September 10, 2009

From the Front: 09/10/2009

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

Maj C: Afghanistan Video Update 9SEP09 (VIEW VIDEOS)

Old Blue: Arming Counterinsurgents - The Counterinsurgency Training Center – Afghanistan is growing, and its role in propagating the doctrine of counterinsurgency, or COIN, across many organizations is growing. Students of counterinsurgency from every branch of the United States Military, all of our NATO and Coalition allies, and most importantly Afghans from government, the Afghan Military, Afghan National Police and even non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) are being trained in counterinsurgency every week. Some of this training is conducted on site at the CTC-A, while other training is carried directly to the units and organizations in the field. The curriculum is reviewed each month in a constant process of refining the presentation of materials to keep the training relevant to the current conditions in the theater. New tools are reviewed carefully for applicability. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: The Germans are too Drunk to Fight - It hit the wire this morning… GEN McChrystal banned the sale of alcohol at the military alliance’s Kabul headquarters after becoming frustrated when he had trouble getting in touch with some of his staff after the attack in Kunduz. Many news outlets have reported this, story to include some like The Ledger: However after doing some digging I have found out the truth behind all of this. See the MSM leads the reader to believe that the “Staff” are the General’s American staff that helps him. But that is not the case. I have found out from my sources that the people who were drunk, hung-over and unable to perform their duties in a timely manner were in fact German military members at the ISAF HQ. The US staff at the ISAF HQ was sober and had their wits, but when they tried to communicate to the German military members in order to get information from the German military members stationed in the Kunduz area that had cleared the air drop, the US forces were unable to make contact. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Three Years Later - I got a surprise email today from my good buddy Scooter, wishing me a Happy Alive Day. I was surprised, and then I realized I should not have been as I guess it has stuck with him as much as it has stuck with me. See, three years and one day ago I had one of many close calls, and the first of several “Alive Days” that I had during my one year in Afghanistan. Below is the blog post called “Twenty-Five Feet Made the Difference” which was originally published on Sept. 9th, 2006. “I have labored over the last 24 hours on how to write the following blog entry. See I know a lot of people are following this blog now, many more that I don’t know then I do know. There is my wife and kids, my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and many friends I am close to through my years in the military and civilian sectors. There are also people following this blog that are here in country on the same mission I am on, some that are coming to A-stan on the next rotation in 2007 and parents and loved ones of other soldiers that are here.” (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Darulaman mission-Part One - Its 0430 hrs (4:30 am) and the annoying beep of my alarm clock reminds me it’s time to wake up and prepare for another mission. I was proactive the day before and stored my rucksack in the HMMVW and shaved before going to sleep. The stubble on my face didn’t have much time to grow. All of these proactive measures would permit me enough time to eat a hot hearty breakfast and pacify my coffee tooth. Today we would be part of an 8 vehicle convoy. Only 2 of my ETT teammates would accompany me as I was their HMMVW chauffeur. The twist in today’s mission was we would travel a route that had never been driven before. After departing the camp, we later turned down a dirt side road through the market area. The locals stared at us as we passed by. The vendors were carefully arranging their fruits and vegetables as they put them on display. A butcher was skillfully using a hatchet on a goat’s carcass and children dressed for school were meandering in the streets. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Duralaman mission-Part 2 - The first landmark that came into view stood out majestically from the hilltop. This was the infamous Tajbeg Palace or more commonly known as the Queen’s Palace. It was constructed in the early 1920’s and built for the queen during King Amanullah’s rule. Later on that day we toured (self-guided) this palace and learned more about its historical significance. On Dec 27, 1979, after cutting off the communication networks in Kabul, the Soviet army stormed the palace (Operation Storm 333) with around 700 soldiers and executed President Hafizullah Amin, family members and approximately 170 personal body guards. Thus began the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. During the first year of the occupation, the Soviets killed over 11,000 anti-Marxist opposition citizens. This only added fury to the resentment of the occupation and led to the formation of the mujahideen. For the next 10 years these warriors lived in the mountains and constantly attacked the Soviet army and their resources. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: Trust squandered for a photo - I learned long ago the old saying that where you stand on an issue relates directly to where you sit. I am an Army officer with 4 combat tours and now serve as a public affairs officer. A big part of the job of a PAO is to serve as the liaison between the media and our military units. With that perspective the AP decision to publish the photo of the dying Marine last week was a foolish mistake with second and third order effects that won’t be seen in Washington or the Pulitzer Prize committee room. They will be seen in the fields, pomegranate groves and villages of Afghanistan and Iraq where life and death decisions are made daily and mutual trust is the most precious commodity. For those unfamiliar with the issue, last week the AP decided to publish a package of photos out of Afghanistan including one of a young Marine named Joshua Bernard as he lay dying after being hit by an RPG while on patrol. (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: Water, water. - The pics brought me right back. Some things sounded just the same. I'm sure they are still lining up for Mongolian BBQ night at DFAC 1 every THU night. It sounded like the same pirated movies and crappy souvenirs are for sale in the Iraqi Bazaar. A few things seemed different. The article described a new sewage treatment plant. When I was there, they used to collect all the poopy water in a big pit (near DFAC 1) and then pump it into tanker trucks to be spirited off base to an unknown destination in the night. I read how the water treatment plants produced 1.9 million gallons of water each day for washing, and bottled 7 million bottles of water a month for consumption. That fast fact reminded me of how I packed at least a liter of water no matter where I went over there. Whether it was in my Camelbak bladder or just a bottle I grabbed on the way out of the DFAC, constant hydration was a way of life. It's actually taken me a long time to break this habit here at home. (READ MORE)

