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'Spectacular attack' derailed by troops
This was an unusual attack. It would have been a spectacular attack and, yes, it would have been effective against coalition forces," said Major David Warnke, commanding officer of the counter-IED squadron in Kandahar.
During a search of the vehicle, three large explosive devices were discovered, including two 250-kilogram and one 100-kilogram Sovietera aircraft bombs.
Maj. Warnke said the explosives had the potential to kill everyone on foot within a 260-metre range, and to cause significant damage within a 1,500-metre range.
"The locals ... would have been killed likely in their vehicles, because their vehicles are soft-skinned, they are not protected with the armour of our vehicles. And it would have also likely killed the individuals who were dismounted sweeping for IEDs at the time," he said. Maj . Warnke said the bomber had rigged the explosives to detonate when he pushed a switch, similar to a light switch. Maj . Warnke said the Taliban has "a good idea" about the devices they are constructing.
As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created.
The military, the intelligence community and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them.
Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school.
Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States. There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions, but there can be little debate about the results.
America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil day and night to keep us safe -- law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States armed forces. Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger.
I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight, there has been no higher honor than serving as your commander in chief.
The battles waged by our troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience, and marks unbelievers for murder.
The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God and that liberty and justice light the path to peace. This is the belief that gave birth to our nation. And in the long run, advancing this belief is the only practical way to protect our citizens.
When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism.
So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity. We are standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic, born alone in liberty, is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
In October 2004, the House of Representatives voted down a bill introduced by Rep. Rangel to immediately reinstate the draft. He reintroduced the same bill in 2007, although that time it didn't make it to a vote in the House. But just because Congress isn't voting for a general draft -- yet -- doesn't mean that both Republicans and Democrats won't vote for it (or at least for a special-purpose draft of health care workers) if and when their war policies lead them to a situation where they can't figure out any other way to get enough soldiers with specific skills. Tellingly, neither Republican nor Democratic leaders, including House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, have yet tried to combine the vote against reinstatement of the draft the draft with any move to abolish the Selective Service System -- which is what they would do if they really were ruling out any future draft. H.R. 424, a bill to repeal the Military Selective Service Act, was introduced in the House of representatives on 10 January 2007. But no action was taken to hold hearings on this bill, debate it in committee, or bring it to a floor vote. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama avoided taking any public position on Selective Service and the draft, or on how the national "service" he advocated could be "universal" without being compulsory. The day after his election, Obama's "Change.gov" Web site announced an agenda explicitly including compulsory national service for all high school and college students. That language was modified slightly a few days later, but Obama's first appointment, staff director Rahm Emanuel, has explicitly advocated mandatory Israeli-style universal (i.e. compulsory) national service incluidng what he calls "basic training" for all young people in the USA. [More from my blog on Obama, McCain, and draft registration ("Selective Service").] Although "Plan A" for Congress, the Pentagon, and probably the President is the poverty draft, "Plan B" for all of them remains conscription. For example, Rep. John Murtha, chair of the Subcommitte on Defense of the House Committee on Appropriapriations, said in late 2008 that "I voted against the all-volunteer army because I didn't think we could sustain a deployment in wartime without a draft.... We'll never be able to fight a conventional war where you have two fronts without a draft. You can't do it.... In a wartime, everybody ought to serve." It's unclear how long they'll be able to rely on "volunteers". Enlistments and re-enlistments are falling short of the military's goals. Morale in the military is down. More and more soldiers are failing to report for active duty when called up, deserting, going AWOL, or requesting reassignment or discharge as conscientious objectors. "Stop-loss" measures to extend soldiers' terms are increasingly unpopular, and undercut recruiting. It's one thing to sign up for the National Guard or the reserves as a "weekend soldier", and something very different to sign up for 2 years in combat. Only outsourcing and privatizing war-making to mercenaries and contractors (partly by using private "guards" and "security contractors" in combat roles, and partly by outsorcing non-combat support work to civilians, freeing a higher percentage of soldiers for combat) has enabled the military to continue the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this long, on this scale, without a draft.
It isn't good enough to always look to the U.S. for political, financial and military cover. . . . Freeloading on the back of U.S. military security is not an option if we wish to be equal partners in this trans-Atlantic alliance."
