U.S.-Born Al-Qaeda Cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki Killed In Yemen

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/168416/thumbs/s-AWLAKI-large.jpgSANAA, Yemen -- In a significant new blow to al-Qaida, U.S. airstrikes in Yemen on Friday killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American militant cleric who became a prominent figure in the terror network's most dangerous branch, using his fluent English and Internet savvy to draw recruits for attacks in the United States.
The strike was the biggest U.S. success in hitting al-Qaida's leadership since the May killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But it raises questions that other strikes did not: Al-Awlaki was an American citizen who has not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial.
The 40-year-old al-Awlaki was for years an influential mouthpiece for al-Qaida's ideology of holy war, and his English-language sermons urging attacks on the United States were widely circulated among militants in the West.
But U.S. officials say he moved into a direct operational role in organizing such attacks as he hid alongside al-Qaida militants in the rugged mountains of Yemen. Most notably, they believe he was involved in recruiting and preparing a young Nigerian who on Christmas Day 2009 tried to blow up a U.S. airliner heading to Detroit, failing only because he botched the detonation of explosives sewn into his underpants.
Yemen's Defense Ministry said another American militant was killed in the same strike alongside al-Awlaki – Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani heritage who produced "Inspire," an English-language al-Qaida Web magazine that spread the word on ways to carry out attacks inside the United States. U.S. officials said they believed Khan was in the convoy carrying al-Awlaki that was struck but that they were still trying to confirm his death. U.S. and Yemeni officials said two other militants were also killed in the strike but did not immediately identify them.
Washington has called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the branch in Yemen is called, the most direct threat to the United States after it plotted that attack and a foiled attempt to mail explosives to synagogues in Chicago.
In July, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said al-Awlaki was a priority target alongside Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's successor as the terror network's leader.
The Yemeni-American had been in the U.S. crosshairs since his killing was approved by President Barack Obama in April 2010 – making him the first American placed on the CIA "kill or capture" list. At least twice, airstrikes were called in on locations in Yemen where al-Awlaki was suspected of being, but he wasn't harmed.
Friday's success was the result of counterterrorism cooperation between Yemen and the U.S. that has dramatically increased in recent weeks – ironically, even as Yemen has plunged deeper into turmoil as protesters try to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh, U.S. officials said.
Apparently trying to cling to power by holding his American allies closer, Saleh has opened the taps in cooperation against al-Qaida. U.S. officials said the Yemenis have also allowed the U.S. to gather more intelligence on al-Awlaki's movements and to fly more armed drone and aircraft missions over its territory than ever before.
The operation that killed al-Awlaki was run by the U.S. military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command – the same unit that got bin Laden.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said American forces targeted a convoy in which al-Awlaki was traveling with a drone and jet attack and believe he's been killed. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Yemeni government announced that al-Awlaki was "targeted and killed" around 9:55 a.m outside the town of Khashef in mountainous Jawf province, 87 miles (140 kilometers) east of the capital Sanaa. It gave no further details.
Local tribal and security officials said al-Awlaki was traveling in a two-car convoy with two other al-Qaida operatives from Jawf to neighboring Marib province when they were hit by an airstrike. They said the other two operatives were also believed dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, began as a mosque preacher as he conducted his university studies in the United States, and he was not seen by his congregations as radical. While preaching in San Diego, he came to know two of the men who would eventually become suicide-hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The FBI questioned al-Awlaki at the time but found no cause to detain him.
In 2004, al-Awlaki returned to Yemen, and in the years that followed, his English-language sermons – distributed on the Internet – increasingly turned to denunciations of the United States and calls for jihad, or holy war. The sermons turned up in the possession of a number of militants in the U.S. and Europe arrested for plotting attacks.
Al-Awlaki exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, alleged killer of 13 people in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at Fort Hood. Hasan initiated the contacts, drawn by al-Awlaki's Internet sermons, and approached him for religious advice.
Al-Awlaki has said he didn't tell Hasan to carry out the shootings, but he later praised Hasan as a "hero" on his Web site for killing American soldiers who would be heading for Afghanistan or Iraq to fight Muslims.
In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
After the Fort Hood attack, al-Awlaki moved from Yemen's capital, Sanaa, into the mountains where his Awalik tribe is based and – it appears – grew to build direct ties with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, if he had not developed them already. The branch is led by a Yemeni militant named Nasser al-Wahishi.
Yemeni officials have said al-Awlaki had contacts with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused would-be Christmas plane bomber, who was in Yemen in 2009. They say the believe al-Awlaki met with the 23-year-old Nigerian, along with other al-Qaida leaders, in al-Qaida strongholds in the country in the weeks before the failed bombing.
Al-Awlaki has said Abdulmutallab was his "student" but said he never told him to carry out the airline attack.
The cleric is also believed to have been an important middleman between al-Qaida militants and the multiple tribes that dominate large parts of Yemen, particular in the mountains of Jawf, Marib and Shabwa province where the terror group's fighters are believed to be holed up.
Last month, al-Awlaki was seen attending a funeral of a senior tribal chief in Shabwa, witnesses said, adding that security officials were also among those attending. Other witnesses said al-Awlaki was involved in negotiations with a local tribe in Yemen's Mudiya region, which was preventing al-Qaida fighters from traveling from their strongholds to the southern city of Zinjibar, which was taken over recently by Islamic militants. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals and their accounts could not be independently confirmed.
Yemen, the Arab world's most impoverished nation, has become a haven for hundreds of al-Qaida militants. The country has also been torn by political turmoil as President Saleh struggles to stay in power in the face of seven months of protests. In recent months, Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida have exploited the chaos to seize control of several cities in Yemen's south, including Zinjibar.
A previous attack against al-Awlaki on May 5, shortly after the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was carried out by a combination of U.S. drones and jets.
Top U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has said cooperation with Yemen has improved since the political unrest there. Brennan said the Yemenis have been more willing to share information about the location of al-Qaida targets, as a way to fight the Yemeni branch challenging them for power.
Yemeni security officials said the U.S. was conducting multiple airstrikes a day in the south since May and that U.S. officials were finally allowed to interrogate al-Qaida suspects, something Saleh had long resisted, and still does so in public. The officials spokes on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.
____
AP correspondent Matt Apuzzo and AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington contributed to this report.
Al Qaeda Attacks Timeline

Feb. 26, 1993 - A bomb explodes in the garage of the World Trade Center.
READ MORE - U.S.-Born Al-Qaeda Cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki Killed In Yemen

RED DAWN

China Embarks On Ambitious New Space Programhttp://i.huffpost.com/gen/363415/thumbs/r-CHINA-SPACE-STATION-huge.jpg

