The Taliban hide among the civilian population. Many innocent civilians get killed.
Up to 12 civilians – 10 children and two women – are reported to have been killed in a Nato air strike in eastern Afghanistan.
A further six women are believed to have been injured in the incident in Shigal district, Kunar province.
Villagers and officials told the BBC that the casualties were inside their homes when they died.
Nato confirmed that “fire support” was used in Shigal after a US civilian adviser died in a militant attack.
It did not have any reports of civilian deaths, but photographs apparently sent from the scene to international news agencies appeared to show the bodies of several dead young children, surrounded by Afghan villagers.
A local official said eight Taliban insurgents had also died in the air strike on Saturday, which is reported to have caused the roofs of several houses in three villages to collapse.
Foreign Forces in Afghanistan
The US has deployed missile defence systems in response to North Korea’s threats against its neighbours.
The defences, which have the capability to shoot down missiles inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, will be ready within weeks, the Pentagon says.
Along with the US, North Korea’s neighbours Japan and South Korea also have missile defences in the area.
- Japan: Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defence systems; warships with Aegis anti-missile capability
- South Korea: Patriot Advanced Capability-2 defence systems; warships with Aegis anti-missile capability also deployed
- Guam: US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad) to be deployed
- Regional waters: US Aegis-equipped warships USS John McCain and USS Decatur have moved to the Western Pacific in recent days
The North Korean threat is driving significant interest in missile defences especially in countries like South Korea and Japan. Such defences rest upon both sea and land-based elements – like Aegis-equipped warships with radars and interceptors capable of tackling ballistic missiles as well as the ground-based radars and missile systems like Patriot and Thaad.
While primarily directed against a potential North Korean threat, it is clearly hoped in Washington that over time, the build-up of missile defences in the region may encourage China to bring pressure to bear upon Pyongyang. While missile defences are for now not directed against China, it is clear that their spread could potentially have an impact upon Beijing’s own strategic deterrent.
What missile defence systems are in the region and how do they work?
Aegis Missile defence system
SS John S McCain is in the Western Pacific
The Aegis system allows warships to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles while they are still in space.
The interceptor missiles are fired to hit missiles before they re-enter the atmosphere, stopping them well before there is any danger of causing any damage.
The US Navy, South Korea and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force all have destroyers in the region with Aegis capability.
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad)
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, is being developed as a rapidly-deployable system capable of defending against short and medium-range ballistic missiles during the late-mid-course and terminal phases of their flight.
The system – being deployed by the US to the Pacific island of Guam – can destroy enemy missiles at ranges of 200km and at altitudes up to 150km and is used to protect high-value strategic or tactical sites such as airfields or populations centres.
Thaad has been much delayed in development and the Guam deployment will be its first real mission. The first two of nine planned batteries were only scheduled to be delivered to the US Army in 2012.
1. The enemy launches a missile
2. The Thaad radar system detects the launch, which is relayed to command and control
3. Thaad command and control instructs the launch of an interceptor missile
4. The interceptor missile is fired at the enemy projectile
5. The enemy projectile is destroyed in the terminal phase of flight
The launcher trucks can hold up to eight interceptor missiles.
Patriot air defence system
The Patriot is an advanced surface-to-air missile system intended to defend against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.
It is the third layer in the defence shield and is used to stop weapons at close range.
The key elements are radar, the control centre and the launchers mounted on trucks. Each launcher holds four missiles – or 16 in the latest “Pac-3″ version.
South Korea and Japan both have Patriot systems.
The leadership in North Korea seems to be loaded for bear and itching for a fight. The recent threats and belligerent posture of the regime is as bad as it has been in years. South Korea and the United States are throwing back the bad attitude. China has also started getting involved in military posturing.
It all started when North Korea tested another nuclear device a few weeks ago. The United Nations immediately strapped North Korea with very harsh sanctions, blocking international monetary transactions and cutting aid. The North responded with this barrage of abrasive threats and menacing declarations. The U.S. and South Korea by coincidence were just starting their annual joint military exercises. This even more infuriated the North. The threats intensified from the generals in the North. The United States doesn’t intimidate easily.
