30 September 2010

Coup in Ecuador?

Is it a strike over wage cuts, as previously reported? Or is the outbreak of violence a full-fledged coup?

Ecuador teetered on the verge of a government collapse Thursday, as national police took to the streets of Quito, the capital, and physically attacked the president over what police say was the cancellation of bonuses and promotions.
The government declared a one-week state of emergency Thursday afternoon and put the military in charge of security. The military said it will support the president and the nation's democratic institutions.
"This is a coup attempt," President Rafael Correa said in a TV interview a couple of hours after police lobbed tear gas at him.
Correa, who was forced to flee to a nearby hospital, said police were trying to get at him.
"They're trying to get into my room, maybe to attack me. I don't know," he said in a telephone interview with state-run Ecuador TV. "But, forget it. I won't relent. If something happens to me, remember my infinite love for my country, and to my family I say that I will love them anywhere I end up."
A video by CNN affiliate Ecuavisa later showed a defiant Correa standing at an upper floor window, shouting to a crowd of supporters, "If they want me, here I am," and then rapidly ripping his necktie loose.

By: Brant

Is India About to Explode? (UPDATED)

Troops are flooding the streets to quell the expected violence, no matter which way the ruling goes on the ownership of a holy site.

India sent hundreds of thousands of troops into the streets Thursday as it braced for a potential eruption of violence ahead of a court decision on whether Hindus or Muslims should control a disputed holy site.

The conflict over the compound in the town of Ayodhya, 350 miles (550 kilometers) east of New Delhi, has sparked communal riots that killed thousands of people and challenged India's ethos as a secular, multicultural democracy.

[-- snip --]

"We have deployed around 200,000 security personnel at sensitive places to prevent any violence post the Ayodhya verdict," top state official Shashank Shekhar Singh said.

The 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was razed by Hindu hard-liners in 1992, setting off nationwide riots that killed 2,000 people. Hindus say the mosque, built in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, was erected at the birthplace of their god, Rama.

Hindus want to build a temple to Rama there, while Muslims want to rebuild the mosque.


The Indian court has tried to split the difference and give joint ownership of the site to everyone...

A disputed holy site in India will be divided in an attempt to satisfy competing religious claims to the site, the Allahabad High Court ruled Thursday.
Muslims, Hindus and a local sect all will get part of the land at Ayodhya, the court said.
Muslims have already said they will appeal to the Supreme Court.
Thousands of people have died in sectarian violence in India since Hindu extremists razed a Muslim mosque on the site in 1992. Many Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities.
They will be allowed to keep an idol in a makeshift temple under the central dome at the site, Judge S. U. Khan announced in his ruling. Khan is one of three judges on the high court.
"All three sets of parties, i.e., Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara are declared joint title holders of the property," Khan wrote.

By: Brant

Bureaucracy: Saving the World From 10-Year-Olds

Seriously people, whoever is in charge of kicking 10-year-old kids off of White House tours needs to be fired. Not for incompetence (though that's obviously present), but just because it's a job that doesn't fucking need to exist.

The White House apologized Thursday for turning the family of a Medal of Honor recipient away from an exclusive tour last week because the late veteran’s 10-year-old grandson was wearing shorts.

Vernon Baker, the last surviving black Medal of Honor winner from World War II, was buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery after dying in July from complications of brain cancer at age 90. He belatedly received the military’s top award from President Bill Clinton in 1997, after historians concluded he’d been wrongly denied because of his race.

On Saturday, his widow and grandson went to the White House for a special tour of the West Wing, which includes the Oval Office and rooms that are in use.

The staffer who was to lead the family wasn’t sure whether 10-year-old Vernon Pawlik’s attire — shorts and a T-shirt bearing a picture of the boy’s grandfather — was considered appropriate, officials said. Another winner of the military’s top award, Thomas Norris, also was turned away because he was not previously cleared for the tour.

By: Brant

Supreme Court Taking on Military Funeral Protest Case

It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out against the First Amendment, but in the past, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to wade into 'content' disputes, preferring instead to focus on 'time-place-and-manner' issues. Will protests at a funeral become circumscribed across the board? Will the ruling on the Westboro Moron Church start to set new precedents?

One thing Al Snyder wants to make clear: His boy fought and died for freedom in Iraq, but not for the right of some "wackos" to spew hate at soldiers' funerals under the protection of the Constitution.

"It's an insult to myself, my family and the veterans to say this is what our military men and women died for," Snyder says, barely concealing his anger.

Yet more than four years after the death of his only son, Matthew, Snyder is in the middle of a Supreme Court case that raises almost precisely that issue.

The court is set to decide whether members of a fundamentalist church in Kansas who picketed Matthew's funeral with signs bearing anti-gay and anti-Catholic invective have a constitutional right to say what they want.

Or, in intruding on a private citizen's funeral in a hurtful way, have the protesters crossed a line and given Snyder the right to collect millions of dollars for the emotional pain they caused?

By: Brant

UK In Action: Ghurkas

A Gurkha from 1 Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles is pictured providing security for Royal Engineers constructing a new road called Trident. The road will allow greater movement for the local Afghan population.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Pakistani Troops Killed by NATO Helicopter Strike

The "hot pursuit" option that NATO forces have been invoking to hunt down insurgents who make it across the Pakistani border may have led to the deaths of 3 Pakistani soldiers and the wounding of several others.
NATO helicopters from Afghanistan attacked a militant-infested border region of Pakistan today, killing three Pakistani soldiers, a Pakistani official said, a raid that is certain to raise tensions.

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, however, said none of its helicopters had crossed into Pakistani airspace.

Pakistan has said it would consider response options if NATO forces continued to violate its sovereignty.

Two NATO helicopters attacked Teri Mangal village in Kurram, an ethnic Pashtun tribal region in the Pakistani northwest, a Pakistani security official said.

"The helicopters shelled the area for about 25 minutes. Three of our soldiers manning a border post were killed and three wounded," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Today's attack if confirmed, would be the fourth cross-border raid in recent days, which comes just as the United States steps up strikes by unmanned drone aircraft in Pakistan's North Waziristan.

ISAF spokeswoman Major Sunset Belinsky said the helicopters targeted militants in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province, opposite Kurram, and they did not cross into Pakistan.

But Pakistan military officials had informed ISAF that their border forces had been struck in the attack, she said in a statement.

"ISAF is working with Pakistan to ascertain if the two events are linked. The matter remains under investigation," she said.

In an apparent response to the inadvertant attack, Pakistan has closed a major supply route for NATO and US forces in Afghanistan.

The move comes after three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a Nato helicopter attack near the border.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says it is not clear whether the closure is in retaliation for the attack.

But the blockade, if it becomes permanent, could lead to a major escalation in tensions between Pakistan and the United States.

A queue of about 100 Nato vehicles is now waiting to cross the border into Afghanistan.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said after the border attack on Thursday that "we will have to see whether we are allies or enemies".
By: Shelldrake

Who Released the Anti-Nuke Worm?

Is there a clue in the code about who released the Stuxnet worm that's targeting Iran's nukes?

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.

There are many competing explanations for myrtus, which could simply signify myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project. Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel.

“The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed,” one former intelligence official who still works on Iran issues said recently. “Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure.”

By: Brant

Wraps Coming Off Norks' Succession Plan

As it looks like Kim III is presented to the public.

North Korea introduced its heir apparent to the world Thursday, a chubby-faced young man with a serious expression, combed back hair cut high and tight on the sides and wearing a communist-style black suit.

State media published the first official images of Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of leader Kim Jong Il and the man appeared destined to inherit control of the impoverished, nuclear-armed state.

