September 23, 2009

From the Front: 09/23/2009

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

Family Matters Blog: Family Photo Album: Military Dads (View Photos)

Lost in Translation - the sandbox version: The End - No, he didn't have a training related casualty -- he's got his ETS orders and will be home on the 18th of October. End of blog. Glad to have him home. Maybe he'll take it up as a platform for his photography. Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read, keep him in thoughts and prayers and wishing him well. (READ MORE)

Wife of a Wounded Marine: Faces of War this week! - I've got some wonderful ladies writing about their experiences for Faces of War Fridays! I will be starting this coming Friday so look out for it! I think it is going to be amazing. And again, if anyone is interested, please let me know. You don't have to be injured. If your spouse, or you, or one of your parents, or children has been deployed at some point, you are PERFECT! I want a broad spectrum of people who have had to endure this war. I think it's important to tell our stories. Ok. For real. Going to work. Also, for resources for wounded warriors and their families (Supporters are welcome too!), check Cheryl and my site out here: www.woundedwarriorssupport.org (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: In Praise Of President Hamid Karzai - Afghan Desk has been kind of hard on the Dear Leader, President Hamid Karzai. We’ve harped on election fraud, his closeness to warlords and generally setting a bad example. But despite Karzai’s multitude of shortcomings as an actual president, I do not think I have ever seen a finer politician in action. This is a man who has mastered the art of mollifying the opposition, in a country where “opposition” means men who are sworn to kill you. Through horse-trading, coalition building, direction of development funds, nepotism and force of personality, Karzai has managed to (mostly) de-fang his political opponents and keep Afghanistan together through eight years of war. This is no mean feat. As most of you know, Afghanistan is not so much a nation as an uneasy coalition between vastly different ethnic groups, scattered over some of the world’s most rugged terrain. In the past thirty years, some of these ethnic groups have committed unpardonable atrocities against one another. (READ MORE)

A World of Trouble: Trying to figure it out - "Hey Jim. Thanks for the B-day wishes. Not a bad day today. But last night we received a rocket attack that hit a barracks and killed one Soldier and injured 9. The Soldier who died had 6 children. And all this happened when I was in a CONEX getting hundreds of hand crank radios, scarfs, hats and prayer rugs to give out to some of the same people who fire these rockets at us. This is not at all like Iraq." This message was sent by a soldier I knew in Iraq. He's in Afghanistan now. I'm trying to figure out why this grabbed me like it did. It starts with the rocket attack that killed the soldier. The fact that he had six children. But it's the writer's observation that it happened while he was in the CONEX getting the goodies that Afghans prize as part of the war on "hearts and minds", that gets me most. "To give out to some of the same people who fire these rockets at us." (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Back to home camp - I never thought I would be writing about a mission to our old camp, but that was today’s mission. We still had some unfinished business back at our old camp and so it became our destination today. We slept in a little bit this morning until 0500 hrs and then readied our vehicles for another bone-jarring ride through the city. The chow hall wasn’t open yet, so a bottle of water and Blueberry Pop Tart would have to suffice for nourishment. The city traffic was minimal and we made good time through the normally congested round-a-bouts and side streets. We arrived at our destination and the sun was shining brightly between the craggy peaks leading to the Jalabad Pass. I saw two familiar friends as we drove through the gate. It was Liberty and Justice. Apparently it wasn’t time for them to wake up or perhaps they had a full belly and it was time for their daily nap. They didn’t acknowledge me nor did they open their eyes. (READ MORE)

Timothy Hsia - At War: Jacob, the Interpreter - I arrived in Mosul in summer 2005, a wet-behind-the-ears lieutenant with a keen desire to finally become a platoon leader. My eagerness for leadership was matched only by my platoon’s collective thought: “Oh great, another one who thinks he’s going to win the war.” We were stationed in the largest city in the north and one of the most dangerous in Iraq. In my first week of command I religiously followed all my infantry training at West Point. Then I met the last member of my platoon and began to learn something not taught in military textbooks. “Welcome to Mosul!” said a jovial Iraqi man, who grabbed me by the shoulders after walking into a room where my platoon sergeant and I were talking. The sergeant noted the perplexed look on my face. “This is our interpreter, Jacob,” he said. Jacob may have been the last soldier I was introduced to, but I quickly learned he was the most important: (READ MORE)

