Tuesday, June 22, 2010

DTN News: 'Angry' Obama Summons McChrystal Over Scathing Interview

DTN News: 'Angry' Obama Summons McChrystal Over Scathing Interview
Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - June 22, 2010: The future of the US military commander in Afghanistan hung in the balance Tuesday over a damaging interview in which he and top aides mocked and criticized the Obama administration. General Stanley McChrystal was summoned to the White House on Wednesday to explain himself as President Barack Obama weighed two difficult options, firing a general at a critical moment or tolerating defiance from a top commander. The unflattering article in Rolling Stone magazine brought to the surface lingering tensions between McChrystal and the White House just as the US deploys 30,000 more troops to the war now in its ninth year. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama was "angry" when he read the article late Monday, and refused to rule out that the commander-in-chief would sack McChrystal for what amounted to insubordination. "General McChrystal has fought bravely on behalf of this country for a long time. Nobody could or should take that away from him, and nobody will," Gibbs said. "But there has clearly been an enormous mistake in judgment to which he's going to have to answer to." After issuing a groveling apology, McChrystal planned to rush back from Kabul to attend in person Wednesday's monthly war briefing -- normally a video-conference that he hooks up to from his Kabul headquarters. "I have recalled General McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a terse statement. "I believe that General McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case." In the profile entitled "The Runaway General," McChrystal aides mock Vice President Jose Biden, call the president's national security adviser "a clown," and say the general was "disappointed" by his first meeting with Obama. McChrystal himself is quoted as saying he felt "betrayed" by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former commander in Afghanistan who raised pointed objections to his onetime subordinate's war strategy. An unnamed McChrystal adviser says in the article that the general came away unimpressed after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago. "It was a 10-minute photo op," the general's adviser says. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was... he didn't seem very engaged." Leaving McChrystal with yet more explaining to do when he meets Obama face-to-face on Wednesday, the article quotes unnamed sources saying he thought the president looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" at an initial meeting with top brass. McChrystal issued a statement late Monday apologizing for his remarks and one of his media officers, a civilian, has already resigned over the episode, but the fallout is unlikely to stop there. "The magnitude and graveness of this mistake are profound," said Gibbs. Three leading hawks in Congress condemned the general's remarks, with Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with independent Joe Lieberman, saying McChrystal's comments were "inconsistent with the traditional relationship between commander-in-chief and the military." But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said the article pointed to personality differences and "do not reflect differences in policy on prosecuting the war." Prompting concerns about strains in civilian-military relations, McChrystal already received a dressing down from Obama last year over his remarks at a London conference in which he appeared to reject Biden's argument in favor of fewer troops in Afghanistan. In the article McChrystal pretended to rehearse an answer to questions referring to the vice president. "'Are you asking about Vice President Biden?' McChrystal says with a laugh. 'Who's that?'" the article quotes him as saying. "'Biden?' suggests a top adviser. 'Did you say: Bite Me?'" In Kabul, Eikenberry said through a spokeswoman that he remains "fully committed" to working with McChrystal, despite the scathing criticism. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also backed McChrystal, with his spokesman saying: "The Rolling Stone article is rather unfortunate, but it is just an article. "We are in the middle of a very real conflict, and the Secretary General has full confidence in General McChrystal as the NATO commander, and in his strategy."

