31 December 2009

Iranians chasing raw uranium around former Soviet 'republics'

Apparently there's a market for raw uranium in Kazakhstan.

Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained by The Associated Press. The assessment is heightening international concern about Tehran's nuclear activities, diplomats said.
Such a deal would be significant because, according to an independent research group, Tehran appears to be running out of the material, which it needs to feed its uranium enrichment program.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev denied Wednesday his government was involved, saying that the ex-Soviet nation has fully observed its international obligations. 'All Kazakhstan's activities in the uranium sphere have been under the IAEA control,' he told the AP.

"have been under the IAEA control"... uh -huh, suuuuuuure...

By: Brant

Aghan Jails compounding the problem

Great article about how Afghan jails aren't keeping terrorists off the streets even as Western nations insist on 96-hour maximum holds and releasing as many Afghans as possible - even the bad ones.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal's report, prepared in August, contained a scathing indictment of the Afghan detention system. It said that "hardened, committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalize and indoctrinate them." Afghan prisons, the report said, have become "a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations," with "multiple national facilities . . . firmly under the control of the Taliban."

To address this problem, McChrystal created a task force to work on the Afghan correctional system, segregating hard-core terrorists from the rest of the prison population and generally bringing conditions up to the standards U.S. authorities achieved in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib scandal. That's a good idea, but it's insufficient.

As more U.S. troops roll into Afghanistan, they will conduct offensive operations that result in the capture of more Taliban over the next 18 months. That is not enough time to build Afghan courts and prisons and to train guards, judges and lawyers. Even in Iraq, the legal system has had trouble coping with all of the terrorists U.S. authorities have turned over during the past year. Some have been released and have gone on to commit fresh atrocities.

Such a situation, which exists on a much bigger scale in Afghanistan, is profoundly demoralizing to troops. If service members see a "catch and release" policy in effect, they are likely to either pull back or pull the trigger prematurely. Both possibilities are worrisome. The former means more enemy fighters on the loose; the latter sullies our troops' honor, denies them the intelligence gleaned from interrogations and leads the remaining Taliban to fight harder.

By: Brant

Israeli Border Guards: 3, MacBook: 0

Mac Observer brings us a slightly old, but nonetheless funny, story about an American college student's MacBook being shot by Israeli border security.

- By Guardian

TSA... sigh... I can't even want to write a headline for them

The TSA can't keep people off of airplanes with explosives in their underwear. But they sure can track down the bloggers who point out their over-reactions.
As the government reviews how an alleged terrorist was able to bring a bomb onto a U.S.-bound plane and try to blow it up on Christmas Day, the Transportation Security Administration is going after bloggers who wrote about a directive to increase security after the incident.
TSA special agents served subpoenas to travel bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding that they reveal who leaked the security directive to them. The government says the directive was not supposed to be disclosed to the public.
Frischling said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his lap top computer. Frischling said the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn't cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo.

edit - go read the original!
The TSA directive outlined new screening measures that went into effect the same day as the airliner incident. It included many procedures that would be apparent to the traveling public, such as screening at boarding gates, patting down the upper legs and torso, physically inspecting all travelers' belongings, looking carefully at syringes with powders and liquids, requiring that passengers remain in their seats one hour before landing, and disabling all onboard communications systems, including what is provided by the airline.

You want a truly terrifying account of how bad security is? Read this account from The Atlantic and see what Bruce was able to carry on board without any undue scrutiny - even when he pointed the items out to TSA!

And the follow-up with Schneier over at Goldberg's blog at The Atlantic will make you want to hit the nearest desk.

Goldberg: If you were Janet Napolitano, what would you do today?

Schneier: It's a hard question, because she has to both protect the administration politically and protect Americans physically. Politically, she needs to *do something*. When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn't truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn't make any sense. But unfortunately for politicians, the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities -- both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur -- and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare. They do not include expansive new police or spying laws, or security theater measures that directly target the most recent tactic or target. I guess the real answer is that I don't want Janet Napolitano's job: I would want to do the right thing even if it wasn't the politically right thing.

By: Brant

Quick! We need a new federal agency for this!

So apparently the transportation security apparatus idiot corps isn't limited to the morons at the airport security checkpoints.
The National Security Agency four months ago intercepted conversations among leaders of Al Qaeda in Yemen discussing a plot to use a Nigerian man for a coming terrorist attack, but American spy agencies later failed to combine the intercepts with other information that might have disrupted last week's attempted airline bombing.

The electronic intercepts were translated and disseminated across classified computer networks, government officials said on Wednesday, but analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington did not synthesize the eavesdropping intelligence with information gathered in November when the father of the would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, visited the United States Embassy in Nigeria to express concerns about his son's radicalization.

The father, a wealthy businessman named Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, had urgently sought help from American and Nigerian security officials when cellphone text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent radical.

Clearly the solution to this the creation of a new-and-improved layer of federal bureaucracy responsible for the enforcement of integration and fusion standards of interagency cooperative data-sharing. Let's call it the Interagency Data-sharing Initiative for Obstruction of Terrorist Syndicates. It can't be any worse than the 'people' running the system now.
Of course, read further, and you'll see that we're not the only ones who realize this is dicked up...
In some ways, the portrait bears a striking resemblance to the failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, despite the billions of dollars spent over the last eight years to improve the intelligence flow and secret communications across America's national security apparatus.

One day after President Obama delivered a blistering indictment of "human and systemic failures" leading up to the foiled attack, the battle to assign blame for these failures escalated on Wednesday.

Some government officials blamed the National Counterterrorism Center, created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and to serve as a clearinghouse for terrorism threats, for failing to piece together information about an impending attack.

Others defended the center, saying that analysts there did not have enough information at their disposal to trigger a broad investigation into Mr. Abdulmutallab. They pointed the finger at the Central Intelligence Agency, which in November compiled biographical data about Mr. Abdulmutallab - including his plans to study Islamic law in Yemen - but did not broadly share the information with other security agencies.

Wanna put money on how many people get fired over this?

By: Brant

NYT Reviews advance copy of official US history of OEF

The New York Times has posted excerpts of the official US Army history of first part of Afghanistan War.
"A Different Kind of War" is the first installment of the Army's official history of the war in Afghanistan, covering the period from October 2001 to September 2005. Written by a team of seven historians at the Army's Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and based on open source material, it is scheduled to be published by spring. The New York Times obtained a copy of the manuscript, which is still under review by current and former military officials.

The excerpts are scanned pages and hard to re-post here. Go read; it's pretty interesting.

By: Brant

India's Army: Tension at the top

There is intrigue at the top of India's miitary, as the head of the Army and his likely successor are feuding.

A full-fledged row has broken out in the military establishment between the two top generals of the Indian Army: the chief, General Deepak Kapoor, and his putative successor and the Eastern Command boss, Lt General V.K. Singh.

The row is the latest in a series of tensions that have been building up between the army chief and the eastern army commander who is the senior-most lieutenant general.

The latest round has been triggered by a court of inquiry convened by the eastern army commander who is based in Fort William in Calcutta. It has asked for the sacking of Kapoor’s principal staff officer (PSO) and military secretary, Lt Gen. Avadhesh Prakash, who may be forced to make a premature exit.

The chief has made an abortive attempt to defend his key aide. Kapoor told defence minister A.K. Antony that Lt Gen. Singh was taking an “undue interest” in the case.

