Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meanwhile, In Israel....

From The American Spectator:

Meanwhile, in Israel…from The American Spectator and AmSpecBlog by James B. Brinton(Updated, March 28, 2:05 p.m.)

While the U.S. has been preoccupied with American and European involvement in Libya, Israel has come under fire yet again.

According to Thursday's Jerusalem Post, about a dozen rockets and half a dozen mortar rounds had landed in the southern part of the country. That was round one.

By Friday, defense minister Ehud Barak noted in the Jerusalem Post that "some 100 rockets and mortars… reaching communities further [from the Strip] than usual" were fired, with targets including Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Sderot, Ashkelon, and Gaza border-region communities.

The Israeli Air Force retaliated with strikes into Gaza, and Israel has warned of massive ground-based retaliation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates March 25, said Israel is ready to use "great force."

One regional paper called the potential situation "the worst since Israel's deadly offensive in Gaza in the Winter of 2008-2009."

By Sunday, an Iron Dome anti-missile battery had been deployed near Be'er Sheva in the south, and the mayors of other southern towns were attacking the government for not having more batteries ready, and for failing to site them near their towns, according to Haaretz. In a somewhat cynical statement, the mayor of Sderot told his Be'er Sheva counterpart, "Don't get too excited over the system they deployed near your city. I'm not sure it's yours; it has wheels."

Haaretz added that "...The mayor of the Bedouin town of Rahat Faiz Abu Sahiban bemoaned what he considered the abandonment of Israel's Bedouin citizens in the face of Gaza fire, saying: 'We are within the rockets' range, closer in fact than Be'er Sheva.'"

There is room for irony in this situation. Despite nearly fifteen years of work and about half a billion dollars in spending, plus U.S. aid, this attack caught Israel defenseless against a threat it has faced for decades.

So far as can be determined, Israel has either developed or participated in the development of at least two short- to medium-range systems designed to deal with Palestinian stove-pipe rockets and the more sophisticated Grad/Katusha missiles now becoming available, but for various reasons, nothing was ready when this attack came.

Hamas' original unguided rockets may have carried a warhead, but they were as unsophisticated as a teenager's science project; some still are. But while inaccurate, they could kill, and they injured hundreds, according to the BBC. Best, from Hamas' perspective, they were cheap -- basically a steel pipe with fins, propellant (sugar and fertilizer) and a warhead. They were simple enough for amateurs to build in garages by the hundred and in 2008 alone Hamas fired an estimated 1,750 into Israel. More followed. More are following this week.

Now the longer-ranged Grad/Katusha is becoming available, deadlier because its warhead is professionally designed and because it can be aimed more precisely. Thus the risk increases while the defensive situation remains almost static.

Against the Missiles

The first of Israel's anti-rocket developments may have been a chemical-laser system called THEL, the Tactical High Energy Laser. THEL looks like a searchlight, but it does not illuminate, it eliminates. THEL's beam either physically destroys its target though energy transfer and thermal shock or heats its warhead until it detonates. THEL's potential range is about ten kilometers, according to missilethreat.com.

Although accounts differ, it appears that THEL could have been deployed in Israel's defense in the early 2000s, and stove-pipe rockets and mortar shells might have been regularly turned into bits of falling scrap long ago -- more to the point, this week.

The system was co-developed by America's military, Northrup Grumman, and Israel in a program begun in 1996; THEL was tested at the White Sands Missile Range in 1998. An initial operating capability (IOC) was penciled in for 1999, but THEL was never deployed. Unfortunately, it seems that few in authority put much faith in the fact that rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds can in fact be shot down with high-energy beams of light from a Deuterium Fluoride laser.

But in 2004 tests, THEL was said to approach 100% effectiveness intercepting Katusha rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds at ranges of up to five kilometers. In fact, if pursued, THEL might have been deployed as a fixed defense by 2004, protecting Israelis against the fire that triggered the current conflict.

Why isn't THEL defending Israel now? There are several reasons on the record, one being that the Israeli Defense Forces wanted a mobile version, MTHEL, and therefore decided not to deploy the fixed system. An MTHEL program was launched, but its funding was reduced. The cutback slowed development and MTHEL's operational date slid to 2010. It is still sliding, apparently.

Other criticisms included its use of corrosive fuels, and the vulnerability of their tanks, but this would seem to apply more to MTHEL than THEL which could have been placed in hardened locations. Also, critics said THEL's range was too short and, besides, it's often cloudy in northern Israel, therefore the laser might have been ineffective. Of course, it's also clear often, and it's normally clear on the Gaza border, whence most of the missiles seem to come.

At any rate, after expending more than $300 million, according to the New York Times, THEL appears to have been shelved in 2006, at least in its fixed-defense form.

Even so, some programs live on beneath the radar, and THEL may be one of them though facts are hard to come by. If so, THEL's cost per engagement may be a plus. Though hardly cheap, as defense systems go THEL's operation is not overly costly. Shooting down an incoming missile with THEL costs an estimated $3,000. That may be less than a tenth the price of a guided anti-missile, and dirt cheap compared to a human life.

Israel could have sited hardened THEL batteries at strategic locations along its borders, especially near Gaza, and soon convinced Hamas that their cheap rockets were a waste of time. Ditto for the better Grad/Katusha rockets Hamas is now receiving. Compared with the speed of light, the most sophisticated rocket is a very slow creature.

Home-Grown Alternative

Instead, Israel's answer to the problem of incoming fire from Gaza and Lebanon has been Iron Dome, developed domestically by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems at a price which Haaretz estimates at about $250 million plus about $50 million per battery. The U.S. contributed more than $200 million to its development. The cost of its anti-missiles is not stated, but "cost of intercept" is apparently runs to five figures, according to military sources.

Iron Dome uses a missile to kill a missile. It is capable of destroying an incoming rocket in less than half a minute, though it can't engage targets much closer than about 1.7 miles.

Unfortunately, Iron Dome has two immediate problems. The first is that the Palestinians attacked before the system was deployed, and only now is a single battery active. The second, future, problem is whether firing a relatively expensive anti-missile against a stove-pipe rocket is affordable in the long run.

While there are few figures on the cost of Iron Dome's anti-missile (defensetech.org cites a price of about $50,000, but confirmation is hard to find), it must cost far more than a stove-pipe rocket built by unpaid amateur labor in a Gaza garage. Whatever the cost of its anti-missile, the Israeli military appears to think it's high, according to defensetech.org.

Tactically, it's an open question whether the Palestinians will try to saturate Iron Dome with large numbers of stove-pipe rockets, making it too costly to be practical. They could also fire a cloud of stove-pipe rockets, empty Iron Dome's magazines, then begin firing the more dangerous Grad/Katusha at undefended targets.

According to Israeli media reports, the country is thought to have just the one mobile Iron Dome battery available at the moment, according to YnetNews.com, the one sent south last week to protect the territory bordering Gaza. However while proof tests were successful, there is always some question about effectiveness until any system has been battle tested. This would be Iron Dome's first use defending against an actual attack. Hopefully, it's up to the challenge. The Israeli military, hedging its bets, is calling this "an operational experiment," adding that full operational capability lies in the future.

Even if Iron Dome performs flawlessly, there are issues of quantity and availability.

In mid-February, Haaretz reported that Iron Dome would be declared operational "within a few weeks." The Israeli Air Force, responsible for its deployment and operation, estimated then that approximately thirteen batteries would be needed to protect the country as a whole, and Israel may be some time away from having that many. The number of completed batteries is unknown.

Whatever their number, about a year ago, the government appears to have decided to warehouse rather than deploy Iron Dome, according to the Jerusalem Post: The "anti-rocket defense system will be located in center of country, [and] be deployed only in cases of extreme rocket fire from Gaza or south Lebanon." A difficult decision to understand since the system was designed to defend against surprise attacks.

However since new mortar rounds cost between about $500 and $1,600 depending on type, firing a $50,000 anti-missile to knock one out seems uneconomical, and given the quantity of old Soviet mortar rounds available, unsustainable. Stovepipe rockets cost about the same, so the same math applies.

Iron Dome may work perfectly, but can a nation smaller than New Jersey afford to use it? Could Iron Dome's cost of intercept be the reason Israel didn't deploy it? Nobody will comment.

