30 June 2010

The Start of Nation-Building

Want to blame Clinton? Go ahead. Heck, Bush II campaigned on it in 2000. Truth is, of course, that US nation-building follies started in Somalia, with a mission ordered by Bush I.

In the waning days of his presidency, with very little planning or even forethought, George H.W. Bush sent 28,000 U.S. troops to support a humanitarian mission in a hapless country of no strategic significance to the United States. That noble endeavor ended, of course, with the fiasco known as Black Hawk Down. Somalia was scarcely history's first failed state, but it was the first one whose failure U.S. policy sought consciously to address. Today, three U.S. administrations, two U.N. secretaries-general, and 18 years later, Somalia has a raging Islamist insurgency, a government that controls a few city blocks, and African Union peacekeepers with no peace to keep. And once again this year, Somalia stands atop the Foreign Policy/Fund for Peace Failed States Index -- a testament to the persistence of state pathology and the weakness of the powers the world community can bring to bear.

Go read the full article at Foreign Policy, it's a very good one.

By: Brant

Makes You Appreciate Freedom of Speech

Pakistan is planning to crack down on "coverage of terror attacks" and fully criminalize it. Makes you wonder how widely they're going to institute the bans and fines.

Pakistan is proposing a law to restrict graphic coverage of militant attacks, and possibly curb harsh criticism of the government, by increasingly independent television channels.

If approved by the National Assembly, the bill, known as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Bill, would ban live coverage of the militant attacks, as well as broadcast of "anything defamatory against the organs of the state."

It would also prevent discussions which could "influence" the judiciary at a time when it has been dealing with several political cases involving President Asif Ali Zardari.

The new bill prohibits media from broadcasting video footage of suicide bombers, bodies of victims of terror attacks, statements from Islamist militants and any acts "which promote, aid or abet terrorist or terrorism."

More importantly, what's "anything defamatory against the organs of the state"? If you publish something showing the Minister of Defense taking a bribe, and have the photographic proof to show it, that's pretty darn defamatory. But it's also true and a legitimate story about how the country is run.

By: Brant

JFCOM Wants - Get This - JOINT(!) Data Sharing

And they're serious enough to hold a conference about it!

Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, began the symposium with a complaint about the failure to analyze and share intelligence in a timely manner with allies in Afghanistan. “We disable ourselves by an inability to share information,” he said. “We’ve got to [find] a way ahead immediately to improve information fusion” and to develop databases for tactical commanders. “There is no shortage of data,” he added, “but there is a dearth of analysis . . . and it has to be provided to our coalition partners freely so they can enable their formations.” Crucial to this effort is the creation of “mobile databases [that] provide real-time effective information for tactical commanders.”

Seriously though, FusionNet was doing this 6 years ago, with links to CENTRIXS and publication to the PASS. CIDNE still won't open their data, because, well, they're CIDNE.

Good thing Wortmann pulled the plug on FusionNet in favor of CIDNE, eh? After all, we wouldn't want to shitcan a system THAT DOES EXACTLY WHAT WE SAY WE NEED, 5 YEARS LATER, right?

By: Brant

NATO Caps 8 Talibanistanis

Of course, Taliban propaganda being what it is, NATO probably gunned down a religious service instead of 8 militants who attacked an Afghan airport.

Militants set off a car bomb and stormed the entrance to an airport in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday in a failed attempt to enter the air field used by Afghan and international forces, authorities said. Eight insurgents died in the ensuing gunbattle.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, part of an upswing in violence in the nearly 9-year-old war.

Using light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, the militants battled international forces for 30 minutes on the outskirts of Jalalabad city, according to information provided by the media office at the airport.

An Afghan solider and one international service member were wounded in the fighting, NATO said.

By: Brant

Radio Waves Counter IEDs

Popular Mechanics reports that a new radio wave-based technology may help to defeat the threat of roadside IEDs.

Last week the Pentagon revealed the existence of a new weapon in the war against roadside bombs: a beam of radio-frequency energy that can detonate hidden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) at a distance.

And its creators say the potential does not stop there—the beam could be also used to set off other types of warheads before they reached their target. In theory it might be used to set off ammunition before the enemy even has a chance to fire. "The capabilities are not limited to improvised devices," Lee Mastroianni, program manager at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), told Popular Mechanics.

The ONR remain tight-lipped about virtually every aspect of the technology, which is highly classified. But there are enough details to piece together a fascinating picture of the new device.

Radio-frequency devices can output extremely powerful, short-duration bursts of energy using a technology known as a Marx Generator. This uses a number of capacitors that are charged in parallel and then discharged simultaneously in series. Texas Tech University's Center for Pulsed Power and Power Electronics has been working on this area under contract for the ONR, with the specific aim of developing pulses strong enough to defeat IEDs. Their 3-million-volt Marx Generator is the size of a bus, and it is probably not a coincidence that the anti-IED beam weapon is said to be the size of a tractor-trailer. The TTU team is also working on a one-shot pulse generator the size of a coffee can and antennas suitable for carrying and directing an intense burst of energy lasting less than a billionth of a second.

There are many questions about the new device, such as the range, width of the beam and the types of explosives that it will work on. However, whatever the capabilities of the current system (which are classified), the next one may be different. "As with any radio-frequency system, the directionality and beam width are design parameters that influence the overall system design and can be tailored, based on application, during the design phase," Mastroianni says.

It may prove impossible to generate a beam with a long enough range to be effective, and, at this early stage, other game-stopping technical issues may arise. Then there are also the issues that can come up when first using new weapons. Pre-detonating roadside bombs may cause all sorts of damage, for example, which may be blamed on the team setting the bomb off instead of on those who planted it. However, if (as has been suggested) an airborne version could sweep the road ahead of convoys, it could make things much more difficult for the bombers. Especially if they happened to be next to their bombs when the device flies overhead.

By: Shelldrake

Norks Setting up Military Gov't?

Will Kim Jong Illin's successor - Kim Jong Somethingorother - be a mere figurehead for a military-run regime?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un was elected as a deputy to the 12th Supreme People's Assembly in March last year, a North Korean source in a Western country said on Monday. He has not so far been known to have been given any official post as the regime maneuvers him into position to succeed his father.

The source quoted a North Korean official as saying that Kim Jong-un was nominally elected from Constituency No. 216. At the time, his name was not on the list of new deputies because the North tried to conceal his election, the source added.

In March last year, defectors organizations said it seemed Jong-un was elected from this electoral district given that Kim Jong-il's birthday is Feb. 16 and that the published name of the deputy-elect from the district was 'Kim Jong.'

Seems like the military is pushing more and more buttons up there.

The source said the North is effectively under a collective leadership, and the "military-first" ideology shows that it no longer is a one-man dictatorship. "After Kim Jong-il's death, there will emerge a collective military leadership, which will probably put up Kim Jong-un as a figurehead," the source added.

As long as they don't push that button.

By: Brant

China's OPFOR

Yep, the Chinese OPFOR are the "blue" forces...

A regiment of the Nanjing Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), reputed as the new generation “electromagnetic blue army”, has participated in 103 electromagnetic confrontation exercises over the past five years.

The regiment has been equipped with new radars, unmanned aerial vehicles and other advanced equipment in recent years. To make the new equipment generate combat capacity on the basis of giving full play to their performances, three sets of simulation drilling systems have been developed, and 11 new tactics for electromagnetic countermeasure-based operations summarized. Furthermore, the troops in the regiment are encouraged to do studies on the combat concept, application of operational tactics and technical countermeasures for the “blue army”.

By: Brant

Reining in Contractors in War Zones

After 9 years of running wild, the US has finally sent a flag officer to Afghanistan to figure out what's going on with the contractors that are being employed in the war zone.