The court of inquiry, presided over by Tezpur-based 4 Corps commander Lt Gen. K.T. Parnaik, had forwarded its findings to Lt Gen. Singh. Based on the findings and on consultations with the judge advocate general in his command, the eastern army commander recommended the “termination of services” of Lt Gen. Prakash because of his alleged involvement in a land scam in north Bengal.

By: Brant

Pakistan arrests Taliban commander - how many of these guys are there?

Yet another Taliban commander is in Pakistani handcuffs.
Authorities arrested a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who led the group's network in the key central province of Punjab, where violence has been increasing in recent months, police said Thursday.
The arrest strikes a blow as militants have stepped up their efforts to wage attacks far from their sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border in response to a major military offensive there.
Khalil Ullah, whose arrest was announced Thursday, was the mastermind of a market bombing in Punjab's provincial capital, Lahore, on Dec. 7 that killed 49 people, said senior police investigator Chaudhry Shafiq. He declined to say where or when Ullah was arrested.

Two questions:
1. How many of these "Taliban commanders" are there? Are they like USMC platoon commanders, where there are a 10000 or so? Or are we just rounding up the important ones?
2. How long do you think he stays under arrest before some ISI "patriot" sneaks him out a back door?

By: Brant

TSA's priority: Protect Tulsa and Albuquerque; Screw New York

So those spiffy full-body scanners that can ID bombs under your clothes? They're secondary screening at most airports, and you'd think they'd be primary screening at some more important sky hubs. You'd be wrong, of course, because they are used for primary screening in some smaller airports, instead of the big ones you'd expect.
The six airports where full body scanners are being used for what TSA calls 'primary screenings' are:
Albuquerque, N.M.
Las Vegas, Nev.
Miami, Fla.
San Francisco
Salt Lake City, Utah
Tulsa, Okla.

You think that's bad?
The remainder of the machines are being used for secondary screenings in
Atlanta, Ga.
Denver, Colo.
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Indianapolis, Ind.
Jacksonville, Fla.
Tampa, Fla.
Los Angeles
Phoenix, Ariz.
Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
Richmond, Va.
Ronald Reagan Washington National
Detroit, Mich.

What's missing? How about any of the airports where the 9/11 hijacks originated: Boston, Newark, and Washington-Dulles.

TSA for the win! Sigh.

By: Brant

Attacks in Afghanistan starting to pile up

Although not directly coordinated, well-timed attacks are being linked across Afghanistan by virtue of their close timing.
A suicide bomber penetrated a foreign army base in Afghanistan and killed eight CIA employees on Wednesday, one of the U.S. agency's largest death tolls, while four Canadian troops and a journalist died in a separate attack.
A 'well-dressed' Afghan army official detonated a suicide vest at a meeting of CIA officials in southeastern Khost province, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
'This deadly attack was carried out by a valorous Afghan army member when the officials were busy gaining information about the mujahideen, in the (fitness) club,' he wrote in an email.
The attack is one of the most ambitious of the war, highlighting the Taliban's reach and coordination at a time when violence has reached its highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban regime by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
It was also the second Afghan army killing in as many days on the foreign troops and officials who are meant to be mentoring them, casting a shadow over plans to bolster the Afghan army and police to allow their troops to eventually bring them home.

First, prepare for the inevitable over-reaction to Afghan soldiers coming in through the gate. (Hey! We could use full-body scanners to check them for contraband!) If not, some enterprising reporter will want to know why not without bothering to address the logistical reality of checking everyone in and out of the gate with that level of scrutiny. It's a war and sometimes people are going to die. You don't wish it on anyone but it's the reality of armed conflict.
Second, are these escalating attacks a harbinger of a Tet-like offensive that shows the range and reach of the enemy, even if in a last-gasp suicide mission that results in his death and our public opinion souring against a war that the enemy can no longer win?

By: Brant

UK In Action: Long Way Down

A Royal Air Force aircrew member is pictured leaning out of the rear of a Chinook helicopter during an exercise over the North African desert. The aircrewman is communicating any hazards and the approximate altitude of the helicopter to the pilot who may not be able to see the same view, as the aircraft comes into land. Exercise Jebel Sahara was Royal Air Force exercise held in North Africa aimed at getting Chinook Pilots and Aircrew prepared for conditions in the Middle East. Working alongside Army Air Core Lynx helicopters and an array of ground support personnel, the Chinook pilots and aircrew practiced dust landings and underslung load carrying among other vital tasks.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Low Signatures and modern conflict

DoDBuzz has a great summation of an article on Beating The Low Signature Enemy
When the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battled Hezbollah to basically a draw in southern Lebanon in summer 2006, one thing that really stymied the IDF was what Israeli Brig. Gen. Itai Brun called Hezbollah’s “strategy of disappearance”: Hezbollah fighters set up command posts and arms stores in civilian buildings; launched rockets from near mosques and schools; used “low signature” weapons, such as mortars, anti-​​tank missiles and shoulder launched surface-​​to-​​air missiles; and spent years building extensive below ground fortifications including a maze of tunnels and bunkers.

The IDF, which had prepped for high-​​intensity battle against Syrian tank armies, was unprepared for an asymmetric, low-​​signature enemy that refused to stand in the open and smile for the electronic eyes on overhead drones and aircraft and thermal sights on Merkava main battle tanks. The IDF took fairly heavy casualties trying to root out dug-​​in Hezbollah combat cells and never did stop the rain of rockets fired from southern Lebanon into Israeli towns.

edited - go read the original!
According to the draft paper, distributed maneuver is the “fluid maneuver of operational or tactical units separated beyond the limits of direct and mutual support,” yet acting in unison to attack the enemy across a very large battlefield and penetrate deep into the enemy’s territory. Using a combination of rapidly moving ground and air forces, and direct and indirect fires, deep maneuver “serves to isolate the adversary from forms of support, negates his ability to shift resources or react in a decisive manner.” By striking deep into the opponent’s center of gravity, wherever or whatever that might be, distributed maneuver forces the hybrid threat to react, in essence, to move or fire, and thus raise his signature level, thus negating the “disappearing tactics.”

The ideal end state is to produce a series of actions that “creates for the enemy a rapidly deteriorating, cascading effect, shattering his cohesion”; an operational concept familiar to those who followed the “maneuver warfare” school that was popular in the 1980s.

The distributed maneuver concept requires:

• Operational or tactical combined arms teams
• Parallel operations across the depth and breadth of the battlefield
• C2 agility – enable lower echelons to respond rapidly
• Fast paced, interdependent combined arms maneuver capable of penetrating deep into enemy territory
• Compressed sensor-​​shooter links and precision fires
• Ability to supply ground forces without exposing oneself to an enemy’s IED kill zones.

The paper uses as an operational vignette an Israeli thrust into southern Lebanon: an IDF-​​Hezbollah round two if you will. Hezbollah is entrenched in both urban and mountainous terrain and in densely populated areas and all roads in are seeded with IEDs and EFPs. The IDF strikes deep with heliborne troops to the Litani River, while distributed armored shock groups simultaneously move rapidly into southern Lebanon, avoiding roads and fixed defenses, aiming for Hezbollah’s command nodes, rocket forces and supply lines.

Do you think the US forces are capable of this type of conflict? Should they change their approach to warfighting to match this new reality, even at the risk of losing high-intensity warfare skills?

By: Brant

30 December 2009

Picking sides on the sub-continent

Looking a lot like the entanglement of alliances that dragged the world into WWI, treaties on the sub-continent are coalescing into a couple of sides that no one wants to see duke it out.

