Archive for the ‘forces’ Category

Mumbai: India Faces Reckoning as Terror Toll Eclipses 170

November 30, 2008

Why wasn’t intelligence better?  Who is to blame?  And why did it happen?


Death still hung over Mumbai on Sunday, as the Indian government reckoned with troubling questions about its ability to respond to escalating terror attacks.

By Somaini Sengupta and Keith Bradsher 
The New York Times

This image taken from NDTV shows an man carrying an automatic ... 
This image taken from NDTV shows an man carrying an automatic rifle as he enters a train station in Mumbai late November 26. Indian police investigating who was behind the massive militant assault on Mumbai interrogated Sunday the only gunman who survived, as Pakistan insisted it was not involved.(AFP/NDTV/Ho)

The morning after the standoff ended at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the official death toll remained 172. But the police said they were still waiting for the final figures of dead bodies pulled from the wreckage from the hotel, a 105-year-old landmark. Funerals were scheduled to continue throughout Sunday, for the second day in a row.

As an investigation moved forward, there were questions about whether Indian authorities could have anticipated the attack and had better security in place, especially after a 2007 report to Parliament that the country’s shores were inadequately protected from infiltration by sea — which is how the attackers sneaked into Mumbai.

All the while, tensions swelled with Pakistan, where officials promised that they would act swiftly if any connection to Pakistani-based militants were found, but also warned that troops could be moved to the border quickly if relations with India worsened.

It was still unclear whether the attackers had collaborators already in the city, or whether others in their group had escaped. And perhaps the most troubling question to emerge for the Indian authorities was how, if official estimates are accurate, just 10 gunmen could have caused so much carnage and repelled Indian security forces for more than three days in three different buildings.

Part of the answer may lie in continuing signs that despite the country’s long vulnerability to terrorist attacks, Indian law enforcement remains ill-prepared. The siege exposed problems caused by inexperienced security forces and inadequate equipment, including a lack of high-power rifle scopes and other optics to help discriminate between the attackers and civilians.

Amid the cleanup effort on Saturday, the brutality of the gunmen became plain, as accounts from investigators and survivors portrayed a wide trail of destruction and indiscriminate killing.

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Pact, Approved in Iraq, Sets Time for U.S. Pullout

November 17, 2008

Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet’s decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war.

By Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell 
The New York Times

The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.

Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true national consensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential.

US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following ...
US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, some 370 kms from Baghdad. The White House on Sunday welcomed the approval by Iraq’s cabinet of a military pact that requires the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011.(AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables.

Iraq also obtained a significant degree of jurisdiction in some cases over serious crimes committed by Americans who are off duty and not on bases.

In Washington, the White House welcomed the vote as “an important and positive step” and attributed the agreement itself to security improvements in the past year.

Throughout the negotiations, the Shiite parties and the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, under pressure from forces both within and outside the country, had been trying to strike a balance in forging a viable agreement with the Americans that would guarantee Iraq’s security and that would still stand firm against what many, including neighboring Iran, consider a hostile force

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BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security pact with the United States on Sunday, ending prolonged negotiations to allow American forces to remain for three more years in the country they first occupied in 2003.

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Senior U.S. Commanders to Assess Afghanistan Mission

October 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — The commander of the United States’ Special Operations forces is meeting this week with the senior American commander in Afghanistan, as well as top Special Operations officers there, to assess the mission in Afghanistan, senior military officials said Thursday.
Read: An American military outpost in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, has been frequently attacked by insurgents in recent weeks. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The commander, Adm. Eric T. Olson, was in Pakistan on Thursday to meet the new leader of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps paramilitary force, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, and to observe a new American-led training program for the Pakistani corps.

Over the next several months, about two dozen American and British military trainers will instruct Pakistani officers at a base in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. The Pakistani officers will in turn train Frontier Corps soldiers next year, in what both countries say is a crucial step in building an effective indigenous force to combat fighters from Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas.

But the bulk of Admiral Olson’s time in the region will be spent conferring in Afghanistan with senior American Special Operations officers from across the country, as well as with the senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, on Friday.

General McKiernan has said that he needs as many as 15,000 combat and support troops beyond the 8,000 troops that President Bush recently approved for deployment early next year. The general is also conducting his own assessment of operations in Afghanistan.

