September 24, 2009

From the Front: 09/24/2009

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

Miserable Donuts: (VIDEO) Want to see some happy people? - The welcome home for CSM Bones and Friends (the HQ of the 33rd Brigade Combat Team): (VIEW VIDEO)

P.J. Tobia: A Soldier With PTSD: “We Don’t Have To Feel Like Monsters…” - MilBlogger CJ Grisham is one of the bravest soldiers I have ever known, and I have met a few. We’ve never met face-to-face, but we do exchange the occasional email and I’ve twice appeared on his radio show. In July, CJ wrote an incredibly moving essay about his struggle with PTSD and trying to come to terms with the demons that followed him home from the battlefields of Iraq. He displayed great courage by standing up before his men, going public, and admitting that he needed help. Yesterday at his blog, A Soldier’s Perspective, CJ went into greater detail about the disturbing memories that he’s been facing and how through therapy, he’s managed to regain his emotional balance. As I wrote in an earlier post about CJ, his open and honest discussion of the crippling effects of PTSD show a rare kind of leadership. I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic or over-the-top in my praise for this man. But anyone with even a passing familiarity of military culture knows that what CJ has done is an exceptional act. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Wouldn’t Expect Him To Say Anything Else - General McChrystal has spoken to the press about his assessment and the resulting debate within the administration, saying that he welcomes debate of the way forward and is unequivocally not considering resigning. I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. Remember, the specter of resignation was not raised by the General, but reportedly by officers close to him. If General McChrystal spoke of resignation, it would be repeating the same gaff that got another General fired in Korea lo these many years ago. The General is not insubordinate. He’s not going to be insubordinate in the press, either. He’s not going to challenge the President’s authority to make decisions. He has made his assessment. He has made his decisions about the way forward. He has prepared any requests for further resources that he deems necessary. There is no reason to respond to any decisions prior to their announcement. He also recognizes that the President has to do his due diligence. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Ah… Pessimism - GEN McChrystal’s assessment has now been “leaked.” Now what? For some time now, it has seemed that the tide of public opinion has been turning against the “Good War.” Why do you think that is? Because suddenly everyone has realized that Afghanistan is a complex, dynamic situation. It is what analysts call a “wicked problem.” Everyone thought that Iraq was complicated and that Afghanistan was more simple. Now that people have really taken a look at Afghanistan, they realize that it is not so simple. In many ways, it is more complex than Iraq. It makes people’s heads hurt. Not being able to make sense of the problem, they figure that nobody can, and that’s when the pessimism of the public takes hold. A few words of caution: First, the American public has nothing of the real story of Afghanistan presented to them. The only brave reporters in the country are busying themselves with covering combat. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: B-Huts and laundry day - I’m getting used to waking up early in the morning and took advantage of the empty laundry room around 0600 hrs. Since moving to our new camp, we have been busy on missions and setting up our rooms. My 2 laundry bags have been bursting at the seams for awhile now. Normally I would turn it into the contractor and have it back the next day. However lately, I have noticed my clothes are coming back dirtier than when I turned them in. The contractor washes everything together and the clothes don’t really look or feel clean after they are laundered. Perhaps someone is taking a shortcut and washing them in the local polluted stream, I don’t know. But I seized the opportunity to wash my own clothes with laundry detergent and dry them using dryer sheets. So now my bed sheets and clothes have the fresh fragrance of Tide Mountain Spring. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that can make your day. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: CKNW, Afghanistan, And Our Terrible Politicians - I attended a CKNW radio show today at the Afghan Horsemen restaurant, where they were doing a live town hall discussion on Canada and Afghanistan. Their interviews included a Canadian soldier, an Afghan-Canadian, and a poli-sci prof at SFU--but also Terry Glavin, who closed the show with a magnificent spiel that cut through all the bullshit and left us in speechless awe. The fact that Terry only got three minutes to speak out of a 2-hour show is criminal. The bulk of the show was taken up by a panel discussion with three MPs: Andrew Saxton from the Tories, Ujjal Dosanjh from the Liberals, and Peter Julian from the NDP. The segment was mostly useless, with the MPs spouting their talking points and trying to score points off each other. Why on earth would CKNW think that was the best use of the show's time? Beats the hell out of me. Julian, who was 10 minutes late, spoke the usual NDP fluff: (READ MORE)

