Saturday, October 30, 2010


Late - MI6 officer responsible for Yemen reportedly receives tip-off from a local source of a possible al Qaida plot to smuggle bombs to America on cargo aircraft.

How many times can we be this lucky before our luck runs out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Through Darkness We See

"As the steady flow of commuters emptied out of the subway, I stood to the side, watching down avenues of approach with my head on a swivel. Jesse’s assault pack dug into my shoulders, heavy not from grenades or textbooks, but from enough clothes for a long weekend. I decided on a whim to take a long bus ride from Washington, DC to New York for Comic-Con. Dodo had gone last year and it seemed a perfect reason to visit him in Brooklyn. It had only been a few months since he came down to Washington, but I had missed him terribly. He remains one of my closest friends from our old platoon, and seeing him released the nostalgic pressure that builds in between visits with guys from the unit."
Army of Dude

An Open Letter to the Washington Post

"Dear Sir or Madam:

As one of your readers, what in the world am I supposed to make of an article in yesterday's newspaper claiming that the United States and its allies are kicking the holy crap out of the Taliban, and another article today that claims that, no, actually, U.S. and allied operations are not having much of an effect at all on the Taliban's ability to conduct operations?

Can you see how this is confusing?"
Abu Muqawama

Afghan First; Afghans Last

"Creating a Level Playing Field for Afghan Businesses
While Safeguarding the Future
LtCol Asad Khan, USMC (Ret.)

A central element to the success of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is based on the development of the country’s economy and on the ability of Afghan businesses to create economic growth, jobs and sustained opportunities for Afghans. The Department of Defense (“DOD”) is the largest contributor to the Afghan economy. DOD uses the US Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”), Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (“AFCEE”) and US Military Contracting Officers to oversee its projects. Unfortunately, many aspiring Afghan businesses are either excluded from the DOD related projects or if they are allowed to participate, they are put under heavy financial strains due to our inability to pay them in a timely manner – thereby failing. In this counterinsurgency, one cannot underestimate the benefits created by Afghan businesses contributing to Afghanistan’s long-term development, prosperity and stability."
A Battlefield Tourist

Not Hiring

I saw a sign today, a sign of the times. it read: Not Hiring Painters. It struck me as odd, I don't think I have ever seen such a sign outside of a history book. It caught my attention so I started reading the other signs in the area, a warehouse district, they were all the same. For Rent...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NATO squeezing Taliban, but no claims of victory

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Taliban commanders dead or captured. Insurgents routed from strongholds. Stopping short of claiming it has broken the back of the insurgency, NATO is touting progress ahead of Washington's year-end review of the war - and hoping that this time, the alliance has the force and experience to keep militants from regaining momentum.

Besides the White House review, the top U.S.-NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, must convince allies at a NATO gathering next month that his war strategy is working and the campaign deserves continued support.

The Taliban are being battered in the south in offensives by fortified NATO forces, but militants remain active in the east and have opened new fronts in the north. Insurgents have been beaten back in the past, only to quickly reclaim lost territory.

"We genuinely believe that we are beginning to show real progress," said Mark Sedwill, the NATO force's top civilian official. "We're very cautious about it. We're not beating our chests suggesting that suddenly 2010 has been dramatically different from what happened before."

A little more than a year ago, Petraeus's predecessor Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the war effort was "deteriorating" and could fail without an influx of tens of thousands of additional troops. Soon after, President Barack Obama ordered more than 30,000 U.S. reinforcements, who finished arriving in Afghanistan at the end of August.

Sedwill said NATO commanders believe McChrystal's assessment "is no longer the case - that we are on course to regain the initiative by the end of 2010."

In the past 90 days, 293 insurgent leaders have been captured or killed, and the Taliban are finding it increasingly difficult to replace commanders, according to a senior operations adviser at NATO headquarters in Kabul.

Over the same period, 858 lower-level militants have been killed and another 2,169 foot soldiers captured, although some could end up back on the battlefield, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of coalition activities.

The first major offensive since Obama ordered the reinforcements came in February against Marjah, in Helmand province. U.S. forces wrested control of the southern, poppy-producing hub, but eight months on, the Taliban are still waging a guerrilla insurgency.

The coalition says central Helmand is in the "hold" phase of Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy - clearing militants from a territory, holding it, building it and then transferring it to the Afghans.

Four new schools have opened in Marjah. Three hundred trained Afghan policemen are patrolling, and there is now a police recruiting station in Marjah, where the former police were so corrupt that residents feared them more than the Taliban.

But Helmand remains dangerous. At least 17 of the 35 U.S. troops killed so far this month died in Helmand, where insurgents pretend to be farmers, bury guns in haystacks and make bombs from fertilizer.

More broadly, NATO still lacks several hundred trainers needed to prepare Afghan soldiers and policemen to take the lead in the fight by 2014, a key part of the strategy.

This summer, months after Marjah, tens of thousands of Afghan and international troops flooded neighboring Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency. The forces established checkpoints around Kandahar city, the largest city in the south, and have worked to clear insurgents from surrounding districts of Zhari, Arghandab and Panjwai.

"Right now there has been some peace achieved and the Taliban don't have that much power, so there is less violence," said Nawab Shakoor Ahmed, a 52-year-old baker in Kandahar. "But such changes have appeared many times before."

"When such operations take place, the Taliban prefer to go undercover and when these (coalition) forces think they have almost achieved their goal and plan to slow down - or we could say they get exhausted - then the Taliban reappear out of nowhere with their full strength."

In September 2006, a Canadian-led force pushed the Taliban out of Zhari and Panjwai in an operation that cost 28 coalition lives. Months later, the Taliban were back.

A NATO intelligence official said Taliban fighters in the south are under strain, frustrated by shortages in equipment and money due to the interdiction of supplies and a decrease in opium production caused by a poppy disease.

He said intelligence shows the Taliban are having trouble getting insurgents to accept leadership roles - more so in Kandahar than Helmand - because so many have been killed and captured. There have been cases of insubordination against new Taliban leaders brought in from outside Kandahar to fill positions, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share intelligence from the field.

But he cautioned that September, October and November typically are the months when the Taliban slow down their operations after heavy fighting in the summer and spring.

The Taliban deny they are being beaten down.

"In some areas, the enemy (the coalition) cannot move forward due to fear of ambushes and strikes with improvised explosive devices," the Taliban said in a statement posted on its website. "Afghan Taliban fighters have not felt much impact from the campaign, but have turned to guerrilla tactics and not moving around in large numbers."

Coalition success in the second phase of Petraeus's strategy - improving governance and development - is anecdotal and uneven at best.

President Hamid Karzai visited Arghandab this month and met with more than 200 tribal elders to rally support. Karzai promised more electricity was on its way - with the first of two 10 megawatt power plants scheduled to be running by December, providing power to up to 15,000 additional homes.

Still, insurgents continue to attack police and local officials. On a single day earlier this month, they killed Kandahar's deputy mayor and a former district chief in Arghistan.

Meanwhile, there have been outbreaks in other provinces - Baghdis in the northwest, Kunduz and Baghlan and Takhar in the north. A bombing in a packed mosque this month killed Kunduz's governor and 19 others.

In the east, the coalition has stepped up attacks on the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked Taliban faction based across the border in Pakistan. About 250 Haqqani militants were captured and 115 killed in June, July and August, the intelligence official said. The coalition estimates the network has some 2,500 fighters.

Coalition forces also have disrupted their training camps and taken out some strongholds in Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces along the border with Pakistan.

The network's leader Jalaluddin Haqqani is sick, and his son Saraj is commanding operations, the official said. The killing and capturing of midlevel commanders has forced the Haqqanis to depend on less experienced fighters and has foiled attacks, which the network plans 30 to 60 days ahead of execution, the official said. However, the network runs an effective disinformation campaign, making it difficult to know who is in charge, he said.


Iraqi court orders parliament back to work

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's highest court on Sunday ordered parliament back to work after a virtual seven-month recess, intensifying pressure to break the political stalemate that has held up formation of a new government.

