September 4, 2009

From the Front: 09/04/2009

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

111 Infantry Recon: Out of Taji - Hello to all. I bring good news. We are currently out of Camp Taji, Iraq. We are awaiting transportation in baghdad currently. For security reasons, we can not divulge when we will be home. I ask you all to remain patient and contact the FRG with any questions regarding our homecoming. I am very proud of this platoon and what they accomplished. I know that we are all looking forward to coming home and seeing you. Take care. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Awesome Videos from July 4th Attack on COP Zerok - This is probably one of the best, if not THE BEST videos I have seen come out of country. This will make you proud, sad and in awe all in one video. This is from a famous battle that happened on the Fourth of July. I wrote about this attack and have the pictures up of the two paratroopers who lost their lives that day in this blog posting: Little did I know at that time, that they were both brave mortarmen which is what I was all of my career and little did I know what brave and awesome things PFC Casillas did on that day. He was truly performing heroically trying to save his fellow soldier and friend. He gave his life doing it. He more than deserves the Silver Star they have put him in for (posthumously). You will see in the videos below, both Casillas and Fairbairn working that 120 Mortar to get as much fire downrange as possible. This video is professionally produced, but interlaced with a lot of soldier’s video footage. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Rain and Ramadan in Afghanistan - Yesterday the dark clouds moved in and surrounded the mountain peaks. It would only be a matter of time until they passed over the camp. They moved so slow, it was like watching paint dry on the wall. In the interim, the ominous clouds were illuminated by flashes of lightning for several hours. I tried in vain to capture a lightning bolt with my camera, but my timing was off along with my ISO settings. In hindsight, I should have shot video and then extracted a frame. I’m still familiarizing myself with the camera features and didn’t think of that function at the time. Later on in the day, it rained a little bit. The guard tower reported 6 drops of rain. It wasn’t until after dark that we got more rain and even then it was a very light shower. But it was enough rain to wet the ground and restrain the dust. Since that shower, I have noticed a dramatic drop in temperature. Tonight it’s no longer balmy outside. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: How to get things done... - Brows furrowed, my battalion commander angrily punched keys as he scrolled through something that was currently giving him a migraine. Casually I leaned against the door jamb of his office and sipped my coffee (Kona of course). “Sir, what are you working on there?” I had put on an air of nonchalance specifically to annoy the CO, a graduate of VMI. I prefer to annoy Naval Academy graduates but I take what I can get; besides, the XO was a Naval Academy guy and his office was my next stop. As much as I’d like to say that the CO’s response was replete with colorful expletives it just wouldn’t be true. It was packed to gills with words like “darn” and “doggone” and things of that nature though. Despite this strange vocabulary I was able glean what had disturbed him that morning. One of our companies was manning a Point Of Entry (POE) on the border with Syria which for us is pretty much the ragged edge of the universe. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Workaholics - Deployment is a great refuge for workaholics. I have watched the work habits of leaders here and they do fall into two very groups. One roup tries to maintain a balance between work and relaxation time, whatever that relaxation is. The other group works themselves into the ground and, frankly, loves it. When a soldier is deployed, especially a leader, that soldier can leave all of the striving for balance and complexity of modern life behind. No spouse, no kids, no social obligations, no choice really on working out--it's part of the job. So for the person who really prefers the monomaniac lifestyle, here it is with no guilt. We show up at the motor pool at 0550 to get our work assignments. Most of us are eating breakfast outside out of plastic clamshell containers and joking around as the day begins. The mechanics work till 2pm or longer if the work dictates. The men who run the motor pool stay till 5pm, sometimes into the night. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Military Families Conference Wraps Up - The Defense Department’s Joint Readiness Conference wrapped up in Chicago Sept. 3. More than 1,500 attendees learned about military programs aimed at families. “I really like to know what’s going on in the services,” said Olivia O’Neal, site manager at Fleet and Family Support Center in Sasebo, Japan. “I’m one of those people who likes to see the big picture, and I know [the Defense Department] is big picture.” Topics included how children deal with a parent being deployed several times. “Multiple deployments and separations are taking a toll on the children. They affect everyone from infants to teens, as well as the spouses left behind,” said Karen White, the director of the child development center at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. “A parent may deploy when a child is 3 months old, and now is back, and the child is over a year [old] and doesn’t recognize the parent. That can result in reconnection issues.” (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: On Communications and “Strategery” - “It is time for us to take a harder look at “strategic communication. Frankly, I don’t care for the term.” - Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs Chairman - “Actions speak louder than words,” my 97-year-old mother is fond of saying. Adm. Mike Mullen seems to have embraced the wisdom of that aphorism, in his “From the Chairman,” essay in the current issue of Joint Forces Quarterly. “The problem isn’t that we are bad at communicating or being outdone by men in caves,” the Chairman writes, “No, our biggest problem isn’t caves; it’s credibility. Our messages lack credibility because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises.” Now Adm. Mullen is talking about matching words with deeds when it comes to fulfilling America’s military and moral policy commitments abroad, he’s not specifically talking about dealing with the news media at home. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan forces and Taliban clash in Kunduz - The Afghan government claimed that a senior Taliban leader was one of 15 Taliban fighters killed during an operation in the restive north. Engineer Mohammed Omar, the governor of Kunduz province, claimed that Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban's shadow governor for the province, was killed during an operation that was launched in the Qala-i-Zal district yesterday. But the Taliban denied that Salam was killed during the fighting. A Taliban leader identifying himself as Salam contacted Pajhwok Afghan News and said that the government's reports were false and that he would continue to fight Afghan and Coalition forces. Salam is currently number one on the Coalition's 10-most-wanted list for Kunduz province. He takes direct orders from the Quetta Shura. Earlier this spring, Salam was thought to have fled to Kandahar after ISAF and Afghan forces launched a series of offensives in the province. (READ MORE)