North Korean television broadcast video of a meeting of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party held Tuesday, including images of Kim Jong Un, who was positioned in the front row during a speech and shown standing and vigorously clapping with other delegates in the cavernous venue.

By: Brant

Iraqi Militias Still Tied Into Iran

There's more and more evidence being gathered that Iran is directing the actions of Iraq's Shia militias.

Nearly four minutes of shaky, hand-held video clips show roadside bombs hitting U.S. convoys, a battery of Katyusha rockets and a soldier who appeared to be downed by sniper fire.

And digitally burned into the left hand corner is the raised-rifle emblem of a Shiite militia linked to Iran.

The purported claim of responsibility by the group known as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and pledges of more violence highlight possible new muscle flexing by armed Shiite factions as U.S. forces depart and Iraq's political leaders struggle to form a government. The jihad-style montage also underscores the unpredictable nature of armed Shiite factions eager to portray U.S. troops as leaving under fire.

To be sure, the immediate threats from Shiite militias are small compared with the recurring blows inflicted by suspected Sunni insurgents, such as car bombings last week in Baghdad that killed more than 30 people and a recent wave of targeted slayings. The worries, however, are more about how much Iran could be pulling the strings as it maneuvers to fill any vacuum left by the Americans.

Iran has been accused for years of aiding violent Shiite gangs — a charge Tehran denies. But U.S. and Iraqi authorities say a possible splintering of Shiite factions in Iraq could open even more channels for Iran to back proxy attacks and harassment of American forces and Sunni allies.

Such a scenario would further strengthen Iran's hand, which already reaches into the political hierarchy through deep ties with major Shiite parties.

By: Brant

Leave No Man Behind: WWII Naval Aviation Edition

The DoD has ID'ed the remains of several naval aviators lost in the Pacific during WWII.

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Navy Lt. Francis B. McIntyre of Mitchell, S.D., will be buried on Sept. 29, and Aviation Radioman Second Class William L. Russell of Cherokee, Okla., will be buried on Oct. 1. Both men will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

On Nov. 10, 1943, the two men took off on a bombing and strafing mission in their SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber from Munda Field, New Georgia, in the Solomon Islands. Witnesses last saw the aircraft flying at low altitude through a large explosion on an enemy airfield on Buka Island, Papua New Guinea. None reported seeing the crash of the aircraft itself.

The American Graves Registration Service searched numerous South Pacific Islands in 1949 in an effort to gather data about aircraft crashes or missing Americans. The team was unable to find any useful information, and failed to recover any American remains in the area. A board of review declared both men unrecoverable.

In 2007, a Papuan national found a World War II crash site near the Buka airport, which was reported to U.S. officials. In May 2008, specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), working with the country’s national museum, investigated the crash site but were unable to excavate it because of inclement weather. Local officials turned over human remains, McIntyre’s identification tag and other military-related items which had been recovered earlier. After examining the remains in 2008 and 2009, JPAC determined that no excavation would be required since the two sets of remains were nearly complete.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Colombia Whacks FARCical Leader

Will the death of a major FARC leader signal the "last throes of the insurgency"?

Colombia's army killed the military leader of the country's communist guerrillas in a two-day battle that involved airstrikes against his jungle bunker, dealing a major blow to the four-decade insurgency, officials said Thursday.

Victor Suárez, 57 years old, nicknamed "Mono Jojoy," was the second in command and top field marshal of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America's biggest and oldest guerrilla group. To many ordinary Colombians, his thick moustache and Che Guevara-style black beret were synonymous with the FARC.

By: Brant

Is This The Golden Age of Wargaming?

The entertaining Armed and Dangerous blog posits that "The Golden Age of Wargaming is Now"...

But you know what? Times change, and game designers have actually learned a few things in the last forty years. In this essay I’m going to revisit two games I’ve reviewed previously (Commands and Colors: Ancients and Memoir ‘44) and take a closer look at two others: War Galley, and Conflict of Heroes. These games exemplify how very much things have changed, and how little point there really is in pining for the old-school games any more. Yes, I may forfeit my old-fart credentials by saying it, but…I think the golden age of wargaming is now.

It's an interesting read - go check it out.

By: Brant

29 September 2010

Military Shaking Up Pakistani Government?

In a nation with a history of military coups, the idea that the generals are unhappy with civilian rule and want some changes can't be welcome. Especially if that nation is nuclear-armed.

The Pakistani military, angered by the inept handling of the country’s devastating floods and alarmed by a collapse of the economy, is pushing for a shake-up of the elected government, and in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants.
The military, preoccupied by a war against militants and reluctant to assume direct responsibility for the economic crisis, has made clear it is not eager to take over the government, as it has many times before, military officials and politicians said.
But the government’s performance since the floods, which have left 20 million people homeless and the nation dependent on handouts from skeptical foreign donors, has laid bare the deep underlying tensions between military and civilian leaders.
American officials, too, say it has left them increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Zardari, a deeply unpopular president who was elected two and a half years ago on a wave of sympathy after the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

By: Brant

Virginia Politicians Still Whining About JFCOM

So Virginia Gov Bob McDonnell is still complaining about the closure of JFCOM, but at least this time it's in economic terms, instead of trying to sound like it's a military necessity.

Virginia leaders pressed the Pentagon on Tuesday for a fuller explanation of the planned closing of the U.S. Joint Forces Command but said they received little more than a promised future meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gov. Bob McDonnell and members of the state's congressional delegation met privately in Washington, D.C., with two high-level Pentagon officials in an attempt to pry out more on what went into the military's decision, announced Aug. 9 by Gates.

"The information that came forth was not particularly compelling, not particularly more illuminating," McDonnell said in a teleconference.

The Republican governor was assured that he would get an opportunity to meet with Gates, whom McDonnell said has not taken his calls since the announcement, but he was unable to secure public meetings in northern Virginia and Norfolk on proposed defense cuts.

The Joint Forces Command, or JFCOM, occupies more than 1 million square feet of real estate in Norfolk and Suffolk, an area with a huge military presence, including the world's largest naval base. As its name suggests, the command trains troops from all services to work together for specific missions.

The 11-year-old command employs nearly 6,000, many of them civilian contractors.

Gates' announcement was the first step toward identifying $100 billion in savings over the next five years. The cuts also include deep reductions in military contracts, which fuels a big part of northern Virginia's economy as well.

McDonnell estimated that the JFCOM closing would cost Virginia 10,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and said other defense cuts would be painful.

You would think McDonnell would be all about keeping spending under control, right?

After all, he told Sean Hannity that it's all about living within your means.

And we did it by cutting spending, reducing our budget estimates to a realistic amount, and making sure that we're doing what American families and businesses do, and that is don't spend more than you take in. It's a pretty simple formula.

And he told an anti-tax group that he's been an advocate of reducing the size of the government for years.

"The thousands of AFP members in Virginia follow state government and public policy closely,'' McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said. "They know that Governor Bob McDonnell has been a champion of reducing spending and making government smaller and more efficient.

His own own campaign materials make it sound like he's all about cutting waste.

Bob McDonnell is a friend of the taxpayer, as McDonnell cut taxes while in the House of Delegates, supports eliminating the "death tax", and is a foe of wasteful spending. Something that is very appealing during this time of economic insanity in Washington.

I mean what could be seen as more wasteful than a "military" headquarters that's 2/3 contractors? Especially in a day and age in which the contractors are (a) unpopular - thanks, Xewater! - and (b) expensive?

By: Brant

The Costs of Forward-Deployment

The GAO has an estimate of the cost of maintaining US forces forward-deployed in Europe, and it's not pretty.

