Monday, August 03, 2009

DTN News: Russia ~ Yury Dolgoruky Submarine To Undergo 5-6 Tests Before Commissioning

DTN News: Russia ~ Yury Dolgoruky Submarine To Undergo 5-6 Tests Before Commissioning *Source: DTN News / RIA Novosti (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - August 3, 2009: Russia's newest Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, will undergo up to six more sea trials before being commissioned with the Russian Navy, the Sevmash plant said on Monday. The submarine, which is expected to be armed with the new Bulava sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), successfully completed its first round of sea trials in the White Sea on July 10. "According to our estimates, the submarine still needs at least five or six sea trials before commissioning," said Anastasia Nikitinskaya, a spokesperson for Sevmash plant. The vessel is 170 meters (580 feet) long, has a hull diameter of 13 meters (42 feet), a crew of 107, including 55 officers, a maximum depth of 450 meters (about 1,500 feet) and a submerged speed of about 29 knots. It can carry up to 16 ballistic missiles and torpedoes. The construction cost of the submarine totaled 23 billion rubles (about $713 mln), including 9 billion rubles ($280 mln) for research and development. Two other Borey class nuclear submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, are currently under construction at the Sevmash plant and are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011. Russia is planning to build eight of these submarines by 2015. According to Navy officials, fourth-generation Borey class nuclear-powered submarines will form the core of Russia's fleet of modern strategic submarines, and will be deployed with Russia's Northern and Pacific fleets. However, the commissioning of the submarine could be delayed by setbacks in the development of the troubled Bulava missile, which has suffered six failures in 11 tests. The future development of the Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry officials, who have suggested that all efforts should be focused on the existing Sineva SLBM. But the Russian military has insisted that there is no alternative to the Bulava and pledged to continue testing the missile until it is ready to be put in service with the Navy.

DTN News: Turkmenistan To Order 3 Boeing 737 Jets for $120 Million

DTN News: Turkmenistan To Order 3 Boeing 737 Jets for $120 Million
*Source: DTN News / Reuters
(NSI News Source Info) ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan - August 3, 2009: Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered the state airline to buy three Boeing (BA.N) jets, according to a decree published on Monday. Turkmenistan Airlines is the flag carrier of Turkmenistan. The airline connects its home base of Ashgabat with destinations in Russia, Europe and Asia. All its international flights are operated by Western-trained pilots using two-class configuration Boeing aircraft. The gas-rich Central Asian state will pay a total of $120 million for the Boeing 737-700 planes, the document said. It gave no other details of the deal. Turkmenistan, unlike many other former Soviet states, has used its natural gas export revenues to replace its entire fleet of ageing Russian-made jets with Western-assembled aircraft since gaining independence from Moscow in 1992. (Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov)

DTN News: Pakistan ~ Back To Square One?

