Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Close Is Iran To A Bomb?

From Newsweek:

Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium to make one atomic bomb—at least theoretically. Independent analysts say that became clear after the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency issued its latest inspection report on Feb. 19, revealing the presence of 1,010 kilograms of the material Washington and the Europeans hoped would never exist.

It's a grim milestone on the road to nuclear perdition; but, then, Iran has passed so many of those in the last five years. And many, like this one, were not quite as dramatic as initial reports implied. U.N. inspectors quickly downplayed stories that they'd not only underestimated the quantities in earlier reports, but they might even have been deceived. Sources close to the IAEA also suggested that it would take about 50 percent more of the low-enriched stuff to process enough high-enriched stuff to make a bomb (a target that could be reached later this year).

Read more ....

My Comment: The day that we will accurately know all that there is to know about Iran's nuclear weapons program is the day that will explode one to test its capabilities. Like Russia, China, India, and Pakistan .... it was when they had tested one that we then learned that they now had the bomb.

The same case will be for Iran.

A Resolute Ally In The War On Terror -- A Commentary

From The Wall Street Journal:

Canadians are with us in Afghanistan. We should be with them on free trade.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been fielding questions for more than 30 minutes in a meeting with the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal's New York office. Up to now his answers, on everything from war to how to confront an economic tsunami, have been delivered in the low-key monotone of a plainspoken Western Canadian conservative.

But the mention of Canadian and American political opposition to free-trade agreements with Colombia has sparked a change in the PM's unflappable manner. For a fleeting moment, what sounds a lot like frustration emerges. "I'm not going to say it's a perfect government, but we have a government in Colombia that is democratically elected, that has increased democratic norms, that has taken on the insurgency, that is moving that country forward economically and politically. And it is in a hemisphere where we have an increasing number of real serious enemies and opponents."

Read more ....

My Comment: A glowing tribute to PM Harper from the WSJ .... but he does not get the same treatment back home. While Canada's present financial and economic condition is the envy of the world (banks are solid, budgets have been balanced until this year), this has not translated to political success for Stephen Harper. His minority government is very weak, and the opposition parties are unified to stop and/or limit much of his political agenda. Polls indicate that in the next election the Liberals will form the next minority government .... and Stephen Harper will be out of a job.

As for the Canadian commitment to Afghanistan? It runs out in 2011 .... and Canadian soldiers are going to come back home.

Living With Islam -- Two Commentaries

An Iranian woman reads prayers during a funeral procession for martyrs of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Atta Kenare / AFP-Getty Images

Learning to Live With Radical Islam -- Newsweek

We don't have to accept the stoning of criminals. But it's time to stop treating all Islamists as potential terrorists.

Pakistan's Swat valley is quiet once again. Often compared to Switzerland for its stunning landscape of mountains and meadows, Swat became a war zone over the past two years as Taliban fighters waged fierce battles against Army troops. No longer, but only because the Pakistani government has agreed to some of the militants' key demands, chiefly that Islamic courts be established in the region. Fears abound that this means women's schools will be destroyed, movies will be banned and public beheadings will become a regular occurrence.

Read more ....


Pakistan Christians Nervous about Sharia Law Enforcement -- The Christian Post

Christians in Pakistan voiced serious concerns about government allowing Islamic laws to be enforced in certain terrorist prone areas, noting that while not many Christians directly live in the affected areas there are thousands that live nearby.

“We are very much concerned about these developments. It does not augur well for us,” said Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, according to Ecumenical News International.

Read more ....

Iran Is Supplying Anti-Aircraft Missiles To The Taliban

SA-14 GREMLIN (Russia) (Photo from

Missile Threat To British Troops -- Times Online

IRAN is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with surface-to-air missiles capable of destroying a helicopter, according to American intelligence sources.

They believe the Taliban wants to use the SA-14 Gremlins missiles to launch a “spectacular” attack against coalition forces in Helmand, where insurgents claim to be gaining the upper hand.

Although British and American helicopters operating in southern Afghanistan are equipped with defensive systems to deflect an attempted strike, the SA-14 can evade such counter-measures.

It was a shoulder-held SA-14 supplied by Iran that was used by Iraqi insurgents to shoot down a Lynx helicopter over Basra in May 2006.

Read more ....

My Comment: What changed the dynamics of the 1980-1988 Afghan-Russian war occurred when the Mujaheddin started to receive surface to air missiles. Overnight, the Soviet military became vulnerable and easy targets when they left their bases for patrols or operations.

If the Times article is true, with surface to air missiles in their arsenal the Taliban are hoping that the same dynamics will now assist them in their fight against Nato/Afghan forces .... and it will.

But what I find interesting in this evolving situation, is that it appears that Iran has now made a strategic decision to arm the Taliban with sophisticated weapons. During the Bush Presidency, warnings were made through third parties that Iran would suffer dire consequences if they proceeded with such actions. As a result, shape charged projectiles was the worst type of weaponry that came out of Iran into Iraq, and (a small amount) into Afghanistan.

But everything has now changed. It appears that President Obama does not deter the Iranians at all.

Pakistan's Political Crisis Worsens

A Pakistani police officer, taking shelter behind an armored vehicle, aimed his weapon at demonstrators in Islamabad on Friday. Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

Pakistan’s Political Rift May Pose Test for Obama -- New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The intensifying political battle between the pro-American president and the main opposition leader is shaping up as a potential crisis for the Obama administration as it tries to focus the government on fighting the Qaeda and Taliban insurgency here.

