September 3, 2009

From the Front: 09/03/2009

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

In the NARMY now: Groundhogs Day - Not too much new to report out here. Ramadan has begun, but it hasn't really affected us much here on base. Most of the employees on base are from India, so it hasn't affected our eating times or trouble calls for maintanence related things. Other than that, it's pretty much the same thing different day. I guess thats a good thing around here though. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Gunner’s Turret—A different perspective - Today’s mission was a trek to Kabul International Airport (KAIA). Our teammate just returned from leave and while there, we thought it would be a nice gesture and give him a ride. This would alleviate him having to take the Rhino (armored bus) to another FOB and await transportation to our camp. Normally I am a driver or vehicle commander, but today I was given a unique opportunity to be a gunner. I haven’t been a gunner since my training at Fort Riley, so I was rather excited about this chance to see Afghanistan at a different viewpoint. Before the mission began, I strapped on the gunner’s harness. The harness is constructed of nylon webbing and has several buckles, straps, etc. It’s not the most comfortable piece of life-saving equipment to wear, especially since the straps are fitted snugly through the groin area. (READ MORE)

Dexter Filkins - At War: Afghan Count Continues as Cloud of Fraud Lingers - KABUL — The evidence is piling up here that the presidential election, held on Aug. 20, was shot through with the most brazen sort of trickery: phony ballots, disappearing ballots, would-be voters chased away. I wrote about one of the most shameless acts alleged so far. In that case, Delaga Bariz, the governor of Shorbak district, claimed that voters in his area had been prevented from casting ballots by armed men loyal to President Hamid Karzai. “Not a single person in Shorbak District cast a ballot,” he said. “Not a single person.” The men loyal to Mr. Karzai, Mr. Bariz said, shipped several trunks of ballots — 23,900 in all — to Kabul. All of them were marked for Mr. Karzai. No one knows exactly where all this is heading. But one place the election is not heading is toward normalcy. In the coming days — as the ballots are counted, as the fraud is investigated — it will be increasingly difficult to ignore the charges. (READ MORE)

