FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 5th through 8th 2018

Bama Beats Georgia

In a great national championship college football game that saw an amazing group of freshmen players on both sides, Alabama beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime.  And Mayhem is back!  The New Year’s resolution of the kinder, gentler, Mayhem didn’t even last two weeks…..

 

US Suspends Security Assistance to Pakistan

The relationship between the US and Pakistan has long been a complicated one.  The protracted 17 year war in Afghanistan has made us strained allies in the war against terrorism.  Defense Times is reporting the decision by the U.S. to suspend security assistance to Pakistan could have serious consequences for the American-led fight in Afghanistan, and potentially further strengthen ties between Islamabad and China.  As you’ll recall China is spending big money in Pakistan to develop and build the new silk road.  Our need to encourage Pakistan to assist the US conflicts with the government of Pakistan’s generally reluctance to put pressure on the tribal forces in Afghanistan they identify with more closely than those of western cultures.  Then there was that whole deal of allowing Osama bin Laden to hind in and flourish in Pakistan.  And it’s important to note that as we withdraw our influence or in this case money from the region, China is there to fill the gap.  Spokesperson for the United States Department of State Heather Nauert announced new restrictions on Thursday that cover security assistance above and beyond the $255 million for Pakistani purchases of American military equipment that the administration held up in August, but it was not immediately clear how much money and materiel was being withheld.  Nauert made clear the $255 million was still blocked. The new action targets payments of so-called Coalition Support Funds that the U.S. pays to Pakistan to reimburse it for its counterterrorism operations. Those funds are typically paid later in the year, and already require U.S. certification, so the effect of Thursday’s announcement was unclear.  The move comes days after President Donald Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet that accused Pakistan of playing U.S. leaders for “fools,” as well as a growing number of voices from the administration that have complained Pakistan is not doing enough to combat militants targeting U.S. personnel in neighboring Afghanistan.  On Monday, Trump said the U.S. had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies & deceit.” He reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”  The big question facing the American effort in Afghanistan now becomes whether Pakistan retaliates by shutting down the supply lines for materiel into Afghanistan, known as the Ground Lines of Communication, or GLOC.  Hours before the announcement,  United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was asked if there were any signals from Pakistan that cutting the aid would result in the GLOC being closed, to which he responded, “We have had no indication of anything like that.”  But closing the GLOC remains a long-standing concern for the U.S. Those lines represent the cheapest way of getting supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, something the Pentagon learned the hard way between Nov. 2011 and July 2012, when Pakistan shut the GLOC routes down following an incident where 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  Reporting in 2012 revealed that costs for getting needed supplies into Afghanistan went from $17 million a month to $104 million a month, a significant upcharge even by Pentagon budget standards. With significantly fewer troops in Afghanistan today than in 2012, the costs would not be quite so high, but could still hurt a Department of Defense that finds itself lacking budget stability.  Pakistan has for years tried to counterbalance its alliance with the U.S. with one from China, including with its military relationships. Industrially, Pakistan has agreed to work with China to produce a new submarine fleet as well as working together to develop what in Pakistan is known as the JF-17 jet fighter. In addition, China has developed the Azmat-class missile boat for Pakistan, which will carry Chinese-built weapons.  Notably, a Pentagon report from last June concluded that China will seek to develop a military base in Pakistan, which would represent only the second People’s Liberation Army military facility outside of China.  In an off-camera briefing with reporters on Friday, Mattis took a more conciliatory approach. He acknowledged Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts and emphasized that aid would be restored if the U.S. sees evidence of renewed effort by Pakistan.  So I’d say Pakistan has some choices to make.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 5th through 8th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 21st through 24th 2017

ISIS Potential Dirty Bomb Story Published by The Washington Post

When the city Mosul, Iraq fell to ISIS back in 2014, they laid claim to a huge stockpile of weapons including small arms, bombs, rockets and some additional heavy weapons such as artillery pieces and even tanks.  Banks were overrun and millions of dollars in hard currency were lost.  Mosel’s college was also overrun during that same time frame.  The college supported two radiotherapy machines used to kill cancer cells.  And contained within the heavy shielding of the radiotherapy machines is cobalt-60, a metallic substance with high levels of radiation and which is highly lethal.  One of the goals of Isis leaders in the field has been to develop a dirty bomb or Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD).  An RDD is a radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the dispersal agent/conventional explosion with radioactive material, serving primarily as an area denial device against civilians. It is however not to be confused with a nuclear explosion, such as a fission bomb, which by releasing nuclear energy produces blast effects far in excess of what is achievable by the use of conventional explosives.  Dirty bombs are admittedly difficult to construct as the radioactive material must be sufficiently radioactive so as create radiological damage.  It must also be transportable with enough shielding to protect those transporting the device but not so heavy as to make it unmaneuverable.  And then of course the radioactive material must be dispersible over a large area so as to contaminate the area around the explosion.  If you had highly radioactive material and the ability to disperse it you could create an incident comparable to the Chernobyl disaster .  In any event you would create a psychological event, mass panic and terror requiring considerable time and expense to clean up rendering areas of a city perhaps unusable.  Western intelligence agencies were aware of the cobalt-60’s presence and watched to see if the militants would attempt to use it.  The obligatory studies were conducted and our troops and Iraqi military commanders were appraised of the potential threat.  When the Mosel campus was retaken (above right) by Iraqi forces, the radiotherapy were found to be intact.  Good news, except the fact The Washington Post has now published a story on the entire incident.  Whether the Islamic State has a subscription to The Washington Post is unknown, but they have provided the enemy with knowledge of a source of radioactive materials available in hundreds of cities around the world, some of which ISIS has control over.  Additionally there is the potential for US troops or our allies to be directly harmed by this information.  The Washington Post’s tagline is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but they should remember another line from an earlier conflict, “Loose lips sink ships.”

 

  Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 21st through 24th 2017”