CIA May Send Predator Drones Into Yemen — The White House, in an effort to turn up the heat against al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, is considering adding the CIA's armed Predator drones to the fight, two U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The drones are among CIA resources that could be assigned to an existing mission by U.S. special operations forces, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press. The official said such options were in the planning stages and would be done only with the cooperation of the Yemeni leadership in Sanaa.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
The fact that the White House is considering supplying CIA weapons and other resources to the clandestine counterterrorist fight in Yemen was first reported in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Yemen is the base of operations for al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas Day and counts American-born rebel cleric Anwar al-Awlaki among its leadership. The U.S. military has been working with the Yemeni counterterrorist forces for years, and that cooperation has increased under the Obama administration.
But officials say the U.S. hasn't yet brought as much pressure to bear against AQAP as they have against its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's Pakistan-based al-Qaida, and that a range of tools and tactics were being considered.
Among the CIA's most lethal tools, armed Predator drones are already hunting high-value militant targets in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. The idea is to reassign some of those to the U.S. special operations forces assisting local counterterrorist forces in Yemen.
But U.S. officials may have a hard time selling the concept to the Yemeni government in Sanaa, where reports of the potential use of drones has already touched off controversy.
A CIA drone strike made headlines in Yemen, in November 2002, when it killed an American citizen along with a group of al-Qaida operatives. Drones became shorthand in Yemen for a weak government allowing foreign forces to have their way.
Drones would be a "nonstarter," Yemen's ambassador to the United Nations told the AP earlier this year.
"To even posit this theory about U.S. drones only builds support for radicalization," Abdullah al-Saidi said at the time. "Yemen will not allow it."
Yemen's government was caught in the blowback last December when a Yemeni-sanctioned U.S. cruise missile strike killed at least seven al-Qaida operatives in a remote tent camp. The strike also killed dozens of civilians, many of them relatives of the militants.
In another strike, a U.S. missile hit an al-Qaida meeting that included a local Yemeni official whom the Yemen government claimed had been trying to negotiate the militants' surrender.
As a result, U.S. operations were reportedly sharply curtailed and limited to sharing intelligence with Yemeni counterterrorist forces. But a senior U.S. official insisted there had been no appreciable decline in cooperation or action against AQAP. The official said that ebbs and flows in the U.S.-Yemeni relationship are common.
READ MORE - CIA May Send Predator Drones Into Yemen

WikiLeaks releases CIA memo on US terror recruits

Washington: The WikiLeaks website released a secret CIA memo on Wednesday warning of fallout if the United States came to be seen as an "exporter of terrorism”, given al Qaeda's interest in American recruits.

The document by the CIA's so-called "Red Cell" was the latest classified memo to be published by the whistle-blowing website, which last month released more than 70,000 secret US military documents on the war in Afghanistan.

It has threatened to release some 15,000 more, despite Pentagon criticism that the leaks endangered the lives of sources and exposed sensitive intelligence gathering methods to enemy fighters.

The three-page CIA memo released by WikiLeaks did not appear to expose any state secrets and one US official quipped it was hardly a "blockbuster”. Indeed Red Cell reports are meant to provoke thought, rather than provide an authoritative assessment.

But it addressed the hypothetical and highly sensitive question about the potential impact on the United States if allies saw it as a nation whose citizens frequently operate abroad to carry out acts of terrorism.

It said the United States could lose leverage over allies to cooperate on terrorism -- particularly on "extra-judicial activities”. Foreign governments might even take the extraordinary step of secretly extracting US citizens suspected of carrying out extremist acts abroad.

"Primarily we have been concerned about al Qaeda infiltrating operatives into the United States to conduct terrorist attacks, but AQ may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas," the document proposes.

"Undoubtedly al Qaeda and other terrorist groups recognize that Americans can be great assets in terrorist operations overseas."

It said US citizens are valuable to terrorist organisations because they are harder to detect. They don't fit the typical Arab-Muslim profile and can easily communicate with leaders through their "unfettered" access to the Internet and other methods, the report said.

Widely distributed

The CIA played down the paper's significance, noting Red Cell teams of analysts were tasked with taking up hypothetical scenarios and presenting alternate views, divergent from mainstream thinking.

"These sorts of analytic products -- clearly identified as coming from the Agency's 'Red Cell'-- are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view," said spokesman George Little.

Such documents are widely distributed within the US intelligence community, as opposed to more restricted, highly classified material.

The report cited cases of Americans involved in alleged plots in Pakistan, India and elsewhere and said "contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon”.

It said the United States had a certain amount of leverage with allies on extradition requests following the September 11, 2001, attacks, but warned that could change.

"If the US were seen as an 'exporter of terrorism', foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty," it said.

It said foreign governments could request information on US citizens or request their "rendition”, or the secret, extra-judicial transfer of a terrorism suspect abroad.

"US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens," the report said.

It also warned of potential obstruction of US efforts and cited an Italian case against CIA agents, who were convicted last year of kidnapping a terrorism suspect in Milan and flying him to Egypt, where he says he was tortured during questioning.

"The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts," it said.
READ MORE - WikiLeaks releases CIA memo on US terror recruits

North Korea Facebook Account Latest Effort In Propaganda War, South Korea — North Korea appears to have added Facebook to the social networking sites it recently joined to ramp up its propaganda war against South Korea and the U.S.
The account opened late Thursday under the Korean username "uriminzokkiri," meaning "on our own as a nation," an official at South Korea's Communications Standards Commission said Friday.
The account opened hours after the commission blocked North Korea's 1-week-old Twitter account from being accessed in the South for containing information that is illegal under South Korean security laws, the official said.
North Korea's government-run website, Uriminzokkiri, announced last week that it has a Twitter account and a YouTube channel created in July.
The Twitter account, under the name uriminzok ("our nation" in Korean), gained more than 8,500 followers in a week though it posted just 30 tweets linking to reports praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and lambasting South Korea and the U.S. over ongoing joint military drills.
Uriminzok has "content that praises, promotes and glorifies" North Korea that was confirmed to be "illegal information" under South Korea's National Security Law, a commission statement said Thursday. The commission said it has no immediate plan to block the North's YouTube channel.
A South Korean government warning saying "Illegal content" pops up when an attempt is made to access the Twitter account in South Korea.
Commission official Han Myung-ho said the new Facebook account could be subject to the same fate.
"We are aware of the Facebook account and the police and the National Intelligence Service are currently investigating the site to verify whether it is indeed run by the North Korean government," Han said Friday.

