Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pakistani Militant Confesses to Planning Mumbai Attacks / Pakistani Militants Admit Role in Siege, Official Says

Pakistani Militant Confesses to Planning Mumbai Attacks / Pakistani Militants Admit Role in Siege, Official Says (NSI News Source Info) January 1, 2009: Senior Pakistani officials have told two U.S. news outlets that a militant leader arrested in Pakistan has confessed to involvement in the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Two reports quote unidentified Pakistani officials as saying captured militant Zarar Shah has acknowledged helping plan the attacks and has given interrogators details about how they were carried out. The confession was first reported in The Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by the Associated Press news agency. They did not identify any of the government and intelligence officials involved. An Indian soldier takes cover as the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai burns during a gun battle between the Indian military and militants in NovemberShah has been identified as a leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the Mumbai attacks that killed more than 170 people. Pakistani authorities arrested him earlier this month, along with another of the group's suspected leaders, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, amid intense international pressure to crack down on the movement after the Mumbai attacks. Both news outlets quote an official who said Shah "is singing" [giving up information]. They also said the disclosure may increase international pressure on Pakistan to publicly accept that the attacks originated within its borders. The office of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he told U.S. President George Bush in a phone call Wednesday that "anyone found involved in such attacks from Pakistani territory will be dealt with sternly." India says the gunmen who attacked Mumbai were Pakistanis trained and equipped by Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has in the past had close ties to Pakistani intelligence services. Pakistan says India has failed to provide evidence of the attackers' nationalities. In the wake of the attacks, tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have reached the highest level in years. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram addresses the media in New Delhi, 31 Dec 2008India's home minister, P. Chidambaram, told reporters in New Delhi today that Pakistan "is in a state of denial" about the involvement of its citizens in the attacks. The White House said President Bush telephoned both the Pakistani leader and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday, urging them to cooperate with each other in the Mumbai investigation and on counterterrorism in general. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Crawford, Texas, that all three leaders "agreed that no one wanted to take any steps that unnecessarily raise tensions."

Hungarian Air Force's New Gripen JAS Fighter Jet Fleet

Hungarian Air Force's New Gripen JAS Fighter Jet Fleet
(NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: Sweden's Minister of Defense Sten Tolgfors, left, and his Hungarian counterpart Imre Szekeres, right, shake hands during the hand over ceremony of the Swedish made Gripen JAS 39 fighter jet fleet of the Hungarian Air Force at the a military base in Kecskemet (90 km/56 miles south of Budapest), Hungary. Hungarian government ordered 14 new Gripen fighter jets to replace the country's Russian MiG 29 fleet.There is an increasing bribing scandal about Hungary's and the Czech Republic's Gripen fighters following a Swedish TV investigation, in which officials admitted that corruption was surrounded the decisions to buy the jets.

British Forces New MRAP Cougar For Afghanistan / MoD Ordered MRAP From Force Protection Industries Inc

British Forces New MRAP Cougar For Afghanistan / MoD Ordered MRAP From Force Protection Industries Inc (NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: With UK Forces very much active in Afghanistan and Iraq a new vehicle has been ordered by the UK MoD (Ministry of Defence) to provide protection to troops on patrol from mines and roadside bombs. The vehicle is the Cougar 4×4 produced by Force Protection Industries Incorporated (Ladson, South Carolina) in the US, who were also responsible for the highly successful Mastiff. By November 2008, the MoD had ordered 400 Cougars (the contract is due for completion by July 2009; a contract valued at around $200m) and these will be modified by the addition armour systems, specialist Nato-spec weapons, communications systems and electronic countermeasures equipment into the 'Ridgback' when they arrive in the UK (the vehicles were ordered as an urgent operational requirement (UOR)). The first batch of five Cougars was delivered to RAF Brize Norton on 14 August 2008. NP Aerospace in Coventry has the contract (£81m) for carrying out the modifications to the Cougar. Ridgback weaponry The Ridgback weapons will include the heavy machine gun, 7.62mm general purpose machine gun, grenade launcher and some will be equipped with remote weapons systems allowing the Ridgback weapons to be operated from inside using a camera and joystick. Des Browne, the UK Defence Secretary, commented: "I am determined to do all that I can to get more armoured vehicles out to our forces on operations – to give commanders a choice about what vehicles they use. The Mastiffs have saved lives out in theatre and we have ordered the Ridgback because it is a smaller version of the Mastiff – offering our forces first-rate protection with more manoeuvrability." The Ridgback will be produced in four variants for different roles – a troop carrier, a protected weapons station and an ambulance or command post vehicle. Performance The Ridgback will come into service in 2009 in Iraq and Afghanistan (it is fully transportable by C17). The vehicle can carry 12 troops and can run on run flat tyres (Michelin XZL 395/85 R20 and Hutchinson VFI) at a speed of 55mph. The Ridgback is a mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) category I vehicle with a high armour rating (shaped hull and protected cabin using composite armour systems) and will also use special armoured seats to protect troops. The vehicle will be powered by a Caterpillar C-7 diesel engine that can give 330hp at 2,400rpm and a torque of 860ft lbf at 1,450rpm with an operational range of 420 miles. "The first batch of five Cougars was delivered to RAF Brize Norton on 14 August 2008." The transmission for the Cougar / Ridgback is an Allison 3500 SP series and the front and rear axles are Marmon-Herrington MT-17 and R-17 respectively (modified for the harsh terrain). The vehicle weighs around 38,000lb with a payload of 6,000lb and as such uses air brakes for effective stopping. The standard crew is six, but with the Ridgback there will be several versions. Electrics are standard 24V and there are two air conditioning units (24,000BTU and 48,000BTU) for use in hot climates. There are three doors (two in front and one rear double-sized crew door) and one topside hatch. The Cougar's standard dimensions are: height 104in (gun shield will add 26in), width 102in, length 233in, hull internal length 108in, fording depth 39in, ground clearance 15in-16in. The cabin can be sealed to provide NBC protection and there are various other accessories including four point harnesses for seats, integral tool kit, ballistic glass, 360° ring mount or spigot mount for weapons, infrared / blackout lighting, dual spare wheels, 9,000lb-capacity electric winch and fire extinguishing systems as well as shielded ammo storage areas.

J-10 Fighter: Improved Version First Flight in China

J-10 Fighter: Improved Version First Flight in China (NSI News Source Info) Chengdu - December 31, 2008: Several eyewitnesses in Chengdu city prove that a greatly improved J-10 fighter makes its first flight from CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Corporation) internal airport in Huang Tianba.Some spectators say that the eyeable improvements include a DSI inlet, Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) Pod and Tail Wing-tip Integrated Electrical Avionics. Besides, some Internet resources claim that new J-10 has equipped with high-performance AESA radar, modified wing inner structure and stealth in-board pylons. The engine is still the Russian AL-31F, which will be replaced by FADEC AL-31FM3 for better air performance. But China’s WS-10 engine also has opportunity. The flight lasts about 10 minutes and the test pilot is believed to be Liang Wanjun (梁万俊). Although closing to 3.5th+ generation fighters like Typhoon and Rafael, how many new J-10 fighters will be purchansed by PLA Air Force is still one question, because CAC and SAC have entered the drastic competition for PLA’s 5th generation fighter. There always a rumar that CAC will provide prototype fighter before 2012. Choosing New J-10 or investing future combat aircraft ? Who knows!

Defense Firms Brace For Slowdown Under Obama

Defense Firms Brace For Slowdown Under Obama (NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: Arizona defense contractors who have prospered during the Bush presidency are bracing for a slowdown under President-elect Barack Obama. Combined, the approximately 1,000 Arizona companies that do business with the Department of Defense annually pump more than $12 billion into the state's economy. Business has more than doubled in the past eight years for those companies as the U.S. defense industry has ballooned to an estimated $700 billion in 2009 from $261 billion in 2000. Although substantial budget cuts are unlikely, experts believe a slowdown in the growth of defense contracts is inevitable. Jim Albaugh, chief of Boeing Co.'s Integrated Defense Systems unit, sees defense budgets flattening as the result of mounting budget pressure. Albaugh foresees the possible postponement of certain future weapons programs. Boeing has about 4,500 employees in Arizona, primarily manufacturing Apache Longbow helicopters for the Army. Ron Grabe, manager of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Launch Systems Group in Chandler, is concerned about the increasing scrutiny of defense programs. Obama has promised to end the war in Iraq, which has been putting $10 billion a month into U.S. defense contractors' pockets, and to revamp the way contracts are awarded. Although Obama is committed to maintaining adequate funding to bring U.S. military capabilities into the 21st century, there will likely be increased scrutiny of defense spending, particularly for high-ticket programs involving exotic weapons and equipment. He has pledged to examine every defense program for relevance and cost and to apply greater scrutiny to the contracting process. During his campaign, Obama specifically mentioned the $33 billion missile-defense program as an area for potential cuts. A recently released Arizona State University study found that the program contributed $193 million to the state's economy in 2007 and supported almost 2,000 jobs. Although Boeing is the prime contractor on the program, most of the work in Arizona is being done by Orbital and Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson. The Obama administration also will make the decision on two major contracts that were awarded and later rescinded. They are a $40 billion contract to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of air refueling tankers, and a $6.2 billion contract to replace about 375 Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The tanker contract was awarded to a partnership between Northrop Grumman and Airbus' European parent EADS N.V. It was later rescinded as a result of protests from rival bidder Boeing. Both companies were bidding for a new contract when the government temporarily called off the competition. Local defense firms such as Honeywell Aerospace and Hamilton Sundstrand are major contractors on both proposals. Boeing estimates the contract could mean $40 million a year for its Arizona suppliers and 1,100 new jobs for the state, while Northrop Grumman asserts it would mean 1,000 jobs and $80 million a year to Arizona's economy if it won the contract. Boeing also is bidding to replace the Kiowa Warriors, a contract that could have a huge impact on Arizona. A contract for the new armed-reconnaissance helicopters was awarded to Bell Textron but was rescinded in October because of extensive delays and cost overruns. Boeing lost out to Bell in the initial bidding and plans to make another run at the contract. The helicopters would be produced at the Mesa plant where Boeing now makes the Apache Longbow helicopters. Jeffrey Dodson, manager of state and local government relations for Boeing, noted that winning the armed-reconnaissance helicopter contract win would be a huge boon to the company's Mesa's operation. Obama has vowed to make bidding on government contracts more transparent and competitive to reduce problems such as those experienced with the tanker program and the armed-reconnaissance helicopter. He wants to draw new players into the mix instead of handing out contracts to the usual players. Obama wants to restore the government's ability to manage contracts by rebuilding the corps of officers who oversee contracts and by ordering the Justice Department to prioritize prosecutions that will punish and deter fraud, waste and abuse.

Middle East: Israel And Hamas Having Cyber War Too!!

Middle East: Israel And Hamas Having Cyber War Too!! (NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: This screen print from the internet shows the Israeli army's YouTube-embedded webpage on December 31, 2008.
The Israeli military has launched its own channel on video-sharing website YouTube, posting footage of air strikes and other attacks on Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
The spokesman's office of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it created the channel -- -- on December 29 to "help us bring our message to the world."

Pakistan: Army Protecting Supply Route To Afghanistan

Pakistan: Army Protecting Supply Route To Afghanistan (NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: Pakistani army troops move towards Khyber tribal area, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008 on the outskirt of Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistani troops killed three militants in an operation to secure the major supply route to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, an official said.

Israel vs GAZA - Time to Act

Israel vs GAZA - Time to Act Israel should Hit Hamas Hard Before it is Too Late By David Eshel
(NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: No sovereign state or democratic government can disregard its duty to protect the physical security of its citizens over an extended period of time. After maintaining a long period of unbelievable restraint and indulgence to one-sided violence against it's civilian population, living peacefully in internationally recognized territory, Israel is forced to stop, once and for all, the rocket bombardment, which has turned life around the notorious Hamastan-ruled Gaza Strip into living hell. It is the unfettered duty of a national army to defend its citizens and that is what the government should order it to do, without further delay. The rules are quite simple to follow: It is the duty of the political leadership in a democracy, to give the army a clear directive, which in this case should be "Stop the firing on Israeli civilians", using every means which is acceptable under law. Based on this directive, which presents the strategy, the military must form it's best method, using sufficient force to achieve this objective within minimum time and space and with acceptable losses to it's own forces and uninvolved enemy civilians. The latter poses, in this case, being densely populated Gaza, extreme challenges in planning and execution of this highly sensitive task. But sufficient pre-mission training, excellent drills and control procedures, constant situational awareness and top quality leadership can render such complex operations successful. The IDF has a proven record in achieving such results in the past. The present IDF under the leadership of Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi has undergone rigorous training procedures after the Second Lebanon War fiasco and should now be fully capable of carrying out a successful operation in Gaza and, if necessary simultaneously on the northern front, if Hezbollah should enter into the fray. There has been some public outcry that a large-scale military operation into Gaza could jeopardize the live of Corporal Gilad Shalit, held captive for over two years by Hamas, hidden somewhere in the Gaza Strip. While every life is always precious, especially to his loved one's, all deeply concerned over his personal fate, considerations, like the safety of a single soldier held captive by the enemy, cannot become a decisive factor in the nation's strategic aims. Moreover, both the political and the military leadership should have long ago taken urgent steps to release, or rescue it's soldier. This was the ultimate duty of the political leadership and a top priority item of the military staff. It is therefore unacceptable that military intelligence, ISA and Mossad and Sayeret Matkal (GHQ special forces unit), could not find his hideout, long ago and mount a successful rescue operation, attempting to release him, from within the confines of the Gaza Strip, being only a few kilometers away. Arguments, aired, that such a rescue mission would be dangerous and probably cost the life of the soldier, are reasonable, but must be part of the overall decision making process. An entire nation cannot be held hostage over the fate of a single soldier and even his next of kin must accept the possibility of his or her son being killed in action, once he joins active military service. One tends to forget, that two of Shalit's tank crew comrades were indeed killed in the same action at Kerem Shalom in 2006! It takes a lot of guts ordering to mount a daring, high-risk rescue mission, the success and failure is often less than 50%, sometimes near nil. However courageous leaders are willing to take the risk for the sake of troop morale, which is a primary element in combat motivation. The operation has a chance to succeed, if well prepared and carried out with sufficient ruse, professional deception and surprise. What about the extraordinary risks taken at Entebbe, Maalot and even the late Nachshon Wachsman* rescue attempt which both failed, but at least demonstrated determination and courage by the decision makers. As for the oncoming Gaza Operation, it stands to reason that Israel is planning a relatively short operation that will cause maximum damage to Hamas "assets. For it's success, the less spoken about, the better are it's chances to hit their mark with acceptable hitches. The IDF chief of staff has constantly demands that the political leadership formulates clear objectives for a Gaza Strip operation – also known as an exit strategy – it now seems that this has been given. The realistic objective of any military operation should not be the ousting of Hamas, which needs excessive time and means, but rather, the undermining of its military capabilities and weakening its regime. Such an operation must end with a clear bilateral truce based on terms Israel can live with. The IDF should be delivering powerful surgical blows, simultaneously, from the air on the ground and from the sea, against selected prime targets in the Gaza Strip in a manner that would heavily jeopardize the Hamas regime in Gaza. For months, military analysts have predicted that Hamas was creating a full-scale army in the Gaza Strip. This may of course create substantial difficulties against a massive Israeli ground operation, if conducted according to expected military procedures. However, if reliable, accurate and as far as possible, real time intelligence is available, then fighting against an enemy who has known and identified military installations, can achieve substantial results, even of strategic value. Targets, such as training camps, supply depots, weapon construction facilities, command and control centers - can all become legitimate high value targets, which once destroyed weaken the former guerilla organization considerably. Moreover, by targeting known senior leaders, a military-like organization can quickly lose cohesive function, if its communications network is disrupted or effectively jammed. One should not forget the immense effect the assassination in 2004, of Sheikh Yassin and his replacement Rantissi had on Hamas’ activities, which virtually ceased for nearly six months! Hamas and the other organizations will no doubt respond with massive rocket fire at Israeli communities while attempting to carry out other terror attacks. Israel will have to regard a major operation in Gaza as an act of war, enforcing severe martial law concerning civilian defense in all affected areas. With no further time to waste, Israel must now take initiative, end Hamas' hold on Palestinian government institutions before it is too late. If the Second Lebanon War paralyzed the Haifa Port, the next clash vis-à-vis the Palestinians could create a similar threat on the Ashdod Port. No sane nation can tolerate such a strategic challenge and remain inactive.

Sri Lanka: LTTE Stronghold Under Attack By Army

Sri Lanka: LTTE Stronghold Under Attack By Army (NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: The navy blockade continues unbroken, despite desperate LTTE attempts to ship weapons and munitions in. There are only a few bits of coastline where the LTTE can land stuff, so it's easier for the navy to catch the smuggling attempts. The fighting around the LTTE capital of Kilinochchi is apparently attracting the best fighters the LTTE has left. That's because some army units have been hit with well prepared and led counterattacks. These were attempts to push the army back, but these offensive operations failed. Sometimes there were heavy army casualties, but the soldiers stood their ground and stopped the LTTE attackers. That didn't happen 5-10 years ago, and is one reason why the LTTE are on their last legs. The rebels no longer have a qualitative edge on the battlefield. Advancing troops have captured an LTTE airstrip, hidden under nets and foliage. The army is advancing up the east coast, past the town of Mullaitivu, and down the east coast along the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE defenses consist of recently recruited fighters holding out in recently built bunkers. The morale of the LTTE fighters is rapidly declining, as is their battlefield effectiveness. The government is also getting more information on the day-to-day whereabouts of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran. The air force is bombing these locations, hoping to kill or wound Prabakaran (whose death would be a major blow to the LTTE). In any event, the army believes they will have Prabakaran, dead or alive, with six weeks. While there's always a chance that Prabakaran will flee the island and attempt to keep up a terror campaign from exile, that is considered unlikely. Sri Lankan diplomatic efforts have gotten the LTTE declared an international terrorist organization, and it's unlikely any nation would allow Prabakaran to operate within their borders. December 28, 2008: Outside the capital, an LTTE suicide bomber attack left eight dead and several dozen wounded. More such attacks have been expected, but have not materialized so far.

