Watch the video. It looks like the drop may have been marshaled and launched from a French airfield. pl
Try to restrain your outrage in the interest of humor. pl
DAKAR, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Secular Malian Tuareg MNLA rebels said on Monday they were now in control of the northern town of Kidal after their former Islamist allies abandoned it.
"Now it is us who are in control," Colonel Mohamed Ag Najim, the MNLA's military commander, told Reuters by satellite phone from the northeastern town, which was the last stronghold occupied by al Qaeda-allied Islamist fighters after Gao and Timbuktu were taken by French and Malian troops.
Asked where fighters from the Islamist Ansar Dine group which held the town were, Ag Najim replied: "They are gone". Another MNLA rebel contacted by Reuters gave the same account but there was no immediate independent confirmation.
I expected the MNLA to make their move at some point. I'm quite sure they were none too pleased about being double crossed by the Salafists. Payback time. The MNLA said it is ready to work with French troops and fight terror organizations. However, it said it would refuse to allow Malian soldiers in Kidal and the other towns under its control in northeastern Mali, following allegations that the troops killed civilians suspected of having links to the Islamists. Some reports have said this creates a dilemma for the French. I don't see it that way. The only force capable of going after the Salafists in the mountains of Kidal and northern Mali are the Tuaregs. Unless the French are willing to help, which I don't see happening, the Malian army and the ECOWAS forces cannot beat the Salafists and the secular Tuaregs. It's time for Bamako to choose its enemies.
A few hours ago this report appeared on expatica.com. It seems the French are helping Bamako choose wisely.
French troops have taken up position at the airport in Kidal, local sources said Wednesday, the third major city in northern Mali after Gao and Timbuktu. "A French plane landed on the runway at Kidal aerodrome," said a senior local official, who also reported seeing helicopters. "They have taken up position around the aerodrome," he added.
His account was confirmed by a regional security source. "We confirm that French aircraft are on the Kidal landing strip and that protection helicopters are in the sky," said the source.
A senior Tuareg figure in Kidal also confirmed the report, as did a spokesman for the Islamic Movement of Azawad, which recently said it had taken control of Kidal. "The French have in fact taken up positions" on the landing strip, said the spokesman. "Our leader is currently talking with them," he added.
Ah, système D.
"Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacré Légionnaire!"
"Violence has been ongoing in cities across Egypt since Friday, starting with clashes that broke out on the 25 January anniversary, when mass protests took place denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood's monopolization of power. Nine people were killed, mainly in Suez, where the army has been deployed. The 6 October Bridge was blocked off intermittently Saturday evening and the fighting also reached the Garden City Corniche near the Qasr al-Nil entrance and the Semiramis Hotel, all the way down to Simon Bolivar Square. Tear gas was heavy in the whole area. A security source said that the management of the three nearby hotels -- the Semiramis and Shepherd hotels on one side, as well as the Hilton Ramsis overlooking Abdel Moneim Riad Square -- were asked to close the gates and not allow anyone to enter or exit. A fire that broke out late Saturday at the Lycee School on Sheikh Rihan Street had been contained, the same street where clashes had been taking place throughout the day. A security source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the fire ravaged three classrooms and the school's basement. There were also reports of a fire at the Misr Insurance office in Talaat Harb Square. " Al Ahram on-line
The Semiramis Intercontinental is one of Cairo's finest hotels. I have stayed there many times although I prefer the Marriott out on the Gezira.
The Semiramis was the scene many years ago of a massacre of Swedish tourists by Islamists. They were killed like sheep as they stood in line at the Reception Desk in the ground floor lobby. The hotel put in metal detectors after that.
The new Shepherd's and Ramses Hilton are also five star hotels.
These buildings are all in central Cairo, near Tahrir Square. The Semiramis is two or three blocks from the US Embassy.
These looters do not appear to have been Islamists. They wanted to burglarize the hotel.
The US is the sponsor of Egypt's "democracy."
"The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations," Gen Sisi, who is also Egypt's defence minister, said. He said the economic, political and social challenges facing Egypt represented "a real threat to the security of Egypt and the cohesiveness of the Egyptian state". The military deployment along the Suez Canal was meant only to protect the key shipping route, one of Egypt's main sources of foreign revenue, and described the army as "a pillar of the state's foundations", he added." BBC
In the ME, such a public statement by the Defense Minister of a country is a clear warning to the head of state that the army will intervene politically if unrest does not end.
Mursi has proven ineffective in managing Egypt's internal political processes and seeks to consolidate his hold on power through the use of declarations of martial law and violent police action in the streets.
His secular opponents are unlikely to desist from their own street action against him and the stage looks increasingly set for a coup d'etat, or inkilab askari in Arabic. pl
"More deaths on Monday mean that between 50 and 60 people are now believed to have been killed in violent clashes with security forces since Thursday. Earlier, state news agency Mena reported six deaths in Port Said during daylight hours on Monday, when funerals were held for three people killed on Sunday. After nightfall, groups attacked police stations and one man was killed, according to medical sources." BBC
The US is backing Mursi and the MB. They won an election by a point or two and so America accepts their right to revolutionize Egypt into a Sharia law state. So long as Egypt stays in the treaty with Israel, all is forgiven. The Egyptian generals also want American money so they will stand aside and watch their liberal, secular countrymen be brutalised by the Islamists. pl
"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;" Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of
the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
The framers of the US Constitution were very familiar with the existing militia powers and forces of the 13 states. The colonies north and south had well established militia traditions dating from the 17th Century in which the colonies possessed both organized and unorganized (reserve) militia. The latter consisted of all able bodied men of military age in the colony and later in the state.