Free Range International: What To Do? Part One - The sun is setting over the Hindu Kush and tonight we finally end Ramadan and start the four day “Big” Eid holidays. The kids behind the Taj didn’t have any fire works so they dug up their Dad’s AK and shot off a magazine. By the time the guards and I got there in response the father was tanning his boys behind. Ammo is expensive here and the boys just cranked off about 20 bucks worth – scaring the hell out of me and pissing their old man off to no end. It is dark now and people are throwing firecrackers and cranking off automatic weapons fire at a regular clip. Eid sucks because if there was a good time to attack a safe house full of internationals now would be that time. But at least Ramadan is over and the boys will step up their game while stopping all the pissing and moaning about how thirsty they are or how they have no energy blah blah blah. It was refraining from smoking cigarettes which was kicking their ass but they sucked it up well. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: About Deh-e Bagh - He may not have mentioned it, but McChrystal appears to have had Canada in mind when he spelled out his winning conditions. Just a few months into his job and in deep contemplation about the state of the war, McChrystal travelled in July to Deh-e-Bagh, a tiny village south of Kandahar city that the Canadian military has made the centre of its counter-insurgency effort. There McChrystal saw a mini-surge of security forces, economic development, medical care and education. Foreign troops were supporting the local population and the locals were supporting the Afghan government. "That is more powerful than any round we can shoot," McChrystal declared. Look, if COMISAF's beliefs were reinforced by spending time with the Canadians, good on us. This kind of write-up does tend to put the cart before the horse on the whole Canadian "model village" approach, though. I'm a fan of the concept, to be sure. It's ink-spotting in the Afghan context, and it's learning from a lot of our and other's past mistakes, true. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Germans focus on Afghanistan after al-Qaida threat - New threats by al-Qaida and fierce criticism of a German-ordered airstrike that killed dozens have pushed Germany's mission in Afghanistan to the forefront of this country's national election campaign. Chancellor Angela Merkel, like her foreign minister and main rival in Sunday's vote, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has steadfastly backed the deployment even though polls say half the public wants the 4,220 soldiers to come home. On Monday, Merkel urged calm over the terror threats against Germans if they do not elect candidates who will end the mission, saying "people can be confident that everything is being done for their security." Despite her reassuring words — and a visible increase in security measures at train stations and airports with police toting automatic weapons — Afghanistan will be the top foreign policy priority for whoever wins the election. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Ramadan - This morning my wife wrote: “Eid Mubarak to you (or, happy Eid)! How strange it is that you are in Iraq and don't even mention that most holy of holy days in your blog! Is that because your base is so American that the holiday makes no difference, or is it because you're trying to focus on one small part of your life at a time? In Bonchek [residential hall at Franklin and Marshall College], we had a standing-room-only crowd for the Eid dinner we hosted. That's partly because we don't have many chairs -- but we really did have 70 people lined up for food, and everyone had a lovely time in spite of the wait. Many of the international students talked about how they hadn't had a chance to get together yet this semester, so this was a grand reunion for them; but many Americans intermingled and got to eat yummy food as well.” I knew it was the end of Ramadan because two Jewish friends of mine mentioned that Rosh Hashonah was starting this weekend--Islam and Judaism use a lunar calendar for holy days. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Busy, Busy! - Things here have been pretty busy lately. Seems like the work comes in bunches. When it rains, it pours type of thing I guess. For the most part, there have been no major incidents, just a ton of "small" ones. This has most likely been the busiest week since I have been here. We've had about a dozen minor traffic accidents, none with inuries; .50 cal round went off on the airfield. Shrapnel from the explosion hit a guy in the leg. Luckily his injuries werent too bad. The final investigation states the cause of the round going off as static electricity. The round was in an ammo can and apparently "just went off". There have been a few skeptic of the static electricity theory, but I'm none the wiser. I do know the round was manufactured in the early 80's, might have something to do with it.; An older gentleman, working as a civilian contractor had a heart attack and died over here yesterday. The one positive thing to take from that is the mans son also works out here, so they were able to spend time with each other.; (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: A New Star Is Born - The Middle East has given birth to plenty of famous names and legends. Some of are these are heroes from anybody's point of view; some aren't. There are religious, political, and historic names among them, and there are garden-variety celebrities, too, from Omar Sharif to sexy Nancy Ajram. Now we can add a whole new variety of "hero" to this list: shoe-thrower Muntadhar Al Zaidi, the man who made history by thumbing his nose at the culture and manners that Iraq and the Middle East usually hold dear. Al Zaidi, who was just released from a Baghdad jail, has just had a piece in the Guardian. In it he explains his love for Iraq and his anger towards George Bush and why he threw his shoes at the former U.S. president last December. He knows he won the hearts of Iraqis when he released the frustrations of many with his gesture, and he knows as well that he entertained millions of the world's TV viewers who, for one reason or another, dislike the U.S. (READ MORE)

