by Charles Lemos, Tue Oct 06, 2009 at 08:58:06 PM EDT
ABC News reports that Pentagon is shifting spending from other weapon programs to fast forward the development and procurement of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is a program funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency [DTRA] to develop a 30,000-pound conventional penetrating weapon that will defeat a specialized set of hard and deeply buried targets. The MOP is designed specifically to attack hardened concrete bunkers and tunnel facilities and it is being developed jointly by Boeing and Northrup Grumman.
According to ABC News, the Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds between programs to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer. The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers.
by Charles Lemos, Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 12:04:32 PM EDT
The building of a case more troops for Afghanistan continues to be built unabated by officials of the American national security state. Today it was the turn of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, whose reconfirmation hearing turned into a spirited discussion of US policy in Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee chaired by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan that success in Afghanistan would require more troops and certainly much more time.
Admiral Mullin might have added more money, though perhaps that is an underlying and unspoken assumption. It is, however, dangerous politics to ignore the financial costs of the Afghan War (pdf). The war in Afghanistan has cost US tax-payers $171.7 billion as of year 2008. The cost of the Afghan war this year alone will reach $77.1 billion. Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trilliondollars when future occupation and veterans' benefits are taken into account. Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. This financial aspect of the Afghan war remains largely absent from the debate. The question of whether we can actually afford the massive outlays that the counter-insurgency strategy advocated by the Obama Administration needs to be considered.
The story from the New York Times:
Admiral Mullen said that no specific troop request had yet been received from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
"But I do believe that -- having heard his views and having great confidence in his leadership -- a properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces, and, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance," Admiral Mullen said.
"We will need resources matched to the strategy," he added.
Broad as they were, Admiral Mullen's comments were his most specific to date in a public setting on whether more troops would have to be sent to Afghanistan, and they and seem certain to frame the debate facing the White House, Congress and the nation in coming weeks.
The hearing officially was called to consider Admiral Mullen's nomination to serve a second term as chairman, but it immediately turned into an analysis of the administration's broader policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in particular whether more American combat forces should be sent rapidly or whether it would be wiser to immediately begin shifting the bulk of the fighting to local forces.
A range of officials have said that the White House hopes to have several weeks at least before being faced with dealing with any requests for more forces for Afghanistan -- and the political implications of such a request here at home.
It is to Senator Levin' credit that he is insisting that accelerated efforts to train and equip Afghan security forces should precede any deployment of American troops beyond those already committed by the Obama administration. Nonetheless, it is clear that neither American military leaders nor much of the American political establishment is fully leveling with the American public on the true costs of this war. Each dollar spent on war in Afghanistan is a dollar not spent on human needs here at home. It is time to put country first.
by Charles Lemos, Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 08:35:35 PM EDT
From Dawn of Pakistan:
"According to sources, commanders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the two leading contenders for the chief slot, exchanged hot words at the shura meeting in Sara Rogha over the choosing of a successor to Baitullah.
A shootout followed, leading to the death of Hakeemullah while causing life-threatening injuries to Waliur Rehman."
However, a government official in Peshawar said that both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman had been killed in the clash.
The names of Hakeemullah, Waliur Rehman and 50-year-old Azmatullah Mehsud were shortlisted at a meeting of senior Taliban leaders from the Mehsud tribe, but a decision was put off following differences over who would succeed the slain leader.
There was no independent confirmation of the reported shooting. A Taliban commander denied that any clash had taken place.`There is a serious power struggle going on,' the government official said.
Hakeemullah had replaced Waliur Rehman as commander in Kurram. He belonged to a rival group led by Qari Hussain, widely known as the Ustad-i-Fidayeen (teacher of suicide bombers).
`I think the Haqqanis will now intervene to resolve the leadership dispute,' the official said, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's point man for North and South Waziristan.
If these reports are true, then the Pakistani Taliban seem to be entering a period of fractious infighting. It's clear that the predator drone attacks are having an effect in disrupting the operations of the various Islamist groups operating in Pakistan and are causing dissension in their ranks.
