July 28, 2009

From the Front: 07/28/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

The Gun Line MkIII: Wait For It… - Been quiet for a while, you may have noticed… We moved out of our CHUs into transient housing, and my personal internet connection went the way of the dodo… HOWEVER… Won’t be to very long before I begin to post in my own time zone on a permanent basis… Stay tuned, sports fans! (READ MORE)

The Life: Hills and Valleys in Iraq - "Some things just make it all worth it." -Anonymous - To which I replied, "True, that was amazing. Not many people, especially Westerns, can say they've seen Babylon." This was definitely a day when I felt on top of the world. There are a lot of things that make it all worth it on deployment, too. A letter from home, unexpected note from a friend, shared laugh, good book, full night's sleep, fast run, word of encouragement, new experience, or so many other things can lift you out of a valley of monotony and remind you how wonderful life is. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Ugh...progress - One of the things we do differently under the Status of Forces Agreement, which was reaffirmed by the June 30 security "transition," is try to stay off the roads during peak times. That's a concept that primarily effects "support and sustainment" movements. Alas, those movements (resupply convoys and the like) are one of the best ways for a small group of people in one truck to move back and forth between the Big Base and FOB McSleepy. All of this means that going from Point A to Point B can lead to "getting home" at 0115 after a slow-motion convoy. At least, when we travel at night, there's really not much need for IV fluids. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Afghans Fear Vote Could Turn Deadly - Last week, The Desk featured a live report from Scott Kesterson, who witnessed the aftermath of a multiple suicide bomb attack in Gardez. The attack was largely foiled, thanks to the work of Afghan security forces. Scott pointed out how the Afghan police and army have matured, so that stopping these kinds of complex attacks is now a possibility. It gave him hope that people will feel secure enough to go out and vote on August 20th. I was talking about this with an Afghan colleague–an older gentleman who edits a local magazine–and he took a much different lesson from these attacks, especially after an identical Taliban assault on Khost over the weekend. Yesterday he told me: “Such attacks shouldn’t take place at all. There are many police and many army forces. Six people [the number of attempted suicide bombers in Gardez] can’t do anything. They can’t take over the country. But they can frighten the people and cause immense trouble. They accomplished that goal. They scared the local population.” (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Karzai Machine is cranking up - Expect to keep hearing the Hamid Karzai spin train every day from now until August 20th. It will get louder and louder as he makes these statements about talks with the Taliban and how he wants rules put on Coalition forces. Under the past administration he would be ignored as he always has, but under this Administration there is no telling what will happen. He has a history of shooting off his mouth for his own people and of course the media jumps all over it. He is like a guy in a fight that is held back by his friends and as long as his friends are holding him back he talks big smack. He knows that he has no pull and that he can make whatever “demands” he wants but they will fall on deaf ears, except for his own people. The Afghan people have very limited access to outside media outlets so they believe what they hear in country. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Armoured thrust clears final Taliban from 'Panther's Claw' - A final armoured thrust across enemy territory has marked the end of Operation PANTHER'S CLAW; a five-week campaign to clear one of the few remaining Taliban strongholds in Helmand province. The operation, known as PANCHAI PALANG in Pashtu, has cleared and secured the area between Lashkar Gah and Gereshk, a region which is home to up to 80,000 Helmandis. In a fiercely fought battle with the insurgents, British forces inflicted heavy losses on enemy forces, decimating their command and control structures and visibly weakening their resistance. As the fighting subsided and insurgents fled from their hidden positions, local people started to flock back to the previously deserted towns and villages. The final push in the five-week-long operation began in the early hours of 20 July 2009 when a mechanised Warrior company from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (2 Royal Welsh) pushed south west from Spin Masjed in an armoured sweep towards the east bank of the Luy Mandah wadi. (READ MORE)

