Monday, January 19, 2009

Mexico & Pakistan Are Considered 'Unstable Country' By US JFCOM : Analyze / Mexico Along With Pakistan “Bear Consideration.... As A Failed State:

Mexico & Pakistan Are Considered 'Unstable Country' By US JFCOM : Analyze / Mexico Along With Pakistan “Bear Consideration For A Rapid And Sudden Collapse” As A Failed State: US JFCOM
(NSI News Source Info) January 20, 2009: The internet has been rife with reports that US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is predicting the collapse of Mexico. The root of this story lies in a study produced by JFCOM entitled; The Joint Operating Environment (JOE). The report appeared in November 2008, and was intended for use in "long range planning guidance." It was not meant to predict anything.
Media sensationalists latched on to the comments about "rapid collapse" scenarios in the JFCOM speculative study and totally missed the point that this was a "what if?" scenario for planning purposes, not a prediction. JFCOM's long-range planners thought Pakistan and Mexico were "worst cases" of rapid collapse.
Okay, this is fodder for wargaming and long-range planning excursions. No doubt a Mexican collapse would have huge effects on the US. However, the direct comparison to Pakistan was a huge stretch. For numerous reasons we will get to in a moment -- though we were glad to see JFCOM discussing Mexico and its complex security challenges. Mexico is a huge security concern for the US, but that isn't a new phenomenon. We've been covering Mexico since 1999 and have covered the Cartel War (our original name, by the way) since December 2006 when the Mexican government decided to treat the cartel threat as the serious national threat it is. But Mexico is not Pakistan.
It is not collapsing. It is not a "near failed state." Mexico is a threatened state, but the country has political will to confront the threats posed by violent drug cartels and its own legacy of corrupt politics. Even accounting for Chiapas (Maya land) and numerous wannabe separatists, Mexico also has money, education, and a comparative political-social coherence the entirety of South and Central Asia should envy. Meanwhile, there are economic issues. From the Mexican perspective, NAFTA has been a means of "modernizing" the Mexican economy by evolution rather than revolution. The government, albeit slowly, has used NAFTA as a tool for streamlining the economy and reducing corruption. The government is directing a complex war that includes judicial and legal reformation – dead serious counter-corruption drives that have put senior officials in jail. No, bliss is not around the corner, but this is a real path to real change. GEN Barry McCaffrey's recent report to the West Point social sciences department on Mexico (memo dated December 29, 2008) makes the point about political will in Mexico is very explicit, "Now is the time during the opening months of a new US Administration to jointly commit to a fully resourced major partnership as political equals of the Mexican government. We must jointly and respectfully cooperate to address the broad challenges our two nations face.
Specifically, we must support the Government of Mexico's efforts to confront the ultra violent drug cartels. We must do so in ways that are acceptable to the Mexican polity and that take into account Mexican sensitivities to sovereignty. The United States Government cannot impose a solution.
The political will is present in Mexico to make the tough decisions that are required to confront a severe menace to the rule of law and the authority of the Mexican state…" McCaffrey's report also noted: "President Calderon has committed his government to the "Limpiemos Mexico" campaign to "clean up Mexico". This is not rhetoric.
They have energized their departments of Social Development, Public Education, and Health to be integral parts of this campaign. Finally, there is a clear understanding that this is an eight-year campaign-not a short-term surge…" The former SOUTHCOM commander and US drug czar sees the problem but sees what Calderon and his government are doing. --Austin Bay January 14, 2009: Mexican media reported that a member of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel operating in Acapulco had "impersonated a police recruiter." The cartelista claimed he was offering police jobs but was really trawling for new gang members. Police in Tijuana (Baja California) found a weapons cache with over 500,000 rounds of ammunition, including 195,000 rounds of 5.56mm (M-16 and AR-15 ammo) and 160,000 rounds of Russian-type 7.62 mm (AK-47 ammo). The police also seized 135 sacks of assorted ammunition, including .357 caliber, .38 caliber, 10 mm, and .45 caliber ammo. January 13, 2008: Hey, it's a counter-insurgency idea that a lot of military analysts think would help: legalization of now-prohibited narcotics. The El Paso, Texas, city council toyed with the idea of recommending the US government "go for legalization" as a means of striking at the finances of Mexico's violent drug cartels. In early January the El Paso city council took a preliminary vote that requested a national U.S. "dialog on ending the prohibition of narcotics." The politics in this is, of course, very complex. Several Texas state representatives got upset by the city council's resolution (which the mayor vetoed as "unrealistic"). The state representatives said the resolution suggested El Paso had "given up" in the battle against illegal narcotics. The reps said the region could face a cut-off in police support funding from the state of Texas and the federal government. Well, maybe. The thing is, the El Paso city council had the courage to point to the problem – an American market for illegal drugs. --Austin Bay Mexico would consider "reviewing environmental and labor provisions" in the NAFTA agreement (North American Free Trade Association agreement) with the U.S. The new U.S. president wants to make "environmental and labor"-related chances to the treaty. Trade among Canada, Mexico, and the US in 1994 was around $300 billion a year. Recent estimates put the "trilateral trade" at around a trillion dollars a year. Canada is the US's top trading partner, China number two, and Mexico is number three. The Mexican government is interested in producing a new agreement to permit, regulate and protect Mexicans working in the US. That could become part of the "NAFTA review" but would certainly involve examining the issue of illegal immigrants and undocumented Mexican workers in the US. January 10, 2009: The government is reviewing its own "economic bailout" plans. Remittances from Mexicans working in the US have declined (by as much as half) as the US recession continues. January 2, 2009: He's back. The 15th anniversary (January 1, 2009) of his Zapatista revolt in Chiapas gave Subcomandante Marcos a huge media platform. Marcos used it, crafting a two-day "celebration" of the rebellion. He objected to Israel's offensive in Gaza. He also objected to President Calderon's Cartel War by claiming that "Calderon promised he'd use all the force of the state against organized crime, but it's evident that organized crime directs the force of the state." The government passed a new security law that creates a "National Information Center" to collect information on criminals. The database will hold identification data, list prior convictions, and include "methods of operation" (ie, by the criminal). January 1, 2009: An estimated 1653 people died by violence in the city of Ciudad Juarez (across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas). In 2007 318 were killed. A "final" national death toll has yet to be tabulated, but it is likely the figure will be "over 5,500." December 28, 2008: The government reported that it has detained an army officer on charges of spying for a drug cartel. Mexican Army Major Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez is suspected of spying for the Beltran-Leyva cartel. December 27, 2008: At least 20 gunmen were involved in an attack on a train in Michoacan state. Some of the gunmen carried military assault rifles. The police believe the men stole some chemicals on board the train that can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamines.

