Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Taliban are not moderates

Bob Kerrey in the WSJ:


"Afghanistan is also not Iraq. No serious leader in Kabul is asking us to leave. Instead we are being asked to withdraw by American leaders who begin their analysis with the presumption that victory is not possible. They seem to want to ensure defeat by leaving at the very moment when our military leader on the ground has laid out a coherent and compelling strategy for victory.

"When it comes to foreign policy, almost nothing matters more than your friends and your enemies knowing you will keep your word and follow through on your commitments. This is the real test of presidential leadership. I hope that President Obama—soon to be a Nobel laureate—passes with flying colors."


Ed Morrissey writes in Hot Air:

" The Taliban are not moderates, and they share the same ideological, political, and tactical goals as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Anyone saying anything differently is simply selling a false argument for a dishonorable retreat in the face of our enemies.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Strategic Mistake

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

"In a stern warning to critics of a continued troop presence in Afghanistan, Gates said the Islamic extremist Taliban and al-Qaida would perceive an early pullout as a victory over the United States as similar to the Soviet Union's humiliating withdrawal in 1989 after a 10-year war.

''The notion of timelines and exit strategies and so on, frankly, I think would all be a strategic mistake. The reality is, failure in Afghanistan would be a huge setback for the United States,'' Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's ''State of the Union.''

''Taliban and al-Qaida, as far as they're concerned, defeated one superpower. For them to be seen to defeat a second, I think, would have catastrophic consequences in terms of energizing the extremist movement, al-Qaida recruitment, operations, fundraising, and so on. I think it would be a huge setback for the United States.''

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

HBO: The Pacific

HBO has the first preview/trailer of The Pacific. I'm anxious already...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Terrorists Killing Themselves in Gaza


Christmas has come early:

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) – Palestinian Islamists Hamas struck back at an al-Qaeda challenge to their hold on the Gaza Strip by storming a mosque in battles that left the leader of the "Warriors of God" splinter group among up to 28 dead.

When fighting ended in the town of Rafah early on Saturday, Hamassaid the preacher-physician who led the group and who had proclaimed an al Qaeda-style Islamic "emirate" from a mosque on Friday was dead -- blown up by his own hand along with a Syrian ally and killing a mediator trying to negotiate a truce.

Long War Journal has more:

Heavy fighting broke out between Hamas and an al Qaeda linked group that called for the creation of an Islamic state in Gaza. Thirteen people, including the leader of both groups' military wings, were reported killed and 85 more were wounded after Hamas attacked following sermon at a mosque in Rafah.

Abdel Latif Moussa, the leader of the Jund Ansar Allah, triggered the violent clashes after he said Hamas is insufficiently Islamic and created an Islamic emirate, or state, in Rafah which would eventually spread throughout the Palestinian territories.

Moussa, who goes by the name Abu al Nour al Maqdissi, swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden during his controversial Friday sermon, which was attended by several hundred followers. Moussa surrounded himself with five masked gunmen armed with assault rifles; one wore what appeared to be a suicide belt.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Ground Intelligence

FOX News:

According to a number of senior U.S. officials involved in the counterterrorism fight, the strike that killed Mehsud and other recent Predator drone activity in Pakistan's tribal areas indicate that the relationship with a once shaky ally in the war on terror has turned the corner in recent months.

U.S. officials and commanders had been frustrated until recently that Pakistan was not ready to make the leap and share intelligence on where some local Taliban commanders were located, impeding American efforts to eliminate them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Communications in Afghanistan


Wired and Michael Yon recently wrote about the status of communications for the troops in Afghanistan, sometimes known as "comfort calls."


Wired pointed out that for some of the troops, limited access to phone and email back home had some positive effects:

Corporal Max Nellis, an Army military policeman stationed here, said that, speaking for himself, he didn’t mind working at such an austere location.

“This is great,” he said. “No internet, no [cell] phones, one call a week to my wife. It’s not sarcasm: It makes it a lot easier for me to focus on my job.”

Satellite phones and high bandwidth satellite-based internet are an indispensable asset for providing reach back communications to military families in an austere environment. But it comes at a steep price. Michael Yon goes into more detail:

Without such a terminal, large numbers of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors will be without regular communications for much or most of their time in Afghanistan. The infrastructure is Spartan to non-existent. Life here is tougher than it was in Iraq, and the fighting will be tougher still. Yes, there are the gigantic bases—as in Iraq—where everything is available, but little of the war is being fought from the larger bases.