The 325 lawmakers met only once since they were elected on March 7 for a session that lasted 20 minutes and consisted of a reading from Islam's holy book, the Quran, the playing of the national anthem and swearing in new members.

Under the constitution, parliament was required to meet within 15 days of final court approval of election results, which came on June 1. Lawmakers met on June 14 and should have chosen a parliament speaker during their first session and then the president within 30 days. But these appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations between major political blocs over the rest of the new leadership - including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.

After the June meeting, lawmakers agreed to leave the parliament session open but unattended - a technicality to allow more time to choose a new leadership and to put off choosing a new speaker or president.

But the Supreme Court deemed that decision "illegal" in its ruling on Sunday.

"The federal Supreme Court decided to cancel this decision, binding the parliament speaker to call on lawmakers to convene parliament and resume work," the ruling said. The delay "violated the constitution," it added.

Parliament's absence has meant inaction on business-friendly reforms, such as streamlining bureaucracy and clarifying rules for foreign investment, among other major decisions.

The absent parliamentarians are earning $22,500 a month in salary and housing allowance - far more than the average $800 monthly salary of an Iraqi professional. And that doesn't include a $90,000 stipend they were given after they were sworn in to cover expenses for the next four years.

The court's ruling effectively turns up the pressure to break the 7-month-old impasse on forming a government.

"This decision will put pressure on political blocs to speed up their negotiations, and to nominate a prime minister candidate," said Kurdish lawmaker Alaa Talabani, a relative of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Sunday's court order settles a lawsuit brought by independent watchdog groups against parliament's acting speaker, Fouad Massoum. In a brief interview Sunday, Massoum said he has not yet seen the order but has no choice but to abide by the court's demands.

He told The Associated Press he expects to set a date for a meeting by the end of the week, though it was not clear when the meeting would take place. Lawmakers, however, said they would not be able to accomplish much if they reconvened before political parties agree on a ruling coalition and choose a prime minister.

Under pressure from foreign allies and mounting exasperation from the Iraqi public, leaders since have twice tried - and failed - to bring parliament back.

The March elections failed to give any party a ruling majority. Since then, dueling political leaders have resisted returning as they try to corral alliances that will allow them to choose a prime minister and form a coalition government.

Sunni lawmaker Osama Nujaifi predicted parliament would ignore the order and resist convening for at least a week if "the political blocs haven't agreed yet" on a new government.

Kurdish lawmaker Azad Chalak said that convening before deals are made on leadership posts "probably would lead to parliament dismantling" without having anybody in charge. He predicted that could, in turn, trigger courts to order a new election.

With 51 seats, the Kurdish bloc is considered a kingmaker whose support is critical to forming any ruling coalition.

Iraq is still struggling with its political identity after its majority Shiite population was ruled for decades by Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime. Since Saddam's fall, Iraq has been governed mostly by Shiites and Kurds, raising fears that Sunnis who feel they have been sidelined will re-ignite sectarian strife across the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is battling to keep his job after the Sunni-backed Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi narrowly won the most seats in the March vote.

The impasse could drag on for months more.


Iraq war logs: US turned over captives to Iraqi torture squads

Fresh evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad has emerged in army logs published by WikiLeaks.

The 400,000 field reports published by the whistleblowing website at the weekend contain an official account of deliberate threats by a military interrogator to turn his captive over to the Iraqi "Wolf Brigade".

The interrogator told the prisoner in explicit terms that: "He would be subject to all the pain and agony that the Wolf battalion is known to exact upon its detainees."

The evidence emerged as the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said the allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq were "extremely serious" and "needed to be looked at".

Clegg, speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, did not rule out an inquiry into the actions of British forces in Iraq, but said it was up to the US administration to answer for the actions of its forces. His comments contrasted with a statement from the Ministry of Defence today, which warned that the posting of classified US military logs on the WikiLeaks website could endanger the lives of British forces.

Clegg said: "We can bemoan how these leaks occurred, but I think the nature of the allegations made are extraordinarily serious. They are distressing to read about and they are very serious. I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It's not for us to tell them how to do that."

Asked if there should be an inquiry into the role of British troops, he said: "I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.

"People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking."

A Channel 4 Dispatches programme tomorrow night is expected to add further details based on the logs of alleged abuse directly by coalition forces. Only two cases of alleged involvement of British troops have so far been mentioned.

Within the huge leaked archive is contained a batch of secret field reports from the town of Samarra. They corroborate previous allegations that the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry's special commandos.

In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for "further questioning". Typical entries read: "All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning" (from 29 November 2004) and "The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning" (30 November 2004).

The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films : "US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing," while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.

Maass's 2005 interview at the improvised prison with the Wolf Brigade's US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.

The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.

It is unclear which US unit filed the report of complaint that detainees were being specifically threatened with being turned over to the Wolf Brigade. The entry describes the capture of prisoners near the town of Falluja, west of Baghdad.

It is headed "Alleged detainee abuse by interrogators", and reads: "On 14 December 2005, a raid was conducted whereby five individuals were detained for suspicion of emplacement of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] as a result of a pid [positive identification]. "During the interrogation process the RO [ranking officer] threatened the subject detainee that he would never see his family again and would be sent to the 'Wolf Battalion' where he would be subject to all the pain and agony that the 'Wolf Battalion' is known to exact upon its detainees."

The war logs also disclose that Wolf Brigade members were themselves at risk of reprisals. In January 2007, US soldiers reported a gruesome discovery in a street near Baghdad: "Only the severed head was found.

A wire was run through the ear with the corpse's ID attached to the wire. 3rd bn commander identified the remains as Ahdel Abu Hussain, he was an officer in the NP [national police] Wolf Brigade."

Lawyers said the reports may embroil British as well as US forces in an alleged culture of abuse and extrajudicial killings. Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, appearing alongside the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, at a press conference in London, said some of the deaths may have involved British forces and could now go through the UK courts.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Spy Who Me Loved Covers Russian Maxim

Courtesy of: Acid Cow

Our favorite Russian spy takes the men magazine world by storm posing for November's Maxim Russia. Her 15 minutes of fame are up to about 25 by now. ))) Another image after the break...

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Inexplicata: High Strangeness: Our Haunted Seas

But the ocean had a cruel fate in store for the refugees: their precariously outfitted craft, improperly stocked with food and water, was swept out into the Atlantic for a twelve-day odyssey that not even the bravest Hollywood director would try to capture on film. Hunger and thirst raged among the passengers, causing many to jump into the sea to drink in as much salt water as possible before dying; some survivors later reported acts of cannibalism had taken place in the drifting vessel, but the most astonishing – and terrifying- event was yet in store.

One survivor told the journalist reporting the story that while the refugees fought for survival among the wind, waves and merciless sun, a "monster" with vast wings appeared before them. Overcome by dread, passengers huddled together to read from a New Testament that had been found in the vessel, but as they read from the holy book, its pages inexplicably vanished their hands. Read more at Inexplicata...

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Washington Examiner: Troops chafe at restrictive rules of engagement, talks with Taliban

A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter from the 101st Airborne Division transports U.S. infantrymen from one position to another in Zhari District, southern Afghanistan. (AP file photo)

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- To the U.S. Army soldiers and Marines serving here, some things seem so obviously true that they are beyond debate. Among those perceived truths: Tthe restrictive rules of engagement that they have to fight under have made serving in combat far more dangerous for them, while allowing the Taliban to return to a position of strength.

"If they use rockets to hit the [forward operating base] we can't shoot back because they were within 500 meters of the village. If they shoot at us and drop their weapon in the process we can't shoot back," said Spc. Charles Brooks, 26, a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province.

Word had come down the morning Brooks spoke to this reporter that watch towers surrounding the base were going to be dismantled because Afghan village elders, some sympathetic to the Taliban, complained they were invading their village privacy. "We have to take down our towers because it offends them and now the Taliban can set up mortars and we can't see them," Brooks added, with disgust.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jihad is the answer

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

Here’s why that sentence is so important. The central question for the Middle East for many decades has been this: Why is it – especially since we are a superior people (Arabs) with a superior religion (Islam) – that we are behind the West? How that question has been answered has been the core of Middle Eastern politics. Let’s call it The Question.