NATO Chief Told Hamid Karzai To Act On Corruption And Illegal Drugs Trafficking in Afghanistan / NATO Predicts Tough Year In Afghanistan, Wants ....

NATO Chief Told Hamid Karzai To Act On Corruption And Illegal Drugs Trafficking in Afghanistan / NATO Predicts Tough Year In Afghanistan, Wants More From Karzai (NSI News Source Info) Brussels - January 19, 2009: NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Monday predicted another difficult year for the alliance's peace-keeping operations in Afghanistan and called on the local government to step up its fight against corruption and drugs. NATO's secretary general said "2009 will certainly not be easy in Afghanistan. "There will certainly be more violence, including because we put more forces on the ground," de Hoop Scheffer said at an annual reception with the press in Brussels. The year that has just ended marked the deadliest yet for Western forces since their arrival in Afghanistan in 2001, with a total of 294 casualties reported among soldiers operating under NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Pakistani paramilitary soldiers stand guard at Takta Baig check post, where trucks are parked due to road closed by authorities, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 in Khyber tribal area near Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistan reopened a major land supply route to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan that was briefly closed Monday after suspected insurgents killed a soldier and wounded 14, adding urgency to efforts to secure alternative supply lines as more U.S. troops head to the region. NATO currently relies on a force of 55,100 troops in Afghanistan, a figure which also includes Afghan soldiers. US president-elect Barack Obama has pledged to increase the presence of US forces, and the NATO secretary general said he also expected other NATO allies to do the same. "The US decision to send in more forces should be met by all allies, be it in the military, be it in the civilian domain. We need more forces," he said. At the same time, de Hoop Scheffer also called on Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai to do more to reduce corruption and illegal drugs trafficking in his country. "We have paid a lot in blood and treasure to the Afghan people, and we will continue to do so ... we also need to demand more from the Afghan government," he said. "In the fight against narcotics and in the establishment of a stronger anti-corruption drive, more is necessary." ISAF's role in Afghanistan is set to come under scrutiny at a NATO summit in April marking the 60th anniversary of the transatlantic alliance. Speaking to reporters, de Hoop Scheffer ruled out any NATO involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza and predicted a "gradual" rapprochement with Russia following the controversial August conflict with Georgia.

