Category Archive 'War on Terror'
07 Jun 2010

“Collateral Murder” Video Leaker Arrested

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SPC Bradley Manning

Back in April, Wikileaks released a video of a US Apache helicopter firing on a group of armed Iraqis in southeastern Baghdad on July 12, 2007.

The video appeared in a shorter and longer version, titled “Collateral Murder,” accompanied by an extremely partisan commentary expressing open opposition to the US military effort in Iraq. An Iraqi employed as a news photographer by Reuters and his driver were killed in the course of the helicopter’s attack.

The perspective taken by the videos editors was that the helicopter’s attack was unwarranted and a war crime, and the video was edited and annotated in a fashion designed to persuade its viewers to accept that interpretation.

In reality, the Apache was operating in close cooperation with US infantry looking for armed insurgents who had engaged American troops in fierce fighting nearby a little while earlier. The group of Iraqis encountered by the helicopter undoubtedly included armed men who, despite being “relaxed” at the time and not at the moment actively engaged in combat with American forces, could very reasonably be supposed to be some of the hostile insurgents being pursued.

The Reuters photographer’s equipment probably was mistaken for a weapon, but combat requires quick decisions based on limited and imperfect information. The level of restraint implicitly expected by the video’s producers is completely unreasonable. If a photographer is carrying equipment easily mistaken for arms and places himself in the immediate vicinity of enemy forces who are really armed, his being fired upon should be no surprise to anyone.

“Collateral Murder” is a deeply dishonest piece of anti-US propaganda, and as such it was, of course, enthusiastically covered by HuffPo, Dan Froomkin, Rachel Maddow, and the rest of the leftwing commentariat.

The source of the leak which made the Apache’s video available for use against the United States was a 22 year old Army Intelligence analyst who has just been arrested. Wired has the story:

SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

US Intelligence for a change moved rapidly on this one. The leak that made all the news was in early April.

It does seem odd that someone of such extreme leftwing views would not only be serving in the volunteer Army, but would have been assigned to work in Intelligence and given a Top Secret clearance. What does it take, one wonders, to be disqualified from high level clearances?

22 Feb 2010

Freedom Reduced to “New Dawn”

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An exhausted US soldier

David Bellavia, author of a combat memoir of the battle of Fallujah for which his platoon received a Presidential Unit Citation, House to House, served as a Staff Sergeant in the First Infantry Division, and was awarded personally the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.

Bellavia reacted with some emotion, in this must-read blog posting, to the decision, reported in the New York Times, of the current administration (most of whose members opposed the war in Iraq) to change the name of the US military mission in Iraq from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

In my house I have a desk that is almost never opened. I think the last time I looked at it was around three years ago. I opened it as soon as I read the New York Times article yesterday.

There this giant scrapbook sits, still with the pricetag across the top. My wife had made this book for me that contains just about everything I have ever done in the Army.

And every picture of my friends. The living . The dead. …

[A] page in the scrapbook has a clear acetate pouch. Stuffed inside is a thick, folded sheet of blue paper. An Iraqi ballot I stole on January 30th 2005.

The sound of mortar fire fills my ears. The desk dissolves. Suddenly, I’m kneeling on a road, a palm grove to my front. Iraq. Election Day 2005.

The bullets are flying.

My squad runs through the searing heat and forms a wall of flesh and Kevlar between the incoming fire and the citizens standing in line behind us. They’ve turned out in their finest clothes to wait for the opportunity to cast a vote. For most, this moment is a defining one in their lives. They’ve never had a voice before. This means something to them, and they have used the moment as an object lesson for their children. They appear nervous and take photos. The kids stand with them in line, viewing first hand this revolution in Iraqi civics.

As they came to line up earlier that morning, the men thanked us and clasped their hands over their heads, striking a triumphant pose. Some of the women cried. The kids were on their best behavior.

The gunfire began that afternoon. Insurgents started to shoot them. My unit ran to the road and formed a protective position between the killers and the citizens going to the polls. As we scanned the palm grove in front of us, bullets cracked and whined, then mortars start thumping around us. My squad pushed into the palm grove. I stayed on the road, overseeing their movement and coordinating the heavy fire from the Bradleys.

The firefight ebbs. The mortar fire ceases. A few last stray rounds streak past. A cry from behind causes me to turn. Lying in the road is a young Iraqi woman. I run over to help. She’s caught a round just below her temple. Her stunning beauty has been ruined forever.

She cries, “Paper! Paper” over and over until the ambulance arrives to take her away. An old lady emerges from the schoolhouse-turned voting site, sheets of blue paper in hand. She gives one to the wounded girl, who clutches it to her like a prized possession even as the ambulance carries her away.

The ballot was her voice. All she wanted was a chance to exercise it, just once, before she died.

The old woman returns to the school house, but drops another ballot along the way. It drifts in a gentle breeze across the bloodstained asphalt. I stoop down and pick it up. It is all in Arabic, and I have no idea what each set of candidates advocate. That’s not my place, and it doesn’t really matter. I helped make this day happen. This ballot represents the reason why we’re here, why my friends had to die.

Carefully, I fold the ballot up and put it in my pocket. Even though I was 29 at the time , I’d only voted once.

I had taken something so precious for granted for far too long.

Now, in the safety of my own house, thousands of miles from danger and violence, this little blue paper, still with dark speckles of that woman’s blood, sits tucked away in this scrapbook.

That young woman wanted nothing else than the chance to explore her newfound freedom. She didn’t beg for help, or plead for her life. Voting would become her final act. In that moment, she matched our own sacrifices. Denfrund, Carlson, Sizemore. Iwan. Gonzales. Mock.

Our friends died to secure this day. And here on this road in Diyala, I saw proof that the blood spilled in this backward country had value. It made the cause noble and just. This may not mean much to someone who stands in opposition to our fight, but it is the legacy of our fallen. The honor of their sacrifice.

They gave their lives for others like me to come home. They died trying to preserve freedom for this woman.

They confronted those who wished to dominate a people in the name of violence and religion, who wished to destroy our culture and way of life. Even if most Americans may not understand who or what we fight, these men not only believed, many reenlisted to continue the fight until the war was won.

I came home in search of that woman’s spirit in the hearts of my fellow Americans. I came home expecting to find the sacrifice of these brave patriots revered at every turn by those who overwhelmingly sent us to war from Washington.

I’m still looking.

It would not be hard to come up with the right name for the American left’s consistent efforts to undermine the legitimacy of, destroy domestic support for, military efforts in which other American laid down their lives, either in the Vietnam era or during the war in Iraq. It’s easy to understand former Sergeant Bellavia’s bitterness at seeing his comrades sacrifices for the cause of freedom renamed and trivialized by precisely the same people on the homefront who did their best to ensure their failure.

15 Feb 2010

Obama Administration Killing Rather Than Capturing Insurgents

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Hellfire missiles don’t take prisoners.

The Washington Post is reporting that Obama Administration policies are having precisely the result that critics like MacRanger predicted long ago: [L]ook for many terrorist suspects not to get to the interrogation stage as they will most likely be “dispatched” in the field.

It’s inevitable. There is nowhere uncontroversial to imprison them. Presumably they will all be Mirandized now and given civilian trials, and even mildly coercive interrogation techniques have been absolutely ruled out. A captured terrorist leader is now never going to be a useful source of intelligence and, on the other hand, he is highly likely to become a political embarrassment. The choice becomes obvious.

The Obama administration has authorized [lethal] attacks more frequently than the George W. Bush administration did in its final years, including in countries where U.S. ground operations are officially unwelcome or especially dangerous. Improvements in electronic surveillance and precision targeting have made killing from a distance much more of a sure thing. At the same time, options for where to keep U.S. captives have dwindled.

