Thursday, April 30, 2009

Radical Jihadists Are Now Quoting West Point And The Rand Corporation

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi

Credentials Challenged, Radical Quotes West Point -- New York Times

BEIRUT, Lebanon — He has been mentor to some of the most brutal terrorists on earth. But Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a prominent cleric and theorist of jihad living in Jordan, has grown tired of hearing younger extremists accuse him of going soft.

So in a recent Internet post to his followers, Mr. Maqdisi defended his hard-line credentials by invoking a higher authority: the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

“Credit is due to the testimony of enemies,” Mr. Maqdisi wrote, as he directed his readers to a recent journal article by Joas Wagemakers, a Dutch scholar of jihadism, and the “Militant Ideology Atlas,” both published by the center. Both identified Mr. Maqdisi as a dangerous and influential jihadi theorist, he noted.

Read more ....

My Comment: When a leading Jihadist uses West Point and the Rand Corporation to justify his credentials .... that is when you know that Policy Centers and Think Tanks in the West are beginning to understand the mindset of the leaders and thinkers behind the more violent factions of militant Islam.

Sri Lanka War News Updates -- May 1, 2009

Displaced Sri Lankans watched the British and French foreign ministers arrive for talks Wednesday at a camp in Chettikulam. Pedro Ugarte/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sri Lanka's President Says Tamil Rebels Days Away From Defeat -- Voice Of America

Sri Lanka says the territory controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels has now been reduced to a mere five square kilometers and that they are less than a week away from defeat. Meanwhile, the country's President is expressing frustration with claims the military is still using heavy weapons in the war zone, despite its pledge not to put trapped civilians in additional danger.

Sri Lanka's defense ministry says advances by its troops have further reduced the patch of land between a lagoon and the sea still controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Read more ....

More News On The Sri Lankan War

Sri Lanka Rejects ‘Lectures’ From Western Countries -- New York Times
Sri Lanka rejects West 'lectures' -- BBC
Miliband meeting ends in sharp exchange -- The Independent
Sri Lanka rejects ceasefire despite fresh pressure -- Reuters
Sri Lanka says troops reach final phase against rebels -- China View
Lankan troops close in on LTTE remnants and Prabhakaran -- Indian Express
Sri Lanka president, rebels vow to fight on -- AP
Sri Lanka dismisses critics, vows to crush rebels -- AFP
Civil war heads for bloody end as both sides vow to fight on -- Scotsman
Sri Lankan army claims key rebel strongholds -- CNN
Sri Lanka says key rebel positions taken -- UPI
Tamil leader who fought for rights with terror -- ABC News
Rights issue holds up loan to Sri Lanka -- the Australian
Images show Sri Lankan forces bombing civilian safehaven -- Times Online
Red Cross: Thousands still trapped in Sri Lanka -- CNN
Tamils fear retribution as war reaches its climax -- The Independent
Sri Lanka's humanitarian crisis -- The Economist
Former Tamil Tigers accuse rebels of war crimes -- The Telegraph
Ex-rebels allege Tamil Tiger war crimes -- UPI

Japan And China Making Historic Amends, One Humdrum Trip At A Time

China's President Hu Jintao (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing April 30, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Japan And China Making Historic Amends, One Humdrum Trip At A Time -- Christian Science Monitor

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso ended a two-day trip to Beijing Thursday. Both countries affirmed their desire to cooperate but avoided troublesome topics.

BEIJING – I attended Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s press conference at the end of his 24-hour trip to China out of a sense of curiosity.

For this short visit, the two countries had stuck to relatively uncontroversial areas of cooperation – the economy, swine flu, global warming, youth exchanges. They did not dwell long on tenser topics like North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Read more ....

My Comment: This story has been under reported in the West, but what is happening between China and Japan will have significant and long lasting impacts on economic, political, and military/security issues. Make no mistake about it, the number 2 and number 3 economies in the world with a quarter of the population are now laying the groundwork to develop a long lasting spirit of cooperation .... a cooperation that will immediately impact Asia, and with time the rest of the world.

I have no delusions that this will be easy to do. Both countries have a terrible history, as well as a culture that is racist, hateful, and condescending towards each other. I know ... because I have been traveling there for the past 20 years, and I have seen the animosity that both groups have towards each other up cloae.

But fortunately, time has the capacity to erase and wipe the worse that a people or nation may have against another .... and it is this long term view and philosophy that both Japan and China are adopting.

Will it work? It probably will because for both Japan and China .... it is in their mutual long term interest to make it work.

Iraq War News Updates -- April 31, 2009

Empire On The Run: Welcome To The U.S. Embassy In Baghdad -- Danger Room

Walking into the brand-new dining facility on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a handwritten sign with elaborately scrawled writing announces the day’s meetings like the greeting board at a hotel. Today’s function: HOSTAGE WORKING GROUP.

Opened in January of this year, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad stands as an ambiguous monument to American presence in Iraq. Two years ago, I wrote on Danger Room about plans for the budding U.S. fortress in Baghdad at a time when violence was near an all-time high and many were questioning why the United States was planning the world’s largest and most expensive embassy.