Dutch Forces Attached To NATO in Afghanistan Will Have UAV Supplied By Israel - Report / Israel's Aeronautics To Supply Dutch UAV Service

Dutch Forces Attached To NATO in Afghanistan Will Have UAV Supplied By Israel - Report / Israel's Aeronautics To Supply Dutch UAV Service
(NSI News Source Info) January 19, 2009: Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems is to supply unmanned air vehicle capacity to Dutch troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, with the Netherlands having had no available replacement for its current Sagem Sperwer systems, which will return from the country in March.
The IAI Harpy is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) produced by Israel's Israel Aircraft Industries. The Harpy is designed to attack radar systems. It carries a high explosive warhead. The Harpy has been sold to several foreign nations, including South Korea, Turkey, India, and China. In 2004, the Harpy became the focus of the effort by the United States to restrict arms transfers and the sales of advanced military technology to China. Sold to China in 1994 for around $US 55 million, the UAVs were returned to Israel in 2004 under contract to be upgraded. The United States demanded that Israel seize the UAVs and nullify the contract. According to the United States, the Harpy contains U.S. technology; according to Israel, the Harpy is an indigenously designed UAV. In 2005, the UAVs were returned to China without being upgraded. This incident chilled relations between the United States and Israel, with Israel being suspended from its status as Security Cooperative Participant in the Joint Strike Fighter program. As of November 6, 2005, however, Israel has stated that it has been re-admitted into the program.
Following a market review, Aeronautics was identified as the only company able to provide both the hardware and support required within the limited timeframe available.
The Dutch defence ministry has not released details of the equipment to be supplied, but possible tactical unmanned air vehicle options could include the Aeronautics Aerostar or Aerolight products. However, with Israeli personnel not authorised to operate inside Afghanistan, system operators are expected to be provided by subcontractors from the UK and the USA.

Bell Delivers First Upgraded OH-58Ds Ahead Of Contract / Bell Helicopter Delivers First Nine Safety Enhancement Program OH-58Ds Ahead of Contract

Bell Delivers First Upgraded OH-58Ds Ahead Of Contract / Bell Helicopter Delivers First Nine Safety Enhancement Program OH-58Ds Ahead of Contract (NSI News Source Info) FORT WORTH, TEXAS - January 19, 2009: Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, closed out 2008 with delivery of the ninth OH-58D aircraft to be modified under the current Kiowa Warrior Safety Enhancement Program contract.
“We delivered a total of nine aircraft in 2008 – six more aircraft than were required by the contract schedule,” said Amy Tedford, Director of Military Fielded Systems at Bell Helicopter.
OH-58 Kiowa is a family of single-engine, single-rotor, military helicopters used for observation, utility, and direct fire support. Bell Helicopter originally manufactured the OH-58 for the United States Army, based on the 206A JetRanger helicopter. The Kiowa has been in continuous use by the U.S. Army since 1969. The latest model, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, is primarily operated in an armed reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The OH-58 has been exported to Austria, Canada, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia; as well as having been produced under license in Australia.
“We’re keenly aware of the Army’s need to have additional OH-58D aircraft available for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Tedford, “and it’s been a real team effort by everyone involved in the Safety Enhancement Program to get these aircraft completed and back to the Army ahead of schedule.”
Bell’s Safety Enhancement Program (SEP) line had been closed down and put into storage after work was completed on the previous SEP lot in December 2007. As workers prepared to restart the line for Lot 11 in May 2008, they applied Textron Six Sigma processes and tools to accomplish a lean restart of the SEP line.
“The direct involvement of employees from every part of the process allowed Bell’s SEP team to significantly reduce the footprint for both assembly and flight operations, and to increase their aircraft production rate by fifty percent,” said Tedford.
The first aircraft completed by the team was delivered back to the Army on Sept. 24, 2008, two months ahead of contract schedule. Bell’s SEP team has maintained that lead and continues to deliver all completed SEP aircraft two months ahead of schedule.
A total of 27 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft are being upgraded in Lot 11 of the Safety Enhancement Program. The $30 million contract was awarded April 30, 2008. All work is being done at Bell Helicopter’s Plant 1 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The 18 remaining aircraft in Lot 11 are planned to be completed in 2009.
The OH-58Ds are being upgraded with an improved engine and improved computer control systems that include related new wiring harnesses. The improvements are part of a series of safety and performance modifications the Army has implemented to keep the OH-58D armed reconnaissance helicopter safe and mission effective until it is retired.
The US Army fleet of Kiowa helicopters has accumulated more than 1.6 million flight hours and over 400,000 combat flight hours. Despite high usage rates, daily combat scenarios and harsh environmental conditions, the OH-58D continues to achieve readiness rates above 80 percent. Bell Helicopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tilt rotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell's global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.