The semi-normal, day to day life of a female Marine: Women in the Military - Should There Be A Lioness Program? A reader writes: "But of course only individuals physically capable of combat will be sent to the battlefield, and women, on average, are not as capable as men." I'm sure you've received complaints about this line. Indeed, the anticipation of complaints is why you italicized "on average." It is simply impolite to say it: vanishingly few women are capable of the physical performance that the mission requires for infantry combat. Let the women fight - Full integration into combat roles isn't about fairness; it's about making the military stronger: Once again, the debate over women fighting in combat positions has found its way to the forefront of American discourse - and frankly, it's time. Today's military operates in combat zones with no front lines and where achieving victory is ultimately decided not through bullets but through relationship building with local populations. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: One Month… - It has been one month since I returned home. So far, it has gone smoothly, more sweet than bitter. I have a few issues on which i am working with the VA. They all are physical, and not so debilitating as to have a major impact on my quality of life. There’s the tinnitus that I suspect was caused by the daily exposure to the pairs of F-16s taking off three times a day about 200 meters from where I lived and worked. There’s a lump in my right trapezius that’s been there for 4 months now, with something going on down the cusp of my right shoulder. All in all, though, I came out fof the deployment intact, especially between the ears, and I count myself lucky to have done so… It’s a new beginning, in many ways, beginning with what I hope is an increased sense of maturity. I had time to think over there. I had the chance to examine my life, and chart the “sustains” and “improves” that life’s lessons have imparted. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: four down — how many more to go? - The bad guys hit a home run today by whacking the number 2 at NDS. The NDS is the National Directorate of Security and they are the best of what is currently available in the Afghan Security Forces. The number 2, Dr. Abdullah is an old Jihadi Commander from Laghman Province who fought the Soviets as Masooud’s chief of security before continuing the fight against the Taliban. He was reportedly at the central Mosque for Mitharlam City (the capitol of Lagham Province) to fork over a ton of family dough to finance a major addition . Seems damn un Islamic to me to whack a guy who is donating that much cash to a Mosque. Killed along with Dr. Abdullah was a Mr. Imadudin, Head of the Laghman Provincial Council along with 22 other people (54 more were wounded.) The press is reporting that this was caused by a vehicle borne IED but that is not correct. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Wearside soldiers reluctant to leave Afghan campaign - Two Sunderland soldiers who have just weeks until they return home from Afghanistan are surprisingly reluctant to come back. Corporal Marie Oxley and Corporal Terri Lee, both 26, are based at 19 Light Brigade's Headquarters in Lashkar Gah. For Marie, who is from Carley Hill and Terri, from Millfield, leaving Afghanistan after a gruelling six-month tour will be bittersweet, as they will leave loved ones fighting on the frontline. In a cruel twist of fate, Marie will return home as her boyfriend is deployed to Afghanistan for six months. Also, Terri arrives home on the day that her younger brother leaves the UK for the same six-month tour. Cpl Oxley, who is part of 209 Signal Squadron, said: "To tell the truth I don't really want to come home. That's partly because my boyfriend has just deployed here and I'd really like to be here with him. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Heroic female medic who ignored shrapnel embedded in her shoulder to save SEVEN soldiers during Taliban attack - An heroic army medic treated seven injured comrades after a Taliban attack in Afghanistan despite being wounded with shrapnel herself, it emerged today. Lance Corporal Sally Clarke, of 2 Rifles, ignored the searing pain caused by the shards embedded in her shoulder and back and set about treating the rest of her patrol. The worst hit was Corporal Paul Mather who incredibly managed to radio instructions for jets circling above to open fire on Taliban insurgents despite bleeding heavily from wounds the size of his fist. Corporal Mather, 28, and Lance Corporal Clarke, 22, from Cheltenham, were on patrol south of Sangin when insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades over a wall as soldiers dealt with an anti-tank mine. Hot flying shrapnel sliced open Corporal Mather's body, leaving gaping holes across his arms, legs and buttocks. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Cold Wave--Poop Ovens - Today the temp at 0500 was 77 degrees!! Winter is almost here. It was 118 by lunch, way down from highs over 130, and the wind was howling out of the northwest at 25mph which was bad riding west on the bike, but good in the motor pool because the wind blows the sweat away. Last week we moved into a different motor pool. It is a much better place to fix trucks than the last place with maintenance tents on concrete pads instead of working on rocks. We still walk on rocks between the tents and the offices, but work in something resembling a canvas garage open on both ends. But the other place was next to an office building so it had an air-conditioned latrine CHU right next to our rock-strewn maintenance area. The new place only has Porta Potties. Until yesterday, the Porta Potties were located in another area in the large field of motor pools we are in. We had to walk more than 400 meters to get to the tan-colored-plastic latrines. No it is a 150-meter walk to the Porta Potties. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Just Some Thoughts - According to Juan Cole, I live in a hellhole. Today he says that "Arab Iraq is a hellhole, devastated by UN/US sanctions and then by years of guerrilla war." As always, he's insulting and wrong. Perhaps from his distant perspective, Baghdad is a lost cause, but from here it isn't. Maybe he thinks the bustling streets of Karrada and the restaurants along Abu Nawwas are not worth anything. But Iraqis see it differently. Some friends asked me whether Americans keep up with Iraqi music they way people here do with popular American songs. I said few do, but in general no. I explained perhaps it was a language issue. They asked me why Americans don't care about what happens to Iraq. I said partly because so-called experts such as Cole say Iraq is hopeless. I also told them the economy is everyone's worry, and then of course there is the torture debate. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban target Pakistan's religious minister - The Taliban nearly assassinated Pakistan's outspoken religious minister in a shootout in the capital of Islamabad today. Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a car carrying Hamid Saeed Kazmi, the Federal Religious Minister. The gunmen, who were riding a motorcycle, sprayed Kazmi's car with automatic fire, killing the driver. Kazmi took a bullet in the leg and is being treated at a hospital in Islamabad. Kazmi has been outspoken in his opposition to the Taliban and supports operations against the extremists in the tribal areas. He is a member of the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam, which is in opposition to the Deobandi and Wahabbist strains of Islam that preach violent jihad. In June, the Taliban killed another prominent Barelvi cleric in a suicide attack. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills deputy Afghan intelligence chief - A Taliban suicide bomber assassinated the deputy chief of Afghanistan's intelligence service and the leader of the provincial council during an attack at a mosque in Laghman province. The two Afghan leaders were among 23 people killed in the deadly attack. The suicide bomber detonated just as Dr. Abdullah Laghmani, the deputy director of the National Directorate of Security, arrived at a mosque in the city of Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman province. Among those killed in the blast besides Laghmani were Imaduddin Abdul Rahimzai, the chief of the provincial council, and a senior aide to the governor. More than 50 people were reported wounded, several critically, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. Senior religious and tribal leaders were also present at the ceremony; it is unclear how many were killed or wounded. The leaders were meeting in Mehtarlam to inaugurate the reconstruction of the mosque. (READ MORE)

