31 August 2010

The Metrics of Leaving Iraq

The Guardian has a good article about the US going home from Iraq.

The military has dubbed tomorrow as the beginning of stability operations, and the end of combat. They are buzzwords that have been met with scepticism – and fear – throughout Iraq. There are many who doubt the invasion force is actually leaving, yet many more who hope the announcement doesn't mean that the troops will actually leave.

Around the country though, the signs of a military on the way out are unmistakable. Over the past two years US forces have closed down 411 bases. They will maintain 94 bases nationwide, at least in the weeks immediately following tomorrow's ceremony. Many, however, will be outposts where a small number of US forces will train and mentor Iraqi soldiers. They may occasionally patrol with them or join in on raids, but the US mission is designed from now on to be very much in the background.

At least 12 large bases will remain initially; Camp Victory at Baghdad airport, the nearby Camp Liberty, two bases inside the Green Zone, Taji and Balad bases north of Baghdad, bases in Mosul, Kirkuk and Ramadi, as well as al-Assad to the west, and forward vases in Nasireyah and Basra.

There are now just over 49,000 US soldiers scattered throughout all of them, around 1,000 less than commanders had foreshadowed for the 1 September handover date. A total of 92,000 have left since the peak of the troop surge in 2007 – and their absence is obvious everywhere.

It has been rare in the 14 months since the Status of Forces Agreement signed on 30 June last year that set prescribed limits for the US role in Iraq to see an American convoy on the streets of the capital. The giant, crustacean-like convoys are now so few and far between, that their presence makes the news.

At a staging yard in one of the US military's main camps in southern Iraq columns of armour and reinforced trucks are lined up to be driven out of Iraq. More than 860,000 items have now left Iraq. Any truck marked with an A is off to fight another war. Those left unmarked are going home.

By: Brant

Mexico Trying to Clean Up Police Force

In their drug war, Mexico is trying to get an upper hand, in part by firing a crapload of police for corruption.

About 3,200 Mexican federal police have been fired since May for failing to do their work or being linked to corruption, Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas said Monday.
Of those, 465 have been charged with crimes.
In addition, Rosas said at a news conference, another 1,020 officers face disciplinary proceedings for failing confidence exams.
The probe started in mid-May, said Marco Tulio Lopez of the federal police internal affairs department.
"Investigations of our department began many months ago and this is the result," federal police spokesman Ramon Salinas told CNN.
Among the officers who were fired, Rosas said, were officials in Ciudad Juarez who were publicly accused by fellow officers of corruption several weeks ago. In that incident, two groups of officers shoved and fought each other outside police headquarters.

By: Brant

Syria Formalizing Deal With Hezbollah?

Hmmm.... OK, it's from the Jerusalem Post. Doesn't mean it's not true.

The Syrian army signed a defense alliance with Hizbullah, a Kuwaiti paper reported on Monday.

According to the report in Al- Rai, in case of war, the two will split a “bank” of targets in Israel, and Syrian radars will supply Hizbullah operatives with intelligence on the location of Israeli aircraft, to assist Hizbullah in aiming anti-aircraft weapons.

The alliance radically changes the balance of power in the North, because it means in any future confrontation the IDF will be faced with attacks from both the northern and northeastern borders.

The IDF was surprised by Hizbullah’s level of organization during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Syrian assistance in intelligence gathering would give the Shi’ite organization a technological advantage that would bring it even closer to the level of an organized military.

During the 2006 war, Israel warned Syria not to intervene, and it avoided clashing with the IDF. According to the new pact, each of the parties will rush to assist the other in case of confrontation with Israel.

In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Lebanon’s leader to support Hizbullah and maintain calm in the country.

Still wondering how you can "support Hizbullah" and "maintain calm in the country" - aren't those mutually exclusive?

By: Brant

Iraqi Concerns About the Future

The AP has a very good article about the Iraqis view of their future without the US. Normally we excerpt a bit of an article for you to get a sense of the story. This time, though, I gotta jump around the story to get my comments in...

Iraqis, who for years have railed against the U.S. occupation, are generally happy to see that the American presence won't be endless. But there is also considerable trepidation about whether Iraq can go it alone.
"It's not the right time," said Johaina Mohammed, a 40-year-old teacher from Baghdad. "There is no government, the security is deteriorating, and there is no trust."

Really now. You've had 7 years to get your shit together. We've given Iraqis plenty of time to get a government together, to pull together the security situation, and to build some trust. You chose to shoot each other, ethnically cleanse the neighborhoods, attack girls going to school, behead random businessmen and policemen, and try to create random application of so-called Islamic laws. You chose not to get your act together. We're not waiting anymore.

The fear of political divisions, aggravated by the struggle for control of Iraq's oil potential, is ever present. Some Iraqis worry that without the American soldiers, their country will revert to a dictatorship or split along religious and ethnic fault lines.
"They should go, but the security situation is too fragile for the Americans to withdraw now," said Mohammed Hussein Abbas, a Shiite from the town of Hillah south of Baghdad. "They should wait for the government to be formed and then withdraw."

No, you should have formed a government 5 months ago right after the elections. You should've agreed on an equitable governmental basis back in 2003 when Saddam was removed. As Alexis de Tocqueville once said, "In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve." We've given you a chance to get your crap together. We're not waiting.

Even former Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, who supported armed resistance against two American assaults on the city in Iraq's western province of Anbar, are dismayed at U.S. troops leaving after they joined forces and fought extremists together.
"Of course we were against the occupation, but in 2007 the Americans came up with a good plan for fighting al-Qaida, not Iraq," said Col. Abdelsaad Abbas Mohammad, a Fallujah commander in the government-supported Sunni militia, known as the Awakening Councils. "Americans have committed many mistakes, but they did not go into houses and chop people's heads off."

Aye, there's the rub - you march in protest about a US raid that breaks a table lamp and the international press condemns the Americans for ridding the world of a brutal dictator. But I have yet to see a strike in Baghdad to condemn an Al Qaeda hit squad.

To many Iraqis, the U.S. drawdown and emphasis on the end of combat operations looks to many Iraqis as if Obama is playing to domestic politics instead of assessing what is truly right for Iraq,

You know what, here's a thought... Why don't the Iraqis try "assessing what is truly right for Iraq" instead of assessing what is truly right for they individual clan, mosque, family, neighborhood, etc.

Look, even Friedman noted this in a column earlier this week, in which he points out that it's been a long time since a politician has surprised us with their behavior...

I just saw the movie “Invictus” — the story of how Nelson Mandela, in his first term as president of South Africa, enlists the country’s famed rugby team, the Springboks, on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup and, through that, to start the healing of that apartheid-torn land. The almost all-white Springboks had been a symbol of white domination, and blacks routinely rooted against them. When the post-apartheid, black-led South African sports committee moved to change the team’s name and colors, Mandela stopped it. He explained that part of making whites feel at home in a black-led South Africa was not uprooting all their cherished symbols. “That is selfish thinking,” Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, says in the movie. “It does not serve the nation.” Then speaking of South Africa’s whites, Mandela adds, “We have to surprise them with restraint and generosity.”
I love that line: “We have to surprise them.” I was watching the movie on an airplane and scribbled that line down on my napkin because it summarizes what is missing today in so many places: Leaders who surprise us by rising above their histories, their constituencies, their pollsters, their circumstances — and just do the right things for their countries.
I tried to recall the last time a leader of importance surprised me on the upside by doing something positive, courageous and against the popular will of his country or party. I can think of a few: Yitzhak Rabin in signing onto the Oslo peace process. Anwar Sadat in going to Jerusalem. And, of course, Mandela in the way he led South Africa.
But these are such exceptions. Look at Iraq today. Five months after its first truly open, broad-based election, in which all the major communities voted, the political elite there cannot rise above Shiite or Sunni identities and reach out to the other side so as to produce a national unity government that could carry Iraq into the future. True, democracy takes a long time to grow, especially in a soil bloodied by a murderous dictator for 30 years. Nevertheless, up to now, Iraq’s new leaders have surprised us only on the downside.

And if they are only going to surprise us on the downside, it's time to go home.

By: Brant

Canada In Action: 2 RCR, G Coy Trains With US Marines

A member of 2 RCR, G Coy looks down range during a dry run through the PTA section range before going live.