The U.S. sent B-2 Stealth bombers, B-52 bombers and F-22 Raptor Stealth fighter jets on flights over South Korea. A U.S. destroyer made a patrol up the coast of North Korea. In response to all this sword rattling China has started moving troops and combat aircraft closer to the border with the North. This apparently as a gesture to support the North. Even though China has been sending its own warnings to North Korea to calm down and cease and desist.
Is North Korea’s bark louder than its bite. Sort of. North Korea has a huge army, but it uses old equipment and doesn’t have an adequate logistics system to resupply the hundreds of thousands of troops in an all out war. South Korea has a very modern army that is deployed in a defensive posture. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is the border between the two Korea’s, is made up of rugged small mountains. The North Korean army would have to come down passes to invade the South. South Korea has mined these steep passes and would blow them in time of war causing major rock and earth slides. Thus making invasion almost impossible.
The artillery exchange would be like no other in history. It has been reported that the North has over 5,000 artillery pieces within striking distance of Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Tens of thousands of artillery shells would rain down on Seoul in the first minutes of a war.
The Air Forces are not in the same league. The North has twice as many combat planes, but the vast majority are old and obsolete Soviet and Chinese models. South Korea has a state-of-the-art air force with modern American jets. The Americans also maintain a hundred combat jets in South Korea and another hundred at bases in nearby Japan. Not to mention the quick reaction bomber force the U.S. would throw into the fray from bases on the U.S. mainland. Here is a brief comparison of the militaries of North and South Korea:
Korean People’s Army (North Korea) also includes Air Force and Navy
||17 years of age
|Available for military service
||6,515,279 males, age 17-49 (2010 est.), 6,418,693 females, age 17-49 (2010 est.)
|Fit for military service
||4,836,567 males, age 17-49 (2010 est.), 5,230,137 females, age 17-49 (2010 est.)
|Reaching military age annually
||207,737 males (2010 est.), 204,553 females (2010 est.)
||1,106,000 (ranked 5th) (2010)
||8,200,000 (2010) (ranked 1st)
Although the North Korean military once enjoyed a startling advantage against its counterpart in South Korea, its relative isolation and economic plight starting from the 1980s has now tipped the balance of military power into the hands of the better-equipped South Korean military. In response to this predicament, North Korea relies on asymmetric warfare techniques and unconventional weaponry to achieve parity against high-tech enemy forces. North Korea has developed a wide range of technologies towards this end, such as stealth paint to conceal ground targets, midget submarines and human torpedoes and a vast array of chemical and biological weapons. And blinding laser weapons. The Korean People’s Army also operates ZM-87 anti-personnel lasers, which are banned under the United Nations Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. The North has over 5,000 tanks and up to 10,000 artillery pieces.
Republic of Korea Armed Forces (South Korea)
||Mandatory 18 to 35 years of age for male, wartime conscription 18–45 years of age
||21–24 months depending on the branch
|Available for military service
||12,483,677 (2005 est.), age 15–49
|Reaching military age annually
||344,943 (2005 est.)
||639,000 (2012) (ranked 7th)
||2,900,000 (2012) (ranked 3rd)
South Korean Air Force has over 450 combat aircraft. Including the robust and deadly F-15K.
The North has over 750 combat aircraft. However, many of the planes are obsolete examples like this Jian-7, which is a version of the Mig-21.
And as if things aren’t bad enough, today the North said it would reactivate its nuclear plant to acquire more nuclear weapons grade plutonium.
Kim Jong-un is even more loony than his Dad and Grandad.
N Korea ‘combat posture to hit US’
North Korea says it has ordered artillery and rocket units into “combat posture” to prepare to target US bases in Hawaii, Guam and the US mainland.
The announcement, carried by KCNA news agency, follows days of strong rhetoric from Pyongyang.
It came as South Korea marked the third anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan warship, which left 46 sailors dead.
South Korea said it had detected no signs of unusual activity in the North.
Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test on 12 February. The test led to new UN sanctions which Pyongyang strongly opposes.