The domestic struggle will almost certainly deflect attention from that fight as President Asif Ali Zardari and his archrival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, duke it out and as street protests persist, politicians and analysts said.

It could also result in shifting political alliances, including new opportunities for the religious right that would be inimical to Washington’s interests, and even serve to make the Pakistani military restive for power again if the situation continued to worsen, they said.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan

Protests Continue on Sharif Ban -- BBC News
Protests in Pakistan continue -- UPI
Playing With Fire in Pakistan -- New York Times editorial
Pakistan PM appeals for calm after political unrest -- AFP
Pak chaos may embolden militants: Nawaz -- NDTV
Losing integrity: Is Pakistan dividing again? -- Times Of India

How The Production Of Cocaine And The War Against It Is Destroying The Rain Forest

More than $6 billion has been spent over the past eight years in an attempt to destroy the coca crops that keep the guerrillas and drug cartels in business

The Daily Mail:

The habit that's costing the earth

It doesn’t matter how many bottles you recycle. If you use cocaine, you’re turning virgin rainforest into coca farms – which soon become toxic barren strips like this. Live flies into the heart of the rainforest to expose the hypocrisy of the environmentally conscious middle-class drug user

In a drone of Bell Huey turbines we clear the razor wire and sandbagged machine-gun emplacements of the base, flying low while casting a racing black shadow over the landscape. We head north-west into hostile territory. The machine gunner on my left flicks a red switch on the 7.62mm six-barrelled minigun and a green

LED shows the system is armed. Belts of dull brass bullets stretch back into the bowels of the chopper. Sitting behind an inscrutable black visor, which reflects the topography below, he begins to scan the forest and ramshackle houses nestling on riverbanks for snipers lurking in the jungle drifting 500ft beneath my feet, as the chopper blades emit a pulsating whump.

Read more ....

My Comment: The drug wars will go on until it is legalized and regulated by the governments of the peoples who consume it. As for the ecological damage .... while many bemoan the damage and voice their opposition to this destruction .... I would wager that many of those who protest have also used the drugs (at least once), and see nothing wrong to legalize it.

2 Months Into 2009, US Deaths Spike In Afghanistan

U.S. Army soldiers exit a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to provide security in Bagram, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2009. The soldiers are assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's Company A, Personnel Security Detail. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Prentice C. Martin-Bowen

From Yahoo News/AP:

KABUL – U.S. deaths in Afghanistan increased threefold during the first two months of 2009 compared with the same period last year, after thousands more troops deployed and commanders ramped up winter operations against an increasingly violent insurgency.

As troops pour into the country and violence rises, another sobering measure has also increased: More Afghan civilians are dying in U.S. and allied operations than at the hands of the Taliban, according to a count by The Associated Press. In the first two months of the year, U.S., NATO or Afghan forces have killed 100 civilians, while militants have killed 60.

Read more ....

My Comment: With a surge of U.S. troops being prepared to enter the country, and with the Taliban now focused on expanding the war in Afghanistan, these casualties are only going to rise.

US Increased Military Aid To Pakistan....Is This The Solution To End Afghan War?

U.S. and Pakistani Generals

From Defense Technology News:

By increase in military supplies to Pakistan, there will be no solution to Afghan war instead would accelerate misery in the region, hostility towards foreign NATO troops and stronger foothold of Islamic extremists in FATA region.

February 28, 2009: Increased US military aid going to the Pakistani Army has failed with US President Barack Obama proposing to massively increase non-military and military aid to Pakistan in his maiden budget.

Though the exact amount of military aid has not been specified. Mr Obama’s maiden budget proposes spending of $130 billion for 2010 and $75.5 billion for 2009. There is a further request for $205.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between now and 2010.

Read more ....

My Comment: Pakistan has a terrible history when it comes to foreign military and non-military assistance. With a lack of accountability, and no follow up on disbursements of money and resources, any assistance to Pakistan will be a waste of time. The level of corruption and abuse is so rampant, that even I am shocked from what I hear, and from what people who have long time ties to the region are telling me.

But will the U.S. still give some assistance? .... the answer is probably yes, but it is not what the Pakistanis are going to expect.

Afghan War Should Last Until 2025: Ex-Commander

Photo: Lt. Gen. David Barno says he will take "rapid action" on recommendations from an internal review expected to wrap up by the end of June. BELA SZANDELSZKY/AP/FILE (Photo taken 2004)

From The Danger Room:

The Iraq war may be winding down. But the battle for Afghanistan could continue until 2025.

That's the view, at least, of Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Barno, the former head of coalition forces in Afghanistan. In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Barno outlined a strategy that anticipates keeping U.S. troops there for another 16 years.

Barno's vision of the Afghanistan strategy, in brief:

Read more ....

My Comment:I can hear the White House and the Joint Chiefs gasping for air after hearing these comments from General Barno. But you know what .... he is making sense.

Mexico's Cartel War -- News Updates For February 28, 2009

Customs and Border Protection water units patrol the Rio Grande River under the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. Erich Schlegel / Dallas Morning News / Corbis (Time magazine)

Taking On The Drug Cartels -- L.A. Times Editorial

The U.S. must take tough action against drug-money laundering and the market for Mexican drug organizations.