Japan and India are strengthening their security ties.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama launched on Tuesday an action plan to take their security dialogue, including counter-terrorism, to the "next stage" and gave a push to a key economic pact.

And the Israelis are selling weapons to India to the tune of $5 billion.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is increasing their military ties with France and

The US has strategic deals with both, and needs Pakistan to help tamp down the Taliban while supporting India as a bulwark against spreading Chinese influence.

The Indians are also convinced they can fight a two-front war against China and Pakistan at the same time.
Shimla-based Indian Army Training Command, headed by Lt-General A S Lamba is getting ready for something Indian Military never was ready before. Indian Air Force, Navy, and Army is ready to face Pakistan and China at the same time.

India’s 1.13-million strong Military is now panning to handle two major war fronts at the same time. India considers Pakistan and China as part of the same camp. India knows the next war will be between India and “Pakistan +China.” India will get indirect support from America and Russia, but Indian Military will have to fight the two war at the same time.

Indian Military has been training for the mini giant war against two nuclear powered nations at the same time. China has used Pakistan for a long time to keep India busy. Now time has come for India to recognize a massive threat from China and Pakistan at the same time.

Sound off in the comments!

By: Brant

COA Analysis: Russia seeking to 'counteract' US missile defenses

Putin's new saber-rattling are gathering some attention, and not in a good way...

Russia needs more weapons to punch through America’s new missile defence shield, Vladimir Putin said yesterday in blunt remarks that will complicate efforts to cut the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals.

The Russian Prime Minister, reasserting himself as the country’s real ruler, said that Moscow should press ahead with a new generation of weapons to stop the Americans doing “whatever they want”.

“To preserve the balance we must develop offensive weapons systems, not missile defence systems as the United States is doing,” he said during a visit to the naval port of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.

Until now, it had seemed that Washington and Moscow were edging towards a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), despite failing to meet the original target of December 5.

Asked why the talks had failed to reach agreement on a new deal, Mr Putin said: “What is the problem? The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one.”

The Prime Minister was believed to be voicing the deeply held views of hardliners in the Russian military machine, but his forthright statement may also be linked to growing signs that he is preparing to announce his intention to seek a new presidential term in 2012.

An interview with a Russian journalist/mew GRU target reveals some insight into the internal workings of this decision within Russia.

RFE/RL: Vladimir Putin seems to view this point about offensive weapons systems as a sort of response to U.S. plans to create a comprehensive missile-defense system. Is this the old story of sword and shield?

Golts: It is a purely political story. The American strategic missile-defense system cannot now or in the foreseeable future threaten Russia's nuclear potential. At present, the Americans have deployed about 50 missile interceptors that could -- and many experts doubt this -- potentially intercept five to 10 warheads. Russia will have more than 1,500 nuclear warheads.

So we are talking about a political game. Russia is interested in dragging out the strategic-arms talks. As long as the talks are proceeding, Russia can demonstrate that it has risen from its knees and that it is the only serious opponent of the United States.

Incidentally, Putin has left no doubt that he is a firm believer in the need for a nuclear deterrent against the United States. He thinks that as soon as the strategic balance is tipped, the Americans will begin to act aggressively, including in the economic sphere. It is a reference to the so-called concept of expanded deterrence, which supposes that nuclear parity allows Russia to resolve matters in other, completely unrelated spheres.

A game is being played, and Russia is insistent on a direct connection between missile defense and offensive strategic weapons. Russian generals also insist that the START-1 agreement was clearly unfair to Russia.

American offensive systems are not developing, but we are creating new missiles. We know perfectly well how America's Trident and Minuteman missiles fly. The Americans can't give us anything new in this regard. At the same time, the Americans are very interested in how the RS-24 and the Bulava fly. In exchange, Russia -- via Putin -- is demanding the telemetry of U.S. missile-defense systems.

I think the most important thing we can take from the prime minister's words is that he seriously intends to complicate the START talks. As we know perfectly well, both sides have agreed not to make any statements about the talks. No matter how difficult things have gotten since they began in October, both sides have stuck to this. And now, when the talks have apparently reached the final phase, the prime minister of the Russian Federation makes this sensational leak.

RFE/RL: Why?

Golts: I think that Putin is showing who is in charge in Russia.

So dear readers - what thinkest thou? Here are 4 possibilities based on current events. What do you think might happen, and what indicators would you expect to see on the way toward that future?

By: Brant

UK MRAPs taking a beating in Afghanistan

UK maintenance issues plaguing new vehicles in Afghanistan.
More than half of the new armoured vehicles sent to Afghanistan are out of service, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

Only 134 of the 271 Mastiffs, the heaviest and most protective of the Army's armoured vehicles in Afghanistan, are "fit for purpose", figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The same poor service history is also affecting the new Ridgeback vehicles which are being used for the first time by 11 Light Brigade in Afghanistan. In written Commons answers, the Liberal Democrats were told that nearly 40 per cent of Ridgebacks were not operational at present.

The Mastiff and Ridgeback are examples of the new type of heavily armoured, mine-resistant, wheeled patrol vehicles used by the Army on operations in Afghanistan.

By: Widow 6-7

Ode to Guardian: Powerpoint makes, well, someone quake in their boots

In our Ode to Guardian, this week's PowerPoint follies include a great post from the Counterinsurgency Center Blog that compares the endless presentation-isms in the war zones to Dilbert...

In 2001, I sat in a conf room at NATO HQ in Sarajevo. My boss was trying to convince the Serbs of the joys and benefits of joining the Bosnian Army. His tool was a power point presentation. This presentation was a work of art. It had motion, colors, arrows, timelines, phases. The logic was flawless and it was delivered with passion. The senior Serbian officer in the room let my boss rant, then in a bored voice said, "Colonel, you have made a nice presentation here. The colors are very pretty. But, we will never do this." My boss was struck dumb. He could not believe this. His logic and power point went over like a lead balloon. What he had failed to realize is that war is a complex human activity that by it’s vary nature defies normal logic. The Serbs would not work with Croats and Muslims because they hated them. That was the only logic that mattered.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a power point presentation on the "Dynamic Planning for COIN in Afghanistan". I looked at it briefly, but thought that it was some kind of joke; so, I flushed it immediately. However, I received it from another source. So, it appears the joke is on me.

A quick look at this bird’s nest of a concept, would seem to suggest that Dilbert or some escapee from the Project Management Institute has taken over planning for COIN operations in Afghanistan. What I see is yet another attempt to take a complex human activity and turn it into an MBA project management flowchart. I can see the thinking, "Now that we have the power point correct, we are sure to win the war in Afghanistan!" In fact, I’m sure that, if we showed this power point to the insurgents, they would throw in the towel, convinced that our superior power point skills indicate that we cannot be defeated. Really, I don’t know how we fought wars before power point.

Think you've seen the diagrams in the presentation before? You have...

By: Brant

Earmarks in Defense bill show depths of Congressional Pork

As detailed here by the Washington Post, the earmarks that Congress inserts into their bills as blatant giveaways to local constituents can really skew defense spending.

Tracking several earmarks for special operations and for research and development shows that many may be jobs programs for districts and states.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Michael A. Arcuri, both New York Democrats, got $2.4 million earmarked in the final bill to upgrade 3,000 M-24 sniper rifles. Although a contract will be up for bidding, the two legislators issued a news release on Dec. 17 saying they expect that Remington Arms, the original manufacturer, would be successful and that all work would be done at the company's Ilion, N.Y., factory.

