation is really getting worse, we still have no good services in the country, there is no respect for human rights here at all, so why we are still living? Read more...

Layla Anwar And Her Writing Style Are Tortured

Credit: Laylar Anwar and Anon. Iraqi Artist

Torturous, Agonizing Words.

I am hesitant, almost timid...I am hesitant to write...my words knock on my palate, trying to push their way through my lips...

My fingers oscillate, they roam a keyboard, feeling its texture, holding back...like some pianist who would love to play that final sonata, a final say, a final spectacle, a final concert.

I write and I know this is not the final concert...I know that more audiences will queue, I also know that the hall is very empty, it looks very empty from where the pianist is seated, right there in the darkness of that hall, a long corridor, with no exit signs...

Maybe am bashful, maybe am fearful, maybe am numb...the numbness of too much, an overdose from a powerful, violent drug...

The whispers, the secrets, the faces, the screams -- all are shoved in a cupboard, the cupboard of my mind...the attic, the cellar...right where you store the wine bottles to mature, so their aroma can filter through your nostrils -- unbroken bottles... Read more at An Arab Woman's Blues

Monday, September 20, 2010

Despite denials, Iran did kidnap 5 Americans on Afghan soil

Notwithstanding Pentagon and Tehran's denials that seven US troops were detained by Iranian border guards, debkafile's military and Iranian sources report that Iran did in fact kidnap 5 Americans in Afghanistan nearly a week ago. Tehran denied its own semi-official Fars agency report in the face of a furious reaction from associates of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said it was leaked deliberately as the president was on the way to New York for the UN General Assembly.
According to our sources, the five Americans were waylaid by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen who dragged them from Afghanistan across the border into Iran and is holding them prisoner. It happened so fast that the soldiers had no time to draw their weapons in self-defence. It is believed they were either not expecting Iranian gunmen on the Afghan side of the border, or else the assailants were disguised in Afghan army uniforms. The Saravan district where it took place is mountainous and convenient for ambush operations.
Tehran keeps the Afghan-Pakistani borders heavily guarded and under tight surveillance to block entry to US spies and commandos. Their patrols were able to keep track of US movements across the border. At one point, they decided to use this knowledge and capture US security personnel for the purpose of humiliating America and building up a negative public attitude in America toward a possible US military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Tehran decided to keep the capture of the five Americans under wraps, while according to debkafile's sources, Washington was made aware of the event. The intention was to keep it dark so as not to spoil Ahmadinejad's and business meetings at the UN assembly.

In the past week, Iranian air patrols, taking off from the Birjand airfield, have intensified their patrols over the Iranian border district with Afghanistan to prevent American over-flights.

Acting Iranian Chief of Staff Gholam-Ali Rashid commented this week: "it is not overstating the fact when we say that we are on the verge of a possible future war." He spoke when questioned about war marches played daily in the public parks of Mashad, capital of Khorassan province in north east Iran.
The capture of American nationals first came to light Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19 when the semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iranian borders guards had recently detained 7 American soldiers accused of illegally crossing the border. This report was swiftly denied by Tehran and the Pentagon.

debkafile's military sources report the incident marks a sharp escalation in a developing crisis between Iran and the United States involving hostage-taking and suspected spies. Last week, for half a million dollars, Tehran released Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers Iran seized near the Iraqi border a year ago and threatens to try as spies.

The latest incident was published by Tehran as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad headed for New York to attend the UN Disarmament conference. Saturday, Sept. 18, he touched down in Damascus for talks with Syrian president Bashar Assad. Then, during a stopover in Algiers, he demanded that the US release 8 Iranian detainees. He did not identify them, but debkafile reports they are Revolutionary Guards officers and Iranian agents who were working with Iraqi terrorist rings when they were captured by US troops in Iraq.
For some time, Iran has accused the American CIA of training and assisting the separatist Baluchi Jundallah organization stage attacks on Iranian targets from Pakistani territory. But this is the first time Tehran has released information about captured Americans.

There were conflicting reports Saturday about a clash involving Jundallah operatives and an alleged attempt to abduct Iranian Guards men. The Baluchi organization claimed six Iranians were seized in the southeast, while Iranian sources in Tehran and Baluchestan said that five Iranian troops were kidnapped and released in a battle in which one Iranian soldier and three kidnappers were killed.

The next day, Tehran reported - then denied - detaining 7 American soldiers, followed by the Pentagon.


Yes? No?

Rubio calls election 'referendum on national identity' at tea party rally

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Thousands of determined tea party activists converged in a park in America's oldest city Saturday and heard a succession of Republican candidates promise to heed their demands for less government and lower taxes.

Small-business owners, retirees, veterans and even government workers spoke with one voice: They want ideological purity from politicians.

They want government to take less of their money and leave them alone.

They said they are sick of runaway deficits, career politicians and RINOs (Republicans in name only) who say all the right things while they're running but fail to do what they say once they're in office.

They said the political elites have no idea how strongly everyday people feel that the government is broken and America is not living up to people's expectations.

The four-hour "Forward with the Constitution Rally" was organized by tea party groups in an 11-county region in northeast Florida, and was far and away the largest event of the 2010 campaign season in Florida.

People brought folding chairs and faced a stage fashioned with wooden boxes labeled "tea" at Francis Field, a venue used mainly for ethnic food festivals and other community events.
If the rally had a headliner, it was Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senate candidate who received a thunderous welcome at high noon under a brilliant sun.

"This election is nothing less than a referendum of our identity as a nation and as a people," Rubio said, calling 2010 an historic moment "when people were pushed to the brink." When he complained of go-along-to-get-along Republican politicians, people in the audience chimed in, "That's right."

Rubio, who faces Democrat Kendrick Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist running as an independent, exuded confidence, and when someone in the crowd suggested he run for president, he said: "Listen, I would settle for the Nobel Peace Prize."

It was a bad day for President Barack Obama and the federal healthcare mandate known as "Obamacare," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the mainstream media, activist judges, Crist and career politicians of any stripe, including Republicans.


Saudi king meets top US, Canadian counter-terror officials

Saudi King Abdullah and security czar Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz have held talks with top intelligence and counter-terror officials from the United States and Canada, the SPA news agency reported.
John Brennan, assistant to US President Barack Obama for homeland security and counter-terrorism, discussed in Jeddah on Sunday "issues that concern the two countries" with King Abdullah, Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, the state news agency said without elaborating.

