August 4, 2009

From the Front: 08/04/2009

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

She of the Sea: A Year Is A Long Time - Well, my husband is nearly half-way through his first year long deployment. Being Navy, deployments are usually 6 or 7 months. And it seems I like that, 'cuz all of the sudden this thing has gotten long. Rreeaallyy long. My heartiest amazement to those of you who have done this more than once. I know that I'll make it through (I don't really have a choice, do I?) but golly, this looks a lot more than twice a "regular" deployment to me. It's more like squared longer. I'm not really sure what the point of this post is: am I complaining? am I helping other people to know that is is OK to be sick of a deployment? am I applauding all of you who have done this over and over again? I guess it is probably a combination of all three. So, "Whaa! It's OK! You're Amazing!" (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: Afghan National Army trains to hit their target - Nuristan, Afghanistan- Mountains ring the small Forward Operating Base Kala Gush as a Marine embedded training team trains an Afghan National Army (ANA) artillery company how to zero in on their targets using forward observers and computerized coordinates. It is the first time they're coordinating a fire team with officers to improve accuracy and timing. Coordinates are manually calibrated on an old Russian 122 caliber artillery gun. A soldier runs with the explosive charge that launches the shell at a distant mountain side. The impact of the blast is heard about 10 seconds later, and a puff of smoke in the distance. It's hard to tell the damage or crater size one of these shells leaves, but the shrapnel is devastating. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: An Effective Strategy, by the Taliban - So the other day the Taliban conveniently left out a code of conduct in some houses that our forces raided saying how they need to be more careful not to hurt or kill civilians. "Suicide attacks should be used only at high and important targets … Utmost efforts should be made to avoid civilian casualties…" Thankfully most outside of Afghanistan realize this is just a ploy on the ill-informed people of Afghanistan. I hope most inside Afghanistan don’t believe it because they are still operating under the normal modus operandi and there are several who are calling them out, like right here. "The booklet makes clear that Taliban forces should “try their best to avoid killing local people,” he noted. “Well, let me tell you that the reality on the ground doesn’t reflect this at all,” Tremblay said, noting that insurgents have killed 450 innocent Afghans and injured more than 1,000 others since January." (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Planting Seeds - One thing we can all agree on is that Afghanistan needs a healthy agricultural sector in order to recover: it will provide food and jobs, grow the economy, and cut back opium harvesting. Danger Room's Nathan Hodge has a post up on a pretty cool project that I was unaware of until recently: "Perhaps nothing exemplifies the 'Peace Corps with guns' approach to Afghanistan more than the U.S. Army’s Agribusiness Development Teams, or ADTs. As part of a relatively new experiment, Army National Guard volunteers from agricultural states have deployed here to train and advise Afghan farmers and agricultural officials on modern farming techniques and business practices. The first teams, fielded last year, were from Missouri and Texas; others have followed from places like Tennessee, Kansas and Indiana." (READ MORE)

Ann Scott Tyson: 'I Carry Them With Me Everywhere I Go'- When Cpl. Darron Dale tucked a rosary inside his flak vest, he never imagined the close call that lay ahead. In a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmand province in late July, the M240B machine gunner on Dale's team was shot in the foot. "I'm hit! I'm hit!" the gunner called. Dale bounded forward to take over the gun, as other Marines pulled the wounded comrade to safety. But as Dale moved he was shot three times in his back armored plate. "It threw me to the ground," said Dale, of 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He felt liquid running down his back and assumed he was bleeding, but still took up the machine gun and fired back. In fact, the liquid was leaking water. The bullets had punctured holes in his camel back canteen and the cloth covering of his body armor. Several members of Dale's platoon asked to go with him to Las Vegas, but instead Dale was reluctantly evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital. (READ MORE)

