Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Iraqi Leaders Closely Watching U.S. Elections

A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low helicopter from the 20th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron sits on the tarmac prior to a final combat mission at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, on Sept. 27, 2008. The Pave Low is being retired after nearly forty years of service to the Air Force. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

From Pajamas Media:

I mentioned this past summer that pressing priorities in Iraq made Iraqis show little if any interest in the upcoming U.S. election. That was the case when November seemed too far to worry about. We’re almost in October now and things are changing.

Comments made by MP Sami al-Askari are evidence of such a trend. As an adviser to Prime Minister Maliki and member of his Da’wa Party, al-Askari’s comments are definitely indicative of what’s being discussed in that small circle and probably reflect Maliki’s own viewpoints.

As recent as June, al-Askari’s position echoed Maliki’s approval of a 16-month timetable for withdrawal. But three months can indeed make a difference. “Iraqis are better off with Republicans,” al-Askari said in an email to Kathleen Parker at NRO last week.

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My Comment: Iraqi leaders would rather deal with the devil they know rather than the devil they do not know.

The ‘Talibanization Of Pakistan's Biggest City

Karachi At Night

From World Blog/MSNBC:

KARACHI, Pakistan – In the back of a jeep driving through Karachi, a sign on the wall of the city’s famous "Village Restaurant" caught my eye. It was just a little piece of frayed white paper plastered next to the restaurant’s much bigger logo, tempting customers to "Experience the Exotic of Traditional Dining."

But the printed sign expressed an increasingly urgent plea in this teeming port city, once Pakistan’s capital: "Save your city from Talibanization," it said in English.

But could the Taliban really be taking over Karachi? Karachi is Pakistan’s biggest city, far from the lawless tribal hinterland along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Out there, Taliban and al-Qaida militants have carved out an independent state. In the mountains, militants have their own courts and even issue licenses to local business. Last week in the tribal area, the Taliban publicly executed a group accused of murders. In another village square, they flogged several butchers for allegedly selling the meat of sick animals. That is Taliban justice.

U.S. military and intelligence officials consider that border area to be the world’s biggest, most dangerous safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and nearly all of their deputies have been based, and may still be based, in this often impassible mountain terrain.

But I was in Karachi, a giant city on the Indian Ocean. If Karachi is being ‘Talibanized,’ Pakistan is in real trouble, and so is everyone else.

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My Comment: The reporter from MSNBC emphasizes his post on how these students view American policy .... but their hatred is more intense when it is directed against India. Radical Islamists and Hindus have been at war with each other for centuries .... this will only now get more intense as more Islamists occupy positions of influence andpower.

Africans Wary On New US Command For Continent

From International Herald Tribune:

DAKAR, Senegal: A new command takes over all U.S. military operations in Africa on Wednesday, a program that many Africans fear has a hidden agenda skewed by the war on terror and a self-interested scramble for resources.

Before Africom was created one year ago, American military programs on the continent had been divvied up among three other commands more concerned with NATO and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new command is inheriting responsibility for a Centcom-run base in Djibouti, where 1,800 troops are deployed to keep Horn of Africa terror networks in check. It also takes over European Command's Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative and dozens of other military and maritime training programs.

"Africans believe Africom is aimed at promoting America's interests, not Africa's," said Wafula Okumu, a Kenyan analyst at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies. Most Africans don't trust their own militaries, which in places like Congo have turned weapons on their own people.

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My Comment: This is long overdue. The sad fact is that Africa will be experiencing economic and social problems for decades .... which in turn will spawn military confrontations and conflicts. The U.S. has an interest in Africa, as well as a moral duty to have a presence there so that Rwandan type genocides or Darfur conflicts cannot easily develop. Will Africom have an impact .... I do not know .... but I am hopeful (OK, I am an optimist) that Africom will find a way to have a positive influence with the resources that it has at its disposal.

Mysterious Cargo Aboard Iranian Ship Seized By Pirates Raises WMD Concerns

The cargo ship MV Iran Deyanat, that was taken by Somali pirates last month.

From FOX News:

As Somali pirates brazenly maintain their standoff with American warships off the coast of Africa, the cargo aboard one Iranian ship they commandeered is raising concerns that it may contain materials that can be used for chemical or biological weapons.

Some local officials suspect that instead of finding riches, the pirates encountered deadly chemical agents aboard the Iranian vessel.

On Aug. 21, the pirates, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, stole onto the decks of the merchant vessel Iran Deyanat.

They ransacked the ship and searched the containers. But in the days following the hijacking, a number of them fell ill and died, suffering skin burns and hair loss, according to reports.

The pirates were sickened because of their contact with the seized cargo, according to Hassan Osman, the Somali minister of Minerals and Oil, who met with the pirates to facilitate negotiations.

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My Comment: I have no sympathy for pirates. But the fact that such a cargo exists makes one wonder what else is being transported .... and why.

More Peace Feelers From The Taliban

(Click To Enlarge)

Or We Shall Taunt You A Second Time -- Threatswatch

While stopping short of making light of an un-light situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the title above was an initial reaction to Mullah Omar’s retreat offer, which warned America that it will suffer the same demoralizing fate as the Soviet Union before us.

“I say to the invaders: if you leave our country, we will provide you the safe context to do so,” Omar said in the statement marking the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr. “If you insist on your invasion, you will be defeated like the Russians before you.”

The situation in Afghanistan has been trending toward difficulty, but never flirting with loss or capitulation. This is, keep in mind, the same warning issued in October of 2001. One distinct difference is that the warning is being issued not from Kabul, but across the border in Pakistan where Mullah Omar stands a chance of avoiding the pre-mature collection of his 72 virgins. And recall that in 2001, his warnings were echoed by the faithless in America who warned breathlessly of ‘quagmire’ and a ‘new Vietnam.’ Long? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Quagmire? No.

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My Comment: The post from Threatswatch summarizes my feelings also. 2008 is not the same as 1988 when war and killing was occurring on a massive scale between Soviet and Afghan combatants.