Doc H: The Danger of Safety - Weapons safety is a big deal around here. There are lots of US and coalition military and many of other people who carry firearms at all times. Of course the goal of carrying these weapons on camp is to defend ourselves if needed. Clearing barrels are placed at the Camp entry control points. They are usually 55 gallon drums filled with sand or small pebbles. Their purpose is to provide a safe direction to point a weapon to ensure weapons are in the safe and unloaded condition prior to going on board the camp. Obviously not everyone understands the steps to make a clear and safe weapon. There are as many sets of instructions how to safely clear a weapon as their are weapons systems, but for the most part they all have these common steps. It is generally done with a buddy, sentry or leader to supervise the procedure: (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Jill Biden Urges Support for Military Families - I always appreciate it when senior leaders turn their attention toward military families and I’ve noticed a recent outpouring of support from the White House. This week, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, met with New York National Guard personnel and their families. She visited with the family members of deployed servicemembers and the professionals who support them. During her visit to New York, Biden pledged her support for military families and noted that her efforts are, in part, personal. The Bidens’ son, Joseph “Beau” Biden III, is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, and is currently deployed to Iraq. “I have talked to hundreds of servicemembers and families in my travels around the country and I have listened to their concerns,” she said in an American Forces Press Service article covering the event. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Offsetting ANA illiteracy - I'm now taking requests, apparently: I have been asked for my thoughts on this article. Look, literacy of the Afghan soldier is a bit of a lame excuse, sure. It would help the fight, certainly. But we shouldn't feel that it is our responsibility to make them literate by ourselves. The Afghan army does make allowances for literacy classes, in fact. They're run by the Religious and Education officers and their staff, a fixture at battalion level and above. This is a unique military position, one we don't quite grok. We often call them "mullahs," but they're not mullahs... although they can be. What they are is the officers whose job it is to look after the troops, their piety, and their education. In most circumstances, they book and host the mullahs, not act as them themselves. R&E officers are also key to ANA village outreach work. The R&E goes in with the commander's staff when the ANA enters a village, and does the direct liaison with the local religious authority... (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Afghanistan battle for hearts and minds must be won - It was early 2006, and the paratroopers of 16 Air Assault Brigade took a breather during exercises on Salisbury Plain to say what they had been told to say about their forthcoming campaign in Helmand province. “Reconstruction, reconstruction, reconstruction,” they piped in unison. Three years later the politics of this campaign have changed beyond recognition. Instead of reconstruction, we have had violence and mayhem, and the public in Britain, in the United States and in every country that has troops in Afghanistan are asking what has gone wrong, and if lives are being sacrificed needlessly. The biggest challenge for the Government now is not how to beat the Taleban but how to keep the public at home onside. People tend to support the Armed Forces whatever they do but if there is any perception that British troops are dying in Afghanistan for no good reason the tide of opinion will turn. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: What’s Awesome? - In my last major post, I recounted the “Worst Day Yet,” a fifteen-hour crash course in how not to handle emotional problems. Thank you for all the comments. Thanks for saying “I love you”, “you know better than that” and “you can do it.” I’m happy to report that I’m doing really well now, thanks to that time-proven combination of faith, pharmaceuticals, and mindfulness. That doesn’t mean that everything is peachy. Bad guys still bury IEDs, we still get bored between missions, it’s almost October and still really hot, coughs and runny noses get shared back and forth in our forty-man tent, the PX hasn’t had Full Throttle in weeks, and sometimes our platoon functions more like a class of high school sophomores than a team of grown-ups. But there’s nothing new under the sun, as they say. It may be a difficult lifestyle when compared with Suburbia, USA… but as wars go, ours isn’t too bad yet. So in an exaggerated attempt to find the joy in deployed living, I’ve been thinking about what’s awesome around here. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Who Fights This War? - One of my regular riding buddies is a senior colonel in the armored brigade headquartered here. He has only been riding a couple of years, but is an avid and competitive runner and likes riding a lot. He is 46, planning to retire after this tour, and looking forward to riding in Colorado where he and his wife plan to live. During the Gulf War in 1991, he was a platoon leader in charge of five M-1 tanks during the invasion of Iraq. By the time he went through the armor officer training in the late 80s, the M1 had completely replaced the M60A1 that I served in back the 70s. But we are both old armor guys (No tanks here at Tallil) and sometimes talk about tanks. He is very animated when he talks about crossing the desert in an M1 and some of the battles he fought before that brief war ended. He has a look that is so happy that it shows through a helmet and sunglasses even when we are riding 18mph side by side when he talks about the Gulf War. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will doom Afghanistan and Pakistan: US officials - US military and intelligence officials are concerned that a proposed alternative plan to ramp up cross-border attacks in Pakistan and rapidly build the Afghan security forces in lieu of a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy may take hold and lead to a catastrophic failure in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This alternative strategy, which was proposed by Vice President Joe Biden and reported in The New York Times, calls for reducing the US military mission in Afghanistan and ramping up airstrikes and covert raids against the al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas. "Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics," The New York Times reported. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda - As the Obama administration weighs switching its Afghanistan strategy from one of counterinsurgency and securing the Afghan populace to counterterrorism operations aimed at al Qaeda's network based in Pakistan, US military and intelligence officials said that while the US air campaign in Pakistan has been effective in taking out nodes and senior al Qaeda leaders, the capacity to cripple the terror network with this tactic alone is limited. The US has launched 74 airstrikes and ground raids against the Taliban and al Qaeda's network in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency since January 2008. During that time, 13 senior al Qaeda leaders and one senior Taliban leader have been killed; eight were killed in 2008 (Abdullah Azzam al Saudi, Abu Zubair al Masri, Abu Jihad al Masri, Khalid Habib, Abu Haris, Abu Khabab al Masri, Abu Sulayman Jazairi, Abu Laith al Libi); and six were killed in 2009. (READ MORE)

