September 8, 2009

From the Front: 09/08/2009

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

Maj C: Afghanistan Video Update 7SEP09 (VIEW VIDEOS)

Fightin' 6th Marines: RCT-6 is headed out - Well, our time has come to pack our bags and head back to the United States. We have all enjoyed our time here and really appreciate everyone's support. I hope you enjoyed reading our stories because we really enjoyed writing them. Semper Fidelis! (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Eight Years After 9/11 - 08 September 2009, Helmand Province, Afghanistan - Just before the mission, soldiers form up near the memorial for our fallen. The mission was simple. Taliban had been watching FOB Inkerman and British patrols from various compounds and we were going to occupy those compounds and pick a fight with all comers. The mission is set to begin just at sunrise, so soldiers use white lights because night vision will not be needed. (We are still well within the base.) The sounds: Muffled discussions, metallic clicks and snaps, and the sound of gear being stuffed into rucksacks. A soldier can be heard taking a long inhale from a cigarette. The tip grows brighter and he pauses; the tip dims and he exhales while quietly talking at half volume. The task was very dangerous and we expected a fight. Ross Kemp, the famous British journalist who shot a documentary here, did a fine job in catching the truth of the Green Zone. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: It Takes Two To Tango - The Associated Press did something absolutely heinous today, but before that a photographer did something absolutely heinous. Without either one of them, the fiasco of today would never have happened. Today the AP decided to publish a photograph showing a mortally wounded Marine struggling for his life on the battlefield. They claim high-minded purpose. “NEW YORK — The Associated Press is distributing a photo of a Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.” Bullshit. It’s about money, folks. Pure and simple. The same thing for Julie Jacobson, the photographer who was embedded with the Marines the day that LCpl Bernard was mortally wounded. Let’s see how she justifies this: (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Point Illustrated - You are unlikely to see a strong reaction from the Marines on the publication of a photograph of a mortally wounded LCpl Bernard. There are a number of reasons for that, I think. I must add first that I am surprised that they are not upset that the family of one of their fallen was totally disregarded in this action. I always thought that the Marines were family, and that the family of their family was, well, family. They are probably going to remain out of the fray, though. One of those reasons is that they don’t have to. Plenty of others will raise a cry and hue for them. My initial reaction was powerful and gut-level; but then it’s time to look at the reaction and the reasoning behind it. First, the disregard for the family’s well-known wishes was disregarded. It was weighed against the standards that the AP finds important and, in the end, found less compelling than their business interests. Cold? Indeed; but there was a reason that the approval was first sought. (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: "I like America," says thrice-deployed soldier - "When I go home, I'm going to stay home," the young sergeant said. We were sitting in the dark on top of a hill. This was his third deployment to Eastern Afghanistan. "What about another deployment?" I asked. "Only if I have to." "So you never want to visit another country again?" "Nope." "What about on a vacation? Cancun? Europe, the French Riveria?" I asked, what of the world beyond switchback roads and goat herders? "I like America," he said. There's something sad and poignant about a young guy who's only experience travelling abroad is deploying to a war zone. As if he sees the rest of the world as a disfunctional, semi-dangerous pile of stones, behind which hide men who are trying to kill him. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Soviet Tank graveyard - Yesterday was Jumaa and some time off. Internet connectivity has been horrible lately, so I used the down time to catch up on some reading, cleaning, and relaxing. Towards the end of the day I was supposed to meet a group of guys and take a hike to ANA land. I heard stories about a Soviet tank and artillery graveyard and have seen them at a distance, but I wanted a closer look. Well the team didn’t show up except for Gary, a “Georgia boy”. Since we are required to have a “battle buddy” at all times, this would still suffice. We loaded our weapons and proceeded to ANA land. The ANA complex covers a pretty large territory and the path we would trek was around the outer perimeter. As we strolled along, we walked past a fenced in area that appeared to be a junkyard. But inside the metal enclosure, there were old rusted Soviet tanks and destroyed armored personnel carriers. I squeezed my camera through the wire mesh and snapped a few photographs. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: Thoughts on the rating of journalists - If you follow military news you probably heard the dust up last week when Stars and Stripes revealed that US Forces Afghanistan had contracted the Rendon Group, a Washington based P.R. firm, to perform media analysis functions that included reviewing journalists past work and measuring it as positive, negative or neutral. These reports were then used by the military commands to prepare for an embed or interview and, it seems in some rare cases, to actually deny an embed for some journalists. Needless to say these "shocking" revelations caused a stir in certain circles including among those of us in the military public affairs world. Personally, I found two troubling aspects surrounding the whole affair. First, why is a DoD funded publication, though ostensibly independent but staffed by military civilians and servicemembers, exposing confidential reports and using anonymous sources to embarrass a military command? (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Through Amber Lenses, A Light - At times he must have been no more than two hundred feet from me, but I never had the privilege to meet Jordan Shay. Together we chewed up the most inhospitable terrain on earth, and back on Ft. Lewis, we worked daily in the same dilapidated Korean War era barracks. The only connection I shared with Jordan was through the comments section of his blog, which I keep linked on the top of the page under our unit crest. Though our companies faced a heated inter-battalion rivalry, Attack Company was always in the thick of combat with my company, Battle. They shouldered a far greater burden than us, sustaining eight KIAs to our two. Jordan, at 22 years old, saw more combat than a lot of crusty old vets before he could legally buy a beer. For his second combat tour with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, Jordan started a blog to chronicle his experience. He named it Through Amber Lenses, the color of his sunglasses. He wanted to explain to the world what he saw with a bright amber tint. (READ MORE)

