August 25, 2009

From the Front: 08/25/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

Bouhammer: US Envoy to Afghanistan makes Karzai Cry - Ok, well maybe he didn’t make him cry. I kind of embellished that one a little bit, but hey it got your attention didn’t it? However it appears that Karzai was a little upset that Ambassador Holbrooke questioned Karzai’s tactics in his election and appears to have pushed Karzai on a run-off to validate the election and to prove there was no fraud. It ticked Karzai off and I must say I can understand why. I mean who does the USA think they are? They only came in to the country, eliminated the Taliban as a ruling authority, helped put Karzai in power, have given the country their own election process, have given the people of Afghanistan a growing but present Army and Police Force, have given the people a court system and have built more roads, wells, schools and other infrastructure pieces than anyone has ever done. Who are they (the USA) to stick their foreign noses in the business of Afghanistan. What concern is it of theirs? (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Update about SPC Lowe and his recovery - From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: I had the opportunity to chat with Rex’s friend, SPC Christopher “Kit” Lowe today and what a wonderful 30 minute chat it was. Lowe says his recovery is going well and he appeared to be in a great mood making a multitude of very funny jokes. Here are some of the highlights he said were OK to share with the world: He walked 20 feet today with his walker. He may be able to leave Walter Reed for outpatient this week – that is if they can find him room at the outpatient facility, the Mologne House. He will soon get his stitches out and he hopes to know in about 6 weeks how much nerve damage there is to his leg. He has been told it’s possible for him to make a full recovery or worst-case scenario he may walk with a slight limp. He does lots of physical therapy and that includes building models. One of the models he is building is an outhouse! (READ MORE)

Felix Kuehn: Votes we can believe in - It’s the middle of summer down here in Kandahar, with temperatures peeking around 50 degree Celsius by noon. In the run up to Afghanistan’s second presidential and provincial council elections foreign troops stepped up their efforts, launching multiple operations to prepare the ground for voters. British casualties passed the 200 mark, with friends from London writing to me asking what is happening down south. There is a growing belief that a surge and COIN is the answer, and that pouring more troops in now will allow them to withdraw sooner in the long-term. Some commentators even suggested that this could happen in the next one to two years -- an unlikely scenario to say the least. These elections are a milestone in the western ‘Afghanistan’ project. There’s a definite need for this to happen; there’s a definite need for good news. The south is in the midst of an ever accelerating downward spiral of violence and disintegration: (READ MORE)

Marc Santora - At War: Too Early to Bring Down the Walls? - Six years ago, when insurgents struck the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, it ushered in the era of the fortress city — a maze of checkpoints and blast walls that served as a constant reminder that this was a city under siege. This spring, at the same time as American combat troops were moving out of the city after making steady gains in improving security, the Iraqi government decided it was time for the walls of the fortress to start coming down. But now many fear they moved too fast and that overconfidence was a contributing factor to the attack on the Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry, just on the edge of the Green Zone, on the sixth anniversary of the U.N. headquarters attack. Dramatic video footage has been shown on Iraq’s state television channel Iraqiya showing what appears to be the truck which exploded outside the Foreign Ministry. Just after it leaves the view of high wall-mounted surveillance cameras, it explodes. (READ MORE)

Dexter Filkins - At War: Death, Life and Grass in Kabul - As the sun waned over the Kabul Sports Stadium, a happy scene unfolded in the grass. A group of young men kicked a soccer ball, and ran up and down the field. Another pair of young men wrestled in a corner of the end zone. Still another practiced, racing up and down the oval track. It’s a new day at the Kabul Sports Stadium: a carpet of grass, green and deep, stretches from one end of the field to the other, replacing the dirt and rocks of yesterday. The oval track, once a mottled trail of dents and potholes, has been redone into something beautiful and smooth. In the bleachers stand freshly painted posters of Afghanistan’s leaders: Ahmed Shah Durrani, the first king; Hamid Karzai, the president; and Ahmed Shah Massoud, the anti-Soviet fighter killed by Al Qaeda bombers. It was only eight years ago, in this very spot, that Taliban fighters mutilated and killed people in public ceremonies that filled the stadium to bursting. (READ MORE)