"If we find that this Facebook account also carries content violating the National Security Law, we will do our duty of shutting it down as well."
The Facebook account, which describes itself as male, says it is interested in men and is looking for networking. The account had 50 friends as of Friday.
Its profile picture is of the Three Charters for National Reunification Memorial Tower, a 100-foot (30-meter) monument in Pyongyang that "reflects the strong will of the 70 million Korean people to achieve the reunification of the country with their concerted effort," according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The Facebook account calls itself "a page representing the intentions of North and South Koreas and compatriots abroad, who wish for peace, prosperity, and unification of our homeland."
There were over 50 posts on Uriminzokkiri's wall, including links to reports that criticize South Korea and the U.S. as "warmongers," photos of picturesque North Korean landscapes, and a YouTube video of a dance performance celebrating leader Kim Jong Il, "guardian of the homeland and creator of happiness."
More than 130 videos have been uploaded to North Korea's YouTube channel, including clips that condemn and mock South Korea and the U.S. for blaming North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. The North has insisted it had nothing to do with the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday that the U.S. welcomed North Korea to the social media forums but challenged its authoritarian leaders to allow its citizens full access to the sites.
Crowley tweeted on Friday, "North Korea has joined Facebook, but will it allow its citizens to belong? What is Facebook without friends?"
North Korea, one of the world's most secretive countries, blocks Internet access for all but the elite among its 24 million citizens but is believed to have a keen interest in information technology.
The official North Korean Uriminzokkiri website, run by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, has been blocked in South Korea alongside 64 other North Korean-run and pro-North Korean websites, says Shim Joo-hyung, a spokeswoman for the standards commission.
READ MORE - North Korea Facebook Account Latest Effort In Propaganda War

Iran Unveils Unmanned Bomber, Dubbed 'Ambassador Of Death' By Ahmadinejad, Iran — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday inaugurated the country's first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft, calling it an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.
The 4-meter-long drone aircraft can carry up to four cruise missiles and will have a range of 620 miles (1,000 kilometers), according to a state TV report – not far enough to reach archenemy Israel.
"The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship," said Ahmadinejad at the inauguration ceremony, which fell on the country's national day for its defense industries.
The goal of the aircraft, named Karrar or striker, is to "keep the enemy paralyzed in its bases," he said, adding that the aircraft is for deterrence and defensive purposes.
The president championed the country's military self-sufficiency program, and said it will continue "until the enemies of humanity lose hope of ever attacking the Iranian nation."
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo and now produces its own tanks, armored personnel carries, missiles and even a fighter plane.
Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
State TV later showed video footage of the plane taking off from a launching pad and reported that the craft traveled at speeds of 560 miles per hour (900 kilometers per hour) and could alternatively be armed with two 250-pound (113.4-kilogram) bombs or a 450-pound (204.12-kilogram) guided bomb.
Iran has been producing its own light, unmanned surveillance aircraft since the late 1980s.
The ceremony came a day after Iran began to fuel its first nuclear power reactor, with the help of Russia, amid international concerns over the possibility of a military dimension to its nuclear program.
Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity.
Referring to Israel's occasional threats against Iran's nuclear facilities, Ahmadinejad called any attack unlikely, but he said if Israel did, the reaction would be overwhelming.
"The scope of Iran's reaction will include the entire the earth," said Ahmadinejad. "We also tell you – the West – that all options are on the table."
Ahmadinejad appeared to be consciously echoing the terminology used by the U.S. and Israel in their statements not ruling out a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities.
On Friday, Iran also test-fired a new liquid fuel surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, with advanced guidance systems.
READ MORE - Iran Unveils Unmanned Bomber, Dubbed 'Ambassador Of Death' By Ahmadinejad

Pentagon could be behind rape charges: Wikileaks founder

New York: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange believes that the Pentagon could be behind the false rape charges that were filed against him on Friday by Swedish prosecutors and then withdrawn after a few hours.

"I don't know who's behind this but we have been warned that, for example, the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to spoil things for us," Assange told Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

So far, Pentagon has not reacted to the charge.

The website is set to publish 15,000 more secret papers about the war in Afghanistan in coming weeks, having recently released nearly 77,000 papers and sparking charges that it had endangered the lives of informants and others.

The information supported existing suspicions like Pakistan's ISI links with extremists and extra-judicial killings by US forces.

Assange has been asked by the Pentagon not to release another 15,000 documents, which has blasted him for endangering the lives of local informers in Afghanistan mentioned in the documents.

The 39-year-old former hacker from Australia has said that he still plans to release the documents. Soon after the charges emerged on Friday, Assange posted a message on twitter, denying these charges.

"The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing," said the twitter feed.

"We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks'. Now we have the first one. Why these accusations are coming at this point in time is an interesting question. I haven't been contacted by the police. The allegations are false," he told Dagens Nyheter, another Swedish newspaper.

However, prosecutors in Sweden have said that they did not make a mistake when they issued an arrest warrant, even though it was withdrawn, according to Al Jazeera, but separate molestation charges are still underway and a decision will be made later this week.

"You can't call it a mistake," said Karin Rosander, from Sweden's prosecution authority, who noted that the decision had to be made on the information available at the moment.

"All investigations develop and yesterday the new prosecutor had than the first prosecutor. All investigations develop," she added, in response to a question about why the prosecutors did not wait until they were sure.

