August 26, 2009

From the Front: 08/26/2009

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

Short Timers: (VIDEO) Sheik Blames Outsiders - August 15th rockets struck just outside of FOB Warhorse, the headquarters of the 1st Stryker Brigade. UAF Journalism’s Jessica Hoffman tagged along with the Iraqi Army and the U.S. soldiers from the 3-21 Infantry Regiment investigating the launch site. (VIEW VIDEO)

Bouhammer: Another Example of Election Day Violence - I don’t care who you are, and some of you read this blog, but if you think we (the coalition) are terrible monsters because we may accidently hit the wrong Kulat or shoot at a vehicle that appears to be running a road block and the enemy is not doing this then you need to do us all a favor and quit stealing oxygen. Leave it for the rest of us with common sense. The enemy is ruthless, heartless and uncaring. They kill at a whim and don’t care who they kill. The other day a person commented on my blog post titled The Difference between the US and the Taliban. She has tried to argue that we (the big Ugly Americans) whom fight and die to protect her ass are the bad boys on the Afghanistan block. That we are bullies and we need to get out of Afghanistan. She quotes ex-Australian military officer David Kilcullen’s testimony to Congress when he threw out some unsubstantiated number on the number of civilians killed (700) by unmanned drones and that we only killed 14 Al-Queda leaders. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Ballots over Bullets - August 20, 2009 marked a historic day in Afghanistan’s continuing history. Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, the second-ever presidential and provincial council elections were held. Despite brutal threats by insurgents, millions of people defied the Taliban and chose ballots over bullets. This is not to say there weren’t any incidents. The insurgents held true to their threats and approximately 6-7% of the 7,000 polling stations were closed down for security reasons. According to local sources, at least 90 people died on Election Day including 11 election workers. Approximately 120 rockets were fired in the Kandahar area and the insurgents attacked our COPs and outposts. Two voters had their fingers chopped off and it was also reported 2 people were hung after they voted. This show of force still did not deter millions of voters who sought to exercise their democratic right to vote. (READ MORE)