Members of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (G Coy, 2 RCR) joined the US Marines for six weeks in a unique training environment. G Coy, which holds the non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) task, came to the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) to participate in Exercise RIMPAC.

More photos and complete article here.

By: Shelldrake

Top Secret UK Surveillance Centre In The Public Spotlight

The recent murder of a British spy has focused public attention on the UK's top secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
A few years ago, Britain's most secretive intelligence agency began staging an annual family day for its employees. The Government Communications Headquarters, better known as GCHQ, inched open the doors of its Cheltenham offices to give relatives of the 5,000 staff a glimpse of what goes on there.

There was a time when such transparency would have been unthinkable. Even the very existence of the hush-hush surveillance centre was officially denied until its cover was blown in the 1970s. GCHQ's 30 or so listening posts and outstations dotted around the country were disguised as defence establishments and any snoopers peering through the electrified fences received short shrift. Twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable for Gareth Williams, the man found murdered in a London flat this week, to have been so readily identified as a GCHQ worker on secondment to MI6 – and certainly not before the police had established the motive for his gruesome demise. Nor would it have been disclosed that GCHQ workers in London live in a network of Pimlico flats registered to a shadowy offshore front company. And why were a mobile phone and numerous SIM cards laid out on a table near the murder scene? There are some in Whitehall who are irritated that this information has come out before they can establish exactly what occurred.

Even though Mr Williams may have been killed for reasons that have nothing to do with his work, the circumstances of his death have shone an unwelcome light into the world he inhabited. True, it is less mysterious than it used to be. GCHQ now has a website, and its giant £330 million doughnut-shaped building at Benhall is hardly hidden away. But what goes on inside, especially the surveillance techniques, remains highly sensitive and top secret. The family day is partly designed to "reduce the mystique" surrounding GCHQ and give relatives a sketchy idea of its work because employees are forbidden from talking about it openly. But while a number of special exhibits were on show, visitors were kept well away from any sensitive areas.

This gradual emergence of GCHQ from its jealously guarded obscurity follows the decision of its two sister services, MI5 and MI6, to open up (the former more so than the latter). But while transparency is now all the rage, the hand of GCHQ's director, Iain Lobban, was also forced by the prospect of the public sector spending axe – with the secret agencies not immune from serious cuts. Although the figures are never broken down, Lobban's organisation takes the lion's share of the annual £2.4 billion intelligence budget because of its highly technical work and expensive kit.

GCHQ, aware it would have a serious fight on its hands, evidently decided to justify the sums spent on it by going public about the need for surveillance – if not its techniques. As part of the offensive, the BBC was given unprecedented access to GCHQ this year for a documentary presented by Gordon Correra. In an article for this newspaper, Correra likened the inside of the "doughnut" to a bustling modern airport, with open-plan offices leading off the circular thoroughfare.

"The technical brain of GCHQ is underground," he explained. "Pass through the security points and you arrive in a series of vast halls with endless rows of blinking computers. In all there are about 10,000 square metres of computer space, an area into which the Wembley football pitch could comfortably be fitted."

It is here where code-breaking experts like Gareth Williams ply what can be a lonely trade intercepting communications, whether by phone, fax or email or via other electronic signals. They are in the frontline of a new form of warfare fought in the ether. The principle enemies are jihadi terrorists, in this country and overseas, and state-sponsored cyberhackers (especially Chinese) who are trying to find out our secrets.

By: Shelldrake

The Pepto-Bomber?

The Dutch are questioning 2 men whose behavior set off flags to counter-terror officials.

Dutch investigators on Tuesday questioned two men arrested at Amsterdam's airport after U.S. authorities found suspicious items in their checked luggage, including a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle and a knife and box cutter.

What the heck are you doing with a cell phone taped to a Pepto bottle? Really?

By: Brant

Tuesday Q&A: John Tiller

This week's Tuesday Q&A is the prolific John Tiller, computer game designer extraordinaire.

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:
John Tiller has been a computer wargame designer and developer since 1995. During that time he published over 70 computer wargames ranging from the Renaissance and American Revolution to the Vietnam War and modern topics.

You would know me from my work in this corner of the wargaming world:
Since 2000, I have published wargames with HPS Simulations in several series notably Panzer Campaigns and Squad Battles as well as the American Civil War and Napoleonics.

I'm currently working on:
I have about 10 games series currently and in each one, I have at least one wargame under development. I also am working on two wargame contracts for the US Air Force on UAVs and Directed Energy.

What wargame made you want to be a designer?
I got hooked on board wargames starting with Avalon Hill D-Day and Panzer Leader, but definitely the game that made me want to develop computer wargames was SPI War in Europe. I realized that the only way that I could play this game was to put it on the computer and so started doing that. The First Blitzkrieg game series is the result of that years later.

When I mock up a game for playtesting, my general process is…
My process is to establish the basis for the game such as scale and scope, if it is the first game in a series, the game setting, and the game infrastructure using artwork by my artists Joe Amoral and Mark Adams. Then I turn it over to one of my scenario designers to start scenario development and playtesting. Glenn Saunders, together with Dave Blackburn, are my main Panzer Campaigns designers, Rich Hamilton leads several teams in Squad Battles and Musket and Pike as well as Naval Campaigns, Gary Morgan does the Modern Air Power series, Rich Walker is my main Civil War designer these days, Bill Peters does most Napoleonic design, and Ed Williams has started a new series on World War I.

What's the last good book you read?
Associated with wargaming, I would have to say it's the Wayne Hughes book "Fleet Tactics". I know of no other book that does such a great job of describing modern naval combat.

If you could be the filmographer at any one battle in history, which one would you view?
I think we tend to have a romanticized view of most battles and one reason I like wargaming is that it allows you to view the battle in time and space so that you can see the sequence of events and how they interacted. My idea of a film about a battle wouldn't just focus on the key events, it would actually run continuously for the entire duration of the battle (which might not make it that popular to be honest). But I think watching a battle from the American Revolution would be fascinating since they took place in such small areas with small numbers of men. Something like Guilford Court House would be astounding to view I think.

Thanks to John, and all our participants so far... much more to come!

By: Brant

30 August 2010

Choppers en route to Pakistan

The US is beefing up the relief efforts in Pakistan. 'Cuz, y'know, we're out to eradicate all Muslims and all...

The Department of Defense announced today the deployment of 18 additional helicopters to Pakistan as part of the expanding U.S. contribution to flood-relief efforts.

The aircraft, which include 10 CH-47 Chinook and eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and associated personnel are assigned to the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The unit will operate in partnership with the Pakistani military throughout flood-impacted areas.

These helicopters are expected to begin flood-relief efforts in Pakistan in mid-September.

This is the latest in a series of deployments in response to Pakistan’s urgent request for flood-relief assistance. Approximately 15 U.S. military helicopters and three C-130 aircraft already supporting flood-relief efforts in Pakistan have transported more than 2 million pounds of humanitarian assistance supplies and rescued more than 7,000 people, delivering much-needed aid and providing transport to people who urgently need emergency assistance.

Since the floods began July 29, the U.S. has provided $150 million to support immediate relief efforts and has allocated an additional $50 million to assist with re-establishment of communities impacted by the floods.

By: Brant

Is Iraq the Catalyst for Defense Budget Cuts?

Now that we're pulling out of Iraq, will Congress use that as another reason for cutting the defense budget?

The end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq may increase pressure on the Pentagon to trim spending, giving ammunition to lawmakers who have long wanted to take aim at the massive defense budget.

The United States will formally end its combat mission in Iraq on Tuesday, ahead of a scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces next year. President Barack Obama also aims to start withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July 2011.

Given mounting concern over the giant U.S. budget deficit, those drawdowns could be potent political arguments for advocates of making defense cuts part of the overall effort to trim federal spending.

By: Brant

USAF Space Management Org Changes

The USAF has announced changes to the headquarters of Air Force space management and organization.

The Air Force today announced the realignment of some Headquarters Air Force space functions, following the recent completion of a review of Headquarters Air Force space management and responsibilities, which was directed by Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley in December 2009.