So, What Now?

Obviously it's too late to deploy THEL or MTHEL, but there is another system that could begin defending Israeli civilians within weeks. It would be based on Phalanx, also known as the Close In Weapon System (CWIS) or "Sea-whiz."

Something of a super Gatling gun, and based on the 20-mm Vulcan cannon, Phalanx has been mature for decades. First Phalanx deployment was in 1978, but Vulcan has been used in aircraft since the 1960s. The weapon is used in forms tailored to air-to-air combat and ground attack, and by more than 20 navies as a last-ditch defense against supersonic anti-ship missiles, some of which maneuver wildly. As Phalanx, it's used by the Navy on every class of surface-combat vessel, in effect defeating incoming fire by hanging a curtain of metal in front of the threat. The original airborne Vulcan is famous for its destruction of Iraqi tanks.

This is mature technology and its development costs have long since been paid. Even better, procurement and operational costs could be low compared to any other defense.

Phalanx/Vulcan/CIWS already is available in a compact land version called C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar). C-RAM grew out of a 2004 request from then U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Peter Schoomaker, who wanted a means of defending U.S. troops in Iraq. It was deployed on the back of flat-bed trucks, and worked well as a mobile defense against incoming fire, using its self-contained Ku-band radar and infrared sensors to track targets.

C-RAM is a system with a range of about five kilometers, and while not originally designed for use in urban areas, it uses special ammunition which either hits the target or self-destructs to minimize ground damage. Used in a border defense role, C-RAM would be aimed outward, away from one's citizens and toward the adversary. Also, C-RAM and can be moved as needed; the U.S. Army does this now.

C-RAM technology could probably defend against any short-range Hamas or Hezbollah missile, mortar, or artillery threat, and against hardware neither group has gotten its hands on yet. THEL could be better, but the relatively inexpensive C-RAM has been mature and available for years. Israel could have bought Phalanx-based systems at any time in the past decade for a relatively small outlay, perhaps deploying them at many locations across its southern border.

Interestingly, the Department of Homeland security is studying a C-RAM derivative for use in defending airports against man-portable surface-to-air missiles, according to en.citizendium.org. Phalanx/Vulcan/C-RAM seems to be one of those weapon systems so useful it simply continues to evolve.

Unlike Iron Dome C-RAM can engage targets closer than two miles -- much closer -- making it a good point-defense weapon, and one suitable for deployment in towns near the border -- within mortar range. And because (unlike traditional counter-battery fire) it destroys the incoming missile rather than attacking its source, it would create almost no collateral damage.

So if war and bloodshed are abhorrent, and the safety of innocent civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, is important, why hasn't Israel deployed any of these systems? Or all three? Colliding priorities? Budgetary problems?

In fairness, Israel may have tried to buy C-RAM, and apparently purchased one battery for evaluation. Then about three years ago an article appeared in an obscure Finnish international-affairs journal, describing Phalanx/C-RAM and wondering why Israel wasn't using it. With this information available, pressure began building from Israeli citizens, backers, and media. The article may have been noticed by military-affairs analyst Yossi Melman, who wrote in Haaretz that Israel already should have purchased C-RAM.

Under pressure, according to UPI analyst Martin Sieff, Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided in Spring 2009 to ask America to sell C-RAM to Israel. However, then as now, the U.S. military was involved in Afghanistan, and C-RAM was reserved for use in that theater. This was rational policy for America, but an obstacle to Israel.

According to media reports, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu intended to reinforce Barak's request during a visit to Washington. Unfortunately, at about the same time, Vice President Joe Biden deplaned in Israel to be greeted by news of 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem, an announcement deemed to be an insult to the United States as a whole and Biden in particular.

This chilled U.S.-Israeli relations. So with an already absolute duty to protect U.S. troops, the Obama administration apparently decided that charity began at home, and continued to allocate C-RAM exclusively to U.S. forces.

Today, according to a Defense Department spokesman, and public procurement information, there is no record of C-RAM sales to Israel. Negotiations may be proceeding in the background, but no one will comment. C-RAM prime contractor, Raytheon Co.'s Missile Systems Division not only refused comment, but referred this reporter to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, a notably laconic organization.

Whatever the reason -- bureaucracy, budget, or the desire to spend defense funds in country -- if rockets and mortar shells are the cause, the latest conflict in Gaza was, almost certainly avoidable. Hamas might still have fired its rockets and mortars, but with few, or no, injuries or lost lives, this would have been an annoyance to Israel, but not a casus belli.

NATO Re-Considered

From The American Spectator:

Mar 28, 2011 (2 days ago)NATO Reconsideredfrom The American Spectator and AmSpecBlog by Joseph A. HarrissFrom the April 2011 issue of The American Spectator

With policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic slashing public spending and searching for ways to reduce military budgets, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has just begun construction of a splendiferous new $1.38 billion headquarters on a 100-acre site in Brussels. Designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, renowned for luxurious commercial buildings including the tallest in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the futuristic new NATO offices will feature eight sweeping wings covering 2.7 million square feet. Glass-walled elevators overlooking cavernous atriums showering natural light. Ecologically correct grass growing on the roof. Seventeen conference rooms. A range of amenities from cafeterias, restaurants, and banks, to shopping, sport, and leisure facilities. Pentagon staffers, eat your hearts out.

The architects wax rhapsodic, comparing its weird configuration to "fingers interlaced in a symbolic clasp of unity and mutual interdependence." As one SOM design director glowingly describes the sprawling steel and glass structure, "We wanted to break the norm of what is perceived as a government service, bunker-like building. We made it look very classy, giving the illusion that it was a world-class, floor-to-ceiling-type glass building, very inviting. We also paid attention to how these grand spaces look."

For an organization that's been a perfect illustration of Parkinson's Law (bureaucracies expand over time, regardless of workload) since it lost its original raison d'être when the Soviet Union collapsed, it seems a normal entitlement. "A modern NATO needs a modern building," NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted at the groundbreaking ceremony last December 16. Maybe. But does it have to be this extravagant, this grand, this pricey? The timing couldn't be worse.

The timing couldn't be better. The provocative new structure comes just when the Obama administration is pushing to trim federal budgets by some $1.1 trillion over the next decade, along with reductions in Pentagon spending by $78 billion. Other major NATO members are also cutting defense spending, Britain by 8 percent, Germany by some $11.5 billion. The spectacular project at least has the virtue of symbolizing what has gone wrong with this self-aggrandizing, self-perpetuating body whose main mission often seems to be not collective defense of its members, but its own self-preservation.

"It is somewhat ironic that NATO breaks ground on its new headquarters at the same time the fundamental sinews binding the alliance together are coming apart," says Marko Papic, a senior analyst at Stratfor, a global intelligence analysis firm based in Austin. As for NATO's image in a time of austerity, the controversial building is a well-aimed shot in the foot. "It is certainly unfortunate," Stephen Flanagan, senior vice president at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me. "We don't need the crystal palace that's on the drawing boards. It's an easy target for critics when everybody is having trouble maintaining current operations."

I BEGAN COVERING NATO as a young Paris-based newsmagazine correspondent in 1966, when French president Charles de Gaulle abruptly tore up the lease on its headquarters. Belgium hastily offered to house the organization in Brussels, and I covered the opening ceremony the following year. Built in just 29 weeks -- the lavish new offices have taken a decade of planning, construction will take another four years -- the prefab headquarters was simple, but at least it looked lean, keen, and spartan-military. Not like a stately pleasure-dome for coddled fat cats. (Having recently revisited the present headquarters, I can attest that working conditions are equal to those in many federal buildings in Washington.)

Over the years I interviewed NATO secretary generals and SHAPE commanders, rode in helicopters with SACEUR General Alexander Haig on maneuvers in Germany, went hunting for Soviet submarines in the North Sea on a Norwegian frigate, flew in an AWACS plane as it monitored bogey air traffic on the other side of the Iron Curtain. I wrote articles calling attention to threats like Soviet SS-20 missiles pointed at the heart of Europe. Never was there any doubt about the necessity of collective defense. NATO filled an obvious need.

