September 14, 2009

From the Front: 09/14/2009

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

Michael Yon: Pedros - 14 September 2009 Helmand Province, Afghanistan - With the war increasing, Air Force Pararescue has been crisscrossing the skies picking up casualties. That’s the Green Zone of Helmand Province, the opium capital of the world. Those fields are the great ATM of our enemies here. The fertilizer used to make those fields green is the same fertilizer used to make countless bombs. We are flying in a special U.S. Air Force Blackhawk helicopter to fetch a seriously ill British soldier. In Iraq, many of the casevacs were done by ground forces. In other words, if we hit a bomb or got shot, soldiers would load up the dead and wounded and rush them to the CSH (Combat Support Hospital or “cash”). But in Afghanistan most of the fighting occurs outside the cities and far away from the base hospitals. Rescue helicopters stationed at places like Bagram, Kandahar Airfield and Camp Bastion have been flying thousands of missions. There are numerous helicopter rescue “services” in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Afghans Say Times Fixer Killed On Purpose - For Afghans, the good news of last week’s daring rescue of New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell by British commandos was overshadowed by the fact that his translator, Sultan Munadi, was killed in the operation. Yesterday, an Afghan journalism association held a press conference at the Central Hotel in Kabul to vent some of the frustration they feel at coalition forces over the death of their colleague. Munadi’s father and youngest son were there and the older Munadi piled scorn on the coalition. “Coalition forces never respect the Afghan people,” Munadi’s father said, according to my translator. “They behave like animals. They deliberately killed my son. I ask the assembled Afghan media to stand up and show strength against the government and foreign forces. Ask them why they behave in this way. don’t be afraid. I am not afraid. I will retaliate. I will avenge my son’s death and the Afghan people must avenge his death.” (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: NATO Investigates Untimely Air Support - I wrote about this incident the other day right HERE. Now either NATO is feeling the heat from the bad press and they are saying they are investigating or they are truly concerned about this. Either way, ETTs have been left out hanging with little to no support long before Gen McChrystal ever came into country and implemented his new ROE policy. “NATO forces are investigating a firefight that killed nine Afghans and four U.S. troops — including a Chesapeake native — on Tuesday, according to a Pentagon spokesman. McClatchy News Service, which had a reporter with the troops (read his account) when they were ambushed, is reporting that the team of Marine trainers made repeated calls for air and artillery support after being pinned down by insurgents in the eastern Afghanistan province of Kunar. U.S. commanders rejected their calls, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, the news service reported, despite being told repeatedly that the troops were not near a village.” (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Darulaman mission-conclusion - It was a quick 3 days and our mission was complete. We were just waiting for our ETT team to join us and convoy back to our home camp. My team arrived early in the morning and we visited a former teammate from Fort Riley at his office. While up on the rooftop, he pointed to unfinished structure off in the distance. This was the foundation of a mosque that Osama Bin Laden was supposedly building. With the 9-1-1 anniversary on my mind, I had mixed emotions about this structure. It was a grim reminder of the mastermind behind the attack on my home country. I wondered why it was spared during the 2001 bombings of his other facilities, safe houses, etc. I surmised that even though it wasn’t fully built, it still represented a religious symbol and my government weighed the consequences of creating an international incident and chose not to disturb it. Or perhaps the chance of collateral damage to the nearby homes was too great. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Crazy Idea Of The Day - While everyone should be speaking their mind, let's give the most weight to the words of those who are actually in Afghanistan. Alexandre Beaudin-D'Anjou, Canadian Forces: "I want to say that part of the Canadian population negatively views the work that we do here, above all because they don't understand what we do. In my opinion, the majority of the Afghan population benefits from what we do." Matthew Fisher has a great story in the National Post on what our soldiers are saying. “Unlike the U.S., where there is a robust, multi-faceted debate about Afghanistan in which senior soldiers can make their views known, all Canadian soldiers are under strict orders from Ottawa to remain silent about the Afghan mission's future and ways that Canada might adapt or change its mission for the better.” (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Martial arts training: Your manhood can be held suspect… - I may have mentioned previously that in Marine Corps culture physical capability is a measure of credibility. This makes sense, if you consider that in our occupation, if you have to sprint down the street with 100lbs of equipment wrapped around you while engaging evil doers in a running gun battle, it sure is comforting to know your guys will still be nearby squeezing off accurate rounds instead of blowing chow all over their boots 200 or more meters behind you. Among the many yardsticks we have is the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. The program is rather rough and tumble. Those who wish to be held in higher regard tend to seek out instructors with a reputation for “destroying bodies.” I mean really, would you want to take throat punching lessons from someone you thought was milquetoast? Here is a recent e-mail exchange between two of my Marines, I’ll let