DTN News: Pakistan ~ Back To Square One? *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - August 3, 2009: For the past few days, Pakistan has been so concerned about its neighbour to the east that it hasn’t glanced in the other direction to see what’s happening in Afghanistan. Afghan Presidential candidate and current President Hamid Karzai, center, waves to his supporters during his election campaign in Daraye Kaihan, centerl Afghanistan. Up to now, the global conversation about terrorism has emphasised that the key to crushing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is eradicating militant safe havens in Pakistan. However, as Afghanistan gears up for its second-ever presidential election on Aug 20, our government should attempt to reframe this discussion. After all, the ultimate success of our ongoing military operation depends on how things work out across the Durand Line. Without clear thinking on Afghanistan, there is a danger that Pakistan will end up right where it started with regard to militancy. Pakistan currently finds itself with (almost) national consensus against militancy and some understanding at the official level about the importance of sustained involvement — in terms of military presence and economic development — in Fata and Malakand. Across the border, however, there seems to be some confusion about how best to proceed. This year, the US deployed extra military personnel in Afghanistan and plans to have at least 60,000 soldiers on the ground by election day. Overall, too, the US army recently announced that it would temporarily expand by 22,000 troops to accommodate for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, the US Central Command dispatched another dozen drones to Afghanistan with the aim of targeting Taliban militants in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan. At the same time, the governments of the US, UK and Afghanistan are going blue in the face insisting that a political strategy — and not a military surge — is the only thing that can bring peace to Afghanistan. At a recent talk at the Nato headquarters, British foreign secretary David Miliband stressed the need for an ‘inclusive political statement.’ According to his outline, the plan is for the new Afghan government to distinguish between hard-line terrorists who want to wage global jihad and Taliban foot soldiers who want local Islamic rule and can thus be reintegrated into society and invited to join the government. For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is likely to win a second term in office, has long been advocating for talks with the Taliban, and even encouraged militants to vote in the upcoming elections. The new policy to engage with the Taliban is off to a bad start. Recently, the Afghan government struck a ceasefire with Taliban leaders in Badghis. But within hours, clashes erupted as insurgents attacked local police. Since then, reports have also emerged suggesting that the Afghan government ‘bought’ the ceasefire by paying £20,000 to the Taliban leaders. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, the Taliban have called for an election boycott and plan to block all roads and prevent voters from going to polling centres. The fallout of the conflicting efforts in Afghanistan can have a major impact on the precarious struggle against militancy in Pakistan. Firstly, the US army’s military push in the region threatens to drive more Afghan Taliban into Pakistan, particularly during the current lull in fighting to allow for the repatriation of the internally displaced. More problematic is the renewed international excitement about engaging in talks with the Afghan Taliban. A controversy erupted over a CNN interview with military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas when an impression was created that the intelligence maintained links with militant commanders. Not surprisingly, the ISPR denied these claims. This much is true, however, that if the US and Afghan governments want to talk to the Taliban, Pakistan will certainly be involved. And even if we are to believe that the ISI is no longer in touch with the militant leadership, there can be no doubt that multilateral engagement will be just the fillip our agencies need to revive old friendships. Renewed interaction with militant groups in exchange for the US addressing Islamabad’s concerns about India — doesn’t that sound familiar? The Pakistani public should demand that a new security policy in Afghanistan does not cause Pakistan to return to where it started: nurturing militants while maintaining the perception that India poses the greatest threat to our national integrity. On a side note, if the Afghan government succeeds in its goal of having ‘moderate’ Taliban participate in the political process, there is a high likelihood that the hard-line terrorists no one is willing to negotiate with will end up in Pakistan. From here, they may launch attacks against the Taliban-inclusive government in Kabul, since militants are not known to forgive and forget defectors (take the example of Malakand, where local informers and supporters of the government forces have been killed by lingering militants). The return of Afghan militants to our soil would also signal a complete regression of Pakistan’s war against terror. Finally, political developments in Afghanistan will do little to interrupt the flow of terror-financing in Pakistan. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke recently discussed the fact that the majority of funds for terrorism come from the Gulf states. But he also pointed out that about $60-100m from the drug trade are used to finance militant operations in the Pakhtun belt, which includes Pakistan’s tribal and northwest areas. In other words, clamping down on Afghanistan’s drug trade would help choke funding for Pakistani terrorists. But it seems unlikely that the new Afghan government will address the narcotics trade. Many provincial-level politicians in Afghanistan have pointed out that people running for the elections at the local level are backed by drug money. Significantly, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president’s brother, has also been repeatedly accused of drug trafficking, though he denies the charge. Even if Afghanistan’s elected officials are not personally benefiting from the sale of narcotics, they will be hard-pressed to shut down a trade that generates one-third of the country’s gross domestic product. That means terrorists based in Pakistan can count on uninterrupted finances. In this context, our government should take a break from India-related fretting to ensure that elections and post-polling policy in Afghanistan are not detrimental to security and development in Pakistan.