Boss Mongo: A Quick Thought - Haven't--and won't--be posting regularly. Am sitting in the MWR computer room, catching up on e-mails etc and trying to read the back-log on the usual blogs. One thought occurred to me as I read through two posts on Starbuck's blog; I don't think they were meant to be mutually supporting, but his post on technology's contribution to micromanagement and on force protection and risk aversion both tweaked at a thought I've been having for a while now: Why aren't we doing more long range patrols? Even the guys that are (or, more aptly, were) in small COPs and JSS' seem to punch a time clock. You go out, you do your patrol or day's mission, and you roll back in. Granted, these smaller posts don't have the amenities that the super FOBs do, but still, every troop knows that after a hard day's work (which is usually substantially longer than the eight-hour work day, granted), he's going back to his rack, to his iPod, to his latest edition of black belt magazine. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Butt-Fucking Quitters, Part I - What's all this quitting shit?? It's starting to piss me off. People's Exhibit One, previously aired here on the very pages of this august forum: "... Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable. ... So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters." Establishment conservative, indeed. That's his problem. The establishment conservative is the first to retreat, from anything and everything that threatens his standing in the local social circuit. "It" is NOT inconceivable; it is difficult, it is painful, it is necessary; it is in our vital interests. IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. (READ MORE)

our little {BIG} family: my thoughts about life - for today - So I'm not very good at letting people help me out. I don't know why for sure. I just struggle with it. I am needing help though. I don't know what kind of help - a babysitter, a maid, a friend. I don't know. All I feel like I really need is my husband. And no matter how much I complain and whine he isn't coming home. So why do I complain so much? I feel so empty without him. I try desperately to fill that empty feeling. I shop. I clean. I read. I get my hair cut. I try to change the situation I'm in, but I can't. And no matter what I do that hole is still there. And it hurts. This is the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. Ever. I hate it. And he's supposed to call tonight. He ALWAYS calls on Thursday nights. So why isn't he calling me? (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: An Anniversary - Today is an anniversary for me. One year ago today, I first stepped off the plane at Baghdad International Airport. I was nervous, excited, worn out from the trip, unsure of what to expect, and ready to go do something. All I knew for certain was that it would be an interesting time here. A year later, and that last part has certainly been true. I've worked for the State Department and now the Corps of Engineers. I've made a gazillion PowerPoint briefs, written information and decision memos, researched data, participated in way too many meetings, made some great friends, organized this and oversaw that, become an expert in the afternoon on things I didn't even know existed that morning, been under guard in the Red Zone and wandered freely in the Green Zone, and have not regretted a single moment of it. (Well, maybe some of the meetings). Whenever I go home, people ask me, "What's Iraq like?". I don't know how to answer that. It's hot. It sucks. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Air Strike in Kunduz - ISAF says it found hijacked fuel tankers near Kunduz, with no civilians around, so it bombed the two tankers. There are, however, reports of civilian casualties. There are some disturbing angles to this: supposedly, after McChrystal’s new rules of engagement, if pilots have any doubt about the presence of civilians, they are meant to hold their fire. It’s frustrated the Marines fighting in the south, but the intent is at least a good one. The Reuters story on the air strike, however, is disappointing: “‘After observing that only insurgents were in the area, the local ISAF commander ordered air strikes which destroyed the fuel trucks and killed a large number of insurgents,’ she said. ‘The strike was against insurgents. That’s who we believe was killed. But we are absolutely investigating’ reports of civilian deaths, she said.” (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Strategic Disaster of Helmand - The on-going saga of operations in Helmand, which have lacked strategic or historical coherence, is a somewhat old story for readers of this blog. However, Prospect Magazine has one of the strongest condemnations of the campaign I’ve yet seen: “Under siege that first summer (of 2006), the British defended their ramparts with heavy weapons and air power. The fighting reduced parts of Sangin to rubble, destroyed Musa Qala’s mosque, and drove the population out of other towns. Almost no meaningful reconstruction was carried out. The base at Musa Qala was eventually abandoned in a truce with the Taliban, but during the winter of 2006-07 the British clung on elsewhere. General David Richards, then Nato commander in Kabul (and now incoming head of the army), later told me that hanging on to these outposts had little strategic impact beyond helping to save face with the Afghans…” (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: "We should not presume to question Afghans' aspirations for democracy" - You