friday night roundup

Here’s a simple strategy to win in Afghanistan. What could possibly go wrong?


More about Blackwater:

Notice how carefully phrased the denial is:

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater, said Thursday that it was never under contract to participate in clandestine raids with the C.I.A. or with Special Operations personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.

So did they do it without a contract? Or under contract to someone else?


Here’s a new stealth drone operating out of Afghanistan. The Wikipedia article points out the most salient question: what’s it doing there?

The fact that the UAV is deployed to Afghanistan, in spite of the Taliban not possessing radar, has led to speculation that the aircraft is being used to spy on Pakistan or Iran.

And finally tonight, this:

meet the new boss

Not only was McChrystal involved in the “shameful coverup of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death,” writes Joshua Foust. But “one unit under his command, the now-notorious Task Force 6-26, which was assigned to find HVTs, or High Value Targets in Iraq, is credited with the ultimate death of [al Qaeda in Iraq leader Moussab al-] Zarqawi. The problem is, along the way they faced accusations of running a secret camp that tortured prisoners, and they were implicated in at least two detainee deaths during torture sessions. Their camp, called Camp Nama, became something of a lightning rod after a ‘computer malfunction’ destroyed upwards of 70% of their records and an investigation into their conduct stalled out.”

Are we setting up for a Dirty War? It’s a common strategy in this kind of situation, although it doesn’t have a very good track record. More successful is the strategy of out-competing the insurgents for hearts and minds. This isn’t done with propaganda- not successfully, at least. It’s done with jobs and health clinics and roads.

Best strategy for this kind of situation is not to get into it.

so much trouble in the world

It’s been a bad week for Obama, and so air bases in Kyrgyzstan may not seem like the most pressing matter. But this may be his most significant defeat:

We could very well end up using the base under some new arrangement, but this makes clear it will be an arrangement with Russia, not KZ. So this means that we have to accept Russia reclaiming its sphere of influence, if not its old borders, in Central Asia. It also threatens our supply lines to Afghanistan, which are already threatened from the other side as well:

It was not immediately clear whether supply convoys could reach Afghanistan through alternative, smaller routes in the region. Another official in the area, Fazal Mahmood, said repair work had begun on the bridge.

Up to 75 percent of the fuel and supplies destined for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan after being unloaded at the port of Karachi. Most are driven along the Khyber Pass.

Meanwhile, the news from space…. Iran managed to launch a satellite this week, but it remains to be seen if it’s a big move or just a propaganda ploy:

“The rocket is not that sophisticated,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, told The Washington Times. “That Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes ‘beep beep beep,’ is not the same as a nuclear warhead or a telecommunications satellite. It’s harder to send heavier objects and more sophisticated objects into space or across a continent.”

And assorted bumps along the way:

Back on Earth, the stimulus bill may turn into more life support for Detroit. A generation’s worth of debt to prop up a failing industry:

The word on the street is that after some small victories in the House ($3B added to capital funding for transit) there will be another fight in the Senate where various amendments are being proposed to strip transit funds and move them to highways, or to simply add $50B to highways.

This could be interesting- it’s a civil disobedience action that’s actually part of a larger strategy, well-targeted and hopefully well-organized. DC is famously a black hole for media events, but this one might cut through all the crap.

As Congress continues to sputter on solutions for the climate crisis, a national coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice, faith-based and other advocacy groups have announced plans to engage in civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of March 2, 2009.

The event, known as the Capitol Climate Action (CCA), will be the largest mass mobilization on global warming in the country’s history. The event reflects the growing public demand for bold action to address the climate and energy crises. It means no more waiting, no more excuses, and no more coal.

A couple more along those lines:

I’ve been saving up some Sea Shepherd stories for you. Soon come.

special mayhem edition

I know you’ve seen this already, but isn’t it worth watching again?

What a perfect exit. Meanwhile, in further mayhem, we have bank bombings and celebrity church burnings:

Also, a governor and a Wall Street baron have gone down in disgrace over the last few days, and no one seems to have much idea what to do about this whole economy thing. Ever get the feeling things are running off the rails?