The question still remains can we justify the number of civilian casualties that the reliance on predator drone engenders? While sourcing on civilian deaths is weak and unreliable with the numbers perhaps prone to exaggeration, independent reports suggest that more than 600 civilians are likely to have died from the attacks. That number suggests that for every militant killed, approximately 10 non-combatant civilians have also died. But Abdul Malik Mujahid writing in Truth Out back in May suggests that the civilian to militant kill ratio is on the order of 15 to 1.
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 11:20:39 PM EDT
Secretary of State Clinton in Bangkok resurrected an idea that she originally proposed back during the primaries last year. Then a candidate for President, Mrs. Clinton argued that United States would deal with a nuclear Iran -- by arming its neighbors and extending a "umbrella of deterrence" over the region. In an April 2008 debate, then Senator Clinton said that the United States "should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region."
Recently a number of foreign policy analysts have suggested that Secretary Clinton was a forgotten player in the Obama Administration - some going as far that she had been sidelined completely - but the resurfacing of the defense umbrella idea is the clearest evidence yet that Secretary Clinton is winning policy battles within the Administration.
From the New York Times:
"We will still hold the door open (for talks with Iran) but we also have made it clear that we'll take actions, as I've said time and time again, crippling action, working to upgrade the defense of our partners in the region," she said in a program taped for Thai television during a visit to Bangkok.
"We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment ... that if the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon."
Last week Clinton said Iran's intentions were unclear following June's election there and that Washington's offer of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program was not open-ended.
The former Bush administration refused to engage Iran directly until it had met certain preconditions, including suspending uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.
But President Barack Obama, who took over in January, says that approach failed and Clinton has also said it was a mistake.
Despite the policy shift, Iran has not responded to Obama's overtures and those from other countries seeking to persuade Tehran to give up sensitive nuclear work the West believes is aimed at building a bomb and Iran says is to generate power.
Diplomats suspect Iran is buying time by stalling over getting into any substantive talks.
As James Hoagland noted US defense guarantees would enable "Arab states to forgo developing their own nuclear arsenals, just as the U.S.-Japan bilateral security treaty is intended to keep Japan nuclear-free." Deterrence works. It is a proven concept.
by Charles Lemos, Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 11:01:15 PM EDT
Secretary of State Clinton delivered what had been billed as a major foreign policy address (transcript) on Wednesday at the DC offices of the Council of Foreign Relations. I'm not sure if the speech has a title but if not it will likely go down in the annals of US diplomatic history as the "architecture of global cooperation" speech. The whole speech is worth a read for it lays out quite succinctly the new approach representing a clean break with the unilateralism of the Bush Administration.
The main thesis is:
Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be. It does not make sense to adapt a 19th century concert of powers, or a 20th century balance of power strategy. We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism.
Today, we must acknowledge two inescapable facts that define our world: First, no nation can meet the world's challenges alone. The issues are too complex. Too many players are competing for influence, from rising powers to corporations to criminal cartels; from NGOs to al-Qaida; from state-controlled media to individuals using Twitter.
Second, most nations worry about the same global threats, from non-proliferation to fighting disease to counter-terrorism, but also face very real obstacles - for reasons of history, geography, ideology, and inertia. They face these obstacles and they stand in the way of turning commonality of interest into common action.
So these two facts demand a different global architecture - one in which states have clear incentives to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as strong disincentives to sit on the sidelines or sow discord and division.
So we will exercise American leadership to overcome what foreign policy experts at places like the Council call "collective action problems" and what I call obstacles to cooperation. For just as no nation can meet these challenges alone, no challenge can be met without America.
And here's how we'll do it: We'll work through existing institutions and reform them. But we'll go further. We'll use our power to convene, our ability to connect countries around the world, and sound foreign policy strategies to create partnerships aimed at solving problems. We'll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions.
In short, the goal is build working coalitions to address regional and global problems by engaging states, non-state actors and even individuals in certain cases to focus on cooperation rather than confrontation. The aim is to advance US interests by uniting diverse partners around common concerns and to move the world from a multi-polar orientation to a multi-partner one.