Royal Australian Air Force's Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft Based On Boeing 737 - Report

Royal Australian Air Force's Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft Based On Boeing 737 - Report / Boeing Completes 1st Aerial Refuelings of 737 For Australia's Wedgetail AEW&C Program (NSI News Source Info) SEATTLE - January 19, 2009: The Boeing Company today announced it has completed the first aerial refuelings of a 737 platform. The historic flights were conducted for Project Wedgetail, Australia's airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) program. Boeing has completed the first aerial refuelings of a 737 platform. The historic flights were conducted for Australia's Project Wedgetail, an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) program. Shown here is the 737-700 Wedgetail aircraft receiving fuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker during a flight over Edwards Air Force Base in California. The aircraft also was refueled by an Air Force KC-10 tanker. Flying at 25,000 feet above Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Jan. 7, Boeing pilot Ron Johnston maneuvered the 737-700 AEW&C aircraft into a U.S. Air Force KC-10 tanker's refueling boom envelope and easily maintained its position below the tanker. The 737 received approximately 14,000 pounds of fuel during two connections with the tanker. "The aircraft was stable, with excellent flying qualities and engine response behind the tanker," said Johnston. The aircraft achieved another aerial-refueling first on Jan. 10, when it received fuel from an Air Force KC-135 tanker. "The 737 AEW&C aircraft's highly automated and efficient refueling system worked flawlessly in both tests," said Maureen Dougherty, AEW&C Program vice president for Boeing. "This is a key milestone in certifying the AEW&C system. "Air-to-air refueling is a force multiplier for the AEW&C aircraft," Dougherty added, "allowing it to stay on station for significantly longer periods of time while providing critical battle-management and surveillance capabilities." Project Wedgetail includes six 737 AEW&C aircraft plus ground support segments for mission crew training, mission support and system maintenance.

Pentagon Admits to Higher JSF Costs as Decisions Loom / Decisions Loom for Joint Strike Fighter Program, Support Remains High

Pentagon Admits to Higher JSF Costs as Decisions Loom / Decisions Loom for Joint Strike Fighter Program, Support Remains High (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - January 19, 2009: Decisions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor aircraft programs are expected early in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration. The F-35 program manager said yesterday he sees strong support for the F-35 from the services, allied partners and, so far, on Capitol Hill. Based on initial indications and inquiries from Obama’s transition team, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles R. Davis said he’s confident the F-35 program begun during the Clinton administration will continue, even if budget restraints force scale-backs. Davis made the comments here as keynote speaker at a Brookings Institution forum, “The Joint Strike Fighter and Beyond.” “Support throughout what appears to be three administrations has been relatively consistent,” he said. “As of yet, we see no reason that that support is going to change. There is nobody on Capitol Hill who has said they want to cancel the Joint Strike Fighter.” That doesn’t mean, he acknowledged, that the program to develop the next-generation strike aircraft weapon system for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and allied countries might not get scaled back. Davis conceded he gets many questions about the F-35’s cost -- expected to be $80 million to $90 million, depending on the variant -- and delivery schedule. And if fewer aircraft are built, each will cost even more. (Emphasis added—Ed.] “We lose two airplanes in our [fiscal 2009] appropriation, and every other one of the airplanes being bought in that year goes up $3 million,” he said. Another consideration, he said, is the cost of maintaining the aging legacy fleets the F-35 would replace if production is cut. Earlier yesterday, William Lynn, Obama’s deputy defense secretary nominee, told the Senate Armed Services Committee it would be “very difficult” for the Defense Department to keep all its weapons systems development programs on track in tight budget times. Lynn said at his confirmation hearing he’ll push for a speedy Quadrennial Defense Review to set priorities through fiscal 2015, and expects the tactical aviation force modernization issue to play heavily in those considerations. In written responses submitted to the committee, Lynn recognized the capabilities of both the F-22 and F-35 aircraft -- particularly when considered together. “The F-22 is the most advanced tactical fighter in the world and, when combined with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will provide the nation with the most capable mix of fifth-generation aircraft available for the foreseeable future,” he said. The F-22, to replace the legacy F-15 fleet, brings “tremendous capability” and is a critical element of the department’s overall tactical aircraft force structure, Lynn said. The F-35, on the other hand, “will provide the foundation for the department’s tactical air force structure.” The F-35 is the first aircraft to be developed within the Defense Department to meet the needs of three services, with three variants being developed simultaneously. It will replace the legacy F-16 aircraft for the Air Force and the F/A-18 and AV-8 aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as numerous legacy aircraft for the international partners participating in the F-35 program, Lynn told the Senate committee. So the big question, he said, is determining the appropriate mix between the two aircraft. “If confirmed, I would expect this to be a key issue for the early strategy and program-budget reviews that the department will conduct over the next few months,” he said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made no secret of his interest in reaching a decision and moving forward. During a June visit to Langley Air Force Base, Va., he told airmen at Air Combat Command the new administration will have to determine the proper balance between the two aircraft. “End the debate, make a decision and move on,” Gates said. “’Start getting stuff built’ is just so important.’” Gates told the airmen he had allocated enough money to keep the F-22 production lines open so the next administration could make its decision. He did not know at the time that he would be part of that decision-making process. Davis told the Brooking Institution audience yesterday, “support from all three services has never been stronger” for the F-35 program. The Marine Corps, slated to receive the “B” variant that has a vertical-lift capability, has been “the most vocal, avid and fervent customer,” Davis said. The Marine Corps leadership expects the F-35 to become “the most effective air platform they have ever had,” he said. “Looking at their history of how they have used airplanes, that is quite a bold statement.” Similarly, the Navy, to receive the aircraft’s “C” variant designed for carrier launches, “has never been more supportive of the program,” Davis said. He noted that the Navy has been “fighting aggressively” to keep its aircraft carriers fully outfitted. In addition, the Air Force recognizes the need for a complementary mix of aircraft to meet its mission requirements, he said. Its “A” variant of the F-35 will provide conventional take-off and landing capabilities. Meanwhile, nine partner nations continue to support the program, with other countries considering signing on, too, Davis said. The F-35 program represents the first time in military procurement history that the United States has partnered with another nation to build an aircraft from the ground up. “We believe that the coalition that was put in place when they signed up for this program is probably stronger than ever now,” Davis said. This partnership, he said, brings the concept of coalition integration to a whole new level. In addition to funding and developing the F-35 together, the partners plan to use a single system to sustain it -- sharing spares and repair capabilities to reduce costs. “There is something very unique that Joint Strike Fighter offers that other programs I have seen do not,” he said. The big challenge for now, Davis said, is to take advantage of the latest manufacturing processes to get the production line moving ahead. “Even the manufacturing lines for some of our newest fighters, the F-22, started in the late ‘80s and early '90s,” he said. “We have progressed almost two decades in manufacturing technology, but we have never really tried it out on a full-scale program.”