China Space Station: Tiangong-1 Experimental Module Launched

BEIJING — China launched an experimental module to lay the groundwork for a future space station on Thursday, underscoring its ambitions to become a major space power over the coming decade.
The box car-sized Tiangong-1 module was shot into space from the Jiuquan launch center on the edge of the Gobi Desert aboard a Long March 2FT1 rocket.
It is to move into an orbit 217 miles (350 kilometers) above the Earth and conduct surveys of Chinese farmland using special cameras, along with experiments involving growing crystals in zero gravity.
China then plans to launch an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to practice remote-controlled docking maneuvers with the module, possibly within the next few weeks. Two more missions, at least one of them manned, are to meet up with it next year for further practice, with astronauts staying for up to one month.
The 8.5-ton module, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace-1," is to stay aloft for two years, after which two other experimental modules are to be launched for additional tests before the actual station is launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022.
"This is a significant test. We've never done such a thing before," Lu Jinrong, the launch center's chief engineer, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The space station, which is yet to be formally named, is the most ambitious project in China's exploration of space, which also calls for landing on the moon, possibly with astronauts.
In terms of technology, the launch of the Tiangong-1 places China about where the U.S. was in the 1960s during the Gemini program. While it is planning fewer launches than the U.S. carried out, the Chinese program progresses farther than the U.S. did with each launch it undertakes, said Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island.
"China has the advantage, 40-plus years later, of not having to start at the bottom of the learning curve on its human spaceflight program," Johnson-Freese said.
China's authoritarian, centralized political system also offers the advantage of freedom from political wrangles over funding and clearly defines the program's long-term goals within Soviet-style five-year plans.
China launched its first manned flight in 2003, joining Russia and the United States as the only countries to launch humans into orbit and generating huge amounts of national pride for the Communist government.
However, habitual secrecy and the space program's close links with the military have inhibited cooperation with other nations' space programs – including the International Space Station.
At about 60 tons when completed, the Chinese station will be considerably smaller than the 16-nation ISS, which is expected to continue operating through 2028.
China applied repeatedly to join the ISS, but was rebuffed largely on objections from the U.S., prompting it to adopt a go-it-alone strategy.
While the program has proceeded with no apparent major problems, the launch of the Tiangong-1 module was delayed for one year for technical reasons, and then rescheduled again after a Long March 2C rocket similar to the Long March 2F failed to reach orbit in August. The incident with the rocket was investigated and problems were reportedly resolved.
Although experts see no explicit military function for the Chinese space station, the country's other space-based military programs, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese satellite with a rocket in 2007, have caused alarm overseas.
"It is a nation doing its own thing saying, 'OK, we can do what you did for our own country separate from cooperation, on Chinese terms,'" said Charles Vick, an expert on the Chinese space program with Globalsecurity.org, which tracks military and security news.
Numerous challenges lie ahead, including the attempt to dock remotely – U.S. astronauts handled the maneuver from aboard their spacecraft. The Long March 5 rocket that is being prepared to launch the 20-ton modules for the actual space station also remains untested.
Still, Beijing is expected to press ahead whatever the difficulties as long as it continues to result in international prestige, domestic credibility, technological advancement, and economic spin-offs, Johnson-Freese and Vick said.
"Basically, they will get what they want regardless of how long or what it takes for the authoritarian state to accomplish the assigned tasks," Vick said.
READ MORE - RED DAWN

Is this REALLY Al Qaeda's latest weapon?

FBI foils plot to attack Pentagon with toy plane packed with explosives

  • Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, graduated from Northeastern and is a U.S. citizen
  • He frequently met with 'agents of al Qaeda' for help waging his 'jihad'... but they were really undercover FBI agents
  • Arrested after he accepted delivery from undercover agents of grenades, six machine guns and C-4 explosive
  • Ferdaus 'played drums in college band and was nicknamed Bollywood'

Bomber: 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus has been accused of plotting to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol with large remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives
Bomber: 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus has been accused of plotting to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol with large remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives
This is the face of the Massachusetts man accused of plotting to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol by using remote-controlled aircraft filled with C-4 explosives.
Musician Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, was also charged with attempting to provide support and resources to al Qaeda in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soldiers stationed overseas, U.S. attorney's office in Boston said.
He was caught as a result of an undercover operation.
He was arrested in Framingham after undercover federal agents delivered materials he'd allegedly requested for his plan, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosive.
According to a federal affidavit, Ferdaus said he wanted to deal a psychological blow to Americans, the 'enemies of Allah,' by hitting the Pentagon, which he called 'head and heart of the snake.'
In a conversation with a federal informant, Ferdaus allegedly explained how in ancient times, God uses natural disasters to punish evil civilizations, and he would use them today.
'For us, we've gotta do that,' he said, according to the affidavit. 'Allah has given us the privilege... he punishes them by our hand. We're the ones.'
Terror: Rezwan Ferdaus planned to use remote control planes lined with C-4 to attack the capital before he was arrested by authorities. Here: a scale model of a U.S. Navy F-86 Sabre fighter plane similar to the remote control aircraft he planned to use
Terror: Rezwan Ferdaus planned to use remote control planes lined with C-4 to attack the capital before he was arrested by authorities. Here: a scale model of a U.S. Navy F-86 Sabre fighter plane similar to the remote control aircraft he planned to use
Eerie: a surveillance photo of the Pentagon, said to be taken by Ferdaus
Eerie: An amateur surveillance photo of the Pentagon said to be taken by Ferdaus as he plotted during a trip to Washington D.C. in May
'The conduct alleged today shows that Mr Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country. Thanks to the diligence of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners, that plan was thwarted.' U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.
Musician: Ferdus studied physics at Northeastern University where he reportedly went by the name 'Bollywood' and played drums in a Massachusetts band
Musician: Ferdus studied physics at Northeastern University where he reportedly went by the name 'Bollywood' and played drums in a Massachusetts band
'In addition to protecting our citizens from the threats and violence alleged today, we also have an obligation to protect members of every community, race and religion against violence and other unlawful conduct,' Mr Ortiz said.
The Department of Justice also said that 'the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees.
It went on to say that Ferdaus was in contact with the undercover officers as they monitored the development of his plot.
The FBI agent in charge of the operation said that more than 30 federal, state and local agencies worked with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force on this arrest.
Ferdus studied physics at Northeastern University where he reportedly went by the name 'Bollywood' and played drums in a Massachusetts band, according to CBS.
The undercover operation started in 2010 and Ferdus frequently met with officers who were pretending to be either members of or recruiters for Al Qaeda.
During their meetings, Ferdus would give the officers mobile phones that he had rigged to be the detonators for IED, that they would then bring overseas and use to kill American soldiers.
After one such meeting, the undercover officer told Ferdus that a previous device had killed three American soldiers and injured four or five more; Ferdus replied 'That was exactly what I wanted'.
A scale model of a U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom fighter plane handed out by the U.S. Justice Department similar to the one Ferdaus planned to use in his attack
A scale model of a U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom fighter plane handed out by the U.S. Justice Department similar to the one Ferdaus planned to use in his attack
According to the federal affidavit, Ferdaus began planning 'jihad' against the U.S. in early 2010.
In one meeting, he said that his desire to kill Americans was so strong that he said 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me'.
Ferdaus even allegedly travelled to Washington D.C. last May, gathering pictures of his proposed targets.
He discussed his plan for a massive attack on the Capitol, in which he intended to cause a high number of casualties as well as instil psychological fear, with undercover officers at great length.
Ferdaus planned to use an 'aerial assault' to 'eliminate key locations of the [Pentagon] building ...and leave one area only as a squeeze where the individuals will be isolated, they'll be vulnerable and we can dominate'.
He planned to use planes laden with C-4 and AK-47 machine guns to complete the attack.
READ MORE - Is this REALLY Al Qaeda's latest weapon?

Now even Al Qaeda tells Ahmadinejad to stop the conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. for 9/11