DTN News: What Lies Beneath The South China Sea: Sub Texts

DTN News: What Lies Beneath The South China Sea: Sub Texts
*Southeast Asia's governments, having stocked up on surface weaponry, now want undersea boats
Source: DTN News / Asia Sentinel
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - June 22, 2010: The governments of Southeast Asia, already fertile ground for defence companies, have embarked on a round of buying submarines, the utility, safety and strategic value of which looks doubtful. In fact, they may actually increase tensions in the region as their lurking menace could swiftly turn a naval encounter from an incident into a crisis. Singapore started it in 1995 by buying a surplus Swedish navy boat, with a further three ordered in 1997, perhaps with designs to manufacture them on license rather than for defense. The first was commissioned in mid-2000 and further orders have since been made as the original boats have been retired.
Malaysia ordered two new Scorpene-class submarines from the Franco-Spanish DCNS/ Navantia consortium in 2002, with the first just having arrived in the country this year.
In late 2009 Vietnam ordered six Kilo-class submarines from a Russian yard, with the first delivery due by 2012. The governments of Indonesia and Thailand are also both considering acquiring new submarines.
However, the growing use of unmanned underwater vehicles, in line with the better-known unmanned aerial 'drones,' is eroding the submarines' raison d'être – particularly as defense budgets are squeezed and technology offers less costly but comparable results.
The economic and technical metrics of operating manned submarines make them among the most expensive weapon in any national arsenal. There are no accurate figures tabulating the capital and recurring costs of submarine programs in Singapore, Malaysia and now Vietnam, including bases and crew training. But in order to keep one submarine operational a minimum of two boats, but preferably three, are needed. Each boat requires two full crews – plus support personnel and facilities.
Rough figures for the three navies make acquisition costs alone well in excess of US$3 billion, with combined annual running costs unlikely to fall much below US$1 billion by 2015, to marginally enhance deterrence of an enemy that is unlikely to materialize.
The cost-benefit value of conventional submarines – against the perceived value of boats that carry the nuclear deterrence of major powers - is also questionable. Since the end of World War II, Russia, France, the US, Britain, China and Israel together have lost at least 17 submarines in peacetime accidents. Only two have been recorded as being lost in conflicts. Over the same period just three vessels are acknowledged to have been sunk by submarines – the Indian frigate Khukri during the 1971 war with Pakistan, the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano by a British boat during the 1982 Falklands conflict and the South Korean corvette Cheonan in an attack by a North Korean mini-submarine in 2010.
Even as the Southeast Asians embark on their buying spree, many countries are reducing the size of their submarine fleets - notably Germany - or have scrapped them altogether, like Denmark. Other European powers are set to cancel or delay new building programs based on economic and strategic assessments.
The attraction of submarines to defense planners lies in their stealth, flexibility and deterrence. A conventional diesel-electric submarine armed with torpedoes, mines and anti-ship missiles and equipped with modern air-independent propulsion systems is a formidable weapon that the most advanced navies have to respect.
Their principal weakness is their high acquisition and running cost, the demands placed on an often limited skill base and their vulnerability within confined or shallow waters. These factors have led most Southeast Asian navies to concentrate their resources on developing surface forces rather than invest in submarines that offered doubtful strategic or even tactical benefits. Run silent...
All countries bordering the South China Sea are members of Asean. While many have unresolved maritime boundary or territorial issues with neighbors or Asean partners, the likelihood that any of these disputes would move beyond rhetoric and military posturing is highly improbable.
The threat from external powers seeking to exert influence in the region is a more realistic scenario, with China and the US able to readily deploy naval forces into the region. But it is inconceivable any regional state would seek to challenge either country to a naval encounter. ...but not deep
Further, while large areas of maritime Southeast Asia may offer submarines the security of depth and maneuver room, few of them are near main ports, cities or other natural targets for attack or observation. The region's key straits – Malacca, Sunda, Karimata, Lombok, Makassar, Palawan, Balabac, Mindoro, Balintang and Luzon – are either deep but narrow or broad and shallow. They are also unavoidable and therefore dangerous for submarines to transit in the event of hostilities. At least 33 Allied and Axis submarines were lost in the region's seas and straits during WWII. Of the 52 submarines lost by the US Navy during the war, 25 percent were sunk in the South China Sea and Indonesian archipelago. Most were sunk by mines rather than depth-charge attacks.
Modern anti-submarine technology and weapons have rendered shallow and confined seas exceptionally dangerous. The ability to peer into the depths is forcing submarines into ever deeper waters and reducing their effectiveness in many of their conventional roles. The absence of any clear combat role for the region's submarine forces means they risk being used on operations that can increase tensions among neighbors and notional allies.