Extended battlefield journalism from Afghanistan is relatively non-existent. Broadly speaking, folks at home will not know how their loved ones are doing unless they can communicate directly. To learn more about the effort to send satellite communications gear to troops downrange, please see Operation AC.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Livin' the dream, Sir!"

"The U.S. Marines are a spectacle for the U.S. Army and also the British Army. The Marines will come in and live like pure animals, and build a base around themselves, whereas the British and American Armies will tend to build at least part of the base before coming in. One Marine commander told me that during the early part of this war, his men didn’t even shower for three months. We talked for a couple of hours and he was proud that his Marines didn’t need a shower for three months, and that his Marines killed a lot of Taliban and managed to lose only one good man. That’s the Marines. They’ll show up in force with no warning, and their reputation with U.S. Army and Brits who have fought alongside them is stellar. A NPR photographer who just spent more than three weeks with the Marines could not praise them enough, saying he’d been with them in Iraq, too, and that when Marines take casualties, their reaction is to continue to attack. They try to stay in contact until they finish the enemy, no matter how long it takes. Truly they are animals when it comes to the fight. Other than that, great guys. Tonight at dinner, a young Marine Lance Corporal sat in front of me at the crowded dining facility. “Good evening, Sir,” he said. I asked, “Are you living like animals out there?” “Livin’ the dream, Sir!” They are fantastic."

Hope In Afghanistan

"Refugees don’t return to places they don’t think have a future, and more than four million Afghan refugees have returned home since the fall of the Taliban. (By contrast, about the same number of Iraqi refugees fled their homes after the American-led invasion of their country in 2003, and few have returned.) There are also more than two million Afghan kids in schools, including, of course, many girls. Music, kites, movies, independent newspapers, and TV stations—all of which were banned under the Taliban—are now ubiquitous. One in six Afghans now has a cell phone, in a country that didn’t have a phone system under the Taliban. And, according to the World Bank, the 2007 GDP growth rate for Afghanistan was 14 percent. Under Taliban rule the country was so poor that the World Bank didn’t even bother to measure its economic indicators."

Who Needs Kentucky Windage?


iPhone Apps and other weapon accessories at Wired.

"It's not a theocracy anymore"

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and a co-author of an exhaustive study of the corps for the RAND Corporation. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Irony

Jeffrey Goldberg:

"Jews are floating around in the Persian Gulf with nuclear weapons in German subs that are aimed at the new Hitler. If you step away from your personal feelings about it, it’s just fascinating."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Has The War In Iraq Helped Germinate A Rebellion In Iran?


"...it is very hard to overstate the significance of the statement made last Saturday by the Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qum, a much-respected source of religious rulings, which has in effect come right out with it and said that the recent farcical and prearranged plebiscite in the country was just that: a sham event. (In this, the clerics of Qum are a lot more clear-eyed than many American "experts" on Iranian public opinion, who were busy until recently writing about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rough-hewn man of the people.)

Which begs the question...

"...Did the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the subsequent holding of competitive elections in which many rival Iraqi Shiite parties took part, have any germinal influence on the astonishing events in Iran? Certainly when I interviewed Sayeed Khomeini in Qum some years ago, where he spoke openly about "the liberation of Iraq," he seemed to hope and believe that the example would spread. One swallow does not make a summer. But consider this: Many Iranians go as religious pilgrims to the holy sites of Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq. They have seen the way in which national and local elections have been held, more or less fairly and openly, with different Iraqi Shiite parties having to bid for votes (and with those parties aligned with Iran's regime doing less and less well). They have seen an often turbulent Iraqi Parliament holding genuine debates that are reported with reasonable fairness in the Iraqi media. Meanwhile, an Iranian mullah caste that classifies its own people as children who are mere wards of the state puts on a "let's pretend" election and even then tries to fix the outcome. Iranians by no means like to take their tune from Arabs—perhaps least of all from Iraqis—but watching something like the real thing next door may well have increased the appetite for the genuine article in Iran itself."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"It'd be so great if we took contact"

The Marines In Afghanistan On patrol in the Afghan heat:

Sweat pours off faces as Marines shift heavy weapons from one shoulder to the other. Everyone still carries all the ammunition they arrived with in the dark hours of early Thursday, because this unit has not yet exchanged fire.