DTN News: UK Faces More Threat From Pakistan Than Helmand

DTN News: UK Faces More Threat From Pakistan Than Helmand
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON, U.K. - August 3, 2009: A House of Commons report published on Sunday concluded that the UK faced more threat from inside Pakistan than from Afghanistan’s Helmand province where, the report asserted, British soldiers were sent on ‘an ill-defined mission undermined by unrealistic planning and lack of manpower’. A view of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and beside it the Big Ben. - File photo The Labour-chaired Commons foreign affairs select committee report raises the alarming spectre of Al Qaeda, ‘which has shifted its focus into Pakistan’. Professor Shaun Gregory, an expert on Pakistan at Bradford University, told the committee that a direct attack on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure could not be ruled out. According to the Observer, MPs concluded that there was now a ‘strong argument to be made’ that the Afghan insurgency was no longer an immediate threat to Britain, adding: ‘That threat in the form of Al Qaeda and international terrorism can be said more properly to emanate from Pakistan’. The report concluded that, while the military campaign in Helmand might be gaining traction, Afghan support for the troops had been damaged by civilian casualties and ‘cultural insensitivity’, and there was no evidence the war on drugs had reduced poppy cultivation. A weak, corrupt police force was driving Afghans back to the Taliban to seek justice, it argued, while cultural assumptions about women were barely changed. The Observer said Whitehall was braced for the publication this month of a review of the Afghanistan campaign by General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US forces there, which was expected to trigger a fresh debate over troop numbers. Some MPs believed parliament might even be recalled from recess to debate Afghanistan. The Foreign Office admitted on Saturday night that the insurgent threat in Helmand was ‘greater than anticipated’, but said the aim of denying Al Qaeda a safe haven remained unchanged. The committee suggested that Whitehall was distracted by Iraq during its planning, made wrong assumptions about Afghan expectations and gave unclear direction to the armed forces. It noted that ‘most analysts believe the initial UK strategy failed primarily because of a lack of manpower and a poor understanding of the local situation’. Meanwhile, a memo from Major Brian Dupree leaked to the newspaper showed that Britain’s war effort in Afghanistan was being hindered by a number of frontline troops ‘too fat to fight’. The Ministry of Defence confirmed that it had directed military chiefs to ensure units were following army fitness policy after concerns were raised over a ‘worrying trend of obesity’.

DTN News: Protestors In Malaysia Are Detained

DTN News: Protestors In Malaysia Are Detained *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - August 3, 2009: Malaysia detained dozens of antigovernment protesters on Sunday, following a massive weekend demonstration in Kuala Lumpur that raised the stakes in a long-running struggle for political power in the country. A demonstrator pleads with riot police during a protest against a law that allows detention without trial on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur. On Saturday, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons during clashes with thousands of demonstrators who were protesting a long-standing law allowing detention without trial. The law -- known as the Internal Security Act -- enables Malaysian authorities to detain indefinitely individuals they consider to be security risks. In the past, al Qaeda-linked terrorists have been held under the provision. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and human-rights activists say the law also is used to stifle dissent in Malaysia, where the National Front coalition has ruled the country without interruption since independence from Britain in 1957. The law represents a "powerful threat to anybody criticizing the government," Mr. Anwar said in a phone interview. Last year, the law was used to detain a blogger, a journalist and members of a Hindu-rights activist group. On Saturday afternoon, as many as 10,000 protesters converged in the center of Malaysia's main city, intending to march to the national palace, where they planned to submit a petition to repeal the security law. Chants of "Reformasi" -- the Malaysian term for political reform -- echoed through the narrow streets of downtown Kuala Lumpur. Police fired tear gas to break up the protesters before the march began. Police used batons to charge into groups of demonstrators, scuffling with many of them before they could deliver the petition. Analysts said the showdown could buoy Mr. Anwar's opposition alliance in its effort to win enough support to form a new government. Some protesters fled to a nearby department store to evade arrest. A number of businesses pulled down their shutters as concerns about violence grew. Witnesses say they saw police dragging detainees into vans, sometimes kicking and screaming. Inspector General of Police Musa Haji Hassan said in a statement Saturday that police arrested 310 protesters because the rally hadn't been granted a permit. The number of detainees was revised up to 438. By late Sunday, 39 protesters remained in custody, an opposition lawyer told the Associated Press. Mr. Anwar, the 61-year-old opposition leader, said the police response to the demonstration indicated that the government is trying to clamp down on growing distrust in the way Malaysia's political leaders use colonial-era laws such as the Internal Security Act. State media reported that Prime Minister Najib Razak said the protesters had been warned not to assemble, and said he had received many complaints about traffic disruptions in the area. Mr. Najib said he would leave it to the police to determine what to do with the people detained during the protest. In the past, he has pledged to consider amending the Internal Security Act. Other government officials and political activists have said the law is needed to combat terrorism and maintain social order in the nation of 27 million, which includes large ethnic-Chinese and -Indian minorities, as well as the majority Muslim Malay population. Political analysts said Saturday's crackdown could give Mr. Anwar and his fragile opposition alliance a boost at a time when Mr. Najib has been gaining public approval. The prime minister's approval rating in a recent opinion poll climbed to 65% in July from 45% in May. James Chin, a political-science professor at the Malaysian campus of Australia's Monash University, said that despite those gains, the rally was intended to "send a strong signal to the rest of the world that nothing has changed in Malaysia" in terms of human rights in recent years.