No Protection From Pirates Who Know the Seas

Members of a U.S. Navy rescue and assistance team provide humanitarian and medical assistance to the crew of the Taiwanese-flagged fishing trawler Ching Fong Hwa. The vessel had been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia in early May 2007 and was released Nov. 5, 2007 with U.S. Navy assistance. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED).

Secret Sea Lane for Piracy Protection -- War Is Boring

In the wake of last week’s Somali pirate raid that nabbed a Ukrainian ship laden with smuggled weapons, an international naval flotilla is assembling to protect commercial shipping. But the roughly dozen warships slated to patrol the Horn of Africa in coming months are spread thin. “We’re not always there” when pirates attack, a Navy source tells me.

To shrink the tens of thousands of square miles of ocean where pirate attacks might occur, the Navy has established a secret “security lane” connecting the Gulf of Aden to the Indian Ocean. The precise location of the so-called “Maritime Security Area,” apparently some 200 miles off the Somali coast, is a closely held secret. The Navy sends its coordinates to commercial vessels via VHF radio, asking them to steer into the lane where warships can more closely guard them.

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My Comment: Blockade the Somali Ports from all shipping, and attack their facilities on land. This will solve this piracy problem very quickly.

Army And Rebel Militia Clash In Eastern Democratic Republic Of Congo

The numerous ethic groups in The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)

From Somalinet:

(SomaliNet) A spokesperson for renegade officer Laurent Nkunda's group said fresh fighting broke out on Sunday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between the army and rebel militia.

"The FARDC (government troops) attacked our positions early this morning in Rugari," 45 kilometres north of Nord-Kivu provincial capital Goma, Bertrand Bisimwa said by telephone.

"They attacked with heavy material. We had warned the UN mission to the DR Congo (MONUC) about it," added the senior official of Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

The rebel group also reported fighting near the northeastern town of Kanobe.

Meanwhile the head of a refugee camp in Tongo, a town some 60km north of Goma, said on Sunday that CNDP rebels fired shots from their positions in the hills two days after losing control of Tongo to the FARDC.

"Gun shots resumed. If fighting spreads to the town, we will withdraw to the MONUC camp for protection," Benjamin Seburu said.

Residents in the town of Sake, 25km west of Goma, also said they were beseiged by gun fire lasting three hours on Saturday evening by rebels wanting to reclaim the town from the army.

The FARDC has not confirmed any of these attacks, while a press conference organised by the head of the army, General Dieudonne Kayembe, scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Goma, was postponed until Monday. - Sapa-AFP

My Comment: I can easily predict that war will be the normal state of affairs for this part of Africa till the 22nd century.

The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan

The Benazir Bhutto assassination

From The International Herald Tribune:

Hours after a truck bomber slew 53 people last weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, the country's interior minister laid responsibility for the attack on Taliban militants holed up in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, the remote, wild region that straddles the border with Afghanistan.

"All roads lead to FATA," Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

If the past is any guide, Malik's statement is almost certainly correct.

But what Malik did not say was that those same roads, if he chose to follow them, would very likely loop back to Islamabad itself.

The chaos that is engulfing Pakistan appears to represent an especially frightening case of strategic blowback, one that has now begun to seriously undermine the American effort in Afghanistan. Tensions over Washington's demands that the militants be brought under control have been rising, and last week an exchange of fire erupted between American and Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. So it seems a good moment to take a look back at how the chaos has developed.

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My Comment: The reason why the Al Qaeda leadership ran to the safe havens of Pakistan's Tribal Regions is that they knew they would be safe there. After six years of ignoring the problem, the Red Mosque uprising occurred last year, throwing Pakistan into a fight between secular and Islamic extremists that has only grown with time.

Pakistan .... because of religion and ethnic differences .... has been in constant turmoil and instability. A corrupt elite, coupled with religious and ethnic intolerance, with outside influences permeating all strata of Pakistani life .... we now have a mix that is ready to explode.

The fact that many in Pakistan are now interfering into the affairs of Afghanistan .... has resulted with Pakistan now receiving the wrath of NATO and its allies, and its demands that it finally addresses the problems that they have ignored for so long.

For Sale: Used Spy Camera With Top Secret Terror Records

From FOX News:

LONDON — A second-hand camera sold on eBay by a top MI6 agent held secret records used in the fight against Al Qaeda terrorists. Names, snaps, fingerprints and suspects’ academic records were found in the memory of the digital device.

Alongside them were photos of rocket launchers and missiles which spooks believe Iran is supplying to Usama Bin Laden’s henchmen in Iraq.

And a hand-drawn graphic revealed links between active Al Qaeda cells — with terrorists’ names and occupations.

Meanwhile a document marked "top secret" detailed the encrypted computer system used by real-life James Bonds working away from MI6’s London HQ.

Among those named in the material was 46-year-old Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was captured by the CIA in 2007.

The fanatical Iraqi Kurd, one of Al Qaeda’s highest-ranking lieutenants, is being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.

The Nikon Coolpix camera was snapped up for just $31 on the auction website by an innocent 28-year-old deliveryman who lives with his mum.

He discovered the secret material as he downloaded pictures from a U.S. vacation at his home in Hemel Hempstead, Herts.

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My Comment: Not a bad buy for $31.

Bush Had No Plan To Catch Bin Laden

From The Asia Times:

WASHINGTON - New evidence from former United States officials reveals that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders were able to skip Afghanistan for Pakistan unimpeded in the first weeks after September 11, 2001, as the George W Bush administration failed to plan to block their retreat.

Top administration officials instead gave priority to planning for war with Iraq, leaving the United States with not nearly enough troops or strategic airlift capacity to close the large number of possible exit routes through the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area where Bin Laden escaped in late 2001.

Because it had not been directed to plan for that contingency, the US military was also forced to turn down an offer from then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in late November 2001 to send 60,000 troops to intercept the al-Qaeda leaders.