Arcuri even included in his release a quote from the plant manager, James Rabbia, who said, "On behalf of our 905 employees in Ilion and our New York suppliers, we are grateful for the efforts of Congressman Arcuri and Senator Schumer to secure funding to upgrade the Army's M24 sniper weapon system."

The bolt-action rifle, which first came into service in 1988, fell out of use when semi-automatics became popular. But it returned for specialized use by the military in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.

In a statement released the day the appropriations bill passed Congress, Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) heralded his earmark for $1.5 million to continue development work on a non-gasoline-burning outboard engine for the Navy Special Operation Forces' underwater systems. He said it would also provide a financial boost to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, located in Panama City in his district. "The Navy base will use this funding to assist Special Operations in developing a non-gasoline engine," he said.

What's interesting about this earmark is that the U.S. Special Operations Command began its search for such an engine in 1995 and halted funding for research on it in 2008. Just last month, the Marine Corps awarded a $10 million contract to Bombardier Recreational Products for production of its Evinrude multifuel engine (a non-gasoline-burning outboard engine), which will be used on its fleet of combat rubber raiding craft, or inflatable boats.

The sixth highest-ranking member of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Boyd was not shy about telling his constituents of his other earmarks in the Pentagon spending bill.

When the bill passed the committee, he said, he obtained $18 million worth of projects for the Panama City Navy base and Tyndall Air Force Base, another facility in Boyd's district that is facing a reduction in operational activity. When the bill passed the House in October, Boyd claimed $17 million for the Navy and Air Force facilities.

Boyd, a leading member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, said at the time, "Both Tyndall and the Navy base serve as critical hubs for developing next-generation technologies that strengthen our military."

Boyd's experience illustrates the horse-trading that goes on in the earmarking process. Another Boyd earmark for the Panama City Navy base in the House-passed bill included $3 million for developing and manufacturing a Common Air Mine Countermeasures tow cable, which would be hooked to a helicopter or vessel and linked to sonar equipment searching out submarines underwater. When the conferees were finished, it was a $2.4 million earmark.

More important for Boyd was language he inserted in the House-Senate conference report. It marked a last attempt to prevent the Air Force from moving the training of F-15 pilots, mostly for the Air National Guard, from Tyndall to Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore. Among the things the Air Force secretary is now required to do is a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed move. It should, according to Boyd's language, include "the differing training environments and climatology at each base."

By: Brant

Egypt increasing F16 Fleet

Lockheed has a new agreement to sell 24 F-16 fighter jets to Egypt.

US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is to sell 24 F-16 jet fighters to Egypt in a 3.2 billion dollar deal, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
"We understand that the governments of the United States and Egypt have reached an agreement over a contract for military sale to provide 24 F-16s to Egypt," Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout told AFP.
The company hoped to get the contract signed "early next year," he said, adding that the 3.2 billion dollars "was the amount in the agreement between the two countries."
The F-16 is flown by 25 nations, according to the company. More than 4,400 aircraft have been delivered worldwide from assembly lines in five countries.
The latest Egyptian deal, to "supplement" the current fleet, had been in discussion for some time but was officially notified to the US Congress in October, Stout said.
The Egyptian Air Force is the fourth largest F-16 operator in the world, according to defense industry reports.
It began flying the F-16 in 1982, after years of using military equipment supplied by the former Soviet Union.

F-16 Fighting Falcon at Wikipedia

By: Brant

China has to be like France, also wants to deepen ties with Pakistan

Apparently the Chinese also want to strengthen their military ties with Pakistan. I wonder if India is checking their collective breath to see why no one wants to play with them.

The Chinese armed forces would like to improve friendly and cooperative relations with the Pakistani armed forces, a senior Chinese military official said here Friday.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie made the remarks when meeting with Noman Bashir, visiting Pakistani chief of the naval staff.

China attached great importance to its traditional friendship with Pakistan, Liang said, adding that the two countries had conducted comprehensive and multi-level military exchanges and cooperation in various areas.

The Pakistani armed forces and people cherished their friendship with the Chinese armed forces and people, Noman Bashir said, noting that Pakistan would like to work with China to promote the comprehensive and cooperative partnership.

By: Brant

Kung Fu Monkey tells you to Sack Up

Originally run in 2006, and still appropriate today in light of the Christmas Underwear bomber fiasco, Kung Fu Monkey asks "Are you scared" in a fucking brilliant bit of editorial satire.

I am just not going to wet my pants every time some guys get arrested in a terror plot. I will do my best to stay informed. I will support the necessary law enforcement agencies. I will take whatever reasonable precautions seem, um, reasonable. But I will not be terrorized. I assume that the terror-ists would like me to be terror-ized, as that is what is says on their nametag, rather than, say, wanting me to surrender to ennui or negative body image, and they're just coming the long way around.

edited - go read the original!
To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu?

And now these guys. As the initial "OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THEY CAN BLOW US UP WITH SNAPPLE BOTTLES!!" hysteria subsides, we discover that these guys had been under surveillance, completely penetrated, by no less than three major intelligence agencies. That they were planning on cell phones, and some of them openly travelled to Pakistan (way to keep the cover, Reilly, Ace of Spies). Hell, Chertoff knew about this two weeks ago, and the only reason that some people can scream this headline:

"The London Bombers were within DAYS of trying a dry run!!!"

-- was because MI-5, MI-6, and Scotland Yard let them get that close, so they could suck in the largest number of contacts (again, very spiffy police work). The fact that these wingnuts could have been rolled up, at will, at any time, seems to have competely escaped the media buzz.

This is terrorism's A-game? Sack up, people.

edited - go read the original!
You move on, building a better international society so that luddite fundamentalist criminal gangs/cults of personality are further and further marginalized.

Or, if you don't understand 4th Generation Warfare at all, you move on, bombing the shit out of nation-states and handing your opponents massive PR victories. Either way, you move the fuck on.

Maybe it's just, I cast my eyes back on the last century ...

FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?

CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We'll be in the pub, flipping you off. I'm slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I'm sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.

US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike ... NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!

... and I'm just a little tired of being on the wrong side of that historical arc.

My new hero...

By: Brant

India's self-examination, 10 years after Kargil War

10 years after the Kargil War, the Indian military brass takes a look back and assess the challenges and progress since then.

A decade after guns boomed in Kargil, the top brass speak about whether things have changed for our men in uniform and what the future holds

It has been 10 years since the Indo-Pak Kargil war, which took place in 1999. Today, in 2009, as the year and decade rolls to a close, a number of experts analyse Indian defence and security.


Major General Seru Thapliyal (retired) was Brigadier at the Army headquarters in 1999 when Kargil happened. He was in charge of, what is called, perspective planning of the Kargil war.

Thapliyal believes that the government has failed to implement the suggestions of the Kargil Review Committ-ee (KRC).

He says, "A lack of implementation of the KRC report and lack of follow-up action has made the situation
worse than Kargil."


1 Intelligence was a total failure in the Kargil war. The review committee had suggested that the intelligence
be made more accountable, but it was hardly taken into consideration.

26/11 is a recent example of that intelligence failure.

2 The committee suggested we have ground censors in frozen areas like Siachen. This has yet to be implemented.

3 No artillery guns have been purchased since 1987. Bofors was the last. Artillery is the backbone of the Army.

4 The review committee suggested that a Chief of Defense be appointed. That has still not been taken care of.

This is because politicians feel that doing so will make the defence forces more powerful and they might seize power one day.