For example, protecting sovereignty is far better served by the transparent deployment of surface vessels that can literally fly the flag and negotiate with their opposite numbers – as occurred between Malaysian and Indonesian patrol boats off Sabah in 2005 and 2009 over a contested oil block. The potential presence of submarines on either side would have further increased tensions and added to the likelihood of dangerous misunderstanding.
Intelligence-gathering and surveillance operations by submarines in shallow littoral waters are also diplomatically fraught. The stranding of a then Soviet submarine close to Sweden's Karlskrona naval base in 1981 proved embarrassing – a similar incident in Southeast Asia could create far deeper problems. Conducting such operations also requires a level of skill and experience unlikely to be mastered by local crews for years.
Special forces operations are also unlikely to offer a serious rationale within the ASEAN context. The ability to discreetly damage an opponent's capabilities – such as severing key undersea communications links (a feat achieved by British mini-submarines in July 1945 when they cut the telegraph cables between Saigon and Hong Kong with Japan in order to force Tokyo to issues orders by radio that could intercepted and decoded) – may be useful but it is difficult to imagine a situation within the Southeast Asian context when it could used.
Dive stations
While Singapore's size, wealth and ethnic composition has been employed to engender a national sense of encirclement requiring modern arms to provide 'total' defence, other motives may have also driven the decision to acquire submarines, probably to build them for other people. Singapore's security won't be enhanced markedly by the deployment of submarines – the country's large and highly competent air force can readily deal with any potential incoming threat and the navy's modern surface fleet is capable of keeping any regional opponent at bay. Instead, the acquisition of submarines may fit into the country's industrial strategy of upgrading manufacturing capabilities, particularly in the defence equipment sector.
Singapore's decision to purchase ageing surplus boats from Sweden enabled the navy and the government-controlled Singapore Technologies Engineering to undertake detailed operational and technical studies of them. The skills and knowledge acquired will have been enhanced as newer classes of submarines were ordered. Singapore's shipbuilding industries would be able to build submarines under license within the present decade if the government saw the investment as economically viable.
Malaysia's motive for acquiring submarines is more contentious. The operational rationale for the two Scorpene-class boats is questionable given the difficult operating conditions for submarines in the shallow waters around the Spratlys and off eastern Sabah. Apart from seeking to match Singapore's naval capabilities, the Malaysian position is that the boats will be used to protect the country's contested maritime boundaries and claims. A major naval base has been built at Sepanngar, near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, to support them.
Another explanation is that the two submarines were acquired with public funds in order to facilitate the payment of huge bribes to a close associate of then defence minister and now Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. (see Asia Sentinel: Malaysia's Submarine Scandal Surfaces in France, 16 April 2010).
Vietnam's order for six Kilo-class submarines and fighter aircraft from Russia in late 2009 has been variously interpreted as show of strength against China and a tightening of bonds with Moscow.
Another view is that the leadership in Hanoi, accused of sacrificing Vietnam's long-term economic interests by opening key sectors of the economy to Chinese commercial interests, may be seeking to defend its own position behind the mask of national security. The arms deals, which coincided with the 65th anniversary of the foundation the Vietnam's armed forces and ahead of the 11th Communist Party Congress in 2011, may serve to placate military and nationalist sentiment rather than serve as a realistic deterrent against China's 'hegemonic' ambitions in the South China Sea.
During President Sukarno's turbulent rule, which ended in chaos in 1965, Indonesia received more than 20 submarines from the Soviet Union, far beyond the country's ability to crew or service. Many never put sea and all were scrapped by the early 1970s. Indonesia has operated two German-built Cakra-class submarines since the early 1980s. One was refurbished in 2006, but the hulls are now nearing the end of their operational lives and they have little strategic or tactical value.
The navy has been calling for at least two new boats, but financial constraints and other naval priorities – notably patrol boats able to monitor the country's territorial waters – are likely to ensure any additional acquisitions are stalled by the government.
Thailand acquired four submarines from Japan before the Second World War that remained in service until 1951. The navy has been seeking to revive its submarine force over the past decade, to date without success. This partly reflects the army's strong grip on the budget, and possibly the navy's failure to utilise a Spanish-built aircraft carrier commissioned in 1997 but that has since barely left port.
Thailand also faces the problem of having two coastlines separated by the Malay Peninsula. A decision would have to be taken whether sufficient boats would have to be acquired that could operate in both the Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east, requiring duplicated support bases and associated infrastructure of both coasts. The cost would prohibitive and any military gains, particularly in the Gulf, would be minimal if not negative.
**G.M. Greenwood is an Associate with Allan & Associates, a Hong Kong-based political and security risk consultancy.
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News, contact: dtnnews@ymail.com