FCO - Stabilisation Advisor, James Donally: Goodbye to all that - Well, my year in Musa Qala is nearly up and it’s time to say my goodbyes to my Afghan and British friends here. I must say the time really has flown by and much has happened in this small corner of Helmand, not least improved security, leading to increased freedom of movement and an uplift in business in Musa Qala. And some basics are in place: school, clinic, some roads, improved electricity supply. But to fill the security "envelope" provided by the Afghan security forces and their British counterparts, the Afghan government needs to step in and be seen to be working full time in the district; Afghans deserve a government that listens to its people and is trusted. Until now in Musa Qala, we foreigners - civilian and military - have sometimes seemed to be the only people the local population could approach to discuss their problems and get things done. But the Afghan government understands that it has to assume its proper place in the lives of the locals… (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Soldier shot - but he takes it on the chin - A lucky soldier has lived to tell the tale after being shot in the face by the Taliban. Private David 'Dunc' Duncan, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment , who is currently serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, was deployed in the Panjab region of Helmand province when he was shot as insurgents ambushed his patrol. His patrol became aware that the Taliban were planning an attack on them as they worked their way through villages, talking to the locals and gauging their attitude towards coalition forces. Soon after hearing the reports the insurgents opened fire on the patrol, using small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades; Pte Duncan, swung his Jackal around so the vehicle commander and gunner could return fire. The Taliban were well hidden in compound walls and a network of tunnels making it difficult for the British soldiers to locate them. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): My Job, or Jobs - With my squad leader getting knee surgery 6,000 miles away, I am in charge of the nine members of 4th squad. But with additional duties, leaves, and temporary assignments, my squad is usually three or four specialists, one of whom should make sergeant soon and maybe another before the tour is over. So that is job one. Job two is being sergeant tool bitch which lately mostly means taking care of the operating system of the big tool box--the compressor, generator and such--and making up hand receipts to inventory all the special tools stuffed in Conex containers. But a big part of this job is actually being in the motor pool from 7am to 3pm every day except Thursday and every 4th Sunday. Job three is where it gets messy. My company commander and first sergeant want me to do various extra duties within the company, first and foremost the next issue of the newsletter and also serve as Morale, Welfare and Recreation sergeant. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani high court suspends case against Hafiz Saeed - Pakistan's highest court has suspended hearings on the government's appeal of the recent release of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed. The Supreme Court of Pakistan "indefinitely" suspended the government's petition to have Saeed placed under house arrest yet again. No reason was given by the court for suspending the hearing. The suspension took place just two days after India said it has turned over enough evidence to Pakistan to allow it to proceed with the prosecution of Saeed. "The evidence provided in three dossiers is, in our view, sufficient to investigate role of Hafiz Saeed," Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said. In mid-December 2008, Saeed was placed under a loose house arrest after the United Nations Security Council declared the Jamaat-ud-Dawa both a terrorist entity and a front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Nasim Fekrat Continues the Hope Train - Nasim Fekrat makes me supremely jealous. He’s about my age, and has won numerous awards and fellowships for his efforts at blogging. Part of that is because he blogs from Afghanistan, where journalism can be a dangerous business for locals. But part of it, too, is that he is a blogging evangelist, and travels into some very dicey places to try to teach journalists, students, and regular people how to tell their stories to the outside world. Fekrat is currently in Helmand Province, where, using only two computers, he taught a huge room full of people how to start blogging about their world. It’s amazing: people there are disappointed that Helmand is known only for drugs and violence and want to discuss its culture, literature, and agriculture; others want to get a local perspective on the security challenges there. Of course, this being Helmand, most of the bloggers will be writing in Pashto, which I cannot read. (READ MORE)

Short Timers: Recap: Our Trip So Far - Our posts lately have been pretty narrowly focused on particular situations we've encountered in our travels, so I thought I'd briefly recount what we've been up to since we arrived in the Middle East. We arrived in Kuwait early Saturday morning, and were taken to a transfer base for processing and to arrange a flight into Iraq. Our processing there took almost exactly 24 hours, whence we got aboard a C-17 and flew to Baghdad. We were met there by a public affairs officer from the 1-25th Strykers. He helped us obtain our press credentials and secure transport to Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Diyala province. While on our way to get our credentials at the Combined Press Information Center in the Green Zone, our convoy came within a few minutes of being hit by an IED, which made the situation getting into the Green Zone a bit tricky due to fears of another attack. We eventually made it into the CPIC, however, and got credentialed. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Kuwait: Revisited - TyTy and I got to Kuwait yesterday to await our planes for leave. The manifest are all messed up, so I’m here way earlier than I should be which means I’ll be spending 9 glorious days in this place (she says sarcastically). I’ll be passing the time at the gym, the MWR tent watching movies, reading in my bunk and listening to my iPOD. Lucky for me, Gramma King sent me a package last week with lots of books. I packed them all for this extended stay. The days are going to drag and the anticipation is killing me. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though - it’s called Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Eye of London, Eiffel Tower, Catacombs, Versailles, Louvre… okay, so there’s more than one light. (READ MORE)

Counterterrorism Blog: Core Al Qaeda Under Pressure and Changing Tactics - Several seemingly-unrelated events seem to me to be important and pointing toward important new directions in the struggle against radical Islamist groups. The first is the optimistic report by CBS News that al Qaeda is publicly acknowledging the damage to its cadres caused by drone-fired Hellfire missiles. In the communique posted online, al Qaeda leaders say "the harm is alarming, the matter is very grave," due to the drone attacks. "So many brave commanders have been snatched away by the hands of the enemies. So many homes have been leveled with their people inside them by planes that are unheard, unseen and unknown." That pressure on core al Qaeda may be one of the reasons its affiliated groups have been ratcheting up their activities in other parts of the world, to show the organization is still alive and well and able to carry out attacks. (READ MORE)

Some Soldier's Mom: PTSD... a Parent's Perspective - As anyone who has read this blog for more than 30 days knows, our combat-wounded son also carries the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. Back in 2006, I was honored to have something I wrote included in Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan & the Home Front. I had been invited to attend the launch of the book with other contributors at The Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Excited as I was, I didn't attend. I made a journey instead to a different destination after I received a call from Fort Benning that my son had been hospitalized for his worsening PTSD crisis. As I had before -- when Noah graduated Basic, when he graduated Airborne, when he deployed to Iraq, to Germany when he was wounded and when he was returned stateside -- I flew to offer encouragement and to do what I could. It's what a parent does... when they can. We had been in constant contact with Noah in the 18 months from deployment and that point in 2006... (READ MORE)

Colorado Patriot: On GITMO, Once Again, We’re Not Even Discussing Reality - Today we find that the Midwest may be receiving some of the detainees from GITMO, and that’s starting to rile the locals in flyover country. Naturally, folks there (and anywhere they’re given the chance to respond, if asked) don’t care for terrorists living in their midst, even if under “maximum security”. This concern is given even greater weight when we look at what some incarcerated terrorists are trying to do. But the story becomes even more chilling (and bizarre) when we read that the “Justice Department has identified about 80 detainees who could be charged and prosecuted, either in military or federal criminal courts.” CHARGED? For those paying attention, this seems odd. These “detainees” are NOT criminals. They are NOT being held on criminal warrants or accusations of crimes. They are COMBATANTS (illegal, at that) in a war that is currently ongoing. They are not being held at Guantanamo Bay because they are awaiting trial for allegedly committing crimes. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Soldiers Shift Gears From Combat to Security - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, Aug. 3, 2009 – Over the past month, soldiers of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, have been learning new skills and taking on new challenges as they adapt to a different mission in Iraq. Rather than combat, the soldiers have been working hand in hand with provincial reconstruction teams that are assisting Iraqis as they build key infrastructures in Dhi Qar, Maysan and Muthanna provinces. The soldiers provide security while reconstruction team members work to improve conditions in this war-torn country. (READ MORE)

Sadr City school provides education for hundreds - BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq recently completed a 12-classroom school in Sadr City that will provide educational opportunities for approximately 600 boys and girls ages six through 12. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held July 29 with family tribal leaders, officials from the district authority council, the general director of the 3rd Rusafa Education Headquarters, and contractor employees who worked on the $1 million Ammar Bin Yasir School project. (READ MORE)

Sons of Iraq Program Continues Integration - BAGHDAD – More than 3,000 members of the Sons of Iraq (SoI) program were transitioned Sunday for employment into Iraq’s civil services. The Government of Iraq assumed responsibility for the program in April and has paid the salaries of all 95.000 members since then. At that time, they committed to transitioning a majority of its members to civilian employment, with the others being integrated into the security forces. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Crime Scene Investigators Complete Latent Fingerprint Analysis Course - BAGHDAD –– Seven Iraqi investigators completed the Latent Fingerprint Analysis Course at the High Institute of the Baghdad Police College, July 29, in preparation for work in crime scene investigation (CSI). The students demonstrated their newly acquired skills to international media present for the graduation ceremony. Students were interviewed about their work in the course and how it has prepared them for future work in CSI. (READ MORE)

