(NSI News Source Info) DUBAI - March 3, 2009: DAE Capital, the aircraft leasing and financial arm of state-owned Dubai Aerospace Enterprises, said on Monday it agreed to dry-lease eight Boeing 737-800s to Garuda Indonesia airline. The short-haul aircraft are due to be delivered by Boeing from June 2009, DAE said in a statement. A dry lease is one without insurance, crew or maintenance. Garuda is one of six government-owned firms which are considering an initial public offering either this year or next year, Indonesia's state enterprises minister said in February. DAE Capital is investing $27 billion in aircraft, including 100 Airbus A320s, A350 XWBs and 100 Boeing 737 aircraft and wide-body planes.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Raytheon Completes Testing Of Advanced Missile Warning Sensor
(NSI News Source Info) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - March 3, 2009: Raytheon Company has completed performance testing of an infrared missile warning sensor that monitors an entire hemisphere from a single telescope. The first-of-its-kind staring sensor, encompassing Raytheon's large-format focal-plane arrays, will be able to detect and track dimmer objects than sensors in current operation, according to Bill Hart, vice president for the company's Space Systems group. "This sensor is important to America's missile-warning capability," Hart said. "A persistent sensor that can cover the entire earth gives us the detection sensitivity and responsiveness our military forces need for time-critical decisions." The test program, conducted at Raytheon's space manufacturing facility in El Segundo, included vibration, electromagnetic interference and thermal vacuum conditions to confirm performance in a simulated space environment. "We've proved we have a design for a sensor with extremely sophisticated technology that is readily qualifiable for space flight," Hart said. "In less than 24 months, a fully flight-qualified sensor could be delivered to the government." The sensor is the central feature of the Third Generation Infrared System, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center and managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate in Albuquerque, N.M. Formerly known as the Risk Reduction Alternative Infrared Satellite System, the program aims to demonstrate that wide-field-of-view sensors can maintain persistent full-earth surveillance for missile warning in a relatively small, low-risk and easily manufactured payload. According to Hart, the sensor represents a major technology advance in comparison with the sensors of the Defense Support Program and the Space-based Infrared System High. Both rely on scanning mechanisms to perform full-earth surveillance of missiles and other infrared targets. The tests indicate the Raytheon sensor, which does not require scanning mechanisms and can easily incorporate advances in focal-plane technology, will outperform the other sensors, Hart said. Raytheon Company, with 2008 sales of $23.2 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 87 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 73,000 people worldwide.
Obama 'Ready To Drop Missile Shield Plans For Russian Help On Iran'
(NSI News Source Info) NEW YORK - March 3, 2009: Washington has told Moscow that Russian help in resolving Iran's nuclear program would make its missile shield plans for Europe unnecessary, a Russian daily said on Monday, citing White House sources. U.S. President Barack Obama made the proposal on Iran in a letter to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, Kommersant said, referring to unidentified U.S. officials.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iran Tuesday to show willingness to "engage meaningfully" with the United States and other countries, but she did not put any conditions for future U.S. talks with Tehran. "There is a clear opportunity for the Iranians[...] to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community," Mrs. Clinton said in her first briefing to reporters at the State Department. President Obama said repeatedly during his election campaign that his administration would talk to Iran without preconditions. In a television interview Monday, he said the United States was prepared to extend its hand to Iran if it "unclenched its fist." "Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them," Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday. Iran's controversial nuclear program was cited by the U.S. as one of the reasons behind its plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. The missile shield has been strongly opposed by Russia, which views it as a threat to its national security. The dispute has strained relations between the former Cold War rivals, already tense over a host of other differences. The leaders have exchanged letters and had a telephone conversation since Obama was sworn into office in January, Kommersant said. The first high-level Russia-U.S. meeting will take place later this week, when Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva. Moscow has not yet responded to the proposal by Obama, the paper said, adding that a decision was unlikely to be made during Lavrov and Clinton's meeting. The issue is likely to be discussed when Obama and Medvedev meet in London on April 2 on the sidelines of the G20 summit of world leaders to address the financial crisis. Earlier reports said Medvedev had also invited the U.S. leader to visit Russia and the date of Obama's first visit to the largest country in the world could be announced in the British capital. In an interview on Sunday with Spanish media, Medvedev said he hoped to discuss the issue of missile defense with Obama in London. He also said he hoped the new U.S. administration would display a "more creative approach" to the issue than its predecessors. "We have received signals from our American colleagues," Medvedev said. "I expect those signals will turn into specific proposals. I hope to discuss the issue, which is extremely important for Europe, with U.S. President Barack Obama." The United States and other Western nations suspect Tehran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity. However, unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has stated a preference for diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on the NBC television channel on Sunday that the Islamic Republic was not close to building a nuclear bomb. "They're not close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time," Gates said. Gates also said that the while more sanctions should be imposed against Iran, the door should not be closed to diplomacy.
Russia Completing Rotation Of Sudan Helicopter Unit - Air Force
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW -March 3, 2009: The second and final group of service personnel from Russia's aviation group will head for Sudan on Monday as part of a UN operation in the region, an Air Force spokesman said. "The military transport Il-76 aircraft will deliver over 40 personnel to Africa," Lt.-Col. Vladimir Drik said. Rotations are held twice a year. The previous rotation took place in August. The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Sudan comprises 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters equipped to UN and international standards. The contingent provides transport services for UN military observers in Sudan, including accompanying freight, and also carries out rescue operations. The first unit of Russian peacekeepers arrived in Sudan in April 2006. They are expected to stay - with regular rotations - for five or six years. The UN Mission in Sudan was established in 2005 to monitor the peace agreement between the government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in southern Sudan, which ended the longest-running civil war in Africa. The UN presence in Sudan has since been expanded to include peacekeeping operations in Darfur. Since 2003, Chad and Sudan have accused each other of inciting conflict on their common border, which is along the west Sudanese region of Darfur. According to international estimates, more than 300,000 people have been killed and around 2.7 million displaced in the ongoing conflict in Darfur.