More good news from Afghanistan: the U.S. military has no idea where the billions it’s spending on warzone contractors is actually ending up. And nine years into the war, the Pentagon has barely started the long, laborious process of figuring it out.

Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault just arrived in Kabul about a week and a half ago as the commander of Task Force 2010, a new unit established to ensure that the military’s dependence on contractors for everything from laundry to armed security doesn’t end up undermining Afghanistan’s stability in the process. That’s no hypothetical concern: a congressional report last week found that Afghan, U.S. and Mideastern trucking companies who have a piece of a $2.16 billion logistics contract with the military pay about $4 million every week in protection money to warlords and Taliban insurgents.

By: Brant

US Transitioning German Garrisons Back to Germany

The DOD has announced the schedule to hand over facilities to the Germans.

The DoD announced today that it will return 22 U.S. Army, Europe, sites in Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany, plus the Giessen General Depot between 2010 and 2015.

[- snip -]

Final dates for returns are event driven and subject to change. Site returns are planned as follows:

U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim
- Mannheim Class III Point (Summer 2010)
- Taylor Barracks (December 2010)
- Sullivan Barracks (2014)
- Benjamin Franklin Village Family Housing (2014)
- Funari Barracks (2014)
- Coleman Barracks (2015)
- Lampertheim Training Area (2015)
- Edigheim Beacon Site (2015)
- Spinelli Barracks (2015)

U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg
- Schwetzingen Training Area (Summer 2010)
- Hammonds Barracks (December 2010)
- Campbell Barracks (2015)
- Patton Barracks (2015)
- Tompkins Barracks (2015)
- Kilbourne Kaserne (2015)
- Heidelberg Hospital (2015)
- Heidelberg Community Support Center (2015)
- Heidelberg Golf Course (2015)
- Heidelberg Army Heliport (2015)
- Mark Twain Village Family Housing (2015)
- Oftersheim Small Arms Range, including Heidelberg Rod and Gun Club (2015)
- Patrick Henry Village Family Housing (2015)

U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden
- Giessen General Depot (2015)

By: Brant

29 June 2010

BBC News says Russian 'spies' were no James Bonds

Following up the earlier reports of a busted Russian spy ring comes the assessment that these agents were pretty incompetent.

The funniest aspect of the careers of the 10 alleged Russian "agents" arrested in the US is how inept they were - and how apparently unsuccessful.

They have not even been charged with espionage, only with not registering as agents, or representatives, of a foreign government and with money laundering.

The most worrying aspect, for Western governments, is that the Russian intelligence agency should be engaged in this kind of endeavour, as if the US were still an enemy.

By: Brant

PSYOPS vs MISO - Guess which one the troops like

Yeah, the PSYOPpers hate being named after a soup.

You know who you really, really don't want to piss off? Psychological Operations, the branch of the military that deals with information and propaganda warfare. But that's exactly who the top Pentagon brass decided to mess with. The Department of Defense announced it is considering changing the outfit's name from the mystique-rich "Psy Ops" to the much more mundane MISO. That stands for Military Information Support and/to Operations, which is both awkward and decidedly un-badass.

image from Doctrine Man - the coolest guy on Facebook!

By: Brant

Prince Harry Wants To Go Back To Afghanistan

One has to admire someone volunteering to fight in an unpopular war, especially with his profile.

'As long as my military career allows it and politically it's allowed, then I will serve my country as any other soldier.

'You train for a reason and you want to be there, you want to help your buddies left and right of you.'

Three years ago Harry, who initially trained as a tank commander with the Household Cavalry, threatened to quit the Army after being barred from going to Iraq due to security concerns.

Just weeks before he is due to begin training as an Apache attack helicopter pilot, the 25-year-old said: 'At the end of the day you train for war, it's as simple as that.

'If we could be at peace then fantastic but if we're at war then you want to be with your brothers in arms.

By: Brant

BUB: McChrystal and Afghanistan Fallout

A quick look at the stories coming out of the maelstrom surrounding the ISAF command change...

Real Clear Politics lists 5 questions they think General Petraeus should answer.

Announcing Gen. McChrystal’s relief and Petraeus’s nomination, the president was emphatic in saying that his action was a change in people, not policy. But the nation-building policy begun by President Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan and continued by Obama, is – by objective criteria – failing. It deserves to be dissected publicly, and Petraeus is the best person to explain how it could work.


While the media fallout continues with the argy-bargy between Rolling Stone and, well, pretty much everyone else.

Here's the latest wrinkle: On Monday, both the Washington Post and ABC defended their use of anonymous sources to attack Hastings' report.

The Post said their use of a source described as a "senior military official" was necessary.

“Given the significant impact of the Rolling Stone story," Washington Post National Security editor Cameron Barr told Yahoo, "we felt the public's interest in seeing what military officials had to say about how it was reported and fact-checked was greater than in keeping that information to ourselves because the officials wouldn't come on the record."


As more than one editorialist points out, McChrystal wasn't really the problem in Afghanistan

The problem, of course, is that McChrystal (and his boss, Gen. David Petraeus, to whom Obama turned to head up Afghan operations) has advocated a counterinsurgency strategy that provides security to a given area so that locals will be won over to the government and stop cooperating with the Taliban. However, a counterinsurgency strategy depends on being able to put security in place for the long term, along with a functioning local government.

As many of President Karzai's local officials are unreliable and corrupt, they hold little attraction for the locals. In addition, U.S. forces, even with the surge, are not sufficient to provide the sustainable levels of security needed, and Afghan forces do not appear capable of playing a major role.

By: Brant

Army Releases Findings of Wanat Review

The Army has released their findings in the review of the Battle of Wanat.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that the Army has completed action on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) independent investigation of the July 13, 2008, battle fought by soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Wanat, Afghanistan. This engagement claimed the lives of nine U.S. soldiers and resulted in 27 casualties.

On Jan. 27, McHugh appointed Gen. Charles Campbell, former commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, to review the CENTCOM investigation and take appropriate actions with regard to officers identified therein. Campbell’s examination involved a detailed analysis of the CENTCOM investigation, as well as a review of the original investigation conducted by the 101st Airborne Division.

On March 5, based upon his initial review of the CENTCOM investigation, Campbell initiated adverse administrative actions against former officers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s chain of command. As part of administrative due process, each officer was given full access to both the CENTCOM and 101st Airborne Division investigations. Additionally, Campbell afforded each officer the opportunity to submit matters for his consideration. They provided extensive additional written information to Campbell, which was not previously provided to the CENTCOM or the 101st Airborne Division investigators. Campbell also met with each of the officers.

By: Brant

1-1AD Converting to Stryker

The DOD has announced that 1st brigade, 1st Armor Division is converting to Strykers.

The Department of the Army announced today the conversion of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, from a modular heavy brigade combat team to a Stryker brigade combat team.

1-1AD will convert to the modular SBCT structure of approximately 4,160 Soldiers effective January 2011. This force structure action represents an increase of approximately 420 military authorizations.

This conversion will take approximately 24 months for the unit to conduct new equipment training, fielding and collective training. The unit will enter the available force pool by second quarter fiscal year 2013.

By: Brant

China's Last-Minute Naval Exercises

Without bothering to schedule them on any sort of calendar, China is holding six days of drills in the South China Sea.

The Chinese Navy will hold six-day military drills in the South China Sea from Wednesday, allegedly in response to planned U.S.-South Korean exercises in the Yellow Sea, local media reported on Tuesday.

A statement from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) was quoted by media reports as saying that all vessels except those involved in the drills would be banned from entering the waters off China's eastern Zhejiang province during the drills.