"Prosecutors have to make decisions very quickly sometimes on serious crimes." Assange told al-Jazeera that a "smear campaign" was being orchestrated.
READ MORE - Pentagon could be behind rape charges: Wikileaks founder

The truth behind America's 'civilian militias'

Armed and extremely... patriotic. Why a growing number of Americans are preparing for a war against their government.

By Alex Hannaford

Militia leader Johnny Cochran.
Militia leader Johnny Cochran. Photo: MATTHEW RAINWATERS
Johnny Cochran in his 'Disgruntled Combat Vet' T-shirt.
Johnny Cochran in his 'Disgruntled Combat Vet' T-shirt. Photo: MATTHEW RAINWATERS
Johnny Cochran trains fellow militia men to kill the enemy by stabbing them in the back.
Johnny Cochran trains fellow militia men to kill the enemy by stabbing them in the back. Photo: MATTHEW RAINWATERS
In heavy camouflage gear, Johnny Cochran squats down and shuffles noiselessly along the ground. His target is a large man who, like Cochran, is in military fatigues. Seconds later, Cochran leaps up and stabs the man once, hard, in the neck. The movement is swift, and would almost certainly be lethal, were it not for the fact that the ‘weapon’ Cochran is wielding is a pen.
The scenario I have just witnessed may be simulated, but its protagonists are deadly serious. This is a ‘close combat training’ session given by ‘Fireteam Diamondback’ – an armed militia group, or civilian ‘army’, based in west Texas, in the United States. Cochran, a chain-smoking 39 year-old with a handlebar moustache and goatee whose T-shirt reads: ‘Disgruntled Combat Vet – Right Wing Extremist’, is their leader. Biro-wielding or not, he’s not someone you would wish to encounter in combat.
‘Straight into the base of his skull,’ he says, after pretending to plunge the pen into the neck of Steven Page, a member of another militia group who has joined the training. ‘That’s the nerve centre. Then you push forward. If you’re dealing with someone short, that works like a charm, but if you’re dealing with someone tall, grab his face, insert the knife and when you shove that knife forwards, pull him towards you.’
Cochran smiles. ‘You’re going to make a hell of a mess, but human flesh tears easily. Bone is a pain in the a--.’ He knows what he’s talking about, having served four years as a combat medic with the US Marines during Operation Desert Storm. His ‘handle’, or nickname, in the militia is ‘Doc’. And yet, as he freely admits, the hypothetical enemy – the target he’s teaching the people gathered here today to kill – is a US soldier.
Why? Cochran says he is simply exercising his constitutional right to assemble an armed civilian force that is prepared to fight any enemy, be they domestic or foreign. There are 27 men in Cochran’s squad including, apparently, both former and serving soldiers, policemen and members of the sheriff’s department.
This didn’t surprise me. I’d already read about Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, who now travels the country ‘crusading for freedom and individual rights’ and insists ‘the greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government’.
The militias, which are dotted throughout the US and, according to recent figures, are growing rapidly in numbers, claim they are bulwarks against tyranny. The US Department of Homeland Security takes a dimmer view, warning of a ‘rise in Right-wing anti-government extremist activity’ as far back as April 2009 and a ‘phenomenon of violent radicalisation’.
Indeed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), which tracks extremist groups, the US has seen a dramatic spike in attempted domestic terrorism ever since Barack Obama started his campaign for office, including: two skinhead plots to assassinate him; a plan to set off a dirty bomb packed with radioactive materials during the inauguration; and a lone assassin, Keith Luke, who began murdering black people in Massachusetts.
Of course, militia activity is hardly new to the US. The very first article of the Constitution granted Congress the power to call on ‘the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions’ and the subsequent Militia Act of 1792 defined the militia as every able-bodied male citizen over 18 and under 45.
It’s an act that has been embraced by a fair number of American citizens ever since, whether loners or disparate groups of armed, disgruntled civilians. In 1992, Randy Weaver, a former US Army Green Beret, moved himself and his family to an isolated cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, to escape what they saw as a corrupt world. Rather than a peaceful nature-lover, officials claimed Weaver was a member of a race-hate group and he was charged with weapons violations. When he failed to appear in court, they stormed the cabin, resulting in the fatal shooting of Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and 14-year-old son, Sammy.
The deadly ambush only added to militias’ grievances against what they saw as an unlawful and despotic federal government. But it was the siege at Waco, Texas, a year later, that really ignited the movement. Following the deaths of 80 people in the fire, Waco became a rallying point for conspiracy theorists, members of the patriot movement and a rabid end-of-days philosophy.
Timothy McVeigh was one of those unhinged people who visited Mount Carmel during the weeks following the battle between cult members and officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Two years later, he would use plastic explosives to blow up the Federal Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.
It was 1995 before Theodore Kaczynski, the ‘Unabomber’, was arrested, after a domestic mail bombing campaign spanning almost 20 years. Having honed his survival skills from his isolated cabin outside Lincoln, Montana, the by-then 68 year-old had succeeded in killing three people and injuring 23 others with bombs that often included bits of treebark and wood, a symbolic protest against what he saw as the destruction of the wilderness around his home.
With this sort of history, it’s perhaps unsurprising that so many militias were loath to let me in. My quest began in February this year, after a report by the SPLC claimed that the number of Right-wing extremist groups had risen by 250 per cent since Obama’s election. I had approached groups from all over the country in the hope that one of them would let me watch them train. Then, in April, members of a radical Christian militia in Michigan known as the Hutaree were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill police officers. Suddenly, the movement had become even more fearful of media interest – not to mention the heat of the law.
I still wanted to find out first-hand why there were a growing number of people wanting to arm themselves – and against what exactly? And this was how, one spring evening, I eventually found myself face-to-face with Johnny Cochran, the head of Fireteam Diamondback (named after the rattlesnake abundant in this part of Texas), in his local Italian in the oil-rich city of Odessa.
I was due to watch Cochran and his men train the next day. But first, I wanted to find out more about him and his members. Why had he left the military? Cochran told me that he had been shot in the leg by friendly fire in Iraq and in the finger by an Iraqi, and had left the navy ‘just before Comrade Clinton took office in 1992’.
So how could he ever envisage taking up arms against the US military? ‘If they take our guns away,’ he told me. ‘They already did it after Hurricane Katrina. They declared a national emergency then went through neighbourhoods disarming civilians. The National Guard units went house-to-house, physically body slamming an elderly woman to the ground, taking a .38 revolver from her even though she was telling them she needed it to protect her family.’
That was a Republican administration, I pointed out. ‘The Democrats are running towards socialism at 100 miles an hour and Republicans are only running 60,’ he said. ‘They’ll all get to the same damn place eventually. Our job as militia is to re-establish the government in a way George [Washington] and the boys intended. And to do that we can’t go and hide in the bushes; we have to take active participation in the overthrow that Thomas Jefferson point-blank told us was our duty as Americans.’
Cochran certainly sounded ready for some ‘active participation’, reeling off a list of items he always carries in his car ‘in case of emergencies’: an AR15 assault rifle, a minimum 300 rounds of ammunition, a knife, first aid kit, food for three days, combat boots, a Cold Steel curved knife (‘I can remove a human limb with that and the head of a white tail buck with one swat’), a Kimber 45 pistol and six spare magazines, a shotgun and military-issue MREs (meals ready to eat).
I asked when he thought this revolution might happen. ‘We’re anticipating something happening prior to the November elections because the Democrats know they’re on the way out.’
This may sound like some crackpot fantasy, but it’s one that’s undeniably gaining currency. According to the SPLC report, there were 147 ‘patriot groups’ in 2006; by 2009 there were 512. ‘There has been a stunning expansion in these groups,’ Mark Potok, a spokesman for the SPLC, tells me. ‘In addition, there was an 80 per cent rise in hardline anti-immigration groups and hate groups like the Klan and neo-Nazis.’
Cochran, who runs a small oilfield company, told me emphatically that his group was not racist and that, like a lot of militias, he resents being grouped together with race-hate groups by organisations such as the SPLC.