Article 1, Section 8 provides for the use of those existing state militias by the federal government as needed. The "Militia Act of 1792" further enabled the federal government to use such militia for security purposes. Such use was accomplished in the northern rebellions faced by President Washington during his administration. There were no analogous rebellions in that period in the southern states.
A number of my ancestors served in the colonial and state militias of Massachusetts, Connecticutt and New Hampshire. Their service is well documented beginning with the Pequot War.
It is now claimed by some that the 2nd Amendment was written into the constitution of the United States to allow Southern citizens to retain their personal firearms in order to suppress the free and slave population of those states. Most northern states allowed slavery at the time of the ratification of the constitution and Bill of Rights. The idea of a standing professional army was abhorrent to the great majority of Americans at that time. That is reflected in the restriction in Article 1, Section 8 that limits any funding for a standing force to two years. The idea was that the militia of the states in the two forms would be the main land defense of the country.
This is the reason why Article 1, Section 8 is concerned with the regulation of that portion of the existing state militias that might be called into federal service for an emergency.
The 2nd Amendment assumes that the state militias exist and this amendment seeks to prevent any further federal legislation that might disarm the citizenry and therefore disarm the unorganized militia which was thought of as a national security reserve.
The legislative history of these two parts of the constitution is clear. The federal government was expressly forbidden to disarm the citizens because their posession of arms was thought important to defense.
Whether or not the states can limit firearms possession is another question. Whether or not the federal government can severely limit the kinds of weapon possessed by the citizens is yet another. The Heller decision makes it clear that SCOTUS thinks there are limits to the extent and "reach" of federal power over citizen ownership of firearms. pl
"French and Malian troops were on Sunday restoring government control over the fabled Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, the latest gain in a fast-moving French-led offensive against al Qaeda-allied fighters occupying northern Mali. The Islamist militant rebels have pulled back northwards to avoid relentless French air strikes that have destroyed their bases, vehicles and weapons, allowing French and Malian troops to advance rapidly with air support and armored vehicles. A Malian military source told Reuters the French and Malian forces reached "the gates of Timbuktu" late on Saturday without meeting resistance from the Islamist insurgents who had held the town since last year. The advancing troops were working on securing the town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and labyrinth of ancient mosques and monuments and mud-brick homes, ready to flush out any Islamist fighters who might still be hiding among the population. " Reuters
This is an example of what professional and skilled troops can do against guerrilas in country as "open" in topography as Mali, Niger, Chad or Libya. The populations in these African countries are small, and the towns are few. This greatly simplifies the task of clearing the handful of towns in the desert. The same sort of speedy result would have been possible against Qathafy's forces if the opposition to him had been other than undisciplined and untrained guerrilas themselves.
It is nevertheless true that the post offensive situation in Mali or any of these places will require a continuing French presence at some level for a long time to prevent the return of the Islamist guerrillas. The Malian Army is no more capable of defeating insurgencies on their territory than are the armies of Iraq or Afghanistan. pl
"French-backed Malian forces have seized control of the airport and a bridge near the city of Gao, an Islamist militant stronghold in the country's north. The French defense ministry said Saturday that fighting continues in the area, where French and Malian forces have advanced rapidly against the rebels. France began a military offensive in Mali three weeks ago, after rebels who seized control of much of the country's north, last year, began pushing toward the capital, Bamako. The rebels have been imposing a strict form of Islamic law on civilians. " VOA
IMO the French/African forces will re-occupy all Mali up to the northern border. This will happen rapidly. After that they will face a campaign of infiltration and guerrilla warfare waged by the Islamists.
That phase of this war will last a long time. The key to success in that longer war will be an alliance with the non-Islamist Touareg forces now in rebellion against the Malian government. There are hopeful signs tht this may be possible.
The price for Bamako would be a large measure of Touareg autonomy.
Something to remember is that the French military is intimately familiar with these desert countries. That is the insignia of the "Regiment de Marche du Tchad," an "Infanterie de la Marine" unit. pl
Non-Solar Images: Astrophotography by John Minnerath, Part 3
A complete run-down. pl
"Results show that support for the joint Likud-Beitenu list of candidates Netanyahu headed has dropped dramatically, from its previous 42 seats to as few as 31. Former TV star Yair Lapid, a newcomer in politics, stole the show. His centrist party Yesh 'Atid (There's a Future) has become the second largest, with 19 seats. Empowered with a strong social program focusing on cheaper housing for young couples, compulsory draft of religious students exempted from serving in the military and, in general, with an uncompromising fight against social inequities, Lapid has suddenly emerged as the kingmaker of any future sustainable coalition. " Asia Times
This is a "game changer." If Bibi finds it necessary to form a coalition with Lapid then his policy towards many things will inevitably be different then it has been. Relations with the US, intentions towards Iran, a totally permissive attitude towards rampant social ineguality; these things will have to change.
Lapid should insist on the Defense Ministry as a prize as the price of his entry into a coalition. Failing that, some other post in the inner securty cabinet should be required. pl
"“We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level,” the statement said, “will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.” As in the past, the statement also suggested North Korea viewed its weapons programs as a “deterrence” against attack. It may prove that the statement was another outburst by an insecure, starving country; North Korea has often threatened to strike the “heart” of the United States, and a popular propaganda poster there shows a missile hitting what looks like Capitol Hill. But the difference now is that the country has just completed a successful long-range rocket test that showed for the first time that its goal of designing a weapon that could hit the United States could be within reach in the next several years." NY Times
North Korea is an obvious menace. Any country that seeks a capability to hit the United States with nuclear weapons must face the consequences of their actions and stated intentions.