The Army can expect to be hit with a bill of up to $2 billion in extra costs over the next 10 years should it decide to retain four, rather than two, combat brigades in Europe, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO report, issued Sept. 13, comes two months in advance of a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, and an assessment of a U.S. Army Europe basing plan proposed by the Pentagon in February as part of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.

The QDR proposal calls for four units to stay in Europe for the long term: The 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team would remain in Germany; the fourth unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, would remain in northern Italy.

Recommendations from senior U.S. commanders prompted the QDR plan, citing a changing security dynamic in Europe and a requirement to train and work with NATO allies, many of them former Warsaw Pact members.

Until 2007, the Army was conducting a phased drawdown in Europe to reduce the number of soldiers in its largest overseas command from 62,000 to 28,000, while reducing the number of brigade combat teams from four to two.

For the past three years, the drawdown essentially has been on hold at 40,000 soldiers, although many troops have been consolidated into “enduring communities” in Germany (Wiesbaden, Baumholder, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Ansbach, Grafenwoehr/Vilseck/Hohenfels) and Vicenza, Italy.

Before the drawdown was halted, planning officials expected the force structure cuts would save billions in overseas stationing costs and allow installations at Bamberg and Schweinfurt, both in Germany, to close.

Some of the bases are on this map:

By: Brant

BUB: Al-Qaeda A-Go-Go

Wow - all sorts of news about Al-Qaeda today...

First, there was a major AQ terror plot targeting sites all across Europe that was busted over the weekend. So much for the idea that they're just a bunch of impotent cave-dwellers...

Western intelligence sources say they have uncovered a plot by al-Qaeda to carry out co-ordinated attacks in the UK, France and Germany.
It is understood the plan involves small teams of militants seizing hostages and murdering them, similar to the attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
Intelligence officials believe the plot was inspired by the al-Qaeda leadership in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan.
Sources say recent US drone attacks in the region have targeted the planners.
The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner said the plot was believed to have moved from the aspirational stage to actual planning.
Western security agencies may have been hoping to keep the matter out of the public realm for longer so criminal evidence could be gathered, our correspondent added, but initial details were leaked to the US media.
However, in the UK, no imminent arrests are expected, and the national threat level remains at its current level of severe.
In an effort to foil the attacks, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has ramped up missile strikes from unmanned drones against militants in the Pakistani tribal regions, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing security officials.

So far, it looks like there was no real threat to the US, other than any tourists we had over there.

Intelligence officials have found "no U.S. dimension" to alleged terror plots targeting European cities, NBC News reported Wednesday.
Militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes in London, as well as cities in France and Germany, according to Britain's Sky News.
The Wall Street Journal reported that investigators were examining whether the plot extended to the U.S.
However, a senior counterterrorism official told NBC News early Wednesday that no U.S. link had been uncovered.


OBL himself is a key 'witness' at one of the upcoming "Gitmo" trials.

Prosecutors plan to give Osama bin Laden a starring role in the terrorism trial of the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in civilian courts, a test case in the debate over whether suspects scooped up in the war against terrorism can be prosecuted like everyone else.

[-- snip --]

The government plans to use bin Laden's words, including a television interview in which he said U.S. civilians were targets of his holy war against the West, as evidence in Ghailani's trial.

"To establish that the defendant intended to kill Americans in particular, it is relevant that the leader of the conspiracy was emphatically and repeatedly directing his followers to, in fact, kill Americans," prosecutors wrote in court papers last week.


NATO capped an AQ commander in Afghanistan.

NATO said Wednesday it has confirmed that a senior al-Qaida commander who led attacks along the Pakistan border and several other militants were killed in an air strike over the weekend in eastern Afghanistan.

NATO said the strike killed Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, a senior al-Qaida commander who coordinated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in eastern Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, and elsewhere.

It said Abu Atta al Kuwaiti, an al-Qaida explosives expert, and several Arab foreign fighters were also killed in the strike, which was carried out Saturday.

Pakistan is investigating reports a CIA missile strike killed another senior al-Qaida commander as he traveled in a tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials said Wednesday. Sheikh Fateh al-Masri's death would be the covert U.S. missile program's latest blow to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Al-Masri is believed to have replaced Mustafa al-Yazid, who was killed in a missile strike in May and was described by the group as its No. 3 commander.


And the Spanish have arrested an American suspect with AQ affiliations for a variety of financial shenanigans.

Spanish police have arrested a U.S. citizen of Algerian origin who is suspected of financing al-Qaida's North African affiliate, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
Mohamed Omar Debhi, 43, was arrested Tuesday in the town of Esplugues de Llobregat near Barcelona. His arrest is not connected to terrorism alerts this week in France and Britain and is just a coincidence, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.
Debhi is suspected of laundering money and sending some of it to an associate in Algeria, Toufik Mizi, to be passed on to cells of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a ministry statement said. Mizi is wanted in Spain after eluding a police raid in 2008.


So what do you guys think?

By: Brant

Advanced Cyberweapons Cause Physical Damage

Aviationweek warns that sophisticated algorithms that can destroy sensitive equipment at a distance are out there and are being used. Cyberwar...coming soon to a computer near you!
Evidence is mounting that not only have long-range cyberweapons capable of inflicting physical damage been invented, they also are being used both in tests and operationally.

Idaho National Laboratory created a 21-line piece of software code for an “Aurora test” that introduced destructive instructions into a closed computer network that “caused the generator to blow up,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing Sept. 23. The 2007 test indicates that this kind of cyberweapon “is not just sitting around on a shelf somewhere.”

The Aurora test’s target was a $1 million, diesel-powered, industrial electrical generator. The software caused the machine’s circuit breakers to cycle on and off rapidly, causing vibrations so pronounced that the machine spewed black smoke and ground to a halt.

In June, a malicious code named “Stuxnet” — designed to attack precise elements of very specific pieces of equipment, perhaps even operating in closed networks — was identified by German researchers. In at least one press story, the worm was said to have attacked operating systems by exploiting a vulnerability in some versions of Microsoft Windows; it is now said to have been patched.

The code has infected thousands of machines in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and India, but has not been associated with any actual damage. The cyber-worm has not been identified in any U.S. systems, a DHS official says.

Department of Homeland Security officials have judged that recent press accounts concerning Stuxnet contain a great deal of speculation. Doubts surround the postulated possible target — Iranian defense industries — and the author of the cyber-worm. Some are theorizing that it came from Israel’s cyberwarfare organization, which is a closely guarded operation within the General Staff.

Stuxnet is “definitely not the world’s first” known cyber-superweapon designed to destroy Scada [supervisory control and data acquisition] networks like those that run factories, refineries, pipelines, utilities and nuclear power plants,” says a veteran cyber-warrior with insight into current operations. “Some of the techniques described [in a recent Christian Science Monitor story] are not feasible given how Scada system are or are not connected to other networks. [As a better model] you need to look at the [Aurora] test that was done to destroy power generators a few year back.”

The U.S., China, Russia and Israel are not the only countries that write sophisticated algorithms and design them into computer worms and viruses, noted U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who testified to the full House Armed Services committee on Sept. 23.

“Attribution [of a cyber-attack]—saying specifically if the problem was caused by one nation-state or another—is difficult,” Alexander says. Asked to evaluate peer competitors of the U.S., he points out that, “In cyberspace it’s not [so much about] the size of the country as it is the [skills of the people] creating the software. There are a number of countries that are near-peers to us in cyberspace and it is a concern. Others can have an asymmetric capability and advantage.”
By: Shelldrake

Wargames in the White House

Yes, even the White House uses wargames, even if they might not be the right kind of game for the right kinds of reasons. This comes from the WaPo excerpts of Woodward's new book Obama's Wars.

The only distinctly new alternative offered to Obama came from outside the military hierarchy. Vice President Biden had long and loudly argued against the military's 40,000-troop request. He worked with Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop a "hybrid option" - combining elements of other plans - that called for only 20,000 additional troops. It would have a more limited mission of hunting down the Taliban insurgents and training the Afghan police and army to take over.

When Mullen learned of the hybrid option, he didn't want to take it to Obama. "We're not providing that," he told Cartwright, a Marine known around the White House as Obama's favorite general.

Cartwright objected. "I'm just not in the business of withholding options," he told Mullen. "I have an oath, and when asked for advice I'm going to provide it."

When word of the hybrid option reached Obama, he instructed Gates and Mullen to present it. Mullen had other ideas. He used a classified war game exercise - code-named Poignant Vision and held at the Pentagon on Oct. 14, 2009 - to support his case against the option.

Believing the game was rigged, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, Obama's representative from the National Security Council, boycotted it. According to participants, Poignant Vision did not have the rigor of a traditional war game, in which two teams square off. This exercise was a four-hour seminar.

Mullen and Petraeus both attended, as did Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, a retired admiral who had once headed the Pentagon's war gaming agency. Blair had suggested the game, thinking it might help in assessing various troop levels.

As the exercise ended, Blair hinted at its limitations. "Well, this is a good warm-up," he said. "When is the next game?"

Blair realized that Mullen and Petraeus had no intention of taking the issue further.

At the Nov. 11 meeting in which Obama expressed his frustration, Petraeus cited the war game as evidence that the hybrid option would not work.

It would alienate the Afghan people whom U.S. forces should be protecting, he said. "You start going out tromping around, disrupting the enemy, and you're making a lot of enemies. . . . So what have you accomplished?"

Petraeus saw what Biden and Cartwright proposed as a repudiation of his protect-the-people counterinsurgency approach, the model he had designed and implemented in Iraq as commander of U.S.-led forces.

"This is not a stiletto, this is a chain saw," Petraeus told Obama.

"So," Obama asked, "20,000 is not really a viable option?"

Mullen, Petraeus, Gates and McChrystal all said it would result in mission failure.

"Okay," Obama said, "if you tell me that we can't do that, and you war-gamed it, I'll accept that."

No one contradicted the claim. Cartwright and Blair weren't at the Nov. 11 review session. Biden later told the president that the war game was "bull----."

By: Brant

COA Analysis: Mexico (Reader Participation Required!)

Might Mexico take the plunge and try to take the power out of the cartels' hands by legalizing drugs and taxing them? Will the US finally get serious about securing the border to contain the drug violence? How do you see any of these courses of action playing out?

By: Brant

28 September 2010

War Over WikiLeaks

There's trouble, both inside the company...

A domino chain of resignations at the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks followed a unilateral decision by autocratic founder Julian Assange to schedule an October release of 392,000 classified U.S. documents from the war in Iraq, according to former WikiLeaks staffers.

Key members of WikiLeaks were angered to learn last month that Assange had secretly provided media outlets with embargoed access to the vast database, under an arrangement similar to the one WikiLeaks made with three newspapers that released documents from the Afghanistan war in July. WikiLeaks is set to release the Iraq trove on Oct. 18, according to ex-staffers — far too early, in the view of some of them, to properly redact the names of U.S. collaborators and informants in Iraq.

‘I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.’

“The release date which was established was completely unrealistic,” says 25-year-old Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic university student who until recently helped manage WikiLeaks’ secure chat room. “We found out that the level of redactions performed on the Afghanistan documents was not sufficient. I announced that if the next batch did not receive full attention, I would not be willing to cooperate.”

... and trouble with other technorati who don't like the way they do business.

The co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, on Tuesday slammed whistleblower WikiLeaks over its release of Afghan war documents which he said could "get people killed".

Wales also expressed irritation over the website's use of the term "Wiki" in its name, which refers to a site that allows different users to collaborate and make contributions.

"I would distance myself from WikiLeaks, I wish they wouldn't use the name, they are not a Wiki. A big way they got famous in the first place was by using the word Wiki, which was unfortunate in my view," he said at a business conference in Kuala Lumpur.

By: Brant

Another Blockade Runner in Gaza

This time, it's a Jewish aid vessel trying to run the blockade.

Israeli warships have intercepted a Jewish aid boat that is trying to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, organisers say.

The 10m (32-foot) catamaran is being blocked by a frigate and trailed by several smaller boats off the Gaza coast, the mission's Twitter feed says.

The activists have said they will not resist Israeli attempts to stop them.

Earlier this year, Israeli commandos killed nine people in clashes on board a Turkish ship trying to reach Gaza.

Israel says its naval blockade is designed to prevent weapons being smuggled to Hamas militants who run the territory.

By: Brant

US Soldier Held in Deaths

A soldier who has allegedly killed 2 comrades is being held in Iraq.

A US soldier is being held over the shooting deaths of two American service personnel in Iraq and the wounding of another, the military said on Tuesday.
Specialist Neftaly Platero is in "pre-trial confinement" over the September 23 killing of the soldiers, the statement said.
"Our condolences go out to the families of those service members whose lives were lost," said Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan, the spokesman for US forces in Iraq. "We are saddened by this tragic incident."

By: Brant

Next Generation Fighter For Russian Navy Delayed Until 2020

Russian naval aviators will have to wait a little longer than originally planned to strap into the cockpit of a 5th generation jet fighter.
The appearance of a fifth generation fighter in Russian naval aviation will not happen before 2020, the outgoing head of the air forces and air defense forces of the Russian Navy, Lt. General Valery Uvarov told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

Previously, representatives of the armed forces command and Defense Ministry had said a new naval fighter based on the Sukhoi T.50 design could enter service around 2016.

"It's difficult to say when this aircraft will enter naval service. First it will go into service with the air force, and then be 'navalised.' To build a new aircraft from scratch costs huge money, it's irrational and not competent. Conditions might be suitable by 2020," he said.

Uvarov stressed, however, that any new naval fighter would enter service only following a competition in which other designs would participate, including from the MiG, Yakovlev and Sukhoi design bureaus.

A new generation carrier fighter should enter service with the fleet not long before any new aircraft carrier on which it would be based, Uvarov said, so pilots would be ready. "The aircraft should come before a ship entering service, so pilots can train first on land, then on a special training area, then on deck," he said.
By: Shelldrake

IDF Infantry Units To Become More Lethal

A review of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) infantry battalion capabilities has resulted in some new kit being issued for troops involved in urban and guerrilla warfare.
The IDF has completed a review of the structure of its infantry battalions and is adding new capabilities aimed at making them more lethal in urban and guerrilla warfare.

The decision to conduct the review was made by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in early 2009 and after several new weapons systems were inserted into battalions to assist troops in counter-terror operations, particularly in urban settings like Gaza and villages in southern Lebanon.

One example of a new weapon is the HTR 2000, a sniper rifle that is being distributed to all infantry battalions. It has a range of more than 1,000 meters and can be used with a special night-vision add-on scope.

The adjustable heavy tactical rifle, made by the US firm H-S Precision, dramatically improves the capabilities of the specially designated sniper units within each battalion.

The Ground Forces Command, which oversaw the review, also purchased, earlier this year, dozens of Polaris all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that are in the process of being distributed to infantry battalions to transport supplies behind enemy lines.

Each battalion will receive a number of the two-seater ATVs, which can carry 700 kilograms of supplies in the back compartment as well as at least one wounded soldier. The vehicles have a maximum speed of close to 80 kph.