Read more ....

More News On Iraq

Gates Says al-Qaida Trying to Spark New Round of Iraq Unrest -- Voice Of America
Al-Qaeda behind recent Iraq violence: Gates -- AFP
Death toll from twin Iraq car bombs rises to 51 -- Washington Post
Baghdad Is Shaken by a Series of Bombs -- New York Times
Iraq's civilian toll rises in April -- Reuters
Turkish warplanes hit suspected PKK in Iraq -- Reuters
Turkey hits Kurdish bases in Iraq -- BBC
FACTBOX - Security developments in Iraq -- Reuters
British forces end combat operations in Iraq -- AP
Britain ends military operations in Iraq -- AFP
Iraq: Is life better in Basra? -- The Telegraph
Iraq Moving To Permit Foreign Land Ownership - PM -- Wall Street Journal

ABC News Outs The "Architects" For The CIA's Waterboarding And Interrogation Techniques

Photos: Psychologists Bruce Jessen, left, and Jim Mitchell shaped the CIA's interrogation program of al Qaeda detainees, including Abu Zubaydah. Both refused to speak to ABC News citing confidentiality agreements with the U.S. government. (ABC News)

The CIA's $1,000 a Day Specialists on Waterboarding, Interrogations -- ABC News

The New Focus on Two Retired Military Psychologists Called the 'Architects' of the CIA's Techniques

As the secrets about the CIA's interrogation techniques continue to come out, there's new information about the frequency and severity of their use, contradicting an 2007 ABC News report, and a new focus on two private contractors who were apparently directing the brutal sessions that President Obama calls torture.

According to current and former government officials, the CIA's secret waterboarding program was designed and assured to be safe by two well-paid psychologists now working out of an unmarked office building in Spokane, Washington.

Read more ....

My Comment: The cat is out of the bag on this one. The consequences from this disclosure is going to impact America's security from top to bottom. No one .... and I mean no one .... is going to work in any sensitive post for the U.S. Government (let alone the CIA) .... knowing that their identities can be disclosed to the public.

When Valerie Plame's identity was disclosed to the public .... there was an outcry on finding out who were the person(s) responsible for this disclosure. The mainstream media led the charge .... and the Democratic Party pushed for the special prosecutor to investigate this case. people like Vice Presdient Chielf of Staff Scooter Libby went to jail, and the reputations of numerous others were tarnished.

Will the same happen now .... the answer is obvious .... no. The White House has their fingerprints all over this crime .... but with the mainstream media in their pocket and Congress firmly in their control, there is going to be no investigation and no media outcry.

U.S. Government Groping Toward A Cyber Warfare Doctrine

From Westhawk:

Monday’s New York Times had an extensive article about the cyber warfare threats the U.S. faces. The article went on to discuss the U.S. government’s hesitant and unsettled response to real and potential cyber attacks. And it acknowledged the U.S. government’s development of offensive cyber warfare capabilities. But for now, the U.S. government’s employment of these capabilities, and its doctrinal approach to cyber warfare, will remain a mystery, as the article makes clear:

President Obama is expected to propose a far larger defensive effort in coming days, including an expansion of the $17 billion, five-year program that Congress approved last year, the appointment of a White House official to coordinate the effort, and an end to a running bureaucratic battle over who is responsible for defending against cyberattacks.

Read more ....

My Comment: A good review from Westhawk .... a must read.

Panel Advises Clarifying U.S. Plans On Cyberwar

From New York Times:

The United States has no clear military policy about how the nation might respond to a cyberattack on its communications, financial or power networks, a panel of scientists and policy advisers warned Wednesday, and the country needs to clarify both its offensive capabilities and how it would respond to such attacks.

The report, based on a three-year study by a panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, is the first major effort to look at the military use of computer technologies as weapons. The potential use of such technologies offensively has been widely discussed in recent years, and disruptions of communications systems and Web sites have become a standard occurrence in both political and military conflicts since 2000.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is a discussion and debate that will involve many departments over the next few years. The Defense and National Security Departments have awoken up to the fact that the "virtual world" can be just as important as the real world ..... expect a whole new discussion to come out of this in the next few months.

The Real Culture War Is Over Capitalism -- A Commentary

From Wall Street Journal:

Tea parties, 'ethical populism,' and the moral case against redistribution.

Read more .There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture.

Despite President Barack Obama's early personal popularity, we can see the beginnings of this schism in the "tea parties" that have sprung up around the country. In these grass-roots protests, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have joined together to make public their opposition to government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud.

Read more ....

How To Shrink American Power -- A Commentary

From Commentary Magazine:

As President of the United States, it is not overly difficult to be liked, if that is what you want. The way you do that is to tell people what they want to hear. Tell the world that the United States has been arrogant and uncaring and has made lots of mistakes and is responsible for lots of the world's most serious problems, but that you are going to change all that. Tell the Iranians that you are repudiating the prior administration's posture toward them, and that they are not part of the Axis of Evil, and that you are going to reach out and build a "bridge" to them, even if their leader says that America is the enemy.

Read more ....