‘They say we’re Nazis but it’s ironic because we’re faith-based and the Nazis deplored religion,’ he said. ‘We’re pro-rights, and the Nazis removed as many rights as possible. All this has done is strengthen the core support.’
Certainly, the militias I spoke to all seemed to share the same preoccupations. One man recruiting for a new militia in Oklahoma told me he wanted to be ‘prepared to put down a tyrannical government’. A member of a group in Mississippi said that if the government ‘did something crazy’, like take away their guns, he couldn’t predict what people would do: ‘This could get real ugly, real quick.’
Their opposition to federal government is what distinguishes them from the militias of old, which were designed to aid the government, rather than fight them, in the event of a national emergency. Indeed, according to civil rights organisation the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the militia movement claims to be the ‘militia’ enshrined in the Constitution but is not. The ADL says that they are simply private, unregulated paramilitary groups but that there is no federal law against their existence.
Cochran, who grew up within 20 minutes of the city of Midland, George W Bush’s hometown, was introduced to the movement by his father ‘as soon as I was big enough to carry a rifle’, at the age of 10. He joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in high school, after which he signed up to the military. Cochran’s wife (he won’t reveal her name) was born in ‘liberal Kansas’ – apparently a running joke in their family – and has degrees in Spanish, mathematics and chemistry. She is also an expert marksman.
Cochran told me that some of the close-quarters training would be ‘off-limits’ the next day – although he would evidently relent when it came to demonstrating knifing someone in the throat. ‘We do simulation but we don’t condone anything that is illegal,’ he tells me. ‘If someone is to show up at one of our exercises with an illegal weapon they’ll be turned away.’
The next morning I am waiting with Cochran at a restaurant five miles out of town. Inside the next door petrol station, you can buy cowboy hats, model buffalo heads, and John Wayne mugs and alarm clocks. A truck pulls up and two men get out wearing camouflage gear.
One is Steven Page, who will later help Cochran with his ‘knife’ demonstration. The other is ‘Shepherd’, a 48-year-old computer store owner. Both are from another group, the Southwest Texas Desert Militia, but occasionally train with Cochran. The sticker on the back of Shepherd’s truck reads: ‘I love my AR15’.
Cochran leads us to a ranch 10 miles up the road, owned by a friend in the oil business. The land here is flat and peppered with nodding donkeys. Black rubber piping snakes its way along the paths, carrying water to the wells: once the oil is extracted they are filled with water to prevent sink holes occurring.
We pull up by the edge of a large quarry. Grey clouds loom overhead and although it was 91F (33C) here the day before, today it’s a chilly 52F (11C). Cochran grabs his AR15 and starts walking in a straight line through the quarry, intermittently raising the gun to his eye and firing.
The ground is littered with hundreds of corroded steel and brass bullet cartridges. ‘Any damn fool can stand still to shoot a gun,’ he says. ‘You gotta be moving – and always keep your gun loaded; an empty rifle is a baseball bat.’ Shepherd walks forwards. ‘Safety off, mine is hot,’ he says, before taking eight shots at an old piece of wooden board 500 yards away on a bank. He walks another five paces and shoots again, this time blasting a large rock apart. ‘Rock o’clock,’ Cochran cackles.
Shepherd likes to quote the following to justify his involvement in the militia: ‘When seconds count, the police are always minutes away.’
‘Look at the Los Angeles riots – people were dying, man,’ Page adds.
A lot of their fears – and those of many militias like them – are of a kind of post-apocalyptic future in which the infrastructure of civilisation collapses. They say this could come about as a result of natural disaster or if the government imposes what they see as unconstitutional laws: enforced health care, increased gun control. And they want to be ready.
Cochran has even got a ‘safe zone’ – a ranch outside Odessa that has its own water source and solar panels to generate electricity, and where he stores food, guns and ammunition. ‘Jefferson himself anticipated a violent revolution every 75 to 100 years. We’re running a little behind schedule,’ he says. ‘The last thing I want to do is look down the sights of my rifle at another American – that would be the most sickening prospect I could dream of – however, I’m a realist. I can pray all day long that this won’t take place but I’m not stupid enough to think it never will.’
‘They’ll fine me for refusing to buy health care first,’ Shepherd says. ‘Then I won’t pay the fine, I won’t show up to court, they’ll come to try to take me to jail and at that point they’re on my land illegally. So someone’s going to be met at the door looking down the barrel. And it’ll only take one person to refuse to be taken away to start the whole thing off. I’m ready to put this into practice, I’m ready to lay down my life for what I believe.’ I don’t doubt him.
At the same time, Shepherd appears quiet and fairly gentle – not the sort of person you’d associate with a militia. I ask what his wife thinks of his involvement. ‘All she knows is what the mainstream media say about the militia – bad, bad, bad,’ he says. ‘She’s worried I’m going to get arrested but there are key things I never want to be a part of or that I will never talk about.’
Cochran tells me the militia has what are termed ‘standing orders’ in place, in the event they capture anyone attempting to impose martial law or take away their constitutional rights on the ‘battlefield’. American officers will be executed by bullet. Foreign fighters, mercenaries or civilians employed by the US government to carry out its work will be ‘hoisted and hung’.
Cochran walks to the back of his Hummer and begins to change into his ghillie suit – military clothing designed to blend in with the surrounding vegetation that is covered in strands of green and tan cotton fibres that hang off like matted fur. ‘Man, they are great colours, we wouldn’t see you 20 yards away in the mesquite,’ Shepherd says. Page adds: ‘Let us know if we pee on you.’
By the end of the day, Cochran has demonstrated how to stab someone wearing combat body armour, how to break the finger of someone pointing a gun at your head, and explained how to use a piece of PVC and some hand grenades (‘the most wonderful toys in the world’) to make a trip wire.
I ask Cochran who taught him all this. ‘Uncle Sam,’ he says, fixing me with a stare and then erupting in a throaty cackle before lighting another Marlboro. ‘And he spent a lot of money teaching me how to do this s---.’
We drive in convoy to a nearby cafĂ©, where Shepherd prays over our chilli hot dogs. Cochran had told me his militia was a ‘faith-based organisation’ and after a chorus of ‘Amens’ I ask how they can reconcile practising killing people with their Christian beliefs. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to have been a pacifist?
Cochran is quick on the draw. ‘Jesus Christ said: “He who does not have a sword should sell his robe and buy one”, because a man who will not defend his family and friends is worse than a fool. Now, when Christ said that, a fool was absolutely the worst thing you could call someone.
Jesus said if a man is to strike you on the cheek, turn to him the other cheek. But if he strikes you on the other cheek, God leaves that up to you. You can either turn and walk away or you can fight.’ But he didn’t say that, I say. ‘No. But the catch is, after he strikes you on the other cheek, God doesn’t tell you what to do. It depends on how you’re struck,’ Cochran states.
The following day I call Mark Potok at the SPLC in Washington DC. He says the growth of these radical Right groups is related to three factors: the changing racial demographic of the country (by 2050 it’s estimated the US will lose its white majority); the election of Obama – who many of these groups feel does not represent the country their white Christian forefathers built; and a depressed economy.
Potok admits that not every group is racially motivated but says there is a ‘great deal of profound unease out there’. ‘It’s based on completely baseless fears of a new round of gun control, yet Obama has made it clear he’s not going to do that. He even signed a bill to allow guns to be carried in national parks,’ he says.
‘They say Obama has run roughshod over the Constitution by passing a health care bill, but so often these people argue something is unconstitutional when what they really mean is they don’t like it. If you don’t like it, vote out your congressman.’
So is Johnny Cochran’s outfit actually dangerous? ‘Some small percentage of members of these groups will act on their fears,’ Potok says. ‘I think when you get to the point of teaching people how to sever other human beings’ necks and carotid arteries, the law does get interested.’
He also says it’s entirely possible the US could see another ‘Oklahoma’, but when, and how, is impossible to predict. For the moment, that same ‘spark’ hasn’t happened. But it could – any day. And America needs to be ready.
READ MORE - The truth behind America's 'civilian militias'