“With all of these new systems we needed to figure out what the best structure was of the battalion so all of the new capabilities would be effective,” a top officer in the Ground Forces Command explained.

The IDF also provided battalions with explosives capabilities, enabling them to independently blow down doors and walls and not be dependent on special Combat Engineer Units like Yahalom.

Each battalion also now sends a number of soldiers to undergo special camouflage training after which they become responsible for erecting camouflaged positions for the battalion when necessary during operations.

Another decision was to retain the same basic structure of a battalion with three regular companies but to add a specialized platoon made up of the Polaris and heavy machine guns. Each company also now has a special team of snipers and explosives experts.

Another system that was used for the first time during the anti-Hamas campaign in Gaza was the Matador anti-structure shoulder-launched missile.

Used by infantry to destroy Hamas positions inside homes and other structures, the Matador incorporates an advanced tandem warhead concept that can be operated in two modes: against fortified positions and other structures, and to create a hole in a wall without destroying the interior of a home.
By: Shelldrake

Fast-Track to Promotion

The Norks have a new 4-star general.

North Korea's Kim Jong Il made his elusive youngest son a four-star general in a major promotion seen Tuesday as confirmation that he is slated to become the country's next leader.
The announcement appeared in state media hours before a historic Workers' Party meeting Tuesday where Kim, 68 and apparently in deteriorating health, was expected to grant son Kim Jong Un and other family members top posts in plans to take the communist dynasty into a third generation.
The North Korean capital was in a festive mood, with banners and placards celebrating the meeting, the communist country's biggest political gathering in 30 years.
It was state media's first mention of Kim Jong Un, who has remained so well hidden from the outside world that not even his face or exact age can be confirmed. He is believed to be 27 or 28, and is said to have been schooled in Switzerland and educated at Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang.

I guess it's nice to have a dad who controls the entire country with an iron fist, eh?

By: Brant

Tuesday Q&A: Jim Snyder

A true wargaming double-threat, Jim Snyder has worked on both computer-based games and on the tabletop. He is a rocket scientist by day (no, really!) and a game designer by, well, any other time

If my plaque was to go in the Wargaming Hall of Fame next week, the 2-sentence bio on it would say this about me:
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” I guess a one sentence bio.

You would know me from my work in this corner of the wargaming world:
From working with Mark Walker on modules for his awesome World at War series and testing/reviewing/suggesting on other systems like White Star Rising. I’m also working with Rob Crandall on a Matrix Games follow up to Flashpoint Germany.

I'm currently working on:
Flashpoint Middle-East for Matrix Games. It is slow moving beast but we see a speck of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m also helping on the latest WaW module “The Untold Stories” and also scribbling notes on a few other game ideas of my own. I’m also looking over this game called “Orange Crush” for another very handsome, manly, high profile game designer.
(ed note: I did not pay him to say any of those things.... yet.)

What was the first wargame you taught to someone else?
I would have to go with teaching my brother how to play a Star Wars trench battle game I designed on the back of some PanzerBlitz counters back in 76-77 time frame. Basically the first game I put together.

Favorite gaming website(s)?
Wargamer, Matrix Games, Lock n’Load, GrogNews, CSW sites related to the games I support, and The Escapist for Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw reviews.
OK, OK... you're sucking up now. But that doesn't mean we want you to stop!

When I mock up a game for playtesting, my general process is…
Simple steps. Maps. Units and OOBs. Counters. Rules. Test. Then rinse and repeat.

What's one wargame rule you've given up on as hopelessly broken?
I think is more a general wargaming theory that more detail and granular resolution provides a more accurate result. Wargame design, whether it is board or computer, requires a level of abstraction to make the system playable without dragging a truckload of super-computers around to analyze every minute and quasi-insignificant factor of a particular action. Some games I feel get lost in trying to account for everything to get to a result just as good from an abstracted system. Plus more rules and tables and time can really take away from having a good game experience.

What are your three favorite types/genres of wargames?
I’m definitely a tactical/grand tactical modern themed wargamer. Any thing 1939 plus with tanks, planes and/or ships works for me. That’s not to say I haven’t hit other eras or genres. A touch of Sci-fi/Horror/Fantasy works too.

What is one historical outcome you'd change to make a compelling alt-history game/scenario?
I’d say having a NATO and Warsaw Pact throw down in the late 80s. At least we would be able to answer all of the questions of whose toys where better. Assuming we just wouldn’t nuke the world back to the Stone Age.

What was the first wargame you designed your own scenario for?
Mark Walkers “Death of the 1st Panzer”. I got started working with him after Origins a few years back doing the scenarios for that expansion.

Coolest thing you've ever done on a computer?
I have to go with being part of the development team for “Full Canvas Jacket” about 8 years or so ago. It was an add-on for Red Baron 3d, made good reviews in several game mags and was runner up for Flight sim of the year to boot. We lost to MS flight sim. Their game had NO guns and was bank-rolled by a giant. I sensed shenanigans, but there was no way to prove it.

If you could be the filmographer at any one battle in history, which one would you view?
There are a ton of good selections, but I think the Battle of Midway. Such a pivotal point in the war and just a series of right place right time moments for the USN.

What actor would you like to see play you in a movie?
I would like to say Brad Pitt or possibly Robert Downey Jr, but the reality is more along the line of Kevin Smith. We both have the same build, beard, quiet genius, and mad Batman/Jedi/Ninja skills.

Ginger or Mary Ann?
No contest. Mary Ann.

People would describe my fashion sense as…
just short of tragic…
I think we can all agree on that one...

By: Brant

Nuclear Disarmament, Extra-Terrestrial Style

Yep, that's right. Apparently aliens are taking the lead on nuclear disarmament...

Aliens have landed, infiltrated British nuclear missile sites and deactivated the weapons, according to US military pilots.
The beings have repeated their efforts in the US and have been active since 1948, the men said, and accused the respective governments of trying to keep the information secret.
The unlikely claims were compiled by six former US airmen and another member of the military who interviewed or researched the evidence of 120 ex-military personnel.
The information they have collected suggests that aliens could have landed on Earth as recently as seven years ago.
The men's aim is to press the two governments to recognise the long-standing extra-terrestrial visits as fact.
They are to be presented on Monday 27 September at a meeting in Washington.
One of the men, Capt Robert Salas, said: "The US Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it."
He said said he witnessed such an event first-hand on March 16, 1967, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana which housed Minuteman nuclear missiles.
Capt Salas continued: "I was on duty when an object came over and hovered directly over the site.
"The missiles shut down - 10 Minuteman missiles. And the same thing happened at another site a week later. There's a strong interest in our missiles by these objects, wherever they come from. I personally think they're not from planet Earth."
Others claim to have seen similar activity in the UK.
Col Charles Halt said he saw a UFO at the former military base RAF Bentwaters, near Ipswich, 30 years ago, during which he saw beams of light fired into the base then heard on the military radio that aliens had landed inside the nuclear storage area.

Can someone point these guys toward Iran?

By: Brant

27 September 2010

Aussie Soldiers Charged in Afghan Op Fallout

Looks like they're headed for a trial in Australia over the deaths of Afghan civilians on a raid in early 2009.

Three Australian former special forces soldiers have been charged over an operation in Afghanistan in which six civilians died and four were injured.

The ex-commandos conducted a night-time raid in February 2009 on a residential compound in Uruzgan province, where a Taliban leader was said to be hiding.

It is alleged they attacked the wrong house. Five of the dead were children.

The charges include manslaughter and dangerous conduct. It is not clear if all three will face the same charges.

The men, who have not been identified, were part of a Special Operations Task Group.