Nicholas Schmidle On How To Save Pakistan -- A Commentary

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

From Captain;s Journal:

Nick Schmidle has written an essay in Slate on How to Save Pakistan. Nick, with whom I have exchanged e-mail, is not only a first rate Pakistan and Taliban scholar (see his work on Next-Gen Taliban), but an all around nice guy (and if he sends me a copy of his new book, I would give it a great review). He deserves to be read by anyone interested in the future of Asia and its implications for our own security. Parts of his piece are reproduced below.

This is the only country in the Islamic world where tens of thousands protest in the streets for the rule of law. Sure, there’s some support for the Taliban and their ilk, but as last year’s election, in which the Islamist parties were drubbed, showed, the Islamists don’t enjoy as much grass-roots support as their American-flag-burning rallies would suggest. (Unfortunately, the civilian government that took power last spring has squandered much of its goodwill and is, like Pervez Musharraf’s government before it, increasingly seen as toadying to the Americans.) So what can Washington do to save Pakistan?

Read more ....

World News Briefs -- April 30, 2009

A 2008 Chrysler Sebring, left, sits on the lot of a Benton, Ark., Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealership Thursday, April 30, 2009. Chrysler will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Thursday and will be eligible for up to $8 billion in federal aid to rebuild the ailing automaker, according to senior administration officials. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Chrysler Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy -- Yahoo News/AP

WASHINGTON – Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday and announced it will temporarily halt most of its vehicle production while it completes a deal with Italian carmaker Fiat designed to revive its tattered fortunes. The Obama administration said it had long hoped to stave off bankruptcy for the nation's third-largest automaker, but it became clear that a holdout group of creditors wouldn't budge on proposals to reduce Chrysler's $6.9 billion in secured debt.

Clearing those debts was a needed step for Chrysler to restructure by a government-imposed Thursday deadline.

Read more ....


U.S. plans new talks with Syria.

5 Israeli Arabs charged in terror plot.

Iraqi refugees stay put despite relative calm.

Five car bombings across Baghdad kill 48. More news here.

Turkish warplanes hit suspected PKK in Iraq.


Year on from cyclone, Burmese struggle to survive in flimsy shacks.

N. Korea issues threat on uranium.

Security tight as strike-hit Kashmir votes.

Bangladesh: Top militant outfits are regrouping.

Europeans fail to get Sri Lanka truce. An editorial on Sri Lanka’s dirty war.

India's youth use Internet to press for change.


French, Canadian aid workers freed in Darfur. More news here.

Madagascar set for elections by end of year: AU. Madagascar troops lead away ousted president aide.

Hundreds hurt by Tanzania blast.

Countries in East Africa step up flu screening.


Dutch royals escape 'attack' as car slams into festival goers.

NATO expels 2 Russian envoys, raps pact on Georgia.

Georgian national behind Baku academy massacre - embassy.

Russian official complains rebels financed through Georgia, Azerbaijan.

Turkey’s top officer denies plot to topple government.

3 die in Turkey in shootout between police and militants.


Rights group: Mexico fails to punish army abuse.

Mexico plans partial shutdown to reduce spread of swine flu. More news here and here.

Mexico captures powerful Gulf cartel hitman.

Row in Colombia over soldier’s release.

Colombia clash kills eight troops.


Negotiations for Al Qaeda suspect to plead guilty underway.

About 30 at Guantanamo may soon be freed, Holder says.

Germany considers taking Guantanamo detainees.

Gates hints that detainees may be held on U.S. soil.

FBI to avoid partnerships with CAIR.

7/7 bombers' friends jailed over terror training camp plans.


Chrysler will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Job cuts avert catastrophic quarter as profits excel.

Japan in surprise economy boost.

Dark Clouds Forming Over Lebanon

Shiite women carry pictures of Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, national flags as well as flags (yellow) of the militant group during a mass gathering in the southern suburbs of Beirut on May 26, 2008 to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon. Tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters gathered for the occasion today to listen to a televised speech by Nasrallah in the Shiite group's stronghold in southern Beirut. (Ramzi Haidar, AFP/Getty Images)

Hezbollah, Allies Positioning To Win Election -- Washington Times

Moderate campaign likely to bring big change in Lebanon

With quiet campaigning and moderate talk, Hezbollah is building its strength for Lebanon's June 7 parliamentary elections - and the militant Shi'ite Muslim group and its allies stand a good chance of winning.

That could mean a stunning shake-up for one of the Middle East's most volatile countries if the pro-U.S. government is replaced with a coalition dominated from behind the scenes by Hezbollah, the political movement and guerrilla group widely seen as the proxy of Iran and Syria in Lebanon.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is an ominous development. By electing Hezbollah and its allies, Lebanon is positioning itself for not only more civil strife, but war with Israel. Elections always have consequences ..... this is going to be a big one for the Lebanese people.

Petraeus: Next Two Weeks Critical To Pakistan's Survival

Click To Enlarge

From FOX News:

Gen. David Petraeus said he is looking for concrete action by the Pakistani government to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks before determining the United States' next course of action.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, has told U.S. officials the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive, FOX News has learned.