Which reminds me, as an aside, that you should check out what’s been happening to our supply lines to Afghanistan:

Pakistani authorities closed the Khyber Pass route nine days ago after militants carried out their biggest attack yet on the supply line, torching around 260 vehicles on two consecutive nights in the northwestern city of Peshawar….

…Pakistan’s Government re-opened the route yesterday, hoping to restore a lifeline that accounts for about 70 per cent of all supplies to the 67,000 Nato, US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.

But the Khyber Transport Association, which claims to represent the owners of 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, said that its members would no longer ply the route because of the recent security problems.

Somali pirates are actually going to court in Kenya. On the other hand, Somalia’s “government” apparently had room to collapse even further.

Greece shows no signs of settling down, and the rest of Europe is starting to get nervous:

Today’s show has been brought to you by the number strife and the letter discord.

assorted post-soviet conflicts

Leaving aside Georgia, Ukraine and the Black Sea, which will get their own round-up soon, here’s a bunch of news from the former Soviet periphery.

Start with this one. It hasn’t gotten any play, but it could be a pretty big deal.
Russia envoy warns NATO on air space to Afghanistan
Look at a map. See if you can cobble together a supply line that doesn’t use Russian airspace. You can do it, but it’s not easy. I mean yeah, you can go through Pakistan, but that’s hardly what you’d call stable. Not to mention being completely out of the way.

I guess the Russians had nothing to do with this one, at least:
Clashes mar Bosnia’s first gay festival

NATO to assist UN, EU in Kosovo’s tense north

Bosnia: Serb leader says breakup of country ‘not a tragedy’
Bosnia: Muslim leader’s UN speech sparks controversy
Last Serb move may tear Bosnia, says Envoy

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has repeatedly threatened the secession of the Serb Republic from Bosnia if the Muslim leaders continued to question the republic’s legitimacy.

Dodik had said that the disintegration of Bosnia-Herzegovina, torn by internal disputes between its Muslims, Serbs and Croat population, would not be a tragedy.

“I have no emotional attachment to Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor do I love it,” he said. “I’m emotionally very attached to the RS and believe it can function,” said bosnian Serb Leader Dodik told told Radio Free Europe.

Russia’s Northern Fleet joins Russia-Belarus war games

Nagorno-Karabakh is another frozen conflict that’s starting to thaw. I’m sure US assistance will help promote a peaceful resolution.
US to help solve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

And these are approaching their shelf life, but are still a useful reminder of what’s up in the North Caucasus:
16 die in clashes in Russia’s volatile Caucasus
Ingushetia abuses ‘may spark war’

news news good for the heart the more you read the more yo

Somalia: Who`s to blame for piracy spiraling out of control?
Canada Navy to escort Somalia food aid ships

Saakashvili ex-ally demands probe of Georgia war
Documents: Russia impeding South Ossetia monitors
UN raises number of uprooted in Georgia to 192,000

Moscow eyes Afghanistan in fear
Technical failure halts oil flow at BTC pipeline
West warns Serbs over quitting Bosnia power company


Russia says it must stake claim to Arctic resources
As sea ice melts, open water encircles the Arctic

In early September, two normally ice-clogged sea routes in the Arctic Ocean were open at the same time. It’s the first time in recorded history that this has happened.

Watch a dust devil spin in Martian arctic
US space woes felt by Europe
China counts down to space launch
Mike Griffin’s Exclusive Off The Record China Briefing
NASA Talking Points: The Urgency of NASA’s Need for Legislation to Continue to Purchase Soyuz Crew Vehicles From Russia

NASA needs Congress to provide legislative extension allowing purchase of Russian Soyuz crew vehicles to support astronauts on the International Space Station by October 2008 or else NASA will have no choice but to de-crew all U.S. astronauts from the International Space Station in 2012.

NASA needs this legislative extension by October 2008. The development and utilization of the International Space Station has been a cornerstone of U.S. space policy and international leadership since President Reagan first announced the program in 1984. We need the help of Congress to capitalize on our Nation’s $50 billion investment in space leadership.