OPFOR: Beyond Duty Released - Few stories break the heart like Shannon Meehan and Roger Thompson's Iraq War memoir, Beyond Duty. Meehan, a 1st Cavalry Division tank commander and VMI graduate, may as well have titled it "heavy lies the crown," as Beyond Duty is the first book I've read that fully captures the crushing burden of combat leadership. Meehan and Thompson (a professor of English at VMI), started writing the book after disaster struck -- Meehan, freshly promoted to acting company commander during an offensive into insurgent-infest Baquba, called in an airstrike which killed a house full of Iraqi civilians. Beyond Duty details that fateful day in the prologue, the rest of the story's arc rides wave after wave of hyper-realistic tension ultimately leading to Meehan's antagonizing decision -- send his men into the dragon's mouth and possible death, or safely negate a house full of unknown occupments with a precision guided airstrike. (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: TALIBAN ARE THE ONLY WINNERS OF THE AFGHAN ELECTION - Before the Afghan presidential election and accompanying voter registration, it seemed to me the Taliban had three courses of action: COA 1: Overtly disrupt the election process before it began by actively targeting the election process, by attacking electoral workers and the movement of electoral materials. COA 2: Overtly disrupt the election process by attacking voters and polling centers on Election Day. COA 3: Ignore the whole process and count on voter apathy and lack of government effectiveness to demonstrate to the people that, elections or no elections, western style democracy was just not working and had, to date, and, in the future, would make no difference in the lives of Afghans because in spite of great expectations in 2005 it had not made a difference in the last five years. However, as Von Moltke Senior taught us, “when you choose three courses of action, the enemy always chooses a fourth.” (READ MORE)