A campaign for war with Iran begins

Obama administration officials, as well as U.S. lawmakers and European diplomats, passionately made the argument this spring that tough sanctions on Iran were necessary to avoid war. But contrary to their predictions, the drumbeat for war -- particularly from Israel – has only increased since the U.N. Security Council adopted a new resolution against Tehran in June.
The latest in this crescendo of voices is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in the Atlantic, "Point of No Return." As the title suggests, it essentially makes the case (though in an uncharacteristically subtle manner by neoconservative standards) that there are no choices left -- war is a fait accompli, and the only question is whether it will be initiated by Israel or by the United States.
"If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Obama will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack," Goldberg writes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Goldberg’s description, is a man whose back is against the wall. He cannot accommodate the Obama administration on the Palestinian issue because that would upset his 100-year-old father, and he cannot afford to have faith in Obama’s strategy to prevent a nuclear Iran through peaceful means because the threat from Iran is "existential."
Goldberg interviewed roughly 40 former and current Israeli officials for his piece. Although his access to Israeli officials certainly doesn't seem to be lacking, the same cannot be said about his treatment of the assumptions behind the Israeli talking points.
The most critical assumption that Israeli officials have presented publicly for the past 18 years -- long before the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped on the scene -- is that the Iranian government is irrational and that Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel.