you guess which of them is a recent graduate of the Martial Arts Instructor Course: (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: The showers in Iraq still a danger - On September second, Adam Hermanson was electrocuted while taking a shower in Camp Olympia in the Green Zone in Iraq. He leaves behind a widow, and grieving family who never expected to lose their 25 year old veteran and patriot in this way. The story strikes close to home because the couple had been building a home in a community near our town. Mr. Hermanson was an employee of Triple Canopy, which has taken many of the security contracts vacated by Blackwater. Before 2009, he served 6 years in the Air Force in Iraq and Uzbekistan, enlisting so young that he needed parental consent. To add insult to injury, his family was given conflicting reports of how he died. A Triple Canopy represented told his mother he had collapsed by his bed and there was no explanation of how he had died. It was an embassy representative who told his wife that he had been electrocuted in the shower. Triple Canopy dismantled the plumbing in his room shortly after his death. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Remembrance - We had a nicely done prayer breakfast this morning in remembrance of the day which is a defining moment in our country's history. The ceremony, speeches and songs were reverent, but not excessively solemn. You see, we are here. We have the ability to ensure that something like that does not happen again by our example and actions. I still remember the 8 years ago vividly, as I am sure most of us do. We had only been on Okinawa for 2 months and were living out in town in the top floor of a Japanese house. The first of many typhoons we endured on Okinawa was slowly approaching the island. You could roughly judge the windspeed based on the pitch of the humm of the bars protecting the windows. I recall seeing a 55 gallon drum blowing around like a piece of cellophane at one point. We were exhausted and finally getting ready to go to sleep when I unexpectedly got a phone call from my good friend Ed. In a choking voice he said I should turn on the TV then hung up. There will now always be life pre and post 9-11. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: What Afghanistan scholarship used to be - Blog breaks continues, file sharing gallops on: Standards are plummeting. That is obvious. I’m not saying there aren’t great books and articles being published. What I am saying is that overall quality is way down as many people make the plunge into the region. The same thing happened with the Soviet-Afghan War. Many writers and scholars jumped in and the field was saturated with wretched publications. Overall quality improved as the vast majority of those people left the field along with the world’s attention when the Soviets went home. Then 9/11 came and many discovered Afghanistan. And some of those people are solid scholars and writers. Some even great. But again, there is the problem of overall quality. And in the last year it has again taken a dive. Probably the biggest one ever. Anyways, I’m probably starting to sound like a grumpy old USMC drill sergeant complaining that this year’s recruits are the fattest, dumbest, laziest recruits ever. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Marine's medal is 'for every lad' - A Royal Marine who saved the lives of his comrades by tackling a would-be suicide bomber in Afghanistan has been named on the military honours list. Sgt Noel Connolly, 41, of Manchester, threw himself at a Taliban fighter and knocked him off his bike. The father-of-two, based in Plymouth, will receive the Military Cross from the Queen later in the year. "I will wear the medal for every bloke in the troop, it's a collective honour, I am humbled and privileged," he said. "The medal's not just for me, it's for every lad in 42 Commando and the entire Royal Marine Corp," he added. If the Taliban fighter, who had 150lb of explosives strapped to his body, had succeeded, he could have killed Sgt Connolly along with his 30 comrades who were based in a disused school. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? - One of the administrative sergeants I run into once in a while was a Marine for 10 years before joining the Army National Guard. He is aloof and old enough that no one bothers him very much. He mostly keeps to himself, but will occasionally burst into a lecture about safety, security, the political situation in Iraq or how this war should be fought. His outbursts, like the lid sliding off a boiling pot, show that the heat has been building for a long time and finally he explodes. An early commentator on the Iliad wrote about Achilles saying, "An angry man never thinks he has spoken enough" and this sergeant proves it. Today I was waiting for some other soldiers and had some time to sit and listen to this sergeant talk about his last deployment. It turns out the reason he keeps his distance and thinks about security issues goes back to his deployment three years ago. He was also on a large base then, but worked with people who went on convoys. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Shadow Blog - Several of you, especially Daria and Meredith, have insisted I keep a "Shadow Blog" the one in which I talk about all the bad stuff I can't really publish while I am living and working so close to the soldiers I am writing about. They are right of course. Someday soon I will need to look at my sphere of life from above, from every side, and from below. At Meredith's advice, I took down a post about a guy who failed at everything but maintained a thoroughly condescending attitude to everyone around him. I serve with people who rise to the worst occasions and really perform and some who have been relieved of duty for incompetence, and more who should have been. When I went back in the Army I remembered the friendships I made during the time I spent in Germany. In particular Abel Lopez and Cliff Almes, true brothers and friends for life--in fact since all three of us are believers, friends for eternity. (READ MORE)