No more. Behind the façade of variegated non-defense activities, bigger and more complex command structures, and far-flung operations is an organization in identity crisis. "NATO's mission has been unclear since the end of the Cold War, and there is a sense of it trying to validate itself as relevant to today's world," Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and former chairman of the NATO High Level Group, told me. "It's no longer the indispensable defense organization it used to be. It's become so much less important that, if it didn't already exist, you couldn't start it today. It's living on its legacy."

The North Atlantic Alliance was marked by mixed motives from the very beginning. As its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, put it bluntly, NATO's purpose was threefold: "To keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down." It managed that, then ironically faced its biggest crisis when the Warsaw Pact disappeared in mid-1991. With that ended the specter of an onslaught of Red Army tanks across the North German Plain -- and the Alliance's mission.

NATO went into limbo and into a funk. "It entered a profound existential crisis two decades ago," explains Dominique David, executive director of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. "But it managed to survive for several reasons. First, big bureaucracies never go away. They always find other pretexts to stay in business. Then, the U.S. wanted to keep an eye on Europe and NATO was a convenient way. But the biggest boost came in the early 1990s when former Soviet satellites requested membership. It became both a military organization and an instrument for the political stabilization of Europe. That made it a strange, schizophrenic animal constantly looking for new threats to relegitimize itself."

For the last 20 years NATO has tried hard to look relevant to Western security. From the homogeneous 16 members of the Cold War period, it has ballooned to 28 disparate countries with widely divergent perceptions of their individual security threats. Thus its recent operations far beyond the original Euro-Atlantic area threaten its cohesion. Is its place off the Horn of Africa, for instance, where its anti-piracy operation overlaps with two other international task forces? Many think not. "For us, the most important aspect of NATO is European operations," a well-placed European defense official told me. "I'm not sure that fighting pirates in the Red Sea is its best role."

The Alliance's eager quest for a convincing new role has led to mission creep on a grand scale. A new strategic concept formulated in 1991 tried to define a new threat environment that lacked any real dangers to its members. So security was redefined as not only a military issue, but one with political, economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Dialogue and cooperation were NATO's new weapons "to reduce the risk of conflict arising out of misunderstanding." Another strategic concept in 1999 expanded its purview to humanitarian operations. Still another issued at the Lisbon summit last November covered every conceivable threat from energy security to non-proliferation, cyber war, health risks, and climate change. It also invited Russia to participate in ballistic missile defense.

Originally NATO concentrated on its core activity of defending the Euro-Atlantic area. Going "out of area" was verboten. That changed in the early 1990s when, as Dutch analyst Hugo Klijn of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations notes, "NATO followed the usual course of big, self-perpetuating bureaucracies: seeking new missions and linking to other big bureaucracies." What new missions? Ill-defined and far from its designated area. What other big bureaucracy? The mother of them all, the United Nations.

In December 1992 the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body, declared that the Alliance was "prepared to take further steps to assist the UN in implementing its decisions to maintain international peace and security." Suddenly it was in the global peacekeeping business as a subcontractor to the UN. Says François Heisbourg, special advisor at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research and one of France's top defense analysts, "They said in the 1990s that NATO had to go out of area or out of business, and that was true. It did go out of area and it stayed in business. But it lost its geographical focus and turned itself into an ad hoc coalition where countries agree or not to share risks and burdens together. That's the new NATO."

It's a NATO that considers it has a universal mandate, and whose name, "North Atlantic," now bears little relation to its activities. In years to come, this might turn out to be more than many members, including the U.S., bargained for. Could the Alliance operate anywhere now? When I asked a high NATO official, the answer was clear. "I cannot envision a future in which NATO is not called upon to generate power of whatever kind for crises anywhere in the world," he replied. "We airlifted disaster relief into Pakistan. If you can go into Pakistan, what's off limits?"

WITH NATO's new vocation as a global, proactive, security, crisis management, peacekeeping, and humanitarian organization, it now commits Americans to fighting and dying in any hotspot on the planet. As a Cato Institute study puts it, "The transformation of NATO from an alliance to defend the territory of its members to an ambitious crisis-management organization has profound and disturbing implications for the United States… [with] the potential to entangle [it] in an endless array of messy, irrelevant disputes."

In the best bureaucratic tradition, the Alliance grew geometrically, metastasizing from its core area to the Baltic States, Central Europe, and, heaven help us, the Balkan powder keg. Enlargement aggravated its already complicated, consensus-based, decision-making process. Difficult with 16 members, it becomes virtually impossible to make timely, coherent operational plans with 28, even with -- or because of -- the more than 5,000 meetings it holds every year. "NATO's enlargement [has] increased the complexity of an already complex NATO bureaucracy," states another study by the Dutch institute, "and one wonders how NATO is managing its increasing bureaucracy with its complex procedures. One of the most important questions…is how this bureaucracy can remain effective and efficient."

Some allies ask the same question. "There's a tendency at NATO to create numerous bureaucracies, and they're not terribly effective," a senior official at the French Defense Ministry told me. "With the British, we're determined to slim down its command structure, which has become enormous, and reform its financial management." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said France is particularly unhappy with the way NATO spends money. "They have only a vague idea how much an operation is going to cost when they get into it, just presenting us with the bill once it's under way. That's no way to run an outfit that has to be cost effective, especially nowadays."

Even the diplomatic perks and prestige of international functionaries, plus the prospect of spiffy new offices, no longer attract the best and brightest to NATO, to hear Richard Perle tell it. "Here's an indication of where NATO stands today," he says. "When I was in government during the Cold War, NATO was the prized assignment. Everyone in the diplomatic service wanted to be ambassador to NATO, military people wanted assignments there. It was the center of something important. It no longer is. The new dangers threatening us are no longer things that can be solved by an alliance like NATO."

Prized or not, the civil-military bureaucracy has kept busy with things unrelated to defending member states. It has, inter alia, helped stabilize Bosnia, assisted peacekeeping in Darfur, combated ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia (an operation the Cato Institute called "just shy of a full-blown policy fiasco"). And it became embroiled in Afghanistan.

THE MIXED MOTIVES AT NATO's creation also marked its stepping into the Afghan quagmire. Was the International Security Assistance Force turned over to the Alliance because it was best qualified and equipped to handle the job? Or to make it appear a less American, more international effort? (Fully two-thirds of the ISAF troops are American; some countries have less than a token 10 personnel there.) Or as a costly, lethal way of modernizing NATO? As Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, testified to the House Armed Services Committee in February 2007, "The Afghanistan campaign could mark the beginning of sustained NATO efforts to overhaul Alliance operational practices in every domain: command and control, doctrine, force generation, intelligence, and logistics." It could also, he implied, make or break the Alliance.

Right now NATO is positioning itself for a lifetime job in Afghanistan. Earlier this year its then senior civilian representative there, Mark Sedwill, declared that a long-term partnership would be required even after hand-over in 2014 to Afghan forces. NATO would then be in the business of Afghan socio-economic development. "We will be there as long as we are needed," he promised.

Canadian general Rick Hillier, who commanded ISAF from February to August 2004, came away bitterly disillusioned (he went on to Canada's top military job as chief of the Defense Staff). In his bestselling book last year, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, he writes that "NATO itself was looking for something, anything, to do that would allow it to prove that it was still a worthwhile organization." When he took over his command, Hillier was appalled by "NATO's lack of cohesion, clarity and professionalism." There was, he writes scathingly, "no strategy, no clear articulation of what they wanted to achieve, no political guidance, and few forces. It was abysmal. NATO had started down a road that destroyed much of its credibility and in the end eroded support for the mission in every nation in the Alliance…. Afghanistan has revealed that NATO has reached the stage where it is a corpse, decomposing."

Strong words from a soldier known in Canada for speaking his mind. Small wonder that Hillier had little patience with NATO's ponderous bureaucracy, with its "enormous numbers of high-ranking civilians and military -- general officers were a dime a dozen…. It was a wonder that any decisions got made at all." Today about 4,500 staff are at the Brussels headquarters. Along with thousands of others in its multifarious agencies and strategic and regional commands, they engage in a giddy flurry of activities. Many have only an imaginary relation to security. For example:

• The Academic Affairs Unit runs a fellowships program and organizes conferences, seminars, and visits for academics and think tank researchers to "project the Alliance's point of view and strengthen information on its goals." In other words, a glorified PR operation with academic pretensions.