FROM ROUGHLY around the 1880s into the 1930s, and even until the 1950s, the main answer might be called the liberal developmentalist perspective. The West’s advances were seen as being technological, institutional and intellectual. Distinguished historian Albert Hourani called this “the liberal age.”

What was needed, said the leaders, in answering The Question, was to adapt and adopt Western techniques. If, for example, the Ottoman Empire or Egypt had a constitution and a multi-party parliamentary system, built up educational institutions and created private enterprises, they too would flourish.

These reformers, of course, made it sound too easy. Some were secular-oriented, others thought Islam could be modernized. Ironically, the latter – like Muhammad Abdu and Rashid Rida – are often seen in retrospect as pioneers of radical Islamism, even though they were the opposite.

For many reasons, the liberal age failed. One chief factor was that the Arab societies were not ready for such changes, and they could not easily be imposed from above. Another was the fact that authoritarian systems – like fascism in the 1920-1940 period and communism in the 1950-2000 era – seemed more successful than moderate democracy.

Rampant corruption and extremes of class injustice were prominent, as was imperial intervention (most notably in Egypt). To some extent, the failure to prevent Israel’s creation in 1948 made the existing system seem incompetent, though I’d argue the fault was more due to the radical nationalists and Islamists than to the liberals. (I deal with this issue in my book, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict.) Yet fail the liberal age did, and in came radical Arab nationalism, gaining power beginning with the Egyptian officers’ 1952 coup.

Ever since, radical nationalists have dominated Arabic-speaking countries. Their answer to the key question is: The reason we are behind is not mainly due to any internal failing but to the oppression of imperialism and Zionism. The solution is to have nationalist governments with dictatorial control and state domination of the economy.

These regimes will fight, defeat the West, destroy Israel, bring Arab unity, rapid development and prosperity.

These regimes failed to deliver on any of their promises. They led their peoples into losing wars and generally (except for oil and gas riches) stagnant economies. These nationalist governments were generally repressive and corrupt, too, and there was much discontent. The collapse of the Soviet bloc – their main ally and model – also discredited them.

One reason for this failure is a flaw in their formulation of The Question, an error they share with the Islamists. Once you blame external forces and deny the need for internal reform (such as less statist control, democracy, changes in the status of women, modernizing Islam, getting along with the West, and making peace with Israel), you ensure that you will remain backward.

AND SO here we are in the early 21st century with the Arab nationalist regimes being challenged by revolutionary Islamists. Though the Islamists go back as modern political organizations to the mid-1920s, they really revived in the 1980s. The Iranian revolution and the jihadist war in Afghanistan were important factors, but so was the increasingly obvious failure of the nationalist regimes.

Small new liberal movements have also arisen, somewhat parallel to those of the past but putting more stress on human rights and democracy than on technology and formal institutions. Yet they are very weak. The nationalists, the existing regimes, are far more powerful than they are; so are the Islamists.

At least, though, the nationalists and their regimes are worn down by a half-century of experience and failure. So how do Islamists deal with The Question? By saying: The reason we are behind is not mainly due to any internal failing but to the oppression of imperialism and Zionism, the treason of our governments and above all our abandonment of Islam. The solution is to have proper Islamic governments with dictatorial control, state domination of the economy, unity through a new caliphate, the systematic rejection of Western culture and making our society conform to Islamic law as we interpret it. These regimes will fight, defeat the West, destroy Israel, bring Muslim unity and fulfill Allah’s commands.

Here’s where Badi’s statement fits in as the proposed solution: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

Not through solving problems by compromise, not by ending foreign conflicts, not by better educational systems that are open to science and other imported ideas, not by modernizing Islam, not by granting equality to women, not by democracy, not by human rights. No and no and no. But only by: “...jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

Jihad they want and jihad they will get; death they want and death they will get; a generation of warfare they want and a generation of warfare they will get. They will fail and their claims will be seen to be hollow. Unfortunately, it will take about 50 years for that to happen. The result? Arab and Muslim-majority countries will be left even further behind the rest of the world.


The Iconoclast: Why the Integration of Muslims has Failed

Nicolai Sennels, who wrote "
Muslims and Westerners: The Psychological Differences" for NER in May, sends us the following:

The integration of Muslims into Western society has failed, and will never occur to the extent necessary for them to function successfully in Western society. The reason is that a vast majority of them have not fulfilled all three of the criteria that are necessary for becoming members of, and feeling at home in, our non-Islamic societies: wanting to integrate; being allowed to integrate; and being able to integrate.
Wanting to integrate
Firstly, we must ask ourselves: Why should Muslims want to integrate? They're sure to receive all possible welfare benefits, whether they educate themselves, work, learn our language, acknowledge Western values and mix socially with the native population, or not. Lack of integration does not involve any risk of becoming socially or culturally isolated, because there are ample opportunities to live with others in a parallel society where all share the same cultural norms as themselves. Read more...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Suicide bombers’ trainer Qari 
Hussain ‘killed’

ISLAMABAD — The alleged ‘master trainer’ of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain Mehsud, is reported to have been killed in the October 4 US drone attack in Mir Ali town of North Waziristan.

However, Tehrik-i-Taleban Pakistan contradicted reports about Qari Hussain’s death and described it as part of a campaign to demoralise its fighters.

“Qari Hussain is alive and healthy and will soon contact the media,” one of his associates told Dawn on phone.

According to one report, Qari Hussain was injured in the attack on a house in Mir Ali in which eight foreigners, including German militants, were killed.

According to intelligence sources, those killed included Qari Hussain, known as Ustad-i-Fedayeen (teacher of suicide bomber), and his two guards.

They said that Qari Hussain, who was sleeping in the house at the time, was severely injured and taken to Miram Shah where doctors amputated one of his legs and he died there.

Qari Hussain was cousin of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud. In the past also there have been reports of his death but he re-surfaced to continue his terror activities

Khaleej Times

Thursday, October 14, 2010

World Citizen: Arabs States Building Arsenal for War With Iran

World Politics Review

While Western diplomats and sanctions-enforcers ply their trade to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment, much of the Middle East is already preparing for war. Headlines might focus on United Nations resolutions initiated by Western powers, or on fiery speeches delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But just a few hundred miles from Tehran, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have launched a race to arm themselves with an urgency and intensity reminiscent of America's defense build-up prior to its entry into World War II.

The magnitude of the weapons purchases is nothing short of astounding and the speed at which they are accelerating is breathtaking. Consider how fast the orders are growing: Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, bought $37 billion worth of U.S. weapons in the last four years, with the majority of the purchases coming in just the last two years. And the deals already under negotiation for the next four years are expected to total $123 billion. Those numbers don't include arms purchases from countries other than the U.S. Read more...


Diana West: Mud Hut Equality

No fan of women in combat moi but the sight of American women troops suited up for combat wearing hijabs in deference to Islam is enough to make any American roar. Or should be. [...]

What bears special note, however, are the analytical powers of one Col. James Blackburn who, mirabile dictu, has discovered equal rights for women in Afghanistan!

“I can tell you through my interaction with Afghan officials, there is women’s equality (in Afghanistan),” [Blackburn] said. “It’s just inside the house. There’s probably women’s equality inside a mud hut in a farmer’s field.”

Wonder what else has his interaction with Afghan officials has told him? Read more...


Monday, October 11, 2010

Strange Signal Comes From Alien Planet, Scientist Says

This artist's conception shows newly discovered planet Gliese 581g, which has a 37-day orbit right in the middle of the star's habitable zone. The Gliese 581 system and its host red dwarf star is only 20 light years from Earth.

The recent discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet in the habitable zone of another star, has been an exciting development for scientists probing the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life. At least one claim of a possible signal from the planet has already surfaced – and been met with harsh skepticism among the science community.