John Burns – At War: Those Who Aid War Journalists - Sultan M. MunadiSultan Munadi is dead, and a British paratrooper whose name we may never know. There may also have been other Afghan casualties, perhaps Taliban, perhaps not; that we also don’t know yet, for sure. But from where I am writing this, on a sunny autumn afternoon in rural England, the deaths of Sultan and the British commando seem like a grim black cloud darkening the landscape –- a harbinger, perhaps, for the increasingly grim news that seems to await us all from a war that seems to be worsening by the day, and heading for worse yet unless our political and military leaders can find a way to turn the situation around. Behind these deaths lie complex and highly emotive issues for those of us who have traveled to war zones for The Times and other news organizations, involving our responsibilities for the lives of the locally employed people who make it possible for us to operate in faraway lands... (READ MORE)

Stephen Farrell - At War: The Reporter’s Account: 4 Days With the Taliban - Mid-to-late morning on Friday, Sept. 4, we in the Kabul bureau began hearing reports of an explosion in a Taliban-controlled area near the northern city of Kunduz. It was clear that this was going to be a major controversy, involving allegations of civilian deaths against NATO claims that the dead were Taliban. Furthermore, it was in an area that was becoming increasingly newsworthy because it was becoming more troubled by insurgents. My colleague Rich Oppel and I began discussing the story, and I forewarned the Afghan staff that they should at least begin thinking about logistics for a possible drive north, for a decision to be taken later. The drivers made a few phone calls and said the road north appeared to be safe until mid- to late afternoon. It was close to the cut-off point, but if we left immediately we could do it. We left within minutes. (READ MORE)

WO1 Michael Fay: Almost There - I'm down to the last few additions to this sculpture. For all intents and purposes this piece, titled "The Grenadier", is finished. Originally it was going to be simply a Marine rifleman. But last week, thinking about my own battlefield experiences, I decided to put a pomegranate in the figures' right hand. During Operation Steel Curtain, while standing in a bombed out garden, I tried my first pomegranate. A heavily damaged pomegranate tree had a few ripe fruits clinging to its leaveless branches, and I decided to give one a try. It was delicious; despite the seeds you need to navigate around. But what does adding a pomegranate have to do with changing the piece? What you're looking at here is the grenadier standing next to a heavily damaged pillar. The ground is scattered with chunks of concrete, spent shell casings, leaves and a branch with a solitary pomegranate still attached. The Marine has an M16A4 with a M203 grenade launcher attached. Why change the figure to a grenadier at the last minute? (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Gates Asks Military Parents for Input - Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 8 to meet with military parents and learn about the issues they’re facing, particularly in regards to their children’s schooling. The visit was a great demonstration of how much defense leaders care about our military families and how they are striving to understand the issues they confront on a daily basis. Donna Miles, a reporter for the American Forces Press Service who covered Gates’ visit, wrote the following blog for Family Matters about the meeting and the issues and concerns that were discussed: When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wanted to check into the state of military schoolchildren he went directly to the experts: the parents who’ve seen their kids adjust to regular moves, family separations and the stresses of deployments. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 2 YORKS begin deployment to Afghanistan - Around 400 soldiers from 2 YORKS are starting their deployment to Afghanistan. The troops were waved off by loved at left Weeton Barracks in Lancashire and will soon be working side by side Afghan national Soldiers as they train them to take on their own security. "Working hand-in-glove with the Afghan National Army provided a great opportunity to both develop and learn from the Afghan soldiers,” said Major Robert Palfrey, Officer Commanding A Company. “They are highly motivated, capable and experienced fighters. This task is widely recognised as some of the most important and rewarding work being done in theatre at the moment." For 2 YORKS this is the second tour of duty in Helmand and many of them will be veterans of Op Herrick 7 which started in October 2007. Once in Afghanistan the troops will form part of 11 Light Brigade, which replaces 19 Light Brigade this October. (READ MORE)