Hope Radio: MP Mail and Donation Drive - I spoke with a mutual contact who served with the 1SG during another deployment, who asked me to look into offering what support I could back in July to a National Guard unit out of Missouri. Recently, I found the above email in my box. He included a list of soldiers who could use the support. I am not at liberty to do more than ask you to send your mail to me and address it to "1140th MP" when you write. I will in turn collect the letters and tuck them into care packages for the first round. If you would like, email me your address and your email address in your letter and I'll also forward the 1SG that info so he can assign you to one of his soldiers. I'm not sure how long it will take for him to get back to you. I talked to him in mid-July and only heard from him on the ninth so I am not sure what the timeline is on acquiring an email for a particular soldier, but it is very important to protect their privacy and make sure they give permission for he or I to pass on an address for them. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: Baghdad to the US to Costa Rica and back... - Greetings and Que Pasa!!! El Intrepid Reporter here, blogging again. Many moons have passed, and the Editor and Poindexter In Charge has taken a bit of a break, so I decided that tonight, as I’m in rare form, should take advantage of the situation, and Blog as far as things are, have been, and possibly might be. The wild whackness and weirdness that continually inhabit and infiltrate my life are yet again in full effect. This time, the Reporter of Infinite Fame, Fortune and World Weariness is hitting you from Esparza, Costa Rica. I’m in town for Lil Country’s impending nuptials, which take place in 3 days as the clock states. I’m here in Central America as the “Best Man” as spurious a title as it may be, but, nonetheless, after a First Class flight (literally I’m saying… screw flying with the common folk anymore… bigger seats… better food… free booze… how the hell can I argue with that?) (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Outrageous Journalists - If anyone ever needed further proof that most reporters care little or nothing about the people they cover, NYT's Stephen Farrell just gave them more evidence than anyone could ask for. The reporter ignored advice and pursued a story into a dangerous area in Afghanistan. The reporter's lust for the story eventually led to the death of his interpreter, another civilian, and a British paratrooper. The Afghan and British people are furious. Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps because we live in a world that rewards selfish behavior. There was a time when reporters were the fly on the wall, quietly observing and reporting the story. Now we mistake risky behavior for courage and professionalism. I can see it here in Baghdad. Anything goes to get the story. An elderly Iraqi woman was recently harassed by a reporter. The woman said the pest, who knocked on the window from 9 until 1 O'Clock, works for the Guardian newspaper. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Dying Marine: A Letter To The Photographer - Dear Julie Jacobsen, A few weeks ago, my husband's FST got into a heated argument with a photographer, who saw an opportunity to get photos of wounded or dying soldiers and civilians. The Hubs been a surgeon for 23 years, he knows death well enough to understand that dignity is worth preserving. In a way, the photographer was no better than the paparazzi that surround Brittney Spears every time she goes to the market. They were unwanted, unneeded, and there for purely opportunistic reasons. They kicked him out. So I'm writing you about your decision to run with the photo of the dying Marine. You justified it as catching the gritty and awful reality of war. But given that the family requested that it not be run, I find your decision disrespectful and self serving. Like you, I've seen photographs of the victims of war --from Matthew Brady's iconic pictures of the Civil War, to the photos of Auschwitz. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Spc. Micheal "Pokey" Phillips Memorial Poker Run - Next Saturday, Sept. 19th 2009, is the Spc Micheal "Pokey" Phillips Memorial Poker run. Sponsored by the local Guard Dog organization. This organization is made up of National guardsmen who have served and still do. The proceeds will be going to the Wounded Warriors Project. We were approached by these wonderful people a few months ago and asked if they could honor our son by holding their annual poker run for wounded warriors in our son's name. At each step of the way they have asked for our input and made sure that we were ok with all they have done. Each stop of the poker run route has a military connection. VFWs, American Legion Halls and both the local veteran hospitals. I feel these stops are incredibly fitting. If you can make it I will be at the start table and at several of the stops through out the day. I will also be at the last stop for the BBQ at the National Guard Armory in Ardmore, OK. (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: T-Wall Art - When you first arrive in Kuwait or Iraq, one thing that you immediately notice is the abundance of T-walls. These concrete barriers are everywhere, protecting people from the possible rocket or mortar attack. They are called “T-walls” because they look like an upside-down “T.” They have them in Baghdad as well, and the Iraqis use them to protect against blasts from suicide bombers or the like. There are thousands of the T-walls all over JBB. I’ve heard that they cost about $600 each, which means there is millions of dollars invested just in T-walls on this base. I’d say it’s a good investment, because it does add a sense of security, and probably deters rocket attacks. T-walls are a cost effective way of protecting from explosions. Only a tiny fraction of T-walls are painted. Most of them are painted with a unit symbol, naming the unit and the commander and senior NCO, and signed by the artists. These tend to be dreadful artworks. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Eight killed in North Waziristan airstrike - A US airstrike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan is thought to have killed eight foreign al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Unmanned aircraft appeared to have targeted a vehicle in the village of Turikhel near the town of Mir Ali, Geo News reported. "The blast was so huge that it could be heard as far as Miranshah," Reuters reported, noting that Mir Ali is 15 miles away. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in the strike at this time. An airstrike on Sept. 7 in the Mir Ali region was thought to have killed Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior military commander for al Qaeda and a member of the military shura; and Ilyas Kashmiri, the operational commander of the Harkat-ul Jihad Islami (HuJI), an al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates in Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh [see LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike for more information on Mustafa and Kashmiri]. (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Mushkil - The Dari word we advisers/mentors/trainers/LNOs hate to hear, the word we wince at, the one word we love to hate, is "Mushkil." "Problem." Mushkil rarely is the opening gambit. Mushkil creeps up on you. Mushkil is a sucker punch. It goes like this... "Khoob!" ("Well!" or "OK!" as if to signal the end of an otherwise successful and pleasant meeting.) And then you hear what amounts to, "Dari dari dari dari dari dari. Dari dari. Dari dari dari,dari! Dari. Dari, dari, dari, dari, dari... Mushkil." Fuck. You shoot a glance at the interpreter, who knows very well that you know what word is floating in the air. Before you even speak, he's asking back, in effect, "What, pray tell, is the problem?" It's usually something significant, on the verge of urgent. Like this example, from my meeting just this morning: "Vehicles [that is, up-armored SUVs] were given out two days ago by the Americans. I did not receive mine, but General ______ got four and he only deserves two. Colonel ______ gave them to him!" You can almost hear the "thwock!" of the ball being swatted into our court. A pregnant pause ensues. (READ MORE)