USAF Awards B-2 Radar Upgrade Production

USAF Awards B-2 Radar Upgrade Production
(NSI News Source Info) December 31, 2008: Northrop Grumman has been awarded a production contract for the B-2 radar modernization program (RMP), a key upgrade required to "ensure sustained operational viability" of the stealth bomber fleet, the U.S. Air Force says. The upgrade was required after the U.S. Commerce Dept. directed the Air Force to stop using the B-2's current radar frequency. The RMP moves the radar from a band where the B-2 is a secondary user to a frequency where it is a primary user. The modification incorporates an active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna. There are no changes to the radar signal and data processing, and no new capability, but Northrop Grumman says the RMP lays the foundation for future growth. The B-2 radar, which has two antennas mounted in the leading edges of the flying wing, is used for navigation, targeting, weather avoidance, aircraft deconfliction, station keeping and tanker rendezvous. Raytheon is supplying the new APQ-181 AESA, Award of the production contract, with a target price of $468 million, follows "successful initial operational test and evaluation flight tests that were recently completed at Edwards AFB, California," the Air Force says. Development of the RMP was interrupted in 2007 by technical issues with the Ku-band AESA antenna. Initial operational capability with six aircraft retofitted is scheduled for 2010, and full operational capability for 2011.

Israel Says Proposals For Truce With Palestinians Unrealistic

Israel Says Proposals For Truce With Palestinians Unrealistic (NSI News Source Info) TEL AVIV - December 31, 2008: Israel considers all international proposals on a ceasefire in Gaza unrealistic and insists that Palestinian militants should stop attacks first, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Israel launched on Saturday a series of airstrikes targeting the infrastructure of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that controls Gaza. More than 380 Palestinians have died in the aerial assault, as well as four Israelis killed by rockets and mortars fired into Israel as a response. Israeli soldiers stand atop a tank outside the central Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Israel hit the Gaza Strip with more air strikes on Tuesday and said its military action could last weeks, while rockets fired by Islamist Hamas struck deep inside the Jewish state. Israeli soldiers stand atop a tank outside the central Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Israel hit the Gaza Strip with more air strikes on Tuesday and said its military action could last weeks, while rockets fired by Islamist Hamas struck deep inside the Jewish state. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that international society was sending various proposals to Israel asking to stop raids, but so far none of them match Israelis' demands. "In order for a proposal to become realistic, it needs to strictly include guarantees of stopping rocket fire and terrorist attacks, as well as provisions on how Hamas will stick to these guarantees," Palmor said. France, at the end of its six months as EU president, proposed in particular that Israel announces a 48-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israel has said its military operation was aimed at eliminating the threat to its population of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, and was launched in response to increased militant rocket attacks since a six-month truce ended on December 19. Israel's Defense Ministry said it had kept one border crossing open for the three working days since its military operation began. In that time, 179 trailers of humanitarian goods have passed through into the enclave, the ministry said.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pakistan: Islamic Militants Problems Are Self Created

Pakistan: Islamic Militants Problems Are Self Created
(NSI News Source Info) December 30, 2008: The UN Security Council Committee condemning LeT and its parent JD should be a blessing in disguise for the political leadership of Pakistan. They could use this powerful international nudge to clamp down on the ISI and the terrorist breeding factories masquerading as madaris and religious charitable organizations. This is the time to kill two birds with one resolve backed by firm action. The beards and ISI (backed by support from a segment of the occupying army) would thwart and resist every inch of the way. Pakistan army arrive at their base camp in Jamrud, a town in Pakistan's Khyber tribal area Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 near Peshawar. Pakistan closed the main route used to ferry supplies to U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday after launching a fresh offensive against militants in the area. The road through the Khyber Pass in the northwest of Pakistan has come under increasing attacks by militants seeking to squeeze Western forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan in recent months.

Gaza Violence: President-Elect Barack Obama's Major Foreign Policy Agenda!!

Gaza Violence: President-Elect Barack Obama's Major Foreign Policy Agenda!!
(NSI News Source Info) Washington - December 30, 2008: The latest flare-up of violence in Gaza needs to remind President-elect Barack Obama of the urgency in finding a lasting settlement to the conflict in the Middle East. So long as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute remains unresolved, the risk of a greater conflagration remains a reality. We are now entering a very dangerous period -- the transition from President George W. Bush to President Obama. It may be seen as the moment of opportunity by Israel to take decisive action against the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, otherwise known as Hamas. After a day of brutal aerial bombardment by Israel on Gaza during which more than 250 Palestinians were killed -- including women and children -- the only comment from the Bush White House was to caution Israel to "avoid killing civilians." This message will most likely be perceived by Israel as a tacit green light from Washington to proceed with their "cleanup" operations in the Gaza Strip. The bombing of Gaza came in response to Hamas' firing of some 60 rockets at Israel on Christmas Eve. Palestinians described the bombing of Gaza on Saturday as the "the bloodiest day since the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel first occupied the Strip that until then was under Egyptian administration. Meanwhile in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas' armed wing, called for the Palestinians to rise up in a third intifada, or uprising, in the Palestinian territories. Sporadic clashes later broke out in parts of East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. And in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the bombing in Gaza, calling it "a savage Israeli assault." "Nothing can justify the Israeli aggression on the civilian population of Gaza," said Erekat. It has been repeated ad nauseam and still it can never be said enough times: Finding a just settlement to the Israel-Palestinian dispute remains one of the most important questions for the stability of the whole world. The Gaza flare-up could easily spread to other parts of this volatile region, where all the ingredients -- religion, oil, guns, political dissent, authoritative regimes and fanatics of all sorts -- are always ready, able and more than willing to cause mayhem. The tragedy is that innocent people are dying on both sides of this maddening conflict and yet both sides must be well aware that there cannot be a military solution to this conflict. Israel and the Palestinians must realize that there is no alternative to peaceful negotiations. One would imagine that after more than 40 years of wars, killings and more killings, the result has never yielded peace. Israel was able to forge peace with Egypt and Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization through negotiations, and not through armed conflict. The conflict between Hamas and Israel won't be settled on the battlefield, but at the negotiating table. Hamas must understand that it is unrealistic to believe that Israel can be defeated. It cannot. Israel is a nuclear power, and if the Gazans take time out to remember their own history, they will recall the story of Samson. It was supposedly in Gaza that Samson brought down the temple where the Philistines kept him in chains, rather than continue to be humiliated and enchained by his enemies. And it is equally important for Israel to recognize that Hamas cannot be eradicated. The more they bomb them, the more determined the Palestinians become. Israel has been trying to eradicate the Palestinian resistance for the good part of 40 years. They have bombed them, carried out targeted assassinations of the Palestinian leadership, and invaded and occupied neighboring countries to weaken and distance the Palestinian resistance from their borders. To date, nothing has really worked, except direct negotiations. There is now a very real danger of the violence spreading to northern Israel if Hezbollah intervenes to help remove some of the pressure on Hamas. The time between now and Jan. 20, when Obama is sworn in as president, is crucial. Israel might take advantage of the political void to try and finish the job in Gaza before the Obama administration moves into the While House. While Israel's response to Hamas' launching of more than 60 rockets comes as no surprise, continued military operations will buy Israel some time, but ultimately, it will not settle the issue. Quite the contrary.

South Ossetia Claims Georgia Moving Tanks Close To Border

South Ossetia Claims Georgia Moving Tanks Close To Border (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - December 30, 2008: Georgia is moving tanks and armored vehicles closer to the border with South Ossetia, the Georgian breakaway republic said Monday. "According to intelligence reports, Georgia has moved 28 tanks to Gori, where a tank battalion is stationed. In addition, Cobra armored vehicles have been spotted in the village of Nikozi near the South Ossetian border," the state committee on information and press said in a statement. The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) said last Friday it was concerned over the deployment by Georgia of Cobra armored vehicles in areas close to the South Ossetian and Abkhazian borders. Georgia's Interior Ministry has confirmed reports of Cobra vehicles being in a number of villages and said the EU has been informed of that. The head of the ministry's analytical department said the vehicles are employed to patrol and control the situation. "We brought Cobra vehicles to border villages, including Nikozi, two weeks ago," Shota Utiashvili said. Georgia attacked South Ossetia on August 7-8 in an attempt to regain control over the republic, which, along with Abkhazia, split from Georgia in the early 1990s. In response Russia launched a military operation to repel Georgia's troops from the region, which concluded on August 12, ending up deep in Georgian territory. In accordance with a French-brokered peace deal, Russia withdrew its forces from Georgian buffer zones ahead of an October 10 deadline. The peacekeepers were replaced by a 200-strong EU monitoring mission to Georgia.