Dutch Transfer of Two Frigates to Portuguese Navy / Dutch Technical Transfer of Frigates to Portuguese Navy

Dutch Transfer of Two Frigates to Portuguese Navy / Dutch Technical Transfer of Frigates to Portuguese Navy (NSI News Source Info) January 19, 2009: The documents for the transfer of the Dutch frigates to the Portuguese Navy were signed today by the General Directors for Armaments of the Ministry of National Defence of Portugal and of the Netherlands.
On the Portuguese side, the signatory was Vice Admiral Filipe Viergas. This action, an exclusively military procedure, took place in the Netherlands, and was attended by the Portuguese Navy’s Chief of Staff, Admiral Fernando Melo Gomes.
On November 1st 2006, the Portuguese Defense Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira signed a contract for the purchase of the frigates Van Nes and Van Galen. Van Nes (renamed Bartolomeu Dias ) will be transferred to Portugal on December 1, 2008 and Van Galen (renamed Francisco de Almeida) on November 1, 2009. With the latest sale of two M-class frigates to Portugal pushing through, only two of the eight ships will remain with the Dutch Navy.
The official delivery ceremony, as part of the celebrations for Navy Day, will take place in the presence of the Minister of National Defence, Nuno Severiano Teixeira. The commissioning of the two “Bartolomeu Dias”-class frigates is a major milestone in the reinforcement of the Navy’s fleet.
These ships will replace the “Joao Belo”-class frigates that have been in service for about 40 years. The two new ships are fitted with modern technologies for systems automation, and thus require a smaller crew, but will deliver an increase in productivity and in operational availability. They can reach a top speed of 29 knots, and have a range of 5,000 nautical miles.

South Korea: Military on Alert After N.Korean War Threat / South Korean Military Increased Surveillance Of North Korean Activities - Report

South Korea: Military on Alert After N.Korean War Threat / South Korean Military Increased Surveillance Of North Korean Activities - Report (NSI News Source Info) January 19, 2009: The Defense Ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were busy on Saturday after North Korea threatened military action against the South. They put all military forces on increased alert, and Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Tae-young held a video conference with key commanders of the Navy and Air Force in the command in an underground bunker at the ministry. But since there had as of Sunday been no unusual moves by North Korean forces, including in the parts of the West Sea where the North accuses the South of transgressing on its waters, military authorities decided to react calmly, judging that an overreaction is precisely what North Korea is aiming at. They therefore decided not to issue a statement in response to the North's. The same view was the outcome of a meeting chaired by the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security. Immediately after the North Korean Army statement, South Korean military authority increased surveillance of North Korean activities, employing reconnaissance jets and intercepting radio messages. But an insider said there are no signs of military provocation. Nor does the regular winter training in the North seem to have intensified. The South Korean military, however, is preparing for possible incursions across the NLL in the West Sea and could deploy a 5,000-ton destroyer fleet or two express missile fleets in the rear.