In a memorandum signed today, Donley reinforced some existing alignments and directed several changes to Air Force Headquarters space organization. This would include the identification of the under secretary of the Air Force as the focal point for space within the Headquarters Air Force, with responsibility for coordination of functions and activities across the Air Force space enterprise, and the realignment of space acquisition from the under secretary of the Air Force’s office to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Boat Patrol

Picture shows the boarding party of HMS Somerset approaching a Dhow in the Arabian Gulf. HMS Somerset was deployed to the Arabian Gulf for 6 months to participate in Operation TELIC and, specifically, to provide security to Iraqi offshore oil infrastructure vital to the Iraqi economy and the reconstruction effort of the coalition campaign.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

7 Years of Perspective on Iraq

WaPo has an excellent front-page story today that tells the story of changing perspectives of 3 Iraq War veterans over the past 7 years. It begins thus...

In the summer of 2006, Maj. Walt Cooper was convinced that his Special Forces team's work was only contributing to the violence spiraling out of control in Baghdad.

Cooper and his soldiers were training a police battalion that took orders from a radical Shiite militia. "We know that the guys we train are some of the same dudes who are putting bullets in the back of people's heads or going to work on them with power drills," he wrote in a July 2006 e-mail home.

As the months passed, his cynicism and anger grew. "This place is now rotten to the core," he concluded.

A year later Cooper was back in Iraq, working with 150-man police unit. His second tour, which coincided with a surge of about 30,000 American soldiers, almost felt like a different war. Violence dropped. Markets opened. Something resembling stability seemed to take hold. Cooper remembers his battle-scarred Iraqi police partner from that period as a brother in arms.

The 33-year-old Green Beret is part of a generation of Army officers whose careers have been defined by the chaos and contradictions of one of America's longest and costliest wars. These soldiers have watched close friends die, weathered separations from family, and struggled to explain to grieving parents why their loved ones didn't make it home.

By: Brant

China's Upcoming Navy Drills Include Live-Fire

The Chinese Navy is going to launch real bullets during drills in Yellow Sea.

China said Sunday its navy will stage live-ammunition drills in the Yellow Sea this week, after it condemned U.S.-South Korean joint naval exercises in the region and vowed to respond in kind.

Beijing has said last month's U.S.-South Korea joint naval drills risked heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and ignored China's objections to any foreign military exercises off its coast.

The Beihai Fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy will conduct exercises from Wednesday to Saturday in the sea off the southeast coast of Qingdao city, where the fleet is headquartered, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the defense ministry.

The drills are routine, annual training mostly involving the shooting of shipboard artillery, Xinhua said. Calls to the ministry's offices rang unanswered Sunday.

The United States and South Korea have planned additional joint maneuvers in the Yellow Sea early next month, although no dates have been announced. Last month's drills were held in the East Sea, the waters off the Korean peninsula's east coast.

The series of joint U.S.-South Korean exercises were planned as a show of force aimed at rebuking North Korea after an international investigation found that it had torpedoed a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 sailors on board. North Korea has denied the allegation and China has not joined the international condemnation of the North.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Senior SAS Personnel Targeted By "Bean Counters"

Nearly 40 of the most senior members of the Special Air Service have been told by the UK Ministry of Defence that they have to retire early. These highly experienced special forces soldiers should be paid extra to stay on until age 45, not pushed out the door by a bunch of penny-pinching bureacrats!

Britain's special forces have been dealt a devastating blow that has seen the number of elite Special Air Service (SAS) personnel on active duty slashed.

The move was condemned last night by leading SAS figures as "madness" which will result in the loss of some of the country's most experienced and senior special forces personnel.

The dozens of soldiers axed – who were informed last week – include some of the SAS's best men, whose efforts have been crucial in a series of successful missions to kill or capture senior Taliban commanders in Afghanistan.

This follows a decision by Whitehall officials to end a practice called "continuance", which allows special forces soldiers to serve up to the age of 45 – five years longer than their regular Army counterparts. As a result almost 40 men – the equivalent of half of one of the regiment's four squadrons – were informed last week that they will be forced to retire.

The move has provoked fury within the SAS. One regimental insider, speaking to The Independent on Sunday last night, slammed the decision as "madness" and said: "This is the work of bean counters who know nothing about military operations. It has hugely damaged morale within the regiment."

By: Shelldrake

Monday Video: South Africa's Armor Force

OK, the music isn't quite up to our usual "start your week off with a bang" standards, but there aren't a lot of videos out there with South African armored forces toodlin' around either, so we're making a trade-off here...

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

By: Brant

BUB: Iraq

So what does the future of Iraq look like? There are several concerns...

GEN Odierno in concerned that a political stalemate will disillusion the population with the political progress they've made.

The departing commander of American forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said Sunday that a new Iraqi government could still be two months away and warned that a stalemate beyond that could create demands for a new election to break the deadlock, which has lasted since March.

While General Odierno said he believed negotiations had picked up and would prove successful, he predicted politicians still needed “four to six to eight weeks.”

“That’s a guess,” he said in an interview at his headquarters, whose plaster roof is still engraved with the initials of Saddam Hussein. “If it goes beyond 1 October, what does that mean? Could there be a call for another election? I worry about that a little bit.”

The prospect of another election would probably throw Iraq’s already turbulent politics into even greater turmoil as the United States begins withdrawing its last 50,000 troops, scheduled to be out by the end of 2011. While the election in March was viewed as successful, the periods before and after included bitter disputes over disqualifications, recounts, legal challenges and score-settling that exacerbated still smoldering sectarian tensions.

Even the suggestion of a new election underscored the ambiguity in an anxious and unsettled Iraq these days. President Obama plans a speech from the Oval Office on Tuesday to address what the administration describes as the end of combat operations here. But the date has largely gone unnoticed by Iraqis, whose frustration with the political deadlock has mirrored their deepening anger over a dysfunctional government and the shoddy delivery of the basic necessities of life.

“The longer that takes, the more frustrated they might get with the process itself,” General Odierno said. “What I don’t want is for them to lose faith in the system, the democratic system, and that’s the long-term risk, do they lose faith in the process.”


In the meantime, Iraq'a military needs specialized support more than raw numbers.

Iraq does not need more soldiers and police to wage war against insurgents as U.S. combat operations end, a senior Iraqi security official said.

Instead, it needs better intelligence gathering and a way to stop countries intent on torpedoing Iraq's nascent democracy from supporting Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda, or Shi'ite militia, said Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed al-Khafaji.

"Whether the U.S. troops are here or not, these groups will continue their operations because they are the hired guns of regional states with agendas, which want to sabotage democratic Iraq," Khafaji told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

"They come from known dictatorships. They have a single message -- to kill Iraqis and scorch the earth they live on."


So who are these "hired guns of regional states with agendas"? Funny you should ask. Reuters isn't so sure that that they'll be able to push Iraq around, but their collective efforts are still worrying.

The weakness and wealth of Iraq, now shorn of all but 50,000 U.S. troops, tempt its anxious neighbors to vie for influence among Iraqi factions struggling to form a government nearly six months after an election.

Iraq's fledgling army remains ill-equipped to defend the national borders, but for now Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria are pursuing their goals mostly by non-military means.

None can count on getting the upper hand.

The 2003 U.S.-led invasion empowered Shi'ite Islamist groups friendly to Iran, but intra-Shi'ite conflicts, assertive Shi'ite politicians and core Iraqi nationalism limit even Tehran's sway.

Turkey, using its growing regional influence, diplomatic reach, economic power and new popularity in the Arab world to act as a soft-spoken counterweight to Iran, advocates bringing Sunnis and Kurds, as well as Shi'ites, into any new government in Baghdad.

Although the U.S. combat mission ends this week without an agreed Iraqi government in place to check spurts of violence, adjacent countries seem less inclined to revive the widespread bloodletting that threatened to consume Iraq a few years ago.

"In 2005, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia were all feeding the violence in Iraq; the United States was adrift without a strategy; and the Iraqi government and security forces were barely existent," said Eurasia Group analyst David Bender.

Today, he argued, those neighbors preferred stability in Iraq, Iraqi security forces had improved and the viability of the Iraqi state was not being threatened as it was in 2005.

By: Brant

RIP Charles S. Roberts

The father of modern wargaming passed away last week at age 80.

Mr. Roberts, whose father and grandfather were veteran B&O railroaders, was born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville. He was also a great-great nephew of Charles Swann Roberts, who was president of the B&O from 1848 to 1853. Mr. Roberts caught "railroad fever" in his childhood.

After graduating from Catonsville High School in 1947, he worked for the old Herald-Argus newspaper and as a copy boy at The Sun's old Sun Square building at Charles and Baltimore streets.