Russia Reports $27 Billion In Arms Export Orders
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - March 3, 2009: Russian arms export monopoly Rosoboronexport has a portfolio of orders worth a total of $27 billion, the head of the state-run Russian Technology Corporation said on Monday. In an interview with the daily Izvestia, Sergei Chemezov said that the orders would provide domestic defense firms with contracts to keep them going for the next four to five years. He said this factor would have a significant socio-economic effect, since the Russian defense industry currently employs 2.5-3 million workers, or 20% of industry's total. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said last week the country's 2009 arms exports would remain at the previous year's level. The Federal Service for Military Cooperation previously said that arms exports would rise from $8 billion (2008) to $8.5 billion this year. Russia's deputy defense minister previously said that state defense contracts would not be subject to cuts this year despite the ongoing financial crisis. The Defense Ministry will transfer 35% of military contract payments in the first quarter of 2009. The government is to disburse a total of 1.3 trillion rubles ($37 billion) to defense contractors this year. The state arms production budget for 2009-11 has been approved at 4 trillion rubles ($115 billion).
Clinton Pledges $300 Million For Gaza, $600 Million For Palestinian Authority
(NSI News Source Info) SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt – March 2, 2009: Hillary Rodham Clinton, on her first foray into Middle East politics as U.S. secretary of state, arrived at an international donors conference Monday with a U.S. pledge of about $300 million in humanitarian aid for the war-torn Gaza Strip. She also was to announce about $600 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, a U.S. official said Sunday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, looks on as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, delivers a speech during the opening session of the Gaza reconstruction conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Monday, March 2, 2009. Mubarak opened an international donors' conference on reconstructing the war torn area, seeking to raise at least $2.8 billion for Gaza from 80 donor countries and organizations. State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters that she would announce the donations at an international pledging conference at this Red Sea resort. The conference is seeking money for Gaza and the Palestinian economy. Clinton also scheduled one-on-one meetings with several of her Mideast counterparts, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and foreign ministers from Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisa. She also was to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. After the daylong conference she was flying to Jerusalem. Clinton also planned to attend a meeting at Sharm el-Sheik of the so-called Quartet of international mediating nations — the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — seeking to forge progress toward peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Obama administration officials had indicated last week that the U.S. was preparing to pledge $900 million in assistance for Gaza, but Wood's description of the plan Sunday indicated that the only portion going directly to Gaza was $300 million. Wood said that while all of the money is subject to approval by Congress, the intent is to provide about $200 million to help the Palestinian Authority shore up a budget shortfall and another $400 million to assist Palestinian institutional reforms and economic development. Wood said some of the $400 million might wind up aiding Gaza, but he said that would depend on the Palestinian Authority. The key, Wood said, is that none of the money is to benefit Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza and does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Some portion of the $900 million total U.S. pledge had already been budgeted for 2009, Wood said, adding that he could not immediately provide a breakdown. Getting U.S. humanitarian aid quickly to Gaza is complicated by the U.S. refusal to funnel it through the Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. Wood said the U.S. aid that does not go directly to the Palestinian Authority would be funneled to Gaza through international organizations and agencies. On her trip, Clinton also carried hopes of finding a path toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace and a strengthening of the shaky cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. After consulting with Israeli officials on Tuesday she was to meet with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Donors at the Sharm el-Sheik conference will be asked to fund a $2.8 billion reconstruction and recovery plan put together by Abbas' prime minister, Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected economist. Hamas was not invited. Fayyad wants most of the money funneled through his West Bank-based government. He already administers huge sums of foreign aid — $7.7 billion for 2008-2010 — and has been sending $120 million to Gaza each month for welfare and salaries of Abbas' former civil servants. Other aid, such as for rebuilding homes, would go directly to the bank accounts of Gazans. Hamas prepared its own 86-page Gaza reconstruction plan and sent copies to the Arab League. But even if bypassed by the donors, as is likely, Hamas would benefit from any aid that eases pressure on it to help the needy. Israel's offensive to halt Hamas rocket fire from Gaza ended with a cease-fire Jan. 18.
Czechs Agree To Buy 107 Steyr APCs For CZK 14 Bln
(NSI News Source Info) PRAGUE - March 2, 2009: The Czech government agreed to buy 107 armoured personnel carriers from Austria's Steyr, a unit of General Dynamics, for around 14 billion Czech crowns ($620.3 million), Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Monday. In November 2007, Steyr announced that the first 17 vehicles were ready for delivery. The Czech government subsequently cancelled the contract for the vehicles in December 2007. However, in January 2008, the Czech government stated that the contract may be renegotiated, possibly for a smaller number of vehicles. In March 2008, it was announced that 107 vehicles would be procured. The deal is far less than an originally planned order of up to 234 Pandur carriers in a $1.4 billion deal the Czechs scrapped in December 2007 due to what it said were late deliveries and technical failures. Topolanek said the government had agreed the deal and had given the finance ministry a green light to sign a contract with Steyr.