China Daily said that, although a Chinese defense official has said the drills are routine, some analysts believe they are directly linked to the U.S.-South Korean exercises, due to start in July, which include the deployment of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Oh, but it turns out, they aren't just any exercises... they're live-fire exercises.

China will kick off six days of live-fire military exercises off its eastern coast later this week, state press reported Tuesday, amid plans for US-South Korean war games in the nearby Yellow Sea.

The People's Liberation Army has banned all vessels from entering a large area of open water off its eastern coast from Wednesday through July 5 when the naval exercises will take place, the China Daily reported.

And are these exercises aimed as a response to the joint US-SK maneuvers? Naaaahhhh... of course not.

The Chinese military denied media reports that an artillery drill in the East China Sea was a rebuke of a planned military exercise between South Korea and the United States.

By: Brant

Taliban Leadership Targeted

Special Ops forces in Afghanistan are targeting insurgent leaders with the goal of bringing the Taliban leadership to the bargaining table with the Afghan government.

About 130 important insurgent figures have been captured or killed in Afghanistan over the past 120 days, about the time that commanders turned their attention from the fight around Marja to a much more complex campaign around Kandahar, according to NATO military statistics. The targets have included Taliban shadow provincial governors and military commanders, as well as district-level financiers, trainers and bomb makers.

The missions aimed at Taliban leaders are to pressure some fighters to lay down their arms, as well as to demonstrate to mid- and higher-level commanders that reconciliation would be the wiser path.

Special Operations forces are carrying out an average of five raids a day against a constantly updated list of high-value targets, mostly in southern Afghanistan — the focus of the troop increase ordered by President Obama — but also in the east and the north.

Officials said that the specific person on the raid’s target list is found a little more than half the time, but that even when they miss the primary target, the raiders round up other insurgents, leading to another 500 suspects detained over the past four months.

One specific sign of damage to the insurgent hierarchy from the accelerated Special Operations missions is that replacements for midlevel Taliban leaders taken out of the fight are increasingly younger, dropping in average age to the mid-20s from the mid-40s, according to alliance reports.

A number of insurgent leaders also have left their provincial bases inside Afghanistan and sought refuge in Pakistan, officials said.

“We are seeing signs of damage to the insurgent leadership,” said one senior NATO official in Kabul. “There are some signs of fatigue.”

By: Shelldrake

McChrystal To Leave US Army

Retirement must be looking pretty good to General Stanley McChrystal after events of the past week. The question is whether he will retain his four-star rank during retirement.
The former US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last week by President Barack Obama, is to leave the US Army.

He was dismissed after criticising US administration officials in a Rolling Stone magazine profile.

US Army spokesman Col Tom Collins told AP that Gen McChrystal had notified the service that he wanted to retire but had yet to submit formal plans.

Mr Obama has nominated Gen David Petraeus to replace the sacked general.

Gen McChrystal, a four-star general, and his aides were quoted in the magazine article as making disparaging remarks about Mr Obama and other senior colleagues.

It is still unclear when he will officially leave the service as the process typically takes several months.

Gen Petraeus, who led the troop "surge" in Iraq, was nominated by President Obama last week to replace Gen McChrystal.

He will appear on Tuesday before a key US Senate panel in a hearing on his confirmation to lead the Afghan war.

By: Shelldrake

Leave No Man Behind: WWi - yes, I - Edition

A US Marine, MIA from WWI has been identified.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War I, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

U.S. Marine First Sergeant George H. Humphrey of Utica, N.Y., will be buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. On Sept. 15, 1918, Humphrey participated in the first U.S.-led offensive of the war under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. The battle with the Germans became known as the St. Mihiel Offensive. There were 7,000 Allied losses during this offensive and it was the first use of the American use of the term “D-Day” and the first use of tanks by American units.

Humphrey, a member of the U.S. 6th Marine Regiment, attached to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, was killed in action during the battle and his remains were buried by fellow Marines the next day. In October 1919, a Marine who witnessed the death wrote a letter to Humphrey’s brother recounting the attack near the village of Rembercourt. He included a map of his recollection of the burial site.

By: Brant

In Case You Were Wondering Why Gaza Is Blockaded

Yep, them there Hamasians are just a bunch of peace-loving, free-thinkers who just want a better life for their families and a burning UN facility where they can roast some marshmallows.

This follows a similar attack in May on another UN-run summer camp.

Some militants view the UN as a symbol of the West and claim that the summer camps allow boys and girls to mix freely - something that the UN denies.

The attackers tied up the guard at the camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other equipment.

The UN says about 25 armed men attacked the beach camp in the middle of Sunday night.

Nobody was hurt, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.

But in a similar incident last month a previously unknown Islamist group said its had attacked a UN summer camp in Gaza city.

The head in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees condemned the attack as "cowardly and despicable".

"This is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza and further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground," John Ging said.

By: Brant

Women In Uniform: US Mission Team

Left to right: Commander Teresa Burgess, Staff Sgt. Michelle Smith, Capt. Phoebe Inigo, Capt. Andrea Ourada (red hat), CWO Angie Barros (camouflage hat). Others are crew chiefs Michelle Aina, Leilani Aho and Crisaron Voeuth (top right).

By: Widow 6-7

Turkey to Israel - Fly Somewhere Else

The Turks have told Israel to take a detour, in clear retaliation for Israel's enforcement of the blockade against a bunch of terrorist-loving Turkish twits.

Turkey has barred an Israeli military flight from Turkish airspace, in apparent retaliation for Israel's raid on an aid convoy bound for Gaza.

Turkey's prime minister confirmed that a "ban" had been implemented following the 31 May raid, in which nine Turkish citizens on the flotilla were killed.

Military flight bans are now being considered on a case-by-case basis, Turkish officials said.

The banned flight was carrying Israeli officers to Poland to tour Auschwitz.

The plane was denied permission to cross Turkish airspace and was therefore forced to fly an alternative route.

A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told the BBC there was now an official policy in place of banning Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace, but on a case-by-case basis.

By: Brant

28 June 2010

Al-Qaeda "On The Run"?

According to CIA chief Panetta they are.

The U.S. has driven al-Qaida into hiding and undermined its leadership, but is struggling to oust its primary sympathizer, the Taliban, from Afghanistan, the nation's spymaster said Sunday.

CIA Director Leon Panetta's assessment comes as President Barack Obama advances a risky new war plan that relies on 98,000 U.S. troops to prop up the Afghan government and prevent al-Qaida from returning. No longer overseeing the commander in chief's mission is Gen. Stanley McChrystal, sacked this past week in a stunning shake-up in U.S. military leadership after his critical comments about the White House.

"We're seeing elements of progress, but this is going to be tough," Panetta told ABC's "This Week."

He said al-Qaida's evolving attack strategy increasingly relies on operatives without any record of terrorism involvement or those already in the U.S. As for Osama bin Laden, Panetta said it's been years since the U.S. had good intelligence about his whereabouts.

Panetta estimated there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida militants operating inside Afghanistan, with the rest hiding along Pakistan's mountainous western border. He said U.S. drone strikes and other spy operations have helped to "take down" half of al-Qaida's senior leaders.

"We are engaged in the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world, and the result is that we are disrupting their leadership," Panetta said.

By: Brant

Alleged "Russian Agents" Arrested in US

It seems that Russia is still in the business of espionage, according to this BBC report.

Ten people have been arrested in the United States for allegedly spying for the Russian government, the US Department of Justice has said.

They have been charged with conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime which carries up to five years in prison.

Eight of them were arrested on Sunday for allegedly carrying out "long-term, 'deep-cover' assignments" on US soil.

