September 16, 2009

From the Front: 09/16/2009

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

Family Matters Blog: FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM: DADDY’S HOME (VIEW PHOTOS)

Bouhammer: The True Story on the Heroism of PFC Justin Casillas - I am so humbled and honored when a family member of a fallen warrior reaches out to me via my blog. It has happened several times and I am always in awe that a family going through the tragedy of losing a loved one takes the time to reach out to me. On July 6th, I wrote about two young paratroopers who were killed on the fourth of July whom were not old enough to even drink a beer. I then wrote about this same incident again on September 2nd as there was a series of videos put together by the 4th BCT, 25th ID about the specific attack that happened on July 4th and these videos discuss the brave acts of one young man, PFC Justin Casillas. The original report from the Army and to the family was that PFC Casillas and PFC Fairbairn were killed when their checkpoint was attacked. Part of this story gained worldwide attention when PFC Fairbairn’s father tweeted on Twitter “They killed my son.” (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Are those chili peppers and Afghan election update - Earlier in the day I went to ANA land to plan for some future projects. MSG Abdullah will be extremely happy after the security fence is erected. Right now, much of the area is open and vehicles drive freely to the warehouse. Despite having a guard on duty, I think MSG Abdullah wants to protect his Miracle Gro Garden. Since he was at a meeting, I used this opportunity to tour his garden some more. Yesterday, I took pictures from the exterior boundary. Today I walked up and down the rows of corn to see what else he was growing. I found some gigantic squash and more tomato plants. Next to the corn was a plastic tarp with something red laying on it. Initially I thought these were red peppers and they were drying in the sun. Upon closer observation I could see it was something different. Instead of peppers, these were thin slivers of tomatoes. (READ MORE)

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq: Honor the Quiet Professionals - During my deployments to Iraq, I had the honor of serving some of the military's "Quiet Professionals" as a small but very unique portion of our clients. The quiet professionals are the US military Special Forces; highly trained and independent shadow warriors who complete the most dangerous and tricky missions. In the hospital we met Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Air Force Combat Controllers. They came to us as patients, secretly in the middle of the night with false names and social security numbers, and then disappeared just as fast when they had been stabilized. We coordinated care with Special Forces physicians, many of them reservists who left their families for months at a time, completely out of communication. We trained their medics to intubate, decompress collapsed lungs, and quickly pass venous or intraosseous catheters to help their men in times of need. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan: In the media - You know it's been an interesting tour when during an hour-long layover in Alaska someone just happens to buy a Time magazine and thereby stumble across pictures of members of our team and one of our interpreters. Of course, our guys that had the pictures taken knew that eventually they'd might show up in the magazine, but none of the rest of us knew they'd be in there since we didn't pay attention to the fact that a reporter was with them. It might have been a nice surprise if not for the fact that two of our guys pictured were bearded and well out of uniform. Unlike the Special Forces, we're not permitted to dress and groom ourselves how we'd like. Of course, where we could get away with it, many of us did just what we liked regarding our uniforms and beards. Generally we had sense enough to not let pictures get taken of us in such a state. In fact, for the first half of our time we didn't let reporters embed with us at all, and pretty much just kept them away from us, primarily so something like this wouldn't happen. (READ MORE)

Frontline bloggers - Afghanistan: Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders: 2 MERCIAN, blogs from Helmand - Part 19 - Greetings friends and readers at the Marwood, Worcester! This will be my last blog for a few weeks as I will soon be going home for some rest, I hope to see some of you in person as I will make a visit to the Marwood on my return. This week the theme, if such a thing exists with my ramblings, is departures. We have all seen the news and know of the great losses sustained in the fierce fighting here. What is less publicised is the soldiers who return home injured or at there end of tour, both of which deserve attention and recognition for different reasons. For those injured soldiers the road to recovery may be a long and painful process and we must guard against not including them as the friends and comrades that they are. This is difficult as the pace of operation’s here continues and on return the drive to restart lives put on hold is intense. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: On drinking water and Ramadan - CBS, from the weekend: “In Kabul, the capital, an American service member and an Afghan police officer got into an argument because the American was drinking water in front of the Afghan police, who are not eating or drinking during the day because of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, said the district chief, Abdul Baqi Zemari. The police officer shot the American and seriously wounded him, while other American troops responded and seriously wounded the police officer, Zemari said.” Working with Afghan soldiers or police (or terps) during Ramadan is difficult, especially when it comes in the summer months. Although I observed a sympathy fast last year, I was unable to get through 30 hot, cloud-free days without occasionally sneaking a sip of water... I don't *think* I was ever spotted. Productivity goes way down, and some Afghans are frankly a little heat-stressed by the end of the day. (READ MORE)