Air Force

20th Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi retired in 2007. His take is...


1 The number of fighter jets has gone down since Kargil, as we have grounded MIG 23s and MIG 25s, but have not purchased more jets. More fighters and air defence are the basic requirements right now.

We have bought Sukhoi 30s and Hawk's trainers, but we need more to strengthen the Air Force.

2 We have grounded the basic trainer HPT 32, so we are short of trainers too.

Improved since Kargil

1 Air-to-air refuelling aircraft available, training modules designed and introduced in a timely manner. The air defence radar, training syllabi and courses have been updated; flight safety records have also improved.

2 The Indian Air Force has held joint exercises with the US and European powers.

3 Since Kargil, the Air Force has been involved in disaster relief operations like post-Tsunami operations in Sri Lanka. The Air Force also played a major role in disaster relief within the country.

Tyagi signs off, saying, "One thing that the IAF can assure Indians is that the country is safe in the hands of the IAF."

Navy Manohar Nambiar, spokesperson, Indian Navy, says it has been a mixed bag for the Navy.


1 Lots of international exposure for the Navy as a result of joint exercises with the naval forces of the US, UK, France, Germany and Russia.

2 There has been an introduction of marine front line ships, which is a positive development.

3 The number of war ships is more or less the same, but we are expecting Admiral Gorkshov (the biggest warship of the Indian Navy) from Russia in the coming years.


1 The Indian Navy has been operational in the anti-piracy drive in the Gulf of Aden.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

France deepens defense ties with Pakistan

The French are apparently handing off some new toys to the Pakistani military.

The Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has said Pakistan and Nato forces need better coordination and more intelligence sharing to eliminate militants.

The army chief was talking to the French Chief of the Defence Staff General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who called on him at GHQ in Rawalpindi on Wednesday.

General Kiyani said that France's early delivery of defence equipment would help Pakistan in its ongoing military operation against terrorists.

The French Defence Chief assured Pakistan that France would positively consider Pakistan’s request for urgently required defence equipment, enhanced training facilities and sharing of intelligence.

By: Brant

Koreas update military hotlines, now with rollover minutes

North and South Korea have updated their military hotlines to keep in touch.

North and South Korea have a new way of talking.

The rival nations today opened new, updated military hot lines to help facilitate border crossings. It's seen as another sign of renewing cooperation between the divided countries.

A Unification Ministry spokeswoman says the two Koreas communicated through new fiber-optic cables for about 330 South Koreans who traveled to a joint industrial complex in the North this morning.

By: Brant

The Economist examines Iran's crackdown

The Economist has a detailed look at the Mullahs' crackdown in Iran.

What more can Iran’s ruthless rulers do to squash their opponents? Since nationwide protests broke out last June over the disputed results of presidential elections, the official winner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has pulled few punches. His security apparatus has beaten and arrested thousands, tried scores of dissidents in kangaroo courts, hounded others into exile, throttled the press and jammed the airwaves. But the massive and violent demonstrations that engulfed the capital, Tehran, and other cities on December 26th and 27th suggested that repression only deepens and broadens the opposition.

Footage of the protests, shot by phones and spread via the internet, revealed scenes of mayhem unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah. Mobs of youths, including many women, attacked and in some cases overcame squads of riot police. The rioters, mostly unmasked in contrast to previous protests, apparently chanted as many slogans against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as against Mr Ahmadinejad. They set police vehicles on fire and torched at least one police station. Plainclothes government thugs fought back, bludgeoning isolated protesters and apparently shooting several at close range.
At least eight people died in Tehran alone, including a nephew of Mir Hosein Mousavi, a former prime minister who is widely thought to have truly won the June election and who has become an opposition figurehead. Some opposition sources say the nephew was “executed” as a warning to Mr Mousavi. Kayhan, a newspaper that is a mouthpiece for regime hardliners, countered with the charge that Mr Mousavi had himself orchestrated his nephew’s shooting.

The violence was particularly shocking because the protests coincided with Ashura, a solemn day in the Shia calendar that commemorates the martyrdom of Hosein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Reflecting Iran’s stark polarisation, government supporters and opponents accused each other of desecrating Hosein’s memory. Reflecting a fear of generating new “martyrs” to fuel further protests, security forces took over Tehran’s cemeteries and nabbed the bodies of those killed, preventing their immediate burial in accordance with Muslim rites.

State news agencies say police arrested more than 1,000 protesters during the riots. Dozens more campaigners have been jailed in a dramatic widening of the purge against reformists that began in June. They include such luminaries as the 78-year-old Ebrahim Yazdi, the Islamic Republic’s first foreign minister and now head of a banned liberal party, as well as numerous close relations of prominent dissidents, including a sister of Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel laureate and human-rights lawyer. This tactic has often been used in Iran to frighten prominent people, without stoking more public anger by detaining them directly. So far the authorities have refrained from arresting such figures as Mr Mousavi himself, but a new wave of arrests has swept up many of their close associates.

By: Brant

Army rethinking ethics training

The Army's think-tank at Ft Leavenworth is reconsidering the way ethics are being taught to soldiers, especially in light of the ongoing wars.

Army leaders who’ve been prompted to rethink tactics and war-fighting doctrines because of Iraq and Afghanistan also see a need to re-examine how they educate soldiers about ethics.

Some of the interest in ethics is tied to the wars: the black eye of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, concerns that stress from unconventional conflict leads to bad decisions, and, for at least one retired general, the sense that the military lost the public’s trust in Iraq. But some leaders also say the Army has worried for a while that it hasn’t been doing a good enough job of instilling strong ethics.

Officials at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and at Fort Leavenworth, home to the Army’s Command and General Staff College, are still in the early stages of developing the material they’ll blend into handbooks, papers, online presentations and videos they use to train soldiers. Officers involved in the effort say that eventually a soldier’s grounding in ethics — strong or weak — will become a factor in promotions.

The Army’s efforts to rethink its training on ethics received a boost this fall, when Texas billionaire and two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot pledged $6.1 million to a private foundation supporting programs at Fort Leavenworth’s command college. One result is a new chairmanship in ethics — the kind of post universities set up for academic areas they deem important.

“It can’t be, ‘Today we’ll do ethics training and that will do for the year,’” said Brig. Gen. Ed Cardon, deputy commandant of the Fort Leavenworth college. “It has to be ingrained in everything we do, on and off duty.”

Much of the discussion among Army leaders remains general, with few details yet about exactly how their desire for better ethics training will translate into day-to-day operations.

By: Brant

Battle for Baghdad Developer’s Notes

Battle for Baghdad is a multi-player board game that will be published in February 2010 by Modern Conflict Studies Group, LLC.

Those of you who have been around a while will quickly discover Battle for Baghdad’s pedigree. What remains to this day one of my personal favorites, and to my mind, perhaps the best game design to date pitting asymmetric factions against one another, is Avalon Hill’s venerable Dune. When the MCS Group design team was blue-skying a design on the then current situation in Iraq, we wanted very much to produce a game that dealt with the political battles as well as the kinetic ones, and would highlight the specific issue spaces of the various factions involved. It didn’t take a large imaginative leap to recognize that the Dune system contained many of the elements we sought. As has been standard wargame practice for decades, we adapted these elements while adding in many innovations.