"The Pakistanis have run out of excuses" and are "finally getting serious" about combating the threat from Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists operating out of Northwest Pakistan, the general added.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan's Civil War

Heavy Fighting Enters Third Day in Pakistan -- New York Times
Terrorist attacks double in Pakistan -- Reuters
Pakistan army: Taliban holding town hostage -- AP
Pakistan Army fears disintegration if war ordered on Taliban -- Daily Times
Taliban still in control in Dir -- Long War Journal
Pakistani troops take Daggar, kill 50 Taliban -- Daily Times
Pakistan army pounds Taliban positions -- AFP
Pakistan troops battling Taliban take key town -- AP
Taliban advance on Mansehra -- Long War Journal
Taliban capture 70 security personnel in Buner -- Long War Journal
Villagers flee battle zone in Pakistani valley -- Reuters
US strike kills 10 Taliban in South Waziristan -- Long War Journal
Violence in Pakistan financial hub kills 34 -- Yahoo News/AFP
US House to speed war funds amid Pakistan concerns -- Reuters
Barack Obama reveals his fears for Pakistan -- The Australian
Pakistan Can Secure Nukes, Obama Says -- Global Security Newswire
Obama administration considers training Pakistani troops - The Telegraph

Wide Spread Support For Missile Defense

(Click the Above Image to Enlarge)

IBD/TIPP Poll: Strong Support From Left, Right And Center For Missile Defense -- IBDeditorials

With Iran pressing ahead with its nuclear program and North Korea on Wednesday threatening more test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles, it's little wonder that Americans across the board say it's important that the U.S. get a missile defense system up and running as soon as possible. That was obvious from the latest IBD/TIPP Poll, which found Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, and 78% in between affirming the importance of such a system. Yet President Obama has said he will "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems."

Read more ....

My Comment: This poll is a surprise. The mainstream media always portrays support for missile defense as minor at best.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- April 30, 2009

Toby Keith performs an acoustic show in Afghanistan for some 350 troops at on Forward Operating Base #1, April 23, 2009. USO Courtesy photo by Dave Gatley

A Bomb Greets A New US Unit In Afghan Countryside -- Yahoo News/AP

TANGI VALLEY, Afghanistan – Only a few Afghan villagers waved as the new American forces patrolled deep into this valley, a warning sign even in a region not exactly known for its love for foreign troops.

As the 10th Mountain Division troops moved slowly down a rocky road that cuts through high cliffs and fertile land in the central province of Wardak, what awaited them were not smiles.

It was a bomb.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Read more .....

More News On Afghanistan

Taliban announce 'countersurge' in Afghanistan -- Christian Science Monitor
Taliban says new offensive begins in Afghanistan -- M&C
Taliban Pressures NATO Supply Lines in Pakistan -- Voice Of America
Taliban Threatens More Violence in Afghanistan -- Voice Of America
42 insurgents die in Afghan fighting -- UPI
US sees spike in Afghanistan, Pakistan attacks -- AP
More troops to be sent for Afghanistan polls -- AFP
Mentors in Afghanistan -- Washington Times
U.S. Takes Dutch Military as Role Model in Afghan Operation -- Wall Street Journal
Britain to Add 700 Troops to Afghan War -- New York Times
Rudd answers US call for troops in Afghanistan -- The Age
Afghan Presidential hopeful promises Taliban talks -- Reuters
Defying threats, fighting oppression: the woman leading protests in Afghanistan -- Times Online
Obama's Deepening AfPak Crisis -- Huffington Post
Retreat from Afghanistan -- Times Online opinion
A war without frontiers -- The Telegraph

Beyond Waterboarding: What Interrogators Can Still Do

Brennan Linsley / Pool /Getty

From Time Magazine:

Waterboarding? Hasn't been used in years. Walling, stress positions, abdominal slaps? They're no longer allowed. But if the CIA can no longer use the interrogation techniques described in chilling detail in the so-called torture memos, what can it do to extract information from terrorism suspects?

On his second day as President, Barack Obama ordered the agency to use the Army Field Manual as its interrogation playbook. The manual, originally written for Cold War prisoners but updated in 2006, states that "no [detainee], regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment as defined in U.S. law." It also categorically states that harsh interrogation techniques are essentially useless. "Beyond being impermissible, these unlawful and unauthorized forms of treatment are unproductive because they may yield unreliable results, damage subsequent collection efforts, and result in extremely negative consequences at national and international levels."

Read more

My Comment: Anti "torture" advocates may think this will increase the "moral standing" of the U.S. in the world ....but from where I stand .... the U.S. is now (truly) the laughing stock of the world.

The Decline Of The British Military

Gordon Brown Launches Another Assault on Britain’s Defenses -- Heritage Foundation

Last week, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling presented the budget for 2009-10. The news for Britain’s hard-pressed armed forces was grim. Labour’s record is already a terrible one. Under the guidance of Gordon Brown, first as Chancellor of the Exchequer and now as Prime Minister, the forces have been consistently starved of money and manpower. The most recent budget ensures that this lamentable failure will only become more glaring in the years to come.

Read more ....

