August 11, 2009

From the Front: 08/11/2009

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

A World of Troubles: "It's never when you expect it" - Nuristan- The U.S. soldiers formed a line in the moon light as the helicopter descended. The Afghans carried the body of their comrade swathed in white cloth on a homemade stretcher. The line saluted as the stretcher passed. Then the body of Spc. Mohamed Hashim, 29, of Kunar Province lifted into the night. He'd been shot through his armpit less than an hour before. The bullet had passed through and out the other side of his body. He'd been on a 12-hour patrol the Afghan Artillery team was conducting with 2nd-77 Field Artillery Regiment (4-4th ID). Hashim was shot while manning a gun in the back of a Ford Ranger the Afghan Army (ANA) typically uses on patrols. They had been rolling slow enough for whoever was waiting in fields to pick out a target and let off a burst of fire. The Afghans counter-fired, but the killers disappeared. (READ MORE)

Afghan War Blog: Mine-resistant, cliff vulnerable - KHASUZ TAZIN, Afgh. – The valley was full of mines, said District Chief Naquib Ullah. Stay in our tracks, the Afghan told his American mentors casually. With that, Ullah climbed into a pickup truck full of policemen and bounced up the valley, vanishing in a cloud of dust. Not so easy for the miserable Americans, on their first day of driving what should have been the safest vehicle in the world if a mine went off – a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. (Pronounced Em-rap.) But for much of the day, the MRAP felt like a 14-ton, $400,000 rolling piece of irony, at constant risk of dissolving a narrow cliff-top road and rolling to its doom. Its driver ran into trees in villages and ground the sides of mountains as he took turns too tightly. Finally, frustrated and more worried about a rollover than a mine, First Sgt. Joshua Winchester angrily climbed out of his armored passenger seat and walked in front of the vehicle to guide the driver around a narrow bend over a gorge. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Top Ten Most Painful Parts of the Redeployment Process - 10 – DD 93 – the Record of Emergency data. Updated it yesterday? We don’t care – you can’t leave unless you update it here, too. 9 – Somebody told you to ship your MOLLE gear to home station? All of it? See, that’s a problem. You can either produce the flashbang grenade pouch, or we can charge you $75 for it. One or the other, but you can’t leave until you clear RFI. 8 – Flight? What flight? Who told you your unit had a flight? 7 – We know you’re only going to be at this camp for nine hours, but you need to sign for billeting and drag all your possessions to tents spread out all across Hell’s Half Acre. No, you can’t leave all your stuff and post a guard. 6 – You’re not allowed to have a beer when the plane stops in Europe, because you’re still subject to General Order 1B and you might offend Muslims. 5 – You're not authorized to drink during stateside demobilization either, because even though you’re not subject to General Order 1B anymore and you won’t offend Muslims, First Army exists to make Reservists want to desert. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: A word from America's 1st Handler - Hey Everyone, This is America's 1st Handler. Michael is slammed with Corporal Course and MCMAP training, but there is a post in the works. Anyone who plans on sending him mail love needs to have it out no later than than 18th of this month. Anything that gets there after Aug. 31 gets sent to KBay. Things I know he would like are new movies, raw or plain oven roasted almonds...no smoke or sugar etc. He can always use Kona coffee, and magazines of the martial arts, MMA, fitness, Wild West variety. I keep trying to send the cheerleader with the fine moral upbringing, razor sharp intellect and hotness he describes, unfortunately I can't talk her into the box without committing a felony. Let me know if you want to send and I'll get his address out to you. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: Home: Mission Accomplished… - I’M HOME!!! That’s it: Mission Accomplished. End of Mission. Rounds Complete. I’m home… No more soldiering for Sergeant B. It’s over… Or is it? It was once thought that once a soldier had returned from whatever war he/she was fighting, that everything would go back to the way it was, as if nothing had changed. We now know that that is not the case; the experience of warfare changes a person, regardless if they were on the front lines, eyeball to eyeball with the bad guys, or sitting in the Command Post listening to comrades dealing with what they had to deal with on the roads of Iraq… Now that I am back in my home town, I am slowly getting myself used to the idea of being in a place filled with the verdant scenes of greenery. Where the cars are not expected to suddenly explode. Where the folks I bid farewell in the morning can reasonably be expected to return at night, there not being the threat of IEDs on the side of the road. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Married couple spend anniversary on Afghanistan battlefield - Dave and Claire Godfrey spent their first wedding anniversary in Afghanistan where the pair are battling the Taliban. They met during their army training and married on August 8 last year before they were deployed to the Middle East. Dave serves as a Captain with the 4th Battalion the Rifles, and Claire, 26, is also a Captain with the 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron. They are both currently based in Helmand Province and celebrated their one year anniversary at their base. But instead of champagne and a posh dinner they dined on pizza and coke - because alcohol isn't allowed at the camp. Dave, 28, said: "'Life is busy but as luck would have it Claire and I are in the same location, which means that we can meet occasionally for lunch or a can of pop in the evenings. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): These Kids Today.... - Last night I was reading in the Coffee Shop and when a national guard master sergeant walked over and talked to me. He is 57. He could see I am his age/generation and decided to be friendly by talking about "these kids today. . ." The subject on his mind was physical training. He said when his unit got activated they had a 31% pass rate on the fitness test (APFT). Right away I felt better. My unit had a 63% pass rate at the beginning of training--twice as good the Wisconson company. Right now we are at almost 90% overall and all but one soldier in the motor pool (Sergeant Rumpled if you remember him) has passed. I think his boys and girls haven't yet gotten to the level where we started. I could quickly see we were not going to be friends. He did not think anyone should be doing PT in Iraq, especially running, and he, himself, thought PT was unnecessary at our age. He then told me he flunked his last PT test because he had to run at 4000 feet of altitude. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: The Report Came ( follow up) - Well Thursday morning I received a phone call from the Sergeant who was suppose to deliver the report. He was not going to be able to make it until Friday due to a family emergency. Trust me for us family always comes first so this was in no way a problem. When I realized this man was going to drive a 4 hour round trip to hand me a report I felt really bad so I made arrangement for it to be picked up be some people I trust who were going to be going to Ft Sill where this gentleman was. The report finally made it to our hands Sunday morning... it sat on my husband's desk unopened till later that evening. My husband "had to read it". I found him sitting quietly alone in the office reading it. When he was done he told me he did not recommend I read it. He says there is nothing in it we don't know or haven't figured out but it reopens the wounds. But he has made of couple of statements that have my mind reeling. Like how hard my son's brothers fought that day to "protect Micheal". (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban, Pakistani military clash in North Waziristan - The Pakistani military battled the so-called "good Taliban" forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar after a military convoy was ambushed in North Waziristan. Bahadar's fighters ambushed the convoy as it traveled to the town of Mir Ali. The Taliban and the military differ on the battle's outcome. The military claimed only three soldiers were wounded in the initial attack, while the Taliban said 32 Pakistani troops were killed and 14 vehicles were seized. The Pakistani military counterattacked against Taliban positions with attack helicopters and artillery fire, sparking a five-hour battle, Dawn reported. Civilians said the military fired into residential areas. In a separate attack, the Taliban killed one Frontier Corps paramilitary trooper and wounded three more in an IED strike near the town of Miramshah. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Oh God Please No - So it turns out Helmand was just a sideshow. I kind of figured as much, but the reasons why turn out to be appalling: “Fifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, reflecting a major shift in American counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, according to a Congressional study to be released this week. United States military commanders have told Congress that they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law. They also said the move is an essential part of their new plan to disrupt the flow of drug money that is helping finance the Taliban insurgency.” Christ. Michael Cohen only goes part of the way here. You kind of knew this was coming, given a well-publicized piece of sensationalism on the topic, along with General Craddock’s quasi-illegal order to kill drug traffickers. The trouble is, killing the engine of Afghanistan’s rural economy doesn’t address the fundamental problem, which is that opium is an indicator, not a cause, of other, deeper issues like a lack of institutions, severe insecurity, and crap infrastructure. (READ MORE)