Iron Camel: Condoms, Latex, 20 EA - I posted this in a FOX News Forum after I arrived here. I thought I would run it on my own blog. Enjoy. Recently my team met and had dinner with COL M., his commanders and his staff. In typical Iraqi fashion, COL M. put out a delicious spread of chicken, pita bread, fruit and vegetables topped off with a small glass of hot chai tea. As Iraqi custom would have it, we stood around several tables end to end, covered in white table clothes. Along the tables were seven or eight circular platters stacked with baked chicken halves piled on torn pieces of pita bread covered in chicken broth. Next to each platter were bowls of chopped cucumbers, onions and tomatoes bottles of water and cans of “Bebsi”. (In some parts of the US soda pop in general is called Coke. Here they call it Pepsi, but since there isn’t really a “Puh” sound in Arabic, they say Bebsi.) This type of dinner is typically eaten with your right hand while standing. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Always Moving - I got back from dinner tonight and two other sergeants in our company were in the room. When I walked in I said hello and said I was just picking up the books for tonight's book group. My roommate said, "Our door is the net and Gussman is a tennis ball. He bounces in, he bounces out." I do. But I need to have different things with me for each activity, especially especially on book group days. Today we got done in the motor pool at about 230pm. I went from there to the Charlie Med hangar for a meeting then back to the room to change from the uniform to PTs. I did some writing, rested for a while (we get up at 0445), called a couple of coworkers back in the states about a meeting, then went to the coffee shop to read for tonight's book group and a few pages of French (Le trois mousquetaires). Then I came back to the CHU dropped the books and rode the perimeter of the post. After that I made two more phone calls about work and then off to dinner. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: More Abuse of Military Families - It was a nasty evil thing to do back during the Vietnam war. People would call families claiming to be the military and tell their son had been killed and the family would later find it was a lie. Mental and emotional abuse and torture of the worse kind. Well what once was old is new again... but still just as evil and heartless. Only this time the media is being compliant. Calls are being made to families and the words no family with a soldier wants to hear are uttered " We regret to inform you"... Only to find out their soldier is alive and well. It's done to break morale and inflict injury on the families. Not only that but on our troops also. Now instead of our soldiers being able to completely focus on their mission they have the burden of worrying about something like this happening to their loved ones who are suppose to be safe at home. “Ray Jasper of Niagara Falls says he was camping Sunday when he received a call on his cell phone from a woman who said she was a military liaison. He says the woman told him his son, Staff Sgt. Jesse Jasper, was killed in action Saturday.” (READ MORE)