In 1948, he enlisted in the Army and, after being discharged in 1952, he joined the Maryland National Guard.

During the 1950s, Mr. Roberts launched his career in advertising, working at VanSant Dugdale & Co. and Emery Advertising Corp.

In 1958, he founded Avalon Hill Co., a Baltimore game publishing company that specialized in war and other mental combat games such as "D-Day," "Stalingrad," "Battle of the Bulge," "Gettysburg" and "Victory in the Pacific."

He later expanded the line of board games to include such rail-related board games "Rail Baron," "Dispatcher," and "B&O/C&O."

By: Brant

29 August 2010

Order Of Battle: UK Army RIFLES

As a part of the consolidation of regiments in the British Army, several regiments were formed into The Rifles.

1st Battalion - Commando Infantry (3 Cdo Bde) - Chepstow
--- amalgamation of the 1st Battalion, Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry and the 1st Battalion, Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry

2nd Battalion - Light Role - Northern Ireland
--- redesignation of the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets

3rd Battalion - Light Role - Edinburgh
--- redesignation of the 2nd Battalion, The Light Infantry

4th Battalion - Mechanised Infantry - Bulford
--- redesignation of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets

5th Battalion - Armoured Infantry - Paderborn, Germany
--- redesignation of the 1st Battalion, The Light Infantry

6th Battalion - Territorial Army - Exeter, South West of England
--- redesignation of the Rifle Volunteers

7th Battalion - Territorial Army - Reading, Home Counties & London
--- redesignation of the Royal Rifle Volunteers, minus the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment company, plus the Royal Green Jacket companies of the London Regiment (the decendants of the 4th (V) Battalion the Royal Green Jackets)

By: Brant

Shootout in Chechnya

You start to wonder how to tell the difference between the government and the thugs, once the bullets start flying.

A shootout between the Chechen president's personal protection detail and suspected separatist insurgents left 19 people dead early Sunday, including five civilians, officials and media reports said.
At least 12 suspected insurgents and two security officers were killed when the rebels entered Tsentoroi, Ramzan Kadyrov's home village, his spokesman Alvi Karimov told The Associated Press. TV reports said five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
Kadyrov, who is thought to regularly supervise security operations in the field, was in the village at the time and directed the counter-offensive, Karimov said.
"We let them into the village so they couldn't escape," Kadyrov told Channel One television, which showed him examining the bodies of the suspected militants strewn across a road. "We forced them into a place where they could be eliminated," he said.

By: Brant

HMS Astute Joins Royal Navy

HMS Astute, the lead ship in a powerful next-generation class of nuclear hunter-killer submarine, has been commissioned into the Royal Navy.
The UK's most powerful attack submarine, HMS Astute, has been welcomed into the Royal Navy today in a commissioning ceremony overseen by the boat's patron, the Duchess of Cornwall.

HMS Astute, which officially becomes 'Her Majesty's Ship' today, is quieter than any of her predecessors, meaning she has the ability to operate covertly and remain undetected in almost all circumstances despite being fifty per cent bigger than any attack submarine in the Royal Navy's current fleet.

The latest nuclear-powered technology means she will never need to be refuelled and can circumnavigate the world submerged, manufacturing the crew's oxygen from seawater as she goes.

The submarine has the capacity to carry a mix of up to 38 Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, and can target enemy submarines, surface ships and land targets with pinpoint accuracy, while her world-beating sonar system has a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,500km).


About HMS Astute
-She is 97 metres from bow to stern.
-She has a beam of 11.2 metres.
-She displaces 7,400 tonnes of seawater.
-Her cabling and pipework would stretch from Glasgow to Dundee.
-She is the first Royal Navy submarine not to have a traditional periscope, instead -using electro-optics to capture a 360-degree image of the surface for subsequent analysis by the commanding officer.
-Astute is the first submarine to have an individual bunk for each crew member.
-She manufactures her own oxygen from seawater as well as her own drinking water. -She could theoretically remain submerged for her 25-year life, if it were not for the need to restock the crew's food supplies.
-She is faster under the water than she is on the surface - capable of speeds in excess of 20 knots (37km/h), although her top speed is classified.
-Astute's crew of 98 are fed by five chefs who, on an average patrol, will serve up 18,000 sausages and 4,200 weetabix for breakfast.

By: Shelldrake

Taliban Attack in Afghanistan

They took shots at several NATO bases in Afghanistan.

ISAF said in a statement later on Saturday that about 15 insurgents were killed at Salerno and another six at Chapman. Two insurgents were able to breach the perimeter into Salerno but were killed immediately, it said.

Also, an insurgent from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and two other fighters were killed in an air strike called in when they were seen driving away from the attack, taking the total killed to 24.

Five insurgents were captured and a car bomb and another vehicle carrying ammunition were found near the camps, ISAF said. It said four ISAF soldiers were wounded.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said about 30 fighters had attacked the bases. They included suicide bombers and others armed with rockets and machine guns, Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Khost police chief Abdul Hakim Ishaaqzai said the bodies of 24 insurgents were found near the two bases. Reuters Television pictures showed some were wearing Afghan police or army uniforms.

Ishaaqzai said two civilians were also killed. Though ISAF said the attacks had been repelled, residents said intermittent shooting and explosions could still be heard several hours later.

By: Brant

Afghans "insulted" by link to CIA... really?

With everything going on in Afghanistan - the inability to control the Taliban, the bribes and corruption in the government, the drug trafficking, the backchannel deals with warlords - you're insulted by a report that the guys trying to help you build an actual country are cutting you a check for your cooperation? Damn, that's rich...

A U.S. newspaper report that said a key national security adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was being paid by the CIA is an insult to Afghanistan aimed at discrediting Karzai's government, his office said on Saturday.

Citing Afghan and U.S. officials, the New York Times reported Thursday that Mohammed Zia Salehi, who is under investigation for allegedly soliciting bribes, appears to have been paid by the U.S. spy agency for many years.

"Afghanistan's government ... considers such an assertion an insult," a statement from Karzai office's said. "We strongly condemn such irresponsible publicity which creates suspicion and doubt and discredits officials of our country."

Salehi was arrested by Afghan police in a dawn raid in July as part of investigations into corruption -- a major source of tension between Karzai and his U.S. backers -- but was released after the Afghan leader intervened.

The statement said the claim was part of an effort to deflect attention from tasks such as banning foreign security firms, a populist measure Karzai announced this month. Afghanistan faces parliamentary elections on September 18 and such firms have long been an irritant for many Afghans.

By: Brant

Another Leak in the US Gov't

This time it's a contract analyst who is in trouble for leaking classified intel.

A foreign policy analyst who worked at the State Department has been charged with leaking a top-secret intelligence report to a news reporter last year, the Justice Department said on Friday.

Stephen Kim, who had briefed former Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials, was indicted for violating an espionage law barring disclosure of national defense information and lying to the FBI about his contacts with the reporter.

The Justice Department did not identify the reporter and described the journalist's employer as a "national news organization."

Prosecutors said the incident happened in 2009 but gave little detail about the classified intelligence report except that it concerned the "military capabilities and preparedness of a particular foreign nation."

Kim, 43, an employee of a federal contractor on detail to the State Department, has written previously about U.S.-Korean relations.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released pending trial. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison on the espionage count and five years for lying.

"Stephen Kim was on detail from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to the Department of State at the time of the alleged disclosure," said a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By: Brant

28 August 2010

Terror Alert in Iraq

So what color is the highest level of alert for terror attacks?

Iraq's prime minister put his nation on its highest level of alert for terror attacks, warning of plots to sow fear and chaos as the U.S. combat mission in the country formally ends on Tuesday.
The Iraqi security forces who will be left in charge have been hammered by bomb attacks, prompting fears of a new insurgent offensive and criticism of the government's preparedness for the American troop drawdown.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Friday that Iraqi intelligence indicated an al-Qaida front group and members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party are collaborating to launch attacks "to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents."
"We direct the Iraqi forces, police and army and other security forces, to take the highest alert and precautionary measures to foil this criminal planning," al-Maliki said in a statement to state-run television.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official said security forces believe suicide bombers have entered the country with plans to strike unspecified targets in Baghdad by month's end. The official did not know how many bombers or where they would attack, and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: The Right Use of the Tool

The Foreign Legion rewards improvisation.