Short Timers: The Ashraf Powder Keg - Generally, the situation in Iraq, and in Diyala Province, is peaceful. The Iraqi Army and police forces, though derided by many as ineffective, are at least strong enough to maintain a general stability among the many groups jockeying for power here. It's a fragile peace, however, and one feels that it's always just one incident away from being shattered. With that in mind, senior officers here at Warhorse and around Diyala are keeping a very close eye on the situation at Camp Ashraf. Ashraf is a camp in the north of the province, established by Saddam Hussein to house members of the Iranian dissident group The People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI strongly oppose the Iranian theocracy, and have been branded a terrorist organization by several governments, including the United States. Saddam loved them, however, because they constantly gave the Iranians headaches - a scenario where the enemy of an enemy is your friend. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: Fears of Fraud? - Elections in Afghanistan for President and Provincial Council are scheduled for 20 Aug. Unlike the last round of elections in 2004-05, the Taliban, who are now more organized and capable, have vowed to disrupt elections and have told Afghans not to vote. The Taliban are most powerful in the South of Afghanistan in the Pashtun Belt. If Pashtuns are turned away from the polls, it could lead the country’s largest ethnic group, and the one most closely associated with the Taliban, to become even more alienated from the government and the foreign forces backing it. Also, many Afghans believe that the US will decide who will be President, which could lead to widespread Iranian style rioting when the results are announced. With allegations of irregularities in the voter registration process, lack of faith in the validity of the process, and Pashtun alienation, what does this say about elections and the counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan? (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): More Dimensions... - In the past couple of days, I have had the chance to speak with two women who are sergeants and in their 30s. One is in a close combat support job, the other in an administrative job in a support battalion. I have known the first sergeant for almost two years, never speaking for more than five minutes at a time. She is, to go with initial impressions, a tough woman who keeps up with guys out on the flight line and partying. She has an acid wit. She and some of her sergeant buddies sometimes sit in the DFAC and rate people in the serving line--and speculate about their lives. Then I talked with sergeant tough guy about her plans after deployment. It turns out they are all set up. She moved back home with her ailing parents and is planning to care for them. She never talked about work, but will have a steady job that allows her to care for Mom and Dad, whom she clearly loves and admires very much. I don't know when or if I will see that side of her again, but it was interesting to see her as a loving and devoted daughter. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

Bombs in Iraq Kill 48 - A village near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was pulverized from the explosion of two powerful truck bombs, killing dozens and trapping many others under the rubble. And at least three other major explosions targeted mostly Shi'ite areas of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Ambulances ferried victims to hospitals in Mosul on Monday after the blasts in the Kurdish village of Khazna, about 20 kilometers away. (READ MORE)

Blasts Kill at Least 53 in Iraq - Two truck bombings in northern Iraq and attacks targeting day laborers in western Baghdad killed at least 53 people and wounded scores of others early Monday, exacerbating ethnic and political tensions in this country. The truck bombings in a small village north of Mosul, in northern Iraq, marked one of the deadliest attacks in an area controlled by the autonomous Kurdish government. (READ MORE)

Sectarian Bombings Pulverize a Village in Iraq - The entire village was gone. Local television broadcast scenes of homes reduced to heaps of rubble mixed with bed frames, mattresses, furniture and bloodstained pillows. A villager cried into the camera, “Look, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Interior Minister, where is the security that you speak about?” The latest wave of sectarian bombings struck northern Iraq and Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 50 people, wounding hundreds more and leveling the village, near Mosul. (READ MORE)

Series of Bombings in Iraq Targets Shiites - Two dump trucks packed with 6,600 pounds of high-grade explosives flattened a large swath of a Shiite village in northern Iraq on Monday, while a string of smaller bombs rocked Baghdad. The attacks, which left at least 45 people dead across the country, are part of a wave of violence aimed at rekindling the sectarian bloodshed that swept Iraq in 2006 and 2007, according to US and Iraqi officials. (READ MORE)

Iraq Attacks Raise Fears of Renewed Ethnic Tensions - A string of bombings in northern Iraq and Baghdad that has killed at least 112 people in the last several days, including 60 on Monday, has raised fears that insurgent groups are embarking on a sustained attempt to kindle ethnic and sectarian warfare. The toll since Friday represents the worst surge of violence since US troops handed over security in urban areas to Iraqi security forces on June 30. (READ MORE)

Iraq Guard Fitzsimons Tells The Times He Killed in Self-defence - A British security guard facing trial for murder in Iraq told The Times last night that a drunken brawl led to him shooting to death two colleagues, in what he claimed was self-defence. Danny Fitzsimons, an employee of the British security company ArmorGroup, was arrested in Baghdad early on Sunday in connection with the killing of Paul McGuigan, a Briton, and Darren Hoare, an Australian. (READ MORE)