DTN News: Former Israeli Top Spy Calls For Strike On Iran

DTN News: Former Israeli Top Spy Calls For Strike On Iran
Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - June 22, 2010: Israel should launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent arch-foe Iran from going nuclear, a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency said on Monday. "I am of the opinion that, since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of pre-emption and not of retaliation," Shabtai Shavit told a conference. Shavit, who served as chief of Israel's foreign spy agency from 1989 to 1996, was speaking at a conference held at the hawkish Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. "To use retaliation as the main strategy means to sit idly and wait until the enemy comes to attack you," a university statement quoted Shavit as saying. "But we are dealing with an enemy that plans all the time and waits for the opportunity to arise in order to attack, so what is the point, even morally, to wait and do something only when we are attacked," he said. Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by the Islamic republic's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state's demise. Along with the West, it suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear programme, a claim Tehran denies. Israel has backed US-led efforts to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability through sanctions, but has also refused to rule out military force. In 1981 Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor and reportedly also attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power generation and medical research and says that the international community should focus its attention on Israel, which, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

DTN News: Russia's 5G Fighter to be '3 Times Cheaper Than Foreign Analogs'

DTN News: Russia's 5G Fighter to be '3 Times Cheaper Than Foreign Analogs'
Source: DTN News / Ria Novosti
(NSI News Source Info) ZHUKOVSKY, Russia - June 22, 2010: Russia's fifth generation fighter will be about three times as cheap as its foreign analog, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. He observed the test flight of a prototype fighter and later talked to the pilot, Sergei Bogdan. "It will be a machine superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in maneuverability, armament and range," Putin said. "Also in morale," the pilot added. "Above all else," Putin said smiling. Bogdan said it was the fighter's 16th test flight and more would follow shortly. The prime minister said 30 billion rubles (around $1 billion) had already been spent on the project and another 30 billion would be required to complete it, after which the engine, weaponry and other components would be upgraded. He said, factoring in modernization and upgrades, the fighter will have a service life of 30-35 years. Russia's only known fifth-generation project is Sukhoi's PAK FA and the current prototype is the T-50. It is designed to compete with the U.S. F-22 Raptor, so far the world's only fifth-generation fighter, and the F-35 Lightning II. Russia has been developing its newest fighter since the 1990s. The country's top military officials earlier said the stealth fighter jet with a range of up to 5,500 km would enter service with the Air Force in 2015. The PAK FA is to be armed with next-generation air-to-air, air-to-surface, and air-to-ship missiles, and has two 30-mm cannons.

DTN News: Three RDF Soldiers Killed In Darfur Ambush

DTN News: Three RDF Soldiers Killed In Darfur Ambush
Source: DTN News / Int'l Media By Edmund Kagire
(NSI News Source Info) DARFUR, Sudan - June 22, 2010: Unidentified gunmen in camouflage Monday morning attacked a group of Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) serving in the African Union-United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) killing three and wounding one. In an interview with The New Times, the UNAMID Force Commander, Lt. Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, confirmed the attack that took place in Nertiti, Western Darfur. "It is true we lost three peacekeepers and one wounded in an indiscriminate attack, but I would like to state that the force won't be deterred or intimidated from carrying out its duty," Nyamvumba said over the phone from Sudan. He said that the wounded peacekeeper was taken to the mission's hospital in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. He added that the attack targeted the 49th Battalion commanded by Col. Callixte Kanimba and that the RDF is yet to inform the next of kin of the unidentified soldiers. According to Nyamvumba, it is too early to pinpoint who the perpetrators of the attack are in the volatile Sudanese region. "The situation is volatile. As I speak, there is an area where tribal crashes are going on. It is very unpredictable," he said. Defence Spokesperson Lt. Col Jill Rutaremara said that the RDF strongly condemned the attack which targeted innocent peacekeepers and civilians. "They were guarding a construction site and our soldiers fought back and killed 3 of the assailants," said Rutaremara. "RDF strongly condemns this barbaric act which targeted innocent peacekeepers and civilians. The assailants will be pursued". It is reported that more than 20 assailants opened fire without warning on the RDF soldiers as they provided security to civilian engineers working near the West Darfur village of Nertiti. The attack occurred slightly over a month after two peacekeepers were slain while conducting a routine patrol in South Darfur, and takes the number of UNAMID peacekeepers who have been murdered in Darfur since the mission began operations in January 2008 to 27. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led UN officials in deploring the attack, saying in a statement issued by his spokesperson that the Sudanese Government must make every effort to apprehend the assailants. "The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the families of the peacekeepers who lost their lives and to the Government of Rwanda and reiterates his appreciation for their service and commitment to the search for peace in Darfur," the statement added. Mohamed B. Yonis, the Deputy Joint Special Representative for UNAMID, voiced outrage at the attack and praised the peacekeepers for their courage. He also said the mission would not be deterred from its work. "Our mission will continue to carry out its mandate, which is to bring peace and security to the people of Darfur," Mr. Yonis said.

DTN News: Pakistan's Taliban Offer Prisoner Swap

DTN News: Pakistan's Taliban Offer Prisoner Swap
Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan- June 22, 2010: Taliban militants in Pakistan's northwest Tuesday offered the government a prisoner swap in return for 33 missing soldiers, threatening to kill the men if the proposal is rebuffed. A Taliban spokesman told AFP that Pakistani authorities should "face the consequences" if they did not agree to the swap, calling for the details to be worked out in talks with tribal elders in Mohmand tribal district. Security officials say 33 soldiers are still missing since the Taliban attacked a checkpost in a remote part of Mohmand along the Afghan border. Six soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies handed over to tribal elders last Thursday, officials said. Another 25 soldiers strayed into Afghanistan after the clashes, but were handed back to Pakistani officials. "Thirty-three soldiers are in our custody. We offer the government to exchange them in return of our colleagues," Qari Ikramullah, a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban in Mohmand, told AFP by telephone. "We are in a state of war, we have no resources to keep them in our prison. The government should accept this offer or face the consequences," he said. "They will have to face death." Major Fazal-ur-Rehman, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, confirmed that 33 soldiers were missing but said authorities had received no offer of a swap with the Taliban. "We have not received any such offer. If we do, then the government will make a decision on the offer," he added. Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups on multiple fronts across its sprawling tribal badlands, which Washington has described as the most dangerous place on Earth. The rugged terrain lying outside direct government control is considered an Al-Qaeda headquarters and stronghold of militants plotting attacks on US-led troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.