Russian Air Force: Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-35 Super Fulcrum (Watch Video)

Russian Air Force: Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-35 Super Fulcrum (Watch Video) December 30, 2008 NSI News Source Info

Taiwan Air Force's F-16 Fighter: Excelling In Manuver Exercise In Case Of Chinese Invasion

Taiwan Air Force's F-16 Fighter: Excelling In Manuver Exercise In Case Of Chinese Invasion
(NSI News Source Info) December 30, 2008: An F-16 fighter of Taiwan air force releases flares during a live-fire drill at Paolishan, southern Taiwan on December 24, 2008. Taiwan staged the exercise simulating a Chinese invasion as President Ma Ying-jeou highlighted the island's determination to defend itself despite warming ties with rival China.

US Army Guarding Supply Route In Afghanistan

US Army Guarding Supply Route In Afghanistan (NSI News Source Info) December 30, 2008: US Army's 6-4 Cavalry keeps an overwatch as a convoy of cargo trucks moves down one of the main roads leading through eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province December 29, 2008. Army officials said truck drivers were frequently targeted by insurgents who used intimidation and violence to stop the flow of goods to civilians and military bases in the area. U.S. and Afghan Army troops examine the scene after a cargo truck driver was murdered and his vehicle destroyed on one of the main roads leading through eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province December 29, 2008

Israeli Navy Ship Turns Back Gaza Protest Boat

Israeli Navy Ship Turns Back Gaza Protest Boat (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM - December 30, 2008: An Israeli official says Israel's navy has turned back a boat trying to carry pro-Palestinian protesters to the embattled Gaza Strip. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says the boat ignored an Israeli radi order to turn back. Palmor says the boat tried to outmaneuver the navy ship and crashed into it, lightly damaging both vessels. The navy then escorted the boat to the territorial waters of Cyprus. Protest boat organizer Derek Graham says the Israeli ship «rammed» the protest boat. Protesters have sailed several small boats into Gaza from Cyprus since August in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade aimed at pressuring Gaza's Hamas rulers to halt militant rocket fire on Israel. Gaza is currently in the throes of a massive Israeli offensive targeting Hamas militants.

Monday, December 29, 2008

India: Tensions with Pakistan Subsiding / Pakistan Army: We Must 'Avoid Conflict' With India / Pakistani Army Continues To Withdraw From NWFP

India: Tensions with Pakistan Subsiding / Pakistan Army: We Must 'Avoid Conflict' With India / Pakistani Army Continues To Withdraw From NWFP (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - December 30, 2008: High-level military contacts between India and Pakistan are defusing tensions in the wake of the Nov. 26 terror attacks in Mumbai, Indian Defence Ministry sources said. The two countries' directors-general for military operations talked at length over the military hot line on Dec. 28 to clarify the reasons behind the two armies' troop movements, the sources confirmed. A senior Foreign Ministry official said New Delhi will use diplomatic efforts and international pressure to persuade Islamabad to take action against terrorists operating from that country, not any military option. The official dismissed a report by the Stratfor global intelligence service last week that said India was preparing surgical strikes inside Pakistan. According to media reports, Stratfor's report said, "These most likely would take the form of unilateral precision strikes inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir, along with special forces action on the ground in Pakistan proper." A Defence Ministry official said India is not mobilizing its land forces, which are on a general alert only. Defence Ministry sources said India will not put large amounts of troops "eyeball to eyeball" with Pakistan as was done in 2002 in the wake of the December 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament by Muslim terrorists. But sources said Indian forces remain capable of quick air attacks on terrorist camps.
Pakistan Army: We Must 'Avoid Conflict' With India
(NSI News Source News) December 30, 2008: Pakistan said Tuesday that India had moved troops toward their shared border, following Islamabad's own redeployment of forces toward the frontier amid tensions over the Mumbai attacks. Indian officials would not comment on the claim, but denied another allegation that they had activated forward air bases. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the claims in a televised address that included overtures toward India to help improve the frayed ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who have already fought three wars in the past six decades. In this handout photo released by Inter-Services Public Relations department of Pakistan, Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, right, Chief of Pakistan army meets visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Pakistan's army chief stressed Monday the need to "avoid conflict" with India, days after he began moving troops toward the rivals' shared border as tensions rose over last month's terror attacks on Mumbai "I understand India has activated their forward air bases, and I think if they are deactivated, then it will be a big positive signal," Qureshi said. "Similarly, as far as their ground forces are concerned and which have been deputed and deployed, if they relocated to their peacetime positions, then it will also be a positive signal." Qureshi further offered to send a high-level delegation to New Delhi to help investigate the November assault in Mumbai, which killed 164 people. The foreign minister, who was among several Pakistani leaders who have been calling for calm in the region, reiterated that India had not turned over any evidence backing up its claims that Pakistani militants had staged the Mumbai assault. However, he noted that Indian officials had said that was because their own investigation was not over. "And the government of Pakistan wants to assure them that when the evidence will come to us, our thinking from day one was constructive and peaceful and we will do our best to reach the bottom of the matter," Qureshi said. An Indian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, denied that key air bases had been activated. "We have not activated any of our forward air bases," he said. There was no immediate comment by India's defense ministry on the statement that the South Asian giant had moved some troops to forward positions. Intelligence officials said last week that Pakistan is shifting thousands of troops away from its militant-infested northwest regions bordering Afghanistan and toward India. Witnesses in towns along the Indian border have reported seeing more troops than usual, but there have been no signs of a massive buildup on the Pakistani side.
Pakistani Army Continues To Withdraw From NWFP
(NSI News Source Info) December 30, 2008: The Pakistani military continues to withdraw forces from the troubled Northwest Frontier Province and the adjacent tribal areas. Another division is believed to be leaving the region to return to the eastern frontier and bolster Pakistani forces facing India during rising tensions over last month's terror attack in Mumbai. Witnesses in Pakistan's tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan said large, heavily armed columns have been leaving the region, The News reported. A 200-truck convoy with accompanying artillery and tanks was seen withdrawing from the town of Miramshah in North Waziristan.
A Pakistani Army soldier sits on an armored vehicle as he patrols in Matta in Swat, where the Taliban has effectively taken control of the settled district and neighboring Shangla Hundreds of soldiers were seen leaving the military base at Ramzak in North Waziristan. Ramzak borders South Waziristan. Operations against Baitullah Mehsud's forces in early 2008 were launched from Ramzak. Other witnesses said more than 20 military trucks left Ghalanai, the main town in Mohmand. The Pakistani military began moving troops from the insurgency-riddled Northwest Frontier Province on Dec. 26. The 14th Division began withdrawing from the Bajaur-Dir region and was moved back to its assigned area of operations in the Bahawalpur region in southeastern Punjab province. The 14th Division was one of two divisions assigned to reinforce the counterinsurgency operation in Bajaur. A second Pakistani Army division is expected to be pulling out of the northwest. The headquarters element of the 23rd Division along with the attached brigade is thought to be moving out of the Northwest Frontier Province, according to Ravi Rikhye, the editor of Pakistan may remove most of the units assigned to reinforce the Northwest Frontier Province, Rikhye told The Long War Journal. An estimated 14 to 15 brigades were assigned to Pakistan's northwest as the Taliban insurgency grew over the past several years; this number may be reduced to five brigades. "We are approaching the point where two-thirds of the reinforcements sent west are in the process of withdrawing," Rikhye said. Pakistan's redeployment of troops is strictly a defensive move, according to Rikhye and several US officials. The Pakistani military basically stripped the eastern front of units over the course of the past several years to bolster its forces in the northwest. The move is designed to counter a feared Indian strike, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. "The Pakistanis are terrified the Indians may launch an attack, and have to reinforce [their] eastern front," the official said. "What they are doing is prudent from a military perspective, but it is raising alarm bells in India and in the West." The Pakistani military has built a complex system of fixed defensive positions to blunt an Indian attack, Rikhye said. "The essence of Pakistan's defense strategy is to man several lines of very extensive fortifications, usually built on their irrigation canals," he told The Long War Journal. Canals have been built to prevent amphibious assault vehicles from crossing, and the military can flood the canals as well as plains to slow down an armored attack. "These canal defenses are combined with extensive earthworks, pill boxes, minefields, etc." Rikhye said. "It's not easy to get through these defenses," he noted, explaining that one armored and one infantry brigade held off eight strike brigades from the Indian Army in the Shkaergarh salient during the 1971 war. The deployment of forces to the northwest has compromised the effectiveness of the defensive positions. "If the defenses are not manned then they're no use," Rikhye said. "That's why the Pakistani infantry has to come back from the NWFP [Northwest Frontier Province]. It is completely expected for them [the Pakistani Army] to man their defenses at this time, and that they do not want to be in the NWFP [fighting the Taliban] is perfect." The regular Pakistani Army has not aggressively fought the Taliban in the northwest. The task has been left to the poorly armed and trained paramilitary Frontier Corps. Occasionally, as in the case of the Bajaur offensive in the Loisam region this fall, or the offensive in South Waziristan in January, a Pakistani unit is assigned to combat duty. But the regular Army largely sits in garrison while the Taliban consolidate power in the region.