Tim Hsia - At War: History Lessons and Counterinsurgency - United States military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have often been criticized for ignoring the lessons of history. It is frequently commented that the United States is following a well-traveled deadly course that Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviet Union have paved. While there are important lessons to be learned from history, it seems the frequent use of historical analogy occasionally leads into a trap that a history instructor of mine at West Point was fond of saying: “history does not repeat itself, historians do.” There are multiple differences between the American military’s current campaigns. Most apparent are the intentions and actions of the United States as there are no ambitions of expanding an empire, gaining access to natural resources, or spreading an ideology. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan for American and NATO troops, has stated that the primary mission of the military is to protect the populace and establish good governance. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Afghanistan Redux - I have just finished reading a very interesting, instructive, and provocative book entitled “The Story of the Malakand Field Force – An Episode of Frontier War” by Sir Winston Churchill. It was his very first book, written in 1897 when he was a 22 year old subaltern (lieutenant). The subject of the book is the British expedition to put down the 1897 rebellion by the mountain tribes in the northwest frontier region of India. This area is now part of the Northwest Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan, directly bordering Afghanistan. It also happens to be one of the critical areas in which we are currently engaged against Al Queda and the Taliban. For that reason this book should be of particular interest to anyone interested in the current war in Afghanistan – yet I have not seen it on any COIN reading lists or mentioned in any anthologies. I found it quite by accident, while looking for something else. (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Bird of Peace - In this land that has seen so much conflict there is very little in the way of wildlife. I am sure that the harsh environment also limits what can be supported off this rugged land. Other than some grasshoppers and spiders, it seems that little else exists here. The notable exception is the Dove. Yes there are pairs of doves all over the camp. Nesting in the bathroom gables, flying about the camp in search of food. I guess they eat the grasshoppers. You can hear them cooing from early morning until late at night. They seem to thrive in this otherwise desolate area. The Bible mentions the dove over 50 times. Many times it is mentioned as a sacrifice. We first hear of the dove as Noah's scout for dry land. Perhaps the first amphibious landing? The dove is described as innocent and cautious. It is used symbolically when Our Lord Jesus rose out of the water from his baptism the Holy Spirit settled on him like a dove; the bird of peace and the Prince of Peace together. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan...: Odyssey - Only when working for the government would you travel 21 time zones west to get to a point 3 times zones to your east. Our diplomats really need to get to work on China so we can fly over that country. If we could have overflown China, we'd have gotten home a day and a half earlier and felt much better on arrival. Instead, we flew from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan, spent a night there and then continued to Germany, Alaska and Okinawa. Upon arrival in Okinawa we dropped off some of our sister teams, spent a few hours at a reception and then resumed our journey. From Okinawa it was still nearly a day's trip to get back to Hawaii, stopping in Tokyo. On the plus side, it is always nice to intermingle with the Japanese, however superficial our interaction with them may have been on our short stay. And fortunately the plane was mostly empty so plenty of room to move about, although this fact is part of why we had to fly so far... (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Battlefield Promotion - I was promoted to Staff Sergeant today. I was selected for one of a handful of coveted Battlefield Promotions. Battlefield promotions are given out only in the combat theater and are given out to soldiers who have shown exceptional merit and leadership. Basically, you have to already be promotable, be operating at/or in a higher paygrade, and have shown competence in that job. The leadership of your unit puts you in for the promotion and everyone all they way up through the chain of command has to agree on it. Any officer in the chain of command can deny it. I am feeling pretty good about myself I guess. Its certainly a great award, but beyond that its some validation that I am doing a good job in my position here, and not just as a flight medic. It also means that I am being observed, however. Basically this is a fast track promotion that came to me in the secondary zone, two years ahead of entering my primary zone. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Couple Finds Courage to Seek Help - I posted a blog entry a few weeks ago about the importance of seeking help when needed. I met a couple at the DoD’s Joint Family Readiness Conference this week who brought that point home for me. Ryan McNabb, of the Evanston Vet Center in Illinois, and his wife, Mandy, attended the conference to brief attendees on counseling services for veterans. The couple spoke from experience. Both former sailors, they had sought counseling to deal with the aftermath of McNabb’s two deployments to Iraq. Ryan later was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time, the couple had separated from the Navy and was living with Mandy’s parents. Broke and on the job hunt, Ryan fought feelings of frustration and anger. “I knew something was going on,” he said. “But with vets normally, once you need help, that’s when it gets scary.” (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Caregivers Discuss Deployment Issues - Seeking an “on the ground” perspective on how military families are coping, I spoke with several military family care providers attending the DoD’s Joint Family Readiness Conference, which wrapped up Sept. 3 in Chicago. I asked each to provide an outlook of daily life at the installation level. In particular, I wanted to know which issue is foremost in family members’ minds. The conference participants all responded with a common theme: dealing with deployments. Karen White, the director of the child development center at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., noted that “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.” She has a first-hand perspective since she works in a child care center. “A parent may deploy when a child is 3 months old and now is back and the child is over a year and doesn’t recognize the parent,” she said. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Animal House: The Real Story (Updated) - You have to admit that the current guard force at the U.S. Embassy Kabul know how to get attention. The rash of stories which broke last Wednesday were amusing to say the least. The story broke with a news release from a group called “Project on Government Oversight” (POGO) who had received pictures and written complaints from a group of contractors at the embassy and given the nature of the pictures it went viral. I was the project manager for the first group of civilian contractors who relieved the Marines (weapons company 2/6) at that embassy in 2005. At the time the contract called for 146 expatriates, 245 third country nationals and around 75 local Afghans. There are things I know which I can not discuss in an open form but let me tell you this; there are serious serious, problems with that contract which have little to do with the behavior highlighted in the tsunami of international coverage. (READ MORE)