My Comment: Bleeding to death from a thousand cuts.

Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review Is About To Begin

Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates

Gates's Next Lever To Reshape The Pentagon: QDR -- Christian Science Monitor

This week, the Defense Department will begin the Quadrennial Defense Review, a year-long study that should help the secretary put his stamp on the military.

Washington - Defense Secretary Robert Gates's bid to remake the Pentagon enters a new and crucial phase this week as the Defense Department begins a year-long review of its own strategy that will inform how it should spend billions of dollars and what its priorities should be.

The result is the Quadrennial Defense Review, and in addition to the Pentagon budget, the QDR is one of the most powerful tools at Secretary Gates's disposal to try to put the military on a new course. He has argued the Pentagon must get its head in the current fights in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of gazing at the strategic horizon – preparing for hypothetical threats, such as the one posed by China.

Read more ....

My Comment:The Pentagon's budget and this Review will determine the direction and scope for American's military forces for the next few years. Expect everyone to now come out of the woodwork to provide their input on this matter.

Nato 'Expels Russian Diplomats'

From The BBC:

Russia has confirmed Nato has expelled two of its diplomats from Brussels, reportedly in retaliation for a spy scandal involving an Estonian official.

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry described the expulsions as "outrageous" and a "crude provocation".

Nato diplomats claimed the Russians were undercover intelligence agents.

Read more ....

More News On This NATO - Russian Diplomatic Spat

Russia says NATO expulsions a "crude provocation" -- Reuters
Russia slams NATO for envoys' expulsion -- The Age
Russians expelled in Nato spy storm -- Financial Times

My Comment: A day after NATO and Russia resumed formal contacts, diplomats are expelled. I call this bad timing if your intentions are to open up relations and to discuss issues that both parties can cooperate on.

This sends out the wrong message in every possible way.

Britain Ends Military Operations In Iraq -- News Updates

British Forces End Combat Operations In Iraq -- The Telegraph

British Forces have formally ended combat operations in Iraq today in a move that means they are finally returning home after more than six years.

The drawdown of the bulk of the 3,700 UK troops remaining in Iraq will now speed up in the coming days.

Britain formally passed authority for operations in southern Iraq to US forces.

The move - a month earlier than timetabled - was disclosed as Defence Secretary John Hutton flew into Basra for a service to honour the 179 British personnel who lost their lives in the conflict.

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, declared Britain and Iraq have now begun a "long-term partnership of equals".

Read more ....

More News On The End Of U.K. Operations In Iraq

UK combat operations end in Iraq -- The BBC
Britain ends combat operations in Iraq -- AP
Britain ends Iraq combat operations -- AFP
Britain ends combat operations in Iraq -- The Independent
British troops officially end combat operation in southern Iraq -- The Guardian
Few tears shed as Army leaves Basra, the city where it was never able to keep order -- Times Online
Exit Iraq: British troops bow out of Basra -- This is London
British Forces End Combat Role In Iraq -- SKY News
Iraq: what does the future hold for Basra? -- the Telegraph
Iraq withdrawal: troops in massive drive to ship out army equipment. -- The Telegraph
Britain seeks role in protecting Iraqi oil supplies -- Reuters
In Iraq endgame, troops reflect on six years of blood, sweat and tears -- The Scotsman
Iraq: key events in British Forces' mission -- The Telegraph

Is America Deserting Its Allies In Lebanon?

The explosion that killed former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri in Beirut, 2005.
(Photo from Slate)

Is This The Price Of America's New Friendship With Syria? -- The Independent

World Focus: Pro-Damascus generals held for the assassination that sparked turmoil in Lebanon walk free after four years

They're out. The four top men blamed for the murder of the Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri in the Saint Valentine's Day massacre four years ago have been freed from their drab prison at Roumieh north of Beirut, amid a flurry of gunfire and fireworks. In Damascus – their home from home if you believe what Mr Hariri's men tell you – they must be drinking champagne.

Read more ....

My Comment: Not a fan of Robert Fisk, but he makes some valid points in this commentary. Read it all.

Ridding Somalia Of Pirates: Hard Choices For The West

Kenyan authorities escort a suspected pirate from the French frigate Nivose, part of the European Union's anti-piracy naval mission off the coast of Somalia. Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty Images

From Time Magazine:

Somali piracy is not a "waterborne disease," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering of more than 60 governments in Brussels last week. The solution to the problem lies on land, in the establishment of a Somali government deemed legitimate by its citizenry and capable of enforcing its writ. World leaders appeared to heed Ban's advice, pledging $213 million in aid to rebuild the Somali government and its security forces. But success in the effort will depend in no small part on foreign powers' avoiding repeats of earlier efforts to reimpose order on the chaos of Somalia — most recently in the course of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism.

Read more .....

My Comment: The "hard choices" are not really that hard at all. The pirate bases are known. The money changers and the "pirate infrastructure" is known. The leaders for these gangs are known.

The problem has always been the lack of will to do what is necessary. To find and conduct military and/or special ops against the men who organize and profit from this trade. But because such an operation will entail risk and the killing of many people .... hence the "squeamishness".

