Friday, October 24, 2008

Pakistan & Taliban Have Deep Connections

Pakistan & Taliban Have Deep Connections (NSI News Source Info) October 24, 2008: In Pakistan, the army continues to battle Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the Bajaur and Swat valleys. In the third Taliban stronghold, North Waziristan, the Taliban are keeping their heads down, noting the beating their fellow radicals are taking elsewhere. The Waziristan Taliban are maintaining the peace deal signed with the government earlier this year, despite continued American missile attacks (Hellfires fired from Predator and Reaper UAVs). The Taliban are, however, suspected of kidnapping prominent people in Waziristan, including a prominent doctor. This caused the government to shut down all the clinics in North Waziristan, until the doctor was released. Pakistan has persuaded some of the tribes in pro-Taliban areas to switch sides. This is often not too difficult, as the tribes along the border spend more time fighting each other than in going after outsiders. The U.S. is providing money and weapons for these pro-government tribes, as well as tribesmen who join the Frontier Corps (the locally recruited security force that watches the Afghan border.) The Pakistani government has also declared that all illegal foreigners (Islamic radicals) will be expelled from the border areas. The Afghan drug gangs, seeing their Taliban allies taking a beating in Pakistan, have sent guns and money across the border, to help out. The Afghan drug gangs have become the main supporters of the Taliban on both sides of the border. Two decades ago, Pakistan pushed the heroin production business across the border into Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have warned their Afghan counterparts that taking bribes from the drug gangs does not work in the long run. The large amount of opium and heroin produced leaks into the local culture, producing a plague of local addicts that poisons society and causes many new problems. More and more Afghan officials are coming to understand that, but many are still on the drug gang payroll, so cooperation against the Taliban by the two countries is still spotty. But Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed not to have any more peace talks with the Taliban and to keep fighting the Islamic radicals. The increasing anti-Taliban attitudes in Pakistan has produced more tips from locals, and provided American UAVs with more targets. At least once a week, Hellfire missiles hit a building along the border, killing Taliban and al Qaeda personnel. These attacks seek to take out the leadership, but often they just kill some gunmen staying over for the night. The Taliban are still seeking the local "spies" who are alerting the Americans and identifying the buildings where the terrorists are staying. The information the Americans are getting appears to be very accurate, but a lot of it can be coming from high-resolution cameras in UAVs and aircraft, and electronic eavesdropping that appears to pick up everything. Meanwhile, anyone who is in the least bit suspicious risks a beating or beheading. October 23, 2008: In a worrisome development, Maoist rebel groups in eastern India have formed alliances with tribal separatist groups in the northeast (particularly Manipur, which is on the border with Myanmar.) October 22, 2008: In and around Mumbai, India, there has been several days of violence because a right-wing politician was arrested. The conservatives are hostile to migrants from other parts of India. October 21, 2008: In northeast India, a bomb went off outside a military base in the city of Imphal, killing 17 and wounding 30. Tribal separatists have long been fighting the government over the policy of allowing migrants from other parts of India to flood into the region. The day before, a grenade was detonated outside the well guarded compound of a senior politician. October 19, 2008: Over the weekend, Pakistani troops moved into a large Taliban training camp in the hills surrounding the Swat valley. Over 60 Taliban died in the camp, which consisted of dozens of structures and many habitable caves. The air force bombed the camp before the troops moved in. Similar operations continue in the Bajaur valley. October 18, 2008: The recent death of Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has caused, as expected, a split in the local Taliban solidarity. A large number of Taliban in North Waziristan have split away to form a "local Taliban" group. This new outfit announced that it would not fight the Pakistani army, but would instead concentrate on supporting the fighting against foreign troops across the border in Afghanistan. That will be difficult, because the gunmen are coming the other way now, with Afghan Taliban sending fighters to try and rescue the Taliban movements in the Bajaur and Swat valleys. When the Taliban is crushed in those valleys, the army indicates that it will move on to North Waziristan. This won't be the first time the flatlanders have gone into the hills to pacify the Pushtun tribes. The British did this as recently as 1945, two years before they "gave" the previously independent Waziristan to the newly created state of Pakistan. North Waziristan is only 4,700 square kilometers, and 365,000 people. But most of the adult men have guns, and using them is considered both an obligation and something of an outdoor sport. Despite its smaller population, North Waziristan is considered a tougher objective than the Bajaur and Swat valleys. The North Waziristan tribes can put over 30,000 armed (if not very well trained or equipped) men into action. Like Bajaur, a river runs through it (the Tochi, and into Afghanistan via the Tochi pass.)

Somali pirates threatening to kill Ukrainian crew

Somali pirates threatening to kill Ukrainian crew MOSCOW - October 24, 2008: The Somali pirates holding the MV Faina Ukrainian vessel have threatened to kill the crew tomorrow, Ukraine's Segodnya newspaper said on Wednesday. The newspaper said that it had spoken on the phone to one of the pirates, who said that there was no food or water left and that "the crew would probably die tomorrow." A spokesman for the ship owners said that the crew ran out of food and water a week ago and the pirates had been feeding the sailors up to October 21 with supplies brought from the mainland. The Faina, carrying at least 33 tanks and other heavy weaponry, was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The pirates are also holding hostage 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians, and one Lithuanian. The Russian captain of the Faina died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized. The pirates holding the ship have demanded an $8 million ransom, and have threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them. A Russian naval vessel passed through the Suez Canal on Wednesday en route to join an international naval group which has surrounded the Faina. The warship's task is to protect Russian vessels and foreign ships with Russian crewmembers from pirate attacks. Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, which has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline. Somali pirates have seized around 30 ships so far this year off the coast of the east African nation.