Federal Police Receive New Humvees - BAGHDAD — Multi-National Security Transition Command- Iraq (MNSTC-I) donated 12 new Humvees to Iraqi Federal Police (FP) units here, July 26. These FP units are responsible for providing route security during ground movements of U.S. personnel. The transfer occurred at the Crossed Swords and was attended by members of the Iraqi FP, MNSTC-I Rough Riders and J-4 personnel. The Humvees were off-loaded and driven to the FP headquarters. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Group Renounces Violence - An extremist Shiite group that has boasted of killing five American soldiers and of kidnapping five British contractors has agreed to renounce violence against fellow Iraqis, after meeting with Iraq’s prime minister. The prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, met with members of the group, Asa’ib al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, over the weekend, said Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the prime minister, confirming reports. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Government Hit with Claims that Man Died in Detention After Torture - A man died in Iraqi army detention after allegedly being beaten, given electric shocks with a cattle prod and burnt with cigarettes in a case that highlights the abuses suffered by detainees at the hands of Iraqi security forces. The fresh allegations undermine claims by Britain and the United States that the new Iraqi Government respects the rule of law and human rights, more than six years after Saddam Hussein was ousted. (READ MORE)

Iraq Censorship Laws Move Ahead - The doors of the communications revolution were thrown open in Iraq after the American-led invasion in 2003: In rushed a wave of music videos featuring scantily clad Turkish singers, Web sites recruiting suicide bombers, racy Egyptian soap operas, pornography, romance novels, and American and Israeli news and entertainment sites that had long been blocked under Saddam Hussein’s rule. (READ MORE)

US Seeks to Protect Iran Terror Group in Iraq - The United States is quietly pressing Iraq not to close a camp that holds more than 3,000 members of an Iranian opposition group that served as Saddam Hussein's shock troops in 1991 when he crushed rebellions after the Gulf War and now is vulnerable to Iraqi and Iranian reprisals. Last week, Iraqi police stormed Camp Ashraf outside Baghdad, killing at least seven and injuring dozens during clashes with the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or MEK. (READ MORE)

US Forces Introducing Iraqis to High-tech Tools - As if by magic, the engine starts. Iraqi mechanics had worked fruitlessly for days to fix a sport utility vehicle, its red, yellow and white guts covering the grease-stained garage floor in a tangle of frayed wires. On one of his regular visits to the garage in this regional capital, US Army Staff Sgt. Josh Day, part of Border Transition Team 4100, hooked up a new diagnostic machine. It located the electrical problem, and before long, as the Iraqis watched, Day had the truck roaring to life. (READ MORE)

Flag Lowered as Last 12 Diggers Leave Iraq - The last 12 Australian troops serving with US units in Iraq have finished their mission and are heading home, formally ending Canberra's controversial six-year involvement in the bloody conflict. Yesterday marked the historic fulfilment of a key election pledge by the Rudd government to withdraw all Australian combat forces from Iraq. No Australian soldier was killed in action but one, Private Jake Kovko, died from a self-inflicted wound. (READ MORE)

Too Soon to Leave Iraq - Over the next 2 1/2 years, the United States is scheduled to withdraw all of its troops from Iraq. Americans, for the most part, are elated. The war in Iraq has been longer and costlier than almost anyone expected, and continued involvement seems unnecessary in the wake of the seemingly successful "surge." Iraqis - at least the Iraqi government and many Shiites - are also delighted. The withdrawal of American forces means the removal of a large occupying army, and with that, the chance to govern themselves. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
‘The Bullet Magnet’ is back in the fight in Afghanistan - LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho was in a "pissing contest" with the enemy. He shot one guy, then another popped up. He threw a grenade, but it bounced off the man and exploded in a ditch. As the squad leader then zigzagged through a field, he felt someone tug at his shirt sleeve. Hours later, after the firefight, he’d discover that a bullet had whizzed right through it, narrowly missing his bicep. It tore a hole through his 10th Mountain Division patch and through a pack of cigarettes in his arm pocket, destroying all but one. (READ MORE)

Medics Aid Afghans in Remote Villages - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2009 – Two medics of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, are using their medical skills not only to help their fellow soldiers, but also to aid local Afghans. Army Spcs. Chad E. Brown of Red Oak, Texas, and Rodrigus I. Purdiman of Cairo, Ill., both assigned to Forward Operating Base Baylough in Afghanistan, said they are dedicated to helping ill or injured Afghans. (READ MORE)