stick by your friends, particularly in times of trouble: “Sour voices from off-stage are pointing out that Afghanistan's poll was flawed, that elections do not make a democracy and that the West is fixated on elections as a measure of progress. In reality preparations for the election reflected the ad hoc and inadequate international commitment to reform. For example, the consistent failure to build the capacity of Afghanistan's Electoral Commission greatly contributed to the voter fraud seen during the election. We should not glibly despair that such failings are inevitable but instead robustly question why we have provided such limited resources for such achievable tasks. "It might be a tall order to create a model state in Afghanistan. But we should not presume to question Afghans' aspirations to this end.” (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Journal: The politician from Kandahar - KABUL Malalai Ishaq Zai is a women from Kanadhar who during the Taliban rule retreated to her house and taught girls who had been banned from schools how to stitch clothes. Today, she is a elected member of the Afghan parliament. That puts her in opposition to the Taliban in this southern province that remains the stronghold of the spreading insurgency. She also is an outspoken critic of incumbent president Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun who has plenty of support in that Pashtun Province where his family has deep roots. All of this puts Malaai Ishaq Zai in a kind of double jeopardy amid the turbulent political currents in Afghanistan. So, perhaps it's not too surprising that around the Aug. 20 presidential election she received numerous death threats over the phone as she returned to Kandahar to help monitor the voting. (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Bazaar - I am sure you have a mental image of a Bazaar in your mind; small mud built structures amongst winding small streets or something similiar. Our bazaar on Camp Shaheen is not necessarily like the model bazaar. It is a group of tarps and tables with various stuff for sale and occurs every other week or so. The sellers of carpets, wooden boxes and jewelry are regulars. Of course there are the knock off brand electronics, movies, and sunglasses familiar to any servicemember for sale as well. The hardest part is the price negotiation. If I were buying something that I was remotely familiar with, such as a toothbrush, I would have an idea where to start the process. But I really have no idea what Afghan goods go for around here. If I become too frustrating, the shopkeeper usually has me just name some price. I usually try to start with an amount which is low, but not insultingly low. I would guess that I am still not starting low enough though. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Can UAV's Win a War? - In the course of a Washington Post editorial this morning that bemoans the alleged ballot-stuffing and other irregularities that marred the recent Afghan election—which apparently shocked the board, who seems to be the only ones not to see that coming—the paper takes a swing at one of its own columnists, pushing back against a piece earlier this week by it’s own George Will. Will wrote that U.S. forces should pull out of Afghanistan in favor of a plan that relies on drone, cruise missile, and airstrikes against selected targets, combined with incursions by “small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.” What Will ignores is exactly what he would hope to accomplish with this shift in tactics, other than killing some Taliban and al Qaeda commanders, which as we’ve seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t have a huge effect on the operational viability of dispersed, decentralized insurgent groups. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Afghanistan Drug Raid Snares Border Police Commander - A drug raid in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province in July netted a huge stash of hashish and opium — and led to the arrest of an Afghan Border Police Commander. This recent high-stakes raid, confirmed by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, involved a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) team and Afghan counter-narcotics agents staging an ambitious helicopter-borne assault in potentially hostile territory. Equally important, the bust also revealed how intimately some Afghan officials are involved in the drug trade. The operation, which took place on July 18 in the Argestan District of Kandahar Province, resulted in the arrest of Border Police Commander Shar Shahin. The operation kicked off after Shahin was lured to Kandahar Airfield, where he was placed under arrest, along with five bodyguards. Once the mission was triggered, a task force that included a DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team and members of Afghanistan’s National Interdiction Unit, set out for its objective, a compound suspected of being used as a drug storage point. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Is There A Victory? - A blogger friend, military supporter whose husband has served in this war, asked what victory looks like in Afghanistan. It’s a good question, and one that I think is probably in more minds than just hers. So I’m going to take a whack at answering it. First, I never really think in terms of “victory.” There will be no grand surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship in this conflict. Insurgencies don’t die in a horrendous bright flash of light and culminate in a giant sigh of acceptance of defeat. They dwindle and starve, become a criminal problem, and finally fade out largely from lack of interest. Twenty years from now, former insurgents will own shops and other businesses and live relatively obscure lives here in Afghanistan. Some may even be in government. No, I don’t use the word victory. The words that we use are important, and they are powerful. They evoke images. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: on the roof of Jalalabad - I’m sitting on a concrete ledge about 4 stories high in the shade of the water tower looking out through a remarkably clear day across Jalalabad. And I’m writing this post from waaay up here, my connection via a local meshed node through various hops which find their way (automagically) to the FabFi1 long haul connection out through the GATR which beams my message into orbit and back and finally finally to a server at MIT in Cambridge MA. It’s so very cool. What’s cooler is what’s happening around me. The water tower is super crowded with people and even more FabFi. It’s a party! Our goals for today are to replace and upgrade every existing FabFi connection and add two more ~3.5km each. Right now it’s a mess of people in salwar kameez’s schooching past each other on the narrow ledge carrying router boxes, reflectors, rope, cables, meters, and so on in every direction. Every now and then there’s a shout followed up something getting thrown UP to the top of the tower, or slightly comical attempts to convey what needs to be fetched from below. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: An Air Strike, a Fireball, and More Civilian Casualties - A NATO airstrike in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province last night claimed dozens of lives, and the coalition is trying to sort out how many of the casualties may have been civilian. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is now investigating reports that civilians may have been killed when an aircraft targeted two fuel tankers that had been reported stolen by insurgents. According to an ISAF news release, the strike was directed at insurgents, but the New York Times, quoting local officials, reports that the attack also killed civilians who were siphoning fuel from the trucks, which were stopped at a river crossing. Several items are worth noting here. First, the incident must be reviewed in light of ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s tactical directive, which says air strikes can only be employed in “very limited and prescribed conditions.” McChrystal has won praise for talking about a “population-centric” approach, but incidents like this — and the way they are perceived by Afghans — will be a serious test for the coalition. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: War Sucks - War, friends and neighbors, sucks. I could use a better term then "sucks", I suppose - but here in the world of the early 21st century it's one that can be widely understood. I can offer you a well thought out, intellectual argument supporting that statement. It would be full of undeniable supporting facts, numbers, and statistics. I can reference experts throughout history to buttress my points. I can appeal to your better emotions, too. I can describe atrocities - better yet, I can show you pictures and video and save myself the effort. I could crush any argument that anyone would dare to present in a feeble attempt to refute my irrefutable point: war sucks. And I'll present that argument - the moment anyone dares to speak up in opposition and presents some intellectually or emotionally tantalizing counter to that simple, two-word truth. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: My Daughter's Shirt - Just recently, I ferried a request for records from a surgical patient we helped at our former practice. At first I didn't remember them, but after looking through their charts, it all came back. Cancer. We'd cured her. But the request for records signaled problems. I quickly sent off the charts, and wished them good health. I think of all the patients we had over the years --ones we saved and others we shepherded through to a more dignified end. Some of them left an imprint on us. And then I opened the email. The Hubs sent me a photo...I knew that shirt. It had been our daughter's, and now a little girl in Afghanistan was wearing it in the hospital unit. I wish this shirt could be a Talisman. Because unlike Daughter, she hasn't gone to school. She hasn't lived a life free from fear that she'd be blown up, maimed or that her family members might disappear. This little girl was born into chaos. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: Outside The Bubble - (The companion photo essay and videoclips to this story can be found here .) I could hear Kabul, the cacophony of car horns, traffic cops yelling through bull horns, screeches, engines. But I could not see Kabul. I could not feel Kabul. I was sitting in the courtyard of the Serena Hotel under a pine tree. The padded outdoor chair was comfortable. The view of the rose bushes and manicured lawn was delightful. Inside, the hotel was truly five-star quality. Quite possibly one of the finest hotels I have ever been in and the best I have ever stayed the night in. The food was safe for even the most delicate westerners. The linens were clean. The thick terry cloth robe and slippers were perfect. I was in a bubble. A bubble many westerners find themselves in. They live in compounds or FOBs or fine hotels. They move about the city behind tinted bullet proof glass. (READ MORE)