The Marines walk in columns down dusty dirt roads, and every couple dozen steps they bend over at the waist to give aching shoulders a break. During frequent breaks, medics go up and down the line, looking to see if their men are drinking water.

"It'd be so great if we took contact. We'd lose so much weight," said Lance Corp. Michael Estrada, 20, of Los Angeles.

Lance Corp. Bryan Knight, a mortar man, carries one of the heaviest pack. The 21-year-old Cincinnati native weighs a slight 145 pounds (65.8 kilograms) - and his pack almost equals him.

He carries a 15-pound (6.8-kilogram) mortar base plate, four mortar rockets that weigh 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) each, about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) of water and another 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms) of combat gear - ammunition, weapon and his flak jacket.

Unsurprisingly, he is drenched in sweat. "The only dry parts of my clothes are the pockets," he said.

Squatting in a lean-to made out of a camouflage poncho beside Knight was Corp. Aaron Shade, 24, of Greenville, Ohio, who hadn't realized it was Independence Day back home in the U.S.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bin Laden in America

The New Yorker:

"The question of whether Osama bin Laden has ever visited the United States, a subject on which I have expended an unhealthy amount of energy in the course of various journalistic and biographical research, has now seemingly been settled. Osama was here for two weeks in 1979, it seems, and he visited Indiana and Los Angeles, among other places. He had a favorable encounter with an American medical doctor; he also reportedly met in Los Angeles with his spiritual mentor of the time, the Palestinian radical Abdullah Azzam. All this is according to a forthcoming book by Osama’s first wife, Najwa Bin Laden, and his son Omar Bin Laden, to be published in the autumn by St. Martin’s Press."

Read the rest.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Female Marines

Utilizing female Marines to gather Intelligence:
"The marines have a different attitude towards this. As they put it, "every marine a rifleman." In practice, this means that the majority of marines, who have combat support jobs, continue to get infantry training. So the marines in Iraq called these all-female teams (3-5 women) Lionesses. Again, no shortage of volunteers, as female marines, even more than their sisters in the army, were eager to get into the fight. But that's not what the lioness teams were created for. What the marines had also noticed was that the female marines tended to get useful information out of the women they searched. Iraqi women were surprised, and often awed, when they encountered these female soldiers and marines. The awe often turned into cooperation. Most Iraqi women are much less enthusiastic about fighting the Americans than their men folk (who die in large numbers when they do so.) Being a widow is much harder in the Arab world than it is in the West."

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Ayatollahs

"It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison."


Monday, June 08, 2009

State-sponsored Madrasah

Christopher Hitchens has an interesting take on GITMO in Slate:
"Suppose that you were a secular or unfanatical person caught in the net by mistake; you would still find yourself being compelled to pray five times a day (the guards are not permitted to interrupt), to have a Quran in your cell, and to eat food prepared to halal (or Sharia) standards. I suppose you could ask to abstain, but, in such a case, I wouldn't much fancy your chances. The officers in charge were so pleased by this ability to show off their extreme broad-mindedness in respect of Islam that they looked almost hurt when I asked how they justified the use of taxpayers' money to create an institution dedicated to the fervent practice of the most extreme version of just one religion. To the huge list of reasons to close down Guantanamo, add this: It's a state-sponsored madrasah."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

How to fight North Korea

Nicholas Guariglia writes:

"...start a serious reverse-propaganda program of beaming real information into North Korea, similar to Radio Free Europe at the end of the Cold War. We should weaken the tyrant’s rule from within; when done properly, it works almost every time. To paraphrase my friend Michael Ledeen: there are many ways to destroy a dictator when you have his oppressed people on your side."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Missile Defense


The 'why's' of torture

An incredibly thoughtful article by Noemie Emery of the Washington Examiner:

In the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was offered the use of a bullet that exploded inside the body, doing the victim incredible damage. Lincoln approved it: It would shorten the war. For the same reason - to shorten the war – President Harry S Truman incinerated not one but two Japanese cities. Neither man is considered a war criminal (except by Bill Maher), as they took some lives to save more lives, specifically those entrusted to them, and to preserve a political system less unjust than the ones they were fighting.
 