LTC Clark: Force Protection: WHO SHOULD WE PROTECT? - Too often commanders misunderstand counterinsurgency operations and the environment within which they exist. After the AFP ground force commander issued the above guidance to his troops, they moved to occupy a previously Abu Sayyaf Group controlled village on Jolo Island. They built no walls or fortifications between themselves and the people they were supposed to protect. This instantly built rapport and trust between the villagers and the troops. As the troops moved down a dirt road towards the nearby beach to pick up supplies they were stopped by one of the villagers. The troops were told about daisy-chained 81mm mortar rounds with a pressure detonation device that was left behind by the ASG to inflict damage on the AFP troops. The force protection measure worked. Physical Walls and Virtual Walls: The Filipinos has been fighting ASG, MNLF, MILF and JI insurgents in the southern Philippines for over thirty years. There are plenty of vignettes, both good and bad, about counterinsurgency operations against these groups. (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: "We have some cadets who say 'I have a brother who is a Taliban'" - When he ends his 24-year Army career soon after he gets back form Afghanistan, French Army Captain Michel Pech is planning on opening a foundation to help wounded French soldiers deal with their injuries and to tech them skills to build a life while coping with the effects of the combat experience that altered their bodies forever. A veteran of years of French Special Forces missions around the globe which included action in Rwanda in 1994—the horrors of which left a lasting impression on the young soldier—Pech currently teaches ethics and combat stress to cadets at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French military academy. While that’s his day job, these days you can find him in Kabul as part of a six-month rotation in the French “Epidote” program that pairs experienced French officers with young Afghan officers to instruct them both in the art of counterinsurgency (COIN) and how to be platoon and company leaders. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The News - Hardly anyone in Iraq is talking about the latest plan for Afghanistan, although it is clearly dominating the milblogosphere. I can't really say anything that hasn't been said already, so I'll have to pass you all on to the following, before I go back to making fun of Qadaffi. Also, a bit of an admin note for all you WOI followers--the quality of posts will decline for the next week or two. But don't worry--soon I'll be back in the US and I'll have an inordinate amount of time (and bandwidth) for milblogging. This is good for you. Anyway, a lot of Afghanistan links and quotes from around the milblogosphere. I have to say, with last week's Presidential interview, the leaked McChrystal report, and the Karzai's election fraud, I'm beginning to think we're about to see the end of the Afghanistan. Of course, I said that about Iraq a few years back, and here I am. Anyway, without further ado: (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: What to do about Afghanistan? - Tim Lynch has a recent post questioning what to do about Afghanistan. I usually agree with Tim, always learn from him, and always consider his prose more than worth the effort and time to read. But in this case I must disagree on three accounts. I won’t rehearse my problems with the use of SOF again like I have so many times, but throwing SOF at the problem of UBL along with half-committed warlords in Afghanistan is what allowed him to escape. The Hindu Kush should have been flooded not with SOF and SF, but several Regiments of Marine infantry and elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. But killing UBL wouldn’t have ended anything. Let’s go back and do this again. Killing … UBL … wouldn’t … have … ended … anything. Ayman al Zawahiri was doing this in Egypt when UBL was a pup, and the problem is a transnational insurgency, not a man. The man is a figurehead, and nothing more. Killing UBL would have made him a martyr and put Zawahiri in charge as both the operations manager and figurehead. (READ MORE)

McQ @ Blackfive: McChrystal Has Not Threatened To Resign If Plan Not Approved - The other day a number of us posted our thoughts about the story that Gen. McChrystal was ready to resign if he didn't get the resources he wanted based on the assessment he'd delivered to the CINC. Those rumors were in a Reuters story. That prompted an email from the Public Affairs Officer to the Commander International Security Assistance Force, LTC Tadd Sholtis in which he said: “McQ, I appreciate your trust in General McChrystal's personal integrity. It's well founded. But the circumstances you are basing it on are acomplete fabrication. General McChrystal is not considering resigning. He's fully committed to doing the best job he can for his troops, the Afghan people and those who have entrusted him with this important duty. His view is that this current discussion in Washington is healthy. For him, having people's minds focused on Afghanistan is a chance to provide more clarity to the mission and unify our efforts for the better.” (READ MORE)