Thailand spurns U.S., buys Russian helicopters

Thailand spurns U.S., buys Russian helicopters (NSI News Source Info) BoldMOSCOW - October 24, 2008: In a break with tradition, the Thai government has decided to buy several transport helicopters from Russia, a Russian business daily reported on Thursday. Until now Thailand has only bought arms and military equipment from the United States, but according to Kommersant, Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is also defense minister, has signed off on a $27.5 million deal to buy three Mi-17 (Hip) transport helicopters. "It is a civilian modification, but the helicopter is a dual purpose machine," a source in the defense industry was quoted as saying. The Thai armed forces currently have over 200 U.S.-built helicopters, but almost half of them are more than 20 years old and not operational. In the past year there have been seven accidents involving military helicopters involving casualties. This is the first time that the Southeast Asian country has let down its military ally, the U.S., and chosen Russia, according to Alexei Kirichenko, an associate professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies. "Moscow has repeatedly tried to sell military equipment to Thailand, but all of those deals were invariably blocked, mainly for political reasons," he said.

Ukraine reiterates 2017 end for Russian lease on Black Sea base

Ukraine reiterates 2017 end for Russian lease on Black Sea base (NSI News Source Info) KIEV - October 24, 2008: Ukraine has reiterated its position that it will not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence at its Sevastopol base after 2017, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Under bilateral agreements, Russia's Black Sea Fleet has the use of the Crimean Sevastopol base until 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond that date. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow would be ready to discuss the extension of its naval presence in Sevastopol, Ukraine "at a later stage." "The position of our country remains immutable: Russia's Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine's territory after May 28, 2017," a ministry spokesman said. He added that Ukraine's Constitution did not permit the establishment of foreign military bases on its soil. Yushchenko has called for the Russian navy's early withdrawal from the Sevastopol base, as well as tougher deployment requirements and higher fees, demands that have not been backed by his former coalition ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov has also ruled out the possibility of extending the lease. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine rose after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after August's armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia. In a bid to appease Kiev, Russia has said it may submit an array of attractive proposals to Ukraine. Russia's naval base in the Crimea currently has 50 warships and patrol boats, along with around 80 aircraft, and employs coastal defense troops.

A Revolution In American Military Affairs

A Revolution In American Military Affairs Washington - October 24, 2008: On Feb. 3, 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a new organizational structure under the Office of the Secretary of Defense called the Business Transformation Agency. Its mission was to guide the transformation of business operations throughout the Department of Defense to deliver enterprise-level capabilities that align to war fighter needs. The BTA provides a much-needed service to effect improvements and accountability within the Department of Defense and already has produced laudable results. However, until such efforts address the most fundamental business issues that plague the individual soldier on a daily basis, there will be no transformation worthy of a BTA. The man who started IBM on the path to recovery during the early 1990s, Lou Gerstner, has provided some useful advice for organizations undergoing transformation. As reported in Fortune magazine on July 17, 2008, he said: "It's very important to distinguish between a transformation and a turnaround. A turnaround involves a company that has fallen off the rails and has executed poorly. It takes a driven executive, but it's not that bad. A transformation is truly difficult. The company must fundamentally change its model. It's very, very problematic. "It's all about culture. You have to transform the culture, not just the strategy. Culture is what people do when no one is watching," Gerstner said. The following is at least a partial list of military transformation inhibitors occurring every day at the subordinate command or unit level. Absence of urgency can be a synonym for "business as usual." Excuses for inaction can include "not my responsibility," "I have other things to do," "it's a training holiday" or "fill in the blank for not doing something." Nearly always you will not be informed that nothing was done unless you inquire. In that case, you will be asked to resend your email. You will then need to repeat this procedure several times. Evolution works faster. Motion masquerading as progress is a phenomenon that exists as a kind of fatal organizational myopia, which is the inability to distinguish between process and productivity. The fact that an operation is running smoothly does not necessarily make it effective. Meetings that do not end with a list of action points and owners of those action points usually spawn follow-up meetings covering the same territory, if not the exact same 92-slide presentation. The digital counterpart of the purposeless meeting is the blast e-mail sent to Avogadro's number -- 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power -- of recipients. This generates lengthy discussion threads approximating the diameter of the solar system, where all opinions are given equal weight and the value of which subtracts from the total sum of human knowledge. PCS -- Permanent Change of Station -- or retirements usually intervene before anything can be done.