Felix Kuehn: Kandahar Eyewitness Account - It was perhaps twenty minutes after the call to prayer had sounded and we were breaking the fast, sitting on the floor around a plastic sheet with plates of rice and meat, when I was knocked sideways to the ground. It takes a split second till you realize what happened; the shock-wave had blown out the windows, sending the glass flying like shrapnel into the room. It was a miracle that no one was injured. Our glass is double glazing, and glass kept on raining down the facade landing on our terrace, shattering into thousands of tiny pieces. There have been bomb blasts before that shook the ground, but nothing like this. I heard gunfire on the streets for several minutes, and I moved to the back rooms of the apartment with my friends. No pretty pictures this time, but I doubt I could have held the camera steady those first few minutes anyway. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: America's Babysitter - I keep thinking about things I want to do when I get back to planet Earth and I am reminded that it doesn’t always go the way you imagine it will. Take for instance what happened to me a short time after I got back from deployment last year: There was a minister's meeting at my pastor's house scheduled for a Saturday night. All the ministers, music, Sunday school, youth ministry, etc, were going to be at the meeting. The babysitter who was going to watch the kids fell through for some reason and someone brilliant said, "Mike is good with kids, let's ask him if he'll watch them." As a single man, of course, I am good with the kids. My job is to spin them up and send them back home with their beleaguered parents. It’s kind of a deal we have. Let me also point out that the best thing about other people’s kids is that they go home. Still, being the kind of guy I am I, of course agree; despite the fact that I really DO NOT want to watch other people's children on a Saturday night. (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: Finally an address! - Hi Everyone, Dela finished reception last Tuesday and shipped across base Wednesday for the actual basic training. I was able to speak with her for a few minutes on Sunday and got a letter from her yesterday with her mailing address. I'll list that below. There's not much new to report except she said that she's lost so much weight that the pants they issued her when she first arrived are now too baggy. She has to cinch her belt all the way just to keep them up. Other than that, she's worried but determined! I'll post more when I have more! Blessings to everyone! (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Gator and Abr-haa - I got to do something useful and fun today. After all the work related emails and reports were done I helped our interpreter pick up some items to assist with the training we do with our Afghan friends. I could have walked out to the gate to help him carry it back, but he assured me it was quite heavy. That and it is Ramadan so he had not had anything to eat or drink since about 0400 in the morning. I thought it best to go and borrow a Gator. A Gator is a John Deere 6 wheeled diesel small cargo utility truck for use on base. It is quite handy for moving large amounts of luggage, multiple coolers filled with vaccines, or anything else that is heavy and/or bulky. In true military style you must be trained and have a license to operate this complex and powerful vehicle. So having gone through the mandatory training which involved driving in a circle and backing into a parking area, I have a license to operate the Gator. It gets so many looks from our Afghan friends that I almost feel like I am driving a convertible Mercedes. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Karzai, Abdullah at 40 percent in partial returns - President Hamid Karzai and top challenger Abdullah Abdullah both have roughly 40 percent of the nationwide vote for president with 10 percent of ballots counted, the country's election commission said yesterday. The commission said Karzai has 40.6 percent and Abdullah has 38.7 percent in the country's first official returns since the nation voted for president last Thursday. The early returns are based on only 10 percent of the country's ballots. The commission plans to release partial results each day the next several days. Final, certified results won't be made public until mid or late September. The commission said it had based the count on 524,000 valid votes after throwing out about 31,000. Less than 2 percent of Kandahar votes have been counted, and no votes in Helmand have been counted, the commission said. Karzai would expect to do well in both provinces, suggesting his returns could go higher. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Life-saving care from the skies - The Medical Emergency Response Team – the British Forces Airmobile Hospital - is continuing to provide life-saving treatment from the skies across Helmand despite experiencing one of their busiest summers ever. The MERT is a Chinook helicopter fully equipped with the latest medical technology to allow a specialist trauma team to provide cutting edge treatment to the most seriously injured troops on the battlefield. The team are on call 24/7; flying into danger zones to pick up casualties, they are literally saving lives on a daily basis. The call can come at any time. Typically the round of steaming hot tea had only just been put into the hands of the flight crew when the phone went off. “Yes, that’s us,” said the pilot putting down the receiver. Within seconds the atmosphere changes from jovial banter to serious professionalism. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Perpetuating Mediocrity - One of the reasons the motor platoon has such a high pass rate on the PT test is, oddly enough, that the training NCO for our unit is such a stickler for everyone meeting or exceeding the published standard on the test. He fails people who miss the run by ten seconds and who miss the minimum by one pushup or situp. We are a National Guard unit and many active units will allow more slack than we do. But by forcing everyone to meet the standard, eventually everyone really does--except one sergeant. But 98% is very high for any unit and beyond the moon for the National Guard. But he is not in charge of all training and performance in other areas it is clear how our socialist group both forces us to conform and helps us when we don't. In February, many of us went to the rifle range for two days--one day to zero, one day for qualification. The qualification consists of firing 40 rounds at pop-up targets from 50 to 300 meters distance. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Envy Again - So I went to the guy I wrote about a few days ago and told him I envied his job--he has no responsibilities except public affairs for a unit of 600 soldiers, which is one of my jobs. He also has the use of an SUV which would be nice to have in the middle of a day or to go to meetings without being drenched in sweat from a bike ride. But having told him, my envy is more properly jealousy. I wish I had what he has but I do not want to take what he has. Envy has that dimension of wanting to take from its object. Anyway, he said he negotiated his deal before the deployment started--something that would be difficult for me at this point. And speaking of sin, I was up larte last night writing a post about two soldiers who are in different ways unable to do their jobs, but are covered up by the Army system that wants the numbers to look good on paper. I took the post down again because looking at it in the morning it was uncharitable and it violated my OPSEC rule about identifying soldiers. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: The Hurt Locker - So last month I blogged about a suspected IED here at the base. In that blog I talked about my decision making on whether or not to call EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) out to an incident or not. Well, yesterday was the day I called them out. I was just sitting down to dinner when the dispatch called me to check out an unattended package. I was annoyed, and expected to go over and it be nothing. So myself and two patrolman went over to check it out. It was a medium sized cardboard box with DHL labeling. It was sitting on texas barrier which divided the road from some barracks. The box was not addressed to anyone. Occasionally, if its addressed, I can contact the person to see if they accidentally left it there. I gave the box a nudge. It was heavy. The box was sealed, so I couldn’t see what was inside. I felt the box again. I felt a vibration. I didn't feel comfortable at this point. I asked one of the patrolman to verify that it was vibrating, they both said no way and went to hide behind the car. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Politics at the Trash Can - "Sorry I have not written much lately. We have had a hard couple days. We are running full tilt. And always we have lots of kids in the clinic. We are tired. But we are well." Earlier in the day, I received this email from The Hubs. As a surgeon's wife for over twenty years in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the US, I could only imagine what had ripped through the trauma center in a combat zone. Hence, I was in no mood for a round of Trash Can Politics. "How is your husband?" The person asking caught me as I was taking the trash cans to the curb. I've assiduously avoided her, since every inquiry about The Hubs is followed by a cutting opinion about the war in Afghanistan. She is, like many in this suburb, tucked away from the untidiness of life. Here in the land of the car, there are few amputee veterans trying to catch buses, nor in plain view are mothers raising four children while their spouses are at war. (READ MORE)