A missile launch that carries a warhead that lands near Guam, Hawaii or the West Coast will bring a change in US policy. pl
The business of the ground forces; infantry, armor, Special Forces, attack aviation, and light tube artillery is killing people and destroying things. Nothing should be allowed to obscure that fact. There are many other functions in the Army and USMC that are not directly involved in killing except in self defense. These include the more rarified national level kinds of intelligence work, logistics, medical services and of course all the senior staff work in the Pentagon and other headquarters that so many prefer to grubbing around in the mud and sand.
DoD's new policy of opening all combat arms specialties to women will enable some few future women officers to be four star generals. Women are already three star generals within the existing policy. The price of that fourth star will be incalculable in terms of units that may or may not be as effective, women pushed into roles for which they may not be suitable, physical and mental damage that is not necessary to maintain the capabilities of the force All this is to be done evidently without serious experimentation, "trial runs' on mixed combat units, etc.
Many men now in the combat arms are merely "dressed for the part" and are "carried" by those who are, for good or ill, better able to endure the physical and psychological burden of an occupation that involves killing other human beings en masse, and at the same time existing in the field under conditions of hardship, isolation and filth that often last for long periods of time. Infantrymen only incidentally kill in self defense as police are trained to do. In the infantry and these other direct combat specialties you kill and destroy as your principle function. Are women really suited for such a role?
I have been a combat arms soldier and I have been a combat support soldier. These are very different things. Anyone who thinks that technology or the "evolution of warfare" has changed the essential ugliness of war is just kidding himself. The FOB based warfare against guerrillas of the last decade is not a forecast of what war will be in the future. The only thing that can be known about these future wars is that the combat arms will continue to be what they are.
Obama pursues his dream of a "more perfect union." I hope we do not pay too high a price so that women can be four star generals. pl
"Unfortunately redundancies are unavoidable due to the size of the defence deficit that this government inherited and the consequent scale of downsizing required in the army," said Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. "We will have smaller armed forces but they will in future be properly equipped and well funded, unlike before. These redundancies will not affect current operations in Afghanistan, where our armed forces continue to fight so bravely on this country's behalf." Defence Mnagement.com
Apparently this reduction in force will be followed by further cuts. IMO what will result will not be a viable force for any sort of serious overseas "work." An overseas deployment requires several "echelons" of troops for sustainability. At any one time, one "echelon" is engaged, one has just returned and another is preparing to go. This strength level will not support that. This strength is less than half that of the USMC.
It is also difficult to see how the post, camp and station structure of the army can be continued without closing many installations. Additionally, the schools structure will be largely devoid of trainees.
Many people in the UK don't want a capable army. That's good because they won't have one except for things like the Brigade of Guards and the Household Cavalry. Prince Harry can fly the helicopter until it wears out.
This is really not funny. A similar process will occur in the US as an inevitable part of debt reduction. pl
President Obama's second inaugural address was an exercise in partisanship, cultural revolution and narcissism wrapped in patriotic slogans and references to the Founding Fathers that will have some among them turning over in their graves. After a brief opening paean to the Founders, President Obama proceeded to spell out a very partisan agenda, based on radical reforms of our educational system, our tax code, deep cuts in our healthcare system, climate change and gay rights. Some clever speechwriter finally figured out that the overwrought use of the imperial "I" which has regularly dominated President Obama's rhetoric, was inappropriate for the occasion. Yet every time he called on Americans to pull together and work towards "our" common goals, he set out a very narrow set of acceptable policies. Never mind that the President declared that we are now in the midst of an economic recovery and the end of perpetual wars--two highly dubious propositions. The President event told us that the oath that he took today was to "God and country, not party or faction." Why is it that I remain unconvinced? - Harper
The VMI Cadet Corps is in the middle ground of this Washington Post photograph, first the staff and then the two battalions with the color party between.
It snowed the day before. There was sleet in the night, and then the parade. The parade began in 3rd St. SE near the capitol. The route of march passed the equestrian statue of Grant, the one in which he is hunched over against the rain in the Wilderness. Then we came down Pennsylvania Avenue to this point. There were three inches of icy, salty, slush in the street. You can see a bare patch of pavement just in front of the regimental staff. The band in the foreground did not belong to us.
The street has changed. The "Occidental" restaurant still exists but it inhabits quarters on the lower floors of a large office building on the same site. Down the street there are a few familiar landmarks like the spire of the old Post Office and the capitol itself but nearly everything else is gone including the trolley car tracks.
We turned right here into 15th Street and then, a block later left again into Pennsylvania Avenue. The big reviewing stand was there in front of the White House. At "Eyes Left" all you could see was Jack Kennedy standing with his hat held over his heart. His beautiful wife was at his side.
We "fell out" at Washington Circle in the George Washington University campus half a mile away.
The buses waited there for the three hour trip back to school.