Iranian president called it 'the September 11 mystery'
By Chris Parsons
Ridiculous: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been told to stop his conspiracy theories about 9/11
Ridiculous: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been told to stop his conspiracy theories about 9/11
Outspoken controversial Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been told by Al-Qaeda to stop his conspiracy theories claiming that the U.S. was to blame for the 9/11 attacks.
The terrorist organisation has reportedly sent a message to the Iranian president asking him to stop spreading his 'ridiculous belief' about the 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.
According to the Guardian, Iranian media reported on Wednesday quotes from Al-Qaeda's English language magazine, criticising Ahmadinejad's latest comments.
The Iranian leader caused a U.S. delegation to walk out of his UN general assembly speech last week when he cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks by referring to 9/11 as a 'mystery'.
Delegates from several other countries, including Israel Ireland and Fiji, also walked out of the speech while Ahmadinejad was still talking.
According to Iranian media, the article in Inspire said: 'The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that Al-Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government.
'So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?'
The Guardian reported that the Al-Qaeda article insisted it was behind the terror attacks, before criticising Ahmadinejad for discrediting the terrorist group.
The Iranian president's controversial speech prompted a walkout by many in the UN last week
The Iranian president's controversial speech prompted a walkout by many in the UN last week
One protester outside the UN general assembly last week dressed as a clown wore a mask of Ahmadinejad in a red nose
One protester outside the UN general assembly last week dressed as a clown wore a mask of Ahmadinejad in a red nose
The Inspire article continued: 'For them, Al-Qaeda was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world. Al-Qaeda... succeeded in what Iran couldn't.
'Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.'
Publication: Inspire, the Al-Qaeda English language magazine, said the Iranian president's comments were 'ridiculous'
Publication: Inspire, the Al-Qaeda English language magazine, said the Iranian president's comments were 'ridiculous'
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had outraged the UN last week by calling the 9/11 attack on the U.S. 'a mystery' shortly after the 10th anniversary of the atrocity.
In a speech full of questions which were no more than thinly veiled attacks on the U.S. he asked the UN who had used the 'mysterious September 11 incident' as a precursor to war and to dominate the Middle East?
He added: 'By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions,' he said.
When the idea of an independent fact-finding investigation of 'the hidden elements' involved in the attacks was raised last year, he said, 'my country and myself came under pressure and threat by the government of the United States.'
'Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea,' Ahmadinejad said, referring to the U.S. military's killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May.
Controversy: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused outrage by referring to the 9/11 attacks as 'the September 11 mystery'
Controversy: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused outrage by referring to the 9/11 attacks as 'the September 11 mystery'
'Would it not have been reasonable to bring to justice and openly to trial the main perpetrator of the incident in order to identify the elements behind the safe space provided for the invading aircraft to attack the twin world trade towers?,' he asked.
No stranger to outrageous comments, Ahmadinejad began his speech by highlighting the plight of the world's poorest nations, but included the U.S. in that by saying the country suffered from 'inequality'.
Ahmadinejad then cryptically said this year he planned 'to analyse the current [global] situation from a different angle'.
He then went on to single out a regular target of his, blaming Zionism for the wars in the Korean peninsula and Vietnam.
READ MORE - Now even Al Qaeda tells Ahmadinejad to stop the conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. for 9/11

Mullen sticks to his guns on ISI links with terror group

Washington: The top US military officer stuck to his guns even as the White House and State Department sought to distance themselves from his remarks that Haqqani network was "a veritable arm" of Pakistan's spy agency.
Mullen sticks to his guns on ISI links with terror group
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN Wednesday that elements in Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were "very active" with the Haqqani network launching attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.
Mullen's remarks to the US Congress last week for the first time directly linking ISI with the militant group blamed for the attack on the US embassy in Kabul caused a diplomatic furore with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders, who have denied the accusation.
Meanwhile, the White House Wednesday distanced itself from the retiring officer's statement. Asked whether he agreed with Mullen that the Haqqani network was "a veritable arm" of the ISI, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters, "It's not language I would use."
But the Obama administration, he said, is united in its assessment that "links" exist between the Haqqani network and the ISI, "and that Pakistan needs to take action to address that."
Mullen sticks to his guns on ISI links with terror group
At the State Department too asked whether it stood behind Mullen's testimony, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: "We stand behind his conclusion that this safe haven is extremely dangerous, that we must work on it together. Admiral Mullen also made the point that we have no choice, the US and Pakistan, but to tackle this together."
Asked how the State Department would define the relationship between ISI and the Haqqani Network, she parried: "Again, that's not an issue for this Department. That's an intelligence question."
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that an unidentified Pentagon official said Mullen had overstated the ISI link to Congress.
Asked by CNN if he overstated the situation to Congress, Mullen repeated that a link exists but referred to elements in the spy network as opposed to some kind of formal structure.
"There are elements I think of the ISI very active with Haqqani," Mullen said, adding that "the piece" of the ISI "that is so focused on sending Taliban and insurgents into Afghanistan" from safe havens in Pakistan must be addressed by both the US and Pakistan's government and military.
Source: IANS
READ MORE - Mullen sticks to his guns on ISI links with terror group

US man held over Pentagon bomb plot

US authorities have arrested a suspected follower of al-Qaeda and charged him with plotting an attack on the Pentagon with an explosive laden remote controlled aircraft.
US man held over Pentagon bomb plot
Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old US citizen, was also charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, specifically to al-Qaeda, in order to carry out attacks on US soldiers stationed overseas, the Justice Department said today.
He was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts.
The public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees, an official statement said.
According to an affidavit, in recorded conversations with the cooperating witness (CW) that began in January 2011, Ferdaus stated that he planned to attack the Pentagon using aircraft similar to "small drone airplanes" filled with explosives and guided by GPS equipment.
US man held over Pentagon bomb plot
In April 2011, Ferdaus expanded his plan to include an attack on the US Capitol. In May and June 2011, Ferdaus delivered two thumb drives to the under covers (UCs), which contained detailed attack plans with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol.
The plans included using three remote controlled aircraft and six people, including himself whom he described as an "amir", ie, an Arabic term meaning leader.
A Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics, he began planning to commit a violent "jihad" against the US in early 2010, according to the affidavit.
Ferdaus obtained mobile phones, each of which he modified to act as an electrical switch for an IED. He then supplied the phones to FBI UCs, who he believed to be members of, or recruiters for, al Qaeda.
According to the affidavit, Ferdaus believed that the devices would be used to kill American soldiers overseas.
US man held over Pentagon bomb plot
During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three US soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq.
Ferdaus responded, "That was exactly what I wanted."
During various recorded meetings, Ferdaus envisioned causing a large "psychological" impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as "enemies of Allah."
According to the affidavit, Ferdaus'' desire to attack the US is so strong that he confided, "I just can''t stop; there is no other choice for me."
In May 2011, Ferdaus travelled from Boston to Washington, conducted surveillance and took photographs of his targets (Pentagon and Capitol), and identified and photographed sites at the East Potomac Park from which he planned to launch his aircraft filled with explosives.
Source: PTI
READ MORE - US man held over Pentagon bomb plot

Bloody 2007 attack on U.S. soldiers in village schoolhouse which claimed life of a major 'was carried out by Pakistanis'

Killed: Larry Bauguess died in the shooting in the border town of Teri Mangal between Pakistan and Afghanistan Killed: Larry Bauguess died in the shooting in the border town of Teri Mangal between Pakistan and Afghanistan
An attack on a group of U.S. soldiers in a town on the Pakistan side of its border with Afghanistan was carried out by Pakistanis, it has been revealed.
After four years of secrecy, it has finally been revealed that the nominal allies of the U.S. were behind the shooting which resulted in the death of Major Larry Bauguess in the town of Teri Mangal, according to the New York Times.

Three American officers and the group's translator were also injured in the attack which happened after U.S. troops met Afghan officials in a village schoolhouse.
Why the attack took place has never been revealed, but in the past Pakistan has reacted in such away after American soldiers have been involved the deaths of their citizens.
The revelation that it was the Pakistanis that carried out the attack is likely to worsen relations between Islamabad and the Washington which have become strained.
In May this year the U.S. went over the border to Abbotobad without telling the Pakistan authorities and assassinated Osama bin Laden. The secrecy in the operation marked the continuing distrust between the countries.
Pakistan officials initially said militants were responsible for the attack, then they blamed a rogue soldier. In fact there were intelligence agents and military officers.