How To Start Winning The War In Afghanistan / To Conclude Afghan's War, Two Factors Required - Close Pakistani Border (Taliban Reinforecement) ....

How To Start Winning The War In Afghanistan / To Conclude Afghan's War, Two Factors Required - Close Pakistani Border (Taliban Reinforecement) & Shut Down Opium Trade (Taliban Revenue) (NSI News Source Info) January 19, 2009: In a gunbattle a few days ago, NATO troops killed 12 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan and stopped a would-be suicide bomber. The fight got little attention because, sadly, in Afghanistan this is more or less routine. The Afghan conflict now takes more lives each month than the war in Iraq, and the incoming Obama administration plans to dispatch at least 20,000 additional troops to tackle the growing violence. Many British battalions need bringing up to strength before they can be sent to Afghanistan. Britain has deployed more than 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, making it the second largest contingent in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) after the United States. Nearly 70,000 troops are serving in ISAF helping the Afghan government to fight an insurgency led by the Taliban, who were in power between 1996 and 2001. The US plans to send 20,000 extra forces into southern Afghanistan to help British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers battle militants. Sending more troops, it's patently clear, is a waste of time, money and lives. In fact, sending more troops to Afghanistan will be about as effective as bailing out a boat without plugging the leak. Three difficult problems fuel the war in Afghanistan. The United States and its allies have failed in their efforts to control any of them. How can NATO troops quell an uprising when enemy fighters, suicide bombers, weapons agents and support personnel pour over the border from Pakistan at will, without hindrance, day and night? How can those troops quell an insurgency when the enemy is buying weaponry and enriching himself with drug money as much as $100 million a year from, the United Nations says, the southern areas of Afghanistan he controls. And how can Western forces enlist cooperation from the government it is trying to protect when government leaders are also sucking up money from the opium farmers at such a voracious rate that Afghanistan is now classified as the fifth most corrupt nation on Earth? The obvious answer is that, until these problems are brought under control, the war cannot be won. The Bush administration's strategy for stopping the flow of enemy fighters - paying the Pakistani government to do it - has been an abject failure costing more than $10 billion so far. The weakness of this approach has been apparent for more than two years, and yet the money still flows. President-elect Barack Obama has suggested he will stop the program. In fact, the West has to recognize that Pakistan cannot, will not, ever step up to the plate and take out the militants in the tribal areas. So, what can be done? There's only one answer: Close Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, everywhere but in a few heavily controlled crossing points. That's impossible, right? The 1,500-mile border is rugged, unmarked and in dispute. Closing it would be infinitely harder than controlling the U.S. border with Mexico. All of that is true, but there's one big difference: Afghanistan is a war zone. Declare the border closed, patrol it with helicopter gunships, and shoot anyone who tries to cross. That may not seal the border, but it should significantly slow the flow of militants. Dedicate some of those new American troops to this mission. Pakistan might appreciate it, given the cross-border attack on a military base this week. Now, what about the opium? For years now, Afghanistan has grown enough opium to supply more than 90 percent of the world's market for heroin. All of this has grown up since 2002, just after the U.S. invasion. The year before, paradoxically enough, it was the Taliban who managed to shut down the opium trade by warning farmers that they would face retribution if they did not stop growing opium. In 2001, Afghanistan produced no opium, none. As the size of the crop soared a few years ago, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, told a visiting American official (who then told me) that he planned to appeal to the farmers' better nature and convince them that growing opium was not good for the nation. Well, that didn't work. Two years ago, U.S. officials asked for permission to spray the opium crop with Roundup, a nontoxic herbicide, the same one used to spray coca plants in Colombia. Of course, the Afghan government didn't like this idea, saying it would anger the farmers. More likely it would anger the government officials who sit on fat wallets, enriched by the drug trade. Last year, Karzai formally said no, so NATO dropped the idea. The United States, Afghanistan's patron state, needs to tell Karzai that the price of continued support is the immediate eradication of the opium crops. Sure, the farmers will be angry. But what's worse: enraging some constituents or standing by while these same people hand over $100 million a year to your enemy? The Afghan war is not lost. But turning the conflict around will require tough decisions. Close the Pakistani border. Shut down the opium trade. Let's not spend seven more years pursuing an enhanced version of a strategy that has already failed. Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times.