DTN News: 1 Soldier, 4 Rebels Killed In Indian Kashmir

DTN News: 1 Soldier, 4 Rebels Killed In Indian Kashmir
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - August 3, 2009: A gunbattle between Indian troops and suspected rebels in the forests of Indian Kashmir left one soldier and four rebels dead, an army spokesman said Sunday. Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol in Srinagar, India, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009. A gun battle between Indian troops and suspected rebels in Bangus, a forested area 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Srinagar in Indian Kashmir, left one soldier and four rebels dead, an army spokesman said Sunday. The 10-hour gunbattle ended just before dawn in Bangus, 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of the region's main city, Srinagar, said Lt. Col. J.S. Brar. The area is close to the Line of Control, as the frontier separating the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir is known. The firefight started when an army patrol noticed a suspicious group of men and challenged them. The men opened fire, triggering the gunbattle, Brar said. The fighting follows two shooting attacks by suspected rebels that killed an Indian policeman and critically wounded two paramilitary troops in Srinagar on Saturday. Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region of Kashmir in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over it. More than a dozen guerrilla groups are fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its unification with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since violence began in 1989. No rebel groups immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday's gunbattle. India accuses Pakistan of funding and training the militants in the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir and facilitating their infiltration into the Indian-held side. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.

DTN News: Chinese Police Detain 319 Linked To July Ethnic Rioting

DTN News: Chinese Police Detain 319 Linked To July Ethnic Rioting *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) BEIJING, China - August 3, 2009: Chinese police detained 319 people suspected of involvement in deadly ethnic rioting in northwestern Xinjiang region last month, after a "wanted" list of suspects spurred tip-offs, the official Xinhua news agency said Sunday. Security forces patrol the streets of Urumqi moments before Friday noon prayer, known as Jumu`ah to Muslims, Xinjiang province, China, 17 July 2009. The Public Security Bureau of the regional capital Urumqi made public July 30 a list of names and photos of 15 Uighurs it was seeking for their suspected role in the violence. "When the public security of Urumqi made an announcement... about those suspects who had been detained and those who were still on the 'wanted' list, it aroused the feelings of local residents and they had more initiative in exposing those suspects," Xinhua said. The report, which cited local security officials, didn't give a total for the number of people now being held in connection with the riots. Officials have previously said more than 1,500 had been detained. None has been publicly charged or released. In Xinjiang's worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighur rioters attacked majority Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China in June that left two Uighurs dead. Hans in Urumqi sought revenge two days later. Officials said the violence left 197 dead, mostly Han Chinese.

DTN News: South Africa Army Is 'Unravelling'

