September 18, 2009

From the Front: 09/18/2009

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

P.J. Tobia: This Is What An Abused Afghan Woman Looks Like - Johann Hari’s review of a book by Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, over at Slate says many of the things that I have been feeling and writing about at The Desk for some time. The book, titled “Half the Sky,” is an exploration of the subjugation of women in the developing world. The lede of the review reminds me of a picture, taken by a female Afghan photographer and passed along to me by a colleague, that I saw not long ago. The photo is of a young Afghan woman who was disliked by her new step-mother. The step-mother decided to punish the girl, and forced the child’s head into an oven, leaving a mask of naked, charred flesh, where facial features used to be. I’ve included a link to the photo after the jump, but be warned, it is extremely difficult to look at. If you’d rather not, just read Hari’s lede, which could easily be a description of the picture: (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Bullseye - Today we woke up before the sun rose to prepare for an important mission. We were returning to the shooting range. As I have mentioned before, working in the joint environment has its challenges. Today’s mission was to resolve another one of those unique service peculiarities. Despite going through Army training at Fort Riley and being trained on crew serve weapons (.50 cal, M-240 Machine gun, etc); the Air Force does not recognize this type of training, even though the Army training is much harder and more realistic. So today we set out to meet the Air Force shooting requirement. As we drove towards the range, we made a short halt (short stop). For 15 minutes I watched a boy tend to his herd of sheep. I’m certain he is a Bedouin (nomad) and these tribes wonder the country side and raise their livestock. They are basically a race without a country. He sat down and stared at our armored vehicles and we watched him carefully so he would not approach our vehicles. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Turkish Delight - Today was another banner day. I went along to witness the turnover of a new Provincial Police Headquarters compound in a nearby area. The ride was better than most in the back of an MRAP. I got to talk Afghan politics and learn some Dari from an interpreter who was in the back as well. Once again my camera hand was not fast enough, but I saw more sights. There were of course the herds of camels, sheep and goats along with their herders. The Afghans build earthen walls around their land much in the same way the Italians build walls around their property. There were children waving and several groups playing with kites. The most impressive thing was the water. I have been here 2.5 months and have yet to see a drop of rain. So imagine my suprise as we followed a river bed which had an actual river in it! There was an impressive amount of agriculture. There were small fields of corn, orchards of almonds and figs(anjir in dari). Along the river and road were large fields growing watermellon (tarbooz). (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Victory in Afghanistan 'is vital' - Defeat for allied forces in Afghanistan would have an "intoxicating impact" on extremists around the world, the new head of the British Army has warned. General Sir David Richards said the failure of a coalition of such powerful western nations would show terrorists that "anything might be possible". And it would have an "enduring grand strategic impact" on Britain's global reputation, Gen Richards added. But he also said he was optimistic the allies would get the strategy right. In his first major speech since taking over last month as the Chief of the General Staff, Gen Richards said defeat could have an "alienating and potentially catalytic effect" on millions of Afghans. 'Debilitating impact' He also said failure could provoke a resurgence of al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism and the spread of instability to nuclear-armed Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Spinning Up - What happens when we get an Urgent MEDEVAC request comes down? A lot of things happen in a very short amount of time to make sure that the call gets answered. First, as the 9-line will come down one of two ways usually: by phone or by mIRC. when the mIRC goes off, The 9-line streams across the screen in red to alert Flight Operations to the call. They pick up the radio and announce “Mission, Mission Mission!” alerts the crews that a mission has come down. From the time the computer sounds off, we have 15 minutes to be in the air enroute, we usually do it in less than 10. The Medic and the Pilot-In-Command (PC) will report to Operations when the patient status, any special equipment, and any other specific needs are relayed. The current weather is given and a quick idea of the route is decided. Depending on the location and severity of the patient, the medic will then leave and be driven over to the CSH to coordinate the pick-up, arrange any special needs, receive reports, and assist getting the patient ready for transport. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Gunner honoured for 'inspirational example' under fire - A soldier from the Royal Regiment of Artillery has been awarded the Military Cross for his heroic actions in aiding an injured comrade and relaying critical information while exposed and under fire during a battle in Afghanistan. Gunner Grant Guy, aged 20, was awarded the prestigious medal for going to the aid of a wounded marine and making three crossings of an open area known as the 'killing area' whilst under accurate enemy fire to relay critical information that his exposed position was able to establish and as a result regained the initiative from the enemy. During the battle Gunner Guy placed himself in direct enemy fire when he went to the aid of a fallen comrade who had been shot in the head and was lying exposed to further enemy attack during a deadly and co-ordinated ambush on Gunner Guy's patrol company. Joined by two colleagues he administered emergency care while the remainder of the company engaged to suppress enemy fire. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Democracy Can Be Dull - WaPo's story about the graffiti in Baghdad is the latest in a series of the paper's "it's circling the drain, people. Let's cut our losses and forget this useless patch of land and its equally useless population" articles. In the dismissive style of its reporters, the story claims: "The writing on the walls of Baghdad's checkpoints have little to do with reality," Okay. Doesn't most graffiti everywhere? Then it continues: "Grim as life is here, with everything from buildings to desiccated orchards shaded in a dull ocher, no one needs testament to that." Grim? Maybe the reporter was busy creating, in his strained style, a dismal story and didn't go to the countless cheerful restaurants crowded with people drinking and laughing the night away. But hey, if the reporter wants to blame the drought that has hit Iraq in recent years on the United States, let him go ahead and add it to the list of absurd claims made by his newspaper. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Shabaab suicide attack kills 9, including senior African Union commander - Shabaab suicide bombers conducted a coordinated assault against an African Union peacekeeper base in Mogadishu. The deputy military commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was among the nine people killed in the attack. The suicide bombers entered the AMISOM military compound in Mogadishu driving two white vehicles with United Nations markings, Reuters reported. The two UN-marked vehicles, which were looted from a compound in Baidoa, were followed by two truckloads of Somali troops. "We thought they were real UN cars carrying white people, but moments later deafening thunder shook the ground," a witness at the compound told Reuters. "The area was covered with flames and clouds of smoke." The drivers of the car "spoke English and identified themselves as being from the United Nations," Somalia's information minister said. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: Provincial government helps Asadabad residents with aid donated by U.S. - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – More than 500 widows, orphans and disabled people from Asadabad received material assistance Sept. 17 from the Kunar provincial government via aid received and organized by the Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar. People received blankets; pots and pans; tarps; hygiene and dental kits; sandals; and backpacks. The donations were made by private citizens, nongovernmental agencies and corporations. According to Army Spec. John Nelson, PRT-Kunar civil-military operations/humanitarian assistance NCOIC and a native of Dallas, Texas, the distributed goods were received from the humanitarian assistance yard at Bagram Air Field in Kabul and sent here for distribution. He said today’s operation is the largest coordinated effort the PRT has done to date with regard to the number of people they helped. “We’re expecting to provide assistance to 250 orphans, 250 widows and 100 disabled people today. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Sounds of Slippage - This afternoon's explosion in Kabul that killed Italian soldiers and Afghan civilians was a reminder that here -- unlike in other world capitals -- time is measured in human lives as well as days and hours. All the more reason to be concerned by media noise about America's loss of political momentum on Afghanistan, right? Well, yes, but probably not as much as the noisemakers think. There are two general misperceptions about the current security situation in Afghanistan and the American response to it that are running amok at the moment. The volume at which multiple bloviators are repeating these misperceptions tends to drown out the more muted realities. Misperception #1. The current strategy for Afghanistan lacks the necessary clarity and detail. This sentiment emerged strongly in the cool reception of President Obama's objectives and metrics for progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan when they were briefed to Congress yesterday. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Thursday Thoughts - We continue to have internet problems here in our barracks. Apparently, our influx of new residents has overloaded their antique server. So for four of the past five nights, our internet has crashed hard. I've been very frustrated. Living in a war zone is such a bitch! I discovered this new brand of potato chips in our DFAC. The name says it all. Well, no, it doesn't. Yesterday was a big day for those of us who are Navy. It was the Chiefs' promotion. Unlike the other services, when an enlisted sailor is promoted to E7, he or she enters into a whole new realm of responsibility. The Navy Chiefs are a special community - they are expected to be leaders of their sailors, trainers of junior officers, and advisors to more senior officers. They even wear a different uniform than junior sailors. Well, except here in Iraq, where they have to wear the ACU's or DCU's (meaning the pajama uniforms like all the other services). (READ MORE)