The VMI Corps will be in this inaugural parade. pl
They introduce themselves politely in restaurants or diners, in a movie lobby or at some civic event, even in front of the Little Rock gate in Atlanta, which has become a kind of Arkansas crossroads. ("You don't know me, but . . .") Then they thank me for remembering Robert E. Lee every January 19th with a column on his birthday. They don't tarry, and I may never see them again. Then they fade away, much like the Army of Northern Virginia (R.E. Lee, General). They have a look about them, or rather a manner. They come in different shapes and sizes, but they all have the same, diffident way about them -- as if they were used to dealing with people as persons, rather than en masse as customers or readers or voters or some other impersonal category. They know how to visit with others. It's a Southern thing, no matter where it happens. Let's just say they have a shared understanding. They may be older, genteel white ladies or young military cadets.
"The Tuareg-led NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), via one of its leaders, now says it's "ready to help" the former colonial power, billing itself as more knowledgeable about the culture and the terrain than future intervening forces from the CEDEAO (the acronym in French for the Economic Community of Western African States). Salafi-jihadis in Mali have got a huge problem: they chose the wrong battlefield. If this was Syria, they would have been showered by now with weapons, logistical bases, a London-based "observatory", hours of YouTube videos and all-out diplomatic support by the usual suspects of US, Britain, Turkey, the Gulf petromonarchies and - oui, monsieur - France itself." Pepe Escobar
An excellent and informative article. I do not subscribe to the "knee jerk" Chomskyite economic determiist motivation that Escobar ascribes to the US and France, but, other than that, this is really "good stuff." He also raises the question of why these particular Islamist revolutionaries are treated to a taste of the club while those in Syria are the heroes of Western elites. The answer is simple. Mali is far from Israel and the Israeli government foolishly wants Assad gone. pl
"Using children’s pleas to end violence is about the most grotesque rhetorical tool available to politicians. Our natural instincts are to want to shield children from life’s pain. Yet fixating on our desperate desire to protect children from harm distracts from the truly important, adult business of assessing what solutions are actually available. So it is with the gun debate. As if the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut wasn’t emotional enough, the President is now posing with children and publicizing kids’ pleas for the government to take action to prevent gun crimes. The Administration’s messaging strategy is clear: If you care about children, then you’ll do what we say and support new regulations and restrictions . Carrie Lukas
The two sides in the "gun war" are just about equally childish and inept. The propaganda use of children by "Abe" Obama is matched by the foolishness of the TV ad that featured the Obama girls' Secret Service protection.
Grow up folks! pl
"Kidnappers and at least some of their hostages were killed on Thursday as Algerian forces raided a gas facility where a heavily armed group of Islamist extremists was holding dozens of captives, including Americans and other foreigners, the Algerian government announced." NY Times
This reminds me of the Egyptian "rescue" operation on Malta many years ago in which most of the hostages were killed. I have a bad expectation in this. For these 3rd world country the exercize of national sovereignty is more important than the lives of foreign hostages.
People should remember that when they take high paying jobs in such countries. pl
Zero Dark Thirty. Directed by: Katherine Bigelow. Written by: Mark Boal (who?). Starring: Jessica Chastain... and that's about it. Anybody recognize these guys: Joseph Bradley, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Callan Mulvey? Anybody guess who these guys play: Tushar Mehra, Reda Kateb, Fares Fares?
Couple of principles worth mentioning up front in the face of critical mooing about this film: 1) It's a flockin' movie, not history nor historical record nor documentary despite the dubious attribution of its script to "journalist" Boal who, like all non-combatants, bought every ticket the real guys had to sell during his "research"; 2) The operative word is "move," and if it do not, it is not, endless shots of perplexed or tormented or reflective faces notwithstanding, Hollywood shorthand for inner life unfolding as we watch that bead of perspiration, that tremulous tear, that blood droplet droozle its way down the cheek of this troubled young woman or that refractory T(wo) Third(s) World gink or that croaked martyr.
Bigelow, who's done some good stuff (the first-rate--though challenged by professional EOD guys--Hurt Locker; the cultic Point Break with its surfer-koans and adrenaline-junkies; the techno-thriller K-19 featuring Harrison Ford doing a Rooshan accent by way of Boris and Natasha), apparently began to believe her own press (plausibly confirmed in this--I don't say no-- by her Oscar (Tm) for Best Picture and Best First Fee-male Directrix) about her own genius and figured she'd take on what Kurt Vonnegut called (when he was among us) in another connection the "national ball of string," the emotico-socio-politico-mili-psycho-macho foofarah surrounding Nine-Eleven and the Ten-Year Manhunt (all caps on account of, like, special) for its purported perfervid perpetrator, B'n L'd'n (no vowels in Arabic but you can buy one from Vanna, who will not likely be ministering to the martyred suiciders, and I think you know why...).
The lovely Victoria Nuland told us today from her dais and podium at the State Department that the US has no evidence that Syria used chemical weapons in an reported attack on Homs that US Consulate Istanbul had "filed" with Washington some time ago.
It has been evident for days that this was true and the report probably a piece of trash received in liaison from the Turks, but that did not prevent "Iraqi Mike" Gordon from writing the piece linked below in support of his logrolling for war with Syria.
"All the news that's fit to print." pl
We have now seen BHO's anti-gun violence program and it is revealed as a "paper tiger" that is no real threat to the gun owners of the United States.
The legislative proposals are such that only the police funding is likely to pass either or both houses of Congress. In particular the transparently regulatory requirement for the background checking of private gun sales will fail as objectionable in term of the property rights of individuals not in the gun trade. This measure would also create a de facto national firearms registry and that will not "fly" in the Congress.