Industry to Congress: Renew the Expiring Clean-Energy Credits
Bye-Bye, Miss American Pyro: Eco-vandal pleads guilty to 1999 arson at Michigan State University

headlines- pirates space arctic enviro

Hermes Spacecraft Looking to Bring Personal Space Travel to the Masses

Pirates seize two more ships off Somalia

Here’s an update, or maybe a retraction, to a story I had yesterday:
NYC mayor spins back his turbine idea for city

Nope, never saw this one coming:
1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired
It’s a declassified DOE report, courtesy of the National Security Archive.

15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations You Must See
Solazyme: Millions of Gallons of Algae Biodiesel Within 3 Years
Climate Change Negotiations

Iceland to offer oil-drilling licenses in Arctic
China’s Arctic expedition team sets up temporary research station on ice

New Guidelines Would Give F.B.I. Broader Powers

Is war in air in the Gulf?

news stories- the usual wars, plus feet

It’s the alleged anniversary of the alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident. You should know about this if you don’t. Even the wikipedia has a little trouble with it.

Little foot, big foot:
Mystery foot sent to Seattle for testing
Is legendary Bigfoot in Kenora? — SEE FOOTPRINT

This is why you oppose wars, even when they seem well-intentioned:
In Korea’s `crying’ cave, 100s died in US attack
The remarkable thing here is that anyone is shocked or surprised. It’s what happens during war, and especially high tech war conducted from the air. More people should think about this before the fact, not 50 years after.

Bush warns Pakistan of ‘serious action’
And again, hard to see why anyone’s surprised:
Ragtag Taliban Show Tenacity in Afghanistan

Canada must prepare for new Arctic age
Norway completes seismic scan in pristine Arctic

Kosovo lives: A mixed village
UN and Kosovo at Odds on Parallel Structures

Georgian region close to ‘large-scale’ conflict, says Russia

news stories- geopolitics

Separating out the geopolitics from the fun stuff today.

First ever Kosovo passports issued: Prime minister
Kosovo ‘Won’t Stop Serbian Ministers’ Visits’
Failing to start the blue car in Kosovo

More than a month after they were due to take over from UN counterparts, no EU police, justice or customs officials are in the field, mentoring Kosovan colleagues.

Only about 300 of the expected 1,900 members of the Eulex mission are deployed, mostly in a logistical role – and the reason for this is the lack of a legal “umbrella”.

War Fears Rise Over Russia-Georgia Tension
Heavy gunfire in South Ossetia, no injuries
South Ossetia Reiterated Desire for Being Annexed by Russia
Russian railway troops leaving Abkhazia: spokesman

You can’t win a war from the air:
Afghan air war grows in intensity

Responding to requests from ground commanders, allied aircraft over the past week have pummeled enemy ground targets an average of 68 times a day across Afghanistan, dropping 500- and 2,000-pound guided bombs and strafing enemy forces with cannon fire, according to Air Force daily strike reports.

A year ago, the Air Force was recording about 35 airstrikes per day in Afghanistan.

Although the Air Force takes what it says are exhaustive measures to avoid accidental deaths, civilian casualties from airstrikes have spiked twice this year, from none in January to 23 in March to 60 so far this month, according to new, unpublished data from Human Rights Watch researcher Marc Garlasco, a former targeting chief for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

Taliban-led insurgents are attacking in significant numbers and staying to fight rather than engaging in traditional hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, according to U.S. commanders.

In several recent incidents, U.S. and allied troops prevailed in pitched battles only after fighter-bombers showed up to blast the insurgents.

news stories – saturday night driveby edition

I just got back from seeing Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Highly recommended.

Apart from that, it was too nice today to worry much about the news. Here’s an undisciplined burst.

Another update on this story:
The Story Behind San Francisco’s Rogue Network Admin
It comes from a single unnamed source, so usual disclaimers apply.

Here are two related stories:
Afghanistan hit by record number of bombs
Coalition ‘bombs Afghan police’
Not the first time we’ve seen Americans drop bombs on friendly forces. Relying on air power is a good way to avoid casualties for your own troops, but the price is a vast increase in what we’ll politely call “collateral damage.”

US appoints ambassador to Kosovo, expresses optimism on Kosovo recognition

Separatist government of South Ossetia rejects EU proposal for talks with Georgia