His findings, along with other assessments from the Pentagon and the State Department, will be combined into a comprehensive White House review of Afghanistan policy that is to be completed next month after the presidential election, administration officials said Thursday.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, said officials from across the government, including the intelligence agencies, were working to ensure that “we are on the proper footing as we hand off the baton to the next administration.”

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Afghanistan: A Swamp Filled With Uncertainty

October 14, 2008

By Richard Halloran
The Washington Times

An Afghan boy and girl ride on a donkey carrying water, in Kabul, ...
An Afghan boy and girl ride on a donkey carrying water, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

As the United States begins extricating itself from the quagmire in Iraq, it is in jeopardy of plunging into a swamp in Afghanistan that is filled with uncertainty.

Yet neither President George Bush nor the leading candidates to succeed him, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, who debated the Afghan issue this week, have so far articulated America’s national interest in that landlocked Central Asian country. The White House, however, began a belated review this week of objectives and strategy in Afghanistan.

Gen. David McKiernan, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, sketched out a gloomy picture for the Pentagon press on Oct. 1, saying it would take “four to five years” of intervention before the Afghans could take responsibility for their internal security.

“What I have found after four months in Afghanistan is that the environment there is even more complex than I would have thought,” Gen. McKiernan said. “It’s a country where they have experienced 30 straight years of war that’s left a traumatized society and a traumatized tribal system.”

Other soldiers experienced in Afghanistan have been even more pessimistic. Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith, Britain’s senior commander in Afghanistan, was quoted: “We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.”

Brig. Carleton-Smith, who has just finished a second tour in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Times: “We want to change the nature of the debate from one where disputes are settled through the barrel of the gun to one where it is done through negotiations.” Evidently, negotiations would include moderate members of the revived Taliban insurgents.

A U.S. Army colonel who led a task force in Afghanistan, Christopher Kolenda, writing in the Weekly Standard asked: “How is it that we find ourselves unable to dispatch the Taliban seven years after their downfall? Winning in Afghanistan requires….

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Russia Moves to Reduce “Bloat” In Military, Especially Hierarchy

October 14, 2008

Moscow is moving to reduce what it calls “bloat” in its military forces, especially among the Generals and Admirals of the hierarchy.

A man looks at a newly installed Topol RS-12M mobile missile ... 
A man looks at a newly installed Topol RS-12M mobile missile on display at the Artillery Museum in St Petersburg October 14, 2008. Russia’s defence minister announced on Tuesday he is to slash the number of generals and officers in a drive to streamline the bloated armed forces, local news agencies reported. Russia has increased military spending as part of an effort to re-establish itself as a global power, but the new cash has not delivered radical improvements — a failure analysts put down to corruption and inefficiency.REUTERS/ Alexander Demianchuk (RUSSIA)

Russia may restructure forces to counter U.S. missile defense in Europe

January 30, 2008

MOSCOW. Jan 30 (Interfax-AVN) – The Russian Defense Ministry plansto restructure its military forces in the Kaliningrad region in responseto the U.S. plans to deploy its missile defense elements in Europe.

“The General Staff, assisted by our Main Department, is consideringhow we will structure our forces in the Kaliningrad special district toguarantee the protection of Russian interests,” Lt. Gen. VladimirShamanov, the chief of the Russian armed forces’ Main Combat Trainingand Service Department, told journalists on Wednesday.

“It is not a secret that the visit of the defense minister toKaliningrad late last year allows us to view the Kaliningrad specialdistrict in a new military and political light in relation to U.S. planson missile defense in Europe,” the general said.

Asked whether the Russian northwestern group of forces will bebuilt up, Shamanov said that the “formation of a group is a prerogativeof the General Staff and the Russian Security Council.”

Gates warns Russia against break with arms treaties

October 13, 2007

By Jim Mannion
October 13, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Saturday that Russia will hurt its position in Europe if it unilaterally breaks with a treaty limiting the deployment of conventional forces in Europe.

“My own view is that the Europeans are beginning to wonder what the Russians are all about,” he told reporters.

“And I think it would be frankly harmful to Russia’s interests in Europe to unilaterally suspend or withdraw from this treaty, in terms of the sense of security and reassurance in Europe of the predictability of the future.”

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