Two others were arrested for allegedly participating in the same programme.

An 11th suspect remained at large, the justice department said.

Nine have also been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

By: Shelldrake

Norks Still Pissy Over Cheonan Probes

The Norks are telling the UN to take a hike.

North Korea said on Sunday it was ready for direct military talk with South Korea to discuss the sinking of one of Seoul's warships, but only if the armistice commission overseeing the Korean War truce does not get involved.

South Korea has accused the North of sinking the Cheonan, and killing 46 sailors, after a multinational investigation concluded that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed the corvette, an incident that has ratcheted up tensions on the peninsula.

North Korea has denied involvement, saying the investigation was a fabrication. It has also threatened military action if it is punished by the United Nations for the incident.

South Korea said this week it has not given up on trying to persuade the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution against North Korea over the navy ship's sinking.

By: Brant

Surge *out* of Iraq...

The logistical challenges of getting everything out of Iraq are daunting just in their volume.

The withdrawal of American combat troops and equipment from Iraq is 60 percent complete two months ahead of a deadline that will serve as a precursor for a complete US military pullout.

Camp Victory, a giant sprawling base on the edge of Baghdad airport, is one of eight sites where American soldiers are sorting through the mass of hardware and supplies that must either be taken home, sent to Afghanistan, or destroyed.

Although the military is anxious to avoid accusations that it is "cutting and running" from Iraq as operations in Afghanistan take precedence, US troop numbers are steadily falling and just 50,000 will remain beyond August 31.

"We are right-sizing the force," Brigadier General Gus Perna, the man in charge of the drawdown, told AFP at Camp Victory in a giant yard filled with 330 vehicles headed for neighbouring Kuwait to be moved out of the country.

"Over 32,000 pieces of rolling stock have been retrograded out of Iraq since February 2009," he said, referring to MRAP (Mine-resistant, armour-protected) and Humvee troop carriers used since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein.

The vehicles are being driven south into Kuwait before they are moved to Afghanistan or back to the United States. Around 800,000 other pieces of equipment have so far left Iraq in cargo containers.

By: Brant

South China Sea: Future Hotspot

China and Vietnam have a recent history of conflict over ownership of 200 or so small islands in the South China Sea; however, the danger of all-out war in this region has increased with recent efforts at oil and natural gas exploration. Globalpost has a excellent article on the topic that everyone should read.

It's a 3.5 million-square kilometer stretch of ocean, speckled with some 200 coral atolls, some submerged or so tiny they hardly deserve to be called islands.

Welcome to the South China Sea, an obscure patch of global real estate that you're likely to hear more about in coming years.

Six Asian countries have long had competing — at times comical — claims to various islands here, sending token military forces to occupy barren rocks at great expense in the name of national pride.

What's new is China's muscle-flexing, which, if trends continue, could make the South China Sea one of Asia's most dangerous flash-points.

Fueling tensions in the sea are untapped oil and natural gas reserves, China's growing strategic interest in protecting sea lanes by which it gets some of its oil, and Beijing's desire to develop a "blue-water" navy capable of projecting power far beyond China's shores.

The U.S. is paying closer attention to the South China Sea, after China reportedly threatened U.S. energy firm ExxonMobil with retaliation if it continued oil exploration off Vietnam in waters China considers its own. And last year Chinese military vessels harassed U.S. surveillance ships in the sea.

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made what's believed to be the highest-level public U.S. remarks to date on the issue.

"The South China Sea is an area of growing concern," he said at a security forum in Singapore. "This sea is not only vital to those directly bordering it, but to all nations with economic and security interests in Asia."

Gates repeated the U.S.' longstanding policy that it takes no position on conflicting sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

But he said the U.S. believes "it is essential that stability, freedom of navigation, and free and unhindered economic development be maintained" and that "we object to any effort to intimidate U.S. corporations or those of any nation engaged in legitimate economic activity."

By: Shelldrake

RIMPAC Adds 2 participants

Malaysia and Thailand have joined US forces for RIMPAC.

Malaysia and Thailand have for the first time joined a major US-led exercise in the Pacific Ocean in which some 20,000 personnel are practicing how to coordinate in a crisis, an officer said Friday.

Billed as the world's largest international maritime war games, the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise, or RIMPAC, opened Wednesday for a six-week run off Hawaii.

Colombia, France, Malaysia and Thailand are all new participants in RIMPAC, according to the US Third Fleet, which coordinates the maneuvers.

"By having these nations participate for the first time, they're exposed to how we operate," said US Navy Captain Paul McKeon, RIMPAC's exercise control officer.

By: Brant

Hearts & Minds, eh?

If NATO is trying to win hearts and minds, they don't seem to be doing it.

NATO said Monday that a Taliban commander was among several armed individuals killed during a search operation in Kandahar, but residents claim the troops killed eight innocent civilians, including two elderly men.

NATO said in a statement that coalition and Afghan troops went to a compound outside Kandahar city where they immediately came under hostile fire. The troops returned fire in self-defense and killed several armed men, including Taliban commander, Shyster Uhstad Khan, who was involved in the purchase and distribution of roadside bombs, NATO said. The coalition said the combined force also detained an individual who was suspected of having direct contact with senior Taliban leaders in Kabul and facilitated the delivery of explosive devices to the capital.

Residents describe the search operation differently in Kandahar, where Afghan and coalition forces are ramping up security in hopes of driving out insurgents, gaining the loyalty of residents and bolstering the Afghan government's control of the Taliban stronghold.

By: Brant

Custer's Battle Guidon For Sale

Military history buffs with a few million dollars to spare may wish to check out the upcoming auction of a rare 7th Cavalry artefact from the Battle of Little Bighorn.
The swallowtail battle guidon of the 7th Cavalry Regiment was the only military artefact left behind after Custer and his men were defeated by thousands of Lakota and Cheyenne Indians, led by Sitting Bull, in June, 1876.

The battle caused enormous shock in the US at the time - when the young nation was preparing to celebrate its centennial - and has become one of the most celebrated in American military history.

The victorious Plains Indians had stripped the corpses clean of trophies but evidently missed the flag, which was hidden under the body of a fallen soldier.

It was recovered by Sgt Ferdinand Culbertson, a member of a burial party, and was sold for $54 in 1895 to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Another 7th Cavalry guidon was found months later in an Indian village seized by US troops, but is reportedly moth-eaten and in very poor condition.

Three other guidons were never recovered, while the regimental flag was on a train at the time of the battle.

The Detroit institute is now selling it to pay for new art acquisitions, after admitting it barely ever saw the guidon, as it was almost continually on loan to other institutions.

By: Shelldrake

North Korea Ups Nuclear Stakes?

Disturbing speculation today by a BBC correspondent that the Norks may be trying to develop a fusion bomb.

The North Korean statement, carried by official news agency KCNA, did not give any details of how the communist country could bolster its nuclear capability.

"The recent disturbing development on the Korean peninsula underscores the need for (North Korea) to bolster its nuclear deterrent in a newly developed way to cope with the US persistent hostile policy toward (the North) and military threat toward it," it quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests. It is thought to have both plutonium and uranium-based weapons programmes.

The BBC's John Sudworth, in Seoul, says the comments could also be meant as a hint that it is trying to build a hydrogen bomb, a massively more powerful weapon than the type it is already known to possess.

North Korea announced in May that it had successfully conducted a nuclear fusion reaction, the type used in a hydrogen bomb.

But that kind of breakthrough would require a major technological leap and many experts doubt whether North Korea has the facilities or the resources, our correspondent says.