Tim Hsia - At War: Unexamined Civil-Military Relations - Before 9/11 conventional wisdom said that the United States no longer had the stomach for prolonged wars. However, the length and nature of today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to suggest that very few Americans are sitting at the dinner table languishing over these protracted conflicts. Moreover, Americans seem to have a certain nonchalance and obliviousness concerning its future military requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and globally. In the U.S., it often seems only one war results in introspection and debate, and that is the Vietnam War. Not surprisingly, the Vietnam War was the last war which really affected every American regardless of political or socio-economic status. In the 2004 Presidential race the Vietnam War, and the debate over Swift-boating and allegations about one’s war record seemed to play a larger role in the election then either of the wars which the United States was currently engaged in. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Afghans move toward reconciliation with Taliban - Once the national elections are behind them, local Afghan leaders will step up efforts to reconcile with midlevel Taliban in the extremists' southern Helmand province stronghold, a key provincial official said Monday. Helmand Gov. Gullab Mangal called reconciliation efforts the next top project. There is little hope of even an attempt by U.S. forces for a cease-fire agreement with Taliban leaders. But officials are looking to turn what some call the "ten-dollar Taliban" — locals who are hired to fight for the militants. "We have seen that they also are interested — that the middle-level Taliban are also interested in reconciliation," Mangal told U.S. Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, in a meeting Monday in Mangal's Lashkar Gah office. Mangal said he was starting to work on a reconciliation strategy. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Marine Force Protection in Garmsir Afghanistan - Via DVIDS. “KOSHTAY, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – The mission for Marines here is to seize ground controlled by Taliban insurgents, hold that ground and build on it. Building in this case means fortifying their exposed position on the very front lines of this conflict. However, Marine infantrymen are not known for their carpentry and construction skills. That responsibility falls on the engineers. Construction started immediately upon arrival late in the evening and continued round the clock.” Changing the subject for a moment, after observing that the Army had “negotiated” with the village elders for almost one year, while the elders were under constant threat from the Taliban who were watching for any sign of collusion with the U.S., please recall what we said about the Army approach to VPB (Vehicle Patrol Base) Wanat, and Observation Post Top Side. (READ MORE)

Iron Camel: I stepped in something - After a 21 hour day, I came back to my room and began to take off my smelly, sweaty, dirt covered uniform. I reached down to take off my boot and realized I stepped in something. I hate that. I looked around my room and saw the partial footprints of whatever I stepped in. The smell wafted up from my boot. I wanted to puke. I’m not sure if it was dog shit (we have a couple of dogs running around our living area), rotten food, or rotten food the dogs shit out. It’s bad enough my little room is starting to smell like a grown man living and working in Baghdad. (It is clearly a distinct smell of dirt, sweat, and feet.) Whatever I stepped in is gross. It’s a combination of chicken, sesame seeds, chewing gum and dog crap! (Host) “Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Tell them what they won, Johnny!” (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Inspired to Ride, and NOT to Ride - In the last couple of weeks, my main riding buddy has pushed me to go faster in a couple of ways. He has his own bike here, a mountain bike with 21 speeds. He has full off-road tires, so the advantage of having gears is balanced by the rolling resistance of his tires. Last week he wanted to do sprints. We did several hundred-meter sprints on the back side of the ten-mile loop. I have a mild dust-induced throat infection, but had a great time. Yesterday he rode in the morning and was having trouble maintaining speed, so he suggested I take the half-mile-longer road near the IED training area and he would go straight past the air strip. The idea was I would catch up to him just before main post. Well he was feeling bad and I was feeling good so I caught him sooner, but that two miles gave me the exhilaration of the chase. He is going to be here toll April, so I should have someone to ride with three days a week for the rest of the tour. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: jbad lab packed up - It’s amazing how quickly the lab was dismantled and packed up. The computers and projector are still set up so the students can continue to have classes. The fabfolk are squatting in the main room tonight. Tomorrow our new site gets cleaned out and prepped and we’re expecting to move the lab on Wednesday. It’s a little sad to stand here, in the quiet of the night, with empty shelves among a sea of boxes. The brightly painted walls - I still love these calm but inspiring shades of yellow and blue - seem painted only recently ago. But I suppose something must end for something to begin. (READ MORE)