From the Halls to the Shores: Pictures - The milblogs are buzzing over the last day regarding the decision by the AP to release a photograph of a mortally wounded Marine in Afghanistan over the objections of both the DoD and, more importantly, his family. Some have taken the tack that not only should the picture never have been released, it should never have been taken. While I thoroughly agree that it was wrong to disrespect the wishes of the family, you may be surprised to know that I am somewhat more forgiving when it comes to the capturing of that moment for the historical record. You see, I am a bit of an amateur historian. Maybe it was because my family took me on too many trips to Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields when I was a kid. These trips often included us walking through row upon row of headstones looking for the family name carved on one of them at an age where it was one of the few things I knew how to spell and could call out “I found it.” I found military history interesting then and find it fascinating now. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: One of the toughest building sites in the world - A brand new, purpose-built Forward Operating Base (FOB) has been completed in one of the most isolated regions of Helmand, giving the soldiers living conditions a much needed boost. FOB Shawqat in Nad e-Ali has been constructed by soldiers from 38 Engineer Regiment in an old fort that the British Army last used in the 19th century. It replaces FOB Argyll 300 metres down the road where conditions were pretty rough. The new FOB has taken six months to build and will allow the Brit soldiers based in the area to improve security in the local district. Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, Commanding Officer, 38 Engineer Regiment, said: "It has to be one of the toughest building sites in the world; sweltering hot and dusty in the summer, freezing cold and wet in the winter, and then there is the small matter of the Taliban shooting at you whenever they get a chance.” (READ MORE)

Iron Camel: Delicacy is French for Something Weird - Another meal is upon us. Our General invites us to a surprise Iraqi diner. They say it’s a delicacy but won’t tell us what it is. Just a tip: Delicacy = something weird that you would never dream of eating in a million years. After the fasting period of the day is over (It’s still Ramadan), we pile into the General’s dining area and sit down to another feast. On the table in front of us are dates, roasted tomatoes, yogurt, bread, soup, kabob and the main course, lamb head. I know. Me too. My mouth just started watering, but not in the, “Man I can’t wait to get that Double Whopper” kind of feeling. It was more of the, “What the hell was I thinking” kind of feeling. In my head I flash back to the scene in Funny Farm where Chevy Chase is oblivious to the fact that he’s eating lamb testicles and he’s going for the “Lamb Fry” record, “Call me Mr. Lamb Fry!” Not one to insult my hosts, I dig in pulling meat off of the face of the lamb... (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Labor Day - So how does a motor pool sergeant in Iraq spend the Labor Day holiday? 0442--alarm goes off. I was up late, almost midnight, and had trouble sleeping because I slept late Sunday morning (10am). I hit the snooze button and got up at 0447. Stumble to the latrine, shave, stumble back (150 yards each way on gravel), get dressed. 0530--ride to chow hall. Get breakfast to go so I can put it in my backpack and eat at the motor pool: bacon, biscuit, french toast, cinnamon roll. I ride with a large coffee mug. 0600--motor sergeant opens the gate. he is usually at the motor pool at o540, he slept late. 0610--my team gets its jobs for the morning. I have three mechanics today. Two replace the starter on a bus. One replaces the tire on a trailer. I pump 30 gallons of diesel into our generator. It is a hand-operated pump. It takes 7 minutes, so I listen to a New Yorker podcast on my iPod while I pump the handle. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Married Sergeants Who Really are Friends - I wrote the following for a military publication but wonder if these two are not interesting enough that I should try to send the story to People or something in that vein. Please email, comment, let me know what you think. ngussman@gmail.com The names are changed, but their real names, first and last, all begin with M. When a husband announces at lunch or a party, “My wife is my best friend” within the next 15 minutes he will prove beyond doubt, usually with other guests exchanging knowing smiles out of his view, that she is nothing of the sort. No definition of friend, let alone best friend, will cover the complete lack of shared interest and activities he will blithely go on to describe. [SIBEBAR: Our Amazon Adventure Tour] Nick and Nora Nordstrom never mentioned friend, best friend, or anything of the sort during the hours I spent with them. She is a sergeant first class, the maintenance platoon sergeant for Delta Company, 2-104 General Services Aviation Battalion. (READ MORE)