UPDATE (added by Brant)
The Norks are now also accusing the US and South Korea of bringing weapons into Panmunjon, among other transgressions.

By: Shelldrake

Monday Video: Bullet With A Name

Starting off your week with a serious bang

Don't forget to nominate your own videos in the comments below for future inclusion

By: Brant

China Says "No" to MilBlogs

China has decreed that no mil shall blog under the revolutionary banner.

China has issued regulations banning its 2.3 million soldiers from creating web sites or writing web blogs, adding to the nation's existing Internet curbs, state press said Saturday.

"Soldiers cannot open blogs on the Internet no matter (whether) he or she does it in the capacity of a soldier or not," Xinhua news agency quoted Wan Long, a political commissar of the People's Liberation Army, as saying.

"The Internet is complicated and we should guard against online traps," it said, citing concerns about military "confidentiality".

The new rules are laid out in revised PLA Internal Administration Regulations and went into effect on June 15, the report said. They ban soldiers of the PLA, the world's largest standing army, from creating homepages, web sites or blogging.

'cuz we wouldn't want the members of the PLA to feel, y'know, 'liberated' enough to blog or anything.

By: Brant

Mullen on Afghan Tour

I guess he's trying to reassure the Afghan leadership, but one wonders how much either side really cares at this point.

With the American-led military mission temporarily a ship without a captain, the nation’s top admiral spent Saturday in this land-locked war zone reassuring Afghan leaders and allied troops that Washington will not pause in pressing forward its strategy — one that will require enhanced cooperation between civilian and military officials.

“The leadership has changed, but the policy hasn’t changed,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The strategy hasn’t changed. And we are very much committed to it.”

Admiral Mullen arrived in the Afghan capital at a tumultuous moment: The allied commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, was fired by President Obama this week following publication of comments by the general and his staff that disparaged senior civilian officials. And the war effort is beset by rising violence and a frustratingly slow pace of political and economic progress required to attract a war-weary population.

By: Brant

GEN Marshall Was Right... 70 Years Ago

His characterization of the military is painfully accurate today.

As Gen. George C. Marshall, the great World War II chief of staff, once put it, if you assign a problem to the military to solve, don't be surprised if you get a military solution.

The nation's founders never intended the country's military forces to be global peacemakers or a foreign policy "tool" of first resort. The military’s deficiencies in this regard are especially apparent when warriors are given highly calculated and politically sensitive missions requiring delicacy and nuance.

The nation's involvement in Afghanistan is a good example of this mismatch. That country's politics are so complex as to seem unfathomable. Its terrain—physical, cultural and human—is well beyond difficult. And American and NATO resources —financial and political—are limited.

Yet many Americans still expect our soldiers not only to hunt down the enemies of the United States there but also to pacify the country sufficiently to justify a departure not far in the future.

By: Brant

27 June 2010

Origins Photo Essays

The Wargamer: Exhibit Hall Photos

The Wargamer: Board and War Room

By: Brant

Twitter-Fight Between Journalists Over McChrystal

David Brooks took a shot at Hastings and his article on McChrystal. And Hastings has now fired back over Twitter. Incoming twits!

"By putting [McChrystal's] kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority," Brooks wrote. "He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him."

Hastings, however, doesn't think it's fair to blame him for accurately reporting on the tension between McChrystal's circle and the civilian chain of command, and came out firing on Twitter Friday morning.

He wrote the following tweet: "david brooks to young reporters: don't report what you see or hear, or you might upset the powerful." And another: "question for david brooks: does he really think WH and McC had good relationships? signs point to lack of listening to kvetching!" Here's one more: "question 2 to mr. brooks: how much time has he spent listening to the troops kvetch in a warzone? just askin'."

By: Brant

Kyrgyzstan At The Polls

Not sure how many ethnic Uzbeks actually *could* participate.

The people of violence-wracked Kyrgyzstan voted Sunday on a new constitution just weeks after deadly ethnic purges — a vote that the interim government hopes will legitimize the power it seized in April.

The Central Asian nation was on high security alert for the vote, deploying almost 8,000 police officers and an equal number of defense volunteers to keep the peace after rampages that killed hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks.

Voting in the southern city of Osh, where entire Uzbek neighborhoods were burned to the ground earlier this month during attacks by ethnic Kyrgyz, interim President Roza Otunbayeva said the vote was proof of her country's strength.

By: Brant

Early Retirement For The B1-B Lancer?

Defensetech is reporting that the B1-B Lancer bomber fleet may be headed to the boneyard early as part of sweeping cuts in aircraft by the US Air Force.
Back to the Title 10 side of the house for a moment; the Air Force Council meets today to consider further cuts in aircraft to meet aggressive savings targets laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. One option on the table: early retirement of all 66 B-1B Lancer bombers (the last delivery of which came back in 1988).

Force structure cuts might also extend to the air arm’s much cherished but currently under-utilized fighter force. The service already plans to early retire 250 fighters this year, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said last month; gone are 112 F-15s, 134 F-162, and 3 A-10s.

Some of the fighter wings, mainly A-10, are being chopped altogether, while others are transitioning from legacy F-15s to upgraded F-15s or to the fifth-generation F-22 and other wings are prepping to receive the F-35 at some uncertain future date.

By: Shelldrake

Tank on Tank goes 3D!

How Afghanistan Differs From Iraq

And how it will really matter to GEN Petraeus.

...two major factors distinguish the Afghan from the Iraqi surge. First is the alarming weakness and ineptness — to say nothing of the corruption — of the Afghan central government. One of the reasons the U.S. offensive in Marja has faltered is that there is no Afghan “government in a box” to provide authority for territory that the U.S. military clears.

In Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, after many mixed signals, eventually showed that he could act as a competent national leader rather than a sectarian one when he attacked Moqtada al-Sadr’s stronghold in Basra, faced down the Mahdi Army in the other major cities in the south and took the fight into Sadr City in Baghdad itself. In Afghanistan, on the other hand, President Karzai makes public overtures to the Taliban, signaling that he is already hedging his bets.

But beyond indecision in Kabul, there is indecision in Washington. When the president of the United States announces the Afghan surge and, in the very next sentence, announces the date on which a U.S. withdrawal will begin, the Afghans — from president to peasant — take note.

By: Brant

Order Of Battle: Norway

A quick look at the Army of Norway

7.500 (normally approx.)
9.500 (on mobilisation, approx.)

Operational capabilities
A mobile tactical land command (MTLC)
One independent mechanised brigade (Brig N)
ISTAR Battalion representing the core in a joint operative ISTAR unit
H M The King’s Guard
Guard Border Guard
Norwegian Army Special Forces Command
(With a small number of support units and enablers in addition)

Education and trainings centers
The Norwegian Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), including
The Military Academy, located at Camp Linderud in Oslo
The Officer Candidate School/Combined Arms, Camp Rena
The Norwegian Army Tactical Training Centre (Simulator Training Centre), Camp Rena

By: Brant

26 June 2010

A Detailed Look at Embedded Reporters

The At War Blog on NYTimes.com has a very good bit on embedded reporters you should read.

“Embedding” is one of the words that emerged from the jargon of soldiers, diplomats, politicians and spin doctors involved with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and entered the public discourse alongside “shock and awe,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “insurgent,” “hajji,” “Green Zone,” “blast wall,” “tipping point,” “contractor,” “Blackwater,” “death blossom,” “Abu Ghraib,” “I.E.D.,” “M.R.A.P.,” “Awakening” and “surge.”

It was not in fact a term born in Iraq — the practice of chroniclers traveling with soldiers is as old as war, and even the word “embedding” itself was in use in the 1990s. But Iraq was certainly where it crossed over into the wider lexicon. Within the military there may now be some debate about whether embedding survives in its current form, after a journalist granted close access helped bring about the downfall of a four-star general within the very military system which spawned it.