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Human rights groups ask Wikileaks to censor files

By Jerome Taylor

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks

A coalition of human rights groups has called on Wikileaks to remove details of civilian Afghans who were named when the website released more than 77,000 classified US Army documents on the war in Afghanistan.
In a series of emails sent to the website's founder, Julian Assange, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Amnesty International and three other prominent rights groups called on the whistleblower website to expunge the names of Afghans mentioned in the war logs because of fears that they could be targeted by insurgents.
Nader Nadery, from the AIHRC, said he and the four other rights groups in Kabul had written emails to Mr Assange but had yet to hear back from the Wikileaks founder.
"There was no consideration about civilian lives," he said, adding that Afghan civilians seen to be collaborating with Nato forces are often assassinated by insurgents. "We said that in the future the names should be redacted and the ones that are already there need to be taken down. Even though it's late, it is still worth doing."
The emails, which were also sent on behalf of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the Open Society Institute and International Crisis Group, are the first clear indication that some human rights activists are at odds with the way the Afghan logs were published.
Wikileaks, which has been behind some of the most impressive scoops of recent years, gave three newspapers early access to the classified documents which then published their findings simultaneously last month.
Until now, criticism of the decision to leak the logs – or the way they were published – has largely been consigned to those governments involved in the war in Afghanistan and media commentators.
The US government has gone on the offensive against Wikileaks with reports surfacing in the US last night that defence department officials are considering asking Britain, Germany and Australia to bring criminal charges against Mr Assange.
The website may also come under pressure from Sweden, where Wikileaks operates a number of critical internet servers. The country has some of the best media protection laws in Europe and has been a safe-haven for Mr Assange's site, but one Swedish official quoted in the Sydsvenskan newspaper said that Wikileaks was vulnerable because it has no license to publish material in Sweden.
Wikileaks itself has yet to issue any formal response to five human rights groups, but in a series of Twitter updates – Mr Assange's most common form of communication to the public – the website's founder appears to be at odds with the stance of the groups. In his latest tweet, posted yesterday afternoon, Mr Assange said: "Don't be fooled on the "human rights groups". No formal statement. US led."
The US government has demanded that Wikileaks take down the war logs, something that the website has refused to do arguing that the previously unseen documents provide a vital insight into the way the war in Afghanistan has been conducted. Mr Assange has, however, called on human rights groups, Nato and the US government to help it trawl the logs and help redact any names that may be sensitive.
A Wikileaks spokesman, who uses the name Daniel Schmitt in order to protect his identity, told The Associated Press over the weekend: "That request remains open. However, the Pentagon has stated that it is not interested in 'harm minimisation' and has not contacted us, directly, or indirectly to discuss this offer."
The newspapers involved in the initial analysis of the war logs have also felt compelled to defend their decision to publish in recent days.
Eric Schmidt, a reporter at The New York Times who worked on the documents, said: "On this story, as with all sensitive military/ intelligence/ national security articles, we took great care to mitigate any threat to US service members, Afghan security forces and informants working with the US in Afghanistan; as well as US national security, and sensitive sources and methods. We redacted the names and other identifying details from the incident reports we published in the Times."
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Iran Digging Mass Graves For U.S. Troops If They Attack, Iran — Iran has dug mass graves in which to bury U.S. troops in case of any American attack on the country, a former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard said.

The digging of the graves appears to be a show of bravado after the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said last week that the U.S. military has a contingency plan to attack Iran, although he thinks a military strike is probably a bad idea.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared merely toward generating electricity, not bomb.

Gen. Hossein Kan'ani Moghadam, who was the Guard's deputy commander during the 1980s, said graves have been dug in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province, where Iran buried Iraqi soldiers killed during the ruinous 1980-88 war between the Islamic republic and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime.

"The mass graves that used to be for burying Saddam's soldiers have now been prepared again for U.S. soldiers, and this is the reason for digging this big number of graves," Moghadam told The Associated Press Television News late Monday. He did not say how many were prepared.

Footage obtained by APTN showed a large number of empty, freshly dug graves in a desert region of Khuzestan. The digging of the graves was first reported earlier this week by Iran's semiofficial news agency Fars.

Moghadam repeated warnings that Iran will retaliate against U.S. bases in the Gulf if there is an attack on Iran. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters is based just across the Gulf from Iran in Bahrain.

If U.S. forces attack, "Iran will have no choice but to strike the American bases in the region," he said. "The heavy costs of such a war will not be just on the Islamic Republic of Iran. America and other countries should accept that this would be the start of an extensive war in the region."

The war of words has intensified between Iran and the United States after the U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of tougher sanctions in June in response to Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or material for an atomic bomb.

The U.S. and Israel have said military force could be used if diplomacy fails to stop what they suspect is an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

(This version corrects that Moghadam is a former Guard commander, not a current one, and spoke to APTN, instead of Fars.)
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WikiLeaks Interview: 'We Will Keep Publishing Documents' — The online whistle-blower WikiLeaks said it will continue to publish more secret files from governments around the world despite U.S. demands to cancel plans to release classified military documents.

"I can assure you that we will keep publishing documents – that's what we do," a WikiLeaks spokesman, who says he goes by the name Daniel Schmitt in order to protect his identity, told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

Schmitt said he could not comment on any specific documents but asserted that the publication of classified documents about the Afghanistan war directly contributed to the public's understanding of the conflict.

"Knowledge about ongoing issues like the war in Afghanistan is the only way to help create something like safety," Schmitt said. "Hopefully with this understanding, public scrutiny will then influence governments to develop better politics."

He rejected allegations that the group's publication of leaked U.S. government documents was a threat to America's national security or put lives at risk.

"For this reason, we conveyed a request to the White House prior to the publication, asking that the International Security Assistance Force provide us with reviewers," Schmitt said. "That request remains open. However, the Pentagon has stated that it is not interested in 'harm minimization' and has not contacted us, directly, or indirectly to discuss this offer."

The NATO-led ISAF security force is mostly deployed in Afghanistan's less volatile north.