3rd Time, New Country: Traveling Sailors... - Another week has passed and on top of the normal everyday mentoring at NMH, I have been back to NDS hospital and visited a new hospital, Kaisha. The trip to NDS was both good and bad. Good in that I finally got to observe a surgery and bad because I did observe a surgery. NDS is a new hospital, but much needs to be done to improve their nursing practices to bring up their standards of care. Surgery is done in the same manner as NMH. Nursing is both an art and a science, both of which need to be taught here in Kabul. In my opinion, nurses don’t “see” the patients, all they see is what is going on with the patient. If you ask a nurse here what the patient’s name is, they wouldn’t be able to answer, but if you ask the nurse what is wrong with the patient, I think they could give the main diagnosis. For example, I observed an open cholecystectomy (open gallbladder removal) at NDS. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

GRD brings clean water to Wassit province - WASSIT, Iraq – Residents of the Hay Al Jihad community in southern Iraq’s Wassit province are enjoying a clean, ample water supply thanks to their local government and its partnership with the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. “We are very happy today to open an important project that will directly impact this community,” said Lateef Hamed, Wassit governor, during the Aug. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $1 million, 200-cubic- meter Al Jihad water compact unit facility. (READ MORE)

Greywolf brigade breaks Ramadan fast with Iraqi Police chiefs - MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi Police chiefs from throughout Ninawa province and 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, gathered at Forward Operating Base Diamondback for an evening “break-fast” Ramadan meal Aug. 31. The meal was a gesture of friendship by 3rd HBCT, who provided food and drinks comparable to what the police chiefs would have eaten had the meal occurred in their own homes. (READ MORE)

School project to benefit Iraqi children - QADISIYAH — “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)

Civilian Surgeon Flies With Air Force Medevac Team - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Sept. 3, 2009 – Air Force medical evacuation airmen had the benefit of flying with a leading U.S. trauma surgeon during a recent mission to Iraq as part of a program to link military and civilian medical professionals. Thomas Scalea, physician in chief at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, flew aboard a C-17 Globemaster III transport jet on an Aug. 19 and 20 aeromedical evacuation mission to help to shape future training for military medical teams worldwide, Air Mobility Command officials said. (READ MORE)

Two Unclaimed Boys - MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan– There is nothing more depressing than seeing a child’s body in a morgue. Correction, there is one thing more depressing. Seeing an unclaimed child’s body in a morgue — a body that doesn’t even officially exist. Sitting in Laghman Provincial Hospital, following the blast that killed the deputy chief of Afghan intelligence and at least 15 others, the director of the health service in the province assured us that all the victims of the Taliban bombing in Mehtar Lam had been adults, a small mercy. (READ MORE)

Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force - The military’s anticipated request for more troops to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort there, officials said Thursday. Even before the top commander in Afghanistan submits his proposal for additional forces, administration officials have begun what one called a “healthy debate” about what the priorities should be and whether more American soldiers and Marines would help achieve them. (READ MORE)

Gates May Be Open To Troop Increase - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates indicated Thursday that he is open to increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan, voicing a shift in his position as the administration ponders a military assessment expected to lead to a formal request for additional forces. Gates, in a briefing at the Pentagon, also defended the US mission in Afghanistan, rebutting suggestions that it is time to pull out. (READ MORE)

Gates Open to Sending More Troops to Afghanistan - In the face of declining public support for the military campaign in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday offered strong backing for the war effort and said he was open to a further increase in the size of the US force. Gates' willingness to consider additional troops represented a shift that is likely to boost Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, who is seeking administration approval for more reinforcements. (READ MORE)