Over the coming weeks At War will present different perspectives on the theory and practice of embedding from correspondents, photographers, Iraqi journalists — some who were working for The New York Times and some who were not — as well as soldiers and Iraqis. We welcome your comments, and invite you to share your own thoughts and experiences, especially if you have reported from either Iraq or Afghanistan, or have served there in the military and have first-hand experience of embedded or unembedded journalism.

By: Brant

Panzer Digest booth

Origins Day 1 Wrapup

Posted over at The Wargamer and written by yours truly.

By: Brant

US D-Day Memorial Pays Tribute To Stalin

Why on earth would anyone want to honor Josef Stalin at an American D-Day memorial? Most countries, including Stalin's native Georgia, are dismantling monuments to the homicidal Soviet dictator!
Robin Reed, slated to become the next president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation on Monday, is standing by his predecessor's decision to install a bust of dictator Josef Stalin at the memorial in Bedford, Va.

"At this point in time I certainly am not going to re-evaluate that," he said in an interview Tuesday with The Washington Times.

While Mr. Reed said he can "appreciate the concern" of locals who have voiced their opposition to the bust, he said the bust can serve as a teaching tool to make visitors recognize the importance of Stalin as one of the leaders in World War II.

To those who argue that Stalin's force weren't present on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 and had nothing to do with the D-Day invasion, Mr. Reed said Stalin still deserves credit as someone who contributed to the success of the war.

Many groups and locals have voiced their opposition to a monument to the dictator responsible for the deaths of about 20 million in the town of Bedford, which lost more men per capita than any other U.S. city during World War II. Men from Bedford were in the front attacking lines on D-Day, and 21 of them lost their lives.

Mr. Reed said the foundation's board of directors will seriously consider any petition that comes before them, such as the one in the works by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

As of Monday, the petition had more than 600 confirmed signatures from 45 states and 20 countries. Mr. Reed said William McIntosh, the outgoing president of the foundation, had been very responsible, and that he intended to pick up where Mr. McIntosh left off.

"It is our job now to take the memorial to the next level," Mr. Reed said.

Kudos to The Washington Post for a blistering editorial on this ill-considered decision by the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.

By: Shelldrake

Weekend Humor: Simulating Shipboard Life

Following our account of how to simulate life in the Army, here's the Navy version - life on a ship.


1. When commencing this emulation, remember to lock yourself inside your house. Board up all windows, leaving all friends and family outside. You can communicate only with letters that your neighbors will hold to two weeks before delivering; losing one out of five. Have a friend or neighbor yell "Mail Call" at your door. Four out of five times, he will snicker and say; "You didn't get anything."

2. Surround yourself with 5,000 people you either don't like or don't know. These people will chain-smoke, fart loudly, snore like a Mack truck on a up hill grade, complain constantly, seldom shower, wear clean clothes, or brush their teeth and use expletives in speech the way kids use sugar on cold cereal.

3. Unplug all radios and televisions to completely cut yourself off from the outside world. Have a neighbor bring you a 'TIME' or 'NEWSWEEK' magazine from 2 or 3 months ago, and a 'PLAYBOY' magazine with the pictures cut out.

4. Monitor all operating home appliances hourly, recording all vital parameters (plugged in, light functions when door opens, etc.). If not in use, log every four hours as "secured".

5. Do not flush the toilet (s) for the first three days to simulate the smell of forty people using the same commode. After that, flush once daily. Shower water should be either all hot or all cold. When you get all soaped up (soap on face / shampoo in hair), have your neighbor shut off the water.

6. Wear only approved coveralls or proper uniforms (no special or cut-off T-shirts). Even though nobody cares, once a week clean and press one uniform in the dark on a broken ironing board (or a towel on the floor) and wear it for 20 minutes while standing at attention. After this, change back into coveralls, catch and rip the sleeve of your shirt on a sharp object on your way to change, curse and yell, then wad it up and throw it in a smelly locker.

7. Cut your hair weekly, making it shorter each time until you are bald or look like you tangled with a demented sheep-shearer. Have a friend or neighbor loudly tell you to get a haircut at least once every other week, whether you need one or not.

8. Work 18-hour cycles, sleeping only 4 hours at a time to ensure your body doesn't know or care if it's daytime or nighttime.

9. Listen to your favorite cassette 6 times a day for two weeks, and then play music that causes acute nausea until you are glad to get back to your 'favorite' cassettes.

10. Cut a twin mattress in half length-wise. Place it in a sideways metal box, the roof should be low enough to prevent you from sitting in any position (18 inches is plenty). Place the metal box on a platform so that it is at lease 6 inches from the floor. Place a dead animal under your sheets to simulate the smell of your bunkmates, the laundry and shipboard life. Whenever possible, and without warning, have someone take your pillow or blanket (or both) to simulate that special camaraderie that exist only on-board an U.S. Naval warship.

11. Set your alarm clock to go off at the 5 minute 'snooze' intervals for the first hour of sleep to simulate alarms, of watch-standards and night crew going on and off duty, and at odd times just to wake you up. Place your metal box on a rocker to ensure that you are tossed from side to side for the remaining three hours of sleep. Alternately use a custom alarm clock that sounds like a fire alarm, police sirens, and loud punk rock combined to simulate various drill alarms on-board the ship and so you will get accustomed to ignoring your regular alarm clock.

12. Prepare all food while blindfolded, using all the spices that you can grope for, or none at all, to simulate shipboard food. Remove the blindfold and eat as fast as humanly possible. If the food does not stick to an inverted plate when cold, use more lard. If the food contains more than one part per thousand of fiber, dispose of it. Always take more than you can possible eat to keep up the waste standards of the Navy. Remember over-cooking or under-cooking is preferable to proper cooking. Also combining old food to new food is also encouraged.

13. Periodically shut off all the power at the main breaker and lie face down on the floor with your hands on top of your head while a friend or neighbor points a loaded rifle at you and repeatedly yells at the top of his voice, "Get on the Deck". Continue this for at least 20 minutes to simulate Marine security drills.

14. Buy a gas mask; smear the seal with rancid animal fat, scrub the lens with steel wool until you can't see out of it. Wear it for four hours every fifth day (even to the bathroom) and run rapidly from one side of the house to the other.

15. Prepare yourself an emergency that will require you to evacuate the premises knowing that if you exit, the biker gang that you hired will cut off your arms and legs to simulate sharks. Study a first aid book to learn how to handle wounds and control bleeding until you can quote it verbatim.

16. Study the owner’s manual for all appliances in the house. At regular intervals, take one apart and put it back together again, then test operate it at the extremes of its tolerance.

17. Remove all plants, pictures, and decorations. Paint all furnishings and walls haze-grey, white or the green shade of hospital O.R. smocks.

18. To make sure you are living in a clean and happy environment, once every week clean from top to bottom, working hard at cleaning all day even if it is only a 2 hour job. Then have someone tell you that you missed some dust and your floor looks like crap. When completed, have someone inspect your work, criticizing everything as much as possible. This person should never be satisfied with good effort or work.

19. Once a day, put in a video (which you have prepared) to watch a movie that you walked out on a year ago. Then watch an episode of "Charlie's Angles" that you didn't like the first three times you saw it. Make sure you pause it just at the peak of action so you can sweep the floor or listen to someone talk loudly about something stupid.

20. Since you will get no medical care, stock up on Band-Aids, Aspirin, and Pepto-Bismol. You must be able to cure every disease and ailment known to man.