Houston Central: Our Sweet Reunion - Reunited and it feels so goooood. That was us about one month ago. Yes it was amazing...Yes we had the time of our lives...and yes, sadly, the time FLEW by! Jon's visit started with what seemed like the longest day of our lives because his flight status kept changing ...he was supposed to arrive at 3pm...and in the end he arrived at 9pm. I know it doesn’t seem like a long delay, but believe me, it WAS! We had a small group of friends and family there to greet him. I kept watching the clock when 9pm rolled around because he was supposed to walk down that airport escalator around 9:10...so when my friend Scott said, "Angela, Angela look...." This is what happened next!!! (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? - "I'd rather be digging a damn ditch than sitting on my ass in an air-conditioned office pushing FRAGOs." That was one of the first things Staff Sergeant Laura Beaufort said to me when I met her walking across on open area in a sandstorm. She is a cheerful, imposing, funny woman of 43 who joined the Army Reserves on a whim just before 9/11 and now has an intense love-hate relationship with life in camouflage. Until last month SSG Beaufort (not her real name, of course) was the sergeant in charge of the convoy training school here on Camp Adder. She taught troops how to drive and fight in convoys and how to best use the ungainly MRAP fighting vehicles that are now the standard troop carrier across Iraq. She loved convoy training and extended her tour. When she did the unit she went to decided her training as a military police officer would be best used processing FRAGOs--the daily changes to orders that bubble through the military system day and night. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Worst Day Yet - While I sat in the military airport, waiting for my flight to Afghanistan, I wrote a post on what I was afraid of. Because it’s so painful and permeates everything else, my most poignant fear was an encore episode of debilitating depression. But soldiers, over time, have a tendency to get too confident, comfortable, and complacent. Combat complacency can get you blown up or shot. Mine put me on the floor of an empty GP-Medium tent, in tears. For most of my time in Afghanistan, I could hardly remember how I felt when I wrote the following in my journal: "I’m sitting in the food court and I feel stupid, like everyone else has life figured out but me. I feel lost, stuck, and afraid. Is this my fault, or is it all just in my head? Do I need to fix it by myself (can I?) or will someone help me? I feel like throwing up right now, and like laying on the floor to cry. I’m a mediocre squad leader, a lousy ward mission leader, a dissapointing father and husband, and a poor student. I can’t go on. And I can’t give up. I hope that girl at the Cinnabon can’t see me crying." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq Is Still Worth the Effort - The experts are pretty sure that it's time for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. They quote Iraqi politicians and military types who say they're ready to go it alone. As always, the experts do not give the Iraqi people a thought. The average Iraqi does not have much faith in a government that still doesn't deliver electricity to people's homes. Most residential areas have one guy with a generator, and he gives lines to the houses nearby -- for a monthly fee. Just as the month is ending, he turns off the generator and pockets the profit. People have no choice but to continue subscribing. The government is well aware of this but does nothing to stop it. Ask any civilian and you'll hear that the Iraqi military and police are not ready to secure the country. The January elections will be bring the country a step closer to stability. There is much talk about voting and the possible changes. Many predict Maliki will get re-elected because he has taken a sort of secular route. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: It's Coming Home - few days ago I wrote of a man who had left a message on my son's legacy page. Well I was wrong about him being the 4th man.. turns out he is the man who pulled my son from the vehicle.. but that will be another blog. Today I need to write about the plaque the engineers made and placed over the Company'sbarracks honoring my son. On March 23rd 2008 I wrote this on my myspace blog: An Easter Gift - I received a gift I was not expecting and am so touched I am not even sure how to react. My son’s best friend in his squad was online with my husband this morning. It seems the Engineering team my son was escorting on their own time ( which is so little and precious where they are) made a plaque to honor my son and placed it above his company barracks at their new FOB. I am just so touched that these men would do this for them and him. This has truly touched my heart. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 8 Sep 09 - Time seems to be moving a little faster now that we are doing something productive every day –it’s mostly the same stuff I went thru before but it’s packaged a little different and it’s more hands-on scenarios and movement than sitting around waiting or falling asleep thru powerpoint slides… today was team maneuvers—we got into 4-5 man teams and had to negotiate a course filled with sand mounds, rock piles, c-wire, blown up cars, walls, and whatever other obstacle they could pack in the area…we did our “leap-frog” type movement while our team members provided cover fire…there were explosions and yellow and purple smoke grenades and machine gun fire directed towards us—of course this is all in a controlled environment with no life threatening risk to us…the biggest danger we faced was either twisting an ankle in the soft sand or smacking ourselves in the face with a weapon…a couple people did get minor cuts from the c-wire, but nobody went to the hospital… (READ MORE)