My favorite quote is further down in the article:

Two of the soldiers said they planned to strenuously defend themselves.

How else would you defend yourself, if not strenuously?
"You know, I feel like defending myself, but I'm not going to strain anything doing so..."

By: Brant

Palestinians Still Demanding Concessions Just For Showing Up

Look, we got it. You're in a snit. But you know what? Israel isn't going to cave on your demand to continue the building moratorium just to get you to the table, when you haven't kept your previous commitments.

A senior Palestinian official says President Mahmoud Abbas will quit Mideast peace talks if Israel resumes construction in West Bank settlements now that 10-month-old building restrictions have expired.

Palestinians have repeatedly threatened to quit U.S.-mediated talks relaunched earlier this month in Washington if Israel does not extend the freeze on new settlement construction that ended at midnight.

Israel has not offered to renew the restrictions, despite demands from Washington and the Palestinians to do so.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of Abbas' negotiating team, told Israel Radio on Monday that renewed settlement activity will lead "to the breakdown of negotiations and to the breakdown of the political process."

By: Brant

UK In Action: Horseplay

A group of horses and soldiers from The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery are pictured enjoying a break from the rigours of ceremonial duties, during a week in Blackpool. 30 horses and 30 gunners were at Penny Farm, a World Horse Welfare Centre, where half of the horses have been turned out to grass with the other half exercising daily on the beach.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

UK Soldier Awarded Military Cross

Lance Corporal Andrew Wardle was among several medal recipients at a London ceremony. His heroic actions during a 4-day battle with Taliban insurgents included rescuing a wounded child from the middle of a firefight.
Lance Corporal Andrew Wardle, 22, watched in horror as the five-year-old boy wandered into the middle of a fire fight between British troops and insurgents in Helmand, southern Afghanistan.

A Taliban bullet struck the child in the middle of the back before exiting from the neck leaving him with life threatening wounds.

With complete disregard for his own safety, LCpl Wardle, 22, of the 2nd battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards), leapt from his position and raced across open ground to collect the injured boy.

LCpl Wardle, told The Sunday Telegraph: "We were assaulting a Taliban firing position when another group of insurgents opened up on us from the right.

"I saw a young child about 50 metres away right in the middle of enemy fire. He was only about five or six and he was heading towards us for safety."

LCpl Wardle, who was helping to train the Afghan Army at the time of the attack, said that the Taliban switched their direction of fire towards the child as soon as they saw the boy heading towards the British and Afghan troops.

He continued: "The Taliban wanted to kill him rather than let him fall into our hands. I have got a niece at home who was about this lad's size although she is a bit older than him.


"We got him on a stretcher and he was carried back to our aid point about 800 metres to our rear. From there, a helicopter came in and took him away to the field hospital at Camp Bastion. I never saw him again, I never found out his name.

"We just hoped he would survive and got on with the fighting."

LCpl Wardle and his patrol of Afghan National Army soldiers stormed the enemy position and won the firefight bringing four days of heavy fighting to a close.

Before rescuing the boy, LCpl Wardle had been almost killed twice during battles with insurgents near Musa Qal'eh in Helmand Province.

In one attack on his compound building a bullet tore through the rifle strap of the weapon slung over his shoulder, missing his body by millimetres.

A few hours later one of his Afghan colleagues fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the enemy and the back blast from weapon hit him straight in the face.

He said: "There was a flash and a bang. I couldn't hear anything, my ears were ringing. All I could think about was getting my fire down on the enemy."

LCpl Wardle ignored his own minor injuries to attack the enemy positions with his Minimi light machine gun.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery throughout the four day battle which happened in January. He also discovered 17 Improvised explosive devices during the tour and treated five casualties.

His citation was among several read out at a ceremony at Wellington barracks in central London to announce Operational Honours won in Afghanistan during Operation Herrick 11.

It read: "He has displayed selfless and repeated acts of exemplary gallantry in the face of the enemy."
By: Shelldrake

Joint Anti-Submarine Exercise Launched by US and South Korea

The joint anti-submarine drill that was postponed earlier in the month because of an approaching typhoon is now underway in the Sea of Japan.

The United States and South Korea launched a joint anti-submarine exercise Monday in a show of strength against the communist North, which is preparing for a key meeting of its ruling party.

The exercise starts a day before the opening of the Workers' Party of Korea conference in Pyongyang, expected to pave the way for a power transfer from Kim Jong-Il to his son Jong-Un.

The Yellow Sea drill is the latest in a flurry of exercises Seoul has staged -- either alone or with the United States -- since North Korea was accused of sinking a South Korean warship in March with the loss of 46 lives.

"About 1,700 South Korean and US navy forces are involved in submarine detection training and high-level combat training," said a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Seoul and Washington, citing a multinational investigation, accuse Pyongyang of attacking South Korea's warship near the tense sea border but the North has angrily denied involvement in the incident.

The latest exercise includes two guided-missile destroyers and a fast attack submarine from the US Navy and two South Korean destroyers.

And of course, the Norks aren't happy that this latest joint exercise is taking place.

"The warmongers blustered that they would conduct intensive training of the strategy, technique and procedures for countering someone's submarine infiltration, openly disclosing that the joint naval military exercises are targeted against the DPRK," said the state-run Korean Central News Agency. North Korea is officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
By: Shelldrake

NATO Attacks in Pakistan

Invoking the right of self-defense, in hot pursuit of fleeing attackers, NATO helicopters followed militants into Pakistan, firing all the way.

NATO helicopters in eastern Afghanistan launched rare airstrikes into Pakistan, reportedly killing more than 50 militants after an outpost near the border came under attack from insurgents, officials said Monday.

International forces also pressed forward with a key combat phase in their drive to rout Taliban fighters around the southern city of Kandahar, an operation that is key to U.S. military strategy to turn around the 9-year war and prevent the Taliban from undermining the Afghan government.

The airstrikes into Pakistan came after the insurgents attacked a small Afghan security outpost near the border, and NATO justified the strikes based on "the right of self-defense," a spokesman said. Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, but U.S. officials have said they have an agreement that allows aircraft to cross a few miles (kilometers) into Pakistani airspace if they are in hot pursuit of a target.

The first strike took place Saturday after insurgents based in Pakistan attacked the outpost in Afghanistan's eastern province of Khost, which is located right across the border from Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, said U.S. Capt. Ryan Donald, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"The ISAF helicopters did cross into Pakistan territory to engage the insurgents," Donald said. "ISAF maintains the right to self-defense, and that's why they crossed the Pakistan border."

The strike killed 49 militants, said U.S. Maj. Michael Johnson, another ISAF spokesman.

Maybe if Pakistan had control of their own territory, we wouldn't have to kill their militants for them.

By: Brant

Mysterious Helicopter Buzzes Somali Pirate Haven

No one seems to know who owns the helicopter that was spotted over a town on the Somali coast.

U.S. military officials and the European Union Naval Force denied on Monday that one of their helicopters was involved in an exchange of fire reported by residents of a coastal town in Somalia.

Residents of the coastal town of Merca, about 50 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Mogadishu, said a military helicopter flew over the town on Sunday and that militants fired on it. Some residents said the helicopter fired back but caused no major damage.

But no one seems to know who the helicopter belongs to.

The U.S. military's Special Operations Command Africa and its conventional counterpart, U.S. Africa Command, said they had no involvement, as did a spokesman for the EU Naval Force, an anti-piracy unit that has military forces off the east coast of Somalia. African Union troops also said they weren't behind the exchange.

"I can tell you we don't have any troops in that vicinity at all. We are surprised as you to be honest," said Maj. Bryan Purtell, the spokesman for the Germany-based Special Operations Command Africa.