21. Every six weeks to simulate liberty in a foreign port, go out directly to the city slums wearing your best clothes. Enter the raunchiest bar you can find and ask the bartender for the most expensive imported beer he carriers. Drink as many of these as fast as you can in four hours, then hire a cab to take you home by the longest route possible. Tip the cab driver after he charges you double because you were dressed funny and lock yourself back in your dwelling for another six weeks.

22. Run a loud blender in every room at a constant high speed to simulate the constant whine of the ship's machinery and have the biker gang you hired pound on the roof and walls to simulate recovering and launching aircraft.

23. To achieve the permanent, smelly, dingy, wrinkled look in your clothes, have the plumber connect the washer to a sewer line. Tightly cram you clothes into a nylon bag and wash whole. Throw the bag in a corner for 2 days and then without removing the clothes from the bag, dry it. It helps if your clothes are tied in tight knots before cramming into a bag. For best results, add two or three ink pens to each bag.

24. This simulation must run a minimum of 6 months to be effective. The exact date of the end of this simulation will be changed no less than 7 times without your knowledge. This is done to keep you guessing as to when you can expect to get back to a semi-normal life. It is also done in hope of screwing up any plans you have made or would like to make. On the last day of this simulation, remove the boards from the windows but do not go outside, have your love ones stand across the street, and you face them while standing at attention for 4 hours.

By: Chuckles

West Point Hosts Prince Harry

West Point is just one of several New York area locations to be visited by Prince Harry this weekend.
Prince Harry will join cadets training at the U.S. Military Academy on Friday as he starts a three-day visit to New York.

Harry, third in line to the British throne, will take part in live-fire drills and watch field exercises at Camp Buckner, a cadet training facility at West Point.

The drills will be held some 64 kilometres north of New York City, but they may seem familiar to the 25-year-old prince. Harry attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and is a lieutenant in the British Army.

Harry served in Afghanistan in 2008 as a battlefield air controller until his time was cut short by a media leak. He has made no secret of his desire to return to the front lines and the decision last month by British Army commanders to train him as an Apache attack helicopter pilot could make that more likely.

Harry is the younger son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

By: Shelldrake

25 June 2010

Seen Around the Exhibit Hall

Yes, it's been sighted :)

Playtesting @ Origins

Intro briefing...
Working on a Colombia scenario

Yes, this really is a wargame...

SOCOM Cancels Mk-16 SCAR

According to an article on Military.com, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has cancelled further procurement of the Mk.16 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle-Light (SCAR-L) in favor of buying only the 7.62x51mm SCAR-H "heavy" variant of the SCAR.
“The Mk-16 does not provide enough of a performance advantage over the M-4 to justify spending USSOCOM’s limited … funds when competing priorities are taken into consideration,” officials at USSOCOM said in an email response to questions from Military.com.
A few thoughts on this:
  1. I'm glad I didn't spend $2,500+ on a SCAR-L "because I want to shoot what SOCOM shoots."
  2. This decision certainly implies that the M4 is a "good enough" carbine, even by SOCOM's high standards.
  3. The AR-15/M16/M4 platform will be with us for quite a while longer.
  4. It seems that the SCAR-H will likely become a niche weapon, fielded in quite limited quantities.
For civilian shooters who want a battle rifle, this is another reason to consider either a KAC/DPMS/Magpul-compatible "AR-308" rifle or an M1A or maybe hold out for Magpul's long-gestating Massoud (the .308 version of the Remington/Bushmaster ACR, nee Magpul Masada).

By: Guardian

Length of Service Reduced For German Draftees

This new law does not instill much confidence in the quality of drafted German troops. Realistically, how much training are draftees going to receive over the course of six months compulsory service? I just hope for their sake that none of these drafted troops are deployed to Afghanistan or a similar hot spot.

The German parliament passed a law June 17 that cuts compulsory military and civil service from nine months to six months. The three ruling parties won the ballot in parliament with 303 votes, against 248 by the three opposition parties.

According to its legislative proposal, the government expects the move to increase costs up to 262 million euros ($322 million), which could change with the number of citizens who would be drafted. Currently, basic pay and additional ancillary benefits for those in compulsory military service total about 454.7 million euros, the department of defense says.

At the moment, department officials expect the total number of drafted troops to rise from 40,000 to around 50,000 a year because of the reduction of length of service.

The law officially takes effect Dec. 1, but those drafted July 1 will need to serve only six months.

By: Shelldrake

Anniversary: North Korea Invades

60 years ago today, North Korea invaded South Korea.

The two Koreas commemorated the 60th anniversary Friday of the outbreak of the Korean War, promoting vastly different views of the origins of the conflict that still divides their peninsula.
The war started in the early hours of June 25, 1950, with an attack by North Korean troops. The Korean peninsula had been divided in 1945 after colonial ruler Japan's defeat in World War II.
The United States and 15 other countries sent troops to aid South Korea under the fledgling United Nations, while Chinese soldiers came in to fight with the North and the Soviet Union provided air support and advisers. Three years of combat devastated both sides. The fighting ended with an armistice, not a permanent peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.
In Seoul, South Korea held an official ceremony to remember the war, widely known as "6/25" for the date it began. President Lee Myung-bak presented plaques of appreciation to representatives of countries that sent soldiers or supplies to aid the war effort.
"Sixty years ago today, North Korea's communists opened fire on all fronts of the 38th parallel on a weekend's dawn when all people were sleeping peacefully," Lee said in a speech. The gathering was attended by South Korean and foreign veterans of the conflict, foreign ambassadors and serving South Korean and U.S. soldiers. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.
North Korea's view of the conflict, which it calls the Fatherland Liberation War, is vastly different. Under the headline "U.S., Provoker of Korean War," the country's state news agency on Tuesday accused Washington of starting the war with a surprise attack.
"All the historical facts show that it is the U.S. imperialists who unleashed the war in Korea and that the United States can never escape from the responsibility," the Korean Central News Agency said.
On Thursday, KCNA followed up with a massive 4,300-word article listing damage done by the United States to North Korea since 1945.
KCNA cited the "Committee for Investigation into Damage Done by the U.S. to the Northern Half of Korea" as finding the total monetary cost for North Korean suffering came to a staggering $65 trillion. That amount is five times the U.S. national debt of about $13 trillion.

By: Brant

Military Maps: UN In Congo

Here's a look at UN deployments in the Congo (PDF)

By: Brant

The Worm's Eye View

War Is Boring has a nice dispatch from the front that offers some grunt-level perspective on the leadership change and the daily grind in Afghanistan.

The now infamous Rolling Stone article generated an instant firestorm surrounding the comments of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. But as Blake Hounshell notes at Foreign Policy, many people miss a notable part of the article: nine years in, the grunts at the bottom are losing faith in their leadership.

At COP Baraki Barak, raising the subject of COIN and the inevitable risk it brings to soldiers brings shrugs and reminders of the deep commitment soldiers have to obeying orders, no matter how stupid — on the record. Off the record, when the soldiers speculate freely on their superiors attributes, many are brutal: they’ve forgotten their
roots, they’ve sold their souls for political expediency, they misinterpret the situation, they aren’t paying attention, their hearing is selective, they are Olympic-level idiots.

By: Brant

Origins Images / Posting

Hey everyone - I'm going to post images from throughout the day from Origins direct to the blog from the phone (ain't thechology great!) and then at the end of the day I will consolidate like images together into unified posts.

If there's stuff you want to see more of (or less of...) let me know and I'll see what I can do.

There are also some videos I shot, but they didn't post here correctly, so I'll see what I can do about that.