Following the Sept. 29 announcement of the discovery of Gliese 581g, astronomer Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, claimed to have detected a suspicious pulse of light nearly two years ago, that came from the same area of the galaxy as the location of Gliese 581g, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail online.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Winter At Doors!

Credit: Eastern Liberty

Our daily life ends with sunset, long night's hours, nothing impressed me on T.V. we don't go outside home that often, as I mentioned before in my posts about the reasons like securty & reputation, & past couple weeks I was very busy with this changing weathe, cleaning house, from top to bottom like cleaning fans, lights, windows & walls, autumn cleaning is intense because the dust & this mission like a nightmare for us, it means "working like a dog!" then we usually covered the ground of the house with rugs to warm our rooms, living room or carpet in the kitchen too & feel the sense of winter, & we appreciated rain very much (though streets & walks way will cover with mud) because humidity is very low, I got a new umbrella last year, but really I didn't use it, hopefully this year or somewhere has lots of rain! Read more at Eastern Liberty...

Iraqi Christians fear escalating persecution as US forces withdraw

As US forces continue to withdraw from Iraq, many fear a return to sectarian violence once they've gone. Iraqi Christians are particularly fearful of the removal of the main barrier between them and their persecutors.

Their churches are burnt-out husks and heaps of rubble. Their businesses are targeted by extremists. Their leaders are kidnapped and assassinated. The Christian minority in Iraq, once a community left in peace to prosper, continues to be under threat from a campaign of persecution which has forced as many as 500,000 Christians to flee the country.

During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the estimated 1.4 million Christians - many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics - were generally left alone if they didn't oppose the government and they lived in relative peace with the country's Sunnis and Shiites.

Some, such as Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister and deputy prime minister, rose to the highest levels of power. Read more - Hat Tip: Jihad Watch...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Australian Diggers in Afghanistan's morale 'in crisis'

MORALE in sections of the army is suffering after the controversial court martial of three special forces Diggers involved in the deaths of six people in Afghanistan, including five children.
Blogs and webposts by serving soldiers show unrestrained disdain for the army's senior command over the issue.

Serving officers have told the Sunday Herald Sun of their fears for morale and discipline in Afghanistan. The charges stem from a night-time raid on a residential compound in Oruzgan province on February 12, 2009.

Write your message of support for our Diggers below

Meanwhile, the father of a commando involved in a deadly night-time raid at Surkh Morghab, Afghanistan, last year has urged Australians to sign a petition supporting the three soldiers facing court martial.

"The whole thing is farcical," he said.

"If they (Australian soldiers) had been killed, it would have just been accepted."

The man, who lives in Sydney but asked not to be named, said his son was not one of the three commandos facing court martial, but would be forced to give evidence about the botched raid.

He said the charges were "concerning". "How are they supposed to react if they are liable to be charged with manslaughter?" he said.

One web comment from a soldier serving in Afghanistan said: "This stinks. They want us to go out and take on the Taliban, but when things go pear-shaped the senior brass go looking scape goats (sic) ... this thing is totally political."

Another said: "The shiney ar--s (sic) are letting the blokes on the frontline take the blame for something that was unavoidable in the circumstances."

A former army captain wrote: "When one considers the vast numbers of civilians accidentally killed or killed in pursuit of larger objectives during World War II, Korea and Vietnam with no thought of anyone being charged, it is difficult to avoid a sense of disbelief that soldiers can be charged with serious offences because they responded to someone shooting at them ... "

The commandos were acting on intelligence that a senior Taliban leader was alleged to be hiding in the house.

The soldiers said they acted in accordance with rules of engagement.

Herald Sun

Postal Service recommends mailing dates

The U.S. Postal Service has announced recommended 2010 holiday mailing dates for delivery by Christmas to U.S. military troops and others serving overseas at APO/FPO ZIP Code addresses.

Holiday mail to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan should be sent by Dec. 4 for arrival by Christmas. Holiday mail going to other military overseas APO/FPO ZIP Code locations should be sent by Dec. 10.

Except for Iraq and Afghanistan (APO/FPO AE ZIP 093), customers can also use Express Mail to other overseas military locations until Dec. 18 for delivery by Christmas.

The U.S. shipping price for the Priority Mail large flat-rate box is $14.50, but, for packages going to military APO/FPO addresses overseas, the price is discounted to $12.50. Additional discounts are available for customers mailing online at and using Click-N-Ship.

All packages and mail must be addressed to individual service members by name, in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense regulations. All military overseas units are assigned an APO or FPO ZIP Code, and, in many cases, that ZIP Code travels with the unit.

The Postal Service also offers free Military Care Mailing Kits designed specifically for military families sending packages overseas.

Call 800-610-8734 and ask for the free kit.

The Postal Service has not announced the dates yet for holiday mailing to other international countries or to U.S. locations but will do so shortly.

As a general guideline, holiday mail should be sent by Dec. 20 for delivery to out-of-state U.S. locations by Christmas and a few days before Christmas for in-state delivery.

Billings Gazette

Afghanistan: Does anyone in the US still care?

The invasion of Afghanistan’s ninth anniversary passed in DC this week with hardly a notice.

Media desperate to illustrate the story flocked to a small demonstration of less than two dozen veterans of the so-called global wars on terror. A rag-tag group of angry, disillusioned and, most of all, disappointed vets gathered in front of Walter Reed Army Medical Center where thousands upon thousands of service members have returned from war to treat their wounds.

The veterans there for the demonstration held a ceremony at the gates of the iconic hospital and placed nine yellow roses - one for each year of the war in Afghanistan - with almost military precision, the occasional salute replaced with a peace sign, before setting off on a six-mile march to Capitol Hill.

The occasion marked the first salvo in Operation Recovery, an effort by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War to urge the United States to stop redeploying soldiers who have been identified as suffering trauma - either post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, or others.

It’s a sensitive topic for the military these days as five soldiers are on trial at Fort Lewis, Washington, for being part of what many are calling a hit squad that killed Afghans for sport. One of the soldiers, whose confession tape was leaked to the media, was prescribed and presumably taking a cocktail of psychotropic drugs for repeated concussions at the time of the alleged murders.

Said Ethan McCord, who served in Iraq in 2007:
“This is what happens to the traumatised soldiers that have gone on multiple deployments and we send them to Afghanistan into the same environment that traumatised them to begin with and you place them on psychotropic drugs and then you hand a weapon to them and turn them loose on the streets. What do you expect?”
McCord was famously captured in a video released by Wikileaks earlier this year trying to rescue two children from a van which had been struck by a missile from a US helicopter. Also during his tour, his spine was shattered by an IED.

He bears the physical and emotional scars of the war with metal rods in his back and a sorrowful gaze in his eyes. He was discharged from the military without benefits because they determined his medical condition was pre-existing. In other words, the military’s official position is that he somehow went to bootcamp and made it through infantry school with a shattered lower spine.

It’s a jaw-dropping declaration for which, as McCord explained, there is no appeals process. So McCord receives no medical coverage from the military for the injuries that rendered him unable to walk with others to the Capitol.

While it was disheartening to hear McCord’s story, and those of his comrades, saddest of all is that no one, save the handful of reporters looking for a story on the anniversary of the war, was there to listen. That is, except for the Capitol Police who threatened to arrest the veterans as they stood on the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building. Not that any senators were present as congress is in recess.

As a female marine stepped to the mic and began a slow and painful account of how the military treated her after she was raped by a fellow marine in Iraq, Officer Dan Turner of the Capitol Police was busy threatening representatives from the group that he was about to arrest everyone, including the media.

Turner, who refused to comment for this piece, told organisers that a gathering of more than 20 people on Capitol grounds constitutes a demonstration and the group lacked the proper permit to demonstrate. Pleas from the veterans that their gathering consisted of a mere 15 members on the steps did little to change Turner’s mind as a police paddy wagon pulled up to the sidewalk.