Richard S. Lowry: Hospital Corpsman Juan Rubio - Juan Rubio was at the Pentagon on 9-11 and was sent to ground zero to help with the wounded that never materialized. Juan found himself in the city, staring at a wall of photographs and messages placed by distraught families. Then and there, he knew what he had to do. He volunteered to become a Marine Corpsman to serve in the fight he knew would come. On 5 December 2004, Major Dan Wittnam’s Small Craft Company went out to conduct another sweep along the Euphrates River. They ranged the Iraqi waterways in Small Unit Riverine Craft, the modern-day cousin of the Vietnam-era riverboats, powered by twin 440 hp water jet engines that could rocket the craft through the water at nearly 50 miles-per-hour. The boats were nearly 40 feet long and 20,000 lbs, with a nine-inch draft. Fast and agile, they packed a powerful punch with 240G and .50 caliber machine guns, a GAU-17, 7.62mm, mini-gun and MK-19 automatic grenade launchers. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: Anyone Remember Hadithia? - And then there was one. Only one Marine — Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich — still faces charges for the killings of 24 men, women, and children in Haditha, Iraq in November of 2005. Once compared to the My Lai Massacre, one-by-one the Haditha cases have collapsed and charges have been dropped against the accused Marines. The latest is Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, who will now face a possible administrative reprimand, not criminal charges, for allegedly failing to properly follow up and investigate the original allegations. From what I was able to piece together back when I was still following this story closely, Sgt. Wuterich allowed a subordinate, with far more combat experience, to lead the way in clearing the houses in Haditha. That Marine, the primary “triggerman”, was a veteran of Falluja, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt. He was was not only exonerated, he was highly praised by Marine Corps leaders. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: mudistan - It’s now two days after the storm and the water level has dropped amazingly. I don’t know where it all went, Pakistan, I’d guess. The brick and concrete structures still standing have marks from the high water level – dried mud and flotsam on the walls about waist high. Now the unpaved side roads are that special clay-mud-mush which is super slippery and which it is difficult to extricate anything that gets stuck in it (like your shoe). The residents – some men but mostly young adults – pulled me to the places that had been their homes. The Afghans are fanatics about walls and there wasn’t a structure with four intact walls. A lot of the walls were simply gone – presumably washed away “down there somewhere” – whereas we were standing on the mucky remnants of others. Several buildings had big gaps and cracks because the ground on which they were built had shifted down the street too. All the rocks you see in the pictures were once part of walls. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Stay Positive - I’m back in the swing of things, sort of. After getting my e-mail cleaned up and updating the sync matrix that has fallen by the wayside since by absence, I’m back to scheduling shoots and checking the progress on upcoming projects. With two months to go, the time can really seem to drag – just knowing that home is right around the corner makes the days move like turtles on a beach. I’m trying to throw myself back into work and fill my plate with assignments to make the days go faster. So far, I’ve scheduled a shoot with a soldier that we’re following for a MN documentary and volunteered for a suicide prevention video (I’m really hoping to make this nice and heartfelt… we’ll see how it turns out). I also have to start training other people on the newscast. That will take up some time and maybe November 1 will be here before I know it. I’m reading the book of Proverbs right now and last night I came across a verse that so applies to my life right now. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Around the World in 15 Days - London was awesome… except that Craig left after two days. It’s not as bad as you think… I mean, yes I was left in Europe, but that hurts your pride more than anything – after a day of heart break, I got mad and then I took a deep breath and moved on. Cade really stepped up and kept me distracted. We finished out all we wanted to do in London – lots of retail therapy, of course, London Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the parks, Wicked (amazing), London Eye, Westminster Abbey (breathtaking), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Fat Tire Bike Tour (my favorite of the trip), Parliament & Big Ben, Harrod’s, etc. etc. Cade lost his passport the first day, so we had a fun time trying to figure out how to use a London payphone and we found it after 5 days there, safely tucked away in the Lost Property Office at London Heathrow, Terminal 3. ((Relief)) (READ MORE)