Lt Col Stephen Cartwright, CO of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland: First air assualt into key drugs bazaar - 20 June 2009 - The Battlegroup was privileged to be given the task of breaking into the Babaji area at the start of Operation Panther’s Claw. We knew the enemy had laid an IED screen to the north of the area so I decided to launch an audacious air assault of 2 aviation strike companies behind the insurgent forward defences. To achieve tactical surprise, the Battlegroup used 10 Chinook helicopters and inserted 350 men at 3.30 am on 20 June in one wave. It was very successful and we had occupied defensive positions of our own by first light. The remainder of the Battlegroup, in armoured and wheeled vehicles, approached from the north to link up. However, the enemy were watching us and began their assaults from 7am targeting our positions with a mixture of small arms fire (SAF) and rocket propelled grenades (RPG). (READ MORE)

Lt Col Doug Chalmers, CO 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards: The Push up the Shamalan Canal - 25 June - 25 July 2009 - Our battalion has responsibility for Battle Group Centre South which means we are responsible for the districts of Nad-E-Ali and Lashkah-Gar. HERRICK 10 has seen the area under the Government of Afghanistan’s control within these districts grow considerably. Very early on in the tour a large ANA led Operation pushed the insurgents out of a town called Basharan and then kept them out. After a couple of days of fierce fighting the village was secured and has gone from strength to strength ever since. There is an increasing air of confidence in the village as they regain a sense of normality. Within Nad-E-Ali District Centre the bazaar has continued to grow, with new shops opening every month. The residents, although still wary, have gained a degree of confidence in their future. They now believe us when we say that we are here to stay. (READ MORE)

Colonel Frank Lissner, Commanding Officer of the Danish Battlegroup: Siezing the entry crossings along the Nahr E Bughra Canal - 2 and 8 July 2009 - Our role in Operation Panchai Palang was to seize two of the crossing points along the Nahr e Bughra to allow the Light Dragoons Battlegroup to enter an area which was under the de facto control of the insurgents. Prior to Panchai Palang, the insurgents in the region have skillfully and determinedly resisted any attempt by the Danish Battle Group to patrol in the area; both through fierce fighting and extensive use of improvised explosive devices, blocking all access points into the area. It had become a safe haven for the insurgents from where they launched attacks on both local Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) checkpoints and objectives in Gereshk. (READ MORE)

Lt Col Gus Fair DSO, Commanding Officer of The Light Dragoons: The sweep across Spin Masjed and Babiji 4-8 Jul and 10-14 Jul 09 - The clearance of Malgir and Babaji was one of the final phases of Op Panchai Palang and was very much dependant on the hard work put in across the rest of the Brigade. Having effectively sealed off the Green Zone, with the Welsh Guards blocking the West, the Danes the North and the East, and A squadron of Light Dragoons the south, The Light Dragoons Battle Group was tasked to clear the Green Zone of Taliban and free the local people from their intimidation and brutality. This we have done. The Battlegroup broke in through a bridgehead secured by the Danish Battlegroup and fought its way South through determined enemy resistance. We subsequently cleared our way west, and have now cleared the enemy from Malgir and Babaji. This was the most intense fighting over a protracted period I have experienced in my 20 years in the Army. The men, women and equipment delivered more than we had any right to expect. (READ MORE)

Major Nigel Crewe-Read, OC C Coy, 2 Royal Welsh: The armoured thrust through Babiji 20 – 25 JULY - Accompanied by artillery from 52 (Niagara) Battery Royal Artillery, Engineers from 11 Field Squadron Royal Engineers, IED clearance teams, and military civilian reconstruction teams, we conducted a swift night move from Bastion to Forward Operating Base Price. As dawn came the Company was escorted down through the areas that had been liberated from the Taliban. It was obvious that there had been quite a fight to achieve the earlier goals of Panther’s Claw. Crossing the line of departure, everyone was braced for what could be a very bloody fight. Breaking off the main track to avoid IEDs, the Warriors began to move into the Helmand Green Zone. This was the first time Warriors had ever actually been taken into the complex terrain of the Green Zone which consists of many irrigation ditches, flooded fields, and sprawling compounds. Not easy terrain for 36 tonnes of armour to cross without becoming stuck. (READ MORE)

Lt Col Stephen Cartwright, CO Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland: The final air assault and armoured thrust - 20-27 July 2009 - It seemed apt that, having been involved at the very start of the British strike in Babaji, we should be allowed to take part its finale. Once again, we were given enough Chinooks to lift the aviation element of the Battlegroup in a single wave. As with our first battlegroup operation, the key lay in surprising the insurgents. “The Battlegroup for this operation consisted of Alpha (Grenadier) Company, 3 SCOTS, C Company, 2 R WELSH mounted in Warrior fighting vehicles (their role mentioned above) and Assaye Squadron, Light Dragoons, in armoured recce vehicles; 500 personnel and 60 vehicles. A Company swooped on the target area by Chinook, Charlie Company led an armoured punch in through the Green Zone (the first of its kind) from the east using Warrior armoured fighting vehicles. They were joined by Assaye Squadron. Our logistics tail followed up in Mastiff troop carriers and armoured trucks. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Camp Mike Spann weather update - The base where I spend most of my time is Camp Mike Spann. Mike Spann was a CIA operative working in the Mazar E Sharif area at the time of the Taliban overthrow. He was also a former Marine Officer, which is near and dear to my heart. The Northern Alliance fighters had recently taken control a prison complex outside of town. Spann was in the prison questioning prisoners of interest including the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. Unfortunately the Taliban prisoners made a breakout and Spann died defending himself and his brothers-in-arms. He is interred at Arlington. Camp Spann is not on the site of his death, but it is nearby. Camp Spann is the HQ for the American and Coalition Advisors for the Northern region of Afghanistan. There are Americans, Germans, Swedes, Norwegians’, Croatians and occasionally some French, Polish or Hungarians in the area. This is the hub from which these forces move out to work with the ANA and ANP forces. Units are here to teach and advise the Afghans, not fight the war for them. But Force Protection is a big part of what goes on here. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Hell Boy at the Chapel - Yesterday as I was leaving the 9am traditional Protestant service, the choir for the 11 am service was starting to arrive. I remembered the very enthusiastic young captain from Tennessee who jumps when he sings. When I was about to walk through the door, in walks the subject of my June 8 post, the silent guitar player on the bridge. The guy who wants to make a comeback with a metal band when deployment is over. He told me that evening last month he had a home in Hell. and there he was walking in the door with his enormous 12-string electric bass. I guess the Chapel band gives him a chance to play. The Catholic Chaplain from NYC is on the way to a base up north, so my pastor can quit worrying that I will become a Catholic simply to hang around with former Fordham philosophy professor who loves New York. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan strikes Taliban camps in Khyber - The Pakistani military killed 20 Taliban fighters while targeting Taliban training camps in the Khyber tribal agency. Pakistani Army helicopters struck four Taliban camps in the Tirah Valley near the Afghan border. One of the camps was used to indoctrinate and train suicide bombers and Taliban fighters, a spokesman for the Frontier Corps told AFP. Taliban suicide bombers attacked across the border from Khyber in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan on July 21. Police and US forces killed two suicide bombers as they attempted to attack a forward operating base at the airport outside the city. Another bomber was captured, the US military said. One policeman was killed while repelling the Taliban strike. In November 2008, the US military attacked Taliban forces in the Tirah Valley after they retreated across the border from Nangahar in Afghanistan. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Talking About Negotiations First Is Exactly Backwards - David Miliband gave a big speech today, in which he said the Afghan government in Kabul needs to extend its outreach to Taliban militants to make way for “the first Afghan-led election since the 1970s.” Almost as if they were listening, the Afghan government then announced a cease-fire with the militants to create space before the election in Badghis province; within 24 hours, militants attacked and killed several police officers there. The problem with all of this is it gets things backwards. Militants are fighting in Afghanistan for many reasons, but not one of them is planting bombs and shooting at NATO because he doesn’t have sufficient opportunities to vote. Catherine Philip explains: "David Miliband’s assertion that it is time to talk to the Taleban may sound new and shocking to some. It is neither. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British Ambassador to Kabul, advocated the policy soon after arriving in Afghanistan in 2004." (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: No Brainer - Cassinos and I went to a conference today for Iraqi Women Business-Owners. It was basically about getting hooked up with contracts and being competitive in the market place. We were there for over 5 hours and a lot of info got lost in translation. The most interesting part of my day was our interview with Sora. Sora is 21 and has dual-citizenship in America and Iraq. She loves them both. She and her parents have called Chicago home for the past 10 years, but Sora visits Basra annually to catch up with her siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins. She came to the conference with her husband who’s a government contractor working on our base. She was really excited when she told me she got to spend 3 days with him on the compound a few weeks ago. Sora’s been in Basra about two months visiting and will catch a plane this week to head back to the states and prepare for pharmacy school, which she starts in August. Most people in Iraq would kill for the chance to have dual citizenship, come and go as they please, and have the chance of a new life in America. Sora knows she’s lucky, but she’s not so sure she wants the bright, shiny American life. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Winding Down - With the end of our deployment drawing to a close, mission wise things have really calmed down. Our original busy schedule saw little change until we hit mid June. We then dropped back down to only one mission a day with the occasional 2 here and there. With July we saw a change in Coalition presence because of the Iraqi security agreement. June was especially quiet for me because I was yanked, along with a few others throughout the battalion, to attend a mine detector class. Why so late in the game? Who knows. The system is great however yielded no real application for my company’s given mission. Now if I was an engineer, it’d be different. This class lasted for 2 weeks! Which meant no missions. It certainly felt odd to go from running tactical missions to being in a class room environment. Everyone else in my class had the same weird feeling. Upon completion, I returned to my platoon just before America lessened our presence in Iraq. Effective June 30th was a withdraw from Baghdad. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Corruption, Contractors in Afghanistan - Hot on the heels of the news that military commanders in Afghanistan are soliciting bids to hand over security and sentry duties for American FOBs to private contractors, comes a story by Dan Schulman of Mother Jones about a private security company—US Protection and Investigations—that travelled the same road of incompetence, corruption and graft in Afghanistan that we’ve seen so many times in Iraq over the past several years. Founded by a Texas couple who were running a failing private investigation firm in 2002, the company was quickly winning multimillion dollar contracts to provide security to USAID and UN road construction projects, while paying off local warlords to provide the staff—staff who reportedly set up their own bribery and shakedown schemes near job sites while stranding protectees in the middle of nowhere on more than once occasion. And yet the company still kept winning big contracts. (READ MORE)

Air Force Wife: Stop! You Can't Do That! - We're down to the wire now, and the last few things I've neglected getting ready for deployment need to be done NOW or they will not get done at all. Among these is something that is not technically necessary, but gives me great peace of mind - The re-blessing of the Joan of Arc medallion Air Force Guy has worn each deployment. In this particular instance, I also need to replace the chain (lost) and have a new o-ring soldered on FIRMLY. He nearly lost the medallion on the last go 'round because I cut corners and had him use a connector that looks like a keychain for jewelry. So, today I walked into a local jewelry store right outside the mall to find the right chain (thick, but not bling-y, strong but still able to be worn comfortably under his clothing and gear) and explained the dilemma to a very helpful sales woman who helped me search the inventory and then took the medallion and the selected chain back to the glass enclosed service area. (READ MORE)

Penny: Silent Understanding - Before the Soldier deployed for his third tour earlier in the year, we decided that it would be best if Little Man and I came back home to stay with my family in civilian world. There are many days I miss military land and the people in it because there is a silent understanding of the lifestyle we have. If you meet someone new in military land and find out the spouse is deployed, you can share advice, stories and simply just talk. It doesn’t quite work that way in civilian land. Lately once civilians have found out the Soldier is deployed, the question du jour has been, “Oh. So, then what do you do all day?” I admit it has caught me off guard simply because there was something about the question that bugged me. I wanted to tell them about the 60 deployment list I have, the different teams I’m a part of on Soldier’s Angels, the small business I’ve been working on for over a year, raising a 2 year old while trying to teach him two languages, trying to figure out potty training for him, and overall being a wife and mom. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Gates Makes Surprise Iraq Visit - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived Tuesday in southern Iraq to get a firsthand look at the future of the US military mission in Iraq. Mr. Gates flew from Amman, Jordan, to a command post in southern Iraq where US troops are serving mainly as advisers to Iraqi forces. The advisory unit in Talil is a prototype for US forces as they shift from front-line combat to support roles. (READ MORE)

British Troops Forced to Withdraw as Iraqi Parliament Delays Deal - British troops are facing a final and ignominious retreat from Iraq after the delay of a deal that would have allowed them to stay to train the country’s navy. About 100 military personnel are withdrawing temporarily after the Iraqi parliament failed to pass an agreement for their continued presence - a bilateral accord that should have been ratified by Friday. (READ MORE)

Artillery Unit Becomes Civil Affairs in New Iraq - Most field artillery troops don’t expect to work in civil affairs support, but that’s the way it is with the quickly changing role of US forces here. For many field artillery units, nonstandard missions have become a way of life, and the 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, Task Force Pathfinder, is no different. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Kurds Split by Regional Vote - Kurdish opposition parties took nearly one-third of the vote in regional elections on the weekend, according to preliminary returns, weakening the political stranglehold exercised for years by the region's two largest parties. Two parties have dominated Kurdish politics since 1975: the Kurdish Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq. (READ MORE)

A New Benchmark in Iraq - Over the weekend, the people of Iraq's Kurdistan Region went to the polls to elect their new Parliament. This achievement marked yet another milestone in the region's development toward a democratic and transparent society. For that, we applaud the Kurds. Much has been said about Iraqi Kurdistan, but one thing is certain: Through starts and stops, the Kurdistan Region has moved forward in fulfilling its democratic aspirations. (READ MORE)

NATO, Iraq Sign Agreement to Train Iraq Security Forces - BAGHDAD -- The Minister of Defence of the Republic of Iraq, Abdul Qader Mohammad Jassim Al-Mafrji, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Iraq, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, on behalf of NATO, signed an agreement Sunday between the Government of the Republic of Iraq and NATO regarding the training of Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

US and Iraqi Airmen Square Off in Weapons Load Competition - KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq – Earlier this month, Iraqi and U.S. Air Force personnel squared off here in the first weapons-load competition. The contest pitted the newly certified lead-weapons crew from Iraqi Air Force Squadron 3 against advisors from the U.S. Air Force’s 521st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. The Iraqis won a coin toss to determine which crew would load first and were determined to show their advisors just how much they’ve learned. (READ MORE)

Odierno Visits 3rd Sustainment Command - JOINT BASE BALAD — Gen. Ray Odierno, Mult-National Force – Iraq commanding general, visited the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) here, July 21. Escorted by Brig. Gen. Michael J. Lally, 3rd ESC commanding general, Odierno received a tour of the 3rd ESC headquarters, where he recognized several Soldiers in the process. During the visit, Odierno was briefed on operations run by the 3rd ESC's Joint Operations Center as well as the Support Operations Fusion Cell. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Capture Two Suspected Terrorists - BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Emergency Response Brigade, along with U.S. force advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists during an intelligence-driven mission outside of Baghdad, July 22. The elite police force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Criminal Investigative Court of Karkh. Court documents indicate that the constables arrested the suspected insurgents in accordance with the Republic of Iraq’s terrorism law. (READ MORE)

U.S. MP Continue to Mentor Iraqi Police - BAGHDAD — Since Sovereignty Day, June 30, the Iraqi Security Forces have taken the lead, but the 591st Military Police Company (MPC) still has work to do here. These U.S. MP continue to train their Iraqi Police (IP) counterparts to take over security on the outskirts of western Baghdad. To that end, the MP met with the IP yet again, July 24. (READ MORE)

Public Health Team Reviews Inspection Process for Products Entering Iraq - HABUR GATE — A team of veterinary officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army and Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture recently visited this port city in the Kurdish region, at the request of the Iraqi government. "The purpose of the mission was to get a good look at the inspection process for plant and animal products coming in to northern Iraq so that we can have a better understanding of any kind of road blocks that might be present," said Army Col. Stan Wood, chief of public health, 364th Civil Affairs Brigade. (READ MORE)

Forces in Iraq Capture Militant, Destroy Weapons - WASHINGTON, July 27, 2009 – Coalition and Iraqi forces arrested an assailant and destroyed weapons in operations in Iraq over the past three days, military officials said. Two Iraqi special operations soldiers died and an assailant was wounded during an operation outside the Iraqi capital today. During the early morning operation, the Iraqi special operations forces, along with U.S. forces advisors, were attempting to make an arrest with a court-ordered warrant for terrorism. (READ MORE)

America’s New Nightmare - Soon after 4,000 US Marines flooded into Afghanistan's Helmand River Valley on July 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar called top Taliban regional commanders together for an urgent briefing. The meeting took place in southwestern Pakistan - not far from the Afghan border but safely out of the Americans' reach. Baradar told the commanders he wanted just one thing: to keep the Taliban's losses to a minimum while maximizing the cost to the enemy. (READ MORE)

Britain and US Prepared to Open Talks with the Taliban - A concerted effort to start unprecedented talks between Taliban and British and American envoys was outlined today in a significant change in tactics designed to bring about a breakthrough in the attritional, eight-year conflict in Afghanistan. Senior ministers and commanders on the ground believe they have created the right conditions to open up a dialogue with "second-tier" local leaders now the Taliban have been forced back in a swath of Helmand province. (READ MORE)

David Miliband Says Taliban Could be Reintegrated into Afghanistan Government - David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has said "moderate" members of the Taliban insurgency killing British forces in Afghanistan could be given seats in the Afghan government. He said that some members of the broad coalition of Islamic militants, tribal groups and hired fighters could be drawn into the Afghan political process. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan and Taliban Reach Election Truce in District - The Afghan government said Monday that it had arranged a truce with a group of Taliban in a district in northern Afghanistan in order to allow elections to go ahead on Aug. 20 and allow development projects to proceed in the area. Local elders negotiated the truce with the local Taliban commander in the Balamorghab district of Badghis Province, and the commander agreed to have election officials open a registration office in the area, said Ahmad Zia Siamak Herawi, a deputy spokesman for President Hamid Karzai. (READ MORE)

Britain 'Will Need More Troops' for Success in Afghanistan - Britain may need to send more troops to Afghanistan despite the success of Operation Panther’s Claw, military chiefs admit. The scale of the challenge was revealed yesterday as it emerged that British soldiers have faced nearly 1,000 roadside bombs in the past three months. Although 3,000 troops managed to drive out about 500 Taleban during the five-week offensive, they will be fully deployed holding an area in Helmand province about the size of the Isle of Wight, their commanding officer admitted. (READ MORE)

Gordon Brown Labels Latest Afghanistan Offensive a Success - Prime Minister Gordon Brown has hailed the British offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province a success. But that call is getting a mixed reception as the British public grows weary of the country's involvement there. For the past five weeks, British forces have been clearing the territory between Lashkar Gah and Girishk in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Nine British soldiers have died in the operation dubbed Panther's Claw. (READ MORE)

Britain Urges Afghan Political Effort - The British government sought to bolster fragile domestic support for the Afghan war on Monday, issuing a comprehensive policy statement emphasizing that military power alone would not be enough to guarantee the defeat of Taliban militants. The statement, which came near the end of a month in which heavy fighting has left 22 British soldiers dead and caused a political uproar here, was delivered in a speech by Foreign Secretary David Miliband at NATO’s Brussels headquarters. (READ MORE)

Tough Fight Will Continue in Afghanistan, Mullen Says - Though troop morale is high in Afghanistan, the Taliban is a tough organization and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he doesn’t expect conditions to change soon. “As everyone knows, we’ve lost a large number of people here very recently,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a Pentagon Channel podcast interview today. (READ MORE)

Relocated Army Outpost Draws Fire From Angry Taliban Insurgency - The attackers waited until dusk, then came at the yet-to-be fortified American outpost from three sides, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. It was a surprise, the first attack on the newly established outpost near the Charkh District Center in nearly two months, said Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen, the squadron commander who monitored Friday’s brief, unsuccessful ambush from his base about 20 miles to the east. (READ MORE)

With Stubborn Unrest in Swat, Landowners Remain in Exile - Even as hundreds of thousands of people stream back to the Swat Valley after months of fighting, one important group is conspicuously absent: the wealthy landowners who fled the Taliban in fear and are the economic pillar of the rural society. The reluctance of the landowners to return is a significant blow to the Pakistani military’s campaign to restore Swat as a stable, prosperous part of Pakistan, and it presents a continuing opportunity for the Taliban to reshape the valley to their advantage. (READ MORE)

Troops Seize Enemy Fighters in Eastern Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, July 27, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces seized dozens of suspected enemy fighters during recent operations in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said. In an operation yesterday, a joint Afghan and coalition force searched a compound in Khost province believed to be frequented by an insurgent known for coordinating attacks against troops as part of the Haqqani terrorist network. (READ MORE)

Candidate Abdullah: Afghan People Want Change - The leading challenger hoping to win the Afghan presidency away from Hamid Karzai is a man defined by his associations. One is with the incumbent: Abdullah Abdullah gained great visibility as an eye doctor-turned-foreign minister — the first appointed by Karzai. But it is another, earlier association that he's using to great effect in this presidential campaign. Abdullah was for many years the closest friend and adviser an Afghan national hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud — a famous freedom fighter who waged war against the Soviets and the Taliban and who was assassinated by al-Qaida two days before Sept. 11, 2001. (READ MORE)

UK public sees the Afghan war as unwinnable - LONDON (AP) — A majority of people in Britain see the Afghan war as impossible to win, according to a new poll taken amid steeply rising casualties and growing government emphasis on finding a political solution to the conflict. More than half of those questioned by pollster ComRes — 52 percent — said British troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan right away, while 43 percent thought they should stay. Fifty-eight percent of respondents viewed the war as unwinnable, while only 31 percent thought it could be won. (READ MORE)

India and Afghanistan set up partnership panel to combat terrorism - New Delhi - India and Afghanistan Tuesday resolved to intensify cooperation to combat terrorism, describing it as the "most important security threat" in the region and established a partnership council to boost developmental ties. The two countries issued a joint statement on Tuesday after talks between Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dafdar Spanta in New Delhi on Monday evening. (READ MORE)

Campaign worker, 14 others killed in Afghanistan - Kabul - Fifteen people, among them a presidential campaign worker, were killed in three separate incidents in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. In the eastern province of Laghman, a local election campaign official of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah was shot dead Tuesday morning by unknown gunmen in Dawlat Shah district. Rahm Khuda Mukhlis, the police chief of Dawlat Shah district, confirmed the attack on officials of Abdullah's election campaign and said that one person was killed and two others were injured in this incident. (READ MORE)

Karzai Says Afghans Want New Rules for U.S. Troops - Kabul (AP) - President Hamid Karzai said Monday he wants new rules governing the conduct of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan and would be willing to talk with Taliban leaders who publicly renounce violence and endorse peace. But Karzai, acknowledging shaky relations with his international partners in the war on terror, told The Associated Press in an interview that he was not prepared at this time to discuss the key Taliban demand -- a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. (READ MORE)

Roadside bombing kills 8 guards in S. Afghanistan - Eight security guards with a private security company were killed and four others sustained injures as their cars struck roadside bombs on Tuesday in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, a statement of Interior Ministry issued here said. "It occurred at 8 a.m. this morning when two cars, belonging to Humayon Security Company, were struck by remote control mine in Yakhchal area of Grishik district, leaving eight guards dead and four others injured, all Afghans," it said. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES* 28 July 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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