By: Brant

Battles for the Bulge @ Origins

Dave O'Connor laying out the situation at the start of the Bulge mission

24 June 2010

Decisive Action @ Origins (Consolidated Image Thread)

Running a division-level staff exercise on the NTC map. There are actually a lot of people here for this one (12!)...

Briefing slides for the division mission. Cick to enlarge where you can read them.

Logistics briefing during mission analysis

The maneuver map

The commander briefs his subordinate brigade commanders.

We had enough people for this one that the staff/commanders broke down as follows:

XO (really the CofS, but called XO for simplicity)
Ass't S2
Ass't S3
Ass't Fires
Ass't S4
1/55 BDE CDR
2/55 BDE CDR
3/55 BDE CDR

We intentionally kept the BDE CDR's segregated during the MDMP to force the CO/XO to push info to them and gave the BDE CDR's some ideas about what to ask for and how to ask for it.

While the exercise barely got into the shooting phase, the guys learned a lot about just trying to get everyone in the division lined up and moving in the same direction.


where are the videos?! Funny you should ask. Read this for the full skinny

S2 Battle Update Brief (S2 is in bright green shirt at the maps):

Find more videos like this on ConsimWorld

S3 Battle Update Brief (S3 is in the white shirt on the left):

Find more videos like this on ConsimWorld

S4 Battle Update Brief (S4 is in the white hat in the middle):

Find more videos like this on ConsimWorld

Flashpoint Germany @ Origins (Consolidated Image Thread)

Learning to run a wargame as a military staff, the participants huddle over the expected enemy course of action to compare their plan to what they think the enemy is doing.

The XO works with Jim Snyder, designer of Flashpoint Germany, to input the initial order for BLUFOR.
The OPFOR are run by AI.
The staff is almost ready to execute.

Staff tracking the action during first turn of the action.

Change of mission from offense to defense and trying to reposition for flank fires.


where are the videos?! Funny you should ask. Read this for the full skinny

Find more videos like this on ConsimWorld

Some of these participants were back for the Decisive Action game in the afternoon, so they're in the other photos/videos, too.

Minis Hall @ Origins (Consolidated Image Thread)

Injurius Games table

Napoleon's Battles w/ Lost Battalion Games

Origins War/Board Room (Consolidated Image Thread)

Before the storm

OCS table at start

Briefing the current situation and deciding whether or not to take a double turn.

Mandatory Combat Commander

Origins Exhibit Hall (Consolidated Image Thread)

Lots more tomorrow as the show unfolds...

Matt Ragsdale glueing dice together

trying to repair the credit card machine

Lock'n'Load Publishing @ Origins

Costumed conventiongoer walking around...

Iranian Reaction to Possible Ship Inspections

According to Iran's top naval commander, the Iranian Navy has developed special contingency plans for use in the event of Iranian ship inspections in international waters by US forces. Sounds like someone is looking for a well deserved smack down.

‘The Americans and their shaky allies would probably not dare to sneer at our ships maliciously anywhere in the world waters, anyway,’ Fadavi said while adding, ‘If they would resort to such a silly act in accordance with their illegitimate and illegal resolution, we would in the Persian Gulf and at the Strait of Hormoz react with a very special and very appropriate move, relying on the grace of God, and our might and capabilities that are drastically improved compared to the era of our sacred defense war.’

Iranian Armed Forces today enjoys unparalleled capabilities including hundreds of missile launchers, thousands of warships and military boats, air-to-sea missiles, powerful land-to-sea missile batteries stationed in that strategic area.
By: Shelldrake

Afghans Approve of General Petraeus

Although Afghan leaders are not happy with the recent replacement of General McChrystal, the selection of General Petraeus by President Obama as the new commander of the US and NATO Afghanistan mission has been greeted with obvious relief.

Afghan officials expressed relief at the choice of Gen. David Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. and NATO commander, believing the U.S. strategy aimed at minimizing civilian casualties and bolstering the Afghan government would continue.

Afghans had warned that the dismissal of McChrystal would disrupt progress in the war and jeopardize a pivotal security operation under way in Taliban strongholds in the south.

After President Barack Obama announced the selection of Petraeus, Afghan authorities said Wednesday they were relieved because the veteran war commander helped craft the counterinsurgency strategy being implemented in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the Afghan leader was informed of the change in leadership before the public announcement and that he was happy with the selection, despite his respect for McChrystal.

By: Shelldrake

International Fleet Review Comes To Halifax

An impressive fleet of NATO warships, including the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, will participate in the International Fleet Review taking place next week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
More than 5,000 sailors and over two dozen ships from eight countries will be in Halifax this week for an international fleet review to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian navy.

Most of the ships are currently involved in exercises off the coast of Nova Scotia and in the Bay of Fundy. They started arriving in the harbour Wednesday.

"They’re going to come in, and most of them will be open for tours," says navy Lt. Ed Stansfield. "There’ll be any number of receptions, there’ll be ceremonial gun firings, all sorts of things."

According to the navy’s website, naval assemblies date back to 1773, when King George III reviewed the British fleet following the Seven Year War.

Next week will mark the ninth time there has been a fleet review in Canada. Navy ships on the west coast and ships from Asia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand formed up last week.

In a review, ships anchor in two or more lines with an open space between. As the ship carrying the reviewing official moves between the lines, each ship in turn salutes. The crew stand along the guardrails, gives three cheers and wave their caps.

By: Shelldrake

US CItizens Convicted of Terrorism in Pakistan

An anti-terror court in Pakistan convicts 5 Americans on terror-related charges.

Five American men were convicted Thursday on terror charges by a Pakistani court and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a case that has heightened concerns about Westerners traveling to Pakistan to contact al-Qaida and other Islamist extremist groups.
The trial of the young Muslim men from the Washington, D.C., area was sensitive for the U.S., which has a duty to ensure justice for its citizens abroad but also has pushed Pakistan to crack down on militancy.
Prosecutors said e-mail records and witness statements proved they used the Internet to plot terror attacks in Pakistan and nations allied with it. The father of one of the men said they were in Pakistan to attend his son's wedding, but had intended to cross into Afghanistan for humanitarian work.

By: Brant

UK In Action: UAV in Action

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Watchkeeper makes it's first flight in the UK. The new UAV flew for the first time in the UK on 14 April 2010, taking off from dedicated facilities at Parc Aberporth in West Wales for a 20-minute flight. Watchkeeper provides enhanced UAV capability that will enable commanders to detect and track targets for long periods, without the need to deploy troops into potentially sensitive or dangerous areas. The system is capable of rapid deployment and operations anywhere in the world and will support the information requirements of all three services.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

McChrystal Fallout in Afghanistan

Time Magazine has a look at the repercussions of the McChrystal firing in Afghanistan.

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan was scheduled to pay a surprise visit to Marines at Combat Outpost Hanson in Marjah this week, some four months after they waged a fierce offensive to break the Taliban's grip. Instead, General Stanley McChrystal headed back to Washington, his job in jeopardy over published remarks that criticize President Obama and senior staff members for hamstringing efforts to turn around the nine-year war.
The trip was canceled "thanks to a Rolling Stone article," an officer deadpanned as word was announced at an evening briefing inside a dust-caked tent on the base. At dinner, a Marine joked that McChrystal, known for his spartan habits, had asked for trouble when he broke "standing order No. 1: no drinking," referring to a booze-soaked evening at an Irish pub in Paris that was described in the article, during which he and some of his aides unwound in the presence of a reporter. "I talk trash about the President sometimes too," he says, "but at least I don't get fired for it." One lesson from the Rolling Stone episode among both officers and grunts: wariness of prying reporters. Almost everyone Time talked to for this story asked not to be quoted by name.

By: Brant