Obama Urged to Rally Support for War - The White House is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers to work harder to rally flagging public support for the war in Afghanistan. With casualties rising, the administration is struggling to persuade voters that the war can be won or is worth the human and financial costs. Afghanistan is President Barack Obama's top foreign-policy priority, but recent polls show that a majority of voters oppose the war for the first time since the conflict began eight years ago. (READ MORE)

Brown Says UK Troops to Stay in Afghanistan - Britain's military will stay in Afghanistan until it can look after its own security, Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to say in a speech Friday, dismissing a call from one of his government's defense aides to begin planning a pullout from the country. In a major speech on Afghanistan intended to shore up flagging support for the war there and answer critics of his defense policy, Mr. Brown was due to tell Britons that "we cannot walk away." (READ MORE)

Scores Feared Killed in Blast After Afghan Airstrike - NATO forces were investigating whether they killed scores of Afghan civilians on Friday after carrying out an air strike against two hijacked fuel tankers and causing a big explosion. The incident in the northern province of Kunduz could reignite outrage against foreign troops, two months after the new commander of US and Afghan forces in the country announced measures to reduce civilian casualties, which he said were undermining the war effort. (READ MORE)

Can the US Lead Afghans? - The Afghanistan debate is increasingly focused on two words: troop numbers. Those numbers certainly deserve serious attention as President Obama decides whether to raise them even further this year. But in Afghanistan, as in past counterinsurgencies, it is important to remember that all troop numbers are not created equal. When it comes to indigenous forces, quality often matters more than quantity, and quality often declines when quantity increases. (READ MORE)

In Afghanistan, No Choice but to Try - We are seeing the stirrings of a cross-ideological revolt against American military involvement in Afghanistan. On the right, some who accepted the Cold War as a great moral cause view the war on terror as a bother - even as a dangerous excuse for global social engineering. Such tinkering, the argument goes, is particularly doomed in Afghanistan, brimming with warlords both primitive and invincible. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Is Not 'Obama's War' - In his column for the Washington Post on Tuesday, the influential conservative George Will provided intellectual fodder for the campaign among some Republicans to hang the Afghanistan war around the Obama administration's neck. Washington, he wrote, should "keep faith" with our fighting men and women by "rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan." (READ MORE)

Time for a Strategic Retreat? - When President Kennedy was assassinated, there were 16,300 U.S. fighting men in Vietnam. Their status had been upgraded from advisers to the South Vietnamese army to warriors. Five years later, when President Johnson decided the war was unwinnable, following the Tet offensive and Walter Cronkite's verdict the war was unwinnable, there were 536,000 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. (READ MORE)

C-130 Missions Drop Supplies to Afghan Villagers - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2009 – Villagers in a remote area of northern Afghanistan recently were the latest recipients of an Air Force high-altitude airdrop mission that drops tons of supplies to those in need. The Georgia Air National Guard 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron that flew the Aug. 26 mission deployed from the 158th Airlift Squadron, Savannah, Ga., and delivered eight bundles of humanitarian aid from a C-130H Hercules. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Assessment Looks to Defeat al-Qaida - WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2009 – Enemies of America remain in Afghanistan, and the United States must stay there to defeat the terrorists, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. That is the focus of President Barack Obama’s regional strategy announced in March, Gates said. The secretary said he is studying the assessment Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, submitted earlier this week. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke during a Pentagon news conference. (READ MORE)

Gates, Mullen Urge Patience In Afghan War - Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen do not believe it is time for the U.S. to get out of Afhganistan. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday, that he doesn't "believe that the war is slipping through the administration's fingers." (READ MORE)

Darling attacks resigning aide's claims over Afghanistan strategy - Alistair Darling today rejected criticism of the government's Afghan strategy from a parliamentary aide who resigned last night. Eric Joyce quit as parliamentary private secretary to the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, and told Gordon Brown public support for the war would collapse "unless politicians are seen to treasure those who fight for us". (READ MORE)

Calm - then sudden death in Afghan war - DAHANEH, Afghanistan (AP) - The pomegranate grove looked ominous. The U.S. patrol had a tip that Taliban fighters were lying in ambush, and a Marine had his weapon trained on the trees 70 yards away. "If you see anything move from there, light it up," Cpl. Braxton Russell told him. Thirty seconds later, a salvo of gunfire and RPGs - rocket-propelled grenades - poured out of the grove. "Casualty! We've got a casualty!" someone shouted. A grenade had hit Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard in the legs. (READ MORE)

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