Georgia.... Today's in PicturesAugust 25, 2008 NSI News Source Info After the Russian Parliament voted to recognize the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, some residents of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, celebrated by driving the streets waving Russian flags.
Georgian soldiers returned to their military air base in Senaki, and needed to clean up the trash and a mess left by the Russian forces who had occupied the base until the end of last week.
Local residents lined up for the distribution of humanitarian aid in the city of Gori, in central Georgia. Russians occupied the city for nearly two weeks before leaving last week.
Nigeria: Corruption In The Army
(NSI News Source Info) August 25, 2008: Newly elected president Umaru Yar'Adua has replaced the senior leadership of the army. This was partly in response to the failure of the army to deal with the armed rebel groups in the Niger river oil region. There was also criticism of troops performing poorly, and misbehaving (rape, robbery and murder) against civilians. The government is also keen to reduce corruption in the army. Earlier this year, the army appointed a new commander for the Niger delta region, with orders to crack down on the oil theft. This was followed by accusations, by civilians in the oil region, that the army has often become partners with some of the oil theft gangs. Last month, Britain agreed to send a major army training mission, to upgrade the leadership and management skills of Nigerian NCOs and officers.
August 19, 2008: Near Port Harcourt, in the Niger delta, a battle broke out between criminal gangs. Hundreds of civilians fled, and there were several dozen casualties. The millions of dollars made each month by stealing oil has left thousands of young men in the delta region armed, and organized into highly competitive, and trigger happy, gangs.
August 15, 2008: In the Niger delta, rebels ambushed to navy gunboats, which immediately returned fire. When the action was over, one sailor and twelve rebels were dead. MEND denied that the attackers were theirs.
August 14, 2008: Despite recent attacks, by armed Nigerian nationalist groups, on Cameroonian troops in the Bakassi peninsula, the two year process of turning it over to Cameroon has completed. This oil rich area used to be Nigerian, but an international court awarded it to Cameroon. Nigeria began handing it over two years ago, but some Nigerian groups have continued to fight for a return to Nigerian rule.
August 12, 2008: Britain, like many other Western nations, continues to warn its citizens to stay away from Nigeria's oil region (the Niger river delta), because of the threat of kidnapping and crime in general.
U.K.: Make Magic Bullets Or Else
(NSI News Source Info) August 25, 2008: The British military has backed away from using lead-free bullets. Two years ago, the British decided that, for the good of the environment, they would make bullets of tungsten, and other metals, rather than lead. But further research revealed that tungsten was also poisonous, and much more expensive as well.
Several hundred thousand tons of lead a year go into the manufacture of bullets. Firing ranges have been found to be literally contaminated with lead, and sometimes that lead gets into the local water supply. Lead is so commonly used for bullets mainly because it is heavy, and cheap. But it turns out that all other heavy metals are poisonous as well, in addition to being more expensive. Bullets made of lighter, and safer, materials are not as effective (at hitting and injuring live targets).
Research continues on finding ways to make bullets less harmful to the environment, without losing the ability to be accurate, and fatal to targets. There is some urgency in this, as environmental officials have been shutting down military firing ranges that continue to use the ecologically offensive munitions.
Saab's Gripen in the Running for Dutch Fighter Order
(NSI News Source Info) STOCKHOLM - August 25, 2008: Swedish aeronautics manufacturer Saab said Aug. 25 its Gripen fighter was in the running for a Dutch order to replace its current 85 U.S. F-16s but did not disclose the value of the Swedish offer.
The Saab offer includes training, simulators and support in addition to 85 Gripen Next Generation fighters.
"Saab has today responded to the F-16 replacement questionnaire issued by the Dutch Ministry of Defense, offering 85 Gripen Next Generation to the Royal Netherlands Air Force," it said. "The response is an all inclusive package with 85 Gripen NG, training, spares, simulators and support at a price that meets the Dutch defense budget plans," it said.
The Gripen NG is a multi-role fighter, fulfilling the capabilities the Dutch air force specified in its request, such as combat range and endurance, weapons carriage capability, engine thrust and super cruise capability.
Gripen fighters are currently in use in the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Sweden. Thailand has meanwhile ordered six planes, and interest has been expressed in Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, India, Norway, Romania and Switzerland.
HAL HJT-36 is an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT)
(NSI News Source Info) August 25, 2008: The HAL Hindustan Jet Trainer-36 (HJT-36) Sitara is an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) trainer aircraft under development by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) ARDC (Aircraft Research and Design Center) for the Indian Air Force. The HJT-36 will replace the HJT-16 Kiran in its role of as a trainer (Stage-2) in the Indian Air Force. It has a conventional jet trainer design, with a low, swept wing, staggered cockpits and small air intakes on either side of its fuselage.