Kickin' through the sand: Another 2 weeks - So another 2 weeks has gone by... From my "anniversary" here is the culmination of 20 years in the United States Navy.... while stationed at a British hospital in the remote desert area of Afghanistan with American, UK, and Danish personnel, I was given a small bottle of perfume(ok, so it's French, but it's funny to connect the internationality of the story, and it smells so gooood!) bought at the British Naffi by my Danish friends. Talk about joining the Navy to see the world and get "worldy" experiences.... We continue to go in and out of Op Minimize a lot, usually Op minimize On when i am out of work and cleared off when i am at work.. go figure.. so i don't get to update as much or as often as i wish. Oh well, can't complain because the families of the young british soldiers deserve the respectful notification. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: The Ties That Bind: James R. Layton, Age 22 - Up north of here, it was probably a little bit warm last week. Those old valley oak trees tower over the landscape, and their leaves are probably hanging on. The farmlands surrounding it are being prepared for another round of planting for harvest next spring. The grass is still green, and the river runs quiet as autumn approaches. It was in this setting that a young navy medical corpsman was buried in a town not far from where I grew up. James R. Layton, age 22, was described as an artist and healer. He died in the ambush in Ganjgal, attending to another Marine's wounds while in the line of fire. Not only did he hail from a place nearby --where decades before, I spent my youth riding a bicycle through farmlands and along rivers, there's no doubt that he was one of those who passed through The Hubs's FST on that horrible day. Our condolences go to his family and friends. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Mr. Falvey - This morning I had to drive up to the high school and pick up my sick daughter. At the stop light I looked my rear view mirror and saw that the Vice Principal Mr. Falvey. We both parked and got out of our cars at the same time. He then said to me " Are you trying to make me cry?' You see on the back of my car are several stickers in memory of Micheal and Mr Falvey was close to my son. I remember the first time I met Mr. Flavey. It was parent teacher conferences Micheal's Junior year and David's Freshman year. Both the boys had him for English. The conferences here are not scheduled you just go during the hours they set up and meet with teachers as they are available so he had no idea who I was. " You belong to Tiffany ******" was his greeting to me. " No.. I'm Micheal and David Phillips Mom" He became very serious and said "I'm so sorry" then laughed. We then went over the boys work and he stated how bright they were. Of course they had their problems. David was sarcastic and Micheal was unfocused. Nothing I didn't know. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Pokey's Poker Run - Bright and early Saturday morning we went to the local VFW where the local National Guard dawgs were holding sign ups and starting the poker run being held in the memory of our son. After a week of rain we were glad to see the sun shining. I took the 3 large pictures of Micheal we have so that those riding would be able to see his beautiful smile and remember we are doing this for his brothers. The run was to raise money for Wounded Warriors Project. These are a great group of men and women. There was another Gold Star father who rode with us also. Lots of hugs were given. The local police gave us an escort to the first stop of the run. It was eerie... I followed the bikes in my car to the first stop and the police were behind me. For a moment it took me back to March 2008 and the day Pokey came home. It was hard to fight the tears. The first stop was the Veterans Home here in town. A lot of the men came out to see the bikes and just hang with the riders. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Army, Taliban clash in Waziristan - The Pakistani military and the Taliban clashed in the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. The Taliban claimed to have killed 45 Pakistani soldiers after assaulting two security checkpoints in Ramzak, a military garrison town on the border of South Waziristan. A battalion of more than 600 Taliban fighters attacked the two outposts in Ramzak, according to Dawn. Azam Tariq, the new spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, confirmed the attack. The Pakistani military claimed eight Taliban fighters were killed during the assault but did not report its own casualties. In South Waziristan, Pakistani Army helicopter gunships struck Taliban camps in the strongholds of Makeen and Spina Tigha. The military said 26 Taliban fighters were killed in the attack. The clashes in North and South Waziristan take place more than a week after the Pakistani government gave the military the approval to launch an operation in Waziristan. (READ MORE)

PRT-Kunar: Airman delivers faith to Camp Wright - CAMP WRIGHT, Afghanistan – On a forward operating base dominated by Army and Navy people, there is one who stands apart. His name is Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Boyer, and he is a U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to Camp Wright. For the majority of his deployment tour, he was the only Airman on the FOB. That was until a pair of Air Force public affairs people joined the Provincial Reconstruction Team at the beginning of September. “I was the only Airman on the FOB for the longest time,” Boyer said. “But I was accepted to the team when the Soldiers and Sailors saw I was willing to do what they were doing, whether it was doing PT, vehicle checks or going out to the observation posts.” The chaplain is a Baptist minister deployed from the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and a native of Knoxville, Tenn. He is assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-82 chaplain corps and was sent forward to Camp Wright. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Monday Musings - My friend Joe is going to leave us in a few days. Joe hates foo-foo, frilly, girly stuff. So, naturally, the women in the office teamed up to decorate his desk with as much pink, foo-foo, frilly stuff as they could find. I don't think you can find anything pink in the BX today ... it's all been dumped on Joe's desk. Joe got a lot of going-away gifts. (Yes, we have a strange custom here ... we wait until somebody has already cleaned out their stuff and pared their belongings down to what can fit into an airplane carry-on, and then we give 'em lots of new stuff to take with them. Makes sense, no? No.) If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that burgers have a special place in the hearts of the Band of Buddies. We had a big storm blow through here the other evening. I was driving back to the office when it hit. It was amazing - we had a "tan-out": the blowing dust was so thick that I could not see the sides of the road... (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Challenges from Deployment - In this mixed bag edition of Room for Debate, Vanda Felbab-Brown—a Brookings scholar who’s done some outstanding work on narcotics in counterinsurgency—pokes a hole in the “Nangarhar is a model to be followed” meme I tracked earlier this year: “As a result of the opium poppy ban, Nangarhar province in the east has also become destabilized. Not only have the strategic Khogyani, Shinwar, and Achin districts become essentially no-go zones for the government and non-governmental organizations, but Jalalabad has also become far less secure, with a resulting cascade of economic problems and a rapid rise in crime.” I’m glad to finally see someone else saying this. Of course, her explication of where insecurity lies leads her to imply the same thing I do, which is that security is sufficiently bad everywhere, so focusing only on one area doesn’t make sense unless we dramatically change how we perceive and fight the war. (READ MORE)