Squeeze the balloon in one place, and it expands in another. That pretty well describes the history of narcotics trafficking from Latin America to the United States. For decades, Colombia's two big cartels controlled the illegal drug trade from South America's coca fields to U.S. cities, and Mexico served largely as a transshipment point. But as law enforcement agencies broke up the Medellin and Cali cartels over the last decade, Mexicans stepped in to fill the void.

Read more ....

More News On Mexico's Cartel War

Calderon vows to win Mexico's drug 'cancer' fight -- AFP
US says Mexico makes progress against drug cartels -- Reuters
Behind the Troop Surge at the U.S.-Mexico Border -- Time Magazine
US sees serious threat in Mexico drug violence -- AP
U.S. families feel sting of Mexico's drug violence -- CNN
Hill Targets Mexico Drug Feuds - United Press International
Drug Trade Seen as Threat to US - Associated Press
Corruption impedes Mexico drug fight -- Sydney Morning Herald
Mexican Gunslingers Undaunted by Government Plan for More Troops -- Latin American Herald Tribune
Canada warns about Mexico travel -- International Herald Tribune
"Narco War Next Door" -- Huffington Post
A No-win 'War on Drugs' - Los Angeles Times opinion
The war we gave Mexico -- L.A. Times opinion
Mexico Rises to Near the Top of the Foreign Agenda -- Counter Terrorism Blog
Mexico Is in Free Fall -- Real Clear World opinion

Reaction And Commentary To President Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Decision

President Barack Obama shakes hands with troops and civilians during his visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 27, 2009. Obama was on Camp Lejeune to discuss current policies and an exit strategy from Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ayotte

Soldiers in Iraq React Cautiously to Obama Deadlines for Troop Withdrawal -- New York Times

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq — Soldiers here at this dusty base in one of Iraq’s most volatile provinces knew that at some point, the American war would end, but few here said they thought it would happen anywhere close to the deadline President Obama announced Friday.

“At some point, we have to draw a line,” Sgt. First Class Michael C. Miller said as he waited, for hours, for a helicopter ride that never came because of winds that churned fine dust into the sky. “But I still think they need our help.”

Read more ....

More Reaction To President Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Decision

Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq -- Small Wars Journal
Iraq welcomes Obama plan but still needs US help -- AFP
Iraqi PM says his security forces ready -- AP
Iraqi leaders welcome U.S. troop withdrawal plan -- CNN
Broad support for Obama Iraq plan -- BBC
Consensus emerges in Congress for Obama Iraq plan -- AP
Obama's Iraq plan draws fire from Left -- Yahoo News/AFP
Democrats Dismayed by Obama's Decision to Leave Troops in Iraq -- The Times
In twist, Obama wins GOP praise, Democrats’ censure on Iraq plan -- Philadelphia Free Press
In twist, GOP likes Obama's Iraq plan, Democrats don't -- Yahoo News/McClatchy newspapers
Iraq’s Year of Living Dangerously -- Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, Brookings opinion
An unnecessary gamble in Iraq -- The Guardian opinion
Time for Iraq -- Washington Post editorial
Iraq's Reality on the Ground -- John Barry, Newsweek
Obama and Iraq: Shades of Bush -- Christian Brose, Foreign Policy
Obama's Plan for Iraq -- Washington Post opinion

President Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Decision -- News Updates

President Barack Obama talks to troops and civilians during his visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 27, 2009. Obama was on Camp Lejeune to discuss current policies and an exit strategy from Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ayotte

Obama Lays Out Iraq Plans at N.C. Base -- Washington Post

Combat Troops To Be Withdrawn By Aug. 31, 2010

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Feb. 27 -- President Obama called on Iraqis to take control of their own destiny when American forces withdraw, mapping out plans on Friday for a dramatic reduction of U.S. troops by the end of August 2010.

In a speech to service members received with a mixture of cheers and muted applause, Obama declared that an end to the combat mission in Iraq is on the horizon. "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama said

Read more ....

More News On President Obama's Decision To
Withdraw Combat Troops From Iraq

Obama lays down Iraq exit strategy -- The Age
Obama adds time to troop drawdown -- Financial Times
With Pledges to Troops and Iraqis, Obama Details Pullout -- New York Times
Obama Announces Iraq Exit Plan
-- Voice of America
Obama Sees Most Troops Out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010 -- Los Angeles Times
U.S. will be out of Iraq by 2011: Obama --
Obama to End US Combat Operations in Iraq by 2010 -- Daily Telegraph
Barack Obama's address calling an end to the Iraq war -- The Guardian
US Combat Troops to Leave Iraq by August 2010, Obama Says -- AFPS
Iraq Withdrawal Plan in Factors and Figures -- Los Angeles Times
Iraq Drawdown Decision Process Included Commanders, Gates Says -- AFPS
Obama calls Bush on Iraq withdrawal issue -- NDTV
Iraq Withdrawal, Logistical Nightmare? -- The Danger Room
Leaving Iraq: Shift to south, exit through desert -- Yahoo News/AP
Iraq War may end, but fighting doesn't -- Yahoo News/AP

Book Casts Harsh Light on Ex-Hostage in Colombia

Keith Stansell, center, Tom Howes, left, and Marc Gonsalves at Columbia University to introduce their new book, "Out of Captivity," about their years as hostages. Michael Appleton for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

CARACAS, Venezuela — Ingrid Betancourt, the aristocratic Colombian politician greeted as a heroine last year after enduring years as a hostage of Marxist guerrillas, is depicted as a selfish and haughty captivity mate in a memoir by three American military contractors who were held in jungle camps alongside her.