More Than An (Army) Wife: The Truth About This Past Year - I wish I had kept a journal this past year while Stonewall was gone. I don't really count this blog as a journal because I'm not 100% open on it. I'm honest, but I don't write everything that I'm feeling all the time. I thought about keeping a seperate journal or a private blog, but that was just one more thing I didn't really have time for. Actually, that's just a good excuse for saying I was too lazy. Looking back over this past year, specifically the last nine months, I feel like I used that excuse a lot. "I'm too busy" or "I'm too tired" or "You try taking care of a baby, two dogs, and a house." Anyway, I kind of wish I had recorded how I was honestly feeling this past year. I know I was all over the place. This past year was like nothing I've ever had to do in my life. There were times I hated being in this life situation. I hated being a wife who was a mom who's husband was deployed. I would get so mad at Stonewall for not being here. (READ MORE)

Erik Wong: You Have The Right To An Attorney: Afghani Prisoners Allowed To Challenge Detentions - WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has begun putting into place a new program under which hundreds of prisoners being held by the military in Afghanistan will be given the right to challenge their detentions, a defense official said Sunday. Prisoners at Bagram military base are all to be given a U.S. military official to serve as their personal representative and a chance to go before new Detainee Review Boards, to have their cases considered, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss a program that has not been formally announced. The initiative amounts to the first time prisoners will be able to call witnesses and submit evidence in their defense. There are some 600 detainees at the facility, some who have been held for up to six years. An order creating the review boards was signed in July by Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Watchmen: Who Killed Sultan Munadi? - The controversial rescue of New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell certainly makes for an engrossing read in Farrell's blog account of the ordeal. However, the toll of this operation has been tragic. Among the dead are Farrell's colleague, Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi (left), and a British commando, Corporal John Harrison (right). Afghan journalists have condemned the raid as the manifestation of Western double standards: Munadi was killed in the crossfire, and Farrell was not; Harrison's body was recovered at the scene, and Munadi's was not. The outrage of Afghan journalists is certainly understandable, but it's wrong for Afghans to blame Munadi's death on NATO's recklessness, and it's wrong for the Times and other news organizations to hide themselves behind that screen. It's clear that British special forces had nothing on Farrell in terms of recklessness. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Flailing About, Blindly - Rajiv Chandrasekaran has another interesting dispatch from Kandahar. Most of it is fairly unsurprising to regular readers here: the troops were misplaced when they surged into Helmand, the Taliban operate mostly through intimidation rather than direct violence, there is a desperate need for more Security Force Assistance and Big Army troops but none is forthcoming. However, two things really jumped out at me: “Other military officials in Afghanistan, including top leaders of the regional headquarters that encompasses Kandahar, contend that sending more foreign troops into the city would only pull in more Taliban fighters from rural areas, drawing NATO forces into perilous urban combat [...] But what occurred in Dand may be hard to pull off elsewhere, Canadians note, because that district has fewer tribal rivalries and is relatively small, resulting in a much higher concentration of NATO troops to residents than will be possible in other places. And thus far, NATO officials have been reluctant to embrace tribal solutions to combating the insurgency out of fear that will create a new class of warlords.” (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Riots in Ghazni City as the Province Falls - Ghazni Province is falling to the Taliban. There’s no two ways around it: Radio Shariat is transmitting in the area again, and security forces are having a hard time tracking it down because apparently it is being broadcast on a mobile transmitter. Now Tim Lynch reports on a riot in Ghazni City itself: “The demonstrators moved towards Masoud Chowk area, and the demonstration turned violent. Demonstrators reportedly began throwing stones at ANSF, and ANSF opened fire. The demonstration has apparently dispersed due to the said clash. Casualties have occurred, and initial reports suggest that 4 demonstrators were killed and 8 were wounded.” Indeed. The people were apparently protesting in response to the abduction and murder of Shams al-Din, a popular anti-American cleric in the eastern part of the province. Naturally, the men who abducted him from Abu Hanifa mosque weren’t identified. The protesters were, according to Press TV, specifically anti-American protesters, assuming the U.S. to be responsible for al-Din’s death. (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: The barbers of Kabul - Kabul This is the capital city of Afghanistan, and appearances are important. I have been looking a bit scruffy these past few days, with hair that occasionally turned into a bird's nest. So, it was time for a trip to the barber. I ended up at the shop of Ataullah, a 30-year-old father of four who began his career about ten years ago under Taliban rule. Back then, business was slow but government officials did occasionally drop by. They all wanted their hair left covering their ears in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law, Ataullah said. Back then,barbers were not allowed to clip beards. Still, some clients wanted a quick trim in defiance of Taliban edicts, and sometimes Ataullah obliged. Then, one day, he was sprucing up a beard when a Taliban official walked into the shop. Ataullah said that some barbers ended up in jail for such an offense. He was spared such punishment. Instead, he was hauled out of his shop, and then had his head shaved. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my...: 14 Hours of Blood Soaked Shoes - I had a wonderful welcome back, 14 hours of surgeries and blood soaked OR shoes. Woohoo! I scrubbed a 6 hour vascular repair case wearing a x-ray protection vest the whole time, it looked like I just completed a marathon after the case was over, sweat soaked everything. Maybe that’s why I’ve lost so much weight! Speaking of weight, I averaged a weight of 144.2 pounds for August with an average run length of 3.37 miles at a pace of 8:35 per mile. I’m a number freak, what can I say! The pics this week are of me in the Arabian Gulf enjoying the sun. The salt content of the water is very high, actually burned the eyes when water went in them. The water was also very warm, almost hot! Aaron was standing by me and he said that he found a cool spot, I told him that’s the spot I just peed in and that my pee was cooler than the water! Just kidding! Haha. The second pic is of Shayna with her external fixators on, she sure is happy to have the right one off. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: "We are hurtling toward a Vietnam ending." - Eight years since the horror in New York and Washington forced the civilized world to face up to its obligations in Afghanistan, a recurring and predictable pessimism is abroad in the world's comfortable classes, coinciding, as it absurdly and routinely does, with a revival of pluck and optimism among ordinary Afghans. The Americans, who appear to be paying attention, are engaged in an elaborate exercise in enumerating and evaluating "metrics of success." The Europeans are looking at benchmarks and timelines. All good. In Ottawa, the whimpering is the thing, and it's ably represented in Liberal Senator Colin Kenny's widely noticed opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen. Kenny is the long-time chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, which is why we're supposed to take him seriously. It doesn't help that Kenny's committee is "a dysfunctional public spectacle" that he convenes whenever his committee adversaries aren't available, and if they find a way to show up he calls them "names that can't be repeated." But let's take him seriously. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Patriots Day Promotion - It seems so long ago when the Sorority Soldier and I were bitching about waiting on our promotion orders. Many in the unit went before a promotion board in December, and didn’t get orders until the middle of March. It was absurd. I recently submitted my second promotion packet inside of a year. The board was held on September 8th. I was the only one to receive maximum points from the board and my promotion orders to staff sergeant were cut two days later. I am now a staff sergeant in the United States Army. It’s pretty ridiculous when I think about it. There’s no way a soldier should come into the year as an E-4 and then leave the year as an E-6. It’s possible since the minimum standard is 8-months time in service, which I just hit on September 1st. I couldn’t have done this if my leadership and my NCO’s above me believed I wasn’t a good NCO. Now the 343rd MPAD has 5 broadcasters with 5 staff sergeants. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Uh-oh - The end of a deployment carries with it certain inherent risks. Verily, the last few days of a deployment can sometimes be the most dangerous ones, with complacency and "get-home-itis" setting in. Trying to impress this point upon some Soldiers, I heard a leader say, "In the next few weeks, we face an incredible challenge ahead of us. Who can tell me what that challenge is"? The answer he was begging was something along the lines of "complacency". Unfortunately, one Soldier wasn't thinking along those lines... "US Customs", he replied, referring to the mandatory inspection of equipment returning to the US to ensure that no war trophies went home with us. I smacked my forehead. (READ MORE)

