kyrgyzstan closing US base key to afghan conflict
from ap: Kyrgyzstan's president said Tuesday his country is ending U.S. use of an air base key to military operations in Afghanistan - a decision with potentially grave consequences for U.S. efforts to put down surging Taliban and al-Qaida violence. A U.S. military official in Afghanistan called President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's statement "political positioning" and denied the U.S. presence at the Manas air base would end anytime soon. The United States is preparing to deploy an additional 15,000 troops in Afghanistan and Manas is an important stopover for U.S. materiel and personnel. Ending U.S. access would be a significant victory for Moscow in its efforts to squeeze the United States out of Central Asia, home to substantial oil and gas reserves and seen by Russia as part of its strategic sphere of influence. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev spoke on a visit to Moscow minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor Central Asian nation with billions of dollars in aid. Bakiyev said when the U.S. forces began using Manas after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the expectation was that they would stay for two years at most.
military official: we don’t have an end game in afghanistan
from thinkprogress: President Obama is finalizing a plan to send tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan as “part of a push to beat back the resurgent Taliban and secure regions of Afghanistan that are beyond the reach of the weak central government in Kabul.” NBC’s military correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reports that Pentagon officials haven’t been able to provide an answer to Obama’s concern about having an “end game” strategy in place: According to military officials during last week’s meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon’s “tank,” the president specifically asked, “What is the end game?” in the U.S. military’s strategy for Afghanistan. When asked what the answer was, one military official told NBC News, “Frankly, we don’t have one.” But they’re working on it. The New York Times reported recently, “Even as Mr. Obama’s military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan ’surge,’ there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether — or how — the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is.”
video: iran launches 1st satellite
from danger room: Iran says it's sent a domestically-built satellite into orbit. It's a troubling development, if true. Much of the gear and the know-how behind a space launch can also be used for ballistic missiles. That's the bad news. The good news is that Tehran has a long, colorful history of trying to BS the world about their military capabilities. The Omid ("hope") satellite was allegedly sent into space on top of a two-stage, 72-foot-long, 26-ton Safir ("messenger") rocket, which uses "a modified version of Iran's most advanced ballistic missile system, the Shahab-3, as its first stage," the Arms Control Association believes. "A liquid-fueled second stage and possibly a small solid-fueled third stage" may follow, the New York Times notes.
no US/pakistan deal on drone attacks
from press tv: Pakistan denies reports that Islamabad had clinched a secret deal with Washington allowing drone attacks inside the country's tribal zones. Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Mohammad Sadiq said on Wednesday that "There is no understanding between Pakistan and the United States on Predator attacks." His comments came in response to the remarks of US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, who said Washington would continue strikes on Pakistan and Islamabad was aware of that.