It seems he considered media part of the demonstration. This inclusion was surprising and went a long way toward explaining why he was so hostile to my request for a statement. Turner’s threats to arrest reporters for standing on a public sidewalk observing and recording the incident felt like a shortsighted attempt to halt coverage of an unsightly event for the US.

I contacted the US Capitol Police in an effort to seek clarity on their demonstration policy. Turner was correct, a permit is required for groups of 20 or more. However, the woman I spoke with explained that reporters are not included in the headcount unless they become actively involved in the event. I would love to share her name with you as a source, but she refused to give it.

The disappointing dissolution of this gathering of veterans seemed almost fated. No one really wanted to hear what they had to say. Their proclamations were meant for a crowd that wasn’t there.

The enormous throng of the fed-up and angry that filled the National Mall to hear Glen Beck was missing on this occasion. Passersby kept passing by, no one lingered. And all too quietly, Capitol Police marked the solemn anniversary by shoeing the vets from the very steps of government they volunteered to serve.


Restrepo: Is this the greatest war film ever?

An exploding roadside bomb sends panic through a routine patrol. A handsome and popular soldier is shot dead in a volley of gunfire. His friend collapses in sobs on hearing the news, and comrades restrain him from rushing to the body. Later, smoking and joking, half-naked tattooed soldiers casually fire rounds of ammo into a dry Afghan valley. They dance and embrace to the Sam Fox classic "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)". No wonder they're calling Restrepo one of the best portrayals of war ever.

It is released in British cinemas this weekend, but the critics have already given it the thumbs up: it scooped the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and is being tipped to win best documentary at next year's Oscars. It is Film of the Week in the latest London issue of Time Out, and on the BBC's Kermode and Mayo Film Review show, and has scored an unusually high 97 per cent positive rating on, considered a barometer for critical opinion.

The film's haunting depiction of life – and death – on the front line brings something new to a century of war and cinema. The difference is that this is fact, not fiction. No script. No acting. No props. Real blood, real bodies. Until the end you don't know which soldiers survive. It is not an easy film to watch, much less forget.

Of course there have been war documentaries before, many of them excellent. The top prize at Cannes in May went to Armadillo, a Danish fly-on-the-wall film shot at a base in Helmand Province last year. But what amazes about Restrepo is the rare access its makers had to US soldiers.

It was created by Vanity Fair journalists Sebastian Junger and Tim Heth -erington, who were embedded for one year of a 15-month deployment of a platoon in the Korengal Valley – prime Taliban country, nicknamed the Valley of Death.

The film, shot between 2007 and 2008, takes its name from the platoon's remote outpost which, in turn, was named by the men in memory of Private Juan Sebastian Restrepo, an early casualty. The Colombian-born medic, who spoke with a lisp and played flamenco guitar, was only 20 when two bullets tore through his throat.

The US military began withdrawing from the Korengal Valley late last year, having lost nearly 50 lives there, and, according to Hetherington, senior military figures have privately expressed alarm at the film's frank portrayal of a soldier's lot: "When the military saw the film, I got the impression they were surprised by the amount of access that we had. It has certainly raised eyebrows within the US military establishment."

In an early scene, with echoes of the Vietnam classic Apocalypse Now, a platoon is dropped into Afghanistan by helicopter, their nervous faces cut with shots of the valley below. The sense of foreboding is summed up by one soldier, who said: "I thought, holy shit, we're not ready for this."

The film is likely to raise fresh concerns about the psychological effects of war on servicemen. Some of the men featured appear at times to be in a state of shock and almost all have needed psychiatric help since their deployment.

The aim of the project was, according to the photographer, to provide a truthful and honest account of their experiences. "We are taking people on a 90-minute deployment. Of course, this is a mediated version, because it is edited down from 160 hours of film, but it's a pretty honest and truthful version."

Confirmation of that has come from the soldiers in the film who have seen it, and have vouched for its truthfulness. It is also proving to be a hit among British servicemen: on Monday, the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, was given a private screening at Colchester barracks ahead of their deployment to Helmand two days ago.

Although there is no plot as such, the film inevitably follows a trajectory over the course of the year. Fly-on-the-wall sequences, including real-life battle scenes and tense negotiations with local Afghans, are interspersed with emotionally charged interviews with clearly traumatised soldiers. These interviews have added poignancy, as it is only from these that, as the film progresses, we know who survives.

Last week, Hetherington, who is now based in New York, published a collection of photographs of soldiers sleeping, called Infidel, which attempts to show the humanity of soldiers. "I think soldiers are used as symbols and often misunderstood," he said. "Everyone has seen two- or three-minute network news pieces that really tell you nothing about the war in Afghanistan. You read political op-ed pieces by people who have probably never been out there.

"We made the film because we felt the experience of the soldiers needed to be seen and digested, understood, somehow honoured, as a starting point for a discussion about the war. We have a responsibility back here to to take a bit of time out to understand."

He worries that some troops are too young to grasp the nature of war when they are recruited. "Society puts these men in a group, makes them bond in a brotherhood, and uses that as mechanism by which men will kill and be killed for each other. That's at the heart of the war machine, not the images that are represented. Does a young guy aged 18 really know what he's letting himself in for? The state sanctions young men as an instrument of violence, and all I'm asking for is that we have an honest reflection on that."

A former photographer for The Independent, he describes himself as a liberal journalist, but is at pains to stress the film's neutrality. Indeed, he makes the point that, since the 2001 invasion, there have been fewer civilian casualties in Afghanistan than in each of the two preceding decades. "According to Human Rights Watch, there have been 19,000 civilian casualties since 2001, and the uppermost estimate is 30,000. That's an awful lot of innocent people killed. But that's nothing compared to the 400,000 who died in the 1990s when the Afghan warlords and the Taliban fought it out. And it's nothing compared to the decade previously, when over a million people died."

Making the film has altered his impression of soldiers and he hopes it can change ours too. "It took time to earn their trust but I'm good friends with a lot of them now. We went through some really intense stuff." He said the relationship between the press and the military has always – rightly – been prickly, though he is concerned for the future of war-reporting. A rumour is going around that the Ministry of Defence is now to cut down on the number of journalists it allows to be embedded, and seeing Restrepo, you can understand why that might be true.

A MoD spokesman later flatly denies this allegation, but to watch the crumpled and sobbing figure of Sergeant John Kennard react to the death of his friend Sergeant Rougle during a deadly ambush is to see the uncomfortable side of war.

Knowing this is a real experience, and he is not an actor, makes it all the more traumatic: it's hard to imagine anyone keeping a camera rolling when faced with this. "Yes, it was upsetting, and it's difficult. The American lines had been overrun by insurgents, people were being killed at close range, and we were in a state of shock. But you have to go on to autopilot. I was just doing my job."

Five great war documentaries

'Standard Operating Procedure' (2008)

Director Errol Morris examines the torture of suspects at the hands of US military police in 2003 at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Morris says that his intent was "not to say that these 'bad apples' were blameless... but that they were scapegoats."

'The Fog of War' (2003)

Subtitled "Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara", Errol Morris, again, uses archive footage, recordings of US government members, and an interview with former US defense secretary McNamara, aged 85, to examine the nature and conduct of modern war.

'The Sorrow and the Pity' (1969)

French documentary from Marcel Ophüls, looking at the Vichy government's dealings with the Nazis. Ophüls used archive footage and interviews with a German officer, collaborators, and resistance fighters.

'Armadillo' (2010)

Danish film examining the war in Afghanistan. Janus Metz's film follows young troops on their first mission in Helmand and premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

'Brothers at War' (2009)

Intimate portrait of director Jake Rademacher's bid to understand the sacrifice and motivation of his two brothers serving with US forces in Iraq.


Investigator: Bomb-sniffing dogs sent to Afghanistan, Iraq not trained using common explosives

WASHINGTON — The State Department's inspector general said Friday that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq are not being tested properly and may not be able to detect explosives effectively.

The inspector general's review found that the companies hired to supply and train the animals were not testing them for all scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance that a dog would miss a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts U.S. government personnel in embassies and other diplomatic outposts at risk, the inspector general said.