Omar at Iraq the Model: Baghdad Pleased to see Salih form Kurdistan’s cabinet - The spokesman of the Iraqi government Ali al-Dabbagh said Baghdad was pleased to see Barham Salih (the outgoing deputy PM) preside over the new cabinet in Kurdistan. Dabbagh said Salih, from his new position, will contribute to the success of dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil. He described Salih as a politician “who maintains good relations and has great diplomatic skills that enable him to solve many of the outstanding issues between the region and the center” and added “we have confidence that Salih will improve our relations”. Indeed, Salih has a good reputation for being the sound of reason. His personality, and the time he spent as Maliki's deputy make him more accepted and respected in Baghdad. Therefore he will have a better chance to improve the relations between Baghdad and Erbil than his predecessor. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Flowers and Pinwheels - It's been bugging me for a while. The flowers on Micheal's grave were in need of replacing. I don't go out there as often as maybe I should. It's very hard for me to go. But then it's hard for me not to go. I want to visit Micheal at his barracks room not his graveside. I miss him so damned much. I couldn't find the black silk roses I usually buy and mix with white ones. The local store that carried them, doesn't anymore. I was told by an other store it would be Halloween before they carried them. So today I went and bought some dark red silk roses with white baby's breath and took them out to the cemetery. It was hard to not take him his black and white roses. It just didn't seem right. He so loved the checkerboard black white thing. I managed to find one black and one white rose that were out there that were in good enough shape to add to the red ones. His pinwheel was missing. I'm sure the strong winds from recent storms carried it off. I will have to get a new one. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: The M.O.D. Squad - Made my first visit to Ministry Of Defense (MOD) today, to see the route in and get familiar with the layout. The meeting at which I was to have been introduced to my counterpart was cancelled at the last minute, so I tagged along with two others and sat in on their meeting. Can't report too much on the content of the meeting, but I will say it was illuminating, and I remember well all the stories I'd heard from Marines (and others) about the crucial value of the interpreters. We can't do this without them. On the walk from base to MOD (yes, we can walk, but it's in full gear), we got to see two gruesome landmarks. The first was the iron rings driven into a stone wall, across from the presidential palace, where the Taliban used to shackle victims. The second, right across the street,was the streetlight pole they hung Najibullah from. (Apparently it's stoutly built, because he was a big fat fuck, and it didn't appear at all bent.) (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: A Writer's Journey: The Milblog Terrain - I've been cruising the MilSpouse boards and blogs. I think were it not for blogs, it'd be a much lonelier world for those of us who don't live near a base, and who are new to Planet Military. I love milblogs. They offer a personal link and insight gained from boots-on-the-ground. On Milspouse blogs, many write poignantly about missing their other half. Others exist to help spouses find crucial information on how the military system works --or doesn't. There are mama bloggers with young children -- important for those raising the kids alone. There are also partisan bloggers who write along party lines. Every writer has an audience for whom they write.* I see the reader of The Kitchen Dispatch as curious. Maybe they're not even military and frankly --that's the reader I think needs the most to be reached by people within the military. (READ MORE)