MRAP's Pro & Con, Armored Fighting Vehicle Designed To Survive IED Attacks And Ambushes, Driving Is Not Cosy And Comfy
MRAP's Pro & Con, Armored Fighting Vehicle Designed To Survive IED Attacks And Ambushes, Driving Is Not Cosy And Comfy
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: As more units get MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles, there has been a growing demand from users to fix the annoying, and sometimes dangerous, quirks and flaws. Over 10,000 MRAPs are in use, mostly in Iraq. But most of the new ones are now going to Afghanistan. The number of troops complaining grows daily. The list of problems is large, and include poor off-road performance, difficulty maneuvering along narrow village and city streets, high fuel consumption, too high (exposing turret gunners getting snagged by wires, often electrical ones, and more prone to tip over), and poor internal design (for example, the drivers seat is too cramped for a soldier wearing armor). On the plus side there are fewer casualties, and higher morale as a result. Troops go into harms way with more confidence, and are more effective as a result. Fixing the shortcomings of these vehicles is difficult. Their height, weight, large size and high fuel consumption are essential in protecting passengers from bombs and mines. Problems with the internal layout can be fixed, and largely have been. Maneuverability problems are addressed somewhat by better driver training. Commanders of units equipped with MRAPs are being taught the best tactics and techniques (based on a growing body of user experience) to get the most out of these vehicles. Smaller MRAPs, that are better off the road, less liable to tip over and easier to take through narrow village roads, are being sent to Afghanistan. The wire problem was fixed by putting plastic pipe, at an angle, in front, to deal with the wire. Another solution is to use a gun turret that is controlled from inside the vehicle. Even before 2007, there were already over two thousand of these vehicles in use, mainly by bomb disposal troops, and units operating in areas almost certain to have lots of roadside bombs. People in these vehicles were much less likely to be killed or injured if they encountered a roadside bomb.
Thus, the thinking went, if all the troops who encountered these bombs were in a MRAP, casualties would be about 65 percent less. In 2006-7, about two-thirds of all casualties in Iraq were from roadside bombs. Thus the army and marines used these vehicles in areas most likely to have bombs, and reduced overall casualties by about a third. MRAPs cost about five times more than armored hummers or trucks. These vehicles are more expensive to operate, and less flexible than the hummer. MRAPs use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The bulletproof MRAPs are built using construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success.
The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans. One of the most common of these MRAPs are called Cougars. Basically, the Cougar is a 12 ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs and mines, and comes in two basic versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one can carry 16. The trucks cost about $730,000 each, fully equipped. MRAPs are also being supplied by other manufacturers, but their designs are very similar to the Cougar. MRAPs are more expensive to maintain and operate than the hummer.
And the large number of roadside bombs are a situation unique to Iraq. Once American forces are out of Iraq, the military would not need all these MRAPs. But vehicles like the Cougar are popular with many NGOs, and nations that have problems with rebel movements. So the U.S. could sell most of them, at used vehicle prices, to those buyers.
Otherwise, they could have to be put in storage, because the higher operating costs, compared to hummers, would make for a highly embarrassing issue in the mass media.
Czechs Eye Land Rovers, Pandurs To Upgrade Army / Czech Republic Eager To Buy More Land Rover Vehicles For Foreign Missions
Czechs Eye Land Rovers, Pandurs To Upgrade Army / Czech Republic Eager To Buy More Land Rover Vehicles For Foreign Missions
(NSI News Source Info) PRAGUE - March 2, 2009: According to Defense Ministry sources, the Czech military is interesting in buying a new batch of 79 Land Rover Defender off-road utility vehicles for use in foreign missions by the end of November 2009. The purchase has been given an early estimate of CZK384 million ($17.29 million).Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used extensively by many of the world's military forces, including the US in some limited capacity, following experience with the vehicle during the first Gulf War, where US forces found the British Army's vehicles to be more capable and better suited to operation in urban areas and for air-lifting than the Humvee. The British Army has used Land Rovers since the 1950s, as have many countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. The British Army replaced its Series III fleet with One Tens in 1985, with a smaller fleet of Nineties following in 1986. Both used the 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated diesel engine. These older vehicles are reaching the end of their service lives, with many being sold onto the civilian market from the late 1990s.
The vehicles would then be used by the Czech rapid-deployment unit in its NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan, as well as by the joint Czech-Slovak EU battlegroup being formed. Saddled with old Soviet- and Warsaw Pact-legacy material following independence and undertaking military missions in Afghanistan, the Czech Ministry of Defense has been making its strongest procurement pushes in the area of armored vehicles.
While the Czech Special Forces have previously purchased Land Rover Defenders that have been used to replace older off-road Russian-legacy vehicles since the 1990s, experiences in Afghanistan have also forced the Defense Ministry to purchase American Humvees, IVECO 4x4 LMVs, and Dingo II armored personnel carriers. The latter two vehicles were purchased last fall through UOR (urgent operational requirement) contracts.
The Czech Republic is also closing on a final contract with Austrian Steyr for the procurement of 107 Pandur II armored personnel carriers worth CZK12 billion ($540 million). That deal has been on-again, off-again since June 2006 but is finally nearing fruition. Czech industry will benefit, with offsets making up nearly 60 percent of the overall program.