GoI, U.S. partnership works to restore economic flow in Samarra - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – The area around the Al Askari “Golden” Mosque of Samarra once thrived as an open air market serving thousands of visitors every year. Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. forces are working hard to guarantee the security of Samarra, and that means more than safety; it means rebuilding the area economically. Soldiers of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion and Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, joined by Samarra Mayor Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed, distributed micro-grants, totaling $2.5 million, to more than 900 local store owners between Aug. 3 and 5. (READ MORE)

U.S. Political Advisors Focus on Civil-Military Cooperation in Iraq - BAGHDAD – More than a dozen political advisors to various military commands and U.S. State Dept officials gathered here Aug. 7-8 for a roundtable to enhance civil-military cooperation. On behalf of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, its Commanding General, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick called this first-ever meeting of U.S. political advisors in Iraq. MNSTC-I sponsored the meetings between Defense and State professionals to ensure their efforts remain in sync with overall U.S. government policy. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers Become NCOs Together - KIRKUK — The U.S. Army’s way of recognizing newly-promoted non-commissioned officers to the NCO corps is through an NCO induction ceremony; a time-honored tradition for the U.S. Army which has now been shared with Soldiers of the new Iraqi Army. For the first time, newly promoted NCOs from the 12th IA Division and 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Cavalry Division were welcomed into the NCO corps in a combined ceremony held at the K1 Iraqi Military Base near here, July 29. (READ MORE)

Support Team Keeps Army Weapons Ready - JOINT BASE BALAD — For any Soldier walking through the doors of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade's Small Arms Support Center here, the smell and sounds are unmistakable – the salty, acrid scent of weapons cleaner and the metalic clink of prescision tools fill the air. Since May 2005, the Soldiers and civilians working here have done more than simply fix weapons for the one or two problems they were brought in for. Each time a weapon is serviced, it is carefully inspected for anything the operator might have missed. (READ MORE)

Grants Help Business Owners Expand - BAGHDAD — Nine business owners from the Zaydon, Yusifiyah, and Radwaniyah areas south of the Iraqi capital have been approved for microgrants ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to help stimulate the local economy. "[Microgrants] are a tool the commander can use to affect the local economy," said Capt. Tim O'Neil, 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron. "This is a rapid response to get money flowing into the economy to help businesses, create jobs in the community and in turn get them to help us." (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Richmond Hill Marine remembered as a star - RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - There are heavy hearts in Richmond Hill as more people learn that one of their own was killed in action. Marine Corps Capt. Matt Freeman was assigned to the Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. The 29-year-old was killed in combat in Afghanistan on Friday. Richmond Hill High School teachers and students, especially his sisters who still go to school there, are grieving the high school tennis star and honor student. The principal tells WTOC that Matt was bound to be a star where ever he went. (READ MORE)

SCOTS SNIPER KILLS TALIBAN LEADER WITH LONGEST SHOT - Corporal Christopher Reynolds took out the Afghan drug lord during some of the hardest fighting of the war so far. The 25-year-old, of 3 Scots, The Black Watch, kept watch on a shop rooftop for three days to eliminate the target. But he admitted the top-level Taliban fighter – known as Musa – was so far away it took him a couple of attempts to get the aim right. (READ MORE)

Pave Hawks in Kandahar - Yesterday we hung out with the 129th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, a California Air National Guard unit deployed to Kandahar. They fly HH-60G Pave Hawks, which are Black Hawks modified for the Air Force’s search and rescue mission. The traditional duty of the “Jolly Green Giants” is to rescue downed pilots, but here they are doing mostly casualty evacuation – picking up wounded service members and transporting them to medical facilities. With their more heavily armed helicopters and pararescuemen on board, they are able to go into riskier situations than their Army medevac partners. (READ MORE)

Radio Station Gives Voice to Remote Afghan Region - NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is giving voice to residents of this remote area through a radio station run by one of their own. When Shaib Dad Hamdard was growing up here near the Pakistan border, he dreamed of being a voice to his people. Now, with the turn of a dial and the flick of the switch, he’s on air at Kalagush Radio, reaching out across the remote mountain province. (READ MORE)