MaintToad1 @ SpouseBUZZ: So, Military Family Housing for ... what do you think... and why not? - I know, I know ... where in the world have you been, Toad? Lost. Let's just leave it at that for now (or another post). I have had a wonderful opportunity to be invited to listen in to a conference of senior officer and senior NCO spouses. During the Military Family Housing briefing, you could tell that many of the spouses had an issue to broach, or a bone to pick ... or just wanted some hide. Preferably the briefers. At one point in the discussion, the famous "waterfall" chart showed how occupancy went from active duty members, to guardsmen and reservist, to civil service employees to ... the bottom category, the general public. Then, quietly from the back of the group a hand went up and a voice asked ... Why can't we create a priority within the MFH waterfall chart for wounded warriors and their families? Or better, why not for the widows of war casualties? The briefer stated "no" they are not considered and have no priority. At that point, my head exploded. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Afstan and Canadian political attitudes - The centre thinks that the Afghan government is not very good, thus no longer worthy of our military support. The left, especially the hard left, argues that the Afghan government is actually awful; so who cares if the Taliban retakes power? After all it's the Afghans' cultural right to truly horrrendous rule. Conservatives--and I mean with a capital "C"--sought political advantage from the war, did not properly explain it, and have since decided there is no such advantage. They now would rather take the fight to Mickey I. All three Canadian political trends are simply unwilling to accept that casualties in some real numbers are sometimes necessary for our country to do its internationalist bit. Leave that to Uncle Sam and John Bull. And to their marines. Moreover, don't bother about funding the Canadian Forces adequately to be a military capable of sustained combat operations in any real numbers. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: On Force Protection and Risk Aversion (Part II) - (Part I posted in March of 2009) In recent news, General Stanley McChrystal has presented a report on the situation in Afghanistan to senior US and NATO leaders. Although the report has not yet been made public (at least not that I can find), many expect that it will request for more troops to augment NATO’s sparse troop levels, and to train local security forces and law enforcement officials. With that said, a recent article in today’s Los Angeles Times indicates that NATO (and in particular, the US) is looking at boosting its combat power by replacing support troops with “trigger-pullers”—brigade combat teams of Soldiers designed to patrol the countryside on foot. The American way of war places an emphasis on “force protection”—ensuring that troops are placed on heavily-fortified bases behind layers of barriers, barbed wire, and protective towers. However, in counterinsurgency environments, this sometimes goes to extremes and can actually be quite counterproductive. (READ MORE)