Their guilt is absolved by their intent, which was to save lives, and a more benign social order. Yet liberals, who apply the motive defense in trying to exonerate perpetrators of criminal violence - the accused was stressed out, he ate Twinkies, he was deprived as a child, etc. - seem strangely unwilling to extend this to those who made use of ‘harsh’ tactics to forestall further attacks after thousands had perished in the most torturous manner on Sept. 11, 2001.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just who is crazy?

John Bolton or Allison Kilkenny?

Happy Memorial Day


Jeff Emanual writes:

Despite taking place in the Information Age, very few of the heroic exploits of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines since September 11, 2001, have made their way into the living rooms of ordinary Americans — at least in any lasting way.

Whether this is the result of changing values among the American people, the general population’s perpetually dwindling attention span, or because there are so many things closer to home our nation is choosing to focus on instead of our service men and women’s gallant deeds and efforts (whether that be a rocky national economy or the latest season ofAmerican Idol), the fact is this generation has failed to identify and treasure its incarnations of historic military heroes like Audie Murphy,Jimmy DoolittlePappy BoyingtonBill PitsenbargerBud Day, and countless others.

This disappointing reality is not unique to the current decade. Who, for example, can name the most recent pre-global war on terror (GWOT) recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor? The names of Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon — two Army special operations sergeants who received the nation’s highest award for their heroic actions in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 — are utterly foreign to the vast majority of the same American population that can name the latest movie star to file for divorce, the latest starlet to have borne a child out of wedlock, or the latest teen sensation to enter alcohol rehab.

Part of the problem is a lack of reporting on stories of true heroism among the men and women serving this country in war zones around the world. After all, how can people know of the deeds being done by our best and brightest if the news media — whose sole raison d’ĂȘtre is to report on deeds and events — doesn’t the job it exists to do?

This lack of reporting on American military heroism isn’t due to a lack of media access to the military in any form. On the contrary, Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom have begun a new era of access for journalists who desire to observe firsthand coalition military operations abroad, on the front lines, or in the rear, as part of the Department of Defense’s media embed program.

The ability to embed with coalition troops and report from the battlefront has spawned a new generation of independent combat journalists. Intrepid individuals — often veterans — like Michael Yon, J.D. Johannes, Michael Totten, Bill Roggio, Pat Dollard, and Bill Ardolino have followed in the footsteps of legendary World War II reporter Ernie Pyle, giving generously of their time and resources to travel to and within the combat zones that make up the many fronts of the global war on terror, for the dual purpose of accurately reporting on events (something so many media outlets have demonstrated time and again that they are incapable of doing) and of telling stories that simply would not make it back to the American people any other way.

However, a mere handful of individuals cannot, by themselves, provide a nation with enough of that which it so desperately needs in this age of ephemeral pleasures and doom-and-gloom news reports: true stories of courage and sacrifice, bravery, and gallantry shown by our fighting men and women around the world on a daily basis.

In reality, there have been countless cases of exceptional courage under fire to this point in the war on terror, and there will doubtless be many more before this generational conflict has drawn to a close.

It is clichĂ© (but entirely accurate) to say that every man and woman fighting for America deserves respect and acknowledgment. It is also accurate, though, that there are some who go above and beyond even the bravery and valor shown by the “average” soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who puts his or her life on the line, day in and day out, in defense of America and in pursuit of our nation’s goals, safety, and interests.

Names like Eric Moser and Chris Corriveau, two paratroopers who stood shoulder-to-shoulder against dozens of al-Qaeda fighters on a rooftop in Iraq, fighting for their lives and for their country’s honor; Zach Rhyner, an Air Force combat controller who saved the lives of dozens of American special forces soldiers through his quick, effective actions in the middle of an overwhelming Taliban ambush; and Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who leapt onto an enemy grenade, sacrificing himself to save the lives of his teammates despite the fact he was the only person who could have escaped the blast with his life, are far more deserving of remembrance than are the pop idols with which our nation has filled the place formerly reserved for such true heroes as these.