Omar - Iraq the Model: Presidency council criticizes Maliki over standoff with Syria - Iraq's leaders seem very uncomfortable with what they consider a monopoly of decision-making by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Iraqi presidency council called for "containing the situation with neighboring Syria and for cooperation between the two countries to resolve disputes through dialogue and diplomatic channels". A statement released after the council's meeting in Sulaymaniyah stressed the need to do what is in the best interest of both countries and to prevent "enemies" from using one country against the other. The presidency council includes president Jalal Talabani and his deputies Aadil Abdul-Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi. The statement sounds like an attempt to water down Maliki's attitude toward Syria "the call for considering terrorist attacks as crimes against humanity and the proposal to form an international tribunal for this purpose is not about Syria, but about terrorism as a whole". (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Not the Time to Quit - People in Baghdad want to know what comes next. They still ask who was behind the Aug. 19th terror attacks, and they fear the next one. Many also worry about being abandoned by the U.S. Nobody but the killers is sure who was behind the recent bombings. But Iraqis know that it's a sign of things to come. The Nouri Al-Maliki government accuses Syria; VP Adel Abdul Mahdi says not Syria. Others say it was al-Qaeda. The Sunnis say Iran did it. Iran supporters say the ex-Baathists did it. One ex-Baathist told me: "No way, the Baathists are too classy to explode suicide car bombs." I swear that's the first time I've ever heard the words "classy" and "Baathist" in the same sentence. Iraqis know that governments of neighbouring countries don't want success for Iraq. And the Iraqi people know that the United States appears to not care. Michael Young wrote about the ho-hum response of the U.S. spokesman when asked about the Iraq accusations that Syria was behind the terror attacks. The spokesman gave some canned sentence. Why? (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Update on Mudville - The place I’ve been calling Mudville, vaguely in the eastern part of Jalalabad, is known as Base Eckmunblahblah. It means “military logistics area” and is owned by the Department of Defense. I’ve forgotten the word exactly - today’s new vocabulary includes reshwat (bribe), tofa (gift), bakshish (tip, alms, gift-for-something-you-did-or-’cause-you’re-poor) - but just like the name implies, the residential population are considered squatters and not welcome to rebuild. It’s the kind of story that just makes you sigh because what else can you do? Long long ago the land was government owned military use land, then during the time of the war - during the mujahadeen times, the folks that seized power gave the land to people who promptly built houses. The recipients were already wealthy people and continue to be even wealthier now. These recipients don’t have the cleanest hands but no one will talk about that stuff outright. But now you get why I was learning the subtle differences among gifts, bribes, and tips. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: that scene with the kite and the cookies - The sun set over the hindu kush and softened the dusty sky into hues of pastels. The sun was low enough in the sky that it was a distinct fierce red-orange flaming ball racing for the jagged mountain range. I raced up the ladder to the top of the water tower one handed, holding a pile of cat-5 cables and a linksys router in my left hand. All Afghans were keeping one eye on the sun and were licking their dry, parched lips. We wanted to reprogram the router and get back to the roof top at SR’s house before iftar, the evening meal which breaks the ramadan fast. Step, step, awkward let-go-and-grab-the-next-rail, step, step, let-go-and-grab, step, step… cripes this is a tall tower. The ladder is steep and I have to climb slightly askew, turned to a side so my knees and shins don’t crash in to the rungs. Finally at the top of the tower I find Keith, Talwar, and H sitting at the very top surrounded by a forest of bigger FabFis. (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: After Further Review: The AP Photo Controversy - While I was weighing the implications of the decision by the Associated Press to distribute a photograph of a mortally wounded Marine, my colleague Tim Ricks, over on his blog, was rendering a quick and unequivocal verdict. He ruled the AP’s action “wrong” and “morally indefensible.” The dying marine: What the hell was the AP thinking? – The Best Defense, Sept. 5 Now I don’t take lightly the prospect of disagreeing with a respected military reporter like Tom Ricks. In fact I don’t disagree with Ricks at all when it comes to the final call. I am of the same opinion that the AP should have withheld the picture, as least for a time. As Ricks says, “What was so urgent that it couldn’t wait a few weeks or months, until the family had had a chance to mourn?” But I do part company with the esteemed Pulitzer prize-winner and self-described “1st Amendment fundamentalist” on his harsh judgment that the AP’s decision, was in his words “morally indefensible.” (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Soldier Writers: Don't Sell Yourself Short - I've noticed a lot of books being written by soldiers as of late. A part of me feels as though some of these have been rushed to print, and many are going the route of Print-On-Demand. Each year, I go to the LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA. It's a great weekend with loads of famous authors who've written books on everything from politics to poetry. All of the publishers, book stores and even CNN's book notes is there. Around 100,000 people show up every year for the 3 day event. It seems one segment keeps growing. And that's the number of self-published authors who rent booths for $350.00 in order to sell their books. The come prepared with books, DVD's, press kits... and all too often we see them not selling as much as they had imagined. It's gotta hurt. After all, they've paid to get their book in print. They want to recoup their investment --but not only that, they want recognition for their hard work. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: The 4th Man - I found this post this morning on one of the many memorial pages for Micheal: Mike, It's been the greatest honor of my Military career to have met you. I only wish I would have had the chance before pulling you out on 24FEB08. I will always honor you as a hero! It was signed and an email address given. I have written the gentleman. For over a year now I have tried to find out who else was in the vehicle with Micheal. I know 3 of the 4 others who blessedly walked away from the blast. the 4th man was not with Micheal's unit. They were giving him a ride. I don't know if the man who left this is that man but I think maybe he is. When I told a friend about having possibly finding that 4th man they did not understand I was thrilled. I now have the chance to thank and possibly, if needed, comfort him. But more than that this man had a hand that day in helping my son.. giving him a chance to survive. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Abuse by the Media - Yesterday evening I was told about L/Cpl Joshua Bernad. I had read his name in the DoD releases and knew he had been killed fighting in Afghanistan. I did not know that the AP wire service had made a decision to release pictures of this young man after he had been injured. The family begged them not to release the pictures. Sec. of Defense Gates sternly advised them not to release the photos... but they did it anyway. No concern or care about the emotional impact this would have on the family who is already grieving and in so much pain. My heart broke for this family. Then I became furious. I refuse to link to the pictures. I will respect the family's wishes on that matter. Joshua is my son's brother... they served the same Nation. They wore different uniforms but they shared a like minded pride and need to protect the innocent and free the oppressed. Joshua's family is now on the same painful path of grief I am and share with many others...they too are now my family. (READ MORE)

