Monthly Archives: January 2011

Ein iPhone-App gegen Taliban

by Florian Flade

Helm, Weste, Gewehr, iPhone – immer mehr US Soldaten tragen Smartphones im Kampfeinsatz. Einer von ihnen entwickelte jetzt ein Handy-Programm das den Kampf gegen die Taliban erleichtern soll.

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Wer bislang dachte die zahllosen Mini-Programme (Applikationen, kurz “Apps”), die für Smartphones erhältlich sind, wären nur zu gebrauchen um sich die Zeit mit lustigen Spielchen zu vertreiben, das eigene Handy als Wasserwaage zu verwenden oder am Stammtisch Freunde zu belustigen indem man ein virtuelles Bier zu leeren, der irrt.

Der Ernst des Krieges hat längst die Welt der modernen Kommunikationsmittel erreicht und damit auch findige Programmierer auf den Plan gerufen. Da immer mehr U.S. Soldaten im Irak oder Afghanistan-Einsatz ein iPhone, einen Blackberry oder ein Android-Handy besitzen, stellt sich die Frage: Gibt es ein App, das der Truppe nützlich sein könnte?

Der US-Soldat Jonathan J.Springer hat den Krieg in Afghanistan hautnah erlebt – und er besitzt ein iPhone. Der 31jährige aus Fort Wayne, Indiana, ist seit Mai 2010 im gefährlichsten Gebiet Afghanistans stationiert, dem Pech River-Valley in der östlichen Provinz Kunar. In keiner anderen Region des Landes ließen mehr US-Soldaten ihr Leben. Taliban und al-Qaida regieren hier die steilen Berghänge, amerikanische Truppen gerade fast täglich in Feuergefechte oder unter Raketen- und Mörserbeschuss.

Als am 25.Juni 2010 zwei Kameraden – einer von ihnen war erst 19 Jahre alt – in einem Taliban-Hinterhalt starben, keimte in Springer der Wunsch, den Soldaten in Afghanistan ihren gefährlichen Einsatz etwas erleichtern und vielleicht sogar sicherer machen zu können. “Ich hab lange darüber nachgedacht”, sagte mir der US-Soldat, “Aber die eigentliche Idee kam mir erst im Traum – ich weiß das klingt verrückt.” In einer Nacht Ende Juli 2010 kam Springer plötzlich die vielversprechende Idee.

“Ich habe viele Soldaten mit iPhones und anderen Handys gesehen und habe mir gedacht: Warum macht das Militär daraus nichts?”, so Springer. Die Idee war geboren. Springer wollte eine Software für Handys entwickeln, die ihm und seinen Kameraden im Kampfeinsatz nützliche Dienste erweisen würde. Am nächsten Tag machte er sich daran, seine Idee umzusetzen. “Ich rief meine Frau und meine Eltern in den USA an und erklärte ihnen was ich vor hatte”, berichtet der US-Soldat, “sie haben mich von Anfang an sehr in meiner Idee unterstützt.”

Jonathan Springer kontaktierte einen Software-Entwickler im US-Bundesstaat Arizona und erläuterte ihm seinen Plan: er wollte ein App für Smartphones entwickeln, das wie ein erweitertes GPS-Gerät funktioniert. Soldaten sollten auf virtuellen Karten Wegpunkte speichern und Feindstellungen markieren können. Die genauen Daten der Position des Feindes sollen dann an Luftwaffe oder Artillerie weitergegeben werden, um Bombenangriffe anzufordern. Die gesamte Navigationselektronik, die ein Soldat im Gefecht benötigt, sollte in ein iPhone passen – so Springers Grundidee. “Es ist im Prinzip nur eine Karte, ein Kompass und eine Kamera”, so der App-Erfinder, “und die Karte funktioniert nach einem Referenz-System das auch unsere Luftwaffe benutzt.”

“Im August 2010 habe ich die erste Beta-Version erhalten, um sie draußen im Feld zu testen”, berichtet Springer, “Vor wenigen Tagen habe ich die letzte Version geschickt bekommen.” Diese übertreffe seine Erwartungen bei weitem, so Jonathan Springer. Die Software sei nun in der Lage mit dem Handy aufgenommene Fotos automatisch mit präzisen GPS-Koordinaten zu versehen. Somit können Bilder von bestimmten Gebieten übermittelt und sofort zugeordnet werden. “Der Kompass zeigt in Metern an, wie weit man sich vom Zielpunkt entfernt befindet”, erklärt der US-Soldat, der derzeit noch in Afghanistan stationiert ist, “Es gibt eine Art Fadenkreuz, das man auf der Karte bewegen kann und mit dem Ziele markiert werden können. So lassen sich auch Wegpunkte festlegen und verbinden.”