Mohammed at Iraq the Model: Maliki blames Syria for last week's attacks - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hinted today that Syria was responsible for last week’s bombings in Baghdad. In an unusually belligerent tone Maliki added that Iraq could respond in kind but refrains from doing so because of “our values and keen interest to reach an agreement with this country to get rid of those elements they host”. This is the first time the Prime Minister points at a particular state for involvement in violence in Iraq. Previous statements usually used the loose “neighboring countrie(s)” term. Although he only spoke about Syria, he also hinted that Syria might have a partner in the crime. He explained that “the confessions of the criminals revealed that this operation was not locally planned; it was the work of states”. Almost immediately Baghdad recalled its ambassadors from Damascus. The decision was coupled with a demand that Syria hands over two senior members of the Ba’ath Party. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Baitullah Mehsud dead; Hakeemullah new leader of Pakistani Taliban - Two senior Pakistani Taliban leaders thought to have been at odds have confirmed that the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is dead. The leaders also confirmed that Hakeemullah Mehsud is now the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, dispelling the rumors of rampant infighting to choose Baitullah’s successors. Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud said that Baitullah died on Sunday night from wounds suffered in the Aug. 5 US Predator strike in South Waziristan. The two Taliban leaders spoke via the phone from the same room to an The Associated Press reporter. "He was wounded. He got the wounds in a drone strike and he was martyred two days ago," Hakeemullah Mehsud told The Associated Press. Waliur repeated the statement to confirm that Baitullah had been killed. Both leaders stated that Hakeemullah is now the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda takes credit for last week's Baghdad bombings - Al Qaeda front group the Islamic State in Iraq has claimed responsibility for last week's deadly truck bombings in Baghdad. The bombings, which targeted Iraqi's foreign and finance ministries, killed more than 100 Iraqis and wounded hundreds more. The bombings took place less than two months after the Iraqi security forces took control of security in the cities, and US forces withdrew to bases. The Iraqi government was also beginning to remove the concrete barriers that line the city streets. Al Qaeda in Iraq said its "sons launched a new blessed attack at the heart of wounded Baghdad," designed to "wreck the bastions of infidelity." The attack was designed to shake the Iraqi people's faith in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and show that the Iraqi Security Forces are incapable of providing security. Al Qaeda accuses Maliki of being an Iranian agent. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: VBC Service Members, Iraqi Scouts Leave Their Mark on Community - VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – Twenty-five children lined up outside the entrance to Saddam Hussein’s old Flintstone Palace, on Camp Slayer, here, August 2. The boys and girls were split into two groups, each led by a volunteer service member. Maj. Gary Farley, an Iraqi Ground Forces Command Military Transition Team advisor for Multi-National Corps - Iraq, led one of the groups up the winding path to the entrance of the main structure while the other group was led around the palace to the edge of a man-made lake. Today, the Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Victory Base Complex ventured out to begin a community service project and learn a little about fishing. The organization recently celebrated its one-year anniversary after establishing a scout camp and community to teach valuable scouting lessons and implement new sporting activities for the area’s youth. (READ MORE)