A very respected Captain in the Foreign Legion was transferred to a remote desert outpost. On his orientation tour he noticed a very old seedy looking camel tied out behind the enlisted men's barracks. He asked the Sergeant leading the tour, "Why is a camel tied to the barracks?" The Sergeant replied, "Well sir, it's a long way from anywhere, and the men have natural sexual urges, so when they do ... uh ... we have the camel ready for them.”

The Captain said, "Well, I suppose if it's good for morale, then I guess it's all right with me”. After he had been stationed at the fort for six long, lonely months, the Captain simply couldn't control his sexual angst any longer. He barked to his Sergeant: "BRING THE CAMEL INTO MY TENT!”

The Sergeant shrugged his shoulders, looked at the other men, and lead the camel into the Captain's quarters. Within a few minutes, the Captain emerged from his tent, fastening his trousers, almost beaming with pride.

"So, Sergeant, is that how the enlisted men do it?" he asked.
The Sergeant replied, "Well, sir, usually they just use it to ride into town."

By: Chuckles

British Subs Stalked By Russians

In a disturbing return to Cold War tactics, Russian attack submarines have been tracking Britain's nuclear missile submarines.
A specially upgraded Russian Akula class submarine has been caught trying to record the acoustic signature made by the Vanguard submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles, according to senior Navy officers.

British submariners have also reported that they are experiencing the highest number of "contacts" with Russian submarines since 1987.

If the Russians are able to obtain a recording of the unique noise of the boat's propellers it would have serious implications for Britain's nuclear deterrent. Using its sophisticated sonar, the Akula would be able to track Vanguards and potentially sink them before they could launch their Trident D4 missiles.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that, within the past six months, a Russian Akula entered the North Atlantic and attempted to track a Vanguard. The incident has remained secret until now.

It is understood that the Russians stood off Faslane, where the British nuclear force is based, and waited for a Trident-carrying boat to come out for its three-month patrol to provide the Continuous At Sea Deterrent.

While patrolling in the North Atlantic, there are a limited number of places the Vanguard is permitted to go and it is thought that the Akula attempted to track it on several occasions.

Navy commanders are understood to have ordered a Trafalgar-class hunter-killer submarine to protect the Vanguard. A recording of the Akula was made by the Trafalgar submarine's sonar operators and has been played to The Daily Telegraph.

"The Russians have been playing games with us, the Americans and French in the North Atlantic," a senior Navy commander said.

"We have put a lot of resources into protecting Trident because we cannot afford by any stretch to let the Russians learn the acoustic profile of one of our bombers as that would compromise the deterrent."

By: Shelldrake

Taliban Fighters Assault NATO Bases In Afghanistan

Once again, Taliban fighters show a lemming-like mentality, suffering over 50% losses in 2 unsuccessful attacks on NATO bases in Afghanistan.
Taliban insurgents have attacked two coalition bases in eastern Afghanistan, Nato forces say.

Coalition forces repelled both attacks, killing 18 militants and capturing others, the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said.

There were no coalition casualties in the fighting, in Khost province, south-east of Kabul, Isaf said.

The Taliban said about 30 fighters, including suicide bombers, were involved in the two separate assaults.

The attacks on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman began at about 0400 (2330 GMT).

In a statement, Isaf said "insurgent forces attacked the installations with indirect and small arms fire".

According to Isaf, its troops called in helicopters to assist in repelling the attacks and that 13 militants, four of whom were wearing suicide bomber vests, were killed in the fighting.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, in Kabul, says that elaborate attacks on forward operating bases are not unusual and that Taliban insurgents are increasingly using this more sophisticated guerrilla-style attack.

By: Shelldrake

Whither the 'Sons of Iraq'?

Now that the US is pulling out, the sectarian "Sons of Iraq" have been cast adrift and are feeling abandoned.

The Sunni Arab militiamen who sided with American soldiers against Al-Qaeda during Iraq's brutal insurgency fear the exit of thousands of US troops will herald a surge in bloody revenge attacks against them.
Known as the "Sons of Iraq" by the US army that financed them, the former rebels fought militants loyal to Osama bin Laden's terror network, but years later are mocked as "Sons of America" by foes who continue to exact vengeance.
Dozens of the fighters, who helped avert a civil war and were crucial to curbing Iraq's sectarian violence when it peaked in 2006 and 2007, have been killed in recent months in acts of retaliation.

By: Brant

27 August 2010

Even the Small Contributions Are Important

The coalition in Afghanistan has many faces:

What do the Greek, Mongolian, Latvian and British Armies have in common? They’ve all been in Afghanistan before: the Greeks under Alexander; the Mongols under Genghis Khan; the Latvians as part of the Soviet Union; and the British more than a few times. They are also current members of the International Security Assistance Force, and contribute troops to the coalition mission in Afghanistan.

One need only look to the flag poles at Camp Eggers in Kabul to see a record of the contributing nations (47 to be exact).

Not every nation’s forces are substantial in number — in some cases they are no more than a handful — and of course very few are engaged in outright combat operations. Most are assigned to training, mentoring or other critical support operations.

The Georgian troops, for example, have been used to protect entry points into forward operating bases around Kabul. Their country’s dedication is such that they were kept here even after Georgia’s conflict with Russia back in 2008.

At Camp Alamo, just a short drive away from Camp Blackhorse, there are Greeks, Turks and Mongolians, in addition to the French, British and Australians.

The Mongolians, for certain, provide the most extraordinary example of international support. That Mongolia — a landlocked country of just three million people, nearly half of whom still lead a nomadic life — provides any aid at all to the international force is remarkable.

While there are only a few dozen Mongolian soldiers in the country helping to train the Afghan National Army, the country’s contribution is relatively substantial considering that its military only numbers around 7,000 (less than a single American division).

The Mongolian mission at Camp Alamo, which just moved to another location around Kabul, is to train the Afghans in the operation of indirect fire systems. Since the Mongolians use former Soviet weaponry, particularly mortar and artillery systems, they can train the Afghans in those systems with a familiarity that NATO members could not.

And although Mongolia’s military may not be as fearsome as it once was under Genghis Khan, having been the only country to quell Afghanistan has to count for something.

By: Brant

Terrorist Cell Arrested On Canadian Soil

Canadian police have foiled the aspirations of home-grown terrorists who planned to raise money for Taliban insurgents and conduct IED attacks in Ottawa, the nation's capital.
The Canadian citizens accused of belonging to an Ottawa terrorist cell allegedly planned to fund the purchase of weapons for Canada's enemies in Afghanistan and had been trained to launch Afghan-style IED attacks in the Canadian capital. Had such a plot succeeded, it would have brought Canada's Afghan war home with murderous effect.

Investigators yesterday revealed an alleged conspiracy that stretches from Ottawa across the globe to Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Dubai. Police named six men as belonging to the terror cell. Two were arrested in Ottawa on Wednesday and a third man, a doctor, was arrested in London, Ont., on Thursday. All three are Canadians. Three unindicted co-conspirators, whose citizenship is unclear, have not been charged by Canadian police and may be outside the country.

The group is accused of amassing schematics, components and instructions to build homemade bombs. They had built more than 50 electronic circuit boards that were to be used as remote-controlled triggers and were planning an attack that was just months away, according to police.

One member is alleged to have been trained in bomb-making, possibly a person who is believed to have travelled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. One is also accused of gathering funds for foreign terror groups that would have been used to buy arms to target Canadian and allied troops in Afghanistan.

By: Shelldrake

Military Maps: Can Tho Army Airfield, Vietnam

Maps of Can Tho Army Airfield area and Vietnam

By: Brant

If the Japanese Had a Marine Corps, What Might It Look Like?

Seems weird, huh? The Japanese don't have a Marine Corps, but they have the ships to support one. If they were going to start up a Marine Corps, what would it look like? Some thoughts from the Japan Security Watch:

1. The SDF could emulate the United States and make the Japanese Marine Corps part of the MSDF. Although U.S. Navy – U.S. Marine Corps relationship has its moments, it generally works.

2. The creation of a JMC unit in the MSDF would be an excellent opportunity to shift resources away from the Ground Self Defense Forces. At 147,000 personnel, the GSDF is more than three times larger than the MSDF, and yet plays virtually no role in defending the outer perimeter of Japan. Trim the GSDF by two infantry divisions (14,700 personnel) and add one reinforced marine brigade. The money saved from shedding 8,000 troops could go to training and new equipment.