There was even an attempt to kidnap the senior American and Afghan officials from the schoolhouse meeting but the U.S. soldiers retaliated and they escaped in a blood-soaked Black Hawk helicopter.
The case has been shrouded in secrecy with neither government wishing to make much information public in order to keep the relationship between the two countries intact.
Border town: Teri Mangal lies between Afghanistan and Pakistan
Border town: Teri Mangal lies between Afghanistan and Pakistan
It has now emerged that the U.S. had been called in to help sort out an argument over a piece of land on the border.
After five hours the meeting was coming to an end and the Americans and Afghans were preparing to leave.
Once outside, Major Bauguess was shot dead by a Pakistani who was then shot dead by another U.S. soldier.
There was a fire-fight and then the American and Afghan commanders tried to escape in a car which was fired upon after the driver went past the waiting helicopter.
It was only when American commander put a gun to the driver's head that he stopped and let them out.
U.S. personnel at the scene at the time of the shooting say they believe that the attack was a set up and the meeting was all part of a Pakistani plan.
One official who did not want to be named said: 'At that time in May 2007, you had a lot of analysis pointing to the role of Pakistan in destabilising that part of Afghanistan, and here you had a case in point, and for whatever reason it was glossed over.'
READ MORE - Bloody 2007 attack on U.S. soldiers in village schoolhouse which claimed life of a major 'was carried out by Pakistanis'

THE GREAT IRAQ GIVEAWAY

U.S. To Hand Over Iraq Bases, Equipment Worth Billions


http://i.huffpost.com/gen/359205/thumbs/r-IRAQ-GIVEAWAY-US-MILITARY-DRAWDOWN-huge.jpg

WASHINGTON -- With just over three months until the last U.S. troops are currently due to leave Iraq, the Department of Defense is engaged in a mad dash to give away things that cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars to buy and build.
The giveaways include enormous, elaborate military bases and vast amounts of military equipment that will be turned over to the Iraqis, mostly just to save the expense of bringing it home.
"It's all sunk costs," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi soldiers from 2003 to 2004. "It's money that we spent and we're not going to recoup."
There were 505 U.S. military bases and outposts in Iraq at the height of operations, said Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq. Only 39 are still in U.S. hands -- but that includes each of the largest bases, meaning the most significant handovers are yet to come.
Those bases didn't come cheap. Construction costs exceeded $2.4 billion, according to an analysis of Pentagon annual reports by the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alone was responsible for $1.9 billion in base construction contracts between 2004 and 2010, a spokesman told HuffPost.
Rather than strip those bases clean and ship everything home, Defense Department officials tell The Huffington Post that over 2.4 million pieces of equipment worth a total of at least $250 million -- everything from tanks and trucks to office furniture and latrines -- have been given away to the Iraqi government in the past year, with the pace of transfers expected to increase dramatically in the coming months.
THE U.S. BASES
The most colossal relics of the U.S. invasion of Iraq will be the outsize military bases the Bush administration began erecting not long after the invasion, under the never explicitly stated assumption that Iraq would become the long-term staging area for U.S. forces in the region.
As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted, the Department of Defense "built up a far more extensive infrastructure than anticipated to support troops and equipment in and around Iraq and Afghanistan."
The biggest push came in 2005, with over $1.2 billion in base-building contracts signed in that fiscal year alone, according to CRS.
"How did we come to be wasting that much money?" asked Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the progressive National Security Network. The answer, she said, is that dissenting voices weren't heeded when Bush administration officials were pushing their hugely overambitious agenda.
"The problem that is often cited in the run-up to the war continued afterward," she said. "The political and media elite weren't paying attention."
It wasn't until late in Bush's second term that "cooler heads prevailed," Hurlburt said, and it became apparent that there was no political will in either country for the U.S. to keep permanent bases in Iraq, and therefore no need to spend so much to build them.
But by then, the plans had already been set in motion. As Stars and Stripes reported last year, major construction continued even after November 2008, when then-President George W. Bush and Iraqi officials signed a security agreement calling for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
Most of the $2.4 billion was spent building about a dozen huge outposts that, in addition to containing air strips and massive fortifications also have all the comforts of home. The Al-Asad Airfield in Anbar province, for example, covers 25 square miles -- about the size of Boulder, Colo. -- and is known as "Camp Cupcake" due to its amenities.
The 15-square-mile Joint Base Balad, as Whitney Terrell wrote earlier this year for Slate, is "home to three football-field-sized chow halls, a 25-meter swimming pool, a high dive, a football field, a softball field, two full-service gyms, a squash court, a movie theater, and the U.S. military's largest airfield in Iraq."
Despite the media's elegiac obituaries for these major bases -- like the prematurely named "Camp Victory", with its palace, its lake, and its giant, killer carp -- the fact is that not one major base has yet been evacuated.
And it's not clear just what the Iraqis will do with some of those bases, once they get them.
One U.S. officer whose unit turned over a military outpost in a Baghdad neighborhood to the Iraqi Army in 2009 told the Washington Post that Iraqi soldiers looted it within hours of the U.S. departure. "When we returned to the outpost the next morning, most of the beds had already been taken, wood walls and framing had been pulled and several air-conditioning units had been removed from the walls, leaving gaping holes," the officer told the Post. Weeks later, he added, the power generator the Americans had left behind was barely working.
One Iraqi entrepreneur indicated to NPR last year that there's a thriving black market in U.S. items. "The Americans turn over every base to the Iraqi army and police -- and they are all thieves," he said.
SO MUCH EQUIPMENT
Much of the U.S.'s most lethal and valuable military equipment is being shipped out of Iraq, in one of the military's biggest logistical efforts in history. Johnson, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said that 1.5 million items have been removed in the past 12 months, with about 800,000 to go. "It's an enormous task, but we have no major concerns on our ability to meet the necessary timelines." Johnson wrote in an email to HuffPost.
But whenever a big army moves out, there's always a lot left behind -- what Stephen Biddle, a defense expert at the Council on Foreign Relations likens to an "iron mountain."
The Pentagon can legally transfer four different categories of equipment to the Iraqi government: "excess personal property," such as generators and mattresses, air conditioners and latrines; excess defense articles; sales from stock, including spare parts and ammunition; and non-excess military items deemed particularly useful for the Iraqi security forces.
Various Department of Defense officials provided not entirely consistent data on exactly how much has been given away thus far in each category. But the man in charge, Maj. Gen. Thomas Richardson, the chief logistics officer in Iraq, told reporters last month that U.S. forces had given away equipment with a fair market value of $247 million between Sept. 1, 2010, and August of this year -- on top of items worth $157 million that had been transferred before the withdrawal officially started.
The lion's share of donated items falls into the category of excess, non-military property. Major Kimbia Rey, a spokesperson for the U.S. forces in Iraq, told The Huffington Post this week that more than 2.4 million such items have been transferred to the government of Iraq since last September.
Richardson explained that much of that category consists of what they call "FOB in a box." When the Iraqis take over a Forward Operating Base, he said, they also get the things that go with it, such as containerized housing units, water and fuel tanks, air conditioning units, generators, refrigerators, porta-johns, beds and mattresses, office equipment, fences, dining facilities and so on.
According to Lt. Col Melinda F. Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman, some 12,490 excess defense items worth $70.5 million have been turned over to the Iraqis, with 7,000 more, worth about $40 million, to go. That category includes such things as older versions of weapons, vehicles, and body armor.
Finally, U.S. forces have also given the Iraqis 1,251 non-excess military items worth $47.7 million, Morgan said. That category includes such items as up-armored Humvees and 50-caliber machine guns, Richardson said.
All of the dollar figures are for what the military calls "fair market value"; the purchase price of those items could, of course, have been much higher.
And Morgan noted that the "heaviest volume of future property transfers" is expected to occur between September and December of this year, although the "quantity and value" of what is still to come has not yet been determined.
Indeed, a Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this month raised concerns that military officials will suddenly find a lot of equipment they didn't expect -- right at the last minute, just when everybody's leaving.
After one of the largest base transitions to date, the GAO reported, "officials said that they were surprised at the amount of unaccounted-for equipment that was left over at the end of the transition process." Senior military officials told the GAO they were particularly worried that unexpected or abandoned contractor equipment -- including expensive and much-in-demand materiel-handling equipment, like forklifts and pallet trucks -- would suddenly show up "likely at the last minute."
Some equipment has simply piled up in Iraq since combat operations began in 2003 and may not be properly logged, the GAO warned, pointing out, for example, that "units sometimes turn in such equipment without paperwork and have even removed identifying markings such as serial numbers to avoid retribution."
And while leaving the equipment in Iraq, especially if it's worn out or particularly bulky, is much cheaper and more expedient than shipping it home, there's no getting around the enormous expense of purchasing it in the first place -- and that some of it is precisely the kind of equipment that was in such desperately short supply when state National Guards tried to respond to domestic natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the Greensburg, Kansas, tornado in 2007.
Hurlburt's concern is not so much that the U.S. is giving away the bases and the equipment, but that all these things that so much money was spent on aren't necessarily going to do their new owners much good. "At least, you would like if we were leaving them there, they would be useful to Iraqis," she said.
And it's an awful lot of stuff. "I'm thinking about the size of what was wasted there, and thinking about how what we spent in Iraq was all borrowed," she said. "In a crazy way, what we left in Iraq was our good credit rating."
READ MORE - THE GREAT IRAQ GIVEAWAY