LGF also notes a new software application for Google Earth: Map the fallen

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A 60 Mph Unmanned Tank


The Ripsaw:


"Every engineer they consulted said they couldn’t best the 42mph top speed of an M1A Abrams, the most powerful tank in the world. Other tanks are built to protect the people inside, with frames made of heavy armored-steel plates. Designed for rugged unmanned missions, the Ripsaw just needed to go fast, so the brothers started trimming weight. First they built a frame of welded steel tubes, like the ones used by Nascar, that provides 50 percent more strength at half the weight."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Upgraded B-2 Bomber


Its unmistakable teardrop profile is shrouded in the blur of a condensation cloud as it reaches high subsonic speed.

The striking image of the B-2, officially known as the Spirit Bomber, was taken as the aircraft soared over Palmdale, near Los Angeles.

It was released to coincide with the announcement of upgraded military software for the United States Air Force's fleet of 20 B-2s.


Maybe Nukes Aren't So Bad

Thomas P.M. Barnett, writing in Esquire, is certain to make the anti-war crowd apoplectic:


George W. Bush had his "axis of evil," while Obama seems to find nuclear weapons to represent a kind of natural evil unto themselves — no matter who possesses them. Now the twentysomethings in Prague may have cheered his invocations of "hope" and "change," and others may be jumping on board, but I've discovered something in my years of global-strategy analysis, and it's not the deadly fatalism Obama describes — it's the modern realism he ignores: Nuclear weapons are the single best thing that has ever happened in mankind's long history of war.


Barnett is no raging neo-con, and he has been highly critical of Bush on more than one occasion.

Monday, April 27, 2009

America finally on the offense in Cyber War

Maybe. The New York Times:
"When American forces in Iraq wanted to lure members of Al Qaeda into a trap, they hacked into one of the group’s computers and altered information that drove them into American gun sights.

...

"In interviews over the past several months, a range of military and intelligence officials, as well as outside experts, have described a huge increase in the sophistication of American cyberwarfare capabilities."

If only the government could also ensure computers with highly classified material aren't plugged into the world wide web, exposing them to hackers. The F-35, Marine One... what's next?

Marines on the trail of tracking

Michael Yon in Borneo at Tracking School:

Apparently the Dutch will not be coming for the big exercise, though I am told that the USMC is coming.  British instructors tell me that the U.S. Marines actually are very forward-leaning on tracking.  That the U.S. Marines are on the trail of tracking probably has General James Mattis’s fingerprints on it.  That man is a warrior.  I met him in Fallujah, and Mattis actually told me his name as if I didn’t know.  (Who doesn’t know General Mattis?  In smaller circles, he’s as respected as Petraeus.)

...

Anyway, another great day was had in the tracking school, and I think this British soldier from Nepal helped me figure out why the U.S. Army near-about ignores tracking; it’s incredibly effective, simple and cheap, and so we probably wouldn’t want to get involved.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Church Service at the Hanoi Hilton

Leo Thorsness, writing in National Review Online:

"When the 42nd man said yes, it was unanimous. We had 100-percent commitment to hold church next Sunday. At that instant, Ned knew he would end up in the torture cells at Heartbreak. It was different from the previous Sunday. We now had a goal, and we were committed. We only needed to develop a plan."

Unyielding bravery, limitless will, and boundless fortitude. Read the rest.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tightening the Defense Budget


Secretary of Defense Gates talks about the defense budget, and defends recent cuts, particularly cuts to the F-22 Raptor:

SEC. GATESI think what we’re trying to do is not reduce emphasis on conventional warfare, but be more selective about the weapons systems that we fund to fight that kind of a fight. I’m not cutting the F-22; I’m not recommending the F-22; I’m simply recommending that the program set in 2005 was to build 183 of these aircrafts. I’m simply saying, let’s finish that program and then let’s focus on buying large numbers of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35, which has 10- to 15-year newer technology, has some capabilities that the F-22 doesn’t have.

The F-22 is a great airplane, all you have to do is ask the pilots who fly it, but – and it will remain in the inventory, but there is no military requirement for more than 183 of them, 187 with those that are in the supplemental. So we’re doing that, we’re building additional ships, we’re doing more in the way of theater and tactical ballistic-missile defense. We’re converting more ships to have ballistic-missile defense that would help against China. So I think there’s kind of a misunderstanding of exactly what it is we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to be more selective about systems that actually work and that can be delivered in a reasonable period of time than some of these exotic systems.