The anti-gun people, especially those in the corporate media, have flooded the airwaves with spurious "polling" that purports to show that US citizens and US gun owners now want the kind of gun law that "Wilmington Joe" Biden has suggested. IMO the result in Congress will show that the anti-gun forces are as mistaken as the Romney polling was in insisting that he would win the presidential election and that the Republicans would capture the senate. BHO has created for hiself a scenario for an initial step in making himself a lame duck. He should be worrying about the coming sequester. That is likely to be a second step in his progress toward "The Inferno."
His EO measures are largely trivialities, but even so, his wish to spread mental health records around as well as all kinds of federal records (i.e. VA treatment records) will cause him trouble. I actually think that this provision is one thing that might contribute to better sales procedures, but Obama's desire to put all federal records in the background check "hopper" will lead to veterans avoiding PTSD treatment among other things.
Someone explain to me how any of his intended measures would have prevented the Newtown massacre. Is it imagined that the madman could not have killed these people without the Bushmaster and 30 round magazines? pl
In response to Colonel Lang's observations on the way that Karzai has pulled the wool over Obama's eyes on the prospects of maintaining an American troop presence in Afghanistan, you raised the question of why, 'after more than a decade of deep immersion in the Islamic world,' American policymakers are still 'so dense.' And you asked whether the problem was simply at the 'senior policy-making level', or whether it also extends to the 'experts' who brief and write papers for those actually making policy.<p>At the risk of lapsing into platitude or egregious error, due to the thinness of my knowledge, let me hazard some reflections in response to your questions.
American self-images reflect certain particular Western intellectual traditions. One of these, republican thought, is classical in origin and initially emerges from reflections in one troubled polity, fifteenth-century Italy, about another: Rome at the time of the transition to imperial rule. In it, a pessimistic view of human nature has ambivalent implications. On the one hand, it leads to an immense suspicion of unchecked power. Controlling power is portrayed in part as a matter of balance - having opposing social forces, such as patricians and plebeians in the Roman republic, as well as different parts of government, limit each other - and partly a cultural matter, with an overwhelming emphasis on republican virtu.
"Foremost among them is the increasing pressure being brought to bear on critical journalists. In recent months at least half a dozen prominent editors, writers and cartoonists have been the targets of criminal investigations, many of them launched by a prosecutor appointed by Mr. Morsi following complaints from the president’s office. The charges range from reporting false news to blasphemy; a cartoonist for the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper was accused of the latter after she published a cartoon depicting Adam and Eve. " Washpost editorial
Even the naifs and appeasers of Islamic authoritarianism in Egypt at the Post are forced to admit now that Mursi's Islamist government is seeking to shut down criticism of his government in the press and broadcast media. The neocons in the Post editorial board are still trying to make excuses for him but that becomes more difficult all the time.
Leopards do not change their spots. Mursi and his MB pals as well as their Salafist competition have the same goals as all political Islamists:
1 - Gain absolute power and retain it permanently.
2 - Create a sharia law state, a state in which non-Muslims are tolerated only as second class people and secularists are treated as apostates.
Mursi's government is moving steadily in that direction. He knows that so long as he does not overtly menace Israel and "makes nice" with naive diplomats, he is safe.
The Mursi definition of "democracy" appears to me to be very like the definition of free will taught to me by a variety of nuns and brothers. In that semantic world, free will was defined as the freedom to choose to do what the Catholic Church told you to do. In Mursi's world view the press is free to support his Islamist program. pl
"The Afghan president said Monday that a meeting of the nation’s elders should convene to decide whether U.S. troops staying in the country after 2014 would be immune from prosecution under Afghan law. President Hamid Karzai’s remarks were his first since returning from Washington, where he met last week with President Barack Obama about the future of the alliance between the two countries. " Washpost
As I said below in "Hamid Karzai - Pushtuun Pickpocket," people like Karzai, or any other Afghan, Iranian or Arab are easy to read if you have eyes to see, and ears to listen. The trick is to see them the way they see themselves, not the way most Westerners want to see them. IOW get out of your own skin and sandals and into theirs. pl
Système D is a French term for the ability to think fast, adapt, and improvise in order to get a job done. It refers to the word "démerder" or to get of the shit. At least that's what a couple of French Foreign Legionnaires told me many years ago. I would argue that France's direct military intervention in Mali, Operation Cerval, is a beautiful example of système D.
Last week began with a renewed offensive by fighters from Ansar Dine and and the Islamist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA). On Monday, 7 January, Islamist fighters captured at least twelve government soldiers along with their vehicle and equipment during a government patrol outside the town of Konna. Earlier that day, government soldiers fired on Ansar Dine fighters in an area 35 miles east of Mopti, a strategically important town on the frontier between rebel-held and government-held territories. Mopti hosts a key Malian military airstrip, actually at Severe, which would be vital for any future missions into the north of the country. Two days later, the battle for Konna began between government forces and MOJWA fighters. On Thursday, the Islamists captured the town after fierce fighting. That same day about 1,200 Ansar Dine and MOJWA fighters in 200 technicals moved to within twelve miles of Mopti. The situation looked dire to say the least.
Why did the Islamists resume their offensive now? They had the motive. They never had any intention of stopping at the border of the once and future land of Azawad. MOJWA is a black African led Islamic group that broke off from the mostly Algerian led AQIM. Their goal is to spread their brand of Salafism to most, if not all, of West Africa. They do not share the Tuareg dream of an independent Azawad espoused by the MNLA. Ansar Dine also wants to extend Sharia in all of Mali and not just to Azawad.