• The Science for Peace and Security Committee "contributes to NATO's mission by linking science to society," whatever that means. Concretely, it funds grants for research on soft, fashionable subjects like civil science and environment.

• The NATO Undersea Research Center in La Spezia, Italy, has a vast program including Marine Mammal Risk Mitigation that studies the effects of sonar on marine animals, "to counter the threat from quiet submarines."

• Then there's the NATO Multimedia Library with its more than 18,000 books and subscriptions to 155 newspapers and magazines. And its annual Manfred Wörner Junior Essay competition with a $6,800 prize. And the NATO photo competition for young shutterbugs who learn that, for example, "Taking photographs of random strangers can be risky."

Really lucky individuals from member states get to go to the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. Located in the heart of the spectacular Bavarian Alps, the school is, as NATO puffs it, "a very special place…blessed with the beauty of the mountains." After a grueling day studying intelligence or joint operations, participants can relax at the NATO Recreation Center with skis and snowboards and then get a massage.

ONE OF THE CLEAREST SIGNS of the Alliance's identity crisis is its bloated PR operation -- when its mission was obvious, it didn't need an advertising campaign -- euphemistically known as the Public Diplomacy Division. Its multinational staff of 125 labors "To raise the Alliance's profile with audiences world-wide." Equipped with two television and 10 radio studios, it generates a torrent of programs, press releases, pamphlets, magazines, DVDs, and audio-visual presentations. It also organizes frequent international conferences, seminars, and other media events boosting NATO. It runs the web-based natochannel.tv, where slick films show what it's like aboard a submarine or to go on patrol in Afghanistan. But mainly it carries every speech, statement, declaration, and press conference by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Variously described as dynamic, bossy, and high-handed, Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark, seems to think he is still leader of a country instead of a multinational organization where policy is made by consensus among members. "For him, ambassadors to NATO are just flunkies, he doesn't bother to consult them," one exasperated official of an Alliance member told me. Like a chief of state, he is given to churning out his own declarations on world crises that have little to do with Euro-Atlantic defense (Egypt, Libya, et al.), calling for the usual democracy, freedom of expression, less violence, etc., etc.

He travels widely promoting new roles for the Alliance. Just last February he was in Qatar and Israel selling NATO's services in the Middle East. "NATO's new strategic concept is relevant to the Middle East," he explained earnestly to an Israeli newspaper. "It gives NATO a clear role in taking on the security challenges that will dominate in the 21st century…. I imagine anyone in the Middle East can see the relevance to your region." But the secretary general appears subject to homesickness. As I walked through the quiet, mostly empty headquarters hallways one recent Friday with my NATO minder, we passed the impressive glass doors to his office. "Is he in?" I asked. "Not likely," came the answer. "Every Friday afternoon he heads back home to Copenhagen."

Rasmussen does get some credit for responding to allies' prodding for reform, not that he really has any choice at this point. "We have committees for nearly everything," sighs a headquarters official. "Whenever a topic has to be examined, like armament systems, they create a committee. We had more than 400 of them until we recently began eliminating some. Now there are 200 and we hope to get that down to 100." NATO's 14 agencies in seven countries, employing 6,000 people, with a separate budget of more than $13.6 billion, are also due for slimming one of these days.

The military command structure, still basically unchanged since the Cold War, is due to be reduced from the present 13 headquarters scattered among member countries -- which value them more for job creation than defense. That will be a long and difficult reform, Stephen Flanagan of CSIS explains. "Right now they're trying to decide which commands in which countries can be eliminated, but for some members that's the only part of NATO they have in their territory, so they resist cutting. The new strategic concept gave a better sense of where the alliance should be going. Now the question is, will they really do it?"

What's certain is that NATO will approach reform softly, softly. It is giving itself two to three years to implement changes, and few if any personnel layoffs are planned. As one official admits, "We hope to make savings, but the NATO budget is so complicated, it's hard to put a figure on how much we'll save."

GOING GLOBAL IS CLEARLY one of Rasmussen's top priorities. Two objectives, involvement in the Middle East and closer relations with Russia, worry many allies, especially when he acts like a loose cannon. He unveiled a Middle East peace plan of his own at a 2009 conference in Abu Dhabi, shocking ambassadors back at headquarters. "None of the NATO ambassadors or Missions had any advance warning of the statement," leaked documents say. "Many acted with incredulity to his statement."

He has been trying to cozy up to Russia, making him the first secretary general in NATO history to seem to believe the Russians can be trusted. Not everyone is comfortable with that. "The new members in central Europe joined the Alliance for protection against a resurgent Russia and want NATO to return to its original mission of collective defense," says Marko Papic of Stratfor. "But Western members like Germany and France now consider Russia a partner, not a potential enemy. These incompatible threat perceptions make me wonder whether the Lisbon summit is not the beginning of the end for NATO."

Defense analyst Thomas Skypek, a Washington Fellow of the National Review Institute who believes America should do a hard-headed cost-benefit analysis of NATO membership, points to France's recent $2 billion sale of Mistral-class ships to Russia as an example of the lack of common threat perception. "What really is the Alliance's mission?" he asks. "Ask the 28 member states and you'll get 28 different answers." The Mistral is a force projection helicopter carrier that can land 450 assault troops. France went through with the deal despite Washington's protests and concern in NATO's Baltic members over where Russia might project that force.

The U.S. Mission to NATO has warned Rasmussen off from exceeding his mandate, according to confidential cables released by WikiLeaks. "We strongly urge you not to get ahead of Allies' deliberations by announcing new NATO-Russia initiatives that have yet to be formally considered by the Alliance," said one. Another cable said that after a December meeting with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, Rasmussen had exaggerated their interest in cooperating with NATO. (In response to my repeated requests, the U.S. Mission, the largest at NATO with 100-plus staff, declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Such differences within the Alliance about its proper mission are one indication that it has become a futile exercise in herding cats. Another sign is that several European members are already developing alternative, regional alliances while retaining the U.S.-supplied advantages of NATO. Baltic countries are talking with Nordics like Sweden and Finland about their mutual security. Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are building a European security architecture in the Visegrad group. The European Amphibious Initiative led by France held its first out-of-area exercise last year in Senegal. And France and Britain recently signed a historic new defense agreement to pool and share military resources.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to shoulder the bulk of the NATO burden. Ten years ago America accounted for about 50 percent of the Alliance's total defense spending. Today that figure is up to 75 percent. Spending by European members has dropped $61 billion over the last two years. The French defense official quoted above says frankly, "Many European members are investing as little as possible in military equipment. As long as they think they can count on the Americans to provide AWACS, transport aircraft, and so on, why bother to maintain an adequate defense force?" Richard Perle agrees. "Other NATO countries are getting a free ride, and have been for a very long time. But even more now, because they don't feel any sense of danger. During the Cold War you could push, say, the Germans to do more, because their security depended on NATO. Germany doesn't depend on NATO anymore."

MANY ON CAPITOL HILL are now looking closely at our relationship to NATO. Congressman Barney Frank, a ranking Democratic member of the House Financial Services Committee, argues that we should spend less on defending the wealthy nations of Europe. "NATO is a great drain on our treasury and serves no strategic purpose," he declares. Without going that far it's fair to ask that we re-evaluate our membership in the Alliance. As Senator Richard Lugar, Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee, put it in an e-mail to me, "The Alliance must be judicious about its missions. NATO should not function as a 'universal peacekeeper.' But NATO remains extremely important to U.S. security." At Lugar's request, the Republican staff of the committee is currently reviewing NATO's mission, as well as its future role and financing.

To be sure, some instrument for mutual defense, like the Alliance's Article 5 -- an attack against one is an attack against all -- is useful. Furthering interoperability of equipment so allied forces can act together is also worthwhile. But with American interest in Europe waning while concern over Asia waxes, it's time to recognize that the rigid, fixed alliance of Cold War days is outdated and in urgent need of revamping.