More Than An (Army) Wife: Great Deployment News - The awesome news has started rolling in: PA. Guard Unit Arrives. Stonewall's unit, unfortunately, was not among those who arrived in Ft. Dix. However, he is not far behind and within a few weeks he will be back in this most wonderful country. Not in the same beautiful state as me, but within a two hour drive. My cousin, Mike, on the other hand, was among those to return today! That's one family member more to go. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: A Sensible Plan for an Afghan Air Force - The WaPo reports on an entirely sensible and feasible plan to field an Afghan Air Force. “‘Our goal is by 2016 to have an air corps that will be capable of doing those operations and the things that it needs to do to meet the security requirements of this country,’ Brig. Gen. Walter Givhan told Pentagon reporters recently in a teleconference from Kabul, the Afghan capital. Even then, the Afghans will not be able to perform functions other air forces do, he said, adding, ‘The long-term goal beyond that envisions a continued partnership.’” Read the whole thing-- it's a modest, realistic plan. We want them to be able to fly Mi-17s, Mi-35s, and turboprop cargo planes. Those are the essential things they need, and will have the capability to employ and maintain. I saw no mention of high-performance fighters. Why? Because we will fill in that blank for them. (READ MORE)

our little {BIG} family: Success Story: Winning Hearts and Minds with Water and Roads - In eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, infrastructure is poor and many villages lack good roads, access to clean water, and other basic necessities. USAID and U.S. Forces are working together to ensure that Afghan citizens receive the development assistance that they need to improve their livelihoods and quality of life. In insecure areas, this type of assistance shows local residents that the U.S. Government can improve their lives – winning hearts and minds. In Nawa village in Sirkani District of Kunar Province, this means conducting both large infrastructure projects – like building roads that will decrease travel times and allow farmers to bring their crops to market – as well as small infrastructure projects like a gravity-powered water tank and faucet system. Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Kunar is building a road passing by Nawa to the border with Pakistan, and USAID is following the road with development projects, such as installing running water taps. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Connecting - In travels to Logar and Wardak provinces this week, I was struck by one fact: even after a second national election, Afghans see coalition forces, not the central government, as the source of security and other essential services. This has to change if counterinsurgency efforts here are going to be successful. Interaction with the population is a foundation of COIN doctrine and a prominent feature of General McChrystal's battlefield circulations, which devote much of their time to shuras with local leaders and market walks among Afghan villagers. As important as it is for commanders at all levels to meet with Afghans to establish trust, negotiate solutions and identify emerging problems and opportunities, coalition progress in these areas comes at some cost to government credibility. To the extent that coalition representatives are seen as the only effective problem-solvers, governance and development programs are seen as fleeting. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Strapped to an Unguided Rocket - That pretty much describes my feeling at work for the past couple of weeks. We're getting down to the wire on our transformation from one type of organization and mission to another. And we're still trying to define what the new organization(s) will be, and what their mission(s) will be. Meanwhile, the "execute" order is looming large. So I've been quite the Powerpoint Ranger lately, preparing briefings on things that may or may not come to pass, outlining options, writing memos and executive summaries, and never quite sure where it's all going. Just like being strapped to a rocket with no tail fins. Our network problems are gradually getting resolved. After having three guys work on my computer, trying to find all my old emails, finally somebody came along that knew what he was doing. He found and restored them in about five minutes. He's my hero. The rest of the network stuff is still a problem, but gradually, slowly, getting resolved. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Short-Term Memory Loss - There’s nothing specifically wrong with the facts in this story. The problem is one of tone: It is presenting the security challenges in the Eastern part of the country as if they are something new, or something that had gone away when the U.S. chose to focus on the South. That is simply not the case: events in the East have been violent for quite a while now, like since 2002 or so. Khost, Ghazni, Paktia, Kunar, and even Nangarhar have been violent, dangerous places since at least 2006, and have shown steadily worsening violence statistics ever since. It wasn’t even until either 2007 or 2008 (depending on the source and the statistical methods used) that Helmand and Kandahar became relatively more violent… but that doesn’t mean the East somehow because less violent as a result. (READ MORE)