Life at Joint Base Balad: The Old and the New Places to Eat - Construction workers have started to tear down my beloved old DFAC #2. At the start of the job, the scene looked like this: If you look closely, you’ll see dozens of stickers people had put up on the entrance wall. This was a beloved DFAC, and I must have eaten breakfast here 250 times until it was closed. You already know what I think of the new DFAC #2 (in the background, above). So I’m sad whenever I ride by this site. It now looks like this, with much of it torn down already: There is a new place to eat now, it is called Ciano Italian Restaurant. It’s a brand-new construction, located next to the USO and across from the MWR East Rec Center, quite close to the PX. This place is doing good business, judging by the large groups of people that I’ve seen eating here. You can see that they’ve painstakingly recreated the aesthetic of Tuscany in this fine Italian villa: (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Commando raid in Somalia is latest in covert operations across the globe - Yesterday's daring raid in southern Somalia that targeted and killed a senior al Qaeda leader wanted for several deadly attacks is the latest in a series of covert operations carried out by US and allied special operations. At least four other high-profile raids by ground forces took place in Pakistan, Madagascar, and Syria over the past several years, while others have gone unreported, according to US officials. The successful Somali raid targeted Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa as well as a senior leader in Shabaab, al Qaeda's surrogate in Somalia. Nabhan is thought to train terrorists in Somalia and has been at the forefront in cementing ties between Shabaab and al Qaeda. He has been wanted for his involvement in the 1998 suicide attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as leading the cell behind the 2002 terror attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, against a hotel and an airliner. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Pakistan’s Army Brings the Ultraviolence - Hundreds of bodies have begun showing up in the streets of Swat. It doesn’t look good: “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. But the scale of the retaliation, the similarities in the way that many of the victims have been tortured and the systematic nature of the deaths and disappearances in areas that the military firmly controls have led local residents, human rights workers and some Pakistani officials to conclude that the military has had a role in the campaign.” Naturally, the Army denies any extrajudicial killings. But is this really all that surprising? The Pakistani Army leveled Bajaur—erased the town from the face of the planet—in order to “save” it from the Taliban. Indeed, civilians have been the biggest victims even of the Army’s halting advance through the Tribal Areas. (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: The Chicken Street bachelor - Kabul I took a walk down Chicken Street today to visit Sai Bashir Elmi, a 45-year-old bachelor who speaks English, French and a smattering of German. Elmi learned his languages at the University of Kabul. He was able to put them to good use in the first few years after the fall of the Taliban as Europeans and Americans rediscovered Afghanistan's most famous shopping street to buy lapis lazuli bracelets, wooden carvings, scarves, rugs, swords, embroidered shirts and other jewlrey, antiques and handicrafts. For awhiles, it seemed like a rebirth for Chicken Street, which had flourished back in the '60s and 'early 70s when Kabul was a magnet for western globetrotters, These business prospects drew Elmi and his family back from Pakistan, where they had fled after the Soviets occupied Afghanistan and civil war broke out. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Wash Rack Detail - My last mission, help clean all the stryker vehicles in my brigade before they are sent back to the states. We’re talking hundreds here. Shouldn’t be hard right? Just line them up by a wash rack and start spraying. That’s what everyone thought. How wrong we all were. Week one was by far the worst. The humidity was sky high along with the over 100 temperatures. So even though I started at midnight, I would be drenched in sweat in 5 minutes flat. The shift hour was tough too. Midnight to noon. I never did get used to it. Getting wet from the washers kept you cool, but after 12 hours of being drenched from head to foot it wasn’t fun. Since we could leave early if we completed the vehicles early, everyone was highly pumped for the first few days. Unfortunately that didn’t last. The custom agents were all over the place. There was no set standard between each inspector. Where one cleared a vehicle, another would fail. (READ MORE)

Marine Wife: Staying connected - We've discussed this before, but I saw this article and thought it was worth discussing again. During our last deployment, I got our girls Daddy Dolls. In the past, I've put pictures of my husband on the wall next to the kids' beds, cribs, and in their playroom at their eye level using clear contac paper, so they could touch him, kiss him, etc. while he was away. During our first deployment of the Long War, we sent cassette tapes back and forth. He could hear random things our then 2 year old was doing and saying. We got hear his voice either just talking or reading a story. We had to do it old school then because we only had snail mail for communication. I know there are a lot of creative folks out there. So let's hear it. How do you stay connected to your spouse while they are gone? And how do you keep them connected with the kids? (READ MORE)

The Torch: Giving a bit back to those who gave so much - We all understand that to lose a loved one in the service of Canada is a life-altering shock. That is to say, we understand it intellectually, but very few of us realize exactly what it means emotionally to wake up each day and try to live knowing you'll never see your loved one again - taken from you far too soon. For the spouses and children of the fallen, there's also another layer of stress: finances. Much as the CF has safety nets in place for such an eventuality, the reality is that the family has lost a breadwinner's years of potential earnings. And as a family grows up, expenses only rise. That's why the efforts of Canada Company are so very important, and greatly appreciated by those of us who care deeply about CF members and their families: (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Punk’d - The eagerly-awaited US Customs inspection arrived—one of those signs that you are close to the end of the deployment. We stood in formation with all of our "Tuff boxes", filled with personal equipment, just waiting for the Customs inspectors to do their thing before we packed them in shipping containers prior to the trip home. Before the Customs inspectors walked through, however, they had to read some mandatory verbiage. The gist of it prohibited us from bringing certain things back to the US—weapons, war trophies, animals, fruit, camel spiders, bootleg DVDs, you name it. However, they got to the end of the Customs briefing and noted that there is one very important thing that is prohibited during the Customs inspection. "No pornographic material, to include magazines, DVDs, or any material with exposed female breasts of genitalia for the purposes of depicting graphic sexual behavior. No sexual devices or devices used for sexual gratification." Wait...what? No porn? War is hell... (READ MORE)

Felix Kuehn: Kandahar Eyewitness Account - It was perhaps twenty minutes after the call to prayer had sounded and we were breaking the fast, sitting on the floor around a plastic sheet with plates of rice and meat, when I was knocked sideways to the ground. It takes a split second till you realize what happened; the shock-wave had blown out the windows, sending the glass flying like shrapnel into the room. It was a miracle that no one was injured. Our glass is double glazing, and glass kept on raining down the facade landing on our terrace, shattering into thousands of tiny pieces. There have been bomb blasts before that shook the ground, but nothing like this. I heard gunfire on the streets for several minutes, and I moved to the back rooms of the apartment with my friends. No pretty pictures this time, but I doubt I could have held the camera steady those first few minutes anyway. Soon after the gunshots stopped, we walked out onto the terrace, glass crunching under our sandals and watched as police cars and ambulances rushed past towards the blast side. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Mrs. Bouhammer Guest Post; FRGs are Priceless in the time of Crisis - For the Record: The Military Will Never Notify any Family that THEIR soldier was Killed In Action by a Phone Call. The Military always arrive in person for the notification. If the family is not there they will wait. If no one shows up after awhile, they will leave and then come back over and over until a face to face notification is made. The military has strict written procedures that have to be followed with no exceptions. The Person making the notification is called the CNO (Causality Notification Officer) the notification is made in person within a set timeline. The CNO will leave and the family will never see that person again. Then within a set amount of time a CAO (Causality Assistance Officer) will make contact with the fallen’s Next of Kin and will assist the family through the entire process. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: VBC Service Members, Iraqi Scouts Leave Their Mark on Community - VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – Twenty-five children lined up outside the entrance to Saddam Hussein’s old Flintstone Palace, on Camp Slayer, here, August 2. The boys and girls were split into two groups, each led by a volunteer service member. Maj. Gary Farley, an Iraqi Ground Forces Command Military Transition Team advisor for Multi-National Corps - Iraq, led one of the groups up the winding path to the entrance of the main structure while the other group was led around the palace to the edge of a man-made lake. Today, the Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Victory Base Complex ventured out to begin a community service project and learn a little about fishing. The organization recently celebrated its one-year anniversary after establishing a scout camp and community to teach valuable scouting lessons and implement new sporting activities for the area’s youth. (READ MORE)

Cassandra: While We Were Grilling Hot Dogs - "PC Justin Casillas ran into incoming fire three times..." - 1st Lieutenant Mike Bassi. Watch the Video. Also, apropos of the UN report I posted on yesterday that said the insurgents are killing more Afghans than coalition forces do: “It's unclear to me whether the child - who the insurgents had assisting them - was killed in the explosion or not. But it looks as though he does walk away before the explosion. US forces hold their fire while the child is in the area. The insurgents have no such reservations.” We expect an awful lot of our armed forces. I'd say America is getting far more than its money's worth on the investment. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier. Living the Life: Is This Really Happening? - We are down to single digit days before my husband deploys. I have cried some, but not as much as I cried the times he left before. For some bizarre reason, I haven't processed that this is really happening. It still seems like training, not reality. It almost feels like an exercise, field time. Last night I went to a predeployment brief, and when they flashed up the map of Iraq I started to boo hoo. In that moment things became a little more real. Watching my husband pack wasn't a big event, I even helped him carry his tough box to the car, which is probably why I didn't cry then, I was too busy trying not to herniate myself! I have such a mix of emotions. Some of the ladies that I know are so nonchalant about the deployment, you know, it's all part of the job. Sometimes I wonder if I am a wimp or just weak that I am scared and upset. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
After a Tour in the N.B.A., a Life of Duty Over There - Every day, the 5-year-old son and namesake of the basketball player Tim James, a former first-round draft pick in the N.B.A., asks when his daddy is coming home. Betty James, who is looking after her grandson while James is gone, has a stock answer: “Soon, baby. Soon.” Last week, Tim Jr. returned home from kindergarten and broadsided Betty with a new question. “Is my daddy in a tank that shoots up people?” he said. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi Forces Work to Open New Schools in Iraq - KARMAH, Iraq, Sept. 15, 2009 – Iraqi and U.S. officials celebrated the opening of a meeting place and the first of what will be two dozen new and refurbished schools Sept. 9 in an area northwest of Baghdad many thought to be lost to poverty and violence. The Karmah School for Girls and a “diwan” for the sheik council and Karmah’s city council are part of a larger civil affairs initiative in the region, a project spokesman said. (READ MORE)

Biden, on Iraq Trip, Will Meet Maliki - Joe Biden, on his third trip to Iraq as US vice president, said that a successful parliamentary election - slated for January - would go a long way toward resolving lingering political tensions here. In a meeting with reporters, Mr. Biden said he was assessing how he could help resolve political issues so that the US leaves behind a stable Iraq. He also said the US could play the role of an interlocutor among Iraqi officials who have disputes with each other. He identified Iraq's parliamentary vote as a key benchmark. (READ MORE)

Biden Makes Unannounced Trip to Iraq, Is Welcomed By Mortar Fire - Amid a brief rumble of mortar fire, Vice President Biden arrived here Tuesday for meetings with US and Iraqi officials at a time when many Iraqis are pushing for a quick US departure after more than six years of war. Touching down in a C-17 cargo plane in a hot dusk, Biden then made his way by helicopter to the enormous new US embassy, where he met Gen. Ray Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill, the top US military and diplomatic officials here respectively. (READ MORE)

In Checkpoint Scrawl, Reality's Counterpoint - The writing on the walls of Baghdad's checkpoints have little to do with reality. Grim as life is here, with everything from buildings to desiccated orchards shaded in a dull ocher, no one needs testament to that. More often, the slogans penned in graceful Arabic say what leaders of a state threatening to fail want, or what they lack. "No to terrorism," insists graffiti to a country still haunted by it. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Is Out of Prison - After nine months in jail, Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at then-President George W. Bush, remained unrepentant upon his release Tuesday, saying that his life in Iraq is in danger and that he was tortured in prison. The little-known television reporter catapulted to fame after the news conference for Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Calls for Justice for Cameraman Slain in Iraq - The AFP has announced a war crimes probe into the deaths of five Australian-based newsmen in Balibo in 1975. Why then has there been no investigation into the murder in Iraq in 2003 of Australian cameraman Paul Moran? The terrorist leader who created the suicide bomber unit that killed Moran is alive and well. He is living in Norway and taunting the Australian Government to come and get him. Yet Canberra does nothing. (READ MORE)

IA, U.S. forces capture three after rocket attack - BAGHDAD –Quick reaction by Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers Sept.15, resulted in the detention of three individuals suspected of an indirect fire attack against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Soldiers from the 11th Iraqi Army Division, partnered with U.S. troops from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, conducting a counter indirect fire mission, immediately responded after hearing the rounds fired. (READ MORE)

Paratroopers assume responsibility of western Iraq base - CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq – Since the beginning of April 2009, a detachment of Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, have kept U.S. forces and civilian contractors aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, safe and secure. Recently, the Marines handed that responsibility over to the paratroopers of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, during a transfer of authority ceremony held on the base. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces graduates another class of elite Soldiers - BAGHDAD – Soldiers of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces welcomed their newest members during a graduation ceremony held on an Iraqi military compound outside of Baghdad Sept. 5. ICTF is one of Iraq’s leading special operations commands. They are designed to be the proverbial tip of the spear, aimed at the heart of those committed to terrorism and sectarian lawlessness in Iraq. (READ MORE)

ERB arrest 2 suspected terrorists wanted for IED attacks - BAGHDAD – Elements of the Emergency Response Brigade, along with U.S. forces advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists in the Iraqi capital on Sept. 14. The elite counterterrorism force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Central Investigating Court of Al Karkh. (READ MORE)

Three suspected foreign fighters killed, one captured - MOSUL, Iraq — U.S. forces assisted Iraqi Security Forces after an Iraqi Army patrol came under fire by suspected foreign fighters near Tal Abtah in Ninawa province resulting in three individuals killed, two Iraqi police killed and one individual captured Sept. 13. An Iraqi patrol from the 2nd Iraqi Army Division received small arms fire from a truck around 4 p.m. Sept. 13. The IA began to pursue the truck and U.S air and ground forces nearby were called to assist. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Soldiers conduct clearing operation - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces assisted by U.S. Soldiers detained 54 suspects during a combined clearing operation in Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept. 6. The Kirkuk Emergency Services Unit and Iraqi Police with assistance from Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, set out just before sunrise to conduct a cordon and search operation in the Nasser neighborhood of the Aruba district in Kirkuk City. (READ MORE)

Dairy program takes the bull by the horns - BAGHDAD — Good nutrition is essential for a healthy nation, and many farmers here are taking advantage of Iraq's Bovine Artificial Insemination Program to breed better milk-producing dairy cows. A team of civil affairs Soldiers and veterinarian experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the University of Baghdad's College of Agriculture, Sept. 13, to assess a Bovine Artificial Insemination facility and advise the Iraqi technicians responsible for helping breed the nation's dairy cows. (READ MORE)

Forces join for humanitarian mission - SALMAN PAK — U.S. paratroopers worked alongside their Iraqi Army (IA) counterparts to deliver needed supplies to two elementary schools during a combined humanitarian assistance and medical mission here, Sept 13. The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and IA Soldiers delivered pencils, backpacks, and books to dozens of school girls during the mission, while U.S. and Iraqi medical personnel evaluated several women through free medical screenings. (READ MORE)

Muleskinners Take to the Air for Resupply - CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Now that U.S. forces have moved out of Iraqi cities to the surrounding rural areas, the nature of logistical resupply for far-flung outposts has under gone changes. Soldiers from Company A, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division continually train to execute aerial resupply missions to safely and efficiently replenish supplies to joint security stations in the northern Baghdad area. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
The Mobile Candy Shop - KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan — United States Marines from the Second Marine Division, Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Delta Company, make purchases at an 18-wheel mobile shop (known as a PX) that arrived at Forward Operating Base Castle in Khan Neshin, southern Afghanistan, on Aug. 11. The Marines pay cash for various items like cigarettes, Red Bull drinks, candy, iced tea, cookies and toiletries. The Marines at F.O.B. Castle, the southernmost American military post in Helmand Province, have the bare minimum for facilities. (READ MORE)

Some Afghans will move to Canada more easily - Some Afghans working for the Canadian mission in Kandahar who face safety risks will be allowed to come to Canada as permanent residents under new special immigration measures, the Tory government announced Tuesday. Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, said those eligible will have worked 12 cumulative months for the mission and face a risk of being killed or injured because of their work with Canadians. (READ MORE)

Top US Military Officer Says More Troops Likely Needed in Afghanistan - US Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the United States probably will need to send more troops to Afghanistan to win the war against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents. US military officials say they are in a race against time and mounting opposition from the American public to reverse the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, where violence has reached its highest level since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001. (READ MORE)

Military Chief Suggests Need to Enlarge US Afghan Force - The nation’s top military officer pushed back Tuesday against Democrats who oppose sending additional combat troops to Afghanistan, telling Congress that success would probably require more fighting forces, and certainly much more time. That assessment by the officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of an explicit request for more troops. (READ MORE)

Call for an Afghan Surge - America's top military officer endorsed sending more US troops to Afghanistan, a shift in Pentagon rhetoric that heralds a potential deepening of involvement in the Afghan war despite flagging support from the public and top Democrats in Congress. Addressing a Senate panel, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered no new details about how many American reinforcements will be needed in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Mullen: More Troops 'Probably' Needed - The nation's top military officer told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. war in Afghanistan "probably needs more forces" and sought to reassure lawmakers skeptical of sending additional troops that commanders were devising new tactics that would lead to victory over a resurgent Taliban. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 2,000 to 4,000 additional military trainers from the United States and its NATO partners will be needed to "jump-start" the expansion of Afghan security forces and strongly suggested that more US combat troops will be required to provide security in the short term. (READ MORE)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen Says More Troops Probably Needed in Afghanistan - Facing increasingly skeptical congressional Democrats, the nation's top uniformed officer said Tuesday that the Obama administration's strategy to counter Afghanistan militants probably means that more troops will be needed there. The comments are likely to sharpen an intensifying national debate over the future of the mission in Afghanistan that could force President Obama to decide between military leaders pushing for more firepower and his political base wary of a quagmire. (READ MORE)

President Obama's Top Military Adviser Exposes Afghanistan Rifts - Deep rifts at the heart of Western policy on Afghanistan were laid bare yesterday when President Obama’s top military adviser challenged him to authorise a troop surge that his most senior congressional allies have said they will oppose. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more US troops as well as a rapid increase in the size and capability of the Afghan army were needed to carry out the President’s own strategy for prevailing in Afghanistan as the eighth anniversary of a debilitating war approaches. (READ MORE)

Mullen Calls for Growth of Afghan Army, Police - Larger and more capable Afghan national security forces remain vital to Afghanistan’s viability, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. “How best to provide for Afghan security and governance? Ultimately, it should be provided by the Afghans themselves,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during his Senate reconfirmation hearing. (READ MORE)

Gates Weighs Need for More Troops in Afghanistan - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has yet to reach a final decision on the prospect of sending more troops to Afghanistan if additional forces are requested, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today. While the Defense Department has yet to receive a formal appeal for more forces from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, a request for resources from the general due in coming weeks could include such an appeal. (READ MORE)

Afghan Election Recount Begins Before Final, Preliminary Results Released - Afghan election officials have begun recounting disputed ballots from the August 20 presidential election. The recount amid fraud allegations leaves open the possibility of a second round for the disputed election. The recount, ordered by the Election Complaints Commission, began this week and comes before the full, election results have been announced. (READ MORE)

Afghan Recount Presents Huge Task - One out of every seven ballots in last month’s Afghan presidential elections - and possibly many more - will be examined as part of a huge recount and fraud audit that may force the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, into a runoff, Afghan election officials said Tuesday. A United Nations-backed commission serving as the ultimate arbiter of the election ordered the recount from around 10 percent of the country’s polling stations because of suspected fraud, the head of the panel said Tuesday, though the number of actual votes covered by the order is much higher, numbers from a top Afghan election official showed. (READ MORE)

Afghan Recount Raises Chance of Runoff - Ballots from 10% of polling stations in Afghanistan's presidential elections must be recounted, a UN watchdog said Tuesday, increasing the likelihood that incumbent Hamid Karzai will drop below the 50% threshold needed to avoid a second-round runoff with his top challenger. The investigation into ballot fraud, and prospects of indefinitely extending the nation's troubled election, has created strains in an international community heavily invested in its outcome. (READ MORE)

Diplomat in Kabul Leaves in Dispute - The deputy head of the UN mission here has abruptly left the country after a dispute with the mission's Norwegian chief over whether to publicly denounce Afghanistan's election commission for not discounting clearly fraudulent votes cast in favor of President Hamid Karzai's reelection. Mounting tensions over the country's tainted presidential vote have divided and frustrated Afghanistan's international backers, and endangered President Obama's troubled war strategy as his administration debates whether to deploy additional US troops. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan’s Other Front - Allegations of ballot-stuffing in the presidential election in Afghanistan last month are now so widespread that a recount is necessary, and perhaps even a runoff. Yet this electoral chicanery pales in comparison to the systemic, day-to-day corruption within the administration of President Hamid Karzai, who has claimed victory in the election. Without a concerted campaign to fight this pervasive venality, all our efforts there, including the sending of additional troops, will be in vain. I have just returned from Afghanistan, where I spent seven months as a special adviser to NATO’s director of communications. (READ MORE)

In Abdullah, a Worthy Challenger - When the presidential campaign began in Afghanistan several months ago all bets were on for an easy re-election of President Hamid Karzai. After the first round of voting the result is a competitive and a very close election. In spite of accusations of fraud that may spoil the elections, this is actually a very good sign for a future of democracy in the country. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Police Thwart Attack - Islamic militants clad head-to-toe in women's burqas attempted to attack an oil-storage facility in Karachi, raising fears that insurgents are fleeing northwestern Pakistan and infiltrating the nation's main business hub. Three gunmen disguised as women tried to enter the high-security terminal used by oil companies late Monday night, Waseem Ahmed, the city police chief, told Pakistani television on Tuesday. (READ MORE)

Who's Afraid of A Terrorist Haven? - Rationales for maintaining the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan are varied and complex, but they all center on one key tenet: that Afghanistan must not be allowed to again become a haven for terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda. Debate about Afghanistan has raised reasons to question that tenet, one of which is that the top al-Qaeda leadership is not even in Afghanistan, having decamped to Pakistan years ago. Another is that terrorists intent on establishing a haven can choose among several unstable countries besides Afghanistan, and US forces cannot secure them all. (READ MORE)

General Takes to the Skies in Afghanistan - ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 15, 2009 – The commander of the Air Force’s newest air expeditionary wing in Afghanistan is taking a hands-on approach to his duties. Air Force Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh, a Maryland Air National Guardsman from the 175th Airlift Wing in Baltimore, is flying at least two missions a week in the A-10 Thunderbolt II jet aircraft from Kandahar Airfield, which, he said, gives him the perspective he needs to do his job. (READ MORE)

Badel Road Opened for Business - Kunar provincial officials and Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team members opened the Badel Road, Sept. 13, with hopes to improve security and development in the Narang district. The 4.8 kilometer 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. (READ MORE)

Harriers Intimidate Insurgents, Assist Infantry - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Kandahar Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – A pair of AV-8B Harrier pilots directly assisted troops under enemy fire Aug. 8 in Garmsir, Helmand province. Lt. Col. Eric Schaefer, commanding officer and Capt. Michael Plucinski, pilot, both with Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 40, provided a low-altitude, high speed flight about 15 minutes after a group of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, became overwhelmed by enemy small-arms fire and indirect explosive attacks. (READ MORE)

Afghan-Taliban using high-tech undetectable bombs to attack NATO forces - Lahore, Sep. 16 : In order to inflict maximum casualties on NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan, The Taliban has been making high-tech and deadlier bombs, which are hard-to-detect due to their nonmetal components, according to a confidential intelligence report. According to Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation report, Taliban's switch to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) instead of larger anti-armour bombs has enabled the terrorist outfit to produce more bombs and target more US troops. (READ MORE)

Al Qaeda strategist orders kidnapping of foreigners - Melbourne, Sep 16 : Veteran al-Qaeda adviser Mustafa Hamid alias Abu Walid al-Masri, who was married to Australian Rabiah Hutchinson in Afghanistan in 2001, has issued a directive to kidnap foreign civilians, including Australians in Afghanistan, in retaliation for the capture, detention and torture of al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners by the US and its allies. Hamid has been detained in Iran since 2003, but remains an influential figure in the militant movement and has maintained contact with his followers through jihadist websites, despite his imprisonment. (READ MORE)

Full preliminary results expected from Afghan vote - KABUL — Afghan election officials plan to release the full preliminary results Wednesday from last month's presidential vote, though the much-delayed total has lost some significance in an election now likely to be determined by the outcome of fraud investigations. With about 93 percent of preliminary results already released, President Hamid Karzai leads top challenger Abdullah Abdullah with 54 percent of the vote, comfortably above the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. (READ MORE)

EU observers say 1.5m Afghan votes 'suspicious'- KABUL (AFP) - EU election observers said on Wednesday that around 1.5 million votes cast in Afghanistan's troubled elections last month could be fraudulent. "We have calculated 1.5 million suspicious votes," said Dimitra Ioannou, the deputy head of the EU Election Observation Mission to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Taliban back to terror business from new stronghold near Mardan-Swat Highway - Islamabad, Sep.16 : The Taliban's threat has still not subsided in the Swat and Malakand Divisions as the security forces have found that the extremists have created a new stronghold in the region and are planning strikes from there. According to senior officials, the Taliban, after being forced to retreat following the military operation, have shifted their base to the rough terrains between Batkhela and Jalala on the Mardan-Swat Highway and trying to regroup. (READ MORE)

At least nine Taliban dead in clashes with Germans, Afghan police - Kunduz, Afghanistan - At least nine Taliban insurgents were killed in fighting with Afghan police and German forces in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, officials said Wednesday. Taliban militants on Wednesday attacked a convoy of NATO-led German troops in the Ali Abad district and suffered four casualties, said Mohammad Omar, the provincial governor. A German soldier was wounded in the attack, Habibullah Muhtashim, the district administrative chief, said. (READ MORE)

Pakistan army arrest Taliban commander, 54 militants in operations - ISLAMABAD, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan's security forces apprehended a wanted top Taliban militant commander and another 54 militants in the continued search and clearance operations in northwest Pakistan's Swat and Malakand districts during the last 24 hours, the army said Wednesday. The army said in a daily update that the security forces arrested the wanted commander Sher Muhammad Qasab in an operation where he was injured in Charbagh area of Swat. (READ MORE)

Senate struggles with Afghanistan - When the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its defense budget last week, $900 million was cut from funds to train Afghan security forces on the grounds that even the Pentagon didn’t think it could spend the full request in 2010. Less than 24 hours later, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was on the Senate floor, demanding more money, not less, for a “crash” effort to build up the Afghan national army before any commitment of more American combat forces. (READ MORE)

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