North Korea: US Must Cancel Military Drill With South (NSI News Source Info) SEOUL, South Korea – March 2, 2009: North Korea demanded Monday that the U.S. call off its annual military drill with South Korea, a report said, as rare talks between the North and U.N. forces ended without clear progress on defusing tensions. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the North made the demand during talks with the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the Korean border village of Panmunjom, held for the first time in nearly seven years. It came amid fears the North is gearing up to test-launch a missile believed capable of reaching U.S. territory. Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean military official as saying the North warned the upcoming drill would "further stir up" tensions on the Korean peninsula. The report said the U.N. Command insisted that the exercise — involving 26,000 American troops, an unspecified number of South Korean soldiers and a U.S. aircraft carrier — is purely defensive and not preparation for an invasion as the North claims. North Korea has routinely condemned the regular U.S.-South Korea military drills as preparation for an invasion, although the allies have said they have no intention to attack. Both the U.N. Command and the South Korean Defense Ministry said they couldn't confirm the report. The U.N. Command only said the sides discussed "measures to reduce tension and introduce transparency" and agreed to further meetings during a half-hour of talks. "The UNC welcomed this discussion with North Korea which holds the prospect for building trust and preventing misunderstandings between both sides," the statement quoted the command's chief delegate Maj. Gen. Johnny Weida as saying. Command spokesman Kim Yong-kyu declined to comment whether the potential missile launch was discussed during the talks. North Korea had called for the hastily arranged talks last week, saying it wants to discuss ways to reduce tensions, according to the U.N. Command, which monitors a cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea and the U.N. Command has held 14 rounds of such high-level military talks "when necessary" since 1998, according to command spokesman Kim. Relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point in a decade, with North Korea bristling over South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line policy toward Pyongyang. The tensions have intensified in recent weeks amid reports that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile. Analysts say communist North Korea also wants to capture President Barack Obama's attention at a time when international disarmament talks with the regime remain stalled. The North last week called its impending launch a peaceful bid to push its space program forward by sending a communications satellite into orbit and warned it would "punish" anyone who attempts to disrupt its plans. Neighboring governments believe the satellite claim may be a cover for a missile launch and have warned the regime such a move would invite international sanctions. North Korea, which in 2006 tested a nuclear weapon and unsuccessfully fired a long-range missile, is banned from engaging in any ballistic missile activity under a U.N. Security Council resolution. Obama is dispatching his envoy for North Korea, Stephen W. Bosworth, to Asia this week to discuss the nuclear dispute. Bosworth plans to meet with officials in China, Japan and South Korea, and will consult separately with Russian officials, the State Department said. South Korea on Monday named career diplomat Wi Sung-lac, a former head of the Foreign Ministry's North American affairs bureau, as its new top nuclear envoy. Departing envoy Kim Sook has been appointed deputy head of the country's main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service. The two Koreas remain divided by the world's most heavily fortified border. Although other nations contributed forces during the Korean War, U.S. troops are the only foreign combat forces left on the peninsula. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
New START Treaty Could Be Ready By Yearend - Russian Diplomat
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - March 2, 2009: A new treaty between Russia and the U.S. on the reduction of strategic nuclear arsenals could be prepared by the end of 2009, a senior Russian diplomat has said. "We are certain that with political will, this document could be prepared before the current START expires, that is before December 5 this year," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper published on Monday. The Strategic Arms Reduction (START-1) Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1991 places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side, and limits the number of delivery vehicles, such as bombers, land-based and submarine-based missiles, to 1,600 each. "We would like to take all the best things from the current START treaty, and put this cooperation experience, which proved to be effective, into a new legally binging document," the deputy minister said. Commenting on media reports that the U.S. administration would like the number of nuclear warheads on both sides cut to 1,000, or an 80% reduction, Ryabkov said Russia still had not received any official confirmation about the reduction parameters that Washington is ready to propose. "All I can say is that we have no confirmation about the parameters of the cuts the U.S. is prepared to make, as reported in the world press, in particular by the Times and some other newspapers," he said. "We think that Washington is reviewing its policy in these areas and will make decisions, including on the future reduction parameters, while conducting the review," he added.
Russia Plans To Rotate Warships Off Somali Coast - Navy
(NSI News Source Info) VLADIVISTOK - March 2, 2009: The Admiral Panteleyev destroyer will replace the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer on an anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast, a spokesman for Russia's Pacific Fleet said on Monday. "The Admiral Panteleyev will leave its main base in Vladivostok in April and head for the Somali coast to take part in the international operation to fight piracy in the region," the spokesman said. Russia's Admiral Vinogradov destroyer has been involved in the anti-piracy mission around the Horn of Africa since the beginning of January and will leave the area in the near future, he added. Both warships are Udaloy class missile destroyers, armed with anti-ship missiles, 30-mm and 100-mm guns, and Ka-27 Helix helicopters. According to the UN, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million. Around 20 warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries, including Russia, India, the United States, China and Arab states are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia, which has been ravaged by years of civil war. Somalia's new unity government plans to tackle the problem of piracy by creating a maritime corridor through the country's territorial waters with international assistance.