A World Away: We're recycling Camp Bucca - Lt. Col. Leah Moore of Monona is 6,714 miles from home at Forward Operating Base Bucca, aka Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq. She is the base deputy commander. When not deployed she works as the Wisconsin National Guard deputy surgeon in Madison, and commands the guard armory in Portage. At FOB Bucca, there are several permanent infrastructures originally built to sustain Army forces and missions. These include a brick factory capable of producing up to 1 million bricks per month, an ice plant capable of producing up to 45 tons of ice per day, and a Waste Water Treatment Plant with the ability to sustain a population of over 50,000 people. In addition -- and most importantly -- we are also currently overseeing the completion of a new water treatment facility capable of producing 2 million gallons of water a day. FOB Bucca is located above the largest aquifer in the region. The new water treatment facility is able to drill down to the water, retrieve it, and then treat it so that it is drinkable. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Anatomy of a Rift - It's probably fair to say that if General McChrystal was on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christmas-card list, he's not anymore. A front-page article in Sunday's Washington Post painted the Bundeswehr in an unfavorable light following an air strike that killed civilians in Kunduz. The Chancellor quickly and appropriately went on the offensive, defending her troops against premature conclusions and NATO bullying in a passionate parliamentary address. German newspapers praised the speech while castigating NATO allies who were too quick to find fault with the strike. "Bin Laden himself couldn't have shaken NATO's solidarity any better" than General McChrystal by allowing reporting from the scene and suggesting things had gone awry, wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. How did this rift open? At least two factors converged to make the Kunduz attack a flashpoint for allied relations. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Wednesday Update - I've been wanting to post an entry for the past couple of days, but our internet in the rooms has been down in the evenings. Our net here is better than it was in the IZ. It's faster and they don't have those ridiculous filters, the ones that blocked me from updating or even accessing my own web site. However, now that my command has settled in to the barracks, we've overloaded their system. So it runs fine until all of a sudden it crashes. And that's the end of your access until the next day. Come to think of it, I better get busy ... it's just after 8 pm and it's about lights-out time for our Net. So I finally got around to taking a few pictures and thought you might be interested in seeing a little bit of my world. Then again, maybe not. But here they are, anyway. (READ MORE)