Sarah @ SpouseBUZZ: Falling In Love All Over Again - My husband has been deployed for two months now. He has no access to webcams, so the other day when he sent me a photo of himself on a mission, my first look at him in two months, it took my breath away. Has he always been this handsome? I reciprocated with a belly shot, for I am starting to look pregnant and round. He replied via email with, "You look cute. Were you that pretty when I left?" I think that's one of the best parts of deployment: falling in love with your spouse's looks all over again. During my husband's first deployment in 2004, he had been gone for four months before we were able to find a webcam and see each other. I still remember bursting into tears when I finally saw his face again. Last year he got to webcam frequently, but even mundane things seemed cuter when he was far away. I don't look twice when he smokes a cigar at home, but when he popped up on that webcam with a cigar in his mouth, I remember thinking it was the cutest thing ever. (READ MORE)

Reich in Afghanistan: Deadlier IEDs, or Just Cheaper Ones? - The Taliban are an adaptive and learning enemy. Soldiers in Afghanistan had been telling me this since I arrived in August. A report from The Washington Times, revealing the Taliban tactic of using “plastic” IEDs to avoid detection, illustrates this perfectly. Over at Combat Outpost Blackhawk, where I was embedded with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Spartan, I met a State Department police mentor who, in addition to his 25 years as a patrol officer in a large U.S. city, had spent three years in Iraq teaching Iraqi police counter-IED tactics. I’m not able to publish his name, but the grizzled 60-year-old-former Marine, who was in better shape than most of the soldiers I met, had a wealth of knowledge to share on the Taliban’s deadly, yet simplistic IED tactics. Based on crater analysis that he conducted from IED strikes on our convoys, he noted that the explosive of choice for the Taliban in our area was ammonium nitrate, commonly found in fertilizer, which makes sense in this heavily farmed region. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: Cougar MRAPs in Khost - What do you do when your Cougar MRAP gets a flat tire in Khost, Afghanistan? Pull into a wadi, form a defensive perimeter and reinflate it. If that doesn't work (or you find that a large, sharp piece of metal ripped a hole in the tire, like members of the 48th BCT of the Georgia National Guard did on Thursday), the only thinkg to do is rely on the run-flat tires to drive it slowly back to camp. In what the soldiers told me was a first, on the way back another tire went flat, making the drive cack to Camp Clark a slow, and very uncomfortable one for the MRAPs occupants. The Guardsmen in the truck later told me that since both left side tires were out, the truck was pulling pretty hard to the right the whole way. You can put another $5,000 on the books that the rugged, unpaved roads in Afghanistan have eaten. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Army Camo Woes - I am beginning to think that the Army's selection of the current Universal Camouflage Pattern might be one of the most embarrassing scandals to hit the Army in recent years. In previous posts in this blog (located here and here), I've questioned the logic of picking a pattern which was proven to be the worst-performing of the patterns which made it to the final phase of testing. But who am I to question the decisions of Program Executive Office-Soldier ("PEO Soldier"), the organization which is responsible for equipping all Soldiers in the US Army? Surely they must have their reasoning, right? Well, as it turns out, the current commander of PEO Soldier, Brigadier General Peter Fuller, can't figure out why PEO Soldier picked such a bad uniform in the first place, either. But how bad can it really be, you ask? Well, apart from anecdotal evidence from Soldiers who have used the thing in wooded terrain, jungle terrain, and pretty much anything outside of a gravel pit... (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Why are we in the Helmand Province? - In Helmand is a Sideshow – Or Not I addressed the charge that had been leveled in a WSJ article that Helmand was a sideshow to the real fight. Following Clausewitz into a single center of gravity for a campaign is the reason behind Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN, and I still continue to believe that nothing so easy and clear will present itself as a single focal point for our efforts. But the statement concerning Fallujah in 2004 is odd. Kandahar doesn’t seem anything like Fallujah in 2004. The security situation in Kandahar may be degrading, but in Fallujah it was so bad that at the beginning of al Fajr the city was free of noncombatants and only fighters were left behind, many or most of whom were high on epinephrine and morphine. The campaign in Anbar saw more than 1000 U.S. Marines perish, way more than have died in Operation Enduring Freedom between all branches of the service. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
U.S. Commander ‘Ecstatic’ at Iraqi Coordination - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, Sept. 17, 2009 – For the last two months, U.S. airmen with Multinational Division South have been training Iraqi airmen to be the “eye in the sky” for Iraqi ground forces. That mission was accomplished during a Sept. 12 training exercise at Camp Wessam. “Today, we brought the airmen out to Wessam to work with the Iraqi army,” Air Force Lt. Col. William Iuliano, commander of the 84th Expeditionary Air Support Operation Squadron, said following the training. “So, the big step forward was that we had Iraqi air force talking. (READ MORE)