The Pentagon has maintained that the Defense Department had no direct contact with WikiLeaks about possible efforts to redact those documents to make them less of a security threat.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said late last month that it was "absolutely, unequivocally not true" that WikiLeaks had offered to let U.S. government officials go through the documents to make sure no innocent people were identified.

The Pentagon demanded on Thursday that WikiLeaks cancel any plan to publish more classified military documents and pull back tens of thousands of secret Afghan war logs already posted on the Internet.

The demand to stop publishing more classified documents, which the Pentagon has no independent power to enforce, is primarily aimed at preventing release of approximately 15,000 secret documents that the website WikiLeaks has said it is holding and possibly classified U.S. State Department cables.

The Pentagon also hopes to stop WikiLeaks from making public the contents of a mammoth encrypted file recently added to the site. Contents of that file remain a mystery and Schmitt did not want to comment specifically on the content of a file the group posted online with the label "Insurance" in recent days.

He only said that "we regularly distribute backups of documents that have not been published ... This one has just been placed on a very popular site right now to make sure that it has been distributed as widely as possible."

Schmitt said that the group is committed to the security concerns of the world's entire population – which may in some cases be opposed to the United States' national interests.

"WikiLeaks is a globally acting organization," he said. "In that respect we are responsible toward the people of the world and not the people or the specific interests of one particular nation."

WikiLeaks posted more than 76,900 classified military and other documents, mostly raw intelligence reports from Afghanistan, on its website July 25. The 15,000 additional documents are apparently related to that material.

The documents leaked so far illustrate the frustration of U.S. forces in fighting the protracted Afghan conflict and revived debate over the war's uncertain progress. The White House angrily denounced the leaks, saying they put the lives of Afghan informants and U.S. troops at risk.

An Army private, Bradley Manning, is jailed on suspicion of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks in a previous case. He is a "person of interest" in the latest release, the Pentagon has said.

Schmitt said that he, editor-in-chief Julian Assange and three more people work full-time for WikiLeaks, and between 800 and 1,000 volunteerwith tasks like verifying documents, programming software or legal defense.

The group publishes their material out of "three to four dozen countries" and has had numerous attacks on its website, he said.
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7 dead in Afghan suicide attack

A suicide car bomb targeting a military convoy killed seven Afghan police officers in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, authorities said.

The strike occurred in Aghantepa, a village in the Aman Sahib district of Kunduz province. A provincial official reported the attack, which was confirmed by the country's Interior Ministry.

Of the seven police killed, six were national police officers and one was a tribal police officer.

Seven civilians and six tribal police officers were injured, but there was no immediate word from NATO's International Security Assistance Force about whether international forces sustained casualties.

The attacker used a Toyota Corolla to conduct the strike, which government officials called a brutal act.
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Lebanon responsible for deadly firefight, says Israel

Lebanon responsible for deadly firefight, says IsraelIsraeli officials have said that photographs show Israeli soldiers were on their own side of the border when Lebanese troops fired at them on Tuesday.
The Jerusalem Post has reported that the firefight, the first serious clash on the border since Israeli troops invaded southern Lebanon in 2006, resulted in the death of one Israeli soldier and four Lebanese. At least three Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist were killed and a number of other soldiers and civilians were injured, reports from Lebanon said.
Israel would respond with force to ceasefire violations, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. who heads Northern Command, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon Lebanon engaged in a "deliberate ambush."
Netanyahu said, "I hold the Lebanese government directly responsible for this provocation."
The violence erupted after its soldiers opened fire on an Israeli army patrol allegedly uprooting a tree inside Lebanese territory, Lebanese media has reported. Lebanon's state run National News Agency said the exchanges began after Israeli troops tried to install surveillance cameras near the south Lebanese village of Adaysseh.
Israel responded with artillery fire. A tank shell hit a Lebanese army armored vehicle setting it afire. Several buildings in the south Lebanon village were damaged.
It has also been reported that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called on the country to "stand up to Israel's violation of U. N. Resolution 1701, whatever the cost."
The report further noted that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon tried to contain the situation and called on both sides to exhibit restraint. UNIFIL spokesperson Neeraj Singh confirmed there had been an exchange of fire along the Blue Line, the border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon. (With Inputs from Agencies)
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The 'Angel of Death': Special Forces' latest weapon is biggest flying howitzer in the world

This is the ‘Angel of Death’, the world’s biggest flying artillery gun – and the latest weapon being used by British and US Special Forces to defeat Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
Our exclusive picture shows the AC-130 Hercules aircraft unleashing its awesome firepower on the enemy 2,000ft below.
From a distance the plane – nicknamed the ‘Angel of Death’ because of the shape that its anti-missile flares take when they are fired – looks like a normal troop carrier.
But the aircraft, which is rarely deployed in daylight, carries a powerful Howitzer 105mm field gun which can ‘vaporise’ targets at a range of 1,200 yards.
Hell in the sky: The AC-130 Hercules - aka 'Angel of Death' fires its deadly load
Hell in the sky: The AC-130 Hercules - aka 'Angel of Death' fires its deadly load
As the Hercules drops from 2,000ft to as low as 80ft above the battlefield, the Howitzer – normally used by ground troops – fires ten rounds a minute and has a back-up of three 25mm Gatling cannons spewing out 7,500 rounds every 60 seconds to produce the ultimate airborne gunship. Once a camera sited under the fuselage has fixed on the target, it sends the co-ordinates to an onboard computer – and the ‘Angel of Death’ is ready to unleash its deadly load. 

To dampen the recoil and avoid pushing the Hercules off course as the Howitzer is fired, the gun is set on rollers which run on a small track fixed to the aircraft’s superstructure.

After the fire controller shouts ‘Fire’ the Howitzer leaps back on the track and hits a hydraulic buffer that sends it back to be reloaded. The high explosive 105mm shells, each packed with 5lb of TNT, rocket towards their target at 1,548ft per second.