3. Like the U.S. Marine Corps, the basic tactical unit would be the battalion. The JMC would mimic the USMC in table of organization and equipment, forming large squads and platoons designed to take casualties and remain combat effective. When the USMC proves the viability of the Company Landing Team, the JMC could follow.

4. The JMC could be an all-arms organization with organic infantry, armor, anti-tank, engineer, UAV, and rotary wing aviation units. The USMC MAGTF would be the model. Unlike the U.S. Marines, the JMC would likely not have fixed-wing aircraft and thus could rely on organic helicopter gunships and armed UAVs for air support.

5. The JMC could train extensively with the U.S. Marine Corps in amphibious operations. USMC troops in Japan could mentor JMC units. (The two countries already regularly practice company-sized landings in San Diego.)

More a the link...

By: Brant

26 August 2010

How Long Has Afghanistan Been a Military Disaster?

Well, the Brits have been dicking around there since the late 1800s.

Having spent eight frustrating years behind a desk, the Brigadier-General relished the opportunity to climb back into the saddle and lead an active life. Here was occasion to rediscover adventure and rekindle his military career.
'I feel sure that change will be good for me in ever way,' he reflected.
His enthusiasm might have been dented by the discovery he made while on his way to Kandahar. On April 18, 1880, at a small British depot compound near Dubrai, he came across a massacre.
Refusing to withdraw in the face of a local revolt, a Major Waudby and two Indian sepoys, along with 30 unarmed staff, had been butchered by insurgents after holding them off for three hours.
When they ran out of ammunition they had charged the enemy. Some, recalled Henry Brooke, had been shot 'clean hit between the eyes'. Pathos was added to the brutal scene by the loyal pet dog of Waudby which, in spite of deep swordcuts to its back, continued to stand guard above its master's body.
The dog survived and was taken back to Britain, a lone survivor. It was a vignette from a small-unit action in a long-forgotten war. Worse was ahead.
Then, as now, we embarked on the mission ill-equipped and unprepared for the hazards that lay ahead. Then, as now, we won countless skirmishes and yet failed to win Afghanistan.
Then, as now, we imposed Western systems of control and later wondered why they fell apart. Then, as now, our political leaders scrabbled for an exit strategy with as much dignity and as little panic as they could muster.
The despair of Henry Brooke is obvious when he wrote: 'A more useless and unnecessary thing than an expedition into this country could not be imagined.'
Things have hardly changed.
Make no mistake, Afghanistan is dying. Do not be misled by news of elections and images of ballot boxes, by media reports of village fruit stalls piled high and shops enjoying a fine trade, or by reassurances that our latest push has met with scant resistance.
The bare fact is that nine years on, the insurgency is strong and undefeated. The Taliban has time, patience and limitless manpower - yet we continue to deceive ourselves that we are winning,

Much, much more over at the Daily Mail

By: Brant

Symbolism of "Ground Zero" Depends on Perspective

Grab a map and draw a circle around "ground zero" of the 9-11 attacks. That's the challenge facing all parties in the NYC mosque debate.

The furor over how close is too close to ground zero for a planned Islamic center and mosque has raised a simple question nine years after Sept. 11: Where exactly is ground zero?
The lines marking the site of the 2001 terror attacks change depending on which New Yorker, 9/11 family member and American you talk to. Even those who know it best can't agree on its boundaries. Tourists who come to snap pictures outside of a busy construction site often aren't sure that they're there.
Andrew Slawsky, a 22-year-old college student standing outside the proposed mosque and Islamic center, north of the World Trade Center site, says ground zero is not here.
"This is not sacred ground," Slawsky said. "To me, ground zero is any site that was destroyed or damaged on 9/11 — mostly the hole in the ground."
But Maureen Santora, whose firefighter son was killed at the trade center, says ground zero extends far beyond the fenced-off construction site where cranes, skyscrapers and a Sept. 11 memorial are rising. It goes through a wide swath of lower Manhattan, where debris was littered on rooftops and body parts were found years later, she says.

Here's a map to work from:

View Larger Map

Brant's take?
1. "Ground Zero" ain't just in New York folks. In case you missed it, there was a plane that hit the Pentagon, and another that went down in Pennsylvania. Those impacts are just as important as the ones in NYC. If you're drawing a circle around "ground zero" then it's going to cross more than a few state lines.
2. I get the feeling that more than a few Islamophobes are defining "ground zero" in the most convenient fashion to meet their agendas.
3. It's not like the proposed mosque is going to have a 'Victory of Allah viewing platform' overlooking the site of the twin towers. It's 4 blocks away, facing a different direction, embedded within a mass of other 10-story buildings.
4. Some people just aren't happy without a manufactured 'controversy' to keep them in front of TV cameras. On any end of the political spectrum.

By: Brant

UAVs Over Yemen? Maybe Soon

The CIA is weighing the options to start targeting Al Qaedians in Yemen.

The White House, in an effort to turn up the heat against al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, is considering adding the CIA's armed Predator drones to the fight, two U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The drones are among CIA resources that could be assigned to an existing mission by U.S. special operations forces, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press. The official said such options were in the planning stages and would be done only with the cooperation of the Yemeni leadership in Sanaa.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
The fact that the White House is considering supplying CIA weapons and other resources to the clandestine counterterrorist fight in Yemen was first reported in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Yemen is the base of operations for al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas Day and counts American-born rebel cleric Anwar al-Awlaki among its leadership. The U.S. military has been working with the Yemeni counterterrorist forces for years, and that cooperation has increased under the Obama administration.
But officials say the U.S. hasn't yet brought as much pressure to bear against AQAP as they have against its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's Pakistan-based al-Qaida, and that a range of tools and tactics were being considered.

By: Brant

Double-Barrel Blast At PowerPoint

Wow. Gee Colonel, don't hold back. Tell us how you really feel about the staff practices in Kabul.

Officially, IJC was founded in late 2009 to coordinate operations among all the regional commands in Afghanistan. More likely it was founded to provide some general a three-star command. Starting with a small group of dedicated and intelligent officers, IJC has successfully grown into a stove-piped and bloated organization, top-heavy in rank. Around here you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a colonel.

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general's thought processes as abruptly as a computer system's blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn't matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Random motion, ad hoc processes and an in-depth knowledge of Army minutia and acronyms are also key characteristics of a successful staff officer. Harried movement together with furrowed brows and appropriate expressions of concern a la Clint Eastwood will please the generals. Progress in the war is optional.

Each day is guided by the "battle rhythm," which is a series of PowerPoint briefings and meetings with PowerPoint presentations. It doesn't matter how inane or useless the briefing or meeting might be. Once it is part of the battle rhythm, it has the persistence of carbon 14.

And you can't skip these events because they take roll -- just like gym class.

The start and culmination of each day is the commander's update assessment. Please ignore the fact that "update assessment" is redundant. Simply saying commander's update doesn't provide the possibility of creating a three-letter acronym. It also doesn't matter that the commander never attends the CUA.

The CUA consists of a series of PowerPoint slides describing the events of the previous 12 hours. Briefers explain each slide by reading from a written statement in a tone not unlike that of a congressman caught in a tryst with an escort. The CUA slides only change when a new commander arrives or the war ends.

The commander's immediate subordinates, usually one- and two-star generals, listen to the CUA in a semi-comatose state. Each briefer has approximately 1 or 2 minutes to impart either information or misinformation. Usually they don't do either. Fortunately, none of the information provided makes an indelible impact on any of the generals.

Believe it or not, this excerpted version of the article doesn't even cover half of the hammering that IJC takes. And trust us, it's not just the IJC that acts like this.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Sharpshooter Overwatch

A soldier from the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards looking through the scope of his Sharpshooter rifle. Members of B Company, the 1st Battalion The Scots Guards and the soldiers from the Royal Dragoon Guards working jointly with Afghan security forces have been keeping traffic moving along the key access road of Route 601 in central Helmand. The tarmac road that connects Lashkar Gah in Helmand with Kandahar city to the East is a key transport and commercial link for both Afghans and ISAF forces.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

One Wonders What the Backdrop Banner Will Say This Time

President Obama is going to give his address to the nation to mark end of combat operations in Iraq.