"NATO is here to stay," Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared with bravado at the December groundbreaking. As if an expensive new building project could ensure its survival and counter the growing doubts about it. The U.S. should send a clear message that a new, frugal defense era is here, and start by questioning the suitability of that exorbitant new headquarters. For such a message, the timing is perfect.

Taliban Kill 20 Afghanis In Suicide Assault

from The Long War Journal:

Mar 28, 2011 (2 days ago)Taliban kill 20 Afghans in suicide assaultfrom The Long War Journal

1 person liked thisThe Taliban have claimed credit for today's suicide assault on a construction company in Afghanistan's eastern province Paktika.

A three-man suicide assault team attacked a compound owned by the Zahir road construction company in Paktika's Bermel district this evening. The suicide team first killed a security guard at the main gate, then drove a truck packed with explosives into the company's compound. In the massive blast, 20 road workers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

In a statement released on the terror group's website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed credit for the attack. The Taliban said that "as many as 27 NATO and their local puppets were killed" in the attack, which they said targeted a "joint enemy military base in New Ada area." The Taliban often manufacture or exaggerate claims in its releases. ISAF and the Afghan military have not reported any casualties to their personnel.

The Taliban said the suicide bomber was named Ali Ahmad and was from the Bermel district, and that he detonated "a truck stuffed with some 4500 km [sic] explosives."

The Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that is strong in Paktika, have carried out three major assaults against US outposts in Bermel since 2008. In November 2008, US forces killed 16 enemy fighters as they assaulted Combat Outpost Margah.

In the fall of 2010, the Haqqani Network launched two major massed suicide assaults on COP Margah over the span of two months. On Sept. 2, US forces killed 20 Haqqani Network fighters. On Oct. 31, US forces killed 78 Haqqani Network and foreign fighters while repelling a massive attack. The Haqqani Network was backed by fighters from al Qaeda as well as the Taliban.

Al Qaeda and allied groups maintain a presence in Paktika province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. US military press releases document the presence of al Qaeda and "foreign fighter" cells in the districts of Wor Mamay, Yahya Khel, Yosuf Khel, Zadran, and Ziruk; or five of Paktika's 18 districts. The US military uses the term "foreign fighters" to describe al Qaeda and allied terror groups from outside of Afghanistan.


Welcome To Yemen, Al Queda Terrorists

From The American Thinker:

March 28, 2011

Welcome to Yemen, al-Qaeda terrorists

Rick Moran

They ought to put that on a travel brochure. The fact is, the political crisis in the capitol has unmoored the country from any semblance of law and order. Police have disappeared and the army is no where to be seen.

In this climate, guess who takes over?

AP is reporting that Yemeni "militants" seized a weapons factory (later reports say the factory was blown up with significant loss of life), as well as a mountain and another town in Southern Yemen. Also, al-Qaeda fighters attacked an army barracks killing 7.

The terrorists are setting up their own checkpoints and moving into areas that were previously denied them. President Saleh, whose tactics of gunning down protestors has split his government, told an Arab newspaper "Yemen is a ticking bomb and if the political system collapses and there's no constructive dialogue there will be a long civil war that will be difficult to end."

A failed state with a strong al-Qaeda presence already there. Sounds like an ideal safe haven for terrorists.

Posted at 10:20 AM

Obama's Libya Speech Reverb Watch

From The American Thinker:

March 28, 2011

Obama's Libya speech reverb watch

Thomas Lifson

President Obama's speech to the nation on Libya will not be an Oval Office address in which the Leader of the Free World calmly explains why we are engaging a kinetic military action, what our objectives are, and our exit strategy. The address (dubbed by Jennifer Rubin the "Okay, if you insist, I'll explain the war to Americans" speech) instead will be delivered at the National Defense University, presumably from behind a podium, in front of an audience. President Obama prefers conspicuous reverb, giving his voice a god-like quality, so the extent of the reverb will be an indication of his desperation.

It is a sad commentary on President Obama's pickle that he is once again retreating into campaign mode, requiring the services of an audience to lend authority to his explanation.

Posted at 10:50 AM

Taliban Create Lashkar-E-Khorasan To Hunt Predator Spies

From The Long War Journal:

Taliban create Lashkar-e-Khorasan to hunt Predator spiesfrom The Long War Journal The Taliban have created a group assigned to hunt down tribesmen suspected of providing information to the CIA that enables the Predator campaign to target terrorist leaders in Pakistani tribal areas.

The group, known as the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, or Army of the Khorasan, was established in North Waziristan last year by both the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, The Express Tribune reported. The creation of the group was confirmed by Pakistani intelligence officials, tribesmen, and members of the Taliban.

The local anti-Taliban spy network is thought to observe the location of meetings and to plant tracking chips on compounds and vehicles used by the terror groups. The information is provided to the CIA, which then executes the attacks via unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft. The US has executed 234 strikes total since the program began in 2004; 224 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008. Of the 234 strikes since 2004, 168 have taken place in North Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2011.]

The Lashkar-e-Khorasan not only attempts to root out the spy network, it carries out the executions. Increasingly, the Taliban's counterintelligence unit has been executing so-called US spies in batches. On March 1, the Taliban executed four "US spies" in North Waziristan; four more were executed on March 21.

The Lashkar-e-Khorasan has also carried out the executions of alleged spies outside of North Waziristan. On Feb. 5, the Taliban executed four people accused of "spying for Indian and Jewish intelligence agencies" in the district of Karak, and on March 18, the Taliban executed a spy in Kohat.

The executions are occasionally carried out in public, in a brutal fashion. On May 21, 2010, the Taliban placed suicide vests on the so-called spies, and detonated them in front of crowds of onlookers.

The Taliban's usage of the term "Khorasan" indicates that they are working in conjunction with al Qaeda in the effort to hunt down the spy network in North Waziristan. Al Qaeda's forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan are known as Qaidat al-Jihad fi Khorasan, or the Base of the Jihad in the Khorasan. It was in North Waziristan that the US killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Khorasan, in a Predator strike last summer.

The Khorasan is a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The Khorasan is considered by jihadists to be the place where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant: in Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.

Mentions of the Khorasan have begun to increase in al Qaeda's propaganda since 2007. After al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in its jihad and has placed the focus on the Khorasan.

The Pakistani government continues to maintain that Bahadar and the Haqqani Network are "good Taliban" as they do not attack the Pakistani state. But both Bahadar and the Haaqani Network shelter al Qaeda and also various Taliban groups that do conduct attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Lashkar-e-Khorasan was first established as a "loose network with members casually going out and trying to find out who is providing information to the US," but has become an "organized" unit that is "scientifically on the counter-intelligence line," a Taliban member associated with Bahadar's group told the The Express Tribune.

The unit is estimated have more than 300 fighters and to operate primarily in the Datta Khel, Mir Ali, and Miramshah areas. These three areas are strongholds of the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's Taliban forces, as well as for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, and have been heavily targeted by the CIA.

The group has sought to uncover the network of tribesmen believed to be aiding the US Predator campaign that targets leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and allied groups, including the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's fighters. The Predator campaign has focused on taking out al Qaeda's external operations network, which is assigned to hitting Western targets. The campaign has also targeted terror groups that attack the Afghan and Pakistani states.

The Washington Post Maligns Israel With Mis-Leading Battlefield Statistics

From The American Thinker:

March 28, 2011

Wash. Post maligns Israel with misleading battlefield statistics

Leo Rennert

Benjamin Disraeli is credited with the saying that there are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies and statistics. The legendary British statesman could have spotted another example of his adage in an article in the March 28 edition of the Washington Post about Israel's deployment of an anti-missile system to intercept rockets fired by terrorists in Gaza against civilian populations in southern Israel ("Israelis put in place anti-rocket system" by Janine Zacharia, page A6).

As historical context for the deployment of an anti-rocket battery near Beersheba, Zacharia writes the following:

"Israel launched a widely criticized bombardment of the coastal territory (Gaza Strip) in late 2008 to try to put an end to rocket attacks. The conflict left an estimated 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead."

That's a simple, provocative, but highly misleading way of suggesting that the fatality count was 100 "Palestinians" for every single Israeli. A stark 100-to1 statistic to depict the Israeli Defense Forces as unsparing in an all-out assault against "Palestinians" in Gaza.