Republican critics, already scornful of limits placed on interrogation of the suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt, charge that the administration has been too reluctant to risk an international incident or a domestic lawsuit to capture senior terrorism figures alive and imprison them.

“Over a year after taking office, the administration has still failed to answer the hard questions about what to do if we have the opportunity to capture and detain a terrorist overseas, which has made our terror-fighters reluctant to capture and left our allies confused,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Friday. “If given a choice between killing or capturing, we would probably kill.”

Some military and intelligence officials, citing what they see as a new bias toward kills, questioned whether valuable intelligence is being lost in the process. “We wanted to take a prisoner,” a senior military officer said of the Nabhan operation. “It was not a decision that we made.”

Even during the Bush administration, “there was an inclination to ‘just shoot the bastard,’ ” said a former intelligence official briefed on current operations. “But now there’s an even greater proclivity for doing it that way. . . . We need to have the capability to snatch when the situation calls for it.”

One problem identified by those within and outside the government is the question of where to take captives apprehended outside established war zones and cooperating countries. “We’ve been trying to decide this for over a year,” the senior military officer said. “When you don’t have a detention policy or a set of facilities,” he said, operational decisions become more difficult.

The administration has pledged to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Congress has resisted moving any of the about 190 detainees remaining there, let alone terrorism suspects who have been recently captured, to this country. All of the CIA’s former “black site” prisons have been shut down, and a U.S. official involved in operations planning confirmed that the agency has no terrorism suspects in its custody.

17 Dec 2009

Insurgents Have $26 Advantage

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The Wall Street Journal reports on an interesting feat of technical ingenuity by the enemy.

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

19 Oct 2009

Afghanistan is “The Base”

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Peter Bergin, in the New Republic, explains the centrality of Afghanistan to the US effort defeat Islamic terrorism.

(Najibullah) Zazi, a onetime coffee-cart operator on Wall Street and shuttle-van driver at the Denver airport, was planning what could have been the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since September 11. Prior to his arrest last month, the FBI discovered pages of handwritten notes on his laptop detailing how to turn common, store-bought chemicals into bombs. If proven guilty, Zazi would be the first genuine Al Qaeda recruit discovered in the United States in the past few years.

The novel details of the case were sobering. Few Americans, after all, were expecting to be terrorized by an Al Qaeda agent wielding hair dye. But it was perhaps the least surprising fact about Zazi that was arguably the most consequential: where he is said to have trained.

In August 2008, prosecutors allege, Zazi traveled to Pakistan’s tribal regions and studied explosives with Al Qaeda members. If that story sounds familiar, it should: Nearly every major jihadist plot against Western targets in the last two decades somehow leads back to Afghanistan or Pakistan. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was masterminded by Ramzi Yousef, who had trained in an Al Qaeda camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Ahmed Ressam, who plotted to blow up LAX airport in 1999, was trained in Al Qaeda’s Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. Key operatives in the suicide attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000 trained in Afghanistan; so did all 19 September 11 hijackers. The leader of the 2002 Bali attack that killed more than 200 people, mostly Western tourists, was a veteran of the Afghan camps. The ringleader of the 2005 London subway bombing was trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The British plotters who planned to blow up passenger planes leaving Heathrow in the summer of 2006 were taking direction from Pakistan; a July 25, 2006, e-mail from their Al Qaeda handler in that country, Rashid Rauf, urged them to “get a move on.” If that attack had succeeded, as many as 1,500 would have died. The three men who, in 2007, were planning to attack Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. facility in Germany, had trained in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

And yet, as President Obama weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, the connection between the region and Al Qaeda has suddenly become a matter of hot dispute in Washington. We are told that September 11 was as much a product of plotting in Hamburg as in Afghanistan; that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are quite distinct groups, and that we can therefore defeat the former while tolerating the latter; that flushing jihadists out of one failing state will merely cause them to pop up in another anarchic corner of the globe; that, in the age of the Internet, denying terrorists a physical safe haven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

These arguments point toward one conclusion: The effort to secure Afghanistan is not a matter of vital U.S. interest. But those who make this case could not be more mistaken. Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism-and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.

A young Osama Bin Laden first arrived in the region around 1980 to wage jihad against the Soviets; he would spend most of his adult life in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda leaders have, since the ’80s, developed deep relationships with key Taliban commanders based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and members of the Haqqani family. Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, has even married into a local tribe. …

Al Qaeda’s leaders are themselves keenly aware of the importance of maintaining a safe haven. The very words Al Qaeda mean “the base” in Arabic; and, as bin Laden explained in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2001, the name is not a reference to some kind of abstract foundation but, rather, to a physical spot for training: “Abu Ubaidah Al Banjshiri [an early military commander of Al Qaeda] created a military base to train the young men to fight. … So this place was called ‘The Base,’ as in a training base, and the name grew from this.”

But it isn’t just a safe haven that Al Qaeda wants; it is a state. As Zawahiri explained shortly after September 11 in his autobiographical Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, “Confronting the enemies of Islam, and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land that raises the banner of jihad and rallies the Muslims around it. Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” No wonder Al Qaeda remains so committed to Afghanistan-and so deeply invested in helping the Taliban succeed.

25 Aug 2009

AP: US Interrogators Got Only Two Weeks Training

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US Special Operations-trained Interrogation Caterpillar. These guys are fierce.

Pamela Hess and Matt Appuzzo, writing for some news agency, are trying to shocking a nation’s conscience.

With just two weeks of training, or about half the time it takes to become a truck driver, the CIA certified its spies as interrogation experts after 9/11 and handed them the keys to the most coercive tactics in the agency’s arsenal.

Can you imagine? Just because some Muslim terrorists killed a lousy 3000 Americans and produced some mere billions of dollars worth of physical destruction and economic disruption, the Bush Administration actually allowed people with only two weeks of federal training to slap terrorists, pour water on them, and (worst of all) to expose them to caterpillar attack.

Hat tip to Stephen Frankel.

Unlike the US, Al Qaeda provided appropriately thorough training. They even produced a manual.

04 Jul 2009

Afghan Auto Tour

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(PowerPoint needed for this one. Be patient. It’s a big download.)

A classmate passed along to me this PowerPoint slideshow (originally titled: CarreterasAfganistan1) of 58 photos of military operations in Afghanistan. Good 4th of July viewing featuring remarkable photos of US forces operating in spectacular terrain.

I wish I could properly credit these, but the slideshow was evidently one of those virally-distributed emails which arrives anonymously. The file and and some credits offer the clue that it came originally from a Spanish-language source.

17 Apr 2009

Closing a Green and an Ichorous Chapter

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US Special Operations-trained Interrogation Caterpillar will soon be retired

Abe Greenwald is proud that we are turning the page on a green and ichorous chapter in American history and will no longer be deploying garden pests in our contingency operations opposing man-caused disasters.

17 Apr 2009

Obama: “A Dark and Painful Chapter”

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Barack Obama’s Justice Department yesterday grudgingly announced that it was going to refrain from prosecuting US Intelligence Officer and military contractors for war crimes consisting of interrogating terrorists involved in conspiracies to commit acts of mass murder on US civilians.

Obama did, however, refer to the the Bush Administration’s successful efforts to prevent major attacks on US population centers post-9/11 as “a dark and painful chapter in our history” conflicting with the US functioning as “a nation of laws” and with American “core values.”

Chicago Tribune

Obama’s statement

David Axelrod says that Barack Obama searched his soul for a whole month before deciding that continuing partisan games by releasing for finger-pointing purposes memos from the previous administration on interrogation policy was worth the costs to National Security.

DOJ Memo 8/1/2002

DOJ Memo 5/10/2005 – 46 pages

DOJ Memo 5/10/2005 – 20 pages

DOJ Memo 5/30/05

One former Bush Administration official commented on the president’s decision.


A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”

“It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

“I don’t believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”


Dick Cheney commented in an interview earlier this year:

I can tell you what the policy was; I can tell you that we had all the legal authorization we needed to do it, including the sign-off of the Justice Department. I can tell you it produced phenomenal results for us, and that a great many Americans are alive today because we did all that. And I think those are the important considerations

26 Feb 2009

Ambushed on the Potomac

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George W. Bush confronting the bureaucracies

In the National Interest, Richard Perle describes the fatal disconnect between George W. Bush’s professed policies and the entrenched State Department and National Security bureaucracies’ failure to implement them. Not only were Bush’s policies not faithfully pursued, in many cases, they were openly attacked and covertly undermined by leaks and disinformation operations.

Perle additionally debunks the left’s favorite bogey: the sinister imperialist “neocon” conpiracy. In recent years, neocon came to be used as a leftwing pejorative for someone supposedly guilty of responsibility for a new, more virulent and objectionable form of conservatism, inclined to unilateral militarism overseas and supportive of hypersecurity measures at homes. The left entirely managed to forget that a neocon is really a (typically Jewish intellectual) former liberal who has been “mugged by reality” and become a foreign policy and law enforcement hawk in response to the excesses of the radical left post the late 1960s. Dick Cheney, who has always been a conservative, for instance, cannot possibly be classified as a neocon.

For eight years George W. Bush pulled the levers of government—sometimes frantically—never realizing that they were disconnected from the machinery and the exertion was largely futile. As a result, the foreign and security policies declared by the president in speeches, in public and private meetings, in backgrounders and memoranda often had little or no effect on the activities of the sprawling bureaucracies charged with carrying out the president’s policies. They didn’t need his directives: they had their own. …

The responsibility for an ill-advised occupation and an inadequate regional strategy ultimately lies with President Bush himself. He failed to oversee the post-Saddam strategy, intervening only sporadically when things had deteriorated to the point where confidence in cabinet-level management could no longer be sustained. He did finally assert presidential authority when he rejected the defeatist advice of the Baker-Hamilton commission and Condi Rice’s State Department, ordering instead the “surge,” a decision that he surely hopes will eclipse the dismal period from 2004 to January 2007. But that is but one victory for the White House among many failures at Langley, at the Pentagon and in Foggy Bottom. …

Understanding Bush’s foreign and defense policy requires clarity about its origins and the thinking behind the administration’s key decisions. That means rejecting the false claim that the decision to remove Saddam, and Bush policies generally, were made or significantly influenced by a few neoconservative “ideologues” who are most often described as having hidden their agenda of imperial ambition or the imposition of democracy by force or the promotion of Israeli interests at the expense of American ones or the reshaping of the Middle East for oil—or all of the above. Despite its seemingly endless repetition by politicians, academics, journalists and bloggers, that is not a serious argument. …

I believe that Bush went to war for the reasons—and only the reasons—he gave at the time: because he believed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States that was far greater than the likely cost of removing him from power. …

[T]he salient issue was not whether Saddam had stockpiles of WMD but whether he could produce them and place them in the hands of terrorists. The administration’s appalling inability to explain that this is what it was thinking and doing allowed the unearthing of stockpiles to become the test of whether it had correctly assessed the risk that Saddam might provide WMD to terrorists. When none were found, the administration appeared to have failed the test even though considerable evidence of Saddam’s capability to produce WMD was found in postwar inspections by the Iraq Survey Group chaired by Charles Duelfer.