Small Wars Journal: Operational Design in Afghanistan - In the past two days, the debate has heated up at Small Wars Journal between two exceptionally brilliant officers regarding the future of NATO and ISAF in Afghanistan. On one side of the debate is Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, author of a critique of military organizational culture entitled “A Failure in Generalship”. The other is noted “COINtra”, Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor at West Point. Much of the debate centers over a series of articles and rebuttals which have occurred over the past six weeks, but intensifying with George Will’s exhortation to give up on nation-building in Afghanistan and pursue al Qaeda via “over-the-horizon” capabilities. Will was joined by General Charles Krulak, the former Commandant of the US Marine Corps, who also echoed many of Will’s arguments in an e-mail earlier this week. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Afghanistan Updates - KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Afghan National Army Air Corps is planning to take ownership of a fleet of 18 to 20 Italian-made C-27 (known by the Italians as the G.222) medium-sized cargo planes beginning in November of this year, and the pilots have been undergoing flight training both in Afghanistan and in the United States for months. Speaking at Camp KAIA—a NATO installation attached to the Kabul Airport—on Thursday, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Hersant of the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisor Group told me that the Afghan pilots have mostly been flying a handful of Ukrainian-made Antonov-26 and the Antonov-32 airplanes, and that the more advanced C-27 is something that’s going to “require quite a bit of training” for the pilots to master. “They can fly” Hersant says, and “they have real good stick and rudder skills,” but since the Afghan government has mandated that English be the language of aviation, trying to teach the Afghans how to communicate in English is one of the hardest parts of the training schedule. (READ MORE)

At War: Boys of Heaven - DIYALA PROVINCE–I used to live in a small agricultural village in southwest Diyala province. It is an area famous for growing grapes, and includes hundreds of acres of large orchards that grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In 2005, Sunni jihadi groups, including Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad (Unity and Holy War) and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, moved into the village and began their activities against the Americans. Villagers whispered discreetly about the presence of jihadi training camps for adults and children alike in groups the insurgents called “Birds of Heaven” or “Children of Heaven.” In 2006 and 2007 the jihadis became the ruling power in my village, and others nearby. I left in 2007 because of the rising wave of violence against civilians, but maintained my connections with the villagers through my tribal relations, as is customary. (READ MORE)

Blackfive: "Inconvenienced" Doesn't Begin to Describe It - Sergeant First Class William "Brian" Woods was a Team Medical Sergeant of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). On August 14th, Brian was shot and killed by small arms fire in Ghazni, Afghanistan. At 32 years old, Brian had done multiple tours of duty in the War on Terror. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served four years before joining the Army and becoming a Special Forces Soldier. He leaves behind a wife, Elizabeth, and two daughters in Chesapeake, MD. It seems that Brian's funeral procession in St Louis county caused one motorist an "inconvenience". The motorist complained to the County Sheriff. The original email below was sent to Sheriff Glenn Boyer on Thursday, August 27. Below is the citizen's email followed by Sheriff Boyer's response. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Discerning the Way Forward in Afghanistan - General Charles Krulak wrote George Will a letter in response to his invective on the current campaign. Will wants to withdraw, and Krulak supports that idea with the exception of a few SOF troopers. I won’t address every one of Krulak’s points, but several observations are in order. Krulak notes that U.S. troops are being run ragged and the armed forces cannot support the real surge needed for Afghanistan – more like hundreds of thousands, not thousands. Furthermore, there are equipment repairs and rebuilds, and this bill is likely to be large. Krulak is of course right in his assertion that there are serious equipment issues, and it would have been wise to spend more of the “free money” Timothy Geithner has been printing to support the armed forces. It’s not that the equipment concerns are not within the power and ability for the U.S. to bear. It’s that the administration has chosen to do other things. Let’s be clear – this is a political decision rather than a financial impossibility. (READ MORE)