Afterward, Brennan held talks with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the country's senior domestic security official for 35 years.

"The meeting focused on the need to ... build strong and fruitful cooperation to reduce the spread of terrorism in all countries in the world, especially in the Middle East, and the importance of working together to fight Al-Qaeda and terrorism," SPA said.

Separately the Saudi king and his security officials met Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to discuss "issues of mutual interest."

The meetings with King Abdullah were also attended by Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel Jubeir, a close advisor to the Saudi king on foreign affairs.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Iran denies detaining seven U.S. troops

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran denied on Sunday that border guards had detained seven U.S. troops, calling the report "unfounded," the state-run English language Press TV said.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier in the day that border guards had detained seven U.S. troops as they tried to illegally enter the Islamic state. The agency later withdrew the story, which had given no source.

Iran's Arabic-language television al-Alam quoted Iran's Revolutionary Guards, in charge of Iran's border security, as denying that any such incident had happened in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

In Washington, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said: "Reports by state-run Iranian media that seven U.S. soldiers were detained after crossing into Iran are false."

A spokesman for NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Captain Ryan Donald, said no U.S. soldiers were missing.

The Fars report came at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington, which have lacked diplomatic relations since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and are at odds over many issues particularly Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Iran on Tuesday freed one of three Americans held for over a year ago for alleged spying. Sarah Shourd was detained near Iran's border with Iraq in late July 2009 along with two male companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. Their families say the three were on a mountain hike in northern Iraq at the time.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York on Sunday to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Tehran for refusing to suspend sensitive parts of its nuclear work that the United States and its allies suspect is aimed at developing weapons.

Iran denies this and refuses to halt its uranium enrichment program.

(Additional reporting by Kabul and Washington bureaus; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


Saturday, September 18, 2010

What’s Inside a Taliban Gun Locker?

C.J. Chivers Taliban equipment confiscated from caches or collected after firefights.
Since last year, The New York Times and At War have taken several different looks at insurgent arms and munitions in Afghanistan, which can yield information about how insurgents equip themselves and fight, and how the Taliban has been able to maintain itself as a viable force for more than 15 years.

The New York Times
Today the blog will turn back to this pursuit with another sampling of data from Marja, the area in Helmand Province that has seen some of the most sustained insurgent fighting of 2010. In this case, early this summer, the civilian law enforcement liaison working with the Marines of Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, along with the battalion’s gunner, had in their custody 26 firearms and an RPG-7 launcher captured from Taliban fighters or collected from caches.

Of these weapons, 12 were variants of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, 8 were bolt-action rifles from World War II or earlier, 4 were variants of the PK machine gun, and 2 were small semiautomatic pistols. This was in some ways a typical mix for Afghanistan, although the ratio of bolt-action rifles was higher than what many units outside of Helmand Province have seen.

The ratio is interesting and aligns with the experience of patrolling in and near Marja and other contested areas nearby. Insurgents in Helmand Province seem to have used bolt-action rifles more than in many regions of Afghanistan. Whether this indicates a pressure on the supply of assault rifles and their ammunition or a preference for the longer effective ranges of Lee-Enfield and Mosin-Nagant rifles is not clear. But the longer range of bolt-action rifles compared with assault rifles, and their relative abundance in Helmand Province, is a reason this particular acreage of Afghanistan has a reputation as being plagued by a more dangerous set of Afghan marksmen, and even a few snipers, as seen in this video. For those who have been under fire in Helmand, finding that a large fraction of captured rifles are Lee-Enfields or Mosin-Nagants is not surprising. This battalion’s battlefield collections fit its Marines’ experiences on patrol.

Moving past these ratios, the characteristics of individual weapons also provided clues to the Taliban’s behavior and state of equipment and supply, and to the nature of the infantry arms loose in the Afghan countryside. Note the stock of one of the machine guns, below.

C.J. Chivers for The New York Times A machine gun with a cracked stock and a jury-rigged repair.
As was typical of many older PK-variant machine guns, the stock was made of laminated wood — plywood, essentially. And some time ago it had been snapped. But whoever was responsible for it had cobbled it back in place with the help of two strips of sheet metal and a handful of light nails. There was still play in the stock, and this would undermine its accuracy. But the weapon could be used.

Does this say something of the insurgents’ resourcefulness? Or of the insurgency’s limited means? Maybe both.

Now look at this assault rifle, below, an original AK-47 with a solid steel receiver. Its date and factory stampings reveal that it had been manufactured in 1954 in the Soviet Union’s main Kalashnikov plant at the mammoth gunworks at Izhevsk.

C.J. Chivers An AK-47 assault rifle; pitted, weathered, stock removed, but still functional.
Look at it closely. Its exterior is heavily pitted and corroded. I disassembled this rifle, and inside, where it most counts, its operating system — the integrated gas piston and bolt carrier, the trigger assembly, etc. — had been oiled and were only lightly pitted. Someone had been tending to its guts, if not its skin.

In Marja, which is a populated patch of steppe astride a huge irrigation works built decades ago by the United States, the Marines sometimes find weapons hidden in canals. This weapon could have been submerged for some time before being retrieved for use, and considering what it seems to have been through, that 1954 manufacturing stamp impresses. The weapon, a rifle that came off assembly lines a year after Stalin died, was fully functional at age 56 and was still in service this year in war against the West.

Does that seem old? Now look at the date stamps on one of the bolt-action Lee-Enfields, below.

C.J. Chivers The factory stampings on a Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle. Made by the Crown, in Taliban service now.
You read that right: 1915.

This rifle was made while Kitchener’s New Army was being drilled and sent to the Western Front. It was 95 years old when it changed hands once again, and ended up in the custody of the Marines.

The paired Lee-Enfields and Kalashnikovs in Marja say as much about the nature of these weapons, and their ammunition, as they do about the Taliban. The Lee-Enfield and Kalashnikov lines were made by the millions, and both are noted for reliability and durability. These two facts have made them, in the eyes of people who carry or face them in war after war, either remarkable tools or a scourge.