Afghan Journal: Peace Day, but not peaceful in Afghanistan - KABUL -- Monday was International Peace Day, sponsored by the United Nations in hopes that on this one day there would be no war. In Aghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim World, this was the second day of Eid, a lengthy celebration of the end of Ramadan when people can once again eat and drink again during the day light hours. People gathered with family and friends. In Kabul, I found myself fortunate to share the hospitality of Afghans and westerners on a cool clear evening. We nibbled on all kinds on nuts then had a wonderful meal with fragant rice, vegetables, lamb and other fine foods. Sitting around the tables in a garden courtyard, and heaping my plate with a second portion of rice, the war seemed far away. The next day I got a press release from NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which announced that in a show of respect for Peace Day no offensive operations had been conducted. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Back In The States - Hard to believe but I’m finally back in the good old US. New Jersey never smelled so great! LoL. Will be spending a week going through the whole demobilization process. Involves a ton of briefings, medical screening, and loads of paper work. Then I’ll finally be sitting at home enjoying some alcohol! Am gonna take a break from life and this blog for a bit. Have a lot of family and friends to see. But don’t worry, I’ll be back to post the rest of my pictures and videos from Iraq. (READ MORE)

this is our life...: not just another training - Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that Ben is in Afghanistan. It just feels like a really long training. But the other night while talking to him on messenger I was reminded where he was at. I could hear noises that he wouldn't normally hear if he were at a training. It was scary. He never really talks about what it's like over there, I'll never really know. I don't know what he can hear or see, but that night talking to him I heard a little bit of it. Tonight we were disconnected for some reason - first time we've been disconnected while talking on the internet since he's been there. It's hard not wonder what's going on. I'd like to think it's just a simple disconnection, but how am I supposed to know? It's something we (army wives) don't like to talk about, but we know it could happen. Our husbands might not come back. We hate thinking about it. But at the same time we want to be as prepared as we can be. Just in case. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: Does literacy REALLY matter to the Afghan Army? - On the surface you would say “of course it does,” but what if your countrymen are 75% illiterate and what if your fellow soldiers are 90% illiterate? Then what do you do? Can a force possessing this level of reading skill or the gross lack thereof be trained in anything but basic infantry skills? If we are going to equip, train, and fight alongside the Afghanistan National Army, -- then how can they operate for the long term as an Army if they cannot read? The enemy has shown that they can operate without this “critical” skill. How? Their tactics are in small groups, usually attacking on very familiar ground, with weapons that are man-portable and simple to operate. The Afghan Army must instead operate complex weapons, weapons-systems and equipment that in most regards becomes somewhat difficult or impossible to operate without the skill of reading. They must take the fight to the enemy, the Taliban, wherever they may be throughout Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

David Axe: Improvised Bombs Complicate Afghan War Effort - The armored truck came apart in a puff of smoke and debris. It was Aug. 20, election day in Wardak province, Afghanistan, southwest of Kabul. U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan had braced for increased levels of violence on this day. But the massive bomb — constructed of a plastic barrel with a nitrate fertilizer filler — that struck the American truck was more than anyone expected. Of the two U.S. Army soldiers riding in the front of the vehicle when the bomb struck, one was seriously injured. Specialist Justin Pellerin, 21, the driver, died instantly. Improvised Explosive Devices are taking an escalating toll of coalition troops. Twenty-nine of the 53 coalition fatalities in the first three weeks of September died in bomb blasts, according to a list compiled by icasualities.org. There are now so many IEDs on Afghanistan’s roads that some units, including Pellerin’s, say it’s no longer a question of whether they’ll be hit on a given day, but exactly when and where. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: The Afghan Question - Now that General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment of what he needs to get the job done in Afghanistan has been leaked to the press, we’ve learned that according to his team, the United States either needs to plus-up the number of American troops in the country, or the mission “will likely result in failure.” But the question is: what kind of troops is he talking about? The United States can surge tens of thousands of additional combat troops to chase the Taliban, al Qaeda and other tribal and criminal militias around the mountains and desert plains and mud-walled villages of this country for years to come, but in the end this is an Afghan war, and the Afghans need to fight it. McChrystal’s team obviously knows as much, and as part of its assessment, recommends that the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) be accelerated in order to get more Afghans into the fight. (READ MORE)

Wife of a wounded warrior: Whatever Happens - So there are times I just want to give up on everything but right now I am just going to keep moving.I do not know what happened but I guarantee I did not have anything to do with it. I honestly do not care anymore but it upsets me because people think otherwise. I know the truth and God knows the truth. That is all that matters. I think that my family whether distant or not are important. I would never do anything to damage someone's life. I have been called a bitch, fat ass (lol) i believe that would be calling the kettle black, um crazy ..... I do not want to talk about it anymore so I am leaving it at that. My husband applied for this insurance money for injured soldiers, active or retired. As well he applied for some kind of compensation for injuries that were sustained while in combat. So I am hoping that we qualify and get it. :) if we do not, it will not be a disappointment because it is not like we had it in the first place. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Military’s Forgotten ‘Terps’ Get Some Love - U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would grind to a halt without an army of contract interpreters. These men and women — called “terps” in soldier slang — do so much more than the most sophisticated Phraselator ever could. Their cultural insights, and their ability to read the situation on the ground, can save lives. But interpreters are often regarded with suspicion or disdain. And in some cases, they have been screwed over by their employers. Enter Josh Foust. In a righteous New York Times op-ed, Foust details the injustices, small and large, that are routinely heaped on interpreters. Take the case of “Brooklyn,” a California-born interpreter who gets snubbed by an obtuse colonel as “that local woman”: “The next day, as we were driving between two bases, we ran into a traffic snarl at a bridge, with dozens of Afghan soldiers and police officers milling about. Our colonel, who had left his own translator back at his base, got out of his Humvee and asked Brooklyn to begin translating for him...” (READ MORE)

Grim @ Blackfive: Afghanistan: Better Be Sure - Having been twice to Iraq, I know how hard it is to judge the situation clearly from any distance. Having never been to Afghanistan, I would not therefore think of putting my judgment ahead of General McChrystal's, or those of my comrades here at BlackFive who have done tours there. I do worry about this assessment of our Civil-Military Operations planning; and this one, which claims that the new proposal includes absolutely no mention of the word "tribe" or any of its near relatives. Both of these reports are worrisome, but I hope that -- as is so often the case -- they are one side of a more complicated story. Perhaps, for example, the tribal engagement strategy is in the full, classified report, or perhaps it is elsewhere; but I trust that our leadership understands that they absolutely need a deep and detailed game plan to use the tribes, their histories, and even their animosities to achieve the desired strategic effects. (READ MORE)

Uncle Jimbo: Obama considering Biden's Magic Ninja Plan? - We have been laughing on our back channel about the Biden plan to have our secret squirrels locate al Qaeda and then let our magic ninjas swoop in and take them out. The idea is ludicrous for many reasons, but mostly because we don't have the will to do the dirty trickery necessary to pull it off. Ever since we eviscerated the CIA in the Carter era and destroyed any ability to do human intelligence we have relied on electronic intercepts and satellite imagery for our weak and generally wrong "intelligence". While those tools can be useful, absent a humint capability, they are woefully inadequate. So the idea that we could rely on them is a joke I 'm surprised they have the stones to make. Targeted strikes by UAVs in Pakistan have been successful, but expanding that into a theater-wide, pipehitter free fire zone is not gonna happen. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Here is your Afghan National Army - General McChrystal’s report to Secretary Gates lays the groundwork for a request for 40,000+ more U.S. troops. The actual need for troops will be higher than that. McChrystal’s report relies heavily on Afghan National Security Forces (Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police), closely following the strategy laid out by CNAS to ramp up the readiness of ANA. But the left side of the isle doesn’t have the sole claim for plans to rely heavily on ANA. Kimberly and Frederick Kagan also recommend a similar reliance on a rapid increase in the size of the ANA to provide the necessary troops for population security. But recall the problems that we have documented concerning the ANA. We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, themselves claim that they cannot hold Helmand without Marines and fear being killed if they even go out into the streets, be relatively ineffective against Taliban fighters, sleep on their watch, and claim to be on vacation in the Helmand Province. (READ MORE)

Most Certainly Not: Don't Call It a Comeback - I'm back. Sorry for falling off the map, but now you're in for some updates, right? That's always fun. Like a holiday Christmas letter without the postage stamp. Or presents. Or tree. The deployment: We are closing in on the halfway mark and I'm feeling pretty okay. Aside from paying off our furniture today (to the tune of a little over $1,000) because the financing company wouldn't talk to me about questions I had on our bill, I'm good. Thanks so much to the Ohio Adjutant General's bias against doing powers of attorney for people!! Of course no one will talk to you if your name isn't on the account. My thought AFTER I paid it off was to have told the guy on the phone, "Oh, that's fine. Don't talk to me about it. I'm not going to pay it anymore if I don't owe it. You can talk to my husband when he comes back...in May. And, don't call here either because I can't talk to you about it; I'm not on the account." Bygones. (READ MORE)

A Soldier's Perspective: Cleaning Out My Closet - After the episode described in "The Power of Seeking Help" I became extremely angry. I was angry that humanity could be so cruel and emotionless. The Iraqis were using civilians as shields all over. They were filling the battlefield with troops carried in on ambulances and in taxis. They were firing from hospitals and other "protected" locations, like mosques. They forced Soldiers into making hard decisions like the one I described. It causd confusion on the battlefield as Soldiers had to decide whether or not to fire on the ambulance or civilian vehicle barrelling down the road towards them. After the battle of As Samawah, we encountered sustained combat for weeks without much of a break. It was constant contact. One of my jobs during the war was to search the battlefield dead after each engagement if there was time for intelligence. We needed to know who we were fighting and whether we could expect a larger force. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
Police bust artifacts traffickers - Iraqi police have recovered stolen antiques, including the bust of a Sumerian king, in a sting operation. An Iraqi commander said three suspects were arrested in Kirkuk after they tried to sell pieces from the Sumerian period that lasted from 4000 to 2000 BC. "A specialist army and intelligence unit arrested three people involved in the theft and trafficking of Iraqi antiquities,” General Abdel Amir al-Zaidi told journalists. (READ MORE)

US-Iraqi Partnership Growing, General Says - Iraqi security forces continue to make progress in providing security for their own country, the deputy commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said today. Iraqi security forces are quickly improving as they train with American forces, Air Force Maj. Gen. James P. Hunt said during a videoconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters. “This is all about partnering,” Hunt said. (READ MORE)

US Closes Door on a Onetime Iraq Ally - The man who had fought Al Qaeda in Iraq sat in the waiting room of the immigration office. He watched others go up before him. After several hours, they called his name: Saad Oraibi Ghafoori. In a way, the waiting burned him. He had once led more than 600 men in Baghdad; Iraqi officials and US commanders came to him for help. Now he lived in a nondescript home in Jordan's capital with an upset wife and two restless children - a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl - who had been hoping for more than a year to get the call to go to America. (READ MORE)

Reserve LAR company prepares for return to U.S. - CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq - Lt. Col. Kenneth R. Kassner, the commanding officer of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, officially relieved the Marines of Company E of their duties during a ceremony held aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, Sept. 16, 2009. The company, a reserve unit based out of Syracuse, N.Y., was augmented to 3rd LAR Bn from 4th LAR Bn to serve in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from November 2008 to October 2009. For more than 150 days they lived and operated out of their armored vehicles as they conducted continuous combat operations in Ninewa province, Iraq. (READ MORE)

ISF conducts partnered cordon and search - MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers and an Iraqi Police S.W.A.T. team, assisted by U.S. forces, conducted a cordon and search mission in the town of Tall Sunam, in western Ninawa province, Sept. 14. The IA and IP conducted house-by-house searches while Soldiers from Apache Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers joined IA Soldiers and the IP S.W.A.T. team to provide security. (READ MORE)

Weapons cache removed north of Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – A weapons cache, consisting of materials commonly used by insurgents in the creation of improvised explosive devices during a joint effort by Iraqi Army and U.S. forces, was discovered and removed north of Mosul, Iraq, Sept. 21. The cache was discovered in an abandoned home by U.S. forces during a reconnaissance patrol. Elements of 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division and a U.S. explosives ordnance detachment arrived at the cache site to safely remove the items and collect evidence. (READ MORE)

U.S. forces save life of local child - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, BAQUBAH, Iraq – An Iraqi child was treated by U.S. forces Sept. 20, after the boy was injured by small arms fire from an unknown source in Little Biwaniyah, Diyala province. Company A, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, was conducting a counter-indirect fire patrol when Soldiers heard approximately five rounds impact the road. U.S. forces did not identify a source and did not return fire. (READ MORE)

Federal Police refine tactics, procedures - MOSUL — The Iraqi Federal Police (FP) has continued to refine and improve its tactical procedures months after the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraqi cities. In operations throughout west Mosul, the Mosul Brigade of the 3rd FP Division has been incorporating and refining new tactics into their operations. (READ MORE)

Detainees released on eve of Muslim holiday - BAGHDAD — On the eve of the Eid ul-Fitr holiday, U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers released ten former Iraqi detainees back to their families after a small ceremony here, Sept. 19. Eid ul-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of fasting for the Islamic month of Ramadan with festivities, friends and family. (READ MORE)

Iraqi leaders hold conference in Ramadi - CAMP RAMADI — Iraqi Security Force leaders gathered here for a conference to discuss established security agreements and an Iraqi way ahead for Ramadi-area security, Sept. 15. Attendees of the afternoon-long meeting included local, provincial, highway and National Police officials; officials with the National Information and Investigation Agency and Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics; local Iraqi 8th Brigade Army commanders; the provincial internal affairs chief; the mayor; a prominent judge and others: (READ MORE)

School brings hope of bright future - BAGHDAD — Hundreds of students at the Thugger al-Iraq Primary and Secondary School here in the Qarguli neighborhood have something to look forward to this year thanks to the efforts of West Virginia National Guardsmen. A $467,000 project to overhaul the school and add four new buildings began Aug. 28, according to Capt. James Bowen, commander of Troop B, 1st Battalion, 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. (READ MORE)

U.S. Troops Cleaning Out 'Garages' in Iraq - WASHINGTON - American forces are cleaning out a "very, very big garage" in its drawdown in Iraq, the deputy commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq said, Sept. 22. Air Force Maj. Gen. James P. Hunt, during a videoconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters, said moving equipment out of Iraq is like a giant assessment and cleaning. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Afghan-International Security Force Detains Suspected Militants in Khowst, Helmand - KABUL, Afghanistan - Joint Afghan and International Security Forces pursued and detained several suspected militants in separate operations in Khowst province today, Sept. 23, and Helmand province, Sept. 22. The joint force searched groups of buildings west of Khowst City known to be used by militants to facilitate financial, logistical and media support for Haqqani activities and detained suspected militants. (READ MORE)

Texas Guard Improves Meat Processing in Afghanistan - GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A Texas-based National Guard agribusiness development team is working here to ensure Afghans are using the best practices in the farming and food industries. The Texas Agribusiness Development Team-02 at Forward Operating Base Ghazni recently travelled through the province to inspect a slaughter facility, and met with contractors for a livestock sale barn facility and a solar and wind power system. (READ MORE)

Afghan Officials Build Relationships, Develop Plan for Community - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – A coalition forces civil affairs team from Wardak province near Kabul, met with local officials from the Maydan Shahr and the Nerkh districts, Sept. 16, in order to discuss possible support for their respective districts and communities. Abdul Bdul Kabir Ebrahimi, the Maydan Shahr mayor, talked with the civil affairs team about projects that will help support the people of the district. (READ MORE)

Obama Is Considering Strategy Shift in Afghan War - President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday. The options under review are part of what administration officials described as a wholesale reconsideration of a strategy the president announced with fanfare just six months ago. Two new intelligence reports are being conducted to evaluate Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said. (READ MORE)

Congress Presses on War Plan - The Pentagon is rebuffing congressional calls for the top US commander in Afghanistan to personally make the case for the war, amid the growing political tumult over the Obama administration's handling of the conflict. An array of powerful lawmakers from both parties, including the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, want Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify about the challenges confronting the US and its allies in Afghanistan and his plan for beating back the resurgent Taliban. (READ MORE)

Report: Pentagon Urges Top US General in Afghanistan to Delay Call for Troops - A major US newspaper is reporting that the Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan to delay submitting a request for additional troops. The Wall Street Journal quotes defense officials Tuesday saying the Obama administration asked for the delay so it can be sure the US is "using the right strategy" before looking into additional troop requests. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan has warned that the mission "will likely result in failure" if more troops are not sent within the next year. (READ MORE)

Less Peril for Civilians, but More for Troops - Concern is rising in Congress and among military families over a sharp increase in US troop deaths in Afghanistan at a time when senior military officials acknowledge that American service members are facing greater risks under a new strategy that emphasizes protecting Afghan civilians. On July 2, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, issued a directive restricting the military's use of airstrikes and artillery bombardments. In July and August, the number of Afghan civilians killed by coalition forces was 19, compared with 151 for the same two months last year. (READ MORE)

US Pulls Back in New Afghan Strategy - The top US military officer in Afghanistan has ordered his forces out of sparsely populated areas where American troops have fought bloody battles with the Taliban for several years and is redeploying them to protecting major Afghan population centres, reports said yesterday. The strategy shift, which amounts to a retreat from some areas, has drawn resistance from senior Afghan officials who worry any pullback from Taliban-held territory will make the weak Afghan government appear even more powerless in the eyes of its people, The Washington Post reported. (READ MORE)

British Afghanistan Mission: Options and Recommendations - Political and military leaders trying to encourage a tolerance among the British electorate for a “marathon” campaign in Afghanistan have missed the point: the public wants firm and decisive action in Afghanistan, leading to a withdrawal as soon as possible. There are three options available to Britain. An early pullout of British troops is one possibility. The Government could call time on the entire Afghan venture and order a paced withdrawal, allowing British troops to hand over their bases to American and Afghan forces. (READ MORE)

Kevin Rudd Mulls Afghan Boost - The Rudd government has held out the prospect of boosting support for the war effort in Afghanistan, despite ruling out more troops, as the military situation deteriorates. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said yesterday that Australia had received no US request for additional troops above the 1550 already deployed, and did not anticipate one. But he said the government would be prepared to consider boosting civilian support for nation building, such as rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed in battles. More financial aid could be on the table. (READ MORE)

Afghan Officials Live in Fear of Taliban Assassins - Assassinations have intensified this year, with more than 100 officials and pro-government tribal elders attacked - half of them fatally. Echoing a strategy of insurgents in Iraq, such killings sow fear, undermine the already weak government and make it difficult to fill official posts with educated and competent Afghans. "The Taliban know that if you kill one guy in the government, it discourages another 10 from being in that job," said Jamal, who returned to Kabul this year to work for President Hamid Karzai's re-election. (READ MORE)

Russia, Plagued by Heroin Use, to Press US on Destroying Afghan Poppy Crops - During talks this week with his American counterpart, Russia’s top drug enforcement official, Viktor P. Ivanov, will press the United States to step up efforts to destroy Afghan poppy cultivation, which he said was feeding a devastating drug problem in Russia. The request comes just as American policy makers have swung sharply away from Bush-era programs to eradicate the opium poppy crop, which is used to produce heroin. After a visit to Afghanistan in July, the Obama administration’s special envoy for the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, said poppy eradication had alienated poor farmers and was “driving people into the hands of the Taliban.” (READ MORE)

The Battle on Capitol Hill - With American forces in Afghanistan experiencing the bloodiest month of battle in August, the administration and Congress are debating the merits of the counterinsurgency strategy in place. Some of the experts testifying on at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings September 16 and 17 said that a robust counterinsurgency campaign is the only way to win this war, while others supported a less-engaged counter-terrorism approach. Senator John Kerry, the committee's chairman, seemed to prefer a counter-terrorism campaign, which focuses on targeting terrorists rather than securing the population. (READ MORE)

Examining Obama's Afghan Options - Gen. Stanley McChrystal's bleak assessment of the Afghan war has reopened debate in the Obama administration on the way forward. President Obama has indicated he's rethinking the counterinsurgency approach he put in play back in March. So what are his options at this point? (READ MORE)

Government considering Afghan boost - THE Rudd government has held out the prospect of boosting support for the war effort in Afghanistan, despite ruling out more troops, as the military situation deteriorates. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said yesterday that Australia had received no US request for additional troops above the 1550 already deployed, and did not anticipate one. (READ MORE)

Frustration over Obama's Afghanistan war policy - Military officials voiced frustration and congressional leaders urged caution Tuesday over what they described as President Barack Obama's shifting strategy in Afghanistan, six months after he committed thousands more U.S. troops to the stalemated war there. Administration officials maintained they were looking at all options to protect the U.S. and its allies by shutting down al-Qaida leaders who are believed to be hiding in areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Britain seeking to trim its troops in Afghanistan - LONDON - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was focused on cutting back on the number of the country's troops in Afghanistan, despite a report from the top U.S. commander calling for an increase in the number of soldiers. Brown insisted he was hoping to withdraw some British soldiers as soon as Afghanistan's local forces become able to carry out their own security duties. (READ MORE)

Clinton rebuffs general's warning on Afghanistan - NEW YORK (AFP) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed back against the US military's blunt warning that the battle against insurgents in Afghanistan would likely be lost within a year without more US troops. Clinton's comments in an interview with PBS television late Monday came amid reports that the Pentagon has asked General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, to delay a request for more troops. (READ MORE)

Insurgent Success In Afghanistan Is Mystifying - The insurgency in Afghanistan is getting stronger. According to a leaked assessment of the war, Taliban-led insurgents either control or are fighting in a "significant portion of the country." It's hard to understand why because insurgent fighters are vastly outnumbered by U.S., NATO and Afghan security forces, and their technology is inferior. (READ MORE)

3 Insurgents Killed by Own Bomb in Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says a suicide bomber killed himself and two accomplices when his explosives-filled vest detonated prematurely. The explosion took place in the southwestern province of Nimroz late Monday. Media reports say the suicide bomber was preparing to attack foreign forces nearby in the vicinity of Delaram district. (READ MORE)

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Linked by: H&I FIRES* 23 SEPT 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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