The companies — U.S. Training Center in North Carolina, a business unit of the company formerly known as Blackwater; and RONCO Consulting Corp. in Washington, D.C. also used expired or potentially contaminated materials for the scent tests, the inspector general's report said.

Representatives from RONCO and U.S. Training Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the inspector general's report.

The review was limited to three canine programs handled by U.S. Training Center and RONCO, which is owned by Wackenhut Services. The report does not say how many dogs each contractor provides.

Overall, the State Department uses nearly 200 bomb-sniffing dogs. And the report only offers a glimpse of the costs of these services, saying the State department pays $24 million a year alone for canine services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The report faults the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, responsible for managing the canine program, for weak oversight. Investigators found that the contractors, not the bureau, were running the program and policing themselves.

During visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the investigators did not meet any bureau personnel with expertise in bomb-sniffing dogs. "They depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met," according to the report.

And the contractors told the investigators "that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan," the report said.

In comments printed in the report, the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security says it is acting to improve the canine program and plans to hire an independent expert to ensure all the contract requirements are met properly.


Washington accelerates drone strikes in Pakistan

In recent weeks the U.S. military has stepped up drone strikes in Pakistan to an unprecedented pace alongside a series of other incursions by U.S.-led NATO forces.
The military operations are fomenting anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan and mounting pressure on the country’s unstable government, a shaky U.S. ally whose troubles include a spiraling economic crisis, Islamist insurgency, and popular resentment exacerbated by recent failures to deal with massive flooding.

In September Washington carried out 22 drone strikes into Pakistan, nearly double the previous monthly record of 12 last January. The vast majority have targeted a Taliban-allied group led by Jalaluddin Haqqani in North Waziristan.

Three more strikes were launched in the first four days of October, the most recent of which reportedly killed several German nationals in North Waziristan.

Washington declares these increased aerial assaults are in response to its belief that al-Qaeda is plotting terrorist attacks in Europe.

The State Department issued an alert for U.S. citizens traveling there. German interior minister Thomas de Maizière downplayed this alleged threat, saying there is no “concrete evidence” that such an attack is imminent.

“The Pentagon and CIA have ramped up their purchase of drones, but they aren’t being built fast enough to meet the rapid rise in demand,” reported the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. military is also “secretly diverting aerial drones and weaponry from the Afghan battlefront” for expanded attacks in Pakistan, the paper noted.

In the latest helicopter incursion in Pakistan, NATO gunships traded fire with Pakistani border troops September 30 in Kurram, a tribal agency in northwest Pakistan. While the exact sequence of events is unclear, the outcome was not: three Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers were killed and three wounded by NATO missiles.

The attack comes several days after U.S. military helicopters launched three air strikes into Pakistan, killing more than 50 people. The attacks were aimed at Haqqani forces, which represent a major component of the military forces waging war in Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government publicly condemned the helicopter gunship attacks as violations of the country’s sovereignty. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” said Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik.

Several hours after the latest U.S. helicopter strike that killed the soldiers, Pakistani authorities closed the Khyber Pass route at Torkham in northwest Pakistan. This pass is the main entry point for U.S. and NATO supplies traveling through Pakistan into Afghanistan.

According to the American Forces Press Service, about 50 percent of nonlethal supplies, including water, food, and fuel, reach Afghanistan through this border crossing. Another major crossing in southern Pakistan remains open.

The day after the border closing, some three dozen NATO fuel tankers were set on fire as they were waiting to enter Afghanistan, reported Reuters.

Factionalism among Pakistani rulers
Meanwhile, there are signs of growing factionalism within the Pakistani ruling class, and between the military leadership and the civilian government. The Pakistani military has directly ruled the country for much of its history and remains the strongest pillar of bourgeois rule.

A top Pakistani official described to the Washington Post a September 27 meeting between Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. General Kayani “conveyed a plain message to the civilian leadership … that it must put its house in order,” the Post reported.

Three days later, CIA director Leon Panetta met with all three in Islamabad, in an effort to pressure the Pakistani government to conduct military operations in North Waziristan. “Pakistani leaders were stunned by Mr. Panetta’s menacing tone,” reported the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, “and assured him of intensifying the military offensive against militants in the tribal areas.”

The Pakistani military has been embroiled in its own war against Taliban factions in Pakistan that oppose the government. But a major aspect of Washington’s strategy has been to press Islamabad to go after other groups that focus on fighting in Afghanistan, including Haqqani, a longtime military asset of the Pakistani rulers.

Offensives have been carried out by the Pakistani military against Taliban forces in Swat District and a number of tribal agencies over the last couple years, which have caused many civilian casualties and imposed great hardship on millions of people. Despite Washington’s demands, however, the Pakistani government has held off launching such attacks in North Waziristan where Haqqani’s group is based.

The Pakistani military has maintained tight control in Swat with harsh conditions imposed on its population. A recent video posted on the Internet in early October shows Pakistani soldiers executing six men bound and blindfolded in civilian clothing.

The Militant

I guess now we know

U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels

With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.

The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters — in the latest attack, oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early Monday. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.

Fossil fuel accounts for 30 to 80 percent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as risk. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

“We had a couple of tenuous supply lines across Pakistan that are costing us a heck of a lot, and they’re very dangerous,” said Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Col. Robert Charette Jr., director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that Company I’s equipment would prove reliable and durable enough for military use, and that other Marine companies would be adopting renewable technology in the coming months, although there would probably always be a need to import fuel for some purposes.

While setting national energy policy requires Congressional debates, military leaders can simply order the adoption of renewable energy. And the military has the buying power to create products and markets. That, in turn, may make renewable energy more practical and affordable for everyday uses, experts say.

Last year, the Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, a Wasp class amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island, which at speeds under 10 knots runs on electricity rather than on fossil fuel, a shift resulting in greater efficiency that saved 900,000 gallons of fuel on its maiden voyage from Mississippi to San Diego, compared with a conventional ship its size, the Navy said.

The Air Force will have its entire fleet certified to fly on biofuels by 2011 and has already flown test flights using a 50-50 mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel; the Navy took its first delivery of fuel made from algae this summer. Biofuels can in theory be produced wherever the raw materials, like plants, are available, and could ultimately be made near battlefields.

Concerns about the military’s dependence on fossil fuels in far-flung battlefields began in 2006 in Iraq, where Richard Zilmer, then a major general and the top American commander in western Iraq, sent an urgent cable to Washington suggesting that renewable technology could prevent loss of life. That request catalyzed new research, but the pressure for immediate results magnified as the military shifted its focus to Afghanistan, a country with little available native fossil fuel and scarce electricity outside cities.

Fuel destined for American troops in landlocked Afghanistan is shipped to Karachi, Pakistan, where it is loaded on convoys of 50 to 70 vehicles for transport to central bases. Smaller convoys branch out to the forward lines. The Marines’ new goal is to make the more peripheral sites sustain themselves with the kind of renewable technology carried by Company I, since solar electricity can be generated right on the battlefield.

There are similar tactical advantages to using renewable fuel for planes and building hybrid ships. “Every time you cut a ship away from the need to visit an oiler — a fuel supply ship — you create an advantage,” said Mr. Mabus, noting that the Navy had pioneered previous energy transformations in the United States, from sail power to coal power in the 19th century, as well as from coal to oil and oil to nuclear power in the 20th century.

The cost calculation is also favorable. The renewable technology that will power Company I costs about $50,000 to $70,000; a single diesel generator costs several thousand dollars. But when it costs hundreds of dollars to get each gallon of traditional fuel to base camps in Afghanistan, the investment is quickly defrayed.

Because the military has moved into renewable energy so rapidly, much of the technology currently being used is commercially available or has been adapted for the battlefield from readily available civilian models.

This spring, the military invited commercial manufacturers to demonstrate products that might be useful on the battlefield. A small number were selected for further testing. The goal was to see, for example, if cooling systems could handle the 120 degree temperatures often seen in current war zones or if embedded solar panels would make tents more visible to enemy radar.