And along with the Mosin-Nagant rifles that also turn up in Taliban caches, they and their ammunition are markers of old empires and the standardization of cartridges that accompanied war in the 20th century. That leads to the next point: Cartridge standardization between units and among allies — meaning, fielding many weapons that all fire the same ammunition — was intended to make logistics less complicated for conventional armies and their nations.

It has been a boon for insurgents, too.

For the 24 rifles and machine guns in the locker, produced in multiple nations over many decades, only three types of cartridges are required to feed them — the Lee-Enfields fire the .303, the Kalashnikovs fire the 7.62×39-millimeter round, and the PK machine guns and Mosin-Nagant fire the 7.62×54R round that has been issued to Slavic forces since the 1890s in Imperial Russia.

All of these facts and factors might seem arcane. They are not.

Together the technical qualities of these rifles and the thinking behind them, along with the quality of their manufacture and the relative simplicity of their ammunition resupply, have helped a largely illiterate insurgent movement not just to exert its will on its own country, but also to stand up to the most sophisticated military in the world.

(Blog posts have their space limits. I have posted more images from the evidence locker, and more information, on www.cjchivers.com.)

At War

Rogue Marines Adopt Cheap And Precise Solution

September 17, 2010: The U.S. Marine Corps is buying some AKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) kits, to convert some of the 100,000 70mm unguided rockets to laser guided ones. The marines will use the guided 70mm rockets on their AH-1W helicopter gunships. If the guided rockets prove successful, more kits may be purchased, This would be the first real sale for 70mm guided rockets. Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy is bought fifty APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) 70mm missiles (not just kits), to test on Marine Corps AV-8 (Harrier) vertical takeoff aircraft, and U.S. Air Force A-10 (Warthog) ground attack aircraft. The AV-8 has previously used unguided 70mm rockets, but the A-10 has not. The tests were successful, but did not result in any additional sales.
After more than a decade of development effort, by several different companies, there now several guided versions of the 70mm air-to-ground rocket. Developing a guided 70mm rocket took so long because the manufacturers underestimated the technical difficulties of getting the laser seeker and flight control mechanisms into that small a package, at a weight and price the customer could afford. The price of the new DAGR 70mm missile is about $20,000 each (typical for these weapons and about a third less than a smart bomb, and much less than a Hellfire missile). The developer of the competing APKWS, BAE, believed it was close to perfecting APKWS, but Congress ran out of patience and money for it three years ago. The marines took over APKWS development, completed it and got the navy to try it out.

The guided 70mm rocker is to be used against targets that don't require a larger (49 kg/108 pound), and more expensive (over $100,000) Hellfire missile, but still need some targeting precision. In tests, the APKWS hit within a meter (a few feet) of the aiming point, and the other 70mm missiles are just as accurate. The 70mm missile makes an excellent weapon for UAVs, especially since you can carry more of them. The launcher for these missiles is built to replace the one for Hellfire, but carry four missiles.

Another 70mm missile, Lockheed-Martin, completed twelve out of twelve successful tests of their DAGR 70mm guided rocket. DAGR was declared ready for service in 2008, but the U.S. Department of Defense didn't respond with any orders. The DAGR would appear to be an ideal weapon, as it also uses the Hellfire fire control system. Lockheed-Martin developed DAGR with their own money. All these 70mm rockets are basically 13.6 kg/30 pound 70mm rockets, with a laser seeker, a 2.7 kg/six pound warhead and a range of about six kilometers. Laser designators on a helicopter, or with troops on the ground, are pointed at the target, and the laser seeker in the front of the DAGR homes on the reflected laser light.

The 2.75 inch (70mm) rockets were developed during World War II as an air-to-air weapon for use against heavy bomber formations. The Germans had developed a similar, and very successful weapon (the R4M), but before long it was noted that neither the Japanese nor the Germans had any heavy bombers, so the U.S. 70mm rocket was switched to air-to-ground use. Actually, the 70mm rocket was retained for air-to-air use into the 1950s, but it was never successful in that role. The 70mm rocket became very popular in the 1960s, when it was discovered that the weapon worked very well when launched from multiple (7 or 19 tube) launchers mounted on helicopters. The 108-138m cm (42-55 inch) long rockets could be fired singly or in salvoes, and gave helicopter pilots some airborne artillery for supporting troops on the ground. There are many variations in terms of warheads and rocket motors. Some versions can go over 10 kilometers.

Apparently the orders for 70mm guided missiles have not been forthcoming because the Hellfire is doing the job and there just isn't a big demand for a smaller missile. Several smaller missiles have been developed, and one of them, the Griffin, is being used in Pakistan. The smaller Griffin is an alternative to the Hellfire II (48.2 kg/106 pounds with a 9 kg/20 pound warhead and range of 8,000 meters) because it weighs only 16 kg (35 pounds), with a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. Griffin has a pop-out wings, allowing it to glide, and thus has a longer range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire. UAVs can carry more of the smaller missiles, typically two of them in place of one Hellfire.

The marines believe that a mini-Hellfire, in the form of their APKWS II, has a role on the battlefield, and plan to use it in combat. The APKWS is a lot cheaper than Hellfire or Griffin, and for the marines, cheaper is seen as better.


Turkey's Constitutional Referendum: The Beginning of the End?

The struggle for Turkey's political soul continues -- and Turkey's self-proclaimed moderate Islamists are winning. The struggle has major implications for the global war on militant Islamist terror groups like al-Qaida.

This past Sunday, a constitutional referendum provided the latest battleground for the ongoing political war between Turkish Islamists and secularists. The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), a political movement openly favoring Islamist policies, advocated the constitutional changes, and it won in a landslide. Fifty-eight percent of the country supported the AKP. The most critical changes affect the Turkish judiciary.

The AKP promotes itself as a "moderate" Islamist political party that believes moral values provide a bulwark against political corruption. It regards its opponents as hard-line secularists who run Turkey's "Deep State," a code word for a nefarious Turkish underworld of corruption, cronyism and manipulation tied to the Turkish military.

The AKP's opposition, centered in the secularist Republican Peoples Party (CHP), cast the referendum as another step in the destruction of the secular republic established by Turkey's 20th century political and military genius, Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk strongly believed radical Muslims insisting on imposing Shariah (Islamic) law were the greatest long-term threat to Turkish modernization. The Kemalists, as his political heirs proudly call themselves, label the AKP as a collection of stealth radical Islamists whose moralist balderdash cloaks a plot to create a theological tyranny and feudal police state.

The AKP responds by accusing the secularists of having corrupted Ataturk's progressive legacy.

Turkey's leading political organizations both portray the choice between them as "either us or darkness." This rhetorical demonization is typical of successful democracies. Ataturk deserves credit for establishing a democratic structure that survived his death in 1938 by 72 years.

Turkey's actual circumstances, however, are much more complex and murky. Start with the referendum's irony. The constitution had many undemocratic articles and was in fact imposed by the military after a coup in 1980. The European Union ruled that many of these elements did not meet EU membership standards. Thus the ironic situation of an Islamist political party promoting constitutional changes in order to meet Western European democratic standards. Aligning Turkey with Europe was one of Kemal Ataturk's long-term goals.

Yet the judicial reforms approved this week may be an anti-democratic trap door, for they give the AKP the ability to limit systemic checks and balances on executive power. The AKP can pack the courts. The judiciary has protected the Turkish military. The AKP distrusts the military because it fears a coup, and with good reason. The military sees itself as the protector of the secular state and a bulwark against Muslim fundamentalist usurpation.

Will the Kemalist democratic structures survive an empowered Islamist AKP?

This is an important question for everyone with an interest in seeing reformed Islamists maintain a secular democratic state and continue the process of economic and political integration with Europe. Everyone in this case is the vast majority of the civilized world because the prosperous existence of such a polity would deal militant Islamist terror groups like al-Qaida a complete ideological and political defeat.

These are high stakes, indeed.

I have tended to be an optimist about the AKP, in part because the CHP governments of the 1990s were so terribly corrupt. In my view, the Kemalist corruption damaged Ataturk's legacy. However, history also justifies Ataturk's concern for the threat to Turkey posed by anti-democratic Islamists. Today, accusations of corruption tag the AKP, and the AKP's foreign policy gyrations over the last three years do not bode well of stable U.S.-Turkey relations.

After Sunday's election, I had the opportunity to chat with Gerald Robbins, senior fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute. Robbins' take is dire. "Although the military is now subject to civilian courts and their oversight, the very composition of those courts is fraught with controversy." The court packing to favor the AKP may well occur.

Turkey Prime Minister and leader of the AKP Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, in Robbin's view "effectively scuttled the secularist-dominated military and judicial power bases under the auspices of greater 'democratization.'" Then Robbins added, "Sept. 12, 2010, might be marked as the day Kemal Ataturk's secularist vision effectively ended, and a new Islamist-influenced era began."

I told him I hope he is wrong. My gut says he isn't. The last thing Turkey and the world need is a Sultan Erdogan.


Almost pregnant

Appeals court: Once al-Qaida, always al-Qaida?

WASHINGTON — Appeals court judges deciding whether to release a Guantanamo Bay detainee are asking: If once an al-Qaida member, always an al-Qaida member?

The Obama administration has appealed an order for the release of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who is accused of helping recruit Sept. 11 hijackers. A lower court judge said Salahi should be freed because he was abused and later retracted his confession to arranging travel for two hijackers.

Salahi admitted he joined al-Qaida in the early 1990s to oppose communists in Afghanistan. But he says he stopped fighting for the organization before it turned against the United States.

Justice Department attorneys argued that Salahi's pledge to support al-Qaida and his continuing association with other members mean he still was a part of the terrorist organization.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is asking an appeals court to throw out a judge's order to release a Guantanamo Bay prisoner accused of recruiting Sept. 11 hijackers.

The 9/11 commission report described Mohamedou Ould Salahi as a significant al-Qaida operative who instructed hijackers how to reach Afghanistan to train for jihad. Salahi says he falsely admitted under abusive interrogation to arranging travel for some of the hijackers.

Salahi has been held without charge for eight years at the Navy-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and remains there as lawyers prepare to argue over his release before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled this spring that the evidence against Salahi was "tainted by coercion and mistreatment" and based on classified material that could not support a criminal prosecution.

"The government's case relies heavily on statements made by Salahi himself, but the reliability of those statements — most of them now retracted by Salahi — is open to question," the judge wrote in his order.

Salahi says he was held in isolation for months, kept in a freezing cold cell, shackled to the floor, deprived of food, made to drink salt water, forced to stand in a room with strobe lights and heavy metal music for hours at a time, threatened with harm to his family, forbidden from praying, beaten and deprived of sleep. His abuse was documented in a 2009 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee that investigated allegations of detainee abuse at Guantanamo.

Justice Department attorneys argue that Salahi was a recruiter for al-Qaida who in October 1999 encouraged Ramzi bin al Shibh, Marwan al Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah to join. Al Shehhi and Jarrah became two of the hijackers and Bin al Shibh helped coordinate the 9/11 plot.

Salahi, born in 1970, admitted that while he was an electrical engineering student at the University of Duisberg in Germany in 1990, he traveled to Afghanistan and trained to fight jihad against communists. But he argued that he stopped fighting for al-Qaida in 1992 before the organization turned against the United States.

He was arrested in his home country of Mauritania 18 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His lawyers say he was sent to Jordan and abused for eight months before being moved to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan and finally to Guantanamo in 2002.

Robertson said Salahi was subjected to "extensive and severe mistreatment" at Guantanamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003.

Robertson said that under coercive interrogation, Salahi confessed to arranging travel for several of the 9/11 hijackers and justified his assistance as "just" jihad. But he later said he did nothing more than give bin al Shibh and his friends — not the hijackers — lodging for one night two years before the attacks.

Salahi admits that he stayed in touch with friends who continued to support al-Qaida, including his brother-in-law, who was a high-ranking spiritual adviser to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Robertson said that although the evidence shows Salahi was an al-Qaida sympathizer who gave sporadic support to its members, he would not allow Salahi to be imprisoned indefinitely on suspicion that he could become a terrorist upon his release.


With or Without chip's?

No assembly required, batteries included

Friday, September 17, 2010

Commander of al-Qaida killed in Yemen-U.S. airstrike: statement

SANAA, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Yemen-based al-Qaida regional wing said Thursday one of its filed commanders, a former Guantanamo detainee, was killed in a Yemeni-U.S. air raid early this year.

"Hani Abdu Mosleh Shalan, a filed commander in the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed in a Yemeni-U.S. join air strike on a camp in southern Yemen early this year," said the group's statement posted on jihadist forums.

It said Shalan was caught by the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He was sent to Guantanamo military jail for his participation in anti-U.S. war in Afghanistan alongside with Sheikh Osama bin Laden after 9/11.

The statement said Shalan was freed from Guantanamo and sent to the Yemeni authorities where he was finally released.

Early 2009 he joined the AQAP to become a leader of armed affiliate in southern Yemen where he carried out with his group a number of attacks against Western and Yemeni interests, according to the statement.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaida network leader Osama bin Laden, has witnessed a series of deadly attacks by al-Qaida group across the country since late last year.

On Wednesday, Yemeni explosive experts found remnants of high explosive materials surrounding the key gas pipeline which was bombed in the southeast of the country last Monday, said the country's Interior Ministry.

A local security official said the explosion caused a huge fire and the pipeline was badly damaged, cutting off the LNG supply. "Initial investigations proved that al-Qaida was behind the bombing," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

With the support from Washington, Yemen has intensified crackdown and air strikes on terrorist groups since the Yemen- based al-Qaida arm claimed credit for a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in Detroit last December.


You think, they might have released people from Gitmo with chip's...

Israel to buy advanced US fighter jets

JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli government has officially approved plans to buy American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Thursday that the purchase would significantly strengthen Israel's military, but gave no other details.

Israel is planning on buying 20 of the warplanes for nearly $3 billion and will begin receiving the jets by 2015.

The warplanes would be capable of reaching Iran undetected by radar.

Israel considers Iran a strategic threat, citing its calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, its suspect nuclear program and missiles.

Israel has hinted it might take military action if international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program fail.


Natural News: Popular Asian spice can cure Alzheimer's disease

Credit: Hira Halal Foods.com

(NaturalNews) Nature is full of various herbs and spices that protect against disease and even treat and cure it. And according to Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist and Fox News' "Medicine Hunter", turmeric root -- also known in its extract form as curcumin -- is one such powerful spice that appears to both prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease and even cure it.

"People who develop Alzheimer's disease get a sticky plaque in the brain called amyloid beta," explained Kilham to Dr. Manny Alvarez in a recent Fox News interview. Such plaques either develop as a result of Alzheimer's, or they are the direct cause of it. But either way, they are directly related to the degenerative process.

However studies show that turmeric actually eliminates these plaques, both when they are first starting to form and even during the late stages of their advancement. Read more...

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Mosques are the “Trojan Horses” of the Global Caliphate

What exactly is a Caliphate?

A caliphate is the Islamic form of government representing the political unity and leadership of the Muslim world. The head of state (Caliph) has a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad’s political authority. It is a dream that has never been realized by Muslims and it will never be. There will always be Muslims who dream about this empire and on the other hand the power-hungry leaders will prevent any movement that could dissolve their nation-state. Therefore, Muslims are stuck in an eternal conflict between Islamists and nationalists.

What are the goals of this Caliphate?

Besides uniting the Muslims, the goal is to arrange a massive army and call for Jihad against infidel states for the expansion of the Caliphate. Various caliphates have used this strategy to expand their states. The rapid Islamic expansion during the reign of the Caliphs is nothing but staggering.

The reason behind that is millions of eager men willingly joining the fight with the Infidels because they believe that Allah will reward them heftily if they die. There has never been a shortage of recruits in the army. This is the same reason there is no shortage of suicide bombers today. The ultimate goal of the Caliphate would be to bring every square inch of this planet under Islam and convert/subdue all remaining Infidels. Read more at Let Them Fight or Bring Them Home...


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plugs Ordered on Idle Wells

Oil and gas companies must permanently plug thousands of Gulf of Mexico wells idle for five years or more under a federal order issued Wednesday.

The mandate could cost well owners billions of dollars, but it could also create jobs for rig workers idled by a federal clampdown on new offshore exploration.

The U.S. Interior Department and its offshore-drilling oversight agency said companies must cement 3,500 wells that aren't producing oil or gas. Another 650 oil and gas platforms must be dismantled if they are no longer being used, the government said. The mandate becomes effective Oct. 15.

Companies will have 120 days to submit plans to decommission production facilities and wells. Under the regulation, any well that has not been used during the past five years for exploration or production must be plugged. Production platforms and pipelines must be decommissioned if no longer in use.

Owners of such wells would have to pay for the permanent sealing of the wells and abandon the opportunity of reopening them for production.

The announcement boosted the stock prices of some oil-field service and offshore drilling companies, as investors bet the companies could profit from new government-mandated work.

Mark Kaiser, director of Research and Development at the Center for Energy Studies at Louisiana State University, estimated that the cost to plug and abandon idle wells more than five years old and remove idle structures could total $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion. He estimated that companies would be giving up $6 billion to $18 billion in lost revenue from future production.

The biggest hit would likely be to smaller oil producers who specialize in wells that produce marginal amounts of oil and gas.

Executives at companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry have been warning for weeks that the Obama administration's moratorium on new deep-water wells, and a sharp slowdown in permits for new shallow-water wells, threaten the jobs of thousands of rig and support workers.

Concern among some lawmakers about risks posed by abandoned wells flared after the huge oil spill caused by the April 20 explosion of a BP PLC well in the Gulf. That well, which has been temporarily plugged, could be permanently sealed by Sunday, the head of the federal spill response, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Wednesday.

Oil and gas companies often close wells temporarily with valves or cement, but such plugs are designed so that the wells can be reopened later. Once a well is permanently plugged, however, it is almost impossible to restart production if technological advances or rising prices justify renewed activity.

But the Interior Department said idle wells and platforms could threaten the environment and pose a financial liability if destroyed or damaged by an event such as a hurricane.

"As infrastructure continues to age, the risk of damage increases," Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Michael Bromwich said in a statement. "This initiative...requires that these wells, platforms and pipelines are plugged and dismantled correctly and in a timely manner to substantially reduce such hazards."

The American Petroleum Institute said it had expected the new rules. For most operators, "compliance will not be an issue," said spokeswoman Cathy Landry. But she expressed concern about the ability of companies to get the permits needed to decommission equipment.

Existing regulations already require wells to be plugged and platforms to be dismantled within one year after a lease is terminated. But some lawmakers complain that the rule hasn't been enforced. A BOEM spokeswoman declined to comment. Under the new regulations, companies must decommission unused equipment even if the associated leases are still active.

The government's success in overseeing the plugging of abandoned wells could depend on funding. The Interior Department has asked Congress for money to hire six workers to oversee the plugging and decommissioning process. It isn't clear yet whether Congress will approve the funding.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Militant: U.S. Missile Strikes "Incredible and Accurate"

A Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan tells CBS News a wave of recent U.S. air strikes have had an "incredible and accurate" impact on al Qaeda militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

Relentless waves of air strikes, suspected to have been carried out by unmanned U.S. drones, have pounded the region in the past three weeks, leaving dozens of alleged militants killed. They have been focused North Waziristan, where al Qaeda leaders are known to be hiding and planning attacks on the West and Western troops in Afghanistan.

"Within 72 hours, four to five drone attacks in tribal areas have interrupted badly al Qaeda and Pakistani militants," the Pakistani Taliban commander told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The Taliban commander, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name, said the number of al Qaeda militants in the region was dwindling as a result of the increasing pressure.

While it may seem counter-intuitive for a Taliban commander to reveal apparent advances by the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus, it is important to note that the Islamic fighters in the region are divided into myriad tribal groups. Yousafzai's source is a commander in a group not friendly with the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud -- a prime target of many American missiles -- or his al Qaeda allies. Foreign fighters, many from Uzbekistan, are often recruited into the ranks of al Qaeda and allied with Mehsud's faction, but are viewed by many locals in the border region as outsiders and distrusted.

The Taliban commander also said, however, that the missile strikes -- the most recent of which slammed into a house early Monday in North Waziristan, killing 10 alleged militants -- are taking an increasing toll on the Taliban, in addition to al Qaeda operatives in the area.

"That is a headache and a big worry for the Taliban," he told Yousafzai.

Regardless of which militants feel the sting of U.S. missiles more acutely, the strikes represent hopeful news for the U.S.-led war against the Islamic radicals in the region where the Sept. 11 terror attacks were planned. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda launch periodic attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, while al Qaeda is also the sworn enemy of both nations' U.S.-backed governments and anyone found to be working with them.

Both Pakistani intelligence sources, and the Taliban commander who spoke to CBS on Tuesday, say better cooperation with Pakistanis on the ground is likely behind the wave of successful strikes.

The commander told Yousafzai locals seem to have ramped-up their "spying" on militants in the area, and are increasingly grassing on even the more native Taliban fighters who have long enjoyed some degree of support in the region.

He said the Taliban's "brutal punishment and beheading of spies" was apparently failing to halt the villagers' cooperation with government forces, who have increased their tip-offs to American intelligence operatives.

The commander went so far as to say the reprisal attacks could be "widening and complicating" the Taliban's fight in Waziristan.

A Pakistani intelligence official said in June that Pakistan had stepped up its cooperation with the U.S. since December 2009, reports CBS News' Farhan Bokhari. In the briefing, the intel official said the boosted cooperation was yielding dividends in the form of praise from Western allies, "because everyone is happier with Pakistan."

Intelligence sources tell Bokhari that the strikes over the past couple days have killed important "field commanders," though nobody has mentioned any of the most-wanted figures believed to be hiding out in the mountainous region.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Living Soldier Since Vietnam Awarded Military's Highest Honor

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On Oct. 25, 2007, 22 year-old Army Spc. Salvatore Giunta raced head-on into an enemy ambush to save the lives of two American soldiers during a deadly fire fight in one of the most inhospitable regions of eastern Afghanistan.

Giunta saved the life of one soldier and prevented Sgt. Josh Brennan, who later died of his wounds, from being carried away by Taliban fighters.

Giunta, who has since been promoted to sergeant, got a call two years later from President Obama -- he was to be the first living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.

Giunta says he doesn't feel like a hero. "No more than every single service member in the United States military today," he told Fox News.

But he'll be the first living recipient to receive the award from either Iraq or Afghanistan, and a hero's treatment is what he's likely to receive.

"Sgt. Giunta distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," the White House, which has not yet announced the specifics for the ceremony, said in a written statement.

Brennan's father, Mike Brennan, told Fox News that if it wasn't for Giunta's actions, "we may never have gotten my son back."

Giunta, born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is now the eighth service member to receive the award since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All those before him received the award posthumously.

At the time of the firefight, Giunta was serving in the notoriously dangerous Korengal Valley in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based out of Vicenza, Italy.

In an interview with Fox News, Giunta explained that he wasn't the only one in danger that day.

"Everyone was at risk," Giunta said. "There were bullets all over the place. There were RPG's (rocket propelled grenades) blowing up all over the place. You could see the muzzle flashes from bullets leaving the enemies guns that weren't too far away."

Giunta said it was hard to explain all that happened and even more difficult for him to talk about the images. But Maj. Dan Kearney, his commander at the time and the man who eventually recommended Giunta for the award, told Fox News in detail what he heard over the radio that day and what witnesses from the squad later explained.

"In the initial burst I think everybody in that first squad was shot, wounded, or at least startled," he said. "The volume of RPG's and machine gun fire initially was so great that it literally stalled out the element and shot every single individual in the flesh or (their) protective equipment. What Sgt. Giunta did at the time was regain his composure extremely quickly, assessed his soldiers and his team for any kind of casualties, and then began to render aid to individuals like his squad leader."

Shortly thereafter he noticed that Brennan, the team leader, was not there.

"Sgt. Junta basically took it upon himself to run through an ambush, later repatriate Sgt. Brennan, who was still alive at the time, and kill multiple enemies while dragging Sgt. Brennan back," Kearney said.

Ironically, Giunta never aspired to be a soldier or even thought about it before he heard an Army recruitment ad on the radio while he was mopping the floor at his local Subway sandwich shop.

"They start saying the Army recruiter is giving out free T-shirts. I'm a sucker for a free T-shirt I guess," Giunta joked.

Yet that very battle inspired others to enlist. Brennan's nephew signed up for the Army shortly after Josh was killed and is now serving under the same squad leader in Afghanistan. He arrived in Italy to deploy two years to the day after Brennan was killed.