USMC Spending Millions To Up-Armor Cougar MRAPs

USMC Spending Millions To Up-Armor Cougar MRAPs (NSI News Source Info) December 30, 2009: Responding to the continued threat posed by armor-melting explosively formed penetrators, the U.S. Marine Corps will add thousands of pounds of scalable bolt-on plates to some Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.Marine Corps Systems Command has purchased $30 million in new add-on armor kits from Force Protection Inc., the Ladson, S.C.,-based company announced Dec. 17. It will pay for kits to be used on 196 Cougar MRAPs, which the company manufactures, said Damon Walsh, a vice president at Force Protection. "This is one step toward enabling commanders to dial the threat-protection level up or down to meet operational requirements," Walsh said. "Ultimately, as [MRAPs] get smaller, the idea is that you could still use it on different platforms." The Corps asked for 3,600 MRAPs in 2006 to eventually replace Humvees in the fleet, but it cut the order to about 2,200 last year amid concerns about mobility and how many vehicles were needed. In November, the Defense Department began fielding the first wave of smaller MRAPs in Afghanistan. The Corps bought kits for 192 six-wheel Category 2 Cougars and four, four-wheel Category 1 Cougars, Walsh said. He estimated the armor will add about 5,000 pounds to a Category 2 vehicle and 3,500 pounds to a Category 1 vehicle. SysCom deferred comment to officials with the Pentagon's Joint Program Office on MRAPs, who could not be reached. U.S. forces have weighed options to mitigate EFP blasts since insurgents first began using them in Iraq in 2006. They are usually caused by a steel cylinder filled with explosives that turns a concave plate inside into a molten copper slug that can penetrate most armor. The Force Protection kits have 11¾-inch thick plates that can be cut to fit any vehicle capable of carrying the weight, Walsh said. Officials declined to disclose what the plates are made from, but Walsh said it comprises "layers of metals and nonmetals" designed to slow the blast. Per square foot, it weighs about 102 pounds and costs about $2,000. It was blast-tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in the fall, Walsh said. While Defense Department studies have shown that MRAPs and up-armored Humvees are susceptible to rollovers, Walsh said that won't be the case with the up-armored Cougar. Depending on where Marines choose to bolt the plates, they will lower the vehicle's center of gravity, he said. But a June 13 report by the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned raised other concerns about the weight of MRAPs. In one example cited in that report, two soldiers drowned April 23 after a road in Iraq collapsed under the weight of the vehicle, causing it to roll over into a canal. "Road shoulders in the Middle East do not meet U.S. standards and may collapse under the weight of the MRAP, especially when the road is above grade and can fall to lower ground [ditches and canals]," the report states. A Category 2 Cougar has a curb weight of 19½ tons and can handle a payload of an additional 6½, Force Protection officials said. Walsh said even with bolt-on armor, crew and equipment aboard, the vehicle payload would still fall under 6½ tons. The Corps' deal with Force Protection follows an April contract between the Defense Department and Navistar International, worth $261 million, for more armor. Navistar provides most of the military's smaller four-wheeled MRAPs.

U.S. Navy Frigate Arrives In Georgia On Two-Day Visit

U.S. Navy Frigate Arrives In Georgia On Two-Day Visit (NSI News Source Info) TBILISI - December 29, 2008: A U.S. frigate arrived in the Georgian port of Poti on Monday as part of a two-day visit, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Georgia said. The USS Taylor (FFG-50) guided missile frigate would make a two-day regular port call the spokesman said, adding that no drills were planned during the stopover. The 20-member crew will be met by representatives of the local administration and the Georgian Coast Guard, and a number of cultural events have been scheduled, he said. U.S. warships have made similar visits to the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi since 2001. The USS Barry (DDG-52) guided missile destroyer visited Georgia in late November. The U.S. supported its ally Georgia throughout the August conflict with Russia over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Sikorsky Wins $85M Order for six MH-60Rs / Pentagon Contract Announcement

Sikorsky Wins $85M Order for six MH-60Rs / Pentagon Contract Announcement (NSI News Source Info) December 29, 2008: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Stratford, Conn., was awarded on Dec 23, 2008 an $84,988,629 firm/fixed/price contract to exercise option for six (6) Navy MH-60R helicopters.
Work is to be performed in Stratford, Conn., with an estimated completion date of Dec 31, 2012. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).
The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk (or Sea Hawk) is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the airframe of the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The U.S. Navy uses the H-60 airframe under the model designations SH-60B, SH-60F, HH-60H, MH-60R, and MH-60S. Able to deploy aboard any air-capable frigate, destroyer, cruiser, fast combat support ship, amphibious assault ship, or aircraft carrier, the Seahawk can handle antisubmarine warfare (ASW), undersea warfare (USW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion, search and rescue (SAR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). All Navy H-60s carry either the Lucas Western or Breeze Eastern rescue hoist for SAR/CSAR missions.

Boeing Wins $621M Order for CH-47F Production / Pentagon Contract Announcement

Boeing Wins $621M Order for CH-47F Production / Pentagon Contract Announcement (NSI News Source Info) December 29, 2008: The Boeing Company, Ridley Park, Pa., was awarded on Dec 19, 2008, a $620,744,955 firm/fixed/price contract for CH-47F Multiyear contract for second year Production Lot 7, 16 each CH-47F new build aircraft, 15 each CH-47F remanufacture aircraft, over and above, Production Lot 8 Long Lead Items. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Sept 30, 2013. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (w58rgz-08-c-0098). The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is a versatile, twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicpter. Its top speed of 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h) was faster than utility and attack helicopters of the 1960s and even many of today. Its primary roles include troop movement, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply. There is a wide loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage and three external-cargo hooks. Chinooks have been sold to 16 nations; the largest users are the U.S. Army and the Royal Air Force, see Boeing Chinook (UK variants). The Chinook is now produced by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

Canada Accepts 2-Year Delay for S-92 Deliveries / Canadian Forces to Receive Helicopter Fleet with Leading Edge Technology

Canada Accepts 2-Year Delay for S-92 Deliveries / Canadian Forces to Receive Helicopter Fleet with Leading Edge Technology
(NSI News Source Info) GATINEAU, Quebec - December 29, 2008: The Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the Honourable Christian Paradis, and the Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, today announced amendments to the contracts with Sikorsky International Operations, Inc., for the Maritime Helicopter Project.
“These amendments represent a significant accomplishment in getting compliant maritime helicopters with a minimum of delay, while protecting the investment of Canadian taxpayers,” said Minister Paradis. “They will ensure that the Canadian Forces receive the new leading-edge helicopters that they need.”
“The Canadian Forces will now receive their first Cyclone helicopter in November 2010, a date that will allow our men and women in uniform to continue their outstanding work,” stated Minister MacKay. “We’re getting a great aircraft and we have come to the best agreement possible for the Canadian Forces members and for the Canadian public.”
In November 2004, the Government of Canada signed contracts with Sikorsky International Operations Inc. for the Maritime Helicopter Project, to provide 28 helicopters to replace the Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter fleet, as well as 20 years of in-service support and a training facility. In January 2008, Sikorsky formally advised the Government of delays in the original schedule. As a result of in-depth negotiations, these contract amendments were made to minimize the schedule changes, and add valuable cost-effective improvements to the helicopters within the original budget of the project.
This project is a large and complex procurement with many factors affecting the delivery schedule. The government has determined that the delays experienced were largely outside the control of the Contractor. The contract amendments provide the best option to the replacement of the Sea King Fleet with new, state of the art, enhanced capability Cyclone helicopters.
This will ensure that Sikorsky and its major Canadian subcontractors continue to perform work to provide the Canadian Forces with a helicopter that meets the needs of Canada—helicopters that will have the capacity to operate effectively aboard our Navy ships during military roles and missions both at home and abroad.
The Canwest News Service reported Dec. 29 that the “Conservative government has decided that U. S. aerospace giant Sikorsky will not have to pay $36-million in late penalties even though the maritime helicopter it is building for the Canadian Forces is being delivered two years late. The penalties were put in place when the contract was signed in 2004 as a way to ensure the aircraft would arrive on time. The original contract called for the first Cyclone helicopter to be delivered to Canada last month but now that won't happen until November 2010. Instead, the government has cut a new deal with Sikorsky, resetting the clock on when the firm would be liable for late penalties, if at all. The U. S. company has been given another two years before facing any sanctions.