DTN News: Nuclear Weapons No Longer Serve A Military Purpose
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - March 2, 2009: Two modern dinosaurs flirted with catastrophe last month – nuclear submarines each armed with 16 ballistic missiles THE child in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes told it like he saw it, leaving the surrounding adults to address the consequences. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks with officers near RS-12M Topol ballistic missiles at the Plesetsk space lunch pad. Russia fired three long-range missiles on October 12 and pronounced its nuclear deterrent strong in an extraordinary show of force experts said had not been seen anywhere since the days of the Cold War. Two of the missiles were fired from nuclear submarines in the Asian and European extremes of the sprawling country while a third was watched by Medvedev on land in northwest Russia. It was the second Russian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in as many days and the latest in a series of high-profile military exercises of conventional land, sea and air forces as well as strategic nuclear units. Since we adults know that recognising an uncomfortable reality obliges us to do something about it, we often prefer to avert our eyes. Our current empirical need to pledge and spend incalculable trillions to transform our economies and save our planet denies us, however, the luxury of such selective myopia. Dinosaurs were the dominant species on our planet for over 160 million years. When the environment radically changed 65 million years ago, they perished because they had become over-specialised. Two modern dinosaurs flirted with catastrophe, if not extinction, in early February. Responsibility for the over-specialisation of HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant lies not with natural selection, but with deliberate and massive human investment. These two mastodons are not sleek submarines as we might imagine them. They are about half as long again as a rugby pitch, weigh 15,000 tonnes, and carry over 100 crew members each. Nuclear-powered, both have as main armament 16 ballistic missiles with a yield of some 220 kilotons, or 11 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. France and the UK each possess four of these ballistic missile-launching submarines, one of which is always on patrol. They are “Doomsday” weapons, designed to slip undetectably through the oceans. According to the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) logic of nuclear warfare, they would fire their missiles long after Paris and London had been reduced to rubble. Being “undetectable”, they cannot be eliminated and thus act as a deterrent to potential assailants. They cost around €2 billion each to build and equip, and millions more each year to operate. Silence is their primary defence and billions have been spent coating their hulls with anechoic materials, and making their reactors, turbines and pumps as noiseless as possible. Missile submarines rarely use active sonar as it is relatively easy to locate the origin of its sound pulses. They rely on passive sonar, or inordinately expensive underwater microphones, to listen out for others’ sounds. HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant are, dinosaur-like, so successfully over-specialised in silent slinking that neither heard the other – until they collided in the Bay of Biscay. Damaged, they both limped home to their respective bases for expensive repairs. The incident would almost be funny, in a Martin McDonagh form of black humour, were the potential consequences not so lethal. Consequences which might arguably fall within acceptable norms if these boats and their thermonuclear missiles served some military purpose. It has, however, been many years since nuclear weapons served any military purpose. A convincing argument can be made that their effective lifespan was a mere four years. The USA detonated the world’s first atomic bomb in 1945, and held a planetary nuclear monopoly until the USSR’s first nuclear test in 1949. A global arms race ensued, reaching its deadly climax in 1986 by which time over 70,000 nuclear warheads had been built. It was a race involving arms whose only military purpose was to deter the other side from using theirs. Some of the world’s best scientific, military and political brains spent decades failing to develop usable strategies for nuclear weapons. As early as 1954, Winston Churchill warned: “If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.” Ignore, for a moment, ethical questions about the only true weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capable of eliminating life as we know it, for, despite all the propaganda hype, chemical and biological weapons never really made the WMD grade. Nuclear weapons have been militarily useless since at least the 1950s. Their current budgetary impact is to drain resources from vital security and other requirements. They have become status symbols rather than weapons. The main nuclear powers are rather like a redundant business executive who spends what little income he has on polishing the Ferrari outside his house. Two years ago such renowned peaceniks as former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former secretary of defence William Perry and the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn published an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for the end of nuclear weapons. Mikhail Gorbachev agreed: “It is becoming clearer that nuclear weapons are no longer a means of achieving security.” UK foreign secretary in June 2007, Margaret Beckett, added that “a vision, a scenario, for a world free of nuclear weapons” was required. As a candidate Barack Obama pledged to “make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of US nuclear policy”. As president he told the US Congress last week that “living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger” while undertaking to “reform our defence budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use”.:
Gates: US military Can Help Mexico In Drug Fight
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 2, 2009: The U.S. military is in a better position to provide Mexico's military with training, resources and intelligence as its southern neighbor battles deadly drug cartels, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year. In 2008 the toll doubled from the previous year to 6,290. Both the U.S. and Canada have warned that murders related to drug activity in certain parts of Mexico, particularly along the border with the U.S., raised the level of risk in visiting the country. A suspected member of a crime gang, right, allegedly extorting, kidnapping and drug trafficking in the outskirts of Mexico's capital, is taken off a police vehicle to be shown to the press in Mexico City. Drug cartels that have waged bloody turf battles across northern and western Mexico have now brought their fight to the outskirts of Mexico City, federal police said Thursday in announcing the arrest of 10 members of a heavily-armed hit squad. "I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans more than we have in the past. Some of the old biases against cooperation with our — between our militaries and so on, I think, are being set aside," Gates said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It clearly is a serious problem," he said. Gates praised Mexican President Felipe Calderon for taking on the cartels and sending the Mexican army into the fight. "What I think people need to point out is the courage that Calderon has shown in taking this on, because one of the reasons it's gotten as bad as it has is because his predecessors basically refused to do that," he said. President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said Obama and Calderon agreed to work together to stabilize the border when they met shortly before Obama's inauguration. Calderon was the first foreign leader Obama met as president-elect. A U.S. report has found that weapons in the drug killings are coming from north of the border. Mexican authorities are outgunned by the drug cartels because the criminals are receiving their high-powered arms from the United States, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. Emanuel said the two nations have a mutual interest in securing their common border. "They want to clearly stop the guns from the United States going south. We want to stop the drugs coming north," Emanuel said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "That border is important to us and Mexico is a key ally of ours." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress last week that the drug-related violence in Mexico was a top priority and that she was working with other U.S. agencies to end weapons trafficking and to support the Mexican government. More than 700 suspects have been arrested as part of a wide-ranging crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating inside the United States, the Justice Department said last week.