They had the means. The Salafist military forces were never stronger. Since their victories earlier last year, they worked feverishly to improve their military capabilities. They had the resources to do so through their kidnapping and smuggling enterprises and whatever funding their Gulf supporters provide. An unnamed Elysee Palace official quoted by Agence France-Presse said on Sunday that French armed forces were surprised by the fighting quality and the equipment of the militants they were up against. "At the start, we thought they would be just a load of guys with guns driving about in their pick-ups, but the reality is that they are well-trained, well-equipped, and well-armed," the official said. "From Libya they have got hold of a lot of up-to-date, sophisticated equipment which is much more robust and effective than we could have imagined."
Those who had issues with French involvement in the Libyan Revolution, will have the same issues with French intervention in Mali. In my opinion, the French could not have reacted better. They saw that the Islamists were within days, if not hours, of taking the military base and airfield at Severe which would make the planned September ECOWAS deployment and counteroffensive all but impossible. If nothing was done the Islamists could very well have occupied all of Mali and declared an Islamic republic. The French reacted with what they had in the area. Several hundred troops were deployed to Bamako from N'Djamena, Chad (1,400 miles) and Senegal (500 miles). Ostensibly this was to protect the 6,000 French nationals in Mali. I believe the purpose of this force was to stabilize the political situation in Bamako. They did not want to run the risk of another military coup d'etat and the further international paralysis that would follow. Fighter bombers flew from N'Djamena with the help of tankers to attack the Islamist forces threatening Mopti. Gazelle helicopters armed with 20mm cannon and HOT missiles flew from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (225 miles). These Gazelles were part of the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment, a unit equivalent to our 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
This did the trick. The Islamist offensive was stopped and the dilly-dallying over the deployment of the ECOWAS force has ended. The Malian forces have finally tasted a victory and have received a much needed morale boost. The task is far from over. The French discovered that the Islamist forces are far more formidable than they first thought. I believe that's why they have expanded their air attacks. They know the Salafist Islamist forces must be degraded if there is any chance of them being defeated by ECOWAS and Malian forces.
There is one thing that I am convinced must happen if the Salafist Islamist forces are to be defeated in Mali. The Tuaregs must be accepted as full partners. Azawad autonomy in some form must be accepted and the Tuaregs, including the MNLA, must be allowed to take the lead in administering and securing their own lands. I would advise the Malian government to ask the Tuaregs to administer and defend any part of Azawad that is liberated be it Timbuktu, Gao or both. That would be the ultimate expression of système D.
Some of these statistics may surprise you, or not. pl
"... if we have a follow-on force of any sort past 2014, it’s got to be at the invitation of the Afghan government and they have to feel comfortable with it. I will say — and I’ve said to President Karzai — that we have arrangements like this with countries all around the world, and nowhere do we have any kind of security agreement with a country without immunity for our troops. That’s how I, as Commander-in-Chief, can make sure that our folks are protected in carrying out very difficult missions. And so I think President Karzai understands that. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of the negotiations that are still remaining on the bilateral security agreement, but I think it’s fair to say that, from my perspective at least, it will not be possible for us to have any kind of U.S. troop presence post-2014 without assurances that our men and women who are operating there are in some way subject to the jurisdiction of another country. " Barack Obama
"We understand that the issue of immunity is of very specific importance for the United States, as was for us the issue of sovereignty and detentions and the continued presence of international forces in Afghan villages and the very conduct of the war itself. With those issues resolved, as we did today, part of it — the rest was done earlier — I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be compromised, in a way that Afghan law will not be compromised, in a way that the provisions that we arrive at through our talks will give the United States the satisfaction of what it seeks and will also provide the Afghan people the benefits that they are seeking through this partnership and the subsequent agreement. " Hamid Karzai
What's the old Kipling "saw" about trying to "hustle the East?" IMO, we "wuz" robbed.
What happened in this meeting in Washington was that Karzai and the Afghans got everything they wanted and promised nothing that they cannot walk away from once they get through "picking our pocket" in slow motion between now and the end of 2014.
Karzai got any number of substantial concessions towards the notion of Afghan "sovereignty."
The most important of these was the assumption of control and security responsibility for the whole country's territory by the Afghan forces. Are these forces ready and capable to do that? They probably are not is the correct answer. Will they ever be ready? Maybe not. 1 - Afghanistan is unlikely to ever have enough income to pay for the forces we have created for them. Where will they get their money if not from us, rare earths and oriental carpets? 2 - The apparent disparity between ethnic "nations" in Afghanistan and the composition of the "Afghan" Army is unpromising as a basis for the integrity of the state.
Another American concession was the transfer of prisons and prisoners to Afghan government control. This means that after the date of that change, US forces will be unable to detain hostiles encountered in the field in combat. Remember, POTUS reminded us that those soldiers left in Afghanistan will still be in harm's way.
In the same way, the declaration that NATO (US) troops will be barred from entry into Afghan villages after the turn-over date this spring, means that we will not in any real sense control Afghanistan after this change. We will be confined to our bases, offering assistance to the Afghans for them to accept or reject.
At the same time Karzai said that there were some things that the Afghan Army wanted to keep receiving from the US. 1- Intelligence - What? The Afghans cannot collect information against targets lodged within their own peoples? 2 - Artillery - What? They want a lot of artillery for the purpose of fighting a counter-guerrilla war in their own country? 3 - Aircraft, helicopters, etc. They can't afford them. They will never be able to maintain them without an "army" of foreign contractors paid for with US money.
What did the US get in return? Permission to leave the classroom?