David Hambling: Taliban Seek Rifles with More ‘Punch’? - One way of finding out what sort of weapons the Taliban favor is to go the usual military route: examine captured arsenals and look for shell casings after a firefight. Or you could just go and talk to the man who apparently sells them their weapons, as Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad recently did. The results were highly instructive. Abdul-Ahab talked to a man named Hekmat, formerly a shopkeeper but now a wealthy smuggler. Hekmat made his fortune ferrying arms from Central Asia. He also deals in heroin, but prices are down this year, so apparently the real money is in guns. Surprisingly, the hot item is not the plain-vanilla Kalashnikov. “It’s the Kalakov everyone wants,” the arms dealer tells Abdul-Ahad. “The Taliban like it because it pierces body armor.” The Kalakov, evidently, is the name the Afghans give to the AK-74, a Russian weapon based on a 5.45mm cartridge. This is confirmed when Hekmat shows the comparatively smaller round for the rifle. (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Interview: Michael Yon, live from Afghanistan - Just a few minutes ago, I spoke with Michael Yon, who called from somewhere in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to speak to Michael since the George Will column demanding a withdrawal from the Af-Pak theater, and Michael disagreed with Will’s analysis — especially with the idea that we could switch tactics to long-range attacks on terrorist camps and have that be sufficient. Michael doesn’t blame the American people for losing patience, but says that’s exactly what we need, and that we can still win in the long term. I also asked Michael about his disembed order from the British Ministry of Defense, and he’s as mystified as the rest of us. We talked about the Pentagon scandal of screening embed reporters for pro-military bent, and the enduring impulse of CYA. Be sure to watch it all. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
In Bank Killings, Highs and Lows of Iraq Justice - The gang of robbers did not have to worry about the police because, in that neighborhood, they were the police, many of them bodyguards for one of the nation’s most powerful men, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. Their plan was brutally simple and brazenly stupid: They tied up eight guards - some of whom they knew - at the Zuwiya branch of the Rafidain bank here and executed them point blank with silenced guns. Then they made off with at least two carloads of cash worth $4.3 million. (READ MORE)

US Extends Iraq Contract for Blackwater Firm - The State Department said Wednesday it has extended a contract for protecting US diplomats in Iraq with a subsidiary of the security firm once known as Blackwater USA even though the company doesn't have a license to operate in the country. Spokesman Ian Kelly said the contract with Presidential Airways to provide air support for US diplomats had been temporarily extended because the firm chosen to replace it is not yet ready to take over. The contract had been due to expire on Sept. 3 and be taken over a day later by DynCorp International, he said. (READ MORE)

School project inspires hope in Iraqi children - Qadisiyah, Iraq — “Most of the people in this area missed the opportunity to go to school and learn as children. We want our children to have a better-educated future,” said Ali Jalab Hasson, Al Hamza district mayor and civil engineer with the Qadisiyah Education Department. That dream of a better education is just months away, as the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq is helping with the construction of the Al Hasan Al Basri school. (READ MORE)

Joint effort sees new bridge span Tigris - BAGHDAD — On the banks of the mighty Tigris River, a track excavator slowly inched forward, pushing a land-based ramp toward a pontoon suspension bridge. Simple pins, connecting the two, marked the Aug. 31 completion of a spectacular engineering effort from three separate engineer entities that took a month to complete. (READ MORE)

U.S. Marines put big plans in Iraqi hands - NINEWA PROVINCE — U.S. Marine and Army officers operating here recently met with Iraqi military leaders to further improve coordination of counter-smuggling efforts in the area. “The meeting was designed to get all the [key leaders] together,” said Capt. Chad C. Brooks, judge advocate for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. “[The Iraqi Army brigadier general here] is one of our biggest allies in the area of operations. Being an honest and fair leader, he is a dominant and knowledgeable influence in the region.” (READ MORE)

Kirkuk Science College gets new computers - KIRKUK — The computers at the Kirkuk College of Science have endured seven years of student use and software altering, and their age had begun to show. But teachers this year won’t have to worry about trying to install new software on the outdated systems, or think about whether their compact disk drives will last through the semester, because 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, donated 50 new computers to the college, Aug. 26. (READ MORE)

U.S. bolsters Iraqi Air Force partnership - CAMP TAJI — Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) helicopter pilots recently began spending time with their American counterparts to better understand how the U.S. keeps its aircraft mission ready. Members of the IqAF 2nd Squadron, who fly and maintain the UH-1H, are working with Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division to see first-hand how to properly maintain air assets. (READ MORE)

Military Working Dogs Are 'out of the Doghouse' at Joint Base Balad - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – On a deployment, a multitude of distractions can make sleep challenging for some service members: F-16 engines roar on the flight line, helicopter blades thunder through the air. Seventy-pound Labrador retrievers take up half the bed. (READ MORE)