Regarding missile defense:

SEC. GATES: We have two threats: theater and tactical ballistic missiles and ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles from rogue states like North Korea. We are significantly increasing the missile defense capabilities to deal with the theater and tactical threat, from Iran or Hezbollah or others like that, in a number of different ways – a lot of money being added to the budget.

We are not cutting the number of interceptors in Alaska, we are going to fund – robustly fund research and development to keep enhancing their capabilities, we are keeping alive the airborne-laser program, we are just not buying a second research platform. We’re going to make do with one 747 to do this research. The procurement program was completely out of control, with 27 47s and so on and so forth. So I think we are doing a lot, we do very well with terminal defense, with THAD and the theater missile. We do very well at midcourse with the ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California.

Now, we’re continuing to do research work on the boost phase, where they’re just coming off the pad, and we have several programs, some of them classified, that are aimed at taking care of that. So I think we have really strongly supported missile defense, and I think that what we have taken out of the budget, frankly, were some experimental capabilities that were really not intended for the rogue-state missile threat but rather, a much larger threat. So I’m trying to conform our program to our policy. Our policy is to have a missile defense and it was – as it was in the Bush administration, our policy is to have a missile defense against rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea. That’s what our program does.


Popular Mechanics has more: The 7 winners and losers under Gates' proposed budget. Littoral combat ships and the F-35 win big, the Army's Future Combat System and F-22 lose.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Has Interrogation Produced Results?

Marc Thiessen tries to answer that question at The Corner, and totally dismantles the opposition in the process: "And the whole chain I have just described began with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah."


Since his capture, Abu Zubaydah had provided the CIA with the critical link that had identified KSM as “Muktar” and the mastermind of 9/11, as well as information that led to the capture of Padilla and the disruption of a planned attack on the American homeland. The CIA knew he had more information that could save American lives, but now he had stopped talking. So the CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques to get him talking again — and these techniques worked. 

Zubaydah soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th, including Ramzi bin al Shibh. At the time of his capture, bin al Shibh had been working in Karachi on follow-on operations against the West — including a plot to hijack passenger planes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport. Bin al Shibh had identified four operatives for the operation, when he was taken into custody. 

Together Zubaydah and bin al Shibh provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured KSM. KSM then provided information that led to the capture of a Southeast Asian terrorist named Zubair — an operative with the terrorist network Jemmah Islamiyah, or JI. Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of a JI terrorist leader named Hambali — KSM's partner in developing a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into the tallest building on the West Coast: the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Told of Hambali's capture, KSM identified Hambali's brother "Gun Gun" as his successor and provided information that led to his capture. Hambali's brother then gave us information that led us to a cell of JI operatives that were going to carry out the West Coast plot. 

KSM also provided vital information that led to the disruption of an al Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for attacks inside the United States. He gave us information that helped us capture Ammar al Baluchi. At the time of his capture, al Baluchi was working with bin al Shibh on the Heathrow plot, as well as a plot to carry out an attack against the US consulate in Karachi. According to his CIA biography, al Baluchi “was within days of completing preparations for the Karachi plot when he was captured.” 

In addition, KSM and other senior terrorists helped identify individuals that al Qaeda deemed suitable for Western operations, many of whom we had never heard about before. These included terrorists who were sent to case targets inside the United States, including financial buildings in major cities on the East Coast. They painted a picture of al Qaeda's structure and financing, and communications and logistics. They identified al Qaeda's travel routes and safe havens, and explained how al Qaeda's senior leadership communicates with its operatives in places like Iraq. They provided information that allowed the CIA to make sense of documents and computer records that we have seized in terrorist raids. They identified voices in recordings of intercepted calls, and helped us understand the meaning of potentially critical terrorist communications. It is the official assessment of our intelligence community that “Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.” 

And the whole chain I have just described began with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.


When the Press mounts a baseless attack, just respond with the facts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Royal Marines Working Hard


The Daily Telegraph: Taliban lose 130 in three day battle with Royal Marines


A force of 700 troops from 42 Commando along with Danish and Afghan troops swooped on the Taliban base of Marjah in a helicopter air assault that took three waves to offload the men.

...

Only two commandos were injured during Operation Blue Sword compared to an estimated 200 to 300 Taliban wounded. It is believed that the enemy dead included a Mullah regarded as a “high value target” by the military.