Arguments for trying to stabilize Somalia is also (unfortunately) a waste of time. Black Hawk Down and the present failure of the Ethiopian military and AU peacekeepers has made it very clear to everyone that bringing stability to Somalia would entail tens of thousands of soldiers, and the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars.

This is not going to happen.

Hence, we are where we are today. We send billion dollar naval ships to patrol a huge ocean, and when merchant ships are hijacked .... all the navies of the world just sit back and watch the show.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- April 30, 2009

According to John Young, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics, the Army and Air Force are not talking to each other about their unmanned aerial vehicle programs. Sabrina Johnson / Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force


Official: Air Force losing more drones than Army -- Stars And Stripes

Latest Anti-Piracy Efforts -- Information Dissemination

Russia to cut 130,000 military personnel -- UPI

India Destroys Its Chemical Weapons -- Armchair Generalist

Conventional Arms Deliveries to China Drop in 2007, 2008 -- Defense Talk

Combat Advising (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Counterinsurgency) -- Defense Tech

Northrop Grumman Delivers First Operational B-2 Bomber With New Radar -- Northop Grumman

Tom Rick’s New Navy -- New Wars

U.S. Air Base Thorny Issue for Colombia -- World Politics Review

IBD/TIPP Poll: Strong Support From Left, Right And Center For Missile Defense -- IBDeditorials

The Persian Gulf Arms Race -- Strategy Page

Time For The U.S. Navy To Worry -- Worldwide War Pigs

Report: Russia Set To Test New Ballistic Missiles


Submarine-launched weapon has capacity for up to six nuclear warheads.

MOSCOW - Russia will conduct at least five test launches of a new-generation intercontinental ballistic missile this year, the deputy defense minister was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin said the Bulava missile needs thorough testing because "the reliability of all aspects of the rocket needs to be achieved" in comments carried by state news agency RIA Novosti.

Read more ....

My Comment: Russia is trying to play catch-up .... but they still have a long way to go from when it was the Soviet Union.

A Leaner, Meaner Russian Army

From Foreign Policy Blog:

As I mentioned in the Morning Brief today, the Russian army is planning to fire an astonishing 35,000 officers this year as part of an effort launched under Vladimir Putin to cut the force down below 1 million by 2012. But it's not just the junior level officers who are getting the boot.

RIA-Novosti reports today that 50 of Russia's 249 generals will be fired after failing an aptitude test.

We are not going to keep officers who are not fit for their positions," Gen. Pankov told journalists, as reports indicated around one-fifth of officers had failed the military aptitude test.

Read more ....

My Comment: These guys better have good pensions .... otherwise there is going to be a lot of grumbling in the ranks.

Jihad Terrorist Camps In America?

Photo: James Ujaama, once of Seattle, told of training.

In Conspiracy Trial, Dark Tale Emerges Of Jihad Training -- Seattle Times

Speaking publicly for the first time, former Seattle resident James Ujaama testified Tuesday in New York about his efforts to create a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon for would-be jihad warriors.

NEW YORK — Speaking publicly for the first time, former Seattle resident James Ujaama testified Tuesday about his efforts in 1999 to create a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon for would-be jihad warriors wishing to take up the fight against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Among the instructors would be Oussama Kassir, a Swedish jihadist who once bragged he had been a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

Read more ....

My Comment: U.S. Homeland Security is focused on homegrown "right wing" groups and returning vets .... but any mention of groups like the above is absent.

A lot of people are falling asleep at the wheel.

Thailand Vows No Interference In Extradition Case

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout walks back to the court cell at criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand after a hearing on extradition to the U.S. charge Wednesday, April 29, 2009. Thailand said Wednesday it will not interfere in the politically charged extradition hearing of an alleged Russian arms smuggler whom the United States wants to put on trial but Russia wants sent home. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

From Yahoo News/AP:

BANGKOK – Thailand said Wednesday that it will not interfere in the extradition hearing of an alleged Russian arms smuggler whom the United States wants to put on trial but Russia reportedly wants sent home.

A senior Foreign Ministry official was called to testify at the ongoing hearing of Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," after the presiding judge said he wanted the ministry's input because relations with Washington and Moscow could be at risk.

Read more ....

My Comment: Thailand is between a rock and a hard place .... both Russia and the U.S. want this arms merchant (but for different reasons). I still expect him to be extradited to the U.S., what happens with U.S. and Russian relations after that will be anyone's guess.

Military Embraces Green Energy

A dome shelter at Ft. Irwin draws power from solar panels and a wind turbine. The Army is experimenting with alternative ways to power the Mojave Desert training area, which replicates austere combat conditions. Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

From The L.A. Times:

A Mojave Desert Army base is full of plug-in cars, solar panels and new experiments. Liberal agenda? Nah, it's about saving money, even lives. But the Defense Department could cement a national trend.

Reporting from Ft. Irwin, Calif. -- Inside a futuristic-looking dome that rises from the sandy wasteland of the high Mojave Desert, soldiers in plywood cubicles work at computers powered by solar panels and a towering wind turbine.