Except, it's a mendacious statistic. What Zacharia fails to point out is that a sizeable majority of these "Palestinian" dead were operatives of Hamas and other terror groups engaged in aggression against Israel -- the firing of tens of thousands of rockets and mortar shells against civilian targets.

Totally missing from Zacharia's dispatch is the fact that for every 10 "Palestinians" killed during Israel's offensive, more than 6 were terrorist operatives. When one adds the fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad used Gazans as human shields in firing their rockets against Israel, this shows a quite different picture from the one conveyed by Zacharia's inciteful statistic -- namely, a sustained effort by the IDF to keep fatalities of civilians to a minimum. The exact opposite of the impression left by Zacharia.

Of course, the Israeli offensive was "widely criticized," as she reports. But that's because Western media, including the Washington Post, didn't bother to break down Palestinian fatality counts between combatants and non-combatants. Like her, they just lumped both categories into a nicely rounded, overall number of "Palestinian" dead.

After months of painstaking research, amid all that wide criticism of Israel, the IDF ended up reporting a total count of 1,166 fatalities -- not the higher 1,300 loose estimate still used by Zacharia. Of this total, 709 were identified by individual names as operatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. 295 were Palestinian civilians (25 percent of the total dead). A third group of fatalities -- 162 men between the ages of 16 and 45 -- were put in a separate category of impossible-to-identify whether they were combatants or non-combatants.

Thus, the number of Palestinian civilian fatalities might have been as low as 295 or as high as 457. Either way, substantially less than half the total count of Palestinian dead.

But one doesn't have to accept the IDF figures to demonstrate that most Palestinian dead were terrorist operatives. Hamas itself now corroborates the basic finding of the IDF report.

Last November, Hamas' Gaza interior minister, Fathi Hamad, acknowledged that as many as 700 Palestinians killed in Israel's Gaza offensive belonged to Hamas and other terror groups. The rest, he said, were "from the people" -- i.e. civilians.

Of course, during and immediately after Israel's military operation, Hamas sang a totally different tune with a propaganda campaign that the vast majority of fatalities were civilians and that it had lost fewer than 100 of its own operatives. Most Western media and self-declared "human rights" groups swallowed this propaganda hook, line and sinker. It then was picked up by the infamous UN Goldstone report that falsely accused Israel of attacking civilians.

However, Hamas's lies -- that it lost only a small number of operatives -- eventually backfired. Rival groups seized on Hamas's claims that civilians bore the brunt of fatalities to chastise Hamas for running away from Israeli forces and leaving Palestinian civilians to shoulder the preponderance of the "resistance."

So, having achieved its propaganda aims against Israel with full media and UN backing, Hamas belatedly turned around five months ago and effectively accepted the IDF report that most of the dead were operatives belonging to Hamas and other terror groups.

But as far as Zacharia and the Washington Post are concerned, battlefield truths don't matter. What matters instead is to tar Israel with highly misleading numbers -- the kind that Disraeli would have recognized as "lies, damned lies and statistics."

Posted at 02:42 PM

Taliban Kill 14 Pakistani Troops In Khyber Ambush

From The Long War Journal:

Mar 28, 2011 (2 days ago)Taliban kill 14 Pakistani troops in Khyber ambushfrom The Long War Journal The Pakistani Taliban killed 14 paramilitary troops of the Frontier Corps during an ambush in the contested tribal agency of Khyber today.

According to reports from the region, Taliban forces ambushed a convoy of three Frontier Corps vehicles in the Atakhel area of Khyber. SAMAA and The Associated Press put the number of those killed at 11, but Pakistani officials told Dawn that 14 of the paramilitary troops were killed. A colonel and a captain were among the dead.

The Pakistani military has not officially acknowledged the ambush, but the Inter Services Public Relations, the military's public affairs branch, told SAMAA that the troops were killed in an "accident" after returning from a military operation in the region.

Khyber agency is a terrorist haven

Khyber has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaeda activity since the Pakistani military launched an operation in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan in October 2009. Taliban forces have relocated to the Bara and Jamrud regions and the Tirah Valley in the Khyber agency [see LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation].

Tariq Afridi, a powerful Taliban commander based in Darra Adam Khel, has taken control of Taliban operations in Khyber. The Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam, a local Taliban ally commanded by Mangal Bagh, have gained power in Khyber despite a series of Pakistani military operations that began in the summer of 2007 which were supposedly designed to relieve Taliban pressure on neighboring Peshawar. A total of five military offensives have failed to dislodge the terror groups.

Both the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam are known to operate bases and training camps in the Tirah Valley as well as in Bara and Jamrud. These safe havens in Khyber enable these terror groups to launch attacks inside Pakistan as well across the border in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. In November 2008, the US military attacked Taliban forces in the Tirah Valley after they retreated across the border from Nangarhar in Afghanistan. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit.

In 2009, US Predators killed Ibn Amin, a Taliban and al Qaeda commander, in one of four strikes between Dec.16-17 the Tirah Valley. Amin was the commander of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of six formations in al Qaeda's Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army. He operated in the Swat Valley.

The Khyber Pass is NATO's main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan; an estimated 70 percent of NATO's supplies move through this strategic crossing point. Between September 2007 and April 2008, the Khyber Pass was shut down seven times due to Taliban attacks.

Pakistan Depends More On China [PRC] For Arms Than U.S.

From The American Thinker:

March 29, 2011

Pakistan depends more on China for arms than US

Rick Moran

This is a decade long trend so it's not entirely a surprise, but Pakistan's chief military supplier now appears to be China.

It makes sense from the Pakistani point of view. Both nations are worried about the rise of India - a US ally to which the United States is moving closer. Also, we refuse to enable their nuclear program any further by supplying them with high tech weapons like nuclear capable missiles.

Fox News:

Pakistan earlier this month test-fired a nuclear-capable missile from an undisclosed location - the second in a month of try-outs for its short-range surface-to-surface Hataf 2 class rocket, co-developed with the Chinese. It was the latest in a series of arms collaborations between the two nations, which view their strategic partnership as a counterweight to a boldly confident India, which has American support.

Until the mid-1960s, the United States was the principal supplier of weapons to Pakistan, the world's eighth most-powerful nuclear nation. But the U.S. began to back away from the relationship after years of difficult and sometimes unpredictable relations following the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. no longer fully supports the military ambitions of a Pakistan that is being destabilized by an insurgency it cannot control, rising radicalism and anti-Westernism, and a government considered by some too weak and corrupt.

That led Pakistan to replace the U.S. with China as a main source of defense material, at least in terms of arsenals, development and training.

"China is perceived as not coming with nearly as many strings attached as relations with the United States," said Nate Hughes, director of military analysis at Stratfor, an intelligence website run by former CIA operatives.

This was starkly marked in November when on the same day the U.S. delivered some of the 18 F-16s it had pledged to Pakistan, Islamabad announced it had ordered an arsenal of SD10 mid-range homing missiles and radar systems to equip its JF-17 Thunder jet fighters from China.

We still need Pakistan as long as we're involved in Afghanistan. There's no other viable overland route for our supplies. If we or Pakistan were to pull the plug on this logistical train, it would take months to set up alternate arrangements.

The sad fact is, at the moment, we need Pakistan more than they need us - despite the $7 billion in aid we've pledged over the next 5 years. A strategic partnership with China might be more valuable to Pakistan than any amount of aid we can send them.

H/T: Chuck Sommerville

Posted at 09:52 AM

A Fundamentally Dishonest Speech

From AEI:

A Fundamentally Dishonest Speech By Marc A. Thiessen

Washington Post

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

President Obama gave an impassioned, sometimes eloquent, defense of his policies in Libya tonight. But when it came to justifying the limited goals of the military mission, his speech was fundamentally dishonest. Obama presented himself as standing between two extremes--those on the one hand, who want to do nothing in the face of a humanitarian catastrophe, and those on the other who want to invade Libya the way George W. Bush invaded Iraq. The president declared:

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government.

Of course, there is no question that Libya--and the world--would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces--to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone--carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It's also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq's future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

Read Mark Thiessen's article, "Where Is the Leader of the Free World?"This is a straw man, and the president knows it. No serious person is arguing that we should "repeat in Libya" what we did in Iraq. No serious person is arguing that we should send hundreds of thousands of ground troops to march on Tripoli and topple Moammar Gaddafi they way we marched on Baghdad and toppled Saddam Hussein. What serious people are suggesting is that we help the Libyan resistance topple Gaddafi's regime--not by sending American ground forces to do it for them, but by providing them with arms, training, intelligence and air support. The Libyan rebels were well on their way to marching on Tripoli, until Obama's dithering at the United Nations gave Gaddafi time to drive them back to the gates of Benghazi. Now they are pushing west again, taking back towns and cities along the coast from pro-Gaddafi forces en route to the Libyan capital. How will Obama handle their offensive? Will he target Gaddafi's forces if they push back against this rebel offensive? Will he provide air cover to the rebels as they march toward Tripoli? If he does not provide air cover, and the regime stops the rebel offensive, how will he handle the resulting stalemate? Will American air power protect liberated enclaves of Libya from Gaddafi's forces, the same way we protected liberated enclaves in northern Iraq from Saddam Hussein? If so, for how long? A year? Five years? A decade? More? We don't know the answers to such questions, because the president spent all his time today shooting down arguments for military action in Libya that no one is making.

Another moment of dishonesty came when Obama described the "transfer" of the mission to NATO:

Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Qaddafi's remaining forces.

The president failed to mention what this means in practice: Come Wednesday we will transfer responsibility for the mission in Libya from an American general (Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command) to an American admiral (James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander-Europe). He might also have mentioned the other mission that we have handed over to NATO--the mission in Afghanistan. Feel like responsibility for the war in Afghanistan has been handed over to our European allies? If so, you'll love the transfer of responsibility for the war in Libya.

Such dishonesty is unfortunate, because the success of our intervention in Libya is critical. Until Sept. 11, the worst terrorist attack on Americans was the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, carried out on the direct orders of Moammar Gaddafi. If Gaddafi survives, he will not be the benign dictator who capitulated to the West and gave up his programs for weapons of mass destruction after seeing Saddam Hussein pulled from a spider hole. And if our mission in Libya remains as limited as the president suggested tonight, the chances of Gaddafi's survival will only grow. It would have been nice if the president had addressed these real challenges, instead of wrestling with fictional ones.

Marc A. Thiessen is a visiting fellow at AEI.

Northeastern Afghan District Falls After Taliban Assault

From The Long War Journal:

10:21 AM (13 hours ago)Northeastern Afghan district falls after Taliban assaultfrom The Long War Journal

1 person liked thisThe Taliban overran a district in the northeastern Afghan province of Nuristan after launching a massed assault on a police center.

A large Taliban force attacked the Waygal district center in Nuristan earlier today and drove out the Afghan police forces defending the town. Afghan officials put the size of the Taliban forces at more than 300 fighters, while the Taliban, in a press release on its website, the Voice of Jihad, claimed that 90 fighters carried out the attack.

The provincial chief of police, Shamsul Rahman Nuristani, claimed that police withdrew from the district and suffered no casualties, but the Taliban claimed that 13 policemen were captured and a large weapons cache was seized during the raid.

"Mujahideen attacked the district headquarter from four directions using heavy and small arms fire that continued for more than an hour ending up capturing more than 13 policemen besides a large amount of ammo and arms being seized by Mujahideen from the possession of the enemies including 25 Kalashnikov rifles, 4 heavy machine guns and two rocket launchers with three boxes of heavy rocket and heavy arms ammo with more than 25 military and supply vehicles," the Taliban press release claimed.

The Taliban have become increasingly bold in the northeast. Just two days ago, the Taliban kidnapped more than 40 Afghan men from Nuristan who attempted to join the police in Kunar province. The Taliban have since released 14 of the Afghan men.

No US or ISAF forces are based in Nuristan's Waygal district, which is also known as Wanat, Want, and Want Waygal. US troops withdrew from the district in the summer of 2008 after a deadly assault by a joint force of 200-400 fighters made up from the Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and al Qaeda's Shadow Army assaulted a small combat outpost as it was being built. The daylong firefight pitted the 48 US and 24 Afghan troops against the large Taliban and al Qaeda force. During the fierce battle, 9 US soldiers and between 20 to 50 enemy fighters were killed, and the assault force briefly entered the outer perimeter of the compound before being repelled.

US troops also withdrew from combat outposts in the Nuristan district of Kamdesh after a major assault that nearly led to the overrunning an outpost by the Taliban. Afghan forces have also been put in charge of the district of Barg-i-Matal; that district exchanged hands between Afghan and Taliban forces several times last summer.

Last fall, ISAF began withdrawing forces from remote districts in Nuristan and neighboring Kunar province as part of its new counterinsurgency plan that emphasizes securing major population centers over rural areas. According to ISAF commanders, the remote provinces of Nuristan and Kunar will be dealt with after more strategic regions in the south, east, and north have been addressed. But ISAF commanders have since said that Afghan soldiers and police will be relied upon to secure the remote provinces.

But the US withdrawal from outposts in Nuristan and Kunar has also provided the Taliban with major propaganda victories. The Taliban have released tapes showing large-scale assaults on the US outposts followed by scenes of the Taliban occupying the abandoned bases. Weapons and ammunition that had been hastily abandoned by US and Afghan forces were displayed by the Taliban in the tapes.

The outposts in Nuristan and Kunar were initially created in 2006 as part of a plan to establish a string of bases to interdict Taliban fighters and supplies moving across the border from Pakistan. But the plan was not completed, because US forces were diverted to the south in Kandahar after the Taliban began launching increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Today's assault on the Waygal district center was likely launched by Taliban leader Dost Mohammed, the Taliban's shadow governor of Nuristan province. Elements from the Shadow Army, under the command of Qari Zia Rahman, al Qaeda's top commander in Nuristan and Kunar provinces, may also have fought with Dost's forces, which are considered able and effective fighters in their own right.

Dost maintains close links to senior al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban leaders, such as Faqir Mohammed in Bajaur, just across the border. "He's an operator, a big, big commander for Nuristan, and has lots of resources," a US expert who advises the US government on the Taliban told The Long War Journal in 2009.

Dost has occasionally run afoul of the decisions made by the Taliban's executive council, or the Shura Majlis, over leadership decisions in the region.

"In 2007, Dost Mohammed was against the Quetta Shura appointment of Maulvi Abdul Kabir, a Zadran Pashtun Taliban leader with strong links to [Mullah] Omar, as the Taliban's Eastern Zone Commander," the US expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said. "Dost has always enjoyed semi-autonomy control over his area of operations and his own resources in Nuristan."

Picture Of The Day: Mourning The Fallen Cheonan Sailors

From ROK Drop:

Picture of the Day: Mourning the Fallen Cheonan Sailors

FACT CHECK: How Obama's Libya Claims Fit The Facts

From the AP and Fire Andrea Mitchell:

Mar 29, 3:07 AM EDT

FACT CHECK: How Obama's Libya claims fit the facts


Associated Press

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama's statements Monday night that NATO is taking over from the U.S. in Libya and that U.S. action is limited to defending people under attack there by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.

And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion - coordinated or not - to advance an offensive.

Here is a look at some of Obama's assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts:


OBAMA: "Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone. ... Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gadhafi's remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role."

THE FACTS: As by far the pre-eminent player in NATO, and a nation historically reluctant to put its forces under operational foreign command, the United States will not be taking a back seat in the campaign even as its profile diminishes for public consumption.

NATO partners are bringing more into the fight. But the same "unique capabilities" that made the U.S. the inevitable leader out of the gate will continue to be in demand. They include a range of attack aircraft, refueling tankers that can keep aircraft airborne for lengthy periods, surveillance aircraft that can detect when Libyans even try to get a plane airborne, and, as Obama said, planes loaded with electronic gear that can gather intelligence or jam enemy communications and radars.

The United States supplies 22 percent of NATO's budget, almost as much as the next largest contributors - Britain and France - combined. A Canadian three-star general was selected to be in charge of all NATO operations in Libya. His boss, the commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is an American admiral, and the admiral's boss is the supreme allied commander Europe, a post always held by an American.