The EU NavFor spokesman, Lt. Col. Per Klingvall, said: "We're not operating on the Somali coast. We're just operating out on the waters."

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Monday Video: USMC and USN In Action

Starting off your day with an impressive nautical bang.

Don't forget to nominate your own videos in the comments below for future inclusion

By: Brant

26 September 2010

Worm Wars With Iran's Nuke Plant

First, there was The Worm, which was supposed to screw up Iran's nukes. Then came The Counterattack, in which Iran said "No problem; we got this." Now we have The Actual Attack, in which it turns out the Iranians don't actually have their digital butts in gear.

Iran's official news agency says a complex computer worm has affected the personal computers of staff at the country's first nuclear power plant weeks before the facility is to go online.
The IRNA news agency is quoting the head of the Bushehr nuclear plant, Mahmoud Jafari, as saying a team is inspecting several computers to remove the malware, but that it "has not caused any damage to major systems of the plant."
Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks — primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.

By: Brant

Military Shakeup in Pakistan?

Does the resignation of the minister in charge of military production foreshadow a greater shakeup?

The Pakistani minister for defence production has resigned after criticising the military.

Abdul Qayum Jatoi had told journalists on Saturday that the Pakistani army was provided with funds to defend the country, not to get involved in political assassinations.

His comments were played repeatedly on Pakistani television channels.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani summoned him to explain his remarks and a short time later, Mr Jatoi resigned.

"We provided the army with uniforms and boots not so that they kill their own fellow countrymen, kill Nawab Sahib [Bugti] and Benazir Bhutto," he told a news conference in the city of Quetta.

By: Brant

Historical Viewpoints on UK and Afghanistan

John Burns' column on the NYTimes.com site today gives a nice accounting of the new museum exhibit in London about the British wars in Afghanistan.

In more than two decades of reporting from and about Afghanistan, nothing I have seen has brought so vividly to life what those long-ago battles were like. But what gives the exhibit an even more compelling dimension is that it is being held at a time when Britain and the United States, the two principal force-providers in the 42-nation coalition fighting the current conflict, are weighing whether there is a realistic hope of prevailing in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, or whether the moment has come to call time on a conflict that has shown little sign, yet, of turning around.

The exhibit stays clear of advocacy on the current war. But if Britain’s army commanders had wanted to send a discreet signal of their apprehension, they could hardly have done better than to encourage the museum to frame the exhibition as it has. Rebecca Hubbard, the museum’s public relations chief, told me that the museum’s royal charter buttresses its independence, although its $8 million annual budget comes from the defense ministry. But it strains credulity to think the museum would not have consulted with its defense ministry patrons before proceeding.

What the exhibition’s designers had in mind seems clear enough. First, there is the poster quoting Field Marshal Roberts, who was imperial Britain’s most revered soldier. Then there is the first script that meets the visitor’s eye at the exhibition. “British imperial forces fought three wars in Afghanistan,” it says. “Currently this unforgiving battleground preys heavily on the minds of British politicians, soldiers and civilians alike, but the past has been largely forgotten. Afghanistan has a longer memory.”

By: Brant

Ambush in Yemen

Al Qaeda Local 406 ambushed a bus of Yemeni security forces.

Two al-Qaida militants ambushed a bus carrying Yemeni security personnel in the capital on Saturday, spraying the vehicle with gunfire and injuring 10 passengers, a security official said.

The violence shifted to the capital after a five-day offensive to flush out 120 al-Qaida militants who had holed up in a town in the lawless southern region where the local branch of the terror group has found safe haven.

The gunmen, moving on foot, opened fire on the bus as it was transporting security personnel back to their base in a crowded neighborhood in western San'a, the security official said. The gunmen fled.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The gunmen were able to evade security and carry out the ambush despite a tip-off received a day earlier by the San'a police chief that al-Qaida was plotting attacks against security bases in the capital.

In response to the warning, police increased security around a major base in a southern San'a neighborhood that is also home to foreign embassies. The main road leading to the neighborhood was also sealed and several additional checkpoints were put up in various parts of the capital.

By: Brant

ORBAT: Slovak Air Force

From the excellent Scramble on the Web, we have the Slovak Air Force order of battle for you...

Dopravniho Kridlo "generála Milana Rastislava Štefánika"
1 Dopravná Roj
2 Dopravná Roj

Zmiešané letecké krídlo "Otta Smika"
1 Stíhacia Letka
2 Stíhacia Letka
3 Spojovaci Letka
Vyhl'adávacia A Záchranná Sluzba

Vrtulníkové Letecké Krídlo "generálplukovníka Jána Ambruša"
1 Bitevná Vrtul'nikova Letka
2 Dopravná Vrtul'nikova Letka
3 Vycvíkový Vrtul'nikova Letka

Letecke Útvar Ministerstva Vnútra SR
VIP flight

What do the names mean?
Bitevná Letka - Attack Squadron
Bitevná Vrtulníková Letka - Attack Helicopter Squadron
Dopravné Letecké Kridlo - Air Transport Squadron
Dopravná Letka - Transport Squadron
Letecký Školský Pluk - Air Training Regiment
Letecká základna - Air Base
Samostatná Stíhacia Letka - Independent Fighter Squadron
Stíhacie Bombardovacie Letecké Krídlo - Fighter Bomber Air Wing
Stíhací Bombardovací Letecký Pluk - Fighter Bomber Air Regiment
Stíhacia Letka - Fighter Squadron
Stíhacie Letecké Krídlo - Fighter Air Wing
Stíhací Letecky Pluk - Fighter Air Regiment
Vojenská Letecká Akadémia - Military Air Academy
Vrtulníkové Krídlo - Helicopter Wing
Vrtulníková Letka - Helicopter Squadron
Vrtulníkový Pluk - Helicopter Regiment
Výcvikové Stredisko Letectva - Flying Training Center
Zmiešaný Letecký Pluk - Mixed Air Regiment

image from Wikimedia

By: Brant

Iran Counterattacks Computer Worm

Earlier we reported on the worm that was set loose on the Iranians. Now it turns out the Iranians are trying to stop it. I guess we can thank the AP for alerting them to its existence, eh?

Iranian media reports say the country's nuclear agency is trying to combat a complex computer worm that has affected industrial sites in Iran and is capable of taking over power plants.
The semi-official ISNA news agency says Iranian nuclear experts met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, dubbed Stuxnet, which can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.
Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July. It has since shown up in attacks in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.

By: Brant

25 September 2010

US Rolling Up Taliban Leadership

Another Taliban commander was captured in Afghanistan.

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed a Taliban military commission member for the Babaji area of Nad 'Ali District was captured during an overnight operation in Helmand province Thursday.

He was also assessed to be the new deputy military commander for the Lashkar Gah and Narh-e Saraj area. Additionally, a newly appointed Taliban military commander for the Babaji area was among those detained during the operation.

"Afghan and coalition forces are consistently targeting Taliban leadership operating in Helmand," said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. "The targeted individual replaced the former deputy commander after he was captured by Afghan-led forces earlier this month. In several areas throughout the country, insurgent commanders don't hold their positions long before they are captured. It's only a matter of time before the leadership of the Taliban are forced to leave Pakistan and join the fight in Afghanistan."

Based on intelligence reports, the security force targeted a remote compound in Nahr-e Saraj District to search for the commander. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the buildings peacefully and then the joint security force began to clear and secure the compound.

By: Brant

Legal Walls Crumbling Around DADT

A judge has ordered the Air Force to reinstate a lesbian flight nurse.

A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but Leighton is now the second federal judge this month to deem the policy unconstitutional.
Maj. Margaret Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back.