I am not alone in having been asked, “If you knew that Saddam did not have WMD, would you still have supported invading Iraq?” But what appears to some to be a “gotcha” question actually misses the point. The decision to remove Saddam stands or falls on one’s judgment at the time the decision was made, and with the information then available, about how to manage the risk that he would facilitate a catastrophic attack on the United States. To say the decision to remove him was mistaken because stockpiles of WMD were never found is akin to saying that it was a mistake to buy fire insurance last year because your house didn’t burn down or health insurance because you didn’t become ill. …

I believe the cost of removing Saddam and achieving a stable future for Iraq has turned out to be very much higher than it should have been, and certainly higher than it was reasonable to expect.

But about the many mistakes made in Iraq, one thing is certain: they had nothing to do with ideology. They did not draw inspiration from or reflect neoconservative ideas and they were not the product of philosophical or ideological influences outside the government. …

If ever there were a security policy that lacked philosophical underpinnings, it was that of the Bush administration. Whenever the president attempted to lay out a philosophy, as in his argument for encouraging the freedom of expression and dissent that might advance democratic institutions abroad, it was throttled in its infancy by opponents within and outside the administration.

I believe Bush ultimately failed to grasp the demands of the American presidency. He saw himself (MBA that he was) as a chief executive whose job was to give broad direction that would then be automatically translated into specific policies and faithfully implemented by the departments of the executive branch. I doubt that such an approach could be made to work. But without a team that shared his ideas and a determination to see them realized, there was no chance he could succeed. His carefully drafted, often eloquent speeches, intended as marching orders, were seldom developed into concrete policies. And when his ideas ran counter to the conventional wisdom of the executive departments, as they often did, debilitating compromise was the result: the president spoke the words and the departments pronounced the policies.

Read the whole thing.

05 Feb 2009

Russia Adds to Logistical Problems For US Forces in Afghanistan

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Taliban militants have concentrated their efforts for months on interdicting US supply routes to Afghanistan from the port of Karachi, Pakistan.

75 percent of the supplies for the Afghan war pass through Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel used by US military forces.

The Khyber Pass, described by Kipling as “a sword cut through the mountains,” features a winding road 30 miles/48 km long through the mountains of the Hindu Kush a crucial part of the trade route between Peshawar and Jallabad.

LA Times:

Reporting from Istanbul, Turkey, and Peshawar, Pakistan — A day after blowing up a crucial land bridge, Taliban militants torched 10 supply trucks returning from Afghanistan to Pakistan on Wednesday, underscoring the insurgents’ dominance of the main route used to transport supplies to Afghan-based U.S. and NATO troops.

Months of disruptions on the route from the Pakistani port of Karachi through the historic Khyber Pass have forced NATO and American military authorities to look for other transit options. About three-quarters of the supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan — mainly food and fuel — are ferried through Pakistan by contractors, usually poorly paid, semiliterate truckers. Many now refuse to drive the route because of the danger.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said last month during a visit to the region that routes outside Pakistan had been found, but he provided no details and gave no timetable for their use. The supply question has taken on added urgency with the planned deployment of up to 30,000 more U.S. troops in the Afghan theater in the next 18 months.

The complications of moving supplies through Central Asia were also highlighted Tuesday when the government of Kyrgyzstan said it would close a U.S. air base important to the Afghan war effort. U.S. officials said talks were underway to keep the base open.


That closure results from our Russian friends’ latest move in playing the great game.

Investors Business Daily:

The Russia of Vladimir Putin and his puppet, President Dmitry Medvedev, threw some sand in our gears by getting the Kyrgyz government to close a vital NATO air base in that country in exchange for more than $2 billion in aid for that country’s struggling economy.

Russia has long resisted and resented U.S. interference in former Soviet republics as well as the expansion of NATO and democracy to the Russian border. It has put economic pressure on Ukraine, invaded Georgia and threatened Poland with missile attack. Now it wants to sabotage our efforts in Afghanistan, a country it failed to swallow up.

Two weeks ago, Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, met with senior Kyrgyz officials during a tour of the region, and they assured him there were no discussions with Moscow about closing the base in exchange for aid.

Petraeus announced on inauguration day that Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations had agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening our dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan.