Gates Holds Secret Afghan War Command Summit - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced trip to Belgium Sunday for a secret meeting with his top commanders on the situation in Afghanistan. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell would not provide many details of the highly unusual gathering, except to say Gates wanted to hear an interim report from the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, on his assessment of the situation in the country and the resources he has to deal with it. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Ride-a-long with Gen. Stanley McChrystal - As Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's helicopter flies over the steep mountains and deep valleys of Afghanistan, he gazes at a remote village below. Mud huts cling to the side of the peaks like barnacles. They are barely accessible by road. "I am sure many of the people living in that village have never left," McChrystal says. "It must be a harsh life, but also simple." He pauses, and adds, "There's something to be said for simplicity." (READ MORE)

We're in Afghanistan to Topple al-Qaeda, Says Armed Forces Minister - British troops are fighting in Afghanistan to prevent Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda from using it as a base to plot terror strikes against Britain, a defence minister said yesterday. Responding to criticism that the Government had failed to explain its strategy in the Afghan campaign, Bill Rammell, the Armed Forces Minister, said British troops were battling against an insurgency that, if it were to succeed, “would provide free rein to the terrorist capacity that inspired, planned and provided support for attacks like those of 9/11, of 7/7, and many more besides”. (READ MORE)

NATO Chief Urges Bigger European Role in Afghan War - On his first day on the job, NATO’s new secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called Monday for stronger European efforts in Afghanistan so that the United States did not feel alone in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Citing Qaeda attacks on European soil, Mr. Rasmussen said the battle against Islamic extremism belonged to Europe as well. “I would urge Europeans to look closer into how to ensure a better balance in the alliance,” he said in an interview here. (READ MORE)

UK Attack on Afghan War - The bitter critique of the Afghan war from the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, drafted as the death toll for British troops exceeded those in Iraq, has thrown into question Britain's continuing commitment. Britain is the second-largest contributor of troops to the Afghan mission, with more than 9,000 of the total 96,000 foreign troops deployed. The rising death toll, now poised to breach 200, has been accompanied by angry complains from relatives of the dead that their mission was under-resourced, under-funded and hamstrung by shortages of helicopters. (READ MORE)

Taliban Rockets Hit Afghan Capital - The Taliban rocketed Afghanistan's capital before dawn Tuesday, briefly shaking this relatively calm city and sending a clear warning they plan to make good on threats to violently disrupt the upcoming presidential election. At least seven rockets slammed into Kabul, wounding two people, said Muhammad Khalil Dastyar, Kabul's deputy police chief. Two hit the city's diplomatic area, landing near the US embassy and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force in Afghanistan, officials said. (READ MORE)

Rockets Strike Kabul in Rare Pre-election Attack - A string of rockets slammed into Kabul at daybreak Tuesday in the first major attack on the relatively calm Afghan capital in the run-up to this month's presidential election, police and residents said. Afghan officials said at least eight rockets hit the city, one damaging a senior Interior Ministry official's house near the US Embassy. A Taliban spokesman claimed the militants had fired nine rockets at the international airport and two at an Afghan military headquarters, in a neighborhood of embassies and government buildings, to show that the government cannot ensure security in the capital. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Attacks Underscore Insurgents' Growing Reach - Two attacks Monday in western and northern Afghanistan underscored the growing reach of the country's insurgency, which now stretches far beyond its early bases along the border with Pakistan. That expansion - as well as more effective use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – shows a growing sophistication on the part of the insurgency, and has raised the stakes ahead of the upcoming presidential election. (READ MORE)

German Armed Forces Intensify Fighting Against Taliban - Germany is undergoing its biggest operation yet in Afghanistan. Backed by 300 German soldiers, 1,200 Afghan army troops are mounting an offensive against the Taliban insurgency. The deployment of heavy weapons underscores how serious fighting has become in northern Afghanistan. German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung hadn't really wanted to talk about Afghanistan on Wednesday morning. Jung, a member of Chancellor Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, had already announced the press conference the previous week. (READ MORE)

Combat Ban' for Afghanistan Helicopters - Helicopters earmarked by the Ministry of Defence to help British troops in Afghanistan will not be able to fly on combat operations because they are not armour-plated, senior RAF sources have disclosed. A failure to equip the six Merlin helicopters - which will go to Helmand in December - with proper protection from bullets and rocket-propelled grenades will endanger the lives of passengers and crew, pilots have told The Daily Telegraph. (READ MORE)