This summer, renewable technologies proved capable of powering computers, residences and most equipment for more than a week at a test base in the Mojave Desert — though not enough to operate the most sophisticated surveillance systems.

Much more is in the testing stages: one experimental cooling system uses a pipe burrowed into the cool earth eight feet underground that vents into tents; a solar fan on the tent roof evacuates the hot air and draws cool air from underground. The Marines are exploring solar-powered water purification systems and looking into the possibility of building a small-scale, truck-based biofuel plant that could transform local crops — like illegal poppies — into fuel.

“If the Navy comes knocking, they will build it,” Mr. Mabus said. “The price will come down and the infrastructure will be created.”


Friday, October 08, 2010

German militants training in Pakistani border area

ISLAMABAD (AP) - The video at first seems like many others filmed in Pakistan's tribal areas: The bearded militant sits cross-legged on the floor, an AK-47 propped against the wall behind him. But as he applauds his three companions' decision to join jihad, the words come out in fluent German: "Wir sind die Soldaten Allahs," he says - "We are the soldiers of Allah."

Between 15 and 40 Germans and a smaller contingent of other Europeans are believed to be getting militant training in Pakistan's lawless border region, intending to join the Taliban's fight against NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan or return to Europe and strike at the soft underbelly of those countries.

Their presence has attracted fresh scrutiny after a European terror warning based on information from a German-Afghan captured in Afghanistan, and a CIA drone strike Tuesday that allegedly killed eight German militants in North Waziristan - an al-Qaida and Taliban hub that the Pakistani army has so far left largely alone.

The German speaker in the jihad video, Mounir Chouka, is one of two Bonn-born brothers with dual German-Moroccan citizenship well known for appearances in videos made by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan apparently aimed at recruiting more militants from Germany. German federal prosecutors confirmed Thursday that the two are under investigation on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization.

The clip appeared on a militant website earlier this summer, a nearly 40-minute video telling new recruits of the legitimacy of jihad, or holy war.

"At every border crossing, at every airport and at every search, we pray to Allah ... to make these enemies blind," he says. "Allah answered. The proof? We are here."

Germans are thought to be one of the largest European groups in Pakistan's northwest, though information is scant. Most are believed to be immigrants from Muslim nations or their descendants.

The Germans killed Tuesday were hit by a drone strike in Mir Ali, a town about 20 miles from the border with Afghanistan.

Reporters who have been to Mir Ali describe Internet cafes in the basement of shops where militants from all over the world watch extremist videos or send e-mails. The Pakistani army has a base nearby, but soldiers do not patrol the area.

"For three or four months we have been hearing that there are people who say they are from Germany who have been trickling in one by one," said retired Brig. Mahmood Shah, the former chief of security of Pakistan's tribal regions. "Some people say that they are Turkish, or appear to be Turkish, or maybe Turkish from Germany."

Shah said the group is thought to include about 15 to 20 people but, he conceded, "nothing much is known about them."

Many top al-Qaida Arab leaders are believed to be somewhere in the border region, including Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Of the Germans in the region, most recent attention has been on Ahmed Siddiqui, a German citizen of Afghan descent who had been in the Mir Ali area and was captured in Afghanistan in July. He is now being interrogated by U.S. forces at the Bagram Air Field, German and U.S. officials have said.

American officials say Siddiqui provided some details of an early-stage terrorist plot to attack targets in Britain, France and Germany, which led to the recent warnings in Europe.

Siddiqui was one of about a dozen radical Muslims who left the northern port city of Hamburg in 2009 to pursue terrorist training in the border region, said Rolf Tophoven, director of the Germany-based Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy.

Siddiqui prayed at the same mosque that was earlier frequented by Mohamed Atta and the other Sept. 11 hijackers who used Hamburg as a base before they moved to the United States to attend flight school. Hamburg authorities closed the mosque in August after saying it was again being used as a meeting point for Islamic radicals.

But unlike the Sept. 11 hijackers - who had already coalesced into a terrorist cell while in Hamburg - Siddiqui and the others who left in 2009 are thought to have less organized plans.

"We have a lot of single people, lone fighters who are going to these areas (in Pakistan) and want to be trained as terrorists there," Tophoven said.

A German intelligence official said that authorities were aware of Siddiqui being part of the "Hamburg scene of Islamists" who they assumed was heading to Pakistan to "take part in jihad," but that there was no way to prevent him from leaving the country.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the press, pointed to the similar case of a suspect identified only as Rami M., who also left Hamburg in 2009 and turned up in Pakistan.

The 25-year-old German-Syrian was picked up at a checkpoint near the city of Bannu in June when police became suspicious of a particularly tall "woman" in a burqa in car who turned out to be Rami M. in disguise.

He was extradited to Germany, where prosecutors say he learned how to handle weapons and explosives while in Pakistan.

Rami M. has been charged with membership of a terrorist organizations on allegations that while in Pakistan he joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and fought with them in the region. The group is said to have links to al-Qaida and to have attacked foreign troops in Afghanistan.

In addition to Mounir Chouka, who goes locally by the name Abu Adam al-Almani - "Abu Adam the German" - and his brother Yassin, other Germans linked to the Mir Ali area include Muslim-convert Eric Breininger, who was killed April 30 by Pakistani soldiers.

Breininger was part of the Islamic Jihad Union, which has been linked to a thwarted plot inside Germany to attack U.S. targets.

Four IJU members, two German converts to Islam and two Turks who lived in Germany - all of whom also trained in a Mir Ali area camp - were convicted in March of planning the attacks and sentenced to jail time between five to 12 years.

It is not yet clear who the eight Germans were killed in the strike from a CIA drone on Tuesday in Mir Ali and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday that Berlin has received no "reliable information" on their identities.

U.S. officials do not publicly discuss the strikes or their targets. Often the only confirmation comes when the militants themselves release martyrdom videos of their comrades.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police office says that they have "indications" that a total of 220 Germans have traveled to the region for terrorism training in recent years, about half of whom have returned to Germany. Of the total, a spokeswoman, speaking on departmental policy of anonymity, there is "concrete evidence" that 70 have undergone such training and about a third of those militants have returned to Germany.

Tophoven said estimates he has seen are that "between 30 and 40 hardcore terrorists" from Germany are currently in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

Some go to try and fight in Afghanistan, but Tophoven said that local militant commanders are worried about possible CIA or other infiltrators there, so European militants are more likely to return to Europe after their training - where they could also be a greater threat.

"They are afraid the intelligence services could bring covert agents into the ranks," he said. "They prefer the European for terror operations in the name of al-Qaida in Europe - in Germany, in France, in Britain, in Italy - these guys are homegrown terrorists; they know our culture, they know our language, they know our environment."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Marines in Marjah face full-blown insurgency


MARJAH, Afghanistan (AP) - The young Marine had a simple question for the farmer with the white beard: Have you seen any Taliban today?

The answer came within seconds - from insurgents hiding nearby who ended the conversation with bursts of automatic rifle fire that sent deadly rounds cracking overhead.

It was a telling coincidence - and the start of yet another gunbattle in Marjah, the southern poppy-producing hub which U.S. forces wrested from Taliban control in February to restore government rule.

Eight months on, the Taliban are still here in force, waging a full-blown guerrilla insurgency that rages daily across a bomb-riddled landscape of agricultural fields and irrigation trenches.

As U.S. involvement in the war enters its 10th year, the failure to pacify this town raises questions about the effectiveness of America's overall strategy. Similarly crucial operations are now under way in neighboring Kandahar province, the Taliban's birthplace.

There are signs the situation in Marjah is beginning to improve, but "it's still a very tough fight," said Capt. Chuck Anklam, whose Marine company has lost three men since arriving in July. "We're in firefights all over, every day."

"There's no area that's void of enemy. But there's no area void of Marines and (Afghan forces) either," said Anklam, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "It's a constant presence both sides are trying to exert."

That day, militants in his zone of operations alone had attacked Marines in four separate locations by mid-afternoon.