“I don’t want to attack her, but the truth is very savage,” said Keith Stansell, 44, an ex-Marine and one of the authors of the book, “Out of Captivity,” which was released Thursday. “We were infected enough with her behavior in the jungle,” he said in a telephone interview from New York. “Now I just want to get immunized.”

Indeed, Mr. Stansell and his co-authors, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves, offer a far different portrait of Ms. Betancourt in the 457-page book than the generally accepted image of her outside Colombia as a long-suffering abduction victim who nobly resisted her captors since her kidnapping in 2002.

Read more ....

My Comment: It is clear that some of these ex-prisoners have a lot to get off their chests. Their book is just one step for the healing and closure that they need.

Mass Graves Of Executed Officers In Bangladesh Found

A firefighter covers the bodies of Bangladesh Rifles officers Photo: AP/The Telegraph

More Bodies Found At Bangladesh Mutiny Site -- Yahoo News/AP

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Firefighters dug up 10 more bodies from mass graves at the headquarters of Bangladesh's border guards Saturday, raising the death toll to 76 in the force's two-day mutiny over low pay and other grievances, officials said.

Political allies, who met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her home Saturday to discuss the uprising, called for national unity in a statement issued after the meeting.

Read more ....

More News on Bangladesh

Dhaka mutiny: More graves found, 93 bodies recovered -- NDTV
Toll in Bangladesh Mutiny Rises to 66 -- L.A. Times/Associated Press
Searching for missing army officers in revolt of Bangladesh in full swing -- China View
Mass Graves Found After Bangladesh Mutiny -- Daily Telegraph
Bangladesh mutiny: two more mass graves unearthed as toll hits 80 -- The Telegraph
Mass Grave Found After Bangladesh Mutiny -- New York Times
Inside Bloody HQ at Heart of Bangladesh Mutiny -- The Times
New Bangladesh 'Mass Grave' Found -- BBC News
Hunt for Bangladesh mutiny dead a grisly task -- AFP
Chilling tales emerge as Bangladesh mutiny toll crosses 80 -- The Hindu
‘20-25 troopers committed Dhaka carnage’ -- Sify News
Bangladeshi gov't to form special tribunal for quick trial of BDR mutineers -- China View
Bangladesh Army Backs Government -- BBC News
In pictures: Bangladesh graves -- BBC
Indian forces still on high alert at Bangladesh borders -- China View

Fighting Erupts In South Sudan Between The Army And Militias

South Sudan Clashes 'Killed 50' -- The BBC

At least 50 people were killed in this week's clashes between the South Sudan's army and militias in the town of Malakal, UN officials say.

One UN official said 14 civilians and scores of combatants had been killed, while another put the figure at about 50 people altogether.

The army and a militia previously backed by Khartoum exchanged heavy gunfire in the volatile town.

Correspondents say tensions between north and south remain high.

A 21-year civil war ended in 2005 with a peace deal.

But the two sides remain in dispute about oil-rich areas along the border.

Under the deal, South Sudan enjoys considerable autonomy until a referendum is held in 2011 on whether or not the largely Christian and animist south should secede from the Muslim-dominated north.

Read more .....

More News On The Conflict In Southern Sudan

Around 50 killed in Sudan fighting: UN -- AFP
UN radio: Dozens killed in clashes in south Sudan -- AP
Militia clash with south Sudan army in Malakal -- Reuters
Heavy fighting breaks out in Malakal - sources -- New Sudan Vision
Militia leader returns to Khartoum after violent standoff -- Sudan Vision
South Sudan Accuses Army of Seeking New Civil War -- Voice Of America
South Sudan accuses army of trying to restart war -- International Herald Tribune

Military Contractors Await Details of Obama’s Budget

Families wave flags as the guided-missile cruiser USS Winston Churchill pulls into port at Norfolk, Va., June 4, 2006. Nearly 7,500 sailors returned to their homeports after completing a seven-month deployment with the Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group to support maritime security operations in the 5th and 6th Fleets areas of responsibility. U.S Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela M. Coxe

From The New York Times:

The good news for big military contractors from President Obama’s budget this week was his proposal to increase the basic Pentagon budget by 4 percent, to $534 billion.

But now the companies are contending with a new question: what will the priorities of the new administration — which has made clear it wants to shift spending from futuristic weapons systems to simpler arms that troops can use now — mean for the industry?

The big contractors “are sitting on the edge of their seats,” said Gordon Adams, a professor at American University in Washington and an expert on the defense budget.

The defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, said this week that he would probably not decide the fate of some marquee weapons systems — including the Air Force’s supersonic F-22 jet fighter and the Navy’s plans for a new high-tech destroyer — until April.

Read more ....

My Comment: I was surprised by the increase in the proposed U.S. defense budget.I know that the devil will still be in the details, but I had expected a steep drop in funding. The final Defense budget will probably be higher, especially when Congress and lobbyists gets their hands on it and start to position themselves to protect their favorite programs.

Expect an additional $10 - $20 billion increase over the White House proposal when all is done.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- February 28, 2009

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Donald Cullison holds a cup of tea in one had while his other hand rests near his M-4 rifle during a meeting with local government officials, Gardez City, Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2009. The cup of tea and the rifle symbolize the balance coalition forces face as they promote both security and goodwill. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

A Taliban Surge in Afghanistan? -- DoD Buzz

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week on Afghanistan and Pakistan, retired Lt. Gen. David Barno was asked if he thought Obama’s decision to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer was a good move. Barno, who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan during 2004 when things there looked much better, said that while it would be nice to know the administration’s strategy first, it was vital to get more troops into southern Afghanistan where the U.S. and NATO are currently on their heels.