Joseph very quickly put together a prototype and we began spending the bulk of our Saturdays playing, reworking, and redesigning. Additionally, we made long distance phone calls to various military officers in-theater to get their insights into the situation to verify that we were indeed capturing the essence of the situation. The process took about eight months of pretty much continual playtesting and development. At the end, we believe we have come up with a product that accomplishes everything that we set out to do.

One of our first challenges with the design was trying to understand what constituted victory for any given faction. Initially, the end game conditions were simply control of some number of specific zones on the map. However, we quickly realized that this would not be suitable, and that each faction really needed their own unique victory conditions. That determination rested on two essential elements. The first was representing what a plausible satisfying end-state was for any given faction; the second was having some semblance of play balance.

As a matter of personal game development philosophy, I’ve never been particularly concerned with play balance. To my mind, a situation only illustrates its historical or real-world counterpart if it effectively illustrates the actual challenges inherent in the situation. Battle for Baghdad was an exception to that philosophy in that there was little purpose including a faction if that faction had no real capacity of reaching a satisfactory end-state for itself. For example, if control of territory was what was needed to win the game, NGOs and Jihadists really stood little chance of success. But more importantly, it would fail to capture their reason for being there in the first place.

Developing custom victory conditions for each faction entailed some interesting challenges. The first, of course, was that they be at least allegorically realistic, which is to say that they must represent some actual challenge or dilemma that that real-life faction faces. As a result, some factions have victory conditions that are quite linear: for instance, for Sunni’s and Shi’ites it’s simply go forth and conquer, whereas the NGO must play a very sophisticated game of alliance and tolerance to pull out a victory. What’s more, the number of players who are in the game will have a lot to do with which factions are playing. NGOs, for instance, stand little or no chance of success in a three player game, but have a substantially better chance with six players. Hence, we included the rule determining which factions are in play with fewer than six players.

Now all of that said, I would not be so bold as to make the claim that the game is completely balanced, for it is not. However, during our playtesting I made it a personal mission to make certain that I achieved a victory with every faction in the game, and I was successful in that. The NGO is probably the most difficult faction to play, and I would say that certain types of players will probably never achieve victory with that faction (i.e., those who tend towards aggressive solutions). That said, every faction does have the capacity to realize its victory conditions.

Another challenge that having unique victory conditions for each faction brought to the game was that, because none of the victory conditions are mutually exclusive, it is quite possible for multiple factions to achieve victory simultaneously. As a result, if you wish to achieve victory for your faction alone, you not only must manage your own efforts, but be certain to know the victory conditions of your opponents and act to hinder them. This effect was, in fact, quite intentional. The point was to demonstrate that the resolution to the situation depended a great deal on the personalities and competencies of the players themselves. What’s more, certain factions lend themselves more to one style than the other. This fact will have a lot to do with how balanced the game turns out to be for you.

A key element to managing your faction is a thorough understanding of what it means to have initiative and the resultant ability to set the price of the arms bazaar and determine the first player. The value of this, we noticed, was lost on many of the new players whom we introduced to the game. Having the initiative models things like wining elections, gaining influence, having information superiority, etc. and is purchased through the expenditure of political capital, the Political Points being the currency of the game. The first thing to notice is that when you bid for initiative, you are conducting a dollar auction, which is to say that what you bid you will pay, whether you win the initiative or not. What this represents is that whatever you spend trying to gain public influence is a sunk cost that you cannot recover. It is also important to understand that the winning initiative bid is also the cost of additional arms bazaar cards for that turn, thus if you have a large amount of political capital, you can price other factions out of the market.

Winning initiative allows you to determine who will be the first player for that turn. This is a crucial decision in many cases. You have two essential concerns to balance. If you need to bolster your political position and gain intelligence on other player capabilities for that turn, you should chose yourself as first player; whereas if you are more concerned with military objectives for the coming turn, you will wish to go last, since you will be able to have the final move on the board without any other player being able to react to you.

During the Arms Bazaar phase, the first player (not the initiative player) will draw a number of arms bazaar cards equal to the number of players in the game. He will look at all of them and choose the card that he wants the most, then pass them counter-clockwise. This process gives the first player a political advantage for that turn in that he gets to pick the strongest card in the lot, and also gains some understanding of the other capabilities that will be present among the other players for that turn. Once this process occurs, any player can then purchase arms bazaar cards by paying political capital equal to the highest initiative bid for each additional card. Thus, there is reason to want to make those cards as expensive as possible, regardless of whether you wish to be first or last.

This means there is an entire political sub-game where players are engaging in behind the scenes deals and such to outmaneuver each other on the map. The game therefore requires a certain subtlety in player strategy. It’s not enough to accumulate more political points than the other players, you have to use them in such a manner as to gain the ascendancy on this higher level. This puts the US player in a real dilemma because the US needs to accumulate political points in order to win the game.

As for combat, the idea is to get you thinking not in terms of overwhelming the enemy with maximum firepower, but rather to use just the right amount of force to gain your tactical objective. Remember, that most of your combat strength will come not from the units you deploy but the Command and Tactics card you commit. Losses you take even when winning a battle represent units and logistics being “burned up” by operations as well as casualties. As one might expect, you can win battles but still lose the war.

One thing we did in playtesting was to cut down on the number of extraneous game elements. For example, originally each player had several extra special abilities. Some of these abilities slowed down the game play while not really adding to simulation quality. So we dumped them. Players are, of course, free to develop their own house rules as they see fit if they have elements they would like to add to the game.

By: ___

29 December 2009

Somali Pirates back in action

Pirates still active and apparently refuse to take a Christams vacation.

Somali pirates seized a ship carrying fertilizer from the U.S. in the Indian Ocean and a British-flagged chemical tanker in the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden — the first merchant vessel to be hijacked in the gulf in nearly six months, officials said Tuesday.
The hijackings late Monday showed that pirates are relentless in their pursuit of quick money from ransoms and that ship owners need to take extra precaution when sailing in the Horn of Africa, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The waters off Somalia are teeming with pirates, who have hijacked dozens of ships for multimillion-dollar ransoms in the past two years. An international naval force now patrols the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
After the latest hijackings, pirates now hold 12 vessels and 263 crew members, Choong said. Pirates anchor their captured crafts near Somalia's shore in the pirate strongholds of Haradhere and Hobyo. International forces can't rescue the vessels without risking the lives of the crew, leaving negotiated ransoms as the only safe means of resolution.

By: Brant

War Heroes: Eric Wilson

How would you like to wake up in a POW camp one morning an learn that you'd been awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously...

Wilson, then a captain, commanded the Camel Corps machinegun company. His task was to provide fire support for the Northern Rhodesia Regiment manning the central sector of the front across the enemy’s path. So far as the terrain allowed, he positioned his water-cooled Vickers medium machineguns where they could strike the enemy in the flanks when they moved forward. But, because of the width of the front, several had to be sited frontally with wide arcs of fire. Having briefed all his gun crews, he joined the most forward pillbox on Observation Hill overlooking the enemy’s main approach.

The Italian attack opened on the morning of August 11 with an artillery bombardment of Wilson’s positions. A shell of the first salvo exploded immediately outside the embrasure of his pillbox, blowing the Vickers off its tripod and wounding one of the crew. To Wilson’s surprise the weapon was undamaged and he had it in action again within minutes, but the next salvo killed the corporal in charge of the gun, wounded Wilson in the right shoulder and left eye and smashed his spectacles.

During the afternoon he detected an Italian mountain artillery battery working its way up from the road to the pass. He had its range and opened fire, only to receive an immediate retaliation from the enemy’s fixed-charge high-explosive shells. Counter-battery fire from his own artillery and a tropical downpour brought action to a halt for the day.