The February assault on Marjah was the first major offensive since President Barack Obama ordered the 30,000-man troop surge to Afghanistan and the biggest joint NATO-Afghan operation since the war began in 2001.

Since then, Marjah has become a microcosm of the war itself - and a metaphor for an insurgency that has spread nationwide.

On Oct. 7, 2001, the Bush administration launched a withering bombing campaign that forced the Taliban from power weeks later. But what looked like quick victory turned out to be the start of one of the longest wars in U.S. history.

Similarly, the end of Taliban control in Marjah has sown the seeds of an entrenched guerrilla war that has tied down at least two U.S. Marine battalions and hordes of Afghan police and army troops.

The result, so far at least: Residents say the town is more insecure than ever.

"There was peace here before you came," farmer Khari Badar told one Marine patrol that recently visited his home. "Today, there is only fighting."

Marines say the Taliban can no longer move freely through the town with fighters and weapons. But the militants are still doing so clandestinely - so much so, that "we have areas where every time we go in, we know we're going to become engaged" in fighting, Anklam said.

On their way to Badar's home, Marines snatched cell phones from suspicious men believed to have been spotting for insurgents

"The presence is that consistent and that heavy of enemy," Anklam said. "But there's no area that we allow the Taliban to say they can claim ownership over."

Marjah always had a long way to go, even before the Taliban took it over. More than 50,000 people are still thought to live here, but it's more a vast patchwork of fields and dried mud homes than a town. There's no electricity, running water or paved roads.

The coalition has succeeded in setting up a nascent government in the town's district center. But the local officials' connection to the people they govern is thin. The most visible signs of authority today are sandbagged police checkpoints that frequently come under attack.

Taliban militants have sown fear into the heart of the population in a bid to undermine the U.S.-led effort, warning people to stay clear of American and Afghan government projects.

Markets have come back to life in some parts of town, including the biggest one in northern Marjah. But the only one in Anklam's 18-square-mile zone closed a few weeks ago after shopkeepers succumbed to Taliban threats.

Anklam has helped oversee the opening of three government schools. Attendance at one of them rose recently to a high of 18, then plummeted a few days later to zero because parents were either too terrified of the Taliban or the security situation to let their children attend. Other schools have fared better - one in central Marjah has so many kids that officials have had to find tents to accommodate them all.

Coalition forces are also trying to win over the population by organizing the delivery of solar panels to businessmen, and refurbishing shops, wells and mosques, Anklam said. But residents are weary: One Marine simply trying to give away a lollipop to children at a checkpoint tried three times before finding one who would take it.

"It's hearts and minds versus fear and intimidation," said Marine Lance Cpl. Chuck Martin, 24, of Middletown, Rhode Island, referring to the Marines' attempt to gain the backing people terrified of Taliban threats. "And right now, fear and intimidation are winning."

Anklam said the Taliban enjoy "the tacit support of probably the vast majority of the population," but said they had known little other rule for years and were still too scared to stand up to them. He said several dismembered bodies, apparently of suspected coalition sympathizers, had been found over the last few months in the town's canals.

With Marine and Afghan forces present across the town, "people are starting to realize their government has a vested interest that's not going to disappear," Anklam said. The Taliban, by contrast, "have nothing to offer the people. When people are sick or injured, they come to us."

When the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines arrived two months ago, most people were too terrified of Taliban reprisals even to speak to U.S. troops during the day, Anklam said. Now, Marines routinely talk to shop owners and farmers in their homes.

"Most of them still won't tell us anything yet about the enemy's activity," he said. "But slowly, it's starting to happen."

Indeed, the white-bearded farmer whom Marines asked about the Taliban presence said he'd seen several fighters moving through the fields around his home during another gunfight - an honest and rare response troops often don't get even when they visit a home from which insurgents were just shooting, Martin said.

The old man also did something else that that was novel for Martin's platoon: He waved the Americans and their Afghan counterparts inside his home when the shooting started.

While the family hid inside, Marines climbed onto his roof and took cover behind a crumbling wall, firing a barrage of bullets toward insurgents a few hundred yards (meters) away. One Marine corpsman stepped in for an Afghan soldier - who was spraying bursts of fire aimlessly straight up into the sky _and began taking studied single shots instead.

Anklam has spread the Marines of Echo company as much as possible. The squads are now based at 13 small outposts - twice as many as in July. As a result, Marines say that although firefights occur daily, violence has decreased overall.

Maj. Dallas Shah, the 2/9 Marines' 42-year-old operations commander from Fairfax, Virginia, confirmed that assessment, but said firefights were on the rise in another company's part of Marjah to the north.

"As you lock down one area," Shaw said, "you have to accept that they're going to move into another area."

(This version CORRECTS that the Marine did not physically push the Afghan soldier away during the firefight.)


Report: US Contractors Hired Iranian Spies, Taliban, Warlords To Guard US Troops In Afghanistan

A scathing Senate report says US contractors in Afghanistan have hired warlords, "thugs," Taliban commanders and even Iranian spies to provide security at vulnerable US military outposts in Afghanistan. The report, published by the Senate Armed Services Committee, says lax oversight and "systemic failures" have led to "grave risks' to US forces, including instances where contractors have employed Afghan subcontractors who were "linked to murder, kidnapping and bribery, as well as Taliban and anti-coalition activities." The chairman of the committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Michigan, said the report was evidence that the US needs to reduce its reliance on contractors. "We need to shut off the spigot of US dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and power brokers who act contrary to our interests," said Sen. Levin. The committee reviewed roughly 125 unclassified Department of Defense security contracts between 2007 and 2009, and found that there are some 26,000 private security contractors operating in Afghanistan, the majority of whom are Afghan nationals. The review found "systemic failures" of the military oversight for contracts, including the hiring of what Levin called "many too many" security contractors who had been improperly vetted, improperly trained or were not provided weapons.

In some cases, companies were awarded contracts though they had no ability to provide the services needed. In those cases, companies then quickly hired local nationals without proper vetting or security checks. The chaotic system left US facilities and personnel vulnerable to attack. The report found that some Afghan security guards simply walked off their posts at remote forward operating bases.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

There Is No Fun in Islam Or Iraq

Credit: New York Times

“An Islamic regime must be serious in every field,”

“There are no jokes in Islam.
There is no humour in Islam.
There is no fun in Islam.”

Ayatollah Khomeini

Meanwhile back in Iraq, the renown Babylon Festival was basically canceled (Hat Tip Bassam Sebti). As the New York Times tells us: On the eve of its opening on Saturday, after a dozen foreign music and dance troupes had already arrived by the busload, the region’s deputy governor banned music and dance. He cited the coincidence of the birthday of the sixth imam of Islam, Jaafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq.

The ban scuttled much of the weekend’s program, which had been prepared months in advance, and left a dozen performers — flown in from Algeria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Finland, Iran and Russia, among others — in the lurch, whiling away unexpected free time at the ruins of Babylon.

“We rehearsed,” said Nurhan Mohammed Abdel Hamid, 20, a dancer with an Egyptian folkloric dance troupe, Pharaoh of the Nile.

The show must go on, and it did, for a bit.

A theater group from Diwaniya Province performed a play called “Globalization,” which recounted the displacement of Iraqis by war. The cultural wing of the movement of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr staged a play called “The Devil” about the United States. (Some things never change.) There were exhibitions of photographs and paintings, a book fair and poetry readings. Read more...

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Diana West: Sgt. 1st Class Lance Herman Vogeler, RIP

From the Washington Post obituary:

Sgt. 1st Class Lance Herman Vogeler, who grew up in Maryland, was described Monday as a leader of men, a religious man and a member of an elite Army unit.

He was also a husband and father of two.

He had been deployed four times to Iraq and eight to Afghanistan.


Can anyone anywhere explain ... why?

The United States reaps so many, many benefits from such sacrifice: Our airports are safe again; our great buildings and institutions are wide open to the public once more; our treasury is replenished; our borders are secure; our Constitutional liberties are safeguarded against de facto dhimmitude...
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