Barno said Obama would eventually have to send a “substantially” larger force. Going forward, he saw U.S. strategy in Afghanistan unfolding in a variation of the now familiar “clear, hold and build” counterinsurgency approach. He termed it “stabilize, protect, build, transition”: 2009 would be a stabilize phase, a holding action to ensure Afghan national elections go off without too much trouble; 2010 would see, once more troops arrive, a counter-offensive against the Taliban and other insurgents; followed by a build phase from 2010 to 2015; and then an eventual transition to Afghan control.

Read more ....

More News On Afghanistan

Up to 15,000 Taliban in Afghanistan - minister -- Herald Sun
More than 10,000 Taliban insurgents operating in Afghanistan: official -- China View
Obama pledges no long-term Afghan designs -- AFP
Obama says no long term stay in Afghanistan -- NDTV
Obama says U.S. not interested in long-term presence in Afghanistan -- China View
Facing Language Gaps and ‘Flying Trucks,’ US Trains Afghan Pilots -- New York Times
Afghanistan operations not vulnerable to supply line dangers -- Air Force Link
Hope is Victory in Afghanistan, PRT Commander Says -- AFPS
New US Marine officers have Afghan war on their minds -- AFP
Washington Guard soldiers find Afghanistan duty full of frustration -- Seattle Times
New Roads to Open Up Eastern Afghanistan Province -- AFPS
Reports that Afghan Mosque Hit Spark Riot -- Washington Times/Associated Press
Afghanistan Urges More Support in Talks With U.S. and Pakistan -- Bloomberg
U.S. looks to China for support on Afghanistan: Pentagon -- Reuters
Rudd and Obama to go face-to-face on Afghanistan -- Sydney Morning Herald
Afghanistan still largest opium poppy producer: US -- AFP
US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 588 -- AP

FY2010 Budget Calls For $2.6 Billion Increase In DHS Spending

From Homeland Security:

President Barack Obama’s first federal budget - for FY2010 - that was broadly outlined to Congress Thursday in the form of the 142-page preview, “ A New Era of Responsibility,” calls for $42.7 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That's a $2.6 billion increase over DHS’s fiscal 2009 budget of $40.1 billion - still less than the department's spending level of $50 billion two years ago but more than six percent higher than the budget President Bush sought.

According to the administration, DHS’s budget over the next four years will oscillate between slightly more than $40 billion to just over $42 billion. After that, DHS’s annual fiscal budget is expected to hold steady at around $41.9 billion.

Read more ....

My Comment: Interesting .... President Obama wants to spend more money on Homeland Security than what President Bush had allocated. This is not expected.

President Obama's Election Has Had No Impact On Al Qaeda's Support In The Arab World:

Islam at its peak (Image from Get Religion)

Majority Support Al-Qaida Political Goals -- UPI

A recent study polling predominantly Muslim countries has found that a majority of people support al-Qaida's political goals but not the use of terrorism.

The study, conducted in eight majority-Muslim countries, suggests that a significant number of people support al-Qaida's political goal of pushing U.S. military forces out of the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries in other regions.

Read more ....

My Comment: This poll is troubling on many levels. First .... the idea that 30% of the sampling supports terrorism against Western civilians is bad news for all those who have interests in the Middle East .... but what makes this poll frightening is that a majority strongly support the political aspirations of Al Qaeda.

So .... what are the political aspirations of Al Qaeda? Ignoring Jihad, $200 a barrel oil, and the dream of establishing a worldwide Caliphate that will only tolerate the teachings of Mohamed .... their political goal is clearly going to be hostile towards those who do not share their religious point of view.

In addition, this poll indicates that Al Qaeda (as a philosophy) has not diminished one iota .... even after their terror campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed them as the barbarians that they are.

Hmmm .... I guess the election of President Obama has had no impact on the "Arab Street".

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- February 28, 2009

U.S. troops and civilians listen to President Barack Obama during his visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 27, 2009. Obama was on Camp Lejeune to discuss current policies and an exit strategy from Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ayotte

US-China military talks resume, obstacles remain -- Yahoo News/AP

Bomb Squad Moves into the Pentagon, to Stay -- The Danger Room

More Raptors -- MDJonline

N.Korea's Elite Combat Forces Revealed -- English Chosun (Hat Tip War Is Boring)

The Downdraft Could Do What? -- Information Dissemination

Russia's Yaroslav Mudry frigate to begin trials in Baltic Sea -- RIA Novosti

Russian Navy back in Syria -- Naval Open Source Intelligence

Royal Navy Still Sinking: Eight More Warships to Go -- War Is Boring

Poles give Obama an out on missile shield -- Foreign Policy Blog

Obama's intelligence pick linked to Saudi Arabia -- Washington Times

Former Top CIA Official Sentenced to 37 Months -- Washington Post

Senate Panel to Pursue Investigation of C.I.A. -- New York Times

Court rules that warrantless surveillance suit can proceed -- McClatchy Newspapers

Afghanistan still largest opium poppy producer: US -- AFP

FACTBOX: Global narcotics activity in 2008 -- Reuters

Navy corpsman awarded with Silver Star -- News14

US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,252 -- Yahoo News/AP

US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 588 -- Yahoo News/AP

U.S. Pairs B-2 Bombers, F-22s In Guam For First Time

(Click the Image to Enlarge)
B-2 & F-22 Raptors. By Mike Skillsky (Photo taken from

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – The United States has begun operating two types of radar-evading aircraft, a bomber and a fighter, for the first time together in the Pacific, the head of U.S. air forces in the region said on Friday.