On contact, the shells can destroy buildings and spread shrapnel over a ‘kill’ area of up to 1,500 yards.
'Fire': Troops load shells and prepare for the recoil
'Fire': Troops load shells and prepare for the recoil
Codenamed ‘Spectre’ by the SAS and SBS in southern Afghanistan, the lethal war machines have been deployed to spread fear among the enemy.

During recent operations, British Special Forces troops have flown alongside American comrades to help pinpoint enemy targets and, in the words of one officer, ‘unleash hell’ against the Taliban.

The gunship is used against what intelligence chiefs list as ‘Tier 1 Taliban’ – top-level fighters, who are constantly hunted down by UK Special Forces units codenamed ‘Task Force 42’ and ‘Task Force 444’.
A Special Forces officer said last night: ‘When a group of key Taliban fighters are taken out it is referred to as ‘‘splashing the target’’ – a crude description, but it works for us.

‘The AC-130 really is the ultimate weapon. It is very accurate and simply vaporises the target and sends a powerful psychological message to the enemy.

‘We have called in Spectre many times and you know the minute it starts to unleash its fury the enemy melt away.

‘We have taken out several high-value targets on the border with Pakistan thanks to the support of the AC-130 crews.’
Deadly weapon: The artillery gun Special troops call 'Spectre'.
Deadly weapon: The artillery gun Special troops call 'Spectre'.
The ‘Angel of Death’ is operated by a total of 12 crew members. There are five officers – the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer and electronic warfare officer. They are aided by seven enlisted staff – a flight engineer, TV operator, infra-red detection set operator, loadmaster and three aerial gunners. Their specially converted aircraft can stay in the skies for 12 hours at a time and is the largest airborne gun in the world.

The crew can carry several thousand 105mm Howitzer rounds, which weigh 40lb each. The Howitzer provides pinpoint accuracy and has top-secret sensors to protect it from missiles.

On operational flights, the plane is loaded with ten tons of ammunition.
Pilots rely on high-tech radar to track targets. It is supported by a top-secret night sensor system.

Further evidence of the plane’s killing power can be seen just behind the cockpit in the form of two 20mm Vulcan rotary cannons, which fire 7,200 rounds per minute.
The gunners who man the weapons are issued with shovels to clear the huge pile of empty ammunition cases as the cannons spew it out.

The artillery gun boasts a pilot-aiming sensor, laser range-finder and a powerful night-vision camera providing real-time information and footage to the gun commander who sits behind the pilots in a fire control centre.

Just in front of the port-side wing, the 105mm artillery gun is mounted alongside a smaller 40mm Bofors cannon.
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Dutch troops end Afghanistan deployment

Dutch troops talk to Afghan locals in Uruzgan province (21 January 2010) Dutch troops pioneered techniques held up as a model for other foreign forces
The Netherlands has ended its military mission in Afghanistan, after four years in which its 1,950 troops have won praise for their effectiveness.
Dutch military chief Gen Peter van Uhm said security had improved in Uruzgan province during the Dutch deployment.
But he acknowledged that "a lot still has to happen" after the withdrawal.
Nato has played down its significance, but analysts say this is a sensitive time for the alliance, with growing casualties and doubts about strategy.
Dutch command was formally handed over to the US and Australia in a small ceremony on Sunday at the main military base in Uruzgan - where most Dutch soldiers have been deployed.
The Dutch ministry of defence told the BBC that while its military mission in Afghanistan had ended, a redeployment task force would stay on to oversee the return of vehicles, military hardware and equipment to the Netherlands.
Four F16 jets, three Chinooks and five Apaches from the Dutch air force were expected to remain in Afghanistan until the end of the year.
"Dutch forces have served with distinction in Uruzgan, and we honour their sacrifice and that of their Afghan counterparts during the Netherlands' tenure in the province," said a statement from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Nato had wanted the Netherlands to extend its mission, but the request triggered a political row which brought down the country's coalition government in February.
This sent shock waves through other European countries, particularly Germany, where public opposition to the war is growing.
3D warfare More than 145,000 foreign troops currently operate under US and Nato command in Afghanistan and are supporting its Western-backed government against a Taliban-led insurgency that has gained strength.

Start Quote

We have achieved tangible results of which the Netherlands can be proud”
End Quote Gen Peter van Uhm Chief of the Dutch Defence Staff
Having supplied just a small percentage of Nato forces, the Dutch pull-out will not make a significant military difference, says the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul, but it will have a symbolic impact far beyond the troop numbers themselves.
Analysts say the Dutch contingent has pioneered techniques which have since been held up as a model for other foreign forces in Afghanistan.
These include the "3D" policy - defence, diplomacy and development - which involved fighting the Taliban while at the same time building close contacts with local tribal elders and setting up development programmes.
"We offer the majority of the population relatively safe living conditions and advancements in health care, education and trade," Gen Van Uhm told a news conference on Wednesday.
"We have achieved tangible results of which the Netherlands can be proud."
Finite commitments Uruzgan is a poor mountainous region north of Helmand and Kandahar, and the Dutch lost far fewer troops than the UK, US and Canada, the main forces further south.
Dutch military vehicles in Uruzgan province More than 145,000 foreign troops operate under US and Nato command in Afghanistan
Gen Van Uhm said 24 Dutch troops died during the four-year mission and 140 were wounded. His 23-year-old son was killed by a roadside bomb in April 2008.
A Taliban spokesman told the Volksrant newspaper that the group wanted to "wholeheartedly congratulate the citizens and government of the Netherlands" for pulling out its troops and urged others to follow suit.
Officials in Brussels insist the rest of the military alliance remains solid and note that the decision of the Dutch to go ahead with the withdrawal did not produce a chain reaction of other announcements about pull-outs.
But Canada is still expected to withdraw its forces next year, Poland in 2012, and the UK in 2014 or 2015.
With increasing focus on the process - if not the exact timetable - for handing over security to the Afghans, analysts say there is a growing sense that commitments are finite, analysts say.
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