The Life: Leaving Home Again - Sitting at home on the last day, watching the hours and minutes slip away as you inch closer and closer to the inevitable. Staying up all night to try to get as much time as possible with loved ones. Being tired, feeling drained, and having the weight of five more months ahead of you as you arrive at the airport. Seeing the pain in your loved one's tear-filled eyes as you give her one last hug and kiss and walk into the terminal. Leaving home yet again for the Army, hopefully for the last time, was just as excruciating as every other time. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike - Two senior al Qaeda leaders are among those thought to have been killed in the Sept. 8 Predator strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Ilyas Kashmiri and Mustafa al Jaziri may have been killed during the strike in the village of Machi Khel near Mir Ali. Unmanned US strike aircraft are reported to have hit a car and a madrassa in the attack, The News reported. Initially five Uzbeks from the Islamic Jihad Group were thought to have been killed, but the report was revised to two Arab al Qaeda members, three Punjabi jihadis, and two or three local Taliban fighters killed. Mustafa al Jaziri is a senior military commander for al Qaeda. "Jaziri sits on al Qaeda's military shura [council]," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. "He is an important and effective leader." Jaziri is an Algerian national. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan kills 63 extremists in Khyber airstrikes - The Pakistani military said 63 more than extremists were killed during operations against the Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber on the fifth day of operations in the tribal agency. Today's reported casualties put the number of Lashkar-e-Islam fighters killed in the operations more than 120. Pakistani aircraft targeted strongholds of the Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley, killing 63 fighters during separate engagements. The Lashkar-e-Islam is commanded by Mangal Bagh Afridi, who has established a Taliban-like state in regions of Khyber. "Our forces targeted a headquarters of Lashkar-e-Islam and about 15 militants were killed in the attack," a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps told Dawn. More fighters were reported killed during other strikes. On Sept. 1, the Pakistani military launched an operation against the Lashkar-e-Islam, and has been razing the homes of Lashkar-e-Islam fighters and commanders. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 7 Sep 09 - Well I didn’t get lost on our land nav course… as a matter of fact my team was the first team to finish the course…we rock …it was rather easy…we did some “dead reckoning”—that’s just finding a degree, or heading, and staying on a straight line for however many meters—for example, we headed from point A in the direction of 19 degrees for 380 meters, we ran into a sign with some alpha-numeric code on it, wrote that down, then headed 121 degrees for 670 meters to another sign, wrote the code, then back close to the starting point…basically just something to familiarize us with the fundamentals of using a compass and counting our paces to figure out distance…then we had to use a map with terrain features to find certain points…again, pretty easy, especially since we had the exact grid coordinates already stored as waypoints in our GPS…the last course was mounted land nav—“mounted” means in a vehicle… (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: A Day in the Life - This is a post to show what a normal day in my life is like here at Joint Base Balad Iraq. I don’t claim that everyone’s day is just like mine. But this is the only life I’ve got, and so one day I took a lot of pictures, depicting a normal day for this JAG attorney here at JBB. My day normally starts around 6AM. The sunlight wakes me up, as it gets light around 5:30AM. There’s nothing to do in my containerized housing unit (CHU), and so I throw on my physical training (PT) clothes, and walk out to start my day: Here is the row of CHU’s where I walked pretty much every day this year, on my way out the door: I normally go to the bathroom at the Rec Center. Even at 5:30 AM, there are always people in there using the wireless internet here. I just use the bathroom, shave, and then continue on. The first major stop of my day is at the H-6 Cyber Caf√©, where every single day I make a call to my family back in California. Here is a shot of me at a row of phones around 6:30AM: (READ MORE)

More Than An (Army) Wife: Finding the "Welcome Home, Stonewall" Dress - I'm so excited because my Grandma is taking me shopping on Wednesday to look for a "Welcome Home, Stonewall" dress! I checked out the store websites for all the stores near us and I found quite a few dresses that might be the perfect "How hot is your wife?!" dress. My favorite two are the light purple flavored and pink flavored (yes, I said flavored) dresses. And then, of course, we have the second part of the, "Welcome Home, Stonewall!" outfit. You thought I was going to say shoes, didn't you? What?! It's been a whole year, people! I want to look damn good for the entire welcome home affair. (READ MORE)