Kings of War: Raus aus Afghanistan - BERLIN — The “war” in Afghanistan has become a major issue on the campaign trail in Germany. And that could be very bad news for the Atlantic Alliance — some conservatives feel that NATO would be to blame for their defeat. At least partly. Here’s a one paragraph explanation of Germany’s political landscape: we now have a 5-party system on a federal level. From far-left to center-right: Die Linke; Social Democrats (SPD); Greens; Liberals (FDP); Conservatives (CDU). Only two coalitions can realistically work: the Grand Coalition we presently have — Merkel’s Conservatives and Steinmeier’s Social Democrats — and a “black-yellow” coalition, that is the “black” Conservatives and the “yellow” Liberals. Currently the two together hover at around 50 percent, so it will be an exciting night on 27 September. Between 57 and 69 percent of all Germans say the Bundeswehr should be pulled out “as fast as possible.” Now guess which party’s supporters consistently show the strongest support for the war? (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: That others may live - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After they helped save the soldier's life, the rescue team was pissed. Yeah, they were able to roll out from their plywood hooch, jump on their helicopters, fly to the middle of minefield, do a quick medical and security assessment, get the soldier on a stretcher, and bring the guy into a military trauma center - all in less than half an hour. But the members of the team, part of the Air Force's 55th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, couldn't believe the save had taken that long. If they were really on their game, they figured, they could've cut that time by five, 10 minutes, maybe more. “‘I'm gonna take a lot of heat for this one,’ said Staff Sergeant Scott Dowd. ‘That was dogsh*t. We could've gone a lot faster. That was dogsh*t on me.’” That's just the beginning of the story. And if you think SSgt Dowd's standards might seem a bit high, it's because these aren't just any old EMT's - they are the U.S. Air Force's elite Pararescue jumpers, commonly called PJs. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraq's Kurds 'Caught in Sectarian Warfare' - Kurdish villagers in northern Iraq have made plans for a violent insurrection to resist an al-Qaeda campaign that has killed hundreds of people. Residents of a swathe of territory governed by the Iraqi province of Nineveh, but claimed by the Kurdistan region next door, believe that a sectarian war is being master-minded by political rivals. (READ MORE)

Gunmen Kill Iraqi Policeman's Family in Kirkuk - Iraqi authorities say gunmen have raided the home of a Kurdish policeman in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing his wife and three children. Officials say the attackers entered the policeman's home while he was away early Sunday, and shot his wife and children as they slept. In other violence in Kirkuk, militants set off two roadside bombs targeting Iraqi security patrols on Sunday, wounding at least three policemen. (READ MORE)

Prosecutors in Iraq Case See Pattern by Guards - Private security guards who worked for Blackwater repeatedly shot wildly into the streets of Baghdad without regard for civilians long before they were involved in a 2007 shooting episode that left at least 14 Iraqis dead, federal prosecutors charge in a new court document. (READ MORE)

The 'Forgotten War' - Five years ago, Sen. John F. Kerry argued during his presidential campaign that the United States had dangerously neglected the war in Afghanistan. On Thursday, when he convened a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hear a status report on Iraq from US Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, only five of the panel's 19 members showed up long enough to ask a question. (READ MORE)

277th ASB’s Quick Reaction Force is guardians - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – As part of the Contingency Operating Base Defense Operations Cell, the Soldiers of the 277th Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s Quick Reaction Force are responsible for the safety of the COB and all the troops and civilians operating there. It is an unusual role for the Aviation troops, a motley crew of drivers and mechanics, medics and fuel- and ammunition handlers who stepped up to a mission usually tasked to infantry units. (READ MORE)

Soldiers in Iraq remember 9/11 - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— “I remember exactly where I was on 9/11 when I found out the twin towers had been hit,” one Soldier said to another. The Soldier nodded in reply, and his eyes lost focus for a moment as he reflected back to where he had been on that historic day. Scenes like this played out over and over again during a memorial march on Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk Iraq, Sept. 11 as Soldiers took the opportunity to look back eight years and think about the tragic event that shaped many of their lives. (READ MORE)

1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division hands over Diyala Province to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team - DIYALA, Iraq – With a combined Iraqi – U.S. color guard and leadership from the Iraqi Security Forces, Diyala Governance and U.S. Forces present, the responsibility for the partnership and security of Diyala Province was transferred from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, “Arctic Wolves”, to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, “Arrowhead” in a transfer of authority ceremony held on Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Sept. 12. (READ MORE)

Iraqi children go from mud hut to new school - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— The school children in the village of Chemin in Kirkuk province, Iraq, have always known the small mud house on the outskirts of their village as their school. Although the classrooms were so small that only a few children could fit in at one time, with only a couple of desks for the more than 30 kids to share, they made do with what they had. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Emergency Response Units vital to inner-city security - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – In an effort to curtail complacency and encourage community policing, Iraqi Emergency Response Units assisted by U.S. Soldiers conducted checkpoint inspections throughout the city of Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept. 9. According to Capt. Bradley Hardy, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, whose unit participated in the inspections, the ERU is intended to be first responders to any crisis in Kirkuk. (READ MORE)

GRD builds new facilities for Iraqi army - AL ASAD, Iraq – With U.S. Marine units set to leave the base at Al Asad in the coming months and a reduction in strength for the U.S. Army units replacing them, more emphasis is being placed on the Iraqi army. Those Iraqi army units are now much better equipped to provide protection to the western Al Anbar province following the recent completion of the Al Asad Location Command. (READ MORE)