Shakin' With the Sheik - Members of Alpha Company, 2-162 Infantry, Oregon National Guard, had the opportunity to go outside the wire and participate in a Pre-Ramadan feast given by a local resident, Aug. 19. Mr. Ali Jadaan, a local sheik and contractor in Scania invited the command staff of Alpha Co, Capt. Charles Ellis and Lt. Mark Major, and others to the feast prepared by his family. (READ MORE)

Double Payments Made to Sons of Iraq - PATROL BASE HAMIYAH, Iraq – The Babil province Sons of Iraq members received two months payment from 4th Company, 31st Iraqi army Brigade at Patrol Base Hamiyah, Aug. 26. Established in the spring of 2008, the SoI program creates jobs for local Sunni and Shiite citizens by asking them to maintain security checkpoints throughout their areas. (READ MORE)

LMAT Team Helps Iraqi Army Take Control of Base Operations - CAMP UR, Iraq – Operations continue as normal. The focus remains the same: keep the base running and the mission on target. Iraqi army soldiers routinely work with their U.S. counterparts. There is one important difference: the Iraqis have taken command of the controls. "It's a historic time for anyone serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Lt. Col. Steven Ramsay, Tallil Logistics Military Advisory Team senior advisor. "We have committed to turning over all operations to the Iraqi people and they are committed to taking over and succeeding." (READ MORE)

Mom on a Mission, Mother Visits Deployed Son - The last thing deployed service members expect is for a family member to drop by for a visit, which is exactly what happened to a 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Airman. Senior Airman Cody Noble, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, could not believe it when he saw his mom, Sgt. 1st Class Karen Hickman, U.S. Army, for the first time in more than a year when she dropped by during a distinguished visitor tour here, Aug. 31. (READ MORE)

Operation Care's Effort to Help - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Many service members deployed in Afghanistan and many of the Afghan people are at extremely remote places throughout the country that do not have basic accommodations. Operation Care is an organization on Bagram Airfield that receives donations of hygiene items, clothing, toys and comfort items for the troops and people of these places. (READ MORE)

Cracking on in Helmand - A cartoon was on the television but little Lilly grabbed the album and leafed through the photos of her father, the late Sergeant Lee Johnson. I was talking to her mother about his death, which I had witnessed in Afghanistan. When I saw Lilly up in Stockton-on-Tees last November, and I thought of my own young child, I struggled to reconcile my doubts about this war with wanting to remember Johnson’s death as honourable and meaningful. Even in chaos and dysfunction, the British army is good at preserving a belief in order and purpose. (READ MORE)

Afghan Vote Results Likely to Be Delayed - Afghanistan's volatile presidential election process moved closer to violent confrontation Wednesday, even as officials said releasing the final results from the Aug. 20 polls would be further delayed because of slow vote counting and an even slower effort to investigate hundreds of fraud complaints. The tension was exacerbated by a suicide bombing outside a mosque in the capital of northeastern Laghman province Wednesday morning. (READ MORE)

GOP May Be Vital to Obama on Afghan War - As President Obama prepares to decide whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, the political climate appears increasingly challenging for him, leaving him in the awkward position of relying on the Republican Party, and not his own, for support. The simple political narrative of the Afghanistan war - that this was the good war, in which the United States would hunt down the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks - has faded over time, with popular support ebbing, American casualties rising and confidence in the Afghan government declining. (READ MORE)

International Envoys Pledge Continued Support for Afghanistan - Senior international envoys vowed continued strong support for Afghanistan during strategy talks in Paris on Wednesday. This comes amid rising violence in Afghanistan and on the heels of the country's controversial elections. Senior envoys from France, the United States and about two dozen other countries and organizations met in Paris to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Speaking afterward, they pledged the international community's continued support. (READ MORE)

Deputy Chief of Intelligence Is Slain in Afghanistan - The second-ranking intelligence official in Afghanistan was killed by a suicide bomber on Wednesday morning, in an explosion that killed at least 15 other people outside the main mosque here in the official’s hometown, officials and witnesses said. The intelligence official, Abdullah Laghmani, was the deputy director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security and a prominent ally of President Hamid Karzai. (READ MORE)