Plug-in cars shuttle the troops across the vast expanses here at Ft. Irwin in San Bernardino County. At night, tents lined with insulating foam provide a cool retreat at the end of a 100-degree day.

Read more

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Slow Process To Get Rid Of Chemical Weapons

Image: U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency distinctive unit insignia (Wikipedia)

US Chem Demil Marches On -- Armchair Generalist

The US Army Chemical Materials Agency announced hitting the 60 percent destruction mark in its efforts to eliminate the US chemical weapons stockpile. It won't make the 2012 deadline, but it is making steady progress using a safe and efficient technology - incineration.

"We have increased our efficiency at destroying the nation's chemical weapons stockpile while maintaining the highest safety and environmental compliance standards," said Conrad Whyne, CMA Director. "This accomplishment is the result of a true team effort between our storage and destruction staff consisting of both government and contractor personnel, and I commend the dedication of the members of our highly skilled work force," he added.

My Comment: I had completely forgot about this program. Hat tip to Armchair Generalist for following it and reporting on its progress. Analyzes And Grades President Obama's First 100 Days

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

First 100 Days A Mixed Bag --

In his campaign for president, Barack Obama pledged a swift end to the war in Iraq, a new commitment to the defeat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a strong emphasis on veterans' care and military families and a critical look at Pentagon spending, strategy and conduct in the war on terrorism.

Since his inauguration 100 days ago, Obama has made good on his promise for sweeping change in the military, a new tone in the White House's relationship with troops and a personal investment in easing the burden of military service.

Read more ....

My Comment: From my point of view, it is too early to assess a "grade" to the President of The United States. But I can say that I do not feel "comfortable" with the direction and the trends that he is pushing the US. to follow. His international views and National Security perceptions are different from mine, and I do not share his hope and convictions that we can successfully talk with the many groups and institutions that are hostile towards us.

April Bloodiest Month In Iraq In A Year As Security Plummets

An Iraqi throws a stone at a burning vehicle as others search the debris of a building at the scene of a car bomb in Baghdad. Picture:AFP

From McClatchy:

BAGHDAD — April was the bloodiest month for violence in Baghdad in more than a year, another sign that Iraq's security gains are beginning to reverse.

On Wednesday, a series of explosions killed at least 43 people, including at least 41 who were killed in Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite Muslim slum in east Baghdad. Three bombs hidden in parked cars detonated in quick succession along a busy commercial street around 5 p.m., an official with Iraq's interior ministry said. At least 68 were wounded, and authorities said they expect the death toll to rise.

"It was chaos in the streets," said one witness, Wissam Hassan.

Two more car bombs detonated in Baghdad's Hurriyah neighborhood Wednesday night, killing at least two people and wounding eight.

Read more ....

My Comment: Everyone knows that the U.S. military is leaving .... sigh .... I cannot help but get the impression that all of the animals are now going to come out of the woodwork.

Pakistan Shares Nuclear Secrets

(Click The Above Image To Enlarge)

From Financial Times:

Pakistan’s senior civil and military officials are sharing tightly held information about the country’s nuclear weapons programme to western countries in a bid to allay fears about the security of warheads in the face of a Taliban advance.

The unusual move highlights global concerns over the safety of up to 100 atomic bombs in Pakistan’s possession, as the country tries to repel Taliban militants that last week advanced to within 100km of Islamabad, the country’s capital. Pakistan is secretive about its nuclear programme, developed outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in an arms race with India.

Read more ....

My Comment: The above map of Pakistan's nuclear weapon sites (from the Carnegie Endowment) clearly indicates that many of these sites are in the middle of where the Taliban are fighting and/or are in control of.

The world has every reason to be concerned ..... my only regret is that there is no public feedback from those countries who requested and received the necessary intelligence on what Pakistan is doing with their weapons and nuclear fuel.

Russia Insists It Won't Militarise The Arctic

From Breitbart/AFP:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Wednesday Moscow had no plans to boost its military presence in the Arctic, saying existing laws could resolve disputes in the much-courted region.

"We are not planning to increase our armed forces presence in the Arctic," Lavrov told reporters at the close of an Arctic Council meeting in the northern Norwegian town of Tromsoe.

"The decisions taken provide for strengthening the potential of the coast guard," a move needed because the melting ice cap is leading to more human activity in the region, he said.

Read more ....

My Comment: Don't listen to what they say .... watch what they do. But as much as Russia would like to believe that they are a great power that can exert their power anywhere, the fact is that they have limited resources when it comes to making a presence in the North.

The Far North is very cold, and any idea that they can maintain a significant presence up there over any significant period of time is a dream. And if there is a melt of the Polar North (which I doubt), there is no land mass that they can plant their flag for them to say that it belongs to them. Greenland and the many islands of Canada are far more closer to the North than Russia's Siberia.

The U.S. May Not Be Leaving Manas Airforce Base Afterall

Pentagon: Progress In Talks To Keep US Base -- AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States reported progress Tuesday in negotiations to extend its lease of a key Central Asian air base that provides support for military operations in Afghanistan, although an August eviction date looms.