Karzai's statement about extra-territorial legal immunity for our soldiers is meaningless. He says that based on our concessions to Afghan sovereignty he can "argue" for immunity for American troops in a way that does not compromise Afghan sovereignty or law. All he promises is to "argue" and that argument is to be for an "immunity' that does not compromise anything important to the Afghans. There are numerous bodies in Afghan "society" that can refuse his supposed argument. The parliament, or a "loyah jurga," or mass opinion expressed in the streets, and most significantly in a general election before the end of 2014. The immunity issue will surely be a major feature of that election after which Karzai will not be head of state and the new government will be free to repudiate whatever commitments Karzai might have made.
Yup, we "wuz" robbed. You have to wonder if POTUS believes tht what he said yesterday is actually true. pl
James Clapper has effectively been working for John Brennan during Obama's first term. Now the president wants Brennan to be the Director of the CIA. In that position Brenan would be one of Clapper's statutory subordinates in his role as Director of National Intelligence. Does that make any sense?
The position of DNI has been given most of CIA's former functions in coordinating the actions of the IC as well as the writing of National Intelligence Estimates.
CIA has been properly limited to the "ownership" of the National Clandestine Service. CIA is unhappy with that and seeks continuously to break out of the "box" that it finds itself in. It's fascination with the drone war over Pakistan is a reflection of that psychology.
John Brennan is a vigorous 57 year old executive. If he returns to CIA will he be content to work within the present IC structure or will he seek to restore the ancien regime in the community.
Would it not make more sense to put Brennan in charge of the whole community as DNI? pl
IMO BHO made a mistake in putting Biden in charge of this. Joe likes the limelight and adulation too much and he isn't prudent. I expect that the BHO/Biden expeditionary force on guns will send a really restrictive piece or pieces of legislation to the hill where it/they will be defeated. They will then try to do some of the same things by imperial ukase. The fun will then begin when motions of impeachment are introduced in the House for usurpation of congressional authority and lawsuits are filed.
I suggest an alternative: New York, Connecticutt and New Jersey might consider seceding from the Union. pl
There is very little chance that the Afghan government will agree to post 2014 legal extra-territoriality for foreign troops in their country.
For some reason the US foreign policy establishment refuses to understand or to admit that it understands that for Muslim populations and governments it is not possible to accept the apparent superiority of the law of a non-Muslim country on their soil. This is a religious issue. Islam is a seamless garment. In Islam all aspects of life are welded together into a seamless whole. Islam is centered on law as the essence of the submision of man to God. To allow "infidel" law to be applied as being in some sense a symbol of the superiority of the infidel power is simply unacceptable to Muslims.
Iraq and Afghanistsan regretfully accepted a de facto SOFA during the wars of the last decade. They did that because they had no choice. Once Iraq developed enough leverage to refuse that concession to the US, it did so. Afghanistan will do the same.
there will be no US troops in Afghanistan after 2014. pl
Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
Like COL Lang, I'm also very pleased that Senator Hagel was nominated. Back in 2007 Esquire ran an in depth profile of Senator Hagel. It was written by Charles Pierce, who is now their primary writer/correspondent at their Daily Politics Blog. While he put up a short column on the Senator's nomination and why it is a good thing today, click over and read the much more in depth reporting he did back in 2007 if you're interested in more detailed information about Senator Hagel.**
Then go pop the popcorn, get your beverage of choice ready, and watch the show as the Senate, the news media, the blogosphere, and specific interests groups and think tanks like AIPAC, the Emergency Committe for Israel, AEI, Brookings, etc amuse us with their dysfunction, err, demonstrate why we have a mature and effectively functioning political system and news media!
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and or the US Army.
** Esquire does some really good in depth political reporting. In the past couple of years they've done profiles or reporting on Congressman Paul, Roger Ailes, John Demjanjuk and often post the full transcripts of the interviews shortly after publishing the stories.
With its estimated 190 million population and its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is an important country in its own right. However, its location makes it even more significant. Sitting next to Afghanistan, Iran and India, it plays a key role in the geopolitics of the region. It has been a major factor in the United States' two campaigns in Afghanistan, the first time playing a leading role in helping the Afghan mujahideen to expel the Soviet Union's occupying forces from their country, and, more recently, being blamed for the US's lack of success in defeating the Taliban insurgency.
Some recent developments, including some policy moves and changes, make it likely that the role that Pakistan has played in the region will change, as will the internal situation in the country. It is worth looking at these.
Dan Senor was the "mouthpiece" for the disastrous CPA government in Baghdad. This shifty eyed neocon front man was on "Chuck" Todd's morning MSNBC show today to do what he could to stop Senator Hagel's progress towards the Pentagon. Todd, himself, is a thinly disguised opponent of Hagel's nomination.
When he wasn't rolling his eyes or smirking over the very idea of Hagel, Senor was busy telling us all that "there is a 'consensus' on Israel in Washington" and that Hagel is outside it.
Yes, there is such a "consensus." It is a consensus that results from decades of intimidation, illegal finance contributions and suppression of the opinions of anyone who does not accept the primacy of Israel in US policy. Hagel is not intimidated. His appointment to be Secretary of Defense would threaten the "consensus."