Forces Earn Support of Afghan Provincial Governor -LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2009 – NATO forces working to secure and develop rural areas of this eastern Afghanistan province are finding support from the provincial governor, who is urging local leaders to embrace the opportunities of working with the International Security Assistance Force. Gov. Attiqullah Lodin spoke with the sub-governor and local elders about plans to bring a stronger government presence to the Kherwar district during a July 27 meeting. (READ MORE)

Strategy Boosts Afghan Army, Police - WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2009 – Ramping up the numbers of Afghan soldiers and police is part of President Barack Obama’s multi-pronged Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, National Security Advisor James L. Jones said here yesterday. On March 27, Obama announced his plan to increase U.S. support to Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorist groups in the region and to provide security and a better quality of life for residents. The president also directed the deployment of 4,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan to train Afghan soldiers and police. (READ MORE)

Karzai Offers Rival Top Cabinet Post in Effort to Avoid Election Defeat - One of the three main contenders in Afghanistan’s presidential election admitted yesterday that he had been offered a power-sharing deal by President Karzai in an apparent attempt to sideline the other leading candidate and avoid a second-round vote. Ashraf Ghani, a former academic and World Bank executive, told The Times that a “weakening” Mr Karzai had attempted to persuade him to abandon his campaign in exchange for the position of prime minister in a new Karzai administration. (READ MORE)

US Officials Looking at Karzai Rival for Key New Post - Senior American officials are expressing renewed interest in a post-election plan for Afghanistan that would establish a chief executive to serve beneath President Hamid Karzai if he wins a second term next week, Afghan officials said Monday. The latest US overtures have focused on Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister who is challenging Karzai for the presidency. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Presidential Election Campaign an Exercise in Peril - Presidential candidate Ramazan Bashardost was on a routine campaign stop in the eastern Afghan city of Khowst one day last month when he heard a thunderous explosion. Then another. And another. "It was very loud, and pretty close, and I of course understood right away what was happening," said Bashardost, one of nearly 40 contenders in the Aug. 20 presidential vote. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Enlists Tribal Militia Forces - The Afghan and US governments have launched a new effort to enlist tribal fighters from many of the country's most violent provinces in the war against the Taliban, hoping that a tactic first used in Iraq can help turn the tide here as well. Thousands of armed tribal fighters from 18 Afghan provinces will initially be hired to provide security for elections on Aug. 20, officials from both countries said. (READ MORE)

Potent Bombs Slow Marine Offensive - In this harsh and unforgiving part of southern Afghanistan, where thousands of US Marines are battling the Taliban this summer, the growing prevalence of roadside bombs means that even a small mishap can have deadly consequences. Made primarily of large quantities of homemade explosives, the bombs have killed at least a third of the 16 Marines who have died in Helmand since they launched their offensive in early July. (READ MORE)

Taliban Seize Building for Attack on Afghan Government Offices - Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers seized a five-story building in this provincial capital on Monday, fighting Afghan and American forces for several hours in a battle that left at least four people dead. Violence is escalating throughout the country before national elections on Aug. 20, and more international forces have been deployed to expand security. (READ MORE)

Opium Barons at Top of Kill or Capture List as US Targets the Taleban - The Pentagon has put 50 of Afghanistan’s powerful opium barons on a “kill or capture” list, signalling a radical shift in tactics against the Taleban. The announcement came as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, admitted that the insurgency, nurtured by tens of millions of dollars from the country’s vast poppy fields, now held the upper hand. (READ MORE)

UK and US Hail Conviction of Afghan Drug Lords - Two opium kingpins who headed Afghanistan's third largest drug network have each been sentenced to 20 years in the biggest ever Afghan drug trial. Haji Rashid and another man who cannot be named until his appeal is complete, led an operation trafficking heroin and raw opium with an ultimate UK street value of close to a billion pounds a year. They were convicted with the help of British advisers in a trial judged a significant test of the fledgling Afghan justice system. (READ MORE)