Im Osten Afghanistan wurde das App auf die Probe gestellt. Springer testete es auf seinem iPhone und stellte fest, dass die Software mindestens so präzise ist, wie jedes meist sehr kostspielige zivile GPS-Gerät. “Es ist vergleichbar mit den GPS-Geräten die das US-Militär nutzt”, so Springer, “Die Koordinatenangaben sind absolut korrekt. Es funktioniert einwandfrei.”

Zwischen 26.000 und 30.000 US-Dollar seiner eigenen Ersparnisse investierte der 31jährige bislang in das App-Projekt. Genau könne er nicht sagen, wie viel ihn die Software letztendlich kosten wird, da er die endgültige Rechnung noch nicht erhalten habe. Im Februar soll das App namens “TacticalNav” über den App-Store von Apple erhältlich sein, für den Bruchteil des Preises eines regulären GPS-Gerätes.

Von Seiten des amerikanischen Militärs erhielt Jonathan Springer keine Rückmeldung, wie die Entwicklung seiner Software aufgefasst wird. Längst aber hat man im Pentagon begriffen, dass Smartphones zur Grundausstattung vieler US-Soldaten im Einsatz gehören. Inzwischen werde an militärisch-nutzbaren Apps gearbeitet, vermutet Springer, seine Erfindung aber wurde bislang weder kommentiert noch gefördert. “Smartphones sind schon lange nicht mehr nur Telefone”, meint er, “sie sind kleine, leistungsfähige Computer mit hohem Potential, das genutzt werden muss.” Sein Programm solle über das Internet nicht nur den US-Truppen zur Verfügung gestellt werden, sondern auch den Soldaten der verbündeten NATO-Staaten.

Original-Artikel auf “Welt Online”

“Soldat entwickelt Anti-Taliban-App für das iPhone”

German National Haddid N. Released From Bagram

by Florian Flade


Zainulabuddin “Haddid” N., the 23year-old Frankfurt University student arrested by U.S. forces in Afghan capital Kabul earlier this month, has been released from Bagram military detention center.

An e-mail I got from Haddid´s sister, a Frankfurt-based lawyer, says Haddid N. was released by the U.S. military and handed over to the German embassy in Kabul today. “He is in the German embassy in Kabul and he is well”, Haddid´s sister writes, “We were able to speak to him on phone several times.” The e-mail also includes a Thank-You statement to the University of Frankfurt, where Haddid studies engineering, and to the fellow students who rallied for his release.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, he is grateful for the U.S. decision to release the German citizen and that German officials are now offering Haddid N. a safe and quick return to Germany. “I´m very relieved about the solution of this case”, Westerwelle said, “I say thank you to the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for her commitment and dedication.”

Last November Haddid N. and a close friend had traveled to Dubai to visit Haddid´s brother living in the Emirate. Instead of returning to Germany Haddid was invited by his father who lives and works in Kabul, to come to Afghanistan for a visit. Haddid´s friend took a flight back to Frankfurt and was searched by German police who found Haddid N.´s ID-card. Haddid had given the document to his friend because the ID-card had expired.

German officials suspected Haddid might be on his way to a Afghan or Pakistani terror camp and left his German ID behind on purpose. On December 17th, Haddid flew from Dubai to Kabul and stayed in his father´s house in the city. In Frankfurt, police visited Haddid´s sister on January 5 and asked her if she knew where her brother was staying and what his intention in traveling to Afghanistan was. The sister told the police Haddid´s father was a Kabul businessman and he probably made the trip to visit him. She gave the Kabul adress to German police.

Only three days later, January 8, U.S. soldiers stormed the house of Haddid´s father and arrested the 23year-old Frankfurt resident on suspicion of terrorism. Haddid N. was then taken to Parwan detention center at Bagram U.S. Military Base and questioned by American interrogators.

Haddid´s sister believes her brother was arrested only after German officials sent information about the Kabul address to U.S. authorities. Now it seems the whole incident was the result of a miscalculation and misinterpretation of German counter-terrorism officials. N. is most likely the innocent victim of German law enforcement. German counter-terrorism and police had investigated Haddid N. since 2009. He was rated a possibly Jihadi terror recruit, willing to attend training camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Police checked Haddid when he traveled to Dubai in September 2009 and took his passport to keep him away from leaving the country. After he went to court, Haddid N. got the passport back. According to German officials, the Frankfurt student showed all signs of possibly leaving Germany for Jihad. Haddid had cut his hair very short and allegedly even sold some of his belongings. In July 2010 all investigation ended. The only thing German counter-terrorism found out about Haddid N. was that he was a faithful Muslim – no terrorism charges could be brought forward.

Egypt´s “Allahu Akbar”-free Revolution

by Florian Flade

Cairo – Police shooting at praying protesters with water cannon

“Ash-sha`ab yurid isqat an-nizam!” (the people want the overthrow of the system) – that was the slogan chanted by tens of thousands at Cairo´s Tahrir Square, the Square of Liberation, as Egyptians took to the streets yesterday in the biggest protest to topple the Mubarak regime in recent years. From Alexandria to Suez to capital Cairo – about a million angry protesters demanded President Husni Mubarak to step down from his decade-long dictatorship regime. Uncountable numbers of men and women, young and old, called for an end to oppression, one-party rule and police brutality. Encouraged by the events in Tunisia, a week-long protest that led to the collapse of the Ben Ali regime, Egyptians are now eager to bring change to the giant of the Arab world.