The project began in 1999, with the first prototype flying on 7 March 2003. The Limited Series Production (LSP) order of the Indian Air Force of 12 (Surya Kiran Aerobatics team) aircraft is supposed to be delivered in June 2005. Final production could be 225+ aircraft, serving both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy.
Initial prototypes have flown with the Snecma Larzac engine, while the production models will fly with the more powerful Saturn AL-55I engine with about 16.9 kN of thrust (thrust-to-weight ratio of 5.59). There was delay in the program due to the new air staff requirements opted in 2005 by the Indian Air Force, which stipulates a new and more powerful engine. The engines are yet to arrive in India from Russia. The first two Limited Series production aircraft are expected to be handed over to the Indian Air Force by September 2008, the remaining 10 of the ordered 12 by October 2009.
France insists Russia withdraw troops from Poti-Senaki area
(NSI News Source Info) PARIS -August 25, 2008: As current European Union president, France "keeps insisting" Russia withdraw its troops from the Poti-Senaki corridor, the French Foreign Ministry said Monday.
"We keep insisting in talks with the Russian authorities on the importance of a fast withdrawal of troops from the Poti-Senaki highway, the area adjacent to Abkhazia, and on the necessity to observe the fifth principle of the agreement [between the Russian and French presidents]," a spokesman for the French ministry said.
Deputy chief of the Russian General Staff Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Monday that the location of a Russian peacekeeping checkpoint near the Georgian port of Poti was in line with international agreements, which were not violated by Russian servicemen patrolling in the area.
The French spokesman said the fifth principle envisions "return of the Russian armed forces to the line preceding the start of hostilities."
"The Poti port is a vitally important organ for Georgian economy's normal operation," he said, adding that France advocated "independence and territorial integrity of Georgia in its internationally recognized borders."
As holder of the rotating EU presidency, France will convene September 1 an extraordinary summit of member states to discuss the Georgian conflict, the spokesman added.
Russia and France agreed on August 12 six principles of settling the Georgian conflict, including the non-use of force, an end to hostilities, free access to humanitarian aid, return of Georgian troops to their bases and Russian troops to their earlier positions, and a start for international discussion of the status of South Ossetia and the other Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Georgia attacked South Ossetia on August 8 in an attempt to take back the separatist republic, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s.
Most people living in South Ossetia have Russian citizenship and Moscow subsequently launched an operation to "force Georgia to accept peace." The operation was concluded on August 12.
Latvia pulls out of joint military exercise with Russia
(NSI News Source Info) RIGA - August 25, 2008: The Latvian government has decided not to send troops to take part in a regional military exercise in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the government press service said Monday.
The Latvian Defense Ministry said the decision to stay away from the Balex Delta exercise, due to take place on August 26-28 in the Kaliningrad region, had been caused by "a change of NATO's general priorities."
Relations between Russia and NATO soured following Russia's military operation in Georgia.
Earlier, a number of Western countries announced their refusal to participate in joint exercises with Russia, while Moscow said it would not allow a U.S. warship to call at a port on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
The United States refused to let a Russian ship participate in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor naval antiterrorism exercise.
Russia's NATO envoy announced Thursday that the Russian Defense Ministry was temporarily suspending military cooperation with NATO until a political decision on relations had been made. NATO foreign ministers said after talks last Tuesday that the alliance was freezing contacts with Russia until it pulled its troops out of Georgia, but stopped short of stronger measures.
Medvedev says Russia ready to cut ties with NATO
(NSI News Source Info) SOCHI - August 25, 2008: President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Monday that Russia could sever all ties with NATO amid a standoff over Russia's response to Georgia's offensive in breakaway South Ossetia.
NATO suspended cooperation with Russia last week, and said "business as usual" could not resume until the country withdraws all troops from Georgia.
If NATO is not willing to cooperate with Moscow, "we will take any decision, up to terminating relations entirely," Medvedev told Russia's envoy to the alliance, Dmitry Rogozin.
"Cooperation is above all in the interests of NATO, not Russia," he said.
Moscow recalled Rogozin from Brussels "for consultations" after NATO froze contacts through the Russia-NATO Council on August 19, accusing Moscow of disproportionate use of force against Georgia. Russia's Defense Ministry later said it was suspending all cooperation with the military alliance.