The pairing of advanced B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters in the region follows what the United States and its allies suspect are preparations by North Korea to test fire a long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of striking U.S. soil.

Read more ....

My Comment: Cool ....

Aboard The USS John C Stennis

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 12, 2009) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits in formation after a successful undersea warfare exercise involving the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and other naval vessels operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Husman.)

WNU Editor: The Tension has compiled a collection of photographs from the USS John C Stennis. The link to see them is here.

News Updates On The USS John C Stennis

Japanese protest arrival of Stennis -- Stars And Stripes
US Aircraft Carrier to Participate in Joint War Games -- The Korea Times

NSA Should Oversee Cybersecurity, Intel Chief Says

From Wired:

Despite the fact that many Americans distrust the National Security Agency for its role in the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program, the agency should be entrusted with securing the nation's telecommunications networks and other cyber infrastructures, President Obama's director of national intelligence told Congress on Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair told the House intelligence committee (.pdf) that the NSA, rather than the Department of Homeland Security which currently oversees cybersecurity, has the smarts and the skills to secure cyberspace.

Read more ....

My Comment: A good post from Wired on this sensitive issue. The author's post mirrors my own personal opinion from a few days ago .... the "NSA has the resources and manpower to provide cyber security to non-governmental sites in a quick and efficient manner".

The issue of privacy protection are legitimate, but this is where Congress must provide the oversight to insure that abuses do not happen. Will Congress agree .... we will know soon.

Introducing The Gel-Filled Army Helmet That Will Crush Bullets As They Penetrate It

Richard Palmer, CEO of Blue Divine Ltd, with 'D3O' shock-absorbing material which will be used to line new British Army helmets

From The Daily Mail:

On the face of it a layer of orange jelly may not sound the best way to protect a soldier's head from high velocity bullets and shrapnel.

But the British Army's standard-issue combat helmet is set to be upgraded with a liner made from gooey miracle gel, which responds to a sudden impact by locking instantly into a solid form - absorbing huge amounts of energy harmlessly.

A UK-based technology company was today celebrating a £100,000 contract from the Ministry of Defence to develop its D3O shock-absorbing gel to help save the lives of British troops fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan.

Read more ....

My Comment: The use of nanotechnology at a basic level.

West Point Struggles To Fill Ranks

An upperclassman leads new cadets over the bridge from Thayer Hall to continue their training in military courtesy, discipline and marching on Reception Day in June at West Point .Times Herald-Record/TOM BUSHEY

From Record Online:

WEST POINT — While the volume of applications to the U.S. Military Academy is on the rise, the number of qualified contenders to choose from is shrinking.

The reason for the disparity isn't grades or test scores or extracurricular accolades. The problem is physical fitness: An increasing number of applicants are out of shape or taking potentially disqualifying medications for conditions such as asthma or attention-deficit disorder.

Read more ....

My Comment: Obesity .... the scourge of a successful society.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Why The CIA Has To Spy On Britain -- A Commentary

The London headquarters of MI5. Photograph: Frank Baron (The Guardian)

From The Spectator:

Tim Shipman says that Britain is now so overwhelmed by Islamist extremists and terrorist plots that our foreign policy has become subservient to our desperate need for intelligence

On the night of the Mumbai attacks I spoke to an old security source of mine, who has friends in SIS, MI5 and defence intelligence. There was only one thought on the minds of our security chiefs that night: ‘Are they British?’

Read more ....

My Comment: The British can easily solve their terrorist problem. Ignore their treaty obligations to the EU, and start deporting those who abuse the system and/or are involved in promoting hate and terrorism. There will be a lot of protestation from EU politicians, bureaucrats, and civil right groups .... but the problem will be solved very quickly.

President Obama's Anti-Terrorism Strategy Is Becoming Known

In this 2001 handout photo from the Peoria County Sheriff's Office, Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri, former graduate student at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, is photographed in this booking photo at Peoria County Sheriff's Office in Illinois. The Justice Department has charged al Marri, the only alleged enemy combatant held on U.S. soil, in the federal court system. (Peoria County Sheriff's Office/Getty Images)

Obama Signals Major Shift In US Anti-Terror Policy -- Christian Science Monitor

He ordered the case of enemy combatant Ali Al-Marri, who has been held in solitary confinement for five years without charges, to be moved to the US criminal justice system.

In a major shift away from the controversial anti-terror policies of the Bush administration, President Obama on Friday ordered the transfer of a suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent from a Navy brig into the US criminal justice system.

The two-paragraph order came shortly after a two-count federal indictment was unsealed in Illinois charging Ali Saleh Al-Marri with conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda.

Read more ....

More News On U/S Policy Towards Terrorism

Obama Issues Memo Transferring Al-Marri to Federal Prison -- Washington Independent
U.S. Will Give Qaeda Suspect a Civilian Trial -- New York Times
U.S. Files Charges Against Enemy Combatant -- Wall Street Journal
Alleged terrorist charged with conspiracy -- CNN
Obama Wants Supreme Court to Dismiss Enemy Combatant Case -- CQ Politics
More on the Al-Marri Indictment -- The New Yorker

National Security Structure Is Set

From The Washington Post:

Under Obama, Council Will Grow

President Obama's first presidential directive, outlining the organization of his national security structure, adds the attorney general, the secretaries of energy and homeland security, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to the formal National Security Council.