Joint US-South Korea annual military drills have further angered the communist nation. In recent weeks its habitually fiery rhetoric has escalated – it has threatened the US with “pre-emptive nuclear attacks”, as well as strikes on US military bases in Japan.
“From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army will be putting in combat duty posture No 1 all field artillery units including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units that will target all enemy objects in US invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam,” the KCNA statement said.
North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile, but it is capable of targeting US military bases in the region with its mid-range missiles.
North Korea gets desperate enough, all hell could break loose on the peninsula, which could escalate into a very bad situation indeed.
It has been ten years since George W. Bush and his handlers decided to invade Iraq. What did the war achieve? An estimated 150,000 dead Iraqis, 4,500 killed American soldiers, over 30,000 wounded, some horrifically, 310 other allied troops killed. And the carnage continues, today another 48 Iraqis killed by bombs. The Iraqi government is teetering on collapse, the country could explode into civil war at any time.
Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main architects of the invasion, consistently defends the war by stating we got rid of Saddam Hussein. Saddam was one bad hombre, but he maintained stability in the country. He was also a stalwart against the fanatics in Iran. The western powers used false intelligence to initiate this terrible boondoggle.
Iraq: The spies who fooled the world
The lies of two Iraqi spies were central to the claim – at the heart of the UK and US decision to go to war in Iraq – that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But even before the fighting started, intelligence from highly-placed sources was available suggesting he did not, Panorama has learned.
Six months before the invasion, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the country about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
“The programme is not shut down,” he said. “It is up and running now.” Mr Blair used the intelligence on WMD to justify the war.
That same day, 24 September 2002, the government published its controversial dossier on the former Iraqi leader’s WMD.
The BBC has learned that two key pieces of intelligence, which could have prevented the Iraq war, were either dismissed or used selectively
Designed for public consumption, it had a personal foreword by Mr Blair, who assured readers Saddam Hussein had continued to produce WMD “beyond doubt”.
But, while it was never mentioned in the dossier, there was doubt. The original intelligence from MI6 and other agencies, on which the dossier was based, was clearly qualified.
The intelligence was, as the Joint Intelligence Committee noted in its original assessments, “sporadic and patchy” and “remains limited”.
The exclusion of these qualifications gave the dossier a certainty that was never warranted.
Much of the key intelligence used by Downing Street and the White House was based on fabrication, wishful thinking and lies.
As Gen Sir Mike Jackson, then head of the British Army, says, “what appeared to be gold in terms of intelligence turned out to be fool’s gold, because it looked like gold, but it wasn’t”.
There was other intelligence, but it was less alarming.
Lord Butler, who after the war, conducted the first government inquiry into WMD intelligence, says Mr Blair and the intelligence community “misled themselves”.
Lord Butler and Sir Mike agree Mr Blair did not lie, because they say he genuinely believed Saddam Hussein had WMD.
The most notorious spy who fooled the world was the Iraqi defector, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi.
His fabrications and lies were a crucial part of the intelligence used to justify one of the most divisive wars in recent history. And they contributed to one of the biggest intelligence failures in living memory.
He became known as Curveball, the codename given to him by US intelligence that turned out to be all too appropriate.
Continue reading the main story
I thought we’d produced probably the best intelligence that anybody produced in the pre-war period”
End Quote Bill Murray Former CIA Paris station head
Mr Janabi arrived as an Iraqi asylum seeker at a German refugee centre in 1999 and said he was a chemical engineer, thus attracting the attention of the German intelligence service, the BND.
He told them he had seen mobile biological laboratories mounted on trucks to evade detection.
The Germans had doubts about Mr Janabi which they shared with the Americans and the British.
MI6 had doubts too, which they expressed in a secret cable to the CIA: “Elements of [his] behaviour strike us as typical of individuals we would normally assess as fabricators [but we are] inclined to believe that a significant part of [Curveball's] reporting is true.”
The British decided to stick with Curveball, as did the Americans. He later admitted being a fabricator and liar.
There appeared to be corroborative intelligence from another spy who fooled the world.