Iraqi Air Force Maturing As An Establishment

Iraqi Air Force Maturing As An Establishment (NSI News Source Info) BAGHDAD — December 29, 2008: A $4.7 million project is ongoing to improve the Iraqi Air Force infrastructure and facilities at New al-Muthana Air Base here. Two barracks buildings and associated facilities will be constructed as part of the project, also slated to repair eight generators and water and wastewater distribution systems. Once repaired, these systems will have the capacity to support the growth of each Iraqi Air Force squadron at NAMAB. The C-130E's of 23sq moved from Al Ali to Baghdad-Muthenna in early 2006 and have since been operated by Iraqi flight crews The Iraqi Air Force’s Squadron 23’s fleet of C-130Es provides tactical airlift support of distinguished visitors, passengers, Army troops, patients, prisoner transfers, and cargo. Squadron 87’s fleet of King Air 350s provide reconnaissance and light transportation. Despite very different missions, these squadrons face the same problem—a lack of adequate housing for personnel and base infrastructure. U.S. Air Force Maj. Craig Thomas, Base Transition Engineer for Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq’s Coalition Air Force Training Team, said, “NAMAB has currently exceeded available capacity … until new dorms are complete, the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) does not have the capability to grow at NAMAB. [Without these facilities,] force generation for training and operational missions will cease and decisive points to establish the foundation for a credible and enduring IqAF will not be reached.” To overcome the housing shortage and dilapidated infrastructure, CAFTT worked with the IqAF to determine their facility requirements. These requirements evolved into a project spearheaded by CAFTT and MNSTC-I’s J7 (Engineer) directorate. The NAMAB Vice-Commander said, “Thank God for these dorms. We can now quit living like sardines in a can. Overcrowding is a real problem here and we can’t wait for these dorms to allow us to spread out. Thank you for what you are doing to help us.” Housing and facility improvements for Squadron 23 are scheduled to be complete by May 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israeli Army At Gaza Border

Israeli Army At Gaza Border
(NSI News Source Info) December 29, 2008: Israeli army takes position near the northern Israeli-Gaza Strip border on December 28, 2008. Israel warned today it could send ground troops into Gaza as its warplanes continued pounding Hamas targets inside the enclave where more than 280 Palestinians have been killed in just 24 hours.
Israeli army special forces are deployed on December 28, 2008 at the Gaza Israel border. Israel launched a massive wave of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza yesterday, killing at least 155 Palestinians and wounding hundreds more

Arabs Should Contribute Forces Or Funds To Isolate Somali/Aden Pirates Being In their Neighborhood / Bordering Countries

Arabs Should Contribute Forces Or Funds To Isolate Somali/Aden Pirates Being In their Neighborhood / Bordering Countries
(NSI News Source Info) December 29, 2008: On December 25th, a German frigate off the coast of Somalia, sent its helicopter to interrupt a pirate attack on an Egyptian merchant ship. One member of the Egyptian crew had already been wounded by gunfire, but the German helicopter stopped the attack. German sailors then captured and disarmed six of the pirates. The pirates were then set free. This is because German law only allows the prosecution of pirates who are attacking Germans (or German property.) The Egyptian ship was carrying a cargo of wheat from Ukraine to South Korea. Since World War II, national and international laws for dealing with pirates (which used to mean trying and executing the pirates on the spot) have been discarded. But nothing took the place of those procedures, because it was believed that piracy was no longer a problem. Germany is not the only country having problems with prosecuting pirates. Since all this happening in international waters, there is a problem with finding a country that will accept, and prosecute, the pirates. Kenya has agreed to accept, and prosecute, pirates arrested off the coast of Somalia. The pirates will be tried under Kenyan law, but foreign countries will provide money to help pay for the proceedings. Some nations working the anti-piracy patrol, have signed deals with Kenya, which sends pirates captured off the Somali coast, to Kenyan courts for prosecution. These deals provide cash to help defer the costs of prosecution and incarceration, which would otherwise be a burden for a poor nation like Kenya. Meanwhile, Chinese warships have just arrived off the Somali coast, and a Russian warship already there has not caught any pirates yet. Everyone is watching what will happen to pirates caught by Russian or Chinese warships. These two nations are known to be very ruthless when it comes to law and order issues. Most other nations are more politically correct. The Chinese are rather more blunt. Most of the criminals executed worldwide each year, are killed in China.

Russia 'Have Or Have Not Supplied' S-300 To Iran. Your Guess Is As Good As Mine!!

Russia 'Have Or Have Not Supplied' S-300 To Iran. Your Guess Is As Good As Mine!!
(NSI News Source Info) December 29, 2008: A senior Russian diplomat Thursday denied the claim by a prominent Iranian lawmaker that Moscow had started delivering components of its S0-300 anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile defense system to Tehran. "I am very surprised by the fuss this story has caused recently. I think this is due to a lack of interesting international news in the run-up to the holidays that many of our Western neighbors are celebrating. This causes an influx of interest in information, which has nothing to do with anything that is going on or will happen," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow, according to a report from RIA Novosti. As previously reported in UPI's BMD Focus column, Esmaeil Kosari, deputy chairman of the parliamentary commission on national security and foreign policy, told Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency Sunday that Russia was already sending components for its formidable S-300PMU-1 system -- NATO designation SA-20 Gargoyle -- to the Islamic republic. In Washington, the outgoing Bush administration quizzed Russia about the report. U.S. officials indicated they also had intelligence information to support Kosari's claim. However, Russian officials have lined up to deny the claim. Ryabkov insisted that while Russia's weapons and nuclear trading with Iran was continuing, it was all above board and complied with international law. RIA Novosti also noted that on Monday the Russian federal service for military cooperation also issued a denial of Kosari's claim. "Reports on deliveries of S-300 systems are untrue," it announced in a statement. Meanwhile, the Iranian government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has remained silent on the controversy, neither confirming nor denying Kosari's claim. RIA Novosti also reported an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement that the Kremlin had also sent a message to the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that it had not begun to send the S-300s to Iran. Russian military commentator Ilya Kramnik wrote for RIA Novosti on Dec. 19 that selling five battalions of S-300PMUs to Iran would comprise "up to 20 systems -- 60 launchers -- depending on the makeup of a battalion. Each of the launchers carries four 48N6E missiles -- 48N6E2s with the PMU-2 mobile launchers -- with a range of 150 kilometers -- 90 miles -- up to 200 kilometers -- 120 miles -- for the 48N6E2s." "Each launch system consists of three launchers and is capable of engaging six targets at the same time, aiming 12 missiles at them. One battalion consisting of four systems is, therefore, capable of dealing with 24 aircraft simultaneously. After changing position and replenishing ammunition, it can be quickly redeployed for repulsing a repeat raid," Kramnik wrote. Russia also sent to Iran 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems worth $700 million under a deal closed in late 2005. RIA Novosti confirmed that Russian technicians had taught Iranian engineers and technicians how to operate the Tor-M1, including the radar systems that guide it. The issue of whether Russia has in fact already sent components of the S-300 system to Iran is still open. The Israelis appear more ready to accept Russian assurances that they have not than the U.S. government.

Pakistan, India Can't Afford War: Analysts

Pakistan, India Can't Afford War: Analysts
(NSI News Source Info) Islamabad - December 29, 2008: The risk of war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan has increased with the redeployment of troops along the common border, but neither can afford the cost of such a conflict, analysts say. The two sides have raised tensions by whipping up war hype for domestic reasons since the Mumbai attacks last month, but must step back from the brink to focus on more pressing issues such as the spread of militancy, they say. A war is even less likely as the United States, a key ally of both Islamabad and New Delhi, would suffer as a result, the experts warn. "The risk of war has increased with troop mobilisation," Hasan Askari, a political analyst and former head of the political science department at the University of Punjab, told AFP. "However this does not necessarily mean that the two countries will go to war. There are a number of considerations which impel the two sides not to cross the red line." Senior Pakistani security and defence officials said Friday the military had moved a "limited number" of troops fighting Taliban militants in the tribal areas near Afghanistan to the Indian border as a "minimum security" measure. This followed intelligence intercepts indicating that India had put its forces on notice to move to the border and cancelled all leave, they said. An Indian army spokesman however told AFP that no troops had been moved. Retired Pakistani general Talat Masood said: "While the political and military leadership in both countries don't want war to happen, this action-and-reaction phenomenon is promoting escalation." Both sides say they do not want war but would respond if attacked. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that "all options" are open since the Mumbai attacks, which New Delhi has blamed on Pakistan-based militants. The attacks left 172 people dead. "By declaring all options are on the table, New Delhi has pushed Pakistan toward a limited war scenario -- something which Islamabad was reluctant to contemplate a couple of weeks ago," defence analyst Riffat Hussain told AFP. Hussain, the head of strategic studies at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University, said any escalation could lead to a catastrophic point of no return that no one could envision. "As nuclear-armed adversaries, India and Pakistan cannot afford any kind of shooting war between them," he said. Analysts say while tensions in South Asia may persist for some time, they will eventually be defused because of international interest in the region, especially in Washington. Askari said US and Western interests in Afghanistan would be "threatened" if Pakistan were to pull significant numbers of troops out of the tribal areas, as it would expose foreign forces to more cross-border militant attacks. Such a withdrawal would also endanger the flow of supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, as the roads through northwest Pakistan would not be secure, he said. Masood agreed, saying: "Pakistan should be focusing more on the tribal territories to fight Al-Qaeda and control Talibanisation. Any diversion will be disastrous for the country, for the region and for international peace." New Delhi-based security expert C. Uday Bhaskar said Pakistani troop movements "seem to be part of the army's strategy to obfuscate the real issue of the (Mumbai) attacks." "It is a signal to the Americans that they should not push the Pakistani army beyond a point. Although it seems like an India-Pakistan issue, the operative part is Pakistan-US ties," Bhaskar told AFP. Hussain warned that India's tough stance would backfire if maintained, as it would embolden the forces of extremism in Pakistan -- a price neither country could afford to pay. "That would not only imperil the internal security of Pakistan but also permanently damage prospects of a lasting peace between the two states," he said. The New Balkans?
Russia 'Extremely Concerned' Over India-Pakistan Tensions
Russia on Saturday said it was "extremely concerned" about the build-up of troops on the India-Pakistan border, warning that tensions between the two nuclear foes had reached a dangerous level.
"Russia is extremely concerned by the news that on both sides of the border there is a build-up of troops and military equipment," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "The tension in this region has reached a dangerous level. There are worrying reports that New Delhi and Islamabad are not ruling out the use of force against each other," it added.
"Russia calls on India and Pakistan to show the maximum restraint and not allow the situation on the border to develop into one of force," it added, saying that negotiations were the only way out of the crisis.
Pakistan on Friday said the military had moved troops from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, where they are fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, to the eastern border with India as a "minimum security" measure. Senior Pakistani security and defence officials described the troop movements as "limited" but Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned his military chiefs for a strategy session.
India also advised its nationals to avoid travel to Pakistan, saying it was unsafe for them to be in the country. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars since their 1947 independence from British rule.