In Afghanistan, Suicide Bomber Kills Intelligence Official at Mosque - In the most serious strike at Afghanistan's security apparatus since the presidential election two weeks ago, a suicide bomber Wednesday killed the country's deputy intelligence chief and at least 22 other people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place outside a mosque in Laghman province about 60 miles east of the capital, Kabul. Authorities said the blast occurred as the intelligence official, Abdullah Laghmani, and his entourage were leaving the mosque where they had gone to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (READ MORE)

The Army is Making the Same Old Mistakes in Afghanistan, Say Soldiers - Britain is failing to learn from the “military mistakes” made in Iraq in developing ways to defeat the Taleban in Afghanistan, according to a series of critical articles published in an internal army journal. One devastating contribution, from a former sergeant-major in The Parachute Regiment who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, also paints an alarming picture of soldiers and their families under huge stress from repeated tours. (READ MORE)

Setback in Afghanistan - Last Month we expected that Afghanistan's elections would mark a modest step forward for the country. Now it appears that they could be a major reverse. Though the election campaign was positive in many respects, Election Day itself is emerging as a disaster of relatively low turnout and massive irregularities - including ballot-box-stuffing on behalf of both incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his leading opponent. Unless the fraud can be reversed or repaired through a UN-backed complaints commission or a runoff vote, Mr. Karzai may emerge as a crippled winner, his already weak and corruption-plagued administration facing further discredit or even violent protests. (READ MORE)

Profiling the Messengers - Some good news from Afghanistan is that American commanders have wisely canceled a contract with a public relations firm accused of profiling correspondents with negative-to-positive ratings to help determine whether they may report in the war zone with troops. The Pentagon denies the profiling was ever used to deny “embed” credentials to reporters. But the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that the profiles were used in barring access to two correspondents who had fallen out of favor and in steering others away from negative reporting. (READ MORE)

Karzai Must Clean Up His Act or be Dumped - Some things don’t change. Such is the limited authority of the current Afghan Government that President Hamid Karzai is often, unkindly, referred to as the mayor of Kabul. This is not just a matter for the Afghans. British and American troops are being killed and injured in significant numbers in order to make Afghanistan safe for democracy. The current, unresolved, presidential election is making a mockery of that strategy. In part, the problem has been the poor turnout of the electorate, especially in Helmand and the south, where the Taleban appear to have been successful in intimidating voters. (READ MORE)

US consensus on Afghanistan begins to crumble - WASHINGTON: Weeks from President Barack Obama's expected move to send more troops to Afghanistan, the consensus behind the US commitment there is crumbling as some raise the specter of a new Vietnam. A growing number of experts doubt that the war can be won, while even Obama, who has already dispatched an additional 21,000 reinforcements there, contemplates a further troop increase and completes a strategic review. (READ MORE)

Heroin Destroying Lives At Home And In Afghanistan - I'm a heroin addict and I feel as if a piece of my heart is going to war in Afghanistan. I'm not using any more, but this war and my addiction are horribly intertwined. You see, my 23-year-old son, William, is a member of the United States Navy's elite Mobile Unit 11. The unit is heading for a newly constructed base in Afghanistan. And the enemy they'll face has everything to do with heroin. (READ MORE)

UK's Brown doing "badly" over Afghanistan, poll says - LONDON (Reuters) - A majority of British voters think Prime Minister Gordon Brown is doing a poor job in supporting his country's troops in Afghanistan and is heading for defeat at the ballot box, the Sun newspaper said on Thursday. In a front page article headlined "Casualty of War", the paper found seven in 10 voters think Brown's government is doing a "very bad" or "fairly bad" job supporting the 9,000 British soldiers in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Foreign troops to stay until Afghanistan safe enough - Foreign troops won't withdraw from Afghanistan unless the country's security was ensured, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday after discussing the Afghan issue with international envoys. Kouchner said at a news conference that the departure of troops was not an option unless the region was safe enough to benefit from international support such as agricultural, health and education projects, as well as from financial aid. (READ MORE)

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