President Barack Obama will address the nation from the Oval Office and visit troops at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Tuesday to mark the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

A few comments -
1. This speech comes 2680 days after President Bush declared an end to "major combat operations" in Iraq. Presumably, the last 7 years have been minor combat operations.
2. This speech comes 2680 days after President Bush declared "mission accomplished"; and yet no one has seen a mission statement from either administration.
3. This speech doesn't seem to claim that a mission was actually accomplished, unless you count keeping political promises to strident partisan supporters as a mission.
4. One wonders how the first firefight in September between the US and insurgents in Iraq will be characterized. I'm betting it feels an awful lot like combat to the guys there.

By: Brant

No New Fighter Jets For Swiss Air Force

It appears that the Swiss Air Force will need to make due with its fleet of obselete F-5E/F fighter jets for several more years in light of a Defence Ministry decision to abort a major purchase of replacement aircraft.
Switzerland on Wednesday postponed its search for new air force fighter jets for several years, just weeks before it was expected to announce a decision on the multibillion dollar tender.

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said at a news conference that the postponement of the replacement of about half of the Swiss army's ageing fleet of F-5 Tiger aircraft "will last at most until 2015".

The tender launched in January 2008 led to a fierce battle between European aerospace group EADS's Eurofighter, French firm Dassault's Rafale and the Gripen built by Sweden's Saab.

The Swiss government said in a statement that it had decided, "on the proposal of the Defence Ministry, to adjourn the partial replacement of 54 obsolete Tiger F-5 aircraft."

It cited budgetary constraints that emerged during the evaluation of the aircraft as well as a desire to use resources to cover other military shortcomings.

By: Shelldrake

Afghan Driver Kills Spanish Soldiers

It has been a tough week for Spanish forces serving in Afghanistan. Earlier in the week an Afghan police recruit shot and killed 2 Spanish police officers and an interpreter and now an Afghan driver has shot and killed 2 Spanish soldiers.
Two Spanish soldiers were shot dead by their Afghan driver while conducting training of local police forces Wednesday, a Spanish official said, raising fears that the Taliban is employing a new strategy of infiltration to kill Western troops.

Spain's interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said at a news conference in Madrid that the driver had worked for the Spanish military for five months. But he also suggested that the attack was premeditated and that the driver, who was killed when Spanish troops returned fire at the scene, might be a member of the Taliban who had disguised his affiliation.

"The person who opened fire knew exactly what he was doing. Therefore, this was a terrorist attack," Perez Rubalcaba told reporters.

The incident took place at a training center in Badghis province in the northwest, where Spanish forces are training police recruits as part of a broader NATO effort to turn over responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police. Initial reports suggested that the Afghan shooter was a police recruit who had been undergoing weapons training.

Intentional shootings of foreign troops by Afghans have caused growing concern, as well as fear that Taliban members are secretly taking jobs that put them in proximity to foreigners. But evidence of such ploys has been largely unconfirmed, and it remains unclear whether the incidents are isolated or part of a coordinated strategy by insurgents.

By: Shelldrake

Italian Navy Ship Docks In Halifax

The Italian warship San Giusto, on a midshipmen training tour, has made port at Halifax, Canada.
Brilliant sunlight and the cries of seagulls greeted the Italian amphibious ship San Giusto as it landed in Halifax Harbour on Wednesday morning.

The 133-metre warship, which is emblazoned with a motto that translates to "courage cannot fail when we are in the right," arrived shortly after 9 a.m. The ship is docked for a four-day visit as part of the annual training campaign of cadets.

Squinting at the bright morning, Cmdr. Stefano Frumento nodded in appreciation of the welcoming weather.

"We’ve been lucky," he said of the ship’s travels to Portugal, Bermuda, Boston and Norfolk, Va.

"For me, it’s the first time in Halifax. It’s a wonderful city," said Capt. Edoardo Giacomini.

The San Giusto left Italy on July 12 on a 2½-month training tour. It carries 92 second-year midshipmen, including 20 women and three foreign cadets.

"The overall goal of the campaign is to enhance the education of the young naval officers that we have on board," said Giacomini.

"This is the first experience for them with a navy warship. They will be introduced to naval skills, techniques and operational procedures. They will have the opportunity to test themselves in a sea environment while operating beside the crew."

At the end of the campaign, the midshipmen will be classified as official members of the Italian navy and carry the rank of ensign, he said.


The San Giusto has been in active service since 1994. Along with a flight deck and a hospital area, the ship has a floodable docking well, which allows it to take on water and deploy amphibious vehicles from the interior of the vessel.

It operates with a crew of 180 and can accommodate an additional 330 personnel. In addition, it can hold up to six medium-heavy helicopters on the flight deck and house 30 medium tanks or 36 tracked armoured vehicles.

The ship is also used for disaster relief operations, civil protection and humanitarian rescue efforts.

By: Shelldrake

25 August 2010

Tools of War: Sig Sauer P220, Glock 36, and CZ-75

Okay, so this is not my normal ToW article. I'll be covering three distinct pistol models, and they aren't very similar at all. Really, I'm just combining three separate pistol reviews into one article. However, they DO have two things n common. First, I own all three and have put thousands of rounds through each of them, and second, I shot all three today.

First up:
The SIG Sauer P220

This is my duty pistol, and it is chambered in .45ACP (when you care enough to send the very best). It is a single-stack, so capacity is only 8+1, but that allows for a small-hands-friendly grip (not an issue for me, but then I'm 6'1" and 195lbs). The trigger action is DA/SA, and it has a thumb-operated decocker.

I love my P220....now. When I first picked it up, I was less than enthusiastic, and after my first box of 50 through it, I remained rather disconcerted. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something just didn't feel "right" about the thing. Turns out, several folks that I have talked to had the same initial impression that I did. Nobody else seemed to be able to pin down what the issue was either, but something felt a little off.

That said, as more and more rounds went through it, the more it grew on me. Whatever the "wrongness" was, it gradually went away and was replaced by "rightness". A couple thousand rounds later, and I am now just waiting for the day when I can buy it from the department and make it actually "mine-mine". I feel very comfortable with this pistol, not just ergonomically, but in terms of accuracy and reliability as well. It has a solid out-of-the-box trigger (though the new Short-Reset-Trigger that a fellow officer has in his weapon makes me want to weep with its goodness) and somehow manages to feel "hefty" without feeling "heavy". This is accomplished through the use of a lightweight alloy frame, so most of its 28oz are carried in the slide, where it should be.

The P220 has a relatively high bore axis, which is the height of the barrel above the grip. Now, in general, the lower the bore axis, the better, as the recoil and muzzle flip are minimized due to less mechanical advantage (leverage) against the shooter's grip. In theory, the higher bore axis should translate into longer target-reacquisition times, but that hasn't really been an issue for me in practice.

So yeah, I like it. And considering that the P220 has been continually refined over 35 years, it definitely earns its reputation as a "Cadillac" weapon. The only modification that I have made is to add some skateboard grip tape to the front strap, reducing slippage from sweaty hands during a hot day or an Oh-Shit call.

Now, I'm about to discuss two other weapons that have little similarity to this one, so let me comment on the contrasting feel of the P220. It's a full-size .45. A hand cannon, if you will. It feels, and is, big. And that is a good thing. Easily concealable? No, but that isn't what this thing is made for. It's made to easily, accurately, and reliably put big rounds on target, and it does that very, very well. And, though it took a few hundred rounds to get me there, it feels that way too.

Next Up:
The Glock Model 36

I might as well name this pistol "Gilligan". It's my "little buddy" and goes everywhere with me. On duty, it's my back-up weapon. Off duty, it goes with me everywhere except the gym and the pool/beach. It's a Glock, so it is utterly reliable, extremely tough, fantastically simple in design, and very lightweight.

This one is small too. It's very narrow for a .45, accomplished by making it a single-stack (the only Glock to date that isn't a double-stack). Capacity suffers a bit as a result (6+1, with +1 magazine extensions available...see the pic), but these are big-boy rounds, .45ACP, and each one packs a heavy punch. I own several standard magazines and several with +1 extensions. The extended mags LOOK like they should feel more comfortable, but I'm happier with the standard mag feel. And since the standard mag package is more concealable, that's what I carry.