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My Comment: The priority of the U.S. Administration after 9/11 was to prevent another attack, and to destroy Al Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghanistan. I cannot speak for the administration, but I am sure that while it would have been a bonus to capture or kill Bin Laden, the priority was to destroy Al Qaeda's organization and their Taliban allies. Which at the time they did with limited resources and manpower.

Small Wars Journal Recaps U.S. Defense Secretary Gates At The National University

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks to students at
the National Defense University on 29 September 2008.

A summation of news reports on this story is here.

The U.S. Navy In The 21st Century: Fighting Pirates

GULF OF ADEN - Merchant vessel Golden Nori transits under the escort of the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) following its release from Somalia-based pirates Dec. 12.

4 Fronts For Pirate-Navy Battle As U.S. Descends
On Captured Ship -- Popular Mechanics

Deep in what this weekend became the most notorious pirate hideout since Neverland, Somali buccaneers are currently hunkered down in the Indian Ocean with the biggest pillage of their biggest year: the Ukrainian cargo vessel Faina, loaded with 33 T-72 tanks, plus small arms, rockets and ammunition—all headed for Sudan, a U.S. Navy spokesperson confirmed this morning. As its USS Howard destroyer reached the area and more foreign ships descended on the hijacked boat, however, the U.S. Navy’s response to Thursday night’s capture may signal a new stage in this cat-and-mouse game of modern-day piracy.

From ramshackle beginnings four years ago, Somali piracy has evolved into a lucrative industry, reportedly bringing in 10 times as much cash as the country’s once-thriving fishing industry. But after a year in which pirates operated with near impunity and seized nearly 60 ships for around $1 million ransom each, the international community is finally taking action by assembling a sophisticated naval force to fight back.

The fate of the Faina remains to be seen, with its captain already dead and a $20-million ransom in negotiations as the would-be rescue ships awaited orders and continued to monitor the situation. But two high-tech and highly successful engagements so far this year—in addition to several others loaded with robotic arsenals—might provide an attack plan that could finally begin to shut down the reinforced band of pirates.

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Picture For Today

The Belly Of the Beast (A-10 Aircraft)

An Excellent Post Last Month On Sea Piracy From The Profit Is Knowledge Blog

United Nations Authorizes “Any Means Necessary”
to Halt High Sea’s Treachery.

As modern day Pirates wreak havoc in the worlds most commerce critical sea-lanes, US and coalition military forces have responded with a marked increase in the tempo of their operations. Based out of the maritime coalition headquarters in Bahrain along with the US 5th Fleet (US Naval Forces Central Command) The Combined Maritime Force (CMF) – a coalition of naval assets from more than 20 nations patrols more than 2.5 million square miles of ocean. The CMF area of operations encompasses the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the sea area inclusive of a grid that runs due east from Kenya and Tanzania (including the Seychelles Islands) to a line running due south from the border of Pakistan & India.

Within this area of operations lie three of the world’s most strategic waterway passages; the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez canal, and the Babel-Mandeb, along with the overwhelming majority of the worlds known oil reserves and approximately 20% of the natural gas resources. More than 10,000 ships of all variety operate daily within this sea area carrying millions of tons of raw and finished goods.

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Freed Hostages Released In The Sahara Contradict Official Government Reports

Released German hostages, of whom no names were made public, leave an airplane at the airport Tegel in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 30, 2008. Five Germans who were part of a 19-member tourist group kidnapped in Egypt and taken by their abductors on a dash through the Sahara Desert and returned to their home countries on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Herbert Knosowski)

Freed Hostages Recount Chaotic Release In Sahara
-- Breitbart/AP

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A European tour group kidnapped in the Sahara Desert was abruptly freed after a phone call to one of the captors, and all 19 hostages piled into a single car, some clinging to the roof as they drove 200 miles to safety.

The accounts Tuesday by the freed Europeans and their Egyptian guides contradicted reports from Egyptian security officials who described a dramatic rescue involving gun battles between Egyptian forces and the hostages, with state news agency quoting the defense minister that half the kidnappers had been killed.

As their captivity dragged into its 10th night, one of their captors received a phone call, the Egyptian drivers said from the hospital.

"They told all the Egyptians to stand in one line and they cocked their weapons, and at that moment we thought we were dead," Hassan Abdel Hakim, 45, told The Associated Press. "Suddenly the man told us to take one car and leave—there were 19 of us packed into one car, some on the roof."

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My Comment: So much for the spin from the Egyptian Government that it was their special forces that rescued these hostages after a car chase and gun battle.

DARPA Developing Super Scope

(Click to Enlarge)

From the Future Of Things:

Researchers at the Strategic Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) are developing new high resolution scopes that extend the range of viable image recognition and reduce atmospheric interference. Still in the early prototyping stage, DARPA hopes the new optical system will eventually result in a decrease of friendly fire incidents and collateral damage from military operations.

Called the Super-Resolution Vision System (SRVS), this new system exploits atmospheric turbulence effects that magnify pieces of images behind heat haze. The formal name for this phenomenon is atmospheric turbulence-generated micro-lensing and it creates a brief, high resolution image behind the haze. The SRVS takes many such images and collates them to create a cohesive image of the entire larger area under observation using new advances in signal processing made possible by advances in computer processing power and increased storage capabilities.

Because of the need to interpolate the full image from fragments, the SRVS system will not operate in real time. Delays of approximately one second are anticipated before the composite image is shown to the viewer. DARPA hopes to achieve 90% facial recognition of an individual one kilometer away using a six centimeter lens that will fit into the form factor currently used for military scopes. The image resolution would be approximately three times that of current diffraction-based scopes. The increase in effective distance of the new scopes has not been released (or is not yet known).