Short Timers: Mail Call - A few soldiers in the public affairs office gather around boxes. A care package shipment has just arrived. With excitement Joint Combat Camera member Navy Mass Communications Spc. 1st Class Kirk Worley opens the treasure trove. Inside the one-cubic foot USPS box, there are six smaller boxes. It’s like watching a kid on Christmas morning. The contents of each box spills onto his desk. Pulling the last package out, Worley says with a joyful tone, “This one is going to be the best one.” Each box was filled with candy, trail mix, beef jerky and a myriad of other treats. Worley organizes the snacks across his desk and lets his fellow Joint Combat Camera team member Air Force Staff Sgt. Ali Flisek choose her favorite goodies. With glee she chooses mini SweetTarts and dried mangoes. “It doesn’t matter what’s in the box. It’s just fun getting it,” said Flisek. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: My Iraqi Kid Apprentice - Meet my buddy the assistant camera boy…aka the Ali Baba kid. He’s the boy I was talking to in the vid “Conversing With Kids“. In a previous post, I mentioned how certain kids will attach to certain soldiers in an attempt to gain additional candy. When we rolled into Beverly Hills, this is the little fellow that I looked for and he’d always be looking for me. After a bit Ali took over my picture taking so I could concentrate on more important things, like pulling security. I first met Ali way back in March. He was hopping around looking for some goodies from the soldiers. Not much of a candy kid, he always wanted some of the neat gear we wore. When he came to me he kept asking over and over for one of my d-clips. For some reason almost every kid I saw wanted a d-clip. Who knows why. As usual, I kept saying “la” which is no in Arabic. Most kids just continue to beg however Ali wised up and began to barter. He eventually offered Chai Tea and boy am I sucker for it. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Echo Company in the Eye of the Storm - MIANPOSHTEH, Afghanistan — For three days, the Marines of Echo Company wondered when the next one would come. Since they got here at the beginning of July, Echo has been in a near-constant series of battles with the local Taliban, making this one of the most violent flashpoints in America’s renewed war in Afghanistan. On Thursday, election day, militants woke Echo up by firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifle rounds into the school compound these Marines now use as an outpost. It was the 39th day out of 50 that the Taliban and Echo had exchanged lead. And then, silence. None of the AK-47 attacks Echo had come to expect on patrol. None of the improvised bomb strikes that had become so common on Mianposhteh’s roads and dirt pathways. Nothing. Officers here tried to guess why. Maybe it was Ramadan, the Muslim holy month; believers are supposed to fast during the day – and the Taliban only fight here during the day. (READ MORE)

Some Soldier's Mom: (VIDEO) "That" Day... 4 years on - Today is the anniversary of "that" day. Some people call it an Alive Day... Noah just says it was the worst !@#$%^& day of his life (and ours). Not dwelling on it... I'm sure it won't be mentioned in our house at all... it is old news... but it is not forgotten... will never be forgotten... Pay attention to the yellow dump truck in the lower left at the start of the video... and while those responsible for this attack thought many Americans would die that day in Ramadi, only Noah and one other soldier were evacuated for their wounds... and no Americans died. Can't say the same for the Tangos. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Resolve - Sixty-three percent of Americans polled at the announcement of President Obama's Afghanistan troops surge last February said "they support Obama's plan to beef up U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with 36 percent opposing the move." A new commander was announced in June, the Marines were in action in Helmand Province in July. But although President Obama's 17,000 additional troops have been conducting operations for several weeks now the war drags on. Small wonder polls indicate some Americans are turning against the effort ("51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting"), prompting Senator Russ Feingold to take charge: “‘This is a strategy that is not likely to succeed,’ Sen. Feingold said about the troop buildup in Afghanistan. ‘After eight years, I am not convinced that pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well thought out policy,’ said Feingold.” (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Helmand’s Bomb Fight, Up Close and Personal - MIANPOSHTEH, AFGHANISTAN – The robot was back in the armored truck, and the truck was parked across the canal. Which meant Gunnery Sgt. Tony Lindsey had to get right up close to the pair of improvised bombs, and try to get rid of the things by hand. This isn’t the way he is supposed to operate. During the Iraq war, the military gave explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians like Lindsey a heap of new gear to help them dispose of jury-rigged bombs in relative safety. Forget the “pull the red wire” cliché. These newly-outfitted bomb squads drove up to the hazard zone in hard-shelled, blast-deflecting vehicles. Radio frequency jammers blocked the signals that remotely detonated the explosives. Bomb-handling robots picked the weapons apart, while the EOD teams stayed inside their heavily-armored trucks. But the improvised explosive device (IED) fight has shifted here in Helmand province – the epicenter of America’s renewed war in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Chuck Z: "He has no personal effects..." - "He has no personal effects. The only things that came with him from downrange[to Germany] were an envelope with a couple of [military challenge] coins and his Soldiers' Angels backpack." That, in and of itself is a powerful statement. About 10 last night, a friend of mine from college called to tell my Mrs. her husband (also another friend from college) was wounded in Iraq. His leg was badly injured, and he was in Germany, but would be transported to WRAMC soon. The Mrs., who has walked many miles in those shoes. Then I did something that I absolutely hate having to do: I shot a red-star cluster (a flare we use in the army that shoots a rocket up to about 250 feet and then shoots a shower of bright red sparks. In training, it is used to alert everyone on the battlefield that a serious real-world injury has happened, and mark the location for pickup. In war, it is used to tell the helicopter where to land to pick up the casualties. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