Afghanistan: Is There Any Silver Lining In Sight?

Afghanistan: Is There Any Silver Lining In Sight?
(NSI News Source Info) December 28, 2008: U.S. plans to increase its Afghan troop strength are in flux. The most recent plans are to basically double U.S. strength there (from 32,000 to 60-65,000.)
This would mean five or six combat brigades, an aviation brigade and lots more intelligence and Special Forces troops.
This would mean about a dozen more battalions of U.S. infantry, as the new brigade structure has reduced the number of battalions from three to two. But each battalion now has four combat companies, instead of three. The aviation brigade has about a hundred helicopters (half transport, half combat).
The new brigades also have more support troops (all trained to fight) attached. It would take about 18 months to get all the new forces to Afghanistan. That would then result in a Western force of about 100,000 troops (62,000 U.S. and 40,000 NATO). In that time, the Afghans are expected to expand their own security forces (police and army), arm and train some tribal militias, to produce a total force of nearly 300,000 local and foreign troops and police. Canada, and some other NATO members, object to the U.S. plan to provide weapons and training to form more reliable anti-Taliban militias. The U.S. and Britain believe these militias are an acceptable risk. All the dozens of tribes (and many more major clans) in Afghanistan have militias.
These are usually very much "come as you are" operations, with men armed with their personal weapons, and leaders providing (if they are flush enough) vehicles, communications (radios, walkie-talkies, satellite phones, whatever) and other essentials (food, medical care.) Quality varies enormously.
Those tribes or clans that are into the drug business are much better equipped (including protective vests, night vision devices and plenty of ammo.) The pro-Taliban tribes are not quite as well off, obtaining additional money from drug lords (for helping keep the police away from the drug operations) and Islamic charities (whose money is supposed to go for non-combat improvements, but often doesn't.) Many NATO nations are appalled at the amount of corruption in Afghanistan, with tribal leaders often keeping most of the aid provided to their tribe, for themselves. These nations prefer to put more effort into cleaning up the government, police (which are notoriously inept and corrupt) and improving the army (which is pretty good, but small).
But the Americans and British have worked with these tricky tribal situations often in the past. As the Brits like to put it, "who dares, wins." The Americans have decades of experience with the tribes, having been there since the 1980s, during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Europeans don't always trust American combat experience, it being an article of faith in Europe that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and winning that war was a fluke. Those lucky, but ignorant, Americans! The anti-militia crowd will lose this argument, but you'll see a lot about it in the media.
Allies squabbling, whether real or imagined, makes for exciting news. But the basic American strategy is to play the game the Afghan way. The tribes are in it for the long haul, and will change sides if they sense they are losing. The Americans and Brits want to use superior firepower, mobility and cash reserves to flip as many tribes as possible, as quickly as possible, to hand the Taliban a very obvious, and well publicized "defeat." The tribal militia strategy means getting involved with the many disputes between tribes. The Americans recognize that you cannot avoid these disputes. If you are in the area, the local tribes consider you a player. So the Americans want to play with a plan, and a strong hand. Many Europeans are aghast at this approach, but the Americans point out that this is what is.
Wishing Afghanistan were less chaotic and easier to deal with will not accomplish anything. It's a nasty and unpredictable corner of the world, and if you want to win, you have to play by local rules. It would take generations to "civilize" the rural population to a European standard. A victory of sorts can be obtained much more quickly. The U.S. is sending thousands of additional intelligence and Special Forces troops, along with new equipment that makes it easier to watch the ground below, and pick up enemy transmissions.
U.S. intel forces have become quite adept at sorting out tribal politics. While the tribes of Iraq and Afghanistan are quite different, they share many similarities, and numerous American intel officers, with lots of Iraq experience, have already done tours in Afghanistan. The Americans believe they have the knowledge, and experience, to play the Afghan tribes. In most cases, the enhanced tribal militias will mainly be for gathering better intelligence. The Western troops are still much better and (more importantly) reliable fighters. Afghan tribal leaders are notorious for looking out for their own best interests, and not digging in for suicidal last stands. The U.S. sees the Taliban as a tribal confederation dedicated to opposing the central government. This has been a popular tribal activity for centuries. In the past, it was often the goal of the tribal coalition to capture Kabul (long seen as the national capital), and become the new central government.
The Taliban have a problem in that they did this in the mid-1990s, and the government they established had, by the late 1990s, become very unpopular. Tribal leaders have memories, and are willing to use the Taliban (to keep the government from interfering with drug running, smuggling or whatever), but not be ruled by them. The Taliban try to collect a "tax" (about ten percent) in areas where they are strong enough to keep the police and army at bay. The Taliban also elect loyal locals as government officials, but play down the return of the Taliban controlling the central government.
This is practical, because the majority of Afghans are hostile to the Taliban, and have recent experience to explain why. If ties to the Taliban become a liability, tribal leaders will cut them. This has been happening regularly for the last six years, and the Afghan government has a department dedicated to making and maintaining such arrangements. The new U.S. forces will be put to work giving these bureaucrats lots more work.

Taiwan's Military On Exercise Mission

Taiwan's Military On Exercise Mission
(NSI News Source Info) December 28, 2008: Taiwan soldiers run between several AAV7 Amphibious Armored Personnel Carrier during the LienYung 97-11 Live Ammunition drill, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008, in Pingtung county, South of Taiwan.Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou presided over an elaborate military exercise, saying the island needs a strong defense despite its growing ties with rival China.

Japan Seen Ready To Drop Bid To Buy F-22s

Japan Seen Ready To Drop Bid To Buy F-22s (NSI News Source Info) TOKYO - December 28, 2008: Japan is likely to drop its attempts to buy state-of-the-art US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter planes since it expects the United States to stop producing them, a newspaper reported on Sunday. The Japanese government had been trying to persuade the United States to sell it F-22 Raptors to replace its own aging F-15 fleet, despite Washington's reluctance. Tokyo, however, is now abandoning the plan amid signs that US President-elect Barack Obama's new administration may halt production of the aircraft, the Daily Yomiuri said, quoting government sources. "We have a firm impression that its production likely would be halted," a high-ranking official at the defence ministry was quoted by the daily as saying. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reappointed to stay in the post under Obama, has said publicly that he favours halting production of the F-22. Washington is also said to be skeptical about continuing production of the expensive planes due to the financial crisis and declining tax revenues. US law prohibits export of Raptors as Congress remains anxious over the possible leaking of details of the Raptor's state-of-the-art technology. They are built to evade radar detection at supersonic speeds. Japan's possible alternatives are the Eurofighter Typhoon, jointly developed by NATO members Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany, said the English version of the Yomiuri Shimbun. Among other candidates are the US fighter F-15FX and the F-35 Lightning II, produced by the United States, Britain and other countries, it reported. Some ministry officials favor the F-35, a high-performance fighter with sophisticated bombing capabilities, but this plane has not even been deployed so far by US forces, the daily said. Japan has been officially pacifist since its defeat in World War II but has one of the world's largest defence budgets and is gradually expanding its military role.