The Taliban were said to have been so determined to hold onto the stronghold that reinforcements were called for from the Pakistan border 160 miles away.

130 Taliban dead, 2 British wounded.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Combat Casualties at Record Lows

...in Iraq. Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since they invaded in 2003, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq said on Wednesday.

In the first two months of this year 19 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, down from 148 in the same period two years ago, Major-General David Perkins told a joint news conference with Baghdad security spokesman Major-General Qassim Moussawi.

...

"U.S. combat deaths (in Iraq) are at the lowest level since the war began six years ago today, a decrease of over 90 percent,"

The United States can now draw down in Iraq with honor. Many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines paid the price to stay and achieve victory. All gave some, some gave all.

Darpa Tries to Re-grow Limbs

Wired:


The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) just got a one-year, $570,000 grant from Darpa, the Pentagon's blue-sky research arm, to grow the new tissues. "The goal is to genuinely replace a muscle that's lost," biotechnology professor Raymond Page tells Danger Room. "I appreciate that's a very aggressive goal."  And it's only one part in a larger, even more ambitious Darpa program, Restorative Injury Repair, that aims to "fully restore the function of complex tissue (muscle, nerves, skin, etc.) after traumatic injury on the battlefield."

Monday, March 23, 2009

More reasons to keep the F-22


United Press International Reports:

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- Two Russian planes flew within 500 feet of U.S. Navy ships participating in military drills with South Korea, military officials said.

A few hundred more 5th generation F-22 stealth fighters to patrol our skies for these lumbering Russian bombers would be a good thing. Why stop at 183? Whether Russia is just trying to effusively flex its aging muscles or not, the reality of the threat is obvious for the world to see.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mountain Warfare Training


Marines at Bridgeport:

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Twentynine Palms is training to deploy later this year, probably to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan. Winter. Mountain hiding spots for insurgents. Snow. High winds.

So the Marines just finished 25 days at the mountain warfare training center at Bridgeport, Calif.

From talking to friends who have been to Bridgeport, the training is difficult enough even without the winter conditions.

Train like you fight.

"Finally we took off the gloves"

Al Qaeda militants are turning on one another in Pakistan in an attempt to find the 'traitors' who are enabling American UAVs to systematically wipe out their leadership ranks. The LA Times writes:

"An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say."

...

"The stepped-up Predator campaign has killed at least nine senior Al Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of the terrorist network since 2001.

"Among those killed since August are Rashid Rauf, the suspected mastermind of an alleged 2006 transatlantic airliner plot; Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts; Khalid Habib, an operations chief allegedly involved in plots against the West; and Usama al-Kini, who allegedly helped orchestrate the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in the capital, Islamabad."

...

"The success of the Predator campaign has prompted some counter-terrorism officials to speak of a post-Al Qaeda era in which its regional affiliates -- in North Africa and elsewhere -- are all that remain after the center collapses.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The F-22 for a Bold, New, Dangerous World


Vice President Joe Biden was right; the new administration is being tested. This week alone brings a number of ominous signs of conflict the world will expect the United States to deal with. These are issues that will have to be handled fastidiously.


Wired reports that U.S. MNF-Iraq shot down an Iranian UAV last month. This opens yet a new front on the Iraq war.

Further east, Japan has threatened to shoot down North Korea's "satellite launch." If Japan follows through on its word, the action may cause North Korea to begin matching its rhetoric with deeds.

Lastly, Russia's interfax news agency is reporting the possibility that Russian strategic bombers could be flown out of Cuban and Venezuelan air fields. This obviously smacks of a second Cuban missile crisis.

These aerial crises stand apart from current wars being fought on the ground by the U.S. and its allies in the middle east. Military strategists, such as Thomas P.M. Barnett, have rightly argued the need for a robust American ground force which can provide not only security, but also civil affairs and humanitarian aid.

However, these increased threats to American air dominance among its adversaries may give the strategists pause. For example, Secretary of Defense Gates halted further production of the new fifth generation F-22 fighter at 185. The school of thought questioned the need for so many stealth, agile, supersonic dog-fighters in an age when insurgencies are fought in the cities and villages of third world countries. Others added the yet-to-be-fielded F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as another argument to kill the F-22 and thereby cut Defense spending.