Outside View: Russia's new army structure

Outside View: Russia's new army structure
(NSI News Source Info) Moscow - October 24, 2008: The Russian army is changing. In addition to troop-size reduction, yet another reform is aimed at fundamentally changing personnel composition and structure, especially within the ground forces. Until now, despite all recent reforms and cutbacks, the Russian armed forces largely remained a scaled-down version of the Soviet army, which was supposed to lead a full-scale war preceded by a general mobilization. Under present circumstances, however, the probability of such a war is relatively low. In the case of a nuclear conflict, there will be no time for a general mobilization, while a local conflict can be won without resorting to such measures. So what will the Russian military look like after reform? The main change will be a move from the current vertical chain of command of the Russian armed forces, a military district-army-division-regiment structure, to a military district-operative command-brigade regime, in order to increase efficiency by abolishing redundant elements. Mobile permanent readiness brigades, consisting of battalions, will be capable of operating tactical maneuver groups, either independently or together with other brigades under joint command. In addition, each military district in the Russian Federation will establish rapid-response brigades that most likely will be formed out of airborne units. Other important news is the plan to change the personnel composition of the Russian armed forces, including reducing the commissioned officers' numbers from the current more than 400,000 -- more than 30 percent of the current 1.2 million servicemen -- to around 150,000 -- 15 percent of the future 1 million-strong force. The cutback mostly will affect logistics and staff commissioned officers and generals, while the number of first and second lieutenants will increase from 50,000 to 60,000. A reduction in commissioned officer numbers will be accompanied by a boost in the size of the sergeant corps. The sergeant corps will play a much larger role in the future Russian army. Well-trained and experienced professional sergeants will ensure fast and effective training of privates, both contract soldiers and conscripts. Although the new military reform is to be finished by 2012, some unofficial sources have told RIA Novosti that the main reduction will take place within the next year. If this is true, a significant number of discharged officers from the Russian army will have to face the problem of civil readjustment. Official Russian government sources report, however, that the reduction will be done by attrition, by retiring commissioned officers who have exceeded their term of required service. This is difficult to believe, however.

US military training program starts in Pakistan: official

US military training program starts in Pakistan: official (NSI News Source Info) Washington - October 24, 2008: A small contingent of US military trainers have begun a training program aimed at turning Pakistan's Frontier Corps into an effective counter-insurgency force, a US military official said Thursday. About 25 US military personnel last week began training Pakistani army trainers at a location in Pakistan outside the troubled tribal areas where the Frontier Corps operates, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It has started. It is a train-the-trainer mission," the official said, emphasizing that the Americans would not directly directly train the Frontier Corps, only their Pakistani army instructors. Recruited from the tribal areas and led by Pakistani army officers, the 80,000-member Frontier Corps historically has been poorly armed and trained. The aim is "basically to train the Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency warfare to make them more effective in the tribal areas," the official said. The politically sensitive program had been stalled for months by negotiations between the US and Pakistani military. The official attributed the delay to difficulties in getting the facilities needed to conduct the training. "What is important here is that the Pakistani government recognizes they have a challenge with extremists inside their own country," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. "Clearly they are looking for a variety of means to address it," he said. The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that Pakistan plans to supply Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles and other small arms to tens of thousands of anti-Tabliban fighters in tribal militias called "lashkars." Pakistani officials told the Post that the plan to arm the militias was their idea and they were paying for it. It is reminiscent, however, of the successful US effort in Iraq to turn Sunni militias against Al-Qaeda in western Iraq, at the time an insurgent stronghold. The US military, as well as the White House and State Department, has been conducting a major strategy review that for the first time that encompasses both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Georgia says Russia massing troops in South Ossetia

Georgia says Russia massing troops in South Ossetia (NSI News Source Info) Tbilisi - October 24, 2008: Georgia on Thursday said Russia was deploying an additional 2,000 troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and said it was "deeply concerned" by the move. "During the last two weeks, 2,000 additional Russian troops have been deployed in South Ossetia," interior ministry Spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP. "The total number of Russian troops in South Ossetia is now up to 7,000." Russia has previously said it would maintain a total of about 7,600 troops in South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia. Utiashvili also said that 40 armoured vehicles had been deployed in the disputed Akhalgori region of South Ossetia, which Tbilisi says Russian forces must withdraw from under a European Union-brokered ceasefire agreement. "We are deeply concerned over such provocative actions committed by the Russian Federation," he said. Officials in South Ossetia on Thursday denied Georgia's charges. "Russia is absolutely exactly adhering to its obligations as put forth in the resolution plan, and the number of Russian troops now in South Ossetia is no more than the number Russia officially reported for its peacekeepers," South Ossetia's deputy defense minister Ibragim Gasseyev said as quoted by the Interfax news agency. "All issues of further Russian military presence in South Ossetia are exclusively regulated by ties between Russia and South Ossetia," he added. Russia sent troops into Georgia on August 8 to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia. Russian forces occupied swathes of the country, but later pulled back to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the ceasefire. Tbilisi insists they must still withdraw from a number of disputed areas to comply with the ceasefire, including Akhalgori, a predominantly ethnic Georgian district that was under Tbilisi's control before the war. Moscow has recognised both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, drawing condemnation from Tbilisi and Western powers. An EU mission is monitoring the ceasefire, patrolling around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but Russia has said monitors will not be allowed inside the rebel regions.