The Obama team hopes to complete work on the new strategy by the NATO summit in early April. European and Pentagon officials suggested yesterday that alliance members may be waiting to consider new commitments until they hear what he has to say. The NATO force in Afghanistan has long been divided between those who conduct the bulk of combat operations -- including Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, in addition to the United States -- and those such as Germany whose operations are restricted and whose zones of operations are centered in more peaceful areas. Germany has argued that it has kept the peace in its area, centered in northern Afghanistan, and that it has made major contributions to the overall effort, including police training and other tasks. Last fall, the German government agreed to add 1,000 troops, bringing its total to 4,500.
Officials are also worried about other issues: the upcoming Afghan presidential election and the revived hostility between Pakistan and India caused by a deadly terrorist rampage in Mumbai in November, could inject unpredictable tensions and competing priorities into the region just as a new administration in Washington tries to focus afresh on the anti-terrorist struggle here.
Unlike the troop "surge" in Iraq, the doubling of the U.S. military presence on the ground in Afghanistan is not temporary, military officials said. Rather, troops will maintain a protracted presence focused on securing and holding villages currently dominated by the Taliban.
One conundrum, U.S. military officials say, is that the expanded forces will have to come in with heavy firepower and aggressive military tactics -- likely to create more civilian casualties and public animosity -- in order to secure rural districts so they can bring in services, aid and governance aimed at winning over the local populace.
Obama has pledged to withdraw American troops from Iraq and deploy more to Afghanistan, where Taliban and al-Qaida linked militants have made a comeback in recent years.
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who toured the region earlier this month, said that "things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they're going to get better."
Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan increased in 2008 over the previous year and some 6,400 people — mostly militants — died last year as a result of the insurgency.
The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has forced the U.S. to plan to rush as many as 30,000 more troops to the central Asian country this year.
They will be joining some 32,000 U.S. troops already there who serve alongside 32,000 other NATO-led and coalition troops — the highest number since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.
Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution analyst writing in The Wall Street Journal, said there were already encouraging political signs. "NATO and Afghan leaders are ... learning how to cooperate with tribal structures more effectively, and even to reconcile with some former insurgents when possible," he added. Vendrell said that if a military "surge" is deployed, it must be part of a broader strategy that encompasses Pakistan, India and Iran, which he says has "legitimate national interests" in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been wracked by violence since hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels have set up base there over the last few years.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Lawson, also from the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Illinois, said he was "ecstatic" with the arrival in office of a man be believed could help the difficult task in Afghanistan. "If we do a surge and have more eyes on Afghanistan than Iraq, then we can turn Afghanistan around," Lawson said. "He is the type of person that can get people behind him and do good things." Huber, commander of the brigade that is chiefly involved in training the Afghans security forces, said that while no major changes were expected to the military effort in Afghanistan, the troop boost would help. "There is still a lot of work to do and with additional forces we will be able to do it better," he said. "It is part of an exit strategy: once they can stand up and secure their country, we can go home."
The new U.S. Embassy covers 104 acres and is the largest in the world, housing 1,200 U.S. diplomats, soldiers, and government staff from 14 federal agencies, according to a U.S. State Department news release.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai said, “I hope the new regime in United States, the new government will continue to assist Afghanistan, will continue to bring right pressure in the region to fight terrorism and fight it effectively and I hope that we all are strong enough in defeating terrorism and extremism.”
In Islamabad, the US offer of many billion dollars in aid tied to results in the war on terror has not gone down well.
Add to that a high level commission, now briefing Congressmen in Washington, has warned of an attack on the US from Pakistan's tribal areas.
The attack will involve weapons of mass destruction and could take place in four years time.
The Obama administration warned the US public yesterday to brace itself for an increase in American casualties as it prepares to step up the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan. Against a background of widespread protests in Pakistan and Afghanistan over US operations since Obama became president, the vice-president, Joe Biden, said yesterday that US forces would be engaged in many more operations as it takes the fight to its enemies in the region. The Obama administration is to double the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 60,000 and when asked in a television interview if the US public should expect more American casualties, Biden said: "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick."