Thursday, December 31, 2009

Contractors in American Conflicts by Center for a New American Security (working paper)

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has released a "working paper" entitled "Contractors in American Conflicts: Adapting to a New Reality" (December 16, 2009).  Below is an excerpt:
"When our nation goes to war, contractors go with it. Contractors have become an enduring feature of modern American conflicts, and the United States cannot now engage in hostilities or in reconstruction and stabilization operations without them. At their peak, there were more contractors on the ground in Iraq than American troops in uniform and there are more contractors today in Afghanistan than there are U.S. troops on the ground."
Read more about this working paper on the CNAS website.  There is a link on this page that allows you to download the full working paper (free) in PDF format.  Click here for more news articles about security contractors.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RAVEN UAV Feeds Free to Enemy; Army Working to Encrypt the Videos

The Army is moving quickly (is that really possible given that the news of UAV feeds being intercepted was first broke in 2004?) to encrypt UAV video feeds.  One of the first UAV feeds to be encrypted are for the small, hand-launched RAVEN UAV (used by Special Forces and others).
"A report published in the Dec. 17 edition of The Wall Street Journal detailed how defense officials earlier this year discovered laptops in Iraq loaded with a $26 Russian-made software program called SkyGrabber that hacked into video broadcast by Predator cameras, which show the location of insurgents being targeted by the drones."
Read more in "Army: Working to encrypt UAV video feeds", Army Times, December 21, 2009.  Click here to learn more about "SkyGrabber" software.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Body Armor for Afghanistan: Is KDH Defense Systems the Best Choice?

KDH Systems has been chosen by the U.S. Army to provide a new body armor system for Soldiers serving in Afghanistan.  There appears to be some issues with the supplier selection.  Read more in "Army defends choice of unproven plate carrier", Army Times, December 21, 2009.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Irregular Warfare Conference - (Mar 17-18, 2009) D.C.

An Irregular Warfare conference is scheduled for March 17-18, 2009 in Washington, D.C.  It is hosted by the Technology Training Corporation.  Click here for more info.
"This outstanding conference brings together the key experts and critical organizations who will be shaping the development of irregular warfare. They will examine the latest information on OSD and Service formulation of needs, initiatives, roles and responsibilities for IW.”
 Click here for more information about conferences and seminars on security, national defense, terrorism and other related topics.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Afghan Army: Lots of Hope Involved

The blog called Malarky News has published a blog post entitled "Phantom Hope: The Afghan Army" (December 20, 2009).  The extensive blog post explores many of the reasons that standing up and training the Afghan Army is harder to do than one would think.  Click here to read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

US Drones (UAVs) are Hacked by Insurgents

It appears that our advantage in having drones (unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs) overhead to track enemy movements or activities may not be as great as we once thought.  News reports now say that most UAV signals are sent from the aircraft to ground stations in unencrypted form.  Apparently the signals can be received by insurgents who can purchase commercial off the shelf components totaling $26.00.  What is even sadder is that the defense department has known about this vulnerability since 2004.  But I am sure our technological savy defense department will be able to spend millions of dollars to fix this problem in less than five years.  In the meantime our Soldiers and Marines will fight . . .

Read "Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones", The Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blackwater and Future Contracts in Afghanistan

With the increase of U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan (30,000 more) and other programs to help stabilize the country (training, logisitics, etc.) we should see an increase in the use of private contractors.  Blackwater may very well be in the running for some of these contracts.  See "Blackwater Eyes Afghan Contractor Surge", Military.com, December 21, 2009.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Security Contractor Jailed for Bribery Counts Committed in Afghanistan

A U.S. contractor has been jailed for the role that he played in Afghanistan in a bribe scheme.  Read more in "US Contractor Jailed for Afghan kickback scheme", AFP, December 18, 2009.

New Combat Backpack Designed for Troops in Afghanistan

The Army has developed and is set to deploy a new backpack to fill the gap between the assault pack and MOLLE rucksack.
"The Army is set to field a new combat backpack that meets the emerging needs of Soldiers fighting in the steep terrain and remote outposts of Afghanistan.

The so-called “medium ruck” uses technology from today’s mountaineering equipment and tactical packs and combines it with the specific needs of Soldiers doing rotations of up to three days at observation posts, long patrols, or helicopter assaults where a trip back to the forward operating base may not happen for up to 72 hours.

The new 3,000 cubic inch-capacity backpack will offer Joes a better option for missions that don’t require the 5,000 cubic inch-capacity modular lightweight load bearing equipment, or MOLLE, ruck, or the 2,000 cubic inch “assault pack.”
Read more in the link to the Military.com posting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

COL(R) Robert L. Howard, a Medal of Honor Winner and Special Forces Officer Has Died

COL(R) Robert Howard died today - December 23, 2009.  He was one of America's most decorated heros, a Medal of Honor winner, and a Special Forces Officer.  Below are some websites that describe his long military career.

Wikepedia Entry for Robert L. Howard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Howard

Tribute Page for COL Howard
http://rlhtribute.com/

Fake Afghan Village Used for Training State Department and Military Prior to Deployment

In an effort to train up members of the military and civilians who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan - authorities are sending personnel to a fake Afghan village located in the United States for some role playing with "Afghan natives".  The village is located in North Vernon, Indiana (near Camp Atterbury) and is called the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC). 

"This week, 51 volunteers for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other agencies are getting an immersive education in everything from military terminology to Afghan culture before deploying to Afghanistan. (The State Department invited me, a few other journalists, and staff from the State Department, USDA, USAID, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House Foreign Affairs Committee to tour the facility. The military provided transportation within Indiana.) Most will join Provincial Reconstruction Teams -- units of soldiers, diplomats, and reconstruction experts -- in restive southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan."
Read the rest of the article in "My Trip to a Fake Afghan Village", Foreign Policy Magazine, December 18, 2009.  See the website for the village at http://www.mutc.in.ng.mil/

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SOCNET: The Special Operations Community Network and Overseas Job Opportunities

For those who are interested in the topic of security employment overseas there are resources out there for you.  One of those resources is on the companion website for this blog found at the following link - security contract news on work overseas.  Another is offered by the Special Operations Community Network or SOCNET.  The website has various threads in its forum and one of these is called Employment and Training.  There are four sub-categories called Domestic Jobs, International Jobs, Professional Development and Education, and International Travel.  Under International Jobs you will find threads in the forum such as maritime security, CIVPOL, CNTPO, Human Terrrain System (HTS), jobs in Africa, visa requirements, intelligence jobs, work opportunities by all the large and small security and military training companies, medical care for civilian contractors, personal body armor, and much more.

Congress Raids Military Personnel Benefits to Pay for Weapons Systems in Defense Appropriations Bill

Can you spell "PORK"?  It is congress up to its usual practice of diverting money from the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen (taking money from pay and benefits) to pay for pork barrel projects. Read an online news article on this topic by the Center for Defense Information.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Documentary About Special Forces Assessment and Selection on Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel recently aired a documentary about the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) program on Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm.  The show was two hours long and provided insight into the selection process for Soldiers attempting to get selected for futher Special Forces training.  See "Documentary follows Special Forces candidates through two weeks of training", Fayetteville Observer, December 18, 2009.  This was the first airing of the documentary.  As is the case with many documentaries it will surely be shown again in the future.  I watched it and thought it very informative and well-done.  See the movie trailer here on YouTube.com.  It is directed by Bobby Williams, a former Green Beret, and distributed by 2 Roosters Media.