Russia's large-scale 'peace enforcement operation' came after Georgia's August 8 ground and air offensive in South Ossetia aimed at seizing control of the province. Russia has now withdrawn most of its troops from Georgia, but peacekeeping checkpoints are still in place "to deter further bloodshed."
Medvedev said a decision to sever ties with NATO would be difficult, and that he hoped Russia would not be forced to take such a decision.
"We want our relations to be full-fledged and those of partners, but we do not want an illusion of partnership," the president said. "Naturally we are not happy with being surrounded by military bases, and being told 'do not worry, everything's fine,' let alone with the latest events."
NATO has sent warships into the Black Sea, reportedly to deliver humanitarian cargo to Georgia. Russia has questioned the nature of the cargo, and criticized the bloc's military buildup in the area as destabilizing.
Both houses of Russia's parliament passed resolutions earlier on Monday urging the president to recognize South Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia, calling their recognition requests "legally grounded and morally justifiable."
Medvedev has not yet responded to the requests, which are likely to further strain relations with the West.
Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia could pull out from some agreements reached during its World Trade Organization (WTO) entry talks.
Russian military concerned by larger NATO presence in Black Sea
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - August 25, 2008: Russia has to be concerned that NATO is continuing to get a stronger foothold in the Black Sea, the deputy chief of General Staff said Monday.
"NATO's naval deployments in the Black Sea, where nine foreign vessels have already been sent, cannot but provoke concern," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.
According to a Russian military intelligence source, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea carry over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles between them.
NATO has so far deployed the USS McFaul and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon.
"NATO is actually deploying a surface strike group in the Black Sea," the unidentified source said Monday.
The McFaul unloaded 55 tons of humanitarian aid in the Georgian port of Batumi on Sunday, with two more U.S. Navy ships due in port later this week. The Polish, Spanish and German ships also entered the Black Sea on Friday.
Nogovitsyn said Russian peacekeepers, who continue to be deployed in Georgia after the country's war with breakaway South Ossetia, would not carry out checks of foreign ships entering Georgian Black Sea ports.
But he said peacekeepers at a checkpoint near the Poti port would conduct patrols in the area. "Patrols are a civilized form of control," he said.
The senior military official put it more colorfully on Saturday: "Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers."
Nogovitsyn promised that Russia would not exceed the numbers defined by international agreements, including a 1992 pact, when sending peacekeepers to South Ossetia.
But he warned that Georgia was planning to deploy troops in the towns of Gori and Senaki.
"The Georgian Armed Forces command is continuing to conduct acts aimed at restoring the combat readiness of its army directed at South Ossetia," he said. "Communication systems are being restored, units are planned for deployment in the military towns of Gori and Senaki."
Georgia is also planning acts of sabotage on infrastructure and transportation facilities, Nogovitsyn said.
"Georgian reconnaissance and sabotage groups are reinvigorating their efforts... and are preparing military actions along the routes of Russian armored columns, as well as acts of sabotage on transportation infrastructure," he said.
Soldier-farmers Toil with Afghans
(NSI News Source Info) August 25, 2008: In uniform, they look like any other Soldier. But the heart of Lt. Col. Stan Poe's unit of Texas National Guard troops is radically different than most combat outfits in Afghanistan, answering to the sounds of agriculture and the sight of crops. Soldier-farmers, one might call them. The Texas Soldiers, agricultural experts who come from Aledo to Weslaco, are on the forefront of a new National Guard initiative to bring Afghan farming out of the 19th century, in a place where decades of war have destroyed infrastructure, wrecked government capabilities and provided a favorable environment for illicit poppy production.
Virtually everything is on their plate -- preventing erosion, irrigating fallow orchards, developing ways to market crops regionally, down to helping one farmer keep his grape juice from fermenting. They're doing it all without much of a playbook, either.
"The disadvantage of that is that we have nothing to go off of," Poe said.
"But the advantage is that we really get to set the direction for agriculture in Ghazni province."
The Army National Guard has provided medical, veterinary and engineering support for decades in Central America, but the idea of an agriculture-focused program in Afghanistan came from two Missouri Soldiers -- Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, and Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, Missouri National Guard adjutant general.
It is a mission that the Guard is qualified for, said Col. Martin Leppert, who oversees the program from the Guard's headquarters in Virginia. There is no similar program for Iraq, although there are talks starting about the possibility.
"The commanders on the ground want as many of these teams as they can get," Leppert said. "They see the good in what the [teams] can do long-term to turn the tide and create stability in the farming regions."
The National Guard teams are a welcome presence to the Afghan government, which has complained that not enough nonmilitary aid is flowing.
"This is always what we asked for," said Ashraf Haidari, a political counselor in the Afghan Embassy in Washington, D.C. "There has been some, but not enough to meet the needs of Afghanistan. Revitalizing agriculture is one of the key priorities for our government. To the extent that we get technical assistance in military form or civilian form, it helps us a great deal."
The Texas team is built around 12 people who are experts in animal science, horticulture, agronomy, soil, pest management, hydrology and engineering.
All volunteered for the mission, even though it is the second or third combat tour for many of them. So many other Texans volunteered that the state will send a second team in March when the first group returns.
But the agriculture experts did not go alone. A sizeable security force of Guard Soldiers accompanied them. All are led by Poe, an engineer in Houston who is a part-time infantry officer. The team also added a pet, an adopted Afghan mutt with green eyes.
"I've been an infantry officer my entire career, 25 years," he said. "This is very different. I always thought my command would be in a combat mission. But this is a good mission. You really get to see the effects you're having."
If a particular problem comes up that is outside the expertise of the team, they e-mail or phone experts at Texas A&M University.
Other states are quickly ramping up to join the mission. Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas are sending teams in the coming months, and Kentucky just volunteered.
Missouri, the first state to deploy, is working in the desperately poor Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.
"The challenges we've had getting states on board is because the Guard is so busy with missions throughout the theater," Leppert said. "We compete with resources with the entire National Guard. But having said that, the local farm boys of the Army Guard have come out of the woodwork."
The Texas team is based in the Ghazni province of eastern Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistan border, on an installation with Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.
Except for Ghazni City, the province's population is widely dispersed in very small villages that are not easily reached because of poor roads and 10,000-foot mountains. Distance is not just measured in kilometers or miles but in hours of travel.
Afghanistan is in the middle of its growing season, and many of the country's 30 million people grow something -- wheat, corn, tomatoes, apples, apricots, almonds, pomegranates.
"It looks like barren wasteland until you drop water on it," Leppert said. "I don't know what kind of magic stuff is in the soil."
Of course, the best-known crop in Afghanistan is the poppy. Almost the entire world's supply of illegal opium is grown there, and its proceeds are believed to be funding the Taliban's continued attacks on U.S. and NATO troops.
But the Guard teams have nothing to do with poppy eradication. They are adamant on that point.
"We are not into poppy eradication," Poe said. "We have not seen any in Ghazni, but if we did, we would not do anything about it. That's another unit's job."
The problem in Afghan agriculture is not the lack of ingenuity but the inefficiency, some of it brought on by 30 years of constant war and a decimated infrastructure.
Ask an American farmer or producer what he would do if he did not have dependable electricity, irrigation, tractors, paved roads, trucking companies, rail lines and marketing associations, and one can get the picture of how difficult it is to make a living in agriculture.
Those farmers who produce more than their family can eat can, at best, sell their wares on a roadside or perhaps to Pakistan, which stores it and then sells it back to the same farmers later in the year at inflated prices. Or they grow poppies, which sell for more money than legal crops.
"They have very little infrastructure to support their harvest," Poe said. "Whatever they can sell their harvest for at that time is what they get. The rest of it goes to waste. They have no means to store it or preserve it."
Afghan water control doesn't exist, either. There is plenty of water from snow runoff, but it is seasonal, and farmers have yet to harness that water for year-round irrigation.
"I've seen farmers using sandbags as a lock," Poe said. "Whatever they can capture and collect at their spot is what they have available. Water management is the largest issue and it cannot be resolved in one year. It will be handed off to future [teams]."
Already the teams are making headway, the leaders say.
The Texas team is planning to build a slaughterhouse in Ghazni, and one is almost complete in Nangarhar. One of the Texas engineers, Capt. Joaquin Campos, is designing a power source -- possibly solar or wind -- that is more reliable than the sporadic electric service in rural areas.
Cold-storage facilities have been built to store perishable crops, and the teams are developing demonstration farms where villagers can learn about better agricultural techniques.
"Just in the small amount of time our boys have been on the ground, they've gone after some quick-hit infrastructure support projects to start making a turn for the local farmers," Leppert said.
Much of their early work, too, is in building provincial leaders' trust.
That work with government leaders is key to making lasting change, said Haidari, who added that too much assistance is done in an "ad hoc, some here, some there" manner that does not build government competency.
"We need technical expertise to use in that secure environment," he said. "That's part of an effective counterinsurgency strategy. If we don't help the people with their livelihoods and create jobs, it will be really hard to win their hearts and minds."