"I think we see reason for hope there, that that can be worked out," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Morrell would not describe the negotiations in detail. "We hope we're getting closer," he said, but the Pentagon is also planning alternative resupply routes if talks fall through.

Read more ....

My Comment: I cannot say that I am surprised. The officials in Kyrgyzstan never had the intention of being married to only one partner .... they are going to play both Russia and the U.S. against each other. Fortunately, the Americans have been positioning themselves to be independent from this form of blackmail.

The Obama Doctrine -- A Commentary

President Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Larry Downing / Reuters

From The New York Post:

AFTER a mere 100 days, the "Obama Doctrine" for our foreign and security poli cies has emerged. And it's terrifying.

The combination of dizzying naivete, dislike of our allies, disdain for our military, distrust of our intelligence services and distaste for our own country promises the worst foreign policy of our lifetimes.

That includes President Jimmy Carter's abysmal record of failure.

Read more ....

In New York, 9/11 Isn't Over Yet -- A Commentary

New Yorkers fled by the thousands at the sight of a low-flying presidential jet buzzing around Manhattan Monday in an image reminiscent of the 9/11 terror attack. Some citizens took cell phone photos, such as this one by Jason McLane, to record the event.

From IBDeditorials:

Homeland Security: A White House jet buzzes lower Manhattan, bringing back memories of 9/11 and drawing an apology from President Obama. Firings are now urged, but what needs changing is attitude.

The White House and Federal Aviation Administration seemed to think it would be business as usual to fly a 747 government jetliner and an F-16 escort along the flight path of 9/11 near New York skyscrapers to update publicity file photos.

Wrong. The entire move created an unexpected panic among New Yorkers, who weren't in on the plan until the planes whooshed by. The FAA had insisted the mission be "classified" — as if it were possible to conceal a jetliner going past skyscraper windows. So New Yorkers were left with just one conclusion when the jets roared overhead at low altitude, and they fled for their lives.

Read more ....

World News Briefs -- April 29, 2009

A woman and her son wear protective masks at the Hidalgo subway station in Mexico City April 29, 2009. A deadly swine flu outbreak could push Mexico deeper into recession, hurting an economy that shrank by as much as 8 percent in the first quarter, Mexico's central bank said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar (MEXICO HEALTH)

WHO Raises Pandemic Flu Alert Level To Phase 5 -- Yahoo News/AP

GENEVA – The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert for swine flu to the second highest level, meaning that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

WHO says the phase 5 alert means there is sustained human to human spread in at least two countries. It also signals that efforts to produce a vaccine will be ramped up.

WHO has confirmed human cases of swine flu in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Britain, Israel, New Zealand and Spain. Mexico and the U.S. have reported deaths.

Read more .....


Senior Saudi calls for political reforms.

Dubai property prices 'fall 41%'.

Lebanon begins freeing generals held in killing. Suspects in Lebanese Premier’s death released.


Indian troops lock down Kashmir ahead of vote.

Muslim rebel attacks leave 10 dead in Thailand.

UK, French ministers press Sri Lanka ceasefire call.

China's black jails.

NKorea threatens nuke test if UN doesn't apologize.


Russian navy seizes 29 pirates off Somalia: report.

New Madagascar government named.


Turkey blast kills nine soldiers.

UK ends bilateral military aid to Colombia.

27 suspected in death of French Jew go on trial.


Officials admit they ordered secrecy on Air Force One's New York flyover.

Raul Castro: Obama's Cuba policy changes 'minimal'.

Iran's defense minister visits Venezuela.


Algeria: Al-Qaeda video promotes child recruitment.

France and Spain set up joint body to fight terrorism.

30 Gitmo detainees to be released.


U.S. economy shrinks at 6.1 percent pace in 1Q

Taliban Advance in Pakistan Prompts Shift by U.S

Pakistani soldiers aim their canon towards hideouts of Taliban and militants at Rustum near Mardan, Pakistan, on Wednesday, April 29, 2009. Pakistani airstrikes killed dozens of Taliban fighters in a fierce struggle to drive them from a district near the capital, while the militants took over police stations and kidnapped more than 50 security forces, the army said. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

From The Washington Post:

The Pakistani government's inability to stem Taliban advances has forced the Obama administration to recalibrate its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy a month after unveiling it.

What was planned as a step-by-step process of greater military and economic engagement with Pakistan -- as immediate attention focused on Afghanistan -- has been rapidly overtaken by the worsening situation on the ground. Nearly nonstop discussions over the past two days included a White House meeting Monday between Obama and senior national security officials and a full National Security Council session on Pakistan yesterday.

Read more ....

My Comment: Changing the plan one month after it was introduced is my red flag on how much this White House is unaware and/or ignorant of the fast changing events in Pakistan. The gymnastics and blatant lying and/or denial on what is now happening in Pakistan's tribal areas from both the American and Pakistani Government is frightening .... the consequences for an imploding and collapsed Pakistan would dwarf the collapse of Indochina to the Communists in the 1970s .... but our governments and our media groups are just pushing the official line.

The U.S. may shift all that they want .... but on the ground the situation is getting worse and worse .... and I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel.