September 15, 2009

From the Front: 09/15/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Hodge Podge - Internet has been horrible the past few days and I have been unable to post any entries. So today’s entry is a combination of the past few days. (Some of the pictures could not be uploaded and will added once Internet access improves.) Just a few days ago on 9 September, Massoud Day was celebrated here. Ahmad Shah Massoud or more commonly remembered by his nickname the Lion of Panjshir was the leader of the Northern Alliance and probably the most popular anti-Soviet fighter. Later he became the Defense Minister in 1992, but after President Rabbani’s government collapsed and the Taliban resumed power, he returned to his role as an opposition leader. On many occasions he attacked Kabul and the Taliban regime. Two days before America was attacked on 9-11, he was assassinated by suspected Al-Qaeda disguised as journalists. The explosives used to kill him are believed to have been hidden in the television camera. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Canadian Soldier Killed; Honoured By Our G-G - Is there any doubt that Michaelle Jean, our Governer-General, is the most inspiring and capable public servant working for our country right now? What a contrast with our mealy-mouthed politicians. She continually amazes me. “As a tribute to Private Lormand, I would like to reflect on the mission for which he so bravely gave his life, because, not three days ago, I was with our soldiers in Afghanistan to honour the difficult and remarkable job they are doing. To better appreciate our soldiers’ achievements on the ground, I met and spoke with a number of representatives from Afghan civil society, women and men who, faced with barbarity, are defending life in Afghanistan and fighting injustice and misery; these are the people we never—or rarely—hear from. The people of Afghanistan support progress, democracy, the reconstruction of peace, the rebuilding of their country, the respect of rights and freedoms, the equality of women, education and development, and Canada, in turn, supports their efforts and initiatives to promote viable Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.” (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: White Phase, teary eyes - I got a call from our soldier Sunday evening. It was the first time she has sounded discouraged on the phone and she even cried a little. She said she felt like quitting for the first time since she's been there. Her ankle has been giving her a lot of problems. She turned it badly toward the end of the third week. They were running and she hit a clump of grass or something and went down hard. She's been trying hard to deal with it and having moderate success. But now it has swollen so much that she's unable to put on her boot. She finally relented and went to sick call. They gave her some anti-inflammatory meds and cut out some major blisters on her heals. (She had blisters on top of blisters, on top of blisters.) I'm really not sure what her prognosis is. It's hard to talk about very much in 5 minutes. She has more PT testing this week and is very concerned that her ankle will keep her from passing the running portion. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Hail to the Chiefs - Naval Tradition has once again been upheld. Three fine Navy Sailors who have been working for the past several weeks to transform themselves into leaders of the Finest Navy in the world had their anchors pinned on today. There was no ocean, nor even any water visible other than the sweat of those in attendance. Nonetheless ships bells were rung, sideboys posted, and time honored rituals were performed. I have seen these three fine Sailors perform their duties with the ANA hospital mentoring team. The Navy did very well in promoting them to Chief Petty Officer. They are now charged with the duties of teaching and mentoring enlisted sailors, carrying out the tasks of the Navy, and teaching the junior officers they will work alongside. Hail to the Chiefs! (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Med-Evac - Today I went to a meeting at the Med-Evac building. The meeting was very routine, just a discussion of how to get soldiers' photos from across the battalion on a single computer. Just after the meeting I was talking to one of the pilots on duty. There are two aircraft that are on standby for immediate take-off and another pair of Blackhawks as a backup for the first. The lead bird in each pair is the medic bird. The trail bird is in air assault configuration with guns in the doors. When they get a call, team one goes and team two goes on alert. Yesterday there were two calls almost simultaneously. I got to watch the preparation and take-off. The first pair were gone inside of eight minutes--jumping from the pad where they rest into the air one right after the other. But there were only three Blackhawks on the ready line, not four. It turns out the fourth was on an instrument check flight--guns mounted and ready to go. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Someone Remind the President - The Washington Post's editorial reminds us today how this is no time to forget Iraq, which "is entering a crucial year." The writer says, "[n]ational elections in January could determine whether Iraq moves away from the sectarian divisions that triggered a virtual civil war in 2006 and whether its fledgling democratic system survives or gives way to a new authoritarianism." Iraqis are definitely talking about the upcoming elections, the politicians are forming alliances, and the posters are going up on the walls. The editorial explains: "In the seven months after the election, the United States is due to reduce its forces by more than 60 percent." The White House looks as though it doesn't understand the importance of Iraq. But the writer still gives Obama the benefit of the doubt. "Obama has appeared to spare it little of his attention." the piece explains the president's assigning Vice President Biden to the Iraq project. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Senior al Qaeda leader killed in Somalia - A senior al Qaeda operative behind the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania is believed to have been killed during a raid by covert forces in southern Somalia. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and another person are thought to have been killed in the southern town of Barawe during a raid by what was originally reported to be French commandos; the raid is now said to have been carried out by US Special Forces. Witnesses said foreign troops swept into the town on helicopters, fired missiles from an attack helicopter, killed Nabhan and another terrorist, and captured two others after wounding them, Mareeg reported. Nabhan's body was recovered, ABC News later reported. Another report indicated that four Shabaab and al Qaeda fighters were killed during the raid. Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, a senior Shabaab leader, is said to have been one of those killed along with Nabhan. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Rules of Enragement - McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay's harrowing account of an ambush of U.S. Marine and Army trainers outside the village of Ganjgal has raised some important questions about the operational approach in Afghanistan. In Landay's own analysis of the attack, he points to resources denied to troops on the ground - intelligence, artillery and air support - as a legacy of "the Bush administration's decision to divert resources to Iraq and the resulting stress on the U.S. military." Fair enough: few people (with the exception of the Washington Post) would argue with the fact that commitments to Iraq remain a distraction for any serious civil-military effort in Afghanistan. However, what most concerns Landay and the soldiers and Marines who fought and lost brothers in Ganjgal is General McChrystal's revised rules of engagement (ROE), designed to minimize civilian casualties and foster greater partnering with Afghans. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Black Monday - Our drawdown is gaining steam. Today, most of our support contractors were notified that their services will no longer be required and that they'll soon be sent home. Some will leave in as soon as two days, while others will be here for two or, at most, three weeks. I don't know quite how to make the impact of this event clear to you. Many of these people have been here for two, three, or more years. Some arrived in the summer of 2003, when the war was still fresh in everybody's memory. These people have seen our presence ramp up, they lived through the insurgency, they survived mortar and rocket attacks, and all the while they built bridges and water treatment plants, schools and electrical substations, clinics and oil pipelines, and literally thousands of other projects. Their corporate memory is phenomenal. But now we're drawing down, with only a couple hundred projects still ongoing and very few left to start. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: New Blog in Kunar - The Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunar has a blog. Straight from the horses’ mouths, so they say: “Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar engineers conducted a joint power assessment with local officials and operators in Dam Kalay village in Asadabad Sept. 12 to determine future power projects in the area. The PRT is working with the regional government to validate power requirements before moving forward with a mini-hydro generator refurbishment project to provide reliable power to Asadabad.” Well, at least it’s targeted news, and they have some great pictures. But here’s something I’d like to know: why is the Kunar PRT on the web like this? Why are its officers so prominent in the media? When David Kilcullen first began talking about how paving roads prevented IEDs—the start of a coordinated shaping campaign about reconstruction—he relied on the Kunar PRT to tell him that more roads equaled more security. (READ MORE)

PRT - Kunar: Badel Road open for business - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – Kunar provincial officials and Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar members opened the Badel Road Sept. 13 to improve security and development in the Narang district. The 4.8 kilometer, $1.7 million paved road will provide access to an area that has been relatively isolated up to this point by linking the Badel Valley to the Asadabad-Jalalabad corridor. According to Army Sgt. Stewart Yates, PRT Civil Affairs team sergeant and native of Salt Lake City, Utah, the opening of the road is a success story for the district. “Roads are a great way to connect the people to their provincial and district governments and vice versa,” the sergeant said. “This road will increase the ability of the Afghanistan army and police to respond to emergencies and security threats, allow village residents to get medical assistance quicker and finally residents will be able to get their products to market easier.” (READ MORE)

Air Force Wife @ SpouseBUZZ: That Dry Spell - So, here I am trudging along through a deployment. I have a busy schedule, I'm battling insomnia (as usual) so I'm tired most of the time, and I've had a lot of things on my mind. Then I turn on the TV to watch a movie and I see... it. Yes, it. That thing that wreaks complete havoc on my carefully orchestrated overwhelmed life. That thing that throws me into a complete tailspin of frustration and irritation. That thing that seemingly contrives against me to make the deployment trudge completely unbearable. A romantic movie scene. Now, I don't mean an overdone teen angst kind of romantic scene. And I certainly don't mean a graphic sex scene. I mean a good, well thought out, vital to the plot kind of romantic scene. Kind of like the Take My Breath Away scene in Top Gun (which is on my YOU SHALL NOT PASS! movie list during deployments, by the way). And last night watching Australia and seeing Drover come home after his seasonal absence about had me undone. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Army Doctor Raises $1000 for Breast Cancer Research During 5K Run in Iraq - On Saturday morning, 12 September 2009, thousands of runners lined up in New York City for the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure", a 5-kilometer run designed to raise money for breast cancer prevention, awareness and treatment. As the race kicked off in New York's Central Park at 9 AM Eastern Standard Time, Captain Erica Feola, a US Army flight surgeon, began the race as well. Except Captain Feola was seven time zones ahead of the rest of the runners, running the 5-kilometer race within the confines of a forward operating base in the desert of Iraq. A number of Captain Feola's friends and family volunteered to sponsor her; in fact, she raised over $500 through an application on her Facebook page. Additionally, Captain Feola amassed another $500 worth of donations after an I posted an article on Small Wars Journal last month, for a total of just over $1000. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: River Boat Adventure - Last Thursday, I got up at 1:30 in the morning to travel to the Port of Umm Qasr to do a story on the US Navy Riverines. Keep in mind this assignment was four days ago, and all I’ve done is cut up b-roll. I do get to make a baseball stat analogy where I could have possibly been the first army soldier in Southern Iraq near the port of Umm Qasr in the month of September before 7:00 in the morning to be on a navy boat. Apparently Monty and Raley were the first to witness an Army band play on a US Navy Destroyer in the Persian Gulf while wearing crocks. The guys on the boat were great. The driver stopped quick once and I hit my knees. The gunners thought that was funny. I found it’s hard to keep ones balance while looking through a camera viewfinder on a 30-foot assault craft. One cool thing about these river boats is the amount of ammo on board. They have something like 4 M-240B machine guns and a .50-cal. You don’t mess with these guys on the river. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

First group of Stryker Brigade troops coming home today - CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — Some nine months after being deployed to Iraq, the first soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard 56th Stryker Brigade’s Cambridge Springs-based 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry are expected to return to their base late this afternoon. About 170 members of the battalion’s Bravo Company are expected to return from Fort Dix, N.J., by late this afternoon, said Sgt. Davina Knight, personnel staffer at the battalion’s base in Cambridge Springs. The 56th Stryker Brigade was deployed to Iraq in January. (READ MORE)

Joyous reunion as soldiers return - CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — To his fellow soldiers, he’s Sgt. Michael Noey. But to his four young nieces and another nephew, he is better known as Unkie Monkey. “When they were little they couldn’t say Uncle Michael, so it became Unkie Monkey,” explained Noey’s mother, Debbie Noey, at whose knees scampered a small gaggle of young girls holding signs that said things like “Welcome Home Unkie Monkey.” (READ MORE)

Johnstown Welcomes Home Stryker Brigade - JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Stryker Brigade comes home from Iraq. Johnstown and Punxsutawney welcome some 70 soldiers home. Hundreds of people, fire departments and the National Guard Armories were all ready to thank them for their duties overseas. The Waterbury family talked to WJAC-TV about Engineer 856 team leader Thomas Waterbury's dedication to serving our country. (READ MORE)

Local soldier welcomed home - For Sgt. Gary Wagner Jr., the most difficult part of his deployment to Iraq was not seeing his family and friends. Sunday, he got to catch up on what he missed at a party thrown in his honor at the Steitz Club in Lebanon. "I'm proud to be an American, and I'm happy to be home and see everyone," said Wagner, who returned to the United States Sept. 1 after eight months in Iraq. "I thought about almost everyone in this room quite a few times while I was over there. That's what makes our job easier: coming back to this right here." (READ MORE)

Military's Killing of 2 Journalists in Iraq Detailed in New Book - A new book by a Washington Post reporter provides a graphic, second-by-second description of the US military's 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad, an incident that the news organization says it cannot investigate fully because the Pentagon has withheld key records of the event. The Reuters photographer and driver were carrying cameras and walking with a group of Iraqi men, some of whom appeared to be armed, when a US helicopter crew mistook them for insurgents, according to an account by David Finkel in the book "The Good Soldiers," published Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Iraq’s UN refugee representative visits Taza - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq — The United Nations has donated more than $500,000 to help reconstruction efforts in the Iraqi city of Taza, in response to a devastating bomb blast that leveled hundreds of homes and killed at least 80 people in late June. To date, some 60 homes have been rebuilt with the funds, 30 homes are in the process of being rebuilt, and another 60 will soon begin construction. (READ MORE)

NATO Training Mission-Iraq Opens New HQ in Int’l Zone - BAGHDAD – With a slice from a scissor, the ribbon was cut and NATO Training Mission-Iraq inaugurated their new headquarters at Forward Operating Base Union III in the International Zone Sept. 13. Participating were U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commanding general for NTM-I; his deputy commanding general, Italian Maj. Gen. Giuseppe Spinelli; and U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, commander, NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Officer Takes Control of the Sky - KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq – First Lt. Waad Shuhatha recently became the first post-war Iraqi service member to earn a certification in air traffic control from the International Civil Aviation Organization, continuing the transition of military training and assets to the Iraqi armed services. He began training in 2006 by taking a basic course in English, the language of aviation. (READ MORE)

GRD completes repairs to Taji water treatment facility - TAJI, Iraq – Engineers will soon be firing up two jet engines, but it won’t be at the Baghdad airport. In partnership with the Government of Iraq, the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed the repair of twin Rolls-Royce jet turbines at the Karkh Water Treatment Plant. Successful liability testing of the turbines could equate to 40 percent of Baghdad area residents enjoying an uninterrupted water supply. (READ MORE)

Predator UAV crashes in central Iraq - SOUTHWEST ASIA — An Air Force MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aircraft System crashed in central Iraq today at approximately 12:45 p.m. Baghdad time. The crash was not due to hostile fire. The crash site has been secured and there were no reports of civilian injuries or damage to civilian property. (READ MORE)

Army Sends New Explosives Team to Train Iraqis - CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION MAREZ, Iraq, Sept. 14, 2009 – The Army has deployed the first of its new highly specialized explosive hazards teams to train Iraqis to counter explosives. The 130th Engineer Brigade's 15th Explosive Hazards Team from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, recently arrived here to support the brigade's reconstruction mission in Iraq’s Ninevah province. The team will enhance the 130th's capabilities to train Iraqi soldiers in counter-improvised explosive device tactics and evidence collection procedures. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Arrest Terrorism Suspects - WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2009 – Iraqi security forces, assisted by U.S. advisors, arrested suspected terrorists in the Baghdad and Tikrit areas of Iraq in recent days, military officials reported. During operations Sept. 11, Iraqi forces in Baghdad arrested 10 suspected terrorists. Four of the suspects, arrested in the Rasheed area, were charged with participating in explosives attacks. Six of the suspects were arrested in the Lutifiyah and Mahmudiyah areas of Babil province, and are suspected of working with terrorist networks. (READ MORE)

Obama Rejects Afghanistan-Vietnam Comparison - President Obama rejected comparisons on Monday between the war in Afghanistan and the conflict in Vietnam a generation ago, but he expressed concern about “the dangers of overreach” and pledged a full debate before making further decisions on strategy. The president’s comments, in an interview at the White House with The New York Times and CNBC, appeared to be a response to rising unease within his own party in Congress about the possibility of the United States becoming bogged down in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Mixing Fighting and Food - Across four northeastern Afghan provinces this summer, Task Force Duke ambushed insurgents, cut off enemy supply lines from Pakistan and secured key roads. Those thousands of American troops from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division also planned to spend more than $100 million reconstructing 540 miles of area roads and building nearly 100 schools. Along the way, they conducted election registrations, aided earthquake victims and distributed wheat alongside the World Food Program. It was a textbook example of the Obama administration’s new "whole of government" strategy for the US military to advance the war in Afghanistan: (READ MORE)

Illiteracy Undermines Afghan Army - Afghan army recruit Shahidullah Ahmadi can't read - and neither can nine out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army. The lack of education points to a basic challenge for the United States, as it tries to expand the Afghan army in the hopes that US and allied forces can one day withdraw. Just as in Iraq - and perhaps even more so - the US is finding it no small task to recruit, train and equip a force that is large and competent enough to operate successfully on its own." (READ MORE)

Afghans Question What Democracy Has Done for Them - Mubaruz Khan didn't bother to vote when Afghans went to the polls in the country's second-ever democratic election last month. He was too busy eking out a living selling cigarettes and soda for $3 a day, and didn't think voting would make a difference in his life. Millions like Khan stayed home on Aug. 20, a sharp contrast to 2004, when Afghans jammed polling stations to give President Hamid Karzai his first term. Ominous warnings from the Taliban suppressed turnout, but some Afghans said they were also discouraged by the government's failure to halt endemic corruption, spiraling unemployment and crumbling security. (READ MORE)

Official Says Contractor in Kabul May Be Ousted - The State Department official responsible for overseeing private contracts said Monday that the government was seriously considering terminating its $189 million arrangement with ArmorGroup North America because of recent disclosures of misbehavior by guards at the United States Embassy in Afghanistan. At a hearing before a federal commission investigating wartime spending, Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management, said ArmorGroup managers had failed to notify the government about parties in which drunken, half-naked guards had urinated on and groped one another. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Outsources Part of Terror War to Militia -. They wear their hair and beards long, Taliban style, and support attacks on US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Yet the fighters are tolerated and - many believe - backed by Pakistan because they share a common enemy: the country's most deadly terror network. Pro-government militias like this one on the border of the country's lawless tribal regions are an important plank in the campaign against the Pakistani Taliban following the slaying of its chief, Baitullah Mehshud, in a CIA missile strike last month. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Army Is Said to Be Linked to Many Killings in Swat - Two months after the Pakistani Army wrested control of the Swat Valley from Taliban militants, a new campaign of fear has taken hold, with scores, perhaps hundreds, of bodies dumped on the streets in what human rights advocates and local residents say is the work of the military. In some cases, people may simply have been seeking revenge against the ruthless Taliban, in a society that tends to accept tit-for-tat reprisals, local politicians said. (READ MORE)

Drone Attack Kills 4 Militants in Pakistan - A suspected US drone attack in a remote border region of Pakistan is said to have killed at least four militants believed to have links to the Taliban and al-Qaida networks. The Pakistani military says it has killed 16 Taliban militants in the ongoing Swat offensive and has tightened the noose around the key rebel commander in the valley. Analysts say that killings and arrests of some of the top Taliban commanders in recent days appears to have dealt a crippling blow to the insurgents in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Tennessee Guard Non-commissioned Officer Shares Knowledge in Afghanistan - The Agri-business Development Teams in Afghanistan are tasked with the responsibility to help rebuild the county's agriculture industry and it is important that members of the teams have an extensive knowledge of agriculture to help ensure the success of the ADT's mission. One of those Soldiers is Sgt. Robert Moore, who according to his fellow Soldiers, may have more knowledge in the field of agriculture then many of his peers. (READ MORE)

Sand Sharks Bring Comforts of Home to Camp Barber - CAMP BARBER, Helmand Province, Afghanistan – The Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, Marine Aircraft Group 40, made up some of the first troops to arrive here and begin construction at Camps Leatherneck and Barber in preparation for the arrival of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. As crews from the squadron set about building runways and establishing refueling points, the camp commandant section focused their efforts on the construction of various camp facilities, among them, morale boosting facilities for their fellow "Sand Sharks", the squadron's nickname. (READ MORE)

International Security Assistance Force Service Member Killed in Southern Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan – An International Security Assistance Force service member was killed yesterday, Sept. 13, as a result of a hostile fire incident with insurgents in southern Afghanistan. "We mourn the loss of a valorous service member who sacrificed his life for the people of Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends," said Brigadier-General Eric Tremblay, ISAF spokesperson. (READ MORE)

Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team Holds Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for New Road - The Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team held a ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 7, in Ghazni province to celebrate the completion of a 17-kilometer paved road connecting the Ghazni city center to the Kwaji Omari District center. The improved road links the district of Kwaji Omari to the "Ring Road," Afghanistan's main highway, which cuts through Ghazni city. (READ MORE)

Reaper Crashes in Afghanistan - An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System crashed in Afghanistan at approximately 5:30 a.m. Kabul time Sept. 13. The aircraft was flying a combat mission when positive control of the aircraft was lost. When the aircraft remained on a course that would depart Afghanistan airspace, a U.S. Air Force manned aircraft took proactive measures to down the MQ-9 in a remote area of northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban makes IEDs deadlier - The Taliban has been building simpler, cheaper anti-personnel bombs made of hard-to-detect nonmetal components, increasing the number of lethal attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to a confidential military report. The shift in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) away from larger anti-armor bombs has allowed the Taliban to produce more weapons and hide them in more places as they strive to kill larger numbers of American forces in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province and other contested regions. (READ MORE)

Bin Laden calls U.S.-NATO's fight in Afghanistan 'hopeless' - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Monday taunted the United States amid rising casualties in Afghanistan, calling the U.S.-NATO military campaign "hopeless" and warning of a "war of extermination against you on all possible fronts." In his latest audio release, titled "A message to the American people" and posted on a Web site often used by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, bin Laden says President Obama is too "weakened" to end the war in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

White House Postponing Tough Decision on Afghanistan War, AP Says - Washington (AP) - The Obama administration is holding off major decisions that could put its military forces on a firmer war footing in Afghanistan even as doubts grow about whether the United States can win there. Many military and diplomatic leaders have urged President Barack Obama to send thousands more Marines, soldiers and pilots to try to reverse Afghanistan's crumbling security situation. (READ MORE)

China launches mine-clearing training course for Afghanistan, Iraq - A humanitarian mine-clearing training course for Afghanistan and Iraq sponsored by the Chinese government was inaugurated here Tuesday in Nanjing, capital of the eastern Jiangsu Province. About 40 military officers from Afghanistan and Iraq are on the two-month course at the University of Science and Technology of the People's Liberation Army in Nanjing, said China's Foreign Ministry. (READ MORE)

Polio makes a return to remote, destitute Afghanistan - CHAGHCHARAN (Agencies): Gulbadan Halifazada lives in a house in a mud-brick compound without electricity or running water in the poorest region of one of the world’s most destitute countries. In the compound she, her husband and their half-dozen children share with two other families, four goats and a calf are tied up in a corner, turkeys scratch around them and sunflowers planted in the parched earth wilt in the searing late-summer heat. (READ MORE)

Taliban commander surrenders in Afghanistan - Kabul, Sep 15 (Xinhua) A Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam has surrendered to the authorities in Afghanistan's northwest Badghis province, a media report said Tuesday. 'Mullah Abdul Salam along with one of his comrades surrendered to the government and handed over two pieces of weapons,' daily 8 Subh reported. The newspaper quoted the police chief of the province Syed Ahmad Sami as saying that mediation of elders had played a significant role in convincing Mullah Salam to lay down arms. (READ MORE)

Challenger warns that Afghan war will fail if Karzai is re-elected - KABUL — The leading challenger in Afghanistan’s national elections warned Monday that if President Hamid Karzai wins another term based on a fraudulent vote, the U.S.-led war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan will fail. "We will have a vacuum of power, security and stability," Abdullah Abdullah told McClatchy Newspapers. "Five years of illegitimate rule cannot be sustained by more troops or more resources." (READ MORE)

Germany aims for Afghanistan pull-out in 2013 - GERMAN FOREIGN minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has said the country should work towards 2013 as the date to begin its exit of the Nato mission in Afghanistan. Two weeks before the general election, the proposal from the man hoping to unseat chancellor Angela Merkel comes at a time of increased public discontent at Germany’s deployment of 4,200 soldiers in northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

450 from Shilo off to Afghanistan - A contingent of Canadian Forces soldiers based in Manitoba will depart Tuesday for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A total of 450 soldiers will depart tomorrow evening for Kandahar, said Lori Truscott, spokeswoman for CFB Shilo near Brandon, Man., in a statement issued Monday. The group is the first of several deployments of Manitoba-based soldiers that will be occurring in coming weeks. (READ MORE)

The good Taleban – for now - THEY wear their hair and beards long, Taleban style, and support attacks on Nato troops in Afghanistan. Yet the fighters are tolerated and – many believe – backed by Pakistan because they share a common enemy: the country's most deadly terrorist network. Pro-government militias like this one on the border of the country's lawless tribal regions are an important plank in the campaign against the Pakistani Taleban following the killing of its chief, Baitullah Mehshud, in a CIA missile strike last month. (READ MORE)

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