Leaders meet, discuss future of Ninewah - MOSUL — U.S. and State Department representatives here met with Ninewah province leadership to discuss reconstruction efforts in the region, Sept. 9. Brig. Gen. Robert Brown, deputy commander of Multi-National Division - North, Patrick Murphy, director of the Ninewah Provincial Reconstruction Team, and Col. Gregory Maxton, deputy commander for 3rd "Greywolf" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, sat down with Ninewah provincial Governor Atheel al-Najafi and his Director Generals to discuss ongoing and future water, trash, sewer and economic projects that would make a significant impact on the population in Ninewah. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Forces get Osprey support - BAGHDAD — The CV-22 Osprey, the world's first tilt-rotor aircraft, supported Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) during a recent early-morning mission in the Iraqi capital. The Osprey performed its first mission in support of an operation to apprehend suspected terrorists. Although the new aircraft was flown by U.S. Air Force personnel, the troops and mission were led by the elite ISOF Soldiers. (READ MORE)

New Iraqi Army support facilities ready - CAMP MEJID — A Sept. 10 ceremony here marked the end of a 10-month, $8 million construction effort to improve the Asad Location Command and 7th Iraqi Army Division’s sustainment capacity with the addition of three barracks, a fire station and a distribution facility for petroleum, oil & lubrication products. The commanding general of the 7th IA Division and the commander of the location command toured the complex after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (READ MORE)

Airmen ready school supplies for Iraqi kids - ALI BASE — More than 100 Airmen from the 407th Air Expeditionary Group came together to sort and pack thousands of school supplies, toys and more for children here, Sept. 5. Hundreds of bags were stuffed with donations that were gathered to support “Operation Iraqi Child.” "I appreciate everyone coming out and volunteering to support the children of southern Iraq," said Master Sgt. Barry Jackson, first sergeant for the 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron. (READ MORE)

5 US troops among 50 killed in Afghan violence - KABUL (AP) - About 50 civilians, security forces and militants were killed in a wave of violence around Afghanistan, including a bomb that left 14 Afghan travelers dead in one of the country's most dangerous regions. Five American soldiers died in two attacks using roadside bombs. The attacks Friday and Saturday reached a broad swath of the country, demonstrating the spread of the Taliban insurgency, which had been largely confined to the country's south and east in the years after the 2001 U.S. invasion. Half of those killed in the most recent attacks were civilians, who often find themselves caught in the grinding war between the Taliban and U.S. and NATO forces. (READ MORE)

Soldiers, civilians killed in attacks across Afghanistan - KABUL - Roadside bombs, gunbattles and a suicide strike killed five Americans and dozens of Afghan civilians, troops and police, officials said on Saturday, a bloody day that showed how unrest has spread across the country. Afghanistan is mired in a drawn-out dispute over election fraud that could test the patience of U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders contemplating whether more troops are needed to defend its government. (READ MORE)

Appearance of Afghan corruption could cost mission - More countries could follow the lead of Canada and the Netherlands by pulling out of Afghanistan if President Hamid Karzai’s re-elected government can’t shake its “inglorious” reputation for corruption, says a London-based analyst. Tomas Valasek said U.S. President Barack Obama, who is expected to urge Prime Minister Stephen Harper to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond 2011 during a White House meeting Wednesday, could find his country essentially alone in Afghanistan unless Kabul cracks down on government officials lining their pockets with western aid and drug profits. (READ MORE)

Karzai maintains more than 50pc vote - PRESIDENT Hamid Karzai has held his 54 per cent lead in Afghanistan's elections with nearly all the votes counted, but vote-rigging complaints mean it could be weeks before final results are known. With ballots from 95 per cent of polling stations from the August 20 polls counted, preliminary results released by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Saturday showed Karzai had a firm hold on his lead with 54.3 per cent. (READ MORE)

Aerial blitz kills 22 militants near Afghan frontier - Jamrud, Pakistan: Helicopter gunships of the army killed 22 militants and destroyed three of their hideouts on Saturday in attacks in the Khyber region on the Afghan border, paramilitary force officials said. Troops also killed five militants and captured 18 during a search in the Swat valley, the military said. (READ MORE)

Afghan rebels kill 20 civilians Reporter's body left behind in heavy fire - Kabul: Rebel fighters killed 20 civilians in southern Afghanistan and 17 security police and security guards, officials said yesterday, as the country awaited results from last month's disputed election. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its most intense of the eight-year-old war despite record levels of US and Nato troops being sent to fight the Taliban. (READ MORE)

In Kandahar, a Taliban on the Rise - The slow and quiet fall of Kandahar, the country's second-largest city, poses a complex new challenge for the NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan. It is factoring prominently into discussions between Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the overall US and NATO commander, and his advisers about how many more troops to seek from Washington. "Kandahar is at the top of the list," one senior US military official in Afghanistan said. "We simply do not have enough resources to address the challenges there." (READ MORE)

A Somber Warning on Afghanistan - Western powers now in Afghanistan run the risk of suffering the fate of the Soviet Union there if they cannot halt the growing insurgency and an Afghan perception that they are foreign invaders, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. In a speech opening a weekend gathering of military and foreign policy experts, Mr. Brzezinski, who was national security adviser when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, endorsed a British and German call, backed by France, for a new international conference on the country. (READ MORE)

US Commanders 'Consider New Afghan Policy' - US commanders are reported to be considering a new policy in Afghanistan where they would concentrate their firepower on the east of the country. If confirmed, the move could involve more US forces, who have recently deployed in numbers to join British forces in the south, moving to operations in the east, by the mountainous border with Pakistan. General Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander of NATO and US troops in the country, is reported to be considering the plan. (READ MORE)