Thousands More Contractors Likely for Afghanistan

The Washington Post is reporting that the surge of 30,000 troops may be accompanied by a surge of 26,000 to 56,000 more civilian contractors.  The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is estimating that the contractors will be needed if the construction for the bases to accommodate the surge and nation-building projects are to be available.  The contractors would provide a range of services to include dog-handling teams, interpreters, intelligence analysts, construction crews, and more.  Read the news article at "Up to 56,000 more contractors likely for Afghanistan, congressional agency says", December 16, 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Afghan Math: $1 Million Per U.S. Soldier = 166 Afghan Soldiers (at $6,000 each)

Admiral Mullen recently met with some Afghan tribal elders - and as all Americans are prone to do at such meetings, pulled out his notebook and asked "What do you need?"  The tribal elder answers amounted to "Let us fight the war" and "Spend the money you spend on your Soldiers on our young men".  Read some commentary about this meeting by a officer in the U.S. military who has deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq and who has done some academic work as well.  See "Outside View: Surely you're joking, Admiral Mullen", UPI, December 19, 2009.

But let's explore the issues these two answers raise:

$1,000,000 for a U.S. Soldier; $6,000 for an Afghan Soldier.  An interesting note made by the Afghan elders in the news article cited above is the amount of money it takes to deploy and sustain a U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan vs. training and paying for an Afghan Soldier in Afghanistan.  $1,000,000 for the U.S. Soldier vs. $6,000 for the Afghan Soldier.  So for every U.S Soldier we don't send to Afghanistan we could train, equip, and pay 165 Afghan Soldiers. (According to my calculator it is 166 Afghan Solders; but whatever).  If we don't send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and use the money for training, equipping, advising, and paying the Afghan Army that would buy us 4,980,000 Afghan Soldiers.  Hmmmmmm.  Let me check my math again.  30,000 Soldiers times 166 Afghan Soldiers = 4,980,000.  Yep, my math was right.

One Million Afghan Soldiers.  Well, maybe we don't need 5 million Afghan Soldiers.  Maybe we could get the job done with 1 million Afghan Soldiers or 20% of 30,000 U.S. Soldiers.  So that leaves 80% of the 30,000 U.S. Soldiers which gives us back 24,000 American Soldiers that we could send over as trainers and advisors (not fighters) for our 1 million man Afghan military force.

Follow the Money.  The Afghan government and ministries are notoriously corrupt.  Much of the aid sent their way has been diverted to "private accounts".  If we "re-purpose" the money mean't for 30,000 additional troops ($1 million per U.S. Soldier) and provide it to the Afghans to support the Afghan military units then we have a problem.  How much of this money is really going to support the Afghan military?  Are we handing it over to corrupt Afghan ministries?  Typically the Afghans take their 10% off the top at each echelon so that by the time it gets to the Afghan battalion in the field we get to apply only 1 out of every ten dollars to the recruiting, training, equiping, and advising of the Afghan Army unit.  Perhaps we need to control the money flow so we get maximum effect out of every U.S. dollar.

Trainers/Advisors.  This leads me to another topic.  How do you employ 24,000 troops as trainers/advisors?  The normal tooth to tail ratio is 10:1; meaning of the additional 24,000 troops deployed only 1 in ten (or 2,400) would actually do anything with an Afghan unit.  The remaining nine would provide base security, Internet access, contracting services, MWR, construction, dining facilities, equipment maintenance, and so on.  And of those 2,400?  Are they qualified to be trainers? And are they operating out of large bases such as Salerno or Bagram or living with the Afghan military units?  Did we put them through anything that resembles preparation to be a trainer or advisor or are they infantry units "re-tasked"?  Are they SF ODA "capable"?  Perhaps what prepares someone to be a trainer/advisor is a topic for another blog post.

So maybe you can tweak my calculations a bit with "what-ifs", "buts", and "you didn't think of this".  The bottom line argument is that we should have sunk more money and training into the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) starting way back in 2003 instead of spending money on sending and maintaining US Army units (and the enormous tail to support them).

How the Soviets Invaded Afghanistan

A recent article posted by Foreign Policy magazine is written by Oleg Kalugin, a former Soviet general in the KGB.  He describes (in an excerpt from his book) how the Soviet Union came to invade Afghanistan.  See "How We Invaded Afghanistan" (December 11, 2009).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Discovery Channel Documentary on Special Forces Selection

The Discovery Channel will air a documentary on the U.S. Army Special Forces selection program.  The program is scheduled for Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm and is called "Two Weeks in Hell".  The program description below is found on the Discovery Channel's website.

"The U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets are America's elite warfare specialists. Who are they and what does it take to become one? Discovery Channel gives viewers an unprecedented close-up look at the brutal two-week training that separates the wannabes from the Berets in the two-hour world premiere of TWO WEEKS IN HELL airing on Sunday, December 20 at 8:00 PM ET/PT.

Over 14 days, a candidate's true character is exposed through physical and mental challenges. Discovery Channel was granted special access to document this grueling test of wills and wits from the inside for TWO WEEKS IN HELL. The Green Berets rely on creative, innovative, and stealthy tactics to destabilize an enemy from within a hostile environment. A Green Beret candidate may think he's the right man for the job, but the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) will find out. The selection process is a brutal test designed to mentally and physically smash men down to their core.

The unique, first-hand access of TWO WEEKS IN HELL takes viewers deep inside the world of America's Green Berets. The Green Berets know exactly what they are looking for, and the SFAS cadre will twist the minds and destroy the bodies of those candidates who want the part. Everything at selection has a reason, but it's like no other selection process in the world. For those who try out, it's an avalanche of chaos, stress, and doubt.

They come from all across America, from both the military and civilian lives and most have no idea what they are really getting into. Only then will Special Forces know if they want to invest in what is left. Sixty percent of the candidates will not last the two weeks -- and passing this test is just for the opportunity to start real Green Beret training. SFAS has only one purpose: To find those candidates who have the physical and emotional ability to become Green Berets.

TWO WEEKS IN HELL is produced for Discovery Channel by 2 Roosters. Al Edgington and Robert Williams are executive producers for 2 Roosters. Sara Kozak is executive producer for Discovery Channel."
http://press.discovery.com/us/dsc/programs/two-weeks-hell/

Armed Guards Working on Ships to Reduce Piracy

In the past maritime insurance firms have been reluctant to provide products that would cover the use of armed security guards on ships transiting near the shores of Somalia where piracy runs rampant.  However, times are changing with the increase in the pirate attacks and the inability of navies of large countries to stop the pirates.  Read more in the article below:

December 14, 2009. "Pirate attacks trigger armed guard coverage". Business Insurance.

Click here for news on security contractors or maritime security.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book: Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson


Greg Mortenson has wrote another book about his experiences in Afghanistan - his first book to receive widespread recognition was Three Cups of Tea.  He has spent more than 15 years promoting literacy and education for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He is a firm believer that one way to transition the area from conflict to peace is to build relationships and empower the tribal elders in the two countries.  Or, as he puts it - "Drink more tea".  His approach to solving the extremism problem and ending the war in Afghanistan is educating girls - which then lays the groundwork to increase their later prosperity.  His new book is called Stones Into Schools and you can order it from Amazon.com by clicking on the link below:

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Economic Argument for Using Security Contractors In Support of Military Operations Overseas

Security contracting firms have been getting dumped on by the liberals and the media for several years. What isn't realized by these critics are some reasons the security contracting firms are getting business in war zones - these reasons include the fact that the firms are flexible, can react quickly to contract offerings, and it makes economic sense.  Read a blog post on this topic at "Blackwater and Security Contractors: The Economics of War", The New York Times "At War" Blog, December 14, 2009.  Click here to read more news about security contractors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Commentary on Afghan COIN Campaign by "Kings of War" Blog

The blog called the "Kings of War" has some interesting commentary about the current Afghanistan counterinsurgency campaign.  See "What he said" (Dec 12, 2009).  The "Kings of War" blog is " . . . a blog for various faculty and research students of the Department of War Studies, King's College London to post their thoughts, random and otherwise, about war and the world".