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Fragile Muslim-Christian Peace Crumbles In Egypt

Coptic Church, Egypt

From the Scotsman:

N THE shadows of the Moqattam cliffs that tower over Cairo's eastern fringes, Safwat Nazeem is picking his way through tens of thousands of empty plastic bottles.
Safwat, like his father before him, is one of the Zabaleen, Egypt's invisible army of refuse collectors who gather the urban waste around them and welcome it into their homes. Their neighbourhood, known as Garbage City, overflows with rubbish all waiting to be sifted and recycled. And after a recent spate of national violence and media intrigue, the Zabaleen have become a community on the defensive.

Like the vast majority of Garbage City's residents, Safwat is a Coptic Christian – part of an eight million-strong religious minority in Egypt that predates the presence of Islam in the country by over 500 years.

In the past months, the country's fragile sectarian balance has been rocked by violent clashes, accusations of discrimination on both sides and rumors of "special interests" spreading disruption from abroad.

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My Comment: Islam's intolerance to other religions is rearing its ugly head again, but this time it is in Egypt.
Afghanistan Pakistan Border Outpost - Taliban fighters man an outpost overlooking the mountain-fringed tribal region of the Northwest Frontier.

Pakistan Engages The Tribes In Effort To Fight The Taliban
-- Long War Journal

As the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency rages in northwestern Pakistan, the Pakistani government has stepped up its efforts to engage the local tribes to battle the extremists.

The effort to gain the support of the Pashtu tribes in northwestern Pakistan was highlighted when General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army visited the Bajaur tribal agency, where a two-month old offensive against the Taliban is still underway.

Kiyani "expressed his satisfaction that local tribesmen have risen against miscreants and are fully supporting the Army," Geo TV reported. Miscreant is a term often used by Pakistanis to refer to foreign or al Qaeda fighters. "He reiterated that success in this operation was directly linked with popular support" in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The current operation against the Taliban in Bajaur has been touted as a critical battle in the fight against the wave of extremism that is threatening to tear Pakistan apart. The military launched the offensive in early August, and has faced stiff resistance against well-trained and dug in Taliban fighters. To help fight the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies, the military and government have turned to Bajaur's tribes, with some success.

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My Comment: The Pakistani Government is trying to recreate an Iraqi awakening in its own Tribal Regions. It is too early to speculate if they will succeed.

Iraqi Sunni, Shiite, And U.S. Relations

(Click To Enlarge)

For U.S. and Sunni Allies, a Turning Point
-- Washington Post

Sons of Iraq Despair At Imminent Takeover By Shiite Government

BAGHDAD -- First Lt. Justin John, 6-foot-4 and built like a linebacker, plopped down on a sofa in front of Ibrahim Suleiman al-Zoubaidi, one of the leaders of the mainly Sunni armed groups that have helped the U.S. military quell violence in Iraq since last year.

Zoubaidi, a small man armed with a revolver, had one thing on his mind: This week officials of Iraq's Shiite-led government will assume authority over the groups, which have been backed by the United States.

"They will kill us," Zoubaidi declared. "One by one."

Across Baghdad, leaders of the groups speak about the transition in similarly apocalyptic terms. Some have left Baghdad, saying they fear that the Iraqi government will conduct mass arrests after the handover. Others are obtaining passports and say they will flee to Syria.

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My Comment: You cannot get rid of centuries of animosity and distrust. The Americans are the buffer against this history, and because of their effectiveness in keeping the peace insures that they will be in Iraq for a very long time. This is not a bad thing if long term peace becomes the result.

At Least They Are Honest On What They Want

Somali Pirates

Somali Pirates Tell All: They’re in It for the Money
-- Washington Post

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview Tuesday that they had no idea that the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.

“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, told The New York Times. “So we stopped it.”

The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on who you ask.

In a 45-minute-long interview, Mr. Sugule expounded on everything from what the pirates want — “just money” — to why they were doing this — “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters” — to what they eat — rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human being food.”

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General David Petraeus Making The Rounds For More Troops

General David Petraeus departs 10 Downing Street after holding talks with Gordon Brown. The general was behind the successful 'surge' strategy in Iraq Photo: AP

General David Petraeus Applies Pressure For More Nato Troops In Afghanistan -- The Telegraph

The American military commander Gen David Petraeus stepped up the pressure for extra troops to fight in Afghanistan after British commanders ruled out reinforcements.

Speaking after talks with the Prime Minister, the American military chief bluntly called on Nato countries to contribute more to the Afghan campaign at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.

Gen Petraeus said it was up to Nato member states to reinforce Afghanistan. "Now it is up to national capitals and the alliance to determine how to generate the additional force," he said. "I think it is up to the coalition how to source the forces."

Standing next to the head of the Armed Forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, he said Britain had "responded with a very good contribution" by doubling its force in the last two years to 8,000.

It appears the Americans have accepted that efforts by the Pentagon to strong-arm the Ministry of Defence into sending an extra brigade into Helmand province have failed.

Earlier this month, the US defence secretary Robert Gates appeared to be pressuring the MoD into reinforcements after he said that it was his "understanding that the UK may increase the size of its force".

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My Comment: With cap in hand, the General is trying his best to evaluate the support from NATO members for a military campaign in Afghanistan. I am sure that he is receiving a lot of moral support .... and .... that's about it.

The Rise Of The Counterinsurgents -- A Series From The Washington Independent

Scouts from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), pull overwatch during Operation Destined Strike while 2nd Platoon, Able Company searches a village below the Chowkay Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan Aug. 22. (army.mil)

Military Embraces Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan -- Part 9

Insurgents pour north from the barely-guarded Pakistan border to the southeast, through Paktika Province, in the heart of Pashtun-controlled eastern Afghanistan. Their objective, according to the U.S. military command, is to attack the capitol city of Kabul, and to cut off the eastern province of Khost, where about 5,000 U.S. troops live on a large base called Salerno, about 12 miles from the Pakistani border.

Along the way, they go straight through southwestern Paktia Province, where 100 or so U.S. soldiers — the 1-61 Cavalry, based at a small outpost in Zormat — use a 250-watt radio as one of their most important weapons in a protracted, arduous counterinsurgency campaign.