Celebrating partnership: Army hosts Ramadan dinner - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – In celebration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hosted a special dinner at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept.15, breaking the fast for the day and allowing U.S. and Iraqi partners to talk and enjoy a meal together. “This dinner took away tension and helped people feel comfortable with each other,” said Maj. Gen. Abdul Al-Ameer, the commander of the 12th Iraqi Army Division, which operates in Kirkuk province. (READ MORE)

NATO Training Mission-Iraq Transfers Vacated HQ Bldg to Government of Iraq - BAGHDAD – For four years the NATO Training Mission-Iraq Headquarters was located in the Cultural Centre Compound in Baghdad. On Sept.15,NTM-I handed it over to the Government of Iraq. Italian Brig. Gen. Fabio Palladini, representing NATO, and Iraqi Staff Maj. Gen. Jasim Salim Hussein, commander of the National Defence Academy, presided over the transfer of the facility for the future benefit of Iraq and her people. (READ MORE)

Baghdad River Patrol Training Center Holds Joint Graduation for Waterborne Operations and Search-and-Recovery Dive Students - BAGHDAD – The Baghdad River Patrol Training Center conducted a joint graduation for 18 waterborne operations and nine search-and-recovery dive students here Sept. 16. Demonstrations by the instructors and students at the graduation included a waterborne boat stop and apprehension of a fleeing suspect, a lift-bag recovery of a sunken boat, and a swift water rescue of a drowning victim. (READ MORE)

Troops help IA medics, engineers hone skills - COB GARRYOWEN — Iraqi medical sergeants from the 38th Iraqi Army Brigade recently received instruction on Combat Casualty Assessment from U.S. Soldiers aboard Camp Sparrowhawk in Maysan province. Combat medics, Sgt. Tyler R. Potter, from Tulsa, Okla., and Spc. Conan Martinez, from Farmersville, Calif., along with Staff Sgt. Fabio Herrera, a combat engineer from Hawthorne, Calif., prepared the Iraqi non-commissioned officers for duty as medical trainers. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police step up, take lead on training - FOB DELTA — As Iraqi Security Forces continue to develop, U.S. forces are stepping back while more Iraqi Soldiers and Police take over the training of their junior troops. This is evident at the Iraqi Police Academy is Wasit province, where Iraqi instructors have clearly taken the lead. The complex opened in 2003 to train Iraqi Security Forces and sustain operations. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force supports IA ground forces - BASRAH — For the last two months, the Iraqi Air Force has been preparing to provide air reconnaissance support for Iraqi ground forces. That mission was accomplished, Sept. 12, during a training exercise held here at Camp Wessam. "Today, we brought the [Iraqi] Airmen out to Wessam to work with the Iraqi Army," said Lt. Col. William Iuliano, commander, 84th Expeditionary Air Support Operation Squadron (EASOS). (READ MORE)

Biden Meets With Kurdish Leaders on Iraqi Oil - US Vice President Joe Biden has traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to press Kurdish leaders to compromise on the controversial issue of sharing Iraq's oil wealth. Biden met Thursday in Irbil with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani. The vice president had been expected to urge passage of a hydrocarbon law that would define oil revenue sharing and clarify rules for foreign firms investing in Iraq's oil and gas fields. (READ MORE)

Biden: US Will Comply with Iraq Government on Withdrawal - Vice President Biden said Thursday that the United States would comply with Iraq's wishes in deciding when to withdraw troops, as Iraqi leaders weigh whether to push for an accelerated pullout from the country. Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Biden declined to say whether he believed that the Iraqi government would move to alter the so-called status-of-forces agreement. But the vice president, who like other administration officials has sought to avoid the appearance of interfering in Iraqi affairs, said that whatever decision is made, "we will abide by it."(READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
Afghanistan Mission Remains Complex, Mullen Says - WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2009 – As the situation in Iraq stabilizes, a variety of factors –- some of long-ago origin -- make the mission in Afghanistan a complex endeavor, the U.S. military’s top officer said here yesterday. “There are lessons that we’ve learned from Iraq; many of them apply in Afghanistan, many of them don’t,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the American Enterprise Institute at the think tank’s kickoff of its new Center for Defense Studies. (READ MORE)

Ambassador Lauds Construction Training in Afghanistan - KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Sept. 17, 2009 – The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan praised the efforts of a construction training center here that’s providing much-needed skills to local residents. Karl W. Eikenberry attended the Sept. 15 graduation of more than 100 students from the Kunar Construction Center in Shigal district here. After an intense three-month course, the students now are equipped with skills such as carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing and electrical wiring. (READ MORE)

Gates Calls for Patience on Afghanistan Troop Decision - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today defended the president’s plan to keep the recent Afghanistan assessment classified and said the decision to send more troops there should be weighed carefully. “There's been a lot of talk this week and the last two or three weeks about Afghanistan,” Gates said during a briefing at the Pentagon. “And frankly, from my standpoint, everybody ought to take a deep breath.” Gates responded to questions about why the recent assessment by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has been kept classified and away from the public. (READ MORE)

General Sir David Richards: Afghans Losing Patience with NATP 'Failure' - General Sir David Richards, the new head of the British Army, has said that Afghans are losing patience with NATO’s “failure” to deliver progress in the battle with the Taliban. Sir David insisted that the alliance can still succeed in Afghanistan, but warned that Western forces risk losing the support of the Afghan population. In his first speech since becoming Chief of the General Staff, Sir David also warned that Britain’s Armed Forces need fundamental reform to prepare them for a generation of irregular conflicts like the Afghan war. (READ MORE)

General David Petraeus: Allied Failure ‘Would Intoxicate Terrorists’ - The Taleban have grown in strength and influence as the fortunes of the coalition forces have deteriorated in Afghanistan, the overall commander of US forces in the Middle East said last night. General David Petraeus said that the challenges in Afghanistan were “serious”, that they required a sustained and substantial commitment and that there were “no quick fixes”. The new head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards, also warned last night that Nato had yet to find the right formula for success in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Karzai Rebuts Allegations of Fraud in Afghan Vote - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he has seen little evidence of fraud in his re-election bid, saying he was "rather shocked" by a European Union report this week that said as many as a third of the ballots cast in his favor were suspect. Taliban insurgents, meanwhile, continued to test Western support for Mr. Karzai's government with a massive car bomb in central Kabul that killed 16 people, including six Italian soldiers. In his first news conference since Election Day, Mr. Karzai said Thursday in response to a question about the alleged fraud: (READ MORE)

Afghan Vote Uncertainty Creates Dilemma for US - The Obama administration now fears that the Afghan election may not produce a clear winner until next spring, which officials said could throw President Obama’s policies into flux by leaving Afghanistan without a credible leader for months. The prospect of a runoff election is growing after President Hamid Karzai was awarded 54.6 percent of the votes in the much disputed presidential election last month. But even as American officials noted that the Afghan authorities had begun printing ballots for a second round of voting, these officials said they were worried that a runoff could not be held before Afghanistan’s fierce winter starts in November. (READ MORE)

President Karzai Blames Media for Election-Fixing Furor - In his first public appearance since Afghanistan’s elections a month ago, President Karzai denied yesterday that massive fraud had taken place to secure him a second term in office and blamed Western media for persistent claims of ballot rigging. “I believe firmly, firmly in the integrity of the election and the integrity of the Afghan people, and the integrity of the Government in that process,” he said, a day after European Union observers warned that about 1.5 million votes - including more than a million for the incumbent - should be considered potentially fake. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Election: Hamid Karzai Admits Officials were 'Partial' Towards Him - Hamid Karzai has admitted that government officials showed bias in his favour in Afghanistan's fraud-riddled presidential election. In his first public acknowledgement that there was fraud in last month's polls, he conceded that "there were some government officials who were partial toward me". But he insisted that the issues of ballot box stuffing had been overblown and that such allegations feature in elections all over the world. He stopped short of implicating members of the Independent Election Commission, all of whom are Karzai appointees and some of whom admitted that they broke their own rules by counting suspicious ballots during the tally. (READ MORE)

Car Bomb in Kabul Kills Six Italians, 10 Afghans - A powerful car bomb killed six Italian troops and at least 10 Afghan civilians in downtown Kabul on Thursday, moments after President Hamid Karzai told journalists in his heavily guarded palace nearby that last month's fraud-plagued presidential election had been "a big success for Afghanistan." A spokesman for the Taliban asserted responsibility for the midday attack, which injured more than 50 people when the bomber rammed his Toyota sedan into an Italian military convoy at a traffic circle near the city's international airport, NATO and Afghan authorities said. (READ MORE)

Afghan Blast Raises New Doubts in Europe - A powerful suicide bomb that killed six Italian soldiers here on Thursday prompted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to declare that his nation had begun planning to “bring our young men home as soon as possible.” In Brussels, Mr. Berlusconi, a close American ally but in some political trouble at home, was careful to say that Italy would not unilaterally withdraw its 3,100 troops from Afghanistan, though he said he wanted the withdrawal to happen “as quickly as possible.” (READ MORE)

Qaeda Commander Killed in Drone Attack in Pakistan - A top commander for Al Qaeda has been killed in Pakistan by an American missile fired from a drone, Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday. The officials, who spoke anonymously under security rules, said the Qaeda commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed in a drone strike 10 days earlier in the border area of North Waziristan. Mr. Kashmiri was considered by some intelligence officials to be one of the 10 most wanted militants in Pakistan. Although they said his body had not been found, agents were sent to his home village, Bahawalpur, to verify his death. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan is Hard All the Time, but It’s Doable - Countering terrorists and extremism requires more than a conventional military approach. Military operations enable you to clear areas of extremist and insurgent elements, and to stop them from putting themselves back together. But the core of any counterinsurgency strategy must focus on the fact that the decisive terrain is the human terrain, not the high ground or river crossing. Focusing on the population can, if done properly, improve security for local people and help to extend basic services. (READ MORE)

The Afghanistan Problem: Why Are We in Helmand? - The US military does not move in mysterious ways. It plods, it plans, it plots out every logistical detail before launching an initiative. Things take time. For example: not all of the 21,000 additional forces that President Obama authorized for Afghanistan last winter have even arrived in the country yet. For another example: the battle plan those troops were asked to execute was devised primarily by General David McKiernan, who was replaced about the time the troops started arriving. (READ MORE)

No unreserved Taliban support for Peace Day - Taliban insurgents have called the UN-initiated International Peace Day, 21 September, “a futile showy day” but said their fighters will be in a defensive position on the day. The UN and aid agencies have called on all warring parties in Afghanistan to respect a day of tranquillity on 21 September, which is also Eid-ul-Fitr, and allow aid workers to deliver essential supplies in insecure parts of the country. (READ MORE)

Canadian, American troops killed in Afghanistan - A U.S. service member and a Canadian soldier were killed in separate roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan, officials said Friday, the latest in a wave of Taliban attacks. The two international troops died Thursday, the same day a car bomber killed six Italian troops in a brazen attack in the heavily guarded capital of Kabul. (READ MORE)

Time not on NATO's side in Afghanistan, says British general - The British general due to take charge of British and other NATO troops in southern Afghanistan has said that the forces do not have the "luxury of time" on their side. Major General Nick Carter, who will take charge of 45,000 troops in the region in six weeks' time, said there was an opportunity to "make a difference" in the next year. "But I absolutely acknowledge that time is not on our side, and we have got to show positive trends as quickly as we possibly can," Carter said in a BBC interview. (READ MORE)

Silvio Berlusconi calls for Afghanistan exit - ITALIAN Premier Silvio Berlusconi said it would be best for international troops to leave Afghanistan soon, after a bomb blast in Kabul killed six of his country’s soldiers. Mr Berlusconi insisted yesterday there was no timetable for withdrawal, and said any decision would be made together with Italy’s allies. (READ MORE)

Karzai rules out re-vote - Afghan President Hamid Karzai ruled out calling a second round of elections over fraud allegations, which cast a shadow over US deliberations on whether to send more troops. Preliminary results from Afghanistan's second-ever presidential election put Karzai on track to defeat rival Abdullah Abdullah without a second round, but European Union observers said nearly a quarter of votes could be fraudulent. (READ MORE)

Why Efforts to Disarm the Taliban Have Failed - Why has it been nearly impossible to coax Taliban fighters into turning in their weapons and cooperating with the Afghan government? The story of Mullah A stands as an all-too-common example. A few years back, the Taliban commander thought his personal war with the Americans was over when he surrendered his Toyota Land Cruiser, a stack of rocket-propelled grenades and his personal weapons to the police chief in Kandahar. Mullah A, who prefers not to be identified, was exhausted. (READ MORE)

Congressional Dems Get Balky on Afghanistan - On May 6, after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the White House, President Barack Obama rolled out his favorite phrase, the one that usually precedes a line in the sand: "Let me be clear," Obama announced. "The U.S. has made a lasting commitment to defeat al-Qaeda but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waver. And that support will be sustained." (READ MORE)

Afghan-International Security Force Detains Three Taliban Militants in Kandahar - KABUL, Afghanistan – A joint Afghan-international security force detained three suspected militants in Kandahar province after searching a compound known to be used by a Taliban element as a weapons supply point for the region Sept. 18. The joint force searched a compound in a neighborhood on the north side of Kandahar City without further incident. (READ MORE)

ISAF Service Member Killed in Southern Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan– An International Security Assistance Force service member was killed Sept. 17 when the vehicle he was travelling in struck an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. "We announce with great sorrow that an ISAF service member was the victim of another cowardly attack by a roadside bomb emplaced by insurgents," said Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, ISAF spokesperson. "I offer my sincere sympathies to his loved ones as they cope with their loss." (READ MORE)

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