More Drone Attacks into Pakistan?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that U.S. officials are looking at using drones to wage attacks against Taliban leaders based in Quetta, Pakistan.  This is seen as an attempt to pressure the Pakistan leaders to kick Taliban leaders out of Quetta (denying them the sanctuary they now have).  Read the article here:  "Drone attacks may be expanded in Pakistan", Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2009.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Greg Mortenson and Afghanistan: Another Type of Surge / Book "Three Cups of Tea"


A recent online news article suggests that we should send 30,000 more Greg Mortensons rather than 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.  Greg Mortenson has spent many years in Afghanistan establishing local schools for children.  Read the article at "Another kind of surge", The Christian Century, December, 2009.  Mortenson has been the subject of many articles about his prolonged stay in that country and has provided advice and counsel to many of the United States political and military leaders engaged in the Afghan conflict.  Mortenson is the author of a book about his experiences in Afghanistan:

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blackwater Loses Contract to Load Bombs on Drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Blackwater, now known as Xe, has lost one of its contracts supporting the CIA - according to a New York Times news article.  See "Blackwater Loses a Job for the CIA", The New York Times, December 11, 2009.  According to the Times the firm (Blackwater) was under contract to load bombs on CIA drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  See also "CIA Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones", The New York Times, August 20, 2009.  Click here to read more news articles about private security firms working for the U.S. overseas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Naked in Kabul - OpEd on ArmorGroup Fiasco

An OpEd column in The New York Times discusses the ArmorGroup mess at the Kabul, Afghanistan embassy.  See "Going Naked in Kabul" (December 11, 2009).

Blackwater Assisted in Secret CIA Raids

According to recent news reports Blackwater assisted the CIA in raids conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan during the years of 2004 and 2006.  The raids were "snatch and grab" operations.   Read an article on this topic in "Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret C.I.A. Raids", The New York Times, December 10, 2009.  Click here to read more news articles about private security contractors working overseas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ArmorGroup Contract in Afghanistan Not Renewed Due to Bad Behavior

ArmorGroup North America, an entity owned by Wackenhut Services, will not have its security contract in Afghanistan renewed (although it was extended by six months).  Cited were a history of contract compliance deficiencies and misconduct at the Kabul embassy to include drunkedness and questionable lewd behavior.  Read more in "U.S. to drop contractor in Kabul embassy scandal", Reuters, December 8, 2009.  Click here to read more about security contractor news.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

COIN by Obama

Eliot Cohen, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, has wrote an article discussing Obama's counterinsurgency (COIN) plans for Afghanistan.  This plan is the endorsement of McChrystal's objectives of securing the population in the cities, establishing effective rule and legitimate government, and trying to defeat the Taliban (among other objectives).  Cohen discusses the plan or strategy that Obama has adopted and then goes on to identify books and publications that one could read to help understand the art of counterinsurgency.  An article worth reading.  See the article at "Obama's COIN toss", The Washington Post, December 6, 2009.

How to Win in Afghanistan - One Village at a Time

The author of The Horse Soldiers, Doug Stanton, has wrote a guest article in The Washington Post (December 6, 2009) entitled "How to win in Afghanistan, one village at a time".  He cites the recent paper receiving rave reviews authored by MAJ Jim Gant entitled "One Tribe At a Time" that lays out an approach for winning the Afghan war.  He also endorses a strategy called the Community Defense Initiative (CDI) that has been recently promoted in Afghanistan.  The CDI works at the village level to ensure stability and security rather than looking to impose security with central government forces that are ill-trained, ineffiicient and corrupt.  Click here to read more news articles on the Afghanistan war.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bureaucracy Hurts Special Forces Efforts in Afghanistan

Read an article by a Special Forces officer who recently served in Afghanistan that criticizes the military bureaucracy.  A damning account of how higher-ups will diminish the initiative of junior officers and NCOs.  See "The Next Surge - Counterbureaucracy", The New York Times, December 8, 2009.

Monday, December 7, 2009

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day - Dec 7th

Today is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day - December 7th.  This is the anniversary of the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Over 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded in the attack and it was the most identifiable event that thrust us into World War II.

Purpose of Blog

The intent of this blog is to provide to the reader information, links, and insight (from the author) on topics related to security, terrorism, defense, and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). At least some people still think we are in a war against terrorism so we will continue to use the term until I feel it is no longer relevant. This blog is an extension of our website found at http://www.securityinfonet.com/.