OBAMA: "Our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives."

THE FACTS: Even as the U.S. steps back as the nominal leader, reduces some assets and fires a declining number of cruise missiles, the scope of the mission appears to be expanding and the end game remains unclear.

Despite insistences that the operation is only to protect civilians, the airstrikes now are undeniably helping the rebels to advance. U.S. officials acknowledge that the effect of air attacks on Gadhafi's forces - and on the supply and communications links that support them - is useful if not crucial to the rebels. "Clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking," Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said Monday.

The Pentagon has been turning to air power of a kind more useful than high-flying bombers in engaging Libyan ground forces. So far these have included low-flying Air Force AC-130 and A-10 attack aircraft, and the Pentagon is considering adding armed drones and helicopters.

Obama said "we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people," but spoke of achieving that through diplomacy and political pressure, not force of U.S. arms.


OBAMA: Seeking to justify military intervention, the president said the U.S. has "an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful - yet fragile - transitions in Egypt and Tunisia." He added: "I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America."

THE FACTS: Obama did not wait to make that case to Congress, despite his past statements that presidents should get congressional authorization before taking the country to war, absent a threat to the nation that cannot wait.

"The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," he told The Boston Globe in 2007 in his presidential campaign. "History has shown us time and again ... that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch."

Obama's defense secretary, Robert Gates, said Sunday that the crisis in Libya "was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest."


OBAMA: "And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gadhafi's deadly advance."

THE FACTS: The weeklong international barrage has disabled Libya's air defenses, communications networks and supply chains. But Gadhafi's ground forces remain a potent threat to the rebels and civilians, according to U.S. military officials.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the top American officer overseeing the mission, told The New York Times on Monday that "the regime still overmatches opposition forces militarily. The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened."

Only small numbers of Gadhafi's troops have defected to the opposition, Ham said.

At the Pentagon, Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said the rebels are not well organized. "It is not a very robust organization," he said. "So any gain that they make is tenuous based on that."


OBAMA: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

THE FACTS: Mass violence against civilians has also been escalating elsewhere, without any U.S. military intervention anticipated.

More than 1 million people have fled the Ivory Coast, where the U.N. says forces loyal to the incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, have used heavy weapons against the population and more than 460 killings have been confirmed of supporters of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.

The Obama administration says Gbagbo and Gadhafi have both lost their legitimacy to rule. But only one is under attack from the U.S.

Presidents typically pick their fights according to the crisis and circumstances at hand, not any consistent doctrine about when to use force in one place and not another. They have been criticized for doing so - by Obama himself.

In his pre-presidential book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily "without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands."

He questioned: "Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?"

Now, such questions are coming at him.


Associated Press writers Jim Drinkard and Robert Burns contributed to this report.

© 2011 The Associated Press.

Today In History

From Gateway Pundit:

11:18 PM (1 minute ago)This day in History: William Calley, Jr. convicted of My Lai Massacre [March 29, 1971]from Charging Elephant by divingnews@gmail.comThe military treats it’s officers differently. Contrast the atrocity Calley ordered his men to participate in with that of Pfc. Corey Clagget in Operation Iron Triangle at the beginning of the Iraq war and it is clear. The Army takes care of it’s officers and let’s the warriors rot solitary confinement at Leavenworth, Kansas.

William Calley

William Laws Calley, Jr. (born June 8, 1943) was the U.S. Army officer who led the March 16, 1968, My Lai Massacre.


By all accounts William Calley came from a normal background. Calley stood only five foot three inches tall and was reportedly undistinguished, other than the fact many people who knew him described him as “nice”.

In fact, after My Lai was revealed, newspapers often described him as “the nice American boy charged with murder”.

Lt. William Calley Jr. on the cover page of Time

His father was a U.S. Navy veteran. Calley graduated from high school in Miami, Florida. He attended Palm Beach Junior College for one school year from 1963 to 1964, but dropped out after receiving poor grades, consisting of two C’s, one D and four F’s.

Calley then worked at a number of jobs including bellhop, dishwasher, salesman, insurance appraiser and train conductor. He did not hold any of these for very long and eventually drifted to New Mexico. He enlisted into the United States Army in Albuquerque on July 26, 1966, at the height of the Vietnam war.

Calley underwent basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia and received advanced individual training as a clerk at Fort Lewis in Washington. Calley applied for and was accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 1967, and after graduation from OCS Class No. 51 of 1967 on September 7, 1967[4], was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry.

Calley was assigned to Charlie Company. 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade, and began training at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii before the brigade’s deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. In Vietnam, the brigade became part of the Americal Division.

As a combat leader, Calley was apparently not highly regarded.

Contemporary reports when My Lai first became public described him merely as “ordinary”. Later, as the investigation progressed, a more negative picture emerged.

Many members of his platoon told Army investigators that he lacked common sense and couldn’t even read a map or compass properly. Calley’s men admitted he was so disliked some even thought of “fragging” him.

Trial and aftermath

Calley was charged on September 5, 1969, with six specifications of premeditated murder for the death of 109 Vietnamese civilians near the village of My Lai, at a hamlet called Song My, more commonly called My Lai in the U.S. press.

In this well documented incident, 500 villagers, mostly women, children, infants and elderly, were assembled and then shot by soldiers of Charlie Company, Americal Division. Some women who survived were gang raped by U.S. soldiers instead of being summarily executed.

Calley’s trial started on November 17, 1970, and resulted in a conviction on March 29, 1971 of premeditated murder of 22 civilians for his role in the massacre. On March 31, 1971, he was sentenced to life in prison. Testimony revealed that Calley had ordered the men of 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) to shoot everyone in the village. Calley claimed that he was following the orders of his immediate superior, Captain Ernest Medina.

Whether or not this order was actually given is disputed; Medina was later acquitted of all charges relating to the incident at a separate trial.

Of the 26 officers and soldiers initially charged for their participation in the My Lai massacre or the subsequent cover-up, only Calley was convicted.

Calley was seen by some as a scapegoat used by the U.S. Army instead of accepting responsibility for the failure to instill morale and discipline in its troops and commanders.

Others, with lack of knowledge about his education or background, sought to excuse his actions because of his allegedly low intelligence and cultural background.

On April 1, only a day after Calley was sentenced, President Richard Nixon ordered him released from prison pending appeal; on August 20, 1971, the convening authority — the Commanding General of Fort Benning — reduced his sentence to 20 years.

Next the Army Court of Military Review affirmed the conviction and sentence (46 C.M.R. 1131 (1973)). Next the Secretary of the Army reviewed the sentence and findings and approved both, but in a separate clemency action commuted confinement to ten years. On May 3, 1974, President Nixon notified the Secretary that he had reviewed the case and determined he would take no further action in the matter.

Ultimately, Calley served 3½ years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Calley petitioned the federal district court for habeas corpus on February 11, 1974, which was granted on September 25, 1974, along with immediate release, by federal judge J. Robert Elliott.

Judge Elliott found that Calley’s trial had been prejudiced by pretrial publicity, denial of subpoenas of certain defense witnesses, refusal of the House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session of its My Lai investigation, and inadequate notice of the charges.

(The judge had released Calley on bail on February 27, 1974, but an appeals court reversed that and returned Calley to Army custody June 13, 1974.)

The Army appealed Judge Elliott’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and asked an appeals judge to stay Calley’s immediate release, which was granted; however the full Court upheld the release pending appeal and decided that the entire court would hear the appeal (normally not done in the first instance).

In the event the Army won a reversal of Judge Elliott’s habeas corpus grant and reinstatement of the judgment of the court-martial with, however, 5 judges dissenting. (Calley v. Callaway, 519 F.2d 184, 9/10/1975).

In a long and extremely detailed careful opinion the reviewing court disagreed with Judge Elliott on the law and significantly on Elliott’s scope of review of the court martial proceeding. The Court noted that although by now Calley had been “paroled” from confinement by the Army, that did not moot the habeas corpus proceedings.

Calley continues to reside in the Columbus, Georgia area and, according to locals, owns, runs, or works at a jewelry store. According to William Eckhardt, Calley’s prosecutor, Calley suffers from insomnia, because he is troubled over his role in the massacre. [1]