Iraq Shiites Form Alliance Without Prime Minister - Iraq's Shiite parties on Monday said they have formed a new alliance to compete in January's parliamentary vote that doesn't include Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party - fracturing the country's ruling Shiite coalition. The new alliance - led by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which has strong historic ties to Iran - shakes up the political landscape and highlights the increasing divisions among Iraq's once-unified Shiite parties. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Splits From Shia Coalition - The Iraqi Prime Minister is splitting from the Shia coalition that has dominated his country’s politics for the past four years as factional leaders jockey for position before elections next year. Nouri al-Maliki announced his decision yesterday to take his Dawa party out of the United Iraqi Alliance, the majority bloc in parliament, to form his own secular group. Aides to Mr al-Maliki said that he would attempt to form partnerships with tribal Sunni leaders as well as moderate Shia candidates in the hope of creating his own power base. (READ MORE)

Major Shiite Political Parties Exclude Maliki in Forming Coalition - Major Shiite parties with close links to Iran announced a new coalition Monday that excludes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a development that appears to make him the underdog in the coming national elections. If the new coalition remains intact and secures a majority of parliamentary seats in the Jan. 16 vote, Iraq's next government probably will be run by leaders with deep ties to Iran, which would considerably curb US influence here as American troops continue to withdraw. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Shiite Leaders Create Alliance, Minus Maliki - Iraq’s top Shiite political leaders gathered in a sweltering hotel ballroom here on Monday and announced a new alliance, a new name and a new platform. Absent was the country’s most prominent Shiite political leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The creation of the alliance - which includes a former prime minister and a sitting vice president - represented the opening of an election campaign that is likely to be as contentious as it is decisive in shaping the kind of country that will emerge. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Prime Minister to Go it Alone in National Elections - Prime Minister Nouri Maliki broke ranks Monday with the Shiite Muslim coalition that propelled him to power in 2006 and appears set to contest January's national elections on his own, opening the door to a new, uncertain era in Iraqi politics. Maliki was conspicuously absent from a gathering of Shiite leaders launching the Iraqi National Alliance, a revamped version of the coalition that easily won the elections in 2005 and is hoping to garner a majority of Shiite votes in January. (READ MORE)

At Least 20 Dead in Two Iraqi Bus Bombings - Insurgents exploded bombs on two buses traveling from Baghdad to the mainly Shiite city of Kut on Monday, killing at least 20 passengers and raising renewed concerns about the government’s ability to provide security following the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq’s cities. At least 10 other people were wounded, according to an Iraqi security official, who said the attackers had used so-called sticky bombs, which adhere to the underside of a vehicle. (READ MORE)

Behind the Carnage in Baghdad - As security deteriorates in Baghdad, there's a new cause for worry: The head of the US-trained Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) has quit in a long-running quarrel with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - depriving that country of a key leader in the fight against sectarian terrorism. Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, the head of Iraqi intelligence since 2004, resigned this month because of what he viewed as Maliki's attempts to undermine his service and allow Iranian spies to operate freely. (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Fallujah - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 32 detainees from U.S. custody, and also transferred three detainees, who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant, to Iraqi Police custody Aug. 23, in Fallujah. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar, and the safety of the detainees, were not in jeopardy following the release. (READ MORE)