The F-22 program was put on hold because opponents argued the fighter was built to help wage obsolete Cold War battle. Yet, as recent bellicosity from Russia, Cuba, Iran and North Korea demonstrate, many of our old adversaries are still in a Cold War mindset.

The United States should re-think a growing need for the F-22, especially considering the price tag of the F-35.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A model prison

All detainees have space in their cell for a Koran and personal prayer items. A Belgian prison official, Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels's federal police antiterrorism unit, said, "At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison." At Guantanamo, "prisoners' rights to practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were better than in Belgian prisons. 'I know of no Belgian prison where each prisoner receives its [sic] Muslim kit.' Grignard said." He had "noticed dramatic improvements each time he visited the facility over the past two years." He was roundly castigated by certain European activist groups after making that statement. ~ Inside Gitmo Pg 123

Inside Gitmo was written by retired Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Cucullu

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Watchmen Review


Like any comic book junkie past or present, I had to see "Watchmen" on opening night. As a bonus, I was able to watch it in IMAX, thanks to my wife's forethought. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the movie, not least because of the huge marketing push, or the "visionary" label bestowed upon the film's director, Zack Snyder.


For this reason, "Watchmen" quickly became a target of many film critics. However, the film was probably a target long before the hype and the marketing campaign due to Snyder's second film,"300," which drew a great deal of controversy. Not only critics, but Iranian politicians halfway across the world condemned the movie on the basis that it negatively represented the Persian hordes as merciless invading monsters. I chronicled some of the controversy here.

As for "Watchmen," I have little doubt many critics were salivating at the prospect of tearing Snyder's third film to shreds. "300" offended their politically correct sensibilities, so "Watchmen" was condemned from the start. Critics have incessantly jabbed the film, arguing the movie was too faithful to the graphic novel.  Never mind the perennial refrain we hear from film aficionados that films are completely unfaithful to the book.

Now the offense is just the opposite.

We hear that there were too many "flashbacks," and there were no allusions to 9/11 and terrorism (?). Malin Akerman was either Jar Jar Binks, or gave a solid performance, depending upon whether you read Newsweek or the New York Times.

Most puzzling of all, NPR's Kenneth Turan boldly declared that "Watchmen" would not make much money at the box office. The film grossed $55 million dollars its opening weekend. Based on this prediction, I question the efficacy of an egregious proclamation in place of sober reflection.

Leaving the critics aside - and their agenda, there are plenty of things to love about "Watchmen," and there are things the film could have done without. Visually, few could argue the cinematic heights achieved by Snyder; the costumes were impeccably crafted, the landscape was grand but beautiful, and there were no awkward, convoluted camera angles. Furthermore, one could argue the film produced some of the finest acting performances of any superhero movie to date. Jackie Earle Haley effortlessly depicted Rorschach's brooding condemnation of humanity's vices, and his own fatalism. Patrick Wilson was utterly believable as the meek Nite Owl II; unsure of himself, but trying to break out of his shell. Billy Crudup's aloof monotone leaves the viewer piteous for Dr. Manhattan's inability to feel, but convinced of his seeming omniscience. Similarly, Matthew Goode's stoic, geeky idealism reflects Ozymandias' ethos - misguided as it may be.

I am no impartial observer, but a long time fan of the graphic novel. Then again, so are most of reviewers, self-proclaimed as they are. There is much more to like about this film than to dislike, but not everything worked. Dr. Manhattan's full-frontal nudity was just unnecessary, and in no way contributed to the plot. Neither did the sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. Adding a bit of intimacy and romanticism to a film may add depth and complexity, but the sexual yearning and frustration was present without the gratuitous depiction aboard "Archie," 5,000 feet above the city.

The brutal and choreographed fight scenes were similarly representative of Snyder's excess. Despite the fast-paced brutality, each second of hand to hand combat seemed like an eternity drained from the more important goal of establishing a complicated story line.

Lastly, I cannot comprehend the need to change the denouement. The reason to replace alien corpses with Dr. Manhattan as the cause for the worldwide holocaust escapes me. As a movie goer, I'm un-phased, as a "Watchmen" fan, I'm annoyed. Knowing that the final act is essentially unchanged, what is the point of swearing such fealty for the entire film, only to change its ending? That, perhaps, might be Synder's biggest sin.

So who watches the Watchmen? Apparently, a lot more people than critics would have you believe.