Algeria Cites Gains In War On Terror
(NSI News Source Info) ALGIERS - March 2, 2009: Security forces have killed 120 militants linked to Al Qaeda in Algeria over the past six months and arrested 322, the government said yesterday. Speaking at a police academy diploma ceremony in the capital, Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni attributed the results to increased security efforts in the North African country since August, when Al Qaeda's local offshoot claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings that left more than 100 people dead. An Algerian policeman and a bomb disposal expert walk around the site of a bomb attack which took place in front of a hotel in the town of Bouira, in eastern Algeria. Two car bomb attacks in eastern Algeria killed at least 11 people, state radio reported with the country still in shock from a suicide bomber who killed 43 people a day earlier. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but an Al-Qaeda group has staged several attacks in Algeria over the past year and has been involved in clashes with government forces in the oil and gas-rich state. Zerhouni said another 22 militants gave themselves up, and 150 weapons have been seized. Those in custody include some high-ranking militant chiefs, such as Ali Bentouati - a senior "emir," or commander, for central Algeria. He surrendered to police in January. The minister said police, paramilitary, intelligence, and military forces worked together to fend off a resurgent Islamist militancy in Algeria. The security sweeps are mainly due to "a better penetration of terror support networks and terrorist groups," Zerhouni was quoted as saying by APS, the state news agency. "This is the proof of evolving intelligence techniques." He also said enhanced collaboration with former militants, who are offered amnesty if they turn themselves in, was bearing fruit. Some 2,000 militants have surrendered since 2005, when the program began. The local branch of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for nine attacks in February that it said killed or wounded 47 people, mainly security forces. Authorities and Algerian media have reported a lower toll.
U.S. Pairs B-2 Bombers, F-22s In Guam For First Time
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: The United States has begun operating two types of radar-evading aircraft, a bomber and a fighter, for the first time together in the Pacific, the head of U.S. air forces in the region said on Friday. The pairing of advanced B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters in the region follows what the United States and its allies suspect are preparations by North Korea to test fire a long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of striking U.S. soil. USAF B-2 Spirit: The cost of each air vehicle averaged US$737 million per plane in 1997 dollars. Total procurement costs averaged US$929 million per plane, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost, which includes development, engineering, and testing, averaged US$2.1 billion per aircraft in 1997 dollars. North Korea said on Tuesday it planned to launch a satellite on a rocket as a part of a peaceful space program. Air Force General Howie Chandler, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said the deployment was not designed to deliver a political message. But the move showcases an element of advanced U.S. military power in the Pacific at a time of tension over North Korea. Chandler said the B-2s had been sent as part of a rotational bomber presence operating from Guam's Andersen Air Force Base since 2004. The F-22s were brought from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to take advantage of better winter flying weather, he added. "So the opportunity to deploy them both together came together for us," he said in a brief interview at a symposium on air warfare hosted by the U.S. Air Force Association in Orlando, Florida. "And it's a good opportunity for them to train together." Guam is a U.S. territory about 3,400 miles southwest of Hawaii. Its Andersen Air Force Base is a major operational hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific. Four Northrop Grumman Corp B-2 bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri replaced a rotational B-52 bomber unit on February 25 on Guam, said Colonel Donald Langley, a spokesman for Chandler, who is headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. A typical bomber rotation lasts four months, he said. "It just so happens that this is the first time" such a presence overlapped with the F-22s, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. Lockheed Martin has said it would start closing down the F-22 production line next week unless President Barack Obama opts to buy more than the 183 aircraft now on order.
Afghan National Army (ANA) Are Improving Ability To Respond To Enemy Activities Through Joint Military Exercise With U.S. Army
Afghan National Army (ANA) Are Improving Ability To Respond To Enemy Activities Through Joint Military Exercise With U.S. Army
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: Members of the U.S. Army 1-6 Field Artillery division conduct a joint military exercise with the Afghan National Army February 23, 2009 in Mangow in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. As the security situation continues to challenge coalition forces, President Obama is sending an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, adding to the 36,000 Americans currently in Afghanistan.
U.S. Soldiers On R&R To Germany With Stopover At Kyrgyzstan
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: US soldiers arrived from Afghanistan stand near a plane at the US airbase 30 km outside Bishkek in Manas on February 26, 2009. The soldiers who had been serving with ISAF forces in Afghanistan made a layover on their way to Germany. The United States is still holding out hope for a deal with Kyrgyzstan to avoid the closure of the US military supply base there for Afghanistan even after the Kyrgyz president formalised the shutdown.