The U.S. military has since pulled out of Korengal Valley, in 2007 considered the frontline of the war, as part of the new strategy to protect population centers and leave remote outposts.

Two other members of the Giunta's battalion have pending nominations for the Medal of Honor.


Militarized Skateboard Perfect for Hipster Invasions

This is the DTV Shredder, a militarized skateboard with two caterpillar tracks. It can travel at over 30mph, go up 40-degree slopes, turn around in four feet, and be remotely operated. It's also quite spectacular in action:


NJ Mayor Blasts Ground Zero Imam

The Mayor of Union City, New Jersey blasted the Imam who wants to build a mosque and community center two blocks from ground zero for being a “slumlord.”

At hastily called news conference Union City Mayor Brian Stack accused Imam Faisal Rauf of neglecting two apartment houses and ignoring numerous citations from the Union City’s Fire and Health Departments. Mayor Stack described the Imam as “unscrupulous” and questioned his statements about wanting to help people and build bridges while his own tenants were living in “shoddy conditions.”

The mayor made his remarks outside one of the buildings owned by the Imam. On Wednesday, the city goes to court seeking to have a custodial receiver take over management of the properties. Mayor Stack said although the violations go back years, the city felt compelled to put a custodial receiver in charge of the property after the fire alarm system failed at the building located at 2206 Central Avenue. Residents at the second building owned by the Imam remain displaced because of a fire two years ago.

The mayor said the Imam was among the worst landlords in Union City and that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the controversy associated with the project the Imam wants to build in lower Manhattan. When asked to give advice to New York the Mayor warned, “any town where he (Imam Rauf) buys property, be alert, because he is not a good landlord.”

Both the Imam and his wife were not available to comment.


Aren't they all

Record level of US airstrikes hit Afghan militants

ISLAMABAD – Drone aircraft unleashed two missile attacks in a lawless tribal region on the Afghan border Tuesday, making September the most intense period of U.S. strikes in Pakistan since they began in 2004, intelligence officials said.

The stepped-up campaign is focused on a small area of farming villages and mountainous, thickly forested terrain controlled by the Haqqani network, a ruthless American foe in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say. There is some evidence the network is being squeezed as a result, one official said.

American officials said the airstrikes were designed to degrade the Haqqanis' operations on the Pakistani side of the border, creating a "hammer-and-anvil" effect as U.S. special operations forces carry out raids against their fighters across the frontier in Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing classified operations.

The missiles have killed more than 50 people in 12 strikes since Sept. 2 in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, according to an Associated Press tally based on Pakistani intelligence officials' reports. Many struck around Datta Khel, a town of about 40,000 people that sits on a strategically vital road to the Afghan border.

The border region has long been a refuge for Islamist extremists from around the world. Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are believed to have fled there after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials said most of this month's strikes have targeted the forces of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander and his son who are now battling American forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The raids targeting the group in Afghanistan are led mainly by the Joint Special Operations Command. Such raids across Afghanistan are now more frequent than at any previous time in the nearly nine-year war, with some 4,000 recorded between May and August as special operations numbers were boosted by troops arriving from Iraq.

The raids have focused on the Haqqanis for the last two years, officials said.

A senior American intelligence official in Afghanistan said the U.S. had reports that Haqqani commanders were under pressure from the operations.

"We're seeing from some of the raids that some of the more senior guys are trying to move back into Pakistan," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The official cautioned that the Haqqanis often employ military disinformation. And so far, the official said, neither the special operations raids nor the missile strikes on the Pakistan side of the border appear to have degraded the militants' ability to fill the ranks of the slain.

But sometimes, the U.S. official said, the replacements are far less competent than their predecessors.

The Pakistan army has launched several offensives in the tribal regions over the last 2 1/2 years, but has not moved in force into North Waziristan. The U.S. is unable to send ground forces into Pakistani territory, and must rely on the drone strikes.

A major offensive in North Waziristan became even less feasible last month after massive flooding forced tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers to focus exclusively on rescuing stranded victims, redirecting flood waters and rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

Last month also saw a lull in U.S. airstrikes, until an attack on Sept. 2 began days of repetitive missile attacks.

U.S. officials did not discuss specific reasons for the surge of airstrikes this month. A former American military official said poor weather often hampers drone operations.

Until now, the highest number of airstrikes inside Pakistan in a single month had been the 11 launched in January 2010 after a suicide bomber killed a Jordanian intelligence officer and seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan.

"Usually when there's this type of intensity in strikes, they're going after something specific," Bill Roggio, of the Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes, said of this month's attacks. "They hit it, watch what moves, then hit it again. It becomes an intel feedback loop," that fuels further strikes, he said.

U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the missile strikes but have said privately that they have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida militants and scores of foot soldiers in a region largely out of the control of the Pakistani state.

Critics say innocents are also killed, fueling support for the insurgency.

A Pakistani intelligence official told the AP that "most of the fighters killed in recent weeks are from the Haqqani network," adding that Arab militants had also been killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

"We live in constant fear," said Munawar Khan, 28, who lives in the nearby village of Darpa Khel. "We have missile strikes every day."

U.S. forces began targeting Pakistan's tribal regions with aerial drones in 2004 but the number of strikes soared in 2008 and has been steadily climbing since then, with nearly 70 attacks this year, according to an AP tally.

There has been little evident public or official outrage inside Pakistan in the wake of September's airstrikes, but the Pakistani government says it has not altered its long-standing objection to such attacks, which have also targeted Pakistani Taliban militants who carry out attacks inside the country.

"The position of the army and government is the same, that it harms more than it helps," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, an army spokesman.

The Haqqanis worked closely with Pakistan's intelligence service during the anti-Soviet war and have not waged attacks inside Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, however, they often use suicide bombs in civilian areas and do not let suicide bombers back out of an attack, unlike the Afghan Taliban, the U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

There's some disagreement in U.S. intelligence ranks as to whether the Haqqanis are part of the Taliban, or simply allied with them in what an intelligence official in the U.S. called "a marriage of convenience."

Many in the Haqqani leadership have roles as Taliban commanders. But officials say the Haqqanis seek dominion only over the areas in which they hold sway — Afghanistan's mountainous eastern provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost, stretching to the outskirts of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban, by contrast, want to take over the whole country. The two ruled those areas side by side when the Taliban governed Afghanistan — though Haqqani was subservient to Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and did not have independence.