That is what people like Senor are afraid of. pl
"President Obama plans on Monday to nominate Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska and Vietnam War veteran, to lead the Pentagon as Defense secretary, according to two sources familiar with the nomination process. Hagel, 66, served two terms in the Senate from 1997 to 2009, and led an Army infantry squad in Vietnam in 1968. He was wounded in action there and received two Purple Hearts. An administration source confirmed that Hagel's nomination would be announced Monday. Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because it had not been officially announced. " USA Today
I thank God Almighty for this. pl
I received the message quoted below today from an old friend who owns a beef cattle farm in western Kentucky. Unlike me, he is a hunter. IMO his "news" and channeled opinion from his region. He was originally from New York City.
His message is indicative of all the reasons why "city boys" like BHO and Biden are going to accomplish nothing more than to push different parts of the country farther apart than they already are.
The Washington Post today contains the following:
"... working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources
None of these measures wuold have prevented the Newtown killings. pl
Here is my Kentucky friend's message.
"Some of the stuff in the news today. ...and
I went to one sports store (Gander Mountain) yesterday and
found it crowded with gun buyers and lookers.Ammunition was fairly scarce and
getting pricey. Remington 30.06 was about the cheapest brand (180 gr) at
about a dollar a round at this store that is usually more expensive than the
competition anyway. 5.56 or .223 bulk ammo was gone. Handgun ammo needed a lot
of restocking....Surprised at the number of women at the handgun counter and
their pointed questions of the clerks. Not a bunch of yahoos either. Used gun
racks had lots of empty spaces. Beat up SKS that I once paid $86 for was priced
at $346. Was going to stop in another gun store but its small parking lot
was too crowded, if that means anything...
There is a gun show scheduled in Cave City (Kentucky) next
weekend. There is always one guy there who tries to peddle a surplus Spanish
Army bazooka (DEWAT). Would love to have it to put in my pick up truck rear
window, but too big and too expensive.
As I say, some excerpts from todays papers:
The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply
reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according
to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions.
A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously
considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require
universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of
weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and
stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the
sources said.......Washington Post
FLASHBACK: Obama: I Will NOT Take Your Guns Away:
When you all go home and you're talking to your buddies and you
say, ah 'He wants to take my gun away.' You've heard it here, I'm on television
so everybody knows it. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people's
lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take
your rifle away. I won't take your handgun away."
Why push for gun control has stalled:
Support for stricter gun laws hasn’t jumped as fast or as far in
recent weeks as many liberals had hoped and expected. If you’re wondering why,
maybe the reason is the shakiness of the public’s trust in government itself.
After the horrific murders three weeks ago at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, gun-control advocates confidently
predicted that a wave of revulsion would sweep the nation. We would, in the
popular argot, “hit the reset button,” beginning a fresh debate on new terms.
It hasn’t happened that way. In the USA Today-Gallup Poll taken
just a week after the shooting, when one would expect the largest emotional
effect, support for “more strict” gun control in the abstract was at 58%,
compared with 43% about a year earlier. On specifics, 51% opposed a ban on
private ownership of assault weapons. (There’s more support for posting armed
guards in schools than for limiting access to assault weapons.)
If Newtown hasn’t pushed the numbers much, why not?
One plausible explanation is a lack of trust in the people who
would be doing the regulating. The Gallup Organization has been measuring
Americans’ trust in their government since 1997. Last year, only half of
Americans said they generally trust the federal government to do the right
thing on domestic policy — a significant improvement over the 43% figure a year
earlier, but nowhere near the heights of trust one saw in President Bill
Clinton’s second term and President George W. Bush’s first.
“Trust us, we’ll protect you,” isn’t a very persuasive case to
make to the tens of millions of Americans who have guns in their homes. And
directing fury at gun owners for their lack of trust isn’t likely to increase
their faith in government.
"It’s not clear exactly what the two-month postponement will mean. Do Washington bureaucrats now have two months to figure out how to soften the cuts? Or will the sequester bomb simply be dropped March 1 instead of Jan. 2? We suspect the latter." NWF Daily News
Yes, me too. The media are once again focused on the wrong thing. The GOP has been beaten once by BHO in his struggle to intimidate the Congress and get it under control. IMO the Republican House will lack the guts to push the debt limit far enough to shut the government down and devalue US government debt.
The Sequester is another matter. These massive cuts will be automatic in March unless there is agreement on what to cut. For DoD such cuts will be devastating because they are on top of another 400 billion odd in cuts already scheduled. The hyper-nationalist present day Republican Party surely does not want that. How will they rule (protect) the world without massive forces? But, what will they be willing to give BHO in domestic spending that would compensate for "lost" defense cuts?
The great piece of "statesmanlike" legislation signed a few days ago actually makes the situation worse. The higher "rich people" rates are nothing compared to the real money that would have flowed in from higher middle class taxes. I speak not of the working poor because they do not pay regular direct income taxes although they pay other kinds of tax on their income.
Yes, we could have broken the back of the debt problem with higher (Clinton era) tax rates all around, a withdrawal from non-CT military activity on the ground overseas, a reduction in conventional ground force size, and older ages for Medicare eligibility, but we did not.
The Sequester is coming! pl
This is the Ruger 10/22 rifle. Five million of these have been made since 1964 in a variety of modifications. They are all basically the same gun. It is made in .22 LR caliber. Is this one of the guns you anti-gun people want to ban? It is semi-automatic. The one I used to own had a heavy barrel and a scope.
This gun is the Keltec SU 22. Bad assed looking, right? An "assault weapon?" No. It is a semi-automatic .22 LR rifle just like the Ruger 10/22. I prefer a 10 or 15 round magazine with this rifle rather than the one shown. This one just gets in the way. The rifle itself is really no different than the 10/22.