Sri Lankan Navy Sinks Tamil Rebel Boat

Sri Lankan Navy Sinks Tamil Rebel Boat
(NSI News Source Info) COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - December 28, 2008: A pro-rebel Web site says Tamil fighters have killed at least 50 government troops in Sri Lanka's embattled north. The TamilNet Web site reported Sunday that the soldiers were killed in fighting in the rebel stronghold of Mullaitivu on Saturday. The rebels also found 16 bodies of soldiers and 15 rifles, said the Web site, citing unidentified rebel officials. Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara dismissed the TamilNet account and said only nine soldiers were killed in that area. Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy casualties while underreporting their own. It is not possible to get independent accounts of the clashes because the war zone is restricted to journalists.

North Korea: Kim Jong Il's Health In Order

North Korea: Kim Jong Il's House & Health To Be In Order
(NSI News Source Info) December 28, 2008: This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 28, 2008 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspecting Air Force Unit 1017 of the Korean People's Army. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has inspected military units, state media said, in the latest reported public appearance by the communist leader, who is said to be recovering from illness.The official Korean Central News Agency said in separate dispatches that Kim, accompanied by military leaders, visited an Air Force unit and an Army unit. The dispatches, dated on December 27, did not say when he made the trips.

Has Pakistan's Swat fallen to Taliban?

Has Pakistan's Swat fallen to Taliban?
(NSI News Source Info) Islamabad - December 28, 2008: Has Swat, the principal city of the restive South Waziristan region in Pakistan's northwest, fallen to the Taliban? It would seem so from an editorial in a leading English daily Saturday. 'There has been no official announcement, no victory parades or televised addresses by the victorious party, no cheering crowds welcoming the liberators - but Swat, to all intents and purposes, has fallen to the Taliban,' The News said in an editorial headlined 'The fall of Swat'. 'It is the announcement that all girls education in the valley will cease from January 15 that is the tipping point,' the editorial added. A Pakistan army soldier stands alert at a bazaar in Mingora, the main town of Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Pakistan moved thousands of troops from the Afghan border toward India, officials and a witness said, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors Saturday and possibly undermining the U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban All schools that teach girls have been ordered by the Taliban to close by that date or face the inevitable consequences - being blown up being the most usual of these. They have already blown up well over a hundred girls schools, principally those operated by the government, but have moved in recent weeks to blowing up private institutions as well. 'Female education has virtually ceased anyway, and the Taliban announcement merely puts the seal on what is a manifest reality - the government has lost the battle for Swat and the Taliban have won,' the editorial said. 'They operate at will, go where they like, issue orders and proclamations that a terrified public are unable to ignore and broadcast their message of obscurantism on the radio for all to hear - and obey,' it added. Noting that the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government had called for assistance, the editorial said: 'But little seems to be forthcoming. 'Refugees stream out of the valley, the operators of private schools try to fight a rearguard action, the tourist trade is dead and buried long ago and the beautiful valley of Swat now enters a time of darkness.' President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is a junior partner in the NWFP ruling coalition that is led by the Awami National Party of Chief Minister Asfandar Wali Khan, grandson of the legendary Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan - better known as the Frontier Gandhi.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

As Taliban Nears Kabul, Shadow Goverment Takes Hold

Taliban Nears Kabul, Shadow Goverment Takes Hold
(NSI News Source Info) WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan— December 27, 2008: Two months ago, Mohammad Anwar recalls, the Taliban paraded accused thieves through his village, tarred their faces with oil and threw them in jail. The public punishment was a clear sign to villagers that the Taliban are now in charge. And the province they took over lies just 30 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul, right on the main highway. The Taliban has long operated its own shadow government in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, but its power is now spreading north to the doorstep of Kabul, according to Associated Press interviews with a dozen government officials, analysts, Taliban commanders and Afghan villagers. More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Islamic militia is attempting -- at least in name -- to reconstitute the government by which it ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s. This June 26, 2008 file frame grab from television footage reportedly shows Afghan militants holding weapons next to the burning wreckage of a vehicle in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Over the past year in Wardak province alone, Taliban fighters have taken over district centers, set up checkpoints on rural highways and captured Afghan soldiers. The Taliban in Wardak has its own governor and military chief, its own pseudo court system and its own religious leaders who act as judges. Bands of armed militants in beat-up trucks cruise the countryside, dispensing their own justice against accused spies and thieves Over the past year in Wardak province alone, Taliban fighters have taken over district centers, set up checkpoints on rural highways and captured Afghan soldiers. The Taliban in Wardak has its own governor and military chief, its own pseudo-court system and its own religious leaders who act as judges. Bands of armed militants in beat-up trucks cruise the countryside, dispensing their own justice against accused spies and thieves. "After night falls, no police drive through here," the 20-year-old Anwar said, urging an AP journalist to return to Kabul before the militants drove into view. Two miles down the road, a policeman named Fawad manned a checkpoint, wearing the traditional shalwar kameez robe so he could pretend to be a simple villager in case of a Taliban attack. "There are more and more Taliban this year," said Fawad, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. "The people of the villages are not going to the government courts. The Taliban are warning them that no one can go there." In a growing number of regions, insurgents have put in place: -- Militant commanders who serve as self-described governors and police or military chiefs of provinces. -- A 10 percent "tax" -- a forced payment at gunpoint, Western officials say -- on rich families, or donations by poorer families of food and shelter for fighters. -- A military draft that forces fighting-age males to join the Taliban for months-long rotations. -- A parallel judicial system run by religious scholars who impose such punishments as tarring, public humiliation and the chopping off hands. -- The closing of Afghan schools or the forcing of schools to replace science with more religious study. -- Manned Taliban or militant checkpoints to demand highway taxes and search vehicles for government employees or foreigners. The increasing "Talibanization" is taking place in wide areas of countryside where the U.S., NATO and government of Hamid Karzai don't have enough troops for a permanent presence. Recognizing this, the U.S. plans to send its newest influx of troops in January into Wardak and Logar, right next to Kabul. Between 20,000 and 30,000 new American forces are scheduled to arrive by the summer.
Some Western officials argue that the rise of a shadow government is nothing more than the return of different emboldened warlords. They suspect militants simply stepped in where they saw a void in areas not reached by the Karzai's government, and it is still not clear if they have a coherent strategy. U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has noted deep fault lines between Afghan insurgent groups. McKiernan said the Taliban is trying not to govern but to intimidate. In some cases they do try to have shadow governors or court systems, McKiernan said, "but they certainly do not bring with them any incentives to a community, any socio-economic programs, any perks, if you will..." It's not clear just how far the shadow government goes. Taliban officials and analysts boast that there are now Taliban shadow governors in almost every Afghan province. "Three years ago the Taliban had no control in Afghanistan. They were spread too thin. Now they have power. They have soldiers. They have governors, district chiefs and judges. It is a very big difference from what you saw in 2003 or even 2005," said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which provides safety information to aid organizations operating in the country, said that by a conservative estimate, anti-government militants operate in more than 35 percent of the country, and that the number is growing. In 2007 militants attacked foreign troops only in small formations, worried that bombing runs by fighter aircraft would result in huge battlefield losses. But over the last year, that has changed. Recently, some 300 militants massed for an attack in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province. About 250 insurgents took part in an attack on a government center in Paktika province in late November. And earlier this year some 200 militants attacked a small U.S. outpost in the east and killed nine soldiers. An hour's drive south of Kabul in Logar, the Taliban took over the district of Baraki Barak just before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in September. They rented shops and armed men wandered the streets, residents say. They ordered barbers with TV sets to throw them away and kicked the satellite dishes on some houses to the ground. After Friday prayers on the 25th day of Ramadan, Taliban fighters announced they were going to implement sharia law by their conservative and punitive reading of Islam. They warned that anyone working for the government would be considered a spy and killed. "Everyone with links to the government fled the area," said a shopkeeper in Baraki Barak who spoke only on condition he wasn't identified for fear of the Taliban. "The people are very afraid of the Taliban, but if anyone shows any kind of reaction, the Taliban will mark that man and say, 'You are a spy of the foreigners and infidels.'" In Helmand province, perhaps Afghanistan's most militant-infested region, Mullah Mohammad Qassim was appointed as the Taliban police chief last spring. Qassim said each of Helmand's 14 districts has a Taliban government leader and police chief, and courts across the province implement strict Islamic or sharia law. The Taliban in Helmand have no relations with Karzai's government, he said. "We are more powerful than them. Even most of the capital of Helmand is under our control." Every week Taliban judges hold court after Friday prayers, said tribal elder Mohammad Aslam from the district of Sangin. In the Kajaki area of Helmand, the site of a large U.S.-funded dam project, militants tax houses with electricity, he said. Trucks using the highways are also taxed. Aslam estimates that 90 percent of people in Helmand side with the Taliban. Echoing a common complaint of Afghans across the country, Mohammad Aslam labeled the Afghan government "corrupt." "No one can trust them," he said of government officials. "Whenever we have a problem, we go to the Taliban and the Taliban court."