He was an Iraqi former intelligence officer, called Maj Muhammad Harith, who said it had been his idea to develop mobile biological laboratories and claimed he had ordered seven Renault trucks to put them on.
He made his way to Jordan and then talked to the Americans.
Muhammad Harith apparently made up his story because he wanted a new home. His intelligence was dismissed as fabrication 10 months before the war.
MI6 also thought they had further corroboration of Curveball’s story, when a trusted source – codenamed Red River – revealed he had been in touch with a secondary source who said he had seen fermenters on trucks. But he never claimed the fermenters had anything to do with biological agents.
After the war, MI6 decided that Red River was unreliable as a source.
But not all the intelligence was wrong. Information from two highly-placed sources close to Saddam Hussein was correct.
Both said Iraq did not have any active WMD.
The CIA’s source was Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri.
Former CIA man Bill Murray – then head of the agency’s station in Paris – dealt with him via an intermediary, an Arab journalist, to whom he gave $200,000 (£132,000) in cash as a down payment.
He said Naji Sabri “looked like a person of real interest – someone who we really should be talking to”.
Murray put together a list of questions to put to the minister, with WMD at the top.
The intermediary met Naji Sabri in New York in September 2002 when he was about to address the UN – six months before the start of the war and just a week before the British dossier was published.
The intermediary bought the minister a handmade suit which the minister wore at the UN, a sign Mr Murray took to mean that Naji Sabri was on board.
Mr Murray says the upshot was intelligence that Saddam Hussein “had some chemical weapons left over from the early 90s, [and] had taken the stocks and given them to various tribes that were loyal to him. [He] had intentions to have weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological and nuclear – but at that point in time he virtually had nothing”.
The CIA insists the intelligence report from the “source” indicated the former Iraqi president did have WMD programmes because, the agency says, it mentioned that, “Iraq was currently producing and stockpiling chemical weapons” and “as a last resort had mobile launchers armed with chemical weapons”.
Mr Murray disputes this account.
The second highly-placed source was Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush Al-Tikriti – the jack of diamonds in America’s “most wanted” deck of cards which rated members of Saddam Hussein’s government.
A senior MI6 officer met him in Jordan in January 2003 – two months before the war.
It was thought Habbush wanted to negotiate a deal that would stop the imminent invasion. He also said Saddam Hussein had no active WMD.
Surprisingly, Lord Butler – who says Britons have “every right” to feel misled by their prime minister – only became aware of the information from Habbush after his report was published.
“I can’t explain that,” says Lord Butler.
“This was something which I think our review did miss. But when we asked about it, we were told that it wasn’t a very significant fact, because SIS [MI6] discounted it as something designed by Saddam to mislead.”
Lord Butler says he also knew nothing about the intelligence from Naji Sabri.
Ex-CIA man Bill Murray was not happy with the way the intelligence from these two highly-placed sources had been used.
“I thought we’d produced probably the best intelligence that anybody produced in the pre-war period, all of which came out – in the long run – to be accurate. The information was discarded and not used.”
Overall deaths: 176,000 – 189,000 (Costs of War Project)
Civilian deaths: 134,000 (Costs of War Project)
Documented civilian deaths from violence, Iraq Body Count (2003 – 14 December 2011): 103,160–113,728 recorded and 12,438 new deaths added from the Iraq War Logs
Estimated violent deaths: Lancet survey (March 2003 – July 2006): 601,027 (95% CI: 426,369–793,663) Associated Press (March 2003 – April 2009): 110,600 Iraq Family Health Survey (March 2003 – July 2006): 151,000 (95% CI: 104,000–223,000)
The Long War Journal
Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013
Created by Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer
Since 2004, the US has been conducting a covert program to target and kill al Qaeda and Taliban commanders based in Pakistan’s lawless northwest. The program has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states.
The charts below look at the following: 1) the number of US airstrikes inside Pakistan per year; 2) civilian casualties vs. Taliban/al Qaeda casualties; 3) the distribution of strikes over time by tribal agencies; 4) the overall distribution of strikes, by tribal agencies; 5) the distribution of strikes over time by territories targeted; 6) the overall distribution of strikes, by territories targeted; and 7) the number of high value targets killed in territories managed by individual Taliban commanders.