India Set To Ramp Up Air Force
(NSI News Source Info) Hong Kong - August 22, 2008: Within the next four months, a first batch of eight Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighters will be positioned at India's Tezpur Air Base in the state of Assam, near the border with China, an Indian navy source has revealed.
This is almost six months ahead of the timeline reported some time ago in the Indian media.
This will be the first time for Su-30MKI fighters to be deployed so close to the Indian-Chinese border. The deployment of two squadrons of Su-30MKI fighters at Tezpur Air Base in the eastern part of the country will greatly enhance India's capability to launch aerial precision attacks on China.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI's 932-mile combat radius is enough to cover all the major cities in southwest China, including Kunming, Chengdu and Chongqing. India plans to outfit the fighters with the latest BrahMos air-to-ground supersonic missiles, which have a 180-mile range. India's aerial refueling capability will greatly extend the combat radius of the aircraft. The BrahMos is co-produced by India and Russia.
Along the Indian-Chinese border, air power has been shifting in favor of India. First of all, India has quite a number of airports in Assam and the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh, making troop maneuvers easier. In the Tibet region, China has only the Kang-ko Airport in eastern Tibet, the Gongka Airport in Lhasa and one more known as the Hidden Airport. Fighter aircraft are not normally stationed at any of these airports.
China has sent Sukhoi Su-27SK fighters to this area for airport transfer training on the plateau. Troops who took part in this training reportedly faced difficulties in logistic support and supply. In the nearby Chengdu Military Region, the only air force units with decent combat strength are one J-10A regiment under the PLA Air Force's No. 44 Division and one Su-27 regiment under the No. 33 Division.
The Diqing and Zhongdian airports in Yunnan province could be used for operations against India, but these are small civilian airports.
India has built a number of airports in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, including seven military airports. The small Teju New Airport, located close to the border with China, has only one runway and is mainly used for rapid transport by helicopter. It could be used as a runway for MiG-21 fighters to take off and land.
There is another similar airport in Machuka, again close to the border. A small airport at Sookerating has one runway, while the Along Airport is also available for fast landing and takeoff of helicopters, indicating that the Indian air force attaches great importance to fast reaction capability.
Other small front-line airport facilities include the Jorhat Airport and Lilabari Airport. The Chabua Airport can field not only An-32 light transport aircraft but also Mi-8/17 helicopters, and is the pivotal airport for the Indian air force to quickly deliver troops in the region. Two runways have been built at this airport.
To the south of Arunachal Pradesh is Assam, where Tezpur is the largest military airport. Tezpur Airport, now preparing to receive the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, is no more than 300 miles from the practical line of control at the China-India border. The Indian Air Defense Force No. 30 Squadron is stationed there, armed with 16 MiG-21FL fighters, all of which are now anchored in mound-structured hangars.
Two other small airports have been built in Assam, the Dimapir and Kumbhirgram dual-use airports. The Indian air force also has the Lengpui, Barapani and Guwahati airports in the area.
Canada: Bidders Fail to Meet Budget Requirements(NSI News Source Info) GATINEAU - August 25, 2008: The Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), the Honourable Christian Paradis, today announced the termination of two procurement processes involving the shipbuilding industry. Canada has canceled two naval programs because bids were over budget, including that for three Joint Support Ships to replace Protecteur-class fleet oilers.
After receiving and evaluating the mandatory requirements for the Joint Support Ship Project from the bidders, the Crown has determined that the proposals were not compliant with the basic terms of the Request for Proposals (RFP). Among other compliance failures, both bids were significantly over the established budget provisions. This project was initiated to replace the Protecteur-Class auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels with three multi-role ships to be delivered to the Canadian Forces between 2012 and 2016. In addition, PWGSC has also announced the cancellation of a competitive process for the acquisition of twelve mid-shore patrol vessels on behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard. A Request for Proposal was issued in December 2007. However the bid prices exceeded the anticipated costs. “These vessels are a key priority of the Government of Canada. However, the government must ensure that Canadian taxpayers receive the best value for their money”, said Minister Paradis. The Department of National Defence and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are currently considering the next steps. The government is committed to procure, repair and refit vessels in Canada according to the government’s Buy Canada policy.
Pakistan: Militant attack kills 10 in Swat
(NSI News Source Info) MINGORA - August 25, 2008: Pro-Taliban militants attacked the home of a district government official in Swat on Monday, killing three members of his family and seven guards, police said.Paramilitary troops have been battling militants in the Swat Valley, for the past year but fighting has intensified in recent weeks with 50 militants and 10 soldiers killed in clashes since Friday."Militants attacked the house with RPGs