“We’re talking about what kind of religion Islam [is], how to use it,” explained Lateef, 23, a DJ at Voice of Unity Radio, “about suicide bombers, which wars to fight, why suicide attacks are bad.” With his partner, Marwan, Lateef spends eight hours a day — 8 a.m. to noon and 6 p.m. to 10 — putting anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda messages on the airwaves.

They operate from a boxy wooden shack near the dining facility at Combat Outpost Zormat. The spartan conditions — there’s one microphone, a small mixing board and a laptop in the radio station — gave rise to the cavalry troop’s nickname for Marwan and Lateef’s efforts: Radio in a Box.

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The other articles for this series are here.

My Comment: An excellent series of articles on insurgency and the thinking to confront it.

Young Iraqi Girls Turned Into Perfect Weapon

From Times Online:

The teenage girl, handcuffed to an iron railing, hangs her head as an Iraqi explosives expert cuts the trigger cords on a suicide vest strapped to her body. Gunshots echo in the distance as the white vest, carrying about 30lb (15kg) of explosives, is peeled off the 15-year-old, leaving her standing in the street in a sleeveless, orange frock.

The footage was taken in August, when police said they found Rania Ibrahim Mutlib in a side road in Baquba, north of Baghdad, having failed to detonate her charge.

When The Times met her in a police interrogation cell this week with her mother and grandmother, she claimed that she had been drugged and had no intention of killing herself or of becoming the 16th teenage girl bomber said to have struck in the past year.

Rania cracked her knuckles as she recounted what she said had happened in the run-up to her arrest.

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My Comment: She said, he said. This family is completely dysfunctional .... and very dangerous.
Beholden to the uniforms to stay in power ... a policeman beats a lawyer during a protest in Islamabad. Photo: AP

Pakistan's Main Intel Agency Names New Chief -- Newsweek

US expected to closely scrutinize new chief of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency

(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) The new chief of Pakistan's main intelligence service will surely be scrutinized by American officials who have questioned the powerful spy agency's loyalties in the war on terror.

The appointment of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as head of Inter-Services Intelligence was among several changes in what appeared to be a major shake up of the military leadership.

In his most recent capacity as director general of military operations, Pasha oversaw military offensives against insurgents in the nuclear-armed nation's restive northwest.

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My Comment: The new government in Pakistan are now placing people from the previous administration by people that are loyal to them. In the case of Pakistan's Intelligence Agencies, this change of leadership is important. The ISI has been continuously condemned as a rogue agency functioning in opposition to the wishes of the Central Government. The Agency has also been condemned by the U.S. as an organization that has been completely infiltrated by supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Seeing the man responsible for this mess being fired is a positive development.

Piracy Off The Coast Of Somalia -- Roundup Of News Reports

The MV Faina seen from the USS Vella Gulf off the coast of Somalia.
Photograph: Jason Zalasky/US navy via Getty Images

Three Shot Dead In Row Between Somali Pirates
-- The Guardian

Argument between rival factions over what to do with Ukrainian ship's crew and cargo of tanks descends into deadly shootout

Three Somali pirates have been shot dead during an argument over what to do with a hijacked Ukrainian ship and its cargo of 33 tanks, a maritime group said today.

Rival factions among a group of roughly 50 pirates argued over whether to free the cargo and 20-man crew, said Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme.

In the most high-profile incident in a wave of hijackings off Somalia this year, the pirates seized the MV Faina six days ago and demanded $20m (£12m) in ransom.

US warships have surrounded the boat, whose capture sparked controversy over the destination of its cargo and threw a spotlight on the prolific piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping areas.

"The radicals on board do not want to listen to anyone," Mwangura, whose Kenya-based group is monitoring the saga via relatives of the crew and the pirates, told Reuters. "The moderates want to back-pedal. The Americans are close, so everyone is tense. There was a shootout and three of the pirates were shot dead."

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More News On Piracy

Three Somali pirates die in hijacked Ukrainian vessel -- China View
Somali pirates die in Ukrainian ship shootout -- The Telegraph
US monitors arms ship seized off Somalia -- Sydney Morning Herald
Where were Russian tanks destined on ship hijacked off Somalia? -- LA Times
Somali pirates say arms shipment belongs to Sudan -- AFP
Pirates: Ukrainian ship bound for Sudan -- Press TV
For U.S. Navy, high stakes in pirate standoff -- Chicago Tribune
Somalia: Helicopter gunship joins US navy off Somalia to monitor pirates -- Somalinet
Somali pirates on arms ship celebrate Muslim feast -- AP

My Comment: It appears that this shipment was heading to Sudan, a direct violation of international sanctions. Kenya must also be complicit in this transaction because of the need to use its ports and land routes to reach Sudan. This entire situation stinks to high heaven.

Heavy Loses For The Taliban In Pakistan

Soldiers inside a helicopter prepare to land on a mountain in Ganjagal, Afghanistan

Another Al Qaeda Last Stand -- Strategy Page

September 29, 2008: The Taliban and their al Qaeda allies have been fighting a large, and losing, battle against the army in the Pakistani region of Bajaur (right on the Afghan border). The fighting has been going on for a month now, and the terrorists have lost about a thousand dead, while the army has lost only 27 dead. The large disparity in losses is largely due to the Pakistani use of air power (bombers and helicopters) and artillery. The army controls the roads, forcing the Taliban to concentrate their forces, to avoid getting taken apart by road (and helicopter) mobile Pakistani infantry.

The fighting began when the Taliban, who had always been dominant in Bajaur, sought to take over completely and drive government officials out. The army responded with over 10,000 troops, and more following, and went after the towns, villages and walled compounds known to be bases for the enemy. The Taliban did not expect the army to respond so energetically. But the Taliban had prepared ambushes along the roads (by renting houses, and digging tunnels and bunkers next to them for shelter from artillery and bombs). In response, the army detected these preparations (with air reconnaissance, patrols and local informants), and avoided, or destroyed, these positions.