Senators Score Afghan Policy - Congressional skepticism over the Obama administration's plans for Afghanistan mounted Sunday as four senators questioned whether more troops should head there and one lawmaker called for a withdrawal timeline. Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois along with Republican Susan Collins of Maine said they shared colleagues' concerns about boosting troop levels before substantial bolstering of the Afghan military and police. (READ MORE)

Dozens of Taliban Killed in Clash With US, Afghan Forces - Details are emerging about an hours-long intense battle in western Afghanistan that has resulted in significant casualties for the Taliban. Two American service personnel and several Afghan soldiers also are reported to have been killed. A World Food Program convoy under Afghan military escort came under attack by insurgents Saturday in the Bala Baluk district in Farah province. (READ MORE)

Dozens of Taliban Killed after US Deaths - About 50 Taliban militants died in a battle in western Afghanistan after an insurgent ambush killed three US troops, an Afghan official said Sunday. The fighting took place in a region controlled by militants that has been the site of huge battles in the past, some that have caused high numbers of civilian casualties. In Saturday's clash, a militant-fired rocket struck a home and killed a woman and a teenage girl, Afghan police said. (READ MORE)

Afghan Commission Says 30 Civilians Killed in NATO Strike - An Afghan government-appointed commission says 30 Afghan civilians were killed and nine wounded in a NATO air strike earlier this month in the northern province of Kunduz. One investigator in the commission, Mohammadullah Baktash, says 69 Taliban also were killed when a German commander ordered the strike on Taliban militants who had seized two fuel trucks. Initial NATO investigations had already indicated that civilians were among the victims. (READ MORE)

Afghan Official Says NATO Strike Killed 99 - Nearly 100 people, including 30 civilians, were killed in the NATO airstrike called in by German troops on two hijacked fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan this month, a government-appointed Afghan official said Sunday. The airstrike on Sept. 4 in the northern province of Kunduz has drawn domestic and international criticism and has stirred intense debate in Germany over its strategy in Afghanistan, two weeks before Germans go to the polls in national elections. (READ MORE)

Germany Ponders Afghan Strategy - Germany's Foreign Ministry advocates preparing the ground over the next four years for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, with police and army training being stepped up, according to a report Sunday. The report in the weekly Der Spiegel came two weeks before German elections in which Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the center-left challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel. (READ MORE)

Plan to Withdraw German Troops from Afghanistan Becomes Election Issue - Germany could start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as early as 2011, according to a plan apparently intended to boost support for the Social Democrats before the election. As Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival and Vice Chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, embarked on a 90-minute television duel - actually more of a duet - to win over voters, the future of Afghanistan emerged as the only burning foreign policy issue. (READ MORE)

Opposition Leader Abdullah Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Vote Rigging - Afghanistan’s opposition leader has called for a criminal investigation into allegations of massive vote rigging in last month’s elections - and accused his rival, President Hamid Karzai, of treason in an exclusive interview with The Times. Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s former foreign minister, charged Mr Karzai with “state-engineered fraud” in the August 20 polls. “It’s worse than a crime, it’s treason,” he said, adding that Mr Karzai “doesn’t think about the country, he thinks only of himself. (READ MORE)

Only Decisive Force Can Prevail in Afghanistan - Growing numbers of Americans are starting to doubt whether we should have troops in Afghanistan and whether the war there is even winnable. We are confident that not only is it winnable, but that we have no choice. We must prevail in Afghanistan. We went to war there because the 9/11 attacks were a direct consequence of the safe haven given to al Qaeda in that country under the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Time to Deal in Afghanistan - It is time to get real about Afghanistan. Withdrawal is not a serious option. The United States, NATO, the European Union and others have invested massively in stabilizing that country over the past eight years, and they should not abandon it because the Taliban is proving a tougher foe than anticipated. But there is still a large gap between the goals the Obama administration is outlining and the means available to achieve them. (READ MORE)

How England Prevailed - In his September 1 Washington Post column, George Will offered a prescription for US retreat from Afghanistan: "Do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters." This approach has a pedigree; students of international security will recognize it as "offshore balancing." (READ MORE)

Growing Risk of a Taliban Offensive - Clearly, al Qaeda's terrorist operations these days have little to do with the war in Afghanistan. The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry says security forces foiled 31 al Qaeda attacks on oil and other economic targets in the past five years. In June, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, an al Qaeda commentator, said "Hamas [in Gaza] and al Qaeda share the same ideology and the same doctrine." The Afghanistan-Pakistan front also showed signs of division between the two wings of Taliban. (READ MORE)

In the Afghan Battle Space - We're with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd LAR) in southern Helmand province, just 75 kilometers from Pakistan, in "battle space" that was the heart of Taliban territory until a few weeks ago. When these Marines fought their way into this dusty district capital in July, the Taliban were stunned. No Afghan government or coalition authorities had been here since 2002. Taliban leaders across the border in Pakistan told their minions to fight back. They did, and it was a terrible mistake. (READ MORE)

Bomb Blast in Pakistani Tribal Region Kills 3 Troops - Pakistani officials say militants have killed three soldiers in a roadside bombing in a western tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Officials say Sunday's attack targeted a Pakistani military convoy in the Khyber region, where Pakistani forces launched an offensive against Taliban militants earlier this month. Several troops also were wounded in the blast. Taliban militants frequently attack convoys that travel through the Khyber Pass to deliver supplies to US and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Our Pakistan Problem - What national interest does the United States have in Afghanistan? According to recent polls, more and more Americans doubt there is any - or at least enough to warrant escalation of the war. This flagging support partly reflects the inadequate job the Obama administration has done explaining its goals and strategy in Afghanistan to a skeptical public. (READ MORE)

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