The buzz is that something is up, or at least other than the elections. I haven't a clue...

Our Strange World: Gary Busey: Streets Filled With Rubble


I’ve been sober for thirteen years and I’ve got a few things on my mind which I’d like to share with you. M.I.N.D. - Marijuana Induced Narcoleptic Dementia. {...}

Whenever someone dies and someone says they’re in a better place now I wonder how bad their apartment could possibly be that a hole in the ground would be a step up. And Rest In Peace is a pretty goofy thing to say. Once you’re dead, people generally stop hassling you. Futhermore no one’s death is ever untimely. It always right after the heart stops. D.E.A.D - Don’t Eat A Dingo. {...}

Getting a girlfriend is a lot like getting a new dog. Sure, you can spend a lot of money and get a nice one, but if you’re patient, and not so picky, sometimes you can find one hanging around the dumpsters at Burger King looking for something to eat. G.I.R.L. - General Insanity Running Loose. Read more at Our Strange World.

1389 Blog: Don’t Try to Tell Me Obama Is Not A Muslim!

Obama in Muslim garb with Somali religious leader
I have had more than enough of the speculation about whether Obama is a Muslim or not. The only way that you could argue that he is not a Muslim would be to make up your own definition of “Muslim” that is meant to exclude him.

Muslims consider the child of a Muslim father to be a Muslim. I am not aware of any exceptions. Many Muslims who are true to the tenets of their faith believe that a Muslim who truly adopts another faith is guilty of a capital offense and should be killed. There has never been any question that Barack Hussein Obama’s father was a Muslim. In addition, Barry’s Muslim stepfather raised him as a Muslim. Given those facts, we can conclude that Muslims believe that Obama is a Muslim. Were that not so, those Muslims who believe in the stated tenets of their faith would be calling for Obama’s execution as an apostate from Islam. Read more... Also see: More evidence that Obama is Muslim, Even more evidence that Obama is Muslim.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Iraq combat over but U.S. troops still in danger

(Reuters) - U.S. Staff Sergeant Kendrick Manuel swung his rifle over his shoulder and grumbled about being viewed as a "non-combat" soldier in Iraq.
"When NBC talked about the last combat troops are gone, they made it sound like everything is basically over," he said, after escorting a 19-truck convoy through a part of northern Iraq where roadside bombs and mortar attacks are still a danger.

"To us it was like a slap in the face, because we are still here ... we are still going in harm's way every time we leave out of the gate," Manuel said at a U.S. military base, Camp Speicher, near Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit.

On August 31, the U.S. military formally declared an end to its combat mission in Iraq, 7-1/2 years after the invasion that removed Saddam and led to sectarian warfare and a fierce insurgency in which tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed. More than 4,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed since 2003.

U.S. networks such as NBC showed what the U.S. military labeled the last combat brigade rumbling into Kuwait. Soldiers whooped and shouted on camera that the war was over.

Yet, there are still six brigades made up of 50,000 troops in Iraq, ahead of a full withdrawal at the end of 2011. Their focus is to assist and advise their Iraqi counterparts, not lead the fight against insurgents, but they remain heavily armed and face frequent threats.

On September 7, two U.S. soldiers were killed and nine wounded when an Iraqi soldier opened fire on them at an Iraqi commando base.

The hype around the change of mission, which allowed President Barack Obama to say he was fulfilling a pledge to start ending the unpopular war, set off complaints among some soldiers left behind who were no longer viewed as combat troops.

U.S. military convoys are still shot at and bombed, and bases are mortared, despite a change in the name of the U.S. mission from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

"That doesn't really change a thing, it is still dangerous," said 22-year-old Specialist Byron Reed, on his second deployment in Iraq, as he prepared to escort a convoy to Camp Speicher from Balad air base in Salahuddin province.

Manuel said changing the mission's name meant little if any of his soldiers were to be killed by a roadside bomb.

"If a life is gone, it is gone," he said. "As long as we are going in harm's way, it (the war) is not over for us."


U.S. soldiers said there had been little change in their mission since September 1. Most U.S. military units switched their focus to training Iraqi troops and police when they pulled out of towns and cities on June 30 last year.

While overall violence has dipped sharply in the past two or three years, Iraq is still a fragile place and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and Shi'ite militia are active. Furthermore, tension has been heightened by the failure of politicians to form a new government six months after an inconclusive election.

"We do present a big target for the enemy, we still get attacked, just not as frequently," said Lieutenant Colonel David Gooch, an infantry battalion commander, at Balad, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

"Over the last week, I think we probably got attacked, say, five times. Those attacks are becoming less lethal I guess you would say, because we have some really good vehicles as you can see," he said, standing in front of a U.S. army MRAP -- Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected trucks.

The MRAP, heavily armored and V-hulled to deflect bomb blasts, is credited with saving many soldiers' lives in Iraq.

Soldiers who were in Iraq during the worst of the sectarian bloodshed between once dominant Sunnis and majority Shi'ite Muslims who rose to power with Saddam's fall are happy to take a back seat and let the Iraqis fight the war.

"It is their country you know," said 37-year-old Sergeant First Class Dana Campell, adding that security had greatly improved since 2007.

"I think they are doing a great job. They came a long, long way," he said, dressed for battle in the remote northern town of Rabiya near the Syrian border.

Gone are the days when U.S. soldiers kicked in doors and searched for insurgents and weapons, U.S. officers say, adding that they cannot even enter towns now unless invited and escorted.

However, a tip-off that a suicide bomber from the Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda planned to attack a joint Iraqi-U.S. checkpoint in western Nineveh during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started on Friday, led U.S. troops to take the initiative in a raid last week.

"Being that it is a credible threat specifically against U.S. forces, we kind of have to act," said Captain Keith Benoit, a squadron commander in the 7th Cavalry Regiment, at the checkpoint a few hours before the raid.

The mission was planned by U.S. forces but it was to be carried out by the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga security forces, while U.S. soldiers stood about 100 meters away, said Benoit.

"If we were to capture these folks alive tonight, I have a specific interest in this ... so I would probably join in the questioning, but there is no unilateral questioning by U.S. forces any more," he said.

"Because it is not my country, really, it is their country."


These troops don't know what they are talking about. O said he ended the war, so it must be true.