Maj Ken Arnold: Americans helping Afghans achieve freedom - AFGHANISTAN -- As Americans, we rightfully pride ourselves on our democratic institutions and our core commitment to individual freedoms. We are a people who believe that the rights of all men are endowed by one who set the universe in motion and the sun, stars and moon to watch over us. We have, through the course of our history, laid much on the altar of freedom, and in this war much is still to be asked. This past week I saw proof that our voice has not been silenced in the vastness of this conflict but continues to reverberate with like-minded people, yearning to set their own course for prosperity and happiness. I had the opportunity to discuss the recent Afghanistan presidential election with two of the young interpreters who work in my office, Mr. X and Mr. Y. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Salt in the Water - Tuesday morning, I woke up at 0300 so I could travel down to Al-Faw in far southern Iraq to escort a humanitarian mission. The Americans I rode with were the 4th DBE BiTT. That means they are a Border Transition Team that supports the Iraqi Ministry of Interior Department of Border Enforcement — 4th District. Now you know why the military abbreviates it. The city of Al-Faw rests between the Persian Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab Waterway. For the last two years, the salinity levels in the water have steadily risen. It’s gotten so bad, it seems they would get better water strait out of the gulf. The Government of Iraq doesn’t seem to have the infrastructure to support a pipeline or even consistently trucking water down to the people of Al-Faw. I read of cities in North Texas every year that have their wells dry up and people end up having to move away because the city isn’t big enough to tap into another area’s water supply. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Of Kidnapping, Milblogs and Blackouts - Military blogs are atwitter over Threat Matrixblogger Bill Roggio’s decision to run with the story of a journalist’s kidnapping in Afghanistan. To recap: New York Times reporter Farrell was abducted, along with his translator, Sultan Munadi, while covering the aftermath of a deadly NATO airstrike in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. Roggio reported the kidnapping over the weekend. The Times — which had more or less successfully kept the incident out of the headlines, much as it did during the kidnapping of David Rohde — asked Roggio to pull the story. Roggio stuck to his guns, and kept the post live. Farrell was freed earlier today in a rescue operation by British commandos. Munadi was killed in the raid, along with a British soldier who has not been named. Now the recriminations are flying. Without mentioning names, Andrew Exum describes how he politely requested that the offending post be taken down over the weekend. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: ROE in Afghanistan and US deaths - Let's start with a simple fact. Yes the change in Rules of Engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan was a major factor in the combat deaths of 4 US Marines recently. Unfortunately they will not be the last, but the change is designed to save US lives in the long run. Tough to swallow, but let's discuss. We have had a policy of making dead tangos for a good while now, and while I rejoice over every jihadi sent on to 72 goats we have killed too many others to get ahead of that power curve and win.So as part of a larger strategy of population-centric COIN, we are placing limits, even extreme ones, on the use of mass-casualty producing weapons. While the situation where we just lost 4 Marines is not fully understood, it seems that either following the ROE or over-following them, the chain of command denied the use of artillery to this unit in contact. If I were a family member of one of the fallen would I be angry, you're damn right I would. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: The NY Times no longer decides what's News - For at least the second time, the NY Times has attempted to suppress the news that their reporters and staff had been kidnapped. The journalist was rescued by British forces who suffered a casualty and his interpreter was killed as well along with two Afghans. The NYT asked fellow outlets to keep this private out of concern for the safety of the captives. While that is a valid point, it is completely out of step with their own journalistic standards. It is most certainly "news" that journalists are being kidnapped in Afghanistan. It is news in the same way that suicide bombings, IEDs, US casualties, murders of Aghan civilians and every other aspect of the war is news. The NYT has shown no compunction about exposing classified programs and endangering the lives of those prosecuting the most dangerous parts of this war, and have published news about the kidnappings of many others, but somehow reporters for their rag are sacrosanct. Wrong. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Let's play war games - This is what war is, and a reminder that "embedded" does not mean safe. And like any story from a war zone - be it a bombing raid, exchange of gunfire, or other violent event, early reports are to be greeted with skepticism, at best. This one raises several questions, all of which have no doubt already been asked by those on the scene, most of which will be answered, many of which will be rightfully classified, some of which will be obvious, and few (if any) of which will be resolved to the satisfaction of all. This we know: four Marines died. Perhaps that fact renders it easy for outsiders to accept this quote as fact, too: U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines -- despite being told repeatedly that they weren't near the village. Outrageous! At least if we pretend for a moment that two things actually preventing anyone from making a reasonable comment about this are true: (READ MORE)

Demophilus - Burn Pit: Two Wishes - One wish granted, one wish denied. It is a tale of two wishes: the wishes of a humble family in a time of grief, and the wishes of a powerful news giant in a time of crisis. The global news organization, the Associated Press (AP), was put in the position of making a choice between those wishes twice within the past week. In one case, it chose to honor the wish, in the other, it did not. News organizations are called upon to exercise impartiality in the execution of respectable news coverage. One of the hallmarks of impartiality is consistency. Why the AP chose differently in these two cases is at best a matter of simple inconsistency, and at worst a choice to inequitably apply a standard rendered disingenuous by the ultimate outcome of these two decisions. The last moments of Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard were recorded in a frozen moment in time by the photograph of embedded journalist/photographer Julie Jacobsen. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki Accused of Sinister Purge to Become Dictator - Oliver August, The Times. The Iraqi opposition accused Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, yesterday of purging the American-trained security apparatus so that he could attain quasi-dictatorial powers. Mr al-Maliki, who is facing a tough election battle, has dismissed three high-profile members of the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the fight against insurgent groups. He has also forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and replaced several police and army commanders in the last few weeks. (READ MORE)

Truck Bomb Kills at Least 19 in Iraq - Gina Chon, Wall Street Journal. A suicide truck bomb exploded in a Kurdish village outside the volatile city of Mosul in northern Iraq early Thursday, leaving at least 19 people dead, Iraqi authorities said. A Ministry of Interior official said the attack occurred after midnight and numerous homes were destroyed in Wardek village, about 250 miles north of Baghdad. The Mosul area is one of the remaining insurgent strongholds in Iraq, and the region is also tense because of territorial disputes between Sunni Arabs and Kurds living there. (READ MORE)