Douglas Farah: Why McChrystal Should Be Listened to on Afghanistan - The bleak assessment by NATO and U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, of the Afghanistan conflict is strikingly similar to a bleak assessment given by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the Colombia conflict in 1998. While one must be careful not to overdue comparisons of conflicts that have significant differences, I think the parallel shows two things in conflicts where the non-state actors receive haven in neighboring countries and derive much of their funding from the drug trade: 1) One should listen carefully to Gen. McChrystal, particularly on the loss of legitimacy of the Afghan government and 2) the situation is not irreversible, as Colombia has shown. As a reporter for the Washington Post at the time, I was given access to the report, which predicted the Marxist FARC rebels could take over the country within five years. At the time this is what I wrote, and see if it sounds vaguely familiar: (READ MORE)

Carren Z: Update on Chuck... - This is Carren, reporting in for blogging duty... while my cat throws up for the THIRD TIME since I've been home!!! I swear, between my kids and all their daily drama, Chuck going to the hospital (again!) and my cats throwing up... I think I need to take some of Chuck's pills... I left the hospital about 7pm-ish. Chuck was half asleep, but continued to have pain. His nurse was really nice and I filled in the nurse for the next shift so she knew what kind of patient she was dealing with (Chuck is a good patient... except when in pain... the nurse will be fine... I hope). The kids are handling this well, I think. Quite wound up when I picked them up from my friend's house (Thanks, Deb!). Adelle is taking this the hardest - crying and asking why daddy has to keep going to hospitals. She told me her tummy hurt so I gave her a heating pad (hey, if she thinks it will help her feel better, it works for me!). Both kids are now sound asleep (or they have escaped out the window... maybe I should check). (READ MORE)

Cassandra: When Photographs Lie – “A photograph is nothing more than a tiny sliver of stopped time, pressed onto a flat surface, utterly devoid of context or soul. An unretouched photograph is visual truth.” This is what SangerM. argues in defense of Julie Jacobson's decision to violate an embed agreement she voluntarily signed, and upon which the Marine Corps relied when deciding whether she could be trusted with embed status. Had she refused to sign the agreement, she would have had no chance to publish a graphic photo in which a fellow human bled to death from the stumps of two severed legs. Some might see her deception as a significant factor in the determination of whether she had any right to take that photograph. Some might argue that when an organization grants media access only under limited conditions agreed upon in advance, that any photographs taken in violation of that agreement are – by definition – unauthorized, to say nothing of being obtained by fraudulent means. (READ MORE)

13 Stoploss: The Longest Summer - While I eagerly await the following-through of the VA’s promise to pay BAH for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I have mostly survived the summer on Mrs. 13’s summer paycheck planner, savings, grants and scholarships, and the credit card. While we should have been thriftier than we have been of late, I can say that my summer contained wonderful surprises, pleasant getaway excursions, new skills, and eye-opening philosophies. The short list includes skillfully mastering a few alternative processes in film photography, the reading of a half dozen books, the shooting and developing of dozens of rolls of film, a backpacking trip above 10,000 feet, having a baby, the start of a wedding and portrait photography business, and the developmental stages of two books. Along the way, I developed a Dionysian taste for Scotch, and a passionate renewal of my relationship and love for Mrs. 13 that could only have taken place by spending every glorious minute of every day with her. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Families celebrate Eid holiday at park along Tigris River - On the last night of the Muslim holiday of Eid, families packed Baghdad's park on Abu Nawas street on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. People rejoiced at a quiet holiday and the gradual reduction in attacks since late 2007, although the Iraqi capital remains a violent and unpredictable place. (READ MORE)

Iraq's Marshes are Dying a Second Death - Vast lakes have shriveled. River beds have run dry. The animals are sick, the birds have flown elsewhere and an ancient way of life is facing a new threat to its existence. The fabled marshes of southern Iraq are dying again - only this time the forces of nature, not the hand of man, are to blame. The man-made death came in the 1990s, when Saddam Hussein deliberately drained the marshes to prevent their use by guerrillas, some infiltrating from Iran. (READ MORE)

Sixteen Inmates Break Out of Tikrit Prison - Five al Qaeda-linked prisoners awaiting execution and 11 other inmates broke out of a prison in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, prompting a massive manhunt Thursday, officials said. A complete curfew was imposed on the city of 250,000 after the prisoners escaped at around 11:15 p.m. Wednesday. Checkpoints have been set up throughout the city and at roads leading out, a Tikrit police officer said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the operation with media. (READ MORE)

Six new city parks under way in Kirkuk, Iraq - KIRKUK, Iraq – President Herbert Hoover once said, “Children are our most valuable resource.” The city of Kirkuk, Iraq — in partnership with the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — is cultivating that valuable resource through the construction of six new city parks. The parks are a part of the Kirkuk Reconciliation Initiative and are situated and designed to provide a safe, clean recreational area for more than 40,000 Kirkuk residents. (READ MORE)

Kirkuk ESU arrests JRTN propagandist and financier - BAGHDAD – The Kirkuk Emergency Service Unit (ESU), advised by U.S. forces, arrested a senior Jaysh Rijai al Tariq Al Naqshabandi (JRTN) leader recently during a warrant-based operation in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraq. Salahudin Abdul Wahhab Othman, also referred to as Hajji Najdat, was arrested by the ESU in an effort to prevent financial aid to terrorist activities throughout the region. Najdat is also responsible for coordinating and organizing multiple terrorist cells in Salah ad-Din province and northern Iraq. (READ MORE)

Document, Media Exploitation Highlight MoD Seminar - BAGHDAD – An intelligence team briefed senior Ministry of Defense officials Sept. 16 here on an initiative to provide Iraqi Security Forces with equipment and training to exploit captured digital media, cellular phones, and documents. The two-hour executive seminar provided insight into the potential for document and media exploitation, or DOMEX. This intelligence-gathering measure uses digital forensics to aid in the counterterrorism fight. DOMEX tools also aid in the identification and preservation of evidence to assist in criminal prosecutions. (READ MORE)

New market brings 'sense of normalcy' - BASRAH — Located in the heart of the Hayy al Muhandisn district, the recently-completed Quibla Market project fills an immediate need for commerce and employment here. "If you build it, they will come" is a line made famous by the 1989 film "Field of Dreams." With the completion of this market, it's a line the Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team, Civil Affairs Soldiers from 17th Fires Brigade and Iraqi contractors hope rings true. (READ MORE)

Micro-grants help jumpstart Iraqi economy - BAGHDAD — Nine Iraqi businessmen here received micro-grant payouts from U.S. Soldiers to help improve economic conditions in their communities, Sept. 21. Funding allocated through the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s Commander's Emergency Relief Fund was distributed to businesses in the Radwaniyah, Mufargi and Fetoah marketplaces, about 15 miles southwest of the Iraqi capital. (READ MORE)

Donated filters purify village water - BAGHDAD — Something as simple as clean water can easily be taken for granted. However, purified drinking water is a luxury not everyone enjoys here. U.S. Soldiers found that a simple water filter can have a profound impact during a visit to the tiny village of Tameem, Sept. 21. The U.S. troops and Iraqi Federal Police (FP) arrived in the village and set up shop in an open area. From there, the combined goodwill team moved on foot from street to street with an FP truck laden with water filters. (READ MORE)

McChrystal Request to Reach Pentagon by End of the Week - Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request for more troops and other resources to fund the expanded counterinsurgency campaign he has proposed in Afghanistan will arrive at the Defense Department by the end of this week but will not be immediately turned over to the White House, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. "It is simply premature to consider additional resources until General McChrystal's assessment has been fully reviewed and discussed by the president and his team," spokesman Geoff Morrell said. (READ MORE)

McChrystal to Request More Afghan Troops this Week - The commander of US-led forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, will make a long-anticipated request for additional troops by Friday after a controversy erupted over whether President Obama is still committed to a counterinsurgency strategy there. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday that the general could ask for as many as 40,000 troops. "There's a lot that's changed and a lot that needs to be analyzed," he said. (READ MORE)

Resource Decision on Afghanistan to Follow Strategy Review - A deliberative approach is best for everyone as President Barack Obama and his national security team grapple with the way forward in Afghanistan, the Pentagon spokesman said today. Press Secretary Geoff Morrell urged reporters during a Pentagon press briefing to respect deliberations on how to move forward in Afghanistan. No one understands the urgency of the war in Afghanistan better than Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Morrell said. Gates “signs the deployment orders, he signs the condolence notes,” he said. (READ MORE)

US Mideast Commander Endorses Afghanistan Assessment, Current Strategy - The commander of all US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, who was also the architect of the Iraq turnaround two years ago, has endorsed the grim assessment by the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and General David Petraeus says the only way to fight terrorism is to take the multi-dimensional approach embodied in the current strategy there. General Petraeus says he and the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, both endorsed the secret assessment made late last month by the new commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. (READ MORE)

Dubious Afghan Vote Drove US to Revisit Strategy - The public debate in Washington over the White House's unexpected reappraisal of its Afghan strategy has focused on troop numbers and military tactics. But the Obama administration's focus is on another issue: Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai a reliable ally? According to senior administration officials, the Afghan war plan that President Barack Obama announced in March - which called for a comprehensive and manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy - was built around the assumption that Mr. Karzai would emerge from last month's elections with new legitimacy, a critical factor in fighting a guerrilla enemy. (READ MORE)

Top General Denies Rift With Obama on Afghan War - The senior American commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday rejected any suggestion that his grim assessment of the war had driven a wedge between the military and the Obama administration, but he warned against taking too long to settle on a final strategy. The commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, said in an interview that he welcomed the fierce debate that had emerged this week over how to carry out the war. “A policy debate is warranted,” General McChrystal said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Kabul. (READ MORE)

Taliban Widen Afghan Attacks From Base in Pakistan - Senior Taliban leaders, showing a surprising level of sophistication and organization, are using their sanctuary in Pakistan to stoke a widening campaign of violence in northern and western Afghanistan, senior American military and intelligence officials say. The Taliban’s expansion into parts of Afghanistan that it once had little influence over comes as the Obama administration is struggling to settle on a new military strategy for Afghanistan, and as the White House renews its efforts to get Pakistan’s government to be more aggressive about killing or capturing Taliban leaders inside Pakistan. (READ MORE)

How to Win a War - Mr. Obama is in a much better position than Mr. Bush was. His approval ratings for handling the war are about 50 percent, his party has a complete lock on Congress, and the leadership does not want him to fail. The president introduced his new strategy in March, and Gen. McChrystal is widely regarded as the right man to implement it. The experience in Iraq stands as a model for success. Mr. Obama has an opportunity to lead. He should stand by his strategy and fight to give his commander in the field the resources he needs to win. (READ MORE)

Britain's Afghan Wisdom - When it comes to Afghanistan, the British have a special perspective: Every mistake the United States has made recently, they made 150 years ago. So it's worth listening to British experts in the debate over Afghan strategy. Afghanistan drove the British bonkers for much of the 19th century. They couldn't control the place, but they couldn't walk away from it, either. They found that there wasn't a military solution, but there wasn't a non-military solution. It was a question of managing chaos. Sound familiar? (READ MORE)

Afghan-International Security Forces Conduct Searches in South, North, East Afghanistan, Detain Militants - KABUL, Afghanistan - Joint Afghan and International Security Forces searched multiple compounds and buildings during operations to disrupt militant elements and detained several suspected Taliban militants in separate operations in Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz and Wardak provinces, Sept 23-24. A combined force conducted an operation in Helmand to disrupt a Taliban element working in that province. In Kandahar, a force searched compounds known to be used by a Taliban facilitator for financing and the supplying of weapons, equipment and fighters into the region. (READ MORE)

Tribal elders gunned down by Taliban in Pakistan - Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people, police said. The members of the anti-Taliban citizens' group were traveling from the Machikhel area to meet security officials in Bannu district when their three-vehicle convoy was attacked by insurgents, police officer Mohammad Ghani Khan said. (READ MORE)

Problems remain for Swat people as Taliban turn common criminals - Problems for people in Swat and Malakand Divisions are far from over as the crime rate in the valley has witnessed a sudden rise in the recent past. With the incidents of kidnapping for ransom increasing, local residents say it is the remnant Taliban fighters who have taken to the petty crimes in order to survive. (READ MORE)

Militants kill anti-Taliban militiamen in Pakistan - Suspected Islamist militants targeted a group of pro-government tribesmen near Pakistan's north-western Bannu town on Thursday, triggering a gunfight that left at least 18 people dead, police and intelligence officials said. Gunmen ambushed two vehicles carrying members of a tribal militia, including a few prominent chieftains, as they travelled through the Janikhel area bordering the country's lawless tribal region. (READ MORE)

Taliban widens Afghan attacks from Pakistan - Senior Taliban leaders, showing a surprising level of sophistication and organization, are using their sanctuary in Pakistan to stoke a widening campaign of violence in northern and western Afghanistan, senior American military and intelligence officials say. The Taliban’s expansion into parts of Afghanistan that it once had little influence over comes as the Obama administration is struggling to settle on a new military strategy for Afghanistan, and as the White House renews its efforts to get Pakistan’s government to be more aggressive about killing or capturing Taliban leaders inside Pakistan. (READ MORE)

International forces claim 'several' Taliban killed in Afghanistan - NATO-led international forces claimed Thursday to have killed "several militants" at two locations in southern Afghanistan, but residents in one village said an operation by foreign troops left six civilians dead. Afghan soldiers and international security forces conducted operations in the Garmsir district of the southern province of Helmand and a village southwest of Kandahar city, the capital of the province of the same name, the military alliance said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Okada says dispatch of Japanese troops to Afghanistan difficult - Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Wednesday told his Group of Eight counterparts it is difficult to send Self-Defense Forces personnel to Afghanistan. Instead of the SDF dispatch, Okada said Tokyo plans to focus its future assistance to the war-battered country on providing vocational training and helping create jobs for local people, according to Japanese Foreign Ministry officials. (READ MORE)

Foreign fighters penetrate into N. Afghanistan - Hundreds of foreign fighters loyal to the Taliban outfit have penetrated into Afghanistan's peaceful northern provinces, a local newspaper reported Thursday. A senior police officer in the northern Balkh province of Mujtaba Patang, according to the daily Rah-e-Nejat, has insisted that hundreds of militants from Pakistan's lawless tribal areas have shifted to Kunduz, Baghlan and Faryab provinces in north Afghanistan (READ MORE)

Families of our boys in Afghanistan hit by double tax disgrace - WELSH Army families are paying hundreds of pounds in extra council tax because a discount scheme offered in the rest of the UK isn’t available in Wales, we can reveal today. With scores of Welsh soldiers fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan, the Assembly Government is under pressure to reverse the policy and offer the rebate. Service families are charged council tax on their home and again for their Service accommodation. (READ MORE)

America’s eyes in Afghanistan - An inspection team, charged with providing oversight of funds used for development in Afghanistan, visited the Nijrab valley, to inspect construction projects and report findings to U.S. Government officials. Members from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction travelled with members of Kapisa/Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team to inspect seven projects during a two-day period, including three roads and four schools in the region. (READ MORE)

Has America reached the turning point in Afghanistan? - Six months after proclaiming a new commitment to the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is under growing pressure to make what would amount to a U-turn in US policy and scale back America's commitment to a conflict that many experts – and a majority of the public – now fear may be unwinnable. The debate, which divides Mr Obama's most senior advisers, was thrown into stark relief by the leaked report of General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, warning that the war might be lost within a year without a further boost in troop strength and a major change in strategy to combat the spreading Taliban insurgency. (READ MORE)

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