Missile Defense In India
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: A few weeks ago, Indian officials held preliminary talks with the United States about purchasing a missile defense shield from it. "India is a partner of ours, and we want to provide it with whatever it needs to protect itself," a U.S. official told the Financial Times. Already, Indian officials and scientists have witnessed some simulations of the U.S. missile defense system, along with a couple of live tests. Washington even has offered to sell the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system to India. Article Highlights *Recently, Indian officials approached the United States about purchasing a missile defense shield. *New Delhi's once casual interest in missile defense has intensified as its regional threats have increased. *The United States believes that a strong New Delhi can help protect U.S. assets in South Asia and counterbalance China. A few weeks ago, Indian officials held preliminary talks with the United States about purchasing a missile defense shield from it. "India is a partner of ours, and we want to provide it with whatever it needs to protect itself," a U.S. official told the Financial Times. Already, Indian officials and scientists have witnessed some simulations of the U.S. missile defense system, along with a couple of live tests. Washington even has offered to sell the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system to India. India's interest in strategic missile defense dates back to 1983 when New Delhi initiated an "Integrated Missile Development Program." The program included not only offensive missiles such as the nuclear-capable Prithvi and Agni, but also the Akash, a surface-to-air missile that had the potential to provide India with theater missile defense capabilities. Later in the 1990s, India's Defence Research & Development Organization and the country's military discussed initiating conceptual missile defense studies. Around the same time, the Indian military had a few conversations with Israel and Russia about how they could help New Delhi advance its air defense systems. Although such talk clearly demonstrated an Indian interest in missile defense, it was confined to professional military officers and low-level bureaucrats. The interest of India's elected leadership intensified a few years later, their support growing for a variety of reasons. First, 9/11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan turned Pakistan into a U.S. ally, triggering speculation that the Pakistani government might be overturned by anti-American Islamic fundamentalists who would then control Islamabad's nuclear arsenal. And if Pakistani nuclear weapons fell into such hands, India feared it might be the first target. Secondly, some in India believe that a domestic missile defense capability might be able to check Pakistan more generally. Ever since Islamabad obtained nuclear weapons, it has emboldened its strategy of supporting insurgencies within India to settle outstanding political differences--i.e., Kashmir. Missile defense, the argument goes, would prove instrumental in providing New Delhi reassurance and protection since Pakistan's nuclear weapons could be countered both offensively and defensively. Finally, few countries in the world face the missile threats that India does. Of course, there's Pakistan and its Ghauri and Shaheen missile series--both of which possess ranges longer than 1,000 kilometers. But there's also nearby China, a fellow nuclear-armed state equipped with DF-21 missiles that can travel more than 2,000 kilometers. So it's no surprise that the upper-echelons of the Indian government have begun to show significant interest in defense technologies that can, at least theoretically, combat such threats. A ballistic missile flight from Sargodha, Pakistan, could reach New Delhi in about 5-7 minutes. As such, Indian missile defense proponents envision the system working as follows: A technically complex and vast constellation of early warning sensors would detect the missile immediately after it is launched. This part of the system is already more or less in place; the Green Pine radar, which India purchased from Israel around 2002 and is situated about 200 kilometers north of New Delhi, can detect a missile 90 seconds after it has been launched--at least on a preliminary basis. The next step is to determine whether the signal picked up by the radar is that of an incoming missile or a false alarm. Complicating matters is that India and Pakistan share a border, making for shorter ballistic missile flights. For example, the estimated total missile flight times are 8-13 minutes for ranges of 600-2,000 kilometers. The flight times can be even less if the missile is flown in a depressed trajectory. Such a short time period places stringent conditions on procedures for evaluating and verifying warnings. There would be no time to consult or deliberate after receiving this warning. In other words, any response would have to be predetermined, presenting a significant likelihood of accidental nuclear war from false alarms. Oddly, despite such potentially catastrophic consequences, in India the debate about missile defense has become a debate about India's burgeoning ties with Washington as a part of New Delhi's "Next Steps in Security Partnership"--a 2002 diplomatic initiative between the United States and India to expand their cooperation in civilian nuclear activities and civilian space programs, along with broadening their dialogue on missile defense to promote nonproliferation and to ease the transfer of advanced technologies to India. For the United States, missile defense initially was only one aspect of its budding bilateral relationship with New Delhi. But over time missile defense has come to represent something larger in the relationship. Quite simply, it represents Washington's implicit support for India against Pakistan, without, of course, supporting an explicit Indian recourse to offensive military strategies. Along these lines, there's every reason to expect the United States to continue to be supportive of India's emergence as a counterweight to China. Ultimately, technology will decide the operational capability of missile defense in India. But for the time being, it can be assumed that New Delhi's decisions with regard to missile defense are strongly linked to the changing tenor of U.S.-Indian relations.
South Korea Eyes Fighter Jet For Landing Ship
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: South Korea is looking at introducing the U.S. Lockheed Martin-built F-35B fighter variant, to fly from its 14,000-ton Dokdo large-deck landing ship, along with the F-35A air force version, as part of mid- and long-term force improvement plans, a source here said Sunday. The move comes as the country’s arms procurement agency, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), is preparing to open the third-phase F-X fighter acquisition program in the coming years, he said. DAPA said earlier that it would launch the next-phase F-X bid by 2011, with the aim of deploying the planes between 2014 and 2019. In a related event, a group of Pentagon officials gave a briefing on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to DAPA officials in Seoul early last month at the request of the arms agency, said the source. “The agency is conducting preliminary research on the next-phase fighter acquisition program and collecting information about foreign fighters, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” the source told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity. As for the JSF, which is under development, he said, the agency previously focused on the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant for the Air Force but is now thinking also about the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the Marine Corps or Navy. There will be another variant for the Navy, the F-35C, to fly from aircraft carriers. Japan, Israel and Taiwan are reportedly interested in the F-35B version. “The F-35B is a fifth generation fighter that will provide a quantum leap in capability, basing flexibility, and mission execution across the full spectrum of conflict,” a U.S. Marine Corps official said, asking not to be named. South Korea’s Navy launched its first Dokdo Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH 6111) in 2005 and wants to have one more Dokdo-class carriers by 2016. The 199-meter-long, 31-meter-wide vessel is the largest helicopter transporter in Asia and will serve as a light aircraft carrier to orchestrate the Korean Navy’s future strategic mobile squadron. Experts have said when the landing ship is equipped with a ski jump module, vertical or short takeoff and landing aircraft such as the Harrier or the F-35B will be able to be launched from the deck. Observers say the latest move appears to reflect Seoul’s strong interest in the JSF, also known as Lightening II, as a candidate for the upcoming F-X deal, for which Boeing’s F-15K NF III, Saab’s Gripen NG, Eurofighter’s Typhoon and others are also expected to compete. The F-X aims to equip the South Korean Air Force with 120 advanced high-end fighters by 2020 to replace its aging fighter fleet. The U.S. Boeing Company won South Korean orders for batches of 40 and 21 F-15s in two previous deals. Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor is also on the list of candidates, but chances for Seoul to buy the fifth-generation stealth fighter are slim due to financial and legal problems. U.S. technology protection law forbids the export of the world’s most advanced F-22s, whose per-unit cost is some $200 million. In that context, the F-35, with similar capabilities to those of the F-22, has often referred to as a viable candidate. The fifth-generation F-35, fitted with radar-evading stealth technology, is a single-seat, single-engine multi-role fighter jet that can perform close air support, tactical bombing and air defense missions. The price tag for the F-35A is about $60 million, while those for the F-35B and F-35C are expected to cost in the upper $80 to $90 million range, respectively, according to Lockheed Martin officials. The F-35B version is slated to enter service first with the U.S. Marines in 2012, followed by the F-35A in 2013 and the F-35C in 2015. The JSF development is being funded by nine major partners, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark. The partners plan to acquire over 3,100 F-35s through 2035, according to reports. Lockheed officials say delivery of the conventional-takeoff-and-landing F-35A for South Korea would begin in 2014 if a contract is signed before 2010.