Read more ....

My Comment: Their war against the Pakistani Army is entering a new phase .... it appears that they are losing this battle.

Taliban's Omar Offers Deal To U.S. On Withdrawal

Mullah Muhammad Omar

Taliban's Omar Offers Deal To U.S. On Withdrawal -- Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Taliban leader Mullah Omar on Monday urged U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to withdraw or face a similar defeat to occupying Soviet troops a generation ago.

In a rare message, posted on militant websites and monitored by the U.S.-based SITE intelligence group, Omar offered a bargain to the U.S.-led forces that drove the Taliban from power in 2001 but are now fighting a fierce insurgency by the Islamist militia.

"Reconsider your wrong decision of wrong occupation, and seek a safe exit to withdraw your forces," said the message, which the Taliban said came from Omar.

"If you leave our lands, we can arrange for you a reasonable opportunity for your departure," he said, adding that the Taliban posed no harm to anyone in the world.

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My Comment: He must know that they will not accept his offer. But it does not hurt to ask.

U.S.And Iraq Security Pact Agreement Proceeding Slowly

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki

Al-Maliki Says Security Pact In US, Iraqi Interest
-- Yahoo News/AP

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that the government is ready to compromise to reach a security accord with the United States because Iraq still needs American troops despite the drop in violence.

In an interview with The Associated Press, al-Maliki said neither he nor Iraq's parliament will accept any pact that fails to serve the country's national interests. A poorly constructed plan would provoke so much discord in Iraq that it could threaten his government's survival, he said.

Al-Maliki said, however, that he is firmly committed to reaching an accord that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond next year.

"We regard negotiating and reaching such an agreement as a national endeavor, a national mission, a historic one. It is a very important agreement that involves the stability and the security of the country and the existence of foreign troops. It has a historic dimension," al-Maliki said.

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More News On The Iraq/U.S. Security Pact

Al-Maliki sees compromise with U.S. on security accord -- Star Tribune
U.S. negotiators to return to Iraq for security talks -- International Herald Tribune

My Comment: The Iraqi Government is beginning to realize that maybe the American military does serve a useful role in Iraq after all. Criticism and delays in negotiating this agreement are slowly disappearing, indicating a strong willingness to move on.

I predict an agreement on this security pact by November or early December.

The Privatization Of Rocket Lauches And Its Military Implications

Private Rockets Could Boost Military, Too
-- Danger Room/Wired Magazine

Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies just put the first privately developed rocket into orbit. That's not only a breakthrough for the space community. It has huge military consequences, too -- if the company can turn the one-time launch into a regular event.

The U.S. military relies on satellites to spy on enemies, relay orders and guide unmanned planes. But putting a satellite into orbit is an enormously expensive undertaking. "Humanity has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on space exploration in the past half century, and the numbers have not changed: about $10,000 a pound to put something in low Earth orbit," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity, when speaking with Wired's Carl Hoffman. Only a few, government-backed companies offer these Maybach-priced services. Which means every aspect of the satellite business happens at a slow crawl. Satellites are built, oh-so-deliberately, to have zero defects -- and then take forever to replace, once the inevitable errors happen.

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My Comment: The military subcontracts an enormous amount of its work ... why not launching its satellites into space.

The Coming Winter Campaign In Afghanistan

An Afghan soldier pulls security for a US lead patrol to Kamdesh, a village in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. Winter 2006 -- National Geographic Magazine 2008

The Coming Winter Combat Between Taliban and U.S. Forces -- Captain's Journal

It was Maj. Gen. Jeffery J. Schloesser who initially pointed out that the Taliban would be active this winter despite the common perceptions of a stand down in operations due to the weather.

American troops in Afghanistan will step up offensive operations this winter because insurgents are increasingly staying in the country to prepare for spring attacks, a U.S. commander told The Associated Press.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery J. Schloesser said a 40 percent surge in violence in April and May was fueled in part by militants preparing stores of weapons during the winter, which generally is a slow period for fighting, particularly in snowy Afghan mountainous areas.

“If we don’t do anything over the winter the enemy will more and more try to seek safe haven in Afghanistan rather than going back to Pakistan,” Schloesser said …

He said the U.S. military realized more militants spent last winter in Afghanistan after speaking with elders and villagers who had been pushed out of their homes. The spike in violence in the spring occurred because insurgents were already in position to unleash attacks, though U.S. officials didn’t know it at the time, he said.

“They didn’t have to come over the passes, they were already here,” Schloesser said during an interview while flying in a Black Hawk helicopter Monday to a small U.S. outpost in Nuristan, a province that borders Pakistan.

Now he is reiterating this position, but adding a new twist concerning the capabilities of U.S. forces and the intent to interdict Taliban operations.

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My Comment: As usual, the Captain's Journal has an observant eye on what is going to happen in Afghanistan a few months from now.

Pistols, Machine Guns, And RPGs ..... Africa's Weapons Of Mass Destruction

At UN, Nigeria Stresses Dangers Posed By African ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’ -- U.N. News Centre

29 September 2008 – Africa has been devastated by conflicts perpetuated by small arms and light weapons, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today, calling for a global pact to rid the continent of the scourge.

“Because of their lethality and ready deployment, they may be described as Africa’s experience of weapons of mass destruction,” Ojo Maduekwe said at United Nations Headquarters.

Nigeria, he said, believes the best and most effective way to prevent, combat and eradicate the “illicit and deadly trade” is through a legally binding international agreement, coupled with the political will of all States to curb the uncontrolled proliferation of these weapons.

“There is need, therefore, for urgent action to criminalize oil bunkering, the sale of oil so acquired and the use of its proceeds to fuel new crisis situations in Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, through the proliferation of small arms and light weapons,” the Minister said.

The same zeal applied to addressing the issue of “blood diamonds” must now be harnessed to address the problem of “blood oil” that threatens the Gulf, he added.