This is a lot of firepower in a very compact package. It only weighs around 20oz, and the magazine needs to be in the weapon if you want to get your pinky involved in gripping the pistol. Of course, 99.8% of the time, that's a given, but it does illustrate that space is at a premium here, and controlability suffers a bit as a result.

Aside from it being a single-stack, the Glock 36 is the same as most any other Glock. Same reasonable-but-not-great striker-fired trigger. Same uber-lightweight polymer frame. Same indestructible Tennifer coating. It's the Tupperware of the firearms world...not sexy, but damn does it work. And that pretty much is exactly my criteria for a carry-pistola.

I've become accustomed to shooting it, and can qualify without issue. But all things considered, it isn't the first thing that I want to pull out at the range. While the Glock 36, like all other Glocks, has a very low bore axis, that only goes so far in attenuating .45cal recoil. Effective? Hell yes. Sweet-shooting? Eh....not so much. But I can fall asleep on the couch with it in an inside-the-waistband holster, and I hardly notice that it is there....and did I mention that the damn thing just works?

The CZ-75B

For those of you going "Huh? What the hell is a CZ?", let me introduce you. CZ (or Ceska Zbrojovka) is a Czech manufacturer that just happens to produce some EXCELLENT weapons. Not well known in the US until relatively recently (that whole Iron Curtain thing got in the way for a while), CZ is rapidly gaining in popularity. What that means is that pricing, which is ever driven by demand, is creeping up as well. I just happened to get very lucky back in '99 when I was looking for a "good, cheap 9mm", and I walked away with this baby for $400. In hindsight, a steal.

The CZ-75 is fairly similar to a Browning Hi-Power, and that is a good thing. It is a full-size, all-steel 9mm, which translates to a lot of weight (40oz) absorbing a low recoil, with a low bore axis to boot. That translates to follow-up goodness. This is a very easy pistol to put multiple rounds on target quickly.

It's a double-stack 9mm, so capacity is 16+1. It is DA/SA, and has a manual safety (which I don't like on a pistol) and no decocker (so you lower the hammer like a revolver...which can be a little disconcerting). In hindsight, if I had bought the CZ-75BD, both of these issues would be solved.

How does it shoot? Like butta, baby.... Everyone loves this gun. Nice smooth trigger (though long travel and long reset). Comfortable grip, with a grip angle that is virtually identical to the much-loved 1911 grip angle. It all just combines to make for a very enjoyable shooting experience. And it's fun to have something a little different from the everyday as well. This is the one that I reach for first at the range. This is the one that really makes me smile.

By: Steve

72 Bodies Found in Mexico

The death toll is rising. Not because there are any more people being killed, but because they are finding more and more of the bodies.

Mexican marines found the dumped bodies of 72 people at a rural location in northern Mexico following a shootout with suspected drug cartel gunmen that left one marine and three suspects dead, the Navy reported late Tuesday.
The cadavers of 58 men and 14 women were found at a spot near the Gulf coast south of the border city of Matamoros. It appears to be the largest drug-cartel body dumping ground found in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug trafficking in late 2006.
"The federal government categorically condemns the barbarous acts committed by criminal organizations," The Navy said in a statement. "Society as a whole should condemn these type of acts, which illustrate the absolute necessity to continue fighting crime with all rigor."
Mexican drug cartels often use vacant lots, ranches or mine shafts to dump the bodies of executed rivals or kidnap victims. The Navy did not give details on the victims' identities, who had killed them or whether the bodies had been buried.
The discovery of bodies came about when Marines manning a checkpoint on a highway in northern Tamaulipas state were approached by a wounded man who said he had been attacked by cartel gunmen at a nearby ranch. The man was placed under the protection of federal authorities.

By: Brant

Bombs A-Go-Go in Iraq

The BBC recounts the wave of bombings in Iraq over the past 36-48 hours.

In Baghdad, a suicide car bomb hit a police station in the north-east of the city, killing 15 people, with 58 injured, most of them police, while a parked car bomb in the centre of the city near the Muthana Airport Highway killed two people and injured seven.

There were three other explosions, in Haifa Street, in Karrada, and in Ahmeriya, injuring 11 people.

In other incidents:

in Kut, south of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber attacked a police station, killing at least 15 people and injured 84
in Kirkuk, a car bomb killed one person and injured eight
in Basra, a car exploded as police towed it from a parking lot, killing one person and injuring eight
in Ramadi, a car exploded as alleged bombers were working on it, while a second car exploded about 1km away, injuring 12 people
in Karbala, a suicide car bomb exploded at police checkpoint at the entrance to police station, injuring 30 people.

By: Brant

Army Cancels Ground Combat Vehicle Solicitation

Anticipating a change to the RFP based on reviews of the Army's future, the DoD today canceled the RFP for the new GCV and will re-solicit later.

Following a comprehensive review of its Ground Combat Vehicle program, the Army today announced that it has cancelled the original contract solicitation and will issue a revised Request for Proposals (RFP) that will better ensure an achievable, affordable and timely infantry fighting vehicle.

The review was conducted by both the Army and Office of Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OSD (AT&L)) as part of a continuing effort to ensure that all Army acquisitions effectively and affordably meet the needs of our soldiers. The contract cancellation was made at the earliest stage of the acquisition process, resulting in up to a six month delay of the program, which will best ensure the long-term success of the Ground Combat Vehicle program by better aligning vehicle capabilities with the anticipated needs of future combat operations.

In May 2010, the Army partnered with OSD (AT&L) to conduct a thorough study of the Ground Combat Vehicle program, referred to as a Red Team analysis. The Red Team review recommended that the Army prioritize the planned vehicle’s capabilities to meet achievable goals within the program’s acquisition schedule. This holistic review included an examination of vehicle capabilities, operational needs, the acquisition strategy, program schedule and technology readiness.

In conjunction with the Red Team recommendations, the Army determined that it must revise the acquisition strategy to rely on mature technologies in order to reduce significant developmental risk over a seven year schedule following the initial contract award. The refined RFP will result in a vehicle that provides soldiers with critical armored protection in the modern combat environment.

Based on these recommendations, the Army, in consultation with OSD (AT&L), determined that withdrawing and revising the RFP was the most prudent means of ensuring long-term programmatic success. Details of the specific RFP changes are still being finalized. The Army anticipates issuing the new solicitation within the next 60 days.

By: Brant

Pakistan Shuts Down Afghan Peace Talks in a Pout

Apparently furious at the Taliban for daring to cut a peace deal without the ISI and other Pakistanis at the table, the Paks arrested a bunch of Taliban leadership not out of security concerns, not to keep the US happy in the war efforts, but because it was the easiest way to throw a semi-public hissy-fit about being relegated to the kiddie table while the big boys sorted out their peace treaty. Emphasis below is mine.

But the arrest of Mr. Baradar, the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar, came with a beguiling twist: both American and Pakistani officials claimed that Mr. Baradar’s capture had been a lucky break. It was only days later, the officials said, that they finally figured out who they had.

Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Mr. Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end.

The events surrounding Mr. Baradar’s arrest have been the subject of debate inside military and intelligence circles for months. Some details are still murky — and others vigorously denied by some American intelligence officials in Washington. But the account offered in Islamabad highlights Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting archenemy India, and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan’s postwar political order.

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.”

Some American officials still insist that Pakistan-American cooperation is improving, and deny a central Pakistani role in Mr. Baradar’s arrest.

Cooperation is "improving" eh? After this pile of canned ass, it's got nowhere to go but up.

By: Brant

More Iranian Arms Claims

Oh yeah, the test-fired a new missile. Yawn.

Iran said Wednesday that it has successfully test-fired an upgraded version of a short-range surface-to-surface missile.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the third generation of the Fateh-110, which means "conqueror" in Farsi and Arabic, is equipped with a high accuracy guidance control system. He said the solid-fuel missile was developed domestically by Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization and tested Wednesday.
The new version of the missile increases the weapon's range from earlier generations, Vahidi said without providing any further details. Earlier versions of the Fateh-110, which Iran has had for several years, could strike targets up to 120 miles (193 kilometers) away.
"Employing a highly accurate guidance and control system has enabled the missile to hit its targets with great precision," Vahidi was quoted by state TV as saying Wednesday.
Tehran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.

You see - there's the kicker, buried all the way down in paragraph 5; should've been in paragraph 2.

By: Brant