The four-page directive sketches wide input to NSC meetings, providing for "regular" inclusion of senior trade, economic and science advisers.

The document puts national security adviser James L. Jones firmly in charge of setting the NSC agenda and communicating Obama's decisions to the others. Jones will determine when to call White House meetings of policymaking "principals" and will police implementation of assigned tasks.

Read more ...

My Comment: A lot of chiefs ..... no indians. If this structure works, I will be surprised.

Sri Lanka War News Updates -- February 28, 2009

A soldier rides his bicycle near Dharmapuran, about 12 km (7.4 miles) west of the current fighting front line Feb. 22, 2009. Dharmapuran was captured about a month ago by the Sri Lanka army after fights with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).(Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

'Great Danger' For Civilians In Sri Lanka Conflict: UN -- Yahoo News/AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Tens of thousands of Sri Lankan civilians face "great danger" after being caught in fighting between Tamil rebels and the advancing military, a senior UN diplomat warned on Friday.

"Estimates vary of the number of civilians trapped, from 70,000 according to the government, through around 200,000 according to UN estimates, up to 300,000 or more according to Tamil groups," said UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told Security Council members.

Read more ....

More News On Sri Lanka

UN urges Sri Lanka rebels to let civilians leave -- AP
UN Fears for Civilians Trapped in Sri Lankan Fighting -- Voice Of America
Sri Lanka rebels boxed in further, army says -- Reuters
Military: Sri Lankan rebels lose more land -- AP
SL forces on the verge of capturing remaining LTTE-held areas -- Press Trust India
Senior rebel leader dies in Sri Lanka fighting -- China View
Other nations Could Learn from Sri Lanka Navy’s Fight Against the Tamil Tigerswar -- Janes
Sri Lanka May Need Bailout as War Debt Drain Reserves -- Bloomberg
Fight to the end -- International Herald Tribune opinion

U.S., Pakistan And Afghanistan To Hold Regular Talks

Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during talks on Thursday with officials of those nations. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

From New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Intensifying its focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States said Thursday that it would hold regular three-way meetings with top officials from the neighboring countries, which the Obama administration sees as the main front of the battle against Islamic extremism.

The plan was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton after three days of meetings with high-level delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which touched on sensitive issues like American airstrikes in Pakistan, and the scope of the American commitment in Afghanistan.

Officials from both Pakistan and Afghanistan expressed concern about civilian casualties from American military operations, according to people who took part in the talks. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, objected to airstrikes by Predator drones in tribal areas, part of a covert campaign against militants by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Read more ....

My Comment: Everyone is positioning themselves ..... but the strategy to fight and defeat the Taliban is not known yet.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- February 27-28, 2009

U.S. troops patrol in Tupak, Afghanistan. Washington officials have talked of lowering expectations in the war. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Afghanistan's Defense Minister Warns Against U.S. Pullback -- L.A. Times

Abdul Rahim Wardak says the Obama administration's recent comments of lowered goals have Kabul worried that Afghanistan's civilian government could fall to the Taliban.

Reporting from Washington -- Afghanistan's defense minister warned Thursday that the Obama administration's proposed changes in U.S. war strategy risk undermining Kabul's civilian government because they appear to scale back U.S. goals in the country.

Abdul Rahim Wardak said he was troubled by recent comments from senior U.S. officials that they were "lowering expectations" in Afghanistan in order to set more "obtainable goals," saying such language recalls memories of the U.S. desertion of Afghanistan after the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989.

Read more ....

More News On Afghanistan

Newsmaker: Obama Outlines Goals for Afghanistan, Iraq -- News Hour
Afghan government wants war-strategy changes: Report --
Experts Discuss US Options in Afghanistan, Pakistan -- Voice Of America
More than 10,000 Taliban insurgents operating in Afghanistan: official -- China View
NATO troop killed in southern Afghanistan -- AP
FACTBOX: Security developments in Afghanistan -- Reuters
Life as a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan -- Barrie Examiner
Security, Development Intertwine in Afghanistan War -- AFPS
Coalition Brings Afghan Corps Up to Standard With Weapons, Training -- AFPS
Protests over Afghan 'mosque raid' -- Al Jazeera
Afghanistan: losing hearts and minds -- The Telegraph
Helmand Governor: Taleban Reconciliation 'Possible' -- BBC News
McCain Says More U.S. Troops Needed to Prevail in Afghanistan -- Bloomberg
Afghanistan still largest opium poppy producer: US -- AFP
Afghan Christians Worship in Secret -- Christian Science Monitor

We're On The Brink Of Disaster -- A Commentary

From Slate:

Feb. 26, 2009 | The global economic meltdown has already caused bank failures, bankruptcies, plant closings and foreclosures and will, in the coming year, leave many tens of millions unemployed across the planet. But another perilous consequence of the crash of 2008 has only recently made its appearance: increased civil unrest and ethnic strife. Someday, perhaps, war may follow.

As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a "lost decade," the result could be a global landscape filled with economically fueled upheavals.

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My Comment: I always love reading doom and gloom commentaries. I personally do not believe the worse is going to happen, but I do believe we are going to have rough times for the next few years.