U.S. Air Force Sends Team to Assess Iraqi Air Sovereignty - BAGHDAD – U.S. Air Force Central sent a team here to assess how Iraq will maintain sovereignty of their airspace after U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq Dec. 31, 2011. As U.S. forces continue to draw down. The Iraqi Air Force is becoming more of a focal point. One group that is examining Iraq’s capabilities after the U.S. departs is the Air Sovereignty Assessment Team. (READ MORE)

GRD managing hospital, school projects in Haditha, Iraq - Haditha, Iraq – The Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, in partnership with the Iraqi government, is completing work on two major construction projects in Haditha. Engineers from the Gulf Region District’s Al Asad Resident Office are managing the renovation and expansion of the Haditha Hospital and the construction of the Al Farabi School. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 4, reduce terrorist activity in northern Iraq - TIKRIT, Iraq – During operations throughout northern Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested four suspected terrorists on Sept. 8, under the authority of various warrants issued by the Government of Iraq. Soldiers with 8th Regional Commando Battalion arrested two suspected terrorists in Diyala province with a warrant issued for one of the men by a court in Al Khark. The unwarranted suspect was brought in for questioning. (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Anbar - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 21 detainees from U.S. custody Sept. 8, in Al Anbar province. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar, and the safety of the detainees, were not in jeopardy following the release. (READ MORE)

Ninawa SWAT arrest 3, help reduce attacks in the area - TIKRIT, Iraq – Tal Afar Special Weapons and Tactics, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested three suspected terrorists Sept. 8, during an operation in the Ninawa province. Two of the suspected terrorists were arrested with warrants issued by the Ninawa Central Criminal Investigative Court for allegedly coordinating and conducting attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and civilians in Ninawa. (READ MORE)

Gen. Nash: Iraqi Forces securing the south - WASHINGTON — Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are making tremendous progress throughout southern Iraq, the commander of Coalition forces in the region said yesterday. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, who commands the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division as well as Multi-National Division - South in Iraq, said the Iraqi Army, Police and Border Police are performing very well. (READ MORE)

Iraqis capture former regime general, more - WASHINGTON — Iraq Security Forces (ISF), working with U.S. advisors, arrested eight suspected terrorists in Iraq in the past week, including a suspected terrorist leader who was a general in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, military officials said. Two other suspects were killed after firing on forces as they tried to arrest them, Sept. 6. The ISF and U.S. advisors were on a mission in Basrah to deliver court-issued warrants to charge them with smuggling and distributing arms to terrorist groups. (READ MORE)

Small desert foes pack considerable punch - COB SPEICHER — The 180th Medical Detachment Preventive Medicine Support Team here serves to assess the environment's ecological hazards and educate Soldiers on preventive medicine. The Soldiers of the 180th PMST have posted information around the COB ranging from dangerous wildlife such as scorpions and snakes to information about personal hygiene. (READ MORE)

Airmen to stay, train Iraqi Air Force - NEW AL MUTHANNA AIR BASE — Although the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron here will soon be deactivated, some U.S. Air Force maintainers will remain to make sure the Iraqis are fully capable of keeping their C-130 aircraft in the air. Tech. Sgts. Julie Litz, electrical environmental specialist, and William Kusar, aircraft structural maintenance and metals technician advisor, are two Airmen who will remain deployed to complete this mission. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Top NATO Official Reaffirms Commitment to Afghanistan - Despite the challenges it faces there, NATO will stay the course during its tough fight against Taliban and other extremists in Afghanistan, the alliance’s top leader said here today. “Let no one think that a run for the exits is an option; it is not,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, berthed at Naval Station Norfolk... (READ MORE)

European Leaders Call for Conference to Assess Progress in Afghanistan - The leaders of France, Britain and Germany have called for a high-level international conference on Afghanistan, saying it is time to "take stock of progress ... and to evaluate the challenges that lie ahead." In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders said the conference, which they suggested take place outside Afghanistan under UN and Afghan sponsorship, would facilitate agreement on "new benchmarks and timelines" for gradually turning responsibility for the country over to Afghans. (READ MORE)

NATO Nations Ask UN for New Afghan 'Timelines' - The Spanish defense minister, Carme Chac√≥n, said Wednesday that five years would be a “reasonable” timeframe for NATO forces to withdraw from Afghanistan, just as major European powers officially called on the United Nations to convene an international conference before the end of the year to set new “benchmarks and timelines.” (READ MORE)

Bill Boosts Funds for Afghan Police, Army - A key Senate subcommittee on Wednesday trimmed $900 million from the amount requested by the Obama administration to support Afghan security forces next year, but the $6.6 billion approved would still be a 20 percent increase over this fiscal year. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has indicated that improving the Afghan army and police is central to defeating the Taliban insurgency... (READ MORE)

Analysis: Troop Timetable Absent in Afghan Debate - As President Barack Obama weighs thrusting America deeper into the conflict in Afghanistan with perhaps thousands more combat troops, his administration has yet to answer a question at the core of his strategy for turning around the deteriorating war: How long will it last? Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top Pentagon officials have said they need to show clear progress against the insurgents within 12 to 18 months to firm up public confidence in the war effort. (READ MORE)

Afghan Election Watchdog Discards Tainted Votes - The UN-funded elections watchdog in Afghanistan has begun to throw out fraudulent ballots from the country's presidential balloting, a day after a tally including contested votes put President Hamid Karzai over the 50% he needs to avoid a second round. The Electoral Complaints Commission, a United Nations-sponsored body responsible for investigating allegations of fraud and misconduct, has been looking into more than 600 serious accusations, Commissioner Grant Kippen said. (READ MORE)

Afghan Election Commission Defends Release of Tainted Votes - Afghanistan's government-appointed election commission is denying bowing to political pressure to include a large number of tainted ballots in its preliminary polling results. The disputed votes have helped push President Hamid Karzai's total to more than the majority he will need to avoid a runoff election. With just days to go before all preliminary vote totals are to be released, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office is applauding the Independent Election Commission "for its efforts in pursuing the process in an impartial and faithful national spirit." (READ MORE)

Negotiators Shocked by Special Forces Rescue Raid on Taleban - Hostage negotiators expressed shock and anger at Gordon Brown’s decision to approve a commando raid to free a kidnapped British journalist, saying that they were within days of securing his release through peaceful means. Stephen Farrell - who was in Afghanistan for The New York Times - was not harmed in the raid but his Afghan translator, Sultan Munadi, and a British soldier from the Special Forces Support Group were killed. (READ MORE)

Deaths Mar Rescue of Reporter by UK - British special forces in Afghanistan rescued a New York Times reporter who was kidnapped Saturday by the Taliban, but the deaths of his interpreter and a British commando in the predawn raid Wednesday raised questions about the operation. Gunmen had seized journalist Stephen Farrell, who is a dual British-Irish citizen, and Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi in a village in Kunduz province that was the scene of bombings last week by North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces that killed dozens of people. (READ MORE)

After Rescue, Recriminations - The dramatic rescue of New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell, a British-born journalist who was plucked unharmed from a Taliban hideout in a pre-dawn raid Wednesday by British special forces, was greeted with relief by his colleagues and co-workers in Afghanistan. But the relief was overshadowed by grief and anger among many Afghan journalists and others over the death of Farrell's Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, who was shot dead in a firefight during the raid and whose body was left behind while the commandos whisked Farrell to safety. (READ MORE)

As Taliban Threat to Hostages Grew, British Moved In - Britain ordered a predawn commando raid in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday to rescue a British reporter for The New York Times and his Afghan interpreter after Afghan agents learned that the Taliban was planning to move the hostages into Pakistan, a senior Afghan official said Wednesday. The raid by British Special Forces and Afghan soldiers freed the reporter, Stephen Farrell... (READ MORE)

Afghan Reporter Recalled as a Man of Many Abilities - Skinny as a beanpole, generous to an extreme and with an easy laugh, Sultan M. Munadi was an Afghan striver. He worked for The New York Times for four years before leaving to start his own public service radio station. He received top marks in a grueling, yearlong preparatory course for a public policy master’s degree program in Germany. During his spare time, he joined a social networking site for book lovers and chatted online with readers in Paraguay. (READ MORE)

Court Orders Probe of Afghan Attacks - Investigators at the International Criminal Court have begun looking into accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan to determine whether there is cause to open a formal investigation, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, said on Wednesday. The prosecutor said forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - which include US servicemen - could potentially become the target of an ICC prosecution, as the alleged crimes would have been committed in Afghanistan, which has joined the war-crimes court. (READ MORE)

German General Backs Officer in Afghan Airstrike - Germany's top military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday he stood "fully behind" the German commander who called in a US airstrike on fuel trucks hijacked by Taliban that killed civilians as well as insurgents. Brig. Gen. Joerg Vollmer insisted in a phone interview with The Associated Press that Germany's relations remain good with its NATO allies, including the United States, even after the US military criticized the German officer who requested the attack in northern Kunduz province. (READ MORE)

Obama's Afghan Hopes Meet Reality - The aftermath of Afghanistan's elections has been uglier and more consequential than the campaign that preceded the voting. It has become clear that President Hamid Karzai's bid for reelection was tainted by widespread fraud, a development that represents the Obama administration's first significant failure in foreign affairs. The administration had emphasized that its primary goal was a credible election process, not the victory of any particular candidate or group. (READ MORE)

Afghan body throws out ballots from 83 vote sites - KABUL – The U.N.-backed commission investigating fraud in Afghanistan's election issued its first orders Thursday to exclude some ballots from the final tally, throwing out votes from 83 polling stations in areas of strong support for President Hamid Karzai. The Aug. 20 poll has been increasingly marred by reports of ballot-box stuffing and suspicious tallies. A U.S. monitoring group has said "large numbers of polling stations" had more than 100 percent turnout and President Hamid Karzai's top challenger has accused him of "state-engineered" fraud. (READ MORE)

Afghan reporters blame NATO for colleague's death - KABUL – A group of Afghan journalists blamed the international coalition Thursday for the death of a kidnapped colleague during the British commando rescue of a New York Times reporter and accused the troops of having a "double standard" for Western and Afghan lives. The accusation came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said that troops had carried out the raid Wednesday in an attempt to recover both British-Irish reporter Stephen Farrell and his Afghan translator Sultan Munadi and that the mission was authorized as the "best chance of protecting life." (READ MORE)

Stephen Farrell's Release: Questions About British Raid - A British commando raid on a Taliban hideout rescued kidnapped New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell on Sept. 9. But Farrell's Afghan translator Sultan Munadi and a woman and child were killed in the raid, raising questions about whether military force should have been used. Farrell and Munadi were captured by Taliban gunmen on Sept. 5 while reporting on the aftermath of a NATO air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers. (READ MORE)

Criticism mounts over journalist rescue in Afghanistan - KABUL: Criticism mounted Thursday over the dramatic airborne rescue from Taliban territory of a kidnapped Western journalist who walked free as four others, including his Afghan colleague, were killed. Negotiators were deep in talks with the Taliban to free New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell and negotiations appeared to be progressing well before British commandos intervened with the rescue operation, a source told AFP. (READ MORE)

Marine Explosives Expert Killed In Afghanistan - Gunnery Sgt. Adam Benjamin had one of the toughest jobs in the Marine Corps: bomb disposal. He understood the danger, but loved his job. The Ohio native was killed last month in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

GG says war in Afghanistan far from 'lost cause' - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean wrapped up a secret two-day visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday that saw her weep for Canada's war dead and for the conflict-racked country's youngest victims, insisting all the while that the sacrifices won't have been in vain. Jean spent the duration of her visit clad in the uniform of the Canadian soldier, symbolic of her role as the Canadian military's commander-in-chief. For security reasons, her visit had to be kept secret until after she had left Afghan airspace and was on her way back to Canada. (READ MORE)

Volunteer fighters help purge Taliban in Pakistan - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Sixteen-year-old Akbar Zaid dreams of becoming a teacher. But for now, his summer job involves holding an automatic rifle and hunting down Taliban fighters. "I'm doing it for peace," Zaid said, right before he fired several shots in the air with his rifle. Zaid is among hundreds of villagers in northwest Pakistan who've volunteered to join private militias, called lashkars. (READ MORE)

Ministers approved Afghan rescue - The final decision to order the rescue of kidnapped journalist Stephen Farrell was taken by the foreign and defence secretaries, Downing Street has said. Gordon Brown was consulted, but David Miliband and Bob Ainsworth sanctioned it, a spokesman said. (READ MORE)

Japan must end Afghan military refueling mission - TOKYO: A partner in Japan's incoming coalition government Thursday said it would not budge from its demand that the nation end a naval refueling mission backing US-led military operations in Afghanistan. The Pentagon on Wednesday urged the next government, led by the untested centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), to continue the mission in the Indian Ocean, despite its campaign promise to end it. (READ MORE)

Bright: US must clarify its role in Afghanistan - After returning from a trip to Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright of Montgomery said the U.S. needs to clarify its role, implement a plan and then get out. Bright returned Tuesday night from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he met with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

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