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My Comment: In my life time millions in Africa have died from small arms fire, and the wounds that come from the bullets fired by these weapons. These totals do not include the destruction of infrastructure, health and medical services, and the deprivation of food and hunger brought about by these conflicts.

General Assembly’s Opening Debate Dampens Hope For UN Progress in Dealing With Terrorism and Nuclear Proliferation

From Counter Terrorism Blog:

As the UN General Assembly ends its final day of principal level debate, the prognosis for its future work remains both murky and morose. As in the past the world’s ills have been laid plain for world leaders (if they are taking any notice) to see. Yet, there is still no sign that the divisiveness of the international community has, or will diminish. Such is particularly the case for the GA’s treatment of the twin challenges of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. As the statements by the principals now comes to an end, hardened battle lines already mark the difficult negotiations on these issues that are about to begin in the hallways and in the GA’s various committees.

While the GA’s new president, Ex-Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, called for a General Assembly session of “Reconciliation,” he did little to set a positive tone for furthering constructive discussions on these issues. Rather, his prescription, in his first remarks as GA President, was to blame the United States, Israel, and other Western countries for these challenges to peace. “Any act of terrorism,” he said, “whether or not it is committed by a Government, engenders more terrorism. Initiatives to stop this vicious cycle must begin at the level of State terrorism.” And he wasn’t talking about the state-supported terrorism of such countries Iran, Syria, Sudan, or other countries that provide direct funding to support international terrorist organizations such as Hizbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He was referring to the coalition forces and efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel’s responses to attacks from Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. His conclusion, “terrorism by powerful States against relatively weak States must stop.”

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My Comment: The U.N. .... pffff .... I worked for ICAO for a number of years, the U.N. is useless when it comes to hard decisions.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sri Lanka War News Updates -- September 30, 2008

A government soldier fired at Tamil Tiger insurgents in Kilinochchi,
north of the capital Colombo, Sri Lanka. Reuters

Bomb Hits Sri Lanka Capital, Fighting Kills 21 -- Washington Post

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Suspected Tamil separatists set off a bomb in a parking lot in Sri Lanka's capital Monday, wounding three people a day after fighting in the country's intensifying civil war killed 20 rebels and one soldier, the military said.

The violence came as government forces closed in on the rebels' administrative capital of Kilinochchi in a campaign aimed at routing the guerrillas and ending the 25-year-old war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

The bomb, placed between two vehicles in a parking lot in Colombo's busy Pettah neighborhood, exploded shortly after noon and slightly wounded three bystanders, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara. The Tamil Tigers, who have been accused of scores of bombings and other attacks on civilians, were suspected in the blast, he said.

Read more ....

War News Updates On Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka claims it's closing in on Tamil Tiger stronghold -- Christian Science Monitor
Bomb blast in Sri Lankan capital wounds five -- Reuters
Bomb hits Sri Lanka capital, fighting kills 21 -- International Herald Tribune
Heavy rebel losses in Sri Lanka fighting: military -- AFP
UN to restart Sri Lanka food aid -- ABC Radio Australia

My Comment: The final push to end major military engagements is now on. I doubt the LTTE will be able to maintain their positions .... I expect them to disband and to start a classic guerrilla war in the next few months.

Petraeus Warns On Pakistan Threat

Gen Petraeus Pakistan faced an existential threat from militants

From The BBC:

Militants in Pakistan pose a threat to the country's existence, according the the American General, David Petraeus.

Speaking in London after meeting the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the commander of US Central Command said Pakistan had to deal with the problem.

He went on to say he would help Pakistan make a a sustained commitment to deal with the militants.

His comments come amid tension between the US and Islamabad over American attacks on militants inside Pakistan.

'Existential threat'

US forces in Afghanistan have conducted a number of cross-border operations targeting militants based in neighbouring northwest Pakistan.

The Pakistani authorities say civilians have been killed in those attacks.

More recently, Pakistani troops have opened fire on American military helicopters as they tried to cross the border into the country.

Gen Petraeus was recently promoted to head the US Central Command.

"They (Pakistan) clearly have a threat," he said, "the nature of which and the importance of which is increasingly being recognised by those in Islamabad."

"You have heard the newly elected President Zadari. You've heard the army chief and others all recognise that this is in a sense an existentialist threat, this is a threat to Pakistan's very existence," the general added.

"It is one with which they must deal. Now they can deal with it in a comprehensive manner," Gen Petraeus continued, saying that there would be Pakistani solutions to the problems and that Pakistan should be supported as it tries to tackle the militants in the country.

My Comment: Recognizes that Pakistan has a serious problem with Islamic extremists, and that this is a problem that they can only solve.

Border Chief: No Evidence Of Iranian Sleeper Cells In U.S.

Hezbollah Parade

From Spy Talk:

"If Iran has sleeper cells here, "we'd be doing something about it," says the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, contradicting frequent assertions that the Islamic regime has secret agents in the U.S. poised to attack domestic targets in retaliation for American or Israeli air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.

U.S. intelligence officials have said that Iran-backed Hezbollah "retains the capability to strike in the U.S." as FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told Congress in 2005, or that it might launch attacks on U.S. targets "if it feels its Iranian patron is threatened," as John D. Negroponte put it when he was Director of National Intelligence in 2006.

But evidence that Iran has anything more than fundraising efforts remains scant.

The Iranian sleeper agents idea got another bounce this month with the publication of The Secret War With Iran, by the respected Israeli investigative reporter Ronen Bergman, who says that Iran has deployed underground cells in New York and elsewhere.

Read more ....

My Comment: I still do not feel safe .... how about you guys.

Afghanistan -- Face Of The Enemy

Taleban Warrior Who Delights In Killing
British Soldiers -- Times Online

For a self-confessed and enthusiastic killer of British soldiers there was something strangely naive in the manner of the Taleban bomber. The lightly bearded 23-year-old looked younger than his years, with gentle features beneath his black turban and a habit of asking odd questions.