David Axe: Poles in A’stan Struggle with Inadequate Equipment - On Aug. 11, a joint Polish-Afghan patrol in Ajuristan was ambushed by a superior number of Taliban fighters, including snipers. Polish Captain Daniel Ambrozinski “took several shots in the snipers’ direction and then leaned out to check if they reached him. Then he was shot in the chest,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dariusz Kacperczyk, a Polish spokesman. Ambrozinski died at the scene. Only after American attack helicopters arrived, were Polish troops able to recover the captain’s body. To Poles have 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, in addition to hundreds more in Chad with the E.U. peacekeeping force (see video). “I want to make sure that Polish soldiers in Afghanistan were well protected and want an explanation as to why reinforcement troops arrived so late,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Polish land forces commander Lieutenant General Waldemar Skrzypczak has an explanation: inadequate equipment. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: How To: Run an ‘Honesty Trace’ to Counter Roadside Bombs - Roadside bombs remain the number-one threat to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. But as Noah recently reported, one Marine officer has forwarded an ingenious, off-the-shelf method for avoiding natural ambush points: The “honesty trace.” Former Wall Street Journal reporter Matt Pottinger — now a Marine Corps first lieutenant — came up with the idea while working with Combat Logistics Battalion 3 in Helmand Province. The idea was simple: Pottinger hooked up the unit’s vehicles with commercial GPS trackers to create a digital record of the routes they were driving. Then he overlaid the routes to see where tracks were converging. It turned out that terrain often forced the Marines into natural chokepoints where the Taliban could set up ambushes. Changing up routes is standard in military operations, but creating “honesty traces” can help troops avoid falling into unexpected — and potentially deadly — patterns. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: A First for Task Force ODIN-Afghanistan - While the U.S. Air Force is finally getting around to admitting that you don’t need to be a flight rated officer to man the joystick of an unmanned air vehicle, the U.S. Army has been somewhat quietly putting its enlisted soldiers through the paces and getting them in the seats manning its UAV fleet. And just recently the Army marked a milestone—on August 14, an Army-operated UAV operating under Task Force ODIN-Afghanistan, fired the first missile from an Army UAV in Afghanistan, according to an Army source. No more details were forthcoming, but the active-duty officer did say that the Army is “now providing armed, lethal reconnaissance on an Army UAS platform in Afghanistan with demonstrated lethality.” Neither US Forces-Afghanistan nor the Army’s UAS command would comment on ongoing operations. The Army has long used a mix of enlisted trainees—who receive 60 days’ training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona—and private contractors to fly its UAVs. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Robert Stokely remembers - It was a pleasure to meet Robert Stokely and as soon as I get my work obligations in order I will have some video of the event memorializing his son on the anniversary of his death. He marks another solemn date with the following piece. August is a particularly difficult month around our house especially August 16 and the 11 days that came after. August 8, 2005 was the last phone call and chance I got to speak to Mike before he was killed a week later. We gather at Mike's grave at 1820 hours on August 15 to Remember Mike at the time it was here in Georgia when he was killed near Yusufiyah in the early morning hours of August 16. It is amazing how so many still come to be with us and there are always new ones in the crowd, and of course, as is going to happen, some are not there that have been. This year several of our regulars were serving in Afghanistan. And the family of SFC Mark Allen were not there because he was seriously wounded July 8, 2009 in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Thar Allah Naval Base Offers Rats of Legend - THAR ALLAH NAVAL BASE, Iraq – Are you sick and tired of the relative comfort of your containerized housing unit? Do you feel sanitation is overrated? Is air-conditioning just not your "thing"? Well, then perhaps a trip to Thar Allah Naval Base is just what you need. Let's take a little voyage to Thar Allah, located right in the middle of downtown Basra and a short drive from both the port of Umm Qasar and the amusement park, City of Fun. (READ MORE)