By: Brant

Red-Teaming Corruption in Afghanistan

Looking at the war from other points of view can make a big difference.

On a NATO base in Kabul, a five-member team is rethinking the war in Afghanistan and questioning some of the basic assumptions behind the effort to clean up corruption and gain the upper hand over the Taliban.

Among the ideas this so-called 'Red Team' is generating:

• Accept that Afghanistan's entrenched system of graft won't change overnight, so pick your battles.

• Recognize that for Afghans, some corruption is worse than others, so tackle what affects them day-to-day first.

• Study how the Taliban won power by exploiting Afghanistan's system of payoffs and patronage in the 1990s, and borrow those tactics.

The Red Team's studies are part of an evolution of thinking among diplomats, commanders and analysts alike that applying Western standards to combat corruption has not produced results fast enough.

Further, concentrating on what is most important to Americans — such as raiding Afghan government offices over large-scale abuses — has served only to alienate the government of President Hamid Karzai. Such raids have done little to erase the nickel-and-dime bribes Afghans have to pay to drive down a highway, or see a government doctor — the daily shakedowns that drive the people into the arms of the insurgents, who provide similar services without the graft.

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: The Ranks of the Army

Ever wonder what the rank insignia mean?

A young Second Lieutenant approaches the crusty old CSM and asked about the origin of the commissioned officer insignias.
The CSM replied, "It's history and tradition ... First we give you a gold bar representing that you are very valuable and also malleable. The silver bar also represents significant value, but is less malleable. When you make Captain, your value doubles, hence the two silver bars. As a Colonel you soar over military masses, hence the eagle. As a General, you are, obviously, a star. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes," said the Second Lieutenant, "but what about Majors and Lieutenant Colonels?"
"That goes waaaay back in history ... to the Garden of Eden even. You see we 've always covered our pricks with leaves."

By: Chuckles

JSF Costs Finally Under Control?

I guess converting the contract to a firm fixed price deal is one way to gain some cost certainty.

The Pentagon on Thursday said it had reached a "fixed-price" deal with Lockheed Martin to provide more F-35 fighter jets in a bid to contain the cost of the country's most expensive weapons program.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates touted the contract for 30 aircraft signed with Lockheed Martin as part of a broader effort to rein in military spending and force industry to control the costs of weapons projects, which are often overbudget and behind schedule.

"This type of contract shares the costs of overruns between the government and industry up to a fixed ceiling," Gates told a news conference.

"It also shares the rewards when the programs come in under cost," he said.

The fixed-fee contract, worth an estimated five billion dollars, was 15 to 20 percent below an independent cost estimate prepared earlier this year, he said.

By: Brant

Leave No Man Behind: WWII Edition

Another soldier has been identified in the Hürtgen Forest.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Sgt. Edward T. Jones, of West Pawlet, Vt., will be buried on Sept. 25 in Saratoga, N.Y. In November 1944, the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division was traveling east through the Hürtgen Forest in an attempt to capture the German towns of Vossenack and Schmidt. On Nov. 6, Jones and five other members of A Company, 112th Infantry Regiment, were killed in the town of Kommerscheidt when a German tank fired point-blank on their position.

In 2008, a German explosive ordnance disposal team, working at a construction site in the town of Kommerscheidt, found fragments of a World War II-era U.S. military boot. The team notified the German War Graves Commission who recovered remains of two individuals at the site and military equipment including two identification tags. The items were turned over to a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team in the area for further analysis.

By: Brant

24 September 2010

UK Nukes Off the Table?

The Brits are letting the US know that their nukes are not going away.

Britain has promised the United States that it will keep its nuclear deterrent as it makes plans for deep military spending cuts as part of an austerity drive, a report said Friday.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox made the pledge in talks this week with US counterpart Robert Gates after the Pentagon expressed concern at the scale of cuts planned by Britain's coalition government, The Times reported.

Fox has been ordered to cut his budget by up to 20 percent as the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, formed in May, battles to wipe out a record deficit of more than 150 billion pounds (230 billion dollars, 180 billion euros).

The Conservative minister is undertaking a defence review to decide where the axe should fall, which is due to report before Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announces wide-ranging cuts to public spending on October 20.

By: Brant

Some Spiffy Free Wargames for You

Something for your weekend - White Dog Games has a page of some very cool free wargames for you to check out.

By: Brant

Is The War A Success? How Can You Tell?

The Telegraph asks a very good question of its UK readers: If we were winning, how would you know?

They start with an accounting of the successes of the campaign...

Over a 90-day period this summer, 365 key Taliban commanders were either killed or captured in a total of 3,000 night raids carried out by British and American special forces units, operating predominantly in southern Afghanistan. Another 1,031 "rank and file" fighters were killed, and 1,355 taken into custody.
Not surprisingly, this unprecedented level of special forces activity is having a devastating impact on the Taliban's effectiveness and morale. British commanders have reported a significant drop in their casualty rates, while the number of roadside bombs has fallen by a quarter.
Equally important, the high attrition rate has led many potential Taliban recruits to have second thoughts about risking their lives for the cause. "When the average life expectancy of a commander is around six months, it certainly concentrates the minds of those who are thinking about joining the insurgency," says a senior British officer working with SAS units in Afghanistan. "Suddenly there is an awareness that there is a price to be paid for planting roadside bombs. Families are less keen to let their sons volunteer."

And then try to answer their own questions about the perceptions of the fight...

So why is it that all people want to discuss is our losses in Sangin, rather than our successes? Part of the answer lies in the strange reluctance of senior British officers to provide details of the scale of the carnage that is daily being inflicted on the Taliban. Normally, governments are only too eager to proclaim the military's successes in times of war, not least because of their propaganda value. Churchill sustained morale during the darkest hours of the Second World War with constant updates on enemy losses, while Thatcher was unequivocal in her praise of British victories in the Falklands.
Those responsible for prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, by contrast, fall silent when asked to provide details of enemy losses. The explanation, or so I was told by one Cabinet minister, is a concern that publishing details of Taliban deaths would play into the hands of anti-war campaigners, who would exploit the information for their own propaganda purposes. Politicians are also mindful of the impact the true level of Taliban casualties might have on British Muslims. There are already significant numbers who actively support the Taliban and its allies, and ministers have convinced themselves that the total would only grow if the movement's true plight were more widely known.
This policy of restraint, however, is self-defeating, because public support is crucial to the ultimate success of any military campaign. British backing for the effort in Afghanistan will continue to wane until we focus on our successes, rather than obsess about our failures.

By: Brant

So This Is What Blackwater Did Off Duty...

Wired's Danger Room blog has a shocking article on alleged out-of-control behavior by off-duty Blackwater employees in Iraq. Among the highlights:

... use of steroids and human growth hormone, testosterone, were pretty endemic to them and almost companywide ...

"company personnel had large amounts of cocaine and blocks of hashish and would run around naked.” Addled guards would step onto the balconies of the their rooms at the Hamra Hotel, point their automatic rifles at Iraqi housing complexes and open fire.

And to think I would look up at the Blackwater MD-500's buzzing over Baghdad and think "I wish I were that guy sitting on the skid with the tricked-out M4. He must be having more fun than me." Well, I guess he might have been, but it's not my kind of fun.

Kudos to the author, Spencer Ackerman, on the article's title, by the way: "Ain't No Party Like a Blackwater party, 'cause a Blackwater party Got Coke, 'Roids, and AK's." These Blackwater guys make Coolio (who wrote the rap song "Sumpin' New" with the often-paraphrased line) and his homies seem like a bunch of amateurs when it comes to partying.

By: Guardian