Medical clinic opens for Federal Police - BAGHDAD — The new Camp Dublin medical clinic celebrated its grand opening here, Aug. 19, highlighting the additional medical support now available to the Iraqi Federal Police (FP) and Emergency Response Brigades (ERB). The clinic will support up to 2,000 students at the Federal Police Training Center as well as some ERB tenet units. The clinic will provide an important tool in the fight against terrorism by allowing students to get medical help and trauma care right on the spot where they are working, living and training. (READ MORE)

Iraqis arrest 10 on terrorism charges - WASHINGTON — Iraqi forces, working with U.S. advisers, have arrested 10 people in Iraq on terrorism charges related to bombings, murder and kidnappings against Iraqi and U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians, military officials reported. The arrests were made Aug. 19, and seven were with court-issued warrants. In Kirkuk province, two men were arrested at their homes and charged with attacking Iraqi and U.S. forces with grenades and sniper rifles, as well conducting kidnappings, murders and intimidation against Iraqi civilians. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Aviation Authority ready to handle Baghdad commercial air traffic - BAGHDAD — Beginning Aug. 25, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) will independently conduct day-to-day civil aviation operations, thanks to the direction of an organization stationed here. The Regional Air Movement Control Center (RAMCC) has worked for more than half a decade to assist the ICAA in normalizing their civilian aviation capabilities. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Bring Goodwill to Iraqis - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, Aug. 24, 2009 – Along with their Iraqi counterparts, U.S. soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team handed out food and supplies to residents of Faddaqhryah and Bahar, Iraq, Aug. 18. The U.S. soldiers aided in the humanitarian mission to help the Iraqi army to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and lay the groundwork for a lasting relationship between Iraq’s soldiers and its people, said Army Lt. Col. Ross. C. Scott, 17th Fires Brigade civil affairs officer. (READ MORE)

Forces Detain Suspected Terrorists in Iraq - WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 – Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, detained eight suspected terrorists Aug. 20 and 21 in operations in Iraq, military officials reported. In Baghdad, members of an Iraqi emergency response brigade, along with U.S. advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist believed to be affiliated with insurgent groups Aug. 21. The suspect is wanted for bomb attacks against civilians and Iraqi security forces operating in the area. The elite police force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Investigative Court of Kut. (READ MORE)

Hard Work in Iraq Pays Off, Colonel Says - WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 – Coalition and Iraqi forces have sacrificed greatly to build security and develop a democratic process in Iraq, and after nearly seven years, the hard work is paying off, a senior commander in southeastern Baghdad told American Forces Press Service. In an Aug. 21 telephone interview, Army Col. Timothy McGuire, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, noted that Jan. 1 ushered in the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that permitted U.S. forces to play only a supporting role in the security efforts there. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
A School Bus for Shamsia - EVEN BEFORE THE men with acid came, the Mirwais Mena School for Girls was surrounded by enemies. It stood on the outskirts of Kandahar, barely 20 miles from the hometown of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder. Just down the road from the school, in an area known as Old Town, residents had built a shrine to Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban commander with the fiercest reputation, who made his name by massacring members of the Hazara minority. (READ MORE)

UN Official Asks for Patience, Calm on Afghan Vote Outcome - A day ahead of the expected release of partial results from last Thursday's election in Afghanistan, the top United Nations official is asking for patience from the electorate, the candidates and the media. Our correspondent reports from Kabul. UN special envoy Kai Eide has met with members of Afghanistan's Election Complaints Commission in the capital. The watchdog group, partly appointed by the UN, is overseeing the complaints of voter fraud and other irregularities reported since last week's balloting. (READ MORE)