Pre-election Operation Disables Enemy in Afghanistan - Afghan and US forces completed an operation July 31 aimed at improving security for Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential election. Afghan security forces and Combined Joint Task Force 82 conducted Operation Champion Sword to disrupt enemy cells that have displayed increased activity linked to the scheduled Aug. 20 election. The 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team primarily conducted operations in the Sabari and Terezayi districts of Afghanistan’s Khost province. (READ MORE)

Fears of Fraud Cast Pall Over Afghan Election - Little more than three weeks before the presidential election, problems that include insecurity and fears of fraud are raising concerns about the credibility of the race, which President Obama has called the most important event in Afghanistan this year. With Taliban insurgents active in half the country, many Afghans remain doubtful that the Aug. 20 election will take place at all. The Taliban issued a statement last week calling for a boycott, a threat that could deter voters in much of the south, where the insurgency is strongest. (READ MORE)

Unrest to Follow Afghan Vote? - Western and international observers spread out in Afghanistan in preparation for national elections Aug. 20 in what is expected to be a tumultuous contest. Afghans head to the polls in less than three weeks to cast their ballots in their second-ever democratic election to pick their next president and provincial council leaders. Donkey teams are fanning out into the Afghan countryside to distribute thousands of paper ballots, while international troops rush to protect the country's 7,000 polling places from insurgent attacks. (READ MORE)

Afghan Police: Bomb Kills 12 in Herat - Afghan police say a roadside bomb killed 12 people and injured some 30 others in the western city of Herat Monday. Officials say the bomb was hidden in a trash can and detonated by remote control as a police convoy passed on a crowded street. A Taliban spokesman says the target of the attack was the police chief of the nearby Injil district, who was seriously hurt. Two other police officers were killed, along with a woman and young girl. (READ MORE)

Kinder, Gentler Jihad - The media have given a lot of attention to the myth that the Taliban are trying to minimize noncombatant deaths. The notion of a kinder and gentler Taliban in Afghanistan is more a public relations ploy than reality. While the insurgent group presents itself as a popular movement concerned for the welfare of the Afghan people, it is killing civilians in record numbers. In May 2009, the Taliban issued a new field manual titled "Rules for Mujahedeen," which recommended among other things that they take steps to avoid killing noncombatants, limit the use of suicide bombing and not torture or kill prisoners without the expressed permission of higher authorities. (READ MORE)

More Troops a Possibility for Afghanistan - ABC's Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz reports on tonight's World News that seven of the most powerful defense and military officials in the U.S. met in secret to discuss a troop increase in Afghanistan. The meeting was attended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, Centcom Commander David Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, Commander Admiral James Stavridis and Deputy Commander in Afghanistan LTG Dave Rodriguez. (READ MORE)

Britain's Soul-Searching Over Its Role in Afghanistan - When British forces entered Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001 in support of the U.S.'s fight against international terrorism, the aims of the deployment seemed clear and the effort justifiable. But as the conflict against the Taliban rumbles toward its ninth brutal year, America's most willing partner is asking the toughest of questions: How does this war end? On Sunday, an influential panel of British politicians released a critical report on British involvement in Afghanistan, concluding that the effort to win the war has been hampered by unrealistic planning, a lack of coordination between the military and diplomatic corps and the absence of a clearly defined mission. (READ MORE)

'Why the hell can we not talk to the Taliban?' - HAMID GUL is a man whose reputation most certainly precedes him. In his work with Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) – he was its director for two years in the late 1980s – Gul worked closely with the CIA and their Saudi counterparts in supporting and training thousands of mujahideen sent into battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan war unlawful, says 'deserter' - A soldier facing court martial over his refusal to serve in Afghanistan is expected to claim in his defence that the war is unlawful. Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who appeared in court for a preliminary hearing into his case yesterday, maintains that British soldiers are dying in the interest of American foreign policy and should be brought home. (READ MORE)

Pakistanis in Swat fear Taliban come back - MINGORA: Frightened civilians fear the Taliban will pounce again on Pakistan's Swat as residents try to rebuild shattered lives and shot nerves in the mountain valley once likened to Switzerland. Pakistan claims the military has "eliminated" the extremists, two years after they rose up under a militant cleric to enforce repressive Islamic laws and more than two months after launching a new offensive under US pressure. (READ MORE)

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