“The British soldiers have shaved their heads but when we see them washing they are still shampooing their heads, but they have no hair.” He looked mystified and then laughed.

Between the moments of naive curiosity, he boiled with a visceral hatred of Westerners. Almost casually, he mentioned the desire he felt to kill me with a pistol he was carrying, before explaining that he was restraining himself because of a promise he had given to tribal intermediaries who set up the interview.

Instead he focused on his enthusiasm for bombs and dead foreign soldiers and his role as a midlevel commander of 20 to 30 fighters.

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My Comment: There is much of this story that I find hard to believe. But if this article is partially true, it tells me that the Taliban's minor commanders are paranoid, homicidal, and totally ignorant of the consequences that their actions bring on themselves and on their families.

US Frees 2,400 Detainees In Iraq During Ramadan

A mother hugs her son following his release from a US military prison in Baghdad on September 20. American authorities have freed 2,404 detainees in four weeks of Ramadan, the US military said, still short of the 3,000 the military promised in early September to release during the Muslim fasting month. (AFP/File/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

From Yahoo News/AP:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - US authorities have freed 2,404 detainees in the four weeks of Ramadan, the American military said on Monday, still short of the 3,000 they promised to release during the Muslim fasting month.

Releases accelerated in the past week as 955 were freed, compared to a total of 1,449 for the first three weeks of Ramadan, the military said in a statement.

At the begining of the fasting month, the US military promised to free about 3,000 detainees during Ramadan which ends this week.

However, the US military said they expected more people to be released in the next few days.

"The projections for the final few days of the Ramadan release period are ambitious and assume no delays or unexpected interruptions to the release process," the statement added.

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My Comment: Let us hope that these released prisoners do not return to what got them there in the first place.

Pentagon Swaps Killer Drone for Hollywood Access

From The Danger Room:

The Air Force's latest killer drone, the MQ-9 Reaper, plays a key role in the new action flick Eagle Eye. "She's an amazing aircraft," says director D.J. Caruso. But shooting the drone meant getting Pentagon permission, Caruso says.

The film crew's access was managed by the Pentagon's Entertainment Liaison Office, which previously provided F-22s to Iron Man and F-22s, V-22s, ships and helicopters to Transformers. What does the Pentagon get in return for all this hardware?

Publicity, and significant input on the script. On Eagle Eye, that meant adding a character who "allowed us to depict the Air Force as being on the front lines of the war on terrorism," according to Colonel Francisco Hamm, who heads the air service's Hollywood efforts.

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Military Culture And The Nature Of War

The Nature Of War In The Early 21st Century Part Two -- Space Wars

In his important new book, "The Culture of War," Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld warns that Germany's politicians have demanded that their army, the Bundeswehr, be stripped of all German military traditions, not just those of the Nazi period.

Creveld notes: "At first, only the years 1933-1945 were exorcised. From 1968 on, however, there was a growing tendency to extend the shadows until they covered previous periods. Not only the Panzer leader Heinz Guderian, not only the desert fox Erwin Rommel, but Hans von Seeckt, Paul von Hindenburg, Erich Ludendorff, Alfred von Schieffen, and Helmut von Moltke disappeared. From heroes who had served their country, they were turned into 'militarist,' 'reactionary' and 'imperialist' villains; in today's classrooms, it is in vain that one looks for their names or their portraits.

"In comparison with similar institutions in other countries, German military academies, staff colleges and other educational institutions have an empty, bare, functional and soulless appearance. The relics of the 'wars of liberation' apart, almost the only items on display pertain to the Bundeswehr's own history. However, since the Bundeswehr has never gone to war, the ability of those items to excite and inspire is limited.

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My Comment: I remember reading how German youths in the 1930s were taught how to fight, live in the woods on camping trips, exercise constantly .... and harshly, and to respect the military history of Germany. On the other hand French youths were more academically and culturally trained .... minus the military and hard exercise tradition.

When World War II broke out, the British were the first to realize very quickly that the French military were "not up to the job".

There is something to say about tradition and culture in a modern army. To find that balance between a culture and how technology is changing the battlefield .... that is where the proper political and military leadership must step in and to find that balance.

The Pakistan “Awakening” Rises Up - Updated

From Strata-Sphere:

Major Update: Even the BBC is recognizing the tribal Awakening:

Tribal elders gather in a mammoth meeting place, or jirga hall, to tell us why they support the military offensive.

They accuse the Pakistani Taleban of setting up a parallel state in Bajaur, undermining the traditional tribal leadership. They say they’ve exhausted all attempts at negotiating a peaceful solution to the problem.

Haji Karim Salarzai is a leading elder from the Salarzai tribe.

“These so-called Taleban do not know even 10 verses of the Koran, and they call themselves religious scholars!” he declaims from a towering podium on a stage at the front of the hall.

“They have killed elders of the tribes and innocent people, they are miscreants and they are receiving aid from the foreign countries. They are creating an atmosphere of disturbance which has affected the life of the general public in the area.”

The anger is leading to action: in a chaotic market place nearby we meet members of the Salarzai militia, armed with rifles, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. They vow to defend their land not only against the Taleban, but any other intruder.

And I want to ad one more update from the link below:

Many of the men at the jirga came with machine guns, some dating back to the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The meeting was a reaction to a scare a few days earlier, when a group of Taliban tried to seize a local school and take 300 children hostage. Without waiting for the authorities to act, tribesmen successfully tackled the assailants.

The pattern is still the same as in Iraq. The violent, blood-thirsty nature of the Islamo Fascists in their efforts to control the locals is, in the end, their undoing. When compared to these animals even the US pf A looks wonderful in comparison - end update.

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My Comment: I have trouble seeing an Iraqi type of awakening happening in Afghanistan .... but in certain parts of Pakistan there is a possibility for success. Let us hope that they get the necessary support from the Pakistan Central Government to continue in their fight.