Afghan Cabinet Minister Claims Karzai Victory - President Hamid Karzai seems poised to declare an overwhelming victory in Afghanistan’s hotly contested presidential election, even as allegations of fraud by his main opponent threaten to undermine the credibility of the vote. The president’s finance minister, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, claimed Monday that Mr. Karzai had garnered 68 percent of ballots in Thursday’s election, quoting figures from election officials that he said had been provided to the cabinet. Such a showing would make a second round of voting unnecessary. (READ MORE)

Karzai Won Election Convincingly, Afghan Cabinet Minister Says - An Afghan cabinet minister said Monday that President Hamid Karzai won Thursday's presidential election with an overwhelming majority of 68 percent. If confirmed, such a result would eliminate the need for a runoff election in October between Karzai and his top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, but could raise questions about the vote's credibility. Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwol, citing partial and unpublished vote tallies, told journalists at a dinner that support for Karzai was high enough across the nation to cancel out the problem of low voter turnout in the south. (READ MORE)

Hamid Karzai Expected to Gain First-round Victory in Afghanistan Election - Preliminary results of last week’s Afghan presidential contest are expected to show today that President Karzai is heading for a comfortable first round victory, amid widespread allegations of electoral fraud. But it could take several weeks before an official final result is declared because Dr Abdullah Abdullah and other opponents have filed more than 1,000 complaints, which must be investigated first. The prospect of political limbo is raising concerns just as the US is trying to increase its civilian and military presence. (READ MORE)

As Discord Mounts, Afghan Officials Promise Preliminary Election Results Tuesday - Amid mounting allegations of fraud in last week's presidential election, Afghan officials pledged Monday to provide preliminary results of the vote today. However, the partial tally and turnout figures, to be based on reports from about three-quarters of the 6,500 polling stations, may serve to inflame rather than ease tensions. Some observers fear the disclosure of a preliminary tally could set off clashes between rival camps. (READ MORE)

Abdullah Abdullah Under Pressure to Concede to Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan - Hamid Karzai's main rival has come under international pressure to accept defeat in the presidential elections, his main backer has said. Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor, governor of Balkh province, said the international community feared a defeat for Mr Karzai would worsen violence in the Taliban heartlands. He said he and Abdullah Abdullah's campaign were being urged to making a deal with the president. He said: "They have come to the conclusion that if Mr Karzai doesn't win, insecurity will increase in the south. (READ MORE)

More Afghan Candidates Claim Fraud - Staff from the campaigns of two prominent candidates for the Afghan presidency said Monday they believed fraud was so widespread that the entire election may lack legitimacy. Complaints by the campaigns of lawmaker Ramazan Bashardost and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani - expected to place third and fourth, respectively - were echoed by other minor presidential candidates, and heightened postvote tensions a day before the first partial returns were to be announced. (READ MORE)

US Monitor Hears of Horrors in Afghan Vote - The head of a US-funded election monitoring mission said Monday that Afghanistan's presidential elections appeared to be fair, but that there were some "horrific stories" about irregularities in remote areas that could distort the overall results. Jim Moody, a former US congressman who headed a 60-member observer group from Democracy International Inc., told The Washington Times that more analysis will be required to finalize conclusions. "Our preliminary conclusion is that it is conceivable that this was a fair election," he said. (READ MORE)

Britain and US Back 'Marshall Plan' for Pakistan - Britain, the US and Western allies met in Istanbul yesterday to draft a $5 billion "Marshall Plan for Pakistan" to help rebuild the swaths of the country destroyed in its war against terrorism. More than $5 billion (£3 billion) has already been pledged, $2.5 billion of which has been earmarked to help rebuild homes, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals decimated in the Pakistan Army's operation to break the Taliban's control over the the Swat valley. The Marshall Plan, named after George Marshall, the US secretary of state after the Second World War, provided funds and expertise to help with the reconstruction of Europe. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Police: 13 Militants Arrested, Terror Plots Foiled - Pakistani police say they thwarted multiple terror plots by arresting 13 militants with links to al-Qaida or the Taliban during raids in southern and eastern Pakistan. Police said Monday they seized seven men, suicide vests and explosives during a raid in the southern city of Karachi. Authorities said the men belong to the banned al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The group has previously been suspected of plotting to assassinate government officials, as well as masterminding last year's bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in 2003. (READ MORE)