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: Back to the beat... - Vacation was great. Accomplished everything I had wanted to do; spent time with the family, saw international soccer action, ate good food, visited new places. Now, it's back to work. I feel rejuvenated and ready to finish out the last 3 months. I did a small photo release on some mechanics the other day and it got me back in the groove, somewhat. It was a good reminder for me of how dedicated, disciplined and knowledgeable Soldiers are. They show consistent professionalism and take pride in serving their country. Being around Soldiers anytime is special, but being around them when they are working in their area of expertise is a privilege. I plan on doing a lot more stories on vehicle mechanics because they are busy and have a variety of work to do that is interesting. I'm hoping to develop stories towards a Mechanic's Corner type of news, where the reader can learn basics and advanced technology practices. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Gaze In The Military - I've spent a lot of time with the Army of the United States, not to mention the Navy, but this is, I think, the first time I've been shoulder-to-shoulder with the Air Force in large numbers. Allow me to state, in the most professional terms I can muster, that the US Air Force has enlisted and commissioned a, uhhh, very high quality of young American. And they, uhhh, present a most striking appearance in uniform. All in the strictly professional sense of course. Yes, well. Ahem! So if you pass a stall in the men's room one day, see a pair of USMC boots under the door and hear someone whistling "Wild Blue Yonder," it might be someone you know. (And all kidding aside, they're all doing a damn fine job out here on the pointy end of the spear, in a host of assignments and missions.) (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Should I Stay or Should I Go? - George Will generated lots of heat and light on the prospects for success in Afghanistan this week with his editorial advocating a withdrawal. A couple of observations on the debate from my vantage point: 1. Readers of my blog (you two know who you are) recognize that I'm sometimes sentimental but never overly optimistic. But I really do believe that we all can believe in Afghanistan and the team NATO has assembled to help this country. Michael O'Hanlon and Bruce Riedel responded to Will with a Wall Street Journal op-ed that identified what's going right with Afghanistan. Aside from those facts, there's also the important matter of tone. For example, Friday morning's bombing of stolen fuel trucks outside Kunduz, which undoubtedly killed at least some innocent civilians, appeared to be another argument for the war's opponents: the same tired cycle of death, destruction and Taliban propaganda fueling a never-ending insurgency. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: ‘Protecting the People’ Probably Doesn’t Mean ‘Attacking Hospitals’ - When Medicins Sans Fronti√®res abandoned Afghanistan in 2004, its primary complaint was that the U.S. had, in effect, “militarized” aid by embedding aid workers in military units—the Provincial Reconstruction Teams—and ruining the supposed neutrality of purely civilian aid groups. After five of their workers were murdered, the group declared the situation had become intolerable and closed up shop. This was partially right and partially wrong—in almost any other conflict, the argument would have been a perfectly valid one, but the Taliban’s refusal to meaningfully distinguish between civilians and soldiers in its many campaigns of violence sort of nullified the point: MSF’s workers had been the target of violence in Afghanistan for years, but that had never prompted the pullout (and they had operated in areas that were far more violent without a pullout, too). (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: A rocket on a Ramadan night - KABUL -- The rocket attack Sunday night seemed so random. In this city of more than 2.5 million people, maybe there was some target and the rocket fell short. Or maybe the rocket was launched just to sow some misery. The rocket struck a cement-walled home along a dusty side street of a modest residential neighborhood that seemed far away from the war zone. The home was rented by an engineer, who lived there with his wife and their two young daughters. The family had retired to the bedroom as another holy day of Ramadan came to a close. About 9:30 p.m. one rocket flew overhead. Some 20 minutes later another hit, this one exploding in the family's bedroom. Ali Ahmad Afshari, a laborer who lived next door, was one of the first on the scene. "I called engineer, engineer. But there was no answer at all," he told me. Afshari went into the neighbor's bedroom. He put the wounded engineer over his shoulder and carried him outside. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Gratitude - I got a comment on one of my posts asking for my address for an organization that writes to soldiers. I signed up on their website, thinking I’d get a letter or two, so you can imagine my surprise when I found at least 20 letters and 2 packages on my desk when I came back from leave – none of them from friends or family, or anyone I knew for that matter. The team of women involved in Ladies of Liberty/Soldiers’ Angels is amazing. Not only did they brighten my day, but their letters invited me into their lives as I learned about their kids, jobs, pets, hometowns. I spent two hours yesterday responding to my letters. It’s so nice to hear that people back home are thinking of us over here, and genuinely want to brighten our day. I wish I could have written them all two pages of details on what I’m doing here, but I didn’t have the time or wrist strength. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Home At Last…Camp Patriot? - The fresh Pennsylvania air. The green grass. Seeing family for a first time in 8 months. Delta company finally has come back and is relaxing in their homes. Done with deployment…finally. Wish I could say the same. Meanwhile, back in Kuwait I find myself on the worst detail ever. With me are over 200 soldiers from the rest of the 56th SBCT. Our mission, wash all the vehicles in order to clear customs before sending them back to the states. Before I continue with my Kuwait talk, I’d like to mention more about Delta’s reunion with family but since I wasn’t there, I don’t anything to say. Fortunately I was emailed some video links of the news broadcast. My internet is too slow so I’m yet to view these videos. Hopefully they’re good. Back in Kuwait, this wash rack detail finds me in Camp Patriot. Camp Patriot is an American naval base found within a Kuwait Naval base. Camp Patriot is tiny! (READ MORE)