That need was shown Tuesday, when insurgents in Pakistan blew up a bridge in the Khyber Pass, disrupting one of two truck routes from the port of Karachi by which the 60,000 U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan receive about 80% of their supplies.

“We have sought additional logistical routes into Afghanistan from the north. There have been agreements reached,” Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said.

But as Moscow was offering new supply lines, it was also bribing the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to close the base at Manas by agreeing to provide Kyrgyzstan with $150 million in aid, to extend $2 billion in loans and to write off debt worth $180 million. Bakiyev made the announcement in Moscow.

The Russian business daily Kommersant, citing a “source close to the negotiations” with Bakiyev, said Moscow had made the U.S. base closure a strict condition for Kyrgyzstan getting aid.

03 Feb 2009

Aliens From Planet Islam

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Ralph Peters takes the Heinleinian view of our Taliban adversaries.

A fundamental reason why our intelligence agencies, military leaders and (above all) Washington pols can’t understand Afghanistan is that they don’t recognize that we’re dealing with alien life-forms.

Oh, the strange-minded aliens in question resemble us physically. We share a few common needs: We and the aliens are oxygen breathers who require food and water at frequent intervals. Our body casings feel heat or cold. We’re divided into two sexes (more or less). And we’re mortal.

But that’s about where the similarities end, analytically speaking. …

Regarding Planet Afghanistan, we still hear the deadly cliché that “all human beings want the same basic things, such as better lives and greater opportunities for their children.” How does that apply to Afghan aliens who prefer their crude way of life and its merciless cults?

When girls and women are denied education or even health care and are executed by their own kin for minor infractions against the cult, how does that square with our insistence that all men want greater opportunities for the kids?

What about those Afghan parents who approve of or even encourage suicidal attacks by their sons? This not only confounds our value system, but defies biological reason.

So: These humanoid forms with which we must deal don’t all want or value the same things we do. They form different social aggregates and exchange goods and services within wildly different parameters (and exhibit hypocritical sexual tastes that diverge from procreative mandates – ask our troops about that).

These alien tribes seek to destroy physical objects and systems valued on Planet America. They perceive time differently. They treat other life forms more harshly than we do. Their own lives are shorter, with different arcs. They quite like our weapons, though .

This is a “war of the worlds” in the cultural sense, a head-on collision between civilizations from different galaxies.

And the aliens don’t come in peace.

Read the whole thing.

23 Jan 2009

Even Bush Played Catch-and-Release

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New York Times notes that another satisfied client of Shearman & Sterling has returned to his normal life.

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.

“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. …

Mr. Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and he later told American investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a hospital in Pakistan.

The documents state that Mr. Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious order, issued by an extremist cleric.

However, under a heading describing reasons for Mr. Shihri’s possible release from Guantánamo, the documents say he claimed that he traveled to Iran “to purchase carpets for his store” in Saudi Arabia. They also say that he denied knowledge of any terrorists or terrorist activities, and that he “related that if released, he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would reunite with his family.”

“The detainee stated he would attempt to work at his family’s furniture store if it is still in business,” the documents say.

This terrorist, let’s recall, was released by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, along with dozens of others who have rejoined the jihad. Obama has 245 he can release.

22 Jan 2009

Obama’s First Presidential Act

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Barack Hussein Obama opened his administration by addressing America’s first priority: the protection of terrorists and illegal combatants.

The Guantanamo Detention Center is to be closed “within a year.”

The CIA is to close its network of covert overseas detention facilities.

Interrogation methods used by US Intelligence agencies will be limited to those approved by the US Army Field Manual

New York Times story


Spook86 predicts that the worst of the lot will go to the Federal Maximum Security Prison in Florence, Colorado, and that the new load on the federal court system will provoke the creation of a new Federal Security Court system.

MacRanger predicts that the impact of the Obama reforms will assure a lot fewer illegal combatants are taken alive.

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