13 Militants Arrested in Pakistan - The Pakistani police have arrested 13 suspects in two raids that they said foiled several terrorist attacks, security officials said Monday. Six men were arrested Monday who belonged to a banned militant group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, and had links with the Taliban militant group linked to Baitullah Mehsud, said Tahir Gujjar, the deputy superintendent of police in Sargodha, a city in northern Punjab Province. Mr. Mehsud is the Taliban leader who is believed to have been killed this month. (READ MORE)

Don’t Sneer at Afghanistan’s Wind of Change - In divorce courts, there may be truth in the cliché that if both sides are unhappy, then it must be a fair settlement. Elections are a different matter: the outcome must be perceived to be fair. When the candidates start crying foul even before voting is over - and when they have plenty to cry foul about - it means democracy in danger, not democracy at work. After last week’s violent, tainted and chaotic first round of presidential and local elections, Afghanistan is at such a point; and democracy is its bulwark against a relapse into the bloodletting and destruction of the Nineties. (READ MORE)

Chairman Cites Security as Key Part of Afghan Strategy - WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 – Providing security is a key component of President Barack Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “The strategy really focuses on defeating al-Qaida and their extremist allies,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. “That’s very specific, and that includes the Taliban.” (READ MORE)

Forces Hinder Insurgent Communication in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 – U.S. forces conducted an air assault to disrupt insurgent communication and an Afghan civilian thwarted a bomb attack in operations in Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported. U.S. soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, conducted an air assault to disrupt insurgent communication in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

US seeks overhaul in Kabul after presidential election - WASHINGTON (NNI): U.S. officials are strategizing about how to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to overhaul his government, which is widely viewed here as corrupt and ineffectual, if he wins a second term. At the same time, some in Washington fear a runoff election could steal valuable time from the international efforts to stabilize the country. Both Mr. Karzai and his leading challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, have claimed significant leads, reports The Wall Street Journal. (READ MORE)

Afghans await election results - KABUL (APP): Afghanistan prepared Monday to roll out partial results from a hotly contested election marred by allegations of massive fraud, with President Hamid Karzai and his chief rival both claiming the lead. Officials say they will release the first results from Tuesday, but warn that the final outcome could be affected by investigations into the claimed abuses. (READ MORE)

Canadian helps found Afghanistan’s first wildlife preserve - MONTREAL (Agencies): Guns and hand grenades have nearly wiped out many large animals and fish in Afghanistan. But Canadian wildlife biologist Chris Shank has helped found the country’s first national park, providing safe a haven to those creatures left behind after so many have become collateral damage in a country decimated by decades of war. (READ MORE)

Could Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam? - WASHINGTON (NNI): US President Obama had not even taken office before supporters were etching his likeness onto Mount Rushmore as another Abraham Lincoln or the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Yet what if they got the wrong predecessor? What if Mr. Obama is fated to be another Lyndon B. Johnson instead? (READ MORE)

Pakistan must exploit Taliban leadership rifts (AFP) - 25 August 2009 Pakistan must exploit rifts among Taliban commanders jostling to inherit the brutal legacy of rebel chief Baitullah Mehsud, analysts say, or risk the power vacuum being filled by Al-Qaeda. An heir apparent, Hakimullah Mehsud, has emerged in the battle to succeed Mehsud after his reported death near the Afghan border, but analysts and officials told AFP that infighting continued despite the claims and swirling rumours. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Rules Out Ramzan Ceasefire With Taliban - (RTTNews) - Monday, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik ruled out a ceasefire in military operations against Taliban, saying that the militants had not kept similar commitments made in the past, reports say. He said that the security forces would continue their operations against the Taliban even during the holy month of Ramzan, considered a time of peace. (READ MORE)

1 comment:

Kanani said...

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