Next morning the Italians began to push forward small groups of infantry and artillery that worked their way along the sides of the Tur Argan gap to attack the British positions at close quarters. Then, on August 13, the enemy launched a large-scale assault, overran the British artillery position and renewed their fire on Wilson’s machinegun posts. On the 15th two of his guns were blown to pieces but he continued to man his own gun until the position was overrun. The citation for his VC, gazetted on October 11, 1940, opened with the words, “For most conspicuous gallantry on active service in Somaliland” and ended with, “The enemy finally overran the post at 5pm when Captain Wilson, fighting to the last, was killed.”

He had been taken prisoner, however, not just wounded but suffering from malaria. This only became known in April 1941 when the 5th Indian Division captured the prisoner-of-war camp at Adi Ugri in Eritrea, where Wilson was being held. Together with other prisoners, he had almost completed a tunnel for a mass escape attempt when they awoke one morning to find all their guards had gone. By then he had learnt of his award from an RA

(Image from TimesOnline)

Eric Charles Twelves Wilson at Wikipedia

By: Brant

Getting Knocked Up no longer means getting Locked Up

The politically-correct two-step around pregnant troops in the war zone continues.
The U.S. military in Iraq will scrap a policy early next year that has led to the punishment of some soldiers serving in Iraq for becoming pregnant, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said on Thursday.
General Ray Odierno said the new, Iraq-wide guidelines would take effect beginning January 1, lifting rules enacted by the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, who reports to Odierno, that laid out possible punishments for pregnancy among his soldiers.
The policy had been criticized by some women's advocates and on Tuesday four U.S. senators wrote to the secretary of the U.S. Army asking that it be rescinded.
"That will not be in my orders from January 1," Odierno told Reuters on the sidelines of a seminar in Baghdad, responding to a question about whether possible punishment for soldiers who become pregnant or impregnate other soldiers would be part of new, Iraq-wide guidelines Odierno plans to issue shortly.
According to U.S. policy now, individual commanders can issue rules on behavior for troops under their command that are more strict than those issued by their military superiors.

Now, if the 'rights groups' are concerned that the guys would get lighter punishments than the women who got knocked up, then it makes sense that they would object to the rules. But if they simply think that soldiers getting pregnant is more important than winning the war while deployed in a combat zone then they're just flat wrong. There's nothing wrong with these rules and there's no reason they couldn't be in place. Remember, every time they send someone home because she's pregnant, someone else has to do extra work to cover her mission.

By: Brant

28 December 2009

Mystery Plane bound for Sri Lanka

Following up our earlier story about arms smugglers busted in Thailand, it turns out the plane was bound for Sri Lanka - washingtonpost.com

A plane seized in Bangkok with a cache of North Korean weapons wasn't headed to Iran, a senior Thai police official said Wednesday, contradicting a report from arms trafficking experts.

Separately, the five-man crew insisted their final destination was Sri Lanka and not Iran, their lawyer said after visiting the jailed men.

Defense attorney Somsak Saithong told The Associated Press the crew also denied any knowledge of accused international weapons trafficker Victor Bout, who is in the same prison battling extradition to the United States on terrorism charges.

There has been much speculation since the plane was impounded Dec. 12 about where it was headed and whether it was linked to Bout.

'They told me they don't know Victor Bout,' Somsak said. He quoted the five men - four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus - as saying their flight plan called for a refueling stop in Bangkok before flying on to Sri Lanka. They have been charged with illegal arms possession.

By: Brant

Israelis vs CIA - who do you trust?

Given the disparity in dates between the US and Israeli assessments of when Iran will have the bomb, I think I'll go with the Israelis. Their lives actually depend on being right.
Iran will possess the technology to build a nuclear bomb by early 2010 and be able to produce one the following year, Israeli media quoted Israel's defense minister as saying Monday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered his assessment before the Israeli parliament's defense and foreign affairs committee. It broadly matches assessments from other nations including the U.S., which estimates that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015.
The Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the reports and a Barak spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment. The radio and newspaper Web site reports did not identify the source of their information, but participants in the committee meetings routinely brief reporters on the proceedings.
Earlier this month, Israel's military intelligence chief said Iran was close to an unspecified "technological breakthrough" that would enable it to build nuclear weapons. He did not elaborate on the breakthrough or say when exactly he expected Iran to have weapons-making capability.

By: Brant

Bloodshed in Iran as Crackdowns Mount

Perhaps remembering that they came to power in a street revolution, the ruling mullahs are desperate to not have history repeat itself on their watch.
Opposition activists said Iranian security forces rounded up at least seven prominent activists on Monday, stepping up a crackdown on the country's pro-reform movement a day after eight people, including the nephew of the chief opposition leader, were killed in anti-government protests.
The bloodshed, some of the heaviest in months, drew an especially harsh condemnation from one opposition leader, who compared the government to the brutal regime that was ousted by the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.
Monday's developments were sure to deepen antagonism between the government and the reform movement, which has repeatedly shown resilience in the face of repeated crackdowns since June's disputed presidential election.
Mahdi Karroubi, an opposition leader who ran in the June election, posted a statement on an opposition Web site asking how the government could spill the blood of its people on the Shiite sacred day of Ashoura. He said even the former government of the hated shah respected the holy day.

By: Brant

Engineering around idiocy again

Thanks to Doogie Howser Security, Secretary Napolitano was forced to admit that airline security system failed
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watch list with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano said her words had been taken out of context. She said Monday on NBC's 'Today' show that 'our system did not work in this instance.'
Napolitano said an investigation ordered by the Obama administration will look at why Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to board a U.S.-bound flight on Christmas Day despite being on a terrorist watch list.

Which inevitably leads to the predictable over-reaction
New security restrictions swiftly implemented following a botched attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day are making air travel more burdensome and could discourage some business fliers, key customers for the airlines.
Passengers will likely face longer lines at checkpoints and less freedom to move around the airplane during flight. Leisure travelers, such as the families that packed airports to return home on Sunday after the holiday, are likely to put up with the new inconveniences, as they have before.

Here's a thought, why don't we make it a point to enforce the actual rules, and when someone fails to enforce those rules, we fire them. Creating new rules to catch criminals even in the light of failure by the idiots enforcing them only institutionalizes the level of idiocy that allowed the original mistake in the first place. Weed out the morons; don't protect them by trying to moron-proof the rules.

By: Brant

UAV under attack by ground troops

OK, so it's all relative. Great video though...

By: Steve

UK In Action: Night Ops

Soldiers from the Household Cavalry Regiment Battle Group retrieve ration supplies, dropped at night by C-130 Hercules aircraft, onto a Springer vehicle near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Edinburgh on the outskirts of Musa Qal’eh, Afghanistan. Springer has the ability to carry a combat load of one tonne. Its role is specifically focused on moving combat supplies from helicopter landing sites into the forward operating bases. Air drops are being used to minimise the threat to road convoys from improvised explosive devices (IED’s) by reducing their need. The loads can be dropped accurately from the air, making resupplying the Forward Operating Bases less dangerous. Troops collect the stores from the drop zone, and use a variety of vehicles including the new Springer to return the rations into the FOB.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Marines Kickin' Ass in Fallujah

Starting your week off with a bang.

The Marines kicking ass and taking initials - no time for names!

By: Brant

(don't forget to nominate your own videos for Mondays...)