Taliban Attack Government Buildings South of Kabul - The latest offensive by the Taliban on Afghanistan's government infrastructure has taken place in a province adjacent to the national capital. Authorities say in the extended battle in Logar province at least two policemen and four of the assailants died. Taliban insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and a suicide bomber blew himself up as part of a mid-day attack on a provincial government compound, just a one-hour drive south of the national capital. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Believes al-Qaida Seeking New Taliban Leader - Pakistan's interior minister says he believes al-Qaida is trying to install a "chief terrorist" as the head of the country's Taliban, following last week's apparent killing of the group's leader. During an interview with VOA Urdu service, Rehman Malik says there is credible intelligence confirming that Baitullah Mehsud was killed during a US drone attack in South Waziristan Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Taliban Fight for Control of Dead Leader's Millions - Taliban commanders are engaged in a bloody succession contest for control of their late leader Baitullah Mehsud's £25 million fortune, Pakistani security sources have claimed. Mehsud, who took the Taliban's jihad into the heart of Pakistan's major cities with suicide bomb attacks, is believed to have been killed last week in a US drone attack on his father-in-law's home in south Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Militant Rockets Hit Pakistan City - At least a dozen rockets slammed into Pakistan's main northwest city before dawn Tuesday, killing two civilians, while militants launched an assault on a paramilitary base nearby, authorities said. The spate of violence came as the militants and government officials traded claims over the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban following the reported death of top commander Baitullah Mehsud in a CIA missile strike last week. (READ MORE)

More Than Missiles - With the apparent killing of the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud by an American drone, President Obama seems to be having some success with his military policy for Pakistan. He is having less luck in Washington. Congress left town for its summer recess without passing a long-promised bill to triple American economic and development assistance to Pakistan - the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s plan to win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people. (READ MORE)

Al-Qa'ida intervenes in battle for control of the Pakistan Taliban - Al-Qai'da militants may be trying to install their own "chief terrorist" to succeed Baitullah Mehsud as the head of the Pakistan Taliban following his death during a US drone strike, Pakistan's top security official believes. The head of the country's interior ministry, Rehman Malik, said the Pakistan Taliban was in disarray following last week's targeted killing of Mehsud and that in the ensuing uncertainty al-Qa'ida was using its influence to try to ensure it selected his replacement. (READ MORE)

Western airstrikes kill fewer Afghanistan civilians - Kabul Fewer civilians were killed by airstrikes in Afghanistan last month even as U.S. and NATO forces pushed deep into Taliban territory, driving clashes and Western casualties sharply higher. Western and Afghan officials say the drop appears to be an early indication of success for restrictions on air power imposed in July by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of coalition forces, in an attempt to limit civilian casualties. The U.S. and NATO saw Afghan anger over the deaths as a major impediment to a new counterinsurgency strategy that makes winning over the population a higher priority than killing insurgents. (READ MORE)

Four foreign, three Afghan troops killed attacks - GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Four foreign servicemen and at least three Afghan soldiers were killed in separate incidents of pre-election violence across the country, officials said on Tuesday. With a presidential and provincial poll just nine days away, violence has escalated across Afghanistan, making 2009 the deadliest year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. (READ MORE)

Florida Marine killed in Afghanistan - MIAMI (AP) --A Marine from southwest Florida has been killed in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense says 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Dennis J. Burrow of Naples died Friday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Burrow was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. (READ MORE)

Civilian surge for Afghanistan? - KABUL – The top American military commander in Afghanistan will ask the Obama administration to double the number of U.S. government civilian workers who are in the country, in addition to requesting some 45,000 additional U.S. troops. The proposed civilian surge is the fourth leg of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s emerging strategy to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and government, along with more American troops, vastly expanded Afghan security forces and closer cooperation between U.S. and Afghan troops, including posting troops from both countries at the same bases. (READ MORE)

Japan to send election monitoring team to Afghanistan - TOKYO, Aug. 11 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Japan will send a team of about 10 observers to Afghanistan to monitor the Aug. 20 presidential and provincial assembly election there, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. Takehiro Kagawa, deputy director general of the ministry's Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, will head the team whose members will consist of other ministry officials and Japanese Embassy staffers in Kabul. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan 'not too dangerous' for NZ SAS - New Zealand has decided to send its SAS troops back to Afghanistan for the fourth time. The SAS troops have not been in Afghanistan since 2006 and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says it was a tough decision to send them back because Afghanistan is so dangerous. "I'm confident that we have some of the best people in the world and we're now asking them to complete a very difficult task," Mr Key said. (READ MORE)

Guidelines being set for Afghan war success - WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing a set of about 50 benchmarks for Afghanistan, senior officials said Monday, redefining how to measure success in a war now widely assessed as a stalemate. The benchmarks will test how well the U.S. military and civilian "surges" ordered by President Barack Obama are working. They cover both Afghanistan and Pakistan. (READ MORE)

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