'Defender's Edge': a New Approach to Combat Stress - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – "We rolled in and saw these Army vehicles on fire with Army bodies hanging out of them. We were told it was supposed to be peaceful there. And then, some friends of mine in the unit right in front, they went across the first bridge in Nasiriyah. That was ambush alley. "I lost a lot of friends that day." (READ MORE)

Pa. guard unit arrives at Ft. Dix after Iraq duty - FORT DIX, N.J. - The first wave of a total of 4,000 Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers returned to the states early Tuesday, marking the beginning of the end of the largest combat deployment of Pennsylvania guardsmen since World War II. More than 300 members of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team arrived at Fort Dix, greeting family members with hugs and kisses. (READ MORE)

First Wave Of 56th Stryker Brigade Returning Tuesday - BELLWOOD, Pa. -- The first wave of Pennsylvania National Guardsmen from the 56th Stryker Brigade combat team are returning Tuesday after a year-long tour in Iraq. The more than 4,000 national guardsmen will return in Pennsylvania within the next few weeks. (READ MORE)

Al Qaeda-linked Group Claims Two Recent Baghdad Bombings that Killed 95 - An Al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the devastating suicide bombings last week at two government ministries in Baghdad, and Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors in an escalating dispute over whether Damascus may have aided in attacks. The claim of responsibility came in a statement posted on the Internet by the Islamic State of Iraq, the name now used by the Sunni Muslim Al Qaeda in Iraq organization. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Demand Syria Turn Over Suspects - The Iraqi government demanded Tuesday that Syria hand over two men it accused of helping to organize last week’s deadly bomb attacks, heightening tensions between the neighboring countries as Iraqi officials worked to reassure the public that they were in control of the security situation. An atmosphere of unease pervaded Baghdad, where a decree to remove the blast walls that line many of the main thoroughfares was suspended and searches at checkpoints in and out of the capital were stepped up. (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Anbar - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 15 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred three detainees, who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant, to Iraqi Police custody Aug. 25, in Al Anbar province. 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. Marines from MNF-W coordinated with the Iraqi Police to transfer all detainees who were wanted pursuant to a warrant; other detainees were released near their place of residence. (READ MORE)

Iraqi nursing students receive training from U.S. Army - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – U.S. Army medical Soldiers have been partnering with Iraqi medical staff at the local Azadi Hospital in Kirkuk province, Iraq, to share their knowledge and provide training. First Lt. Teresa Weber, a physician assistant with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, with assistance from several 2nd BCT medics, taught a class on trauma assessment for nursing students at the Azadi Hospital, August 18. (READ MORE)

Reusing gear saves taxpayers $50 million - JOINT BASE BALAD — As U.S. forces here prepare for the largest strategic reposturing of forces in 40 years, some Airmen have already started the process. The Airmen of TF 586, 732nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), have been traveling throughout the Iraqi theater of operations, identifying, collecting and redistributing excess supply items since 2006. (READ MORE)

Health Fair welcomes local Iraqi children - JOINT BASE BALAD — U.S. Airmen and Soldiers hosted a Department of State Provincial Reconstruction Team-initiated Health Fair for local Iraqi children at the Oasis Dining Facility here, Aug. 22. More than 40 children from the surrounding Salah ad Din province interacted with service members while learning about basic first aid, the role of emergency medical professionals and nutrition and hygiene. (READ MORE)

Mosque renovation brings hope to Iraqis - CAMP TAQADDUM — As U.S. bases and posts in Iraq continue to consolidate or are transferred back to the Government of Iraq, U.S. military leaders across the country face the challenge of leaving their locations better than when they initially arrived. Whether it's through the stabilized security we see here today or the civil affairs projects that have sprouted throughout the country, there are tangible improvements to many of the areas that continue to be or were once occupied by U.S. forces. (READ MORE)

Supplies delivered to villages in need - BASRAH — U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers joined forces to deliver food and supplies to residents of the Faddaqhryah and Bahar communities here, Aug. 18. The U.S. Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade (FB) and the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team helped the Iraqi Army (IA) provide this 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 FB civil affairs officer. (READ MORE)