Archive of WWII experiences

It's not quite a Friday museum, but it's pretty darn cool... The stories about personal experiences during WWII, including the home front, archived here, are a great read.

Our mission: To collect and encourage access to the surviving testimony of men and women who lived through the years of the Second World War and to ensure that different audiences share and learn from the personal recollections preserved in the collection.

By: Brant

27 December 2009

Changing British Defence Priorities

There's quite a bit of kicking about on the reprioritisation of the UK defence budgets.

On 15 December 2009, the UK Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced a number of important changes in the ongoing procurement programmes for the British Armed Forces and more in general the ways the money being made available under the defence budget is being allocated. The move has officially been described as being intended to “reprioritise defence spending to help achieve success in Afghanistan, the top military priority, and balance the books”.

In political terms, however, the decision by Gordon Brown’s government to implement such substantial changes in defence spending at this particular point in time does have some perplexing implications. With a major Strategic Defence Review (SDR) already officially in the pipeline immediately after the next general elections, and indeed with preparatory work on the SDR already underway, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Brown felt compelled to act now. Observers are in disagreement as to whether Mr. Brown intends to leave his imprint on a SDR that will almost certainly be carried out by a different government or, rather, the dire prospect of a financial disaster facing the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) did require immediate action.

A glimpse at Mr Brown’s and Mr Ainsworth’s motivations could be provided by a horrifying report by the UK National Audit Office, officially issued on the very same day (15 December) but whose content was most certainly known to the government well in advance. The report states that the current defence programmes are simply unaffordable, as the MoD is facing a shortfall by at least £6 billion and potentially up to £36 billion. The current cost of 15 major military projects has risen by £3.6 billion, compared with the expected costs when the investment decisions were taken.

much more at the link

By: Widow 6-7

Benazir Bhutto, 21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007

On the anniversary of her death, let's remember a woman who showed the Muslim world that she could lead, and face down teh extremists, before her assassination.

By: Brant

ECOWAS moves closer to unified military force

Looks like ECOWAS is moving closer to an RDF-style brigade. Note that this is not the proposed force for Guinea, but had a force like this been ready, they could've been deployed there.

Following the conclusion of a three-day conference in Freetown, ECOWAS chiefs of defense staff have signed and approved a standby brigade force for Sierra Leone.

Addressing journalists at a press briefing, head of the Nigerian army, air chief marshal Paul Dike said the approval was expected to boost ECOWAS participation as a major stakeholder in the AU exercise designed to test the operational readiness of the Africa standby forces.

Marshal Paul said the operational framework roadmap covered the period 2006 to 2009, adding that the country was among others to get an ECOWAS standby structure force, brigade structure and component.

"The main brigade will reflect military discipline, multidimensional and multifaceted capacities of peace support operations," he said.

He observed that some ECOWAS countries face a lot of challenges, noting that the chiefs of defense staff have committed themselves to providing the additional logistics of the brigade's main battalion rapid deployment unit.

By: Brant

26 December 2009

Dutch Dump Pirates... huh?

So apparently the Dutch went fishing for pirates, but were forced to release them. Too small to keep? Already over their quota? Actually, it's more stupid than that...

A Dutch navy warship released 13 suspected Somali pirates back onto their own vessel on European Union orders because it failed to find a nation willing to prosecute them, the Dutch Defence ministry said.

The ministry said on Friday the 13 suspects were arrested two weeks ago when they tried to hijack a cargo ship and had been held on board the Dutch ship Evertsen in the Gulf of Aden while the EU tried to find a country willing to try them.

The EU has treaties with the Seychelles and Kenya but both countries declined to take in the suspects, as did Tanzania.

'The Defence Ministry regrets that the European Union has not been able to find a suitable solution,' the ministry said.

Anti-piracy operations by the European Union, NATO and several individual states have failed to deter the pirates, who are still holding 11 ships, and experts have said efforts to establish an international court to prosecute the pirates will face complex legal obstacles.

The Dutch ship is now en route back to the Netherlands.

Yep, can't find anyone willing to say in court that these guys ought to be stripped naked and parachuted into Antarctica in winter. Apparently Belgium's universal jurisdiction laws only cover malicious revenge prosecutions of American politicians responding to attacks on their country. It sure beats the Spanish method of responding.

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: Barbie and G.I. Joe

Barbie and G.I. Joe

One afternoon, a woman and her little daughter went into a large toy store. The mother asked her daughter what toys she wanted.
The little girl said, "I want GI Joe and Barbie."

The mother smiled and said, "Darling, you know Barbie doesn't come with GI Joe."

The little girl looked up at her mom and replied, "Mom, Barbie ALWAYS comes with GI Joe. She just FAKES it with Ken."

By: Chuckles

Japanese Navy beefing up

Japan is looking to acquire another helicopter-carrying "destroyer"

Japan's budget for next fiscal year may include allocations for new tanks and a new helicopter-carrying destroyer, sources told the Kyodo news agency Wednesday.

The new items would help maintain the deterrence and response capabilities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, which currently has about 900 tanks, the report said. Of those, about 200 were procured in the 1970s and may need to be replaced.

The previous Liberal Democratic Party, which lost the elections in August, had asked for 58 new tanks but the new government led by the Democratic Party of Japan has since cut that number to 16, the report said.

By: Brant

Russia's "bright idea" is new security pact with Europe

NATO is smart to oppose Russia's new "security pact". After all, last time the Russians decided to "secure" Europe, it took 50 years to make them leave.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday he saw no need for a new security treaty proposed by Russia, rebuffing the Kremlin's call for new defense arrangements in Europe.

After talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, Rasmussen urged greater cooperation between NATO and Russia in Afghanistan, but showed no enthusiasm for Moscow's treaty proposal.

"I don't see a need for new treaties or new legally binding documents because we do have a framework already," he told a news briefing in Moscow.

"We have already a lot of documents, so my point of departure is: 'I don't see a need for new treaties.' But let me reiterate, we are of course prepared to discuss the ideas in the right forum," said Rasmussen.

He said the 56-member state Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was such a forum.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev published a draft post-cold war security pact on November 29. He said it would replace NATO and other institutions and would restrict the ability of any country to use force unilaterally.

In Moscow on his first visit since taking office on August 1, the NATO chief repeatedly said recent rows should not prevent Russia and the military alliance from confronting a common security threat from Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen conceded he had not received any firm offer of support from Moscow in response to his requests for Russia to provide Kabul with helicopters and training support, saying he had never expected to get a firm response this week.

By: Brant

25 December 2009

UK In Action: Tornado

A Tornado GR4 aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force, takes off from RAF Marham in Norfolk. A Raptor Airborne Reconnaissance Pod can be seen fitted beneath the fuselage. The images received by the pod can be transmitted via a real-time data-link system to image analysts at a ground station, or can be displayed in the cockpit during flight. The imagery can also be recorded for post-flight analysis. The RAPTOR system can create images of hundreds of separate targets in one sortie; it is capable of autonomous operation against preplanned targets, or it can be re-tasked manually for targets of opportunity or to select a different route to the target. The stand-off range of the sensors allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily-defended areas, to minimise the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defence systems.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Friday Museum: Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum - Charleston Harbor, SC

Our first non-government run museum here on a Friday is the excellent Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
It features the USS Yorktown, USS Clamagore, a shore-based naval support base from Vietnam, and most impressively, the Medal of Honor Museum.

By: Brant

(Please feel free to nominate your own museums to highlight in this recurring series!)