Israeli Army Chief Can't Afford Failure In Gaza

Israeli Army Chief Can't Afford Failure In Gaza (NSI News Source Info) January 19, 2009: Just before the Gaza operation started, it must have occurred to Israel's top military commander Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi that the last major Israeli attack - in 2006 on Lebanon - didn't end so happily for his predecessor, General Dan Halutz. He resigned five months after the Lebanon War in response to a highly critical report on Israel's military and political leadership. "Israel can't afford to have another debacle like that," says Dutch military historian Martin van Creveld, who lives in Israel. "The last war was almost a catastrophe. But this is being led far better than the last time." (Photo/Image: Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces Gabi Ashkenazi) Impressive career Lieutenant General Ashkenazi (born in 1954) has had a lengthy career in the Israeli army. Starting out as a private in the notorious Golani Brigade, he climbed to the highest military circles. When in 2005 he was passed over for promotion to the top military post, he retired, only to make a comeback finally as Chief of the General Staff in 2007. Mr Van Creveld says the general has an easier job in this war than his predecessor did in the Lebanon War. "Hamas is much weaker than Hizbollah. The terrain is also much more accessible, even though you have to deal with densely populated cities." Hunting One of the objectives of the Lebanon War was to rescue two kidnapped Israeli soldiers (who later proved to be dead), but there is no such aim this time. Even though an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, has been held prisoner in Gaza for nearly a year.Mr Van Creveld thinks that Lieutenant General Ashkenazi will be working on this indirectly. "He'll go Arab hunting here and there. It might later be possible to exchange captured Hamas fighters for Shalit. But the most important aim is to deal Hamas a heavy blow." Reserved Mr Van Creveld thinks that the lieutenant general has no need to fear for his job if this war ends without too many losses on Israel's side, and for the time being Hamas rockets stop falling on Israel. But there's no chance he will gain the status of hero."The Israeli army can't prove itself against a much weaker enemy." This is what Van Creveld said in 2002, and he says it equally applies to this war. Apart from whether the reserved, media-shy general actually aspires to such a status. "That's also one of the lessons from Lebanon. Then all sorts of officers kept chattering to the media. But Ashkenazi keeps a much tighter rein on his subordinates in terms of media policy. He also keeps his cards close to his chest himself." Facebook When this war is over, the attention is more likely to be focused on Israel's political leaders rather than its military chief. In February there are general elections and it will become clear how the war translates in political terms. The consequences for Lieutenant General Ashkenazi are harder to gauge. Although he does have his own page on Facebook. Perhaps in the months after the war it will be possible to see whether his circle of Facebook friends has grown, or whether many prefer not to be associated with him any longer.

Italian Forces RWA (Ready, Willing & Able) To Participate In A Gaza Peace Mission / Italy Considers Participating In A Gaza Peace Mission - Report

Italian Forces RWA (Ready, Willing & Able) To Participate In A Gaza Peace Mission / Italy Considers Participating In A Gaza Peace Mission - Report (NSI News Source Info) ROME - January 19, 2009: Italy's Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said Sunday the government is considering deploying security officers and two ships as part of a possible peace mission in Gaza, ANSA news agency reported. Italy foresees "the possibility of sending two ships as well as a modest contingent of security officers to the Rafah border post" between Egypt and the Gaza Strip where EU forces are already stationed, he said. After a summit of European and Arab leaders in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his country was willing to participate in sea operations to help clamp down on arms smuggling via Gaza's coast, Italian media reported. He also said that Italian forces may be sent to control border posts. On Saturday, Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain pledged their support in letters to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to work to stop weapons smuggling to Gaza. Israel launched a military offensive in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory on Dec. 27 to quash rocket attacks from Gaza into the Jewish state.

DTN News: India MMCA Details Would Be Finalized With MoU During May - Report / Trials Of MMCA Multi-Role Combat Aircraft In April-May