As events deteriorated and protest spread from neighborhood to neighborhood Egypt´s leader decided to fight the possibly most dangerous enemies of these riots – Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. All Internet service in Egypt was shut down yesterday in an historic cut-off by the government. In addition all mobile phone providers were informed to end service in the country.

Despite this unique procedure Arabic News was still covering events unfolding in Cairo. Especially Qatar-based Al-Jazeera did an remarkable job in reporting about the protests. While Egypt´s State TV was showing pictures of the sunset and talking about people on the streets in support of President Mubarak, Al-Jazeera aired live footage from the main squares of the city as well as from the fiercely disputed bridges where protesters and police clashed in heavy fights.

The pictures coming from Cairo yesterday were images of a revolution. Burning police cars, bleeding men on the ground, beaten by the regime-loyal security forces, the angry mob tearing shredding portraits of the Egyptian leader who rules his empire at the banks of the Nile since 1981. Eventhough the government imposed a curfew at 6 p.m., people were still on the streets, setting the National Democratic Party´s (NDP – Mubarak´s party) headquarter on fire.

When the army was sent into the major cities Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, the protesters welcomed the soldiers, chanting: “People and military – we are one!” Those believing in a regime change did not fear Mubarak´s soldiers or a possible violent crackdown of the riots – the people know the only force able to topple the regime within hours is the army. Winning the soldiers sympathies and convincing their leadership Mubarak´s last days have come is the ultimate goal.

More than 410 people were injured on “The Friday of Wrath”, up to 95 people lost their lives. Washington´s voice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who gave a brief statement on Egypt yesterday, said the United States what´s partnership with the Egyptian people as well as with the government. The US, she said, was very concerned about the violence but called for Mubarak to listen to the people and restore the Internet and communication system.

The “rais”, the leader, himself spoke on State TV in the night hours of Friday. In a disappointing speech he promised democracy to the Egyptians and ordered the cabinet ministers to step down. He wants to create a new government to give more freedom to the Egyptian people.

First reactions on the streets of Cairo show: the cheap statement of the President is not enough to calm down the masses awaiting his resignation. “We don´t want him anymore” – is the message of the protesters. Mubarak, they say, has to step down.

An Egypt without the authoritarian, secular leader is a nightmare for most of the Western allies of Mubarak, including Israel and the United States. For decades Egypt´s leaders fought Islamist opposition with brutal force, torture and mass-imprisonment. Yet the poor of Egypt are still rallying for the Muslim Brotherhood and their social agenda. The “brothers” have given up their radical views and militant ideology and have entered the political stages – but they still want religion to dominate the state policy.

Interesting enough this idea didn´t play any role or influence yesterday´s uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood, it seems, is not able to channel the people´s anger and give it an Islamic face. If anything was very clear by watching the picture coming out of Cairo on Friday: it is not religion that is going to topple the Mubarak-regime, it is the call for basic human rights, for free speech and justice, and the end of decade-long oppression.

That of course does not mean Islamists did not take part in yesterday´s wave of protest, but they were in no way dominating the riots. It is the “Allahu akbar”-free revolution, as some called it on the Internet, a people´s uprising without an Islamist ideology in their mind, without the calls for the implementation of Shariah Law, without the calls for Jihad and “Death to Israel!” or “Death to America!”.

People were praying on the streets of Cairo while police was trying to crack down on the mob. However the religious moment was not a moment of Jihadi-like motivation to overthrow the secular leadership. “The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to burn Egypt. We will not let these thugs burn Egypt”, the Editor of regime-loyal Al-Ahram newspaper claimed yesterday. Did he really believe seeing what was going on in the streets?

A “Khomeini”-Revolution is not the future of Egypt´s protests. Too many Egyptians have realized what it means to live under an Islamist dictatorship. Most of them saw the picture coming from Tehran after the latest elections in Iran. Egyptians saw Iranian youth dying in the streets, trying to fight oppressive leaders who claim to have Allah on their side. At the banks of the Nile, the majority of Egyptians do not want an Islamisc revolution in 2011

And this is also due to the fact that Egypt´s religious parties lack a Khomeini-like leader. Apart from popular regime-enemy El-Baradei, the latest protest lack a real leadership figure. There is no charismatic person leading this revolution. And right there is where the weakness of this protest lays.

Muhammad Husni Mubarak is not willing to leave office. His reign is not coming to an end if he is able to calm down the people by granting them certain rights and liberties they are calling for. Question is: How much anger do the Egyptians hold? Will they accept the small gifts or rather continue to demand a real leadership change and way forward to a democratic, multiple-party system?