When an IED explodes: The shocking pictures of what really happens when the Taliban attacks

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Rarely has the casual brutality of the Taliban’s favourite weapon been so vividly illustrated as in these remarkable pictures. Taken by an ex-SAS officer turned photographer, they will reshape your perception of true courage

DATELINE: FIREBASE TAMBA, HELMAND PROVINCE, APRIL 7 2011

Flying low and coming in fast, a huge CH47 'Casevac' Chinook helicopter appears from the south
A huge CH47 'Casevac' Chinook helicopter appears from the south; its rotor beat a heart-warming sound. We know there is a field surgical team on board, ready to work life-saving magic on our wounded
It is a windless, overcast morning as we leave Firebase Tamba. Our 25-man patrol force, comprising a squad of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Special Forces, a dozen Afghan commandos (ANA) and U.S. Special Forces (the elite Green Berets) is scheduled to conduct a ‘hearts and minds’ visit to the villages that sprawl along our segment of the Helmand Valley.
It is almost impossible to get an embed with Special Forces. I am tolerated only because, having served in the SAS for nine years, I can be expected to hold my own if things ‘go south’ outside the wire. The temperature is comfortably warm and our progress north is observed by villagers either too old or too young to be out labouring in the fields.
Our force moves with practised ease. The Green Berets have done a good job instructing and mentoring these Afghan commandos. There is a ripple of banter along the ranks as one of the Green Berets, who has a habit of re-naming the Afghans, calls out: ‘Justin! Yes you… Justin Bieber. Keep in formation!’
The ANA commandos stand out from the local Pashtun. Recruited from other provinces, they have paler complexions and a different bone structure. Their presence is a reminder to the peasant farmers here that there might be unfinished business when the coalition finally departs.
The Emirati troops are no more popular than the native Afghan troops, yet just 20km away is a UAE firebase with a clinic, a radio station and a telecommunications mast. These men come from a nation which is seen as a force for stability in the Arab world.
On a patrol a week earlier, I observed the Emiratis unsheathe possibly the most effective weapon I have seen in nine years of observing the war in Afghanistan: a modest invitation by the senior officer to village elders to join them at midday prayer.
Whenever we pause a crowd gathers. The presence of Muslim troops provokes curiosity among the Afghans, who are willing to shake hands with these men from ‘Arabstan’. The Emiratis hand out Korans as well as notebooks, pens and chocolate. This is a potent force at work – one the Taliban dare not challenge and one the coalition cannot wield.
At midday, the American captain decides three hours is long enough for the patrol, so we swing our formation south. Our firebase is within sight, a little more than 500m away.
One burly Green Beret throws his head back and yells: ‘And so ends… the most boring…’ he pauses to inflate his lungs then barks, ‘******* patrol…’ – another lungful – ‘in the history of Afghanistan.’
There are smiles all around. But his words must have carried further than he imagined, for a moment later, a whiplash cracking overhead tells us we are in contact with the enemy...

1. CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY - 14:30 -

Justin Bieber's Afghan namesake is returning fire with a long burst from his machine gun. A Green Beret yells at him to save ammo and advance into enemy fire
Justin Bieber's Afghan namesake is returning fire with a long burst from his machine gun. A Green Beret yells at him to save ammo and advance into enemy fire
The volley of Taliban bullets cracking past sends every man scurrying for whatever cover the bare ground can offer. We are down before the echo of high-velocity rounds and swear words die in the air. Justin Bieber’s Afghan namesake is returning fire with a long burst from his machine gun. A Green Beret yells at him to save ammo and advance into enemy fire. My body armour and helmet no longer feel uncomfortable. In an extended line and at a crouched scurry, we retrace our way to a vantage point on high ground. I take cover by a wrecked British Viking troop carrier and we pause before moving north again. We have halved the distance to our opponents who, if they are still there, can only be 200 or 300 metres away.

2. TELL-TALE SIGNS OF DANGER - 15:15 -

The shots came from the north-west and the U.S. 'K9' tracker-dog team is on the scent of two men
The shots came from the north-west and the U.S. 'K9' tracker-dog team is on the scent of two men. Confident the situation is under control, I join a group of soldiers relaxing along the earth bank protecting the canal
Radios crackle with American voices discussing options. The shots came from the north-west and the U.S. ‘K9’ tracker-dog team is on the scent of two men. We consolidate at a narrow bridge across a deep irrigation channel flanked by high earth banks, a natural choke point for foot and vehicle traffic and also for an IED. I spot scraps of burned yellow plastic, tell-tale residue from an earlier IED blast, and the dog becomes excited, indicating a spot where the earth looks freshly disturbed. The flanking pursuit group has detained two suspects; we are ordered to wait. ‘The EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) guys are on task,’ the captain says. ‘They’ll get to us next.’ Confident the situation is under control, I join a group of soldiers relaxing along the earth bank protecting the canal.

3. AN IED EXPLODES... - 15:38 -

Screams of pain start instantly as the cloud of soil and dust subsides to reveal three prostrate figures. I recognise the black hair of an Afghan commando as he lies in a fresh IED crater
Screams of pain start instantly as the cloud of soil and dust subsides to reveal three prostrate figures. I recognise the black hair of an Afghan commando as he lies in a fresh IED crater
An ear-splitting crack stuns me and I whirl round to see a geyser of earth erupting from where I’d been sitting moments before. Screams of pain start instantly as the cloud of soil and dust subsides to reveal three prostrate figures. I recognise the black hair of an Afghan commando as he lies in a fresh IED crater. The U.S. captain is swearing loudly, lying on the bank, clutching his right hand and covered in dirt. Another American is lying yards from me. Both are groaning but their curses are almost heartening, whereas the wounded Afghan is silent. He is face down but conscious and struggling to raise himself on his elbows. As I drop my camera and run to drag him clear of the crater I see he no longer has legs.

4. ... QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY A SECOND - 15:53 -

The American captain materialises from the settling cloud, covered in earth, dust and grit, lying at the foot of the earth bank. He has taken the full blast against his back but his body armour has saved him
The American captain materialises from the settling cloud, covered in earth, dust and grit, lying at the foot of the earth bank. He has taken the full blast against his back but his body armour has saved him
The Green Beret medic has just begun working on the casualty when there’s a second blast so close it rocks me with a concussive punch. Another brown cloud kicks up and we all seem suspended, breathless in a second of dazed silence. A renewed stream of ripe profanity and indignation tells me that, unbelievably, the American captain is still with us. He materialises from the settling cloud, covered in earth, dust and grit, lying at the foot of the earth bank. He has taken the full blast against his back but his body armour has saved him. He drops his trousers and underpants; his skin is flayed from backside to ankle. The medic and the badly wounded Afghan have also been caught in a storm of gravel. It seems they were the intended target of the second blast. Take out a medic and you take out a whole patrol. He knows it and, deafened by the blast and peppered with gravel, waves away a colleague in case there is more punishment to follow.

5. THE MEDIC WORKS FRANTICALLY - 16:03 -

The medic is yelling, maybe because he is almost deaf, maybe because adrenaline is surging but mainly because he needs to believe. 'Hang in there, buddy,' he urges his Afghan colleague. 'You're gonna make it!'
The medic is yelling, maybe because he is almost deaf, maybe because adrenaline is surging but mainly because he needs to believe. 'Hang in there, buddy,' he urges his Afghan colleague. 'You're gonna make it!'
The American Green Beret medic cannot cope alone and is now calling for help with the wounded Afghan. He tosses me a tourniquet and points to the man’s shattered legs. The feet and lower legs have gone. The bone has been skinned clean, showing ivory and pink. I get the tourniquet on over the left thighbone and I pull it to the man’s groin to get purchase against whole flesh. The medic is yelling, maybe because he is almost deaf, maybe because adrenaline is surging but mainly because he needs to believe. ‘Hang in there, buddy,’ he urges his Afghan colleague. ‘You’re gonna make it!’ Within minutes he has worked magic. The bleeding has been stopped, and painkillers flood the man’s system. His shattered thighs are swathed in clean, white bandages that cover and protect the pulped limbs. The Afghan was planning to get married on his next leave.

6. INJURED, THE CAPTAIN REMAINS CALM AND IN CONTROL

- 16:10 -

The young Green Beret captain (left) has been caught in two blasts, is lacerated and bleeding. Jeroo the interpreter (right), untreated from the first blast and caught in the second, is sobbing
The young Green Beret captain (left) has been caught in two blasts, is lacerated and bleeding. Jeroo the interpreter (right), untreated from the first blast and caught in the second, is sobbing

The young Green Beret captain (left) has been caught in two blasts, is lacerated and bleeding. Jeroo the interpreter (right), untreated from the first blast and caught in the second, is sobbing
The young Green Beret captain, a man I’d nicknamed the Quiet American, gives a lesson in leadership – even for an SAS veteran like me. He has been caught in two blasts, is lacerated and bleeding, has a serious injury to his right hand, is in shock, and perhaps permanently deafened. Being closest, I unzip his medical pouch, rip open the field dressing and work it around his bloodied hand. His face is a mask of pain and dust but he is amazingly rational, calling in instructions on the radio and issuing orders to his men.
As I tie off the captain’s dressing, Jeroo the interpreter, untreated from the first blast and caught in the second, is sobbing. His left arm hangs limp and bloodied from his ripped uniform. I get to him with a spare dressing, wrap it round his arm and tie it off to his right shoulder strap.
I tell Jeroo he should send his shattered watch back to the manufacturer claiming it is not shockproof in spite of the guarantee. He is too exhausted for humour. His eyes barely register. The huge medic, shaking gravel from his hair, is still working on the Afghan.
The captain remains composed, leading the rescue operation and commanding his men. He seems to have been constantly calculating the odds against us – knowing that to back off would have meant losing face with the Afghan community he was trying so hard to influence. He is clearly a soldier who understands the bigger picture.

7. HELP ARRIVES AND THE INJURED 7 ARE FERRIED TO THE HELICOPTER - 16.25 -

Minutes later, the CH47 'Casevac' Chinook will be loaded and its twin turbines will howl into lift-off. It will surge forward, dip its nose to gather speed and streak for Camp Bastion and the field hospital
Minutes later, the CH47 'Casevac' Chinook will be loaded and its twin turbines will howl into lift-off. It will surge forward, dip its nose to gather speed and streak for Camp Bastion and the field hospital
Mine roller vehicles from our base have blazed a mine-free route to us and are standing by, gun crews offering us all-round protection. Flying low and coming in fast, a huge CH47 ‘Casevac’ Chinook helicopter appears from the south; its rotor beat a heart-warming sound. We know there is a field surgical team on board, ready to work life-saving magic on our wounded. Above too, silhouetted against the sky, attack helicopters orbit, like angry hornets. Minutes later, the Chinook will be loaded and its twin turbines will howl into lift-off. It will surge forward, dip its nose to gather speed and streak for Camp Bastion and the field hospital. It has reached us in just 30 minutes, halfway through the so-called ‘golden hour’, the 60-minute target medics set themselves to collect their casualties and stabilise them.

8. TEMPERS BOIL OVER AS EVIDENCE IS UNCOVERED - 16:30-

Having watched their comrade lose his legs, the Afghans' simmering fury boils over and two more suspects are ejected from a nearby house (one is pictured with the evidence)
Having watched their comrade lose his legs, the Afghans' simmering fury boils over and two more suspects are ejected from a nearby house (one is pictured with the evidence)
The rest of us prepare for the walk back down the mine-free route. The Afghan commandos have searched houses and come up with the incriminating paraphernalia of IED triggers – batteries, mobile phone parts and circuit boards – as well as drugs. Our minds flash back to the choke point where we spotted the debris of an IED and where, as we now know to our cost, others were buried. Having watched their comrade lose his legs, the Afghans’ simmering fury boils over and two more suspects are ejected from a nearby house (one is pictured with the evidence, above). Women shriek in terror as they watch a son or a brother stagger and fall under a hail of blows and kicks as he is dragged into our column. I watch dispassionately. The evidence is bagged and will be handed to Afghan police.

9. ANOTHER REMINDER OF THE BRUTAL SIMPLICITY OF IEDS

- 16:33 -

A powerful man, maybe even two, could never match an M4 carbine, making them the perfect weapon in an insurgency such as the one in Helmand
A powerful man, maybe even two, could never match an M4 carbine, making them the perfect weapon in an insurgency such as the one in Helmand
The injured Afghan commando’s weapon, an M4 carbine, which has been smashed, twisted and bent in a split second by the gases that tore off his legs, illustrates the power of even a small IED, one which weighs no more than a few pounds. A powerful man, maybe even two, could never match such explosive force, making them the perfect weapon in an insurgency such as the one in Helmand. They remain the Coalition’s deadliest threat – although I am grateful to say everyone caught in this contact survived.
On the long walk back to the firebase I come to realise we’d been watched all the way and that the Taliban had judged their moment with military precision. The gauntlet, thrown down by that first burst of AK-47 fire over our heads, was the baited challenge. In accepting, we had been lured to a choke point and onto a killing ground.
The hidden Taleb who detonated the devices, probably with fingers skipping over a mobile phone, would have had a marker, a tree or perhaps a feature on the skyline, as accurate as any cross-hairs on a scope. He had guaranteed a casualty with his first IED, using his victim as a magnet to draw in a medic and maybe a commander – two key players in any small unit – for his second bomb. He succeeded on both counts.
The IED is perhaps the most formidable weapon in any terrorist arsenal: low-cost, low-maintenance, constructed by willing or intimidated proxies. When armed and well sited it is a weapon that never sleeps. IEDs positioned individually or in multiples can either warn off or draw into a spectacular web. They wreak havoc with lives, morale and matériel, civilian as well as military. That night, sleep is difficult and I wander up to the roof of our tiny firebase, to smoke and enjoy the cool and a night sky bright with countless stars. To the east an electrical storm is in full swing. To the west another kind of storm rages.
The Helmand Valley, a trophy U.S. irrigation project in the Sixties, is now the scene of a more deadly American effort. My mind churns through the day’s images – the Afghan peasants, their children, desperate for books and a chance in life, the seeming hopelessness of an existence torn between their Taliban tormentors and the American-led effort to bring enlightenment and a future.
The Afghan commandos, with few if any Pashtun in their ranks, are strangers in their own land and are as unwelcome in Helmand as the rest of the Coalition. Yet from somewhere they summon the courage to try.
The Americans, in spite of their heroism, commitment and bravery, are surely much misunderstood. I recall the giant Green Beret medic, working like a mad angel and in pain himself, screaming: ‘Hang on, buddy, you’re going to be fine, just fine,’ as he strove to keep life flickering in someone he hardly knew nor would likely see again. Both he and the captain, caught in the eye of the storm, had the wellspring of their courage tapped deeply on this day. All of the Green Berets would, if needed, have gone straight back out on patrol to set the example to their Afghan compatriots.
And soon they will be beyond the wire again, repeating the ‘spiel’, whether they believe it or not, and ‘walking the walk’, as the odds against their survival narrow daily.
READ MORE - When an IED explodes: The shocking pictures of what really happens when the Taliban attacks

U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.


The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.
Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”
A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.
“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”
A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.
Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.
“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”
The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”
To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.
“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”
In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.
U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”
The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.
The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.
The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.
The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”
One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.
“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.
An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.
Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.
“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.
READ MORE - U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

Invisible 'Chameleon' Tank Finally Revealed at World's Largest Weapons Fair


Invisible tanks seem far-fetched? Not anymore. At least not to adversaries using infrared to see.
Adaptiv -- an armor encasing that looks and feels as one imagines a dragon's scales to -- turns tanks into chameleons, allowing them to disappear into the environment behind them or to even look like a snow drift, trash can, crowd, or a soccer mom’s station wagon.
A product of BAE working alongside the Swedish Defence Material Administration, Adaptiv flaunts the very latest in camouflage technology -- and FoxNews.com was given an exclusive look at the technology at the biannual 2011 Defense and Security Equipment International (DESi) conference, the world's largest weapons show, where it's on display for the first time.
Research began at the end of the nineties in Sweden to look at the proliferation of sensors on the battlefield and to consider how they could meet this threat and defeat the advantage those sensors could give the enemy. The team looked at the best thermals to date and reverse engineered them focusing on 500 meters.
Infrared, used by devices such as night-vision goggles or aircraft, essentially sees in hot and cold, unlike the human eye. Adaptiv uses the reliance on thermals in the battlefield against adversaries by manipulating these hot and cold readings to deceive the surveillant.
A system of more than 1,000 5.5-inch hexagonal tiles made of thermo-electric material gives the tank its chameleon-like capability, which can confuse (if not convince) an adversary into thinking it is looking at something it is not. Hesitation can give the warfighters a few more seconds -- which may be the difference on the battlefield.
The tiles or pixels can rapidly change temperature directed by thermal cameras that monitor and quickly project adjustments onto them to conform with the tank’s immediate environment.
In its blending mode, it matches the temperature of its surroundings melding into the background to avoid detection.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t kill it," said Hakan Karlsson, director of marketing communications at BAE Systems. Blending can even be achieved when the tank is moving, and initial trials suggest that blending is at its best at 300 to 400 meters.
The blogosphere has been a buzz about Adaptiv’s invisibility power, but arguably even cooler is its ability to shapeshift to the eyes of infrared. Disguising vehicles as tanks with paint or netting is nothing new, but Adaptiv does it in a far smarter way.
To transform into an entirely different object, Adaptiv draws from its pattern library organized by terrain and projects itself as something native to the immediate area. For example, if it enters an Artic environment it can conjure up a polar bear and project itself as one so sensors scanning for a tank see a harmless animal.
BAE Systems Adaptiv hex armor
Adaptiv is not limited by its pattern library however, and can even go chameleon on the spot shifting into something it has come across in its immediate terrain. For example, if it is entering an urban environment it can take a snapshot of an object on the street like a dumpster and then immediately change its appearance to be read as one to scanners.
Mounted on the tank is a large-ish ball with infrared cameras; press a button to capture an image and another to push that image out to the scales of the tank to go chameleon.
The armor also serves another very important purpose. Friendly fire is always a concern, and demarcating to your force as a friendly and not hostile is key. This signal needs to be discreet as well, so that you are not advertising to the enemy.

Planes, for example, sometimes use a method of radiating their identity in all directions; Adaptiv is capable of signaling its identity to only the friendly side.
By projecting onto its skin a marker similar to a barcode, it can indicate it is a friendly in a way that is only readable to its force.
Balancing weight with protection is always a challenge. Heavy armor may seem to make soldiers safer but the additional weight can slow a vehicle down and reduce its agility -- thereby increasing possible risk.
The CV90 tank Adaptiv has on display was a smart choice. It carries the punch of a tank while weighing approximately half of the average tank. Adaptiv adds armor, can withstand ordnance and physical impact, consumes low power and is relatively light weight so it does not affect agility or movement. If a pixel is damaged, it can easily be removed and replaced.
The pixels can be scaled up or down so there is a range of other applications as well, from taking helicopters and warships stealth to rendering fixed installations invisible. Adaptiv could be a game changer.
What’s next for Adaptiv? I hear they are playing with other light frequencies such that invisibility to the naked eye is in the pipeline -- very cool indeed.
READ MORE - Invisible 'Chameleon' Tank Finally Revealed at World's Largest Weapons Fair

Al Qaeda operations chief killed in Pakistan

In what the US officials called a 'blow' to the core of Al Qaeda, Abu Hafs al-Shari, identified as the terrorist network's chief of operations in Pakistan, has been killed.

Al-Shari was killed in Waziristan, according to a source cited by CNN. While there was no explanation how he was killed, it is known armed predator drones have been used to kill suspected terrorists.

"The loss of their chief of operations in Pakistan, an individual who played a key operational and administrative role for the group, will pose a challenge for (top Al Qaeda leaderAyman) al-Zawahiri," an unnamed official was quoted as saying.

"Abu Hafs was a contender to assume some of [recently killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman's] duties, coordinated Al Qaeda's anti-US plotting in the region, and worked closely with the Pakistani Taliban to carry out attacks inside Pakistan."

The strike will "further degrade" Al Qaeda's ability to recover from the Rahman killing in August because of his operations experience and connections within the group," a senior administration official said.

Earlier this week, the top Pentagon intelligence official said the pressure on Al Qaeda has left it in a "precarious" postiion and predicted that at this rate the group could be eliminated within the next two years.

"Its senior leaders are being eliminated at a rate far faster than Al Qaeda can replace them, and the leadership replacements the group is able to field are much less experienced and credible," said Michael Vickers, Under Secretary for Defense Intelligence Tuesday.

This year alone the terror group has lost eight of its 'top 20' leaders and of all its top leaders from 2001 only one, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remains, he said. The killing of al-Shari raises the total to nine.
READ MORE - Al Qaeda operations chief killed in Pakistan

Pak heaps praise on itself in US paper ad on 9/11 anniversary

Pakistan has made an attempt to reach out to the American public, telling them that it has been a victim, not the perpetrator of terrorism.
Pak heaps praise on itself in US paper
As the United States observes the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Pakistan has availed this opportunity to tell the Americans that it was with them in the fight against terrorists.

"Which country can do more for your peace? Since 2001, a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of the world's 7 billion," said an advertisement published in The Wall Street Journal.

Pakistan had first offered this ad to The New York Times, but they refused to publish it, forcing Pakistani officials to go to a business newspaper with a specialised but influential readership, the Dawn reports.

The ad informs the American public that since 9/11, 21,672 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in an ongoing fight against terror.


The Pakistan Army also has lost 2,795 soldiers, while 8,671 soldiers have been wounded. There have been 3,486 bomb blasts and 283 major suicide attacks.

More than 3.5 million have been displaced, while the country has lost 68 billion dollars due to terrorism.

The Pakistani nation is "making sacrifices that statistics cannot reflect", says a caption above a picture of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was also assassinated by terrorists in December 2007. "The promise of our martyrs lives on," it adds.

Despite these sacrifices, the Pakistan stays engaged in "the war for world peace", with 200,000 troops deployed at the frontline and 90,000 soldiers fighting on the Afghan border, the ad says.

"Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan," says the advertisement published as an official notice from the Government of Pakistan.
READ MORE - Pak heaps praise on itself in US paper ad on 9/11 anniversary

CIA greatest concentration of talent and capability: David Petraeus

WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the "greatest" concentration of talent and capabilities that the US has, the spy agency's director, David Petraeus has said.

Petraeus said this in a town hall with the agency staff after he was sworn in as the CIA's 20th director by the vice-president, Joe Biden.

"I have the absolute highest regard for you and for this Agency. I believe it's one of the greatest concentrations of talent and capability that our country has," Petraeus said in his address to the Agency's global workforce from the auditorium at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

In his speech, Petraeus emphasised importance of independent analysis, agile operations, and cutting-edge technology in meeting the challenges of the Agency's worldwide mission.

"I respect the intellectual firepower as well as the courage, initiative, and selfless commitment that are the hallmarks of this organisation. And I truly feel very privileged to be part of such a legendary institution," he said.

Petraeus answered questions from the standing-room-only crowd about topics such as his leadership style, his goals for the Agency, and the CIA's relationship with partner agencies around the Intelligence Community.
READ MORE - CIA greatest concentration of talent and capability: David Petraeus

No pleasure in Osama death: Bush

Washington: Former president George W. Bush says he experienced no pleasure when he heard about the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, mastermind of September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
No pleasure in Osama death: Bush
"He was sitting in a restaurant in Dallas when the Secret Service told him that President (Barack) Obama wanted to speak to him. He then learned about the assassination," documentarian Peter Schnall told CNN Monday.
Bush, "said to us certainly there was no sense of jubilation (and) certainly no sense of happiness," Schnall stressed. "If anything, he felt that finally there was a sense of closure."
No pleasure in Osama death: Bush
"We could see in the interview that the president was very taken by the events of that day," said Schnall, who interviewed Bush as part of a documentary on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "He was very emotional."
Bush, who was in a Florida classroom for an education event when he first heard about the attacks told Schnall that initially he thought a small plane had hit one of the towers at New York's World Trade Centre.
"First, I thought it was a light aircraft, and my reaction was, man, either the weather was bad or something extraordinary happened to the pilot," Bush said.
No pleasure in Osama death: Bush
But then - White House Chief of Staff "Andy Card's Massachusetts accent was whispering in my ear -'A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.' "
In light of the intense controversy surrounding the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, asked if he had any regrets, Bush "kind of looked at me ... and said, 'I hate that damn question,' " Schnall said.
"He did not ever use the word regret. He did not ever say he would do anything differently." But Bush did acknowledge the controversy and division created by his decisions.
Source: IANS
READ MORE - No pleasure in Osama death: Bush

NATO woos India, says ties important

Stepping up its efforts to woo India as a partner nation in a post-Cold War world, NATO says its fledgling relations with New Delhi are "important" to ensure global safety and security.
NATO woos India, says ties important
"I think it is important to have a dialogue (with India) and deepen that dialogue," US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo H. Daalder told a group of Indian journalists on a tour of the 28-nation military alliance's headquarters here.
"It is through dialogue, through understanding each other's perceptions and perhaps by working on misperceptions that may exist that we can strengthen the relations between India and NATO.
NATO was originally formed as a military alliance to counter Russia and the east European Warsaw Pact countries. It has undergone a sea-change after the end of the Cold War beginning with the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The alliance, which now includes many of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact countries, has an established dialogue with India, with its secretary general holding talks with Indian leaders in recent years and its deputy secretary general visiting New Delhi in 2010.
Daalder left it to India's political leadership to give a direction to the dialogue and relationship.
"Ultimately, the decision of what India's role with respect to NATO is going to be is India's decision...So the relationship that India wants with NATO is for India to decide," he said when asked about what he thought about the ties.
"Where this relationship will go will largely depend on where India would like it to go," he added.
The importance of the relationship, according to him, was that the concepts of national and international security of both India and the alliance were in consonance with each other.
"What I think is it is important for India and the countries of NATO -- and indeed of this alliance as an organisation -- to have a dialogue at every level...societal, opinion forming at official level.
"The dialogue should be on how India's concept of its own security and of international security fits in with NATO's concept of international security and how NATO as an actor and India as a country can work together to promote security," he said.
Daalder cited the example of troubled Afghanistan, where India had committed $2 billion for development works and NATO is spearheading an international security forces operation, and the anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean, where the Indian Navy has an active role and NATO has a task force.
"We already do so (cooperate) in places like Afghanistan, where NATO has a presence and India has a presence. We can think about other places we may be doing that.
"We do it in the Indian Ocean, when we are dealing both with the scourge of piracy and we cooperate actively. There your ships are part of the effort to deal with pirates and NATO has an operation there," he said.
Noting that NATO's relationship with other nations was not limited to the group's geographical area, Daalder said the alliance had relations with Australia, which is far away from Europe and the Americas.
"The NATO has relations with countries further away from where we are, like Australia. That relationship has evolved over time. That relationship was quite stand-offish until quite recently.
"Today, Australia is the 10th largest contributor to our operations in Afghanistan and a very active participant in the day-to-day operations," he said, indicating that future ties with India for the alliance had a lot of potential.
READ MORE - NATO woos India, says ties important

US issues travel alert ahead of 9/11 anniversary

The US has issued a worldwide travel alert for American nationals ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
US issues travel alert ahead of 9-11 anniversary
The warning - issued by the State Department - said no specific threats had been identified, but terrorist groups had a tendency to launch attacks on significant dates in the past, Xinhua reported.
The State Department urged Americans overseas to take precautions, encouraging them to register with the State Department website to receive the latest security information.
America remains at heightened vigilance against possible threats, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Friday.
"As we approach the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the safety and security of the American public remains our highest priority," Napolitano said in a statement.
"While there is no specific or credible intelligence that Al Qaeda or its affiliates are plotting attacks in the US to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we remain at a heightened state of vigilance and security measures are in place to detect and prevent plots against the US should they emerge," she said.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed Sep 11, 2001 when Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. One plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control of the aircraft.
READ MORE - US issues travel alert ahead of 9/11 anniversary

China confronted India warship off Vietnam: report

An unidentified Chinese warship demanded that an Indian naval vessel identify itself and explain its presence in South China Sea waters off Vietnam in July, the Financial Times said on Thursday.

The London-based newspaper reported that five people familiar with the incident said it occurred in international waters shortly after India's amphibious assault ship INS Airavat completed a scheduled port call in Vietnam.

It is the latest in a series of actions this year that have caused concern about Beijing's maritime assertiveness among regional nations - particularly Vietnam and the Philippines.

China says it has sovereignty over essentially all of the South China Sea, a key global trading route, where its professed ownership of the potentially oil-rich Spratly archipelago overlaps with claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Vietnam and China have a separate long-standing dispute over the more northerly Paracels archipelago.

The INS Airavat visited Nha Trang in south-central Vietnam and the northern port of Haiphong in the second half of July.

"Something did happen," one source familiar with the incident told AFP, adding it was unclear exactly how far off Vietnam's coast it occurred.

"This is a typical Chinese approach," said the source, adding that Chinese enforcement vessels try to assert 'that this is their territory and what are you doing in their territory?'.

Vietnam's foreign ministry could not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the Indian ambassador in Hanoi was out of the country.

In recent months, the Philippines and Vietnam have objected to what they said was Chinese harassment of oil exploration vessels and fishermen in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July condemned acts of 'intimidation' in the waters, where it says it has a national interest in free navigation.

A Pentagon report on Wednesday last week said China is increasingly focused on naval power, as it places a growing priority on securing strategic shipping lanes and mineral-rich areas in the South China Sea.

Chinese leaders have insisted their military modernisation programme is aimed solely at 'self-defence'.
READ MORE - China confronted India warship off Vietnam: report
 
 
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