World News Updates -- February 27, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 27, 2009. Obama is joined by Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Gen. James L. Jones (USMC Ret.) (L) and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)


Lebanon frees Hariri assassination suspects.

Clinton cautious about US-Syria dialogue.

Rival Palestinian factions agree to form unity government by end of March. More news here, here, and here.

Historic Kuwaiti visit to Baghdad. More news on this visit here.

EU to pledge $556 million in Palestinian aid.

Iran denies nuclear slowdown, sets big expansion.


Abu Sayyaf back to terror in the Philippines.

Lack of funding dogs Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Pro-Sharif demonstrations spread across Punjab, Pakistan. Pakistan opposition chief warns of dangerous chaos.

China scorns U.S. rights record in tit-for-tat exchange.


UN Secretary General Ban says UN may establish peacekeeping operation in Somalia.

Sierra Leone verdict warns world's warlords.

Two navies 'thwart pirate raids'.

Zimbabwe seeks urgent African aid. More news on Zimbabwe here and here.


Russia blames OSCE for not preventing Georgia war.

5 top Serbs found guilty of war crimes in Kosovo. But U.N. Tribunal clears Serbia's Ex-President.

Arsonists torch Berlin Porsches, BMWs on economic woe. More news on German unrest on the economy here.


US won't participate in racism conference.

Arrests show U.S. reach of Mexican drug cartels, violence.

Argentina calls CIA comment "irresponsible". More here.


Saudi Arabia: Education deters militants from more violence, says official.

Analysis: First U.S. case for Iraqi terror.

Senate panel to examine CIA detainee handling.

Britain acknowledges 2 detainees are in U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

Interviews of terror suspects challenged.


Govts tighten grip on banks, US economy falters.

Billions missing from Stanford Funds.

Obama budget plan forecasts soaring deficits.

Eastern European banks given €24.5bn aid.

Trident Submarine News Updates -- February 27, 2009

The sun’s rays glint off the hull of the strategic missile submarine USS Maryland as it cruises atop the waves somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, Feb. 15, 2009. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

Tight-knit Trident Submariners Conduct Strategic Deterrence Missions -- U.S. Department Of Defense

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2009 – Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean last week, sailors aboard the Trident strategic missile submarine USS Maryland prepared to start a series of underwater practice maneuvers known as “angles and dangles.”

The Maryland’s captain, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Grimes, and his chief of the boat and senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael C. McLauchlan, intently observed the actions of the officers and enlisted crew in the control room as the vessel silently tilted downward.

Trident strategic deterrent submarines -- nicknamed “Boomers” -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles.

Read more ....

More News On The Trident Submarine Fleet

U.S. Seeks Successor to Trident Submarine -- Dvidshub
Refurbished U.S. Warhead Returns to Navy Service -- Global Security Newswire
Trident subs honored but with an eye on the end -- Jacksonville
Bangor's boomers celebrate 1,000th strategic patrol -- Seattle PI
Tight-knit Trident Submariners Conduct Strategic Deterrence Missions -- Dvidshub
Life onboard a submarine -- Kings Bay Periscope

Mexico's Cartel War -- February 27, 2009

A stranded passenger at the Ciudad Juarez airport passes a security checkpoint after a bomb threat closes the airport. Photo: Alejandro Bringas/WA Today

Mexico President Wants To Win Drug War By 2012 -- Yahoo News/AP

MEXICO CITY – President Felipe Calderon said Thursday he wants to win the war against the world's most powerful drug gangs before his term ends in 2012, and disputed U.S. fears that Mexico is losing control of its territory.

In interviews with The Associated Press, Calderon and his top prosecutor said the violence that killed 6,290 people last year — and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009 — is a sign that the cartels are under pressure from military and police operations nationwide, as well as turf wars among themselves.

Read more ....

More News On Mexico's Cartel War

Mexico rejects US drugs warning -- BBC
Mexican President denies drug cartel taking over -- WA Today
President denies Mexico losing drug wars -- Toronto Star
Quotes from President Felipe Calderon -- AP
20 killed as Mexico crime gangs defy security -- AFP
Mexico to send more troops to besieged city -- Reuters
Mexico to send up to 5,000 more troops to Ciudad Juarez -- L.A. Times
Mexico to send more troops to besieged city -- Reuters
State Department Issues Mexico Travel Alert -- All Headline News
Damage Control for Calderon -- Threatswatch
Commentary: What Mexico's drug war means for U.S. -- CNN

Bosnian Serbs Threatening Independence

Tensions Rise in Fragile Bosnia as Country’s Serbs Threaten to Seek Independence -- New York Times

PRAGUE — Bosnian Serb leaders have threatened to pull out of state institutions and are pressing anew for independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina, threatening to throw the fragile, multiethnic country into political crisis once again.

Analysts and observers of the region said the situation could unravel the United States-brokered Dayton accords of 1995, which ended a savage war that killed more than 100,000 people, most of them Muslims, between 1992 and 1995. The pact divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic, presided over by a decentralized political system that reinforced rather than healed ethnic divisions.

Read more ....

More News On Bosnia

Bosnia faces social unrest, political crisis looms -- Reuters
Russia to advance peace, stability in Bosnia, Herzegovina - Medvedev -- Itar-Tass
Vesna Peric Zimonjic: Hunt for Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia, goes on -- The Independent
Serbia probes 1992 attack on army in Sarajevo -- International Herald Tribune
Serbia seeks arrest of former Muslim and Croat leaders in Bosnia -- The Earth Times