The Angry American: September 4, 2007 - Two years have passed since the men in 2-1 took their final ride. In the lead on a hot September day they drove right into eternity. SGT Joel Lee Murray, CPL Duncan Crookston, CPL David Lane, and SPC Randol Shelton may they never fade from the memories of the peoples lives that they touched. 2-16IN recently redeployed to Northern Iraq. I know that the men from 2-1 will once again be sitting in over watch to see them safely through their deployment, as they did with ours. Not to long ago Val sent me a link to a website for David Lane please take your time and check out. It paints a nice picture of David who was the goofy one of the group, definitely the goofiest guy out of the whole platoon. He had the ability to make anyone laugh no matter how tired or mad you were David could put a smile on your face. I recently spent sometime looking at a memorial page for Joel Murray. How much Joel had touched peoples lives and how much his wife loves him. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Another TOA - Now that I’m the NCOIC of the 17th Fires Brigade public affairs office, I get to attend another transfer of authority ceremony. I do like ceremonies, but once you’ve seen one of these you’ve seen them all. They aren’t challenging from a photography or video standpoint. You know which shots you need. The story shoots itself. It was my job to escort the local media onto the COB. I was lucky enough to be the one in charge when the local media decided they’d had enough of us and walked off the COB. Really, I was working on getting them onto the base and as I get back to the bus their ringleader announces he’s tired of being treated this way and wants to go home. I can’t think of when I’ve been more embarrassed in my life, but this has to be a top 5. Maybe my sister, wife and mom can conspire to come up with an Adam top 5 most embarrassing moments. I can’t go into detail over what happened because some very capable officers are trying to mend fences. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my...: Rocket Attack! - I'll start this entry with a pretty funny story that was told to me by our ortho surgeon Sonya. She said that the other day the fire alarm went off in the chow hall, which is a common occurrence and everyone usually just looks around to make sure we don’t have to evacuate the building. Well this particular day I assume the building was full of new arrivals to the area, the alarm went off and she said that about 70% of the personnel hit the floor and climbed under the tables thinking that it was the rocket attack alarm! She said what was funny about the whole situation was when a guy with a strong southern accent said, “Hey dumb_ss_’s, that’s the fire alarm” and everyone slowly got back to their seats, a little embarrassed! I don’t know if that’s funny to any of you, but I think that it’s hilarious. Pictured is me driving the ball at Doha Resort Golf Course, and the second one is of me on a C-17 Aircraft in darkened out conditions on our way to Qatar for R&R. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: COIN AIN’T CHEAP: WARLORDS AREN’T WARRIORS AND HIGH-TECH DON’T WORK - In the era of Donald Rumsfeld the theme of military operations was war on the cheap. High-tech and proxy fighting through warlords would lesson the footprint on the ground and allow the US to win wars on the cheap. The invasion of Afghanistan was heralded as the blueprint of the future of warfare; special forces backing up warlords by calling in PGMs would win future wars and keep Afghanistan under wraps -- on the cheap. After all, some had argued that even George Washington was considered by some, at the time, to be a warlord. Eight years later, the warlords have failed to keep Afghanistan under wraps and after elections that are plagued with accusations of fraud, Afghanistan appears to be at the edge of an abyss. There were several problems with the Rumsfeld approach: George Washington was a warrior not a warlord; COIN cannot be done on the cheap; high-tech does not work in COIN: (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: A little behind, but... - The big news in Afghanistan this week is centering around a NATO airstrike which is said to have killed over 90 Afghans, some of them militants, but unfortunately, many of them bystanders. For the past few days, my knowledge of the subject has only been headline-deep, as a.) the news stations seem to be picking up on a number of stories completely unrelated to Afghanistan and b.) contrary to popular belief, most troops don’t talk strategy in the dining facility. (Just look back to my “dining facility” coverage of the Iranian elections). Fortunately, a lot of smart people have begun to cover the airstrike, which was carried out by an American F-15E, and called in by German troops. The best coverage of this topic comes from Andrew Exum, who has provided many scathing critiques this week on many (but not all) of the NATO contingents operating in Afghanistan, particularly the German Bundeswehr. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Fighting for Real Estate in Helmand Province — Or Losing Focus? - MIANPOSHTEH, AFGHANISTAN – Just about every day, the Marines of Echo company trade bullets with the local Taliban. The troops set out on patrol, until the militants shoot at them. The Marines seize compounds, waiting for the Taliban to try to seize them back. But Echo didn’t come here to get into gunfights, company commander Capt. Eric Meador insists. These Marines arrived in Mianposhteh two months ago to win the allegiance of this farming community by providing some basic security and economic development to the local people — part of top U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes swaying populations over killing enemies. The trouble is, Meador and Echo are too busy fighting the guerrillas here to execute McChrystal’s “soft power” approach. In one day in late August, Echo had six different incidents of “troops in contact” — milspeak for servicemen under fire. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Attacks in Iraq Take Aim at Checkpoints - Insurgents detonated bombs and threw grenades on Monday at or near six Iraqi police and army checkpoints, in assaults on the most visible deterrents the Iraqi government has to attacks. Yet, from the viewpoint of Iraqi security officials accustomed to levels of violence unheard of in most of the rest of the world, the deadly attacks were a sign of progress. After a captured insurgent leader described a truck bomber breezing through several checkpoints on his way to the Finance Ministry last month, the Iraqi government said that vigilance at all the country’s checkpoints would be stepped up. (READ MORE)

Suicide Bomber Kills Eight in Ramadi - A suicide car bomber targeted a line of vehicles stopped at a checkpoint in western Iraq on Monday, killing eight people and wounding 16, police and hospital officials said. The car exploded as vehicles were waiting to be inspected before crossing a bridge near the provincial capital of Ramadi, a police officer said. The dead included three policemen; the others were civilians, he added. An official at Ramadi General Hospital confirmed the death toll. (READ MORE)

Iraqi vendor fair sets stage for Iraqi business success - BAGHDAD – A vendor fair for Iraqi businesses seeking to do work with the United States was held here late August to educate Iraqi business owners on the process that is required to win coveted contracting jobs. The Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq uses the Joint Contracting Command- Iraq, or JCCI, to solicit bids from competing Iraqi contractors for all types of projects. JCCI handles the legal documents and ensures that there is a level playing field for all participants. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces “enforce the law” in Rashaad Valley - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— A joint operation between Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police dubbed “Enforce the Law VI” was carried out in the Rashaad Valley, Kirkuk province, Iraq Sept. 2. This was the first mission entirely planned and conducted by IP and IA in the Rashaad Valley, said Capt. Jesse Prince, commander of Troop A, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. (READ MORE)

Detainee release program a success in Kirkuk - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— A detainee release program in Kirkuk City, Iraq, which began in March in accordance with the Strategic Framework and Security Agreement between the Government of Iraq and U.S. forces, has resulted in the release of 165 detainees at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk. Members of the provincial council have taken responsibility for all released detainees and have begun programs to help them successfully reintegrate into society, said Capt. Erin Barrett, the provost marshal for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. (READ MORE)

Comics bring laughs to Joint Base Balad - JOINT BASE BALAD — U.S. service members were treated to a night of good comedy and laughs when the "Comics Ready to Entertain" tour made a stop here, Sept. 4. Stand-up comedians Scott Kennedy, Mike Pace and Bob Kubota performed for hundreds of grateful Warfighters at the base's east side Morale, Wellness and Recreation center. (READ MORE)

Sun purifies water in remote region - BAGHDAD — In an effort to provide a better quality of life for the citizens of Iraq's Ma'dain region, U.S. paratroopers here put their time and energy into learning how to set up and operate a solar-powered water filtration system, Sept. 5. Paratroopers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division- Baghdad implemented a self-powered, energy efficient water filtration system to provide the area's residents fresh, clean drinking water. However, for this system to be effective, regional leaders need to be shown how it works. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Crux of Afghan Debate: Will More Troops Curb Terror? - Does the United States need a large and growing ground force in Afghanistan to prevent another major terrorist attack on American soil? In deploying 68,000 American troops there by year’s end, President Obama has called Afghanistan “a war of necessity” to prevent the Taliban from recreating for Al Qaeda the sanctuary that it had in the 1990s. But nearly eight years after the American invasion drove Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan, the political support for military action that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has faded. (READ MORE)