DTN News: South Africa Army Is 'Unravelling'
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - August 3, 2009: The SA National Defence Force is in an "appalling" state of readiness. It could not handle much beyond the most trivial crisis, experts and politicians say.
The current commander of the South African Army is Lt. General Solly Shoke. The South African Army is composed of roughly 30 500 regular uniformed personnel, augmented by 4 500 civilians. The rank/age structure of the army that deteriorated desperately during the 1990s is greatly improving through the Military Skills Development (MSDS) voluntary national service system. Through this system, young healthy members are being inducted into the regular and reserve forces every year. Due the restructuring of the Reserves, the exact number of reserves is difficult to ascertain. However Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota in his 2007 budget speech to the National Assembly indicated there currently are roughly 11 000 reserve force members in the army regular reserve. There are several thousand other members in the army territorial reserve (commandos), however these units are being disbanded and the process should be complete by 2009. A budget of approximately R6.8 billion (roughly US$860 million in 2008 exchange rates) was allocated for fiscal year 2008/2009. Included in this amount is payments for new acquisitions. The vast majority of army equipment is nearing the end of its service life, with some items (like the Olifant Main Battle Tank) dating from decades ago. The South African National Defence Force has however started to remedy the situation with the procurement of 264 Patria AMV infantry fighting vehicles under the Hoefyster programme. Other procurements are planned and should follow in line with the guideline document - Army Vision 2020. Most of the post-1994 military involvement of the South African Army has been with peacekeeping operations under United Nations and African Union command in other African countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Despite the purchase of big-ticket items in the controversial arms deal, the defence force is "unravelling" rapidly.
They blame ageing equipment, a skills shortage and the lack of a budget to match the increasing demands being made on the force.
"Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has expressed happiness with the readiness of the defence force," says Jane's Defence Weekly Southern Africa correspondent Helmoed-Romer Heitman.
"The reality is that the state of readiness is appalling: The SANDF is in no way capable of handling anything but the most minor crisis."
Heitman says the present SANDF could not mount an effective intervention to stabilise Zimbabwe or rescue its peacekeeping troops in places such as Darfur.
It would struggle to patrol the Mozambique Channel if piracy moved south and hit our shipping directly.
"It lacks the aircraft and ships to patrol our waters effectively," he says.
It also lacks the troops to take over border security from the police, as Sisulu has suggested it should.
Henri Boshoff of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, a retired officer, agrees the defence force "would struggle to execute some simple operations".
He adds that it cannot even deploy a cohesive battalion but must deploy composite units, because too many of the soldiers are "over-age and medically unfit". And budget cuts have had a severe effect on, for instance, firearms training.
He agrees with retired Brigadier-General George Kruys of the University of Pretoria that a high proportion of vehicles deployed for peace support operations are unserviceable.
"The roots of the problem are multiple," says Heitman. "Most obvious is the mismatch between defence funding and what is demanded of the defence force.
"The SANDF is doing an 18-battalion job with an 11-battalion army. That cannot be sustained."
Professor Renfrew Christie, dean of research at the University of the Western Cape, believes that "the secretariat and the generals have self-censored the requirements of the defence force.
"The result is that the real needs have not been communicated to the Treasury. They should be saying what they really need to do the job."
Another root cause of the problem is "the overdone defence cuts after 1989, which created a massive bow wave of obsolescence that threatens to overwhelm the army in particular", says Heitman.
He also blames the wasted cost of "re-engineering" the defence force according to business principles, which must now be undone.
And he fingers "the unwillingness to enforce discipline or demand integrity, even from senior officers".
The result, says Heitman, is a defence force "that is unravelling, and that will unravel ever more quickly as equipment runs out of useful life, as pilots leave for lack of flying and technical personnel for better salaries, and as experienced officers retire and good junior officers leave in disgust".
But not all the news is bad, he says. SA troops have performed well in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The government's bold decision to deploy troops in Burundi 10 years ago and "the professional conduct of our troops" stabilised the country.
He says emerging young officers and special forces in particular are keen, properly trained and want to do the job professionally.But he warns that the defence force must move quickly to keep them.
Despite the huge controversy around the arms deal, Heitman says "the actual equipment is good, suited to our requirements and was acquired on excellent terms."
The four frigates, in particular, were a stunning bargain compared with what other navies paid for similar ships in the same period."Despite the good news, the defence force "is running on empty".
The government must urgently review what it wants the defence force to do and the force must then set out clearly what it requires to do its job properly.
"The government must either provide adequate funding or cut back the demands it makes of the defence force," says Heitman.
DA shadow minister of defence David Maynier says that if it does not do that, the country will be left with "soldiers without vehicles, ships without sailors, planes without pilots, and military hospitals without doctors".