The data is obtained from press reports from the Pakistani press (Daily Times, Dawn, Geo News, The News, and other outlets), as well as wire reports (AFP, Reuters, etc.), as well as reporting from The Long War Journal. Given the Taliban’s control of the areas where strikes occur, and a dearth of reporters in those areas, the exact numbers for casualties are difficult to know.
The US ramped up the number of strikes in July 2008, and has continued to regularly hit at Taliban and Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan. There have been 334 strikes total since the program began in 2004; 324 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008.
The U.S. has been determined to try to have no civilian casualties. However a lot of these Islamist terrorists hide in civilian populated areas. The U.S. has improved its intelligence and targeting technologies to keep civilian casualties to the bare minimum.
Since 2006, there have been 2,492 leaders and operatives from Taliban, Al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups killed and 153 civilians killed. Data for 2004 and 2005 are not available at this time.
Using drones to cut off the head of the snake causes disorganization within the terrorist organizations. The foot soldiers in these organizations do not get proper directives and planning becomes chaotic. Remember it was terrorists who hid out in these same tribal areas that sat around and planned 9/11. Keeping these deranged religious zealots off-balance with pin point drone strikes is the perfect counter strategy.
The United States military realizes the great advantages that drones provide to its tactical objectives around the world. From the 140 foot wingspanned Global Hawk to the Hellfiring Predators used over Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. has developed a wide-ranging arsenal of reconnaissance and attack drones. The stealth drone is now preparing to deploy on the U.S. Navy’s super aircraft carriers.
X-47B stealth drone targets new frontiers
The US Navy’s cutting-edge robot fighter plane aims to be the first unmanned aerial vehicle to take-off and land at sea.
As a fighter plane prepares to take off from a naval carrier at sea, the pilot and deck crew go through a tightly choreographed series of hand signals to tell each other they are ready to launch. It ends with a final “salute” from the pilot to indicate that the aircraft is ready to be catapulted off the deck.
But when the X-47B, the US Navy’s newest prototype combat aircraft, prepares for its first carrier launch early next year, there will be no salute. That’s because there will also be no pilot. Instead, the X-47B will blink its wingtip navigation lights, a robotic nod to the human salute (and mimicking what the Navy does for night launches), before the catapult officer presses the launch button, and the robotic aircraft is flung off the front of the ship
After years of development, and recent land-based tests, the highly anticipated carrier flight for this stealthy, tailless, unmanned drone is imminent. “It should be in early in 2013,” says Carl Johnson, vice president and program manager at defence firm Northrop Grumman, which builds the X-47B. “We have to coordinate ship schedules as well as all the other airspace issues.”
The X-47B is a strike fighter-sized prototype drone developed as part of the United States Navy’s UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) programme, which aims to develop technologies necessary to field a combat drone on carriers. As a result, it has folding wings and is built for the rigors of sea life, including salt water, deck handling and of course take-off and landing from an aircraft carrier.
The craft was revealed in 2008 but is only now undergoing sea tests aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, including moving around on the carrier. Whilst this kind of trial may not sound remarkable, in some ways it’s one of the more challenging steps toward proving that the X-47B, which weighs in at 20,000 kg (44,000 lb) and has a 20m (62 ft) wing span, is ready for flight.
Getting around on a crowded flight deck is difficult, says Johnson, because the aircraft must maneuver very close the edge of the carrier, sometimes pivoting so that it appears that half the airplane is hanging off the ship. “The precision involved in doing that is very difficult with a pilot following directions from a person on the deck,” says Johnson. “It’s very difficult to do that as well with an unmanned system.”
- Crew: None aboard (semi-autonomous operation)
- Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)
- Wingspan: 62.1 ft extended/30.9 ft folded (18.92 m/9.41 m)
- Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)
- Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 44,567 lb (20,215 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan
- Maximum speed: Subsonic
- Cruise speed: 0.45 mach
- Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)
- Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
- 2 weapon bays, providing for up to 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) of ordnance