Australian troops kill another insurgent leader - Australian Defence Force chief of joint operations Lieutenant General Mark Evans said Mullah Abdul Karim, along with a number of other insurgents, was killed in an operation on August 10. Lieutenant General Evans said this was an important and positive development in enhancing the security and stability of Oruzgan Province. (READ MORE)

The Army is too small to fight all of the battles facing Britain - As General Sir Richard Dannatt steps down as Chief of the General Staff (CGS) this week, what will be the legacy of his outspokenness; and what lies ahead for his successor, General Sir David Richards? "I want an Army in five and 10 years' time," said Sir Richard in 2006. It was as urgent as that, for the Army was in his words "running hot", and public disquiet over Iraq and Afghanistan was having an increasingly negative effect on soldiers' morale. It should not have been his fight, though. (READ MORE)

On Afghanistan, Political Test for Obama - President Obama is caught between two important constituencies as he recalibrates his policy in Afghanistan - the generals who want more troops, and the base of his own party, whose tolerance for a worsening conflict is quickly evaporating. As the Obama administration prepares for a report from its senior field commander that is likely to request additional forces, congressional Democrats, in particular, have begun to question the wisdom of further reinforcements on top of the 62,000 US troops already deployed in Afghanistan, with an additional 6,000 scheduled to arrive by year's end. (READ MORE)

US, Allies Plan to Bolster Kandahar Force - The US and its allies are planning to reinforce Afghan police and army units guarding Kandahar with American and Canadian troops, a move that acknowledges the deteriorating condition of the south's largest city. According to senior military officials, US and Canadian soldiers will for the first time deploy to bases on the outskirts of the city. The local Afghan forces will be bolstered by an expanded number of embedded American trainers. (READ MORE)

Push by US Commanders to Boost Afghan War Troops - Pressure is mounting on Barack Obama to ignore US public opinion and approve a significant boost in the number of troops committed to the Afghanistan war, after military commanders on the ground complained they lacked enough forces to defeat the Taliban. US commanders have reportedly told the President's top envoy in the region, Richard Holbrooke, that their numbers are insufficient as insurgents make gains in the south and east. (READ MORE)

Helmand Deaths Cast Fresh Doubts on Mission in NATO’s Bloodiest Year - At least 41 people died in a car bombing and four US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb yesterday in a day of violence in southern Afghanistan that overshadowed the release of the first partial results of the country’s presidential election. The deaths of the four soldiers in the southern province of Helmand made this the bloodiest year for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the American-led invasion toppled the Taleban Government eight years ago. (READ MORE)

NATO Suffers Deadliest Year in Afghanistan Since 2001 Invasion - International forces have suffered the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001 after four United States soldiers were killed in a bomb blast. The latest deaths push the death toll of NATO-led coalition to 295 troops in less than eight months. The death toll for the whole of last year was 294. Violence has escalated in the traditional Taliban fighting season this summer, just as thousands of additional international troops moved into the country. The coalition currently has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans and 10,000 British. (READ MORE)

Initial Afghan Election Results Show Incumbent President with Slight Lead - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is leading by just two percent, according to official, partial election results five days after millions of voters braved Taliban threats to cast ballots. Mr. Karzai has 40.6 percent of votes tabulated, while his closest challenger has 38.7 percent. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission says President Karzai is leading his closest rival by only 10,000 votes. The tallies released cover only 10 percent of the total and are partial results of 21 provinces, including the capital, Kabul. (READ MORE)

Wide Fraud Is Charged as Afghans Tally Votes - The preliminary results from Afghanistan’s election gave both President Hamid Karzai and his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, nearly 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday as accumulating charges of widespread fraud cast new doubts on the credibility of the election. The returns announced were based on just 10 percent of ballots from a variety of provinces and seemed carefully balanced to keep emotions calm as election officials came under increasing pressure from all sides to demonstrate that the presidential election was fair. (READ MORE)