For Obama, A Pivotal Moment in Afghanistan - President Obama must decide in the coming weeks whether a greater investment of troops and resources in Afghanistan is worth the political risk if Americans do not soon perceive better results on the ground. Obama's national security team will debate recommendations from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, for a continuation, with some adjustments, of the aggressive security and nation-building effort the administration has put in place. (READ MORE)

Evidence of Ballot Fraud for Karzai Forces US Into Action - Evidence of electoral fraud on behalf of incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai has become so overwhelming, some US and Western officials say, that they are scrambling to avoid a potential political crisis if he claims victory. Afghanistan's election commission decided Monday that it will release a complete preliminary tally from the Aug. 20 presidential election, including votes tainted by fraud charges but not disqualified, a commission official said. (READ MORE)

Germany Faces Scrutiny Over Afghan Airstrike - A US-German rift over a deadly airstrike in Afghanistan on Friday escalated, as US commanders accused the German military of undermining guidelines that seek to avoid civilian casualties. US military officials questioned why the German army had called in an airstrike when German troops weren't under fire from insurgents, as well as German forces' intelligence that led them to think civilians wouldn't be hurt. (READ MORE)

In Germany, Political Turmoil Over Ordering Of Airstrike - German lawmakers demanded explanations Monday for how and why their soldiers in Afghanistan, normally restricted to peacekeeping duties, triggered a NATO airstrike that killed approximately 100 people. Political fallout from the attack jolted Germany's election campaign just weeks before the vote and threatened to sour relations with the United States. Aides to Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would address the German Parliament on Tuesday... (READ MORE)

Afghan Reaction To Strike Muted - When US warplanes bombed two stolen fuel trucks in northern Afghanistan early Friday, causing an explosion that incinerated civilians as well as insurgent fighters, the incident could easily have turned into a propaganda opportunity for the Taliban. Instead, popular and official reaction to the lethal airstrike has been far more tolerant than after similar past incidents. There have been no angry demonstrations against Western occupiers, and no blistering condemnation by President Hamid Karzai or local authorities. (READ MORE)

Last Orders for Troops Arriving for Daily Duty with Hangovers - After a NATO airstrike killed as many as 125 people last week, General Stanley McChrystal was keen to get the situation under control - fast. When he tried to contact his underlings to find out what had happened, however, he found, to his fury, that many of them were either drunk or too hungover to respond. Complaining in his daily Commander’s Update that too many people had been “partying it up”, General McChrystal, head of International Forces in Afghanistan (ISAF), banned alcohol at his headquarters yesterday... (READ MORE)

The Afghan Stakes - So George Will has noticed that Afghanistan is a backward place ill-suited to nation-building, and Nicholas Kristof thinks that war is a tricky, dirty business, and Tom Friedman is hedging his bets on yet another conflict he once supported but which now disturbs his moral equilibrium. Thus do three paladins of the right, left and center combine to erode support for a war that, if lost, would be to the United States roughly what the battle of Adrianople in 378 A.D. - you can look it up - was to the Roman Empire. (READ MORE)

Will Obama Fight For Afghanistan? - Perhaps this summer's record bloodshed did it, or perhaps it was the disappointment of the election, with its low turnout, accompanying violence and allegations of fraud. Whatever the reason, the Afghan war is suddenly at the center of political debate in several Western countries. At stake are not merely tactics and strategy but a far more fundamental question: Should we still be in Afghanistan at all? Given how different the political cultures of North America and Europe are sometimes alleged to be, the similarity of the arguments is striking. (READ MORE)

US uses cash to win hearts - DAHANEH (AFGHANISTAN): The US Marines came uninvited to Abdul-Hamid’s home in this southern Afghan town and made their presence felt. They blew holes in the mud walls that surround the several small buildings in his family’s compound, broke through rooms hunting for weapons and militants, and handcuffed and blindfolded the men. Their main target: Abdul-Hamid’s neighbor and the neighbor’s sons, all suspected insurgents. (READ MORE)

Afghan election officials defend vote-counting - KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission sought to reassure voters Saturday that it was impartially tallying the results of the August presidential election. The IEC was mainly responding to accusations by Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to President Hamid Karzai, who wants a second term in office. Abdullah is Karzai's former foreign minister. (READ MORE)

EU foreign ministers discuss Afghanistan - The civilian deaths in the Kunduz fuel tanker strike and growing public doubts about the war in Afghanistan have dominated a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Sweden. Luxembourg said the civilian deaths were an unacceptable catastrophe, while Britain admitted such attacks endangered the future of the NATO-led mission. Some are beginning to question the current strategy. (READ MORE)

Dems signal resistance to Afghan troop increase - WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are signaling that any push by the White House for more troops in Afghanistan probably will run into resistance. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. must focus more on building Afghan security forces. That view was endorsed by Sen. Jack Reed, who is also on the committee and spent two days in Afghanistan this past week with Levin, D-Mich. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry Spokesman Denies Deployment of Israeli Forces at Afghan Borders - TEHRAN (FNA)- Afghanistan's Defense Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi on Saturday dismissed reports on the deployment of Israeli forces at an Afghan border garrison. Asked to comment on media reports claiming a US-Israeli deal to use an Afghan border post by Israeli forces, Azimi told FNA that such reports are "sheer lies" and "baseless". (READ MORE)

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