DTN News: India MMCA Details Would Be Finalized With MoU During May - Report / Trials Of MMCA Multi-Role Combat Aircraft In April-May
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - January 19, 2009: The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to conduct trials in April-May of six different medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMCA) being considered for its order of 126 fighters, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said Saturday. 'The technical evaluation of the MMCA is almost complete. Hopefully, field trials should commence by April-May this year,' Major said in his address at the annual Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre Memorial Lecture here. The IAF intends to purchase the combat jets at an estimated cost of $10 billion to replace its ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fleet in phases. Six global aircraft majors submitted their bids in April 2008 for the lucrative order. The bidders are the US aerospace majors Boeing with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockeheed Martin with its F-16, the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale, the Russian MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Mikoyan MiG-35 is a further development of the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-29K/KUB technology. Classified as a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft, the only existing prototype is the third modification of the existing MiG-29M2 airframe which previously served as MiG-29M2 model demonstrator. The MiG-35 is now classed as a medium-weight aircraft because its maximum take-off weight has increased by 30 percent which exceeds its previous criteria of classification. The MiG-35 was officially unveiled when the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergey Ivanov, visited Lukhovitsky Machine Building Plant "MAPO-MIG". Its vastly improved avionics and weapon systems, notably the new AESA rada and the uniquely designed Optical Locator System (OLS), relieves the aircraft from relying on ground-controlled interception (GCI) systems and enables it to conduct independent multi-role missions. The aircraft is being marketed under the designation MiG-35 (single seat) and MiG-35D (dual-seat) for export. MiG Corporation had their first official international MiG-35 presentation during Aero India 2007. The selected bidder will have to re-invest 50 percent of the multi-billion dollar contract in India as part of the offset obligations mandated under the Defence Procurement Policy-2008. The request for proposals (RFP) for the 126 combat jets was floated in August 2007 after the bidders responded to the air force request for information earlier. Major said the present fighter aircraft fleet was being enhanced with the induction of newer and better platforms in face of the depletion due to obsolescence and regular phase out of the ageing aircraft. 'The Jaguars, MiG-27s and MiG 21-BIS have been upgraded with latest avionics and weapons systems. Similarly, the MiG-29 upgrade is underway and the Mirage 2000 upgarde will commence soon. The induction of the Sukhoi fighter (Su-30MKI) has been accelerated with the indigenous version from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) facility at Nashik,' Major pointed out. The air chief also hoped the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme would gain momentum for the initial operational clearance and induction of the aircraft, christened Tejas, into squadron service by 2010-11. In the case of the helicopter fleet, a comprehensive modernisation programme is underway, with the Chetak and Cheeta copters are being replaced with 125 light utility copters being acquired through a global tender. 'The contract for 80 Mi-17 helicopters with advanced glass cockpits has already been signed. They will be inducted in phases from 2010 to 2013. We are processing a proposal to procure 22 attack copters, which will be best in its class. We have signed a contract with HAL for 38 advanced light helicopter (ALH), including 16 armed version with new Shakti engines and glass cockpit,' Major pointed out.

Nato Chief Faults Afghan Leaders / NATO Leader Blasts Afghan Government / Afghanistan Allies 'Equally Responsible For Dire Situation'

Nato Chief Faults Afghan Leaders / NATO Leader Blasts Afghan Government / Afghanistan Allies 'Equally Responsible For Dire Situation' (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - January 19, 2009: NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Jan. 18 denounced Afghanistan's "ineffective" government and said the authorities there were almost as much to blame for the country's plight as the resurgent Taliban. The comments by the NATO secretary general, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post newspaper, was an unusually strong expression of the alliance's dissatisfaction with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (Photo/Image: NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) De Hoop Scheffer did not mention Karzai by name, but his remarks come at a politically sensitive time for the Afghan leader. Karzai is due for re-election this year, and observers believe an open rift with NATO could substantially weaken him ahead of yet-to-be-scheduled polls. Analyzing the situation in the country seven years after the toppling of the Taliban regime, De Hoop Scheffer argued that Afghan and their Western allies "are not where we might have hoped to be by now." While the country's North and West were largely at peace, the South and East were "riven by insurgency, drugs and ineffective government," he wrote. Adopting a harsher tone, the NATO leader went on to insist that "the basic problem in Afghanistan is not too much Taliban; it's too little good governance. "Afghans need a government that deserves their loyalty and trust; when they have it, the oxygen will be sucked away from the insurgency," he added. De Hoop Scheffer said the international community must still step up its support for Afghanistan. "But we have paid enough, in blood and treasure, to demand that the Afghan government take more concrete and vigorous action to root out corruption and increase efficiency, even where that means difficult political choices." Between 60,000 and 70,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, about three-quarters of them under NATO command, to help the government of President Karzai tackle the mounting Taliban-led insurgency. Another 20,000 to 30,000 more U.S. soldiers are due to begin deploying in the coming weeks, as U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make Afghanistan his central front in the war on terror. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force comprises over 51,000 troops from nearly 40 countries. Most of them are deployed in the South and East, where Taliban militants are most active. But as he underscored the importance of Afghanistan for the West, De Hoop Scheffer also hinted that the patience of NATO member-nations might not be limitless. "The populations in countries that have contributed troops to the NATO-led mission are wondering how long this operation must last - and how many young men and women we will lose carrying it out," he wrote. Signs of brewing disaffection between the West and the Karzai government began appearing last June, when The New York Times reported that US officials were growing increasingly frustrated with the current Afghan president. They argued he was not up to addressing Afghanistan's many troubles. The officials expressed particular frustration over his Karzai's refusal to arrest drug lords who are running the country's opium trade. Many international observers believe the Taliban have used this trade to fuel their comeback, according to the report. Hillary Clinton, nominated by Obama to be the next U.S. secretary of state, expressed similar sentiments on Capitol Hill last week. "Afghanistan needs a government more able to take care of its people's needs," she said during her Senate confirmation hearing.