Australia May Switch Part Of F-18F Order to Growlers / Super Hornets Wired For Future Upgrade
(NSI News Source Info) March 2, 2009: The Rudd Government has invested an initial $35 million to boost the capability of the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets the Howard Government controversially ordered in 2007.In 2008 the Australian Government requested export approval from the US government to purchase up to six EA-18Gs, which would be part of the order for 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. On 27 February 2009, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced that 12 of the 24 Super Hornets on order would wired on the production line for future fit-out as EA-18Gs. The additional wiring would cost $35 million. The final decision on conversion to EA-18Gs, at a cost of $300 million, would be made in 2012.
After an extensive review of the Super Hornet purchase, the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced last year that the Rudd Government was left with little choice but to proceed with the $6.6 billion purchase. Mr Fitzgibbon cited financial penalties and the risk of an air capability gap due to poor long-term planning, as the key reasons.
“Wiring twelve of the Super Hornets as Growlers will give us the opportunity to provide taxpayers with better value for money,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“If finally pursued, the relatively small investment will significantly enhance the Super Hornet’s capability, by giving electronic attack capacity and therefore the ability to nullify the systems of opposing aircraft.
“It will also provide the Super Hornets with counter-terrorism capability through the ability to shut down the ground-based communications and bomb triggering devices of terrorists.”
The $35 million investment has allowed 12 of the 24 Super Hornets for future fit-out while still on the production line, providing significant savings.
The completion of the project will require an additional investment of around $300 million. That final decision will not be required until around 2012. If the Howard Government had taken a more prudent approach in making the Super Hornet decision rather than rushing to fill their impending air combat capability gap, they may have realised that this was a more effective approach to take.
Pakistan Nuclear Weapons A Concern, Says Gates
(News Source Info) March 2, 2009: NBC’s David Gregory probes the severity of the consequences in Pakistan, because it has nuclear weapons.Trucks mounted with Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles at IDEAS 2008 Defense Expo in Karachi, Pakistan they can carry Nuclear weapons to a maximum range of 4000Kms.
According to Gates, it is a concern. “Well, as long as we're in Afghanistan and as long as the Afghan-- government has the support of dozens and dozens of countries who are providing-- military support, civilian support in addition to us-- we are providing a level of stability in-- Afghanistan that at least prevents it from being a safe haven-- from which-- plots against the United States and the Europeans and others can be-- can be put together,” Gates says.
“So that border area, particularly on the Pakistani side is-- is the most worrisome.”
NATO Can't Defeat Afghan Insurgency, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Says
(News Source Info) OTTAWA– March 2, 2009: The United States has to come up with a viable Afghan exit strategy before Canada would consider staying on in the country past 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. In an interview broadcast Sunday with CNN, the Conservative leader sought to lower expectations about prospects for the insurgency-riddled country.Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Feb.3, 2009. He said Canada has had modest success over the course of its eight-year effort, but that any gains were vulnerable if the security situation were to worsen. Yet simply staying the course in Afghanistan is not going to result in an inevitable victory. "My own judgement ... quite frankly is we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency. My reading of Afghan history is that it's probably had an insurgency forever, of some kind," Harper said in the interview, which was recorded last Monday in New York. "What has to happen in Afghanistan is we have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own governance." U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is in the middle of a 60-day strategic review of the international mission, and has sought input from NATO and other allies. A clearer vision on Washington's new direction in the central Asian country is expected to emerge when NATO leaders meet in France next month. Obama is also expected to start tapping other countries to prolong or scale-up their military and development efforts in Afghanistan. "If President Obama wants anybody to do more, I would ask very hard questions about what is the strategy for success and for an eventual departure," Harper said. The Prime Minister challenged the perception that extending Canada's participation in the war would be an unpopular move. "The issue in Canada ... is, I don't think, whether we stay or whether we go. The issue that Canadians ask is are we being successful," he said. "Right now we have made gains. Those gains are not irreversible, so the success has been modest."
Pakistan Cleric Demands Islamic Courts / Cleric Demands Pakistan Launch Islamic Courts Soon
(News Source Info) MINGORA, Pakistan - March 2, 2009: A hard-line cleric sent by Pakistan to talk to the Taliban is demanding the government establish Islamic courts in the troubled Swat Valley by mid-March or risk a wave of protests. The demand Sunday by Sufi Muhammad threatens to undermine a shaky peace process already facing international criticism. Pakistan has promised to impose Islamic law in Swat and surrounding areas. The military and the Taliban militants who control much of the valley have agreed to a cease-fire. But Muhammad says he has yet to see the government take "practical steps" to establish Islamic courts. He gave March 15 as a deadline for the courts to launch. Western countries worry the peace process could make Swat a haven for militants.