Karzai Slightly Ahead in Partial Vote Count - A partial tally of votes in last week's Afghan presidential election shows incumbent Hamid Karzai with a slight edge over his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, according to results released Tuesday. With 10 percent of the ballots counted, officials said, Karzai won 40 percent of Thursday's vote; Abdullah won 38 percent. The tensely awaited results, released shortly after Abdullah produced what he said was evidence of election fraud by Karzai's team, contrasted sharply with assertions by the president's aides that he had won at least 68 percent of the vote. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Early Returns Point to a Tie, Possible Runoff - What was billed as a pivotal summer for the Western war effort in Afghanistan has become a season of drift and disappointment. The country's second direct presidential election - a vote that was intended to be unifying, even uplifting - has taken an uncertain and ugly turn. The first partial results, released Tuesday, were inconclusive but pointed toward the possibility of a divisive runoff between President Hamid Karzai and his chief rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. (READ MORE)

Karzai Has Slim Lead Over Abdullah - Afghan President Hamid Karzai last night had a lead of 10,000 votes over top challenger Abdullah Abdullah with 10 per cent of ballots counted, in the first official results from last week's presidential poll. The Independent Election Commission said last night Mr Karzai had 40.6 per cent and Dr Abdullah 38.7 per cent of the vote from last Thursday's election. Mr Karzai's relatively slender lead is in stark contrast to his campaign team's earlier claim of a landslide victory and opens up the possibilty of Dr Abdullah forcing a presidential runoff. (READ MORE)

Powerful Bomb Kills 40 in Southern Afghanistan - Police in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar say 40 people are dead and 64 injured after an apparent truck bomb exploded. It is the deadliest blast in the country since an attack on the Indian Embassy more than a year ago. Residents of Kandahar describe the blast as shaking the city as if a powerful earthquake had struck. Authorities on Ogata Road describe a scene of widespread devastation with 10 residential buildings torn apart by the powerful explosion. (READ MORE)

Car Bomb Blasts in Afghanistan Kill at Least 41 - A cluster of vehicle bombs detonated simultaneously Tuesday in the Taliban's spiritual homeland near a foreign-owned construction company that had recently taken over a contract to build a road through an insurgent-held area. At least 41 people were killed, all civilians, officials said. The thundering explosion occurred just after nightfall in a district that includes UN facilities and an Afghan intelligence office. (READ MORE)

Military Docs: Better Hospital May be Crucial - The US military is rethinking its "golden hour" goal for critically injured troops, questioning whether it should spend a little longer evacuating patients to get them to a better hospital. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that troops in Afghanistan, where the craggy terrain makes medical evacuations difficult, get help as quickly as those in Iraq. Wounded troops in Iraq generally are reached, stabilized and hospitalized within what medical providers call the "golden hour" - the time it generally takes to deliver care needed to save a person's life. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taliban: Baitullah Mehsud is Dead - Pakistani Taliban commanders have acknowledged that their former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a US air strike. This is the first time the militant group has acknowledged Mehsud's death. US and Pakistani officials have been saying that Mehsud died in the August 5 missile strike near the Afghan border, but the Taliban had repeatedly denied it. On Tuesday, two Taliban commanders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, said their leader died Sunday from injuries he sustained in the missile strike. (READ MORE)

Canadian at heart of Afghanistan post-election storm - KABUL -- The most powerful man in Afghanistan these days may not be a Taliban insurgent, a warlord, a general or the president. It could be a soft-spoken, good-natured, silver-haired former aide to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. As the UN-appointed chief of the Election Complaints Commission, Grant Kippen of Ottawa finds himself at the centre of Afghanistan's growing postelection storm. (READ MORE)

30 killed in Afghan blast caused by 5 car bombs - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - Five car bombs that detonated simultaneously rocked Afghanistan's largest southern city Tuesday, destroying a construction company office and damaging dozens of nearby buildings, officials said. At least 30 people died in the blast and 56 were wounded. The force of the explosion shattered windows around the city and sent flames shooting into the sky. (READ MORE)

Taliban can hit Europe, US, says rebel commander - A Pakistani Taliban commander has said his organisation is committed to fight the foreign troops in Afghanistan and capable of hitting targets as far as London, Washington and Paris, the Online news agency reported. Militant commander Waliur Rehman Mehsud said US President Barrack Obama is 'number one enemy' of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and would fight till the US and its allied forces are expelled from Pakistan and Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

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